The Chains of Command

(This was written before Generations and does not acknowledge Kirk’s later
demise)

Also, and you’ll have to take my word for it, I wrote this before the
episode “Relics”, so the holodeck scene with Scotty really is a coincidence.

Hope you like it,

Adrian Kleinbergen

THE CHAINS OF COMMAND
A STORY FROM THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE
by
Adrian Kleinbergen 1989/1995
8,052 words

PROLOGUE

“Jim,” the voice said, “are you listening?” The man standing before the
observation window nodded.
“I’m listening, Bones.” The man sighed and straightened his shoulders,
which crackled as he moved.
“The shuttle is waiting, and we have to go.” Leonard McCoy stated
patiently. Two escorting security officers silently brought up the rear as
the two men continued past the row of ceiling-high windows.
“I hope this Jean-Luc Picard knows what he’s doing,” James Kirk muttered,
“I hate being a passenger.”
“We all become passengers in the end, Jim. Don’t get sensitive about it.
This mission might be official fluff but it’s not exactly shore leave either.”
“I know, Bones.I’m just upset at being used a figurehead.
“Maybe so, Jim. Maybe so. There’s one consolation, at least.”
“And what’s that?” Kirk stopped.
“You’re going aboard the Enterprise.”

I

Captain’s Log, Stardate 7704.22
“We are currently boarding dignitaries for the Romulan-Federation peace
conference on Tinian, a planet within the Neutral Zone. Amongst these
Starfleet diplomats, I’m proud to say, is none other than Admiral James T.
Kirk, former commander of the first starship Enterprise, and retired
Surgeon-General Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer of the same. I’m
looking forward to meeting these two distinguished men, especially Admiral
Kirk.” Picard hesitated for a moment, then concluded his log entry. “I have
high hopes for the mutual success of the conference and I hope peace and
cooperation can soon exist between the Federation and our former enemies.”
“Bridge to Captain Picard,” Announced Commander Data from Picard’s
communicator.
“Picard here.”
“Captain, Admirals Kirk and McCoy will be arriving at the shuttle bay in
five minutes.”
“Why the shuttle bay? Why not the transporter?”
Picard questioned.
“A special request from Admiral McCoy, Captain,” Data answered, “he has
made this preference known before.”
“Very well Mr. Data. I’ll meet them there, then. I wish Mr. Riker and
yourself to accompany me. Picard out.”

Riker adjusted his uniform and smiled naturally at his own reflection as he
smoothed away the last crease in the material. He loved the Starfleet dress
uniform; he never felt more like a Starfleet officer than when duty
compelled him to don the gold trimmed parade uniform. He checked himself
over one more time and touched the communicator.
“Data, I’m heading for the shuttle bay now, joining Captain Picard enroute.”
“Affirmative, Commander,” came the crisp reply.

Picard, Riker and Data entered the huge expanse of the shuttle deck as the
similarly uniformed officers of the Enterprise’s command staff stood at
attention alongside the hastily laid out red carpet that stopped at the open
hatch of the shuttlecraft Aristarchus. The bay was silent except for the
soft footfalls of the three men as they approached the small craft.
Kirk stepped out slowly and McCoy followed. They approached Picard and the
group of command officers. Kirk looked around him, his eyes still sharp.
“Big,” he whispered.
“That’s an understatement, Jim,” Bones replied.
Picard faced the two. Kirk smiled and spoke.
“Permission to come aboard, Captain?”
“Permission granted, Admiral,” Kirk smiled as he was piped aboard and
grinned to himself. McCoy nodded silently at Kirk and extended his hand to
Picard.
“Welcome aboard, both of you. If you wish we can proceed with the
inspection of the vessel, or postpone it until later if you wish to rest.”
Picard continued carefully, “a long shuttle trip can be fatiguing.”
“Not at all, Captain,” Kirk answered, unoffended, “I’m eager to see what
this Enterprise can do.”
“I’d like to see what passes for a ‘sickbay’ these days,” McCoy added
sceptically, “Engineers. Always changing things.”
Picard introduced his companions.
“Admirals Kirk and McCoy, I’d like you to meet my first officer Commander
Riker and my science officer Mr. Data.” Handshakes were exchanged and McCoy
looked keenly at Data.
“I’ve met you before, son, haven’t I?”
“This is true, sir. I escorted you to the starship Hood on the Enterprise’s
maiden voyage. McCoy nodded with a grin.
Kirk turned to address Riker.
“How long have you served aboard the Enterprise, Commander?”
“Seven years, Admiral. By the way, I’ve studied a lot of your books while
in the Academy. Even the one’s that weren’t required reading.” Kirk laughed
and stroked his chin for a moment.
“I’m flattered, Mr. Riker. Perhaps we can share a drink some time.”
“I would be honoured, sir,” Riker replied.
“We will have ample opportunity for festivities tonight, Admiral. We have a
small official reception planned in your honour,” Picard mentioned. “But if
we are going to conduct an inspection, now would be a good time to start.
Admiral McCoy, if you wish, Mr. Data will escort you to sickbay and you can
meet Dr. Crusher.”
“Bev Crusher… oh yes, I do believe we’ve met. Well, lead on, Mr. Data.
But not too fast.”
Picard took stock of the aged Admiral and was surprised at the strength of
his grip. Kirk’s face was well lined, but his eyes had not dulled; the
easy-going voice still held the smooth steel of command; the shoulders were
thin and the stomach slightly paunchy, but the hands did not tremble with
the palsy of age; the sharp eyes peered out from behind glass spectacles —
an unusual anachronism; and the white hair was combed back over a high forehead.
“Shall we begin, Captain?” Kirk asked.
“At once, Admiral.”

Kirk allowed himself to be led around the ship.
“So damned unfamiliar…” he muttered, frustrated, but still interested.
“So we’ve skipped the necessity of advancing transwarp capability
completely. Here is the dilithium plasma junction and over there are the
enhanced antimatter intermix coils,” Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge
elaborated. Kirk nodded decisively, but was preoccupied; it was really only
the bridge where he wanted to be standing now.
Kirk nodded gratefully when Riker suggested they continue on, and made
their way to the lift. Along the way, Kirk sensed the atmosphere of quiet
respect and wonder from the young crew as he moved among them. He grinned to
himself and sighed. Sometimes he himself disbelieved some of the events he
had experienced and occasionally a chill went through him when he thought of
the narrow escapes he and his crew had engineered: the Tholians, his combat
with the Gorn, the Doomsday machine… Kirk forced himself to attention and
spoke to Riker.
“If you were to ask me what I miss most, after all these years, I’d have to
say that I miss being on the leading edge. Deskwork and bureaucracy may be
a necessary evil, but I can’t bear it. That’s why I’m glad to get this
chance to be involved one more time.” Riker nodded respectfully. He
understood, if only a little, how being left out of the action felt. He was
an overachiever, made that way by a seemingly inflexible and demanding
father, and knew about desires and ambitions cut short by rejection from
authority. He knew and felt real sympathy for the aging Admiral. Someday
that may be me, Riker thought.
“I know your experience will be needed at this conference, Admiral. I’m
proud to have celebrities such as yourself and Admiral McCoy aboard.”
“Thanks again, Commander –” Kirk’s further words were interrupted by the
swish of the lift’s door sliding open. Kirk and Riker entered the bridge,
or, at least that was where Kirk thought he was. Gone were the lean,
combat-ready stations and science terminals. This bridge more resembled an
officers’ lounge. Kirk surveyed the smooth contoured panels and comfortable
looking chairs and shook his head a little sadly. Progress. Kirk approached
Lt. Worf and greeted him . Worf’s substantial eyebrows rose in surprise and
he returned the greeting hesitantly. Kirk spoke briefly in Klingonaase and
Worf’s usually implacable face smiled, showing large carnivorous teeth.
Smiling himself, Kirk returned to Riker.
“I didn’t realize you spoke Klingonaase, Admiral.” Riker looked impressed.
“It’s come in handy from time to time, but I’m not as fluent as I used to
be. Mr Worf seems to think I have a peculiar accent. He was even more
surprised that I had met his grandfather.” Kirk acknowledged, somewhat
self-consciously. “I’m not used to being around Klingons, although Colonel
Worf did an admirable job trying to defend Admiral McCoy and myself when we
were tried for murder… anyway, that was long ago. Sometimes I forget that
they’re our allies. Long ago, I remember the Organians foretelling our pact
with them. It seemed inconceivable, and yet here we are,” Kirk reflected.
“It’s not that I disapprove, mind you. I respect Klingons more than many
humans I know, but most men of your age can’t really know how close to
galactic armageddon we had come to, or how delicate a situation it was to
avoid it. Even the their invasion of the Cardassian system was nothing to
the imminent holocaust that we faced back then… I suppose this is one of
the reasons I want to be a part of the Federation-Romulan negotiations.”
Kirk paused, realizing that all of the bridge personnel had grown quiet,
listening with rapt attention to his words. He looked embarrassed for a
moment, then spoke again.
“I’m sorry to burden you with my philosophy-mongering. I usually leave that
to Bones–uh, Admiral McCoy.” The bridge crew smiled collectively.
“Nothing to apologize for, sir,” reassured Riker. He lowered his voice.
“You’re giving these people something to tell their grandchildren. Whether
you accept it or not, Admiral, you are a bona fide hero to this crew,”
Riker’s voice whispered. Kirk frowned.
“I hope they won’t be disappointed.”

II
The reception for Kirk and McCoy was far more lavish than either of them
had anticipated, and Kirk was amazed at the turnout of crew and officers. He
was stricken at the vast size of this Enterprise, and was momentarily
overcome by a exquisite stab of homesickness. At this moment, he fiercely
missed his old ship, destroyed many long years ago; but not before taking a
squad of Klingon shock troops with her. Although he had commanded the next
Enterprise that followed, it was never the same as the first Enterprise…
twenty years of exploration and adventure and, yes,… tragedy… David…
He angrily bit back tears at the memory of his only son, taken from him at
the moment of their reunion. Scotty… Kirk smiled now, thinking of their
meeting several months ago. Montgomery Scott, who had been presumed dead for
seventy years, suddenly and miraculously surviving by means of his own
ingenuity. Kirk remembered the outcome of Scotty’s escape and subsequent
adventure with the Enterprise crew, and he remembered how the two of them
smiled quietly afterwards, silently reminiscing about their own exploits.
Scotty was now travelling the galaxy on his own: searching for distant
family and reacquainting himself with the new and strange technologies, some
of which he, himself, pioneered.
Kirk thought of Sulu, who was to die in the command chair of the Enterprise
B, valiantly facing a Romulan war fleet. Uhura, now governor of Tansi IV,
still radiant and exotic, wept on Kirk’s shoulder when he told her of Sulu’s
fate. Chekov, now Admiral and Commander of the Federation Second Fleet, fell
silent and swore softly in Russian. The abrupt fact of their awaiting
mortality could not fail to make an impression on all of them.
Kirk shifted uneasily, fatigued by the day’s activity and by the strange
wave of nostalgia brought on by being aboard the new Enterprise. The faces
of the past swam past him on all sides, and yet, he was calm and placid at
the experience; comforted, even. Will Decker, whose father had given his
life to stop the Doomsday Machine; Marla McGyver, who was to die in the
brawny arms of Khan Noonian Singh on Ceti Alpha V. Janice Rand, who loved
Kirk in a way he could never return… Kirk sighed and turned, and watched
McCoy approaching with two drinks.
“Take this and call me in the morning, Jim.”
Kirk accepted the offered tumbler and sipped suspiciously.
“mm — Whooa! Bones, is this –”
“Shh — yes. Romulan ale. I had it smuggled aboard before we arrived; two
months before, actually.” McCoy winked. Kirk shook his head in amusement.
“Bones, do you know what the penalty is for smuggling contraband on a
Starship? Do you remember what happened the last time we experienced Romulan
ale?”
“Sure I do. That’s why I did it anyway. What are they gonna do to two old
men who forgot a few regulations?” McCoy answered.
“Right. A couple of irresponsible old men.”
“One more coming right up!” McCoy spoke as he made his way back to the bar.
Kirk had not spoken to Picard since he had boarded and been placed in
Commander Riker’s care, but as the evening’s festivities and numerous
speeches slowly dissipated, Kirk eventually found Picard absorbed in
studying the constellations through the observation port. Picard noticed
Kirk’s approach and turned.
“Good evening, Admiral. I trust you are enjoying the celebration?”
Kirk smiled at Picard”s earnestness and saw a little of his old self.
“Admiral McCoy and I are certainly enjoying the attention we have received;
Admiral McCoy in particular. I was hoping that you and I would have the
chance to speak at length,” Kirk prompted.
Picard looked at Kirk with a neutral eye. He seemed about to speak but
hesitated. Kirk saw the uneasy look that Picard tried to cover and spoke first.
“I am familiar with your record, Captain. I have always kept myself
informed on the anything concerning the Enterprise. I know as much about you
as I do about Chris Pike or Rachel Garrett. It’s a hobby that I’ve
cultivated and indulged myself with. I’m writing a book about it, too, as a
matter of fact. It’s called From Sails to Warp-drive: The Captains of the
Enterprise.” Picard’s face was stony.
“Don’t look so disturbed, Captain. I’ve left the chapter on you open for
the moment… but I’m sure I can predict your opinion of me quite
accurately. I’ll admit I have a pretty checkered career, with many a
flagrant disregard of regulations including the Prime Directive. You, on the
other hand, are as stiff-backed as a neutronium rod on the matter of
regulations.”
“It is not my place to comment on the career record of a superior officer,
Admiral.” Picard finally said with some level of stiffness. Kirk smiled at
Picard’s composure.
“Please. Go ahead, Captain. We’re not on Parade tonight, and I’m curious
about your view of me. After all these years, my ego can take a little
upbraiding.”
Picard frowned, then a smile formed on his lips. He was impressed with
Kirk’s candour. He had expected a far more cantankerous character, full of
high-handed opinions about how things were done in the old days. To Picard’s
amazement, Kirk seemed quite reserved and far less resentful than expected.
“In the matter of your handling of certain incidents in the past, I would
have shown a little more caution.” Picard offered.
“Which, in particular?” Kirk smiled. He was getting to the meat of the
matter. A discussion ensued, which touched upon the many situations where
Kirk was forced to exert his influence in the face of many a near-court martial.
“What were you thinking when you were doing some of these things?” Picard
asked with genuine curiosity.
“You have to understand Captain, that we were on the outskirts of a
frontier a lot more mysterious and frightening than is considered now. Not
that it is any less dangerous now than then, but we were a much younger
Federation in those days. The Unknown was a lot more fearsome and we were
alone much of the time. Communication was often slower and we usually had to
depend on our own initiative and decision-making to solve a problem. It was
very much a Wild West situation and a Starship Captain had to be the Law
more often than not. Sometimes the temptation to use that power was more
than a mere man could resist…” Images of Captains Garth and Tracey flashed
through Kirk’s mind as he spoke.
“Could you?” Picard asked bluntly. Kirk turned and reflected.
“Check my record and judge for yourself, Captain.”
Kirk smiled. Picard studied him and smiled as well.
“Call me Jim, by the way.”
“Very well … Jim. Please call me Jean-Luc.”
The two finally shook hands and the growing tension between the two
evaporated at once.
“This is a fine vessel you have here, Jean-Luc. Every inch of her deserves
the name Enterprise. Her crew is as first rate as I have ever seen.”
“I thank you, Admi-..Jim. I’m looking forward to the upcoming conference
and hopeful about the results. A solid peace with the Romulans would open a
new age of allied exploration and expansion for the Federation and the two
Empires.” Kirk looked concerned.
“I remember what the situation was like before the Federation/Klingon pact.
There was many a Klingon Warlord and Starfleet Officer who rejected the
whole idea of peace. Many looked upon the treaty as a weakening of the two
sides and the beginning of a general dissolution of solidity and power. The
feelings ran so strong that a Klingon/Federation conspiracy developed and
almost escalated into Interstellar War.”
Kirk gripped his cane with white knuckles as he related the tale. He
trembled with emotion as he remembered the ordeal of the Klingon prison
planet R’uhre Penthe and how narrow his escape had been. If it had not been
for Spock’s foresight he would never have… Kirk then saw the expression of
concern on Picard’s face and spoke.
“A situation I hope you never have to experience, Jean-Luc.Our entire
social structure nearly collapsed during that incident. It was a time of
blood-freezing terror. Keep a wary eye on the Romulans, Jean-Luc. They are
an honourable but proud race. If they even remotely suspect that they will
lose face because of this treaty they will obstruct it any way they can. If
they can find a way to loophole any part of the treaty after it is signed,
it will be years before they can be induced to re-evaluate the treaty. The
Romulan Empire has many individuals who thrive on the state of war that has
existed for all these years.”
“The treaty was asked for by the Romulans, Jim,” Picard reasoned.
“So was the Klingon treaty. It didn’t stop the men — Federation as well as
Klingon — who opposed it.”
“Well, we will soon know. But let’s save these concerns for tomorrow.
McCoy approached with a small tray of drinks.
” Looks like you boys need a refill. I suppose you’ve been inflicting your
old war stories of poor Picard here. Sorry, Captain, but this is kind of an
occupational hazard.” Picard laughed.
“What is, Admiral McCoy? Listening to old war stories, or telling them?”
“Try some of this, Captain. This’ll take some of the starch out of your
backbone.” Picard reddened at the remark and flinched when he recognized the
potent beverage.
“Admiral, I’m willing to turn a blind eye to the occasional infraction of
regulations concerning your tastes in drink but I must draw the line at
partaking of it. I’m sorry.”
“Now listen here, young fella, as a consulting advisor to the current
Surgeon-General, I prescribe the following medication; if you’re gonna let
Jim here continue to bend your ear with his highly overdramatised and
revisionist accounts of the old days, you’re gonna need some anesthetic.”
“I won’t say anything about it if you won’t.” Kirk confided to Picard, who
looked uncomfortable.
“Was Admiral McCoy always this cavalier about regulations?” Picard asked,
frowning as McCoy rejoined the group of young female medical officers he had
been entertaining.
“Any chance he got.” Kirk admitted. At that point, they were joined by
Commander Riker.
“I hope you’re having a good time Admiral. Captain, nothing to report. We
will be in the Neutral zone in fifteen hours.”
“Everything seems to be in order, Commander.” Picard was quietly pleased.
“Glad to hear it, Commander. Here’s to an uneventful trip, gentlemen.” Kirk
raised his glass and Picard followed suit. Picard froze as Riker eyed the
contents of the upraised tumblers.
“Very exotic stuff, Captain. Admiral McCoy seems to be well connected to
his suppliers.” Riker just managed not to notice Picard’s discomfiture.
“I was just on my way to return this to Admiral McCoy…” Picard stammered
and made moves to dispose of his illicit drink, which he finally did by
handing it to Riker before striding away.
“That was needlessly cruel, Commander,” Kirk said with a wink.
“I don’t know what you mean, Admiral.” Riker returned the wink as the two
downed their drinks.
III
When the emergency klaxon sounded four hours later, Kirk awoke, jarred and
slightly confused. He rose in his bed and tried to focus. In his few seconds
of disorientation, a flood of memories flashed by; whirling to face the
viewscreen in his command chair, facing Khan after fifteen years of brutal
exile, the death of his son… Kirk breathed slowly as reality reasserted
itself, then reached for the communicator.
“Kirk to bridge, what’s the situation?”
“Commander Data here, Admiral. We are on red alert. An unknown vessel has
been pacing us and is now blocking our path.” Picard’s voice added.
“I’ve just arrived on the bridge, Admiral. Will you join us?”
“I’m on my way. Kirk out.”
Kirk struggled to dress himself without jostling his innards too much .
“I can’t believe it.” Kirk groaned, his head pounding.”I was battling the
effects of Romulan ale when we negotiated the Klingon peace. When will I
ever learn?”

The bridge was a tightly-wound, highly-controlled mechanism and it made
Kirk smile when the lift doors opened to reveal the scene. Someone announced
Admiral on the bridge, and Kirk acknowledged.
“What’s the situation, Captain?” Kirk repeated, as he eased himself into
the chair vacated for him by Counsellor Troi. She caught the brief
appraising glance from Kirk and only a trace of his feelings. Data
approached and announced the current situation.
“Admiral, the Enterprise is being blocked by a vessel of unknown origin and
affiliation. It has not responded to our transmissions and we cannot scan
through their shields to ascertain their armament. Apart from blocking our
way, it has shown no hostile intent.” Kirk pursed his lips and frowned.
“The vessel is not identifiable?”
“It is not any design currently used by any of the spacefaring Federation
races, nor does it match any catalogued Romulan configuration. It does,
however, possess design elements from two-hundred and forty-eight known
vessels.” Kirk nodded and spoke.
“Have you scanned the vessel for cloaking emissions?”
Picard answered, “We are picking up an emission wave that is similar to the
sensor readings we have gathered from cloaked Romulan ships in the past.”
“Jean-Luc, I have the beginnings of an idea. Mr. LaForge?” LaForge’s voice
spoke from the communicator.
“Yes, Admiral?”
Kirk smiled to himself. “Mr. Scott had some high praise for you, Mr.
LaForge. I’d like to ask your professional opinion about something. Long
ago, I did a little espionage job for the Federation involving the theft of
the first Romulan Cloaking device. What we’re dealing with here may be
loosely related.” Voices whispered in the background at the news of this
unknown adventure. Kirk continued, “We took it back to Starfleet for
analysis to ascertain it’s possible use for our vessels. The tech boys
tinkered with it for over a year, playing with some applications which
included projecting the image of one vessel over another. The project was
eventually shelved because of the enormous power drain on the warp engines
during use. I also know that because of the intense animosity towards the
Romulans at that time, any attempted use of so-called enemy hardware was
looked upon as unpatriotic, and so, the file was closed. The morally
questionable cloaking device was put in storage and all records of the
experiments were made inaccessible.”
“Whew. That’s a pretty tall tale, Admiral. If anyone else but you were
telling me this, I’d have a hard time keeping a straight face.” LaForge
answered. “I’ll run a full spectrum scan on all sensor wavelengths and
instruct the computer to focus on the parameters you’ve suggested; it will
take about ten minutes.” Five minutes later, Laforge contacted the bridge
with his findings.
“I’m adjusting the viewscreen filters to bypass the cloaking effect. What
you will see in a moment is the vessel’s true appearance.”
The image of the unidentified hybrid vessel shimmered and vanished, to be
replaced by a Romulan Warbird.
“Shields at maximum strength, Mr. Worf. Battlestations! All decks to
battlestations! Weapons systems, stand by.” Picard barked.
“Captain, we are receiving a signal from the Romulan ship,” Mr.Worf
announced crisply.
“On screen, Mr. Worf.”
“I’m not detecting any weapon activity on the warbird, Captain,” Data added.
The Romulan ship’s image faded and was replaced by the image of an aged but
strong-looking face. All activity on the bridge halted as recognition set in.
“Spock!” Kirk managed to gasp. Picard gaped silently, gripping the arms of
his command chair.
“Greetings, Captain Picard; and you, Admiral Kirk.” The neutral tone of
Spock’s voice held the bridge crew immobile until Kirk finally spoke.
“Spock … what the devil is this all about? You’re with … the Romulans?”
Kirk was aghast.
“Captain Picard is familiar with my relations concerning a certain faction
of the Romulan council. What you would call an underground of Romulan
citizens who are tired of extended and fruitless animosity towards the
Federation. I have been working for this cause for the last five years,
three months and nine days.”
“How come I had no knowledge of this?” Kirk looked accusingly at Picard.
“Jim, do not blame Captain Picard. It was Starfleet who ordered the
information withheld from you. You, as it is said, know too much and you
would be too valuable to lose to the Romulans if you were captured. Which is
what would inevitably occur if you tried to come to my aid, as Starfleet
predicted you might,” Spock lectured.
“That’s not … true.” Kirk faltered.
“I concurred with Starfleet’s decision especially in the light of your
consistency of action in the past.”
Kirk looked up at the quiet, implacable face and was certain that, in his
own way, Spock was laughing.
“Spock, I believe that you have made me the butt of a colossal practical
joke.” Kirk was shaking his head and laughing himself now. Picard didn’t
know what to think.
“Admiral, I find the concept of a so-called `practical joke’ not only to be
quite impractical, but also–”
“Illogical?” finished Kirk.
“Very much so.” The lift door hissed open to reveal a sleepy and
ill-tempered McCoy.
“What the Damn-hell is going on up here? What the — Spock …? Is that
you? Pointy-eared sunafabitch. It is you!”
“Admiral McCoy, although I see that the passage of time has eroded your
faculties I see that it has not, for the moment, deadened your grasp of the
obvious.”
“Don’t take that tone with me, you blasted, green-blooded hob-goblin! What
the blazes are you doing on a Romulan ship?” McCoy sputtered.
“Captain Picard, if I may be permitted to transport aboard, I would have
words with you and the Admiral.” With that, the screen went blank and the
placid Romulan ship lay suspended in the starry void.
“Transporter room, prepare to receive.” Picard announced, rising from his
chair.
IV
The conference room was still in half light as the small group of men
entered. The lights brightened as they sat, circled around the table. Spock
rose to address the conclave.
“Gentlemen, there is a very important addendum that must be applied to the
charter of terms that the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire have
co-authored and that is this: there must be a total and complete amnesty for
all members of the Romulan Underground both captured and in hiding.”
Picard looked uncomfortable and puzzled.
“Ambassador Spock, as noble as this gesture is, there may be serious
repercussions in the Federation as well as the Romulan Empire due to this
last-minute intervention of yours.” Picard reasoned. “Couldn’t this request
of your people have been made sooner, while the treaty documents were still
being drawn up?” Spock looked at Picard briefly, and prepared to explain.
“Captain … gentlemen. The Romulans, like the Vulcans, are a fastidious
race. The pattern of regulations and procedure are a vital part of their
existence. Orders are acted out to the letter and are not questioned; they
do not act on impulse or on self initiative like Humans or Klingons.” Worf
frowned at Spock.
“Although their emotional control is considerably casual, their logic is
comparable to the Vulcans.” Kirk looked concerned, and finally spoke.
“Spock, I still don’t understand what you hope to accomplish, or why you
feel that there is a danger to the Romulans you represent.” Spock’s eyebrow
rose in surprise.”I believe I have already explained the danger, Admiral.”
McCoy, purpling with suppressed impatience, hammered the tabletop.
“Dammit, Spock! Would you get to the blasted point, in words we can
understand?”
Data quietly interrupted. “I believe I know what Ambassador Spock is trying
to warn us about.” Data received the full attention of the room. “If the
treaty does not completely specify total amnesty for all Romulan citizens
involved in the underground, they will all be executed, without hesitation.”
“Why?” Picard asked grimly. Data paused, and Spock answered.
“Because the treaty did not say that they could not execute them. In the
eyes of the Romulan High Command the underground are an outlaw society,
guilty of high treason, punishable by death. The executions will start as
soon as the treaty ceremony is concluded and this will spell the beginning
of the end for the Empire.”
“How will the elimination of the dissident faction affect the continuity of
the Empire?” Picard questioned. “Because, Captain, the dissident faction
does not only consist of idealistic youths, upset with the current state of
the ruling class. Many of the underground are powerful statesmen and
scientists. In fact, the resistance movement was originally begun by T’Nax,
a leading physicist. The underground has insulated itself from inadvertent
betrayal by deliberately limiting knowledge of its leaders and the
whereabouts of the various meeting places it frequents. The total effect is
that even the underground leaders do not know how many members there are,
thus protecting the majority. I know just how many government officials and
key scientific minds are involved with the resistance, but so do the command
council of the Empire. This was due to the unfortunate fact that I had
confided in a man that I had been friends with for many years, not realizing
that he had changed since I had known him. This gross miscalculation may now
lead to the virtual extinction of the Romulan race. The Treaty was requested
because the Empire is dissolving already; civil strife and dissatisfaction
with the totalitarian system has finally begun to shake the foundations of
the Romulan way of thinking. This, as well as constraints caused by vast
military overspending, has crippled the commercial viability of the Romulan
Economy. In other words, the Romulans can no longer afford to be at war with
us, or anyone. If the Treaty goes through as is, then the Romulans will soon
die as a race. They will calmly and summarily execute the emerging dissident
faction as traitors, effectively cutting off its own head. The clean-slate
psychology of the Romulans would amount to what Admiral McCoy would
colloquially call a witch-hunt. The Romulan Empire would collapse as a
direct result of the inability to sustain its own technology and culture.”
Spock concluded his diatribe and sat, awaiting evaluation.
“Spock, are you convinced that this would happen?” Kirk asked softly.
“Yes, Admiral.” Spock said simply. “The Romulans are a logical race with
intense passions. Their pride has been shattered, and their self-esteem has
been tarnished now that they have been forced to accept the fact that they
need outside help. They will avenge their honour by striking back at what
they observe as the cause of their weakness, regardless of the results.”
“The dissidents would be eliminated out of spite?” Kirk offered.
“It would be consistent with their past actions. If the amnesty is included
as a specific condition of the Treaty, it will have to be obeyed. Their
honour will enforce it,” Spock concluded.
“Either way, the Treaty must go through. The Empire is close to anarchy as
it is. Starfleet has informed me that several of the outer planets of the
Empire are dangerously close to armed insurrection.” Picard added.
“It is also imperative that I am not implicated in the amnesty request.”
Spock announced.
“Why not?” McCoy questioned.
“I am looked upon as a half-breed rabble rouser; a traitor to my people and
theirs. The directive for this part of the agreement must come from a source
as close to the Federation High Command as possible.”
“You mean me.” Kirk finally said.
“Yes, Admiral. You.” The room became silent as the words sank home.
“Although you are officially a decommissioned command officer without full
executive power, you are still a legendary figure to the Romulans. The
various retellings of your incidents with them have become mythic in their
exaggerations.”
Kirk scowled. “I… need to think about it.” He whispered. Picard looked
puzzled at Kirk’s reticence but cleared the conference room at Spock’s
request. Now Spock, Kirk and McCoy were alone.
“It’s… good to see you, Jim.” Spock said. Kirk looked up at Spock,
surprise in his face.
“Forgive me for saying so, Spock, but that was a pretty emotional greeting,
coming from you.” McCoy commented wryly.
“It’s good to see you too, Spock. You’re aging better than I am.” Kirk
forced a smile.
“Why me, Spock? I can’t believe that after what happened to Sulu that you
would imagine that I would go even further out of my way to help the
Romulans any more than I have to. I’m only here now because it’s an order,
and probably the last official mission I will undertake. Now you want me to
do the Romulans a favour. The Klingons kill my only son and I’m then asked
to help save their tottering empire. The Romulans kill one of my old friends
and I’m still expected to pull their fat out of the fire. Dammit, it’s too
much! I’m here because the needs of the –”
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Spock cut in.
“Or the one.” McCoy finished. “I hate to be accused with agreeing with
Spock on anything, Jim, but don’t you think you’re letting this get too
personal? Is what Spock is asking you really that unreasonable?”
“Don’t you think so, Bones?” Kirk looked weary and old. “When do I get to
stop having to be reasonable and understanding? When do I get to stop having
to give in to what’s best for everyone else? When do I get to stop deciding
who lives. . . and who dies.”
“Jim, you’ve got to let go.” McCoy said softly. “Remember when Sybok wanted
to release you from your pain? You refused because you said you needed your
pain. Are you now going to let that pain consume you because of a loss that
you couldn’t have prevented even if you had been there?”
“Couldn’t I have?” Kirk growled.
“It’s over, Jim.” McCoy continued. “Sulu died doing what he loved best.
You can’t be Captain and Protector of us all forever. Don’t cheapen Sulu’s
death with petty spite now. You can’t bring him back but you now have the
chance to prevent other deaths. Deaths of beings that want to be like us;
to join us. Why not bury the hatchet now while you still can?”
Kirk frowned and turned his chair to face the observation window, giving the
his back to the two men.
Looking out into the vast starfield he once thought he commanded, he
gripped the shaft of his cane with angry strength and pondered McCoy’s and
Spock’s arguments.
V
Sulu had been in command of the Excelsior for four years when he was
awarded command of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701B. Kirk remembered
shaking hands with Hikaru as he stepped up the podium during the ceremony to
be congratulated. Kirk had felt no regret that he was finally retiring from
active service, and could not have chosen a finer Captain for the newest
Enterprise. Kirk then returned to his studies and lecturing, and the
Enterprise set sail to its duties. Years passed without incident, and life
went on. Then one day, Kirk had been called into an emergency High-Command
Briefing where he was informed that the Enterprise-B had been destroyed with
all hands during routine patrol in the Neutral zone. Kirk had felt a
stabbing pain in his soul as he heard the details. The duplicate Ship’s Log
had been recovered from within a warp-speed probe that had been intercepted
on the Federation side of the Neutral Zone.According to the log, The
Enterprise-B had responded to a distress call from a crippled freighter
which turned out to have been bait for a Romulan trap: Three Warbirds
materialized and proceeded to attack the Enterprise-B with the intention to
capture. The lead Warbird had been destroyed with the Enterprise’s first
salvo, but outnumbered and sustaining heavy damage to her warp engines, the
crippled Starship was soon backed into a corner. Faced with certain
destruction or boarding and capture, Captain Hikaru Sulu opted to
self-destruct the Enterprise.
Kirk was devastated and immediately decided to take an extended leave. He
brooded for three years, eventually forcing himself to face life again and
return to the only existence he knew… Starfleet and space.

Kirk reflected on this series of events until he stopped at the door of the
holodeck. He instructed the computer with the details of the projection he
wanted and entered the chamber. Kirk looked around him and smiled. Seating
himself in his old command chair, he swivelled to face the viewscreen. He
looked right and left, inspecting Sulu’s and Chekov’s positions and slowly
spun to see Uhura’s and Spock’s stations.
“Old times, long gone …” Kirk whispered to himself. He sat and quietly
contemplated the career that he had acted out on this chair. He was moved by
a thought and called out.
“Computer… create image of Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu as he appeared when he
was helmsman of the first Starship Enterprise”. The air above the empty
chair shimmered and suddenly it was occupied by a straight-backed young
asian man with short,glossy black hair. The figure turned and Kirk’s heart
panged as Sulu faced him.
“Course, Captain?” Sulu queried. Kirk struggled hard to answer neutrally.
“Warp factor one to Starbase 5 and then steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu…”
“Aye-aye, Captain.” Sulu turned to face his panel. The long-remembered
sound of the ancient warp-engines filled the bridge and Kirk almost wept
with the pain of nostalgia. Now he knew how Scotty felt when he talked about
his Wee Bairns. Several minutes passed and Kirk could stand it no longer.
“Mr Sulu, can I have a word with you?” He said finally.
Sulu turned to face him after one last check of his instruments.
“Of course, Captain. Is anything wrong?”
“Well… yes… I know that you are only a generated image of what the
computer knows about Hikaru Sulu, but I need to talk to him… very much.”
Kirk’s mouth felt dry. He realized how Ebenezer Scrooge must have felt when
confronted with the ghost of Jacob Marley.
“I’ll help anyway I can, Sir. What’s wrong? Sulu’s face was impassive but
warm. Kirk struggled with his words.
“Hikaru, I have a problem… I’ve been asked to help in the formation of a
Romulan Peace Treaty… in a way that goes against my principles…” Kirk
said with uncertainty.
“A Romulan Peace treaty sounds like a good idea, Captain… Why would that
go against your principles?” Sulu asked, puzzled.
“It’s not just the treaty… I’ve been asked to push for an amnesty for
Romulan dissenters so that they won’t be executed for treason after the
treaty is signed. Spock… feels that the Romulan Empire would soon fall if
we don’t protect those dissenters. Apparently the cream of Romulan
scientific and political society is involved with the underground movement
and would be summarily wiped out… leaving the Empire headless.”
Sulu nodded in understanding, and finally spoke.
“Captain, it all boils down to what is more important… peace with a
strong ally… or being responsible for the death of an entire culture? It
seems that the choice is obvious… help the Romulans and win a new ally.”
Kirk clenched his hands in irritation.
“You don’t understand, Hikaru… I can’t forgive them for what they did…
to you…” Kirk stammered.
“What did they do to me?” Sulu asked.
Kirk reluctantly retold the fateful story of Sulu’s fate and when he had done…
“I eventually command the Enterprise?” Sulu grinned euphorically. “That’s
wonderful!” Kirk looked at him in amazement.
“Hikaru, don’t you understand? You and your crew will be killed in battle
with the Romulans. Those same Romulans that I am now expected to help. Don’t
you see my quandary?” Kirk almost shouted. Sulu’s face grew serious and he
stood, facing Kirk.
“Captain, if that is the way I leave this life, then let it be. I and my
crew will have died doing our duty for Starfleet and the Federation, on
board the finest ship in the Fleet. What more could any Starfleet Officer
want? I don’t see your problem, Captain. You shouldn’t let my fate cloud
your judgement now that you must make a decision that will affect the fate
of millions. Don’t avenge my death upon untold generations of people that
need your help. Is this not what our duty in Starfleet is all about?” Sulu
looked at Kirk almost sternly and then, as though he had realized something
that had not occurred to him before, changed his expression.
“Captain… you’re taking a hard line on this treaty because you felt that
my death was your fault? You think that somehow you might have saved me and
the ship had you been there? Captain Kirk, in spite of all we have gone
through, and will go through, you are only human and sometimes everything we
learn isn’t enough to stave off disaster… forget what happened to me…
your duty lies ahead of you, not back in the unalterable past. You have a
destiny that means life and hope for a miserable population. Fulfil that
destiny now and your conscience will be clear. Remember me with honour, not
with remorse… goodbye Captain.” Sulu’s image fluttered out of existence
and Kirk sat alone on the holodeck bridge, its lights winking and sounds
chirping. The computer spoke, startling Kirk briefly.
“Program Sulu, Hikaru ready to run.” Kirk looked perplexed and replied.
“Computer, you’ve just finished running the Sulu program… it ended just a
moment ago.”
“Negative. No program other than the bridge program has been run. The last
five minutes were spent recovering all data on Sulu, Hikaru. It is now ready
to run.”
“Negative, computer… cancel that request.”
Kirk sat silently, stunned by what he had experienced. Slowly, he thought
about the incident, and with Sulu’s words in his head, Kirk finally accepted
the death of his friend and the responsibility that he had been avoiding. He
knew what he had to do and now was the time to do it.
The Holodeck door slid open and a figure silently approached.
“I thought I would find you here,” Picard spoke softly. Kirk roused
himself from his revery and turned to look at Picard. “What can I do for
you, Captain?” Kirk said self-consciously.
“I don’t know, Admiral. I was hoping that I might be able to do something
for you.” Picard eased himself into Sulu’s chair, and turned to face Kirk.
“This bridge is quite famous. When I was at the Academy, it was quite an
honour and a thrill to visit the replica at Starfleet Headquarters. I
attended all your lectures.”
“Did I say anything interesting?” Kirk managed to grin.
“I remember your infamous Kobyashi Maru experience, and how shocked I was
that my idol had perpetrated a scandalous cheat. Not only that, but I
couldn’t believe that you were actually proud of it!” Picard mused.
“I was your idol, once… well, sorry for the disappointment.” Kirk smiled
with embarrassment.
“I resented you for a long time, maybe even until now. I’ve been thinking
about why that might be, and then I realized that I was the one I should be
blaming. Not pinning my guilt on you. In my career, I have been forced to
bend the Prime Directive to its breaking point, simply because I was faced
with decisions that allowed for no clear-cut solutions. On many occasions I
had to re-interpret the letter of the Prime Directive and follow my
instinct. I’ve seen that this was no great exertion in your career, but I
was conditioned to follow orders and conduct myself with discipline above
all else,” Picard explained.
“So, you found out that the universe doesn’t recognize order and discipline
to your satisfaction.” Kirk answered sardonically. “I’ve learned that from
experience, all right.” Picard laughed briefly and the room fell silent.
Kirk and Picard regarded each other for a few minutes and Kirk spoke first.
” Jean-Luc, I imagine that you’re here to convince me to help Spock, save
the tottering Romulan Empire, and retain my title as General Custodian of
the universe.”
Picard looked non-committal.
“I am curious as to what your decision will be, but I’m not here to coerce
you. However the Romulan Council Flagship will rendezvous with us in three
hours, so you will have to decide soon.”
“I’ve already decided, Jean-Luc. I’ll add Spock’s proposal to the Treaty
conditions and have them ratified by the Federation Diplomatic Department by
the time we arrive at the Conference location. I spoke to an… old friend
about it and he convinced me that it was the right thing to do. Kirk smiled.

Kirk and McCoy stepped out of the shuttle as it rejoined the Enterprise and
were spirited away to accompany Spock with Captain Picard in private.
“The first round of negotiations seem to be moving along without
difficulty. The amnesty proposal was greeted with some surprise but I don’t
think that they will be able to wriggle out of it. The Federation
arbitrators were very skilful in inferring that the entire Treaty package
would hinge on the amnesty agreement. We will be back to finalize it
tomorrow morning, so, for now, I would like to spend the evening getting
reacquainted with my elusive and trouble-making friend.”
Spock’s eyebrow rose.
“I believe that your tone is distinctly sarcastic, Admiral.”
Kirk laughed and refilled his drink. He raised his glass and spoke.
“Gentlemen. . . we have taken a long step today. Maybe we’ve learned a few
things on the way. I’ve tried to do my duty as I saw it and I couldn’t have
had a finer crew. Captain Picard, I won’t say that I don’t envy you. Even
though my days are done commanding the finest ship in the fleet, I feel I
must say this: it has been and always will be a comfort knowing that you and
your crew are making sure history doesn’t forget the name… Enterprise.”
Kirk paused for a moment, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. “What I’d like
to do is propose a toast – to Captain Hikaru Sulu… Captain of the
Enterprise… of my friend I would like to repeat a line that meant as much
to him as it does to me…”
Kirk held out his tumbler and spoke again, his voice firm once more.
” All I ask is a tall ship – and a star to steer her by.”
THE END

Brenna R. Toblan toblanbr@cadvision.com
Chair, Con-Version 15 www.nucleus.com/~garyf/conver.html
July 17-19, 1998 guests: J. Michael Straczynski – writer/producer
Calgary Joe Haldeman – author
J. Brian Clarke – author
Adrian Kleinbergen Dave Duncan – author
Bridget Landry – Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Dr. Phil Currie – Royal Tyrrell Museum

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