"Your coordinates are confirmed, Admiral Kirk. We'll have a transporter bay standing by for you at thirteen hundred hours."
James T. Kirk shut off the BellComm terminal. He plopped down in his favorite lounger in front of the fireplace and unfastened the flap of his berry-red jacket. Being Assistant Dean of Starfleet Training Command had its perks, including personal use of Starfleet transporter units. He sipped a glass of Saurian brandy. He would soon be whisked across the continent in the blink of an eye on a sad sojourn he had been unable to make for the last three years.
He closed his eyes, wearily massaging them with a thumb and index finger. Today was Memorial Day. For several hundred years, the last Monday in May had been set aside to remember and honor the dead. Starfleet held its annual remembrance ceremony on this day also.
He had been there this morning. He had stood on the dais with the Commanding Admiral's staff, sandwiched between Spock and Scott. Commander-Starfleet Nogura had read off the names of each and every member of Starfleet who had died in the line of duty in the last standard year. The list had been long; there was the entire crew of the U.S.S. Courageous and the eighty-five members of the Enterprise family who had died in the Serenidad incident. Kirk had felt cold, even in the warmth of the late May sunshine. Each name Nogura read had cut him like a knife in the gut; old friends, new friends, some people he had never met. But each one was a member of his crew, and he grieved for them all as he had for every crewperson he had ever lost over the years.
And it didn't get any easier with the passage of time.
Kirk rose stiffly from his chair and limped to the wide picture window with its panoramic vista of San Francisco Bay. He had one more visit to make today. One more death to remember--no, one more life to celebrate. He would remember that life he had crossed paths with for such a short time, even as he mourned its end. It would not be easy to go back, to remember how that death had come.
But he would not forget, not for as long as he lived.
Kirk shrugged out of his uniform jacket. He had time for a quick shower and lunch. He could fix something for himself here in his apartment on the compu-chef, but he decided to go to the Starfleet commissary. He'd had a belly full of death already today. It would be nice to be among the living for a while.
Then he would make his journey, alone except for his
I can't believe somebody's actually here, Steve Huggins thought. He watched the visitor who stood over the marble headstone. His expression was unreadable, but his hazel eyes were clouded with a pain that would never end. Something familiar about this guy. Huggins had seen him somewhere, he was sure. Not in person. Maybe on a holovid newsfax. He looked like somebody famous. He was a handsome man, wavy brown hair and a compact, muscular build.
Something about him commanded respect.
Huggins glanced around the immaculate little cemetery. With its ivy-covered walls, stately old oak trees, and ancient stone chapel, the churchyard was a quiet oasis in the midst of the megacity bustle of New York. Huggins' Uncle Bill was caretaker of the place; in fact, his family had been in charge of maintaining this plot for hundreds of years. It was peculiar. The caretaker was paid--and paid very well, considering it only took a few hours a week--by a mysterious San Francisco-based trust fund. No bosses, no personal contact of any kind. But each week, a stipend was faxed in from 'Frisco, regular as rain.
Who would pay for the upkeep of a centuries-old graveyard? And why in God's name would anyone visit this place except out of historical curiosity? The young man shook his head, puzzled.
The visitor bent down and placed a single red rose on the grave. Then he straightened and stared up at the sky. The expression on his face spoke of unbearable loss. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, then turned to go.
Huggins watched him leave. His Uncle Bill met the visitor at the cemetery gates. The two men spoke for a moment, then shook hands. Intrigued, Huggins ambled over to where his uncle stood.
"Bill, who was that guy?"
"Admiral James T. Kirk," Bill replied. "You may have heard of him."
"Kirk? The starship captain?!" Huggins' eyes widened. "I thought he looked familiar! My God--James T. Kirk!"
"Yeah. Anyway, he used to be a starship captain. They promoted him to admiral and kicked him upstairs. Some kind of reward for bravery at Serenidad with that Klingon business."
Bill's blue eyes twinkled. "Curious, aren't you, Stevie? All I know is that he comes here every Memorial Day when he's on Earth. Why, I don't know. Figure that's his business." He clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "I gotta finish up some trimming. You coming out to the house this afternoon for the picnic?"
Steve grinned. "You bet. I wouldn't miss Aunt Ruth's potato salad for the world!"
"Great. See you later then."
The older man went on about his business. Steve Huggins walked over to the headstone where Kirk had paid his respects. It just didn't figure. Why did James Kirk, the space hero, visit a three hundred and fifty-year old cemetery? He read the inscription carved on the simple marble tombstone, but it offered him no clues.
No clues at all.
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2275-2283 The Second Hiatus.
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