They were three of the finest officers aboard the Starship Enterprise, possibly among the thousand finest in Starfleet itself. But for this moment, trying to spot them out solely by their good qualities would be a pointless endeavor. For they were all three of them currently trapped in that odd mode that every sentient being eventually found themselves in. In short, a series of missteps, miscues and misunderstandings had robbed them of their common sense and caused them to see up as down, left as right, and a very bad choice as the only one available to them.
The first one was the lowest in technical rank, at least as this was counted by succession to command of the ship, were it to come to that. Conversely, he was also the most famous of the three, for reasons owing both to his own actions and to those of a man whose life and career would be a legend when this young officer's great-great-great-great grandson entered the Academy.
In the present time, he thought not of possible futures but of past history repeating itself. Peter Kirk knew that he was not facing arrest, and for what it was worth, he had not lied. Stepped in it royally, yes, but lied, no. For all that, though, he could taste the air of Dianas, the taste of having broken promises and betrayed the trust of his heroes, all for a gain that no longer seemed remotely worth it.
*God, I'm sorry Pavel. You have always been there for me.*
When Saavik had told him she needed to be alone in her quarters, he had not questioned it, and had quickly left for his own. He would let the growing ache of being without her consume him later. He would not let her pass out of his life entirely, he vowed before refocusing on the task before him.
"Captain, A Starfleet Officer must ever be mindful of the consequences of their actions. I have failed to do this, and so began a conflict that has disrupted the smooth operation of this vessel..."
As he wrote on, he made sure to thank those who should be thanked, and made one small but significant refutation. He only hesitated when the time came to write those fateful, final words that would bring a sorry end to one of the best years of his life.
The second officer was the highest ranking of the three, and of some notoriety as well. Though she knew and understood many turns of phrase from Terran culture, many more eluded her. One she did know, and now firmly disagreed with, was the old cliche that there was no such thing as bad publicity. For she had lots of bad publicity, possibly even enough to make her choice more final than those of the other two. She was known for those she had stood with, and those who she had stood against. She was also known for being the most difficult officer in Starfleet. Most could not care less that she had the blood of one of the Federation's sworn enemies in her veins. Some did sometimes wonder if that same enemy had sent her to be in Starfleet, then thought better of it, knowing that Romulus was a lot more subtle than that.
Saavik made her choice, knowing full well that what she was requesting might well be a moot point. Too many poorly chosen words, thrown punches, and too many times of missing too many people. She had become a wreck that only Pavel Chekov was willing to take a chance on, and now she had lost that dice roll as well. There was yet still one she had not pushed away, and probably could not if she tried. She smiled for his likely-permanent presence, and for his temporary absence as well. It would make things easier.
Pavel, you showed me I could. Yet even for you, I could not sustain such success.
If her heart was close to breaking, it was for losing, by way of her over-active mouth, both the captain who had trusted her and one of the only female friends her own age she had ever had. Her Aunt Roberta had always wanted this for her, but it was so difficult. Human children knew no emotional restraint, and yet also never seemed to truly speak their mind. This dichotomy, in children and adults of the species, had never allowed her to find her footing. It now seemed as though she never would.
"Captain, I judge my lack of perspective and unwise choices to be the true genesis of this crisis. You will doubtless say you expected better of me. As did I..."
It was all done with now, and perhaps, she mused, this was for the best.
The third officer was in-between the other two in terms of rank, and was not known outside of Starfleet and her family, though she had hoped to one day change that. That hope seemed as far away as two friendships now incomprehensibly gone forever, at least to her mind at that moment.
Roberta Vasquez had started out as the sole wronged party in all this, and had righteously (perhaps, she only now realized, a bit self-righteously) demanded her due from those who had upset her. Peter Kirk had conceded his wrong, both verbally and in writing, but had also introduced a compounding factor, the approval of the ship's first officer to his initial transgression. A Human still unsure of her place aboard a starship had confronted a Vulcan/Romulan who, it was well-known, didn't do well when confronted, and things had gotten predictably worse as a result.
Saavik's runaway mouth had also proved infectious. Buried but circumstantial suspicions about Peter Kirk's prior knowledge of whether his actions had been incorrect roared to life at exactly the wrong time. Her normally calm subordinate showed true rage at the assertion, which of course told her nothing at all. A very guilty man might use such feigned outrage to hide behind, much as a man guilty of one level of wrongdoing would surely bristle at being accused of one significantly worse.
Captain, you brought me back here. Showed me what true professionalism was about. But all it took was one bad moment for all the old garbage to bubble up.
"Perhaps--just perhaps-all-l-l-l this doesn't merit actual-l-l-l charges and a hearing," Ch'terr's had suggested.
"Want a windmill to go with that galactic dynasty you're tilting against?" Katya Sorenson interjected into their conversation after apparently overhearing their talk.
But it was Bucky who had really shaken Vasquez. Lieutenant Natalie Buchanan had made it clear that, while she supported Robbie fully on the first charge, on the second charge--that Kirk had known what he was doing was wrong in advance--Vasquez was just dead wrong. "Peter Kirk is one of the best officers I've ever served with, and while he might stumble, he wouldn't stab a friend in the back. If you don't know that about him, then I may not know you all that well."
Vasquez was incredulous. Didn't anyone, anywhere get the simple fact that she was the sinned against, and not the sinner? Robbie suddenly found herself understanding how Saavik could make such insanely stupid claims, as she responded to Bucky. "Geez, you sound like maybe you're in love with the guy."
Insanely stupid had been the term, and it had been apt. Buchanan did not glare, nor did she get up to leave. She showed, however, that she knew how to bite back. "He is someone I admire, having come through the fire like that, including getting his admittedly nice butt thrown in prison and coming back again. But I think even more highly of him because to my eyes, he is a combination of two great officers. Himself as he was walking in the door..."
Vasquez found her friend looking her directly in the eyes, a fierce look of something very unyielding.
"...and the woman who trained him, my best friend and the one I really love. Even if she's never shown a damn clue about it."
Again, Vasquez wondered why she was the villain in this. But she would not lash out at Buchanan again. Instead, she tried to sputter out leavening words. "Bucky, it was only one night. I told you that."
Buchanan nodded. "To you, that's obviously what its going to stay. I'm almost good with it, now. But look at us, Robbie. Isn't it now more obvious than ever how these things can get out of control?"
It now was. Buchanan had left, and a woman who had made the mistake of escalating a minor concern and being unnerved by foolish talk now made a third.
"Captain, if a Starfleet Officer cannot see things as they are, and remove the prism of their own biases long enough to make a clear judgement call, then their value to their ship and their shipmates diminishes, perhaps even to nothing. It is for this reason..."
In his ready room, Fleet Captain Pavel Chekov learned anew of escalation as he endured three levels of headache, as his chief science officer, his chief tactical officer, and his executive officer all had submitted their resignations and requests for transfer, all owing to a situation so small it was hard to see why it had even come before him directly.
He stewed, and wondered about three young people whose stability he had taken for granted. Taking a call from his wisest friend, he gained the comfort and advice he needed, and sent the following message in response to the triple resignation.
"MY READY ROOM. 0800 TOMORROW MORNING."
I've written off one friend this month. That is enough. No more.
He had been Gorbachev in his governance, and now, in his disciplinary mode, he would be Stalin, if that's what it took to end this once and for all.
Free counters provided by Andale.
Return to the index of The
Sixth Fleet -- 2296
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction.
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website