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Old May 23 2012, 04:55 AM   #1
Jedi Marso
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ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klingons

I wrote this a few years back and posted it in PDF format over at Wordforge. I finally got around to formatting it for BBS posts. Enjoy!
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Old May 23 2012, 04:57 AM   #2
Jedi Marso
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

Introduction



As all Star Trek fans know, multiple quantum timelines exist in which canonical events can vary either minutely, or so dramatically that the Federation we know doesn’t exist at all. In that spirit, this is a Star Trek story that basically alters Trek history starting from the events immediately following the movie The Search For Spock, continuing up through the end of the events in The Undiscovered Country. This story centers around two changed premises and one cusp event from the canon history that is treated as though it never happened. The cusp event here is the appearance of the Whale Probe as seen in The Voyage Home. Without it’s appearance Kirk and crew never travel back in time, so in this story they are left to deal with the consequences of their actions in ST III. As a result of this change the events of ST IV and ST V never happen, and the events of the canon version of ST VI diverge in various ways from movie canon. As I’ve written them, they necessarily have a significant impact on the movie Generations.

The first of the changed premises revolves around the nature of the Klingons. The Klingons of the Star Trek canon are centered around a warrior culture and a code of honor somewhat similar to Bushido, but this was supplanted in ST VI by Klingons patterned after Soviet Russians, complete with cold war references such as the ‘gulag’ and ‘listening posts‘, Russian accents, and the obvious parallels between Chernobyl and Praxis. These were changes that many considered apocryphal, shoehorned in to make the movie work as an allegory for the years immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’ve gone a third direction with the Klingons: In this story, you will find Klingons and a Klingon Empire based on John M. Ford’s novel The Final Reflection. That is unarguably my favorite Star Trek novel of all time, and in my opinion Mister Ford wrote the definitive version of the Klingon race long before the The Next Generation redefined them as a species. If you are familiar with Ford’s novel, you will find these Klingons very familiar. If not, you may or may not like them very much. The least I can say about them is that their motivations are uniquely Klingon, even when some of them are contemplating peace.

The second changed premise is the nature of the Praxis explosion. Without giving too much away, I’ve rewritten this so that Praxis is not a Klingon moon, and the explosion is much more (and in many ways, less) than a Chernobyl-like event. In truth, the notion that the destruction of one moon and the poisoning of the environment of one planet would pose a threat to an entire interstellar empire was one of the worst weak points of ST VI. In this story, it is simply a matter of Klingons being Klingons, in the Ford tradition. As the guild navigator in Dune once remarked, there are ‘plans within plans’.

These changes form the basis for this story. I started it as a fan re-write of TUC in an attempt to clean up what I thought were a lot of problems and weak plot points in a story that was otherwise pretty good. Then it sort of grew and took on a life of its own. As you read it, think on these events as those of a Trek universe one or two ‘quantum steps’ away from the canon you know- familiar enough to be recognized, but different enough to entertain you anew and feed your love of Trek.

Enjoy.
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Old May 23 2012, 04:59 AM   #3
Jedi Marso
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

Well, that obviously didn't pan out. Mods, can you explain what is going on with the formatting here? Why am I getting all these 'extra' font and size tags showing up around the text?

Thanks.

Obviously I need to resolve the formatting issues before posting the remaining 129 pages worth of text.

EDIT: Think I got it licked!
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Old May 23 2012, 03:16 PM   #4
Jedi Marso
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

Part I: Picking up the Pieces


1


The bridge of IKV Deathwing was near silent as the bird of prey slipped into the Mutara Sector under the noses of what looked to be half of the Federazhon's starfleet. Cloaked as she was she would have been near impossible to detect even under normal circumstances, but the current state of energy fluctuations in the region all but guaranteed anonymity. It was those energy fluctuations themselves (among other factors) that had brought the Klingon vessel to this sector. The Klingons found that the Mutara Sector was crowded: no less than four Starfleet frigates and six destroyers had combined to secure the sector boundaries and patrol the interior, all under the watchful eye and control of a Constitution Class starship. These ships were all sources of mass, power, and energy emissions that would serve to interfere with one another's sensors- an advantage that a skilled commander could make use of. If that wasn't enough, the energy readings from the heart of the conspicuously absent Mutara Nebula were almost sufficient to hide them even without the cloak, provided they ran at low speed and used passive sensors only. There were more Federazhon vessels ahead of them as well, barely detectable as yet on long range passives, clustered around the heart of the chaotic energy patterns. They were too far away yet for accurate readings, but Kell vestai-Chang was willing to wager these ships were strictly science vessels, present to make detailed scans of whatever was happening ahead.

"Navigator, range," he snapped in battle language.

"Point three light years to the center of the disturbance, captain!"

"Helm, warp two."

"Acting," came the reply, which was a mere monosyllabic bark in battle language. There was a very subtle shift in the feel of the deckplates beneath their boots as the bird of prey decelerated.

"Captain, I have a positive identification on the flagship," reported Security. "It's the Battlecruiser Constellation, under the command of Fleet Captain Stone. She's one of their new construction Constitution refits."

"Kai, security!" Kell growled, nodding to the officer. He'd ferreted that information quickly, especially considering that he was restricted to using passive sensors. There was no reply; the security officer merely showed the tips of his fangs in a slight grin as he maintained a studious watch over his consoles. The relationship between a ship's captain and security could be strained even at the best of times, but with a crew numbering only twelve there wasn't much treason or sedition to worry about here. Deathwing was a very insular environment, and then there was the advantage of line affiliation: this entire crew, without exception, was of the House of Chang. This arrangement was only possible aboard a privateer- never a ship of the regular Imperal Navy. Even so, this momentary goodwill on the part of the captain was not mistaken for anything other than just that- momentary. There was no reaction from any of the others- they were deep in Federazhon territory, under battle alert, and total vigilance was expected. They were in violation of treaty, and there was no doubt in any of their minds that to be caught here would mean a quick, sure death. While that death might be considered honorable, there was much more at stake here than just individual honor. The long term survival of their line might depend on the results of this mission.

One of Kell's line members, Kruge sutai-Chang, was missing along with his ship and crew. They too had come to the Mutara Sector, and they had not been heard from since. What was more, one of their agents on the Federazhon side of the border, Valkris, was also missing and presumed dead. None of those who were privy to her mission thought for a split-second that she would have allowed herself to be taken captive, but her actual fate was as much a mystery as Kruge's. All they knew for certain was that Kruge had crossed the Neutral Zone under cloak- he'd reported as much to General Makil before committing himself. Of course, it was impossible to know precisely what Kruge had intended. Like Kell, he operated as a privateer rather than under the direct control of the Imperial Navy, and those who knew Kruge were well aware of his naked ambition. Kell wouldn't have assigned Kruge to pursue the mystery of Project Genesis had the choice been his, but he couldn't pretend to know what General Makil knew. The general, head of their line, played the komerex zha like the Thought Master he was- making plans, maneuvering personnel, and controlling key officers through loyalty, subterfuge, or bribery. General Chang treated his subordinates as though they were pieces on a klin zha board. Kell was smart enough to know that he and his ship were merely one of the zantai-Chang's playing pieces, at least for now. How Kell fared on this mission would deeply influence his own position in the Perpetual Game. Kell had his own ambitions just as Kruge had undoubtedly had his, but all of them sensed that Makil zantai-Chang was playing for the highest stakes possible: the emperor's throne itself. Being of one line, Kell intended to support the one as much as he was able, for if one of their line assumed the throne of the empire then his own ambitions would broaden to heights heretofore undreamed.

But first things first: the mission. General Chang needed intelligence, and that was the purpose for Deathwing's presence. "Range!" he barked.

"Three astronomical units from disturbance!"

"Helm, sublight!"

"Acting!"

"Tactical!" The main viewscreen shifted immediately, and Kell took his first look at the shattered remains of the Genesis Planet. Of course he had no way of knowing what had happened here, and the degeneration of the planet itself had progressed to the point where it was no longer recognizable as having been a planet in the first place. All they saw on the plot were a half dozen Federazhon science vessels maintaining various positions around a roughly globular mass of seething...something. Kell bared his fangs unconsciously, letting out a low, feral growl. He was a warrior, not a scientist, but what he saw here made his liver tighten- his gut instinct told him that he was seeing something dangerous and destructive on a potentially planetary scale. Something significant had happened here, but whatever had transpired it was obvious they had missed it entirely. Not for the first time, his focus shifted past line affiliations and political backstabbing within the empire to consider broader threats without. His liver clenched again- a twinge of uncertainty and doubt concerning humans and the Komerex Federazhon. Of all the species Klingons had encountered in their expansion through the stars, these Earthers had proven far and away the most formidable. Even though they were inexplicably unwilling to come to grips with the empire in battle and settle the issue of dominance once and for all, they were still not to be underestimated. Even more caution was required in dealing with humans than with the Roms, and the the Romulans were bad enough.

Nel Komerex, Khesterex,
he silently reminded himself. There were nothing else. As in all things, time would yield the answers and the naked stars would remember. But despite their weakness, their remarkable propensity for letting enemies live and their utterly despicable penchant for treating kuve as equals, the humans had proven time and again that they were not kuve themselves.

"Navigation, plot an elliptical course around the phenomenon. Keep us at least two mega-kellicams from all enemy vessels. Bear in mind that these science ships will have much more sensitive scanners than our own. They are directing their scans at the energy mass out there, and there is interference, but we dare not risk detection. Helm, fly the route at one half impulse power. Science, continuous scan on all enabled passive sensors. Once we've learned all we can with passives, we'll make a few active sensor sweeps right before we go to warp. However, you will wait for my explicit command before activating any emitters. Is that clear, zan-Ashar?"

"This need not be said, captain," Ashar replied, swallowing nervously at the implied threat.

"Security and communications: Monitor and record all emissions from the enemy task force, whether sensor data or communications. Our crypt-analysts at Imperial Intelligence may be able to decipher some of it when we return home, and we will definitely learn more about their sensor scanning capabilities. Khest'n Federazhon sensors have always been superior to our own. Security, before we're done I want positive identification of each starship present."

"Affirm, acting," he acknowledged, his grin long gone, and his
attention riveted on his console.

Ashar paused momentarily and took a hard look at the route plotted versus the readings on his consoles. "Radiation levels are nominal, captain."

"Understood. Viewer ahead."

"Acting," replied the helmsman.

"zan-Ashar, what exactly are we looking at?"

"Protomatter, captain," replied the science officer. He'd known the question was coming, and he'd been feverishly working to have the answer before the one asked for it. Kell turned to look at him expectantly, saying nothing. "It's protomatter," he added, "in an advanced state of accelerated decay. I have no explanation as to how such a large mass of it appeared here, although the absence of the nebula itself would suggest that the nebula gas may have been...converted. The rate of decay continues to accelerate, and my initial estimates are that this protomatter mass will deteriorate entirely into broad-spectrum radiation within four weeks. At that time it will take on the characteristics of an ion storm, and eventually dissipate. There will be nothing left."

"Was it a weapon of some sort? Something new?" Kell wondered aloud. "This mass is orbitting the star at the proper distance for the habitation zone, is it not?"

"Affirmative," Ashar replied. "It is possible that the Federazhon has developed a weapon capable of obliterating an entire planet."

"Is it possible that Kruge and his crew were destroyed by this phenomenon?"

"Given the scope of what we see here, it is definitely possible."

"Either that," interjected Security, "or they ran afoul of a G'dayt enemy warship. There is certainly a large enemy presence here."

Kell grunted. "We may never know; we may only hope that they died well. If ever a captain was worthy of his ship in the Black Fleet, it was Kruge. Any sign of debris consistent with a ship?"

"None," Ashar replied. He paused, as if considering his response, then added: "even if there were, I might not be able to break it out on passives with all the interference. Permission to speak, captain?"

Kell's eyes narrowed dangerously, but there was no hesitation: "Granted."

"I submit that Commander Kruge failed in his mission. Whether or not the sutai-Chang's vessel is destroyed is much less important at this point than studying the phenomena here. I recommend scanning the protomatter field and abandoning any effort at locating the one's vessel."

It was a relevant enough observation, and there was no implied criticism of Kell in the statement at all. The latter might have warranted a response, particularly when presented in front of the crew. He nodded slowly in reply. "Your concerns are noted, zan-Ashar. Concentrate scans on the protomatter field."

"Acting."

Kell noticed a sudden, silent interplay between the helmsman and navigator. The subsonic hum of the energizers changed pitch slightly, and the ship lurched. "Report!"

"Gravimetric disturbance, captain!" the navigator snapped. "We've corrected for it."

Kell turned to Ashar. "From the protomatter field?"

"Negative," Ashar replied with surprised graveness. "From the primary. I'm shitfting scans; stand by one..." There was silence on the bridge for what seemed like an eternal minute or two. Kell turned expectantly toward science, his impatience growing, but he held his temper in check until Ashar could give him something concrete. Security wasn't the only one having to filter through interference and the cloaking field with passives. "I'm picking up energy fluctuations across the entire spectrum coming from the star," Ashar reported shortly. "It appears to be unstable. In fact, I am now reading traces of protomatter within the corona itself. I....this isn't possible."

"Speak!" Kell demanded.

"The star is aging rapidly, captain, as though it's running through it's entire life-cycle at an impossibly accelerated rate. This should just not be possible."

"Are we in danger?"

"No imminent danger, captain; the life cycle of a main sequence star is measured in the billions of years. Even at this rate of acceleration, the star won't nova for another four months. But this entire region of space will be unlivable within weeks, probably before the protomatter mass in front of us has completely decayed to free radiation."

"What star is this?" Kell demanded.
The navigator was calling up the charts before Kell had finished his sentence. "Indeterminate, captain," he replied a moment later. "This whole region of space has always been under Federazhon control. Up until several weeks ago, this was a small nebula with no other stars yet in the formation stage, so far as our data went. This star was obviously masked by the nebula before its disappearance."

"No incipient star formation, but one main sequence star sitting here all alone. Ensign, does what you just said make any sense to you?"

The navigator scowled. "No sir, but the evidence lies before us."

"He's right," Ashar grunted, showing unaccustomed mercy to a fellow bridge officer- that right there indicated to Kell that his science officer was thoroughly unnerved. "That star shouldn't be there any more than this protomatter field. And in four months, it will destroy itself. Based on these readings, it may not even properly nova. It may just....fizzle out. Degenerate into a mass of protomatter like the one in front of us, although obviously a much larger one."

Kell scowled. It was readily apparent that whatever was happening here was beyond the capabilties of a small scout-privateer to decipher alone- a truth grossly illustrated by the fact that there were a half dozen Federazhon science scows out there attempting to do the same. And if what Science was telling him was accurate, even they would not be able to linger forever. He wished he knew what Kruge might have learned out here before meeting his end, but such thoughts were worse than pointless. “If it does nova, it will be detectable through subspace,” Kell muttered. “Continue data collection, zan-Ashar. If the mystery is too deep for you, perhaps General Chang’s khest’n thought masters will be able to ferret it out.”

Ashar’s countenance went very dark at the implied criticism, and he phrased his next sentence very carefully. “I’ll have time to do a detailed analysis on the return trip. Perhaps we can learn something useful that will aid the one.”

“Let us hope so, science officer,“ Kell replied dangerously. His narrow eyes returned to the viewer, and silence reigned on the bridge as Deathwing went about her assigned task.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:22 PM   #5
Jedi Marso
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

2


Personal Log, Admiral James T. Kirk, Stardate 8309.2

My friend Dr. McCoy has told me on more than one occasion that I’m one for rushing in where angels fear to tread. A trite cliché, but nobody ever talks about what happens after the rash act is committed, and there is no going back. I now find myself in the position of asking: “what next?” Starfleet Command has been strangely silent since our arrival on Vulcan, and I find that it makes me uneasy. My actions have left them a pretty big mess to clean up, and while I don’t regret what I’ve done I can’t help but ask myself if I’ve asked my crew to sacrifice too much. There will doubtless be dire consequences for all of us, and we will face them in due course. Despite Ambassador Sarek’s generous offer of asylum on Vulcan, I think I’d rather face the heat from Starfleet Command than a lifetime of the Vulcan variety.

From the moment we received the distress call from Dr. Marcus on Regula One, things have moved quickly. The encounter with Khan, the rescue of the
Reliant crew, and then, before we’d even reached spacedock, McCoy’s mental instability due to Spock’s katra. I acted as I am wont to do, never pausing to think, and now all the thinking I should have done has caught up with me. The death of my son is an open wound, but even worse still is the sure knowledge that no matter how bad it is for me, it is infinitely worse for Carol. I contacted her yesterday, only to find that she had already learned of his death and the Grissom’s destruction from Starfleet Command. I think she blames me, and I can understand why she would. She is inconsolable; between David’s death and the failure of Genesis, her life has turned to ashes. She told me she never wanted to see or hear from me again, and I’ll respect her wishes until she changes her mind, if ever.

Of Spock’s recovery we still know very little. The Vulcans have always been close-mouthed when it comes to their rituals and customs, but given what we sacrificed to bring him home, I wish they would be more forthcoming. I plan to contact Amanda soon if our inquiries continue to go unanswered. All we are told is that he is making steady progress, but we can’t even get the Vulcans to explain what their definition of ‘progress’ is in regards to Spock’s mental state.

One last note: I am currently preparing a full report for Starfleet, which will be sent as an addendum to Lieutenant Saavik’s final report on the outcome of Project Genesis. The presence of the Klingon vessel in the Mutara Sector is of grave concern: someone at a very high level in either Starfleet or the Federation Science Council is either an enemy agent, or, at the very least, made it possible for a leak to happen. Regardless of what Starfleet intends for myself and my crew, this is a matter that will need to be addressed at the very highest levels. Starfleet will also have to address the disposition of the Klingon officer we hold prisoner, as well as the intact bird of prey we captured at Genesis. End entry.



Admiral Kirk strode into the operations center of the Starfleet annex located in Vulcan’s Val’karr province, wearing a dark suit of civilian clothes along with a standard communicator. He hadn’t put a uniform on since stealing the Enterprise, and he did not intend to wear one again until he stood in front of the inevitable court martial and paid the price he had agreed to pay in return for Spock’s soul.

The operations center, usually quiet except for the never ending job of relaying communications to and from various Starfleet units, the embassy, and the Vulcan Council, was buzzing with activity today; USS Genser had arrived the day before, bringing a team of engineering, computer, and linguistic specialists to join forces with the Vulcans and start digging into the Klingon scout that Kirk and company had delivered to them. Genser’s captain was a young Andorian commander who Kirk had mentored through the command course at Starfleet Academy several years before. When Kirk had sent his compliments, the reply had been polite but curt, really no more than a simple acknowledgment, and nothing since. Kirk hadn’t taken offense; he’d been testing the waters, so to speak, curious about what others might know or have heard, and frankly, he’d half expected to get no reply at all.

The duty officer in the operations center was a Vulcan lieutenant who nodded respectfully but impassively as Kirk entered. The officer’s face was like a stone slate, but Kirk had been on Vulcan long enough now so that seeing the same expression on almost everyone was no longer quite so unnerving. Beside, he’d spent enough time around Vulcans to have learned some of the nuances of their non-verbal body language. Lieutenant Skorp was a fairly neutral party to the troubles of mutineer Admiral James Kirk. The truth was that Starfleet has been so close-mouthed on the entire incident that almost nobody understood what was really happening. The Starfleet personnel assigned to Vulcan, native or otherwise, sensed that all was not well between Kirk‘s crew and Starfleet Command, but that was all they really knew. Given the legendary status of this particular group of officers, those with no other information to act on had been giving them the benefit of the doubt. “Good morning, lieutenant,” Kirk said pleasantly. “I thought I’d see how the teams are progressing on the Klingon ship. I sent Commander Sulu and Captain Scott to aid in their efforts since they actually operated the ship with some success.”

“You can observe their progress on monitor three, admiral,” Lieutenant Skorp replied, “complete with audio feed. All activity centered around the Klingon ship is being monitored, reocrded, and placed under security seal.”

Kirk grinned disarmingly. “You aren’t going to get into trouble for letting me see it, are you, lieutenant?”

“I have received no orders restricting your access or security clearances, admiral. Lacking any such orders, and given that your own clearance is much higher than my own, it would be illogical to deny you access. Please let Ensign T’Nel know if you require any assistance.”

“Your logic is irrefutable. Thank you, lieutenant.” Kirk replied, moving over and taking a seat. He punched up the data feed, and watched with little real interest as the teams swarmed over the Klingon ship. The Federation had never had much luck adapting cloaking technology. The one he’d stolen from the Romulans had only worked during their escape from Romulan space immediately after the theft, and then failed spectacularly when Starfleet had tried to adapt it again in a controlled environment. He wondered if they’d have any better luck with the Klingon version. Just then he noted that there was a transponder feed from a returning surface shuttle listing the crew as Scott and Sulu. He opened up a communications channel. “Kirk to Scott, come in.”

“Scott here, admiral!”

“Scotty, why are you and Sulu coming back? Didn’t they want your help?”

The reply was tight, clipped with anger. “Apparently not, admiral. The blithering idiots all but banished us from the scene, almost as if we dinnae know anything about her! Well, it’s probably for the best, sir- I dinnae like that Klingon rustbucket from the moment we were forced to sail in her! Maybe if those lads are lucky, they’ll learn something useful without turning that ship and themselves into a bloody crater!”

Even through the anger in his voice, Kirk could sense the underlying hurt in the engineer’s tirade and Scott’s sense of rejection and injustice might as well have been his own. He's the best engineer in the fleet and they’re treating him like a pariah- all because I asked him to do this. My fault, he thought to himself. Kirk forced himself not to sigh- maybe a little bit of that Vulcan stoicism had been rubbing off on him. “Staff meeting at 1800 in the officer’s lounge, Scotty. We have some decisions to make.”

“Aye sir, I’ll be there plenty early. Scott out.”

“Ensign T’Nel.”

The exotic looking Vulcan ensign turned to him from her adjacent station. “Yes sir?”

“Please patch me through to the Genser. I’d like to speak to Captain N’Theliam.”

“Aye, sir. Hailing now, and transferring to your station. You’re on, admiral.”

The screen blurred momentarily, and the view of Starfleet crews swarming over the captured Klingon vessel in the midday Vulcan heat was replaced with that of the sterile scene of a ship’s bridge. A proud but serene looking Andorian occupied the center seat, his close cropped white hair contrasting with the blue tint of his skin and the burgundy color of his uniform. “This is Captain N’Theliam.”

“Kirk here, N’Theliam. Congratulations on your command, captain. The first of many, unless I miss my guest. I wanted to inquire as to your deployment orders. Are you returning to Earth any time in the near term, by any chance?”

“Yes sir.”

“May I ask when? There are a couple of loose ends to tie up here, but I would like to-”

“Pardon my interruption,” N’Theliam broke in, “but I have sealed orders regarding your current…status…from Commander Starfleet himself. Admiral Morrow directed me to await your direct communication before discussing them. Are you available to beam up for a private consultation?”

“I am at your disposal, captain.”

“Twenty minutes?”

“Twenty minutes it is. My compliments, captain. Kirk out.” He killed the link, but continued to stare at the blank screen for a few moments while he gathered his thoughts. Ensign T’Nel pointedly attended to her console, while Lieutenant Skorp merely returned his look with one quizzically raised eyebrow. For a moment he could have sworn that it was Spock standing in front of him, and then the moment passed.

“Do you know where the transporter room is, admiral?” Skorp asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Kirk replied, standing up with feigned casualness. He strode out without another word, his ears burning and feeling their eyes boring into the back of his neck. When he was in the corridor and alone, he broke out his communicator. “Kirk to McCoy.”

There was a slight pause. “McCoy here. What can I do for you, Jim?”

“Our situation is about to change, Bones. I’m beaming up to the Genser to speak with Captain N’Theliam. Apparently Admiral Morrow gave him sealed orders concerning us. I’m not really sure what to make of it, but I wanted to let you know just in case they clap me in irons when I arrive.”

“N’Theliam? He was one of your personal projects at the command school, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, but I don’t see how that matters now.”

“Don’t be too sure, Jim,” McCoy replied. “Morrow didn’t get to be top dog by being stupid. If he sent N’Theliam to fetch you, there’s something up besides just a court martial. Have you told the others?”

“I spoke with Scotty a few minutes ago, just to let him know that I want everyone together in the officer’s lounge at 1800. I was planning to talk to you all about the immediate future, but the future seems to have arrived early.”

McCoy chuckled. “So what else is new? I’ll let Uhura, Checkov, and Saavik know. We’ll be there, Jim.”

“Attendance is optional for Saavik, Bones. She wasn’t a party to any of the illegal stuff. Save some Saurian brandy for me, doctor. I may need it after this.”

“We’re on Vulcan, Jim, in case you haven’t noticed. We’ll be lucky if they even have the replicated stuff. See you at 1800.”

“Copy that. Kirk out.”



James Kirk, a born starship captain if ever there was one, had never felt stranger going aboard a Starfleet vessel than now- not even when compared to his first time. As he materialized in a wave of light and heterodyning sound, he heard the shrill whistle of the bosun’s pipe and noted the presence of six armed guards holding their phasers at salute. He couldn’t have been more surprised at the official honors than if he’d materialized in the mirror universe. Sheer force of habit and a lifetime spent in Starfleet took over. “Permission to come aboard, sir?” he inquired of Captain N’Theliam.

“Granted, admiral. Welcome aboard Genser.” He turned to the honor guard. “Honors, dis-missed!” As one, the six Andorian crewmen pivoted with academy precision and exited the transporter room. The next thing Kirk noticed was that the temperature was barely ten degrees above freezing, if that.

“Captain, I wasn’t aware that Genser was a blue fleet ship,” he remarked. Blue fleet was an old Starfleet colloquialism for ships crewed almost entirely by Andorians, and it carried a ring of pride and tradition with it for those who served aboard them. Earth wasn’t the only founding Federation member with strong sea or spacegoing traditions, and the Andorians had preserved theirs just as humankind had.

“She has been fortunate to attain that status under my command, admiral,” N’Theliam remarked without a shred of humility. “If you’ll follow me?”

“Of course,” Kirk replied. Genser was a relatively small ship, a scout, and the journey to the conference room was short. N’Theliam headed straight for the replicator panel. He inserted a data card, and a moment later two hot, steaming cups of space-black coffee appeared. He handed one to Kirk and gestured toward a chair. Kirk cupped the coffee gratefully, letting the warmth seep into his hands in the cold conference room. N’Theliam hoisted his cup slightly towards the admiral, smiling sardonically. “A bad habit I picked up from you, admiral. I’ve never quite gotten past it.”

“It goes well with the environment, at least,” Kirk replied.

N‘Theliam nodded, and that was it for the pleasantries. “I’m about to violate my orders, admiral, and ask you what it is you actually did to cause this ruckus. There’s a lot of rumor and innuendo flying around, but not much straight fact. And I haven’t seen this much fur flying among the top levels at Starfleet Headquarters in…well, ever. Are you in trouble?”

Kirk swallowed. “I assume so. My senior staff and I basically stole the Enterprise and took her to the Mutara Sector while it was under interdiction. Suffice it to say that while we had good cause to do so, we lacked the…proper authorization.”

N‘Theliam‘s antennae twitched curiously. “We heard that she was destroyed while defending against a Klingon incursion in that sector.”

“That is true, captain, but it’s not the whole story. We stumbled upon a Klingon scout after she destroyed the Grissom. The Enterprise was almost fully automated, and we managed to overload her in the ensuing action. I destroyed the ship myself in order to prevent the Klingons from taking her intact. The rest of it was guile, shooting, and fisticuffs, and we managed to come out on top. That’s the short version, N’Theliam, and probably more than I should have said anyway- no offense intended, of course. I ask you to hold everything I’ve just related in strict confidence.“

“You have my word, admiral.“

“More than good enough, captain. So just what was it that Admiral Morrow asked you to do?”

“He was rather enigmatic about it all, sir. However, I felt that there were enough unknowns in play on all sides that it would be best for you and I to speak privately, rather than in front of my whole bridge crew and whoever was in attendance in the annex operations center on your end.”

“A wise choice, captain. Go on.”

“He directed me to await communication from you once I had delivered the teams I was tasked to bring. Upon receiving said communication, he wanted me to ask you and the others to return with me to Earth. He said that he couldn’t explain everything now, but that you would be coming back on regular status- no brigs, and no court martials. He also said to tell you not to speak about anything that has happened to anyone.”

In spite of what should have been inexplicably good news, Kirk’s mouth was dry. “Was that all he said?”

“No, admiral. He also told me to tell you that if you think you’re ‘off the hook‘, you’d better think again. I’m not familiar with the term, admiral. I can only assume it makes sense to you.”

“It does indeed, captain.”

“I am authorized to break orbit and head for the Sol System when you are ready, sir. Is it your intention to return with me?”

“I’ll be returning at the very least; I assume the others will as well, although it will be their choice. I’ll have an answer for you within the hour. One more thing: what were your instructions if I refused to return to Earth?”

“Admiral Morrow didn’t have any, sir. I don’t think he imagined for a moment you wouldn’t come.”

“I suppose he didn’t get to be Commander Starfleet by being stupid, did he?” Kirk mused. N’Theliam grinned, as Kirk broke out his communicator again. “Kirk to Uhura.”

“Here, sir,” she replied immediately.

“Please pass to everyone that the meeting is moved up. I want everyone in the lounge ASAP.”

“I’ll relay the message, sir.”

“Oh, and Uhura, inform Mister Scott and the good doctor that the meeting is now dry. We’re back in business.”

Uhura laughed, a pleasant, musical sound they hadn’t heard enough of lately. “I’ll tell them, admiral, but they aren’t going to like it! Uhura out.”
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Old May 23 2012, 03:25 PM   #6
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

3

Giri.

It was an old word, a Japanese word. Like many words in that language there were many layers of meaning depending on the context in which it was used. But the most direct translation of the word was ‘the burden hardest to bear.’ Giri was about loyalty and debt; the sort that you took upon yourself rather than that imposed from an outside source. Giri was something you either felt, or you didn’t. Giri could be a tricky thing depending on the circumstances, and as Hikaru Sulu had discovered it was very capable of getting you into deep, deep trouble. Sulu had felt a sense of giri towards James Kirk and the other senior members of the Enterprise crew for almost fifteen years- since about midway through their first five year mission together, in fact. What it meant for Sulu was that his life and destiny were intertwined with that of his friends, and that he owed them his life many times over, and vice-versa of course. But the web of obligation he felt was strong- stronger even than family ties. So when Jim Kirk had come to him, desperate, asking him to save McCoy’s life and, impossible as it sounded, Spock’s as well, there had been no hesitation. The could have been no hesitation, for it was not in Hikaru’s character to refuse. It was giri.

Sulu had worked incredibly hard all his life. He’d survived Captain Kirk’s first, historic, five year mission aboard Enterprise, which was no mean feat in and of itself. That was followed by command school and promotion to lieutenant commander, the V’Ger incident, and then a second five year mission under Kirk’s command. The decade following that had seen him achieve many of his dreams: a first officer position aboard Exeter, command of a scout, and then the ultimate prize: he’d been hand-picked to command the first ship and namesake of the new Excelsior class, along with a long-deserved promotion to captain. He would have replaced Captain Stiles, the man who had seen the ship through her construction and pre-commissioning trial runs.

Then, a mere month away from donning the rank and taking command, Admiral Kirk had called and asked if he’d be willing to helm the Enterprise on a training cruise. Sulu had agreed, not because he particularly wanted to ride herd over a pack of midshipmen for three weeks, but because Jim Kirk had asked, and it was therefore a matter of giri. Besides, he’d thought it would be fun to spend some time with his old shipmates again- a working vacation of sorts for all hands. Once he took command of Excelsior he'd doubted he’d see much of them for the foreseeable future.

Some fun.

Now here he was, a criminal, disgraced, with nothing to show for more than twenty years of Starfleet service except his personal honor and the fulfillment of giri.

The burden hardest to bear.

If it wasn’t for Demora waiting for her father back on Earth, Sulu wasn’t entirely sure he would have wanted to go on. Vulcan could have provided him with his choice of death, had he been so inclined, and today’s snubbing by the engineering crews had only made an intolerable situation worse. But he had resolved to see this matter through to the end and move forward; after all, he’d faced a lot worse in his time, truth be told. In the meantime, he would bear his burdens with honor in accordance with Bushido, and live for the sake of his daughter. An officer with his operations and command experience would be very valuable in the private sector, and perhaps he could even take Demora star-hopping with him; she had already expressed an interest in attending Starfleet Academy. Still, even though he could survive and move on, it wouldn’t be the same. It would never be the same again, not for any of them. But Spock was alive, ALL of them were alive, thanks to Admiral Kirk’s ingenuity, and that was enough for now. As Sulu grew older, he found his youthful ambition had been slowly tempered by the realization that it was the people in his life who mattered most, not the rank pip on his collar or the assignments he held.

Admiral Kirk entered the lounge with a spring in his step and a glint in his eye that the others hadn’t seen since just after the Fal-tor-Pan ceremony- a time before the aftermath of their actions had solidified into grim, day-to-day reality. Sulu perked up a bit upon seeing Kirk, and he shared a quick, inquisitive sidelong glance with Chekov. Kirk glanced around, confirming that they had the lounge to themselves before speaking. “I’ve just met with Captain N’Theliam aboard Genser,” he began without preamble. “Something is afoot with regards to us, although I’m not quite sure what, as of yet. Admiral Morrow has passed me an unofficial communication, requesting that we return to Earth aboard Genser. Judging by what was said, I don’t think we’re necessarily out of hot water, but the words ‘no brigs’ and ‘no court martials’ were spoken to me directly. Regardless of anything else, that can’t be anything but good news for us.”

"We are requested to return, Admiral?" Chekov asked. "Not ordered? That doesn't sound like Admiral Morrow."

"Requested," Kirk confirmed, "and you're right. Before we took the Enterprise, Harry Morrow specifically ordered me to drop the issue of returning to Genesis. Whatever is happening back home, I doubt it is all his idea. My guess is that the Federation Council may be involved, and Ambassador Sarek may be pulling some strings for us as well, although he hasn't said anything to me."

“Well, this certainly sounds hopeful, Jim!” McCoy beamed. “When do we leave?”

“I haven’t spoken for all of you,” Kirk replied. “I told N’Theliam I would be returning to Earth with him, and would relay Admiral Morrow’s request to the rest of you. We’ve committed some pretty serious offenses against both Federation Law and Starfleet regulations. It could still be a hanging party for all hands; I just don’t know. But I think our encounter with the Klingons at the Genesis Planet may have cast matters in a new light, at least in hindsight. They may have stopped to consider that without our involvement, the Klingons would have taken Lieutenant Saavik and..." he hesitated, swallowing hard, "...David alive. Had they returned them to the Klingon Empire as captives, there is no knowing what details concerning Genesis they might have torn out of them."

“They would have had Spock, too,” Chekov muttered.

"That wouldn't have mattered, at that point," Uhura reminded them. "David Marcus was the real prize, had they realized it."

“That’s right,” Kirk replied, refusing to flinch at another mention of his dead son. He had come to realize that this was a wound that would never heal- a hole that could never be filled, no matter what course the rest of his life took. He'd finally met his son and then lost him, all in the space of a few weeks. He would simply have to deal with it and let time ease the sharp pain to a dull ache.

"I’ll need your decisions, people," he went on. "I’ve told Captain N’Theliam that we'd be aboard and ready to warp out within two hours. Like you, I expect, I’m tired of waiting on pins and needles. Spock is safe, Saavik is tying up the remaining loose ends regarding Genesis, and we can’t just linger here forever unless you relish the thought of spending the rest of your lives on Vulcan. I intend to explain to Admiral Morrow that all of you acted upon my request, and take as much responsibility for this as I can. I don’t expect us to escape unscathed, but it’s sounding more and more like we may at least avoid getting sent to a penal colony. So what's it going to be?”

“Well I’m with you, Jim,” McCoy replied immediately. “All of you did this for Spock and myself, so I'm not going to sit here and watch you take the phaser burns for it. Besides, can you imagine me trying to live among all these green blooded, over-logical Vulcans? Spock was bad enough, but at least he could take a joke; this bunch around here are like Kolinahr masters. I‘d be crazy again inside of a month if I stayed.”

The others laughed, dispelling some of the tension. “Sulu? Chekov? Uhura?”

“We’re with you, sir, as always,” Uhura replied for them. It was obvious the three of them had discussed it amongst themselves at some point. Kirk turned his gaze on Scott, who was grinning in that old, familiar way.

“Give the word, admiral.”

Kirk took a single deep breath. “The word is given. Assemble at the transporter station no later than 1330 for beamup. I’m going to pay a quick call on Ambassador Sarek and let him know what’s going on.”

“Mind if I tag along?” McCoy asked.

Kirk hesitated for a moment, then shook his head. “No, Bones, that’d be fine. Let’s go.”


***

“So,” Ambassador Sarek said to them less than an hour later, “you have decided to decline my government’s offer of asylum?”

“It was very gracious of you to arrange it for us,” Kirk replied, “and we are deeply grateful, ambassador. However, we’ve decided to return to Earth and face the repercussions of our actions. I've never been one to run away from problems, and neither is my crew.”

“I understand your decision, Kirk, even if it is not the most logical one. My family is not without means; you and your people would want for nothing. Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Absolutely."

"Very well, admiral. Although in truth, I think Amanda was hoping you might stay, at least for a time. She misses the company of other humans, although she would never admit that to me."

“Is she here?” McCoy asked. “We’d like to pay our respects.”

“She is with Spock, at the rehabilitation center. Once again, there is no way I can adequately thank the two of you for what you’ve done.”

“Spock would have done the same for us,” McCoy replied. “In fact, he did. That's how this all got started.” He smiled that old, country-doctor smile of his. “We were just returning the favor, that’s all.”

“Ambassador Sarek,” Kirk interjected, “about Spock-”

“Amanda will send you reports on his progress, or I will, when my diplomatic schedule permits," Sarek interjected with subtle force in his voice. "His mind is intact, Kirk, but he is suffering from gaps in his accessible memory. With time and the proper mental therapies, our experts say he will regain the full use of his faculties. But the mind is very complex, as I’m sure you understand, and the task is most delicate. I know you wish to see Spock- you deserve to see him- but his regimen and environment are being closely controlled. In a year, perhaps two at the outside, he will be ready to begin interacting with his friends and family again on a regular basis. Starfleet Command has placed him on indefinite medical leave; once he is capable of doing so, he will have the choice of resuming his career or pursuing other avenues. I apologize, Kirk, but after all you have been through and sacrificed, logic dictates that we act in concert to give Spock the best possible chance for a full recovery. He will not have visitors for many months, at least.”

“Ambassador, I've had doors slammed in my face before, but never so diplomatically as that," Kirk replied with a slightly bitter smile. McCoy was grumbling something about damned Vulcan stubbornness, but Kirk and Sarek both pointedly failed to notice. “We understand, of course,” Kirk replied. I’d appreciate it if you or Amanda could notify me as soon as Spock is well enough to see visitors. Provided I’m not locked up, I’ll make the trip to see him as soon as possible.”

“You have my word, Admiral Kirk,” Sarek replied with a nod.

“We’ll take our leave, then, ambassador.”

Sarek raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Peace, and long life.”

Kirk bowed slightly. “Live long and prosper, Sarek. Please give our regards to your wife and son. Good day, sir.”

The two men turned to go, but paused when Sarek called to them from the doorway. “Kirk!” he added. The two humans looked back to Sarek, and saw a raw, emotional look flash momentarily across his features. He held himself even more stoically than normal, belying a tension completely uncharacteristic for the ambassador. “Good luck,” he said.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:28 PM   #7
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

4

Commander Kell vestai-Chang thought his liver might burst from anxiety as he stood outside the door of General Malik zantai-Chang’s office in the Klingon capital. He was accompanied by his science officer, Lieutenant Ashar, at the general’s direct request. They had been back for a few weeks now, kept in comfort but relatively strict isolation on the homeworld while the results of their mission were reviewed and analyzed by their superiors. Kell was smart enough to recognize confinement when he faced it, even as pleasant as the trappings had been for himself and his crew, and he understood their position was precarious. If Chang decided that it was in his own best interests, the dozen of them would disappear silently and easily, without a trace. It was not lost on him that that decision might still be in the balance, and that the outcome might well hinge upon what was said in this meeting. Despite his own ambitions, he forced himself to remember that an officer of his rank and station was merely a minor piece on the klin zha board to General Chang. Lieutenant Ashar tai-Chang, by comparison, was barely worthy of notice, yet he had been called here as well. That gave Kell some cause for hope, but not much. Kell wasn't afraid of death, but he was afraid to die in ignominy, without glory.

Kell keyed the door and it signaled green to enter. He stepped from the ante-room into Chang’s inner office. He and Ashar had already been relieved of their sidearms and scanned for holdouts, and the two scarred, burly marines in the ante-room were armed with full disruptor rifles and dispositions that seemed to beg for a visitor to make a wrong move. Chang was alone in his office, save for a Willall kuve, a servitor who was beneath notice or importance. Kell and Ashar stepped into the office like cadets fresh off their first cruise, and saluted in unison. “Kai the empire!” they barked. “Kai kassai!

“Seats, gentlemen,” Chang fairly growled. The two officers took the proffered seats, while the Willall came around with a tray bearing gel pastries and glasses of thick, sweet fruit nectar. Both took one of each out of politeness- one did not refuse the hospitality of either generals or the head of one's line- but they’d been eating well since their return so the general’s hospitality was not the distraction it normally would have been, coming in fresh off a long deployment.

“I have reviewed your mission reports, the data you obtained, and the analysis of it made by our scientists here on Klinzhai[. Without the data on Genesis that I tasked Kruge to retrieve, we haven’t been able to determine much about just what the Earthers were up to in the Mutara Sector. The data on the energy readings and the presence of protomatter was illuminating, and we are pursuing that line of research for the time being. Knowing the Komerex Federazhon and the way they operate, it is possible that what they were working on wasn’t a weapon at all, although it would certainly seem to have that potential based on what we’ve seen. Time will tell, and in any event, Genesis is no longer your concern. zan-Ashar, your performance on this mission was exemplary, to include the gathering of the data under adverse conditions and the preliminary analysis you made of it during your return. You are promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and will remain aboard Deathwing as science officer. She is about to become a prototype vessel, and I think you will find the new assignment uniquely suited to your talents.”

Ashar nodded. “Thank you, my lord.”

Chang turned his hard gaze upon Kell. The general wore a patch over one eye, the result of shrapnel taken during ground action at Axanar during the Four Years War, decades ago. That conflict had taken place years before the interference of the glowbugs (as Klingons disdainfully referred to the mysterious Organians) and the establishment of the Neutral Zone. Chang hadn't been much more than a cadet himself at the time, but it was well known in line circles that he was particularly unsatisfied with the nebulous outcome of that war, and his hatred of the Federazhon and Earthers in particular was potent enough to frighten even a Romulan. “That leaves you, Commander Kell,” he said softly. Kell didn’t flinch, but merely met Chang’s gaze squarely.

Good, Chang thought, this one definitely has the Klin; there is no doubt of that. He’s not as independent minded as Kruge, but Kruge's reckless klin isn't what I need from this one. “I am going to offer you a choice, commander. You’ve just heard me say that Deathwing is going to become a prototype vessel. Without getting specific, suffice it to say that she will figure prominently in the future endeavors of the empire. However, even as a prototype she is but a scout, and a small one at that. Your actions warrant promotion, Kell. There is a K’t’inga Class vessel waiting for you, along with promotion to captain, and a fresh assignment in the regular Navy as opposed to your recent privateering actions. However, there are promotions, and then there are promotions. Let me ask you, Kell: do you deny the Perpetual Game?”

“No,” Kell replied. “I acknowledge the komerex zha," He didn't hesitate at all. "I’ll remain with Deathwing.

Kai kassai, Klingon!” Chang laughed, although it sounded more like a low growl. The very sound of it made the junior officers’ livers shift uncomfortably in their chests. “You understand, of course,” he continued, “that I can’t draw undue attention to this new…project. Therefore I cannot promote you to captain, or afford any other favors than I might bestow over and above that which would be expected for the task you have just completed.”

“This need not be said, general,” Kell replied.

“Very well,” Chang replied. “You may, of course, retain or replace whoever you wish to on your crew, with the exception of zan-Ashar, obviously. My only requirement for the time being is that all of your crewmembers must be of the House of Chang. As you will remain a privateer for the duration of this project, I see no difficulty with that. There is always the chance that Security, Imperial Intelligence, or some other line may try to infiltrate your crew. It is not my intention to intrude upon your command, captain, but you will refrain from liquidating anyone on the basis of suspected espionage without clearing it with me personally. Such a one, if discovered, might be used to my advantage. As to matters of simple discipline, you may handle breaches summarily, as normal. Questions?”

“One, if I may,” Kell replied.

Chang's eye narrowed slightly. "Speak."

“Has there been any sign of Kruge or his ship?”

“None.”

“I merely ask out of curiosity,” Kell supplied. “I trust he will thrive in the Black Fleet, and kill his enemies a thousand times, laughing.”

“You are dismissed,” Chang growled. “Qapla!” The two officers saluted and took their leave.

Chang barely noticed as the Willall moved around the room, picking up the half-eaten pastries and removing the cups of barely-touched nectar. He turned back to his computer console, and resumed looking over the plans for the new research facility he’d pushed through the High Council. And it would have been a lot easier if I were on the G’dayt council to begin with! he mused angrily. That will happen soon enough, however. That ugly petaQ, Azetbur, cannot block me forever, and as for her kuve father, Krel epetai-Gorkon, I’ll bury my blade in his liver yet!

Of course, the Art of Diplomacy was getting what you wanted while convincing someone else it was their idea. In this case, the order for the new research facility on Praxis had come from the emperor himself. That alone would ensure the project would endure, and Chang would no longer have to brook any interference from the House of Gorkon. The emperor was strong and wily, but even the one was not beyond manipulation, if one were a masterful enough player. Chang was just such a player.

He began thinking about issuing a challenge to the epetai-Gorkon, a klin zha kinta match to be played after the Year Games. Gorkon was a rated klin zha master, as was Chang, but the secret to kinta, the version of the game played with live pieces, was choosing the right pieces. Chang would defeat him publicly, boosting his own reputation and standing among the empire’s Thought Masters while wiping that self-important smirk off Gorkon’s face. Bad enough for an Imperial Klingon of the one’s station to marry a human-fusion, but to help elevate his daughter, an Administrator, so rapidly up the rungs of power and onto the High Council itself… Chang’s lips rolled back from his fangs at the mere thought.

He would deal with the House of Gorkon in due course, but all things in their time: first, his pet technological projects took precedence. These would become the weapons he aimed at his enemies, within the empire and without. He would bring those enemies down, smashing them even as he used them as the foil to ignite the final war of domination against the hated Federazhon. This time, when war came, it would not be hindered or interfered with- at least that was Chang's hope. It was one of the best kept secrets in the empire that the Organians seemed to have either withdrawn their presence, or perhaps even vanished completely from this region of the galaxy. The Klingons had been probing, gingerly of course, breaking the treaty here and there on a minor scale whenever the opportunity presented itself. There had been no sign of Organian enforcement of the treaty or any other interference from them for some time. Imperial Intelligence was not sure if the Federazhon suspected it or not, and the empire had not been able to confirm it for certain. However, if it was true that those khest‘n glowbugs were out of the picture, the Organian Peace Treaty wouldn’t be worth the data chips on which it was recorded. Chang would bring the Federazhon to its knees, and assume the throne of the empire in the process. He had sworn before the naked stars that it would be so, and the klin that blazed in his heart not only fed the fires of those ambitions, but fanned them into a raging inferno that all but consumed him.

By human standards, Malik zantai-Chang was a power-crazed lunatic. By Klingon standards, he was the stuff of which legends were made and songs were sung, possessing an inner klin to match the heart of Kahless himself. And by Kahless’ Kaase, Kahless’ Hand, the Klingon Empire would be his to rule: it would be Malik's Kaase that would guide the Komerex Klingon to its rightful place of domination and glory amongst the stars.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:33 PM   #8
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

5

Admiral Harry Morrow turned a cold, hard gaze on Admiral James Kirk. There was a time when the two of them had been friends, with shared bonds of camaraderie and mutual respect reinforced by membership in a very small and elite cadre. These two men had lived their lives by the same guiding principles, come up through the ranks together to a large degree, with service records and a history of assignments that closely paralleled the other. But while one of them still lived by the principles that they cherished, Morrow felt that Kirk had betrayed them in the worst possible way. Whatever the future held, friendship and camaraderie between these two men would not be a part of it. Morrow had not offered Kirk a seat, and Kirk had not presumed to take one. He stood in the middle of the office not quite at attention like a cadet, but he wasn't standing easy, either. Morrow was his superior officer, and Kirk was here to take his medicine for the problems he'd caused the Commander of Starfleet- and make no mistake, they had been Big Problems.

"Well?" Morrow asked through teeth that were fairly gritted in anger. "What do you have to say for yourself?" Kirk shook his head slightly, his throat tight and sore. For one of the very few times in his career, he didn't feel like meeting a challenge head on, swinging. He'd already lost the Enterprise and his son. There wasn't anything left for Morrow to take away from him that he cared about- not really, anyway. The best he hoped for when he saw the look in Morrow's eye was that he could take the brunt of the admiral's rage on himself, and try to salvage what he could for his crew. He swallowed, hard. "SAY SOMETHING, DAMN IT!" Morrow thundered at him.

Kirk smiled that wry smile that had defused countless confrontations and weakened scores of female knees. "I'd tell you I'm sorry, admiral, but not only would that not begin to cover it, it wouldn't be the whole truth, either. I am genuinely sorry for the trouble I've caused you."

"It didn't stop you though, did it?" Morrow snarled. "You are the most storied starship captain in the history of the service, but behind it all you've always had this...this penchant for doing whatever the hell you felt like and then weaseling your way out of the consequences. Well, you aren't going to get away with it this time, Jim! This time you're going to pay the piper."

Kirk looked Morrow squarely in the eye. "I'm not here to try and weasel out of anything, admiral. I did what I felt I had to, and I'll accept the consequences no matter what they are." Best not to bring up the others just yet, he added to himself. Give it a bit- Harry's blood is really up!

"You'll accept the consequences all right, and your crew along with you," Morrow growled pointedly, as though he was reading Kirk's mind. "Conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, theft of a starship, sabotage...Jesus!" Harry thundered again, his African features turning even a darker hue than their natural color. "Is there any rule besides murder that you and your menagerie didn't break? All that, a violation of the Mutara Sector quarantine, to boot, and on top of it all you lost the Enterprise!"

Between two former starship captains, Morrow knew which one of the crimes he listed would sting the most. Fortunately, Morrow wasn't low enough to bring up the matter of David Marcus; Kirk had no doubt that Harry must have learned by now that David had been his son, but apparently he wasn't going to delve into that arena, which was a good thing. Kirk was willing to take his lumps over everything else, but David's death was a raw enough wound that if Morrow poured the salt in it, he'd hit back and destroy what little chance there seemed to be of salvaging anything from this situation. In fact, given that the conversation seemed to be going nowhere positive, Kirk decided to cut to the chase. He was beginning to think that N'Theliam had misread the entire situation when they'd spoken on Vulcan. "I lost the Enterprise defending Genesis against the Klingons," Kirk said thickly. In light of Morrow's tirade it sounded like a weak defense, even to him.

"Oh, well! Guess that makes this all okay then, is that it? Enterprise should never have been there in the first place!" Morrow shouted in his face.

"You've made your point, admiral," Kirk replied tiredly. "I assume you'll be convening a General Court Martial. I'll inform my officers and advise them to seek counsel from the JAG office."

Morrow scowled. Moment of truth, Kirk thought to himself. Either call or quit bluffing, Harry. Commander Starfleet's voice returned to a conversational tone. "There aren't going to be any court martials, Admiral Kirk. I thought Captain N'Theliam made that point clear to you."

"He did, but you appear to have changed your mind about that."

"I haven't changed my mind about it, Kirk- the Federation Council overruled me! Politics, Jim. It's always about goddamn politics. Court martials would bring too many facts to light that we need to keep classified. Facts about Genesis, for starters, as well as the breach of treaty by the Klingons. Don't you get it, admiral? Or have you been too wrapped up in your own, private little world of personal gratification to notice what's happened?"

"Get what?" Kirk replied, slightly confused. "Genesis is a failure. It's is going to be a dead issue very shortly-"

"Not Genesis, dammit! The Klingons! A Klingon ship crossed the Neutral Zone, ambushed and destroyed a Starfleet science vessel, and fought a battle with the Enterprise! You of all people ought to see the implications!"

It hit Kirk like a bolt out of the blue, leaving him stunned. How could I have possibly missed that? he asked himself, but the answer came just as easily: because Spock wasn't there to do my thinking for me, that's why! Dammit, Jim, you are getting senile! "The Organians!" he breathed. "They didn't stop it!"

"The Organians," Morrow confirmed.

Kirk bit his lip, his mind racing, everything else forgotten for the moment. "It's possible," he said after a moment's reflection, "that they weren't aware of the confrontation. The Mutara Sector is a good distance from the Neutral Zone, and the treaty technically only covers the border region."

"It's possible," Morrow replied, "but short of deliberately violating the treaty ourselves we have no way of testing that theory. The truth is, since the Organians imposed the treaty on us there have been next to no confirmed contacts with them at all. We've never been able to ascertain how far their perception and influence extends beyond the positions of those units that were disabled in the vicinity of Organia when they imposed the treaty in the first place. Frankly, we are now in a position of not knowing whether or not war is possible again between the Klingon Empire and the Federation."

"Then I'd say the future just got more complicated," Kirk replied. "What do you intend to do about it?"

"You just named your own poison, admiral," Morrow replied levelly. "Effective immediately, you are relived of your duties as Chief of Starfleet Training. Next week, you will relieve Admiral Mendez as Chief of Starfleet Operations. Commodore Cartwright will be taking over the Command School at the academy. You're getting one of your old jobs back, Jim, but probably not the one you would have chosen. Finding out what is going on with the Klingons and the Organians is going to be just one of your many new concerns."

"I don't understand," Kirk replied, truly off guard at this revelation. "You just said-"

"That you weren't going to get away it?" Morrow filled in. "You aren't, don't worry. As of right now, your officers are all demoted. Non-Judicial Punishment conducted in absentia by myself and a panel of two other flag officers, as required for officers of their rank and position. It's been handled by the book and verified legal by the Starfleet Judge Advocate General. Sulu's promotion and command of Excelsior? Gone. He's a commander again, and as of tomorrow he has orders to report as operations officer of Starbase 11. Captain Stiles will retain command of Excelsior for her first five year mission. Chekov just got busted back to Lieutenant Commander, as did Uhura. Chekov is headed out to Starbase 23 where he will assume his new post as station chief of security. Uhura is going to a listening outpost near the Neutral Zone. She may actually be useful to you there, given your new job with the Organians. Captain Scott is Commander Scott once more, and he's headed for Mars, where he will serve as an adviser regarding the construction of the new shipyards at Utopia Planitia. I'm breaking up your team, once and for all, admiral, and they are grounded. No more space assignments for any of them, at least not while I'm in this uniform or in this office. Doctor McCoy is being held blameless in this incident- he's the only one who didn't ask for any of this to happen, and he has been judged mentally incompetent with regard to his own actions during your shenanigans."

"No demotion for me?" Kirk asked.

Morrow chuckled mirthlessly. "Hell no. You've been looking for an excuse for years. Before you betrayed that uniform and stole the Enterprise, I told you that your life and career stood for something. A lot of people have gone to more trouble than you can possibly imagine to cover up what you've done, Jim. You put the whole of Starfleet Orbital at yellow alert, and sabotaged the next generation of starship as it chased you out. I've had to lie, pull strings, alter records..." Kirk could sense Morrow's blood starting to boil again. "I've had to reason, cajole, and even threaten loyal Starfleet officers- good officers, Jim, not officers like you- who wanted to see you pay the price they would have paid for doing what you are essentially getting away with. But no, we can't do that to James Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise! It wouldn't be good for the service or the Federation!

"You and your crew are heroes, admiral. Not only is there the matter of you saving this entire planet's population from V'Ger's sterilization plan, there are the public records of your two five year missions, and those on the Council and in Starfleet who are aware of your classified contributions to the Federation and its security. Phasering your career and sending you to a penal colony would be a disaster of unmitigated proportions, both politically, and for Starfleet in general. Half the cadets at the academy are there because of you, and the other half want to BE you! Torpedoing you would crush morale throughout half the fleet, and we can't afford that with the problems we appear to have looming on the horizon. So you are going to stand tall and be the poster boy, Jim. Despite the fact that half of Starfleet knows it's all a sham, and I'm stained right along with you, because I'm the sorry son of a bitch that has to cover your ass, admiral!"

"Jesus, Harry, I'm sorry," Kirk breathed, feeling totally deflated. "It might have been better to just hang me after all."

"No, Jim," Harry replied earnestly. "Do you remember what you said to me once, about Ron Tracy and the Exeter? How it would've been better if he'd just died along with his crew? The best thing here would have been for you to burn with the Enterprise. At least then you could have served as a symbol whereas now you're just an embarrassment, and not even a very well hidden one." Morrow smiled bitterly. "You have no idea how many supporters you have out there, even despite all this," he added. "There was more than one proponent of yours that thought the best solution was to bust your ass back to captain and give you command of a starship again. You'd have liked that, wouldn't you?"

Kirk knew better than to say anything to that.

"By regulation, your officers are still entitled to request a general court rather than accept the NJP. I would warn them against it, if I were you. Just as we've rigged the game to keep you and yours on your pedestals, I personally guarantee the game will be rigged the other way if they want to play it that way. Anyone who requests a court is going to spend the rest of their life on a penal colony, I promise you. They are also free to resign, admiral, and to be honest, nothing would make me happier. Their resignations, however, should they submit them, will be handled through my office, personally. I have two years left in my tenure as Commander Starfleet, and I guarantee that it will take a full two years for any such resignation to be administratively processed. You, on the other hand, are not free to retire or resign on pain of facing formal charges. We actually do need you to handle this matter regarding the Klingons, and I want you to get a good, long taste of flying that desk over at Starfleet Operations. I know how much you love being deskbound, and it's the least I can do for you after going to all this trouble on your behalf. Relish the job, admiral, because it's your twilight tour: the last job you are going to hold as a Starfleet officer. I'm sure they'll let you keep it as long as you want it."

Kirk didn't have anything to say to that. He merely nodded, and clung to the one thing that made this whole nightmare worthwhile: Spock was alive. For that reason alone, it had been worth it. It had all been worth it. No regrets. "Will that be all, sir?" Kirk asked.

"Yes. I think you have some things to talk about with your former shipmates. Better make it a good farewell bash, admiral. You won't be seeing any of them again for years."

Kirk headed for the door like a ship-launched torpedo, but Morrow brought him up short. "One more thing," he added.

"Yes?"

"This will wash it with us, admiral. We'll have to meet in our official capacities from time to time, but I'm warning you: you'd better steer clear of me, Kirk. If you see me coming, just head the other way. And a word of warning: for every fan you have out there, there's two or three who feel like me about this whole farce. Don't expect to get invited to too many parties."

Kirk paused in the doorway as it swished open, turning back to nod to Morrow. "Aye sir," he replied, and was gone.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:37 PM   #9
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

Interlude

EYES ONLY. Summary of official Starfleet intelligence report, submitted under special classification seal, reference Articles of Federation Charter Section 31. Sender's name and rank deleted for security purposes, forwarded to Chief of Starfleet Operations via communications department aboard USS Constellation, Fleet Captain Stone commanding. Stardate 8607.5 EYES ONLY.


Summary: A thorough review and analysis has been conducted of all Starfleet and observed Klingon activities within the stipulated Organian Treaty Zone boundaries, beginning time reference Stardate 8001.1 and ending Stardate 8605.30. Basic summary of this effort indicates a marked decrease in confirmed or suspected Organian activity within the Treaty Zone beginning on or about Stardate 8104.01, with the last suspected contact with an Organian entity occuring on Stardate 8111.17. There has been no confirmed or suspected Organian interaction with the Federation or the Klingon Empire subsequent to this date.

In an effort to determine whether or not the Organians retain an interest or willingness to interfere in the affairs of the Federation and the Klingon Empire, several covert operations were carried out, creating opportunities for the Klingons to violate treaty stipulations at little or no risk to themselves. In every case subsequent to the reference stardate above, such Klingon activities that would have constituted a treaty violation were carried out without interference from the Organians. On two occasions, Klingon ground forces and Starfleet personnel engaged in direct skirmishes, with the same negative result. At no time since the Mutara Incident have Klingon and Federation vessels been engaged directly in space combat operations.

On Stardate 8604.03, USS Constellation was diverted from her mapping mission of the Lendal Expanse by order of your office, where she then proceeded to Organia and conducted an extensive survey of the planet and the surrounding star systems. While the ruins of an ancient city were present at the coordinates of the original Organian expedition, the physical state and age of these ruins were not consistent with the official report from the logs of the USS Enterprise, the first starship to conduct sensor scans of Organia. The scans made from orbit and by Constellation's landing parties date the ruins approximately three quarters of a million years older than the sensor data from Enterprise mission logs. The ruins were in a much more dilapidated and eroded state as well, consistent with the age discrepancy in the sensor logs. It is the opinion of the Constellation's science officer that these disparities are the direct result of Organian misdirection applied at the time of the Enterprise survey, and that the readings taken by Constellation and her teams are in fact true and accurate. There was no sign of the Organians found by the landing parties, no abnormal energy readings recorded, and no communications or other contact made with any Organian entity during this survey. The survey of neighboring star systems revealed no trace of Organian influence or presence.

After careful consideration of the results of these efforts, it is the opinion of Starfleet Intelligence that the Organians are no longer an influence in the Treaty Zone, or anywhere within the Federation or Klingon Empire. Either the Organians have lost interest in us, they have reached another evolutionary milestone rendering them inert, or they have been prevented from further interference in our affairs by an unknown power even greater than their own.

Based on these conclusions, Starfleet Intelligence makes the following immediate recommendations:

1. Starfleet Command and the Federation Council should not assume that any future violation of the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty will result in interference by the Organians.

2. Starfleet Command should assume that the Klingons have been actively researching this matter, and will draw similar conclusions.

3. Given that this situation will undoubtedly heighten tensions between the empire and the Federation, Starfleet Command is advised by Intelligence to take the proper precautionary measures to reinforce and strengthen our forces patrolling the Neutral Zone.

4. Starfleet Command should anticipate a gradual rise in hostile Klingon activities along the Neutral Zone, particularly from privateering elements within the Empire, and be prepared to respond with sufficient force to deter future acts of aggression within the treaty zone. Unfortunately, Klingons being Klingons, the proverbial bloody nose from time to time may be required to prevent this situation from gradually degenerating into all out war.

The detailed report with all attachments and amendments is hereby forwarded for review and further analysis. Summary ends.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:41 PM   #10
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

Part 2: The Undiscovered Country


6


8 Years following the Mutara Incident

Krel epetai-Gorkon sat in his secure office in the Klingon Capitol, brooding heavily. The senior and perhaps most influential member of the Klingon High Council except for the emperor himself, he had spent an entire lifetime shaping events, manipulating people, and doing what was necessary to achieve his current station in life. Tonight, if all went according to plan, he would be setting events in motion that would have a momentous effect on the Komerex Klingon. If successful, it would be the start of a new era; something new and better for the Klingon people, heralding a fundamental change in their race and its affairs not seen since the days of Kahless himself. If he failed, the galaxy would in all likelihood be plunged into interstellar war. War with the Federazhon, almost certainly, and then the Romulans would doubtless sweep through what remained when it was over and destroy what was left of the victor.

Krel epetai-Gorkon was Klingon to his core, but at the same time he was almost alien when compared to the remainder of his race. He did not deny the komerex zha; he'd played the Perpetual Game his entire life, and his machinations were legendary both within his line and without. He was a Thought Admiral, a rated klin zha master, the very epitome of what every young Klingon aspired to be. But he was more: Krel was also a visionary. While he believed in the Komerex Klingon (the continued ascendancy of his race), he was wise, and deeply troubled by some of the things he had seen during his long life. There had been wars of subjugation, wars with the Romulans, and smaller conflicts with the Federazhon for as long as he had memory. These conflicts were the sort a Klingon warrior could relish in, and reasonably expect victory if the one employed proper tactics and knew when to fight. But there were other, more insidious threats in the galaxy that had presented themselves in the last century; threats beyond the ability of everyday Klingons to deal with- threats that could not be met with the simple ruthlessness of a closed fist. First, there had been the Organians. It was no secret any longer that the glowbugs seemed to have vanished from the galaxy, or at least this part of it. But the truth remained that they had been (and perhaps still were) a power far beyond the capacity of the Empire to deal with. Had the Organians wished, they could have made straave of all Klingons, everywhere, and there would have been nothing they could have done to prevent it. Nothing! How could one fight an enemy that, for all practical purposes, was a god? One couldn't.

Then there had been the strange energy cloud encountered many years back. An energy cloud the size of a small solar system, with unimaginably high power levels at its core. It had passed through Imperial space with impunity, moving at high warp. It had been engaged at four different locations by intercepting squadrons, and in each case the intercepting Klingon ships had been swatted aside as though they were mere insects. Then, if that wasn't enough to freeze one's liver, the cloud had followed a direct course to the Earther's home planet, where they had summarily defeated it without the loss of a single cruiser.

It was enough to give one pause.

There was still speculation in the Empire concerning that energy cloud, its nature, and how the Federazhon could possibly have dealt with it when the Empire had been powerless to do so. This in turn had caused speculation concerning whether or not it was the Federazhon that had somehow rid them of Organian influence. Krel didn't believe so, but there were those in the Empire who wondered. If so, then the Komerex Federazhon might well be an enemy beyond the capacity of the Klingon Empire to defeat. And unlike the distressingly kuvelita attitude of the glowbugs, or the impersonal disinterest of the entities at the heart of the energy cloud, the Earthers were organic humanoids with many of the same characteristics and drives of the Klingon race: They were a predatory species, dangerous, lethally devious, and they competed for territory and resources. Yet, at the same time, they seemed to have an element to their makeup that the Klingons lacked: While they seemed to believe in the concept of nel komerex, khesterex, they did not take the singularly racist attitude toward it that Imperial Klingons invariably did. In Klingon culture there was room for only three sorts of species: Klingons, worthy opponents, and kuve. Earthers and their allies took a fundamentally different approach. They didn't believe that any sapient race ought to be enslaved, (an admittedly absurd notion, even to a renaissance man like Krel) but rather, they believed that races working together in sort of a strange, conglomerated komerex could be more than the sum of their parts. After a lifetime of observation and honest, objective analysis, Krel epetai-Gorkon had begun to wonder if they were right.

The problem was that mainstream Klingon culture was incapable of grasping this concept. Life in the Klingon Empire was about the accumulation of power, both personal and within one's line. Everything that happened in the empire revolved around these schemes. There was treachery, mistrust, and constant surveillance by both Security and Imperial Intelligence. One learned to make alliances very young, how to tread lightly when needed, while possessing the courage and skill to literally carve the liver from an opponent's chest when the situation called for it, or eradicate them with a fast draw and well aimed disruptor. At the heart of it all was the komerex zha- the Perpetual Game. So long as there was a prize to be won, that prize being the throne of the empire and the title of emperor, Klingons would play the game. Power would remain centralized, the lines would remain at one another's throats, and a very few individuals with broader vision and larger concerns would hold the empire together at great cost and sacrifice to themselves. There had been those like that in the past, just as there would in the future, and Krel was such a one for his generation. The major difference between Krel and some of his fellow visionaries was that he didn't intend to sacrifice himself on the altar of his altruism. In the empire, such a course was only taken by fools and weaklings; like a true Klingon, he saw his goals as a path to personal glory and a victory of sorts in the Perpetual Game.

Gorkon was thoroughly convinced that the key to maintaining the Komerex Klingon was to change the rules of the game. Nel komerex, khesterex- An entity, be it organic, politicial, or otherwise, can exist in only one of two possible states: it either thrives and expands, or it withers and dies. Continued growth and expansion meant that the empire had to adapt. The galaxy was proving to be a strange, mysterious place fraught with hazards both marvelous and unimagined. A paradigm shift was needed or else the empire would stagnate and decay, eventually crumbling away as a cosmic footnote while entities like the Federazhon supplanted them. The Federazhon, which trained its officers specifically to handle the unexpected, to think and question, and to adapt to abnormal situations rather than pre-heating the disruptors at every encounter, was clearly better adapted to the larger galactic arena than the Klingon Empire. Their biggest weakness was their attitude toward other species- if they believed that that other races could share in their dominance, then why not the Klingons? A grand alliance between these two great powers could greatly benefit both, and unlike the traitorous Roms, the Earthers tended to regard treaties as something to he adhered to rather than broken at the earliest convenience.

Over the past few years, the epetai-Gorkon had very, very carefully felt out members of his own line, and then expanded his search for open-minded Klingons to those of closely allied lines. He had not been surprised to find that he wasn't alone in his thoughts and concerns. There were others who felt the same way he did. The problem was that in a culture as totalitarian and tightly monitored as the empire, one had to constantly guard what was said, how it was said, even what one thought. Communication of new ideas wasn't just difficult; it was often criminal. And Klingons good enough at the Perpetual Game to achieve the levels of power Krel had achieved were very cautious, indeed. So it had taken time- many years, in fact. Krel had built a careful network of alliances, managed primarily through his daughter Azetbur, who was even more the idealist than he was. Triply slighted by her status as an Administrator, her tinge of human blood (her mother having been a Human-fusion rather than of the Imperial race), and by being female, she hated the internal structure of the empire more than anyone alive. At least anyone Krel was on intimate terms with, at any rate.

Like the Thought Admiral and klin zha master that he was, the epetai-Gorkon had done what was necessary to elevate the game to the next level. His opponents were many, and powerful. Tonight would be the night that he committed himself completely to this endeavor. Up until now it had been possible to stop, but no longer. The pieces were in play, and battle had been joined. He keyed on his computer viewer, which presented him with a holographic representation of the border region. Praxis was there, in the center of the screen.

A small fleet of red blips was moving toward Praxis: the emperor's flagship, covered by warships in close orbit and escorted by fighters, on their way for an inspection of General Chang's vaunted research facilities. A glance at the time index indicated that his ship would dock in less than half an hour.

Despite his network of spies and contacts, Gorkon had never been able to figure out exactly what it was that Chang had being trying to produce on Praxis all these years, but he suspected it had to do with some sort of failed project or weapon the Federazhon had been working on several years before. All he knew was that it was a weapon of terrible destructive power, most likely a planetkiller of some sort. Gorkon had taken careful note of the way Malik epetai-Chang had maneuvered the emperor into establishing the facility on Praxis. Of course, the disadvantage of Chang's actions was that he hadn't been able to staff it with solely his own people. Praxis was rife with Security plants, Imperial Intelligence agents masquerading as key personnel, and spies from several different influential and powerful lines. Chang was good- very good- at detecting and dealing with spies, but nobody was perfect. And the House of Gorkon was not without its own considerable resources. Krel had not been successful in preventing the one's succession to a seat on the High Council, but he planned to take care of that issue tonight as well, once and for all. The hatred was palpable between Gorkon and Chang, and they were diametrically opposed on most issues. Gorkon would never forgive or forget his loss of face when Chang had beaten him several years before at a highly publicized klin zha kinta challenge, but it had been an instructive loss in many ways. First, it had been a revelation as to just how much Chang actually hated him. Second, it had served as a warning never, ever to underestimate the one-eyed Klingon warrior again.

The door to his office hissed open, revealing Azetbur. She was the only one who would enter his office, or any of his private rooms, without prior permission and unannounced. "It's almost time," she announced with deceptive calm. "Come, father, there is something the one should see."

Gorkon said nothing; he merely nodded and rose to follow his daughter out of the office, past the ante-rooms, and out onto a broad balcony. Klinzhai was a lush, humid world which featured a naturally occurring greenhouse effect. Consequently, the surface of the planet was almost constantly shrouded under a thick layer of clouds. However, on one night in a hundred or so, the weather would conspire with nature and give them a clear, cloudless night; one where the naked stars would shine upon the homeworld in all their glory. According to Klingon culture and belief, things that were said and actions that were taken under the naked stars were remembered for all time. A night like this was rare enough that the inhabitants of the capital city had affected a voluntary blackout of sorts- usually the lights of the city lit the ground to the horizon in every direction, but not so tonight. The light pollution from the home city had been almost completely eradicated, leaving nothing but the glory of the naked stars above. Gorkon could sense the soft rustle in the streets many stories below them, as awed Klingons ventured outdoors to marvel at the night sky, have important conversations with family or line members, and swear oaths that would take on special significance. Somewhere in the distance, he could hear the dim echo of proud, robust Klingon voices raised in song. He put an arm around his daughter's shoulders, drawing her close, and felt the klin stir deep in his own chest.

"It's a sign," Azetbur breathed. "A harbinger of things to come."

"How does the one feel?" Krel asked.

"Undefeated!" she laughed, quoting a line from the soundtrack to a classic Klingon vidshow, Battlecruiser Vengeance.

Gorkon's communicator suddenly beeped for his attention. Annoyed at the interruption, he yanked it out and activated it. "Speak!" he snapped.

It was Mordok, one of his senior Security people. "Your pardon, m'lord. I have bad news: We've just learned that the epetai-Chang is not with the emperor. He's here, on Klinzhai."

"Noted," Gorkon replied, ignoring the sudden knot in his liver. "Krel out." He snapped off the communicator and returned it to his belt. Azetbur was looking up at him with wide eyes. Gorkon's eyes seemed to unfocus, and he stared off toward the horizon for a long moment. "He knows."

"Impossible!" Azetbur hissed. "There is no way-"

"He knows," Gorkon repeated, casual in his tone but drawing out the last word a bit for emphasis. "Do not underestimate Chang, my daughter. He is a Thought Master in his own right."

"He's mad!" Azetbur hissed again. "Can he stop it?"

"He doesn't want to," Gorkon replied immediately, and although he knew it was the truth, he did experience a moment of doubt. He thought of Force Leader Mrag, whose consort and children had perished in one of the emperor's personal agonizer booths. Mrag had gone underground, his line shattered by the emperor for betrayals real or imagined, and he had wound up being sheltered by the House of Gorkon, at great risk. Mrag had been a gift- a useful tool. On a night very much like tonight, Mrag had sworn before Gorkon that he only had one purpose left in life: the destruction of the emperor who had destroyed his line. Gorkon's fangs showed in the hint of a feral smile as he remembered. Hate was such a powerful thing, and its power multiplied tenfold when applied coldly and with precision. Mrag had been established on Praxis for the past four years under a painstakingly established false identity, and the object of his life's sole remaining passion was arriving just about now. No, Gorkon decided. The epetai-Chang couldn't stop it if he wanted to. Besides, he knew his first impulse was the correct one: Malik knew what was about to happen, and he was more than willing to let it. After all, the one wanted the throne for himself.

"This complicates things immensely," Azetbur added, a masterpiece of understatement.

The epetai-Gorkon's mind was already moving, thinking about possible scenarios, how they might turn out, and what the impact would be down various lines of possible outcomes. It was the act of a Thought Admiral playing the komerex zha. "There comes a time when guile and subterfuge must give way to knife and disruptor,” Krel remarked after several moment‘s contemplation. “We will play out the game tomorrow in the council chambers, and blood will be spilled before it's over. When the day ends, I will either be chancellor and Chang may live, or Chang will be the new emperor and I shall command a ship of the Black Fleet."

"I will fight Chang myself if needs be," Azetbur snarled.

"Kai kassai, Klingon!" the epetai-Gorkon laughed. He didn't have the heart to tell her that she would lose, but he loved the klin in her. "Come, let us go inside. We'll have to plan carefully for tomorrow, and we need to consult with our allies. If we act quickly, we can manage the situation. No battle plan survives the first exchange of fire, eh?" he chuckled.

"Are you saying this is nothing more than a mere setback?" Azetbur asked.

"Of course," Gorkon replied. "One does not yield at klin zha simply because the opponent escapes a trap." Azetbur nodded slightly, calmed by her father's reassurance. It was at that moment, hundreds of light years away on the Klingon side of the Neutral Zone, that Praxis exploded.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:46 PM   #11
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

7

Captain’s Log, USS Excelsior, Stardate 9105.12, Hikaru Sulu, commanding. After three years, I have completed my first deep space assignment as master of this vessel, cataloging planetary gaseous anomalies in Beta Quadrant. We have just arrived on our new station where we have been assigned to patrol the Klingon Neutral Zone. Our presence will bolster local force levels even further, since Starfleet Command has decided on an increased presence. Both ship and crew are performing well.

Captain Sulu ended the log entry, and smiled at his yeoman as she carried off the PADD into which he’d just recorded it. He sipped at his tea, a content man, and reflected briefly on what the past few years had wrought. Sometimes, he reflected, karma was easy to believe in. He had originally been slated to take command of this ship a little more than eight years before, when she was still an experimental. His involvement in the Mutara Incident had put an end to that and fortuitously so, as it had turned out. Captain Stiles, who had taken Excelsior through her initial trials, stayed on as her commanding officer as she entered active service and he had been the one saddled with the frustrating failure of the transwarp project. For the first two years of Stiles’ five year mission, the ship hadn’t gotten any farther than Andor or Vulcan without massive drive systems failures requiring her to be towed back to maintenance facilities for further work. After two years of false starts both in the field and on the drawing boards, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers had declared transwarp a failure, at least at current technological levels, and Excelsior had returned to Earth for a one-year refit. She was equipped with new (but standard) warp engines, refitted with the Block 2 upgrades already being installed in two of her sister ships (then under construction), and returned to service. That left two years on Stiles’ original assignment, and those devolved largely into a re-hash of her original pre-commissioning trials. Excelsior had been relegated to rather unglamorous duty deep inside Federation space until Starfleet was finally convinced that the bugs were worked out and this class of ship was going to succeed as the workhorse replacement for the venerable Constitution Class.

Sulu had spent the first two of those five years as the Operations Officer of Starbase 11. Then, after Starfleet Commander Morrow retired, he was promoted to captain and made the starbase chief of staff at the direct request of its commanding officer, Commodore Blake. Since Admiral Kirk had had nothing to do with that request, it had been that much easier for Kirk to engineer Sulu’s re-assignment to command Excelsior three years later, when she returned from her rather ignominious five year mission and Captain Stiles was promoted to commodore. Even for those with long memories, there weren’t many people who could argue that an officer of Sulu’s caliber didn’t rate a starship command. There had been some strings pulled, some favors cashed in, and some stepped-on-toes, but Admiral Kirk and Commodore Blake had forced it through. Of course, after what most of Starfleet had dubbed 'the five year shakedown', command of USS Excelsior didn't seem like the plum prize it once was.

Unfortunately, Captain Stiles’ command presence and personality had been none too palatable to begin with, and three years of utter frustration followed by two years of embarrassingly inane assignments had left the crew demoralized and on edge. More than a third had requested transfer at the end of her first mission, wanting off Excelsior at the earliest opportunity, and total crew turnover for her first five years of service had approached fifty percent. Captain Sulu’s arrival had been like a breath of fresh air. Tough but fair, he had learned long ago that respect and trust had to flow two ways through the chain of command, and he also understood that the crew of a starship was a family. Under his command, Excelsior had finally slipped her tight tether, launching off to the vast, largely unexplored Beta Quandrant for a three year, nearly autonomous deep space exploration assignment. When they’d left Earth, Excelsior had been an unlucky ship with an unhappy crew. Three years later, having returned to Federation space after a very successful run, she was finally a starship in every sense of the word. Crew turnover had been zero by virtue of the remote nature of their mission, but there had been no requests for transfer upon her return to Federation space, either. She was no longer an unhappy ship, and her luck had been pretty good under the command of Hikaru Sulu. If her captain was inordinately proud, well, he had earned it.

“Whoa,” muttered a voice from the science station. Sulu turned to look at Lieutenant Dmitri Valtane, his gamma shift science officer.

“What is it, Valtane?” he asked. Almost at the same instant he spoke, a deep trembling began, throbbing through the deckplates beneath his feet and rattling his teacup and saucer on the small foot table in front of the command chair. Sulu knew instinctively what his ship felt like, and this wasn’t coming from the ship- it was external. He unconsciously gripped the armrests of his chair as the vibration grew more intense. The teacup fell off the table and shattered against the deckplates, but nobody noticed.

“Captain!” Valtane shouted, “I’ve got an energy wave bearing two forty four mark six, off our starboard quarter!”

“Visual!” Sulu barked. The screen shifted, and they saw it: a wall of boiling energy, advancing toward them at what had to be just a fraction under warp one. Only the FTL capability of some of the ship’s sensors were giving them any warning at all. Sulu’s eyes went wide, and he came to his feet. “My……….God!” he breathed, and then almost thirty years of experience kicked in automatically. “Shields! SHIELDS!”

The energy wave struck Excelsior a moment later, engulfing the ship and tumbling her sideways on her beam. The force of the hit overwhelmed the inertial dampers; not enough to kill them all, but enough to disrupt artificial gravity momentarily and send them flying across the bridge. The next few seconds were sheer pandemonium, fed by the panic of knowing that the vessel was out of their control. The computer triggered an automatic red alert and the alarm klaxons went off all over the ship.

Sulu was trying to pick himself up off the deck when he heard the helmsman’s distressed voice: “She’s not answering her helm!”

“Port thrusters,” Sulu called to him, reaching for the console to steady himself. “Turn her into the wave!” The helmsman complied, and Sulu could feel it in the proverbial seat of his pants as the large vessel sluggishly responded, her bow swinging around and helping her regain her stability. Then, as quickly as it had begun, they were through the wave and things settled back down to mere rumbling again.

The shaken bridge crew slowly picked themselves up and returned to their stations. Lieutenant Valtane was working furiously at the science console. “What was that?” Sulu asked.

“Subspace shock wave, emanating from Klingon space, captain,” Valtane replied. “I’m localizing the source,” he added. There was a slight pause, and then: “It was Praxis, sir. A Klingon facility just inside their side of the Neutral Zone.”

“Praxis is a suspected weapons research facility,” Sulu muttered. “Verify source, Mister Valtane,” he added. He turned to communications, where Commander Janice Rand manned the console. “Damage report,” he snapped.

“Coming in from all decks,” Rand replied. “Reports are pretty confused right now, captain. People are picking up the pieces. I have the executive officer on intercom for you.”

Sulu moved back to his chair and snapped it on. “Sulu here.”

“This is Commander Saavik. Are we under attack, captain?”

“Negative, number one,” Sulu replied. “Take charge of damage control efforts, commander. We encountered a shock wave of some kind, but the imminent danger appears to have passed.”

“Acknowledged. Saavik out.”

“Captain,” Valtane interrupted, “secondary long range scan complete. I can verify the position of Praxis, but…” his voice trailed off.

“What?”

“Sir, I can’t confirm the existence of Praxis. It’s gone. I mean, completely gone.”

“If whatever just hit us originated there, I’m not surprised. Broaden scan for Klingon units in the vicinity,” Sulu added. “I think we may have just witnessed an accident of some sort, but we can‘t discount the possibility that this was an attack aimed at us. All decks to remain at red alert, shields at maximum.”

“Sensors have pinpointed one Klingon starship on the far side of the Neutral Zone, captain. She’s too far to scan for type and we can’t read her IFF, but she is under power and starting toward Praxis. She must have just gone through the wave as we did, sir.”

“Open a channel to the Klingon vessel,” Sulu ordered. Rand nodded at him a moment later. “This is the USS Excelsior, a Federation starship. We have monitored a large explosion in your sector. Do you require assistance, over.”

“Incoming message from the Klingons, captain,” Rand said a moment later. “On screen.”

The viewer shifted, and Sulu found himself looking at his somewhat disheveled Klingon counterpart. “This is Captain Koran sutai-Kempeth of the Klingon Empire. There has been an…incident at Praxis, but your assistance is NOT required. Obey treaty stipulations, and remain outside the Neutral Zone. This transmission ends, now.” The Klingon officer disappeared, to be replaced by a red test-screen featuring the Imperial Klingon trefoil.

The bridge lift doors swished open, to disgorge Commander Saavik. She looked like she had been thrown from her bunk by the impact of the wave. Her long, dark hair was a disorganized mess about her head and shoulders, and her uniform had been hastily donned. However, her features were calm and composed and she was already moving gracefully toward the science station as Sulu turned to look at her. “Report,” he ordered.

“Minor damage on all decks, captain,” she replied smoothly. “Mostly breakage, as you might expect. Several minor injuries, two serious, both concussions. We were fortunate.”

“Captain, are we going to report this to Starfleet?” Rand asked from communications.

Sulu raised his eyebrows. “Are you kidding?”

“I meant right now, sir,” she added with a chastising smile.

Sulu chuckled. “Sorry, Janice. Send them a preliminary report only. Time index and facts. Let them know a more detailed report will follow within the hour, along with updates. Tactical, tie into long range sensors and begin a plot on all Klingon units within our scanning range. Let’s begin watching how they respond.” He glanced again at Saavik as his other orders were acknowledged. She was the executive officer with a specialty in helm and navigation, but being Vulcan she did like to dabble in the scientific side of things from time to time. After all those years aboard Enterprise, it still struck Sulu as a little odd to see a Vulcan at the operations station while a human manned sciences. She expertly transferred a copy of Valtane’s data over to an auxiliary station, where she promptly sat down without another word and began looking it over. After only a minute or two, she turned to Sulu with a look that didn‘t reassure him at all.

“Captain, would you come have a look at this?” she asked. Sulu nodded, and made his way over to her station. She ran the energy profile of the energy wave on an aux-screen, looking up at him expectantly. Sulu thought it looked very vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t say how or why for the life of him.

“Something you recognize?” he asked.

“Yes and no,” Saavik replied. “The propagation pattern of this energy wave is very similar to the carrier-wave function of the Genesis effect. With that in mind, a preliminary analysis of the radiation accompanying the subspace shockwave indicates a hyper-accelerated breakdown of large amounts of protomatter at the source of the explosion.”

“You are losing me, Saavik,” Sulu growled softly. “I never had security clearance for the details of Project Genesis. What are you saying? That the Klingons are trying to reproduce it?”

“Possible, but unlikely,” Saavik replied. “It is far more likely that they were experimenting with a weaponized version of it. A very crude version, bearing almost no real resemblance to the work of the Genesis team, but inspired by the little they were able to learn about it. A rough analogy would be to say that this energy pattern compares to the true Genesis effect in the same way a twenty second century impulse drive compares to the complexity of a modern warpfield coil.”

“It was enough to completely destroy Praxis,” Sulu reminded her.

She raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. Then we can only hope that this was in fact an unplanned mishap or a failed test, and the explosion they triggered put a permanent end to their research. If not, then the Klingons have succeeded in developing a weapon capable of tremendous destructive power.”

“Some weapon,” Sulu scoffed. “You destroy the target planet and probably anything smaller within several light years. Not necessarily the best way to go there, all things being equal. A phaser barrage would accomplish the same thing but leave the planet itself intact.”

Saavik nodded. “I agree that the logic in using such a weapon is skewed. However, the Klingons are known neither for their logic nor their subtlety.”

“Conceded,” Sulu replied. “Prepare a brief on your findings to be submitted as part of the broader report to Starfleet Command. I’ll be sending an update in one hour.”

“Aye, captain,” Saavik replied.

Sulu stepped back down to the command chair. “Tactical, is there any indication of a threat in our vicinity, Klingon or otherwise?”

“Negative, captain.”

“Very well; stand down to yellow alert. I think it’s safe to say that we aren’t looking at the opening move of an invasion. Let’s get that data collected, people.” Sulu sat back down in the center seat, noticing that his yeoman had already cleaned up the shattered remains of his tea. She was approaching with a fresh, steaming cup. He took it from her gratefully with mumbled thanks, then asked her to scare up some more coffee and tea for the rest of the bridge crew. They were going to need it- it was shaping up to be a long night.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:49 PM   #12
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

8

The transporter beam shimmered and a man solidified on the pad, revealing the form of the Chief of Starfleet Operations, Admiral James T. Kirk. Standing across from him, behind the controls of the transporter, was a face he hadn't seen in far too long. "Scotty!" he beamed happily. "You didn't have to come over here yourself!"

"Och, admiral, but I'm not about to let one of those ham-handed ensigns fly you over now, am I?" Scott replied, a merry twinkle in his eye. "Besides," he added, "it's been too bloody long as it is. It's good to see you again, sir."

"And you, Scotty, and you," Kirk replied, stepping down off the pad. "You're looking well," he added with a broad grin. "I trust your latest project has set well with you?"

"Aye, admiral, you know it has. This way, sir," he added, gesturing toward the shuttle pod hatch. Kirk felt a strong sense of deja vu as he placed his palm on the scanner to authorize taking the pod. It had been twenty three years since he and Scotty had taken a travel pod over to the newly refitted Enterprise, with the pall of V'Ger's approach hanging over Starfleet Command and the sheer joy he'd felt at wresting back command from Admiral Nogura. Twenty three years. That was the span of an entire career for some, but to Jim Kirk it felt almost like yesterday.

Time was catching up to them. He glanced sidelong at his old friend Montgomery Scott, noting both the grey hair and substantial weight gain that had taken place over the years. He didn't want to examine his own waistline too closely, either. Eight years behind the operations desk hadn't been very kind to his midsection, although he wasn't completely beyond redemption. Or at least that's what he told himself every morning when he looked in the mirror. But it wasn't just their bodies that were getting old; the past eight years of administrative duties had mellowed him and changed him as well. He was no longer obsessed with the mere thought of a starship command the way he had been when he was younger. He didn't look at the office like a prison anymore; at least, not every day. He'd gotten comfortable where he was, and after a few years, the tumult following the Mutara Incident had settled down quite a bit and he had actually begun enjoying being on his home planet again. In fact, he had even begun to think about retiring from Starfleet. No one man had ever held the operations desk for so long, and the murmurings had begun that it was time for him to make room for some of the up-and-comers. That was okay with Jim; he'd accomplished a great deal during his second tenure as Chief of Operations, both for Starfleet and for himself. There was one thing Harry Morrow had failed to consider when he put Kirk back in this job, and that was that the Chief of Operations had a tremendous amount of influence and say-so when it came to determining promotions and assignments of senior officers. Jim Kirk hadn’t been afraid of using that power- after all, what did he have to lose?

Kirk had been patient- very patient. He'd waited several years until the tempers had cooled, the memories had faded, and a few key officers who might have actively opposed him on principle alone had retired or been assigned to posts well away from Starfleet Command. Then, when the way was clear, he'd set about rectifying the damage done to his shipmates' careers. It had taken time and he'd had to cash in a lot of favors along the way, but he'd gotten it done. All of them were now where they deserved or needed to be, and he was finally free to take his own leave with all debts paid in full. But he wasn't ready to go quite yet- there was one last, joyful task looming on the horizon, and he meant to see that one through. It was why he was here today, in fact. As to what life after Starfleet would offer to James T. Kirk, he had no idea.

The Earth was suspended below them like a blue and white jewel, beautiful and inviting, but that wasn't what held the attention of the two men as the shuttlepod covered the distance between the orbital sub-station and the large spacedock ahead of them. They were closing rapidly enough that Kirk could already differentiate between the dock and the ship nestled inside: her lines were those of a new Excelsior class hull, complete with the new Block 3 upgrades. When she launched, she would be the newest, fastest, most state of the art ship in the fleet. As they had done on another occasion over two decades before, Mister Scott swung the shuttlepod around in a graceful series of maneuvers that gave Kirk the grand tour. She was absolutely gorgeous, but Kirk's breath didn't catch in his throat until the pod rose over the top of the ship's bow, facing aft, and he could read her registry and name:

NCC-2701. USS Enterprise.

Kirk felt tears sting his eyes, and he reached out blindly to clasp Scott's shoulder. Scotty was rather misty eyed himself. It was a special moment for both of them; one that each man would carry to his grave. "The fleet has been without an Enterprise for too long," Kirk rumbled in a tight, clipped voice.

"Well the wait's over, admiral," Mister Scott replied. "Almost over, at least. Captain Spock saw her through her trial runs, and she officially commissions next week. What do you know about the new captain?"

"John Harriman?" Kirk replied. "He's a good man. Young, but seasoned enough for this job. A little less rash than Will Decker was, I think. This will be his second command; he'll do well."

"I'm sure he will, sir," Scott replied. "I still would have liked to have seen Chekov take her out on her first mission."

Kirk grinned. It was not the first time Scotty or Bones had tried to draw him out concerning the location and assignment of either Chekov or Uhura. Kirk knew exactly where both of them were and what they were doing, but their current assignment was so highly classified that there probably weren't more than a dozen or so people in Starfleet who knew the real story, and none below the rank of captain. And it needed to stay that way, unfortunately. "Captain Chekov is otherwise occupied, Mister Scott. As is Uhura."

"Aye, sir," Scott replied with a sour look. "I still cannae figure why Spock didn't want to keep her," he added a moment later. "The media were making a right, bloody bonanza out of it. Spock served on our Enterprise under Captain Pike, yourself, and then he was technically her last captain. Almost thirty years' service aboard one ship- a Starfleet record. Everyone thought it was thoroughly fitting that he command this ship's first voyage."

Kirk's brow furrowed slightly. He'd thought so as well, and he'd asked Spock the same question Scott was asking him. In truth, he'd been a little hurt that his best friend had turned down the opportunity. It was fitting that Spock command her, at least in his eyes: a final, symbolic triumph over Khan, Kruge, Morrow, and all the other naysayers that he'd had to contend with over the last several years. Yet Spock had declined, ever so politely and logically as he was wont to do, and requested a special assignment to Starfleet's diplomatic office. Something to do with a request from his father, but he had been very closed mouthed about the details. So here was the brand new Enterprise, temporarily without a captain, awaiting her commissioning while Scotty put the finishing touches on her.

That assignment had been the first career 'fix' Kirk had been able to arrange: a mere year after Morrow's retirement, the proverbial keel had been laid for NCC-2701. It was the registry number that had originally caught his eye, and he'd immediately contacted Scott on Mars and asked if he'd like to be the lead Starfleet engineer on the new construction. Given a choice between building shipyards or building starships, there was no choice at all. Scott had jumped at the chance, but had flatly refused the accompanying promotion back to captain, which would have been his by right. Kirk had merely grinned at the time, knowing his old friend too well to pretend ignorance at this otherwise inexplicable move. Between Kirk's interest in the new ship, the public's, and Scotty's influence, there had never been a Shadow of a doubt that this ship would be the next bearer of Starfleet's proudest name. When she slipped her moorings next week and officially joined the fleet, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott would be manning her engine room. The old space dog had one more five year mission in him, or so he claimed, and then he'd be ready to buy that boat and retire with that promotion to captain. Knowing Scotty, Kirk didn't really think he'd ever just quietly retire. Scott had been quietly looking into various colonies on the Federation’s frontier, and his friends were beginning to suspect that retirement would merely be the beginning of the next phase of his life. For now, the mere thought of Scotty in engineering aboard Enterprise brought up a familiar stirring in Kirk’s breast, quickening his pulse. In his mind's eye he was already trying on that new center seat for size, wondering how it would look and feel. However, unlike twenty three years ago, this time it was more a passing fancy than something that would turn into raw obsession.

Scotty docked the shuttlepod with flawless precision, and the two of them went aboard the new Enterprise. The inspection that followed was, without question, the high point of Kirk's week.
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Old May 23 2012, 03:54 PM   #13
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

9

It wasn’t completely unusual for unscheduled, classified staff meetings to be called, but it was rare enough to pique Kirk’s curiosity, not the least because such a meeting would normally be called by him, as Chief of Operations, rather than by Commander Starfleet himself. The meeting didn’t put him out of his way at all, it was merely on a different floor of the same building at Starfleet Headquarters where he and his staff had their offices. He strolled in with a few others, taking note of who was present and who wasn’t, and was surprised to see Admiral Cartwright, the current Chief of Starfleet Training. Why his presence was needed at a classified briefing was beyond Kirk, so it only served to increase his curiosity even more. Several support staff members were present as well, mostly officers above the rank of commander. They all assembled around an oval conference table, and a rather young looking asian woman who Kirk recognized as Bill Wilder’s chief of staff came to attention in front of the podium.

“This brief is under a classification level two seal,” she announced. “Ladies and gentlemen, Commander Starfleet.” As one, the assembled officers rose as Admiral Wilder entered the room and stood up in front of the podium. As he set up his materials, the assembled officers resumed their seats.

“Ladies and gentlemen, three months ago, a Federation starship patrolling the Neutral Zone monitored an explosion in Klingon space. This explosion destroyed the planet Praxis, a suspected Klingon weapons research facility. While this event was highly unusual on its own merit, it had far wider ranging repercussions than we were originally aware of. For further clarification, I will turn this brief over to the Federation’s special envoy.”

Kirk heard footsteps behind him, making their way around to the podium, and his jaw almost fell open when he saw that the officer Wilder had referred to was none other than Spock. “Good morning,” Spock began without preamble, “Admiral Wilder has described the event at Praxis. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks later that we learned that the Klingon emperor himself was at Praxis on an inspection tour when the explosion took place. In fact, it may have been the demonstration of a new weapons system gone wrong that caused the explosion. In any case, the emperor was killed, along with his immediate staff and almost every high ranking member of his familial line. Starfleet Intelligence has absolutely confirmed this. In accordance with past Klingon practice, such an event would normally result in a ruthless and immediate power struggle among the remaining members of the Klingon High Council, culminating in a new emperor assuming the throne. This time, however, that has not taken place.

“Although the details of the High Council’s inner politicking are not known to us, the end result of the destruction of Praxis is that they have not selected a new emperor. Instead, the Klingon High Council has appointed an interim Chancellor, and there are no indications that they are moving to place a new emperor on the throne at this time. With the throne vacant, power becomes decentralized to a much larger degree than normal within the empire, and said power is shared among the various lines holding council seats. What is more, Chancellor Krel epetai-Gorkon, their new leader, quickly opened a dialogue with the Vulcan ambassador concerning a permanent cessation of hostilities between our peoples. At my father’s request, I have furthered this dialogue. Chancellor Gorkon has openly acknowledged that the Organian Peace Treaty is no longer a pertinent agreement, and proposes that both entities move to a new, binding agreement cemented by mutual consent rather than by the now-empty threat of Organian intervention.”

Someone snorted rather loudly; Kirk wasn’t sure, but he thought it might have come from Admiral Cartwright. Another officer, a female captain, looked straight at Admiral Wilder. “Sir, are we talking about mothballing the starfleet?” Kirk smirked, fighting the impulse to laugh at what was, under any circumstances, a patently stupid question.

Wilder kept his expression neutral. “I’m sure our exploration and science programs will be unaffected,” he assured her.

“What we are talking about,” Spock continued, “is a substantial reduction in forces along the Neutral Zone as drawn by the Organian Treaty, and the dismantling of our border outposts and starbases in the region. Essentially, an end to seventy years of unremitting hostility.”

Admiral Cartwright couldn’t hold his tongue any longer. “I must protest! What you’re proposing would be suicide!” he stated vehemently. “I suggest all of you open a history file and read it! The Klingons are an aggressor species; we dare not dismantle our defenses and allow them a foothold in our territory! What we have here is an opportunity to take advantage of their current political instability, and bring them to their knees! Then we‘ll be in a much better position to dictate terms!”

“Sir,” Kirk interjected.

Bill Wilder suddenly sat up, looking more alert. “Admiral Kirk.”

“The Klingons have never been trustworthy, and I’m forced to agree with Admiral Cartwright. What we’re proposing here is a terrifying idea, particularly given what we know of Klingon culture and beliefs. We are not Klingons. To them, we are either slaves or an opponent worthy of meeting in battle. They recognize no other distinctions.”

“These old beliefs are apparently being challenged within the Klingon Empire,“ Spock argued. “We must act quickly on the Gorkon initiative; if it fails, his leadership fails with it. We all know what such failure would mean for Gorkon and his line. What would follow would be a more hostile Klingon leader, perhaps even a new emperor, and a heightened potential for war. Hostilities have been mounting for several years, since both sides determined that the Organian influence has vanished. If we have a faction in nominal control of the Klingon Empire that desires peace, logic dictates that we act on it.”

“You, Admiral Kirk, are to be our first olive branch.” Admiral Wilder added.

Kirk was dumbfounded. “Me?”

“There are Klingons in the empire who feel the same way
you and Admiral Cartwright do, Jim. But your history of dealing with the Klingons is long, and storied. They all respect you, and many of them fear you. They will think twice before attacking the Enterprise under your command.”

“Attacking the Enterprise…” Jim muttered, and then the import of the words hit him like a hammerblow. He felt the room start to spin.

“Under your command,” Spock finished for him, giving him a look Kirk had seen countless times in the past: one eyebrow half-cocked, his face emotionless, but with an entire book to be read in his thoughtful expression. “We have volunteered to escort the vessel bringing Chancellor Gorkon to Earth. I have personally vouched for you in this matter.”

“You have….personally vouched…” Kirk mumbled. He was still trying to wrap his head around the other part.

“Admiral Kirk,” Wilder said, “effective tomorrow at eighteen hundred hours, you are relieved as Chief of Starfleet Operations. Admiral Cartwright will be taking over your desk. You’ll assume command of Enterprise solely for the duration of this mission. When you return, you’ll turn command over to Captain Harriman and then effect a proper turnover of operations with Admiral Cartwright. Until you return, he’ll just have to manage on what you can impart to him by tomorrow evening. This assignment should only take a couple of weeks, maybe three or four at the outside. But I thought you might enjoy the chance to go out on a high note, and the public will absolutely love the fact that it was James T. Kirk who took the new Enterprise on her maiden voyage.”

“Yes sir,” Kirk replied, still dumbfounded. Admiral Wilder stood up and gathered his briefing materials, and almost by autonomic reflex the other officers came to their feet as well.

“If there are no other questions, then that will be all. Our only task here is to see the Klingon delegation safely to Earth, not to worry about the larger political picture. What happens after Gorkon arrives falls within the purview of the diplomats. I remind all of you, this briefing is classified. Dismissed.”

The officers filed out one after another, until only Kirk and Spock, neither of whom had moved, remained in the briefing room. Admiral Cartwright stopped and patted Kirk affectionately on the chest on his way out. “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or not, Jim,“ he chuckled. Then he was gone.

“I wouldn’t,” remarked someone else as they walked by.

Kirk looked across the table at his oldest and best friend. “Spock! What the hell is going on here? WE volunteered? You know how I feel about the Klingons-”

“Jim,” Spock interrupted, “there is an historic opportunity here.”

Don’t believe them! Don’t trust them!”

“Where would Earth be today, if your different nations and cultures had maintained that same, stubborn attitude for all time?” Spock asked rhetorically. “It comes naturally to think of traps and gambits, admiral; we’ve all known the Klingons too long. On the other hand, what happened at Praxis was real. Their emperor is dead, and there is no heir apparent. It is possible that they really DO want peace. It would be illogical in the extreme to let such an opportunity slip by.”

“Spock, while you’ve been out collaborating with the Klingons, I’ve been studying the reports and data sent back by Captain Sulu and the Excelsior. They believe that the explosion that destroyed Praxis was some perverted, weaponized form of the Genesis wave. Starfleet has contacted Carol Marcus and brought her in on it, and she has all but confirmed it. If they have in fact perfected such a weapon, has it occurred to you that this entire peace proposal may be an excuse to slip in here and plant one on Earth? Klingons do not fear death as we do, Spock, and if a Klingon succeeded in destroying Earth, his line would have enough glory to hold the Imperial throne for generations.”

“Then there is only one logical solution, admiral: Doctor Marcus should accompany us to the rendezvous. The Enterprise has the newest sensor suite Starfleet has ever developed, and the Klingon vessel will be unshielded and at close range. The weapon the Klingons were working on would require large amounts of protomatter. It would be virtually impossible for them to hide from us. You are being unreasonably paranoid, Jim.”

“Am I?”

“I have not entered into this negotiation lightly or without reservation. I have spoken at length with Gorkon himself, and I believe his offer is genuine. I did not say it would be without risk. All I can ask is for your trust.”

“Trusting you isn’t the problem,” Kirk said softly. “But
trusting these Klingons…it’s a BIG risk, Spock. I just don‘t know.”

“As big a risk as the corbomite bluff? Stealing the Romulan cloaking device? As big a risk as facing V’Ger?”

Kirk smiled. “Risk is our business- is that what you’re telling me?”

“I believe you coined that phrase yourself, admiral,” Spock replied. “You do not need me to remind you of that which you know so well.”

“You are going to make one hell of a Federation Ambassador, Spock. D’you know that?”

“Thank you, admiral, that is most kind. So we are agreed?”

“Whether we agree or not is irrelevant- we have our orders. But if you are asking if I’m done complaining about them, the answer is yes. Besides,” he added with that old glint in his eye, “Wilder had me from the moment he used the words Enterprise and under your command in the same sentence.”

Spock didn’t quite smile, but there was no mistaking the warmth in his eyes as he nodded to his best friend. “It was a logical choice on his part, Jim. And fitting, I might add. You’ve spent the last years of your career atoning for what you did for me, and you’ve managed to save the careers of our friends. This, I think, will finally be something good for you.

Kirk laughed, feeling the years drop away. “I would not presume to debate you,” he said, still laughing.

Spock raised one eyebrow. “As always, admiral, that is wise.”
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Old May 23 2012, 03:59 PM   #14
Jedi Marso
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

10

There was palpable excitement on the USS Enteprise as Admiral James T. Kirk took the bridge, followed closely by Captain Spock and Dr. McCoy. The new ship already had a chief medical officer assigned along with a complete medical staff, but with Kirk in the center seat and Spock acting once more as executive officer, there was no way in Hades (as he’d succinctly put it) that Leonard McCoy was going to miss out on this one. So he’d simply cut himself a set of temporary duty orders detaching him from his assignment at Starfleet Medical and come along as an auxiliary member of the crew. Rank and seniority had their privileges, and McCoy had plenty of both.

The bridge was fairly crowded; there were reporters from the Federation News Service and other news agencies, as well as several bridge crew members from other shifts who didn‘t need to be on the bridge at the moment, but wanted to be. The commissioning and launch of the newest starship Enterprise was a major news event, even more so with James T. Kirk in command. The news had spread like wildfire, and although her first mission would be classified, there was nothing secret about the actual launch. The reporters would have their story, the public would have its heroes in the bright lights, and all non-essential personnel would be safely off the ship and headed home before Enterprise warped out of the system.

Kirk had never been happier about having Spock at his side than he was right now. Although he was generally familiar with the systems and capabilties of the Excelsior Class, he didn’t have the in-depth knowledge that the captain of a starship really needed. The big lesson Will Decker had taught him the last time he had gone from the Admiralty to the center seat was that he knew just enough to be dangerous. He was aware that he was here more as a figurehead than as a real captain, whereas Spock and Scotty had seen this ship through her construction, christening, launch, and trial runs. They knew her crew and they knew her systems, and Kirk would need their expertise like never before. The new Enterprise was a completely different lady than the old- he could already feel it in the deckplates and all the way up into his bones.

There had been some other changes over the years, as well. Kirk glanced toward the helm station and smiled at the diminutive figure of Ensign Demora Sulu. She was smiling brightly at him, a slightly mischievous look in her eye, and she nodded her greeting from where she sat. Kirk had met her for the first time during the ship’s christening ceremony, just before Spock had taken her out for her trials and shakedown. Until that time, he hadn’t even known that Sulu had a daughter. Seeing her there now, looking like she was barely old enough to have attended Starfleet Academy much less graduated, brought back a flood of memories.

The other officer at the helm console was a Vulcan female, a lieutenant Kirk had never seen before. He noted immediately that her jersey was red underneath her uniform tunic, which for a lieutenant meant that she was in the final stages of the Command School course. When she saw them stepping out of the turbolift onto the bridge, she came to her feet. Going back to the academy for the command course always caused young officers to revert back to cadet-like behavior- Kirk remembered Saavik being the same way. What was more interesting was Spock’s reaction to her; if he didn’t know any better, he’d have sworn he felt a spark of attraction flash between the two of them. “Lieutenant, it is agreeable to see you again,” Spock said.

Kirk glanced back at Spock, intrigued by his choice of words. “Lieutenant…?”

“T’val, sir,” she replied. “I was just assigned. I’ll be handling operations.”

“The lieutenant is the first Vulcan to finish at the top of her academy class,” Spock added.

“You must be very proud,” Kirk said with a hint of a smile.

“I don’t believe so, sir,” she replied.

“She’s a Vulcan, all right!” McCoy chuckled. Kirk smiled, stepping down to the command pedestal and standing beside the captain’s chair. He draped his left hand over the back of the chair, looking forward at the main viewer. Spock exchanged a poignant glance with McCoy, who was grinning like a schoolboy. Of everyone on the bridge, those two alone knew what this moment meant to their lifelong friend. McCoy thought back to that fateful moment, just after they’d stolen the old Enterprise out of spacedock and were preparing to warp out. Captain Stiles aboard the Excelsior had fired one last barb at Kirk to try and sway him from the course he had chosen. McCoy remembered it like it was yesterday: Kirk, Stiles had said, if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again. Now, as McCoy watched, James T. Kirk stepped around to the front of the chair and took his place. About a half dozen flashes went off from the media people, and McCoy wondered if Commodore Stiles would see this when the FNS newsfeed made it through subspace to wherever he was assigned these days. McCoy sincerely hoped so; they might have been in the wrong back then, but Stiles had been a first class jerk.

Kirk stabbed the intercom. “Kirk to engineering. Mister Scott, did you find the engine room?”

“Aye, sir,” came the immediate reply. “Right where I left it. Main energizers are on line, admiral. You have full power available.”

“Thanks, Scotty, Kirk out.”

Kirk turned to the communications station, where a striking Efrosian lieutenant sat, waiting expectantly. “Please put me on shipwide public address, lieutenant.”

“You’re on, sir.” she replied immediately.

“Attention all hands, this is Admiral James T. Kirk. By order of Starfleet Command and pursuant to Starfleet Regulations, I hereby assume command of his vessel as of now, 2000 hours. All standing orders and operating procedures will remain in effect. Duty officer, so note in the ship’s log.”

“Aye, sir,” Lieutenant T’Val replied, from what used to be the navigator’s station. Ever since the Block 2 upgrades, helm and navigation had been combined on the left console, where one officer could now handle both. Operations now had a dedicated station, rather than being handled as an auxiliary function of another bridge station. This was one of those design changes that bridge officers had been screaming for for years, and the engineers had finally taken notice. “Admiral, your assumption of command has been logged; all command codes and ciphers have been transferred to you. Enterprise computer has acknowledged that the ship is under your command.”

“Thank you, lieutenant," Kirk replied. "This is a new ship,” he continued, aware that his words were being recorded for posterity, “and a new crew. In the spirit of Starfleet’s charter, I offer these words, which are no less relevant today than the year they were first uttered: ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring shall be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.‘”

Spock nodded appreciatively. “T.S. Eliot.“

“I know that your efforts and service will make this ship worthy of the name Enterprise,” he added. “May the wind be at our backs.” At these words, enthusiastic applause broke out around the bridge. “Lieutenant T’Val,” he said formally, “report ship’s status.”

“Sir,” T’Val replied with serene formality, “the ship is ready to be commissioned.”

“So noted. Send the commissioning signal, activate transponders, and request registry confirmation from Starfleet Command,” Kirk ordered.

“Aye sir,” replied both T’Val and the Efrosian lieutenant at the communications console.

“Admiral,” communications added a moment later, “Reply from Starfleet: USS Enterprise has been added to the active list, registry NCC-2701. Welcome to the fleet.”

This time the applause was accompanied by cheering, and everyone on the bridge could have sworn that they could hear the cheering echoing up from throughout the ship, as well. “Messages coming in as well from Admirals Wilder and Cartwright, sir, adding their personal congratulations and salutations. Nearby starships are sending their congratulations as well.”

“Please relay our respects to all well wishers,” Kirk replied, smiling broadly. The slow fire that had ignited in his gut the day before had slowly blossomed over the past twenty four hours, and now he felt filled with a youthful fire as hot as the ship’s warp core. He finally glanced around the rest of the bridge, taking it all in, and he was home. How could I have possibly forgotten this feeling, or ever given it up? he asked himself. Almost as if reading his thoughts, he felt McCoy’s hand on his left shoulder. There were no words- just the steady, reassuring presence McCoy had always been.

“Lieutenant…?”

“Castillae, sir,” offered the communications officer.
“Lieutenant Castillae, signal the dockmaster that we are ready to depart.”

“Acknowledged,” she replied, paused, and then: “dockmaster signals clear.”

“Ensign Sulu, release all moorings.”

“Clear of all moorings, captain,” she replied. “Thrusters at stationkeeping.” It had been a slip of the tongue, but Kirk felt a thrill run through him at being addressed as captain. He only wished it were his rank and not just his position.

“Ahead one quarter impulse power, helm. Take us out!”

This time, Kirk could barely hear the cheering and applause over the feel of the blood pounding in his ears. He felt the years fall away, his troubles as well, and even his worries over the prospect of what lay ahead. Now, in this moment, James T. Kirk felt truly alive. This was where he always wanted to be. It was where he belonged. As Spock had once told him, it was his first, best destiny. And for a short time at least, it was his again.

“And to think you have the Klingons to thank for this, of all people,” McCoy chuckled in his ear. “Congratulations, Captain Kirk.”

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth, Bones,” Kirk replied with that familiar, wry smile.

“We are free and clear to navigate,” Ensign Sulu announced.

“Plot a course for the rendezvous point, and increase to full impulse. We’ll wrap up the public affairs mission and go to warp once the media are safely on their way home.”

“Aye sir,” Ensign Sulu replied with a twinkle in her eye. “Admiral, Saturn is almost on our route out-system. If you let me parabolize the course a tad, we can give them some beauty shots.”

“So ordered,” Kirk smiled. “It’s good to have you at the helm, ensign,” Kirk added. “Reminds me of the good old days.” Demora nodded happily, showing dimples, before returning to her console.

Enterprise was on her way.


Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 9108.25. I’ve never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I’ve never been able to forgive them for the death of my boy. It seems to me that our mission to escort the Klingon chancellor to Earth, on a mission of peace, is problematic at best. Mister Spock says that there is an historic opportunity here, and I hope he’s right. But how on Earth is history going to get past people like me? End entry.

Kirk turned at the sound of someone clearing their voice from the door to his cabin, which was blocked open by his oversized duffel. He was expecting to see one of his officers, but the lithe, blond woman who stood in the doorway with a shy smile on her face was the last person Kirk would have expected to see, especially here. “Carol,” he breathed.

“Hello, Jim,” she replied easily. “May I come in?”

“Of course!” Kirk replied. She stepped inside, over his bag, and he unceremoniously dragged it the rest of the way into the stateroom and let the doors swish shut. “My God, what a surprise! I didn’t take Spock literally when he said we should bring you along…but…”

She grinned sardonically. “You should always take Spock literally, Jim. I knew today was a special day for you, so I laid low and waited out the ceremonies. Didn’t want to wait too long, though. This was going to be awkward either way, I figured.”

“Funny, but it doesn’t feel awkward at all,” Kirk replied, and he meant it. “You look well, Carol. Hell, you look good!”

“I feel good, Jim,” she replied. “Of course, the past couple of months have involved revisiting some old hurts, but eight years is a long time.” Her eyes strayed to the picture of David Marcus on Kirk’s desk- the very first personal item he’d unpacked. Kirk used the opportunity to steal a closer look at her. She was dressed in civilian clothes suitable for shipboard wear: a blue and white one-piece jumpsuit reminiscent of what one might wear at a ski resort. She’d kept her figure, but she had grown out her hair. It looked odd to Kirk; ever since the day Gary Mitchell had introduced them, she’d always worn her hair short as a concession to efficiency in the lab. There might have been a few more wrinkles around her eyes than there used to be, but the eyes themselves were as blue, pretty, and expressive as ever. “I still miss him, every day,” she added with a wistful look at the picture.

Kirk nodded, swallowing a lump in his throat. “I wish I’d gotten the chance to get to know him better,” he said. “Given the circumstances of his death, I have to admit that I’m not sure how I feel about all this.”

“The peace mission?” Carol said, taking a few easy steps and looking around the inside of the cabin. “Maybe it’s fitting,” she said after a thoughtful pause.

“Fitting? In what way?” Kirk asked, perhaps a trifle sharply.

“David was all about peace. He didn’t trust Starfleet, and one of his greatest worries was that Genesis would be turned into some kind of doomsday weapon. Now, with the Organians gone and the Klingons doing just what David feared most, this might be our last chance to avert that war he was always afraid of.”

“I’ll be honest with you, Carol, I’m not sure this is going to amount to anything. I find the notion that the Klingons want to lie down peacefully with us to be…damn near inconceivable. Spock seems to trust this new Klingon leader, but can he bring the rest of the empire to the table with him? We probably would have been at war with them years ago if they didn’t spend so damn much time fighting amongst themselves. And as for their so-called peaceful intentions, there is the whole matter of why we need you along with us to consider.”

“Don’t worry about the new Klingon weapon, Jim,” Carol assured him. “Whatever it is they are messing with, it doesn’t sound like it’s working very well. Based on the data I’ve seen from Praxis, they appear to have come up with a big version of a protomatter bomb. If they want a planetkiller, a simple antimatter rig would work just as well. It’s a lot of time and research for something that ultimately isn’t going to be very useful to them. Protomatter isn’t as dangerous to use or transport as antimatter, but it’s very unstable. That instability was at the heart of why Genesis didn’t work, and trying to turn it into a weapon is going to be iffy at best.”

“Spock assures me you’ll be able to tell from sensor scans if the Klingon chancellor has such a device aboard his ship.”

“Depends on the sensor scans, Jim,” Carol replied candidly, “but this looks like a pretty impressive ship. Don’t worry; between Spock and myself, we’ll sit you down over the next week or so and bring you up to date on the mechanics of all this. Trust me. I’ve seen the scans made by Excelsior, and I think I have a pretty good idea what the Klingons were up to. It’s just their motivation that I find elusive.”

Kirk shrugged. "They're Klingons," he said simply. "Finding new ways to destroy is reason enough for them, I expect. In any case," he added more brightly, "it’ll be nice to spend some time with you after all these years.”

Carol’s face fell slightly, and she looked concerned. “Jim, after David was killed, I said some things to you-”

He held up a hand, forestalling her. “You were hurting. We both were hurting,” he said. “Both our worlds had just ended. You said it yourself: eight years is a long time. Let’s make this a time for new beginnings, not hashing over old endings.”

Carol’s face brightened at that. She hadn't been sure what to expect coming here, but apparently she had been worried over nothing. “Fair enough. So, admiral, what’s going to happen when this mission is over?” she asked. “You planning on retiring?”

Kirk grinned. “Depends on the mission. If this doesn’t go well, I may end up in command of a fleet.”

“Such optimism,” she tsked with a short laugh. “No wonder the Klingons respect you, Jim. I think they relate to you.”

“Now that is worse than all those things you said to me eight years ago,” Kirk joked back. “Would you like to join me for dinner tomorrow night?”

“I’d love to, Jim,” she replied. The bosun’s pipe sounded its three note call, and he immediately moved to his desk intercom.

“Kirk here.”

“Lieutenant Castillae here, admiral. All media personnel have departed.”

“Inform the engine room we’ll be going to warp speed. I’ll be up directly. Kirk out.”

Carol was smiling at him. “You look like your old self, do
you know that?”

“I’ve been feeling like it ever since I set foot on board,” Kirk replied. “I’ve got to get to the bridge, Carol. Tomorrow night?”

“You’re on, admiral.”

***
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Old May 23 2012, 04:00 PM   #15
Jedi Marso
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Re: ST, the Undiscovered Country, redeux. Complete with John Ford Klin

Not very far away, Spock was brewing tea in his quarters. He had doffed his uniform for the evening in favor of his old, dark Kolinahr robe, and Lieutenant T’Val stood nearby, staring curiously at a painting hanging on the far wall. “You have done well, T’Val,“ Spock was saying. “Since sponsoring you at the academy, I have followed your career with satisfaction. And as a Vulcan, you have exceeded my expectations.“

“I do not understand this representation,” she said, looking at the painting.

“It is a depiction from ancient Earth mythology,” Spock explained. “The expulsion from paradise.”

“What significance does it hold for you?”

“It is a reminder to me that all things end,” Spock replied. T’Val nodded, then stepped around to face Spock directly.

“It is of endings that I wish to speak. Sir, I address you as a kindred intellect. Surely you must agree that a turning point has been reached in the affairs of the Federation?”

“History is replete with turning points, lieutenant. You must have faith.”

“Faith?”

“Faith that the universe shall unfold as it should,” Spock went on.

“But surely, logic would dictate that-”

“Logic, logic, logic,” Spock said gently. “Logic is but the beginning of wisdom, lieutenant. This will be my last assignment in Starfleet. Once this mission is complete, I shall retire from the service and pursue a full time diplomatic career. Nature abhors a vacuum, T’Val, and your career in Starfleet is blossoming. I call upon you as my protégé to replace me.”

For a moment, T’Val looked as though she was going to say something else, but then she merely nodded and accepted the tea from Spock. “I could only succeed you, captain.”

“Has Sonok been installed in guest quarters?” Spock asked, changing tracks.

“He has,” T’Val replied. “Deck 7. The environmentals in his quarters have been adjusted for Vulcan summer. Fortunately, this ship has the power and to spare. Until he arrived, I was not aware of his advanced age. I’m surprised that one as venerable as he agreed to make this trip, and I am unclear as to how or why his presence will be to our advantage on this mission.”

“Sonok will explain when the time is right,” Spock replied. “In the meantime, access the library computer for references to the Klingon practice of tharavul. You may have to dig deeply, lieutenant, for it is a rather elusive topic in terms of publicly available information. However, it will make matters clearer for you. Do not inquire about it directly to him; it is a…sensitive issue to say the least. But see to his comfort, and make sure he wants for nothing. I’m making this your personal responsibility, T’Val.”

“Aye, sir,” she replied. “Is there anything else, sir?”

“No. Good night, lieutenant.”
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