Summary : Sean Finnegan has career plans - but so do those he once betrayed. The Order Of The Ancient Destroyer never forgives or forgets. Can the trickster stay ahead of their games? Lombard Street by Rob Morris Prologue - A Simple Inquiry MAY, 2264 It was one of the Federation's premiere colony worlds, despite its dark, fetid little secret concerning distribution of labor. It had the best schools, the newest facilities, and all the best émigrés. In theory, anyway. The eight-year old boy lying in a pool of his own blood was from a fine family, really one of the finest. The adults around him stared dumbly, and they were good at this. A classmate had called both the police and an ambulance when the shots rang out. In twenty years time, the boy would be able to locate his attacker, gain every last secret from them, and wipe them out of existence even if they hid in a starship with raised shields. But twenty years had yet to pass, and for now he was merely a little boy. In theory. From that same pool of his own blood, the youngster rose up. Some gasped. They would later swear and then still later recant swearing that the shots had taken the top of his head off. But the top of his head was still on, and he, confused, looked around. "Who shot me?" A month's worth of meals was sent home to the boy's parents, so they wouldn't starve in his absence. All medical studies were stopped by order of Starfleet Colonial Affairs. Two men would be sent to find out why the boy was shot, and possibly who did it. The inquiry would become sidetracked. ------------------------------------------------ STARFLEET COLONIAL AFFAIRS, SAN FRANCISCO, ON LOMBARD STREET It was called the crookedest street on Earth, maybe in the Galaxy. Located on it was the headquarters of Starfleet Colonial Affairs, a place where the careers of many officers either came to go to warp speed or to simply die unnoticed. Sean Finnegan had no intention of dying unnoticed. He had taken this thankless job of processing impossible demands from nearsighted colony governments as a favor to his Commander-In-Chief. It was a favor he now called in. Nogura sat in disbelief as Finnegan made his request. "You've got to be crazy. The man hates your guts, Commander." Sean shrugged. "And I hate his. But I know for all that he's a superior CO and he knows I can charm a crew as well as bite down when it's called for. Jimmy Kirk and I don't have to like each other, Admiral. We won't. But I'd like knowing that the man gives a good goddamn about his ship and crew. Some of these fools as The Hall's promoting I can say honestly check the location of all the ships' escape pods before they even acknowledge their XO. Jimmy's a stiff, and a mope. But he'll know that my pranks'll be buckets of manure and hand-buzzers. I'll give him a safe ship and a crew that'll follow orders." The Irishman smiled. "Besides, you need me, Admiral. It's well known that you don't want Jimmy pullin' a Jack Kennedy on you. Gary Mitchell will be his Bobby. Keep him honest. Put someone in that'll challenge him as often as support him. I'll keep him from mischief, and breaking things. When five years are all done, we'll give each other the finger and be on our way." Nogura looked at some data chips. "Chris Pike's Vulcan Science Officer is another good candidate. I might consider him." "Except Chris Pike is in no shape to recommend him. Without that, The Hall will have its excuse to use their bigots' veto. I know some of those folk, from when I joined and quit their hateful jamboree. You try and put a Vulcan in with the son of the man who founded The Commodity, they'll fly in the slackers from The Council in Paris to put your head in a guillotine--sir." The Council was of course The Federation Council, which was all too happy to never hear from or about Starfleet. The Hall was Admiralty Hall, where many of Nogura's subordinates, including people he wouldn't allow to become Commanders, sat and made vaguely nationalistic chit-chat. But they promised The Council a quiet Starfleet, so their power grew at Nogura's expense with every passing year. The Commodity was an ironically-named group of career-stalled Senior Commodores, mostly Starbase CO's, founded by George Kirk to oppose The Hall and all its works. Of late, they had been coming into their own. "The Commodity might support it. They've been talking of making an open constitutional challenge to The Hall's authority. You should contact them if you want to serve on Enterprise as XO. Their power is growing, Sean. With me and them on your side, The Hall would have real trouble opposing you in a snit of petty revenge. We both know that's exactly what they'll do. Even with 'Consultant' Gill's disappearance, those crass xenophobes mark you as a permanent target." Finnegan nodded, glad to hear that his career might finally take him away from Lombard Street. Yes, serving with Kirk would be trying. But it would almost certainly be a ticket to his own ship. The little weasel was a rising star, and Sean had no trouble seeing that. "I'll talk to them, Admiral. But the lot of them are big-talkers. Stiffer than Jimmy and not a one of them have half the balls Jimmy's old man did. You served with him, so you should know." Heichiaro Nogura suddenly looked like a man fighting back tears. George Kirk and Robert April had sacrificed their careers to see their young friend brought up in the ranks. But what he had to say next seemed to lighten him a bit. "I am convinced that if current circumstances are allowed to fully develop, The Commodity's challenge will displace The Hall. The Hall's power has no legal basis. The Hall and all its agents and up-and-comers would have nowhere to turn." Finnegan moved in. "Then I'll be annoying Jimmy-Boy and leaving this sloping nightmare, sir?" Nogura shook his head. "Not quite yet. There's a matter to be resolved. The Colonial Association will not tolerate an interim Chief Of Affairs handling it. The Hall has its hand in here, too. You'll be assisted in this inquiry by--Gary Mitchell. Sean, I'm sorry." "Don't be, sir. The Hall has a sense of humor, just as twisted as my own. I like that. I don't like Mitchell, though. When I'm Kirk's Number One---that Eastern Money xenophobe stays away. Period. Jimmy I can tolerate. But Mitchell's a pure weasel." Nogura turned arch. "Defend that statement, Mister." Sean smiled, about to lay out a good one worthy of his best. "Mitchell was brought into The Order by one of his lovers. A much older woman. Old enough to be his mother--or the mother of his best friend." The older man sat back, stunned. "Brianna Kirk? George always said she had a few loose. But she stood in my office and shushed her grandson while Jim accepted Enterprise with her congratulations. Could she be that Janus-faced?" Finnegan didn't answer that question. "Sir--what am I to investigate that is so important as to delay my accession?" The Admiral pointed a finger in his face. "Watch that tone, Mister. I mean it. Sean, you did me a favor when you took this place. But Jim is gonna have a coronary when I inform him-and then mine will follow. So keep it even." "My apologies, sir. Of course. But what is it I'm inquiring about? And where?" Nogura pulled out a picture of an eight year old human boy. "This boy was targeted by a sniper in the Capital City of his world. He survived, no one is sure how. The sniper used an ancient US Army Ranger Rifle. The weapon was stolen from a museum in Dallas. This museum-you may have heard of it. It was once a school book depository." Finnegan's jaw dropped. "So someone stole Oswald's weapon to go and kill a small boy on a distant colony world? That's a bit much, don't you think?" "That's hardly the finish of it, Commander. The name of the boy who was shot?" Finnegan sat in rapt attention. Nogura said words that were clearly painful to him. "Peter Claudius Kirk. Sean, someone tried to kill my godson. I take that very personally. You dig this thing through to China, if need be. Now get going. You and Mitchell are leaving for Deneva 3 to interview the boy. Jim hasn't been informed. He is NOT to be informed. We need him focused on assembling a crew. If you want to be a part of that crew, you keep your mouth shut. Also, no and I mean No medical tests are to be performed on any member of The Kirk family. The assassin or assassins may be able to use the knowledge gained from them to strike more subtly. Got me?" Finnegan actually seemed offended. "Sir--I'd never taunt Jimmy about his nephew's health. There are lines." Nogura gave him his full orders. "That boy was born the day we lost George. To find out who did this, you may have to cross many other lines. Dismissed." Finnegan left for his apartment to pack for Deneva 3, and there found a recorded comm-call from Gary Mitchell. "We don't like each other, but since a kid's life is at stake, I say we put it all aside. Besides--Finnegan, I've just come across information that says there are forces within The Order that do not wish to see Jim's nephew grow up. We'll talk more on the transport. Mitchell out." Was Mitchell out of his mind, thought Finnegan? The Order Of The Ancient Destroyer, after all, was just a bunch of less-than-spaceworthy bigots that did nothing more than sit around and agree with each other while stewing in pointless hate. In Theory, Anyway. Chapter One - That's What 'They' Say.... IN ORBIT OVER DENEVA 3, 2264 It had to be Mitchell, thought Finnegan. It couldn't have been Jimmy Kirk himself. At least Kirk was an honest stiff. At least Kirk would have told him he hated him to his face, without euphemism. But not Gary Mitchell. It was said that Kirk thought he was God. It was said that Mitchell knew this for a fact about himself. Sean decided that he couldn't wait any more. "Alright, Lt. Cmdr. Mitchell. Before we left on the first transport, before we hooked up with the Essex, and before we got stuck in this tin can traveling within ten feet of each other, you saw fit to go and make noises. Now why would that anti-alien social club and smoker as calls itself The Order care one whit about Jimmy Kirk's eight-year old nephew?" Mitchell smiled that smile that put even his best friend on guard. To most, it had more than a tinge of arrogance. "They never forgave you, Finnegan. For quitting The Order. For stopping Brock Cartwright from beating Jim up." "From beating the two of you up." Mitchell shrugged. "I'm sure that's what it looked like." Another thing Finnegan had never liked about Mitchell. Unlike Kirk, he was a big-talker with few resources to back up his braggadocio. He loved those times when Kirk fell flat on his face. But unlike Mitchell, the little plebe offered no excuses. Yes, Kirk was a mopey, stiff nightmare genius eager beaver cadet who somehow lucked into more women than a man should be allowed to have. But he was for real, Finnegan knew. With Gary Mitchell, one just never knew. "Talk, boyo. Don't half-talk." "All right, I will. When you're a Cadet, The Order seems like just what you said. An off-center club that dwells on the differences between the species. But when you graduate, you find out. The Order isn't the recent result of one too many first contacts. It's old. Way Old. It has hands in every pocket. People positioned strategically all over The Federation. They're waiting, Commander. Waiting for him to come." Finnegan asked the obvious. "Who? Are they waiting for John Gill to show his fat face again?" "Order-Master Gill is gone. They're grooming someone else, now. He will be The Fourth Head Of The One True Deity." Sean Finnegan looked straight ahead, and recited a darkly humorous childhood limerick. "The Slither Ghidree rises from the cosmic sea; His three heads gulped my three friends, but they all missed me; No, you'll not feast on me, ye Slither Ghid----" Mitchell chuckled. "So it ends, and we're supposed to think Ghidorah got him, right?" Finnegan was silent. "So he got him---right?" Mitchell shook his head, got up and spoke right in Finnegan's ear. "Hey, I said, he got him--right---" Finnegan back-fisted Mitchell against the wall then drew his sidearm to warn him back. "You are a shit-talker, Mister Mitchell. The Order likes to say it's this big bad wolf. Well, I no more believe that than I believe in Section 31, that Cochrane was aided by time-travelers, or that we have secret invisible ships seeking to violate the Quadrant Expansion Treaty! Sit down and keep quiet for now. Report me to who ye like, when we're done." Mitchell wiped himself off, then sat back down, shaking his head as though he had expected Finnegan's reaction. "You did ask why they were interested in Peter Kirk." "Yeah. And that's a question you never saw fit to answer as you played amateur conspiracy theorist." "Okay. Here it is. Whatever sane people believe, The Order's inner circle believes firmly in the existence of King Ghidorah. But belief in a demon requires a belief in angels. Archangels. Archangels like Michael." Old school stories and folk legends crept up on Finnegan yet again. "Michael was the one who cast Satan, that old dragon, down. So they believe the boy is an angel? Cause no blood-kin of Jimmy Kirk's is remaining virginal and pure too much past 13. I don't concede him a lot. But with the likes of Marcus, Uhura---Ruth---all after his one true talent, it's quite obvious that his nephew will not want for his chosen sort of companionship. Hell, if the nephew ends up liking seagulls, he'll get those with no trouble." Mitchell raised a finger. "Words of warning before we go in. Peter Kirk is a snotty, spoiled brat. His own grandmother likes to avoid him, whenever possible." Perhaps the crazy hag will like him better when he's old enough, thought Finnegan. Once, he'd breached the seal on Jim Kirk's personal records. A mere glimpse at Brianna Kirk's behavior had Finnegan laying off his favorite plebe for a week. "Anything else?" Mitchell nodded. "Yeah. His Mom is kind of open, if you get my meaning. 'Nephew' is a nice neat euphemism, vis-a-vis his relationship with Jim. The brother, Sam? He shoots blanks. I overheard them discussing the whole thing, after the kid was born. The jerk even knows it's Jim's. Isn't that a laugh?" Finnegan's blood ran cold. Kirk often never saw his pranks coming. But could he be so blind as to think that this man was his friend? "In my presence, you do not disrespect another man's family. That's first and final, to the likes of you." Mitchell slammed his hand down. "You? You talk to me that way? You've kicked Jim any number of times." Finnegan wanted to punch him again, but couldn't see the point in it. "Only when he wasn't looking. Never when he was down. Family is sacred." Mitchell folded his arms back up. "I wasn't lying about The Order, Sean. They haven't forgotten or forgiven you." "Then, Gary--let me be on the posters at bigoted post offices. Myself, I haven't the time to worry about who Terry Bunson is recruiting while she's bopping them. Your friends' Hall is going to be a footnote. And when it's razed, I'll bet good money the Cadets all cheer it." "But there are things that go on there-- infant sacrifice---" "Fall silent, Mister Mitchell. That is a direct order. Small-O type." But Finnegan hadn't given this command because he wanted Mitchell to stop. He gave it because he wanted him to continue. Some part of him was still brash and utterly reckless. The head-shrinkers had told him as much. His maturity was a recent thing, vulnerable to thoughts of high adventure on horseback. He wanted and needed to be the hero who saved the day at the very last minute. But the urge was uncontrollable, once he let it go. The thought of confronting and destroying the entrenched evil of The Order as Mitchell described it was as tempting to him as a recovering drunk would find passing a bar. He got back to stability, and reality. If Nogura kept his word, then surely being Jimmy Kirk's First Officer would fill his adventure quota for a lifetime or two.