I must here gratefully acknowledge the unstinting assistance and cooperation of Admiral James T. Kirk in the preparation of this manuscript; first in allowing the story to be told at all - as the reader will see, that which follows covers a very painful period in his career - and secondly for graciously allowing me access to his archive at all hours, even to check the accuracy of a minor point.
But let not the above sway the reader into thinking that the Admiral at any time sought publicity - he did not, and, I firmly believe, never will. He is not shy, yet he guards his privacy most jealously, no doubt due to the habit of command. It took considerable effort to convince him that this story should be told but once convinced - I should say he acquiesced very slowly - he was most gracious in his assistance and though not a writer himself, took great pains to read and correct my drafts. The final result is as much his creation as it is mine.
I should like to state for the record that Admiral Kirk himself insisted on the inclusion of the incident with Chief Rand in the tale which follows. This encounter, and its subsequent effect on the Admiral, was known to few in StarFleet; even Commanding Admiral Nogura was unaware of its occurence. The role Janice Rand inadvertently played, when coupled with the resignations of Commander Spock and Dr. McCoy, was of considerable importance, and I am indebted to Admiral Kirk for bringing it to my attention, and to Miss Rand herself for agreeing to its inclusion herein.
Finally, thanks must go to all those people, too numerous to mention here, who freely and joyfully gave of their time to verify their roles in the story which follows. Their willingness to do so made my job as historian immeasurably easier.
StarFleet Divisional Historian
StarDate 8008.11 (rev. ed.)
Captain's log, StarDate 7409.8.1 Having fulfilled Admiralty orders of StarDate 1215.4, am returning ENTERPRISE to StarFleet Drydock, Sol Sector, for ship overhaul and refit. Recommend commendation and well-done for ENTERPRISE crew, especially those who served aboard for the duration of our five-year voyage. Also recommend the following personnel for special StarFleet commendation for their exceptional performance on said mission: Commander Spock, Chief Surgeon McCoy, Lieutenant Commander Scott, Lieutenants Uhura and Sulu, and Ensign Chekov. These six individuals formed the nucleus of my staff and their devotion to duty and to the objectives of the ENTERPRISE mission was a constant source of strength to me, and greatly eased, on more than one occasion, the burden of command. To each of them goes my personal thanks and gratitude. (1)
Kirk snapped off the recorder and slumped in his seat, surveying his quarters with an air of satisfaction. Going home, at last! The ENTERPRISE was in good shape after five years in deep space and crew morale was high. His crew. Kirk repressed a shudder as the memories washed over him. He had lost nearly one hundred valuable StarFleet personnel in various encounters with the unknown and he, as Captain, was personally responsible for each and every one of them. McCoy had told him over and over that that was the sheerest nonsense but Kirk had never listened. How many times could he have done more, done something, to protect his crewmembers from injury and death? Many times. Or maybe never. He wasn't entirely sure anymore. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and reached for the Saurian brandy, his personal favorite. Damn! The mission was over and everything was in the logs now. Let those bubbleheads flying desks at StarFleet fire recriminations at him if they wanted to. Or if they dared!
He yawned and stretched. The five-year mission - those five incredible years of grand adventure, tense crises, and all too-infrequent moments of high hilarity - had ended far too soon for him. Though he could use the leave time - he could request up to one solar year - he still felt the tug of the distant stars, even here, in the outlying regions of the Sol System. He had no objection to being in this part of the galaxy but he knew, beyond any kind of doubt, where he really belonged. Tired or no, he'd grab the first assignment offered that would -
The bosun's whistle rudely cut into his thoughts. Automatically he was on his feet, hitting the intercom switch. "Kirk here." Was there just a trace of tension in his voice?
"Spock here, Captain. We are passing the outer boundaries of the Sol System at Warp 0.1, as per your orders. Have established contact with Titan Base-Station and have received clearance to descend into Earth orbit."
"Very good, Mr. Spock, I'm on my way. Kirk out."
As he entered the corridor and strode towards the elevator, Kirk became aware of what the tension was. He loved the ENTERPRISE - his ENTERPRISE - and in considerably less than five years had come to think of her as a part of him, as much a part as his mind and body. And more - ENTERPRISE was a literal extension of Jim Kirk, a living, vital extension reaching out into the limitless expanse of the cosmos. And now Kirk had to divorce her. Damn Bones anyway! How often had the ship's surgeon told him how much a part of him ENTERPRISE was and how he couldn't afford to be engulfed by her! McCoy was, as usual, dead right, and with uncanny accuracy. Though Kirk believed he was capable of divesting himself of his ship, he also knew, deep down, how extraordinarily, excruciatingly difficult it would be. And he also knew that he could never allow anyone - McCoy, Spock, anyone - to know what he would go through. As he entered the turbolift - "Bridge!" - he was somewhat surprised to discover a trickle of moisture running down his left cheek. Angrily, he brushed it away. Control yourself, Kirk! he told himself, and clamped his jaws together with such force that he very nearly chipped a tooth. He took a deep breath and stood rigidly at attention. When the turbolift doors snapped open, the bridge crew saw only the Kirk they had always seen: tough, resolute, confident. Able to accept and surmount any challenge from furry tribbles to Klingon battle-cruisers. Only Spock, who slid silently from the command chair, knew. And this disturbed him, not only out of professional concern for his captain, but because he felt Kirk's infirmity in a very deep and human way. As he seated himself at his library/computer station, he suddenly experienced a strange longing, an all-too-human desire to see Vulcan again. And this, too, disturbed him. He raised an eyebrow. Perhaps he had spent too much time among humans...
Heihachiro Nogura, Commanding Admiral of StarFleet, sat staring at the viewscreen in his office. There was no doubting the recommendations of his commission - Kirk's record was impossibly good. In addition to his five years in command of the ENTERPRISE, during which time he'd taken only the minimum leave time required, there were numerous awards and commendations, both from StarFleet and from various Federation planets. He'd even been court-martialed - still the only starship commander ever to have been put on trial - and had not only proven himself innocent, but in doing so had saved a subordinate's sanity. (2) Kirk represented the finest officer StarFleet could ever hope to put in the center seat and his name had spread among the planets of the Federation until it was spoken only with great awe and respect. Nogura smiled slightly. He liked the footnote added by the compiling officer stating his belief that Kirk's name, for similar reasons, was most probably pronounced with anger and perhaps a certain amount of dread whenever spoken in Klingon or in Romulan. Yes, Kirk had indeed become something of a legend and now it was up to Nogura to put that legend to work for StarFleet. He stood up and began to pace, one arm across his burly chest, the other upraised, its free hand working the big white moustache anxiously. Nogura had been known to make lightning-fast decisions, then implement them with unflagging energy. But now he paced deliberately, deep in thought, lines of worry creasing his face. He'd never had to consider such a problem before.
Chief Petty Officer Janice Rand stepped from the airtram onto the Plaza Deck Level of StarFleet Headquarters, San Francisco, and inhaled deeply of the crisp breeze coming in off the bay. The air here is always lovely in April, she thought, she stepped toward the edge of the platform for a better view. Off to her left, the old Golden Gate Bridge, with its enclosed pneumatic tubes, sparkled gaily in the bright sunlight, and below her Telegraph Hill sloped gently downward towards Golden Gate Park, her favorite spot as a child. She inhaled again, more deeply this time, and smiled broadly, her golden coiffure bending slightly in the wind. How natural had it been for her - a girl growing up in the virtual shadows of StarFleet Headquarters - dream of one day traveling among to the stars. She'd often had such a daydream, whenever she'd lie on the sumptuous lawns of the park, and gaze with a wistful longing at the tritanium, glass, and concrete structure rising majestically above her. So often, in fact, that she'd known from childhood that shed never find fulfillment in any other kind of life.
With a little-girl wave to the bridge, she turned and walked into the swarm of humanoids and aliens coming and going on the plaza deck, giving scant notice to the conversations buzzing all around her. As she neared the turbolifts, however, a quick guttural in an alien tongue caught her attention but when she swung around, the Megarites who had spoken had been swallowed up by the crowd. Rand knew several Federation languages, Megarite among them, but their speech had been so rapid that she'd only caught snatches of it. Even so, one word had stood out, burning into her consciousness. Kirk! She sucked in her breath involuntarily as she realized that everyone she'd passed had been talking about him but she'd been too intent on her meeting with Commander Hansen to pay any attention. She pulled her hand away from the turbolift activator and became enveloped in the memories.
Rand remembered well her crush on Jim Kirk. It had taken her several years and a complete change of scenery to overcome it. Crewmembers on their first deep space assignments falling in love with more experienced crewmembers was not at all uncommon but Janice had taken the standard ribbing harder than most; her resentment at the teasing had fired her with a determination to excel at her job. She had become so good at her yeoman's duties that Kirk himself had praised her highly to Commodore Mendez on StarBase 11, just after the affair with Spock and Fleet Captain Christopher Pike. (3) Mendez, who had then just replaced Commodore Stone, was putting together his own staff, and managed to have Rand assigned to his command. She hadn't been very happy about her selection, preferring, to stay in space - Kirk hadn't been overly thrilled about Mendez pulling rank on him, either - but StarFleet orders were StarFleet orders and she'd reported with an air of confidence that she hoped would mask her wounded feelings. She completely underestimated Base Commander José Mendez. From the moment she'd stepped into his office, the big Mexican had seen right through her. He'd pulled strings to get her assigned to him but seeing that the ground tour would affect her performance, he began pulling them again. A bit of finagling, some wheeling and dealing, and a few bald-faced lies had gotten her back in space within a year, as yeoman to a Lieutenant Commander named Jacob Hansen, commanding the destroyer Hannibal (NCC-512).
Jake Hansen had been a rock to her. He'd understood Janice and her feelings for Kirk, and had taken her under his wing. She'd grown up with Jake, finding comfort and security in his presence, and was sorry to see him transferred out. Jake had been an engineer, on temporary command, and had been rotated to an administrative post at StarFleet's Engineering School. She'd been tempted to follow him - through Hansen, she'd discovered a modicum of engineering talent within herself - but at that point Jim Kirk had come back into her life. He'd located her easily enough, given the authority of his rank, and he'd put through channels a request for a yeoman for the ENTERPRISE's next assignment. The mission was to be a simple "bench-marking" procedure, but as it was in deep, uncharted space beyond Shapley Center, (4) Kirk had stressed the need for a competent, experienced yeoman he could rely on. Janice's name had been at the top of the list of prospective candidates Kirk had submitted for consideration and she soon found herself back aboard the ENTERPRISE. She had realized during the course of the mission that she was not yet over her crush on Jim Kirk and that staying aboard was not going to help the situation.
Jake had helped her enter the Engineering School as an apprentice student, and once there, she'd thrown herself into her studies with tremendous resolve. She knew that only by burying herself in her work, in a new and completely different direction, would she ever get over Jim Kirk once and for all. She also knew that adding an Engineering Degree to her credentials would make her much more valuable to StarFleet and greatly increase her chances of staying in space. Her lone ground assignment had made her realize how precious her freedom was and she intended to keep it. With her graduation and commission as Chief Petty Officer, Transporter, part of her goal had been accomplished. But as she stood in front of the Plaza Deck turbolifts, staring in the direction of the departed Megarites, she knew she'd never accomplish her other goal. For four years she'd labored under the belief that she had to divest herself of a silly, childish crush on her first commander. She'd been told that it was normal, that it happened to everyone, and she had believed that in order to grow, she had to get over it. As she stood up straight and felt a delicious warmth spread through her, she knew that she'd been wrong all along. She'd never had a crush on Jim Kirk. She'd fallen in love with him the moment she'd first met him, and it was this feeling that had never left her. She'd suppressed it, cornered it at every turn, but after all she'd done, Kirk's name alone was enough to stir powerful emotions within her. And she knew that true growth and maturity meant the acceptance of one's feelings. She'd always be in love with Jim Kirk and with that thought came a great release of tension - tension that she'd not even known was there. She was at once ecstatic and confused, and suddenly worried. Everyone had been talking about Kirk, hadn't they? Why?
She reached out for the nearest form and encountered a young Andorian ensign. "Excuse me, but everyone seems to be interested in Captain James Kirk today. Do you know what has happened? Is he alright?"
The Andorian stared at her, his antennae waving in wonder. "You do not know? Have you not heard?"
"No, I just arrived. What is it?"
"Why, Captain Kirk is returning from deep space! He has completed his five-year command of the ENTERPRISE and is to be welcomed in person by Admiral Nogura! Here!"
Rand's eyes widened in astonishment. "Here? When?"
Totally unaware of what was happening inside Janice Rand, the Andorian leisurely consulted his chronometer and made a mental calculation. "In your time system, I would judge some thirty hours, no more. That is, taking into account docking procedures, station securing, engi-“
The Andorian never finished for Rand's sudden hug cut him off, momentarily disarming him. "Thank you, my friend! You have just made my day!" She turned and stabbed the lift activator.
The turbolift doors swished open but as Rand was about to enter, the Andorian moved to intercept her. "Ah, dear lady, I didn't get your name?"
"Janice Rand," she replied, brushing aside the Andorian's offending arm and stepping into the turbocar.
"My name is Ra-axx. Perhaps you would care to join me for refreshment? I know a fine little cabaret where-"
"Some other time, perhaps." she replied smartly, closing the doors in Ra-axx' face. /Or perhaps never./ she murmured to herself as the lift began its ascent. The Andorian was definitely not her type and as much as she liked Jake Hansen, she found herself hoping that her meeting with him would go swiftly. She was hardly surprised, therefore, to find how strongly and completely her thoughts had centered on James T. Kirk.
The drydock hove into view over Earth's far horizon. Kirk, of course, had been briefed on the new design, but even so, the view was breathtaking - a glittering array of great tritanium girders, huge hi-intensity arc-lights, and massive solar panels, all clustered in a vague reversed-U arrangement. They had shut down the impulse engines and were gliding towards it on thrusters. Kirk wondered how much more equipment StarFleet had redesigned in their absence. There had been rumors for months and now a prime example faced them. There would be a lot to learn after their debriefing.
"Drydock at one hundred kilometers and closing, sir.” It was Sulu, at the helm.
"Thrusters ahead at your discretion, Mr. Sulu. Take us in."
Kirk felt that the very air was being forced from his lungs as he watched their entrance into the drydock on the for ward viewscreen. Then another eerie sensation came as Sulu switched from forward motion to station-keeping. Many times had the ENTERPRISE been stopped dead in space but this was the first time since Kirk had assumed command that they had halted voluntarily. Holding girders swung out from the dock and magnetically attached themselves to the primary and engineering hulls, then dozens of tiny spacesuited figures equipped with thruster packs began the tricky business of attaching the umbilical cables and guy lines. When they had finished, Sulu switched off the thrusters and Scotty called from Engineering to report having switched over to the dock's power systems. "Request permission to shut down ship's power, Captain."
Kirk loathed the moment. ENTERPRISE, in effect, would be rendered comatose, having to rely on an outside power source. lie sighed. There was no getting around it. "Permission granted, Mr. Scott. Commence shut-down." Kirk switched to intra-ship. "All hands, this is the Captain. Secure all stations, repeat. Secure all stations." He paused. "We're home." To Sulu he said very quietly: "Main screen off, Mr. Sulu. Secure bridge stations," only marginally aware that his bridge personnel had already begun the procedure. He looked around, noting on the faces of his crew the expressions of elation mixed with melancholy. His glance swung to Spock at his library/computer station and he watched with a feeling of deep sadness as the Vulcan cleared his board, recalling the adventures they had shared together. Would he ever know their like again? He could not know that he would soon face his greatest challenge - not on the bridge of a starship, but in the offices of StarFleet Command itself, and that his greatest enemy would prove to be himself.
The real tragedy was that it would take him three years to fully understand how easy it is to delude oneself...
Nogura finished dictating and leaned back with a sad sigh, He'd made his decision about Kirk but it hadn't been an easy one. Kirk was an invaluable commander, the kind that come along only once a century or so, a perfect match for the rigors of starship command. Every rule, every ounce of logic said to give Kirk his maximum leave time, then assign him to another starship.
But StarFleet's commanding admiral was also part politician, responsible to higher-ups on the Federation Council. An increasingly large bloc in the Council was beginning to question the incredible expense of StarFleet, said to run into the trillions of credits, and even its value. They'd gone so far as to gather enough votes to strangle to final appropriations measure for the dreadnought-class of starships that Nogura had been pushing for almost two years, succinctly pointing out that if StarFleet's aims were peaceful, why was there a need for warships? The Council had seen fit to ignore Nogura’s warnings of a new, more powerful Klingon battlecruiser on the way - there was, after all, the Organian Peace Treaty. But Nogura wanted to be ready, just in case. The Council also seemed to have forgotten that the Romulans apparently had a treaty with the Klingons and were using their vessels. (5) Nogura had been defeated that day but he would not make the same mistake again. Having Kirk on his staff, by his side - a commander who had seen, spoken with, and battled both Klingons and Romulans - would greatly enhance his chances for obtaining the much-needed funds.
But not for dreadnoughts. The Federation Council had recommended he appoint a commission to study the feasibility of updating and improving the current Constitution-class of starships. Kirk's experience would be invaluable here, too, and now Nogura had an ace to play as well. StarFleet's engineers had reported to him privately that through a redesign of the intermix chamber, allowing a freer flow of matter and anti-matter, they were on the verge of perfecting a warp engine at least five times as powerful as any ever used by StarFleet. They'd reported that preliminary tests had shown a Constitution-class starship to be capable of achieving sustained flight at Warp 10 or better with two of the new engines while the dreadnought design was rated at only Warp 8 with three of the old engines. Upon hearing that, Nogura had cancelled the dreadnought contracts outright and had ordered the StarFleet Exchequer to divert the monies involved into the new engine's development program. This move had had the magical effect of creating a surplus in the treasury with which Nogura could now fund his redesign committee. He smiled. His plans would allow StarFleet to continue to grow and evolve and meet the Romulan/Klingon threat, despite the well-meaning but ill-informed Council bloc. There was only one item which needed his immediate attention. To be a member of Nogura's staff, StarFleet regulations would require Kirk to be promoted to Commodore, at least. That was no problem, since Nogura was StarFleet. And, yes, Kirk must meet that impressive young Commander Will Decker. Kirk had known his father, Matt Decker, (6) and upon learning that Will had graduated from the Academy, had tried unsuccessfully to get him assigned to the ENTERPRISE. Nogura smiled again, this time in heady anticipation. The experienced Kirk and the promising Decker. They would make quite a team...
The official welcome-home ceremony, held on the plaza deck, was simple, yet impressive. An honor guard, Nogura and his staff, and Federation Council and planetary representatives and dignitaries all gathered in the late afternoon sunshine of a warm spring day to honor Kirk and the ENTERPRISE crew. Kirk disliked the pomp but put up with it, feeling its necessity. More than once the high collar of his dress uniform seemed to choke him, particularly when Nogura read a list of his decorations and achievements. Still more were added this day, causing McCoy, standing next to Scotty, to lean towards the Chief Engineer and whisper that Kirk would probably walk away from the festivities with a severe portside list.
Nogura hadn't had time to scan Kirk's logs but he knew the captain well enough to guess what his final entry had been. One after another, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of Kirk's staff stepped forward to receive a StarFleet commendation, and Kirk himself was awarded a shiny silver plaque commending the crew. Shadows were creeping across the plaza deck long before the ceremony was finished. At length the bosun's whistle sounded and the disciplined ranks broke and melded into a mass of congratulatory hugs, kisses, handclasps, and backslaps. Amidst the swirling confusion, Kirk somehow had time to remember that they were to attend a formal banquet next, then a Federation theater presentation of some kind, and heaven knew what else.
As the crowd began to break up into small groups and meander in the general direction of the turbolifts, Kirk for an instant found himself alone. Whirling, he looked anxiously for Spock and McCoy but it seemed that his entire crew had melted into the crowd and were nowhere to be recognized. Curiously, no one seemed to be paying any attention to him. /They probably all think I've gone on ahead/ he mused. Realizing that the error would soon be discovered, Kirk decided to use his precious few moments of freedom to catch the last glorious moments of a fiery sunset.
"Lovely view, isn't it, Captain?"
Kirk stopped. He knew that soft, very feminine voice and he knew to whom it belonged even before he turned to acknowledge it. "Yeoman Rand, I believe?"
"Chief Janice Rand." she corrected sweetly. "But I shouldn't expect you to keep track of your former crewmembers, should I?" She smiled warmly. "How are you, Jim?"
/Why are my knees shaking/? he wondered. Kirk possessed a strange nervousness about women that could manifest itself at the oddest times. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. He recovered quickly enough, however, and gallantly offered his arm. "I suppose you'll tell me over dinner just how you happened to be at StarFleet today?"
"Why, Captain, was that an invitation?" she teased.
"If you like, I can make it an order!" Kirk's eyes twinkled with merriment.
She took his arm and pressed close to him. "That won't be necessary, Jim. It never really was." She spoke very softly and if Kirk had heard her last few words, he gave no sign of it. She longed to embrace him but understood why he seemed so tentative. After all, a lot could have happened since they'd last seen each other. But what really mattered to Janice Rand was that she and Jim Kirk were together again. Perhaps something might come of it later...
The stateroom aboard the Mark IV StarLiner was unusually plush for a transport and Spock found himself fervently wishing for his more austere quarters aboard the ENTERPRISE. But there would be no time for that now. He would be on Vulcan in less than a week and then StarFleet would no longer matter.
He'd seen Nogura in his office the day after the ENTERPRISE had returned and there had quietly and respectfully resigned. It had taken Nogura several minutes to recover from the shock but when he had he at first had refused to allow it. After all, the commanding admiral had no desire to lose such a valuable officer through attrition. But the Vulcan had countered by pointing out that he had not requested to be allowed to resign - he was resigning. Period. Naturally, he'd quoted the exact regulation which permitted him to do so, causing Nogura to make a show of pretending he'd forgotten the passage and looking it up. Spock had been right, of course, and Nogura had had no choice but to accept the situation.
Spock had told no one else he was leaving permanently, especially Kirk and McCoy. That would have been too painful. Once more the thrilling sensation shot through him. Emotion? Again? He clenched his fists furiously, causing the long nails to bite savagely into his palms. He shook his head violently. He was Vulcan, not human! Exasperated, he picked up his lyrette and absentmindedly began to strum. Spock had formed an attachment to music at an early age - was not music audible mathematics? - and he'd quickly learned its soothing, relaxing qualities. He desperately needed them now.
And when he returned to some semblance of equilibrium, he decided, he would seek out the mystic Masters of Gol and offer himself as a candidate for KOLINAHR, the final, complete purge of emotion, and dedicate the remainder of his days to the unwavering pursuit of pure logic. He strummed a brief, atonal chord. He would never again associate with humans.
"Well, that's it, Jim." McCoy said quietly. "No one I talked to knows why he left. I'd guess he's halfway to Vulcan by now but I wouldn't suggest looking him up. You know how much he loves our prying into his personal affairs." (7)
That, Kirk reflected, was undeniably true. But Spock - gone! And without so much as a simple, dignified farewell! Kirk could not accept it and even four double Saurian brandies had failed to make a dent in his concern and confusion. It had been three days since Nogura had informed them of Spock's resignation, hoping to learn more. Spock had assured Nogura that StarFleet Security was not involved but was not required by regulations to say anything further; hence, he had steadfastly refused to do so. But as Kirk and McCoy had not known about the situation until informed by Nogura, it seemed that whatever Spock's reasons, they would remain with him. Kirk downed the remnants of his fifth brandy and got up to leave. "Where will you be, Jim?" McCoy asked gently.
"I-I don't know, Bones. In the park, maybe. I've got to think."
Janice Rand could not help noticing the worried look on Kirk's face as he left the cafe and hurried towards the turbolifts. Immediately concerned herself, she followed at a discreet distance, shadowing him as he left the massive StarFleet complex at Basement Level 7 and headed down a short path to the gardens bordering on Golden Gate Park. There she watched him wander aimlessly for awhile, then seat himself on the edge of the embankment overlooking the bay. She came up behind him and sat next to him, biting her lip nervously. He did not notice her presence. "Jim, what's wrong?"
He started. "Janice! What-"
"I followed you from the café. You look awful! What's the matter?"
He stared at the bay. "It's Spock. He's gone."
"Gone? What happened?"
Kirk spread his hands helplessly. "He resigned without explanation and just - took off for Vulcan. Nobody knows why."
Rand was dumbfounded. Kirk and Spock were a legend around the fleet and she knew enough about legends - and about Kirk and Spock from her brief tenures aboard the ENTERPRISE - to know that legends always have some basis in fact. The two men were very close, and for Spock to just up and leave without in forming those closest to him, especially his commanding officer, was unusual, to say the least. "Spock did that?" she said finally. "I can't believe it!"
"It's true, Janice. Every word of it." he replied morosely. "I can only hope he'll come back one day and tell me why." (8)
Rand nodded her understanding that Vulcan privacy was not to be trifled with. She also knew that the abruptness of Spock's departure was a clear warning not to follow, and while Kirk was not about to disregard such a warning, respecting it was just as clearly tearing him apart. She moved closer to him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure he'll come back, Jim, and he'll probably have a good, logical reason for going, too! Try not to worry."
Something in her voice - a slight tremor, perhaps - caused Kirk to turn to her. He stared as though seeing her for the first time. His former yeoman was incredibly lovely - why hadn't he noticed before? Kirk was no less human than any other starship captain who had entertained fantasies about female yeomen but in his case that's all they'd ever been. But they were no longer on duty and a pulsing deep within Kirk told him that he needed this woman, especially now. Without a word he leaned forward and his lips brushed softly against hers - first fleetingly, then with more demanding urgency. He half-expected her to back away, and was infinitely grateful that she did not. It did not occur to him that there might be other reasons for Janice Rand to accept his passion. Their lips locked together, they embraced and laid back on the verdant sward. Unlike Spock, nobody missed them.
"Dammit, Scotty, are you sure?"
"Aye, Doctor, that's the scuttlebutt. I dinna know what to make of it at first, but I sure as hell don' like it!"
"Now let me get this straight!" McCoy continued. "Nogura's going to promote Jim to Commodore and push a desk job on him? And then he's going to split up the ENTERPRISE crew among several other starships? Is that right?"
"Aye, 'tis!" Scott nodded bitterly. "CACACH! I don' like the sound of it!"
"You and me both! I can see making use of our experience that way but I'm more worried about Jim. This’ll be a tremendous blow to him."
"It'll be more’n that, Doctor." Scott observed.
"How do you mean?"
The engineer stared at the glass in front of him. "It’ll kill him."
The next few weeks were full of intense activity for McCoy. First, he and Nurse Chapel went over Kirk's entire ENTERPRISE medical log, building up a psychological profile of the captain. The report made special note of Kirk's reactions to stress, command decisions, and never-before-encountered situations. In all three areas Kirk rated tremendously high, with his skill rating at the end of the five-year-mission only slightly reduced from its beginning. The computer's evaluation was cold and harsh, relentlessly mechanical, but it agreed with McCoy's analysis. Without this type of command, without the freedoms and challenges it offered, James T. Kirk would have considerable difficulty functioning as a normal human being. It would not be apparent to others, at least not at first, and Kirk would very likely hide it from everyone, especially himself. A weakness of this type would grow and rot out his insides, like a tooth with a cavity left unattended. As McCoy sat in his office at StarFleet, reviewing the final edit of his report, his mind went back to a conversation he'd had with Kirk only a few days before.
They had both been present to wish Janice Rand a fond farewell as she left for the Engineering School at Chicago-Center. Both Scotty and Jake Hansen had encouraged her to continue her studies; though she hadn't wanted to leave Kirk, she felt that the furtherance of her career would be in her best interests and besides, they would keep in touch. Kirk had been all smiles and seemingly at ease but McCoy had known him too long not to observe the tension in his manner and the new lines in his face. He knew how fond of Rand Kirk had once been and he'd guessed that there had been a romantic encounter between the two not long after Spock's departure. All in all, Kirk was handling her departure rather well but to have her come back into his life, especially after someone as close to him as Spock had been had left so confusingly, and then for her to have to leave as well, would have to take a lot out of any man - even James T. Kirk. Already McCoy's penetrating gaze could see what probably no one else alive could, and it disturbed him considerably. As they watched the airtram claw for altitude, then wing its way eastward, he had remarked casually, "She's a lovely girl, Jim, always was. Wish she could have stayed longer."
Kirk had stared at the disappearing airtram a long time. “So do I, Bones."
"Jim, I don't mean to intrude but I'm sure you've heard the rumors about an impending promotion for you."
"Yes, I have," Kirk had nodded, still staring into the sky, "and I'm beginning to think that it might not be such a bad idea."
Kirk's last remark had caused McCoy's left eyebrow to shoot upwards like a released window shade - and had also spurred him to make an urgent request to meet with Nogura before the actual promotion order was cut. He'd shown his profile of Kirk to some of the finest medical personnel in the Federation and had received virtual 100% agreement with its findings and predictions; many, including Chapel, had consented to putting their good names and careers on the line by signing a statement of support. He would have to remember, win or lose, to thank each and every one of them.
He snapped off the viewer with a snort. He'd finally identified what had been bothering him. It was fear - a chilling, numbing fear. A fear that Scotty had been right, a fear that Kirk would not turn Nogura down.
And worst of all, he greatly feared that he was the only thing that stood in the way of the destruction of the finest commander ever to stride the bridge of a starship...
McCoy entered the hearing room with his report securely tucked under one arm. He was the last to enter, and with good reason. All morning he had been psyching himself up, realizing that he might have to fight Nogura directly in order to win his case. It would not be easy. Not only was Nogura known for never having backed down once a decision was made, the commanding admiral had psychologically stacked the room in his favor. He sat at the head of the reviewing table, flanked by his staff, and the only others present were Kirk and McCoy at the far end, with a gulf in between them; Nogura had even arranged the seating so that the two ENTERPRISE crewmates were separated. McCoy had to admire him. Nogura was taking no chances and by recognizing this, McCoy knew he was starting off in the red.
Nogura opened the hearing with the usual formalities, then without yielding the floor continued with his reasons for promoting Kirk. McCoy was losing ground rapidly and he hadn't even opened his mouth. He knew he had to risk overstepping his bounds before the presentation of his report became a mere formality. Personally, he had never cared for the way Nogura callously manipulated and exploited people and situations and his temper began to get the better of him. He was on his feet before he knew it. "Admiral Nogura-!" he began heatedly.
Nogura moved quickly to cut him off. "This decision is for the good of StarFleet Command, Doctor. Captain Kirk, I'm sure, understands the-"
"Damn you, Nogura, and damn StarFleet too!" McCoy exploded. "You don't care a whit about Jim Kirk!"
"Of course I do!" Nogura flushed, clearly angry. "But sometimes duty to the Service must take precedence over all other considerations! This is one of those times!"
"Hang the Service! Do you know what's in his psychological profile, Admiral? Have you any idea what will become of Jim Kirk if you ram this promotion down his throat? Do you understand, at all, what this will do to him?"
"Commander, I appreciate your concern. As perhaps Captain Kirk's closest friend…”
"I am a doctor!" McCoy snapped. "My professional judgement and expertise speak for me! Jim Kirk is a pioneer, a man who needs the freedom and challenges of a deep-space command! If you take that away from him, Admiral, a shell of a man will serve you, but his heart and soul will not be there. They will be dead!"
Kirk was stunned. He'd expected McCoy to argue his position forcefully but the surgeon was now treading on dangerous ground. Challenging Nogura in front of his staff and damning StarFleet to his face were sure ways of bringing the commanding admiral's wrath down on you full-force. What was McCoy thinking of? Was it possibly he no longer cared about the Service? Or did he feel stronger about his case than even Kirk suspected? Either way, only Nogura's personal respect for the physician now stood between McCoy and severe disciplinary action.
Silence fell in the hearing room and all eyes fastened themselves on Nogura, who sat brooding in thought. At length he rose to his feet and spoke, desperately trying to avoid McCoy's hardened gaze. "The decision of StarFleet Command is unanimous. Captain Kirk is to be promoted to Commodore and will join my staff after he returns from his well-earned leave. We hope he will accept this promotion as StarFleet's official recognition of his many years of dedicated service. Captain, my congratulations." His staff broke into pre-arranged applause.
McCoy threw his hands up in disgust. How long had it been since Nogura had sat in the center seat? Couldn't he understand? The commanding admiral could, in fact, understand very well, but having Kirk, the living symbol, by his side to promote StarFleet’s aims was an opportunity he could not afford to pass up. It was also something McCoy, one of StarFleet’s rugged individualists, could never accept. He found himself fervently wishing for some of Spock's logic to help him reason with Nogura.
"Doctor, will you not join in the applause?" It was Nogura, a silky tone, flavored with the satisfaction of triumph.
"I will not!" McCoy flared. "You can keep your precious StarFleet, Nogura, your ships, your high technology, and your crass stupidity and insensitivity! You haven't even heard my medical report, yet you're willing to brush it aside, as if it had no meaning! In doing so, 'Admiral', you've brushed aside this man-" his finger stabbed the air, pointing directly at Kirk - "this man, and told him that he has no meaning! If this is what StarFleet means, Nogura, then I don't want any part of it!" With that, McCoy ripped the commander's bars from his dress uniform and slammed them to the table and before anyone could react, whirled violently, knocking his chair to the floor with a loud clatter. He intended to head straight for the door but his path took him past Kirk. There was no way he could leave without one last effort. Just as Kirk was swiveling to face him, McCoy bent and grabbed him by his shoulders, his intensity causing him to grip his friend tighter than he'd intended. "Jim!" he pleaded. "Don't do it! You're a dead man if you do!"
Confused words and conflicting feelings backed up and jammed between Kirk's brain and mouth. "Bones, i-if it's for the good of the Service-"
McCoy's hands released Kirk as if he'd discovered his old friend to be infected with plague. "I left the Service on the table!" he snarled bitterly, and headed for the door. Kirk half rose in his seat. "Bones-?"
But McCoy never stopped, nor did he ever look back. For James T. Kirk, the universe suddenly went cold and dark, and began to shrink alarmingly...
1This was the last official log entry by Captain Kirk aboard the USS ENTERPRISE before she was laid up for her redesign and reconstruction program. The seeming discrepancy between the StarDate recorded here by Captain Kirk and that of the Vejur episode (StarDate 7412.6) - that is, almost three solar years - is explained by the fact that StarDates, as used aboard Federation vessels, are a function of elapsed time when that vessel is underway.
2See "Court-Martial," StarDate 2947.3. This, incidentally, was how Nogura's report read; the actual case-history was somewhat different. "Court-Martial" is but one example of how Kirk's exploits were transformed into legend.
3See "The Menagerie," StarDate 3012.4.
4See “Spock Must Die!” by James Blish. See also Afterword for an explanation of the StarDates used.
5See "The Enterprise Incident," StarDate 5031.3. The dreadnoughts were authorized in response to this development but when StarFleet developed its own cloaking device, enthusiasm for the dreadnoughts waned considerably, leading to the above developments.
6See "The Doomsday Machine," StarDate 4202.9.
See "Amok Time," StarDate 3372.7. No doubt McCoy vividly recalls Spock saying: "You will cease to pry into my personal affairs, Doctor, or I shall certainly break your neck."
Admiral Kirk comments: "Already at this point, great changes were taking place within me due to my earthbound existence. In our five years together aboard the ENTERPRISE, Spock and I had achieved a closeness that superseded the physical necessities of the Vulcan mindmeld. Though neither of us publicly admitted it - and many times I was consciously unaware of it - we could frequently read each other's thoughts. Though this kind of anticipatory teamwork is vitally necessary between a captain and his executive officer, it spilled over into our private lives as well. That I was unable to even guess Spock's motives for his sudden departure is indicative of the beginnings of my loss of ability to command - both others and myself."
Proceed to Part 2
|Last modified: 06 Feb 2017