“Hear now the sentence of the Federation Council,” the President of that Council said in a powerful voice, pausing for a moment to clear his throat. “Because of certain mitigating circumstances, all charges but one are summarily dismissed.”
A loud buzz filled the chamber as the eyes of a hundred Federation representatives centered on the seven Starfleet Officers standing before the President’s podium. The delegates had come to know their names well during their deliberations, at least those few who didn’t know them before. In days past, these seven had been considered among the pride of Starfleet. Some would even say legends. Yet, as it was once said, only legends live forever. Not the flesh and blood that made them.
“The remaining charge, disobeying orders of a superior officer is directed only at Admiral Kirk,” the white bearded President said as he looked up and centered his gaze on the chestnut haired Flag Officer to his right. “I’m sure the Admiral will recognize the necessity of keeping discipline in any chain of command.”
“I do, sir,” the veteran Starfleet Officer simply said, the expression on his face giving no inkling of the relief he felt.
It had been James Kirk’s greatest fear that his fellow shipmates would pay the price of his actions. They had stood accused of the theft of the Starship Enterprise, the very ship Kirk had commanded for almost two decades, as well as the sabotage of the USS Excelsior. Also having aided in the destruction of the Enterprise and disobeying direct Starfleet orders. Kirk could personally bear any punishment, save that of having his friends lose all simply because they chose to stand by his side. That he alone would now shoulder the burden gave him the strength to endure what would come next.
“James T. Kirk,” the Council President continued as a deafening hush took hold across the room. “It is the judgment of this Council that you be reduced in rank to Captain.”
An uncertain murmur issued from the audience. Captain Spock, standing with his longtime friend, turned his head to look at the impassive expression still on Kirk’s face. To any other, Kirk’s face seemed to be still set in stone, but the Vulcan could see beyond the obvious and studied the reaction in his eyes.
“ ... and as a consequence of your new rank,” the President continued, “you be given the duties for which you have repeatedly demonstrated unswerving ability ... the command of a Starship”
It took a few moments for the crowd to react, seconds that the other crewmen of the late Starship Enterprise didn’t need to understand what had just been said. Rather than punishing their Commander, the Federation had just granted him his heart’s deepest desire. Kirk himself still seemed almost afraid to react to the news. It was as if he hadn’t heard the President’s words.
But he had heard them, and a heartbeat later the implications of what had been said caught up with the crowd as well. A few scattered reactions began to quickly grow into loud applause.
“Silence!” the President thundered with such force that order was quickly restored.
“Captain Kirk, your new command awaits you,” the President concluded, the smile that was reflected on most of the assemblage now apparent on his face as well. “You and your crew have saved this planet from its own short-sightedness ... and we are forever in your debt.”
This time, no words from the President could hold the crowd in check. Almost as one, the delegates rose to their feet to give Kirk and his crew a standing ovation. It was only then that James T. Kirk finally allowed himself to react and let the wave of adulation wash over him.
Two weeks had passed since that morning in the Federation Council Chambers. Fifteen days during which Jim Kirk had waited for some word of the command that the President had promised.
At first, the President had made it sound as if they were going to walk out of the hall and transport right to the bridge of his new ship. It was only after the proceedings that Kirk learned that it was up to Starfleet Command to decided when and where his new command would be.
Despite the praises that the President and the Federation Council had heaped upon him, James Kirk still had his share of detractors in Starfleet. Officers who had been disappointed that the “boy wonder” had managed to once again change the rules. Even now, in his late 50’s, his critics still hung that appellation on him. A holdover from the day he had become the youngest officer ever to command a Constitution Class Starship. In both the years before and since, Kirk had been a hero, reaping a hero’s rewards. And that was something that constantly rankled those who owed their slow advancement to playing the game by the rules.
In the last two weeks, Fleet Command had taken full advantage of the Captain’s hero status and had him represent Starfleet at numerous functions. None of which, in Kirk’s opinion, mattered a damn. The worse part was that he had to endure it without any of his friends. They were all too busy tying up some of the loose ends of the lives they’d so casually tossed aside to help him save Spock and McCoy. They had done so without the slightest hesitation, so Jim could hardly ask them to do more, just to keep him company.
Even Spock and McCoy, his two closest friends in the galaxy were unavailable. Despite what the healers back on Vulcan had said, Starfleet Medical was determined to decide on their own if a man, even a Vulcan, was medically fit to return to duty after having come back from the dead.
McCoy hadn’t left Spock’s side during the two weeks of tests they had put him through. Unwilling to even now admit how much he cared for the Vulcan whose consciousness he had shared after the death of his body, the former Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise insisted that he was just there to make sure that the resurrected Vulcan didn’t become some desk bound researcher’s science project.
Hikaru Sulu had gone off on a short trip with his teenage daughter, Demora, trying to make up for yet another of his growing and too frequent absences. Pavel Chekhov, adopted Uncle and Godfather to the young girl had gone along as well. When she heard the plans of the helmsman and navigator, Nyota Uhura, former Communications Officer, had decided to tag along with the group, if only to balance out the male/female ratio.
The final member of the Enterprise Seven, as the media had referred to them, was Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer on the late Enterprise and for a short time Captain of Engineering on the Excelsior. He had spent the last two weeks supervising the recovery of the Klingon Bird of Prey that Kirk and company had crashed into San Francisco Bay.
Even Gillian Taylor, the woman from the 20th Century that Kirk had brought forward to his own time had already left Earth on a Science Vessel bound for Mer. The plan was to recruit some water breathing species to help in the project to repopulate Earth’s oceans with the humpback whales that Kirk had brought back as well. As much as he would’ve like the chance to get to know her better, he could hardly fault her for being in a rush to explore this strange new world.
Yet even with all the small disappointments, Jim Kirk wasn’t about to complain. He’d lived the life he wanted and if for some reason it ended here and now, well he would deal with that as well. They had saved the Earth, once again, and more important to him on a personal level, he had saved Spock. Years before, at the time of Spock’s Pon Farr, Kirk had told McCoy that Spock’s life was at least worth a career. Today, at what he thought of as the twilight of his career, the newly demoted Admiral felt no different.
Kirk turned from the large bay window through which he’d been watching the sun set and poured himself a glass of what was still colloquially called Romulan Ale. It was the bottle that McCoy had given him for his birthday a few months before. His eyes focused on a small collection of photos resting on the mantle above the fireplace. Images of people he had loved in the past.
His parents, George and Winona, taken at their Iowa farm when Jim and his older brother, George Jr. had been children. A second picture showed an older Jim Kirk in a Starfleet Cadet’s uniform, arm in arm with another student. Gary Mitchell had been the best friend of his early career and Jim still thought of him as a lost brother. That last photo was that of David Marcus, the son he had not seen grow to manhood, and had too little time to know before he was killed.
Raising his glass to the mantle, Jim drank a toast to all of them, as well as all those others he had lost along the way. In the almost four decades that he’d been a Starfleet Officer, Kirk had lost his share of crewmen under his command. If asked, he could recite the name of every one of them.
A glance at the antique clock on the wall told him that it was almost time for Starfleet’s daily delivery of his schedule for the morning. For some reason, they were being hand delivered each night. Someone’s idea of keeping him on a short least he supposed. Still, if nothing else, it gave him a chance to meet some of the new blood in Starfleet that he might otherwise never encounter. He had to smile as he remembered how some of the newly commissioned Ensigns had been intimidated by his presence. It brought back memories of the first time he had met Robert April and Kimitake Noguchi. Some things never changed. Hopefully the one who showed up tonight would be made of sterner stuff. He could use a little conversation.
Almost as if on clue, the door to his apartment chimed softly. Jim put down the glass of ale and slid both it and the distinctive bottle out of sight. Technically, the Rihannsu beverage was still considered contraband and he wouldn’t want to have some junior officer spreading the story that Captain Kirk went around breaking the rules. At least not without a good reason.
Picking up his burgundy uniform jacket from the chair he had left it, Jim slid it on over his white turtleneck. He might as well give the messenger the full treatment since no doubt he’d be telling his friends all about meeting the legendary James T. Kirk.
“Enter,” Jim called out as he approached the door, triggering the computer-controlled response as the door slid open.
Kirk put on what he thought of as his friendly commander smile to greet the Ensign, only to have it vanish and be replaced by one of pleasant surprise. The blond haired woman standing in the now open door was hardly a green Ensign, nor was she a stranger. Twenty years before, she had been his Yeoman when he’d first taken command of the Enterprise. Now, she wore the gold insignia of a Lieutenant Commander. Her uniform was almost identical to Kirk’s own, with the exception of a skirt in place of slacks and a light gray turtleneck in place of a Captain’s white.
“Janice!” Jim Kirk said in surprise as the blond returned his smile.
“Good evening, Captain,” Janice Rand said she stepped into the room. “It’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you too,” Jim replied as he stepped aside to let her pass. “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure.”
“I happened to be in the Communications Center when your orders came down,” Janice said as she held up a small gold colored disk. “So I decided to take the opportunity to say hello and bring them over myself.”
“I’ll glad you did,” Jim said as he took the disk from her and led her into the living room. “It’s always good to see an old friend.”
Jim slid the small disk into a slot on the desktop computer. The computer beeped softly as a small icon with the insignia of Starfleet Command appeared on the left corner of the screen. He tapped the icon and it expanded into a written communique. That it was a written communication rather than a verbal one told Kirk that it was probably another in what had become a seemingly endless string of invitations to appear at some function or other.
Given the choice, Jim would’ve turned them all down. But until Starfleet Command finally decided what to do with him, he really couldn’t afford to get on the wrong side of any of those desk bound bureaucrats that came up with these ideas.
As he expected, the missive opened to reveal a set of instructions for him to appear at such and such time and place. In this case, Spacedock at zero five hundred hours tomorrow. The time and place didn’t seem all that strange since a number of functions were held on Spacedock and as for the hour, well an orbital station didn’t always keep time with Earth schedules. What was curious was that the orders didn’t say what sort of function was being held.
“Anything interesting?” Janice Rand asked as she looked over his shoulder.
“Not really,” Jim replied as he cleared the screen. “Just another chance for them to put the trained monkey on display.” he laughed.
“You’re hardly that,” Janice smiled.
“Well be that as it may, that’s what these orders sometimes make me feel like,” Jim replied as he looked at his former aide. As he did, he noticed something new. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t congratulations in order?”
“Actually, the promotion orders just came down the other day,” Janice smiled as she shifted her attention away from the Captain’s large collection of antiques to the new insignia that adored her uniform. “I’m still getting used to it myself.”
“Well it’s a promotion well deserved,” Jim said as he moved behind the small bar, pleased that yet another of the people he’d once commanded has succeeded. “I knew you’d make it someday.”
“Well I wasn’t so sure,” Janice said, remembering for a moment how far she’d come in her career. “If it wasn’t for Nyota, I don’t think I would’ve passed the promotion board. She was so sure that I would that she gave me her old rank pin to wear when the orders came down.”
The comment make Kirk recall that back during his first five-year mission on the Enterprise, Janice and Uhura had been almost inseparable friends. It was obvious that despite the distances over the years, they’d managed to remain close. He wished he’d been able to do as well with some of his old friends that had gone on to other ships.
“Well old bars or new, they deserve to be wetted down,” Jim said as he lifted the bottle of Rihannsu Ale he had hidden a few minutes earlier and produced a second glass. “And I have just the thing to do it with.”
Janice had been in Starfleet long enough to recognize the illegal blue liquor in the bottle the Captain held. She nodded an agreement and he poured her a glass, refilling his own in the process.
While he did, she picked up a large book that had been sitting on the table. It wasn’t an antique like some of the books in Kirk’s collection but it was a well-know idiosyncrasy of the Captain that he had a passion for the feel of a real book in his hand over a computer disk and when possible, he would request a replicate of a book rather than a digital version.
Flipping through the large book, Janice saw that it was a pictorial of Twentieth Century San Francisco. It was amazing to think that only a few weeks before, Kirk had walked these very streets. Yet, when she thought about it, no more amazing than other aspects of James Kirk’s life. Putting the book down, Janice accepted the blue filled glass and joined Kirk in the traditional first toast to absent friends.
“You might want to take a small bit at first,” Jim started to warn her as she lifted the glass to her mouth, “it’s pretty stro...”
Before he could finish, Janice had taken a large enough swallow of the potent intoxicant to knock an Ensign off their feet. With a satisfied look on her face, she brought the glass back down, almost half empty.
“You were saying something, Captain?” she asked with a broad smile.
“Nothing really,” Jim said with a “who me” look on his face. Things certainly had changed since Scotty had given Janice her first glass of scotch at a party. Not realizing how strong it was, the Captain’s Yeoman had downed it in one shot, much to her regret.
“Christine gets part of the same shipment, Doctor McCoy does,” the newly promoted Lieutenant Commander said in way of explanation.
Refilling both of their glasses, Jim remembered Bones telling him that Janice and Christine Chapel, once Nurse and now Doctor, shared an apartment in the city. It made sense since both were now assigned to Starfleet Command.
“Why don’t we have a seat and you can bring me up to speed on what you’ve been doing at Starfleet Command,” Jim said as he motioned to the large double couch.
“Only if you tell me what it was like to walk the streets of San Francisco in the 1980’s,” she countered, indicating the book on the table.
“It’s a deal,” Jim said as they both sat down, taking off their dress jackets as they did to be more comfortable. He was immensely happy at the way the night was turning out. Old friends were definitely preferable to new Ensigns.
Stars had filled the sky by the time Janice had filled Jim in on the path her life had taken. Parts of it were familiar to him already. He himself had signed the orders that had relieved the then Chief Petty Officer Rand from her duties as Transporter Chief aboard the Enterprise and sent her back to Earth as an Officer Candidate. After graduation from the program, Janice had show an aptitude for communications, not surprising in light of all the time she and Uhura spent together. That ability had led to a coveted posting at Starfleet Command and a quick promotion to Lieutenant.
“I’m really hoping to get a deep space assignment again,” Janice said as she finished both her story and her third glass of ale. Somewhere in the middle of their exchange, they had opened a second bottle.
“Well if that’s what you really want,” Jim said, feeling the respect he had for anyone who wanted to give up a prestigious posting at Fleet Command to explore space instead. “I’m sure I could find a place for you on my staff once they finally find a ship for me.” The impatience Kirk felt at the wait for Starfleet to tell him something was evident in his tone.
Janice seemed about to say something, but then hesitated. At least that was the impression Jim got from the look on her face. Before he could ask, she changed to, what he was sure was a different topic.
“I appreciate the offer, Captain, I really do,” Janice said. “but you know as well as I do that when you reform your command staff that Nyota is going to be Chief of Communications. As much as I would really love to serve on the same ship with her again, I really want my own department more. I hope you understand?”
“Of course, Janice, I just wanted you to know that the position was there if you wanted it,” Jim said as he again refilled their glasses, waiting for a nod from her that she wanted more. “And when it’s just us you can call me, Jim. That’s a privilege I extend to all old friends over the rank of Lieutenant.” he added with a grin.
“Thank you, Jim,” Janice smiled back.
“Well if not with me then,” Jim said as he took another taste of the ale, “then I’m sure another Starship Commander will snap you up in no time. If you ever need a recommendation...”
“I appreciate that too,” Janice cut him off. “But I’d rather do it on my own.”
“That’s understandable as well,” Jim said, thinking at the same time that any prospective Commanding Officer would surely see his name in her personnel file and ask his opinion. Then he would get to give her a glowing recommendation.
It then occurred to him that once Fleet got it’s act together, it might not be long before Hikaru or Pavel got there own Commands as well. Before the Genesis Incident, Chekhov had been First Officer on the Reliant, and Sulu had been one of the top runners to be the Captain who put Excelsior through her trials.
Unfortunately, Commander Starfleet had decided that he couldn’t delay the Excelsior tests until the inquiry into Genesis was done. So the appointment had gone to that popinjay Stiles instead. Kirk had enjoyed a certain satisfaction over the ridicule Stiles had suffered after Scotty had disabled the Excelsior’s trans-warp engines and they had been left dead in space when they attempted to stop Kirk from taking Enterprise from Spacedock.
Thinking of Hikaru and Janice, Jim remembered a rumor from back during their first five-year mission that there was something between the two of them. As Captain, Kirk had tried not to pry in the personal lives of the people under his command and had never tried to find out if there was any truth to it. Still, if there had been, well it can’t have ended badly since they were obviously still friends. Kirk wished more of his own relationships had ended that well.
“What?” a startled Captain replied.
“Nothing really,” Janice laughed softly. “You just seemed to be somewhere else for a moment.”
“I guess I was just reminded of something, that’s all” he explained.
“Speaking of which,” Janice countered, “Do you know what this reminds me of?” she asked as she lifted her half empty glass. “The first time we faced the Rihannsu, or as we still called them back then, Romulans. Do you remember that?”
“It’s not something that I’m likely to forget,” Jim said.
“I remember being on the bridge with you during the Bird of Prey’s attack,” she said. “They had fired on us with that plasma weapon of theirs and we were trying to outrun it. It was all so new and terrifying to me, I was so young. Then, even as a hundred details called for your attention, you took a moment to pay attention to me and calm my fears. I don’t even really remember what it was that you said to me, but it was as if you were giving me a chance to share in your strength. After that, I wasn’t afraid anymore.”
Jim remembered the incident well, if not the exchange between the two of them. How many times in his career had someone said something similar to him. That, at a moment of crisis, he had seemed to project a strength that enabled them to get through it. He could never really explain it to people, because he wasn’t aware that he was doing it.
“Do you know what I remember most about that,” he said jovially, not wanting to dwell on her observation too long. “The look on Spock’s face when we first saw the face of the Rihannsu Commander. I thought at the time that it was just the revelation that they were a Vulcan offshoot. It wasn’t until years later when I met Sarek that I saw how much the Commander resembled Spock’s father. They could almost have been brothers.”
But Janice wasn’t going to be deterred from what she wanted to say. Maybe it was the strong drink they had been sharing, or maybe it was just that she had waited so long to say what she wanted to say that she couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“That was the day I fell in love with you,” she said with all of the emotion that had built up over the years. “Oh I knew that we’d never be lovers or anything like that. At least not back then. But I knew that for the rest of my life, I would always love you.”
“Janice, I don’t know what to say,” Jim said, flustered for the first time in as long as he could remember. “I never meant to...”
“There’s nothing for you to have to apologize for,” Janice said. “I don’t know if you realized it or not, but more than half the women on the ship were in love with you at one time or another. Every time you took a lover, someone not part of your crew, we were all jealous.”
Jim didn’t know how to respond. Of course he knew that many crewmen, of both sexes, were sometimes infatuated with their Commanders. He just never realized it had gone that far. One rule of command that he unfailingly adhered to was to never become involved sexually with anyone under his command. The only exception to that rule had been Uhura, but their encounter had taken place before he’d been Captain of the Enterprise.
Additionally, she had come aboard Enterprise before he did, serving under the last year of Christopher Pike’s Command. He could hardly ask her to transfer off the ship because they’d once slept together. In the years since, the subject had never even come up for discussion.
“Janice, I really don’t know want to say,” he repeated.
“You don’t have to say anything,” she replied as she moved toward him.
What ever response Jim Kirk might have had after that was lost as Janice threw her arms around his neck and pulled his lips to hers. The kiss took him by surprise but as he felt her tongue pass into his open mouth and her uniform covered breasts press against his chest, he felt his body responding.
Half a lifetime ago, during a transporter accident while orbiting Alpha 177, Kirk had been split into two halves. One of those halves, the one containing the most aggressive part of a man’s personality, had attempted to sexually assault the Captain’s Yeoman. The attack had thankfully been thwarted, but the lust filled memory of Janice’s body pressed tight against his own had remained with Kirk after his two halves had been rejoined. He had never spoken of it with anyone, not even Spock or McCoy. Now, the memory of that feeling returned with a vengeance.
This time it was Janice who was the aggressor and as he felt himself surrendering to her desire, Jim Kirk realized that maturity had only made the woman in his arms more desirable.
“Janice, ... I...” Jim started to say when the younger officer cut him off.
“Not a word, Jim Kirk,” she said as she held up a hand to silence him. “I don’t want to hear a word about why this shouldn’t happen. I’m not a teenage Yeoman anymore, nor am I under your command. I’d like to be under you, but in a different capacity and we’ll get to discussing that later.”
Closing his mouth, the veteran Starship Commander held up both his hand in an uncharacteristic surrender. If his own years of maturity had taught him anything, sometimes you had to just let the other person get it out of their system.
“Yesterday is the past, and while some of the memories of that are sweet indeed, they are only that, memories,” Janice went on. “Tomorrow is an unwritten future, and when it comes we both might find ourselves in totally different lives. But tonight, all that matters is you and I. Let the Galaxy take care of itself for a few hours.”
“You’re right,” Jim said when she finally stopped.
“I said you’re right,” Jim repeated. “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t spend the night together, if that’s what we both want?”
Kirk’s question hung in the air for a moment. Then, in an unspoken but understood agreement between both of them, it was answered with actions rather than words.