- Permanent Injury
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
- Fix It
- Science Fiction
“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.”
The Admiralty trickled in listlessly. The Daystrom Conference Room was always the site of meetings of great importance, whether that was negotiating a treaty, the promotion of a new member into their ranks, or matters of war. If the room had a face, it would show more lines and signs of grief than anyone currently within it. They all bore the marks of too many years and too many hard decisions.
The Federation media was already finding new and unfortunately cliched ways to describe the way they all wore the look of tragedy on their faces while broadcasting the holoimages of the entire Admiralty standing behind the President of the Federation, in formal uniform and black armbands. The press conference and the events necessitating it would dominate the interplanetary media cycle for weeks, if not months.
So would the funerals.
Richard Barnett heard the distinctive sound of someone kicking a chair, followed by a string of curses in several languages. He didn’t have to look over to know it was Admiral Shukar. Few ranking officers had that kind of talent for profanity. Captains were permitted to swear, but admirals were often seen as being above it, needing to remain calm and contained to reassure the fleet and those watching. Shukar had never gotten that message. Or at least he’d pretended it was another strange human idea that had no bearing on him as the first Andorian flag officer in Starfleet.
“While all of that is true, your methods are not helpful.”
So said Admiral Terral, who had more reason than anyone to be furious, grieving, and upset. As many people as Starfleet had lost — several ships and thousands of casualties, hundreds more MIA, and a decimated senior graduating class — Vulcan’s current death toll was in the hundreds of thousands. The gaping hole drilled into the planet had claimed an entire settlement so far, and the evacuations of the entire surrounding area in case of further collapse already outpaced anything seen in the last Federation war.
Between the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and reduction in air quality that were planet-wide, Vulcan was looking at casualties well past one million and resettlement across the planet. And that was if Vulcan and Federation scientists could manage to stabilize the planet. If they couldn’t, the Federation was looking at the first planet-wide evacuation and resettlement of a member in its history.
“Maybe not to you, Terral,” Shukar grumbled. His tone lacked even the faked animosity he usually employed with his Vulcan colleague, a legacy of the centuries of conflict between Andoria and Vulcan before the Federation. “I find my methods very helpful. I can kick the chair to make myself feel better or go find someone to stab.”
Richard lowered himself into his chair, feeling older than he ever had. “Enough, both of you. As entertaining as your bickering usually is, we don’t have time for it.”
Terral inclined his head, looking almost as composed as usual. The only real sign of stress was the tightness around his eyes and the whitening of his knuckles when he clasped his hands on the table in front of him. Shukar slouched back in his seat next to him, trying to look unaffected. His antenna trembled.
One by one, the other admirals sat as well. Barnett knew each of them, personally and professionally, and could see the strain this was taking on all of them. He wondered what they saw in his face but set aside the thought.
“Admiral Archer is with the Federation Council and will be for the foreseeable future,” Richard began. Absent the Fleet Admiral he was the highest-ranking member of the Admiralty. A deliberate choice by Starfleet as the Head of the Academy was the one least likely to be killed or incapacitated in a conflict. “He’ll oversee the use of Starfleet resources in the various rescue and evacuation efforts and deal with the political and diplomatic fallout. Our duty is to the fleet and protecting the Federation.”
“The Vulcan High Command has recalled all Vulcan vessels to the planet to aid in evacuation and stabilization efforts,” Terral said. “Vulnerable populations, namely those closest to the artificial fissure in the planet’s surface, the oldest and youngest of the population, those relegated to medical care, and many of those who maintain vital knowledge of Vulcan history and tradition are being evacuated from the planet. This will ensure their safety during this period. Should the worst occur, and Vulcan be rendered uninhabitable, full evacuation will be somewhat easier with these populations already out of harm’s way.”
Only a Vulcan would ever use the word ‘easier’ about the evacuation and relocation of 6 billion peoples, even in relative terms.
Heihachiro Nogura spoke next. As Chief of Starfleet Operations, much of the burden of cleanup fell on his shoulders and for once the man looked every day of his ninety-seven years. He was the only member of the Admiralty that could come close to Admiral Archer’s age.
“We lost the Newton, Mayflower, and Truman entirely,” Nogura said quietly. “The Truman reached Vulcan first and was lost with all hands.” They were all silent for a moment as the weight of that loss settled. “The Mayflower responded to the distress call independently. She, too, was lost, though many of the crew are on the casualty and missing list rather than confirmed dead. The entire bridge crew was lost, however, as they used the Mayflower to distract the Narada from firing on escape pods and shuttles launched by the Newton, Farragut and Hood.
“Rescue and medical ships are sweeping the Vulcan system for escape craft, with the help of the returning Vulcan ships. While some vessels made it to the planet surface, many remain unaccounted for. The current list of missing stands at 918.” Nogura didn’t look at his PADD or screen as he recited the number. “Of those killed in action, we stand currently at 1213. Injured casualties are currently 879 among Starfleet. Both of the last two will rise in the coming days as we recover more of the missing, and as people succumb to injuries.”
“Fuck,” someone said. Barnett silently agreed with the sentiment. Over three thousand Starfleet personnel dead, wounded or missing. It was the worst single day in Starfleet history. They might have lost far more in the Romulan War, but never so many in such a brief engagement. The entire Narada encounter at Vulcan had lasted under an hour.
“The Farragut, Excelsior and Antares are crippled,” Nogura continued. “While it’s possible the Antares may be salvageable, at least in part, the other two are lost and will have to be scrapped. The Hood is in bad shape and may ultimately meet the same fate. The Wolcott is salvageable but will need six months to rebuild, the Armstrong a full year for the same. The Odyssey took the least damage overall, but it will be two months in dry dock to replace the entire left nacelle and repair all other damage.”
“That’s every ship assigned to this sector,” Gorch huffed out. The Tellarite admiral showed less emotion than the rest of them — even Terral — but his unsteady breathing gave away his agitation.
“The Laurentian Fleet is being redeployed as a result,” Rear Admiral Drake reported. Her PADD was on beneath her folded hands. As the Chief of Starfleet Tactical, she had her finger on the pulse of every move the fleet made. Rumour had it she was the only human to achieve Grand Chess Master status on Vulcan. “Twelve ships will remain there to maintain our presence. Four are being recalled to the Sol sector and will engage in extended patrols through the sector to ensure a visible presence. The other eight are joining the search and rescue efforts or patrol the Vulcan sector against opportunists.”
“The hospital ships Nightingale, Apollo and Hope have been deployed to Vulcan,” Rei Elun took up the report. “All are fully staffed and supplied, and there are three supply ships which will be making daily runs with medical and rescue supplies. Hope is smaller but faster and will courier the critically injured to Earth while Nightingale and Apollo do most of the triage work. All three are taking on Vulcan healers and will provide emergency medical services and transport to those evacuated from the planet.”
Barnett nodded at the brief report. Elun oversaw the unglamorous-sounding Operational Support Services, the least recognized and most vital department in Starfleet. She was also a Betazoid and not only bearing up under her own emotions but everyone else’s. Richard didn’t blame her for being short on words. “And the Enterprise?”
“The Woden will meet them with supplies, a modified warp core, and a complement of engineers and medical personnel by tomorrow and then help with the retrofitting of the engine and escort back to Sol system. It will not be pretty, and they won’t manage anything above warp three, but it will get them home.” Elun’s hands trembled on the table in front of her; she set them in her lap. “The engine retrofit will take a full day and, at warp three, they will make it back in under three days.”
“A full warp core install takes three days, minimum,” Alexander Marcus said.
“Not when Montgomery Scott is involved. The Enterprise picked him up from Delta Vega.”
“I’m sure Archer will be thrilled to see him,” Shukar said.
Nogura, possibly the only person in uniform who would call Admiral Jonathan Archer by his first name, even in private, said, “Jonathan may be old enough to be allowed a small degree of pettiness, but he is still the man who helped birth the Federation and saw her and Starfleet through dark times. He will not hold a grudge in the face of our current circumstances.”
“If Commander Scott helped the Enterprise defeat the Narada, logically he has done more than his penance for his reckless experimentation,” Terral added.
Richard thought they were underestimating how highly Archer valued his dogs but conceded that at least the man would pretend to forgive Scott for evaporating one into its component parts.
“So, we can expect the Enterprise in five days,” Richard said. “Good. We need every able-bodied personnel we have — even the cadets.”
And wasn’t is a miracle, or perhaps a cosmic joke, that the one ship that was mostly intact, both in hull and crew, that had brought down the Narada, was staffed largely by cadets who hadn’t even graduated yet? Nearly half the senior cadets sent out were dead or injured, a critical blow to the fleet and its future. The other half had faced the very worst an officer could and not only endured but succeeded in the face of overwhelming odds.
Just yesterday, James Kirk had been about to defend his refusal to accept defeat in the face of impossibility. Today, he had saved the Federation with the same refusal. There were more than a few naysayers that would be eating crow for some time to come.
Pike, Kirk’s staunchest defender, would be insufferable for years. Richard was grateful the man was still alive to see and gloat, about Kirk’s triumph.
Speaking of eating crow —
“Fucking Kirk, of all people,” Komack hissed out, thumping a fist on the table.
James Komack was, in the politest terms, a stickler for the rules. In other words, an asshole. He and Pike had never gotten along and, for all Komack’s willingness to hold George Kirk up as an exemplar of an officer, he’d hated Kirk the elder as well. Komack was good at details, something that had served him well in his career as an administrator. He was also gifted in his chosen field, quantum engineering. But there was a reason that he’d never lead a ship as a Captain, serving his time in that rank as the head of the Earth Spacedocks.
The construction and repair facilities had never run more tightly to schedule than they had under Komack. And the man, who was wholly unsuited to commanding men and women by personality or example, had never had to lead a crew in battle. Everyone, including Starfleet, had won.
But while Komack might know his own limits, he was still an asshole. And he held a grudge against commanders who were unlike himself. Pike, the youngest captain in fleet history. George Kirk, who’d sacrificed himself for his crew. Hell, he hated Archer and the man’s inability to find a book he couldn’t rewrite rather than follow — though Archer’s rank and infamy keep Komack from showing it.
James Kirk, who’d shown up at the Academy with blood on a face that was the image of George, trailing behind Christopher Pike like a feral wolf, had never stood a chance of gaining Komack’s approval. And Kirk’s actions every day since ensured he never would. Not even saving the Federation Komack loved and served would manage that.
Elun flinched. “After everything you just heard — the number of dead and wounded, the lost ships and the entire Vulcan population at risk of displacement — and that is what you choose to focus on?” Beside her, Terral poured a glass of water and set it before Elun. The Betazoid and the Vulcan admirals might make an odd pair, but as the only two members of the Admiralty, they often gravitated together. Today, Terral’s emotional control, even compromised, must be a relief to an empath surrounded by too much emotion.
As Elun took a sip of water, Terral turned his gaze to Komack. “Your pettiness is illogical.”
“I am not being petty. This is about Starfleet — our image and our standards. Both are more important than ever. The whole Federation will be looking to us for answers and leadership.” Komack shook his head and sat back, arms crossed. “That kid isn’t capable of providing either.”
“A founding world of the Federation is geologically destabilized, the death toll for the Federation is in the hundreds of thousands, and Earth was attacked by an enemy force for the first time since the Xindi.” Nogura was all the more impactful for his measured tone. “Of all our problems, the fact the Federation was saved by an angry, reckless, foolhardy, photogenic son of a dead hero is not one of them.”
“Just because you and Pike want him to be the second coming of George Kirk —”
“James is not George,” Nogura cut Komack off. “And neither Captain Pike nor I wish him to be.”
“Enough,” Richard said. Komack’s flushed face was a warning of an impending argument and Nogura, normally the most level-headed of them all, could be counted on to give Komack the fight he was looking for in this case. He’d known both Winona and George Kirk and had maintained a quiet but steady interest in James T Kirk since he’d shown up at the Academy.
And Richard, who was normally inclined to let grown men and women who commanded an interplanetary fleet of starships and bases and the tens of thousands of beings who crewed them fight it out like adults, didn’t have the heart for it today. He was the head of the Academy and today, he’d sent hundreds of the best and brightest students they had on what should have been a research and rescue mission — just the kind of thing senior cadets, months from graduating, needed to give them that push to succeed and do better.
And now, instead of one of the largest graduating classes in Starfleet history, he had a decimated and traumatized student body. The Academy teaching staff, many of whom he considered personal friends, was similarly gutted. And there was no time to grieve, to count the losses because they had a duty to those who remained, and to the Federation.
It was a lesson every officer learned, to put duty before all else, no matter the personal cost. But it was a hard thing, to know that his students had learned it so young, and in such a terrible way.
Unfortunately, Komack wanted a fight.
“I never agreed with Pike going to bat for him,” Komack ground out. His fist thumped the table in emphasis. “He has problems with authority, a reckless disregard for the rules, and worse, he encourages others to follow him. He’s a dangerous influence.”
“No wonder I like him,” Shukar drawled, kicking out his legs and crossing his ankles.
Marcus shrugged. “Well, it’s a good thing you never got anywhere in your quest to get Kirk out of the Academy, Komack. Since Kirk did save your life along with everyone else on Earth.” Komack inhaled, going even more red in the face. Marcus snorted. “Give it up, man. Nero only managed to get off one shot on the Mid-Atlantic ridge thanks to Kirk and the Enterprise under the command of a bunch of cadets and young officers with a ‘reckless disregard for the rules’. If he’d kept firing those torpedoes of his at us, we’d be in the same situation as Vulcan right now — with the addition of tsunamis along with our volcanic activity.”
Richard didn’t want to see Alexander Marcus become the Fleet Admiral when Archer retired — again — which the man was currently campaigning for. Marcus was too militaristic for the Starfleet Richard preferred to serve and his time as the Chief of Starfleet Intelligence had only made him more paranoid. But he was good at taking command of a conversation.
“Not to mention,” Marcus continued, ignoring how red Komack was getting. Richard was going to give the man a moment to collect himself, or he’d call for medical transport. Komack wasn’t his favourite man, but they couldn’t afford more losses. “Kirk was one of the people to blow up that damned drill the Narada used on Vulcan, sending the ship running before they could use that superweapon of theirs. Earth is even more geologically unstable than Vulcan — imagine if Nero still had it when he reached Earth.”
They all considered that for a moment. Richard felt a little nauseous. He’d read the reports coming in from Vulcan, the Enterprise and the surviving ships as well, but he hadn’t put that picture together. Marcus’ paranoia could be useful, provided you didn’t want a good night’s sleep.
“Thanks for that, Marcus,” Chandra said. “We’ll all sleep better, now.”
“We can’t all live in a comfortable bubble where Starfleet exists to find interesting, harmless things to write papers about. Some of us live in the real world.”
“And some of us jump at shadows and make concerns into fears and fears into monsters,” Chandra snapped back.
“Enough,” Richard said again, louder. That, too, was an old argument. Though most of Starfleet fell on the side of exploration as their role in the Federation, there were enough people like Marcus who saw Starfleet as a military force first and explorers second to ignite conflict. The fight was as old as Starfleet itself and was a core part of their identity. Each generation redefined the argument in their own way and that, more than any one side winning, kept the Fleet alive and dynamic. “Regardless of anyone’s opinion on Kirk, and there are many, he’s one of us. He fought to save Vulcan, Earth, and our people. He succeeded in destroying a ship that tore through all our defences and a chunk of the fleet. Not to mention Vulcan’s defences, a Klingon squadron, and the Kelvin.
“Love him, hate him, or know nothing about him,” Richard finished, meeting the gaze of each admiral, including Komack, “Kirk saved the Federation and he did it wearing a Starfleet uniform.”
“Not alone,” Terral said. “Many have sacrificed themselves in defence of our worlds. Many more fought, and are still fighting, to save what is left.”
Richard nodded. “Agreed.”
“James Kirk would be the first to insist that he did not act alone,” Nogura added. “And that he only did what he had to.”
“Also true,” Richard agreed. “But the fact remains that James Kirk, an Academy senior who was not even officially deployed, was instrumental in the defence of Vulcan and Earth. Spock’s reports make it clear he was ready to withdraw to the Laurentian system and regroup with the fleet.”
“It wasn’t an incorrect decision,” Drake said. “Spock followed protocol. It was just the wrong choice, considering the extraordinary circumstances. Nero might have lost his drill and fled the area, but he certainly could have returned to continue his attack regardless. And even if he hadn’t, if the Enterprise had gone to the Laurentian system, the Narada would have had time to do more than fire on a few underwater volcanoes here on Earth by the time the fleet could mobilize.” She shook her head. “We’re lucky Nero was so single-minded. The damage he could have done with weaponry that advanced? If he had reached out to the Romulan Empire —”
That was the stuff of nightmares. The war with Romulus had been hard-fought, brutal, and devastating. A Romulus armed with weaponry from a hundred and fifty years in the future? Every battle would have looked like the one above Vulcan. The Federation would stand little chance.
“And that’s before we take into account that Red Matter shit,” Gorch said. “Enterprise reports it was capable of creating a singularity and that was Nero’s plan for Earth and Vulcan. How they know that, we’ll have to find out in person. I don’t want any more information about something like that being broadcast around subspace.”
“Agreed,” Drake said. “And we’ll need to do some real damage control,” she added, looking straight at Richard. “The last thing the Alpha Quadrant needs right now is an arms race for that stuff. Fortunately, the Enterprise destroyed the entire known supply.”
Marcus frowned. “They could have gotten a detailed scan, at least, if not an actual sample.”
“Listen, you old warmonger —” Shukar snapped, sitting upright in his chair and leaning forward.
“That’s rich, coming from you,” Komack cut in.
“Better a hot-headed Andorian than a cold fish,” Drake huffed out. “Take your head out of Marcus’ ass, Komack — he’s not Fleet Admiral yet.”
“Or ever, if some of us get our way,” Chandra, who was also vying for the position as top dog of Starfleet, said.
It was almost heartening to see the meeting devolve into its usual chaos and clashing personalities. All that was missing were the blank-faced aides, immune to their superior’s antics unless they impacted the betting pool, and Archer presiding over the whole thing. And a dog, barking whenever the voices rose too high. It was a pleasant change from the solemnity and grief.
But it wasn’t productive, and Richard had other places to be.
“You’ll all worse than first-year cadets in their first zero-gravity simulation. Shukar, sit back. Komack, shut up. Marcus, your wrong and no one is on your side. We’re all glad the red matter was destroyed, entirely, and the first person to say otherwise, or speculate on its uses, in public or private, is getting a court marshal. And that includes Section 31,” Richard added, sharply. No one reached admiral without learning about Section 31, and Marcus’ involvement with them wasn’t as secret as he liked to think. “Now, all of you, act like admirals and try for a little dignity.”
“A little dignity is all some of us are capable of.”
“Shukar,” Richard sighed. “Really?”
The Andorian shrugged, his antenna twitching in amusement. “It was right there.”
They were the best in Starfleet. Richard sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, longing for a room full of cadets. “The fact is, three people had command during the Battle of Vulcan. Pike sacrificed himself to buy time, Spock followed orders and protocol to the letter, and Kirk pulled off in real life what he showed in the Kobayashi Maru simulation. If you play by the rules all the time, you lose. Sometimes, you need to hack the simulation to get an outcome you can live with.”
Had it really been just yesterday Kirk had stood before the Academy Board for that little trick? Not even forty hours ago, he’d been slapped with academic probation and required to defend his actions and now, Kirk was sitting in command of a damaged Enterprise, limping home with an intact crew and a desperate victory under his belt.
The fact was, Kirk was never going to be expelled for the Kobayashi incident. For everyone like Komack on the Board, there were two people who understood that breaking the rules was necessary at times — provided you knew what the rules were and were willing to bear the consequences. Spock had taken exception to Kirk’s actions, and had a right to, but provided Kirk had been able to explain his actions adequately, he’d have gotten a notation in his record for outside the box thinking.
“That’s true,” Chandra said, “and Kirk has aptly demonstrated his ability to defy his limitations. But when you are holding a hammer, all problems resemble nails. Kirk’s methods worked today, but you do not always need to break the system to get results.” Ne pressed nir palms together in front of nir lips. “Does Kirk know that?”
“Not that I’ve seen,” Komack huffed.
“But he can learn,” Elun pointed out. “Instincts and charisma are harder to teach than protocol and coping skills. Kirk comes with the former — the latter can be taught.”
“James came to Starfleet with a chip on his shoulder and a need to prove himself,” Nogura offered quietly. “To Christopher Pike, to us, to the whole world — but most of all, to himself. Now that he has done so in such a grandiose way, he should be able to let go of some of that brashness and be able to learn to work within the system.”
“Some?” Elun asked with a small smile.
Nogura tipped his head, lips twitching. “Expecting someone young and brash to change their personality is as pointless as trying to reorient the stars.”
“Such poetry, Nogura,” Shukar said. “Just say he’s a stubborn kid and will need to beat his head against life for a decade or so to knock some of the recklessness out of him.”
“You have your poetry, Shukar, and I have mine.”
“You have been, as you say, ‘beating your head against life’ for over five decades and it has made no discernible impression,” Terral said.
Shukar shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m more stubborn than most.”
Marcus ignored the byplay and stared Richard. “You can’t be thinking of promoting Kirk.”
Richard sighed and sat back in his chair. His PADD chimed softly, indicating another report had uploaded, followed by similar notifications around the room. They all ignored them, as they had all meeting. Either it was good news and would distract them, bad news that they needed a moment to prepare for, or the kind of news that would lead to more work. And they all had plenty of that on their plates.
“An academy student is made Acting Captain of the flagship, on its maiden voyage, during the greatest disaster the Federation has faced outside of war — and his is the only ship standing in the face of overwhelming odds. He also proves instrumental in saving, not one world but two, along with the Federation. We can’t let him languish away at Lieutenant, serving at the same rank as those he just led in battle for a year after graduation. In addition to the insult, which could very well drive him away, the public and the Federation will have questions.”
“The optics alone. . .” Drake said, trailing off with a shake of her head. “No.”
“Are we really concerned about optics?”
“Yes, Marcus, seeing as we are part of the Federation and not a fiefdom unto ourselves.” Richard resisted rolling his eyes. “The President has already brought up the Medal of Valour, in addition to the commission of a new medal for those involved at the Battle of Vulcan. The media loves a story, and Kirk is a story.”
“Bad boy cleans up his act for Starfleet and makes good?” Chandra shook nir head. “It writes itself.”
“And that’s without all the potential fodder of the son avenging the father who died the day he was born,” Richard added. “The fact that James Kirk is the image of George when he died? The media will spin this story into orbit and beyond.”
Gretchen Lui spoke up for the first time. She was normally the most measured voice in the room, a linguist and former diplomat who understood the power of language. Since word had come back of the devastation on Vulcan, however, she’d been all but silent as she did her duties; Lui’s wife was an instructor at the Academy who had been deployed on the Hood. So far, Amal Lui’s name hadn’t shown up on any of the KIA or MIA lists. No news might be good news in this case, but it was hard to be reassured by a lack of information.
“It’s true that we cannot let James Kirk sit at his current commission rank upon graduation,” Lui said lowly. “But it is also true that was cannot make a twenty-five-year-old on academic probation, whose sum total of service can be measured in days, not months or years, a captain the day he graduates from the academy. It’s not about a lack of gratitude, for he has more than earned all of ours.” Komack snorted. Lui didn’t even look at the man, though several others glared at him. “It’s about the future; the ship and crew he would lead. They, too, are survivors of the same tragedy and they deserve a leader who can stand for them. Lead them.”
First-time captains generally had experienced crew around them, and newly commissioned officers usually served under experienced commanders. The losses they’d suffered would mean that ships like Enterprise would be largely crewed by new officers and the few experienced people they could move around. The only other choice was a full-scale reorganization of all serving shipboard crews, which was impractical and, in the case of those ships that patrolled the Neutral Zone, potentially deadly.
Starfleet was in a bind. The loss of seasoned officers was bad enough but the combined loss of so many senior cadets and nearly a third of the academy staff compounded the problems. Nero might not have destroyed the Federation, but Starfleet would be years in overcoming the damage he did to them.
“Then someone needs to present another option before necessity and expectation make the choice inevitable,” Richard said.
Marcus propped his elbows on the table and leaned forward. “You know, nothing says Kirk needs to be assigned to a ship –”
“Except every academic choice he’s made in the last three years his preference for ship duty clear,” Nogura cut in.
Marcus ignored him. “He’s shown problem-solving skills, tactical aptitude and the ability to adapt quickly. Not to mention a willingness to throw down.”
Gorch snorted so hard he started coughing. When he’d recovered, he laughed. “You want to send the most famous face in Starfleet after Archer into Intelligence? Remind me not to vote for you as Fleet Admiral when the time comes. With decision-making skills like those, who needs enemies?”
“It does seem illogical,” Terral agreed. Marcus sat back, but the frown on his face was obvious. “Admiral Barnett, something to consider.” Richard nodded and gave Terral his whole attention. “James Kirk became the Acting Captain due to extraordinary circumstances but he was given a battlefield commission by a senior officer first. Captain Pike did bestow the position of First Officer upon Kirk and validated that position by entering it into the official log before he was captured. By regulation, Pike was within his wherewithal to do so. It is also regulation that the First Officer of any crew or ship the size of Enterprise hold the rank of Commander. Should that commission be honoured, Kirk would be given a position and rank equitable to his actions and current abilities.”
Shukar’s antenna waved. “ ‘Commander James Kirk’ has a nice ring to it. The media will love it.”
“It would also put Kirk under Pike’s direct command,” Drake pointed out. “Kirk respects his authority, which means he’ll actually learn from him. And Pike is one of the few captains who won’t be resentful of Kirk’s rapid promotion, or being saddled with a green officer as their first officer.”
Chandra cleared nirs throat. “Spock is the first officer of the Enterprise.”
There was a brief silence.
Richard decided to speak up. He had inside knowledge that was applicable. “Pike talked him into taking the position; he thought it would be good for Spock’s career. Commander Spock wanted to be just the Chief Science Officer and was worried being first officer would take away from his lab time.”
“Well, he wasn’t wrong about that,” Nogura said. “Perhaps he’ll be happy to have that lab time back. And Spock did give his seat to Kirk. He’ll probably see the logic of assigning Kirk as first officer.”
“There’s always a place for Spock at the Academy,” Elun offered. “He is a good instructor and qualified in multiple disciplines. Teachers will be in high demand for some time to come. And we can certainly ensure he gets adequate lab time.”
“We could promote him,” Marcus said. “We did lose several captains.”
Komack made a face. “There are other commanders with more time and experience who should be promoted first. Spock’s spend his entire time as Commander at the Academy. Besides, we can’t promote someone who’s one and only stint in the captain’s seat had him recusing himself within hours.”
“Even those in possession of logic falter under overwhelming circumstances,” Terral said, stone-faced.
“The circumstances were dire,” Lui agreed softly. “Far beyond what anyone could or would ask of a young officer with more classroom than command experience. No one is interested in punishing Spock – he and the whole crew rose to the occasion with exceptional fortitude. But perhaps he is not ready for a field command. I don’t believe Kirk is, either,” she added, “but in his case, it’s the daily demands and minute details of the command he has no experience with.”
“The Academy is an option for Spock,” Richard spoke up. “But only if he requests reassignment from Enterprise. Pike chose both Spock and Kirk – he can have them both.”
“Pike may never sit in the captain’s chair again,” Komack huffed. “We should be looking for a new captain for the Enterprise and not worrying about how to placate a kid who hasn’t graduated yet.”
Chandra raised a brow. “We should not write Pike off yet; he hasn’t been assessed by Medical or gone through rehabilitation treatments. And regardless, the Enterprise will need months of repairs and Pike will remain the captain of record until the relaunch – even if he ends up being removed from the field. We can afford to give the doctors time to work and Pike time to recover.”
“And in the meantime, we need to recruit,” Drake added, “and that’s something Pike excels at.”
“The Academy is desperate and we have a reduced senior class without enough instructors to get them through graduation,” Gorch said. “Both Pike and Spock are good instructors.”
“Pike picked Kirk,” Shukar said. “He brought him into Starfleet, had him flagged for his crew, and made him first officer. So, let Pike have him – make Kirk his aide and teaching assistant while he recovers and the Enterprise is being repaired.” Shukar shrugged when everyone looked at him. “It makes sense. Let Kirk do all of Pike’s heavy lifting while the man recovers. He can manage Pike’s office, oversee the reconstruction – pick up his dry cleaning if necessary. It will be good for both of them.”
“Why can’t all your contributions be that insightful?” Elun asked.
“I’d hate to give you false expectations.”
“Kirk has shown some ability to instruct,” Nogura said, looking thoughtful. “He has experience in teaching hand-to-hand combat. He can continue with that, and assist Pike in teaching command classes. He might even take over an introductory command course. It will teach him some patience and help fill in the gaps in the staff.”
“And give us all time to observe Kirk in a leadership role,” Lui added.
Richard leaned back in his chair and let it sway back and forth while he considered the options proposed. “We’ll need to prioritize the after-action process – not just reports and debriefing, but the psychological assessments.”
Terral nodded. “It is vital such things do not fall by the wayside due to the restructuring needed to maintain Starfleet under these circumstances.”
“Both medical and psychological services will be strained by the influx, but it’s easier to see a need for a doctor as opposed to a therapist. We need to make sure all the survivors make full use of those services in addition to required evaluations.” Elun pressed her lips together, tightly. “This was a heavy combat mission for first a first assignment.”
“The fate of Vulcan is still a question, unfortunately.” Chandra tipped nir head in Terral’s direction. Terral folded his hands and nodded. “If the planet can’t be stabilized, we’ll be looking at a full evacuation and relocation on a planetary scale. It will require all our resources.”
“That is true, but it is illogical to ‘borrow trouble’ as you might say,” Terral said. “There is hope Vulcan will stabilize or be stabilized and, while we should prepare for all eventualities, we can only influence what has happened, not what might.”
“Agreed,” Richard said, ready to end the meeting. He had what he needed to make a recommendation to Archer and the Federation Council, and the Admiralty had gotten the break they needed. It was time to get back to work, repairing their damaged fleet. “We’ll make contingencies — the Council is already freeing up resources and personnel — but we have to focus on covering our own mandate. Protecting the Federation, with all resources available. Now we need to get our people home.”
His PADD chimed again, a perfect reminder of the rest of the world. Richard stood and everyone else followed him to their feet. He met each of their gazes, seeing resolution and determination on each face, no matter how difficult the personalities or contentious the relationships between them. “We have work to do, people. The next few months and years will be long and hard.”
Shukar snorted. “Good thing no one joins Starfleet for an easy life, then.”