I suppose you could say that this story was Captain Sulu when Captain Sulu wasn’t cool. I wrote this right after Star Trek III. At that point, none of us knew that Star Trek IV would sentence Kirk’s officers to stagnation hell. (Sure, the ending was heartwarming, but would fifty-year-olds REALLY want to do the same jobs they did when they were twenty?)
At that time, it was assumed, it having been written into the shooting script of Star Trek II, that Sulu would be commanding the Excelsior immediately, not eight years later as actually happened. Well, I figured you didn’t just walk into command of such a big ship, Sulu must have commanded another vessel pre-Trek II. Knowing that Sulu wanted to be on border patrol (yes, I take The Entropy Effect as Sulu gospel), I thought it made sense that his first command would be a border patrol ship.
I gave him an all-new crew (except for Mr. Hadley, the silent bridge officer from Classic Trek, and Terry Metcalfe, whom I’d created earlier), and named his ship the Phoenix. (No, I didn’t know that would be the name of the first warp-drive ship. Phoenix was my then-still-dead favorite X-man.)
Re-reading this story after all these years, I realize it breaks a lot of the rules of plotting I now follow, and that its plot is very similar to the TNG episode “The Defector.” (I wrote this first, of course.) Still, I think there’s a lot to enjoy within. And yes, Arbiter Chronicles fans will recognize that this marks the first major appearance of Kevin Carson and a Vulcan with the somewhat-familiar name of “Sernak,” as well as the first appearances of Kayan’na Atal, Aer’La and Dr. Celia Faulkner. They may have been born in Starfleet garb, but they’re all mine. And boy, does this one beat them all with my favorite storytelling device: what we now lovingly call “the dreaded Angst Stick ™.”
Originally published in Destiny’s Children #1