Still angry and dismayed over the mutinous behavior of his two officers and the on-going mystery of the ship’s malfunctioning computer, Jim Kirk came out of the turbo lift, pushing at the edge of the door with his left hand in an impatient gesture.
He approached Uhura’s station. “Have you raised the Excelsior, Commander?”
“No sir,” Uhura said apologetically, “I’m afraid I haven’t.”
That wasn’t the answer he had expected. “What?”
“I’ve tried, but there’s no response.” She shook her head, aggravated. “I don’t understand it.”
Kirk chewed thoughtfully on his lip. Could the Excelsior have been attacked or damaged? Unlikely. Sulu was an experienced combat officer, and his ship was the state of the art in Fleet technology. She could practically fight her battles without a crew.
“Is the system working?” he asked.
“I’ve checked and double-checked it, sir,” Uhura said with a shrug. “There’s nothing wrong with it that can be seen without taking the whole board apart.” She looked at him for a long moment. “You don’t suppose something’s happened to them, do you?”
There was evident concern in her eyes. “Let’s concentrate on finding the problem on our end,” he said gently. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
She smiled. “Aye, sir.”
“Ah, Uhura,” he said hesitantly as she turned back to her board. “Can you contact Starfleet?”
He nodded. “Let them know we’ve lost contact with Excelsior—just in case.” Of course, even if something was wrong, that was a fairly useless gesture. Starfleet wouldn’t receive their subspace message for another day. “And give the system a thorough check.
“If you have to take the whole thing apart… ” he sighed. “Do it. I’ll be in sickbay.
You have the con.”
Jim cursed silently to himself as he entered the turbo lift. The Excelsior—failure to respond meant not only the inconvenience of tearing the ship’s comm system, and thus crippling communications for most of a day, it also meant that Kirk would not be able to get information from Hikaru—he would have to try McCoy. Only Bones had any idea what was going on in Saavik’s head right now, but he had politely refused to discuss any of the details of their visit to the Guardian on the grounds of Doctor-Patient confidentiality.
As he entered sickbay, he found it nearly empty. It was a slow day for illness, apparently. Chris Chapel tended to one unfortunate tech from engineering who was holding his arm out for her to run a scanner over. He was young, one of the new ones. Jim guessed he had taken a fall from one of the catwalks in the engine room. At least one did every year.
Chris smiled at him as he went past. He mustered his best attempt at a cheerful greeting but knew it came off sounding distant. “If you’re looking for Leonard,” she said helpfully, “he’s in his office studying some journals.” She grinned, trying, he could tell, to cheer him up. “I wish the whole trip could be like the first week,” she added as she put down her scanner and led her patient out of the room to set his arm.
Kirk chuckled and went on through to McCoy’s office. Bones was indeed bent over his viewer studying a Fleet journal. He’d probably complain about the interruption anyway. It wasn’t often that he got to catch up on such mundane matters.
He snapped the viewer off. “What’s up, Jim?” Strange, no complaints. He was even smiling.
“Plenty. Mutiny, forgery, a few other assorted violations of Fleet regs—”
McCoy came around the desk. “What? Jim what the devil are you talking about?”
“Saavik,” he replied quietly. He saw McCoy flinch just a little. “Bones, what did happen on the Time Planet?”
McCoy shook his head slightly. “I told you, Jim. We—”
“Bones!” he said loudly, allowing his irritation to filter out through his voice. He softened and began again. “Bones, it’s important. Saavik’s taken an emergency leave and—”
“I know, I advised that.”
“Did you also advise her to take it on the Time Planet?”
McCoy’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“That’s where she would appear to be headed. Now, tell me everything that happened when you were there with her.”
“We—we just watched her past—her meeting with Spock on Hellguard, her time at the academy, and… Spock’s death. She wanted to see how it happened. I guess she felt guilty that she wasn’t at his side when it happened. Vulcans are peculiar about that, for some reason.”
“Sorry, Bones. I don’t buy it.”
McCoy bristled. “Well, then, tell me your diagnosis, Doctor Kirk.”
“Bones, why would she wait so long to react to Spock’s death? When we were mind-linked—”
“Maybe that has something to do with it,” McCoy said.
“The mind meld. When she entered your mind, maybe she found some consolation after losing Spock. Maybe joining with you helped her control her grief—the way Vulcans join with their families after a bond mate is lost.”
“Do you believe that?” Jim asked skeptically.
“I think it’s feasible.”
“Then you’ve been played for a fool, Bones. ‘ Saavik didn’t take a personal leave; she had herself transferred to Excelsior. She gave Sulu forged orders to take her to the Time Planet—orders allegedly cleared by me.”
“Saavik?” McCoy asked, disbelieving. “Jim, she’s a Vulcan. She wouldn’t—”
“Oh, she didn’t do it alone. Lt. Metcalfe helped.”
“Terry? Jim, there has to be an explanation. Kids like that don’t just-“
“Well, they did, Doctor,” Kirk cut him off sharply. “No one—least of all a Vulcan—goes off to a restricted planet for a memorial. How did she even find out about the Time Planet?”
“Maybe Spock told her.”
“Why?” Jim demanded. “Why would Spock tell her about the most secretive planet in Federation space?”
“How the hell should I know?” McCoy responded, angrily. “I never understood that pointed-eared hobgoblin!”
Jim was taken aback. Even Bones had not spoken so of Spock since he had died. It was damn cruel to talk that way about a friend who was dead. He decided not to notice it. There was no point in getting angry at him. “She’s up to something, and I’m going to find out what it is.”
“You gonna follow them?”
“I don’t have much choice. I’ll have to go through Harry Morrow again and get permission, but I will find out!”
Kirk strode out of the office without looking back. He didn’t see the look of worry that came over McCoy’s face.
* * *
McCoy had quickly excused himself from sickbay, asking Christine to take over for a few minutes. She had no objections, of course, and wouldn’t have had there been any patients today. Now he was in his quarters waiting for the channel he had requested to be opened.
Fortunately, M’saar, Uhura’s young Caitian second, had been on duty. McCoy didn’t particularly want to explain to the ship’s first officer why he was placing a secret call to Starfleet Command. The girl had received an order from a respected senior officer and quickly obeyed, no questions asked. With any luck, she would forget the entire incident.
The small screen at his desk flared suddenly to life, and, after a moment of static, Starfleet Commander Morrow appeared. He smiled one of his smiles generally reserved for visiting dignitaries. “Hello, Doctor. To what do I owe the honor of your call?”
“I—I guess it’s a sort of warning, sir.”
“Warning?” Morrow became suddenly interested.
“Yes, Admiral.” How, exactly, did he explain this? “Ah, you’ll be receiving another call soon. Jim—Admiral Kirk—wants permission to return to the Time Planet—”
“Doctor,” Morrow said with growing suspicion. “If this is a call from the ship’s surgeon, trying to make a sympathy plea for the captain—”
“No, sir,” McCoy assured him.
“The Time Planet is a very sensitive world. I can’t just have officers flitting in and out at their every whim—not even Jim Kirk.”
“I realize that, sir,” McCoy said. “And that’s exactly why I’m calling. You see, it’s my recommendation that you do not let Admiral Kirk take this ship back under any circumstances.”
Morrow sat back and considered that for a moment. He obviously couldn’t believe that McCoy would be actually opposing Jim Kirk on something—especially to Starfleet Command. McCoy wasn’t sure he believed it himself. “I don’t think I understand, Doctor. I thought Jim requested permission the first time on your recommendation—for Lt. Saavik’s benefit.”
“Not quite, sir,” McCoy lied. “You see, it was my recommendation, but it wasn’t for Saavik’s sake. Oh, that’s what Jim says, and we don’t deny it, but I really thought we should go there for his benefit. Spock’s death was hard on him—”
Morrow nodded fervently·. “And you thought that the trip would help matters?”
“Yes, sir, I did. But I’m afraid I was wrong. Our first visit only compounded the problem. Jim’s becoming obsessed now with the Guardian.”
Sudden horror came to Morrow’s face as he realized the implications of what McCoy was telling him. “Doctor, do you think he might actually use the Guardian to try and change what happened?”
Oh, hell! Here’s hoping you’re a damn good liar, Leonard. You might never forgive yourself for what you’re saying; and Jim won’t either, if he finds out. “I—I’d like to think not. Jim Kirk’s never been that kind of man; but it is Spock. Jim’s behavior has been deteriorating, and I’m worried about him. I don’t know if I’d put anything past him in the state he’s in.”
Morrow nodded again, understanding. “I’ll get in touch with the Chief Psychiatrist’s office and make the preparations, then.”
McCoy went cold all over. He could feel the blood draining from his face as he asked, “Sir?”
“Well, from what you’ve told me, he’ll certainly be requiring observation, won’t he?” Morrow said.
“Actually, Admiral,” McCoy said, hoping to keep the tremor out of his voice, “I’d, uh, like to keep him here for a while. I am something of an expert in psychology—”
“I realize that, Doctor, but—”
“And I do know Jim better than any doctor at headquarters,” he pointed out urgently. He had to talk his way out of this one!
Morrow sighed. “All right, Dr. McCoy; but if the condition worsens, contact me immediately and I’ll make the preparations.”
“I’ll… do that, sir,” McCoy said quietly, reaching for the control to the viewer.
“Before you go, Doctor,” Morrow said, bringing l:fcCoy’s attention back to him, “what reason is Jim planning to give for going to the Time Planet? Isn’t Lt. Saavik on leave?”
“Yes, sir, she is. Jim authorized her to take a month off duty. He even authorized an officer to go with her and keep an eye on her.” McCoy stopped to build up his courage for yet another lie. His conscience nagged him. Traitor! Do you know what you’re doing? “But now-“
“Uh,” McCoy stammered. “He denies giving the orders. He insists that they were forged, and that Lt. Saavik is trying to return to the Time Planet herself.”
“Do you suppose,” the Admiral wondered out loud, “that he gave those orders merely so he would have an excuse to return to the Time Planet?”
That was going too far. He had already accused Kirk of being mentally unstable, of displaying obsessive behavior, but of out and out conspiracy? No, he couldn’t bring himself to say that. “Uh, sir, I… “
“I’m sorry, Doctor,” Morrow said, sensing his discomfort. “I realize that it can’t be easy for you to do this.”
“No, sir,” McCoy said meaningfully. “It’s not.”
“All right, I won’t grill you anymore. Just keep an eye on him for me and I’ll handle the rest.”
Morrow’s face flashed off the screen. McCoy stood, walked to his shelf, and poured himself a large glass of Kentucky bourbon.
* * *
Jim Kirk had gone to his quarters for lack of anywhere better to go. Uhura was systematically dissecting the communications equipment, and Chekov was minding the bridge. Kirk himself was not feeling particularly useful right now. None of his officers, after all, seemed to be very much under his control. He felt as if there was something going on that everyone knew about but him.
You’re paranoid, Jim.
His intercom signal went off, and he pulled himself out of the lounge chair to answer it. “Kirk here.”
Uhura appeared, dressed in grey work fatigues and looking particularly haggard. Her hair was tied back behind her head with a cloth, and for once she wore no earrings, but she displayed an air of triumph as she held a tiny, silver cylinder up for him to see, “I found our problem, sir.”
“A jamming device?”
She nodded. “I had to tear out half the comm system, but I found it. It was planted on the transmission unit.”
“How did we manage to contact Starfleet?” Kirk asked. “Shouldn’t it have prevented all communications?”
“No, sir,” she explained, “it’s keyed specifically to the Excelsior’s call-code. Any other transmissions go right through, but this thing swallows all signals intended for Excelsior.”
Kirk grimaced appreciatively. “That’s a nice trick. Any idea who put it there?”
Uhura shook her head. “One thing’s for sure, Terry and Saavik neither one has the skill to build something like this. Someone else built it for them, obviously, so that you couldn’t get through to Sulu and slow their progress to the Time Planet.”
“Let’s hope we beat them. How soon can you put me through to Sulu?”
Her expression was not encouraging. “I don’t know, Admiral. It’ll take my staff half the day to put the system back together.”
Damn! “All right, get them to it. And then assemble the senior officers in the main briefing room. I’ll be there shortly.”
“They’ll be there, sir,” Uhura said tiredly and broke the channel. Jim left the intercom and began to pace the room, gathering his thoughts before he faced his officers. He couldn’t keep what Uhura had told him from his mind: “Terry and Saavik neither one have the skill… ” They hadn’t done it alone.
Somewhere aboard ship, one more officer or crewman had joined in the conspiracy.
Who? And Why? Obviously, it had to be someone with technical skill in communications and subspace broadcasting equipment. Uhura, of course, had the capability, as did her staff, Scotty… perhaps Chekov and… Angela Teller, the ship’s science officer.
Kirk wasn’t familiar with the backgrounds of the communications staff—there were a handful of them capable of pulling this stunt off—but neither did he think Terry or Saavik had any contacts among them. Scotty, he just couldn’t picture being talked into it, nor Uhura. Chekov? He’d liked to have thought not; but Angela… Angela was quite fond of Terry. That was well known among the crew. The young helmsman and the older science officer had been quite an item before the ship’s last stopover.
Of course, Angela Teller had been on the ship for many years—longer than Pavel Chekov. Kirk didn’t like to think of her as being an accessory to mutiny anymore than he liked to think of any of the rest of his crew being so; but someone was an accessory. Kirk intended to find out who.
* * *
They were all assembled when he arrived—Uhura and Chekov flanking his seat at the head of the table, McCoy, Scotty, Chapel, and Teller. All looked bewilderedly at him as he entered the room, waiting to be given a reason for the sudden staff meeting.
As pleasantly as he could, considering the anger building itself up in his system, Kirk smiled at all of them and took his seat. “Thank you for reporting so promptly. I know you all have questions—and believe me, once this meeting is over, you’ll have even more—so let me get right to the point. At the beginning of this mission, immediately preceding our departure from Earth, both Lt. Saavik and Lt. Metcalfe requested that I grant them personal leaves. The requests, although both suitably mysterious, were made separately, and I saw no cause to make a connection between them.
“I granted each of them thirty days leave, no questions asked. I thought little more of the matter until Commander Uhura noticed in the ship’s log banks that neither Saavik nor Metcalfe had filed leave itineraries. Instead, she found two sets of orders—allegedly issued by me—instructing Captain Sulu to allow them to board Excelsior and to give them one-way passage to the Time Planet on the assurance that we would be arriving there at a later date.”
He stopped and surveyed the faces around him, looking for any traces of feelings that might resemble guilt. Uhura was neutral—she already knew this—Chekov, Scotty and Chapel looked shocked, and Angela Teller was giving every indication of being on the verge of tears.
“They forged the orders?” asked Christine, disbelieving.
She was genuinely shocked. She wasn’t a suspect anyway, because she lacked the technical skill; but her reaction to the news removed any doubts that Kirk might have had about Christine having any information. Saavik, despite their almost mother-daughter relationship, had told her nothing of her plans. “They were forged,” he confirmed with a nod. “And whoever did it did a beautiful job.”
Uhura nodded. “Terry would have done a beautiful job.”
“That’s exactly why I called this meeting, Uhura,” Kirk said. “I want all of your thoughts, observations, or speculations in this matter. I must admit that I’m at a loss to understand why two of our best officers took off with forged orders for a planet strictly forbidden to them. Did any of you notice anything odd about their behavior or overhear either of them say anything which might supply a rationale?”
Angela’s head dropped, and she appeared to be squirming a bit. Guilt? “Ms. Teller?” he asked. “Did you have something to say?”
The woman looked up and faced him. There was no guilt in her eyes, but pain. Pain? “Terry—Lt. Metcalfe—spoke to me before he left; but only for a few minutes. He told me… ” she stopped, blushing. “He told me that he’d been ordered to act as a pilot for some secret mission, said they wanted an experienced pilot. He said they’d be back in a few weeks and everything would be fine.” She hung her head again, too embarrassed at having been the victim of a lie to face the rest of them.
“Not a bed story,” Chekov observed with a humorless grin.
“No,” Kirk admitted. To Angela he said, “you had no way of knowing it wasn’t true, Commander. “
Angela nodded vaguely, but did not look up. No, Kirk thought, she can’t be the one. The whole hoax now seemed doubly cruel. Terry and Saavik had betrayed not only their commanding officer, but also the people they were closest to. Terry had come right out and lied. Why?
“Anyone else have anything to add? Think, please. Anything you talked about with one of them or noticed about them might be important.”
Christine Chapel said, as if betraying a deep confidence, “I did give Saavik another psych exam after our first visit to the Time Planet.”
“And?” Kirk asked. She seemed hesitant to say what she had found. Was Saavik unstable? Insane? Had Bones been right about her heightened reaction to Spock’s death?
After an uncomfortable moment, she said quietly, “Nothing. She was perfectly healthy. Whatever caused her to do this, it had nothing to do with insanity.”
With just a touch of sarcasm, Kirk said, “Dr. McCoy didn’t seem to agree with you earlier, Dr. Chapel.”
McCoy looked at him sharply, anger sparkling faintly in his eyes. “I wasn’t aware of the results of the exam, Admiral. I was merely speculating earlier about the cause of Saavik’s actions.”
Mildly ashamed of himself, Kirk said apologetically, “Of course, Doctor. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.” Bones, after all, was the last one who would be involved in this scheme. He had no reason to be angry at him, and no excuse to let his anger and dismay over Terry and Saavik be taken out on others.
“All right,” he went on. “We know more, but we don’t know enough. If Saavik was in her right mind, and we’ll assume Metcalfe was as well, what made them take off this way? What do they hope to accomplish on the Time Planet in a second visit that they couldn’t accomplish before? And who,” he stopped, looking again at all around him as he asked, “who on board the Enterprise helped them?”
An immediate chorus of gasps and shocked questions sprang up. Kirk waited a moment for the others to be silent, and then gestured to Uhura. “Commander, would you explain?”
Uhura, who had been slumping a bit in her chair, sat up and pulled out the tiny jamming device. “I found this,” she explained, “in our transmissions unit. It’s a jamming device keyed specifically to block out all communications with the Excelsior.”
“Sabotage,” Kirk said. “A deliberate attempt to keep us from stopping Saavik and Metcalfe from reaching their destination. And it looks as if it’ll work. The comm system won’t be ready to go again for another several hours.” Having made his point, he turned again to Uhura. “Commander, didn’t you tell me, in effect, that Metcalfe and Saavik couldn’t have planted that device themselves?”
“Yes, sir,” she affirmed hesitantly.
“And who, in your opinion, would be capable of building and installing such a device?”
She fidgeted in her seat. “Some of my staff, myself… ” she stopped to look at the others. “And… Mr. Scott, Pavel and Angela.” She almost whispered the last name. Apparently, she had seen already that the evidence was stacked against the science officer.
On Pavel Chekov’s face, the shock was growing rapidly. “Then, someone on the Enterprise—”
“Is responsible for sabotaging the comm system,” Kirk finished for him. “And it would seem to be one of the people that Commander Uhura just mentioned.” He faced them, his jaw set firm. “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to know who that one is.”
“Edmiral,” Chekov asked, “Eesn’t it posseble thet it was someone else? Among the entire crew, there must be a few who just heppen to know how to work with the comm seestem.”
Kirk knew it was possible. His crew included representatives from many different worlds. It was possible that some of them—apart from those mentioned—were familiar with the components. Perhaps a few were even native to the world on which the components were assembled. “Yes, Mr. Chekov, it’s possible, but I’d like to keep our number of suspects small for just a moment. If Saavik and Metcalfe were to get one of the crew to help them with this—whatever you call their little scheme—who would they be most likely to get?”
Chris Chapel nodded knowingly. “Someone they knew—someone they trusted.”
“Yes,” Kirk agreed. “Mr. Scott, Ms. Uhura, Mr. Chekov, and Ms. Teller are the most likely suspects, therefore,” he noticed that each of their faces tightened, “because they are the ones who both possess the ability and are close enough to Metcalfe and Saavik to assist them.”
“To commit mutiny for them,” Bones corrected in a dry voice.
“Yes,” Kirk admitted quietly. “I’m sorry to have to say this, but you all must realize that you are the most likely suspects.”
There were brief nods all about the room. and Angela’s eyes brimmed with tears.
Noticing her, McCoy asked somewhat viciously, “Do you intend to hold a trial here, Jim?”
“No, Bones,” he said apologetically. “I only held this meeting for input—to see what thoughts the rest of you might have, and let you know that someone aboard is—”
“A traitor?” Scotty asked in an odd tone. It must have really hurt him to think that one of his fellow officers could do such a thing as this. Of course, it could even be him who had done it… No use thinking about it, Kirk told himself. We’ll know soon enough.
“If you like, Mr. Scott,” Kirk said. “At any rate, we’ll be setting out to follow our prodigal officers, and I’m sure when we find them, we’ll find answers. This briefing is over. If any of you would like to speak. to me privately,” he added, in the vain hope of inspiring confession, “I’ll be in my quarters all evening.” He left them with that and went to call Harry Morrow. He wondered how he’d react when Kirk asked him for permission to go to the Time Planet again.
* * *
The senior officers were evacuating the briefing room with all possible speed, trying to put as much distance as they could between themselves and the ugliness of the meeting. Uhura had felt sick at first—sick at the thought that Terry and Saavik, the eager young officers whose cadet cruises she’d overseen, whose graduations she’d attended, could possibly be committing mutiny.
Now she felt nothing. After hours of wondering what could possibly make them do this, she had gone numb. And now to discover that someone had helped them, probably one of the officers in that very room not five minutes ago… Was this what it was like to be the ship’s first officer? To forget how to feel? Was that what had made Spock so uniquely qualified? Indeed, she didn’t feel very human right now.
She knew that she needed to relax, and she saw Pavel and Scotty walking just a bit ahead of her, speaking quietly. She ran to catch them. “Rough briefing,” she observed.
Chekov merely nodded and grimaced. Scotty, however, looked… what? Uncomfortable?
Of course, they all felt a little funny right now. He sighed heavily and said, “Aye.”
“I think I could use a drink,” she said. “Would the two of you care to join me?”
“Thet’s a good idea,” Pavel responded with enthusiasm.
“Uh, the engines need—”
“Come on, Scotty,” she said, taking his arm firmly, “it’ll be good for you to relax.”
He seemed singularly unwilling to come along. He tried to manage a joke. “I can relax wi’ me engines, lassie,” he said, but it fell flat. His usual humor was gone.
Was there something more than simple shock over the briefing, was something else troubling him? Did he… could he know something that she didn’t?
Uhura said, “Just for a few minutes?” and he consented silently. They finished the walk to her quarters quietly. Scotty, especially, didn’t lighten up; he even refused to sit when they went inside, preferring to stand and gaze at the wall as she poured a brandy, a vodka, and a scotch.
As she handed the drinks out, she noticed that Scotty didn’t even indulge in his customary jab at Pavel’s alcoholic preferences. That was not an opportunity he often passed up, and it usually annoyed her. Now she missed it.
Trying to make conversation, she said, “Poor Jim. This is breaking his heart. I can’t believe it’s happening.”
“No,” agreed Pavel, “neither do I. They never seemed the type to me.”
“What type is thot, lad?” Scotty asked with a trace of bitterness in his voice.
Chekov shrugged. “I just meant… I don’t know vhat I meant. It’s just a shock, that’s all.”
“Aye,” agreed Scotty, “i’s thot all right.”
Uhura couldn’t help wondering about Scotty’s graveness. Even Pavel wasn’t taking it this hard. And she couldn’t help that feeling that Scotty knew something, either. Surely he wasn’t… he wouldn’t be the one… not Scotty! No, she was ashamed of herself for thinking such a thing. “
“Tell me, Scotty, who do you think planted the jammer?”
He looked up from his glass for a moment, his face a picture of anger and resentment.
The picture quickly faded, and his face was blank. But what the hell… ?
“I wouldna know, Lass.”
“Don’t you have a guess?”
Scotty set the glass down on her desk, and it made a hard, knocking sound. She thought it might break. “Do ye get some pleasure outta th’idea thot one o’ us might be a traitor?”
His accusing tone stunned her. “No, Scotty, but it’s part of my job to know what’s going on among the crew—especially if it’s something that might endanger the ship.”
“Did ye ever consider thot it might not be endangerin’ th’ship?” he demanded. “Maybe there’s a reason for—”
“Do you know of one?” she asked immediately.
He suddenly looked drained, his expression one of sadness and pain. “No, I don’t. I was merely suggestin’ thot maybe the bairns have a reason f’r what they’re doin’. They’re vera good officers.”
“Do you approve?”
“Nay, Uhura, I dinna approve. I’m jus’ tryin’ t’keep an open mind.”
“Scotty, we’re talking about a crime. I know we don’t want to believe it, but—”
“Nay,” he interrupted, “I dinna want to believe it. In fact,” he said, picking up his drink from the desk and handing it to her, “I’d rather not even discuss it. I have me engines to attend to.”
As he left, Uhura stood, shocked, holding his drink with her mouth hanging open absurdly. What had made him act this way? Scotty had his moods, but he was rarely so temperamental with her.
After a moment, she became aware of Pavel watching her, studying her. She turned to him. “Did you have to be so hard on him?” he asked. “He doesn’t like this situation either.”
Oh, no. Was Pavel about to turn on her too? “I’m just trying to find out what I can.”
“Et any cost?”
“What?” she asked, wondering what this was leading up to.
“You could see this was upsetting him,” Pavel said accusingly. “Did you hev to keep pushing?”
“You heard Jim,” Uhura said, and she realized that she did so somewhat defensively.
“We’re all suspects. It’s my job—”
“Yeah,” he observed bitterly. “It’s your job. I’m not sure I like your job or what it’s doing to you. You”ve changed.”
Changed? Well, maybe she had. “I’ve never been a first officer before.”
“And you hev never treated your friends that way before, either!”
“And you could handle this better?” Uhura demanded in anger.
Pavel shook his head, his voice was gentle now. “I don’t know. Just… do yourself a favor—slow down. We’re still friends, no metter what our ranks. You can be an officer and still be a human being.”
With irony, Uhura realized that the tables were now turned. Weeks ago, she had forced Pavel to pick himself up out of his depression and do his job. Now, he was returning the favor. Where he had given in to his guilt to the point that he had failed to relate to the outside world, she had now become so dedicated that she was alienating her friends… the greatest danger of power, of command.
She nodded, his gentility had calmed her. She knew he wouldn’t say these things merely to antagonize her. She herself had noticed her reduced capacity to feel. Yes, perhaps she was driving herself—and everybody else—too hard. Perhaps she had asked too many questions.
And yet she couldn’t keep Scotty’s strange behavior out of her mind.
* * *
“Hello, Christine. I am sorry to have to communicate with you in this way, but I assure you that it is necessary.” Saavik’s image on the screen sat straight in her chair as she spoke. “Terry and I have a task to perform. I cannot explain its nature to you, for to do so would endanger its success. You probably know already, however, that both of us have not taken leave on Earth, but have set out for the Time Planet.”
Christine hadn’t known where the tape had come from. When they had returned from the briefing, there it had been on her desk. She knew it hadn’t been there before, and had inserted it in the viewer out of curiosity. When Saavik’s image had first appeared, she had been shocked, as she had been when the computer had informed her that the tape was privacy-locked to her voice print alone. Vulcans didn’t use privacy locks—usually.
As the tape played on, she prayed that Saavik would explain something of this mission to her, give her some reason why she had left so abruptly. Without knowing it, she had developed a deep attachment to the young woman; and Saavik’s sudden disappearance had hurt her. What could possibly have been wrong that Saavik would not have felt free to speak of?
“I will not lie to you, there is no point in doing so,” the image went on. “The orders we are carrying have been forged. Captain Sulu will, we hope, accept them without question and take us to our destination. We have taken every precaution, as you will discover, to see to it that Captain Sulu and Admiral Kirk cannot contact each other until we are already at the Guardian of Forever.” She stopped, looking down for a moment, as if speaking directly into the tape was painful.
“I realize that we have committed several serious crimes in the process of carrying out our mission. I realize, also, that I have committed a breach of Human etiquette by not informing you of my departure beforehand. I suppose I… hurt your feelings. For both of these I apologize. If I ever have the opportunity, I will explain to you—and everyone else. But, in the meantime, I must ask one thing of you: Do not tell Admiral Kirk—or Commander Uhura—that you have seen this tape. For the safety of my mission, and the safety of himself, the Admiral must never know what Terry and I have done or why we have done it.”
Saavik looked straight at her now. Christine felt as if she were listening to the actual woman and not her taped image. “Please, Christine, do this for me. Please… trust me, if that is not impossible. I realize that you must be mystified and hurt by my behavior, but… try to understand that I would explain if it were possible. I am… grateful for your friendship. I have heard it said that friendship is the only possession of any true value. I believe,” she said, looking away from the monitor again, her face turning just a little darker, “I believe that it is true. Of the few possessions I have, your friendship is one of my most valued. If,” she said slowly, “if we… do not see each other again… I will always remember you, my friend.”
As the tape went dark, Christine did not move. What had Saavik meant, “if we do not see each other again?” Was this mission that dangerous that she did not expect to come back from it? It didn’t sound that way, but then, Saavik was a Vulcan. Why wouldn’t they see each other again?
When Spock had died, Christine had not been sure how she felt. It had happened so suddenly, there hadn’t been time for anything but shock, and then grief, grief for a lost friend whom she had once believed she had loved.
When Roger Corby, her fiancé, had died, she had been so drained of emotion that she had been unable to feel anything. For years, she had believed him dead anyway. Once she had found him still alive and then witnessed his death inside the body of a machine, there had been no grief left within her.
But now, there was time; and now, she had room for grief. For the first time in as long as she could remember, Chris Chapel was afraid. In fact, she was terrified—terrified that she might lose someone else she cared for, someone else she loved. This time, she could feel.
And this time, she didn’t know if she could take it.
* * *
Harry Morrow shook his head. “Jim, it seems to me that enough trips have been made to the Time Planet.”
Kirk was surprised by his tone. He sounded as if this were a trivial request being made by a five-year-old. It almost seemed that he hadn’t heard—or hadn’t believed—a word Kirk had told him. “Harry, two of my officers have abandoned my ship and run off on some sort of errand to the Time Planet. They’re carrying forged orders, they sabotaged my comm system—”
But Morrow only shook his head again. “I’m sorry, Jim. I understand that things aren’t easy for you, but you’ve got to adjust. You’ve got to face reality. You can’t live in the past.”
What the hell was he talking about? Living in the past? Adjust to what? “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Kirk insisted.
Morrow looked as if he didn’t know whether to be sad or angry. He settled for a little bit of both. “Jim, please don’t make this any harder. Try to forget; it’s for the best.”
Confused and angry, Kirk demanded, “Goddammit, Harry! What the hell are you talking about?”
Sternly, the Admiral said, “There will be no further discussion of this, Admiral Kirk! Starfleet out.” The channel broke. The screen died.
For several moments, Kirk continued to stare at it in dismay. He wasn’t sure exactly what he had just heard. It had sounded as if he and Morrow were having two separate conversations. Most upsetting, perhaps, was the way Morrow just seemed to ignore what he had told him about Saavik and Metcalfe. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the commanding Admiral simply didn’t believe him but hadn’t the heart to call him a liar.
Why wouldn’t Harry believe him? What was going through his head? Kirk had given him no reason to—No! He suddenly realized what must be going on. He. might not have given Morrow any reason to suspect his behavior, but someone else might have. He now understood the meaning of all those remarks about adjusting and living in the past.
Someone had fed Morrow a story about Kirk’s own inability to deal with Spock’s death. Morrow obviously believed that Kirk would sooner or later use the Guardian to change what had happened. But who could have handed out such a story? Morrow wouldn’t have listened to Saavik or Metcalfe, but the other suspects in this case—Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, Teller—all were senior officers. Morrow might listen to any one of them if they told him that their commander was going over the edge. And whoever had planted that story was almost certainly the one who had planted the jammer, as well.
Whoever that one was had used one of the cruelest ploys imaginable to see to it that Saavik and Metcalfe were successful in their conspiracy against—against who? Kirk? The Federation? Whoever their plot was directed at, Kirk would stop it. And whoever had helped them, he would see to it that they didn’t spend another day aboard the Enterprise.
It didn’t occur to me then how silly it would be for the First Officer to work the comms board, head of that department or no. Spock could double as science officer probably because of his amazing ability to focus and compartmentalize, but how does one take the ship’s conn and also cover the phones? Or take a complex comms system apart?
Oh, right. Chekov’s minding the bridge. Still, it’s an odd job for Uhura. I guess I was thinking she was the best at the job.
“Her hair was tied back behind her head with a cloth.” I’m trying to decide where I got that image. I have not seen anyone do that in years, except maybe men who wear “do rags.” I think Jamie Sommers used to tie her hair with a kerchief when she did housework. That must be where I got it. And, of course, when I was growing up, nearly every woman wrapped her hair with a scarf on windy or rainy days.
It’s kind of sad to me know to see how I just assumed Uhura and Chekov would step up and be shown as senior officers, calling Kirk “Jim,” wrestling with the burdens of command, as Trek moved forward. It was never to be in the movies.
I put a lot of time into exploring the feelings of characters who were soon to cease to exist. By modern standards, I guess that seems wasteful. But I grew up reading Marvel’s What If? series, which told some very touching stories about characters who weren’t as “real” as the characters in the regular series.
“Whoever their plot was directed at.” Ouch!