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The Last Star Trek: Chapter Eight - The Mission

After the former crew members of the Starship Enterprise have assembled at Star Fleet HQ in San Francisco, Admiral James T Kirk tells them of a thrilling new mission to the far side of the galaxy. Brian William Neal's great new Star Trek adventure is about to enter unexplored regions.

“I suppose you’re all wondering why I asked you here today.”

Admiral James T. Kirk smiled as he delivered the hackneyed line, as did most of the people present. They were in a small conference room in the bowels of Star Fleet HQ in San Francisco that had been allocated for their use as a briefing room while they were there. As well as Kirk, also present were all of his old crew; McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and, of course, Spock. The Vulcan had traveled to earth with Kirk following his mother’s funeral; now, they were all together for the first time in more than three years.

McCoy was the first to answer Kirk’s rhetorical query. “As a matter of fact, Jim, we were getting kind of curious. You were somewhat vague on the ’phone, you know. As usual, you gave us just enough to whet our appetites. Now how about telling us what this is all about?”

The others made varying noises of agreement.

“Aye, Admiral,” said Scotty, “I reckon it’s about time ye put us in the picture, so to speak.”

“Yes, Edmiral,” said Chekov, his Russian accent still thick after more than twenty-five years of living and working amongst non-Russians. He turned to include Sulu in his comments. “We both have our own wessels waiting for us.”

Uhura and the Asian said nothing, but indicated accord while Spock sat impassively, and Kirk held up his hands while nodding in agreement. “OK, OK, I’m coming to it. Remember, I haven’t had the full story myself for very long.” He turned to indicate a large screen behind him, on which was displayed a simplified diagram of their galaxy. On it were highlighted several points they all knew well; Earth, Vulcan, Kronos, the Romulan world, the Neutral Zone, the Great Barrier at the center of the galaxy, as well as several other well-known places. The people in the room had been among the first to visit many of the places marked on the map during the years they had served aboard the Enterprise.

Kirk lifted a small light pointer and indicated these and a few other locations on the map. The others sat in a rough semi-circle before him; as always, he had their full attention.

“As you all know,” he said, “even though we have been exploring our galaxy for about two hundred and fifty years, we’ve only covered a very small part of its total area. The people of Vulcan and Kronos, as well as the Romulans, have been doing it for a lot longer than we have, but still they haven’t charted much more than us. Our little trip to the Galactic center in search of the mythical planet Shaka-Ri is still the furthest any ship has gone. And, looking at the galaxy from our particular perspective, we have confined our activities to this quadrant of the galactic spiral. Given that the galaxy is about one hundred thousand light years along its longest axis, we would seem to have a long way to go.”

Kirk looked around the room at his friends. “Until now,” he continued, “no one has known even if there is anything, any life, on the far side of the galaxy, beyond the Great Barrier and the star cluster at the galaxy’s center.” He paused to allow his words to sink in. “Until now.”

Kirk indicated the screen again, which now showed an image of a dark, strange looking ship, bristling with spikes and weapons ports.

“This is the Klingon long-range vessel Zark’ul, which has been secretly carrying out a survey of the far side of the galaxy. It has recently returned, and has brought with it an amazing story.” Kirk paused, then went on in an ironic tone. “I know the idea of Klingons as explorers may be a little hard for some of you to swallow; believe me, no one was harder to convince than I was. But it seems that the imminent uninhabitability of their home world has focused their minds, for once, on something other than conquest.

“Whatever their motives, this ship was away for more than three years, not having the benefit of our Trans-warp drive, which would have made it possible to complete the round trip in about six months. In keeping with the new spirit of co-operation between the Federation and the Klingon Empire,” Kirk said, grimacing as if he had tasted something unpleasant, “they have decided to share their findings with us.

“Apparently, there is in fact a thriving alien civilization on the far side of the galaxy, one that we have been unable to view, due to its position. The Klingons were, as you might expect, a little short on detail, but one thing they stressed was the peacefulness of these aliens. And the fact that they had technology far in advance of their own. Or ours.”

Sulu spoke up. “If that’s so, Admiral, then we could learn a great deal from them.”

Kirk nodded. “I agree. And so does Star Fleet. To that end, the Federation is to mount an expedition to make contact with them, to establish diplomatic and trade ties between our peoples.”

McCoy raised a hand. “That’s all very fine and dandy, Jim, but why you? Why us? Surely they must have others in the diplomatic corps, serving officers who could do this better than we could. Why would they want to bring a bunch of old crocks like us out of mothballs to do a job that any serving Star Fleet crew could do at least as well?”

Some of the others expressed their agreement, and Kirk shrugged.

“They obviously have their reasons, Bones. As Admiral Chou pointed out, between us we have more experience than any three crews in the fleet.” Kirk put both his hands on the desk and leaned towards the others, fixing them all with his gaze. “This is something that needs to be handled with a minimum of aggression and a maximum of tact and diplomacy. Ask yourself, Bones: who has done this more often than us, we here in this room?”

McCoy frowned, but said no more. Then Kirk looked at them all and dropped his bombshell.

“As I said before, only a ship equipped with Trans-warp drive can make this voyage in anything close to an acceptable length of time. Our best estimates put this planet at least eighty-five thousand light years from here.”

There were a few gasps from his audience, and Kirk gave a small smile as he continued.

“Well, my friends, the next bit of news should make you all very happy. The Enterprise, rather than being scrapped, has been re-commissioned and fitted with the drive. In addition, it has also has been largely automated so that it can be run by us alone, as it was once before. We estimate that the journey can be completed in approximately three months each way, using the Trans-warp drive.

Our job will be simply to get there, make ourselves known to the alien people and, if possible, arrange a face-to-face meeting with their leaders. Then we will establish a sub-space link and come home. Later, career diplomats will be sent, and eventually we will exchange ambassadors.” He paused as the room buzzed with comment, then continued.
“Star Fleet has decided that a small crew will look more like a peaceful delegation and less like an invasion. And that brings us to our next piece of business. I will ask for a show of hands. Is there anyone who does not wish to take part in this mission? If so, please raise your hand.”

They all looked at each other, then back at Kirk, and their hands remained firmly down. Kirk smiled at their grinning faces. “I thank you all. As of this moment, those of you who are not serving Star Fleet officers are hereby reinstated at your last rank. Captains Sulu, Uhura and Chekov are now seconded to my command.”

They all stood and came forward. Sulu held out his hand. “It will be an honor to serve with you again, Admiral.”

Kirk took the Asian’s hand. “Better make that ‘Captain’, Hikaru. Remember, they only bumped me after they thought I was safely retired, when they figured I could do no harm.” He looked at his friends, gathered around him. “This is going to set a record for the most captains aboard any ship. I hope we don’t get too confused.”

Over the laughter, Spock said, “If I might suggest, Admiral, that we assume the ranks we held when last we shipped out as a crew, on the mission to the Great Barrier? It would simplify matters greatly.”

Kirk looked at the others, who nodded their agreement. “All right, then. You’re all demoted to your former ranks. Call it a temporary busting.” They laughed again, then got down to the business of planning the mission. There was much to do. With a lot of dark Celtic muttering about how dare they re-fit the Enterprise without consulting him, Scotty left to take charge of that operation. They all had loose ends to tie up; Sulu and Chekov had to formally hand over their ships, Uhura had an entire department of the Star Fleet Academy to see to, and Spock also took his leave, to assist Scotty on the Enterprise.

Kirk stood at the door and watched them go, then turned to see McCoy still sitting in his chair, arms folded, looking at him. He moved back into the room and met the doctor’s gaze. “All right, Bones, what is it? You’ve been giving me the evil eye for the entire briefing. What’s on your mind?”

McCoy looked at his friend for a moment, then put his hands on his knees and rose from the chair. “I just want you consider a few things, Jim. Have you given this as much thought as you normally would?” Kirk looked puzzled, and McCoy continued. “Doesn’t it strike you as being a little out of character for the Klingons to be interested in reporting the existence of a peaceful race, rather than just taking whatever they have and blasting the bejeezus out of them? And then to just step aside and allow the Federation to literally take over? Doesn’t that seem just a little incongruous to you?”

Kirk shrugged. “Perhaps they didn’t feel properly equipped to attack an entire planet. Remember, they did say that the aliens had superior technology. Maybe that included weaponry, too.” McCoy started to object, but Kirk continued.

“And you know as well as I do, Bones, that the Klingons are ready, some might even say desperate, to negotiate a peace treaty and enter the Federation. Remember what’s going to happen to their planet in less than fifty years? I think they’re using this to demonstrate their good will.”

McCoy snorted, his face a picture of cynical skepticism. “Can this be the same Jim Kirk I served with all those years? You, who used to be their harshest critic, their most implacable enemy?”

“Times change, Bones. Maybe people change too.”

“And you think the Klingons have changed that much?”

Kirk shrugged again. “Maybe. Not having a home to go to could act as a powerful incentive for even the most warlike of races.”

McCoy looked hard at his friend. “Remember what you said when we found out what was going to happen to their world? ‘Let them die’, you said. You were talking genocide, Jim, the extinction of an entire species. Even if they have changed that much, have you?”

Kirk lifted his hands, palms upwards. “Bones, I don’t know. What I do know is that, if they genuinely desire peace, then maybe they ought to be given a chance.”

McCoy nodded. “Let bygones be bygones, you mean?”

Kirk shrugged. “Something like that.”

McCoy stared at him. “Well then, I guess it’s just as well that I’m coming along on this little jaunt. Someone has to keep an eye on you in this new state of charity and forgiveness towards your sworn enemies.”

Kirk laughed and clapped his friend on the back as they headed towards the door. “You know something, Bones? You worry too much. To use an old-fashioned expression, lighten up. Live a little. You should smile more.” Then he grew serious again. “Bones, the main thing is, we’re getting back into service again, going back into space. And what’s more, we’ll be on the old Enterprise. That’s got to be worth something.”

McCoy nodded, but it was clear that the doctor was not convinced. As they left the room, Kirk felt a twinge deep in his mind. Never before had he ignored McCoy’s doubts. He had considered them and then gone his own way on several occasions, but never had he disregarded his friend’s advice. He hoped he wouldn’t come to regret it.

Then typically, having made his decision, he pushed such questions to the back of his mind, and gave his full attention to the mission. Getting back into action was all that mattered, he reasoned. Of course there would be dangers, there always were. The others all knew that, and still they came, and willingly.

He himself could do no less.


***

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