Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nova Olympic

In addition to writing snarky essays about Disney World, I have also been known to write Star Trek stories. I haven’t written very many, because good stories are actually really hard to write. It is much, much easier to write a sarcastic essay making fun of a badly-written piece of fiction than it is to write a good one.

But every once in a great while, I have a good idea. Or at least an idea I think is good enough to spend time on. A few years noted publisher of Star Trek fan fiction Orion Press ran a contest in which writers were invited to submit a short story that took place entirely on the bridge of the Enterprise. In my brain, something clicked. I’d recently re-watched my favorite Battlestar Galactica episode, “33”, and I wanted to do a Star Trek story where Captain Kirk was forced to make an impossible decision similar to the one President Roslin and Commander Adama have to make.

At the same time, I’ve always had a special affection for the first few episodes of the original series. Star Trek had a different flavor then: space was a big and lonely place, William Shatner played Kirk in a much more subdued manner, and the Enterprise seemed busier (more extras in the corridors) and more complex to operate. For example, although the ship’s phaser banks were aimed from the bridge, the command to fire actually had to be relayed down to the phaser control rooms.

In an extremely rare occurrence, the complete story popped into my head almost fully-formed. It didn’t win the contest, but I’ve gotten some positive feedback on it nonetheless.

So, if you’re still here you’ll find my short story “Nova Olympic” after the jump. It’s got drama, action, and even a few EPCOT Center references. Enjoy!


Note: This story takes place immediately prior to the events chronicled in the First Season episode “The Naked Time”

"I don't care if it is a classic, it was terrible!" Kevin Riley was saying as the turbolift doors opened onto the bridge. "And by the time the evil alien Nazis showed up I just couldn't stand any more."

"Kevin, you don't understand," Sulu laughed as they assumed their stations at Helm and Navigation. "The Temporal Cold War is a parody; it's meant to be awful."

Riley rolled his eyes. "Sure it is. That's probably just what the author said when everyone hated it."

Their banter was interrupted when Mister Spock stepped down from the quarterdeck. "Captain Kirk will be here momentarily, Navigator. Is your start-of-watch report ready?"

Riley consulted his instruments. "We're still on course for Psi 2000, Mr. Spock."

"Speed is holding at Warp Factor Four," Sulu said.

"Acknowledged," Spock noted the information on the slate in his hand as he crossed in front of the helm/navigation island and stepped back up to the upper level of the bridge near the Engineering station. "Engineering report, Mr. Leslie?"

Leslie looked up from his Engineering displays. "All indicators show green, sir."

"Acknowledged," Spock continued to Communications. "Lieutenant Uhura, Communications status."

"Normal, Mr. Spock. Ordinary civilian comm traffic only." The Enterprise was passing through a fairly well-populated part of its assigned patrol area on its way to retrieve the Psi 2000 science team.

"Thank you, Lieutenant." Spock made the appropriate notation on his report as he crossed behind Uhura's station and stepped back down to the command area.

Just then, the turbolift doors swished open and Captain Kirk entered.

"Ship's status, Mr. Spock?" he inquired as he settled into the center seat.

"We remain on course, Captain; Psi 2000 is eight days distant." Spock handed his slate over to the Captain. "All stations report normal."

"Thank you," Kirk skimmed over the report. "Are the-"

Uhura interrupted him. "Captain, there’s a distress call coming through on the emergency channel!"

Kirk swiveled toward her. "Put it on."

"This is . . .Nova Olympic", the staticky voice crackled over the speakers. "Under attack by . . .can't hold-" the desperate voice dissolved into static, then died away completely.

Uhura pressed a few controls, then shook her head. "I've lost it, Captain. They've either stopped transmitting or they were jammed."

Spock was already at his station. "The Nova Olympic is a civilian starliner registered in this sector. It is operated by Brava Centuari Starlines.”

“Where are they?” Kirk asked, “Can we triangulate on the source of that message?”

“Negative, Captain. “ Spock said, “The contact was too brief.”

Sulu spoke up. “Sir, a liner like that usually sends out an hourly position report.”

“Uhura, contact the Brava Centuari office in this sector,” Kirk ordered. “I want that ship’s itinerary.”

“I’ve already got them sir.” Uhura reported. “They say the Nova Olympic is making the run from Earth Colony Six to Aldebaran III. Last position report on them is coming through now.”

“Feed it to Navigation,” Kirk instructed. “Mr. Riley, when you have the coordinates, plot a course.” He hammered his fist down on the intercom button. “Kirk to Engineering.”

Scott here, Captain,” came the reply.

“Scotty, we’re responding to a distress call from a civilian vessel. Can you give me Warp Eight?”

Aye Captain, that I can.”

“Sir, the Nova Olympic’s last known position is in the computer, and I’ve got the course plotted and laid in.” Riley said.

“Execute,” Kirk ordered. “Mr. Sulu, take as much speed as the Engine Room can give you.”

Sulu nodded. “Aye, sir. Changing course and increasing speed now.”

“Yellow alert, Lieutenant Uhura.” Kirk said. “And have phaser crews stand ready; the Olympic said they were under attack.”

About ten minutes later, Sulu announced “Coming up on the Nova Olympic’s last reported position.”

“Full sensor sweep,” Kirk ordered.

The alarm between Helm and Navigation started to beep.

“Contact with an object,” Sulu reported.

“Slow to impulse,” Kirk said. “Spock, analysis.”

Spock bent over his scanner. “Object is too small to be the Nova Olympic; it appears to be some type of escape pod.”

“Visual contact,” Sulu announced.

On the main screen, a small, boxy shape came into view. It was made of a brownish metal, and it was pitted and scarred.

“That doesn’t look like it came from a starliner,” Riley commented.

“Life signs?” Kirk asked.

Spock frowned into his scanner. “Indeterminate. There appears to be some sort of localized interference around the pod. However, I am getting minimal power readings.”

“Meaning that its life support system could be operating,” Kirk deduced.

“Captain,” Sulu said, “I’m picking up two ion trails that start here and head off at 470 mark 6.”

“One of the trails matches the profile for a Horizon-Class starliner,” Spock reported. “The other . . .does not.”

“Any idea what kind of ship could have made it?” Kirk asked.

“It fits the profile for several classes of transports and freighters, all produced within the Federation.”

“And the Nova Olympic seems to have gone off course under its own power; it wasn’t towed.” Kirk said.

“But it may well have been hijacked,” Spock observed.

“Quite right, Mr. Spock.” Kirk turned to face forward. “Mr. Riley, plot a course to follow those ion trails, 470 mark 6. Mr. Leslie, throw a tractor beam on that escape pod. We’ll tow it into the hangar bay and examine it en route.”

“Course plotted and laid in, sir.” Riley said.

“Activating tractor beam,” Leslie reported. He pressed the appropriate control, and suddenly there was a loud, electrical-sounding SNAP. The entire Bridge was plunged into darkness, and the instrument and readout noises ground to a halt with a mournful WHOOooo.

Kirk hit his intercom switch. “Engine Room, what’s happening? Scotty?”

“Futile, Captain.” Spock’s voice came out of the darkness. “Our controls are dead. Something must have blown our control circuits.”

“It happened as soon as the tractor beam touched that escape pod,” Sulu observed.

“The thing was booby trapped!” Riley realized.

Suddenly there was a heavy scraping sound from somewhere behind Kirk, as if something were forcing the turbolift doors apart.

Everyone turned to see a beam of light stabbing through the slightly pushed-apart lift doors.

“Could I get some help here?” a familiar Scottish-accented voice called through the small opening.

Lieutenants Leslie and Hadley hurried over and pushed the doors the rest of the way open to reveal Montgomery Scott standing on top of a stalled turbolift car, holding a hand-torch.

Scott shined the torch around the darkened bridge as he stepped down off the stalled lift. “What happened? I was on my way up here, and suddenly everything just lost power!”

Kirk briefly filled him in.

“Sounds to me like Mr. Riley hit it right on the head,” Scott said. “I’ll bet two bottles of Scotch that there’s naught in that pod but a huge battery. Probably sent a massive surge of power up along our tractor beam and blew most of our control circuits.”

“So we can bypass the damaged circuits, then?” Kirk pressed.

“Aye,” Scott replied, “there’s probably no damage to the underlying systems. But we’ll have to rig each bypass individually; there’s no way to do ‘em all at once.”

“Scotty, a starliner full of civilians has very likely been hijacked for purposes unknown,” Kirk said, “by people who were clever enough to leave that booby-trapped pod here to keep us from following. We’ve got to get our systems back as soon as possible.”

Scott nodded. “Well then, we’d best get started, sir.”

Under Spock’s direction, Sulu and Riley were breaking out more hand-torches, and Leslie was retrieving the emergency toolkits.

Within minutes, everyone-even Kirk-was underneath a Bridge station trying to bypass its burnt-out control circuitry. In the space of about five minutes, a few emergency lights flickered to life. It was still very dim, but at least they could see without the hand-torches.

Spock was the first one to restore some functionality to his station. He ran it through a few test routines, then reported. “Sciences station restored, Captain.”

“Then let’s take a look outside. Can you run a sensor sweep?” Kirk asked from where he was working at the Auxiliary Navigation station.

“Attempting now,” Spock said as he bent over his scanner. “I have short-range sensors only.” He peered at his readouts. “Nothing has changed in the immediate area. The ion trails we detected earlier are fading, but still present.”

Kirk made one more adjustment, and the Auxiliary Nav station came to life. As he got to his feet to run the station’s test routines, he noticed that Scott was working over a restored Engineering console. “Scotty, what’s our engine status?”

“Warp and impulse engines look all right,” Scott replied, “but until I get down to Engineering and replace some relays she’ll be slow answering her helm.”

While Scott was talking, Sulu got to his feet and started checking out the Helm console. “Helm control restored, Captain.”

The Navigation side of the console, along with the Astrogator, remained dark. Riley was still on his back underneath the panel, and was obviously growing frustrated.

“Mr. Riley, I need Navigation up and running,” Kirk said.

Riley shook his head. “It’s no good, sir, too many of these circuits are burned out to rig a bypass.”

“Then get to the backup Navigation station and plot a course to follow those ion trails.”

“Aye, sir.” Riley got up and went to the backup Navigation station, just starboard of Spock’s Sciences console.

Kirk turned toward Uhura, and noticed that she was already in her chair running functionality tests on her panel. “Lieutenant, is the intercom working yet?”

“No sir, only ship-to-ship communications are available right now.”

“We won’t have intercoms until I can get below and replace some more circuits,” Scott informed him.

“Then we’ll have to use communicators,” Kirk decided. “They would have already started emergency procedures belowdecks, so everyone down there will be carrying one. Uhura, try to get through to Sickbay and find out if there are any casualties.”

“Course plotted and laid in, Captain.” Riley reported.

“Then take us ahead at best speed, Mr. Sulu.” Kirk ordered.

“I’m afraid Warp Five’s the most I can give you at the moment, Captain.” Scott said. “Much faster, and we won’t be able to maintain any kind of maneuverability.”

“A ship like the Nova Olympic could hardly travel faster than Warp Three,” Spock said from his station. “Assuming it’s still moving under its own power, we should be able to overtake it.”

“Going to warp speed now, sir, ” Sulu reported. The deckplates began to thrum with increased power the way they did whenever the warp engines were engaged.

Kirk settled back in his chair and took a quick look around the Bridge. Spock was working his scanner; doing his best to find the Nova Olympic with only short-range sensors. Riley was immediately starboard of him, working the backup Navigation panel, and starboard of him Leslie was ensconced at the Weapons and Defense station. On the other side of the Bridge, Hadley was still tinkering with the Environmental station, and Scott was standing by the Engineering board giving orders via communicator to his repair crews belowdecks. Behind Kirk, Uhura was working with a communicator and a slate, trying to compile damage and casualty reports while still keeping an ear out for any more distress calls. Next to Scott, she probably had the most difficult job at the moment. All Kirk could do was sit back, let his people work, and stare at a the main viewer, which remained stubbornly blank while Scott worked on more important things.

Uhura briefly got up from her station to hand Kirk the slate she’d been working on. “Here are the damage and casualty reports you asked for, sir. Sickbay reports minor injuries only.”

Kirk glanced over the report. “Thank you, Lieutenant. Good work.” He noticed she was also holding a microtape reader. “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s the crew and passenger manifest for the Nova Olympic,” Uhura replied as she offered it to him. “The Brava Centuari office sent it to us when we contacted them earlier.”

Kirk handed the slate back to her and took the reader. He skimmed over the list of names, and suddenly he froze.

Uhura noticed. “Is something wrong, sir?”

Kirk stared at the two names he’d recognized:

Marcus, Carol

Marcus, David

“Carry on, Lieutenant,” he said stiffly.

Uhura was mystified by Kirk’s sudden change in mood, but she responded with an “Aye, sir,” and went back to her station.

Kirk got up from the center seat and started to pace around the Bridge’s perimeter. When he got to Spock, the Vulcan looked up.

“Captain, I’ve been giving the situation some thought,” Spock began.

Kirk realized he was still holding the microtape reader. “So have I,” he murmured as much to himself as to Spock.

“The Nova Olympic is a passenger vessel only,” Spock continued. “No one could possibly mistake it for a freighter carrying valuable cargo, and the ship itself is not sufficiently valuable to warrant such a hijacking. Therefore, whoever attacked and then absconded with the Nova Olympic must be after the only commodity it carries: its passengers.”

Kirk looked out across the Bridge. A few more emergency lights had come on, but things were still dim and shadowy. “So, you’re saying that we’re either dealing with a terrorist group that wants hostages for some reason, or-“ the word caught in his throat.

“Slavers,” Spock said gravely. He noticed the tightening of Kirk’s jaw and his fierce stare at the still-blank viewscreen. “Captain, if I may-“ his voice dropped almost to a whisper “-I realize that the Nova Olympic’s situation is a dire one, but you seem to be exhibiting an unusual level of distress.”

Kirk sighed and showed him the Nova Olympic’s passenger manifest.

When Spock saw Carol Marcus’ name, his eyebrow shot up. “Most . . .unfortunate,” his voice was tinged with the closest thing to regret a Vulcan could permit.

“One thing’s for sure,” Kirk determined, “whoever these people are-terrorists, slavers, or just common criminals-we’ve got to stop them.” He left Spock and walked over to the Engineering station, trying to push the vision of Carol and David at the mercy of slave traders out of his mind. “Mr. Scott, when we find the Nova Olympic we’ll need to mount a rescue and very likely fight as well. For that we need transporters and we need weapons.”

“You’ll have weapons, sir; a repair team just got the forward phaser room working,” Scott reported. “Transporters’re another matter.”

“How long?”

“Two days at the least.”

Kirk was incredulous. “Two days?”

“I’m sorry sir, but a transporter’s not a simple piece of machinery you can slap back together,” Scott fretted. “If those control circuits aren’t precisely rebuilt and calibrated, the only way we’ll be beamin’ anyone aboard is in buckets!”

Kirk pounded his hand on the railing. “Then we find an alternative.”

Spock bent over his scanner once more. “If my estimates are correct, the Nova Olympic should be coming into range momentarily.”

“Sound General Quarters,” Kirk ordered as he sat back down in the command chair. “Uhura, continue to monitor all frequencies.”

Scott lowered his communicator from his lips. “Just got word from below, Captain. Intercoms are back online in the saucer section, and we’ll have turbolifts in the next few minutes.”

Intercom chatter slowly began to filter back onto the bridge.

The alarm between Helm and Navigation started to beep.

“Sensor contact ahead, Captain.” Sulu reported.

“Confirmed,” Spock said. “Scanners register two vessels moving at Warp Three. Neither is broadcasting an ID, but the smaller of the two is definitely a Horizon-class starliner.”

“What about the larger one?” Kirk wanted to know.

“Configuration suggests a freighter of some kind.”

“Sulu, you and Mr. Riley match course and speed with those ships,” Kirk said. “Uhura, hailing frequencies.”

“I’ve been trying to raise them, sir, but there’s no response.”

“We’re being fired upon!” Spock warned.

The Bridge shuddered as the Enterprise was pummeled by weapons fire.

“That was from the larger vessel, Captain.” Spock reported. “Some kind of plasma weapon.”

“Orion?” Kirk wanted to know.

“Insufficient data,” Spock said.

“How many people on that ship?”

Spock consulted his instruments. “Impossible to get an exact reading, but it appears to be running with a skeleton crew. I read no more than ten distinct lifesigns.”

“And the Nova Olympic?” Kirk asked.

“Over one hundred.”

“Then the attackers haven’t moved any of the Olympic’s passengers over to their ship.” Kirk deduced. “If anything, they’ve moved most of their crew to the Olympic to maintain control of it.”

“Quite logical,” Spock agreed.

The Bridge rocked as the Enterprise was hit again.

“Captain, these bypassed control circuits can’t take many more bumps like that,” Scott warned.

“Mr. Leslie, lock phasers,” Kirk ordered. “Uhura, hail that ship.”

“Frequency open, sir.”

“This is the Starship Enterprise. Deactivate your weapons and stand down, or you will be fired upon.”

There was no answer. Kirk swiveled around and looked at Uhura, and she shook her head. “They are receiving us, Captain, but they don’t respond.”

Spock looked up from his hooded viewer. “They’re preparing to fire again.”

“Weapons are locked on the enemy vessel,” Leslie reported.

“Phaser crews report ready.” Riley added.

Kirk set his jaw. “Fire.”

“Phaser crews, fire!” Riley called into the intercom.

The emergency lights dimmed and the Bridge rocked slightly as the phaser banks discharged their unthinkable energies.

Spock watched his viewer. “Target destroyed, Captain.”

Riley grinned. “Popped ‘em like a balloon.”

Kirk glared at him. “It’s not over yet, Navigator,” he snapped.

“The Nova Olympic is changing course to 207 Mark 8,” Spock reported.

“Sulu, stay with them.” Kirk instructed.

Uhura put her hand to her earpiece. “Captain, we’re getting a hail from the Nova Olympic.”

“On speakers.”

That’s enough, starship,” an Orion-accented voice growled. “There are over a hundred people on this ship, and if you don’t break off your pursuit I’m going to start executing them.

Kirk choked back his anger and forced his voice to sound calm. “You’d kill off your ‘merchandise’? Difficult to turn a profit that way.”

“Sir, the signal isn’t coming from the liner’s transmitter,” Uhura whispered, “It’s coming from a personal communicator on one of its lower decks.”

Spock had a schematic of the Nova Olympic on his screen. “Most likely the Engine Room, Captain.”

Desperate situations, desperate measures,” the Orion countered. “I’m sure you understand what I-“ suddenly there was some kind of commotion. Shouts, heavy thumps, and the sound of a phaser going off echoed over the connection. Everything was silent for a moment, then a new, more hesitant voice came over the speakers. “Um, hello? Is this the starship?

Kirk broke into a relieved smile upon hearing the lack of an Orioni accent. “Yes, this is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise.”

George McGinnis, Captain of the Nova Olympic here. The ship is secure, Captain. Once we figured out these guys were slavers the passengers pretty much decided to fight ‘em to the death if necessary. One of the kids was looking out the window when you destroyed their ship, and we knew it was time to make our move.

“How many of them are there?”

Twelve,” McGinnis replied. “This guy is their Captain, we think. He was holed up here in the Engine Room, and we’ve got the rest tied up on the Sun Deck.”

“That’s good to hear, Captain. If you’ll cut your engines and come to a stop, we’ll be glad to take those prisoners off your hands.”

“Sure thing, Captain Kirk,” McGinnis paused, and there was some shouting in the background. “What?” McGinnis said, “you can’t be serious!”

“Captain McGinnis, what is it?” Kirk asked. “What’s wrong?”

Enterprise, we have a problem: that Orion sabotaged our systems! The engine and helm controls are completely fried; we can’t stop or change course!

“Stand by,” Kirk told him. He jabbed his thumb towards Uhura, and she muted the audio. “Mr. Riley, check the charts. If we stay on this course, where will it take us?”

Riley had already consulted the star charts when the Nova Olympic first changed course. “Aldebaran III, Captain. ETA-“ he blanched “only about eight minutes!”

“If we can’t stop them they’ll plow right into the planet,” Sulu remarked grimly.

“Scotty, you know anything about those ships?” Kirk asked.

“Aye,” Scott admitted. “If I could talk to ‘em . . .”

Kirk nodded. “Go ahead.”

Scott thumbed the intercom switch on his console. “This is Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer.”

Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Scott.” McGinnis answered. “One moment, and I’ll put my engineer on.

There was a pause, and then a different, younger voice came on. “This is Scobee, Engineer’s Mate.

“Scobee, have you no backup controls you could use?”

No sir, the only other engine controls are on the bridge, and he disconnected them from down here and fried the matrix. There’s nothing left to connect ‘em to!

“What about the emergency circuits? Can you jettison the warp units, lad?”

No, sir!” there was an easily-detectable note of panic in the young man’s voice. “Those controls are destroyed, too!

Captain McGinnis’ voice came back on. “Kirk, isn’t there enough time to beam everyone over there and destroy this ship before she runs into Aldebaran?

Kirk told him about the booby-trapped escape pod, and what it had done to their systems, including the transporter.

Well that’s it then,” McGinnis said, his voice becoming dangerously shaky. “If we hit that planet at warp speed it’ll kill a million people! You’re gonna have to blow us up!

“Absolutely not,” Kirk insisted in the tone of voice he used to cut off all further discussion. “Put your engineer back on. Mr. Scott knows what to do, he can help him.”

All right, Captain. But if you end up having to shoot us down-

“Listen to me, McGinnis, we are not going to shoot you down. Do you understand? It won’t come to that. Now put Mr. Scobee on.”

Okay, Captain Kirk.” McGinnis’ voice grew slightly calmer. “Thank you, sir. Here’s Scobee.”

Mr. Scott?” Scobee’s voice called.

“Listen, lad,” Scott said, “you only need to jettison one of the warp units. When you do that, the main computer will automatically shut the drive systems down.”

But the emergency controls-

“There’s a manual release,” Scott remembered. In his mind, he pictured the pair of short, wide pylons that jutted out at right angles near the rear of the aerodynamic, somewhat pregnant-looking main hull of the starliner and connected to the short, stubby engine nacelles. “There’s one at the end of each Jeffries tube running up the engine pylons.”

Yeah, I know where that is. It’ll take me a few minutes to get there.”

“Quick as you can, lad.”

“Captain,” Spock called Kirk over. “Although the Nova Olympic will not arrive at Aldebaran for another seven minutes, if we are forced to act it must be within the next five minutes, forty seconds. Any later, and pieces of the liner will still be moving fast enough to hit the surface of the planet at near-warp speed. The death toll could well be in the hundreds of thousands.”

“All that young man has to do is climb up a Jeffries tube and pull a lever,” Kirk said, as much to himself as to Spock. “It won’t take five minutes.”

“I sincerely hope not,” Spock turned back to his station.

All right,” Captain McGinnis’ voice came back over the comm, “we’re at the starboard Jefferies’ tube now, and Scobee’s inside. He’s almost at the end of the tube.”

“So far, so good.” Sulu commented.

Wait a minute,” McGinnis voice suddenly became alarmed. “He’s closed the inner hatch behind him! He’s trapped himself in there! Mr. Scott, why would he have done that?

“When you were attacked, did you take any damage to your starboard engine?” Scott already knew what the answer would be.

McGinnis was puzzled. “We did, but not much. I don’t understand-“ then it dawned on him. “Oh my God!

“He’s a brave lad.”

Kirk gripped the railing in front of Scott’s station. “Scotty, what is it?”

“The outer hatch,” Scott explained. “It must’ve been jammed open in the attack. When Mr. Scobee jettisons the engine, the Jefferies tube’ll be open to space and half that deck’ll be depressurized. Or would have, if the lad hadn’t closed the inner hatch behind him.”

“Three minutes, now.” Spock said.

They waited. The unspoken question-what if the nervous Mr. Scobee didn’t pull the release in time?-hung over the Bridge.

Spock broke the silence. “One minute.”

Kirk swallowed hard. “Mr. Leslie, lock phasers on the Nova Olympic.” His voice was almost a whisper.

“Phasers locked, sir.”

“Phaser crews report ready, Captain.” Riley said solemnly.

Kirk imagined Carol and David huddled together fearfully. If I end up having to do this, Carol, he thought, I’m sorry.

“Looks like he lost his nerve.” Riley observed ruefully.

“You can hardly expect a man to hurry to his own death, Mr. Riley” Scott said.

Kirk wondered if Carol and David really knew what was going on, really understood that the starship out the window was the Enterprise, with him in the Captain’s chair about to order their deaths.

He took a breath.

Carol, David. . . I’m sorry.

“Fire, Mr. Riley.”

Riley thumbed the intercom switch. “Phaser crews-“

Spock looked up from his scanner. “Wait--starboard nacelle is separating,” he interrupted.

The bridge broke out in cheers.

“-belay that!” Riley shouted into the intercom over the noise. “Repeat, do not fire!”

“It has blown clear of the ship.” Spock continued, still bent over his scanner “The Nova Olympic’s drive systems have shut down, and it is dropping to sublight.”

“Sulu, stay with them.” Kirk said. He sighed deeply with relief.

“They will continue to coast without maneuvering thrusters to slow them, but at sublight speed they will miss the planet.” The faintest ghost of a smile flashed across the Vulcan’s lips.

“Contact Aldebaran Space Central, Lieutenant Uhura,” Kirk ordered. “Have them send some repair ships to tow the Nova Olympic into port.”

Just then the turbolift doors swished shut, and a moment later they opened again.

“Turbo elevators restored, Captain.” Scott reported.

Kirk, I want to thank you,” Captain McGinnis said.

“Don’t thank me, Captain.” Kirk replied. “Thank Mr. Scobee.”

He was a good kid.

“I’m sure. One more thing.” Kirk rose from the command chair and stepped up to the Weapons station that Mr. Leslie had just vacated. He sat down, plucked the earpiece from the clip next to the intercom, and twisted the activator as he inserted the earpiece into his right ear. “There’s a passenger over there, a lady named Carol Marcus.” He leaned into the intercom to avoid being overheard. “Find her and let her know I’d like to speak to her.”

Sure thing,” McGinnis’ voice came through the earpiece. “Just one minute,

Kirk stared at the blinking indicators in front of him. On that damaged little starliner out there was a woman he’d loved, and their son. They’d been in mortal danger while he was out here skipping across the cosmos in his starship. The Enterprise might need him, but didn’t his family need him more? The fact that the decision to walk out of their lives without ever telling David who his father was had been as much Carol’s as his own did little to ease the sudden, crushing wave of guilt.

Um, Captain?” McGinnis voice returned. It sounded rather sheepish.

“Did you find her?” Kirk wanted to know.

Yes sir, and she and her boy are just fine. But she, uh-

“She what?”

She said she’s never heard of a James Kirk. Refused to speak to you.”

Kirk’s shoulders slumped. “I see.”

After you helped save our lives and everything . . .I’m real sorry.

“It’s all right.” Kirk’s voice was an almost Vulcan monotone. “Thank you for trying. Kirk out.” He closed the channel and plunked the earpiece back into its clip on the panel, then swiveled slowly around and looked out across the Bridge, still dimly lit by the spotty emergency lights. Once again, Carol had made the decision for him: this was his world now. This was his family.

Spock made eye contact with him briefly just then, and it confirmed what his sensitive ears had inadvertently overheard.

Sickbay to Bridge,” a familiar voice crackled over the intercom.

Spock hit the intercom button on his panel. “Bridge, Spock here. What can we do for you, Doctor McCoy?”

Well, I’ve gotten the casualty and injury reports for every deck except the Bridge. Is everyone all right up there?

Spock watched the Captain pick himself up from the Weapons station and head across the Bridge to talk to Mr. Scott.

“Yes, Doctor. Physically, we are all quite well.”


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