Encounter Thy Image
By Rob Morris
Prologue - 31 Days
August 9th, 2271
OUTSIDE STARFLEET HEADQUARTERS, SAN FRANCISCO,
"...live feed now. We have Enterprise on spacedock viewers. The start of this mission was rocky, involving the ship's crippling and the loss of its first executive officer. But Captain Kirk and his crew have carved out a legend, tinged by both triumph and tragedy, including the murder of the captain's family in Iowa. With his entrance into Admiralty Hall, the refit of Enterprise, answering Council charges of genocide, his adopted daughter's testimony about Romulan atrocities on Hellguard, and pursuing the investigation into the loss of his family, it is easily said that Captain Kirk has a full rich month ahead."
THE BRIDGE OF THE USS ENTERPRISE
"We return, the last of twelve, and this is as much by grace as by all of you. Matt Decker could have found me shattered, or the Defiant could have found us fading. Admiral Nogura is set on bringing me into the command structure. So I will spread the talent they mean to stifle. Soon, I will have everyone here placed as CO's, XO's and Tactical. Your time on Enterprise is over, but your careers have just begun. You're losing a captain, but gaining a very biased advocate. Now I'll ask a moment of silence--for all those we lost."
STARFLEET HQ, THE PRIVATE OFFICES OF GRAND ADMIRAL HEICHIARO NOGURA
"You are my best operative. My position is strong, but I need to tell Admiralty Hall in no uncertain terms that this office will never be absorbed. That means grooming Jim Kirk to replace me. Any weaker choice will have that little Hitler, Cartwright, thinking I'm his Von Hindenburg. The refit will take Jim away from one of his loves. The Hall took away his family, and you will end his other attachment: LC Uhura. Spock is already taken care of. I need you to insert yourself-- literally-- between Jimmy and Nyta, and may George forgive me. Ready, Vice-Admiral Ciana?"
ADMIRALTY HALL, COMMODORE BROCK CARTWRIGHT, OPERATIONS OFFICER
"Currently, you all outrank me. But I rule The Order. Our efforts to bring Lord Ghidorah to our space continue with vigor. Now, some here want to join with Nogura and bring Kirk here, into our ranks. Fools! Extortion can be undone. So can 'chipping'. If we bring Kirk here, it will be to kill him, something we politically cannot survive. We also cannot afford to have his xenophilia spread through his protégés, or the joy those most obvious enemies would take from our binding him to a desk. So the solution lies in doing what no one would expect."
THE SUPREME LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS, SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, PARIS, EARTH
"A new humanoid evolution on Delta Vega. A peaceful sodiavoric metamorph. A truly cybernetic species on Exo 3. The sovereign artificial life forms on Beta 3 and Gamma Trianguli 6. The symbiotes of Deneva 3, seeking only freedom of movement. A living pseudo-deity from his own world's past. Explorers from other galaxies. Multiple noncorporeal entities attacked, rather than communicated with. His record of practiced, polished misxenogy speaks for itself. On behalf of this august council, I accuse Captain James T. Kirk and members of his crew of a pattern of genocide, and ask that charges be filed to that effect."
ENCRYPTED PERSONAL JOURNAL, COMMANDER SPOCK
"I cannot stay in Starfleet, if not with these friends. Others would note my loss of control, as the traumas of Hellguard take hold. I cannot go back to Vulcan. I would be forced to expose my shame, including how Saavik was conceived and why I have never owned her as my child. I cannot stay on Earth. There, the Order snares anyone of ambiguity, and Peter Kirk lies in frozen hell, placed by my hand. Jim belongs in space. Born between worlds, space is my only home. So I will do what I must to put him back there."
"So you're going to become an MD, Christine? I don't know why you'd want to. Among my headaches is my Captain and closest friend. His choices are insanity or death. If he does not take time to stop and at long last properly mourn Peter, I have no doubt at all that one day he will break. But the other problem comes when I try and contemplate Jim without Enterprise. I can't. Thank God for Saavik. That little girl keeps his heart beating and his mind from slipping under the burden. But a doctor knows that something's got to give."
A VID-CALL MESSAGE TO HANNAH SCOTT PRESTON FROM HER BROTHER, MONTGOMERY SCOTT, RANK OF CMDR., USS ENTERPRISE, STARFLEET
"Cissy? Ye can drop the 'Lieutenant' and call me just plain Commander. Och, I wish there were more such news. There's all manner o' rumor about the Captain's fate, whether he's to be raised up or razed to the ground. I am no less confused about Enterprise. The technicians they have swarming over her seem enough to refit her in six months, not eighteen. In visions I saw that I would be granted my wishes for Enterprise three times. Once, by my hands. Once, by the Lord's Angels. Once, by agents of the devil himself. So which time is this?"
DRAFT OF PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LT. CMDR. NYOTA UHURA AND CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK--TO BE REVISED
"How long has it been since those fields of Tarsus? I thought you were a god. Not a poser, like Gary or Apollo. In the myths, gods play at seeming like men who will not ever be stopped. You're a man, yet you meet the godly criteria in my eyes. But since we laid that boy to rest, you've done as you always have. Like a coward, you've fallen into your work, and like a coward, I'm afraid to go in and pull you out. Jim--I'm not going to try. I do love you. It's just no longer enough."
DAILY UPDATE, DOCTOR MYUU GERO, DIRECTOR, SPECIAL OPS PROJECT ZERO, ADMIRALTY HALL
"Efforts to repeat last year's contact with Lord Ghidorah have met with failure. We now have other concerns. I must conclude that the boy Peter Kirk is a power we have no long-term way of reliably containing. There have been psychic leaks. He's calling to his uncle, the nearest genetic match. We need Kirk off Earth, and not just for this. The boy's frozen brain has scanned a 12th-power entity headed in Earth's direction. It knew enough to bypass Lord Ghidorah's most likely current path. If they reach us, only the unacceptable release of the Kirk boy could stop them."
"Kyptin Kirk is currently targeted by three groups. Admiral Nogura vwishes him to enter the top command structure, no debate. The sly Cossacks at Admiralty Hall seek to oppose this, though not by attacking the Kyptin. The Romulans play spin the truth, their kiss poisoned. They vwish everyone to remember that vwe crossed the Neutral Zone to rescue the half-Vulcan children on Hellguard, but to forget the kidnapping, rape and murder of their Vulcan parents--and the atrocities committed upon the children. As Security Chief, I must tell Kyptin Kirk all this. Or is that exactly vwhat these people vwant?"
NOTE FROM VICE ADMIRAL LORI CIANA TO GRAND ADMIRAL NOGURA
"Surveillance indicated that Kirk and Uhura were arguing. A rumor had reached her through my aides that Kirk had already accepted a slot at Admiralty Hall. My own nude emergence from the shower in Kirk's apartment had the desired effect. She left without hearing his explanation. By the time she's willing to listen, our objective will be achieved. Kirk is upset, hurt, horny and he got a very good look at a body that I'm quite proud of. He'll listen. We have the opening. All we need do is exploit it. The Hall loses this one. The good guys win."
"Pavel seems to think there's some sort of conspiracy to either keep Captain Kirk here on Earth or to get him back out into space. Not to be selfish, but what I wanna know is, what about Captain Sulu? I'll take anything, any class. I want to move on. If we were staying together, it'd be different, but we're not. So it's time to build my own legend. Plus I think I've met--her. She's hinted at intelligence connections, and while they're legit, they're also vague. To me, that means S31. A knockout, and she's part of a well-oiled machine."
PERSONAL JOURNAL, SAAVIK BRIANNA KIRK, AGE NINE
"I didn't mean to cause an argument. Captain Kirk is my father. He gave me his name. I saw him when I got off the transport, and I wanted a hug. So he hugged me. But on TransVid, all the Vulcans there--it looks like all Vulcans, everywhere- -said they were offended. Even Spock. I know he hates me, but I thought Daddy was his friend. I try to be Vulcan, but I'm on Earth right now. I'm here to tell what the Romulans did to me and the other children. But why am I always the one in trouble?"
PERSONAL PETITION FOR TRANSFER, LIEUTENANT JANICE RAND
"I'm aware that I would get a better posting after Captain Kirk joins the Admiralty. That's why I'm applying now. Make no mistake; he is a great man, served by great people. I have no problem calling them my friends. I want to use what I learned from them, but have none say that I rose on anything but my merits. Give me a dirty deck to swab on a freighter, so long as that swabby is in line for command. The jokes end now. 'Barbie' will be the first of Kirk's protégés to follow him to a center chair."
"Captain Kirk, my name's Harriet Janeway, and I'm a Starfleet Paris liaison, appointed to be your legal counsel before the Committee. My father was close friends with your father, and both were my heroes. Captain, this Committee is interested in looking big at your expense. They'll turn your missions into atrocities, your crew into gangsters, and cheerfully mix in the Romulans' charges. To them, the Hall is quiet Starfleet, and you are noisy Starfleet. Unless you fight them hard, you and the truth are about to go the way of Defiant--a long, painful fade from sight. It's your call."
"I want Enterprise back. I want to make a difference. But those two goals may be mutually exclusive. Uncle Heichi wants me to succeed him, but am I the administrator Dad trained him to be? The Hall wants me back out there. Despite our deep political differences, we both see that the Federation's enemies need a face that slows their plotting and planning. My face. I just wish they could find Peter's killer. Nyta has left me, Spock has grown distant, Saavik is miserable while I'm facing charges and a determined lady Admiral. I could do with some un-interesting times."
CODED TRANSMISSION FROM ROMULAN AMBASSADOR NANCLUS TO THE SENATE PRAETOR ON ROMULUS
"As promised, I reduced Kirk's Vulcan child to tears. The aid of Ambassador Soval's widow and her retinue in setting all this up was invaluable, and she will be missed. Regrettable. The girl Saavik spoke the usual tales of horror. I asked of her devotion to her father. She will not be trouble again. The other Vulcans view her as an atavism. With Kirk removed from Enterprise, the Hellguard hearings turned to our advantage, and the cloaked fortress our Klingon 'allies' do not see being built right above Q'onos, we will have working control of known space within our lifetimes."
"Don't let this old country doctor kid you, Jim. My ex is not 'difficult'. Like us, however, she is a flawed sentient being. I worked too hard, she didn't seek counseling, she sought an affair, and I was too dense to catch on. She blamed the entire divorce on me, and feeling like a fool, I let her. Now our daughter tells me she must live with that same lie to keep peace between the two of them. Yeah, she's mine all right. So don't you ever accept the party line, Jim. Demand to know what happened to your boy."
"Permission to speak freely? Well, Admiral Ciana, then I will do just that. Do you think that popping out of Jim's shower would send me away forever? I am no more bound to his chair than he is to my Communications board. You're providing him with sex, and that is what he will remember you for. We two were about each other, not exclusivity. I hope that whatever Nogura's promised you is worth it. Because all that happened is that one lover ended things with another. But Nyta Uhura will never leave Jim Kirk. Some things are meant to be."
FINAL TESTIMONY OF SAAVIK BRIANNA KIRK, RE: ROMULAN ATROCITIES ON HELLGUARD
"Ambassador Nanclus, you have said that there was no ritual rape of children on Hellguard, and yet I was raped. You have said that my father planted these ideas in my head. He did not. You have stated that all of Vulcan finds me a disgrace. Plainly, its ambassador, whose house I dwell in, does not. You have sarcastically asked me if I know what happens to those who lie too often. To that I can only respond as follows: I do not know what happens to such habitual and practiced liars. After all, I have never been to Romulus."
"Saavik tore that Romulan bastard a new one before the Committee. I can only hope her father does quite as well. Why are these people so uncomfortable with me? It's not ideology. Is it just a simple matter of approach? I'm still rudderless. Spock lied about his 'extended meditation', according to Sarek. Nyta just had to give the 'friends' speech. Lori is such an obvious front for Nogura's wishes. Am I now to throw in with a bunch of xenophobes just to get back where I belong? And is TJ right? Do those august Admirals know who killed my Peter?"
"Unit Designate Christine Chapel-2 reporting. The modifications made to this one by S31 Central Unit designate Roger Korby-3 enabled me to alter the main transporter at Starfleet HQ to recognize and then scatter Vice-Admiral Ciana's signature at a random point. Program in question was self-erasing. Given Kirk's psych profile, it is fortunate that we acted quickly to remove Nogura's agent of persuasion, and that Kirk himself witnessed said removal. The combination of such tragedy with Kirk's likely censure by the Council will leave an able resource in space minus prestige and confidence. This unit will now resume its un-self-aware persona."
"I have failed my friend and Captain. My logic is, I must determine, fatally infected by my past tortures. My path seemed clear. I had presented my evidence concerning the true fate of Peter Kirk, and of the blind eye Nogura had turned to the Grand Admiral himself. I bargained my silence on Jim's return to Enterprise. But Nogura, mourning the death of his aide, grew enraged at the thought that his godson was alive and close. His drive toward his goal has increased, and I have wasted a chance to go around my pain and see young Peter free."
PERSONAL JOURNAL, GRAND ADMIRAL HEICHIARO NOGURA
"The Hall has asked the Council for a redefinition of their authority in matters of assignment. They don't want Jim on Earth. Spock's delusion I'll just write off as having some sort of Vulcan PMS. The Hall killed dear Lori. I'll just add that to the reasons I will never allow them to take my seat. Damn you, Jim, and damn your whole crew. Free will is for the talentless. People like us-like your father- have responsibilities. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you will guide Starfleet when I'm gone. Because the alternative is no alternative at all."
"You tell me that I'm Admiral Kirk now. Once, I thought that our disagreements were merely political. I see now that these run through the core of what we do and how we do it. Your encroachment on powers once reserved to others. Your species-driven innuendo and ever more racist jibes. The fact that my family's destruction, tied to security concerns, is not being addressed. You of Admiralty Hall have degraded the rank from which you take your name. So it is that I, Captain James T. Kirk of The Starship Enterprise, hereby reject you. You--and all your works."
"Uncle, I feel sorry for you. Dad always spoke of you in the most glowing terms. But it is now clear that the man he held dear is gone. You keep proclaiming how you must deal with the Hall. What you're really saying is that you'd prefer not to deal with the trouble removing them would cause. Well, Admiral Nogura, people like that depend on such things. So give me back my ship, and my crew. Or in the name of the lost boy who called me Uncle, I will bring down a plague on all the houses of Starfleet!"
FINISH OF TESTIMONY OF JAMES KIRK BEFORE THE SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION
COMMITTEE, SUPREME COUNCIL, UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS, PARIS, EARTH
"There is an entity of considerable power headed here. But don't drop the charges against me for that, my allies, my opponents, or my record. Do it because I am the man who leads the ship that will break bread if we can, break the ice if we can't, and break the threat if it comes to that. Do that, and then, Councilors, with all due respect--get the hell out of my way. Because I count among the losses my ship has suffered those life forms that, through tragedy and misunderstanding, we will never have a chance to truly know."
AARON SISKO, LEGAL COUNSEL, ADMIRALTY HALL, NOTE TO COMMODORE BROCK CARTWRIGHT
"The Council's refusal to either charge Captain Kirk or to directly clarify what authority the Hall might have plays to the Hall's advantage. If Kirk were removed, those here would be suspected, despite your efforts for a contrary outcome. If the Council had given the Hall even the broadest authority, it would have limits. With no legal definition, you will have that power you wish to and may survive accruing. Now, Uncle Brock, farewell. I'm for Utopia Planitia, there to build the ships that this fleet needs, no matter who is running it. I will no longer cross your t's."
"Kirk called me a bad little boy, and I am. Though technically mature, I will relish my next task. Yes, these two beings will make an excellent test of humanity's unreadiness for what is to come. It may even be time for us to -oversee- them. The two children may be a greater danger than Ghidorah. The time has come to truly retire Squire Trelane. Now the Federation and its enemies will understand their place. It is time for the celebrated captain and crew of the starship Enterprise to encounter the Q. Hmm. I should probably adopt a new look."
"Spock said some kind words about Saavik's testimony. Bones' daughter came to see him. Security Chief Chekov is beaming. Tactical Officer Sulu is getting this crew, including a Caitian and an Edoan, into shape. Nyta, always my friend, is now a properly titled Console Officer. Scotty says the Hall kept its word. The Enterprise is better than ready, though we leave without Janice and Christine. We are back. We are racing to meet the threatening unknown. I hold the unused rank of Admiral. We are together. Yet something is missing. Perhaps September 8th is merely a day as any other."
Lady Amanda Grayson saw the tenderness in Saavik's eyes as she offered the shaking teen boy some food. It was perhaps the first food he had eaten in ten years. That thought alone made Amanda almost as sick as the thought that Peter Kirk had not been held by Klingons, Romulans, Orions or Kzin-but rather by the top echelon of Starfleet Command itself, a frozen trophy kept in the bottom-most recesses of Admiralty Hall, right below where cadets and their superiors of every rank did sixty percent or better of Starfleet's business.
*Kept in the bowels of the Earth by his father's enemies, hidden in a dungeon built below a house of evil and hate-dear God, this boy was almost literally in Hell itself.*
"You have to eat, Peter. You must regain your strength."
In fact, the boy had already regained much of his physical strength, seemingly just by enjoying the sunlight. His mental capacity was another story altogether. Healer T'Nia (Sarek's own aunt) had been summoned, and Sarek sought an audience with T'Pau, seeking to bring Peter before the Kolinahri adepts to restore his mind.
"Saavik---if he doesn't want to eat right now, put him back to bed. Then turn in yourself. You both look exhausted."
Saavik knew better than to challenge her.
As she took him to Spock's old room, the boy stopped in front of Amanda.
Peter's eyes seemed permanently reddened by tears he had not a prayer of controlling.
Saavik took him away, but the sight of James Kirk's shattered son would not leave Amanda very soon. She quickly made for Sarek's study.
"Has T'Pau responded yet?"
"My grandmother works on her own pace. But I have invoked an ancient law regarding foundlings like young Peter. We should hear something soon."
Amanda plainly did not like the idea of Jim Kirk's boy being referred to as a foundling, so she jumped to another related subject.
"What did Jim say when you told him the news?"
Sarek took on an anxious look, and this added to his silence spoke volumes.
"Let me rephrase. When are you going to tell our son's thy'la that his son is alive?"
"My wife, I have elected to keep the news of Peter's rescue from James for the immediate future, until such time as the boy is restored to a greater level of coherence. I do not believe the shattered thing that Saavik now cares for would be a welcome sight."
Amanda paused, then nodded. If Peter could be ‘cleaned up' before being presented to Jim Kirk, so much the better.
"You'll have to handle it carefully, no matter how he progresses. I can't imagine Jim's level of rage when he finds out who held poor Peter all these years. I know he and the crew never liked those people---Nyta Uhura called them fascist thugs, and I think she was holding back at that."
Sarek had dreaded this moment, but dread moments were rapidly becoming relative things in his life.
"Amanda, I must now request that no one living in this house ever tell James Kirk either where his son was, or who held him. I ask this not to protect the villains at Admiralty Hall, but James, our son and their crew. Their enemies are too highly placed and too capable of destroying those who oppose or accuse them. James must not know that the sovereign power of Starfleet is corrupt at that fundamental level. This knowledge and their affection for the boy who spent two months in their midst would drive them to a dangerous distraction."
"How under T'Kuht's gaze can you be sure of that?"
Again, dread things were well on their way to becoming the norm.
"I was shown a possible future, one wherein my informing James of who took and abused his son led to a ruinous war that left all the major powers unready for the final war to come."
Amanda sat down, as the subject matter was already a strain on her ability to take in what was being discussed.
"Final war? Sarek, what final war? Before you left, you told me to read about the Christian Apocalypse, and now you're talking of final wars? And just who showed you this possible future?"
"My wife, the final war will be fought against the creature known as the Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds, which is no legend, and which will begin its assault within our lifetime. As to the one who showed me this possibility---this was the entity that James once called ‘Trelane', and who now goes by the appellation : "
Amanda almost spat out one letter.
"Q!? The Q who tried to kill Saavik, just three years ago? The Q who stood by and nearly let the Earth be destroyed while playing mind-games with Jim and our son? The Q who likely knew where that sad shell of a little boy was being held, and said and did NOTHING? So we can't tell Jim his leaders are monsters, because a child-murdering wannabe-deity and a fairy-tale dragon might be offended?"
Perhaps the deity called by many names across the Creation said to have been that one's design intervened on Sarek's behalf, for his audience with T'Pau was granted. Sarek sensed there was no more to be said, and made for his transport to Seleya. On his way, he recalled the events that re-introduced the being once known as Trelane to the galaxy at large.
USS ENTERPRISE, SEPTMEBER 8TH, 2271
CAPTAIN'S LOG, JAMES T. KIRK, COMMANDING
**An entity of unknown power is approaching the heart of the Federation. The outcome of its path seems almost certain to be Earth itself. Around this cloud/field-what have you, enemies, allies and friends alike have fallen. Enterprise has only two assets in rising to meet this challenge: Its speed and power, and the finest crew in Starfleet, bar none. We carry both the hopes of over one hundred worlds, and the scrutiny of the Council and of Admiralty Hall. Yet the people who saw me through five incredible years are all with me once again, save for Rand and Chapel. They are ready to do the job. I can only hope the same is true of their captain.**
"Leaving Earth's solar system, Captain. Passing Checkpoint Wolf. Damn. I can pick up that thing's outward fields on long-range. Could even be as much as twelfth power, sir. Wish Fleet had given us more intel. Activating advanced shield countermeasures. Should be on-line just before we get there."
"Path is confirmed to be free of traffic, Kyptin. Vwe should have a clear shot at meeting the intruder, vwith only Vwuclan sector still needing to give us clearance. Estimate that such clearance vwill be given vwell before our arrival."
"Thank you, Lieutenant Chekov, Lieutenant Commander Sulu. Commander Scott?"
"The new warp core may be one tenth the size of the old one, sir. But she's capable of moving like a leopard while purring like a kitten. So long as the path is clear of flotsam, jetsam and fellow travelers, Cap'n, we can maintain best warp right until we glimpse that beastie's nose-hairs."
Kirk thought to himself : *Don't disappoint me Spock*. The Vulcan did not disappoint.
"Mister Scott, flotsam and jetsam are indicative of water and surf. There is none here. The most primitive impulse engines can move faster than even a genetically enhanced cheetah, and the noise they make are arguably subjective in nature. To even suppose absent evidence that the entity possesses a face of any sort, with features remotely resembling our own is not merely illogical, but reaches the point of the absurd."
The Captain again counted down to an unofficial clock : *Go for it, Bones. He's wide open.*
"Sulu, tell me why the hell any object we can't see and don't understand has to be labeled a thing. Seems damned elitist."
If Kirk had time to be astounded, he would have been so by way of McCoy's bypassing of Spock's deeper-than-usual deconstruction of Scotty's analysis. That said, he did take note of it for later.
"Lieutenant Commander Uhura, should I even be asking?"
"We're getting tons of telemetry off the intruder, Captain. But as to understanding it? All I've been able to do that the rest of the Fleet hasn't is to make it a more coherent incoherency. We can now confirm that something is being said, and the general gist of it-but I must emphasize the word general. Maybe I should even use the word vague."
Losing her as a lover the past month had been a pain he had never wanted to contemplate. Losing her as crewmember was something he never could. His team was that good. Losing even one was not permissible.
"Uhura, do I need to say that I'll take your vague over most certainties?"
Actually, she well knew, he would do that for any of his senior staff. But hearing it meant confirmation of no hard feelings, though she regretted the necessity of calling things off.
"Aye, Sir. Well, it does seem like some manner of request for identification or information. But I can't even discern whether its tone is angry, cold, indifferent, standard-and don't even bother asking what the information request might be for."
Kirk still felt better than he had about this intruder.
"To my mind, even a dangerous intruder with a purpose beats one who's just passing through. It gives a chance for contact. To reason with it, or to deny it its goal, if called for. Accelerate to maximum warp-now!"
The ship moved into speeds that were massive multiples of light that would soon place it within viewing distance of their goal.
"Kyptin-vwormhole ahead, sir!"
Scotty shook his head.
"Is nae possible, lad-my bairns are in perfect balance."
Spock checked his scanner.
"And yet, Mister Scott, Mister Chekov's assessment is as correct as yours. We have had no warp-field imbalance, and yet a wormhole lies ahead of us."
Sulu found he missed his telescoping sensor, but had to admit the new display had capabilities the old toy never could dream of.
"More good news-an object has been pulled into the wormhole---Captain, it's the size of a planet."
Spock added to the confusing chorus.
"Captain, it is a planet-and it is moving towards us at speeds faster than our approach should allow for."
"Cap'n! If we drop out of warp at just the right second, we might be able to see the ship clear of that object. Aye, but it'll be like rolling out of the way of a street transport."
Kirk nodded, and Scotty joined the Helm and Navigation to do the work of a miracle worker with no time for mere tricks. The warp field was broken, and the ship fell out of transit hard, skirting the planet-sized object's gravity with mere kilometers to spare. As Console Officer, Uhura had made certain that secure handholds were part of the Bridge redesign. All were grateful for this simple innovation. As Kirk had said, there was no time for being rendered unconscious.
"Captain, I have news both good and bad. We have successfully evaded the object-yet it is now pursuing us. Further, records of past scans reveal this is not our first encounter with such a phenomenon."
"Given what that likely means, Mister Spock---I'd rather have the collision. Mister Sulu, all stop."
"Impulse engines answering all stop, Captain. It's him again, isn't it?"
Though Chekov had not been part of the regular Bridge staff at the time such a thing was last encountered, he had definitely heard all the absurd details.
"Bozhe Moi. Give me Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones---or better yet, a space amoeba, to end the suffering quickly."
"Engines are in fine shape, Cap'n-not that such means anything when ye are being snipe-hunted by a warp-capable planet."
Uhura confirmed what they all knew by now.
"Captain, we're being hailed...by planet Gothos."
McCoy, who had been huddling with Spock till then, chimed in.
"I'm a surgeon, not a blasted cosmic pediatrician!"
There was the sound of a symphony orchestra, proceeded by a flash of light. The man in the ornate Napoleonic Era uniform-no, the being in the uniform, Kirk silently corrected himself-appeared in front of the viewscreen and bowed.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, worthy adversaries and playmates-my planet is in your way."
Kirk rose from his chair and decided to rise to the occasion as well, keeping his anger in check. Besides, having since dealt with the late Peter Kirk, Saavik, return visits to the ‘Onlies' Earth, not to mention the Gorgan-entranced children of the Starnes Expedition (including the boy who had looked eerily like a lankier version of Peter with red hair), Kirk felt had a better handle on the moods of children.
"Yes, it is. Squire Trelane-would you mind terribly moving it? My home planet is facing a crisis, and we can't spare the time and courtesy for whatever you have in mind."
Trelane walked over to Kirk, smiling.
"James---say it with panache, or don't say it at all."
"Get the hell off my ship, Trelane, and get that giant ball of yours out of my way, before I call your parents."
"There. Was that so hard? Alright-my planet?"
Trelane waved his hand with a flourish, and Gothos vanished.
"It's gone. Happy?"
"One out of two's not bad. Won't you miss it?"
"Mon Capitan. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things."
Spock fulfilled at least one of his unofficial duties and the expectations of most present.
"From 1 Corinthians 13:11. Squire, are we to take from this that you claim to have experienced an evolution in your maturity?"
Cane in hand, the entity strode over to the First Officer.
"Delightfully insightful, Mister Spock. With a bit of time compression in my native Continuum, my elders have successfully remade me from the ‘bad little boy' who so tormented you last time. In fact, I am about discarding far more than the training wheels that Gothos and its mechanisms were to me. Or, to quote that lovely fictional step-family from 1970's Earth---"
Trelane flashed again, and this time reappeared as a man slightly taller and skinnier, with unruly hair and a generally less foppish look and a somewhat deeper voice.
"-when it's time to change, you've got to rearrange. Now-Jim-can I call you Jim? Good! My people have some concerns about Humanity-wellll, actually about all non-energy based bipedals, but Humans in particular."
Kirk felt certain he knew what was coming next.
"Let me guess, Trelane-you have found us to be overly barbaric and uncivilized, and in need of being put down like rabid dogs. Am I close?"
‘Trelane' shifted into a uniform that featured a grilled mask, a cap worn backwards, and a vest that looked insulated against sudden impact.
"Not even close, Jimmy-you're outta the ballpark!"
He shifted back.
"Oh, to be certain, you have your share of true barbarians, but if anything their schemes keep you from being of that sort of concern to my species. Yet their retardant presence raises another concern. A---bad patch---is ahead of all of us, and we have begun to question the readiness of Humans to answer the call of potential leadership in this infinite crisis. When Zero Hour comes, will this millennium prove to be the last chapter for your kind? In this darkest, blackest night, when the gods make war, will you stand as legends?"
"Trelane, we cannot spare the time now. An entity---"
"Yes, yes-an entity no one has ever seen anything like before-except for all the others no one has ever seen before-- is for some reason or other bypassing thousands of other worlds and heading right for Sol 3. It's a wonder you people don't develop either a huge ego or a persecution complex."
"Oh-about that. Trelane is another of those toys I no longer need. Call me by the name of my species and continuum-the Q."
"Alright, Mister Q---"
"No, no-just Q. My Father is Mister Q."
Kirk was beginning to be nostalgic for the historically inaccurate fop.
"Q-why are you here-specifically? I'll assume the bad patch you spoke of is still ahead of us."
"Very astute, Jim! I don't know why the other non-corporeal powers always say you lack intuition."
"Who says I lack---never mind. Your reason?"
"Ah, Yes. While we won't clean up your messes for you, the Q wish to offer through myself our logistical support in your current mission, in exchange for observer status."
The offer was so straightforward, Kirk was taken aback. But one voice was raised almost immediately.
"Don't buy what he's selling, Jim! For all we know, either these Q helped set up this crisis, or Trelane is putting us through another of his sick games. This old country Doctor strongly suggests we send him packing. And what's more..."
Q rolled his eyes, and McCoy vanished. Spock was obviously distraught by this, stating the greatly obvious in response.
"Captain, the Doctor..."
"Q, what did you do with him?"
"He's an old country doctor---so I sent him fishing in New England."
Kirk knew and hated his position, but for the sake of one of his dearest friends, he kept his calm.
"Q-bring him back, please. I have an answer for you."
McCoy returned, his uniform torn and soaked.
"I was-I was in a boat...and then this huge great white shark started right towards the boat-bit off a piece of it-nearly got me."
"1975 was a good year for sharks. Not so good for swimmers."
Kirk glared, but Q shrugged.
"Technically, they are fish-and now, Captain, your answer. How quickly am I to get the expletive off your ship, and what will you do to me if I ever show my cute face again?"
If Q fancied himself a trickster, James T. Kirk proved again to be a master of the unexpected.
"I accept your offer of aid, and also am prepared to make my first request for logistical support."
If Q was pleasantly surprised by this, Kirk's crew exhibited signs of unspoken doubt. Q raised an index finger in the air.
"One thing before you do-what is up with those new uniforms? Really now, Jim. Pastels?"
Q waved his hand in the air, and all the uniforms were replaced by maroon-cranberry suits with separate tunics. All appeared appropriate to the rank and fit of the wearer.
"I did you a favor. They wouldn't have lasted very long anyway."
Kirk had to admit-he had never liked the pastels, especially when the ship's lighting made them look black and white on occasion.
"By all means, Jim-you are the Captain."
"Yes-yes I am. Q, I formally request that, while maintaining the safety of myself, my crew and my ship, you transport us, Enterprise, systems and crew, to a position where our sensors can scan and then approach the intruder. I also ask that the safety of other sentients be maintained."
"Jim, I'm not a genie. You could have just asked me to get us there, fast and alive without breaking anything."
"Like Archer always said-try to look before you leap, Q."
Q snapped his fingers.
"Then get ready to leap, Jim."
The announcements were made as it began. The ship felt like it was spinning after the flash from Q finished. When that spinning was itself done, Spock checked sensors.
"We haven't moved, Spock?"
"No, sir, we have. But all about us-is nothing. Pure void, sir."
"I'm no physicist, Spock, but that's impossible. Isn't it?"
Sulu, who was a physicist, added in.
"Possible or no, Doc-these here parts just ain't all there."
Chekov, who had not been this scared since seeing scientists prematurely aged by a rogue comet's trail, stared at the viewscreen.
"It is like the old scorched Earth policy-taken to its ultimate level. I have known in my time devoted believers and hardcore atheists-this sight vwould silence all their debates."
Scotty quietly calculated that in this ‘pure void', the ship might be able to reach infinite speed-if there had been any place to get to.
Uhura, unable to bear looking at the screen, quickly gave up sending out signals. None of the usual protocols or tricks applied.
*Get out of there*
She heard a voice in her head.
*Aunt Nyta, make him take you out of there. Say Gh to him.*
The voice, whether she was sane or not, was that of Peter Kirk, her own adopted son, three years dead.
"Captain, get him to take us out of here. I think we may be in danger."
"Madame Uhura-you can't cut off the tour before you've seen the whole spread."
She glared at Q.
Q seemed stunned by this being said, and suddenly closed his eyes. When he opened them, he no longer seemed as confident.
"Maybe-the lady has a point. Let's-get back to where we once belonged. I hate organized tours anyway. You never really get to know a place that way."
Q actually gestured several times, as though agitated. Kirk was agitated.
"What was that about, Q?"
"Remember that bad patch I mentioned, Captain? Unless you and yours get very ready for some off-the-cuff, seat-of-your-pants thinking the likes of which even you have rarely contemplated, think about what you saw there as a look ahead."
"And where was there?"
Q began to hum and then sing the English alphabet.
As Kirk got further annoyed, back in what had once been the Delta Quadrant, a hungry monster with three heads and two tails arrived to devour even the minute amounts of energy left by Enterprise's passage. King Ghidorah, satisfied once again that the empty void prevailed, began to move in the direction of the meal that had touched its realm so briefly.
Back aboard Enterprise, lights swirled in such a variety that even Spock found his sanity assaulted. Q's transit method also seemed marked by horrific sights of a more coherent nature, as if the Guardian of Forever had itself been injected with cordrazine.
Kirk saw what looked like a race of lumbering robots reduced to cosmic ash.
Spock saw a gelatinous mold separate and walk as bipedals do, till a great mouth drank it all down.
Uhura saw Sargon, Thalassa and Henoch in their original forms, dying with the realization that they were neither as clever nor as godlike as they thought.
McCoy saw healers across time corrupted by a narrow ideology that said only some lives were worth saving, resources aside.
Scotty saw a great shadow, and then saw Earth's first post-Phoenix warp upgrade emerge from that shadow, pieces of which were still hidden within his own beloved engines.
Sulu saw his new wife standing with fellow agents from Section 31. Not one of them cast shadows at all. From his wife emerged a small bundle.
Chekov saw an image of Herod, Green, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and countless others like them bow before the image of a three-headed dragon.
Kirk finally shouted out.
"Q! This has gone on long enough!"
"Right you are, sir-besides---"
The ship's sights and sounds went back to normal.
Q for some reason was wearing a purplish suit with matching top hat. As Kirk rolled his eyes, the entity shifted into the new Starfleet uniform he had created.
"Anyone for a chocolate bar?"
Kirk ignored him.
"Mister Sulu, our position?"
Sulu activated the viewscreen, and all stared ahead at the gigantic cloud that was their goal.
"Like the man said, sir-we're there."
Uhura worked her main console, then spoke.
"Same requests for identity and information as before, Captain, with one difference. The intruder identifies itself as-V'Ger N'Sa-and demands we surrender a party whose designation I can't translate-or else be destroyed."
Spock took in and analyzed her telemetry as well.
"Captain, there is a vessel inside that field. If we could get to it, both analysis and contact would be more easily facilitated."
"And if wishes were horses, Spock? Jim, we even try and go knocking on or knocking down this entity's front door, and it'll think we're the damned intruders."
"Point taken, Bones. But how do you suggest we get through a field that has taken apart Klingon fleets and space stations alike?"
"Kyptin? I suggest a small strike force in environmental suits. It might be harder for this V'Ger to detect."
"Given that nightmare's power, Cap'n, we dinnae possess the power to so much as spit at it, short of getting well inside and taking this ship to kingdom come."
"You want me to move in or move back, Captain?"
"Maintain current distance, Mister Sulu. Q? Can you get us in there?"
McCoy fought to avoid saying something about Q's trustworthiness.
"No, Jim. I told you, I won't clean up your messes for you."
Kirk seemed to think of something.
"Can you lend us a mop and bucket then? What can you do that leads to us getting in there?"
Q rubbed his hands in seeming delight.
"I'm very glad you asked that. Very glad. For this crew represents the best of Humanity-which is really a rather sad statement, but still you've impressed all the right people-which is to say, my people. Anyone up for a promotion?"
Spock asked the obvious.
"To what rank, sir?"
The entity smiled. His next words froze the Bridge more than any power of his possibly could.
"From Human-to Q."
Saavik could not believe her ears.
"Q? Father has entered us into an alliance with Q?"
Amanda shook her head.
"He told Sarek that he no longer wishes you or Peter ill will. I want to trust my husband-but he can be naïve when the façade of good intentions is well-constructed."
"I disagree, Mother---and I choose to trust that Father's judgment is a correct one. What concerns me is why he never mentioned this."
Amanda smiled, but it was not a broad one.
"That part is easy. My reaction was not good at all, and I don't have the ability to tear a starship apart."
"MOTHER! Do not joke about such things. What Peter and I almost did in a moment of rage haunts me."
Amanda put her arms around the girl.
"They would have hurt you two-again. To my mind, that makes burning in Hell too good for them."
Three years prior, the Q entity had kidnapped Saavik Kirk right off of Vulcan, this to place her on trial for her life aboard her father's starship, based on some vague future threat she might represent. Her life and that of Captain Kirk's had been spared only by a bizarre inexplicable circumstance. A hand made out of energy had grasped Q and thrown him off the Enterprise.
"Is Q here?"
Peter Kirk had emerged from his bedroom, looking and sounding very angry.
"Peter, you should be resting."
The boy with the shattered psyche snuggled next to the one he loved best of all-his rescuer, and though he did not yet know it, his adopted sister. That knowledge was being withheld by Saavik herself.
"I won't let him hurt you. I'll kill him, just like last time!"
Amanda asked the obvious question.
"Uh-huh. He tried to kill Saavik and Uncle Jim. Put them in execution chairs. I stopped him, but he didn't stay dead."
Saavik put her beloved charge back to bed, and then came back out.
"Mother, I have not told him anything of that encounter. Granted, he could have read it from my thoughts, and yet..."
"Yet what Saavik?"
"Yet when that last minute save came through, ending Q's plans to end me-the energy hand felt utterly familiar to me-as familiar as Peter himself did-and continues to do."
Which raised two questions in Amanda's mind. One, was it somehow Peter who saved his father and a sister he never met, while a helpless captive, and Two, if so, how had he known who Saavik was, before they ever met?
"And I thought living here would be boring and peaceful."
"No chance of that."
Q stood before Amanda, smiling as he was often said to.
"Tell me, is the gentleman of the house in?"
Behind him, a fuming Saavik was joined by an equally enraged Peter. Q gave a casual backward glance.
"Oh, kids today, with their quick tempers, glowing eyes and hair turning multi-chromatic from displaced power cosmic! Mother, where *did* we go wrong?"