DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2002 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.


Cheree Cargill

Stardate: 3013.8, First Officer Spock recording.

It is finally done. Captain Pike is safely delivered into the hands of the Talosians, my court martial is over and I have been exonerated. Was it possible that I might have failed in my mission? Yes, in any number of ways, not the least of which was the drastic but plausible step that Starfleet might have destroyed the Enterprise to prevent our reaching Talos IV. I considered that and discounted it. I deemed the odds high that Starfleet would weigh the lives of over four hundred officers and crew plus the 16 billion credits invested in the ship itself to be worth more than a thirteen-year-old order that had been based primarily on fear and ignorance in the first place.

But would they have sacrificed one man to make a point? Even risking an incident with the Vulcan High Council in the process? Yes, that would have happened. Sarek would not have said a word. He would have upheld the law perfectly while his son was executed by firing squad. Oh, he might have demanded that I release my katra first so that it might be returned to the Hall of Ancestors, but speak up to save me? Never. He would be too humiliated by the loss of arie'mnu and the illogical acts of his son. He would repudiate me publicly, then meditate over his failures. "Sybok, now Spock. Where did I go wrong?"

And he would not be far mistaken. I confess to a surge of emotion when I said a final farewell to my former commander. He had tears in his eyes and I presumed to meld with him ever-so-briefly before I beamed him down. He did not say much to me, nor I to him. We understood each other well.

*Goodbye, Spock*, he said to me. *Thank you for this. I only wish you could have done the same for her.*

*As do I, sir*, I answered him. *Live long and prosper.*

And then he was gone. All the controls I had set in on the ship released automatically and the helm was free and clear to navigate. Commodore Mendez had already communicated with Captain Kirk over Starfleet's decision to wipe all charges against me and we left Talos orbit immediately, on our way back out into our patrol sector. Our route is leading us into the Pyrus stargroup, charted but uninhabited. I expect nothing of consequence upcoming and will devote myself to returning to normal shipboard life. My mission to save Captain Pike is over now.

I have yet to write my official report and that will take up some time. I wanted to meditate first and order my thoughts before I did so. My reasons and logic must be flawless and there must be no hint of the emotional turmoil I feel now. Seeing those past events and the faces of people I knew so long ago have stirred in me feelings I thought long suppressed.

Dr. Boyce, who died a year after the Talos mission... He was always kind and tolerant to me, answering an alien boy's endless questions regarding the strange world he had entered of his own volition. Andrea Colt ... younger than I and even more naive, who left the ship within two months, unable to face Pike after their interlude on Talos and the baring of her heart there. I do not know what became of her. Jose Tyler, who went on to command a border station along the Neutral Zone ... and was killed when the Romulans destroyed several of those outposts. I never knew him as well as I would have liked. We were too different in nature to become close friends.

So many of my shipmates. I've lost touch with nearly all of them over the years. Such is the nature of space exploration and Starfleet. Many, I admit, I have simply forgotten, faces and names blurring away into the past to eventually be absorbed in time.

But one I have never forgotten. She was extraordinarily special to me. Leigh ... Number One... My friend, my mentor, my superior officer in every way. She molded raw, eager clay into a vessel of usefulness and purpose. She made me the person I am today. I could almost have believed she was Vulcan, for her logic and control were many times superior to mine. I do not know how she became that way. Certainly she could be as warm and human as any of the others when she chose to be. She sometimes mothered all of us, wrapping us in her gentle smile and honest affection. At other times, her incredible blue eyes could turn as cold as steel and there would not be an ounce of softness in her.

I know that many of the crew and junior officers disliked her, even despised her at times. They called her the Ice Bitch and many more vulgar things behind her back. I remember dressing down a couple of ensigns when they uttered one such moniker within my hearing.

Later I caught a whisper over the ship's grapevine that my reprimand had been grounded in the perceived fact that I was, in reality, Number One's lover and this was why I objected so strenuously to a bit of fun banter among junior officers. I was so disturbed by this rumor that I ended up seeking the counsel of Dr. Boyce on how I should confront it.

"Don't dignify it with an answer," he advised me.

"But it is untrue!" I responded.

"Of course it's untrue," he answered. "But you won't stop people gossiping if you add fuel to the fire. I know the young scamp that started it. He doesn't like you any better than he likes Leigh and, if you egg it on, you'll just be encouraging him." The doctor paused and took a sip of his coffee, leaning back in his chair comfortably. "He'll get his comeuppance, never fear. Chris has his eye on him. He's just waiting for a real reason to transfer him off this ship. My advice ... just keep your nose clean and everything will be fine."

I resisted an automatic urge to check the condition of my nose, realizing an instant later that it was merely one more of the myriad Human metaphors that I struggled continuously to assimilate. I took the advice and, sure enough, the guilty ensign made the mistake of talking too much when the Captain was within earshot. Pike took extreme exception to the ensign's remarks and officially reprimanded him for insubordination. The ensign seized the opportunity to speak freely regarding Number One, myself, and several other senior officers. Pike had him off the ship within the month, as soon as we put in at our starbase for resupply. I never saw or heard of the man again.

I never admitted to anyone, however, how close to home that rumor was or why it hit me so hard. Not that there had ever been anything romantic or sexual between myself and Number One. She would not have permitted it. She was the First Officer, after all, and I was merely a junior officer who had fallen in love with an extraordinary woman. I knew that she did not return the sentiment, of course. She could not and, once the shipboard gossip had surfaced, she never again treated me with the openness that she had once displayed. She became formal and purely professional toward me, her Vulcan-like control in full force at all times. She knew, of course, how I felt about her deep down, but would not allow any response that might have encouraged that emotion in me.

Odd how circular life is. What goes around comes around, they say. Now it has come full circle back to me. Now I am the First Officer and there is a junior officer in love with me. I cannot reciprocate or encourage her in any way. It would be inappropriate on many levels. But I understand better now how Leigh Chapel felt when a lonely young man gazed at her with adoration and her clear blue eyes could only answer back with apology. To her sister now I can only say, "I'm sorry, Christine. Truly, I am sorry."