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) 1986 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG. Originally printed in Masiform-D #15. NOTE: This story was written long, long before Star Trek: Generations or Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it doesn't match "canon." Take it as an AU story.



MEETING IN A BAR

Cheree Cargill



Commodore Pavel Chekov edged his way through the crowd to the bar and ordered his usual, vodka on the rocks. The hotel was thronged with holiday travelers and the crews of two ships in for repair and refitting -- a freighter from Beta Epsilon and a small cruiser of the Rigellian home guard.

Chekov was on Rigel on a layover between ships. He was going home ... well, back to Earth, anyway, where a nice staff job awaited him at Starfleet Command. His orders had come through two weeks earlier and Starfleet had wasted no time in bringing his replacement up. A little too fast to be appropriate, thought Chekov, but things were moving pretty fast now that the Klingons had started their latest push into Federation space. And, anyway, the Potemkin wasn't in the quadrant where the Klingons were making the most trouble. They had seen a few brief skirmishes, but nothing to really classify them as in the war zone. As usual, the Enterprise, the Lexington and the Excalibur seemed to be taking the most heat.

That's where headquarters' attention was now, not in the exchange of command elsewhere. So perhaps they could be excused if his promotion seemed a bit too abrupt. He'd requested a transfer, after all. He was fifty-two now and was tired. He'd been in space for what? Nearly thirty years? A long time. He was ready to sit back dirtside and let the new people coming up from the Academy handle things.

Briefly, he reflected on his first commander, James Kirk, and how deeply space had been in his bones. They'd made him an admiral and stuck him behind a desk, where he fretted and pined until the miraculous reappointment to the Enterprise on the V'ger mission.

Chekov shook his head at the thought. How far he had come since those first days on the Enterprise? The various little campaigns during his ensign days, the promotion to lieutenant and reassignment to the science department on the Enterprise where he trained directly under Spock. Then when Spock's tour of duty was up, the Vulcan had chosen not to re-enlist but had gone back to his home planet instead and Chekov had found himself as the new Science Officer of the ship with a new set of embellishments on his sleeve.

The V'ger mission had reunited the old crew and he had come out of it, as had most of them, with commendations. He was not surprised when he was promoted to lieutenant commander shortly thereafter, but he was surprised to find that he'd been transferred to the newly commissioned Reliant, as the first officer.

The incident with Khan had caused Starfleet to launch an inquiry into the death of Captain Terrell and the destruction of the ship. Chekov was called before the court martial investigating the events and the hearings caused the only serious blemish on his record. At least he didn't stand before the court alone. Admiral Kirk, his officers, the Doctors Marcus, and the surviving members of the Reliant crew were also called to testify at the hearing. In the end, Starfleet was at somewhat of a loss as to appropriate action.

Technically, Captain Terrell should have drawn a reprimand for gross incompetence, that is, for beaming the ship's two highest ranked officers (himself and Chekov) into an unknown, potentially dangerous situation, without security escort, which ultimately led to the loss of his ship. Chekov, as current acting-captain of the lost ship, was now responsible by proxy. However, since it was Captain Terrell who issued the orders and since Chekov was subordinate to him at the time those orders were issued, there was really no way that the first officer could he blamed. To disobey those orders would have caused Chekov to be charged with insubordination and possibly mutiny.

The Starfleet attorneys puzzled over the regulations and consulted with the flag officers conducting the hearing for nearly a week after testimony had ended. When all were finally called back for the verdict, Commodore Compton announced that in light of events, no charges would be filed against Chekov. Responsibility for the loss of the Reliant lay on Captain Terrell's shoulders. Chekov was commended for his actions; posthumous commendations were awarded to Captain Spock and the midshipmen and cadets who had died aboard the Enterprise during the battles. Starfleet would make recommendations to the Federation Council as to the handling of posthumous awards to the men and women aboard the space station who had died at Khan's hands.

Still recovering from the effects of the Ceti eel, Chekov was granted six weeks medical leave and spent it with his family in Leningrad. At the end of that time, immensely rested, he reported back for duty and was flabbergasted to be offered the captaincy of the Potemkin. He took it with deep satisfaction. A Russian captain for this Russian-named ship was probably coincidental, but, to Chekov, it was sweet nevertheless.

But now, thirteen years later, the constant strain of command had left him weary. He understood now why he had often seen Captain Kirk on the bridge during his "off" hours. Why, even when the Captain was at rest, he was alert to any need his ship might have. Why the responsibility for the lives of 430 people had left faint but deepening lines on Kirk's face and had begun to gray the Captain's brown hair. And Kirk had only been in his early thirties when he had taken command of the Enterprise; Chekov was 39 when he had accepted the captaincy of the Potemkin.

Now Chekov sat waiting for his ship to Earth, the youthfulness gone from his face, the strain of command evident in the deep lines around his mouth and eyes, his dark hair and mustache shot through with gray.

As he swirled the vodka around in the glass, making the ice cubes tinkle faintly, his eyes played over the crowd of people in the hotel's bar. There was a fair assortment from many different worlds ... mostly human or humanoid, but there was also a Betelguesean trader, a group of pig-like Lafarians from Hansen's World, a Lebilena, resembling a tall slender bird, and even a Scyllian, watching the goings-on with its multiple eye-stalks.

Abruptly, his gaze locked on a human male seated alone at a small table in the corner, sipping at a glass of white wine. The man was Asian, dressed in civilian traveling clothes, the face still youthful despite the silver in his black hair.

Chekov pushed his was through the crowd until he stood beside the corner table and peered down inquiringly at the man. "Sulu?"

The man looked up at him and a wide grin split his face, dark eyes twinkling with delight. Jumping to his feet, Sulu seized Chekov's hand and pumped it enthusiastically. "Pavel! My God, it's good to see you! Sit down! Let me buy you a drink!"

The Russian laughed and seated himself at the small table. "Thanks. That would be wery nice."

Sulu made a sign at the bartender and turned back to his old comrade, looking absolutely amazed. "Of all the people... What in free space are you doing here?"

"Going home. I have a new appointment in Starfleet Operations."

"Well, congratulations But last I heard you were captain of--" Sulu broke off, searching Chekov's face to see if maybe he'd stumbled onto a subject he shouldn't have, but the other's features showed no sign of offense.

"I requested the transfer." Chekov took a sip of his vodka and a reflective look came over his face. He looked down at the table, seeming to forget Sulu's presence for a moment.

"Nothing wrong, I hope?" Sulu ventured.

Chekov looked up and smiled, but the tiredness did not quite leave his eyes. "No. Just getting old. It was time to leave the job to a younger man."

"Old? You?" Sulu gave him an incredulous look. Their drinks arrived and they broke off talking while the waitress set down coasters and glasses.

Both watched her walk away then Chekov sighed and said, "Old, yes. I'm not Kirk." He shook his head. "The responsibility ... the constant decisions ... I feel like a wery old man. He's dead, you know."

"Admiral Kirk?" Sulu was startled. "When? How?"

"Two months ago. He was on holiday, aboard a friend's private yacht. I don't know exactly what happened, but scuttlebutt went around the Fleet, you know."

Sulu nodded and couldn't stop a little smile, remembering how quickly gossip spread among starships and by what improbable means by which it traveled.

Chekov continued, "He had a massive heart attack and there was no doctor on board or cryogenic facilities available. They sent out a mayday, but he was dead before help could arrive."

Sulu shook his head. "Damn! After all he lived through! To go like that."

Chekov nodded and sipped his drink reflectively. After a time, Sulu said, "How many does that make now?"

The Russian sat in silence for quite a while, pondering the ripples on the surface of the vodka and Sulu was beginning to wonder if he'd forgotten the question when he answered slowly, "Kirk ... Scott ... McCoy ... Uhura, I think."

"McCoy, I knew. That was some time ago. And, of course, Scotty. His engines finally did him in ... radiation, you know."

"Yes." Chekov swirled his drink, watching the ice cubes knock gently together. "I've lost touch with so many."

"I don't think Uhura's gone," Sulu said. "I think she's teaching somewhere."

"Maybe so."

"And Christine. She's head resident at Walter Reed Hospital in New Washington. Doing pretty well for herself."

Chekov grinned. "Yes. She's one tough lady. I never doubted that she would get whatever she set out to get."

Sulu grinned back wryly. "Except old Spock. He was the only nut she could never crack."

Pavel laughed and shook his head reflectively, thinking back. "I don't know..." he said finally. "I think you would be surprised."

Sulu looked positively scandalized. "What? Has the truth been hidden all these years?"

Chekov managed a lop-sided smile. "Well, I don't know about the truth. I just saw some things when I was training under Spock that made me wonder, that's all. Nothing that would convict either one of them. But who knows?" He shrugged, still smiling. "It's nice to speculate about though, isn't it?"

Sulu threw back his head and howled in delight.

"What about you?" Chekov asked when he had sobered somewhat. "What have you been doing since ... when did I see you last? On Vulcan?"

"Yes ... I think that was the last time," Sulu answered, his gaze turning inward as he thought back. "Oh, I've been here and about. I retired from Starfleet a couple of years after that. Thirty years, you know. Got a nice little pension out of it so I've been indulging a passion and traveling." His wide elf in grin lit up his face again and he leaned forward conspiratorially. "I'm on my way back to Deneva to meet my wife."

Chekov's eyes widened. "Wife! When--"

Sulu leaned back in his chair, smiling smugly. "Oh, for a few years now. Her name's Kim Sun-Chung. She's a research assistant to Doctor Klabzuba at the Institute of Technology there. She doesn't share my wanderlust, I'm afraid, but we get along pretty well. At least she hasn't locked me out of the house yet." He laughed merrily, completely secure in his wife's affections.

"Well, that's wonderful!" Chekov said, genuinely envious. "Any small ones?"

"No. We may soon, though. It's hard for Kim to take the time from her work, but maybe I'll just settle down and be a hausherr for a while. Who knows?" He grinned again.

The disembodied voice of the hotel intercom interrupted the conversations in the bar to announce that the port shuttle would be leaving in fifteen minutes. Patrons began to finish their drinks and get up to leave.

Chekov looked regretfully back at Sulu. "Well, that's my shuttle. It's been great seeing you again. I've really enjoyed it!"

"Hey, likewise!" Sulu replied as he and Chekov got to their feet. "Listen, if you're ever on Deneva--"

"Sure -- I'll look you up. I promise. And, if you're ever back on Earth--"

"Right."

Chekov stuck out his hand and Sulu grasped it firmly then, on impulse, pulled his friend into a quick, back-slapping hug. When they parted, Sulu said earnestly, "Take care, will you, Pavel?"

Chekov smiled. "You do likewise, my friend. Good-bye."

He turned and pushed his way through the crowd toward the door, vanishing through it in a few minutes. Sulu watched him go, then sighed and reseated himself at the small table. His wine had gotten warm and he grimaced and set it back down after one sip. Suddenly tired, he fished out a half-credit note for the waitress and got up to leave the bar himself.

THE END