DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kay Bradford and Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 1973 by Kay Bradford and Cheree Cargill. Originally published in Tal-Shaya #1, 1973. This story is rated PG.

Incident of the Oiseau d'Or

Kay Bradford and Cheree Cargill

"Captain's log. Star Date 3320.9. Received distress signal from a nearby passenger ship, the Oiseau d'Or, after its being attacked by an unidentified enemy vessel. The Oiseau is a class D-6 luxury liner owned by the Starlite Cruise Transportation Company of Arcturus 3, last known captain Paul Sweeney. It is suspected that the liner strayed into the Romulan Neutral Zone in an effort to make up lost time and was attacked by a Romulan ship. We have not been able to confirm this, but are now maneuvering alongside to pick up survivors from the crippled liner."

"Lieutenant Uhura, have you reached Star Fleet Command yet?" Captain James Kirk asked, swinging his chair around toward communications.

"Yes, sir, and they acknowledge your request for assistance with the survivors," the lovely black woman replied. "The Exeter is within range and can accommodate about half of the rescued party. They'll reach us with the hour, sir."

"Good. Spock, I want a list of the names of all survivors. The first half will be transferred to the Exeter, the second half will stay with us. And request the Captain stay aboard with us for the debriefing."

"Yes, sir."

Kirk pressed the intercom button on his chair arm. "Transporter room," he said.

"Aye, sir?" answered Scotty's voice.

"How are things going, Scotty?"

"Dr. McCoy and the medical team just beamed over. We're startin' t' bring over th' survivors now."

"Fine, Scotty. I'll join you momentarily. Kirk out."

He rose from the command chair and headed for the elevator, giving his First Officer a meaningful look. Spock acknowledged it and moved from his science station to the center of the bridge.

* * *

As Kirk entered the transporter room, he saw the familiar shimmering lights spread into five human forms and an elongated blob lying across one of the back pads. The images developed and fully materialized into two women, three men and another man lying on a stretcher. One of the men was McCoy and he immediately returned to work on the injured man. As Kirk watched, he was politely hustled out of the way by a medical team pulling a table into the room. The stretcher was placed on the table and, after McCoy had given him a final shot, the man was wheeled out to sick bay. The other four people were not seriously harmed, just bruised and bloodied, considerably shaken by their ordeal. McCoy turned to step back into the transporter beams, but Kirk caught him.

"How bad is it, Bones?"

"I don't know yet. They haven't penetrated the area of the main attack. Most of the people were in the dining room eating, but there's no telling how many were elsewhere. We've found twenty suffering from shock, burns, and other injuries. That man that was just taken out of here had both legs broken and some internal bleeding. Jim, is help coming?"

Kirk nodded. "The Exeter should be here in forty-five minutes and they'll take half the survivors."

The doors hissed open and Nurse Chapel entered the room, carrying a tray of medical supplies. "Good," McCoy nodded. "Let's go." She acknowledged the order and stepped onto the transporter platform.

One of the survivors, a tall, middle-aged, rather handsome man stared in fascinating at the blonde nurse. Christine met his eyes and smiled politely, but turned her gaze straight ahead as McCoy said, "Energize." The two shimmered out of existence.

Kirk turned to the people waiting in the transporter room then paused a minute while six more materialized. "I'm Captain James Kirk," he said. "If you'll give your names and addresses to this yeoman, she'll show you to Rec Room 7 where we hope you'll be comfortable until we can prepare quarters for you. She'll answer all questions."

Kirk nodded at the pretty dark-haired girl standing attentively by his side. She produced a clipboard and proceeded to take down names and addresses. The man who had stared at Christine announced, "Lieutenant Kenneth Powell, U.S.S. Lexington, serial number KD-285739-0."

Kirk swung around. "Lexington?" he repeated. "What in blazes are you doing way out here in this quadrant?"

"Going home, sir," Powell answered. "I've been on leave to Mendoza's Planet and was taking the Oiseau back to a rendezvous port with my ship."

"Very well, Lieutenant. I may require you to testify at the hearing."

"Yes, sir," Powell said.

* * *

"Captain's log. Star Date 3321.7. We have rendezvoused with the Exeter and are now transporting the last of the survivors aboard. The disaster is much less than feared. Out of 115 passengers and crew, only twenty-four are dead or missing. At this time, a hearing is being held on board the Enterprise to determine the cause of the attack."

Gathered around the table in the briefing room were Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Lt. Powell, Captain Sweeney and his first officer Daniel Conner. All were in dress uniform.

Kirk tapped the ancient ship's bell three times and said quietly, "This hearing is in session. Captain Sweeney, this is not a trial. It is an investigation into the circumstances leading up to the attack on the liner S.S. Oiseau d'Or."

Sweeney kept his eyes averted, twitching nervously. Kirk asked, "Captain, were you aware of your ship's position and its nearness to the Romulan Neutral Zone?"

"Yes, of course," Sweeney replied, pushing back his blonde hair nervously. "Logged it. Yes, yes, of course I was aware."

Kirk turned to Powell. "Lieutenant, had you been in contact with the Captain before the attack?"

"Yes, sir. It was the Captain's habit to have dinner with the passengers every evening in the dining room. He was quite popular with them, in fact. The Oiseau was a happy ship as far as the passengers were concerned."

"But didn't the Captain seem to enjoy his wine?"

"That's not for me to say, sir. I had only met the Captain socially. That is, at dinner, sir., and whenever I chanced to meet him in the hall. However, at dinner he *did* always seem to drink a little too much to me."

"What of it?" Sweeney protested, his dark blue eyes flashing. "You can't condemn a man on that! Captain Kirk -- I daresay you like to drink now and then, too!"

"I am not the subject of this hearing, sir," Kirk answered stiffly. "Mr. Conner, what was Captain Sweeney's condition prior to the attack?"

Conner, a robust man who looked to have come up through the ranks to his present position, cleared his throat and said softly, "Well, sir, we were on course for--"

"Louder, please," asked Spock from the computer station.

"I said, we were on course for Canopus 4 but were running a little behind schedule. We were delayed on Mendoza's Planet while we repaired a damaged baffle plate in our engine room. Captain Sweeney was worried about us not making it to Canopus on time. He'd always been a stickler for keeping a tight schedule and it's made us a good ship because of it. But this particular route required that we curve around the Neutral Zone. That would have put us two weeks behind schedule. Well, sir, I guess that just sort of stuck in the Captain's craw. He decided to risk ducking through the Zone and putting her on full thrust. That would have gotten us to Canopus just a day and a half behind schedule. But, well ... we didn't quite make it. We were high-tailing it through and were just about ready to give her the final thrust when we were suddenly fired upon. We hoped over into Federation space, but by then it was too late."

"Can you identify the ship that attacked you?" asked Spock.

"I didn't get a good look, sir, but I think so," Conner replied. The Vulcan pushed a button on his panel and a shot of a Romulan battle cruiser appeared on the triple screen in the center of the table. Conner shook his head. 'No, sir. It was one of those with the bird of prey on the underside." Spock pushed another button and a Romulan Predator appeared. "That's it, sir."

"You haven't answered my question, Mr. Conner," Kirk said. "What was Captain Sweeney's condition prior to the attack?"

Conner looked uncomfortable. "Well, he was worried about making up time. He appeared to have had a few drinks before coming up to the bridge. He didn't look as if he'd had much sleep and was irritable with the crew."

Kirk turned his gaze on the miserable form of the Oiseau's captain. "Sir," he said, "it was reported by several passengers that you had been drinking heavily before the attack on your ship and that you were not in control of your faculties. Is this true, sir?"

Sweeney, becoming even more restless, answered in a whisper, "Yes. I wasn't drinking heavily, mind you, but ... yes, yes, I had a drink or two."

"Were you in complete control of your faculties?"

Sweeney kept silent, his eyes closed, his breathing labored. Kirk tried to keep his face as expressionless as possible. "Captain Sweeney, did you order your ship into the Romulan Neutral Zone?"

Once more, Sweeney did not reply. Kirk started to repeat, "Captain, did you or did you not order your--"

"Yes!" Sweeney exploded, his face red. "Yes! I did. It was an accident. I mean ... it wasn't the course I'd intended..." He suddenly slumped in his chair, his guilt overcoming him.

Kirk was silent for a minute then turned to the surgeon sitting beside him. "Dr. McCoy, what is your report of the state of the condition of the passengers and crew of the Oiseau d'Or?"

McCoy had been watching Sweeney closely. The man had all the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown. He said, "Twenty-four dead or missing, presumed lost in space. Ten seriously injured, eight suffering from shock, and fifteen with burns ranging from minor to serious." He paused to wet his lips. "They're all shook up, bruised. I have one woman under sedation for hysteria."

"What's the near Star Base, Mr. Spock?" Kirk asked.

"Star Base 12, sir."

Kirk assumed his most expressionless stance. "Captain Paul Sweeney, it is my duty to turn you over to the authorities at Star Base 12, where you will be tried for negligence of duty. This hearing is in recess."

Sweeney turned up red, watery eyes. "Must I stay in the brig?" he asked weakly.

For all the man's incompetence, Kirk somehow pitied him. "No, I don't think so, Captain. You're confined to quarter under guard."

Sweeney blinked dully and nodded, his expression turned inward. "I've been a captain for fifteen years. I've been a good one," he mused, as if trying to convince himself of the fact.

Kirk didn't answer him. There was nothing to say. As he stood, the others around the table did likewise, then followed him silently out. The two waiting security guards escorted the broken man from the room.

* * *

Off-duty, Christine found herself in the one real piece of Earth the Enterprise carried -- the hydroponic garden. Whenever she became homesick, she always managed to spend a little time in it. But tonight it was just a very lovely place to relax.

Her reverie was broken by a strong male voice. "Nurse Chapel." She turned to find Kenneth Powell watching her. "I hope I didn't disturb you."

"Oh, no, you didn't," she replied, puzzling out where she'd seen him before. He wasn't one of the Enterprise crewmen.

"You don't remember me, do you, Nurse Chapel?"

Christine looked at him apologetically. "No, I'm sorry."

"I'm Lieutenant Powell. Kenneth Powell. I was in the first party beamed over from the Oiseau."

"Oh, yes. Now I remember. You were standing beside the door when I came in."

Powell grinned. For a moment, neither said anything, their newness awkward. They began to walk among the exotic flowers. Powell asked, "Would you mind if I called you Christine?"

Christine was surprised. "How do you know my name?"

'I asked Dr. McCoy. May I call you Christine?"

"Why, yes. I suppose so." She smiled at him, a warm, friendly smile.

"And you call me Kenneth, alright?"

Still smiling, she nodded. "Alright ... Kenneth."

They came to a bushy plant with large pink flowers on it. Powell picked one off and handed it to her. Christine was touched. She took the flower and brought it up to her lips.

"I love these flowers," she said softly, then laughed. "I feel like a schoolgirl again. I'm from Southern California and every year the mountains would be just covered with flowers. We used to go there on hikes and picnics."

Kenneth smiled. "I know. I'm from Los Angeles myself."

The nurse's blue eyes lit up. "Really? What part?"

"Oh, well, where were you from?"

"San Fernando."

"We lived down in Anaheim."

"Oh." Christine looked back down at the flower in her hand. "I don't suppose you knew Jack Barnes, did you?"

"No, I'm afraid not. Why? Who was he?"

"Just a friend ... a very old ... close friend." She blinked several times then quickly turned away.

Kenneth took her shoulders. "I'm sorry. He must have been very special to you."

Christine nodded. "He was my father."

Powell looked puzzled. "But your name is--"

"Chapel. Yes ... but it should be Barnes. You see, my parents were divorced when I was just a baby and my mother remarried soon thereafter ... to Sandy Chapel. Sandy adopted me so that changed my name from Barnes to Chapel. But as I grew older, my father came to see me and Mother allowed me to visit him. He lived in Anaheim. They never attempted to hide from me what happened and I loved Sandy as much as I did my real father. I just never changed my name back to Barnes."

"What happened to your father?"

"He died last year ... a hunting accident."

Kenneth gently turned her around and took her in his arms. She clung to him. Finally, Powell asked her, "Christine, are you too tired to have dinner with me tonight?"

The nurse pulled back, still holding the flower. "No, no. I'd like that very much. But are you up to it? You've been through quite a lot."

"I'm fine. Even Dr. McCoy says so. In fact, his exact words were that he couldn't find a horse heathier than me."

"Well, I'm certainly not one to argue with the doctor."

He smiled and held out his arm in the traditional gentleman's fashion and Christine took it. As they walked out of the hydroponic garden, the nurse wondered at why she'd never noticed the true beauty of this place.

* * *

As Christine and Powell wandered down the observation deck, Christine thought: Three days! Had it really been just three days sine she'd met Kenneth! The time with him went by so swiftly and dining with him tonight was even more wonderful than the last two nights. Kenneth was alive and vivacious and made her feel alive, too. He made her laugh in a way that she never thought she would again.

As she stood gazing out at the stars, Kenneth came up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. She pressed back against him, loving the warmth of his body. "What do you see out there?" he asked softly.

"Oh ... I don't know. I ... I see new places ... different types of beings to meet, to grow with, to learn to understand. I see..." She stopped abruptly and blushed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get so carried away. It's just that something about all that..." She gestured toward the port. "...moves me tremendously."

She turned in his arms and looked up at him. His gaze flickered over her then suddenly he was kissing her, long and deep. When their lips parted, Christine sank against him, a little dizzy. It had been so long since anyone had kissed her like that.

"I love you, Christine," he whispered huskily in her ear. "I love you. I love you." He kissed her again, hungrier than ever. She responded, moving against him. Her arms went around his neck, then his lips began to travel down her throat. But when his hands slipped down onto her smooth hips, she pushed him away.

"No, Kenneth," she said.

He tried to pull her back to him. "You want to, Christine."

"No, Kenneth."

"You want to. You know you do."

"*No*, Kenneth."

"Why not?"

"Just ... just because..."

"That's not an answer."

"I'm ... I'm just not ready for that kind of relationship," she faltered.

He was breathing heavily. "Don't fight me, Christine." He took her in his arms again and kissed her hard. "You want to. You know you do."

"Kenneth ... please..."

"Say yes, Christine."

She wavered. He was right. She wanted him to sweep her up and take her to his cabin and make love to her. But she couldn't ... somehow she just couldn't. "No, Kenneth," she said weakly.

He started to nuzzle her neck again. "Yes," he whispered.

She pushed him away hard. "No, Kenneth! I mean it! Not yet, at least. I'm ... I'm not ready."

He glared at her then spun around and disappeared down the corridor. Christine stood for a moment in torment. Something inside her wanted to go running after him and beg him for forgiveness, but something stronger prevented that. Instead, she sighed deeply and leaned against the bulkhead. After a few minutes, she straightened and went up to her cabin. She didn't sleep very well that night.

* * *

When she got off duty the next day, Christine went to one of the rec rooms to get something to eat. But as she entered, she saw Powell sitting very close to Yeoman Chita Rodriguez, a very pretty Latin woman who was famous for her love for men. Her black eyes were half-closed as they studied him; it was apparent that both were having a delightful time.

Christine couldn't move. She was intensely shocked. She couldn't believe that Kenneth had been so mad ... that he would drop her so fast. Powell glanced up at her, then did a double-take, his smile vanishing. As he got up to come to her, Christine whipped around and marched out into the corridor. There, Powell caught her arm and spun her around.

"Christine, it's not what you think. Listen to me."

She tried to keep her voice steady, but it was fast clogging with tears. "I thought I loved you," she said in a low voice. "After last night... If you'd give me time--"

"I haven't got time," he breathed back. "In four more days, we'll be at Star Base 12 and I'll never see you again."

"That's still no reason to drop me like a hot--"

"You don't own me, Christine."

"No ... and you don't own me either." She paused. "Last night ... I almost went with you ... but now..."

He started to reach for her. "Christine--"

"No. Go back to your ... friend. I've heard she's very good at those things. No doubt she can satisfy you!" Christine jerked her arm away and fled down the corridor, blind with tears.

Powell hesitated, then seeing no point in chasing after her, shrugged and went back in to Yeoman Rodriguez.

* * *

Christine raced through one of the corridors, although she wasn't sure which one. She was hurt and angry, torn between wanting to lash out at something and desperately needing to be held and comforted while she cried herself out. Abruptly she found herself outside Spock's cabin and, on impulse barged in.

Spock was sitting beside his desk, playing his Vulcan lyre. The sad, eerie notes still hung in the hot air. The first officer looked up curiously at the nurse's arrival.

Christine leaned back against the door and stared at him in astonishment. At last, she said miserably, "I don't know why I'm here," and began to cry.

At once, Spock laid down his lyre and got up, concerned. "Miss Chapel?" he asked gently. "What is wrong?"

He came toward her but she mistook his actions and moved to put her arms around him. Spock pushed her back, gently and mercifully.

Her eyes big with tears, she blinked at him and said imploringly, "Oh, Spock, I love you."

"I ... am aware of that, Miss Chapel," Spock said stiffly after a moment. The nurse's eyes pleaded with his, but he forced his human urgings back down. "I am sorry ... Christine," he said softly, sincerely.

For a minute, the two stared at one another hopelessly. Christine ached to be in his arms, but Spock's uncomfortable stance kept her from it. Finally she laid her palm against his cheek and sighed. "Oh, Spock ... you can't understand ... you can't know what it's like to be alone."

"Christine ... I've always been alone." His dark eyes were deep on hers and held her for a moment. She suddenly realized the futility of their love and turned sadly away. Spock watched her go, not knowing what to do. He stood for a moment then turned back to his desk. Unable to return to his lyre, he set it aside and concentrated on his steeped hands.