DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Nesabj and is copyright (c) 2002 by Nesabj. This is the seventh in a series of letters from Chekov to Irina. Rated G.
Dear Irina, Part 7
I am very sorry to burden you with this, but I have to confess to someone. Please allow me to presume upon our friendship. You know me better than anyone and you have always forgiven me my transgressions in the past, but this time there can be no forgiveness. I don't deserve your forgiveness. I only implore you to listen to this no matter how disgusted you might feel by what I have done. Just listen and know how truly ashamed and sorry I am.
I have disgraced myself. I have done the most idiotic, horrible, terrible thing that you could ever imagine. I know that you have a vivid imagination, and that you have seen me do some pretty stupid things, but this ... this is the worst. My family will die of shame when they hear about this. I have disgraced them, my Russian heritage, Starfleet, and everyone who ever helped me or had a kind word for me in my whole life. I know that you think that I am prone to exaggeration, but not this time. This time I am telling the exact truth. I am so stupid. I do not deserve to wear a Starfleet uniform. I do not deserve to be on this ship. There is no way that I am ever going to be able to undo what I have done.
I am dictating this to you from my quarters. I have been confined to my quarters until further notice. Confined to my quarters? I should have been confined to the brig. No, that would not be enough. I deserve to be executed. I should be pushed out an airlock, beamed into space, widest beam dispersal. I deserve to be fed to the old toothless lions at the St. Petersburg zoo. Those lions would take a long time to eat me, and I deserve a slow and painful death. Even that would be too good for me.
I still can not believe what I did. You always said that I was arrogant. Well, Irina, you have no idea the depth to which my arrogance has taken me this time. Maybe, if I tell it, it will not seem so bad. Not so bad? Who am I fooling?
Irina, I think I have killed my captain.
Oh, my friend, I can not believe it when I see it in words on the screen in front of me. I just can not believe it. I only say that I think I killed him, because no one has talked to me since I was ordered off the bridge. I can not be certain that Captain Kirk is dead. Still, I do not see how he could have survived what I did to him on the bridge.
The bridge, the bridge. Will I ever see my beloved bridge again? Never. I do not deserve to set foot on it. How could I have been so stupid? So reckless? What was I thinking? Nothing. I was thinking nothing. I was just forging ahead with the worst idea I have ever had. Did I think it through? Did I think about consequences? No. All I thought about was showing off. Trying to set myself out front so I would be noticed. This is something that you have said about me many times. You were so right. It was more important to earn a word of praise than to take the time to think about what I was doing. Now, I have earned disgrace. I will have to live the rest of my life as Pavel Andreivich Chekov, the idiot who killed the greatest captain in Starfleet history. Boshze moi, it is even more horrible to say the words than it is to think about it.
I suppose this nightmare began right after that diplomatic mission to Coridan. You remember I wrote you that the captain gave me the conn. Well, I managed not to blow up the ship. Clearly, a miracle. Since the bridge was shorthanded with the captain and Mr. Spock in Sickbay, Mr. Scott let me take the conn for a few more shifts. At first, I was very, very nervous. If you have not done it yourself, you could think that command of the bridge is not so much. It might look as if all you do is sit there while everyone around you does his or her job. I know that is what I used to think.
When I first was assigned to the Enterprise and sat at navigation sweating away at our courses, making corrections on the fly, I thought that Captain Kirk did not do so much. What did I know? Sitting in the command chair, with the responsibility for the entire ship and all those people on your shoulders, with all eyes on you, that is real work. You have to trust your people and let them do their jobs, but all the decisions are yours. When to fight, when to run. When to explore, when to move on. There is no one telling a captain how to make those choices. He just has to know. The training, and more important the instinct, has to be there. Between you and me, Irina, though I loved sitting in that chair, the responsibility scared me. I do not think that I have those instincts. I am pretty sure that I am not cut out for command.
Command! Who am I kidding? I am not cut out to live. I will probably be drummed so far out of Starfleet that I will be lucky to be able to see the stars, much less fly among them. How can I bear this shame, this guilt? There is no way that I can ever make amends for what I have done. Maybe I will be lucky and someone will just kill me and put me out of my misery. The bridge officers all looked angry enough to kill me when Mr. Spock ordered me off the bridge.
I can hear you, Irina. Get to the point, Pavel. You're so long-winded, Pavel. Well, the point is that I let the conn go to my head. I actually thought, with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock off the bridge, and Mr. Scott tending to his engines after that Orion nearly blasted us to pieces, that I really was in command. That is when I got my horrible, terrible, stupid idea, and that is when I did not stop to think. And, that is when I set in motion the events that killed the captain.
Do you remember in my last letter that I told you that the Enterprise had been attacked on the way to Coridan? I think I told you too, that the captain had defeated our attacker even though he had been injured earlier that day? Well, that ship shook us up pretty badly. The Enterprise took some really hard hits. Things can get pretty rough on the bridge, you know. It can be incredibly difficult to stay at your post when the inertial dampers are straining to keep the ship upright, and you are being buffeted by energy surges from every direction. We have all been thrown from our seats many times. Usually, it means no more that a few bumps and bruises, but this time the captain had just come from Sickbay and all that shaking and bumping must have opened up his wound. When I sat in the command seat, there was blood on it. I did not think that much about it, except to be in awe of Captain Kirk's ability to defeat the enemy when he must have been weak and in pain.
The real trouble started when I returned to the command seat several shifts later. I started thinking about the captain and how vulnerable he was to being thrown around in the command seat. Then it hit me.
It seemed so simple, that I could not believe that no one had ever thought of it. If we had some kind of restraint system at the bridge stations, we would not be thrown from our seats. We could perform our duties better. I was absolutely convinced that I had thought of the most brilliant idea in the universe. I would get a medal. I would get a promotion. Mr. Spock would tell me that I was very smart and praise me for taking the initiative. What a lovely thought that was.
As soon as I got off duty, I took myself down to engineering. I have several friends who work there and one of them, Martin Dees, is a mechanical wizard. Do you remember him? He was two years ahead of us at the Academy. Well anyway, Martin is a great guy, if entirely too trusting. He can fix anything, but he is as gullible as a baby. I am afraid I took terrible advantage of our friendship.
We are all very used to the senior officers on the Enterprise and their innovative and creative ways. Martin works for Mr. Scott, who is always modifying and inventing new systems for the ship, but I am neither engineer nor science officer. I was sure that if he thought the idea was mine, he would not help me. Instead, I told him that Mr. Spock had this idea about the seat belts, but wanted it to be kept quiet. Oh, Irina, I lied. I am so very ashamed of myself.
Martin thought that seat belts were a great idea. He told me that he could not figure out why no one had ever thought of them before. It never occurred to him to inquire why Mr. Spock would want to keep the idea a secret. He just took my lies as truth. I used him terribly. I knew he trusted me and would not question why I was bringing this idea to him instead of Mr. Spock.
I used my position as a bridge officer to manipulate my very trusting friend.
Mistake number one.
Neither of us bothered to read the ship's technical specs.
Mistake number two.
Martin and I thought that it would be a great idea to install a prototype at one station on the bridge.
Mistake number three.
Martin worked out this great active restraint system. It created a mini-tractor beam around the seat, holding the person sitting there firmly in place. It could only be activated manually or when the sensors that we installed detected a disturbance of force five or better.
Martin put every kind of fail-safe in place that we could think of. The safety system could not power up unless someone was actually sitting in the chair. It activated around the whole body, but left the arms free so that the occupant would be able to function at his or her post. That also left the person free to turn it off and on at will. We thought of everything. It was a really wonderful system. We tested it every possible way. We ran every kind of simulation that we could think of. It worked perfectly. We rushed a bit because I had the brilliant idea of installing this system in the command chair. I wanted it to be ready when Captain Kirk returned to duty.
I wanted to surprise him.
Mistake number four.
When we were both satisfied that the system worked perfectly, Martin showed me how to install the tractor module into the panel on the command chair arm. He had designed it so that it would be really easy to set up. I had the conn for the third shift that night and I planned to have the command seat all ready for Captain Kirk when he came back on duty for first shift. He would take his chair and I would demonstrate my brilliant innovation. He would smile at me and say, "Very good, Mr. Chekov. Now, why didn't I think of that?" He would call Mr. Spock down to the command chair and Mr. Spock would actually look impressed. For a Vulcan. I had it all planned out in my mind. So stupid. How could I have done this?
I was so proud and excited as I put the equipment into the chair. It went into the panel just as Martin had demonstrated. Irina, I could not wait for Captain Kirk to take the bridge that morning.
Be careful what you wish for.
Just as I was about to test the new restraint system, the science officer informed me that we were approaching an ion storm. The weather is often pretty bad in this part of the quadrant. I ordered the navigator to plot a new course. At first it looked like we would be able to skirt around it. The Enterprise is on its way to survey a planet that the captain had visited some years ago. He was quite eager to return to Neural and so I was reluctant to plot too wide a course around the storm. I did not want to delay our arrival too much. Unfortunately, the storm grew in intensity faster than we could anticipate. I ordered a y-axis course to try to avoid the spreading spatial disruptions, but they just got worse and worse. I signaled for a yellow alert.
The turbo lift doors opened just as we hit a particularly nasty patch. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock walked onto the bridge. They were early for their first shift, but I was not really surprised. They both like to be on the bridge during alerts. Irina, I was a little nervous because I had not had enough time to test the captain's restraint system, but then it had worked perfectly in simulation. I did not have much time to think about it because things started to get really bad. The storm was now force four and growing stronger by the second. There was no way to fly around it. We would just have to find the best course to ride it out. The captain hurried down to the command seat and Mr. Spock moved to the science station. I took over at navigation. New data came from Mr. Spock, and the captain checked with Mr. Scott and issued several course corrections. He called for a red alert. The wail of the alert and flashing red lights drove all thoughts of telling the captain about his new safety system out of my head.
The Enterprise was taking a terrible beating. The ion storm was now at force five. There was so much happening that I do not think Captain Kirk even noticed when the tractor system came on. The ship creaked and groaned as it was thrown around by the turbulence. You could almost hear the inertial dampers and artificial gravity sensors as they strained to keep the ship stable. People were being tossed from their chairs and flung to the ground. All except the captain, who remained firmly seated. The next few minutes are a bit of a blur, Irina, but here is what I remember. There was a lot of noise on the bridge, so none of us paid much attention to a kind of grinding, cracking sound as the bridge's inner ceiling began to tear loose from its supports. It was probably the hiss of air escaping behind the ceiling that first alerted us to real trouble. That sound is something that everyone on this ship is trained to hear no matter what else is going on. Atmosphere was leaking out into space. All that pounding and shaking had caused a hull breach. From the sound of it, it was probably very small, but anytime a ship starts to lose atmosphere it is not a small problem.
One of the first things I learned aboard the Enterprise is that it is our first duty to try to spot hull breaches when they occur. Everything else can wait. Breathing comes first. I turned around in my seat to see if I could find the leak. The hissing sound seemed to be coming from above the command chair. The captain spotted it too. He looked up as he signaled for help from Engineering. I could see him trying to stand. He had a really strange look on his face. He was clearly trying to get up. He swivelled round in his chair, probably to ask Mr. Spock for help. Irina, there was a release toggle on the panel, but I had not shown it to him. I was the only one on the bridge who knew about the restraint on his chair and I was the only one who could release him. I had not told him that he would be a prisoner in that command chair until he released the force that held him in place. It never occurred to me that this could happen. In my arrogance, I just plunged ahead with the most devastating consequences imaginable.
I was looking up, so I saw the piece of ceiling tearing lose before he did. I shouted and dove for the command chair. The captain's back was to me, so I think he did not see me, or hear me yell. I was desperate to reach the toggle; to set him free before the roof fell in. Literally. But, Irina, I was not fast enough. Such a small distance between us, but I failed to reach him. With a shattering, crashing din that I will hear until I go to my grave, a huge piece of the Enterprise fell on top of her captain before I could reach him. He could not move out of the way because I had imprisoned him in the chair without his knowledge. I killed him.
Several of the other bridge officers leapt to the captain's chair. We all pawed at the plastic and steel, trying to move it away. Engineers rushed onto the bridge and several suited people quickly sealed up the breach that had pushed the inner ceiling down onto the captain. After what seemed like an eternity, medical personnel arrived. I think Lieutenant Uhura must have called them. I know I have told you about her. She is the communications officer. I have seen her in all kinds of crises, but this is the first time I have ever seen her cry. She stayed at her post, calmly calling for damage reports, answering calls from all parts of the ship, and every so often looking at the mound where the captain was buried. I am certain that she wanted desperately to help dig him out, but she stayed at her post. Through the dust, I could see the traces of tears weaving a pattern of despair on her face.
We uncovered the captain. The power to the command chair had failed and the tractor system had finally released him. He was sprawled under the command chair, covered in blood. He looked dead. Without a word, the medics hooked him to a gurney and ran to the turbo lift. I do not know for certain whether he is dead, though I do not see how he could have survived such a catastrophe. It is all my fault. If I had not decided that I knew best, that my idea should be tried without consulting anyone, that the rules of the Enterprise did not apply to me, the captain would not be dead.
The storm diminished shortly after the captain was taken from the bridge.
Mr. Spock had us stand down from red alert. I knew that I had to tell him what I had done, but this was so hard. Irina, I want so much for him to think well of me. I have worked so hard and I threw it away in one horrible moment of supreme arrogance and stupidity. I had no hope that he would understand. There is nothing to understand. I am guilty. I told Mr. Spock what I had done. I truly thought that he would lose his Vulcan control, but he did not. He closed his eyes for a long moment and then he ordered me to my quarters.
I am so sorry.
I'm going to send this off now. Mr. Spock has summoned me to Sickbay, and I am not sure that I will be allowed to return to my quarters after he is finished with me. Just know Irina that whatever happens, it is no more than I deserve. Also know, my dear Irina, that you are very important to me. I only wish that I could see you once again, but that seems unlikely. I will probably spend the rest of my life on some desolate gulag planet, mining ore and freezing to death. Siberia would seem like a paradise.
* * *
OH MY GOD.
Miracles do happen. The captain is alive. I have just been to see him. This truly is a miracle ship. You will not believe this, Irina, but the seat belt system saved his life. It seems that the tractor beam repelled the ceiling debris just enough so that he was not crushed. He is a mess, cuts and bruises, but he is alive.
Oh, and he is furious.
With me, of course. What a wonderful feeling it is to have Captain Kirk furious with me. I never thought that would happen again. Amazingly, I am to be allowed to stay on the Enterprise, but it will be some time before I will be allowed back on the bridge. If ever. That is fine with me. I have asked to be assigned to security. I would like to keep out of the captain's way for a while, and security interests me.
I am not really certain why the captain is willing to forgive me.
I think I told you that Mr. Spock ordered me report to Sickbay. Not his quarters, not a briefing room. Sickbay. I began to hope that perhaps the captain was still alive. I never expected to find him sitting up on a diagnostic bed engaged in a rather heated discussion with Mr. Spock. Of course, the heat all came from Captain Kirk. They were talking about me. I heard Mr. Spock saying something about this being my Kobayashi Maru and that I had changed the rules of the game just as the captain had when he took his test. Mr. Spock suggested that the captain should give me a citation for creative thinking. There was a strange cant to his eyebrow as he said this, and if he were not a Vulcan, I might have thought he made a joke. I do not get the punch line.
I am really confused Irina. You and I both know that the KM command simulation had nothing to do with seat belts. It was that no-win scenario that we both took at the Academy, was it not? I am still very puzzled about the meaning of all this. I would like to ask Mr. Spock to explain it to me. Something tells me that I had better not ask the captain.
They both changed the subject as soon as they saw me. Captain Kirk spoke very forcefully for quite a long time. That man can be really, really intense. Not that I do not deserve the full force of his anger. I did nearly murder him in his own command seat. I have been warned never to initiate a change of any kind on the Enterprise without the express permission of a superior officer. That seems more than reasonable. Particularly since I have no intention of every having another original idea as long as I live. As I mentioned, I have been relieved of bridge duty. Again that seems fair. Besides, I think it would be better for all concerned if I keep a low profile for a while.
As for the seat belts, apparently if I had only bothered to read the technical specifications on the Enterprise bridge seats, I would have found out that they actually once had a restraint system. It seems that the captain had them disconnected because he felt that it was unsafe to confine bridge personnel to their seats in an emergency. Too many chances for injury from electrical shocks, exploding panels, and, I suppose falling ceilings.
Mr. Scott spoke to me after I left Sickbay. It seems that he and the captain have had many discussions on the subject of seat belts. Mr. Scott was very interested in the tractor beam assembly. I think he may even try to convince Captain Kirk to give the idea a second chance. I am obviously not the only one who thinks seat belts on the Enterprise would be a good idea. And, Irina, is spite of everything that happened, I still think they are a good idea!
I do have something of a problem though, since I do not want to get Martin involved in this mess. Mr. Scott wants to discuss the tractor beam assembly with me. In detail. It seems that he thinks it was very innovative engineering, and that I am responsible for it. Well, since you know that I nearly failed our applied engineering courses at the Academy, (did I ever thank you for helping me through those minefields?) I may have some quick studying to do. I doubt that I can fool Mr. Scott for long, but what choice do I have? Sometimes, it seems that I just dig myself into these holes with no hope of escape. Perhaps I can avoid the engineer. This is a pretty big ship, after all. And, I seem to be very lucky these days.
I have to cut this short now, because I am about to return to duty. I must find a red shirt before I report to the security chief.
I just realized that this whole letter was about me. Forgive me, Irina. Please write soon and tell me about your life.
Your arrogant, stupid and incredibly lucky friend Pavel.