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Star Trek TIP "Infection"

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Star Trek: TIP 1x25 "Infection"

Three years after we were first given the Yorktown as a temporary command while the Enterprise underwent refits, Christopher Pike had already had it for two, and would have it for eight more. April would never have her back, and we had all known it. Eventually, Commander Barrett and Doctor Boyce would transfer back, but neither would be around when James Kirk took over. Only Spock would span all three crews.

None of us would have guessed that. The Vulcan had excelled in Starfleet Academy, stayed on well past graduation as an instructor, cooked up a training scenario only Kirk ever beat, but even he knew he didn?t have what it took to last long onboard an actual starship. It was evident the entire time he was with us, and the reports only started to change when he met this Kirk himself, when he began to realize the real possibilities of the career he had pursued. I guess we failed him.

Then again, we failed ourselves, too. We were deemed unfit to crew the ship of the line, played into a ruse that saw us voluntarily leave it for an inferior one beset by one disaster after another, the only thing we deserved, and the worst part was, maybe the rest of us deserved it, but not April. I can only blame myself. In our final mission, I was the one who finally proved our undoing.

My name is Kristen Colt. I was a yeoman in Starfleet for six years, all of them serving under Robert April, whom I saw myself as better than the entire time, a lowly woman forced to serve under the yoke of incompetent leadership. The one thing I never saw coming was being used by the alien Torx, who had tried to lead an invasion of Earth, and the only thing that stood between him and that goal was the one person I could never find myself to respect, and now of course he?s dead. And I?m to blame.

It?s important to stress that our little band of survivors would have done anything for him, especially after all we?d been through, even me, and time after time, we did exactly that, and if no one in the higher command noticed, it didn?t matter to us. Jose would joke in later years that Kirk never did anything we hadn?t done better, but it was probably because he had Spock with him that everyone paid attention. The Vulcan had always been good for that, when he was motivated. He thrived when he had someone or something to work off of, and we never gave him anything. April took all the challenge upon himself. That?s what Boyce found funny. Barrett and I didn?t, but what did we count for? At least she had a semblance of authority (and was canned readily by the fleet when she showed it with Pike). I was, like I said, only a yeoman, filled with all the ego in the galaxy. I had never attended the Academy. The first time I heard of or met Spock was under April?s command. I never had to face his no-win scenario, until Torx.

Three years of the Yorktown would have been three years too many for most crews, let alone one that had experience with the flagship. I imagine that?s how Trip Tucker must have really felt when he was briefly signed off to the Columbia, away from his family, his own engines. But we were the best around, and we made due with what we had, even if Yorktown was barely to modern specs, and barely in working order most of the time. We never had a proper engineer for that beast; I think that was part of the problem. Everyone knows a ship and its crew are only as good as their engineer. Ideally, a captain is as good at command as they are at piloting and the engines of their ship, because you never know when all three roles could be needed at once, like the old Boomer days. April was only ever an excellent captain, and none of us knew how to motivate him to his potential, which was what had gotten him the Enterprise in the first place, and why he ended up with the Yorktown. He failed himself, and we failed him right along after.

But this is not about Robert April?s shortcomings, much as I?d like it to be, but about mine. My colossal failure. Torx. No, only myself. Maybe ?only a yeoman? is what I should have been focusing on all that time, quit blaming others and take charge of my own life, and in that way improve everyone else?s. I knew I had that potential, that?calling, and I threw it all away, because I was convinced I was better than everyone else no matter if they saw it or not. I thought by sheer force of will that I could achieve what I wanted, prove everyone wrong, just get promoted like that and everything would be all right. The same things I had always been doing would work, if only everyone noticed, and I was prevented from this goal, this destiny, because no one saw me for what I was. Well, this final mission didn?t prove me right, and I?m beginning to understand why. Now that I?m done kidding myself, reassessing what I had always believed my strengths were and seeing what they really amounted to, I guess none of this should have come as a surprise.

Still, no one likes to admit that sort of thing.

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When you sign up for Starfleet, there are a number of ways your career can play out, and that?s what the recruitment poster says, but everyone knows there are only two real results: either everyone is going to remember you, or you will be included in the vast obscure ranks that constitute ?tradition.? Where exactly the career of Robert April slipped from one track to the other, I don?t know that anyone will ever really know, but at least those of us who served with him know, it?s not always the matter of a dull tenure that relegates you to anonymous ?history.?

Sometimes, Starfleet is very clear that you won?t be remembered. In its very earliest days, and here I?m referring even earlier than Archer?s successful launch of the first Enterprise, there was Section 31. Trust me, the Klingons don?t like humans because of those guys, not for anything Archer or some other hapless captain did. If even Kirk, the most Klingon of any human the Empire has ever encountered, can?t smooth over even the tiniest flap, then you know there?s a fairly big problem that caused this rift, and it has nothing to do with professional rivalry (or, let?s say it, genetic engineering programs gone awry). Some blame it all on Khan, of course, but let?s call a spade a spade. When Starfleet wants to be transparent, it?s transparent. But much of its history is as opaque as a glass of Lurian ale.

What I?m saying is, Robert April was sandbagged, and we all know it. Maybe he just wasn?t seen as the right guy, when what Starfleet wanted was someone like Kirk, back in the days where ?professional rivalry? was preferred to a war that had been waged with another empire. Get rid of April, replace him with another face. Pike was too professional. Compared to him, April was the maverick they?d hoped to find, except he questioned too often. He wasn?t just a rebel, bucking in Starfleet?s face every chance he got. He took the tough assignments, but wondered too loudly why. So he was simply hushed beneath the carpet.

We spent a year under his command aboard the Yorktown, and during that time he was probably the only one who knew we?d never get the Enterprise back, that everything we experienced during that time would be meaningless. I think he made a remark or two, in the beginning, that he knew Pike would be sent in, at least initially, to cover some of the same ground, so Starfleet could forget we had ever been there, before it became easier to just ignore us, misplace our reports, pretend our incredible missions never took place.

That would have been fine, too, if Manx had never shown up. But he did, and everything changed. Even I began to feel like hope was still possible.

***

You?ll recall the unfortunate business surrounding our original encounter with Torx, of course. By the time he got around to revenging himself, none of us even remembered him, except me. No, the great yeoman Kristen Colt dared believe that Torx was the answer she?d been seeking all that time, back before she realized she had it so good. She actually wanted to see April?s mission end in failure. What a joke! To Starfleet?s mind, it was already a failure. That?s why we were all there aboard the Yorktown. Like I said, only Spock?s career really survived the ordeal, probably because he didn?t know any better. He was a Vulcan, and his logic had no room to suffer us fools, only the purity of his science, and I suppose that?s why Torx had no effect on him, and why Torx had so much effect on me. For some encounters, there is no middle ground, like Starfleet. Either you?re remembered or you?re not, like some kind of cosmic schoolyard game of popularity. Maybe it?s a group of office pucks who choose favorites, back in San Francisco. Or, hey, maybe it?s the cadets who really run the show, and that?s why Spock got on so well, because he was only ever, really a cadet, an academic. He had no use for the real world, only that great ballast, Jim Kirk.

Torx, meanwhile, had nothing in the entire galaxy. That?s the sort of thing Starfleet enjoys most, like a sandbox it gets to discover somewhere, either one that?s already been played in and its officers can come and fix, or one that hasn?t and so its officers can come and see what can be done with it. Most importantly, of course, does it have the potential to join the Federation? Or become an enemy? Like I said, no middle ground. It was long ago assumed that eventually, everyone has to deal with everyone else. That?s Vulcan logic for you.

It also happens to be true, and that?s, I think, what the Yorktown experience made clear, what April ultimately stood for, a chance to discover this for yourself, not just because someone told you, but because he allowed you to see it for yourself. Torx was the opposite, his opposite number, and Manx, well, Manx was the bridge. There?s always the bridge, the middle ground between the extremes. It doesn?t negate the opposing sides or contradict them, but rather allows for a perspective that supports them. One can be, at their best, on one side and at this middle place, this bridge, at the same time. April was, and Manx helped him find peace in that. Me, too, eventually.

But first, I let Torx loose. We all already knew all too much about him, but I was headstrong, convinced that I knew better. I invited him onboard as a stowaway. In return, he betrayed me. Anyone else would have seen that coming. Boyce would have warned me exactly what would happen. Ortega would already have been joking about it, he really would have, just as he would have been aiding me, a confederate just because it would have been fun. Leslie, well, the commander might have supported a rebellion, if it made any sense. I think her career stalled out not so much because of her association with April but because she was a better me than I could ever have been. She really knew what she was doing, locked in her secret world. Me, I guess I was just always more of a flirt. Kirk probably would have loved me. I had a brief run with Pike, too, just like Boyce and Leslie, Boyce the career man, Leslie the professional saboteur, of herself, anyway. Me, Kristen Colt, harbinger.

Not that anyone truly knows, not even now. Even obscure things have their obscure details. Our second encounter with Torx, I don?t think anyone ever thought of me as anything but a victim, and I certainly resented them for that, except in a way, they were right. I never asked for what happened. You hardly ever do in the line of Starfleet work. You sign up, no matter what role you ultimately assume, as an explorer. The best of us have more in common with Spock than we?d like to admit, even the curmudgeon Leonard McCoy, who would never admit it. We?re dispassionate by nature, and expect the world to greet us as such. The ones who really succeed are those who carry the spark of their youth with them. Yeah, Kirk again. This story, our story, never strays far from him.

The thing is, April wasn?t so different, as I said. If you asked Kirk today, I bet he?d said he studied April?s career in the Academy, probably considered him a role model, would have been honored to receive the same fate, banished to something less than the flagship, if only he could continue his adventures. He would have reveled in our experiences, if he?d ever heard of them, with the Yorktown. Everyone in Starfleet wants a posting to a ship called Enterprise, but what they don?t know is that they really want a Yorktown. I?m sure, eventually, there will be ships whose names will come to mean at least a semblance of what Enterprise continually offers. Garth?s ship, what was that? Defiant. That?s a ship with a name, a lineage. His ship, then the one that was lost. I?m sure there?ll be more. Me, I probably would have enjoyed that name, no quarrels, even from me. Seems hard to imagine, right?

But I wasn?t assigned to Defiant, and we had all lost our Enterprise, even though, technically, we were the first crew to man the first one of the regular fleet. No, I had the Yorktown, with all the privileges therein. I wasn?t satisfied, not until it was too late. You could say that I was the cause of Robert April?s ultimate downfall.

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After our first encounter with Torx, I found that I couldn?t stop thinking about him, and while medically I knew why and what Boyce would have said if I?d told him about it, I didn?t care, and whatever anyone else might have thought was beside the thought. They would have been wrong. Too often we lead our lives knowing others won?t understand them, for whatever reason, and we?re right, which is the worst part, and again, beside the point. Whatever is lost in translation, we are by definition relatable to one another, if only we?d try, and whether it?s a personal failing or what we consider an inability to understand others, that?s the kind of nonsense no manner of evolution in thinking can seem to grasp. Yes, we?re a lot better at collective empathy, but individually? To be frank, we suck. I suppose that?s what?s always frustrated me about Starfleet, what everyone always calls the beacon of our development. Everyone?s still basically rated by their ability to perform functions that prove their usefulness, rather than an acceptance for a little basic human worth. I?m not talking charity here, because the economics of our bright and shiny future are certainly evolved, but an ability to look into someone?s face and see them, not what they happen to represent.

So when Manx showed up, I seemed to get exactly what I wanted, if not Torx, then someone else like him, and without knowing it, without understanding just how big a hypocrite I really was, I kept on engaging in the very same behavior that I abhorred. Manx wasn?t Manx to me, but a representative, a replacement for something else I already knew. How bizarre would it be to examine every life in any given moment in even the smallest city? How soon before it became tedious? The greatest writer, I seems to me, would tackle that project. It would probably take a lifetime. But who would care to read the result? Manx was seeking refuge. That?s how he came aboard, just at random, and April granted him asylum without asking a single question. That was the kind of reckless April was; he?d already determined to ask question later, and the gun, the phaser of choice was compassion. Basic ignorant trust. How so a sabotaged career? By his own hand, and I doubt he ever cared.

Manx was perfectly worth trusting, and he was exactly what I had been needing, and so every spare moment I had was spent in his quarters. What I didn?t know was that all this was pointless, that Torx had already planted the seed, and that in their species, this bond that I had felt was the first step in the fertilization process, the infection. It was a love disease wrapped in procreation.

Spock was the first one to notice, naturally, the change in my behavior. He could find no reason for my mood to so suddenly improve, but his prognosis came only with a cocked eyebrow. Maybe if he?d cared, for me, for anyone at that time, it might have been caught in time, but he was merely functional. It?s a mistake to assume that Vulcans are as bad as humans. They?re savage, more than humans could ever be, hidden behind a veneer, but in their logic they seem beyond mere form and function, beyond emotion, where actions and not so much people are inevitable, and it?s only realizing what must be done that seems to place anyone in a specific role. They meld the scientific with the religious, it might be said, a cold calculation with an awe that?s always behind an otherwise expressionless face. They?re always the first ones to be surprised when the unexpected occurs, is discovered, not because they didn?t think it would happen, but because they didn?t think it would happen so soon, and certainly not before their own eyes. Vulcans are modest. In that regard, their seeming lack of emotions is entirely accurate.

It makes them insufferable to live with, too. You have to get used to them, they have to get used to you, like a science experiment: results must be verified after repeated and exhausting tests. If they ever just got to the point?But they leave spontaneous and all its related mistakes to others, like me. I suppose if I?d just asked him, too, Spock might have helped avert a lot of trouble, but that?s hindsight talking. Bitter perspective.

Heck, I?ve even thought that Jose might have been able to help. I?m sure he had his share of unhappy ramifications from rash actions with beautiful strangers. He would?ve had a tip or two. He always had those handy. Some of us suspected he owed his whole career not so much to starship skills as words of experience. His first words were probably to another baby. Which, in any case, might have come in handy again.

But we never got that far.

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Andy?s Log, Stardate 2253.5

In 2245, the U.S.S. Enterprise was launched under the command of Robert April. At the christening ceremony, Admiral Robau commissioned it as the new flagship of the fleet and symbolically passed the torch to his successor. In 2250, Spock began his Academy training cruise aboard ship as Starfleet?s unofficial ears, to assist in the assessment of April?s continued qualifications upon the conclusion of his first five-year mission.

Robau and myself then determined a bet. The admiral had lost faith in April, but I wasn?t yet convinced, so we contrived to give April a new command while the Enterprise underwent refits: the Yorktown. While it was agreed that April had been underwhelming, certainly not to the level of the accomplished Garth during the same period, he had some worth. The Yorktown mission began in 2251, one year before Spock was called upon, along with April loyalists Barrett and Boyce, to join Christopher Pike?s crew during a scheduled ten-year tour with the reinstated Enterprise.

This month Spock graduated from the Academy. His senior project was the programming of the Kobayashi Maru simulation, which immediately became the standard test for command-track officers: Spock?s own class was required to take it, which was something of an achievement itself. It?s the only time many of them will face a truly no-win scenario.

In truth, April was always in one. Commanding the flagship is always a thankless job, and since Archer pioneered Starfleet?s line a century ago, not even a guarantee that you?ll be remembered (it doesn?t matter how long he lives: Jon will never quite get the accolades he deserves). He had the Enterprise for its first five years, and proved to be someone the top brass could put no faith in. When Robau and myself gave him his second chance, he actually rose to the occasion, did everything right, quite spectacularly, actually. But it wouldn?t have mattered if he finally got that peace treaty signed with the Romulans, because he was exactly the kind of authority that authority doesn?t like. He had his own mind.

Barrett developed the same problem, whether she realized it or not. I couldn?t say, even now, if she got it from April himself (she will, however, get the Romulan assignment, in another ship, her own command, as soon as Pike?s tour is over, if he doesn?t stumble into a career-ending accident, which we all believe he?s going to). She won?t get Enterprise. Command seems to favor George Kirk?s boy for that.

No, April?s fate was always a lark, a dream from an old cop looking for glory one last time. I don?t know, in many ways, my career is probably just about as potent as April?s. I tried steering him toward success because his success would be mine, vindication for another forgettable career. But in the end, it didn?t matter, and it was never going to. George had better have raised his kid right. Word is, anyway, that he?s been boasting he can beat Spock?s test. I wonder what those two could do together.

Spock is an interesting case. He?s a survivor, more than anyone I know, him and the cockroaches to the end. If there?s redemption for any of this, any of us, he?s going to be it. He?s a Vulcan, so on the one hand, the way he sits there, calculating behind those eyes, thinking of everything anyone else would have found obvious if they?d thought of it, it?s all perfectly natural. But it?s almost as if he?s driven himself to be a better Vulcan than any Vulcan who ever lived, and to exert his presence in Starfleet just to prove humans don?t really do that better, either. He knows our mandate better than we do. He knows what new life-forms really look like. Maybe because he is one.

He?s also very modest, to a certain extent. If he?s got any faults, it?s his pride, which he can?t always hide very well. It?s strange to see such a contradiction, but there he is. I doubt he?ll care one way or another about who he ultimately makes history with, because in a sense, he knows it?s his destiny. It just isn?t April?s. What can I say? Nobody said it was fair, this business of ours.

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On a strictly biological level, Torx had me in his clutches, and there was nothing I could do. At this point, it didn?t matter if I told everyone everything. It wouldn?t have mattered, and it wouldn?t have helped, because only Manx could help, and it wouldn?t work within the confines of Boyce?s medical bay, no matter how well he maintained them. This is why you don?t put yourself in compromising positions, kids. Don?t believe them when they tell you it?s sometimes necessary.

Okay, so risk is sometimes the name of the game, but it?s got to be calculated. You have to have an idea how you?re going to get out of the frying pan without it being the fire. For all his charm, which reflected so perfectly, and so poorly, on my experience with Torx months earlier, Manx really was no different. A different beast, but a beast all the same, and it was torture to admit. So I told Jose. I didn?t tell him everything, but I had to tell someone something. I told him that Manx couldn?t be trusted, and because I knew Jose, I knew to trust his reaction, what to expect. Jose is a ladies man, and while he?s professional enough to prevent it from being a problem, it can make him pretty jealous, protective, if you will. He?s younger than me, but I could trust him to turn on a dime and start thinking of me like a kid sister, and act accordingly. It?s almost worse than the disease, but I?d have to endure it.

April noticed immediately, of course, that Jose was acting strange, which was more than he ever noticed about me, even after that year. I think he never forgave me, for Torx, for any number of things. He?d expected more from me. I think he saw a kindred spirit. I know, I know. Captains who haven?t populated at least their command crews with a good helping of such souls are asking for trouble, people they can trust, to agree with them, or disagree when needed. I wasn?t command crew, and I never would be, but I was a voice that mattered, a figure who should have been anonymous, just another pretty face, but who wasn?t. In many ways, whether he admitted it or not, I was better than command crew for April. I was no Janice Rand, but I was better. And that explained everything.

When Ortega missed his first shift, not only did he have to be replaced with inferior talent, April suspected what he had always feared, that something romantic was going on. He really had no idea. Jose was a friend, the closest I would ever have, but we never crossed that line. Something romantic was happening in quite a different sense, and not in a pleasant way, not the way they teach you, anyway. Manx, as our honored guest, bound for negotiations with the Klingons at Sherman?s Planet for unpleasant details in shipping rights, had every right to do as he pleased, so April didn?t notice the alarming frequency of his trips to my quarters, only his helmsman?s. When the computer told him where to find Jose, the captain came personally, with Boyce (no way to avoid him, it seemed).

Naturally, we had to fake it. April wasn?t pleased, but at least left without formally reprimanding either of us. Jose left soon after, and Manx showed up, the way he always did, with a pretext (again with the ironies) to review his schedule, which April would be joining him on. He soon told me what I had dreaded, that my condition was irreversible. There would be a dress I could never wear again, the one Torx had seen me in that day, the one I wouldn?t be able to fit in soon, for a while, never again.

There was no comfort in Manx.

I dismissed him almost immediately, and summoned Jose back. For all his fire, Jose was also tender in a way that was all too elusive in my experience. He knew what I needed beyond a protector, knew exactly what to order from the galley, a Bolian dish I?ve favored since childhood. He stayed and didn?t say anything, which was exactly what I needed to hear.

The closer we got to Sherman?s Planet, the more unavoidable it became to present myself in a more official capacity, the more intimate my encounters with April, with Manx present, and the more confusing it became, the easier it became to notice that something was different about me, the less April seemed to care. There were other things weighing on his mind. His career, for instance, the fact that it was inexorably coming to an end. He didn?t have time to build an outrage against me, what I had allowed to happen, so he overlooked it. Boyce, too, it seemed, had no medical reason to object to my continued services. I felt more alone than ever, this thing happening to me, and no one cared. It was my life!

So why was I forced to carry this burden alone? Jose could only do so much. He knew it, just as well as I did, without forever altering the course of our relationship. Manx had to sustain his professional image, so no matter what he did to help would never be enough, and in that way, his betrayal was worse than Torx could ever have accomplished. When it became known that Torx was in fact waiting for us there, Manx withdrew even further, as if in some cultural way he was now deferring to his countryman. I began to hate him, more than Torx, quite easily as I found it.

If April hadn?t gotten that communication from Starfleet Command, things might have turned quite ugly indeed, before we ever reached the planet. The instant he learned that Pike was getting Enterprise, he gave up, however, discovered he had nothing left to lose, and so offered himself as the last prize the Klingons would gain in this cold war.

He cancelled his involvement in Manx? negotiations, and instead set himself up as an independent party, throwing away his mandate, his responsibilities, and any chance that this would end in any happy fashion for me.

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Even in a utopia, there?s still conflict. There will still be people using other people to advance their own goals, and some of those people will notice, and some of those will care. Even in a utopia, there?s conflict. It?s a fact of nature. The difference is that in a utopia, conflict does not necessarily affect happiness. People will always find misery on their own terms. So in many ways, Robert April had only himself to thank for his predicament. But that didn?t excuse the people who knowingly put him in that position. There was simply no good reason why he had to torture himself like that. I don?t know how else he would have done it, from what other black well he might have submerged himself, but I do know that as far as his Starfleet career should have gone, April was born for greatness.

I can guess, I can speculate. A man doesn?t achieve success because he?s born to it, but rather because he?s driven, either too hard by others or because he thinks he needs it. Even Jonathan Archer wouldn?t have been half as notable, despite his own accomplishments, if he hadn?t been the son of the man who took what Zephram Cochrane created and translated it into a truly practical model for Starfleet to expand on. Here what I know about the April bloodline: In the twenty-first century, when the rest of the world was basically waiting for Cochrane to emerge from his missile silo, the Aprils were salvaging a different relic of the pre-war era, schematics for older-model space vehicles, plans for a ship that would have taken an extended tour of the Solar System. If Cochrane was initially only doing it for the money, and most of the early pioneers were similarly in the stars for purely practical reasons, the Aprils were among the first to reignite the embers of basic curiosity and scientific pursuit. They still wanted to get their feet on planets simply because the planets were there, to expand our horizons and our knowledge.

They were viewed as eccentrics, of course, and history doesn?t record their part in the birth of Starfleet, which as far as anyone?s concerned is owed to Cochrane and the Vulcans who stumbled into his trajectory, the warp trail heard ?round the universe. For an entire century, humans had the chance to get used to Vulcans, and Vulcans the same with humans, and it seemed like that was the main stumbling block on our course to the next great step, the Federation, good old mindless and needless external conflict. I think I can imagine the Aprils, on their own little odysseys, looking around bewildered by all of it. There?s so much made of the Vulcan ambassadors to Earth, we can sometimes forget that there were human ambassadors on Vulcan, and that Sarek?s counterpart, the man who introduced him to Amanda Grayson, was April?s father, Jackson, who must have left an impression on the child who came to know him as godfather. The whole time I was serving with him, I meant to ask Spock what made him decide to pursue Starfleet. It wasn?t as if his was the only Vulcan family to have ever been personally affected by the human race. What were the dominoes that made it inevitable that this particular Vulcan would be the first one to break his people?s tradition of serving in their Science Academy, their own fleet? Our year under April?s command, aboard the Yorktown, should have provided enough clues, and maybe it did, but I guess I wasn?t paying attention. I had too many selfish thoughts consuming me, distracting me.

Even at the conference, when April was willfully destroying the last remnants of his own career, there I was, suffering the last vestiges of my encounter with Torx. April argued that humans had as much a right as Klingons to pursue their own goals, he tried to find reason where there could be no understanding, not yet, not when our rivals could only see us as we saw them, heartless savages with no honor. He sabotaged himself, he sabotaged Manx, and he sabotaged Starfleet. He condemned us to a continuing cold war, a mission to contend with an Empire instead of, or because of, what the Aprils had always sought, regardless of what was happening around them, or the consequences.

Well, a man, and a family, after my own heart. Do I need to spoil my own story by describing my present circumstances? I turned out okay. The?infection did not ruin my life, only my career, and I suppose I should actually thank Torx for that. I?m actually happy. Even if we?re good at finding misery, I believe it?s always a temporary setback, a way for us to distract ourselves from what we?ve already got, our way of getting in our own way. We like to blame others, and those others are certainly good at providing reasons, or at least excuses, but the truth is, even temporary misery, no matter how serious it feels, is only that, temporary. You really have to work at it to sustain that feeling, to keep yourself in the circumstances that support that mood. The Aprils knew before any of us how to find utopia, and at the end of the voyages of the Yorktown, were still at it. He was the first of us to leave the fleet, resign or retire, whatever he ended up calling it, and I followed soon after. He settled in back on Earth, quite contentedly, back in the home his family had come from, discovered the schematics, launched out of.

Did I say I never got him to notice me? Well, not for a long time, but there he is, in the next room.

But that?s jumping the gun a little. Manx wasn?t about to let everyone off quite that easily. He wasn?t too happy about April?s decisions, or the fact that Torx hadn?t properly prepared me. Everything that I had assumed about Manx was wrong, of course, and as much as he was wrong for that conference, and that April was ultimately right for abandoning him, he was also very wrong for me, for my predicament, and far worse than Torx had been. But Torx himself only had to show up to make all of that clear. This is the part you?ve been waiting for, and you?ve waited quite long enough now?

We?ll set the stage by announcing our real foe at that conference wasn?t Klingons, Manx, or Torx, but rather a Romulan saboteur, someone our own crew had previously counted in our number, a would-be ally of Spock?s by the name of Tavol. This man was probably the cockroach of the galaxy, never welcome but impossible to get rid of, not really a villain but terminally opposed to every good decision ever presented him, thereby presenting his ambitions as failures from the start and a bad omen every time he crossed your path. It would be easy to blame him for everything, but that would be giving him too much credit. Really, however, I think he would enjoy it. His idea of success was always to provoke a reaction, plain and simple.

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From the Journal of Tavol:

The concept of aliens might seem like it would broaden when they become an everyday fact, but you can begin to appreciate how complicated it really is when you consider that Romulans now consider themselves completely removed from the Vulcan race, so that they are as much aliens to us as humans. That wouldn?t be very logical from a Vulcan perspective, but then, that?s the point. It?s all about perspective.

I?m sorry, let me rephrase that: It?s all about recognizing the schisms that will always separate one people from another. It?s my belief that the people who came to identify themselves as Romulan (or at least, came to be called that) began that journey by deciding it was their mission to broadcast such a message across the universe. What better way than to tell Vulcans there was another approach to life, one that equally subdued a savage nature, but didn?t totally eliminate passion? I also think it was our masterstroke to amplify the signal of the first human warp flight so that they would notice. Not that a Vulcan wouldn?t to this day insist first contact was achieved because of acute awareness. The wars my people carried on with the humans might be seem as regrettable. We got what we wanted.

Besides, I like humans, I really do. No Romulan, let alone an entire family, has worked more closely. My mother, her brother before her, and eventually myself. I perhaps wasn?t as successful, but I don?t blame humans, merely Vulcans. Spock. I don?t think anyone anticipated that one. He doesn?t make sense to anyone, Romulans, Vulcans, humans. Three alien peoples would like to claim him, but none of us ever will.

But as I was saying, I like humans. I regret that my assignment will place them into the sights of another empire, that settling Robert April in Cardassian space will result in another schism. I don?t know what form it?ll take, but that?s not the reason for calculations, nor the target of my career. I expect to have a long one, and retirement will mean a return to the homeworld, to politics. Maybe I?m a failure in some regards, but I am ambitious. I don?t anticipate much standing in my way.

That?s the reasons for calculations, to create the opportunity to get what you want. People will always get in your way, but you will always have an opportunity to prevent them. I dealt with my first human when I disguised myself at the heart of Starfleet Command, as an aide to Andrew Colt, who as an admiral really only had the power he thought he did, which was good enough for my purposes. We Romulans seek positions of authority, but we don?t trust authority. Fostering that fear in Starfleet has been one our most important projects, and with Colt, I think I did my people an exceptional favor. He didn?t know his best assets, or his best interests. He already distrusted his own family, so perhaps that made it easier. Humans, I think, would make fine Romulans, if only they didn?t care so much.

April ended his own career, not as an aged and well-respected veteran, but as a broken and young officer, shot to the top and, to use a human metaphor, clipped of his wings by his own hubris. Best of all, I didn?t need to be there, and it involved Klingons. Maybe I wasn?t such a failure after all. A man who needs to be present to affect something is the true failure, perhaps. It also involved a pair of troublesome if entirely forgettable aliens, the very kind the Federation is supposed to kindle as friends. I don?t even know their species, and I doubt they?ll be heard from again. Xindi, something like that. I heard them more than once referred to as sloths. From my limited knowledge of human culture, it didn?t seem like a compliment. I?m told Colt?s daughter had a child by the end of it, clinging to her. A fiasco no Romulan would ever have allowed.

But April would not lose his dignity so easily. By the end of the conference, everyone was talking about him, the way he placed everything on the table, which Starfleet would never have allowed under any other circumstances, virtually handing the Klingons every assurance that their empire would be allowed every liberty, that no planet was barred, as had been the popular tactic in the past. It played right into their hands, of course, but it averted war, too. It was exactly what a human would have done, from their perspective, after an extensive history where every crisis was solved with, well, war. It was human and Romulan at the same time. If anything, we were ashamed because we hadn?t been able to avoid our own war with them. Perhaps proud, too.

This certainly doesn?t mean that Romulans will soon join the Federation. There are similarities, common interests, but there are always differences, and Romulans favor schisms. I?m not in favor of the deals we?ve been making with the Klingons. I don?t see the point. Let Empire and Star Empire remain independent. There?s no benefit to us except that the Klingons will occupy the attention of the humans, no matter the progress they make in their relations.

I take that back. There?s infinite benefit to us, and in the future, another schism. They?re always inevitable. I hid myself back into Starfleet life when April brought the U.S.S. Yorktown back to port, because that was a special schism all by itself. Much of his beloved crew went on to join his rival and successor, Christopher Pike, aboard the Enterprise, whose technological advances are not lost on us. We value humans best, perhaps, because they always seem to circumvent impediments to progress, and thus remain an object of interest, even if they are more our natural rivals than our Vulcan brothers.

I was able to laugh, later, as April and his friends exchanged teary farewells. That?s the Romulan version of progress. I think it could prove to be infectious. But not too much. How else would you know who the aliens are?

END

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