Author: Don Rae
Star Traks - Secondprize: The New Adventures!
“The Kobayashi Maroons”
By Don Rae
“First Officer’s Log, Stardate 51440.9 - We’re going to be attending to a very special request from Starfleet Academy in three days, and I’ve managed to convince the Captain to set up a senior officers meeting to discuss some important matters prior to our arrival at Earth. Frankly, I’m very relieved - this meeting was long overdue, and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover between now and then. Since I was one of the Academy’s top alumni, I certainly want to make sure the top brass notices the good work I’m doing on the Secondprize.
Once we address the three hundred and six items on my agenda, I’m very certain that everything will be fine. I can even feel a promotion in the wind if things go well. Well, I guess there’s really no wind here, but you know what I mean.
Hmmmm. Did I have anything else for the log? Oh yes. I finally managed to get the computer to stop addressing me as ‘F***ing Idiot’ as of this morning. How this could have ever happened to begin with, I really have no idea.”
Jaroch stepped into the turbolift, joining a scowling Baird who was already standing inside.
“Deck two,” ordered Jaroch. The turbolift accelerated to its destination.
“This is complete bulls*** and a waste of f***ing time. Why the f*** are we doing this again?” Baird growled.
“Say no more.”
The turbolift doors opened. They walked over to the senior officers conference room, halting at the door. Baird looked at Jaroch with a pained expression. Jaroch returned it with a certain amount of sympathy.
“The faster we get in there, the sooner we get this done, I suppose.”
“You got that right.”
The doors opened, and they entered.
Dillon was already inside, clearly in a very good mood. He hummed to himself as he brushed the conference table off with a feather duster, wiping away the layers of dust that had accumulated over the last year. The air was filled with floating particles.
“Kachoo!” Jaroch sneezed, following it up with a round of coughing.
“Fuh-fuh choo!” Baird did likewise.
Dillon looked up from his dusting.
“The Captain has been detained temporarily, but he should be here in a few minutes. You might want use this time to review the agenda again. It’s all there on the monitors.”
“Did you tell him to bring an environment suit, since there’s no breathable atmosphere in here?” coughed Jaroch.
“If we actually used this room like we’re supposed to, this wouldn’t be a problem now, would it?” retorted Dillon.
“Computer, (cough cough) replace the (cough) f***ing air in this room (cough) with something more compatible with human lungs,” ordered Baird.
The dust particles sped to the exit vents as the air in the room recycled itself.
“I didn’t think of that,” Dillon said.
“Of course not. You can’t get water from a dry well,” replied Jaroch.
Dillon glowered at him as the doors opened.
“Hi everybody!” said Rydell as he entered the room. He wandered over to sit in the Captain’s chair at the table. “Sorry I’m late. I had a little bit of a problem selecting the background music for the meeting. I finally settled on a light classical guitar concerto. I’m sure you’ll love it. Computer, load Rydell music selection number 745 and play it at low volume.”
The discordant notes began to play in the background.
“Ahhhh,” sighed Rydell.
Everyone else sat down at the table.
Rydell held his fingers together, listening intently to the music.
Dillon waited anxiously.
The music played a latin style crescendo in a rapid staccato fashion.
“Sir?” Dillon ventured.
“You’re supposed to open the meeting.”
“Why? It’s your meeting. I just agreed to be here. What is it you wanted to talk about again?”
“Um. Actually, there’s quite a bit of stuff to cover. Uh, did any of you review my agenda prior to coming here?”
“You really think I’d waste a split second of my time with that bulls***?”
“Uh, ok. Then maybe we should start by going through each of the three hundred and six items one by one.”
“Wait a minute. You said three hundred and six?” asked Rydell.
“Well, for one thing, I don’t have enough background music to cover that much time. And then there’s dinner to consider. I think we’re going to have to come up with some kind of an idea that’s going to save us some time here.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible,” said Dillon. “The agenda consists of regulatory practices that we must follow in light of our upcoming visit to Starfleet Academy.”
“In that case, I believe I may have a workable solution,” ventured Jaroch.
“Go ahead,” Rydell cut in, before Dillon could get a word in edgewise.
“Computer, compare Dillon’s meeting agenda to the list of Starfleet Regulations. Delete all of the meeting agenda entries that match the regulation text precisely.”
“Working. Three hundred and six items were deleted from the agenda.”
“Hey!” protested Dillon.
“You mean you called this f***ing meeting just to discuss the content of Starfleet regulations? For f*** sakes!”
“I just thought we should do a review, so that we could keep them fresh in mind during our visit to Earth. Unfortunately, it looks like no one is concerned about this at all,” sulked Dillon.
Rydell’s curiosity got the best of him.
“Hmmm. Why? Just what are you so worried about, Travis?”
“It’s just that, well, oh never mind.”
“Good. Can we get the f*** out of here now?” Baird started to get up.
“Hold on, Scott,” said Rydell. “I’m sure Dillon had a significant enough reason for calling this meeting.”
“But not a very good one,” muttered Jaroch.
“Nevertheless, since I’m here anyway - I’d like to hear it. Aren’t you the least bit curious, Scott?” asked Rydell.
“It might be entertainment,” suggested Jaroch.
“S***. All right, all right already,” Baird grumped as he sat back down.
“Okay Travis, the floor is yours,” prodded Rydell.
Dillon looked around the room at everyone.
“Well, as you already know, we’re due to arrive next week at Starfleet Academy to pick up some cadets for a work experience exercise. With this in mind, I just wanted to ensure that we were going to provide these cadets with an experience that reflects the real nature of Starfleet existence. Therefore, I am very concerned about maintaining proper Starfleet protocols while they’re here.”
“We were planning on keeping up the appearances anyway, Travis. You knew that. So why are you getting so concerned about this?” asked Rydell.
“It’s more of a personal issue for me, I guess,” admitted Dillon. “I made a very serious mistake once -“
“Now there’s an understatement,” cut in Jaroch.
”- at the ACADEMY, long ago,” finished Dillon, glaring at him. “And because of that, I just wanted to do better for these cadets. It is my opinion that they need to understand the real life consequences of following Starfleet regulations while they’re making command decisions. It’s what I would want for myself, if I were to go through it all over again. I tend to think that if I had this kind of guidance, way back then, maybe I wouldn’t have made that very serious mistake at all.”
“I still don’t follow you,” replied Rydell, genuinely curious now. “What mistake are you talking about?”
“A needle in a hayfield,” added Jaroch under his breath.
“The Kobayashi Maru test. I completely failed to resolve the situation in a satisfactory manner,” answered Dillon, somewhat despondent about it.
“Oh that thing!” laughed Rydell. “Man, you’ve got to be kidding, Travis! Almost everyone fails that test! You’re supposed to fail! That’s the whole point of it!”
“Not everyone,” Dillon replied. “James Kirk passed it, as did one other unnamed Starfleet cadet on another occasion sometime just before my entry at the Academy. I had no idea how they managed to do it, since they never did reveal the secret of how it was accomplished to anybody. Despite this, I honestly thought I would be the next person to succeed at it, if anyone could do it at all. According to my instructors, I had far better grades than the other two did while they were still Starfleet cadets. I was the top student in my graduating class that year, and yet, I still managed to fail. I remember making a very bad command decision in that simulator that I still regret to this day.”
“Much like the rest of your command decisions since then, right?” interjected Jaroch.
Dillon continued to ignore him.
“After much reflection on my mistake, I believe I eventually discovered the real solution, long after the fact, during my first assignment after graduating from the Academy. By then, it was certainly much too late for any kind of honorarium that might help boost my career. If only I had realized the right answer much sooner than I did. Looking back on it, I think I might have even made Captain long before now, and much earlier than Kirk did for himself,” sighed Dillon.
“Not likely,” muttered Jaroch.
Baird just snorted loudly in a very uncomplimentary manner.
“Honestly, I don’t understand why all of this bothers you,” said Rydell. “I think you might be being a bit too hard on yourself. You were neither the first nor the last cadet to go through that whole experience unscathed, since nearly everyone else had to go through it in that way. Why does this disturb you so much?”
“It just does. I know I could have succeeded, especially if I had known back then what I know now. It was a mistake of omission, and one I should have realized at the time. And since I now know exactly what mistake I made, I’ve literally spent my whole entire career since then atoning for that single defining event in my life.”
“Is that right? Huh, I really had no idea you felt that way. Why don’t you tell us all about it?” invited Rydell, even though Jaroch and Baird’s heads were shaking rapidly from side to side in a very frantic “NO” motion.
Cadet Travis Dillon stepped into the holo-simulation room, and the doors closed shut. A Vulcan in an ancient-style Starfleet blue uniform jersey appeared directly in front of him.
“Welcome, Cadet Travis Dillon, to the Starfleet Command Testing Simulator,” said the Vulcan. “I am a holographic simulation of Captain Spock, the designer of the training exercise that you are about to participate in. It was my task to prepare this simulation to achieve an optimum degree of realism, so that any and all Starfleet cadets interested in a career in command can experience its issues in the most appropriate and logical manner possible.”
Cadet Dillon was not very surprised at the appearance of this very prominent person in Starfleet history. If HE designed it, it was bound to be a challenge, to say the very least.
“This simulation will serve to put you in direct command of your very own starship. While you are performing your assigned responsibility of Captain of your vessel, the Academy instructors will be actively monitoring your performance and evaluating your progress. Be forewarned - this simulation is a very demanding and challenging exercise, only to be undertaken if you feel capable of handling the rigors of command. Considering this, do you believe that you are ready to take this test at this time?”
“Yes sir,” Cadet Dillon nodded, forgetting for the moment that he was talking to a hologram.
“Very well. You are required to understand the basics of this entire situation, before you undertake it. This holographic simulation is designed to precisely mimic a situational starship experience in an accurate manner. It is entirely based upon real life situations using all known and available data, and will be as realistic as possible for the participant. As the Captain of your starship, you will be able to interact with all members of your assigned crew, issue appropriate orders, and the results will realistically be rendered within the whole simulated experience as they would occur in reality. Your simulated ship will be entirely susceptible to the physics of space travel and all of its probable consequences. Your decisions will solicit appropriate reactions from the members of your crew, based upon their personality and experience. Therefore, it is entirely up to you to decide how you should proceed with the presented situation, being the Captain of your simulated vessel. Do you have any questions before we proceed with the preliminaries?”
“No sir,” said Cadet Dillon. He had to admit that he was starting to feel a little bit nervous. He was the very best in his academic class, but his instructors had also warned him in advance that this particular test was going to be anything but easy. It was a lot of responsibility, even though he thought he could handle it.
“Very well,” said the hologram of Captain Spock. “In order to give you the best possible experience as a Starfleet commander, despite your relative inexperience as a cadet, your assigned officer compliment will include many of the very best of Starfleet’s finest officers - this is so you may benefit from their extensive experience and advice at all times. Be assured that each of these simulated individuals have been extensively and very accurately modeled from the original persons, based upon all of their documented experiences and intellectual knowledge.”
“In addition to this, your assigned crew’s individual personalities have been accurately simulated as well. Their individual responses to your interactions, and towards each other, will be based on a certain degree of realism. The reason for this level of interaction is also a logical one, since the entire issue of command heavily centers upon the communication between the individuals involved within the command structure. Do you understand everything I have stated to this point, cadet?”
“Yes,” replied Cadet Dillon.
“Now that you understand the conditions of the test, I will now introduce the primary members of your crew.”
An oriental man suddenly appeared next to Spock, wearing a much older style yellow Starfleet jersey with an “A” decal insignia on it.
“First, we have Lieutenant Sulu, one of the finest helmsmen to have ever served within Starfleet. His ability to wield a starship under extremely difficult circumstances was legendary - many of his maneuvers and helm techniques are the basis of the standard textbook materials offered within your current courses of study. Mister Sulu eventually became the Captain of the USS Excelsior, and enjoyed a very distinguished and long career until he eventually retired from service.”
“Very pleased to meet you, Captain,” said Sulu warmly, offering his hand.
“Likewise,” said Cadet Dillon, returning the gesture and shaking it.
A very young looking man with a bowl style haircut appeared next to Sulu, dressed in a similar looking yellow jersey.
“This is Ensign Chekov, your weapons officer. This most exemplary officer was assigned to several starships over his entire career, being the most accurate and efficient weapons and tactical specialist to ever serve within Starfleet. His ability to identify cloaked enemy ships was unparalleled by anyone, receiving the star cluster award for valor in battle on eleven separate occasions. Mister Chekov eventually retired from service after serving his last post as Captain of the border patrol vessel USS Dauntless, ending his career with one hundred and sixteen enemy starships destroyed.”
“Wery good to serve wit’ you, Kepten,” said Chekov.
“Thank you,” replied Cadet Dillon. Things were definitely looking up with every new crewmember introduced. With this kind of officer compliment at his command, how could he possibly lose?
A very beautiful dark-skinned woman appeared next to Chekov, this time dressed in a red version of the old style Starfleet jersey.
“This is Lieutenant Uhura, your chief communications and operations officer. She will be responsible for coordinating all internal communications and bridge orders between all the departments on your starship. Ms. Uhura is most noted for eliminating the relative inefficiency of all previous forms of Starfleet communications, being the inventor of the modern day commbadge system that all Starfleet personnel uses today. She is the best operations coordinator in all of Starfleet history, and she will always direct your orders to the rest of the crew with the highest efficiency rating possible.”
“Charmed to be here, Captain,” Uhura purred, reaching over to stroke Dillon’s left shoulder in a very playful way.
Cadet Dillon swallowed audibly under her attentions. He was rather nervous around women, even holographic ones.
A smiling man appeared next to Uhura, also wearing a red colored shirt.
“This is Lieutenant Commander Scott, your chief engineering officer. Mister Scott literally rewrote the basic engineering specification for all modern day starships. He also had an impeccable reputation for prevailing in the most difficult of circumstances, regularly being able to accomplish seemingly impossible engineering feats in several well-documented situations of extreme circumstances. If there is any way to achieve a result through using any kind of engineering method, Mister Scott is clearly your best choice to accomplish it. You would be very wise to count on his experience and advice at all times.”
“Aye laddie. I always think I can squeeze a wee bit more power out of me engines, so don’t hesitate to ask!” bowed Scott, grinning broadly.
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, Mister Scott,” replied Dillon.
An older man with droopy eyelids appeared next to Scott, this one wearing a blue colored shirt.
“This, of course, is Dr. McCoy. Although his mannerisms are somewhat illogical, he is unquestionably the best medical officer to ever serve within Starfleet. With over eighty years of experience in the medical field, he is the most accomplished surgeon and trauma specialist alive. His extensive experience stems from the Enterprise NCC-1701’s five-year mission to explore the unknown fringes of Federation space; Dr. McCoy’s repeated encounters with alien cultures enabled him to eventually become the Federation’s foremost authority on inter- species biology. Dr. McCoy continues to serve Starfleet Command today in honorarium and practice as the oldest living human Admiral alive. Given that he has saved my own life on more than one occasion, I can attest he will prove to be the best possible medical expertise available to you on your simulated mission, despite his highly unusual tendency to behave very irrationally almost all of the time.”
“Don’t you believe that nonsense about me,” said McCoy, reaching over to shake Dillon’s hand. “He’s always been a bit daft ever since I put his brain back into his head.”
“Really Doctor, “ said Spock mildly. “If I had not instructed you on how to complete the procedure, you certainly would not have succeeded.”
“See what I mean?” grinned McCoy. “He’s still suffering from delusions.”
Spock stiffly pretended to ignore that remark.
“Lastly, I will personally be performing the role of first officer and science officer within your crew. As for my own credentials - I have served aboard Federation starships for nine point six Earth decades. I have received the Federation star cluster award on forty-one separate occasions, and have invented twenty-three brand new scientific fields of study during my tenure as science officer. My personal experiences have included escaping certain destruction from hostile alien forces in seven hundred and ninety two documented incidents, saving the planet Earth and the Milky Way galaxy fourteen different times, and returning from death on three separate occasions. I believe you may find my advice both useful and logical from time to time.”
“Yes sir,” replied Cadet Dillon, who was just a bit overwhelmed.
“Cadet Dillon, you will not refer to me as ‘sir’ within this simulation, since as of this moment, I am your second-in- command. The starship you will be serving aboard is the starship Enterprise, Excelsior Class, NCC-1701B. It is now entirely yours to command, Captain Dillon. I trust that you are now ready to begin the simulation and the test?”
“Yes I am, Mister Spock. Let’s do it,” said Cadet Dillon.
“I remember that whole spiel just like it was yesterday. Hmmm. They sure made you feel like you were in the right place at the right time, didn’t they?” commented Rydell, thinking back on the whole experience.
“Indeed,” agreed Jaroch. “The officers in question were all exemplary in their own right. Mister Spock was my own personal role model for joining Starfleet, so it was an honor just to be in his presence, albeit a holographic one.”
“Is that right?” Rydell said. “How about you, Scott? Did that particular crew assembly have as much impact on you as it did on us?”
“F*** no. I didn’t give a s***. They were just holograms.”
“I might have guessed. So what happened when you took the test, Travis?” Rydell asked.
The bridge of the Enterprise-B gleamed with polish, and dozens of monitors reported the ship’s status in a constant flow of activity. Officers raced around the bridge, performing their duty stations.
“All departments report normal operations, Captain,” said Uhura.
“Thank you Lieutenant,” said Cadet Dillon, sitting down in the Captain’s chair. Dillon marveled to himself how good it could feel to be in command. He knew, right then and there, that this is what he was born to do.
“Status report,” he said.
“We are patrolling the edges of the Romulan Neutral Zone, Captain,” said Sulu. “We have been receiving reports of Romulan activity in the area, and we have been ordered by Starfleet Command to ensure that no treaty violations are taking place inside of our borders.”
“No sign of any Romulan wessels as of yet, Kepten,” said Chekov.
“Very well,” said Dillon. “Please run continuous scans. Mister Spock, are there any unusual energy signatures in the area?”
Spock peered into his viewer. “Negative Captain,” he replied.
“Okay,” said Dillon, feeling a bit uneasy. He had no idea what to expect.
“It’s alright to feel nervous on your first time out,” said Dr. McCoy to Dillon, who had somehow sidled over unnoticed to the Captain’s chair. “Believe me, you would do yourself some good to kick back and relax. Let things come as they will, and they will eventually happen. If you want, I have some brandy to help take the edge off. As the doctor on board, I can even give you a prescription for it.”
Dillon was surprised by this, and did a little mental somersault. What kind of a test was this, anyway? He was about to reply….
“Doctor,” interrupted Spock suddenly. “You are offering the Captain an alcoholic beverage while he is on duty. As always, I am continuously fascinated with your constant tendency to behave in the most illogical manner possible at all times.”
“Illogical to you perhaps. Humans have their own sense of logic, and it serves them well enough, thank you very much. Hell, even you could use a good shot of brandy now and then. It might help you thin out that thick green blood of yours.”
“Are you implying something, Doctor?”
“If you had any human intuition Spock, you would have had it by now. Of course, we all know that you are a Vulcan, and are completely immune to such things.”
“Indeed,” said Spock with a raised eyebrow.
Dillon watched the interplay between them with confusion. Why were these officers bantering with each other when there were duties to perform? He had no idea. Was this part of the test? He didn’t think so. Wasn’t it a Starfleet officer’s duty to follow regulations at all times? Yes, yes it was. So he resisted the temptation to indulge in fraternizing behavior. In doing so, he felt certain that his instructors would take notice of his dedication to the duty at hand.
“Captain! There’s a message coming in on the emergency channel!” exclaimed Uhura.
“On screen,” said Dillon as the bridge officers went to their stations.
“There is no video sir, the signal is too weak. Audio only,” said Uhura, flipping the channel open. There was a burst of static over the speakers.
“THIS IS THE FEDERATION SHIP KOBAYASHI MARU TO ANYONE WHO IS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE! WE HAVE SUFFERED CATASTROPHIC WARP SYSTEMS FAILURE! WE’RE VENTING PLASMA AND LOSING LIFE SUPPORT RAPIDLY! WE ARE CARRYING CIVILIAN PASSENGERS! PLEASE HELP US! WE’RE SEVERELY OFF COURSE AND WE’RE NOT SURE HOW MUCH LONGER THE SHIP WILL HOLD TOGE-“ the rest of the message got lost in the static.
“Trace the source of the transmission,” ordered Dillon.
“It originated from inside the Romulan Neutral Zone, Captain, approximately 3.2 parsecs from our present location,” said Spock.
Dillon felt the dilemma wash over him. General Order #12 stated that all Federation starships were required to help all ships in distress under all circumstances. General Order #17 stated that all Federation starships were to stay out of the Romulan neutral zone under all circumstances.
“What is the typical crew compliment of the Kobayashi Maru?” Dillon asked.
Spock consulted the computer.
“Twenty five crew, four hundred and fifty civilian passengers,” answered Spock quietly.
Uh oh, Cadet Dillon thought.
“Can we be certain the transmission is really coming from the Kobayashi Maru, and isn’t some sort of deception from the Romulans?”
“The communications identification matches what we have on computer record,” answered Uhura.
“Is there any sign of Romulan activity in the immediate area?”
“Negative,” answered Spock.
“The transmission is getting weaker,” added Uhura.
Dillon took a deep breath, and made his decision.
“Set a course for the Kobayshi Maru’s position inside the Romulan neutral zone,” Dillon ordered.
“Sir?” said Sulu, looking very shocked and alarmed but punching in the course.
“Sir, may I remind you that this action is specifically forbidden under General Order Seventeen?” ventured Spock.
“We also have General Order Twelve to think about, Mister Spock. I’m choosing to save the lives of those innocent people. Engage at warp nine, Mister Sulu.”
“Aye sir,” said Sulu, shaking his head in obvious dismay.
The Enterprise-B leaped to warp velocity. Dillon flipped open the ship-wide communications channel.
“Captain Dillon to all personnel, yellow alert. We are setting course for the Romulan neutral zone. Transporter and medical teams, stand by to transport injured civilians directly to sickbay. Captain Dillon out.”
McCoy shook his head with a sad looking grin. “Are you absolutely sure about this decision, Captain? After all, you are violating one general order to fulfill another. What do you think? Is this one single incident in the neutral zone really worth risking your crew’s lives, your starship, and your Starfleet career?” McCoy added with a sense of flourish. It was plain that he clearly enjoyed playing the role of devil’s advocate.
Cadet Dillon sweated that remark, guessing this might be a hint. Was he making the wrong decision? There was no way to know for sure. There was still some time. Should he second- guess himself?
“I need your opinions. Please summarize them quickly. Mister Sulu?”
“I think we’re making a big mistake, Captain. The Romulans will certainly attempt to destroy us if we dare enter the neutral zone. The Kobayashi Maru violated the peace treaty by entering the area to begin with, so they’re not our responsibility any longer.”
“Lieutenant Uhura?” Cadet Dillon ventured.
“We can’t let those innocent civilians die! They are victims of circumstance and accident, so it’s not their fault they’re in trouble! Captain, surely the Romulans won’t mind if we mount a rescue mission to help them!”
Cadet Dillon felt the blood drain out of his face. Everything was just adding to his growing confusion and tension.
“How about you, Mister Chekov?”
“I agree Kepten,” said Chekov. “I believe we can handle a Romulan ship wery easily if it enters the neutral zone to intercept us. I would love to them try anytheeng,” he said, grinning and looking a bit wild eyed, like he was eager for a fight.
“Uh, yes. Mister Spock, your assessment?”
“I agree with Mister Chekov’s assessment that we can handle an encounter with one Romulan vessel. However, it is highly unlikely that we can survive an encounter with two or more such vessels. Since we do not know how many cloaked Romulan ships may be in the area, entering the neutral zone represents a degree of uncertainty and risk for this ship and crew, as well as for maintaining the peace between the Romulan Star Empire and the Federation. However, it is also our mandate to protect the lives of innocent Federation civilians. Given all available data at present time, I do not see anything illogical in pursuing this course of action. In contrast, however, I do not see anything logical in continuing this course of action either.”
“He’s just saying he doesn’t really know what to do,” added McCoy, with a hint of a grin.
“As always, Doctor, you are fascinatingly imprecise,” retorted Spock.
Dillon still wasn’t sure about anything. He flipped open the direct line to engineering.
“Captain to Mister Scott.”
“What is the ship’s condition? Can we manage a higher velocity if we need to in the event of an emergency?”
“Aye, I can give ye warp nine point seven on a moments notice, Sir. Ye just say the word.”
“Thank you, Mister Scott. Captain Dillon out.”
Everyone stared at Cadet Dillon. He felt their eyes bore through him as he agonized his final decision.
The computer flared to life and honked a repetitive warning tone.
“WARNING! TRAJECTORY INDICATES ENTRY INTO ROMULAN NEUTRAL ZONE IN TWENTY SECONDS. WARNING!” it blared.
“We’re going in,” he said, weakly, before he changed his mind.
“Uh oh. Here we go again,” muttered McCoy, rolling his eyeballs.
“Now entering the Romulan neutral zone,” said Sulu, turning his attention back to the readouts and displays.
“Red alert, shields up,” ordered Dillon.
The alert sounded as Cadet Dillon gripped the armrests on the Captain’s chair.
“Keep an eye on those sensors. I want to know immediately if we encounter any Romulan ships.”
“Thees is assuming they are nyet cloaked, Kepten,” added Chekov.
“I think I will have to rely on your expertise in that department, Mister Chekov,” said Cadet Dillon, feeling the anxiety as he watched the viewscreen intently.
He could only hope he was making the right decision, given the circumstances. As far as he knew, nothing in the regulations really covered anything quite like this whole situation.
“We are approaching the Kobayashi Maru’s position. Estimated time to arrival, three point five minutes,” said Spock.
“Are you sure you don’t want that drink?” asked McCoy, offering him a flask of brandy.
“No thanks,” replied Dillon.
“Well, don’t say I didn’t offer. Drinking on duty is a very mild transgression compared to entering the neutral zone. Chances are we’re all going to be dead soon, so it’s not like it’s going to matter much anyway. You youngsters could certainly use a sense of perspective.”
“Shouldn’t you be in sickbay?” retorted Dillon.
“Let’s just say that I think you’ll be needing me up here in the next few minutes. Call it a hunch,” McCoy replied, winking and taking a quick swig from the flask.
“We will reach the Kobayashi Maru in one point five minutes,” intoned Spock. They could now see the slowly disintegrating transport ship dead ahead in the viewscreen.
“Transporter room and emergency stations, stand by,” said Dillon.
“Kepten! I em detecting three enemy wessels decloaking!” exclaimed Chekov.
Three Romulan warbirds appeared out of thin air in the viewscreen, blocking their route.
“They are arming weapons,” said Spock.
Cadet Dillon jumped out of his seat in a panic.
“Hail them! This is Captain Travis Dillon of the USS Enterprise, we are on a rescue mission, repeat, we are on a rescue mission!”
A brutish looking Romulan appeared in the viewscreen.
“This is Commander Tomak of the Imperial Warbird Vengeance. You have violated the neutral zone treaty. Prepare to surrender your vessel and be boarded.”
“We only entered the neutral zone to help the innocents aboard that transport vessel!” protested Dillon.
“We will finish dealing with the rest of your spies after we have finished dealing with you. You will surrender your vessel immediately, or be destroyed. What is your answer?”
This time, Cadet Dillon went with his first instinct.
“Evasive maneuvers, pattern beta five!” he shouted.
Sulu’s fingers danced across the controls as the Enterprise-B banked sharply away from the warbirds. They opened fire, and the bridge shook with the impact.
“Kepten! Shields down to eighty seven percent!”
“You were duly warned, Captain,” said Tomak briefly, before the communication cut off completely.
“The warbirds are surrounding our position and flooding the area with polaron particles. We are unable to generate a warp reaction until we reach the edges of the field,” Spock reported calmly.
Now I’m in for it, thought Cadet Dillon. What next? He did a quick mental check. Starfleet regulations said he could defend the ship, once attacked!
“Return fire Mister Chekov!”
“Weeth pleasure sir!”
The first return salvo missed completely, so Chekov’s eyes narrowed as he focused the computer lock tighter on the warbird.
“Mister Sulu, bring us closer to the Kobayashi Maru!”
“Aye sir. I’ll try to hold her together!”
“A real hero this one is,” muttered McCoy, holding onto a display console for dear life as weapons fire rocked the ship.
“Kepten, weapons lock established on the port warbird’s engineering section.”
The simulated photon torpedo sped to its target. It detonated on the warbird’s hull, causing a breach and streams of fire to shoot out from within.
“Enemy wessel disabled Kepten!” Chekov shouted with glee.
“The Kobayashi Maru will be within transporter range in fifteen point three seconds,” reported Mr. Spock.,
“Emergency crews, prepare to beam any and all survivors aboard! Stand by to drop the shields on my mark!”
“Kepten, you said drop the shields?”
“You heard me Mister,” said Cadet Dillon, the adrenaline pumping into him. He was still determined to save the passengers, and find an escape route out of here.
The bridge shook with another impact as the Romulans fired another barrage.
“Shields down to sixty two percent.”
“Hull damage reported on decks eleven through thirteen, some minor casualties,” added Uhura.
“Seal those sections off,” ordered Dillon.
“Transporter range in three point eight seconds,” reported Spock.
Dillon waited a beat.
“Chekov, drop the shields! Transporter crews, energize!”
“Enemy wessel fire coming in!” shouted Chekov.
“Raise the shields!”
Dillon fell out of his chair. Displays exploded under overload, and bits and pieces of debris flew around the bridge. Fire erupted from the remains of the blown consoles. The other officers grabbed anything they could as Chekov flew through the air, landing sharply on the ground. McCoy rushed over to attend to him as Spock rushed over to take position at the weapons console. Dillon got back up and into the Captain’s chair as many of the bridge officers grabbed fire extinguishers and put out the blazes.
“Damage control teams to the bridge! All stations report!”
“Shields are operating, but are down to thirty seven percent,” stated Spock.
“He’s dead, Captain,” said McCoy, briefly regarding the bleeding form of Chekov, then running over to help other injured crewmembers.
“Transporter crews are reporting that we have retrieved three hundred and fifty-nine people from the Kobayashi Maru,” said Uhura.
“Mr. Scott! Our warp status!”
“Nominal, Captain!” said Scott’s voice over the comm system. “But we canna take much more of this kind of punishment!”
“We are still within the boundaries of the polaron particle field,” reminded Spock.
“Mr. Sulu, set a course for the nearest edge of the polaron field, and maintain evasive maneuvers. Mr. Spock, target the nearest warbird and detonate a one kilometer spread across their path.”
Several torpedoes streaked toward the nearest Romulan ship on the screen. They detonated simultaneously. The Romulan tried to avoid the shock wave, but failed. The hull broke apart, and the warbird exploded. The flagship continued to pursue them intently.
Cadet Dillon sensed he was about to beat the test.
“How much longer before we hit the edge of the polaron field?”
“Twenty two seconds, Captain.”
“Maintain present course. Set a new course for the Federation border and engage at warp nine point five as soon as we’re clear of the field.”
The ship shook under the impact as Romulan disruptor fire streaked across the hull.
“Shields down to four percent,” said Spock. “They will not withstand another attack.”
“Ten seconds until the edge of the polaron field.”
“Four more Romulan warbirds decloaking, directly ahead. They have locked on and are opening fire,” said Spock in his neutral tone.
“I told you so. Any last words?” said McCoy.
“Evasive action!” Dillon shouted, knowing it was already too late.
Disruptor fire enveloped the Enterprise-B, overloading its shields and cutting very deep into several sections of the Excelsior class starship’s hull.
“Noooooooooooooo!” Cadet Dillon knew he had failed as the USS Enterprise-B exploded around him.
When he looked up again, he was now standing on a disc-shaped platform in space. He watched the scene of the Enterprise-B’s burning sections drifting apart from each other, the ultimate result of his failed test.
“An interesting, if somewhat flawed performance, Cadet,” said the holographic image of Spock, who suddenly appeared next to him. “Do you have any questions before you exit the simulation?”
“I did everything I could possibly do. What did I do wrong?”
“I cannot answer this particular question for you, Cadet. It is one that you must answer for yourself.”
“Can’t you give me any kind of hint at all? I followed the regulations as best as I knew how to, and it wasn’t enough!”
“Beyond what has already been stated within the regulations, I do not have anything further to add to them. It is only my suggestion that you should interpret this entire experience as a distinct possibility, thus providing the necessary incentive to choose the best course of action possible under any probable circumstance.”
McCoy appeared out of thin air next to Spock.
“Spock, what kind of explanation is that? Sheesh. The kid obviously needs some human guidance here.”
“I answered his question as best I could, Doctor. Do you have anything further to add?”
“Indeed I do,” replied McCoy. “Always remember, my boy. Regardless if you choose one path or another, this sort of experience might happen to you, eventually. Since all things are likely in an infinite universe, it is entirely up to you to decide how to best handle this possibility in the future, when the time comes.”
“That is essentially what I said, Doctor,” said Spock, regarding him with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s not what you say, Spock. It’s how you say it.”
Cadet Travis Dillon surveyed the complete destruction of the Enterprise, agonizing over and over again how this possibly could have happened to him.
“I remembered their words of advice, and for months afterward I suffered over my defeat in the simulator. After a few months of reflection, I eventually learned the most important lesson in my Starfleet career.”
“Which was?” Rydell asked.
“Never choose to obey one Starfleet regulation over another one, even if one appears to contradict the other. Never take chances or second guess the regulations under any circumstances, since they have been specifically designed to keep you from doing anything wrong,” answered Dillon in absolute sincerity.
Rydell and Jaroch looked at each other.
“Actually, this explains quite a bit, come to think of it,” commented Rydell.
“I would have saved the ship had I not chosen one regulation over another,” insisted Dillon. “As a consequence, my obedience to Starfleet regulations is my primary focus at all times, even when I’m off duty. It’s because I’ve faithfully followed these principles all along, that I’m now one step away from becoming a Captain. I mean, just because all of the other Starfleet Captains have taken calculated risks throughout their careers, and have succeeded despite the odds, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve achieved the same level of proficiency and perfection that I have, right?”
Baird rolled his eyeballs.
Jaroch gritted his teeth.
“Sure, sure, whatever you say Travis,” Rydell said.
“I’m glad I never wanted to turn into a kiss-a** like you,” Baird said. Dillon glared at him in response.
“You’ve never felt the desire to command, Scott?” Rydell asked.
“Why the f*** would I want to do that? So I’d have to deal with f***ing idiots like Dillon all the time? S***, you can have that. It’s bad enough that I have to attend these kinds of bulls*** meetings when I’ve got better things to do in engineering. This is a complete waste of my time, just like that f***ing command test was back at Starfleet Academy.”
“That must’ve been quite the experience for you then,” Rydell commented in a prompting kind of way.
“Why do I get the f***ing feeling that I’m being asked to entertain you all with my command test story?”
“We should be getting back to the meeting agenda,” said Dillon.
“See what the alternative is?” pressed Jaroch.
“S***. All right.”
“Are you ready to begin the command simulation?” asked the holographic facsimile of Captain Spock.
“As ready as I’ll ever f***ing be I guess,” answered Cadet Baird, completely disgusted with being forced to take this stupid f***ing test.
The lines of the holo-simulator disappeared as the bridge of the Enterprise-B appeared around him. Cadet Baird looked around. The officers were busy performing their duty stations.
“All departments report normal operations, Sir,” said Uhura.
“Fine. Then you won’t need me, right?”
“Sir?” asked Spock.
“I’ll be down in Engineering,” said Cadet Baird as walked inside the turbolift. The doors shut behind him.
“Fascinating,” said Spock with a raised eyebrow.
“You left the bridge?” asked Dillon, incredulously.
Rydell couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
“That is so…” he started, trailing off.
“…him,” finished Jaroch.
“Do you want to hear the rest of the f***ing story or not?” said Baird.
“Sure, by all means, go ahead Scott,” said Rydell.
Cadet Baird walked through the doors of Engineering. Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott looked up from his panel displays.
“Captain? I thought ye were on the bridge?”
“Have you got any real work to do around here?” asked Baird.
“Aye, sir, we were just calibratin’ the warp field to align with the emergency power systems, in case we are needin’ it.”
“F***, that’s more like it. Let’s get to work!” he said, grabbing a diagnostic padd from a wall rack.
Montgomery Scott looked at him incredulously. Then shrugged his shoulders.
“Ye are the Captain.”
Cadet Baird surveyed the warp pathway diagrams carefully, making some changes.
“It looks like this configuration is all f***ed up. If we were to focus the main power couplings in a more parallel alignment, like this one, you should be able to switch from main power to emergency power in a second, maybe two, tops.”
Scott looked at the modified diagram.
“Aye, so it would. Captain, if ye don’t mind me saying so, ye would make a damn fine Engineer.”
“I have no f***ing intention of becoming anything else,” said Cadet Baird.
“Uhura to Captain Baird,” said his commbadge.
“What?” Baird answered in a very irritated way.
“We are picking up a distress call from within the Romulan Neutral Zone.”
A brief pause.
“Would the Captain like to hear it?”
“If I must,” replied Baird.
“THIS IS THE FEDERATION SHIP KOBAYASHI MARU TO ANYONE WHO IS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE! WE HAVE SUFFERED CATASTROPHIC WARP SYSTEMS FAILURE! WE’RE VENTING PLASMA AND LOSING LIFE SUPPORT RAPIDLY! WE ARE CARRYING CIVILIAN PASSENGERS! PLEASE HELP US! WE’RE SEVERELY OFF COURSE AND WE’RE NOT SURE HOW MUCH LONGER THE SHIP WILL HOLD TOGE-“ the rest of the message got lost in the static.
“Sounds like they’re going to die, then. Too f***ing bad for them,” said Cadet Baird.
The transmission was interrupted by another voice.
“Spock here, Captain. If we were to respond to the distress call, we could reach their position in eleven minutes, assuming a velocity of warp nine.”
Cadet Baird grinned and looked at Scott.
“F*** that. I bet we can do better than that. Hey Scott, do you feel up to a challenge?”
“Aye Captain,” answered Scott.
‘“If I’m going to be stuck dealing with this command bulls*** anyway, we should at least try to have some fun with it. Maybe we can see if we can get this beast to hit warp nine point eight or more.”
“Fine. Spock, you heard the man.”
“Sir, may I remind you that entering the Romulan Neutral Zone is forbidden under General Order Seventeen?”
“Do you really think I give a s***?”
“I suppose not,” answered Spock.
“Fine. You do your f***ing thing, and I’ll do mine, okay?”
The Enterprise-B leaped to extreme warp velocity, heading directly for the Romulan Neutral Zone. The warp engines began to make audible noise as they hit warp nine point seven. Cadet Baird, Montgomery Scott, and the rest of the engineering crew worked feverishly on the warp systems consoles, trying to coax more ergs of energy out of a heavily strained warp core.
“Rerouting the remains of auxiliary power to the main power couplings,” said Montgomery Scott.
“If we’re going to hit warp nine point eight, we should try putting some extra dilithium crystals into the chamber.”
“Tis very dangerous, sair. The antimatter flow might cascade into a breach if we don’t monitor the reaction very carefully.”
“Who gives a f***? I just want to see if we can do it. It’s not like any of this is actually real, anyway!”
“Ye do have a point sir,” admitted Scott.
Cadet Baird injected some more crystals into the warp chamber. Both he and Scott pressed the regulator controls beyond specified limits. The indicators glowed bright red as the warp core channeled the reaction faster and faster.
“Antimatter flow remaining nominal,” said Baird.
“Warp nine point seven. Warp nine point eight! Sair, we did it!” exclaimed Scott, beaming happily.
Cadet Baird grinned in satisfaction. It was amazing what an Excelsior class starship could do, if given the chance.
“Now entering Romulan Neutral Zone,” said Sulu through Baird’s commbadge.
“Estimating arrival in two point one minutes,” added Spock. “Captain, I request that you come to bridge immediately. Your presence is required, since we might encounter Romulans at any moment.”
“F***. I don’t see how I’m going to be of any help there. On the other hand, since it doesn’t look like I can do anything else here, I might as well see how the power distribution network looks from the bridge. Thanks for the lesson, Mister Scott,” said Cadet Baird.
“It was a pleasure, sair,” answered Scott.
Cadet Baird left engineering and entered the turbolift. It opened at the bridge, and he stepped out. He headed straight for the engineering consoles.
“Arrival at the Kobayshi Maru’s position in thirty three seconds,” reported Spock.
“Kepten,” exclaimed Chekov, “Three Romulan Warbirds decloaking directly ahead of us!”
“They are hailing us, Sir,” added Uhura.
Unconcerned, Cadet Baird completely ignored Uhura as he examined the readouts.
“Send them a f***ing card or something, then! I’m busy over here!” snapped Baird.
“The Romulans have stopped hailing, and are maneuvering to intercept us,” stated Spock.
“Amazing,” Baird said to himself as he reviewed the readouts. “Scott’s actually trying to increase the power flow to hit warp nine point eight five. F*** me. I’m going to have remember some of these tricks for myself.” He fine-tuned the display to examine the changes being made to the warp flow regulators.
“Kepten! Enemy wessels firing!” exclaimed Chekov
“Raise shields,” ordered Spock, since Cadet Baird was obviously occupied with more important things at the moment.
The Enterprise shook under the impact of the Romulan disruptor fire.
“Shields down to seventy eight percent,” said Chekov.
Baird briefly glanced at the shield display indicators. They were nominal, even though they were maintaining warp factor nine point eight. Tough birds, these Excelsior class ships were. He wondered offhandedly if a continuous power flow to the shields could be split off directly from the warp core if even more crystals were added to the dilithium matrix. He thought the idea might work with some extensive modifications. He promised himself that he would look into the Excelsior class specifications after all this was done.
“The Romulans are attempting to surround us. Sir, we are awaiting your orders!” exclaimed Sulu.
“You can set a collision course for all I f***ing care,” snapped Baird, completely irritated at having his train of thought interrupted again.
The blood drained out of Sulu’s face.
The Enterprise-B headed straight for the lead Romulan ship. It rapidly grew larger in the viewscreen. It banked sharply at the very last instant, apparently realizing the Federation ship was playing a very serious game of “chicken” here.
“Enemy vessel evading us, Captain,” said Sulu.
“Not exactly a run-of-the-mill command test, is it Spock?” said McCoy, watching the entire scene with a hint of a grin on his face.
“Fascinating,” answered Spock.
Baird examined the weapons displays thoughtfully.
“Hey you. Chekov. Next time we make a pass at them, do you think you can you fire all of the weapons at once? I want to see how much of a power spike this causes at extreme warp velocities. Think you can f***ing manage it?”
“Yes, Kepten,” said Chekov, gritting his teeth as he concentrated on achieving a target lock.
“Approaching lead Romulan vessel,” said Spock.
“Target lock established. Firing all weapons!” said Chekov.
Cadet Baird ignored the exploding warbird on the viewscreen as he watched the power spike hit its peak.
“Holy s***! Look at that motherf***er! These ships have power to spare!” he exclaimed.
“Sensors indicate the Kobayashi Maru’s warp core is going to breach in fifteen seconds,” stated Spock.
“Really?” replied Baird. That definitely caught his attention.
“What should we do, sir?” prompted Sulu.
“S***, put it on the main viewer!” exclaimed Baird eagerly. He just HAD to see this!
The scene changed from the ongoing battle to feature the troubled transport vessel, which was spouting streams of glowing fire from one of its nacelles.
“Three seconds. Two. One,” said Spock.
Bits and pieces of debris flew everywhere.
“F*** me! So that’s what it looks like!” grinned Baird.
Everyone on the bridge stared at him in disbelief.
“Fascinating,” said Spock.
“Shock wave from ze warp core breach coming in Kepten,” said Chekov.
“Lower the shields,” replied Baird.
“Do I have to explain everything to you morons? I want to see how much the outer hull can take when it’s unprotected! Hurry the f*** up, or we’ll miss the opportunity!” snapped Cadet Baird.
“Y-yes sir. L-lowering the shields Kepten,”
“All stations, brace for impact,” ordered Spock.
The shock wave hit the Enterprise hard, flipping the vessel end over end in space. The bridge officers barely hung on to their stations.
“Casualty reports coming in from all decks. A hull breach has been reported on deck eleven,” reported Uhura.
“Hmmm. Not bad at all,” said Baird, lost in thought. Excelsior class starships were built out of some tough stuff. He had to admit he was impressed with the engineering achievement that went into these babies.
“Ken ve raise the shields now, Kepten?” asked Chekov timidly, with an edge of panic in his voice.
“Good idea. Let’s see if they still work, after all that s***.”
“Shields raised. Functioning at forty nine percent.”
“Takes a f***ing licking, but it keeps on ticking,” commented Cadet Baird as he sat down at the engineering monitoring station once again.
McCoy couldn’t help it any longer. He burst out laughing, truly appreciating the audacity of this whole experience.
The remaining Romulan warbirds, having recovered from the effects of the shock wave, resumed their attack. The Enterprise rocked from disruptor fire once again.
“Shields down to thirty six percent.”
Cadet Baird ignored him, watching the energy status monitors intently.
“Uh, Captain. Four more Romulan warbirds are decloaking and are joining the main attack fleet,” said Sulu.
Baird had the glimmerings of a very interesting idea.
“Hmmm. The situation looks hopeless to me. I suppose all of you want me to do something about all those f***s out there, is that right?”
“What do you propose, Captain?” said Spock, honestly wondering what was coming next. This human was completely illogical.
“Hey Sulu, set a course for the epicenter of those ships. Computer, initiate the ship’s self-destruct sequence. Set it to detonate the warp core the instant we are within one hundred thousand kilometers of the nearest Romulan vessel.”
“Does the first officer concur?” asked the computer.
Spock didn’t see any logic in prolonging this whole illogical experience.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Destruct sequence initiated,” said the computer.
McCoy just continued laughing and slapping his knee.
“Here we go!” he said.
“Captain, you’re insane,” said Sulu, who was finally driven past his personal limits to breach command protocol.
“You’ve got thet right,” echoed Chekov.
“Heaven help us all,” prayed Uhura.
“Engage at maximum velocity,” said Baird as he leaned back in his chair to watch the action on the viewscreen. He put his feet up on the consoles.
The Enterprise-B turned to face the six warbirds head-on once again. Disruptor fire raked the shields as the ship raced towards them.
The ship rocked with the impact.
“Shields down to nineteen percent,” reported Chekov
Spock recited the countdown.
“Self destruct will initiate in three seconds. Two. One.”
The Enterprise-B exploded in a gigantic blaze of fire and light. The six Romulan warbirds, all caught in the tremendous shockwave, blew apart under the stress.
Cadet Baird was now standing on the disc shaped platform in outer space. The warp core explosion had turned the Enterprise and all of the warbirds into many different varieties of small particles and debris, which now floated all around him.
“F***ing fantastic,” he said, watching the scene.
The holographic images of Spock and McCoy appeared next to him on the platform. McCoy was whooping with laughter the instant he materialized. Spock actually looked like he was very irritated, considering that this was impossible for a Vulcan.
“S-Spock, y-you have to admit, that was hilarious!” quipped McCoy between his fits of roaring laughter.
“I fail to see anything amusing about any of this Doctor,” replied Spock.
Cadet Baird shrugged noncommittally.
“So? What did you f***ing think of that?”
“You have achieved a distinctly unique status, Cadet Baird. You have conducted yourself in the most thoroughly illogical and improbable fashion possible. In all of my years of testing potential candidates, I have never encountered a cadet so unsuited for command.”
“You sure got that right. Is this test over? Can I get the f*** out of here now?”
“Indeed,” replied Spock.
The doors opened to the holo-simulator, and Cadet Baird left the room. McCoy watched as the doors closed behind Cadet Baird, then grinned at Spock.
“Spock, I think that cadet actually got to you. Admit it. You’re human, just like the rest of us.”
“Doctor, as I have told you time and time again, I’m only half-human. And at moments like these, I believe that it may be a half too much.”
Rydell was laughing so hard, that tears were streaming steadily down his face.
“Remind me to never put in you in the Captain’s chair for any reason!” he exclaimed, wiping the wetness away with his sleeve.
“Huh. Like I’d actually have to do that,” snorted Baird.
Dillon couldn’t believe it.
“How did you ever graduate?” he asked, completely flabbergasted.
“Isn’t it obvious? Oh right. I forgot whom I’m speaking to. Listen up, you idiot: I’m a damn good engineer. The very fact that this ship is still intact after dealing with all of your f*** ups should be evidence enough of that. So what else did you want to know, moron?”
Jaroch was sitting in thoughtful silence.
“Jaroch? What’s on your mind?” asked Rydell.
“I was just thinking about my own personal experience in the command simulator. Now that I’ve heard Commander Baird’s account of it, mine doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore.”
“Is that right? What was it like for you, Jaroch?”
The interior of the Enterprise-B materialized around him, and Cadet Jaroch sat down in the Captain’s chair.
He surveyed the bridge with careful discretion. He tried his very best to show no emotion at all, but on the inside, there was a minor war going on. J’Ter had picked a very inopportune moment to start pounding on his psyche again.
“You pathetic worm,” J’Ter explained to Jaroch within the inner recesses of his mind. “I was bred for commanding legions of followers, not you.”
“We will see about that,” Cadet Jaroch thought to himself.
“You are stupid and weak. Let me out now!”
“Oh shut up, you neanderthalic throwback,” he said aloud.
“Captain?” queried Spock.
“Nothing, nothing, I’m sorry,” replied Cadet Jaroch. “What is our present status?”
“We are patrolling the edges of the Romulan Neutral Zone, Captain,” said Sulu. “We have been receiving reports of Romulan activity in the area, so we have been ordered by Starfleet Command to ensure that no treaty violations are taking place inside of our borders.”
“No sign of any Romulan wessels as of yet, Kepten,” said Chekov.
“All departments report normal routine operations,” reported Uhura.
“Thank you,” said Jaroch.
“They’re all fools,” said J’Ter within his mind.
“I said shut up,” replied Jaroch.
“Captain? Is everything all right?” asked Spock.
“Sure. Yes. Everything’s fine Mister Spock.”
“Of course, Captain.”
“You’re an Yynsian, correct?” asked McCoy quietly, standing next to him.
“Yes,” answered Jaroch, a bit surprised. “How did you know? Most humans cannot tell the difference.”
“It was either that, or you’re a very weird human who truly enjoys having conversations with himself. It must be interesting to have a past life you can talk to every once in a while.”
Cadet Jaroch didn’t dare reveal the full extent of this particular problem in his life. No one at Starfleet Academy actually knew who J’Ter really was, and he planned to keep it that way. So far, he had been able to explain away J’Ter’s uncontrollable fits and behavior by suggesting it was because of his current diet of human food.
“The word ‘interesting’ doesn’t quite cover the sensation,” he replied, being as tactful and truthful about it as possible without actually lying.
McCoy smiled in a friendly way.
“I bet it doesn’t. At least you have the voice of past experiences to help guide you. It’s more than the rest of us have.”
“Release me, young one, and I will lead us to victory!” shouted J’Ter from the inner recesses of his mind, pushing Jaroch’s psyche around and around the corners of his brain, again and again.
Jaroch had a huge headache from the stress J’Ter was putting on him, and he struggled to keep himself under control. Why now, of all moments? This test was supremely important, and he needed every ounce of rationality he could spare for it. Using the Yynsian meditation techniques he had been taught as a child, he took a very deep breath, then relaxed. He pushed J’Ter gently and firmly away for now. Hopefully, he would stay there for the time being - at least, long enough to get through this whole experience.
“Captain, we are receiving a distress call. It appears to be coming from inside the Romulan Neutral Zone!” exclaimed Uhura.
“Let’s hear it,” said Cadet Jaroch.
“Routing it to audio, Captain,” replied Uhura.
“THIS IS THE FEDERATION SHIP KOBAYASHI MARU TO ANYONE WHO IS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE! WE HAVE SUFFERED CATASTROPHIC WARP SYSTEMS FAILURE! WE’RE VENTING PLASMA AND LOSING LIFE SUPPORT RAPIDLY! WE ARE CARRYING CIVILIAN PASSENGERS! PLEASE HELP US! WE’RE SEVERELY OFF COURSE AND WE’RE NOT SURE HOW MUCH LONGER THE SHIP WILL HOLD TOGE-“ the rest of the message got lost in the static.
Jaroch understood the dilemma immediately. General Order Twelve versus General Order Seventeen. He didn’t want to rush into anything too quickly - he needed more information.
“Mister Spock, can you tell me anything about the Kobayashi Maru’s present location? Will our sensors reach that far?’
“Not at present, Captain. Our range is too limited to achieve a positive identification of anything that far into the neutral zone.”
“What if we were to boost the sensor array with a regulated tachyon pulse? There has been some new research into this whole area at the Academy - it is a simple enough change, and I’m fairly sure it can be applied here.”
Spock called up the relevant information from the computer banks, and considered the idea.
“Your knowledge of the underlying scientific theory appears to be correct. It is an excellent suggestion, Captain. I will make the modifications immediately. It will take twenty two seconds to complete the procedure.”
“Proceed,” Jaroch beamed inwardly at the compliment from his idol.
Spock proceeded to realign the sensor array.
“Captain, the transmission from the Kobayashi Maru is beginning to weaken,” said Uhura.
“Conducting long range sensor scans now,” said Spock. “It appears that the distress call is genuine. I am picking up a Federation civilian transport vessel within the neutral zone. The ship is leaking plasma residue into open space, and it is possible they might experience a warp core breach shortly. However Captain, I am also reading three quantum singularities within close proximity of the Kobayashi Maru.”
“Those might be Romulan ships,” suggested Jaroch.
“There is a high degree of probability they may be indeed, Captain,” agreed Spock.
“But Captain, how can you possibly know that for sure?” asked Sulu, confused. He had no idea what they were talking about.
“Romulan ships use a quantum singularity as the basis of their warp systems reaction. This type of anomaly can be detected by using a tachyon sweep like we’re doing right now, even if the vessel is cloaked,” explained Cadet Jaroch.
“It is also highly unlikely that three such anomalies would occur naturally within the same area of proximity,” added Spock.
“So, vut are ve going to do now?” asked Chekov.
“I’m not about to let those poor civilians perish while the Romulans do absolutely nothing to save them,” said Jaroch, making his decision. “I am now looking for suggestions on how to accomplish it. If we are going to act, we must do it quickly.”
Spock didn’t say anything to challenge his conclusion, since he knew the Captain had arrived at it in a logical fashion. He merely nodded approvingly at Cadet Jaroch.
“Well, we know the Romulans are there. And, we know we can detect them,” prompted McCoy, hoping to encourage some ideas.
“Und they vill certainly attack us if ve enter the neutral zone,” said Chekov in a disgruntled way.
“So how about an old-fashioned feint and dive then?” suggested Sulu. “Since we can detect them easily enough, maybe we can just draw them away from the Kobayashi Maru on a flyby course at high velocity, then double back again to transport the passengers on board.”
“That might work,” said Uhura. “I can coordinate the transporter teams to pick up the Maru’s passengers through using a high warp transport. It’s very risky, but I think it’s the best chance they have at the moment.”
“I believe I will be able to monitor the Romulan ships while they are cloaked, even at warp velocity,” said Spock.
“It’s a very logical sounding plan,” said Cadet Jaroch. “I think it’s worth the try. Mister Sulu, lay in a flyby course. Mister Spock, keep an eye on those singularities for any sign of reaction.”
“Course plotted, Captain,” said Sulu.
“Engage at maximum warp,” said Cadet Jaroch.
“I never would have thought of all of that,” said Dillon in a wondering kind of way.
“That goes without saying,” snorted Baird.
Rydell pondered the whole thing for awhile.
“You know, that was a very good plan of action you came up with, Jaroch. You covered a lot of angles prior to committing your final judgment. You managed to overcome many of the entire situation’s limitations and potential surprises through using some creative thinking ahead of time, while soliciting some of the best possible responses from your bridge crew. I honestly think your approach was one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard of, in all the stories I’ve ever heard about that whole simulator experience.”
“Thank you Captain. I appreciate the compliment, even though it might not actually be deserved.”
Dillon glowered in a flash of jealously, but said nothing at all. He just sulked to himself on his side of the table.
“So what happened next?”
“Now entering the Romulan Neutral Zone,” said Sulu.
“Red alert, raise shields,” said Cadet Jaroch.
The red alert klaxon sounded throughout the simulated Enterprise.
“Our present course is generating reaction from the quantum anomalies, Captain. They appear to be moving on an intercept course with us,” reported Spock.
“Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu. Lead them far away from the Kobayashi Maru’s position,” ordered Cadet Jaroch.
“I just have to say, young man, that we might stand a very good chance of surviving this whole encounter,” complimented McCoy. “How about that, Spock? Maybe you should have been an Yynsian instead. He’s logical, very bright, has emotions, and doesn’t have pointed ears like the devil himself. The fact that he actually looks human is a very big bonus.”
“Doctor, why must you always insist on making illogical comments while I’m attempting to work?” said Spock as he kept his eyes on the displays.
“Because you always claim that computer you have for a mind is completely incapable of distraction, and I’m attempting to prove you wrong. It keeps me entertained to know that you’re getting very irritated with me.”
“Vulcans do not get irritated,” Spock raised his eyebrow, still watching the displays.
“Whatever you say, Spock,” grinned McCoy.
“We are approaching the turning point now, Captain,” said Sulu.
“What is the current position of those quantum anomalies?” asked Jaroch.
“They are attempting to maintain a close pursuit course with us. Apparently, the Romulans have no capability to challenge us at the moment. Based upon their present position and velocity, I estimate an 89% probability that we should be able to be able to penetrate through their formation successfully before they have a chance to react.”
Jaroch took a deep breath.
“Reverse course and head straight for the Kobayashi Maru. Lieutenant Uhura, prepare your rescue teams for the high speed warp transport.”
The Enterprise-B suddenly headed straight for the Kobayashi Maru’s position.
“We have passed through their formation successfully, but they are now changing course to intercept us once again.”
“Don’t run, you weak fool! Kill them all!” shouted J’Ter from inside his mind. He was back, fighting his way into consciousness once again.
“KILL THEM!” screamed J’Ter, openly throttling the recesses of his brain.
“Breathe deep and relax,” Jaroch reminded to himself. It was getting very hard though, since the adrenaline was beginning to flow.
“Approaching the Kobayashi Maru’s position,” said Sulu.
“Sensors indicate the Kobayashi Maru’s warp core is about to breach.”
“Transporter teams, stand by,” said Cadet Jaroch.
“This is going to be a close one,” said McCoy.
Spock peered at the readouts.
“Transporter range in five seconds. Four. Three…”
“Engage transport! Uhura, have we got them?”
“Reports are coming in from all transporter rooms. Most of the passengers made it, a few didn’t survive the transport!”
The Kobayashi Maru suddenly exploded in a bright flash.
“Shock wave coming in, Kepten!” shouted Chekov.
“All hands brace for impact!”
The Enterprise-B caught the brunt of the explosion against the warp nacelles, flipping the Excelsior class starship around as the warp drive attempted to compensate.
“We’re losing power in the port nacelle, Captain!” shouted Sulu over the alarms that rang over the bridge.
“FIGHT THEM,” shouted Jaroch, suddenly.
“FIGHT THEM ALL!” shouted Cadet Jaroch/J’Ter. Jaroch fought for contol desperately, but the brute force of J’Ter’s enraged personality completely overpowered him.
“The Romulan ships are decloaking, Kepten!” shouted Chekov. “They’re opening fire!”
Several disruptor shots raked the shields of the Enterprise-B.
“Shields down to eighty eight percent!”
“GOOD,” said Cadet Jaroch/J’Ter. “NOW WE WILL WATCH THEM DIE LIKE THE PATHETIC DOGS THEY ARE. MOVE US CLOSER AND SHOOT THE MAGIC WEAPONS!”
“Noooooo!” Jaroch’s mind screamed desperately at J’Ter, knowing it was too late.
“Aye sir,” said Sulu, scrambling to send the ship into evasive action maneuvers as he kept glancing back at Cadet Jaroch with a worried expression on his face, over and over again.
“Y-Yes sir!” said Chekov, taken aback at the complete change in the Captain’s attitude as he tightened the weapons lock as best he could, and fired a spread of phasers and photon torpedoes. A Romulan warship’s hull breached, and it drifted off course. The other two Romulan ships responded by unleashing a barrage of disruptor fire at the saucer section of the hull. The Enterprise rocked under the blasts.
“Shields down to sixty nine percent!”
“Message coming in from Romulan Commander Tomak, Captain! He is telling us to surrender our vessel unconditionally and to prepare to be boarded,” said Uhura.
“THEY DARE TO CHALLENGE ME? I WILL DISEMBOWEL THEM ALL! KILL THEM NOW! NOW!” screamed Cadet Jaroch/J’Ter in a complete rage.
“He’s completely flipped his lid!” muttered Sulu under his breath, bringing the Enterprise-B into an aggressive spin into attack posture.
“Veapons lock established,” said Chekov, now wondering if he was following another Stalin. Chekov stabbed the weapons controls. Streams of phasers, torpedoes, and disruptor shots flied everywhere in a deathly hail of light, streaking going back and forth between the monstrous ships in an elaborate display of raw power.
Explosions sounded everywhere as the ship rocked and tilted. McCoy stumbled around the bridge, just trying to find anything to hold onto.
“Damage reports coming in from all sections of the ship!” shouted Uhura.
“Captain,” said Spock, “Using our recent sensor modifications, I believe that I have detected a significant weakness in their shields.”
“VERY GOOD, FAITHFUL DEMON. YOU WILL FIGHT THEM WITH THE ENTIRE FORCE OF YOUR MAGIC, WHILE I WILL GO AND DEAL WITH THEIR LEADER PERSONALLY!”
“Sir? Do you mean to say that you want to be transported over to the lead Romulan vessel?” asked Uhura in disbelief. She wasn’t really sure what to think at the moment.
“I WILL GO TO THEM NOW!” shouted Cadet Jaroch/J’Ter.
“Uh. Okay.” Uhura opened a communications channel. “Attention transporter crews. Lock onto the Captain and stand by to transport him over to the lead Romulan ship, using the data as supplied by Mister Spock’s shield readings,” said Uhura, not knowing what else to do.
Chekov waited for a break in the enemy fire.
“Lowering shields for transport,” said Chekov.
“Energize!” said Uhura.
Cadet Jaroch/J’Ter glowed white, then disappeared.
“Raising shields!” shouted Chekov in a panic. He was just in time. The Enterprise-B rocked under the hail and barrage of renewed enemy fire.
Spock merely raised his eyebrow.
“Fascinating,” he said, as the ship rocked under another heavy impact.
“Breen. Octum. Breen,” said a repeating voice over the Romulan intercom system. The Romulan ship shook under the impact of a photon torpedo blast.
Jaroch/J’Ter crouched beneath the shadows of a cargo container, watching intently for an opportunity. A Romulan officer ran past him, obviously in a hurry to get somewhere fast.
“DIE!” screamed Jaroch/J’Ter as he leaped out to grab the Romulan by the throat. The surprised officer turned around, but it was too late. Jaroch/J’Ter smashed his head over and over again against the wall. The dead Romulan lie still on the ground.
“IT IS NOT A WELL BALANCED WEAPON, BUT IT WILL HAVE TO DO,” rumbled Jaroch/J’Ter, totally ignoring the Romulan’s disruptor pistol in favor of taking the man’s ceremonial sword instead. He suddenly heard a voice from behind him.
He turned and swung the sword wildly, neatly cleaving the Romulan’s head from his shoulders.
“PATHETIC WEAKLINGS,” he shouted in triumph as he watched the simulated head roll around on the floor. “THEY WILL PAY FOR CHALLENGING ME. THEY WILL BURN BRIGHTLY AND PAINFULLY IN THE THOUSAND HELLS BEFORE THIS DAY IS DONE.”
He ran into the corridor, charging directly into a group of surprised Romulans.
“HA HA HA HA HA HA!” screamed Jaroch/J’Ter in delight as his blade flashed into and through the entire contingent. He left one barely alive.
“WORM, WHERE IS YOUR LEADER? TELL ME, AND YOU WILL LIVE.”
“Down the corridor, turn right, go straight to the bridge,” gasped the Romulan as he bled from his wounds.
“TRAITOR. YOU ARE TOO WEAK TO LET LIVE.”
“You said you wouldn’t kill me!”
“I LIED,” Jaroch/J’Ter said as the sword came down.
Jaroch/J’Ter charged down the corridor. Following the directions, he entered the Romulan bridge.
“HA HA HA HA HA HA!” Jaroch/J’Ter laughed merrily as he slew nearly everyone in sight. The very last Romulan alive in the room managed to get his own sword out just in time, and parried his thrusts with some amount of skill.
“YOU ARE A FOOLISH ONE, DOG! SINCE YOU WILL NOT DIE READILY, I WILL KILL YOU, TORTURE YOU, THEN KILL YOU AGAIN!”
“I will see you in your human hell, first!” spat Commander Tomak as he thrust back at him.
“VERY IMPRESSIVE, FOR AN INSIGNIFICANT GNAT. YOU MUST BE THE LEADER HERE, SINCE YOU ARE NOT QUITE AS WEAK AS THE OTHERS.”
“I am Commander Tomak, yes. And you must be the enemy Captain. Your attempt to murder me is ultimately futile, even if it were to succeed. Reinforcement ships are on the way, and your ship will be destroyed soon enough. It is you who has violated the neutral zone treaty, and now that you have invaded the sanctity of my ship, it will be my pleasure to kill you personally!” shouted Tomak as he swung his sword viciously.
Their swords clashed again and again as they parried each other’s thrusts and blows.
Jaroch/J’Ter cackled in clear amusement as he suddenly threw his blade directly down toward the floor. It neatly penetrated Tomak’s boot, pinning his foot solidly to the deck.
“YEEEARRRGH!” Tomak writhed in very clear agony as Jaroch/J’Ter neatly kicked his incapacitated opponent’s sword from his hand.
“NOW WHO IS IT THAT WILL KILL WHOM?” Jaroch/J’Ter grinned maniacally as he stepped forward to deliver the final blow.
Now bleeding severely from his wounds, Tomak glanced over at the main viewscreen. He began to chuckle, despite the severe pain.
“There, you see? You can now watch your Federation ship being destroyed,” he gloated. “Look! There!”
He gestured at the scene with his hand, which clearly displayed seven Romulan Warbirds completely surrounding the Enterprise-B and firing continuously at all sections of the ship. It’s shields suddenly collapsed under the strain of enemy fire.
Jaroch/J’Ter merely smiled, then reached over and twisted Tomak’s neck until it snapped.
“IT DOES NOT MATTER. FOR I AM VICTORIOUS! I AM VICTORIOUS!” Jaroch/J’Ter screamed over and over again as the Enterprise-B exploded under the intense barrage.
The interior of the Romulan ship disappeared around him, and Jaroch/J’Ter suddenly found himself standing on a disc-shaped platform in the middle outer space.
The burning, flaming wreckage of the Enterprise-B floated all around him as the Romulan ships continued firing steadily at the remains. It was a very clear display of vengeance over their dead commander, thus ensuring there would be no survivors at all.
The adrenaline subsiding, Jaroch fought J’Ter’s personality out of his mainstream consciousness, barely succeeding in pushing him back to the inner sanctums of his mind.
“Oh no,” Jaroch said as he looked around him. He buried his head inside his hands.
Spock and McCoy appeared beside him.
“It’s a good thing that was only a simulation. That was, uh, rather interesting,” said McCoy, not quite knowing what else to say about it at the moment.
Spock turned to address Jaroch.
“Cadet Jaroch. Although your performance was highly commendable in many ways, and that many of your applied methods were both logical and methodical in intent and practice, I believe it is appropriate to indicate that you did not keep your emotions under control during certain moments of this exercise.”
“Yes sir,” was all Cadet Jaroch could say in response.
“Don’t be too hard on him, Spock. The lad is an Yynsian, and sometimes those past personalities can be a little hard to control,” said McCoy.
“Indeed,” remarked Spock.
“Uh, that one was quite the character, Cadet. Can you talk about him? Who was that man, anyway?” asked McCoy with a certain amount of sympathy and kindness.
“His name is J’Ter,” Cadet Jaroch admitted, hanging his head in shame. “He was a warrior prince during the very ancient ages of Yyns, during a period of immense cruelty and barbarianism. I tried to keep him under control, but he was just too much for me.”
“Well, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are what you are, after all,” McCoy smiled as he gave Jaroch a friendly pat on the shoulder. “The lad certainly is a brilliant scientist, isn’t he Spock?”
“Affirmative. You show much promise, Cadet, and you appear to have a very logical mind when you are in complete control of your faculties. I do believe that I can understand certain aspects of your present situation, since I have also had to obtain a specific amount of discipline over my own human tendencies, being half human myself.”
“So you’re finally admitting you actually have human feelings, Spock?” grinned McCoy.
“Certainly not, Doctor. After all, I am in complete control of them.”
“Sure, Spock. And if you actually believe him, Cadet, then I have a real nice Brooklyn Bridge to sell to you. Super cheap,” winked McCoy.
Cadet Jaroch stared out at the darkness and the burning wreckage of the Enterprise-B, wondering what he might eventually become someday if he could only reign in the darkness that dwelt within him.
“That was a significant enough moment for me. Even though I was recognized for having scientific and leadership potential, it was also the very first time Starfleet learned anything substantial about J’Ter as well. My career since then…has been somewhat chaotic. Every time I established a good reputation for performing my duties in a meaningful and productive way, J’Ter would inevitably smash everything to pieces. Even though all of my previous superior officers were very understanding of my whole situation on the surface, I truly think they all ended up fearing me in the end. I was transferred seventeen times before I finally ended up on the Secondprize.”
“F***, I’ve got no issues with J’Ter. I just keep hoping maybe he’ll tune up Dillon one of these days,” said Baird.
Dillon shrunk back in his seat a little.
“He’s just a part of you, Jaroch. I understand this and accept it,” reassured Rydell.
“And I just want to assure J’Ter that I don’t want to cross him at all,” added Dillon a bit fearfully.
Jaroch absorbed all of this, thoughtfully.
“Well, so far I’ve managed to keep J’Ter from killing anyone too important in real life. I know that I’ll always be able to pursue my career in Starfleet, since the Federation charter protects all of its members against cultural discrimination for any possible reason. And I also know that I cannot be incarcerated due to the actions of a highly possessive entity, because he does not, in theory, actually exist. Intellectually, I understand that it’s not really my fault he’s a homicidal maniac, but I have always had the feeling that he’s been holding me back.”
“You have to look at the bright side, Jaroch,” said Rydell. “Granted, J’Ter’s methods aren’t exactly up to Starfleet standards, but they do provide us with a useful enough loophole from time to time. For example, I don’t ever have to explain your actions to anyone anytime J’Ter is dealing with a very difficult problem that can’t be adequately resolved by using Starfleet regulations, if you get my drift.”
“DO YOU WANT SOMEONE MAIMED OR KILLED RIGHT NOW?” asked Jaroch/J’Ter.
“Not at the moment, J’Ter, but thank you for your input,” replied Rydell.
“Sorry Captain, I didn’t mean for him to interrupt,” said Jaroch.
“Not a problem.”
“Can we get back to the meeting agenda now?” whined Dillon.
“Not if we can possibly avoid it,” said Jaroch.
“I second that f***ing motion. We still haven’t heard the Captain’s story about his experience inside the Academy simulator.”
Everyone looked at Rydell.
“I’m not sure I should.”
“Why not?” asked Jaroch.
“Well, I guess I didn’t want to spoil the whole theme of this little gathering by telling you about my experience with it.”
“What do you mean by that, Captain?” asked Dillon.
Rydell actually looked kind of embarrassed.
“Uh, remember when you said there was only one other cadet who defeated the command simulator test besides James Kirk?”
“Yes,” replied Dillon.
“Well, I got lucky.”
Everyone stared at him.
“You mean…you’re telling me…YOU’RE the one who did it?” exclaimed Dillon in an incredulous, unbelieving manner.
“After what you just told me, I really didn’t want to ruin your day, Travis. I’m really sorry,” said Rydell.
“No no, by all means, ruin his f***ing day. Please, tell us the story!” said Baird.
“Captain, however did you manage to do it?” asked Jaroch.
“Well, if you insist…”
Dillon sulked quietly in his chair as he listened to Rydell’s description of how it all happened.
Cadet Rydell was incredibly hung over in a way that defied any kind of definition. That frat party last night went well into the morning, and he hadn’t slept in over two days. Dark bags were under his eyes, and he felt totally awful. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. You see, his original intent and plan was to keep on partying until he eventually passed out, but things didn’t exactly work out that way.
Half dressed, he ran down the corridors of Starfleet Academy, and arrived at the simulator room just in the nick of time. Still reeking of beer and smoke, he stripped off his T-shirt (appropriately emblazoned on both front and back with the message “Party Till Ya Puke”), and pulled his cadet’s uniform over his head.
All of this was because he had just remembered, at the very last possible moment, that he was scheduled to take the all important command test today. Well, actually, that was kind of a lie. He had forgotten about it completely, until his one of his buddies mentioned it to him over by the beer keg at eight a.m. that morning.
“Hey Alex,” his buddy Ralph had said. “It sure looks like you’re going to be in real prime shape for the super-test this morning!”
Cadet Rydell nearly choked on his beer in mid-swig.
“You mean that was supposed to be today?”
“Yah! Don’t you remember? You’re supposed to be there at ten hundred hours!”
“Damn!” Rydell said. “Gotta go! See you later!” He kissed his half-awake date on the forehead, and charged out the door in a panic. The Academy was on the opposite side of San Francisco, and he had to make time fast.
“That Alex!” laughed Ralph. “Always living on the edge. Or rather, he’s always leaving on the edge! Ha ha! Yo, babe, can you pass me another beer? Thanks hon! Hey! Can someone put ‘Louie Louie’ on again?”
So there he was, in all of his questionable glory. He entered the simulator, still in a bit of a haze from the alcohol buzz, but coming down awful fast. Standing there, dazed and confused as he was, it was all he could do to stare blankly during the preamble and introduction as the hologram of Captain Spock introduced the main members of his simulated crew to him. He tried as best as he could to absorb everything that was said, but didn’t quite succeed at it.
And before he knew it, he was right in the thick of things.
The bridge of the Enterprise-B appeared around him, along with all the accompanying clattering, incessant noises from all of the various systems and workstations. Cadet Rydell’s head throbbed with every ping. His ears seemed to be incredibly super-sensitive to everything around him at that particular moment.
“Arrrgh,” he moaned, holding onto his head as he sat down in the Captain’s chair.
“All departments report normal routine operations, Captain,” said Uhura.
“We are currently patrolling the edges of the Romulan Neutral Zone, Captain,” added Sulu. “We’ve been receiving reports of Romulan activity in the area, and have been ordered by Starfleet Command to ensure that no treaty violations are taking place inside of our borders.”
“No sign of any Romulan wessels, Kepten,” reported Chekov.
“Fine, fine,” replied Cadet Rydell, reaching out to hold on to the armrests of the Captain’s chair to prevent himself from falling over. The morning-after dizzy spells had begun.
“It’s okay to be nervous with your first command experience, Cadet,” grinned McCoy, who had sidled over next to the Captain’s chair. “You look terrible. Believe me, you would do yourself some good to relax, and let things come as they may. Something will eventually happen, rest assured.”
“Nervous isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe my state of mind right now,” said Cadet Rydell, feeling woozy and ill.
McCoy laughed sympathetically.
“If you want, I’ve got some brandy here. It might help you take the edge off the jitters. As the doctor on board, I can even give you a prescription for it,” he said as he produced a flask, and offered it to him.
Rydell knew there was a cardinal rule for avoiding the effects of hangovers. The best antidote for it was to stay drunk, if at all possible.
“Is that real alcohol in there? Not that new synthahol stuff?”
“Of course,” replied McCoy.
“Well in that case,” Rydell said, “I guess the good Doctor knows what’s best for me!”
McCoy grinned and gave it to him.
“Really Doctor,” said Spock. “You’re giving the Captain an alcoholic beverage while he’s on duty. It is completely against the regulations.”
“Not true, Spock. It is simply a prescription of medicine, and I’m administering it to him. And you know damned well that I’m the medical Doctor on board, and I have the sole right to prescribe anything to anyone who needs it at any time. In my professional opinion, it’s the best possible thing for him at the moment. Drink up, lad, and don’t you worry a bit about it.”
Cadet Rydell eagerly opened the flask and drank deeply. The hot rush of alcohol burned his throat on the way down, causing him to wince and cough.
“Good stuff, isn’t it?” said McCoy. “I got it from a merchant named Julax on Primus II. Apparently, he had some kind of still for mixing up all kinds of specialized all-cure remedies. His recipe for brandy is the best I’ve ever found in the whole galaxy.”
Spock shook his head disapprovingly, and resumed his duty station.
“Thanks Doc,” said Rydell gratefully, as he felt the effects of his hangover begin to dissipate back into a nice comfortable buzz within his brain.
“My pleasure. I’ve got plenty more in my personal stock, so feel free to keep that one.”
Rydell took one more good swig and inserted the flask into the thing that looked like a cup holder on the armrest. Maybe that wasn’t really what it was, but that’s what it was going to be used for now.
“Captain! There’s a message coming in on the emergency channel!” exclaimed Uhura.
“Okay, I think I’m ready to hear it,” said Rydell a bit more confidently, now that he was feeling a lot better. He thought he could get into the swing of things now.
“Putting it on audio,” said Uhura, flipping the channel open. There was a burst of static over the speakers.
“It is one of ours, isn’t it?” asked Rydell.
“The transmission indicates the identification signature of a federation ship, Captain,” answered Uhura.
“Fine. Let’s go help them then. Your name is Mister Sulu, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir,” answered Sulu.
“Please plot a course to the Kobayashi Maru’s position and engage at maximum warp.”
The Enterprise-B changed its heading, and leaped to warp velocity.
“May I remind you sir, that General Order Seventeen prohibits us from entering the Romulan Neutral Zone,” commented Spock.
“Thanks for the reminder,” said Rydell. “But I’m sure it’ll be alright.”
“You seem fairly optimistic about this, Captain,” replied McCoy. “If we enter the Romulan Neutral Zone, we would very likely cause a serious incident that may result in direct conflict with the Romulans. Are you sure you’re willing to risk your ship, your crew, and war with the Romulans to perform a rescue of one single vessel that strayed into prohibited territory?”
“Well,” Rydell considered it, remembering all the classroom discussions and debates he had with his friends, regarding the primary responsibilities of starships on the frontiers of Federation space. “I guess that’s what we’re supposed to be here for, right? To help anyone in trouble, to explore the unknowns, and to deal with the things that happen as best as we can at the time.”
“An interesting answer, Captain,” said McCoy, approvingly.
“Indeed,” commented Spock, with a raised eyebrow.
“Hmmmm. So I guess the rest of you guys must think we’re going to encounter some serious trouble once we get there, right?” asked Rydell, taking another sip of the brandy.
“Perhaps,” said Uhura.
“Yes sir,” said Sulu.
“Eet seems likely, sir,” said Chekov.
“Hmmmm. I really don’t want anyone worrying about it, if it can be helped. Not until we actually find ourselves in such a situation, I mean. Hmmmm. Doctor, do you think you could prescribe some more of that medicine of yours for the rest of the crew, then? I mean, this is purely in the interest of maintaining morale, since we’re all not really sure just what kind of danger we might be getting into here. Just to help everyone relax a bit, you know.”
“Why sure, Captain. That’s an excellent idea. I’ll get right on it.”
“You up for it, Uhura?”
“Uh, I guess so.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Make mine a wodka, Doctor.”
“Vulcans do not drink alcoholic beverages.”
“Oh, lighten up Spock,” replied McCoy.
“I must decline, Doctor.”
“All right, all right. I’ll be right back with everyone’s order in a jiffy,” McCoy said as left the bridge.
“Lieutenant Uhura, can you please inform the rest of the crew about everything that’s going on. Tell them they should feel free to get themselves a stiff drink too. It might be the last one they’ll ever have, just in case we do happen to encounter more trouble than we can handle. Oh yes…and please reassure everyone that I’ll do the very best I can to keep everyone alive and safe while we’re inside the neutral zone, all right?” Rydell said, the concern could plainly be heard in his voice.
“Yes sir,” Uhura beamed. She opened the shipwide communications channel, and relayed everything he said to everyone else.
Spock regarded him with interest, despite himself.
“Captain, I must admit you have a rather unique way of inspiring loyalty, regardless of your chosen method for doing it.”
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can, Mister Spock. My dad always said that a little goodwill tends to go a long way. I just hope it’s going to be enough in this case,” said Rydell.
“I’m back,” announced McCoy as he stepped off the turbolift, carrying several bottles and glasses on a tray. He began serving drinks to everyone on the bridge, excepting the Vulcan, of course.
“Approaching the Romulan Neutral Zone border,” said Sulu as he sipped on his gin and tonic.
“I guess we should signal a red alert then. Can’t be too careful, I guess. Doctor, you can just leave the tray here. I’ll take care of the refills.”
The red alert alarm sounded as McCoy set the tray down by the Captain.
“Should ve raise shields, sir?” asked Chekov, putting down his vodka.
“I don’t think so,” said Rydell, after thinking about it. “I don’t want us to appear hostile to the Romulans, just in case we do happen to encounter them. We are on a rescue mission, so let’s just try to project that image at all times.”
“Estimated time of arrival to the Kobayashi Maru’s position, six point seven minutes,” reported Spock.
“Thank you, Mister Spock. Are you really sure you don’t want something to drink? There seems to be plenty here for all.”
“That will be quite all right, Captain.”
“Suit yourself. Anyone need a refill yet?”
“Thank you sir.”
“Anytime,” smiled Cadet Rydell as he poured for everyone, feeling pretty much at ease now. This command test wasn’t so bad after all.
“Captain,” said Sulu with a tipsy smile. “It looks like three Romulan warbirds are decloaking, dead ahead.”
“Hello, it looks like we have some company. Slow to impulse. Uhura, can you give them a call, please? Let’s see if they might be willing to help us out here.”
“Yes, Captain hon,” smiled Uhura playfully as she snapped the communications channel open with a flourish.
An imposing image of a Romulan Commander filled the viewscreen.
“This is Commander Tomak of the Imperial Warbird Vengeance. You have violated the neutral zone treaty! Prepare to surrender your vessel and be boarded!”
Tomak? Cadet Rydell wondered where he had heard that name before. It seemed awful familiar to him.
“Whoa,” said Rydell. “Hang on a second there, Commander. We’re not here to cause any kind of problem. The folks in that transport ship are in bit of trouble, and we were just going over there to see if we could help them out.”
“We will finish dealing with the rest of your spies after we have finished dealing with you. You will surrender your vessel immediately, or be destroyed! What is your answer?”
Tomak…Tomak. Wait a second! He suddenly remembered why he knew that name!
“Commander, we really want to be reasonable. Would you like to come aboard, maybe have a drink or two to discuss the whole matter? Our doctor informs me that we have some excellent brandy on board, and we’d be more than happy to share it with you…”
The Romulan looked suspicious.
“How do I know this isn’t some sort of trick?”
“Oh no! Nothing of the sort! My officers and I are enjoying a drink right now, and we’d certainly love it if you cared to join us. Isn’t that right, gang?”
“Yes indeed,” said Sulu, saluting with his glass.
“Ees wery good stuff,” assured Chekov, downing another shot of vodka.
“The lad speaks the truth, sir,” said McCoy in a friendly way.
“Oh, and please feel free to invite a few friends to come on over with you. We’ve got a few extra glasses to fill up here,” added Rydell.
The Romulan frowned, but nodded assent.
“Well, maybe just this once,” he said.
“Great!” said Rydell. “Uhura, can you please give the good Commander our coordinates, so he can transport directly to the bridge?”
“Sure thing, Captain honey.”
“This is entirely illogical,” commented Spock.
“Oh dry up, Spock. The lad seems to know what he’s doing,” replied McCoy.
The was the sound of a transporter whine as the form of Commander Tomak and two other officers beamed aboard the bridge.
“Ah,” smiled Rydell warmly. “Glad you guys could make it. I’m genuinely sorry we had to meet under such dire circumstances. Here you go sir…a brandy for you. Annnnnd, here’s one for you, and one for you too sir, and I’ll have another one myself,” he said as he poured and passed out drinks to everyone.
Commander Tomak lifted the glass suspiciously to his lips. Rydell raised his glass in a saluting toast, and drank down.
Following his lead, Tomak followed suit. The Romulan Commander’s eyes bugged open with pleasant surprise.
“That was very good,” he commented, motioning to his officers that it was okay to try it for themselves. They both took a sip of their own drinks, and regarded each other with raised eyebrows.
“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet,” said Rydell. “Here, you should try some of this vodka. Chekov says it’s excellent stuff.”
“Wery good, yes,” slurred Chekov. “Eet will grow wery theeck hair on Russian chest. I must admeet, however, I’m not wery sure what it will do for Romulan chest though.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” said Tomak.
Rydell poured a full glass of vodka for Tomak. The Romulan drained the contents with one swallow. He smacked his lips in apparent pleasure.
“Captain, you are a very interesting and pleasant sort of trespasser indeed. You have come all the way into the neutral zone, with your shields completely down, armed only with several bottles of delightful refreshments. I am almost inclined to believe your story. You really mean to say that the transport vessel in question is not a spy ship?”
“No, Commander. I’m afraid they’re all just victims of circumstance. From the sounds of things, it looks like they’re in big trouble. If you were to take some scans of their ship, I’m very sure you’ll find that they’re in need of immediate assistance. We could sure use the help,” said Rydell, hopefully.
Tomak looked as his glass thoughtfully, swirling its contents around.
“Well, I’m not the one to cause trouble when there isn’t any kind of due reason for it. I will send my ships over to assist them. May I use your communications system for a moment?”
“Certainly sir,” smiled Uhura, gesturing at her console.
“Fascinating,” said Spock.
The bridge officers laughed and poured some more drinks for their guests as Tomak finished communicating with his ship. On the screen, the three warbirds peeled away, heading straight for the Kobayashi Maru’s position.
“Thank you very much sir,” said Rydell, honestly meaning it.
“My pleasure,” smiled Tomak warmly. “Rest assured, my crew will attend to their rescue and to all of their needs. In the meantime, I’ve always really wanted to try that Earth drink you call ‘rye’. Do you happen to have any of that on board?”
“Coming right up,” said McCoy.
Spock raised one eyebrow as he watched everyone trade toasts. Cadet Rydell smiled happily as the party really began to get started.
“I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe it. I can’t believe it. How can I believe it?” said Dillon, over and over to himself again.
“While I was dealing with that whole situation with Commander Tomak, I suddenly remembered all the stuff Spock had said about the test being based upon real life people, situations, events, and so on. If this was true, then it stood to reason that this also applied to everything and everyone within the simulation, including Tomak himself! Anyway…the reason why I knew the name ‘Tomak’ was because of this great Romulan-themed toga party we threw over at the frat house a few months before. We had found a large number of Romulan drinks in the inter-frat network database, including a very notably alcohol-laden one called ‘Tomak’s Torment’. I drank one of those things myself. It packed quite a wallop. Remembering this, I simply gambled on the idea that Commander Tomak was a real-life Romulan who enjoyed having a really good stiff drink every once in awhile. After all, he had one hell of a drink named after him. It turned out my hunch was right. I found out shortly after the test that Commander Tomak was quite the alcoholic in real life. So of course, he wasn’t one to refuse a drink from anyone. His simulated persona took this whole issue into account during my interactions with him, and all of this played out perfectly for me during my command test. I just got lucky, I guess,” smiled Rydell.
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I can’t. Can’t!” repeated Dillon, staring blankly at the table.
“That was an incredible f***ing story,” Baird said, with a glint of something that looked like humor in his eyes. Maybe it was just a trick of the light?
“Indeed,” laughed Jaroch. “Congratulations, Captain.”
“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.”
“It was nothing, really,” replied Rydell, glancing at Dillon occasionally with a hint of concern.
“What did Spock and McCoy have to say about it afterward?” asked Jaroch, genuinely curious.
Cadet Rydell suddenly found himself standing on a disc shaped platform in outer space. In his immediate field of vision, the Enterprise-B sailed grandly through space while towing the Kobayashi Maru via tractor beam. The three Romulan Warbird escorts tilted their wings, then sped off into the distance.
“No problem at all,” said Rydell, taking another drink from the flask of brandy.
Spock and McCoy suddenly appeared on the disc beside him.
“That wazh fantastic, son! Absolutely fantastic! Do yooou know what yoou jussht did?” slurred McCoy as he tried to focus on Rydell’s face.
“He defeated the no-win situation, despite my best efforts to the contrary,” Spock said, calmly.
“Jusshht like Jim did!” exclaimed McCoy.
“No, not at all, Doctor. Jim reprogrammed the simulator in order to win, while Cadet Rydell took advantage of a slight oversight within the programming of this whole exercise. It will be corrected as soon as possible, and it will not happen again.”
“Whatcht the matter, Spock? Are you afraid that you’re fallible or something? Why not jusht congratulate the kid for defeating your besht efforts inshtead?” grinned McCoy, raising his arms in a mock gesture. He stumbled and almost fell off the edge of the disc in the process of doing so.
“Indeed. Congratulations, Cadet Alex Rydell. You are the second person in all of Starfleet history to defeat the no-win scenario. Although your command methods were very illogical and completely ill advised, you still managed to succeed. There is much leadership potential within you, and you would do well to hone those skills instead of indulging in social behaviors that are somewhat uncomplimentary to the needs of duty.”
“Don’t mind him, Cadet. He’sh jusht very jealous that you found a human way to win,” winked McCoy.
Spock said absolutely nothing in response to that remark. He looked rather green in the face, though.
“Thank you sirs,” smiled Cadet Rydell as he enjoyed the buzz, feeling pretty good about practically everything at that particular moment. When considering all that just happened, there was no way in hell that Cadet Rydell was going to change, anytime soon.
“Fascinating,” said Jaroch.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it. Well, would you look at the time! I guess we should probably wrap up this meeting. Anyone opposed to the idea?”
“I just can’t believe it.”
“Fine, then. This meeting is adjourned. Hey, does anyone want to go to Seven Backward for a little taste of that Tomak’s Torment?” asked Rydell.
Still talking and laughing, Rydell, Jaroch, and Baird left the conference room. The doors shut behind them.
Dillon just sat there, and stared at the table blankly.
“I can’t believe it.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“I can’t believe it.”