STAR TREK: Synergy

by Willie K. Yee





Copyright 2007 Willie K.Yee

Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek is copyright and trademark of Paramount Pictures, Inc. The characters of Sulu, Chapel, Tuvok, McCoy, Kirk, Spock, Nogura, Crusher and other aspects of the Star Trek world are also properties of Paramount Pictures and are used here in good faith under fair use conditions. Paramount Pictures is under no obligation to reimburse the author for any publicity or other benefits that may accrue to its Star Trek franchise as a result of the dissemination of this story.




The events depicted here take place a few months before the opening scene of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. A member of the Megazoid race appears in that motion picture. He's the guy that the boots don't fit.




Each friend represents a world in us. A world possibly not born until they arrive,

and it is only by the meeting that a new world is born.

                                                    --Anais Nin (1903-1977)


Captain's Log: Stardate 9272.5 Hikaru Sulu, Commanding Officer, USS Excelsior. We are now completing a three month patrol of sectors adjacent to the border of the Klingon Empire. Although our scientific mission is the cataloging of planetary anomalies, we are also charged with gathering intelligence on movements along the border. The tense standoff with the Klingons continues with occasional provocations and minor face-offs with individual Klingon commanders seeking a share a glory, supposedly in defiance of the Klingon High Command. Our own patrol has been rather quiet. Several weeks were marked by a cat and mouse game: questionable evidence of a cloaked ship would appear just within the range of detection. No definitive evidence of a border violation was ever gathered, but frequently just after one of the questionable sensor readings disappeared, a Bird-of-Prey would appear on the Klingon side of the border, definitely identifiable, as if taunting us. Although several such incidents followed the same pattern, it is not clear whether the Klingons are being deliberately provocative, testing out new cloaking technology, or gathering intelligence.

We will be making a stop to leave some Vulcan members of the crew for their seven year shore leave, and to pick up some personnel who will be traveling from Vulcan with us to Earth to attend an award ceremony at Starfleet Headquarters honoring Dr. Leonard McCoy. Enroute, we will conduct some final tests of the new warp-capable Prius-class shuttle. The region chosen for these tests are a little closer to the Klingon border than I would find comfortable these days, but Admiral Cartwright has assured us that the area is secure. The engineers on the project have promised me a chance to fly the shuttle myself. This was probably in the cards from the beginning: obviously, someone in Starfleet who knew of my attraction to shuttle piloting chose the Excelsior for the tests.

The communicator sounded and helmsman reported that clearance had been granted to enter orbit around Vulcan. He punched the recording button on the log recorder "Sulu out," and "On my way," to the communicator.

*  *  *

S'kai pulled down the bottom of his tunic before stepping onto the transporter pad. The tunic was a bit loose because of the recent weight loss that came with the deprivations of his recent training. He returned the smiles of the two human crewmen on the other transporter pad with the slightest nod of the head. He placed a small bag on the adjacent pad. "Energize." He felt the electric tingle, the rushing feeling followed by a brief sensation of being detached from his body before the blackness of transport, and the reverse series of sensations as he materialized in the transport room of the Excelsior. A yeoman stood next to the transporter console. "Welcome aboard, Lieutenant, she said, gesturing toward the door leading to the hallway and the turbolift. As they walked together, she said, "Your quarters are on Deck 5, 11A. Dr. Chapel wants you to report to Sick Bay at 1500 hours. And . . . you are invited to Officer's mess with the Captain this evening. Duty uniforms." She left him as he stepped into the turbolift, wondering what the occasion was for this special invitation.

S'kai viewed the junior officer's quarters with satisfaction. His other baggage had been delivered. He placed his bag containing some Vulcan medications and recently developed medical equipment along with his meditation supplies on the couch as he inspected the rest of the quarters. He looked forward to some extended periods of meditation on this trip, since it appeared likely to be a peaceful journey without too many demands. He needed the meditation to integrate the new practices he had learned during the past few weeks on Vulcan.

*  *  *

At exactly 1500 hours S'kai entered the sickbay, where Dr. Christine Chapel was waiting. "Welcome, Doctor", she said. "I have lined up a few duties for you as Acting Assistant Medical Officer. I don't think you'll be too busy. Tomorrow morning you can start with screening everyone on the ship who took shore leave on Vulcan for any local organisms they may have picked up." It was a natural assignment for S'kai, and one that he welcomed since it would give him a chance to examine crewmen of a number of different species. His interest in xenobiology paralleled his medical training, and was the deciding factor in his acceptance into Starfleet. The price he paid for this was his isolation from most Vulcans, who still viewed such excessive curiosity about off-worlders with suspicion. Dr. Chapel gave S'kai a brief tour of the sickbay, and examined with interest the instruments that S'kai had brought on board with him. She resisted the impulse to touch him, something that still remained with her when she was around Vulcan males. After finishing the orientation she dismissed S'kai. "See you tonight at dinner."

S'kai returned to his quarters. "Dr. Chapel will be there," he thought to himself. He activated the quarter's computer terminal. "Computer, display the guest list for this evening's captain's mess. Show rank, assignment, and species." The display chirped to life.

Capt. Hikaru Sulu, Commanding Officer USS Excelsior, Human

Cmdr. Janice Rand, Communications Officer, Human

Dr. Christine Chapel, Chief Medical Officer, Human

Lt. Cmdr. Dmitri Valtane, Science Officer, Human

Lt. Wha'alker Alle'en, Engineer, Prius-class Shuttlecraft Project, Megazoid

Lt. S'kai, Assistant Medical Officer, Acting, Vulcan

Lt.-J.G. Connor Flynn, Science Research Associate, Human

Ensign Tuvok, Junior Science Officer, Vulcan

"Computer, show public personnel file for Wha'alker Alle'en." The computer displayed the file for the Megazoid, as the humans called the Mh'egatstoo'eid species. Their obvious facial features and flat splayed feet made them instantly identifiable. Their gregarious nature made them quite popular among the crew, though their need to be surrounded by other people made them reluctant to leave their own planet, not unlike the Deltans and their need for physical intimacy. Those few who made it to Starfleet Academy found themselves surrounded with friends, who made short work of anyone who thought their easy going nature would make the "Megs: an easy target of pranks.

Name: Wha'alker Alle'en

Rank: Lieutenant

Species: Megazoid

Assignment: Engineer, Prius-class Shuttlecraft Project

Time served in Starfleet: 4 years

Lt. Alle'en is known onboard as Walker Allen, a name he uses when in contact with humans as an accommodation to their speech. He is also referred to as "Hobbit," a reference to his species' feet; the name comes from a character in an ancient earth myth. He does not take offense to being called this, and in fact seems to prefer it as a sign of familiarity from others.

Lt. Alle'en is presently head of the propulsion systems section of the Prius-class development project. He is largely responsible for the design of the Shuttle Synergy Drive engine, known colloquially as the warpulse (=warp+impulse) drive. In the course of this project he has become an accomplished shuttlecraft pilot and is certified for both standard and experimental shuttles.

Lt. Alle'en's personal interests vary, but all involve activities involving multiple persons: team sports, interactive theatre, musical ensembles.

"It should be easy to become acquainted with this engineer," thought S'kai as he de-activated his computer and turned to complete his unpacking and settling into his quarters.

*  *  *

Captain Sulu's messes were prized events aboard the Excelsior. They were informal affairs, and the guest list always included both higher and lower ranks. Tales of the Captain's exploits aboard the Enterprise were frequently featured. S'kai did not know why he was invited to the first one on leaving Vulcan, but he suspected some connection with Spock. Spock had taken a special interest in him after S'kai's parents were killed aboard the Intrepid.

Several officers were gathered around Captain Sulu as S'kai entered the officer's mess. "I can just hear McCoy now. Grumbling away. 'Damn Starfleet ceremonies. Total waste of time. I know what I've done, and so does everybody else by now. Just an excuse for Starfleet brass to make themselves look good about all the wonderful things they think they're responsible for.'" Sulu laughed out loud along with everyone else present. "But it's alright by me, since I may get to see Jim Kirk and Spock again." Sulu noticed S'kai enter. "Oh, Lieutenant S'kai, I suspect you're looking forward to this as much as I am." He flashed a brief Vulcan salute before grasping S'kai's hand, putting an arm on his back, and pulling him into the circle of people. "You just missed Captain Spock on his recent stop. Starfleet is sending him all over the galaxy on special missions these days."

"Yes, Captain. I was in a secluded training program that allowed no interruptions. Spock left a long message to me before he left."

Dinner featured a number of Vulcan dishes made from ingredients freshly beamed up from the planet. S'kai and Tuvok both expressed their approval of the preparation, seeming to give an official imprimatur to the cuisine. Conversation flowed readily, and Wha'alker Alle'en was always involved, regardless of the topic. While constantly engaged in conversation, he did it without the obnoxious chatter and domination of a Bolian. S'kai was eager to hear Alle'en's explanation of the Shuttle Synergy drive, but also kept part of his mind focused on what cultural nuances he could see in the setting of the mess.

"The breakthrough came when we realized that focusing the impulse drive on a mini-warp core, rather then on moving the entire vessel, allowed the use of a warp engine small enough to power a shuttle," explained Alle'en, using "we" to refer to developments that were clearly his.

Sulu responded, "A shuttle with long-range warp capabilities and maneuverability will be quite a useful vessel. For things too small to justify a warp-capable starship. I suppose courier service, moving crucial supplies, maybe critically injured patients," he said turning to Dr. Chapel.

"Indeed," she replied. "How long until the next test flight?"

"Two or three days," said Alle'en. "With any luck, I'll be able to let the Captain take his turn in the pilot's chair." Sulu brightened.

Dr. Chapel asked, "So we can begin the testing the life support monitoring and the tests for physical effects on the crew on the next runs?"

"You are correct, Doctor, that's on the program."

"Doctor S'kai, would you be interested in monitoring the crew on one of the next flights? The screening exams should be done in time." Dr. Chapel asked S'kai who was sitting next to her. She had managed to sit herself between the two Vulcans at the table.

"Certainly, Dr. Chapel. It should prove most interesting to be aboard this shuttle," said S'kai. "And it would allow more time to observe and interact with the Megazoid crewmember," he thought.

The conversation turned to Federation/Klingon relations. Tuvok asked, "Is there any information on the new Klingon Chancellor, sir?"

Sulu replied, "Not much officially from Starfleet. What's the scuttlebutt, Rand?"

"Well, VERY unofficially, sir, there are rumors that this Gorkon fellow leans a bit towards decreasing tensions. Not much to go on, but there's always hope."

"Or another ruse to have us let down our guard," said Tuvok.

"I'll go with hope for now,' replied Sulu. "I'd bet there are Klingons that are of sick of this constant scrapping, even with all their warrior culture."

"Even warriors have families that they want to be with," said Alle'en.

"Well, its been an enjoyable and informative evening, ladies and gentlemen," said Sulu. "I'm off to the bridge for a quick peek before turning in. Consider your self relieved for the shift, Rand."

"Goodnight, Captain," said Rand as she stepped aside to open the way to the door for Sulu.

*  *  *

S'kai reported to sickbay the next day and spent most of the day doing viral screenings on all the crew members that had been on Vulcan. The main concern was that they may have picked up some viral strain, that while not dangerous, could cause mild illnesses in those not previously exposed to it: in other words, the common cold. In between examinations, Chapel kept pressing to find out what S'kai had been doing on Vulcan. It was not one of those seven year leaves which Starfleet always scheduled for Vulcans (without ever specifying why), which she knew better than to ask about.

"After finishing my final orientation at Starfleet," he explained, "I returned to Vulcan to continue my kae'ka'akkayam. I was able to complete my training in mind melding, and advance another step toward Kohlinar."

"Mind melding," sighed Chapel, as if remembering some illicit desire from long ago. "An almost magical thing to humans."

"We do hold it in high regard, as we do those who have perfected it, and shown the self-discipline and ethics to be fully trained," he replied, without a hint of boasting or self-congratulation.

"And with all that training, you have still chosen a career with Starfleet that will take you away from Vulcan for much of your life."

This was getting close to some sensitive areas for S'kai. Having lost his parents, he was at a disadvantage in Vulcan society from the start. Spock's interest in him helped him advance, but Spock was almost an outsider, or at the very least of suspect nature. S'kai's interest in xenobiology was regarded as unhealthy, and furthered his sense of isolation from Vulcan society. As with many misfits before him, Starfleet gave him an opportunity to explore his interests and a half-respectable way off Vulcan. "It met a number of needs and interests, including my own," was all that S'kai revealed at the moment.

"I'm sure that your parents set a fine example," said Dr. Chapel.

"Indeed," replied S'kai.

The beeping of the Viranalysis machine saved S'kai from further conversation as he went to record its readouts. "That's the last of them," he said, handing the results to Dr. Chapel.

"Well. I guess that's it for today. You're done here for now. Why don't you go down to Engineering and check out this hot new shuttle?"

"Thank you, Doctor. I'll do that. Have a good day," he said as he cleared the lab table and excused himself. He headed to the turboshaft. "Deck 12, Auxiliary Shuttlebay."

As he entered the shuttlebay he saw several technicians at a workbench. Alle'en was among them. They were working on a device about a meter high, several concentric cylinders stacked like a wedding cake, but with rings of evenly spaced protrusions surrounding each layer. Alle'en spotted S'kai, got up and walked over to him. "Welcome, Doctor. Please let me introduce you to a few people." He introduced the several technicians and engineers, some from Starfleet Engineering, and some crew of the Excelsior. He took him over to the shuttlebay office. "Dr. S'kai, Marta Cattelan, our Chief." The tall human with darkish blond hair got out from behind the desk. She gave a brief Vulcan salute before extending her hand, which S'kai shook in a practiced earth manner. "I understand you will be on board one of our test flights. Please sit down." Cattelan closed the office door against the random mechanical noises and distant shouts echoing through the shuttlebay.

"What brings you here today?" asked Cattelan.

"I am looking forward to this flight," said S'kai. "I am curious to know more about this new drive."

"You have an interest in engineering?"

"Curiosity. All scientific advances are of interest to me." S'kai was understating. He had considered a career in engineering, and was strongly encouraged by many on Vulcan to pursue it, some in order to divert him from his near-obsessive interest in other races and cultures. He took the basic engineering course at the Vulcan Academy of Sciences and went no further than that in his training, but continued to follow developments in the field.

"Well, I'll give you a brief tour. The shuttle is open now. No power, but the worklights are on."

They walked across the shuttlebay to the workbay. Although numerous panels and doors were open, jutting out of the surfaces of the shuttle at varying angles, the shape of the shuttle was discernable: rounder than the boxy shape of standard shuttles, but still not having the grace of streamlined rockets or deep space starships. Near the door the name "Zhang Heng" was painted.

"Zhang Heng?" asked S'kai, pausing at the entrance.

"An Earth astronomer. Han Dynasty, China. He was skilled in many fields, including ethnography. Sounds like your kind of guy," answered Catellan.

"Indeed," replied S'kai. "I shall endeavor to learn more about him."

Stepping though the main door, S'kai's eyes adjusted to the light of the randomly spaced worklights casting odd shadows on every surface. There was seating for four in front, and racks of test equipment in the back. "She will seat eight in the final configuration," said Cattelan. "Hobbit, of course, can't wait to get all this stuff out of here and make room for more passengers." She showed S'kai the new control surfaces, sensor displays, and other systems. "As far as propulsion and basic systems she's complete. Transporters and extended life support systems will be added to the production models." She led him out toward the table where Alle'en had returned to work. "And this is the core of the Shuttle Synergy Drive. Mr. Allen, would you care to explain what you are working on to Dr. S'kai?"

"Certainly. This unit is actually fully functional at present. We are fine tuning the flow sensors and warp feedback modules to get the last one or two percent efficiency out of the drive."

"Warp feedback?" quizzed S'kai.

"The Shuttle Synergy Drive not only focuses the output of the impulse drive onto a warp coil but takes some of the warp energy to enhance the impulse drive. The result of this feedback loop makes the drive highly efficient, making it small enough to be suitable for shuttles," said Alle'en.

"Most intriguing," responded S'kai. "I would be interested in learning more." Turning to Cattelan he asked, "Would it be possible to have access to the manuals and diagrams of the drive, or is it classified?"

"Actually," replied Cattelan, "very little of the construction is classified. The secret is in the formulas used to calibrate and balance the various elements of the system. Even if you had access, it would take a pretty sophisticated engineer with advanced math skills to understand them. But certainly I will give you access to the general materials."

"Thank you, Chief. It should make my trip aboard the shuttle even more interesting."

"We'll be ready to go tomorrow. On schedule," said Alle'en unbending himself from over the workbench.

"Well," said Cattelan. "Looks like you have yourself a ride."

"Tomorrow, then. Have a good day and thank you for the tour," said S'kai as he left for his quarters. He divided the rest of the afternoon between meditating and studying the drive manuals on the console in his quarters.

*  *  *

The next morning, after a brief stop to check in with Chapel in sickbay and pickup some biomonitoring equipment, S'kai headed for the auxiliary shuttlebay. Alle'en greeted him. "You already know Misters Tuvok and Flynn, who will be on today's flight."

"Science officers?" S'kai raised an eyebrow. "No engineers?"

"None are needed at this point," replied Alle'en. "The systems are all tested and operational, and I can do any adjustments that may be needed. The science officers will just be collecting data for further research. Like you."

"Indeed," replied S'kai. They entered the shuttle and began installing monitoring and testing equipment as Alle'en sat at the helm and began activating the shuttle's systems.

An unfamiliar whine accompanied the start of the shuttle's drive, but overall it was quieter than any shuttle or craft of its size that S'kai had been on. S'kai attached some biomonitor sensors to the crew, activated the receivers for them, and started the recorders. The science crew finished about the same time and took their seats.

"All systems go. Shuttle to docking control, permission to launch."

The trip went smoothly, out to an uninhabitable Class K planet that took about 45 minutes to reach at Warp 2, where the science team took some readings for the Excelsior's planetary database. The shuttle handled all its exercises flawlessly, including a few show-off maneuvers that Alle'en performed for the benefit for the crew. Entering and leaving warp space was barely noticeable, and the inertial dampeners, specially designed for this shuttle prevented any sensation of motion during acceleration or changes in direction. Alle'en kept conversation going whenever any one was not occupied. The Vulcans would have been comfortable with silence, but Flynn seemed to enjoy it, and S'kai intently observed every conversation to see how Alle'en seemed to engage everyone and put them and himself at ease.

After the flight, as they left the shuttlebay, Tuvok fell in step with S'kai as the walked to the turboshaft. "How was your recent training on Vulcan?" he asked after they were out of earshot of the others.

"Quite well, thank you," said S'kai. "I was able to complete all the basic mind melding techniques, and even had the opportunity to practice on a human." Ordinarily mind melding with other species was done only on an emergency basis. Recently, however, Starfleet had been sending volunteers to Vulcan so that both the Vulcans and the other races would have a chance to experience interspecies mind melding. "It was fascinating to have such intimate contact with an alien mind. The emotional turmoil was, of course, nearly overwhelming. I do not understand how a species can survive such an intensity of untamed emotion."

"It is a hazardous stage of evolution, as our own history shows," said Tuvok.

"And the humans'," replied S'kai.

*  *  *

"Captain! there it is again. The anomalous warp trail," said Klingon intelligence officer Mebagh.

"Feed me the readouts," said Khaarek, captain of the Bird of Prey JachQu. "I wonder what these Federation are up to?"

"It's the fifth one in the past two weeks. It is pretty clear they are testing some new warp vessel," said Mebagh. "Much smaller than a starship or a Bird of Prey, as far as I can tell."

"A fighter or spy craft," added Khaarek.

"Quite possibly," replied the officer.

"We must find out more," said Khaarek.

"The detectors are at the highest resolution, sir. We cannot learn more from this distance."

"Then we shall get closer. Communications, prepare a message, standard code to sector command."

"Aye sir," replied Kron, the communications officer. "Standing by."

"Captain Khaarek, Imperial Klingon Ship JachQuh, reporting detection of new vessel in Federation space with new capabilities. Request permission to cloak and enter Neutral Zone to make more detailed observations."

"Message coded and transmitted."

*  *  *

The next day, Dr. Chapel called S'kai into her office. "I have reviewed the biomonitor data from the shuttle flight. Everything seems to be in order. No hazards observed. However, I would like to gather more data on the moments of warp transition. I want some more detailed resolution from the sensors on the few seconds before and after, to see if there is any difference in physiologic response to this drive and standard warp drives. I have requested a medical observer on an additional flight and it has been granted. I assume you would like to go."

"Certainly," replied S'kai.

"Good. There will be another flight tomorrow. It should prove special, since Captain Sulu will be piloting the shuttle."

"The Captain?"

"Yes. Captain Sulu is well known for his shuttle piloting, and has a few tales of his own to tell. I doubt Starfleet uses starship captains as test pilots routinely, so I suspect the Captain has used a little of his own influence to get this 'assignment.'" She raised her eyebrows with the last word. "In any case, I have sent some high-speed recorders to the shuttlebay for installation."

"Thank you, Doctor. It should prove interesting."

*  *  *

"Clearance to enter the Neutral Zone has been granted. Orders are not to violate Federation space and not to engage. All scans and probes permitted, but we are to withdraw if detected," said Kron, the communications officer.

"Engage cloak. Proceed toward last known location of the Federation craft," ordered Khaarek.

Hours later, the captain was called to the bridge. "We have traced the path of the craft back to a Federation starship. Excelsior class. We are analyzing transmissions for further identification."

Mebagh added, "I have sent the preliminary data to Intelligence for analysis. They may be able to give us specific data on the vessel."

"Continue your analysis in the meantime. Everyone stay alert. We must find out what these Federation are up to," snapped Khaarek.

*  *  *

S'kai reported to the shuttlebay an hour before the scheduled launch. Alle'en directed him to the shuttle to calibrate the recording equipment. When he finished he went out to where Chief Cattelan and Alle'en were talking. "Here's the flight plan, although I suspect there will be some captain's discretion allowed here,' said Cattelan.

"No doubt," replied Alle'en. "She'll be able to handle anything he cares to dish out."

"They're here," she said, nodding toward the entrance.

Captain Sulu entered, accompanied by Meredith Cutler, Sulu's first officer, a Deltan yeoman, and a female Starfleet marine. Cutler saluted Chief Cattelan. "This is Lance Corporal Patti Griffis. She'll be serving as the Captain's security detail today."

"Are you afraid S'kai or Hobbit are going to attack the Captain?" she joked.

"There are always other unknowns," she replied. "And I always err on the side of caution where the Captain's safety is concerned."

"I didn't know we had a Marine detachment on board," said Cattelan.

"Well, we don't, Chief. We do have a few that came on board at Vulcan for transport back to earth. Their CO told me to keep them busy if I could, so they'd stay out of trouble."

"There'll be no trouble from me, sir," interjected Griffis, still standing stiffly at attention.

"Griffis volunteered for this assignment," said Cutler. "At ease, Corporal. She's volunteered for every assignment that has come up, so I gave her this plum. The Security Chief cleared her."

"You know I trust your judgment in these things," said Sulu. This should be a great flight."

"Do you have any questions before you start the departure check?' asked Cattelan.

"No. The time I spent on the simulator the past couple days seems to have taken care of everything," said Sulu. "I'm sure Mr. Allen can handle any questions that come up in the course of the flight."

"If he can't answer it, nobody can," replied Cattelan. "Have a good flight, Sir."

"Thank you, Chief." Turning to the waiting others, he said, "Let's get started."

S'kai applied biomonitors on everyone, including the Captain, and they entered the shuttle. After the check-in, they took their places. Sulu in the pilot's chair, Alle'en next to him, Griffis behind him, and S'kai behind Alle'en. Sulu opened the comm channel. "Shuttle to launch control. Permission to launch."

Cutler's voice returned "Safe flying."

"Nice to know they're keeping an eye on me," said Sulu.

Sulu launched the shuttle and doubled back for a flyby of the Excelsior. He brought the shuttle in close enough that he could see the crew standing in the window of the recreation room. He flashed the signal lights as he passed. "I should make external inspections more regularly," he said out loud. "Let's head out for our target. Ready to engage the warpulse engine."

"Ready," replied Alle'en.

"Recorders activated," said S'kai.

"Zoom-zoom," said Sulu as he engaged the drive.

*  *  *

"Captain to the bridge," called first officer Depok.

"What have you got?" Khaarek asked as he stepped onto the bridge.

"The new craft has been launched again," reported Depok. "It is testing some new kind of drive, a 'War Pulse' engine."

"I have data from Klingon Intelligence," said the Mebagh.

"Hold position. Monitor the craft. What does intelligence have to say?" asked Khaarek.

"The ship has been identified as the Excelsior. Captain Sulu in charge. No information on the special craft, but Intelligence sent something else of interest."

"Yes?"

"Detailed schematics and operational data on the Excelsior. It had to have come from inside the Federation."

"Excellent. But what are we supposed do with that intelligence if we cannot leave the Neutral Zone? What do you have on this Captain Sulu?"

"Hikaru Sulu. Born Earth 2237. Served aboard the Federation Enterprise under James T. Kirk 2265 to . . ."

"Kirk!" shouted Khaarek as he stood up, turning to Mebagh.

"Aye, sir," replied Mebagh. "The criminal."

"He killed my brother, Kruge!" said Khaarek. "Then the Federation refuses to give him up for trial."

"He even broke the Federation's own laws - stealing a starship, disobeying orders, DESTROYING the starship - and the Federation let him off because of some fish story," added Mebagh.

"So. One of Kirk's crew in our sights!"

"Closer than you think, Captain," reported Kron. "Their communications indicate Captain Sulu is aboard the small craft."

"Great Kahless!! What a prize !! We must get him!"

"Our orders are not to engage, sir!" said Depok.

"Agghh!!! This cannot happen!" said Khaarek. He thought to himself "Why do I have a first officer who thinks toadying to High Command and parroting orders is the way to advancement? Pagh! Give me a real warrior at my back any day!"

"Sir," said Mebagh. "Think about this. Why did Intelligence send us this Excelsior information? Do they want us to go in? If it looked like we were violating orders, it would give the Empire deniability. And I can assure you, Intelligence wants a close look at this new craft."

"A plan. I need a plan!! We will get this Federation slime! Kruge will be avenged!"

*  *  *

The shuttle proceeded toward the gas giant that had been chosen for their destination. Everything was going smoothly. Sulu leaned back in the pilot's chair. "Corporal, were you on Vulcan for a reason, or just passing through?"

"I was a volunteer, Sir, as mind melding subject," replied Griffis.

S'kai made no noticeable motion, but they had his full attention. The mind meld training, like most Vulcan disciplines, was never spoken of to off-worlders. He may have seen Griffis recently, but could not recall her specifically, and she would not have been in uniform at the time of her participation in the training.

"What was that like?" asked Alle'en.

"Interesting. A very strange feeling," answered Griffis.

"Can you describe it?" Alle'en asked.

"Well, it felt like a thousand probe wires being inserted into your mind. Not painful, but insistent. And beyond you could feel some suppressed power. And then your mind was all mixed up with the Vulcan's. And when you're done, it's sort of like you have known him all your life."

"Wow. Instant friendship," said Alle'en.

"Well, as close as possible with a Vulcan-uh-no offense, sir," she said, turning to S'kai.

"None taken, Corporal. Your description is most insightful for a human," S'kai replied.

"Ready to come out of warp," interrupted Sulu. "Got your recorders running?"

"Yes, Sir," replied S'kai.

*  *  *

The Klingon crew examined the schematics. Gehbech, the Klingon engineer pointed. "Here. The junction of the vertical and horizontal engine shafts. A single hit here could take out all major systems."

Gorick, the weapons officer pointed to another spot. "Here is were the edges of the two shield generators meet. The weakest spot. Now if you line the two points up, you have an angle of attack."

"So," said Khaarek, "if we attack at exactly that angle, a single shot could cripple the ship."

"Yes. warp engines, phasers, transporters, all major systems down." replied Gorick.

"Surprise and timing will be everything. Be in the exact place, uncloak, fire, cloak and escape before they knew what happened. Then go get the small craft," said Khaarek.

"A great plan," said Mebagh. "And if we miss we will not be identified."

"We will not miss!" said Khaarek. "We will capture this petaQ captain and his new ship!"

*  *  *

The shuttlecraft did a circle around the gas giant balancing its gravitational pull with its velocity for a slingshot effect. Sulu then took the shuttle through a series of acrobatics.

"Wonderful. Everything one could hope for," he said to Alle'en. "You should be proud of yourself."

"Thank you, sir. Chief Cattelan picked an excellent team," answered Alle'en.

"OK. One more swing around the planet, and we head back," said Sulu.

*  *  *

"Excelsior is in range, captain." The cloaked JachQuH was deep in Federation space.

"Assume attack angle! Prepare to execute attack!" barked Khaarek. The JachQuH carefully took the predetermined position.

"Uncloak! Fire! Cloak! Evasive! Engage warp!" The orders were given and executed in a less than two seconds.

*  *  *

Onboard the Excelsior, Meredith Cutler monitored the shuttlecraft's flight from the bridge. Captain Sulu's joy could be heard in his voice each he reported back to the Excelsior. A few minutes after Sulu reported back from the gas giant, the calm of the bridge was shattered. "Klingon vessel de-cloaked! Aft port . . ." The navigation officer's report was interrupted by alarms from several spots on the bridge at once. "Red alert! "Shields up!" "Damage report!" "Phasers return fire!" "Phasers off line!" "Main power down!" Orders and reports flew about.

"She's gone, sir, a hit-and-run," reported the navigation officer.

"Engineering, what's our status?" said Cutler.

"All main systems down. Warp engines, phasers, transporters, tractor beams. We have life support and communications working on emergency backup power. Not enough power for the shields," came the report through the intercom.

"We're sitting ducks. I wonder why they haven't come back to finish us off-My God! They're after the Captain! That's the only reason were still in one piece," said Cutler. "Engineering, how soon can we restore power? Rand, send a status report to Starfleet. Hail any Federation ships in range."

"It's going to be a while, captain, if at all. They knew just where to hit us. It was surgical. We have a few casualties. Medics are already here. Impulse power in a few hours at best," replied the chief engineer.

"Get shields and maneuvering power online as soon as you can. Weapons, do we have photon torpedoes?"

"Aye sir," replied the weapons officer. "But we have limited targeting ability if we can't maneuver."

"OK. Everyone stay sharp. We may or may not get a shot at them if they return, but it will be the only one we get. Any signal from the shuttle?"

"No sir," replied the communications officer. The assistant weapons officer jumped in. "I have confirmed the departure trail of the Klingon vessel. She's headed after the shuttle."

"God help us all," said Cutler.

*  *  *

The JachQuH had not stopped to determine the success of the attack. The navigator monitored the communications from the Excelsior as they headed for the gas giant. "Qapla'! Success! The effects of the attack were just as planned."

Mebegh reported in. "The Federation vessel conducted a series of unpatterned and erratic movements, and has gone behind the gas giant. Communications with the Excelsior indicate the Captain, a bodyguard, an engineer, and a medic onboard."

"Practicing evasive maneuvers, no doubt," said Khaarek. "Only a fighter would be doing that. We will attack when she comes around the planet."

"Disruptors charged and ready, sir!" said the weapons officer.

"No! Hold. I want this vessel intact. We will board her. Weapons stand by to disable her only if necessary. Full scan as soon as she comes into view. Send a report to the transporter chamber, where I will assemble an assault team. All available for security duty follow me!" said Khaarek has he headed toward the transporter.

Once they arrived at the gas giant, the JachQuH crew began scanning, waiting for the first sign of the craft. The intercom crackled to life. "We have her, captain. A small shuttle or scout craft. Unarmed. She is trying to reach the Excelsior on normal channels. Four aboard. Little room for much else. You could get three aboard, but it will be close quarters. You probably won't be able to operate her with that many on board."

"Attention!" barked Khaarek. "Two volunteers to beam over. Close quarters, hand to hand combat, and a most glorious prize." There was a shuffling among the four Klingon warriors to get to the front, all with their hands raised. Khaarek picked the closest two, and they positioned themselves on the transporter pad, weapons drawn.

"Energize."

*  *  *

On board the shuttle, Alle'en tried to raise the Excelsior as she came from the far side of the planet. "No answer, Sir." At that moment, one of the sensors beeped. Alle'en turned his attention to it. "What could that be? We're not near any moons. Let me see if I can increase the resolution."

"Damn strange," said Sulu.

"Sir! It's a Klingon Bird of Prey!"

"Not good!" said Sulu. He hit the emergency distress beacon and the comm channel as he attempted a rapid course change. The room filled with the howl of transporter beams. Everyone was on their feet as the Klingons materialized, some almost touching them.

Griffis had her phaser out before the Klingons completely materialized. She shot the first one nearly point blank and was immediately jumped by the second. Khaarek had materialized beside S'kai who grabbed his arm and pulled it over the back of the seat. Khaarek drove his boot into S'kai's shin and broke it with an audible snap and brought his other arm down on his head. S'kai went unconscious. Sulu and Alle'en were both on top of the second Klingon. Khaarek had unsheathed his d'k tahg, and he drove it deep into the side of Alle'en, who slumped to the floor. This released the second Klingon's arm who grabbed Griffis by the throat as Khaarek backhanded Sulu, then drove his d'k tahg into Griffis abdomen. As the second Klingon attempted to get out of the way of Khaarek's knife, Griffis freed her phaser and blasted him. Khaarek smashed her skull against the deck. He picked up his disruptor and pointed it at Sulu's head.

"Ah, Captain, a pleasure to meet you! Up!" He gestured toward the pilot's chair. "You will take us out of here. Approach the controls. Slowly. Open a channel."

"JachQuH this is Khaarek. I have captured the vessel. Sulu is alive. I will have him pilot the craft to tractor beam range." "Now, Captain, take us over to my ship."

S'kai lay on the floor, and started to regain consciousness. He felt only the pain in his leg, and he focused his awareness on it, using the pain to bring himself to complete consciousness, then cut off all awareness from his leg. He turned his head, looked up and saw Khaarek with the blaster pointed at Sulu's head. He forced himself to absolute stillness while he sized up the situation. He reached under the seat to touch the back of Sulu's ankle, letting him know we was conscious.

"Two nine zero mark two," Khaarek said to Sulu.

Sulu slowly moved to the navigation controls, and punched a series of controls in rapid succession. The inertial dampers flipped off and the shuttle lurched violently to the left as the thrusters kicked in. S'kai quickly rolled over, and grabbed Khaarek by the ankle. Sulu ducked as a disrupter blast ripped past his head. Khaarek fell, kicked off S'kai's grip with his other foot and got up. Khaarek roared as he hit Sulu in the side of his head with full force. Sulu slumped unconscious over the console. Khaarek turned, bent over, grabbed S'kai by the throat, picked him up with one hand and pinned him against the wall of the shuttle. With his left hand S'kai reached behind him, grabbed the handle of a piece of equipment, and wrenched it loose. As Khaarek turned his head to see, S'kai freed his other hand, forced it into Khaarek's collarbone above his armor, and administered the Vulcan nerve pinch. It took all his might to apply the force though the Klingon's musculature, but Khaarek slumped to the floor. S'kai fell to the floor as the broken leg buckled under him.

S'kai looked around. Sulu unconscious. Two Klingons dead from phaser blasts. The third Klingon unconscious. Griffis and Alle'en mortally wounded or dead. He checked the biomonitors. Griffis was dead. Sulu's life signs were strong. Alle'en's were weak and fading. He reached for his medkit, and pulled himself over to Alle'en. He applied a hemostatic bandage to the wound, then took a biomonitor tag from Griffis' body and slapped it on the Klingon's forehead. If he regained consciousness he would hear it from the recorder. S'kai became aware of warning beepers coming from the console. He pulled him self into Alle'en's chair. It was clear. The shuttle was in a rapidly decaying orbit around gas giant. And no one who could pilot it was conscious. He leaned over to Sulu and tried to rouse him. Sulu groaned. S'kai checked the biomonitors. Sulu probably had bleeding inside his skull. S'kai filled a hypospray with Cordrazine and injected it into Sulu. Sulu pushed himself upright. "S-s-s-tatus?" he mumbled.

"Everyone out or dead, Sir. Decaying orbit. Klingons still out there. No word from Excelsior. We have to get out of this orbit."

"Allen?" Sulu asked. He was starting to fade out of consciousness.

"Seriously wounded," answered S'kai.

"Allen . . . mind meld . . . katra . . ." said Sulu as he lost consciousness.

Mind meld? Katra? Sulu wanted him to take some of Alle'en's mind? A desperate move, but their situation was that desperate. Yes. Mind meld with Alle'en, use his engineering and piloting skills to get the shuttle away from the crushing gravity of the planet. This was the logical course of action.

He checked the biomonitors. Alle'en was near death. There was not much time. He grabbed the hypospray and dropped to the floor. He injected Alle'en with Cordrazine. Alle'en did not regain consciousness. S'kai placed his fingers on the neural pressure points on Alle'en's head. He began the mind meld. As he did, he could feel Alle'en's mind dying. This would be no ordinary meld. He reached forth with all his mental energy. He made contact. He could feel the pain that Alle'en's body was still pouring into his brain. He felt the recent memories pouring into him, then a flood of engineering information, equations, diagrams, plans, numbers. Then memories, faster than S'kai could consciously absorb them, but he knew they were passing into his own mind nonetheless. The last of Alle'en's consciousness was fading. S'kai continued the meld. Could he take Alle'en's katra, his soul, from his dying body? He let his mind take in everything, and was struck by the alien quality of what was coming through. Emotions? But he could not identify them. They were beyond his reach. Without those would he have Alle'en's katra? And if he did, what would become of it? Could Alle'en's body be saved? Could an off-worlders's katra be restored or saved on Vulcan? None of his had ever been done or considered before. He felt the last surge of Alle'en's mind reach out to him, and knew that he was dead. His own mind trembled from the shock of the broken connection.

S'kai put all these concerns out of his mind and pulled him self up to the navigator/co-pilot's chair. All the shuttle's controls were now familiar to him. He saw the projected decay of the orbit, and quickly calculated a way out. It would require engaging the Synergy Shuttle drive, which he immediately began powering up. As the drive activated, and he entered the navigational parameters, his mind finally turned to the Klingon ship he would probably encounter.

*  *  *

On board the JachQuH, Kron turned to Depok. "No further communication from the Captain."

The weapons officer added, "The shuttle has changed course toward the planet. It is out of transporter range. It will be crushed if the course is not corrected." "Something is very wrong," said Depok. "Try to raise the shuttle. Navigation, can we safely intercept?"

"It will be close, but yes," replied Ghachik.

"Plot and engage!" The Bird of Prey came about, and oriented to the projected path of the shuttle.

The hailing frequency channel chirped to life. "Open channel!" barked Depok.

"Klingon vessel. This is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. You are in violation of Federation space. Withdraw immediately or be destroyed."

The commlink was cut, and a pair of phaser blasts whizzed by both fore and aft of the JachQuH. The Enterprise had her in her sights.

"yIjuntaH !! Evasive!! Cloak!! Plot course to neutral zone!" shouted Depok.

"The Captain!" shouted Ghachik.

"We will come for him later! We are outgunned and out-maneuvered! No reinforcements! In violation of orders! Engage!"

*  *  *

Sulu came to a hazy consciousness, still drugged, a steady ringing in his right ear. He looked around the medical bay as he heard a chime come to life telling others of his return to consciousness. A familiar face appeared above him. "Welcome, back, Captain, Sir," said McCoy.

"Dogtor McGoy," slurred Sulu. "Zo good to zee you. Enderbrize?"

"Sure is," drawled McCoy.

"Girg?"

"The Captain's a little busy now. He'll see you soon. You get some rest now."

"The Eggselzer?"

"She is being fixed. The Captain will brief you. Now shut up and rest."

"Thang 'ou, dogtor," said Sulu, closing his eyes, and falling asleep.

McCoy turned to the next bed. S'kai was awake. "Good morning, Lieutanant."

"Good morning, Doctor," replied S'kai.

"How are you feeling?" asked McCoy.

"Well, Doctor. Thank you." He gave no indication of the churning inside his mind.

"Good. You can start physical therapy this afternoon. Your leg is healing nicely."

"Thank you. I look forward to returning to my duties."

"Soon enough. Take it easy for now."

*  *  *

Sulu regained full consciousness the next day. His head still hurt, but the ringing in his ear had lessened. As he pulled his self to sitting he heard the chime again. McCoy stepped into the room, pausing at the comm panel. "McCoy to bridge. He's awake, Jim."

"How are you feeling, Captain?" said McCoy as he approached the bed.

"Much better, thank you, Doctor," replied Sulu. "Head still hurts, but mind is clear."

"Good," said McCoy. "You should do fine. We had to clean up a subdural contusion, but there is no brain damage. At least, we don't have to drill like in the old days, so there'll be no jokes about holes in your head."

From the next bed S'kai interrupted. "Doctor, I understand that in the past trephination was a practice on your planet. Why would the result be considered a joke?" The illogic of human humor was still something that S'kai had not fathomed.

"Uhhh, it's a bit hard to explain. Holes in your head does not actually refer to the procedure. It means part of your brain is missing, therefore some part of your intellect is inferior."

"If the procedure and the expression are not connected, where is the joke?" asked S'kai.

"The joke is the connection. When you take . . ." he paused. "Damn. I used to have these conversations with Spock. I should know better."

Sulu started to laugh, and cut himself off with a grunt as the pain flared up in his head. But he could not resist. "Ow. It only hurts when I laugh," he smiled.

"Well then don't do that," replied McCoy. They both laughed, and Sulu let the pain pass over him, as he slumped back onto the bed.

The door opened and Kirk walked in. "How's the patient, Bones?"

"Recovering nicely, Jim," said McCoy.

The pain gone, Sulu sat up. "Admir-er Captain Kirk. You saved my bacon out there."

"S'kai's piloting really was what got you out of there. We just ran interference. You would have been proud to see the way he handled that shuttle. Unless you were afraid of the competition," said Kirk with a grin.

"Too old for that, Sir. But I owe you one. Maybe I'll get to return the favor someday."

"Hopefully, you'll never need to. But if you do, the Excelsior's a fine ship under your command. There's no one else I would like to have at my back more than you."

"Thank you, Sir.' Although of the same rank, Sulu still addressed Kirk as a superior. "How did you know we were out here?"

"We got some intelligence about a possible Klingon border violation. I don't know where it came from. But we were on extra alert, and when we got your distress call, we came, maximum warp. The engines are still smoking, so to speak."

"I'm sure Mr. Scott's taking care of them."

"Actually, they're fine. Scotty's is over on the Excelsior helping pick up the pieces. If he's as good as putting her back together as he was at taking her down, she'll be healed as fast as you are."

"I have no doubt whatsoever," smiled Sulu. "What of the Klingon?"

"Captain Khaarek is in the brig," said Kirk. We'll be turning him over to Starfleet.

"Probably for his own protection," said Sulu. "From you and me," he added with a grin.

"Well, I would strangle him with my bare hands if I could," said Kirk. "But that will probably be less of a punishment than the humiliation he will get when the Federation turns him back over to the Klingons. I'm told through channels that he won't exactly be received as a hero. Chancellor Gorkon is furious."

"A furious Klingon," quipped Sulu. "There's something new."

*  *  *

S'kai asked to see Tuvok. Several hours later, Tuvok beamed aboard from the Excelsior, and went to sickbay. They met in a side room that McCoy had arranged so they could have privacy. "I have asked you here because there is no one else I can discuss this with," said S'kai. He proceeded to relate the details of the struggle aboard the shuttlecraft. Then he said, "I failed to save Alle'en. Saving his katra was not my intent. It may have been Sulu's, but he of course does not understand the nature of these things. But I believe I have his katra. I do not have access to it. It is not a fully formed thing inside my mind. Unless it can be restored, I will have failed again."

"You did what you could and needed to do," said Tuvok. "And you saved the captain and the vessel, as well as yourself. But I understand what a burden you must feel you are carrying. Perhaps by returning to Vulcan, some of the ancient rituals may be able to restore Alle'en's katra or at least help you come to terms with it."

"I have just taken leave from Vulcan. A return at this early juncture would seem untimely," said S'kai.

"Given what you have been through it would seem justified. And I am sure Starfleet would grant you some generosity considering what you have done-saving a starship captain, preventing the loss of an important experimental craft, foiling a Klingon plan, capturing a Klingon pirate."

"You make it sound far more heroic than it was," replied S'kai. "After all, I'm a Doctor, not a warrior."

"Perhaps not. But with Alle'en's knowledge, you are now the most knowledgeable person about the operation of the shuttle's drive. That part of Alle'en is available to you and makes you a valuable asset to Starfleet."

"Does Starfleet know that?"

"Well, Captain Sulu certainly does, since he suggested the mind meld to you. And your piloting accomplishment is common knowledge."

"A most unexpected change in my career plans is about to occur, I suspect," said S'kai.

*  *  *

A day later both Sulu and S'kai returned to the Excelsior. One of Sulu's first acts was to conduct a memorial service for the fallen Alle'en and Griffis. Both had given their life for Starfleet, and Sulu owed his life to Griffis. S'kai was offered a chance to speak at the service, but declined. It would have been impossible for him to say anything about Alle'en, who, for S'kai was not exactly dead. Griffis body was committed to space, according to the wishes she had left; Alle'en's body was put into stasis until it could be returned to his home planet where he would be buried in close proximity to a large number of his relatives.

In a few days, the Excelsior was underway, accompanied by the Enterprise. Sulu had resumed command, though he was under Doctor's orders not to spend more than a four hour shift on the bridge at a time. He got around this by exercising command from his ready room or his quarters.

S'kai immediately took over repairing the shuttlecraft. Working on the shuttlecraft was the only time that S'kai did not feel an almost alien presence inside him. As he used the knowledge that he had absorbed from Alle'en his own awareness took on a focus that banished the feeling of schism in his own mind. He was done with the engine repair and re-calibration almost as soon as the maintenance crew had finished cleaning up and repairing the minor damage to the interior that had occurred during the fight. He took it on a few short test flights, between the Excelsior and the Enterprise, always within sensor range of both. Sulu of course insisted on another flight, which went uneventfully this time.

Tuvok visited S'kai daily, and listened as S'kai reported his ongoing struggle. There was little he could offer to help, but supported him in his meditation.

*  *  *

The Excelsior and Enterprise arrived at Earth together. Sulu was now in command full time, fully recovered, as was S'kai, at least physically. Everyone was subjected to intense debriefing. S'kai's every waking hour was filled with consultations with Starfleet Engineering to finalize all the specifications and engine parameters for the production version of the Prius-class shuttles. The busy involvement with the project distracted him from the incompleteness within his mind.

He was given time off to attend the award ceremony for Dr. McCoy. If one saw only McCoy's public appearances, one would think that he was thoroughly enjoying the entire proceeding. He was always ingratiating to all those around him, and the perfect gentleman in the formal proceedings. In the more relaxed moments, he joined with others in sharing tales of past exploits, particularly with the Enterprise crew. They were all there, including Spock. The doctor, in spite of his occasional jibes, appeared to enjoy being in his company immensely.

During one of the receptions, Spock approached S'kai. "Tuvok has told me of your incident and the loss of Alle'en. Your mental abilities must have been strained by the death during mind meld"

"They are still being strained," said S'kai. "I would like to discuss this with you in detail if you can arrange the time."

"Certainly," said Spock. "Please come to my quarters tomorrow morning."

*  *  *

S'kai took the maglev to Spock's quarters.

"Enter," came Spock's voice as the door slid open.

"Greetings, Spock. I have been look forward to seeing you. We have much more to discuss than I had anticipated."

"Indeed. Theris-masu?" S'kai nodded.

Spock turned to the counter to add the last herbs to the Vulcan brew. He poured two cups and offered one to S'kai. They drank in silence. "It is indeed fortunate for me that we are both here," said S'kai. "As I mentioned at the reception, there is much that I am trying to comprehend."

"As am I. Absorbing an off-worlder's katra has never been done."

"I am doubly fortunate, for there is no one, even the teachers of the my kae'ka'akkayam, that might better be able to assist me."

"And even I might not," said Spock. "My own participation, though direct, was the other way around with Doctor McCoy. It could have killed us both. Please tell me what you are dealing with."

S'kai took another sip of the theris-masu, then a deep breath in, out, and paused. "Accessing Alleen's mind was not difficult. The practice we had with humans and others was quite beneficial. But as he was dying I kept increasing the strength of the link, and could not control what was coming into my mind. Logic says that I should have his katra, but I do not sense a full consciousness. I have all of his intellectual knowledge, which is what enabled me to activate and pilot the shuttlecraft. I do not deserve credit for that accomplishment. I have his memories, although they seem flat."

"No emotion?" asked Spock.

"None," replied S'kai. "That would feel alien, but there would be something concrete, however uncomfortable, to deal with. This possession is even more alien and unidentifiable. There is some part of him that I sense is there, yet beyond reach of any mental technique that I know."

"May I try a mind meld to see if I can assist you?" asked Spock.

"Certainly," said S'kai as he put his face toward Spock's upraised fingers.

*  *  *

Once the mind meld was complete, they both sat down. Spock remained silent for a bit, then spoke. "I am not sure how much I can help you. Your assessment is correct. You may not be able to access much more of Alle'en's katra. And it cannot be removed. Even T'lar herself could not help you. The fal-tor-pan will not work with a non-Vulcan katra. But the reasons are complex. The most important of which is that you have not integrated the experience of the crisis aboard the shuttle yourself: the loss of life, your inability to use your medical skills to save those that were lost, and your sense of responsibility, even though you know there was nothing better that you could have done."

"More meditation?"

"Perhaps. Perhaps just more time. As your life moves on, ways may be found to integrate this katra with your own."

"As the humans would say, 'Live with it,'" said S'kai.

"More than that," replied Spock. "Embrace it."

*  *  *

S'kai returned to the shuttlecraft project. Again his mind was quieter when intensely involved with engineering problems, but the unsettling and inaccessible presence remained. It seemed to get stirred up more as he faced another issue-his career. He had expected an assignment as a starship medical officer and Kirk, Sulu, and Chapel had all said they would request his assignment if that was what he wanted. Starfleet Engineering had other ideas. They wanted S'kai, with Alle'en's knowledge and skill available to them. Others had suggested he could start another career in medical engineering, a course that would make use of both his capabilities. Meditation offered no solace, and seemed to actually intensify his awareness of another presence in his mind, as his own thoughts quieted.

In only a few days Marta Catellan called him into her office to announce that the first production Prius-class shuttlecraft was complete and ready for duty. Several had been in production for sometime, and awaited only the results of the prototype testing that the engineering team on the Excelsior had brought back with them. "Would you like to see it?" she asked.

"Definitely," said S'kai.

Catellan accompanied him to the shuttle port that serviced Starfleet headquarters. They went to a reserved area in the back where there were four shuttlecraft. Only one had been painted. Along with the red stripe and the United Federation of Planets designation on the side it had the letters NCC-1701-A/8 painted on it: she was designated for the Enterprise. And in the red script letters used on shuttlecraft: Walker Allen. S'kai stopped and found he had to consciously re-focus his mind on the here-and-now.

Noticing S'kai's sudden rigidness, Catellan said, "I think it was the name he would have preferred for Starfleet to use for him."

"It is a great honor, and one that he deserved. Yes, he would have wanted his name spelled this way," said S'kai.

"We'll be naming the next one after Corporal Griffis," added Catellan. As they entered the shuttle, it lights came on. The control panels were now Starfleet standard with a panel for the Shuttle Synergy Drive. All space that test equipment had occupied on the Zhang Heng had been replaced with seating, now totaling eight, cargo space, and other shuttle supplies and equipment. Additional facilities had been added, including a head, to facilitate long-range missions.

"Please," said Catellan, gesturing toward the pilot's chair. S'kai sat down. He had this strange feeling of accomplishment, accompanied by an equally strong feeling of not deserving it. It was clearly the parts of himself and Alle'en both occupying his mind. He touched the controls, and occupied himself with examining the on-board diagnostics and pre-flight routines, and the feelings vanished.

"You have been requested to take her out in her first duty flight tomorrow," said Catellan. S'kai paused his exploration of the controls and raised an eyebrow. "They want you to take Captain Khaarek and his escort up to the Enterprise. The Enterprise will rendezvous' with another vessel to take him back to Qo'noS for trial."

"Why not just transport him up?" asked S'kai.

"Starfleet wants a public show. And Captain Sulu felt it would add a touch of irony and humiliation to take him aboard the craft he was trying to hijack."

"Revenge is a dish best served aboard a shuttlecraft," said S'kai. Catellan broke out into a raucous laugh. S'kai remained unperturbed. "That was great," said Catellan. "Funnier than you probably intended."

"Fascinating," said S'kai. "I intended it as a colorful metaphor. The human idea of humor is difficult to comprehend. I can see how elements of such a comment would appear to engender amusement, but the reaction . . ."

Catellan cut him off. "It was an excellent commentary. Let's leave it at that."

*  *  *

The next day S'kai reported to the shuttle launch area where the Walker Allen had been moved. He met Rocco Rizzo, one of the shuttle engineering technicians who would be staying on board the Enterprise to train pilots on the new shuttle. As they got inside S'kai noticed that two cargo containers had been removed and replaced with seats, bringing the capacity to 10. The shuttle was rated for eight crew and passengers, but room could be arranged for more for short trips such as this. As they ran though the diagnostics, S'kai was aware of a number of people gathering outside the shuttle. When he finally stepped outside there was quite a crowd. Starfleet brass, diplomats, engineering staff, Klingons, security, press were all assembling. Near the front of the Walker Allen were two Megazoids, Admiral Nogura, and the head of Starfleet Engineering.

Admiral Nogura introduced the Megazoid ambassador, who introduced Alle'en's sister. Admiral Nogura made a short speech about the importance of the the Prius-class shuttlecraft project and requested a moment of silence for those lost in the recent incident. A bottle of champagne was produced, and with tears in her eyes Ms. Alle'en smashed it on the corner of the Walker Allen. There was a smile on her face as she turned back to the crowd. They cleared the area, and security offices cleared a path. From a side entrance Khaarek appeared accompanied by two Klingons, Commander Pavel Chekhov, a Starfleet legal officer and three security officers from the Enterprise.

The Klingon ambassador introduced Colonel Worf, who would be accompanying Khaarek back to Qo'noS and was acting as his advocate, and a Klingon security officer who, though unarmed, kept a tight grip on Khaarek's arm and appeared to have no love for him. Worf, Khaarek, and the security officer followed two of the Enterprise security men into the shuttle, followed by crew and the legal officer. Catellan stood by the door and wished S'kai and Rizzo well as they boarded and closed the door.

*  *  *

"Walker Allen to ground control. Request permission to launch."

"Flight parameters entered. Permission to launch granted."

"Is everyone prepared?" asked S'kai. A chorus of "ayes" and grunts answered him. The shuttle lifted off as handshakes and congratulations were extended on the ground. The front view screen showed the Pacific Ocean, the horizon, then clouds and the clear blue sky. Chekov said, "I hope I get to drive this shuttle someday."

Rizzo responded, "I'll see that you get on the list, Commander."

"Obwiously, I will need to owersee the accuracy of the nawigation systems," said Chekov.

"Obviously, no one else will do," smiled Rizzo. As the sky darkened and the stars came out, S'kai allowed the autopilot to take over. He turned around and looked at the passengers on board, and turned back to look out at the stars. He was suffused with a sudden flood of well being, and a sense of oneness within himself. He asked himself where it was coming from, and checked off possible reasons in his head. Victory or vengeance over the Klingon was not within him. The success of the shuttlecraft project was not his. Or was it? He made a conscious attempt to reach what he could of Alle'en's mind. Instead of void, he found an urge to begin talking with all the people around him. He then realized where the euphoric sensation was coming from: the shuttle was full of people.

*  *  *

Captain's Log: Stardate 9291.6 Hikaru Sulu, Commanding Officer, USS Excelsior. We have just received word that Khaarek and his retinue have been transferred from the Enterprise to a Klingon vessel without event. With that, our departure orders are activated, and we will be leaving Earth within a few hours for another mission of patrol and exploration. Dr. S'kai has elected to remain with Starfleet Engineering, at least for the foreseeable future. Although he had many opportunities available to him, including a position aboard this vessel, he has elected to continue work on the Starfleet Exploration Vessel program, where he will have daily contact with a large team working in close proximity. The presence of Spock who will be at Starfleet for a while was probably also a factor.

The Zhang Heng will remain at Starfleet Engineering and will be used as a test vehicle for future shuttlecraft upgrades. The Excelsior has been assigned its own Prius-class Shuttlecraft, the Patricia Griffis. I need no reminder of my debt to her, but it honors us all to have to have an active memorial to her onboard. I'll get a chance to fly her, this time far from the borders of Klingon space. Although Chancellor Gorkon has said that Khaarek will be prosecuted, and there will be not further incidents, I suspect this is not the last less-than-peaceful encounter we will have. Sulu out.

END

Acknowledgments: The character First Officer Meredith Cutler was created by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, and appears in their novel STAR TREK:Excelsior-Forged in Fire. The epigraph was also used in that novel. Jr. Science Officer Connor Flynn was created by Dave Stern and appears in the audiobook STAR TREK: Transformations. "Hobbit," Patty Griffis, Rocco Rizzo and the Prius-class shuttlecraft Zhang Heng were all abducted from real life. My beta readers Donald Buchan (www.malak.ca/startrek) and Maylee (may662688@aol.com) helped get the voices of the characters right and corrected numerous errors. Thanks also to Stephen Larsen for introducing me to James Bonnet's Stealing Fire from the Gods, which helped lead the way. Finally, an eternal debt is owed to all those who have boldly gone before in creating the Star Trek universe, canon and non-canon.