The view from the seventh floor of Archer Hall was nice enough, and Captain Christopher Pike might have been satisfied with it, had he never seen the view from the bridge of a starship. Once you've skimmed the atmosphere of a supergiant planet, soared through the tails of comets, and seen star systems and nebulae fly by like pollen on a spring breeze, a seven-story view of San Francisco Bay just doesn't cut it anymore. He knew that, and so did the Admiral who was currently being announced by the too-pleasant administrative assistant on the intercom.
Knowing that there was no avoiding this, he turned his back to the view of the bay and tapped the comm screen. "Send him in."
Admiral Schaefer strolled into the office looking far too confident; it was clear that he wasn't. "Captain Pike, so good of you to rearrange your schedule on such short notice."
Pike stood, as expected, and reached across his desk to shake the Admiral's hand. "Admiral Schaefer, a pleasure to see you."
It would have been a pleasure any other time. Pike had known Schaefer since his first assignment. The man had been his section leader, mentor, and trusted colleague. Starfleet Command had clearly hoped that the friendship would be a factor in this discussion. Pike would much rather deal with someone he hardly knew; he hated having to say no to an old friend. He sat as soon as Schaefer had settled himself.
Schaefer looked around the office casually. "Your office looks like you've barely moved in, Captain. No pictures, no art. You've been here for three months."
"Four months, Admiral," Pike replied, as neutrally as he could. "I'm only adjunct faculty and a visiting instructor, so I don't have many meetings in here. And I saw no reason to over-decorate an office for a temporary assignment."
For a flash, Schaefer looked distinctly uncomfortable, but he settled his face back into a look of agreeable affability. "Ah yes, down to business. Your next assignment. I’m pleased that I’ve got the opportunity to discuss this with you, Captain," he began conversationally. "I'm sorry that Starfleet Command hasn't offered you something concrete yet, but we've been more than impressed with your work at the Academy this semester. Your tactics and command seminars have been extremely popular, and there have been multiple requests for you to offer more seminars next year. Maybe even a few full training courses."
"I know that," Pike said evenly, "and you know what I'm going to say."
Schaefer inclined his head. "That you have absolutely no intent to be here next year."
"And here I wondered how you made Admiral so young," Pike said, dangling the sarcasm like a dare.
"Your skill for flattery hasn't changed, Chris,” he said, letting a note of exasperation slip through. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his ankle over his knee. “Listen, you're good for the Academy, even if it's not your preferred assignment."
"You're damn right, it's not my 'preferred assignment.' I taught for a year as an adjunct when I was a Lieutenant, and I enjoyed it well enough, but I don't want to be planetside again. Not now. Not at this point in my career. You wouldn't want it either.
"Then what do you want, Chris?" He gestured with one hand, inviting Pike to speak freely.
"The Endeavour." Pike fixed him with a firm stare. "She'll be refit in two months, and I want her."
Schaefer sighed heavily. "We know, Captain. And you would be an excellent match for her… in any other situation."
Pike couldn't stop his eyebrow from twitching upwards just a hair. "Situation? The only situation I see is that I'm being kept planetside to fill an administrative role."
The Admiral looked almost apologetic. "This is hardly administrative. Listen, Christopher, you're the best we have, and we all know it. However, we're having enough problems here. We’re dealing with multiple security threats. Recruiting is down. Our best tacticians and potential instructors are either ready to retire or are already on assignments."
"Then pull someone else off another assignment. I've earned a ship."
"We know, Chris. But… listen, we've received more recent threats from Terra Prime, and the rumors are scaring off enough candidates that the incoming class is smaller than we've had in over two decades, just as we're getting ready to expand our fleet. Even Starfleet Medical is short-staffed. We need a strong, calm presence at the forefront."
"And you want me to be your poster boy," Pike said, dropping his tone darkly.
Schaefer shook his head emphatically. "No, Chris. We want your leadership. But right now, we need that leadership here, on the ground. The Academy needs you. Our next wave of cadets needs you."
"You need a puppet, Admiral.” He took a slow, controlled breath. It was an effort not to reach up and rub the bridge of his nose. Instead, he kept a steady eye contact with Schaefer, a man who had once been the bold young Lieutenant that Pike had been privileged to follow, but was now beginning to develop the standard double-chin and gut of the admiralty. “Starfleet always has, and always will be best-served by our leaders leading from the front. I know that you know this, sir. What happened to that boldness in Starfleet leadership? You want to bring in the best cadets? Then people need to see what they could be doing, the adventures they could be having if they enlist… because the best folks want to make a difference in the universe, not sit behind a desk grading term papers."
It was rare for the Admiral to look so flustered; it was clear he'd expected resistance, but perhaps not so much. "Pike, I understand. I really do. Some days, I wonder if Starfleet is castrating itself from the top down… but the situation is what it is. We need you, but we don't want to make it an order. We want this to be an assignment of your own choosing. Captain Perzynski is taking over Starbase Six, so the Academy needs a new Commandant of Cadets, and you know you would be brilliant."
"I would be. On the bridge of the Endeavour."
For a long moment, Pike and Schaefer looked at each other, neither one flinching, neither one backing down. Finally, without looking away, the Admiral spoke.
"Starfleet Command has an offer to make you, if you'll give it a chance. We think it might make it worth your while to stay at the Academy."
Pike raised his eyebrows, considering Schaefer. You'll have to tip your hand if you want me to take that bet. "What's the offer?"
"You'll need to see it for yourself."
Not good enough. "How long at the Academy?"
Pike stood from his chair. "Thank you for your time and consideration, Admiral. I'll submit my assignment request through normal channels tomorrow morning."
"Yes, Sir?" The inquiry wasn't pleasant.
The Admiral shifted in his seat, uncrossed his legs, and leaned heavily on the edge of Pike's desk. "The Enterprise."
Slowly, Pike sat back down. "What about her?"
"Construction began about a year ago. She's in the Riverside Shipyards in Iowa."
"All of Starfleet knows that. The first Federation ship to bear that old name."
"She'll be our flagship," the Admiral said, a note of reverence in his voice. "And if you stay at the Academy for three years, she'll be ready, and she’s yours."
Pike held his breath for a moment, hearing nothing but the tick of his old heirloom clock on his desk and the thrum of his own heartbeat in his ears. "The Enterprise?"
"Don't say yes or no yet, Chris. Go take a look at her first." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handheld PADD, and slid it across the desk. "One of the shuttlecrafts carrying new recruits from the East Coast had to land after an in-flight malfunction this morning. They touched down at the Riverside shipyard. It will take at least a couple of days to get the shuttlecraft back up and running, so we need to send someone out to retrieve the recruits if we're going to have them in-processed and ready for the new semester on Monday. I thought you might like to go for a flight, stretch your space-legs a little bit, and… think."
Pike reached down and picked up the PADD, skimming through the unsigned orders on the screen.
"There's a transport shuttlecraft ready to go in Hangar Two," Schaefer continued. "You can take it to Iowa tonight, rendezvous with Commander Toland who is in charge of this chalk of cadets, and depart at 0800 hours tomorrow morning. And while you're there… take a good long look at that ship, Captain. She's little more than a skeleton right now, but she's still the most beautiful sight my old eyes have ever seen."
Slowly, deliberately, Pike slid the PADD back across his desk to the Admiral, surveying him carefully. Finally, he took a deep breath that felt like a cry of surrender. "Looks like I've got to pack my bag and get to Hangar Two."
A look of stark relief washed over Schaefer's face. "I'll sign the orders immediately." He stood, and Pike followed suit.
"I'm not promising anything yet, Admiral."
"I'm not asking you to. Just look at her, and tell me what you think."
"That, I can do."
The sun was just beginning to set over the Riverside Shipyards as Pike banked the shuttle around towards the landing pad and got his first good look at the Enterprise. He'd hoped it would be hideous. He'd thought that the mere skeleton of a starship wouldn't be so impressive and imposing. He'd wished the shipyard night lights wouldn't come up just as the shuttle dropped below the sun for the final landing cycle, illuminating the elegant structure from below with a brilliant white-blue glow. Well, he wasn't getting what he wanted from Starfleet, Pike realized, so why should anything else go his way?
It was all he could do to pull his eyes away from the ship and focus on the altimeter and proximity sensors while he completed the landing cycle. The shuttle settled onto the pad with a metallic clunk that echoed through the empty passenger compartment. The following morning, the seats would be filled with cadets, but for now, it was as hollow as the feeling in the pit of Pike's stomach.
He acknowledged the salute of the shipyard night foreman as he disembarked from the main shuttle hatch. Lieutenant Commander Toland was standing just off the side of the landing pad, hands folded behind her back, waiting. When he made eye contact, she snapped a salute, which he returned as he tried to place her face. Hard eyes and a petite frame, she didn't seem intimidating until the second glance. He'd heard about her – she worked in one of the training simulation facilities and as an adjunct in Basic Tactics. And… "Commander Toland," he greeted her with a smile of recognition. "I just remembered how I know you. You took my Tactics class as a cadet… what was it – ten years ago?"
She pressed her mouth into a flat line. "Eleven and a half, sir."
He tilted his head to the side. "Ah, you're right. It's good to see you. You've done well for yourself, it seems."
She smiled, but it seemed forced. "As well as could be expected, sir."
He almost inquired, but kept the curiosity to himself for the moment. He couldn’t blame her for being irritable with the sudden change in transportation. "What’s the status on the shuttlecraft?”
She indicated a shuttlecraft on the other side of the landing platform with a nod of her head. Several panels had been removed from the side, and one of the propulsion units had some obvious scorch marks around it. “Circuitry burnout,” she said flatly. “They’re reviewing the maintenance logs now, but at this point, knowing who let the repairs slip won’t help us. The shuttle is out of service for at least a week.”
“No worries, Commander. We’re just glad you were able to land it without injuries. They’ve already assigned a tech to pilot the shuttlecraft back to campus when it’s repaired so you’ll be on campus for the start of the semester.”
“Thank you, Sir.” She hesitated. “When they said they were sending a backup shuttle, I was a bit surprised to hear that you were piloting."
"Just wanted a chance to do a bit of flying while I'm stuck planetside, Commander."
"I see. It's a privilege.”
“It’s my pleasure.” He grinned lightly. “You and the new recruits will be back at campus tomorrow morning. Where are they now?”
“This way. Follow me.” They began walking away from the shuttle pad.
“How many cadets on this chalk?” Pike asked conversationally, wondering if he remembered Toland well enough to know whether she was usually this terse.
“Almost a full shuttle.”
She nodded. “We’ve got a couple of bright ones in this group. There’s an engineering hopeful from Germany who some are saying will give that fourth-year Scottish cadet a run for his money, although my money’s still on the older cadet. He's working as a Teaching Assistant already, and I'll wager he'll be promoted to Lieutenant when he graduates, teaching his own seminar.”
“Maybe, if he stays out of trouble. I heard about him. Apparently, he put Admiral Rozman on the spot last month when he proposed a new theory of trans-warp propulsion and time travel – something about a slingshot – in the middle of class, and Rozman couldn’t knock down his theory.”
“Rozman is still pissed about that,” Toland said drily, but with a hint of amusement. “We’ve also picked up a linguist from Africa with three advanced degrees in language theory and a knack for soaking up new dialects like a sponge soaks up water.”
“Good. We need more linguists.” He tried for a smile. “Universal translators can only go so far. I’d trust a sentient being over the best computer in the galaxy every time. You can’t synthesize the human factor.”
Toland quirked her eyebrows humorlessly. “If you insist, Sir.” She tilted her head up, indicating for Pike to look ahead. “Here they are.”
The cadets were socializing quietly in front of the shipyard admin building, but one of them saw the two senior officers approaching and called the group to attention.
“At ease, cadets,” Pike called out. “Now gather around. Starfleet Academy has arranged lodging for the night in the Shipyard barracks, but has authorized you to leave Starfleet property for your evening meal.”
There was an immediate rustle of excitement amongst the cadets, and Pike found himself irritated. They’d barely left home, and already they wanted to be cut loose. Maybe he couldn’t blame them; new friends, a new place. And then, of course, they’d been sitting around a shipyard all day with nothing to do. Pike nodded in acquiescence to their excitement. “Your ID’s have thirty credits apiece for food and transportation. There are several restaurants in town, so I don’t expect any of you to go beyond Riverside. I want everyone back here by 2200 hours in the barracks, lights out. The shuttle leaves at 0800 hours tomorrow morning. Any questions?”
One skinny, pale hand went up.
Pike raised an eyebrow. “Yes, Cadet?”
“Why are we not proceeding directly to campus tonight, Sir?” he asked in a thick German accent. Ah, the engineer, Pike thought, barely able to suppress a chuckle as one of his new classmates elbowed him.
“Because I have business to tend to here, Cadet, and I’m the one with the shuttlecraft that works.” He let himself smile slightly at the few chuckles that broke out through the group. “No other questions? Good. Report back to Commander Toland no later than 2200 hours. Dismissed.”
The cadets scattered as quickly as he’d hoped, leaving him standing in the rapidly fading light with Commander Toland. He looked at her with a skeptically. “Aren’t you going to go out and find some dinner?”
She shrugged. “I’m going to stay at the barracks to check in the cadets as they return. And you? Business to attend, sir?”
He couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he glanced back over his shoulder, letting himself look at the Enterprise for the first time since he’d landed. His eyes and thoughts fixed on the bright shape of the massive ship that towered above the steaming generators, towers, and scaffolding. He looked back to Toland. “I’m here about a lady,” he said.
For the first time since he’d seen her beside the shuttlepad, Toland cracked a real smile. “I see, Sir.” She inclined her head as she took a polite step backwards. “Have a nice date.” Then she turned and walked away towards the Shipyard housing quarter.
Schooling the almost-giddy grin off his face, he let himself into the admin building. Chief Levant, the head engineer for the construction of the Enterprise, was waiting for him. A broad-shouldered woman with a round, tanned face and scruffy, short hair, she looked like she did as much of the labor as the leadership. She stood and extended her hand. “Captain, welcome to the Riverside Shipyards.”
He wasn’t surprised by the firm grip, and squeezed back in turn. “Thank you, Chief. I hear you’re building me a ship.”
She gave him an appraising look, not releasing his hand. “I hear you want to fly my ship when she’s ready.”
Pike chuckled lightly, but gave her a sincere look. “If you’ll let me.”
After a heartbeat, she gave his hand one more firm shake and released it with a hearty laugh. “I just might,” she said, stepping around her desk and leading the way back to the door. “Come along, Captain. Let’s take a look at her.”
Three hours later, Chief Levant had shown him every detail of the ship they could safely access. Although little more than a skeleton with unfinished skin and a few arteries, it was already obvious just how beautiful she was going to be. The structures of the decks were already in place. The Engineering section was massive. The science labs would house some of the most advanced research technologies in the Federation. The conduits and framework of the weapons and shielding systems were already in place, integrated as they had to be in the core structure of the ship. And then there was bridge.
That’s where Pike found himself at the end of the tour. Chief Levant seemed to understand his need to think quietly from that perch, high atop the pinnacle of the shipyard and the unfinished sculpture of the ship. So he was left alone with his thoughts and the view.
There was no command chair yet, of course, but he stood in the middle of the bridge where he knew the chair would be placed. In front of him, there was a wide opening where the viewscreen would eventually be installed, and it gave an uninterrupted vista of the stars spanning the horizon. For the first time since the debates had begun, he was actually pleased that the ship was being built on the ground, and almost grateful that her construction had been delayed.
The Enterprise should have been built in the San Francisco Orbital Shipyards years ago, but design plans had been changed after the destruction of the Kelvin. If the Romulans were packing ships with that sort of destructive force, Starfleet needed a flagship that had a chance in hell of standing up to that sort of threat. The original plans for the Enterprise had been scrapped and redrawn, promising a ship that was larger and more powerful than anything Starfleet had built before. In the interim, Terra Prime had become active again for the first time in decades, building on the fear and resentment caused by the destruction of the Kelvin. Seven years ago, they’d even knocked a satellite station out of orbit. Starfleet had heightened security around all Federation facilities, but after Terra Prime issued a standing threat against the San Francisco Orbital Shipyards… well, Pike understood why they would be reluctant to build their new flagship in orbit.
He was gripped by a fleeting notion: Sometimes, I think the Kelvin changed everything. He knew it rationally, but sometimes it felt as though the universe was fundamentally different from what it might have been in a way that people would never understand. On the heels of that thought, other questions struck him: Where he would be now? Where would the Enterprise be? What fates had been changed for everyone else who had been touched by this disaster?
Fruitless thoughts, he was sure.
Whatever else might have been, the fact remained that the skeleton of the new flagship was in Iowa. And so was Pike. He was the first Captain to walk the bridge, unfinished though it was. He couldn’t begrudge the fates if they’d seen fit to grant him that privilege, and the view that came with it.
The sky was so dark and the bridge so high that he could let himself imagine, just for a moment, that the ship was already in orbit, ready to leave on her maiden voyage. The massive engines were thrumming ever so softly beneath the deck plates, and the computer was beeping and chiming brightly as each system activated, ready to move the ship off to their next grand adventure beyond the stars.
In the back of his mind, he tried to curse Schaefer for sending him to Iowa, but he couldn't. The man had been right. Even if that meant he was stuck planetside for three years, Pike accepted that his fate was sealed; he needed this ship. The Endeavour was nice – an earlier Constitution Class model – but now that he'd seen this, it seemed like a poor consolation prize. If the price he had to pay was patience, then he'd ante up. He’d been lost the moment he’d seen the Enterprise from the shuttlecraft. Now, he was drowning in it, and he couldn’t think of a better way to go.
He was pulled from his thoughts by his communicator beeping. "Pike here."
"Captain, this is Lieutenant Commander Toland."
Pike blinked and glanced down at his chrono. To his surprise, it was already after 2300 hours. "Commander, my apologies. I should have returned to the barracks to check in on the cadets as well."
"No need to apologize, Sir. You’re not the one with a curfew. However, we might have a bit of a situation with the ones who do."
Pike frowned. "A situation, Commander?"
"Yes, sir." She sounded more irritated than frantic, so it didn't seem like a catastrophe. "I'm at the barracks now. Could you meet me back here?"
"I'm on my way."
Pike flipped the communicator shut and tucked it back in his pocket. So much for a simple evening, he thought as he hurried to the personnel lift that ran through the shaft where a real turbolift would be installed. The lift doors slid shut, blocking out the view of the bridge.
A moment later, Pike hurried out of the lift at the ground level, but as he reached the edge of the construction zone, he stopped, turned, and gave one last look up at the Enterprise. Now, she was a glowing white silhouette against the star-speckled night sky, and Pike's breath caught for just a moment at the illusion of that ship, in space, completed… and his. Swearing an oath to both himself and to the ship, he finally let out the breath, turned on his heel, and strode towards the barracks without a backward glance.
“How many of them are missing?” Pike kept his voice level as they walked out of the barracks together, leaving the remaining cadets under computer surveillance.
“Thirteen,” she growled softly, keeping a quick stride to pace his longer legs. "They're not responding to communicator hails. None of the local restaurants have seen them, and there aren't that many. It's a pretty small town, aside from the shipyard personnel."
"And none of them have checked in even once since we dismissed them?"
“Any reports of criminal activity from civilian authorities?”
“No reports, Captain, but I’m deferring to you on whether we should contact the local police to look for them.”
Pike thought silently for a moment, listening only to the heavy thuds of his own boots on the plascrete and the lighter, quicker clicks of Toland’s boots as they moved. “No, we’ll leave the local cops out of this unless we can’t find them by 0200 hours ourselves. This is an internal matter.”
They walked silently to the main gate of the shipyard compound, and Pike automatically returned the salute from the security guard, then stopped short. He turned back towards the guardhouse and addressed the security guard. "Crewman, if you were a cadet on an evening of shore leave, and you were stuck here in town, where would you go?"
The guard stepped forward, hands tucked respectfully behind his back. "Well, sir, there are only two places in town I can think of. There's Murphy's Bar and Grill in the middle of town – small pool hall and bar. Then there's the Shipyard Bar on the edge of town. Could be either of those, but I’d lay odds on the Shipyard Bar."
Pike nodded, considering the options. "Is there a spare vehicle available?"
"Three civilian-style cars in the motorpool, sir."
Hesitating for only a moment, Pike quickly decided. "Commander, we’ll go together. Crewman, have someone release one of the extra cars in the motorpool."
"Yes, Sir." He gave a sharp nod and ducked back inside the gatehouse. After a moment as he tapped codes into the computer screen, he looked up and nodded. "I've unlocked the gate for the motorpool, Captain. Vehicle seven has been released to you. ID badge access."
"Good man," Pike said, already walking quickly towards the motorpool gate with Toland close at his heels.
Moments later, Pike was on the road as the car's navigation system directed him smoothly towards the Shipyard Bar. Toland was silent beside him. Maybe, if he was lucky, he'd be able to leave the cadets under Toland’s supervision so he could get a decent drink for himself while he was there. After a bizarre day like this, he could sure use one.
This morning, he'd awoken in San Francisco, fully expecting to come out of his lunch meeting with the Admiral with the promise of orders for the Endeavor. Now, he was in Iowa, he'd just accepted the fact that he was going to live planetside for the next three years, and he was running around this backwater town, trying to track down a group of wayward cadets.
Sometimes, he thought irritably, the universe has a really sick sense of humor.
The gratingly pleasant voice of the navigation system took him down a long, straight road, a right turn, a left, another right, and there was the Shipyard Bar. As he pulled into the parking lot, he saw one young man in a Starfleet cadet uniform standing outside the bar, putting on quite the public display of affection with a local woman.
He kept himself from growling – it would only hasten the headache that was creeping up on him anyway. “Commander, I’ll take this one.”
Pike parked the car, got out, and strode up to the cadet, who was clearly far too busy exploring the woman’s mouth with his tongue to notice the senior officer standing five feet from him until Pike cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, cadet, but unless you're looking for a world of trouble, you're looking in the wrong place."
The cadet jumped away from the woman so fast that she almost stumbled to the ground. She protested, but looked quickly from Pike's glare of cold judgment to the cadet's look of shock, and said, "I think I'll just be going home now."
"Probably a wise decision, miss," Pike said, not taking his eyes from the cadet. He didn't look at the woman as she scurried off, instead watching the young man shrink under his scrutiny. "All your friends here with you?"
"Yes… yes, Captain." He stammered.
"Good.” Pike looked back over his shoulder; Toland was standing a couple of meters away, already glaring coldly at the cadet. “Commander, I’ll go inside and clear them out. Once we’ve got them collected, call for a ground shuttle.”
Pike looked back at the quivering young man. “Cadet, you go stand by that vehicle with the Commander and start practicing your best apologies, unless you want to see your appointment to the Academy vanish like your date."
The cadet choked out a quick, "Yes, sir!" However, as he hurried off towards Pike's car, Pike caught the unmistakeable sound of a fight coming from inside the bar. He braced himself. This was not how he wanted to spend the night, and he could only hope that it wasn't the cadets causing the ruckus.
As he stepped into the bar, however, any such hope vanished. Over the heads of the mixed crowd of civilians and Starfleet personnel, he could see young men in red uniforms turning a local townie into a punching bag. He shoved his way through the throng and finally got through the door into the main room of the bar. For a moment, he was almost too stunned by the violence of the fight to react, but when one cadet slammed the civilian kid onto a table and began making short work of his face, the feeling of surprise was rapidly overtaken by anger. Yelling over this sort of noise wouldn't work, so he stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a whistle that pierced the cacophony.
The bar went deadly silent, except for the pained groan of the kid on the table.
Pike glared. "Outside. All of you. Now."
There was a mad scramble as everyone rushed to clear the bar – cadets and locals alike. The only person who didn't move was the young man on the table, head and limbs dangling awkwardly. He tilted his head backwards just enough to get a look at Pike. The blood was dripping down his nose, and his face was already turning into a mess of bruises, but when he spoke, he almost sounded amused. "You can whistle really loud, you know that?"
For a fraction of a second, Pike swore the kid looked familiar, but then he coughed – choking on his own blood – and the familiarity took second priority to practicality. Pike shook his head as he walked over, took the kid by the hand, and hauled him off the table.
"Thanks, man. I… uh… whoa." He stumbled a bit, and Pike helped ease him onto the floor.
"Here son, sit down for a minute. Do you need a medic?"
The young man shook his head dizzily. "Nah… no, just… hand me a napkin, would you?"
Pike handed the guy a few napkins from the bar, told him to stay there for a moment – it didn't look like the kid was going to be moving anytime soon, really – and went outside to make sure Toland had accounted for all of the cadets. When he got there, the Commander was already verbally ripping them to shreds.
"– and didn't bother to report back in," she snapped sharply, holding twelve of them at rapt attention. A thirteenth was sitting on the ground with his back against the vehicle, nursing a pretty severe facial laceration. "All of you may be facing disciplinary actions, and you haven't even arrived at the Academy yet. In case you've forgotten, an appointment to Starfleet Academy is an elite privilege, and that privilege can be revoked."
Pike stood beside Toland, and she stopped, deferring to him. "Who was involved in the brawl?" Nobody moved. "You attacked a civilian. Right now, I'd be just as happy to write up the whole gang of you with full responsibility. So own up, or the first lesson you get about integrity in Starfleet may be your last."
Three cadets stepped forward, and the one on the ground held up the hand that wasn't clenched across his bleeding face. Pike grimaced. "Commander, write up these cadets. I'm going to go get the whole story from the barkeep. Send everyone back to the barracks in the ground transport. Assign one of the Shipyard security personnel to watch the barracks, but I don't think these kids are going to be stupid enough to try anything else tonight." He nodded towards the one on the ground. "Then take this one to the local med clinic to get him patched up."
"Aye, Captain," she said firmly.
She was already barking out instructions as Pike turned and walked back into the bar. The civilian kid was gone. Frowning, Pike sidled up onto one of the barstools in the now-empty bar and signalled the barkeep. "Did that young man leave?"
The man stepped over, rubbing down the bar with a cloth as he went. "Nah, he just went to the bathroom. Think he needed to puke."
Pike looked up at the ceiling, feeling as if he were asking for divine intervention. Lovely. "I'll need to make a full report on this for Starfleet. Can you confirm who started the fight?"
"Sorry to say, but it was your boys who threw the first punch, although Kirk has a bit of a reputation for getting into shit around here. Doesn't usually start fights, but he's finished a few."
"Kirk?" Pike quirked an eyebrow. Common enough name, but… the kid had looked familiar. "Do you know his full name?"
The barkeep actually chuckled. "Yep. 'Round here, we all do. That's Jim Kirk. James T., as he likes to tell everyone. And yeah, he is who you think he is. Probably the reason he's got so many issues." The guy shrugged. "But at least he tips well."
Pike nodded, feeling like the universe was getting an even bigger laugh at his expense than he could have possibly predicted for the evening. Pulling out his pocket datapad, he tapped in Kirk's name and pulled up his file. A couple of minutes later, Pike had seen enough. He waved the barkeep over and held out his ID card. “For the damages,” he said. “And for any drinks we order once I’ve dragged that kid back out of the bathroom.”
The barkeep nodded, tapped the card against the credit reader, and handed it back to Pike. “Good luck.”
With an off-hand nod, Pike slid off the barstool and followed the signs on the wall that pointed the way to the restrooms.
Pike saw one of Kirk’s sneakers sticking out from one of the stalls a moment before he heard the toilet flush, followed by a couple of weak coughs. Squaring his shoulders, Pike walked down the line of stalls and stopped in front of the one where Kirk was sitting on the floor. No, “sitting” was probably the wrong word. He was sprawled, leaning against the stall divider, one leg sticking out into the aisle and one bent up, bracing him. The blood from his nose had already soaked through the rolled up bits of napkin he’d stuffed there, and was dripping onto his shirt.
"You probably ought to have someone look at that nose,” Pike said evenly.
Kirk coughed out a laugh. "No thanks. I already set it myself.” He grabbed the end of the toilet paper roll in front of him, pulled off a long piece, and began rolling it. “I'll be fine."
Pike couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. "Really now.”
“I take care of myself.” Kirk pulled one of the blood-soaked bits of napkin from his nose and dropped it in the toilet, replacing it quickly with the fresh piece of toilet paper, but not before another thick stream of blood trickled down. Kirk absently licked his lip as be began rolling another piece of clean toilet paper. “I said I’m fine.” His tone clearly finished the sentiment, so go away.
Pike could only shake his head. “If you're fine, then I need to get a statement from you so I can issue my report.”
He glared, looking defensive. "Why? Your cadets started it."
It was all Pike could do not to roll his eyes. "I'm not reporting you, I'm reporting them. I'm Captain Pike…" He hesitated, then pressed forwards. "Commandant of Cadets at Starfleet Academy. My cadets attacked a civilian, and I need information."
For a moment, Kirk considered him, but just shook his head. “No.”
“You heard me. Not interested.” He pulled out the other saturated piece of napkin from his nose, sniffling slightly.
“Let me buy you a beer for your trouble.”
Kirk wedged the second bit of clean paper into his nostril and gave Pike a sceptical, if not outright cynical look. “Buy me a beer?” He awkwardly hauled himself to his feet, using the toilet for leverage, then folded his arms over his chest defensively. “Why? You think I might raise a stink over your cadets so you need to placate me with booze?"
Pike shook his head, almost helplessly. "No, son, you just look like a man who’s had a rough evening and could use a drink. It’ll only take a few minutes for me to get the information I need, and you could probably use a few more minutes to recover before you go anywhere.”
"I don’t need a few minutes, and I don't need to report them. Do whatever it is you do with your official reports on your cadets, but leave me out of it. And don't call me 'son.'" He snorted incredulously, then winced before glaring back darkly. "I'm nobody's son."
With that, he pushed past Pike and started walking out of the bathroom.
Pike spun around. Damn. "You are."
Kirk had stopped cold, but didn't look back, "I am… what?"
"Someone's son, James Kirk."
The muscles under Kirk's t-shirt bunched up, but he didn't say anything.
"Listen, I can either call the local police to get the report I need, which will become a hassle of extra paperwork and civilian law enforcement, or I can buy you a beer, let you sit down for a few minutes, and give you a chance to incriminate the guys who started it."
Slowly, Kirk reached up and leaned one hand against the doorframe, but his back remained so rigidly upright that it looked ready to snap. He turned around, regarding Pike narrowly out of his less-swollen eye. Finally, he said flatly, "Call me Jim."
Without another word, but with the implied invitation for Pike to follow, Kirk walked back out into the main room of the bar. He grabbed one of the chairs that had been pushed to the side of the room and dragged it to a table. He waved for a beer from the barkeep as he sat down heavily, and looked up at Pike. “What do you need to know?”
Pike looked at him for a long moment, grabbed a chair, and sat down.