The gavel hits the block and the rustling of clothes and settling bodies stops. Silence blankets the room as the elderly President of the Court begins to speak. "This court is now in session. I have appointed as members of this court Space Command Representative Hwang, Starship Captains Langfeldt, Forrey, and Pineda, and Commodore Hasche. Captain Sulu, I direct your attention to the fact that you have a right to ask for substitute officers if you feel that any of these named harbour any prejudiced attitudes to your case."
"I have no objections, sir." Sulu's face is blank, and his voice gives no indication of the fear that is strangling Pavel from the inside out. Chekov closes his eyes for a long moment and wrings his hands over his lap, sitting between the Captain and a Starfleet attorney by the name of Schweiger, a North German with sharp blue eyes and sharper features. He's in his early forties, but his thin face and controlled manner add five years.
"Do you consent to T'Shil as prosecuting officer and to myself as president of the court?"
"I do, sir."
"Charge, fraternization with a subordinating officer. Specification in that from the years 2294 to 2297, Captain Sulu, Hikaru maintained a fraternizing relationship with a subordinate, violating Code 37.92.4 listed in the Starfleet Officers' Handbook, leading to conscious or unconscious preferential treatment and an environment on the bridge damaging to crew morale. To all recorded charges and specifications, what is the plea?"
"I call Mister Chekov." Pavel takes a breath and tenses the muscle of his jaw as he pushes his chair back and walks to the stand, hands his data chip to the President of the Court, and sits, spreading his hand flat on the cold metal lie detector.
"Pavel Chekov, serial number 656-5827B. Service rank, Commander. Position, First officer, security officer. Current assignment, USS Excelsior."
The Vulcan attorney turns an emotionless face toward him and crosses the room in smooth, confident strides, her footsteps echoing in the small marble-floored chamber. Pavel finds himself suddenly aware of the rhythm of his own breathing, of the sound of the static coming from the clerk, the slightest shifting in the seats of the six watching his every move. Judging him.
"Commander Chekov, would you describe the nature of your relationship with Captain Sulu?"
He's rehearsed the words hundreds of times, but they become lodged in his throat and all he can manage is, "It is intimate."
"An intimate friendship?"
"No." He's watching the entire world slowly unravel, helpless to do anything but watch. He can't even turn away. There's no escape anywhere in sight, although he feels the urge to throw open the door to the deliberation room and lock himself inside.
"Would you identify your relations with the Captain as platonic?"
"Can you provide the jury with the year that you feel your interactions with the Captain left the platonic sphere?"
"You have been romantically and sexually involved with Captain Sulu for ten years."
Pavel has to force the word out. It's as if he's left his own body, floating somewhere infinite and cold and blank. "Yes." His chest aches. Sexually involved. They think I slept my way to the top.Thirty-seven years of service and this is what they will remember. He can't look at the jurors' faces.
"And was Starfleet aware of your relationship with the Captain at the time that you were chosen as his executive officer?"
"No." Chekov takes a slow breath.
"And were you aware that you were both violating the regulations that you had taken an oath to uphold?"
"Do you believe that your mutual attachment was influential in his decision?"
"And there was no motivation for the Captain to wish you to be assigned to the same vessel."
"Yes. Zere vas."
"What would your response be if you witnessed the same behavior between a captain and first officer on another vessel?"
Oh, God. He's blindsided. There's no right way to answer it. She's asking me to decide my own punishment--it's different when you experience it. I have to answer. Say something. Pavel Andreievich, say something! Now! He clears his throat. "I vould disapprove. But I vould also understand zat--"
"You would disapprove."
"Vhile understanding zat zese sings are not planned," he finishes tersely.
"Do you believe that excuses your violations of military law?" You idiot. You walked into it.
"No." He stares her in the eye this time.
"Are you and the Captain an exception to this rule, Commander Chekov?" she asks coolly, but if there was a Vulcan form of taunting, this would be it.
He doesn't even know if he's lying or telling the truth. "No."
"But you have both pled not guilty."
"Why do you feel that the charges should be dropped?"
"I vas newer treated vis preferential treatment. I vas commissioned es first officer by my own merit and experience."
"Were you ever penalized during your time on the ship?"
"No. I hed no wiolations of conduct."
"What would have happened if you did?"
"He vould hev punished me accordingly."
"And that would have remained completely separate from the dynamic of your relationship."
"There would be no motive to lighten the punishment to prevent conflict once the shift had ended."
"No." The lie detector screeches and he feels like he's about to vomit. I didn't lie! I didn't lie! Oh my God. This is a nightmare. I've ruined my career and his, too. There's a sharp silence. They all stare at him, but he can't bear to look at anything but the plain white wall. His heart pounds and he has to curl his hands into tight fists to keep the unstemmed flow of adrenaline in his bloodstream from making his hands shake. The jurors' hands move on their PADDs.
I've condemned him.
"I--" He falters. "Zere vould be a motive. But he vould not ect on it."
"Do you know this with certainty?"
He looks up at them, keeping his voice steady. "Yes. I do. I hev known him for tventy-six years."
"But you cannot predict his future actions with one hundred percent certainty.”
“No one can.”
"Would you say that your committments to Starfleet take priority over your relationship?"
“But you violated your oath to Starfleet by engaging in it and purposefully decieved your superiors during the time of your commission to the USS Excelsior.”
“I did not purposefully decieve zem.”
“Would you have answered honestly if you were directly asked?”
“But you did not make it known despite being fully aware of the unethical nature of such a relationship.”
"Mr. Schweiger, your witness." The panel quickly jots notes as the wiry blond commander rises and approaches the stand, taking T'Shil's place. His long, hard-lined face is unphased and attentive. He holds his hands behind his straight back and stands with his feet shoulder-width apart, rigid and unwavering as he watches the jury. He has confidence in this man--but Schweiger cannot change the situation.
"Commander Chekov, would you list the influential missions that you have been on during your career with Starfleet?"
"Ze fiwe year expedition, ze encounter vis V'Ger, ze unidentified probe, and ze discovery of ze Khitomer Conspiracy."
"Do you feel that these made you a preferential candidate for the position of executive officer of the USS Excelsior?"
He turns his head and momentarily looks at him, asking very pointedly, "And if another candidate had them, would they outweigh the influence of your personal relationship with Captain Sulu?"
"Did you have prior experience as an executive officer before your assignment to the USS Excelsior?"
"Yes. Aboard ze Reliant."
"How many missions?"
"Two." It brings the memories of Terrell back, but the pain has dulled over the years, and it is bearable now. Somewhere deep beneath the cold fear there is a glimmer of warmth as Chekov remembers the four months that Sulu spent with him after the disaster- But that doesn't matter now. Not in a situation this grave.
Schweiger watches the jurors now. "So you were the only candidate with previous experience as an executive officer--twice--and you had served on four historical missions at the time that you were chosen."
“Thank you. You may step down.” Chekov gets up and walks back to the defendant's table with weak knees, his hands in loose fists at his sides. He doesn't dare look at Sulu in this room, where his every move is being watched. For a moment their knees touch beneath the wooden table, and it's comforting, a reminder that Hikaru is still there, but it's fleeting. There is a five-minute pause as the panel takes its notes; Pavel looks down at the edge of the table, his mouth in a terse line. We're the ones in the wrong.
We will be the example.