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Enterprise Vs. the Universe

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The court martial that jump-started Jim Kirk's career—that is, his first court martial—took place on stardate 23.450.9 in a somewhat dingy conference room in Ardana's orbiting spaceport. It had been acquired at the last minute specifically for the court martial, since the Space Legion had no permanent office on either the planet or the station. It probably wouldn't for a long while, Jim thought sourly, depending on how offended the Ardanians were by the monumental fuck-up he'd caused. Jim paced in the hall outside the conference room like a caged tiger: restless but not necessarily nervous. It was just that he couldn't stand inaction.

Finally he could hold it in no longer: "How long does it take them? I mean, I did plead guilty."

The outburst did not elicit much of a response from Jim's companion, who was leaning against the opposite wall with a personal pad crooked in one arm and a personal canteen in the other hand. He sipped; he swiped. Without looking up from the medical journal he was reading, he said: "They can't figure out how much they want to punish you."

Even that small acknowledgment was enough to halt Jim's pacing in favor of gesticulating at Bones. "Well, what's so hard about that? I made a mistake. Fine. I'm sure other Legionnaires have made mistakes before."

Bones remained unperturbed by Jim's excitement, at least visibly. However, they had been friends long enough for Jim to know that the presence of the canteen was a sign to the contrary. "Of course. The biggest example being the recruiting officer who let you join up. But I don't think even that tops strafing the ceremonial signing of a peace treaty."

Jim let the jab fly in one ear and out the other, as always. He would have been more worried if it was absent: Bones had been insulting him since they both met at a long-ago Star Fleet gala, trying to hide behind the same punch bowl from socialites and well-wishers. He was glad to have his friend here for moral support, no matter how sarcastic it was. He leaned against the wall next to Bones, forcing him to look up from his pad.

"I didn't know what was going on at the time. Our communications gear was on the fritz, so we never got the cease-fire order. Besides, we'd been ordered to maintain com silence." Jim wasn't in the habit of making excuses, but in the absence of anything else to do he couldn't help but re-analyze both the incident and his testimony to the court-martial. Bones seemed to realize this and obligingly took the position of devil's advocate.

"Wasn't the exact order to 'stand silent picket duty'? Even I know what that means, Jim. Note and report any ship movement off-planet. Period. No cock-eyed strafing runs."

"I wasn't ordered not to! Battle usually goes to the side that seizes initiative when the opportunity presents itself."

"Battle? There was no resistance."

Jim began getting caught up, despite himself, in their faux debate. "That's why I made my move. Our instruments showed that they had dropped their defense net, so I thought if I moved quick we could scare them with a little demonstration of firepower and bring the conflict to an early close."

"It was already over. That's why they dropped their defense net."

"But I didn't know that! I just saw the net go down and—"

"And talked the hot-shot pilot on duty into going in on a strafing run. All in the time it took the ship's captain to go to the john." Bones said this in a tone of amusement only achievable by someone who has also been Talked Into a Bad Idea—namely, joining the Space Legion—by one James T. Kirk.

Jim pushed off from the wall and began pacing again. "It was a simple case of bad communications. How mad can they be? We deliberately aimed at property and not people, so no one got hurt."

Bones actually snorted. Then he pulled up a new tab on his pad and proceeded to read from it with mock astonishment. "Let's see… Property damage in excess of ten million credits… that's more money than I've ever made in my life. And that's not all! You shot their flag to shreds while it was flying over the ceremony, and as icing on the cake, you shot up the ambassador's private space yacht. Our ambassador."

"He didn't have his ID beacon on!"

Bones retreated from high-drama back into dry sarcasm. "Possibly because there was a cease fire on, Jim."

Jim winced, thinking about Admiral-Ambassador Marcus's position wayyyy high up in Jim's chain of command. Marcus could rain all sorts of hell down on Jim if he so chose—and that without even considering the fact that Marcus was heading Jim's court-martial. "How can you be so calm?" Jim asked Bones.

"I'm older and have far more experience fucking up than you do." Bones sipped from his canteen. "But you're catching up fast, kid."

Inside the conference room, the atmosphere was no less suspenseful. Because the court martial involved a junior officer, Legion rules only required three officers to try the case. An air of discomfort seemed to hang over the deliberations, however, mostly due to the senior officer present, Admiral-Ambassador Marcus.

It was said that everyone in the Legion had three names: the one they were born with, the one they chose when they joined the Legion, and the one they deserved. Though the records showed the second, most were known by the third, the nickname they acquired through their personality and actions while enlisted, though few officers formally acknowledge what the lower ranks called them. Admiral Marcus was perhaps the only exception: he heartily approved of his own nickname, Hurricane, because he mistakenly assumed it was due to his strength of personality—when in fact common knowledge was that it stemmed from his capriciousness and a tendency to be full of hot air.

Consequently, from the moment the 'Hurricane' rolled into the conference room, the two other officers scrambled to predict which way the wind would blow. Ambassador Marcus had sufficient rank and influence to avoid being assigned the arguably dreary duty of disciplining a mere lieutenant. The only possible reason for volunteering to do so must be a personal interest in the lieutenant's fate—not all that surprisingly considering the damage to his yacht.

The problem was that, because Marcus seemed uncharacteristically calm, neither Major Ares nor Captain Belle had a clue as to what was expected. While their best guess was that the lieutenant was to made an example of, they chose by unspoken agreement to proceed cautiously, playing good guy/bad guy while waiting for some clue from the court president. After an hour of this, however, Marcus had yet to give any indication as to which way he was leaning, contenting himself to listening intently as the other two argued.

"Do you want to review the court proceedings again?" said Captain Belle.

"What for? They haven't changed! I don't know why we're still debating this. The man's guilty as sin. Hell, he even admits it. If we don't come down hard on him, it'll look like were condoning his actions." Major Ares, a stern woman with a high standards and a higher temper, easily played the 'bad guy'—but her passion was flagging slightly after an hour of calling for the lieutenant's head.

"Look, there were extenuating circumstances involved," said Captain Belle, who, soft-spoken and persuasive, tended towards leniency anyway. Unfortunately the facts of this case were trying even their patience. "We keep saying we want our junior officers to show initiative and leadership. If we slap them down every time they try something that doesn't work, then pretty soon no one will have the courage to do anything that isn't under orders and by the book."

"Incentive! Bloodthirsty opportunism is more like it—at least, that's what the media called it, if I remember correctly."

Belle arched an eyebrow. "Are we letting the media set our discipline these days?"

"Well no." Ares backed down slightly. "But we can't completely ignore our public image, either. The Legion is already considered to be the bottom of the heap. Its disasters like this that have everyone thinking we're a haven for criminals and losers."

"If they want perfection, there's always the Star Fleet. The Legion has never been a home for angels, including, I'll wager"—Belle's tone turned delicate—"all of us in this room. We're supposed to be judging this man's questionable action, not trying to salvage the Legion's reputation."

"All right. Let's look at this action," Ares challenged. "I still don't see any redeeming factors in what he did."

"He inspired one of those by-the-book pilots you're so envious of to make an unauthorized strafing run. I know commanders who haven't been able to get that kind of cross-service support even when the pilots were under orders to cooperate. Do you think it's wise to squelch that kind of leadership potential?"

"That depends on if you're differentiating between leadership and an ability to incite disobedience. What your young 'leader' really needs is a couple years in the stockade to calm down. Then maybe he'll think twice before he goes charging half-cocked."

"I don't think we want to do that," interrupted Admiral Marcus.

Both Captain Belle and Major Ares froze, waiting to see what course the Hurricane would take.

Marcus addressed Ares. "While you have made several valid points, and while—off-the record, if you will—it would be personally satisfying to see your sentence carried out, there are certain"—here Marcus's lips pursed in sour distaste—"factors to be considered here which you are not aware of."

Then he sat up straight, the picture of someone graciously putting aside their personal opinion. His tone became clipped, and slightly hesitant. "As you know, each Legionnaire starts with a clean slate when they join up. We aren't supposed to be biased by or even aware of their personal history prior to their enlistment. To maintain that illusion, I'll have to ask that not only what I tell you be kept in strictest confidence, but also the fact that I told you anything at all."

Ares and Belle shared a glance, and subconsciously leaned closer. Marcus, however, seemed reluctant to come out and say whatever it was he was going to say.

"It goes without saying that the lieutenant comes from money. If he didn't, he would be an officer."

The others waited for information that was news: it was known that the Legion raised money by selling commissions… or rather by charging hefty fees to anyone who wanted to test for one.

"The truth is…" Marcus paused, then changed tack. "Have either of you considered the significance of the lieutenant's choice of name?"

"Tiberius?" said Ares. "I assumed he fancied himself a leader, or maybe a Latin scholar."

Marcus drummed his fingers on the table. "Can you think of any more modern namesakes…?"

Not particularly thrilled to have the eye of the Hurricane focused on her, Ares glanced helplessly at Belle, who shrugged.

"The Kelvin incident!" barked Marcus.

The realization was immediate. A small 'oh' escaped Captain Belle, and Major Ares scrambled to bring up the lieutenant's enlistment date on her pad: nearly exactly two years ago.

Both officers knew that Marcus was referring to the USS Kelvin, a starship in the much more glamorous Star Fleet until it was destroyed while single-handedly protecting a helpless colony from the First Klingon Incursion. Its captain, George Kirk, became Star Fleet's favorite martyr. The story was famous—as was the much more recent story of how his son, James Tiberius Kirk (whom Star Fleet had been not-so-subtly grooming for service his entire life), had disappeared from public view directly after graduating from the prestigious Star Fleet Academy. Nearly exactly two years ago.

Marcus took in their shocked expressions and nodded. "Precisely."

Major Ares shook her head. The kid had had everything going for him, his entire career lined up, connections, money, fame… "But then why would he join…?"

The words froze in Ares's throat as she barely caught herself on the brink of the worst social gaff a Legionnaire can commit. While it was a definite breach of regulations for Marcus to reveal the lieutenant's personal background, the one question no one was ever allowed to ask of or about any Legionnaire was: Why did they join?

Mercifully, Marcus did not let the resulting silence lay too long. "As you can see, despite it being obvious that Lt. Tiberius is clearly far too used to having his own way—no doubt the cause of this incident in the first place—the Legion cannot afford to offend someone with such potential influence. We have too many subcontracts and other ties to Star Fleet. At the very least we must level some kind of punishment on him for the sake of both our relations with the Ardanians and our reputation with the media, but it cannot be too harsh. There lies the challenge: punish him enough to look good but not enough that Star Fleet will get involved."

The three settled into silence, chewing over the problem. It was juicy enough that Ares and Belle temporarily forgot their unease with the Hurricane in the room.

"It would be a lot easier if he resigned," Ares grumbled.

Marcus shook his head. "But he didn't, and you know Legion regulations as well as I do. We can level any kind of punishment we want on a Legionnaire, but we can't drum them out of the service. He can resign but we cant fire him."

"Maybe if the sentence was rough enough, he'd resign rather than accept it," Ares countered.

"And if it's too strict, Star Fleet steps in to protect their golden boy," said Marcus

"But if it's not strict enough Ardana will throw a fit! Not to mention having the media on our backs about special treatment," said Ares.

"Change his name," Captain Belle interrupted. "It's not unheard of for the Legion to disappear a problematic Legionnaire from a delicate media situation by transferring them and having them choose a new name."

"Now that's an idea," said Marcus. "We'll transfer him and let it be known that Lt. Tiberius resigned. The Legion will no longer be responsible for punishing him."

"So we're just going to let him get away with it?" asked Major Ares incredulously.

"No," Marcus said sharply, and both Ares and Belle abruptly remembered their relative ranks and the Admiral's reputation. Fortunately, Marcus continued in a much calmer tone. "I wasn't suggesting we let the lieutenant escape unscathed, I merely think that in this particular situation it might be wisest if we considered some alternative to confinement in the stockade for punishment. Perhaps we could find a new assignment for our misfit. A tour sufficiently unpleasant that it would leave no doubt in his or anyone else's mind as to the opinion this court has of his little wild west show."

They bounced several ideas back and forth, but it was difficult to name an tour sufficiently unpleasant but also safely out of the way; it would be begging for a disaster, for example, to transfer Lt. Tiberius to the decidedly unpleasant but strategically delicate Klingon front. The silences between ideas became longer.

"If he were a captain," Major Ares said absently, "we could ship him off to the Omega crew."

"What was that?" Marcus pounced on the major like a ill-tempered teacher on a sleeping student.

Ares's eyes widened as she realized she'd forgotten yet again the presence of top brass in the room. "I… nothing, sir. Just thinking out loud."

Marcus was not to be dissuaded. "Did I hear you say something about an Omega Company?"

"Sir?" Ares practically squeaked.

"Do you know anything about this, Captain?" asked Marcus, turning on Captain Belle.

"About what, sir?" they said innocently.

Marcus fixed both of them with a cold-steel glare. "Let me remind you that I've been in the Legion twice as long as either of you. I'm neither blind nor stupid, and I'll thank you not to treat me as if I were."

The two of them shifted uncomfortably in their seats as Marcus puffed himself up for a lecture.

"The Space Legion is smaller and less glamorous than the Star Fleet, more like security guards than an actual fighting or exploratory force. We don't enjoy the advantage Star Fleet has of fielding units off the best and brightest from each planet, hence our policy of accepting all applicants, no questions asked. Now I know this policy has always caused problems for field officers such as yourselves. Despite our loose regulations and discipline, there are always those who don't fit neatly into military—misfits and losers, depending on how polite you want to be when describing them. I'm also aware that in direct disregard for standing orders regarding the treatment of Legionnaires, from time to time there develops an Omega Company, a dumping ground for problem cases that field officers are too busy or lazy to deal with. They are usually broken up as soon as they are discovered by HQ, but they continue to pop up, and when they do, the word gets passed quietly through the Legion until someone"—Marcus gave Ares a significant look—"inadvertently leaks the info to HQ and then the game starts all over again."

Lecture finished, Marcus tented his fingertips and looked each of them in the eye. "I am aware of all of this, and now I'm asking you bluntly: Is there an Omega Company currently operating in the Legion?"

Put so explicitly, they had no choice but to answer. Captain Belle sighed, and said, hesitantly, "There is a company that seems to be drawing more than its share of… Legionnaires who are having difficulty adjusting to life within—"

"Losers and problem cases, lets call a spade a spade," Marcus interrupted, voice taking on an oddly eager tone. "Where is it?"

"The Enterprise, sir." Belle shrugged. "It's a particularly ideal place for misfits, considering…" They trailed off, certain they did not have to elaborate on one of the Legion's biggest secrets.

Marcus's intensity abruptly dropped and he leaned back in his seat. The edge of a grin curled at the side of his mouth. "I should have guessed. Yet another problem case Starfleet dumped on the Legion."

"Sir, if it helps," said Major Ares, "I don't think it'll last much longer anyway. The current captain was particularly incompatible with…"—Ares grasped a moment for the right euphemism—"…the ship, and he's just transfered out. His replacement will likely resolve the situation, if only for their own survival."

Marcus actually grinned. "On the contrary, Major, I was thinking that this would be extremely appropriate solution for our problem with Lt. Tiberius."

"You mean transfer him to the Omega crew?" Ares asked.

"Think about it. An unpleasant, no-win assignment may be just what's needed to convince our young lieutenant to resign. If not, he's conveniently out of the way and in no position to cause us further embarrassment. And who knows?" Marcus waved a hand. "Maybe he'll be the lucky one to claim the Enterprise bounty."

"But the only officer's post available there is, or will be, the CO slot," protested Captain Belle.

"So promote him."

"Promote him!" Captain Belle was keenly aware they were talking a promotion to their own rank. "We're going to reward him for messing up?"

Admiral Marcus leaned across the conference table, and said in a tone that suggested exactly who would be transferred to the Enterprise if Lt. Tiberius wasn't: "Would you consider it a reward to be placed in command of an Omega Company, even if there was promotion attached?"

"No," Belle said weakly. They wondered, with no small amount of sympathy, if James Tiberius Kirk knew he had a Hurricane headed his way.