Roberta Vasquez was determined that if one group of officers was going to bypass proper channels, then she was going to adhere to them all the more. The structure of it all was supposed to cool down the head of steam she had built up since talking to Kirk. But just before she could request a meeting with First Officer Saavik to voice her grievances, the executive officer had requested a meeting with Vasquez. Nowhere in the text of the request was there any mention of the command protocol Vasquez had felt Peter Kirkand by extension, Saavik herselfhad violated.
Now they were standing in the port shuttlebay, just as the chief engineer cleared away a group of technicians from an impressive looking piece of spacecraft. The two approached the heavily-armed shuttlecraft.
"Good morning, Commander Saavik," Vasquez casually said despite the roiling emotions beneath her facade of pleasantry.
"Lieutenant Vasquez, good norning. Per the captains instructions, we are to review this new shuttlecraft, upgraded with relatively strong attack capabilities. As was pointed out to me recently, the lawless nature of the Beta Quadrant makes it all the more important that even our most routine actions be taken in a new light."
Vasquez was given a padd with information on modified weapons systems, many of them unsurprisingly based on the Enterprises long history of landing party improvisation. The Pericles-class fighter was simply a reworking of the heavy-duty Hercules-class shuttle, with three phaser emitters and a photon mortar cannon capable of lanching photon grenades. "We didnt have these aboard during our first year?"
Saavik shook her head. "Starfleet deemed them impractical. It was thought that the Killer- Bees we had aboard would be sufficient."
"Except they dont function very well on a planets surface or in its atmosphere."
With the review of the fighter, Vasquezs concerns did not vanish, but felt less important than the task before them.
"Impressive. Wow, I see that this baby will have its uses if we have to evacuate a landing party while under fire."
Saavik allowed herself a smile, more visible than her usual subtlety demanded. "Yes. I was glad to see that we were allotted two of these vessels." She glanced at her padd. "Captain Chekov has christened them the Yerogova and the Litvyak."
"I suppose well have to look up who they were."
"Negative. Lieutenant Kirk has already done so. Theyre both World War Two fighter pilots, both women, both considered heroes of the Soviet Union. Litvyak was regarded as the top female pilot on Earth during that war."
Saaviks explanation gave Vasquez the opening she felt she needed.
"Lieutenant Kirk has come very far, very fast, in a very short time. I sometimes wonder which one of us will be the first to make Lieutenant Commander."
Saavik was not biting, at least not yet. She merely shrugged. "You have seniority, as well as an unblemished record. I know this, and Lieutenant Kirk has said as much, as well. He holds both you and your opinion of him in high regard." The Vulcan-Romulan woman paused. "Forgive me, Lieutenant. Mister Kirk is not our concern here. Will you forgive my deviation from topic?"
That was easy enough since Vasquez had been the one to raise it. But it also irked her, since it made the opening she saw close up. "Consider it done, Commander."
Saavik looked at Vasquez appraisingly. "You are a good friend, Robbie. Given the rarity of those in my life, I am doubly thankful."
Pete must be having a real effect on her. I'm surprised anyone could have brought about this kind of change in her.
But she snapped off that thought. None of Saaviks platitudes changed anything about ignoring command protocol, which Peter Kirk had done in apparent ignorance, possibly aided and abetted by Commander Saavik and Captain Chekov. Had Pete truly been ignorant? Hed seen how upset Vasquez was. Surely Saavik had been informed of the whys and wherefores of the angry confrontation between Kirk and Vasquez.
Vasquez stepped forward, placing a hand on the hull. "So has this shuttle got anything that would have helped Bucky and Chterr in System 110?"
Saavik appeared to nearly wince at that reminder, her concern for her injured friends shining through, despite their eventual total recovery. "Unlikely. They were some distance from the shuttle when they were attacked. However, if you will reference the joint efforts of Commander Spock and Mister Scott during a mission to Taurus Two, you will find mention of an improvised hull charge meant to push away barbaric gigantic humanoids. A hull charge device has been installed and can be used without sacrificing ships systems. The actual charge can be set according to the threat involved."
"Commander, is this going to be the kind of thing we dont want falling into the hands of the Romulans, among other people?"
"It contains no classified or breakthrough technology. It is the arrangement of existing technologies and their application that is unique."
Vasquez nodded. "It certainly looks good to me, Commander. Recommend that we give the captain a positive report."
"A recommendation that I second, Lieutenant." Saavik turned to face her. "Robbie, may I ask you a question?"
"Certainly, Saavik, anything."
The Vulcan-Romulans eyes flashed concern. "Do you know if Peter was perhaps informally reprimanded by the captain? He spent much of last night reviewing files on command protocol. From those covering the most basic of subjects to specific examples on structure and discipline. Before he turned in, I specifically heard him mutter something about his worst mistake since Dianas."
Vasquez found her suspicions moved both ways by this new information. Was it a matter of good show, Mister Kirk or a good show put on by Mister Kirk? "Well, wouldnt he tell you, or for that matter, wouldnt the captain tell you, if something was up?"
"As I said, I believe the rebuke was wholly informal. Peter did not wish to discuss the matter, but it is one that has me concerned."
Since her last opening had vanished so quickly, Vasquez moved on this one with all due speed. "The captain didnt rebuke him, Commander. I did. He violated command protocol and exceeded his authority."
Vasquez very briefly wondered if, along with intimacy, Saavik and Kirk practiced carrying the same stunned look on their faces. "On what grounds do you base that accusation?" the executive officer asked tersely.
Vasquez was now openly wondering who knew what about the unauthorized scenarios. Saaviks questioning seemed emotional, even for her. More, it seemed defensive.
"Commander, Ill go further. You yourself allowed and perhaps even directed Lieutenant Kirk to usurp and override my authority by creating and issuing simulation scenarios. Now, he has the limited excuse of getting settled into a command-level position. To my mind, you do not have any such excuse."
If Buckys earlier retreat to formality had been off-putting, Saaviks foray into familiarity was to prove a close competitor. "Robbie, I fail to see the problem in this. Were the scenarios not of an acceptable quality?"
"Saavik, I have to say, that strikes me as a non-issue. The one and only issue is that the creation of such scenarios are my responsibility as chief tactical officer, not his given the fact that he is chief science officer, unless I so delegate. I was bypassed. The scenarios could be bloody brilliant, or not worthy of a plebe cadet, for all I care."
The first officer was beginning to look annoyed. "How is it that you believe Lieutenant Kirk subverted your authority?"
Vasquez noted to herself that ships gossip had it right: Kirk and Saavik had it so bad for each other, that criticism of one would be perceived as an attack by the other. "Well, he didnt do it alone. Saavik, he had no place and no right doing all that without me being involved. Pete getting a bad idea is one thing. Its quite another for that idea to be promoted to policy by you and the captain."
Saavik appeared to be visibly calming herself. "Robbie, you are seeing slights and offenses where none exist. In all instances, I assign the most capable officer to the appropriate assignment."
"No, Commander. In this instance, you mis-assigned a qualified but inappropriate officer to duties not remotely his own, and you failed to properly coordinate this choice with your immediate subordinate, who must carry out the policies you and the captain direct. But if those policies are capricious or carry elements of favoritism, then I must and will protest. It makes no difference that these officers are my friends."
Now, the Romulan half of Saaviks ire truly was up. Vasquez had wanted to avoid this, but knowing it was inevitable, braced herself for the rebuff, and chose to stand firm. Saaviks next statement made that decidedly easier to do. "Mister Kirk and I have a depth and variety of experience that gives us an edge over all but the most senior officers on this ship. I am truly sorry that this edge is sometimes sharper than you are comfortable with, but I would be remiss in my duty if I allowed officers of our caliber to waste time pretending to be less than what we really are."
Vasquez had felt her eyes go this wide exactly once, during a wild, intimate encounter at the Academy, when her date had done something she specifically had asked him not to do. His outrageousness she easily forgave while tossing him out of her life. Saaviks was quite another matter.
"Im just going to go ahead with the presumption that you have no idea how incredibly arrogant that sounded, Commander. Im almost certain that Lieutenant Kirk does not share that view of your status as inherently superior beings. At least, I hope so. But just so Im not a hypocrite, let little ordinary me adhere to the chain of command by requesting through you a meeting with Captain Chekov to resolve this dispute. If you refuse, then I hereby inform you that I will make this request directly to him."
"You are stepping over the line, Lieutenant."
"In that, I have the best teachers, Commander."
Beef barley, usually among her favorite soups, did nothing for her mood after she left the contentious encounter. Saavik had not even attempted to block the meeting with Chekov. Vasquez nearly wished she had, as Chekov, usually a scrupulously fair man, was bound to be rankled hard by charges of favoritism, among other things. Yet this whole thing had in part proceeded from his miscues, and so it had to be through him it was done with. Later, a package was delivered to her quarters, containing certain hard-bound printed pages of the Starfleet manual concerning command protocols. A note was attached.
Im sorry. You were 100% right. Ill say more later. For the moment, I prefer this apology remain a private one.
Peter C. Kirk.
At first, she welcomed the apology, especially made in what must have become a contentious environment. But then Roberta Vasquez sat long and hard thinking about the man who wrote the note, a man she knew wellor thought she had. At the door to his quarters, he emerged as he had when all this started, looking grimmer but not quite angry.
"If I ask you not to speak to her, will you let this matter just proceed before the captain?"
"Im not here to speak to Commander Saavik, Lieutenant. Im here to ask you to help settle this matter."
"Of course. Any way I can." His manner and demeanor were helpful as always.
But Vasquez was no longer entirely certain of either him or those character traits. "Pete, I think you made a more serious mistake than youve admitted to. I can almost understand. You stepped over the line, got caught and maybe panicked. In short, I think that you knew full well what you were doing when you made those scenarios and why it was wrong. You wereto my mindunderstandably worried that you would place your career, and the career of those that trusted you, in jeopardy."
Kirk showed that same eerily precise duplication of his lovers stunned look. "I did make a mistake. But it was made in ignorance, not conspiracy. Robbie, youre accusing me of making a power grab!"
Kirks look turned to one of open, raw fury. It was not for nothing that this look had unnerved both Captains Chekov and Uhura, and had even given pause to his famous uncle. He snarled, "Lieutenant, I respectfully suggest that we henceforth restrict our dealings to the absolute necessity demanded by our duties. Good evening, Lieutenant Vasquez."
Back in her own cabin, Vasquez found anew, as she tried falling asleep without much luck, that being and feeling right didnt always come with either certainty or peace of mind.
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