STAR TREK BEYOND FOREVER (prologue part 6)

18 10 2016

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Kirk  walked up the flagstone pathway leading to Admiral Eleanor Parker’s immaculately reproduced American Colonial on the handsome residential strip of the Presidio.  The terrain surrounding the house was ersatz-rugged with a beautiful still-valley and man-made river running behind it.  It were as if it was a perfect world, this little corner of it, anyway — making this, ideally, for Jim, a perfect day.  The Enterprise computer core was being given the once over at Daystrom Orbital; Richard Daystrom himself was rumored to be coming aboard to modify her systems for a series of war games.  Admiral Parker’s invitation was for “a friendly drink” and, hell, maybe he’d even get the apology that he deserved for Carol’s treatment by Eleanor’s damn fool of a JAG.  That would leave him a Sunday afternoon to find Trout’s, the sports bar from his Academy days, and have a cheese steak and an Old Earth beer and watch one of the five home San Angeles NFL games, as they were still pointlessly called, the season kicking just two weeks ago.  Then he could grab that thing he saw at the antiques place off Market and Sixth he knew Carol would love and exploit command privilege and blast across country in a high altitude one-seater solo  to New York for dinner with her at the legendary Cochrane Arms hotel where they were staying overnight planning their two weeks or so of leave-time travels on Earth.

But it wasn’t a perfect world, not even this corner of it.  Frisco was one of the last few major Earth cities without a full weather control system.  Gray storm clouds were already turning nearly black as they gathered over the Bay.  And Jim knew that while Admiral Parkjer’s drink might appear a friendly one, he was going to have to tap dance around the Pasha Klimt’s headless body to earn it.  In fact, in that perfect world, even if he needed to make some redemption to his Commanders, which he was certain he didn’t, it would have been him who battled and chased off or, better yet, rounded up that damn Orion armored combat fleet.  Instead, once he and Doctor Marcus were back aboard, he was chastised by Admiral Donneghy for leaving the evening early and was assigned to fall back and see their onboard dignitaries and locals safely back to the planet or their vessels while Dunbar on the Akula and Bart Mancuso of the heavy cruiser USS Houston, Old Reliable to those officers whose asses he’d pulled out of the fire and, Jim learned, Carol’s godfather, failed at parlay but scared them off at incredible speeds when Mancuso fired no-nonsense across their bows.

Jim rang the old door bell, deep chimes, which was quickly answered by Eleanor Parker’s lover, Lana Kind, a  grade school humanities teacher and community activist — hot button dinners with the carefully hawkish Starfleet Commander and her quietly eloquent  liberal partner were the stuff of local upper echelon legend.  Jim knew Lana would say the same thing to him she always said upon greeting:

“Captain!  You look dashing.  I’m sure you don’t remember me.”

“You’re instantly forgettable, Lana,” Jim smiled.”Come on in.  You’re your usual punctual self but—”

“But it doesn’t mean she’s not the Admiral.”

As Jim entered the vestibule, he small talked, “The house, the yard, hell, the whole Presidio looks finer than I remember.”

“It’s taking some hard work but then good things usually do,” she replied lightly. “You know, Captain, you’re quite the hero in the seventh grade. “

“They’re probably smarter than I am these days.”

“No joking. And the Admiral tells me enrollment at the Academy has rocketed since your heroism during the Harrison affair and your speech rechristening  the ship.  Of course, half the students think they deserve the Chair the day they graduate.”

“And the other half?”

“They just want to be Jim Kirk.  Ah, here she is now,” Lana said, looking off. “Eleanor, your guest.”

Jim stood a alert, removing his formal uniform hat, tucking it under an arm. ”Admiral.”

“At ease, Captain,” Parker said a little wearily, offering a hand which Jim took with a strong shake.

She was a tall, slim woman, almost skinny even, with salt and pepper sandy hair and a lightly lined face that made her seem older than her years; in fact, she wasn’t that much older than Jim, a compatriot of Chris Pike and, like Chris, a protege of Carol’s late father, the disgraced Fleet Admiral Alexander Marcus.  She had essentially taken Marcus’ leadership role in Starfleet, though “on paper” she was Commander of Operations and Tactics, succeeding in the troubling way Kirk recognized in his own career to date:; almost preternatural leadership gifts yet benefiting all the same from historical tragedies, treachery, madness: for him, Nero, Kor, Khan… for both of them, Admiral Alexander Marcus.

“I was hoping we could relax on the backyard patio but I don’t like the look of that sky,” the Admiral observed.  “Meet me in the den, Jim.  I’ll join you in a couple of minutes.  Pour us a couple of drinks My usual.”
***************************** ******************************************************************** **************************************
It’s common in any organization that the higher ups, the movers and shakers, bear particular eccentricities and Satrfleet was no exception.  For instance, Kirk had been confounded by Chris Pike’s private obsession with baseball — not the pure boyish act of playing the game itself but its stats.  He could list ERAs in his head going back nearly a hundred years and making it seem as important as a First Contact.

Admiral Marker didn’t just collect art and antiquities — nothing eccentric in that — and it wasn’t just the nature of her collection: originals only, no reproductions — that was so difficult to figure It was that there was only one criteria: the more rare the better.  Kirk, moved through the great den, studied his favorites… a hand drawn chart of the now forbidden Talos Star Group made by a refugee, a little girl aboard a passing deep space Tramp Explorer, a set of shot glasses and half a bottle of Gentleman Jack taken from the quarters of NX-01 Enterprise Engineer “Trip” Tucker, and, the prize, to Kirk’s thinking, astronaut Alan Shepard’s Mercury program flight suit from his orbital mission on Freedom 7.
“I’m leaving you that in my will,” said Eleanor as she walked into the den, heading for the well- stocked wet bar.  “I thought I told you to pour a couple of drinks.  Didn’t you learn Christopher’s most profound lesson?”

Jim couldn’t stop the genuine grin at the memory as he joined the Admiral at the bar.  “Never turn down a free drink when the boss is buying. Two stiff Mugato fingers, easy on the soda.”

“That’s the spirits,” she smirked, not looking at Jim as she poured, saying, “I also thought I told you to keep it informal, Jim.  Or uniform casual at most.”  She was wearing work yard denims and a fresh black tee, her only indication of rank, the Delta of her belt buckle and starred pip.-bar pinned to a shoulder.

Jim smoothed out his starchy stiff dress gray jacket.  “No worries, Admiral.  I’m good. Ship’s laundry says all that blood came out easy.”

The Admiral handed him his MacCutcheon’s, stone-faced.  “Not funny at all, Jim.”

“It wasn’t meant to be, Admiral Parker.”

He looked at the Admiral unflinchingly and she held the look seemingly, without any feeling.  She just rose her tumbler and said, “Welcome home, Enterprise.”  Kirk paused with a frown, went to say something, then simply met her glass.

“Thank-you, Admiral,” sipping the smooth hard stuff that went down much too easily as he followed her to the siting lounge.  Jim took up a big leather Eames armchair across from the Admiral and said what he meant to a moment ago. “Admiral, it’s not that my crew didn’t appreciate the effort but that homecoming— It was—“

“A little much?”
“Chase craft to drydock?  Parades here at the Academy and in Annapolis, Paris, even Riverside? Fireworks for three hours over Luna Hanks?”

“Well, Jim, I don’t personally plan these things.  I’m just a grunt they gave a good commission”

Kirk let the false modesty pass without comment and simply said, “It just— it all seemed more suitable for when we return after our five year assignment not less than half way through for a routine check of the mainframe and subroutines.”

“Five years. That’s a long time.You may not know this but I was part of the group that decided on the mission length.” Jim refused to allow her barest show of a smile unnerve him as he felt she intended;  he maintained an even strain. “Tell me, Jim, do  you miss it?  San Francisco?  Mother Earth?”

Jim pretended to give it some thought, all comic seriousness. “I miss the fried crabs at Sam Wo’s, the big ones, the jumbos.  And their tea-smoked duck.”

She nodded deeply,”Those are some good crabs.”  She leveled her dark eyes straight on Jim.  “What do you really miss about  your home world?”

“You know, Admiral, between my two commands, I’ve been traveling space for just three years but I’ve either explored or outright discovered thirty two planetary bodies, all of them so different.  So strange.  On Earth, all I’ve seen are Riverside and Des Moines and then the Academy facilities here in San Francisco and Annapolis, Georgetown…  Everywhere that might still pass as exotic on Earth I’ve ever gone has been as a Cadet.  My first psycho-simulator test in Osaka , orbital jump and S-SEAL training in Iceland and Tunisia stationed off Wight.  Life takes each of us in different directions — our own.”

“Well, then, Carol should show you a good time globetrotting.  I hear you two are making plans?”

Jim replied with careful uncertainty; Eleanor was the type of commander who assembled organizational rumors into larger more meaningful pictures. “Well, Lieutenant Commander Marcus is a Starfleet brat.  She lived everywhere from La Jolla to New Berlin to  Ho Chi Minh all before she was thirteen.  And that’s just Earth as she likes to remind me.”

“Ahhh, but it’s that Sceptered Isle, Mother England, and M.I.T. Duotronic and, our secret — yours and mine — Sak’s Fifth on Itixi she considers home.”  Off Jim’s look of mild surprise, she gave a vaguely knowing smug nod.  It wasn’t just the Admiral knew about him and Carol, she was suggesting having her own notable personal opinion of his Weaps. Eleanor Parker smiled indulgently.  “June Wallace and I are friendly even if her daughter wrongly blames me for her parents’ divorce and has hated me since she was seventeen.”

“The Enterprise,” Jim said, as much to himself as Eleanor, apropos of nothing immediately, it no doubt seemed to the Admiral. “Carol’s home. It’s the Enterprise. My ship.”

Eleanor, Kirk noticed, quietly held herself in perfect resolve — just a nod, a narrowing of eyes, a twitch of her lips sufficing a smile. “Actually,”  Jim said, intentionally moving past whatever thoughts she had about the woman who he felt so strongly about.  “I haven’t had the pleasure yet, meeting her notorious mother And I’m introducing Carol to Winona if I can find her.  Hear she’s on-Earth.  Somewhere”

“Professor Kirk is promoting her new holobook on unknown life she communicated with in the Hay Drift while serving aboard the Nimitz.  Good luck catching up to that lady.”  Jim fought the grin that twisted his mouth and memories. “But you’ve been trying that most of your life.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” he agreed.

“Just you mind your Ps and Qs around Carol’s mom and catch her cues when to genuflect, and you’ll do all right.  Actually, you’re June’s type.” The Admiral pulled herself up and took Jim’s glass from his hand, gesturing for him to remain seated as she went and poured another round.

“Actually, Jim, I’m happy you found Carol.  She’s the kind of smart woman you ought to be with, not the… ladies you were famed for in your Academy days or even during your first Command.  I have no doubt Carol can even put you in your place when you deserve it.”
She returned with their refills.

As he took the drink and knocked back a strong shot, he mumbled for her entertainment, “And sometimes when I don’t and have to ask for it.  But we’re consenting adults.”  He finally elicited a knowing laugh from his superior  “Well, we won’t be Earthbound long enough for me to see much anyway, Admiral.  There usually is always a next time.  Carol and I are both eager to get to back to space.”

“That’s not going to happen, Jim.”

In spite of himself — the bile, the bite — he couldn’t help but smile.  It was a cruel, self-amused smile he normally reserved for overconfident Klingon warship Commanders at stand-off and the technocratic nabobs who failed to understand the essential nobility of the Federation and whom Pike had warned him about with derision.  “If I were to take you seriously, if I’m gonna get spanked for actually saving one of Starfleet’s most irreplaceable officers from a life of sexual domination, slavery, even if it meant me killing one of their most honored and also reprehensible leaders…. I might tell you some of the stories I’ve heard from the survivors of the Kelvin. My father would have been proudly clapped on his back every room he walked into for life if he’d done what I did for Carol—“

“Jim, it’s not easy for me to say this. You’ve accomplished so much good in such a short and difficult career- -“

“Admiral Parker, the music’s over. Time we stopped dancing.”

“Captain Kirk, you’re finished. Relieved of Command. Disavowed by Starfleet.”

Jim stood up and the Admiral matched him. She held back any reaction to the aggressive step he took with cold confidence toward her, his sharp blue eyes the lasers that sometimes unnerved Carol.

“Even if you think I screwed the pooch with the Orions — and I didn’t — I’ve had the Enterprise taken from me once before, Madame.  I earned my ship back the hardest way there is.  And I’ve kept on earning it with more natural skill than almost any Captain in our history exploring deep space.”

There was anger there. But Parker remained hard and unaffected.

“No, Captain.  This is different.  You’re done, Jim.  Really and truly done.  And you won’t see a starship bridge ever again.”
************************************************************************************************************
Carol pounded beneath Jim against the overstuffed mattress of the too-comfortable New York hotel bed, fast and hard and harder still.  Her hands meant to grab hold of  the bedding but she just threw out her arms and had all the control of a rag doll.  Finally, not holding back anymore, unable to hold back, she cried out loudly, gasping.  Jim climaxed — it seemed again and again — until he relaxed, practically collapsing down on top of her, rolling half-away as he buried his forehead between her neck and shoulder.

She finally let a long breath of air escape from her lungs.  “What’s gotten into you?’

Jim pulled himself away and laid back.

“What do you mean?”

“Jim, for all I know, you really are the most virile man  – – from Iowa to the Pleiades Straits but tonight – – my lord! — you’re a man possessed.”

He muttered, almost to himself as he slipped on a baggy pair of boxers and grabbed their water glasses from her night stand, “You’ve got a problem with that?”

She shook her head and ran a hand through her mussed hair as he crossed the suite to refill their shaken martinis, finding her humor flushed as she said, “It just means I’m going to be the best kind of sore tomorrow—.” She arched her back with a sharp hissing intake of air….. “All over.”

“And  that means I’ll have to explore new ways to relax you all over again.  Good thing I got a commendation in original thinking at the Academy.”

Jim set their drinks beside her and, remembering something, went to his jacket, still soaking wet from his desolate walk through San Francisco, and pulled out a small, long box.  “You still haven’t said much about your meeting with Parker,” she asked.

“Doctor, did you know your boyfriend is still the big man on campus?”

“I have no doubt.”

“No, really.  Our esteemed Admiral says half the kids who come through as Cadets want to be Captain James T. Kirk one day.”  He handed her the box from Meyer’s Antiques and Curios.

“You love to give me gifts. I know there are things you keep buried down deep, even from me, but you definitely don’t suffer insecurity.”

“You want me to return it?  It’s a helluva present,”  he said, reaching to take the box away.

She turned away protectively with make-believe girlish petulance, opening the container’s velvet lid.  Her playful humor melted.

“Mister Kirk… it’s lovely.  And most sexy. Like I’m your queen.”  She held up the filigree of almost string-like silver.

“More my Goddess,” and he didn’t  smile nor did he joke.  Not a bit.  Not at all.

“It looks fashioned from a Stone Elk’s antler.  That’s a real status symbol to the matriarchy on  Bell Prime,” she said, half intellectually, half filled with wonder.

“It’s an anklet,” Kirk added.

“I know what it is,” she nearly giggled, adding as she raised her left leg and pointed her foot, “Go on, put it on me.”

“My pleasure.” Jim lay beside her, his body turned opposite hers so that he could clasp the delicate ends of the chain together, running his fingers along the smoothness of her sweet, trim ankles. “Carol,” he said and she heard the shift n his vocal stress, something uncharacteristically tentative, almost lost and ready to expose something he only felt comfortable sharing with her.

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She smiled inwardly; no man but  Jim could turn her inner thoughts so purple.  Looking at him, though – – that tinge of darkness she’d come to recognize, once or twice, personally,  painfully.  Her lightness drained away a little but she maintained the warmth she shared with few, mainly with him.

“What is it,  Jim?”  Carol stroked the bicep of one of his strong bare arms.  He sighed in a way that bodily tormented her.  She usually found it easier dealing with advances in photon torpedo yields and complex countermeasure spreads than this complex leader of women and men in space.  Other times – – now – – his heart was more open to her than, she suspected, to anyone, even his dearest friend of the cosmos, Spock.  And together they made real her greatest physical and emotional pleasures, and, he managed like few she’d ever been close to, an intellectual excitement , both the big ideas and, personally, in her search through the secrets of the heart.  He hadn’t answered her, just stared at her but she wouldn’t show she was unsettled in any way. She smiled at him.

He grabbed his silken royal blue kimono that she’d taken as something special between them, with its wide cloth sash hand painted with Klingonii glyphs by an Imperial Brush Mistress and he tossed it to her.

“Let’s go out on the balcony.”

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