The Vulcan stood gazing out the view port at the swirling red atmosphere of the planet. He studied the intricate and beautiful patterns, which the planet's weather patterns created. The sight of such natural beauty always moved the Vulcan, and normally, he would gaze at such a sight for hours, marveling at its natural splendor. However, he had more pressing matters on his mind and this wondrous sight proved to be nothing more than a temporary distraction.
Jonathan Soma, Captain of Starfleet Operations, was waiting in the outer office of Commodore Percy Stone, commanding officer of Star base 11. Stone was an old friend of Captain Soma. He had been a young and headstrong ensign aboard the U.S.S. Argo, under the command of then Captain Soma. Stone had started out in the lower sections of the ship, but soon attracted Soma's attention, who promoted the bright and eager ensign to a bridge officer. Soma had never regretted that decision and had followed the young officer's career, watching Stone make an indelible mark in history, as one of the few Starfleet officers to rise to command a starship. Soma always felt a rush of pride whenever one his own made a name for themselves. He felt, in a small way, that he had helped those officers fulfill their potential to the Federation, Starfleet and to themselves.
Stone, now winding down his career, had accepted a recent promotion to commodore and an assignment to Star base 11, where he and his wife, Carolyn and their daughter Stacy, had moved. Stone had never been much for space stations and the thought of living aboard the orbiting Star base didn't appeal to him. He had decided to move his office to the planet side facilities, where he and his family lived. The move was still in transition, so the commodore frequently had business back and forth between the station and the planet; it was aboard the station that Soma was waiting to see Stone.
The captain took in a deep breath, letting it out gently. He detested waiting and he detested waiting for unpleasant business even more. As Captain of Starfleet Operations, it was his responsibility to oversee starship mission assignments; a task that he had originally believed his command skills would best serve. Now, he wasn't so sure, not with the loss of the Intrepid, the matter that had brought him to Star base 11.
The U.S.S. Intrepid, Constitution Class, Registry NCC-1631 was a unique vessel in all of Starfleet. It had the distinction of being the only Starfleet vessel crewed entirely by Vulcans. The ship carried out the normal duties of a Constitution Class starship: patrol, ambassadorial duties, first contact, but its primary responsibility was as a science vessel. In the three years, which the starship had been operating with an entirely Vulcan crew, it had mapped and catalogued more scientific and astronomic discoveries than her twelve sister ships combined. The Intrepid and her crew were a testament to Vulcan ability and scientific achievement. Her destruction was an incalculable loss, not only for the 400 Vulcans who had died, but also for the service they provided to both Starfleet and the Federation.
Soma had read the preliminary report on what had occurred. The Intrepid's last sub-space transmission came from a region of space in Sector 39J. She had sent a message to Star base 6 stating that she had lost contact with the nearby Gamma Seven-A system and was heading to investigate. Soon after, Star base 6 lost contact with the Intrepid and diverted the starship Enterprise to investigate. What the Enterprise encountered and the ultimate fate of the Intrepid and her crew were what Jonathan Soma intended to find out.
The starship Enterprise had arrived in orbit in the past hour. Commodore Stone was currently debriefing her captain, James T. Kirk. It was the captain's report on the matters surrounding the loss of the Intrepid, which Captain Soma was waiting for. Both he and Stone had a past with Kirk; both were rocky. Recently Stone had presided over Kirk's court martial involving charges of willful negligence, resulting in the death of an Enterprise crewmember. During the Court-Martial, the death was proved to have been faked by that crewmember as revenge against Kirk. The charges were dropped and the court martial dismissed. Unfortunately, it caused a rift between the friendship Stone and Kirk had. To be honest, Soma thought Stone had been too hard on Kirk. He had read the court-martial transcripts and concluded that Stone was out to get Kirk, probably, because he felt betrayed by what he believed was Kirk's guilt and a stain on Starfleet.
Kirk was an impulsive officer. Soma knew that all too well. Hadn't he transferred a young Lieutenant Kirk off his own ship for being long on career advancement and short on discipline...very short on discipline. Not to mention the lieutenant's dislike for the Vulcan. He had heard that Kirk had referred to him, on several occasions, as "that pointy eared devil." There was nothing to suggest that Kirk disliked Vulcans in general. Therefore, his prejudice was towards Soma in particular. Soma tried to reach the young Kirk, but the young officer's stubborn and almost willful personality made that a doomed effort. In Soma's opinion, a transfer to another starship, with a captain that might reach Kirk was the best option for Kirk, Soma and Starfleet. Kirk's transfer to the starship Farragut and the subsequent disaster aboard that ill-fated starship must have taught the young Kirk a valuable lesson. After the Farragut, Kirk moved through the ranks quickly, receiving high marks in command and diplomacy, not to mention a list of commendations and awards as long as Soma's arm. Eventually Kirk rose to be captain of the Saladin and finally the Enterprise, where he has served with remarkable distinction for over three years.
Soma felt a twinge of envy at that last thought…the Enterprise. He had wanted her very badly. When she was first commissioned, he was in line to take command. Soma was more than qualified and he had a unique relationship with another starship named Enterprise. Unfortunately, a last minute decision by Starfleet Brass gave command to Captain Robert April. Bob April was a good captain, but the Vulcan knew that he was better qualified. Soma had the experience, not to mention time in grade, but what he also had was a Vulcan mother. Starfleet never explained their decision to give command of the Enterprise to April, but most felt it was because Starfleet wanted the best and brightest of Earth to command the new Constitution Class starships--or perhaps it was an old grudge that Earth held against the Vulcans for holding back its advance in warp flight technology. Even in the 23rd century, old grudges and race prejudice could rear their ugly heads.
Soma remained in deep in reflection, starring out the view port. This tragedy with the Intrepid was bringing old memories to the surface. His mind was still preoccupied, when the door to the outer corridor opened. He hadn't heard the door, so he didn't notice that someone had entered the room or that the person was staring at him intently.
"Captain Soma?" said a voice from behind, jarring the Vulcan captain from his thoughts. Turning, Soma looked to see who had called his name and was surprised when his eyes fell upon a tall Vulcan male in a science blue Starfleet uniform.
"Commander Spock?" said Soma, not attempting to conceal his obvious emotional surprise at seeing the younger Vulcan. Then he chided himself for forgetting, Spock was the first officer aboard the Enterprise.
Spock and Soma shared a similar history. Although the two men only knew one another by reputation, they both had the distinction of being hybrids; both had human and Vulcan parentage. They seemed to be much alike, but were in fact, opposite sides of the same coin. Captain Soma's mother was Vulcan while his father had been human. Spock's own mother was human and his father was Vulcan. Soma had chosen to follow his humanity while Spock had chosen the way of logic. The two men were a contrast of choices.
"It is agreeable to see you again, sir," said Spock. "Though under unfortunate circumstances."
"Again?" said Soma, trying to recall when he had met the Vulcan before.
"Yes, sir," replied Spock, with a twinge of disappointment that Soma did not remember. Spock had always been torn by his dual heritage; a matter that he had never quite resolved, but had managed to make peace with. In no small part, through the legendary tales of the half human, half Vulcan Starfleet captain who stood before him. Soma's exploits helped both Earth and Vulcan see that, together, they could be greater than the sum of their whole. Spock remembered the stories that he read as a child of the half Vulcan captain who had finally brought Andor to the peace table with Vulcan, who was instrumental in finishing the legendary Captain Archer's quest to defeat the Suliban and who had become a personal hero to a young half Vulcan boy named Spock. Vulcans insisted that they did not have heroes and, if asked, Spock would affirm this statement. He would simply state that it was not only beneficial, but also logical to look towards ones elders for guidance and insight.
"I was a cadet at Starfleet Academy ," explained Spock. "You were a guest speaker in one of my physics classes. You gave an insightful lecture on time paradoxes. We spoke briefly after the lecture."
Soma raised a brow, signaling his recognition. "Oh yes...I remember," smiled the captain. “I also remember you grilled me pretty good about several points in my lecture."
Spock seemed to turn flush as a tinge of green came to his features. "It had not been my intention to show you disrespect, captain," said Spock apologetically. "I merely disagreed with some of your suppositions. If I had shown any disrespect I humbly…"
"It's ok, Spock," said Soma, holding his hands up in mock surrender. "I can take a rebuff as well as the next man."
Soma smiled briefly and the two Vulcans stood quietly, both contemplating discussion of the matter that had obviously brought them both to this office. As Vulcans, the matter struck a more personal chord than it did with the rest of Starfleet. In addition, as Vulcans, it was a deeply private matter that was not for outsiders.
"You're waiting for your captain?" asked Soma, already knowing that Spock was.
"Yes," replied the Vulcan science officer. "When Captain Kirk has finished his debriefing. I will be required to undergo a similar...'grilling'."
Soma looked at the Vulcan for a moment. His encounter with Spock was unexpected, but might prove more illuminating than any report filed by Captain Kirk. Soma stared at Spock, attempted to gauge what kind of man he was. As a young boy, he could remember Captain Archer telling him that a starship captain not only had to be a good judge of character but that he had to be able to do it on the spot. Soma decided that he could speak plainly with Spock.
"What happened, Spock?" asked Soma, point blankly.
Spock looked at Soma for a moment. He knew what the captain was asking him and it wasn't about the mission or how the Enterprise had resolved it. He wanted to know about the Intrepid. Something that Spock, by all rights, shouldn't have any answers to give, since he wasn't aboard her.
"I…will be giving my deposition shortly, captain," said Spock, hesitantly. "As Captain of Starfleet, it is available for your review."
"I'm not interested in your report Spock. I can get the same information from your captain. I already know the same organism that wiped out the Gamma Seven A system destroyed the Intrepid. What I don't know is what they felt at their deaths. The Enterprise was in that sector when the Intrepid was destroyed. You must have been close enough…tell me what you felt from them."
Spock looked at Soma for a moment and then turned away. He studied the swirling planet that had captivated Captain Soma's earlier attention. As a fellow Vulcan, Soma knew the deep spiritual collective of their people and what it meant to be a Vulcan. Spock recalled Doctor McCoy's ambivalence in failing to comprehend how he, Spock, had felt the death of over four hundred Vulcans. Captain Soma's interest could be a catharsis, which Spock could use to excise the turmoil he was experiencing over those four hundred deaths. As he focused on the jetties of clouds, he collected his thoughts and after several moments, Spock spoke.
"I felt their death cry," he told the captain. "Four hundred and twenty Vulcans who knew they were dying but could not comprehend why. Their logic wasn't enough. Their intellect failed them...that is what I felt."
The two men remained quiet for several moments as Soma considered what Spock had revealed. Undoubtedly, it would never make it into any official report even if the Vulcan science officer chose to include it, which Soma highly doubted. The captain shook his head. "Thank you, commander...for giving me your insight."
Spock tilted his head at Soma and gave the captain a curious look. "May I ask you a question, captain? It is of a personal nature."
"You want to know why...am I correct?" asked Soma.
"I am understandably curious," replied Spock, both brows raised.
Soma shook his head in agreement. "When Starfleet agreed to man the Intrepid with an entirely Vulcan crew, I was approached to be her captain."
Spock looked at Soma with obvious surprise. He had often wondered why Starfleet's for-most Vulcan starship captain was not in command of the Intrepid. "I take it then that circumstances resulted in you declining the position."
"They did," said Soma shaking his head. "I didn't feel I was the right person for the job. I'm a Vulcan. Like you Spock, I have a dual heritage. Unlike you, I chose to embrace my human heritage over my Vulcan heritage. It was my belief that the Intrepid and her crew needed a Vulcan…one who was more Vulcan than I could be. So, I submitted a recommendation for an alternate candidate."
"Captain Suvek." said Spock.
"You knew him?"
"I served under him briefly on my first deep space assignment aboard the science vessel Sato." answered Spock. "He was a very capable commander."
"He was a scientist at heart; that's why I thought he was the right man for the job."
"You do not believe that in light of what has happened?" asked Spock.
"No," said Soma, shaking his head. "It isn't that I think Captain Suvek wasn't the right man for the job, but that I don't think that I was the wrong one. I should have been aboard that ship."
"Then you believe that you could have averted the loss of the Intrepid if you had accepted command." said Spock. It was less a question than a statement. "There is no logic in holding yourself responsible. You cannot say if your own decisions would have had any different outcome than that of Captain Suvek's."
"We both know that's not true, Spock," replied Soma. “I've been a starship captain longer than you've been alive. I had the experience, but I passed on it because I didn't think I belonged there. Your captain found a way to stop what killed the Intrepid's crew. It may surprise you commander, but Kirk and I are cut from a similar mold. If he found a way to stop it, then I think I could have as well."
Spock considered the validity of what Soma had said. He had to concede that Soma was one of Starfleet's finest captains and had repeatedly proven his ability to defy ‘the odds'. Something, which Captain Kirk was equally capable for doing, much to the frustration of the Vulcan.
“I was also offered a position aboard the Intrepid,” said Spock. “Shortly before Captain Kirk took command of the Enterprise; it would have been an ideal opportunity for me to work with fellow Vulcan's in an atmosphere unfettered by emotionalism."
"Why did you turn it down?"
Spock nodded. "I also considered myself an outsider. It was my opinion that accepting a position aboard the Intrepid would not enable me to advance further as a Vulcan. In fact, I believed, as I still do, that my service aboard her would have been far less fulfilling, than my continued service aboard the Enterprise. ”
“Why is that?”
“For the same reason that I believe your self recrimination is unfounded,” replied Spock. “If I may be so bold captain…if you had accepted command of the Intrepid you would be in an environment that was alien to you and, in all likelihood, your ability to be an effective commander would be reduced; just as my effectiveness as a science officer would have been reduced. You and I are both Human and Vulcan…I have discovered that it is something that one cannot ignore when he chooses. Perhaps it is why we both have chosen to serve with humans. For all that we as Vulcans can offer them; they have many aspects of humanity that they can offer us.”
Soma smiled. “Perhaps we are more alike than I realized.”
“I would consider that an honor,” said Spock.
Soma cocked a brow, inviting Spock to explain.
“You are a man of considerable distinction,” explained Spock. “Your exploits are legendary, both on Earth and on Vulcan. You are respected. Your personal struggles contributed to my choosing which direction my life would take. I may have made different choices than you, captain, but I could not have made those choices without the example you set. I owe you a debt.”
"Then you may consider your self imposed debt repaid," smiled Soma. “You have shown me a part of myself that needed my attention. Perhaps we will both be instrumental in each other's decisions.”
Before Spock could respond, the door to the inner office opened and an officer in Starfleet gold walked out. Seeing the two Vulcans standing by the view port, he changed direction, walking over to them.
"Spock...Captain Soma, I didn't realize you were here," said Captain Kirk, acknowledging the two Vulcans. "I'm not interrupting anything?"
Soma looked at Spock for a moment, making sure their conversation was concluded. Spock gave Soma a slight nod. "Not at all, captain."
"Sir, is your debriefing with Commodore Stone complete?" asked Spock.
"Yes," replied Kirk. "I told the commodore exactly what I filed in my report. He wants to see you next. I was going to head back to the ship and send you over, but since you're already here..."
"I shall see the commodore now," replied Spock, turning to face Soma. "Captain, I have found our conversation most illuminating.” Raising his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, Captain Soma."
Soma raised his hand, returning the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, Spock."
Spock turned, heading for the commodore's office. Kirk and Soma watched the Vulcan leave. Once the door had closed to the inner office, Soma addressed Kirk. "You've got a good man there, Kirk."
"The best, captain," added Kirk.
"Well…I believe I have what I came for," said Soma. "A pleasure to see you again, Kirk.”
Soma headed for the door, but stopped when he heard Kirk called out to him.
Stopping, soma turned to look at the captain. "Yes?"
"I just wanted to take the opportunity to tell you how much I appreciated the transfer you gave me when I served under you. I know that I wasn't the most model junior officer, but you did me a great favor. I learned a lot on the Farragut and from Captain Garrovick."
"Actually Kirk, I sent you to the Farragut so Captain Garrovik could whip that career boy attitude out of you. From the looks of things, I'd say he did a good job...captain."
Kirk smiled. “Yes, sir. I just wanted to thank you and to apologize if I showed you any disrespect. I didn't always agree with your command style. Having gotten the job, I can appreciate what being the captain means.”
"Water under the bridge,” smiled Soma.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Not at all,” said Soma. “After all, I'm not always a 'pointy eared devil'.”
Kirk's mouth dropped open in surprise and Captain Soma flashed him a smile. “See ya around, Kirk."
Kirk stood in shock as he watched Soma exit to the outer corridor. When the door closed behind him, the captain shook his head and laughed, “Son of a…I should have known those pointed ears weren't just for show.”