The major characters in this work are copyright 20th Century Fox. Some action, characters and dialog are copyright Paramount Pictures. The combination thereof and any resulting deviance from the sources are mine.
The next morning, Hawkeye and B.J. found Radar already eating breakfast when they showed up in the mess, as usual. They got themselves trays and went to join him. As they approached, set down their trays, and sat, Hawkeye noticed that Radar's tray contained only a glass of fruit juice and a huge portion of some vegetable matter, as usual. "Hi, Radar," he said.
"Morning, Radar," B.J. said.
"Sirs," Radar acknowledged.
Usually he answered, "Good morning, sirs." And he was only picking at his food.
Hawkeye took a bite of his eggs as he and B.J. exchanged a look. Radar appeared to be in a snit about something. Well, he hadn't joined in last night when they'd baited Srank for his complaints about how their new captain had handled the Vaal situation yesterday. "Gamma Trianguli VI bothering you?" B.J. asked.
Radar seemed surprised that they had been able to tell, but didn't comment so. "Yes, sirs. It bugs me. And it'll take more than just another joke about pointed ears to make me feel better."
Hawkeye winced inside. He poked fun at Srank's Vulcan features because Srank was such a hypocrite, Vulcan or no, and a martinet; but he never - well, rarely - did the same to Radar.
"Radar, Potter didn't do anything wrong," B.J said, waving one hand while he picked up bacon with the other. "Vaal attacked the ship. There's nothing in the Prime Directive that obviates any Starfleet ship's right to self-defense. If it had been just going after the landing party, who actually were intruding on the people, it might've been different."
"Easy for you to say," Hawkeye snorted. "You were up here."
"Yes, all I had looming over me was a fiery crash on the planet," B.J. said to him. He resumed his argument with Radar. "What Potter did was no less self-defense than if a Klingon ship directed an unprovoked attack against the Enterprise."
"When the people of Gamma Trianguli VI chose to let that computer make their decisions for them," Hawkeye said, "they chose to accept the consequences of its decisions. That includes, whether they meant it to or not, the consequences of its picking a fight and losing."
"Chances are the Prime Directive committee'll approve what Potter did," B.J. said.
"I suppose that's true," admitted Radar grudgingly.
Hawkeye and B.J. exchanged another look. Radar's issue wasn't concern over trouble he was afraid they had made for themselves. Then his issue had to be from the other perspective in the matter. Hawkeye finished his own juice and said, "I also believe that the natives are better off without Vaal."
"Yeah," snorted Radar. "I could tell. Right from the start."
"And you think that the destruction of Vaal is a violation of the spirit of the Prime Directive, even if not of the letter," B.J. said.
"I don't want to live under a computer like that," said Radar, leaning forward in earnestness. "But where do we get off deciding that they can't?"
"And that's what you think we've done." Finishing his eggs, Hawkeye forebore pointing out again that the people of Gamma Trianguli VI had made their bed and were sleeping in it. Because Radar had a point, and looking over at B.J. Hawkeye saw B.J. saw it too.
"He's right," B.J. said. "Imposing our ideals on conquered enemies is not what the Federation's about. But what should we do about it? What can we do?"
Radar went back to picking at his food. "That's what I can't figure out."
"It is?" said Hawkeye. "The answer seems obvious to me."
"You want to what?" Potter exclaimed.
After breakfast B.J. had gone down to engineering and Radar had had to report to auxiliary control instead of the bridge. On duty at the helm Hawkeye had taken advantage of the first lull in the shift to speak to Potter about Radar's concern.
"I want to ask the natives whether they'd like us to try to reactivate Vaal," said Hawkeye.
"What for?" Hot Lips exploded, over by the science station, as she contrived to be so often.
"To find out," said Hawkeye innocently.
"You're serious," said Potter.
"Radar has a point," Hawkeye said. "It's not our place to impose our values on them."
"It was my point," said Srank. No one noticed. In any case his point had been less justice for the natives than adherence to their own rules.
Hot Lips restrained herself. She only raised one finger. "Lest we forget," she said, apparently forgetting that on the planet she had argued Srank's cause, "we didn't set out to impose our values on them, nor was imposing our values on them the intended goal of what we ended up doing. That computer was out to kill us and to destroy the Enterprise! If we revive it, why won't it continue where it left off?"
"We'll worry about that," said Hawkeye, "if they say yes."
"Yes," said Akuta.
"Nice going, Pierce," Potter said.
Hawkeye was taken aback by the abruptness of Akuta's response. "You're welcome to think about it awhile," he started.
"Pierce," Akuta interrupted, "we have thought of nothing else all night. Not one of the People of Vaal has failed this past night to say aloud, 'Oh, if we only had Vaal back.'" The People of Vaal who had gathered to meet Hawkeye and Potter milled about in agreement.
"Well," said Hawkeye. "We'll see what we can do."
"We may have a problem," Potter said as he and Hawkeye entered the Enterprise bridge. "We may actually have to reactivate Vaal."
"We're under no real obligation, are we?" Hawkeye asked as he took the helm. "I mean, we only said we'd try."
"Even apart from its animosity toward us," B.J. observed from the engineering station, "we don't even know how."
"The natives have requested its reactivation?" Radar asked, back at communications.
"They practically begged," Hawkeye said ruefully.
"What else could go wrong today?" Potter growled, moving to the captain's chair as Srank surrendered it.
"The Federation Council Prime Directive Committee's ruling on our actions of yesterday arrived while you were on the planet," Srank said.
"Are you answering my question?" Potter asked.
"The action taken against the computer entity Vaal has been sanctioned under the self-defense provisions of the Prime Directive," Radar read from his padd.
"Well, we expected that," said Hawkeye. "That's all right then."
"There is, however," Srank continued, "more."
"What 'more'?" Potter wanted to know.
"We're directed," Radar said, "to ask the natives whether they want Vaal reactivated. If they do, we're ordered to reactivate it."
"All I ever wanted was to play the saxophone," B.J. said.
Potter sighed. "We've got some expert xenoprogramming to do on Vaal."
"I suppose I had better beam down," Radar said.
Hawkeye, B.J. and Radar stepped into the dragon's-mouth-shaped carved stone entrance to the cave in which Vaal was housed. None of them had been inside before; B.J. hadn't been on Gamma Trianguli VI before. There was a great stone basin in the back wall of the cave that was the mouth of a tunnel that disappeared into the mountain. This was where the unstable mineral Vaal used for fuel was deposited once the natives had gathered it.
Radar activated his tricorder and walked along the walls, scanning them. He stopped in one back corner. "There's an access panel," he said. "I'm reading a latch ..." His fingers brished lightly across the rock at a height just above his head, then came to rest. "... here." He depressed something with his finger and there was an audible click. The panel was hinged at the bottom and swung downwards at its release. When he had put a medpatch on the bruise Radar set to work at the terminal revealed behind the panel, while Hawkeye and B.J. looked on.
"We think we've come so far," said Hawkeye suddenly.
"Pardon?" said B.J.
"We think we're so objective, so enlightened in our dealings with younger species," said Hawkeye. "We still have blind spots."
"Human beings have blind spots," B.J. conceded. "But we learn. We get better."
"Maybe in a hundred years," said Hawkeye, "we'll be better at this."
"Sirs," called Radar.
"I found an icon-based help index. This won't take long."
When Hawkeye had Radar trip Vaal's gong control, the natives reacted just as he expected - they rushed into the cave laden with fuel mineral. They found Hawkeye standing in front of the basin with B.J. and Radar flanking him.
"Have you reawakened Vaal?" Akuta asked. Only he seemed to have any doubt. Of course, he was the one with Vaal's comm set hardwired into his ear canal.
"No," said Hawkeye.
The natives settled into that uneasy silence children get when the teacher departs from the lesson plan.
Radar pointed to the access terminal, and at a large green button near the bottom. "Press this button to turn Vaal back on. On a half hour time delay," he added at Hawkeye's sharp look.
"Then press it," Akuta demanded. There were annoyed murmurs among the crowd.
"No," said Hawkeye.
"You said you would do this," Akuta objected. The annoyed murmurs became angry grumbles.
"If we were wrong to turn Vaal off for you," Hawkeye said, "then we're wrong to turn it back on. You must do it."
"You have to choose for yourself whether to live idyllically as Vaal's slaves," said B.J.
"Or to live your own lives and your own joys - and your own pains, sicknesses and deaths," said Hawkeye. "It's not my choice to make. It's not even your ancestors'. It's yours." He took out his communicator. "Pierce to Enterprise. Three to beam up, now. Warp out as soon as we're aboard."
"I suppose we'll never know what they chose," B.J said as the three trooped onto the bridge and relieved their reliefs.
"Maybe not," said Potter. "Starfleet's put the world under a class five quarantine - no contact until or unless contacted first."
"Well, Srank," Hawkeye said, "are you satisfied now?"
"My personal satisfaction was never the issue," said Srank. "However ..."
"In forcing the People of Vaal to make their own choice, have we perhaps imposed on them our own doctrine of free choice?"
"I can't win," said Hawkeye.
[There's a straight STAR TREK version of this story too, that has a TNG sequel, The Other Half.]
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