Admiral Kor of the Klingon space service eyed the course setting on the bridge flag console of his D7 battle cruiser. He remembered every parsec of the route from the Klingon homeworld to Organia. He hadn't paid all that much attention on the way out the first time, sixteen years ago; but on the way back, every benchmark and minor course correction had been a step closer to his conviction by the High Council for happening to be the C.O. of the disastrous Klingon occupation of said planet.
Of course it was entirely unfair for them to blame Kor for it; and Kor had convinced the High Council of this. In the Klingon way. He invoked the Right of Trial by Blood, and (over the course of five days, without sleep) had bested enough Councillors in single, mortal combat that there hadn't been a quorum left to hand down a verdict.
Captain Koloth approached the flag station. "I have," he said, "good news and bad news."
Unlike most of his colleagues, Kor was obscurely entertained by Koloth's cleverness with words. Trying to play along, he guessed correctly which to ask for first. "What's the good news?"
"The good news is, the men are ready to fight for their honor and destroy any enemy."
"What's the bad news?"
"The bad news is, the men are ready to fight for their honor and destroy any enemy, now."
Kor saw his point immediately. "They need a diversion, something to keep them finely honed, lest they lose their edge before we get to Organia." Something like a planet to plunder.
"But to indulge them," Koloth completed the argument, "will give our plans away to the Federation and the Organians."
"The plan is based on the observed fact that the Organians are not to be feared," Kor dismissed. "But the Federation - is surprise better, or to tip our hand? ... Do we know yet which starship patrols the Organia sector presently?"
The response made it obvious that it was the receipt of this intelligence that had actually brought Koloth to the flag station. "The Enterprise," said Koloth.
"Enterprise!?!" Confusion and a fierce joy fought for Kor's heart. "But, at Genesis -"
"A new Enterprise," Koloth said.
"Who - ?" Kor started to ask in a whisper; but the light in Koloth's eyes was answer enough.
Kor looked at the course chart just to backstop his memory. "There's an Andorian colony world four hours ahead. We'll stop there for a day."
"Success, my lord," Koloth saluted, and went to relay the order, leaving Kor alone. Kor sank back into the flag chair, eyes peering forward into history.
This was going to be glorious.
"The Prime Directive is for the protection of less advanced planets that Federation and Starfleet vessels encounter," said Spock.
"How utterly noble and pre-Heisenberg," sneered the Doctor.
Overhearing them, Kirk tried to re-exit the mess before the Doctor saw him and roped him back into this argument that started up every time they met; but he wasn't quick enough.
"Captain," the Doctor called from the table where he and Spock were eating, "come defend your mindless enforcement of your delusional regulations."
"If that's your best offer," said Kirk, "I'll eat on the bridge."
"Coward," sniffed the Doctor. But Kirk, less goaded than resigned, got a tray of breakfast and joined them.
"Earth's history alone has shown many times," Spock said, "that even if well-intentioned, a more advanced society can only harm a less advanced if involved in its internal affairs."
"Don't you interfere in history by meddling the way you do?" Kirk asked the Doctor as he ate. "Don't you change history? Even we primitive humans know the danger of that. Isn't that why all the Time Lords but you live by a nonintervention policy much like ours?"
"I heal history! What is a people's true history?" he asked rhetorically, obviously gone into oratorical mode. "It is that produced by the free will of those living it, without oppression. I remove oppression! and then I step out of the way." Somehow through this declamation he managed to never break the rhythm of his hand's motion with his fork to his mouth. "And your observation about the Time Lords is specious," he added carelessly. Kirk knew that the Doctor, loathe as he might be to admit it, couldn't operate as he did without the Time Lords' tacit approval, in spite of their official policy.
"There's certainly nothing wrong with what you say, on an interplanetary level," said Kirk. "But a planet's internal affairs are ... well, internal. Maybe it's your place to topple a planet's homegrown autocrats - maybe - but it's not ours."
The Doctor snorted. "This from the starship captain with the worst reputation in the fleet for Prime Directive violations."
"I thought you were smarter than to buy into that media sensationalism, Doctor," Kirk said. "In almost all cases of my supposed 'violations' of the Prime Directive, the Federation Council Prime Directive Committee has ruled that the Directive didn't in fact apply. Usually under the self-defense provision, such as with the supercomputer Vaal. After all, a planet that can threaten a starship can hardly be considered unadvanced enough for Directive protection.
"Or under the provision for previous interplanetary contamination, such as on Neural, where what I did was counteraction of existing intervention by the Klingons.
"In the remaining cases, where there was Directive applicability, the violations were minor, such as the beam-out that accidentally came in front of the soldiers on the Roman planet. These resulted in what few, minor demerits there are on my record, an average amount as starship captains' records go. Everything else is just hype."
"Until you stole your ship and blew it up."
Kirk ignored this for the cheap shot it was. They were sitting in the mess hall of the effect on Kirk's record of that little escapade. "Face it, Doctor - you can't convince me that the Prime Directive isn't a wise policy, or that my own commitment to it is less than full."
The Doctor had quieted under this calm verbal onslaught. After a moment he said, "But there is evil in the universe that must be stopped." There was pleading in his tone, though Kirk wasn't sure for what. Kirk had never seen the Doctor's sixth personality so subdued and vulnerable, but before he could say anything more the intercom whistled the captain's call.
"Captain Kirk to the bridge," came Sulu's voice.
Kirk and Spock rose from the table, placing their trays in the recycler. The Doctor grabbed several more bites before joining them uninvited while Kirk stopped at the intercom. "Kirk here. What's up?"
"I have Thallius of Plendikor's World on screen, sir. He says they've been attacked by a Klingon war fleet."
Kirk looked sharply over at Spock. "Red alert, Sulu. I'm on my way."
"This is Captain Kirk," said Kirk over the red alert klaxons as Spock and the Doctor followed him onto the bridge from the turbolift. Thallius was still on the main screen, Andorian and much the worse for wear, blue blood tricking down one temple. "What's happening on Plendikor's World?" Kirk moved straight into the center seat.
"A Klingon battle fleet of some two dozen cruisers arrived here yesterday," said Thallius in an Andorian's soft voice, "and conducted a punitive raid all over the planet for exactly one Klingon day."
Thallius obviously realized the significance of the time period, as did Kirk, who looked over to the science station where Spock was looking to him.
"teH," said the Doctor for them all; a Klingon word whose literal translation is whetstone. On the screen Thallius nodded.
"Why didn't you call us earlier?" Kirk wanted to know.
Thallius grinned, bared teeth belying the soft voice and exposing the true Andorian nature. "We were having too much fun."
"Almost as bad as the Klingons," the Doctor sniffed.
"We outnumbered them thousands to one, after all," said Thallius. "It would have been cowardly."
"Thank you for the warning," Kirk said to Thallius. "Do you need us to send aid?"
"The strong will survive," Thallius said. "The weak have already perished. Victory in your struggles." Thallius signed off.
"teH," Kirk said. "A fleet. It must have come from the homeworld, that's the only place where they have that many ships together. Chekov, extrapolate their course."
"What's all the noise?" demanded McCoy, stepping onto the bridge.
"Good morning," replied the Doctor.
"Stand down to yellow alert for now," Kirk told Uhura. To McCoy, "The Klingons attacked an outpost colony."
"What?" McCoy came to an astounded full stop, still on the upper tier of the bridge. "But the Organian treaty -"
"This is the first incident since the treaty that approaches this level of hostility," Spock said, "even including our recent confrontation at the Genesis Planet."
"Where are the Organians then?" McCoy asked.
"Right," said Chekov, "in the Klingon fleet's path."
Every head on the bridge swiveled to the navigator, then to the main screen where he had transferred a tactical graphic of his course plot. A line starting at the Klingon homeworld and proceeding through the Andorian colony system impaled Organia's sun right through the center. "ETA .67 days," said Chekov.
"Sulu," said Kirk quietly, "can we get there first?"
Sulu didn't consult his board. "By an hour or so, sir."
"Maximum warp, Sulu."
"Aye sir," said Sulu, and brought the ship around.
Kirk looked over at the Doctor. He'd expected grimness, but the Doctor was white as a sheet. "Doctor?"
The Doctor looked at Kirk, then back at Chekov's astrogational chart. "That's the planet you know as Organia?"
"No reason." The Doctor's attempt at his usual bluster failed miserably. He turned away and sat in an unoccupied chair along the bank of engineering consoles and said nothing throughout the trip to Organia.
"Transporter range in five minutes," Sulu said.
"Organia is still not answering hails," Uhura reported. At this distance, neither would there be any response for days to the report she'd sent to Starfleet Command.
"There are two possibilities," said Spock. "They are unable to respond; they are unwilling to respond."
"Unable," mused McCoy. "You 'spose the Klingons have already taken them out?"
"No," said Kirk immediately. "The attack on Plendikor's World was a teH. If they'd already attacked Organia, they'd've been spreading away from there, and exercising not even that much restraint."
"So why haven't the Organians stepped in?" McCoy demanded. "What does it take, anyway?"
"Since the initiation of the treaty," Spock said, "there are no data to indicate what their criteria may be."
McCoy scowled at him. "That sounds like you're saying they've never been heard from again."
"That is what I said."
While McCoy digested this Kirk said, "Maybe they never meant to intervene at all."
"And if the Klingons have thought of that, their intentions toward both Organia and the Federation can be guessed," Spock said.
"The exercising of no restraint," McCoy guessed.
The word intervene brought back Kirk's perennial argument with the Doctor to his mind. He looked back at the Time Lord. He hadn't moved since he sat down. Nor was it usual for him to sit idly by when conversation was going on.
"Transporter range," Sulu announced.
"How much time till the Klingons arrive?"
"As soon as forty minutes."
"That gives us some time. Spock, Bones, Doctor, come with me." Kirk included the Time Lord in the order as a matter of course, even though the Doctor was obviously under no authority of his, just because the Doctor always beamed down with them.
"I'm not beaming down with you," said the Doctor.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy all ground to a bemused halt on their way to exit the bridge. "Doctor, we need all the help we can get down there."
"I mustn't interfere," said the Doctor.
END OF CHAPTER TWO
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