Captain’s Personal Log, Science Vessel Chaffee, Galina Mironova in command. Twenty-eight days ago, we made orbit around Vulcan with the intention of restocking and getting our final orders for what was to have been a simple mission—a month or so of cataloging rocks and trees on an out-of-the-way world in the Deema system. That was before a spacefaring Probe looking for whales came marauding through the quadrant on its way to Earth and effectively grounded all nonessential missions until we got sorted out. Better late than never, we are finally cleared for departure, but now I’m short a science officer. Or perhaps not. Today I interview one Lieutenant Saavik, whose reputation precedes her.
If I were impressed with surfaces, I’d hire her on the spot, but I was a scientist long before I was a command officer, and consequently I’ve a tendency to treat each mission like a chemistry experiment. The proper mix of reactants is essential. We’re a small vessel with a handful of crew, little more than an extended family, and everyone has to get along. Sibling rivalry is to be frowned upon, but a little friendly competition can yield the best results. • • •
Mironova stopped writing her personal log in her head and pretended to study Saavik’s service jacket on her desk screen, though she’d committed the important parts to memory before the young Vulcan officer had arrived.
Stop being clever or you’ll trip over your own metaphors! she cautioned herself. Bottom line, you want someone sober, sane, and unshakable to balance your lead civilian scientist’s peccadilloes, and here she is sitting across the desk from you. Get on with it!
“Ordinarily, Lieutenant, I’d refuse your request,” Mironova said. “What happened on Genesis had to have been traumatic, yet you’ve taken no leave time in which to process those events, despite Command’s rather strong suggestion that you do so.”
“There were extenuating circumstances, Captain,” Saavik pointed out.
Mironova looked up sharply, expecting sarcasm but finding only Vulcan logic.
“Yes, bloody Probe! Half the quadrant’s busy cleaning up after the damned thing, which leaves me without a science officer. And since you’re not only one of the best candidates for the job, you’re here instead of halfway across the quadrant participating in the cleanup, and Starfleet has debriefed you and deemed you fit, I’m strongly tempted.”
Even as Mironova studied the Vulcan, Saavik was studying her. Mironova hailed from the Iadara Colony, as her crisply accented Standard suggested. The colony’s proximity to Cardassian space had rendered its inhabitants tough, resourceful, and not easily rattled. Slim and slightly smaller than average height, Mironova gave the impression of being taller than she was. Her silver hair was cut to military precision, her tone and manner were no-nonsense, and her gray-green eyes could be penetrating, but the occasional twinkle suggested she was not averse to a bit of fun when the occasion warranted.
She’d met Saavik in the Chaffee’s transporter room in person, rather than having a junior officer escort her to the ready room, then had to order her to be seated in the single chair on the other side of the desk. Saavik sat, but at attention, her posture ramrod straight and inches from the back of the chair, resisting the urge to compare Captain Mironova’s taste in decor with the late Captain Esteban’s.
Chaffee was an Oberth-class vessel, a sister ship to the U.S.S. Grissom. Perhaps, Saavik thought, it had been unwise to request an assignment on a sister ship so soon after the loss of Grissom and her crew.
Mironova might have been thinking the same thing. She found the look in the young Vulcan’s eyes unsettling.
“You seem in an awful hurry to get out of Dodge,” Mironova suggested, keeping her tone light.
“It is my understanding, Captain, that Chaffee is cleared for departure in three days’ time—”
“—and you’re so eager to go off cataloging rocks and leaves on a dull little planet in a newly charted sector that even the fact that your crewmates from Enterprise and the entire planet Earth along with them nearly perished hasn’t slowed you down.”
“With all due respect, Captain, I have been stationed on Vulcan for almost four months, assisting Captain Scott with the refit of the Klingon vessel Bounty—”
“‘Bounty’?” Mironova frowned.
“I believe Doctor McCoy was being ironic.”
“Yes, he would be, wouldn’t he?” Mironova said wryly. “But, to the point, Command granted you extended personal leave once Bounty left Vulcan, leave that you did not take. Forgive me if I keep harping on that, but the Probe’s been talked to, Lieutenant, everything’s back in its proper place, yet here you are requesting reassignment when you ought to be lying on a beach somewhere instead.
“Screen off,” the captain said crisply, her chin in her hands, elbows on the desktop, as she searched her would-be science officer’s face for something that wasn’t in the record.
“So here’s everybody else breathing a sigh of relief and remembering to stop and smell the roses, and then there’s you. Running toward or running from, Lieutenant?”
“Que sera, sera,” Amanda had said as they stood together at the foot of Mount Seleya and watched the Bounty bank and turn and disappear just to the left of 40 Eridani, as if swallowed by its corona, an omen Saavik’s Romulan forebears might have found portentous. Saavik herself had dismissed such a superstitious notion for what it was by running through her mind the equations that made it possible for a vessel designed to look like a living thing to propel itself into space with far less effort than the bird it strove to emulate. Amanda’s words had disrupted her reverie.
“I do not understand, Mother,” Saavik said.
“‘Whatever will be, will be.’”
The human had turned away from the vista of the valley floor, striding purposefully up the path to the waiting aircar that would return them to ShiKahr, eager to get out of the sun before it rose much further in the sky. Saavik considered taking her elbow to assist her on the incline, but Amanda was still light on her feet despite her age and the thin atmosphere and needed no assistance.
“You’re understandably concerned about the trial,” Amanda said as the air car lifted off in a spray of red Vulcan dust, and she set the autopilot to the correct altitude and direction. “But there’s no point in fretting about it. What can either of us do? Certainly not feel guilty for not accompanying them.”
The crew had stood up for her. Saavik thought there must be some way she could reciprocate.
“She’s a Vulcan!” was Doctor McCoy’s argument to the powers that be as soon as his head cleared from the fal-tor-pan and before someone decided to ship her off on enforced leave or transfer her to another ship. “Work is therapeutic for them. Besides,” he’d added, giving Scotty a mental poke in the ribs, “Mister Scott tells me he needs her expertise.”
“Aye!” Scotty had piped up. “That Klingon ship’s guidance system is a rats’ nest. The lass would be instrumental in the refit. Don’t know how I’d manage without her, frankly,” he’d finished...