Monday, March 24, 2008

Chapter 5


There being no more required evidence the court, after due consideration, reports the following facts:

That the USS Enterprise-D was lost in orbit about Veridian 3 on stardate 48650.1 after a brief battle with a renegade Klingon Bird of Prey. The Warp Core breached due to loss of coolant and, because it could not be ejected, exploded destroying the Engineering Hull. The Saucer section suffered irreparable damage when it crash-landed on the surface of the planet after successfully separating from the Engineering Hull with the full ships crew evacuated or accounted for.

That we fully and entirely exculpate from blame all on board said vessel at the time of the catastrophe there being no possible chance under the circumstances shown in the testimony of saving the vessel or preventing her from crashing.

That Commander William T. Riker breached General Order 15 but because of the extraordinary circumstances of the situation, no conviction be recorded.

N. Nechayev, Fleet Admiral
O. Paris, Vice Admiral
P. Louvois, Fleet Captain
Solok, Captain

The cheer that went up was allowed to continue for a matter of seconds until the Master at Arms ordered for all to rise whilst the members of the bench retired.

In the antechambers to the courtroom, the four members of the Board showed their relief that the ordeal of the inquiry was over for them as well. Nechayev made straight for the desk and logged on to start clearing the backlog of her regular work. Owen Paris got a mug of coffee from the replicator and slumped onto the lounge, whilst Louvois and Solok bustled about gathering their personal belongings. Solok was the first to leave, followed by Louvois after some polite small-talk with Admiral Paris. Owen Paris sat rolling his coffee around in it's mug until Nechayev finally looked up from her terminal ...

“Come on Owen, spit it out.”

He looked up from the cooling coffee, suppressed anger boiling in his eyes.

"Off the record?”

Nechayev snorted. “You know as well as I do, nothing is ever off the record.”

“I need to know. Riker admitted in court that he had broken a Starfleet General Order by letting his commanding officer put himself in danger. It was your vote that saved his skin, Alynna, why?"

"It is not for us to lay blame and deliver judgement. Our task was to collect facts, draw conclusions from those facts and make recommendations for further action. In this case the majority conclusion was that a breach of regulations had occurred but that Commander Riker had been right in doing so.’ She pinched the bridge of her nose to banish the fatigue that was fighting for release within her. “We went through all this. If he had followed regulations, the mission would have been a failure and a whole planet would have been wiped out."

The grizzled old man opposite here rose from the lounge and slammed the coffee cup down on the table before her anger written in his face.

"Isn't this sending the message that in certain circumstances, rules can be broken? Was this what the Enterprise died for?"

Nechayev was surprised although she could not allow it to show. She had known all along that Owen Paris had not wanted to have anything to do with this Inquiry, but she had wanted his opinion as a counterpoint to her own. Perhaps the memories of his own son's court martial were just too painful for him? Surely not! Owen Paris was many things but he was neither weak nor a fool. She felt inclined to give him some leeway on this and overlook the breach of protocol.

"Come now Owen, you know the old saying from Academy as well as I do: rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools. No one is suggesting that obedience to regulations be construed as optional I would not like to think that Starfleet is made up of fools. Any Starfleet officer can break General Orders if he believes he can convince a Court Martial that it is justified." The steely-eyed woman smiled grimly. "I have known it to happen three times in my career."

She made as if to go back to her paperwork "As to the Enterprise dying, The Enterprise-D was probably the most technologically advanced starship of its age but it was as sentient as the Tricorder on this desk."

But Paris wouldn't be swayed from his point. His voice went up a notch as he planted both hands on her desk and hovered over her.

"Don't play games with me, Alynna. I'm talking about discipline, knowing what your crews will do in battle, being confident that they'll follow orders and you're talking semantics."

Nechayev looked up from her work, her face carefully devoid of any emotion, her voice only holding the barest hint of emphasis

"Admiral Paris."

Her eyes carried her message across, twin hooded blue diamonds that bored into him as if he were a junior lieutenant who was way out of line. She paused to let the impact of her change back to formality sink in. Nothing was ever off the record for an admiral.

"Since you obviously know your General orders, you will no doubt be aware of General Order 17. 'The commanding officers of Starfleet vessels and installations are to consider the lives of their crew members and/or civilian population as sacred. In any potentially hostile situation, the captain will place the lives of civilians and crew above the fate of his ship.' If the crew of the Enterprise had not hazarded everything to save that planet, I would have had them drummed out of the service."

It was Paris who broke eye contact first as he stood and turned abruptly to storm back to his briefcase, which he started angrily stuffing with papers. Without looking up he grated out "Starfleet lost her flagship on Veridian 3 and you are letting the men responsible walk away."

Even as he said it he marvelled that it was he who wanted to see someone's career suffer for the loss of a vessel.

Alynna Nechayev left her desk and walked around to stand before her old comrade. "But before she was destroyed her crew accomplished their mission, the salvation of a planet, and were able to save themselves. She served her purpose and went down fighting."

"In my years of command I have seen countless ships vaporised in the blink of an eye and I tell you now …" Owen Paris looked up in surprise at the angry growl of pent-up emotion that came from the small woman before him. " … it worries me not one ... tiny ... bit."

Her expression did not flinch but the eyes ...

"No. It's the memory of the officers and crews who died in them that haunts me at night."

Just for a fleeting moment they shared a rapport they had not had since the loss of the Potemkin over thirty years ago. He started to say something but she turned quickly to return to her desk. Reaching it she turned to him and the moment was gone. Once again she was Starfleet's senior admiral

"The Enterprise did not 'die'." She went on. "Her captain and crew, her mind and spirit if you want to be poetic, have survived and will make up the core of the next starship that will be named Enterprise."

"Starfleet is not simply a collection of starships, Deep Space stations and spacedocks. It is an organisation made up of the finest that the United Federation of Planets have to offer. You thought this inquiry was simply to investigate the loss of the Enterprise-D? The last Enterprise is gone."

She walked behind the desk, slumped back in her chair and steepled her fingers before her

"This inquiry was to examine the real essence of the Enterprise, her crew. Who were they and how had they been affected by the destruction of their home of the last seven years. There will always be an Enterprise in Starfleet, a new one is reaching completion as we speak. However without a good crew she would not be able to live up to the high expectations that go with the name. In this case I'm confident she has a crew just waiting for a new home."

"Yes ..." she said, her mind already on the intricacies of creating the next Enterprise, "This inquiry is over."

Chapter 4


The anderoid, Data was then called as witness, and being duly sworn, testified as follows.

Question by Judge Advocate: What is your name and rank?

Answer: My name is Data, Lieutenant Commander, Starfleet

Q: State what you know in regard to the loss of the USS Enterprise-D.

A: I was on the bridge of the Enterprise during our battle with the Duras sisters. Our hull was breached on decks thirty-one through thirty-five and only our hull integrity force fields were holding us together. Commander Riker was able to exploit a weakness in the design of the Bird of Prey that allowed us to make their cloaking device come on line. Since this made their shields drop for a moment as it took effect, it allowed us to send a spread of photon torpedoes that hit their Warp core causing it to impload.

Captain Solok took over the questioning, his sallow, expressionless face showing only a hint of academic interest.

Q: Commander Data, you had been implanted with an emotion chip that malfunctioned. Do you feel that it impaired your ability to perform your duties?

Data’s mild expression and equally logical turn of phrase matched his well, however there were subtle differences, as for example when his face would light up with animation as he spoke of his friends. Just for a second Deanna thought she saw the sheen of nervous perspiration on his forehead as he faced the inquiry board. Did he have his emotion chip turned on right now?

A: The emotion chip initially performed its function by generating emotions in me but it overloaded and fused itself into my positronic relays so that it could not be safely removed at the time. It did affect my conduct during the phaser exchange on board the Amargosa observatory but Captain Picard ruled that I was not in complete control of myself at the time.

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow in what could have been an expression of sceptical query. It was no secret that he had a deep and abiding loathing of the very concept of emotions.

Q: But you were in control of your emotions during the battle with the Klingons?

A: Sir, Captain Picard reminded me that millions of people were relying on me to discharge my duties as a Starfleet officer. During the battle I was swamped with all kinds of new emotions but my Academy training and experience on the Enterprise gave me a framework that I was able to hold on to.

It was quite enlightening. I still felt the fear, the desire to live and the remorse at my earlier failure, but they were overpowered by anger, confidence and a desire to regain the respect of my friends.

Solok paused, blinking, as if trying to grasp the idea of emotions being used to cancel each other out. No, the idea was patently impossible.

Q: Considering the problems that the emotion chip has caused, why should it remain in your system? How can we be confident that you will discharge your duties competently?

A: Sir, I have been through intensive testing at the Daystrom Institute and the emotion chip has been certified compliant within operational parameters. I have asked that the emotion chip be allowed to remain because it is the logical step in my development as a sentient being. I would respectfully submit that its presence in my positronic matrix brings me closer to an understanding of humanity and to say that my emotions make me untrustworthy would be to discriminate between myself and other Starfleet officers who have emotions.

Solok's expression was frozen in its perpetual look of pained disdain. Such a waste! This sentient machine, born into perfectly objective logic, seemed bent on experiencing the depths and heights of an emotional existence. Why would you want to destroy perfection he felt the urge to cry out. However this emotion - like all others - was instantly confined to Vulcan Hell, that closely guarded area of their forebrain where all emotions were stored until the time came, once every seven years …

Chapter 3


Geordi La Forge was then called as witness, and being duly sworn, testified as follows.

Question by Judge Advocate: What is your name and rank?

Answer: I am Geordi la Forge, Lieutenant Commander, Starfleet, head of Engineering on the Enterprise-D

Q: State what you know in regard to the loss of the USS Enterprise-D.

Geordie was nervous although few could ever tell since they couldn't see his eyes, making his emotions harder to read for those who did not know him well.

A: After being declared fit by the Chief Medical Officer I reported for my next shift in Engineering. During the battle with the Klingons the Engineering section took repeated hits that came straight through our shields. This caused the magnetic interlocks to rupture which had, in turn, caused a massive Warp coolant leak.

Never one to dwell on the past, he had been too busy to think much about that last battle until now. Strangely enough, when he thought about the Enterprise-D he did not visualise it as he had last seen it, a hissing screaming hell of sparks and explosions. He remembered the years when it had been his home, the focus of his whole life, his work place, where he had socialised and researched ways to squeeze every last quantum particle of thrust out of the engines.

Q: Lieutenant Commander, The Engineering section of the Enterprise-D was destroyed by a Warp core breach. Why was the Warp core not ejected in time to save the ship?

A: The Enterprise had taken heavy damage from the renegade Klingon Bird of Prey and not only was the emergency ejection mechanism off-line but the exit point of the ejection tube was covered by debris so that an emergency ejection would have destroyed both sections of the Enterprise.

As the day wore on he went over the details of the battle piece by piece, answering each question with clarity from his encyclopedic knowledge of his engines. Late in the afternoon, Fleet Captain Louvois the Judge Advocate, looked up from her desk console after a particularly long and convoluted technical question. She seemed to be thinking how best to broach the next subject.

Q: Thank you Lieutenant Commander, whilst this board does not suggest that you had anything to do with it, it has been determined that the reason the Klingon renegade ship was able to penetrate the shield’s of your ship was because a transmitter was secreted in your VISOR. This made it possible for the Klingons to spy on the Enterprise and give them the ship’s shield modulation codes. Why was this not picked up by the ship’s scanners when you were transported aboard?

Geordie knew why she was being careful about his sensibilities. He had spent close to a week under the scrutiny of Starfleet Counsellors being debriefed over the part his VISOR had played in the destruction of the Enterprise. He had never known what it was like to see naturally and, ever since he had received his first VISOR at five, it had seemed as natural to him as his hair or nails. To think that something which was almost an extension of his body could have betrayed them had been hard to take, it was true. The counsellors had gone through all the psychological double talk about guilt and the psychoses that it could create, but in the end they needn't have worried. The fact of the matter was that he was an engineer, a pragmatist, and his life was ruled by facts and data, cause and effect. He accepted life for what it was and questions of 'What if…' rarely entered his mind.

A: Subsequent investigation of the Transporters and my visor showed that the optical spycam was shielded by the same method that Doctor Soran had used on board the Amargosa observatory to hide the existence of his laboratory. It was a new development in Nanotechnology that we had no way of guarding against.

One of the purposes of a board of inquiry was to ensure that the same circumstances would never happen again. Transporters and sensors had been adapted to ensure that this type of shielding would not slip past them again. Geordie was already working with Starfleet Medical on ocular implants that would make the VISOR redundant.

The board members could not see Geordie's eyes - the windows to his soul.

Nobody could.

A small smile touched the eyes no one could see.

Soon, he thought, very soon

Chapter 2

Commander William Thomas Riker was sworn in as a witness according to law to testify as follows:

Will Riker stood stiffly to attention, his head held high, staring intently at the centre Admiral. Nothing was said but he felt a definite air of disapproval. They knew each other from the Jellico incident.

Question by Judge Advocate: What is your name and rank?

Answer: William Thomas Riker. Captain, Starfleet

Q: State what you know in regard to the loss of the USS Enterprise-D.

A: On Stardate 48632 a Klingon Bird of Prey, afterwards identified as belonging to the Duras sisters, decloaked off our bows as per the tendered Logs. In a message they admitted that they had our chief engineer, Geordie la Forge, prisoner. It was obvious that an illicit business transaction had taken place between themselves and Doctor Soren. We had two overriding objectives – to stop doctor Soren from destroying the star of the Veridian system and to rescue our chief engineer.

Responding to Hails, the Klingon Commanders Lursa and B’Tor showed no interest in our attempts to retrieve La Forge until Captain Jean Luc Picard offered himself as a prisoner exchange.

Q; Captain Riker, considering General Order 15, why did you allow your commanding officer to place himself in what was obviously a hazardous situation without an armed escort?

Will knew that his whole career rested on his next answer because strictly speaking he knew he had been in the wrong. The safety of his captain was one of his responsibilities and over the years there had been many times when it had come down to a contest of willpower between them over this particular issue.

From their very first confrontation when he had just joined the Enterprise-D at Farpoint station he had known that this would be a bone of contention between them. Finally they had come to terms with the fact that although Will could not stop his captain from putting his life on the line alongside his crew he would not let him do so alone.

A: [Riker] Over the seven years that I have served under Captain Picard I have gained the utmost respect for his judgement in combat situations and have come to realise that although I might not always have been able to see the logic of his commands, they have invariably been sound.

Our discussions had conceded that the captain was the best person to handle Dr Soran although originally we had planned on fielding a full away team. The situation with the Klingon Bird of Prey and our lack of time made the only option a one-on-one prisoner exchange. The lives of millions of people hinged on this and the captain had quite simply no other option.

If I thought that Captain Picard was under the strain of fatigue, psychological, emotional or any other kind of influence I would have over-ridden his decision without a moment’s hesitation. As it was, my faith in my commanding officer superceded any questions I had about the logic of his decisions.

It was a gamble, but in this case he felt that the truth was his best defence. The fact of the matter was that in the constantly changing situations they found themselves -usually one emergency after another - they could not afford to react by simply following orders. Riker had delivered his answer with as little emotion as possible, but his body language betrayed him. Chin out, head back, frowning, almost glaring: daring them to comment on the statement.

Slow seconds passed and the tension grew as he swivelled his gun-barrel gaze from one to another, daring them to make the next move.

It was going to be a long day ...

Chapter 1

Proceedings of Court of Inquiry into the loss of the USS Enterprise-D at Veridian 3 on stardate 48650.1 convened at Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco, Earth
Stardate 48838.8

The court met pursuant to orders from the President of the United Federation of Planets

Members Present:
Fleet Admiral Nechayev
Vice Admiral Paris
Captain Solok
Fleet Captain Phillipa Louvois, Judge Advocate

Vice Admiral Paris could not help but hate courts of inquiry such as these. Nobody benefited from them. Oh, certainly, if you took the logical, Vulcan view of them, they were simply a way of finding out the reasons why a disaster happened so that the same thing would never happen again. However, the reality was that if an officer were found to have made a mistake that cost them their ship it would follow them throughout their career. In many cases it spelled the end of their career. His jaw set as he remembered some of his good friends from academy whose bright promise, for one reason or another, had ended up in some dead-end career posting. His frown grew deeper as he remembered another court, years ago …

Shaking his head to clear away the painful memories - was Tom still alive? - he took the time to review the other members of the board sitting at the bench beside him. There was the inevitable Vulcan, Captain Solok of the U.S.S. T'Kumbra - insufferably blunt and superior but an acknowledged expert on Starship management. Phillipa Louvois, the rising star of the Judge Advocates department, who he understood, had crossed swords with Picard before. And Alynna Nechayev, now the Fleet Admiral, the highest-ranking officer in Starfleet. Ruthless, a brilliant strategist, he could still remember her as a vivacious, wild ensign in Academy. What could have happened to her to turn her into this cold, soul-dead automaton that could send men to their death without batting an eyelid.

In all there was more than two hundred years of service experience sitting beside him.

Owen Paris looked down at the hidden computer console that was set into the bench before him where aides could flash graphics, data or video logs at a moment's notice. It was not as if the facts were in doubt. Every square metre of hull plating that had been recovered had been catalogued and examined in minute detail. The computer logs, which had survived the crash, had been impounded and analysed by the Judge Advocate General’s Office. Every word, every action had been documented and debated by experts in psychology, Federation law, Starfleet regulations …

The facts behind every question they could ask were already known to the Nth degree. This whole charade was a waste of time, however Nechayev had specifically asked for him on this board so he would be damned if he wouldn't make sure that the truth came out.

The Judge Advocate having read the order concerning the court, the court was then duly sworn according to law by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate by the presiding officer of the court.

Jean Luc Picard was then called as witness, and being duly sworn, testified as follows.

Jean Luc drew himself to attention and faced the bench before him. Never a man for hiding from danger, he faced his enemies with a determination that had seen him face down the Klingon High Council and Cardassian torturers. He did not fool himself though. One slip here could mean the end of his Starfleet career, which for him would have been worse than a death sentence!

One after the other, he looked them straight in the eye, for he had earned the right to stand before them as an equal, a peer. In them all he saw razor sharp wits and unforgiving judgement, in some he saw a hint of sympathy, in one he saw undisguised animosity.

Question by Judge Advocate: What is your name and rank?

Answer: Jean Luc Picard, Captain, Starfleet. Commanding officer of the USS Enterprise-D

Q: State what you know in regard to the loss of the USS Enterprise-D.

A: The Enterprise-D was on a mission to ensure that Doctor Tolian Soran did not attempt to destroy the star of the Veridian system. The destruction of this star would have caused the destruction of the planet Veridian 4, which had a population of two hundred and thirty million.
I determined that the course of action that would involve the minimum amount of conflict would be for me to speak to Dr Soran, to persuade him to give up his plans. At first it was thought that he was on the Klingon Bird of Prey which de-cloaked when we entered the Veridian system but when they hailed us it became apparent that he was on the surface and that they would not allow us to approach him without a fight.

Our secondary purpose was to effect the return of our Chief Engineer, Geordie La Forge. The Klingons admitted that they had him on board but in the confrontation they would not return him.

The best way to achieve both of our objectives was to offer myself as an exchange for Commander La Forge on condition that they would transport me to wherever Doctor Soran was.

Jean Luc had gone over this a thousand times. Sometimes he felt like he had never escaped from the Nexus, the way he constantly relived the episode on Veridian 3. He needed neither a Starfleet Board of Inquiry nor holographic computer logs to re-live the experience. He had only to cast his mind back in an unguarded moment and he was there. The heat from the Veridian star was beating down on his head, he tasted the dust in his mouth, he could still hear the scream of tortured steel as the suspension bridge fell …

A thousand and one times.

The questions went on, this time it was Admiral Nechayev who was speaking.

Q: Captain, you left your ship during a confrontation which escalated into a pitched battle from which the Enterprise-D did not survive. Why did you leave your post?

Deanna Troi, who was in the public gallery of the court, listened impassively as Jean Luc's voice took on an icy formality. She knew that he was seething with outrage at this blatant attack but he was such a consummate diplomat that he had perfect control of himself at all times.

A: I had discussed our course of action regarding Dr. Soran with my senior staff before reaching the Veridian system and it had been agreed that I had the greatest chance of dissuading him. The return of our Chief Engineer in return for myself should have stabilised the situation between the Enterprise and the Klingon Bird of Prey since it was a fair judgement to assume that they were more then a match for the old Klingon warship.

I did not abandon my post. I transferred temporary command to Commander Riker in whom I had, and still have, every trust. A trust, I might add, that he showed was well placed by his brilliant counter attack against the Klingons, his successful evacuation of the Enterprise and the safe crash landing of the saucer section on Veridian 3.

Blast Nechayev! Picard could have easily been trapped into defending himself against an implication that he had abandoned his post. Instead, he had subtly turned the tables by turning it into a statement that they either had to support or attack. If their attack on his reputation were proven groundless there could be considerable trouble. In many ways it was like a game of Tri-D chess.

Fleet Captain Louvois leaned forward …

The Judge Advocate General ordered that it be read into the record that there was no implication that Captain Picard had abandoned his post improperly.

The testimony was read over to the witness and was pronounced by him correct. The court having no more questions to ask, He was allowed to retire.


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