Monday, March 24, 2008

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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