CHAPTER 1

ENGAGE!

K I R K

An elderly man wearing khakis and trimming a Betazed muktok plant, called out to a grim young man in a jumpsuit who was just passing by. “Cadet! . . . Yes, you; come here for a moment and assist me, please.”

Feeling put upon he complied with dissent. “Pardon me, sir, but I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

The worn man took a measured sip from his canteen then splashed some water on his face. “So, are you on your way to the ball field, the simulator, the obstacle course or the classroom.”

“I’ve got a study period; I’m going to use it to bone up on Stellar Navigation.”

“Where are your books?”

“They’re stored in the computer.”

“But computers have no soul to share; you must enrich yourself within the pages of literature.”

Shifting back and forth tentatively he proclaimed, “I don’t have time to enrich myself.”

The man turned to tend a droopy leaf on the ancient plant. “Everyone has to make time to build character.”

“Maybe I’ll work on it next semester, but right now I’ve got to study so that I don’t flunk my freshman exams and get booted out of here.”

“Nonsense; you come too highly touted for The Academy to dismiss you over a bad grade here or there.”

“You know who I am?”

“James Tiberius Kirk, of course—Jimmy to your friends; the first plebe appointed to Team Avenger, the first plebe to win a spot on Nova Squadron. You led your high school football team to a state championship as an all-star running back, you’re a world class wrestler, and widely considered the best prep shortstop in The Federation . . . no doubt the town’s prom queen is dutifully awaiting your return so you can wed.”

Kirks face clenched. “Why have you taken the time to familiarize yourself with me?”

“Yours is a name heralded in the corridors of power.”

“I’ll do my best to show my superiors that their faith in me is well placed.”

“You will have to endure being the envy of many a cadet that will feel slighted by the acclaim you receive, plus there will be pressure from the plutocrats who will be wagering heavily on the outcome of these athletic contests—they will be quite testy if they are not rewarded with victories.”

“Is it your function to psyche out the new recruits? Because it won’t work on me.”

He sprinkled nourishment onto the soil around the plant. “I am reminded of a cadet that came through here some years ago. Like you, he was highly touted in several sports.”

“And now you’re going to tell me that he washed out of The Academy because he couldn’t take the pressure.”

“Actually he was just named to succeed Robert April as captain of the Enterprise right after the Peace Mission of Axanar next spring.”

Kirk was agog. “Are you talking about Christopher Pike?”

“The very same.”

“I’ve followed his career in logs since the incident at the Altair Six, when he saved the Federation colonists from the Xindi insurgents.”

“Oh he has faced many harrowing moments like that and performed his duties with meritorious excellence.”

“So, along with everything else, I’ll be expected to live up to his athletic legacy at The Academy.”

“Or live it down.”

“What does that mean?”

He stood back to look at his treasured plant with concern. “Mister Pike’s athletic career here was quite unremarkable, actually; the hyperbole never came to fruition. He collected more pine than he threw passes; his pitches were not as potent at this level; he never scored or received a knockout in the ring and barely won more than he lost.”

“So he quit when the going got tough and you think that I’ll do the same.”

“Christopher Pike never quit anything in his life. He became a leader by making those around him better.”

“How could he be a leader if he was a benchwarmer?”

“By being there for his teammates, by working hard to make them better; he rallied players to run further and compete harder in practice, and even tutored teammates on the verge of losing eligibility. He was a natural born leader.”

“Well I don’t have any intention of being a third-rate second-string athlete.”

“You’ve got tough competition at every position.”

“Do you work in the athletic department or something?”

He took in the expanse of the lush green rolling grounds. “I am charged with the duty of keeping all the fields of this institution immaculate, so I service the athletic department as well.”

“Are you a professor or an instructor?”

“I am the groundskeeper.”

“That’s all you do?”

He idly stroked a leaf of his muktok sending it good wishes for a healthy recovery. “It takes every drop of my heart and soul to cultivate these individual shards into a grand mosaic, so I hardly have time for other endeavors.”

“But just tending the grounds all day can’t be a very rewarding career.”

“Nurturing life is its own reward.”

Kirk looked around the garden. “I hope that you’re not trying to recruit me to takeover after you step down, because my future is in the stars.”

“I assure you, Mister Kirk, that I shall not be stepping down in the foreseeable future.”

“What did you want to do before you became a groundskeeper?”

“Nothing.”

“I take it you weren’t a very ambitious young man.”

“It was a simpler time . . . a man only had to find his place in the world then; now people have to fit into the cosmic scheme of the galaxy.”

“Well I know that I belong here.”

“And what lies beyond the protective cocoon of this institution?”

“A life of adventure and exploration on the final frontier.”

“That is a journey that begins by looking inward, not upward.”

“I’ve gotten this far by always focusing on what’s in front of me . . . I’ve had no difficulties.”

He gently poured water over the leaves of his ailing plant. “Maybe that is why you lack a strong character; we only discover our essence when forced to deal with difficulties.”

“Difficulties can be avoided by using good judgment and making sound decisions.”

“Yet you can do everything right and still endure defeat.”

“I believe that mistakes are the reason for failure.”

“What about the Kobayashi Maru?”

“I will never accept a ‘no-win’ scenario.”

“Since The Academy commenced, in 2161, no midshipman or officer has ever achieved a victory on the Kobayashi Maru mission.”

Seeing an out, Kirk sought to leave. “Well then I’d better study up so that I’m prepared . . . if you’ll excuse me.”

“The Kobayashi Maru has thousands of program variables, which should alert you to the fact that life is filled with ‘no-win’ scenarios, and we will be judged by how we face them.”

Kirk was resolute. “I’ll face them by finding a way to win.”

He looked right through the cadet. “Why did you join Starfleet Academy, Mister Kirk?”

“I came here to serve my country, like the men in my family have for generations; it’s the mark of a good American.”

“You impress me as a young man that was lured here by thrilling tomes of space cowboys shooting it out on faraway worlds; I will wager that you’re just spoiling to get out there and blast your first alien.”

“I won’t cower in the face of an enemy; if my team or my ship is attacked, they can count on me to respond with force.”

“Will you take time to ponder why these beings are firing on you, or will you just come out with phasers blazing?”

“I’m majoring in Tactics so that I can defend my ship against an attack; I won’t have time to ponder anything during the heat of battle.”

“Do you know the difference between defending and attacking?”

“I’ll attack only in defense.”

“If that’s the way your enemy feels, how will you determine which of you are wrong?”

“It won’t matter once the battle has begun; the only objective then is to win.”

“At any cost?”

“Losing would be more costly.”

“It’s easier to defeat an opponent than it is to conquer your limitations.”

“So what’s the difference between failure and limitations?” Kirk puzzled.

“I have played the piano poorly all my life . . . it doesn’t make me a failure; it makes me limited.”

“Well, I don’t see a need to dwell on my limitations.”

“If you do not face your limitations, everyone else will.”

“That’s why I play to my strengths,” Kirk parried.

“You would do well to improve your oratory skills, so you are not so muted,” the caretaker critiqued.

“I’ll speak when spoken to and answer up appropriately.”

“Reserved officers that assert no opinions become inscrutable functionaries, carrying out orders without thought or imagination.”

“I came here to serve; that means taking orders.”

“It is just as important to know how to give orders, Mister Kirk. There may come a time when others will turn to you for their very survival and you must be prepared to respond with authority.”

“Well I’m a long way from being in command.”

“Does your fear of failure keep you from setting high standards?”

“People with fear aren’t chosen for Team Avenger.”

“All you have to do there is run, climb, fight and shoot. How about really giving yourself a real challenge and joining the debate team where you have to think, speak, and pontificate.”

“I’m not interested in wasting a class every day arguing with folks.”

“Does your lack of sophistication make you feel inferior in learned circles?” he prodded.

“I didn’t enter Starfleet Academy to become a diplomat.”

He grew stern with the sapling. “Mister Kirk, it is your responsibility to grow into a well-rounded officer that can handle any situation. You have just identified a weakness in your character and therefore I admonish you to take steps to rectify it immediately before it retards your progress.”

“How do you win a debate?”

“By entering into it.”

“I wouldn’t change my position no matter how the judges voted.”

“What if you were asked to make an argument that you did not believe in?”

Kirk was stumped. “What purpose would that serve?”

“By seeing your position from another perspective you will be able to comprehend your opponent.”

Kirk was not swayed. “I’ll only fight for what I believe in.”

“So you will disobey your captain’s orders if you do not support his decision.”

Kirk went cold. “That’d be mutiny.”

“Since you will be the officer at the tactical station annihilating life on command, shouldn’t you assert your opinion?”

“Captains have to follow Starfleet regulations as well as The Prime Directive, so they are not laws unto themselves that arbitrarily attack on a whim.”

“What if your captain disobeys The Prime Directive; should he be relieved of duty?”

“General Order Three, Paragraph One states that the captain can only be relieved of duty by the first officer if the second-officer and chief-medical officer concur,” Kirk recited.

“Has a captain ever been relieved of command in that fashion?”

“No; never.”

“Captains make snap decisions in a crisis moment based on everything they have learned; they follow the instincts of their beliefs and rely on their training. They don’t have time to consult the rule book.”

“Captains make command decisions based on the regulations in the manual.”

“And article one; paragraph one, forbids us to have contact with planets that do not know of other worlds; violation of this law is our highest form of treason.”

“Starfleet Academy teaches every officer these rules, so that we don’t break them unknowingly.”

“Then Christopher Pike should have been prosecuted after the incident at Merid Four.”

“That was an extraordinary circumstance and he was commended for his heroism,” Kirk advocated.

“He disobeyed the explicit orders of Captain April, by commandeering a shuttle to go into the nebula so he4 could rescue those aliens . . . he outright violated The Prime Directive.”

“Those beings would have been killed.”

“What do the lives of nine Meridians mean in an infinite universe?”

“Every life should be considered.”

“But a billion people on that planet watching their viewers saw a U.F.O. rescue their comrades by turning them into particles of energy and beaming them aboard a starship full of strange looking creatures from a planet five dozen solar systems away.”

“Then why’d the captain aid an officer that’d basically mutinied?”

“Captain April had lost sight of the individuality of life for seeing the greater whole. Mister Pike’s passionate stance moved the captain to rethink his position and help those fellow explorers get home to their loved ones.”

“And what kept Starfleet Command from enforcing the law and dismissing all the officers involved?”

“The sincerity of Mister Pike’s desire to save those individuals, the nobility of his captain’s support, and the plea from those whose lives had been spared by his heroism proselytized the tribunal. He gained respect for being an officer willing to accept the responsibility of his convictions . . . Shortly thereafter, Captain April made Mister Pike his first officer and groomed him for the captaincy,” he noted with pride.

“So you’re one of those who believes the ends justify the means.”

“Because of Christopher Pike’s courage, not only was the space station crew saved, but we provide Merid Four with vaccines that have wiped out prevalent diseases; we furnished them with replicaters and hunger was eliminated . . . millions who would have died in the coming decades will be alive and well because of that first contact.”

“But that’s interfering with the natural progression of the planet,” Kirk protested.

“Saving babies from a life of deformity, feeding starving masses, healing the terminally ill is our obligation.”

“We don’t have the wisdom to play God.”

“So only advanced civilizations have the right to expect food when they are hungry and medicine when they are sick?”

“Are we expected to provide it?”

“If we are able to, how can we not?”

“Because it violates The Prime Directive.”

He pulled off his straw hat and poured some water through it. “In order to evolve as a species, we must make laws to guide our intentions, but we must also make allowances that compensate for our lack of comprehension; we must govern our passions without losing our compassion.”

“But we’ve got to have rules that protect us and others from our ignorance.”

“Rules have brought about opposition and war since the dawn of time, because there are exceptions that must be factored in.”

“Excuses!”

“Reasons . . .”

“Well, I wouldn’t condone any action that violated The Prime Directive.”

He plopped his hat back on his head. “Then it is a good thing for Christopher Pike and Merid-Four that you were not captain of the USS Enterprise that day.”

“My only option would have been to follow regulations to the letter.”

“We are the sum of the choices we make, destined to be judged by what we are willing to sacrifice to stand by our principles.”

“Is this what goes on in a debate class?”

“You will find out when you report to our debate master Professor John Gill; he will meet with you after your last class today. Be punctual and enthused.”

“You say that as if it were an order.”

“It is time you learn about another kind of tactical engagement.”

“A war of words will not win battles.”

He allowed himself a chuckle at the naivety of youth. “Young man, people had to fight and die on planets all over the galaxy for the right to question any law, disagree with leaders, stand up for beliefs and join with others who share the same goals . . . we do battle to preserve those ideals.”

“But those rights should conform to the rules and regulations we live by.”

“That is a very dispassionate outlook to apply when lives hang in the balance.”

“I believe control is an important part of maturity; stability is necessary for leadership to be maintained.”

Boothby reached into a weathered leather satchel that was lying at his feet and retrieved an ancient hardcopy. “Then here; read about a captain that abandons himself and his crew to sate his obsession.”

Kirk gingerly took the book into his hands and read the title with a furrowed brow. “What’s it about?”

“You will have to decide that for yourself.”

Kirk opened the book and looked inside, incredulously. “This book is already inscribed to me.”

“I was certain that you would benefit greatly by reading this epic piece of literature over and over again.”

“So, who do I have to thank for this?”

“The name’s Boothby.”

“Well thanks, Mister Boothby.”

“Just, Boothby.”

P I C A R D

An aged man wearing a lumberjack coat, carefully pulling fading petals off a Bajoran lilac, shouted to a contumacious youth in a jumpsuit who was just passing by. “Excuse me, Cadet . . . don’t ignore me; come over here for a moment, I require your assistance.”

The cadet strolled over indignantly. “What can I do ya for, mate?”

“Do you know anything about horticulture?”

“I grew up toiling in my father’s vineyard, but had no stomach for it, so here I am.”

“Oh yes, Picard . . . I admit to having a less than sophisticated palate, but even I am aware your family name is celebrated by wine enthusiasts the world over.”

Picard sniffed haughtily. “Growing and crushing grapes is a tedious business, bereft of imagination; I have very much more to accomplish with my life.”

Boothby took a pull of his canteen and dabbed the perspiration on his face with a handkerchief. “So you came to Starfleet Academy in order to runaway from home and turn your back on the family business.”

“I’m not some errant adolescent running off to join the circus, no matter what my father and brother believe, Picard grumbled. “I came to Starfleet Academy to compete against the so-called, ‘best and brightest’ . . . so far it hasn’t been much of a challenge.”

“Well you have only been here a short while; perhaps in time you will develop the depth needed to appreciate the training you are receiving.”

“I could teach most of these instructors a thing or two about quite a lot.”

“I take it you have figured it all out.”

“I do, indeed . . . The key is to be assertive—a timid man cannot lead others. Once I prove my superiority, these pushy upperclassmen will fall in line behind me.”

“And the officers that instruct you?”

“Not an impressive lot, overall.” Picard graded. “Certainly the most capable and daring officers in Starfleet are light years away from this place.”

“And what of the professors?”

“They dally in theoretic speculation and historical analysis; hardly valuable courses when exploring the unknown.”

“So you are setting out to be an explorer; a modern day Columbus.”

“Like it says over the archway: ‘To boldly go where no one has gone before.’ Exploration is still the path that leads to the greatest glory.”

“Have you no worlds left to conquer here on Earth?”

“All that’s left to do here is walk in the footsteps of others; I am more than ready to leave this world behind and begin the journey.”

Boothby sprinkled herbs over the alien flora. “For one who prides himself on accepting great challenges, I was surprised to see that you were not signed up to enter the spring marathon on Delulin-Two.”

“I compete in rugged sports of strength and skill, where you engage your opponent head to head; like wrestling, fencing, and soccer.”

“The greatest competition you face in a marathon is yourself; that’s why it is the most difficult of contests. It takes character to compete against your own mental and physical weakness.”

Picard’s jaw tightened. “I’m not daunted by the prospect of running a marathon nor am I persuaded by your agitating psychology.”

Boothby stood so close to Picard the brim of his straw hat tipped his nose. “You impress me as a frontrunner that picks his spots; if you cannot win you do not participate . . . you even allow yourself to believe that a contest beyond your abilities is unworthy of your consideration.”

Picard took a step back. “I shrink from no challenge; I choose to engage in competitions that require a display of expertise, where strategies are needed to be victorious . . . running is exercise, not sport.”

“The marathon is the greatest arena for a cadet to show the hierarchy what they’re made of; The Academy Marathon is after all the Sport of Admirals.” Boothby took off his hat and inched forward. “Of course you would have to find the character to enter the competition knowing you have no chance for victory, with the eyes of your peers and superiors upon you.”

“Were I to compete in the marathon, I would bloody well win it!”

“Win it?” Boothby dismissed. “No freshman has ever won the marathon; you would do well just to finish.”

“There’s no pride in moral victories; there’s only one victor amid a field of losers . . . anyone who believes differently is only jollying themselves.”

“Well it seems that you have found a challenge here after all . . . now you have to discover the fortitude to accept it.”

“Very well, I’ll accept the challenge . . . and not because of your attempt to manipulate me,” Picard insisted. “If these mucky mucks think their marathon is such a treasure then my victory will bring them to their feet to honor me.”

“Are you solely motivated by accolades?”

“It is my intention to be the top candidate in my class; if winning the marathon is the first step on that road then I will gladly take it.”

“Do you know where last year’s top graduate is right now?”

“I haven’t the foggiest.”

“In the same boat with the person who graduated last in the class; a lowly ensign, stumbling through daily mistakes, finding out that everything they learned here has only prepared them to deal with their inevitable failures.”

“Then what is the purpose of this place?”

“This is your proving ground,” Boothby edified. “Beyond all the tests, you are being measured for your ability to persevere. Notice that the freshman dorms are not as crowded as they were before the holidays . . . who will be back for next semester?”

“Rest assured that I will be here to the last,” Picard confidently declared. “I will forge a legacy like no other candidate in the history of this institution.”

“Do you know who James T. Kirk was?”

“A starship captain.”

“And Babe Ruth was a baseball player.”

“I’ll have to take your word for that.”

“Mister Kirk was an unassuming farm boy dedicated to duty and he left this institution with the most stellar record of them all; he was an athletic champion of the first order; he was master of arms on Team Avenger and commanded Nova Squadron; he garnered more commendations, medals and promotions than any candidate in history.”

“I do know that he is the only cadet to successfully rescue the ship on the Kobayashi Maru mission . . . until I take a crack at it.”

“He was highly touted when he arrived and yet exceeded every expectation before he left,” Boothby hailed. “When his name was read at graduation, his classmates and instructors stood and cheered him for fully fifteen minutes . . . I admit to getting a lump in my throat when I recall that day.”

“I guess I have my work cut out for me if I am to best his record.”

“You will have enough to contend with just to get past your own limitations, without worrying about challenging the Kirk legend.”

“Rubbish. I’ll carve my own niche; one that will put his to shame.”

“The lesson Mister Kirk learned at great expense was that success comes when you defeat the enemy within . . . I wonder what it will cost you to learn that invaluable lesson.”

“What did it cost Kirk?”

“Very nearly his career in Starfleet,” Boothby recounted. “After his first deep space mission, he stood on this very spot at a crossroads, ready to pack it in; his confidence was in shambles and his pride had been stripped away. Fortunately for the galaxy, he was able to conquer his insecurity and regain himself.”

“I suffer from no such shortcoming.”

“Of course you do . . . those with the loftiest goals are always driven by their insecurities.”

“Insecurities lead to failure.”

“The fear of failure is the mother of success for the person who accepts that they are fallible, because they will acknowledge their limitations honestly; however, it is the recipe for disaster for those who believe that they are invincible, because they will expend half of their effort trying to cover up their limitations.” Boothby stared down at the hallowed ground beneath their feet. “Mister Kirk was able to overcome those insecurities and make his limitations his greatest strengths . . . that is the part of his legacy you would do well to concern yourself with equaling and leave behind your lust for his laurel wreaths.”

“You speak as if you knew this man personally.”

“There were those who knew him far better than I.”

“But he was a cadet here seven decades ago.”

“And yet I remember those days like they were yesterday . . . actually, sometimes better than I remember yesterday,” Boothby deadpanned dryly.

“Funny, you don’t look Vulcan.”

“I am all too human.”

“There are no immortal humans.”

“And I shall not be the first.”

“So when were you born?”

“I thought you had no interest in history.”

“Only as it pertains to the present.”

“Well then, you will have a chance to discover how much of the present is contained in the past when you take Professor Richard Galen’s archeology course next semester.”

Picard’s eyes grew wide. “I will be taking no such course.”

Boothby’s eyes narrowed. “In fact you will, Mr. Picard. I managed to intrigue the good professor by describing your singular persona . . . he loves a challenge, so he agreed to take you on.”

“What worth is there in studying the ruins of dead civilizations and broken chunks of ancient pottery?”

“A masterpiece that has decayed is no less a masterpiece, because the master lives on through that work and speaks to us across the eras. Their contributions are touchstones to other times; their work steppingstones to greater achievements still. They provide the present with inspiration.”

“Humanity grows by leaving behind that which is obsolete.”

“Even though the automobile is obsolete, it no less changed the world.”

“But has nothing to do with the world we live in today.”

“Which do you believe is a greater accomplishment; a Constellation Class starship or The Wright Flyer?”

“Obviously a Constellation Class starship . . . by a factor of warp-eight.”

“And yet a Constellation Class starship is only a moderate improvement over the Constitution Class starships that came before, whereas The Wright Flyer was thousands of millenniums ahead of the human race.”

“Well since I will never fly in an aeroplane or ride in an automobile, I hardly see the need to study them.”

“You cannot know where you are going until you find out where you have been . . . it is called perspective and it is a crucial aspect of wisdom that must be developed.”

“I know who I am . . . that is enough.”

“But you fail to realize who you are to others. You heed only your own trumpet call, without taking measure of those around you; you see the world as a backdrop with you in the foreground . . . this does not describe a man who will be capable of leading others.”

“People will follow the person who formulates the best plan of action and executes it with efficiency.”

“How can you know what is best for others without considering them? How will you know their strengths when all you focus on is besting them so you can feel superior?”

“I will lead by example.”

“In order to lead, you must be trusted. Would you sacrifice your life or your career to save another; will you be able to order a friend to his death to save strangers?”

“In the completion of a mission or to save the ship, a commanding officer will have to give orders knowing that they will possibly result in death.”

“That is what it says in the big green book, but what source will you draw upon to decide when losses are acceptable?” Boothby looked at the young man pleadingly. “At what cost will your victories come?”

“Every officer knows that performing their duty may result in making the ultimate sacrifice.”

“But every officer believes that they will never be sacrificed for the sake of an ambitious glory hound seeking opportunity through victory. Such an officer would never be given responsibility for the lives of others, because it would result in justifiable mutiny.”

Picard was steadfast. “An officer unwilling to take risk should hang up the uniform and go to work in my family vineyard; space exploration is not for the faint of heart.”

“Starfleet trains young men to be Caesars of the galaxy on starships laden with enough weaponry to conquer planets and subjugate their people. Even after all the loyalty oaths an officer swears to, there is always concern that absolute power will corrupt absolutely.”

“And you believe wasting a class everyday studying ancient rubble and antiquated machinery will keep me from enslaving a primitive population as a living God.”

Boothby reached into a tattered leather satchel that was lying at his feet and retrieved an ancient hardcopy. “Now read a tale of legend and lore, from a time when the tyranny of barbarism was battled by the might of peace in the name of God, at the dawn of liberty.”

With a skeptical look Picard accepted the weighty yellowed text. “This is written in Greek.”

“Not only will you get to take a literary adventure through days of yore, but you will learn a new language while you do . . . yet another challenge before you.”

“I already speak three languages.”

“Three down, thousands that we know of to go in the tiny corner of out galaxy we have charted.”

“Perhaps while reading your history texts, you came across mention of the Universal Translator; it’s been in use for over a century now.”

“The Universal Translator did nothing to aid Captain Mark Jameson of the USS Gettysburg when he recently tried to negotiate a trade agreement with the Jarada of Torona-Four. He left out a word in the closing and they were so insulted they immediately shutdown communications. They will not reopen negotiations with us for another twenty years.”

“So who cares about one more trade agreement more or less?”

“The Federation for one. An empire needs materials to sustain itself; just on our planet of eleven billion people alone.”

“That is why we have replicaters. Otherwise we could not feed the world population.”

“We cannot replicate precious ores, so we need to network with other cultures in good faith for our own survival. Captain Jameson was privately censured for his failure to salvage negotiations.”

“Well it’s not like anyone was killed over it.”

“Miscommunications have led to death and disaster over the millenniums . . . look how many souls have perished tragically over the last century-and-a-half because of our inability to communicate and negotiate with other worlds.”

“Believe me; when I run into a Klingon or a Romulan or those Cardassians, I shall make my meaning quite clear.”

Boothby frowned thoughtfully. “Let us hope between this moment and then you gain the wisdom to interpret their meaning . . . Now I told Professor Galen that you would call on him as a courtesy before homeroom tomorrow morning; I expect for you to make a good impression, in spite of yourself.”

“You sound as if you’re giving me an order, yet you have no pips on your collar and you’re not wearing a uniform. I’m curious; do you outrank me?”

“Suffice to say I have seniority, Mister Picard. Now be there at the appointed time and on your best behavior.”

“And whom shall I say sent me?”

“He knows . . . but for your information, I am Boothby, the groundskeeper.”

“The groundskeeper? What experiences does a gardener draw on to impart wisdom?”

“The knowledge that certain seedlings need more care than others to reach their potential.”

J A N E W A Y

An elderly man wearing a straw hat, raking leaves in the rose garden, called out to a distracted young woman in a jumpsuit who was just passing by. “Say there, missy, be a dear and give me a hand with these . . . they could use a girl’s sprightly touch.”

“It’s Mister Janeway; not missy, if you please, sir . . . and I have no aptitude for gardening.”

Boothby looked her over. “Mister Kathryn Janeway . . . has a rather odd ring to it, don’t you think?”

“I don’t carry enough rank to say anything about it; maybe a new breed of woman will take power and demand the respect that comes with her rank and gender.”

“You certainly are entitled to have an opinion about being referred to as a male entity rather than a female one.”

“Though offensive to my feminine sensibilities it is considered acceptable as a matter of protocol.”

“Certainly you do not advocate being called a midship-person?”

“I’d choose it over, Missy.”

“So how would you have someone properly address you?”

“Cadet Janeway would do in this circumstance; one day Ensign . . . Captain Janeway has a nice ring to it.”

Boothby woefully shook his head. “We live in an era of endless titles, appellations, ranks, hyphenations, suffixes, prefixes, preambles and post scripts; I had hoped that the concept of offering a résumé as a form of greeting would have ended in the Twenty-First Century, but it has grown exponentially.”

“With greater accomplishments come longer titles.”

“Tell that to Moses.”

“And who are you, sir?”

“I am Boothby; the groundskeeper of this institution.”

“You don’t have a rank?”

“My love of the stars is strictly earthbound, so I require no rank to serve here.”

“Why would someone with no interest in space travel work at Starfleet Academy?”

“These grounds are like the universe,” Boothby paralleled. “We romp across its expanse, we view it as the backdrop of our moment, yet each shred of life like every light in the sky has an origin, a heritage, a future and an epitaph . . . just like these grounds; just like these students.” Boothby clipped a red rose and handed it to her.

Janeway smiled appreciatively, “This is the most beautiful rose I’ve ever seen.”

“Every flower here receives the same care, yet some flourish, while others perish; some are radiant while others wither . . . each individual fulfills their destiny to make up the garden.” Boothby stood back from the flowerbed. “At this distance it looks perfect; the symmetry of the rows, the sweep of the design . . . yet upon further inspection, the magnificence of some disguises the weakness of others— some must be plucked so that others may grow.”

“I smell a manure analogy coming on . . .”

“I believe that goes without saying . . . After we have endured the dirty work and invested our hearts and souls into the task at hand, we must evaluate what we have accomplished and ask ourselves a truthful question.”

“Was it worth it?” Janeway guessed.

“Am I committed?” Boothby corrected. “It’s one thing to put forth the effort to design so immaculate a garden once and quite another to spend a lifetime toiling to maintain this botanical masterpiece.”

“Well I’m definitely committed to cultivating my career in Starfleet.”

“And is this motivation fostered by a sense of self awareness or are you here to chase the ghost of your late father?”

“I’m here to make a name for myself,” Janeway stated.

“You already have a name, and it is a potent one in Starfleet: Admiral Edward Janeway’s daughter.”

“That’s not how I want people to think of me.”

“Then you are in the wrong place, because his shadow looms large and his accomplishments resonate.”

“Then there are definitely others that he inspired more than me.”

“How will you fill the shoes of the cadet who went on to become the youngest Admiral in Starfleet history?”

“My own shoes fit very well thank you and I’ll wear them to get where I’m going— so far they got me here without any piggybacking.”

“It might make things a lot easier for you when the chips are down to play your ace in the hole.”

“That would be like cheating.”

“Many of the instructors here served with your father, some even attended The Academy with him; it might buy you an awful lot of good will when the going gets tough.”

“I won’t be trading on anyone’s name to get any special privileges. I’ll earn my keep fair and square and build my reputation with my bare hands.”

“The road to hoe for a woman at The Academy is still twice as difficult as it is for a man. Perhaps your father forgot to tell you that this is still a ‘good old boy’ network.”

“With as many women that have served with heroism and commanded with distinction, Starfleet should no longer be considered a man’s eminent domain.”

“There are still many areas in Starfleet where women have barely made a mark; particularly at vital duty stations where snap decisions can result in life or death.”

“Women have proven that they can take their place as skilled bridge officers.”

“Oh certainly, at ops, communications, even engineering . . . but they are viewed as potential liabilities in crisis situations, because men lose perspective when there is a damsel in distress.”

“Women have shown that they can take care of themselves in dangerous situations.”

“Yet first officers still hesitate to include them on away teams; God Bless us, but we males feel an instinctive need to protect the female of the species in times of danger and that attitude has jeopardized the success of missions.”

“Captain Rachel Garrett certainly didn’t wither under fire at Narndra-Three; her bravery may never be surpassed by an officer of any rank of gender.”

“Rachel ‘Gung-Ho’ Garrett; the first female selected to captain our proud flagship and the first to have the flagship destroyed in battle with all hands lost.”

“She saved thousands of lives on the outpost.”

“There are some that will debate the wisdom of her command decision to protect an enemy against an enemy.”

“But because the Klingons believe that the greatest honor is sacrificing your life in battle, they gained respect and trust for us and now they’re members of The Federation.”

“So for all that loss, our reward is to have the treacherous Klingons as our allies. That hardly seems equitable.”

“But how many more Federation lives would have been lost in a sustained conflict with the Klingon Empire?”

“We had been holding our own against them for nearly two hundred years of Cold War; there was no need for an overture to bring them into our lair.”

“That Cold War was heating up and maybe would’ve exploded by now. Their underground alliance with the Romulans was as strong as their open negotiations with The Federation. Captain Garrett’s actions changed all that; her decision to protect the outpost may have saved the quadrant.”

“Well, I will tell you this; if James T. Kirk had been in command of the Enterprise that day, he would have left those soulless Klingons to the fate of the merciless Romulans; he would not have ordered his ship into a hopeless battle against a squadron of warbirds.”

“Then it’s a good thing he wasn’t captain of the Enterprise that day; there’s been enough bloodshed . . . he of all people knew the price of conflict.”

“Jim Kirk wasn’t the only one turning over in his grave when the Klingons became members of The Federation.”

“He was at Axanar and Organia and Khitomer, which eventually led to Algeron and the Second Khitomer Accords,” Janeway pointed out. “He must’ve known the value of peace.”

“He understood that peace must be won in battle before it can be negotiated at the table. If not for The Battle of Axanar there would have been no Peace Mission of Axanar.”

“That battle could have either led to war or peace . . . they chose peace.”

“Well then what did Captain Garrett choose?”

“To do battle in the name of peace.”

“How can someone do battle and kill in the name of peace?”

“When it is the only way to bring peace.”

Boothby took off his hat to fan himself. “You speak as if you were a midshipman on the fast track to command, yet you major in Cartographical Sciences. Forgive me for saying this, but you can go chart stars from an observatory on a hillside or at your home computer and make room here for someone who has the desire for adventure and exploration.”

“I’m also studying Propulsion Matrix and Gravitational Navigation. Those are courses that will qualify me for bridge positions.”

“Bully! Just what Starfleet needs; another female who bounces around the bridge, moving from the science station, to ops, to command as if they were just consoles to manage.”

“A lot of men have taken that path to command.”

“One of the stops on the road to the captain’s chair is first officer. Tell me; when you are leading an away team that is under fire, will you draw on your experience as a stellar cartographer to form a battle plan? Will your study of matrixical phenomena qualify you to give orders to skilled tacticians? Will you have the confidence to yield to strategies offered by experienced officers of lesser rank, or will you arrogantly shove your clusters in their faces and lead them to disaster?”

“By the time I’m in that situation, I’ll have had experience and I’ll be ready to face those challenges.”

“How will you get experience; by writing a comprehensive treatise about some celestial anomalies? That ought to inspire a lot of confidence among your subordinates when red alert sounds and your enemy powers up their weapons.”

Janeway became visibly agitated. “I can handle myself in a crisis situation; I’m not some brittle socialite given to panic.”

“And what if you have done your utmost and the endeavor ends in failure?”

“Nobody can do more than they can do.”

“Which is exactly why you must thrust yourself into a position of certain inglorious failure; you must take on challenges beyond your capability of ever succeeding; you must push yourself to make a journey that you will never complete no matter how many times you fall and get up.”

“There is no worthwhile reason to set yourself up for complete failure.”

“Be sure to impart that bit of wisdom to your instructor just before you take the Kobayashi Maru test.”

“So you’re suggesting I need a crash course in failure.”

“Which is the same as learning how to be successful.”

“And what course does The Academy offer that would prime me for learning to succeed through failure?”

“The course varies for each individual. One person’s weakness is another’s strength. For instance many men have variously succeeded on Team Avenger, yet no female cadet has ever been offered an appointment.”

“Women have faced sexist selection practices since the dawn of time . . . some things never change.”

“Certainly you are not suggesting that a Twentieth Century double standard be applied when admitting women into programs, providing them with stepladders to scale walls or lowering the acceptable performance to give them a position they have not earned?”

“Well, maybe no woman has had the desire to enter the Avenger program.”

“Actually none have put forth the effort to warrant consideration. A cadet that seeks to spend time crawling across rugged terrain with their face in the mud, scaling treacherous peaks by their fingertips, dealing with tactical chaos and grappling toe to toe with maniacal predators when there are far more esoteric courses to be enjoyed must have a great deal of intestinal fortitude and mental resolution.”

“You certainly don’t make it sound like an appealing program.”

“I am sure all of the men that passed and even those who failed would agree with you, yet each would tell you that they’re a better man for having endured the experience . . . do you have any interest in being a better man, Mister Janeway?”

Janeway was insulted. “There are many ways a person can better themselves without becoming a man.”

“It would be difficult to maintain your Victorian coiffure in such a rigorous program.”

“The physical fitness training and the self defense classes here have more than mussed my hair.”

“Many still believe that women are promoted through the ranks so we can feel as if we are an enlightened species, despite all evidence to the contrary . . . underscored by the fact that men cannot bear to acknowledge a female superior by respectfully calling her Ma’am. Even calling them Miss denotes weakness in the chain of command. Some woman is going to have to step up and change the trend.”

Janeway got a sinking feeling as his intentions became clear. “You don’t expect for me to volunteer for Team Avenger.”

“You don’t volunteer; you campaign for The Commandant’s appointment by enacting methodical feats of courage and executing strategies with logistical cunning; you must spiritually immerse yourself in their esprit de corp; Ex Astris, Militis! You must not only be willing to kill and die for the cause against our enemies, but you must know when it is time to dispatch those around you for the greater good without hesitation even when you believe it might be wrong . . . even when you know it is right.”

“I’m not out to play God.”

“Do you know what the difference between God and a starship captain is?”

“God doesn’t think he’s a starship captain,” Janeway supplied. “That’s as old as warp drive.”

“In his time, Jim Kirk was referred to by name in that joke. Actually it gave it more clarity . . . in fact, I think I will tell it that way from now on.”

“My father told it to me that way . . . he was far more interested in the adventures of James T. Kirk than he was in my life.”

“While he was a cadet, your father spent many an hour at Commandant Harriman’s knee drinking in adventurous tales from the era of ‘Cowboy Diplomacy’ ushered in by Admiral Kirk.”

“And you can be sure he told all those stories to me at least once . . . or sent them to me in subspace messages.”

Boothby looked at her compassionately. “You impress me as a little girl lost, who became enamored by stellar research while spending all that time looking into the heavens and wondering where on Earth your daddy was.”

“I accepted that my father was busy with his life and I got on with mine,” Janeway responded flatly. “He had other priorities, so I found mentors that developed my interests. We were strangers in many ways . . . except for our love of strong black coffee, we had little in common.”

“And yet I see him and hear him so clearly in you.”

“I’m certain you meant that as a compliment.”

“The last time I spoke with Admiral Janeway, you had lost a tennis match and you were so angry that you stormed off the court and kept walking for fifteen miles, even after a deluge broke out . . . he was very proud of his Katie.”

“You know, the reason that story has grown is because he only heard about it through others . . . then obviously added his own touches.”

“I am certain he had the essentials of the story correct and he was genuinely impressed by your character.”

“What he didn’t tell you, because he didn’t know, since he wasn’t around, is that I was so infuriated by losing that match I never played tennis again.”

“Yes I can see by your walk that you furthered your dabbling in ballet . . . he said you showed poise and discipline as a dancer, but that was probably just a father going on about his oldest girl.”

“He knew little about me and filled in the blanks in his own image. That way I would be the person he wanted to believe I was.”

“He seemed to believe that you were a person capable of exceeding their limitations with determination. Perhaps that was just more wishful thinking on his part, because he never got to know the person you became . . . one who is content to merely go through the motions and accept the status quo.”

Janeway’s chin involuntarily jutted forward and she steeled herself with resolve. “So how would I go about getting an appointment to the Avengers?”

“What are you willing to give to the cause?”

“My best effort.”

“That is easily given . . . commitment is based on giving what you cannot bear to part with.”

“You make it sound like a quest.”

“And so it begins . . . I have arranged a meeting for you with the Strategic Operations Officer, Captain Owen Paris tomorrow at the flagpole after last assembly . . . be on time and ready to impress him with your intentions.”

“My intentions to do what?”

“In order to get the attention of The Commandant’s council, and receive an appointment to Team Avenger, you must make the Parrise Squares varsity team.”

“That was my dad’s sport; not mine.”

“It was indeed his sport,” Boothby praised. “He was on the team in back in Twenty-Four that beat Minsk for the championship.”

“Yes I believe he made mention of that on several hundred occasions . . .”

“Did you know that we have not won another tournament since then?”

“I’m a novice at that sport, at best . . . the women on the team are far more skilled than I am; I’ll never make it.”

“It is just as well, because being accepted onto the women’s team would not merit notice by The Commandant. You must be the first woman in the history of The Academy to make the varsity.”

“If I don’t have the ability to make the women’s team, how will I be able to make the varsity?”

“Right now you must focus on preparing yourself for the attempt and then we will assess potential outcomes,” Boothby prepped.

“It is difficult to knowingly choose a course of action that you believe to be futile.”

“Success and failure are both ripples in the pond of life. From them springs other successes and failures. Sacrifice is not always a noble undertaking; it is often anonymous and painful.”

“How did you know that I would even accept your cockamamie proposal?”

“Because Rachel Garret’s valiant sacrifice must be a catalyst for women to attain posts they have never held to date.” Boothby gazed at the rose in Janeway’s hand wistfully. “That is the only thing she has left to hope for.”

Janeway stared at the wizened man as if trying to see herself through his eyes. “I admit that I’m intrigued by the possibility of doing something that has never been done before.”

“That has been the key ingredient of every great accomplishment . . . as well as every great disaster.” Boothby reached into his brand new leather satchel and retrieved an ancient hardcopy. “Take this book and read it voraciously, so you will see what happens when a person gives there all in a hopeless pursuit.”

Janeway held the book gently. “I take it the title is a clue to its content.”

“Never judge a book by its cover . . . begin your assessment after you have read it for the second time.”

“This book is about an impossible journey.”

“The only impossible journeys are the ones we never take.”

“Plus I’ve got to take on over two centuries of tradition,” Janeway pouted.

“When the institution first opened and for nearly a century-and-a-half, the inscription over the archway read: ‘Where no man has gone before.’ A variation of the ancient declaration made by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he stepped foot on the moon. Well, it took some doing, but one person continuously badgered the committee to rewrite the tradition so it reads as it does now.”

“One person? How could one person badger the committee for over a century?”

“I am actually quite a persistent fellow when strongly motivated.”

“I’m beginning to see that,” Janeway realized. “So, just how old are you?”

“You are only as old as you feel.”

“Well then how old do you feel?”

“My age . . . and then some, depending on the weather.”

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