Table of Contents
By anyone's standards, Starbase Twenty-Nine was enormous. Apart from housing a large administration complex and Starfleet's local command center for the sector, there were a number of civilian businesses, settlements, entertainment and recreation facilities and trading posts. However, most important to the fleet's many ships was the major repair facility. Space docks filled the area surrounding the planetoid Omala that was home to the starbase and its many warehouses, fabrication shops, engineering facilities and specialists. Service and auxiliary vessels were at work twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. It was one of the busiest places in the sector and, for that matter, many of the adjacent sectors as well.
Currently, one of the larger space docks was occupied by the U.S.S. Enterprise. Long overdue for an overhaul, the starship was finally receiving the much needed attention it so richly deserved.
With most of the ship's systems turned off, or being worked on, the crew had been assigned temporary quarters in the space station's housing. Only a skeleton crew remained aboard to supervise or assist with the various repairs, upgrades, refits and modifications. The entire crew rotated duty shifts on the skeleton crew. That way everyone was able to enjoy the many facilities at the starbase and Captain Kirk was no exception.
Currently, though, Kirk was monitoring the status of various work parties and trying to complete his progress reports for Starfleet Command. He was concentrating so much that when his door chime sounded, it startled him. "Come!"
A very haggard looking Doctor McCoy walked in, "Hello, Jim, any updates from Spock?"
Kirk turned his console off and leaned back in his chair. "Actually, yes. The computer system upgrades are about 75% complete. Also, Scotty says the work on the engines is coming along nicely and should be done on schedule, but we always expect that from him, right?"
Studying his friend closely, Kirk commented on the man's appearance. "Bones, you're not on any work detail. Why do you look like you've been 'rode hard and put up wet?'"
A guilty look came over the face of the ship's surgeon, "Well, actually, I was up all night... at The Comet's Tail Casino and Bar."
Shaking his head in mild disapproval, Kirk admonished the doctor. "Really, of all people, you should know better." He finished the statement with a look that emphasized the barb.
"Okay, okay, I know I'm not twenty-one anymore, but... I couldn't help myself."
Smiling knowingly, Kirk asked the obvious question. "What's her name?"
Looking trapped, McCoy gave in easily, "Olivia."
The captain immediately lost his smile and looked as if he'd seen a ghost.
Concerned, McCoy posed a question, almost apologetically. "Did I say something wrong?"
Waving off his friend, the ship's captain explained, "That was the name of a... very special lady in my life."
Sensing a story, McCoy forgot all about his hangover and pressed. "Really? Care to elaborate?"
"Actually, no." Reluctant to elaborate, Kirk tried to change the subject. "What was it you came to see me about?"
Startled by the brush off, the doctor replied, "Oh, yes, I have a sure cure for... uh, what ails me, in sickbay --"
Cutting his friend off, Kirk supplied the answer. "Not possible, the primary hull is off limits, no life support."
Visibly disappointed, McCoy slumped in his seat. "Oh well, I guess I can manage."
"I recommend very strong coffee and lots of it!"
"Is that your prescription, Dr. Kirk?"
"Yes! I suggest you get started right away. You look awful." He waited a moment, then added, "Now get out of here so I can finish my reports to Command."
A gleam appeared in McCoy's eyes and he smiled. "I'll make a deal with you. I'll leave... if you tell me all about, Olivia."
Kirk looked trapped, "I don't have time for this..."
"I can be a real pest, Jim. Remember, I don't have anything else to do."
"You're not going to let this go, are you?" When McCoy failed to respond, Kirk spoke again. "Okay, you win, but it's going to cost you and I get to name the price. Get your coffee and, please, try not to be a... pest, okay?"
"It's a deal!" McCoy was relishing his little victory and took the few steps to the food replicator. In a moment, McCoy had a cup in either hand. "Here, Jim, you may need this to keep your throat lubricated while you relate your story." He handed the cup to his friend then reclaimed his seat. "Where does your story begin; the Academy or afterwards?"
"Actually, earlier, in Iowa."
McCoy got comfortable, "Really?"
Kirk raised his coffee cup and took a deep swallow. "Just about half way through my senior year in high school, a new student transferred in from Boston."
"Right, Olivia Simpson. In short order, she became the most popular girl in the school."
"Let me guess, Jim. She was the best looking girl in town."
"Not really, but attractive none the less."
"So, she was the richest!"
McCoy was confused. "So what was the attraction?"
"She was the smartest, Bones, and made me feel like a real dummy."
"And you still liked her?"
"Well, it's a long story." Kirk took another deep swallow of coffee and continued, more relaxed. He now appeared to be comfortable with relating the tale.
"Every boy in town was interested, but rather quickly it came down to two, Richard Billings and myself. Richard was the son of a prominent politician and I was--"
"--a pain in the... neck!" McCoy smiled as he finished Kirk's statement, then 'attacked' his cup of coffee.
"To put it mildly, yes. I did my best to derail Billings' plans for Olivia whenever possible. I usually beat him to the punch, asking her to all the school's activities, dances, and sporting events. Of course, Billings had some successes, too, but between the two of us, Olivia didn't have much time for anybody or anything else. Problem was, neither did I.
"My grades weren't exactly 'stellar' to begin with, but with all my planning and social activities, my grades suffered even more. While I was out with Olivia one night, she gave me a dressing down for my lack of scholastic abilities. In a fifteen-minute question and answer session, she proved I was no match for her intelligence. However, I was in awe of her. She was amazing. Any subject, any discipline, she knew it all: mathematics, art, science, philosophy, you name it, she knew it. Both of her parents were well educated. Her father was the new superintendent of the city's schools with a doctorate in education and science. Her mother was an author, poet and had majored in literature. Olivia had picked up all that her parents knew and more. She loved learning and quoted people that I had never heard of.
"I tell you, Bones, she could have given Spock a run for his money. All the time I was being impressed by her intelligence, I became more aware of the fact that I was feeling... inadequate."
"But you kept... pursuing her?"
"Forbidden fruit, I guess, something like that. Maybe I was trying to set a higher goal for myself."
"I always thought you were fairly well educated and self-assured, Jim. I've never heard you talk about feeling... inadequate. After all, Command isn't known for promoting less than capable people."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, but if you had known me back then, you'd have a much different opinion. I don't even like to remember those days. Like you said, I was a real pain and not a very bright one at that. My only strong point was in being... clever. I could talk my way in or out of anything, including all those dates with Olivia. But I knew I was skating on thin ice.
"When I visited her at her home, her parents were... less than enthusiastic about my presence and made me feel anything but welcome. They even questioned Olivia's intelligence regarding her association with me. She told me so and I could sense her 'affection' for me was beginning to fade."
"Why did it start to begin with, Jim?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe my persistence or an association with a 'bad boy,' something she had never done before. Perhaps I was a challenge or an experiment. Eventually, she stopped seeing me altogether. By the end of my senior year, I was essentially persona non grata to her and her family.
"I brooded over the whole thing for some time and Olivia's going off to college made it even worse as I had no chance to 'appeal my case.'"
Kirk took another swallow of coffee and stared blankly into the cup.
"And that's it? Not exactly a compelling story." McCoy stood and grabbed his cup, nodding to Kirk's. "You want that refilled?"
"I'm good. I don't have the same problem as you, remember?"
The doctor stepped quickly to the replicator and returned with a steaming cup. "Do you have any other interesting tales to pass the time?"
"I haven't finished the first one yet."
McCoy brightened, "Really? Well, continue, I'm all ears!"
"Okay. That summer, I did a lot of thinking and soul searching; some pretty heady stuff. I took a long hard look at myself and was starting not to like what I saw. I had been rebelling against my father being away so much. He was in Starfleet and spent a lot of time away from home, much of it in remote places, on ships and out in space. The one time I went with him to one of his postings was to Tarsus IV and almost died there."
"Because of Kodos the Executioner!" McCoy was now very serious and studied his friend closely.
"Ever wonder why my father hadn't died there and why I was on my own?"
"Now that you mention it... "
"He was away again, on another assignment. Even when I went with him, he wasn't there. That was the worst point of my problem with him being away.
"When he came back to Tarsus IV, he was horrified by what had happened and I was never allowed to leave Earth again, let alone accompany him to a remote duty station. That didn't help the situation any either."
"Well, I'll be... "McCoy sounded amazed by the revelation.
"During the summer after graduation, which I barely made, I decided to improve myself and make a change in my life. I wanted to be an equal of Olivia. I would prove myself to her and show her that I was worth her attention. I would be smarter, but mostly, I would be a better person. That's when the real problem began."
McCoy was caught up in the story, excited. "How so, Jim?"
"The best way to better myself was to get a better education. However, given my pitiful academic record and all the disciplinary problems I had, not to mention a few run-ins with the authorities, nobody wanted me. I hadn't applied to any colleges, not even a two-year institution. None of them were interested in any last minute walk-ins. According to them, they had quotas and standards to maintain and I was not up to anyone's standards.
"After a full summer of rejections and 'try somewhere else' comments, I eventually took them up on their recommendations and tried somewhere else."
Smiling broadly, McCoy supplied the answer, "Starfleet Academy!"
"Right you are. Since my father was an active serving Starfleet officer, I was eligible for entry into the Academy but it wasn't as easy as that. By regulations I could gain acceptance over other students who did not have that particular connection. However, the Academy has standards, fairly high too, right? Needless to say, I did not measure up."
"To say the least," McCoy commented dryly.
"Precisely. I was told to 'catch up' by using any method I chose, but in order to get in, I would have to pass a 'tougher than usual' entrance exam. It was intended to discourage me, but it only made me more determined. My life now had a focus and purpose. Instead of being a rebel against my father's absence, I was now working towards a better life.
"By this time, it was much too late to try to get into the Academy that fall. Besides, I had to prepare for the entry exam. So I spent an entire year catching up. I talked my way into all types of classes and used computers as teaching aides when I couldn't get tutors. But I did get my parents to pay for tutors and that's when it got interesting."
McCoy took a deep swallow of his coffee, "How so?"
"Care to guess who one of my tutors was?"
"Wait, don't tell me, Olivia?"
"Excellent guess. She returned from her first year of college, looking for a job as a tutor. It was a total coincidence, but I was encouraged. I had a chance to prove myself. By that time I was in my final cramming session for the Academy test and had several months' worth of classes and 'catch-up' sessions.
"She was aloof and made no secret of the fact that she was not happy about having me as a student, but I was determined to impress her. In short order, I began to notice a change in her attitude, but..."
"But what, Jim?"
"She wasn't entirely sold on me and kept refusing my invitations to go out. By this time, our relationship was strictly business. However, she continued working with me most of that summer. I think she actually viewed me as a challenge of some sort.
"When she left to take a vacation with her family, I continued my learning with other tutors and various people who realized I was really trying to make a change.
"At the end of the summer, I took the Academy entrance exam and passed. I told Olivia just before she returned to school, but she acted as if it was just luck or that I had somehow talked my way in or even cheated. Then and there, I promised her, and myself, that I would be the best cadet ever! I was going to make something of myself once and for all and told her so in so many words. She smiled at my bold statement and I took it as her acceptance of the challenge.
"For the next four years, I did my best at every opportunity. I didn't really have a chance to see her very much as she was busy with school work and I was taking on extra assignments and duties during the summers and holiday breaks. I did that not only to get ahead, but also to make myself more valuable to Starfleet and, therefore, more important. It would be something else to impress Olivia."
"If I remember right, you graduated at the top of your class, Jim."
"Yes, surprised the hell out of my parents and everyone else, including me. I even got a commendation for original thinking when I beat the Kobyashi Maru, no-win scenario. It was the perfect end to all my efforts and I was convinced that I was now an equal to Olivia, or at least I was no longer the simple-minded fool she had rejected before. Shortly thereafter, I paid a visit to her with all my awards, commendations and accolades in hand. In my mind I had more than succeeded."
A sudden and unexpected silence by Kirk puzzled McCoy. "So... what happened?"
A nervous laugh preceded a rather sad and surprising explanation. "She was married."
Snapping a finger, McCoy guessed, "Billings!"
"No, Bones, she had married a fellow by the name of Randall Howard, the richest guy in the state."
McCoy shook his head. "After all you went through. No wonder she made such a lasting impression. It must have been a real disappointment."
"At first, yes, but after I thought about it, I realized how important she had been in my life."
"Are you kidding? How do you figure that?"
"She made me want to be a better person, Bones. I did everything I could to improve myself. Basically, I am who I am now because of Olivia. Without her providing me with the proper motivation, who knows what I'd be doing now?"
"Are you serious?"
"Absolutely. While at the Academy, I made a point to try things I never thought of before. I really stretched myself. I owe her a lot, so I couldn't really be mad at her, just... disappointed. The ironic thing was, everyone thought I did it all for my father, a career Starfleet officer. I suppose that was part of it, proving I was at least as good as he was. But it was Olivia who gave me the kick in the pants that I really needed to get me going."
"That's quite a story, Jim. Who else knows about this?"
Smiling broadly, Kirk picked up his coffee cup and finished off the last cold swallow. "Nobody and I expect no one else will know, right?" Kirk then glared at McCoy.
McCoy was suitably intimidated, "Count on it."
"And now, my price."
Looking worried, McCoy braced himself. "I know, I have to buy all the drinks when I introduce you to my Olivia."
"Not even close, Doctor." Kirk stood up and stepped to the replicator to refresh his coffee cup. "For years now, I've been wondering about why you joined Starfleet. I've heard you make vague references but no real explanations."
The doctor blanched and looked trapped, but before he could respond, Kirk added, "Remember, you agreed to my price and this is it, so pay up!"
Kirk reclaimed his seat while McCoy hemmed and hawed. Searching for a way out, he tried to change the subject. "I have a lot of other interesting tales..."
"Nothing doing. I name the price, remember?" Kirk finished with a look on his face that said he wasn't in the mood for a disagreement.
Finally, McCoy gave in. "Well, I suppose I did agree to that, but... if you insist..." He finished on a note of hope.
Folding his arms across his chest in a defiant gesture, Kirk spoke firmly, "I insist!"
Reluctantly, McCoy acquiesced. "Well, I suppose I asked for it."