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Admiral Robert Hewitt Kensington had a reputation within Starfleet Headquarters as being just a bit 'off center.' However, no one ever told him so to his face. Most figured it just went with the territory anyway. Being Chief of Special Operations meant many different things to many different people.
Spec Ops, as it was known in 'Fleet Speak' terminology, was a catch-all department which could mean anything from a champagne and caviar ship commissioning to the location of spare parts for older ships; from port visitation rights to special projects. Parties, behind the scenes diplomatic meetings, VIP tours, transportation arrangements for special groups and on and on. Many of Spec Ops projects bordered on the bizarre and a few would never be discussed in open conversation.
The current project that was stuck in Kensington's mind was coded 'Phoenix.' It fell into the latter category without a doubt. It so occupied his mind that he shut out everything else, as usual. He knew that for this particular behavior he had earned the reputation for being somewhat eccentric, but it never seemed to bother him. Since he always got the job done, it never bothered Starfleet Command either.
The usual procedure for obtaining approval on his special projects was to compose a memo or a mission brief and route it through the proper channels. Of course, with less critical matters, like arranging for special dinners, he merely routed a requisition through the Quartermaster's office. However, with a sensitive issue, such as the one he was now considering, direct approval from a senior flag officer would be necessary.
In this particular case, nothing less than Starfleet Command approval would do. His reputation would suggest that he rarely followed proper procedures or that he ever went through channels. To a certain extent it was true. He hated all the red tape and Starfleet's ever growing bureaucracy. However, Kensington was smart enough to know when to 'play the game' and when not to. In his experience, it was far easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. This time, though, was definitely one of those occasions when he had better 'play the game.'
To that end, his first stop was Captain Tek, Adjutant to Starfleet's Commander, Admiral of the Fleet Walking Bear. Tek was not your average Tellarite. He could be tough and single-minded when he wanted to, but usually he was not. Anytime Kensington had dealt with him, the Tellarite had been fair and reasonable. Of course, as Chief of Spec Ops, Ken had bypassed Tek so many times that direct contact with the stocky alien had been limited to just a few meetings over the last four years. In any case, all that was needed to impress Tek was to adhere to his three axioms: Keep it short; Keep it simple; and Keep it relevant.
All this in mind, Admiral Kensington sat in Tek's office waiting for his arrival. The appointment was still several minutes away but it was definitely better to be early rather than chance being late.
While he waited, he checked the wall chrono one more time. As he stood up to stretch his legs, the outer door slid open and in walked Tek. Taking rapid, short steps across the small office, Tek seemed to ignore the presence of the admiral. Then after entering a personal security code into his office door, he looked Kensington square in the eyes. "You must really want something bad to be here before your appointment time. Come on in and let's hear about your latest project."
There was no sarcasm in Tek's voice, but Kensington felt it nonetheless. Following the Tellarite's lead, he entered the cluttered office as soon as the door snapped open. While Tek busied himself turning on systems and checking his comm board for messages, Kensington surveyed the office and noticed a few changes. Most noticeable amongst the clutter was a new oil painting set in a heavy teakwood frame. Admiral Kensington smiled outwardly. It was a portrait of the Enterprise, NCC-1701-B. Maybe Tek wouldn't be such a hard sell after all.
Directly under the painting were the double doors which led into Grand Admiral Walking Bear's office. If he could sell the idea to Tek, though, selling it to Walking Bear should be easy. After all, that was the job of an aide, to sift through everything and then present only the most important items to Starfleet Command.
Kensington shook his head in disgust. Tek's office was a -- better not use the word pigsty -- mess. It looked to be the work area of a totally disorganized person, but he knew better. There were probably very few people that had a sharper mind than Tek. Suddenly the Tellarite folded his arms across his chest in a defiant manner and gave a short gruff growl. This was his way of indicating that he was ready to be suitably impressed or not as the case may be.
The opening statement would have to be impressive and Ken gambled on something that would catch the captain off guard. He cleared his throat and put his well-used poker face on. "Captain, are we secure in this room?"
Tek looked skeptical and for a brief moment the director of Spec Ops thought an intergalactic war was going to break out. Instead, Tek's voice was calm and level, with only a hint of annoyance. "Admiral, don't try to impress me with theatrics or by waving the Federation banner in my face. I've seen and heard it all --"
Kensington cut him off. He knew he had the aide on that statement. "Not this you haven't and I'm telling you now, if this room is not secure, I won't be held accountable for the consequences!" His voice was firm and his face was fixed with another poker face that would make Tek think twice about any further challenge.
"Okay, Admiral, have it your way." Tek activated a signal cloak that would neutralize all signals while also initiating a 'hold all calls' circuit on his comm board. Then he returned to his defiant 'arm across the chest' posture. "This had better be good!" He glared at the admiral with a 'just try to impress me' look.
"All right, Captain, here it is and hold on to your seat. The 'late' James T. Kirk is alive and being held as a personal prisoner of the Praetor in the Imperial Romulan Palace." Kensington retained the poker face and let the words 'sink in.'
Tek's bottom jaw nearly hit the floor and he almost fell out of his chair as he leaned forward to admonish the officer seated before him. "You are out of your mind! Do you know what you're saying?"
Reaching into his tunic pocket, Kensington produced the data tape with Mudd's statement. "Watch this and then we'll talk some more."
The Tellarite took the tape and slipped it into his desktop viewer. He watched silently and intently until the tape's conclusion. "Is this on the level, Ken?" Tek's voice was so faint that it was barely audible.
Kensington knew he had him. The only time Tek called him by his Fleet nickname was when Tek wanted something. "I believe so. I've checked out Mudd's record with all departments of Starfleet which had a connection with him. Also, he definitely had a history with Kirk which went a long way back. Besides, as one person has already pointed out to me, a deathbed confession is a pretty powerful statement."
Nodding in agreement, Tek was obviously still thinking about what he had seen and heard. "So what is it you want?"
He put all of his cards on the table at once and held his breath, "I want the new Enterprise and a minimal crew for an unspecified period to attempt a rescue of Kirk and the others being held captive."
In all the times that Kensington had known Tek, he had never seen the Tellerite stone quiet before, so the admiral took advantage of the stunned officer and continued his speech. "I've worked up a tentative plan for a select crew to use the '01-B under the pretense of a shakedown cruise. They would proceed directly to the Romulan home world, enter the palace with the help of someone who has been there before; then bring out as many of the survivors as possible. I've worked out a few of the details and made some preliminary arrangements, but I need Starfleet approval to proceed and I need it now. Every minute we wait can mean the difference between success and failure. Before I spell out the rest of the details, I want your promise that you'll hear me out and look at everything before you make a judgment call. Fair enough?"
Tek eyed the admiral very carefully then retrieved the data tape and returned it to him. Then he stood and headed to Walking Bear's office. On the way he spoke with a very tense voice. "I'll do better than that; I'll get Walking Bear to listen right now."
With that said, he entered a coded sequence into a padd near the old man's doorway. In just a few moments the green light appeared above the entry. Tek turned back to face Kensington. "Okay, you're on. Remember, keep it brief and to the point and I'll help if I can." He then touched the padd again and the pocket doors parted with the customary hiss.
The two officers entered quickly and quietly, took up standing positions directly in front of Walking Bear's desk, then waited. The elderly Amer-Indian had a thick mane of snow white hair combed straight back. The prominent cheek bones and slightly hooked nose were accented by two steel grey eyes. Right now they were hard and focused on Kensington.
If Tek had been an easy sell, the Admiral of the Fleet was going to be a particularly hard sell after all. Indicating two chairs, the elderly officer leaned forward and rested his arms on the large desk with his hands clasped together. Kensington tried hard to read the admiral's mood, but it was useless. With the exception of a Vulcan, no face was more difficult to see through.
The man's office was decorated simply in a mix of North American Indian and standard Starfleet issue, Strangely, somehow the combination worked. Anyway, in this office one always felt compelled to speak in a subdued voice.
Walking Bear seemed completely relaxed and spoke in a deep bass voice. "What can I do for you two today?"
The Chief of Spec Ops turned to face Tek who was in turn giving him a 'this was your idea' look.
"Sir, I believe that Admiral Kirk and several other officers are being held captive by the Romulan Praetor." Kensington paused for the inevitable reaction; it never came. Walking Bear remained stone faced, an unexpected, if not surprising reaction. Undaunted, he continued. "I need your permission for a project which I have code named 'Phoenix.' It calls for the use of the new Enterprise, with a select minimal crew. They will proceed directly to Romulus, locate the captives and return in a brief but as of yet unspecified period of time." Kensington then paused again and waited even longer, hoping for a favorable reaction. He waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, the fleet admiral spoke. "You wouldn't come to me unless you were absolutely sure of what you are saying. Moreover, Tek wouldn't be here unless he thought so, too. I trust you've kept a lid on this so far?" It was both a question and a statement of fact.
Kensington continued, "Besides myself, sir, there are only seven others: two med-techs, one of my staff members and an officer who made the original discovery. The medical team is under quarantine and the officer in question is currently en route, under strict orders not to discuss the matter with anyone. To get the mission started, I will need to speak to Admiral Scott, Master of yards, currently working on the '01-B and Admiral Sulu who will be commanding the new Enterprise for its shakedown. Of course, my aide, Mr. Kyle, is already working on a few of the details.
Nodding with approval Walking Bear spoke quietly. "What's your next step, Ken?"
"Part of my plan calls for Klingon assistance, sir. My next step will be to contact the liaison officer here at Starfleet. I have set up a tentative appointment with them already, depending on the outcome of this meeting, and with your approval, of course."
The Admiral of the Fleet nodded again. At least Kensington was going through proper channels this time. "What else do you need?"
"Enterprise B, sir. I've checked with Admiral Scott and he assures me that she's ready for service and will get a one hundred percent rating during the shakedown."
"And the crew?"
Kensington got a sheepish look but forged ahead. "Mostly former crewman of the old '01 and '01-A, many are already here or on the way for the launching of the 'B.' The remainder would consist of newly graduated cadets from the Academy."
The last part got a raised eyebrow from Walking Bear. Before speaking, he unclasped his hands and placed them flat on the table. Then he pushed himself back into the large armchair. He seemed to be staring through the other two officers and Ken could almost feel the Fleet Admiral's mind at work. He turned to face Tek, "Are you going to help Ken on this one?"
Tek had been quiet since entering the office and remained so by simply nodding in agreement. Then he added as an afterthought, "With your approval, sir?"
"Let's do this right, gentlemen. I'll let Kensington contact the Klingons, Scott and Sulu. He can make further inquiries and put a few details together, but I'm warning both of you now. If one word of this gets out, the project is cancelled on the spot. When you have finished with an overall detailed plan for 'Phoenix,' forward it to Tek. We'll meet again to discuss it at length. In the meantime, I have to do some preparatory work myself. Final approval will come during our next meeting and not before. There are many factors to be considered including how the Federation Council and the Diplomatic Corps will react to our crossing into Romulan space. In any case, I want to explore every option, understood?"
Both Tek and Kensington agreed verbally, in unison. "Aye, sir."
"For now we leave it at that and I'll be in touch. Tek, you give Ken everything he needs and while you're at it, keep an eye on him as well. The Chief of Special Operations has a reputation for being a bit of a maverick." With that comment, Walking Bear finally smiled and the piercing eyes softened a bit. "I know it would be very easy for us to get real emotional on this issue with our own people being held captive, but we must remember that Starfleet has to operate within certain limits; its primary duty is to the Federation itself. And, Ken, I appreciate your going through the proper channels on this one. In fact, it helped your position considerably."
Kensington thanked Walking Bear for his time and for the tentative approval. Then he rose, turned and quickly followed Tek through the same doors they had entered by.
When the doors closed behind them, Kensington thanked Tek as well. "I appreciate your help; maybe I should go through channels more often."
The Tellarite's manner became more typical stereotype and he grunted a reply, "Not if you're going to get maudlin on me. Now get out of here and get started on your plan before I throw you out! You've just doubled my workload!"
Robert Hewitt Kensington found himself smiling as he left Tek's office. He stood in the now-busy reception area and checked the wall chrono. There was still a lot to do and the next major step would be the Klingons. With that thought, he walked briskly into the corridor and headed for the nearest turbolift, his smile still in place.