Table of Contents
As ship's captain, James T. Kirk's duties ranged from mundane to extraordinary. Over the years, he had developed an unwritten list of the items he enjoyed and those he preferred to avoid. Of course, despite his preference, the responsibility of command did not allow him to avoid any duty, no matter what it may be. So the 'avoid' list was only theoretical.
His favorite duties included promotions, which was a reflection on not only the individual's performance, but also the fact of being aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. The ship provided a suitable environment for any person to excel and, as proof of this, the Enterprise had more than its fair share of promotions. Sometimes tied to the promotions were awards. Not so much the medals for service, but recognition of achievements in the fields of science, engineering and other specialties. However, his most favorite duty to perform was weddings. There was something about the ceremony that always brought a smile to his face and made him forget, at least for the moment, all the other duties he wasn't particularly fond of. It also served as a reminder that life goes on and, from time to time, there could be a bit of normalcy aboard a starship. Simply put, a wedding was a welcome counter to everything else that could be considered bad about being so far out in space and away from home for so long.
Right now, though, he was performing his least favorite duty, which involved the loss of a crewperson. It was particularly hard for him and, in some ways, people could claim it was evidence of a failure on his part. If he had acted differently, sooner, later or even not at all, perhaps the death would not have happened. But Kirk rarely second-guessed his actions; it was counterproductive and never resolved anything. Instead, he filled out the after action reports and those were all that were needed to remind him of what happened and why.
Crew deaths occurred in several ways, all were difficult to accept but not entirely unexpected. The Enterprise was essentially at risk most of the time as part of its regular duty, but Kirk did his best to minimize those risks and had an enviable record to prove it. Matched against other first contact and exploratory ships, the Enterprise's losses were substantially lower.
One type of death involved accidents; whether faulty equipment, poor procedures, failure to follow regulations or even just a simple fall. Each had to be investigated, an autopsy performed and an accident report filed with Star Fleet Command. Sometimes Command would ask for more details and might even require the ship to take on an official team from the Inspector General's Office to sort out the problem. Eventually, reports would be compared and recommendations made by a board of review. The results could be anything from a change in procedures to replacing faulty equipment fleet wide or anything in between.
Another cause of death was those due to illness. Most were of external origin or alien in nature, a few even intentional. Federation science had a remarkably good record on control of diseases and immunization. Also, Star Fleet was a real stickler for preventative medicine and it was rare when someone got sick, far less fatally. Additionally, Kirk was fortunate that Dr. Leonard McCoy was a top notch M.D. and on the rare occasions when an illness did break out, it was controlled or cured in short order. But death from illness did occur and, due to directives from the Star Fleet Surgeon General's Office, medical reports were handled exclusively by McCoy. Kirk was okay with that. After all, it was one less duty he had to perform, but he always reviewed the report with McCoy, just to stay informed.
The most common reason for a death on board the Enterprise was usually the result of combat. These deaths fell into subgroups of unusual or overwhelming phenomenon, alien actions or criminal types such as pirates. In some cases, battle casualties could be the result of failed diplomacy, which is why he always pushed his diplomatic skills to the limits. However, he had to admit that even the best commanding officers throughout history had combat casualties and Kirk was somewhat consoled by that fact. His worse experience of that type was definitely not his fault and resulted solely in Star Fleet casualties. The M-5 computer had taken control of the Enterprise and led to hundreds of casualties on five ships, including the Enterprise itself.
Unusual phenomena accounted for a fair share of combat deaths and was sometimes unavoidable. The giant space ameba fell into this category. Although the Enterprise eventually defeated it, the Intrepid had been lost with all hands.
Alien encounters were the most unpredictable and sometimes the hardest to resolve. Such was the case he was currently dealing with and the reason for his present duty as Captain. The Kelvin had come from the Andromeda Galaxy to conquer Federation space, and before an understanding could be arranged, Yeoman Thompson had been killed.
Now Kirk was faced with his least favorite task, sending a letter to the next of kin of a fallen crewmember. No matter what he said, he knew it wouldn't be enough, which is why it was his least favorite. At the same time though, it evoked his strongest sense of duty and obligation as a commanding officer. Rarely did he relinquish this duty to anyone. If so, it was usually due to a request by a crewperson who asked for the privilege of remembering a close friend. Kirk always conceded to such a special request as it was obviously important to the person making it. Also, it usually meant there was a special bond between the two and therefore the person making the request was better qualified to perform the task. In any event, he would send a personal note as part of the communication.
This time, though, it was Kirk's responsibility. Yeoman Leslie Thompson had been aboard the Enterprise a relatively short period of time, but that was the nature of service in Star Fleet. A few select or key officers and crewpersons remained on board, but mostly, the crew was in a constant state of flux. People were assigned as needs in Star Fleet changed. On-the-job training and the necessity of acquiring experience under actual operating conditions required a rotation of personnel through various positions, ships and stations. This practice provided Star Fleet with well-trained, experienced and valuable people.
Yeoman Thompson was planet-side as part of her regular duty rotation as the team had responded to a distress call. They would assess needs, list required materials and personnel, and inform the crew exactly what was necessary to respond appropriately. It was part of a Thompson's normal duties as a Yeoman.
Kirk was always impressed with Star Fleet's Yeomen. It was the most vital and yet least appreciated position aboard ship. Duties were largely clerical, but essential none-the-less. Specifics included fitness reports, pay and leave records, maintenance records, ship historian, enlisted crew evaluations, matters of protocol, dealing with V.I.P.'s and visitors, arranging and seeing to ceremonies, writing notices and assorted reports. No captain could do without the Yeoman and Kirk was no exception.
Thompson was better than most Yeomen with a deep concern for the well-being of her fellow crewpersons and people in general. That's why she made such an impression on people and why she made friends so quickly.
Staring at the computer screen for a moment, the Captain gathered himself then spoke quietly, "Computer, display biography for Yeoman Thompson."
"Working", came the standard response. In a few beats the familiar, female mechanical voice continued. "Yeoman Second Class, Leslie Sarah Thompson; born July 4, 2237, Grayslake, Illinois, North American continent, Earth. Parents; George Herbert and Norma Jean with one brother, James Jay Thompson. Graduated with honors, Grayslake High School, attended Star Fleet Academy immediately thereafter at the Yeoman, Scribe and Quartermaster's School, graduated fifth in class.
"First assignment as Yeoman Apprentice, U.S.S. Potsdam, Stardate 3428.7, was promoted to Yeoman 3rd Class within first year of service. Transferred to U.S.S. Pompey Stardate 3831.2. Served two years before being reassigned to Starbase 21, Stardate 4327.5, while there achieved rank of Yeoman 2nd Class. Transferred to U.S.S. Enterprise 4529.4, current assignment. Do you wish a listing of awards and achievements?"
Blanching briefly, Kirk realized computer records hadn't been updated to reflect Thompson's death. Then he really felt like kicking himself. Ironically, that was Thompson's job.
"No, computer," was Kirk's belated response. He already knew about the awards having read the file just prior to what would have been her next review. Thompson's responsibilities included logging all leaves, sick days, promotions and even deaths. That would now fall on the Yeoman who would take her place, Francine Duquesne. He made a mental note to visit Duquesne as soon as possible.
Thompson's record was very good and given more time, her achievements could have been outstanding. Kirk had planned to encourage her to consider Command School at her next review, now... he left the thought unfinished.
Kirk tugged at his command tunic a bit, and then sat up, square with the viewer. "Computer, please record communication to the parents of Yeoman Leslie Thompson."
The Captain was a picture of compassion as he began speaking quietly. "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, by now you have received the official Star Fleet notice regarding the loss of your daughter, Leslie. Although Leslie had only been aboard a relatively brief time, she made a noticeable difference to the operation of the ship and made an impression on everyone who worked with her.
"Her primary duties meant that the two of us worked closely together. She always seemed to be one step ahead of me and usually had the necessary reports ready before I asked for them. In addition, she was always concerned about others and had a real soft spot for those in need or distress. This was one of the reasons for her presence on the mission at the time of her loss. The Enterprise was responding to an S.O.S. and Leslie volunteered to help. While it's true this was part of her regular duties and she would have part of the team anyway, she wanted to be sure to be included in the first response team and made a specific request to be assigned.
"Her loss was particularly difficult for me, due to our close working relationship. While I always attempt to avoid or minimize casualties, some are unavoidable. Such was the case with your daughter. Our team was overpowered by aliens with superior technology. I wish Leslie could have been spared, but I can assure you that she was totally unaware of what happened and there was no pain or suffering, either mentally or physically.
"I had already recommended her for advanced training and I know she would have continued to excel in whatever specialty she chose and I believe, ultimately, she would have had a command of her own.
"Due to the great distances involved and our ship's current schedule, Leslie's remains were buried in space with full honors. A visual record of that service will be forwarded to you as part of this message. Her personal effects will be delivered to you as soon as the Enterprise returns to Earth. At that time, if you wish, I will visit you personally.
"Since I am not a parent, I cannot imagine what you are feeling and I can only hope that this message will help with the healing process. Our ship's surgeon, and my oldest friend, once said, while nothing can make a loss easy, some things can make it easier. It is my sincere hope that my words will make that so.
"Should you require anything further from me, I can be reached through Star Fleet Communications Division at Star Fleet Headquarters in San Francisco.
"Again, my most sincere and deepest sympathy; Captain James T. Kirk, commanding U.S.S. Enterprise."
Kirk paused a moment, then relaxed. "Computer, forward that to Lieutenant Uhura and have it sent as a priority communication. Attach visual record of recent funeral services."
The obedient computer responded with the usual, "Affirmative."
Kirk was about to leave his office when the door chime sounded. "Come!"