Disclaimer: Star Trek is Paramount's.  Plot and concept belong to me.

A/N: This is something a bit different.  Actually, a lot different.  Something I dreamed up (literally; I woke up thinking about it, anyway).  What if the captain of the Enterprise wasn't Kirk?  Who is affected, and how?  What does it do to Spock, McCoy, Scotty, the crew in general?  Read on and find out.  This isn't particularly a comedy, which makes it different right from the beginning, but I hope you'll find it interesting.

The prologue is lifted word for word from Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and all credit goes to them.  The prologue relates to the title, and it will all be apparent and (hopefully) meaningful eventually.  I'd have written something myself, but they've already written it better than I ever could.  All else will be original.

THE MAKE OF A CAPTAIN

PROLOGUE

Excerpt from Prime Directive by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

The Federation…was founded on a dream—a dream of greater goals and greater good, of common purpose and cooperation, but beyond all else it was a dream to know more, a dream to explore to the farthest limits and then go beyond.

They called it le rêve d'étoiles—the dream of stars.

But dreams alone were not enough to sustain the Federation's goals, and fortunately the planners also understood what else was needed and how to obtain it.  They understood that throughout the worlds of the Federation there were beings in whom the dream burned brightest.  Invariably, all of these individuals had known instantly where their destinies lay from the moment they first looked up to the lights of the night sky.  In every language in all the worlds, the words were always the same: the dream of stars.  Not traveling to them, not stopping at them, but moving among them, ever outward, always farther, no end to space or to their quest.  Or to the dream.

At Starfleet Academy the founders were careful to set in place the challenges and systems that would guide the best of those called by the dream to the only position that they could hold, the position to which each was born.

Starship captain.

CHAPTER ONE

Robert Lowell, captain of the starship Enterprise, sat in his command chair at the center of the bridge, and signed papers.  This wasn't any great surprise to anyone.  Lowell made a point of seeing to it that the Enterprise ran efficiently, and that meant all reports in strictly on time.  He didn't really mind the paperwork anyway, and he liked thinking, which may lead one to wonder why he ever became a starship Captain.  But he had, and so this particular day he was sitting in his command chair dealing with paperwork.  And people thought the lives of Starship captains' were all glory.  He enjoyed a silent chuckle at that, and moved on to the next document.

On the upper ramp behind him, the ship's first officer and science officer was deeply immersed in his own work, which at the moment consisted primarily of looking over recent surveys of a nearby nebula.  A few most fascinating aspects to it.  He leaned over his monitor, the blue light highlighting the angles of his face.  And it was an angular face, from slanted eyebrows to pointed ears.  But those particular features were only natural.  Mr. Spock was a Vulcan, the only one on the Enterprise, one of the few anywhere in Starfleet.  He found that exploration vessels, while reportedly war-like, were an excellent place to encounter new scientific phenomena.

The bridge was very quiet.  The navigator and helmsman had found a way to send messages between their respective consoles, and were fully engaged in this practice.  The bridge was very quiet.  The general air was relaxed, just a bit dull.  An atmosphere duplicated across the ship.  This was not the attitude of a crew who expected to be in battle any time in the near future.  But that wasn't very strange.  They didn't expect to be in battle any time in the near future.  They were between missions, in fact, and their last mission had been ferrying diplomats anyway.  The Enterprise was known for being a good posting, if a quiet one.

The navigator, Pavel Chekov, a Russian who was proud of that fact, sent a message to the helmsman asking him when he thought they'd hear from Starfleet about their next mission.

Hikaru Sulu, the slim Oriental helmsman, believed they'd hear any time now.

Chekov wondered what it would be this time.

Sulu offered to bet him five credits that they'd be sent after the raiders who'd been making a mess near the Palladium system.

Chekov was saved five credits when they were distracted by the communications officer, who had just received that awaited message from Starfleet.

"Captain, transmission from Starfleet Command," Uhura announced.

Lowell set aside the page he was signing, and straightened out of the relaxed position he'd slipped into.  "Put it on the main scree…no, I think I'll take it in my quarters, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain."

Lowell stood up, and exited.  The hum, or lack there of, of activity on the bridge continued without change.

*  *  *

Lowell entered the captain's quarters, and sat at his completely clear desk.  The entire room was organized and neat.  He didn't appreciate sloppiness.  He signaled the bridge, and had the call transferred to his personal station.  The blue Federation emblem faded, to be replaced by the face of Admiral Nogura, direct from Starfleet Command, Earth.

The admiral nodded a greeting.  "Captain Lowell.  How are you?"

"Fine, thank you, Admiral.  And how are things at Command?" Lowell asked politely.

"Always busy," Nogura said with a laugh.  "Always some trouble happening somewhere."

"That's the nature of the galaxy, isn't it?" Lowell commented.  "We're always happy to help if we can…"  He occasionally said something like that out of a sense of duty, privately crossing his fingers that he wouldn't be taken up on the vague offer to go off and fight the wars.  He never had been yet.  He hadn't so much as smelled a Klingon since he became a Captain, and didn't particularly want to break the streak.

It wasn't going to be broken today.  Nogura shook his head.  "We've got enough ships around the borders.  Starships may be designed for exploration, but keeping one inside the Federation seems to work well enough.  Speaking of which, excellent job on that last mission."

"We do what we can," Lowell said, pleased.

"Well, I expect the ambassador from Babel to be talking about your hospitality for months to come.  He was especially delighted with that blend of coffee your chef makes."

"I'll pass the compliment on."

"Naturally, I didn't call for that reason alone, or just to chat.  We've reached a decision regarding your next assignment."  Nogura grew more serious, getting to the heart of the matter.  "We're having a problem in the Palladium system."

"What sort of problem?" Lowell asked gravely.

"Raiders.  You know the type.  Common lowlifes of the galaxy."  Nogura's expression gave way to a deep frown directed at no one present.  "Pirates, of a sort, in spaceships instead of sailing ships.  And just like the old pirates, they prey on merchant ships.  Come out of nowhere, attack, steal the cargo, and leave the crew to limp back to Starbase.  We wouldn't normally send a starship to deal with this sort of trouble, but you're the closest ship.  And it seems prudent, as this batch looks to be particularly nasty."

"Slavers?" Lowell asked.

"No, thankfully.  And they haven't been killing crews either.  Nasty might not be the best word.  Successful might be better.  Pirates crop up occasionally, you know; crooks with delusions of grandeur.  Usually they're disorganized enough, with enough infighting, to make our job relatively easy.  But this group…they're good, Captain, they're very good.  They're so good, we've actually bothered to hide it from the press.  They call themselves the Sharks, and they've been after ships that raiders don't normally risk taking on.  So that's your next assignment.  Capture those raiders."