The next week, all hell broke loose. First a whole bunch of cadets had swarmed aboard the ship to supplement the skeleton crew – funny how he thought of them as the naïve ones now – and one of them had, for no seeming reason, been promoted to first officer after the Enterprise had come out of warp near Vulcan and the biggest, ugliest ship Chekov had ever seen. Said ship was now drilling into the planet while said first officer – and Sulu – were fighting evil aliens on the drill.
Chekov was monitoring their locations worriedly when suddenly the two men started falling. At a rate which indicated they weren't using parachutes, a fact which was confirmed by the frantically yelling Kirk. The transporter technician was trying to regain a lock on their position, but unless he adjusted for the fact that the planet was collapsing, changing the rate at which the local gravitational acceleration changed, he wasn't going to get anywhere. Chekov realized, as he leapt out of his chair and rushed to the lift, that the technician didn't know that. It wasn't common knowledge yet what the drill was for; as far as Chekov knew, only he and Commander Spock were capable of rescuing Kirk and Sulu. And Spock had more important things to do at the moment. Besides, Chekov could run faster.
He crashed into the transporter room and pushed the technician aside, eyes on the controls as he desperately tried to remember his transportation theory class from two semesters ago. He'd taken it for fun, found out that the physics was relatively simple even though the field was very promising, and kept attending the last half of the class even though it was practical and boring. The only reason he hadn't skipped that part was because Jack had agreed to take him to Canada for spring break if he helped him create a one-man transporter unit in their closet. Jack was, at the time, interested in a girl who lived in France, and Chekov had agreed because he preferred snowy mountains to sandy beaches. Things had gone well until they'd tested it on a Vulcan commander's teddy bear. Jack had failed to mention that it was alive and had six-inch fangs. The Vulcan never found out who had kidnapped his pet for a night, and Chekov sincerely hoped he never did. The scars on his arms had been punishment enough.
The physics, Chekov thought as he frantically started work, was probably not as valuable to him now as the practical skills he had learned; how to operate the transporter, for one, and how to modify its targeting functions as he was doing now. He'd always thought the engineering aspect of things to be inferior to the pure physics, but he was learning that the real world held a lot of surprises.
His heart was thumping as hard as it would in any sprint, and he kept a wary eye on Kirk and Sulu's fall as he worked. Only seconds left now, but he couldn't think of the consequences. He just had to solve the problem, and get the lock – now! Chekov didn't spare a second to confirm the computer's claim, just punched the button to energize. Seconds later, Kirk and Sulu appeared on the pad.
Chekov shouted in excitement and relief – and in Russian, most likely – as he saw Sulu was safe. It had been close, but they were back. Maybe, he thought with some self-importance, seventeen-year-old boys were capable of saving the day once in a while.
He promptly lost all egoistic feelings five minutes later as he stared blankly at the transporter controls, hands trembling, as he lost Spock's mother. He hadn't been fast enough, and it had been so sudden; there hardly been time to register her fall before it was over. Forget about his teddy bear, Spock really had a reason to hate him now.
He couldn't bear to look the commander in the eye, or see the other Vulcans standing there like emotionless stone statues, and so he fled the room. He didn't go back to the bridge - they would've called in another navigator by now to replace him – and so he headed to Sickbay to check on Hikaru.
The pilot was, to Chekov's relief, unharmed and only recovering from a massive adrenaline rush, which left him more talkative than usual. He told Chekov about the Romulans, who were much stronger than he'd expected, and the space jump, and how Kirk had jumped off the drill to save him.
"We lost Engineer Olsen, though," he added somberly. "He had the charges. It was so fast, he just hit the drill, couldn't get a good enough grip and ended up .... well, under it."
Chekov nodded, and then quietly told how he had failed to save Spock's mother.
Sulu was silent for a moment after Chekov finished, trying to gauge how to respond. Obviously the kid hadn't had to deal with consequences this dramatic before; Sulu had come to terms with death a while ago, but there was no easy way to put it. He hated cliché, but finally settled with saying, "It's not your fault."
Chekov looked him in the eye for the first time, and Sulu was taken back by the intensity and confusion in his look. He held up a hand to silence the Russian before he started talking – once he started, he usually kept going for a while – and said, "You did your best to save her, but sometimes no matter how hard we try we just can't. And in this job, you'll find that not everything goes our way, even on the best of days. Mistakes cost lives. It could be your own, like Olsen's, or it could be someone else. Or a lot of someone elses. Even when you don't make mistakes, people can die. It's just life, Pavel, and space. You've just got to go on and keep doing your job. You could turn cynical if you wanted, like the doctor – though I'd stop hanging out with you if you did – or you could be your usual exuberant self, but you go on either way."
Chekov nodded slowly. "Thank you. I understand." Then he smiled a little. "I think that is the longest I have ever heard you talk, Hikaru."
Sulu grinned. "That's just because you never shut up." Chekov laughed, and whacked Sulu, who winced, glared at Chekov, and told him to stop beating up the patients and get back to the bridge.
Chekov had no idea that life on the Enterprise was going to be so unpredictable. They were now under their third captain in thirty-six hours and had just gotten a new crew member. While they were traveling at warp speed. The prominent question on Chekov's mind was, how did they do it? Beaming on to a ship going at high warp – the implications for that kind of discovery were incredible! Chekov was determined to track down the Scottish engineer as soon as he got off his shift and ask for a detailed explanation. Just thinking of all the things that would be possible now made him giddy with excitement. Even though right now the Romulan ship was headed towards Earth and the Enterprise was the only ship nearby....well, that was exciting too, but more of the scary variety.
Advanced transporter physics wasn't going to get them out of this one. Unless they beamed a bomb onto Nero's ship while he was traveling at warp with his shields down. Chekov worked on this idea for a few minutes before finding that, given Nero's destination and last known trajectory, there were about five hundred ways he could get there, and the Enterprise didn't have that kind of ammo to waste shooting in the dark.
So if they couldn't shoot at Nero from afar, they would need to get closer. Preferably without the Romulan seeing them, as he had a distinct advantage in weapons and shields. But the Enterprise would be in its own solar system, on home territory. Unless Nero had information from the future, the Enterprise crew surely knew more about its own system and could take advantage of it.
Then if Kirk and Spock managed to beam aboard Nero's ship like they were discussing, and if there really was a Federation ship inside the Romulan one, all they really needed was a place to ambush Nero. Somewhere they couldn't be detected. Somewhere like...
Chekov leapt from his chair and grabbed a stylus, headed for the clearboard at the rear of the bridge. It was, predictably enough, one of his favorite things about the bridge. He even had a corner of his own neatly labeled in Cyrillic script. Quickly he erased some of his old calculations and discreetly rubbed away some of the minor equations Spock had been working on; he was going to need more space than usual for this one. He started working, drawing in equations for the computer to solve and tapping the board to plug in constants and start simulations as needed. Chekov loved clearboards; at the Academy he had gotten into trouble for breaking into lecture halls late at night to do his assignments on them. He was allowed a small notebook sized one of his own, but he'd really wanted a wall-sized one like they had in classrooms. The one on the bridge was only quarter wall-sized, but it was better than nothing. It still made it relatively easy to do complicated math when the need arose, like it often did on the bridge.
Chekov was surprised how tricky the math did turn out for such a simple idea. As he bounded over to the Captain to explain what he'd done, he thought that it really shouldn't have been that complicated. He wanted to go over the intricacies of the calculations, but had learned a while ago that command types weren't interested in the procedure as much as the results, so he tried to get to those as fast as possible. Chekov was a little disconcerted by the blank stares they were giving him; had he made some stupid mistake that they couldn't bear pointing out to him? Or was he really being that unclear? He plowed on anyway, and slowly he saw understanding begin to dawn.
There was a short silence after he finished, and Chekov looked around triumphantly. The captain thought it was a good idea, and the Scottish engineer had a similar expression, and the doctor...
Chekov almost rolled his eyes; he could see The Question coming.
"How old are you, kid?" the doctor demanded.
"Seventeen, sir," he replied, without hesitation.
The doctor seemed at a loss for words, so he just muttered sarcastically, "Oh, good, he's seventeen."
Chekov smiled to himself. So he was seventeen. He was also a member of Starfleet's best ship, and his opinion really mattered. For the first time, Chekov was starting to see that the two could go together very successfully indeed.
A/N: Yay! A bit of cheesiness on the ending, but so what. Author's notes are posted on my blog if you are curious about why I wrote what I did. For any who are interested, I wrote a kind of epilogue prompted by 's review that I will post soon. It features Scotty, Chekov, scotch, vodka, and physics, and should be highly entertaining. So please keep an eye out for it if you enjoyed this story. Thanks for all the kind reviews, everyone, and I wouldn't mind some more if you feel thus inclined :)