Chapter One: Loyalty
"I'm not going back to the Enterprise with you, Captain," Carolyn said quietly. Her gentle tone did nothing to hide that she meant it.
"You canna be serious!" Scotty exploded. "You've just got to come back with us! There's nothing here for you -- nothing!"
"Scotty," Captain Kirk said warningly. He had already seen his chief engineer's temper get out of hand too many times on this away mission.
"But Captain!" Scotty protested in a tone he usually reserved for talking about the Enterprise's engines in a crisis, "That -- that alien 'Apollo' has scrambled her brains or something." He turned to Carolyn again. "You canna know what you're saying!"
"Oh, yes I do," Carolyn said firmly.
Ensign Chekov and Bones exchanged a dubious glance, but both kept silent to let the Captain handle this unexpected development.
"Scotty," Captain Kirk repeated sternly, "I want you to beam back up to the Enterprise with McCoy and Chekov. We --" he glanced at Carolyn, "-- or I will follow shortly."
"But Captain!" Scotty started, but at a look from his Captain, he stopped and sighed. "Aye, Captain," he said loyally, giving Carolyn one last pleading, worried look. He went to stand with the others and flipped his communicator open.
"Scotty to Enterprise... Three to beam up."
Captain Kirk opened his mouth to speak, but as tired as he was after the mission it took a moment for the words to come out. "Why? Lieutenant... are you sure you want to stay here?"
"I know what I'm doing, Captain," Carolyn said, looking at Captain Kirk with wide, large eyes that would have looked innocent if they didn't hold so much pain. She smiled reassuringly, though she was obviously unhappy. "I'll be all right here. This planet was designed with our needs in mind."
Impulsively, Captain Kirk grabbed Carolyn by the shoulders, sitting on the antique style bench next to her, and looked hard into her eyes. "Are you sure... that this is what you want?"
No longer even trying to smile, Carolyn stared earnestly back into her Captain's eyes. "I've done my duty. I did what you asked, Captain, even though following your orders meant hurting Apollo so badly." The sun was beginning to set, and Carolyn seemed even more beautiful with her hair and features bathed in the soft twilight. It was such a beautiful picture that James Kirk could almost swear he heard a lullabye playing softly in the distance somewhere. Carolyn looked down sadly at her hands where they rested in her lap, and at the lovely pink dress she was still wearing that Apollo had given her. "...And even though it hurt me."
"But what will you do? You'll be all alone here."
Carolyn looked back up at Captain Kirk, a genuine smile of some small happiness lighting her face, though the pain still shone clearly in her eyes. "Even though Apollo is gone, I can still honor his memory," she said, speaking as forcefully as her gentle demeanor would allow. "I'm going to gather laurel leaves for him."
Captain Kirk took Carolyn's hands in his own. "Lieutenant..." he began, then trailed off feeling at a loss for words. "Carolyn!"
"Please try to understand, Captain," Carolyn said softly. "I could never be happy on the Enterprise now, or in any part of the Federation." Her eyes seemed to be begging him to understand.
Captain Kirk reluctantly nodded. "I do understand." He stood up, letting her hands slip away from his, and stepped a few paces away to allow the transporter to get a clearer fix on his readings. "Kirk to Enterprise," he said, flipping open his communicator and speaking into it. "One to beam up." He lowered the communicator briefly and looked at Carolyn. "Goodbye, Lieutenant," he said with a small nod, then lifted the communicator again. "Energize."
"Goodbye, Captain. Thank you," Carolyn said just before he disappeared.
The Enterprise sailed proudly out of orbit, leaving the planet below again with just one inhabitant.