-I do not own or gain profit from anything remotely connected to Star Trek or the Characters of the show. Paramount, Desilu, CBS, etc. own all rights to Star Trek TOS and again I receive absolutely nothing from any of it.

Takes place after Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Earth, with Kirk in the beginning of his instructor role for the Academy/Star Fleet, and the universe, earth and Star Fleet still need him.

You may wish to read some of my reasoning behind this story in my profile while you're reading the story.

There are three prologues, since I found the original prologue a little too long for one sitting and decided to break it up into three separate chapters.

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PROLOGUE ONE

A It was like watching your best friend walking off with the girl you'd been in love with since the first day you laid eyes on her in the second grade. Or at least it felt like it, thought James T. Kirk as he stared wistfully out at the 'U.S.S. Enterprise', as it rested comfortably in it's mooring's at the San Francisco Yards.

The Admiral stood equally silent at one of the smaller viewing bays of the recently refurbished Terra Starbase, watching the blinking lights of the ship, that next to a certain chief engineer, he knew better than anyone else. How he knew her, was somewhat different than that of Scotty or anyone else, he liked to believe.

In a more personal fashion. One that only he and 'his girl' understood. He had never spoken a syllable about it with anyone else, not that it was any of their business to begin with, but admittedly, he realized how maudlin it would sound to those who thought they knew him. At least he could take some comfort in the knowledge that she was being taken care of by one of his closest friends. That didn't mean he had to like it, even if it had been decided over a year ago and he had been the one asked to pick out the lucky soul, he groused to himself.

Actually it was nearly three years ago when he had received the word of his promotion to Admiral, short of a month before the 'Enterprises' five year mission was completed. There had been that brief moment of exhilaration at the knowledge that he had apparently been recognized for his service as Captain of the now legendary ship. But it lasted briefly when he received the word that he would be going from his beloved bridge to a desk, as he was being placed as head of Star Fleet Operations. A position that he quickly found, as exciting as listening to Spock discuss the contribution of lint to universal peace. Not that the Vulcan ever had ever addressed such a subject, but Kirk concluded that it would undoubtedly be as lack luster as any of the matters he had faced in Operations.

Not that he hadn't gone into his new position as fired up as possible, with several plans and ideas already forming in his mind long before he stepped foot on HQ grounds. But he found, much to his surprise and questioning disappointment, that Star Fleet wasn't all that eager to change a fraction of their inner or outer workings. And he found himself beginning to realize that he had possibly been given the position as a status and marketing placement for Star Fleet more than anything else. Disenchantment began to breakup housekeeping as soon as that fact had settled in.

However, his bleak outlook was momentarily diverted when Admiral Nogura had instantly reinstated him as Captain of the 'Enterprise', during the V'Ger crisis barely six months ago. A mission that had cost the 'Enterprise' the young Captain, that he had rather forcefully suggested to Star Fleet, and an even younger navigator before either had a chance to really prove themselves. A responsibility that Kirk had taken on himself more privately than he care to let anyone know.

The loss of anyone under his command was always a personal tragedy, but this went further than he had originally realized. He had been handed the 'Enterprise' once again, for basically one simple reason. Experience. He had managed to pluck the 'Enterprise' out of more tight and dangerous situations than any other Captain to date. As well as dealt with encounters of unknown life forms too numerous to begin to count, with large percentage of success. That is what had been the swaying argument of giving him back 'his' ship temporarily.

That experience was little comfort when you've lost two crewmember's, one of which was the son of a one time fellow officer, not to mention the 'Enterprise's' newest Captain. It also made him silently question himself, especially when the rumor came around that it was possible that he may be up for a second five year tour after the V'Ger mission.

Admittedly, he would give anything to regain command of the 'Enterprise', well maybe not anything, but as close as one could get without doing a great deal of time in the stockade. But for a time, he found himself ready to decline the offer if it had ever come, which it hadn't. Not yet.

Now he found himself on the verge of starting new aspect of his life within Star Fleet. Actually today he would be starting that fresh prospect once he had spent what he considered enough time surveying the new base, and made the proper remarks to both media and Star Fleet.

An afternoon lecture at the Academy to the entire cadet contingency for the first day of the fall semester. A nice icebreaker for the newest instructor of the Academy. Nothing like being set up for a clear shot by a couple hundred cadets, who undoubtedly had been weaned on stories of the intrepid 'Enterprise' and her gallant crew. He seriously doubted they would ever do the same to Spock, when he was asked to take such a position.

A long tired sigh escaped from the Admiral, as his gaze still fondly followed the lines of the 'Enterprise', when a familiar slim figure sidled up beside him, his own pale blue gaze fixed on the gleaming ship.

"I'm givin' you one more chance to talk me outta this, Jim." 'Bones' McCoy murmured out of the corner of his mouth, trying not to appear overly conspicuous as he did so. "That green blooded computer console apparently is taking me seriously when I said I would happily go along with him on this next trip."

A small smile appeared on Kirk's face, as he glanced over at his friend. "If I recall right, the day that you found out about this new mission, I pointed out that Vulcan's do not hear sarcasm."

"Oh yea." Grunted the Doctor, blinking at the sudden dawning. "Well, hell, I guess I'm stuck then."

"I guess you are." Reiterated Kirk looking back at the 'Enterprise' to keep the Doctor from seeing the corners of his mouth tugging upwards a few centimeters. "But then look at it this way Bones, Spock knows what to expect so you won't have to step out of your way to impress him."

An eyebrow arched above a peeved eye, as McCoy shot a quick peckish glare at Jim before slowly pulling his gaze back out at the ship. He decided to refrain from taking up the generally friendly banter, well aware of his friends mood. It was the same mood he had been in since they had returned from the V'Ger nightmare, and it was seriously beginning to worry the Doctor.

After the years the pair had known each other, he wasn't surprised at Jim's reaction at the death of Decker and Illia. He always took it hard whenever he lost any crewmember under his command. No matter the circumstances. No matter the individual that was lost. The man was built that way. But this had hit Jim a little harder than expected by him and everyone else.

The fact he had a couple of years away from the bridge and the action he was used, played the biggest factor in his brooding. He never had confided in the Doctor, but McCoy had quietly suspected that his friend was soberly considering the idea if he really had been truly prepared to take over control of the 'Enterprise' after the lengthy hiatus. Hind sight had away of kicking your teeth out when you weren't looking.

"So, you figured out what you're going to tell the mass of youth, when you get back to the Academy?" McCoy inquired, deciding it best to focus on future plans than bring up the past. "Or would you rather have Spock and me kidnap ya, and you could live in one of the storage areas, until we come to the first planet that's never heard of you, if that's possible."

This time an eyebrow twitched along Kirk's brow, as he glanced back at the Doctor. "As glorious as you make it sound Bones, I'm going to have to pass. I've got other duties now that need my attention."

A corner of the Doctor's mouth twitched faintly as he glanced at his friend out of the corner of his eye. That sounded more ominous than he liked and McCoy wondered if Jim really was prepared to take on a group of edacious adolescence. Even in the best of situations it had the possibility of striking fear into the strongest heart, and Jim was close to hitting a low point like he hadn't seen in,...well since he could remember. He could be laid wide open for even more frustration and pain when he walked into that lecture hall this afternoon. Then again, it might just be what he needed, or at least the beginning of what could be the cure all for his friend. Or kill him.

With a quick shake of his head, McCoy blinked once then twice, wondering why his mind had a the tendency to either look for the silver lining or the door with the tiger behind it. Bad enough for himself, but for his friends too. Maybe Jim was right, and he was getting more contrarious as he was getting on in his years.

It was either that or everything was looking as black as it seemed at moments.

On the verge of commenting on his sudden dismal observation, McCoy hesitated at the sudden growing noise of what had to be a massive fracas down half filled corridor. That's all they needed, a bunch of spiffed junior officers brawling in the transporter room, right before he had to use it.

Half a second later the transporter door opened, allowing a small herd of coverall clad workers to merge among the other occupants of the hall. Most were carrying equipment of one kind or another, while a few others were apparently in charge of the more sensitive apparatus needed to install the machinery, by the way they clutched the cases in their white knuckled fingers. Behind them a pair of security men followed with less prudence than the tiptoeing crew that proceeded them, as they glanced at a small pack of engineering officers of the feminine persuasion that whooshed by them. The momentary diversion was over in a heartbeat, when they both caught sight of the young Captain that was right on their boot heels, bringing up the rear of the curious parade.

As he passed the Admiral and Doctor, the Captain's sharp blue eyes glanced in their direction and gave a quick nod in acknowledgement of their presence. If there was meant to be any amount of noticeable respect in the gesture, it was definitely lost somewhere before it reached either one of the two senior officers. A fact that wasn't lost on either one of them as they watched the group disappear around a connecting corridor.

A harrumphing noise came from the Doctor as he slowly moved his gaze from the now gone troop to Kirk's grave face. "What was that all about and who was that uncouth like youngster masquerading as a Star Fleet Captain?"

Mouth quirking in open annoyance, Kirk's gaze remain fixed on the emptying corridor for another few seconds before glancing back at McCoy. "When Admiral Ternet took over my position in Operations, he went on economic hunt to cut back on 'expenses'. One was finding a new maintenance company to take over the recycling systems of the star bases. That little entourage is the beginning of a whole refurbishing of all bases."

"'All' bases." Repeated McCoy obviously impressed with the chore. "And how long do they expect that to take? I would like to know if there's going to be anything left in Star Fleet coffers when I decide to finally retire."

"I don't know how they could make such a promise, but they claim they can have all bases refurbished and running normally in a year." Kirk said the skepticism etched deeply in his voice, as a familiar thoughtful shadow fell over his hazel stare. "I'll be surprised if they actually make it."

"I bet you're not the only one they'll surprise if they do." Grunted McCoy, thinking of all the disgruntled engineers on all the star bases between earth and the Neutral zone. "So, who's the cadet pretending to be an officer?"

"Captain Talmon." Answered Kirk with a tired sigh that had the slightest hint of indignation mixed in it, that caught the Doctor's well tuned ear.

"I take it you two have met already." Mused McCoy clasping his hands behind his back while watching Jim's face as it began to cloud over. "Made an impression did he?"

"One could say that." Murmured Kirk abruptly jerking his gaze back out at the 'Enterprise' well aware that the Doctor had seen his brewing aggravation. "He's recently been assigned as the new head of security for Star Fleet Headquarters and the Academy."

"And,...?" Prodded McCoy in mild frustration when Jim just left it like that.

Kirk scowled at his reflection in the window before turning on the Doctor. "And what?"

Rolling his eyes, McCoy shook his head. "'And what?'. If that's all you can only give me that for an answer forget I asked to begin with. I wouldn't have enough time to hear it all."

The scowl darkened ever so slightly as Kirk forced himself to glare back at the window, just as the overhead speakers came to life.

"Doctor McCoy, your presence is requested aboard the 'Enterprise'. Doctor McCoy your presence is requested aboard the 'Enterprise'."

Glancing up at the offensive speaker, McCoy grimaced. "Hells Bells, you'd think they could put supplies away without me having to explain the alphabet system to them again, wouldn't you."

If he expected Kirk's mood to lift at his comment, he was disappointed and was unable to hide his own frustration as his shoulders drooped an inch or two. The last thing he wanted to do was head out for the 'Enterprise' and the next few months on a sour note with Jim, especially with the ugly mood he was stewing himself into already.

"Listen Jim,..." With a sigh, McCoy glanced out at the huge, gleaming ship that meant the world to his friend, then gazed back at Kirk. "You, and I both know that what happened,...'

"Bones, I know." Kirk instantly interrupted keeping his eyes riveted to 'Enterprise' for a few more moments before looking over at the worried Doctor. "I know. That doesn't change any of the facts or how I personally feel about the situation. I have to deal with it now. Make my own conclusions and then go from there. Just let me worry about it."

An eyebrow rose another centimeter, as McCoy regarded Jim speculatively before relenting. "Yea, well, you should have plenty of time, if not complete peace and quiet to deal with it in. The biggest catastrophe to divert attention for awhile is going to be finding out which one of those delightfully bright and industrious young holy terrors booby trapped your instructional data pads. I don't envy you one bit, with the torture you've set yourself up for."

A sudden faint smile came upon Kirk's face. "Be careful Bones. One of these days you may find yourself ducking data files."

The Doctor snorted at the thought. "Only when Spock is crowned King of Mardi Gras."

"Doctor McCoy. Please report to the 'Enterprise'."

Sighing loudly, McCoy shot a glance out at the 'Enterprise' then back at Kirk. "You've been my closest friend for more years than either one of us would even care to contemplate Jim, and I've seen you go through some tests that I don't believe 99.9 of the population of this universe could imagine, let alone contend with under any circumstances. No matter what happened in the past or happens in the future Jim, you're still the best at what you do. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that, even most of those yahoo's in the head offices of Star Fleet grasp that. But I can understand why you're doing what you're doing too. I just wanted you to know that before I left."

"Thanks Bones." Kirk's smile grew a few millimeter's as he offered his hand to the Doctor, in friendship as well as gratitude.

Grasping the extended hand, McCoy allowed a tiny grin to come through. "I'll see ya in a few months, by then Spock should have 'the girl' warmed up for you."

The smile barely dimmed on Kirk's face. "Right Bones."

Once the Doctor had vanished through the door to the transporter room, Kirk gazed from the corner of his eye out at the moored ship again. Sucking in a deep breath, he slowly turned to face the viewing window once more, feeling less invigorated than before, especially after the last words of McCoy. In fact, he felt the hint of another guilt added to his others.

He had never mentioned to Bones, that he hadn't been offered the 'Enterprise' after the V'Ger mission. He had let the Doctor just assume that he had simply turned them down, for his personal reasons and never once let slip the truth. He had even gone so far as to make sure that only Spock was the only one who knew the truth of matter. The last thing he wanted was to have his one time crew mutiny in his behalf, only for them to find out he had been literally overlooked for the job. Bones would never let him or Star Fleet hear the end of it.

But that wasn't what was starting to bother him now. What was, was also a matter that he didn't want his friend to get wind of either. Basically for the fact, that he himself wasn't sure if he should be considering it or not.

He had his qualms and misgivings of his past actions, but now he was wondering if it was possible that Star Fleet was also having their own apprehensions about their intrepid Admiral James T. Kirk.

TBC

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