written by Travis Cannon

The Pioneer drifted pass the moon, and with in moments Earth came into view. Orbiting the Earth was Earth Dock One. On the bridge Captain Benjamin Kelsoe smiled.

“It’s always nice to see Earth Dock One,” Kelsoe said.

Burt stood up next to Kelsoe.

“Sure is,” Burt said.

Captain’s Log:

After our first run at collecting data of the Great Rift Barrier, we have come back to Earth for an important change in Starfleet. Admiral John Hayes has died in an accident on the prototype Cosmos Class ship, the Guanine. So Starfleet has come to a point in which a new Commander and Chief will have to be chosen. As a result the majority of Starfleet Captains will convene at Starfleet Headquarters to selected from the two nominees, Admiral Harold Anton and Admiral Dustin McCloud.

The Pioneer came up to the docking doors of Earth Dock One.

“Captain!” Burt said. “Look! It’s the Guanine!”

Kelsoe turned and looked at the view screen.

“My God,” he said softly.

What was left of the Guanine was in a dry dock, under repair. The dish was basically the only thing that survive and even that looked back. Kelsoe turned and looked at Burt.

“It’ll be a while until the Cosmos Class ships will be considered safe,” Kelsoe said.

Burt nodded. Beyond the Guanine as they got closer to Earth Dock, they say the Enterprise. It, too, was in a dry dock, under repair. Most of the damage has been repaired, but Kelsoe felt odd seeing the Enterprise in a dry dock. Tracy turned around from her station.

“Earth Dock’s hailing us,” she announced.

“Open a channel,” Kelsoe said as he moved his eyes away from the Enterprise.

Pioneer this is Earth Dock’s station manager,” came a voice over the intercom. “We’ll take it from here. Welcome home.”

“Thank you, Earth Dock,” Kelsoe said.

A tractor beam took hold of the Pioneer and lead it through the docking doors and into the docking bay. Kelsoe had his back to the view screen, and was with Craig.

“Uh, Captain?” Zimmer said.

“Huh?” Kelsoe said, turning around.

“It’s the Skyfox!” Burt said.

Kelsoe looked up at the view screen and saw an Excelsior Class ship. He gave a weak smile.

“I was a first officer onboard her,” Kelsoe said. “Under Captain Tellening.”

As the Pioneer continued to move the Skyfox went out of view.

“Is Tellening still in command?” Burt asked.

“I believe so,” Kelsoe said.

“It would appear that Captain Tellening has also been called back to select the new Commander and Chief,” Braxis said.

“Very logical of you, Braxis,” Burt said sarcastically.

Kelsoe turned around and told Burt that he had the conn, then quickly walked into his ready room. Everyone on the bridge, except Braxis, was shocked.

Captain Kelsoe walked across the Starfleet Insignia in the main lobby of Starfleet Command. He had transported down just a couple of hours ago and was currently on his way to meet with the committee he would be part off in choosing the replacement for Admiral Hayes. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a woman with dark brown hair and blue eyes walk out of the hallway to his left. He quickened his pace, but she caught up with him.

“Where are you going to in such an hurry, Captain,” she said.

Kelsoe turned. “Captain Tellening,” he nodded and shook her hand.

“Ah, come now, Ben,” Tellening said. “I think we are more behind last names.”

“I’ve got to go,” Kelsoe said. “I’m on my way to the Starfleet Special Committee meeting.”

“Good,” Tellening said. “Me, too.”

With no trouble at all he was briskly walked with Kelsoe down the hall.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” Tellening said.

“I have,” Kelsoe said. “I’m more mature and know now that it is impossible to have a relationship with you.”

“Ah, really, Ben,” Tellening said, patting him on the shoulder.

Kelsoe stopped and turned to face her.

“Sarah!” Kelsoe said. “Please, stop.”

“What’s the matter, Ben?” Tellening inquired.

“Don’t you remember Anne?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Ben,” Tellening said. “I know, but it’s been more than four years since then, you have to get over it.”

“Well, I don’t know if I can,” Kelsoe said. “You of all people should understand me.”

“Look, Ben,” Tellening said, a little agitated. “I know we had a rocky relationship...”

“It should never had happened,” Kelsoe said. “You were my commanding officer, and I was you Executive Officer.”

“So we submitted to passion and ignored our professionalism for a week or two,” Tellening said.

“It was more than a week,” Kelsoe said. “And you know that! Why did you think I request a transfer after year onboard. Not because I wanted to eventually reach Captain and I felt that that assignment was holding me back. No! You were my reason. It was impossible to ever be impossible with us together on the same ship.”

“It worked with Anne,” Tellening said.

“That was different,” Kelsoe said. “She was not my commanding officer.”

“Well, it shouldn’t have been different,” Tellening said. “And let me tell you this, my feelings for you have not changed. And I’ll be damned sure that you still have those same feelings. They may not be as intense they were six years ago, but I’ll bet that they’re still there.”

“Sarah...,” Kelsoe said, he was becoming very agitated.

Just them someone cleared his throat. Both Kelsoe and Tellening turned to see Captain Jean-Luc Picard walking down the hallway towards them. Picard, looked professional as ever.

“Ben, Sarah,” Picard said. “So good to see you.”

“Captain Picard,” Kelsoe said. “I didn’t see you coming.”

“I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t be allowed to help selected the next C n’ C,” Picard said. “Hayes was a good man, don’t get me wrong, I just feel that change is in the air.”

“I heard about you’re scuffle with the Romulans,” Tellening said.

“Scuffle?” Picard said. “I would certainly call it more than that, Captain Tellening.”

“By the time I discovered the Romulans capable for cloning,” Kelsoe said. “It was already too late.”

“Well, at least you tried, Ben,” Picard said. “After the meeting we should have dinner, and catch up.”

“Sure,” Kelsoe said, glancing quickly at Tellening. “Just the two of us.”

“What about, Captain Tellening? I’m aware you have a history together,” Picard said.

“We don’t need any catching up to do,” Kelsoe said.

“Very well, then,” Picard said.

They were now in the meeting room designated for the Starfleet Special Committee. Along with Picard, Tellening and Kelsoe, several other Starfleet captains  were there. Kelsoe saw Captain Barbara Hessman, who helped him with rescuing Bal from the So’ja. Captain Edwin Sutton, of the Niagara, who rendezvous with the Pioneer to transport Dr. Chase Braga aboard. And then Kelsoe saw Preston Ramsey, captain of the U.S.S. Regal. Captain William Trigger of the Victory, formally the first officer of that very same ship under Captain Reese. Dean Benison, first officer of the Revolution, now Captain Benison, was working for Starfleet Command now and was Admiral Victoria Murray, who was presiding over the committee.

“Please, take your seats,” Benison said. “You have all been assigned seats. Please, hurry so we can get started.”

All the captains found their seats and sat down quickly. Benison sighed with relief. He stepped back. 

“Now, all raise for Admiral Murray,” Benison said.

There was some groans and they became to stand. Admiral Victoria Murray walked in quickly and waved her hand in the air.

“Don’t bother, please,” Murray said. “Please, sit.”

The captains sat down. Murray took a seat on a raised platform so that everyone in the room could see her. Murray clear her throat.

“I believe we all know why we are here,” Murray said. “Today’s meeting will be a short one. Today all we will be doing is putting all of you into subcommittees who will meet tomorrow. Each subcommittee will reach an anonymous vote on who should be the next C n’ C, Admiral Harold Anton or Admiral Dustin McCloud. Each subcommittee will then relay their vote to Captain Benison here, who will then make a note of it for me. Each committee's vote will count as one vote for either Anton or McCloud. With a tie vote is reached, Anton will when by default. Any questions.”

“Yes, Admiral Murray,” Picard said, standing up. “I am to assume that, if a tie vote does indeed take place, that Admiral Anton will win by default because he was selected by the Federation Council to be acting Commander and Chief.”

“Yes, Jean-Luc,” Murray said. “That is what will occur. Now let me tell you all something. I do not want a five and five split. It is not a nice way to welcome in our next Commander and Chief.” Murray paused for a beat. “Now Captain Benison will read off the subcommittees. Captain Benison?”

Benison stood up.

“Committee one will consist of: Captain Picard, Captain Hessman, Captain Ramsey, Captain Trigger, Captain Kelsoe and Captain Tellening. Committee two will consist of: Captain...”

Kelsoe slide down into his chair. He would have to spend the next couple of days stuck with Tellening.

Kelsoe was seated in a small restaurant over looking the beautiful San Francisco Bay, waiting for Captain Jean-Luc Picard. It was just about dusk and Kelsoe was looking forward to talking with Picard. It wasn’t like Picard to be late, but Kelsoe paid no attention to it. Within a couple minutes, Picard came stepping around the table up to Kelsoe. Kelsoe stood up to great Picard. He extended his arm and they shook hands.

“Nice to see you, again, Ben,” Picard said as he sat down.

Kelsoe sat down.

“You, too, Captain,” Kelsoe said.

“Ben,” Picard said. “It’s Jean-Luc.”

“Yes, Captain,” Kelsoe said.

Picard gave a frustrated sigh.

“Can’t break old habits, eh?” Picard said. “Don’t worry, I know how it feels. So how has your first command gone so far?”

“Fairly well,” Kelsoe said. “We still are having some problem with the So’ja, and now the Kai Imperium may start causing problems for us.”

“After the Enterprise is finished,” Picard said. “We’ll be heading to Romulus to help Captain Riker.”

“Will finally excepted a promotion?!” Kelsoe said a little shocked. “I thought he was waiting around for the Enterprise.”

“I guess I convinced him that I was not going to go anywhere,” Picard said chuckling a bit.

A waiter came by and they ordered.

“Captain,” Kelsoe said, leaning forward a bit when the waiter left. “I still find it hard to deal with Anne’s death. Seeing Sarah around just makes it worse.”

“Sarah?” Picard inquired.

“Yeah,” Kelsoe nodded.

“You two had something, huh?” Picard asked.

Kelsoe nodded hesitatingly.

“Oh,” Picard said leaning back in his chair. “That explains quite a bit.”

“It is why I requested a transfer,” Kelsoe said.

The waiter came back and served the wine Picard had selected. And said he would be back with their orders in a couple minutes. Picard took a sip of his wine.

“Good wine,” Picard said.

“Hmmm, yes,” Kelsoe agreed.

“So what is the problem your having with Sarah now?” Picard inquired.

“She, well, she still has feelings,” Kelsoe said. “Feelings that I...”

“... no longer have,” Picard finished Kelsoe’s sentence.

“Yes,” Kelsoe nodded. “At the time I say the whole thing as a mistake that should never have happened. And I still feel like that. She was my superior, and I was her first officer. We were not suppose to get involved. If I had allowed it to grow it would have become too dangerous for the crew.”

“Ah,” Picard said. “I see. You feel that you were doing you duty by requesting a transfer?”

“Yes,” Kelsoe said. “I needed to get off that ship. Too many lives would have been in danger if I would start letting my feelings for her cloud my judgment.”

“I understand,” Picard said. “Believe it or not, I had a similar problem. And I, like you, choose to not allow my relationship to interfere with my duty as a Starfleet officer.”

“So I did the right thing?” Kelsoe asked.

“Yes,” Picard said. “A Starfleet officer’s first duty is to his ship. You did the right thing. But, I must tell you this, I wonder whether you are doing the right thing now.”

“What do you mean?” Kelsoe inquired.

“You once asked me to always tell you what I thought, straight forward,” Picard said. “And to give you advice about your career. Well this time I feel I must give you some advice about your life, not just your career.”

“Go on,” Kelsoe said.

“If Sarah feelings are as they were,” Picard said. “And if you think you need to get over Anne, then I suggest you start to take Sarah’s comments to heart. You do not have to become seriously involved, just give yourself enough room to grow.”

Kelsoe nodded.

“That’s just what I probably need,” Kelsoe said. “But I am unsure whether Sarah is the right woman to start with.”

The waiter came and served them their meals. As they ate the discussed what has happened to each other over the last two years.

“Committee one,” Captain Barbara Hessman. “I have been selected by Captain Benison to be the head of our group.”

“You are a great choice, Captain Hessman,” Picard said. “Captain Benison has picked wisely.”

“Thank you, Jean-Luc,” Hessman said.

Committee one, which consisted of Captain Kelsoe, Captain Picard, Captain Hessman, Captain Preston Ramsey, Captain William Trigger and Captain Sarah Tellening were seated around a small black circular conference table in one of many conferences rooms in Starfleet Headquarters.

“What is on the schedule for today?” Captain Ramsey inquired.

Hessman looked down at the data pad in her hand.

“Today we will be visited by Admiral McCloud and Admiral Anton, both a separate times, and will begin debating over which one is a better candidate for Commander and Chief of  Starfleet,” Hessman said. “It appears that first we will be visited by Admiral McCloud.”

“That is correct, Captain Hessman,” came voice from the doorway.

They all turned to see Admiral Dustin McCloud. McCloud was a rather tall man with a full head of grayish hair. He had a small mustache that was kept close to his face. He had an overall nice build. McCloud’s break was perfectly parallel to the wall. He stepped across the room and stood in front of a space of the table that was clear.

“Good morning,” McCloud said. “I guess I am suppose to tell you what I plan to do if you select me.”

“Naturally,” Tellening said with a smile.

McCloud nodded. Kelsoe could notice that McCloud had a military aura around him.

“Precisely,” McCloud said. “Now let me tell you this. If I am selected to commander Starfleet, there would be no more tip toeing around the major problems in the universe. Don’t get me wrong, Admiral Hayes was a good man, but there are serious problems in the universe that need our attention.”

“Like what exactly?” Captain Trigger inquired.

“The So’ja, for one thing,” McCloud said, giving Kelsoe a quick glare. “We need to stop trying to create treaties with them. We had and it failed. The So’ja are as formidable as any other race in the universe when it comes to weaponry. They need to be stopped.”

Kelsoe noticed that Picard was nodding in agreement with Admiral McCloud.

“So far our Captains have been unable to communicate correctly with the So’ja and our lack of presents in the Oralian Sector is being felt. We have not definite commander there.”

Again Kelsoe noticed McCloud glaring at him. Both Hessman and Tellening could tell it as well. Trigger shifted in his set uneasily. He, too, had noticed the Admiral’s subtle insults towards Kelsoe.

“Excuse me, Admiral,” Captain Ramsey said. “But we do have presents in the Oralian Sector. You just haven’t been looking. Over the past two years, Captain Kelsoe, has established contact with nice new races. Most of which have become allies with the Federation.”

“That is beside the point,” McCloud said.

“Excuse me!” Kelsoe said standing up. “I am not going to take it any longer. And I don’t care that you are an Admiral. You have insulted me enough. You have no, no!, idea what I have gone through to secure peaceful relationship between the Federation and members of the Oralian Sector.”

“I think you, Captain Kelsoe,” McCloud said. “Were a mistake waiting to happen. Admiral Hayes should never have selected you to be the Federation eyes and ears in the Oralian Sector. In my personal opinion, Admiral Hayes was flawed.”

“Now wait just a damn minute!” Tellening said standing up. “Captain Kelsoe deserves to be where he is. I don’t know if I can say the same about you.”

“I beg you pardon,” McCloud said. “I don’t have to listen to this. This meeting is over!”

McCloud stormed out of the room. After which it was very silent in the room.

“I like him,” Picard said.

“What!?” Kelsoe said.

Picard looked up at Kelsoe.

“He was right about you, Ben,” Picard said. “You were not ready for that assignment.”

“What are saying!?” Kelsoe demanded. “You recommended me for the command!”

“I know,” Picard said. “But seems now my logic was flawed. No Captain should talk like that to an Admiral.”

“Excuse me, Captain Picard, but you’ve stood up to a lot of Admiral in you days!” Kelsoe said.

“Please, calm down,” Hessman said, standing up.

“Look!” Kelsoe said. “I earned my place as a Starfleet Captain.”

“No, you didn’t, Ben,” Picard said. “It is because of me that you are a Starfleet captain!”

“Well you make one fine officer,” Kelsoe said softly.

“Who the hell are you to tell me what type of officer I am!” Picard snapped. “I had my command before you had even graduated from Starfleet Academy.”

The sound of the doors closing silenced Picard. They all turned to see Admiral Harold Anton. Anton looked at Picard and then shifted his eyes to Kelsoe.

“Is this a bad time?” Anton inquired.

“I’m afraid so, Admiral,” Hessman said.

“Right,” Anton said. “Why don’t you all take a ten minute break. And Let the steam out of the room.”

Kelsoe and Tellening stood outside on a patio high above in the sky, looking down on the Bay. Kelsoe’s face was still red from arguing with Picard. He turned to Tellening and smiled at her.

“Thanks for standing up for me, back in there,” Kelsoe said.

“No problem, Ben,” Tellening said.

Kelsoe inhaled deeply.

“I can’t believe Picard would think that,” he said.

“Me neither,” Tellening said. “I think most of us found it as a shock as well. I mean, Picard was the one that said you were destined to be one of the great Starfleet captains.”

“Well, I guess I’m not,” Kelsoe said, and tried to laughed.

“Oh, Ben,” Tellening said, moving closer to him.

She put his arms around his shoulders and brought him closer to her. They embraced, first just a hug and then their lips softly touched. Kelsoe quickly backed away.

“I’m sorry,” Kelsoe said.

“Don’t be, Ben,” Tellening said. “I’m the one who did it, not you.”

Kelsoe turned away.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” Kelsoe said.

“I understand,” Tellening said.

Kelsoe’s eyes opened wide. He was shocked. He would never have thought that Sarah Tellening could ever understand his point of view.

“If you had allowed our relationship to grow,” Tellening said. “I could never have sent you on an away mission ever again. But you can hate a girl for trying.”

Kelsoe turned around.

“Sarah,” Kelsoe said. “We may yet become friends.”

Tellening laughed.

“I don’t know about that.”

They were back in the conference room. Admiral Anton was standing where McCloud had been earlier. Anton looked over all of the captains. He shook his head.

“I am very disappointed in what I saw earlier,” Anton said. “Starfleet captains shouting at each other. If we cannot have peace among ourselves, how can we have peace with other races. The question isn’t about loyalty, honor, no. It is about trust. I from what I saw I don’t know how well I can trust you to protect the Federation from falling. Captain Picard, you out of all people should know this. You are one of Starfleet’s most prized captains, and I am sad to see that you would get involved in a pissing contest with you pupil.”

Picard lowered his head slightly.

“And you, Captain Kelsoe,” Anton said. “I am amazed our much you believe in the ideals of the Federation to seek out peace that you are welling to sacrifice your career to defend our morals.”

Anton paused for a beat. “Maybe the question isn’t about trust, but about belief. If we do not have belief in the Federation, how can we possible survive.”

“I’ll let you dwell on that.”

And with that, Anton turned on his heals and left. Kelsoe looked up slowly at Picard, who looked back at him. The fire was still in their eyes, yet was not directed at each other.

Three days later Captain Benjamin Kelsoe stood in the main lobby of Starfleet Headquarters, next to Captain Sarah Tellening. They had just come back from celebrating Admiral Anton’s selection as Commander and Chief. As Kelsoe turned to leave he saw Captain Picard step over to him.

“Ben,” Picard said in a soft voice. “I wish to apologize for my action and comments. It may not be of any conciliation now, but I have never doubt my faith in your abilities. The teacher acts in mysterious ways.”

“What?” Kelsoe said. “Wait, are you saying you were testing me?”

“Yes,” Picard nodded. “And let me say this, any Captain who can deal with Q as admirably as you have deserves his or her rank and position. Keep up the good work.”

And with that, Captain Picard gave Kelsoe a pat on the back and walked away. Kelsoe turned and looked at Tellening.

“Do you believe what just happened?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Yes,” Tellening said. “Actually, Captain Picard told me about it before the meeting took place. He wanted to make sure that you still had your passion.”

“Well I could have told him that,” Kelsoe said.

“Oh, Ben,” Tellening said. “I am so going to mess you.”

Kelsoe turned to face her. He brought his hand up to her face and rubbed her cheek with the back of his hand.

“Maybe in a different life it could have been,” Kelsoe said. “But in this one, duty comes first.”

“Yes, it does,” Tellening said.

Her eyes became watery.

“I don’t want to say good-bye,” Tellening said.

“Then don’t,” Kelsoe said, still rubbing her cheek.

Tellening inhaled and exhaled heavily.

“Ha,” she said softly. “I get this way every time I’m with you. You have that effect on me.”

“Oh, Sarah,” Kelsoe said. “You were my first love, and I wished it would have been nicer, but it was not.”

“I know,” Tellening said.

They slowly back up from each other because they noticed that other people were staring at them.

“Let me walk you to your shuttle,” Kelsoe said.

“I’d enjoy that,” Tellening said.

Tellening placed her arm around Kelsoe’s and they walked together, at a slow pace out of Starfleet Headquarters. Back against the wall, Captain Picard and Admiral Anton stood watching.

“I think it work, Admiral,” Picard said. “I think we helped him pass his struggle.”

“Me, too, Jean-Luc,” Admiral Anton said. “I’m still amazed he fell for it.”

“I’m his teacher, remember,” Picard said. “More, than that, actually. I’m more like his friend. I knew how to go about it. It just depended one how McCloud spoke about the Federation’s mission in the Oralian Sector.”

“Do you think McCloud had a chance?” Anton inquired.

“Me?” Picard said, and shook his head. “No, sir, not at all.”