Klingons. The entire group of them no more wanting to be here than Kirk wanted to see them. The only good thing about it was the thought of putting his fist into one of their faces.
McCoy came up behind him. One look and he understood. "Come on, Jim, I'll buy you a drink."
He searched the big space the Jakuta set aside for the talks and found the bar through the crowd. Actually, he found one of the bars. The Jakutans wanted a conference with the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Federation all playing nice together for a couple days, but they weren't stupid. Alcohol with this group was dangerous enough, let alone forcing them into a tight space around one serving location.
McCoy said, "How much you want to bet the drinks are watered down? Just in case."
Kirk eyed the Klingons grouped around one bar and the Romulans around another. The one he headed for had a lot of Starfleet uniforms. He bet McCoy was right.
"Doesn't matter," he replied. "We can always go back to the ship."
"Not until 'end of session'," the doctor quoted. "Although that's not as long for us as it is for the diplomats."
Kirk looked over his shoulder to comment on that and bumped into Styles. He hadn't meant it, which was why it was called bumped; in fact, if he had seen the other captain, he'd have run in the other direction. Now he was stuck, McCoy with him, and he tried moving away in another direction only to plow into someone else: Lady Amanda with, of course, Saavik at her shoulder.
He had thought of course because he had heard that Amanda spoke with Saavik's captain, who didn't know the Vulcan at all since she was a temporary assignment for the conference. The older woman had asked for the younger to be assigned to the Vulcan diplomatic party. Based on who was asking, that settled where Saavik would be during the entire event.
He thought about warning Spock's mother to run away, but Styles had gotten wind of a VIP, in very large letters, being nearby. He strutted closer and demanded an introduction, although he worded it as, "Who is your friend, Kirk?"
Kirk sounded like he presented something from the bottom of his shoe. "May I introduce Captain Lawrence Styles. Styles, this is Amanda of Vulcan."
The other captain clicked his heels and bent over her hand. It would have been charming if was not so overly affected, making McCoy mumble he was going to be ill. Amanda had been a part of diplomatic service for too long to show what she thought. She smiled politely and retrieved her hand when she could. Her lavender scarf and dress stood out attractively amongst their uniforms.
Kirk motioned behind her. "And this is Lieutenant—"
Saavik's expression held that piercing disdain that she could manage so beautifully. "Introductions are unnecessary, Captain."
Styles flushed. "YOU!"
She nodded once, tightly.
The day just got a lot better in Kirk's opinion, which was exactly what McCoy muttered under his breath. "I didn't know that you two… knew each other."
Styles shouted. "She's lucky she's still in Starfleet!"
Saavik answered Kirk. Of course, she did. "I worked with Captain Styles on the Warp Ten project."
"Where she was nothing but insubordinate!"
She still spoke in response to Kirk, while continuing to meet Styles' glare with Vulcan ice. "The test pilot was killed due to the recommendation to ground the flight being ignored."
I remember that. He had gone to see the launch; he didn't know Saavik was part of it.
"Make that insubordinate and ignorant!"
A sightless, deaf person who didn't speak Federation Standard could read between these lines: Styles had ignored Saavik's recommendation.
McCoy whispered to Kirk, "Even I've never called a Vulcan ignorant."
Amanda gave Saavik a gesture to hand over the padd she carried and began working on it.
Styles refused to give in, so he answered like he had nothing to do with what Saavik said. It made him bank some of his resentment towards Kirk over Excelsior – or at least appear to. The fact no one died over the sabotaged ship most likely helped. "It's always a shame when someone dies on a project. Admirals putting pressure on people so they can have their name on it. I don't get you, Kirk. You were out of it. You were in the top brass, giving orders instead of having to put up with them. No more having to say 'Aye, sir' to every so-called superior, even though you wonder how the idiot ever got his rank. You know what I mean?"
"Aye, sir," Saavik said.
Kirk had to work very hard not to laugh in Styles' face, who seethed even more at her nonplus response:
"I merely agreed with you, Captain."
Styles shoved the end of his swagger stick in her face. Her expression didn't change one bit. "This is over that pilot?"
"He had a name, sir. Captain Torias Dax. A Trill civilian."
"I know he had a name! I also remember you were just a cadet! So why would we ever listen to you?!"
"I found it," Amanda interceded brightly, taking on his act that they discussed nothing more than pleasantries, but she eyed that stick. She read from the padd. "Saavik was assigned for what Starfleet called 'exceptional expertise in warp navigation, exceeding her cadet status to equal superior officers. Along with her strong piloting skills, the Warp Ten project will find her a critical asset.' Now wasn't that nice of them?"
Kirk knew Styles chewed his liver over that, but he wouldn't say it. Not to someone like Amanda.
Instead, he pushed the stick under Saavik's chin and her eyes narrowed. "Test pilots die, Lieutenant. That's how Starfleet and everything else moves forward. It's sad but true. The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
Amanda put a hand on the threatening crop and pushed it down. Her blue eyes were hard, even with speaking diplomatically to take the sting from the gesture. "Is that a quote or is that yours?"
He waggled his shoulders, puffing himself up again. Saavik obviously waited for him to start saying It's mine, to speak over him. "It is Henry David Thoreau and he did not refer to unnecessary sacrifice based on orders ignoring facts."
Kirk and Amanda both jumped in before Saavik really was kicked out of Starfleet.
"She served with you, didn't she, Kirk?!" Styles shouted. "This is what happens when captains like you coddle their crew! They think they can talk about something to superior officers when they know nothing about it!"
McCoy suddenly got in Styles' face. "Coddled?! Don't you know anything about her record? Coddled, he says! What are you even captain of, anyway? Not the Excelsior! Not after Scotty handed your arrogance to you on a plate made from your broken engines!"
"Bones!" Kirk didn't need everyone getting kicked out of the fleet. Pretty funny, though.
"Listen to Kirk, Doctor." Styles pushed Amanda back and Saavik's eyes grew darker. "If you still answered to me, Saavik, I'd see you out of that uniform by tonight."
"You, Captain, will never see me out of my uniform."
Kirk plain gave up as his shoulders shook and McCoy put a hand on his ribs as he laughed audibly. Amanda ducked behind the padd and clamped a hand over her mouth.
But the Vulcan skated on the rule book's thin ice, and no one could do that better than her. She hadn't broken any regulations, but she was getting close to giving Styles ammunition for actual insubordination.
Kirk saw another Vulcan woman in a cadet uniform several feet away that frowned in their direction. People crisscrossed in front of her, so he didn't get a good look. On the other side of the room, Spock talked with his father, but they both turned in the direction of the commotion. An aide came up to Sarek to whisper in his ear; they left the room.
Saavik saw reason and kept quiet. To Styles' other comments as he built into a full-blown rant, she simply nodded or said only, "Sir." Kirk began to think she had mentally left the room and moved on automatics.
Then he noticed the subtle firmness and narrowing of her eyes, the movement at the one corner of her mouth. She watched Styles' reaction carefully; still as forward as ever, she'd learned to do it without words. But then, if you live in Sarek and Amanda's house for a while, you pick up some things. Like how to stand at the end of a barking dog's chain and need nothing else but presence as an attack.
Kirk grinned at Bones and slightly jerked his head in her direction as Styles fumed against a target that wouldn't, to all appearances, fight back. He didn't know if McCoy saw it too, but then if you carry Spock's katra around in your head – including all that he knew about Saavik – you pick up some things.
Worse for Styles, other officers including an admiral turned around at his shouting. They saw a captain screaming at a junior with no apparent cause.
The admiral leaned in, his thick hair the color of a starship against his mottled red face. "Styles, isn't it? For god sakes, man, keep your voice down! We represent the Fleet! She isn't even doing anything! What's your name, Lieutenant?"
"I commend you on your deportment, Lieutenant Saavik."
"Thank you, sir."
Like I said, presence. Saavik had a boatload of it.
McCoy hid behind Kirk's back to hide his silent laughter. It got worse when the admiral said to Styles, "We can learn sometimes from the juniors. Don't you think so, Captain?"
Styles' knuckles were white on the stick's handle. "Yes, Admiral."
But Amanda… Amanda hadn't lived with Vulcans most of her life for nothing. As mildly as Saavik had answered the admiral, she told Styles, "Will you excuse us? I'm afraid I have an appointment to prepare for and I'm sure I'm keeping you from enjoying the night."
She began to turn, but when Styles did so himself, she sent Kirk and McCoy a rolling eye look before she gathered Saavik and walked away. Kirk grinned and wished he could follow.
McCoy suddenly leaned forward. "Excuse us too. We're supposed to be someplace. In fact, we're late." He just left Styles standing there with Kirk quickly matching his stride.
"Where are we supposed to be?" he asked.
"The bar. I'd be on my second drink, maybe my third, if that idiot hadn't shown up."
Amanda didn't have an appointment either, just a desire to avoid Saavik being dishonorably discharged. She started to commend the younger woman in keeping quiet in the face of being verbally abused when she remembered she did have an appointment: she was supposed to be speaking with Ambassador Umzoh from the planet Arion in the Onteus System. A very new Federation member, one of Sarek's staunchest supporters and a newly made friend, his tall, leathery appearance, but most of all his "devil's" horns spooked people in the crowd. Amanda imagined the poor man had to be boiling here since his large, home continent covered the northern polar region.
So, she instead asked Saavik to check that everything was set for Umzoh's comfort in his quarters and maybe even send over something to deal what would be hot temperatures to the Arion. Since that wasn't a real purpose for a Starfleet officer, she asked the Vulcan to unite the various aides to ensure everything was set between the Onteuseans and their conference with Sarek against the Romulans and Klingons.
Unfortunately, Umzoh himself was nowhere in the room. She saw Kirk and McCoy move away from the bar with their drinks. More importantly, that Captain Styles was gone. She took a champagne flute from a stand and went to them.
"Shall we toast to the lack of shouting?" her eyes as effervescent as her drink.
McCoy muttered, "I'd like to toast to someone taking that stick and shoving it – sorry, ma'am."
"Amanda," she reminded him. She smiled into her glass. "There were a couple good moments."
"Aye, sir," Kirk repeated and his grin couldn't get any bigger.
McCoy chuckled. "I wish I had a recording of his face when she said that. And the uniform thing!" Kirk sipped his drink at that moment making him choke. "I'm telling everybody about that one. …Starting with this person right here!"
Amanda turned and beamed when she saw who it was. Spock looked so handsome in his uniform, biased though she was. He reported on the preparations for the first session in the morning which still had the various diplomats and their aides constantly pulling for Sarek's attention.
"Same as usual then," she commented.
"Amanda," McCoy began, "seeing Spock reminded me. Don't you and Sarek have a big anniversary coming up?"
"Yes, we do. In fact, this will be our last mission for a while. We're taking time off together. Hopefully, the Federation can stay in one piece without us." She looked back through the years to those newlyweds and what they thought their future held. She came out of her reverie and wrapped a sense of her bond to Sarek around her. "I can honestly say I would marry him all over again. I'd marry him again tonight and hope I had just as many years ahead or more."
Kirk toasted her with a soft smile. "Congratulations… and lucky Sarek."
As she sipped, she caught her son out of the corner of her eye. "I would have you again too."
He replied as lightly, "Thank you, Mother."
She smiled into her glass. "One does not thank logic."
He raised an eyebrow.
Some commotion came from the other side of the room but she couldn't see what it was; a common problem with her height. The argument, sadly, was going to be the first of many. The Jakutans took on an explosive mixture for this conference. She saw people move to help. "Unfortunately, I should find my wayward ambassador."
Jim held her off. "Let me." He waved his hand in a come here and an ensign appeared instantaneously. He told the young man to find out about -–
"Ambassador Umzoh," Amanda supplied.
"Report back if he's unavailable." The ensign dashed off with the importance of the very young given a task from a hero. Kirk smirked. "A wave of my hand and an ensign appears. I hope the power doesn't go to my head."
"These drinks sure won't," McCoy grumbled.
Amanda gazed at them loftily. "An ensign. That's so sweet. Now watch." Without even looking, she waggled her fingers over her shoulder. Aides come running. She asked them the same thing, to discover what happened to the ambassador and then check if Sarek's schedule had changed with the new demands on his time. She dismissed them and again gave the grinning two men a haughty expression. "Vulcans, gentlemen, all shapes and sizes. And you had a mere ensign."
"Mother," Spock chided, "the diplomatic party does not exist for you to treat so idly."
"You sound like -" She looked in the crowd and frowned.
"Something wrong?" Kirk asked.
"Someone a little late on their response time?" McCoy teased.
"One is missing," Amanda answered as casually. "The one I borrow from you whenever I can."
Ambassador Umzoh appeared, so she introduced the Enterprise officers. He stood a head taller than them and he frowned quizzically. "Sarek spoke of you too. Something about his arranging for a greater access for you. Is that standard?"
"Umzoh," she touched Leonard's arm, "these are the men who gave us our son back. We'd give them the planet if they wanted it."
He nodded, understanding now, not hearing McCoy mutter that he could use the planet, especially if Spock had to kowtow to him. "Just so. Another thing." He gestured to the other side of the room. "You know I am still learning these things. But isn't that a problem? And the one in the center is yours, correct?"
"Mine? No, Spock is right here. Wait a moment, do you mean…"
He already nodded. "You make this gesture," he did the small wave she had done with thick fingers, "and this particular one then stands here." He pointed down into the empty air at Amanda's shoulder. His people weren't known as literals for nothing and he made up for his new understanding of Federation Standard with the simple talk and motions.
She lifted her eyebrows at her son's friends. "You see? I told you."
"But," Umzoh continued, "you made this gesture," he waved his fingers again, "and she did not come here," into that same spot, "because she is over there where they shout. Is that not a problem?"
Amanda still couldn't see, but she could guess. Styles had followed Saavik and caused trouble. It was a stupid move on his part after the admiral had already dressed him down.
Umzoh shoved an arm between the people who immediately blocked her view and then swiped it back and forth, like sweeping off a light snow from a window. "You know who this is?" he asked them. "Then please to move from her view."
Amazingly, they not only did that, they tapped people on the shoulder right in front of them. It was enough for her to get a glimpse.
Her hand went to her throat as it dried and closed. It wasn't Styles after Saavik.
It was a Romulan.
She registered somewhere in her mind the swift intakes of breath from Jim and Leonard, felt Spock tighten like she did.
Maybe she shouldn't have, not with her diplomatic experience — or maybe she should because of that experience, but she panicked seeing a large Romulan warrior, a Centurion some part of her mind read, pushing into Saavik's hard expression.
A Romulan faced Saavik.
Had she even seen a Romulan since Hellguard?
A small – Amanda couldn't tell from here if it was a human man or woman – scuttled away and she rapidly put together what had happened. The human had bumped into the Romulan who didn't take it well.
Saavik must have been right there. And interceded. Is it wrong for me to think I want to teach her to never do that again?
Her favorite stray would never listen to that lesson.
Behind the Romulan was an equally large Klingon who said something derogatory. Amanda realized they had been arguing when the human had run into the Centurion.
Saavik began to move away, but the crowd at her back didn't give and the big male didn't either. Amanda got the sickening feeling that some in the gathering didn't move because they enjoyed themselves.
"Then why did you do it?" the Romulan demanded, heated from his argument – and now embarrassment – with the Klingon. "Since you knew it was a – whatever you called it. Damn your language anyway!"
Saavik gave no ground. "It is not my language. And the incident was merely an accident. You have his apology."
Amanda caught the green burning up to the tips of the Centurion's ears. Please, no! They needed help and the ring of onlookers surrounding Saavik wasn't going to provide it.
Sarek! she called and grabbed Spock's sleeve.
"Mother," he insisted. "Remain here." He began shoving with McCoy as Jim ordered people to move! She thought she heard him hiss, "If we get through, don't break Saavik's focus!"
Amanda heard what Spock had said, but her brain locked on the scene ahead. She grabbed her dress skirt in her hands and broke into a run, pushing the bodies blocking her.
"You know what else is an accident," the Centurion snarled at Saavik. "This."
He got a half step forward when she struck. He had underestimated her, dismissing her as nothing, and that left him wide open. She hit the arm at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder with rapid nerve pinches; she swept his leg and took out his other arm in the same way. She swiftly came back up and faced the Klingon, keeping the downed Romulan in her view.
"I have no argument with you," she told him.
He bared his teeth and snarled, and then roared as his fist came speeding towards her face with the swiftness of a starship. Amanda screamed or she thought she did; maybe she did it only inside.
Saavik's hands came up and met his fist. The smack of skin on skin hurt Amanda's ears. The Vulcan braced on her feet, shifting her weight to hold against him. His other fist swung in for her belly and she caught it by sacrificing her double hold on his other hand. She began to alter balance to perhaps move her fingers to try nerve pinching his own wrists when he flung back his head and bellowed deeply with laughter.
He kept hold of her one hand and held it aloft with his like champions in a ring – or a prize catch he fished from the water. He yelled to his own people, "Look at this one!"
His additional height meant he lifted Saavik to her toes, but that didn't diminish her in his or the other Klingons' eyes. "Courage! Daring! Unlike the human baktag who scurried away. It deserves respect! The set of," he switched to Klingonese and made a graphic gesture about the anatomy Saavik showed the spirit of even if she did not, as a female, have them physically. "You could smash a Bird of Prey in half with moQDu' like these!" He tapped the Romulan with a boot. "Understand, RomuluSngan? A Bird of Prey!"
Apparently, this was the best joke the Klingons had ever heard.
The Centurion struggled on the floor and Saavik instantly freed herself to stand over him. "Do not rise," she warned him, "unless you are willing to call this ended."
The Klingon pointed this out too with more roars. Amanda began to think they looked on Saavik as an amusing pet that got out.
Everyone from everywhere showed up then, so she didn't have to worry about the Centurion or friends of his retaliating against Saavik. She gladly broke through the last line of people, taking the younger woman with her, and saw Sarek arriving in answer to her earlier mental call. She still needed him to make sure the Romulans knew that Vulcan would take it personally if they sought to do what she just thought.
She felt she shook as she came down from the fear and adrenaline. She used what she had learned from the adepts to get a hold of herself.
Saavik looked down at her. "You appear shaken," she said mildly.
"No, no, I knew you had everything in hand." Amanda let out a slow breath.
Those winged brows drew hard together. "You did not believe I could protect myself or the human aide." When the older woman didn't instantaneously answer, Saavik's tone grew harder still. "Is this because of—"
"Stop," Amanda said. She knew what the next word out of Saavik's mouth would have been Genesis and how hard the younger woman worked to advance her martial arts because of it. My deeply felt thanks to her teachers. "I thought none of those things. A little skirmish and the Klingons had a good laugh. Although to be honest, I didn't think, which was wrong. After all, a mind clouded with fear is an enemy to itself."
Saavik came down from her own displeasure to chide, "That is not the teaching."
Amanda suddenly noticed some of the unbonded males in the Vulcan party looking at Saavik appreciatively. At least half already knew her and they might be going over a list of qualities in their minds.
Amanda both wanted to smile at them and warn them off. She wasn't sure why she felt that way about the last part.
Yes, she did.
"It's close enough for now," she finally answered Saavik. "Oh, look. Jim and Leonard are coming over too. I wonder what tranquilizers Leonard's carrying."
Saavik instantly went from dissatisfied to disturbed. "Do you require medical assistance?"
The poor dear; she and probably everyone else were thinking of Amanda's collapse after Spock's death. The same son who also came this way, alive, well, and concerned for his mother who hadn't listened.
And Saavik too.
"No, I'm fine. I was making a bad joke. Before we go any further," she drew closer and spoke softly so only those elegantly pointed ears could hear her, "we can talk later, privately, about this." About you having to face a Centurion, a Romulan, after...
Saavik's expression also softened minutely, just enough for Amanda to see. The dark head barely nodded.
Amanda again saw her son, only a few steps away now. "Of course, Spock is here if you prefer."
Saavik looked past her and saw him for herself. Amazing how the connection was actually visible.
But they were none of them in private and instead the center of chaos. "So!" Amanda could talk brightly again as she lovingly told Saavik, "Let's take stock of where we are. We've ruined your career and caused an intergalactic incident in… twenty minutes?"
"Eighteen point seven nine."
"No one can call us inefficient."
That was when everything went to hell for the rest of the mission.
Notes: Styles and Saavik working on the Warp Ten project with Torias Dax comes from the story "Infinity" in the "Lives of Dax" collection. Starfleet's description of Saavik's abilities comes from there too. Also, the idea of Kirk bumping into Styles and Saavik was inspired by Star Trek Original Series Comic Book Number 25 November 1991. I've been dying to put those two together!