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Prologue 

 

            The command chair on the Arredondo was large, comfortable, almost plush.  Its pleasant luxury belied the fact that its master commanded one of deadliest, most technically-advanced new battleships in the entire Fleet.  Admiral Evan Hamilton enjoyed his position, seated at the center of his bridge, with the galaxy stretched out in front of him.  How far he would go to keep it was the focus of the thoughts now streaming through his head.

            Hamilton was the youngest ever to rise to the admiralty, and he did it based not solely on his command and security experience, but also as a consequence of a series of events that had decimated Starfleet’s ranks, led to the implosion of one of the Federation’s founding members, and weakened the very fabric of trust and security on which the Federation, and Starfleet relied.  As it stood now, after the terror wrought by Nero and as a result of actions by Khan and Admiral Marcus, the Federation could be seen to be at its weakest point in the history of its existence.  Vulnerable to both internal and external threats, operating in an increasingly outmoded way, there was a growing perception of Starfleet as a corrupt war machine instead of a peace-keeping and humanitarian force. 

            Hamilton saw his meteoric rise almost as divine providence, were he to believe in such things.  He was poised to effect fundamental changes to the way Starfleet operated, and had positioned himself to move into a role of overarching leadership.  He saw it as his duty and his destiny, and as threats from the Klingons and the Ren shat’var increased over the past months, he moved rapidly to implement his plan.

            Hamilton’s vision was of a centralized, powerful military, backed by the rich arms suppliers that had risen originally to support the now-defunct Section thirty-one and were now seeking new opportunities.  He had submitted a detailed proposal for a fundamental restructuring of Starfleet to the Federation Council, where it had measured support among the weaker member planets.  Unfortunately, the efforts of Ambassador Sarek of New Vulcan and others had thus far thwarted full acceptance of his proposal, and his most powerful supporter, the independent planet Kalar, a primary technology supply source, merely held observational status.

            Hamilton believed that his plan would meet with greater success if he were to garner internal Starfleet support from someone who was a visible and recognizable champion of the Federation.  However, the most obvious candidate, Captain James T. Kirk of the Enterprise, had proved not to be the ambitious opportunist that Hamilton had originally pegged him for.  Kirk was the hero of the confrontation with Nero, a central figure in the Marcus affair, and was considered by many to be the best starship commander in the Fleet, despite his relative youth.  When an initial bribe of a high position in the revamped Fleet structure failed to entice the young captain, Hamilton had made the mistake of threatening Kirk’s position as a result of his new telepathic bond with his half-Vulcan second-in-command.  Now, it appeared that Hamilton had an open enemy in Kirk, instead of what he had hoped to be a productive and mutually beneficial partnership.

            The thought of Kirk’s relationship with Spock put Hamilton on edge.  Not only was the first officer also a hero of the Battle of Earth, but also was the only Vulcan officer serving in Starfleet.  His presence was widely acknowledged, even by Kirk himself, to be a large part of why the Enterprise was considered the best ship in the Fleet.  And Spock was the New Vulcan ambassador’s son. 

            That which Hamilton had assumed to be ambitious and shrewd positioning on Kirk’s part was in reality hard-won results from superior ability, guts, and the loyalty of his crew; particularly of his first officer.  And it grated on Hamilton that his own ascension to the admiralty could even be seen as being due to the exploits of this command team.  This particular command team, which, if somehow convinced to back Hamilton’s point of view, would be singularly placed to turn the tide of opinion to make the admiral’s vision come true.  Irritating.

            But with the Arredondo hovering on the outskirts of Beta quadrant, on the trail of the Ren shat’var but with precious few results to show for it, Hamilton felt completely removed from the central position he had hoped to cultivate.  At least, until now.

            The backwater planet of Epsilon Indrii IV had been hypothesized to be an outpost for the Ren shat’var.  Instead, while sensors picked up no traces of the separatist Vulcan warrior faction, they had come across a very small settlement, with indications of seventy-two human life-signs.  The settlement was not in any Starfleet records, and Hamilton himself had beamed down to investigate.  What he had found there was extraordinary. 

            He had learned that a husband-and-wife team with a Federation mining contract landed on the planet five years before and discovered an ancient, native technology.  Sensing a scoop, Hamilton had sequestered himself alone with the leader, a man named David Rader, and questioned him further.  The ancient technology was a type of mind-control device, which proved most useful for Rader’s nefarious purposes of luring colonists to the planet and indoctrinating them into a cult-like religion, completely loyal to Rader and his wife.  Rader was enjoying his little empire, and had acquired some degree of personal wealth from his membership’s tithes.  Hamilton, not particularly interested in the cult, saw farther-reaching possibilities for the device.

            The invention of the Klingon mind-sifter was of particular fascination to Hamilton, who considered its only negative the inherently destructive force it had on a human mind, leading inevitably to death or reduction to a vegetative state.  As Rader had described this new device, Hamilton saw an instrument of seemingly gentle coercion, featuring all the long-term compliance aspects that the mind-sifter lacked, with almost unlimited military potential.  In turn, Rader, seeing a way out for himself in the admiral’s barely hidden eagerness, had offered a deal.  He would work for Hamilton, personally, in whatever capacity the admiral wished, so long as his settlement was left undisturbed, and he was provided reasonable compensation.

            Hamilton had started with the two young security officers he had brought down with him.  He had been fascinated to watch the process, to see how the machine brought them to a rapidly euphoric, suggestible state with seeming painlessness.  The euphoric state lasted no more than two hours, during which the officers swore their unending loyalty to the admiral’s personal cause.  It only involved a small amount of manipulation to bring down the rest of his crew, in small groups, and to subject them to the device.  Hamilton had assured Rader of his discretion with regard to the cult, and Rader, after receiving assurances of a substantial sum provided by Hamilton’s arms suppliers, had been all too pleased by his new powerful partnership.

            Now, on his ship, with his crew at their jobs around him, Hamilton basked in the feeling that he was given the same kind of personal, all-encompassing loyalty that seemed to come naturally to Kirk.  And as he watched them, he noted with satisfaction that they seemed outwardly completely unchanged.  As soon as he had recognized the potential of the alien device, he had decided on an ambitious plot that would allow his vision to come to fruition.  Kirk and Spock.  The very officers who could jump-start his revolution.  If they could be brought here, “re-educated”, and then inserted back into their current positions, they would be most influential in convincing the Federation Council to see the restructuring of Starfleet in a new light.  And Hamilton would get no end of satisfaction in watching that annoying, idealistic captain and his pet Vulcan simper and bow to his commands.

            Hamilton turned to his first officer.  “Mainardi, call up the specs on that new long-range transporter technology we were sent last week.  And punch in to the records bank.  I want to find out where the Enterprise is heading, right now.”  He snapped his fingers.  “Oh, and set up a secure channel on my personal comm line; we might be making a run to Kalar.”

            “Yes, Admiral, right away.”  The young woman nodded her head once and bent to her task immediately.  Hamilton felt a thrill as he realized how close he was to his vision.  So close he could taste it.  How appropriate that the very command team who had saved Starfleet before would now be the ones to reshape it. 

            Whether they wanted to or not.

 

 

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