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The Other Side of Fame

Posted on Jul 19, 2020 @ 1:07am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer


(Continued from "Blood Boiling")


Captain's log, supplemental - as the ship continues to undergo its upgrade to the new HCARS system, I have returned to Starbase 56 in the hopes of meeting an old friend...


Location: Starbase 56
Stardate [2.20]0718.1700
Scene: Docking Bay 12

Michael Turlogh Kane waited patiently at the entrance to the docking bay. The Emissary-class USS Consul had arrived at Starbase 56 a short time ago, carrying two persons of interest to him - Ambassador Sardak and Captain Sparnak. The two Vulcans (strictly speaking, Sparnak was a hybrid, as his father was Human, and he had never fully embraced a Vulcan lifestyle) were ghosts from the past - Sardak was the former Federation President who had been on Romulus for the past three years negotiating the recently-released new treaty, while Sparnak was Kane's old Academy classmate from twenty years ago. Following the Ambassador's successful conclusion of his diplomatic mission to the Romulan Star Empire, the USS Consul had collected him from a Romulan Warbird in the Neutral Zone and brought him to Starbase 56, on the first stage of his voyage back to Vulcan and an urgent meeting with the Federation Council.

It seemed like that there had never been so much happening on the Phoenix as had been happening lately. The HCARS upgrade was an inconvenience, to be sure, but several of the ship's senior staff were also undergoing personal problems. From Kassandra Thytos' imminent neurosurgery, to the ongoing mystery surrounding Jake Crichton's son, it almost made Kane wish that they could get back out into the stars, and thus escape their personal problems.

Nearby, Commander Pygan waited with his Security detail. The Andorian was the Starbase's Chief of Security, here with an honour guard to escort the Ambassador to Admiral Stiles' office, there no doubt to receive the congratulations and kudos coming his way for successfully negotiating a new treaty of peace with the Romulans. The news had been warmly received across the Federation, and it was widely expected that the Federation Council would ratify the treaty as quickly as possible - following the Neo-Essentialist Crisis, it was another important element of normalcy that needed to happen, a 'reset' of the status quo ante bellum that would provide another element of closure to that unhappy time in recent Federation history.

Kane watched Pygan give his four-person detail a last once over. All of them - two Humans, one black male, one Asian female; a male Vulcan; and a female Bajoran - were wearing brand-new uniforms, rank pins and boots polished to a high shine, and looked like they had recently been on the receiving end of a lecture warning them to be on their best military behaviour. They were standing at ease, but were staring straight ahead, their postures ramrod-stiff. For a moment, he remembered his own eight years as a Security officer, and recalled the steel-grey hairs in his beard that, more and more, had been appearing in his mirror each morning. A whole new generation of Starfleet officers were working now, who probably saw him as an old man.

Through the small window in the great door to the docking bay, Kane saw movement. Following the Security detail's example, he drew himself up to his full height and assumed a formal air. With a hiss of decompressing atmosphere and a rumble of movement, the great portal rolled sideways on its slats, and the two Vulcans that everyone was waiting on stepped through.

Sardak was first. He looked much the same as Kane remembered him, sporting his trademark hooded brown robe with the voluminous sleeves. His hair was a little whiter, and his clean-shaven satanic features were a little sharper and sunken, but his eyes still held the lustre they had when, as the last legally-elected Federation government officer, Sardak had been the figurehead for the remnants of the loyal Starfleet to rally around in the Elandipole system. He had led the Federation through the final days of the Neo-Essentialist Crisis, but his post-Crisis political career had been equally controversial. Convinced that Humans had gained too much political power and influence in the Federation, Sardak engineered the shocking Council vote that had removed Earth's permanent status on that body and moved the capital world to Vulcan, and had pushed for reformation of the upper echelons of the Federation's government in an effort to bring in more diverse voices and perspectives. His position was untenable, however - he had been proclaimed President, not elected - and rather than provoke a constitutional crisis, Sardak had resigned the presidency and returned to Vulcan, before accepting the role of Federation ambassador to the Romulan Star Empire, charged with the task of negotiating a new treaty. All that was over three years ago now.

The other Vulcan - Captain Sparnak - did not look as Kane remembered. Where Kane knew a young man with dark eyes and hair, his waxy yellow countenance broken only by a lurid scar on his left cheek, stood a much older figure. His face was lined and gnarled, and the whole left side of his skull had been replaced by a glinting tritanium half-dome that seemed to have been welded onto his head. His left cheek and jaw seemed to have been badly burned a long time ago - the skin was a sickly green, all wrinkled and crackling. The other half of his head sported closely-cropped stark white hair. The eyes were still dark, but they were gloomy pools of ink that seemed like lumps of smooth, inert stone.

One of Pygan's staff lifted a bo'sun's whistle to her lips and blew the alert. The Security detail snapped to attention, and Kane stepped forward. Sardak had recognised him immediately, and some kind of reaction was building up on Sparnak's ravaged face.

"Captain Kane," said Sardak, nodding sagely. The Vulcan's features were as inscrutable as ever. "It is agreeable to see you again. Am I to understand that the Phoenix is also docked here?"

Kane bowed at the neck in deference to Sardak's rank. "Yes, sir. The ship has been undergoing a refit these past weeks."

Sardak nodded. "Those men and women who served aboard the Phoenix during the Battle of Earth - are they also here?"

"Most of them, yes," said Kane. "The paths of some have diverged from us, but the core of the command staff that you knew still remains."

A hint of a shadow of a smile appeared on the corners of Sardak's mouth, but only for an instant. "I am glad of it. Please, pass on my best wishes to your crew."

"Ambassador." Kane watched Sardak move past him and approach Pygan's Security detail. As the Vulcan began to speak to the Andorian Security Chief, Sparnak stepped towards him.

"Michael Turlogh Kane?" Sparnak's expression was difficult to read because of his ravaged face, but his eyebrows were raised quizzically. "My Academy room-mate?"

"I wasn't your room-mate," deadpanned Kane. "You were mine."

Sparnak looked confused for a moment, then interpreted Kane's expression. He gave half a smile, and gestured to Kane's collar. "You made Captain. I didn't think you would. After all, you finished third in our class."

"Our instructors were unable to recognise my potential," chuckled Kane. "I'm sorry for turning up announced like this, but when I learned you were commanding the Consul, I thought I'd surprise you. Would you like to meet later in one of the rec areas, catch up on the last twenty years?"

Sparnak thought it over for a moment. "Yes, but not the Starbase. I'll contact you after my meeting with Admiral Stiles, and give you a tour of the Consul. What do you think?"

"Sounds good." Kane stepped back to let Sparnak rejoin Sardak. The group fell into step towards the nearest turbolift. Nearby, several Starbase technicians were applauding Sardak, and he was nodding graciously at them. Sparnak didn't look back - he remained on Sardak's shoulder - and Kane had to admit to himself that, whatever he was expecting, he had not expected to see his Academy classmate so mutilated. He briefly touched the cheek under his own prosthetic eye, wondering what stories Sparnak might have for him.


To: Crichton, Jacob - Commander, Executive Officer, USS Phoenix
From: Starfleet Operations, Department of Personnel

Commander Crichton,

It is our pleasure to inform you that you have been selected for the position of Commanding Officer of the USS Dauntless, NCC-74601, an Intrepid-class cruiser newly commissioned at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, Mars.

This position comes concurrent with a promotion to the rank of Captain, which will be awarded upon acceptance of the aforementioned Commanding Officer position.

On behalf of Starfleet, we extend our congratulations to you, and look forward to your response.


Location: USS Consul
Scene: The Pig & Whistle, mess hall

The Consul was a fine ship, there was no mistaking that, but there was something that Kane didn't like about the Emissary-class design. Instead of a saucer, the fore of the Consul was much sharper, shaped more akin to an arrowhead, and instead of sweeping downward to its nacelles, the Emissary-class had a rigid, straight-line backbone akin to a spine, to which a pair of rocket-like nacelles were attached. The overall feel was of something straining at a leash, an overall look that moved away from the graceful flowing lines of the usual Starfleet designs. Not that the Phoenix was anything to brag about with its gunmetal-grey ablative armour and menacing violet nacelles, but as the century progressed, starship designers seemed to be changing their aesthetic towards sharper angles and razor-like superstructure bulkheads. Who knew what kind of jagged hull configuration would see in the turn of the half-millennium seventy-five years hence?

Sparnak had been a polite enough host, given that they hadn't seen each other in twenty years, but now the tour was over and Kane was expecting him to relax. The Pig & Whistle was a bizarre name for the Consul's bar and restaurant, but Kane could think of another ship with an equally odd name. How many Bonvivas can there be in the universe, he wondered bleakly, but it turned out that the proprietor of the Consul's eatery was a big, bald, jovial Londoner who claimed to have picked the name from a random list of nouns.

"An' that's 'ow the Pig An' Whistle got it's name!" he exclaimed, bald bonce glinting in the ceiling lights as he handed over two glasses and a half-bottle of sapphire wine. "You an' your mate 'ave fun, Captain Sparnak!"

Kane and Sparnak moved across the floor to one of the empty tables. Sparnak nodded back at the bar. "Mister Windsor is certainly a gregarious sort. It took a while, but we're used to him now."

"I know what you mean." Kane poured out two glasses of the wine. "To class zero-zero-seven, wherever they may be," he said, lifting his own.

Sparnak copied him. "Zero-zero-seven."

"So," said Kane, "where shall we begin? Twenty years is a lot of ground to cover."

Sparnak looked at him from under his tritanium skull. "You can just ask me about the prosthetic, Mike, you're chomping at the bit to find out how it happened. I got it after a plasma explosion on the starship Tarmin twelve years ago. I was an assistant engineering chief responding to a systems failure in the intake manifolds. I knew what I was doing, I knew how to respond to the cascade failure, I knew the potential danger -" Sparnak paused, calling up old ghosts in his mind's eye. "But I made a mistake somewhere, the cascade spiralled out of control, and the plasma manifolds overloaded. When the explosion happened, it sprayed plasma all over the engineering deck. It fried three technicians and wounded another four, me included."

Kane took a sip of wine. "Sorry to hear it."

"When I woke up, half my face had melted to liquid and my skull was as soft and malleable as potter's clay. One of my ears was burned right off. The CMO had to remove as much of it as she could, and replaced it with this tritanium prosthetic. She saved my eyes, which I'm grateful for, and grew a new ear for me, but couldn't do much for the scarring because it was much too deep. I have to put a special cream on it every morning, but sometimes it cracks and bleeds. It hurts all the time."

"You could probably have cosmetic surgery," said Kane. "Even today. Reconstruct your jawline. You don't want to live in chronic pain."

Sparnak snorted. "No. I've gone over that emergency hundreds of times in the years since, relived it again and again in my head. It was my fault. I should have taken the whole system offline and evacuated Engineering while I had the chance, but no, I was trying to be a hero. I wanted to save the ship. Instead, I killed or maimed seven people, including myself. I don't want to forget it. I want to bear the scars."

There wasn't anything Kane could say. This wasn't the reunion he had in mind, but it didn't feel right to walk away and leave Sparnak to it. Besides, he could relate to Sparnak's position - he had sent enough people to their deaths over the years to know exactly what the half-Vulcan was talking about, as morbid as it was. He didn't really want to forget the dead either - that way, their memory might live on, if only in his mind.

Sparnak seemed to catch his thinking. "Not the reunion you were expecting?"

Kane shrugged. "I'd be lying if I denied it. I suppose it's easy to forget that the lives of others keep turning just as my own does. I've seen my fair share of action too, but I look a lot better than you do, right?"

"That's not funny."

Kane nodded slowly. "No. I suppose it's not."

They were silent for a moment, and Kane became aware of the gulf that separated them - not just by experiences, but by the years as well.

"Later, the Neo-Essentialists let me keep my command," said Sparnak bitterly. "Instead of killing me or forcing me to resign, they said that I wasn't enough of a Vulcan to be gotten rid of. My Human father mitigated my non-Human genes, even though he died when I was three and I never knew him. I wasn't at Elandipole. I wasn't in your fleet."

"You weren't on the other side either," said Kane. "You did the best you could under the circumstances."

"No, Mike, *you* did your best. You and all the people under your command. The Phoenix led the fightback. Sardak told me all about it. You and your people are heroes. I sat back and didn't fire a single shot."

Kane held up a hand. "No, we just -"

"Spare me the false modesty," snapped Sparnak, gesturing to his face. "You've earned the rewards. I've just earned this."

Kane sat back in his seat. Part of him wanted to walk away from this whole thing right now, but he was oddly compelled to hear Sparnak's story. Through these past twenty years he had had his own dark moments, but didn't think that he could really compare to Sparnak. Maybe the old adage was true - no matter how bad things seemed, there was always someone worse off than you.


To: Thytos, Kassandra - Captain, Marine Commanding Officer, USS Phoenix
From: Operations, Starfleet Marine Corps

Captain Thytos,

An opening has become available in the command staff of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, now en route to garrison duty on Sherman's Planet. With the diplomatic situation with the New Klingon Empire uncertain, the Secretary of Starfleet has directed the fortification of the Donata Sector and the establishment of a permanent garrison in Port Emily, Sherman's Planet.

You are hereby invited to take up the role of second-in-command of the aforementioned 3/3/3 Marine battalion, along with a promotion to the rank of Major, effective upon your indication of acceptance. Please advise this office as soon as possible of your answer.


Scene: The Pig & Whistle, as before

Kane wanted to try to mollify Sparnak's bitterness, but wasn't sure if he was up to the task. "Sparnak, I'm not sure what Ambassador Sardak told you on the voyage here, but you must understand that the outcome of the Battle of Earth was by no means clear-cut. It took the efforts of tens of thousands of men and women to overthrow the Neo-Essentialists, and many of them paid the ultimate price. FedCom made its own heroes, and they picked on us because of the drama surrounding the Phoenix's escape from Earth. It was the perfect story arc for them. Yet, sometimes I think about all the people who died during the Battle of Earth. I can't not think about them." He sipped from his glass. "Only the dead have seen the end of war. The survivors have to endure the memories."

Sparnak shook his head. "I have a head full of them. Memories and stories, just like you and your crew. But nobody is going to write *my* stories, nobody is going to ask me to speak *my* memories. That's the other side of fame, where people like me live. It all slipped away from me, Mike. There are no miracles in this life, and whatever we don't surrender, the world justs strips away." He lifted his glass, where the dregs of the sapphire wine lingered. "To you, Michael Turlogh Kane, you and your band of heroes. May you always sail into the sunset."

[[Admiral Stiles to Captain Kane.]]

Kane touched his communicator. "Kane here. Go ahead, Admiral."

[[My meeting with Ambassador Sardak has concluded, Captain. Report to my office immediately. I have some rather good news for you regarding the issue you asked me to look in to.]]

"On my way." Kane tapped his communicator to cut the channel. He put his glass down, pushed his chair back, and got to his feet. No pithy comeback would rouse Sparnak from the weight of a dozen years of guilt, and he wasn't even sure if was his place to. "I have to go."

"She's probably going to promote you," said Sparnak. "From third to first, huh? Congratulations. You're the man, Mike."

Kane turned away and left Sparnak sitting alone at the table, not listening as Mister Windsor thanked him for coming and wished him a good day. Twenty years was a long time, but the farther away he moved from the ruins of Sparnak's life, the more he felt them unravelling again. If he ever saw Sparnak again, Kane hoped that he would be in a much better place than he was right now.


To: Dalziel, Eve - Lieutenant, Chief Counselor, USS Phoenix
From: Starfleet Operations, Department of Personnel

Lieutenant Dalziel,

It is our pleasure to inform you that you have been selected for the position of Executive Officer of the USS Reliant, NCC-13337-C, a Virtue-class light cruiser now docked at Starbase 24.

The position comes concurrent with a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, which will be awarded upon acceptance of the aforementioned Executive Officer position.

On behalf of Starfleet, we extend our congratulations to you, and look forward to your response.


NRPG: Jake, Kass, and Eve have all been offered promotions (congratulations!), and Kane is on his way to a(nother) meeting with Admiral Stiles. Meanwhile, life carries on.

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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