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Well, my original manuscript is chaotic.  I have a note on page 10 of the notebook referring me to page 19 for this entire chapter.  Page 19 has a note that this is chapter 6, to be shoved in on page 10.  Oh, by the way, this chapter was written in the middle of writing the epilogue.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we had been discussing literature in my advanced French classes (read on to see why).  Do I speak French?  Only when I need to.  Suffice it to say that when my wife and I went to Paris, several shopkeepers were flabbergasted by my assertion that we were Americans, with one of them getting into an argument with me (in French) because I couldn’t possibly be American because they all get off the plane and speak nothing but English their entire time there.  Oh yeah, it had been nine years since my last French class in college, and my wife (of 8 years at the time, of 18 years now) had never heard me speak French and thought I was joking when I told her I did.  That story is a whole ‘nother blog post.

Any way, a French fable snuck into this chapter while I wasn’t looking.  Enjoy.

Chapter Six

As Kirk sat in his cabin staring at his comm screen, he decided to leave nothing unattended.  He hit the activate switch for the relay to Engineering and said, “Chief Sterling, I’d like to speak to you in my quarters,” and deactivated the comm.  Several minutes later, the door buzzer sounded and he said, “Come.”

“What do you want, sir?” the chief asked, standing at attention in front of him.

What a knockout, he thought.  Quickly composing himself, he asked “What’s the status in Engineering?  By the way, have a seat and call me Jim.”

“Sure,” she said, sitting in the proffered chair.  “But only if you call me Cat.”

“Okay,” he replied, wondering where she came up with a nickname like that.

“Warp engines are operating at 101 percent efficiency – compared to the design specifications.  That’s about 95% of what Mr. Scott manages to achieve.  All defensive systems, including weapons control and shield maintenance, are fully functional.  We can run at .98c when under impulse power, and life support systems are fully operational.  The dilithium crystal in the warp chamber has developed a small fracture and we need to drop out of Warp for a few hours to replace it.  Damage control is at top efficiency.  Other than the dilithium replacement, I’d say that this ship is ready for anything, Jim.”

“That’s good to hear, Cat.”  Her pleasant voice, thorough explanation, and amiable personality made him believe that if it was necessary, he could take on the whole Klingon Empire.  He really wanted to get to know her better.  “Would you care for a drink?  I have some ‘special medicine’ that Dr. McCoy gave me for my last birthday,” he said, producing a crystal decanter of electric blue Romulan Ale.

“That’s illegal, you know,” she said with a smirk, at the same time accepting the proffered glass.  “Why aren’t you an Admiral?” she asked.  “I mean… I know you were reduced in rank back down to Captain, but with your track record and level of popularity throughout the federation, you could have Nogura’s job as chief of staff by now.”

“Have you ever heard the fable about ‘La Grenouille qui veut se faire aussi grosse que le Boeuf’?” he asked.  Seeing her shake her head, he continued.  “This frog decides that he wants to be as large as a bull, so he tries puffing out his chest.  He asks the bull if he’s big enough, and the bull says no, so the frog keeps trying to puff himself up until he gets so big that he explodes.  The moral of the story is that you have to know your limitations.”

The conversation continued for several hours.  Finally, Sterling slipped away to Engineering and Kirk dozed off into a much needed slumber.