[STAR TREK: DISCOVERY] A HIDDEN LOVE
Earth, Paris, 2257
Vice Admiral Jonathan Turner, Chief of Starfleet Security, was sitting behind his desk and was following the ceremony held that morning in honor of Discovery's crew, during which some of the crew members had been awarded the Starfleet Medal of Honor.
He listened carefully to the words spoken by Michael Burnham, reinstated to her rank as Commander, pardoned for all crimes committed and chosen as the new Chief Science Officer of the U.S.S. Discovery: «On the eve of battle, on a cold windless night, an old general turned to a young soldier. “Tomorrow”, said the master, “You will know fear.” The young soldier, who has not yet experienced the agony of war, looked at the general with quizzical eyes. “How will I know fear if I do not know what it looks like?” The general replied, “You will know fear because it speaks very fast and it speaks very loud.” If that is how fear acts, recognizing it is easy. But as the young soldier considered the general’s advice, she asked the question facing us now. “Once I know fear, how do I defeat it?”»
After a very brief pause, she had continued: «We are no longer on the eve of battle. Even so, I come to ask myself the same question that the young soldier asked the general all those years ago: “How do I defeat fear?” The general's answer? “The only way to defeat fear is to tell it no.” No, we will NOT take shortcuts on the path to righteousness. No, we will NOT break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts. No, we will NOT allow desperation to destroy moral authority. I am guilty of all these things. Someone says there are no second chances. Experience told me that this is true, but we can only look forward (...)»
The imposing Admiral stopped the recording at precisely that point, thoughtfully, then he stood up and paced across the office until he finally reached one of the windows that adorned the room. The war against the Klingons had finally come to an end after more than a year of fighting, but at what cost? The Federation had almost reached a point of no return when the decision was made to destroy Qo’noS and commit genocide against its population. It was only through the prompt intervention of Burnham and the Discovery’s crew that a tragedy of immense proportions, which would surely destroy everything the Federation had fought for since its creation, had been avoided.
What we were going to do?, he wondered as he resumed pacing around the room. And what have we done?
Before becoming the new Chief of Starfleet Security, Turner himself had fought and commanded one of the last few ships that survived not only the fights but the war herself; during his last battle, he was taken prisoner during a close combat with a Klingons’ boarding party, transported aboard one of their vessels and tortured to near death. Only thanks to the prompt action taken by Admiral Katrina Cornwell, captured months earlier and freed thanks to the intervention of T'Rell and Burnham, was he saved and taken to the nearest medical center, where he had received specific medical treatment for his weak condition. On that fateful day, several of the men and women under his command had died in combat, others had been tortured to death, but most had managed to save themselves, thanks in part to the presence of spirit of his First Officer. It always seemed to him that only too few of his crew had survived, even though the reports he had read told him otherwise.
But despite all the bloodshed, all the suffering he (but not only him, everyone) went through and his survival proved to be a miracle, he still did not approve of the idea of a genocide of an entire species and could not believe that the Federation would do so only to avoid complete annihilation. The ideals of the Federation, as Burnham had pointed out that very morning, were others. And all of them were just as guilty as she was at the beginning of all that mess.
No matter how strongly Turner protested at the proposal to commit such a crime, it was not enough and the order was given. And although he had held the office of Chief of Starfleet Security for a relatively short time, having received his promotion back in active duty, he had seriously considered signing a letter of resignation not only from his post, but from Starfleet itself. And yet he didn't. Once again Katrina Cornwell had prevented him from pursuing a course of action that would certainly not have helped him, giving him the impression that underneath it all she didn't approve of the idea either.
So he stayed. But he also continued to go regularly to various Counselors to help him overcome this problem along the others he had after his recovery, not least the news of the disappearance and probable death of Gabriel Lorca, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Buran and one of his best friends. Finding out that the man with whom he had interacted in those last months, during the war, was nothing more than an impostor from an alternative reality to his own, the Mirror Universe, had disorientated and grieved him much more than he wanted to admit to himself and others.
I wonder how Katrina must have taken it, he suddenly thought to himself. When the Discovery had returned from her, to say the least, interesting experience in the Mirror Universe, Katrina had been among the first to learn what had happened to the real Gabriel Lorca.
He sat at his desk again, wondering if it was worth speaking with her about this now, after all the stress and the difficulties of those last few months, the end of the war and all those last weeks in which they had never been able to deal with the subject as they should, although there was no lack of opportunities to do so. He looked at two of the few "real" photos that he had on his desk, near the computer terminal, photos that portrayed a couple of people, himself and Katrina Cornwell, young Ensigns just graduated from the Academy; and a trio, himself, Cornwell and Lorca the day he and Lorca were promoted to Captains They had not always managed to keep in touch, but their relationship had been so strong that they had managed not to get lost with the passing of the years and the different assignments they received, even in the most absurd places.
With a sigh he passed his hand over his eyes and thought that perhaps it was time to go and do it. No more second thoughts, right now she needs you more than ever. And you need to be with her. He was important for both of you.
But who was he kidding? He knew what the problem was, even if he didn't want to admit it to himself: what made him most uncomfortable in this situation were his feelings for Cornwell. In all those years he hadn't committed himself to any woman because they weren't her and because he was in love with Katrina Cornwell, even though he didn't immediately realize his feelings for her.
Earth, Paris, 2257
At last the day was approaching its end. Admiral Katrina Cornwell was finally alone, totally exhausted not only because of the day just passed, but also because of the previous weeks, the end of the war with the Klingons and the preparation of the various ceremonies, including some funerals but luckily not only that. Just that morning the woman had taken part in the ceremony held in honor of the Discovery's crew: she herself had decorated some of the crew members with the Starfleet Medal of Honor and promoted two of the officers - Paul Stamets, now a Lieutenant Commander, and Sylvia Tilly, finally a full Ensign.
After the ceremony there were the usual speeches, followed by a seemingly endless banquet. At the first useful opportunity the Admiral had managed to slip away, taking refuge in her office and telling her aide that she did not want to be disturbed unless it was a matter of life and death. Up until that point, fortunately, no one had bothered to go looking for her, and she had used those hours of solitude to do some tidying up. And finally to start mourning the dead.
With the hundreds of thousands of deaths the war had brought, Gabriel Lorca's had been the straw that broke the camel's back and brought the Admiral to the edge of the abyss. With the return of the U.S.S. Discovery from the Mirror Universe and the consequent discovery of the impostor and all the annexes, she had endorsed a series of decisions that she soon regretted, not least the mass genocide to be perpetrated against the Klingons and their home planet, Qo'noS. Though it had been a hell of a few months, though she had been kidnapped and tortured by Klingons, though she had seen death and destruction galore and lost the man she loved, she was realizing more and more how unjustifiable and unjustified her actions were.
Realization that had only come with time, actually. Jon Turner, whom she saved at the very last moment, almost dying, from the Klingons, had tried over and over again to reason with her about that decision. He was perhaps the only one who had openly spoken out against the voluntary act of genocide that the Federation was preparing to commit. She, on the contrary, still in the grip of anger and hatred that only now, in its entirety, she realized she had not fully dealt with and fully digested, had approved the idea and given the green light. With bitterness it came back to her how she had almost had to beg Jon not to offer his resignation. And it was at that point that doubt had begun to creep in, doubt that perhaps this was not the right path to take, and that had led her to listen to then-Specialist Burnham's alternative proposal.
A chirp from her com-desk brought her out from her reverie and the voice of her aide, a young Lieutenant JG, filled the air of her office: «Admiral?» asked the youthful and always-serious Vulcan.
«Go ahead, Mr. Subrik. What is it?» replied the Admiral, looking out of the window that adorned her office.
«There’s someone who wants to speak with you right away, ma’am» was the only answer of Lt. Subrik.
«And is it a matter of life and death, Lieutenant?» Admiral Cornwell felt puzzled by the way her aide was handling the entire situation: the very exceptional times that Katrina had ordered not to be disturbed a part for truly extraordinary circumstances, Lieutenant Subrik had acted in accordance with the directives received and no one had ever been able to approach the Admiral.
Why should today be any different? Katrina asked herself while she kept looking out the window.
«A sort of, Katrina...» answered the voice of Jonathan Turner, making her turn surprised towards the entrance of the office where the imposing colleague was flanked by the slender Vulcan aide.
«Thank you, Lieutenant» then continued the Admiral, looking at the youthful aide with a little smirk on his face, «I’ll take from there...». The Lieutenant gave a little nod, then left the office without a word: Katrina couldn’t have been more surprised.
«We need to talk, Kat» observed the imposing colleague to his old friend, with a knowing look in his eyes, «And you know perfectly well that!»
«About what, exactly…?»
Jon Turner merely arched an eyebrow and Katrina sighed deeply: «There’s no better time than the present, then...»
Earth, Paris, 2258
«Admiral Turner, incoming transmission from Captain Christopher Pike, of the U.S.S. Enterprise,» called Turner’s aide from the intercom, adding that was a priority one message, encrypted for his eyes only. The imposing Vice Admiral, Chief of Starfleet Security, looked up from a PADD he was reading, a litte taken aback from the information just given by his aide, a human Lieutenant under the name of Malik Stoke.
What the hell had happened that was so critical to lead the Captain of the Enterprise to contact me with such a high-priority message? Turner asked himself, while stiffened a little.
«Patch him through, Lieutenant» he finally ordered, standing up and walking in front of his desk, upon which he leaned, both his arms around his chest. A few seconds later, the strong figure of Captain Christopher Pike, commanding officer of the Federation flagship Enterprise, blinked in existence in front of him.
«Captain Pike,» greeted Admiral Turner, «you’ve been better.» The man in front of him was pretty exhausted, many scratches on his face, with a look of despair in his eyes, his stance a bit tense. «How did the mission go?»
«We succeeded,» was the only answer given by the Captain, who was looking more uncomfortable than ever. Turner arched an eyebrow: «Why am I sensing a “but” coming, Captain Pike? And why,» he continued, «is not Admiral Cornwell reporting to me as per previous orders?»
At that last question, Captain Pike stiffened a little more, before adjusting his uniform and intoning: «It’s my duty to inform you that Admiral Katrina Cornwell was killed in action just few hours ago, in front of my eyes, in the attempt to disable a torpedo framed in our hull.»
Jonathan Turner stilled. Completely. Then: «Thank you, Captain. Hope to see you as soon as possible here in Paris,» before adding, with a nod, «Godspeed, Captain. Turner out.» And the holographic image of Captain Pike vanished, leaving him alone.
Gone, he thought while ordering his aide not to be disturbed. Gone. He can’t believe it. After all they went through before finally admitting their love interest in each other, she was gone. Really gone. Forever. He looked out of the window. What is he going to do, now? He was empty, alone, and not only metaphorically.
He stared out of the window for a while, grieving his loss. Then, after a while, he returned to his desk: it felt upon him the unpleasant task to inform her living relatives of the news. Before contacting them, though, he reviewed the report that Captain Pike had transferred to Starfleet Command while contacting him. Finally, he resigned himself to do what he had to do. Leaving Starfleet HQ, he went to the nearest transporter center and asked the transporter officer to beam him to Colorado, where the Cornwell family was living.
Both the elders smiled when they saw him, completely unaware of what he was going to tell them in a few heartbeat, smile to which he tried to respond as much as he could: they had known each other for years, and the two Cornwells were very happy when Katrina had told them that she and Jon were finally a couple. Although Jonathan himself was obviously happy to see them, he would really have preferred not to have to contact them to tell them that their only daughter, a decorated Starfleet Admiral, had died on the front line.
«Sorry to disturb you at this late hour of the morning...» started the Admiral, only to be interrupted by Mr. Cornwell: «You know you never disturb, son, come in! So, what’s going on in Paris? Have you heard from Katrina yet?»
Before he could answer, Ms. Cornwell arrived and gave him a warm embrace, before the three of them finally seated on the sofa of the living room. There, he finally took the floor: «I’ve heard from Captain Pike, of the U.S.S. Enterprise...» Mr. Cornwell asked: «The flagship, isn’t it? Katrina told us she would be aboard for the mission she was assigned to.»
Turner merely nodded, before continuing: «He reported to me that the mission was a success, but they went through a bloody fight and Katrina...» - he took a deep breath and looked at them - «...Katrina died in the attempt to protect the crew from a torpedo that remained stuck in the Enterprise’s hull. Captain Pike contacted me a few hours ago to provide me with all the information about her death. He wasn’t able to beam her away as many Enterprise systems, as the transporters, have been severely damaged during the fight.»
They all sat in silence for a while, nobody able to say something while the three of them grieve in their heart the loss of a daughter, a friend, a lover, a partner. In that silence, Turner quitely promised to Katrina that he would never abandon her family now that their only child was gone forever, gone in a fight in which she should never have participated, but in which she had insisted on being directly involved. As she couldn’t do otherwise.
«Would you mind staying here for the day?» Ms. Cornwell asked, after a little while. Turner looked up from his hands, folded in his lap, and offered her a little nod: «I wouldn’t mind at all. I’ve already given orders to my staff to not disturb me and I filed a request to Starfleet Command that would permit me to remain with you as long as you need. After all, I have several months' relief to take advantage of and I was never able to.»
A little while before his return to active duty he was going home after spending a few days with the Cornwell family. He had arrived a few minutes before in Paris with a transporter and was walking near a Xindi embassy, when from one moment to the next he found himself beamed in a spacious and completely alien transporter room. He looked bemused around him, without really comprehending what’s going on around him. He was just in time to descend from the platform where he had been deposited when an individual who looked very much like a human being, and whom he had not noticed until then, approached him from his right, one hand outstretched toward him.
«Admiral Turner, it is a pleasure to finally meet you! Sorry for being late, but we had a hard time in those months! Please, follow me,» greeted the man, in his mid 30’s, with a deferential pitch. Taken aback, Admiral Turner took the hand the other man was offering him, before following him. While walking, the other man started to speak again, but the Admiral couldn’t help but stop him and ask: «And you are…?»
«Sorry,» replied the humanoid, «I have forgotten! My name’s Daniels, and I’m a temporal agent and operative from the 31st century!»
«And where am I, exactly?»
«You are aboard one of our finest vessels, Admiral, although for the Prime Temporal Directive I couldn’t tell you everything, of course!» Daniels smiled, while both men continued to walk along the corridors. «And if you’re going to ask if I am the same Daniels who was encountered by one of your late Federation’s Captains, Jonathan Archer, yes I am exactly that same man, actually!»
«I suppose travel through time allows you to be in several places all over the timelines at the same moment,» observed ironically Jonathan Turner, before adding: «But what do I owe the pleasure to be taken from my frame time from you, exactly?»
«Oh, it's rather simple, you see?» Daniels answer, while conducting the Admiral to a turbolift: «You don’t know that, but in your timeline you’re going to die just a few moments after we took you. A terrorist attack,» he added, when Turner gave him a surprised look, «you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, I dare say. Ah,» he offered, «I’ll explain later!»
«And why did you save me, exactly?» Turner found himself asking surprisingly calmly, leaving any… historical questions aside for the moment.
«Oh well,» the other man answered while they finally arrived at their destination, «it was because of her.»
«Katrina...» whispered Jon, stopping suddenly when she spotted the woman he had mourned for the last months. «How is that possible? Captain Pike told me you were dead...» He was incredulous, of course. He had grieved and mourned for months, now, the loss of the woman who, for her part, had really been on the verge of death if it hadn't been for Daniels' intervention.
Daniels let the two of them took their time then, considering how both of them were considered to be dead on their own timeline, offered a few possibilities for their future together.