Like Mr. Spock and a few others, Carl had served aboard the USS Enterprise under Pike, and now Kirk. Kirk had been Captain for over a year, and Lt. Simon, like the rest of the crew, liked the new Captain very much. Pike had been respected, he was very able, but Kirk was loved with an uncommon degree of devotion, and the morale aboard ship under his leadership had soared.
Kirk was the youngest Captain in the fleet, in fleet history, in fact, but that was only one of the many ways he had made history in his spectacular career. Lt. Simon learned firsthand that Kirk's youthful enthusiasm and vigor was only part of what made the man's influence so stimulating. It was everything about him: his intelligence, his technical brilliance, his can-do attitude, his cheerful demeanor, his wit, his confidence, his courage, and most of all his manly charisma, which was a palpable aura when you were in his presence. These qualities, and more, added up to an exciting personality that fired all who served under him with uncommon enthusiasm. Even the forbidding and aloof Vulcan science officer, Mr. Spock, seemed quite content with Kirk, even at times seemed fond of him, which is saying a lot when speaking of inscrutable Vulcans.
Carl checked his appearance in the mirror carefully right before leaving for his meeting with Kirk. He had begun to really like looking at himself. He used to think he was nothing special to look at, but since falling in love with Della he had begun to understand what a thoroughly delightful creature he really was. He had begun to see himself the way she saw him: as irresistible; adorable; a sexy brown-eyed charmer! He had formally thought he was too thin and tall, now he saw himself as a greyhound; sleek, regal and powerful. He used to hate his own unruly black hair, now he cultivated the curls deliberately. Della loved to play with his curls so much that he'd begun to play with them himself.
Della Moore loved everything about Carl, and he loved everything about her. An intelligent, lovely, shapely Aphrodite: his own personal Venus. In her sweet, sensual, deeply fulfilling embrace he'd felt reborn. He saw himself through new eyes, and liked what he saw. He wanted to live like that, reflected in her eyes full of love for the rest of his life, and he had never before felt so sure about anything. His mind was made up. He and Della had discussed it at length, and the decision had been made. Marriage was the answer. They would marry, and start a family.
Their love was the answer to everything: it was what life was about.
He realized it meant his fast-track fleet career would be "mommy-tracked": that he would be immediately reassigned to something much less risky, but now he wanted that, as much or more than he had wanted the fast-track before. That's the price you pay when you fall in love. Fortunately, when you are in love, it seems fair. After all, what about your kids, and what's best for them? When you are a family man, you have to think of your family first.
There certainly would be kids one day soon. He hoped they would all look like her.
He never slouched anymore like he used to do. He walked straighter than ever, now, with his head held proudly high. He walked now with long strides and a bit of a bounce in his step. He breezed happily through the halls and into the lift, to deck five, and around the bend to the Captain's quarters, arriving right on time, his mind occupied all the while with happy thoughts of her.
The door slipped open and Kirk was within, seated at his desk in full uniform, of course. Lt. Simon had been here before, and it was the same experience as before - a bit of a shock to enter Kirk's sanctum, his den, and to be hit in the face with the invisible cloud of testosterone that surrounded the man as thick as London fog.
It was one thing to talk with Kirk via communicator or intercom, and another thing entirely to make conversation with him in person. Lt. Simon had the same natural reaction to Kirk that most people who met him did: his heart began to race. Kirk, although always affable and welcoming, was also a very intimidating person. He was not a very tall man, but with his broad shoulders and muscular physique he always seemed larger than any other man in the room. He radiated confidence and virility.
Kirk watched Simon advance and the hair on the back of Simon's neck prickled. It was a difficult thing to be watched by Kirk. The Captain's expressive hazel eyes changed colors on you: it could be very disconcerting to be warmly, sweetly lavished with a honey-brown gaze one moment and pierced with an icy aqua glare the next: frozen in your tracks as if you'd been sprayed with liquid nitrogen. The man was chameleonlike: he was always utterly himself, yet could seem to be many things.
Although Kirk gave the surface impression of being open and unpretentious, he nevertheless remained a mystery. He kept most of his inner life private. He liked to keep people guessing. Carl knew that, and in retrospect, Carl realized he should have known that James Tiberius Kirk would surprise him. Kirk always surprised everybody.
With a small gesture Captain Kirk indicated that Lt. Simon should be seated, and Carl took his seat submissively without remark. He waited, since Kirk was in the middle of a conversation via intercom with Dr. McCoy.
"Captain, Huang and Grimes are in my professional opinion fit to return to duty IF it's an emergency but since it's NOT an emergency and since they both are still complaining about headaches, I'd like to keep them under observation for another 24 hours, maybe longer."
"That's your call, Bones, but you can tell 'em both for me that they'd better not be goldbricking. We're only postponing the bowling league championship: there's no way they can get out of the drubbing they've got coming. The sector G Gargoyles have sworn that the challenge to their supremacy will not go unanswered."
"They're looking forward to their glorious victory over the Gargoyles, Jim, and regret being required to postpone it." McCoy's voice asserted.
"I'm authorized by the Gargoyles to assure Huang and Grimes and all the doomed members of the Sector B Alley Rats that they believe in fair play, and they therefore insist on trampling those guys when they'll have no excuse for their defeat but their own ineptitude."
Kirk winked at Simon, and smiled at McCoy's reply.
"I'd pass that on for you, Captain, but I guess you can tell by the screams in the background that they already got the message."
"Let's end this conversation before we're stuck passing any more messages for people." Kirk chuckled.
"Good idea. I'm now out of the loop." McCoy said, and abruptly cut the connection.
Kirk smiled at Simon and held up an index finger.
"One moment more." he said, then pressed the com switch again. "Lt. Uhura?"
Uhura's familiar, soothing tones: "Uhura here."
"Hold my messages for an hour. Pass anything pressing to Mr. Spock."
Kirk suddenly stood and walked briskly around the desk past where Simon was seated, to lock his door manually. This was one of Kirk's quirks: he often preferred doing things the old-fashioned away. Now he returned to his seat across from Simon and gave his young weapons specialist his full attention.
"So, Mr. Simon! I understand you are madly, deeply, truly in love!"
Carl grinned broadly. "Yes, sir!"
"It's, uh, not with me, is it?"
Carl guffawed. "No, SIR!" he laughed.
Kirk clasped his hands before him and assumed a serious expression. "Yes, I thought not. Knowing you, I thought there must be a woman involved."
Carl grinned. "Yes sir! A real woman, sir! The best kind."
"I don't remember authorizing anything like that."
Carl laughed. Kirk didn't. Kirk waited for Carl to stop laughing, then continued.
"Mr. Simon, what did I do to deserve this? How can you even think of leaving me? Haven't I made it clear that you are appreciated and that I need you? You really know how to hurt a guy" Kirk deadpanned.
Carl laughed some more, charmed. When people talked about Kirk's uncommon leadership, they usually forgot to mention that Kirk was funny. He was always cracking everybody up. If he hadn't joined the fleet he could have made it as an entertainer.
"Nothing personal, Captain. In fact, leaving you is the only part of it I'm going to regret." Carl assured Kirk, sincerely.
Kirk brightened a bit. "So, it hasn't been... all bad for you, here... under my dictatorship?"
"No, sir, it's been a blast. I've got memories for a lifetime and some great stories to tell."
"Would you like one more?"
"Would you like one more story to tell? If I play this right it will be a real doozy."
"What story is that, Captain?"
"The story about how your proud Captain got down on his knees and begged, and begged, and finally broke your heart and convinced you to stay."
Carl laughed, startled. "Oh! No sir, I don't need to tell one like that."
"Well, like it or not, you're going to have one more story, I'm going to give you one, even if it is just the one about how your proud Captain begged and begged to no avail."
"Your prerogative." Carl nodded, beginning to understand that Kirk was serious. His heart raced, and his blood pressure rose. He felt warm. He felt intensely flattered.
People often talk about Kirk's leadership while forgetting to mention that he is a galaxy-class charmer. A strong persuader. A masterful manipulator.
"I'll get to that, but first tell me about this temptress who is, with all her womanly wiles, attempting to seduce you away from the path of righteousness and into a life of domestic servitude." Kirk's soft voice and gentle smile softened the impact of his words, and encouraged candor.
Carl, who was eager for any chance to talk about Della, leaned forward in his chair and explained why it was perfectly reasonable and right that he devote himself to making himself Della's husband and the father of her children. Kirk was receptive and agreeable. He understood. Hey, he'd been in love himself, and knew what it was like.
"Well! I can see you are serious about this girl!" Jim said.
"Totally." Carl agreed.
"Ok! Well! I've heard what you planned to say to me. Can you tell me what you plan to say to the millions of people who may lose their lives because you don't plan to be where you promised to be when they need you, Mr. Simon?"
Carl gasped. He stared at Kirk, dumbfounded. Kirk's eyes were dark, they looked dark blue. Was he joking? Carl couldn't read him.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"With all due respect, if that was a joke, it was in my opinion in bad taste, sir!"
"It's no joke." Kirk stated. "I want to know how you plan to make peace with yourself about abandoning your post."
"Sir" Carl carefully replied, and his spirits both sank, and rose in anger, "To Della there is only one of me, but you have many to choose from to replace me."
"You think too little of your importance Mr. Simon. That's my fault." Kirk stood, and began to stroll slowly about the room as he spoke. "I apparently have been remiss in acknowledging the full extent of your importance here aboard the Enterprise. Allow me to correct that oversight now. Be patient, please, and hear me out."
Kirk faced Simon and spread his hands.
"Why are we having this conversation, Simon? How is it, after more than a decade of serving under the same flag in the same service as comrades, that we find ourselves facing one another across a divide as opponents today?"
"We're not opponents sir! I don't intend to leave the service! Even if I did..."
"Don't interrupt! You had your turn, it's my turn now!"
"Sir." Lt. Simon fell silent.
Kirk enjoyed the silence for a moment. He paced slowly back and forth, watching Simon all the while, then took a breath, adopted his former stance, and began again.
"How did it come to this, Simon? How does a guy go from making a vow to the fleet...to swearing, by all he holds sacred and true, that he will risk even his own life to foster and protect the interests of the nations of the United Federation of Planets... how can you hope to make a marriage vow mean anything, when your vow to the fleet, and to the billions of people who depend on us, means so little!?"
Carl Simon blanched, outraged, but remained silent in his chair, inwardly daring Kirk to insult him further.
"You think you can be easily replaced? You are wrong. Allow me to elucidate. Ten thousand candidates apply at Starfleet academy every year, and only a tiny fraction of those applicants are accepted as cadets. Of that rare few, only a fifth ever graduate. Of that tiny pool of graduates, only one-twentieth of them are judged to be fit for deep space service aboard a vessel like the Enterprise. Out of that one-of-twenty, only 34 percent survive their first five-year mission. Ours is a difficult and dangerous profession, Mr. Simon, and only the best of the best need apply. The best of the best often don't apply, Mr. Simon, because this is a difficult and dangerous profession, and I don't blame them! Even when they wish to, the best of the best often never make it this far, and in fact, replacements are hard to come by.
" That's how rare you are to me, Mr. Simon, not even taking into account the fact that you have demonstrated uncommon skill and valor, which makes you rarer still. That's not even taking into consideration the enormous investment the UFP and the fleet have made in you, in time, money, training and most of all, faith! They, and I personally had faith in you. We believed that you would be there when we needed you, because you promised to be. We are counting on you! Uncounted lives depend on you being in your place when the chips are down, Simon! If you abandon us now, how will you be able to live with yourself!?"
Simon, horrified, remained silent. He sat, sweaty hands tightly clasped, as if in prayer.
"I'm sure she's a wonderful girl. She obviously has wonderful taste! Has it not occurred to you that she might more easily find another boyfriend..."
Simon stood, lips tightly pressed shut, and he was shaking with suppressed emotion.
Kirk raised his voice and his apparent size to meet Simon's silent challenge. He pointed an accusing finger at his angry young officer.
"...than it would be for me to find a replacement for you? What about the work we have yet to do, that won't get done half so well, because I can't replace you with anything but someone half as good as you on such short notice!?"
"Sir! If it's a matter of timing...!"
"No time is a good time to turn and run, leaving your buddies in the lurch, mister!"
"CAPTAIN! I PROTEST!" Simon cried, fists clenched at his sides.
The two men stared into each other's eyes. Jim blinked.
"Sorry," Jim said, gently. "I got carried away." Kirk stepped lightly away to return to his seat, and clasped his hands before him on the table again. He was once again perfectly peaceful and calm. "Perhaps this will be a begging story about your proud Captain begging for your forgiveness."
That broke the tension. Carl coughed a small laugh.
"Please" Jim softly said, gesturing at the chair again. "Give me another chance. I'll try harder to be polite."
Carl sat, slowly, but this time he did not relax.
"Let me ask you something, uh, Carl. May I call you Carl? How's this: let's just be a couple of guys talkin' here for a minute. I'll be Jim, and you be Frank."
Carl laughed a small laugh, warily.
"Tell me, Frank, how come you gotta get married right now? What's the rush?"
"Sir, I don't have to marry right now. It's just..."
"It's just that you're in love, and that is an overwhelming feeling."
"It's that you have met the most incredible, wondrous, beautiful woman and she miraculously is nuts about you, and she says she needs you, and you feel like you need her, too, right now."
"Yes, sir." Carl affirmed miserably. He was getting a sinking feeling. He was beginning to see how the rest of the conversation was going to go.
He was right. Thirty minutes later Kirk had convinced Simon to ask his fiancee to wait a year to marry. He was to tell her that, if their love was real, it would withstand the delay. He was to explain to her that he was very important to his Captain, and to all aboard the Enterprise, and to the fleet, and to the whole United Federation of Planets, and that if she was selfish enough to ask him to summarily abandon his post, then she was not the girl he thought she was, and furthermore - he was to ask her if she could really be truly in love with him if she so poorly appreciated his importance to his shipmates and to the whole civilized galaxy?
Simon intended to comply, but he doubted he could sell it quite the way Kirk could.
"...she could find another boyfriend..." Kirk's words ate at his core, like acid. As much as he hated it, he knew Kirk was right. He felt guilty. He'd had no idea Kirk thought so highly of him. This changed everything.
Later that week, Carl and Della had a long talk, and there were many tears. Carl did what he could to reassure Della, and she tried to be brave, but he sensed the delicate bubble which had enclosed them within a private force field of dreams dissolving. The spell was broken. Now they were just two people in love, and everything else was what it had always been. Not magic. Just struggle and hope.
Soon after, the Enterprise was called into action, and as he was making haste to his station, Mr. Simon caught a glimpse of his Captain. It was the first time he'd seen him since the fateful discussion in his quarters, and Simon felt a rush of a new emotion as he watched his Captain striding manfully toward the lift, with Commander Spock, as usual, close at his side.
Those two went everywhere together.
Simon felt a rush of pride and admiration when he saw Kirk enter the lift. His one desire now was to live up to his gallant Captain's idealistic expectations.
Spock turned to stand next to Kirk, very close, and as the lift doors closed, Simon thought he saw something else, but he wasn't sure.
He thought he saw Spock slip his hand behind Kirk to surreptitiously pat him on the ass. As the lift doors closed, Kirk smiled into Spock's eyes. They smiled at each other. Spock smiled. That's what it looked like. Simon stopped in his tracks for a moment, stunned, then shook it off and rushed to his place.
He didn't think about it again until later, after the crisis had passed, and he was reclining on his bunk trying to sleep. He glimpsed again in his imagination the peculiar image, and his eyes snapped open. He sat up in bed. He got up, got out of bed, and moved to the chair to sit up in the dark.
"What are you getting up for?" his roomie, Mr. Kyle asked wearily.
"Kyle, let me ask you about something. I saw something today that looked funny, and I was wondering if I really saw it, or if I'm going crazy."
"I saw Mr. Spock grab the Captain's ass today, and Kirk acted like he liked it."
"Holy cow!" Kyle exclaimed sitting up in bed. "When did you see this!?"
"Today, during red alert." Simon then told Kyle in detail what he had seen.
Kyle turned on the light. Like Simon, he was clad only in his underwear. The big blond swung his legs out of bed and sat on the edge of his cot, leaning forward.
"It's possible you really saw something. I've heard rumors."
"That Kirk's bisexual."
"Yeah, that...I don't know! It seems incredible!" Kyle laughed. "That is hard to picture!"
Simon began pacing the room and thinking out loud. "My God, him and Mr. Spock? I mean, I don't care if it's a woman or not, that's his business, but someone who is not even of the same species? I mean, think about it!"
"We don't really know that it's true."
"It sure would explain a lot. It would explain how he could so casually ask me to forget about marrying Della. A guy like that couldn't possibly understand..."
"Where would he get the balls to ask you to dump Della? Wait! You didn't break your engagement just because of that!?"
"We are NOT OFF! We just postponed it!"
"Because Kirk asked me to!"
"Just like that!?'
"I didn't make it easy for him, he really worked on me. Boy, I wish now I'd had a witness to that conversation! You wouldn't have believed what he hit me with! He practically called me a traitor just because I fell in love and want to start a family! What a TRUCKLOAD of BULLSHIT!"
Kyle was all ears. "What was bullshit, precisely?"
Simon was fully aroused now. "He never gave up anything for the fleet! He never said goodbye to the one he loves to pursue his career! HE'S GOT IT ALL RIGHT HERE!"
Simon tossed on his uniform.
"Where are you going?" Kyle asked, alarmed.
"I'm going to have a little talk with our illustrious Captain, man to man!" Simon cried, and marched out into the hall.
"Oh, this is going to be good!" Kyle said aloud, although he was now alone.
Lt. Simon buzzed for entry and Kirk's voice over the squawk box greeted him without enthusiasm. "Who is that?"
"It's Simon, sir." Carl ignored Kirk's do-not-disturb light.
"Is this important?" Kirk asked dryly.
There was a long pause, then Kirk's door slid open.
"Come in Mr. Simon, and please be brief. I'd like to get some shut-eye."
"So would I sir, but I couldn't sleep until I told you this."
Kirk eased himself into a chair. "Yes?"
"I witnessed an inappropriate act of physical contact between an officer and a subordinate today, during the red alert sir."
Kirk straightened in his chair. "That's very serious. Are you sure about what you saw?'
"Who was involved?"
"You were, sir." Simon smiled a little.
Kirk met his gaze, then snapped, "Explain!"
Simon told Kirk what he had seen. Kirk listened, stone-still, then blinked a few times and smiled.
"Mr. Simon..." Kirk said softly and slowly, "I think I know what you are referring to, but, funny, I don't remember it quite that way."
"I know what I saw, sir, and now you know what I know." Simon replied levelly.
Kirk's eyes narrowed. "Did you discuss what you think you saw with anyone?"
"Yes, sir." Simon said, calmly. "I discussed it with Kyle, and he told me he wasn't surprised. He'd heard rumors."
"There's a line, and you are perilously near that line, and I am on the other side of the line, and I am not a happy man right now."
"That makes two of us that are unhappy, sir. You, because of what I've said, and me, because I realized today that a guy like you can't possibly be objective when it comes to guys like me..."
Kirk interrupted. "Belay that mister!" He leapt to his feet.
Simon remained utterly calm. He knew what he was doing, and why, and he felt very good about himself right then.
Kirk walked around and approached Simon. "Don't move" he commanded.
Simon obeyed, and waited.
James Kirk came very close, very slowly, until Simon could feel Kirk's breath on his face. The two men faced one another and looked hard into one another's eyes. Simon steeled himself for what he was sure would be one of Kirk's best shots.
"What's your problem?" Kirk asked quietly, radiating menace.
Equally quietly, and with the same degree of tension, Simon responded, "My problem is that you made me feel like a traitor for falling in love with a woman of my own species, and wanting to start a family with her like nature intended, sir."
There was a long pause as Kirk took that in and thought it over. Neither one blinked this time.
"I see" Kirk replied evenly. His jaw worked a bit, then he surprised and unnerved Simon by gently resting a hand on his shoulder. "Let's sit down" he said.
Then Kirk turned on his heel and walked around his desk to his chair and sat down, with his hands clasped before him on the table. His eyes wore a pleading expression. He waited patiently for Simon to take his seat.
"Mr. Simon... I'm glad you came to me. You did the... the right thing. I don't want you to keep such feelings to yourself. If I have created a situation where you have lost confidence in my judgment as your Captain, then that is my responsibility, and I'm going to take responsibility, and do what I can to put things right, right now."
Carl Simon marveled. He couldn't imagine what Jim Kirk might say next, but he knew it was destined to be very interesting.
"What you saw or thought you saw, and the significance of all that is beside the point. You are 100% right about one very important thing, and I owe you a big, FAT apology..."
Carl couldn't help but smile a little. He was starting to like Kirk again already, even though he didn't want to. Simultaneously he resolved to remain firm. Infuriating, that Kirk could so easily disarm him! Buck up, he told himself.
Kirk met his gaze and leaned forward, palms up on the table. "I have to learn to remind myself, so guys like you don't have to kick me in the head to remind me, that just because something is right for me doesn't mean it's the best thing for everybody."
Simon nodded, pleased. That's right, damn it!
"I'm an oddball. I know it. I joined the fleet and since my first day I've thought of nothing but that. I've had fleet business before my eyes and in my mind, and nothing else, and... like a feedbag hung on a horse I can't shake it off, AND like a hungry horse with a feedbag, I don't want to! I'm doing what I want to do. I belong here. But I have got to stop weeding long enough to stand up and see the garden now and then, and you have done me a great service by reminding me to do that tonight, and I thank you!"
Simon smiled, aglow with a feeling of victory.
Kirk continued, speaking gently and with clear sincerity.
"I was very wrong to make you feel guilty for daring to dream that maybe your proper place is elsewhere and with more agreeable company! Normal humans fall in love. It happens! You are 100% right, it is a perfectly natural and proper thing for a healthy human being to do, and you are indeed a natural, normal, healthy human being, Mr. Simon, as am I! I hope you will allow that being human at least is something we might both know a little bit about?"
Simon smiled apologetically and shrugged. He hadn't meant to imply...
Kirk was on his feet and strolling about the room again, thinking out loud.
"It is not for any one man to judge for another individual what his or her personal destiny might and must be. That is up to each man, or each woman, to judge for his or her own self. Such personal decisions as who you will dedicate yourself to, who and what you will live for, are ultimately between you and your conscience alone. The moment of decision is yours alone. Then, you chance the consequences as bravely as you are able, and hopefully are at peace with what your decision brings, whatever thereafter comes.
"My mistake, Mr. Simon is I was thinking of you, not as an individual, but as a member of my team."
Simon was stirred from his trance long enough to realize that he once again was beginning to get that sinking feeling.
"I thought, and I realize now that this was my mistake...I thought that because you wear a uniform like mine that it meant the same to you as it does to me. That it obliged you to be faithful, to be loyal, to bravely bear whatever hardships duty brought our way. To put our duty, and our brothers and sisters in service first..."
"Hear me out!" It wasn't an order, it was a request. After a beat, Kirk went on.
"I...was in a situation... like yours, once, and I made a decision. It might not have been the decision you or anyone else would have made, but that's all right. The moment was all mine. I made a choice, and it in fact was a costly choice, and...and... I haven't really had a chance to weigh or count the costs or benefits. All I know... is that I'm sure, in my soul, that I did the right thing, for the right person, and for all the right reasons by my own lights, and I can live with that! I'm hoping, for your sake only, that you will be able to say the same when all the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled... and you look back on your life to decide if it was all worth it, and ask yourself THEN if you have any regrets!"
Hypnotized, Simon watched his handsome, earnest young Captain pacing and orating, until Kirk dropped to one knee next to Simon's chair to seize Simon by his shoulders with a firm, sure grasp, which shocked him. Kirk looked deep into Simon's eyes.
"I say this to you now as a brother to a brother: All I meant by what I said before is just be sure! Don't throw your best destiny away. Be sure you are where you belong, and that you are doing the right thing for the right reasons! If you're the kind of guy I think you are, that's the only thing that will bring you lasting happiness. I'm happy with myself, Simon, because I know who I am and where I belong. If I could wave a magic wand and give you one thing, I wish it could be that, but that's not my job! You have to do that for yourself, and I have to let you!"
Kirk released Carl Simon then, and stood to return to his desk. He wearily sank into his chair again. He seemed spent.
"Carl..." Kirk sighed, "...if I overstepped the bounds by trying to influence you unduly in a matter that is so deeply personal, then that was wrong, and for that, I apologize."
There was a long silence. Lt. Simon had never experienced an onslaught quite like that before, and he wasn't sure how he felt or how to respond. He was moved, but knew not what his Captain expected him to do.
"Captain" he said.
Jim glanced up.
"Della and I can wait...to be sure. You are the Captain. It's... reasonable that you asked me to be sure."
"Yes, well...I thought so..." Jim replied mildly.
Simon was tired. He thought that now was a good time to end the conversation. He thought back, then, of how it began, and felt sick.
He hung his head. "Captain? I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean..."
"It's all right, Mr. Simon, I know what you meant. You did right. I want you to talk to me any time you have reason for concern."
"Yes, I will, sir." Simon stood. "Thank you, Captain!"
Kirk smiled, but his eyes were serious. "Good night, Mr. Simon."
"Good night, Captain!" Carl Simon gushed, relieved, and walked to the door, but Kirk called out, stopping him before he left.
"Mr. Simon? One last thing."
Simon turned. "Yes, Captain?"
"Mind your own business!"
"Aye aye, Captain!" Lt. Simon exclaimed, and escaped into the hall.
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