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Literature / Star Trek The Captains Oath

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The early voyages.

I, [name], having been appointed an officer in the United Federation of Planets as indicated in the grade of captain, do solemnly swear to uphold the regulations of the United Federation Starfleet as well as the laws of the United Federation of Planets; to represent the highest ideals for which they stand, to become an ambassador of peace and goodwill, to protect the security of the Federation and its member worlds, and offer aid to any and all beings that request it.
Starfleet Oath of Service
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Star Trek: The Captain's Oath is a novel in the Star Trek Novel Verse, dealing with the early career of one James T. Kirk, including his first days as Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the years before that, as he and the Federation deal with a mysterious race of aliens encroaching on their territory.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Prime Directive, and Kirk's willingness to follow it, is a major part of the book.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Inverted, the Sacagawea crew try to learn about the planet Nacmor by watching their TV. They're uncertain whether there's cultural clues they're missing, or if it's just poorly written crap.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The genesis of Jim calling McCoy "Bones". During their first meeting, Jim called him a "sawbones", and McCoy had a good laugh at the younger man using such old-timey language.
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  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Agni tech, especially their singularity drives. Characters note that the amount of power required to generate one would power several Federation ships for years, never mind the difficulty doing that and maintaining it in the first place.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Agni (real name not given) are right up there, possibly the bizarrest of aliens we've seen. They're only comfortable on planets like Venus. This means they don't really have the concept of sight, because they "see" via infrared. Actually seeing your average carbon-based lifeform is nigh-impossible for them, and because of their living habits, the concept of permanent living areas is difficult to grasp. In the end, they're so bizarre both Agni and Federation note that due to the sheer radical differences there isn't much they can actually offer one another, beyond not getting into fights.
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  • Blood Knight: Combined with Female Gaze, as the Prime Vector just wants her fight club eye candy, but Bones worries about Kirk agreeing to fight naked and get pummelled, and enjoying it a bit too much.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Early on, while exploring an alien bazaar, one of Kirk's squadmates says she's from a species of killers, but the distinction is "knowing we won't kill today", which he picks up on.
    • The incident with a microquasar, and the fact it nearly wipes out a species, is what prompts Starfleet's orders to "explore all quasar and quasar-like phenomenon".
    • During a quick recap of Jim's Sac days, he mentions a bunch of criminals being shipped off to one Doctor Adams, who Jim hopes will cure them of their criminal tendencies.
  • Character Development: Kirk goes from the humourless rule-bound swot of his academy days, obsessed with following the rulebook to all else to being the James T. Kirk we know.
  • Continuity Nod: It's a Christopher L. Bennett book. These abound.
    • One flashback has Kirk striking up a relationship with Janet Wallace, which won't last. His relationships with Areel Shaw and Carol Marcus also get mentions, with Kirk ruminating on David's existence, and how he's stayed away.
    • While on the Nacmor mission, Rhen gets into a discussion about how most species tend to look similar, and how they've evolved in the same time as one another. She idly speculates whether something happened to cause these things. And according to the TNG episode "The Chase" and the novel "The Lost Era - The Buried Age", she's right to be suspicious.
    • When discussing the nature of planets where more than one species has evolved, the examples of Xindus and Valek are brought up.
    • On the subject on non-interference, Archer and Reed's actions in "The Communicator" are brought up. Turns out their activities may have made things after they left much worse.
  • Colony Drop: The Enterprise plot deals with Kirk and crew helping the Aulacri drop some asteroids on a planet to help with terraforming. Problems ensue when Rhen finds an interesting archaeological discovery and the project lead gets very insistent on dropping the rocks anyway.
  • Continuity Snarl: With The Autobiography of James T. Kirk. The basics are still the same (Kirk having relationships that fail thus turning to Sex for Solace, Gary Mitchell being a notorious womaniser, Kirk's guilt, initial inability to charm and slowly learning to bend the rules), but the details and events are different.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Some Starfleet characters start pointing out that if the Agni had just explained what they were after, they would've just given it to them. The Agni later explain that even without communication difficulties their first experience with other "cold beings" led them to the policy of shooting in self-defense first.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • A lot abounds with Lee Kelso and Gary Mitchell, since Trek fans know what awaits them after the book ends. Especially with Gary being the one to defend Kirk to Lee.
    • One of Kirk's escapades has him dealing with Klingons, but at the time he states he's not got any particular opinion about them.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Kirk manages to do this to himself in his own internal monologue. After Gary says he's become more closed off with Rhen out of service and Bones away on Capella, Kirk dismisses this, going over how he's been busy as captain. He stops when he realizes how cold and detached his own assessment sounds.
  • False Flag Operation: The dictatorial government of Nacmor are staging these to make the population easier to control. They're quite surprised when they find actual aliens to help sell their lies.
  • Foil: Rhen, Kirk's previous best bud before Spock came along, and who is about as anti-Spock as it's possible to be (without being Leonard McCoy). She's a feisty, cheerful Andorian. Yet surprisingly enough, she and Spock get on pretty well.
  • Futureshadowing: Kirk finds something off about Tracey and his attitude, but figures it's just him. After all, even if Tracey openly calls less developed races "primitive", he's still a Starfleet captain, and therefore deserves some trust, right?
  • General Ripper: Orloff, the leader of the Regulan Defense Fleet. Initially it just seems like she has a grudge against the Agni based on their approach, she soon shows a With Us or Against Us mentality, then tries to sabotage peace talks, before graduating into full-on attempted genocide. She's eventually dragged off the bridge of her ship by her own crew, still screaming her head off.
  • Handwave:
    • The Vulcanian Expedition, mentioned in some early episodes is explained as being a name for a joint Starfleet-Vulcan Expeditionary Force mission.
    • The whole "reaching the edge of the galaxy" thing is given mention of a subspace corridor the Delta Mining Company found, which allows them to get there without it taking the years it normally would, and the mining colony is established to be the DMC setting up for future exploratory efforts, which the galactic barrier will render meaningless.
  • Humans Are Ugly: Daramoy the Nacmorian thinks that the captured Kirk and crew have been surgically altered by the corrupt government, and thinks they're monstrously ugly.
  • Improbable Age: Kirk's status as the then-youngest Captain in Starfleet is part of the reason Lee Kelso doesn't like him, thinking Kirk just got jumped ahead, and isn't too wild about taking orders from someone so young. Kirk, meanwhile, often dwells on the fact his drive has meant giving up things like love and family.
  • Injured Limb Episode: Rhen breaks her leg and part of her hip jumping in the path of a falling rock for Bones, and even with 23rd century medical tech, she acknowledges she'll never be back up to her previous game.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • Lee Kelso brings up Kirk's reputation with the Kobaysashi Maru test to Sulu, which makes the usually amiable man suddenly a lot less amiable. Lee realizes he must have hit a personal nerve.
    • Spock during the Pike days hasn't quite got the hang of social nuances, even when he's trying to be optimistic. His idea of reassurance is terrible, such as pointing out a starship's captain survived when the entire bridge crew have been annihilated (especially since he tries to phrase it as the captain being worth more).
  • It's All My Fault: Kirk gets like this on occasion. Rhen manages to see it coming at one point and tells him off for it.
  • Jerkass: Captain Ronald Tracy only appears in two scenes, but he manages to convey he's a wall-to-wall jerk by dismissing an endangered species as "primitive" and therefore deserving of death, and just generally being an arrogant piece of work.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Abounds in the epilogue, with Kirk and an admiral talking about all the scientific breakthroughs exploring the galactic barrier will bring. Long time Trek fans will know just how little they're really going to gain from it.
  • Lampshade Hanging: At the end, the notion of the galaxy having an edge is thoroughly gone over. Wesley's just being poetic as he describes it.
  • Loophole Abuse: Kirk gets around saving the Chenari on the grounds the Prime Directive stresses no interfering in the natural development. Kirk figures their planet's biosphere being wiped out by a Negative Space Wedgie is about as far from "natural" as it gets.
  • Love at First Sight: The novel begins with Kirk getting a look at the Enterprise bridge and, well...
  • Mauve Shirt: Edgor, Kirk's XO on the Sacagawea, who gets a bit of characterization. He's killed halfway through the book fighting the Agni.
  • Moment Killer: Spock's first act in the book, after aforementioned Love at First Sight moment.
  • More Expendable Than You: Rhen and another crewmember of the Sac get into an argument when Almost Out of Oxygen. Kirk, ever one to refuse the idea of a no-win scenario, tries to save both. He fails.
  • My Greatest Failure: Kirk's hesitation on the Farragut hangs over him a lot.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Orloff, head of the Regulan Defense Force, starts off seeming like just a war-hawk, until she gets the chance to make a speech. Gary sarcastically quips after said speech "and sieg freaking heil."
  • Noodle Incident: Partway through, we see Kirk's captains logs of his Sac days, including an incident involving the crew's clothing, alarming lack of.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Deconstructed. In order to go in disguise in Nacmor, with its Rubber-Forehead Aliens, Kirk and his crew use stage makeup. The minute they get in a fight, the makeup comes off and they're rumbled. Meanwhile, Rhen can't come down because makeup doesn't do anything for her antennea.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Kirk does a pretty damn good 'un to the Agni during negotiations. A short while later, Riaz uses one on the Regulan Defense Force.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Agni and Federation have several violent encounters where the two of them lose many valuable crew. This is because Agni don't consider holding "space" to be a thing people can do so violating territory is something completely mystifying. As far as they're concerned, Starfleet opened fire on them for no reason.
  • Precision F-Strike: Gary tells Kirk that leaving a bunch of people behind on the grounds of the Prime Directive was a "shitty thing to do".
  • Pretty Boy: Kirk resists the urge to actually flirt, but Daramoy considers him "not unattractive" in a feminine way, and Kirk acknowledges it as not a bad thing.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: The book goes a way to trying to justify someone like Gary Mitchell being on the Enterprise bridge after several decades of both Society Marching On and the setting. His flirtatious playboy nature gets Kirk and Gary into trouble more than once.
  • The Reveal: Spock and Rhen's investigations uncover a key fact about the Aulacri and their former oppressors, the Karabosi. Namely, they weren't separate species, they were separate ethnicities.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: One mission has Gary Mitchell refuse to beam up, and stay behind to assist a group of freedom fighters with their oppressors ("screw the Prime Directive"), rather than leave them behind to die.
  • Shout-Out: Faced with a larger, burly alien not impressed with the human in front of his, McCoy feels the need to correct one aspect of his grammar. It's "puny" humans, thank you very much.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Twice, with the notion of We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
    • In Jim and Bones's first meeting, Bones notes Jim's been hanging around a hospital, and not getting a lot of sleep, so naturally he's caught something nasty.
    • Rhen breaking her leg, as mentioned up above, is noted to cause permanent damage, rather than being something she'll just bounce back from.
  • That's What I Would Do: Kirk smokes out a bunch of smugglers in an asteroid belt by figuring what they would do.
  • Trial by Combat: One First Contact involves Kirk getting into a fight to show their worthiness. Kirk gets beaten senseless, which Bones figures might be partly Kirk trying to sublimate some meaningless guilt over his former XO getting killed.
  • Translation with an Agenda: Riaz is persuaded to mistranslate the Agni's words. Fortunately, she repents before the situation becomes uncontrollable.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The story jumps between Kirk's first week on the job on the Enterprise, getting to know Spock, and his time commanding the Sacagawea.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gary calls Kirk out on not helping the Nacmorian refugees, even leaving them to potentially die. Kirk agrees with him.
  • The Worf Effect: The first people the Angi run into? The Klingons. The first thing we hear is they pasted a bunch of Kang's ships while passing through their space.
  • You Got Spunk!: Bones manages to settle a matter of first contact by yelling at the alien ruler for her behavior. She figures if a society can produce doctors that brave, they must be impressive.
  • Your Mom: An encounter with a Klingon ship has the captain sneering at Kirk's age, and makes a rude comment about human moms. Then he insults Kirk's mom directly, in response to which Kirk says something "inadvisable" about his mom. Cue fight.
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