trekwriter151: (enterprise)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Genre: Friendship/Tragedy

Characters: Admiral Maxwell Forrest, Ambassador Soval

Rating: K+

Warning: Canon Character Death. Spoilers for ENT “The Forge.”

Archive: Ask me first. Thanks.

Notes: Maxwell Forrest teaches Ambassador Soval the value of thinking outside the box. This story is set in 2154, the night before the Embassy bombing in “The Forge”, where Forrest was killed while saving Soval's life.

USCF stands for the “United States Chess Federation”, the governing body for tournament play in the US. The “median” USCF player rating is about 657. The USCF 's levels of ranking is different from the ones used by the FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation) that governs international play. Forrest's rating of “mid-1100s” puts him in Class E (USCF), which is still decent for someone who plays casually.

BTW, we know that 3-D chess exists in TOS, but I figured that it would also exist in ENT's time.

And no, I'm not a chess whiz. In fact, I'm a lousy chess player. Soval would also kick my butt in a game, 3D or the good, old-fashioned 2D version.

R&R, please. Thanks.


The Admiral's Gambit

Maxwell Forrest considered himself a decent chess player. His USCF rating was in the mid-1100's, which was respectable, even if not at the level of grandmaster. Of course, with their logical minds, the Vulcans took to the game almost immediately. In fact, Max hadn't yet seen a Vulcan who couldn't play well. They tended to play very well.

Especially his current opponent. Ambassador Soval sat back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “I believe it is your move, Admiral.”

“So it is.” Max stifled a groan as he eyed the board with a woeful expression.

Boards, plural. The game was three-dimensional chess, a variant of the standard. It had taken Max a while to adjust to this new set-up. There were a total of seven levels: three levels of four-by-four squares, and four “attack board” made up of two-by-two squares. The four attack boards were movable, while the three others were pretty much fixed. The players used standard chess moves, except now pieces could “jump” to a different board, as long as it was a legal move.

And Maxwell Forrest, admiral of Starfleet and former overseer of the Warp Five Project, was getting his butt kicked. Badly. His captured pieces lined the side nearest to Soval's elbow like POWs standing at attention. All he had left was his king, his queen, his rooks, and three pawns. Soval, on the other hand, still had most of his pieces, except for four pawns and a bishop.

“Castle,” Max said shortly, and he moved his rook and king, placing his king in a more protected position. Unfortunately, he knew it was only staving off the inevitable.

Soval raised an eyebrow. “Interesting. You choose to employ that move now.”

“It's one of the few options I have left,” he pointed out.

“You decide to sacrifice one of your important pieces in order to extend the tortuous process of losing,” the Vulcan said, his tone deadpan. “It is not logical.”

Max shrugged, then smiled. “Sometimes a few moments is more than enough time to save your game.”

“A misguided instance of emotion overriding logic.”

“On the contrary.” He leaned forward and tapped his king. “All right, let's do an exercise in logic. What's the point of the game of chess?”
Soval looked nonplussed as he moved his remaining bishop and tightened the noose around Max's king. “To capture the other player's king, of course.”

“And to do that...?”

“You employ various strategies to force your opponent's king into an unmovable position, one in which any move will result in his capture.”

“And in doing so...?”

“The player removes as many of the opposing player's army as possible to secure that capture, using those various strategies.”

“Yes.” Max moved his queen and took out the threatening bishop. As he put the piece aside, he continued, “And those strategies are a rational set of moves that have been tried and true for decades.”

“Indeed, which is the reason for their success.” Soval countered by moving a pawn.

“That's been proven. Let me ask you this.” Max tapped his chin as he contemplated his next move. “In the time before these strategies were codified, someone had to be the first person to come up with the move, right?”

“Of course. All things have an origin.”

Max chuckled and moved one of his pawns, causing Soval to raise his eyebrow again. “We have a saying on Earth: 'Necessity is the mother of invention'. Another one is 'Fire tempers the hardest steel'. When one finds himself cornered with no obvious way out, he finds a way to escape. If it doesn't work, history judges him a fool. If it does work, history judges him as a clever fool.”

“Indeed.” A ghost of a smile passed over Soval's face. “And if his method is effective, others will take notice of it, and perhaps employ it themselves.”

“Exactly, but it had to come from somewhere, even during a time of illogical, emotional thinking.” Max rolled his eyes. “Illogical, emotional thinking. That's rather redundant, isn't it. Anyway, the emotional move might be the logical one at the time. You might only see it in hindsight, when you're removed from the situation.”

Soval nodded and moved his white queen; Max winced, for it wasn't long now. “Is this the 'gut instinct' that you have referred to in the past?”

“You might call it that. Humans listen to their hunches sometimes, and chances are good, it's the right decision..”

“Vulcans do not have 'hunches'.”

“Maybe you just have a different name for it. Instinct. Inspiration. In any case, somebody long ago made a move on a chess board that seemed suicidal at the time, but in the end, won the game.” Max sighed and moved his queen closer to his king. “Others noticed its logic and used it in their own play. And so it goes.”

“And so it goes.” Soval moved his queen and said, “Checkmate, Admiral.”

Max tipped his king over with his index finger, conceding the game. “Good game, Ambassador.”

“You are improving. Perhaps you might show me some of those strategies that are not the usual.”

Max laughed outright. “I'm not sure if I should be giving away my trade secrets, Soval, but all right. Just once, since I lost this game.” He set his pieces back into the standard formation, while Soval mirrored him. “Another strategy for your formidable arsenal.”

Another ghost of a smile flitted across the Vulcan's face. “I may not hold the advantage for long.” At Max's look of askance, he clarified, “I am confident that you will formulate a new counter-strategy, based on your 'hunches'.”

Max rarely grinned openly around Vulcans, especially Soval in particular, but his smile was almost predatory. “I might. You'll have to wait until the next game to figure out.”

Of course, Maxwell Forrest never got that chance. He never got to play that next game. When the Vulcan Embassy was bombed, it happened so quickly, that Soval didn't have time to react. Instead, Forrest, making a decision based entirely on 'gut instinct', had shielded Soval from the blast at the last moment.

Forrest had sacrificed his life for him.. Soval tried not to show his grief, but in his mind, he wondered why his friend did it. It was spontaneous. Reckless. Suicidal. Illogical. Then the admiral's words came back to him.

“Anyway, the emotional act might be the logical one at the time. You might only see it in hindsight, when you're removed from the situation.”

Forrest had known that Soval was crucial to the relationship between Earth and Vulcan. Soval was indispensable to his people. And in one move, Forrest had won the game, for in the future, Vulcan and Earth became two of the founding members of the Federation. Eventually, Soval understood and honored his friend's sacrifice.

Much later, he sat at the chessboard with his aide, Solkar. He won that game too, using the strategy Forrest had shown him, that last time.

And Soval had found an appropriate name for it. The Admiral's Gambit.


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May 2012

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