The Khitomer conspiracy was a cabal of disaffected officers from the Federation Starfleet, Klingon Empire, and Romulan Star Empire, formed to undermine peace talks between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire in 2293, culminating in the attempted sabotage of the Khitomer Conference.
A catastrophic explosion on the Klingon moon, Praxis, cost the Klingon Empire their key energy production facility, as well as imperiling Qo'noS's ecosphere. Without diverting resources from their vast military expenditures to combat the disaster, the Klingon Empire had approximately fifty years remaining before it dissolved, according to Starfleet estimates.
Vulcan Ambassador Sarek directed his son, Captain Spock, to open a covert dialogue with Gorkon, the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council in the weeks following the disaster. Gorkon recognized the Empire's precarious state, and through Spock, he proposed immediate peace negotiations with the Federation. Officially, the Federation and Klingon Empire embraced Gorkon's peace initiative, and Gorkon departed for Earth aboard the battle cruiser Kronos One.
The prospect of an end to nearly seventy years of hostilities, coupled with massive demilitarization, was not welcomed by some of the more conservative elements on either side of the Neutral Zone. Starfleet's Admiral Cartwright protested welcoming Klingon "trash", and insisted the proper course was to bring them to their knees and dictate a resolution on Starfleet's terms. Gorkon's chief of staff, General Chang, seemed to believe an outright war was more palatable than resolving the crisis politically. Both men would find support within their fleets, as well as from without, and joined in a conspiracy to subvert the peace process.
Assassination and misdirection
The Federation's first olive branch, Captain James T. Kirk and the USS Enterprise-A, escorted Gorkon and Kronos One from Klingon space on the journey to Earth. A prototype Klingon Bird-of-Prey, capable of firing her torpedoes while cloaked, shadowed the vessels and attacked Kronos One, while an accomplice aboard the Enterprise forged the databanks pertaining to torpedo magazines (presumably Valeris), suggesting the Enterprise had fired. Lieutenant Valeris ordered Yeomen Burke and Samno to board Kronos One in the chaos, where they assassinated Gorkon. After Kirk and Leonard McCoy boarded the battle cruiser to offer aid, they were accused of murdering the Chancellor, arrested, and taken into Klingon territory for trial.
On Earth, a member of the conspiracy, Colonel West, presented the Federation President with Operation Retrieve; an aggressive plan to invade Klingon space to rescue Kirk and McCoy before their trial, using eight starships. Conspirators Cartwright and Romulan Ambassador Nanclus urged approval for the drastic action, but the President was wary that "Retrieve" might trigger full-scale war and refused it. In spite of the conspiracy's efforts, the peace process continued between the President and Gorkon's daughter, Azetbur, and a summit was scheduled to take place at a secret location.
Kirk and McCoy faced their show-trial, prosecuted by Chang himself. Though earnestly represented by Colonel Worf, the officers were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on the dilithium mines of Rura Penthe. Kirk found an "ally" in the comely Chameloid, Martia, who led the new prisoners to the surface and into a trap. Just before their attempted murder by the prison warden (another lackey of the conspiracy). During this time, Captain Sulu attempted to rescue Kirk and McCoy by going through the Azure Nebula. However, the Excelsior was forced to fall back after coming under attack by Captain Kang and several other birds of prey. Despite that failed attempt, Kirk and McCoy were rescued by Spock and the Enterprise-A, after a clandestine run through Klingon space.
Spock's shipboard investigation turned up the bodies of Burke and Samno, and exposed the treason of Valeris. Spock's forced mind meld with his erstwhile protégé identified the leading conspirators, and their new plan to assassinate the Federation President. From Captain Hikaru Sulu, they learned the location of the secret conference at Khitomer, on the Klingon border. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; VOY: "Flashback")
Battle of Khitomer
As of 05:25:46 hours, the Excelsior was underway to Khitomer in an attempt to help Enterprise, though Sulu doubted they would make it in time to be of any assistance. The Enterprise entered the sector at approximately 09:37:00 hours and Kirk ordered the helm to slow to impulse for Khitomer orbit. Commander Uhura informed Kirk that she couldn't hear the Bird-of-Prey's engine, which must have meant they were rigged for silent running.
When the Enterprise was within approximately forty seconds of transporter range, General Chang hailed the vessel, taunting Kirk with his own ship's invisibility. The first shot was fired by the Bird-of-Prey, the photon torpedo struck the ventral-port side of the Enterprise's saucer section. Kirk immediately ordered the ship to reverse at half impulse power, prompting Chang to wonder what they were doing. When Kirk asked himself a similar question, Spock responded that Chang was likely trying to ascertain whether his ship was detected. After a moment of indecision on either side, Chang ordered a second torpedo that presumably struck the dorsal-starboard side of the vessel. Meanwhile, a desperate Sulu ordered the Excelsior flown to her limits to help Enterprise.
The Enterprise continued orbiting the planet, as Kirk's legendary tactical skills were of no use against an invisible enemy. The next shot fired struck the aft-port of Enterprise hull near the nacelle pylon, causing the bridge to erupt with destroyed circuitry; among the destroyed circuits was the ship's auxiliary power. After recovering from the last blow, Spock noted that the Bird-of-Prey would still release ionized gas under impulse power, to which Uhura responded that the ship was carrying equipment to catalog gaseous anomalies. As Spock asked Dr. McCoy to assist him in the modification of a torpedo, another shot rocked the Enterprise and Kirk ordered the ship hard to starboard.
It seemed that Chang had intentionally let the Enterprise in front of his vessel, as the next shot fired also came from the rear, though his aim had tapered a bit, as the shot would appear to glance off the dorsal-port side of the saucer section. The shot caused major distress in the engineering decks and Montgomery Scott was quick to note that the torpedoes were packing "quite a wallop" and that the shields, specifically the forward ones, were weakening. The shot also caused major damage to the hull, which from the exterior was visually spewing bolts of electricity.
Fortunately for the Enterprise, the Excelsior entered the sector and raised its shields just after the previous torpedo had been fired. Chang was intrigued by the new enemy and targeted Excelsior's saucer section; the torpedo struck the ventral-starboard side of the vessel, causing a major shift in the inertial dampening field, strong enough to send Sulu and several Excelsior crewmembers flying across the bridge. The torpedo, however, did not do major structural damage to the ship itself.
The Enterprise was struck again and the torpedo caused the shields to almost completely collapse. With the shields weakened, Chang took advantage and fired a torpedo from underneath the Enterprise and again struck the ventral-port side of the saucer section, only this time the torpedo punctured the hull and exited the other side; destroying, among other things, the Enterprise's dining room.
At this point, McCoy and Spock were in the forward torpedo tube, lifting the dorsal access port of the torpedo and preparing to connect the echobars; they then converted circuit "A" to sensor status. After removing a circuit board from the torpedo, they inserted another one, the "plate", and the torpedo's newly conceived tracking device came online. The final step, as Kirk yelled at them for the torpedo, was to insert the torpedo's key. Once that was done, McCoy informed the captain that the torpedo was ready.
Kirk appeared to take a great deal of satisfaction in finally ordering the torpedo to be fired, to which Commander Chekov immediately responded and the torpedo was away. The sound of the tracking device was audible to the crew of the Bird-of-Prey as they stood in disbelief; undoubtedly the power required to fire weapons and remain cloaked was too much to have their shields raised, and their only other option perhaps an attempt to decloak and raise shields. Chang made no effort to stop the blast, instead asking one last time, "To be, or not to be?"
Though tracking the impulse signature, the torpedo appeared to strike the dorsal-fore of the Bird-of-Prey, temporarily making it visible, and killing Chang and the bridge crew. Upon the impact, Sulu ordered the Excelsior to target the explosion and fire as Kirk simplified his order and just insisted that the Enterprise fire. Each vessel fired no less than three torpedoes apiece, completely destroying the Bird-of-Prey.
Kirk and his officers beamed down within the confines of the Khitomer conference hall only seconds after the battle ended; once inside Kirk immediately ordered Scotty to go up the steps behind them, presumably to locate the assassin. Armed with phasers, the crew pushed their way through the audience, meeting interference from the spectators. Kirk and Chekov managed to push their way to the front; Kirk made a beeline for the Federation President, leaping towards him to protect him from the shot about to be fired. Kirk's interference proved to be just enough, as the assassin missed and fired a shot just under the President's right armpit.
As Kirk identified himself, his officers went to work on crowd control and attempting to finger the conspirators as the Klingons ran to protect Chancellor Azetbur. Chekov held his phaser on the Klingon Ambassador and McCoy seized Nanclus. Cartwright pushed through the delegates to order that the officers be arrested, then Spock emerged from the crowd with Valeris in tow, demanding that Cartwright "arrest himself". Next the Klingon assassin took aim for Valeris, but Scotty broke down the door and shot him, sending him through the window he was firing from to the floor below, killing him and saving Valeris' life.
Colonel Worf was quick to point out that the assassin's blood was not that of a Klingon, and Cartwright attempted to use the distraction to get away. Luckily, Sulu and two of his officers beamed in and surgically cut off his escape route before he could run out. Worf removed the assassin's rubber mask to reveal that Colonel West had disguised himself as a Klingon.
Following the action, Kirk reconciled his conflict with the Klingons and the Khitomer Accords went on to be signed. It was decided, also, that neither Kirk nor the rest of his crew were to be prosecuted for anything they had done, which included participating in breaking Kirk and McCoy out of prison and violating the Klingon Neutral Zone. Captain Sulu never entered his foray into the Azure Nebula into the official logs.
Unfortunately, the halting of the conspiracy also brought to an end the Enterprise crew's last mission, as the next order received from Starfleet was that the Enterprise was to return to spacedock to be decommissioned. Captain Spock's humorous response ("If I were Human, I believe my response would be 'Go to Hell'... If I were Human") prompted Kirk to have Chekov lay in a course for the "second star to the right and straight on 'til morning," quoting Peter Pan.
- Key players
- Fleet admiral Cartwright - Starfleet Command
- Colonel West - Starfleet Command
- Lieutenant Valeris - USS Enterprise-A
- General Chang - chief of staff to the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire
- Ambassador Nanclus - Romulan Ambassador to the Federation
- Yeoman Burke - USS Enterprise-A
- Yeoman Samno - USS Enterprise-A
- Martia - Chameloid prisoner of Rura Penthe (indirectly)
- Klingon commandant of Rura Penthe
In the crossover novel series Star Trek: Section 31, Admiral Cartwright is revealed as an agent of Section 31, thus implicating the organization in the conspiracy. However, Section 31 was not introduced into the series until the 1998 DS9 episode "Inquisition".
In the 1994 novel Sarek, set shortly after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the conspiracy was revealed to be part of a Romulan plot to destabilize their two major rivals, the Federation and the Klingon Empire, that had been in the planning since at least seven decades prior to the Khitomer Accords. As part of the plan, Romulan officers had masqueraded as the neutral "Freelans", the individuals in the concealing robes and masks seen attending the conference. During a visit to Freelan after the Khitomer conference, Ambassador Sarek uncovers evidence of a deeper Romulan connection to the conspiracy, and brings it to the attention of Captain Kirk. Kirk mentions that during his court-martial, Admiral Cartwright claimed that Ambassador Nanclus originally brought the idea of sabotaging the peace conference to him, and the both of them then turned it over to Chang.
The novel Cast No Shadow explores the conspiracy in greater depth, particularly in its analysis of Valeris' life both before and after Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when she is offered a chance at relocation to a colony world under a new name, seven years after her arrest and imprisonment, in exchange for assisting in an investigation into attacks being carried out by what appears to be a new branch of the Conspiracy as the last known living member of the scheme. During the story line, she is forced to acknowledge that the real reason for her participation in the conspiracy was not her logical assessment that the Klingons would be a future threat to the Federation, but her own past trauma from a time she was taken hostage as a child by Klingons attempting to convince her ambassador father to abandon a planet that was negotiating to join the Federation. During the investigation, Valeris also claims to have calculated that Kirk would have taken the opportunity of the initial attack to fire on Gorkon's ship rather than beam over to help, with Spock stating that such an assumption proves that she never knew Kirk at all. At the conclusion of the story, the attacks are revealed to be the work of a Klingon-occupied world attempting to rebel against their masters, but Valeris risks her life to disable a bomb that would have decimated the remains of Praxis and the Klingon homeworld. As a result, she is given a pardon and a new life on a colony world under a new name.