|Captain Gary Mitchell
Bones, luckily, has made a concerted effort never to discuss any part of Jim's mostly-marriage if either of them can help it, but with Spock staring at every reading like somewhere in the last year he picked up a medical degree (not impossible), there's horrible talk about mental strain and bonding and neural repatterning. Jim's head is examined three times while Bones and Spock look at the Sanskrit that is Amanda Grayson's regular medical exams.
"I don't see any abnormalities," Bones says in resignation, because sadly, all this is now normal and Bones has gone beyond saying freakish, which is about the only thing that used to make this worth it. "I'll send a note to Lyra at Starfleet Medical to meet up next time we're on Earth; she needs his updates anyway."
"I'm still here," Jim says as Chapel hands him a cup of coffee beneath a show of tricordering him again, like his condition's changed in the last five seconds. Taking a long drink, Jim looks at the tricorder surreptitiously; his readings look like they always do after a concussion. "Look, can we just all admit two key facts; one, you're both nuts, and two, there is no two, there's just you are both being crazy."
"Jim," Bones starts, arms crossed casually and not (yet) reaching for a hypo, "I hate to be the one to remind you, but you are--"
"Shut up, Bones."
"--very unique being--well, you, but also, these." Bones points toward the scans. "We have very little data, and the colony won't release any further information, so my working sample is one person. One person, by the way, who had no less than five separate regular physicians most of her life. Not to mention--"
"Wanna hear how I got over pon farr?" Jim asks desperately. There's a faint trace of alarm Spock-wards, but Jim really doesn't care. "Four standard days, Bones--"
Bones pales, but he's an ass, so he just keeps talking. "--you're on a starship and your mind, so to speak, is what runs it. We can't afford errors. Not even small ones."
There's the unspoken--Starfleet still really wants to react to Jim's abrupt descent into semi-formalized monogamy, but can't quite figure out how. Jim has his suspicions--the words mentally compromised had come up, like Spock had just been waiting all his life to get his hands on the mind of a Starfleet captain to control a ship--as if a slightly interested look didn't have Starfleet trying to throw ships at him every time they dock--but Starfleet has, at least proportionally, a large number of Vulcans. Many, many Vulcans.
From what Jim's worked out (Pike isn't his only source of information, just the most sarcastic), the general reaction to even bringing it up in a discussion had resulted in the colony getting a new shipment of Federation-class supercomputers, so Jim's not too worried about his command. Vulcans do not approve of him and Spock, very silently and obviously and at great length; Vulcans do not approve even more of Starfleet sticking their nose into what is, in fact, a Vulcan matter, and James Kirk's very human file had fallen directly under all those complex Vulcan privacy regulations and stayed there. Live long and prosper while we rebuild our society into a technocratic utopia; also, mind your own business.
Starfleet got the message loud and clear.
Jim wonders if Amanda Grayson ever laughed herself sick over this kind of thing. She might not have been Starfleet, but she was certified by both the Federation and Vulcan Science Academy as a diplomatic interpreter. Sure, he commands a ship that can destroy worlds; she could start wars with an improperly placed adverb.
She appreciated the irony.
Jim grins at Spock, catching the memory.
"What did I say about doing that in front of me?" Bones wails, tossing his datapad on the biobed. "It's--weird."
Jim rolls his eyes, finishing the coffee with a grateful look at Chapel. "Can I go?"
"Breakfast," Bones says, tossing his datapad on the biobed. "Spock, go away and stop hovering. Jim--"
"Orion." Jim leans back against the biobed, staring at the datapad. That's what he'd been trying to remember last night.
"Jim?" Bones looks at his tricorder longingly, but Spock straightens (sort of; it's a mental thing), looking at Jim in interest. Picking up the datapad, Jim puts in his access code and does a quick search, finding Spock's report (of course) on the worm that had hit their systems. It had been depressingly easy to isolate, but-- "Orion algorithms, Orion accent, Orion company encryption. Romulan attacks on Federation ships. One of these things shouldn't be like another, and yet, here we are."
Jim stares at the datapad. "Get a message to Starfleet; our contact in the Syndicate is no longer doing his job." Jim forces himself to loosen his hold on the datapad, thinking it over. "So they really did want to talk."
"You think they were sincere?" Spock is dubious, but he's already mentally framing the message to maximize its ability to terrify whoever is unfortunate enough to read it.
"If you mean panicking, yes." Jim clears the datapad and hands it back to Bones. "They won't be for sale; they're probably in deep sleep on one of the tertiary worlds."
"Jim?" Bones says, sounding worried. "What are you--"
"The crews of those ships. They might be alive." Chapel materializes with another cup of coffee; Jim loves her. "Thank you. Senior staff meeting, one hour. Spock, get all the prelim from cargo, and the first stage analysis of the voice on the tricorder, and everything on those five ships we have. And send a copy of the crew manifests to my terminal. I think someone's trying to stop a war."
"I do not understand," T'Prina says, following him into the conference room. It hadn't been a conference room when Jim took command; apparently, this is where Jim's supposed to receive diplomats and make sure they don't spill secrets while getting genially drunk. It's long and comfortable and most importantly, it's the one room outside private quarters that Scotty could make absolutely private with very little in the way of noticeable destruction of Starfleet property. It's not that Jim's paranoid; it's that he's not stupid.
And it's a really nice room; Jim doesn't see why people who visit and add to his stress and make him dress up in hideous formal uniforms should have nicer places to meet than his staff. It also has three replicators, which was possibly a factor in the decision.
"Meetings are boring," Jim admits, sitting on the edge of the table as T'Prina surveys the gold-and-white Tellarite wall hangings and several abstract murals that supposedly soothe flaring tempers but mostly make Jim think of an unsubtle Rorschach test. "But sometimes, we have them anyway. I'll need you to report on what you saw during our undercover mission as pirates. And use the word 'pirates' at least twice."
"I see." She looks at the table, then the chairs lining the wall. "Where should I--"
"Anywhere you want." It's kind of charming; Jim had tried to explain to Spock the appeal of Vulcan cadets wandering around his ship being logical and disapproving and failed utterly. And it's not really quantifiable anyway; it's more a feeling. He's pretty sure that if a Vulcan would so lower themselves as to express dislike, she'd be spitting at him for all his corrupting human influence and invading Vulcan traditions and basically being everything that Vulcans hate about humans all rolled into one captain-shaped package. But. He's pretty much okay with that.
After a moment, she selects a chair, pulling it gracefully toward the table and stopping a few feet away, placing her about a foot from his chair and Spock's and giving herself a full view of the table and all its inhabitants, turning it enough so her back isn't to the door.
Fine, Spock's infatuation theory could have some merit, if he wasn't mostly-married. As she seats herself, she turns on her datapad. "The meeting should have begun," she says, surveying the room with a hint of disapproval for his total lack of control of his crew. He gets that from her a lot.
"Yeah, no one listens to me," Jim says cheerfully. "Crazy crew and all, they do their own thing. Sulu said your performance at the helm was flawless."
She nods; of course. She's Vulcan.
"I've been looking at your record," Jim says, which she already knows; for reasons beyond Jim's comprehension, cadets compete for the two positions available on the Enterprise. Granted, Uhura is kind of the be-all and end-all of everything that has to do with any form of communication known to sentient beings (and some non-sentient, which is just too depressing for words) and Sulu's some kind of bizarre legend with what he can make a starship do as he really doesn't seem to believe in things like limits and such, and Scotty's just a freak and no one can figure out what the hell he does to the engines against the laws of God, man, and apparently, every physicist ever born. Bones keeps making Starfleet Medical send him muffin baskets, and Chekov has a fan club.
And then there's Spock… If there were a platonic ideal of a Starfleet officer in existence, Spock would be pictured, along with the five pages of small-print that list his accomplishments. Other Vulcans may not like him, but they sure as hell have no problem with the species taking credit for his awesome.
Basically, Jim gets that he runs a ship of crazy geniuses that let him captain because they have much better things to do. He's okay with that. They let him pretend to be a pirate and infiltrate Orion crime rings, and honestly, what's better than that?
"Astrometrics is a challenging field." That's a simplification; Jim had done some research after a glance at her secondary school records. "Normally, science track students go with the survey ships."
"The Enterprise was available," she says tranquilly, giving him her full attention. "After researching the available ships, I felt I would find it an enriching experience to--I think you would say 'broaden my horizons'. And your Astrometrics department is one of the most highly experimental in Starfleet. I wished to observe the methodology being employed so successfully. Few ships have replicated the results you have achieved."
The head of astrometrics had started life as a theoretical physicists and then had an epiphany and went back to the Academy to rearrange everything everyone knew about navigating the universe. Jim has a faint memory of interviewing her, which mostly consisted of nodding appropriately, then giving her the department in the hope she'd start talking to other people and not him about--whatever that had been.
"Do you feel they have been broadened?" Jim asks curiously.
T'Prina hesitates, examining the question. "Yes. The duties you have assigned me have been eclectic, but highly educational."
"Starship duty can be eclectic, even in Federation space. Knowing what everyone else is doing can be as important as knowing what you're doing yourself." T'Prina nods agreement. "When do you graduate?"
"I complete my studies in twenty-two standard months," she says. "Captain Tvl of the Mariposa has a position in astrometrics that is suitable for a newly-commissioned officer."
"Good ship and a very good captain. It's a logical choice." Sliding off the table, Jim pulls out his chair as the doors open, spilling Uhura and Spock in, expressions very linguistic. Jim hadn't known an expression could be linguistic; the things you learn on starships. Behind them, Scotty comes in, vaguely disgruntled from being dragged from his engines, and then Sulu and Chekov, both of whom zero in on T'Prina instantly. Jim can't tell if she's actually that oblivious to human male crushes or just finds the entire thing beneath her notice. Probably the latter: no one sentient could be that oblivious.
Spock gives her a cool nod as he takes his seat. "Captain," he acknowledges, tapping the datapad.
"Glad everyone could make it." Jim looks around the table in satisfaction as Bones takes the seat to his right, pissy that Jim does not believe in medical leave. "Today I'm going to tell you a heartwarming story about Romulans and the Orions who apparently are afraid of them. And possibly, a war. Questions at the end. Please open your datapad to T'Prina's very thorough report of the events last night and we'll begin."
"So wait--why wouldn't they be killed?" Bones asks, bewildered. "Romulans take prisoners to interrogate and kill them, not interrogate and sell them off."
"Yes, that's a problem with my theory," Jim answers easily. "I'm still working out the details."
"It's pretty much a contradiction of your theory." Bones leans back, arms crossed mulishly. "But I'm not betting against you."
"That's because I won all your credits at the last shipwide poker tournament," Jim answers. "Chekov, be brilliant and tell me what those four ships had in common."
Chekov jerks his gaze from T'Prina with an effort. "Captain," he says, sounding less Russian than usual, "there are no common factors other than the most obvious."
"That's--less brilliant than I was looking for." Jim tilts his head back, bringing T'Prina into view. "Cadet?"
T'Prina looks up, very Vulcanly startled, which is invisible to anyone who doesn't live with Spock. After her oral summary--which had included a little too much "assisting the Captain to walk" for Jim's taste--she'd settled into watching, intensely curious. "Captain?"
"Factors those ships have in common."
T'Prina stares at him blankly; Jim feels a little bad, but on the other hand, he really doesn't. "They were all warp capable ships," she says, with the resigned tone of a student who knows they are giving the wrong answer and has to do it anyway. "All were science vessels concerned with either interstellar weather phenomenon or were involved in deep-space study of rare interstellar phenomenon."
"Black hole research," Uhura says immediately. Jim stares at her. "Lieutenant Gaila is currently working on a new prototype for predicting when a star will supernova and calculate the potential for a black hole to form." She gives Jim a slow, mocking smile. "Some people write more than once a year to their classmates."
Jim ignores her; it's more than once a year. "T'Prina?"
T'Prina glances at her datapad almost desperately. "All were crewed exclusively by humanoid beings. All--" She stops, blinking slowly at the screen. "The crew component was unusual; that was common to all of the ships. There were no humans of Terran or colonial ancestry on board any of those ships." Touching the datapad, she brings up the crew manifests, scanning them quickly before looking up. "According to the manifest listing species, there is no one from the Federation founding members listed."
"Got it in one. Chekov, breathe. It was pretty obscure; they were all small ships and several are registered as citizens of founding worlds anyway. Which is because--"
"Their homeworld isn't a member of the Federation," Chekov says suddenly. "Either unaffiliated or--"
"Orion or captive races." Jim likes when he can surprise his staff. "And Orion law follows that the child of a slave is still a slave, you get the idea. The ships we know the Romulans took because they were not easily defensible--and possibly because of the crew complement. They assumed we wouldn't care as much. Which granted, the Federation's record when the citizen isn't a member of one of the founding species--"
"Captain," Spock says; pretty much the only reason he's not getting the equivalent of a mental kick is that Spock thinks that kind of thing is inappropriate when they're on duty. So far.
"Anyway," Jim continues, "I'm going to make a guess that the Romulans were making nice with Orion and offered them the crews."
"Why take the risk when the Syndicate and the Federation are still maintaining a non-aggression pact? The Orions were just as likely to run to us and hand them over as a gesture of goodwill, hoping we'll ignore their hunting among the unaffiliates," Uhura says, but there's a look on her face that tells him she knows. She lived with Gaila, after all.
"To get Orion support." Jim looks at Spock briefly. "A preview of the joys of Romulan conquest of the Federation; an endless buffet of planets filled with all the skilled and unskilled labor anyone could ever want." Jim pushes his coffee cup an inch to the left, taking a deep breath. "Problem is, there's no war yet, so those extremely valuable, highly-trained Starfleet officers aren't really useful yet, and even in their own systems, they can't sell them openly. Not until we have too much on our plate with a war with the Romulans to really care about rumors of Federation citizens being traded around the Syndicate's homeworlds."
The room is silent.
"So we have two goals, but they all depend on one thing. We need to rescue our crews, because it's a hell of a bet Orion took accepting them from the Romulans. We'll never be able to prove they were ever there, so it's no skin off their nose if they get rid of them if things don't go the way the Romulans think they will. And we need to find out who the Romulan voice on a tricorder was, because it looks like he may be the only proof we have that those crews are alive and that the Romulan Empire is preparing for war."
Jim leans back in his chair, looking over his crew. "We have twenty-four hours until we rendezvous with the Fortune and I need more than a hunch when I present this to Starfleet. You know what to do. Dismissed."
T'Prina starts to follow, then hesitates, waiting until the room has cleared before approaching. Taking Spock's seat, she looks at him. "I do not understand how you reached your conclusions with the given information."
"Well." Jim thinks. "It helps if you spent several stints in Federation custody on completely spurious charges. You meet some really interesting, informative people. Like Dar, for example. Though he still doesn't know that, so don't mention it when you see him again. I wasn't using my real name that time, either."
T'Prina blinks her amazement that he was ever allowed to captain a starship. He can't blame her; sometimes, he wonders about that himself. "Dar, the Ferengi--he was a liar and betrayed you. The man who threatened us has no reason to tell us the truth. Why do you believe them?"
"I don't." Jim answers, looking at his datapad. "But I trust his business sense. Ferengi are unscrupulous but not stupid. Handing over a Federation captain isn't something that keeps you in business long; he had reason to believe they weren't going to hurt us and really did have information we could use. If there hadn't been a telepath, I would have taken my chances and waited around. We'd have gotten out when the forcefield fell, and they can't do much in that amount of time if I were wrong."
T'Prina blinks slowly, digesting that. "Command conditioning should allow you to resist most mental coercion, and your bond--"
"Yeah that." Jim blows out a breath. "I don't take mental coercion very well."
"I do not understand."
Jim closed his eyes. Right. "T'Prina," Jim says slowly, "Vulcan law still applies to a human bondmate; interfering with another's mind, or bond, is punishable by death. Spock's also second in command of a starship. If possible, I'm not going to make him choose between his duty and--"
"Protecting his bondmate, yes, I understand." T'Prina nods. "You think he would react illogically and attempt a rescue--"
"No. I would kill them." T'Prina stills. "Like I said, I'm not going to make him choose between duty and me. I'll eliminate the choice."
T'Prina nods slowly.
T'Prina blinks slowly, then shakes her head. "No, Captain." Standing up, she clutches her datapad. "Should I report to Lieutenant Sulu?"
"Nah." Sighing, Jim picks up his coffee cup, taking it to the recycler. "Officially, I'm on medical leave, so instead of actual duties, I'm going to go bother the different departments. It keeps them on their toes. Want to come along?"
"Yes, sir," she says seriously. "I would."
"You are not relaxed." Spock sits back, fingers skimming down his cheek in a line of lingering heat. "Meditation is not effective if you are--"
"I'm really relaxed. I had a long day of nothing to do and someone who will remain nameless wouldn't even come play with me in the practice room because someone who I'll call Bones said my head was delicate. I love having nothing to do. That's very relaxing."
"Cadet T'Prina's attendance was not stimulating enough?"
In anyone else, Jim would suspect jealousy, but this is Spock, and mostly, it's actual curiosity. Jim shifts on the bed, wondering if he's supposed to answer that or sit in dignified silence.
I am merely curious.
You're baiting me and I'm not falling for it. He is, kind of. Leaning back on one arm, Jim thinks of the reports he hasn't really read and decides to ignore them for a little longer. "She was pretty quiet, actually. I think she was trying to figure out why you all don't mutiny."
"It is against regulations," Spock says seriously, and Jim has to kiss him then. Jim hadn't ever really thought falling in love was a good idea and hadn't planned on going through it himself; his mother was a pretty good indicator that sort of thing fucked you up for life.
The thing is, he's never been famous for being all about going along with good ideas, and even if he were, Spock would be the best idea he's had in his life. And Spock is--
Spock rolls him onto his back, one hand curled behind his head to cushion it just in case the mattress turns to stone abruptly or something. Jim would find that irritating, but there's a time and place for that sort of thing, and sex isn't among them.
I could assist you, I think. To relax. There's something about the mental component that makes that filthier than anything Jim's ever heard. It's sudden, the warmth flaring into desperate heat every damn time, and he's never lied to Spock; he's never wanted anyone like this. He's not sure he's supposed to; he's not sure anyone is supposed to.
He mostly doesn't care about that, either. Please do.
Jim hadn't really expected they'd be able to make any headway by the time they met the Fortune; Uhura and Spock, of course, both took it as a personal failure that they couldn't figure out the identity, history, and possibly, the eating habits of their mysterious Orion-accented Romulan with less than three hundred words of recorded voice patterns on a tricorder.
Completing his report, Jim sends it off with attached evidence, already knowing he'll get the Starfleet equivalent of a nod and a request he not worry his pretty head about hard things like politics. Because the Federation does not want war and honestly thinks that if they pretend it's not coming, it will go away.
Jim really wonders how the Federation has managed to survive this long, to be honest.
Picking up his game console, Jim leans back in his chair, propping his feet on the desk. Battlestations III is, in fact, fully as awesome as he'd suspected. Pulling his datapad closer, he marks down another successful cheat code, humming contentedly.
The ping of his door is not welcome. Jim doesn't look up. "Come."
Jim hadn't ever really liked Gary Mitchell, who had been a fourth-year to Jim's vaguely irritated first, and fully as arrogant as third-generation 'Fleet families tended to be. Jim had beat every record he'd had at the academy, which had been disappointing, since there hadn't been that many, forcing Jim to go out of his comfort zone for a better challenge, which is pretty much how he ended up at the top of his class by the time he graduated. On some level, accidental academic brilliance for the purposes of slamming the faces of irritating cadets into the ground (metaphorically) is probably a sign of mental instability; then again, he's the son of Winona Kirk, and if anyone, anywhere, had thought he was not capable of being a competitive asshole, they just hadn't met his mother or taken a long look at her Academy record.
"Hey Jimmy," Mitchell says genially, taking a seat. Jim can sense Spock trying, with mixed success, not to project disapproval for Mitchell's lack of courtesy. "How's it going?"
"Pretty good." Not looking up, Jim slides the data solid across the desk. "Battlestations III. You say you got it from me, I won't send the cheat codes."
Mitchell is an arrogant asshole, but he's not stupid. Pocketing the solid reverently, he leans back, glancing at Spock. "Can we have a moment, Commander?"
"No," Jim answers as the last planet falls beneath his ruthless fist. Saving, he flips it off, turning his head enough to bring both of them in view. "He stays."
"Ah, I forgot. Young love." Rubbing his nose, Mitchell directs an amused look at Jim. "How--traditional of you."
Swinging his legs down, Jim sighs. "This is a Constellation class starship and what I know, my first officer needs to know, possibly before I do. Now spit it out before I forget to give you the security code to open that game, and you'll spend the next month bitching about it over subspace while Uhura ignores you."
Mitchell's eyes narrow. "You really have to learn some tact, Kirk." He waits, though, until Spock's seated himself, terribly correct and a quiet rebuke to Mitchell's utter lack of say, good manners or hey, tact. "Fleet's ordering you to the Vulcan colony."
Jim blinks slowly. "Okay, I'm impressed. So far as I know, we're on route to Starbase 3 for some physicists."
"Took me some time to weasel it out of the admiralty. Try to act surprised." Glancing at Spock, he takes a deep breath, and God help them all, Mitchell's sincere. Jim feels himself tense. "Dr. Lyra Uloi of Starfleet Medical was requested to go to the colony three months ago to consult on some cases that have come up that are beyond the healers. She requested McCoy, but that order's been buried beneath about five tons of privacy regulations, so good luck hearing anything about it, ever. Don't ask how I know; I know everything."
Mitchell does, actually; 'Fleet brats may hate each other, but they keep in touch. "I believe you. I just don't see why they'd order the Enterprise--"
"Starfleet got itself into a mess," Mitchell says, with a faint look of disgust; if there's one thing he and Jim have in common, it's utter amazement at the hijinks of the admiralty. By rights, if they had carried on like this when they'd actually commanded ships, they really should have killed themselves in some incredibly stupid way their first year in command. "I was at 'Fleet when the entire thing came out," which is a nice way of referring to how Jim registered for domestic partnership three hours before a mission well on the other side of the galaxy, "and I know exactly how it was resolved. By the way, you never did thank me for my above and beyond reporting of events."
Jim rolls his eyes, fighting a grin. "I gave you that game, didn't I? Get it over with."
Mitchell glances at Spock again. "A motion just got passed by the Council. It's going through the usual rubber stamp process, but there's pretty much no chance it won't be passed. An exception is being added to the Federation individual rights charter. The Vulcan colony has requested a restriction be placed on the Free Choice Act." Mitchell pauses. "More specifically, the provisions of the Grayson Test are being challenged."
Spock stills; for once, Jim thinks blankly, something's actually struck him speechless. "On what grounds?"
"Pretty good ones, actually. It's being argued that when a species is depleted to the point of being in danger of extinction, measures that are acceptable for a robust population no longer apply. It even has a built-in time limit; they provided population growth projections for when the danger point will pass, three generations or one hundred years, whichever comes first." Mitchell takes out a data solid, giving it a faintly sickened look, before dropping it on the desk. "That's everything, including the Council debates, which were a joke. They spent more time arguing what to order for lunch."
Jim stares at the solid for a second. "How did they get it past the Grayson Test? The time limit wouldn't be enough."
"It's voluntary," Mitchell says grimly. "If you don't want to comply, fine, don't. But you lose colonial citizenship and potentially residence on the continent the colony is settled on. And there's the--" Mitchell looks at Spock again, then takes a deep breath. "They argue that a colony isn't a homeworld, and that losing colonial citizenship isn't the equivalent."
"Bullshit. There is no homeworld for the Vulcan people except the colony."
Mitchell inclines his head. "You're preaching to the choir, Jimmy. But it passed without a murmur. You know how it works; founding members--"
"Special fucking privileges. Son of a bitch." Jim forces himself not to look at Spock, keeping his own thoughts strictly in his head. "So they're ordering us to the colony to what, stare meaningfully at them in disapproval?"
"No. And yes, actually." Mitchell looks at Spock again, which is becoming both repetitive and worrying. "You see, there's one tiny, almost ridiculous provision that everyone was overlooking, right up until Lyra started calling for McCoy and everyone suddenly remembered the drama that is your personal and not very private life. The Vulcans did not like Starfleet mucking about in Vulcan custom and tradition, so they locked down your file under privacy regulations. And the only way they could do that--"
"You're kidding." Jim looks at Spock. "Did you know I'm a citizen of the colony?"
Spock does not look pleased to be called on being a secretive ass, apparently. "Captain--"
"You know," Jim says, crossing his arms, "I think this conversation could be improved by full disclosure of what, exactly, makes up the apparently much more complicated than I was led to believe privacy regulations that you quoted at me. I did my research, too, and I didn't see anything on there about colonial citizenship."
"Yeah. It's in the fine print." Mitchell grins, pleased with himself. "But it's there. De facto anyway; problem is, there's no way around you having it without agreeing that you no longer fall under the privacy regulations. And I would kill to find out what the hell happened that made an entire council of Vulcan elders twitch in unison at the very idea of it being scrutinized by Starfleet. Other than Vulcans, you're the only member of Starfleet who has citizenship in the colony. So you win the lottery for hideously awkward political situations. Congratulations; you always did have a flair for the dramatic."
Jim thinks later, he'll find this funny. "So they're sending me there to stare meaningfully in disapproval as a citizen? That'll be helpful. Seeing me would probably be enough for the entire population to support the measure en masse."
Mitchell's smile fades. "Maybe. I don't know. They want you there badly, badly enough that this order isn't even going to be seen by the Council before you're already there. Once McCoy is on the ground with Lyra, he can claim medical emergency and keep you there no matter what the Council says."
Jim leans on his desk, thinking. Starfleet Medical, Lyra, McCoy, medical emergency. "McCoy's not a telepath, and Lyra's specialty is telepathic--oh." Something in Jim freezes. "McCoy's not a telepath," he says slowly. "But he's a specialist now, from me."
"Lyra's patients are all non-Vulcans. Seems there's a rash of Vulcan interspecies divorce, Las Vegas style. Ten so far. They said it was voluntary, but Lyra can't get through to any of them, and privacy has been invoked, so we got jack shit. They're citizens--at least for now--so we were told quite politely to fuck off."
"It is unthinkable," Spock says, voice so controlled that Jim aches for him. "It is an obscenity. No Vulcan would interfere with an established bond."
"I don't know," Mitchell says, raising his hands defensively. "I'm telling you what I heard, and what Lyra's saying. The exception they're asking for doesn't mention involuntary separation and excludes currently existing marriages. And yet, since that resolution was approved by the Vulcan elders, there have been ten divorces of non-Vulcan spouses who won't respond to anything Vulcan healers can do. And I will say this--Lyra says they're trying their damndest to help. There's something wrong, Jimmy. There are five hundred and fourteen Vulcan interspecies marriages recorded in the Federation databanks, two thirds of them residing in the colony, and suddenly those went under privacy regulations as well. Including yours. We can't even get a database listing anymore."
There's no way to mistake that. "How long until the order comes?"
"Eight hours. You get it, you agree, you warp eight your ass to the colony. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Get McCoy to Lyra and get this declared a medical emergency so we can find out what the fuck is going on." Standing up, Mitchell drops a second data solid. "That's for McCoy, direct from Lyra, so he knows what he's getting into."
Jim licks his lips, staring at the data solids. "I owe you."
"Yeah, you do. Here's what you do to pay me back." Mitchell's back straightens, and the 'Fleet brat melts away. "Her name is Sarah Clemens, she's a xenobotanist, and she and her bondmate were off planet when Vulcan was destroyed. They moved to the colony two years ago with their kid. She's not among those ten yet. Make sure she's okay."
Jim nods. "You got it."
Mitchell nods roughly. "Gotta run. Thanks for the game." Turning on a heel, Jim watches the metamorphosis, the deliberate loosening of his shoulders and slight smirk, strolling out of the room with a leer at Uhura that she responds to with utter contempt; business as usual.
"I will take this to Dr. McCoy," Spock says, voice very steady. Jim nods as Spock picks up the data solid. "I will report--"
"Go, I got it." Jim finds himself staring at the other data solid. "I'll review this and see what happened."
"Very well." Spock leaves pretty much exactly as he came in; but for the first time since their entire mostly-marriage started, Spock is blocking him completely, and there's no one in Jim's head but himself.
"Captain?" T'Prina says, possibly several times, but Jim's not paying all that much attention. Brooding isn't something he enjoys, but that data solid had been really, really brood-worthy. "You seem distracted."
Jim looks at her blankly. "Yeah." Glancing around the bridge, Jim considers his options. He's actually not on duty and therefore shouldn't be hovering over beta shift, but there's really not much else to do. There's a report in his hand he's pretty sure T'Prina gave him to approve, and the possibility he's supposed to be reading it. "Shouldn't you be off-duty?"
T'Prina's expression reminds him she does not believe in off-duty. "I was completing--"
"Go meditate, or, I don't know, think Vulcanly thoughts. Jacobsen, you have the conn; call me if we receive any communiqués from Starfleet." Handing the datapad back to T'Prina, he goes to the turbolift and thinks of ten people in the colony who aren't responding to Lyra.
He's kind of thinking he can guess why now.
"Level--what are you doing?" T'Prina somehow slips through the doors as they close. "Go do something. I don't care what."
"You appear distressed," she says, eyebrow telegraphing disapproving worry. "Is your head injury--"
"It's fine. I'm fine." It's probably wrong to really want to project the actions of the Vulcan elders on a Starfleet cadet, but he kind of wants to anyway. She's the only one around and won't go away. His mental clock is counting down the hours; he has five left and he doesn't have a plan. He's not sure he has a coherent thought. "Computer, recreation deck."
T'Prina doesn't remark on the uselessness of recreation, which is pretty much the only good thing that's happened to him today. As the doors open, Jim notes several cheerful crewmembers and tries not to resent them, passing a hoverball tournament, the current interdepartmental zero-g basketball finals, and five people doing competitive meditation, which to this day Jim finds the most useless thing ever to be declared a sport.
The gym is in use, which is nice, because really, there's nothing like old-fashioned violence. "At ease," Jim says as the cheerful riot comes to attention at his arrival. Officially, the exercise is to improve security's teamwork, but basically, it's splitting into two groups and beating the shit out of each other. Three sit on the sidelines, looking regretful while icing down injured limbs--Jim does a count and makes an executive decision. "This department-only or can I play?"
Lieutenant Evans, head of ship security, snaps off a salute, smiling hugely. "My side, sir."
Stripping off his tunic, Jim feels himself start to relax for the first time since Mitchell left. "I'm in. Where were we?"
"Now," Jim says breathlessly, shifting his knee enough to keep the Tellarite second in command very comfortably pinned to the gym floor, "I'm not one to say 'I told you so' except when I am." Jim waits, keeping his breath careful and light, ignoring the tight stitch in his side and burn in his lungs and the fact he and the regenerator are going to be up close and personal real soon and it's totally fucking worth it. "What do we say when we want up, Ensign?"
He doesn't fight it; thank God. Jim really wants to collapse now, thanks. "Please." While the words muffled against the floor, Jim will forgive it. Bouncing to his feet, Jim watches him roll over slowly, eyes wide and possibly bruised. Jim extends a hand.
"Good job, Ensign," Jim grunts; holy God, how much does this guy weigh? Jim keeps his balance until he's on his feet, checking the remainder of Enterprise's security. To his surprise, there's no one left standing. Evans, stretching his left hand warily, salutes from the corner, looking happier than anyone who had a Gorn sitting on them five minutes ago should. "Anyone need medical attention?" Which is a stupid question; they all need medical attention. "Okay, rephrase that--everyone, sickbay. That was fantastic, and we're going to be feeling this tomorrow."
As they get to their feet, Jim crosses over to Evans, scanning him for injury; there's a faint bruising beneath his eyes and one cheekbone, but his dark skin makes it tricky to be sure when Jim can't quite make his eyes focus. Grinning, Evans wipes sweat from his forehead, twisted locks of dark brown hair escaping from the pony tail he'd adopted during practice. Though as tall as Spock, he's slim enough to give an impression of fragility, which is pretty unfortunate for those who don't pay attention to the alert, practiced movements of his body; even Spock can only put him on the floor seven times out of ten, which is pretty much the gold standard. "I knew you were good. Nice organization at the end there."
"Well," Evans says, squinting up at him, "I use missions with you as templates, sir."
"Sometimes it's not my fault," Jim says, extending a hand.
"But usually, sir, it is." Groaning softly, Evans lets Jim pull him up. "Remind me to get you to show me those Vulcan holds; Commander Spock volunteered, but there's something about the way he doesn't even break a sweat that's kind of discouraging. Speaking of, I have an hour on Fridays if you want to go over the Debian disciplines."
"You got your cert? Yes, done. Tell Rand; she'll make time." Limping slightly, Jim accompanies Evans to the door and blinks at the unexpected presence of T'Prina. "Cadet. What--yeah, go, Evans," he says as the lieutenant pauses. "I'll be up before McCoy can yell too long." As Evans leaves, Jim surveys the empty gym and thinks he'll be hearing from maintenance about that wall fairly soon. "What are you doing here?"
"I accompanied you," she says, staring at him, and maybe it's just exhaustion, but he can't read her at all. "Do you require medical attention?"
"Probably." It's the endorphins that are probably keeping him on his feet, but he'll take endorphins. He looks for his tunic for a second, then realizes T'Prina is holding it out. "Thanks. Do you have my communicator?" he asks, pulling it over his head.
T'Prina extends it, a faint line marring her forehead. "You should see Dr. McCoy," she says seriously as Jim emerges into the hall. "Your recent injury could have been aggravated by--"
"God, T'Prina, later." Flipping open the communicator, Jim says, "Uhura, you busy?"
In the background, there's a faint sound that could be anything, but is probably a sign she most definitely is. "Off-duty, Kirk," she says acidly. "And what--"
"Yeah, change of plans. My quarters, five minutes."
There's a thoughtful pause. "On or off the record?"
"Off. Bring a blank pad and a smile. Kirk out." Glancing at T'Prina, Jim considers what he's supposed to do with her. And why in the name of God she won't go away. "T'Prina," he says as the turbolift opens, "there's duty and then there's stalking."
T'Prina stiffens as she follows him into the turbolift. "Sir--"
Apparently, he's never gotten over being an ass. "Nevermind," he says. "I'm moody. Humans are, sometimes. We do that. Go have some fun or the Vulcan equivalent thereof, okay? Report to the conference room in about--" Jim calculates "--about two hours, twenty minutes."
"Yes, Captain," T'Prina says, looking curious. Vulcans are all about curious. Genetic. "Are you sure you do not require--"
"Yes." As the turbolift opens, T'Prina stays behind, for which he's forever grateful. "Bring a datapad," he adds as the door closes.
Uhura is waiting outside his quarters, and Jim takes in the starship-sprinkled pajamas and bare feet, long hair twisted back from her face in a messy knot, datapad beneath one arm. "We could have a slumber party."
She rolls her eyes, a motion she checks when she gets a look at him. "McCoy is going to kill you," she says conversationally as she follows him inside, already aiming toward the bathroom instead of the terminal. Jim sighs as she comes back with a wet washcloth. "All right, summarize."
Reaching blindly, Jim winces at the rough sweep of cloth over his cheek, grabbing the data solid from his desk. "Make a copy of this and read up; you have an hour. In two hours, eighteen minutes, we're going to the colony."
There's only one place that's 'the colony'. Uhura's hand hesitates, pulling back to look at a question.
"Yeah, it's bad," he says, looking at the blood-streaked cloth. "Read up and we'll talk."
Spock isn't in Sickbay, but McCoy unfortunately is in residence and looks up before Jim can convince Chapel to just give him the damn regenerator.
"What the hell?" Bones says, snatching the regenerator before Jim can make a run for it. "Sit the hell down and let me--what were you doing, fighting with security?"
"Should have known. They only end up like that when they want to impress you." Bones snaps the regenerator on with his thumb menacingly. "Funny how they forgot to mention that."
Jim smiles winningly. "Weird." Submitting with all the grace he can to the person fixing him up, Jim braces his hands on the biobed. "Chapel, I need a minute with his grumpiness."
Chapel gives him a sympathetic look, returning to whatever it is medical people do when they aren't saving lives--Jim's hazy on the details and prefers it that way. Asking once had ended up with him staring down a microscope at cell samples from his stomach lining, and he's really not into that. Bones gives him a scowl, but his fingers are gentle as he tips up Jim's chin. "Can you help Lyra?"
"Don't know yet." Stepping back, he picks up Jim's hand, studying the swollen knuckles before snorting and taking out a roll of gauze. "I hope so." McCoy's eyes stay firmly fixed on his hand with more attention than bandaging should really take. "How much longer?"
"One hour, forty-four minutes," Jim answers. "Uhura's reading up. I'll send her to you when she's reported back. This could mean we'll figure out what we're supposed to be doing. Though…"
Bones sets the seal on the gauze, waiting while Jim flexes his hand. "Though?"
"I wonder what excuse they'll use for the order to send us there," Jim says, meeting Bones' eyes. "After all, it's not like they can tell the truth. They don't know what I'm supposed to be doing, either."
Sliding off the bed, Jim feels Bones hand catch his arm. "You talked to Spock?"
"Aren't you the one that made me promise never to discuss my private life with you, ever? There was a blood oath involved." Jim starts to pull away, but Bones stops him, looking worried.
Jim dodges around him. "I gotta go," Jim says over his shoulder as he reaches the door. "Uhura's a fast reader. I'll see you in an hour forty-one. Be ready to report."
Spock finds him in his ready room--and God does Jim hate that name--having just finished the conquest of two more planets with five minutes to go. The couch was originally part of the diplomatic reception room, but the new diplomatic reception room was too small. This potential tragedy had been averted when the couch in here had suffered the effects two ounces of hydrochloric acid and required removal. It's incredibly comfortable. Jim doesn't plan on moving unless he has to.
As Jim sets up his campaign for the next system, the room blurs briefly--Jim's finger slips on the controller as the screen grows hazy, his attention shifting inward abruptly toward the empty place he's spent seven hours and fifty-five minutes pretending won't eventually drive him insane. The second shift is even stronger; Jim has an uncertain impression of two people talking in the low, even tones of Vulcans engaged in an actual argument (much more interesting from the inside than the outside), McCoy taking the data solid from Spock, Uhura joining them in McCoy's office after he'd told her what he needed her to do....
And the ready room door opens, bringing in an excess of unwelcome light. Sitting up, Jim cranes his neck. "Wow. So is that an apology for being an ass or just to give me a headache?"
Three minutes, Jim's mind reminds him helpfully. You don't have time to be a regency heroine right now.
"Lights," Spock says quietly as Jim drops the console (after saving; he's three-quarters through and he has a personal goal to beat this thing before they get to the colony). "Jim--"
"I was kidding about the headache." Standing up, Jim goes to his desk, picking up the datapad and turning back around. "I have McCoy and Uhura's preliminary analyses. Senior staff meeting as soon as we go to warp; I'm bringing Chekov and Sulu in on this."
Tapping the pad, Jim ignores the quickly-hidden sharpness of rejection buried beneath the platonic idea of a Starfleet officer; Jim hadn't really understood the sharp inequality that would exist, that will always exist between them in this. There's nothing about him that will ever be a mystery to Spock, no way to hide or block him, the strict ethics of a telepathic race his only protection; the same is not and will never be true for Spock. Jim's never needed to learn a lesson twice and this one had been crystal clear; it's just Spock's lot in life to give him the ones that are the hardest to learn. If he had ever needed the reminder, there are ten people in the colony's hospital to illustrate what happens when you forget.
Mentally compromised, Jim thinks ruefully. Even if he'd known, he still wouldn't have changed a thing.
"What are you orders, Captain?" Spock says coolly. If there's a rebuke in there, Jim decides he doesn't want to hear it.
"I'm sending you and Lieutenant Uhura with McCoy to the colony's hospital; find out everything you can about what's happened and why," Jim says, looking at the datapad; he thinks this is a report on their basketball inventory, but he can't be sure.
One minute, Jim's mind reminds him helpfully. This is not a plan. But it's the beginning of an idea. Setting the datapad aside, Jim takes a deep breath. "Spock--"
Abruptly, the terminal chirps. Jim stares at Spock; for a second, he thinks maybe he can just ignore it and all of this will go away.
God, this is how you start being a Starfleet Admiral. Jim leans back, turning his terminal enough for both of them to see; if Starfleet thinks he doesn't already know, they're even stupider than he'd thought.
Punching in his code, Jim leans his hip against the desk as Spock comes up beside him. "Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise," Jim says genially. "What can I do for you?"
The colony (official name, Epsilon Five One Three, M-Class, survey date 65440.12, USS Asturias, Captain Bradwick; Note: Kind of like Dune, but with an ocean. Vulcans might like it.) is just reaching their dusk when the Enterprise makes orbit; almost before their official greeters can stiffly ask them in very Vulcan terms if they would please go away, there's a message sent on the Starfleet emergency frequency. Uhura taps into it while Jim is still nodding at St'vok, who despite being a pain in the ass still manages to seem almost relaxed compared to the First Officer currently hovering behind Jim's shoulder and radiating general disapproval of something.
"The T'Van Medical Center has requested the services of Dr. Leonard McCoy," Uhura says when St'vok finally gives up trying to make any kind of headway in the face of Jim's utter lack of interest and Spock's blank stare. "They've requested Dr. McCoy's presence; details will be provided when an evaluation of the situation is completed."
Somewhere in Sickbay, Bones is hating everyone even as Chapel finishes packing their equipment.
"Tell them he's on his way; Commander Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, and Lieutenant Chapel will be accompanying him," Jim says. "St'vok, my apologies; regulations require the Enterprise to respond to any and all medical emergencies."
"Of course," St'vok answers stiffly; somewhere, someone is going through regulations right now trying to find one to contradict that. Good luck; if it existed, Spock would have found it. After a few more stiff pleasantries, Jim signs off, looking at his senior staff. "You have your orders," Jim says, wondering how he can possibly already be this tired. "Go forth and solve a mystery. Report every six hours; Mr. Spock will be coordinating your efforts; if you run into any problems, contact Spock or Uhura to get you out of them. I'll leave you to rot; my Vulcan is terrible."
There are some reluctant grins, probably to humor him. "Dismissed."
Getting to his feet, Jim's confronted by his first officer and T'Prina. "Spock," Jim starts, already seeing where this is going. "I'm going straight to the Ambassador's residence. I don't need an escort."
"I would prefer Cadet T'Prina accompany you, Captain," Spock answers; preference is code for 'and good luck getting out of this bit of flawless logic'. Jim looks between them, but two expressionless faces simply absorb all his illogical anger. "If you have no objections--"
Logical objections, that is. "T'Prina, wait for me in the transporter room," Jim says. As beta shift comes on duty, Jim waits until the turbolift is empty so he can have the privacy to be a total ass about this shit.
"What the hell do you think I'm going to do, Spock?" Jim says, evenly, calmly, irrationally angrily. "Wander around insulting your species for fun? I don't need a watcher."
"I would prefer to avoid any risks, Captain," Spock answers without a trace of interest in anything Jim has to say. "Your safety is paramount."
"And you think the Ambassador's own residence is going to be filled with random assassins--okay, I was being an ass, ignore that. But I know this isn't about my safety."
Spock stiffens. "Consider it a personal--favor. Allow Cadet T'Prina to accompany you."
Jim hesitates, trying to work out what the hell is going on. Something about being worried, yes, got that, but something much more complicated, with overtones of discomfort and resignation both. It's important, to Spock, not just to his first officer. Jim would fight the professional; there are no grounds for giving him an escort of a cadet. They have security for that. But the personal--
Spock's relief is worth it, though. "Come by when you're done at the hospital," Jim tells him.
"I intend to."
The turbolift doors slide open; before Jim can start to wonder at the flatness of the reply, Spock's joining Uhura and McCoy on the transporter pad and T'Prina is saying, "I understand that we are to meet Ambassador Spock, who is an alternate version of Commander Spock's future self. Commander Spock has stated you will provide a complete explanation of this paradox and the events surrounding it."