A/N: Great thanks go out to both Product of a Sick Society and bookworm01 for their wonderful suggestions. I'm going to try for K/S in this, but it will probably be really long in coming, so bear with me. If you ever think any part of the story is off in some way, PLEASE tell me so that I can fix it and make this stronger.
Mission Impossible Mode is my term for that super-focused gear that Kirk has when he has to solve the unsolvable.
Light pollution is an issue right now, what with star watchers suddenly not able to see anything, even in some deserts, because of the light of major cities. Noise pollution is also a problem. It doesn't seem that big a stretch to think of electrical pollution in space: too many electrons can create ions, which would lead to evolutionary issues that affected planets wouldn't have otherwise had to deal with.
Cookies to the person who gets the Pirates of the Caribbean reference!
Ok. The line breaks that I was originally using, *~*, were being erased by for some reason. I've replaced them with the nothing word .bdobd. ; hopefully this will solve any remaining issues. I've also changed some bits in the chapter to better match Spock and Jim's relationship at the end of Without Direction.
James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise, NCC 1701, rounded the hall's corner and nearly ran over two of his own crew.
He took a few steps backward and there was an awkward moment where they all tried to bow to each other on the same time. After a couple uneasy seconds Kirk gave up and smiled, thankfully, the crewpeople returned the grin and Jim continued barreling down the hallway.
He started to mutter uncharitable things under his breath about five minutes later: "Where is she? Stupid fucking forms, and then the freaking Base head's not even in her office – what's the point of a business office if the goddamned person's not there during business hours? What the fuck –?"
A light tap on his arm stopped him: Spock. The Commander was looking very un–distressed, so he was probably strangling himself over nothing again –
Jim sighed and turned to face the concerned half-Vulcan. "Yes, Commander?"
"You are… You appear to require assistance in locating Madam Tishri?"
'GoddamnedVulcansuperhearing.' Not his fault though. Jim sighed again.
"Yeah. She said she needed the one form, but now I can't find her." Starbase XI wasn't big by the Federation's standards, but its layout was as confusing as any one he'd ever been in.
Spock tipped his head to one side, and Jim had to suppress a grin. 'His ears are pointing to Orion Prime.'
"Today is a Thursday. It is possible that the Madam has her weekly meeting today with the managers of the stores in residency. I believe the meeting is to be conducted in room C4."
Wonderful, beautiful, perfect person, Spock, he was. Most useful goddamned creature alive. "Godsend. You. Are a godsend." Jim clasped Spock by his shoulders and gave him a slight shake. "Thank you."
Jim spun on his heel and marched off to meet whatever his destiny decreed lay in room C4. He swore that he could feel Spock being amused – not smiling, per se, but definitely amused – behind him.
C4 looked much like G7, the first room Kirk had dramatically burst into. But C4 was filled with merchants and a previously cheerful Tishri, who had become quickly un-cheerful as Kirk crashed into the room.
She actually winced when she saw him. "Can I help you, Captain?"
"Yes." Jim decided to ignore the awe-filled looks that now populated the room. "I have been trying to find this damn form since a week ago. I didn't even know it existed until two weeks ago, and that's because it hadn't even been conceived of yet. So I've been running around like a lunatic trying to find this thing, and your secretary didn't know what it was or where you were, so now I've found you, and I am here to ask you:"
Kirk leaned over the conference table and again ignored the prickly feeling on the back of his neck, the one that meant he was being stared at, "What is the 13-33.49 form, and how can I get it?"
Tishri was singularly unaffected by his dramatics. The woman'd seen all kinds of stunts before; this clearly did not impress her in the least. "That form was due two days ago, I can't –,"
Kirk's voice was rising steadily. "I sent my First Officer – Mr. Spock – my Mr. Spock couldn't find jack shit on this form! Spock! Found nothing! If it exists, Spock should have been able to get it!"
The Others in the rooms looked from the human to Tishri in a way disturbingly reminiscent of a tennis match. "It's a new form," Tishri explained, "it probably hasn't been posted yet –,"
"No shit! It's nowhere! How am I supposed to fill a form that doesn't exist in subspace!"
The Others were convinced, he could see it. "You don't understand," Tishri said slowly, as if talking to an exceptionally stupid child, "once you dock, you can't file the form. It's a Permission-To-Dock form."
"But I filed two of those!"
"Those were two different forms."
Kirk shook his head. "There are three now? Isn't two enough? Or, even better, could there be one big one that covered everything?"
"One's for the use of the area itself, and one's for the use of Base stores and facilities."
"So what's the new one for?"
"Use of Base personnel."
Kirk blinked at the Andorian. "The fuck? Don't the personnel come with the stores? Isn't that the point of working for a company? That you're part of the company, who therefore must take care of you? Wouldn't personnel be in the stores-and-facilities form?"
"Well, no. Not anymore. The Council ruled that since the employees have the same kind of mortality rate that the Base workers do, that the stores' employees have their own form."
Another blink. "So who pays the employees?"
"The stores do, of course."
Kirk closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Then what's this form for?"
Tishri looked around at the now-intent people ringing the table. She stood and dragged him into an adjoining room, and then peered suspiciously behind herself.
"You want the truth? It's a stupid fucking form."
"So Spock didn't need to –?"
"Damnit, I knew it! Perfectionist bastard tries too hard."
Tishri smiled slightly. "Good ones do, even on the stupid shit."
"Yeah." Jim sighed. "And he knows it's stupid. And he obsesses anyway. He's gonna hurt himself soon."
Tishri punched him lightly on the shoulder. "Hey, anytime he wants a new job…"
Kirk grinned and punched her back. "Back off, he's mine."
There was a short but pleasant lull in the conversation. Jim was loath to speak again, but it was kind of important… "So, the form?"
Tishri sighed. "You picked a bad one to miss. You can't fill it out when you ship's docked. I think it's to ensure that the First chair has time to look it over. I think."
"So, wait then. I'm docked. That is my state of being." Jim waved his hands in slow circles to indicate the totality of the statement, "Here is my position in the universe. How can I fill out the form it I'm on the Base?"
Kirk rolled his eyes. "Well, fuck, that's useful. How do I –,"
"You need to detach the Enterprise, fill out the form, send it in, and then hook back in."
A redock? "Bullshit."
Tishri sighed. "No, really."
Kirk shook his head. "But I can't do that, my crew's on Base. I can't just leave them here."
"It wouldn't be for that long…?" She seemed to know how Kirk would answer.
Redocking was infamously stressful for crew left on a Base. There were Academy horror stories of Captains flying off without low-performing crewman, leaving them stranded in Bases in far-flung quadrants for decades. Some of the stories were true: M. C. Ce'at was abandoned on Starbase LVII for almost twenty-five years before a passing cargo ship found him and brought him back.
"I will not do that. There's got to be another way."
Kirk was in full Mission Impossible Mode. "Then I'll make one." He flipped open his communicator. "Spock, get to room C4. I need a miracle."
"I can not promise anything as extraordinary as a miracle, Captain," came the dry reply. There was some rustling form Spock's end as he began to move.
"Your 'best shot's are as close to miracles as I've ever seen. It's about that stupid form."
The moving sounds stopped. "Form 13-33.49? You were able to locate it?"
"Not exactly. It's impossible to find unless you already know where it is." Jim smiled as he felt Spock raise an eyebrow in relief. Not that the Vulcan'd ever admit it, of course.
"Spock!" Tishri cried happily at the communicator. There was a looong silence from Spock's end, broken once be the sound of the lift doors opening.
Jim started snickering as Spock continued to not respond. Tishri's expression got flatter and flatter, and had turned wry by the time Spock peered cautiously into their little alcove. "Captain. You required my assistance?"
Tishri mock-glared at Spock, who ignored her. He'd gotten better at that since being on the Enterprise – he'd learned how to be obstinate from The Master, after all.
"Yes Mr. Spock. We've," Jim waved carelessly to Tishri, "found that form. It wasn't in the computer's databases yet, apparently it's too recent." He glared at the hybrid, "So there's no reason for you to beat yourself up for not finding it. It was impossible."
Spock blinked quietly at the blonde. "Is that all…?"
"No, now there's a logistical problem with filling the damn thing out."
Spock stepped inside the room, closing the door fully behind him. The unfortunate people Tishri had been talking to were half out of their chairs, trying to look like they weren't trying to peer around the irritatingly opaque door.
"What is the situation?"
'– and how can I help?' was the silent ending.
"The form can't be signed once the ship's docked," Tishri explained, "So you'll have to disconnect the ship, fill and file the form, and then reconnect."
"Which will not happen, because the crew's down here already," Jim added.
Spock nodded. "It would be unwise to perform a redock without the full complement on board. Is it necessary for the ship to be off of the Starbase, or for he command crew to be off of the Starbase, for the form to be completed?"
Tishri unclipped a PADD from her belt loop. "Here, lemme check." She had to scroll for a moment before answering. "The crew. Probably to stop redocking."
"Who is needed to be present for the form to be considered valid?"
" 'Captain, First Officer, and at least one additional member of the command crew'," Tishri quoted.
Jim frowned. "There can't be more than two members of the Command team of a docked ship off Base at any time during leave, to keep mutinies from happening…"
Tishri looked surprised. "Really? I thought it was to keep people from stealing the ships."
"If I may make a suggestion," Spock broke in, stopping the tangent, "I am both the First and Science Officers of the Enterprise. The Captain and I could pilot a shuttle off of the Starbase, fill out the 13-33.49 form, file it, and then fly back. It would fulfill all stated requirements for proper completion of the form."
Tishri and Jim both blinked for a moment. "… Well, yeah," the Andorian finally said, "that'd work too, I guess."
Jim beamed and clapped Spock on the shoulder, ignoring the Vulcan's raised eyebrow at he move. "See? I told you you were a miracle worker." He turned to the Andorian, "Can we borrow a shuttle? I don't want to get an eviction message from the Admiralty over this."
Tishri looked back to her PADD and scrolled a bit more. "Yeah, you can take shuttle G-71, it's not in use. Do you know where the shuttle bay is?"
"No," Jim said.
"Yes," Spock answered at the same time.
"Excellent!" Tishri crowed, "The lock code's NOVA in digits. You'll only need to fly about twenty miles out, I'm not gonna be too strident with you guys: I'm pretty sure you're not trying to invade the Federation."
"Thanks Tishri," Kirk called out as he turned to leave. "Come on Spock, let's get this over with."
The people Tishri'd been meeting with were about to die of curiosity, it was clear. Jim enjoyed their expressions in passing as he entered the hall and went about taking some gregariously wrong turns. He then realized that Spock was nowhere near him, and hurried quietly after the Vulcan, who'd turned in the exact opposite direction.
They got to the shuttle bay in about ten minutes, which was quite the accomplishment considering how big this damn Base was. Honestly, Jim doubled Tishri could've done this without getting lost at least once.
"Hey, how'd you know the way down here?" Jim asked as they strolled down the roses of transport pods, looking for G-71.
"I studied the layout of the Starbase XI extensively before landing." Spock paused considering before one particularly filthy pod before scrubbing softly at the side of it with his uniform sleeve.
Jim decided to ignore just how adorable that was. "Why'd you do that? Was there anything particular about this Base?"
Up went an Eyebrow. "Apart from the fact that we were to dock here?"
Jim flushed. "Well, yeah. I don't remember you usually checking into the layout of docking stations before…" his eyes widened. "Ah. Right. Got it."
The Vulcan nodded once and scrubbed again at the side of the shuttle. "After the incident with the Nahka Comentha at the Andorian station, it seemed prudent to study the location of major areas of the Starbase."
"Makes sense." Jim stepped up beside Spock. "What're you scratching at?"
"I believe this craft to be G-71, but I am hesitant to attest to this without confirmation."
The human turned and walked to the shuttle's entrance. "Why not just test the lock code? Every one's different."
Spock blinked. "That… would be a more efficient way of proceeding, yes."
Jim tapped '6682' into the keypad, and the door slid open with a hiss. He turned to Spock with a grin, who nodded his concession. The two of them stepped carefully into the shuttle.
While the hull was caked with dirt and debris, the interior wasn't too bad. There were some PADDs scattered about, and some styluses, but that was the whole of any mess.
Spock picked up one of the PADDs with interest. "This shuttle was last used by a team testing the strength of the Tellaritian communications system."
Jim snorted and sat down in the pilot's chair. "Busy work, if every I've heard of it. Why bother? It's the strongest in the Federation, most everyone uses it. The Enterprise is the only ship in the Fleet that doesn't, actually."
The Commander placed himself in the copilot's seat and began testing all of his instrumentation. "Indeed. But, as you know well, to maintain optimum levels of performance, constant testing and modifying is necessary."
Jim nodded. "True, true. You think I should comm Bones, or just try and get this done quickly?" He flicked a switch and the shuttle sputtered to life.
Sock finished sending Base engineering a message to open the bay doors before replying. "I believe that leaving the Doctor a message would be prudent, to lower the chances of your disappearance causing him undue distress."
"Makes sense. I'll do it once we get out of the bay, the reception in here sucks." Jim ordered to shuttle to fly to the third set of exit hatches, which it did with a relieving ease.
"Shuttle G-71 in position to exit," Spock told his controls. The recording was sent to the engineering deck, who quickly opened the hatch.
The airlock doors slammed shut behind the shuttle before the hatch opened, the vacuum of space sucking the small craft from the Base with the usual strange yawning/popping sound that reverberated throughout the pod.
Jim waited until the initial momentum from the exit had slowed slightly before revving the pod's impulse engines. The resulting readouts revealed why the pad hadn't been in operation: the old machinery, while impressively quiet, was irritatingly inefficient.
"Damn it," Jim muttered. Spock looked up from his update to the Base engineers and raised an eyebrow in inquiry. "These engines suck. It'll take us a good hour to get out twenty miles without fuming enough to require a report."
Fuming wasn't an exact term; the pollution it referred too was mostly light and electrical; only a small amount of it was gaseous. In an effort to increase efficiency the Council had instituted a policy that said that if you were within fifty miles of a docking site – whether you, yourself, actually planned on landing – you couldn't emit more than 65 units of pollution.
The legislation had worked well, except for the fact that no one had thought of a way to clear out off of those old, inefficient models. And since fuming increased exponentially with speed, this particular pod was really only allowed to go a little less than twenty miles an hour.
The blonde flopped back in his chair with a sigh. "Well, we'll be here for a while." He reached for his comm, "I'm gonna call Bones. Can you call up that form? Tishri should've sent it by now, I'll send it back as soon as we get out twenty miles."
The Vulcan nodded and by the time Jim'd finished his call to Bones – who thought the whole fiasco was hilarious – the offending form was glowing cheerfully from Spock's PADD.
Kirk made short work of the form – wasn't a big one, it just needed two signatures – and set it to send automatically in half an hour. Swiveling back to his First officer, he saw that Spock was sitting quietly at his terminal, politely being bored.
Jim frowned. That wasn't right. He turned back to his terminal and called up the nearest public frequency. At least they could watch something while they were sputtering about.
Spock turned towards him as the main screen crackled to life. "Captain?"
"No reason for us to be bored, might as well catch up on," Jim gestured towards the main screen, which was still establishing a connection, "something."
The Commander raised an eyebrow, but didn't otherwise comment. He leaned an elbow against his terminal to keep his chair from rebounding back to his instruments. "What frequency is this?"
"Ahhh… Channel 60, subcode 72-8.12. It's coming from Terra."
Spock took his PADD back and did a quick search of the channel database, "It is a public news show airing from Paris."
"Political talk show then." Jim leaned back and stared blandly at the supremely uninteresting static that still played across the main screen. He caught Spock cocking his head in a query from the corner of his eye.
"All of the major political commentary stations are shot from Paris. It's where the Federation President's headquarters are, so they can get dibs on anything that's going on in the executive branch."
Spock nodded. "Logical." The Vulcan looked at the static that was still on-screen. "This is an unusual amount of interference for an interplanetary broadcasting station."
"I know." Jim leaned forward and called up the channel information again. "Well, our sensors suck, for one thing… and – Here, wait, I got it. There's a stronger frequency coming from around the same place."
Filtering out a weak station from a set of two channels coming from the same place did not a happy communications sensor make. Honestly, they were lucky the old machinery hadn't overheated.
"Why would two channels both of Terran origin be of differing strengths? I had believed the United Earth Commission's Rules of Equality to extent to public broadcasts."
"They do. The UEA's whole 'optimal and equal' shtick is supposed to be across the board. The only thing I can think of is that there're two different companies hosting the two different channels. I'm pretty sure that's not allowed, though."
The channel was established with a sudden noisy crackle. The screen cleared a dark-haired human woman with light eyes talking to the camera. She had clearly been incensed by something.
Zara-Beth Nowmi was talking angrily at the camera, trying to get her point across. The most irritating part of it all was that no one could be sure how many people actually saw today's broadcast, because of the stunt the UAE had pulled.
"–and it was only today that the United Asian Emirates deemed it proper to inform the United Earth Commission of their now almost fifteen year contract with Valpac!"
She sighed and stopped to explain, "Valpac is the Tellaritian company that hosts most of Starfleet's long distance channels. They're widely praised for their high quality work, and the United Earth Commission has been trying to get a planetary contract with them for the past six years, all attempts of which have been epically unsuccessful.
"But now it happens that the Asian Emirates have had a contract with them the whole time! This is in blatant disregard to United Earth rules, which say that all countries are to be 'optimal and equal in all ways'. It is the slogan and the United Asians are part of the agreement, and they've violated it.
"The contract is to expire tomorrow, so the United Earth's got, practically, less than a week to decide what actions to take. Either they can demand a full retraction of the contract – which would be pretty useless, as it would have expired by then – or they can ask for an identical contract to be extended to the entirety of the planet Earth, or they can do nothing. Precedence is to –,"
The camera blinked off. Zeb stared at it blankly. Why…?
One of the show's interns, T'Panya, came striding in. The Vulcan woman had been on Terra so as to observe unofficial human communication, which was notoriously difficult for non-humans to 'get', when the Narada attacked. She'd decided to stay on as a technician instead of traveling back to the Colony.
She'd said that she'd like to work in Nowmi's office specifically because of her 'clear and well organized' broadcasts. The Vulcan'd been shocked (Nowmi assumed, it was hard to tell, really) to find that behind the scenes the office was hectic by Tellaritian standards.
She now looked about as angry as she ever did: not very. The Vulcan halted in from of the anchorwoman's desk and bowed shallowly from the waist. "The United Asian Emirates' frequencies are too strong for a coherent signal to be transmit. There is no logic in continuing the present broadcast."
T'Panya was being typically blunt, and it always managed to rub Zeb the wrong way. "This is according to…?"
"Misters Sarab and Stevens, Ms. Nowmi," T'Panya recited.
Damn. Sarab was the floor manager; if he didn't think it was worth it, then the signaling connections must be on fire, or something equally catastrophic. Stevens was his assistant, and was just as stubborn. "Right. When can we begin shooting again, does anyone know?"
"Estimated repair time is four days if conditions are ideal. Allowing for an average error rate in either machine or personnel performance, the repairs will take six days."
One of the biggest downsides about having a Vulcan technician was that you couldn't' swear in from of them (her), as they (she) would then make you describe the precise definition of everything you'd just said.
"Can we order a replacement part?"
"Yes. It would take a Standard week to arrive."
Zeb gritted her teeth, and T'Panya suddenly looked surprised (sorta), and then chastened (a bit). "I am sympathetic to any emotional distress this news has caused you. Shall I go to fetch Nala?"
Zeb winced. Nala was the human intern. "No, it is all right. It is not your fault. When can we shoot again?"
"Broadcasts are not scheduled to commence until after the Frequency Equality Agreements have been negotiated and signed."
"What?" Zeb shot out of her seat and began to pace cagily behind her desk. "That's what we need to cover, that's too important to just skip until our cameras decide to work again! Can't we just film in another studio?"
T'Panya shook her head. "It is not the cameras that are our main obstacle in broadcast, it is the strength of the Valpac's frequencies. They are drowning us out."
Zeb thought various horrible things about no one specific. "Damn it. Why are they so strong now? They've had these channels for years, why's it now that they're so huge?"
"It is not clear as of this moment, but apparently there are increased communications within the United Asian Emirates."
"They're talking more? That's it? But –,"
"Similar issues have occurred before. The aftermath of the Narada Incident was also witness to a breakdown of communications, but that was blamed on Earth's faulty infrastructure."
Zeb turned from pacing to face the tech. "Is there anything we can do?"
The Vulcan shook her head. "All of our holovisual broadcasting frequencies have been affected by the Valpac channels. There is no way to contact every member of our customary audience, even if we were to publish the show online. It would still have to travel through subspace."
Zeb sighed. "Alright. I'm going to go wash up. I'll see you tomorrow at noon, Sarab'll want a meeting."
T'Panya nodded. "Yes, Ms. Nowmi. Shall I call Nala?"
"Nah, I'll be fine. G'night, T'Panya."
"Peace and safety, Ms. Nowmi." The woman bowed once more, then left.
Zeb trudged heavily into her dressing room and flopped down into a chair before her mirror. She began scrubbing at her face mechanically, thinking over the show's new schedule. There were guests to call and apologize to, segments to be cancelled, graphics to be deleted…
She leaned forward and poked critically at the skin under her fashionably light eyes. Dark irises had been the norm for holovid commentators for decades – easier to read the expressions, to tell where the people were looking – until the Narada and Kirk came along.
Zeb's eyes had a tendency to look totally different colors from day to day, which had the admittedly amusing consequence of causing multiple conspiracy theories to pop up, to the effect that there were actually 3+ nearly-identical Zara-Beths, which were switched off nightly.
There were bags on her face, she just knew it. Too many nights up watching Council hearings, drinking to stay awake…
The human tilted her head back and smiled wanly at the mirror. Oh well. 'It's too late now, anyway.'