Rating: PG-13 (possibly R in later chapters)
Pairing/Character(s): Jim/Bones, Uhura/Spock, Pike, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty; past Jocelynn/Bones; background Trip/T'Pol, Sulu/OFC
Length: 25,050 (WIP)
Warnings/Spoilers: AU Star Trek: 2009, with a dash of TOS and ENT; language, minor character death
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights. It wouldn't be worth the cost to sue me anyway.
Summary: It's 2028, and four years ago the most terrible space disaster in history took place. As a result, NASA is winding down its manned flight program - permenantly. But there are other groups out there not willing to let the Space Age end on this note. This is the story of Jim Kirk and the years he's spent trying to get back to the stars.
"In ancient days, men looked to the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations.
In modern days, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood."
Richard Nixon in a speech prepared in the event of Apollo 11's failure
Kirks, everybody knew, died in fiery, effervescent bursts of brilliance – human supernovas, momentarily bright, capturing the world's interest, and quickly forgotten. That and that reason alone was how Jim had known that he'd not die during the so-called Triple Six disaster. A death like that would have been cold, a three-way race to see whether they ran out of oxygen first, suffocated on the resultant carbon dioxide instead, or froze when the heating units failed.
Well, that, and he'd always known he'd die alone. But that was just a Jim thing.
Thursday, 14 December, 2028 (L-216 days)
Jim stopped dreaming five years ago. This had used to bother him – because, when he only slept three hours a night, he'd a lot of time to worry about why he couldn't sleep – but he'd given up on worrying about it after Orion 6. He'd not wanted to sleep for a long time after that. Besides, there were some fairly decent movie channels he could fill hours with on the nights Sistine refused to run sims with him.
"Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong you must try."
Movies at night, sims during the day, and a random trips to Tobago and Paris (to practice diving and visit the stockholders respectively) here and there weren't a bad way to spend his time, though. Sure, it mightn't be space, but he'd be there again soon, and, once he's up there, it won't matter that he barely sleeps, because no one can sleep for more than a few hours at a time in space. It's partially the alien environment, partially the excitement, and more than a little of the noise, but his insomnia would hardly be out of the ordinary.
Maybe he'll even be able to dream again once he's up there. God knows the only time he's felt alive have been those three missions, even Orion 6, as fucked up as that was. The others... they all got out of the astronaut business real quick, and only Ann Mulhall remained in military at all, manning a desk over in San Diego. But Jim... even if they hadn't offered him a command and even if that mission hadn't taken them to the moon, he would have stayed. Space was the only place he'd ever belonged...
"Now, when you read," the movie continued, "don't just consider what the author thinks. Consider what you think. Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. The longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all."
He heard Bones' bed squeak as the man shifted underneath his pile of blankets. Jim fumbled about his own for the remote and turned the TV down father, not wanting to wake the doctor.
The choice to recruit Dr. McCoy had been a fairly easy one, made over six months before they'd actually pulled him out of a bar in St. Louis. There had been some debate in the beginning about whether to pick up a military or civilian doctor to be their flight surgeon, but Jim had put his foot down for McCoy. As Chief Procurement Officer for Aquarian, it was his job to research potential hires. Most the others had come on long before he'd joined up, but he'd picked out more than a few good people who had the training and dedication necessary to make this mission work. Chekov. Rand. A GUIDO and pair of FIDOs with names he could never pronounce that he just calls Cupcake, Muffin, and Strudel.
He'd have fought for any one of them, but Bones had been something of a special project, even before he'd been christened Bones. He knew the others were sceptical of choosing a neurosurgeon. Depending on the political situation and how things went at the Shackleton Base, it could be years before any other teams could join them on the Moon, let alone any other medical professionals. But Jim had done his research. They needed someone he felt with a background in surgery should the worst happen, and if that background included some dabbling in oncology and pathology, so much the better. Who knew what exactly would happen to their bodies after a year, two years, ten years in space? And when he'd found the man had psychiatry degree too...
Well, McCoy was the perfect candidate for the job; the only reason they'd not recruited him sooner was because, by the time they'd settled on Bones, he'd just taken Bryan Richardson on as a patient and they dared not touch him. Not while he was involved, however peripherally, with the Georgian senator. Robert Richardson was just too close to Boian Ayel, who in turn was a bosom buddy of Sigismondo Lombardi and, well, they hadn't nicknamed the head of Romulus and Sons' Nero for nothing.
Pike and Jim had figured that, as soon as Bryan's surgery was over, they'd be able to pull their normal recruiting spiel on McCoy. Aquarian Aeronautics, after all, was a real company (a subsidiary of the Tucker Manufacturing empire that did a lot of concept work on supersonic aircraft for the government), and really did need doctors to make sure that the things they designed wouldn't kill anyone. Usually they pulled the mark in for an interview and, if things looked promising, dosed them with truth serum to make sure they weren't government spies, and then, if they checked out, offered them a place in Aquarian or one of its sister companies.
Bryan Richardson's unexpected death and the four-month media free-for-all that followed had put a distinct crimp in their plans, however. Approaching McCoy openly would have led to too many eyes on Aquarian. If he hadn't left Athens when he did, if they hadn't managed to track him down in St. Louis, time constraints would have forced them to go with another flight surgeon. Jim hadn't liked many of the other choices, not after seeing Bones' CV (and especially not after seeing the good doctor on TV, but that was something he had most assuredly not mentioned in his official dossier), and neither had Pike. The closest they'd come to an alternative was Sistine, but she'd (vocally) preferred to remain where she was – something about finishing medical school now that she'd an actual way to pay for it...
"Thoreau said most mean lead lives of quiet desperation, don't be resigned to that. Break out."
The bedsprings groaned again.
Jim turned off the TV.
"Go back to sleep, Bones," he whispered. "At least one of us should get some rest."
Friday, 6 September, 2024 (T+ 100:35:10)
"You're supposed to be sleeping Major."
"Ann, love, darling, light of my life, how many times have I told you to call me Jim?"
Almost serenely as she slid into the couch to his right, "If I didn't know any better, Major Kirk, I'd think you wanted to see how long it would take your balls to drop in zero-g." The threat, "Because that's where they'll end up if you try flirting with me one more time," remained unsaid.
"In the name of science, Commander Mulhall? Anything."
Her laugh was like bells, and it was for that reason and that reason alone he kept flirting with her. Ann was over twice his age and rather happily married (not that would normally have stopped him anyway), but she had always seemed too serious to him when they were training – in a very kick-ass sort of way – and never laughed. She'd scarcely even smiled. Jim had decided it was his job, as pilot and second-in-command, to remedy this. That, plus the fact that Piper and Terrell's chains weren't half as fun to yank.
"We'll have to find time to work it into the experiments then," she said when her laugher finally subsided, pulling out a check-list from her polo pocket and proceeding to record the enviro and nav readings. As far as Jim had been able to discern, she did this once or twice a day solely for her own benefit. It was weird, but, then again, that was Ann for you.
He turned away from the commander, back towards the windows and the view of the Earth spinning beneath them. The Pacific was currently spread out beneath them... and, beyond, the blackness of space. It was impossible for him to turn away for long. Even if Orion 3 hadn't permanently fucked up his sleep patterns, he'd not have been able to sleep. Not with this view.
"I'd have thought you'd be on the station," Ann said a few moments later, her notations complete and check-list back in her pocket. "The Cupola, after all, has a better view."
"Yeah, but apparently J. M. and the Russian woman, Matryona, have set up their camp in Tranquillity... I offered to join them-"
Jim ignored the barb, "-but they said something about it being an all-girls module or something else ridiculous and straight out of high school. They'd probably make an exception for you though, seeing as your balls are all metaphorical, if you wanted. I got a glance before they shut me down – it's once hell of a view."
"As I plan to sleep, not sightsee, I think I'll be fine right where I am... Though I probably won't be turning in for a while yet."
"Just coming up to check on me?"
"You are the youngest on the mission. Hell, you're barely older than my son."
"It's my second spaceflight, Ann. I think I know what I'm doing."
"What can I say? The maternal instinct dies hard..." and it was only because Ann really thought that, not that he was far too young for his rank or job, that he didn't push the subject. God knew it pissed off more than a few of his contemporaries on the ground. "If you really can't sleep, Captain Decker came over with Mayor Kotko. We were planning on discussing some things for tomorrow's EVA while-"
And then the shuttle shuddered.
It was quieter, gentler than the teeth-jarring quakes of take-off, almost completely unnoticeable over the hum of the equipment working to keep the them alive in this most inhospitable of places. It was almost unnoteworthy, except for the fact that it had caused nearly every warning light on the console in front of Jim to light up instantaneously.
Then there was a deep, metallic groan, and all the warning lights cut out. (This was, it would turn out, only natural, because all the electricity on the ship had suddenly quit, leaving the shuttle powerless. It would take them almost two hours to get the back-ups online and another day to realize that, even then, things were much, much worse than any of them could ever have imagined.)
Thursday, 14 December, 2028 (L-216 days)
He gave up trying to sleep after an hour or so and, dressing quietly, had ended up where he usually did on mornings like these when the cable was out or there weren't any decent movies on: in Pike's office, curled up on the couch in there (having learned long ago better than to touch the chair), with his nose in a book.
At first it had amused him that, in this age of electronic readers and mini computers, Pike had felt the need to fill his office with paper books. Only after borrowing one did he understand... the feel of the paper, the smell of the glue... things far more real than the zeros and ones that made up digital copies of the same books. The digital could be erased, after all, but books, real, physical books, they were forever. And Jim liked that. Even if some of the newer readers reminded him of something straight out of a science-fiction (and there was nothing quite like reading a SyFy novel on an ultra-modern reader).
Many things about Pike amused Jim, though, if pressed, he'd be hard put to say why. Key among them being that, for all he knew, logically, that Pike was a war hero and had flown in nearly major operation in the Middle East from Enduring Freedom to Zulfiqar, Jim could not for the life of him imagine the man actually being in the military. He didn't honestly know why, but figured it had something to do with the fact he honestly liked Pike whereas he'd found the vast majority of his contemporaries insufferable idiots who were only officers by virtue of a diploma and not any degree of skill on their parts.
Then again, he and Pike had had very different careers in the military.
Sure, Jim had flown A-10s and B-2s and T-42s in the Caucasus, but after less than two years of that NASA had picked it's first new class of astronauts since 2009 – The Lucky Thirteen they'd called themselves. After that, it'd all been survival training and simulators and an advanced degree in aeroscience to go with the distance one he'd gotten while overseas. His promotions had come with each successful mission: he'd made major after Orion 3, lieutenant colonel after the mess of Orion 6, and, while in orbit of the Moon, the president had made him colonel. He'd been in the Air Force for six years. It was a precipitous rise and, had things not gone sour, might've had him wearing stars before his twenty-fifth birthday. Either way, it had sure as hell hadn't made him many friends outside the astronaut service. But that was okay because, for those last four years, the astronaut service had been his life. His family. What other people thought hadn't mattered. Until, well, it had, and he'd been cashiered out faster than you could say government cover-up.
Pike though, his service had been different. He'd flown everything there was to fly everywhere there was to fly it, doing so long after most men had moved on to desk jockeying. He was in the Air Force for eighteen years, only retiring when they threatened to promote him further. And if his own progress through the ranks had been on the rapid side, no one had much minded, as it was more than obvious to even his detractors that Pike deserved it. Jim had even heard it said that, had the country been fighting a real war while Pike was in service, he would have been the Air Force's answer to Daniel Daly, but, deprived by circumstance alone, he'd managed to come out of nearly two decades of service without a Medal of Honour. This wasn't to say that Pike was looking to be martyred, but he was the type of man who, in another day and age, would have held his position with intrepidity far beyond the call of duty, even if it had meant his own death, and would have succeeded in encouraging whatever men he'd with him to do the same.
Perhaps the reason then that Jim couldn't picture Pike in the Air Force was because they'd served in two fundamentally different militaries, and Pike's was the real one.
That being said, it had always amused him that the Stockholders had chosen Pike to head up their plan to clandestinely send people to the Moon, again, for no particular reason, only that, at first glance, he didn't seem like the type to head up an underground movement. But no, apparently Trip – which was to say Charles Tucker the Third, the man who'd taken his father's modest manufacturing business and turned it into a Fortune 500 company within seven years of taking charge, and who'd been on the Board of Trustees for both Lockheed Martin and Thales Alenia long before he made his first million on the sole basis of his engineering expertise – had insisted that Pike head up Aquarian. Together they'd enticed Scotty away from some experimental hypersonic plane design at Northrop Grumman. T'Pol – which was to say Tal al-Polana, Trip's wife and founder of Durandal Security Services, who could probably kill a person seven different ways with the contents of her pockets alone if she wanted to and, luckily, rarely did, being rather of the opinion that violence was the last refuge of the incompetent – had added Spock to the mix, and together they, along with Richard Barnett of Starr Industries and a couple of others, had started the companies that would serve as cover for their Moon mission.
Jim was sure that they had had perfectly good – and, if he knew T'Pol at all, logical – reasons for choosing who they did, but the idea of Pike, Scotty, and Spock sitting around a table in a Boston café trying to figure out how to build a base on the Moon without the government noticing just gave him laughing fits.
But maybe that was just the lack of sleep.
Friday, 6 September, 2024 (T+ 105:05:22)
Mark glanced at his watch. The shuttle Constitution's mid-bridge was barely lit and, in the dim twilight, the glowing LCD face was like a flare. "It's just after nine universal standard. That makes it what? Three in Houston? They've got to have realized something's gone wrong by now."
Half-buried inside a panel at the other end of the cabin, Mayor Kotko laughed. At least, that's what it was supposed to have been. Instead, it came out as a hacking cough. The others pretended not to notice it, all of them but Mark, their flight surgeon, but he knew as well as the rest of them that Alexis wouldn't – couldn't – be pulled from his repairs, no matter how sick he might or might not be. None of them knew why the shuttle's back-up systems hadn't come on automatically when the mains failed or why the mains had failed in the first place (Later, they would realize this was because their mains had been tied into the station when they'd docked twelve hours earlier. When the station had lost power, the umbilical had drawn out every last kilowatt hour from the shuttle, trying futility to keep the ISS's systems going. It had happened so fast, the computer had never had time to switch to auxiliaries...), only that, whatever the reason, they were running on auxiliaries now. Alexis, the station's engineer, was still working on fixing them. Their own, Clark Terrell, had been on the ISS...
"Da," Alexis said when the fit passed, "but the computers, including the comms, are still down. If they're sending us anything, we're not receiving. I'm still not reading anything from the station either."
Decker frowned. "Matryona would have sent something by now if she could."
"Lieutenant Terrell is not as familiar with the station's systems as Mayor Kotko," Ann reminded him, trying to be reasonable. They were doing everything in their power to get the shuttle operational, id est, waiting for Alexis to get the computer up and running so they could try to analyse the data and figure out what had happened. "If the same thing that happened to us happened to them, it may take them longer to repair their systems."
They went back and forth like this for a while, Ann Mulhall and Will Decker. The frantic rush to get power back was over. The frantic rush to to solve whatever had gone wrong couldn't begin until Alexis had the computers back online. They couldn't talk to Houston, the Russians in Korolyov, or even the station right next door. All in all, it created a feeling of impotence that Jim was doing his best to avoid by hanging out in the cockpit and sending the occasional sympathetic glance down to Mark, who was the only person Jim could see well without craning his head.
It seemed like ages, but eventually Alexis got the computers back online (the power drain that had killed their mains had fused several circuits in what would come to be discovered as a fatal design flaw in the Orion orbiters. It became part of the reason Congress wanted to shut the missions down and, if they'd planned on building new ones, Jim would have agreed wholeheartedly. Nevertheless, it was amazing that Alexis was able to fix the shuttle at all, let alone make it flight-worthy.) And then it was a frenzy of activity as everyone was trying to figure out what the hell had happened, how to fix it, and, better still, if the station could help (but, of course, they couldn't. The sealing around one of the windows in the Cupola had been damaged and, stressed by the constant heating and cooling the station experienced in orbit, it soon failed.
(Decompression of the entire station took place in less than a minute.)
Thursday, 14 December, 2028 (L-216 days)
He gave up trying to read after a while and settled for staring at the ceiling. This, too, wasn't so unusual. Usually he was good at ignoring things – things about his past, mostly, that he knew damn well had fucked him over, thank you very much, and that he most certainly did not plan on doing anything about, because it wouldn't do any more fucking good than a fifth of tequila and a halfway decent movie, - but, sometimes, things just hit him and he became haunted by the memories of things he could not change...
Jim did his best to ignore these memories, or laugh them off when they were brought to light. But things always got rough this time of year, for all the usual reasons. Hanukkah had started the night before. Christmas was coming up. Sam had died eight years ago today in Azerbaijan. And Gary's interview and the subsequent Challenger sim (and what the fuck was the point of that?) last week hadn't been any help at all.
And, of course, since he'd done the disappearing thing last week, so he'd not be able to get away with it again until, oh, his birthday at the earliest, so he'd have to suffer through the day sober.
It was eight months 'til launch, luckily, and there was a lot still to do. He, Pike, Scotty, Spock, and Bones were scheduled for LVT sims all morning. There was work to do in the mock-Lunar Base (which no one had come up with a good acronym for yet, so he called it Henry just for the twitch it almost caused Spock's left eye) in the afternoon, some muddling about with the aeroponics that they couldn't put off any longer, so it wasn't like he'd have time to think about things then. But now, waiting for morning, he had too little to distract him...
God, he wished he'd thought this far ahead last week.
Luckily, the click-clack of heels in the walkway distracted him before he found himself, against his will, dragged further down the line of thought that started with Sam's death and ran back five generations of Kirks who'd all just lived long enough to father sons too young to remember them.
"Uhura!" he called, jumping up from the couch and poking his head out into the hallway, "Uhura, love, darling, light of-!"
She practically hissed in frustration, the sound echoing on the concrete as she came into view at the end of the curving hall. "Kirk, look, I don't have the patience to deal with your idiocy right now." Rather than wearing her usual flight suit and sensible shoes, she was in this blood red sweater dress that, while high at the collar and long in the sleeves, ended several inches above her knees. In difference to the weather, she'd some sort of thick black tights on and a high-heeled boots, but, still, it was an outfit that was obviously intended to turn somebody's head. From the scowl she was sporting, Jim guessed it wasn't him.
But still. "I was going to ask," he told her as he stepped out of the doorway, allowing her to come in and promptly start riffling through the papers on Pike's desk, "how you managed to walk in four inch heels, but now I think I'd rather know who you're going to meet at this hour dressed like that. Please say it's your super hot college roommate."
Jim knew it was bad when she didn't even roll her eyes at him. "I got a call from the office," (the office is what they called the Aquarian Aerospace headquarters in Iowa City, out of which the people at the IRS thought they worked), "and apparently the AFSPC decided that they needed to move up our presentation on the X-63 by three weeks. And, of course, that means I have to run up there now and finish the presentation I've only been working on for five months in less than five hours if we don't want them to pull the contract. Please tell me you've seen the specs for the X-63 in here and that I don't have to go searching through Scotty's mess to find them."
He pouted but went over to Pike's desk anyway. It may be Pike's office (it was certainly his desk), but Jim had staked a claim to the couch in the corner for so long that it was practically his office too. The upshot is to this is that he knows exactly where everything is (though he still hasn't figured out the shelving system Pike uses and), though does leave him feeling rather like Pike's secretary at times. He opened one of the bottom drawers and, after a moment, found the appropriate binder. He handed it over and she began flipping through it immediately, checking to make sure everything she needed was in there. "So I guess this means that Pike and Scotty won't be here for the LVT sims?"
"We'll need Pasha too..." she added distractedly.
"Well. Huh." So long as Sulu and Spock didn't have to go up to Iowa City too, he figured they could do some of the work in Henry that they'd been planing for this afternoon, but still. There went his plans for not thinking today.
At this, Uhura looked up and gave him this look that was such a perfect mix between disgusted and amused that it really should be patented. After a moment, it softens, and she said in a very light tone, "I'm sure you and your doctor will be able to find something to occupy your time."
Jim's brain actually disconnects for a moment after she said this. When he finally managed a haughty, "I've no idea what you're talking about," it's a step to late and Uhura's smiling like the cat who caught the canary.
"Sure you don't, because you've only been talking about him from the moment you picked up his file-"
"That-" was part of his job. He was the Chief Procurement Officer and it was his job to procure people for the office. And that sometimes involved talking to others about the people he was procuring, well, it just meant he couldn't separate his work from everything else. But what else was new?
"-and flirting outrageously with him since the moment he arrived."
"I flirt. It's what I do. You-" know that.
"And you took him with you when you pulled one of your disappearing acts."
"He needed to learn how to dive!" Jim protested, beginning to feel flush. Okay, maybe what Uhura was saying was true, but that didn't mean anything. So he liked Bones. So he liked Bones a lot. It wasn't like he was actually going to ever be in the position to act on his feelings. They were going into space together, and if (when) things didn't work out between them, they'd be in a position for things to get uncomfortable fast, and Jim couldn't risk the mission like that. He just couldn't. No matter how much he might want to.
"You never take anyone with you when you take off. Add that to the fact you were gone for a good two days longer than you usually are and that you've not told anyone – even Spock, whom you tell everything to, whether he wants to hear about it or not – what you got up to..."
"I told you! I took Bones to the scuba place on Glenlake. We hung out in the Tuckers' apartment and watched old SyFy movies. That's all!" So what if he wished it were more? If wishes were fishes, he'd be in the black right now, in the only place he'd ever felt at home, looking down at the circling Earth with the closest thing to love he's ever felt in his life.
"Really?" her tone was disbelieving. She'd hated him when they'd first met, thinking him to be a no-good drunken loser with an ego larger than most major moons, but she'd since settled into a big sister sort of role. "You two had that entire suite to yourselves for four whole days and all you did was watch movies together?"
"Yes!" he'd all-but shouted, glad she was finally getting the picture.
"I don't believe you."
Or not. "Don't you have some big presentation to do?"
"It can wait. This is more important."
"That is such a girl thing to say."
Rolling her eyes, "Forgive me if I don't find stuffy four-star generals interrupting my al-Isra wal-Mi'raj near as exciting as you ex-military-types do. So, spill."
"It's a Muslim holiday. Don't change the subject."
"There is no subject. Bones and I are just friends."
"But you want to be more," she pressed. And, God, did he hate her for it, because, if there was anything it was impossible to do around Uhura, it was lie. She could read body language better than anyone and, while not the most exciting superpower, it definitely came in handy.
Now, however, was not one of those times. "Okay, yeah, alright, I like him. Big whooptie-fucking-doo."
"And you, being the coward that you are, haven't told him."
"Coward?" Jim asked, slightly offended. "I've got a couple of medals upstairs that say otherwise."
"I mean emotionally."
"I-" resent the implication.
"When was the last time you talked to your mother?"
She took his fish-gaping for the answer it was (not since he called her after Basic and told her he enlisted. She'd shouted a bit and cried a lot more. He'd hung up not long after. His fingers had itched to call her when he'd been chosen for the astronaut service, when he'd been chosen for Orion 3, when he'd returned from Orion 6; when he'd been forced to retire. But he hadn't. He didn't even know where she was stationed now, or if she was still in the service at all.
(Ma was an Air Force flight surgeon, short-listed for astronaut training herself when she'd met Dad. She'd ultimately not been chosen to complete training, but that had been okay with her: she was a paediatrician by trade and there weren't exactly all that many kids in space. She'd known the risks better than anybody of what he was doing, and why he wanted to do it anyway... But she'd never tried calling him either, and he'd not changed his phone number for a long, long time.)
"So, now that we've proven you're a coward, what are you going to do about it?"
"Er," he managed when he found his voice, trying to figure out how he ended up on this end of the conversation. It's supposed to be him teasing her about her weird-ass relationship with Spock. Not whatever the hell this was. "How about nothing? He-" just got out of a messy divorce; doesn't need the stress of his roommate coming on to him atop of all the other insanity that's been his life for the last few months; can't possibly be interested in him that way.
With a sigh, "I can not honestly believe I'm going to say this and will lie through my teeth if you ever mention this to anyone, but you're too selfless for your own good."
Jim blinked. "Okay, who are you and what have you done with Uhura?"
"Shut up. But, seriously Jim? How many times have you driven Scotty home at three in the morning after a bender without ever saying a word? Or stayed up all night with Pasha watching old Russian soaps when he gets homesick? Or talked Spock out of doing something terribly logical but ultimately stupid? Not to mention that you're the only one Hikaru trusts to remember to water his plants when he goes to visit his girlfriend at Berkeley, and that you'd be offering to take Pike's place at the meeting today if it didn't involve Air Force brass. Even when you're at your most selfish and disappear for days on end, it's only because you don't want anyone to see you as anything other than a rock in the midst of the insanity that is our lives..."
Uhura looked him straight in the eye then. She'd been attempting to do so throughout their conversation, but now she paused until she had them. "Jim," she said softly, "it's okay to be selfish sometimes. The worst that can happen is he says he's not interested." She stood up then and, straightening her skirt, added in a tone he was more familiar with. "Which I don't think will happen, anyway."
Feeling somewhat dazed and more than a little pissed off, especially since he's really in no mood today to be yanked around like this, he tried to explain to her he did those things because they were the right things to do (and that, no matter what she might think, he wasn't half-so bad at reading people either, and knew that if he said anything to Bones, it would only end in pain), but before he could say anything more she was already out the door. Jim swore he could hear her laughing over the clack of her heels on the concrete. He settled for muttering, "Not a coward," under his breath. Obviously Uhura was just peeved that she had to go into the office so early on a holiday and taking it out on him.
Friday, 6 September, 2024 (T+ 113:47:02)
Alexis Kotko was the one who said they needed to do an EVA to truly take scope of the damages done to the Constitution and, ultimately, repair what they could.
Mark Piper refused to let Kotko do it. He was their flight doctor, brought along in part to run several experiments that the egg-heads considered too sophisticated for air-dales like Jim and Ann. But, more than that, he'd been sent along to treat the Russian engineer, whose cough had been growing worse the longer he was on the station. (It would turn out that Alexis had some sort of rare, small-celled lung cancer that had grown rapidly in the immune-suppressing environment of space; more than a few said that the ISS itself had caused the cancer, which was complete bull, but after the mess with the shuttle and the station every reason was a good one for the people of Earth to decide they wanted to confine themselves to one safe planet, nevermind the wars and crime and everything else that made space, in so many ways, much safer.)
Willard Decker was the logical choice to EVA. He'd done three already and had been scheduled for the one he and Kotko and Terrell had been planing on doing the next day, before the power had failed and the computers died. He was also the only other person who'd been on the ISS for longer than the time it took Jim to try and fail to insinuate his way into the Tranquillity module, having spent the last four months aboard as commander of Expedition 66.
Ann Mulhall was the logical choice to stay aboard ship. She was the Orion 6 mission commander and could pilot it single-handedly in case of emergency – well, so could Jim, but whereas Jim was a twenty-one-year-old who lived like he and Death were old pals, Ann had a husband and kids and who actually cared if she lived or died.
But the EVA really needed two people, especially given the unplanned and unpractised nature of this particular EVA. So Jim was the one who climbed into the second EMU almost by default.
He wasn't looking to be a hero. He was just doing what needed to be done. It had nothing to do with his father, or his grandfather, or any of the other generations of Kirks who'd died in the line of fire. This wasn't a battle zone. This was an exploratory mission, intended only to determine the extent of damage to the space shuttle and to make contact with the International Space Station if at all possible, and Jim went into it with armed with a camera. Decker carried the tool-kit.
(They were hailed as heroes when they finally landed at Edwards Air Force Base two weeks later. They were all given Congressional Space Medals of Honour for exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the nation and mankind– Jim, Ann, Mark, Alexis, and Will for living; Clark, J. M., Robert, and Matryona for dying. A big deal is made over the fact that Jim's father received the award too – for dying on Columbia, - making them the first father-son recipients. A bigger deal is made over his youth, which had been glossed over when Orion 3 had flown the year before, and the fact that he'd been trained primarily as a pilot, not a spacewalker, but had undertaken ten to help Decker fix the shuttle.
(They call him the hero of the Triple Six disaster. But he's not, not really. No more than anyone else.
(But they don't listen to him. No one ever did.)
Next: "There's more to this life than just living."