Captain's Log, stardate XXXX.X: We have settled into standard orbit around T'el'ek, an M-class planet in the Cygnus system. After a lengthy shakedown cruise, all systems are performing at optimum, all personnel are in place and awaiting further assignments. This new Enterprise A is a fine ship, as noble as her predecessor. I look forward to putting her through her paces in service of the Federation.
Captain's Personal Log: It's a fine ship. It's a fine crew. And damn, but we're bored. New orders coming in this morning, not a moment too soon.
Jim Kirk stared out his office's floor-to-ceiling port at the spinning blue-green planet below. It was an almost dizzying view, and one that he had not quite gotten used to even after six months.
Nor had he gotten used to having an office. On his first deep-space mission as Captain, he'd conducted all business from his quarters or the Bridge. Now he had a sizable office just off the Bridge, complete with antique walnut desk, high-backed chair, an assortment of racks, chairs and lounges for visitors of all sizes and shapes, and a floor-to-ceiling viewport that offered him a spectacular view of whatever lay ahead or below the ship.
At the moment, however, he had no eyes for the pretty planet T'el'ek. In fact, he was tired of pretty planets entirely, of ferrying supplies and colonists to them, of shuttling diplomats and bureaucrats between them, and of sending his crew down to them. He wanted to be out there somewhere, between the stars, confronting the unknown and testing himself and his crew against it. He'd been given an unexpected second chance—they all had—to do what they did best in the company of those they cherished most. Jim had vowed six months ago not to take this opportunity for granted, to make the most of every minute he had been given. But the opportunities so far had been few, and the minutes had stretched into days, weeks, months.
Jim gritted his teeth. Six months of milk runs. We save the goddamned planet from itself, and we're rewarded with six months of milk runs. If Command still hasn't figured out that they can trust me, they can just—
The door buzzer sounded. Jim turned gratefully away from the window, putting behind him the sight of the pretty planet and the ungracious thoughts it inspired. "Come."
Captain Spock stepped into the office, hands clasped behind his back. "Good morning, Jim," he said softly, and Jim suppressed a smile. Finally, after twenty years and twenty thousand entreaties, Spock had at long last embraced this smallest of human customs: referring to his closest friends by their names, not their ranks.
"Morning, Spock. Have a seat." Spock slid into his customary chair opposite the desk and crossed his hands in his lap. Jim glanced up at the sudden whiff of chlorine that had accompanied his friend into the room. "I'm sorry I interrupted your swim."
The Vulcan raised an eyebrow at him, his lips turning up in a very faint smile. "I presume you are...anxious...to learn the contents of our new orders and prefer not to wait until my usual shift begins."
"Damn straight." Jim sat heavily in his desk chair and turned to the console behind him. The data wafer Uhura had hand-delivered to him fifteen minutes earlier was already in the player waiting to be viewed. "'Anxious' doesn't even begin to cover it," he muttered, and thumbed the viewscreen to life.
After the obligatory retinal scan and the display of the Starfleet logo, Admiral Stark's lined face appeared. "Captain Kirk. I trust this communique finds you and your ship well. Starfleet Command has been watching your progress very closely. We're pleased with the performance of your ship and crew, Captain. Very pleased."
Kirk turned and grinned at Spock, who raised an eyebrow in return.
Stark paused, then shook his head slightly, smiling. "We're pleased, but I bet you are bored out of your mind, Jim. You're thinking that if you get another milk run, you might have to do something drastic."
Kirk gasped. Stark had always been too insightful for his tastes. The man had spent most of his career in deep space; he knew what these months of inactivity meant to a crew like Enterprise's crew. Worse, he knew that Jim knew it, too.
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Jim. Your time will come." The Admiral picked up a data padd and began to read from it, all business now, the bantering tone gone. "Captain Kirk, you are to take your ship and crew to Mondan, the third planet in the Reladin system, where you will rendezvous with the U.S.S. Cousteau. You will offer any and all assistance to the Cousteau's engineering crew as they effect repairs from their recent encounter with Orion...traders. Please proceed at all possible speed..."
Kirk sat back and let out an explosive breath. "A milk run. Another goddamned milk run!"
The data wafer continued to play. Jim was dimly aware of Stark's voice droning out mission parameters and timelines, but he had no stomach for the mundane details of this most mundane of missions. Consumed by a need to move, he rocketed out of his chair and began to pace the length of the office. "Why do they keep doing this to us, Spock? Stark said they were pleased. So why don't we get a real mission? Why all these glorified clerical errands?"
"Because they are necessary."
The Vulcan's calm, reasoned response, usually so welcome, grated on his nerves. "I know that, but this is the Enterprise, damn it!"
"As you are well aware, the Enterprise may be Starfleet's newest ship, but she is no longer the flagship. Excelsior is better equipped for deep space exploration."
"But Excelsior's crew isn't, and you know it, Spock."
Spock cocked his head to one side, considering. "I am aware that this crew is the more experienced, and am also...puzzled by the relative low profile of our recent assignments. However, Admiral Stark did say that 'Your time will come.'"
Kirk stopped pacing and stared down at him. "Meaning?"
Spock shoulder twitched, his version of a casual shrug. "I can only speculate."
Kirk waved his hand dismissively. "Speculate, then."
"It is possible that Admiral Stark is already aware of our next assignment. Perhaps this is the last 'clerical errand' before we are sent back to deep space."
Turning to stare again out the window, Kirk rubbed his chin. "Doesn't the Reladin system have a Starbase?"
Spock nodded. "Indeed. Deep Space Five is one of the last near-Earth outposts in the sector."
"You think we might be sent there after taking care of Cousteau's problems?"
"DS5 would be a logical place from which to begin a long-term mission."
Jim tapped his knuckles on the viewport. "How soon can we be underway?"
"Immediately, if you wish it."
"Time to Relad orbit, warp 8?"
"Sixteen hours, nine minutes, seventeen seconds. From your mark, of course." Reflected in the viewport, Spock rose smoothly and bounced slightly on his toes. If he hadn't known better, Jim would have sworn Spock was as anxious to be underway as he was himself. "May I ask a question, Jim?"
Surprised, Kirk turned to look at his old friend. "Of course."
"Was not the Cousteau the ship to which Dr. Gillian Taylor was assigned some six months ago?"
Jim broke into a broad grin. "I think you're right, Spock. I would ask if you're thinking what I'm thinking, but I bet I already know."
Spock cocked an eyebrow at him, a smile hovering in his eyes. "I am thinking that perhaps the Captain would like to host Dr. Taylor and the Enterprise and Cousteau senior staffs for dinner. Those who are not needed for the repair effort, of course," he amended.
"Of course." Spock was probably right. This was probably just a layover before the real mission began. A thought occurred to him. "Does the system have shore leave facilities, Spock?"
"I trust you will see to it, Mr. Spock?"
Jim placed a hand on the taller man's shoulder and steered him toward the sliding door. "I think things are looking up, old friend, don't you?"
They stepped out onto the Bridge together, Kirk already barking orders, the pretty planet left far behind them.