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Missteps

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James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise, was whining. The average midshipman would never guess-- Kirk's voice was even, eyes steady and shoulders square as he stood at parade rest beside the teleport station-- but Commander Spock had spent five years as a StarFleet instructor and another three working closely with Captain Kirk. He knew whining when he heard it.


"I still think I should beam down with you." Kirk said, as Ensign Chekov and a team of engineering personnel prepared a crate of much-needed supplies for transport to a besieged StarFleet outpost.

"And as I have explained to you before, Captain, your presence will be much better served aboard the Enterprise, where you can lead the attack should the Amestrian warships return." Spock said patiently.

Kirk's mouth thinned. Had they been in private, Spock knew that Kirk would be pouting. "I doubt the Amestrian government would make such a risky move. The Enterprise easily outguns their best ship and I could--"

"You're not going planetside, Captain." Lieutenant Uhura said flatly, coming up behind them with two sets of lightweight body armor. Spock accepted his without a word, strapping the armor on as he left the arduous task of talking sense into Captain Kirk in Nyota's capable hands. "The situation on the ground is delicate enough without the only ranking Starfleet officer being in the direct line of fire."

"I thought the guy commanding the base was a colonel." Kirk objected. "Colonel outranks captain."

"Acting Colonel," Uhura reminded him, "Acting Colonel Mustang, I know that was in your briefing packet-- you're the only person legally sanctioned to negotiate on behalf of Starfleet, which could be the difference between life and death for all those people in the outpost."

"All the more reason for me to go down. I can open negotiations with the Amestrians."

"You can do that just as easily from the ship."

Kirk glared at her and opened his mouth to argue. Then he closed it, "Okay."

Uhura and Spock both stilled.

"Okay?" Uhura repeated.

"Captain, have you accepted Lieutenant Unhura's logic?" Spock asked, with some degree of caution. Kirk never gave up easily, and when he did he was assuredly planning a venture that was either dangerous, or utterly bereft of common sense. Or both.

"Sure." Kirk agreed. Still acquiescing far too easily for his motives to be entirely innocent. "Can't have the commander of the biggest ship in the system in range of hostile natives. I get it."

Uhura was still regarding Kirk with deep suspicion, when Doctor McCoy came on deck, "Right, my people have just finished packing up the last of the medical supplies. Are the rest of you slowpokes ready to go yet?"

"We're ready sir!" Chekov called.

"Finally! You know the drill people, medical supplies first, everything else follows. Martin, make sure you hightail it to the infirmary once you're solid again." McCoy suddenly noticed the presence of Captain Kirk, who was projecting a near flawless facsimile of innocence as Uhura attempted to stare him down. "What are you doing here?"

"He's planning something." Uhura informed McCoy.

"I am not!" Kirk protested.

"We don't have time for this right now." McCoy snapped. "You and the hobgoblin, on the transport platform now. You," He pointed a stern finger at Kirk, "Stay on the ship. And no funny business!"

"You know me, Bones." Kirk drawled, "When am I ever funny?"

McCoy rolled his eyes just as the transporter beam activated, completing the action when he rematerialized in the outpost's warehouse. "Damn brat." He muttered, before taking off at a dead run toward a young nurse who was calling his name and beckoning desperately.

"Spock, this is terrible." Uhura murmured, taking a moment to observe the teams working in the warehouse.

Spock had to agree. The personnel working to distribute the emergency supplies from the Enterprise had an air of desperate relief that boded ill for the state of base, and everywhere he looked there were frightened, tired people, in and out of uniform.

"Commander Spock I presume." A voice called out. Spock and Uhura turned toward the man in command gold striding toward them. The easy smile he wore did nothing to disguise the rings under his eyes and the blonde woman shadowing him looked equally exhausted.

"Acting Colonel Mustang," Spock saluted, Uhura following suit, "I am Commander Spock, this is Lieutenant Uhura."

Acting Colonel Mustang returned their salutes wearily, "At ease, both of you. I assume you want the grand tour?"

"Yes sir," Uhura nodded, "Once we have a better idea of the state your base is in we'll be able to make a plan that will take all of our resources into account."

"Let's get to it then," Mustang gestured them forward, "we have some breathing room after that last attack, but it's only a matter of time before they come back."

"You believe the Amestrian government will challenge a StarFleet flagship?" Spock asked.

"Commander, we are StarFleet and the Amestrians have been trying to crack us open for weeks." Mustang said, "No offense to the Enterprise, but you're just one ship. They're not going to be impressed."

The tour of the base painted a grim picture. Most of the StarFleet-trained officers had died in the repeated attacks, replaced by junior officers and civilians who had been conscripted and given a nominal rank to meet security protocol. Supplies had run dangerously low; every adult in the base had been on starvation rations for the past twelve days. And in every square foot of space, there were people, men, women, and children who watched Spock and Uhura pass by and whispered.
Mustang seemed to be in good standing with the people in his base, civilian and enlisted alike. He had fought hard to save as many as he could, and then to keep them alive, persevering in the face of staggering odds and long after most would have surrendered.

He was also, as Captain Kirk would say, completely done.

"As you can see, the shield generators are one good attack from failing completely," Colonel Mustang said, in the dry tone of one unimpressed with the universe's continued attempts to kill him, "We do have some spare power cells, but our engineers think-- and I agree-- that we should save them for a real emergency."

"According to your reports, Colonel, you've been under siege for the past three and a half weeks." Spock said, inspecting the corridors of the sub-basement levels, where the generators were housed. Some enterprising soul had put up wire mesh along the corridor to create a make-shift faraday cage, protecting passerby's from being shocked as circuits overloaded. "What do you consider a real emergency?"

"Orbital bombardment, for starters. We have a squadron of fighters discouraging Amestrian warships from getting close enough to wipe us off the map, but it's only a matter of time before they finish the job."

A group of engineers were heading toward them, almost at a run, lead by a short blond child with a major's bars pinned haphazardly to his tunic, debating fiercely with a bulky humanoid nearly twice his size. Colonel Mustang moved out of their way without a word, which was shocking behavior from a man who had up until now strictly adhered to protocol. Spock was almost willing to let it slide without comment, but then the child-- if he was older than Ensign Chekov, Spock would be surprised-- noticed them and paused just long enough to sketch out a left-handed salute. That would not do.

"Major," Spock called.

The child turned back to him with a scowl, "Yeah?"

"Yes sir," Spock corrected. Whoever had been in charge of teaching this child proper discipline had clearly neglected their duty. "StarFleet protocols dictate that salutes are to be made with your right hand, Major."

The child glared at him.

The engineers also glared at him, as did a pair of electricians repairing a blown fuse a few meters away, a trio of security personnel passing through, and the communications technician who had followed Colonel Mustang to keep him appraised of any emergency situations that might occur. Even Colonel Mustang and his aide, Lieutenant Hawkeye, glared at him. For the life of him, Spock couldn't understand why.

The child raised his right arm for an exaggerated salute.

Or it would have been. Spock blinked when he saw how the child's arm simply ended, a few inches down from his shoulder.

"Sorry about that sir," the child said, "If I'd known you were such a stickler for protocol, sir, I'd've gotten my spare arm from the shop this morning. Anything else, sir? Only we're going to lose generator five if I don't get there now, so permission to get back to my job, sir?"

"Carry on Elric," Mustang said.

They continued the tour, though news of the incident in Engineering seemed to precede them. The people they encountered were decidedly less friendly toward him and Uhura than they  had been before.

Finally, Mustang took them back to his office. He sat at his desk and stared at them over steepled fingers.

"Perhaps, commander," Colonel Mustang said coolly, "You can tell me what the hell you were thinking, interfering with people under my command?"

"StarFleet regulations clearly dictate the proper protocol for addressing a superior officer," Spock replied promptly. Because he was right, even if everyone else was determined to convince him otherwise. "Proper discipline is essential for morale, Colonel. Now, of all times, you should be enforcing proper protocol, not excusing it's lapse."

"Half of the people currently under my command are civilians," Mustang pointed out, "They wouldn't know proper protocol if it picked up a phaser and stunned them."

"All the more reason to enforce it with those that do know protocol. The civilians under your command will learn from their example and-- Colonel, are you all right?"

Mustang was rubbing the bridge of his nose, "You don't have much contact with civilians, do you Commander."

"Not since my days at the Vulcan Science Academy." Spock admitted.

"They tend to come after him with phasers if he spends too much time with them." Uhura put in.

Spock gave her a betrayed look. She ignored him, leaning forward to address the colonel. "I take it this Major Elric is popular?"

"The only reason we aren't smoldering corpses right now is because of the engineering department, and everyone still alive on this base knows it," Mustang said drily, "Elric has been acting chief since day three."

Uhura winced.

"Furthermore," Mustang continued, enjoying their pain, "The commander of my fighter squadron, Alphonse Elric, is Edward's younger brother. Al adores his brother. Next time, he might not be so quick to save you."

Spock recalled the tiny one man fighter that had gone screaming past the Enterprise's nose, ignoring common sense and the laws of physics to drop it's payload directly on the bridge of the attacking warship. Even Mr. Sulu had been impressed.

"I may," Spock admitted reluctantly, "Have been slightly overzealous in my insistence on enforcing StarFleet protocol. I wish to formally extend my apologies to Major Elric."

"They can be appeased with science," Mustang advised, "Assuming we all survive this mess, I suspect a tour of your science bay will be enough to bribe your way back into their good graces."