Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

Mission 3 - “Lost in Space"

The USS Mercy is assigned to complete the yearly physical in a crew that is observing through a duck-blind on a prewarp planet as well as gather their date for evaluation. They arrive at the planet and find the crew missing.

I’m Doing It My Way

Starbase 11
10.12.2400 @ 2200

=^=This is highly unusual, Captain.=^=

Grace remained impassive, “Given the situation, sir, I think it’s a perfect way to help this crew understand how this process works and better train them for future operations.  There are a limited amount of Olympic class vessels certified for this kind of mission, and I’m looking to ensure that number grows.”

The Admiral pulled up his PADD, =^=I understand you served with Captain Halsey previously.=^=

Pottinger didn’t react.  She knew this was coming.  “Yes, sir.  He was our first officer and chief medical officer.  I was assistant chief science officer and second officer.”  She was curious to see what he knew about the dynamics she had with Halsey.

=^=How would you have rated your relationship with then XO Halsey?=^=

She fought hard to keep her face stone, “We worked well together.  We had our disagreements from time to time, but managed to keep it professional.”

He held up his PADD, =^=The reports bear that out, Captain.  I am concerned there is more to what is not recorded in this situation.  I’m aware of some rumors regarding your relationship.=^=

Captain Grace Pottinger shook her head emphatically, “I would disagree with those rumors and I’m sure Captain Halsey would as well.  We found common ground and were able to make progress together for the betterment of the ship and our crew.”  She let the pause hang in the air, “Captain Halsey is a consummate professional officer and I respect his acumen.”

The Admiral glanced from his PADD to her and back again, =^=Very well, Captain Pottinger.  I will communicate this to Captain Halsey in the morning once I have the mission briefing completed.  Good day to you, captain.=^=

The channel closed before Grace could inject her thanks.  She leaned back in her office chair, a grin spreading across her face.  She was going to get her day in the sun…and Halsey was going to have to play along.

Doctor’s Orders

USS Mercy
10.13.2400 @ 0700

Leopold stepped onto the bridge and gave a cursory nod to the chief communications officer.  He’s been alerted to a message from Starfleet Command and made his way from his quarters, curious.  They’d assisted with task force medical work the last few weeks with success.  They’d been preparing to move on to a nearby planet to assist with some vaccine work that had been requested.  Something must have come up, he theorized.

“Wellington, open the channel.”  The screen was then filled with an admiral, his face exhibiting a level of concern that gave Halsey concerns.  “Admiral, what can we do for you?”

The man tapped at his console, =^=We’re sending you to SB1094, a planet under observation and evaluation by a team in a concealed research facility.  The crew is due for a yearly physical, which is part of why we’re sending you.  The other piece is that this study is nearing the end of its second year.  Your additional task will be to evaluate their data, observations, photos, video, and various collected artifacts.=^=  

He paused, and Leopold felt a frown itching at his brows as he worked out what might be coming next.  It didn’t take him long.  He let out a small sigh, “You’re concerned about our ability to do this without assistance, sir.”

The admiral didn’t physically react to Halsey, =^=It is your first experience in this operational theater.  We are sending you someone who has completed this kind of activity before.  She’s waiting for you at Starbase 11.  You can learn a lot from Captain Pottinger.  Your orders have been transmitted.  Godspeed, Mercy.=^=

The screen flicked to the Starfleet Logo and then returned to the forward view.  Halsey stared at the screen before he turned to his communications officer, “Have Commander Sorek meet me in Cargo Bay 1.”  He moved quickly to the turbolift and waited until the door closed before he let out a long sigh.  He tapped the console and was on his way.

Sorek had finished his early morning meditations and was on his way to the bridge, when he received a call to meet the captain in a cargo bay.  Having never done that since becoming the XO, he was curious about what needed to be discussed so covertly.

Halsey looked up as he paced around the large cargo bay, “Thanks for joining me, Sorek.”

“Of course, sir.”  Sorek stood with his hands clasped behind his back.

He stopped pacing for a moment before he resumed again, “We’ve been ordered to do a check-up on a planet observation operation.  Planet is in the midst of an industrial revolution, and it’s reached its two-year milestone.”  He explained the physical exams.

The assignment appeared to be routine, but Sorek could tell something was bothering the captain.

“There is more.  We’re being tasked with reviewing the data.  Only we’re not doing it alone.”  He explained the reasoning from the admiral.

“Reading the data should be interesting, but you seem to be apprehensive,” said Sorek.

“That’s the part I wanted to talk to you about…and in a place where I’m not crammed in by the walls.” He resumed pacing, “They’ve assigned an old friend to our case—an old friend of mine.  Her name is Grace Pottinger, and she’s a captain now.”  He turned to the commander, “I knew her as a lieutenant on the USS Littleton.  Five years ago – I was a new first officer, and she was the second officer.  She had been passed over for promotion and was unhappy with my arrival.”  He chuckled, “Obviously, we did not get along.”  He mused, “It is rather impressive she’s gone from lieutenant to captain in five years.”

To Sorek, it was illogical for Halsey to be nervous about working with Pottinger, but he learned long ago what emotions and presumptions could do to people.

“Is there anything you need me to do?”  Sorek would help as best as he could.

Halsey paced for a moment, “Pottinger is a master at appearances.  Our issues were never documented – partially due to my own desire to continue down the path of command.  She was interested in preserving her reputation according to her file.”  He came to a stop and turned to Sorek, “We’ve only known each other a short time, Sorek…but you’re going to have to keep me honest in my dealings with her.  She’s a result-at-any-cost kind of officer…and I’m not.  You’ll also need to keep your eyes and ears on her – she doesn’t outrank me, but she outranks everyone else on the Mercy.  Caution and awareness will win the day with her.”

Sorek took a moment to consider his response.  “I will keep you honest, sir.  My duty is to the ship and the crew.  If Captain Pottinger’s at-all-costs approach crosses a line, I will… push her back.  Figuratively speaking.”

Leopold chuckled and smiled, “Pottinger is a pugilist figuratively and literally – her reputation in the academy was brash and unafraid of throwing hands in the mix.  She never got physical, but that part of her is still there.”  He let out a long sigh, “We’re going to have to keep this between us for now.  I’ll get a staff briefing together for later this morning.  For our sake and our crew – check in with department heads to get an up-to-date status.  Pottinger likes to exploit weaknesses in officers to her benefit.”

Sorek raised an eyebrow.  From what he was hearing, Captain Pottinger’s behavior was illogical.  Why would she choose to be adversarial when everyone was working together?  There had to be more Halsey wasn’t saying.

“I will inform the department heads.”

Leopold glanced around the room, “I’m going to walk around the room a little – shake loose any of those remaining feelings from back in the day.”

“I will leave you to your private time, sir.”  Sorek left the bay, still pondering what was ahead for them.  Halsey watched the commander leave.  The Vulcan had proven himself repeatedly capable, and Leopold was quietly thankful he had Sorek as his second in command – Pottinger’s talents would be mostly wasted on the man.

The Other Woman

USS Mercy
10.13.2400 @ 1000

Leopold sat on the couch in his personal quarters, his wife opposite him on the loveseat.  He was sipping at a hot Earl Grey, and she cradled a steaming cup of Lady Grey.  They sat in silence, the dull hum of the ship filling in the quiet that had settled since they’d entered.

“We both promised each other we’d survive her as best as we could.”  She stared into her cup as she spoke.  “I thought we were rid of her, Leopold.”  Her voice turned sour as she stood, pacing slowly.  “She was a hard experience for both of us.  You as her XO…and she as my chief of science.”  She sighed after the pacing failed to settle her nerves and sat roughly back down.  “You need to find a new chief of science, Leopold.  I cannot fathom working for her again.  I was a moving target then…and will be a moving target again.”  She took a sip of her tea.

Halsey knew when things were serious with his wife.  Using his full first name was one of the first signs that Theodora was unhappy and unwilling to take any more of whatever was weighing on her.  “Theo…I don’t know anyone better at this job than you.”  Her head snapped up, her eyes flashing with fury, but she remained silent.  “I’ve sent out requests, I’ve asked for names from friends, and I’ve already sent a request to Starbase 11 to see who’s available…but I’m sure Pottinger will be informed, and she’ll pollute the pool ahead of us.”

Theodora simmered.  Grace Pottinger had been a terror in their lives for five years aboard the USS Littleton.  She was adept at manipulation and worked hard to keep the people she needed close and ensure they knew they were needed and necessary.  Her husband had never admitted it, but being the outsiders on that ship for so long had hurt him in corners of his heart that had never truly healed.  His appointment to the Mercy had allowed him the chance to right a wrong in his own way – to prevent others from ever feeling like they didn’t belong again.  She closed her eyes and fell back to her Vulcan meditation that she’d recently started returning to in hopes of keeping some of her more outlandish emotions from bursting forth.  It took her a moment, but she felt her internal temperature retreat below boiling.  She turned to her husband and commanding officer, “Look, I have held this position because you need someone competent.  I agree that I am competent and appreciate the trust you have in me to do this job without it getting in the way of us.”  She stood and held his hands in hers, “But there is no way that I will be able to handle myself with you and Pottinger in the mix.  I disliked her then, and I dislike her now.  I will not put our marriage in danger by taking a martyr’s stand.  I just won’t, Leopold.”

Halsey looked into her eyes and felt his heart shift with sudden finality. She was right.  “I won’t ask you to, Theo.  I think I forgot what she did to you.  I think I just figured we’d never have to deal with her again with me being a captain.”  He led her to sit down on the couch together, “What are you thinking?”

She leaned back into the comfortable couch and groused, “Even if I’m not chief, she’s going to come for me eventually.  She’s got a rank equal to yours…and she’s not going to hesitate to throw it around.”  Theodora thought for a moment longer, “I think I’m going to have to resign.”  She glanced at him as his eyebrows went sky high, “I mean…what else is there?  You can’t protect me all the time – she’s going to need me to do things for her related to the research team.”  She put her cup on the table and let out a long sigh, “I don’t like it…but what else is there?”

Halsey had fallen back into the couch on his side, “We could do a leave of absence?  You need to take some time to decide if you want to continue to pursue the position.”

She gave him a long look, “She’d find a way to reactivate me or something. No, I need to do this for us. I can become a civilian scientist who studies and writes papers.  Less stress that way.  Less dealing with her.”

Leopold regarded her in the silence that followed.  He thought for a moment longer and said, “OK.  It’s your decision, and you need to be able to make it.”  He stood from the couch, “File the resignation and I’ll start working on finding us a new chief science officer.”

She pushed herself off the couch and reached out with one hand to his, pulling him back, “You’re ok with this?”

He pulled her close and embraced her warmly, “Theo – I love you no matter what.  You need to do what is best for you and us.  I can’t argue against most of that, so I’ve got to accept it as the new reality we’ve got.  She is who she is, and we are who we are.”  She kissed him gently on the cheek and moved to the console at the desk.  He put his feet in motion and headed for the bridge and his ready room.  He had some work to be done.

Reflections

USS Mercy
10/13/2400

Deck 24, Arboretum B

Being from an ice world, when Izi needed some alone time, she normally spent it in one of the holodeck rooms.  She would recreate some winter scenario and enjoy the frigid temperatures, walk through snowy woods, or even do some snowboarding.  At other times, she would run a combat training program, mostly practicing with her ushaan-tor.  Today, she was sitting on a bench along one of the paths in the arboretum in a summer environment.  She just didn’t feel like doing battle with another holo character.

Izi had a strong and fiery personality and things rarely bothered her, but about two weeks after the Colony 159 rescue mission, she still couldn’t shake the memory of Murphy from her mind.

The man was a coward, something he admitted.  By being afraid to fight, people died.  He failed to protect the children under his care as school principal.  By Andorian standards, he was worthless to the clan.  In confessing that to her, was he actually looking for forgiveness and redemption?  When he ran into the burning building, was that his way of cleansing himself from his sins, while Izi, as a Starfleet officer, would go in after him and save the day?

She would never know, for after gathering the courage to enter the building, a strong, iron grip pulled her back.

It was past Izi’s time to report in, so Commander Sorek went looking for her.  Seeing what she was about to do, he stopped her.  At first Izi was angry, yelling that she was trying to save a life.  In retrospect, the commander was right, as the flames were too intense.  Once damage control parties put them out, there would have been two charred bodies instead of one.  Letting out a sigh, her drooping antennae perked up when she sensed someone coming up the path.

“Hey, Iziraa.  I haven’t seen you for a while.  How are you?”

It was Debbie, the girl Izi helped, along with her brother, when the Death entity had taken control of parts of the ship.

“I’m fine.  I’m just taking a break.”

“You don’t look fine.  You helped Ed and me, so it’s my turn to help you.”  Debbie sat on the bench next to Izi, causing her to scoot over to make room.  “Why are you sad?”

Izi wrinkled her nose, her antennae moving in slow circles.  “Who says I’m sad?”

“When I walked up, your antennae were all droopy.  We learned in school that means an Andorian is sad or unhappy about something.”  Debbie smiled.

Izi had to admit the girl was perceptive.

“Is it about all the bad stuff that happened on the colony?  Stories spread all over the ship about how bad it was.”

“Yes, it’s about that.”  Izi didn’t want to tell just how terrible it was.  At Debbie’s teen age, she didn’t need to have things like that in her head.

“You can tell me.  I’m fourteen.  I’m old enough.”

Izi chuckled.  “All right, as long as you don’t say anything to your mother.”

“I won’t.”  Debbie’s pretty face lit up with excitement.

“What we saw down there was bad.  Damaged buildings.  The injured that were crying and afraid.  People looking for their families.  It was heartbreaking anyone could be so cruel.”

Debbie didn’t say anything, but Izi could see her face changed from excitement to a serious expression.

“I shouldn’t say any more,” said Izi.

“No.  I want to hear.  I’m going to join Starfleet when I’m old enough.  I need to prepare now.”

Izi studied Debbie, her antennae leaning slightly forward.  The girl was sincerely curious and seemed to be mature for her age.

“All right, but just a little.”

Debbie nodded.

Izi wondered if she was doing the right thing.  If she wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the first time she got in trouble.  “There was a man named Murphy.  He was too afraid to fight the Romulans, so he hid.  He was the principal of the school, so he put the children in danger.  He felt so ashamed and guilty, he ran into a burning building and died.  The fire was so bad I couldn’t go in after him.  I blame myself, because I should have been able to help him.  The worst thing was, I never bothered to learn his full name.”

Debbie’s lip trembled and her face was pale.  After a short time passed, she placed her arm around Izi and rested her head on her shoulder.

“You did the best you could.  If you would have died in that fire, my antennae would have been droopy, too.”

Of course Debbie didn’t have antennae, but Izi understood what the Human girl meant.

Without saying another word, the two sat on the bench, enjoying the beauty of the life around them.

 

 

One on the Way

Ready Room
10.13.2400 @ 1100

Aimee stepped onto the bridge and glanced around.  Seeing the captain was not present she crossed the bridge to the ready room.  Pressing the chime she waited nervously. 

Halsey was reading through the latest reports, and it was looking better than expected.  Search and rescue were well underway.  The door chime rang, and he glanced up, “Come on in.” 

Entering at Halsey’s invitation, she smiled as she approached him, “Captain.”

A smile crossed his lips, “Doctor MacDonald.”  He stood and gestured to the chair in front of his desk, “What can I do for you?”

“Hello, sir,” She said.  “As your Chief Medical officer, I think I should inform you that I am pregnant.”

He blinked twice.  He gestured again to the chair, “Well, that’s worthy of a seat, Lieutenant.”

Aimee took the offered seat and tried to relax.  This couldn’t be the news a captain would be hoping to hear. Folding her hands into her lap, she smiled nervously, “Thank you, sir.”

Leopold returned to his seat, “Congratulations.”

“Uh… thank you.  It wasn’t part of the plan, you know.”

He asked the question needed asking, “How far along are you?”

“Twelve weeks, sir,” she replied.  “I haven’t told anyone yet.  You are the first. I suspected about six weeks ago, but… Well, I wanted to live in denial a bit longer. But after missing for a third month… well, I couldn’t keep pretending and gave myself a self-scan.  And before you say anything: I know, I know it’s not ethical to treat myself. I will have Dr. Harrison oversee my care.”

Halsey chuckled, “We doctors are very good at planning treatment plans. You said this wasn’t part of the plan.”  He leaned forward, “What are you thinking once your child is born?  You’ll have my support either way, to be clear.”

“Sir, I think that’s up to you,” Aimee said.  “I know having children on board is less than ideal, but at least we aren’t a front-line vessel.”

Leopold smiled wryly, “Sometimes I forget I am the ship’s captain.”  He leaned back in his chair, contemplating the scenario, “We aren’t a front-line starship; that’s true.”  He reasoned, “If we were a Sovereign-class or something big and dangerous…I’d say you’d need to find a ship better suited to hosting a baby onboard.”  He grinned, “Thankfully, we’re not.  Your assistant chief, Roger, has a five-year-old daughter…Minnie, I think her name is.”  He thought for a moment, “We’ll probably need to setup some kind of…daycare or even school option for the crew.”  He turned the question back to her, “I’m amenable to it, Doctor.  You’ve got some time to make the decision – I’d prefer to keep you with us.”

“I would prefer to remain here as well,” Aimee said.  “It’s not often couples get to serve on the same ship. I would hate to ruin a good thing.”

He shifted in his seat, “What do you think your husband will say?”

“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?  You’re a man what do you think?  How should I approach it?  We talked about kids. He wanted as many as possible.  I agreed to two… eventually.”

Halsey chuckled, “I’m a man without children, so I’ve never had that conversation.”  He turned serious as he thought the question over.  “I would be honest – it’s a surprise all around.  Given that he wants kids…that works in your favor.  My desire to keep you aboard may also help swing him.”  He shrugged, “Children are miracles…even in this day and age they hold great power over us before they even make an appearance.  That warmth of that power is one of the strongest things in the universe.  It should be shared and celebrated, Lieu…Amy.”  He gave her a quiet nod, “As a man, I would be filled with such joy to be able to share that experience with someone.”

“That’s a bit of a relief.  We haven’t been married too long.  Wanting kids in theory and wanting them in practice are two entirely different things though.”

Leopold nodded thoughtfully, “I have a brother – he got married young and went to work.  Seven years into their marriage they had 3 kids under six years old.  They managed… but you’re right.  Theory and practice are two very different things.”  He leaned on his desk, “This command crew hasn’t been together very long, Amy…but I know every one of them would be willing to give of their time to help you work out the ‘in practice’ piece of it.  My wife would probably be first in line.”  He gestured to her, “Does that help?”

She nodded, “I’m… We’re not big on asking for help, but I appreciate it, sir, and to be honest, we may have to avail ourselves of that service. One thing is for certain: it’s coming, like it or not.  There’s no pause button.”

Halsey nodded in agreement, “Far as we’ve come in science, that button remains out of the process.”  He made a note in his PADD, “I won’t share it with the rest of the command team, but at some point…you’re going to start to show.  I’d tell you and Dougal to prepare for the eventuality.  Oh, and you should be aware that the custom of baby showers is still celebrated in these modern days.  Once it’s known, I doubt you’ll have any control over how big or how much it becomes.” 

Aimee laughed,  “It’s pregnancy, not leprosy! I’m not ashamed.”

He smiled in response, “Oh, you’ll be loved and loved on – that’s more what I’m warning you to expect.  People love babies in all forms – in and out of the womb.”  He tapped at his PADD once more, “For now, we’ll hold it close.”  He turned to another topic, “How’s your assistant chief working out?”

“Very well.  He’s quiet and keeps to himself but is competent and patients like him.”

Leopold didn’t raise his eyebrows.  It wasn’t a stinging endorsement, and he had to remember that the Chief wasn’t someone to over-compliment or praise beyond the measure they deserved.  He interrupted her statement to mean he was doing just fine.  “I’ll take competent and likable any day.”  He checked his chrono, “My wife is due in here for lunch.”  He stood, “Thanks for taking the time to share with me, Aimee.  Keep me updated.”

“Of course sir,” she replied and stood snapping to attention.”Thank you for your time.”

“You’re welcome – that door is rarely locked.”

She simply nodded and walked out of the ready room. She headed for the turbolift.  She was about to head to her office but changed her mind. “Computer location of Lieutenant Dougal MacDonald.”

“Dougal MacDonald is on deck 4, crew quarters.”

“Deck four,” Aimee ordered the lift and it whirred to life.

Time To Go

USS Mercy / Starbase 11
10.13.2400 @ 2200

They had arrived at Starbase 11.  It was a misnomer – it was a base on a moon.  The Mercy had moved into orbit.  Halsey and Sorek were walking to the transporter room.  There was a cache of supplies needing transporting and some small resupply items had come up from engineering.  Halsey turned to Sorek, “We received an updated order briefing an hour ago.  Captain Pottinger has been given command of the overall mission to the planet, the project, and our review of it.”

That is unfortunate, but not unexpected, thought Sorek.  “I understand.”

Leopold pursed his lips, “The orders were clear there – I am responsible for the Mercy and her part in her mission.  I did some further research – Grace has become a bit of a rising star in the observation department – part of why I think she’s being put out in the field…to test her abilities to work with others.”

“If that is the case, then perhaps there is nothing for us to worry about,” said Sorek.  “She will, as Humans say, want to play nice.  A bad report from us will hinder her aspirations.”

“I look forward to meeting that version of Pottinger, Sorek.  It would be a great relief to my wife and me.  Let us hope.”  He slipped out a PADD as they entered the transporter room, “I’ve got a possible chief science officer down there.  The application came through corrupted, and the Starbase personnel reported the same issue with their copy.  I’m going to have to do an old-fashioned interview.  Interested in joining in?”

“Of course.”  Sorek was the liaison between the captain and the department heads, so he was interested in seeing who it was.  They stepped onto the pad, and Halsey gave a nod to the transporter chief.

Arriving at the base, they stepped off the pad and moved through the facility, walking past corridors and across a courtyard to a tall building.  They soon sat in a room with a table, waiting for the potential officer.

The door opened to the room as a human male wearing the teal/blue of science,  possibly in his late twenties to early thirties, entered the room. He stepped up beside the lone chair placed in front of the table and the two officers who were already seated.  

He reached across the table to offer his hand to both officers, noticing both were in command red and wearing the pips of a Captain and a Commander. “Sirs, Lieutenant JG Cezear Beattie. I hope you haven’t been waiting too long.”

Leopold stood and exchanged a handshake, as did Sorek.  They all sat down, and Halsey pulled out his PADD to take notes, “We just arrived.”  He tapped at his PADD and showed the contents to his executive officer, “File’s back online and restored.”

Halsey held his grousing and instead introduced, “I’m Captain Leopold Halsey, and this is my Executive Officer, Commander Sorek.”  He tapped at the PADD, “You’re not the traditional Starfleet officer, Lieutenant Beattie…besides the bet, you lost to your students – why does Starfleet Science appeal to you?”

“Well, sir, it runs in the family for one thing. Dad was a lieutenant during the dominion war – stellar cartography. Mom was, too, before she passed, and my stepmom has always been into geology. Not going to lie; Starfleet was always calling. Just didn’t think that a geologist was a very star fleet-y thing, you know what I mean.” he reached into a pocket and pulled out his Baoding balls, and started to work them in his right hand. “I always pushed my students to take the academy entrance exam, pushed them to better themselves and learn as much as they could. So when I challenged a couple of my students who were on the bubble grade-wise, they accepted with the terms being that if they passed, I took the exam. They did, so I spent a Saturday with my students taking the exam.” he leaned forward in his chair. “I may not be the best overall scientist, but I would guess I’m probably one of the best geologists, and with that, I would add planetary geologist in Bravo fleet, And I’m not half bad at stellar cartography either. Taking that exam and attending the Academy was probably one of the best things that I’ve done so far, opened my eyes to what is out there and gave me a chance to build a pretty good rock collection, if I do say so myself.” chuckled while saying that last part. 

The captain made his notes as the applicant spoke.  He glanced at Sorek and then back to Beattie, “Your test scores were good, and your academy coursework was a testament to your science mind.  The position you applied for is a command-level position – you will be in charge of our entire science department.  Research and development, the science labs, our linguistics team, sensor operations – it’s a significant list.  You’ll report directly to Commander Sorek and then to me.  Your station will be on the bridge – the Mercy is a medical and science vessel, and we rely heavily on our science teams.  You’re coming into a team pretty well-formed and connected – what can you tell me about your willingness to learn and make mistakes?”

Working the Baoding balls in his right hand he looked at Captain Halsey. “Well sir,this may sound like an overused answer but one that I whole heartedly believe in. Failing and making mistakes is ok, it’s what we do after that matters. If we use those failures and mistakes to learn from and we strive to not repeat them than I chalk them up as a learning experience. If we don’t then that shows that we have a bigger problem to figure out.  As towards a willingness to learn more, just look at me sir. I could have turned down the Academy and continued on with my life as it was. But I took on the challenge, took on learning more, if your not always learning and trying to expand your knowledge then your going to fall behind and get stuck in the life or situation your in now. “

He looked down at his hand, chuckled and stopped the spinning. “Sir, I’m a geologist and a stellar cartographer, so one of my goals would be to familiarize myself with the other departments in my section, find out who are my subject matter experts are so when the time comes I know who to go to. I’m a team player sir, I’m not looking for medals or glory or my name on some published report. I’m looking to be part of a team, and to make that team the best it can be for you and the ship.”

“I have questions, Lieutenant,” said Sorek.  “I understand the meaning of the balls you are manipulating.  I am concerned their use will hinder your ability to do the work we need you to do.  What if you are in a high-stress situation that requires a split-second decision.  Will you be able to do that or will you need to hold those balls first?  What if they cause inaction that leads to a member of the crew being injured, or worse?  Can you expect those under your command to truly respect and count on you?  I am not convinced you are the right person to fill the position.”

Halsey forgot how blunt and to the point Vulcans were, and he fought the urge to give his XO a side glance of warning.  Sorek wasn’t wrong to ask the question, and his CO let it stand, curious to see the response from the officer on the other side of the table.

Cezear took a second to look at Commander Sorek; he then reached forward, putting the pair of Baoding balls on the table. “Commander, there is an old earth saying that my father used to use whenever I openly questioned something he was trying to explain to me: Don’t judge a book by its cover. You looked at me and saw the use of those. “ He pointed at the pair of Baoding balls in front of him. “As a sign of weakness or maybe uncontrolled thoughts/emotions, either one is something that Vulcans, in general, look down upon. However, those,“ again he pointed at the pair of Baoding on the table, “have multiple uses. Yes, one of those, for some, is the assuagement of nervous or anxious thoughts and actions. However, that is not why I use them. Another use for them is as a meditative focus or as a way to focus and clear one’s mind, for me it is not the working them but the music that they make that helps me to focus my thoughts. Commander Sorek, do you practice Krakroa wh’ltri? What do you use as your focus? A candle flame? A gong? Chanting?”

“I meditate, but in private and not in front of others.”  Sorek did not elaborate.

“As you saw, I did not use them for very long, nor am I using them now. My father taught me some of the techniques of Krakroa wh’ltri that he learned from one of his department heads during the time he served. He knew that, at times, we all needed a way to achieve Kya’shin and C’thia. If you’re willing and accept me for the position, I am more than happy to discuss this with you, Commander.  There is another use for them; also, is to both strengthen and help with hand coordination which is another reason why I use them. Not sure if it is in my records, but as a hobby, I also practice lapidary, the art of cutting and polishing gemstones.” He wiggled the fingers on his right hand. “Gotta keep them nimble but yet strong.”  He again pointed to the Baoding on the table. “If you notice, those are not the typical metal ones; one is made from Lapis Luzuli and the other is made of Labradorite, both of which I cut and polished.”

He reached down to a pocket lower on his leg, pulling out a clothed wrapped bundle about six inches long and a few inches wide, placed it on the table, and unwrapped it. “Commander, this is the reason why I used the Baoding when I was answering the Captain’s first question.” On the table lying on the cloth was a shard of Vulcan Vokaya. “I was asked to create a pair of pendants from this for one of my team and her fiance. I just received that piece, and I was trying to picture in my mind the best way to cut two pendants from it and leave a sizable piece for me to add to my collection as I was walking to this meeting. As you can imagine, I needed to change my focus from that,” he pointed at the shard, “to this.” he knocked on the table with his knuckles.

Halsey took this opportunity to glance at his executive officer with a curious look to see his response.

Cezar looked at Commander Sorek and then at Captain Halsey. “Believe me when I say this, Captain, those,” again he pointed at the Baoding, “Are not a crutch. They are a tool, nothing more and nothing less. I am not compromised in my thoughts or actions. I fully understand what the role is, and I can assure you I am more than capable of making the decisions that need to be made when they need to be made.”

Sorek learned early in his career, that everyone deserved at least one chance.  Beattie had passed his psych evals, so for now, that was satisfactory.  Actual duty was different, so time would tell.  “I have no more questions at this time.”

Halsey tapped at his PADD a moment longer and then stood, extending his hand, “Welcome aboard the USS Mercy, Lieutenant Beattie.  I’ve notified our transporter chief of your impending arrival – we’re slated to depart tomorrow morning at 0800, so you’ll be needed on the bridge.  Once I’m back onboard, I’ll confirm your position in the computer as Chief Science Officer. I look forward to seeing you at work.”  The newly assigned officer gave a nod and left the room.  The CO turned to Sorek, “I got a message from Starbase Ops – Pottinger is waiting for us there.”  He let out a sigh, “Let’s get this over with.”  He led the XO out the door.

The Oldest of Friends

Starbase 11 / USS Mercy
10.13.2400 @ 2300

Halsey walked with Sorek at his side.  After the interview, they hadn’t spoken about Pottinger, and he’d remained silent as they walked.  The commander could have a point – maybe Grace had changed her spots in five years.  The truth would be revealed eventually.  The mission was going to take some time, and she was in command of everything mission related outside of the Mercy.  He was taking solace in that – he must have been doing a good enough job to avoid having her take complete command.  That would have been a disaster.

Sorek sensed the nervous trepidation in Halsey.  He considered offering an encouraging word, but in previous discussions about Pottinger, he’d already made his thoughts known.  Only in meeting her would he and Halsey truly know.  They turned a corner and soon stood before ‘conference room 12’.

Leopold said a silent prayer and stepped through the door as it opened.  Grace Pottinger sat on one side of the maple conference table with an assistant taking notes as she spoke, “…the details will be found in the briefing file.”  The thirty-five-year-old stood abruptly as the two senior officers from the Mercy entered.  “Welcome to Starbase 11.  Captain Halsey, Commander Sorek.  Please, take a seat.”  The CO took his seat next to the XO, both remaining silent.  Her assistant stood and walked PADDs to them, setting the units down in front of them as Pottinger introduced the officer.  “This is Ensign Franklin Laurel – he’s my administrative assistant in all matters.”

Halsey gave a deferential nod to the man.

“Ensign,” greeted Sorek.

Grace tapped at the console on the desk, and the monitor behind her lit up.  “The planet in question is at the start of an industrial revolution.  They’ve just completed research and development of a steam-powered railroad.  The primary mode of transportation is horses – the look of the culture is very much similar to our understanding of ancient earth history in The West – cowboys and the like. They are an agrarian people who are primed for a transition to industry and mechanics – with a future of warp travel very possible.”  She tapped at the screen.  “The cities are a good size, 100,000 or more, while the rural communities are smaller – 5,000 to 10,000.  Modern conveniences such as plumbing and electricity are found in some parts of the cities, but it is not widespread.  Medicine is based on science, but there is no agreement on how to treat disease and infection – some still hold to an old god creation myth even though we’ve found no evidence or hints of the providence of such a thing.”  She glanced up.  “Your science teams will be responsible for working through the last year of reports, evidence, and sensor data in order to render an updated timeline for their development.  I’ve read up on your science teams – you recently had a change in science chiefs.”

Sorek noticed Pottinger’s no-nonsense approach, getting right to the briefing without wasting time.

Halsey gave a quiet nod, “Correct.  We picked up our new Chief of Science an hour ago – he’s on his way to the Mercy now.”

She kept her eyes on Leopold.  “Is he capable of handling the mission in question?  The previous chief was a known quantity – I had hoped to work with her and encourage her growth.”

If Halsey wouldn’t have told Sorek about his past with Pottinger, he wouldn’t have thought there was anything wrong with her desire to help another officer advance in their profession.  Now he was suspicious.

Halsey recognized Pottinger was all business.  She hadn’t acknowledged their previous working relationship.  She hadn’t even identified Theodora as his wife.  What was her game?  And was there one?  He shrugged.  “Former Lieutenant Walker-Halsey made a personal decision.  I’m sure she will miss her Starfleet work, but she feels more connected to her civilian work.”

Sorek wondered how bad Pottinger was that the captain’s wife chose to resign her commission rather than work with her.

Pottinger turned her focus to Sorek.  “I look forward to working with you, Commander Sorek.  Vulcans tend to be more intellectually stimulating and elevated in their thinking.”

“Indeed,” said Sorek, holding his cards close and not revealing his hand.

Grace continued, “I’ll need to meet with your new science chief and his team tomorrow to ensure he has a full understanding of what is being asked of him and his team.”  She glanced at her PADD, “I think that’s all I have for the moment.  I assume quarters have been arranged?”

“They have,” said Sorek.

Halsey gave a nod, “Once we get back to Mercy, we’ll get Ensign Laurel situated – won’t be any trouble.”

Pottinger’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly, and her internal hackles raised.  “If there’s something this mission needs to avoid at all costs, it’s any kind of trouble or complication.  The Mercy is under a microscope on this mission, Captain.  Your brief tenure does not need any bumps with this mission.  The same goes for your crew.”

Halsey gave a nod, “I have trust in my team, Captain Pottinger. They’re a good group.”

Grace nearly squinted in emphasis but resisted the urge.  “Very well.  Ensign, let’s get to the Mercy.  We’ve got an early morning.  Captain, Commander.”  With that, Pottinger left the room.  The door closed, leaving the Mercy CO and XO alone.  

Halsey let the silence hold for a few moments. before he turned to Sorek, “Impressions?”

“Captain Pottinger has authority on this mission and wants us to know it,” said Sorek.  “Though we’ve never done a duck-blind mission, analyzing data is analyzing data.  The senior staff have all done this in their respective fields.  There is an agenda here we have not seen yet.  We need to be careful.”

Leopold agreed, “That’s the sense I’ve been having…and our conversation lends credence to your concern.  Pottinger’s gotta Pottinger.  Let’s get back to Mercy – I don’t like the idea of leaving her alone on our ship for long alone and unsupervised.”

The two left the conference room both with plenty on their minds.

Reporting in

240010.13.2315

240010.13.2315

He blinked his eyes as the bright light slowly faded from them. “Hard to believe after all these years no one has figured out a way to fix that.”

“Welcome to the Mercy, sir. I’m Ensign O’neil, The Deck Officer for this shift.”

Caesar stepped off the transporter pad, making his way a few steps over to the ensign and handing him his PADD. 

“Lieutenant Cezear Beattie, the new CSO reporting in.” 

He looked over at the transporter chief. “Thank you chief, If you could pass the word that there are two containers.”

“I just checked, lieutenant, they are already on board and were sent directly to your assigned quarters.”

“Ahh yes, tell the crew thank you for me would you.”

“I’ll pass the message sir.”

He turned his attention back to the Ensign. “Sorry about that Ensign. Always smart to make sure that the transporter folks know they are appreciated, unless you want to end up as a sticky pile of goo on the other side.”

The chief chuckled as he heard that.

“I’ll have to remember that sir. Your assigned quarters are marked on your PADD along with the various science labs and your department head files are also on there.” The ensign handed the PADD back to the Lieutenant.

Cezear quickly flips through the various files and ship deck maps. “Niiccee, you guys know how to make a guy feel welcome.”

“We try sir, we try.”

“Thank you Ensign. So out the door take a right and the lifts should be down the hallway a bit.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cezear nodded and made his way out the door and hung a right. 

“Hmmmm, bridge or quarters? Quarters or bridge? Well I came right over as soon as I could after the Captain approved my orders. So might as well check out the new digs first.” stepping into the turbolift and looking at his PADD. “Deck four”

Arriving on deck four Cezear spent a few minutes wandering the halls getting himself acquainted with the deck and getting his bearings. Approaching his assigned quarters and double checking the room number he entered into the dark room.

“Computer Lights.” as the lights came on he started to look around the room. “Interesting doesn’t look like this room has been used in a bit.” He walked around the two crates just inside the doorway. “Get to those later. So what do we have living room, bedroom, latrine with a sonic shower. Nice. hmmm, I will need to do a bit of rearranging in the living room, looks like the best place for the wheels will be in that corner over there. I’ll need to check with engineering though to make sure nothing is in the walls that the sonic cleaner will mess with.” 

He looked in the bedroom area. Ok, this will work. Full size bed, plenty of room to do what you need to do. Computer, dim the lights in the bedroom by forty percent.” he watched from the doorway as the light dimmed “hmmm, lower by another fiver percent.” the lights dimmed just a tad. “There we go. Computer, set the current light level in the bedroom as the standard level,please.”

“Bedroom light level is set.”

“Thankyou”

Cezear spent the next few minutes unpacking what he felt was needed for the night and the next morning, mostly out of his medium’ish sized rucksack that he uses for short duration away team missions.

“That will do for now, a place to lay my head tonight, uniform situated for tomorrow. Captain said 0800 departure tomorrow morning so using the ol’ advice from dad. “Computer, set an alarm for 0500, no make that 0430. Make that the normal alarm time for Lieutenant Beattie.:

“Alarm set 0430 daily.”

“Thankyou”

Cezear got ready to go to bed, took a few minutes of silent time to focus his breathing and let the issues and negative thoughts float down the river on leaves. Climbing into bed and get himself situated. “Computer, dim the lights down to 5 percent.” as the lights dimmed he turned over onto his stomach and stretched out.

(Ding, ding, ding) ”Lieutenant you have an incoming message from an Ensign Laurel.”

He slightly lifted his head and opened his eyes to a slit.”What time is it?”

“0100”

“Whats the message?”

“Lieutenant Beattie, you are required to meet with Captain Pottinger at 0600, directions to the conference room will be sent to your PADD.”

Computer, acknowledge the message and reset the alarm for 0400.”

“Message acknowledged and alarm set for 0400.”

“Thank you”

 

 

 

 

The Scientist’s Science

USS Mercy
10.14.2400 @ 0600

Grace had woken up at 0500 and practiced her boxing in her quarters by hammering away at the punching bag she’d requested.  She’d worked up a sweat and had ready to face the day as she’d assembled her materials to meet with the new science chief.  She looked at the chrono on the wall as it clicked past 0600.  Ensign Laurel sat at the end of the conference room table, making notes on his PADD.  Pottinger resisted the urge to send him to find this Lieutenant Beattie and resigned herself to waiting for the man to appear.

Cezear entered the conference room from a door to one side behind who he assumed was the Captain. “Excuse me, Captain Pottinger, I presume. I was just getting a refill of my coffee. I assumed you might not have had a chance to get breakfast yet, so I had the replicator make up a plate of assorted pastries.” He walked up beside her right-hand side, placed the plate of pastries on the table between them, and sat down a couple of seats away from the Captain. He placed his PADD and coffee on the table. “I was just starting to look over the files while I was in there drinking my first cup of coffee that was sent to me last night. Of course, I’ll have to get the rest of my departments to start going through it all.” He looked down at his PADD. “I do have a few questions, though, guess that’s why you wanted to meet first thing this morning.” He took out a pair of glasses, wiped them off, and put them on. 

Pottinger stared at the man in both shock and amusement at his hubris and his tenacity.  He’d managed to get one over on her.  She was not one that enjoyed having one put over her.  She glanced at the decadent pastries, “You’re kind to think of us, Lieutenant…but myself and Ensign Laurel keep our focus on our health.”  She tapped open her PADD, “Your background is interesting.  I understand you were placed in the Science Chief position last night?”

“Yes Ma’am.  Captain Halsey accepted my request last night. I reported onboard at 2315.” he took a sip from his coffee and reached for one of the pastries. “Hope you don’t mind, ma’am. Captain Halsey has set our departure from Starbase 11 for 0800, and with this meeting,  I don’t think I’ll have time to stop by the mess hall to get a proper breakfast.” He took a bite from the pastry. “Hmmm, not bad for coming from a replicator.”

She nodded to her PADD and ignored the m’am comment, “I’ve reviewed your file – your specialty is geology and astrometrics.  I am here to ensure your performance during the upcoming mission meets the standard of the observation department.  As I mentioned to the captain, plenty of eyes are observing Mercy’s performance on this mission.”  She tapped at her PADD, “You mentioned you had questions.  Perhaps we should start there to see what will need addressing first.”  She opened up the notes portion of her PADD and waited expectantly.

Cezear took another bite of the pastry, followed by a sip of coffee. “Yes, ma’am. Please understand I have not had the time as of yet to completely look through these files. But what I have had a chance to look at and the way that these files are separated has raised some questions.” he typed something on his PADD. “Yes, here we go. Had to get to my notes.” He looked down and quickly scanned the page. “Ma’am, These questions are in no particular order, just things I jotted down as I was perusing through the files.”

“The observation team, primarily human? What are their scientific backgrounds or departments? This way, I know which departments need to be assigned to these files first. No reason to have my biology lab look at something right away that has no biology context in it, for example.”

Grace nodded at Ensign Laurel, “My assistant will send you the complete roster with relevant details.  They are human only team trained in civilization observation, examination, and prediction, with a heavy emphasis on biological and psychological backgrounds.  This specific team has completed two previous tours of observation.”

“Thank you, Ensign; I was hoping that would have been in the data packet already. How many of them are actual anthropologists? biology  and psychology while parts of the sciences are not what I would think of for a cultural observation team, maybe a medical observation team, but not one focused on anthropology and cultural studies”

Grace narrowed her eyes, “The anthropology team was the advance team – they completed a site feasibility study.  They are due to visit in six months to gather updated information after the initial two-year period has passed.” She shared an unseen glance with her assistant.

“Are any of the team embedded with the locals? There seems to be a lot of data in these files that would be hard to get unless someone or a few people were not embedded with the locals.”

She raised her eyebrows, “The Prime Directive is incredibly clear on our processes and practices – we are observers only – any involvement from our teams would invalidate the natural progress of the people and the planet.  We are not to interfere or engage unless an emergency is declared under the project manager’s authority – which is me.”  She was mildly amused at the man’s lack of awareness of the Prime Directive’s implications.  She made a note to assign him a remedial course.

Cezear looked at the captain as she gave the answer to the previous question. “ I’m quite aware of what the prime directive states, ma’am.  Knowing a few anthropologists myself, I’m not sure any of them could patiently sit back and watch from a distance; most would want to be amongst the populace seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, and all that as that is what their science is all about.” he took a dip from his coffee cup, he watched as he dipped yo see what her reaction would be. “Your preliminary briefing page notes that their medical knowledge is based on science with no real agreement on how to treat infection or disease.  And that some of the population believes in a one-god creation myth, but you have found no evidence to substantiate this.” he pulled his glasses off and looked at the captain again. “Ma’am that to me reads as if someone or several someones has taken the time to be amongst the population. How else would they know about these things? Also, the brief states that plumbing and electricity are only available in parts of the cities. How would they know if they haven’t been in several homes to confirm it?  I mean, I’m sure as my teams go through and analyze the data, we will find the answers. So let’s put a pin in that one for now, shall we? “ 

Pottinger allowed herself to stare at him and let the silence hold in the room, “I’m not a ma’am, Lieutenant.  Captain or sir will do just fine.  Their medical knowledge and religion are based on observation and audio recordings we are able to get using various surveillance elements that allow us to avoid putting our people in the population and causing the observation experiment to fail. Additionally,” she looked straight at him, “Science is not based on a ‘reading’ of a document.  If you have a question regarding how certain readings, data sets, or observations were made, you are welcome to request that information for review.”  She kept her eyes square on the man, “The answers to your questions can be found through myself, Ensign Laurel, or the team once we arrive – your responsibility will be to evaluate the data they’ve collected, not the proofing of the briefing documents.  A team at Starfleet handled that.  I would not recommend idly dismissing the work of those men and women, Lieutenant.  If you have substantive issues with the briefing, you may send them to me, and I will refer them to my superiors to address your concerns with that team.  I don’t put pins in things.”  She waited for his next question.

“How many duck blinds are actually located on the planet? From what I read while I was waiting for you is that, cultural observation posts were meant to be set up to watch a particular city, village, clan, or family. Looks to me like you have information on what three to four cities or villages? Plus some notes on the more rural areas.”

The Captain tapped at her PADD and gestured to the screen, “The primary observation facility is located in the main city, but we have ancillary observational posts that are automated that gather data, images, and video, which is then transmitted to the main station, for evaluation.”  She waited for the next question.  She did not have to wait long.

“How come this team has not been checked on prior? Two years seems to be outside the norm for observation teams to go without having someone check in on them, don’t you think? Especially after the incident with the Enterprise and Mintaka-3. Thought I read somewhere that the regulations were changed after that incident, that a Starfleet vessel would check in on observation teams yearly at the minimum.”

Her eyebrows raised again.  “You read wrong, Lieutenant.  At least in this specific situation – a minimal check was completed a year ago by a ship from orbit with a standard communication check-in.  They have ways to communicate with us if something were to go wrong, but it hasn’t.  This specific outpost was set for a two-year span before a full diagnostic examination would be undertaken by a Starfleet crew.  If the people group was more advanced, an increasingly frequent check-in period would be used.”

“What systems are they using to obtain data? Again going back to the abundance of data in these files, that doesn’t seem to fit the duck blind observation method.”

Ensign Laurel approached and handed him a PADD with the details of the passive and active sensor systems used on the surface as well as the orbital satellite that was in use to fill in the gaps.  Pottinger smiled thinly, “I think you’ll find that the Department of Observation is well-equipped in every way to ensure data is collected in the full and completest sense.”

“Guess that’s what we are here to find out, now, isn’t it? He looked over at Ensign Laurel. “You sure you don’t want one of these pastries, Ensign? Hate for them all to go to waste. Hmmm, Laurel, Laurel, ahhhh yep. Any relation to Nancy and Sydney Laurel. Had them in my science classes about seven or eight years ago.”

The young ensign blinked blankly at the science chief, annoyance filtering across his face as he tonelessly replied, “There are many Laurels in the galaxy, Lieutenant.  I’ve already had my breakfast, thank you.” He returned to his console and continued tapping away at the keypad.

Pottinger kept her attention on the science chief, “Anything else will be located in the mission files and briefing that I will send out once we depart Starbase 11.”  She stood, “You are dismissed, Lieutenant Beattie.”

“Thank you for the data Captain; I’ll have my teams get on it. “ He nodded toward Ensign Laurel as he stood, grabbed his cup of coffee and his PADD, and made his way out of the conference room and after the door closed behind him he muttered, “Time to get to work, she is either looking for something or trying to hide something, and I plan on finding out which one it is.”

On the other side of the closed door, Pottinger spun on her heels and grumbled, “He’s going to be useless.” Laurel looked up and silently agreed.

Updating the team, a second Captain?

USS Mercy
8.13.2400

Messhall – 9:00

O’Shea made his way through the seemingly endless length of corridors. His mind kept going over the briefing that Sorek had just given the various department heads. There wasn’t any one thing that seemed to stand out as an issue; the mission itself was a standard one and having an expert per se come aboard to command the mission itself, outside the Mercy, was not unheard of but he had a strange feeling that there was something more going on.

He stopped outside the door to the main mess hall. There were several reports waiting for him in the security office and there was the training simulations at midday for the auxiliary security teams but a fresh coffee seemed to be in order. Stepping into the mess he was pleased to find that the staff had just brewed a fresh pot of coffee, and not just replicated one.  He grabbed a cup and sat down at one of the empty tables. Pulling out the PADD he usually carried with him for quick access to work he opened a secure connection to his console.  Taking a sip he began to read through the first report from Chief Pach on the last training simulation he had overseen.

Security Office – 9:30

Dougal sat at one of the tables with his feet propped up.  He had a whetstone in his right hand and Sgian-dubh in his left.  Giving the whetstone a critical eye and spat on the surface before returning to sharpening the blade.

Across from him sat Pach who was planning the training simulations, looking up at Dougal he grunted when he saw the Sgian-dubh, “What is the purpose of that blade Lieutenant? It is rather small for combat purposes; wouldn’t something like a meqle’H or bigger knife be more efficient?”

He looked at the blade critically and shrugged,  “I dinna ken, an I dinnae ken what a meqle’H is, but, this wee bugger has come in handy from time to time. It’s part of a Scotman’s kilt.  It’s tradition lad,” he concluded exaggerating the rolling of the “r” in tradition.

Pach nodded in understanding, “A traditional weapon? Then it must be carried and honoured, I can understand that better than most.” He pushed back from the station he was working at and opened a small compartment to his side and pulled out one of the pair of mek’leth he had stashed in there in case events called for them.  Holding it up he showed Dougal, “This here is a  mek’leth, a bit bigger than the meqle’H but similar design, good for close-in fighting, especially against a bat’leth.”

Dougal scratched his chin considering the weapons.  He was familiar with them, but had never seen one in person.  “A bit more substantial than a Highland dirk, but comparable reach.”

He stood and went to his locker and pulled out a blade sheathed in leather.  He drew the foot long blade of steel and presented it to Pach. The blade was double-edged, straight, and tapered for thrusting.  Too long to be a knife, but too short to be considered a sword.  The handle was black warpped leather with a polished brass pommel.   The blade itself was folded steel, and acid etched to bing out the pattern.   Near the hilt polished to a near mirror appearance was the coat of arms for the Clan MacDonald.  

“Another traditional weapon lad, but this is a wee bit harder to hide under my uniform.”

“An effective weapon, both in size and shape.” Pach agreed and then let out a deep chuckle, “But as you say, harder to hide under a uniform, especially the Star Fleet uniform, at least for day-to-day activities.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “If you ever want to practice I have several good training programmes, always happy for a battle companion.”

“I would imagine if I wore a Klingon uniform I would be encouraged to wear it openly. But. I no think I would make a braw Klingon,” he laughed. Returning the dirk to his locker he dropped back into his seat and picked up the whetstone to continue sharpening his knife. “I dinnae have a backward, but I expect the computer can do a fair approximation.  It would be interesting to see how our two martial styles stack up.”

Nodding Pach slid his mek’leth back into the compartment by his console, “I will let you know the next time I plan on training.”

O’Shea walked into the office a couple of minutes later, a PADD in his hand. Looking up at the room he nodded to Lieutenant Dougal, Chief Petty Officer Pach and the usual fixture of Ensign Pottinger who manned the security checkpoint into the brig. “Good, just who I wanted to see. We have our new orders and some news. My office in five.”

Out of respect Dougal returned the Sgian-dubh to its sheath on his left calf and stood for O’Shea. 

Five minutes later Dougal, Pach and Gerard Pottinger entered the office and took seats. “Great, first I wanted to confirm with each of you that Iziraa has transferred to a new ship; it was something she needed to do. She will be missed on Mercy and I know she will excel where she is. This leaves you three as the most senior security staff after me.” He paused for a moment and glanced at Ensign Pottinger, “Gerald, I want you to take over as head of Charlie shift, please. We will work on ensuring there is somewhere here at all times when the brig is needed.”

Gerald nodded as he straightened in his chair, “Sir, I can do that.” 

O’Shea nodded, “Good.” He turned his attention back to the others. “As I mentioned we have our orders. We are to do a routine check-in on an observation team observing a pre-warp society that has reached its two-year milestone. They are undergoing an industrial revolution.” He paused for a moment and pulled up the information he had on the planet sending it to each of their workstations for later review. “To be honest I don’t think this will have much for us as medical, the counsellors and the science teams will be reviewing the team and their date. That said if there have been any possible security issues and such we will review need to review their reports on them. The main bit of news is that we, well the ship are being given an advisory per se, Captain Grace Pottinger. She has experience doing these reviews apparently and command has asked her to join for the duration. The ship is still commanded by Halsey but she will have command of the review from my understanding only. If you do encounter her treat her with respect due to her position and rank but remember she is outside the chain of command of the Mercy and Halsey’s orders come first unless it is mission related.”

“I dinnae like a muddy chain of command,” Dougal grumbled his arms crossed in front of his chest. “One clear voice. Two can be problematic. Starfleet can be daft at times.”

O’Shea stifled a laugh at that which came out as a bit of a cough, “Let’s keep it as simple as we can. With any luck, there will not be much need for you to interact with Captain Pottinger but just remember, Halsey commands Mercy and Pottinger the mission-related aspects.”

At that Pach grunted an affirmative but Gerald frowned slightly before nodding. 

“Good, if you have any questions or concerns with anything do not hesitate to bring them to me and I will take them from there,” O’Shea said. “Before you go, do any of you have anything on your minds?”

“I think I’m good lad,” Dougal replied. 

Before O’Shea could respond Gerald spoke up, “Not sure that it means anything but Captain Grace Pottinger is a cousin, well somewhat removed. I don’t know much about her as we kept clear of that side of the family for reasons no one ever told me.” 

O’Shea nodded, “Well we all have some family members like that. Thanks for letting us know. You could always use this opportunity to reconnect if you wanted Gerald.”

Gerald shrugged, “Don’t see the need really sir.”

“Fair enough, your all dismissed. We need to get the training simulation sorted shortly,” O’Shea said.

 

Security Briefing

USS Mercy - Conference Room
10.13.2400 - 14:00

O’Shea stopped outside the doors to the conference room that Captain Pottinger had set up within. He had yet to touch base with any of the department heads on the take on her but as with every new Captain he encountered he figured it was best to approach them with an open mind.

He tapped on the door panel notifying the occupants within that he was outside.

Pottinger glanced up from the various PADDs she was working on.  Ensign Laurel, a few chairs down, spoke up as he kept his eyes and hands working on the console, “The Chief Security Officer.”

She mused, “Wonder who he pissed off to end up assigned to an Olympic class.”  She stood, “Enter.”

O’Shea stepped into the room and came to the attention, “Lieutenant O’Shea reporting as ordered.”

Pottinger nodded her approval at his stance, “Welcome, Lieutenant.  I’m Captain Grace Pottinger, and this is my assistant, Ensign Laurel.  Take a seat,” she gestured to a seat on the other side of the table across from her.

O’Shea nodded towards Pottinger and then Laurel and gave a quick “Captain, Ensign” as he looked at each in turn before sitting down in the chair. “So, Captain Pottinger, what can I help you with?”

She tapped at the closest PADD to her, “I understand you are relatively new to the Mercy – as is most of her crew.  What can you tell me about the crew?”

O’Shea cocked an eyebrow at that; it was not the first question he expected. “Yes, that is correct. As for the crew, they are good people. As with any new crew, their effectiveness will only increase in time as they learn to work to each other’s strengths. Captain Halsey seems to be good at recognizing people’s talents and helping them work together.” He paused for a moment, shifting in his chair, his posture relaxing slightly, “Given the relative short time the crew has been together, they proved their merit against a sentient AI as well as helping the colony on Colony 159 after the Romulan and Klingon attack. I have seen crew that have been together longer do worse.”

Grace smiled, but she was not particularly happy about his response.  It felt canned and possibly not completely true to her ears, but she would have to walk a delicate line as the mission continued.  In the short time Leopold had sat in the center chair; she was starting to discover that he’d found a way to connect to most of his crew.  To what end, she wasn’t quite sure.  She returned her attention to O’Shea, “Part of this mission will be ensuring the safety and security of the observation team – they will be confined to quarters.  No member of the team will be allowed to wander the ship – their meals will be provided in the room. Once the interviews, examinations, and processes are concluded, they will be escorted back to the observational station on the planet.”  She looked up at him, “Will your security teams be able to work within these parameters?  This means if a member of the observational team attempts to leave their quarters, you will need to ensure the doors are locked and otherwise secured with an officer outside.”

That is an odd request; pretty sure that is not protocol for such a review,’ O’Shea thought. He frowned slightly before he responded, “My team can easily handle that task.” He straightened his posture as he expected what he was about to ask might get some pushback. “I would not be doing my job if I didn’t ask as to why? From my understanding of the current protocols for these missions is that after a medical review and initial debrief, no isolation is required. Unless that has changed since I reviewed them when our orders were received. Is there something I need to be aware of regarding this team that isn’t in the brief?”

Pottinger held her smile, “The why is specific to this mission and the team – we are testing out new protocols within our teams to ensure no outside influence or tampering occurs when it comes to the observational team and their objectives.  They were aware of the conditions when they signed up for the positions – this will not be news to them. As for it not being included in the brief – a slight oversight – Ensign Laurel will ensure that detail is revised going forward.”  She tapped at her PADD – you have a security officer who carries…a blade with him?  While he is working with my teams and the observation center, that particular weapon will need to be secured and off his person.”

O’Shea frowned before speaking, “I am glad that they are aware of these new conditions and that the oversight will be corrected. Incorrect briefs, even on what should be a routine observational team review such as this can put people in danger.” He turned to Ensgh Laurel and nodded, “I look forward to an updated brief with the protocol when it is disseminated,” before turning back to Captain Pottinger. “As for the second point, special compensation has been granted by Captain Halsey for the traditional ceremonial blade. These are well within Star Fleet provisions unless I am mistaken.”

Grace shook her head slightly, “Within the operation, I am in command – Captain Halsey is responsible for the overall ship operations that are outside of my area of responsibility.  That is spelled out in detail in the captain’s briefing and documents that Starfleet Observations Command drew up.”

O’Shea cocked his head to the side and nodded with a smile, “Your command of the mission components is not in question, Captain Pottinger. I will happily inform my officer not to carry the blade as you have requested though I would like to understand the reason behind it, given this is within his rights, so he can log it accordingly if he so chooses.” He paused for a moment and looked past Pottinger into the space beyond as he mulled over his next thought, “I will need to know if there goes beyond the blade. Standard practice would be for my team to be armed with phasers when guarding the locations, are these not to be carried? If so, it would hamper my team’s ability to keep the observation team safe and secure, as you put it?” 

Grace had to give the man credit.  He was asking the right questions.  “Standard practices are that only Starfleet-issued standard weapons are to be used.  Your team is a security team – it would be untoward of us to suggest they not be able to arm themselves as that is their practice.  The reason you can give your officer is that we are very particular in Starfleet Observational Operations when it comes to how we operate with our crew and the crews we work with.”  She stood from her seat, “If there’s nothing more, Lieutenant O’Shea?”

O’Shea’s eyes settled on Pottinger for a moment, his face expressionless as he thought through what she had said. “Nothing further from me but I may have questions after I review the updated brief and new protocol after Ensign Laurel sends it through. As for the blade I appreciate the rationale behind your order and will pass that one,” he remarked before leaning back into the chair slightly. “As for the standard-issued weapons, I am glad to hear that this new protocol will not limit my team and their ability to do their job.”

Pottinger gave a slight nod, “That sounds reasonable.”

O’Shea stood and looked at Pottering and Laurel, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Captain Pottinger and Ensign Laurel. I look forward to working with you on this mission.” With that, he turned and left the room feeling a bit unsure as to this new Captain and her somewhat odd order regarding the blade.

The door closed behind the security chief and Grace turned to her assistant who was staring at her expectantly, “Yes, I know.  This crew is going to be difficult.  This wasn’t my first choice in the Olympic class fleet.”

Laurel grimaced, “If I remember, Mercy was third on your list.  We’ll do what we can with what we have, Captain.”  Pottinger sighed and returned to her console.

Of Engines and Engineers

Main Engineering
10.13.2400 @ 0845

Carolyn waited patiently at the master situations display in the center of engineering.  Her chief had been called to a briefing at 0800 hours, and she had fully expected Chief Cordon back by 0830, but that time had passed.  Crawford worked through the status reports and the updated punch list.  They had changed course for Starbase 11 and the Chief had been clear in seeing if there was anything extra they could put on the wishlists for station resupply.  She glanced at the chrono and saw it click by 0846.

The clock ticked to 0850 as Neva stopped just inside the sliding doors, ebony eyes scanning her Sanctuary. Her crew, her children, if she were honest with herself. Without each and every one of them, her Iron Lady would cease to function.  Shaking her head to clear it, she headed for where her Assistant Chief sat. 

Setting a hand on the back of the chair, she cleared her throat softly and then spoke.

“Hello, Crawford. When you finish, can you meet me in my office, please?”  Neva tapped the back of the chair twice before heading off. “Maybe I can grab a sandwich…”She mumbled absently.

Carolyn watched the chief walk towards her office.  There was a level of mystery to the woman at times, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Betazoid.  She finished the punch list and transferred it to the PADD on her belt.  She did one last check before she headed to the door to Chief Cordon’s office.  She leaned in, “You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?”

Neva was sitting down at her desk taking a drink out of a tall glass and tapping on her PADD. She looked up and waved Crawford in. “Have something from the replicator, Crawford. I’ve got a lot to discuss with you from the briefing.” She took a small bite of the sandwich, trying to collect herself. “Which do you want first? Good news or bad?”

Carolyn was curious.  She got a cup of iced black tea and took a sit across from her chief, “Bad news is always best heard first…then the good news feels good.  At least that’s what my dad taught me.”  She leaned back in her chair and waited.

 Neva tapped her PADD for a few moments, then put it down on the desktop and slid it to Crawford. “Ok, look at that. We’ve got new orders, and it’s going to be some coordinated chaos to accomplish. Granted, going to Starbase 11 will help us use that wonderful list you made; our new mission includes a Captain Pottinger & her assistant coming aboard. Don’t know much about her, but then, Brass is Brass right?” Without waiting for a reply, she continued. “Ok, on to the assignment. We’re going to a planet that’s studying a pre-warp civilization. We’re going to need to put our brood into teams to make repairs, do upgrades as necessary, and so on.” Neva sighed hard. “We need to make sure our brood also doesn’t ‘lip off’ on this mission. Not to mention, it’s not our ‘usual’ sort of mission.”

She continued, “Also, I want you to inspect the facility to see if there’s more we need to take care of. You’ve shown you have a knack to catch details some would miss, so… .” She took another sip of her drink and motioned for Crawford to give back the PADD. When she took it from her Assistant’s hand, she scanned it and tapped a few things in. “With all that in mind, I’m going to be analyzing the development of the planet’s civilization from an engineering standpoint. So I expect to be nose-deep into the facility’s records and my own observations.” 

Neva shook her head, head dropped down for a moment.”I see one glitch with this-we may have to select someone to oversee the work done by our lovely staff. What are your thoughts?”

Carolyn waited to make sure Neva was finished speaking.  “You do say a lot in those chunks, Lieutenant.”  She smiled as she said it, clearly appreciating the details that Cordon worked into her speel. “You said, Captain?  That’s a bit of a big catch to be riding along with us on this assignment.  Maybe she’s going to train us in this whole…thing?”  She thought for a moment longer, “It means you’re right about watching our words and actions.  As for your suggestion on overseeing the work – I could take that piece.  Helping to smooth out the rougher edges of our crew persona would do us good in the long run – the Mercy could make a name for herself.  We’d want everyone to know how to put their best parts forward.”

Neva nodded. “Yeah, a Captain running around our Lady. I don’t know exactly what to do about her or how she’ll want things done.” Neva sighed hard and looked at the work being done as they spoke. The crew had gelled pretty quickly, which helped her own nervousness about her new position.

Again, she shook her head and scrunched her lips into a muddled frown. “If you can help get the crew to mind their manners along with the workload we have, I’m all for giving it to you.”

The Chief looked down at her PADD and tapped a nail on her desk for a moment. The finger tapping changed to a hand making a quick slap on the desktop. Neva stepped to the side of her desk and leaned against it. Cocking her head slightly, she smiled.

“Carolyn, I know I’m not the easiest to work with.” She gave a soft chuckle. “I just want you to know that, without your help, I couldn’t have made this bunch of kids work together so well. I appreciate that.”

Neva bounced away from her perch and headed to the doorway of her office. Slapping the frame twice, her smile broadened to her usual one. “OK, my Assistant Chief,  it’s time to ‘assist’ and figure out who needs to do what when we get to the planet. I need to chat with the Captain about our decisions and appraisals of what our Iron Lady requires.”

Carolyn hid her bemused and amused face and simply nodded.  Her chief was, at times, an oddball.  Yet she’d heard plenty of stories of eccentric engineers filling several cargo bays.  So far, she liked this one.  She gave a nod and headed out into the engine room to being her work of assisting.

 

The Morning Report

USS Mercy
10.14.2400 @ 0745

The doors to the bridge opened and Halsey stepped on his bridge.  The officers were shifting to their stations and he spotted Sorek standing from the center chair.

“Captain.”  Sorek nodded.

Leopold gave a slight nod, “I expect Captain Pottinger shortly.  She’s made an impression on most of the senior staff.”

“I heard,” said Sorek.  He was hearing talk from around the ship, but he didn’t want to say anything in front of the bridge crew.

Halsey moved to share a smile but halted when the turbolift door flew open, and Captain Pottinger stepped out, her eyes searching the bridge as her assistant dutifully followed behind her.  She stepped into the central command area, “Captain Halsey.  Commander Sorek.”  Ensign Laurel handed over a PADD to her which she examined briefly and then headed to the CO, “We’ve completed our preview work with your various departments.  My evaluation of their status is included for your review and signature.”  She glanced at the helm, “The course to our target planet has been entered into the computer.  Departure is set for 0800 hours and at warp 9 we will arrive tomorrow morning at 0600.  We’ll begin operations immediately upon arrival and the operational crew will need to be ready.”

“Captain Pottinger, have you chosen the personnel for the initial phase of the assignment?” said Sorek.  Normally that would be his purview, but with Pottinger commanding the mission, the decision was hers.

She gave a cursory nod.  “You will be serving as my executive officer for the mission.  Lieutenant MacDonald will be assisting with the medical operations.  Lieutenant Beattie will be assisting with science operations with Ensign Laurel working with him. Lieutenant O’Shea will be handling our security efforts.  I’ve assigned Ensign Crawford to handle our engineering operations.  Each of those officers will select two to three additional departmental officers or crewmen to serve alongside them.  All others will stay on the Mercy to support the ongoing operation.”

Halsey remained silent but nodded at the appropriate points.

Sorek nodded.  “I will inform them of your orders.”

Pottinger eeked out a slight smile, “Thank you, Commander.”  She turned to the helm officer, “Helm, plot a course to the coordinates that were provided.  Warp Factor 9.”

The helm officer glanced back at Halsey and he almost laughed out loud.  Almost.  He gave a nod.  Pottinger’s head turned to him, her eyes widened a little as the Mercy jumped to warp.  She didn’t say anything, but her stare communicated something other than kindness.  She turned and left the bridge without saying anything. The turbolift doors closed and Halsey turned to Sorek, “Commander, you have the CONN.  I’m going to review the reports she filed on our operations.”

After the two captains had left the bridge, Sorek addressed the helm officer.  “Captain Halsey commands the Mercy.  You were correct in looking to him first.”

The pilot appeared to be relieved.

Halsey entered his ready room and let out a long and deep sigh after the door closed.  He wasn’t looking forward to reading the report and instead went to his replicator and ordered a vanilla rootbeer, plopping down on the couch and relishing the flavor.  Fifteen minutes later he refilled the glass and opened the PADD to start reading the report.  He nearly spit out the drink and tapped his badge, “Halsey to Sorek – report to my ready room.”

Sorek got up from the command chair and looked at the Ops officer.  “You have the conn.”  He stepped into the ready room.  “Captain?”

The door closed behind the XO and Halsey grumbled, “I just sent a copy of her report to you.”  He pointed to an extra PADD on the desk and scooted over on the couch, “She walks the line in calling our people idiots, but it’s pretty clear she doesn’t think our Chief Science Officer isn’t worth much.  Her report on our security team isn’t much better – she specifically identifies the practice of Dougal’s knife as out of line with Starfleet Guidelines and she’s borderline wondering about the mental health of our Chief Engineer who she didn’t sit down with but completed multiple observations…she went as far as to put the Assistant Chief in charge of all the engineering operations.”  He gestured to the report, “It’s a lively report.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts.”

Sorek quickly skimmed through the report.  “We know our people.  We have completed two important missions together.  Her opinions of them are irrelevant.  Until we discover Captain Pottinger’s motives, we must follow orders.  I know this is personal for you, but the assignment won’t last long and she’ll be gone.”

Halsey grimaced, “I wish it wasn’t personal, but you’re right.  It is maddingly personal…and it’s a cold war that she’s playing.”  He sipped at his drink, “Logically, it’s just a wait her out until she’s onto whoever else she wants to torture. He tapped at the PADD, ”I’m going to sign off on this report and I am not going to like it.”

“We must do everything according to regulations and protocol,” said Sorek.  “That way, as Humans say, our butts are covered.”

Leopold chuckled, “Vulcan humor – it does help break the moments of frustration.  It’s also got a more explicit idiom cousin – CYA as in cover your ass.”  He checked his chrono, “One of us is going to have to break the news to our Chief Engineer before too long – Pottinger will send out the full roster assignments later tonight.”

“Humor?  I don’t know what you mean,” said Sorek.  “I will inform Lieutenant Cordon.”

Halsey smiled quietly.  Vulcans.  Mysterious and hilarious intentionally and unintentionally.  “I’ll leave you to it, Sorek.”  He waited as the XO left the ready room, the door closing behind him.  Halsey growled, “Goddamn Pottinger.  Goddamn it all.”  He plopped back on the couch and returned to his reports.

 

The New Girl

Starbase 11 / USS Mercy
8.13.2400 @ 2200

Sam paced the small quarters she had been quartered in since arriving three days ago.  Starbase 11 was not in space.  It was on the moon.  That was the first part of the confusion.  The second part was her assignment to the USS Mercy.  She was a senior cadet required to do a practicum assignment, and somehow she had not ended up in one of the many practices near the academy.  Instead, she had been one of the few flung into the vastness of space assigned to a starship with a chief counselor.  She’d carefully planned her education, her classes, and her experience.  This was not in the plan.  An Olympic Class ship?  With a new crew, new captain, and new everything?  She had wanted to learn from learned counselors and experts, not a green crew with only a few months under their belt.

What in the hell had happened to her plan?  Her thoughts were interrupted by her badge beeping, =^=Cadet Soojin, the Mercy has arrived, and your transport window has opened.  Please report to transporter room 13.=^=  The channel clicked shut, and she sighed.  This was her life now.  She sent a message marking her belongings to be transported and stalked out of her room and down the hall and out into the air in search of transporter room 13.

 

 

“I don’t have you on my list, Cadet.”  The Mercy transporter chief stood, staring at her disbelief with his own equal disbelief.

“What do you mean, list?  I have orders to report to the USS Mercy today.”  She pulled out her PADD and clicked over to the message, and found it missing.  She frowned, feeling her face growing hot, “I had orders to come here for my practicum.”  She looked up, “I wouldn’t fly halfway across the galaxy and lie about that Ensign….”

“Ensign Blakely, Jake Blakely.  I don’t know what to tell you.”  He tapped his console, “USS Mercy to Starbase 11, we need to return Cadet Soojin to you – it seems we’ve got an orders mix up.”

There was a pause and then a chirp; = ^=Sorry, Mercy.  We’ve transferred her from our roster to ours.  Far as our records show, she’s assigned to you.  You’ll need to get with your captain or XO.=^=  The channel closed abruptly.

Blakely groaned, “And they’re both on the base doing interviews and collecting another captain.”  He stared at Soojin, trying to figure out a way to get her out of his transporter room.

She returned the stare, “You do have a chief counselor on this ship?  If someone’s going to take charge of me, it should probably be him.”

Jake clicked his tongue, “I may only be an ensign, Cadet Soojin, but I can tell when I’m being talked down to – and that’s not how we do business on the Mercy.  You better watch yourself with that fire.”  He tapped his console again, “Chief Blakely to Lieutenant Choi, I need you in transporter room 1 as soon as possible.  I have someone I need help with.”

Egrel lifted a brow as he heard the request over his combadge. He tapped it and replied, “I was on my way over anyways. I’ll be right there momentarily.” With that, he sped up his walking.

Egrel stepped into the transporter room. He gave a pleasant smile as he approached Blakely and Soojin. He stopped, clasping his hands behind him, “I was requested?” His dark eyes study the cadet with a curious gaze.

Soojin groused, “I was assigned to the USS Mercy for my senior practicum.  I’m Cadet Samantha Soojin, counseling.  I had my transfer orders on my PADD, and…now I can’t find them.”  She gestured to the transporter chief, “And it appears those orders are not here either.  The Starbase already transferred me here and won’t take me back.”  She gripped her PADD tightly to her chest, “I wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place, but I followed the orders and shipped out here anyway…and look where it got me.”

Blakely shrugged for his part, “I show the Starbase transferred her to our roster, but I have no orders in the system.”

Egrel lifted a brow and nodded, “I recall reading over the corresponding files about her transfer. I didn’t save them.” He frowned, “I apologize about that, but she is supposed to be here, Ensign. I wouldn’t have things prepared otherwise.” He gave a warm, gentle smile. He was trying not to react to her apparent displeasure, fighting the sarcastic, unprofessional urge to ask her how that made her feel.

Soojin didn’t release her grip on her PADD and kept her eyes drilled into the floor, “Can you please show me to my quarters and my work area?”  She let out a small sigh and begrudgingly pulled her eyes up to meet the chief counselor’s eyes.

Egrel nodded and gestured with a small smile, “Of course, follow me right this way.” He turned and started to walk off, expecting her to follow him, “Your belongings have already been sent over, I presume?

Soojin forced herself not to grumble in her answer, “Well, they tagged it for the USS Mercy…given the bumps so far, I’ll be hoping that’s the case.”  She followed him down the corridor, “What was your practicum like your senior cadet year, Lieutenant?”

Egrel nodded, “I’m sure it’s at least on the ship. We’ll track it down and get it sorted if not in your quarters.” He paused for a moment, considering her question as they walked, “I’ll be honest, it was painstakingly quiet and boring. Was likely a good thing for me, though. After the Dominion war, it was nice, actually. At the time, I hated it, but looking back, I kind of miss those years.” He glanced over to her and offered a warm smile.

Sam scrunched up her nose, “I’ve been warned about the ‘q’ word.  They said not to use it.  Invites all kinds of trouble, they said.”  She followed him, glancing around the corridor, “I’d never heard of the Olympic class before my senior year.  I guess I spent my first few years eying the flashier ships in the fleet.”  They stopped at an intersection in the hallway, and she asked, “Why are you here, Lieutenant?”  She apologized quickly, “I’m sorry…that came out…really ugly.  I forget I’m not senior anything around here.”

Egrel snorted softly and nodded, “It’s very true. Some strange human superstition that is incredibly true in a weird way. I use it for looking back after the matter.” He shook his head, “I never heard of the Olympic class till I was transferred to one, to be honest. I was stationed on a Steamrunner before. Not… really flashy or classy, but it was good.”

He looked over at her, smiling, not bothered by her question, “I’m not bothered at all, Cadet, don’t worry. On this ship specifically or in counseling?”

Sam let a small smile tug at her lips, “I was more wondering why the Mercy.  She’s not one of the well-known Olympic class ships in the fleet – I checked.  The captain and her crew are pretty new – just seems like an…” she selected her words carefully, “…an interesting choice.”

Egrel nodded, “Precisely why I chose it. A long-running ship has an already established culture and invisible hierarchy. Trying to blend in with that can be a bit of a nightmare when a lot of Betazoids aren’t liked for being telepaths. Being with a less well-known ship and a new crew can help build that team from the ground up.” He paused, nodding again, “I like seeing that. Watching all the connections form, seeing the crew go from all strangers to a family unit basically.”

They had ended up outside the counseling office doors.  Soojin glanced at the label on the wall, “I’m hopeful for that when I get my final assignment. A place to call home for a while.”  She stepped through the door as it opened and whistled, “This is pretty nice, Lieutenant.”  She admired the separate offices and waiting area.

Egrel smiled widely at the praise to the workspace. He worked hard to make the area appear cozy and welcoming, “Thank you. A place to call home is what I hope to provide for the crew and patients here.” He gestures around the counseling office, “I tried hard to make a welcoming environment here. It makes it easier if our patients are comfortable.”

Sam smiled, “It feels nice to have a sense of place after the craziness of getting aboard.  Am I OK to turn in for the night?  What time tomorrow do I need to report in?”

Egrel chuckled at that and nodded, “I can imagine. Yes, you are more than welcome to. Take the rest of the day, settle in, rest, and explore a bit. I’ll see you at 0700 tomorrow morning.”

Soojin thanked him and headed out in search of her quarters.

CSO on the bridge

USS Mercy
240010.14.0700

240010.14.0700

Cezear stepped out of the turbo-lift and onto the bridge of the Mercy for the first time, he pulled at his tunic to make sure it was straight and looked down to make sure his boots were somewhat shiny and not scuffed too bad. “I’ll have to spend some time on those tonight.” he thought to himself as he walked toward the small grouping of blue tunic’d individuals.

“Good morning ladies and gents. How was everything overnight? Anything I need to be made aware of?”

The small group turned and faced him as he approached. “Sir?”

“Right, guess I should have led with that. Let’s try that again, shall we? Good morning ladies and gents. I’m Lieutenant Cezear Beattie, the new Chief Science Officer as of roughly 2230 last night.” He looked at the group in front of him. 

They gave each other looks. “Sorry sir, we weren’t aware that a new Chief Science Officer was going to be selected so fast. Does it have something to do with the Data packet we received last night?”

“It does, notwithstanding that a ship like the Mercy can’t go too long without a CSO, can it?”

As he walked up to the Chief science console. “So, were we able to get started looking over the data this morning?”

“Sir, We just finished running it through the ship’s systems and making sure it was loaded into the ship’s computer core. You wouldn’t believe the amount of data in the packet, sir.”

“Oh, I think I have an idea. Before I start assigning it to the various departments. Can someone go through it and remove all the extra crap that we don’t need.” Two of the crew turn and start working on their consoles.

“Sir, “As a human female, wearing the pips of an Ensign, reached out her hand. “I’m Ensign Priscilla Applewood, your Gamma shift leader.”

Shaking her hand. “Nice to meet you, Ensign. I’m sure you’re ready to get off shift and all that so unless you have anything for me I think we are all good here.”

“Yes sir, well No sir. I mean I don’t have anything to report.”

Cezear chuckled. “All good Ensign. Go get some food and sleep, see you tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir.” as she looked at the two crewmen standing beside her, nodded toward them dismissing them from their shift. The small group made their way toward the turbo-lift doors.

Cezear sat down at the console and started to arrange the various displays as he liked them. “Computer, lock in current science one console layout as Cezear-charlie-alpha-one.” The computer simply beeped in acknowledgment.

“Alrighty then, let’s see this data shall we.”

Cezear spent the next several minutes going through and dividing the data into the various departments, creating packets for each along with crosslinking several packets and departments, including medical.”

He spun in his chair and faced the two other science consoles, stood, and took a couple of steps toward them. “Excuse me, ensign?”

“Ensign Portia Linwood, sir. General Sciences.”

“Hmmm, not a bad decision by the previous chief to have a generalist on the bridge. Ok, so I would like you to pull the scan data for the system around planet SB1094 for the past year. I would like to know who has been there, how long they were in the system, and any data they were able to gather. Do you prefer the rank then name or during informal conversations going with surnames.”

“That shouldn’t take too long, Lieutenant. As for the second question. I guess during informal conversations surnames are ok, as long as it is understood that if anyone else were to approach or take part in the conversation we use rank prior.”

“agreed.”

He walked a couple of steps over to the science three consoles. 

“Ensign Huvem, planetology.”

Cezear nodded in reply. “May I call you Huvem or do you prefer the rank prior,”

Ensign Huvem held up a hand. “I overheard your conversation with Ensign Linwood, sir. I too would find it logical to use given names during informal conversations. I have also removed the crap as you put it from the data.

“Very well. Excellent.” 

“Next question. Does it seem logical to you to remove the anthropologist team after six months and then replace them with a team composed of Biologists and Psychologists and then to bring them back roughly two years later?”

“As part of a cultural observation team, it does not seem logical as you humans would say it seems a bit odd.”

“That’s what I thought. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Could you go through the data from the anthropologists and see if there is any reason why they would need to be replaced to include anything in the reports on why the decision was made to replace them if there was no scientific reason for replacing them in the first place? Also, look to see if there is any reason why anyone would bring an anthropologist team back to the planet after two years.”

Cezear watched as Huvem started typing commands into the console. “Second question, would you like the planetology packet or should I send it down to the lab.”

“Logically, I would receive the packet first and then I will delegate it to my team in the lab as needed.”

Cezear nodded at this. “Ok then, I’ll be sending the packets out in a bit.”

Huvem nodded, as Cezear made his way back to his console and took a seat. Reaching for his coffee cup and taking a sip, he grimaced. “Drat, gone cold. Excuse me, Linwood, is there a replicator on the bridge?”

Linwood looked up from her console and pointed toward the forward port side door. “Through that door is a small crew rest area with a replicator and the latrines.”

“Good to know, thanks.”

Cezear stood from his console looking around the bridge as he made his way to the side door. “Guess after I warm this up I should make my way around and introduce myself.”

Returning to his console just as the Captain stepped on the bridge, he watched as the Captain and XO had a brief conversation. Returning to his car sole he barely heard the turbo lift open as he saw the reflection of Captain Pottinger entering the bridge.

“Oh, this should be interesting.” he chuckled to himself.

Listening to the conversation he almost spit out a sip of coffee when he heard that her lap dog would be assigned to his team. “Damn, micro-managing now are we. Gotta fix that can’t have him commenting on everything I do or say or reporting back to her every time I make a decision he doesn’t agree with.”

Looking around he saw the looks on several of the bridge team when Captain Pottinger tried to command the helm officer and he looked at Captain Halsey for clarification.

“You may be in charge of the mission but you are not in charge of the Mercy and she does not like that fact very much, now does she? That’s interesting.”

He started to pull up his department head and assistant head files to decide on who will be joining him on the planet. “Humans preferably or those easily passable as human.” 

He spun his chair to face the two Ensigns. “Ensign Linwood, you’ll be joining us on the planet. Ensign Huvem you’ll stay here on the bridge”

They both turned to face Cezear. “Yes, sir.”

“Ok, we have some time yet, let’s keep working on this data. Huvem, let’s start watching the long-distance scans. Gather as much information as we can on the system and SB1094, and cross-check it against the files we got from Pottingers team.”

“Ok then let’s get to work shall we.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Begins

USS Mercy
10.15.2400 @ 0600

Chief of Helm Maxwell Alexander Fleming reported, “We’ve dropped out of warp.  Full impulse to target – arrival in five minutes.”

Halsey stood on the United Federation of Planets Logo, his hands in his pockets.  He had been unusually reserved over the last twenty-four hours, and the bridge crew had picked up on his mood.  Not enough to say anything, but enough to watch him a little more carefully.

Pottinger sat in the left-hand chair, her PADD on her lap, legs crossed, and staring at the Captain of the Mercy. She had not spoken to him since leaving the bridge the day before, and she had kept to herself, aside from sending out the roster, directives, and missives related to the mission. In that regard, she had been busy. Now she waited mutely for her moment to take back the control Halsey had momentarily gently taken back by standing where he stood and working with the helm officer the way he did.

Sorek saw the tension between the captains.  Of course, the staff did as well.  This was bad for morale, but unless it came to blows, he had to go with it.

Ensign Fleming tapped at his console, “Starting the sensor sweep now.”  His console display shifted as the new data came streaming in.  He frowned and turned to the science chief, “Lieutenant Beattie?”

“I’m seeing it too, Ensign. Captain, we have run both long and short-range scans twice. Our scans are giving us the same data.” He spun his chair toward Ensign Huvem, who shook his head. “Captain, the data we are receiving at this moment is not consistent with what Captain Pottinger and her team supplied us. We’re going to need to run some further scans so that we can investigate this fully.” 

“Captain Pottinger, is it possible to have the scans from the ship that received the one-year data upload? So that we can run checks against the original scans from your team, the scans from that stop, and what we are seeing now?” Grace tapped at her PADD, sending the data to the science chief.  She remained silent.  The science chief continued, “Commander Sorek, might I suggest a broad range sweep for radio or communication signals? See if we could be missing something?”

“Of course, Lieutenant,” said Sorek.  “Do what needs to be done.”

Pottinger turned to her console and echoed the frown of the helm officer, “This doesn’t look right.” She tapped at the console to refresh the sensors and shook her head, “That is impossible.”  She glared at the helm officer, “You sure you got us to the right place?”  The tone bordered on accusatory, and the young man turned in his chair to protest, but Halsey stared at him, silencing him.

The CO calmly asked, “Ensign Fleming, please confirm our position on the star chart compared with the coordinates provided by Starfleet Observation.”  He kept his eyes on his officer, a gentle look replacing the hard warning he had projected moments ago.

Fleming did his due diligence and confirmed, “We are at the location.  The sensor readings confirm the civilization as expected…but…,” he turned to the Chief Science Officer.

“Sir, we see the planet.” he pointed to it on the main view screen. “ However, we are not detecting the team, nor can we get a good fix on the situation around or in the observation post or the satellite posts.” 

Pottinger stared at her console, “That is…impossible.  Scan for our crew across the planet.”

Halsey glanced to Cezar and his team as his voice retained the calm and even demeanor from his conversation with the helm, “Please and thank you. ”  He turned to Fleming, “Take us around the planet – non-standard orbit.  That scan will take a moment…get the cameras focused on the site identified as the main facility.”

Ensign Huvem turned to face Captain Halsey. “Sir, we are not detecting any life signs that match the ones given to us by Captain  Pottinger and her team. This is highly illogical   Unless something is wrong with the data we were given.”  Halsey gave the ensign a nod as he watched the viewscreen.

Fleming did as he requested, and the Mercy rumbled forward, banking as the battery of cameras and scanners pointed at a point on the planet.  The view screen shifted to an overhead view of the city as the zoom accelerated and focused, the helm officer manually centering the view.  The facade of the hill and mountain remained, and the population moved about, unconcerned.  The helm chief wondered, “Whatever has happened, it hasn’t been cataclysmic in nature.”

Leopold turned to his new science chief, “Lieutenant Beattie, what can you tell us?”

Cezear stood and walked over to look over the shoulders of the two Ensigns. The three of them were actively checking and cross-checking the data. He turned to look at Captain Pottinger.  “Captain, are we absolutely sure about the technological level of the planet’s inhabitants?”

Pottinger glared at him, “Yes, we are absolutely sure.”

He went back to looking at the two consoles with the Ensigns. “Captain, this is perplexing. We are showing signs of some sort of interference that was not mentioned in the briefing packet. We can not lock onto the location that the interference is emanating from.”

Pottinger was furious but wasn’t sure who to blame for whatever had occurred.  She tapped furiously at her PADD for a few moments before she stood, “Captain, I need to communicate with Starfleet Command.”  She stalked off and into his ready room, and the door slipped shut behind her.

“Presumptuous, isn’t she?” said Sorek.  It was a breach of protocol to march into the ship captain’s ready room without asking first.  It was also disrespectful, but perhaps that was the point.

Halsey chewed on his lower lip, his hands still in his pockets.  Had he been a younger and brasher version of himself, he might have chased Pottinger into his ready room and had it out with her behind closed doors.  He’d learned plenty in the five years since he’d last encountered Pottinger and people like her.  It was going to be a miserable cat-and-mouse game.

The door to his ready room flew open, and she stalked to the center where Halsey and Sorek stood.  “Starfleet Observational Command has instructed me to begin an investigation regarding the missing team, the change in atmospheric conditions, and the status of the facility.  Modified mission orders are being transmitted.”  She turned to Sorek, “Commander, assemble our teams and meet up with them and me in transporter room 1.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  Sorek accessed the console at his XO station and sent the order to the mission teams.

Halsey mused, “If we find the need to go into the population, we’re going to have to get creative if that’s the case.”

Grace gave him a look, “This crew cannot fail us.  Keep that in mind.  Commander, I’ll see you in transporter room 1.  Laurel, with me.”  She was gone, and the turbolift door slid shut as Leopold glanced at his XO.

“I suspect logically it is better that you assist Captain Pottinger.  I wish you good luck, Commander.”

“It is better, and luck is illogical,” said Sorek.  Leaning close to Halsey, he whispered in his ear.  “Be strong for the crew, sir.”

Halsey allowed a thin smile as he whispered back, “We’ll get through it.” His voice returned to a normal volume, “Helm, get us into standard orbit.  Make sure we avoid the orbital platform.”

Beattie spoke up, “Sir, I would advise against that if the inhabitants have any knowledge of astronomy or have developed a telescope in some form. A new blob of light moving in a standard orbit may draw some looks. I would suggest maybe on the far side of the moon. Then using the runabouts or shuttles as a means to run scans and collect data.”

Halsey thought about it for a moment, “If they’ve developed such technology, they would have seen the orbital platform.  I’m willing to compromise – I don’t want us to be far away if something develops – put us in high orbit, limiting our visible range, helm.”  He glanced at the science chief, “You should probably head to transporter room 1, Lieutenant…Captain Pottinger is not fond of…waiting.”

“Aye sir, Ensign Linwood your with me.” as he tapped his combadge to notify the two department heads he had chosen to join the away team. “Ensign Huvem, keep checking those scans. Get with engineering and operations see if we can figure out where that interference is coming from.” as he followed Ensign Linwood towards the turbo lift.

Halsey returned to the center chair, “Let’s start a full and complete planet scan.”  It would take considerable time, but Leopold’s hackles were raised, and his concerns were growing.  What lay ahead was unknown…and he wanted to know as much as he could, quickly.

 

Unexpected Restrictions

USS Mercy - Deck 28; Armory
10.13.2400 - 15:30

After O’Shea left the meeting with Captain Pottinger he did a quick wander through the ship stopping by engineering, medical, and several of the science labs as he thought back on the meeting. After 30 minutes he activated his coms to determine the location of Lieutenant Dougal MacDonald.

The computer quickly responded, ‘Lieutenant MacDonald is in the main Armory, Deck 28.’

“Shouldn’t be surprised by that I guess,” he muttered to himself and made his way to the nearest turbolift. Upon entering he gave his destination, “Deck 28, Armory.”

Deck 28 – Armory: 15:35

Dougal scanned a phaser rifle with a tricorder,  checked it against the inventory and then moved on to the next weapon stored in the armory.  This time a micro photon launcher.   Counting the torpedoes in the accompanying backpack he frowned.  Two were missing.  He was looking around when O’Shea entered. 

“Dougal,” O’Shea said with a nod, “just who I wanted to see.” He paused for a moment noticing the inspection that Dougal was carrying out, “Everything in order?”

“Nay lad,” he said with a frown.  “According to the inventory there should be four micro torpedoes,  and there are only two.”

O’Shea listened to Dougal and a frown grew on his face, “That is not what I was wanting to hear.” He stepped up and double-checked the inventory and then the backpack. Shaking his head he cross-checked the last inventory, “What’s your gut telling you? A mistake or something else?”

“I dinnae think someone stole the wee buggers.  Probably misplaced.”

O’Shea nodded, “Ok, either way, let’s review the entry logs for the armory. I suspect that it is possible they were not logged correctly after the incident with the Romulans and Klingons as several launchers were used. Pach may be able to shed some light on this as well.” He turned away and scanned the rest of the armory, he did not believe there was someone on the ship who would steal the devices but it had to be considered. 

Dougal shrugged, “It was a bit of a mess of a mission too.”

O’Shea nodded, “My thoughts exactly. Let’s have a route through here and the shuttles. I can get Pach to check them while we look here.” He made is way to the heavy weapons lockers and paused, “If we cannot find it today then I will need to put in a report about this but with this Captain Pottinger I am hesitant. There is by the book but I got the sense she would use this against the Mercy.

“You met the lass?” Dougal asked curious.

“You could say that,” O’Shea said, “I just came from a briefing with her and her assistant. They want us to provide a security detachment to ensure the observation team does not come into contact with anyone on the ship. I have no issue with this but she played it off that it was a new protocol being trialled but they did not inform us or include that in the briefing documents. Captain or not, that information is critical.”

“Aye it is,” Dougal agreed. “Is no big deal.”

O’Shea clicked his tongue as he started to remove the various photon launchers from the locker, “That is why I was looking for you. She has requested that you not carry your Sgian-dubh when working with her team or the observation team.” He held up his hand as Dougal moved to say something, “I know you have special compensation by Captain Halsey to carry it and that it is within regulation if that has been granted. I raised this with her as she technically can request this. Her rationale is that the Starfleet Observational Operations unit is very particular when it comes to how they operate with their teams. You can officially log this in your file and mission report if you choose, I know I will be given the odd nature of the request.”

Dougal gave O’Shea a confused look.  “My wee bloody knife?  The bisom has nothing better to do than to worry about a knife?  Does she not ken how useful the blade is?”  He was incredulous, “It’s not like I’m carrying a bat’leth around. Ancient Scots were more than likely to eat with it than stab someone. What’s next? Is the lass gonna ban forks?”

O’Shea shrugged, “I get it. I had thoughts along the same line to be honest due to the odd nature of the request and asked if we would be required to do our job without phasers as well.” Pulling out the last launcher and backpack he turned and set it down on the table, “Needless to say her response was a bit snippy but we will be allowed to carry standard equipment.” Opening the bag he checked the set of micro photons within before moving to the next before pausing and looking back at Dougal, “I understand the concern you have regarding the Sgian-dubh but it is only temporary. Once Pottinger is gone things will go back to normal.”

“Aye well, it’s no the blade that’s the problem lad,” Dougal said resigned.  “It’s that bloody level of pettiness and micromanagement.  I dinnae like meddling, and the bisom is obviously a meddler.” He opened the pack with the last launcher, “Aw there you wee buggers are!” He removed two microtorpedos. “How did you wee bastards get in there?” He said to the torpedoes. 

O’Shea stepped over to the bag and glances in, “That’s good. Saves us a report and a headache.” Grabbing two of the launchers he turned to place them back in the locker, “As for Pottinger I would agree based on what I have seen but there is little we can do. She has the command of the mission and the rank but she must work within protocol and regulations, if she steps outside of them we record it and go from there.”

“My wife has the power to relive her of duty,” Dougal said only half joking. 

O’Shea stifled a laugh, “I doubt it would come to that. Best to keep your head down. This mission will be over soon enough.” He finished putting the last of the launchers back in the locker and was able to turn to leave when he stopped, “I haven’t run it by the Captain yet but now that Izi’s transfer has gone through you are by far the second most experienced officer on the security team. I am going to suggest that you be the assistant chief security officer just in case something happens to me. Do you want the job? You are basically doing it already.”

“Sir?” Dougal considered the offer, “I dinnae suppose it matters what I want, ” he replied with a smirk. He sighed and glanced around. Aimee wasn’t going anywhere.  As CMO of a medical frigate she was basically in her element.   “Aye lad,” he said nodding reluctantly.  “I guess my days in SpecOps are done. I hoped to come back to it. To have my old commander give me a call and tell me to suit up.  He’s left Starfleet,  and that was just a bloody daft pipe dream.  Aye, I’ll be your second.”

O’Shea nodded, “Good. I will get Halsey to sign off on it. It is either you or Pach and well he is already our senior NCO so that was out.” O’Shea turned to leave then stopped, “I understand what you mean about the old days but just remember, we are in Star Fleet and we never know what the next day or mission will bring. Your job is to protect the people on the crew and given what we have seen on the Mercy up to now I suspect we will have some interesting times ahead of us.” He shrugged as he continued, “Besides you get to be posted with your wife, that doesn’t always happen.”

“Aye lad. I cannae argue that logic at all.  I am a wee lucky man to be sure.”

O’Shea laughed at that, “That you are.” He then turned and made his way to the door before stopping, “Lets make sure that this mission goes off without a hitch, speak to your team and make sure they understand. If you need anything I will be in the security office reviewing the files I have on this planet.”

“Aye, I will,” Dougal replied somewhat amused.

With a nodded O’Shea walked out of the armory.

 

 

Touchdown

USS Mercy / Bardor Bay City
10.15.2400 @ 0630

Pottinger stood in the transporter room, waiting and watching for the officers to arrive.  Sorek stood beside her.  She wasn’t able to read him very well.  It didn’t help that he was a Vulcan and not given to showing any of his cards.  All she had going for herself was that she outranked him.

While waiting for the others to arrive, Sorek studied Pottinger, as he wanted to learn for himself what she was really like.  He believed everything Halsey said, but there were always two sides to a story.  So far, he saw that she was very confident, pushy, eager to use her authority, and impatient when things weren’t going her way.  He had no doubt her desire was for the mission to succeed, but not knowing her true agenda made him cautious.  Time would tell.


O’Shea double-checked he had his equipment safely stowed in his backpack before grabbing his phaser and holster, attaching it to his belt. Shouldering the bag he glanced to Dougal, “You set?”

Dougal stared at the phaser in his hand and let out a loud laugh,  “Ya know lad, if these people are as backward as the report says wouldn’t a wee phaser be a bigger problem than a knife?” He shrugged and holstered the phaser, “Aye, as I’ll ever be.”

Not long after, they both arrived at the transporter room and stepped in. O’Shea nodded to the two officers waiting, “Sorek, Captian Pottinger. I hear there has been a snafu. What do we need to know?”

Grace gave him a glance, “We’re unable to locate or confirm our team is present.  We will do a full inspection of the site and discover what we can.”

Lieutenant Beattie walked into the transporter room, followed by two officers in the blue of science and a civilian human male. Adjusting the fit of his ruck and other equipment. “Captain,  Commander. Have we heard anything new since we left the bridge?”

Pottinger gave him a dismissive shake as she took in the additional people he had brought with him, “No, nothing yet.”

“Captain, may I introduce Lieutenant Deika, Tedi,  head of the Mercies Anthropology department, Mr. Maximilian Norfolk, Botanist, and agricultural sciences, and I’m sure you recognize Ensign Linwood, General sciences.”

Pottinger gave an indifferent nod to each, “For our first visit to the facility, I would suggest limiting our presence to the head of department and one other – as we get a better understanding of what is happening, we’ll start the process of expanding teams.”

Beattie nodded. “Ensign Linwood your with me, Lieutenant Deika and Mr. Norfolk return to your departments, continue going through the data and wait for us to call for you.”

Aimee walked in with her medical kit slung over one shoulder and a phaser pistol on her left hip.  She smiled at O’Shea and moved to stand next to her husband.

“Just you lass?” Dougal asked her.

“KISS you, big Scottish lunk,” she said, teasing.  “Keep it simple. Less chance of contamination with less people, and let’s hope my services will not be needed.”

“Aye, but you know how these missions go.”

Aimee let out a long sigh, “Like a damned train wreck.”

Neva walked in and went to one of the transporter pads in the back. She nodded and smiled at everyone there except the Captain. She knew she should acknowledge her by rank, but Neva didn’t care. Even though she was deemed psychologically fit for duty, it still stung her pride. ⁠Pottin’I

Pottinger moved to the transporter pad, and the rest of the crew followed.  The transporter chief clicked through the commands, “Site locked.  Engergizing…”


The light of the transport faded as the transporter bay faded into view.  The power was at a lower level than they’d expected.  Pottinger moved to the console and tapped at the surface, “The facility is in lower power mode for some reason.  There are three levels to the operation.  We are on deck 3 – where personal quarters, kitchen, recreation, and engineering are located – at the mountain’s base.  Deck 2 is the labs, meeting rooms, workrooms, and the like.  Deck 1 is the primary observation station.  Commander Sorek take Lieutenants MacDonald and Ensign Crawford to Deck 1.  Lieutenant Beattie, you take Lieutenant O’Shea with you to deck 2.  Lieutenant Cordon, you’re with me.  We’re going to work on this deck,

“Aye ma’am,” Aimee and Dougal replied, giving each other a conspiratorial glance and moved to stand next to Sorek.

O’Shea stepped over to Lieutenant Beattie, “I don’t believe we have had a chance to meet you.” He held out his hand, “James O’Shea, Chief of Security.”

Cezear gave the security chief a look over, accepting the hand with a firm grip. “Cezear Beattie, no, I don’t think we have had the chance yet. New Chief of Science.”

“Let’s go so see what we can dig up on our missing observation team, shall we?”O’Shea said as he clasped Beattlie’s hand.

Beattie nodded towards the turbo lift. “Let’s go see what we can dig up, deck two seems to be the meat and potatoes of the post. So I would think if there is anything to be found on what happened or why, it would be there.”

Pottinger turned to the chief engineer, “Come with me.”

All is not as it Seems

Bardor Bay City Observation Post - Deck 2
10.15.2400 @ 0700

The turbo lift door opened onto an empty corridor on deck 2. If it wasn’t for the fact the team was missing, nothing appeared to be amiss. O’Shea stepped out into the corridor as he placed his tactical eye display on, allowing him to directly view an overlay from his tricorder. Glancing back at the new Chief Science officer, he spoke, “I’m not picking up anyone on this deck, but it’s best we stick together.”

“Agreed” Cezear reached down, checking to make sure his phaser was in its customary place, then reached across and pulled out his PADD while pulling out his recorder with his other hand. “ According to the map, there should be a meeting room about six meters ahead on the right side. Seems like as good of a place to start as any other.”

O’Shea nodded, “Seems like a perfectly good place to start.” Adjusting his backpack, he began to move forward down the call, scanning the passageway before then. Coming to a corridor just before the doorway, he stopped and checked both ways and was unsurprised to see the halls empty. “There should always have been at least one person here; this is damn odd,” he said as he continued forward before pausing at the closed door.

Tapping the panel for the door, it slid open, revealing a moderately sized room with a large meeting table with a holo display embedded in the middle of it. Most of the chairs, 4 in total, were tucked into the table though two were pulled out slightly. “Looks pretty empty but let’s see what we can find; there may be some data on the holo display,” O’Shea said as he stepped into the room, taking in the scene before him.

Cezear made his way over to the table, taking a seat in one of the chairs. “Where was that code that the Ensign gave us? Ahhh, here it is.” He typed in the authorization code to gain access to the system. “Let’s see what we can find, shall we? I would think the last meeting here would be as good as any point to start at. We can work backward from there.” looking through the console stopping on this or that page till he found what he was looking for. “Ahhh, here we go; looks like they recorded their meetings, audio only for the most part.”

The audio buzzed for a moment, and then it popped in. A man’s voice boomed, “What the hell was he thinking?  He knows the rules.  He knows Pottinger’s directives.  Why did he leave?”

A young woman’s worried tone spoke, “Jacob’s been doing a lot of pacing the last few weeks.  I think he was starting to lose it.” 

A slam of the fist on the counter startled O’Shea and Cezear as a new burly voice shouted, “Damn it, Joanne – why didn’t you say anything?  Unbelievable.  Don’t tell me you liked him or something.”

There was an unusual pause in the recording, and Joanne’s voice went from worried to confrontational as she yelled, “And what of it, huh?  Howard, you might be the team leader, but you don’t get to tell me who to like or not like.”

There was a sigh, and Howard shouted at her, “That’s exactly what I get to do!  This whole thing… runs on how honest we are with each other about what’s going on.  And you…you were not honest with us, Joanne.  This is certainly going into the report.”

A female voice broke in, irritated, “Would you two shut up?  We’ve got a real problem here.  Jacob’s out in our world and doing…who knows what to mess up this study.  We need to find him.  And get him back here.”

A meek male voice spoke up, “Gail’s right.  I’ve been tracking his medical status…he didn’t remove his remote sensor.  He’s stable…but there are some concerning readings I need to look into.”

“Peter…what the hell does that mean…concerning?”

“Nathan…I don’t know.  That’s why I need to figure out…”

Nathan’s voice pounded on the recording, “You’ve had time to figure this out, Peter.  We need answers.  Now.”

Howard’s voice spoke loudly, “Everybody, shut up.  Peter, get the answers.  Nathan, we need to inspect where Jacob broke out.  And no, we don’t report this…yet.  Pottinger will already be pissed that we didn’t find what she wanted.  We need this situation controlled and quickly.”

“And Joanne and I?”

Nathan muttered, “Keep an eye on the world out there.  Whatever we do now, we gotta watch out for any kind of issues.  What a cluster…”  The recording clicked off.

“Lieutenant Beattie, are you down here?” as they heard the turbo lift doors close.

“In here, ensign. First door on the right” Cezear hit replay on the recording. “Lieutenant O’Shea, did you hear what I just did? Did they say that one of the team left the post? And what does Pottinger have them looking for? I knew something was off about that report she gave us. What is she not telling us? “

Ensign Linwood walked into the meeting room just as the audio restarted, as she listened her draw dropped and her eyes started darting between the two lieutenants. “Ummmm, Sir did I just hear what I thought I did? Did they say someone left the post?”

Cezear nodded as he was quickly typing notes on his PADD. “Anything on the transporter logs?” he looked over at Lieutenant O’Shea. “I asked the Ensign to check the transporter logs before we came down. Just to put a checkmark next to the possible ways for the team to disappear list.”

“No, sir. Nothing out of the usual, from what I could see.”

O’Shea glanced at Ensign Linwood, “Good call having that checked though it sounds like he may have left through one of the airlocks. We should let the rest of the team know that Jacob left the post but let’s not confront Pottinger yet. One recording is not enough.”

O’Shea shook his head, “Had an odd feeling about this from the get-go. Can you access any of the mission documents or other records? I want to know what Pottinger was after. These missions are observational only, and if she ordered anything beyond that, it could be a breach of the prime directive. I need more information on this.”

Cezear looked over at Ensign Linwood. “Would you mind staying here for a few? See if you can pull anything else up. Have a feeling this console only has access to what transpired in this room, but maybe there is more that was said or done here. We will call for you once we have secured the labs.”

Ensign Linwood nodded. “Can do.”

Cezear made a copy of the audio file onto his PADD. “Have an idea about letting the rest of the team know about Jacob, especially Pottinger.”  Cezesr pulled up the audio file and made some adjustments, and then sent the new file to Pottinger and the rest of the team. 

“Captain Pottinger, we found something in the meeting room. Looks like one of your team, a Mr. Jacob, left the observation post. I’ve sent you a copy of the audio file.”He then looked at O’Shea, “That one ended just before the part about not finding what Pottinger sent them to find.”

O’Shea grinned. “That is toeing the line a bit there, Cezear; good call. I will get the original to Halsey.”

“Can’t show all of our cards at once, now can we?” he said with a slight chuckle and a shrug of the shoulders.

=^=Thank you.  I’ll examine it now.  I need as many details as you can find.=^= The channel clicked shut.

“Ok, let’s move on then.” O’Shea pulled up his tab and made a copy of the recording, and sent an encrypted message back to the Mercy for Halsey.

Something is off here. More then the missing team. Pottinger wanted something from this planet but not sure what yet. We will continue as ordered but you needed to be aware.

After a moment, he forwarded the message to Soruk and Dougal as well.

Turning back to Beattie and Linwood, he shrugged, “Best get on to the next room. I believe there are some labs down the hall.”

Cezear nodded. “Ready when you are. Ensign if you find anything, give us a shout, and of course, record it on your PADD, and send us a copy.”

“Will do, sir.” She looked around the meeting room. “Wonder if the room’s replicator still works; only one way to find out,” she made her way over to it.

“Best hold off on that Ensign until we have done a full check of things,” O’Shea remarked and swung his bag down, pulling out an emergency ration pack, “If your hungry, eat this. It’s a miracle of science.” With that, he stepped out into the hallway and made his way toward the nearest lab.

Opening the door to the lab, he quickly scanned the room and stopped, “We have found something here, Cezear. I have two bodies.”

“Crap.  Wasn’t expecting that.” he followed O’Shea just into the room and stopped. Looking down at his recorder. “Says, we are clear, but….” Cezear looked around the lab. “O’Shea, something is off. We have one body on the table and one at the console desk.” Cezear entered further into the room, scanning. “Ohhhh, Pottinger is not going to like this,” he pointed at the one on the table with his recorder. “This one is not one of the team members.”  he walked over to the other body at the desk. “This is Lieutenant Alison Thomas, Biologist. Oh shit, O’Shea. I’m no doctor, but this scan says she was six, maybe seven months pregnant.” Cezear looked at the slumped-over lieutenant, shaking his head.

“Well shit,” O’Shea said under his breath as he looked at the two bodies. “Any idea how they died and why they have a body of a local here?” Stepping closer he activated the console, he brought it online and began downloading the most recently accessed files. “We better have a look through these files but first I will notify Pottinger and the Doc. They need to know this.”

Cezear followed suit, downloading the most recent files. “Agreed, I definitely think we will need doc and probably a full medical and science team down here as soon as possible.    “

O’Shea skimmed through the most recent report by the late Lieutenant Thomas as he activated his combadge, “O’Shea to Pottiner and Doctor MacDonald, we have found the body of Lieutenant Thomas and one local in lab B-2. We are reviewing the reports now but the last one indicates a virus infected the team. I suggest we quarantine ourselves here until we can be sure none of us are infected.” After he sent the message he compressed the reports and readied them for transfer to the Mercy. ‘If there is a virus we will need all the help we can get,’ he thought to himself.

“The first question is was this virus already here or did they bring it here?” As he looked through the data as it loaded onto PADD. “Damn, according to what I’m seeing so far, and I’m just skimming through the data mind you, no symptoms were reported amongst the observation team till they left to find Mr Jacob. Bloody hell!” Cezear pulled up the observation posts command system, looked through the various pages till he found the one he wanted and entered a set of codes. “I hoped to never have to use that particular set of codes, O’Shea. But I agree with your statement. I just locked out all outgoing transporter operations, Mercy can send help but no one is leaving till we figure this out.”

As soon as Cezear hit the buttons n to confirm the codes a klaxon, similar to an old earth emergency medical siren, went off as light strips started to flash a purplish color.

Certified

USS Mercy - Counseling Offices
10.14.2400 @ 0700

Soojin sat in the waiting area.  She’d set her alarm, set out her new uniform, and ensure everything was ready. She’d been out of her quarters by 0645 and sitting in the counseling office by 0655. Finding her way around the USS Mercy had taken a little work, but several helpful crewmen had directed her just in time. She waited for her chief counselor for her first full day of work.

Egrel strode into the counseling area with a cup of tea in one hand and his patient manifest in the other hand. He smiled warmly at Soojin, dipping his head, “Good morning. Are you ready to start?” 

Sam quickly stood, “Ready and ready…and…I meant to say ready and able, but…that didn’t come out right.”  She sighed and nodded, “Ready to start, Lieutenant.”

Egrel glanced down and logged in to the counseling system on his PADD. He furrowed his brow as his appointments got shuffled around, and someone he wasn’t anticipating got shoved to the front and consequently shuffled around all his appointments. He gave a soft huff of irritation, looking up to meet Samantha’s gaze,

Soojin picked up on her chief’s annoyance.  She hoped she wasn’t the reason he was annoyed.  That would be the topper in the last 24 hours.  She ventured with, “Something wrong, sir?”

“Someone moved all the appointments around without my permission.” He sounded mildly cross about this but hid it rather well, smiling once more, “Mild inconvenience, and it just annoys everyone who was booked today as they all got notifications that their slot got moved.”

A silent sigh of relief echoed through her mind.  It wasn’t her.  She stood a little taller, “Who is our first patient, then?

Egrel’s lips twisted into a frown, “The Chief Engineer. She was fine the last I spoke to her.”

Sam felt the urge to frown, “The Chief Engineer?  Why’d she get bumped to the front of the line?”

Egrel sighed and shrugged, “I’d like to know. There isn’t much here. Says an evaluation since it is thought she is unfit for duty.”

“That…sounds odd.”  She picked up her PADD, “Why do you think that happened?”

Egrel shook his head, sighing, “I have no idea, but that kind of thing is medical’s and mine call to make. This was not placed by either.” He sighed and shook his head, a bit cross, but he hid it rather well, “I suppose we will speak to her and find out. She should be here any moment now.”

Neva strode purposely into the Counseling Office, hands clenching and unclenching at her sides. She tried to show a calm and collected air, but it didn’t work. She was STILL pissed over what happened, not to mention humiliated.

“Hi, I’m Lieutenant Nevanthi Cordon. I believe I’m expected.”  Her tone was clipped, correct, and without emotion. 

Soojin’s eyes went wide, and she reddened at her unprofessional display.  There was so much emotion roiling out from Cordon despite her placid exterior.  Sam swallowed her embarrassment and glanced dutifully to her chief.  She was not about to try and take the lead with just under 12 hours aboard under her belt.

Egrel could feel her coming before she even arrived; the emotions rolling off her were intense and incredibly strong. He was able to see right through her thin mask. He gave her a small, warm smile, “Unexpectedly expected.” He gestures towards Sam, “This is Cadet Soojin; she is shadowing me today.” He moved to a small gathering of armchairs and sat down, gesturing for the others to sit. On his PADD, he pulled up Neva’s file to see if there was any reasoning for this appointment, “Have a seat. What has got you so angry? What would you prefer I address you as?”

Neva took a deep breath to try to calm herself when the Counselor asked about her anger. Of course, the action didn’t work, but there it was. “Call me Neva, Sir,” she answered as she acknowledged the Cadet’s presence. Sitting carefully into the first chair she could find, she sighed and looked at him evenly. “When your rank and abilities are passed over as ‘unfit’ for an important mission, wouldn’t you be angry too, Sir?” 

Soojin took her notes, working to keep her eyes from going wide.  She’d done her share of experiencing troubled patients, and her Academy learning was helping her stay focused on the patient and her chief.  There was so much context missing – she’d heard there was a new captain on the Mercy or that there were two captains…she really wasn’t sure.  “I would find it…highly irregular myself.”  She turned to Choi, hoping for some wisdom.

Egrel furrowed his brow, nodding slowly, “I would be incredibly upset, Neva, more than a little. In what ways were you considered ‘unfit’? I sure as heck didn’t authorize or say that. I’d like to know what happened leading up to that and you ending up in here.” He was missing a lot of context himself and was increasingly irritated people were making calls on the crew’s state and mental health without his authorization. Someone was stepping on his toes as the Chief Counsellor, and he didn’t like it.

Neva closed her eyes, trying not to bite her bottom lip. She took some deep, slow breaths in an effort to calm down again. She swallowed hard and opened her eyes. “Captain Pot…the Guest Captain sent out orders for the mission to the observation facility. She wanted my Assistant Chief to go on the mission instead of me.”

Neva sucked in a breath that stuttered, and she slapped her hands over her mouth. Her eyes were wide with embarrassment. “S…s…sorr-r-y,” she tried to mumble past her hands. Neva scoped the room quickly and found her target, launched up to grab tissues, and sat back down. She pushed one to her eyes for a moment. 

“Sir, I know I’m not your ‘usual’ Chief Engineer.” She looked directly at the  Chief Counselor. “I take my job seriously, Sir. If I don’t keep this Iron Lady in top condition, WE” She swirled her pointer finger in front of her to include him and the Cadet. “We wouldn’t BE here.” She sighed.

“Apparently, my devotion is such that I’m ‘unfit’ to be an away mission member. That I CAN’T be an Engineer or…or…SOMEthing.” She flung her hand up in punctuation of her statement. “I’m just confused…” Neva amended.

Soojin wasn’t sure what to make of the Chief Engineer.  She was right.  She wasn’t the usual.  The cadet wondered just what kind of ship she had been assigned.  She opened her mouth, but wasn’t sure of the words.  She turned to Choi.

Egrel reached a hand out to gently touch her shoulder, trying to exude a calming presence, “Breath calmly, Neva. You have been cleared for duty since you boarded here with me. There has been no need for a re-evaluation.” He sighed softly, frowning, “This guest captain said you weren’t fit for duty? I think I’ll have to have a word with her.”

He let the silence dwell for a moment as he considers his next words, “You haven’t missed any appointments. You’ve been working well with counselors. You haven’t been shirking your duties. We both seem confused.” He dragged a hand down his face and sighed, reaching for his PADD and pulling up Neva’s file, looking it over and nodding slowly, “I know how devoted you are to your job, Neva. I want to clear you for duty again, and I will speak with her about this, alright?”

Soojin’s questions about what kind of a ship she was assigned to were sorta answered as she watched the exchange between the two officers.  There was a camaraderie here that wasn’t much different from the academy classes.  The senior group had grown close in the four years since they’d stepped into the classroom.  She was starting to understand why she’d been assigned to the Mercy.  She made notes on her PADD, wondering just who in the world this Captain Pottinger was and how she’d had so much effect in such little time.

Neva put her hand on his, tapping it twice with flat fingers before dropping hers again. She closed her eyes and took some slow deep breaths, her posture relaxing bit by bit. She opened them to see the Counselor wipe his hand down his face, and gave a commiserating smile.  “Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate this!” Her grin turned to genuine happiness as she stood once more. With a nod to both the Counselor and the Cadet in turn, Neva got up from the chair. “I’m going to go back to Engineering then.” She gave a quick “excuse me” and disappeared out the doors.

Watching the Watchers

Bardor Bay City Facility
10.15.2400 @ 0700

Deck 1 Observation Center

Sorek and his team were in a large room filled with workstations, desks, and computers.  Along one wall were monitors showing different scenes of the three cities being studied.  Hearing a soft moan, Sorek quickly moved to the source.  On the floor was a young Human woman.  Her eyes were half-closed, and her face was pale.  He recognized her from the facility crew roster: Jennifer Larkin, the official recordkeeper.

“Doctor, you have someone here that needs you,” said Sorek.  He addressed Dougal.  “Search the rest of the deck.”

Carolyn pulled out her tricorder and began to inspect the consoles.  “Lower power settings were not initiated from here, Commander.  Looks like whatever they did with engineering, it happened on deck three.”  She worked on the consoles.  “Looks like the crew abandoned the facility five days ago… reasons unknown.  The only logs available are from five days ago.  Nothing recent.”  She transferred the logs data to a spare PADD and handed it to the XO.

Aimee moved next to the stricken woman and swore.  “¡Dios mío!”  She made a cursory examination noting the swollen lymph nodes and blackening of the fingertips.  She swore again.

“What is it, lass?” Dougal asked.

“I don’t know, but these symptoms mimic the bubonic plague,” Aimee replied.

“Bloody hell!  The black death?”

“One and the same.  In 14th-century Europe, nearly half the population died.  If we brought this here from Earth….” She trailed off, locking eyes with Sorek.  “They wouldn’t have any natural resistance.  It would be the same as European diseases introduced to Native Americans, which burned through the continent, killing nearly 90% of the population.  We could be witnessing the onset of a mass extinction event.  I will need some time to verify, but this could be really bad.”

Sorek thought for a few seconds before responding.  “Doctor, could this be a virus native to the planet?”

“That’s the thing,” she said with an exasperated sigh.  “The plague is bacterial, and this is acting more like a virus.  I have never seen anything like this. I need time to specifically isolate the pathogen and then sequence its genome to determine anything at all.”

“Until we know for certain, logic dictates that we remain here so we don’t take something back to the ship,” said Sorek.

“That would have been my recommendation as well,” Aimee replied.

“We’ll need to inform both captains,” said Sorek.

Aimee barely heard Sorek as she pressed a hypospray against the stricken woman’s neck and flipped open her tricorder.”  Frowning, she pressed another hypo against her patient’s neck.  “This ought to make you more comfortable.”  Peeling off her uniform jacket, Aimee folded it up and tucked it under Larkin’s head and shook out a survival blanket from her med kit and wrapped Larkin in it.  “I wish I had a sickbay.”

Crawford stood, eyes wide, and her heart rate suddenly went to warp 9.  “Did… you… say… death?”

Aimee looked up at Carolyn.  “I would hate to jump to conclusions just yet, but yes, that is where things are pointing.”

The young engineer gulped.  “That… sounds bad.”

Sorek moved off to the side, tapping his comm badge.  “Sorek to Mercy.”  Protocol dictated that he call Pottinger, but having respect for Halsey, he chose him first.

=^=Halsey here.  Go ahead, Commander.=^=

Sorek explained the situation.

A pause in the line, =^=It appears we’ve got layers to this situation, Commander.  We’ve received a message from O’Shea and Beattie regarding an audio file they discovered.  You’re correct – we can’t risk transporting anyone until we know more.  I have no choice but to confirm your recommendations and put the entire away team on a hold order.=^=

“Acknowledged,” said Sorek.  With nothing else to say, he closed the channel.

Standing, Aimee walked to Sorek.  “Commander, there’s only so much I can do with a medical tricorder.  The Biology Lab on the second level could be converted to a makeshift hospital.  There should be various equipment I can use to not only isolate the pathogen,  but sequence its genome and determine the virality, it’s life-cycle, and how it’s transmitted.”

“That’s a good idea, Doctor,” said Sorek.  “I will inform Captain Pottinger.”

Aimee nodded, “Thank you, Commander.”  Aimee turned and started to prepare her patient to be moved.

As the doctor worked with Larkin, Dougal approached Sorek.  “The command center is secure, sir.  No signs of a wee stramash.  Most of the equipment is off but undamaged.  Other than the lass,” he gave Larkin a weary side glance, “there’s not a bloody soul here.”

Sorek didn’t know what a stramash was, but he was able to infer its meaning from context.  “Thank you, Lieutenant.  Please help the Doctor with Ms. Larkin.”

Dougal nodded.  “Aye sir.”

Taking a few more steps away, Sorek contacted Captain Pottinger and told her about Larkin and the Doctor’s plan to move to another deck.

=^=Very well.  It appears we will have to work on a plan to… find the crew,=^= said Pottinger.

Sorek noted the pause.

Crawford whispered from far enough away for Sorek and the others to hear her, but not Pottinger.  “We’re going to have to go out… there?  What…. oh boy.”

Sorek gave Crawford the Vulcan version of a look of assurance.

Crawford slowed her breathing.  She’d been on plenty of missions with the Pike but this… this was something new.  And terrifying.

=^=We will get the reactor working.  Won’t we, Chief Cordon?  We’ll head your way shortly.  We have a body as well, and the doctor may want to inspect it as well.=^=

“By ‘body,’ I assume you mean deceased,” Aimee stated.  “I’m not sure how much information I can glean from a patient that has already expired but…  I’ll look the individual over.”

While the conversation was ongoing, Sorek’s tricorder beeped.  It was an encrypted message from O’Shea.  Reading it, he wondered what was happening here with Captain Pottinger. 

Separately Together

Bardor Bay Facility, Deck 1
10.15.2400

Pottinger stared at Neva, who hadn’t moved. The others had shifted into action, but the Chief Engineer remained still.  “Lieutenant?  We’ve got a deck to clear.”

Neva nodded stiffly. “Yessir.” Her tone was clipped and emotionless. She gripped her phaser tightly as she adjusted the strap of her tool pack on her shoulder. “I’m at your disposal.”

Grace indicated her PADD, “Lieutenant Choi cleared you.  That is what was reported, and that is what I accept.  Shall we continue, please?”

“Yessir, he did. Thank you.” She lifted the phaser up then down to indicate the captain precede her, her posture stiff and correct. “As you lead, I will follow.”

The captain unholstered her phaser in one hand, a tricorder in the other.  She took point with the Chief Engineer behind her.  They moved slowly and carefully, checking each room, corner, and piece of the corridor as they went.  They had found nothing of substance until they arrived at the door to main engineering.  The lights and power systems remained in low power settings.  Pottinger stepped to the door, and it slowly began to creak open.  The overheads in the room flickered and then slowly began to power on.  She moved to sweep the room and held her hand to stop Neva.

Neva stopped short at the motion, thanking the Powers That Be she didn’t bump into this woman. Despite herself, the Chief Engineer cocked her head to look past the woman’s shoulder. Neva’s nostrils flared, tasting the snap of electricity and tang of metal. Through the dim light, she could see the usual consoles, but less streamlined as her ship. 

“There’s a body here…dead.  It’s Claudia Naples.  Whatever took her doesn’t look good.” She glanced around at the consoles, “See if you can get the main reactor online.  It was a geothermal unit.”

Neva was knocked out of her hyper-focusing when she heard the word “dead.” A little bile rose in her mouth, causing her to frown and swallow hard. She tried to keep the action quiet, but it was unfortunately audible. Shaking her head quickly, she nodded and headed to the controls. 

Setting her pack down and holstering her phaser, Neva set to work. Fingers flew over the screens and buttons, eyes glued to monitors for several minutes. With a low grumble, the engineer slid off the chair to the floor, wincing at the coolness on her back. She jerked a panel from the wall beside her, brows furrowed in concentration as she pulled wires and inspected the contents behind. Sitting up on an elbow, she toed for the strap of her kit and pulled it up to grab when close enough. She dropped it beside her and flipped it open, pulling tools and mumbling her distaste.

=^=Captain Pottinger, we found something in the meeting room. Looks like one of your team, a Mr. Jacob, left the observation post. I’ve sent you a copy of the audio file.=^=

Grace pulled up her PADD and listened to the file.  Twice.  She frowned and listened again.  It wasn’t a complete file; she could tell from how it cut off.  Had it been cut off on the station?  Or had the crew of the Mercy done something?  She momentarily mused and turned her attention back to Neva, “Status?”

Neva bounced a little where she lay, snapping a hand away to suck on a sparked finger for a couple of seconds. Gritting her teeth once she let go of her appendage, she rolled back and onto her elbows to look at the captain. “Got the unit running at 90% power, sir. I’ll have the rest of it chu-” she paused, a frown flittering across her lips. “I’ll have the systems fully powered in 10 minutes, maybe less.” Neva rocked back to her previous position, pushing in wires and snapping things back in the hole she’d made. 

 Once the panel was back in place, she grabbed her tools and swung herself into a sitting position. She carefully put her tools back where they belonged in her kit. With a click, she did a slight kip up and jumped back in another seat, and tapped the console with hard motions. With a last press, the systems hummed to life around them and made Neva utter a “yesss” that was louder than intended. Realizing how she sounded, she reddened and put a hand to her lips. “Excuse me, sir,” she uttered.

Grace remained impassive, “Apology accepted.  Come with me; we need to meet with the rest of your peers.”  Pottinger didn’t wait for Neva’s response and headed out the door with the chief engineer left blinking before skittering after the captain.

Lock down

Bardor Bay City Observation Post - Deck 2
10.15.2400 @ 0730

The klaxons ran for another minute before becoming silent, but the purple lights gave the lab and adjoining hallway an eerie and haunting feel.

Cezear looked over at O’Shea. “Pottinger is not going to be happy about that, but I did what I felt had to be done. I don’t think it’s going to be pleasant when she gets down here.”

Stifling a laugh, O’Shea nodded, “You could say that again. May have been best to speak to her first, but if there is a biohazard risk best to act fast. She was notified, and the procedure does state systems must be locked down. Speaking of which….” He turned and looked around the room and at the two bodies. “We will need to notify Mercy and Halsey on this but will wait for Pottinger as it should come from her.” With that, he began to download and record the computer files in duplicate.

“Yaa, about that, if the systems are normal star fleet issue, then the Mercy would have got a message as soon as I authenticated my codes. They will know something has gone wrong. I would expect that Pottinger should be getting a message from Captain Halsey any moment now.”

Cezear then tapped on his combadge. “Ensign, be advised Captain Pottinger is probably on her way. If she asks you anything, say what you are comfortable with, but if possible, hide any knowledge about her other mission for her team.”

“Yes, sir. Hmmmm wonder if I close the door if she would just walk right on by. ”

Cezear chuckles. “Worth a try; I’m pretty sure her mind will be on what we found in the lab and what I just did.”

O’Shea shook his head slightly, depressing a laugh, as he overheard Cezear’s discussion before turning back to the data download. “System backup is complete; we will need definitely need more eyes on this than we have here currently.”

“Not just eyes, We’re going to need more information on what is going on here. Why did Jacob leave or even want to leave the post? “ Cezear looked around the lab and shook his head. “Something else is going on here; what are we missing?”

“Possibly to escape the disease?” Aimee suggested as she approached from the biology lab. “This disease is rather nasty, and we are all infected.  We have twenty-four hours before we start showing symptoms, and death comes within the week. It’s as viral as small pox, and the symptoms mirror bubonic plague.   I’m still trying to figure out that one, whether it’s an example of convergent evolution or somehow a native retrovirus absorbed a bubonic bacteria and took on its traits.”

Cezear uses his thumb to point over his shoulder. “Well, I hate to be the one to say it. But we have two bodies, well three actually,” he shows Aimee his tricorder scan showing the pregnancy of the team member. “In here. We think that one is from the local population, and of course, we have her.” he pointed at the body sitting at the console. “maybe they can help us figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Aimee nodded and sighed. A quick scan confirmed that they, too, had died from the disease.  

He tapped on his combadge. “Linwood save all the data you can. I have a feeling that the meeting room is going to become our operations center and is going to get busy in there.”

Chief Medical Officer’s Log

Deck 2, Bio Lab
10.15.2400 @ 0500

Aimee looked away from her work.  Her one live patient was resting reasonably comfortably.  In the far corner the four bodies of the dead the teams found lay silently covered in white sheets.

“Computer begin Chief Medical Officer’s Log”

The computer beeped in response.

“Chief Medical Officer’s Log, USS Mercy,” She began.  “Stardate… aw hell I haven’t a clue.” She sighed, and walked across the lab.  “Away teams from the Mercy arrived at the outpost earlier today to discover it mostly abandoned. Four oficers were discovered and all but one had expired by the time we arrived.  The lone survivor is in the advanced stages of what appears to be the bubonic plague.  I have isolated the pathogen and discovered that rather the Yersinia pestis bacterium it’s a retrovirus native to this planet.  I believe that the virus mutates and immulates the properties of other microorganisms it encounters. It is my working theory that the original retrovirus encountered a Yersinia pestis from one of our Starfleet teams on the planet.  I have yet to determine if this was purely an accident or if someone was experimenting with the virus and it escaped the lab.”

She pulled back the sheet to one of the bodies to reveal the contorted and pained final expression on the fifth subject.   Aimee delicately brushed a strand of raven hair out of the woman’s face, not knowing exactly why she did. It wasn’t like she was going to be annoyed by it.

“The fifth and final subject is female and appears to be a native to this planet. ”She’s approximately 158 centimeters tall and 70 kilograms. Subject is fair complected with dark hair and is approximately twenty-five Earth years in age. The subject was also approximately twelve weeks pregnant…”

Aimee absently touched her own belly and her heart skipped a beat.  She wasn’t yet showing but, the realization that she too was infected by the disease would also effect her child…

Shaking the uncomfortable thoughts aside she continued, “Fetal tissue shows no signs of infection,  and amniotic fluid has large concentrations of antibodies. The mother has little to no antibodies present in her body in what appears to be an effort to protect the child.  I extracted the amniotic fluid and ran it through the centrifuge to separate the antibodies.  Trial tests in the pathogen appears promising, and I have developed an experimental antiviral.”

Aimee went to some equipment and examined the results.   Entering commands she adjusted some things and filled a hypospray. Holding it she hesitated.  There was only enough of a dosage for one.  It was between her and Jennifer Larkin.

“Trial subject: Jennifer Larkin,  Lieutenant.   Lieutenant Larkin is in advanced stages of the disease.  While I may be a better subject while still in the early stages, the Lieutenant doesn’t have much more time.”

Aimee crossed the lab to the side of her sleeping patient.  She hesitated once more before pressing the hypo into the neck of Larkin.  “Now we wait.”

Several hours later…

“Computer, continue Chief Medical Officer’s Log.” The computer beeped, and Aimee begain speaking, this time her voice was heavy, and tired.  “First trial was unsuccessful.   Lieutenant Larkin’s condition has continued to worsen.”

Aimee stood next to her patient with a medical tricorder in her hand helplessly watching the faint vital signs slip from her grasp.  Even knowing it was futile,  Aimee injected Larkin with another drug, and placed her on life support which would keep her heart beating and breathing.  

Stepping back Aimee cradled her stomach trying to keep the terror at bay.  Who would be the to give her a peaceful sleep before succumbing?   And of the little peanut growing within her.  Somehow that just didn’t seem fair.

“I was able to synthesize a second dose and used it on myself.  Also like the pregnant subject it too has been concentrated in my womb.  I fear there may not be a treatment for me.  I have made some adjustments to the anti-viral learning from Lt. Larkin and am almost ready to test on a third subject.”

There was a long pause and Aimee continued,  “I am considering removing the… removing my child and placing it in stasis so that Dougal might find a suitable serogate.   Perhaps his sister would do it. She’s family,  and I do like her.  There of course is my twin sister, Liv.   That might be the best option,  if she will do it.”

The monitors observing Larkin beeped loudly, and broken from her self-pity she rushed to Larkin’s side.   Glancing at the vitals she injected another drug.  No response.   One by one systems failed despite what Aimee did. Eventually even the life support system could no longer keep up and Larkin’s heart gave out. 

Defeated Aimee pressed a single button and all the machines keeping Larkin “ ”alive” and monitoring her condition switched off.  “In the case of Larkin, Jennifer, Lieutenant,  time of death occurred at 07:38 due to heart failure brought on by advanced stages of an unknown virus.”

Aimee sat heavily on a nearby chair and stared at her former patient. Somewhere in the background her third attempt at combating this disease was completed with a beep.  “Third dose is complete.   I will update this log following the results from a third subject. Pause log.”

Ground Report

USS Mercy
10.15.2400 0745

Halsey glanced around the bridge and tapped his badge, “Lieutenant S’Atilen to the bridge.”  He turned to Sesias, “You’re temporarily security and engineering, Lieutenant, in addition to your duties as operations.  Once S’Atilen arrives, get him on the communication station.”

“On my way, Captain.” S’Atlien grabbed his PADD and quickly made his way to the turbo lift. “Bridge”

“Yes, sir.” Sesias quickly reconfigured his console so that, till an emergency arose, he could keep tabs on each department with the use of one of his arms.

He tapped his badge once more, “Lieutenant Choi to the bridge.  Head of Civilian Science Operations to the bridge.”

Choi’s voice came back through the commlines, “Right away, sir.” He was curious about what the heck he was needed for.

He stood over the United Federation of Planets logo in the bridge’s center.  Given what they hadn’t found on the initial scan, he was growing concerned about the implications of what that would mean.  He needed to plug the empty spots on his bridge. The doors flew open, and Theodora Walker-Halsey stepped onto the bridge and gave him a nod. Leopold gestured to the science station, “For the moment, I need some good eyes and ears.”  She allowed a thin smile to cross her face before shifting to the science station and getting to work.

The turbolift doors opened a few moments later.

Egrel stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge, approaching the Captain, “Sir… I was requested?” He stood in a relaxed yet attentive posture with his hands clasped behind his back.

Halsey gestured to the right-hand chair, “You’re going to be pulling some XO duties for a bit, Lieutenant Choi.  Get up to date on the mission files and briefing on the chair’s console.  I have a feeling this plan, so carefully constructed, is about to have some significant issues in its foundation.” 

Egrel furrowed a brow in concern at the temporary shift in positions and nodded once, “Of course, sir.” He walked over to the XO’s chair, moving to sit down in the chair. He started to review the files and orders, his brow furrowed. He remained listening to his surroundings, glancing up as he heard the turbolift doors open briefly.

S’Atilen entered the bridge and made his way to Sesias, who had just pointed over to the communications console. The Caiten nodded and made his way over to the console. “Captain, incoming transmission from Lieutenant O’Shea. Says it’s for your eyes only.”

Leopold turned to the communications officer, “That’s a first.  Transfer it to my chair console.”  He sat roughly in the chair and tapped at the arm console, his eyes widening by the moment.

Egrel furrowed a brow and looked over at the captain. That certainly couldn’t be good.

Halsey slipped in an earpiece and handed Choi one for his ear, “You’re getting read into this as temporary XO.”  He tapped the audio file, and it filled both of their ears.  As the voices spoke their parts, Leopold’s concern elevated far past concerned.  This was trouble in the worst meaning of the word.  As the audio clip ended, he shook his head, “Well, that was different.”

Egrel nodded and took the other earpiece, slipping it in. He exchanged glances with Leopold.

=^=Sorek to Mercy.=^= Halsey gave Egrel a look of curiosity.

“Halsey here, go ahead, commander,” Sorek explained the situation over the open channel.  Halsey replied, “It appears we’ve got layers to this situation, Commander.  We’ve received a message from O’Shea and Beattie regarding an audio file they discovered.  You’re correct – we can’t risk transporting anyone until we know more.  I have no choice but to confirm your recommendations and put the entire away team on a hold order.”

=^=Acknowledged=^=.

The channel closed, and the CO returned to his temporary XO, “We seem to have stepped in the proverbial…stuff. Thoughts?”

Egrel sighed and ran a hand down his face, giving his head a slow shake. He offered a faint ghost of a chuckle at Halsey’s words, “That is an incredibly mild and polite way of putting it, sir. We can’t make rash decisions right now.”

“Captain, we have another message from Lieutenant O’Shea for you. Sending it to your console now.”  S’Atilen said from the comms console as he had one hand on his earpiece and the other sifting through the various channels. 

Halsey listened carefully and was about to speak when his operations officer spoke up.

“What the hell?” Sesias turned to gave Captain Halsey. “Captain, we have a situation here; the transporter room just informed me that the observation post enacted quarantine protocols. All outbound transporters have been locked out. We can’t even transport our people out if there is an emergency need for it. “ Sesias turned back toward the main view screen. “What is going on down there?”

Leopold frowned, “We’ve got some work to do up here.  We’ll have a meeting here on the bridge shortly; we’ll need to make some backup plans.”

Where Do We Go From Here

Bardor Bay City Observation Post - Deck 2
10.15.2400 @ 0745

Grace Pottinger was furious.  So much had gone wrong in such a short time.  She stormed into deck two and tapped her badge, “All teams report to Deck 2.”  She found the deck two team and glanced into the large meeting room, “Get it cleared.”  She turned to McDonald, “We need a solution to inoculate against whatever this is.”

“I’m working on it,” Aimee said, trying to keep her expression neutral, not liking Pottinger’s tone.  “I have the computer running the viral sequence right now. Inoculations don’t happen at the snap of a finger.”

O’Shea cleared his thoughts, “Given the new developments, the Mercy should be notified and its resources utilized. Any data we can access on the virus and the research should be sent to allow teams to review it and provide support. After all the ship is very well suited for this sort of support.” He looked at Pottinger and kept his face emotionless as he wondered if she would try to break protocol. Their recent discovery of her side mission relating to the team had drastically lowered any possible trust he had for her.

Pottinger returned the stare from O’Shea, “Given the level of possible infection and broken protocol, our contact and use of the Mercy will have to be one way – whether I like it or not.  They can send equipment down…but they won’t be able to send us any more bodies – the protocol will prevent any added crew unless it is an emergency.  And we’re not there.  Yet.”

O’Shea nodded in agreement, “I agree. I will brief my team on the Mercy to ensure no one comes down, not that I would expect that.” He turned to go make the calls but stopped and glanced back around the room. “While you and the others work here I will continue my search of the floor.”

Cezear, hearing the Doc ran over to the meeting room and stuck his head in the entryway. He looked over at Ensign Linwood. “Linwood, see if you can give the Doc a hand with those viral sequences. Till we know more about what happened here, this is all we have.” After seeing her nod in reply, he went back to the lab. “Ok, Captain, looks to me like you have a bigger problem than you thought. Any idea on why Jacob would even consider leaving the post? Were you aware that she,” he pointed at the form by the console, “was/is pregnant? And why would your team bring a recently deceased local back to the post?  And yes, I locked down the system as per quarantine procedures set forth by Starfleet for the release or outbreak of an unknown disease/virus that could or has affected Federation personnel.”

Pottinger continued staring at Cezear.  He was impudent at best and wildly out of control at worst.  “I was not aware of her pregnancy.  As for why the team brought a local back, I would imagine the situation must have been very dire to require such a step.  Until we find the rest of my crew, all we’re going to get is questions without viable and actionable answers.”

“Lieutenant Larkin has passed away,” Aimee announced.  “My first two attempts at a cure were failures,” she added bitterly.  “I think it was too late for Larkin, and my second attempt was on myself… I have a special medical condition that I think is preventing it from working.   I need a volunteer for a third trial.”

Neva stepped from behind Pottinger, walked over to Dr. MacDonald, and rolled her right sleeve up. Holding her arm out with mouth turning into a thin line for a moment, Neva looked at the woman as calmly as she could. “Doctor, I volunteer for that trial. We need to solve this and fast.” Gazing pointedly into the doctor’s eyes, she whispered, “Please…do it before I change my mind.”

“Lieutenant, I don’t know what the side effects may be… on Mercy, I would spend weeks on computer simulations… here I can only guess what might happen. So far, nothing on me… but that’s just me.”

Neva held herself rigidly still even as her insides were doing the Lambada. “Well, I remember Admiral Kirk once saying, ‘Risk is our business.’” She gave a half smile. “So… I’m risking.” 

Pottinger almost mimed throwing up but resisted the urge.  She was outnumbered in her own command and trying to keep the Mercy crew from outright throwing her in the brig was her goal.  They seemed to suspect something else was in the mix, but she wasn’t about to encourage them.

Aimee nodded, admiring the young woman.  That took courage.  For all Aimee knew this latest attempt could accelerate the disease’s progression. She dug into her smock and pulled out the hypospray, and injected Neva.  “Give it some time, but I will need to keep you close by for observation.”

Neva rubbed her arm reflexively and pulled her sleeve back down. She nodded silently and got up to find a place to hunker down and wait.

Aimee turned to the Chief Science Officer and her XO, “Commander Sorek, Mr. Beattie… I will need to discuss something with you in private later, but not too much later.”

Cezear nodded as Aimee said the last part; he then looked around the room. Snapping his fingers, he headed toward the nearest console and brought up the room’s large view screen. “Just thought of something.”

”Doc, do we have an estimate of how long the four people we have in the lab have been deceased? especially the local.“ Cezear began to pull up the various observation platforms and systems that were at their disposal. 

“Based on temperature and right between eight and 36 hours.  The young woman from the planet was the first to die,” Aimee replied.

Cezear started to pull up various screens showing the populace of the planet, looking for signs, hoping to find any, but deep down, knowing that he would. “I may be a geologist, but every good science officer should have a foot in several areas. Doc, if I’m guessing right, we should see signs of the disease’s progression amongst the populace. The oldest trail should be Jacob. Then we should see signs spreading out from the post from the rest of the crew. If I’m right, and the body of the local deceased that we have in the lab would be from Jacobs trail if your time of death is near to the actual one. May not help us fight or slow the disease, but it should help us find where all of the members have been, and from that, we can figure out where they may be going. “

The screens showed a population going through their regular day.  The people moved with little urgency, and none of the officers gathered could see any sign of panic or movement that would suggest something was amiss.  The day was normal, and nothing unusual was drawing any kind of attention.  Pottinger stepped forward and scanned the screens.  There would be an answer, but it wouldn’t be outright visible.  She, along the rest of the crew watched the screens as the various cameras changed.  Then it dawned on her.

“Children.  You don’t see many children.”  She frowned, “The initial study mentioned schools, but they weren’t mandatory.”  She slipped over to a console and tapped carefully, “Yes.  Initial reports and the filed reports for the last year report that many children work in business, fields, factories…but they would be seen on the streets.”  Pottinger deepened her frown, “Children and the elderly are often the first to go in epidemics.  They’re weak…and death kills quickly.”  She turned to the group, “Whatever it is, it’s in the world.  We have to find my crew, and we have to figure out where this disease has spread and how long before it expands its influence.”

Cezear turned from the console he was at to face Captain Pottinger. “Captain, you mentioned at one time that the observation systems had audio capabilities. Are there any notes of families with children and their location in the system? If we can’t see children, maybe we can listen in to see if we can pick up what’s going on behind closed doors.”

Grace tapped at the console and felt her heart pick up speed.  There had been a hard data deletion over the last few weeks – something she had long been told impossible.  She continued to work at the console, her concerns about her crew and the mission growing by warp speed as the minutes ticked by.  What the hell had they done?

The science chief continued, “Commander Sorek, I think we have another problem to figure out. Manpower? We don’t have the manpower to continue the work needed here and search for the missing team members. Doc is needed here; either Ensign Linwood or myself will need to stay to help Doc and continue to watch these systems, and I would think either the Captain or yourself would need to stay for command and control. That leaves O’Shea, Neva, Ensign Linwood, or me and between the captain and you to search. Four people to look for five whom have at least a 36-hour head start. “

Sorek had quietly stood to the side, watching and listening as the team did their work.  The task ahead was indeed formidable. “Yes, we have problems, but we will do what we can.  This crew has already defeated Death in our first mission together,” said Sorek.

“Utilizing an ancient computer game called World of Warcraft as a model, the United States Center for Disease Control developed a lot of our outbreak models,” Aimee replied.  “They have since been updated to be more accurate.  However,  there will be a certain number of the population that will spread the disease intentionally.  A larger number of people will also contract the disease in their efforts to cure the sick, protect the healthy, and deal with the disposal of the dead.  You probably do not see children on the streets because the only ones about are the ones dealing with the disease.”

Pottinger cleared her throat, her face stricken with a look none of the gathered officers had seen before.  It resembled concern or even worry – possibly even panic.  “I’ve checked several times.  I am not sure how it was done…but there was a hard removal and deletion of the surveillance data for the last few weeks.  All video and audio records have been wiped – I’ve attempted to recover them using my senior command codes…but the computer reports that the data has been removed both surface and internally.”

Crawford’s eyes widened, “They…pulled the data storage units?” Pottinger gave her a severe look, and she responded, “They pulled the data storage units, captain?”

Pottinger shook her head, “I’m a scientist, not an engineer…whoever did this has the data with them.  We’re going to have to find them.”  She glanced to each member of the team, “We’re going to have to stretch our resources and our people while doing this manually.  I will stay and run command and control.  Doctor MacDonald will remain here to coordinate the medical response.”  She turned to the Vulcan, “The rest of you are ordered into teams and identify the pathogen, the impact it is having…and search for our crew.  We’ll have to replicate or have the Mercy replicate clothing that matches the current environment.”

She tapped at her PADD, “Commander Sorek, you are assigned to Lieutenant Cordon with assistance from Ensign Crawford.  Lieutenant O’Shea, you are assigned to Lieutenant Beattie – you will take Lieutenant Dougal with you.”  Pottinger nearly growled but held it, “Let’s get to work.  Commander, get in touch with Mercy – you all will need some appropriate clothes.”

Needle in a haystack

Bardor Bay City Observation Post - Deck 2
10.15.2400 @ 08:30

Hearing Pottinger assign everyone to new teams, the three of them huddled around the console where Cezear was still trying to pull up information from the observation systems.

They spoke in hushed tones. “O’Shea, McDonald, what are you two thinking? Where do we even start? Trying to find one person, let alone the whole team, is going to be like trying to find the proverbial needles in a farmer’s field of haystacks.” Ceased kept looking at the screens in front of them.  “I have an idea,” he looked at O’Shea. “We confront Pottinger here and now about the conversation. What if Jacob found what she was looking for and went after it on his own? Would make sense on why he would all of a sudden get agitated and want to leave the post.”  

“I’m for answers,” Dougal responded. “Even if it means giving Pottinger a laldy.”

O’Shea frowned slightly and looked between Dougal and Cezear, “A part of me wants more information on this before we raise it with her. All we have is one recording.” He paused and glanced back at others on the away team before looking back at his group. “I wish we had time to do a complete sweep of the systems and quarters here, there has to be more information somewhere but these developments limit our time.” With a sigh, he nodded, “Let me do the talking.” 

“Aye, lad.  I got yer back,” Dougal intoned conspiratorially.

“So do I,” Cezear said as he started to look at another area on the view screen

With that, O’Shea stepped over to Pottinger, who was conveniently standing off by herself as she focused on one of the consoles. “Captain, I have a couple of questions regarding the team here, in particular Jacob. Do you have a moment?”

Grace turned to the security chief, “I don’t…and neither do you, Lieutenant.  The clock is ticking on tracing the infection and locating the missing crew.”  She momentarily tapped the console before returning to him, “Your mission is to get equipped and get moving.  Those are your orders.  The longer you stall, the harder it becomes to solve this mystery.”  She glanced beyond him to the science chief and the security officer, “Get to work, Lieutenant.  Lead your team.  We can discuss questions once we understand what we’re facing.”  She stared at him a little longer, “Dismissed, Lieutenant.” 

Dougal stood to the right of O’Shea with his massive arms crossed before him looking every bit the intimidating and enormous Scotsman he was.

O’Shea quirked his head, in a subtle show of annoyance before responding. He knew Pottinger would hold this against him but rushing off half-cocked was a poor plan, “I understand that and appreciate that this is a time-sensitive issue but you are the only one who has any knowledge of Jacob and it is a big city. Taking a minute to share any insight you have on the man will be more beneficial than us running out without any direction or idea.  For example is there anything you know he likes to do, what makes him feel safe, or if he may be looking for, anything he might be after?”

Pottinger turned to him again, “Jacob was a by-the-book officer.  He was selected because of his dedication to missions previously and his meticulous following of processes and procedures.  He wasn’t brash or prone to rushing to judgment.  Out of all of them, he was the last likely to break protocol.”  She gave him a long look for a moment, “We only knew them within the confines of Starfleet, Lieutenant.  Whatever happened here has changed the game – given the situation, I do not expect them to follow their traditional paths.”  She returned to her console. “For the second time, dismissed.  We need to find our people and address the situation outside.  Quickly.”

Dougal let out a guttural chuckle when she mentioned that Jacob, “Was by the book.”

“Dougal, look at this. This is the current situation from the eastern secondary observation point. Notice something?  The children? Their out much as Captain Pottinger said they would be. Which means that the team either didn’t go in that direction or if they did its recently, and the virus hasn’t had time to develop yet.”  Cezear said as he brought up more of the current views from that area.  

Hearing Pottinger talk to O’Shea. Cezear looked at Dougal with a raised eyebrow. 

“Aye, then we should avoid those areas laddie.  No telling if we are carriers and could spread it to a new community.   Lad,” Dougal said turning his attention to O’Shea,  “questioning the lass is a waste of time. The lad… Jacob is likely sick by now.  I think the first place we should look is the hospitals.”

Cezear shook his head “More likely to check burial grounds, if he is patient zero he is more than likely dead. And the others are probably in not great shape or deceased if we take into account the team member in the Lab. I think she knows the truth “ nodded toward Captain Pottinger “She doesn’t want to admit it though. Much longer than 48 hours unless the Doc finds a vaccine, we probably will start showing signs ourselves.”

”Hold on. Captain Pottinger, do the people believe in burial or another form of dealing with the deceased? That Is where we will see signs. Look For new or freshly finished graves or whatever these people do.“

She would have thrown him out of the station if she could but decided a simple response was better.  “The dead are burned slightly with fire and then buried 9 feet down.  It is a two-hour ceremony filled with scripture reading and lots of shouting.” Pottinger returned to her console.

”We’ll looks like we don‘t have much to go on. As we are still seeing kids in the eastern area, I would suggest we head in the opposite direction. I wish we had more time to investigate their rooms and offices, something has to be noted somewhere. Something, hell anything, that could help point us in the right direction.“ Cezear starts to pack up his PADD and tricorder.

”Ensign Linwood, stay here and help the Doc as much as you can. Keep an eye on those screens and send three vibrating pulses through your combadge if you see or find anything.“

”Yes, Sir,“ she took the seat behind the console that he just vacated. She also starts to pull up logs or other such notations that she can find in the system. Taking note of the missing few weeks. “Hmmm, maybe something is still here, may have to just find the pieces and put them together.”

O’Shea glanced over at Linwood, “Keep at it and see what you can find. Anything may be of use.” Turning back to Cezear and Dougal he continued, “We best get head off. Let’s see if the replicators can get us some local attire so we don’t stick out like sore thumbs. Last thing we want it to start suspicion. Let’s aim to be on the move in the next 20 minutes.” 

Dougal simply nodded and gave Pottinger one last suspicious glance before turning and heading away in search of a replicator.

Going to Town

Bardor Bay City Observation Post
10.15.240010.15.2400

The Mercy beamed down clothes and currency, both paper and coin, a casual suit for Sorek and a hat to cover his ears, and dresses for Cordon and Crawford.  They found separate areas to change, and Sorek was ready and waiting for the ladies.

Crawford was not happy with her dress.  She wasn’t sure the chief was going to be either.  Carolyn preferred pants and a shirt any day of the week.  She took a few deep breaths and reminded herself that they were going into a time and a place well outside of their own.  Whatever world they were about to step into, it wouldn’t resemble 2400 in the least – both in dress code and culture.  She worked on the dress, and after a frustrating ten minutes, she figured it out and stomped back into the main area, glaring at everything except for Commander Sorek.  It was unwise to glare at a Vulcan.

“God, I hate dresses.”

Neva came out of the room she’d been given to change in, patting back down the errant curl sticking out from under the hair ribbon she wore. Swishing her hips a little to flare out the long skirt, she smiled at her Assistant Chief.  “Yeah, they aren’t for everyone.”  She walked up to the woman and plucked up the corners of her shirt on her shoulders she shuffled it back & forth a sec.  She smiled a little brighter and as she stepped back she murmured, “Calm down, Carolyn.  That dress won’t kill you.”

She chuckled dryly.  “You haven’t met my family, Chief Cordon.  Dresses can and will kill.  I’ll do my best to carry on.”

Neva lifted an eyebrow and smirked.  “Oh, really?”  She asked, dripping sarcasm.  “Sounds like there’s a story in that.”  Cocking her head, the smirk got bigger.  “Once we get back, Crawford, we need to trade family horror stories.  I’ll bring the wine.”

Neva inclined her head to the Assistant Chief in dismissal and pulled her PADD from the pouch she always carried.  Apparently, that item wouldn’t stand out.  She tapped out a couple of things and then returned it to its place.  She then pulled her tricorder from another pouch and checked it before returning it to its place.

The Chief Engineer looked at her XO and nodded.  “Ready when you are, sir.”

Sorek took a moment to study the two women.  He almost displayed the tiniest crack of a smile.  Almost.

“Now that we are ready, please remember the importance of this mission and do your best to remain in character,” said Sorek.  “Halandria women do not have the same rights or status as men.  Do not question or contradict me in the presence of others.  Be in deference to me.  Our cover will be that I am going to propose marriage to Chief Cordon, while Ms. Crawford is my sister.”

Neva’s eyes widened in surprise, mouth pursing into a flat line instead of the fish open one she wanted to show. “You…y-” slipped out before she caught it again. It took a couple of minutes for the shock to wear down some, but Neva managed it. With a long sigh through her nose, she looked up at the Vulcan. “While that’s going to be an interesting ‘relationship,’ to be sure, what do I call you as my fiancée?”

Neva looked over at Crawford a moment before her eyes went wider and a grin spread across her face. She turned back to her Commanding Officer. “If I pick up anything, like a lie or something like it, I’ll reach over and subtly rub your arm. I think that should be in the realm of what a woman is allowed.” She made air quotes for the last word. 

Crawford was still trying to accept that she was going to play Commander Sorek’s sister.  Her first thought was, ‘What kinda family birthed him and me?’ and she nearly laughed out loud at the concept.  She reigned in her humor and breathed slowly to gain control once more.  “I’m all for playing dress-up.  Excelled in drama club over the years.”  She glanced at Sorek, “Brother of my blood, lead us on into the wilderness!”

Sorek expected surprised reactions, but he didn’t comment.  “The temperature is hot, so try not to overexert yourselves.”  He paused.  “Anything else before we leave?”

After several seconds, no one said anything.

“All right, let’s go,” said Sorek.

 

 

On the Hunt in a Strange Land

Western outskirts of Bardor Bay City
10.15.2400 @ 13:00

Western Outskirts

O’Shea leaned against a tree as he watched as a column of Halandians moved slowly along the street 20 or so meters down the hill from them with several covered wagons as they headed out of the city. “People are definitely spooked, second group of people leaving the city in the last four hours,” he said as he glanced over at Dougal and Cezear. After spending the last few hours wandering the city and eerily empty streets with no sign of the missing observation team, he was getting a little frustrated. The Mercy’s sensors were of little help and could not identify the life signs of the missing team. That mixed with the knowledge that the mission commander was actively hiding something and the knowledge they were now infected with this disease had him irritable. 

“The hospital is about 10 minutes along the road, we could try to get information from these people before we go there?” O’Shea remarked before he adjusted his new coat and hat.

“There’s risk,” Dougal cautioned.  “I’ll stand behind whatever decision ye make lad, but that may not keep Pottinger from tryin’ ta put ya bawls in a vise if it blows up in ye wee face.”

“Agreed, hospital first.  At least it’s a sign that we are on the right track, if they are leaving then us going forward makes sense. A couple questions so we are all on the same page. First, what’s our story? In case we get questioned about why we are coming to this town. Second, what’s the plan if we do find any of the missing crew? We may not be able to just take them back to the post. Something else to think on a finding lodging in case we have to be here for a bit.”

O’Shea nodded in agreement, “Ideally if we find one of the missing crew we can transport them back to the observation post without anyone noticing but if we can’t then we will need to play it by year.” Looking back at the others he paused as he thought about a possible story, “When it comes to why we are here, the similar the story the better. We are coming to visit family, if, I guess when we hear about the sickness, we should act surprised and concerned for our family members. Should give us a chance to get some information.”

“A braw plan.  Keep it bloody simple and as close to the truth as possible,” Dougal agree.  Removing a tricorder he scanned the area to get his bearings.  “No human lifesigns, I’ll see if I can get us a wee map.”

“Agreed, keeping it simple is probably the best thing we can do. To many details in these type of circumstances lead to mistakes bring made. Mistakes we cant afford.” Cezear   Was kneeling under the tree watching the wagon approach and keeping an eye on the road. “maybe ask if the can give us directions to a boarding house or lodging. We could use that to start a crude map of sorts.”

“A map with names would be beneficial, all we have is the orbital imagery.” O’Shea said with a shrug. Without a pause, he pushed off from the tree he was leaning on and started to make his way down the hill towards the column of people.

A few moments later he causally approached the leader of the column, “Hello, friends!” he called with a smile and mirroring the local gesture of greeting.  The man at the head of the column stopped and looked at O’Shea with a mixture of concern and curiosity. O’Shea knew is blended in fair well with the local population but wore his hair a little longer than was typically custom.  

The man nodded towards O’Shea before speaking, “Greeting strange, what can I do for you?”

O’Shea frowned slightly, fainting worry on his face. “We are coming to visit family we haven’t seen for a while and have noticed several groups like yours leaving the city. Is there something going on? Do I, we, ” he waved at his colleagues, “need to worry about something?”

Cezear stood and waved as O’shea pointed towards them. “Dougal, look at the way he is presenting himself and watching us? Something is definitely going on around here.”

“Aye, but what does it mean lad?” The Scotsman asked. Dougal missed little, and too had observed the odd behavior. 

Cezear stood and kept on eye on O’shea and the wagon. “I’m no expert but it feels like he is being extremely wary of strangers. Like, something has him on guard particularly about strangers. Reading the first observation notes they should be rather welcoming and friendly in nature. He is definitely being guarded.” He adjusted his pack and leaned against the tree. 

“Aye, I would agree. Dinnae mean much or it means everything.”

O’Shea couldn’t help but notice the man’s wariness of him though he admitted to himself he wasn’t surprised as he waited for the man to speak.

“Worry?” the man said as he glanced around a little nervously. “We are not worried,” he said with a bit more steel in his voice but that vanished when one of the woman in the wagon behind him coughed. His eyes widened and several people, including him, spun to look at her with worried and terrified faces.

The woman paled and held up a hand, “A bug flew into my mouth, I am not sick.” At that many people visibly relaxed and the leader turned back to face O’Shea.

“Is there sickness in the city you are worried about?” O’Shea asked as he looked between the woman and the men around the wagon.

The leader just stared at him for a moment then deflated, “We are leaving to avoid it, some people have been getting sick so we are leaving. You should as well.”

O’Shea let a worried expression cross his face, one he didn’t have to feign. “I need to find my relatives if that is the case and take them home with us.” He nodded towards people in the column, “Be safe.”

With that, he turned and walked back to the others, “It is spreading sadly.” He pulled out the tricorder from his pocket and looked over it, “ Looks like they were infected. We need to get moving quickly to find our missing team. Hopefully, the doctor will find a cure before it’s too late. Lets get to the hospital.”

“Dinna fash lad,” Dougal replied. “The lass will have it.  I promise you.”

They walked, eyes and ears to those around them.  They were dressed as the others, but the awareness of how quickly their act could be found out and the mission’s challenges would be greater than anything they’d experienced in their time on the Mercy.  They trekked back into the city and arrived at the sprawling hospital.  Patients were spilling out of the main doors and into the garden area around the entrance.  The gardens had been hastily destroyed, a sign of how quickly the medical facilities were starting to be impacted.  The medical staff was calm, and there was no real panic among the patients. It just felt a bit more crowded as various people not in portable beds wandered aimlessly around the area.

“Bloody hell,” Dougal exclaimed as he crossed himself.  

“This is not good, not good at all. The hospital is overflowing into the gardens. I’m no doctor but I would guess that what we are seeing on the outside are those that are not considered as being in critical condition.  O’Shea we didn’t see this on the cameras, my question is why not? You would think the observation team would be watching the hospitals to gauge medical practices.“ He fall in behind O’Shea and Dougal and quickly pulled out his tricorder for a quick scan. “Definitely a hot spot, but I’m not reading any of the team’s signatures in proximally of the hospital from here. We may have to move in closer.”

O’Shea looked at the hospital and frowned, “Your likely right, this many people outside is not a good sign at all.” He thought for a moment then looked at Dougal, “We should get in closer, we may get lucky. While we are in do you think the Doc would want some new samples?”

Dougal shrugged,  “Dinnae ken. I dinnae go to medical school lad, but it would likely no hurt.”

O’Shea nodded, “That is my thought.” As he said he stepped back out of a direct line of sight from most people and pullout out his tricorder from his coat as he began to scan the interior of the hospital and surrounding area for good candidates for samples. After only a moment he stopped when the tricorder flashed an alert message for when key information was detected. 

Anomyous Human lifesignes detected – Distance 2.3km, Strength: Faint

“Ugh, looks like a change of plans,” O’Shea said as he leaned over and showed the alert to Dougal and Cezear. “Best go check it out.”

Dougal simply nodded.

Cezear nodded, took a second to relook at the signal’s direction and started off. “Let’s see what or who this may be.”

“Perfect,” O’Shea said as he looked back at the hospital. “The faster we can find the missing team and sort a cure the better. Let’s get there as quickly as we can without drawing attention.”

 

Searching the City

Bardor Bay City
10-15-2401

Sorek, Cordon, and Crawford moved down the street, watching as many locals were leaving.  Some had wagons.  Some used pack animals similar to horses.  Others carried what they owned.  It was clear they were fearing the sickness, but the evacuation was surprisingly ordered and not a panicked rush.

For a while, no one paid attention to Sorek and the others, but two men in uniforms, each with a weapon on their hips, stopped them.  The one with a symbol on his arm addressed Sorek like the two women weren’t there.

“What’s your business, stranger?”

It was obvious they weren’t known as residents of the city, though Sorek didn’t know how.

“Greetings, sir,” said Sorek.  “My betrothed and I are going to the Temple of Halan to offer the traditional prayers for a blessed and fertile marriage.”  He wrapped his arm around Cordon’s shoulder, giving her an affectionate squeeze.  “My sister…” Sorek nodded towards Crawford, ”has studied the rituals.”

Crawford did her best to remain under control.  She had never done well with being talked to by security or anybody in authority.  She was an engineer, not a practician of incognito!  She sputtered out, “I’ve studied them and know them well.”

The officers ignored her again, and she remembered the quick briefing they were able to get on their way out the door of the facility.  Women were not treated all that well here, and it would have to be Sorek that carried the day.  She wondered how much of a thumping she’d get from the two if she started spouting about rights and the like.  Carolyn recited the Prime Directive and General Order 1 over and over in her head.  If Pottinger didn’t kill them first for an infraction, Halsey would undoubtedly have their hides.

The two guards narrowed their eyes, “We wouldn’t advise using the Temple, strangers.  There’s talk of the waters and the grounds spoiled by something…or someone.”  They heard an argument farther down the line erupt.  “Watch yourself, sir…and don’t let them speak again.  There are rules here for a reason.”

Neva leaned into Sorek’s embrace, smiling demurely with eyes to the ground. As he released, she resituated herself so that her arm was threaded in his, listening quietly. She tried to hide her distaste when the guard admonished them about speaking. ‘Oh how I wish i could give you a psychic swat like my mother can!’ Neva fumed silently, keeping her gaze down. ‘No talking my happy a-’ Neva stopped short, ebony eyes flying wide. “Sir-ek,” she slid out. “The ‘someONE’ is closer to true than the ‘someTHING. Like it or not, we’ve got to go to the Temple.”

“Of course, my dear.  Anything for you.”  Sorek offered an affectionate smile, though he wasn’t sure if he did it properly.  “Officers, thank you for your concern, but happy wife, happy life.”  Sorek couldn’t remember where he heard that saying, but it seemed appropriate now.  Tipping his hat without revealing his ears, he led Cordon and Crawford down the street.

They moved against the crowds toward the temple.  The atmosphere wasn’t panicked yet the tension in the air grew as they drew closer to the temple.  Crawford stelled her eyes to glance at the security presence and was surprised to find little of it as they saw the large temple building. The people leaving the area were giving it a wide berth; oddly enough, they weren’t even looking at the ornate worship building.  They were averting their eyes, the worried looks on their faces sending a message.  Crawford whispered, “Something is up with that building…we need to get in there, somehow.”

Sorek didn’t expect to see the people avoiding the temple.  It was his understanding, that in times of crisis, clinging to beliefs in a deity was what gave hope and comfort.  Was it possible the people thought the sickness was a judgment upon them for some transgression?  Reaching the entrance, they might soon find out.

Carolyn kept her grip on Sorek as she gently steered him down the road, keeping a respectful distance from the building, trying to avoid appearing as if they didn’t understand the threat the temple had.  Her eyes searched the side of the temple until she found the rear covered in trees and plants.  She whispered to him, “There’s gotta be a back door to this place…we get in there, people won’t see us trying to break down a door or something.”

“Ms. Cordon, can you get the door open?” said Sorek.  “I will stand watch.”

Neva broke away from Sorek and tried to carefully hide working with her tricorder. Suddenly, she gave a tell-tale smirk and a soft laugh. “I can’t believe I actually get to use these!” Slipping the tricorder into her pouch, she then pulled a leather wrapped pouch just slightly larger than her hand. Unwrapping the leather strap around it, Neva unfolded it to show what looked like strangely shaped metal sticks. She crouched down in front of the doorway and set the pouch on one knee. She glanced quickly at each of her crewmates, nodded, then focused back on her task. After a couple soft curses, pursed lips, and then her tongue sticking out a little, a muted “click” rewarded her ministrations. “Ha! Take that, sucker!” She rocked back onto her heels as she returned her tools to their places. Wrapping the strap around the pouch, she stood and grinned. With a sweeping gesture, she murmured, “After you!”

Before Sorek could go in first, Crawford entered the temple.  It was odd that she did, as she had been nervous and fearful since they discovered the science team was infected with a virus.

The door creaked open, and Crawford stepped in first, followed by Sorek.  Neva slid the door closed behind them.

Carolyn slipped out her tricorder and did a cursory scan.  They were the backroom of the temple.  It was quiet.  She reported, “There is a single life form in the main temple area…but it is faint.”  She inched forward carefully, slipped the curtain aside, and gasped, “Holy cra… Commander!”  Sorek was at her side, looking through the curtain.

“Remain here.”  Sorek carefully moved forward.

“Stop!  Stay away!”

Sorek kept going, stopping next to a young man sitting on the floor, leaning against a bench.

“Don’t come closer, or you’ll get sick!”

“You are Jacob.  I am Commander Sorek from the USS Mercy.”  He took off his hat, revealing his ears.

Jacob was shocked, but that reaction was followed by relief.

“What happened here?  Why did you leave the outpost?” said Sorek.

Neva reflexively lifted the back of her hand to cover her nose and mouth, rooting herself in place. Eyes wide with shock, she stared at the man before her. The waves of pain emanating from Jacob battered her like a tsunami wave. Gritting her teeth and wincing, she turned away to look at the room before she lost what little she’d eaten that morning. 

Jacob Dewain groaned and clutched his side, grimacing as the pain tightened.  He let out a breath as it faded for a moment.  “USS Mercy is a medical ship.  Well, at least the right people are here.”  Dewain looked to Sorek, “Commander…did Captain Pottinger come with you?”

“She did,” said Sorek.

He laughed but was interrupted by a wet cough.  He accepted a cup of water that Crawford had scrambled up for him.  “She’s the cause of all this.  We’re here to observe…but also to steal artifacts.”

Of all the possibilities that motivated Pottinger, theft was the last thing Sorek expected.

Carolyn asked, “Why are you telling us this?  Pottinger will destroy you.” She wasn’t sure this man was on the level.

Jacob winced at the pain swelling against his nerves, “I’m a dead man walking.  For each of the artifacts we took…there was something different about them this time.  It affected each of us differently…but it did something to us. I got sick.  It made Nathan crazy…he lost his damned mind.  The worst part is that whatever we were infected with…spread. My sickness started here…and spread.  I don’t know where Nathan or the others went…but whatever effect their artifact had one them…you can bet it’s happening or going to happen to the people of this planet.”

“Do you have one of the artifacts with you now?” said Sorek.  He motioned to Cordon.  “Perhaps our chief engineer can discover what’s happening.”

Dewain nodded, squinting at the discomfort, “It’s on the altar.  Don’t worry about it affecting you…it only transmits by touching the device for us.  For the people here…I have no idea how it spread to them.” Jacob leaned back against the bench, “I think I’m going to pass out now.”  

His head slumped over, and Crawford scanned him, “He’s alive…but barely.”

Neva’s eyes popped open at the mention of her name. She registered what Jacob said and carefully made her way to the altar. Pulling out her tricorder, she studied the readings of the objects around it. She shook her head and looked up at the Commander. “Sir, if you believed in the Apocalypse from Earth, it’s here. This artifact has some form of bad mojo attached to it.” She let out a soft down trilling whistle and scratched her head. “I’m honestly advising nothing gets touched when we find the others. Carefully destroyed, yes. Just not where they can harm anyone.” Her lips pressed together in a tight frown. “Pottinger definitely screwed the pooch on this one!”

Crawford monitored Dewain.  His life sign signals were worsening.  She pulled from her medical kit what she could.

Sorek knew something needed to be done.  He reached into his pocket and grabbed his comm badge.

“Sorek to Mercy.  I need to speak with the captain.”

 

A walk in the park

Bardor Bay City
10.15.2400 @ 14:10

“Gentlemen, I think we may have an issue.” as the three officers reached a crossroad intersection. “According to the readings we go straight here, the problem is according to the maps and information we got, that direction leads toward a residential neighbourhood. “

Dougal glanced around confusion etched on his face. “Ma’am? I dinnae ken the problem.”

O’Shea exhaled as he looked around at the increasingly quiet streets and shrugged, “Residential or not we need to follow this through. The human life signs are this way so that is where we will go.” For the next fifteen minutes, they made their way through the streets and entered what was clearly a residential area of some affluence. The houses were of moderate size and clean with gardens of flowers and what appeared to be vegetable beds. Glancing down at the tricorder O’Shea nodded towards a house off to their right. “The reads are this way, I think one of the team is inside here. I am detecting several life signs of locals as well. We need to be careful.”

Cezear looked at he street in both directions do get an idea of the lay of the land. “any ideas, not like we can just go up and ask if they have a house guest. And we don’t want to spook who ever is here. I’m trying to get a better reading to match against what we have on the posts crew but we are still getting that interference.”

“We pose as medical personnel,” Aimee suggested. “It will give me a chance to test the cure on the local population as well. It’s working on us but I don’t know for sure it will work on them.”

O’Shea nodded at Aimee’s suggestion, “That is sound. Lets give it a go.” He paused for a moment, “Should we have some sort of uniform? Though I guess we could just stun them if needed but I would like to keep that as a last resort.”

“Medical personnel works for me, well let Aimee take the lead on this one I’m guessing.  As long as one of us gains entry with her. the other two should cover the back and sides Incase our person of interest  tries to run.” 

“Agreed,” O’Shea said as he looked at the others. “I will go in with Aimee. Dougal, you and Cezear remain outside and keep an eye on the exits. I do not expect they will run as I would be surprised if they are able to at the moment but best to be careful.”

Turning to Aimee he nodded, “After you Doc. Let’s go find our wayward soul.”

“Somehow I doubt they will trust a female doctor,” she said to O’Shea.  “You better pose as the Doc until we get things sorted.” She dug around in her bag and produced an old fashioned stethoscope. “Here wrap this around your neck.  Hopefully they will recognize it for what it is. I replicated this before we left the compound in case I needed something more discreet than a tricorder.”

“Mallacht de ort,” he muttered under his breath. “You’re right but it’s a Bloody backward way of thinking.” He took the stethoscope and dropped it around his neck. “Best get to it.”

“It is what it is,” Aimee commented to O’Shea. “It’s stupid, but I’m not here to be a Susan B. Anthony even if the Prime Directive allowed it.”

Dougal glanced at Cezear and to O’Shea,  “Aye lad. Standing here like wee eejits dinnae get us answers.”

“Lets take a walk around the back, see if we can find another entrance. I agree standing around like this will only draw attention to us.” 

Dougal glanced around,  shrugged and fell into step with Cezear. “Och aye.”

With that he made his way up to the door, pausing just before knocking as he tried to see through the small window. Not seeing anything he rapped his knuckles on the door. After thirty seconds without anyone coming to the door, he knocked again and called out. “Hello, we are medical staff with the local government doing a survey of the neighborhood.” A moment later slow footsteps could be heard within and the door opened. Looking up at him was a young girl, no older than 5 or 6 he would have guessed.

“Are you doctors?” the little girl said. “I was told not to open the door but doctors help right?” 

O’Shea smiled and knelt down before the partially opened door, “Yes, that is what doctors do and we do want to help. Can you tell me, your name?”

“My name? I’m Jianbri.”

“It is nice to meet you Janbia, I’m James and this is Aimee,” he said nodding back towards the doctor. “Odd names I know but we are from a different city and here to help. Is someone here sick or needing help?”

At that tears welled up in her eyes and started to run down her cheek as she nodded. “Mamma and Dadda in bed sort of awake and their friend is sleeping I think but… but… bu,” she stammered as her concern overcame her.

“Hey, it’s ok, can we come in and take a look at them? Hopefully, we can help.” 

She nodded and the door opened all the way, “They are upstairs, I will show you.” With that she turned and ran back into the house and around a corner.

O’Shea glanced back at Aimee, “Let’s hope the treatment works. Kids always make it worse.”

“Me too,” Aimee said with a frown. “At some point I need to test the mass deployment option, but right here, right now I can do something… or at least try to.”

O’Shea nodded and gave her a troubled smile, “No time like the present.” With that he stepped inside and followed Jiandri. Moments later he found himself standing at the top of the stairs as the young girl looked towards a closed door at the end of a hall.

“Mama and Dadda are in there but I don’t like seeing them like this. Can you please help them?”

O’Shea looked back at Aimee and nodded, “You go check on them, I will see about the friend.”

Kneeling down before Jiandrim O’Shea spoke, “Where is our parent’s friend? Aimee will go look after your parents.”

She looked away for a moment then pointed towards the next door, “He is in there. I don’t like him though he is not very nice. People were trying to hurt him and Mamma and Dadda hid him here.

“What do you mean?”

“People said he was a stranger and tried to hurt him with sticks and stones. Dadda worked with him though at his job. He digs up stuff for the museum and Mamma helps him at home ” She stopped for a moment and glanced to the room, “I am not meant to tell people that Mamma helps Dadda with work.”

”I am sorry to hear that. Why don’t you stay here and I will go check on him ok?”

She nodded, “I will go play in my room.”

O’Shea glanced back at Aimee after Jiandri went into her room, “That isn’t good.”

“None of this is good James,” Aimee said in a soft tone. Aimee turned and slipped quietly into the bedroom pulling the door shut behind her.

O’Shea watched Aimee enter the room with Jiandri’s parents before he walked into the other and stopped, lying on the bed before him was Howard, the missing team leader from the observation team. Pulling out his tricorder he gave the unconscious form a quick scan. Tapping his combadge he opened a channel to his team, “We have found Howard, he is unconscious. We have been told people were looking for him and the family here hid him. Be aware there may be people looking for him. Keep your eyes open.

”Roger, we are taking a walk around the house and maybe the block so as not to draw attention. We will let you know if we see anything.”  Cezear said as they started to make their way down the street.

Aimee entered a moment later, a frown furrowed across her face, yet she remained silent.  After a quick examination she sighed and shook her head. “He’s too far gone.  As is the girl’s father. I think I can stabilize the mom but I need a sickbay.” 

“Damit,” O’Shea said as he looked back at Howard. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of anger towards him and the rest of the team for the lives they were ending sort due to this plague. With a focused exhale he calmed himself and looked back towards Aimee, “Ok, I understand. Let’s do what we can for the mother.” He looked back towards the hall and the room where Jiandri played unaware that her life had just fallen apart, “Will the systems at the observation post be sufficient? If not Mercy can beam down whatever you need.”

She shrugged, “I think I can do it back at the post, but she is bad off.”

“We best hurry then.” With a nod and tapped his combadge opening a channel to Cezear, Dougal and the wider team, “Howard is head. He was hiding with a family, the father is too far gone but we may be able to stabilize the mother. The child hasn’t shown any indication of being sick yet. We are taking them to the observation post, they may be able to shed some light on this.”

Without waiting for a response he switched to Dezear and Dougal, “Everything ok out there still?”

Ceazers shoulders slump at hearing the news about Howard, “Damn it.” Hearing the next part he looked toward Dougal and then took a couple of seconds to look up and down the streets. “All clear, right now. A few folks on the streets but nothing that looks out of the normal for the situation.”

“Bloody hell,” Dougal replied under his breath.

O’Shea responded, “Do you see anything we could use to transport them back to the outpost?” He stopped for a moment before continuing, “Would the lockdown allow local transport?”

“Aye,” Dougal said almost under his breath his eyes locked down the street.  Halfway down the block a black carriage of an opulent design withca pair of black horse like creatures.   They stood outside a residence, their heads hung low in boredom. Patting Cezear on the shoulder,  “Ye see what I see lad?”

I do, kinda catches your eye though. Don’t you think? And do you know how to drive one those?” 

Dougal raised his eyebrow at Cezear,  “Laddie I may be a Scotsman,  but we no live like it’s the bloody 18th century. Ye do ken we have speeders, shuttles an’ transporters?” He gave the carriage a long look and gave Cezear a mischievous grin,  “Aye well, how hard cannae be?”

Cezear shrugged “only one way to find out.”

 

The Doctor and The Captain

Facility
10.15.2400 0830

Doctor Aimee MacDonald entered commands into her terminal and uploaded the medical links from the scanners she had given Lieutenant Cordon and her husband, Dougal.   The return made her smile.  Both subjects were free of the disease.   Her latest antiviral had worked.  Now it was time to create a mass cure so they wouldn’t have to inoculate everyone on the planet individually. 

Pottinger moved to a console on the other side of the room.  She was sure the Mercy crew were, at a minimum, aware of additional layers to the station’s mission.  She had read each of their files and had initially held very little concern about them.  Since landing on the station, she’d started to worry that they appeared more competent than they appeared on PADDs.  The clear and present danger was Dr. MacDonald.  She wasn’t convinced she could swing the Chief Medical Officer over to her side.  She had banked on them being a young crew with little time to grow together, but that, too, had been a misnomer.  A previous mission had found the Mercy and her crew facing off against a homicidal station intelligence.  It had strengthened their relationships considerably.  She began to think about how she could remove the doctor from the equation, at least temporarily.

“Captain,” Aimee greeted without looking away from her work.  She kicked her right foot, rolled to the left, and entered commands into the computer.  “What can I do for you?” Her tone was polite but lacking any warmth.

Grace chewed on her lip for a moment.  “I wonder if I am to trust you, Doctor MacDonald.”  She continued downloading the available and untouched data as she spoke, “There seems to be a…dynamic developing amongst some of the Mercy away team.”

“Trust me?” Aimee repeated looking up in surprise. “What is that supposed to mean, ma’am?”

Pottinger wondered how to respond.  She decided on, “Outsiders have a hard time being a part of an established or close team.  The Mercy, as short as your time together has been, has become close.”

“Look, you are a captain in Starfleet.  As long as your orders are within Starfleet regulations and the constitution of the United Federation of Planets I will respect your rank regardless of personal feelings,  of which I have many. But, those are irrelevant. “

Grace nearly chuckled but let it die in her throat, “How very Vulcan of you, Doctor.”

Aimee didn’t respond to Grace’s comment, simply ignoring it.  She had bigger issues at play here.  Her gaze fell onto the small stasis chamber in which her child was encased.  It was either that or they both died.

Pottinger saw her attention was somewhere else.  She didn’t care about the doctor or her needs.  She was aware that a distraction could impact the mission.  She couched her concern, “Everything OK, doctor?”

“Hmm? Oh, it’s not important to the situation at hand. Just some personal measures I had to take so that I could… You know, it doesn’t matter.” The computer beeped.  Turning to the terminal, she entered commands,  “Well, Captain,  you have the active strain of the virus.”  

Pottinger’s external reaction was mild.  Her eyebrows went up.  Inside she was a buzzing hive of worry.  “It does not seem to be affecting me similarly.”  She approached Aimee’s console, “Is it possible we won’t have the onset of symptoms that the people here did?”

“Not likely,” Aimee replied returning to her work.  “The good news is the experimental vaccine is working on Ms. Cordon and my husband.” After a long silence Aimee stood and loaded a hypospray and pressed it into Pottinger’s shoulder. “I wish I could warn you of side-effects but given the nature of the disease extended trials isn’t an option. Right now I am trying to create a way to disperse this enmass.  I’m thinking water based is the correct direction.”

Pottinger gave her a careful look but nodded her assent.

More Than Watchers

USS Mercy
10.15.2400 0830

Halsey stood in the middle of the bridge, his feet covering the United Federation of Planets logo that was inlaid on the floor.  The situation was unravelling slowly but surely – it was becoming clear that Captain Pottinger was up to something. What it was continued to be unclear.  He had ordered the bridge crew to review what they had been sent, what scans they could recover with the unique interference, and analyze the situation.  He turned to the officers, “You’ve looked at the data. You’ve read the reports they’ve sent up.  You listen to the uncut audio recording.  Thoughts?”

His wife had turned in her chair at the science station, “Something has occurred at the facility to require a transporter lockdown.  There’s a short list of the variables that would indicate the need for such precautions.” She turned her gaze to the others.

Sesias turned in his chair. “Captain, there are very few issues that would require a full transporter lockdown. The only one that comes to mind with the information we have would be a quarantine situation. If there is a chance that a contagious disease has been detected than the standard operating procedure would be to initiate a full transporter lock down. We need more information. “ he looked back at the main view screen. “Sir, didn’t that Ensign of hers stay behind? Could he know something? “

Egrel silently stood, hands clasped behind his back, dark eyes darting between everyone present. A small frown etched upon the Betazoid’s face, “I’ve looked and listened several times through. We are missing many pieces to this puzzle, if not a vast majority of them.” He didn’t know much about transporter operations procedures, feeling a bit useless himself on the matter.

Halsey thought for a moment, “What if we were to use the Mercy’s science equipment to…listen in to the various parts of the colony?  I know we’ve got some sensor issues, but I know this ship came equipped with some good monitoring equipment and that had to include some listening gear?”

Sesias started To type on the communications console. “yes sir. I believe I found something that might work with some adaptions. We don’t have a listening device in our systems per sey. Though what I found is a science system that allows one of the labs to listen to the noise that stellar phenomenon produce. I believe I can adapt it into something that may work, the system is already in place we just have to change what it listens for. I believe the communications lab will have what we need. “

Leopold turned to Choi, “Work with Sesias to get the equipment installed, configured, and ready.  I’ll keep S’Atilien on the bridge to monitor communications and coordinate with you once we’re set.”

 

Egrel lifted his brows slightly, a bit surprised to be tasked with such an endeavor. He nodded firmly, “Of course, sir, we will get right on it.”

”Follow me, sir, it shouldn’t take us that long to adapt the system, maybe an hour.”

“Ok, here’s the plan.” as they entered the communications lab. “We are going to adapt the system that the planetary studies lab uses to listen to solar and celestial winds and sounds. I believe we can turn it into a type of parabolic microphone. It will allow us to listen but it will have some limits.” he pointed Choi toward the central table console. “ can you bring up a link through that table for the comms console on the bridge?”

Choi and Sesias went to work, their hands moving quickly.  Time was of the essence.

The Wrath of Faith

Mercy/ Bardor Bay City
10/15/2401

Because of the new information from Jacob Dewain, especially the news that Captain Pottinger was running a ring that stole artifacts from pre-warp cultures, Sorek knew he needed to update Captain Halsey.

“Sorek to Mercy.”

“Standby, Commander…what can we do for you?”

“I need to speak with the captain.”

There was a shift of movement on the channel, and the voice of Halsey broke through, “Commander Sorek, what’s your status?”

“Sir, I recommend you take this in your ready room and secure the channel,” said Sorek.

On the Mercy, Halsey raised his eyebrows as the bridge crew stared at him.  Sorek was a Vulcan and not given to making requests like this lightly.  “Understood, Commander.”  He gestured to the communications officer to do as his XO was asking.  A moment later, he entered the ready room and opened the now secure and private channel, “This isn’t going to be good news, is it, Sorek?”

“No, sir,” said Sorek.  “While searching the city, my team entered the great temple and found one of the scientists, Jacob Dewain, hiding inside.  He was extremely ill and needs immediate medical care.  He claims local artifacts caused it, but he didn’t explain how.  He also told us Captain Pottinger is using the duck blind observation missions to steal from pre-warp cultures.”

Halsey processed the revelation briefly before answering, “That is certainly not good news.  Damn.  How many did they take?”

“Unknown, but if Captain Pottinger has been using the same crew each mission, it could be dozens,” said Sorek.  “Lieutenant Cordon did a quick inspection of two items we found here in the temple.”

Leopold groaned, “So, two more to go.  You’ll need to move quickly to secure the two missing items…before it worsens.  Get with the other team…and get moving.  I’ll start the work on this end with Starfleet.  They are not going to be happy..”

“Sir, Mister Dewain needs our help now.  Using proper isolation and quarantine procedures, I recommend beaming him to the Mercy,” said Sorek.

Halsey thought momentarily, “You make a compelling point, Commander.  Let’s get it done.  We’ll signal when ready.  I’ll head for sickbay.  What a mess.  Keep me updated…Halsey out.”  The CO closed the channel and headed for the bridge.  Grace Pottinger had lost her damn mind.

 

A Mercy’s End

USS Mercy
11.01.2400

“Captain’s log…date 11.01.2400.  This is the final log in my brief tenure as Commanding Officer of the USS Mercy.  We stepped aboard her two months ago, and I thought this would be my home for a while.”  He stared out the window of his ready room at the glittering insides of Starbase Bravo.  “Sadly, that is not to be the case.  Needs must…and the Mercy is needed elsewhere, and so are we.  I’ve been tasked with a teaching and advising position at Starfleet Academy at Mellstoxx III.  Starfleet needs additional medical professors…and I was on their list.  My wife was offered a science teaching position, and she’s accepted.  They’re letting her take her experiments and studies to work with the students…something she is qualified to do.”  He returned to staring out the windows, reflecting on his journey to the Mercy.  He would miss the crew most of all.  They received orders for new frontiers, assignments, and directives.  There was no question that he would keep in touch with each of them, but it didn’t take the sting away from losing something he had wanted for so long.

He stood from his desk and went about the process of clearing out. It took him an hour.  The quartermaster crew came through and picked up the boxes as he completed each until the room stood bare and silent.  Halsey took one last look around and stepped through the doors.  The ready room remained quiet and empty.

He stepped into the officer’s lounge and felt every eye turn towards him.  His senior staff was there, as well as various assistants.  In two months, they had been through and experienced so much…they were a miracle crew in every sense of the word.  He had spoken with each of them over the last few weeks as the orders began to come through.  It hadn’t been easy, and feelings were still felt below the surface.  This would be their last meeting together before departing for the transporter rooms and shuttles that would take them all to their next adventure.  The gathered officers stood as he entered, and for the first time, he didn’t ask them to sit down.  He looked at each crew member and finally said, “As you were,” at which point they returned to their seats.  “It’s important to remember what we had together…it’s why I wanted to dismiss you from here as a last chance to say goodbye.”  He turned to Sorek, “Commander, I couldn’t have asked for a better Executive Officer.  Your steady logic and focus kept us even and together as a crew and ship.”

This was an emotional time, and though Vulcan, Sorek was experiencing an inner turmoil about the Mercy assignment concluding.  It was obvious seeing how some of the others were taking it, so for them, he maintained the stoic posture expected from him.  “Thank you, sir,” he said, standing.  “The good we accomplished here was because we had the commanding officer that inspired us to serve and be our best.”  He sat back down, casually resting his hands in his lap. Sorek didn’t know what his next posting would be, but since he had accumulated leave time, for now, he was returning home to Vulcan to see his family.

Halsey smiled in recognition of Sorek’s words.  He was hopeful Sorek’s next assignment would be what he needed.  He turned his attention to his chief engineer, “Chief.”  They had talked several times over the last few weeks about her reassignment.  She’d been less than thrilled initially, but she was slowly coming around.  “You’ve made engineering your own…your crew your own, and the Mercy your own.  You proved your worth every day and kept the ship running for all of us.  I’m proud to have served with you, Neva.”

Neva swallowed the lump that seemed permanently lodged in her throat and found herself blushing at Captain Halsey’s words. “Captain…thank you,” she found herself hoarsely whispering. Neva coughed and continued.  “The Mercy will always be our Iron Lady to me, Sir. You put Her Heart in my care, but you saw to Her Life. No matter what we faced, You brought us Home every time.” She smiled warmly, nodded, and sat back down as tears blurred her vision.

The CO gave her a quiet nod.  Engineers were unique in the love they had for their ships.  “Doctor MacDonald…I don’t think we could have managed an orderly and functional sickbay without you.  Between you and your husband, you kept us focused on the things that mattered…and helped us save the day more than once.  I’m going to miss being able to discuss the medical cases of the day with you, Doctor.”

“And I as well,” Aimee replied.  “It was an honor  Cap.. Doctor Halsey.”

Leopold turned to Sesias next, “Lieutenant, you’ve kept us organized and the departments working tirelessly together.  Operations is often a thankless job, but I’m not letting you and your crew off the ship without saying just that…thank you.  Whoever we turn the Mercy over to…they’ll be getting her in better shape than when we got her.”

Sesias stood and motioned toward everyone in the room. “Captain, it wasn’t all me, it was us all of us. The team behind me and those in this room made everything possible. May the gods watch over you all, and may they guide you where ever your journey goes next.” he nodded toward the captain as he retook his seat. 

Halsey let the moment hold before he nodded to Choi, “Lieutenant…you and your team have given us much in keeping our heads and hearts clear.  I’ve come to rely on your counsel, and I will miss those moments the most – your head and heart are worthy things to count among a crew.  Egrel…thank you for being a part of our crew and our time on the Mercy.”

Egrel had his hands clasped behind his back, chin tilted up. He felt a swell of pride in his chest as he overheard the Captain talk to each officer. He had become fond of each and every one of them and will carry them dear to his heart on his future assignments. He was proud of the crew and of the Mercy. He turned his smile to the Captain, dipping his head as he murmured, “Captain. It was an honor to serve for you and the crew on this ship.” He hesitated, turning slightly to glance down at everyone else, offering that same gentle smile towards them. The Betazoid spoke a little louder and a little clearer, “I am proud of each and every one of you, I’ve seen everyone grow not only as a crew, but as individuals. May your futures bring many bright and happy blessings, my friends…” He looked back to Halsey and murmured softly once more, “Captain… Halsey…. Friend.”

Leopold felt the emotion of the moment.  He and Egrel had shared many a conversation in the last two months about the Chief Counselor’s status and situation.  Progress has been made in that brief time.  He was proud of the officer.

“Lieutenant O’Shea, you’ve kept us safe throughout our missions from a deadly station to a rescue operation to the complex process of avoiding contact with a pre-warp people…your focus and your crew’s focus on the safety and well-being of the Mercy and her crew…you did your department proud and you made us proud.  Thank you for making our jobs that much easier.”

O’Shea nodded with a smile, “Thank you, Captain, it has been a pleasure to work aboard the Mercy and with you and the others.” He looked over at the rest of the senior crew, “As others have already said this, I will keep it brief and echo their statements. It has been an honour to work with each of you and I wish each of you the best in the future. We have been through a lot and I hope our paths will cross in the future.” With that he turned back to Halsey and held out his hand to shake that of the Captain, “A pleasure, sir.”

Halsey accepted the hand and shook it firmly, “A pleasure and an honor.”  O’Shea returned to his seat, and Leopold began his last words to his crew, “I’m not sure what the future holds beyond our next assignments.  I’m unsure if I’ll find this kind of crew again soon.”  As he spoke, he looked to each of them, “Your future is your own.  What you do on your next assignment, next step, or career – it is up to you to make it remarkable.  You’ve done extraordinary things here on the Mercy…I wish you the best wherever you travel, land, or journey.”  He swallowed and spoke his last, “Crew of the USS Mercy…you are relieved.  You are dismissed and released to your next destination.”

The group blinked, realizing it was over.  The moment had come.  Haltingly, they stood and spoke quietly to each other and shared last hugs and handshakes.  They left the room one by one, walking down the empty corridors.  Soon it was just Halsey and Sorek.  The captain sighed, “I suppose we should talk about Pottinger.”

“Indeed.”  Sorek expected they would talk about the disgraced officer.

Leopold sat down, “She’ll never wear a Starfleet uniform again.”  The blowback from the discovery of her actions and those of the crew on the planet had been shocking.  A contingent of Starfleet Security had arrived and taken her away, and she would be facing a trial and numerous punishments for her actions.  Her superiors had dispatched a ship to address the civilization on the planet.

“Justice will be done, sir, but there is one last thing,” said Sorek.  “You and Pottinger butted heads.  For lack of a better way to say it, you won.  How do you feel about that going forward?”

Halsey considered the question.  Pottinger had been a significant part of his career in the imprints she had left.  Her return to his life, albeit briefly, had threatened to return the daily chaos to his life.  He answered, “I feel free, Sorek.  Few people in this universe have danced on that final nerve until it snapped…and Grace was one of them.  I’m not proud of feeling that I’ve won…but I’d rather stand on the pride of beating her than humbly bowing at her feet.”

Sorek nodded.  Though not living with emotions, to some degree he understood why Halsey felt the way he did.  Sorek simply wanted to know his CO was going to be okay.

Halsey stood from his seat, “I’m hopeful you’ll return to Starfleet someday, Sorek…but I understand your why.  I wish you the best.”  He raised his arm and saluted the Vulcan, “Live Long and Prosper, Commander Sorek.”

Sorek returned the salute.  “I will be back.  For now, it is logical for me to spend time on Vulcan.”  Pausing for a few more seconds than he realized, Sorek nodded and left the room.  For each of them, it was a new chapter now.

Halsey stood in the empty room as the XO departed, the yawning silence echoing through him.  Whatever was next, whatever lay beyond the next star…his journey and that of his now former crew were just beginning.  The vastness of space lay before them, and the continuing missions in life and career awaited each of them.  Leopold gathered himself, walked out the door, and made his way to the transporter room.  Soon, he had vanished in the brightness and was gone.

The USS Mercy soon stood empty, crewed by station engineering working on repairs and operations officers preparing the ship for whoever and whatever came next.  

All while the universe watched and waited.