Laid out on a biobed in little more than a periwinkle hospital gown, Lieutenant Tumaini Calumn watched the nurse conduct manual palpations on his left leg and then his right leg. Nurse Malko took a firmer hold of Calum’s leg and gently pushed his knee closer to his chest. Letting out a slow breath, Calumn rubbed his dark beard as he watched — the sensation was equally novel as it was familiar. Calumn had been growing his beard out again for the past week, after his last mission.
Before saying anything definitively, Nurse Malko took one more look at the biofunction monitor mounted above Calumn’s head. “There’s definitely tension,” Malko said, in confirmation of Calumn’s complaints about his knee and lower back. Carefully, he extended Calumn’s right leg out again. Smiling encouragingly, Malko added, “But the joints feel healthy.”
“My last mission,” Calumn said glibly, “wasn’t exactly Bridge duty.” Looking up at Malko as he said it, Calumn’s dark eyes widened dramatically to convey just how far away from Bridge duty his last mission had been.
Nurse Malko met Calumn’s eyes when he said, “Monitor how you’re feeling for the next few days…” –And he winked puckishly– “I think you’ll be okay.” He reached for a cart and pulled it closer to the biobed, providing Calumn with the black trousers and red jacket of his folded up uniform. “They’ll complete a full physical examination when you report to the USS Achilles anyway.”
Bracing his palms against the biobed mattress, Calumn pushed himself up into a sitting position. His head pivoted from side to side as he looked around Sickbay for a chronometer. Calumn asked, “Are we still on schedule for our rendezvous with Achilles?”
Smiling knowingly, Malko shared an incredulous look with Calumn. “Shouldn’t you… know already?” Malko asked, as he tapped a finger against the side of his own head.
Calumn looked down in his lap for a moment, just a moment, and then his previous expression returned. Calumn’s angular features softened as he returned Malko’s smile with a smile of his own. “I’m not that kind of Betazoid,” was all Calumn said, shaking his head.
“That’s a shame,” Malko said with a hint of emphasis. Remembering something else Calumn had said, Malko squinted at him, and he asked, “Wait… What was your last mission like anyway?”
One Week Earlier
Location: Vingel IX – Kiota Base
Stalking into the briefing room steadily, Tumaini Calumn resembled nothing so much as the victim of a transporter malfunction. He approached the conference table without hesitation or preamble. Beneath his chainmail shirt and pantaloons, his frame appeared to be basically bipedal. However, golden-feathered wings hung low from his arms, and a matching feathered-mohawk topped his scalp. Where his skin was visible, it was scaly and shaded like ripe aubergine. The better part of his face, meanwhile, was obscured by a beak like an albatross. Calumn’s obsidian-irised eyes –a Betazoid telltale– were the only part of him that truly remained visible.
“Yeoman,” Calumn said forcefully. He managed to milk three syllables out of the word. He came to stand at attention before Yeoman Aloysius, and he demanded to know, “Are you trying to kill Doctor Vigny?”
Already seated at the conference table, Yeoman Aloysius folded his hands over the Kiota Base logo etched into the tabletop. “…No,” Aloysius answered tentatively. Calumn’s question had sounded like a non-sequitur to his ears, which caused most of his confusion. Narrowing his eyes at Calumn, Aloysius felt positively underdressed in the simple, red jacket of his uniform. Shaking his head, Aloysius added, “I don’t think so?”
Calumn offered no immediate reply. Standing there, he stared back at Aloysius, obviously appraising him. The tension poured out of his posture, but at least the vitriol faded from behind his eyes. Calumn swung his hips in a casual manner to bump the nearest chair. The chair bounced off the table and rolled far enough away for Calumn to seat himself. He laid his palms flat on table; his talons clicked against the surface. Calumn’s tenor was grim, when he said, “Doctor Vigny is my charge. He serves as a cultural observation officer, posted to the nearest Vingellan city. Protection detail is my assignment. Undercover. …A cover I have jeopardized by returning to base in daylight.”
Leaning against the table’s edge, Calumn spoke to Aloysius in his greatest approximation of a conspiratorial tone. “I don’t normally look like this,” he said. For all his affectation of cloak and dagger, the words came out earnestly.
Nodding vaguely, Aloysius replied, “Yes, I uh– Yes, I’ve seen your service jacket. You’ve been recalled to Kiota Base because of new orders, Lieutenant.” Aloysius put a hand on the wedge-shaped PADD on the table between them and he nudged it in Calum’s direction. “Transfer orders.”
While Calumn didn’t gasp at being given orders to transfer assignments in the middle of a mission, he did let out the breath he was holding. It came out as a tight gust of air, like a release valve. Calumn stretched his arms across the table –but he didn’t quite touch the PADD– as if greater physical proximity would give him greater understanding. “Yeoman, do you,” Calumn asked, “respect the responsibilities of a security officer?” His dark eyes studied Aloysius, unblinking.
Remaining confused by the direction of the conversation, Aloysius could only say, “I respect the responsibilities of a security officer, just as I respect the responsibilities of everyone in Starfleet. I can promise you that I accord no greater or lesser respect to anyone doing their part for the Feder–”
In a tone that was flat, but not lifeless, Calumn interjected to ask, “How could it be acceptable for me to abandon my post here? I was assigned to Kiota Base with the other non-essential personnel from the USS Callisto.” –Listening intently, Aloysius certainly noticed something condescending in Calumn’s tone, telling him facts he already knew– “The Federation Council is in deliberation over the decision to either make first contact with the Vingellians, or to shut down the duck blind facility and leave the planet. This is a critical time for Dr. Vigny and the rest of the research team. I made a commitment to my Chief of Security to see this mission through.”
After clearing his throat, Aloysius countered with, “That’s the point, Lieutenant.” He reached across to tap the touch-sensitive display on the PADD. The small print of the transfer orders scrolled across the display. “You’ve been promoted to Chief of Security for yourself. You have a new diplomatic mission and a new crew: the USS Achilles. If you don’t catch the shuttle to your transport, the USS Tolstoy, you’ll miss your rendezvous with Achilles altogether.”
That, finally, made Calumn blink.
Calumn drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair. The prickling of his talons in the fabric was the only sound he produced; even his breathing was slow and mostly silent. “As committed as I am to this mission,” Calumn said, “I will grant you, the junior ranks within the security division are not always as… stimulating as my service as a novice Judge Advocate was. I grow weary of my ideas weighing less because of my position. Every starship schematic I have studied, every mindless patrol I walked, every extra hour of physical training has been in pursuit of serving a security department as chief. I want to mentor young officers on how to assess risk. I want to provide a crew the opportunity to serve their duties without fear.” Calumn clasped the edges of the PADD between both of his hands and he pulled it close enough to read the first paragraph on its display.
Calumn blinked again and he looked up. “…Is the infirmary available to fix my face?”