Part of USS Sarek: Storm in a Teacup and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Deep Beneath the Seams

USS Nestus, Deck 2
January 2400
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A clamour of raised voices rolled into the Nestus‘ bridge like nimbus clouds.  The noise cast a shadow over Lieutenant Kellin Rayco with the same foreboding as storm clouds rolling overhead.  Almost an afterthought, Kellin locked out his tactical console with a swipe of his hand.  His body was already moving in the direction of the noise.  Stalking out into the passageway, Kellin could hear the words more distinctly now.  He heard an, “I can’t, I can’t,” with the melancholy he’d grown to associate with the survivors of Eldflaugar.  As Kellin rounded the corner, his eyes locked on an Andorian he didn’t recognize.  It wasn’t only melancholy he heard in the Andorian’s voice now, Kellin heard a stab of accusation too.

Counselor Elegy Weld followed the Andorian out of sickbay at a measured pace.  Kellin could see Elegy splitting the difference between showing concern and giving chase.  The latter might have caused the Andorian more distress.  Elegy’s voice reverberated with resignation, when he said, “Our security officer would be more than happy to escort you to the transporter room.”

Kellin nodded without thinking.  Whatever it took to de-escalate the tension between the Andorian and Elegy was good for him.  “It would give me pleasure,” Kellin offered affably, as if they were talking about going to a roller rink.  With that, the Andorian offered no further fuss as Kellin lead him to the cramped transporter room and beamed him back to the resettlement habitat.

When Kellin returned, he found Elegy back in sickbay, dematerializing water glasses in a replicator.  There wasn’t much standing room in the compartment, nor many opportunities for personal space.  To avoid this feeling like an interrogation, Kellin sat himself on the edge of the biobed.  He put Elegy in the position of power.  “You okay, Ell?” Kellin asked.  He made no effort to hide his assumption the answer would be a no.  “He wasn’t even here for five minutes…”

“I’ve been replaying it in my mind,” Elegy said stiffly.  He paced the length of bulkhead from the replicator alcove to the medical operations office.  His limbs were long, almost gangly, and he fidgeted like he didn’t know what to do with his hands.  “There were no signs of distress when I started the ethnographic interview.  It wasn’t until the third question that…  He didn’t like the third question,” Elegy asserted with a shake of his head.  When Elegy turned his eyes to Kellin, Kellin recognized that look.  Elegy looked like a man at confession.

Elegy said, “I’m a counselor.  I haven’t done this kind of work since my first cadet cruise.  I appreciate we’re all hands on deck for the Century Storm, but I’m no expert at this.”

Offering reassurance, Kellin said, “You don’t have to be an expert to see something…”

Elegy stopped fidgeting.  Finally, he was able to rest his hands by his sides.  Elegy shared what he was thinking, when he said, “I think there’s something wrong with the interview questions.”

Kellin shook his head at that and he braced his palms on the mattress behind him.  He was going to have to get himself settled in for this.  Kellin asked, “What does that mean?”

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re well crafted,” Elegy blurted out, a little protectively.  “The questions are open ended and they flow through a range of topics.  But the wording of a couple of the questions is… uncomfortable.  They don’t roll off the tongue.  One of the questions implies… the survivors had some choice over which starship would rescue them from the storms.”

 


 

“We are using the wrong interview questions. That is why,” Yuulik stated matter-of-factly.  She said the words with not one particle of doubt.  Her intonation was definitive.  She didn’t even blink at Kellin.

Kellin had come to Science Chief Yuulik in the main science lab.  He had relayed to her what had transpired with Counselor Weld.  Yuulik offered him no show of surprise, nor even concern.  She knew exactly why that had happened.  Kellin’s eyes seemed to follow her, vacantly, as if he expected something more from her.

“How can that be so?” Kellin asked.  Even children on Arcadia, Yuulik reflected, didn’t sound as naive as Kellin sounded in that moment.  Kellin said, “I’ve read the interview questions.  They ask about everything the Captain talked about in her mission briefings: Escaping the lunar colony and the resettlement efforts.  What they lost and left behind.  How they coped with emergencies in the past…”

“Yes, I did my best to patch up the holes in the questions while we were in flight to Haven,” Yuulik replied, with some small pride, to explain everything that was right with the questions.  To explain what was wrong with them, she resolved to start at the very beginning.  Yuulik flicked off her holographic screen and she looked right at Kellin.  Speaking very slowly, Yuulik said, “Alas, our questions were built on a foundation of Starfleet-approved templates.  One of the templates your Captain selected was designed for citizens who were colonizing a new world, rather than citizens who were being resettled due to disaster.”

The more Yuulik said to him, the deeper Kellin frowned.  He crossed his left arm over his chest and cradled his right elbow.  As if he was just waiting for her to stop talking, Kellin interjected, “But if you modified the questions, doesn’t that make the templates moot?”

“Words are important,” Yuulik said emphatically.  “Nuances matter, implications matter.  When you ask leading questions, you don’t cut to the heart.  Just you wait, security boy.  When we deliver this data to the research team on the starbase, they will tell us the data is tainted.”  Yuulik twirled a hand at Kellin, saying, “Look at it this way: If you fire five torpedoes” –she said the word like it was from an unfamiliar language– “and you hit only one wrong target, that is still a very bad day.  Failure.”

“Why would you use that template?” Kellin asked.  “If you knew it was the wrong one?”

“I fought it.  I fought with the Captain for more than an hour,” Yuulik affirmed.  Any pride or condescension in her tone had burned away.  Yuulik’s eyes were ablaze, staring into Kellin with all the indignation this mission had heaped upon her.  This was supposed to be her chance.  This was supposed to be Yuulik’s opportunity to prove her mettle.  And now it was tainted.  “I gave the Captain every reason she needed to choose another template and she out-ranked me in the end.  She chose the colonization template.”

No matter what Yuulik said to Kellin, he still looked back at her with the wide eyes of a believer.  His body language, his tone of voice, they all made him look like he was clinging onto a mythical lionization of Captain Taes.  “Are you sure that was the one?” Kellin asked.  “Are you sure she wanted exactly that one?”

 


 

Squeezing a holographic projector in the crook of his palm, Kellin thumbed the tab to activate his holo-PADD.  At chest level, a simple LCARS interface confirmed he was approaching the coordinates Captain Taes had sent to him.  This simple scavenger hunt to find the Captain was coming up empty.  Kellin found himself pacing across a grassy park area, behind the Nestus.  The wide open clearing was a distance away from the lake and the copses of trees.  Some small part of of Kellin appreciated getting off the ship and feeling the warm sunlight on his face.  Even so, the feeling was dampened by the need to wear a mostly black uniform from neck to toe.  Worse, his conversations with Weld and Yuulik still weighed heavily on him, and he couldn’t solve that problem by taking his shirt off.

A scream pierced the air and Kellin looked up instinctively.  He immediately saw the source of the scream was no living being.  Rather, the noise came from microfusion thrusters carrying a Starfleet shuttle through atmosphere.  The type eight shuttlecraft settled down for a landing in the clearing ahead of Kellin.  In the time it took Kellin to flick off his PADD, eight Starfleet security officers beamed in through the rapid sparkle of the transporter effect.  The security officers were neatly scattered in formation around the shuttle and every one of them had their phasers aimed at the shuttle’s aft hatch.  The security officers were shouting things like, “Step out of the shuttle”, and “Approach slowly with your hands visible.”

As he was the only security officer assigned to Nestus, Kellin deduced these security officers must have beamed down from the USS Gheryzan in orbit.  He eyed them one by one, and made the choice to slowly approach the nearest ensign.  Not only did Kellin out-rank the ensign, but the ensign was the one with the sloppiest grip on his phaser.  Affecting his formal timbre and his full height, Kellin made no pretenses of introductions. “Status report, ensign” Kellin requested.

The ensign hesitated long enough to look Kellin up and down.  Returning his eyes to the shuttle, the ensign replied, “The shuttlecraft launched without logging a flight plan, Lieutenant.  When attempts were made to communicate–”

The ensign tightened his grip on the phaser as soon as the aft hatch of the shuttlecraft hissed open.  The hatch lowered into position as a ramp.  From within, a woman in a command-division uniform stepped out onto the ramp.  Plainly of Deltan origin, Commander Taes’ scalp was completely hairless, aside from her eye lashes and eyebrows.  She descended the ramp with her hands hanging loosely by her sides; she only raised one of them to offer a wave in Kellin’s direction.

“Lieutenants, ensigns, you can stand down now,” Commander Taes said, and her timbre made it an order.  She projected her voice theatrically to ensure they all heard her.  Taes sauntered away from the shuttlecraft, as if she didn’t have phasers aimed at her.  Another heartbeat or two later, and the security officers lowered their phasers in unison.  “I am Commander Taes from USS Nestus.  I understand you’ve experienced a misunderstanding.  The colony leaders from Eldflaugar required assurances we were beyond the reach of the Century Storm.  I simply took them on a tour in orbit.  I allowed them to operate the sensors with their own hands.”

As Taes neared Kellin’s side, he swallowed hard and tried to blink away the dumbfounded look on his face.  Without pausing, Taes snatched him by the elbow and dragged him on her summer stroll towards the Nestus.  Tilting her head in Kellin’s direction, she added under her breath, “And I finally, finally secured their informed consent forms to participate in the ethnographic interviews as a result.”

His face scrunching up, Kellin shared a cringe with Taes, but she only had eyes for the Nestus.  Slipping into a hang-dog delivery, Kellin said, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, Captain.  One of our research participants quit in the middle of an interview.  He was hot about it.”

“That’s not unheard of, lieutenant,” Taes replied reassuringly.

“Yuulik thinks there’s something wrong,” Kellin said furtively.  He lowered his voice when he spoke, even looked back over his shoulder.  It reassured him to see none of the security officers had followed them.  None of them were close enough to hear him.  Stealthily, Kellin said, “She said we’re using a template that was designed for colonists instead of emergency evacuation.”

Taes made no effort to lower her voice in response.  “That’s laughable,” Taes said, but she certainly didn’t laugh.  She still didn’t laugh when Kellin activated his holo-PADD, and presented her with the ethnographic interview questions side by side with the templates Yuulik had showed him.  Kellin held his breath.  He watched Taes’ eyes study the words, line by line, column by column.

Kellin didn’t see it coming when Taes slapped the holo projector out of his palm.  Taes threw her head back and she shrieked into the sky like it was the end of the world and she wanted all the gods to know it.

Comments

  • I am 110% here for ethnographic methodology drama (especially if it's potentially weakening data from an incredibly delicate and rare situation). But HOW? And WHY? There's a great sense of growing tension and discomfort through this chapter; it works very well in building up and explaining 'what' and then 'why' of the question, which might seem procedural, but risks the entire mission being - at best - a complete waste of time. Though I confess, I have no idea what's up with Taes at the end and I am Curious for more. Good stuff! Lovely and DIFFERENT and a great use of the smaller ship for a narrow and distinctive kind of storyline.

    March 11, 2022