Part of USS Sarek: Turnabout Imposters

Turnabout Imposters

Camus II & USS Dvorak
Stardate 77168.9
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–received word from the USS Wakahiru-me,” reported the voice of Commander Elbon, transmitted through Rayco’s combadge.  “They’ve tracked down a Hidecki-class ship and their scans confirm it’s the same one that broke through Camus II’s planetary defences.  The Wakahiru-me is escorting the ship back to Cardassian space, but even short-range sensor scans can identify no sign of any ancient Camus technology aboard their ship.  We may never know their purpose in invading the ruins…

In the catacombs beneath Camus II, Lieutenant Kellin Rayco had stepped away from the away team who were working frantically to repair the life-entity transfer device.  Having tucked himself down a passageway, Kellin received the message from Commander Elbon in private.  “All right, commander.  Thank you,” was all Kellin said.  “Rayco out,” and he tapped his combadge.

Tentatively, Kellin returned to the large chamber where Lieutenant Yuulik and the others had vaporized a tunnel through the wall behind the life-entity transfer device.  Having located the mechanisms that operated the device, the away team had been working for hours to connect the replicated control panel to the device itself.  After Kellin notified the away team about the fate of the True Way pirates, he fussed with the settings on the portable deflector units he’d erected to protect the away team from celebium radiation.  Only when he was satisfied with their continued efficacy could Kellin concentrate on the progress of the away team.  Multitasking wasn’t exactly Kellin’s best sport.  Worse, he’d come to recognise a slightly muffled quality to what he could hear through Arcadian ears, while he was inhabiting Yuulik’s body.  It felt like he had water in his ears, except it was all the time.

From within the tunnel, Kellin heard Yuulik say, “plug the optical data qualt into the razzlefrazz,” and he heard Captain Taes reply, “no, the blue weepeggle hooks into the flockeet.”  While Kellin knew that Yuulik and Taes had actually said no such thing, it all sounded like gibberish between his Arcadian hearing and his limited understanding of archaeological engineering.  Even though he understood literally nothing about what was happening inside the hidden mechanisms of life-entity transfer device, Kellin felt oddly comforted by the arguing between Yuulik and the Captain.  It made him feel safe.  He felt that way, because he did know two things.  For one, Yuulik was shouting down everything Taes was trying saying.  That meant Yuulik was following a thread of clues, and she had a plan.  For another, no matter how many tricorder error sounds rang out, no matter how many failed connector cables they tossed back, and no matter how much Yuulik raised her voice, Captain Taes sounded delighted by the discovery of it all.  Kellin couldn’t ask for anything more.

It’s why Kellin wasn’t surprised when Yuulik shouted, “I solved it!  The control panel is speaking to the machine because of me!”

“That may be…”  Striding out of the impromptu tunnel, Taes insisted, “I volunteer myself as the test subject. I’m only going to risk myself on this first try.”

“That’s– Captain, that’s not how it works,” Kellin said, keeping his tenor delicate, as Taes approached.  He shook his head and he frowned at her in an expression of compassion.  “For you to be the test subject, your body will need to be a test subject too.”

“But… Dolan?”  A pained wince carved into her features the instant Taes shook her head at Kellin.  Lowering her voice so only Kellin could hear her, Taes said, “He’s the youngest of you all.  He hardly even knows what Starfleet is about.  Kellin, we’ve made a hundred assumptions back there.  This could kill me.  I can’t ask that of him.  I can’t volunteer Dolan for this.”

“Yes,” Kellin said simply, “Yes, you can.  It’s going to kill Holmgren.  Taes, you’re the captain.  It’s what you do now.”

 

*   *   *

 

Wearing her own captain’s uniform –and her own body– for the first time in a couple of days, Taes was standing taller as she strode through Dvorak‘s archeology laboratory.  She offered a deep nod to each of the crew members she passed, but she didn’t slow her pace or pause for conversation.  That could come later.  She had already met with the other members of the original away team and the only one remaining was Sootrah Yuulik.  Taes stepped into one of the private offices at the back of the laboratory, which is where she found Yuulik, hunched over a computer workstation.  The science officer was back in her own body too, and she appeared to be making up for lost time, given how intently she was tabbing through LCARS menu options with both hands.

Taes didn’t step in much farther than the doorway.  Uncharacteristically, Yuulik looked up from her work and nodded an acknowledge to Taes, before Taes could say anything.  Taes nodded back and she asked, “How are you feeling, Sootrah?”

Yuulik bobbed her bulbous head from side to side.  “After three showers…” Yuulik said, “Almost Arcadian.  With just a bit of a headache.”  To Taes’ ears, it sounded like a deflection, and so she didn’t respond.  Taes offered Yuulik a faint smile and allowed the silence to speak for her otherwise.  Still, Yuulik continued with her riff, saying, “I imagine Dolan felt the need to absolutely bathe your body in perfumes?”

Shaking her head at that, Taes chided Yuulik with a, “shush.”

After laughing at her own joke, Yuulik noticeably sobered and she hiccuped nervously.  She pursed her lips and seemed to take some strength from that sensation in her own body again.  “And how is Commander Holmgren?” Yuulik asked uncomfortably.

Leaning back, Taes rolled her shoulders and her head against the doorframe.  She stared into the middle distance over the top of Yuulik’s head.  “He’s in a coma,” Taes said.  Protectively, she said those words out loud as if it should come as no surprise, as if it were an inevitability beyond her control.  “Doctor Nelli has fully recovered in their own body, but we’re going to take Jeffrey back to Deep Space Seventeen and… his wife.”  Taes’ voice cracked in the end.  “By ere’ka,” Taes swore, “I failed him…  I haven’t even been much of a captain to you this mission either.”  Taes tilted her gaze to meet Yuulik’s eyes.  “The imposter in red,” Taes said, bubbling over with emotion.  Some part of Taes was archly throwing Yuuilk’s words back at her, another part of her was defying Yuulik for questioning her so often, and yet Taes was also embracing the name like a vile crown.

Despite how well Taes had grown to know Yuulik these past months, Taes had yet to ever see a single micro-expression of shame or embarrassment on Yuulik’s face.  This day was no different.  Yuulik tilted her chin up and she didn’t shy away from Taes’ scrutiny.  Cautiously, Yuulik said, “Never let anyone tell you you have imposter syndrome.  Humans invented the term as a modern way to call women hysterical in the workplace.  Even the word ‘imposter’ exaggerates a glorified feeling of anxiety into a form of criminal fraudulence.”

Taes took a deep breath.  “Today, I feel like a fraud,” she said.  Taes practiced naming the emotion, in the hopes it would limit some of its power, as Elbon had encouraged her.

“The very notion of imposter syndrome puts the blame on you for your emotional reactions to growth in a new circumstance.  Calling anything you’re feeling ‘imposter syndrome’ ignores the foundational context of Starfleet’s own culture,” Yuulik insisted.  “How can you feel confident in your command of a starship when you don’t know what that looks like?  We have so few Deltan mentors and role models in Starfleet positions of senior command.  If you try to compare yourself against every Tom, Dick and Kirk, of course you might feel like a fraud.  It falls to you, and this crew, to pioneer a path towards what a successful Taes looks like as the captain of a starship or an admiral of a fleet.”

“Yuulik…” Taes whispered.

“No, this is your job.  You have to be that role model.  Prove to our crew there are more ways to be leaders than they know,” Yuulik said, demandingly.  “You owe that debt.  When you jumped to the command track, you took something from Starfleet.  You may not know this, captain, but I read every article you ever published.  Even your cadet thesis.  You are a brilliant scientist.  You could be doing real work out here.  You truly could invent a new paradigm for first contact or the next generation of universal translator.  For whatever reason, you decided to babysit engineers and security meatheads instead.  If you’re going to waste all that brilliance on starship command, you better make it worth it.  That’s your job now.”