Part of USS Sarek: Let Them Eat Cake and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

In Our World of Plenty

USS Dvorak, Deck 1
May 2400
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A sense of panic rose in Kellin’s chest and it felt like acid reflux.  As Chief Security Officer, Lieutenant Kellin Rayco was comfortable with a phaser on his hip and an opponent stalking towards him.  Kellin was rather broadly built, for a Trill, and well maintained.  He could remain composed when a starship was under attack and EPS conduits were overloading overhead.  He was resilient in the face of danger.  And so, it was social awkwardness that ate away at him like stomach acid.

On the face of it, Kellin wasn’t bothered by a delayed response to a door chime.  Maybe thirty seconds had passed since he had pressed the chime to the captain’s ready room.  Maybe as much as a minute.  There were plenty of explanations for why Captain Taes hadn’t responded to the chime: she could have been in the middle of composing a report, or using the fresher, or had just stubbed her toe.  Plenty of common, reasonable explanations.  No, what struck Kellin with a wave of anxiety was the glance Elbon gave him.  Sitting in the captain’s chair, Commander Jakkelb Elbon cast not only one, but two or three glances at Kellin, while Kellin stood waiting by the door.  Their eye contact had been far too brief for Kellin to deconstruct what Elbon was thinking exactly, but Kellin could see there was something askance about Elbon’s glance.  Kellin busied himself by conducting a visual safety audit of the overhead panels; he avoided looking at Elbon by counting the rivets in the ceiling.

Elbon didn’t look over his shoulder a fourth time.  Fixing his gaze on the viewscreen, Elbon suggested, “Try knocking, maybe?”

Kellin raised his knuckles to the door panels when Taes said, “Come,” from within.  The computer unlocked the doors and they slid open.  Kellin forgot to lower his fist, at first, although he didn’t see any reaction from Taes to suggest she registered his mishap.  He stepped far enough into the ready room for the doors to close behind him.

“Good morning, lieutenant,” Taes said.  She cupped her chin with one hand and she offered Kellin her most impish, apologetic smile.  “I’m very sorry for that.  I hope I didn’t leave you waiting.”

After Kellin wished the captain a good morning too, he shook his head hard enough to bounce the pile of ginger curls atop his head.  “No trouble at all,” Kellin said dutifully.  “I know a captain has many priorities.”

“Oh!  No,” Taes blurted out, and her words were quickly followed by a small titter of a laugh.  The Deltan commanding officer sat back in her chair, loosened her posture, and she waved a hand through the air.  “No, I was doing nothing.”

“I’m sorry, captain,” Kellin said, unable to contain the spillover of concern.  He had reported to the captain for official matters, but they fell out of his head when he assumed that meant Taes was unwell.  “Did you not sleep well?” he asked.

“No, I wasn’t resting,” Taes said.  “I was doing nothing.”  

Kellin squinted at Taes, asking, “Is that like meditating?  They taught us a couple of Deltan meditation techniques at the academy…”  Suddenly grinning with pride, Kellin said, “I was always the fastest at quieting my mind!”

“No, I wasn’t meditating,” Taes said, a little more emphatically.  “I was doing nothing.”

Kellin squinted at her again, shaking his head.  “I don’t get it,” Kellin said.  He padded across the compartment and draped himself over the sofa.  Taes had that glint in her eye, Kellin could see, like she had a story to tell.

“You know,” Taes said and she genuinely sounded like she expected Kellin to already understand all of this.  Her eyebrows raised in an expression of surprise at the question.  “Suz was studying it on Uccaro last week,” she added.

At that, Kellin became even more confused.  Squinting at Taes, he couldn’t decide if he was missing something or if Taes was the one who had lost the plot.  “The citizens of Uccaro haven’t seen a Federation starship in ten years since first contact,” Kellin said, summarizing what he did understand, before broaching what he didn’t: “And one of our research teams beamed down to… do nothing?”

Despite the amused smirk on her lips, Taes defended her science chief, by saying, “This was only one avenue of our research and diplomacy in the Typhon Frontier, but yes.  Lieutenant Susarla led observations and ethnographic surveys about… doing nothing.  As an activity in itself, it’s revered by the people of Uccaro.  They consider it distinctly separate from recuperating or mindfulness.  It’s doing nothing… for the sake of nothing.”

Kellin breathed out a dubious, “Huh,” and he remarked, “My skin crawls if I do nothing for even ninety seconds.”

Taes smiled at him fondly, and then she assumed her formal timbre when she asked, “In that case, what brings you to my door, lieutenant?”

“We’ve received new orders from Starfleet.  For your eyes only,” Kellin explained.  Cheekily, he added, “Maybe we’re conducting an anthropological study into buffets?”

 

*   *   *

 

“Far be it from me to question the command staff…” announced Sootrah Yuulik.  Tilting her head, the Arcadian delivered the preamble with good-humour, even offering a small wink of self-awareness.  She had barely gotten the statement out of her mouth when the members of the senior staff, gathered in Dvorak’s observation lounge, sputtered out laughs at the idea of Yuulik withholding a single opinion.

Sitting in the centre curve of the conference table, Captain Taes took notice of Kellin Rayco laughing the loudest.  It relieved her to see Kellin being able to laugh at Yuulik’s confrontational ways.  His reaction was a far cry from the fledgling Security Chief he’d been, months ago, trying to blackmail Yuulik into silencing her ongoing criticism of Taes herself.

Wryly, Kellin retorted, “Questioning the command staff is your personal prime directive.”

Yuulik tipped her head to Kellin, but she continued unabated.  Weightily, she said, “But when I went to bed last night, we were diving deeper into the Typhon Frontier.  This morning, I see we turned back?  What, may I ask, is so fascinating about Starbase 23?”  As Yuulik’s gaze landed on the chief flight controller, Yuulik’s brow furrowed disdainfully.  “You can admit it, Annikafiore… Have we gotten lost?”

Folding her hands on the tabletop, Taes held her tongue only long enough to choose her words carefully.  She had been debating how much to share with the crew about their new orders from Starfleet Command.  Frankly, Taes was still debating how much she really knew, herself, about the rapidly evolving situation.  Not wanting to leave this in Annikafiore Szerda’s lap, Taes interjected with a smooth, “No, we’re not lost.”

This gathering of the department heads for the morning briefing was particularly casual, by Taes’ designs.  Taes had banned any of them from preparing presentations or referring to each other by rank.  Taes made a point of role modelling the way she wanted the conversation to naturally weave between social matters and departmental updates during this time together.  Although Yuulik served as Dvorak’s Assistant Chief Science Officer, Taes had invited her to these briefings to represent the interests of the science officers conducting independent research, unrelated to Dvorak’s Starfleet missions.  The conference table had been laid out with a platters of foods Taes had ordered from each of the senior staff’s home worlds: Delta IV, Bajor, Trill, Earth, Arcadia, Elaysia, and Betazed.  Only Phylos was unrepresented, as Pimpinellifolia didn’t quite eat the way mammals did, and the replicator database retained no food patterns from Phylos.

Sat at one far end of the table, Doctor Pimpinellifolia was attending the briefing for the first time in weeks.  While Taes was circumspect to assume the fauna-based Doctor Nelli felt emotions that were in any way analogous to Deltan emotions, Taes had noticed a change in Nelli’s behaviour the past couple of months.  Ever since Chief Science Officer Jeffrey Homgren had been incapacitated on an away mission, and Nelli had been unable to revive him, Nelli had noticeably withdrawn.  Taes could see that Nelli was less inquisitive about the humanoid experiences that had excited her to join Starfleet in the first place.  It was only Dvorak’s new Chief Science Officer, Priyanka Susarla, who had gently compelled Nelli to make connections with the crew again.  Taes couldn’t be certain if that was due to Susarla’s empathetic leadership style or her scientific specialty as an ecologist.

Sitting directly across from Taes was Chief Engineer Leander Nune.  At the precise moment when Taes looked Nune’s way, the young man happened to be licking oskoid syrup off his fingers.  Taes allowed herself three seconds to watch the movements of his lips and then she willed herself to look away.  Nune had respected Taes’ wishes to honour their sexual dalliance as singular affair.  It had been a beautiful interaction while Taes had been spiritually lost in the woods — reeling from an accidental bodily transformation during her first mission as captain of Dvorak.  In the weeks since then, Nune had treated Taes with no greater affection or evasion than when they had first worked together aboard the USS Nestus, which was what Taes had wanted.  Looking away, Taes checked in with herself to make certain that was still what she wanted.

On the other end of the table, Executive Officer Elbon Jakkelb and Security Chief Kellin Rayco were sitting across from one other.  From what Taes could see, Kellin wasn’t even allowing himself three seconds at a time to look at Elbon.  This behaviour showed up in stark contrast to both men admitting to Taes that they were married, even though she knew they didn’t live together, they didn’t socialize, and Kellin glommed onto every member of the senior staff as if they were his best friend — every member except for Elbon.  Between vague metaphors and platitudes, neither of them had been terribly succinct at explaining their relationship to Taes.  Once Taes caught Commander Elbon’s eyes, he raised his eyebrows in an expression that said: tell them.

Taes responded with a single, slow nod.  Breathing in through her nose, Taes shielded herself from an emotional response from the crew.  She pressed the soles of her boots against the deck plate beneath her.  She affected an aloof timbre, speaking in measured tones to avoid sensationalising the matter further.  Taes said, “Starfleet has received reports –as yet unconfirmed reports– the the imperial senate of the Romulan Star Empire has been massacred.  We believe the atrocity was undertaken by the empire’s own Star Navy.”

Susarla slapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp.  Nelli’s eye-stalks drooped and Kellin boggled at Taes as if she’d kicked a puppy through the viewport.  Nune’s dark eyes darkened further, and he muttered, “This is why I only work with plasma manifolds.”  Annikafiore looked around the table and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, when she uncomfortably quipped, “…Again?”

Yuulik appeared unimpressed.  “That may be the theatre the Star Empire chooses to perform for Starfleet to see,” Yuulik remarked.  “Could this be a trap?”

Tilting her bald head to the left, Taes replied, “If it was a trap, the Remans are loosed from it.  The Romulan Star Navy has long relied on the mineral wealth of their Velorum Sector, which has been mined and refined by the enslaved labour of the Remans and others.  All over the sector, Remans have begun rebelling against their Romulan leaders and taking command of their own destiny.  The majority Reman population has annexed the Velorum Sector from the Star Empire, and declared it a free state.  Acting-Governor Resak, of the Remans, has promised improved living conditions for any who wish to join them.  He has formally asked for assistance from the Federation, because he doesn’t have the resources to follow through with his intentions.”

Earnestly, and respectfully, Kellin replied, “And we do?”  As soon as he’d said it, Kellin closed his eyes and shook his head.  Taes supposed he looked visibly frustrated with himself for saying his first thought out loud.  Struggling for the right words, Kellin said, “Why would we interfere in the internal matters of the Romulans?  …Or, I guess it’s just the Remans now?  Or is it both if we recognize the Remans as a free state and they don’t?”

“Kellin…” Elbon sighed.  Although Commander Elbon spoke softly, he sounded as if he were chiding a particularly lost child.  “We’re Starfleet.  The Remans have asked for the Federation’s help.  We answer all distress calls.”

Arguing for an act of compassion, Taes said, “Our intelligence tells us many of the worlds across the Velorum Sector are not sustainable Romulan colonies.  They’re workplaces.  Glorified prison camps.”  Her mien grew impassioned, as she shared more of what she’d learned in her orders from Starfleet Command.  “Without the infrastructure of the Star Empire, entire worlds lack the means to provide the basic needs of their people: food, water, shelter, health care, education.  It would be criminal to withhold humanitarian aid.”

Nune snorted.  “Isn’t it criminal to ignore general order one?”

Sweeping a hand out to indicate Nune, Yuulik nodded at his criticism.  “We should treat the normal cultural evolution of the Remans as sacred,” Yuulik proposed.

Wincing at that, Nune remarked, “That’s not how I meant it?”

Emboldened, Yuulik continued, “Interfering with their development could leave them with a dependency on the Federation — just as unhealthy as their dependency on the Romulans.”  Her voice rose, as if she were giving a lecture at a scientific conference.  “In fact, if we fly in as saviours, can the Remans evolve their own culture at all?  Do we not risk becoming the same overlords, leaving them in the mines, addicting them to replicators, and then… who knows?  Maybe they can fight our wars on our behalf too?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Nune said, more assuredly this time.

Susarla countered with, “Our technology is not significantly superior to the Romulans.  I don’t imagine Reman culture is going to be contaminated by replicators and hyposprays.”

“Forget the prime directive!” Nune snarled.  He scoffed and he lowered his voice, before he asked, “Are we just going to pretend the Remans didn’t attempt an extinction event on Earth twenty years ago?  A cascading biogenic pulse is on my no-list.  That’s no way I plan to die.”

Recognising how fruitless it would be to debate the finer points of the prime directive and past trauma, Taes affirmed, “Today, the Remans are the ones facing extinction.  Their infrastructures have collapsed overnight.  We should anticipate other civilizations, other factions among the Romulans, may want the riches of the Velorum Sector for themselves.  The entirety of the fourth fleet is being dispatched to provide humanitarian aid and protection.  We’re going to equip the Remans with the tools they need to reach self-determination and self-sufficiency.”

Skeptically, Yuulik asked, “And what, pray tell, does Starfleet suppose a boat full of archaeologists and anthropologists can do in enemy territory?”

Taes grinned.  “We’re going to feed the world.”

Comments

  • YAY! My favorite dysfunctional family are back in action, and I'm so glad to see that Yuulik has really tried to temper those uncomfortable outbursts of hers *queue sarcastic laughter*. Ever the dutiful Chief of Security, I continue to adore Kellin, and love the 'kicked a puppy through the viewport' concern of his. I'm worried about Nelli, though. Hope she comes round soon. I especially like the way that Nune addresses the elephant in the room, in a way that I have not yet seen anyone else do. He's right to question Starfleet's involvement with a people who tried to extinguish all life on Earth, but I guess we can't hold all Remans accountable for the actions of the few, right?

    May 31, 2022
  • Will admit this is my first read through with this crew and their great. I really need to go back and check out the previous stories. The way you introduced Kellin at the start was brilliant. We all get those nervous in situations like that, well I so anyways and then to just be told they the capty was doing nothing. I thought he we lose it for a second. Look forward to seeing how this developes.

    May 31, 2022
  • That interaction about “doing nothing” spoke to me! What a great way to start this piece. Taes is the Captain, that last person on the ship one would expect to be doing nothing, and yet she very cogently explains why it’s a perfectly good way to decompress with that oh-so 25th Century nonchalance that leads us to reflect on the current state of our own work-life balances here in the 21st. Your characterisations continue to be where I think your work really stands out. Once again highlighted here with skill are the deep contrasts between each character’s cultural background and way of reasoning towards a conclusion. Yuulik steals the show again (or maybe I’m just too much of a fan) playing devil’s advocate on questions of the Prime Directive. Crucially, you’ve played a masterful game of foreshadowing the Federation’s dilemma here with the “doing nothing” conversation. Should the Federation do nothing? Do they not also have a duty to ensure the Remans achieve representation in their own space? The Captain doing nothing in the beginning becomes the driving force for action by the end.

    May 31, 2022
  • A great start to the story, I couldn't help but chuckle at the confusion of Kellin at the beginning when he was in the Captain's ready room. The interaction in the meeting was great to see, and I have to agree with Tharia on how Nune addressed the elephant in the room and questioned why the Federation is even getting involved in what would be perceived as an internal matter. I can't wait to see what is in store for the crew of the Dvorak through this mission.

    June 1, 2022
  • The return of the himbo! Gotta love how far Kellin has evolved since his first introduction and is still evolving. I'm curious to know more about his marriage that is kept quiet...is there a naughty mystery here that we will eventually find out more about? That said, I feel like one of the reasons he is evolving is the relationship he has with his captain. A sort of mentor-student dynamic that he trusts and enjoys a lot. Yuulik still remains a favourite of mine, her pure bluntness and straight to the point approach to almost every situation keeps every other character on their toes. It's great to also see Captain Taes growing more into her role as commanding officer of this unique group. Her wanting the conversation between department heads to remain easy and free is an interesting take, especially when most of them are scientists first. Nevertheless, Pimpinellifolia's character is one I do adore too. How you write their perspective and development, from being a non-mammal, is such a joy to read. The impact of the last storyline carrying over to here is intriguing, to say the least.

    June 1, 2022
  • Your story is full of colorful characters. Most of them seem to be unique to one another and that in itself is awesome. I can sense a lot of tension between several of your characters which is perfect for creating drama in a story. Such as the hardened Chief SO, Kellin; who appears to have some unresolved feelings towards the XO. Then there is the Captain, Taes, who from what I have gleaned so far is a very laid back, but a still reserved woman; who would do almost anything, it seems, to keep her crew/family happy. All in all, you have presented a solid choice of characters for this story and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next story. Keep up the solid writing.

    June 10, 2022