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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Let Them Eat Cake and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

The Only Water Flowing

Kunhri III, Latitude 43, Longitude -79
June 2400
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From the very moment the transporter beam released Lieutenant Junior Grade Sootrah Yuulik on the surface of Kunhri III, she griped, “There is no place on Arcadia that looks like this hell.  The weather control matrix would never suffer it.”  

Yuulik had materialized in a grouping of five other officers, all of them in teal-shouldered uniforms except for Captain Taes.  Yuulik had yet to suss out if Taes’ presence on the away team meant Yuulik was leading the most critical mission –to research a multi-discipline, long-term path to food security– or if Captain Taes was planning to micromanage her assistant chief science officer.

As always, Yuulik won the race to quick-draw her tricorder and activate its multitude of sensors first. She resolved to award prizes to herself until the science slowpokes who assisted her began to do better.  Before the sensor readings could tell her anything, Yuulik had already decided this corner of the planet should be diagnosed with clinical depression.  No location on this entire continent had been dignified with a name by the Romulans; it was only known by coordinates in the official records.  Yuulik had materialized on a dry-land protrusion at the coast of a saltwater river.  When taking her first step forward, her boot squished into aquatic vegetation underfoot.  The saturated-soil was otherwise thick with water-tolerant vegetation such as woody shrubs and trees. In fact, every single tree in view was sagging under the weight of their own branches and leaves, as if they had lost the will to reach for the stars. In this tropical-wet climate, the sky was was overcast and sprinkling rain on the away team.  Yuulik’s twin fauxhawks were already drooping from the damp in the air.

After another six officers beamed down from Dvorak, Yuulik lowered her tricorder, but left its scanners running.  She pointed a finger at the two operations officers from the second group.  “Set up base camp for our planetary survey over there!” Yuulik demanded and she pointed to the driest patch of land she could see.  She raised her index finger again and spun a quick circle in the air.  Stridently, Yuulik ordered, “The rest of you: I want water and soil samples, along with preliminary seismic, geothermal and meteorological scans within the hour.

That got the quick-draw out of them.  Junior science officers went running to and fro, being led by their tricorders.  Others pulled large scanning devices out of backpacks, while the pair from operations began to erect a large tent.

“They’ll get it done, captain. You can count on them.  In no time, we’ll understand what vegetables and livestock can be sustained in this environment,” Yuulik said.  All the while, she smirked proudly at her obedient little minnows.  Sidling closer to Taes, Yuulik added eagerly, “Do you see, captain?  They move so much faster when I’m in charge.”

Taes tilted her bald head in Yuulik’s direction, an inscrutable expression in her eyes while she studied her.  Taes sniffed and she said, “Is that how it is?”

Yuulik scoffed back at the implication.  “What?  Speed is good, no?” Yuulik asked impetuously.  She felt like this was another crucible from the captain, making things harder because of her self-flagellation mythology.  Without replying, Taes raised her own tricorder and waved it in the direction of the nearest tree.  As Taes walked away, Yuulik followed her to insist, “The task you’ve set for us is monstrous.  Creating an entire agriculture and food distribution system, and make it sustainable?  From scratch?  We don’t know how long Starfleet, or frankly the Remans, will allow us to stay and follow through.”

“No, Sootrah, speed is not the only metric” Taes replied. Somehow, Taes used the exact same tone of voice that Yuulik’s mother had spoken in when Yuulik would describe her mother’s punishments as illogical. Yuulik couldn’t understand how Taes had learned that tone without being a mother herself… unless Taes had spitefully taken voice-lessons from Yuulik’s own mother.  Sternly, Taes said, “You know that’s not what either of us is talking about.  You think you should be the chief.  So I’m asking you: how is Lieutenant Susarla performing?”

Yuulik needed exactly one microsecond to consider her answer. “She’s horrible”.

Shaking her head at Yuulik, Taes muttered, “Already at red alert, I see.”  Taes abandoned any pretense of scanning and she led Yuulik deeper into the woods, moving away from the away team. Taes asked, “Has Suz been derelict in her duty, lieutenant?”

“She has been derelict in her duty,” Yuulik said smugly, “to me!  She doesn’t understand how to debate.  She nods incessantly and she says things like ‘I receive that’ and ‘tell me more’.  Tell me more?  What does that add to a conversation?”

Spinning back to face Yuulik, Taes pinched the bridge of her nose.  It looked like a performative act of frustration to Yuulik.  “She’s trying to nurture you.  Don’t you understand?” Taes asked. With those words, the fire in her belly had apparently snuffed out.

“Aw, grozit.  Gross,” Yuulik said, literally nauseated by the thought of her boss prostrating herself to nurture her. “Do you think Suz is up to the task?  Is she capable of raw invention with her ‘tell me more’s and her nurturing udders?  Captain, you think we can invent agriculture on this planet, and you hope it can be modeled on Kunhri IV and across the Velorum Sector,” Yuulik proselytized. The vitriol fueling her words had been replaced by sheer awe at Taes’s audacity.

Yuulik continued, “Starfleet only ordered you to get Kunhri through the next year, until Psi Velorum can get the food shipments back on schedule.  You decided for yourself that Kunhri needed a hundred-year plan to reach food security, entirely self-sufficient from even the Velorum Sector itself.  That’s absolute hubris and I love you for it.  You’re talking about inventing infrastructure where there’s no historic or cultural foundation of agriculture to build upon.  The Remans have been restrained in a system of forced labour for centuries.  They have nothing like farming in their ancestral memory.  I can hardly even conceive of what any of that can be like.”

Evidently ignoring the talk of hubris, Taes locked onto that last thing Yuulik had said.  Pointedly, Taes asked, “You’ve never known hunger, Sootrah?”

“Never.  Not for one hour,” Yuulik said, with a shake of her head.  Facing Taes in the rain, Yuulik’s two strips of hair had matted against her scalp and her mascara was running.  “On the island where I grew up, Arcadians communicate love through food,” Yuulik shared, “and my parents were very, very fat.  Arcadia is more utopic than Earth, captain.  (Honestly, Earth is where we go to rough it.)  I know nothing of the Remans’ lived experience.  The biases implicit in the prime directive alone say a lot about what we think of intergalactic economies, the value of labour, and our perception of scarcity.  That’s not how the Remans view the galaxy.  Not at all.  We’re all going to have to be very careful about the assumptions we make as we design any solutions.”

“Not… all of us,” Taes said delicately.  The way Taes talked about her adolescence, stranded on a failed colony, was the same way one might walk on a tender knee.  “Some of us have known hunger in our lifetimes.  …But I take your point.”

Yuulik shrugged helplessly at Taes, admitting, “I can’t bluster my way through this one. I’m very, very clever, but I’m prepared to defer to your vision here.  I… and Suz… can design the connective tissue, the implementation, but the scope of the systems you’re proposing we create…  You’re the mad scientist on this one.”

Shaking her head with a rousing laugh, Yuulik had to ask Taes, “Do you have a god complex or are you trying to prove something?”

Taes stared at Yuulik —stared right at her— and then she hooked a thumb over her shoulder, to indicate where the rest of the away team was putting the base camp together.  “Let’s dry off,” Taes suggested.  She took her first steps in that direction before she told Yuulik, “Did you know, my people have built a new colony on Nivoch? They had to abandon the old… my home.  My historical and cultural foundation couldn’t be relied upon, because the ecological changes made the planet unsustainable for life.  So they built something new?  They built a self-contained colony dome, because they wanted to offer a refuge for Cardassian refugees crossing the border.”

Reaching out to grip Yuulik by the shoulder, Taes insisted, “You can’t be afraid to be wrong when you have nothing.  You have to do something.”


  • I enjoyed the humor immensely, and specifically, how that humor segued into a deeper picture of the character. What came across initially as humor for humor's sake proved to be Yuulik's social norm, and the way that this fact was easily woven into the dialogue between her and Taes worked really well. Not just a bit of comedic relief, nor an intentionally irritating character, but someone completely embroiled in their social programming, and realistically so. I found myself wanting to see more of the back and forth between these two, as well as admiring Taes for her patience. The ultimate point about being careful of assumptions is one Yuulik should probably take heed of for herself (ha!), but the final few paragraphs created a nice sense of foreshadowing for Starfleet's efforts helping the newly freed Reman population.

    June 3, 2022
  • I do have to say that Yuulik gives me a superiority complex vibe. Like she knows everything. I love how Taes is being mature and motherly with Yuulik in the sense that she makes her think, even if Yuulik completely misses the reasoning for it. I laughed at how Taes spoke to Yuulik and Yuulik thought she sounded like her mother. All in all this story was solid and written well. Keep up the great work and solid writing. I look forward to the next chapter.

    June 10, 2022