Part of USS Sarek: Lies I Loved and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

Lies I Loved – 17

USS Sarek saucer section, Sickbay
December 2400
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Captain’s Log, Stardate 77916.9,

 

Upon arrival in the Burleigh star system, the USS Sarek’s stardrive section promptly set course to return the exhumed skeletal remains to the Kadi home colony.  The saucer and stardrive sections are maintaining formation at warp with a twenty-thousand-kilometre distance between the two hulls.  The USS Palm Springs has moved on to another mining operation, meanwhile.  Lieutenant Command Rayco has coordinated the storage of the Burleigh Minor blood dilithium on the stardrive section and the transfer of all telepathic crew members to the saucer section.

 

We believe this distance between the saucer and stardrive sections should prevent the destabilising effects of blood dilithium on our telepathic crew members.  In practice, our long road to reconciliation with the Kadi will be our first real test.  Although the intruding thought patterns of the deceased Brenari appear to have passed for me, the stronger telepaths among the crew report they don’t quite feel like themselves yet.  I have declined to regain command of the USS Sarek until Doctor Nelli has run more tests on me.

 

Oh…

 

One more thing.  I spoke with Captain Kirin Tarken of the USS Sojourner this morning to reminisce over the trials we faced at Kunhri and to compare our crew’s challenges in the Delta Quadrant.  The expansive sensor array on the Sojourner also happened to detect a song by the post-modern punk band Kolar Blight, this one called “Agency Crisis.”  They were able to locate the source of the transmission: a K’t’inga-class starship, the SS Vondem Rose.  Thanks to that distraction, the USS Sarek managed to evade detection by a passing Devore warship.  I’d say I owe the captain of the Vondem Rose a very strong drink indeed.

 


 

The captain’s recovery room in the USS Sarek‘s sickbay was significantly larger than any other recovery room on the ship.  The urgent necessities of a deep space captain’s recuperation were made apparent in the compartment’s design.  Not only did the recovery room have a redundant electro-plasma conduit, but it also contained an industrial medical replicator, a backup secondary life support processor, and a direct passageway to an escape pod.  Given how infrequently the recovery room was used, it felt excessive to Captain Taes.  For that reason, among a couple of others, Taes had insisted on Sootrah Yuulik being transferred to the second biobed in the room with her.  Despite all of Yuulik’s protests, Commander Elbon had made it an order.

Yuulik had already ignored a couple of Taes’ attempts to strike up a conversation since arriving.  Even though Yuulik too had been relieved from her duties as assistant chief science officer, she had nested herself in an overlapping arc of holographic LCARS panels.  Sitting up in her biobed, Yuulik toggled through dozens of blood dilithium sensor logs and the computer’s simulated projections of how blood dilithium might react to various forms of energy and radiation.  Yuulik was flicking between them so quickly, Taes couldn’t make out the details from where she was sitting on her own biobed.

Taes looked up from the singular report on her own holoPADD.  She cleared her throat and watched as Yuulik completely ignored the social cue.  Taes may have feared that Yuulik had suffered lasting brain damage from her epigenetic self-experimentation if Yuulik hadn’t been designing her simulations with such precision and speed.  These observations were consistent with Doctor Nelli’s prognosis that Yuulik would make a full recovery.  If anything, Yuulik’s presence in sickbay had as much to do with dehydration, and a lack of self-care for days, as the byproduct of using her own body as a science experiment.

Despite Yuulik’s preoccupation with her work, Taes said, “Commander Elbon is very hopeful after the first day of negotiations with the Kadi ambassador.  Although the ambassador is understandably horrified, she remains engaged in the dialogue.  Apparently, Flavia has even taken accountability for her own actions, but she keeps winking at Kellin as she does so.  Elbon intuits the Kadi ambassador to be perplexed by Flavia but not outright perturbed.”

Yuulik raised an eyebrow at that, but she continued her tapping at a holographic LCARS pane.  She didn’t even slow down her design of the next simulation.

Absent-mindedly, Yuulik asked, “How did you trick Flavia into doing that?  I’ve been right here.  I would have seen you drowning her in moral superiority.”

“I’m still relieved from my duties,” Taes said and she frowned at Yuulik, shaking her head twice.  “Kellin stepped into his role.  He spoke with Flavia and she volunteered to help.”

The suggestion of Flavia being cooperative drew Yuulik’s attention.  She looked at Taes and she waved most of her LCARS projections to the side of her biobed.  Taes could see Yuulik’s gaze become clouded by bland concern.

“That’s creepy,” Yuulik said.

“Oh really?” Taes asked pointedly.  It was sloppy, but she took the opportunity to pivot the conversation.  “Are you ready to talk about creepy, Sootrah?”

“You mean the Brenari trapped within blood dilithium?” Yuulik replied.  She didn’t even try to hide her smirk when she evaded speaking about what had put her in sickbay once again.  Yuulik plucked one of her abandoned holo panes and pushed it into the space between the two biobeds.  At Yuulik’s command, a simulation of an energy waveform rippled dramatically on the projection.

“If we subject the blood dilithium to a series of resonance bursts,” Yuulik described, “five rounds rapid, it would theoretically generate a subspace flow field that would drag any form of energy –psionic, biological, metaphysical– back into subspace.  We have to modify the subspace oscillation with each burst, but I haven’t found the right combination.  In eighty-seven percent of the simulations, the resulting spacial harmonics pulverise the dilithium into dust.”

Taes swiped a hand through the air, gesturing to the computer to close all of the holographic LCARS panes.  As soon as she did that, Taes could empathically feel that she had Yuulik’s full attention.

“You know that’s not what I was talking about,” Taes said firmly.  Even for all that bravado, Taes recognised she would need to figuratively back Yuulik into a corner to visit her own motivations.  Taking a breath, Taes began to mentally build the trap in her mind.

But then Yuulik raised an unimpressed eyebrow at Taes, which caused heat to rise in Taes’ chest.  Before Taes knew it, she was talking, and the carefully-constructed philosophical argument was abandoned to the recesses of Taes’ mind.

“We talked about this at Kunhri Three.  It was oh-three-hundred hours in the astrometrics lab on the night USS Dvorak was banished from the system,” Taes said, pained by how much she had shared of herself with Yuulik, only for Yuulik to keep making the same mistakes.  “I challenged you to decide if you want to be a leader or a mad scientist.”

“You decided for me,” Yuulik said resentfully, “when you chose Flavia to be the science chief over me.”

Scoffing loudly, Taes glared at Yuulik for her willful misinterpretation of the facts.  Taes shook her head slowly.

“That was politics,” Taes said.  “You made a choice.  You made a lot of choices.  Exposing yourself to an untested epigenetic therapy wasn’t the choice of a leader.”

“It didn’t do anything!” Yuulik spat back, plainly frustrated at Taes for forcing her to admit her failure out loud.  She shrugged and somehow made it look defensive.  “I’m not telepathic!  Or if I was, I can’t remember any of it.  All I can remember is the end of a dream as I woke up: I cut open Kellin’s stomach and I joined him to a fat chunk of blood dilithium…”

Taes insisted, “Experimenting on yourself is wildly reckless.  You will of course be attending mandatory counselling sessions until the medical department is satisfied you are no danger to yourself.  Starfleet captains have some degree of leeway, but I will be consulting with my JAG advisor to confirm you have broken no Federation laws.”

Yuulik screwed up her face into a discomfited cringe.  Now it was she who shook her head at Taes.

“Just say the blood dilithium made me do it,” Yuulik said petulantly.

Taes retorted, “You’re not telepathic.  No, I want you to tell me: how could you risk yourself like that?  You saw the disastrous effect the blood dilithium had on Nune and that was your best-case scenario if the epigenetic treatment had actually worked.”

“Risk is our business!” Yuulik declared.  “It says so on all the Starfleet brochures.”

Setting her jaw, Taes couldn’t think of her next move.  If she was honest with herself, she knew Yuulik well enough to know she wasn’t going to acknowledge her own vulnerability, and yet Taes had still needled her anyway.  Yuulik’s ability for self-reflection was always in absolutes.  She only ever worked from the first drafts.

Taes had read all of Yuulik’s logs detailing her experiences with interviewing Leander Nune, the first member of the crew to succumb to blood dilithum’s deleterious effects.  Yuulik’s frustrations in trying to make sense of Nune’s blood dilithium rantings were increasingly palpable with each log.  It had been especially painful to read about Yuulik’s naturally extreme reaction to Nune’s physical attack on her body.  Taes had no way to know if anything would have stopped Nune’s battery if the security officer hadn’t dragged Yuulik out of the brig.

Aiming to defuse Yuulik’s defensive posture, Taes told a story.

“On my first starship assignment as a science officer, I couldn’t acclimate to Federation society,” Taes said.  “I didn’t fit.  I had grown up on a Deltan colony; I had gone to the academy on Delta Four.  As an adult, Deltans communicate physically, empathically and sexually.  Being restricted to verbal communication felt hollow to me.  I thought everyone was lying to me all the time.  It made me paranoid.  This was only a few years after I had survived the colony collapse.  There were days when my duty was my only solace.  I would have done anything to prove to myself — to prove I was on the right path in Starfleet — because it felt all wrong.

“I would never speak for you, Yuulik,” Taes continued, “but I can imagine that was a little bit like how you’ve felt the past few days.  There are so few empirically proven facts about the origins of blood dilithium or what it can do.  You were trying to parse out the mysteries and your only source of information was an unreliable narrator in Nune.  He may not have understood what he was saying to you; he may have been lying.  It must have been challenging to know what to trust, especially after Nune attacked you…”

Taes’ voice faltered.  “I have to apologise for that.  I’m responsible for the behaviour of my crew.  Yuulik, I’m so sorry.”

Still sounding discomfited, Yuulik said, “You don’t owe me that.  It’s not your fault.”

“I’m still accountable,” Taes said sombrely.  “I can’t blame you for lowering the forcefield, letting yourself into Nune’s cell.  Honestly, I would have done the same thing.  What’s more distressing was you put yourself in a position where the only thing that mattered to you was solving the puzzle.  That way leads to doom.  You can’t let yourself become so empty, so bereft of meaningful relationships, that literally nothing matters to you but the puzzle.”

“That’s not fair,” Yuulik said.  “That night above Kunhri, you told me not to change myself for Starfleet but to also make myself more likeable as a leader.  You expect me to solve a problem you never solved for yourself.  How many of your Deltan ways have you abandoned to become your concept of a Starfleet captain?”

“I felt like I had no other choice,” Taes admitted.  “My oath of celibacy is enforced upon me and I came of age in the shadow of the Dominion War.  You may not remember it, but everyone was terrified of Changelings in their midst back then.  For a short while, for a short short while, conformity was the culture of the day.  It felt like I would be kicked out of Starfleet if I couldn’t find my place within the crew.  Nivoch was gone and I gave up on their dream.  The community on my colony was first established with the goal of seeking new truth.  They wanted to find a new spirituality, a new brand of science, a new way to see.”

Yuulik remarked, “That’s what I saw in Nune.  That’s what I wanted.  He had access to a secret truth underneath space.  I didn’t know it was only going to be the echoes of death cries.  What can I tell you?  I needed to know.  I needed to know it all.  It was the only thing that mattered to me.  After Nune hurt me, I had to beat him to the secret first.”

Taes could see something haunted behind Yuulik’s eyes.  It was distant now, maybe only a memory.  But it was enough to push Yuulik to change the subject again.

Yuulik said, “You know, I thought you were looking at me through new eyes at Kunhri.  You spent the night telling me about your life and then I thought you were going to kiss me.”

Taes remarked, “Evidently you have a history of paranoid delusions?”

Comments

  • Wow, I enjoyed this chapter, with Taes trying to get Yuulik to have a conversation instead of working on whatever she was working on. Though she wanted to change the subject a couple of times Taes was adamant that they talk about everything that had happened. I enjoyed Taes opening up about her younger years and joining Starfleet, that felt like she was trying to connect with Yuulik, trying to understand what she might be going through (even though it's probably not the same thing). Great job on this chapter and can't wait to see how everything comes together for Sarek and her crew.

    November 29, 2022
  • Wow, this heart-to-heart was eye-opening. Yuulik and Taes really airing things out between them here. Hearing Taes explain her background really does help put things in perspective of the character and how that impacts how they view others. This was good relationship work and I loved it from start to finish. And the pain Taes put herself through to go from Deltan society to Starfleet's more 'mainstream' is just...oof. But, aside from all of that, a Rose shout out! Kolar Blight even! Best Orion post-modern punk band this millennium!

    December 29, 2022