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Part of USS Mercy: Mission 3 – “Lost in Space”

The Scientist’s Science

USS Mercy
10.14.2400 @ 0600
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Grace had woken up at 0500 and practiced her boxing in her quarters by hammering away at the punching bag she’d requested.  She’d worked up a sweat and had ready to face the day as she’d assembled her materials to meet with the new science chief.  She looked at the chrono on the wall as it clicked past 0600.  Ensign Laurel sat at the end of the conference room table, making notes on his PADD.  Pottinger resisted the urge to send him to find this Lieutenant Beattie and resigned herself to waiting for the man to appear.

Cezear entered the conference room from a door to one side behind who he assumed was the Captain. “Excuse me, Captain Pottinger, I presume. I was just getting a refill of my coffee. I assumed you might not have had a chance to get breakfast yet, so I had the replicator make up a plate of assorted pastries.” He walked up beside her right-hand side, placed the plate of pastries on the table between them, and sat down a couple of seats away from the Captain. He placed his PADD and coffee on the table. “I was just starting to look over the files while I was in there drinking my first cup of coffee that was sent to me last night. Of course, I’ll have to get the rest of my departments to start going through it all.” He looked down at his PADD. “I do have a few questions, though, guess that’s why you wanted to meet first thing this morning.” He took out a pair of glasses, wiped them off, and put them on. 

Pottinger stared at the man in both shock and amusement at his hubris and his tenacity.  He’d managed to get one over on her.  She was not one that enjoyed having one put over her.  She glanced at the decadent pastries, “You’re kind to think of us, Lieutenant…but myself and Ensign Laurel keep our focus on our health.”  She tapped open her PADD, “Your background is interesting.  I understand you were placed in the Science Chief position last night?”

“Yes Ma’am.  Captain Halsey accepted my request last night. I reported onboard at 2315.” he took a sip from his coffee and reached for one of the pastries. “Hope you don’t mind, ma’am. Captain Halsey has set our departure from Starbase 11 for 0800, and with this meeting,  I don’t think I’ll have time to stop by the mess hall to get a proper breakfast.” He took a bite from the pastry. “Hmmm, not bad for coming from a replicator.”

She nodded to her PADD and ignored the m’am comment, “I’ve reviewed your file – your specialty is geology and astrometrics.  I am here to ensure your performance during the upcoming mission meets the standard of the observation department.  As I mentioned to the captain, plenty of eyes are observing Mercy’s performance on this mission.”  She tapped at her PADD, “You mentioned you had questions.  Perhaps we should start there to see what will need addressing first.”  She opened up the notes portion of her PADD and waited expectantly.

Cezear took another bite of the pastry, followed by a sip of coffee. “Yes, ma’am. Please understand I have not had the time as of yet to completely look through these files. But what I have had a chance to look at and the way that these files are separated has raised some questions.” he typed something on his PADD. “Yes, here we go. Had to get to my notes.” He looked down and quickly scanned the page. “Ma’am, These questions are in no particular order, just things I jotted down as I was perusing through the files.”

“The observation team, primarily human? What are their scientific backgrounds or departments? This way, I know which departments need to be assigned to these files first. No reason to have my biology lab look at something right away that has no biology context in it, for example.”

Grace nodded at Ensign Laurel, “My assistant will send you the complete roster with relevant details.  They are human only team trained in civilization observation, examination, and prediction, with a heavy emphasis on biological and psychological backgrounds.  This specific team has completed two previous tours of observation.”

“Thank you, Ensign; I was hoping that would have been in the data packet already. How many of them are actual anthropologists? biology  and psychology while parts of the sciences are not what I would think of for a cultural observation team, maybe a medical observation team, but not one focused on anthropology and cultural studies”

Grace narrowed her eyes, “The anthropology team was the advance team – they completed a site feasibility study.  They are due to visit in six months to gather updated information after the initial two-year period has passed.” She shared an unseen glance with her assistant.

“Are any of the team embedded with the locals? There seems to be a lot of data in these files that would be hard to get unless someone or a few people were not embedded with the locals.”

She raised her eyebrows, “The Prime Directive is incredibly clear on our processes and practices – we are observers only – any involvement from our teams would invalidate the natural progress of the people and the planet.  We are not to interfere or engage unless an emergency is declared under the project manager’s authority – which is me.”  She was mildly amused at the man’s lack of awareness of the Prime Directive’s implications.  She made a note to assign him a remedial course.

Cezear looked at the captain as she gave the answer to the previous question. “ I’m quite aware of what the prime directive states, ma’am.  Knowing a few anthropologists myself, I’m not sure any of them could patiently sit back and watch from a distance; most would want to be amongst the populace seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, and all that as that is what their science is all about.” he took a dip from his coffee cup, he watched as he dipped yo see what her reaction would be. “Your preliminary briefing page notes that their medical knowledge is based on science with no real agreement on how to treat infection or disease.  And that some of the population believes in a one-god creation myth, but you have found no evidence to substantiate this.” he pulled his glasses off and looked at the captain again. “Ma’am that to me reads as if someone or several someones has taken the time to be amongst the population. How else would they know about these things? Also, the brief states that plumbing and electricity are only available in parts of the cities. How would they know if they haven’t been in several homes to confirm it?  I mean, I’m sure as my teams go through and analyze the data, we will find the answers. So let’s put a pin in that one for now, shall we? “ 

Pottinger allowed herself to stare at him and let the silence hold in the room, “I’m not a ma’am, Lieutenant.  Captain or sir will do just fine.  Their medical knowledge and religion are based on observation and audio recordings we are able to get using various surveillance elements that allow us to avoid putting our people in the population and causing the observation experiment to fail. Additionally,” she looked straight at him, “Science is not based on a ‘reading’ of a document.  If you have a question regarding how certain readings, data sets, or observations were made, you are welcome to request that information for review.”  She kept her eyes square on the man, “The answers to your questions can be found through myself, Ensign Laurel, or the team once we arrive – your responsibility will be to evaluate the data they’ve collected, not the proofing of the briefing documents.  A team at Starfleet handled that.  I would not recommend idly dismissing the work of those men and women, Lieutenant.  If you have substantive issues with the briefing, you may send them to me, and I will refer them to my superiors to address your concerns with that team.  I don’t put pins in things.”  She waited for his next question.

“How many duck blinds are actually located on the planet? From what I read while I was waiting for you is that, cultural observation posts were meant to be set up to watch a particular city, village, clan, or family. Looks to me like you have information on what three to four cities or villages? Plus some notes on the more rural areas.”

The Captain tapped at her PADD and gestured to the screen, “The primary observation facility is located in the main city, but we have ancillary observational posts that are automated that gather data, images, and video, which is then transmitted to the main station, for evaluation.”  She waited for the next question.  She did not have to wait long.

“How come this team has not been checked on prior? Two years seems to be outside the norm for observation teams to go without having someone check in on them, don’t you think? Especially after the incident with the Enterprise and Mintaka-3. Thought I read somewhere that the regulations were changed after that incident, that a Starfleet vessel would check in on observation teams yearly at the minimum.”

Her eyebrows raised again.  “You read wrong, Lieutenant.  At least in this specific situation – a minimal check was completed a year ago by a ship from orbit with a standard communication check-in.  They have ways to communicate with us if something were to go wrong, but it hasn’t.  This specific outpost was set for a two-year span before a full diagnostic examination would be undertaken by a Starfleet crew.  If the people group was more advanced, an increasingly frequent check-in period would be used.”

“What systems are they using to obtain data? Again going back to the abundance of data in these files, that doesn’t seem to fit the duck blind observation method.”

Ensign Laurel approached and handed him a PADD with the details of the passive and active sensor systems used on the surface as well as the orbital satellite that was in use to fill in the gaps.  Pottinger smiled thinly, “I think you’ll find that the Department of Observation is well-equipped in every way to ensure data is collected in the full and completest sense.”

“Guess that’s what we are here to find out, now, isn’t it? He looked over at Ensign Laurel. “You sure you don’t want one of these pastries, Ensign? Hate for them all to go to waste. Hmmm, Laurel, Laurel, ahhhh yep. Any relation to Nancy and Sydney Laurel. Had them in my science classes about seven or eight years ago.”

The young ensign blinked blankly at the science chief, annoyance filtering across his face as he tonelessly replied, “There are many Laurels in the galaxy, Lieutenant.  I’ve already had my breakfast, thank you.” He returned to his console and continued tapping away at the keypad.

Pottinger kept her attention on the science chief, “Anything else will be located in the mission files and briefing that I will send out once we depart Starbase 11.”  She stood, “You are dismissed, Lieutenant Beattie.”

“Thank you for the data Captain; I’ll have my teams get on it. “ He nodded toward Ensign Laurel as he stood, grabbed his cup of coffee and his PADD, and made his way out of the conference room and after the door closed behind him he muttered, “Time to get to work, she is either looking for something or trying to hide something, and I plan on finding out which one it is.”

On the other side of the closed door, Pottinger spun on her heels and grumbled, “He’s going to be useless.” Laurel looked up and silently agreed.