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Part of USS Sarek (Archive): Illogical Flock

Illogical Flock – 3

USS Sarek, Arboretum
February 2401
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Stalking to the very spot where the cobblestone path met a bench, Flavia stopped and she made a sweeping hand gesture.  She silently offered her leave for the junior science officer to sit ahead of a superior.  Because Starfleet officers had little to gossip about, scuttlebutt around the ship would suggest this particular bench offered the best view of the arboretum’s pond.  

T’Kaal did not choose to sit.  Instead, she stood her ground and folded her hands behind her back.  T’Kaal raised her chin at Flavia and she raised a hard-angled Vulcan eyebrow too.  There was distasteful puzzlement in T’Kaal’s stare, as if Flavia’s gestures were an entirely unknowable form of communication.

Flavia, in turn, sat in the very middle of the bench.  T’Kaal patiently stood by.

“Can I ask for your assistance, lieutenant?” Flavia asked.  “On Romulus, my parents never had the forethought to train me in memory accuracy technique as a child.  On Vulcan, though, I understand such programming by parents is far more common.  What can you tell me about the Sarek’s mission to Ullho?”

With the Starfleet officers under her command –in her role as Chief Science Officer– Flavia did not have permission to interrogate them as she would do the scientists from her own government.  She reminded herself to smile.  It wasn’t a gregarious smile; those only made Starfleet officers distrustful.

Impassively, T’Kaal replied, “I remember all of my experiences with precision and clarity.”

“Mmmhmmm, I understand,” Flavia retorted, suppressing an edge of annoyance at what she received as an intentionally obtuse response from T’Kaal.  Accurate, perhaps, but ultimately meaningless.  

In a saccharine tone, Flavia clarified, “What memories stand out for you?”

“My recall for all memories is equal,” T’Kaal said.  She blinked.  “Do Romulans have less capacity for memory when under emotional distress?”

Flavia squinted at T’Kaal.  “Your pointed question almost feels like an answer to me,” Flavia said.  By discussing feelings and childhood programming, Flavia continued to use provocative language in the hopes of eliciting a raw response from the Vulcan; a response that was neither guarded nor composed.  

Feigning intrigue at T’Kaal’s line of inference, Flavia asked, “Tell me about a time when you observed me becoming emotional on the Ullho mission?”

“Each time you failed,” T’Kaal said, “your personal affectation became flat and reserved.  The Romulan Star Empire star charts you presented as a map to the abandoned Romulan outpost proved incomplete.  Perhaps the files were corrupted or you exaggerated their worth?  I recall with perfect clarity every one of the three planets in the Typhon Expanse we surveyed in search of the outpost before we finally located Ullho.”

 


 

The holographic sun had continued its trek across the holographic sky by the time Flavia was meandering along a different cobblestone path in the arboretum.  Her pace was slow and measured, each step in sync with those of Ensign Dolan, from the archaeology department.

“What can you tell me about the Sarek’s mission to Ullho?” Flavia asked Dolan.

“There’s little to tell beyond your initial hypothesis,” Dolan answered.  He sounded irritated to be asked an obvious question but was unafraid to show his irritation.  “Sensor scans confirmed the Romulan outpost on Ullho was constructed over two hundred and fifty years ago and had been abandoned for almost as long.  Days after we began our excavation and analysis, the Sarek was given new orders to report to the Delta Quadrant.”

Flavia scoffed.  “I know my own hypothesis, ensign.  I planned the mission.  Tell me about your experiences of the planet.”

Dolan planted his feet in the grass, beyond the path.  His posture visibly stiffened and he crossed his arms over his chest.  When he responded, his brow was knit in consternation.

“I don’t wish to be inaccurate,” he said.  “If you’ll allow me to review my logs, review my tricorder readings–“

“But what does your instinct tell you?” Flavia demanded.  She balled her fists and she raised her voice, pleading with the Zaldan science officer to reflect deeper than his tedious Starfleet indoctrination.  

Flavia entreated, “Computers will lie to us; they tell us whatever we tell them to tell us.  I understand the importance of truth in your culture, but you’re no Vulcan.  What is the truth of Ullho to you?  What can you feel with all the certainty of the blood circulating through your body?”

Uncomfortably, Dolan replied, “I don’t understand that question.”

“When the Olympic was attacked,” Flavia asked, “was Ullho being protected from the Olympic or was the Olympic being protected from Ullho?”

Dolan sputtered out a puzzled, “Huh?”

 


 

Hopping from one of their motive trunks to another, Doctor Nelli splashed in the arboretum’s pond.  Although they had no face, no facial expression to examine, the Phylosian danced in the water with all the self-assurance of a child.  From the moment Nelli had dipped their first leaf in the water, they had shown not interest in their ongoing conversation with Flavia.  Nelli had left Flavia on the grassy shore with her arms crossed over her chest, silently crafting a strategy.  This served as a biting reminder that Flavia knew too little about the Phylosian chief medical officer, compared to the rest of the senior staff.

As if no time had passed while Flavia was left waiting, Nelli settled their footing in the pond and they swung their red eye-stalks in Flavia’s direction.

“Take no offense, I plea,” Nelli said to Flavia.  “The inspection of the withered husk, the outpost, offered little of interest.  It carried no scent of novelty or variation.”

Having recaptured Nelli’s attention, Flavia lowered herself to sit in the grass.  She made herself comfortable and she watched as Nelli’s eye-stalks moved in response.

“Then why did you join the away teams on Ullho?” Flavia gently asked.  “You could have remained in sickbay, I wager.”

Nelli said, “Beaming into a living world held more appeal than the Sarek.  Ensign Dolan sought my expertise at his dig of the land the outpost was built upon.  Before I ever learned about humanoid biology, I knew deeply about humus layers in soil, be it pollen, seeds, phytoliths, or palynomorphs.  He thought he discovered a second deposit of shell midden in the earth, but we were called away to investigate blood dilithium before we collected sufficient samples to examine.”

 


 

Although Flavia had requested Yuulik meet her at a specific time on a specific bench, Flavia was late for the meeting with her assistant chief of the science department.  Despite this, Flavia made no haste to close the distance between them as she crossed the grass.  Rather, Flavia admired the holographic sky and she plucked a leaf that had adhered to the sleeve of her olive-green jumpsuit.  From her peripheral vision, Flavia observed that Yuulik was equally unbothered, sipping from a wide-set mug.  Only when Flavia perched herself on the bench beside Yuulik did Flavia smell the strong fishy aroma wafting from the mug.

Without preamble, Flavia started to ask “What can you tell me about–“

But Yuulik beat her to it, interjecting, “I can’t say I ever believed you were going to allow us unfettered access to the Romulan outpost on Ullho.”

Pursing her lips, Flavia folded her hands in her lap and she nodded at Yuulik’s guileless suspicions.  She performed an affectation of deep concern because it was the last thing Yuulik would want.

“My government assessed the centuries-old technology and intelligence in the outpost,” Flavia countered, “was roughly equal to Starfleet’s current levels of development.  Revealing it to your team of scientists would pose little to no risk to state security.”

Even while slurping from her mug again, Yuulik’s eyes remained locked on Flavia, ablaze with competitive ferocity.

Yuulik had hardly choked down a mouthful of fish stock when she posed, “Ahh, but the Romulan Republic could have thought differently!  The Republic could have easily hired the freighter to attack Olympic.  Or one of the independent Romulan factions?  Not to mention some secret faction within the Romulan Free State!”

Flavia smirked.

“Have you shared your conjecture with Captain Taes?” Flavia asked.

Yuulik was too quick to answer: “No, I’m asking you.

“Even if I knew, I certainly wouldn’t tell you,” was Flavia’s tart response.

A painfully tight smile crossed Flavia’s expression.

“Now it’s my turn,” Flavia added.  “Before my assignment to the Sarek, I only ever kormerkeked with Taes over subspace.  You’re the one who spent every day alongside Captain Taes for the past year, whispering in her ear as her scientific advisor.  Tell me truly, does Taes want Ullho for herself?  Does she have the steel to orchestrate the attack on Olympic remotely?”

 


 

By the time Yuulik had been shouting at Flavia for nearly three minutes, Ketris had peered out from a bush and given Flavia a look.  The Romulan eyebrow was capable of arching in a dozen different formations and, in Flavia’s observation, Ketris had managed to learn another dozen more among her decades of intimidating young scientists.  This particular eyebrow arch communicated both begrudging approval and also impatience.  Ketris widened her eyes at Flavia to communicate: it’s time for the adults to talk.

Flavia began to make excuses to Yuulik but it proved unnecessary.  Yuulik insisted she would be the first to storm off.  Without another word, Yuulik proceeded to stomp off to an exitway, tossing her mug aside along the way.  Only once Yuulik was out of sight did Flavia follow Ketris into the arboretum’s small environmental control room.

As soon as they were alone, Ketris spoke to Flavia in a common Romulan language they shared.  What Ketris said was, “For what reason did you meet with each of the Starfleeters?

Although Ketris asked Flavia a question to gather information, it was plain to Flavia that such a question was a mask.  Ketris had no interest in the reasons; she was simply visiting Flavia’s intentions as their mission’s leader.

Captain Taes has challenged me to treat her science officers as if they were my own,” Flavia responded, swallowing her indigence at being questioned.  

Feigning confusion in that way that had sliced through Flavia’s self-confidence so many times before, Ketris said, “The Starfleet scientists would expect a team briefing together.  And yet you divided them?”  The deeper the lines of confusion on Ketris’ face, the deeper Flavia questioned if her stratagem was in any way coherent.

A Starfleet briefing is designed to provide information,” Flavia said.  “My intention was the opposite.  Now it’s your turn.  Have you spoken with our colleague Lakken aboard the Olympic?”

I have,” Ketris said simply.

Flavia lowered her voice to a whisper, when she asked, “Did he arrange the attack on the Olympic?“

A husky laugh escaped Ketris’ lips.

He asked if you had arranged it.