october 2008

By Stephen V. Cole


Bridge, USS Eagle, 0430 hrs, 17 Jan Y169
"I'm telling you," the young ensign said, "wake up the captain. Do it now. Do it before you leave enough minutes on the duty log that she questions your ability to make a decision."

"I have made a decision," the young lieutenant said. "I have the con, and it's up to me. The message from Starbase Eight isn't marked urgent, it just says to go check something out. We're headed that way, and won't make it for at least 12 hours. The captain will get up for breakfast in just over two hours. She can read the mail with her orange juice. What's she going to do if I wake her up now? Tell me to point the ship at the destination and go to high cruising speed? I just did that. There's no reason to wake her up, none at all."

"This is a mistake," the communications ensign said. "You don't know what the captain would do! That's her decision, not yours! You're taking a key decision about the ship out of her hands. It's just not right. She gets paid to get woken up and make these kinds of calls."

"And I get paid to use my judgement!" the lieutenant snapped back. "Now drop it! Get back on your commo panel and don't bother me! And don't even think of waking up the captain."

"Very well," the ensign said. "You're probably right. Do I have your permission to send a subspace to Kearsarge and let them know where we are going? We have more drills scheduled for today, after all."

"Ok, fine, whatever, just do it," the lieutenant ordered. "I'm going to check the status board and make sure everything is ready when the captain gets here."

Hearing a whoosh, the lieutenant turned the command chair halfway around so he could see who had just walked onto the bridge, more than half fearing it was the Captain. Instead, it was the Klingon lieutenant, who almost always came to the bridge about this time every morning. Klingons lived on an 18-hour day and he had not adjusted well to the Eagle's 24-hour duty clock. Kezlok was dead tired by supper time and went to bed, then woke up early.

"Permission to enter the bridge," Kezlok formally asked.
"Granted," the lieutenant said tiredly.
"Permission to sit at gunnery?" Kezlok asked again.

"Sure, go ahead, you do it every morning," the Lieutenant sighed. "Why do you insist on going through this 'permission for this, permission for that' routine every morning? For that matter, why doesn't the captain just make you the night shift gunnery officer? She took my gunnery officer away from me so he could sit in auxiliary control during drills."

"The answer to your first question, Lieutenant, is that I am a foreign officer on your ship," Kezlok said. "Moreover, I am a foreign officer from an Empire with which the Federation has been at war, and with which the Federation has been allied, and with which it will doubtless be allied and at war again at some future time. If you can predict the future, let me know, my Emperor will offer you a job.

"As for your second question," Kezlok said, taking his seat and turning to face the lieutenant, "as a foreign officer I am a guest here. Remember that I am one of dozens of Klingon attaches at embassies across the Federation, one of four currently on a Star Fleet ship. Like you, I regard starships as my natural place and, as you would, I find embassy duty impossibly dull. I even had to learn how to dance. When offered a chance to observe one of your newest ships on her shakedown cruise, I took it, just as some Federation lieutenant is now riding on the bridge of some Klingon cruiser a few thousand parsecs ... that way.

"We are officers, you and I, Lieutenant, and professionals. We should act like it. If I don't ask permission every time, if we both get into the habit of my just going where I want and doing what I want, my ambassador is going to be explaining the lack of proper behavior to your council and I simply do not need to cause an international incident.

"Now, may I have permission to scan the duty log?"

"Granted," the lieutenant sighed, finding the tedious Klingon to be entirely too much bother for the end of a long overnight shift ... of every single long overnight shift. The lieutenant absently noted that Kezlok was reading through the log and then leaned over to talk to the helsman.

"May I ask, Lieutenant," Kezlok began, "why you did not waken your Captain when this priority redeployment message came in? I note that you have already changed course in compliance with the order."

"Because there was no point in waking the captain," the Lieutenant sighed. "We're going to get there in 12 hours whether she sleeps for the next two hours or not."

"She might order the ship to a higher speed," Kezlok suggested, "to get there faster."
"The message is not marked urgent," the lieutenant pointed out, "so why would she?"

"She might think it worthwhile," Kezlok said. "Three stations going silent in one area is a bit of a coincidence. On a Klingon ship, you would certainly be considered a 'bold' officer to make such a decision. But then, Federation captains can only put a letter of reprimand in your file; they cannot order you tortured until you realize the error of your judgement. A bold officer, indeed, lieutenant."

"Message from the Kearsarge," the ensign said, "their captain wants to talk to whoever is on duty."
"On screen," the Lieutenant said.

"Lieutenant, this is Commander Strakhorn," the somewhat angry officer began. "My duty officer woke me up when my commo officer got your message. I want to confer with your captain as to possible responses."

"With all due respect, Commander," the Lieutenant began, "the message is not to your ship, but to ours, and we are already en route to the scene. If my captain wants to confer with you, I am certain she will contact you when she wakes up."

"Big mistake, Lieutenant," Commander Strakhorn said. "Lieutenant Kezlok, would you excuse us?" Kezlok stood and saluted the Lieutenant before leaving without a word.
"I don't understand your problem with the attaché, sir," the Lieutenant began.
"I don't have any problem with Kezlok, you idiot," Strakhorn said. "I just thought you might not want a foreign officer to see me chewing your ass. You have screwed up, big time. You should have awakened your captain. You definitely should not have treated me the way you did.

"I am two grades your senior, and apparently have twice your intelligence. The destination is within the parameters of my patrol sector and I suspect that your captain will want to drag me along so that we can continue combat exercises when we get there without having to link up again.
"Now, I will call back in 20 minutes to speak with your captain. Your lack of respect, and lack of judgement, will be noted. I will also file a report of this incident with Star Fleet Headquarters now so that she cannot cover it up and let you off the hook. Your career hangs in the balance, Lieutenant. I suggest you think very hard and very fast about what you are going to say to her. Kearsarge out!"

"Get the captain on the intercom," the Lieutenant said.
"Doing it now," the ensign replied. Moments passed.
"What is it?" the Captain asked.
"I have made a serious error, Captain," the Lieutenant said. "One that causes me to question my own judgement."
"Any casualties?" she asked.
"None so far," the lieutenant answered, forcing himself not to smile. "We received a subspace message from Starbase Eight half an hour ago. It was not a priority, but directed us to check out the loss of communications with two mining facilities and a communications relay station."
"And you are telling me now?"

"Yes, ma'am, my error," the lieutenant said. "Due to my lapse of judgement, I decided to allow you to finish your sleep. Assuming how you would respond, I turned the ship toward the location given in the subspace message and moved us to our top cruising speed. I should have contacted you and let you make the decision."
"Yes, you should have," Captain Williams answered. "Show me this message."
The lieutenant signaled the ensign to route the message to her cabin, but the ensign had already done it."

"Very well, Lieutenant," Captain Williams said, "go to full emergency speed and wake up the daytime bridge shift. Have them report to the briefing room in 30 minutes and have the chef send a full breakfast service there.

"Tell me, Lieutenant," Captain Williams asked, "what changed your mind? Why did you wake me up?"
"I was advised by three other officers to wake you, and I did not take the advice of the first two. It took a direct order from Commander Strakhorn to show me the error of my ways."
"You called Strakhorn?"
"He called me after we sent a message to his night shift about where we were going. They woke him and he will be calling in 12 minutes to confer with you."
"When he calls, tell him I said to proceed at his best speed to mining station 2715XNG, the location is in the message," Williams said. "Advise him we are headed for relay station 2715FR. And tell him I will call him in half an hour, and that I ask his indulgence for the delay."

"Ma'am," the lieutenant said
"Who were these other officers whose advice you ignored?"
"Ensign Robinson, the night commo officer, and Lieutenant Kezlok, Ma'am," the lieutenant answered.
"Very well, anything else?" Captain Williams asked.
"I presume I am relieved and under arrest?" the Lieutenant asked.
"What else did you screw up?" she asked.
"Commander Strakhorn said he would send a report to Star Fleet Headquarters so you could not cover up my incompetence."
"Very well," Captain Williams sighed. "You are relieved. Go to your quarters and stay there until further notice. Who is next senior on the bridge?"

"Lieutenant Donaldson, the duty navigator."
"Very well, put him on," Captain Williams ordered.
"Donaldson, take the ship to the relay station at the best speed the engineers can make. Cut a few corners if you have to, and call me if anything else happens."
"Yes, Captain," the junior officer responded.
Captain's Quarters, USS Eagle, 0457 hrs, 17 Jan Y169
"Kezlok!" the weapons officer spat. "What was he doing in the middle of this?"
"He often goes to the bridge during the early morning," Captain Williams responded. "He's here to observe, you remember, and I don't have a problem with him observing when we're not actually doing anything. Besides, you pulled the weapons officers off of the evening and night shifts so they could be part of the drills. Having a qualified gunner on the bridge isn't a bad thing."
"Kezlok as weapons officer? Are you insane?"
"Well, I sleep with you, but what is your point?"

"He's a Klingon!"
"We're not at war with the Klingons," Williams said. "If the diplomatic corps does their jobs, we won't ever be."
"Not much chance of that," the Weapons Officer snorted. "We're selling weapons to the Kzintis by the convoy load."
"I know," Captain Williams said. "Get out of my way, I have to get a shower before I brief the troops."
"I do too," he said, moving to follow her.
"Go to your own quarters," she snapped.
"Just don't invite Kezlok to the meeting," he said.
"I didn't intend to," she replied.

Briefing Room, USS Eagle, 0523 hrs, 17 Jan Y169
"Everybody here?" Captain Williams asked. "Ok, here's the situation. Two mining stations located fifty light years apart have stopped answering subspace calls in the last 48 hours. That's nothing new; those mining posts don't answer up half of the time anyway.

"But what is more important is that a subspace relay station carrying general telecommunications has stopped working in the last few hours, and that relay station is located near the mining stations."
"In a straight line?" the weapons officer asked.
"Negative, it's actually twenty light years off to one side of a straight path between them."
"Area effect is some kind of?" the Navigator suggested. "Ion storm is perhaps?"
"We don't know," Captain Williams said.
"I bet that's playing hell with the long range networks," the Communications Officer added. "There's a lot of redundancy in the system, but whenever a node goes out, it takes hours to reroute all of the signals. Everything sent to that station in the 24 hours before it stopped working has to be pulled out of backups and resent by alternate routes. What a mess."
"What else do we know?" the Weapons Officer asked.
"Seventh Fleet has queried all of the freighters and police ships in the area, as well as a dozen other mining sites, and one trading post. Mining sites near all three of the silent facilities are answering up without a problem, and so is a trading post near one of the silent mines, but of the dozen freighters and workboats in that general area, four of them aren't answering."

"That's nothing to worry about," the communications officer said, dismissing the report with a wave of his hand. "Freighters are always having communications problems, not to mention forgetting to man the bridge on long hauls."

"What about scans from the bases around here," the XO asked. "Starbase Eight, border stations K3 and K4, base station K2, the defense platform at Arcturus, all should be able to sweep the area and run tracks on anything moving. They should be able to see the shadow of an ion storm if there is one."

"The message from Starbase Eight said they were running scans," the Weapons Officer said. "But you know the technology; we all do. It will take them days to run down every track on the scanners." "All of that having been said," Captain Williams explained, "I have ordered the ship into a high speed run to the site of the communications relay. We'll be there in seven hours. Kearsarge is following us but will need more time to get there. There's some point to being a fast cruiser after all. I told them to proceed independently to the nearest of the two mining stations and find out what's going on there.

"If anything is going on at the relay site, we'll deal with it," she said, "and if nothing is going on other than a storm or some sloppy commo workers, we'll have gotten some good training out of the high speed trip, maybe something worthy to enter into the log as our first real mission. Once that's over, we'll link up with Kearsarge and resume the combat trials.

"A police ship, the Lieutenant Oleg Babek, is already en route and will be at the other mining station in four hours. We should know more then. Any questions?"