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CHAPTER 02: Benefit of the Doubt [First Day]

CHAPTER 02: Benefit of the Doubt
Joint-Post by The Counselor & Auctor Lucan

[ Triage Centre | 1000 hrs. | 1 Day Post Mortem Arcorn Neotin ]

Dire were still the days and hours of repairs and downtime for a Commanding Officer, even in peacetime. At war, and under the constant threat of discovery by the enemy, it was imperative to use those days and hours to the best of her ability.

In her female form, Jien entered the Triage Centre and walked down the tent-complex with - at best - cursory smiles and nods to those she met. The reason was the interrogation of Sonja Acreth the day previous. She had found some time for taking a report from her new Chief Counsellor, and she had learned that Hayden O'Connor had chosen a place there to go over the information available after Garen Nelis' incapacitation. It did not take her long to learn where the human was, so when she entered the flap to the make-shift Counsellor's Office, Jien made sure to verify that the woman was alone before speaking up.

"Good day, Doctor," said Captain Ives and stepped forward with a faint smile, going with the medical title instead of her Starfleet one. She did not bring up the incident the day before since there were other doctors who had that on their minds. "Would you mind sparing me a few minutes and tell how progress goes?"

"Of course, Captain," Hayden replied, looking up from her PADDs and inwardly being startled by Ives' appearance. She had talked to Ives in male form not long ago and had seen Ives at a distance in female form before that.  She was sure she would get used to the sudden changes in appearance over time, but O'Connor had more than a few curiosities about how the two forms were different on a psychological and social level.  For the moment, however, she focused on the task at hand.

She didn't quite know where to start, especially in light of what she knew Ives had suffered based on the report s/he submitted.  Ives hadn't hidden from Hayden s/he'd been victimized, though obviously none of the details were included, and O'Connor remembered how casually s/he'd shared such a painful experience as a single cold fact.  Professionally, she understood why this was, and objectively, she knew she didn't know Ives well enough to offer the kind of support and heartfelt wishes her own heart was compelling her to.  Intellectually, O'Connor knew inquiring too early, at least beyond what she was professionally obligated, was not going to help to strengthen their relationship.  But how could she discuss the ship-wide sexual trauma with the coldness she would use if discussing diplomatic relations or other counseling concern?

"It's a lot to absorb, Captain," offered Hayden with sincerity.  "I'm confident I can help the crew work through the traumas they suffered, but it's also a bit daunting to know the crew is hurting this much and none of them know me well.  I know that's going to change with time, of course, but the healer in me just wants everyone to know they don't have to carry all of this alone one second longer."

"Understandable," commented Jien and nodded. She folded her arms underneath her chest, frowning in thought. "How much of Lieutenant Nelis' notes have you covered so far?

Hayden frowned, clearly frustrated with herself.  "I've really just started to skim the surface," O'Connor replied. "I'm grateful he was so thorough, but there's a lot to make sense of.  Every counselor also has his or her own style of documentation, so it's been a matter of becoming familiar with his. I'm finding my way, though, Captain."

It felt strange calling someone else by that title but Hayden hoped with time and practice, she would get used to it.       

"I had suspected there were quite a lot to go through," said Jien, slowly pacing the office, "Have you found the time to meet your Rehabilitation Officers here on the Theurgy yet? In that case, how did it go?"

"I've met them informally and set up a meeting for later today," she replied with a nod.  "I thought it best to become more familiar with recent events before I talk with them at length."  She knew better than to expect to know everything, but she wanted to make a good impression on those she'd be working with.

Hayden paused then, clearly thinking something through and clearly hesitant about how to broach the issue.  "I wanted to thank you for being so upfront with me about your own experiences.  I realize you don't know me right now, let alone trust me, so I would have respected and understood if you had decided not to even mention being involved as soon as you did.  The fact you were willing to share the bit you did so quickly bodes well for the rest of crew.  A CO sets the example."

The turn of the conversation did give Jien some minute pause. Given the fact that the whole of her crew had been in similar dire straits as herself had not made her think her own experiences worse or better than others. That she had shared the fact that she had also been infected had mostly been to illustrate the need for Lieutenant O'Connor to be transferred to the Theurgy. As for the experiences she'd had, it was hard to go into it in detail about at the turn of a hand, and especially since the human had not experienced the effects of the Niga flora they'd been exposed to.

"Quickly, yes," she commented, "because it is not even in the top hundred of my concerns right now. And those concerns are command-related for the situation we are in and the mission we need to accomplish. I cannot afford the luxury to dwell on my own personal integrity when the fate of the Federation lies upon the need to spread the truth. A truth that, as far as we know, is only known in this valley."

Knowing that her words were not entirely in line with what a Counsellor might want to hear, Jien took a deep breath and added - without changing her tone, "I know that this mission rides on the need for the commanding officers to have their wits about them, and that trauma such as ours might need to be discussed. Yet there is also a second need which might be even more imperative in these times where mutiny is a very real risk." She paused again, and she did not change her tone this time either, yet her eyes did - staring into the humans with a very real firmness to them.

"The need to never show weakness... lest they will be taken advantage of."

The response indeed took Hayden by surprise.  This wasn't because Ives side-stepped her attempt to delve into such a personal and clearly painful experience.  Despite knowing she had an obligation to show concern and candor on the matter, which Ives made a point to mention during their first meeting, Hayden expected to be deflected to some degree.

What surprised Hayden was the suggestion that such trauma  only *may* need to be discussed and that perhaps doing so was a sign of weakness.  It appeared the Captain wasn't convinced talking about the incidence of sexual trauma was necessary after all, at least when it came to hir experiences.  The notion was completely contradictory to what she came to believe about Ives following their first meeting. That didn't mean, however, that Ives wasn't communicating something about how she was feeling about the incidents now.

Gently, as if trying not to spook a wounded but prideful animal, O'Connor offered, "What is shown isn't always a reflection of what is.  To not acknowledge what is just may bring about the very result you most fear. In time, I hope we'll be able to trust each other more. I would imagine fighting to keep all these feelings inside, to carry the burden of command on your shoulders alone on top of what you and the rest of the crew experienced as individuals, that must feel like death by a thousand small wounds."

The analogy gave Jien pause, for that was exactly what she suffered, even if it felt like she was ...suffocating at times rather than being pricked by fate a thousand times over. And yet she did not budge, standing still as she was - eyes unblinking as they met the Counsellor's. Suddenly, despite of O'Connor's gentle approach, the makeshift Counsellor's office had turned into duelling ground of wits. At least that was how Captain Ives pictured it. Taking a deep breath, she mobilised her defences.

"The world more often rewards the appearance of merit than merit itself," she said, addressing the comparison to what was shown and what might be with a quote. "François de la Rochefoucauld. You see, Lieutenant, when in command of a crew that you might take on their last journey and you need to keep them performing their duties, you have to make them look up to you - to stand your ground and make them do the same. You need to set the example. Always. Only the mere notion that I would need to seek counselling might - just might - be deemed that fatal weakness that tips the scales, and makes us plummet into mutiny and chaos. Can I take that chance? Can the mission we have set out upon be exposed to that risk? By extension, can the Federation risk the lack of merit in my appearance?"

Hayden took note of Jien's defensive posture, which only reinforced the obvious notion Ives didn't want to discuss this with her.  Though there was no going back now, inside there was still a war inside O'Connor.  Was it still best to ignore an obvious open wound if there was the possibility for more complete healing later?  Or was it better to address the wound sooner even if meant the healing process would be rockier?  If this were a medical issue, the latter approach was both obvious and standard.  Assuming the wounds posed equal risk to the patient, addressing them sooner was prudent.  The same was generally true for emotional wounds.  What was logical didn't always feel good, however, and the prudent course was not always the easy one.

O'Connor was risking a lot by addressing Ives' rape this quickly after their initial meeting.  She knew that.  How Hayden handled this could determine what degree of difficulty there would be in getting Ives to discuss it in the future.  She considered reminding Jien s/he was the one to bring it up, but discarded it as too confrontational.  "My question is, can you afford not to process your own wounds and to encourage your crew to do the same?  I know given your background, you understand the consequences of not at least exploring whether there are unresolved emotions after a trauma.  I know you understand the importance of guiding someone through a healing process even when every instinct for that person is screaming to turn back.  We wouldn't be counselors if we didn't believe the hurt is necessary and worth getting to the other side of it."

Hayden paused, knowing she had to do more than appeal to Jien's intellectual understanding.  Overriding all of that, Hayden was beginning to see, the emotions not just of a Captain, but of a being who had been violated and who was desperately afraid her suffering was going to be used to degrade and belittle her further.  In short, Hayden  saw a being who was terrified of letting herself feel, lest everything s/he had been clinging to, holding together, would come crashing down.

"Reading through Nelis' notes, I know who Rez pretended to be.  I know how she gained your trust."  Hayden paused, then pressed forward.  "I can think of no greater psychological violation than that.  Is it any wonder you haven't seen a counselor since?  I get it, Captain.  I get it as much as I can for not being there.  I'm so sorry.  You deserve better.  I only wish knowing that and reaching out for you could be simpler."  She shook her head.  "No amount of practical solutions, like meeting in secret, can soothe those fears, but I believe in time, you'll be ready.  I don't think you'd have admitted what you did in our  first meeting if you thought otherwise."

Struck cold, Ives now came to realise that her new Chief Counsellor were not shy to use every slippery, undermining technique in the book - stripping away the fortifications that she had raised around her cold heart. Not only had Hayden cut away the issue of true fortitude versus the façade, but she had done her bloody homework as well. She not only knew that Jien had not confided in Garen Nelis despite the fact that they had served together many years past, but she had even determined the very reason for it.

Blinking, images of  her First Officer came to her. How she had smiled to her and welcomed her to the crew as Junior Lieutenant Azani Mikahl. How Jien had decided to confide in the Assistant Chief Counsellor instead of someone that was seated in her Senior Staff. Then, the Brig. The interrogation of Lieutenant Commander Rez, since she had revealed her true identity as an SI operative.

"You will tell me what you might have written in your reports to Starfleet Intelligence that might compromise our survival. What does the enemy now know that might be a threat to us? How far does your betrayal to this crew extend? Personal logs retrieved from the ship database? Your unqualified counsellor sessions that you held with those who trusted you? The classified algorithm to our shield-harmonics? Casual and snide observations about our performance as a crew? Our most private weaknesses?" With every word, his voice had risen into a feral tempest. He lashed out, his fist connecting with the force-field right before her face - creating a blinding cascade of fury between them.

"What the hell did you reveal to the enemy, Azani!" he barked at her - like a whip scourging across her back.

It was only after the sting lingered in the air that Jien realised he had denominated her by her false name. He did not care, it served to show her just how furious he was with her. It might even illustrate how much ground she would have to cover to earn the Senior Staff's trust; the personal betrayal far worse than the official repercussions. While rubbing his hand, Jien paced away again.


The stitchings torn open anew, Jien Ives lowered her browridge over her oaken eyes - staring into Hayden's. Her voice, despite the smouldering ire in her eyes, was cold as steel in winter.

"I spoke of the assault upon me in order to make my bloody point, Counsellor," she said in venomous British vowels, for the acidic quality was as corrosive as the frostbite. The gentle approach was as effective as it made Jien angry, for she knew that Hayden was right, yet could not deign to even consider the idea to surrender even the barest shred of her soul to this stranger. "I lick my wounds with my blade, my therapy being physical exercise - wielding it daily as I always have since I was but a fickle humanoid shape without a chosen form. Every damn day I cut my own demons apart, so you needn't concern yourself with standing in my way and asking me to cry and beg for a damn tissue. I - for one - should bloody well know how to handle my own hurt!"

Taking a deep breath, Jien finally released Hayden with her glare. "I have spoken with the people I accosted while I was infected. We have moved on. We have set out eyes upon what truly matters. The mission. As for my own assailants, I put them in stasis units at the time I was assaulted, so perhaps they and I can speak of it when they are restored to the living again. Now, there is little merit in blaming them, innocent as we all - ultimately - were."

Jien was on the verge of leaving. Coiled like a spring yet too angry to walk away from this battle. She would hear O'Connor surrender first. She returned her gaze to the human again - her countenance like a cliff-face in wintertime.

Once more, Hayden had to make a choice about how to respond.  Once more, she was torn.  Experience had taught her Ives had dissociated for a brief moment, s/he had stopped attending to the present and had gone somewhere else.  Where?  Was s/he in the midst of a flashback, or was it more serious than that and Ives had floated from this moment without exactly knowing anything was amiss?

She also could have addressed the obvious in Jien's anger.  Anger, the secondary emotion expressed when a person at first feels fear and hurt.  Given the circumstances, she imagined Jien felt some mixture of the two, and O'Connor expected no matter what shimmer of guilt she felt for bringing it out of her, that would have held true whether she had brought it up now or ten years from now.  An untreated wound could heal, but not well.

Hayden's voice was gentle and calm, a purposeful contrast to Jien's edge.  "I heard you say you mentioned your own assault to make your point.  What point was that?"

It wasn't that counselors impeded healing.  It wasn't that Jien was fine either.  Of that, Hayden was certain.

"The other night you told me that you felt like you were being ripped away from a crew who needed you as much as the Theurgy's crew did," clarified Jien, taking a deep breath to still herself - to regroup. She changed... to his male form, both in order to remind Hayden about the conversation that they'd had outside the Triage Centre, but also because it held the psychosocial effect equivalent to passing on a estafet-baton. Perhaps even a clean slate. Clearing the air. "Now that you have read some of Lieutenant Nelis' notes, you must have come to realise just how necessary your transfer really was."

Intended by the Chief Counsellor or not, Jien felt that his answer illustrated the double standard that he tried to maintain with his own experiences at Niga. Was it a trap, that she'd asked him that? A clever device to cast some light upon the fact that the need of her services extended beyond general crew morale? That even the senior Staff were people too, and not raised above the crew when it came to their personal needs? Regardless if it was a gentle and expertly deployed tactic that rammed her point home, or if it was a coincidence, Jien found himself cornered.

"What exactly did Garen Nelis write about me?" he demanded quietly, yet his deep voice still resonated. Like a hoarse rendition of his female form's crystal cutting clarity. "It's still my psychological profile even if there someone else administering it."

It was a bit jarring to see Ives change form before her eyes, but Hayden kept her expression impassive.  Truthfully, she was starting to get used to this about Ives, something that was only made easier when she considered Jien had intentionally done so to present some sort of authoritative advantage, both physically and mentally.  Hayden understood from a psychological perspective why Jien might feel the need, even sub-consciously, to change form.  Discussion about her sexual victimization likely created a desire to reassert control, and though it was sociological smoke and mirrors to believe males were invulnerable in this regard and others, many people still bought into the idea that female automatically meant weak while male automatically signaled strength.

O'Connor made a mental note to pay special attention to any males victimized either through physical force or coercion. Ives could just as easily been assaulted in male form, but there were others who didn't have the luxury of choice. "I don't know because I didn't read it," Hayden answered.  "Reading his overall view of the crew and his mission notes was quite enough.  I prefer to meet people and form my own impression without the bias of seeing people through another's lens. Besides, I'm not interested in defending or making sense of the impressions from a man I've never met. I may be his successor, but I am not his mouthpiece."

Hayden shrugged. "I'm far more interested in understanding why you mentioned your own experiences of sexual violence if your point was strictly to advocate for other members of your crew and not for yourself?"

She was like a bloody badger, not wanting to let go once she had found grip with her teeth. "Because my crew needs you."

"But you don't?"

"No, because like I said, I undergo therapeutic treatment every day - finding solace in my training - yet the majority of my crew doesn't have the tools to find their way back from such trauma. I have Starfleet Academy's psychology degree, Aldean studies in philosophy, my physical routines and my experience as a Counsellor, a Diplomatic Officer and a Starfleet Intelligence Operative to fall back on. This without mentioning the fact that I have kept this crew alive despite the clearly disadvantageous odds, kept the chain of command intact and ensured that the truth is preserved."

He stepped up to O'Connor, arms folded behind his back, his tone grave. "Despite what may have happened to me, I have not faltered. I have not failed my crew. You may doubt me merely for the fact that I an unwilling to let the details become known, yet I suggest you take into account that there are others on the Theurgy that do not doubt my integrity and capacity as a Commanding Officer. You say I will not commit because I do not trust you. Well, trust is earned, and it is clear I have to earn your trust too. Perhaps, with time, you can find merit in my words."

Hayden noted hir tone was less hostile and back to being practically matter of fact.  O'Connor supposed this was deliberate.  S/he could hardly prove she was fine if s/he spoke loudly with clear hostility or distress.  O'Connor didn't care why things had changed, just that they had.

"What would you like me to say to members of the crew when they insist, like you, that they have their own therapeutic practices and are just fine?  Shall I tell them their Commanding Officer believes them to be utterly incapable of directing their own healing because they lack hir superior training and insight?  It seems that's exactly how you see them.  Shall I also lie and tell them you support the help that I provide when you clearly think it's beneath you?"

Hayden shook her head.  "I can see you're quite concerned about what your crew thinks of you and their morale.  So what will it say to them if you tell them they shouldn't trust their own judgement, their own choices for healing, but they should trust yours?  What does it say if what's good enough for them is not good enough for you?"

Trying to get a word in edge-wise at points during O'Connor's bombardment with questions, Jien did raise his voice a bit and answered as soon as she fell silent. "I would never derogate my crew, Lieutenant," he said like a serrated blade drawn across steel, his brown eyes darkened underneath his browridge, "I find it offensive that you would twist my words around from the fact that it is your duty to determine their individual needs. My crew needs your help as a whole, because in treating those men and women who indeed remember some of their assaults on Niga, it helps us all to function together."

After straightening that out, Jien paused to let her take that in, because he wanted her to understand that fully.

"Aye, that is the rub, isn't it, doctor? We are in disagreement about whether or not I individually need help. It boils down to you thinking me deficient merely for the sake that I do not want counselling, because you have no idea how I perform in my command position. Not yet. I assure you though, Lieutenant, it is nothing personal towards you... so you should not feel that I question your professional integrity. I merely ask... that you do not question mine either in the presumptuous way that you have done today."

Hayden took several beats to consider Jien's words.  The truth was, the last thing she wanted was to push hir away.  She also understood the many reasons Jien was resistant to accepting hir own support.  The ambivalence s/he felt was obvious in the way s/he insisted s/he was doing fine and at the same time, s/he referred to hir own traumas, discussed how it had impacted the crew as a whole, and expressed how O'Connor was needed.  S/he even used the word "us" when speaking of that need, which once again reflected hir overrall ambivalence.

If Jien were the only person Hayden had to worry about, things would be easier, but Ives was trying to prescribe a solution for hir entire crew while s/he was  refusing to see how hir own rejection of such services out of hand undermined hir assertion that Hayden was professionally obligated to intervene.

"It is not my intention to question your professional integrity by wondering whether you could benefit from therapy.  I truly understand why talking about what's happened, for you and for everyone else, is a daunting and painful proposition.  I agree with you that counseling, while challenging, will be paramount for many of the crew.  I also don't deny they, including you, have a variety of resources with which to direct their own healing.  We agree on a lot, Captain."

"I am gratified to hear that," said Jien, and he was about to change subject when Hayden pressed on.

"My intention in pointing out your own resistance to my help was to illlustrate a major obstacle to fulfilling what you've asked of me, an obstacle I would like your input to overcome.  Namely, how would you like me to react when, like you just did, the crew insists they don't need to be evaluated, let alone treated for anything?  If, like you, they assert they're fine and perfectly capable of providing their own healing through other activities, what would you like me to say or do?  Shall I take them at their word, as you've insisted I do with you?  What if my judgement tells me I need to assess further?  I need your support to do this right as much as you say you need me to."

O'Connor's questions were sincere.  How could Ives say her help was needed for the sake of the entire mission, point out where her duties lie, and then insist she substitute hir judgement for Hayden's?  How much could s/he truly believe in what Hayden offered if all it took to invalidate O'Connor's opinion was a single biased, *thanks, but no thanks*?  Put simply, Hayden had ways of working through these challenges clinically, but there was no point in them if the command team was going to maintain a double standard and not give her the room she needed.

Jien understood, and he was at odds with himself about his standpoint since there were conflicting interests involved. He understood since he had - while not being a Chief Counsellor - found himself facing similar dilemmas of proper treatment when he had been a Counselling Officer on the Vendetta. In truth, and quite ironically so, his forte had proved to be diplomacy at the time - making him abandoning therapeutic treatment of the individual in favour of treating relations between factions and planets.

Which in turn, had led to him almost resigning from Starfleet in bitter frustration... had not the conspiracy been revealed and he'd taken his crew out on this last, blood-stained voyage. Were they even Starfleet anymore? It was debatable, yet he had to cling on to the truth like the burning effigy that it was - scorching his mind away in the process of shouting to everyone that they lived ignorant lives underneath an unidentifiable enemy's rule.

He might have appeared tired to Hayden as he answered, his pause credence to the truth in her words. "I expect you to do your duty with my full support, evaluating and determining the needs of my crew individually, and if they refuse treatment... I wish you to observe them nonetheless, and determine if it is like they say." As much was pretty straight forward, yet the next part was harder to be fair about.

"I want you to also make the call about whether they are unfit to perform their duties or not, despite their assertions. Yet I hope you understand the scope of this predicament that the Theurgy and the Harbinger are in, Lieutenant, and how even a broken man or woman might still perform their duties. For we are utterly alone out here. We might be able to replicate replacements for the rotten bolts in our hull, yet we cannot commission fresh faces from Starfleet Academy to fill our vacant positions any more. That you would take people away from our mission, Non-Commissioned or Officer, may trigger worse repercussions than if they stayed, far extending beyond their individual health. I suppose what I am asking for... is the benefit of the doubt. Or perhaps your every effort to try and treat these many wounds without affecting the ship's overall performance negatively, short- or long-term."

Hayden nodded.  "I would never make those calls lightly, Captain.  I also understand the need for flexibility and creativity given what we're up against.  That said, I'll need the crew to meet me half-way and not use their value to the ship's mission as the reason they can't stop to speak with me.  Knowing you and the rest of the team believe in proper mental health care and will back me up will go a long way.  That still leaves the matter of your own well-being to contend with."

Taking a deep breath, Jien frowned, looking towards the floor. When he looked up, it was with a slight air of resignation, despite his words. "I will take it under advisement, to speak with you about Niga. Since I believe I have come to terms with that incident. I suppose I could say that I'd hate to be proven wrong. For I know that if you poke a stick at the old pile of dung, it will start to smell again. I do not care to know how much that smell might distract me from what I must do."

Once again, Hayden nodded.  There was more understanding between them than s/he knew.  "Not caring to know, in my experience, only leaves the door open for you to find out when you can least afford to face it."  She shrugged.  "May we agree to speak again in a few days?"

"Like I said, I will take it under advisement," said Captain Ives in reply without missing a beat, "but I will get back to you in a few days with my answer. I would like to look to my own patchy memories again first, before I might share them. As you know, the infection erased a lot of the experiences once it was cured, and the preliminary expose made the victims inclined towards sexual intercourse too, so perhaps I might not scent anything to be concerned about. In which case - unique as the circumstances are - it is likely that you might reach the same conclusion that I would, that there is no need talking about it. So I will let you know."

"Just so you  know, my assessment is not entirely dependent on having complete memories to work with," Hayden pointed out.  "As you may recall, therapy isn't just effective because events are discussed, but because thoughts and feelings are processed.  Even if you think you don't remember anything clear enough to be of value, I'm certain there are plenty of emotions to work through."  O'Connor wasn't going to let Ives off the hook so easily.

"Yes, I do recall how therapy works, Lieutenant," snapped Ives, stepping towards the exit, "Words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man. Problem is that if you know that, those words tend to ring hollow. Even transparent." Especially after Azani Mikahl having showed him both how dangerous and pointless it was to waste time in the counselling room. No, he knew how to find verification for his sanity if needed be.

"I will let you know about my decision," he said as he walked, changing back... to her female form.

Hayden nodded.  "In the meantime, I will sharpen my skills, not my platitudes.  Words can be comforting, but only if they comprise beliefs which are accepted by those that are hurting.  Beliefs can only be accepted if a person is willing and able to consider other perspectives.  I can supply the able if you'll supply the willingness, Captain."

"The willingness to take risks is a sign of faith, Lieutenant," said Jien and paused by the exit to the office, turning her head with a weary smile, "To take unnecessary risks is just foolhardy. I have faith that I will be able to determine if this perspective upon what I have been through is worth that risk, for I am not a fool, but merely wary of the potential repercussions. Regardless what I may choose, of course. Goodbye, O'Connor, and thank you for your report."

"You're welcome, Captain,"  Hayden offered simply.  She could tell Ives wasn't convinced she could be trusted, but it was start.

OOC: The above was posted a bit prematurely in order to proceed with another meeting that follows this one. There might be a couple of more paragraphs added upon this post.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #1
[ USS Harbinger | Main Computer Core | 1100 hrs. ]

Fiber optic cables everywhere, dangling from the ceilings. Pouring out of open wall panels. Crawling along the floor. All hooked up to a mishmash of machinery spread out across the entire chamber that was barely lit. The only genuine light source was the ship's Main Computer Core itself and the standby light on the operational consoles near and around it. Yet somewhere there in the darkness, Captain Ives had been told one of the Harbinger's more prominent civilians were working, perhaps fully immersed in her work.

Jien had come to understand that while the damage to the Akira-class' systems were surmountable, the Harbinger was getting upgrades which needed to be completed before they could depart from Theta Eridani IV. With the lack of a Ship AI, and the Akira-class being older than the Theurgy-class, there were no short-cuts to take in order to improve - or restore - computer output efficiency.

The Captain barely paused in his march into the area, even if he noted that it looked as if several explosions had occurred in it during the battle with the Calamity. What did surprise him was the fact that there was only a single occupant, namely the one he sought.

"Chief Ravenholm." His voice carried to the area behind the main tower of the Computer Core, where he had spotted her first. When she did not emerge, Jien supposed she was busy, so he stepped round the tower, and he saw... a cord attached to the back of her neck? It ran from up high on the tower and dangled as she moved. Moreover, her arms and legs seemed not entirely her own. He had noticed that her profile mentioned cybernetic augmentations, yet he had no idea what to expect until he laid eyes on her.

"Are you Selena Ravenholm?" he asked again, hoping for an answer this time.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #2
[USS Harbinger | Main Computer Core]
Prov. CWO: Selena "Luna" Ravenholm

When the captain began to approach, he may have begun to notice a strange sight.  The, until recently, civilian wore a rather strange single article of clothing.  It was a featureless black on black one piece vest, of sorts, that reached down to her hips and seemed to curve around her artificial legs.  It seemed to stop right on the seams of each of her four artificial limbs.  As for the Human skin of her torso and her most feminine features there was hardly a bit of exposed flesh aside from her face and the neckline of her vest.  Along the shoulders there were strips of fabric seamed that looked like they were of a slightly stretchier material and the same strip existed along the line of her spine in about a five inch wide strip which seemed to bulge out just slightly contouring the plating of her augmented spinal column.

She seemed to sit in a  Her bare feet touched the floor near two PADD's.  Her station, as it were, was in the midst of multiple computer panels.  A few were opened revealing the multitudes of bio-neural gel packs and a stacks of slots of the older isolinier chips.  In front of two of the computers interfaces were wire-frame like supports and a few cords trailing to keyboard like implements seemingly reaching that ideal point where her fingertips could reach perfectly.  Finally there were three wires going directly into the core itself. Two were attached to PADDs that rested near her feet where her toes seemed to be moving slightly over their surface, The third was attached to the port that hooked into the base of her neck near where the first vertebrae was.

One of the two keyboards seemed to be covered in standard Federation letters, numbers, and symbols while the other was a mishmash of different less familiar symbols and many in handwritten symbols on what appeared to be previously blank keys.  Of the PADDs near her feet one had several slider like controls and the other had a primitive user interface consisting of what could be described as like a file cabinet.  Each drawer seemed to correspond to a different major system and when a drawer opened it had several folders each corresponding to different subsystems then each folder holding an on/off setting for some specific aspect of the computer's systems.

The strangest thing about her despite the unorthodox clothing, the multiple PADDs and keyboards, and the unique seat that she half laid half sat in were her movements.  Her eyes were open and seemingly unblinking as they rapidly moved from object to object.  Her neck made jerky near robotic motions to adjust just enough to see what she was looking at.  Over her eyes, the pseudo-visor she wore was displaying a stream of what could best be described as an elegant, flowing, river of text instantaneously appearing with each movement of her delicately dancing augmented fingers across the keyboards

"Chief Ravenholm."

She did not stir.  Her mind was, for lack of a better word, disconnected from the outside world at this moment.  In the corner of her thoughts she thought she heard her name from somewhere but her drifting consciousness seemed to brush it off as the white-noise like ambient sounds of the data that her mind was surrounded by in the computer core's "world".

"Are you Selena Ravenholm?"

This time she heard it more clearly.  'A voice,' she thought.  Well, thought wasn't the right word. In the disembodied world she was in at the moment a thought was all she was.  But, now she began to more consciously think.  In the eyes of distant mind she shut her eyes.

Her eyes outside shut as well as her hands moved away from the keyboards as she seemed to enter a much more relaxed state.  She rolled over to her side as her legs curled up to her body.  Her toes seemed to relax as her hands moved to under her head like makeshift pillows.  Her sleeping mind was clinging on that last border between: asleep in a deep dream, and waking up with her body's apparent satisfaction at being rested enough.

She seemed to sleep peacefully, her knees up to her body curled up like in a semi fetal position as she seemed to yawn.  Her eyes fluttered open as the visor began to dim and switch to its flash compensation mode.

"H-Huh?"  She seemed to ask half-awake as she looked up her ocular implants adjusting a bit as her eyes focused and began to filter out the "useless data" and only display the visual spectrum as began to stare still glossy eyed at the Starfleet Captain that was now standing over her.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #3
"Evidently, you are." Captain Ives folded his arms across his chest as he looked at the woman, whom resembled the image in the Personnel Files. Her appearance was quite unmistakable. He felt that he was unqualified to judge what she might have been doing, since she had appeared to be working despite some kind of comatose state. That she curled up afterwards, having stopped doing what she did and closed her eyes for a couple of seconds, seemed to him that she had gone from that state and become aware of him. It had been an almost uncanny scene, to see her hands, feet and her hooked-up body work in such a fashion. He had, however, no bloody idea how it all worked. Her cybernetic augmentations and her skills were far removed from what Ives had encountered in Starfleet, even if a few SI operatives had been augmented with dataports and the like.

"I suspect that you might say," he ventured, stepping on front of her reclined chair and with the computer core towering behind his back, "that... 'it's not what it looks like'. Well, it would be quite moronic to assume that you were sleeping on the job. I am, however, intrigued as to what you really were doing."

Realising that he had forgotten something, he took a step closer. "I am Captain Ives of the USS Theurgy," he said and held out his hand to shake hers in a highly civilian fashion, recognising the fact that she might be more familiar with that approach. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Ravenholm."

Given the fact that she was stuck with the two Starfleet crews, he suspected that her new role as Acting Chief of Operations would not come without some kind of need for adjustment... for both the crews as well as for her. For instance, he suspected that his troublesome Deputy would have a hard time to come to terms with having to work so closely with a civilian. If there was one officer he had that was far removed from a civilian, then it was his Andorian Security Officer.

"Would you mind briefing me on... this progress of yours?"

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #4
She smiled softly as she unplugged the cord of sorts from the port at the nape of her neck. "Please, call me Luna, and to be prefectly honest, it's exactly what it looked like.  I was sleeping on the job, and you woke me up from a very nice nap.  Such a nice conversation I was having with Harbie."  She said stretching out a bit as she smiled sort of dreamily.

"I've been busy working on the core ever since you two decided that this ship was gonna operate on a skeleton crew.  Ever since I got the news I have been reconfiguring the computer to operate on a semi-automated state able to be ran with a minimal interface from either Engineering or the Bridge. I was also setting greater priorities to weapons shields and engines and less priority to the majority of the ship's life support systems.  By the time I'm done I'd fathom that at most 10 percent of the ship will be accessible without an environmental suit."

"To be honest it's quite a job.  In a space port I would imagine it would take a mostly human Federation crew two weeks to do the full conversion.  I can safely say we will be operational within 4 days 17 hours maximum.  My expectation is completion of the conversion within the next 2 days' time if I were able to work fully uninterrupted and had unimpeded access to all sectors of the computer's systems.  Needless to say this would be impossible.  A better estimation would be about 3 and a half days for the job's completion."  She said matter of factually with more than a small hint of pride about it. 

"By the way, Nice to meet you Mr. Ives,  It's nice to meet the fugitive us civvies are supposed to be so worried about."  she said to the captain, before she finally got out of the seat and shook the captain's hand.   "So, would you like a tour of my setup?" she asked happily giving him a coy smirk always enjoying the opportunity to show off her abilities, and she so loved introducing others to her strange world of wires, circuits, and code.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #5
Listening to the brief explanation, Captain Ives was none the wiser about what he may have interrupted. Yet based on her progress report and estimations, whatever she had been doing provided results that were hard to feel dubious about. Not just from that, nor the way he had seen her interact with the computer with her hands and feet while she slept, but also from the simple fact that she had a dataport installed into the back of her neck.

Only when she removed the cable and stood up before him to shake his hand did she appeal to the idea that she was human and not some attractive Borg that was disconnected from their hive-mind. For she moved like no Borg, no. In the eyes of a martial artist, the interaction between Luna's brain and her artificial limbs appeared seamless. Her grip felt genuine too when Ives shook her hand, although perhaps feeling as if she wore surgical gloves. It would appear there had been some advances in the field of prosthesis and synth-flesh manufacturing in recent years that Ives had missed. Then again, given her Chameloid nature, her interest had never been too substantial.

"Impressive," said Jien as he released her hand, half referring to the way she could use her artificial limbs as well as her report on the swift progress with the Harbinger adjustments, he made it his cause to discontinue staring upon her body from that point on, though, and folded his arms across his chest. "and the pleasure is all mine. I just hope you get the three days you need to finish this, and that we are not discovered before then. I am afraid that we have another task for you that might make your deadline harder to meet, yet I will get to that."

Looking into her ocular implants, through the visor that seemed to be magnetically attached to the sides of her head, Jien Ives had another question first, one that she had just touched upon. "First, before your tour, I would like to know what you feel about the mission. The situation we are in might be tough on you, since you were not a part of Starfleet when the Harbinger left dry-dock. I read that you requested to leave, and now, you are instead filling in for a Senior Staff officer aboard a ship that might be shredded by phaser-fire any given day. I can but imagine what all of this might be like for you. After being a contracted specialist, you are now substituting as a leader for strangers without knowing the Starfleet protocols that they know by heart. Moreover, on a voyage that may very well be our last, our crusade successful or not. How are you holding up?"

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #6
Answering that question was going to be difficult; she knew but she had to do her best at it without revealing too much.  "Better than being a helpless civilian back on earth where who knows what kind of hidden invasion may be taking place."  She said with a shrug. "Still, it's strange.  As you no doubt know from my file my history with Starfleet is a bit sketchy.  To be blunt, even as a cadet I hated all the secrets.  Sure I knew they were there for security and to keep enemies from knowing our defenses but I also could see how a person in the right place in command could potentially use all those secret projects to subvert the civilians they say they are there to protect.  I believe in transparency, not secrecy.  Guess that's what lead to my true calling and getting expelled for practicing it.  Do I believe in your mission? On your own ships part, yes.  Sometimes I wonder about my own captain's motivations being as noble as yours."

She paused a moment considering her words, "You found the truth and fled while trying to spread the word, but you stayed Starfleet to its core it seems.  I could argue that yours is the last ship in the fleet that still serves the citizens of the Federation despite its disobedience of Starfleet.  I had expected degeneracy, a Starfleet ship ran by at best noble Maquis-like rebels and at worst pirates.  Instead we encountered a paragon of the fleet's values rather than its orders."

"For better or worse I'm stuck on this mission.  But at least I found a mission that I agree with."  She then gave him a wily smile.  "Besides I was just given permission to play around with the brains of a modern Starship.  Haven't had this much fun since the Maquis uprising."

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #7
The notion that this civilian had found Captain Vasser's motivations in question was more noteworthy for Jien than the fact that she had been expelled from Starfleet Academy because of her beliefs about classified information. This for the simple reason that the former was news to him and the latter was not - having read her file. A file that was, perhaps, incomplete since she was an civilian, yet her Academy record was the most solid information that the database held. Yet the words about the Harbinger's CO seemed to spring from a comparison with himself. Was the programmer paying him some kind of compliment?

The impression was further enhanced by how she discussed her impressions of how he ran the Theurgy, and it was with some disheartened realisation that Ives had to admit that the truth of it did not quite live up to the stories. True, protocols, regulations and chain-of-command were the seams that held everything together, and the righteous call that they had to stick to what the fleet once had been remained the guiding star for Jien. It was the only way, in his mind, to justify the suicide mission that he asked them all to go on. Yet when this outside party, this civilian caught in the maelstrom of galactic events held Captain Ives' image up to the light, Jien felt that he fell short of the paragon Luna thought him to be.

"I am flattered, yet I am afraid I am not without fault. Dire circumstances require us officers to do dire things," he said gravely, stepping away from her with his arms folded, "and I think you have come to see first-hand just how dire things have been demanded of Captain Vasser on the Harbinger, while you have not lived through the ordeals of the Theurgy. I may have a strong conviction and set an example when I can, yet nonetheless I have been forced to cut far too many corners. In fact, I came here to ask you to help both Vasser and I cut yet another one. I can but pray that you give both Vasser and I credit for having ruled out any other kind of solution than coming to you with this request."

Turning to face her, Ives question was simple. "How familiar are you with the projection matrix of a cloaking device?"

The implications plain, the possible consequences laid bare... there was no need to justify it.

For that was just how dire their situation was. Another corner that needed to be cut for the greater good.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #8
She smiled at his poise, his reservations and understandings of the complexities of cutting a corner like this.  She could tell there were countless consequences that weighed in his mind.  Her investigations of Vasser had revealed that he was more allowing of certain boundaries to be pressed.  Most notably with how he allowed his Tac-conn wing to be as bloodthirsty as a pack of wild Targ.  Either way this captain was much less eager it seemed to even bring this up.  Yet he brought it us so matter of factly, professionally, a kind of option weighting that she was too familiar with in some of her less legal contract work.

"I have three questions to ask you.  Each in order.  If you don't like the questions then I request that you forget ever hearing I asked them and pretend we never had this conversation.

First, what is your intent with it; are we talking use of the technology as a means to research another related field?  Are we talking as a purely offensive option, or are we talking defensively using it as a means to spread the word without detection.  Or is there another motive?

Secondly what kind of colak we talking about, "Psuedo cloak like what calamity pulled on us.  Or we talking true cloak like a Klingon photon cloak or a Romulan Temporal cloak.  Or do you want something...more?

 Finally, after everything is said and done; if we get out of all this; if the fleet comes to its senses and chooses we acted for the good of all and lets us all off the hook? What are we going to do with it?"

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #9
The reaction and questions from Luna were... unexpected. Perhaps because of the simple reason that after all the years in Starfleet, Captain Ives had grown unaccustomed to speak with civilians, whom tended to be more... forthright in their demeanour. Luna was really looking past the pips in his collar when speaking with him, and he found it quite... refreshing, actually.

"Given the nature of our undertaking, the ability to get deeper into Federation space unchallenged would result in saving many lives - be it our own or those of the deceived fleet that lies in wait for us. Also, we might gain precious time to forestall the conspiracy to become worse than it already is. The quicker we can spread the word through the right channels the better our fighting chances are."

Pacing the cable-littered floor, Jien continued, his steps leading past the programmer. "As for what kind of cloak, I do not care, as long as it is reliable and serves the aforementioned purpose. Since we are too short on time to make something advanced, an existing model of cloak is the most advisable, I'd imagine. As for what we do with the cloak after we complete our mission, we will hardly be in the position to decide that, yet if it was up to me, it would be destroyed, and diplomatic talks started up with Romulus to explain the absolute need for us to use technology because of the threat."

Turning to face Luna again, arms still folded, Jien wondered what the CWO had on her mind. "Now, why the questions?"

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #10
She looked over nodding, "Good answers, and a fair question in response.  To be honest I wanted to decide what I should tell you based on what I know.  I wanted to know whether to "Resign my commission for ethical differences, plead the fifth, tell you a bit of half-truths and let you infer, or just be fully honest about what I know about them.  I've decided to be honest with you.  I know a lot about cloaks."  She said as she began to pace the room, "I've installed a few black market ones on civilian vessels, basic old Ferengi models.  I would not be surprised if these civilians were using them to traffic contraband, but to be honest at the time I wasn't being too concerned about that.  Besides they were P.O.S. models; not like they would get that far without getting detected by their engine wash...Dumbasses." 

She paused a moment, "More importantly...Seriously! You want me to mess with one of those old designs.  Oh I forgot, Projection matrix is a commonly used misnomer used for the various programming systems and device interfaces used to control just how a cloak hides a ship.  It's kinda a holdover from when cloaks actually did hide a ship behind a projection of the space behind it.  Only Ferengi smugglers use those old pieces of shit anymore and those are the ones that just can't afford anything better.  No, what you would need me to install and program would be a warp field wake scrubber, and tie a photon distortion field system into our shield projectors, and that's a minimum.  Anything less than that would leave us detectable if a ship was actively looking for our ship and did a through subspace scan of the area. Besides anyone with decent warp field detection to see our wake with some rudimentary scans.  Still even with a good cloak, we would still have to worry about not running through a tachyon detection grid.  Really if we want to go as undetected as you need you are gonna need to deal with the more recent developments in cloaking tech.  I assume you are familiar with the term Inter-phase cloaking."

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #11
It grew more and more evident that he had come to the right person, for not only did this remarkable woman exceed Jien Ives' expectations in terms of familiarity with the required technology, but she even alluded to intimate understanding of the newer generations of cloaking devices. Perhaps not something she was allowed to know, being as she was a civilian. It was apparent that she had come across intel in ways she shouldn't, yet given the situation, Jien took a deep breath and focused on the needs for the immediate mission.

"I am familiar," he said, and the pause indicated that he very well knew she shouldn't, but he left that unsaid. "However, the device you speak of may be the high-end solution today, while it has become clear that our enemy has access to technology ranging from the year the Calamity-class will be commissioned to technology from the 29th century that can change the nature and evolution of an entire planet. If you can give us Inter-phase cloaking, it might give us a fighting chance against Starfleet of present day, but I am not so sure it will take us all the way back to the Sol System."

He did not wish to discourage her, yet he felt that the strengths of the opposition needed to be pointed out. "You will work together with Lieutenants Rosek and Kae from Engineering, the latter being from my crew. The three of you will work quietly, since if we are unable to make it work, then we should not endanger the Treaty of Alderon needlessly. When can you begin and how long do you need?"

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #12
She looked into space as if locked in thought for a moment. "That depends on how much access you are comfortable with me having to the core here.  With unadulterated access and some assistance from your ship's AI I would estimate 2 hours.  Without the assistance 8.  With my current lack of security clearances I am having to manually access all of the root files individually.  Needless to say the captain don't trust me that much to leave me alone with the core.  Not without me having to log each individual change.  You see he wants to make sure I don't access any files I shouldn't see."

She paused for a moment.  "Speaking of files I shouldn't see, I will let you onto a bit of a secret, SI and section 31 knows me under a different name, If your ship has any old SI files stored under it look up the information on a Scientific Journal writer by the name of Beatrix Talulamoon.  It's one of my aliases, particularly, it's the one I use in relation to scientific journals involving civilian uses for military tech.  SI it seems would like to bring her in for questioning.  Thirty-one, well, their relationship with her is mutually beneficial."

"As for my knowledge of the existence of the Phase cloak, remember Picard uncloaked the damn flagship of the Federation in front of a D'deridex class and blew the whole operation wide open.  Once he did that the Pegasus-cat was out of the bag.   Sure the designs weren't declassified but the knowledge that it existed was news all over the weapons and technology journals, and the political journals too.  I even wrote an article as Beatrix. "The Federations Covert Shroud: Potential civilian applications of interface cloaks."  My most promising theory in it was in the use of one as a means of containing hazardous materials in an extra level of containment so if they were to breech physical containment they would simply leak out into the interface space rather than real-space.  Let's just say I got to see the design and a few other designs like it when Section 31 contacted me and wanted to see if I could create a transphasic Haz-mat containment pod."

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #13
From all that had been said, one of the most prominent things for Jien was the revelation of her journalistic alter ego.

"Are you telling me that you are Beatrix Talulamoon?" he asked, eyebrows raised a bit with the realisation that he recognised the name from the Scientific Journal. "If you have taken on assignments from Starfleet Intelligence, its likely after my time with them, and I don't know what kind of work you have been doing for them or for Section 31, but at the times when I have a moment to read them, I can say I have enjoyed your civilian articles. Please, no cause for alarm, for I left SI decades ago and I am under no standing orders to bring you in for questioning."

Gesturing minutely with a hand while he spoke, he filled in the blanks for her a bit. "Being a Chameloid, I had certain qualities that were beneficial for their field work, yet I loathed the way they sanctified their uncompromising methods for the sake of the greater good. While I still tend to look at the big picture, I would rather do so from a seat where I can see the enemies in the eye, and justify my position directly to the people that are affected by my actions. Something I have had to do quite a lot lately..."

Not quite sure why he had broached that topic to the programmer - and writer - Jien moved on to the task at hand. "Was Captain Vasser aware that you are a writing journalist when he first hired you? Perhaps that is why he does not give you full access, since he still wants to protect Starfleet interests. If it was up to me, I would have a talk with you about a non-disclosure agreement, yet its not, so I'd say eight hours to compile the matrix is more than satisfctory, and we do not have to ruffle Captain Vasser's feathers either. I can foresee a needless and lengthy discussion about you and your access that we have no time for right now. If you are willing to put in the extra effort that will be required as things now stand, I think its for the better. As for Thea, she has less access to the Harbinger than you do, so I am unsure what kind of help you need from her when you compile the programming for the device. If you need her, please, feel free to ask for her assistance."

Lastly, he commented about the actual device as opposed to her end of the assignment. "The two tetryon compositors that your matrix will be installed into still needs to be assembled by the two Engineers, so I think you'll have more than eight hours to spare anyway. Are you up for it?"

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #14
She shook her head, "He is unaware of any of my other aliases, or at least I think he is.  All I know of him being aware of is what my official record shows.  I have distanced my official self from my other aliases quite well.  I doubt he has any inclination of the extensive dossier that my other names have under various agencies of the Federation.  If he had such inclinations I would fear he would have placed me in the brig along with that other suspicious character." she said explaining how at the moment Ives probably knew more about her than her own captain. 

'And if you saw the records of all of my other aliases you would probably do the same too.' she thought to herself before recalling another of his terms for her, 'And, you have no idea how close to the truth you were in calling me a journalist.'

"As for Thea, I was just wanting her as an assistant more than anything.  But if you think that the construction will take at least half a day then I suppose I can take my time, and of course I'm up for it.  Not the whole breaking of the treaty so much but a chance to work on a Pegasus-device; that I can't say no to.  " she said hopefully answering his questions about her plans for the AI and her eagerness to work on such a project.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #15
Captain Ives gave it all some thought, looking at Luna while she moved and tried not to be distracted by just how synced her limbs were to that of human movements. Realising what he was doing, and to not offend the programmer, he looked away as soon as he caught himself.

"I am glad you look forward to the project, since it might not be so easy to integrate your matrix with the tetryon compositors once they are finished, being as they are not exactly assembled at one of the Fleet Yards. I do not meant to be presumptuous, yet i think installing both make-shift cloaking devices on the two radically different Starships might be a challenge. Initially, your part is just the compilation of the software, and while you'll probably get the device on the Harbinger to work right away - being as you know her systems rather well - you will probably have to ask Thea for help when it comes to her. By which point you two will have to work out just how much access she judges safe to give you, and keep me posted on the outcome."

Considering what Luna had been telling him about her past and her alter ego, Captain Ives took a deep breath. "I would wish you were more forthcoming towards Vasser from this point on. We are all in this together, and while you seem inclined to trust me, I think its just a matter of chemistry. We cannot allow personal differences to endanger the cooperation needed during this voyage back home. He might have forced you to stay when you wanted to leave, and he might restrict your access, but do not hold back valuable information from him since his actions as Commanding Officer affects many lives. No one wants him to make uninformed decisions. He is a decorated Starfleet Officer with a long track record of battles and personal achievements, so please, try to give him the benefit of the doubt. Lives are at stake here. Perchance all the lives in Federation space and beyond."

Pausing, Ives did not want to lecture her, so he immediately addressed another thing that was on his mind. "In the latest battle, I lost my Chief Engineer, and the Theurgy has already lost the top tier of other Engineers that might take her place barring Lieutenant Kae - whom I mentioned earlier - yet his skills are better suited as a holographic and projection specialist. He even developed the portable emitter that was demonstrated when I spoke of my ruling concerning holographic rights. Nevertheless, it might just be that Alexander Rosek will be transferred over to the Theurgy, leaving you to run both Ops and Engineering on this skeleton crew ship. I just wanted to hear if you will be up for that task, should it be that Rosek were to be transferred. I have delayed this decision since I heard you wished to leave, and still wasn't sure you would accept running both departments, for as empty of people they might be, there will still be more people to delegate to perform hardware repairs and maintenance. More people that may ruin your sleep, sufficed to say."

Captain Ives said this wish a faint smile touching his eyes.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #16
Thoughts raced through her head as she was reminded all too much of her real mission, 'What do I tell Ives now?  FNN sent me here for a reason.  What if Vasser's the rat they suspected him to be?  All those specters in his past, and I haven't proved a one of them.  Damn guy gives me a bad vibe.  Bastard's gotta be up to something.' 

'Come on Luna,' she said becoming more deeply engrossed in thought. 'Remember the method. First restate your assumptions: One Vasser is not to be trusted; he could be one of the enemy we fight.'

'Second, present the evidence: One, Vasser has a lot of gaps in his official record as does Ives with his work in SI. Two: Ives record isn't clean but seems realistic.  Something is being hid from me.  I have not found any evidence to prove my mission's suspicions about Vasser.  Too clean must dive deeper.  Three, there is an enemy within the Federation, Theurgy found evidence of the enemy and is being hunted to conceal the threat, we were sent to hunt Theurgy, now we are hunted as well as we know too much, to top it all off and this enemy is willing to risk anything including temporal paradox to create their desired victory.'

'Third, state possible consequences of hypothesis: Vasser is one of the enemy.  Goal is to lure the Theurgy and his own rogue crew out.  Result is replacement, joining, whatever the hell these monsters plans with us are.'

She looked over the concepts she was presented with the possibilities were nearly endless, but the other possibilities weighed heavily on her mind.  'What if I'm wrong, if I say something, I could jeopardize the teamwork between us in this mission to survive?  Am just painting Vasser as a devil in my mind devil because of a tip from the Federation news?  Like Ives says, he is a decorated Starfleet Officer, and he fought the Calamity alongside him.  I could be jeopardizing the mission because of a hunch originating from some cubicle back on Earth? Just for some editor wanting to take credit for a scoop.'   As she explored the possibility she came to an even darker possibility, 'What if I was the enemy?  They could have saw Vasser as potential rogue element.  What if the secret conspiracy is controlling our media?  Maybe they thought Vasser would go rogue before Ives did.  Improbable, but must keep possibility in mind.'

She looked to Captain Ives, it had taken less than two minutes for her to think but when she looked at him she sighed.  "I'll...try to trust him more.  I will resume my work but don't worry about sending Thea. I could use taking this a bit slower.  I need to prep the computer systems to be able to adapt to a possible phase cloak device anyways.  Should take me 12 hours to finish the work.  Please Let Vasser know I'm gonna have to dive in there pretty deep.  If there's anything you or him don't want me to see then ya may want to make sure it's off of the computer before I really dive in."

She acknowledged the words about the possible further promotion and smiled softly then shook her head a bit, "I'm flattered by the vote of confidence but I am unsure if the Harbinger's crew would accept me in that role.  They have served for years, doing menial work to climb up to where they are.  And here some computer girl who hasn't even picked up a spanner gets pushed ahead of them just cause she can crunch the numbers and come up with theories.  If I were them I wouldn't exactly call it fair.  I would probably harbor resentment towards the one who took their promotion."

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #17
While Jien had been speaking about the promotion of Junior Lieutenant Rosek, it seemed like the woman had been distracted with her own thoughts, and it was some time until he got an answer from her - an answer aout Vesser even though he had not wanted to put her on her spot. It would seem she might have taken offence given her silence, yet regardless of her reasons, her words about Thea and managing the remainder of both the Ops and Engineering departments on the Harbinger carried her usual tone of voice.

Had she really been that offended by Vasser forbidding her to leave? There must have been a great argument between them at the point where he forced her to stay. And who can blame her, really? No one would like to be on either of these ships unless it was their duty to uphold the truth, regardless what has become of our proud fleet.

"Very well, Chief. I will inform Thea about your undertaking but I won't ask her to assist. You can always contact her with that combadge of yours if you change your mind. I will speak with Vasser too, of course. I am sure he has given the issue some thought already since you already have been given a measure of access. As for whether or not the crew will accept you in a dual role is not the question, though. It is a question about whether or not they are willing to resort to insubordination and then stand for it when they are face to face with Captain Vasser, or your XO, for that matter. Fair or not, you are the best qualified candidate - hands on experience or not - so they will either have to adhere to your command, or live to face the consequences."

Gesturing towards the room, and the way she had been forced to pull cables from virtually every control panel in sight in order to make her so intimately connected with the Computer Core, he added. "Besides your striking personality, do you honestly think any Starfleet Officer would be able to accomplish what you are doing now? Re-routing all of the ship's functionality to work under such unique circumstances, and calibrating computer output to make it even more efficient? I think you know that you are the best one available. Starfleet or not, you are the best, and it would be moronic to not ask the one best qualified given the importance that we pull through this."

Captain Ives hoped she would accept, for all their sakes.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #18
She seemed to ponder things for a moment,  pausing to take it all in before she responded. "I would doubt my on ability to preform the actual engineering, but the ability to preform the duties asked"  she paused a second "I can do it.  But, only because I have a engineering crew to work with that could carry out any task I can imagine.  I would be honored to be given the opportunity to coordinate such a skilled group of officers."

She smiled softly as she turned back to picking up a few things.  "And, Yea you're right, I am pretty fukin awesome ain't I?"  She said with a prideful smirk as she began to dive back in.  "Oh by the way I promise I will keep your special secrets.  Though if I find out anything interesting I promise I will bring it to your attentions.  While I'm in there I may as well take a glance at what the level 10 files can tell me about the Pegasus Project and see if i can find out if there was any further research from my phase containment device  I might find something we can use when we start building the devices."

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #19
Chuckling, Captain Ives turned to walk away. "Thank you for your discretion, yet to avoid antagonising your Commanding Officer further, given that the two of you have not seen eye to eye, I suggest you try to restrict your search through the root-files in the Level 10 databases to findings strictly concerning the Pegasus project and cloaking technology. I know that pulling them up one at the time may let you see things that you shouldn't, so perhaps it may be worth it to create some kind of root-file search engine if Vasser is not in agreeable mood."

Pausing, Ives turned his head. "Oh, and if we make it through this, I greatly look forward to reading whatever articles you write on our voyage. Perhaps your voice will weigh more heavily than ours, since you are not - strictly - a Starfleet Officer. Perhaps the public may listen, and find it in their hearts to forgive us for the lives lost in this... preservation of truth and the restoration of order. Before then, and because of your writing background, we may call on your aid to name contacts of yours on the Scientific Journal that may have connections at one of the larger news agencies, like the Federation Press Association, the Starfleet Intergalactic Press or the Federation News Network. The truth must be heard... perhaps even at the cost of civilian riots across the Alpha Quadrant."

Heavy words, and a heavy decision for the two Commanding Officers to soon make. Now, however, was not the time. Getting the two starships space-worthy and ready for the next fight was their priority.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #20
She smiled softly, "Perhaps I can be of help there too,"  she spoke up.  She knew she had to tel him something.  But inside she wrestled over the decision.  Did she tell him the truth and blow her cover, what if he told Vasser, her investigation of him would be ruined.  But if she didn't tell him and he found out then how much trust would she loose?  And in these circumstances, Trust was a more valuable commodity than dilithum.  At least with enough Latinum you could at least buy those precious crystals.  So she decided on a compromise.  she woudl tel him a little and hopefully when it all came out the captain would understand how important her own mission was.

"I have my own contacts within the FNN as well as a few other news agencies, she said looking over sheepishly.  "Though I can not afford to share the information with anyone.  The risk of causing their own investigations to fail is too great after all."  she said looking around the room. before diving back in But before the captain could reach the door she made an audible gasp as she opened the hidden files pertaining to her project with the phase cloak as a Phased haz-mat container. "Oh-god... she gasped.  Seeing the note at the bottom.  "What have I done?"

Captain Ives turned around and looked to her as she looked at him a blank expression in her eyes almost like the thousand yard stare of blind eyes.  Eyes that looked past him as if reading words on an invisible movie screen in the distance.  "Captain, you're going to want to see this.  We could have a very big problem."

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: Benefit of the Doubt]

Reply #21
"You prove the be more and more resourceful by the minute, Chief," said Jien and chuckled faintly as he had paused on his way out of the Main Computer Core area. "As for what kind of digging that the FNN is currently doing that might be in peril if you tell someone that you do work for them is... rather inconsequential given this particular scoop. It's not like the galaxy will learn anything from us out here either, besides what kind of transmission we chose to send. I will tell my First Officer that you might be resourceful if we reach one of the agencies' communications buoys, should the case be that I am not around for some reason. Otherwise, I will respect your wish to keep your affiliations to yourself. Thank you for telling me this, though, since you just might prove instrumental in overthrowing the enemy's secret reign back on Earth."

Thinking that he might leave her with that idea, Ives caught on to the fact that she had found something in the root files, so he frowned and returned to her side.

What he saw was a Starfleet Intelligence notice that Section 31 had finished some kind of modifications, and a rudimentary composition analysis for a container. It took him a couple of seconds to realise, yet with her comments, he understood that this was the hazmat device that Luna had mentioned earlier. Only the design did not suggest waste management, but rather some kind of rigged containment unit with armament controls. The unit had weaponry abbreviations all over its design, with SIA encrypted codes for its ultimate use. He supposed that Luna recognised those marking, yet could not tell what they said. Which was fortunate, for the sight on the control panel had Jien feel a cold hand fold over his spine.

Most of all, because this device was now in the hands of the enemy.

"As alarming as this is," he commented in a low voice, "it's not our priority to investigate further. We need to get our ships space-worthy, and worry about what the enemy might have in store for us later. I am sorry that your invention was put to this kind of use."

What he did not tell Luna, was that the encryptions specified just what kind of horrific device this truly was.

The kind of classification involved forced him to hold his silence about it.

- Fin

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