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Safe Harbour

Posted on May 03, 2020 @ 9:20am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "Ensign Wei and Captain Smooshy's Play Date")


Captain's log, supplemental - after a long mission, we are almost back in Federation space. I know there will be a lot of paperwork to deal with regarding the transfer of Captain Book and his crew to Starfleet Intelligence, but I fully expect that we will be permitted shore leave, such as it is, on Starbase 56...


Location: USS Phoenix, en route to Starbase 56
Stardate: [2.20]0503.0115
Scene: Counselor's Office - deck 12, saucer section

Eve Dalziel crossed the floor from her replicator to where Jake was sitting on the couch, a glass of lemonade in each hand. The ExO's mind was clearly elsewhere, and his body language was enclosed - leaning forward, knees together, shoulders and arms close to his body. She didn't need to be empathic to know that something was weighing on him. "Here you go."

Jake took the lemonade and smiled sidelong. "Thanks. Look, I'd better tell you what this is about." He put the lemonade down on a side-table, and Eve knew by the motion that he wouldn't be drinking any of it. "It's Benito."

Eve nodded. Important not to say anything right now. Let the client open up at their own pace.

Jake steepled his fingers together in front of his face. "I've decided to allow Benito to come to some counselling sessions." He sighed. "His mother's illness, the divorce - it hasn't been an easy time for him. I suppose I've been guilty of letting his sister raise him for the past few months."

"That's only your perception," Eve said gently. "You feel guilty that Benito wants to talk to someone other than his own family. Someone other than you."

Jake thought about it, and nodded. "Yeah. Lately, Starfleet hasn't seemed like the safest place for us. I'm beginning to think that it's been a terrible mistake to allow families aboard starships."

Eve sighed inwardly. It was a complicated, convoluted argument, and not one that was likely to be resolved anytime soon. Psychological studies repeatedly showed that men and women worked better when they knew that their families were nearby and safe, but life on a starship was not, and could not be made, risk-free. There were accidents, there were hazardous away team missions, there were confrontations with other unfriendly starships - the list went on and on. She knew that the psych people at Starfleet Medical were constantly debating the merits and flaws of the issue, but right now, here on the front line, families on starships was a Thing.

"I've heard that said," she said. "If you need time to talk about that, we can schedule an appointment."

"Maybe," he said, looking at the floor. "Look, I don't mean to be indelicate, but how would you counsel Benito? He's only a boy, he won't understand adult concepts."

Eve smiled. "You'd be surprised. Developmental psychology doesn't just stop when a child starts going to school. No sentient being in all this great federation ever stops learning all through their lives." She reached for a PADD on her desk, and activated the screen. "Each of us goes through various stages of psycho-social development as we grow into adulthood. Each stage is left behind once its challenge has been resolved."


"Yes." Eve thought for a moment. "When we're children, we learn about trust by watching how adults interact, absorbing the teaching of our parents, and blending that together with our own experiences in the schoolyard. Eventually, something happens to resolve our trust lesson - we see someone betray someone else, or break a promise. Maybe it even happens to us, ourselves. Now only do we learn what trust, but we also become aware of its limitations, its flaws. Lesson learned - we move on to the next stage of psycho-social development."

"I think I understand. Benito is still figuring out his place in the universe."

"Right." Eve passed him the PADD. "When I asked you about this two months ago, it was only a verbal thing. Now, though, I need your legal authorisation to hold counselling sessions with Benito. Sign here."

For a moment, Jake hesitated, and Eve thought he wouldn't go through with it. Then he reached out, took the PADD, and signed it. "Let me know when you're free and I'll bring him by."

"Maybe let him come along himself," suggested Eve. "Keep it informal. Send him off from your quarters, but let him find his own way here - encourage his independence."

Jake got to his feet and moved to the door. "I'll do that. Thank you, Counselor."

"Don't thank me until I'm done," smiled Eve.


Scene: Senior Officers' Quarters - deck 2, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane stopped outside Kassandra Thytos' quarters, holding the pair of shot glasses she had left in his quarters in his hand. He had put them through his replicator's cleaning function and they looked good, considering they had been fashioned from the spent casings of antique mortar shells. These things were at least a couple of centuries old - mortars these days didn't use impact-detonator explosives anymore, so he couldn't imagine where Kass had gotten her sandpaper-rough hands on them. Then again, some marines could be quite anachronistic in their ways, favouring peace through superior firepower over the Federation's general aim of negotiation and co-existence, and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to him that Kassandra Thytos fitted that kind of mould. Forged on the frontier farming world of Sherman's Planet, Kass' galaxy-view was a far cry from that of someone born and raised in one of the Federation's capital worlds - the two experiences were literally worlds apart.

He lifted his head and spoke into the air. "Computer, locate Major Thyos."

[[Major Thytos is located in the marine barracks - deck thirty-nine, drive section,]] intoned the ship's female voice.

The literal arse end of the ship, Kane thought. The Phoenix's designers had not thought it a wise thing to put the Security Centre nor the marine barracks at different points in the ship, perhaps in the deck where the saucer met the secondary hull - no, those bean counters had put both of them on the same deck, so far down in the secondary hull that they were even below Engineering. He could see some of the wisdom in it - after all, if the Phoenix was ever boarded, it would an easier matter to defend Engineering from the deck immediately underneath it - but maybe it was the old Security Chief in him complaining, hearkening back to the days when the Security Centre was at the core of the starship, so its security officers could radiate outward in all directions.

Young minds, fresh ideas. Time marches on.

Now that he knew Kass wasn't around, he leaned down and placed the two shot glasses on the deck outside her door, pushing them together right up into the seam where the door met the wall. When he stepped back to admire his handiwork, he nodded inwardly - the two glasses were small enough that no passers-by would see them unless they were unusually perceptive.

The doors on the turbolift at the end of the corridor opened, and Karrington Crow stepped out. In the instant before she noticed him, Kane advanced away from Kass' door, so that when KC looked up, she simply saw the captain walking towards her.

"Captain," she noded politely. She looked tired, Kane thought, noting that somewhere between the Science Centre and here, she had unravelled her dark brown hair from the bun she normally wore - now it hung loosely around her shoulders.

Magnanimously, he decided to give her some facetime. "Doctor Crow," he nodded formally, putting his hands behind his back and assuming a military air. "Have you just finished a duty shift?"

KC shrugged and nodded. "Mmhmm. Long day, you know?"

Kane hadn't a clue. He had always been shite at any science or mathematics-based discipline. "Oh, yes," he stated definitely. "Some days I look at the chronometer on the bridge and think it's moving backwards."

"Oh," she said. She seemed fixated at something on the wall.

"Yes," he said, nodding for good measure.

"Right," she smiled. "Hate those days, huh?"

"Indeed," he said. He tried to smile, but he could feel his nose crinkling up. With a growing sense of dread, he saw himself outside his own body for a moment, and saw his expression - he wasn't smiling , he was sneering, he was sure of it. "They're the worst."

Seconds passed in silence. Literal seconds. Kane counted four of them off in his head before he realised that this interaction with one of his senior officers was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster. Mentally scrambling to recover what dignity he had, he pointed down the corridor. "I was just going to - "

"Yep! Me too," she said cheerily. She stepped by him, and he moved forward too, not really understanding why both of them were moving as fast as they dared away from one another.


Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

One deck upstairs, the beta shift crew were sliding into position, as the alpha shift officers vacated their stations and began to plan what they were going to do with their ship's evening. Mackenzie Procter logged into the Tactical station, Ensign Hualing relieved Sotaar at the conn, and Hector Solorzano sat down at the Ops station.

Byte moved to the centre seat, and Heck watched the android sit straight down, its spinal unit in perfect vertical alingment with its positronic cranium. Byte's head was cocked to one side like a bird as it examined the command log on the screen built-in to the right arm of the centre seat - the android did not require any kind of sleep, so could theoretically have been at work twenty-four hours a day, but thanks to some court ruling fifty years ago, it counted as a person rather than a machine. Heck was alright with that - Byte was an astonishing life-form and a real asset to the crew of the Phoenix.

The ship's evening was usually kind of dull. None of the good stuff ever happened while he was working - Heck wondered for a moment at the statistical probability mechanics that seemed to indicate that every single incident of excitement aboard the Phoenix happened while the senior officers were all on duty at the same time - but he supposed that wasn't so bad. Usually, Captain Kane or Commander Crichton would stop by for an hour or two to catch up on any department reports, and Byte would be able to go below decks to do whatever the hell it was he did in his spare time.

He. His. Heck chuckled inwardly. Just like that, he'd finally defaulted to gendering the android in his head. Created androgynous with his two siblings in some sterile cybernetics laboratory, Byte had chosen to express himself as male, and had a sister who had done the opposite. The rumour mill said that there was a third android out there that had not, would not, or could not choose its own gender expression, but nobody knew for sure. Byte might have a childlike innocence, but he was nobody's fool.

Heck realised that the android was staring across the bridge at him. {{You have something to report, Lieutenant Solorzano?}}

Caught red-handed, Heck back-pedalled. "Uh, no. No, Lieutenant Byte."

A warning tone sounded from Tactical. Byte stood up as Mackenzie Procter checked her display. "Receiving a message packet from Starbase 56, Lieutenant. We've been detected by a Federation marker buoy which has relayed the data. Personnel transfer orders, command dispatches, docking instructions."

{{Pass the messages along to the relevant personnel, Lieutenant Procter,}} said Byte. {{Conn, what is our estimate time of arrival to the Starbase?}}

Ensign Hualing checked. "Just under two hours, sir."

"An evening stroll on the promenade," chuckled Heck. "You guys know that I worked there for - oh, longer than I remember." He cut himself off, aware of the irony in his statement. Starbase 56 was not a civilian freeport full of holosuites and shopping promenades and entertainment - the facility was an enormous naval station, a military port for Starfleet's Neutral Zone and the linchpin of the Federation's defences from the Romulans. In the three-and-a-half years since she'd been in command, Andrea Stiles had reorganised and reformed that fleet, creating several carrier-based battlegroups that patrolled the edge of the Neutral Zone, and backing them up with a secret number of Sovereign-class battleships that were on randomised picket routes throughout each sector of space within the Starbase's jurisdiction. The Neutral Zone was a long way from the lights of Earth, but out here Starfleet had built a fortress hanging in space.

Byte looked confused. {{Mister Solorzano, the Starbase is not a civilian freeport. It is a military installation. There is no promenade to take an evening walk on.}}

Heck shook his head and rolled his eyes so hard he was sure they were going to pop out. "No, Lieutenant Byte. Sorry, Lieutenant Byte." The android's complete and utter lack of a sense of humour was one of the many foibles in its - his - design.


Location: Space, the final frontier
Scene: God's eye view of interstellar space

The gigantic mushroom-shaped Starbase 56 hangs in space, far from the nearest solar system. Just over ten thousand Starfleet personnel, mainly drawn from the Operations and Engineering divisions, work here, servicing and maintaining the dozens of starships assigned to the Neutral Zone fleet. Those starships are coming and going constantly, signalling their arrivals and departures in bursts of white light that flash like distant suns.

Along the stalk of the mushroom, several platforms jut off into space, tapering down to docking bays and magnetic mooring clamps. One of them is reserved for the sector's newest arrival - the starship Phoenix, returning from a long voyage inside the Triangle. Rumours say that there has been war between the Klingons and the Orions, that the Syndicate has been dealt a heavy blow in its dreams of empire, and that a new Klingon warlord has raised his banner amid the ruins of the old empire. Other rumours swirl in from distant shores, whispering of a new treaty between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, one that has been hammered out for over two years, and represents a chance for peace for a new generation.

A burst of light heralds the arrival of the starship Phoenix, decelerating from warp to impulse power. Her gunmetal armour lends her a dull matte effect as she glides forward, propelled by flaring violet nacelles, towards her designated docking bay.

Her voyage, at last, is at an end. Now, a time to rest.


NRPG: We're back at Starbase 56! Shore leave for everyone!

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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