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Boardroom, Part Two

Posted on May 09, 2020 @ 3:01am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Edited on on May 09, 2020 @ 7:53am

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer


(Continued from "Boardroom, Part One")


Captain's log, supplemental - as the HCARS upgrade on the Phoenic gets underway, my conversation with Admiral Stiles continues...


Location: Starbase 56, Neutral Zone border
Stardate: [2.20]0508.1900
Scene: Admiral's office

Andrea Stiles returned from the replicator with two glasses of sparkling water and placed them both on her desk. Sitting down, she slid one across the smooth surface. "You didn't give Malin-Argo an easy time of it, even though you're here in my office. I've got to hand it to you, Captain, you're not afraid of making enemies."

Michael Turlogh Kane took the proffered water and laid it down on the floor beside his chair. He wasn't in much of a mood for games. "There are enemies and there are enemies."

She chuckled. "So, Captain, what is it you wanted to speak to me about?"

Kane shifted uncomfortably in his seat. What he was about to say could conceivably cause friction between himself and the admiral - hell, she might chew him out for having the temerity to bring it up in the first place - but someone in command authority needed to hear it. Rumours had been floating around the ship for the past few years.

"Admiral Stiles," he said carefully, "I would like to know why none of the senior officers of the Phoenix, including myself, have been promoted."

That got a reaction. The admiral's glass of water was half-way to her lips, but she put it back down on the desk without it reaching her dark lips. She frowned, as if in anger, and for a moment Kane mentally prepared himself for a barracking, but when she spoke, it was with a tone of puzzlement. "Why are you asking me? I don't make those kinds of decisions, you do."

Kane nodded. "That's true, but all a starship captain's promotion decisions are officially considered temporary until ratified by Starfleet. I myself am not legally permitted to promote someone higher than the rank of lieutenant commander."

"I know that," said Stiles. Her posture had stiffened, and her eyes had narrowed.

"The Phoenix has been operational for six years, and every time she has needed a new department head, Starfleet has appointed an outsider rather than promote from within the ship." Kane leaned forward. "That's not all. Starfleet is also not actively seeking out my officers for promotions."

"Captain, are you sure you're not being - "

"Jake Crichton has been my executive officer for four years now and not once been offered his own command. Jasmine Yu and Eve Dalziel are ready to move into the command divison and be appointed ExOs somewhere else. Kassandra Thytos should have her colonel's leaf and be in command of a marine battalion by now. Yet they're all occupying the same positions they have been in for the past several years."

Stiles seemed mollified. "I see." She seemed to have a thought. "If you're correct, why do you think Starfleet isn't promoting your people?"

Kane sat up straight again. This was where the fact became rumour. "I don't know, Admiral. I understand that it is a source of speculation on the ship, especially among the junior officers. They seem to think that the Phoenix is a political embarrassment now that the Neo-Essentialists have been defeated. That's why Malin-Argo and Karrington Crow were assigned to us, for example - Starfleet is rumoured to be curbing the careers of the veterans of the Neo-Essentialist crisis, and bringing in their own people, one by one."

As he spoke, Stiles' expression turned into a scowl. "That's nonsense. Malin-Argo is the best engineer in Starfleet. Karrington Crow is - "

"I'm not doubting their credentials, Admiral," said Kane, more sharply then he would have liked.

"Listen, Captain," said Stiles in a no-nonsense tone. "This all sounds like some sort of conspiracy theory. It's true that the Phoenix is a famous ship, but it makes no sense for Starfleet to curb anyone's career in the manner you're suggesting. I'm surprised you've even brought this up with me."

Kane nodded. "You command the sector of space we're generally assigned to. It makes sense for it to be you."

"Captain, I really don't - "

"With respect, Admiral Stiles, I'm not finished. It makes sense that I have raised this with you today, because now one of two things will happen. Either you will make inquiries about this and meet a stone wall, in which case I'll be hearing from you again once you realise what is going on, or you will do nothing. In that case, I won't be hearing from you, and I will know where the stone wall is."

Stiles eyeballed him. Kane held her gaze. The silence stretched out for several seconds.

At last, she raised a hand and motioned to the door. "That's all for now, Captain Kane. You're dismissed."

Kane got to his feet and stood to attention for a moment. "Admiral."

He turned to face her door, which whispered open at his approach, but stopped dead when he heard her voice again. "You're right about one thing, Captain Kane," she said.

Kane turned around.

Andrea Stiles raised her glass of water to her mouth and took a sip. She looked at him over the edge of the glass. "There are enemies, and there are enemies."


Scene: Starbase corridor, near Operations

The Starbase was huge, and its interior was just as cavernous. Because it was a Starfleet installation, constructed for military life, there were no big promenades or commercial districts anywhere in its exterior. There were plenty of recreational areas and holosuites, though - looking after the work-life balance of ten thousand Starfleet personnel required a large variety of distractions - and Kane found himself passing by one of these plazas on his way back to the Phoenix's docking bay.

Two teams were playing a game of basketball on a full-size court, cheered on by dozens of spectators who were spilling out onto the main throughfare. As Kane pushed his way through the crowd, he suddenly realised that Malin-Argo was up ahead of him. The Grazerite had evidently been delayed on his walk back to the Phoenix - perhaps he had briefly stopped to watch the basketball match - and now Kane had caught up to him.

The sight of Malin-Argo rekindled Kane's irritation toward him. The Grazerite was a superb officer, but there was a selfish, ambitious streak that ran through him that was epitomised by his recent transfer request directly to Admiral Stiles instead of through Commander Crichton. Kane was determined to take him to task for it, so he pushed through the crush of the bodies and the noise of all the cheering until he was almost at Malin-Argo's shoulder.

Kane reached out a hand and tapped the Grazerite on the back. Malin-Argo stopped and turned around, and Kane had for the first time the pleasure of seeing him with a confused and startled expression on his face. When he recognised who had tapped him, the Grazerite stood up straight.

"Captain Kane!" he exclaimed. "I thought I would be back aboard the Phoenix before now. You move quickly!"

Kane motioned him forward, and they fell into step together through the plaza. As the crowd thinned, Kane spoke up. "I'm not the only one. Commander, I find your transfer request to Admiral Stiles unprofessional. You should have followed ship's procedures and approached Commander Crichton."

Malin-Argo bristled, like he had been expecting this, but kept facing front, taking lumbering, heavy strides. "If this conversation on or off the record, Captain Kane?"

"You can speak freely, Commander."

"Good." Malin-Argo stopped dead and faced Kane. Although he was not quite as tall as Kane, Malin-Argo was heavily-built, and he drew himself up to his full height. "Then why are you making an issue of this? I have every right to conduct my career as I see fit. I saw an opportunity with Admiral Stiles and I took it. You would have done the same. I do not see the problem."

"I would not have done the same," snapped Kane. "I would have notified the Executive Officer and made an official transfer request. Not only have you circumvented Commander Crichton's authority, you have undermined mine, and that is why I am making an issue of this."

Malin-Argo snorted, his nostrils flaring. "Captain Kane, I have over thirty years' experience in Starfleet. I have been aboard the Phoenix for four of those years. It is the ninth assignment of my career. Do you really think I was going to end my career in your engine room?"

"That's not the - "

"It is exactly the point. Since I have come aboard, I have fixed the undisciplined mess Crichton left for me. I have reshaped the entire department into an efficient working machine. I have done all this without complaint and without seeking any recognition for my efforts." Malin-Argo stepped forward, right into Kane's personal space. "To put it frankly, Captain Kane, I am bound for higher things than you and the other also-ran officers on that ship. A career in the admiralty, perhaps even Starfleet Command. The Phoenix has only ever been a stepping stone to that end. Am I making myself clear, sir?"

Kane set his jaw. "Perfectly."

"I have a project to oversee." Malin-Argo turned his back on Kane and lumbered purposefully away into the crowd. Kane watched him go, impotent anger burning within him, wondering how it was that he had never clearly seen this side of the Grazerite before.


Location: USS Phoenix, docked at Starbase 56
Scene: Chief Science Officer's quarters - deck 2, saucer section

Karrington Crow sat down in her armchair, put her feet up on the pouffe footstool, opened the PADD, and began reading. It was this quarter's issue of one of the Federation's most important - and most mainstream - scientific journals, and she had some free time to read it over with a steaming cup of elderberry tea in her hand. She shifted around in her seat so that the viewing port in her cabin was at her back - she didn't want to be distracted by the vast bulk of the starbase hanging in space - and got as comfortable as she could.

The big news in the scientific community was the imminent stellar remnant in the uninhabited Idium system. Nobody on the Phoenix's senior staff had a clue about it, but in the science department it had been the subject of several interesting conversations. While KC's expertise lay in xenobiology, she had a good enough grounding in astronomy to realise why the imminent breakdown of the Idium star was so interesting.

Imminent. She chuckled inwardly. In astronomical terms, the transformation of Idium was imminent, but long-range scans of the star indicated that the process would not truly begin for another four thousand years, thus leaving plenty of time for it to be studied. Idium itself was in its final evolutionary stage, approaching the end of a long life - its mass not not large enough to cause it to explode into a supernova, which was the end-stage for the overwhelmingly vast majority of stars in the galaxy. Within the borders of the Federation there were less than fifty white dwarf stars among the thousands of star systems, and one of them happened to be in the neighbourhood of Starbase 56.

Idium was cooling, but it still emitted heat, like a recently-used stove-top, now switched off. Most of its heat and radiation were all spent, and its core material had begun to crystallise. The article in the journal suggested that it would eventually pass into a theoretical remnant stage known as a black dwarf, when the white dwarf became so cold that it no longer produced any heat or light. The problem was that the time required for a white dwarf star to become a black dwarf star must be longer than the current age of the Universe - approximately fourteen billion years, rounding up - because there were no black dwarf stars anywhere in existence. It meant the certain disintegration and evaporation of Idium's only planet - a small, and mostly uninteresting, gas world composed of hydrogen and helium.

The second major problem - aside from the theoretical nature of Idium's future - was its location. The Idium system lay right on the edge of Typhon Expanse, a large region of space coreward of the Federation and spinward of the Romulan Star Empire, that had never been properly explored. The Expanse contained dozens of star systems, but seemingly no warp-capable indigenous civilisations, so was eyed by both the Federation and Romulans as a target for future exploration missions in the hopes of finding new natural resources or some virgin worlds ripe for colonisation. A Federation starship had approached the Expanse seventy years ago for an initial survey, but had encountered a temporal causality loop that prematurely ended the mission. The journal article concluded by hoping that Starfleet would assign a starship to study the Idium system soon in the hopes of learning more about how a white dwarf transformed into a black dwarf.

KC realised that her teacup was empty. She checked the chronometer and decided to take a nice long nap for the afternoon.


NRPG: Moving things along... Kane is available again for your complaints/frying pans, etc.

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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