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Posted on May 27, 2020 @ 5:57am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer


(Continued from "Bad Vibes")


Location: USS Phoenix, docked at Starbase 56
Stardate: [2.20]0526.2150
Scene: Captain's quarters - deck 2, saucer section

Ah, peace and quiet.

Michael Turlogh Kane nestled deeper into his armchair, made sure that his glass of whiskey was within easy reach, opened his twentieth-century novel and started to read. It was a book on a PADD, not a paper book, but he didn't mind. It was enough to sink down into the upholstery and read something meaty, especially after the day he'd had on the Starbase. Everything seemed in order, anyway, and there was nothing that needed his attention.

[[Starbase Security to Captain Kane on the Phoenix.]]

Kane blinked, unsure of who was calling. It was a male voice he didn't recognise, but then again, he only really knew a handful of people aboard the Phoenix. There was no direct need for anyone aboard to contact the commanding officer, anyway, but then he realised that the voice had claimed to be *Starbase* Security.

He put the PADD down. "This is Kane."

There were sounds behind the disembodied voice, filtered out by the commbadge's software. It sounded like the distant deep thrum of a warp core, and there were other voices talking behind the speaker - the effect was of someone who had stepped outside a roomful of machinery to make a call. [[Captain Kane, this is Commander Pykan of Starbase Security,]] the voice continued. [[I'm calling to inform you that we need to conduct a brief interview with a member of your crew. There has been a suicide among one of the Starbase's staff, and our security feeds show that the deceased's last interaction was with your shipmate.]]

Kane sat upright, thoughts of an enjoyable evening fading quickly. "I understand. Who is the Phoenix crew-member?"

[[It is the android, sir. Lieutenant Byte.]]

Kane was taken aback. Byte was not one to leave the Phoenix very often - even when the ship was docked at a safe port like the Starbase, Byte tended to remain aboard, volunteering for extra duty shifts, citing its lack of need to sleep or eat, so Kane was surprised to hear that the android had been aboard the Starbase. "I see. When do you plan to come aboard the Phoenix? I'd like to be present for the interview."

[[Immediately, Captain. If that's convenient, of course.]]

Kane thought of the hundreds of engineers working through the decks of the Phoenix, like ants swarming a tasty morsel. You couldn't move anywhere without tripping over one of them, and the occasional noise of drilling into the deckplate, or the clumping of feet lugging around heavy equipment, was starting to get tiresome. This might be a welcome distraction. "Very good, Commander. Lieutenant Byte and I will meet you in my ready room. One last question - is there any suspicion of criminality on the part of my officer?"

[[No, Captain, not at all. The case seems to be a tragic one, I'm sorry to say. We are simply trying to tie up loose ends.]]

"Understood." Kane got to his feet. "I'll see you shortly, Commander. Kane out."

The connection terminated, and Kane made ready for whatever was coming.


Scene: Marine barracks - deck 39, drive section

Jake Crichton stuck his head around the door of Kass''s office. "Major?"

Kass was sitting at her desk, holding her hands in front of her face and turning them backwards and forwards, as if she was just seeing them for the first time. When she heard Jake's voice, she started and jerked her head in his direction. "Who the frag's that?"

Jake opened his mouth to reply, but Kass got there first.

"Oh, it's you, Perfect Ten. Whaddya want, huh?"

Jake cautiously entered the office. It seemed a little out of sorts - one of the drawers on Kass's desk was wide open, the PADDs within all scattered around, and another PADD was lying on the deck beside the desk. With a flash, he wondered how bad her sight was going to get without an upgrade to her sensor nets. "Are you alright?"

"Ah'm fine, dammit. Ya just disturbed mah meditatin'."

"What were you meditating about?"

"Ah was thinkin' about how much Ah hate answerin' stoopid questions. For the second time, whaddya want?"

Jake shrugged. "You wanted me to ask Starfleet about getting a hardwide upgrade."

Kass sat forward. "What's the word?"

Jake smiled. "Don't freak out, okay?"

"Jake, Ah swear Ah am gonna beat ya up an' down this deck if'n ya don't give it me straight up right now!"

Jake chuckled. "Your request has been approved. Starfleet has contracted a cyberneticist from the Daystrom Institute to personally come and perform the upgrade. His name is Pauli. Apparently, he's famous."

Kass frowned. "Ah ain't never heard o' his ass."

"He's a Borg, Kass. A real one, all the way from Borgus. Born to a pair of Humans who had been disconnected from the hive and procreated naturally. He's a current visiting professor of cybernetics at the Daystrom Institute of Advanced Synthetic Research on Okinawa. When he heard about your problem via a Starfleet contact, he volunteered to come here and see you personally."

"Huh." Kass looked unimpressed. "All this way for lil' ol' me?"

"It's more like a field trip," grinned Jake. "He's bringing his group of doctoral students with him - all ten of them."

Kass gasped. "Aw, hell no, Jake! Ten kids all a-pokin' an' a-proddin' me? Ya gotta stop this! Ah ain't no freakshow!"

Jake held up his hands. "It's not like that, I promise. Check your mail - he's sent you a very polite letter of introduction. And anyway, the transport left Earth three days ago - they'll be here tomorrow."

Kass sighed and leaned back in her seat. "Ah guess Ah ain't got no choice but to bear it, but Ah'll be damned if Ah'm gonna do any grinnin'."

Jake smiled the biggest smile that he could. "You leave that to me."


Scene: Captain's ready room - deck 1, saucer section

Upstairs, a short time later, Kane found himself sitting across his desk from Commander Pykan, the middle-aged male Andorian who was head of Starbase 56's Security department. Pykan had been suitably complimentary about the Phoenix and had followed all the correct boarding procedures, but Kane sensed that he was more interested in getting this job underlined and finished.

Pykan consulted his PADD. "As I mentioned earlier, Captain Kane, the case is something of a tragic one. A young Betazoid enlisted engineering technician - her name was Ilsa Durpen - committed suicide early this afternoon while she was working on ODN maintenance. It appears that she deliberately exposed a raw plasma conduit and incinerated herself."

Kane frowned. "That sounds terrible."

Pykan sighed non-committally. "She was working alone and there were no witnesses. Her body was found quickly - the internal sensors detected the plasma surge and a maintenance team investigated and found the exposed conduit. After we realised she was missing, a simple scan for DNA residue at the place of death was all that was needed to confirm that Crewman Durpen had ended her own life."

"I see," said Kane.

"The incident occurred shortly after Crewman Durpen returned to work from her lunch break," went on Pykan. "Our internal security feed last saw her speaking with Lieutenant Byte at a public food court on level eighty-two."

"Hence your interest," said Kane. He nodded. "Very well. Lieutenant Byte, you may come in now."

The ready room doors hissed open and Byte entered the room. The android looked the same as it always did - cornflower-blue eyes beaming out from pale, lean features - and stood at ease before Kane and beside Pykan. {{Reporting as ordered, Captain.}}

"Thank you, Lieutenant. This is Commander Pykan of Starbase Security. You know what this is about?"

{{Yes, Captain. I am ready to answer any and all questions.}}

"Good." Pykan kept looking Byte up and down, a glint of admiration in his eye. "I want to make clear to you that there is no suspicion of your involvement in Crewman Durpen's death, Lieutenant Byte. All I am doing here is concluding an investigation."

Byte cocked its head like a bird and stared at the Andorian. {{I understand, sir.}}

"Did you know Crewman Durpen before meeting her today?"

{{I knew of her, but had never met her.}}

Pykan frowned, and his antennae were standing straight up from his head. "Can you explain, Lieutenant?"

Byte blinked. {{I have downloaded the entire current crew roster of the Starbase into my positronic matrix, Commander. I was aware of Crewman Durpen's existence, but had never met her until today.}}

"Ah, I understand," murmured Pykan. "Our security feed shows that you were moving through the food court at thirteen-ten hours, when Crewman Durpen hailed you from a nearby table where she was eating alone. You joined her, had a conversation for eleven minutes, then you parted ways because her lunch break was over. Is this all correct?"

{{Yes, Commander.}}

"Why were you frequenting the level eighty-two food court when you do not need to eat, Lieutenant?"

Byte looked downcast, and glanced at the floor. {{It is... somewhat awkward, sir.}}

Kane prompted him. "Go ahead, Byte. You are not a suspect, remember."

Byte kept its eyes on the floor. {{You are correct, Commander Pykan. I do not need to eat, but I do seek out the company of other sentients from time to time. I enjoy observing social interactions. I find that it helps me to develop my behavioural programming. I was moving through the food court attempting to find a conversation to eavesdrop on.}}

Kane shared a glance with Pykan. He felt nothing with sympathy with Byte - the android was so self-conscious of its own uniqueness that eavesdropping on conversations was something that Kane could easily imagine it doing. For a moment, he felt the loneliness of Byte's existence.

"You were pleased when Crewman Durpen invited you to join her table?" asked Pykan.

{{Yes, Commander. I had no hesitation in accepting.}}

"What did you talk about?"

Byte looked like a shame-faced child - its eyes flitted between Kane, Pykan, and the floor. {{We spoke about me, sir.}}


{{Yes, Commander. Crewman Durpen confessed that she had heard of me, and began asking me questions about my technical specifications. She asked me about my computational memory, how my endo-skeletal structure was constructed, and - }} Byte paused for a moment. {{She asked me if I was functional, Commander.}}

"Functional?" frowned Pykan.

Byte looked like it wanted the deck to open up and swallow it down. {{If I was capable of sexual intercourse.}}

Pykan looked surprised. "She was flirting with you?"

{{I do not think so, Commander. The conversation was light-hearted, but quite technical in nature. Her question to me was unexpected, but I did not get offended in any way.}}

"I see," Pykan made a note on his PADD. "The conversation ended thereafter?"

Byte nodded once. Kane watched the android make the Human gesture and marvelled at its programming. {{Yes, Commander. Crewman Durpen announced that her work break had come to an end. We exchanged pleasantries and parted company.}}

Pykan glanced at Kane. "Aside from the words exchanged, which I obviously cannot verify, this all checks out. I am content." He turned to Byte. "Thank you for your assistance in this matter, Lieutenant."

{{Of course, Commander. If I can be of any further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.}}

"Good day to you both." Pykan moved towards the ready room doors, but paused just as they opened. His antennae were slowly curling up and down as he turned back. "Lieutenant Byte, are you capable of lying?"

Byte raised an eyebrow, and turned to Kane. Kane nodded for Byte to answer. {{That function is part of my programming, Commander, yes. I am capable of speaking untruths if I must.}}

"Commander," said Kane, "I have the highest respect for, and trust in, Lieutenant Byte's character."

Pykan inclined his head. "Of course, Captain. Good day." He stepped through the doors, and they closed on his disarming half-smile.

Byte turned to Kane. {{May I also be dismissed, Captain? I am overseeing a HCARS upgrade in cargo bay two.}}

Kane gave the android the once over. Its features were inscrutable. There was nothing more that needed to be said, and Byte was not exactly the emotional type anyway. "Byte - did Durpen not give any indication that she was suicidal?"

Byte cocked its head and blinked. {{No, Captain. I found her genial and good company. Perhaps the old adage is true - that it is not possible to ever truly know what someone is feeling.}} The android paused. {{Do you think my inability to empathise with sentients made me miss a clue that she was considering suicide, Captain?}}

Kane thought about it, then shrugged. "It's out of our hands, Mister Byte. For all you or I know, it was simply fate that her path crossed with yours today, and if she had not shared her lunch break with you, it might have been someone else. If Starfleet Security are happy, then so am I." He nodded. "You're dismissed, Lieutenant. Return to your duties."

Byte nodded and moved to the door, passing through them without a word. Kane waited a moment, considering what he would have done if he was in Byte's place, before sitting down and calling up Crewman Durpen's service record. Her picture showed a woman with dark eyes and dark hair and a smile that touched his heart.

He replicated a cup of tea and sat down, and spent the rest of the evening reading.


NRPG: Planting seeds...

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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