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Broken Connections

Posted on Jun 10, 2020 @ 2:56am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer


(Continued from "Train The Trainers")


Location: USS Phoenix, docked at Starbase 56
Stardate: [2.20]0609.1900
Scene: Captain's ready room - deck 1, saucer section

[[User not found. Access denied.]]

For the sixth time in a row, Michael Turlogh Kane thumped his desk in frustration, making his PADDs clatter and momentarily fizzing out the HCARS interface that floated in the air in front of him. Something was wrong with the installation of the new operating system, he was sure of it. The bloody thing wouldn't recognise his voice, had nowhere to input a fingerprint or retinal scan (without heading down six decks to the nearest computer sub-processor) so he could identify himself, and the desktop control panel would not connect to the ship's main computer without an authorised user profile. Computers were astonishing devices, but they could sometimes end up in crazy causality loops that sent the users round the software bend.

He resisted the urge to call Engineering and yell at someone. The ship was deep in the throes of the upgrade to HCARS - there were timetables and personnel assignments and work details to consider - and if he pulled a work crew off its task just to fix whatever programming fart was causing the computer to not recognise his voice, he might throw off the whole schedule for this part of the ship.

He slumped back in his seat, reaching for the nearest PADD. At least they still worked, albeit on a modified HCARS system that made whatever was in their display screen seem three-dimensional. All these bloody lens-flare holograms were going to give him a headache, he was sure of it.

The door chimed, and he looked up just as HCARS beamed into the closed doorway a holographic head-and-shoulders representation of who was standing outside. It was Jasmine Yu, and she was seemingly pacing back and forth.

Kane put down the PADD. "Come."

Her holographic wraith winked out of existence as the ready room doors hissed open, admitting the Security Chief. Kane could immediately tell that there was tension in her - her face was straight, and her body language was rigid. She stood to attention before his desk and produced a PADD from behind her back. "Captain Kane, I am acknowledging receipt of my transfer orders."

"Your what?" Kane took the PADD and activated it, feeling a sinking sensation in his stomach. "I am not aware of any transfer orders, Lieutenant, I've been trying to get online all day." He ran his eye down the missive on the display screen, realising that everything was in order. Jasmine had been transferred back to the starship Camelot, effective immediately. He noted that the order was signed off by Admiral Stiles' office.

He put the PADD down. Scant days ago, he had approached Admiral Stiles about the seeming dearth of promotions among the senior crew of the Phoenix. The Admiral had promised to look into it, and now this had happened. It was more than enough to make a captain wonder what the hell was going on.

The silence hung in the air for a moment. He looked at Jasmine in the eye. "Everything seems to be in order. I'm sorry to see you go."

"Three-and-a-half years is a long time," said Jasmine. "Nearly the same amount of time I spent on the Camelot, on my original tour of duty aboard her."

"I can fight this if you want," said Kane. "I can go to Admiral Stiles personally and - "

Jasmine held up a hand. "No, Captain. There is something you might help me with, however."

"Of course."

"Approve the transfer immediately," said Jasmine. "I'm sorry for the hasty exit, but the starship Saru put in to Starbase this morning and is leaving in three hours' time for Starbase Sixty-Seven. The Camelot will be arriving there next month." She shifted her weight. "I need to pack and disembark as quickly as possible."

"Sixty-Seven?" said Kane. "That's in the Azati Sector. Going to be a long journey for you." He signed the transfer order under Admiral Stiles' name. Everything seemed to be happening too quickly all of a sudden. "There, all done." He stood up and offered her the PADD, which she took. "I'm losing a fine officer. Thank you for your service aboard the Phoenix, Lieutenant Yu. Good luck in your next assignment."

Jasmine stood to attention for a moment. "Captain. Permission in advance to disembark."


Kane watched her turn on her heel and march crisply through the door. When they closed behind her, he felt an ovcerwhelming sense of an opportunity missed - he had never really gotten to know Jasmine beyond the professional, and now her path had diverged from the Phoenix completely. The revolving door of Starfleet life had struck again.

All of a sudden, he felt an urge to reconnect with past comrades.


Scene: The Vulgar Tribble

Kane watched as Calvin and Hobbes brought him and Aerdan their lunches - a plate of tuber root and a hot glass of katheka for Aerdan, and a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea for Kane. The diminutive Bynars slid the food off the trays and together gave a little formal bow at the neck at the same time.

"Commander Jos," said Calvin, "it is - "

" - good to see you again," finished Hobbes.

"We hope that we will see - " said Calvin.

" - much more of you here," finished Hobbes.

Aerdan returned the neck bow. "Thank you," he veritably purred. "Very kind."

The Bynars turned away, and Kane shared a bemused look with him. "It's like you never left." He looked around the open space. Almost all the tables were occupied, whether by Starbase engineers looking to expand their culinary horizons, or by Phoenix crew who were on a work break from the upgrade, but the Vulgar Tribble was busy in a way that Kane had not seen it for some time. Lots of people were casting glances at their table, giving a nod and a smile to his Andorian companion.

"We seem to be attracting a lot of attention," said Aerdan.

"I hardly ever come down here," deadpanned Kane. "When I do, people watch me." Seeing the Andorian's suspicious expression, Kane chuckled. "It's you, Aerdan. You've been this ship's chief medical officer and its first officer. You have more than a few friends here."

Aerdan took a sip of the katheka. His antennae shot upward for a moment as the bitter coffee-like flavour hit the back of his throat, but then they went back to curling up and down randomly, the way they did when he was relaxed. "I suppose that's true." He paused for a moment. "I bring greetings from Doctor Foster."

Kane raised an eyebrow. "That's a lie, isn't it?"

"Yes." Aerdan nonchalantly began cutting up his tuber root. "But I must admit to being more than a little surprised when the transfer order came through. Starbase One-Oh-Four was comfortable, but I don't think that I'm in quite the right place for comfortable right now. Even thought serving anywhere with Cade Foster is not what I'd call comforting." He paused in his slicing and looked up at Kane. "How's the Crichton boy? The one that went missing. I heard he'd been found wandering the Starbase."

Kane nodded. "He's being held at Starbase Security, undergoing tests."

Aerdan's antennae were standing tall again. "Security? Not Medical?"

Kane shook his head. "Something about problems with a positive identification. I expect that Jake - Commander Crichton - will report when he knows something concrete."

"Hmm. Well, I'll make sure sickbay - as is right now - is at his disposal if he needs it."

"You know," said Kane, "between you, Doctor Bartlett, and that shouty Klingon woman, I think we've probably got the finest medical department in the fleet."

Aerdan held up his knife. "That shouty Klingon woman is also empathetically Betazoid. She knows what you're feeling. Don't you forget it."

Kane mentally filed that little nugget away for later. He chewed his bacon sandwich - as ever, Iphie had put *something* in it that he couldn't identify. She'd added a light spread of some kind of herb sauce to the synthetic meat, that added a pleasant earthy aroma to the sandwich, complementing the bread nicely.

"Food okay?" asked Aerdan, like he had suddenly grown psionic powers. "Iphie still trying to expand your palette?"

"Tasty," murmured Kane, "not that I'm going to tell her that." Knowing that she was furtively watching him from the bar, he deliberately creased his face into a mask of confusion, and made a big deal of slowly, and suspiciously, smelling his sandwich. Aerdan watched curiously as he opened his sandwich and used his teaspoon to poke around in the innards of it.

"You can have some of my tuber root if you like," said Aerdan quizzically. "It's the plain kind but it's nice. You know what they're doing on Andoria these days? Mixing it with off-world flavours. Chocolate tuber root is a thing now."

Kane waited half a second, then shot a murderous look at the bar, but Iphie was too quick for him. Quickly picking up a glass and a cloth and polishing it hard enough to erase it from existence, she started loudly talking to a male Bolian engineer who had just walked in.

"Strawberry tuber root," continued Aerdan, twirling his fork as he chewed. "Cheese and onion tuber root - that's an interesting one. I'm just waiting for a gagh option."

Kane sighed. "Bloody Bonvivas."

"What?" asked Aerdan.

"Nothing." Kane popped the rest of his sandwich into his mouth and finished it off. "I need to report to sickbay for a physical."

"Oh, that's no problem. I can - "

Kane held up a hand. "I'm not due for my annual for another two months, but I'll go to Doctor Bartlett when the time comes. No offence, but I've build up a good relationship with him in the past year-and-a-half. There is something else you might be able to help me with, though."

Aerdan leaned forward. "What?"

"It involves Major Thytos," said Kane. "She needs to have her personal sensor network upgraded, and the work is delicate enough to involve the intervention of a Doctor Pauli from the Daystrom Institute. He's arriving aboard tonight or tomorrow, bringing some of his most promising students with him."

Aerdan frowned. "Do you mean the Borg cyberneticist?"

"Yes. Do you know him?"

"Only by reputation and his work. I've read several of his papers. He's a skilled neurologist."

Kane inclined his head. "The Phoenix also has a skilled neurologist aboard. Would you be willing to work with Doctor Pauli and his students as they go about their work? I understand that it may involve some delicate neurosurgery."

"I would be interested," said Aerdan. "But I should talk to Major Thytos first. It's not ethical to get inolved in her procedure without consulting her in the first instance."

"Good," said Kane. "You'd probably do well to keep my name out of it. Kasandra Thytos might not be too happy if she knew her commanding officer was taking an overt interest in her case."

Aerdan's antennae stood up straight and tall again. "I'll be the soul of discretion."


Scene: Turbolift interior

A little later, Kane found himself in a turbolift en route back up to his quarters. At least HCARS seemed to be working normally there, and he might be able to get some work done before turning in. There seemed to be a veritable mountain of departmental communiques building up - everyone and their assistant was turning in progress reports. The HCARS upgrade was well underway, and it wouldn't be long before the Phoenix was undergoing a shakedown cruise.

The turbolift slowed, then stopped at deck eight of the saucer section. The doors opened, admitting Lieutenant Byte. The android marched crisply in and stood beside Kane. {{Bridge. Greetings, Captain.}}

"Mister Byte," Kane acknowledged. "Almost time for night watch?"

{{Indeed, sir.}} Byte paused a moment, doing that thing where it seemed to be looking outside itself. {{Captain, may I ask your advice on a personal matter?}}

Kane thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "Very well."

Byte was not looking into Kane's face. Instead, the android's cornflower blue eyes flitted from the floor, to the door, to the control panel. {{I have found that I have lately been exerting much of my cognitive processing in considering the fate that befell Crewman Durpen.}}

"The Starbase engineer who committed suicide," remembered Kane. This was serious, then. He wondered if Byte was alright, insofar as a machine could be. "If you're thinking again that you contributed to what happened to her, remember that Commander Pygan has already closed the case. It is a tragedy, but you are not to blame for it." Pygan, the head of Starbase 56's Security Department, had visited Kane a few days ago, seeking permission to interview Byte, as the android was one of the last sentients to speak to the dead woman. Shortly afterward, Ilsa Durpen had incinerated herself at a plasma conduit she was working on.

Byte seemed considerate of Kane's words. {{You are correct, Captain, but that is not what I mean. I do not understand why Crewman Durpen chose to end her own life. Commander Pygan indicated that she was well-liked, had a wide circle of friends, and that her last psychological profile was normal.}} Finally, Byte looked into Kane's face. {{What would drive someone to take their own life?}}

Kane did not have an immediate answer. He sighed. "I don't know, Lieutenant, I'm not a counselor. I suppose that if a person feels that there is no hope anymore, or that their existence doesn't matter to anyone, then they might not want to live anymore."

{{But we live in a world of plenty,}}pressed Byte. {{There is always hope, is there not?}}

Kane shrugged. "Until there isn't." He paused. "You might not want to go down this road, Lieutenant. Crewman Durpen's reasons for doing what she did were her own. We should change the circumstances if they might affect someone else, but our highest obligation is to remember to have compassion for the deceased."

Byte cocked its head like a bird. {{I will not forget her, Captain. I have created a sub-file within my memory core. I know all the details of her life. Even though we knew one another for a very brief moment in time, I will ensure that her memory lives as long as I do.}}

"That's good - "

{{But I will continue to study this topic,}} continued Byte. {{If I can be of any assistance to any of my shipmates who may be considering a similar course of action, I must know enough to be able to help them.}}

Kane nodded slowly. "Alright." The turbolift slowed at deck two and the doors hissed open. "Good night, Mister Byte."

The doors closed on the android's impassive face. {{Goodnight, Captain.}}


NRPG: A tricky subject to write about, and I hope I don't do it injustice. Also, Jasmine has departed the ship.

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer
USS Phoenix

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



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