Posted on May 18, 2021 @ 6:10am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane & Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on May 18, 2021 @ 6:10am

Mission: Black Sun Rising


(Continued from "Morale And Welfare")


Location: USS Phoenix, orbiting Idium I-A
Stardate: [2.1]0517.2210
Scene: Corridor in deck 12, saucer section

With no Executive Officer aboard, Michael Turlogh Kane was being forced by necessity to do more work. Captains usually enjoyed a bit of distance from the day-to-day running of a large starship - after all, it was the ExO's job to intercept and resolve all the myriad minor problems that came with managing other people, thus (in theory) leaving the captain free to handle bigger crises when they appeared. Except that when nothing was happening, it meant that the captain hadn't really got much to do except read departmental reports and occasionally intervene with some kind of interpersonal conflict. Now, though, he was busy as a bee, moving from one department on the Phoenix to another - after his visit to sickbay, he was on his way to the Science department, and it was in his head to pay an unannounced visit to Engineering, just to let Malin-Argo that there was a higher authority on the ship than him.

He stopped at the turbolift door. They didn't immediately open - the 'stand by' light was flashing on the door - and he used the moment to close his eyes and centre himself. He flexed his shoulders, trying to expel some of the tension he felt. It was like one half of his brain was occupied with events on the ship, while the other half was worrying about what was happening on the moon they were orbiting. For a ship about to be decommissioned and downgraded, life aboard the Phoenix was busy - Doctor Pauli's team were still aboard, Kass was still getting used to her new sensor nets, Doctor Bartlett was recovering from his heart attack, and Lynette Ryan still had to go through her ordeal with Malin-Argo. There was always something new.

"Captain? Captain Kane?"

An unfamiliar voice startled Kane from his reverie. Blinking in surprise, he turned around. A young Human man, somewhere in his early twenties, was standing before him, dressed in Engineering work overalls. The young man had an impressive mop of ginger hair, lank like old rope, and it drooped down over his green eyes like weeping willow. His pale white skin seemed almost translucent, speckled with freckles, contrasting sharply with the yellow overalls he was wearing. There was no indication of rank anywhere on his clothes, although Kane noted a tricorder and several engineer's tools at his belt pouch. The young man's face was wearing a nervous smile.

Kane narrowed his eyes. Could be a junior officer, but they would be likely to wear a rank pip or two. An enlisted man, then, who had somehow worked up the courage to opportunistically address the ship's commanding officer as he stood waiting for a turbolift. Kane saw the fresh, unlined face and the brightness in the eyes, and suddenly felt the growing weight of years weighing down on him. He had been like this once, young and brash and so impetuously certain of his own importance that he had thought nothing of chatting to older officers like they were his equals.

"What is it, Crewman?" said Kane, in his best make-it-quick tone.

"If you're not too busy, Captain, I'd like to ask you a personal question?" It was a statement, but the youngster's voice rose in pitch at the end.

Kane eyeballed him. "What's your name, Crewman?"

The nervous smile widened. "Keeffe, Captain. George Keeffe. I'm one of the technicians in Engineering. I was, uh - well, I have some leave coming up, and I've already decided to visit Ireland! Where you're from!"

Kane silently wondered at these inane little asides that seemed to occasionally dog his life. It couldn't be a coincidence that, just when the events of his day were falling into order, along would come this boy to irritate him. These sorts of injustices made him feel like his life was one bad science fiction fandom story, being written on a computer somewhere by some friendless nerd who spent an inordinate amount of time thinking up ways to torment him.

He turned back to the turbolift, willing it to hurry up. "That's nice."

Heedless, Crewman Keeffe fell into line beside him. "Right? I'm Irish too on my dad's side! I want to go see all the best pubs and drink that famous black beer you guys have! I want to hear all that old-timey music and listen to some old guy tell a story by the fireside! I want - "

I want this turbolift to come now, thought Kane.

" - to take a walk in the hills and feel the soft rain on my face!" Keeffe lowered his voice. "Not to mention the girls, huh? That accent you guys have, Captain! Hoo! Maybe I'll find me a sweet colleen and get married to her!"

Maybe she'll drown you in a bog, thought Kane.

"Don't mind me nattering!" continued Keeffe in a friendly fashion. He ran a pale-skinned hand through his lank ginger hair. "The gang in Engineering always tell me that I talk too much, but I'm just trying to pass the time, you know, Captain?" He paused to inhale, then careered onward like a freight train. "Hey, so I was wondering if maybe you could give me some pointers about where to go while I'm on vacation? Any secret fairy glens that only the locals know about, that sort of thing?"

The turbolift arrived, audible with a hum from the other side of the door. The 'stand by' light ceased flashing, and the door split down the middle, hissing open left and right. Kane quickly stepped in and turned around. "Some of the greatest joys of travel come from discovering things you never knew about," he said. "Follow your heart. Just explore." He turned to the turbolift control panel. "Deck eight, saucer section."

Nicely done, he congratulated himself. A neutral answer that also freed him from any follow-up obligations.

Keeffe was still smiling. "I'll let you know how I get on!" he exclaimed, just as the doors were closing. "I'll stop by your quarters one evening after I get back and bring all my holographs!"

The doors thumped shut, and Kane's stomach dropped into his legs as the turbolift moved quickly upward, leaving George Keeffe and his youthful exuberance below. For a moment, he thought about Thomond's heather-brackened hills, and heard the shrill cries of the corncrakes as they took flight out on the misty river. It was the memory of another life.

He silently wished George Keeffe a pleasant trip, whenever the young man ended up going.


Scene: Sickbay - deck 12, saucer section

“How’s he doin’?” Kassanda asked Aerdan as she waltzed into sickbay, gracelessly smashing her hip into a table as she did so. It wasn’t as bad as the first few days, when Kassandra had felt a bit like she was on a massive bender. The floor didn’t seem quite real, and she misjudged the distance on everything and had the bruises to prove it. Now she was merely clumsy, instead of a bull in a china shop. She hadn’t quite worked up the nerve to go to the gym and try her usual grueling exercise routine, and she certainly hadn’t tried fighting anyone. A Commanding Officer, she felt, should be a source of awe to her Marines; unbeatable, tougher, calm in any situation, decisive to a fault, and on top of everything. They should never see her bleed, especially not during training. She had hoped that the half-Klingon doctor would help her out and be her sparring partner until she got something resembling her usual skills back, but it appeared that that would have to wait, since Dr Keiku had been sent down to the moon.

“He’s out of the coma, but very weak,” Aerdan said. “He seems to be in good spirits, though.”

“Would he want a visitor?” Kass asked, shifting from foot to foot. Social visits like this weren’t something she was much used to and it occurred to her that, besides the easy camaraderie and the friendly conversation during her admittedly not infrequent visits to get treatment for minor injuries she didn’t want her Marines to know about, she didn’t exactly know Bartlett well. Heck, maybe the friendliness and the conversations they’d had were part of his bedside manner, a professional personality that he put on for everyone, much the same way she herself had the ‘Marine Commander Kassandra’ persona that she put on for all of the enlisted Marines. She found herself regretting coming for the visit.

“Even if he doesn’t, I think the nurses would welcome you visiting.” Aerdan’s antennae twitched with amusement. “Doctors always make the worst patients. They’ll be happy to have someone distracting him for a little so they don’t have to try to keep him in the bed. He’s over in the private room in the corner.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

“And don’t forget, you need to come in for Doctor Pauli and I to pull your net logs and see if anything needs recalibrating,” Aerdan called at her back as she headed to the indicated room.

“Got it!” she called back over her shoulder as she approached Doctor Bartlett’s room. The door was open, but out of politeness she knocked anyway. “Yo, Oldtimer, Can I come in?”

“Ahh, Kassandra, come in.” Bartlett waved her in. He looked older and frailer than he had after her surgery, and much older than she’d imagined him to be when piecing together an image of him with her old sensor nets. He’d always been a rather vigorous, energetic man, and she had imagined him looking closer to her age, or maybe Horatio Bellecotte’s age, than 70. But now it was like all the weight of 70 years had settled onto his face, dragging the thinning skin down, and turning his limbs leaden and heavy. Kassandra was reaching the age where the elderly were a specter of her own future, their physical decline an uncomfortable portent of what she could come to expect. She tried not to let her discomfort show, and instead pulled out a foil packet from one of her myriad pockets and gingerly passed it to the Doctor as she sat down.

He raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged and indicated with a gesture that he should open it.

“I was helpin’ out in the Tribble, tryna get some of the vibes back, you know? Had lots of leftover bacon, figgered that if you were up and about, you were probably gettin’ slop fer food. Don’t worry, it’s replicator bacon, so low salt an’ that weird non-fat fat. Tastes pretty good though. And I did cook it up with real heat on a griddle, so it’s got more depth of flavor than replicated food usually has,” she said as he opened it up to reveal a few perfectly crisped pieces of bacon. He smiled slightly.

“The eating healthier isn’t really taking, is it?” he teased, although the joke seemed like an effort. He glanced around sneakily, pretending to look for nurses, and then bit into a piece.

“I ain’t the one in sickbay with a heart attack,” she countered. “An’ I did manage to mostly give up the smokes. How’re you feelin’ anyway, bad as you look?”

“Ah, I look that bad, do I?” Bartlett said with a half-smile. He moved the PADD he’d been looking at to the bedside table, and Kassandra’s nets couldn’t help but see that he’d been looking at living units on Earth. She felt as though she’d pried, and she missed a beat in the normal flow of a conversation, and Bartlett’s eyes flicked over to the PADD. “Ah.”

“Sorry, I wasn’t tryna be a nosey parker,” Kassandra said with some embarrassment. “It’s just these damn nets, can’t really not see things with them. You gonna leave us?”

“You have many fine doctors here, Kassandra,” Bartlett said carefully. “Certainly ones who love the excitement and are ready to cut their teeth on the frontiers of space. I’m an old man, I like my comfort, I like boring, and this heart attack is the kick in the pants I needed to do what I should have done a while ago. I never married, never had kids, and that ship has sailed, but my sisters and my brother have kids and grandchildren whose childhoods I’m missing. I think I’d like very much to trade excitement for domesticity.”

“Corpsman O’Keefe will be sad.” Kassandra had a sudden sense of deep awkwardness hearing the wistfulness in the doctor’s voice. His statement was both simple, and deeply personal, with layers that she was sure Eve could have peeled back to gain some sort of revelation. “He likes you. I’ll -” Kassandra trailed off, unsure of where to end that statement, that she’d be sad, that she’d miss him? It wasn’t like they were bosom buddies, and it wasn’t like she wasn’t going to be leaving for Earth herself, giving up the Corps to escape assignment back on Sherman’s Planet.

“Don’t look so stricken, Major. It’s not a sad thing, something I hope you’ll realize one day, preferably on your own without being forced to by your body betraying you like mine. I’m not giving up on something, this isn’t a personal disaster. It’s a change, and a new challenge, and it’s something I’m looking forward to.” Bartlett patted her hand, misinterpreting her unease. She managed a smile back at him.

“Well then, I wish you all the luck, but until then, the nurses tell me you’re makin’ a pain of yourself, an’ I should entertain you. So tell me, have you ever heard of a little holo serial called Starfleet Medical? It’s got it all, romance, murder, evil twins, double crossing, and more melodrama than you can shake a stick at…”


Scene: Primary Science Centre - deck 8, saucer section

Kane entered the Science Centre and was immediately noticed by Lieutenant Crow. It looked like he had just interrupted a meeting. All of the workstations and control stations were unmanned, and KC had gathered what looked like all available hands around a central meeting table. They were all poring over some kind of colourful three-dimensional hologram that looked like some kind of horrifically complicated molecule - hundreds of globe-like proteins of various sizes were connected by a network of chemical bonds that looked like an enormous rigid grid. Her two deputies - Lahav and Stephanie Trimble - were there, along with a dozen enlisted scientists whom Kane had seen around the ship, but wasn't specifically familiar with their names.

When he appeared, KC stopped talking. "Ah, Captain Kane." She moved away from the table and stood in front of him. Her dark hair was tied back in a bun, and her craggy hands were wielding a PADDs with an active screen - it looked like inter-departmental mails, but he couldn't be sure.

All eyes turned to him. Kane nodded toward the hologram. "You've not asked to see me to talk about that thing, I hope," he deadpanned to the group. "Whatever it is."

Several of the scientists chuckled, and KC shook her head. "That? No." She held up the PADD. "This? Yes." She gestured to her office. "Let's go in here." She turned to the group. "Keep at it, everyone."

The scientists broke up into smaller groups, dispersing around the Science Centre to their previous work. Lahav turned off the hologram, dissipating it with the touch of a control - both the diminutive Tellarite and Stephanie Trible kept a careful eye on Kane as he crossed the floor to KC's office.

The place was a mess. KC had gotten her hands on an extra desktop terminal screen from somewhere, and it was half-connected to the new HCARS terminal. Several circuit boards were scattered on the tabletop, mixed in with a bunch of PADDs and her uniform jacket, which was rolled up into a ball and throw casually onto the pile.

Kane looked at the whole thing while she slumped down into her seat. "Busy day?"

KC pushed the PADD across the table. "Operations won't give my department extra time on the sensor network. Apparently, our android Ops officer doesn't think it's the most efficient use of the ship's resources."

Kane picked up the PADD and skimmed the text - in a brief note, Byte had written to KC denying her request that Science be given an extra three hours a day on the sensor network. The note was not written in a personal way - in fact, it was highly impersonal and professional - and was signed off by Byte at the end. He shrugged. "Did you try talking to Byte personally?"

"As soon as I got the note. Byte acknowledged that we are in the Idium system to study the star, but thinks that since a black dwarf formation won't happen for another few hundred millennia, Science shouldn't get special treatment on this voyage."

"I'll - "

"Captain, I must protest!" KC sat up straight in her seat. "This mission is not about some energy signature on the surface on the moon below us, it's about collecting scientific data regarding the Idium star! Frankly, my department deserves prime-time access to the sensor network - it's others who should take a back seat. That way, we can do the job we were sent here to do!"

Kane held up his hands. "Lieutenant Crow, please." He gave her a moment to refocus, then went on. "I've heard you. I'll talk to Lieutenant Byte."

KC frowned. "Do you mean that you'll get him to reverse his decision?"

"No, I mean that I'll ask him to explain his reasoning," said Kane. "If I'm not satisfied, I'll order him to reverse his decision."

"But I've just explained - "

"I know that," said Kane. "Give me a little time, Lieutenant, okay?"

KC seemed mollified. She sat back in her seat. "I apologise if I came off as brusque, Captain. This project is very important to my department."

"I understand," said Kane. "I'll get back to you."

There was nothing more to be said, so he gave her a quick smile and turned away, cursing the lack of an ExO aboard. If Jake was here, then he would have intercepted and resolved this dispute hours ago -

- he caught himself. If Ethan Dobbs was here. Commander Dobbs. Jake was long gone and half a galaxy away and there was a new man in his seat now. Kane mentally rebuked himself; he was inadvertently disparaging Dobbs by not automatically thinking of him. He resolved to do better.

As he crossed the floor, knowing that Lahav and Stephanie Trimble had probably been eavesdropping on the conversation and were likely just as irritated by his response, he again wished that an Executive Officer was aboard.



Jerome McKee
the Soul of Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer


Alix Fowler
Writing for
Kassandra Thytos
Soap Opera Enthusiast

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