April/May Challenge Entry - Captain Strauss and the USS Blanchard: "Unintended Consequences"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheLoneRedshirt, Apr 18, 2020.

  1. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    April/May Challenge Entry - Captain Strauss and the USS Blanchard: “Unintended Consequences”

    Stardate 65519.7 (9 July 2388)
    USS Franklin Blanchard NCC-90764


    At 0530 hours, ship's time, Captain Inga Strauss rose from bed, dressed in workout shorts and an old Starfleet Academy T-shirt, and made her way to holodeck 2 for her scheduled hour of racquetball. Her holographic opponent looked and acted very much like a sadistic upper-classman from Inga's Academy days who made her plebe year a living hell. Strauss took pleasure in running the little über-bitch all over the court, no small feat as her opponent was programmed as an advanced amateur.

    By the third set, however, the hologram's algorithms began anticipating Strauss' moves, and now it was Inga's turn to frantically chase the little rubber ball. She valiantly dove after one volley, just reaching the ball with her racket and scoring the point. In doing so, she landed awkwardly, knocking the breath from her lungs.

    As she gasped for breath, her holographic opponent stood over her. “Do you require medical assistance?” Inga thought she saw a smirk on her face.

    Strauss replied with a series of choice curses she learned years ago from a certain Tellarite engineer. The hologram actually took a step backward, wearing a comical expression of surprise.

    The Captain grimaced but managed to stand to her feet. “You just . . . gonna stand there . . . or . . . are you . . . ready to play?”

    The hologram was about to reply, when a voice came over the comm. “Bridge to Captain Strauss.”

    "Save and end program,” ordered Strauss. The hologram extended a middle finger as she disappeared.

    “Arch.” A large structure appeared on the holodeck grid. Inga went over, still nursing a bruised diaphragm, and activated the view screen. The image of Lt. Maya Vashtee, Blanchard's Operations Manager, appeared.

    Sorry to interrupt your workout Captain, but we're receiving a priority one communication from Admiral Izuko at Starbase 90.”

    “Understood . . . Patch it through . . . to my quarters. . . I'm on . . . the way there now.”

    An expression of concern formed on the Sri Lankan officer's face“Are you alright, Captain?”

    “Just . . . swell. Patch it through . . . Lieutenant.”

    Aye, ma'am.”

    Strauss hurried from the holodeck, trotting through the corridors to ease the stitch in her side. She must have pulled something when she laid out for that save. Totally worth it, she thought, smugly.

    Entering her cabin, she grabbed a towel and swiped at the perspiration on her face. She was hardly presentable for the sector commander, but it was a Priority One call, after all. At least she could now speak without gasping like a fish out of water.

    Seated at her desk, she suffered through the requisite security scan before the image of Rear-Admiral Foshimi Izuko appeared. He made no mention of her appearance, coming directly to the point.

    “Captain Strauss, I am ordering you to take the Blanchard to system AV-772 at best speed, where you will rendezvous with the science vessel, USS Huxley. You will establish quarantine protocols around the second planet, AV-772-B, known to the inhabitants as J'Ril. This is a pre-warp civilization, so General Order One is in effect.”

    Strauss nodded. “Understood, sir. May I ask the reason for the quarantine?”

    Admiral Izuko's brow furrowed. “You may. However, this operation is classified Stygian Level 2. Senior officers and appropriate science and medical personnel may be privy to all data. Other crew members will operate under a 'need to know' basis.” He paused. “Captain, a virulent pathogen has been unleashed on the inhabitants of J'Ril. Captain Syvik of the Huxley can provide more pertinent details. Suffice it to say, the inhabitants are incapable of developing a vaccine or effective treatment for this virus. Early estimates range from a 65 to 80 % mortality rate.”

    Strauss took this in, momentarily stunned to silence. She quickly found her voice as she replayed the Admiral's words in her head.

    “Sir, you said, 'unleashed.' Do you believe this to be a deliberate attack? Germ warfare?”

    “Not a deliberate attack, no,” he replied. Strauss noted the stress creeping through the Admiral's normally stoic facade. “Call it, 'unintended consequences.”

    She frowned. “Admiral, I'm afraid I don't understand.”

    His dark eyes fixed on hers over the light years of distance. “Inga . . . we caused this.”

    * * *
    USS Blanchard
    Conference Room A
    0710 ship's time


    Captain Strauss strode into the conference room, followed closely by the broad-shouldered, dark-skinned, Chief Engineer Lt. Commander Bradley Fuller and Chief Operations Officer, Lt. Maya Vashtee.

    Several other officers of the senior staff were already present. Chief Medical Officer, Lt. Commander Jiang Ying Yue and Ship's Counselor, Commander Phillip Montaigne were standing to the side, carrying on a quiet conversation. Chief Science Officer, Lt. V'Xon, sat ramrod straight at the conference table, perusing her PADD. First Officer, Commander Raymond Graycloud, leaned against the wall near the replicator, sipping coffee and lost in his thoughts.

    All looked up when the Captain entered.

    “Good morning, everyone,” began Strauss. “Please, be seated.”

    As the assembled officers sat at the table, Strauss activated a holo-viewer. A three-dimensional image of a roughly cylindrical device festooned with antennae and sensor nodes appeared, turning along alternating x, y, and z axes. It was dull black in color, with thruster ports and heat radiators covered much of its surface. The design appeared to be of Terran origin, though much of the technology appeared obsolete.

    “You've all read the mission brief?” A chorus of nods and a few “Yes ma'am's” rang out softly.

    Commander Graycloud gestured toward the holo-image. “Captain, what are we looking at? Appears to be a space probe of some sort . . . an old one at that.”

    “You win the prize, XO,” replied Strauss, lapsing back into Border Service terminology. Old habits were hard to break. “That is a representation of a satellite from Project R.O.V.E.R., otherwise known as a Random Orbit Vehicle for Extra-terrestrial Research.”

    Lt. Commander Fuller snorted. “You've got to be kidding. Who came up with that?”

    “It's an old 'Use-Pa' acronym,” replied Graycloud.

    V'Xon lifted a slender eyebrow. “Use-Pa?”

    “Sorry,” said Graywolf. “Use-Pa is short for U.E.S.P.A., or United Earth Space Probe Agency. They loved their acronyms back in the day.” He caught the look from Strauss and cleared his throat. “But that's not why we're here. Sorry, Captain.”

    Inga nodded. “All relevant to the topic at hand, Mr. Graycloud,” she replied, diplomatically. “The United Earth Space Probe Agency sent out literally hundreds of these probes, beginning in the early days of Earth's space exploration beyond the Solar system. The program lasted for nearly thirty years, beginning in 2147 into the 2170's. Advances in warp technology and the expansion of the early Starfleet ended the program. Still, the probes proved to be highly successful, many continuing to collect data and transmit for a century or better. They were advanced for their time, with rudimentary stealth technology and small but efficient reactors. Most eventually burned up in planetary atmospheres as they lost power and de-orbited. A few were picked up by Starships. But one . . .”

    She gestured to the slowly turning image. “One, survived re-entry. And in doing so, introduced a long dormant virus that originated on Earth. Commonly known as COVID-27, the virus first appeared on Earth in the early twenty-second century and spread over much of the planet. Fortunately, viral protocols were advanced enough that this particular strain was mostly a nuisance with no ensuing pandemic.”

    “But how do we know the virus on J'Ril is the same? How could it have survived more than two centuries on an obsolete space proble?”

    Strauss glanced at the CMO. “Doctor?”

    Dr. Yue folded slender fingers as she spoke. “COVID-27 is susceptible to warm, humid conditions. It cannot survive long at temperatures in excess of 80 degrees centigrade. However, it becomes dormant at sub-freezing temperatures. As unlikely as it seems, some sample of the virus managed to attach itself to the probe. How it survived re-entry is a mystery. Perhaps it was attached to the reactor cooling system. As to how we know it is in their ecosystem, the Huxley was engaged in a routine survey of the system. They discovered the pandemic through long-range scans. Beaming aboard atmospheric samples provided evidence of the COVID-27 virus. To make matters worse, the virus mutated quickly. The atmosphere of J'Ril is highly conducive to its growth.”

    “What is our role in this, Captain?” asked Counselor Montaigne. “No offense to V'Xon or Dr. Yue, but we're not a science vessel. How can we help?”

    There was the question that Strauss dreaded. She stood and made eye-contact with each person around the table.

    “We're not on a rescue mission. We have been ordered to quarantine the system, preventing any vessels other than the Huxley to approach J'Ril.”

    “With respect, Captain,” began Graycloud, barely keeping his emotions in check, “but what the Hell? Are you saying we're going to stand by and let an entire civilization die?

    “I don't like it any more than you do, Ray. But we're constrained by General Order One. No direct contact and no interference with pre-warp societies.”

    “The Prime Directive?” The First Officer rose from his chair. “But Captain, we've already interfered – it's our frakking virus!”

    “That's enough, Commander,” said Strauss, her voice dangerously cold. “Please, take your seat.”

    Realizing he had crossed a line, the First Officer complied, but his russet features were a deeper red and the muscles in his jaw twitched.

    “Sir, doesn't that make a difference?” queried Lt. Vashtee, cautiously. “I mean, it is the fault of our predecessors. This wouldn't have happened if the probe hadn't crashed on their planet.”

    “Be that as it may,” interjected Lt. V'Xon, “The Prime Directive is quite clear, allowing for no exceptions. The J'Ril are a C- on the Richter Scale of Culture. They are a steam-age, early industrial civilization and decades away from aerial flight. First contacts are limited to warp-capable civilizations only.”

    “That's pretty cold, even for you, V'Xon” remarked the Chief Engineer.

    “Enough, Mr. Fuller!” barked Strauss. “I expect healthy debate from my senior officers. I will not tolerate personal attacks. Is that clear?”

    Chastened, Fuller nodded. “I was out of line. My apologies, Lieutenant, Captain.”

    The Vulcan Science Officer inclined her head in acknowledgment.

    “Now,” began Strauss as she glared around the table. “We are ordered to quarantine the planet. We will carry out those orders. We are bound by General Order One. We will not violate the Prime Directive.” She paused. “Nor do I intend to stand by and let nearly a billion sentient beings perish, if we can help it.”

    That got their attention. Graycloud and Fuller glanced at each other, then focused on the Captain. V'Xon cocked her head and lifted both eyebrows. Vashtee grinned, Yue frowned, and Montaigne flashed a subtle thumb's up.

    “We are Starfleet,” continued Strauss, now energized. “And we by-God come up with solutions for impossible situations each day, twice before breakfast. I chose you because you are supposed to be the best. Prove. It. We have about 72 hours before we reach the point of no return and a civilization dies. Do your jobs, collaborate with the people on Huxley – and they are damn good also – and come up with a third way. That's an order!”

    For a moment, they gaped at Strauss. Then, beginning with Commander Graycloud, they quickly gathered PADDs, cups, and styluses and departed the conference room, voices buzzing and ideas already being proposed and debated before the room emptied.

    Except for Counselor Montaigne. He stood from the table and began to slow-clap.

    “Shut up, Phil,” Strauss grumbled.

    “Very nicely done,” he said, coming around the table. He stood before her, folded his arms and eyed her in an appraising manner.

    “Any idea how we're going to pull this off?”

    “Not a clue.” She collapsed into a chair and put her head on the table. “Phil, did I over-play my hand?”

    He exhaled slowly and shoved his hands into the pockets of his well-worn cardigan sweater. “They had a wise saying when I was in command school, oh, so long ago.”

    “What was that?” She lifted her head, hopefully.

    “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

    She stared at the old Counselor for a long moment, then began snorting with laughter. “What the hell does that even mean?” she gasped, the laughter now causing her bruised diaphragm to protest.

    “Haven't a clue. Someone wrote it inside my gym locker. But sometimes, a Captain has to propose something outrageous, even if they don't believe it themselves, to break the inertia. You did just that.”

    “Yeah, I guess.” Sobering, she looked up at him. “Remember telling me about occasionally lighting a fire under the collective asses of your senior staff?”

    “Yeah,” he grinned. “Nice little blaze you set this morning.”

    Her smile faded. “Until it goes out,” she lamented.

    “Nope. None of the negative Nancy bit. Come along, my Captain. I'll buy you a Raktajino and, if you're lucky, I'll let you pet my dog.”

    * * *

    Stardate 65520.9 (10 July 2388)
    USS Franklin Blanchard NCC-90764


    The bridge was quiet as the Blanchard streaked through subspace at warp 9, plus a few decimal points. Captain Strauss was the picture of quiet confidence as the starship approached system AV-772.

    Internally, though, Strauss' stomach churned. In moments like these, she missed the wild, dangerous Molari Badlands of the border regions that separated Federation, Klingon, and Orion space. The decisions that Captain Akinola faced on the Bluefin seemed so simple . . . fight pirates, duel with the Orion Syndicate, rescue wayward spacers, and battle the occasional renegade Klingon. Simple, that is, until that fateful day when a quantum filament destroyed the cutter, resulting in the death of many of the crew . . . her friends, her family.

    Now, her old mentor, Joseph Akinola, was many light years away, retired and living on Earth. She wished she could have five minutes to hear his voice, to seek his counsel. He always seemed to know what to do.

    But no. She was the Captain. Starfleet Command had seen fit to make her a plank-owner of USS Franklin Blanchard, seeing the ship through construction, choosing her crew, going through space trials, and now, bearing the burden of command. She accepted it willingly.

    Time to earn her pay.

    “Captain? Now entering system boundary,” announced Ensign Sh'Chel, the helm officer.

    “Drop us out of warp, Ensign. Ahead, one-half impulse. Ops, system scan, please.”

    “Aye,” replied Lt. Vashtee. “One other vessel in range . . . Nova-class . . . ID is NCC-77802, USS Huxley. She's holding at LaGrange point five opposite the second planet.”

    “Hail them.”

    Momentarily, the image of a dark-skinned Vulcan male appeared on the main viewscreen. He inclined his head.

    Captain Strauss, I am Captain Syvik of the science vessel, Huxley. I understand that you are tasked to quarantine the system from other vessels.”

    Brief and to the point, thought Strauss. “Greetings, Captain Syvik. That is correct. May I inquire as to the status of the J'Ril people and to your purpose for remaining in system.”

    Of course. Unfortunately, the virus continues to spread at a rate consistent with our early models. Scans show what appear to be funeral pyres for many of the deceased. All major land masses are showing the spread of the pathogen. Our orders are to continue monitoring the situation, and to take atmospheric samples to determine the mutation rate of the virus.”

    “I see,” said, Strauss, feeling as if the deck beneath her were falling away. “Captain . . . hypothetically, how long would it take to slow and then reverse the spread of the virus, should a modern prophylaxis be introduced into their atmosphere?”

    A crease formed between Syvik's eyebrows. “I fail to see the relevance of this request.”

    For the love of . . . “The relevance lies, Captain, in the fate of over one billion sentient beings. People, sir, who are dying because of a virus introduced by us. I believe there is a way to save these people while maintaining the principles of the Prime Directive.”

    There was a long pause. Strauss wondered if Syvik was a Vulcan of the “black or white/no gray” tribe. She had met her share. At the other end of the spectrum were Vulcans like her dear friend, T'Ser.

    Finally, Syvik replied. “I would be interested in discussing this further, Captain Strauss. Would you and some of your staff be willing to beam aboard Huxley?”

    Strauss realized she had been holding her breath. It was a small victory, but it was a start. “Yes, the sooner the better.”

    Ten minutes later, Strauss, Dr. Yue, Lt. V'Xon, and Counselor Montaigne, materialized in transporter room one of USS Huxley. Captain Syvik greeted them, accompanied by his CMO and Chief Science Officer. Pleasantries were exchanged, and they followed the Huxley officers to a conference room, albeit one smaller than on the Blanchard. Three other science officers and an epidemiologist were already present.

    Time was not on their side. But the Blanchard's team had used their transit time wisely, and came with solid ideas.

    After 90 minutes of discussion, argument, counter-argument, and finally consensus, they had a working plan. It was not perfect, far from it. And it would not save those that were in stage two of the disease. But it would, in theory, kill the remaining active pathogen in the atmosphere and, again in theory, prevent the virus from advancing beyond phase one in those recently infected and those still healthy.

    Captain Syvik rose from the table, signaling the end of the meeting. “I must commend you all on your work. The plan has a potential for success in the range of 62.7 to 68.4 %. There are too many variables to give a more precise statistical prediction.”

    Exiting the conference room, Strauss suppressed a grin. “I'm grateful for your help and expertise, Captain, particularly from your science and medical staff. You caught several problems we had overlooked.”

    “Do not be premature in your thanks,” chided the senior captain. “There are many things that can go wrong.”

    “True enough,” replied Strauss. “But it would be illogical not to try.”

    “Indeed,” murmured, Syvik. “Regardless, it has been an agreeable experience to collaborate with you and your officers. I believe the best course of action is for you to return to your ship now and make preparations. The window of opportunity will close in six hours, seventeen minutes.”

    “Then we will take our leave.” They entered the transporter room and ascended the dais.

    Syvik favored them with the Vulcan salute, which V'Xon returned. “Live long, and prosper,” intoned the Vulcan captain.

    Strauss nodded. “Too you, also. Farewell, Captain Syvik, and many thanks!”

    “Energize,” ordered Syvik.

    (Continued)
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2020
    Cyfa, Count Zero, Sgt_G and 2 others like this.
  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    (Continued from Part 1)

    “So, let me get this straight,” said Lt. Commander Fuller. “We're going to fire every probe and every torpedo in our inventory at that planet, and detonate them in the ionosphere?”

    “After the warheads are replaced with containers of the anti-viral compound,” interjected Dr. Yue.

    “And the timing of the launches should created world-wide atmospheric disturbances, in effect, a planet-wide hurricane?”

    “Imprecise, as there will not be a single storm, but many,” responded V'Xon. Catching a look from Strauss, the Vulcan added, “However, you are correct in that these storms should affect most of the planet.”

    “You do understand that hurricanes are bad, right? They break things and kill people.”

    Strauss pinched the bridge of her nose, a stress-response she unconsciously picked up from Captain Akinola. She could really use a Raktajino right now.

    “Mr. Fuller. We have two options . . . do nothing, and see a civilization die. Or, we raise havoc in their weather patterns, in the process spreading the anti-viral compound planet-wide, and hopefully put the brakes on the spread of this virus.”

    The Chief Engineer sighed. “I get it, Captain. I'm just trying to get my head around it. Say the word.”

    “The word is given, Mr. Fuller. How soon can you make it happen?”

    He thought a moment. “An hour . . . under, if I'm less than polite with my wrench-turners.”

    “Save the niceties for another day. Tell them there will be an extra ration of ice cream on their replicator chits.”

    The Engineer grinned. “Lovely.”

    “I have to wonder,” interjected Counselor Montaigne, “what the people on the planet will make of this? From their perspective, it will seem as if they are under some sort of curse, experiencing plagues on an Old Testament scale. A pandemic, massive storms bringing on floods and wind damage . . . what next? Locusts? Frogs?”

    “There are numerous religions among the inhabitants of J'Ril,” replied V'Xon. “Data gained from the R.O.V.E.R. probe indicates a wide variety of belief systems, from monotheism to animism. No doubt, these events will impact the mythology and theology of these people.”

    “Enough to change their belief systems?” pressed Montaigne. “Hear me out, I am all for preventing genocide. But let's be clear . . . we are, to some degree, interfering in the development of an entire race.”

    “More unintended consequences,” muttered Strauss. “But we're out of options, unless one of you had an epiphany in the last five minutes?”

    There were negative head shakes around the room. “Very well, thank you all for your input. Whatever the fallout from our actions, always remember, today we gave an entire civilization a chance to have a future. The responsibility and repercussions fall to me. Dismissed.”

    Once more, Phil Montaigne stayed behind, remaining seated at the conference table. “

    “Something else on your mind, Counselor?” asked Strauss.

    “You know there will be consequences beyond what happens planet-side, don't you?”

    She nodded, not meeting his gaze. “The thought had crossed my mind.”

    “But I want you to know . . . you did the right thing. Regardless of the fallout, there was no other call to make. Yes, you will be second-guessed by the brass, and General Order One will be hung over your head like the sword of Damocles, but I promise to proudly stand in your corner.”

    Strauss forced a smile. “Thanks, Phil. That means a lot.”

    * * *
    One hour and thirty minutes later, Captain Strauss sat in the center seat on the bridge. On the viewscreen, the planet known as AV-772-B or J'Ril, filled the screen. It was a beautiful sight with azure oceans, land masses of green and brown, and the occasional snow-capped mountain range. Clouds slowly swirled, wreathing the world in a peaceful white blanket.

    A peace they were about to shatter.

    But somewhere beneath the beautiful clouds were millions of people who would soon die, unless they disrupted the peaceful illusion.

    Huxley reports ready and standing by to launch their probes.” reported Lt. Vashtee from Ops.

    “Thank you, Maya. Tactical plotter on screen.”

    The Caitian ensign at the tactical station complied and a targeting grid appeared on the main viewer.

    “Signal Huxley to begin sequential probe launch at time index point 037.”

    “Aye, ma'am,” replied Vashtee.

    “Arm photon torpedoes and prepare to launch probes. Weapons release on my order.”

    Ensign M'Resh acknowledged. Strauss' eye was fixed on the time index on the main screen.

    With more calm than she felt, the Captain said, “Commence firing.”

    Red orbs began to appear on the viewscreen, one after another, a combination of modified torpedoes and probes. Each following an independent, preset course toward the planet. The goal was for them to detonate simultaneously around the globe in the planet's ionosphere.

    “All ordinance away,” purred M'Resh. “Tracking hot and true.”

    Some of the red orbs arced around the planet to the far side. Some headed north and south to the two polar regions. Others tracked straight ahead.

    “Thirty seconds,” intoned the Caitian. A reverential silence hung over the bridge. All understood the import of the actions underway.

    After what seemed an interminable amount of time, the screen lit up.

    “Detonation,” announced, M'Resh, unnecessarily.

    “Will the inhabitants hear anything?” asked Strauss.

    “Unlikely,” replied V'Xon. “The detonations took place high in the ionosphere. If anything, they might notice a brief flash or a slight rumble like distant thunder.”

    “How long until the storms spin up?”

    The Vulcan hesitated, finally admitting, “Insufficient data. Our computer models vary from a few hours to several days.” A pause. “Nothing like this has ever been attempted on a planetary scale,” she added.

    And there's nearly a 40% chance it won't work at all, Inga thought. She rose. “Lieutenant Vashtee, you have the conn. I'll be in my ready room.”

    * * *
    Epilogue

    Captain's Log, Stardate 65519.7.

    It took two days, but the storms spun up as predicted. From our vantage point, the damage is catastrophic with major flooding, numerous tornadoes, straight line winds, and tsunamis. I have to wonder, is the treatment worse than the disease?

    Yet, initial atmospheric samples are promising. The anti-viral agent is multiplying and spreading at an exponential rate. The science team on the Huxley are positively giddy with the results. Already, the pathogen levels have decreased by 33% and the numbers continue to fall.

    Have we saved a people but destroyed their planet? We cannot help them rebuild, nor can we contact them to explain our actions. We have already walked up to the line of the Prime Directive. No doubt, some in Starfleet Command will say we crossed the line.

    There is no doubt that our actions will impact the varied cultures of the J'Ril for years . . . decades to come. I take comfort in the knowledge they will be around to rebuild and face those challenges.

    End and save entry.

    0720, ship's time. One month later.

    She tried to ignore the door annunciator, but with a snarl, she announced, “Come, dammit!”

    Phil Montaigne entered the ready room, carrying two steaming mugs. It had become a ritual of sorts between the the Captain and the Counselor.

    “You sound cheerful,” he quipped.

    “Phil,” she began, “this really isn't a good time.”

    “Of course it isn't. Which means, it's an ideal time for a visit from the Counselor and a mug of Raktajino.”

    With a sigh of resignation, she accepted the mug and sat in the guest chair opposite Montaigne. They touched mugs, and sat in amiable silence for several minutes.

    Strauss broke the silence. “I guess you heard about Captain Syvik.”

    He nodded. “I believe that's what's known as throwing yourself on your sword.”

    “But why would he do that? This operation was my idea! It's not fair!”

    “He was senior Captain, Inga. Syvik could have turned down your idea and ordered you to stand down. Besides, he's a Vulcan. It's part of their DNA . . . 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.'”

    She glanced at him. “Didn't know you took Vulcan Philosophy at the Academy.”

    He sipped his coffee. “I didn't. Got that from a fortune cookie.”

    “I still have to appear before a board of inquiry,” she announced.

    “Uh-huh. I wouldn't worry about that too much.”

    She frowned. “Why not?” She studied him, noticing the small smirk on his face. “What do you know?”

    He gave a small shrug. “Probably more than you.” He grinned at the expression on her face. “Easy, Inga, no offense intended. I've got some low friends in high places. Remember Admiral Porter?”

    “Yeah. He's your old C.O. and he contacted me about you before you came aboard.”

    “All glowing reports, I'm sure.”

    “Never mind that. What aren't you telling me, Commander?”

    “Nate told me that Syvik's testimony shook things up with the brass. In typical Vulcan fashion, he played the logic card, and put a phaser salvo through the inflexibility of General Order One. Of course, he took full responsibility, claiming he ordered you to carry out the mission.”

    “He lied?”

    A shrug. “He dissimulated. And keep in mind that the number-two admiral at command is a Vulcan. Syvik made a less-than-veiled threat to go to the media, as 'the matter was too important for seven aging admirals to decide alone.'”

    “Wow! I bet some heads exploded over that.”

    “I almost left out . . . Syvik's mother is Director of the Vulcan Science Academy and has a seat on the Federation Council.” He took another sip of coffee. “Vulcans can be downright Machiavellian when it comes to politics.”

    She shook her head, trying to process it all. “What does it mean, Phil?”

    “It means, my Captain, that you can expect a slap on the wrist, a tedious lecture about the utmost importance of General Order One, and maybe a reprimand in your personnel file. Nate thinks the official reprimand won't happen, though. Oh, and don't expect a Christmas card from the C-in-C this year.”

    “But what of Syvik? Surely, they won't give him a pass, media threats and political machinations aside.”

    Montaigne's expression became somber. “Unfortunately, you're right. He'll lose command of the Huxley, that's a certainty. Best case scenario . . . he keeps four pips and gets a billet at a starbase or maybe a teaching gig at the Academy.”

    “And worst case?” pushed Strauss.

    “General court martial, stripped of rank, mustered out of the service and into a nice prison cell. If you had been the senior commander on the scene, that's almost a guaranteed outcome. I doubt the brass will go that far with Syvik. Still, he could face a reduction in rank and serve out his days as the assistant recycling officer at a cold station in the Outland Expanse.”

    He noted the horrified expression on Inga's face and quickly added. “Just kidding about that last bit.”

    She took a playful swat at his arm. “Jerk,” she pronounced.

    “From my sources, I really think Syvik will resign his commission and go home to Vulcan. He knows he stirred up a hornet's nest and he really does not want to cause undue embarrassment for Starfleet Command.”

    “What a shame,” lamented Strauss, “And what a waste.”

    Montaigne studied Strauss for a few moments, then gestured around them. “You know who this ship is named for, right?”

    She blinked at the non-sequitor. “Well, of course. Captain Franklin Blanchard commanded a Daedalus-class ship during the Earth-Romulan war. His ship was fatally damaged in battle. He ordered the crew to abandon ship, managed to activate the impulse drivers, and flew the Veracity straight into a Romulan battle station.”

    “And went out in a blaze of glory,” continued Montaigne, spreading his hands for dramatic effect. “This is the third vessel named in his honor.”

    Inga frowned. “If you have a point, I'm missing it.”

    “Just this. Is it better to be a dead hero with ships bearing your name, having killed hundreds of the enemy, and dying yourself, or to die to yourself, save millions of people, and live out your life in obscurity?”

    Inga sipped her Raktajino. It was very good.

    “Message received, Phil.”

    END
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2020
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  3. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
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    Vancouver, WA
    I really loved this story. I'm hoping that this is the beginning of a new series, TLR. I do have one question about the First Officer. Is it Greycloud or Greywolf? I noticed that you originally called him Greycloud and then went on to call him Greywolf.

    Anyways, keep up the great work, sir!
     
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  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Wow, so much potency for a short story! I like the conflict the mission profile caused among Strauss' senior officers, and how definitively she shut it down.

    Strauss' decision to treat the pandemic was a stark one, but it was totally in character for her. The fact that Captain Syvik agreed to her course of action was startling. I half expected she and her officers to materialize in Huxley's brig, or for Syvik to treat her plan as nothing more than an academic exercise.

    Commendable that he stood tall before the man and saved Strauss in the process. Honorable to the end. Reminds me of a certain US Navy captain in the media recently involved in a similar pandemic. :cool:

    Great story, very well written.
     
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  5. CamSPD

    CamSPD Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Wow. This story was most excellently written! I loved everything about it, from the initial conflict between the senior staff, the captain reminding herself she is the Captain, and how her fellow ship commander not only agreed with her plan but willingly took the fall. Syvik had to know that someone would have to, and it was logical that he, as senior officer, should be the one (though had he been other than Vulcan, I wonder if he might not have tried to spin the blame away from himself).

    This story and your first with Captain Strauss are incredible. I could definitely imagine them as part of the BtS universe. Like Jack, I would love to see this become a new series, as there is so much potential here (absolutely not pressuring you).
     
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  6. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Thank you Admiralelm11. Good catch, by the way. Now corrected to Greycloud. (There was even a "Grayback in the mix . . . the heck?!? :wtf:). I guess that since there are two completed stories, that this is now a series.;)
     
  7. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Little Inga has definitely grown up. She learned a lot, serving under Joseph Akinola. Those lessons are paying off.

    There was a real temptation to create conflict between Strauss and Syvik.This being a challenge entry, I couldn't make the story too long, so took the easy route. I figured that a choice between keeping the letter of the law (in this case, General Order One) and the extinction of an entire race really wasn't much of a choice for someone who embraces the Vulcan ideal of IDIC. Still, it would have been fun to make her work harder for it. :evil:

    Agreed. Hopefully, said Navy captain will regain his command.

    Thank you! I appreciate your kind comments. :)
     
  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
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    Thank you, CamSPD! Syvik proved to be both logical and honorable in his approach to an (almost) no-win scenario. Yes, he could have cast or shared the blame with Strauss. It really was her idea, after all. Perhaps he realized he could weather the aftermath better than her.

    Heh. Not sure if two short-storied qualify as a series . . . yet. But, I am enjoying writing about Inga Strauss as a commander. Phil Montaigne is just a fun guy, period - the perfect mentor/foil to Strauss. Still working on the rest of the crew. Lt. Vashtee is easy, since she's also a Bluefin alum. The others are still gelling. Hope they grow on me before someone is involved in a horrible transporter accident. :devil: While I envision these stories to take place in the United Trek 'verse (references to Bluefin, plus Strauss, Lt. Vashtee, and Akinola), Phil Montaigne has his genesis in Tot11F, so yeah, it's not unreasonable for the stories to show up in BtS.
    For now, I'm enjoying the exercise of writing short-stories. The COVID-19 social distancing protocol has given me time I did not previously have to dream and to write. This, too, shall pass and the new normal will once more demand our time and attention.
     
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  9. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

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    Well damn, how am I supposed to compete with that? :D
     
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  10. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    :lol::lol::lol: Just write something. That's how!
     
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  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Another terrific entry and I thought the dilemma here was particularly fascinating. Not just the Prime Directive implications but also the cure possibly being worse than the disease. The old saying of eggs and omelets comes to mind, but these sayings are usually sprouted by the bad guys. Here, it truly was a necessity.

    Inga's doubts where well realized and thank God, she's got Montaigne to steer her through these tough decisions she has to make.

    I actually liked the fact that Syvik not only agreed to their plan but ultimately took the fall for it. Not only was it pleasantly unexpected, it's also a nice change of pace to the more common storyline in which everyone who is not part of the hero crew automatically becomes an antagonist. Life doesn't work like that, and one would certainly hope Starfleet doesn't.

    I think this has whetted all our appetites for much more Inga Strauss and company. Don't let us down, now, ya hear.
     
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  12. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Thank you! The theme of unintended consequences was intentional, not just to the virus accidentally introduced into the J'Ril ecosystem, but also the "cure" and the fallout with Starfleet Command and Syvik's resignation.

    Inga has only five years experience as a starship captain at this point - three as C.O. of the science vessel, Solstice, and two as C.O. of Blanchard. There are also physical and emotional scars from the loss of Bluefin that are yet unresolved. (Plus Starbase 66 . . .) I like Montaigne because he has command experience and his own ghosts to bear. That, and it's fun writing eccentric people. :lol:

    I appreciate that perspective, CeJay. One would hope that Starfleet commanders would work together more often than against one another. We didn't see that often enough in TOS, TNG, etc.

    Heh. I'll try! I've got a little momentum, so maybe another short story will be ready soon.
     
  13. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Another exceptionally good piece, congrats to you :bolian:

    Of all your excellent characters from the Bluefin, Strauss was always something of a personal favourite of mine and its good to see she is going from strength to strength (even with her own demons to wrestle--I'm wondering just how literal that is what with Starbase 66...).

    You present the old classic of dealing with the Prime Directive in a very nice way, one that looks at things in another interesting angle, as it's something every Starfleeter has vowed to uphold but when actually faced with a situation that revolves around it no one will really know just how steadfast they hold the ideal in practice.

    Also, I bloody love the brilliance and bullshit line! I think it could well be the best line I've ever read :lol:
     
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  14. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Thank you!

    I initially started the Bluefin series primarily from Inga’s perspective. She was the first character introduced, a fish out of water, executive officer with grit and determination mixed with a bit of social awkwardness. I thought it time to let her mature and go off on her own. As to her memory gap re SB 66, well . . .

    Thanks - an accurate assessment.

    Heh. Phil Montaigne serves as Inga’s moral compass and comic relief. There’s no telling what he might say at any given moment.
     
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  15. CamSPD

    CamSPD Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Who says United Trek isn't in the same universe? Don't forget, there are references to Nathan Porter from the 11th Fleet as well. ;) But like I said, absolutely no pressure. I like writing in my own little universe because I get to control everything, but at the same time, I really do miss sharing a universe with other writers.

    Oh and one of my favorite bits in this one was Montaigne telling Strauss he "might even let you pet my dog."

    Enjoy it! I love it when the Muse is happy and the stories flow. Unfortunately for me, all the virus has done is keep me from going over to friends' houses or to see my mom. I work at a call center, and apparently we're considered essential because we do customer service for a financial institution.
     
  16. Rihannsu74205

    Rihannsu74205 Ensign Newbie

    Joined:
    May 29, 2020
    Is this a reference to Aldous Huxley? :hugegrin:

    Great story! I bet Strauss feels bad and relieved at the same time that she got covered for... I wonder if she had contacted the admiralty, they would have approved her plan? It seems the risk of breaking the prime directive is acceptable here considering humans were the cause and the consequences of noninterference. Then again, the admiralty always seems extremely risk adverse... and two wrongs don't seem to make a right in the case of the prime directive.
     
  17. Admiral2

    Admiral2 Admiral Admiral

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    Location:
    Langley
    I'm always happy to praise a story that shows Star Trek nonsense for the nonsense it is. The Prime Directive is a perfect example of that nonsense. You fill these ships full of compassionate scientists and then expect them to not do something when they come across a people in need because of the actions of stupid people who died centuries before. The only way to truly follow it is to never go anywhere or look at anything other thhan what you already know. That doesn't just defeat the purpose. It would beat it to death.

    All that ranting boils down to you wrote a great story that got me thinking. Outstanding work!
     
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  18. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Thank you! Yeah, the Prime Directive is problematic in that it sounds wonderful in an academic sense, but usually just doesn't work in "real" life. Kirk bent and abused it in nearly every other TOS episode (kind of making the point). Sure, there needs to be a directive against unnecessary interference, but with their advanced technology, Starfleet can usually step in to prevent a global catastrophe, and should do so.
     
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