Obsidian Command

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Chronological Displacement

Posted on 07 Nov 2023 @ 12:06pm by Lieutenant Commander Torvyn Rue & Chief Petty Officer Ibis Xeri
Edited on on 25 Nov 2023 @ 7:06pm

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Obsidian Command, Science Section Delta, Aquatics Lab Four
Timeline: M4 D3 Afternoon
3080 words - 6.2 OF Standard Post Measure

During her first check into the lab which Admiral Sepandiyar had allotted to her project, Ibis had arrived in a state of numb shock. It only became worse, the further she walked through the science department, and the more real this whole endeavor registered in her mind. She was back to work, back to work in the fleet. An unreal proposition, to a woman who had cut a piece of tin into a badge to play at holding onto this very future possibility, and yet... really, deep in her core, thought herself lost forever.

No one seemed to mind her wearing the older skirted non-com uniform variant. She found that she kept opting to wear it because it seemed familiar to her. At first she worried that it might make her stand out more, but as it turned out, the station had a loose policy on uniform variants. It seemed to be a matter of preference unless a senior officer brought up a standard for a certain purpose. There were so many variants among the science labs, that even the familiar science teal color seemed to be less prevalent, all manner of colorations dotting the halls. She knew some of the conventions denoted civilian contractors, inter-departmental aides, traveling research professors, exchange officers, local planetary militia service members, or officers from allied organizations.

It just drove home to Ibis that station life was much broader than the small teams she had been part of on the Sunrise and the Nimitz... She felt homesick for her first lab, in the repurposed cargo bay that Rear Admiral Reardon had designated for her aboard the Nimitz. Carved out of a Prometheus class warship without an otherwise dedicated botany bay, it had been cramped and her makeshift hydroponics installations had been cobbled together…

But when she closed her eyes now, she could remember the old lab like it was yesterday, as if she could walk through the next storage bay right there on Obsidian Command and there it would be, her Nimitz botanical lab from twenty years ago, waiting for her. Overgrown, arrayed with colored lights. There would be sample collection dishes in the stasis regulator… her friends teased her that it looked like a refrigerated wine cooler for tiny elves, as it was structured as a lattice filled with mini sample sized bottles. There would be active sample segments under the acceleration radiator, her notes on their progress sitting on the potting bench with her soil mediums– technology and earth brushing up against each other.

Her first lab could be here as well as anything else could, she convinced herself. It was possible, anything was possible. It felt as likely to find her lab here as it did to find herself no longer on Korix...

She pressed the panel beside a storage door and blinked to resolve the darkness, was… was this it?

Commander Torvyn Rue had strolled up calmly beside Chief Xeri as she stood in the doorway to a darkened storage closet and discovered her staring within. Rue, possessing his own empathic abilities, refrained from interrupting her. What he took to be dark shadows of maintenance bots in their recharge ports, he began to tint instead through the emotive perception of Chief Xeri. Although he was unable to sense specific detail, he could appreciate the inner sense of home. Through Ibis' emotive coloring, the actual dim closet glowed with inviting imagined artificial light. As if they stood in a small sanctuary’s archway, he just waited while he sensed a deep bittersweet nostalgia from the smaller science officer.

“My first lab…” she whispered to herself as much as to the man who had joined her. “It was…” Her throat choked up. She couldn’t finish the thought out loud.

A sympathetic tear welled in his own eye as her sense of nostalgia sparked Rue to reflect on his own initial makeshift lab, spending a gap year on Bajor where his parents had settled, and collecting moth cocoons out of peeled tree bark with his younger brother and selling them to a woman who processed and spun the silk. Intrigued at the craft and the creatures, Torvyn had learned to breed the moths himself and soon had an enterprise in multiple types, learning their names and habitats and collecting and displaying the bugs. His Betazoid father, a maintenance engineer and a tinkerer, was tiring of affording his son the entire garage and had encouraged him to take up the natural sciences in Starfleet. His Vulcan mother, herself a starfleet officer, had quickly affirmed the idea. Although he’d gone on to much more prestigious projects, Torvyn would forever look back with nostalgia at the time when the garage had been filled with his first collections.

Torvyn waited until Chief Xeri’s eyes adjusted to reality and her shoulders sagged, the magic of memory fading from her eyes, as the janitorial bots came into focus.

“Chief Xeri,” he bowed his head in deference. “Commander Torvyn Rue. At your service.”

Realizing she was weirdly staring into a storage closet, Ibis’ cheeks flushed. She pressed the panel to close the door and then shifted her feet. Her mouth loosely open, she wanted to explain, but all she could manage was to clear her throat awkwardly.

Torvyn smiled at her and she thought he looked more understanding than condescending or at least questioning as she might have expected.

“Let me show you Aquatics Lab Four.” He motioned ahead to give her the tour.

Commander Torvyn Rue had to speak for her, working as an intermediary with the maintenance crew and science staff as she motioned and asked partially formulated questions about the new equipment and the processes and tests she would want to run. Her voice had just gone out of her, leaving her throat tight. She could barely eke out more than a whisper, and couldn’t seem to form whole patterns of speech, leaving Tovyn to fill in the rest. Quickly, she realized that he was partly Betazoid himself, and at least empathic. Ibis was massively relieved that Commander Rue had been assigned to her project. Not only was he a very knowledgeable and experienced science officer, but he was patient and intuitive. It went a long way to helping her communicate.

Still, she was frustrated. Where was her voice? She wasn’t sure. She had been talking just fine since leaving Korix and now out of the blue… It just felt like it had failed, like a rug yanked out from under her.

As she followed Commander Rue, she observed Aquatics Lab Four was several decks high, accommodating supply tanks, data compression and processing units, holography and modeling emitters, high capacity independent power storage, industrial replication and fabrication units, and demonstration tanks primed, sanitized and pressure rated to be put to use in aquatic studies.

Completing the general circuit around the lab, Commander Rue showed her to a team-lead desk area where he invited the Chief to make herself at home. She at first shook her head. There were a lot of officers on the project, not least of all Torvyn himself. But the Commander had insisted, putting Ibis on the spot until she demurred and assumed the role and its director’s chair. As far as the project was concerned, she found her name was already published as the Team Lead under the title.

Korix Oceanic Recovery Assistance - Phase I
Team Lead Chief Petty Officer Ibis Xeri

As her very first act, she entered Torpeo as a primary advisor to the project. She’d have to inform him, of course, but she couldn’t imagine he would decline. She had a limited understanding of the Korix oceans, particular to the work she had been doing from the mining operation, which in a dark sense meant she had primary firsthand knowledge, having been party to the atrocity against the environment directly.

What she didn’t know and had no immediate experience with, was to what degree the free Irix were able to preserve anything of the polluted oceans, what plans they might have made or tried from the depths where they had gone into hiding, and what resources and technology they might have had beyond hose made available to her in the air lab. But there was, luckily, a Korinn around with far more direct experience in all of that, as long as he might be able to tear himself away from the talks where Torpeo had his hat in hand, so to speak, waiting on the charity of the UFP.

A pained smile formed on her lips. She’d long ago learned that there really was something to be said for acting first and asking for forgiveness instead of permission, wherever the sketchy line presented itself. Come-what-may of diplomats and space navies, Korix and the Federation would still have science to share.

It wouldn’t be the first time Ibis had made science an outreach. Once upon a time, she’d helped to found an entire movement which had taken the name she had given it. The Mercy Directive. The name had been Ibis’ poke to the eye of Starfleet, a reaction to the Prime Directive which had more than once restrained her from rendering aid when it had made sense to otherwise do so– times where reasonable exceptions could be argued, but the Prime Directive had tied her superiors’ hands.

As far as she was concerned, the core philosophy of not meddling was sound, but its trappings and practice resulting in so much unnecessary suffering had long since deserved challenged by the public. After the actions she took to challenge the Prime Directive in a secretive outreach program put together among a network of students during her internship, Ibis had to endure a courts martial, and when her case was thrown out due to some technicalities, Admiral Madison Indri had personally taken it on herself to inform Crewman Xeri of the expectations they had for members operating within the fleet.

“You’re Starfleet,” the angry trill woman had growled. “You serve a higher purpose. You can’t be an activist while a crewmember of the Nimitz. Either stand with your command or get the hell out of the Ninth.”

Telepathically, Ibis was aware that Indri had a headache, plagued with the ethical and legal issues the new Mercy Directive was bringing up as the organization had the full force of a movement that was now calling the Ninth Fleet to the mat in more and more hearings before committees, forcing reviews of many actions by ships’ captains who dealt with prewarp civilizations, questioning the long held code of *not* lending aid, and forcing the fleet between an ethical rock and a moral high ground. All, at least on the surface, because of one flighty little enlistee who ‘believed’.

Indri had leveled a finger at her, and Ibis knew there was no getting around it when the Admiral said, “You can’t have it both ways, Crewman.”

Torn between her home aboard the Nimitz and the Mercy Directive which had quickly outstripped her own influence and caught fire to be championed by others in civilian circles, Ibis had submitted an apology for her actions, sincere in as far as she could write it honestly, and been permitted to return to the Nimitz. She wondered if Indri ever even thought of her again. Sometimes, absurdly, she imagined that the Sunrise assignment had been Admiral Indri’s own design to intentionally lose the troublemaker.

Admiral Indri had been a great deal more unpleasant than Rear Admiral Reardon, the Nimitz’s Commanding Officer. Maybe Reardon’s treatment of her had set her up to make the naive assumptions she had. She had been a fresh faced crewman recruit, taking meals with Commanders and Admirals. She’d become part of a family on the Nimitz, the kid sister everyone wanted to protect and to mentor, and she’d taken the familiarity and favoritism for granted, going headfirst into her ideals and assuming that being a little outspoken against the Prime Directive wouldn’t amount to sedition or whatever.

But after the debacle… She'd learned to play ball more or less inside of the rulebook and made a solid career for herself. Still, whenever a camera got pointed at her and she had been asked to comment on the growing movement for pre-warp aid and the Mercy Directive as an organization, she’d learned that a devilish smirk into the camera and the phrase “I’m not at liberty to comment” was wildly popular among the news outlets, garnering more popular favor and attention in the interstellar community for the Mercy Directive than anything else she could have contributed in lectures or volunteering.

Her soundbite news clips were circulated broadly and at the height of the hype, she adjusted to seeing looped holos of her smirking face in all kinds of communicated contexts. Briefly, she'd been culturally adopted as a sort of rockstar rebellion icon for radical science, bringing others into the movement and compounding the Fleet’s publicity problem. She’d become a thorn, this irritatingly charming little Crewman who looked like she should have gone into cinema instead of enlisting.

It was a moment that had burned brightly, while her day-to-day continued as if nothing had happened at all. She returned from her internship to the same department she had left, and no one on the Nimitz had seemed especially affected by her brief dance with controversy and publicity.

Maybe a decade out of the limelight had let all of that cool even further. Admiral Sepandiyar hadn’t seemed affected by her past record. It didn’t even come up. But it couldn’t have been out of ignorance. The event two decades previous had been in her file and he was sure to have known. She reflected on the breakfast they had shared. He was reserved, but kind. And he understood suffering. She didn’t have to be telepathic to sense that there was probably something a little against the grain in him too, and that he was a kind of kindred soul in his oath to starfleet. A man of principle, more than bound to just the letter of things, even if he was too dignified to pick any finger food from the buffet. Really, he’d been nothing but sincere, welcoming, and wholeheartedly supportive, even granting her this massive state of the art lab and recommending his science staff’s volunteer aid for the project to assist Korix.

Of course, the Prime Directive in this case with the Korinn was halfway to moot, the damage already done by another civilization. Although she could barely think of the Pyrryx as civilized. Other star empires, galactic leagues, and planetary confederations often had no scruples or anything even analogous to the Prime Directive. Was it irresponsible to leave less developed worlds up to that kind of exposure where it was likely? The debates raged on. But it was the specifics that it always came down to. The Mercy Directive as an organization shined in that regard. Experts turned out in droves to testify and hold reviews concerning specific planets and to argue for responsible, limited interventions. Previously only convened on an as needed basis, entire new standing committees formed to deal with the reviews.

Since her return from Korix, Ibis had looked up her old study group friends out of curiosity, finding them all still deeply involved in research, education, outreach, and advocacy. Back then, Ibis had been the only one of them not to leave the fleet. The rest had taken on the mantle of the Mercy Directive. While the majority of the study group had charges dropped due to negotiations and trouble with clear evidence links, three of them ultimately had taken the brunt of the heat as the primary conspirators and ended up dishonorably discharged and serving sentences. They were long since released, and all the more respected due to their incarceration. Prison time did that for righteous rebellions.

The time her convicted friends had served only lent more legitimacy to the movement. Ibis was sure much of the Fleet’s reaction had been downplayed for that reason. The fleet could have reacted much more harshly towards her but had been sparing the optics. Decades after its inception, the Mercy Directive was now much broader and had spawned multiple other self organized NGOs in related fields and missions. Ibis knew she hadn’t contributed or sacrificed nearly as much as her study hall pals had. Practically speaking, all she had done was help spark a powderkeg which was just an idea whose time had come.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting, thinking, staring into the reflective glossy control panel at her new project director’s desk. Her thoughts returning to the task at hand, Ibis began by making the same adjustments to the workstation as she had done at the desk in her room– setting the operating user interface back several versions to the one she had last been familiarized with, the OS released in a 2385 LCARs update. The computer had no issue making the skin change, closing out the holographic projections and reverting to on screen displays only. There were limits to the arrangement, as new menu trees had to be accessed through a separate function, but Ibis had found them just fine, and spent the day learning the ins and outs of the new lab they were installing, the names of the volunteering science officers, and what kind of scheduling was available to them all.

Having listed him as advisor, she also added Torpeo to the contact list for future meetings, as well as the Pathfinder crew member, Cesar DeLaFuente, who she had encountered briefly. She felt that she should feel embarrassed at the way she had behaved on the Acamas, yelling at him to find Wallace when she had been transported to the runabout. But she wasn’t embarrassed at all. In retrospect, it almost felt like another person had been occupying her own flesh. And that was just a week ago.

Closing her eyes, Ibis began repeating a new inner mantra Agaia had suggested to help to soothe herself and ease the disconnect she felt:

The past happened. The past isn’t happening now.


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