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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 457
# 8
01-03-2013, 07:58 AM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, USS King Estmere, NCC-92984.

I'm still cobalt in the face with rage as I storm off the transporter pad.

"Welcome to Spacedock," says Ch'Thras.

"What? - oh, yes, thank you, Chief," I say abstractedly.

"Admiral Semok is on deck 18 sublevel 2," says Ch'Thras. "And I suppose, for form's sake, I'd better remind you that strangling a superior officer is considered insubordination."

I stop in my tracks and really look at Ch'Thras, after that. His face is a study in careful lack of expression. Of course he knows why I'm here - there's very little that Earth Spacedock's transporter chief doesn't see or hear. He probably knew about my new orders before I did myself.

"I'll try to bear that in mind, Chief," I say. It's not going to be easy, though. The main transporter room seems more than usually full of blundering idiots, and then the turbolift takes forever to reach deck 18. Maybe there's something wrong with it. Or maybe - just maybe - I'm in a bad mood.

Sublevel 2 of deck 18 turns out to be almost empty, with rows of inactive workstations along the walls, and only one office with any lights showing. Either people have just moved out, or they're about to move in. More likely the latter, since Semok's damned Experimental Engineering Task Force is a new project. I head for the only light, my boots ringing on the deck, ominously, I sincerely hope.

There's a Tellarite yeoman on duty outside the office. "Vice Admiral Shohl?" she says. "You're not on my list... but you can go in anyway, I know the Admiral won't mind." Thank goodness for Tellarite directness, anyway.

Semok's office is up against the Spacedock's outer skin; the windows show the blue curve of the Earth against the blackness of space. There is no decoration, no personal items; I don't know if that's Vulcan austerity, or if Semok just hasn't had time to put anything up. Semok himself is short, round-featured, almost tubby; he looks up from his desk as I enter, and I could almost swear there's the start of a smile on his face as he looks at me. Well, I will soon change that.

"Vice Admiral Shohl," he says, "what an unexpected pleasure. Please, take a seat."

"I'd rather stand, sir," I say.

He looks a little surprised at that. If he does the eyebrow-quirk thing, I'm going to kill him. I am personally convinced that every conflict between Vulcan and Andoria started with some arrogant damn Vulcan doing the eyebrow-quirk thing.

He doesn't do it. Thankfully. "Is there some problem?" he asks.

I take a deep breath, then go into one of the several speeches I planned out and rehearsed. "There are numerous problems, sir. I need hardly remind the Admiral of the security situation - or, I hope, of my efforts lately. King Estmere has been very busy, handling threats from insurgents in Tau Dewa space, and pushing back Breen attacks against the Deferi. We've accomplished a lot, sir, but both situations are still grave. In the circumstances, to have me reassigned to your unit - pulled off the front lines and off King Estmere when I've only just got her running properly - well, sir, I question your logic."

And I hope that stings.


Semok blinks, which is close to hysterics, for a Vulcan. "I see," he says. "It seems I have made an error, for which I apologize. Please sit down, Vice Admiral."

It's my turn to blink. I wasn't expecting it to be this easy - I wasn't expecting to get my own way at all, in fact; questioning orders never turns out well. I sit down.

"My error lies," Semok continues, "in failing to word your orders more explicitly. There is no question of detaching you from front-line service, Vice Admiral Shohl, nor of requiring you to transfer your flag from the King Estmere. Unless you yourself find it desirable. May I explain further?"

I have a distinct sinking feeling, now... as if I've taken a swing at someone, and missed, and made a damn fool of myself in the process. "Um," I say, "I, um, think that would be helpful. Sir."

Semok nods. "It is your record with the King Estmere," he says, "that brought you to my attention. Starfleet has been using captured Recluse-class carriers for some time, of course, but rarely with the level of efficiency you have brought to your ship. Moreover, you have successfully integrated multiple different technologies aboard the ship... and continue, I believe, to do so. Advanced Starfleet technology, Klingon devices, and now I understand you are using Jolciot materials and some experimental Romulan devices?"

"Um," I say again. "Well, building in the Aegis systems seemed an obvious step - I'd worked extensively with those, refitting the Sita - and the subspace jumper was practically a necessity, with King Estmere's weapons setup. The Jolciot poly-stable alloys have been a big help - more Commander Thirethequ's idea than mine, though - and, as for the new Romulan weapons - well, D'Tan's people have been very helpful."

"My understanding is," says Semok, "that they consider you, too, to have been very helpful, in various endeavours on New Romulus."

"I do what I can," I say.

"And somewhat visibly," says Semok. Is there a trace of humour in those measured Vulcan tones? "I have to concede that it would be... inappropriate, from a public relations viewpoint... to find a desk job for the Pirate Queen of the Vastam Heights."

Oh, damn that reporter, damn and blast him. My face is still flushed a deep, deep blue, but now it's with embarrassment, not rage.

"In any case," Semok continues, smoothly, "it is this field expertise of yours which I want to recruit, Vice Admiral Shohl. Theoretical studies can only go so far.... My unit is engaged in multiple technological integration projects, but there is only so much we can do in the laboratory; it is impossible to predict all the factors which may come into play in actual mission situations. Consequently, I would need you to carry out your normal duties, while at the same time liaising with me and my development staff to determine which... technological amalgams... yield the best practical results."

"You need me to report on the changes we've made to King Estmere?"

"Or to whatever vessel you may choose to use," says Semok. "For example, you have recently obtained access to a functioning Breen warship, I understand."

"Well, yes," I say doubtfully. "One of Q's... games. But I thought it'd be helpful to have a fully operational Chel Grett for Starfleet to study...." The encounters with Breen slavers in Deferi space have produced a lot of bits of Chel Gretts, but this is the first time I've got my hands on an intact one.

"This is a case in point," says Semok. "It is my intention, Vice Admiral, that this vessel should be attached to your squadron - for, as a flag officer, it is normal for you to command more than one ship - and adapted for Starfleet use. The technical challenges involved will make for a useful study, from my viewpoint - and, from yours, the vessel itself should prove a viable tactical asset. Similarly, your old ship the Sita is to be reattached to your command, for the purposes of providing a baseline for performance comparisons. You enjoyed some success in operations with that ship, I believe. The possibility of other vessels being assigned to you for study will be left open - but I fully believe that such assignments would have value."

"You mean," I say, cautiously, hardly daring to believe it, "you're giving me access to a range of different, high-powered warships?"

"With full authorization, and my encouragement, to use them however you see fit," Semok replies equably. "No lesser test would be satisfactory, for my purposes. Vice Admiral Shohl, I believe that, with these resources, you and I can help test the integration of multiple different technologies and design philosophies - selecting from them the best, the most practical, of the various options available. We will, in this way, help determine the development of the next generation of Starfleet warships. I believe this to be a project of some importance, and I hope for your fullest assistance."

I feel about two and a half inches tall. To think that I thought he was moving me into a desk job... I'm an idiot, sometimes. "You'll have it, sir," I manage to say. And then - because I am, at least, an honest idiot - I add, "I owe you an apology - I'm sorry, sir. I jumped to conclusions - I really thought you had some desk job planned for me -"

"As I said," Semok says, his tone mild and reasonable, "I feel at fault for not phrasing your orders more definitely. For not preventing this misunderstanding.... I hope that we will come to understand each other better, in time."

"I hope so too, sir," I say. And I mean it.

"Excellent," says Semok, and I swear he actually smiles, for a fraction of a second. "In that case, we should commence by addressing the question of the Breen warship.... I will tell you frankly, I am a theoretician, and therefore I prefer to avoid the early morning rising favoured by you front-line officers. So, I would appreciate it if you would return to this office tomorrow at 0930, with a preliminary plan for the conversion process, which we will then discuss and finalize."

"Yes, sir." And my embarrassment starts to drain away, almost as fast as my anger did, as I start turning that issue over in my mind. The Chel Grett's crazy design - a human friend described it as "a bunch of armour-plated croissants nailed together" - poses all sorts of problems, quite apart from the low-temperature internal environment.... the existing control runs won't be adequate for Starfleet standards... we would need to install a complete new bridge, just to begin with....

"Excellent." Semok's voice breaks in on my internal reverie. "Carry on, then, Vice Admiral Shohl."

And I leave his office in a much better mood than when I arrived... confronted by new challenges, filled with a new resolution. Semok is right, the insights I've gained in fitting out the Sita and the King Estmere need to be passed on, need to become part of the overall body of Starfleet engineering knowledge... and I can draw on those lessons myself, for the problem of the Chel Grett...

In short: there is work to be done.

I feel better already.