((Conference Room 1, USS Blackwell)) R’Ven: Greetings Commander. ::Shayne’s wide eyes jumped off the PADD he was scouring as Merrick spoke to him. When he was but a boy, the mere mention of his name, in any tone or volume of voice, would elicit a serious startle from him. Even if it was expected, he would snap to attention, face taught and body primed to face the non-existent predators. To the present day, he hated roll calls.:: ::He hadn’t meant to ignore the men already in conversation- chit chat and work rarely mixed well, especially for him. Besides, why intrude upon their discussion? Looking up at Merrick, he realized that no matter how often he saw the first officer, he’d likely never get used to those pitch black orbs of flesh. He was never certain if R’Ven was staring at him directly, and though he hated to admit it, it was subconsciously highly uncomfortable. He seemed blind, and visually able, at the same time. It didn’t help that he considered it only polite to bore into his target of attention with those same unsettling eyes.:: ::He afforded a quick, but respectful nod in R’Ven’s direction.:: Shayne: Hello, sir.
::As the door opened with its characteristic swoosh, and diverted the attention of the officers in the room, Shayne returned to his PADD. He’d insisted that damage control reports regarding not just the helm, but the entire effort, be routed to his device. If there was one thing he craved at the moment, it was a clear picture of the entire vessel- every nook, cranny, EPS conduit, relay, isolinear chip, potted plant. Was he becoming paranoid? It was a valid question- indeed, he had now served on not one, not two, but three starships that had suffered critical failures in crucial moments. The first incident dated back years, to 2392. Aboard the Gemini, he had nearly been relieved of his existence when a subspace rift had utterly deprived the Dakota class medium cruiser of power. Ensign Shayne had barely survived an unfortunate encounter with an open shuttlebay hanger- an experience that haunted him to his core even in the present day. The next incident came in the form of a most malicious computer virus, placed in the Darwin’s systems by the treasonous scumbag Iy in a long game of deception. Just when they’d been needed most, the shields had failed. Shayne had done his best in the ensuing close quarters combat, but he knew that without the now-transferred Logan’s excellent weapon’s skills, they would have all been worse off. Looking back, when the action had been taking place, he was caught between painfully excited and indomitably tranquil. It was the following days, weeks and months that had hit him the hardest. To try your best- to send your starship flinging through the stars in maneuvers so complex and deadly and random that they often defied intention- and to still feel countless groaning shudders as weapons fire smashed through the reinforced tritanium, and realizing that every blow was likely the end of the line for some crewman, technician, officer...it was nightmarish.::
::He trusted the engineers of Starfleet implicitly, but patterns could not be ignored. Or could it be his fault? Was he simply a magnet for this kind of trouble? Would he forever bring bad luck, on whatever ship he served aboard? His imagination was a wild, mad, even dangerous place, where magic could exist, the Chicago Cubs still played, and the Federation hadn’t lost 39 starships at Wolf 359. But he had only craved a concrete answer to a question more once in his life. Not only was his own burning curiosity unstated, but he would now have to pass on that general lack of fulfilment to a captain that needed just the opposite now.:: ::Every few seconds, his screen updated with the findings of the engineering team, and each time he looked at the changes with a tiny surge of hope. Perhaps this report would explain what had gone wrong. Maybe the next one would shed some light on the subject. Each time, though, he was disappointed.:: ::Whether he wished to admit it or not, he was at least somewhat experienced as an officer of Starfleet. He had racked his brains whenever the mission to retrieve the core had allowed it. What could spontaneously cause an entire subsystem to freeze? Past events had taught him that the symptoms most accurately fitted a computer virus of some sort. But that didn’t follow far. The only other time he’d been involved in such a situation, the assailant had been aboard for more than a year. He refused to point fingers at comrades- that sort of thinking would descend them into chaos with dispatch. But as he strained for answers, he kept coming back to the same conclusion. Perhaps it was entirely wrong. He hoped so. He was really getting sick of sabotage.::
::Another change on the screen, and as with all the others, Shayne looked at it, not expecting anything of interest or benefit at all. After a moment, he squinted and looked closer. Some ensign belowdecks was reporting an EPS conduit that had been locked off, apparently on its own volition. That was not surprising in and of itself- the devices, so crucial to the functionality of the starship, were programmed to lock down should a surge of electro plasma be detected. Such things had occurred all over the ship as a result of Mr. Wilmer’s inventive solution. What was surprising was that it was the only locked down conduit for four decks in either direction. Conduits most often shut down in packs. So why would this lone device be affected? He resolved to keep an even closer eye on the developing reports.::
::The ambient conversations and semi-constant opening and closing of the doors had melded into the background of his mind, and he did not realize that the meeting was being called to order until he noticed the lack of white noise, and the standing personnel round the table. Shayne immediately joined his colleagues as Zaekia and Renos took their seats.:: Zaekia: Alight. Thank you all for attending. I appreciate we’ve all just been through quite the ordeal but we need answers. We need to know this vessel is fit for purpose and won’t let us down again like it has here today. ::Shayne could feel the bitterness in the CO’s voice, and he wondered if the blue-skinned man was really talking about the crew. Or himself. He doubted it, but the resentment was plain, and who could blame him? How unfair was it that the good-intentioned confidant could not act on the unexpressed feelings of another without looking like a fool?:: R’Ven: Yes Captain. To that end I have had each of the department chiefs compile reports of the current state of their department and how it applies to the current state of the ship. ::At that, the helmsman gave a very small cough and rubbed the back of his neck. He rarely enjoyed speaking in large groups, and almost never enjoyed reporting personally to his superior. But even then, he had something to report. The lack of information here would be painfully conspicuous.:: Zaekia: Engineering, let’s start with you. How bad is the damage and how long will it take us to complete repairs? Yesna: The damage is not as bad as first thought engines can be back up within the next couple of hours and the deflector will take around five hours to get it back up and running, but when we do return to a space dock I would recommend a full replacement. The power systems will need a few tweaks and bypass as we fix the dish. We could do all this with the help of the Consortium within 12 hours and we can be underway again.
::Shayne agreed with the engineer’s assessment, given the reports he continued to receive. However, the mention of Consortium assistance rankled, and for more reason than simply wounded pride. Being towed back to a drydock by a non-Starfleet vessel had stripped him of much of his already. No, his bigger concern was the ongoing investigation. The Consortium, Shayne felt, was highly untrustworthy. After seeing their conduct during the previous mission, he could not help but dislike them. First, their distaste for life was repulsive. And their robots, which had caused more than their fair share of havoc aboard the Atlantis, were provided to the crew by the Consortium. They seemed...disingenuous. Greasy. And very dangerous. True, the tow had been of great help, and Captain Dar, who Shayne had first considered to be a bit of a schmuck, was eventually highly accommodating. But he knew better than to let a single positive experience color his judgement.:: Zaekia: I know but we need their help, Admiral. ::Shayne looked up, confused. It seemed Zaekia was reprising his strange behavior that had first debuted on the bridge before Blackwell had sustained her damage. There, too, he was overheard replying to questions no one had asked. Shayne had inquired about it, but the captain had given every indication that he was perfectly well, and there was a fine line between asking out of concern and doubting the CO’s ability to function. He was careful not to cross that line then, but now, he reconsidered. On the bridge, it had been a little easier to ignore. Now, though, with the entire senior staff hanging onto his words and reactions, it became impossible to hide. Shayne’s eyes flipped to Merrick’s, which, if he was correct, were staring intensely at Zaekia. Good- at least Shayne wasn’t hearing things. But the question was, could the same be said for Zaekia?:: Zaekia: ::Clearing his throat and turning slightly deeper blue about the cheeks:: Sorry. Alright, let’s move on. I think we have a pretty good sense of where the ship is at right now and what sort of repairs timeline we’re looking at. Thank you Ensign Yesna. How are things going with regards to the investigation into what happened? ::Shayne knew that it was his turn to speak. Standing, he cleared his throat.::
Shayne: Sirs, so far, the results of the investigation regarding the difficulties at the helm are...less than conclusive. We’ve looked at mechanical fault of all kinds. We’ve even...
::Here, he gave an apologetic glance over at Wilmer. He hated to say it, but it was a formal report- it was his duty.:: Shayne: oO Forgive me, Nate. Oo Shayne: We’ve even considered pilot error. So far, nothing has turned up. But I’ve got a team on it- they’re going to look until they find the problem.
::In the beginning, they’d had several working theories, each one slightly less likely than the last. But as damage control had made its way through the ship, repairing and reporting, one by one, those possibilities dropped away. It was as frustrating as it was helpful.:: ::He tried to keep a stolid face as he beheld the captain's and admiral’s reaction to the news. This wasn’t a Klingon ship- he wouldn’t be shot for not producing the relevant information, or thrown in the brig. But sometimes, a look of disappointment from someone you admire is worse than any corporal punishment. Thoran then began to speak, and Shayne was grateful to the lieutenant for his timely intervention.:: Thoran: Response(s) ::A pause. Shayne utilized the moment to again check the PADD. It appeared the engineer that had reported the strange EPS conduit was having some difficulty in reopening it. Curious. Though he’d like to know what the problem was, he had more pressing matters to attend to.:: R’Ven: Captain, I would like to ask a few question to make the situation a little more clear? ::Shayne didn’t know which of his thoughts to acknowledge first. Certainly he was not looking forward to more questioning from anyone, but that was a personal failing- one he would overcome by offering whatever information was required. The manner in which R’Ven had asked the question also captured his attention. The executive officer would be exercising his role as the captain’s right-hand man by following up with questions. Maybe he was simply being formal, but Shayne felt there was something more. There was grave respect in Merrick’s bearing. And then it became clear. The opaque-eyed Rodulan was trying to protect an already frazzled Zaekia. Such a subtle attempt to help was his way of letting Zaekia know this was not an attack against his authority, but in fact a protective measure, to take the pressure off his beleaguered superior. He almost smiled in wonder. Human nature in action. Though, since this was taking place between a Kalean and a Rodulan, that term hardly applied. Still, it was fascinating, and most welcome, given the circumstances.:: Zaekia: Response R’Ven: Thank You. ::With a small bow, R’Ven focused back on the officers that remained standing.:: R’Ven: Commander Shayne, Lieutenant Thoran and Ensign Yesna, your accounts are thorough. Thank you. ::without pause Merrick turned to Yesna:: However to add one additional point. Ensign, I had also asked you to look into any sort of unauthorized access to our systems. Were you able to find anything? Yesna: Response ::Shayne’s eyes widened slightly in surprise, though he tried to hide it. As second officer, he no longer had the luxury of appearing dismayed or unsure, no matter how prevalent the feelings might be within him. However, he flicked his gaze about, catching his comrade’s reactions to the news. An unauthorized entry into a system was an enormous deal, and it all but proved that his earlier suspicions had been warranted.:: R’Ven: And were you able to determine the source? ::Shayne listened intently. As Yesna explained, he glanced over at Thoran. This would change the tide of their investigation. At least now they would have a place to base their efforts from.:: Yesna: Response R’Ven: Thank you Ensign I appreciate your efforts in this regard. ::Merrick now turned his never-ending gaze towards Shayne and Thoran. For some reason, even though he’d found the first officer’s eyes exceptionally disconcerting, as he looked back at them now, he realized he didn’t feel quite the same about it. Maybe it was something to do with they eyes themselves- he didn’t see the cornea directed at him. They barely even registered as eyes to him. That, perhaps combined with the fact that Merrick was of slightly lower rank, served to place the helmsman a little more at ease.:: R’Ven: Commander Shayne, Lietenant Thoran. There was an event that happened on the Atlantis. Is it possible that these events could have been connected? ::Shayne froze, mind suddenly leaping a million miles a minute. The memories of that terrible day came flooding back- the robots, springing from their hiding place, the gruesome injuries they imposed on several members of the crew, the subsequent hunt for them. Though he knew better than to underestimate the abilities of the machines, his immediate reaction to R’Ven’s question was “no.” How could there be any relation? The robots had been aboard theAtlantis, and hadn’t had any physical contact with theBlackwell. True, one robot had been found with its probe in a bulkhead, downloading what seemed to be the entirety of the Federation database into its own memory. But, again, how would that connect to theBlackwell?:: ::Unless…:: Shayne: ::Murmuring in horror:: Oh, my god.
::Quickly, he turned to Thoran, realization and terror filling his gaze.:: Shayne: When you were chasing that robot on the Atlantis, it was on Deck 6- auxiliary control, correct? Thoran: response ::The theory was coming together in chunks. It was beautifully insideous.:: Shayne: You said something about it perhaps trying to transmit its data to whoever had designed it. What if you were half right? What if it was transmitting something, but not to its creator? Do you get what I’m saying?
::If his supposition turned out to be in any way true, they were lucky to be alive.:: Thoran: response
::Shayne looked back down at his PADD. The conduit he’d been paying such close attention to was back online- obviously the engineer had finally been successful. But now he had more important matters to consider.:: Zaekia/Renos: Response Rhyn: response Anyone: response Tag/TBC… Lieutenant Commander Randal Shayne Helmsman/Ops Officer/Second Officer USS Blackwell NCC 58999 G239202RS0