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  1. Well done and massive thanks to our Maria Alvarez for brainstorming, evolving and executing the idea of The Bairiri - the cultural, musical, and artistic coming together of the Gentii species and Starfleet. These sims were beautiful to read! (( Genti II - Grand Central Establishment, Federal District. Brynja Bairiri Hall - Main Stage )) (( OOC: Buckle up! I did my best to roughly notate which parts were which, but it’s all pretty approximate if you dare to try matching it up. If you have Spotify, I recommend the edition I’ve been listening to. If you’re short on time or don’t enjoy classical, I’d still encourage you to give the finale (last track) a listen. If you need youtube, this is the best I can do (finale) - personally I find the sweaty conductor distracting (maybe listen, don’t watch) and the live audio quality is inferior, but hey it’s free. Once again, thanks to everyone who contributed, and bravo! Without further ado, turn up the music (no really), and I hope you enjoy reading! )) How exactly do you represent the sum total of the creative and aesthetic output of billions of people living over as many as ten thousand years? Maria couldn’t even be sure how to represent her own tastes, let alone attempt such an undertaking. Should she go modern? Classic? Jazz? Should it be from Earth at all? Orion courtier? Andorian acid? Edo futurist? Cardassian traditional? Some fusion? Endless choices boggled the mind. Truth be told, ever since she came out of the shared dreamscape and learned there’d be another attempt at the Bairiri, there was only one piece of music that she couldn’t get out of her mind, but she rejected it. It was too hard, too long, too old, too schmaltz, too traditional, and most of all: too ballet. She’d spent far too long investing time training in so many other forms of dance to distill herself down to that - not to mention she was still wrestling with how to feel about ballet. She’d appropriated the growing empty space in Arrow where the holodeck would eventually live for her practice the entire week. She sampled parts of as many as fifty pieces, but, try as she might, every time she put on music she found her heart going back to an ancient, mystic tale. Finally she gave in and decided to give it a chance. When she heard it again, in its fullness for the first time in a long while, she knew her heart was set: The Firebird. As she finished the dramatic red, black, and gold stage makeup and tested her pointe shoes one last time, it was a decision she now knew to be the right one. The metaphor was too alike, the music too powerful. From behind the curtains, Maria wondered if R’Ariel or Quentin had made it to see her dance. She’d put up the holocamera Regan’s sister had gifted her, just in case, but a recording wouldn’t be the same. She hoped they would understand the deep personal nature of what was about to transpire. And, perhaps, how immensely exhausting an undertaking it was. Performing the entire ballet was, of course, out of the question. The manpower and time to achieve that was simply unavailable. Had she not performed the firebird role before, it would have been impossible. While some cuts made Maria’s work easier, many removals eliminated vital rest. It turned a twelve-mile jog into an eight-mile sprint. That only compounded the dramatic changes to the choreography since its creation nearly five hundred years ago that kept the dance modern and relevant: each rendition layered in diverse new styles and moves, piling yet more taxing and technical challenges atop an already difficult ballet. So, she had to pare back in places to save strength for the climaxes. Even with the simplification, her whole body was already prepared to have its revenge on her for the hours of practice every day, just as soon as she stopped to rest. But that wasn’t going to happen yet. The sun had just dropped below the trees, setting off a colorful, smokey light show in the darkening Gentii sky. The lightest of breeze picked up in the semi-outdoor stage, tussling the red “feathers” of her short dress adorned in shimmering gold swirls. The costume hugged her body and clung to her arms and legs like any dancer’s costume should. R’Ariel’s words of encouragement to throw herself into the role replayed in her mind. Though her willowy form was certainly on display, she was now transforming into another creature entirely; becoming something born of ancient magic with powers untold. As the high-power lights flooded the stage and the holographic orchestra tuned, she felt the familiar rush of blood through her chest and cheeks and fingers. It wasn’t quite the usual performance anxiety - the Gentii had never seen anything like this, and she’d practiced tirelessly. Instead, the warmth [...]ing her nerves was a friend that focused her. She imagined the heat in her veins belonged to the firebird herself, manifesting in her body and to help her take flight. She looked across, beyond the other side of the stage was a surprise for everyone: her Gentii counterpart, Eka, who would dance the part of Prince Ivan. She proposed the idea as soon as she settled on this dance, and within the hour she was shaking the man’s hand. It was a massive gamble, but the consummate professional learned the choreography at an unbelievable pace. It forced even more simplifications, but the reward was fully embracing the purpose of the Bairiri in a way Maria enjoyed far more than she even thought she would. He looked back to her and nodded. He was ready. The orchestra fell quiet, and the hall became very still as the spell set in. Countless Gentii (and at least a few crew) waited for the start of the legend of the Firebird. As she entered the stage, Maria felt all the other thoughts and inner talk melt away. She was no longer an listless ensign or an out-of-place officer, or even Maria. She was the Firebird. --- ( Introduction, Appearance, Danse, Capture, and Supplication of the Firebird ) The lights came up, and the faintest of creeping the low strings set the scene. The holographic backdrop and set depicted an old, decrepit garden overgrown and only darkly lit by the light that filtered through to the dank forest floor covered in fungus. Smoke rose in the background. This place slowly succumbing to a rotting power no magic could not defend against. The firebird entered, stage left, and beheld the land’s steady march towards ruin. Her flight coasted from one side of the stage to the other, distraught by the steady defilement and decay of her natural home. She flew and flew, gliding through the twisting vines in search of any life that hadn’t been overtaken. The grim, plodding music offered little hope for the magical beast. The light steps and buoyant arms carried the bird back and forth, a little arabesque in a place that looked hopeful, but then up and onwards when the leaves wilted away at the slightest touch. Then - at last! The firebird spotted a cherry tree with a single blossom in a grove. The flower radiated faint holographic light in the dim light. The radiant red creature finally descended into the clearing. She cupped the precious life in her hands, thankful to have found anything remaining. She turned slowly, appearing to hover, supported only by one pointed foot, tending to the branch and tree that held the pink-white flower. She pranced with delight at finding something so beautiful still tenuously holding on to life. Suddenly, the wind turned, pushing in the smoke from far away. It flooded in like fog, suddenly gripping the tree trunk, threatening to strangle the life from it. The firebird flew into action, circling the tree now under her protection. She flapped and flapped, whirling her limbs to drive away the choking smog. As soon as she chased some out, yet more rushed in. But in the end, her sheer energy and the wind from her wings pushed the fog’s grasping fingers back, saving the tree. She danced again a while, slowly and gracefully, assuring herself the grove was now safe. Finding a forest creature, she playfully chased after it, her soft and gliding movements taking joy in the small pleasure. Finally, content with the sparse grass and leaves, the firebird finally set down to rest on a branch. Immediately disaster struck. A snare! The bird leapt into the air, frantically working to escape. The cruel chain pulled her back to the ground, her feathers collapsing. She got up and twisted the rope round and round, trying to wear out its threads. She jumped again! But it was no use. The tether would not yield - its teeth held fast. When all seemed like it would be lost, a hidden figure emerged from the woods. Prince Ivan (played by the Gentii Eka), the philosopher, ruler, and hunter, danced his way out onto the stage. He circled the entrapped mythic beast in slow steady steps, hardly believing his fortunes. The firebird, huddled in a shivering mass on the floor, looked up to him with soft pleading eyes. She held her arms close to her, then offered up her hands in supplication. She slowly rose, announced by hushed strings that wove a winding melody as delicate and subdued as her dance. She circled, dipping repeatedly to beg the prince for help. And free her he did, only to bind her to himself. The firebird hid her face, then took his hand as the strings warmed into the pas de deux. The orchestra, never quite sure of its footing, swelled and dropped back, in and out of key after key, as the prince and firebird danced through the grove - the red wings never able to spread and carry her to freedom. The prince led his prize through each step, never letting her out of reach. The dance seemed to stretch out, the pair twisting around with the woodwind’s harmony. The firebird, on toe points, was paraded around the stage for the audience to see. But the uneasy music kept any glory at bay. Every once in a while, she’d attempt to flit away, just to be restrained by the prince once again. Finally, after a long dance, the firebird knelt at the side of the cherry tree, and wept. A tear fell to the ground, and her magic filled the stage with horn and light! Suddenly a thousand glowing pink-white blossoms bloomed, breathing life and light back to the tree. The prince, shocked and realizing his error, dropped the tether. The firebird looked up, realizing she was now free. She wriggled from the dreaded leash, and took flight across the stage, a trail of twinkling magic left behind her wings. The prince chased after her, still fearful of the wrong he’d nearly committed. The firebird circled back, and took his hand, again suspended in an airy arabesque, leg arcing into the sky as she floated. They danced again, but this time he pleaded for her forgiveness in each step. His frame lifted her into the air, and she exalted in the flight. At last, the gentle duet wound back down to a whisper. The firebird, facing the prince, plucked a feather from her plumage - glowing brightly of red and gold as if holding her fire in its veins - and offered it to the prince. It was a token of forgiveness and gratitude all in one, but more than that: it was a way to summon the firebird and her magic in a time of need. She swirled about with great majesty, and the feather’s light blossomed, imbued with her powers. The prince accepted it with great reverence, hallowed music weighing his motions down. He led the firebird through a final dance in thanks of his own, then the music carried her off into the sky and off the stage. TBC... PART II (( Genti II - Grand Central Establishment, Federal District. Brynja Bairiri Hall - Main Stage )) ( Tsar Ivan and the Princesses’ Round ) Prince Ivan was alone on the stage. With the magical protection of the firebird now gone, the fog began to creep back in. He moved through the forest, seeking shelter from the oncoming nightfall, the ever thickening vines and branches closing in about him as he searched for the way out. He gracefully circled one spot, then another, and another, hoping to find escape. But it was not to be, for a dark and powerful curse animated the trees against him. There! In gaps, flashes of white shapes frollicked just out of view. Their music was light and beautiful, almost enticingly so. Ivan chased after one, then tumbled headfirst into a clearing containing old stone ruins. He sprung back up, and to his amazement several women (holographic in nature) dressed in pale white circled around on the stage, arms joined together. They danced around and around, half peasant-like, half with seductive regency. The orchestra warmed into a simple, lyric melody led by the winds and echoed by the strings. The women reached out with translucent limbs, beckoning to Ivan to follow. And follow he did. He floated towards them, drawn in by their ethereal beauty. When he caught up, the princess in lead, wearing a silver circlet, let her hands alight in his. Overjoyed, he took it and whirled her about in slow motion, unable to remove his eyes from her. He lifted her, regarding her like a precious jewel. She, in return, glided around him in dainty pointed-toe grace, leading him through the ruined stone walls. The romantic swells of the orchestra shifted through the keys, as gentle and tender as the prince’s movements. She regarded him equally - falling in love with each measured lean and step. Yet the music shifted into an uneasy, disquieted minor even as their footwork grew more intimate. The prince seemed to take no notice as the orchestra took an unexpected turn into dissonance. They danced and danced, the other women praising the pairing. The stage lights slowly narrowed and narrowed as Ivan’s steps became more and more labored. But still he went on and on to the slow lyricism, still unable to drag his gaze away from the princess. He went on until finally the light shone nowhere but him. In the background, darkness fell fully on the stone ruins. Exhausted, he slowly laid to the ground, and released his grasp on the woman who slipped into the now-everywhere dark. ( Appearance of the monsters and the Capture of Ivan by Kachtchei the Immortal ) Clangorous bells sounded with the crash of a cymbal, and blue swirling light appeared everywhere, as if through the lens of rippling water. At the edges of the castle wreckage, the petrified forms of a dozen knights standing still in stone were revealed, fortelling Ivan’s fate. The prince, realizing his peril and free of his trance, scrambled back up to find the maidens were now ghouls and goblins swarming around him. The monsters taunted the stricken man, forcing him to leap to and fro. Their giddy demon dance was pushed on by the whip of dissonant horns. Dark horns and claws and gnarled feet terrorized the audience equally, flooding up to the brink of the stage before withdrawing in a wave. An audience member shouted out, temporarily forgetting the limits of their holographic power ended at the lip. Then they were all suddenly still. A short horn intercession, and timpani silenced their cacophony. Silence rested heavily. Ominous, muted reeds twisted together in malicious harmony as a figure emerged in the dark. First seven foot tall, then eight, then nine. The hideous and powerful Immortal Kachtchei stepped forth into the diseased light, tattered rags doing little to mask his mangled form. His nails were so long they curled in on themselves. His beady eyes glowed out at the audience before casting their glare onto the Prince. Ivan scrambled up as the music turned to stark clashing harmonies. The dark magician approached him, heavily swaying on each beat. A mangled hand reached out towards the prince, and Ivan swirled away in fear. Ivan danced again, attempting to escape but the monsters blocked his path at every turn. They closed in ever tighter as the music spelled his imminent doom. Kachtchei raised his knotted staff, and prepared to cast his wicked curse. The glow under Ivan’s jacket was his last hope. He drew forth the feather, the red and gold filling the stage with its glow. He thrust it high, and the abominations cowered from its radiance! ( Return of the Firebird, Her Enchantment, and the Infernal Dance ) The feather glowed bright with the light of a sun, and the firebird appeared in the center of the stage unfurling her plumage (a special effect masking the transporter beam). Seeing the prince’s predicament, she flit over to him in a rush of music. She swirled energetically about, shielding him from the hordes of beasts taunting him. They recoiled as she chased them back, then rushed back in as she moved to the other side. Kachtchei stretched out his arms, tattered robes hanging from his bony form. He swung forward, trying to catch the firebird with his curled nails, but she was too fast. She pranced out of the way, light on her feet. She circled back, just out of reach and he swung again with a heavy step forward. Again, he missed - the firebird sprung effortlessly away, beating her feet midair in a teaseful flourishing cabriole. She led him through a chasing dance, ever just out of reach. Her plan steadily became clear as the golden-red trail of her sparkling magic began to weave a spiraling trap around the sorcerer. As her sweet enchantment grew in power over him, so too did the monsters steadily fall to her magic. The music grew and grew, causing more and more monsters to follow her steps, succumbing to her fast fluttering steps. The stage steadily turned redder and brighter as her elemental energy dominated the creature’s minds. Finally, even Kachtchei himself was bound to her dance, his hulking mass entranced. Blam! The full orchestra struck. Percussion shook the very walls of the performance hall. The sides of the stage belched flame and the spell was sealed. Horns blared and the whole ensemble ran into a dizzying fervor. The monsters fell over themselves, leaping from all fours, led on by the ever-tireless firebird. Her weightless effervescence was totally beyond them, seemingly unbound by the laws of gravity with easy flicks of the legs keeping her suspended mid-air or on toe point. Kachtchei himself fell in alongside his own cursed servants. The firebird circled him, her swirling flight forcing him to exert his own enormous size into the air with great effort. The symphony careened further out of control as the beasts pushed themselves ever harder and faster. Any time one would flag, the firebird was there, her lyric magic jig keeping them from flagging. On and on they went, possessed of no will other than to dance under her spell. The firebird’s spell crescendoed with the music - she swooped from one end of the stage to the other, until the full thunder of the orchestra joined her in powerful spin after spin, the magician and foul servants spinning with her. One by one they fell away until it was only the magician who remained standing. At last he too dropped to the floor, exhausted by the dance, unable to move. That left the firebird to finally alight next to Prince Ivan, now released from Kachtchei’s powers. Rescued and reunited, he took her hand and led her through an adagio berceuse, warm strings underpinning the gratitude and peace that came after the toil of the dance. The pair took slow, steady steps across the ruins, the prince’s hands on the firebird’s waist, supporting her as their fluid motions glossed across the stage. But there was still something else stirring. The hulking form of Kachtchei rustled with an ominous double-reed dissonance. He awoke, then snatched up the firebird, catching her by surprise! She flailed and fluttered in his grasp, trying to escape. Ivan, seeing her peril, pulled his sword and lifted it high. (A skilled eye would have caught the influence of Klingon Operatic arts here in particular.) A swift stroke, a short struggle, and the sorcerer stopped moving. The firebird flitted away, escaping his reach, but it wasn’t necessary. His body fell to the floor with a clangorous clash of cymbals and horns, sword in back. Kachtchei was no more. ( Finale ) Quiet settled, and profound calm washed throughout the auditorium, only the hushed whisper of violins speaking in unified harmony accompanied the first pale yellows of dawn. Then, something even more unexpected: a soft carpet of grass came to life at the feet of the prince and the firebird, sprouting as if in fast-forward. As the light continued to rise, the reason became clear: the magician’s cursed machinations were burning away in cleansing fire. The sun crested with the horn solo. As the curse lifted, the monsters transformed back into the women the prince had danced with. Now, instead of sickly pale, they were radiant and vital, wreathed in silver-laced white gowns. The firebird swooped over to the princess, still slumbering, and woke her with a gentle touch. She rose to the tune of the horn’s anthem, life and light spreading their foothold around her. The princess looked up to the firebird, then the prince, the first people she’d seen with her own sight in ages. The princess took the prince’s hand, and the two danced for joy, united this time of their own volition by the soft violins. As they did, the other women regained their feet. The firebird roused them, her flute joining in the reverie, her magic accelerating the crescendoing return of their epic theme. Then, even the stone encasement of the knights began to crack and fall away, their cruel entombment finally coming to an end. The strings soared with full brass as the transformation gained speed and life returned. The firebird took flight, and the knights and women paired off; the prince with the princess. She twirled about, flowers and trees of the glade returning to full leaf and blooming in the magical contrail she left behind. The plants clawed up the stone ruins as she danced and leapt for joy at life returning to the garden. Then, a true miracle came with the arrival of a new elevated key. The old stonewall face crumbled away under the weight of the new greenery. The wrecked magician’s abode dissolved away with the chest-rumbling exaltations of the full orchestra. In their place, golden red walls erupted from the ground forming the pillars and vaults of a magnificent new palace. Beginnings erupted everywhere around the firebird and the royal court, exploding out into the depths of the forest, dispelling every trace of the defeated evil. At long last, the orchestra halved their tempo and returned to the home key, giving shaking grandiose acclaim of the soon-king Ivan, and his soon-queen processing down the red-and-gold marble steps. The knights and maidens were their entourage, the firebird the symbol of their new peace and balance with nature. The firebird herself alighted, resting in the officiant’s place, tongues of flame on her feathers bearing witness to her rejuvenated power and spirit. Brass blasted their final cadential pronouncement over heroic strings, the powerful vibrations moving the air inside the audience’s chests. The firebird anointed the prince as king and regent over the reclaimed lands with fire that spread across the stage. She placed a crown on his head, then the princess’. The new monarchs turned to the audience, and the orchestra swelled to its final climax. The final cymbal crashed, and the lights blinked off. --- The story was over. By the time the lights came back on for bows, Maria was herself again, though not entirely the same Maria. She was gracious, all smiles and gratitude for the crowds; friendly to every Gentii or crew who came up to her after the show, but everything after that last note turned into a surreal blur. Like there was still a piece of her still up on that stage. Still a piece of her that was the firebird. Maybe a piece of her that was still Quentin, too. She lingered a long time into the night on the Gentii surface, even well after she’d taken the makeup off and changed into something far more comfortable. There were a great deal of “hows” and “whys” from new converts to modern ballet, all of which she answered thoughtfully. But eventually, they all left for home, exhausted from the days-long Bairiri. After the public left, she found herself saying her farewells to Eka, even giving him a tight hug he never expected. The look in his eyes as he said goodbye told her it would be a long time before he forgot this night. Maria still couldn’t rest though. With the Bairiri hall emptied out and closed for the night, she found herself meandering the quiet streets of The Grand Central District, brilliantly lit by beautiful skyscrapers. Even though she was totally depleted, she couldn’t get free of the music or the rush of the performance. She had probably danced as well as her very best before she injured herself. She wandered until she found a park with local late-night patrons indulging in the street-side carts under warm street lighting illuminating every step. A couple was making out on a bench, totally unaware of the alien not ten meters away. She strolled the path inwards until her toes were at the edge of a pond that reflected the city lights and stars back to her. She closed her eyes, and found herself to still be humming the final theme. Her arms moved through the fluid motions on their own by pure memory, her body not ready to let go of the magic. A tear finally started to dribble down her face. When she opened her eyes again, there was a woman watching at her, completely still. In the dim light, Maria saw that the Gentii was totally fascinated, even moved, by the scene. Maria just smiled. END Ensign Maria Alvarez Ops Officer, USS Arrow A239710MA0 Wiki Operator
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  2. Thank you so, so much for the generous words y'all! I don't think I ever anticipated writing something like this, and it's super rewarding to hear you enjoyed it.
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  3. Each month we interview a First Officer or Commanding Officer of the fleet as part of our “First Officer in Focus” and “Captain’s Corner” columns to get to know them better, and learn more about what their positions entail. This month, we’re interviewing the First Officer of the starship USS Resolution, Commander Addison MacKenzie, a human female. DeVeau: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from? What sort of hobbies do you have? Anything you’d like to share with us about yourself! MacKenzie: I’m from Cleveland, Ohio – in the U.S. I’m a professional musician and also have a degree in sociology. I run several musical ensembles/non-profits and enjoy collaborative writing, so I suppose you could say I really enjoy working with people! What was your first experience with Star Trek? I remember watching the later seasons of TNG on TV when I was young, and the first six movies. That propelled me into DS9 and Voyager, and the earlier seasons of TNG once they released them in syndication. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of DS9 during its original run, but now that I’ve rewatched it as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the series a lot more. How did you get into roleplaying? I want to say I got started when I was in middle school… somewhere around the year 2000, maybe? I loved Star Trek, liked writing, and this seemed like a great way to do both and make some friends along the way. There are a lot of Star Trek simming groups out there – what made you choose Starbase 118? Like I said, I got started doing this around 2000-ish, so I’ve been at it for a long time. I can’t really even remember taking much extended time away from writing, which has been a great creative outlet. That having been said, I’ve bounced back and forth between many fleets and ships in that time. After a particularly poor experience with a group I had been in for a year or two, I took a chance and filled out an application for Starbase 118 in 2018. I didn’t know much about the group and hadn’t really even taken much of a chance to explore the wiki or the forums – I was just thankful for an opportunity to write with a new group of people. Once I graduated and became a full-fledged member, got to witness the breadth of the group’s infrastructure up close, and the caliber of the other writers, I was hooked! Before she became a First Officer, MacKenzie was a doctor. Why that specialty? I’ve always had a fascination with medicine, doctors, and the characters/actors who play such roles. Crusher was one of my favorite Star Trek characters early on, and I’ve come to enjoy other medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Untold Stories of the E.R., and the like. One of the things I really relish about writing for medical characters is doing the research to create a realistic medical scene, and then translating it into a 24th-century setting. Would you please share with us MacKenzie’s journey to the role of First Officer? Well, I suppose it’s been fairly typical. I was first posted to the Veritas as a medical officer, and eventually worked my way up to Assistant Chief Medical Officer. In my last mission there, we had a sub-plot where Addison got moved into the Chief Medical Officer and First Officer role on a secondary ship that really forced her to stretch her leadership legs. When Geoffrey Teller was transferred to the Embassy on Duronis II as its first officer to help boost its command staff, he requested that I go with him, and at that point I moved into a permanent Chief Medical Officer role. I served there and the USS Thor for a few months, and when the opportunity opened to recommission the USS Resolution, I was tapped to serve as its first officer. Is there a particular aspect of your role of First Officer that motivates you in your position? I love being in the position of enabling other writers to develop their skills and creativity. Watching the others in our community grow both in-character and out-of-character, and cultivating the next generation of leaders is really something that brings me a great deal of joy. It’s one of the reasons why I love spending so much time on the training team and as a mentor on the Resolution, and motivates me to continue to work on my own writing! What future goals do you have for MacKenzie? Right now, I have a few plot ideas I’m working on that would make for some interesting character development for Addison, including working through a few past traumas. Maybe one day she’ll find herself in the center chair, but one of the things I’ve come to appreciate most about our community is the amount of leadership responsibilities first officers are able to take on. Lastly, what sort of advice would you give to those who are looking to serve in a leadership position in the future? Take. Your. TIME. It’s really easy to want to climb the ranks and jump into absolutely everything. One of the things that may not be apparent when you’re a junior officer is that the opportunities for character development early on in your “career” is much easier than when you move into a command, or even department chief roles. Take time to enjoy the evolution of your character. Also, there are so many ways to get involved in the OOC aspects of the fleet. Don’t try to do everything all at once – it can be easy to get burnt out, and then it can be tough to enjoy writing at all. The higher you go in rank, the more paperwork that comes along with it. As you gain leadership responsibilities on your ship and in the fleet as a whole, you want to carry your share of the load, but you also have to make sure it’s a manageable and sustainable share. Thanks for your time, Commander MacKenzie! You can read more about Commander Addison MacKenzie on the wiki. The post First Officer in Focus – Addison MacKenzie, USS Resolution appeared first on StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/ufopsb118?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/ufopsb118?i=Nykh0erGJv8:KdWpbn4rHV4:D7DqB2pKExk http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/ufopsb118?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/ufopsb118/~4/Nykh0erGJv8View the full article
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  4. LehleQ: =/\= What in Fek’lhr’s bowel is going on here?! =/\= Yalu: Sounds irritable.
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  5. Valued members of the StarBase 118 Community, We are sad to report that we've discovered what appears to be intentional tampering with our 2021 Awards nominations. We'd like to help you understand what we found, how it affected the outcome, and how we will ensure it doesn't happen again. BACKGROUND As you know, we use a form on our website to collect nominations. We use a WordPress plugin called "GravityForms" to build this form and manage the entries, and your nominations are stored in WordPress, in the GravityForms plugin database. When it's time to compile the nominations each year, we export the entries and transfer them via a CSV file into a Google spreadsheet. Our Awards Facilitator and their team then collate the nominations and separates them by type (General, Duty Post, etc.). In addition to storing entries in GravityForms, email notifications are generated from each nomination and sent to the original nominators for their records. An additional email record is sent to a private archive. We were alerted by a member that they were not on the list of people who were due to receive a nominator badge, despite receiving email confirmation of their nomination. We verified that the nomination had generated an email notification from the nomination form but was not present in our database of nominations in GravityForms. INVESTIGATION We then began an investigation to try and determine how we could be missing nominations in our database that had been properly entered into our form. Two staff members conducted a full audit of our backup archive of email notifications against what's in our database, and it became clear that a total of eight nominations were missing from our database and therefore not considered by the various committees that review and select award winners. These nominations were for two members, and half the missing nominations were for one member and one award. We also conducted an audit of our 2020 Awards nominations to see if we could find any missing ones there, and found none missing. As we investigated, we found that a former staff member who had left the group last year somehow had access to WordPress at the level required to delete GravityForms entries, despite having been removed from all staff-level access upon their departure – a fact that had been confirmed twice on separate occasions after that. We also found that this player had a secondary forum account from the one they had used as a staff member, and that this player had been logging in to our forums repeatedly around the time of the awards. And, perhaps most damningly, we found server access records that clearly linked the IP address used to log into that forum account to deleted entries in our WordPress Community News queue. Hoping someone would not be malicious enough to delete award nominations for a friend and former colleague in our community, we investigated other possibilities. But we could not establish a compelling, alternative theory on how these nominations disappeared. If the error had been technical, we would not expect to see only two people – from the same ship – affected: The nominations came from several people, who also had other nominations for other players, some for the same award or award category; The nominations were submitted on different days and different times, so where we originally suspected this could be due to overload at peak times of nomination submissions, this is not the case; Those whose nominations were missing received other nominations present in the lineup, both from the same nominators, and others. While we are fairly confident that the pattern of missing nominations, the login pattern on the forums coinciding with the awards release, and the relationship the former player in question had to those affected are pretty convincing evidence of guilt, we don't have an open-and-shut case. WordPress does not have native login tracking, and there are no logs to show records being deleted manually. As such, we are choosing not to reveal the identity of the player we believe may have been tampering with our site. There was extensive conversation amongst the Captain’s Council on this matter, and though some members considered the evidence that we have to be clear enough to name the player in question, we have decided to avoid doing so due to the fact that this evidence is circumstantial. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT The Captain's Council is mortified and upset to discover two members of our community were not properly considered for nominated awards this year due to the nefarious interference of a former member. We have made a personal apology to the two affected players, and we're making it again now in this public forum. Of course, our awards process is one of our most honored traditions in the group and we don't want anything to impact it now, or going forward. As such, we intend to make the following changes to our process immediately: We will increase the time between the closing of the nomination period and the beginning of the Awards Ceremony by one week. This will give us more time to audit the data we have and allow the Staff more time with the administration of awards, ensuring we're not adding stress where we can avoid it. We will change the access to WordPress in the coming weeks and, specifically, move the Awards Nomination Panel to its own WordPress subsite with access available to fewer people. We have already begun a process – and will continue to iterate on it – to strengthen our access control, safeguarding our community by removing members who have retired or taken long-term leave. The Captains Council also has a process of reviewing the awards post-ceremony each year – examining what went well and considering what needs improvement – and we'll be starting this sooner than we normally do, to ensure the most recent Awards Ceremony is fresher in our minds, for the sake of coming up with other recommendations on how to ensure the integrity of our process. Sincerely, Members of the Captains Council
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