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Kells & Richards: Call, Inaudibly

Alexander Matthews

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(( CRR, USS Mercury ))

:: In the hour before the away teams left, Aron left the operations of the bridge to Alex and retired to his ready room. In truth, he wanted to be on one of those teams, but it seemed that the job was going to come first: He had a backlog of status reports he needed to review regarding the Jaborrhik project; he'd just received new information regarding the Isharkian shards from Didrik Stennes; and Starbase 118 was still requesting a brutally detailed report of his incarceration on Vador III, as well as any information he had regarding the unknown telepath they had picked up there. It seemed that the Mercury was becoming a haven for lost things: unfinished Borg Queens, sentient computer viruses, a crate full of kittens, and now a weaponized telepath. He almost sighed, but the door interrupted him as it announced the presence of Ensign Richards. ::

Kells: Yes, come in.

:: He found himself fond of Richards, as he could relate to the man: A strange position and a chieftainship almost forced upon him, as it had been upon Aron once many years ago. But Aron had been a scientist, trained and awkward, whereas Richards had some but not all of the necessary background. Problems were sure to occur, but the one that he'd reported to Aron seemed a step larger than he should've had to field. ::

Kells: Have a seat, Ensign, have a seat. Now, I've read your preliminary reports, and I understand that we have some faulty code?

Richards: Yes sir. The entire Science module seems to be afflicted with obsolete LCARS code that is interfering with the reliability of some systems and the efficiency of all of them. No systems are below StarFleet standard operational levels however I am concerned that this may only be for the meantime.

Kells: But it's not hardware, it's software?

Richards: Yes sir.

Kells: Well, thank the Architect for that. Code we can rewrite by hand if we need to, but replacement parts would not come cheaply out here. What's the extent of the problem?

Richards: As I've said, the problem currently extends to all systems and sub systems software. Unfortunately, it's not the same code in every system. The major problem for now is that to identify and patch out the code requires a level 1 diagnostic to be run. Under normal circumstances, this should only take a few hours to complete but because my team is having to be more thorough, it is going to take much longer. The next system on the list is the Mercury's scientific sensor palettes with my team estimating each palette taking up to 4 hours to work on. That means that the Mercury will be at 66% sensor capacity for aproximately 12 hours.

Kells: I see.

:: This was not what he wanted to hear. Running at partial sensors meant that they'd effectively lose their senses, or at least a couple of them, and that would not be beneficial to surveying the station. ::

Kells: I know you're going over to the station, but who do you have working on the problem?

Richards: Cadet Stone and Crewman T'Lex. (Beat.) T'Lex is primarily a Stellar Cartographer but she is a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy and thus has a massive knowledge of most things scientific. Cadet Stone came on board for her Cadet cruise with high praise from the Academy Commandant on StarBase 118. Her record is impeccable and her devotion to her studies and her field would embarrass several officers. I have faith in their abilities but feel they are being hampered by a lack of available staff to assist.

Kells: Yes? Good. I'll try and get some engineers to help -- Chief Walker should prove useful -- and I'll go down myself and see if I can't speed things up.

Richards: Sir?

:: It wasn't very often that an officer witnessed a Captain wanting to get hands on. Then it stuck him. He remembered reading a PADD about his captain and his background when he came on board. The man was a man of science much like he had been in his early life. ::

Kells: We need the sensors back up, Mr. Richards -- and besides, I may not be an engineer, but computer code is very similar to genetic code, just with different symbols. I'll be able to handle myself.

Richards: Do you miss it sir?

Kells: I will-- what?

:: Aron had forged ahead with such momentum that he didn't realize, until he'd already begun speaking, that Richards had asked him a question very different from that he had expected. ::

Richards: I mean is there ever a time you wish you were back in my shoes rather than sitting in the chair?

:: Aron took a breath. Another. The truth, then: ::

Kells: Yes. Every day. Sometimes every hour. I can keep involved, but....

:: Aron slapped his hands down on the desk. ::

Kells: There's usually a desk between me and what I want to do. Not always, and I'd rather this was one of those times. ::

:: One thing he had learned from his family was that you could take the man away from his science, but you couldn't take science away from the man. ::

Richards: I've been meaning to ask you something since the party on 118 sir.

:: He paused, inviting the Captain to ask the question. ::

Kells: Go on, then.

Richards: It's about why you chose me for this position sir, especially after what happened on Valdor III.

Kells: Ah. That. (beat) Ignore the last mission. I mean, don't ignore it, but we'll come back to that. About your background: I knew you were the right one because you question, and you've been around. I've fielded my share of myselfs out here: Young scientists, straight from the Academy, eager to prove themselves. But you -- no, you've been in Starfleet before; you've served in three different divisions; you have a family. You're tempered.

Richards: :: Feeling a little uneasy. :: So you chose me for the position based on merit despite my record. I did resign from StarFleet after all sir. I still can't get my head around this decision though. It is incredibly rare for an Ensign to be made acting chief of any position except maybe communications or helm on a starship. (Beat.) Was there more to Valdor III and my actions there that shaped your choice?

:: Aron [...]ed his head away from Richards, and looked out the window. ::

Kells: Yes, let's talk about the planet. Maybe it did play more of a role in helping me decide than I'd like to admit. You know that Lieutenant Wulfantine bore the responsibility for the away team's actions. But I paid attention to what you did. You are hard-headed, Mr. Richards; you leapt without looking; you were stubborn and active. And this is a science ship without a chief science officer. Look, already! You've gone head-to-head with Kvitova and faced down your first crisis in code.

Richards: Ah yes, the good Captain. I didn't recognize the name at first. He seemed OK with Science being my department although the rank issue does make me feel uneasy. As for the code crisis. Well, that could have happened to any section. I'm just lucky that the limited crew I have available at this time are incredibly competent. (Beat.) I expect cadet Stone to be ready for her final exams within 6 months at her current work levels.

:: Richards took a moment to pause and to allow the captain to digest what he had said. ::

Richards: You said I was tempered sir. I still thought myself as gun-ho, arrogant and a little wet behind the ears.

Kells: You are tempered in some ways, yes, but still fiery enough to be the advocate for the science department I need here. (beat) Now. What else is there?

Richards: :: Pulling out a PADD. :: I just need you to sign off this list of new scientific components to be moved over to Deep Space Ten and installed including an updated Federation Sensor relay and its Palettes. (Beat.) I put the request in for the parts before we departed having reviewed the stations current capacity and it's specifications. (Beat.) Nothing too fancy, but enough to help turn the station into a strategic hub of some significance in the area.

Kells: We could definitely use such a thing out here. Let me see -- ah, yes. There, Mr. Richards: Approved. It isnice to be able to avoid the bureaucracy on such things out here.

Richards: Yes sir. (Beat.) Oh and sir, I know it is against the regulations and by rights you could put me in the brig for this but (beat) I obtained a bottle of Romulan ale on StarBase 118 from my ex employer. (Beat.) I have absolutely no intention of drinking it though I thought it might make a meeting with Captain Kvitova go slightly smoother. I gathered from my brief meeting with him that he enjoys the finer things in life. (Beat.) Besides, if you don't wish to waste it on Kvitova you could always store it for a special occasion, Captain's privilege and all that.

Kells: An excellent idea, and one that may prove necessary if Kvitova's less than forthright about his reasons than I'd like. I have Captain Reynolds working on him now, though, and (beat) well, if she doesn't have much success, then it might be worth just as much to beat him over the head with the ale as it would be to have him drink it, if you know what I mean. (beat) But at all events, I think I'll accept. Though if I suggest you have a drink with me, neither you nor I know where the libations come from, clear?

Richards: :: With a knowing smile. :: Yes sir. Next time I shall graciously refuse the offer. (Beat.) My wife, Marissa, knows where it is located. She is a scientist herself. :: He laughed realizing something. :: You know it's funny. Your career progression reminds me of that od my Grandfather. He was the Captain of the Tycho many years back until she went missing near the Cardassian border. They never found the ship, or any signs of a battle though it was assumed destroyed by a Cardassian patrol ship.

:: He paused. he realized he was babbling now and that both men had a job to be doing. ::

Richards: Sorry sir, I'm beginning to babble on about irrelevant things and we both have jobs to be doing. I should be going.

Kells: Yes, I'm sure you have much to do to prepare for your trip to the station.

Richards: Aye sir. Thanks for the talk, I needed that if I'm honest. Valdor III and the consequences of the mission and my actions were weighing heavily on my mind. You've put me slightly more at ease, as did Lieutenant Trel'lis and Lieutenant Wulfantine.

Kells: Then I've done my job. (beat) But do feel free to see me whenever you like, Mr. Richards. We're a long way from the Federation out here, and we need all the community we can get. (beat) But for now, dismissed. And good luck.


Captain Aron Kells

Commanding Officer

USS Mercury


Ensign Alexander Richards

Acting Chief Science Officer

USS Mercury
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