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Decisions of necessity

Posted on Fri Sep 30th, 2016 @ 1:31am by Lieutenant Elsa Johansson

Mission: S1E1 - Booby Trap
Location: Chief Science Officer's Office
Timeline: Mission Day 7, 1600

Sitting behind her new desk, Elsa looked around her office, made Spartan by the removal of her predecessor's personal affects and the absence of her own. In a different reality, she'd already be mentally planning what changes she'd make to the office to put her personal "stamp" on it. But Starfleet was in a fight for its continued existence in the Gamma Quadrant, and quite a lot of the activities in the Science Division, including the personalization of her office, were going to have to be put on hold until further notice.

The first thing Elsa had done, upon assuming her new duties, was to schedule interviews with the officers of her new department, so she and they could get a feel for each other, and for their new mission. Right now, she was expecting the arrival of Lt. JG Saalkan, a Vulcan whose record showed that he was academically formidable. Not that he was the only one in new departments who had impressive credentials. But then Elsa wasn't even close to being intimidated. Being a mole in the Consortium for more than a year, she reflected, put things in perspective.

Saalkan made his way through the corridor toward Elsa's office with a briskness in his step. The Chief Science Officer was waiting for him, and he liked to be early when possible. This was indubitably an unnecessary meeting intended solely to set the boundaries of professional interaction with a touch of social grace and a positive reinforcement of the chain of command. Humans seemed very keen on such institutional reminders.

When he finally made his way to the office door, he tapped his badge. "Computer, what is the current time?"

"The current current time is 07:58" came the computer's reply.

The faintest of smirks teased Saalkan's lips. "A moment to spare." He pushed the door button to announce himself.

"Enter," Elsa answered, rising from her seat to greet the slightly taller Vulcan male who entered her office. "Have a seat, Lieutenant Saalkan," she said, gesturing toward the seat on the opposite side of the desk from hers. "May I get you something to drink?" she asked, as she stepped toward the replicator.

"Water please." Saalkan had no intention of drinking it, but the gesture of acceptance would put his commanding officer more at ease.

"Water, cool. Soderblandning, hot," Elsa ordered from the replicator. Instantly, a clear glass of water and a clear cup of light brown tea appeared. Elsa put the former in front of Lieutenant Sallkan then resumed her seat. She took a testing sip of her own tea before setting it down.

"At present," Elsa began without prelude, "The Vindex is a warship, rather than an exploratory one. Which means the resources delegated to our division aren't going to be what we would hope for, and more often than not, what resources we do receive will be expected to be available to answer questions related to our conflict with the Consortium, rather than individually determined lines of research. Tell me, Lieutenant Saalkan, are you familiar with the early twentieth century Earth sailing vessel named Endurance?"

"I confess that I am not," Saalkan replied. His eyebrows perched up into his forehead. "I believe that was the approximate era when Vulcans first discovered your planet."

"About forty years before," Elsa agreed. "And approximately a century and a half before Earth itself was united. The Endurance was an exploratory ship designed specifically for arctic waters that utilized wind for propulsion, during a time when the navies of the various nation states of Earth were transitioning to the use of different types of fossil fuels to move their ships. But the truly unique thing about the Endurance was that England, the nation state that crewed and supplied the ship, was embroiled with other nation states in a war that spanned the planet. And even in time of war, the leaders of England felt that the search for knowledge could not be abandoned."

Elsa paused before continuing."The pure research we will be able to do in the following months, perhaps years, is going to be limited, because of our conflict with the Consortium. But I do not want it to cease. If there is a project you wish to pursue, an idea, a theory, let me know what I can do to help. I can't necessarily promise much in the way of resources, not at present, but I will give you everything I have."

"I appreciate your support, Lieutenant," Saalkan replied. "As of now, I have been preparing a long term thesis which I am unprepared to submit for peer review. It is akin to observational studies regarding environmental impacts on populations large and small. If there is any way I can be kept apprised of any mission details as they develop, perhaps I may organize my notes accordingly. Other than that, I believe I have everything I require." He glanced at the glass of water and changed his mind. Taking a sip, he closed his eyes and held the water in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. "Do you have any projects for which I can be of assistance, Lieutenant Johansson?"

"You will definitely be kept in the loop, Lieutenant Saalkan," Elsa answered. "As to other projects, I'm just getting to know everyone in the Department, so I'll have to get back to you on that as well." Elsa took another sip from her cup, then set it down. "Lieutenant Saalkan, your study...that would entail not only the environmental impact on these populations, but the probability of different responses of said populations?"

Saalkan did not immediately reply. In fact, he looked to the side as he considered his words. At length, he responded with a question. "Tell me, Lieutenant, have you heard of fal-tor-pan?"

Elsa's eyebrows furrowed, as she tried to dredge up something she had read or seen or learned. Finally, she shook her head. "I want to say it has something to do with the...katra? Kolinahr?" Elsa stopped, a look of consternation on her face. "That's a no on my part then, Lieutenant Saalkan. And I'm afraid what little I believe I know is probably incorrect."

"Indeed." Saalkan's face was an unreadable median between compassion and arrogance. "When Ambassador Spock still served aboard the USS Enterprise, he suffered biological death. Rather than remain dead, his katra transferred to the ship's doctor for a time until they used an ancient rite to reunite the katra of Spock with his repaired, living body." He folded his hands together in front of his chest in quasi reverence. "The ritual in question is called fal-tor-pan. That was the last time fal-tor-pan was performed on Vulcan. Do you know when the previous occasion took place?"

"I wouldn't have a clue, Lieutenant Saalkan," Elsa admitted.

"Nor does anyone else." Saalkan's eyes grew intense. "That is my study. Do other species have a counterpart to fal-tor-pan? If so, what percentage of their population acknowledges or utilizes it? Is it comparable to the Vulcan ritual? Superior even? What if we never need die, Lieutenant? Those are the questions that my thesis will answer." The Vulcan clenched his jaw, then exhaled. "Forgive me," he said with eyes closed, reserving himself.

"No need to apologize, Lieutenant," Elsa answered. Her eyes withdrew momentarily before she continued. "I am convinced that theoretical physics is actual philosophy. It has revolutionized fundamental concepts about space and time, about causality, and about substance and matter, and it has taught us new methods of thinking which are applicable far beyond physics. Max Born, a human physicist and mathematician who lived more than four hundred years ago, made that observation." Elsa paused a few seconds before continuing. "Some might say your research would fall in the realm of metaphysics. Like Doctor Born, I think the search for any and all of knowledge falls into the purview of the scientist." Elsa allowed the hint of a smile to grace her lips. "Now it's me who needs to beg your forgiveness. Anyway, for what it's worth, you have my support, and though the cupboard may be bare in the months ahead, you have the resources of this department to support your inquires, Lieutenant."

"It is good that we agree on such a fundamental issue, Lieutenant--eye to eye, as I believe your people are fond of saying." Saalkan held back his next words, considering them before speaking further. At last he took a breath and said, "In the spirit of mutual understanding and the advancement of knowledge, in the event that an unfortunate death or other macabre crisis falls within the purview of my study, am I to understand I have your support in requesting a medical autopsy or other such postmortem analyses of the remains?" His gaze was unmoving.

"Lieutenant Saalkan, when the time comes, you have my permission to conduct whatever postmortem analysis you need to on my corpse. I will log that decision after our meeting. My personal belief..." Elsa shrugged. "My personal belief is, at that point, my concern for things corporeal will be moot. But that's strictly my opinion. I will also send a request to our acting chief medical officer that you be allowed to observe any autopsies that they conduct." Elsa took another sip of tea before continuing. "As far as any other analysis is concerned, I'm willing to support your endeavors, as long as your procedures do not run contrary to the wishes and beliefs of the deceased."

"I thank you," Saalkan replied with a bow of his head. "If there is nothing else, I suggest returning to my duties."

Elsa nodded. "I appreciate you coming in, Lieutenant Salken."

"I look forward to working together with you." Saalkan held up his hand and spread his middle and ring finger. "Live long and prosper."

"Peace and long life, Lieutenant Salken," Elsa replied. As she watched the Vulcan Science Officer leave, she wondered what his fellow Vulcans would think of his project. She had no desire to find herself in a middle of a Vulcan iconoclasm, but neither did she want to find herself in the role of inquisitor. Or Magistrate Kirwin.

Worry about the Consortium, she decided. Time enough to worry about other things later.


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