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Hidden Agendas

Posted on Thu Dec 15th, 2016 @ 6:55am by Lieutenant Elsa Johansson

Mission: S1E2 - Unity
Location: Chief Science Officer's Office
Timeline: Day 11

Well, that should be an easy enough request to approve, Elsa thought to herself. One of her senior biologists wanted to construct a computer model for the purpose of projecting agricultural yields on a handful of colonies in the Alpha Quadrant near the entrance to the Bajoran Wormhole. All things considered, it was a rather innocuous request that only required Elsa to send a text to Ensign Bogolyubov asking her to contact the biologist in question for the purpose of collaboration. And who knows, Elsa thought, if and when the Vindex got back to the Alpha Quadrant, the model might have practical uses.

Then there was the other requests, Elsa thought with a grimace. The ones who wanted Elsa to get the Vindex to divert from its present mission to investigate an unusual asteroid belt, or an atypical binary star system. The ones who were certain that their academic interests were obviously more important than any other task that the Vindex was currently pursuing. And the ones who felt Elsa was being derelict in her duties if she failed to make this happen.

And speaking of hubris...

Elsa reread a memo on her PADD as she waited for the subject of said memo to arrive.

Saalkan had been anticipating this meeting. He didn't know how often Captain Ainscow revoked authorization from her officers, but if he were to put a wager on it (he wouldn't), he doubted it was often. Lieutenant Johansson, on the other hand, had positioned herself as an ally. If he wanted to maintain his standing aboard the Vindex, then he needed to mend bridges here and now. He stopped at the office door and buzzed his presence.

"Lieutenant Saalkan, please have a seat," Elsa said, rising to her feet. "Can I get you something to drink? I was about to make myself a cup of tea."

"Water will suffice," Saalkan replied. He remained standing while Elsa took to the replicator. "I suppose I already know the purpose for this meeting."

"Have a seat," Elsa said, as she turned her back on the Vulcan and placed the order to the replicator. She turned back around and placed the glass of water in front of Saalkan. "I found two interesting memorandums in my inbox this morning. One was instructions to review with all members of my department the importance of observing the Treaty of Algeron, and the second was notification that your authorization to access certain files from the ship's memory has been revoked. In addition, there is a pending negative action concerning your rank. Would you care to enlighten me?"

"I disclosed some classified data in my possession by way of constructing a tetryonic compositor," Saalkan said bluntly. "I may yet face censure from the Vulcan Science Academy, but I acted in what I still believe was the best interest of the ship. I explained how the Treaty of Algeron allows for exemption in the Gamma Quadrant, and that merely a temporary use would not require a Romulan presence aboard the ship. I did not expect the captain to approve, but I had hoped she would be reasonable. Clearly such was not the case. As a result, she has resolved to prevent any other preemptive actions on my part." He finally accepted the water. "As for my rank," he said, sipping from the glass, "it would not be the first time." He set the empty glass down and returned to his rest position. "Lieutenant."

Elsa tapped a finger on her tea cup, her face remaining neutral. "Can you reveal the series of events that preceded your decision to construct a tetryonic compositor?"

"I was stationed on a starship assigned to a remote region of space that got cut off from all support and civilization as we know it." Saalkan sniffed, then raised his eyebrows. "That is to say, Lieutenant, I retain classified scientific data from before my time in Starfleet, and the disclosure and subsequent construction of the tetryonic compositor seemed a calculated risk work taking under the circumstances. I don't know where we're going, but we're in enemy territory and we're surrounded." He set his jaw. "I don't want to die, Lieutenant Johansson."

"I suppose that's only logical," Elsa replied, immediately struck by the irony of her using that particular set of words to a Vulcan. She took a sip of her tea before asking, "Lieutenant Saalkan, would you say that same logic would dictate that we should be ready to sacrifice our lives for the greater good?"

"That is difficult to say," Saalkan said at length. "One's own life is a known value whereas the 'greater good' depends on the personal values of the observer. Trading an objective quality for a subjective one is not rational in and of itself," he said carefully, "unless the subjective variable were to be defined with a greater value." Silence followed as both considered his words. "As you may infer from our current situation, I do not gamble often."

"Isn't there a presumption that by joining Starfleet, that you've accepted the concept of the greater good," Elsa asked. "As officers, we did take an oath saying we'd sacrifice our lives for quite a few principles established by the Federation and Starfleet."

"Yet that oath does not preclude us from arming our ships with phaser banks and torpedo launchers," Saalkan said. "It does not forbid us from equipping deflector shields, or modifying our primary dish to emit tachyon pulses to disrupt enemy shields and communications. If you're asking me to fall on my sword for an ideal, Lieutenant, then I will do so if it is a worthy one. But if you give me a chance to avoid a preventable death, then expect me to fight for it." His shoulders raised in something very near a shrug. "Logic consists of a will that is closest to nature, and the will of nature is survival. It is not my decision whether to utilize every advantage available to us, but--whatever my fate--I have done my part."

"One could argue, though, that the will of Nature is not self-survival, but the survival of the organization the self is part of," Elsa countered. "More advanced organisms will protect their young at the risk of their own lives, or sacrifice themselves for the good of the pack, herd --- however they are organized. And yes, we do arm ourselves with the most advanced technology the Federation possesses. But it isn't primarily for the protection of the crew, though it does serve that purpose. That equipment, this ship and the crew, including us, was meant to serve the greater purpose that the Federation represents. And there may be a time when we could avoid a preventable death but choose not to, to honor our oath to Starfleet and the Federation." Elsa paused for a moment, then asked, "Lieutenant Saalkan, are you are aware of the circumstances in which I came to serve on the Vindex?"

"I try to avoid idle gossip," Saalkan said in answer to her question. After a moment's silence, he added, "Do you wish to tell me for yourself?"

"That would probably be for the best," Elsa said with the hint of a smile tugging at the right corner of her mouth. "Then it is neither idle nor gossip. Approximately two years ago, I was a very junior engineering officer on the Cukela when the senior commissioned officer of the Cukela's Marine detachment led a successful takeover of the ship. As you can imagine, the period after the takeover was a turbulent one. Senior officers who had not committed to the mutiny beforehand were either killed out of hand or sent somewhere for reprogramming. Junior officers and enlisted personnel were given the opportunity to swear allegiance to the Consortium, with refusal resulting either in imprisonment and reprogramming or summary execution. I chose to swear allegiance, in the hope of finding some way to destroy the Cukela. I was an engineering officer, after all, and was fairly certain that, given the opportunity, I would be able to do something."

Saalkan nodded in approval, remaining silent for her to continue.

"Of course, the Consortium was prepared for fifth columnists," Elsa continued. "And had augmented the safety and security protocols already in place on any starship. And swearing allegiance to the Consortium didn't necessarily ensure an individual would avoid being sent for reprogramming. So I changed tactics, and soon found myself trying to organize a counter-mutiny in an Orwellian nightmare, And so when the Cukela was on the verge of destroying the Renown, I made my move, the end result being the permanent crippling of the Cukela and the rescue of the Renown."

"I see," Saalkan said. "I had noted that defeating the Cukela seemed to be easier than anticipated."

"My reward for my efforts was being immediately placed in custody after the battle by the commander of the ship I had rescued from imminent destruction, with a permanent blot on my reputation, as well as on my personnel record. The fact that Captain Ainscow has not only taken me on, but put me in a position of responsibility, is nothing short of miraculous in my eyes. And I suspect that at some point in the future, when the authorities get around to it, I will be dismissed from the service, and the best I can hope for is to avoid time on a stockade planet before being separated from Starfleet, and for my superior officers to avoid official censure for keeping me on active duty. In retrospect, perhaps the best thing for my official career would have been to allow myself to be imprisoned and hope to either be rescued or released in a prisoner exchange. But I think my oath, and my service to the ideas of Starfleet and the Federation, were better served by the actions that I took, even if my life was put at risk and my career ended before it ever began."

"You did the only sensible thing," Saalkan said. "You remained with your first allegiance despite every incentive to the contrary. And it paid off." Saalkan turned to the side, walked a few paces, then turned about to face Elsa. "What was it your most famous human sage once said?
'This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.'"
Saalkan returned to his original position and looked back at Elsa. "You likely were not chosen for reprogramming because you had remained true to yourself, and that sincerity strengthened your feint where word and deed alone may have failed." He paused for effect. "Fortunately for us, your true self was on our side, making your breach of conduct far less egregious than a face value observation would admit--perhaps even justifying the technicality of your mutinous choices made for the sake of your ideal for the greater good."
The Vulcan again folded his hands behind his back, as if resting his case.

"I always enjoyed the irony of that admonishment from Polonius to Laertes," Elsa answered, "Following as it did Polonius' instructions to be concerned about the type of image he projected. And for two years, I was indeed more concerned about the image I projected to my Consortium overseers while I plotted against them."

Elsa took a deep breath before continuing. "But you are correct, Lieutenant Saalkan. I did what I did for my ideal of the greater good. For the good that Starfleet and the Federation represent. For what my oath represents. And, by that same measure, I understand the reluctance of my superiors to accept my actions at face value. Because they are bound by the same oath as I am, and they have to worry about the consequences of their actions for the same ideal that our mutual oath commits us to support."

"I could argue that the Treaty of Algeron doesn't allow for any Federation ship to be equipped with a cloaking device unless specifically designated to do so by the Romulan Star Empire. You and I could debate the point indefinitely, but in the end the final decision falls to the Captain. I assume the Captain is taking into consideration if and how the Romulans will discover we used a cloaking device, and whether they would consider it a violation or not, and what their reaction would be. But I think it would be safe to say that their response would not necessarily be logical."

Saalkan smirked at the insult to the ancient foes of the Vulcans. "Perhaps not. Though the existing exception was made due to a common enemy in the Gamma Quadrant found in the Dominion. If the Consortium continues to expand into the Alpha Quadrant, then the Romulans may be more lenient than is feared."

"Like you, Lieutenant, I have no desire to die out here. I don't care to be a martyr. And I have no objection to use any reasonable means to save my life, and the life of my shipmates. But I understand the Captain's objection to the use of a cloaking device, and the possible repercussions said use could result in. It seems to me, then, that the proper course of action would be to present to the Captain what viable options she has at her disposal, and then accept her decision." Elsa took another sip of her tea before continuing. "On that some note, though, the ship still needs your mind working on its behalf. I'll talk to the Captain about restoring your authorization."

"I appreciate that, Lieutenant Johansson," Saalkan said, his eyebrows raised in surprise. "I have already relegated the matter into her hands. As I have said, my part is done--for better or or for worse. If there is a preferred direction in which I should direct my efforts, please let me know."

"It would be illogical not to have one of ship's best researchers not working on its behalf. I would suggest that, in the future, Lieutenant, that you present your argument more diplomatically in the future. And accept their rejection in the same diplomatic tone. You may not consider it the most logical course of action, but I believe you will find it the most prudent." Elsa finished off her tea before asking. "Have you been able to work on your primary area of research on the metaphysical question?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes," Saalkan said, "but unfortunately the nature of the research is one that requires years of study and observation. One might even say I won't even know my solution until I find it. I did garner the support and permission from Dr. O'Reilly to assist in autopsies, should any become scheduled on board." Saalkan frowned again. "With as many sempiternal lifeforms as Starfleet has encountered over the centuries, I fail to understand how we have not attained athanasia ourselves. One day, though, the stars will reveal their mysteries, of that I am confident."

"Sometimes I wonder if the stars don't conspire to keep their mysteries to themselves," Elsa said, then gave the Vulcan a wan smile. "Forgive me, Lieutenant. I come from a region of Earth that gave my world Søren Kierkegaard, so naturally I have a pessimistic streak. But if you have no other matters to discuss, I'll try to resolve this matter with the Captain. And again, I strongly suggest tempering your arguments with equal parts logic and discretion in the future."

"Very well, Lieutenant," Saalkan said. "And, again, thank you." He took her dismissal with pleasure and allowed the faintest trace of a smirk to cross his face as he left her office.


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