Posted on Sunday, 16 January 2022 - 6:23pm by Captain Pippa Whitley & Lieutenant JG Ethan Connelly
Operation: Crimson Kaleidoscope
Location: Science Lab
Captain Pippa Whitley had changes to deal with, the return of Commander Soral whom they needed to learn how to work with. Pippa had spent significant time with Kingsley as their Acting First Officer and more than that as Chief Science Officer, neither of which she was presently in condition to do. A new Aide-de-camp was not the only change to personnel. Several new crew had come aboard including a Lieutenant JG Ethan Connley, a Science Officer who by rank was ranking Science Officer aboard with Kingsley sidelined.
To be the bearer of the news? Perhaps he had already known, put two and two together. Perhaps not. It was also possible that the man was entirely in the dark. Nevertheless, it was Pippa's job to get him brought up to speed and make sure he was aware of the burden on his shoulders.
The Captain sought to find the new Science Officer, and where else would they be but the Science lab. As the doors parted ways, Pippa caught sight of the unfamiliar face. "It's unsightly," stated Commanding Officer. "If you were hoping for more of a Science department, I'm afraid someone pulled a fast one on you by assigning you here."
From the far side of the room, Lieutenant Ethan Connelly had peered up from his workstation at the unfamiliar voice. Pretty much every voice was unfamiliar to him - at least as far as this ship was concerned. His rather unexpected reassignment had been rushed through and he had found himself packing a solitary case, a mountain of research, and a few new uniforms. With so much upheaval on Vulcan he had all but expected changes and indeed, his entire career had involved moving between postings as needed. He had the art of relocating firmly nailed down.
Upon realising the person who had spoken was the Captain, Ethan hurriedly stood to attention, managing - just- to avoid knocking his spice tea onto the floor. “Apologies, Captain, I didn’t realise it was you.”
"None necessary, lieutenant," replied Pippa. "I came in here interrupting whatever you are currently doing. At ease," Pippa added though they appreciated the coming to attention. The Standing Bear was a ship like none that Captain Whitley had commanded nor served aboard. The crew was sharp, good, well rounded, but the starship held a crew that had become a family long before Pippa had come aboard. Only they and someone like K'Var and Connley could see it clearly, feel their displacement.
Pippa's own posture relaxed, but only mildly. "She's not much to look at from a scientist's eye or an explorer's for that matter, but the starship has its charm. I hope that you will be able to settle in alright."
“I’ve seen worse and while there are more extensive facilities on other ships, everything here is brand new and the sensor suite is the best available,” Connelly replied, moving to stand with his hands clasped lightly behind his back. “I have what I need, I’m sure. And in answer to your question, yes, I got unpacked and my quarters are more than adequate. At the moment I do not have anyone sharing my quarters so it is … peaceful. Which is how I like it.”
He regarded the Captain curiously, “is there something I can assist you with?”
"Yes, Lieutenant Connelly," Pippa replied. "As much as I enjoy a good campfire science chat, I did have reason to come looking for you. There will be a bit of change in your department - what constitutes as the Science Department at least. The head of your department, Lieutenant Kingsley is going to need some time before resuming her duties aboard the starship. Fortunately, I don't need you to step up as Second Officer" Pippa teased a bit. "Though this does mean that you are Acting Chief Science Officer effective immediately."
“Oh.” The Lieutenant nodded as he considered this, albeit not entirely unexpected, news. “I will ensure we keep the lights on until her return, so to speak.”
"That's all well and good, Lieutenant, but I'm afraid there is a bit more to this than Kingsley being ill or needing some time off," Pippa began. "You are welcome to keep the lights on until her return, but becoming the Chief Science Officer, for the time being, you have inherited her duties in that capacity. This means anything I would normally call upon Kingsley to work on is now yours to handle."
“I won’t let you down, Captain, I assure you,” Connelly replied with confidence. “And I am certain my experience will come in useful.”
Pippa nodded. "Good, because you will have to hit the ground running. We have a situation that I am not sure if you are fully aware of. You know about the instability on Vulcan right now, but what you may not know is that Commander Soral was not the one who exasperated the problem. It was an imposter - well, more accurately a version of Soral, but not ours. Lieutenant Kingsley was abducted by this version of Soral. They took one of our auxiliary craft and escaped."
The science officer listened intently, eyebrows raising slightly but making no comment until the Captain had finished. “Quite the situation,” he mused as he retook his seat, gesturing for the Captain to take the vacant chair nearby. “If you would be so inclined, I have questions. But first… May I get you something from the replicator? While I’m sure the current circumstances may lean towards alcoholic beverages, it does a rather good Vulcan Spice Tea. I took quite a liking to it during Summers on Vulcan. The rest I was always somewhat indifferent to.”
Pippa nodded and opted to settle in by taking a seat of their own. "Vulcan spice tea is nice, but I'm a creature of habit. "Lady Grey tea latte, hot," the Commanding Officer said. "If it's easier, I have it programmed as Whitley Tea latte number one," Pippa added with the faintest of a giggle, not the sort of noise a Captain normally made but the memories of their grandmother always lifted the facade of tough as nails Commanding Officer, a crack in their otherwise sturdy armor.
"Nightcap later though," Pippa noted with a small wink. "I'm not opposed sneaking in a splash of the good stuff once in a while."
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ethan chuckled as he fetched their tea. From what little he knew so far, the nightcap sounded like it was needed. Handing Whitley the drink, he retook his seat, sipping from his own cup for a moment as he gathered his thoughts.
“Commander Soral, or rather an impostor, was the one who made the speech on Vulcan?” He clarified, pondering this. For anyone to do so seemed extraordinary, especially to do so while surrounded by the most prominent and powerful members of Vulcan society. “I was on Vulcan at the time. I recall witnessing the broadcast. It was quite a remarkable move. Of course, he did not wear his uniform but it was not lost on anyone that this was a Starfleet officer, arguing for Vulcan to leave the Federation. That it was an impostor, however, is far more believable.”
And almost equally disturbing.
Pippa scoffed and sighed. "Tell that to the Vulcans," the Captain muttered a bit. "Science driven species my arse" Pippa added not mincing words.
“This individual, do we know anything of him? Where he came from? Or how he was able to take Commander Soral’s place?”
"Best guess at this point and that the other Soral interacted with our Soral when he left the starship. He had business to tend to, and it was likely then that the 'switch' happened. This other version from what we have come to understand as well as hypothesize is potentially from the mirror universe, but what we know about him doesn't match up with the socio-political trajectory of the mirror universe that Captains Kirk and Sisko had been to."
“There are, theoretically, an infinite number of alternate realities,” Ethan pointed out. “Some with minor differences. Others major. But your theory would explain how easily this alternate was able to take the place of the real Commander Soral. Who, I should have asked… is he okay? All things considered, obviously.”
"I am just starting to meet him, getting to know him, and have him as my XO." Pippa sighed a bit. "To say that I have anyway of knowing how he's doing is out of my realm of understanding. I have nothing but his word to go with. As a Vulcan, I imagine he's keeping a lot to himself. I have to trust in Lieutenant Vali and Doctor Rose to know Soral."
“Vulcans are… often too proud and too stubborn,” Connelly confided. “My grandmother is an excellent case in point. Added, to the mix is, of course, our missing science officer. They are married, are they not?”
"A further complication to the matter," Pippa replied. There was a mild underlying bitterness in her tone. "The previous Commanding Officers did not interfere with crew relationships. I don't normally care, but as you can see from this starship...families weren't in the designers' minds."
“Indeed,” Ethan nodded. “Life, however, is often complicated. So… this impostor abducted Lieutenant Kingsley… why? Do we believe it was opportunistic - wrong place and wrong time? Of course, if the other universe is aligned closely with this one…” he was considering possibilities but none of them helped with the immediate issue. “Am I correct in assuming we are launching a rescue mission? How much of a head start are we dealing with?”
"There was no reason to take Kingsley, not that I immediately could think of until I walked in here and started talking with you," Pippa stated. "Captain's hypothesis, abduction of the Chief Science Officer. What if he needed her not because she was Soral's wife, but because he needed a scientist...and about three days."
“Interesting hypothesis,” Connelly commented as he leaned back in his chair. “Lieutenant Kingsley is an accomplished scientist, so it could be as good a reason as any. She is also young and, no disrespect, but that can make someone appear a much more viable target. People often mistake youth for inexperience and vulnerability. At their own peril, of course. Assuming your reasoning is correct, then as long as she is helpful to them, then she should remain safe.”
The three days head start was equally problematic. “In all likelihood, they are either heading to a location here or returning to their own universe. The latter would in all likelihood leave traces behind if a ship had made that trip. Telltale distortions in subspace. Very hard to detect but if they are there we can find them with adjustments to our sensors.”
"My belief would be that he's returning to where he came from," Pippa offered. "Any potential way of tracking down that shuttle and where it went is a priority."
“There are plenty of routine sensor sweeps carried out, we can collate from any Federation vessel. Even passive scans may have picked up something to help us narrow down the search. I would not assume they would be so arrogant to follow on the course heading after passing sensor range.”
"The shuttles warp signature is going to have its own ion trail," noted Pippa. He will likely find a way to mask it quickly, but we can put an APB out there to any and all ships, stations, and relay stations. If anyone caught sensor sight of them, it will at least give us a direction."
“We will put all our efforts into finding them,” Connelly assured her.
Pippa nodded and finished off the tea latte. "Good, I like to hear that. There will be a briefing coming up, keep an eye on a summons for it. I expect you to be there as Chief Science Officer."
“Yes, Captain. And thank you, I doubt this is an ideal situation, having me just come aboard and all.”
Pippa stood from the seat, leaving the mug behind near a console. "Good tea," the Captain replied not wanting to comment on the situation being less than ideal. With that, the Commanding Officer of the starship Standing Bear exited the Science Lab.