Friday, July 24, 2015

By The Numbers II: A Full Accounting

Even though most of the officers in the ready room were off their duty cycle, sleeping was not on their minds. Syvok, stood stonily at the head of the table. His gaze abruptly went between the assembled officers which as Sri knew, passed for agitation for a vulcan.  The darkness didn’t help the mood. The yellow alert combined with wan emergency lighting created heavy shadows that turned empty spaces into lightless voids such Syvok appeared sinister instead of efficient and the officers around the table appeared sullen, bleary and agitated instead of -- 

Sri decided that part was actually pretty accurate. The stress around the table radiated out spastically around her, and she focused tightly to hold it off.

 Syvok cleared his throat. “The Captain will demand a full accounting of third watch. Lieutenant Commander Sri, you had the conn for third watch. Report.”

Sri consulted her PADD. “At 0413 hours, There was a Borg nanite infection in Delta Bay.  Six crewmen were assimilated before we contained the infection.  The crewmen are recovering in sickbay. An Engineering team from the U.S.S. C483 is heading up the decontamination of Delta Bay and the adjoining access conduits.”

“I expect a full accounting of how this occurred.”

“We’re still gathering data, but it seems that at 0330, Worker team Delta was removing remnants of the Borg Cube from the C483 when Bee 18 reported a failure in telemetry and returned to Delta bay for repairs. We suspect the bee was infected with nanites from the wreckage clinging to the C483, which resulted in the telemetry failure.  At 0400, operations detected multiple system failures in Delta Bay. An engineering team was dispatched for repairs. Shortly after arrival, the Engineering team was attacked by the bee operator, who had been assimilated. The Engineering Chief raised the alarm, and at 0423, Tactical dispatched security teams and notified operations. You were woken, Sir.”

Syvok looked to Lieutenant Tran.  “Operations should have dispatched Tactical. Why did you dispatch a team before operations requested one?”

Tran looked at Sri, who nodded. “Sir, the chief’s distress call went out on multiple channels – screaming about the borg and how the ship was under attack. We thought we were dealing with a ship-wide event in which tactical can and should take independent action.”

Sri added, “We went to yellow alert. A medium range scan detected no Borg outside of the ship, and immediately hailed the C483 and Paladin.”

“Your communication, Lieutenant Commander Sri, should have gone through command. “

“It did. I was watch commander at the time. It made sense to let them know our situation – they also have more operational knowledge about the Borg. It seemed wise to consult with them as soon as possible. Helm said—“

“The entity known as ‘Helm’ is considered restricted.  If you were to contact anyone on the C483, it should have been your peer in operations.”

“Sir, Helm is operations on the U.S.S. C483.”  Sri kept her face neutral as she weathered Syvok’s granite scrutiny. The seconds of silence between them crept by.

“Be that as it may.” Syvok finally said,  “You should have consulted with myself, rather than communicating with the C483 and Paladin yourself. I am quite certain your metrics will reflect your error in judgment. Thankfully, at least tactical was able to contain the situation.”

Tran eased into his report cautiously “Actually, Sir, tactical had to fall back. They were unwilling to fire on their crewmen. The best they could do was slow them down … “His antennae dipped in contrition, “with static grenades.”

“Static grenades.” Syvok flatly repeated as Sri sighed and wearily rubbed her eyes. “Was operations notified to harden our own systems from the disassociation pulse the grenades release?”

Tran swallowed. “No Sir. I accept full responsibility.”

Syvok serenely looked out the window at the stars. Finally he said “At least this explains why we are sitting in the dark. How long until main power is restored?”

Sri replied, “Not long, Sir. Borg activity was mostly confined to Delta Bay.  But Sir, I was Officer of the Watch. The disconnect between operations and tactical is my responsibility.  In addition to main power, we lost sensors in Delta Bay. I put us at Red Alert at 0423, which put the Paladin and the C483 on alert as well. The Worker Bees outside the C483 were ordered to dock with the C483 rather than return to the Oppenheimer. That was about the time you were being briefed on the general situation.”

“You should have stood down while I was being briefed, Lt. Commander Sri.”

“With all due respect, Sir. You elected to have Lt. Tran, rather than myself debrief you on the situation, and acting command was given no indication of when that briefing would end – especially since Lt. Tran elected to continue command of security while debriefing yourself.  By all indications, this strain of Borg seems to have improved adaption protocols, Sir. By the second detonation, the grenades were being more effective against ship’s systems than the Borg. Waiting an unspecified period in a deteriorating situation didn’t seem prudent at the time.”Sri paused for a rebuttal, but Syvok waved her on. “We worked with operations and engineering to overload all couplings between Delta Bay and the rest of the ship, and shield the ship side with level ten containment fields. While the infestation had already appropriated the Worker Bee power systems, they couldn’t appropriate ships power to create more complex replication systems.”

“How did the infection spread beyond Delta Bay, then?”

Sri felt the tension rise around the table. “Engineering took the destruction of the conduits as part of the Borg attack, and used bridge couplers to restore several of the connections.”

Syvok arched a brow. “Why would Engineering re-establish couplings that we had intentionally overloaded?”

“The engineering teams were following standard procedure, Sir. Normally when a section of the ship loses power, engineering restores power to support tactical and operational efforts.”

“Was Engineering notified of the plan to isolate Delta Bay?”

“Yes Sir. However the Master Chief could not reach all the engineering teams on comms, and…it seems that most of the engineering teams did not receive instruction on borg protocols in specialist training.  However, we overloaded the downstream couplings and so only had infection spread down one of the conduits which lead to Delta Bay.  The C483 provided updated decontamination protocols which are proving to be effective.”

 Syvok looked to Dr Fenna. “What is the condition of the crewmen that were injured?”

“Crewman Har’t  -- the Worker Bee pilot --  and Specialist Serrin were the furthest along. Stage three assimilation. They’ll require several days to recover and heavy doses of improvoline to get over the stress-“ Sri tsked and the Doctor gave her a nasty glare. “What, you want to be Counselor?”

“Pickling them in improvoline is not Counseling.” Sri countered, to which Fenna responded with a quick smattering of Bajoran which the Universal Translator refused to translate.

“Doctor” Syvok interrupted. “I require you to complete your prognosis of the other patients.”

Engineering Chief Halton, Crewman Aimes and Ensign Loris from the tactical team had stage two infections, which they slowed with self-administered inhibitors. Nurse Blythe --”

Syvok cut Dr. Fenna off.  “One of your nurses was infected?”

“It was only a stage one infection. She didn’t follow proper protocol, and no, despite the Lt. Commander’s misgivings –“ she jerked her head toward Sri “-- I’m not going to drown her in barbiturates. Aside from that, there were thirteen cases of toxic reactions to non-infected crewmen self-administering nanite inhibitors. Two burns from blown plasma couplings. Assorted bumps and bruises.”

“The self-administration of inhibitors is disturbing. It seems there is a pattern of not following protocol.”

“More of a pattern of not knowing protocol, Sir.” Sri said. “After sickbay was re-contained, I did a quick survey of my Operations group. More than half could not identify basic protocols when dealing with Borg infection – even among the junior officers. Of those that self-inoculated without infection, two were ensigns.”

Tran murmured. “I should survey my teams.”

“Do so.” Syvok said with finality. “Evaluate all your teams. I had heard that Starfleet had made adjustments to specialist training and Academy requirements to satisfy demand for new recruits, but I had not thought they would be significant. I want reports by next duty shift. Dismissed.  Lieutenant. Commander Sri, a word.”

Sri was already waiting. She didn’t even want to look at her scores from this mess. They stood quietly while the other officers left.

“I have misgivings about the quality of training our junior staff has received.” Syvok stated. “I think this should give you cause to redouble your efforts on your other project.” He emphasized ‘other’ slightly.

“Commander, there are clear ethical challenges around your proposal.” Sri said diplomatically, “I would like to make sure this has approval from Command.”

“The Captain gave the order himself, Lieutenant Commander. If you require to hear it again-“

“Starfleet regulations state that orders that have potential illegalities can be appealed to Starfleet Command.”

“You have that right, though I caution you, Lieutenant Commander, if you are delaying-“

“Commander” Sri interjected with all the calm she could muster.  “Asking for a simple yes or no from command is the least effective stalling maneuver – especially if command supports the decision.”

Syvok absorbed the idea for several moments. “That is both logical and acceptable. I expect an affirmative answer from command will put your unfounded fears at rest. You shall have command’s decision shortly. Understand, however, that you will not have the luxury of running to command if we are in the middle of a battle.”

Sri said nothing, and simply looked at Syvok, her face a bland mask. She wouldn’t satisfy Syvok by fuming at Syvok’s minimalist contempt and instead forced herself to sense beyond her anger. Syvok was frustrated -- an emotion any vulcan would admit to few, concealed behind a veil of seriousness to conceal it even from most Betazoids. Most.

“Is there something on your mind, Lieutenant commander?”

Sri let her silence speak for her, even as she pulled back even further. Surok’s admonishment all those years ago floated to mind. That which is around you becomes louder when you are silent. From her far, quiet perch, Sri could see Syvok’s frustration was itself a veil, a permitted kernel of emotion created to be a veil to the self. Beyond it lay an emotion so carefully tucked away as to almost be easier seen without empathy. It was a dangerous emotion – one that once sensed becomes infectious. Desperation.

“No Sir.” Sri replied carefully, then stopped. “Actually Sir, there is. There was a detail I omitted from my report – because it did not seem relevant to giving a sense of the situation, but I think it may have bearing.  For a while after the couplings were blown and the engineering teams were repairing --”

“Repairing against protocol.”

“Repairing against protocol, the Borg had managed to disrupt short-range communications.”

“A common Borg tactic.” Syvok mused, his brow arched as he stumbled on the unsaid. “You used telepathy to communicate with the engineering teams.”

“I did not. Telepathic communication from the bridge to engineering been a strain, and I have no connection to any of the engineering staff other than the superficial. Such a communication would have been invasive. I suppose, if there was no other alternative, I would have attempted it. Thankfully, there was. D’shyv was able to project to the isolated engineering team and tell them to stop.”

“The Aenar civilian.”

“Sir, there are no civilians on this ship, only various levels of expertise.”

Syvok narrowed his eyes slightly. “The Captain was quite clear there is no place on a warship for a pacifist.”

“The Captain may want to run those numbers again.” Sri said, ignoring the vulcan equivalent of a glare. “If it helps the Captain’s equation, I can enumerate the tasks during this crisis that couldn’t be done due to resource constraints and subtract those that D’shyv would have been prevented from doing because of her beliefs. My results will be non-zero, and based on this assignment you have me on, we are not above making those hard decisions, Sir.”

“Do so. The Captain will be checking your ‘math’ very closely, Lieutenant Commander Sri. As will I. As it is, Dr. Fenna has found her quite useful, and has argued quite extensively to keep her on staff.”

“Then she has clearly demonstrated her ability to be an asset to this crew, but she will learn faster in operations. I will have the training plan to prepare her for crewman level duties sent to your PADD immediately. Operations better suits her skills and talents. I have an association with her and can reach her telepathically anywhere on the ship.”

“My point being, Lieutenant Commander Sri, that I leave it to you to explain you will be taking one of her favored assistants away.”

Sri nodded solemnly. “Yes Sir. If you insist.” She maintained an appearance of resignation, while secretly, she looked forward to it. Very much.