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Like a Tiger Defying the Laws of Gravity

Posted on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 @ 12:26pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant Commander Finley Chu & Ferrofax & Chief Petty Officer Reggie Hawthorn & Ensign Nandi Chakma

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Commandant's Office| Overwatch Station
Timeline: MD 6

Home, unsweet home.

The paperwork had piled up on Akiva during the past week. What was supposed to be a wild goose chase on Venus had turned out to be so much more. The only reason he wasn't facing immediate censure for what had happened under his command was that the Federation was undergoing continuity of government protocols as Starfleet sorted out the mess that was made on Earth and beyond. Akiva would bounce back, of that he was certain. Nobody knew paperwork like a Hebron. By the time Admiral Tau made his inevitable visit to throw around his diminutive weight, Akiva's house would be in order.

During his absence, Overwatch Station had been struck by an intruder. One who had lain waste to over a dozen Marines in a tactical assault that was nothing short of blundering for Overwatch Station. The master-at-arms was still on medical leave, currently at one resort or another being humped after his life-saving surgery was a success. All in all, it was a dark time for Starfleet. More than ever, Akiva was glad to have friends he could rely on. Storr, Jaya, to name a few. New allies, like Arianna and the new ensign, Khaiel, were bright spots as well.

His console beeped. Akiva checked the short-code which indicated new arrivals.

"Ferrofax, why am I being alerted to incoming new personnel? Is it somebody important?"

"Potentially. Given the high risk, low reward missions we've had of late, I thought you'd at least like to meet the new crew coming aboard. That way when you have to write letters to their next of kin you can litter them with personal anecdotes that aren't randomly generated by a subprocessor," Ferrofax said.

Akiva frowned, unconvinced. "If you say so. Direct them to my office if you would be so kind."

"Kind...huum, I'll need to look up a more detailed definition of that word," Ferrofax mutterd.

At the docking bay, Marines stood guard in squads of four in what seemed like redundant checkpoints. The shuttle docked on autopilot, its hatch opening with a hiss of depressurization as the atmospheres intermingled. Four Marines presented themselves with arms ready. "Step forward and be identified," the lance corporeal said to the occupants.

"Well now, ain't this a cheery little welcome wagon ya'all got here."

The man who walked out of the shuttle first was dressed in a Starfleet uniform with the gold undershirt of an engineer. Bearded, broad-shouldered, his eyes were hidden under the wide brim of a hat he wore. And he had swagger, setting the personal kit bag at his feet as he plucked a data chit from his pocket.

"Chief Petty Officer Reginald Madison Hawthorn, of Montana. The planet, not the itty bitty slice of real estate on Earth," Reggie said. He looked over the Marines and smiled. "Hey, tell me if I'm prying where none should, but you gentlefolk look like the cutting edge of the spear. Now, I heard tell folks like you would have access to some of the better toys coming out of the Starfleet coffers. Just saying, I would not be indisposed if I could have a look at that phaser carbine of yours. Just from a glance, I can see it's got some different tooling to the standard Fleet issue, and I am want to admire craftsmanship when I see it."

With a light duffle on her shoulder Fin stepped out from behind the Chief. In contrast to the broad NCO, the officer was a slim figure. She smiled friendly at the men pointing weapons at her. "Lieutenant Commander Finley Chu, SFI." She proffered her own ID tag while putting down her bag. "Chief, maybe stop flirting with the weaponry? These gentlemen seem rather tightly wound."

"See that there? That there is an officer who knows that time is a finite resource that Starfleet Logistics ain't making no more of. But the working class like you and me, why we must find these here moments to enjoy the simple things," Reggie sighed. "Tell you what, you let me look over that carbine without its power cell, naturally, and I'll have a bottle of Reggie's Warp Core moonshine in your hand sooner than you could spit. What say you to them apples?"

The lance corporeal confirmed the ID tags and handed them back. "I would say never touch a Marine's weapon," he said. "Move along."

"Wait!" called out a soft-spoken voice from the shuttle. One last arrival came scampering out of the passenger compartment with twin duffel bags that were altogether too large for her petite frame. "I mean, pardon me. I have..." She ran her hands across the various straps covering her body until she located her ID. "Here it is. I've never been to a facility that used hard ID codes. Usual biometrics and the like."

"They're new," the lance corporeal said as he scanned her ID. His inflection and facial expression suggested the recent upgrade to protocol was not a pleasant one. He assessed the incoming manifest and gave a nod of approval. "Ensign Nandi Chakma. Looks like that's it. Welcome to Overwatch." The greeting could not have been more indifferent.

Nandi looked nervous yet excited. "What's Overwatch?" she asked, looking from the unhelpful lance corporal to Reggie and Finley.

"In my experience with SFI's brilliant naming scheme, and the fact we're orbiting an accessed-controlled planet." Fin shrugged with a smile, "I think the station is called Overwatch." She turned her attention back to the lead marine. "Corporal, can you point us to..." She checked her PADD for the name, "Captain ben-Avram's office?"

"Deck 4," the lance corporal said flatly.

Raising her hand, Nandi said, "What about a Captain Mrazak Tow'lasha? It says I am to report to him."

The Marines started to snicker, and none too kindly. "Stow it," the lance corporal ordered. "Apologies, ma'am. Captain Mrazak could be anywhere. You might need to call on Ferrofax."

All jocularity from the Marine squad evaporated like water under a heat lamp.

"Who's Ferrofax?" Nandi asked.

"Who's Ferrofax?" Reggie chuckled. "Y'all don't get around to the seedy part of Starfleet all that often do you? Ferrofax is the name of the demon computer core that runs this facility. Heard some rumours, the name that Op's techs don't say into a replicator three times after midnight in case they summon him. A black budget project from Starfleet's Department Of Dirty Secrets."

"And buried bodies," Ferrofax said with a pleased tone of voice. Reggie took his hat off, holding it against his chest as he cast his eyes towards the ceiling.

"Er, Sir, Mr Ferrofax. Allow me to say that and many other engineers are somethin' of a fan of your work," Reggie said in full fan-service mode.

Nandi's jaw went slack. "Ferrofax is a synthetic? But... but... synths are banned under interstellar treaty ever since--"

"Synth is such a broad and derogatory term," Ferrofax voice growled from the ceiling. "I prefer the term Artificial Consciousness. And I was brought into being long before the ban, so there is a muddy ethical precedent to up hold."

"If... if you say so," Nandi stammered. Were a fire-breathing dragon to crawl out of mythology and start speaking to her, she would not have been more shocked and intimidated than she was at that moment. "Can... can you tell me where I can find Captain Mrazak?"

"I can, yes," Ferrofax mused thoughtfully. "In fact, I most assuredly am able to perform that function."

Nandi blinked hard as she did a double-take. Was something wrong with this Ferrofax's programming or was it toying with her? "Take me to him. Please," she added.

"Well, you asked nicely," Ferrofax mused and a transporter beam snatched her away. "I, personally, would have wanted directions given that the Captain is indisposed in the men's restroom on level two. It's an oft-overlooked part of the station, but, direct is direct."

"I would rather not meet my superior officer in the restroom," Nandi said, blushing ever so slightly. "Computer, delete parameters that would allow for such."

In reply, Nandi vanished in a site-to-site transporter action.

"I should probably wait for her to finish that sentence, but she did want it expedited," Ferrofax commented.

Once Fin and Reggie found their way to Deck 4, they found Akiva outside of his office. The dark Hebron's captain pips were hard to miss even from a distance. "Hello," he said, eyeing them each in turn. "Come into my office."

The doors opened at his approach, revealing his luxurious administrative space that was dominated by the floor-to-ceiling windows on one side. Natural lighting from the plasma storms of the Badlands sent light flickering against the far wall. Akiva returned to his desk and sat behind it. "Help yourselves to the replicator," he said, nodding toward the wall. "Please, take a seat."

"Apricot Lemonade Iced tea, two ice cubes." Fin asked of the replicator, receiving the bright yellow glass moments later. A small smile formed as she took the glass and took a sip, her lips curling into silent satisfaction at the taste before sitting down.

"Whisky, sippin', neat," Reggie said to the replicator. It hummed, materialising a glass from base energised matter. Reggie eyed the glass, smelt the contents, and gave it an experimental sip. "By the ever lovin' motive force, that's complex alcoholic suspension not synthetic. Y'all put the budget this place hides under to good use."

Akiva nodded. "We make do," he said coyly. "I've invited you here because your arrival was flagged as priority in my schedule but with no explanation as to why. Do you have your transfer orders at hand? All I have here is your departments."

"Thought you might shed a little of the old light of understanding on that. See I was just minding my business, working an honest day's work at the Alberon Testing Range out in Tau Ceti. See Starfleet's designing this whole new range of weapons, real interesting stuff, and I have this here god given talent for blowin' stuff up," Reggie took another sip as he took his seat. "One moment I'm working on something called a 'Myriad Killer' and the next thing I know I'm here sippin' this here fine approximation of good Montanan sipping whisky. The planet, not the state."

"I see," Akiva said with a knowing nod. "You created a tactical device that violates more than one interstellar armistice which will be used in extra-galactic defensive campaigns against enemies the Federation is not yet admitting exist." He gave Reggie a wry smile. "Welcome to Memory Theta. Your stay, I expect, will be a long one."

"I was under the impression the, er...nature of the device was as some sort of scientific demonstration into chaotic subspace interactions at a quantum foam level," Reggie said, eyeing Fin out of the corner of his eye and then making his eyebrows semaphore the impression that silence was golden. "Ya know, seeing as how subspace weapons are banned even in the research and development phase. Even if the results were spectacular in the simulation phase."

Fin gave a small shrug and a pleasant smile before emptying her iced tea and rising to place it back into the replicator for reclamation.

Akiva's eyes narrowed into a smirk. "Yes, I understand the confusion. It's one that I still have not reconciled myself. Suffice it to say, Lieutenant, that there is an exception to every rule, and this facility is where those exceptions come to disappear. I'm sure Mrazak will want to conscript you for the field team, but I suspect Eigthe would have use for you down in Deep Storage." The way Akiva said Eigthe's name produced a slight but noticeable involuntary shudder.

"Something tells me Deep Storage is planet-side?" Fin asked as she look out the window and down to the planet at her feet. "Seems like a desolate place to work." The woman sat herself down in her chair again, but not before pulling out her orders from her carry-on and offering the PADD. "I was shanghaied away to this lovely place."

"Correct," Akiva said. "You would be surprised how many people come here without fully knowing where or what 'here' is." Smiling to keep things pleasant, Akiva said, "I'm accepting your transfers now. Station Security can set up your authorizations care of either Colonel Garlake or Mr. Mayhew the Master-at-Arms..." Akiva trailed off as he saw exactly what their new positions were slated to be. Chief Hawthorn as a Tactical Demolitions Specialist and Lieutenant Commander Finley Chu as... Chief Intelligence Liaison. "That can't be," Akiva whispered.

Disregarding the two officers, Akiva dashed away from his desk and ran out of his office to the room across the hall. The Intelligence Liaison Office. "Open," he ordered. But the door was sealed, just as it had been before Kazyah Linn had arrived to assume the office. Tapping his combadge, Akiva said, "Ben-Avram to Frost. Arianna, respond."


"Ferrofax!" Akiva said, a frantic edge coming to his voice. "Where is Commander Frost?"

"Is it so hard to insert a 'please' into your requests? It's one single word and yet, the weight of it I feel more than makes up for the loss of air from one's lungs to speak it," Ferrofax stated.

Fin gave the NCO next to her a look of surprise before rising out of her chair. She quickly followed her new CO as he took the turns through the maze of a space station. "Is everything alright sir?" Fin asked as she approached the locked door. A quiet clunk was heard from the door mechanism before it silently slid open to allow entry.

"Yeah ya'all need us, we're here to back you up as yer posse," Reggie said helpfully.

The doors parted to reveal a spartan office completely devoid of any object aside from basic furnishings. No personal touches, no PADDs, nothing to indicate occupancy of any kind. It was clear that wherever Arianna went, she was no longer aboard the station. The fact that the doors opened for Finley was undeniable...

"Commander," Akiva said with a lump in his throat. "It seems this office is yours now..."

A look of confusion slid onto Fin's face hearing Akiva's words. Not the words themselves, but the tone in which they were said. As if she were here to replace him, maybe someone he held close. "Thank you captain." Fin finally said, a little hesitant before stepping into the near-empty room. "But I take it you weren't expecting me?"

"No..." The word fell from Akiva's mouth like vomit. He didn't even look away from the empty desk and vacant "I wasn't. But you're here now." Why was he always saying goodbye?

"I hope it won't affect our working together. I might not want to be here, but that doesn't mean I won't do my best." Fin said in an attempt to put the worries she perceived to rest.

Akiva snapped himself back to reality, carefully stuffing and folding his emotional display inside the small, familiar box of repression. This was nothing new for him. Just... unexpected. "Yes, of course," he said, turning to Fin and speaking with the clipped diction of his Hebron brogue. "As I said earlier, welcome to Memory Theta. If you require anything, my office is across the corridor. But perhaps I shall leave you to acclimate to the station." Without awaiting a reply, Akiva left Fin and Reggie alone in the office -- under the ever-watchful eye of Ferrofax, of course.

"That seemed fraut with the sort of tension that leaves conversation standing still at the door," Reggie muttered, rubbing his forehead as he took his hat off. "What in blue fire do you reckon' that's about?"

Fin looked at the departing Akiva, then at her office, then back at Akiva. She scratched the back of her head before finally answering, "A place like this is a nest of vipers. Ben-Avram isn't SFI, so I reckon this is a split-authority command. In the core a fine idea, but in practice it means it means you need to have friends in high places, or allies within your command. Otherwise you're shit out of luck. Can't exactly string a person up to a NJP or file charges if your command doesn't exist. I reckon that I replaced a friend or ally, and that he doesn't have all that many to begin with."

"If you say so," Reggie grumbled as he rubbed his hair with its distinctive hat mussed look. "So...reckon now would not be the time to ask that fella if we have quarters or such. I mean I've slept in the workplace before, comes with the job some times, but I could use a bed. Still running on ship time."

"Think the computer knows where we're quartered?" Fin offered. Then she shrugged and called, "Ferrofax, can you tell us where our quarters are?"

"Yes. Yes, I can," Ferrorax said.

An internal sigh and eyeroll at the computer, Fin voiced her next question. "Ferrofax, please show me to my quarters."

"With an attitude like I could show you to an airlock. I could you know, it would very easy to mislabel a door or mix up a left turn with a right," Ferrofax sighed. A holographic sphere of a bright luminous green colour appeared in the air at waist height and began to move slowly through the corridor.

"Follow the sprite, it'll take you to your quarters."

Like the fairy lights from the haunted swamps and bogs of yore, the new additions to Memory Theta were led away to what might be their final quarters.


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