Previous Next

JDL | CIO, NPC | LCDR Stacker, CWO Parsuv (NPC) | "Clay Man"

Posted on Tue Sep 11th, 2018 @ 8:27pm by Lieutenant Commander James Stacker

Mission: Lacuna
Location: Various Locations | Deck 678 | Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 241809.11

After the return of the rescued - and the rescuers - to the station life moved on. It was hard to discern at first. There were a few times that James had roused to believe he was still hearing the thunder of weapons and seeing smoke in the air. It quickly faded, though, mostly for reasons good. Others were not so fortunate. Two weeks after the return one of the MACOs had appeared at quarters with a new and obvious shiner. One of his fellows was favoring one side.

Having seen this and guessed what was happening, he had expressed his displeasure not through loud and abusive remarks, or by bringing them up on charges, but through a decidedly one-sided conversation with the ranking NCO. It consisted mostly of a taking the Bolian into his office and explaining that the next time he caught so much as a whiff of fighting the involved parties were going to see a psychiatrist. Operators as a rule hated psychiatrists, because with a visit to the head-shrink came the risk of their being ruled unfit for duty.

The fisticuffs did not repeat themselves again.

A week later James caught himself at the beginning of a staff meeting, easing into a chair while talking with Warrant Officer Parsuv about “the recent mission off station.” At about that time it occurred to him that he was doing what most professionals did - slip into talking about the past like the experiences were a great thing. But this hadn’t been quite-so-great. Upon further reflection he realized that the abject terror and hallucinations had retreated and didn’t plague him anymore. Most nights he woke up with a warm body cuddled to his side. Maybe things were getting better.

A few days later, a peculiar report landed on his desk. One that upset the rather quiet and ho-hum life that he'd been settling back into.

=/\=


It began, like most serious things do, with something small. A communication from outside the department in this case. It came in on an outside circuit and was received by a supervisor who perked up when they noted the originating prefix. Calls from station security were rare. He couldn’t even remember the last time a security gold uniform had patrolled the corridor and shook his head, thinking that this place was very different from home.

After recording all relevant information and ending the call the supervisor’s next step was to review their shorthand notes for clarity. This took several minutes, during which time four corrections were made (none of them serious). The computer was dutifully consulted, at which point more information emerged. Information from separate notes, and files, some of which took the supervisor aback. Yet he nevertheless filed the condensed report. It included the name, rank, and serial number of the security officer who’d made the initial report. It also included the name of a Federation diplomat of no importance.

At some point later in the day the report was auto-forwarded by the computer to the next available analyst, who after looking at the details swore aloud and tried her best not to think about the counseling session she had scheduled for later in the day. Things like this gave her nightmares. It also made her feel better about the papers sitting on her supervisor’s desk. Maybe she’d try her hand at farming once she got home. At least farmers didn’t have to worry about morally-bent people inflicting depravities on the rest of humanity.

Two days later her findings ended up on Lieutenant Commander Stacker’s desk.

=/\=

The clock continued its metronome-like rhythmic ticking in the quiet office, with only the occasional beep of a PADD turning a page to break the air. A look around would have confirmed that it was back to much the state it was in before the kidnapping of Commander Valeese. Books stacked neatly on the table next to the couch. Clean and dust- and dirt-free cushions on the couch. The hint of light fruit in the air. Half a cantaloupe sitting in a bowl on the desk, still as ripe as when it came out of the replicator mere minutes before. A glass of water in easy reach, free of grime and oils from his skin. Uniform clean and free of rumples. Corners and sides of the beard neatly trimmed.

He made a thinking sound and thumbed back one page to re-read and make sure that he had full comprehension of the material. At times like these he sometimes caught himself speeding through reports that could have benefit from the attention of a thesaurus. Why didn’t the computer auto-suggest possible phrasing changes? He was quite sure that at some point in history the suggestion had been made. There had probably even been an experiment. The computer making auto-corrections must have gone over well.

In this case, however, the issue of the report wasn’t that it was too dry. Far from it: right from the start he had found himself both captivated and horrified by the subject material. Each page was seemingly darker than the one before. It was as if a detailed study had been made of the darker parts of the human psyche and he was reading the results. What made it worse however was that it was laid out in such precise and clinically-stark detail as to make him want to get up and wash his hands. How was this even possible?

It was with relief that he finally found himself able to set the PADD down on the desk, pushing it gently away with a thumb as he eyed it with only vaguely-concealed disgust. And he sat there. And sat. And sat some more, while he digested the contents. He finally looked up and said the obvious in a voice that did not convey the inner turmoil - and far stronger feelings - that were still being felt.

“I’m surprised he’s lived this long.”

Chief Warrant Officer Parsuv made the sound that James had long since come to associate with thoughtfulness, as longer fingers extracted yet another blueberry from the bowl. “It appears to have slipped ‘under the radar,’ as humans say. Had it not been for the inquiry from station security I doubt we would have become informed about his - tendencies?”

“Proclivities.” There was no better way to describe it. Just using the word left a sour taste in James’ mouth. The original creators of the English dictionary had probably not intended it to describe what he’d just read about.

He took a deep breath and held it for a moment before exhaling, thinking all the while. When he did speak again it was with a more measured note in his tone; one that indicated that however distasteful the subject material he was able to put it at arm’s-length and evaluate it professionally. Challenging as it may be. “We’ll start monitoring his records, of course. Movements, activities, associates and banking information. Code it in as a security review.”

“He might abandon his post. Take shelter with his benefactors.”

That stopped James’ train of thought for a moment. His head tilted as he tented his hands and leaned back in the chair. Would a seasoned Federation diplomat flee if under a security review? When was the last time - he mentally asked, leaning forward to query the computer. It obligingly flashed up a dispassionate answer, highlighting a relevant section. “No. He’s up for review in two more months anyways. We’ll just start the process a little earlier. If asked we’ll blame it on an error in the bureaucratic process.” The human and alien both knew it was a credible answer. It wouldn’t have been the first time that someone misread an entry on a form that had over ninety different sections to be filled in.

“What about the ‘Clay Man’?”

He thought for a moment, drawing in a breath, holding it, exhaling. It was a futile attempt to dispel the tension. It did buy him a few seconds to think, however. “Um.” He rubbed his face. “Start a database check. Local first, sector, regional.” It was the best he could come up with on such short notice. Inquiries had already established that nobody in the department had heard the name before, and with it the intelligence section had to turn to the computers. If nothing was found, an automated search query would be sent to the SFI support apparatus’ in nearby sectors in hopes of turning up a result. Then it would be kicked up to the regional apparatus.

The chair creaked as the warrant got up. It always intrigued James that such a tall and lanky being could manage to get up without joints being bent to extremes, or the long and gangly limbs waving all over. To his credit though the days of staring were long behind him.

“I’ll get started with the inquiries.”

James nodded and watched him leave, before returning to the stack of PADDs on the desk and the temporarily-neglected cantaloupe.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Lieutenant Commander James Stacker
2XO/Chief Intelligence Officer
Cold Station Theta, SB-1170

 

Previous Next

labels_subscribe