Observing the Observer
Neutral Zone Neutrality
Location: Conference Room, the Golden Ghost
Timeline: 2396 - en route to the Mol Krun'chi Colony
The Artan-run T'liss class Bird of Prey warped its way through Romulan space, skirting the edge of the Neutral Zone toward its top-secret destination: the hidden reunification colony known as Mol Krun'chi. But there was still a good day's travel and concerns that needed to be addressed en route.
As such, the ship's Doctor and Commander, Maenek Helev t'Liun sat beside the crew members of the U.S.S. Hera in the somewhat cramped conference room of the ship known as the Golden Ghost. At one end, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox: The red-headed Rihannsu pilot was also a Baroness in the Artan fleet, and the Ghost had been placed under her command, making the lowest ranking officer in the room the unexpected Captain of the ship. Next to her was Commander Rita Paris, who had called the meeting and would be leading the discussions. Beside her were the two Vulcans, Lieutenant Commander Sonak and the Intel operative, Az'Prel.
Across from them, a woman named Lieutenant Ayamo Oulette. A Vulcanoid Rigellian Intel Officer with the U.S.S. Persephone who had been assigned to accompany the crew of the Hera on this mission as an independent observer. She was a somewhat plain brown-haired vulcanoid with close-cropped hair in a somewhat traditional Vulcan hairstyle designed to not stand out. Her uniform was cared for but not to the point it looked pressed. The only thing that marked her as unusual in any way was a trio of beads woven into her hair that marked her as a practicing member of the Forgiveness Clan of Rigel V rather than a Vulcan, which is often waived for religious and traditional reasons.
The mystery officer was a specialist in Klingon and Cardassian codebreaking and linguistics, with an otherwise unremarkable career. But the mission of the Ghost was a sensitive and vital one, ferrying three Starfleet Officers acting as ambassadors of three factions of galactic power and an intelligence operative to the reunification colony. This was in the hopes of taking yet another tentative step towards communication between the formerly illegal colony and their homeworld of Romulus, as well as reuniting with their cousins, the Vulcans. It was a mission with far-reaching implications that could not afford to leave anything to chance.
Thus an unknown observer, attached to a formerly top-secret mission at the last minute, presented a very big chance that all involved agreed needed to be investigated.
"Lieutenant Oulette. Sorry to keep you waiting, but in a rather complex mission such as this, it seems there are a thousand and one details to tend to. I don't believe I've had the pleasure... I'm Rita Paris, first officer of the USS Hera." With a smile on her face, Paris extended her hand in greeting, offering a handshake- a standard Starfleet greeting.
Standing and setting aside the PaDD she had been reviewing, Lieutenant Oulette smiled politely and accepted the handshake. "It's a pleasure, Commander. I know my presence is an unexpected and likely unwanted one on this mission, but I assure you, I'm just here to take notes for you and Command. Just think of me as a stenographer and as long as I do my job right, you won't even know I'm here."
''Indeed; be it in science or diplomacy, this is the one required qualification of an observer, '' Sonak acknowledged as he nodded to the woman, ''since any action on your part, other than passive accurate recording, would immediately invalidate your role in this mission... and you would thus forfeit any further involvement.''
It was more than just a reminder of her duty; it was a warning that she too would be under observation.
"An accurate statement, though if asked to read part of those notes at any time for a review, I would certainly do so." The slightly shorter Lieutenant's smile faded as she greeted Sonak with the customary Vulcan salute.
"Commander... Sonak? I presume? It's an honor."
"Your service honors us," the chief science officer of the Hera responded, offering his own salute in return. "But may I remind you that us reviewing your report would compromise its impartiality. We do not want to hamper you in your duties, Lieutenant; we only strive to make sure nothing will hamper our own."
Oulette then turned to the Romulan in the room. "And you must be Commander Dox. Command sent me a rather large file on you, though most of it is redacted. I assume that's why they consider you the key to this mission."
Keeping her own face impassive and neutral, Dox nodded as she replied. "Well, I suppose that's all part and parcel with a career in Starfleet on an intel ship. One tends to become involved in their fair share of top-secret things that make for a thick file filled with not much that makes for good reading. A pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant Oulette."
The comment was as much about not directly addressing those redacted details as it was about hanging a bit of a proverbial lampshade on the Rigellian woman's conspicuously uneventful file. To say nothing of the fact that Dox would prefer to find out exactly what Oulette knew from her before telling her anything of her notable family ties that had placed her in the center of all this.
"I was briefed on the official Hera crew members and their roles, but I must admit some slight confusion as to the... venue changes. As long as I'm able to perform my duties though, I suppose it doesn't matter." Oulette nodded slightly, motioning to the small case on the conference table that held her equipment.
"Well, the Artan Government has more than a passing interest in seeing this venture succeed, as they have, as you've likely noticed by this ship and her crew, being completely Rihannsu," Dox replied, addressing the venue change from the Hera to the Golden Ghost that was, in fact, her own suggestion.
At which point, the Ghost's own commander and doctor chimed in with a nod towards Dox, "Indeed. The Golden Ghost may not have the same level of accommodations as a Starship, but we have all pledged ourselves to the... Lieutenant Commander... and to the success of this mission. And in regards to the final venue, the coordinates to the colony are safely encrypted. Even the helm officer doesn't know where they are flying us to. Only I and Commander Dox have the command codes to access that data, so I can assure you that we are as safe as possible in this regard."
"Which I believe brings me to my introduction," Az'Prel interjected, causing the Rigellian woman to be somewhat slightly taken aback by her for some reason. " I am Az'Prel of Vulcan. I have been assigned to the team as security. Like you, if I do my job properly, no one will be the wiser. However... I have no compunctions about causing a scene if there is a threat to the safety and security to the mission or those I consider... Friends."
Ayamo Oulette was much better at reading this woman - she had spent a career reading warriors and unlike other Vulcans, she was no scholar, but someone that was well-practiced in the art of killing. She could see it in her stance, her eyes, and even hear it in the way she spoke. Not even the cold dispassionate speech of a Vulcan could cover that up. She would need to make a note that whomever this Az'Prel was, she was no Vulcan, but a Klingon in Vulcan garb.
But she did her best to not reveal any of that. After all, she was a professional observer, and a professional observer needed to remain impartial. Hence she composed herself and gave a Vulcan salute. "Then it is an honor to work with you as well. If I see something suspicious, you will be the first person I report it to."
Sonak raised an eyebrow.
"That would be inconsistent with your duty as an observer. You are not here to intervene in any shape, matter or form; only to record and afterward provide your own estimate of the mission; nothing more, nothing less. That is, unless you have other orders and duties, beside or beyond those of an observer, that you have not yet disclosed to us?"
"This is true, however, if I see something that may threaten harm to myself or a fellow sentient, it is still my responsibility as a Starfleet officer to report it. As another apparently independent agent, I feel comfortable entrusting such a report to Miss Az'Prel." Ayamo furrowed her brows in consternation, not expecting her job to already be called into question. "If you would rather I say nothing, then I won't..."
''More than report it; then you have to act upon it,'' Sonak retorted. ''Your duties as an observer do not remove your duties as a Starfleet Officer. You are a Starfleet officer first; only currently mandated as an observer. This is much like Starfleet General Orders always superseding any and all orders given in the field. Your duty as a Starfleet officer should always be your priority, within your mandate of course, but even at the expense of that mandate, if such a conflict of duties should arise. Do you have reasons to expect such a conflict awaiting before you, Lieutenant?''
"I foresee no conflict, but one must have a plan for if something does happen," replied the Lieutenant, visibly wilting under the gaze of Commander Sonak. She already wished she hadn't accepted this assignment and missed her plants. "I'm sorry, but is it too much to hope for to get through this mission without any troubles?"
"It very likely is, Lieutenant Oulette." Dox interjected slightly at the nervous officer's question. "Trouble often comes with the uniform, and being prepared for it to the best of our ability is what we hope to achieve in this briefing. Keeping it from spreading to others is even more important."
With the introductions out of the way, Dox folded her hands on the table and looked towards Commander Paris to lead the discussions.
“So, let’s begin with the overview of the colony itself, and the various resources and potential liabilities that they are bringing to the negotiations. With the current census of…” Paris began, and for the next hour and a half, the curvaceous commander proved that dry facts and observations could be combined with strategies of diplomatic approaches in order to produce a thoroughly mind-numbingly boring briefing. By the time she reached her closing statement, a few of the attendees were struggling to keep their eyes open.
“So that concludes the examination of the potential long-term socio-economic impact that we are projecting to come to pass if the proposed immigration policies to the colony are accepted as recommended, which will continue to enable the colony to grow and demonstrate that reunification, if closely monitored, can be achieved peacefully, as both cultures come together in a creative harmony. Which concludes the briefing. Are there any questions before we retire?”
Throughout it all, Oulette had kept notes of the meeting using the small stenotype machine she had kept in the case on the table. Dox kept her eyes on the woman's reactions to the details for anything that might be suspect, but saw nothing in particular. And in truth, by the end of it, it was the least experienced officer in the room that was one of the attendees working to stay awake.
As was Maenek t'Liun who, as an Artan Privateer, was far less used to briefings and lengthy meetings and far more accustomed to surgery or space chases. The monotony had caused the ship's commander to almost nod off more than once. But with Rita's conclusion, she snapped back to full attention. "My only question might be if anyone else would like some coffee." t'Liun quipped.
Not particularly waiting for an answer to the obvious attempt at light humor, t'Liun raised an eyebrow. "I still have a good bit of paperwork that needs attending in my office in the med bay, but I can show you all to your quarters first. We still have a full evening's travel and rest, I suspect, would do us all well."
"Thank you, Maenek." Dox said, stretching out her neck. "I think I'll actually take some time to unwind in the ship's gym before retiring for the evening."
"If possible, I'll need a schedule of the proceeding meetings once we arrive. I may also need to schedule some time for clarification on some points for my notes and reports, if that's possible. After all, Rihannsu is not a culture I'm familiar with." Unlike the others, Lieutenant Oulette was wide awake as she packed up her stenographer's equipment and finished up on one of her PaDDs. Indeed, it seemed as though the driest and most boring parts of the meeting almost invigorated the woman with energy.
Standing up from the table, the weary ship's doctor nodded with a mild smile as she turned to Dox. "With your permission, Captain, I can take care of this for you. I have the relevant information and more than enough cultural data to keep Lieutenant Oulette well informed on our people."
Standing up as well and straightening her uniform top, Dox nodded and replied, "Thank you, Maenek. I'll defer to you experience here."
The taller Rihannsu doctor turned back to Oulette and raised an eyebrow. "Very well. I will show you all to your quarters, and if you would give me an hour, come and see me in my office in the med bay, Lieutenant. Thank you."
Having been confused by the titles thrown around, Ayamo planned on asking about them first and foremost. "Thank you, Maenek. I would be most appreciative," she replied as she finished packing up and prepared to leave.