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A Question of Science

Posted on Mon Jul 19th, 2021 @ 11:05pm by Sublieutenant Jatel Von & Colonel Sehan t'Varis

Mission: Chapter IV: Unravelling the Mystery
Location: Main Bar, Drozana Station
Timeline: 238702.21

After the surprising reunion with Daisy, Raven decided to wait in the main bar for her next appointment - meeting the Trill scientist who had applied to the crew, one Jatel Von. She couldn't help herself wishing that Mila was here to help assess the Trill's scientific credentials. Still, another scientist would certainly be useful, especially considering the fact that the Zhat Vash were working with highly complex and dangerous science themselves.

As an attractive Orion waitress brought Raven another beer and cleared the empty glasses off the table, Raven checked her chronometer, before realising that the Trill probably didn't even know how to find her. They had agreed to meet in the main bar, but not set any further details than that and the time. Luckily, the booths and tables were all numbered, so the Colonel took out her communicator and sent a quick text message to the scientist she was about to meet, telling him to look for her at booth 17. Once she had sent the message, she took out her PADD and went over Von's resume again.

Applications to the Trill Science Ministry, Starfleet Academy, and the Trill Symbiosis Institute all unsuccessful, followed by a career in genetics and xenobiology. Nodding to herself, Raven straightened her tie and rubbed her eyepatch, before taking another sip from her beer. This was one interesting character, she mused. But then, wasn't that true of most members of the Ourainavassa's crew? She chuckled quietly. The crew was definitely full of bizarre and strange characters, but that was what made them such a good team.

Jatel found himself in a quandary as he entered the unfamiliar bar on an unfamiliar station. The Trill was still trying to decide what kind of impression to make with the leader of the privateer ship he had applied to serve aboard. It wasn't as simple as making a good impression, as such an abstract and subjective concept of 'good' or 'bad' was distasteful to him. Rather, it was a more nuanced internal discourse. How could he manipulate the way he presented himself to best effect the outcome he wanted? He didn't even know what the person he sought looked like, let alone how best to frame himself for optimal acceptance.

As if on cue, a forwarded communique bleeped on his battered old PADD, giving more detailed contact instructions for the Romulan who promised to hold the key to so much potential for Jatel Von. He glanced from his loitering spot in the foyer of the bar towards the table listed, and suppressed a raised eyebrow of curiosity. Of all the Romulans in this establishment, Jatel would likely have approached the seated mercenary last - if she actually was a mercenary, that is. Her appearance hinted as such, even if the name of her ship didn't, but most surprising was that the first impression of her lineage did not match her name. Intrigued, Jatel approached the table.

"Colonel t'Varis, correct?", probed Von in a tone just loud enough to pierce the muted din of the bar and no more. "Jatel Von. I'm here to speak about," looking surreptitiously around their environs, "well, about certain arrangements."

Raven simply nodded. "You are indeed correct. Please, do take a seat. Can I offer you a refreshment?" She eyed the new arrival. He looked, to her, like any other Trill, but the way he held himself was interesting. He seemed confident, yet unsure. Understandable sentiments for what boiled down to a job interview, even if it was held in a rather unconventional setting.

"Tepid water will do," stated Jatel and repeated as much to the waitstaff when she came after being summoned. He noted the pause given when he placed his order, but was unconcerned with how it was interpreted by her. He was only concerned by the woman across the table from him, and started his spiel once the waitress left. "I assume you've researched my background above and beyond what I've provided you. It would be a prudent move, one I would do were I in your position." He paused momentarily, curious if his tack were the right one, but deciding to continue regardless. "Some would say my itinerant nature betrays a lack of reliability, that I cannot be trusted to remain committed to a cause. I would argue that my expansive experience gives me enviable skills, such as easy adaptability and a wealth of knowledge of scientific disciplines from several disparate organizations and civilizations to bring to bear."

The Trill had tried to settle down with a reputable scientific community several times in his past, but his unique nature had precluded him from prestigious organizations. Principles at the expense of efficiency deeply offended him, and it showed in any psychological testing required for those such as Starfleet. It had forced him to move from journeyman role to journeyman role in the sciences throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, often being drummed out when his morals (or lack thereof) ran afoul of an organization's operating principles. Still, such experiences had proven to make him resilient and versatile, and he hoped these very skills would meet the needs of this imposing figure before him.

The Colonel chuckled. "Right into the deep end, I see. And yes, I did look into your history as much as I could, but I found that records of your activities are somewhat sparse in many areas. I did, however, gain access to reports from Starfleet Academy and the Trill Science Ministry on your applications there. Psychological evaluations, to be precise." She kept her eye on the Trill, curious to see how he would react as she reached for her PADD. "Let's see," she continued. "Apparent lack of any moral compass, tendency to become obsessed with single lines of research, strong intolerance towards those of a different opinion, inclined to veer towards questionable methods of research."

Raven smiled. "This makes for some interesting reading. I can see why they are this highly classified, it took a while for my contacts to procure your records from the Academy. I was only able to get a quick summary from the Trill Ministry, by claiming to request a reference for employment - well, not entirely untrue, that one. Tell me, then. What makes this Trill scientist called Jatel Von go to work every morning. What is it that you hope to accomplish. Is it personal glory? Wealth? A desire to make life better for all?"

The Trill paused for a moment, using the distraction of his beverage being delivered as a foil for his hesitation. The gamble could be won or lost here, as it had in these situations for him in the past. Too open and truthful, he might never get to step foot onto a Romulan vessel of the calibre of the Ourainavassa, ever. After all, what commander in their right mind would accept 'I just want access to your advanced and unique Romulan scientific technology, and I'll say and do anything to gain that access? My interest is purely academic and is in no way subversive or of ill intent for your crew or your Empire. You can trust me on that'. Too obtuse or misleading, however, and the interview would be immediately be shut down by an intuitive inquisitor. One did not presumably lead a band of freelancers on a vessel of this stature by being stupid. And this Colonel t'Varis looked many things, but stupid was not one of them by far.

"I can answer that, Colonel, and will, I assure you. But, it is interesting that I could ask the same of you. You possess a capable ship of the Empire, a posting on which would likely be the envy of any officer above the rank of Uhlan, and yet you seek outsiders and strangers to fill your ranks." He gave a thin smile. "Before I put my life on the line in your service, perhaps I should ask if it is fame or riches, or perhaps more deadly drives like... ideals... that motivate you?"

Raven pauses for a while, pondering her answer. What actually is my motivation? I like to believe that what we are doing is the right thing, saving the people of Romulus from the idiocy of their own, delusional government. And then there's the question of the Zhat Vash, and of course Vulture and her claims that she is my mother. And my father's legacy? After all, he was about as idealistic as a Tal Shiar General can be.

Finally, she took a big swig from her beer. "I think idealism is a good word for it. Of course, I can't give you details until you have security clearance as part of the crew, but I will say this much. The reason why I am not taking on Romulan crew is because we are not a Romulan vessel. While the Ourainavassa is nominally affiliated with the Empire..." She shook her head. "I think was would be more correct here. Our affiliation with the Romulan Star Empire only ever existed on paper, and even that is no longer applicable. In fact, there are some who already consider us enemies of the Empire, and I am convinced that we will soon officially be denounced as traitors."

Wary of already having revealed to much, Raven smirked. "I hope that answer satisfies your curiosity. I would like to hear yours, now."

Jatel nodded, a serious expression displaying his equanimity with the answer even if it could be construed with indifference. "I don't have issues with ideals that run counter to stifled bureaucratic dogma. As you've already deduced, those latter types of ideals and I don't always coincide. So that's reassuring." Another thin smile. "I crave advancing my scientific knowledge and skills. However, my methods don't always align with more traditional avenues of gleaning those. It's made me an opportunist, willing to pledge my work ethics and loyalty to those who are willing to overlook my abrasive style."

He pulled out his battered PADD, alit with the most generalized overview of his overriding study. With a moment's hesitation, he put it down on the table, turned it to face Raven, and slid it across to her reverently.

"My main study is genetics and xenobiology. As you can well imagine, without tenured work with prestigious organizations, it can be hard to access quality equipment to partake in such studies. I've had to make do with sub-par facilities in backwater corners of the galaxy. But, it's not all bad. It has let me become a generalist, well-versed with many scientific disciplines, as I've earned my keep for just the barest chance to further my studies. The chance to use top tier laboratories on a ship such as yours, from one of the most advanced civilizations - scientifically, at least - is irresistible. In exchange, I would pledge total fealty to you and your cause for as long as you can stand me. And though that work," nodding towards his PADD, "is my life's passion, I am content to keep it as a side project, secondary always to whatever duties you might demand of me. It has always been that way, and it can continue to be so."

Raven glanced at the PADD, wishing once more she had Mila here with her. "I won't even pretend to understand anything about your work, but I think I understand your motivations. So it is the pursuit of knowledge that drives you?" She smiled. "I can accept that as motivation. As for use of the facilities on board, you will have to discuss that with Lieutenant Lynn when she returns from her assignment, although I cannot see why that would be a problem."

She looked at the PADD again. "So, ultimately, you are a biologist, yes? Although we are currently mostly dealing with issues of quantum physics, radiation, and other things along those lines, your skills and knowledge may well come in handy as well." At that, a lightbulb went off in her head. "Tell me, how familiar are you with the effects of prolonged cryostasis?"

"That's a topic I can assist you with, indeed," replied Jatel. "I served in a Denobulan lab that was studying mitochondrial degradation under specific cryogenic stasis levels. It will surely give me the baseline knowledge I need to be able to assist with whatever you have in mind."

The Trill had more knowledge on that topic than just the experience he mentioned, but he wasn't ready to share that quite yet. The Trill people reverently refused to preserve an unjoined symbiont between hosts in anything but a live vessel, but Von knew that someday he might have to, well, liberate a symbiont under questionable means, and he had extensively studied several stasis methods of preserving a symbiont. Cryogenics was just one of the methods he had considered and taught himself about.

Raven smiled. Her instincts told her that there was a lot the Trill wasn't telling her about his research, but it did not matter much to her, so long as it did not compromise her and the crew's own objectives. "Excellent. I may well have an assignment for you right off the bat, in that case. Now, we just need to discuss some minor things. Administrative, you might call them."

She took a small, black box out of one of the pockets on her belt and placed it on the table. "Although we have cut ties with the Tal Shiar, we are using Romulan ranks and rank insignia, simply because by now we have gotten used to it, and it is an easy way to keep track of things. Your rank mainly denotes your pay grade, but it does also correspond to your position in the ship's command structure. I am offering you the position of specialist science officer, with the rank of Sublieutenant." She opened the box, revealing a single, crescent-shaped silver pin. "Your direct superior will be Lieutenant Mila Mynn, who would have been here with us today if she wasn't currently on detached duty. Above that, you report to Major Ashley Rogers, my second-in-command, and then ultimately to myself, of course."

She took out another PADD and handed it to the Trill. "This PADD contains all the operational information you will need. How duty rosters are handled, a map of the ship, a manifest of senior crew, pay grades, that kind of thing. As our quartermaster was very recently killed in action and we have not yet replaced him, the duty of assigning quarters and things like that has fallen to our chef, Miss Renee Hernandez. There's no uniform or anything, but please wear your rank badge somewhere visible. It also functions as a communicator badge, similar to the Federation's combadges. Oh, and I suggest getting someone to give you a quick tour of the ship, to help you find your bearings. That is, of course, should you accept my offer."

"Sublieutenant..." trailed Jatel. He had come to accept that he would never own a military rank, and now that one was being offered to him, it left him with complex and conflicted feelings. It wasn't enough to dissuade him from this opportunity that he had sought out though, not by a long shot. And not having to wear an onerous and bombastic Romulan military uniform was definitely a plus. He reached out hesitantly for the box on the table between them, grasping it gingerly and turning it in the dim light until the combadge within caught a sparkle. He nodded with finality. "I believe I can accept your terms, Colonel. I would be content to serve you and your crew. Shall I report aboard right away?"

The Colonel nodded. "Retrieve any personal belongings you want to take with you, and report to docking bay seventeen. Welcome to the crew, Sublieutenant Von."


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