October 2017 Post of the Month

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Small Favors
Starbase 332

Posted on Tue Oct 10th, 2017 @ 1:46pm by Lieutenant Commander Walter Prescott & Lieutenant Erin Whitlam PhD

Mission: Shadows and Whispers
Location: Main Operations

An interesting thing happened to Erin Whitlam as she found herself navigating the bureaucracy of the starbase. She found that as her frustration grew, so did her determination to break through this Mobius-like nightmare.

After her meeting with Commander Drusus, she sat down and worked out her next steps. Speaking to someone in operations was vital, but who? Then she discovered that the new Chief of Operations was as new to the station as she was. That meant, in Erin’s estimation at least, that he’d want to make an impression in his new role and what better way than to help make Starbase 332 a leader in the study of subspace physics?

Whether it was a winning plan remained to be seen, but Erin was set on her course and there was no stopping her now. Of course, this would have been so much easier if that fool Zohlaosh had just approved my request in the first place! she bemoaned to herself as she strode into Main Operations. She was determined not to let her frustration show, and made herself project an air of confidence.

“Excuse me,” she asked a passing crewman, deliberately targeting an NCO knowing that she had the advantage of rank. “I’m looking for Commander Prescott. Can you tell me where he is?”

The petty officer seemed to hesitate, but quickly decided it would be easier to just tell her. He pointed to a closed door that ran off the main area. “He’s in his office, sir.”

Erin smiled and nodded a thanks to the NCO before making a bee-line for Prescott’s office. As she approached, she kept repeating her mantra for his meeting in her head, This is good for me and good for you. Good for me; good for you. She reached the door and, without showing any hesitation, thumbed the call button.

[[Chief of Operations' Office]]

One of the first things Walter had noticed, even before coming aboard, was how involved his predecessor had been in everything. Every officer had their own way of doing things, of course. Some liked to supervise more directly while others preferred to step back and encourage their junior officers to take a more active leadership role. Lieutenant Commander Le seemed to have been the former. There wasn't a system or project Le didn't appear to have had his hands in.

Even the thought of personally attending that closely to the work of his department was enough to make Walter's head spin. Sure, he'd known officers who had done it (or at least tried), but never on a station this big before. Everything from station maintenance to starship support fell under Walter's jurisdiction, as evidenced by line after line of text that scrolled across the holographic display above his desk. Experience had taught him there was no way one officer could possibly oversee all of that work on their own. That was why he'd started working with his yeoman, Karr, on developing a new system that would hopefully limit the number of projects Walter had to deal with directly. Judging by the growing list before him, there were obviously a few wrinkles they still needed to work out.

"Enter," Walter called when he heard the door chime. He quickly skimmed over one more line before reaching over to deactivate the display. The holographic image shimmered and disappeared just as the door to his office opened.

Erin strode into the office, projecting as much confidence as she could. She smiled as she approached the desk and held out her hand. "Commander Prescott?" she asked, although she knew right away who he was. "I'm Erin Whitlam, I'm part of the astrophysics team here on Three Three Two. I wonder if you have a couple of minutes to discuss an important opportunity?"

"Of course, lieutenant. Have a seat."

"Thank you, sir," she replied, sitting herself down in the offered chair. She sat forward, back straight, and launched into her pre-prepared speech.

Walter listened as Whitlam laid out her situation. Despite the relative newness of the instrument in question, the request itself did not seem all that unusual. Personnel came to Operations requesting new or additional equipment quite often. What's more, the need for a Mark Four Subspace Gravimetric Spectrometer made sense, given the nature of the work Whitlam was engaged in. Tracking down and obtaining that specific instrument was going to take some effort, but it wouldn't be impossible.

As much as Walter could understand both the need and the desire, the fact that Whitlam's request had already been turned down twice troubled him. At least she hadn't tried to hide that from him.

He reached over with one hand and tapped the control interface on his desk. This time, instead of a holographic image, the physical display built into the surface of his workstation came to life. A few keystrokes was all it took for the computer to start working on pulling up the specific request documentation. Perhaps if Walter could see why Whitlam's superiors had chosen to deny her request, it would make his decision a little easier.

"I appreciate you coming to me with this," Walter told her as he waited for the results to appear, "You mentioned you've already taken this to your supervisors and that they were...less than enthusiastic. Could you say more about that?"

She took a deep breath and shifted a little in her seat. "Well," she began. "I first spoke with Lieutenant Zohlaosh, the head of astrophysics, and he turned me down because, in his opinion, my research did not have merit. I dispute this and I can put you in touch with a dozen professors of astrophysics who'll back me up on that point. Because he wouldn't budge, I took it to Commander Drusus. He seemed to think my research had merit, but wasn't willing to directly overrule Lieutenant Zohlaosh." She paused to take a breath, feeling a little bit of anxiety growing inside her.

"Commander Drusus suggested I speak with somebody in Operations," she continued. "He said that Starfleet is rolling out the Mark Fours and that we might be able to find a way to move ours up the list."

Walter had dealt with intra-departmental disagreements like this before. In fact, they really weren't all that uncommon, especially when serving aboard larger installations like a Stardock-class station. Everyone pretty much learned to live with them and senior staff in particular were expected to sort them out as diplomatically as possible. He'd expected to have to deal with a few in his own department as they transitioned from Le's leadership to his own. If only he could have avoided getting pulled into someone else's so soon.

This put him in the difficult position of having to choose a side without really knowing much about the people involved. Rejecting the lieutenant's request out-of-hand, for example, could give her and others the impression the new Chief of Operations wasn't willing to work reasonably with others. At the same time, circumventing the decision of her direct superior could be seen as interfering with another department's affairs. Even Commander Drusus hadn't been willing to overturn that decision, at least not directly, but he had suggested that she reach out to someone in Operations.

"I'm not going to lie to you, lieutenant," Walter told her, "You've put me in quite the sticky situation."

Uh-oh, Erin thought as Prescott spoke. It was happening again. Just when one opportunity opened up, it seemed to slam shut in her face. How was she going to get this damn scanner now if the only person who could help her was going to hide behind regulations or whatever? She straightened her back and launched herself on the offense; time for a last stand. "With all due respect, sir," she began, "I don't think it's a difficult position to try and expedite an important piece of equipment for the Starbase that we're due to have installed eventually anyway. I'd urge you not to dismiss my request out of hand."

"I didn't say that..."

Was that hope? Erin stopped in her tracks and cocked her head to the side. "Oh ... oh, I'm sorry," she said. "I have a habit of jumping in like that. I'm sorry, what were you trying to say?"

Walter leaned forward and rested his forearms against the edge of his desk. "You understand, I'm not making any promises," he told Whitlam, "...but I'll see what I can do."

Her shoulders relaxed and she had to stifle a desire to cheer with joy; seeing what he can do was as good an outcome as she could have hoped for! Instead, her face cracked into a broad smile and she launched herself out of the chair. "Thank you so much, Commander," she said, leaning forward and extending her hand across Prescott's desk to shake his. Though she wasn't there yet, this definitely felt like one critical step closer to getting her study started.

Lieutenant Commander Walter Prescott
Chief of Operations
Starbase 332

Lieutenant JG Erin Whitlam PhD
Science Officer
Starbase 332