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Russian Science

Posted on Thu Nov 25th, 2021 @ 7:28am by Evanna Belyaev & Captain Reuben Gregnol (Mirror)
Edited on on Fri Nov 26th, 2021 @ 1:20am

Mission: Mirror Mirror
Location: ISS Fenrir
Timeline: 2396
3253 words - 6.5 OF Standard Post Measure

It was not often the Captain of a vessel ventured into the depths of a science lab but he knew he was safe on his ship. No one onboard was stupid enough to take on the Butcher of Betazed of all people and if they were there was a morgue or a reassignment camp that would hold the stupid. His bodyguard stopped at the door and let him enter alone as what the protocol that he had insisted on. It was an easy role being the Butchers bodyguard but he had to at least attempt to keep up the charade that he was needed. The Inquisitors did more than him.

"Belyaev?" Gregnol called loudly not able to see between the racks where the woman was but he needed to talk to her. Her former chief was dead thanks to the man and his inability to ignore someone who had annoyed him.

Illuminated more by the data terminal that she was focused on than the internal lighting, which seemed to be on the lowest setting possible, the blonde statistician was not in the habit of rushing to the demands of others for her attention. It was easily enough to attribute the reluctance to genuine thoroughness, since her work did not easily adapt to sudden interruption, but nobody who met Evanna found it difficult to accuse her of arrogance. Even the perfect curve of manicured eyebrows seemed calculated to convey contempt. Frustratingly, her level of compliance was often just as impeccable, despite the temptation of finding some flaw in what was surely a facade of obedience. She stepped into view, the flow of her limbs falling naturally into a stance of relaxed conformity, and met the most dangerous man in the quadrant's gaze with impassive serenity.

"Zdravstvuyte." Their shared heritage often saw her resort to the mother tongue when addressing him. After a subtle pause, Evanna added. "Ser."

The older man smirked at her subtle attempt to placate and appease him. "Well." He offered back in their shared heritage before fulling into standard. He did not hold a formal conversation in anything other than the Empire standard. He looked her over quickly before looking beyond her and what she had been working on. "What are you working on?"

"Projections for upgrades to the data management system." The young officer's features barely rippled despite there being next to nothing substantive about what she'd just said, at least from a professional standpoint. It wasn't evasiveness, however, or an attempt to mock. They had been the exact words flung at her by an inferior and incompetent superior officer who, until recent events leading to a very spontaneous retirement, seem to think that stringing redundancies together constituted leadership. Evanna paused, a very precise measure of time, before adding, "As ordered."

"Well, anyone who gave those orders is dead," Gregnol announced as if he was announcing what was for dinner. It had been done many times and it was boring to him in all forms. "Smithson picked a fight with Saa and she stabbed him repeatedly." He could not blame the flight control officer but her timing as usual was awful. She had been an agony booth overnight but she had come out not giving a hoot that she was still covered in the science chief's blood or that she had to be on shift in less than an hour.

There was no perceptible change to Belyaev's expression but, for a second, the poor lighting reflected in her eyes at just a slightly different angle that might generously have passed as momentary amusement. "That would explain his failure to report for duty." She didn't mention that there were plenty of other just as likely reasons, many of which were probably the focus of a bored department's current betting pool.

"It would and as you are assistant chief science officer in name if not ability then you are now in charge of this mess." He chose his words slowly. He did not want to piss the woman off but science was not a department that seemed to be doing anything under Smithson. "So is there any indiscretions in the department you would like to admit that we can wash away with Smithson's blood? I do not have time with us about to rendezvous with the Empress to deal with a mess."

The insult would slide, for now. It was hardly productive to take offense to a lack of due credit when arguably her most impressive credentials were invisible for a reason. Evanna's eyes darted sideways to a patch of air only several inches from her Captain's head to consider his request, her features frozen in stone-like concentration that was the hallmark of her mind's fixation on total recall. The entire department's manifest bore a moment's scrutiny before the young scientist blinked once, slowly, and recentered her gaze on Gregnol's. "They are lazy and disorganised. Time will tell if it is their fault or his."

Gregnol could not help but get annoyed that he had lost her attention for a moment before she gave him a suitable answer.

“You have a week to make a him or them decision. I want a tour of everything down here now. With the Empress coming onboard I want to know everything.” He demanded not giving her room to escape.

Everything would take over a week and even then, Evanna wasn't convinced the man would emerge on the other side having any concept of what he'd been told. Thoroughness would at least impress upon him the scope of the task he'd just assigned to her but even that didn't seem like a requirement. He wasn't likely to care about the difficulty and she wasn't about it let it daunt her. Without missing a beat, the newly-minted Science Chief ordered the lights up and turned to lead the way through the main foyer and down the first flight of stairs. "We do not run to capacity," she stated bluntly. "Recruitment may allow us eventual scope to expand but immediate redeployment of current staff will suffice in the interim."

Stopping in the middle of space, Belyaev turned once again to face her Commanding Officer. "The central processing hub; our databases, archives and distribution centre. Personnel management occurs here, administration offices," she indicated with a nod, "Presentation spaces, consultation rooms, the auditorium and staff facilities."

Turning once more, the blonde officer moved to activate one of the doors that branched into an entirely separate network of rooms. "Physical Science Division." Without moving on, she indicated other identical doors. "Biological Science Division, Psychological Division, Linguistics Department and Mathematics. Offices, labs, briefing rooms." Leading the way towards a set of double doors accessible up a short flight of stairs, Evanna punched in a code on the door and stood for a moment as the security protocols scanned her biosignature. "Our recent priority has obviously been the Manus Dei Project. Progress here will constitute most of the information in departmental reports for the past quarter."

The huge dome that occupied much of the vast space that had been purposeful redesigned to house it was as visually pleasing as it was scientifically impressive. A canopy of trees, made up of species that did not interact anywhere else in the known universe, provided the backdrop for an intricately-designed ecosystem of unique biodiversity. Even from the main entrance, the occasional bird call resonated and the susurration of countless hives and colonies toyed with the ear, an unexpected sound in such a previously-clinical space. Whereas much of the rest of the department had seemed sparse and understaffed, there was a visible increase in personnel both within the transparent dome and scattered about various stations around its perimeter. Overhead, the whir and chirp of the project's robotic workforce added to a sense of vitality, the pulse of the entire department originating from the biosphere trapped within the confines of a starship's massive hangar.

Belyaev surveyed the thriving ecosystem with clinical detachment. "The project allows for departmental divergence. Several recent data sets show promising results."

Gregnol had maintained his silence as they walked. He might not know the finer details but he has not got to the top of the food chain in imperial Starfleet by not having fingers in all the pies. “Betazed species?” He demanded looking at a vine that swept around a human looking tree. It was an amazing sight to see something that had always failed to thrive off world.

"A priority," Belyaev confirmed. "Given that we have been assigned Betazed's primary terrestrial biomes as our focus, the groundwork in establishing stable populations remains the department's dedicated concern. Communication with the team on Andoria responsible for the aquatic biome indicates our projections are within acceptable timeframes." The blonde woman paused before adding bluntly, "That does not mean there is no room for improvement."

How ironic was it that they had been assigned the biomes of the planet that he had destroyed without a moment's hesitation. “How interesting that it was kept from me. Now I might give Saa less time for killing a man who was keeping secrets.” He said, seeing a man look at him and quickly turn away pretending he had not been staring. He recognised the man as someone who wanted what he had but would never achieve it due to being safe for the most part in Science. Some people just liked to live.

It wasn't clear from the young Chief's expression if Evanna felt any surprise at her Captain's ignorance. By the same token, there was no obvious indication that she had been aware of the deceit playing out beneath his nose nor that she felt any particular sense of glee or satisfaction in defying what were clearly very explicit orders to maintain a total information blackout on the ambitious project. What was certain, however, was that her predecessor had such chaotic administrative processes that it was unlikely there would be any record to implicate the rest of the staff one way or another. Her level of awareness, and subsequent discretion, had no traceable footprint.

"Communication was not amongst his strengths." Either to further express her lack of understanding of the project's intricate security status, or in direct contempt of it, Evanna tilted her chin sideways to allow her gaze to fall on the dome's iridescent wall and added, "Shall I arrange a closer inspection?"

“Yes,” Gregnol said simply but under the surface, something was brewing inside the storm that was his emotion. How dare someone try and hide something in the one department he would leave alone for the most part. “Communication better be one of your strong points.”

It was a threat that didn't seem to warrant a response. Compliance was an easy illusion and, given the nature of her abrupt promotion, Evanna spared very little energy to consider the ramifications of blowing the lid on some very important people's idea of a worthwhile subterfuge. Those people weren't standing immediately in front of her with an itchy trigger finger.

Turning, she lead the way down the main staircase, ignoring the slowly emerging tableaux of stunned faces that froze in terrified rigor mortis and then proceeded to pretend they hadn't noticed the department's newest visitor at all. It was enough to shatter the equilibrium of the most high-strung experts that Belyaev was on the floor; the previous Assistant Chief was not a crowd favourite. Gregnol's presence was enough to make most of them seek any refuge that would later allow them to deny his visit even took place. Evanna approached the main console several metres beyond the dome's primary entrance and, keying in a rapid sequence, then stepped back as the doors opened so that Gregnol could enter first.

"Your crew look scared," Gregnol commented on as he passed her and step through. It really made him wonder what secretes this department held and the best way to get it out of the woman.

Once fully immersed in the biosphere's artificially created climate, the oppressive humidity became an instant replica of Betazed's tropical jungles. Lush foliage, each plant meticulously labeled, created natural pathways that were occasionally dotted by data consoles, specimen containment and viewing platforms that gave access to current areas of interest. Swarms of insects added soundtrack to the sticky heat and, overhead, the occasional rustle of leaves revealed the bright plumage of one of the project's small assortment of avians.

"This is Biosphere One. At the moment, it is our only organically-based simulation." Pointing through the trees both left and right, Evanna indicated locations far outside the naked eye's ability to see. "Our simulation pods run much smaller projections; tundra, grassland, coastal, desert. Pod 9 is a geological study into versina production." Replicating the crystal deposits responsible for Betazed's uniquely coloured skies was something of a fanciful preoccupation that the young blonde barely related to. "Biosphere One's forest biome, however, is not a holographic projection. Everything you see here is an organic component, bred from available samples and, where necessary, supplemented by complimentary donor spores." The information, featured in every report she had analysed, interpreted and then produced amended projections based on, rolled off Evanna's tongue as effortlessly as if she'd been reciting the day's breakfast menu. "The colonies of fauna are not endemic to Betazed. They have been introduced to fill in missing components whilst our zoological teams determine the viability of other options."

Gregnol took it all in. For a moment he could truly believe he was standing on the planet without hesitation he had burned. For a moment then he was back and looking at the woman intently. "So who knows about this, lieutenant? And why was I under the impression that none of this was happening?" He demanded darkly wondering how much of the department should he punish for the deception.

A woman of lesser-control would have cursed Smithson in that instant for the mess he'd left behind, a result of wanton disregard for process, excessive arrogance and unwarranted self-importance. Belyaev did not have an explosive temperament, however, more inclined to seethe and orchestrate much more subtle retribution with no loose ends or discernible evidence. If anything, she was more disappointed that there'd be no opportunity to educate the previous Chief on the finer points of not over-complicating her life; if Saa had been responsible for his death, it wasn't likely that even his corpse would be of any further use.

"Orders have been very clear since the project's inception. Nothing pertaining to the work here is discussed outside of this hangar. Data analysis occurs only at designated work stations within this space and all reports are encrypted prior to transmission. Smithson was the only officer charged with informing relevant stakeholders of meaningful progress." Evanna cast her eyes around the teams of scientists, calculating the hassle of replacing them against the satisfaction of throwing them under the proverbial bus, and then lifted her chin as she made eye contact once again with Gregnol. "Interrogation may confirm either way but there is every chance that most here simply assumed you would know. As this is your first visit, and given the restrictions around communication outside this space, none will have had an opportunity, nor the security clearance, to discuss it with you until now."

Gregnol watched amused as the cogs whirled around her minds s she decided on how to humour him. For a smart woman she had a lot more social skills than the rest of the scientists. One of the reasons other than native tongue that he liked her. “Oh there will be interrogation. I do hope you like Agrax as she is going to be hanging around here a lot.” The man commented. Alexis would be the one to do it. She would pay no kind to the chaos or details just look for the facts. She would not care about how Betazed would be reborn after seeing it burn in front of her.

The faintest glimmer of a smile added several degrees to the curve of Evanna's lips. Interrogation would be ample opportunity to gauge her personal tolerance levels. Efficacy could only be ensured through practical application, after all; life was not a simulation. "Once my security access is upgraded, I will review all directives and compile a report." A nearly imperceptible quirk of her eyebrow followed. "How would you like me to proceed if I encounter access restrictions that stipulate I not involve you in updates?" When it came down to neutralising threats, Evanna was as systematic in her approach as any other aspect of her life. Further down the line, some very prominent people may end up quite furious with her but, right now, she'd rather deal with the man in front of her. Chances were, she'd have preferred to dance on his side of the fence anyway; she liked the view better.

The man stared back and answered in a Russian dialect that he knew she understood so ears around them would not understand. "You ignore them and tell me where they have come from." Gregnol was a loyal soldier but if someone was keeping him out of the loop he wanted to know who and where they were. He was not a toy to be played with, he killed people for less. Someone in Imperial Starfleet was playing a loyalty game and they would lose like so many others.

Anyone in Evanna's position ought to have at least blanched at the prospect of double-crossing Imperial Command. The ramifications of disobedience, especially when Gregnol himself made an unreliable ally, were dire and yet the lithe blonde's features radiated a somewhat typical glimmer of pleasure that cracked her professional facade ever-so-slightly. Belyaev had a service record that suggested she knew her place, perhaps almost too impeccable for someone of her obvious gifts, but an astute observer would not have been far astray to assume she also knew her worth. She was likely on her own, Gregnol could not be trusted to care who he sacrificed, but it worked in both their favours that it was her preferred arrangement anyway. She inclined her head, conveying her understanding, and replied in melodic Russian, "I will deliver my findings personally."

The Butcher just smirked at her words and the tone of them. She did as starting to understand her place in all of it.. “Good. I will see you then.” He said simply looking around again before heading back the way he came. He would be sending Agrax within the hour to work out who could be trusted and who could not be.

Standing a moment to watch him leave, Evanna drew on her personal strengths to utilise the moment of solitude to collect her thoughts and reorganise priorities. The promotion wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though it did add intricacies that required careful management. Inheriting Smithson's mess was more of a headache but at least she now had an opportunity to rectify the inefficiencies and ineptitudes that had irritated her for months. Methodical calculations and precise execution would keep her from the cross-hairs, something the woman had adroitly dodged most of her life, but the young scientist understood only too well how much her theoretical bounty had just increased by.

As the door hissed closed behind Gregnol, Belyaev turned towards one of the data consoles and tapped several keys. Then, reaching up to lay her hand over her communicator, made her first tactical move.

[[Belyaev to Layil. Report to Science.]]

 

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