Sunday, October 17, 2010

Exotic Petting Zoo

It has been waaaaaaaaaay too long since I composed an entry here. That said I haven't really had much of significance to post until recently. I've been super busy between work and my classes and the most I could really have put forward in terms of updates would have been brief mentions of my performance in Principles of Chemistry I & Medical Terminology. Speaking of which I am doing well in both classes for the moment though I am trying not to let myself get cocky. Especially with chemistry. This last week and change was spent focusing on thermodynamics [primarily as it applies to chemical reactions] and it left me feeling much more overwhelmed than the previous units have. Due to an annual convention of the union which the staff at MCTC are a part of our mid-term exam that will cover this content has been delayed by a week which means I will be studying the quantum-mechanical model of the atom, a subject that I will not be tested on for the mid-term, while trying to review all of the course content that I has preceded that topic to date and complete a couple of labs. And the mid-term is on the evening of the anniversary of my marriage (though my wife has class at the same time so it could be worse). If any of this reads as though I am the least bit stressed or frustrated about this situation I am and it should. *sigh* At least I'm doing fairly well so far. Let's hope I can sustain that.

On to more pleasant topics. Yesterday, after having lived in the upper-Midwest of the United States for over 29 years I visited a corn maze for the first time ever. It was a pleasant (though tiring experience) to share with friends and family. There were plenty of attractions at Sever's Corn Maze all of which are described on their website (a site I wish I had visited as Google Maps failed to provide me with remotely accurate directions to the maze) but the special treat for me was Vogel's Exotic Animal Petting Zoo. It was incredible and a rare opportunity for me to spend time in close contact with the large animals, particularly small-ruminants, that I so greatly hope to serve as a doctor of veterinary medicine some day. They had a huge goat pen and I truly could have spent all day with those wonderful little guys and gals. Additionally there was a young dromedary camel and some llamas but there were a lot of other very interesting animals too including spider monkeys, lemurs, a dwarf horse, a zebra, ostriches, golden pheasants from China, multiple varieties of antelope, deer and gazelle, some large South American rodents, miniature deer (muntjacs), tortoises an albino wallaby and several other animals I didn't even have an opportunity to interact with (though at a distance I am fairly certain I saw what were either more wallabies or kangaroos and some breed of ox or yak). I'll say it again; I really could have spent all day in there. It was very pleasant for me.

In other long-term career related news my Mother informed me while driving me over to visit her and my Father this morning that the newest member of one of her book clubs is married to a recently retired veterinarian who had worked at the Minnesota Zoo. She offered to let the new club member know about my career interests and attempt to help in arranging for some contact between me and this fellow. Talk about an offer one can't refuse! It would be great just to have a chance to conduct an informational interview, but if I'm being really optimistic here is somebody I might be able to find a mentor in or at least a friendly acquaintance who might be able to help me in arranging volunteer opportunities working with animals and/or be willing to throw together a letter of reference someday, when I finally have the necessary educational and volunteer background to apply for vet schools. If you're reading this please pray or cross your fingers for me as is appropriate to your sensibilities that this may be the start of an exciting new opportunity for me.

That's all I've got for now. Hopefully I'll be writing here again sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chief of Security's Log [II]

Stardate: 53993.2.

The events of the last 24 hours have been mentally, physically and emotionally fatiguing. Well into the Neutral Zone the Spector's sensors detected a Romulan D'Deridex class Warbird derelict and displaying no life signs on redundant scans, but with all shipboard systems functioning normally. After conferring with Captain Robau, Shano & I assembled multiple away teams. One, Able Team, including a medical team under T'kela and Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath (who was deferring to Shano and myself for reasons as yet not entirely clear) transported to the bridge of the [ship we would later learn to be named] IRW Sha’arik, while a second, Bravo Team, under the command of Lt. Fletcher with security command delegated to Lt. Tor transported to the engineering section. What we encountered proved nothing less than a shocking and a deplorable example of the lengths to which the elite of the Romulan Star Empire (particularly the Tal'Shiar) are prepared to go, exploiting their own loyal citizenry, in pursuit of their ambitions.

The bridge and to a lesser extent the engineering section of the Sha'arik were found to be laden in corpses, the first view of what would later be found to be the entire crew compliment of the Romulan vessel victim to an engineered virus. Beginning our investigation, Lt. Fletcher and Bravo Team began to dissect the Romulan engineering section while those of us with Able team worked to determine the location of the Warbird's sickbay (an endeavor which may have won Starfleet intelligence the subtle victory of access to the layout and schematics of the D'Deridex class) and to decrypt any ships logs that may have been of use in determining the cause of the Romulans' deaths. (Notably Lt. Sakkath proved invaluable in translation of the Romulan text, displaying an even greater familiarity with the language than myself, but this is an aside to return to later.) After locating their sick bay I formed Charlie team out of myself and Crewman Washington to escort Doctors T'kela and Corwin to sickbay and leaving Lt. Vincenz in charge of Able Team. Between the research by the Medical teams and the information relayed to me by Shano after his team managed to gain access to the logs of Palar, Commander of the Sha'arik, all data seemed to indicate that the ship had been intentionally infected by agents of the Tal'Shiar with the engineered virus and left to be found in Federation space. Effectively the Tal'Shiar had destroyed one of their own ships, commanded by a man who evinced respectable traits of honor and duty, to become a weapon of propaganda and/or biological decimation against the Federation. This treachery went so far as to install a device of sabotage on the bridge operations station of the Sha'arik that disabled it's cloaking device after a set time when they predicted the entire crew would have succumbed to the virus.

As our investigation continued I had the good fortune to be unaffected by the virus. I wish I could say the same for all my colleagues. Within a matter of hours all members of the away teams of Human and Vulcan (and Romulan?) decent were suffering symptoms of the virus. I am thankful that Shano had the foresight to order the Ops officers he brought with us to travel in EVA suits or we may have suffered worse than we did. While T'Kela and our medical staff worked with Lt. Aban and the science officers to try and find an effective treatment for the aggressive virus, matters became complicated when another D'Deridex, the D’vairin, de-cloaked, having arrived in response to Palar's distress signal, sending their own boarding parties onto the Sha'arik (N.B. all boarding parties consisted of ten members). I must diverge here a moment to consider my own actions at the moment that Captain Robau informed us of the the D’vairin's arrival. My first response was to carve my old "signature" from the Iota-Eridani VI War into a prominent location and to prepare weapons that would have been otherwise concealed for use in battle. Had I not engaged in the latter action I would have still been armed after we were taken prisoner should our situation not improved and martial action proven necessary. This is a lesson in forethought that I should remember for future encounters regardless of the opponent.

In any event, outgunned and without cover to balance matters tactically Able, Bravo and Charlie teams were all forced to surrender. While we attempted to stall any action by our captors with talk (my praises to Captain Robau for whatever simultaneous diplomatic battle he engaged the Romulan ship's Captain in) and to convince them of the danger they had exposed themselves to things became progressively worse. Exacerbating the situation was the indoctrination to which the personnel of the Romulan fleet are subjected was very apparent in their attitude towards the Federation, their initial insistence that the virus was deployed by us and their willingness to disregard basic logic in defense of the purity and honor of the Star Empire. We lost Dr. Corwin first. While I was prepared to be patient for the virus to disable our captors to a sufficient degree that our lower numbers would be balanced the losses would have been too devastating. I watched my trusted Ensigns Vazquez and Vincenz both die to the disease. How many times had they enthusiastically joined me in the Spanish Civil War scenario campaign in the holo-suite? They both always performed exceptionally in the Barcelona scenario. Crewman Mantegna, one of the most devoted men I have ever met with regard to the ideals of the United Federation of Planets, was lost to us as well as many other good men and women outside of my department. Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath very nearly died (will come back to this), and Lt. Fletcher and T'Kela did not fare much better. I cradled her head as she was lost in delirium, in and out of consciousness as I engaged the leader of our Romulan captors, Sub-Commander Galtus, in a gambit of words. Eventually the evidence of the Tal-Shiar timer and Palar's logs convinced Galtus and his superiors that we were telling the truth. We were released and Galtus and I oversaw the make-shift triage unit that the cargo bay we had previously been confined was converted to. Thanks to the co-operation of Dr. Elbrun and the Romulan medical personnel and the excellent computer modelling skills of Lt. Aban the work begun by T'Kela could be completed and a cure deployed before we lost any more people than could be helped.

Based on his physical fortitude, his calm under pressure and his display of good judgment in a tense situation I requested that Crewman Washington receive a field promotion to the rank of Ensign to replace and have requested the same of Crewman Said, who was with Bravo team, at the suggestion of Lt. Tor.

Ultimately I was impressed with both the late Commander Palar and Sub-Commander Galtus as men of integrity, honor and good faith. It disgusts me that they should be subjected to such manipulation and exploitation by those who they serve with virtue. It is both a testament to the potential of the Romulan people to be great and noble and an indictment of the depravity, avarice and duplicity of the Star Empire in which they live. It is my hope that Palar's own people will give him the honors he is worthy of. I have already asked of Captain Robau that we should pay him his due respect. As for Galtus I would be pleased to encounter him again on the same positive terms we parted ways. I am confidant that if we were to meet again in an antagonistic encounter neither of us would hesitate to see our duty through, and while I respect him for this, it is unfortunate. The examples of these men are contrary to so much of what I experienced of the Romulan Star Empire in my final years on Iota-Eridani VI and this bears reflection.

On the other side of this is the USS Spector's own Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath. Sakkath has presented himself as being born from one Human parent and one Vulcan parent and alleges to favor Human custom. Unfortunately, I have found numerous evidences since assuming my duties on the Spector that lead me to find this claim suspect. From the first his demeanor, gregarious rather than reserved. gave me reason for pause. While I do not deny that it is possible this may simply be the way he behaves, my studies at the academy indicated that Vulcans are far enough removed from Romulans culturally and [at this point] physiologically that their emotions can be far more volatile and intense than those of other humanoids if they do not adhere to their tenets of logic and comport themselves in a stoic or, at least, reserved fashion. This is alleged to be the case even with Vulcan-Human hybrids (in fact I seem to recall reading explicit reference to it in the memoir of the late Dr. Leonard McCoy, who served on the original USS Enterprise and the USS Enterprise-A with the venerated Ambassador Spock of Vulcan perhaps the most famed of such hybrids). I believe I will try to find a moment to speak with T'Kela privately and verify how much veracity there is to this belief about the Vulcan/half-Vulcan temperament. Beyond this most of my has been primarily speculation but I believe the incident we have just endured may have generated more evidence, circumstantial as it yet is, to indicate that my hypothesis that Sakkath is not a Human-Vulcan but in reality a Human-Romulan may be correct. Most glaring of these points are his extensive familiarity with the Romulan language and technology we encountered on the Sha'arik, talents of which he has never made any prior mention or display. There was also the speed with which the Tal'Shiar engineered virus attacked him. While he survived where some of our human comrades with weaker constitutions did not he seemed to be effected at a much faster rate and with more severity than the more robust humans to be infected (Washington for example), and faster than any of the Vulcans. T'kela is by no means the most physically resilient Vulcan I have ever met having been a Starfleet Security for over a decade including direct combat service during the Dominion War, but she spent more time in closer proximity to potential infection sources than Sakkath did and was one of the last of the infected to lose consciousness. Then there was the boarding party serving under Galtus the members of which began to show signs of infection as quickly if not more so, than any of our human casualties. What does all this mean? The evidence remains circumstantial and I as yet have no genuine proof that Sakkath is actually of Romulan and not Vulcan ancestry. If this is the case however what then? It would be my hope that this is nothing more than a repeat of the Simon Tarses Affair; that Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath misrepresented his heritage when applying to Starfleet academy out of fear of discrimination for being descended of a people [with a government] historically antagonistic to the Federation. The more sinister possibility is that he is in fact an agent in deep cover for the Star Empire, perhaps the Tal'Shiar. I would prefer that such a complication not trouble us, but if I learn this possibility to be the truth I will do whatever is necessary to see that truth brought to light and dealt with as necessary.