USS Omaha
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Aggravated Archaeologist

Posted on Sun Aug 2, 2020 @ 2:53am by Commander Jason Faulkner

Mission: Episode 1: The Milk Run
Location: Ready Room
Timeline: Mission Day 4 at 0930

Jason had only been back aboard the ship for a half hour before his communicator chirped and the lilting voice of his yeoman came through.

"Captain, I have the archaeology team leader on comms for you."

"Thank you, Gelph, put her on," he replied, tapping his desk console and flicking a holographic screen up into the air. After a few seconds, the standby image was replaced with the visage of a female Tellarite. "Good morning, Doctor Gral. I'm Captain Jason Faulkner, commander of the starship Omaha."

"First the away team, now you. Is your entire crew made up of children?"

"Pretty much. Is your entire team made up of hams left in the oven too long?"

"Mostly the thin-skinned ones who burn in the sun. Speaking of too long - Ambassador class, that's a rather old ship, isn't it?"

"Not by your definition. If I'm young, so's Omaha. We launched the same year, so to speak. There's a plaque with my name on it down in the observation deck."

"Hmph. Well, anything that new is positively boring."

"For an archaeologist, probably. For my engineers, not so much." Jason shrugged. "So, with the pleasantries out of the way, I understand you have some kind of problem."

"Many problems, but they all fall under the same general heading: small-minded and petty people." Gral folded her hands in front of her. "I had my admin assistant forward yours all the paperwork involved, but suffice to say while it appears something got messed up with the scheduling, my team has been granted the permits for long-term study of this site. We welcome Starfleet's assistance, of course, particularly since we haven't had a chance to set up our own orbital scan equipment yet."

Jason tipped his head. "We'd be happy to share scan data with you, as well as collaborate while we're here. We do have our own mission of doing a safety assessment and preliminary study, but I don't think our science or technology teams will get in your way."

Gral quickly waved that away. "I have no quarrel with your people. I've worked with Starfleet before, far too fast-moving for my taste but generally professional, if a little stuck up at times. My issue is the people who live on this planet. They're getting in our way."

"Interfering with the actual work," Jason asked, "or just being annoying in other ways?"

"At first it was mostly the latter. Endless restrictions on where and when we can use our equipment and vehicles, complaints about the size of our ship relative to their tiny spaceport, arguing over exactly where our site begins and ends. We'd be happy to move the ship to orbit but we still haven't gotten long-term lodging arranged, and they get annoyed anytime we use the transporter besides!"

"Maybe if you restricted that to just a few specific locations?" Jason suggested.

"Yes, yes, I've thought of that, but they act like it's a huge burden to see someone materialize like billions of people do every day. But that's just bureaucracy. I've dealt with the Tholians, compared to them their red tape is weak. It's the increasing harassment that makes me worry."

"From the general population, I take it?"

"Yes, although whether or not it's organized I couldn't tell you. People seemed friendly enough to start, but then they started giving us the cold shoulder. Typical townie nonsense, no skin off my back, it always happens when the novelty wears off but they haven't adjusted to us being around yet. Since then, though, there's been increasingly hostility and harassment. My people have a hard time relaxing after work without getting into altercations, even if they go to entirely different establishments or even towns. Those altercations have escalated to physical violence. Nothing more than some thrown punches so far but it is worrisome."

"Are you sure that it's the locals starting it?" Jason asked, more than a little skeptical even if he tried to keep that out of his voice and expression. "I've known students on many planets, been one myself, and they're not always shy about letting their fists fly once the drinking starts."

"Oh, certainly, but after the first few times I made it very clear they were not to start anything. I've witnessed a few myself, someone starts takes offense at some perceived slight, insults get tossed around, and because these people have thin skins some boy or girl with big muscles pushes someone and off it goes. I suspect it could just be how things go here, it's not like they have anything better to do but brawl and we're just interesting new targets, but still, we get blamed for, quote, starting shit, unquote."

Frankly, given stories of his husband's youth, not to mention interactions of his own with Klingons, that seemed entirely believable to Jason. Rural cultures, especially ones with more face-based cultures, could throw down at the drop of a hat. "Okay, so fighting, got that. You mentioned issues with the actual work?"

"Yes. The brawls are annoying," Gral growled, "but the explosions cause real problems for us."

"Explosions?"

"The local youth have taken to sneaking around the site, moving things around and so forth, and have since added playing with fireworks to their repertoire. Nothing's been damaged yet, but they've been using larger and larger ones."

Jason sighed and rubbed his temple. "Have you talked to law enforcement about it?"

"It's just kids having summer fun, don't react and they'll go find someone else to pester," Gral said, raising the tone of her voice as she did. "That's what I was told. Yang doesn't care. Frankly, I think he's not used to having to deal with anything but a homogenous society, on a planet so lightly populated no one has to see anyone they don't like. He just wants us to go away."

"I see."

"It's ridiculous. I've dealt with foreign nations that were less obstructionist. The Tal Shiar agent here is being more helpful than the actual government."

"Tal Shiar?" Jason repeated, blinking a few times in confusion.

"The priestess, cleric, whatever she is," Gral said. She spread here hands. "What, I'm supposed to believe she just stumbled across this find? I'm one of the Federation's foremost experts on the Preservers and I would have had a hard time noticing it. No, she was up to something for sure."

Jason grimaced and said, "Not every Romulan who's good at finding things is Tal Shiar."

"I don't care, I'm going to be publishing anything I find anyways. Counterintelligence is your problem, not mine. Unless she tries to get a paper in first, that is."

"Right." Jason sat back in his chair. "You know, the funny thing is, the governor seems to think that your team is the ones starting fights, breaking regulations, and so forth."

Gral snorted. "I'm sure he does. Captain, I'll be blunt."

"More than you have been?"

"I have not yet begun to blunt. I am working against a firm deadline. In August my undergrad students from Cambridge and Stanford go back to Earth. In Uttark, the ones from the Shikal Institute return to Tellar. I've got less than eight of your weeks to get primary excavations done and be set up for long-term study before two-thirds of my labor force disappears. I can't afford setbacks, and if I have to play legal hardball I will, local customs be damned."

Jason made a placating gesture. "Like I said, we'd be happy to assist you. We've only got a few dedicated social scientists, but there's plenty of people who can use a shovel."

"I appreciate that, but I'm telling you now, if someone gets hurt or equipment gets damaged, I will rain fire from all seven hells down on this stupid planet's leaders. You think I'm disruptive now, wait until I claim my full hundred-hectare exclusion zone and use our archi-printer to build a few dormitories. Maybe a new landing site since they're so fussy about theirs."

Because some clear-cutting was definitely a reasonable thing to do and wouldn't aggravate the locals even more. "I see. Thank you for sharing your perspective, professor. I'll look into things and see if I can get them straightened out."

"Thank you, captain," Gral replied. "It's pleasant to speak with an actual professional finally. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got things to do and already wasted too much sunlight on this stupid situation."

The picture disappeared and Jason was left shaking his head. He wasn't surprised in the least, but there had been some part of him hoping he could just ask her to rein her students in a little. This was very much not what he had expected to be spending his time on when Starfleet had given his mission brief. He tapped his badge.

"Gelph, set up a meeting with the XO this afternoon after my bridge watch. The counselor too." Hopefully between one of the famous listeners of the galaxy and a trained therapist-slash-diplomat they could knock some sense into people before the guys in gold had to be sent in.

 

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