Saturday, October 28, 2023

Extremus: Year 63

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
It’s happening again. The Captain is being stripped of his rank. But unlike Halan Yenant, who broke the law in order to save every life on the ship at the time, Soto Tamm’s actions were done out of selfishness and the abuse of power. It was also just disgusting. It was never against the law for a captain to have sex, but it was difficult to accomplish without arousing suspicion, no pun intended. There are few positions of sufficiently equal footing to allow relationships without any issue. It was fine when Tinaya’s aunt, Captain Kaiora Leithe developed a relationship with Dr. Ima Holmes, because Ima was Chief Medical Officer. She wasn’t a passenger, an apprentice, or a lower ranking member of the crew. The two also disclosed their partnership publicly immediately, which is what Kaiora would have been obligated to do if it had been nearly anyone else. She would have been fine connecting with the First or Second Chair, or maybe the Hock Watcher, or maybe a member of the council, but she probably would have had to disclose that too. Tamm didn’t do any of this. He slept with numerous people, did not report the encounters to anyone, and actively worked towards keeping his partners—if you can call them that—quiet. He acted like a predator.
A sex scandal? Really? That’s what it’s come to? Is peacetime worse than wartime? Are idle hands the devil’s tools? So far, the names of Tamm’s partners have not been released, and hopefully they never will, but one thing’s for sure, they don’t fall onto the list of acceptable partnerships. The former captain exhibited gross misconduct by indulging, if not pursuing, such contact. He was removed from his position, and his duties were redelegated to First Lieutenant Percival Applegarth, and Second Lieutenant Athan Velitchkov. It has been nearly a month now, though, and Velitchkov is the only one still standing. The investigators discovered that Applegarth was aware of Tamm’s crimes, and said nothing, so he has been removed from his position too. The ship is in chaos, and the civilian government has had to step in to carry the load. More specifically, while Velitchkov does pretty much everything a captain would do, Tinaya is all but officially serving as his lieutenant. She is the only one with any semblance of experience with putting out the kind of bonfires that this incident has built.
They can’t pull from the qualified graduates of the College of Executive Administration, because one of them could end up becoming the interim Captain. You can’t be a captain if you’ve already been a lieutenant. Of course, Tinaya is supposed to end up Captain, but she hasn’t technically been assigned the rank of Lieutenant, so it’s a super big gray area here. Don’t let anyone tell you that they know what the hell they’re doing, because they don’t. They are now only ever seconds away from complete annihilation, and it’s a wonder that it hasn’t happened already. Possibly the only thing holding everything together is that the Extemusians have become unified towards a singular goal. There is a passenger-driven campaign to install Tinaya as the captain, since that has always been the plan anyway, but she isn’t sure she wants that anymore. She loves her job. She even kind of likes what she’s doing right now, as bad as that may sound. She fixes problems, and as melodramatic as she’s being about the state of affairs, things are probably okay. The ship is not going to tear itself apart. She can be the glue as Captain, or as something else. You don’t have to use only one type of glue, to...lazily stick with the same metaphor. Pun intended.
The Council wants to speak with her today. They’re probably going to ask her to do it, and she honestly doesn’t know how she’s going to respond. She walks up to the Council Chambers, again passing the line by, but they don’t even bother offering it this time. You only wait in line if you’re the one asking to be there; not if you’ve been summoned. Lataran Keen is already in the room, standing on the center platform alone. The two of them have remained friendly for the last several years, but grew in different directions. They have lunch together occasionally, and it’s pleasant, but they don’t share secrets anymore, and love would be a very, very strong word to use to describe their current relationship status. Still, they hug, and in the midst of it, Tinaya whispers, “do you know why you’re here?”
“I assume it’s finally happening for us, just as we always wanted,” Lataran whispers back. They release, and face the Council.
“Thank you two for coming,” Cleader says. “This has been a difficult time for us all, and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this.” He leans to his left, but doesn’t cover the microphone. “Where is he?”
“He’s on his way,” the Councilor responds. “I believe we can start without him.”
“Very well,” Cleader goes on. “I am aware of what some believe they know of the future. Miss Leithe, you have always been called Captain, and as your best friend, I’m sure that you always intended Miss Keen to be your First Lieutenant. However, we do not think that this is the best course of action.”
Lataran seethes but keeps her composure. She knows she’s not entitled to the job.
Cleader clears his throat. “Athan Velitchkov will become the First Lieutenant. He is the obvious choice. Yes, conventionally, the captain appoints their own lieutenants, but in this scenario—because of what has happened, and the unusual timing of this shift in power—it is logical to us that Velitchkov should remain to help the new Captain with her new responsibilities. We will, however, allow you to appoint your own Second Lieutenant. Your respective shifts will last twenty-four years. These will not be interim positions. As the end of the next shift approaches, we will determine how to proceed, but it is possible that the final captain of the ship will simply still be captain after the 216-year journey has been completed, because we doubt that the Extremus planet will have been located by then. Now that we are in the void, instead of the Milky Way Galaxy proper, it will probably take our descendants longer to find a suitable new home than our ancestors originally envisioned. But of course, that is not our problem today. We are only here to extend the offer for the role of Sixth of Eleven. Lataran Keen, graduate from the College of Executive Administration, will you please accept this responsibility?”
Both Tinaya and Lataran tilt their lizard brains, and then they look at each other. What the fuh? Lataran silently mouths to her friend.
Tinaya is in shock as well, but a tsunami of relief quickly rolls over her, and she realizes that she really doesn’t want this. She doesn’t want to be captain, and despite Lataran’s years-long insistence that she was going to be happy with second place, she does. She has truly wanted it, and she truly deserves it. The Bridgers have been wrong this whole time. This is what’s meant to happen. The question is, why the hell is Tinaya here at all, because they think Lataran will appoint her as the Second Lieutenant? That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but it’s not amazing either. Again, she likes what she does now, moving around to different departments, handing out advice, watching people take that advice, and best of all, seeing them succeed from it. Lieutenants only experience two things: giving orders, or giving suggestions that no one listens to. That sounds stressful. Then again, it would be a new challenge, and she would accept it. That is assuming that’s why she’s here at all, and it’s not just so the Council can shove her loss of the captaincy in her face. It’s certainly not just so Lataran can have a friend by her side while she’s given the biggest opportunity of her life.
“Miss Keen?” Cleader urges. “Miss Keen.”
Lataran has been lost in her own thoughts at the same time. “I just...what about...?” She awkwardly points to Tinaya.
“Miss Leithe is not being offered the seat. You are. Please answer for yourself.”
“Take the job,” Tinaya urges quietly. “I’m not the runner up. Who else would you see doing it? Who else do you think is on their short list, and are you quite confident that they’re as good as you are, and not worse than Tamm?”
Lataran frowns kindly at her, but nods, and thinks on it some more. Finally, she says, “yes. Yes, I’ll do it. Thank you for this honor, Council.”
Cleader snaps his fingers twice. Someone approaches from a dark corner behind the dais, ceremoniously holding folded garments in his arms. “Your new uniform, printed to a perfect fit,” Cleader explains. “We expect you to start...” he pretends to care what his watch says. “...right now.”
Lataran accepts the uniform graciously, and bows awkwardly back at the tailor when he bows at her. Neither one of those things should have happened. She’s not royalty. She drops a fold to admire the whole thing at once, not realizing that it has come in two parts, so her pants nearly fall to the floor. Tinaya reaches out, and snatches them out of the air just in time. “Thank you.”
“You got it,” Tinaya replies. “You got this.”
“Now,” Cleader continues. “I’m sure you’re both wondering why Miss Leithe is here as well.”
Lataran opens her mouth to respond, but realizes that it was rhetorical.
“Miss Leithe, we did not anticipate this whole Soto Tamm debacle. We likely would have considered you for the captain’s seat instead, but you were unfortunately removed from contention years ago when your name was submitted for something else. As a neutral body of leadership, we are not allowed to endorse specific government candidates, but we still oversee the election committee, which is why we agreed to that loyalty test that you underwent last year. “
“What are you saying?” Tinaya asks him.
“I’m saying that we can’t say anything further, but if you’ll recall, you were asked to meet at a certain location on the ship at a certain time. That meeting has been made manifest, and moved back to today. Again, we can have nothing to do with it. I was merely asked to pass the message along, but I will say that it’s not a loyalty test this time, and it’s decidedly not a coup. Do attend. Thank you. That is all.” He looks up as if there’s anyone else to address. “We’ll recess for one hour before continuing with the grievances.” He bangs the gavel, and stands up, as do the rest of the councilors.
“What is he talking about?” Lataran asks. “What meeting?”
Tinaya checks her watch. “No time to explain. It’s happening right now. Congratulations. I love you.” They hug again, and then Tinaya disappears.
She steps into the Mirror Room to find Arqut Grieves waiting for her, which is no big surprise, because he’s the one who set up the fake meeting last year. What she doesn’t know is what has justified it becoming real today? What has he submitted her name to? “You’re one minute late,” he says. “Don’t worry, I know why.”
“I can’t be captain because you want me to serve in the civilian government?”
“You would have been a great captain, Miss Leithe. You’ll be a better First Chair.”
“First Chair? Are you serious?”
“Chairman Aleshire is nearing the end of his third, but final, term,” Arqut reasons. “He feels too old to continue, so he’s going to step down. Someone has to  replace him either way. For years now, I’ve watched you prove your intelligence, your strategic mind, your leadership skills. You’ve learned, you’ve grown. Truthfully, I can’t think of anyone better. Most Chairs have not been able to make it the full twelve years, but I’m confident that you can be the third to accomplish this. Of course, I was intending you to have three more years to prepare to take over, but Aleshire is tired, and he wants to be with his family. If you agree, he will endorse you fully, and you already enjoy a profoundly high approval rating.”
“I’m just a civilian, we don’t have approval ratings.”
Arqut chuckles. “Well, we do, and if you’re gonna be First Chair, you’re gonna need to know that.”
“I never agreed to run.”
He nods. “You’re right, and you shouldn’t agree to anything without knowing the full truth, which is that I screwed up the paperwork. I submitted your name in the wrong fashion, and that is what disqualified you from the captaincy. I basically made it look like you were the one requesting to be on the future ballot, when I should have filled out a nomination form. I just need to be totally open about this, and if you would like to distance yourself from me, I would understand. Unfortunately, it’s irreparable. You can never be captain under the current laws. If you want to make a difference, this is where you do it, not as a second lieutenant. I am sorry, but I don’t regret choosing you, because I am all but certain that everyone else will choose you too.”
If it’s already too late to be captain, which would be the case even if they hadn’t already offered it to Lataran, then maybe this is indeed the best thing for her. Is this what she has been working towards this whole time? Most of the jobs she’s taken have been on the civilian side of things. The crew hasn’t needed that much of her help. “How long do I have to think about it?”
“Your two major opponents have already announced their candidacies, so we—I’m sorry, you—should think about making your own announcement by the end of the week. Technically you could do it the day before voting day, but I would obviously never recommend that.”
Tinaya thinks through the decision, weighing the pros and cons in her head. She eyes the extraction mirror behind Arqut’s back, considering trying to seek advice from someone who is no longer with us, such as her aunt maybe? But in the end, she comes to a conclusion on her own. “Okay, I’ll try. But I’ll need you to stay on with me. I assume the fact that you submitted my name is a matter of record?”
“It is.”
“Then if I’m going to win, we need to make it look like this was the plan the whole time, and that we’ve been working together. You did not mess up the paperwork.”
He’s surprised by this suggestion, but he nods. “Okay. Then...let’s write an announcement, and start working on campaign strategies.”
They work on those strategies, and two days later, Tinaya announces her intentions, runs a good campaign, and actually wins. The funny thing is, the last thing that Chairman Aleshire does before the end of his own term is lobby to change the law that prevents high-level government officials from later joining the crew. Interesting.

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