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The Grinder Part I

Posted on Tue May 30th, 2023 @ 6:19pm by Major Cornelius Tremble & Lieutenant JG Mira Jayna
Edited on on Wed May 31st, 2023 @ 8:55pm

0 words; about a 1 minute read

Mission: Episode 14 - The Poseidon Adventure
Location: Bridge - Deck 1 - USS Pioneer
Timeline: MD008 0900 hrs

A promotion from warrant officer to lieutenant JG had some perks, but it came with more paperwork and more responsibility. Jayna didn't mind the responsibility, but she could do without the paperwork. She considered it a necessary evil.

It also meant there was a very slim chance she might have to take a shift on the bridge. She really doubted it would happen. There were far too many people ahead of her in rank and training. But there was a possibility she'd have to command an away team in her role as intel liaison to The Cure, or man the mission ops station, and for that, she needed to pass the required exams. 

She took advantage of the time she had after returning from the planet and the working holiday to complete the preliminary bridge command course. Being Vulcan helped as she had an excellent memory and didn't need as much sleep as most--and she already had a good portion of the material memorized. But there was one part of the test she couldn't do on the holodeck: the practical exam. That required time on the bridge with the XO.

Neil rocked back and forth on his feet as he took a break from the command seat. He was starting to think that a standing bridge design with pull out chairs for breaks might be easier. The Fleet was a bit too cushy in some regards. He made it a practice to pace around, checking on each station and sharing a few words with each of the watch standers as it seemed appropriate.

He heard the lift doors open and he turned to see Jayna step onto the bridge and he made his way over. "Welcome to the bridge, Lieutenant. Ready for what I affectionately call the grinder?"

Jayna inclined her head in acknowledgement, hiding a smile at the sight of the first officer. She needed to maintain a professional demeanor for her test. This was definitely going to be an experience--especially with Neil in charge. "Yes, sir." As ready as she'd ever be. At the same time, she couldn't help finding humor in the situation--not that Neil was administering the test, but that she was even in a position to take it.

Neil gestured toward one of the mission Op stations and gave Jayna flicker of a wink. "Right. That's the station dedicated to the Cure's missions while we're out causing mayhem. Corporal Shy as a Marine Tactical systems operator pulls double duty from here as Corporal of the Guard and other collateral duties. You'll take a turn manning the station as part of your liaison duties."

He hated feeling like he was lecturing, but his words were as much for the rest of the bridge crew as they were for Jayna. "Since the Pioneer is a Fleet ship and is expected to go into harm’s way, every officer here has to know their place in the chain of command and be willing and able to take command if a situation demands."

Gesturing to the station once more, Neil said "Go ahead and get yourself configured and set up. Then we'll start the battery testing." He fished around in an overhead cubby and pulled out a set of headphones and visor for the holo-tank setup.

As Jayna took the equipment from Neil, her eyes met his and she flashed him a half smile before adjusting the station to suit her.

There was no reason to feel like this was her first time on the bridge, but a part of her couldn't help comparing this to when she was assigned to her first starship. She decided to blame her Bajoran heritage as a Vulcan would have no such qualms. When she was all set, she again turned to Neil. "Ready."

Neil brought up his own HUD and activated the testing module. He tapped into her headset and said, "This will start off as a sampling of day to day duties at the mission ops station. As situations come up, you'll have the choice to ask questions, clarifications, or orders from the holo-officers that populate this SIM. They are representatives of the Pioneer crew. If a scenario drops, continue mission and let your orders and decisions carry you through to a natural conclusion. I will be ghosting however and may call you out of roll if something seems wrong."

Neil leaned over her then, putting the workstation into testing mode and rested a hand on her shoulder and said, "Don't worry about it, just react and trust your instincts and training, Jayna." Then he stepped back and activated the testing.

She touched his hand before he withdrew it and smiled. "Yes, sir." Then she focused her attention back on the screen.

The bridge around her morphed into the program. But it wasn’t the bridge station she expected, it was the more-familiar shuttle intel used for special missions. Probably because the computer drew on her past experiences.

She took a moment to look over the panel in front of her and get up to speed with what was going on. Tamril sat at the other station, monitoring the away team that consisted of Kaylara and two other assets. Their mission was to sneak into a Breen outpost, extract data on what they were doing in the sector, and get out without getting caught. So far, they'd been on the ground for two hours as they had to hike in from the drop site, but the longer it took, the greater their chance of failure.

"Status on the ground team?"

"They just entered the building. No sign they've been spotted." Tamril checked the sensors. "No sign of other ships."

They were accompanied by a Marine shuttle in case the mission went south. Jayna hoped this would be a clean in and out, but she knew that this type of assignment was dangerous—especially as there was an unusual amount of stellar radiation interfering with the sensors. It made it easier to get the team to the planet, but it could also shield Breen ships waiting to attack.

Her gut told her there was something wrong, that this was too easy, but there was nothing to back it up. A part of her wanted to be with them. She'd done hundreds of these missions over the years. The team on the planet was practically green. They were good, but you developed an instinct over time that could make the difference between life and death.

She sent an encrypted message to the Pioneer and the Marines, keeping them up to date. Then she again went over the intel. It wasn't that she didn't trust it, it was more that she hated waiting and this gave her something to do.

The mission clock said the team had been in the building for thirty minutes without word. It was still within acceptable parameters, but she didn't like it.

"Tamril, can you get any reading on them?"

"Negative. Can't read anything inside the building."

That alone was enough to worry her, but a shield didn’t automatically mean a compromised mission. Jayna ran another sensor sweep of the area. Still nothing. For a split second there was a shimmer of interference, then it was gone.

She opened an encrypted channel to the Chesty Puller. "We picked up a shimmer on sensors, Do you see anything?"

"Negative. No sign of hostiles and nothing on the comms."

Forty-five minutes without a word. She again contacted the Chesty Puller. "Get the extraction team ready. They should have signaled by now."

"Roger that."

For the next ten minutes she kept an eye on the sensor data and the information on her console. Waiting was so much harder.

There was another ripple, this time in the planet's atmosphere. For a brief moment, they picked up the team—and three dozen Breen. "It's a trap. Get a lock on the team and beam them aboard."

"I can't get a solid lock on them," Tamril replied.

Jayna contacted the other shuttle. "Send in the extraction team. There are three dozen Breen converging on the others. We can't get a message to them or a transporter lock."

"Semper Fi, do or die," came the response.

With the Marines on the ground, Jayna kept an eye on the sky, continually scanning for any more signs of hostiles. She hated waiting, but The Cure was trained and equipped for this.

She lost track of time as the ground combat commenced. She relayed information from her position above the planet and kept the Pioneer informed.

An incoming message drew her attention. "It's the Chesty Puller," Tamril announced.

Jayna took a deep breath. "On screen."

"We have them and the data. We also lost two Marines and one of your intel team. We're bringing the bodies back for burial."

"Thank you. And the Breen?"

"No survivors, but they sent out a distress call."

"As soon as everyone is back, we'll make all due speed back to the Pioneer. Well done."

When the comm channel closed, Jayna sat back and closed her eyes, allowing herself a moment to grieve. She wasn't sure who died, but she knew she'd lost a friend. "Tamril, inform the Pioneer and prepare to go home."

The program dissolved around her and she was again seated at the mission ops station. She took a moment to breathe and waited for Neil. She had no idea if she passed or not; but just being here was something she never expected before coming to the Pioneer.

Neil watched the tableau play out, resisting the urge to over-ride the scenario as the AI's kicked in and adjusted parameters.

Baby steps. Jayna would need to be comfortable running mission ops before bigger steps. At least that's what he was assuming the Continuing Education/Training module seemed to be doing.

As Jayna's holo-SIM spun down and she slipped the goggles and headset off, Neil collapsed his HUD and smiled at her. "Computer rated you at 98% on that run, Jayna. Very nicely done. What's your opinion?"

She raised an eyebrow and looked at him for a long moment. "The computer gave me the type of mission I am more likely to run at some point, but It was not what you said it would be. My only conclusion is that, while I was given a passing grade for this, I ultimately failed and need to do it again with the correct scenario." She thought she was ready, even if the computer did not. She wondered if she could do it again. Now.

"Correct," Neil said, smiling at her. "The SIM tubed you into a relative comfort zone and something you should have been able to handle: which you did. That sets a base line."

He activated the testing controls via his contact and began making adjustments. "We'll build on what you just did. This time you're going to be aboard the USS Puller, on the bridge reporting to the ship's captain. The Breen aren't done with you..."
To Be Continued...

A Joint Post By

Lieutenant Junior Grade Mira Jayna
Assistant Chief Intelligence Officer, USS Pioneer
Intelligence Liaison, The Cure

Major Cornelius Tremble
Executive Officer, USS Pioneer
Commanding Officer, The Cure


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