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Log of the Month for April, 2024

Behold a Pale Horse, Pt. 6: Temporal Integrity
Posted on April 24th, 2024 by Scott Ammora

2nd Lieutenant Anthony Bennett, Security

He loved the violins. The clarinet was a close second. Distant third was the piccolo, but it had to be used correctly otherwise it would ruin a whole movement. The way that instruments find a way to move in perfect harmony creating such amazingly profound pieces of art without using a single word astounded him. He was not musically gifted by any stretch of the imagination, but he appreciated it. That was his way of supporting the hard work and dedication those musicians had that he felt he lacked.

Anthony Bennett was laying on his bed, eyes closed, listening to a piece from 2261, entitled, ‘Darkmoone Faire, Twilight’s End’. The story behind it was quite wonderful, albeit sad. It was written about events that had happened hundreds of years before on a distant world called Vianifi. It was far from the Federation, and during those days there was plight and famine running rampant on the world’s population.

They were a peaceful civilization built on open arms, loving hearts, and togetherness. A piece of music such as this, Anthony assumed, couldn’t have come from a place where that hadn’t been the bedrock of their society. Even in the horrors of their disastrous present, all souls longingly wishing for the serene times that had come before, their artists rendered one of the finest works of music. The hardship they were facing was what the music was about. It showed.

Here it came, and Anthony’s breath caught in his throat; it was his favorite moment. The song flared up, the violins gaining speed, and it peaked as the clarinets joined the crescendo. A trill or two from different instruments augmented the already vibrant tones. Anthony didn’t know what any of the terminology was, as he would always describe this part to people in the only way he knew how: “So then the violins go up and just blare, and then the clarinets pop in out of nowhere, but it works. Then there’s these shimmery accents that wrap it up. It’s gorgeous.”

He didn’t know music, so he did his best.

The story wasn’t even worth telling. It was all made up. No one knew what it was about. The original song, Anthony had discovered, was originally done with instruments far different than the ones he was listening to. Someone had found the recording and had it transposed by swapping certain instruments for Earth ones. The music was still good, though, and he thoroughly enjoyed playing it on repeat.

Anthony wasn’t one to condone fraud. The man who had done it was training at an elite art school in Paris and had missed a couple of sessions with his tutor. He didn’t care because he was enjoying life. However, to make up for it, and no more ways out, he made one final plea: he would meet next week and provide a brand-new piece of music that would satisfy his teacher. It was granted.

What a poor choice that had been. What the man thought was subpar work in his skills of transposition, and not even the work he was supposed to be doing, everyone else thought was a monstrous hit. Within a week he had been thrust into fame on the universe’s stage. People wanted him to conduct live, which he was incapable of doing. Institutes across the quadrant wanted him to speak on his inspiration, which he didn’t have.

He tried to fake it the best he could, but it got him in the end. The man died young, alone, and forgotten. When people did listen to the music, recall his name, or heard the story, he was tainted by the counterfeit composition that had made him wrongfully famous. Good, he deserved it. But, again, Anthony liked the music.

All because the pupil had procrastinated.

The song ended in its normal sudden breakage, symbolizing the collapse of society into complete chaos and eventual extinction. Well, that was how the fake story behind it ended. Anthony opened his eyes sharply and sat up in bed.

You forgot to turn in your self-assessment for your annual physical.

He rubbed the blackness out of his eyes and put his feet on the floor. Maybe that’s why he connected with the fake composer so much: he procrastinated too. No, Anthony had never had anything malicious happen because of his inability to manage his time properly. That he knew of, anyway. Here he was, though, putting on his boots and trudging off to the Security Offices. He still had time; he’d be fine.

Anthony’s pace was a little more determined than it usually was. Normally he would walk with a kind of vigor that would play music in his head. It was always happy and upbeat, each footstep making a specific note in his head that he would mentally put into song. It wasn’t creating anything real because he didn’t know what he was doing, but he could hear it.

After the short jaunt to the security offices, he headed straight for the Chief’s office. Currently occupied by Acting Chief Scott Ammora, it was now the temporary the home of 1st Lieutenant Damien Hill while Ammora was off ship. Anthony wasn’t too thrilled when he hadn’t been chosen for the away mission. There was something dynamically melodic about the waves impacting the sand and rocks. Beauty from chaos. Some other time, perhaps.

The door opened and he walked to the desk, placing his PADD on the top of the pile. Tapping the ‘submit’ button to officially turn it in, Anthony breathed a sigh of relief.

“Down to the wire, huh, Bennett?”

Anthony heard from the doorway a voice. Facing it, he smiled. “It’s the physical health self-assessment for my annual physical. I wanted to make sure that I was thorough. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Plus, I’m in before the deadline. Quality over quantity.” Anthony wagged his finger playfully at the woman in the doorway.

2nd Lieutenant Rya Winthrop leaned against the doorframe with her arms crossed. “Right.”

“On the swing tonight?” Anthony asked, moving past her and heading for the door.

“Yeah, I was headed up to ship stores for some of the binding recouplers for frag grenades. I’ll hit the party late.”

Anthony had completely forgotten about the party. God, where had his mind been lately? His time management skills weren’t proudly showing through today. “Oh, right, the thing in the lounge. I heard about it. Might pop in.”

“Do you live under a rock?” Rya laughed and shoved him out into the corridor. “Everyone’s going to be there.”

“That’s ridiculously cliché and I’m sure factually inaccurate.”

Rya laughed again. “You know what I meant.”

Anthony enjoyed her playfulness. It was a nice change to the normal bravado that security officers tend to sheath themselves in. “Yeah, do you know if they’re going with just the computer for music, or if someone is playing the piano? Ammora isn’t onboard so you know that he isn’t going to be tickling the ivories.”

She shook her head, “No, no computer music. Ammora only plays when he thinks no one is watching. He plays well.”

“He’s been known to hit a wrong note or two… or three, four…”

As they stepped into the turbolift, she bobbed her head in agreement. “It’s kind of like his command style. Just when you think he’s building momentum, sour note. He’s getting back into the swing of things, derailment. Deck 9.”

“What do you mean by that?” Anthony perked an eyebrow. “Deck 10.”

“Ha, beat you. No, I just mean that Ammora seems to get rolling, wobbly as it always seems, and when you think it’s going to smooth out, something else falls off the machine.” Rya shook her head, but she didn’t know how else to put it without being mean and citing individual instances. “It just makes you wonder whether or not he’s cut out to take the role to where it needs to be.”

Anthony hadn’t taken any time to step back and assess Scott’s performance as a leader. He had fought with him in the trenches in the Xovul conflict and they had worked well together. When Ammora assumed command of the department there wasn’t a change to anything that affected Bennett’s duties directly. “I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. Things are good for me.”

“Anthony, you’re so blissfully naïve. That’s a good thing. Just think about some of the decisions that he’s made, the way he talks to people, and the way he carries himself. I’m not dissing the guy, I swear, but is he command material? I’m not sold. It’s the little things.”

“He’s not Grey.”

Rya mouth closed in an articulate and serious change in facial expression. “No, he is not.” The turbolift slowed to a stop and the doors opened, “This is my stop. Anyway, there’s going to be a band at the party, I hear. Lieutenant Quince and some engineers created a band, if you can call it that, and they’re going to play.”

Oh, okay, that might bode well. Anthony had walked in on them practicing in the holodeck a couple of months back and they sounded decent enough. Same kind of problem as Ammora, but a step above. Plus, they all knew music. He liked Quince too. He wished he had some musical ability to be able to do something like that in his off time, but alas. “Right on. Well, maybe I’ll see you there then. What’s on the agenda for the rest of the swing shift?”

“Ooh, it’s a banner evening in Security. First, I’ll be inventorying portable plasma shields. Second, a rousing round of reconciling reclamation records…”

“I see what you did there.” Anthony pointed at her.

“And I’ll round it out with partitioning out the personnel non-weapon diagnostic reports so when the Chief has his one-on-ones coming up about equipment integrity, he has someplace to start.” Rya tapped him pointedly in the sternum, “See? Now don’t you want to switch with me?”

“Not in a million years,” Anthony shook his head, “But isn’t that last one Captain Ammora’s job?”

Rya perked an eyebrow, “The little things.” She pushed him back into the lift and the doors closed.

Anthony stood there in the silence for a second, thinking about what she had said. It didn’t matter. Scott was running the department, nothing was on fire, and morale seemed fine enough to him. Was it? In addition to being a procrastinator, in that moment, Anthony realized that he may also be a bit oblivious to that level of interaction amongst his colleagues. “Computer, resume turbolift, Deck 10.”

Personnel Non-Weapon Diagnostic Reports. You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Computer, belay that. Deck 7, Main Security.” Why was he like this? Walking down the corridor back to the offices he had just left, it dawned on him that he had traversed this path three times in the last ten minutes. Once he parted the threshold into the offices, he beelined for the diagnostic console. This one was already almost done, fifteen minutes at most. “Computer, lights.”

Settling in, he activated his inventory. He had taken stock of it earlier in the day, but then had the gall to take a lunchbreak. When he got back, he was swarmed with a bunch of questions regarding a training program that he had nearly aced (they wanted tips, he was honored), and then the daily team meeting. The list went on. He missed this one. Well, and the physical assessment. It happens.

There was one last thing unaccounted for on his list. He still had a good thirty minutes left to go, so he jogged into the equipment lockers and opened his storage compartment. Ruffling through the mass of unorganized items, not at all at Starfleet regulation cleanliness, but it was always ready for inspection. Where were his secondary power cells? Were they in the back?

Reaching even further into the unit, elbows pushing gloves aside, fingers finding everything other than what he needed, and his face pressing against the side of the locker next to his, Anthony was struggling. If his locker had been clean before, it wouldn’t be anywhere close now. “Where are you, you tricksy devils?”

As if the equipment responded to his negative statement on cue, his phaser compression rifle secondary muzzle – not standard issue, but authorized for him to have through special request of Starfleet Equipment Acquisition – slipped off the shelf and careened onto his exposed neck. “Motherf – ”

He was bleeding. “Oh, this is just getting ridiculous.” He stared down at the rifle muzzle.

Phaser compression rifle calibration reports.

“I just quit life.”

Anthony grabbed a towel off the rack next to the entrance of the security training room station and pressed it to his neck. What was one more thing? The report was almost done and then his rifle report wouldn’t take much longer than fifteen itself. Still in normal parameters. Rounding the corner out of the locker room he saw Miguel Yzerra and Kory Kohanan headed to Ammora’s office. Interesting.

Not giving it a second thought, Anthony moved back to his station, constantly checking the towel for any new amounts of blood. He wasn’t bleeding badly, but it was probably going to require Sickbay for a quick visit. A couple of taps on the screen and the report was finished. Glancing towards the office, Anthony dreaded the trek he was about to make. Koko was a cool guy, but Miguel was the kind of guy that always made Anthony edgy.

Summoning the courage to submit his report, Anthony moved towards the office, his eyes double-checking the information he was about to offer. As he neared the door, he heard voices. There was a third one he hadn’t expected to hear. It was Damien Hill. Oh, that made sense, Damien was acting in Ammora’s place as Security Lead.

“No, I’d do it smoother than that, dumbass. It’s a start.”

“Yeah, think of it as a morale test balloon.”

“Where do you go from there?”

“I don’t know. Come on in, Bennett.”

Bennett entered cautiously, hugging the back wall. Miguel turned to look at him. Yeah, there was that edginess he remembered. “Hey guys, how’s it going?”

“What’s going on, Bennett? What are you doing here so late?” Miguel asked simply, but there was a bit of aggression in the question, and there was a veil of sarcasm that came along with it.

Anthony bristled and managed a meek smile with his answer. “Reports.”

“Overdue reports?” Miguel turned and looked at Kohanan, both of whom smiled.

“Oh, Bennett.” Koko stated simply.

“Not overdue, they’ll be in by deadline.”

Damien smirked as he swiveled back and forth in the chair, his feet on the middle of the desk. “Fellas, I’ll catch up with you guys at the party. I’ll think a little bit more. Don’t have too much fun without me.”

Kohanan knocked Damien’s feet back to the floor with a thud. “Oh, don’t worry, Damien, we all know that the fun doesn’t start until you show up. What will we ever do without your presence?” He put his hands up to his head in mock frustration as he backed past Anthony and out the door. Miguel followed right there after with a glance at Anthony.

Ignoring both departing grunts, Anthony stretched out his arm to offer his report. “Here’s the personnel inventory reports that are due. Sorry they’re right on deadline, I don’t know where my head was today.”

Damien took the report, took an initial look over it, tapping it a couple of times, nodding, and then setting the PADD on the desk. “Thanks, Bennett. Just so you know, the physical assessment was on time, this one was late, but I’ll back date it because they haven’t gotten to it yet.”

“Uh, thanks? What brings you in? No party?”

Damien grabbed another PADD, “I forgot I had this on my task list. I skipped out a little early to get ready for the party and realized I needed to make sure all the physical assessments were accounted for. I guess you can say that you and I have something in common today.”

Anthony agreed halfway, “Today.”

Damien gazed up to Anthony and then back down at the table, “But with these two from you, I’m set and headed out for the evening. You’re bleeding.”

“Yeah, I’ll hit Sickbay before I go home.”

Damien let out a breathy laugh, “Just use your dermal regenerator in your medkit. Saves the trip, saves the medical record.”

Perking an eyebrow, he looked at Damien inquisitively. Was he serious? “That’s outside regulations, Damien, you know that. Besides, you have to log that for your diagnostic report. Which, I just turned in. So, I don’t want to add anything else to the report, so I’ll just go to Sickbay.”

Nodding his head, Damien smirked. “Suit yourself. Headed to the party?”

“If I ever get the phaser compression rifle calibration completed. Shouldn’t take too long, but, you know, with the bleeding and all.” Anthony forced another jovial expression as he waved the blood-laden rag in Damien’s direction. “But, yes.”

Damien flashed a smile that caused the hair on the back of Anthony’s neck to stand up. Damien folded his arms across his chest, the grin still plastered unchanged on his face. “I’m telling you, use your dermal regenerator, make a note in the log of a forgotten entry, I’ll sign off. Put a tag on your rifle that is marked to be repaired, I’ll sign off on it. I’ll ‘fix’ it, and then you’ll be set for next week.”

Not only was that two sets of falsifying reports for Anthony, that was two sets of abuse of power on Damien’s part. It probably would work, given the situation, but that was a loophole that Anthony would never even have looked for, thought of for that matter, or ever want to use. “I appreciate that, Damien, but I think that Captain Ammora would prefer me to stick to procedure.”

“I’m not Ammora.” Damien said flatly.

Anthony suddenly felt as if he’d opened an oven. There was a metaphorical heat that hit him, being emitted from Damien at him directly, and the intensity of his gaze and the brightness of his smile seemed to heighten. It was unsettling, to say the least. Anthony steeled himself and narrowed his eyes in the most subtle way, “No. You are not.”

Heat gone, directed elsewhere, Anthony assumed. Damien went back to the computer, punched in a couple of entries, and signed off. He stood up straight and took a breath, the large grin gone and replaced by a thin-lipped smirk. “I can handle Ammora. But it’s up to you. No harm, no foul. I’ll see you at the party.”

Handle? “Uh, yeah, I’ll swing by after the rifle thing and I stop bleeding.”

“Good, see ya.” Damien moved by him, giving him ample space to avoid touching, and disappeared into the corridor.

Anthony moved back to his station and picked up his rifle. He disassembled it per standard operating procedures and set out the pieces in the way he was taught at the Academy. He started scanning and recording the data, moving from piece to piece as quickly as possible. It was all a bit difficult to do one-handed, but it was manageable. Everyone now and again he’d have to put the rag down and he’d feel a drop of blood slide down his neck.

The beeping of the diagnostic tool he was using was in time. Anthony could hear it in his head. Then a trill of alerts from a security station alerting the user – who was not present – that a training scenario had been completed and results were ready for review. He bounced his foot in time. He felt like he was increasing his productivity pace as the ‘music’ swelled in his head.

Music. He needed music. “Computer, play ‘Darkmoone Faire, Twilight’s End’, standard volume.”

The music struck up as it normally did and continued for exactly five seconds.

“Computer, belay that.” Silence once again. It already felt off. The sound was different. The meaning behind it was different. The story, the true story, suddenly was ever-present in Anthony’s mind. The music, the beauty of the chords, and the breathtaking swells of harmony were hollow. Empty. “Computer, play Altaire d’Vok’s ‘Nobleman’s Pedastal’, standard volume.”

Anthony set to work at record speed, tapping both feet in alternating rhythm.

He’d barely make his deadline, but he’d make it. He’d get to Sickbay and get taken care of, he’d get home and change, and he’d be at the party late. But he’d be there. If Damien always showed up fashionably late to the party, why couldn’t he? Being late to a party seemed on time to him given the circumstances.

His scanning bobbed with the beat.

Who cared if he procrastinated, right? He was his own person with his own attributes and flaws. If he was the last one to turn something in, so be it. Was it in by deadline? Yes. Was it late? Yes, one time, but that hadn’t happened a long time ago. That was a freebie. At the end of the day, he was an officer in good standing, a credit to his team, and a good ambassador for Starfleet and the Federation.

He tapped the barrel on the table as he scanned it, adding another element to his personal performance.

And done. Phaser rifle put back together, diagnostic finalizing results, and ready for turn in! Anthony turned and looked at the clock. Nailed it, with eleven and a half minutes to spare. “And the crowd goes wild!” And he put his hands to his mouth and breathed into it, simulating an arena full of cheering fans.

Anthony knew he was good at many things. It wasn’t about keeping time, like in music. It wasn’t about when something was due or how fast someone could pump out information. The tasks were going to get done. They always did. It was about how one used the time. Procrastinator? Sure. Late? Never.

He trudged back to his locker, organizing it as best as one hand would allow, and sealed it up for the night. He crossed back through the main room and past Ammora’s office. Moving through the back briefing area, Anthony pushed a chair in that had found itself in the aisle, and he continued on. The armory stood recently organized, weapons stashed exactly where they should be, displayed proudly, but still ready for immediate use.

Taking a breath, knowing he was officially done for the evening, he closed: “Computer, standard graveyard shift lighting. See you next time.”

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1 Comment

  • Kathryn Harper Kathryn Harper says:

    And the cast expands further, and with interesting additions at that! Anthony’s appreciation of the music without knowing much about it is a nice detail, and bring the log to an end with the music was a nice way to bookend it. Ammora is not Grey, and Hill is not Ammora, but Hill sure is calculating and dangerous. I honestly get the sense that if Anthony had taken him up on the falsifications, Damien would have nailed him for it. Looking forward to the next one!

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