((Transporter Room 1, Deck 1, USS Thor))
Alieth tossed the gloves he had been wearing into the replicator and observed how they faded into nothingness, their particles back into the medical replicator's buffer. She then took a final sip from her cup of Zhar-kur tei, after verifying that there were no white hairs floating on its surface. Since the Zet's arrival and due to the strong rejection reaction that the animal had elicited, Alieth had barely been in contact with the canid and, despite that, some of her fur would always make its way into her mug. Or in her soup bowl. O... well, wherever it was least likely to be. As irrational as that thought was, Alieth suspected it was Cheesecake's way of reminding her of her existence.
It was also mildly irritating.
With that thought in mind, she reviewed the tasks at hand before joining Dr. Quen and heading towards the transporter room within a comfortable silence.
The Vulcan did not venture what was on the Bajoran's mind, but for her part she reviewed the whirlwind of events of the past few days. After a very inelegant but fortunately innocuous landing against the penetrator's bulk plates she had been beamed to the sickbay with the rest of the away team that had remained on the Zet ship. As soon as it became clear that her performance as a bird had only resulted in a few bruises and a split lip,she and Quen had started to work.
She had an accurate mental tally of the number of patients they had treated, in many cases for previous pathologies that had NEVER been addressed, but mostly what lingered in her mind was the number of times she had been asked for payment for her services, or offered a service as payment. Even on one occasion, a particularly grateful Zet had offered her his firstborn as compensation. Such had been the incidence of that kind of behaviour that they had needed to develop a form to distract them and let the medical team carry on with their work.
Alieth suppressed a shudder. The amount of mock paddwork piling up on her desk at the moment defied even Starfleet's universal penchant for paperwork.
When they finally stepped into the transporter room, she found that Commander Teller was already there and, to her chagrin, she grimaced a bit. The human's nasal septum had been mended by one of the orderlies and, somehow, was no longer as it had been before. Alieth could accurately report that it was deviated a millimetre and a half to the side, which gave the first officer an even more smug and goofy look when he cracked a smile, something that was highly inappropriate. The fact that the nasal bone would need to be broken all over again to fix that disaster was EVEN more inconvenient. But she would find the way to do so..... and the time.
Postponing this new nuisance until a later time, Alieth gave a succinct salute to Peri, and then perched herself on one of the transporter pads. As soon as all the women were in position, Geof addressed them.
Teller: Doctors, Ensign, glad we're all here. The situation is this ::Geoff tapped on a nearby display and showed images from the planet:: We began beaming down our evacuees to a location they designated as their 'mandated domicile,' but they're being turned away and we're not sure why. We've had to temporarily stop relaying people to the ground until we can sort this out.
Alieth gave a slight nod at her department colleague's input.
Alieth: I concur. Anything else we need to consider whilst we are on the surface?
Teller: Well, in addition to making sure the people you treated actually have homes to go back to the Fleet Captain wants us to take a look around. A through one. I don't know about you three, but some of what we saw on the Penetrator left a real bad taste in my mouth. We need to understand the Zet better and until we do, lets keep digging. Questions?
Katsim: No sir.
She had plenty of questions, though she doubted that anyone on board could answer them with what they knew about the Zet Homeworld.
Alieth: Nor do I, Commander
Teller: Very well, eyes open, best behavior...::Geoff was speaking to himself as much as anything, considering his introduction:: we're the friendly aliens you...
Alieth was halfway through the best roll eyes she had mastered from her mentor Mackenzie when the transporter cycle took hold on them and her flawless display was lost in a brilliant cascade of light.
((Employee Esplanade 993 - Saldanian Life@Home Employee Mandated Domicile Services, LLC))
Their arrival on the planet offered them the breathtaking sight of massive building spires that climbed as far as the eye could reach, piercing the dome of pollution that blanketed the metropolis, only to become lost in its toxic density. The buildings seemed to lean against each other, while a cobweb of smaller structures climbed up their sides, connecting them by a thousand and one walkways, plaguing them with lumps and bulges resembling the pustules of a diseased animal. Billboards and holographic displays popped up everywhere, giving everything in sight a garish backlight of a million strident colours, their jingles jostling with the chatter, the rumble of vehicles, and the myriad voices and noises and laughter and titters that assaulted the Vulcan's delicate ears with a barrage of noises, each more obscene than the next.
However, it was not the motley soup of Zet, buildings, ads, noise and flashing lights which impressed Alieth the most.
It was the reek.
Vulcans were known to have an acutely sensitive sense of smell, women being the epitome of this faculty. The stench in the air was such that Alieth stumbled back a step and steadied her hold on the arm of her closest colleague for a couple of seconds, before she was able to compose herself enough to stand on her own two feet again.
Despite all her discipline, over forty years of schooling to control her countenance and her body's reactions, Alieth struggled to maintain a neutral visage and suppress the sneer that threatened to nestle in her features.
However, they were there to observe and not to judge, even though the misery of the inhabitants of that slum was more than obvious, so the doctor made every effort in her capacity to keep a neutral and objective appraisal of her surroundings, devoid of judgement.
A dauntingly challenging task.
Their destination was an office several hundred meters into the structure but they had chosen to land outside, where some of their former guests were milling around or encamped along the perimeter. Remarkably, they had barely begun to wade through the dreary group when they came across an acquaintance.
Teller: Vice Associate Rod'gurs...what seems to be going on here? Why aren't the crew going inside?
The zet looked at them in a unique way, his six eyes blinking slowly and out of sync. The effect, even for someone like Alieth, was downright forlorn.
Rod'gurs: A Capital Loss. Declared Capital Loss. Ledger closed. Credit history gone. No severance.
Alieth: You mean the shipwreck? The Penetrator's fate?
Rod'gurs: All of us. Written off. ::Shaggee made a noise somewhere betweensimilar to that of a deflating balloon or a moribund Le-matya. To Alieth it rang out as someone who had embraced the sobering fact of his own demise.:: Declared a loss. It was the most fiscally prudent move for the Corporation.
Teller: Is there anyone we can discuss this with here?
Shaggee’s words seemed repeated from deep memory.
Rod'gurs: The Saldanian corp arcology complete domicile solution is a remarkable innovation in low operational cost minimal survivability living. To streamline administrative, judicial and civic oversight, local arcology directors will have broad discretion in matters of employee housing retention or termination. ::The zet snapped out of his fugue, now making eye contact with Geoff.:: You might be able to schedule a meeting with them, but it'll be several rotations until they even meet again for an emergency. We'd need to file an emergency motion and...
Teller: I think they'll meet with us. Lead the way, Mr. Rod'gurs. Everyone else - take all the readings you can as we work our way into this structure ::Geoff stepped in something, paused, and shook his head.::...and watch your step.
Alieth: Understood. ::turning to the Bajoran:: Doctor Quen, gather data on any Zet we come across, cross-reference it with what we gathered on the Thor.
As she said this, she pulled out a tricorder that had been clipped to her hip and started scanning the surroundings.
Soon they were all trotting towards their destination, most of them with their noses practically buried in their tricorders. As they went, Alieth's frown crept millimetre by millimetre down her forehead.
There were dozens, perhaps hundreds of Zet nearby and, as far as she could determine, none of them were healthy, if at all.
Most of the infants had some degree of malnutrition or developmental problems. Over half showed mutations due to toxins or early exposure to radioactive substances. Almost all of the adults examined appeared to be on the verge of exhaustion. Injuries or scars were common and were a sign of a violent life or gruelling work. Many of the Zet in range had implants of some kind: limbs, organs, in the case of one particularly large Zet who stopped as they passed, almost his entire skull had been replaced by cybernetics.
Alieth: Admittedly, the Penetrator crew were the height of health compared to this population.
Alieth: Perhaps, but I would prefer to have a larger sample before making a hypothesis.
The shadow of the building fell over them as they crossed the arched entrance. The stench there was even worse than before. In the gloomy corridor a number of Zet lay in a pile, some asleep, some with their gaze transfixed on the ceiling and an expression of bliss that could only be indicative of extensive drug intake. Alieth's tricorder flagged at least one corpse.
At this point, Alieth's brow was so furrowed that it could pass for a real expression. One that NOBODY was pleased to witness.
Katsim: I don’t understand how people could live like that.
The words were soft, spoken more to herself than for the sake of conversation.
Alieth: Neither do I.
Everything they saw was so... preposterous, so against the principles of the Federation. Even in the colonies they had visited or on Ferenginar, Alieth had never encountered such abject poverty. It was simply revolting and even the vulcan found hard to remain dispassionate and unmoved.
Alieth: Yes sir.
Their steps led them to an inner courtyard, revealing the myriad balconies that hung from each floor, trying to catch the smallest percentage of natural light that seeped dirty and miserable into that sort of oversized skylight. On either side were staircases, spiralling sluggishly up each floor until they disappeared into the heights, while at the bottom, facing them, the inviting door of a lift glittered, its sides and interior ablaze with a thousand screens full of advertising, from the nutritious substitute solyent greenery to corporate advertisements about the need to raise a herd of children to contribute to the next generation of corporate employees.
Alieth approached the elevator, putting aside her scans for a moment to read a notice almost buried among the advertisements.
Alieth: The use of the lift means a supplementary charge of 1.5% per each dozen floors, which will be automatically deducted from the company's payroll with every usage. A recurrent user discount can be claimed provided that you present the certificate 454b for essential workers or provide the document 33t section 88 of progeny cession .... Anyway, there seems to be a fee for its use.
The Vulcan glanced at the text once more, her eyes sweeping over the text and then narrowing even further until she reached the fine print.
Alieth:Non-corporate visitors, workers from other corporations or other uncovered visitors may use the service in exchange for one day lease of work for SalCorp per floor climbed, being at least 80 hexaclicks per week or 40 if the applicant applies as a subject for experimentation of new SalCorp products not authorized yet by Central Business Agency….Maybe stairs then? How many floors do we have to climb?