Captain Vladimir Telander's Quarters
Thirty Minutes Later

Complaint Assessor Ana Montoya entered the captain's office and was surprised to find three men already there in addition to the captain. He appeared to be ignoring them as his eyes swung back and forth between several monitors on his desk. Montoya stepped forward and saluted. After several minutes, he gave a quick salute, and she slid into line with the others.

They were quite a sight. Blood, presumably Lieutenant DeSalle's, had soaked all of their clothes, and the security officer — Denton — was wearing only his undergarments. They seemed very worried, and Montoya wouldn't have wanted to be in their positions for anything in the world, except that she still didn't know quite why she'd been summoned, either.

"That time of the month was it, Officer Denton?" the captain said finally.

"Sir?" Denton said.

"Menstruating. You're having your period."

"No sir," Denton began unsteadily. "In attempting to give aid to Lieutenant DeSalle…"

The captain waved his hand, and Denton didn't go on.

"How many of you were in the room when the incident occurred?"

"Just myself, sir," Denton answered.

"I witnessed it from the hallway, sir," M.O. Rezik offered.

"And you, V.T. Jameson?" the captain asked of the remaining man.

"I just carried the lieutenant after it was over, sir."

"But you worked with Ventilation Technician Anatoly Omsky some. Is that correct?"

"Yes sir."

The captain produced a large stack of physical records and spread some across the top of his desk.

"Okay. I have in front of me most of the documentation related to this situation," the captain said. "Numerous complaints were filed by Omsky and received by the Morale division. Most of it then went ignored or got a token response. Jameson, would you say Omsky was well-liked in your division?"

"I don't know sir,"

"Did you like him? Did you spend time with him off-shift?"

"No, I didn't personally, sir," James said.

"Like him or spend time with him," the captain asked.

"Either one, sir."

"Did he have friends?"

"Not that I know of, sir."

"Okay. Denton, you had a meeting with V.T. Omsky two days ago, didn't you?"

"Yes sir."

"What was the spirit of that discussion?"

"I heard his complaint about the conduct of M.O. Yuling in regards to Lieutenant DeSalle," Denton said. "He thought it was detrimental to himself, and partially intended as such. I told him I understood and would look into it, sir."

"And did you look into it?"

"…No, sir. I hadn't yet, sir."

"Well, when you do get around to it, you'll be sure to file a report with the Morale division, won't you?"

"Yes sir."

"I hope so. Because they do seem to enjoy getting reports. M.O. Rezik, do you have any insight into your colleague M.O. Yuling's behavior?"

"I'm not entirely sure what you're asking, sir."

"As a morale officer, can you empathize or explain why a fellow morale officer would behave in a way that is expressly against protocol and that adversely affects the morale of a crew?"

Rezik took a few seconds to formulate his response.

"I think, sir, she developed an emotional relationship with Lieutenant DeSalle, which is fairly common, and she did not have these feelings for V.T. Omsky or even enjoy his company. He was known to behave inappropriately at times, especially regarding her."

"Such as sabotaging a spaceship and taking a woman hostage."

"No, sir."

"Oh. Well that's comforting. I'd hate to think something like that slipped by under my watch." The captain yawned. "You three are dismissed."

They saluted and began to move toward the door, but the security officer stopped at the door. The other men stopped with him.

"Sir, do you know the present condition of Lieutenant DeSalle?" Security Officer Denton asked.

"You're dismissed."

"Yes sir."

The three men exited quietly, leaving Ana alone with the captain. Having enjoyed her role as observer for the captain's interrogation of the others, she had almost forgotten she was likely there for the same.

"C.A. Montoya, I understand it is your job to monitor all complaints and look into them in order to prevent situations like this from occurring. Am I incorrect in this assumption?"

"No, sir. That is correct, sir."

"We have been traveling for exactly one subjective year as of today, and I have nine complaints from Omsky showing to have been received by your department. You interviewed him twice on record, and observed him informally at least once a week. What — in your professional opinion — made you decide his complaints were invalid?"

Montoya took a deep breath. "V.T. Omsky seemed to be emotionally 'needy' rather than physically needy, sir. His complaints with respect to M.O. Yuling were initially that she seemed remote and noncompliant to his requests. Some of his requests, both sexually and otherwise, my department determined to be unreasonable to ask specifically of Yuling. When I investigated his complaints of Yuling intentionally slighting him, I could find no such evidence, and I repeatedly attempted to convince him of this, sir."

"What evidence would you have been looking for?"

"Unfriendliness, a lack of enthusiasm, refusal of sexual requests she typically provided."

"Yuling was satisfactory in these respects."

"After viewing the tapes, that was my judgment, yes sir."

"Okay. You're dismissed."

Ana saluted but didn't move. The captain repeated his statement.

"Can no one hear today? You're dismissed."

Ana nodded. "I understand, sir, but am I going to be punished?"

Captain Telander's tongue slipped out of his mouth and licked his lips. Then he smiled but his face had an expression as unhappy as one might imagine possible to accompany a smile.

"Punished? You're worried about being punished? By whom? By me?" He pointed at his own chest and blinked. "Do you have any idea, even the slightest idea of what has happened here, as a result of DeSalle's actions, or maybe, generously, someone else's? No? Let me show you."

The captain typed away at his interface and in moments there appeared between Ana and him a star map, unfamiliar to both.

"Do you know where this is? Because I don't. And neither do our computers. And the main reason is because they're still trying to figure out when this is. Oh, we found a planet all right. But not the planet we intended. And it's as dubious right now that we've stayed within our galaxy as within the intended century. And do you know the reason that is?"

C.A. Montoya didn't answer.

"Because Lieutenant LaSalle decided — for reasons yet insensible to me — that it might be more prudent to ignore the discordant data coming in to his department and just pretend everything was all right. Well it wasn't all right! It was shit. It was all fucked, from the very beginning, nearly, it was fucked. And yet here we are now." Captain Telander smiled. "Here we are now. There is a planet down below that the telescopes of our era never even glimpsed. Here we are now, in orbit over it. And it is wonderful and a great advance of science and technology, but everyone we ever knew or imagined on earth is likely dead now. Perhaps dead for centuries. And here we are now.

"You ask me if you're punished?" the captain said. "Punished with what? Yes, I could restrict your movement for a time, or even expel you from an airlock if back into real space your offense warranted it. But for what? Everything you ever knew or loved is dead. And you ask me if you're punished? C'est la vie. You've already been dismissed. So leave."

Ana turned on her heel and started to walk away, but paused mid-step. Something came to her and she said it, not knowing why she did.

"We were dead to them the moment we left, Vladimir."

She didn't look behind her as she continued to walk away. And she didn't hear him say anything, either, at least before the doors shut behind her.