It didn't take long for the new regulation "hard copy communiqués" to catch on. What really took some time was for crewmembers to stop prefacing their comments with "I hope you read this since you never check your email". In the five days between the installation of the system and the all-crew meeting, over 700 pieces of paper were routed to the Captain's desk. Of these,

213 were complaints about the lack of Standard Operating Procedures;
117 were complaints about the presence of Standard Operating Procedures;
152 were complaints about the meal plan for ensigns;
84 were filed under "Miscellaneous Complaints";
143 were suggestions for new video games for the arcade;
17 were requests for confirmation that Commander Klaa'ck was going to stay on the ship, unlike all the First Officers before him;
and one was just a note asking if "that Jimmy fella" was still the Captain.

Yeoman Janet Rind made sure that Captain Clerk read every single one. Even the one that came from the Downloadable Doctor.

Since the entire crew couldn't fit in one Conference Room -- not even 15B -- the majority of them had to watch via closed-circuit TV. This actually made Clerk feel a bit less anxious, since he managed to haggle his way into having one of the smaller rooms be the "main" one where he would be located. It also provided an opportunity to sell tickets to seats in the better locations.

The total profits amounted to 2475 Fleet Credits.


"Good evening, everyone," Clerk began, shuffling a few of the papers in his hands. "I am told that overall, this new procedure has been going well Fleet-wide. Complaints, suggestions, requests, and so on, have all been handled in an efficient and amenable fashion, and as far as I know, only two people have been fired as a result of any particular item."

"And one resignation," said Lt. Whatsisname.

"Right. Anyways, I'm fairly confident that all will go smoothly as we work through this together. I am obligated to inform you that yes, I have read every single item that has been brought to my attention." And believe you me, Janet wouldn't let anything slip past me. "My yeoman and Director of Operations have both been instrumental in getting this first round taken care of for tonight."

Rind stood tall and beamed.

"Though I must say," the Captain continued, "with all due respect, I am at a loss as to some of these complaints. Take this one, for example. It's from the Downloadable Doctor. I mean, really? I'm being taken to task by software? I understand what it says here about being a 'virtual crewmember', but I could say the same about the elevator, really. I have talked with Fleet Command endlessly about the distinction between software and artificial intelligence, and I really think that case is settled. It just doesn't apply here. And, for what it's worth, the irony of having received a hard copy grievance from a virtual entity is not lost on me."

"Thank you, Captain," Dr. Flüshaht said, standing up to leave.

"Huh? For what?"

"My grievance has been resolved. I've been fighting him -- I mean it -- for weeks over seniority. And software can't have seniority over a crewmember! Regulation 77-D, paragraph 22 says so."

"So, Doc, are you satisfied with this resolution?" Whatsisname asked.

"I am."

"Great! Issue resolved. Thanks for being on board with this, Captain."


"You see how easy this is?" Rind whispered to Clerk.

Rounds of applause could be heard throughout the ship. Fourteen other people marked their complaints Resolved as well.

Now almost completely confused, Clerk fell silent. Lt. Whatsisname (who was working as Master of Ceremonies) picked up the slack.

"Well... uh... anyways, we managed to cancel out a lot of these by countering a request for something with a complaint about its existence. I think what we really need here is to just revise our Operations and Bylaws Handbook and be done with it."

A smattering of groans ensued.

"We do apologize for any inconvenience. Oh, and ensigns: filet mignon? Get real."


The evening continued this way, and finally -- after what the chronometers said was only three hours, but Clerk was sure was two weeks -- the majority of grievances and suggestions were addressed, and Clerk was becoming physically ill just because of his proximity to all these stacks of paper.

"Thank you, everyone, for your participation," Whatsisname said in conclusion. "We are excited at making this ship a better working environment for all. This new process makes everything much easier. I move that this meeting be dismissed."

"I second," came the response from Commander Klaa'ck, who was more than ready to go, having asserted -- seventeen times -- that he was on permanent assignment.

"Meeting adjourned."

The remaining crew stood up and left, except for Clerk and Rind.

"What just happened here?" the Captain said, still in a daze.

"Would you like an email or hard copy transcript?" Rind said as she stood up and walked out.