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LtCmdr. Tristan Viego & Cmdr. Merlin |

Posted on Wed Mar 6th, 2019 @ 1:21pm by Lieutenant Commander Tristan Viego PhD PhD & Commander Evan Merlin

Mission: Permutations

The box was unpacked, the ready room was decorated with the few knick-knacks which were in it. It did little to give the room any personality. Half sitting, half lying on the couch was the occupant of the office, trying to concentrate on a PADD. Only when he realised he was reading the same paragraph for the third time without actually registering, he sighed and tossed it back on the table. Suddenly, for all its space, the office felt too stifling, too hostile.

The padd landed next to the still-empty vase. The Commander sighed, slowly climbed to his feet, stretched. How long had he been in here? Way too long, it seemed. He needed to get out, to touch base with the station itself, with the people on it. The fact that he now had three full pips and a different office didn't change that fact.

He tossed his uniform jacket on the coat hanger, placed the padds back on the desk where he would be bound to see them tomorrow and walked out.

The turbolift took him to the upper deck of the Promenade. And that was where he found himself not much later, leaning against the railing and looking out at the people milling around, on this deck and on the ones below him, flowing in and out of restaurants, did a bit of last-night shopping, or generally just walked about.

People-watching was one of life's great joys, an evaluation that Tristan Viego felt uniquely qualified to make. The world around could move so fast, and so too did the people in it, lives blinking by as they bustled urgently from place to place, trying to extract every second of valuable time from the short span of their existence. Too few took the opportunity to stop, to pause, to breathe, to appreciate that the strand of their existence and their personal history existed alongside so many unconnected others. Sometimes, people would marvel that, in the vast existence of the cosmos, they had by some fluke of fate come to exist in the same time period as whatever event or individual sparked their sense of wonder. What Tristan had learned, and what he wished more people would realise, was that each and every instant was filled with the same kind of statistical miracles. The Bolian father, trudging along under the weight of the daughter perched and sleeping atop his shoulders; the infant Trill pulling faces at Tristan from his high chair two tables over; the young Bajoran woman across the way, eagerly showing jewellery options for the freshly pierced ears of the love of her life. Each love, each life, each moment of existence was a precious miracle that they were all blessed to exist alongside.

Not every moment was positive, however. There was sadness on the Promenade, keeping to itself, hidden from view, as sadness so often was. The Andorian in the corner sat quietly as she nursed her raktajino, antennae drooping with each sorrowful glance at the chair opposite. The Rigellian behind the counter, whose tired and swollen eyes, and the faint rasp in her voice, hinted at a break spent sobbing out of sight in the back room. There was more too, lurking beneath the surface pleasantry. Anger. Frustration. Bitterness. Pain. Confusion. Complexity. Emotions layered upon emotions.

And then there was the man at the railing, watching the world go by just as he was, though not with quite the same sense of overwhelming wonder that Tristan felt. The El-Aurian flipped closed the book he was reading - replicated; stories just weren't quite the same when read off a PADD screen - and eased himself from the chair, casually strolling over in the direction of the same railing, a respectful distance away.

"It sure is one heck of a view." He let the statement hang for a moment, peering down through the tiers of the Promenade at the ant colony of motion below, enough lives and coincidence and wonder to stand here for a lifetime watching it all. "Commander Merlin, right?" he added, not needing the conversation, using it as a makeshift greeting instead. "I'm Commander Viego. Tristan. The new Diplomatic Officer. Or at least, I will be, as of Tuesday morning."

The man turned around, not really surprised at being addressed. One hand idly played with a crystal ball, made it dance across the back of his hand, over his fingertips, back to the palm, where it slowly began to revolve.

Upon hearing Tristan's name, though, the ball disappeared and at the same time the man smiled. Despite his obvious weariness, the smile made his face light up. "Hi!" he said cheerfully, extending his hand. "Good to meet you! Welcome on board of Cold Station Theta. Some call it the end of the Federation, but for others it's actually the entrance. It's great to have you here."

The end and the entrance. Tristan liked that. He'd have to steal it for his own welcome speeches.

He grasped the Commander's hand firmly, letting his expression adjust to mirror his new Commanding Officer's cheerful tone. "It's great to be here," he offered back, and believed it. There was part of him that felt as if returning to Starfleet, yet again, might be a step backwards for someone as long-lived as himself, a gravity well that he couldn't quite manage to escape. Being here though, letting the buzzing atmosphere of the Promenade soak into his skin, he felt alive again, surrounded by prospects and opportunity. Standing, as the Commander had put it, on the edge of the Federation, peering out at what lay beyond.

Tristan turned back to the railing, back towards the vista below, letting himself indulge in the sensation of observing it for a few moments more. "Hell of a view you've got here," he mused. "Hell of a station you've got here, too. For which I hear congratulations are in order?"

The man grinned. "I guess depending on whom you talk to, they'd either offer congratulations or commiserations. I prefer the first, so, thank you." He, too, turned back to the railing. "I love standing here, or just walking down there. Or anywhere else, really. This station, here… For me, it's like seeing the Federation, in a nutshell. Starfleet, and civilians from every walk of life, a wide variety of races…" He gestured to the left, where a part of the Promenade extended out from the railing, offering a wide view of the area below. People were sitting at tables, eating, drinking, chatting, and looking out.

"This restaurant is called Point Lookout. Down below is us a place called IDIC, and neither owner is Vulcan. They specialise in Federation Fusion Cooking, which is very interesting. There's a Klingon restaurant on the middle deck, and a lovely Bajoran place…" He waved a hand in the air, as if to interrupt his own word flow. "Anyway, I'm sure you'll try them out by and by."

"You'd think Starfleet would tout the culinary options in the brochure," Tristan offered with a chuckle. His thoughts lingered on the implication though, that he would work his way through the station's restaurants eventually. He wasn't opposed to the idea, but his relationship with formal dining was strange, and strained. There was a formality to it, a ritual that came along with eating anywhere that wasn't a café or a commissary. There were people who delighted in cuisine, and thrived in their own company, but to Tristan the prospect of fine dining alone was an obstacle he had yet to hurdle, the empty seat opposite too much a reminder of all the long gone faces who were no longer around to fill it.

He pushed that all aside, delving back to the Commander's wistful summation of their surroundings. "I suppose that's why I'm here. The Federation, in a nutshell, and everyone else who is here in that nutshell with them." His fingers laced together, thumbs drumming against each other in an almost heartbeat rhythm. "Balance everything just right, and you're rewarded with the beautiful equilibrium of a star in perfect fusion. Light. Warmth. Power. Progress. But the second there is an imbalance, the second something from beyond disrupts that equilibrium -" The rhythm came to an abrupt halt, the sentiment left to hang in the air, needing no further elaboration.

Tristan's demeanour reverted, the warmth that had drained for the briefest of moments returning easily to his expression. "But then, I suppose that's what Starfleet does wherever we go, right? Try to hold the galaxy in one piece, and patch it back together whenever it falls apart."

"Quite," the Commander said. "My first post here was as Chief Strat Ops, so that was basically a study in as many variations as possible of 'what would happen when diplomacy failed?' I'm fortunate that I never had to bring any of those scenarios into practice, and it's up to you and your team – at least for the Federation and Starfleet's end – to do everything in your power to ensure we never will have to." Now he turned to Tristan, looking at the other with an intensity few other people matched. "It won't always be possible, but we try our best. That's all we can do, isn't it?" It was as much a direct follow up to his last statement as an answer to Tristan's last remark.

Tristan nodded in quiet agreement. "I spent a few years in Strategic Operations. Served with the Marines. The Fighter Corps. I've been part of enough Federation wars to last a person several lifetimes. I'm all too familiar with what happens when diplomacy fails." His brow furrowed. "I suppose that's why I'm here, in a way. Here in this capacity, at least. When I joined Starfleet the first time, it was out of hope: Starfleet had saved me, and I wanted to be part of that, wanted to pay that forward. The second time, I joined because Starfleet was at war, and I felt a duty, an obligation, to protect and defend. But the wars kept coming. Not just any wars, either: the same wars, against the same peoples, fought over and over. I left because I was tired of fighting the Federation's wars. I'm back to fight for the Federation's peace."

Without any irony, the reply came. "That's a great sentiment." The Commander smiled again. Absentmindedly, he had somehow produced the glass ball again and it began to make its hypnotising movements once more. "I haven't really been in any Federation war… at least not that I can recall." The sea-coloured eyes darkened, a shadow like a cloud passing over deep waters. "It's a track record I hope not to break. And if you can play a part in keeping it so, then you have my gratitude in advance." Then it seemed like the cloud passed and the sun turned dark waters azure again. "You're El-Aurian, if I remember right? An ancient race…"

That I can recall. That was a statement that would require some scrutiny later, but Tristan wasn't here to interrogate his new Commander, or dissect the specifics of his past. Instead, he let his nose wrinkle slightly at Merlin's words. "I'm not sure I like the sound of ancient," he protested, lasting about half a second before his smile returned. "Besides, while my race might have been around for countless centuries, I'm still practically a wee babe. I was seventeen when the Enterprise rescued us back in 2293. I guess that makes me, what -" He trailed off, frowning slightly, fingers faintly miming his mental arithmetic. "- a hundred and forty-seven? That's barely even middle-aged, by Vulcan standards."

"Yet nearing the end of a life span by human standards," the Commander replied, eyes twinkling. "And quite ancient by Klingon standards, though that tends to be more of a life style thing, what with those bath'lets and all… Anyway." He made that absentminded handwave again. "It is said age is a relative thing. Some people seem to be born ancient, others can be old in years, yet still seem fresh and innocent."

Tristan let out a chuckle. "I'm a long way from fresh and innocent, that's for sure. I'm more of a Starfleet issue ration pack: technically, I'll survive in a preserved state for a thousand years, but no matter how much time has passed the experience is equally unpleasant for whoever is subjected to it."

"'May you live in interesting times'," the other man quoted softly. He wondered to himself what it would be like to see other people around him grow old and die, while barely noticing the passing of time himself. Then he realised that his own face in the mirror had barely changed in the years since he'd been found. Like all the rest of him, his own life span was an unknown. Maybe he would experience this himself, maybe he would see Xue age, and then their unborn child, while he himself remained much the same. Maybe a hundred years from now someone else would be standing next to him and wonder.

And maybe tomorrow the station would explode and end them all. He waved his thoughts away, knowing that to worry about possible futures was as futile as wondering about his lost past. Once again the dark shadows passed from his eyes as he focused on the here and now, and more importantly, on the man beside him. "Anyway… If there's anything you want to know about the station and the people on it, just ask."

May you live in interesting times. Tristan wondered if the Commander understood the providence of that particular turn of phrase. It was often offered as a blessing, but supposedly it originated as an ironic curse among the people of the Chinese civilization on Earth, based on the premise that "uninteresting" times of peace and serenity were far more nourishing to the mind and the soul, thanks to the art and education that "interesting" times could distract and detract from. It was one of the myriad minor things that Tristan had been mildly fascinated by during his archaeologist years, yet he had never quite been able to find a genuine historical basis for the saying.

The closest example he had come across translated roughly as: Better to be a dog in a time of peace, than a human in a time of chaos. Tristan liked that ounce of ancient wisdom better; or at least, found it more personally resonant. A dog in a time of peace was the circumstance he found himself in now: a working dog, in fact, tasked with herding the sheep of diplomacy and politics, and protecting them from the wolves.

"I'll certainly take you up on that," he replied with a grateful nod. He had dossiers on the key officers and representatives with whom he would be interacting, but the information provided by a diplomatic aide was likely a more sanitised and flattering version of the truth. Then again, anything the Commander could offer would likely be fractional and biased as well. The archaeologist in him craved as many sources and historical accounts as possible, to derive the truth through correlation and consistency. The soldier meanwhile insisted he trust only his own judgement, and make those determinations for himself. The diplomat he was becoming would have to try and find a happy medium between the two.

"For now though, I'll settle for directions to my office. I know I could just ask the computer but -" He offered a quick shrug. "I trained as a Navigator, first and foremost, when I joined the fleet. Maybe it's stubbornness, or pride, or just me being old fashioned, but getting the computer to show me around feels like cheating."

"Oh, that's easy." Normally, he'd offer to escort the man to his office, but the delicious smells coming from the nearby restaurant reminded him that he hadn't eaten in awhile. Instead, he gave directions to the Chief Diplomat's office. "It's quite possible that there are some of your team members still working, some keep hours of the home planets of various nearby powers. If you haven't eaten yet, they often order pizza. I know there are excellent replicators in the department section, but there's this little pizza place down there which beats any replicator I've tried thus far." Pizza. That sounded like an excellent idea. And after that he'd better try the sleep thing again.

Once again he forced his thoughts back to the here and now. The man he was talking to was an intriguing person, with an unique outlook on Starfleet, the Federation as a whole and several of their neighbours. "It's good to have you here. I'm looking forward to working with you."

The mention of pizza was like some kind of occult ritual, awakening a primordial beast in the pit of his stomach. For a moment, he thought of the cruel irony that diplomatic officers were graced with uniform shirts that were the most vulnerable to errant flecks of pizza grease and stray toppings. He made a mental note to replicate up a few spare replacements to stash in a convenient desk drawer.

"Likewise, Commander. Let's just hope those interesting times of yours don't show up until I've managed to find my feet."


Commander Evan 'Weirdo' Merlin
Commanding Officer, Cold Station Theta


Lt. Commander Tristan Viego
Chief Diplomatic Officer, Cold Station Theta


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