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LtCmdr. Viego & AEns. Alexa | Desk Lamps and Viewscreens

Posted on Thu Mar 21st, 2019 @ 11:15am by Lieutenant Commander Tristan Viego PhD PhD & Alexa
Edited on on Thu Mar 21st, 2019 @ 11:15am

Mission: Permutations
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 241903.21

It was late. Tristan knew that, because the overhead lighting in his office was dimmed. They didn't need to be, and as far as productivity was concerned it was even a little inconvenient. But, the lengths were not without purpose.

One of the hardest struggles that Tristan had faced over the course of his Starfleet careers was existing for vast portions of his life within the confines of a starship or a starbase. Within the Federation, and particularly in this day and age, that was hardly a difficult ideal: Starfleet officers knew more comfort and luxury than some entire civilizations, and Tristan felt nothing but gratitude for that. The struggle came from the fact that their environment was entirely artificial. The air was recycled. Their surroundings were largely identical. The passage of time was defined by schedules and routines, not by day and night, or the changing of the seasons.

Of course, after a few centuries in space, and a few centuries at sea before that, humanity and Starfleet had learned a trick or two. The lighting aboard Starfleet vessels and facilities was carefully calibrated to emulate the light spectra found on an M-Class world, and sometimes it was even programmed to dim and brighten at scheduled stages of the day, a subtle suggestion of a day-night cycle to assist the circadian rhythms of the crew. It was, as the old Earth saying went, a bandaid on a bullet hole, but it was sensible, and logical, and come to think of it quite possibly a Vulcan's idea.

For Tristan, it had become invaluable. In his youth - his actual youth, the stage of his El-Aurian existence where that word had meant the same thing to him as it did to most other species - he'd had no time or patience for such concessions. The dimming of the lights, the artificial evening was an inconvenience, something he overrode to eke out a little extra productivity on the days where his focus on his interests kept him working late into the night. That Tristan had been elastic, capable of functioning on an hour or two of sleep garnished with the occasional nap for weeks at a time, before rebounding back into a healthy sleep cycle with no ill effects. But then, that Tristan was a different man, one driven from his home by the Borg, and torn from his family by the Nexus, thrown from the Lakul to the Enterprise to Starfleet Academy, and then on into active service. Perhaps that elasticity was an illusion: perhaps it was merely the plasticity of someone with no true sense of normal to revert back to.

The Tristan of today was a very different animal. Trapped in the perpetual middle age that was the extended life of an El-Aurian, he had learned the value of things like normalcy and consistency. To wake and sleep at specific times was an entire luxury he hadn't previously appreciated, and the intervening years spent on Vulcan, Alnitak, Vondem, Alpha Centauri, Trill, Bajor, and everywhere else had taught him to relish the experience of allowing time to be governed by the celestial motions of a native son. In the distant past, ancient cultures had revered and worshipped the sun and stars, as guardians, and patriarchs, and deities of light and creation: Tristan's reverence wasn't nearly so religious, but he did have a new-found appreciation for why solar activity was so important and integral to the lives and cultures of so many.

All of which conspired into a simple explanation: the lights were dimmed because it was late, but despite the passive urging for Commander Viego to abandon his office and return to his quarters, he was still there, working by the light of desk lamps and viewscreens. That he was still working at this late hour probably meant something. Perhaps it meant he had not been efficient enough with his time earlier in the day. Perhaps it meant that the workload he had taken for himself was too much. Perhaps it meant he needed to learn to delegate to his officers better, though as yet he was not familiar enough with them to feel comfortable doing so. Perhaps it meant he simply wasn't cut out for all this: versed as he was in anthropology, the world of academia, of archaeology and astrophysics, was seldom an urgent place; and while his service with Starfleet had made demands of expediency and performance before, there had been a lot less PADDwork and background reading as a Navigator or a Marine.

He sighed, and winced a little with tired eyes, as he redoubled his efforts to read the same sentence for the third time, a somewhat dry analysis of the courtly protocols of one of the region's native species. Arrangements were being made to host a delegation of Fastidians aboard Cold Station Theta for potential trade talks, but they were one of those galactic species where a meticulous adherence to a particular set of protocols and proceedings was essential if the talks were to go smoothly. True, the conference was still a few weeks away, and there was still time to make the preparations at a more leisurely pace: but at 0930, Tristan and his staff would meet for a preliminary discussion of what arrangements needed to be made, and while there was no need for Tristan to be a doctorate-level expert in their culture by then, he at least wanted to be familiar enough with the Fastidian people to understand if his officers' thoughts and suggestions were good ones or not. It was the worst kind of task - one of his own making, and one that only he could complete - and a history of bad habits and poor work-life separation left Tristan unwilling to leave the office until he was done, or take his work home with him to his quarters.

The words of an old colleague resonated in his mind: These papers won't grade themselves.

A spike of frustration surged through him as he reached the second stanza of a run-on sentence that had already lasted for two and two-thirds lengths of the PADD screen. He felt the wall pressing against him, the psychological membrane that served as a barrier between a late night and an all-nighter, one he felt almost certainly in need of breaching. His eyes were drawn to the far side of the room, and to the invitingly comfortable couch that his office was spacious enough to leave room for. At first, he'd wondered why the office of a diplomatic officer would make room for something so informal in its decor; now he understood, getting the feeling that it and he were likely to become intimately acquainted over the coming months.

He needed coffee, that much was certain. But more importantly, he needed a break. Were this a starship, he'd ignore the perfectly functional replicator in the corner of his office, and take a quick stroll down to the mess hall for a change of scenery. Then again, on a starship he'd probably have been sat reading in the mess hall in the first place, openly inviting the little interruptions and distractions that made late-night work like this a little more tolerable. Up here in the dizzying heights of the alphabet decks, however, the mess halls of the main saucer felt a little bit too far from here and too close to his quarters for a quick jaunt, and the caf├ęs and coffee houses of the Promenade - if any were even open - were even more so. His mindset towards such things would change over time of course, as the station and in particular specific parts of it became more familiar to him, but for tonight, as much as a conversation with a nocturnal barista would do him some good about now, he'd need to get his distraction elsewhere.

Instead, he leaned forward across his desk, fingers punching away at the inlaid console that controlled his workstation. A few keystrokes later, and a list of currently on-duty officers displayed itself. The Officer of the Watch, the nightshift Communications Officer, and various other assignments in OPS were noticed but ignored. His attention instead focused on the less glamorous positions, the repair crews, the logistics techs, the medical staff. A technical fault would be a hard fault to sell, but at 147 there was always some sort of ache and/or pain that he could talk to a medical officer about. Another name caught his attention, however: Acting Ensign Alexa.

Acting Ensign. Tristan frowned at that hierarchical oddity. A Cadet, perhaps? From time to time, Starfleet Academy rewarded their promising students with the opportunity to spend a semester serving on an active duty assignment, a preemptive taste of what their Starfleet career might have in store. Tristan put himself in the shoes of that Cadet, thrilled at the prospect of serving on one of the Quadrant's furthest bastions of Federation influence, only to find themselves lumbered with the unrewarding task of being the only Yeoman on duty in the dead of night. To disturb them at this hour, to bring purpose to a meaning assignment, surely that was as much an act of charity as it was selfish?

Tristan's hand slapped to his chest. "Viego to Acting Ensign Alexa -"

The syllables had barely left his mouth when the air shimmered behind him, a billion micro-forcefields humming into existence in a single millisecond, the form of Alexa manifesting itself in the shadows behind him. "Hello!" she greeted suddenly, and warmly.

Tristan started in his air and spun, a double-take at the sight of the Cadet behind him. It took a few moments for his mind, still partially entrenched in the quagmire of Fastidian protocols, to catch up with what his eyes were seeing. "You're a hologram," his mouth mumbled out, the words slipping from his lips like a fumbled object and clattering to the floor between them.

"You're an El-Aurian," Alexa offered back, beaming. "And not just any El-Aurian. You're Tristan Viego. I've been dying to meet you. Sir."

Slowly, Tristan began to wonder if this choice of his might have been a mistake. Slowly, because his mind was still proving decidedly lethargic when it came to comprehending this situation. "You seem to have me at a bit of a disadvantage then, Acting Ensign."

"Oh!" Somehow, the outward display of enthusiasm on Alexa's holographic features grew more intense. "Sorry, right! You have no idea who I am, do you? I'm Alexa. I am a sentient photonic lifeform, engineered by Doctor Alexander Beckett. He was a Science Officer and then Chief Engineer aboard the USS Atlantis when you served there between 2371 and 2375, and then you served with him again about a decade later when you were both working with Special Projects at Starfleet Tactical. My Dad told me all about you. All of you. Admiral Parami, Captain Bauer, Commander Luka, Major Dantarno, the whole -" Her hand waved around vaguely, as her linguistic database assessed possible synonyms to find the best fit. "- family."

If there was one thing that stuck out from that sentence more than any other, it was the word Dad. The prospect of Alexander Beckett finding a way to add more of himself to the cosmos was a horrifying proposition for anyone burdened with knowing him, and apparently, through holographics he had found a way to sidestep the natural barrier to conventional procreation that his personality represented. Beckett was a friend, certainly, unfortunately; but he was also an insufferable, pompous ass at least 73% of the time. It all added up, though: if anyone in the galaxy was going to take the time to fabricate a daughter for himself, it was Alexander Beckett. Hell, he'd even chosen to name his creation after himself.

Yet, despite the baggage that Acting Ensign Alexa brought with her, Tristan instantly found it almost impossible to dislike her. There was just something about her, something endearing, something about her mannerisms and her personality that had the same effect as a puppy or a kitten. There were flickers of Beckett in there, especially the gallop of her voice when a non-stop tirade of words began to tumble from her, but in a lot of ways she was everything that Beckett wasn't. Polite. Personable. Amiable. Perhaps that even was the point.

And then there was that other word: family. It was Parami that called them that, Parami who bestowed the honorary rank of Uncle and Aunt - and Grandfather, in Tristan's case - upon those he felt close to. Such sentimentality was certainly the Admiral's forte, but to hear that Beckett's creation - Beckett's daughter - saw precedent to see them all the same way? Perhaps there was more of a heart behind all that intelligence and ego than Beckett usually let on. Perhaps old age had done the man some good.

"The whole lot of us, huh?" Tristan beckoned towards one of the seats opposite his desk, which Alexa scampered over to eagerly. A rueful smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, as he thought about the implications of that concept, and what an Alexander Beckett version of history might resemble. "I'd take some of those stories with a pinch of salt. Sometimes, your -" He faltered for a moment, pushing past an iota of reluctance before committing to the term that Alexa had used. "- Dad has a slightly creative perspective on things."

Alexa let out a soft chuckle. "You mean he exaggerates things to make it sound like he's the one that saved the day? He tried that, at first. His artistic licence on history doesn't work so well when your daughter can access the relevant mission reports just by thinking about them. It's harder than you'd think to lie to a hologram. He still embellishes a little, but these days his stories all have the credit in the right places." A small fidget heralded a subtle shift in Alexa's demeanour, the smile fading slightly as her tone became more serious, all that warmth instead translated into an undercurrent of wonder. "He always spoke very highly of you. Even admitted you were smarter than him sometimes, though he said it didn't count because you being twice his age was an unfair advantage. He also told me about the times you saved his life - the times you all did. He actually keeps count, did you know that? He says he needs to, so he can get the order right in his acceptance speech when they finally give him his Nobel Prize."

Her brow furrowed, a little extra seriousness creeping into her words. "My Dad told me that Family is the answer to the question: why am I here? Not why as in purpose, but why as in how. Family is the people who made you who you are, and keep you who you are. That's why he told me so many stories: you are the people he wouldn't be here without, which means that I wouldn't exist without you either."

Tristan felt a twist in his chest at those words. When Tristan spoke to people, his El-Aurian heritage gave him certain insights. It wasn't as sophisticated as what a Betazoid could do, but there were subtleties, there was a certain sense about people. He didn't get that from holograms: no matter how life-like, there was always something missing. Alexa was different. There was no empathic spark there, not internally at least, but he still felt something a flicker of something that almost seemed to come from within himself rather than her. It was strange. Unusual. Fascinating.

"Then in that case," he offered, letting a small smile form on his features, "I'm sorry it took so long for us to meet."

Alexa's on smile returned with full intensity. "That's alright! I'm only five, and I spent the last four at the Academy -" She trailed off, looking at the desk that stood between them, suddenly reminded of the circumstances that had led her to be here. "Oh my goodness! Sorry, sir, here I am rambling away in the middle of the night, when you called me for something specific."

Tristan's mind froze like a deer in headlights, though he didn't allow himself to show it outwardly. Something specific. That made it sound like he had a grand purpose to provide, when in reality his need for a diversion was already being addressed. Alexa's earlier words loomed from his memory like an ominous shadow on a wall: It's harder than you'd think to lie to a hologram. Amusement curled Tristan's smile a little more. "Honestly? I needed a break, and calling a Yeoman to come here seemed a lot easier than me leaving the office to go somewhere else."

"Makes sense," Alexa offered, with a sage nod. "Like takeout food."

Tristan's mind stalled out a little at that particular analogy. "Sure?" he offered slowly, not entirely on board, and not happy with the way the comparison sparked a desire for lukewarm Thai food from deep within his stomach. "I was planning on figuring out an excuse while you were on your way, but you know what, Acting Ensign?" He leaned forward, grabbing the PADD he had discarded. "I could use another brain, and an extra pair of eyes. Do you know anything about a species called the Fastidians?"

Alexa's eyes glanced away, staring off into the middle distance. A split second passed, and then she blinked, turning her pleasant smile back towards Tristan. "I do now."

--

Lt. Commander Tristan Viego
Chief Diplomatic Officer
Cold Station Theta

Acting Ensign Alexa
Yeoman
Cold Station Theta

 

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