Roosevelt Station

CR-483

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Post 10 - Martian Memories

Posted on Thu Aug 13th, 2020 @ 2:06am by Commander Eden Starling-Enigma & Lieutenant Jessica Layton
Edited on on Thu Aug 13th, 2020 @ 3:24am

Mission: In the Shadow of Thanget
Location: Commander Enigma's Office
Timeline: January 15, 2399, 1700 Hours

CMO Lieutenant Jessica Layton--"Jess" to her friends--bit her lip as she entered the turbolift from the transporter room. Ten minutes. It was really unlike her to run late, even by a few minutes. She paced impatiently the whole, exhaustingly slow, way down.

"Damn," she muttered to herself as she finally exited into the Mall and looked around, trying to gain her bearings. Then she broke into a light jog on her way to Ops. She wove in and out of the beings milling about the area, before arriving only about 20 minutes late.

Only.

She looked around for her commanding officer, someone she's never met. That made her even more nervous. The actress in her from her very early grade school days wanted to bow, but she quelled the ridiculous urge. "Commander. Sorry I'm late. I have no excuse." To her credit, the tall Black woman did not fidget, simply stood with the grace and bearing of a gymnast.

"Welcome to Ops, Lieutenant," Eden said. "Given that you look like you just ran the Lagash-Bajor shipping lane on foot, I think we can forgive the tardiness... the Long Shaft is something people get used to eventually. Just don't let it happen again." She was standing near the command throne, leaning against its high armrest, eyes closed. "Join me in my office?"

"Yes, Commander." Jess nodded, and followed the Commander to her office. Once inside, she looked around curiously, intelligent eyes taking everything in. Perhaps as quickly as Eden herself would.

The Black woman was intimidated by Eden Starling-Enigma, she realized with a jolt, then felt her face redden as she also realized that the Commander had probably figured that out.... oh, five minutes before she skidded into Ops.

Damn, damn, double damn.

Eden smiled at the sense she got from the doctor. Not exactly what I want, but for the moment I'll take it. She led Jess into the office, not speaking until she was at her desk - really, it was much more comfortable than the throne - and seated. "I will assume you haven't had a chance to settle in or to see the infirmary. I'll warn you that Roosevelt's infirmary was a bit of a surprise to me on my first visit... it's located not far from the Mall, but it's its own chamber, so all but one of the walls are stone. The equipment's all top-tier Starfleet, though, and the stone is another one of those things you get used to. I believe the Breen used it as a cryogenic storage bay... the power requirements of Breen cryonics made it a perfect location for our medbay."

Jess repressed the shudder she felt try to overtake her at the word 'stone'. "That'll hard to keep sterile, Commander, but we'll do our best." She nodded. "As you can tell, no, I haven't seen the infirmary or settle in. I have barely seen anything." She let out a little laugh, tinged with anxiety.

"...Permission to be candid, Commander?"

"Of course," Eden said. "When that door's closed, what I want from my staff is honesty. In front of the crew I expect you and everyone else on the staff to back my decisions, but here? I want to know what you think."

Jess swallowed. "I was startled you chose me as your CMO, honestly, Commander." She shook her head, locs working their way free from the too-loose braid she'd worked them into on the ride to the Mall. "I've never done this job before. I'd have expected someone more--experienced--for your senior staff, is all..." And then she sagged a little. "I'm not used to being this overwhelmed. Medical stuff doesn't overwhelm me. This kind of thing, politics, whatnot--does."

"You came recommended by Dr. Mackenzie and Captain Reese, and neither of them is given to offering praise that isn't fully deserved. Your marks at the Academy were top-notch, and your talent in xenomedicine will be absolutely necessary out here. I need those things more than I need experience... you'll get that here, but the talent and drive can't be created." Eden focused those too-dark, too-seeing eyes on Jess fully. "You have the abilities needed for this job, Doctor."

The Doctor exhaled sharply. "Yes. Yes, that's all true, I suppose." She nodded. "Thank you, Commander. I won't let you down." Then she gives a quirk of a smile. "I'm not always this anxious. Most of the time, I'm shy as all get out."

"The shy is honestly charming," Eden said, then she blushed. "Sorry. Not what I meant to say. Roosevelt has a way of drawing who people are at their core out... it always has."

Jess flushed as well, that golden brown skin of hers darkening slightly. "Thanks." And then: "I didn't quite do my research. I've had a scattered few days. My father's birthday was recently. It puts me into a funk, a bit. But, that said, what do you mean by that? You've worked or lived here before? I apologize for my lack of information, Commander."

"I served aboard Sovereign as a cadet and a lieutenant, when we were assigned to this region. Roosevelt was our port of call," Eden said. "I have a lot of memories here."

Jess nodded. "That makes sense." She looked around the room again, before turning to Eden. "Commander..." She murmured. "May I get a drink from the replicator? All that running and now the talking, while wonderful, has me a bit dry." She smiled slightly. "I hope you don't find the question rude..."

"Not at all. Fetch me a raktijino au lait while you're there," Eden said. "And forgive me for the number of times you'll very likely have to note caffeine addiction in your notes on me."

Jess grinned a bit. "That's okay. I think we're all going to have some foibles. Despite being a gymnast for years, I have a real sweet tooth." She rose and moved to get the drinks. A raktijino au lait as requested, and some cucumber-infused water. "I would rather not get too hopped up on the stuff in front of my Commander, however." She carried the drinks back to the desk, and set Eden's gently in front of her, with grace and precision. She then moves to her earlier position, sipping her drink lightly. "Refreshing."

"Admiral Ross's love for Jumja sticks led to my father trying to get a Bajoran food stand on Starbase 616," Eden said. "Admiral Clancy has a severe weakness for pastries, and Admiral T'Vrell is rarely seen in her office without a milkshake or a recently-emptied cup that once had one," Eden said. "I worried for a while that my raktijino habit would mark me out as strange, but my father - beignets and hard candies, by the by - said that it's the rare senior officer who doesn't have a habitual comfort food or drink."

"Indulging in moderation in something comforting is definitely something I suggest doing. It's only when it goes to excess that I start to fret." Jess smiled as she spoke, eyeing the raktijino a bit. "How bad would you say your caffeine addiction is to any other commanding officer you've met with a caffeine habit, Commander?"

"Worse than Picard's. Not quite as bad as Jenner's. Maybe on par with Janeway's?" Eden laughed softly. "So I mostly just have to hope that now that I have my own command, it doesn't get worse. It got worse when I was Admiral Pinna's flag lieutenant... long solo flights in fast runabouts with little to do but watch holoprograms, read field reports, and drink Klingon coffee."

"Oh, that sounds like a lot of boredom. And while I hope for a lot of downtime, Commander, I hope for less boredom than that. And more people to interact with, of course," Jess said with another smile.

"Never a lack of that here," Eden said. "I do, though, have one suggestion. You're going to want to get your staff used to coordinating with Lieutenant Knecht's in Engineering. A fair bit of the station's civilian population is Lagashi, which means cybernetics. Somehow, in the last fourteen years, most of the most helpful texts on the subject have been pulled from standard Starfleet archives." She sighed. "Our senior and medical staff have access to the Lagashi medical library systems, which should also help with that."

"Ah." Jess's voice was genuinely sad. "It's very disappointing that happened, Commander." Amber eyes searched out Eden's, and she gave a crooked, sad smile. "I know we were traumatized as a Federation, but... I think that was a rather extreme solution." She shrugged. "But I am one lowly voice in a sea of fear. I lost my mother that day on Mars, you know?" She forged on, figuring that Eden had read her personnel file. "I don't... hate synths, by any degree. I pity them." Her smile fades into something small, bitter, and twisted, but she doesn't speak further.

"'Policymaking in the wake of disaster is the way to tyranny.' Eden sighed. "Zhou Anka... she was Executor before Zetian, the predecessor to Lu Mingzhu... was perhaps a bit overdramatic, but her words ring true in spirit if not in fact now. I don't know if the ban was necessary." She met Jess's eyes, watching her. "And we never will, because the decommissioning of the synths ended any chance we would learn why the attack happened in the first place. I'm sorry, Doctor, for your loss and for our failure."

"I hope we learn what happened, some day. I'm not holding my breath, though, Commander." But Jessica's good cheer returns fairly quickly after a long gulp of her water. "I am sorry to bring things down. Normally I'm more... composed." She chews thoughtfully on the inner corner of her lip. "So tell me. Aside from my requisite bedtime reading for a while... What do you, personally, need from me?"

"Do your job well. Notice if I'm going mad. Earn and keep the trust of the people who live here," Eden said. "That's all, at the moment." Then she paused. "There is one more thing. In the next couple of days, you will receive a packet regarding me from the Federation government. It will require you to agree to an enhanced nondisclosure clause before you can open it. Let me know when you have it and have agreed but before you read it."

Jessica is nodding along, expected, expected--wait, hold the heck up. "Why?" the lieutenant asks delicately, her amber eyes darkening as she looks at Eden. Confusion and wariness mingle in her expression.

"I've lived an interesting life, Doctor, in ways that have led to a few parts of my medical history being classified," Eden said. "But they're things that you might need to know should something go wrong."

Jess relaxed a bit. "I've heard some rumors," she admitted. "But.... well. I don't like to run on speculation." She nodded and smiled again. A very smiley person is Jessica Layton.

"I've heard most of the rumors myself," Eden said, smiling in return. "They're all wrong. Though the one about me receiving cybernetic augmentation during my exchange cruise in the Lagashi Star Navy was something I considered... working aboard a Lagashi ship without implants is a hassle. There's no real research on how Lagashi cybertech interacts with nonhuman brains, though, and my brain is fairly abnormal even for a half-Betazoid's - a group there's little research about regarding anything because of a lack of subjects. I didn't want to risk it."

Jess nodded. "That makes sense." But she looked at Eden a bit oddly. "You'd have that kind of tech in you?"

"The Lagashi have been doing it for centuries," Eden said. "It works well for them... it's just part of life in the Republic. If not for my neurology... I think I would be willing."

Jess blinked, chewing her lip. "Huh. I never really thought of that. I guess the Mars attack really got into my head more than I thought." She frowned crookedly, thinking.

"It did that to everyone," Eden said. "I was aboard the LSN Seldon on my exchange tour when it happened. My father - retired Starfleet admiral, dignity and Acadian calm personified, firm believer in IDIC - called me as soon as we had an open subspace frequency to ask if my crewmates had gone mad and to demand I get home, or at least out of Lagashi space." She sighed. "When the actual attack started, I was on the ground at a Bajoran colony near the Valoris, holed up in a clock tower, phaser rifle in hand, and my Lagashi spotter was feeding me movements for a Breen raiding party while the rest of the Marines were engaging them in close combat. While the synths were burning Mars, we were losing three good soldiers - Lagashi, all of them - protecting a thousand Bajorans from being taken to Thot Thanget's slave worlds. My spotter's ocular implants and tactical subroutines kept that number from being six... she saw an ambush team before either I or Sergeant Hu did, and let me get on target before they hit the unit as a whole. Then I got back to the ship and saw the news and heard some of what was coming out of Earth..." She looked down at her desk. "During the Dominion War, the Breen attacked San Francisco. They didn't do it because they thought they could take the planet or even seriously hamper Starfleet's command and control. They did it because Thot Gor and the Founder recognized that Earth has, since the Federation-Klingon War, been the safest place in the galaxy. That even the Borg, trying twice, never managed to fire a weapon at the planet or land a single drone on the surface. They hit Earth because they knew it would frighten us in ways nothing else could. Mars..." A breath. "Mars was that, again. It took safety away from Sol, and this time the lives lost numbered nearly a hundred thousand. I don't know we could have reacted any other way."

Jess is silent for a long moment. "Yes. Well." Her voice is a little harsh with unshed tears. "I'm trying to reconcile this into my worldview. I'm sorry." She turns away, draining her drink, before turning back. "Sorry."

"It's all right." Eden reached over the table, touching Jess's shoulder gently. "It was a traumatic time. We're all still carrying it, on top of anything we had from before it or have gained since. And... while our counselor isn't aboard, I'm here if you need to talk."

Jess nodded, smiling at the touch faintly. "Thank you. That's sweet." She swallowed, trying to blink back her tears. "I'm sorry I've judged so harshly." Apparently this Black woman felt very deeply, though not to Betazoid levels. She bit her lip. "I want to be better than that."

"That's the most important thing," Eden said quietly. "We grow. We learn. We become better. We do our best not to hide from new knowledge, but instead to make it a part of who we are and how we see the universe. That's what Starfleet should do for us... help us to grow."

Jess swallowed hard and nodded at Eden, unable to speak around the lump in her throat. She looks faintly ashamed, though... and when she can speak, after forcing another hard swallow? She simply says, "If you'll excuse me, Commander, I need to get in touch with my father."

"Of course, Doctor," Eden said. "Take care. And welcome aboard."

 

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