Rebecca Sullivan stood at a console, overseeing the progress of all the reserve theta-matrix compositors. Those devices were the sophisticated means of recrystallizing dilithium to date. While the technology to recrystallize dilithium still contained within the articulation framework had been greatly perfected, protocols called for a full supply of reserve dilithium with separate theta matrix compositors.
Tarlazzi was standing right behind her while reviewing a padd that a Ktarian female petty officer had handed him. He had remained calm and professional right up until sh’Aqba had entered the room. His cheeks flushed and his attention wavered as he watched the Andorian woman taking quick glances at officers and crewpersons working consoles that controlled the recrystallization apparatuses.
“Sir?” the dark-haired Ktarian woman asked Tarlazzi.
Tarlazzi returned his attention to the padd and cleared his throat. “Looks like these phase matrices are in working order, Crewman,” he said with partially forced inflection. “Continue with the regular maintenance.”
“Crewman?” the Ktarian repeated, pointing to the rank insignia on her collar. “I’m petty officer
“Sorry, Miss Stollerramn,” Tarlazzi stuttered. “Everything is on schedule. Keep it up.”
Rebecca held in a giggle while still consulting the readings on her console. She snuck a glance at Stollerramn trying her hardest to hold in her annoyance at Tarlazzi’s pre-rehearsed responses until she had left the room. Tarlazzi was about to consult Rebecca when sh’Aqba nervously approached him. Rebecca kept her focus on her work, while appearing actively interested in the pending awkwardness between the two lieutenants.
“How are those diagnostics on the matter-antimatter regulators coming?” Shinar asked, struggling to maintain a professional tone.
“So far, so good,” Erhlich replied just as flatly. “We’ll be moving on to regulators twelve-J and thirteen-J. Barring any unexpected complications, everything should be finished by gamma shift.”
“Good,” Shinar hurriedly replied. Raising her voice to address the rest of the crew working there, she added, “Carry on, everyone.”
Rebecca shook her head in amusement while looking at her console. Once Shinar had left the room, Rebecca looked Erhlich straight in the face. “No need for the usual courtesy responses, Tarlazzi,” she teased. “It’s obvious you’re sleeping with her.”
Tarlazzi looked around making sure no one else heard that. “Keep your voice down,” he quietly hissed.
“I heard you guys were both late to the morning staff meeting and the captain wasn’t at all fooled by the come in through different doors trick,” Rebecca calmly assured him. She quickly silenced herself when an officer passed and waited until he was no longer in close earshot. “True, the regs don’t prohibit a second-in-command from being involved with his or her CO. It’s just not a good idea. But isn’t she married or engaged to someone, or three someones, on Andor?”
“She said she didn’t want to go through with the bonding,” Tarlazzi explained, while still feeling a pang of guilt in his mind.
“I still shudder to think what would happen if you ran into one of the husbands,” Rebecca quipped. Then with an acerbic grin, making sure no one else in the immediate vicinity was actively overhearing, she added, “And I hear shens
have both male and female sex organs.”
Tarlazzi sighed and shook his head, not amused by how that particular subject was broached. “I knew that going in,” he insisted. “Sort of.” Seeing that Rebecca still had a teasing grin on her face, he added, “It’s not the same thing as finding out a woman I slept with is really a man after
“Whatever you say,” Rebecca shot back, acting unconvinced.
Not wanting to dignify that last jab with a response, he just looked away from her. “So any friends or relatives living on Earth?” he asked with gaze still diverted.
that come from?
Rebecca asked herself. But knowing of her friend’s desperation to change the subject, she chose to ignore the inappropriate context of that question. And since he knew her recent family history, she was not at all offended by the query.
“A few second and third cousins,” she said, almost indifferently. “But they don’t live in any of the places the Breen attacked.”
Tarlazzi was still very apologetic of having brought up such a sensitive subject, while also l relieved that it didn’t touch any nerves with anyone else in the room. Rebecca gave him a reassuring smile as he walked away to let her continue her work.
Aurellan Markalis sat at her desk, becoming increasingly bored as she stared at a medical journal that appeared on the monitor. She took a sip of warm tea while using the keypad to scroll down the screen display.
The monitor suddenly chirped, catching her attention. The word urgent was flashing in red letters. The moment of truth had arrived, and Aurellan would very shortly learn the fate of her mother and half-sister following the attack on Earth. She quickly and nervously opened up the message. To her immediate relief, neither Lorena nor Imogen Markalis were even on the planet at the time of the attack. She leaned back in her chair trying to curb the flood of mixed emotions.
She was completely oblivious to the approach of the EMH, even as he was setting a padd down on the edge of the desk. “Ma’am,” he timidly blurted. “You wanted to have a look Crewman Kelly’s test results.”
Aurellan jerked her head upward and leaned towards the desk as if startled. “Right, right,” she said, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I’ll look this over.” An awkward silence then followed. “Anything else?” she wondered.
“You seem distressed,” the EMH pointed out. “I’d offer you a hot beverage, but I see you already have one.”
Aurellan momentarily giggled and held her hand to her mouth. Rarely had anyone made her laugh, but an Emergency Medical Hologram, of all people, seemed like one of the few exceptions. Like the previous two versions, this one could often be snide, sarcastic, rude, and condescending. Working alongside the Mark III in the last seven months, Aurellan saw that he had a softer side. Perhaps the designers had mastered programming bedside manner into them. Social etiquette was still not one of his strong suits, but he had a knack for reading facial expressions and other non-verbal social cues. Perhaps that was why Aurellan thought of him as a “him” rather than as an “it”.
“More like relieved,” Aurellan replied. “My mum and sis weren’t even on Earth when the Breen attacked.”
“I see,” the EMH said with a nod. “Obviously, not everyone is so lucky.”
“True. It’s especially hard for me since I haven’t always gotten along with them.”
“So why would you be so concerned for them?”
Aurellan was utterly taken aback that even an EMH would ask such a crass question. She leaned forward, resting her hands and forearms on the desk. “I didn’t mean to imply that I would be indifferent about their welfare. They’re still my family. If one or both of them died, there would always be this regret that I didn’t try to bury the hatchet sooner.”
The holographic doctor squinted in confusion. “What hatchet?” he wondered.
“A colloquialism,” Aurellan explained with a grin. “It means putting aside the petty conflicts that drive people apart.”
“That’s one of the complex social interactions I haven’t quite mastered,” the EMH remarked, appearing a little embarrassed. “Probably because I technically don’t have a family.”
“You’re forgiven,” Aurellan retorted. She grinned, but the EMH’s expression remained blank. The right side of his lips did twitch, but his half-grin still looked more forced than Aurellan’s.
The discussion reached its natural conclusion, so the hologram walked into the primary ICU with a mostly rigid posture other than the limp. Aurellan noticed he still hadn’t yet mastered use of the cane. She never realized how abnormal her rigid posture was until she saw it from someone else. Her cheeks blushed as she turned back to reading the medical journal on her monitor.
She felt a measure of satisfaction of knowing someone who saw the universe through the eyes of an outside observer as much as she did. Or was it something more than satisfaction?