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Blinded By The Light

Posted on May 20, 2020 @ 5:03am by Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on May 20, 2020 @ 5:03am

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer

“Blinded by the Light”

(cont. “Jasmine and Wei”)

* * *=(/\)=* * *

Stardate: 2.20.0519.1949
Scene: Sickbay

“I’m bored.” Kassandra said for at least the dozenth time since the good doctor and Crewman Raxx had begun working on her sensor calibrations. Her sensors were off, which meant all she could do was listen to what was going on around her. The Bolian made a slight snort of irritation, and Dr Samson, engrossed in her work, barely seemed to register what Kassandra had said. Dr. Bartlett made an amused noise. She heard his chair move back, a rustle of paper, and then a lollipop was dropped into her mouth. She sucked on it for a moment, it was her favorite flavor, Risan sunfruit, and then reconsidered. “I’m not five years old, you can’t keep me quiet with a sweetie!” she said around the edges of the lollipop.”

“Now Major I assure you I’m not treating you like a five year old.” Doctor Bartlett paused a beat and continued: “The five year olds I’ve treated are far more patient than you.”

“Har har, Doc. Quite the comedian, aren’t you?” Kassandra grumbled. “When are you retiring again?”

“I thought I might stay around here indefinitely just to annoy you,” Bartlett responded. He patted her shoulder and leaned down, speaking softly so only she could hear him. “You’re doing well, won’t be long now. Just keep doing those breathing exercises.”

“This all would go much quicker if this system wasn’t a relic,” Crewman Raxx said with a sniff. “It’s so old that I have to break out legacy equipment to interface with it. It’s clunky, overly delicate, and takes forever to re-calibrate because of all the design eccentricities.”

Kassandra’s eyes flew open and she glared into the blackness in front of her, her nostrils flaring. In spite of herself, she found his words stung. Old. Obsolete. Even though he was talking about her sensor nets, which at two and a half decades were certainly out of date by anyone’s standards, it still felt like a personal slight- like he was talking about her. Eve would probably tell her that she was projecting, or some sort of psychobabble nonsense. Eve would probably be right.

“Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly functional,” Bartlett said firmly. “And the installation of the system is not a simple matter from a physical perspective. It’s actually fairly traumatic, to say nothing of the fact that it will take the brain some time to adjust to a new system, if it does at all. There’s about five hundred meters of biofilament, nanotubules, and microsensor nodes that have to be incised subcutaneously, and more than three thousand neuron integrations that would have to be disconnected then reconnected, all of which is fairly traumatic to the body.”

“Not to mention this here’s a prototype,” Kassandra said. “An’ the Corps decided it was a failure, cos it don’t work too well with people who still got their vision an’ stuff. Took people way too long to be able to use it as well as they’d hoped anyway. That plus it’s limitations, an’ they decided it was better to mothball it than keep tryin’. So unless you’re plannin’ to spend your precious research time t’ come up with somethin’ better that no one but me’s gonna ‘preciate, then you’ll just have to keep dealin’ with my obsolete ass.”

“Who’s ass is obsolete?” The door opened and a new voice that Kass was not familiar with joined the conversation. “Hm. This looks far more interesting than doing physicals, why am I not in here instead of wasting my time with physicals?”

“Because you ordered them,” Bartlett said dryly. “And because either the Major and you will get on like a house on fire, or you’ll set fire to each other’s houses, and I thought it probably wasn’t polite for me to let the Major meet you at a disadvantage if it was going to be the latter. Major Thytos, this is Doctor Tulla Keiku, she’s my new assistant CMO, Dr. Keiku, Major Kassandra Thytos.”

“I’d shake hands, but I’m currently in a stasis field from the face down,” Kassandra quipped. “Call me Kass, everyone I’m not in charge of does.”

There was a long pause.

“And you can call me Dr. Keiku.” There was an even longer pause. “Good grief. Those are obsolete. Half of those biomedical components haven’t been used for the last decade-”

What followed was a long exchange between Rexx and the new Doctor that Kassandra barely understood, followed by Dr Bartlett’s firm, but polite expulsion of Dr Keiku from the room so that they could finish up calibrations and repairs on her nets.

“The new Doctor seems… Interestin’,” Kassandra ventured. Raxx and Dr. Bartlett chuckled.

After what seemed like hours and at least a few times that she nodded off, her sensor nets were finally finished. It was always a weird experience to Kassandra to have freshly calibrated sensors, everything was ‘sharper’, less background noise in the readings. Feeling much more cheerful now that she was not being poked and prodded, Kassandra left the room with a little spring in her step. She paused as she exited, and her sensor nets picked up the Klingon woman rushing around in a doctor’s uniform- no, not Klingon exactly. Kassandra focused on the readings from the woman with a frown, trying to figure out what it was, but came up blank. She shrugged, and left whistling as she went, wondering what on earth Bartlett had meant about house fires.

* * *=(/\)=* * *

Scene: Corridors outside the Vulgar Tribble

“Hey!” Asta caught up with Kassandra as she headed to the door of the Vulgar tribble. Kassandra frowned. Her niece was out of breath, and seemed a little nervous. Her blue eyes were narrowed slightly, there was a faint wrinkle between her brows, and as she paused to catch her breath she puckered her upper lip and chewed on it. Kassandra knew that face. Asta had bad news. Had someone died? Or…. “Uh, I just wanted you to hear it from me before you heard it elsewhere, since the news is going to be everywhere soon: They’re refitting the PHOENIX’s computer systems to HCARS…”

“WHAT.” Kassandra felt her heart drop. She’d known that they were going to switch over to holographic systems eventually, but she’d hoped that they wouldn’t be going onto any ships she was serving on until well after she decided to retire. Her sensor nets didn’t play well with holographs, to her, trying to use holosuites, or other holographic based technology was the sensory equivalent of looking at a floodlight while wearing night vision goggles. “Can they leave them out of the Marine decks? No- that ain’t even a great option, I’m gonna be screwed every time I gotta use a terminal, an’ what about my quarters?”

“I tried to talk to them about that, but they said that it all has to be done in one shot, they aren’t going to leave parts of the ship off the grid for one person- it’s too much work to install them, and having to refit stuff later wouldn’t be feasible personnel wise,” Asta said with a sigh. “You might have to go over their heads Auntie Kass. Starfleet has to provide reasonable accommodations for physical and sensory differences, it’s part of the rules. Go talk to Jake, he’ll be able to put in the paperwork to Starfleet to tell them you need some sort of workaround to allow you to do your job.”

“I’m not disabled!” Kassandra spluttered as the two of them stood in the line to get food from the buffet style lunch that Iphie put together to entice people into non-replicated fare during the lunch rush. The two crew members on either side of them gave Kassandra a dirty look.

“First of all, that is a completely inappropriate term, and you know it, second of all that is not at all what I was saying, and third of all there is absolutely no shame in having abilities that fall outside the ‘normal’ range and thus aren’t generally planned for in a world that caters to averages for the sake of ease. This isn’t any different from changing console settings and providing offices for crew members that aren’t neurotypical, or providing work stations that allow non humanoid species like the Horta to work on a starship. So you can stop it with the melodrama.” Asta’s lips pressed into a firm line, and Kassandra could tell that her niece was at the limit of how much more pushback she’d take before this turned into a fight. Besides, when it was put like that it made Kassandra feel less like there was something wrong with *her*.

“Fine, I’ll talk to Jake.” Kassandra was chastened. “But Asta, what are they gonna do about it? Ain’t like they can give me a console to lug from place to place.”

“Maybe they can come up with a personalized program for you that can use low energy holographic displays that won’t overload your sensor nets, or make some sort of PADD based app that you can use to access the computer instead,” Asta suggested.

“I guess. It’s just…” Kassandra slumped a bit, trying to ignore Asta’s slightly pitying look. “It’s just that I feel like I’m bein’ pushed into obsolescence before my time, you know? You won’t understand, on accounta you bein’ a youngster, but when you get older you find yerself startin’ to fall behind. It’s slow at first, new technology take you a little longer to figure out, you hold onto the old stuff as long as you can because you find it easier to use, you don’t recognize some of the terms the kids are throwin’ around. Then somewhere along the line you realize that you’re well behind the curve an’ have to find someone under twenty to help you with all the technology shit, an’ you’ve become your damn grandparents, accidentally droppin’ calls, and pushin’ the wrong button. Thought I had quite a road until I got to that point, but this HCARS thing? All of a sudden I’m bein’ forced way past that point, to the one where I’ll be helpless technologically speakin’, as though I was one of those ancient people you see around whose family members have to do everything’ for them, an’ who people speak to real loud an’ slow like they were idiots.”

Asta turned to glance back at Kassandra, with an expression on her face that Kassandra’s couldn’t quite identify, and Kassandra’s mind was left to fill it in as more pity, mixed with suddenly really seeing Kassandra’s age for the first time.

* * *=(/\)=* * *

Scene: Corridors outside Jake’s office

Lunch had passed uneventfully, although it had been obvious to Asta and others that Kassandra was still upset. Even Iphie, who had taken Bartlett’s edict to make Kassandra eat healthier quite seriously, snuck her a dollop of ‘cheer up’ ice cream on a baked apple dessert. It hadn’t completely banished the moroseness the Marine felt, and she was still dragging her feet on what felt like the longest walk she’d ever taken up to Jake’s office.

**If only this were a problem I could punch into submission,** Kassandra thought as she loitered in front of Jake’s door, working up the nerve to press the buzzer and say something. She got a few curious looks from other passing through the corridor before she got up the gumption to make her move. She was about to tap the doorbell, when the door hissed open to reveal Jake.

“Hi Kass, you wanted to talk to me?” Jake said with a grin.

“Didya plan that or somethin’?” Kassandra asked suspiciously.

“No, but Asta let me know that you were going to drop by to see me, and I was just thinking that you were taking an awfully long time and I might have to do as she requested and hunt you down if I didn’t see you in the next couple minutes.” Jake stepped back and motioned her into his office. “So, what is it that you don’t want to talk to me about?”

“It’s the HCARs they’re installing, Jake. Ain’t gonna work with my sensor nets, an’ I don’t see a workaround that I kin do myself. Asta was tellin’ me that there are Starfleet rules that say that they need to give me the tools to do my job properly, as long as it ain’t somethin’ as dramatic as, I dunno, takin’ out the warp core an’ puttin’ in a swimmin’ pool. So, I was comin’ here, as you’re the person who does all the paperwork and people stuff, to ask you to put in some sorta notice to Starfleet Command that I’m gonna be needin’ them to figure out some sorta way that the PHOENIX can have its HCARs, an’ I can see it too.” Kassandra tossed herself into the chair across from his desk.

“That is a problem,” Jake thought hard about it. “And if there was an easy engineering answer then Asta would have figured it out already, she’s got a good head on her shoulders. I’ll let Starfleet know about the issue, and I’ll give it some thought myself.”

“Thanks Jake, this HCARs thing was really a gut punch when I heard about it, ain’t ready to be forced out to pasture yet. You take it easy, an’ let me know if Benito wants to do a playdate with Buttercup, she’s been askin’ about him.” Kassandra gave him a lazy salute as she exited the doors.

* * *=(/\)=* * *

NRPG: OK, sorry this took so long! I have a story arc idea that this is kicking off, so I'm going to try to write more this weekend.

Alix Fowler
Kassandra Thytos


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