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A Spoonful of Sugar

Posted on Jun 11, 2020 @ 5:53am by Lieutenant Eve Dalziel & Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Jun 11, 2020 @ 5:53am

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer

"A spoonful of sugar"

(Cont. "Changeling")

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

Stardate: 2.20.0610.2129
Scene: Cargo Bay 2

Kassandra was finishing placing the last load of medical equipment on a sledge to go to Cargo Bay 2 while the new HCARS was being installed in the main sickbay. The place was humming with activity, with new engineers in every nook and cranny pulling out old wiring, replacing it with new wiring, and installing holographic projectors on the floors and throughout the walls.

Kassandra wondered if even the biobeds she was moving would be replaced with holographic ones, though that seemed unlikely as it would be a disaster if they lost power during an emergency and dumped their occupants on the floor.

“Excuse me, Marine, could you point me to Major Thytos?” A male voice asked. She’d become so used to ignoring all the hubbub behind her that a small group had managed to sneak up on her without her noticing.

“You found her, though everyone who ain’t my subordinate calls me Kass, just Kass. Whaddya want?” Kassandra surveyed the group. There was the man who had spoken, a tall, pale human male, who was packing an extraordinarily vast array of cybernetic implants which Kassandra tentatively identified as some sort of skeletal reinforcement, biotic filters, visual enhancement, some sort of computer-brain interface, plus many more whose purpose eluded her. Standing close behind him, and clearly next in importance were a tall Indian woman, her hair cropped short and dressed in a Starfleet medical uniform, and an Asian man who was wearing an auditory implant. Behind them, holding padds, and shifting nervously from foot to foot and exuding an air of overeagerness was a gaggle of eight babies. Okay, so they were probably teenagers, but they seemed painfully young to Kassandra’s mind.

“I’m Doctor Pauli, this,” he indicated to the Indian woman, and then the Asian man “Is Doctor Lakshmi Singh M.D who is training to become the first cybernetic surgery specialist, and is my post doctoral student, and this is my graduate student Alang Moua. The rest of these are final year students who are the inaugural graduating class of the Dasytrom Institute’s degree in Applied Biomedical Cybernetics.” Doctor Pauli stretched his hand out politely, Kassandra took it and gave it a firm shake. Her nanites, clearly ‘curious’ about the new tech rushed to her hand making it glitter, and giving her the distinct impression that her skin was crawling. She snatched her hand away and shook it vigorously until the nanites streamed away back off to their business. “Ah, not very mannerly little nanites are they?”

“Single minded is more like it, really,” Kassandra admitted. “But these little critters have saved my life more n’ once, an’ they’re handy t’ help me drink others under the table. So, how’d I manage to become a guinea pig for the high school science fair at the Daystrom institute?”

The rather combative question didn’t seem to phase the Borg scientist one iota, or he didn’t pick up on the rather snarky tone. His undergraduates certainly did, and they shifted back and forth on their feet, casting quick, aghast glances at each other. Doctor Singh looked amused, and Alang pursed his lips and gave a sideways stare at Pauli that did all but scream ‘I told you so’ audibly.

“I’m friends with one of the heads of Starfleet Engineering who is tasked with the rollout of the HCARS system, and I was out to dinner with him when he was informed about your request regarding the need for some sort of accommodations or refits to the Phoenix’s system due to your sensor nets,” Pauli said in a matter-of-fact tone. “As it would require an entire HCARS system redesign in order to be compatible with your sensor nets, and a quick look at the schematics for your sensor nets determined that it would not be possible to recalibrate them to work with the HCARS, he asked if I would be willing to take a look and make recommendations.”

“And you lookin’ at it turned into me bein’ a frog dissection project for students how, exactly?” Kassandra glared at him. “And do you have security clearance? The systems are top secret-”

“Were top secret. They haven’t been for almost a decade. They’re not cutting technology anymore. The Marine Corps said they had no interest in reviving the project, and Starfleet said they didn’t have anyone who wanted to expend the resources on a project with very little useful applications within their organization. *I* however do have an interest. The opportunities for actual hands-on experience designing a cybernetic bioimplant that will be used immediately, and designing it almost from scratch are almost nonexistent in the Federation. I’m at the Daystrom institute primarily to help build up their cybernetics program, and having the inaugural applied cybernetic bioimplants class involved in the actual build of a novel cybernetics system which will actually put into use immediately would cement the reputation, and also help to demonstrate to the Federation at large the practical value of cybernetics.”

“Great. Glad to be the feather in your cap,” Kassandra bristled, feeling resentment welling up in her chest. Reading between the lines, Starfleet and the Corps didn’t value her as much more than a science fair project for a bunch of kids. The awkwardness of the undergraduates intensified to soft murmurs. Kassandra glared at them, and they quieted down. “I’m busy getting the temporary sickbay ready, which you’ll no doubt need to poke, prod, and scan me to death tomorrow, unless of course you just want to stick me in a lab somewhere in the science department-”

“We have already discussed reserving a portion of the sickbay for tomorrow, Kass.” Again, the Borg didn’t seem to notice her antipathy towards him. “We have talked to Crewman Raxx, whom I believe is well versed in your systems, and he is available at 1300 tomorrow to give us an overview. I have also discussed freeing you up for availability with Commander Crichton.”

“Oh, well *thank* you for doing that without me askin’.” Kassandra ground her teeth in irritation. “I’ll see you at 1300, or I suppose you’ll hunt me down? Have a good evenin’, Doctor.” She turned on her heel and stalked off.

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

Scene: The Vulgar Tribble

Eve entered the Vulgar Tribble and looked around to see who was there. As the Tribble was neutral ground she often took it upon herself to visit with crew members, or see if there was anyone who seemed like they needed to talk. As she got to one of the darker recesses of the room she spied Kassandra Thytos, hunched up in the booth. Eve frowned. Kassandra’s normal spot was right at the end of the bar near the intake for the atmospheric scrubbers so Iphie would let her smoke. Granted, Kass hadn’t been smoking nearly as much recently, but it was still her go-to spot, and Eve was fairly convinced the seat was probably worn to fit the Marine’s butt. Her skulking in a corner was highly irregular.

Eve headed over to the Marine, who looked up guiltily at Eve. Eve looked down at the table where Kassandra was eating what was supposed to be at least two people’s worth of mac and cheese with what looked like bacon in it and a glorious golden crust of panko bread crumbs. An untouched slab of rhubarb strawberry pie and a solid chunk of bread pudding drizzled in a caramel sauce also adorned the table. Eve stared pointedly at the food, and then raised an eyebrow quizzically at the older woman who leaned to the side with a glare and took a drink of the rootbeer float next to her.

“Carbs on top of carbs, with a side of fat and sugar. I’d be a rotten counselor if I was unable to recognize the symptoms of eating one’s feelings. Scoot over.” Eve pushed the Marine gently until she ceded the side of the booth to her.

“I don’t need your help,” Kassandra huffed. Eve snorted.

“Well, you’re definitely going to need my help to finish all this food, if you eat all this you’re going to end up with a stomach ache,” Eve retorted. She grabbed a fork off of one of the dessert plates and speared a few noodles. It was bacon, and maybe some truffles. “So as a good friend, I’m going to help save you from yourself. So you might as well talk.”

“I’m capable of eatin’ this all by myself,” Kassandra said sulkily.

“And then you’ll complain, to me I might add, that you’re putting on weight, and it’s harder to keep up with the kids, and then I will be forced to remind you about tonight where I found you eating two pounds of cheese and pasta, and two desserts. Three, if you count a float as dessert. So you might as well let me help you eat it and talk to me instead so you don’t have to spend all day in the gym tomorrow burning this off,” Eve took another bite of the pasta, and Kassandra sighed, deflating like a balloon.

“I don’t have all day to spend in the gym tomorrow, gotta meet Doctor feckin’ Pauli an’ his group of child prodigies,” her voice was bitter.

“Doctor Pauli?” Eve said neutrally.

“Borg doctor, some Daystrom Institute egghead, lookin’ to make a name fer himself. As if all the hoopla wasn’t bad enough, he brought ten people along.” Kassandra viciously stabbed at the mac and cheese and shoved a large mass of noodles into her mouth. She chewed it like a woman on a mission, her cheeks puffed out slightly, reminding Eve of a chipmunk.

“Ten assistants? Staff?”

Kass attacked the most caramelized edge of the bread pudding. “Naw. Two assistants and eight *students* ‘bout to graduate from his cybernetics department. As in, let’s crowd around the old gal and make her feel like even more of a dinosaur than she already is.”

“It sounds like he and his associates have the credentials you need to find a solution,” Eve tried to soothe.

“That supposta make me feel better? This ain’t some machine they’re fixin’, it’s mah job. Mah life.” Kassandra’s lip came dangerously close to wobbling as she said it. She reached up to flick a strand of her hair back off of her face in a gesture that looked suspiciously like camouflage for her wiping watery eyes.

Lieutanant Dalziel decided to try the rhubarb strawberry pie. While she wasn’t familiar with the texture and flavor of rhubarb, she got the idea that the flaky pastry tasted like something Kass’ mom would have made in her spotless kitchen on SHERMAN’S PLANET. “Wouldn’t you be afraid, no matter who they sent? Fear is a natural reaction.”

“Yah, I reckon.” Kass put her fork down and tapped her temple. “But this sensor thing, nanites an’ all, has served me well, an’ for a while. Sure, it likes to go down whenever there’s any sort of electrical interference, and sure, I look like a damn fireworks display in the dark, but it’s been awful handy. Never planned on it bein’ outdated. Never planned on the Corps decidin’ it wasn’t worth keepin’ up with it, and handin’ it over to the first nerd they could find.”

“Better the first one than the last,” Eve pointed out.

“Har har. Along with that expert opinion comes with the personality of a cardboard box and no empathy. Between you an’ me, I’d rather miz Keiku be the one pokin’ at me.”

Eve smiled at the thought of the brash new aCMO, going back to the bacon laden mac and cheese. “I like her too. As long as she doesn’t hit me with any flying scanners or tissue regenerators.”

Kass shrugged off the safety concerns after a sip of her float. “Just duck. Or work on catchin’ things. Sickbay’s never been a fun place ta be. A little hazard comes with the territory.”

“You could transfer to a non-HCARS ship.” Kassandra narrowed her eyes at Eve. “Not that I’m going to allow that,” Eve amended.

“Eh,um, no. What’s that gonna buy me? A few years maybe? ‘Fleet Command ain’t draggin’ their feet on this. Besides, where am I gonna find another CO who’s willin’ ta put up with my shit? I know Kane’s boundaries, an’ I know which ones I can safely push, an’ which ones he’d string my up by mah ankles and keelhaul me fer.”

“You don’t have to agree with Dr. Pauli’s assessment of the repairs,” Eve pointed out.

“Like hell I don’t. If I don’t upgrade, I can’t work. Plain as day. An I ain’t got the first idea bout what makes any of these systems tick, so it don’t matter if he asks my opinion, as I don’t even understand what I’m supposed to be havin’ an opinion on in the first place.”

Eve took a bite of bread pudding with an insane amount of caramel on it. “You could work at the Academy. Who else could train the grunts right but someone with your experience.”

“It ain’t the same and you know it. It’s zero action, all predictability, and you have to spend a hundred percent a your time making mean faces an’ bein’ yell-y. Not to mention they expect you to be a role model twenty four seven, do you know how hard that is? An’ why are you tryin’ so dang hard ta git rid of me?”

“I’m not trying to get rid of you, what I am trying to do is make you see the most obvious choice isn’t necessarily the *only* choice. I’m being the Devil’s advocate, but that’s only because I want you to recognize that you can be your *own* advocate.”

Kassandra stated her case (and her insecurities) loudly and forcefully. “How can I do that when I don’t know a fifth of what those brainiacs know? When they’re professin’ what’s best for me?”

The Counselor knew the MCO was far from stupid, but she doubted her argument would convince Kass. So she went another way. “It’s called a second opinion. We have a ship and a starbase full of people with skills. If this guy is as pompous and oblivious as you say, he won’t care who you ask about his work or his theories.”

The Major looked down into her root beer. “I dunno. They came a long way just fer me.”

“That does not obligate you to do whatever they say. ‘No’ is a complete sentence. This isn’t only about your career. It’s about the rest of your life, and having the best quality of that possible. The only person qualified to decide the right path is *you*.”

Kassandra was silent for a very long time.

“Eve, when I got these sensor nets put in, it took me damn near a year to get used to them. The first few months was all nausea, vomiting, headaches, not havin’ any idea what my sensor nets were showin’ me. Took another year for me to be able to reliably differentiate one person from another, and recognize people I’d met before by their sensor readings, instead of by their voices. I’m gettin’ old here, I can’t spend that much time startin’ over.” Kassandra mushed a piece of the bread pudding into a shapeless mass in the caramel sauce and shoved it into her mouth.

“If that’s what happens, then I’ll be right here helping you through it,” Eve said soothingly. “And this setting will be perfect for getting used to whatever *you* decide to have installed. You know this ship like the back of your hands, right? I bet you could get to almost any of the critical strategic systems in your sleep. And you know a lot of the crew. My point being, everything is familiar, and so you’ll have a baseline that you know backwards and forwards to compare the new sensor readings to. That should help things go much more quickly.”

Kassandra nodded glumly, bowed her head, and gave a long, shaky sigh, a look of abject misery on her face.

“I know this is hard, Kass. If you need to cry, go ahead. I promise I won’t tell a soul,” Eve put a hand on the Marine’s shoulder.

“I’m not gonna cry, you dingbat,” Kassandra said, clutching her midsection. “I’ve gone and given myself a damn stomach ache.”

“I’ll skip past the part where I tell you I told you so, and straight on to the part where I go and replicate you something for your stomach, and walk you back to your quarters,” Eve said with a wry smile, even though she strongly suspected that the stomach ache was only partially the truth. The Marine had been surprisingly open about her feelings during this impromptu session, and Eve was loathe to push her boundaries for fear of her clamming up again. If Kassandra was being this unguarded and talkative, it meant that this was something that was affecting her deeply. Eve headed to the replicators and ordered a cup of ginger tea and some stomach tablets for Kassandra. She returned to the table and pushed them over to Kassandra, who drank them gratefully. “Whenever you’re done tomorrow, I want you to come over to Counseling and let me know how it went, okay?”

Kassandra looked at her like she was going to argue, but the Marine just waved her hand tiredly.

“Fine, fine. But don’t expect me to be my usual bucket of charm and sunshine.” Kassandra stood and dusted crumbs off of her uniform.

“I think you mean your usual bucket of sass and crass, right?” Eve said with a grin as the two women exited the Tribble

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

Alix Fowler

Writing as:
Kassandra Thytos
A bucket of sass and crass


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