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Eye To Eye

Posted on Jul 06, 2020 @ 11:28pm by Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Jul 06, 2020 @ 11:28pm

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer

"Eye to Eye"

(Cont. A boy and his dog)

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

Stardate: 2.20.0706.1455
Scene: Marine Barracks

It had been a sleepless night for Kassandra, something that was an extreme rarity for her. Usually she was asleep before she hit the pillow, as only one with a blythely untroubled mind could. Last night however, she couldn’t calm the thoughts that kept racing unbidden through her mind. Worry, what-ifs, irritation at Doctor Pauli, all of those kept a steady drumming march through her head throughout the night.

Consequently, she woke up on the proverbial wrong side of her bunk. When the computer chimed and politely informed her that it was 0430, time to wake up for her morning PT- yoga, a four mile run, followed by weights- the first of those being a recent addition she’d made to her routine in a bid to keep her aging body limber and flexible- she let loose with a rather creative stream of invectives.

[[I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Please repeat.]] The computer said implacably.

“Turn the damn alarm off!” Kassandra snarled at the computer. She got up stiffly and stumbled over to the basin in the corner of the room and splashed water onto her face, glowering all the while. She donned the tank top and baggy pants that were her standard workout attire. She kicked the door as it opened.

Horatio “Harry” Bellecote, her second in command, was already in the room that served as the Marine’s muster room, dining room, and personal storage, comfortably ensconced with a PADD and a cup of coffee. Although Kassandra knew it was a perfectly normal size mug it looked like a demitasse in the meaty hands of the hulking man. She knew from over forty years of friendship that it contained coffee with three creams and two heaping spoons of sugar, which in Kassandra’s estimation meant that it wasn’t coffee at all, but rather hot milk and sugar with coffee flavoring. She contended that his drinking habits suggested that he didn’t actually like coffee at all. It was an argument they periodically had, usually when one of them was in a bad mood and looking for a fight- okay, when *she* was in a bad mood and looking for a fight, if she was honest, but Harry had never failed to take the bait.

“Morning-” her second said cheerily. There was a pause as he took in her face, and his tone changed to a brusque businesslike tone. “Sleep well, Major?”

The early risers shifted, and quickly- too quickly- vanished into other rooms. Within moments they were alone.

“You have a *code* for when I wake up in a bad mood, Harry?” Kassandra said archly, glaring at the giant man sitting at the end of the table. He laid his current reading material- some dry and boring philosophical book about utilitarianism, if Kassandra remembered correctly- and took a sip of his coffee, ignoring her expression. She walked up to the replication. “Blue Mountain coffee. Pour-over brewed. Sixty degrees. Black. Extra large.”

“Of *course* we have a code, your temper tantrums tend to end up with extra PT for everyone if you can think of a pretence for it,” Harry said placidly as she sat down at her table and took a large mouthful of her coffee. “And then you’re even more salty than usual because you did extra PT and become unfit for sentient company. If I keep everyone out of the line of fire, then I can enjoy the rest of my day.”

“Yer still here,” Kassandra pointed out. She reached reflexively for her pocket, looking for some cigarettes and her lighter, but found it disappointingly empty. Of course, she was supposed to be quitting. She sighed inwardly. What a rotten time to be giving up her vices. She turned her attention back to Harry.

“Because you know better than to try that with me.” His lips curved into a smile under his crooked nose. “I’m not scared of you for one. For two, you know full well if you challenge me to one of your dominance displays, I’ll just sit on you.”

“You know, I’m yer CO, you oughtta have more respect fer me,” Kassandra groused.

“Well, kid, you know-” Harry began.

“-respect is earned, not given,” Kassandra finished, in her best impersonation of him. The banter was comforting, and she relaxed slightly. At least he wasn’t asking her about her feelings. There was a brief pause, and Kassandra’s sensor nets picked up a sudden shift in his body language. She sighed inwardly, keeping her eyes locked on the cup of coffee in front of her. She’d spoken too soon. Maybe if she ignored him he’d think better of pestering her.

“So do you want to talk about-” So much for that.

“No!” Kassandra glared at him. “Everyone’s askin’ me how I feel about mah current situation, and I’m sick to death of talkin’ about it! I’m feelin’ exactly the way you might imagine I’m feelin’ about it, but I gotta suck it up an’ deal with it, don’t I, because it’s happenin’ whether I want it or not. An’ before you say ain’t no good bottlin’ it up, I’ve talked to Eve, an’ I’ve promised to talk to her after they do a full workup of my nets today.”

“Okay…” Kassandra cherished the moment of silence, knowing Harry well enough to know that it was not going to last, because the hulking man clearly had something else on his mind. “I’ve accepted a job at the Corps Academy, I asked, and they said they’d take you on as a combat instructor, jumped at it, really.” He pushed his mug away and looked sideways at her. Coy was an expression which didn’t suit his battered face well.

“It’s not the same and-” She snapped her head around to look at him. “You did *WHAT*?”

“Relax, it’s to replace Shakir as the teacher of the ethics and history of war when he retires, and that won’t be for at least a year.” Bellecote bit his lip and looked almost nervous.

“That’s supposed to make it better? We’re supposed to be a team, what happened to adventure, excitement, swashbucklin’ our way across the galaxy?” This was like pouring salt in the wound.

“I’m getting old, Kass, excitement and adventure are for the young, not those of us who sound like a tree coming down in a thunderstorm when they get out of bed in the mornings,” he said gently. “And Buttercup is getting to the age where she could do with putting down roots, having her own space, and some sense of order and stability. Anyway, the point of this wasn’t to add something else to your plate, it was to let you know that no matter what happens you have options.”

“Can ya stop doin’ that for one damn minute, Harry?” Kass snapped back, still trying to absorb the news of his eventual departure.

“Stop doing *what*?” He looked confused.

“Always actin’ as though you’re personally responsible fer me, you ain’t. Everytime there’s a hint a rough road fer me, there you are, always schemin’ some way to fix it. Ain’t your responsibility.” Harry tensed as she said it. It was this unspoken thing that had always been the elephant in the room in their relationship. He thought that he’d ruined her life by recruiting her, and he had a healthy dollop of guilt because she was the only one of his recruits still standing, which meant that Kassandra could and had, in her most selfish, darkest moments, count on him dropping whatever he was doing, wherever he was doing it, to come and bail her out of trouble. She was fully aware that she had abused it many many times over the course of their friendship, though he’d never complained. Better to say it and put it out in the open, finally. “You ain’t responsible for me, an’ you don’t need to take care of me. I don’t regret joinin’ the Marines, an’ I wouldn’t change it.”

“Kass, pretty much all the hardship and heartache in your life has been a direct result of being a Marine. You have an almost religious devotion to an institution which, if I’m frank, doesn’t even notice or appreciate your existence,” Horatio said pointedly. He sighed, then massaged his face, looking tired. “Listen, I didn’t bring this up to start a fight with you. I just wanted you to remind you that you have options.”

Kassandra stared at him suddenly noticing that he was starting to look old and tired. The wind went out of her sails.

“Okay, you win this round,” Kassandra said as she stood and put her mug back into the replicator, where it dematerialized back into its constituent parts. “You’re in charge of PT this morning.”

“Wait, what? Where are you going?” Horatio half stood, his bulky frame alert.

“I’m takin’ the day off. I’m goin’ t’ get a stacka pancakes with a side a bacon, sausage an’ hashbrowns an’ a cup of non-replicated but shitty diner coffee on the station where no one’s gonna gimme guff over mah cholesterol, an’ suggest I have a spinach an’ eggwhite keesh or whatever that egg pie nonsense Iffy is always pushin’ on me. An’ then maybe I’m gonna go shoppin’, who knows. Oh yeah, an’ it’s a five mile run today, plus fifty burpees for collective insubordination in comin’ up with a code regardin’ my mood in the mornin’. See ya, sucker.” Kassandra wiggled her fingers over her shoulder, feeling slightly more cheerful as she always did when foisting extra PT on her Marines, and much more cheerful that she didn’t have to do the extra PT.

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

Scene: Temporary Sickbay

“Yo, Aerdan, here to talk game,” Kassandra stuck her head around the edge of Aerdan’s office and ducked in quickly.

“Why the stealth?” Aerdan asked, raising his eyebrow.

“Ah, well, that new doc was chewin’ someone out about somethin’, an’ she’s already sent me a message ‘bout my exercise schedule not bein’ an appropriate excuse for abusin’ my body with booze an’ fatty foods, an’ I didn’t want her to get close enough to smell the bacon n’ maple syrup on my breath.”

“Are you scared of Dr. Keiku?” Aerdan’s antennae twitched in amusement.

“Scared? Me? Nah, I could take her.” Kassandra gave a nonchalant shrug and sat down in the chair across from him. Aerdan’s antennae raised a little higher along with his snowy eyebrows. “Okay, okay. Maybe a little bit. The teensiest, tiniest bit. She’s intense.”

Aerdan coughed politely into his hand, hiding a smile.

“I fear the day you two join forces. Now, the first thing I want to remind you is that whatever they come up with, and no matter how it works, you won’t end up any worse off. I’ve talked to Doctor Singh, she’ll leave the hardware for your sensors intact until they’ve verified that the new nets will work, so it will be easy to revert. Now, in regards to-” There was a sudden tap at the door. Kassandra deflated, it was Doctor Pauli. The Borg man was dressed neatly in a black jumpsuit, the pieces of blond hair peeking out in between his visible implants were neatly slicked back. His body language, however, was sheepish.

“Hello Doctor,” Pauli nodded at Aerdan politely. “Do you have a moment to talk Kass?”

“Anything you wanna say you can say in front of Aerdan,” Kassandra crossed her arms in front of herself.

“Ah, well then. I’m here to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Kassandra had been ready for a fight, so this was rather like the rug had been pulled from under her, attitude wise, and now she was flailing for the appropriate emotional response.

“Yes, I’ve been made aware that I might have inadvertently- ugh!” The Borg threw up his hands. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to using something as clunky as words for something as delicate as this. For another Borg I would simply interface with them over the Network so that I could properly convey my apologies, but now…”

Kassandra blinked at him, her jaw dropping slightly. She stayed silent, allowing him a moment to sort his thoughts out.

“I would like to apologize to you for my cavalier attitude towards the replacement of your sensor nets during our first meeting. It was a cultural misunderstanding, but a misunderstanding that I would have been able to avoid had I actually taken a few minutes to think of the situation from your perspective. For the Borg, the replacement or installation of sensory upgrades such as yours is so commonplace as to be as routine to us as a vaccination or a haircut. I forgot that they are not routine for other species, and furthermore that they are generally installed as a adaptive mechanism after severe physical trauma, and therefore did interact with you in a fashion which gave you reassurance and confidence.”

“Well shoot, now you got me all embarrassed ‘cos I thought you were a big ole jerk, an’ I’ve interacted with enough other cultures I oughta have realized it mighta been a misunderstandin’,” Kassandra ran her hand up and down the short stubble of hair at the back of her skull, feeling a little bit ashamed of herself. “So, stuff like my sensor nets are real common for the Borg? Does that mean you’ve already got a tried an’ true system fer me to use?”

“Of course not!” Pauli looked scandalized. “The Borg don’t assimilate others anymore. Installing Borg technology would be highly illegal!”

“But-” Kassandra frowned. “I’m Human, right? I already got a sensory upgrade, an I ain’t a Borg. If you installed Borg hardware in my brain in place a what I got, I’d still be the same, only with a slightly different set of sensors, which is exactly the same as if you came up with a whole new one-”

“If you have Borg implants, then you are a Borg,” Pauli looked slightly distressed. “And therefore, if I were to give you Borg implants, then I would have made you Borg.”

“But-” Kassandra yelped as Aerdan gave her shin a kick from under his desk. “Right, okay, but if you aren’t sharin’ the secrets of Borg cybertechnology, what are you doin’ with the Daystrom Institute?”

“Ah, I’ve noticed that cybernetics are severely underused by other races, which makes little sense in a society as advanced as yours. For example, why continue with HCARS, when you could create cybernetics which would allow your officers to conduct their work using interfaces that connected directly to their minds?” Pauli relaxed with the subject change, gesticulating. Kassandra bit her tongue, she could tell him exactly why it was a bad idea, but she didn’t really want to revisit that part of her history. “I will confess that my joining the Daystrom Institute was also selfish, I feel that Borg cybernetics have become stale. We have solid building blocks that can be used for almost any cybernetic implants, and that means that we never change anything, actual innovation is rare, and even then it is tied to very traditional modes of thinking. Working with the Daystrom institute, and with non Borg researchers and students allows me to work outside what is considered acceptable in Borg research, and break free from what we, as Borg, often believe constraints are… And why are you glaring at me again?”

“So, I’m still going to be a guinea pig?” Kassandra bristled.

“Yes, I suppose that is a fair assessment. But, may I point out that you were a test subject for your original sensor net implants?” The Borg cocked his head. “And we are hardly going to put a shoddy system, or something that doesn’t work in-”

“I think, if I may interrupt here,” Aerdan interjected in his soft, lisping voice, “that you two may be getting your wires crossed again here. I believe that Kassandra is worried that you and your students will get carried away, that you won’t include her in your design process, and that she will end up with whatever system you design, rather than the system she wants, and this is why she is getting angry. Am I correct, Kass?” Kassandra considered that for a moment, and realized that the Andorian was absolutely right. She turned her face towards Pauli, and nodded in agreement. “Excellent, then, may I recommend that the first thing you do when your students arrive in ten minutes to get a full technical understanding of her systems is to have them ask questions about how she uses them on a daily basis, what she likes and dislikes about the system she currently has, and any other relevant questions?”

“I understand. The sign of a good scientist is to know when they don’t know something.” Pauli’s face had a faint smile on it. “I think I will let Doctor Singh and Ayang take the lead today. If I am trying to design systems for non-Borgs, it will be instructive for me to observe how non-Borgs approach cybernetics socially, and what functionality they consider important. I believe Dr Singh is known for her bedside manner, and it might be best for my socially awkward group of students to learn to model their behavior from her. Please, continue, I will be setting up the equipment we need to interface with your systems. Join us when you’re ready.”

Pauli turned and exited the room.

“Well, I feel like a bit of an asshole,” Kassandra said dryly to Aerdan. The Andorian gave an expressive shrug.

“Cultural misunderstandings are bound to happen in an organization made up of as many different cultures such as Starfleet and the Federation. Do you feel a little less apprehensive about Doctor Pauli now?” Aerdan leaned forward in his chair.

“I guess. But there’s still the matter of those snot-nosed nerds,” Kassandra jerked a thumb back to indicate the Cybernetic students that had filtered in through the medbay doors. “They look like the lot of them probably haven’t ever kissed anyone they weren’t related to in their lives.”

“I think you would be surprised by what the nerdy kids get up to when left to their own devices. The most debauchery I’ve experienced has been at scientific conferences. I don’t think Doctor Pauli will let them run wild.”

“I really want to ask about this debauchery.” Kassandra narrowed her eyes. “But I gotta go. Sooner I go, the sooner the getting poked and prodded is over an’ done with, and the sooner I can go report to Eve, and then go back to enjoying my day off.”

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

NRPG: Tag Su ;) HMU if you wanna work on a JP or something.

Alix Fowler
Writing As:
Captain Kassandra Thytos


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