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Strange Bedfellows

Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:28 pm

by Daniel Vallero and Alexis Wright

“Commander Vallero: I wonder if I could request a few minutes of your time. I’d like to personally thank you for your honest testimony at the hearing, and the bravery that it must have taken to defy your orders to do what you knew was right. I know that you and I did not see eye to eye during your time aboard Atlantis, but I’m hoping you’ll give me the opportunity to apologize for my mistrust - I know now that I was wrong about you. I look forward to speaking with you.

Best Regards,
Lieutenant Commander Alexis Wright, Chief Science Officer, U.S.S. Atlantis

Daniel Vallero frowned when opening the letter on his screen, wondering why Lieutenant Commander Wright would be writing him. By the end of it, however, he was feeling a mixture of surprise, delight at having yet another express their acceptance of him, and confusion at not having noticed the depth of Wright’s previous distrust. After a moment of sitting in silent consideration, his chair squeaked as he reached forward to call her, his curiosity driving him to respond immediately.

The unexpected incoming call alert pulled Alexis from the pages of her book, her initial moment of confusion giving way to mild anxiety when she realized who was calling. She had, of course, initiated this sequence of events, but that didn’t make her any less nervous. Knowing it was better to get this over with, she suppressed her urge to decline the call and extricated herself from the pleasant combination of couch and cat, setting her book on the coffee table and smoothing her ponytail as she sat primly at the console. After a quick check that Kate was still on the holodeck playing tennis, Alexis finally affected what she hoped was a calm expression and accepted the call, the man’s familiar face appearing before her. “Commander Vallero. I see that you received my message?”

He returned a polite smile at Alexis’ greeting from his desktop screen. “I did. I appreciate your kind words.” He then waited, not commenting on her words of mistrusting him, giving her a chance to say what she wanted to say.

When it became clear after a few moments that he had no intention of continuing, Alexis frowned slightly. He wasn’t going to make this easy for her... but then, had she any right to expect him to do so? “Of course,” she replied, ending the slightly awkward pause, “Your actions were commendable. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it took your display of integrity and valor at that hearing for me to finally admit that Kate had been right about you, and that my deep distrust of you seems to have been… unfounded. It is for that ill-placed distrust that I wish to offer my sincere apology.” She hesitated briefly before adding, “People are definitely not my area of expertise, but hubris sometimes leads me to believe otherwise.”

Daniel’s eyes frowned, but the smile remained and curved good-naturedly as he cocked his head to the side. “But I wasn’t to be trusted, was I?” Seeing that she was perplexed by this response to her apology, his smile faded into a serious expression. “You were right about me, Ms. Wright. If anything, I should be apologizing to you. I didn’t realize just how much you distrusted me, but I didn’t make much of an effort to get to know everyone either, at least at first. I tried to fix that later, but I wasn’t very good at it. My eyes were on my mission, which was manipulating Kate in her command decision at the Romulan border. I failed, though, and I’m glad I did.” The smile returned, this time showing affection. “Kate’s a strong one, isn’t she?”

“She is strong,” Alexis said tenderly, her eyes lingering for a moment on a nearby holophoto of the two of them together before returning to Daniel full of steely resolve. “Strong… and strong-willed. She trusts her gut, which seems to serve her quite well most of the time. But I’m a scientist, Commander Vallero. I trust evidence. And the evidence I saw told me that your motives were impure. So to some degree, I’m glad to know that my observations had merit. I believed that Kate was allowing her past association with you to color her judgment, and if I’m understanding you correctly, then perhaps that was part of the point of your assignment to that mission.

“But what truly vexed me is this: no matter how I tried to convince her, she ignored me entirely. She was willing to risk not only herself, not only the lives of the crew, but the fate of the entire Federation on what her ‘gut’ told her about you. Trillions of beings across the galaxy will never know how lucky it was for them that Kate’s gut was right... this time. So yes, as I said, to some degree I’m pleased to be vindicated. But even so, I was still wrong; I’m thankful that Kate rejected my advice, in retrospect, because had she heeded it, the outcome may have been truly tragic. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that her strength of character could sway you to change your course, if indeed that is what happened. It seems I was right to trust evidence, but now the weight of the evidence is on the other side. So if I was initially right about you, then I do not apologize for the distrust. Instead, I simply re-evaluate my position.”

Straightening back in his chair and pulling in a deep breath, Vallero considered what she said. Having contacted him with words of apology and encouragement, Wright seemed to now be telling him how she really felt. Over the years, he had worked around quite a few scientists and otherwise logical thinkers to respect their opinions, and now was no different. Besides, he had reflected on himself quite a lot the past few months, and he would be the first to point a finger at himself.

Still, he found Wright’s unique mix of logical and emotional sides to be quite interesting. Vallero offered her a small twitch of a smile. “I changed my allegiance when I realized I had been duped. The Romulans weren’t aggressive, but actually refugees. Kate saw it and stood strong on her belief. Mine wavered, and I was forced to come to terms that I was fighting for the wrong side.” He spread his hands in front of him. “I thought I was standing strong for what was right and not letting friendship get in my way. And yes, I was assigned to sway her because of our previous friendship.” Vallero folded his hands again. “Turns out I should have trusted our friendship after all, and in the end I did. It wasn’t so much that she changed my mind, but when I did tell her everything, she chose to trust in me, that I could help fix things.”

Alexis was quiet for some time, regarding him with an inscrutable look on her face. When she did finally speak, her voice was quiet. “I suppose, Commander Vallero, that we are both only human. I regret my mistakes, and it sounds as though you regret yours. Ultimately, what matters is what you did at the hearing… and for that, you have my gratitude. Thank you.”

Vallero gazed back at Wright’s image on his screen for a long moment. He then lowered his eyes to the desk and gently nodded. “That’s what I keep telling myself.” Another quiet moment passed before he took a deep breath and offered a small smile. “I really owe Kate. Let me know if I can be of help to her, will you?”

Nodding, Alexis returned his small smile with one of her own. “Certainly. Thank you for your time, Commander. And… Good luck.”

Once the call disconnected, she let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding and looked once more at Kate’s face in the holophoto. She smiled softly and shook her head, murmuring, “I wonder if you even know what ripples you leave in your wake.”

Re: CSO Lt. Commander Alexis Wright

Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:47 pm

After watching this interaction develop for months while knowing that Vallero would show up at the hearings to help us in the end, it's so good to see a bookend to the story like this. I quite liked the duality of being both right and wrong at the same time, showing some great characterization from both of you. Well done!

Fork in the Road

Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:41 pm

by Alexis Wright and Kathryn Harper

The antique motorcycle had been meticulously maintained over the course of several centuries, and although some upgrades had been made, such as a micro-replicator that automatically replenished the supply of gasoline, driving it was largely the same as it was when it was new. It had been cared for by several members of an antique motoring club of which Kathryn Harper was a member, and now sat in a San Francisco garage, awaiting its next journey. Clad in riding leathers, she approached the motorcycle with her helmet under her arm, a travel bag in one hand, and the other hand clasped in that of her lover, Alexis Wright. Their footfalls echoed through the garage until they reached the bike and began to stow their luggage in the bike’s saddlebags.

After a quick visual inspection of everything by Harper, she lowered the motorcycle to its wheels and began to walk it out of the garage. “Everything looks good, and we do not want to keep your father waiting. Are you ready for another ride on this beast?” she asked, grinning back at Wright while leaning over the handlebars.

Wright had just finished pulling her long brown hair into a loose pony atop her head, and was preparing to don the smaller, lightweight helmet that matched her new ShockVinyl suit when Harper spoke to her. She looked up with a bright smile and said, “I’ve been looking forward to this for days. This… beast, as you call it, is quite an exciting mode of transportation, I must admit.” Her excitement was clearly evident in her speech, and she was obviously less apprehensive about this than she had been the last time. Closing the streamlined helmet over her head, she waited for Harper to do the same and watched appreciatively has her leather-clad lover mounted the machine before climbing on behind her. “I’m ready when you are,” she said once she was in position, using Harper’s form to hold herself steady with her knees and stabilize with her hands.

Harper threw her weight down onto the motorcycle’s kickstarter, and the engine roared to life, rumbling beneath them. She clicked on her helmet’s HUD, which interfaced with the bike’s computerized upgrades, and once she had determined that all systems were performing nominally, Kate applied some throttle and picked up her feet as they slowly rolled out onto the old street. “And here we go!” she added as commentary once they turned north onto Park Presidio Boulevard, excitement creeping into her voice despite having driven this motorcycle numerous times before. Like Wright, she had also been looking forward to the trip; it wasn’t often that she got the chance to do this outside of the holodeck, and the open road was alluring, especially with Lexy riding with her.

Adjusting for a firmer grip, Wright held on to Kate and leaned with the turns, her exhilaration matching that of her companion. Prior to the trip, she’d spent some time researching the sort of music that had been associated with this machine, intending it as a surprise. “I’ve taken the liberty of selecting some period-appropriate listening material… I hope you approve? Computer, play ‘Born to be Wild,’ low volume.”

“Yes! I love it!” Kate cackled with delight. As the motorcycle climbed the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Presidio and the Starfleet Headquarters south campus, she gleefully added, “Computer, turn it up!” Once the buildings fell away, the bridge finally towered ahead of them and the horizon seemed to open wide, revealing the panorama of the San Francisco Bay to the right and the Golden Gate opening out into the Pacific to the left. With the loud music encouraging her and the open road waiting enticingly ahead, Harper gunned the throttle. Exulting at the sensation of acceleration against the wind, the couple on the bike crossed the iconic bridge past the north campus of Starfleet Headquarters and into the Marin headlands, looking for adventure and whatever came their way.


Days later, Bill Wright sipped at his after-dinner cup of coffee to cover a smile as he watched his daughter and her lover show off the holograms of their trip together with such obvious humor and affection. Ever since they’d arrived that afternoon, he’d been struck by how his little Rosie had bloomed; as the three of them had prepared and then eaten the evening meal together, the conversation stimulating and lively, he became ever more certain that he should thank his lucky stars for the day his daughter had met Kate Harper. The past months had been a trying time for all citizens of the Federation; losing contact with Alexis had been terrifying for him, even moreso because of the loss of his wife, but now it seemed that he needn’t have worried, as this pair had been near the center of it all and had somehow come out even stronger. He’d only met Kate a couple of times, but it was clear that she made Alexis happy, and he couldn’t help but love her for that. As the evening progressed, Bill found himself unwilling to end the conversation despite the hour, and surmised that they felt the same from their stifled yawns coupled with insistences that they were not tired; laughter and comfortable conversation filled the room until exhaustion drove them all to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

The three of them spent much of the following day together as well, and Bill was quite disappointed that a previous commitment pulled him away in the afternoon. He hurried through his appointment and arrived home early, eager to spend more precious time with his little girl and her love before their scheduled departure. The moment that he entered the house, however, his words of greeting died on his lips, forgotten when strains of a haunting melody in a familiar timbre found his ear and filled his heart with an aching tenderness. His footsteps carried him, almost as if entranced, to the open door of the music room at the other end of the house. Leaning against the wall just outside the door, he listened with tears welling in his eyes at the slow, beautiful duet between a flute and the violin belonging to his late wife, Valerie. His grief for her was no longer fresh, but those strings had been silent since the day he lost her just a few short years ago, and he hadn’t realized how much he’d missed the sound of them echoing through their home. As the last notes of the song faded into silence, Bill shook himself back to the present. Making a token attempt to swipe the tears from his cheeks, he entered the doorway with a sad smile.

When he looked into the room, he found his daughter holding her mother’s violin and sobbing with the arms of Kate Harper thrown around her, flute still clutched in one hand. The sight only made him love both of them even more, and the sense of relief he felt that his little Rosie finally had this kind of love in her life made him draw a shaky breath. Alexis looked up at the sound and noticed him standing there, smiling at her through his tears. “Daddy!” she cried, launching herself into his arms and sobbing anew. He held her close, aware of Kate standing nearby, swiping away her own tears and composing herself before jumping into action, setting down her flute and retrieving Valerie’s violin and bow from Lexy’s shaking hands. She set them reverently in the case and, not wanting to intrude, decided to leave Lexy and her dad alone. Before she reached the doorway, though, Bill reached out an arm and pulled her into the embrace for a moment. He held them both tightly and whispered, “I’m so very proud of both of you. Valerie would be, too. Thank you for bringing music back into this house.”

Bill released her a short while later, not wanting her to feel awkward. “Thank you, Katie. Is it okay if Rosie and I join you in a short while?” Kate gave him a solemn nod, then reached out to smooth Lexy’s hair and give her hand a parting squeeze, feeling warm when Lexy squeezed her hand in return. When she left the room, she closed the door quietly behind her.

After the moment of grief had passed, Lexy and Bill sat in the music room, talking. Their conversation had begun with Valerie, then moved to music, and finally to Kate. “Making music together was actually one of the first things that drew me to her. Do you remember when Mom found out I was homesick and not practicing aboard Atlantis, and she sent me a holodeck recreation of this room? It’s something I’ve shared with no one else, but I shared it with her, even when we were nothing more than friends,” Lexy explained. “She just makes me feel… alive. I’m not sure what it is. I love the spark of creativity that goes into everything that she does.”

Bill smiled, once again noting the flush in her cheeks and sparkle in her eyes when she spoke of Kate. He’d seen it many times over commlink, but this was the first opportunity they’d had to have a private conversation in person in quite some time. “It’s wonderful that you both have such a love for music. It would have made your mother so happy for me to make music with her, but I just don’t have the talent… it seemed almost criminal to mar the beauty of her music with anything that I could do.”

“Daddy, you know it’s not like that,” Lexy chided, making a moue at him. “It’s about the…”

“Yes, yes, the joy of it, I know, your mother explained it a thousand times,” Bill interrupted with a chuckle. “I still only wanted to watch her play. She was so beautiful when she was doing something that she loved.”

When his daughter didn’t immediately respond, he looked over, catching her with a faraway look in her eyes, a familiar expression that told him that she was thinking, trying to sort out something important. Knowing better than to interrupt, he waited, and was surprised when she suddenly looked at him with a determined set to her jaw.

“I feel… exactly the same way about Kate. I love her, Daddy. It’s confusing, and it’s not rational, and I don’t really understand it, but I love her. And she loves me, I really don’t understand that part, but I know it’s true.” She looked down at her hands in her lap for a moment, which he knew for her signified a lack of confidence, but the resolve in her eyes when she looked up again was unmistakable. “I love Kathryn Harper, and I want to support her, and be at her side, and help her do the things she loves. All of my most positive projections for the future include Kate. I think… I mean, I… I want to spend my life with her. I think it’s supposed to be that way.”

Bill looked down at his daughter, almost as if he could memorize her face in this moment. He and Valerie had always supported Alexis in whatever she chose to do, but they had worried that she would never feel secure enough in her emotions to make this choice. Our little girl is finally spreading her wings, Valerie. He smiled affectionately, brushing the hair out of her face with his hands and leaning down to kiss her forehead. “You know, you’ll always be my little Rosie no matter what, but having spent time with your intended, I think you’re making an excellent choice. I’d be thrilled to have Katie as a daughter-in-law, and I know your mother would agree. In fact…” He paused, considering. “...I’ve been holding on to your mother’s wedding ring, but I think she would want you to have it. You can give it to your love when you’re ready to ask her. What do you think?”

Lexy looked at him in disbelief, her eyes brimming with tears. “Oh, Daddy…”


“Shine and rise!” Kate’s cheerful voice rang through the morning quiet as she tried to rouse Lexy from her slumber. “If we do not leave early, we will not have much time at Crater Lake! I will take the shower first… Bill was looking for you. I think he wants help with breakfast; I offered, of course, but he would not have any of it.”

Lexy dragged herself out of bed, pulled on a robe and shuffled blearily to the kitchen to find her father preparing breakfast the old-fashioned way. Yawning, she leaned against the counter and asked, “You needed me for something, Daddy?”

Bill stepped over to kiss her on the forehead before returning to his task. “Good morning, my Rosie sleepyhead! Doesn’t this look great? Katie was up early too, so we went to the farmer’s market together. She’s excellent company, and has a good eye for fresh fruit! Not to mention this stuff,” he added, indicating the pan of sizzling bacon before him.

The savory aroma made Lexy’s stomach growl. “Well, she’s in the shower now, and said that you needed my help… but it seems like you have everything under control?” She said, glancing around the room at the nearly complete meal.

“Actually... I just wanted to get you alone,” Bill whispered with a conspiratorial wink, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small package.

When the time to depart came two hours later, the three of them stood in front of the house to say their goodbyes. “Next time, maybe we can arrange for your brothers to come as well, hmm?” Bill said, hugging his daughter tightly. “Love you, Rosie. Miss you.” For her part, Lexy hugged him back just as tightly. “I love you and miss you too, Dad. I’ll be in touch soon.”

Once Bill finally released Lexy, he turned to Kate and exchanged a hug with her as well. “I’m really happy to know you, and I hope to see you again soon, Katie,” he said, then pulled back and held her by the shoulders, looking at her for a moment. “You’re going to need a nickname, though, to be accepted into this family. Your name is Kathryn, so… Kitty.” He beamed at her, willfully oblivious to her dubious expression. “Be safe, Rosie and Kitty! See you soon!” He stood and watched them mount the antique motorcycle, noting with amusement the stares of the neighbors as Kate brought the engine thundering to life, and waved as they roared away down the street. “Rosie and Kitty,” he chuckled to himself, turning to go back inside once they were out of sight.

Lexy waved back until she could no longer see him, listening over the helmet comms as Kate mused about her new nickname. She felt different than she had when they’d set out in San Francisco, but she couldn’t fathom how the added weight of a ring made her feel somehow lighter.

Re: CSO Lt. Commander Alexis Wright

Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:37 pm

Lots of feels...especially remembering Lexy's mother, Bill's wife. The music aspect gives depth to the characters and connects them as a family. I'm glad to see they have Bill's blessing and approval. The last line is artfully done!

Use Your Illusions II

Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:59 am

by Alexis Wright, with Kathryn Harper

The sand beneath Alexis’s blanket still radiated some of the day’s warmth, despite the fact that the suns had long since dipped beneath the horizon. The constant sound of waves crashing against the shore provided the sole accompaniment to her inspection of the foreign constellations that stretched across the Risian night sky. Long, peaceful moments passed before the jarring sound of Kate pointedly clearing her throat prompted Lexy guiltily back to the question she’d been blatantly avoiding. Sighing, she turned her head to the right toward Kate lying next to her on the moonlit beach. “To be honest, taking the test isn’t really something I’d planned to do, but T’Kirr talked me into it. She sponsored me, in fact.”

“Oh?” Kate’s brows rose with interest. “The Commodore would not have suggested that you take the test unless she thought you capable, of course.”

Lexy sighed again, turning back to point her eyes skyward. “She said that it would be good for my career, but that’s not terribly important to me. She didn’t really get my attention until she suggested that I should do it to better support you. I promised them that I would, you know. So, when she brought it up… there wasn’t much choice in the matter. I didn’t mind, though,” she quickly added, “If it helps me support you, then I’ll do it. It was like that.”

They laid there wordlessly until it became clear that Lexy would add nothing further, and Kate ventured another question. “The test is different for everyone… what was it like for you? Or would you rather not say?”

Knowing that this would inevitably come up did not serve to make Lexy feel any more prepared to talk about it, but she knew that she needed to get it off of her chest. “It…” she said, then paused, unsure where to begin. “I didn’t know much about the test going in, only that it would test my leadership abilities. I didn’t really think I had any of those, though, so I was fully prepared to fail a test for the first time in my life.” Lexy rose to a sitting position, gazing out toward the surf; she grabbed a fistful of sand and watched it run out through the hole created by the imperfect seal of her pinky finger. The strong breeze blew the sand onto her clothes, and she clenched her fist to stop the flow. Without looking up, she said, “Computer, reduce wind intensity by eighty percent.”

Once the breeze died away, she allowed the flow to resume and the sand to stream down to form a small pile before her, just beyond the edge of her blanket, idly adding more handfuls to it as she spoke. “The ship I was commanding was carrying a diplomatic delegation, which included my brother Bryan, to some relatively routine…” She stopped abruptly, again clenching her fist to halt the flow of sand, her gaze focused on something that wasn’t there. The flow of both words and sand resumed a moment later with a shake of her head. “No. The details aren’t important. What matters is that I was presented with a seemingly simple decision between two options, one of which was clearly supported by all of the information available to me. But even though I made what was objectively the ‘right’ choice, things began to go wrong. I was presented with an opportunity to choose again, and I reviewed my options with the new information in mind, but came to the same conclusion. And again, the situation grew worse. When the opportunity to change my mind came up a third time, I realized that this must be their test… in other words, would I trust some fabled gut instinct instead of the data in order to get out of a bad situation?”

The neat pile of sand in front of Lexy grew as she continued her rhythmic pattern of taking a handful and then carefully allowing it to stream down from her balled fist. The mechanical motion, combined with the irregular cadence of the pounding surf, provided a somewhat hypnotic accompaniment to the words that seemed calm on the surface, but poured from her lips with an undercurrent of tension. “I decided, in that moment, that I was going to fail their fucking test.” The expletive was rare from her mouth, and she spat it percussively. “That I would show them that it was more important to me to stick to my principles… to follow the conclusions that I draw from the data rather than trusting my so-called gut when making that kind of decision.” Lexy’s body slowly began to betray her growing agitation; the quaver in her voice and tremble in her hands were subtle, but present. “They offered me the choice repeatedly, Kate, thrusting me into a position where I was forced to decide between being objectively right and being potentially more safe. It was easy at first, when the consequences were merely inconvenient, but it was hard when I knew making that decision again would mean that someone would get hurt. That someone important to me would probably die. That continuing along the path upon which the data had led me would mean that my choice would lead to the destruction of the ship, the death of every single person aboard, my own death, a diplomatic incident that could easily lead the Federation into war. When the choices became agonizing, I put as much time into analyzing and reviewing the data as I dared, frantically searching for an objective reason to change my decision. But there was never any reason, Kate. The choice was always clear.”

The last of a handful of sand trickled out of her fist and she opened her hand, blankly regarding her palm before angrily plunging it into the tidy mound she had created, scattering it haphazardly in every direction, erasing its existence in a matter of seconds. This unusual emotional act of destruction and disorder left her feeling cold and hollow, and she hugged her knees to her chest, resting her chin between between them as she stared off at the distant horizon, trying to ignore her awareness of Kate’s concerned eyes silently watching her. When she continued, her voice was quiet. “I wish I could say that I made what I knew to be the right choice with defiance and certainty, every time, to the bitter end… but that’s not what happened. Once the consequences got serious, the struggle was less between me and the test and more between me and my own self-doubt. It shook me, deeply, to see a choice I’d made get people killed. Get Bryan killed. I asked others aboard the ship for input, practically begging for someone to give me a reason to revise my choice, but they all deferred to me… as they were programmed to do. It’s not until then that it really sunk in for me what it would mean to be in command, to have that kind of power in my hands alone, and I was so incredibly glad that I would fail this test, that I would never be asked to make such a decision. Frankly, I actually wasn’t certain that I could even continue to make it during the test, despite my knowledge that it wasn’t even real. When I realized that my next decision would finally result in the destruction of the ship, I was actually relieved. As soon as my death was imminent, the tortured screech of twisting metal drowning out the panicked cries of my friends and colleagues barely visible through the choking smoke filling the bridge vanished, and I suddenly found myself alone in an empty holodeck with an empty voice telling me that the test simulation was complete and advising me to take a moment to collect myself before emerging. I stayed in that empty room for what felt a long time, Kate, huddled much like I am now and trying to put myself back together again. It even occurred to me that this might be part of the test as well, seeing how quickly I could recover, but I didn’t care… I was pretty sure I’d already failed. I wanted to fail.

“Ultimately, I decided that I should recapture some of the defiance that I’d had initially; it had been very difficult, but I’d shown them how committed I was to trusting data above all else. I wanted to gloat in their faces, when they saw me defiant in the face of failure because my principles were more important to me than whatever they wanted to turn me into.” The bitterness in Lexy’s voice was almost palpable, and she paused to compose herself before proceeding. “So, that’s the state of mind I was in when I went out there to receive my glorious failing grade.” She laughed, a harsh and humorless sound. “But my fragile smile of triumph died the moment I saw them, Kate. I don’t even remember everything they said to me, their congratulations and words of praise for my success. Success!” She laughed again, surreptitiously raising a hand to swipe away tears. “They called that a success. I was wrong, Kate. The test wasn’t what I thought it was at all. No, they were impressed that I never second-guessed myself, and said that I’d demonstrated that I have what it takes to be in command. My stomach dropped; I felt sick. Getting myself and everyone else killed because I was too damn stubborn to abandon my own stupid principles is what passes for success?” Swallowing hard past the lump in her throat, she fought to keep it together long enough to finish her thoughts. “I was so shocked that I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t even tell them that I didn’t want to pass their stupid test. I just stood there limply while my hand was shaken and tried to nod in the right places until they sent me on my way, a newly-minted command officer.” Her vision blurred and she dropped her head, giving in to something that wasn’t exactly sadness, but rather the sheer overwhelming emotion that she was not equipped to hold at bay any longer.

Kate watched as Lexy buried her face in her arms and quietly shook, the soft sounds drowned out by the wind and the waves. Kate tried to speak, but was stopped short by a firm gesture. With hesitant uncertainty, she finally offered Lexy a brief but comforting touch before retreating to remain quietly present nearby in accordance with the troubled woman’s apparent wishes. Time passed in silence, apart from the wind and the waves, and the stars slid some distance across the great dome of the sky before Lexy lifted her head again to speak again.

“I haven’t been able to talk to you about any of this,” she began, her tone matter-of-fact, “because essentially what I’m saying is that I think anyone who wants to have command-level responsibility has something wrong with them, not to mention that I think the concept of a ‘gut’ that one should trust is silly. I would be insulted, if I were you. But I also know that neither of these things make me think less of you, and I don’t know if you can understand. I never wanted this responsibility, Kate. I think there would have to be something wrong with me to want it, and the concept of me trusting my gut is silly. But you’re not me, and these things work for you, and that’s okay. Do you see? It’s just that we’re different. I love Kate Harper, even the parts of her that make no sense to me. And I don’t want this responsibility, but I’ll accept it to support the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, even if I’m going to have to do a lot of thinking to figure out whether I’m even worthy of it in the first place. I passed the test, and what’s done is done. So… we’ll just move forward from here.”

Kate spoke softly from her position reclined on her beach blanket, her eyes pointed toward the stars. “You said you did not know much about the test; would it comfort you to know that it is designed to put you in one of the worst situations you could possibly face in command?”

Her brow furrowing slightly in surprise, Lexy looked back at Kate over her shoulder. “Really?”

“Really,” Kate confirmed, tipping her chin down to meet Lexy’s eyes, dark and unreadable in the dim moonlight. “If you think about it, it makes sense. They test you at your worst, with the understanding that if you succeed, most of the other decisions you must make while in command will be comparatively simple.”

After a moment’s thought, Lexy sighed and released her legs, shifting to recline similarly on her own blanket. “That makes sense, logically. I say that I would have to be crazy to want the responsibility, and I still think that’s true, but I know logically that the responsibility isn’t always such a heavy burden.” She glanced over at Kate, wondering briefly about the differences between them and admiring the strength that she knew she didn’t possess, before returning her gaze to the heavens. “Don’t worry. I’m not saying that I hate it or won’t do it. I’m just saying that I have some thinking to do about it.”

Rolling to her left and propping herself up on an elbow to face Lexy, Kate smiled. “Of course. Thinking is what you scientists do, is it not? Take your time. But I think you should be proud of yourself.”

Again, Lexy couldn’t help but turn to look at her with a slightly furrowed brow. “What, because I passed the test?” The incredulity in her tone was unmistakable.

“No,” Kate laughed, shaking her head. “I mean you should still be proud of yourself for sticking to your principles. They are an important part of what Starfleet stands for. Your approach may be somewhat different than mine, but the principles are the same. You have seen me make decisions based on my principles, have you not?”

Lexy studied her, considering her words. This conversation had certainly gone in a direction she hadn’t anticipated, but she wasn’t particularly surprised, as similar conversations had done the same in the past — it was, in fact, a large part of why she sought them out. Turning her thoughts to the events of the past months and years, she found herself drawn to Kate’s perspective in the decisions to not fire upon the Romulan refugees, to disobey orders and steal the ship, and a variety of other decisions Kate had made as a matter of principle and that Lexy had heartily agreed with, both at the time and through the lens of hindsight. In her mind, she held these emerging realizations up against the negative experience she’d had with the test, but found it beyond her ability to reconcile at that moment. “You… make a compelling point, but again, I’ll need to think about it.” She turned her eyes back to the sky and stifled a yawn; the movement of the heavens meant that this simulation had been running for some time, and it was getting quite late. “I’m too tired to think about it much more right now, I’m afraid.”

Stretching, Kate made understanding noises and rubbed her eyes, then gave Lexy a look that was discernibly affectionate, despite the dim light. “You say that coming here helps you to relax. Hopefully that has been accomplished?”

Lexy had already noted the fading of the stars, as the sky was just beginning to lighten with the streaks of the approaching dawn. “Yes,” she said, nodding, “I do love this simulation. It always helps me think, as well… but it’s not the same as the real thing. I think I’m ready to go now,” she added with a glance toward Kate, who seemed to be pleased enough by the positive change in Lexy’s state of mind to respond with a smile and a nod of apparent agreement. With one last look around the comforting setting, she took a deep breath and said, “Computer, end program.”

Taking a moment to collect herself, Lexy blinked to readjust her eyes to the blank walls before finally rising to her feet. “Thanks for the talk,” she said with a faint smile, and then walked out of the empty holodeck. Alone.

Stepping Stones

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:49 am

Stepping Stones
by Alexis Wright

Lexy was sure she’d be tired at the end of such a chaotic day among the treacherously beautiful quantum filaments, but her mind hadn’t stopped buzzing with possibilities ever since Kate and Kuari had spoken to her of publication. She hurried through a dinner with Kate in a rather preoccupied state and excused herself, against protestations that they’d planned to watch a movie together that night, to depart for her little-used office. Once she had prepared her workspace just so (according to her custom), she settled down to compose her thoughts.

More months than she cared to count had gone by since she’d started thinking about returning to academia long enough to earn her Ph.D., and somehow there had always been a reason to delay. It never seemed to be the right time, although she knew that the obstacles and roadblocks were almost entirely of her own making and in her own mind. She’d always prioritized other things, largely because the process of pursuing that final credential terrified her. Taking the command test had been one thing; it was something she had never aspired to, and so the prospect of failure had not been alarming to her. But this? This was something she’d been working toward since she was a child, and now that she was so close to the end, it was more difficult to muster the nerve to submit herself to her peers and mentors to be weighed and judged and potentially found wanting. More than that, her heart was set on asking someone whose opinion she deeply valued and respected to be part of this process, and something within her trembled at the thought of disappointing that person.

But in rare moments of fortitude like this, Lexy knew that these fears and anxieties could not, should not dampen her conviction or interfere with her goals. On a day like this, she was confident in her abilities, and she knew with complete certainty that her quick thinking in developing the sensor parameters to detect the quantum filaments had likely saved lives. It was because she stood on this solid bedrock of proof of the prowess of her mind that she was able to pass the next hour, and then another, and yet another in her office that night, her eyes clear and her voice strong, dictating her paper on the detection of these anomalies with the precision and clarity that she prided herself in.

When she finally made her way back home and climbed into bed next to an already-sleeping Kate, she did so with the knowledge that she’d created something she was excited to publish upon their return, another step on the path that she knew she wanted to walk despite her fears. She was asleep moments after her head hit the pillow, the darkness hiding the smile of satisfaction that curved her lips.

Re: CSO Lt. Commander Alexis Wright

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:57 am

Bravo! Nicely ties some of the events of the sim with her ongoing plans. Well done!
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