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A Rewarding Lunch

Posted on Thu Jan 11th, 2018 @ 10:56pm by Lieutenant Alana Tovan & Lieutenant Commander Walter Prescott

Mission: A Day in the Life
Location: Location TBD, Starbase 332

A handful of Starfleet personnel had passed through the observation lounge in the last ten minutes. Most of them never even noticed the station's Chief of Operations standing near the large viewports. One or two happened to make eye contact. They acknowledged his presence with a smile, but none of them said anything.

Walter didn't really mind. One of the benefits of serving aboard a facility like Starbase 332 was even members of the senior staff were not always immediately recognizable wherever they went. The fact that he was still relatively new meant others were even less familiar with who he was. They might have recognized his name, but not his face.

In all honesty, the opportunity for a little peace and quiet was a welcome one. Learning to understand the context and history of this particular department while simultaneously being expected to lead it without interruption was proving to be more of an effort than Walter had anticipated. Every transition came with its own unique frustrations as people became more comfortable with new working relationships and expectations. Walter had added to that sense of frustration by deciding to change how the department itself was organized. Despite being the most sustainable plan for moving forward, the unexpected shake-up had still left people feeling off-balance.

One of those individuals was Lieutenant Alana Tovan. Walter had been trying for some time to arrange a less formal meeting in hopes of getting to know her a little better. Thus far, the lieutenant had turned him down every time. He hoped this attempt would be different.

Alana hadn't really been looking forward to this meeting. Recent interactions with her other supervising officer, Lt. Commander Takota on the Carthage, left her dreading any more social interactions. Alana preferred to keep her head down and do her talking with her work. But Prescott insisted on meeting with her. She just hoped she didn't make it too awkward. Alana approached Prescott carefully, just in case his full attention was elsewhere. "You wanted to see me, sir."

"Yes...Lieutenant," Walter said, turning toward her with a smile, "I was hoping we could catch some lunch."

"Oh," she replied sheepishly. "I was just about to go over some reports. Maybe I could get a rain check?" she asked, not quite sure if it would work.

"This would be number fifteen, if I'm not mistaken," he replied. Walter hated having to point it out, but the fact Tovan had managed to avoid meeting with him one-on-one that many times made it pretty clear something was going on. She seemed fine whenever they were working on a specific project or discussing something relevant to an immediate task. Yet when it came to discussing her future within the department, Tovan would push him away.

She sighed. He wasn't wrong. She had been avoiding having to talk to him on a personal level. Alana was positive that he wanted to talk about her heritage, even if that had nothing to do with it. But it was something that was always on her mind. "That... is probably about right. I suppose I can finish those reports later, sir."

"I promise I won't keep you past midnight."

[[Harvest Echo, Concourse 42]]

Although Walter had never spent much time on this particular concourse before, certainly not enough to be familiar with the various establishments, the Harvest Echo was turning out to have been a good choice thus far. He looked down at the glass in his hand and watched the dark, bubbly liquid swirl around a moment before bringing it to his lips and taking a sip. Then he lowered it again.

"So...tell me about yourself, lieutenant," he said.

Alana picked at her salad. Asking her to tell him about herself was a loaded question. Where should she even start? "My history is noted in my file, sir. I graduated with Honors from Starfleet Academy in 2386. After that I served time at Earth Station McKinley before being transferred to the..."

Walter raised an eyebrow in Vulcan-like fashion.

Tovan stopped in mid sentence, something an eyebrow lift of that intensity tended to cause.

"I've been over your service record already." The tone of Walter's voice wasn't so much condescending as it was matter-of-fact. A service record simply wasn't enough information to give him what he was looking for. "I want to know more about you," he continued, "where you come from, what you like to do in your off hours, what you're hoping to get out of this assignment."

She was quiet for a moment as she collected her thoughts. "Well, I was born on Starbase 314. I lived there for several years before my father...left, and then moved to Earth with my mother. Honestly in my off hours I just try to get better at my job. What I'd like to get out of this assignment, and any other assignment, is to prove that I'm my own person. That I'm better than the legacy that was left for me." Alana was almost shocked at her admission. It wasn't something that she liked to talk about.

It's progress, Walter thought to himself. She had shared with him something no amount of studying personnel records could have ever confirmed. At least, not the records available that were to him at the moment.

"I can't say I know exactly what you're going through," he told her, taking another sip from his glass, "My mother was an officer in the fleet, so we moved around a lot when I was growing up, but we were almost always together. There was never really any pressure for me to live up to anyone else."

Alana shook her head. "It's not a matter of living up to anyone else, sir. I'm not proud of the legacy that was set for me. In fact, I quite resent it. Everyone I knew growing up passed judgement on me because of the shape of my ears and the color of my blood. I've been fighting an uphill battle all of my life, to prove that I deserve to be here. To prove that I'm better than those that came before me. To prove that I'm not following in his footsteps. My mother didn't push me to be the best. She just wanted me to be more than I am."

There was a sudden pause. Nothing in Walter's own experience came close to what the lieutenant was describing. He knew there had to have been something there, something just below the surface, but this was more than a matter of professional decorum. It was an ongoing struggle for her very identity as a person.

"I'm sorry, lieutenant."

"It's not your fault, Commander," she replied. "I know who is to blame, but he's hasn't been around in a long time."

"Twice, my family was separated because of my mother's work," Walter said, "and both times it was because there were a lot of people who felt having civilians aboard a starship in the middle of a war zone was a dangerous liability, especially if those civilians were children."

"I managed to avoid growing up in a war zone. My mother and I had already moved back to Earth before the Dominion War started. I can't imagine that we would have stayed on the station though. She was a civilian too."

"I was young the first time it happened, too young to really understand," he continued, "The second time was during the war with the Dominion. I was right at that age, you know? I knew what it meant that we were at war. It didn't matter how far away we were, my mother was still out there. I worried about her. She worried about me, too."

"I'm sure my father was out there somewhere during that war. I never found out what happened to him. Not that I really cared. Since my mother was back on Earth, and I never really had any other family, I didn't have to deal with that sense of worry. I was old enough to understand what was happening, but not all old enough to do anything about it."

Walter paused again. Despite having grown up with different life experiences, there were just enough similarities to make some sort of deeper connection, something beyond simply a professional interest in engineering. He might not have understood what it was like to question his very identity or to be made to feel ashamed of who he was, but there experiences of other things like civilian life during the war were not necessarily so different from one another as they first appeared. Perhaps this was the opportunity he had been looking for.

"That explains why you enjoy spending all your time with the Carthage..."

Alana looked a bit confused. "Does it, sir?"

"You said it yourself," Walter reminded her, "You were old enough to understand what was happening during the war, but not old enough to do anything about it. Seems to me like you prefer being in situations where you can actually do something."

She shrugged in response. "Maybe that's the reason. I feel like the Carthage is my engine room. It's the one place where I feel like I am truly in charge. Not that I have a need to be in charge and order people around. Honestly, I'm not very good at delegating. But at least there I feel like I can do what I think needs to be done, and I can feel like I'm doing something to prove that I'm better than they think I am."

"So prove it."

"Sir, I don't know what more I can do to prove it. If I haven't proven anything yet, then I doubt I'll be able to."

Walter leaned forward, folded his hands, and rested his elbows against the edge of the table. "I've served aboard stations for a good chunk of my career," he told her, "but I'm still relatively new to this station. I need someone to help me keep things running, someone willing to actually do something. I need you."

Alana was almost taken aback. She had been told to do things plenty of times, but being told that she was really needed was something new. She leaned back in her chair, silent for a moment while she collected her thoughts. She was already second guessing herself and if she really was the one he needed. But then maybe this was exactly the sort of opportunity she was looking for. "What did you have in mind?"

"Deputy Chief of Operations, Resident Vessels."

It would be no small leap to go from managing one engine room to managing engineering over all resident vessels. Besides the three starships, the station had dozens of couriers and hundreds of shuttles, all of them permanently assigned to the station. It would be a huge responsibility, as well as a daunting one. "I... I don't know what to say."

"It's a big leap, don't get me wrong," Walter said. Despite having tried for several weeks to steer their conversations in this direction, he was almost certain the offer he'd just put on the table was not at all what the lieutenant had been expecting. Going from overseeing a single engine room to overseeing an entire division was not small thing. "...but I really think you have what it takes," he continued, "I don't micro-manage. It'll be your division. You'll be in charge."

"I'll be in charge?" It wasn't quite a question so much as a statement of disbelief."

"We'll meet at least once a week outside of the regular staff meetings just to make sure we're on the same page. I expect that you'll make me aware of what's going on, that you'll help me understand your division's needs, and that you'll convey for the department to those serving under you. At the same time, you can expect that I will be there to back you up in whatever way I can."

Alana's eyes were still wide as the gravity of everything settled in. She would be in charge of an entire division of a starbase operations department. She had always dreamed of having her own engine room, but this... This was so much more.


Tovan tried to clear her thoughts. "Sir, I'm honored. But do you really think that I'm right for this job? A lot of people wouldn't even trust me in my current position..." She gestured at the pointed ears hidden under her long jet black hair. "Because of my, condition, and all."

"I will be there to back you up in whatever way I can," Walter repeated. He knew there would be hesitation. Being a Deputy Chief of Operations came with its own set of challenges. No one, not even the most capable officer, could be expected to take on the position without some assurances they wouldn't be left out on a limb all by themselves. This was especially true in the lieutenant's case as she was already fighting an uphill battle because of her heritage. "I can't promise it will be easy," he told her, "but it will be rewarding."

Part of her felt like this was something that she needed to think over. But then, she really didn't have anyone to think it over with. She knew it wouldn't be easy, but maybe this was the chance she really needed to prove herself. Then again, it could be the chance to prove all of her doubters right. She could take the easy approach and keep her head down and not make waves. Or, she could take a chance on a potentially high risk, high reward situation. After a moment she realized that Prescott was looking for an answer, and she was just sitting there in silence. She nodded. "It's a lot of responsibility. But I'll do it, sir."

Lt. Commander Walter Prescott
Chief of Operations

Lieutenant Alana Tovan
Chief Engineer, USS Carthage


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