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Secret Keepers

Posted on Sat Nov 20th, 2021 @ 1:25am by Ensign Lialle Emaave & Ensign Alicio Perim

Mission: The Story of a First Contact Launch Day
Location: Junior Crew Messhall, USS Titan
Timeline: 2411.03.14 0900 Hours

Ensign Lialle Emaave stepped tentatively into the mess hall, repeating silently to herself the key facts of her cover story. Not because her cover was particularly complicated, but because it was almost identical to her real life history save for a few minor but key details, and it wouldn't do to get the two mixed up. The asset she had been assigned to covertly monitor and protect was intelligent and perceptive enough to notice such a slip and fixate on the seeming contradiction until she had uncovered an explanation, and Lialle had express orders to not let that happen. Her handlers had not specified what the consequences would be if she failed, and Lialle was quite sure she did not want to know.

In any event, there was no point in worrying endlessly over what could go wrong. There was only a job to do, and she would do it successfully. There was no other viable option. Focusing her keen telepathic sense, she quickly located the object of her search, but she did not approach them right away. Instead, she casually made her way over to the replicator, ordered a simple breakfast of uttaberry stew and chocolate milk, and then made a show of surveying the room for an available seat until she 'noticed' a Trill ensign sitting by herself at a table halfway across the room. She carried her tray over to her and said hesitantly, "Uh- h-hi. I'm Lialle, I'm new here. D-do you mind if I join you?"

Seemingly lost in a world of her own thoughts, Alicio was caught off-guard by the sudden approach of a stranger. Almost as if she was grabbed by the back of the neck and suddenly submerged in ice-cold water, the Trill let out a soft gasp. Her eyes darted up, an innate paranoia fearing the worst, but all she saw was the beady black eyes of a blonde Betazoid; just another Ensign on a ship filled with many different Ensigns. Taking a deep breath, she bowed her head before removing a rather large pile of PADDs away from the side of the table opposite to her, instead opting to place them on an adjacent chair.

“No, no. Of course not, I don’t mind.” She said with a small grin. “I’m… new here myself. You said your name is Lialle? I’m Alicio; engineering department.”

Lialle noted the Trill's reaction and allowed it to wash over her without any visible reaction, committing every sensation to memory. She allowed a shy smile to spread briefly across her face before sitting down across from her. "Nice to meet you, Alicio. I'm a flight control officer, but also a shuttlecraft pilot-- they're kind of short staffed from what I can gather and I'm qualified for both, so--" she shrugged. "I mean, it means more flying time, and there's nothing better than that." The Betazoid looked away, blushing slightly. Even though it was part of her assignment to befriend Ensign Perim, she still felt awkward sharing anything resembling a personal detail after having been on her own for so long, and that was even before she'd been... recruited.

Conscious of the silence that now hung in the air between them, Lialle cast about for an appropriate conversation topic that would not seem too nosy, but more like what two green ensigns might talk about while still serving an intelligence gathering purpose. "So... engineering? That must get exciting sometimes. I guess your bosses are trying to bury you in work already, before we even leave spacedock?" She gestured at the enormous piles of PADDs next to Alicio.

Alicio offered a polite smile to the Betazoid as she explained her stations. She supposed it was average procedures, though she wasn’t exactly sure nor did she really care about any of the finer details. Her eyes widened however when Lialle looked away and her cheeks turned a shade of pink. Alicio herself considered her personality to be along the shy spectrum, though she never got embarrassed when telling someone what she does, usually the opposite. Her mind raced however when an uncomfortable silence fell upon the two in the middle of the mess hall. Was it something she said that caused Lialle to blush? Was it how she was dressed or how she presented herself? It couldn’t be, they were all wearing the same uniform and Alicio introduced herself just as one would expect… oh Spirits! Did Lialle use her telepathic abilities to gaze into her deep subconsciousness to see something obscene?!? That’s why she blushed and looked away! Needless to say, Alicio was slowly freaking out.

But such a meltdown never came into fruition, as Lialle soon broke the silence with a question. Remembering the steps taught to her by her therapist, Alicio took incrementally long breaths until her mind was at ease. Her eyes darted from the Betazoid to the pile of PADDs to her side, then back to the Betazoid. “Um… no no, not really. I haven’t even met my boss yet actually. This is just um… personal projects. I… do some things on the side, not really a big deal. It’s all sanctioned of course! I-I don’t really do anything unless it’s sanctioned…”

“Riiiiiight.” Lialle nodded slowly. Gods, this woman would make a terrible operative. Thank gods it wasn’t part of her assignment to recruit her... at least, not yet. Presently Lialle realized her earlier involuntary blush had been misunderstood, and she felt her cheeks burning with renewed embarrassment. These kinds of misunderstandings never happened when she was around other telepaths... but then again, she wouldn’t as easily have been able to conceal her true purpose from one.

“So, uh... what kind of projects? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I understand,” she hastened to add. “I know some people can get a bit... proprietary... when it comes to their personal hyperfixations. I’m sure there are a lot of things that I do in my spare time that you wouldn’t want to hear anything about.” Gods, what the hell was that?!! You just all but told her that you’re a secret agent. Nice work, Lialle. Your bosses are going to be soooo excited if you blow your cover on the first day. Although she was secretly beating herself up for being so loose-lipped, Lialle was extra careful not to reveal any hint of this internal monologue on her face. It wouldn’t do to make the Trill feel even less at ease than she did already.

“Oh um you know… very boring stuff.” She gave a slight chuckle before taking hold of one of the PADDs. “Do you know the UIAP ThinkTank over on Callisto? Well, over the past decade, they’ve been working on this new method for synthetic-organic interfacing by utilizing a rare form of mycelial bioneural gel packs as a lubricant. Supposedly, this new method will quadruple the time it takes for an organic mind to interface with the Genesis Intelligence along with making it well… virtually safe for any sub-Vulcanoid neural patterns to interface. But you see here…” Alicio turned the PADD over to Lialle, the social context of one not exactly giving a shit about any of this nonsense seemingly lost to the Trill. “I’ve been going over some of the lab results from volunteers for the gel packs and one key discrepancy was that they refused to raise the Kardeshov factor by .09% on some of the packs in fear of… Spirits I don’t know, an overload? But what they could’ve done instead was just raise the P variable for the GI and left the K factor at a .12%...”

Her ramblings would go on for another few minutes, as Alicio went through several PADDs that detailed alternatives and ‘mistakes’ made by the team at UIAP, though these ‘mistakes’ were seemingly made as to keep within ethical codes. However, it wasn’t long until the Trill realized that she was on a tangent and a sense of embarrassment began washing over her. She abruptly stopped when detailing the molecular interactions between the GI Computer and the packs, her cheeks turning a dark shade of pink as she buried her face in her sleeves, seemingly trying to hide away. “...why did I say all of that, you probably didn’t want to hear any of it!” She groaned.

Lialle started and blinked rapidly, her attention having started to drift despite the necessity of documenting every detail for her superiors. Thanks gods she had other, technological means of recording her observations, as a supplement to her normally eidetic memory. "Oh, no, it's very fascinating," she said absently as she scrolled through the PADD to record the contents for later perusal and transmission, without actually registering a word of it. "You're obviously very passionate about your work. I can understand that."

She wondered if her superiors had any operatives in the think tank Alicio had mentioned, deciding that they probably wouldn't tell her even if they did and besides, the focus of her assignment was wider than just this specific project. The entirety of the person before her was in her charge, and she needed to keep abreast of everything the Trill was working on, despite the fact that it was all about as far over her head as a Capellan was over a S'ti'ach. Alicio was clearly brilliant, albeit insecure, and Lialle got the strong impression that she would gladly dump every last bit of her knowledge on someone if given a explicit invitation, a tendency the Betazoid planned to use to her full advantage.

Just then a thought occurred to her as Alicio's words finally penetrated her consciousness and piqued her curiosity. "You don't suppose this new interfacing thingy would be useful for helm control? I mean, to decrease the time between when a captain gives an order and the helm officer actually carries it out. I imagine that if a helm officer could interface directly with the helm controls and basically fly the ship with her mind, that would be-- I mean, it could save precious seconds during a battle engagement. It would certainly be an incredible asset, that is, if it were plausible."

Alicio eventually raised her head partially away up from her sleeves, like a mole poking its head out from a hole. The theory no doubt intrigued her, even though it was seemingly outlandish in many aspects. Her eyebrows knit into a frown, as her mind dwelled on the possibilities. “I-I don’t know. It’s like asking an EMH to communicate with a 22nd century replicator simply through codes and data. I guess it’s possible? But you need to upgrade the ship’s nav computer to a level comprehensible by the GI and…” Her eyes blinked as she stared out into the beady eyes of the Betazoid. “A-Are you sure you want to wear a weird jelly helmet the entire time you fly the ship?”

Lialle shrugged and laughed nervously. "I guess I don't like the mental image that conjures up... I mean, it was just an idea. I don't really know anything about any of this. I'm just a pilot; I think it's amazing that you've dedicated your whole life to solving these kinds of problems. I could never be an engineer. I'd be beating my head against the wall the first time something doesn't work when it's supposed to." In truth, Lialle's baseline intelligence quotient was high enough that, with sufficient study, she could become quite competent at any given task. But she was trying to stoke Alicio's ego in order to gain her trust, and that required a certain amount of exaggeration. "Flying the ship is much easier than fixing it. You just point and steer, and off you go. It doesn't require much study, just practice. It's nowhere near the same level as engineering."

A smile spread across Alicio’s lips, Lialle’s ploy seemingly to have worked for its intended purpose. Not one for an inflated ego however, the smile quickly faded and Alicio shook her head. “I’m sure I can’t plot vectors or navigate past dangerous anomalies as well as you can… I’ve never even been around any of those um… bridge consoles.” She shrugged, “So… Lialle? That’s a pretty name, I’ve never heard of it before. What um… does it mean?” Finding that question perhaps a bit too forward, Alicio bit her lips and looked down. She was never really one for small talk, though in her mind, she didn’t believe the one sitting before her would be interested in anything else but idle conversation.

The Betazoid processed the thoughts flitting across the surface of Alicio's mind and smiled inwardly. She fully intended to be seen as nothing more than a fellow officer of the lower decks, someone to pass the idle hours with and maybe trade secrets... especially those concerning any recent scientific advancements made by either party. But, unfortunately, one could not take without also giving, and it was now Lialle's turn to get personal... at least, as personal as her invented background made it possible to be. Thank god her superiors agreed that a shy persona would be more likely to get along with Alicio; this way she could appear reticent and hold some things back without arousing too much suspicion. Thankfully, the Trill's question had a straightforward factual answer, one that she didn't have to embellish or outright lie about. "Oh, it's a pretty standard Betazoid name," she said. "It means 'she who wanders' or 'flower floating on the breeze' depending on which linguistic scholars you ask, those most agree on the former." She cracked a wry smile. "I guess my parents were dooming me to a life in Starfleet with a name like that. I never have been able to shake that explorer mindset."

“I suppose so,” Alicio responded with a nod, her head eventually turning up though she was sure not to make any direct eye contact. “‘Flower floating on the breeze’... I think I like that better though, makes everything seem softer...” She whispered the last thought, though it seemed more to be a slip of her tongue than anything she explicitly wished to express to Lialle. Taking another deep breath, Alicio placed her left hand on her forehead. “...I guess this is the most appropriate next line of inquiry. Um… so you joined Starfleet to explore? That… seems kind of stereotypical doesn’t it? Well… you’ve been anywhere um… cool?”

Lialle flashed briefly on her classified exploits of the past year, and was grateful that Trills did not possess any predilections towards telepathy. "Well, I spent my senior year work-study on the Trinity dodging torpedoes and phaser fire from Klingons and Iconians and gods know what else." She smirked ironically. "Not exactly how I was hoping to spend my first year on a starship, but at least I got to do a lot of flying. So what about you? Is this your first posting?"

For a brief moment, Alicio’s cerulean colored eyes gazed over Lialle’s dark eyes. She had practically forgotten everything that had happened last year seeing as to how she was listed as a non-combatant, though perhaps that was more of a blessing as that was another year when the Federation came one step closer to extinction. “No, no um… I mean yes-wait I mean no not really I- No.” She looked down once again, her mind slowly starting to race once more as she considered her rather strange response, but she was quick to stop herself with a few deep breath. “The Titan is my first post, I was... recently given this rank. And I-I’m not really one for um… travel. Outside of Earth and well, of course Trill, I’ve never really been to anywhere else.”

Lialle nodded. "Same here. I mean, I haven't really been anywhere other than my homeworld and Earth, for Starfleet Academy." That wasn't strictly true, but she obviously couldn't tell Alicio what she had really been up to during her 'gap year' between the Trinity and the Titan. Besides, it better served her purpose to emphasize any similarities in their backgrounds. "I'm excited to finally get to do some real exploring. Do you think you'll ever get to man the bridge engineering station, or will you mostly stay down in the bowels of the ship?" She asked this in order to gauge how much time they would be spending together while on duty. If they would only really be able to see each other during their off-duty hours, then she would have a reasonable excuse if her superiors got too pushy in their requests for more detailed updates.

“M-Man the bridge station?!?” Alicio said with a gasp as her eyes turned away from Lialle. “I-I don’t think I can… I mean, I have the um… training? But I would never. No, no it’s too much I can’t.” With her face now turned towards the table, Alicio placed both of her hands on the side of her head, grabbing hold of it as if she was one of those holonovella house wives stressing over naughty children. “That’s too stressful, I can’t-I can’t be on the bridge…. I should get a note from my therapists. Oh spirits, do you think they'll-they’ll force me to go on the bridge? I haven’t even met the chief engineering… oh no, what if he is one of those Jellico type characters? Oh Lialle! What am I going to do?!”

For a moment Lialle couldn't believe the gift she had just been given. Alicio was completely vulnerable to her now, and what Lialle said and did in the next few minutes would form the foundations of their friendship... such as it was. After taking a moment to bolster her mind against the waves of panic emanating from the Trill, she said, "Don't worry about it, Alicio. Whoever the chief engineer is, I'm sure he'll never be as bad as Jellico." She smiled reassuringly. "And if you only just became an ensign, you're probably not going to have to do much beyond monitoring some consoles in Engineering. They won't put you on the bridge before you're ready, I'm sure of it. At least, they definitely won't give you bridge duty on your first day. It's not like you're the only engineering officer who's qualified for that, anyway. You've got plenty of time to get to the point where you feel like you're ready."

Perhaps it was the Betazoid’s words, or some fancy telepathic manipulation of Alicio’s very vulnerable mental state, but eventually after a few deep breaths, the Trill returned to the state she was prior to any panic. “You’re right. I’ll probably just mess things up anyway if I’m on the bridge station… staying in the RnD lab is where I belong, yes. I shouldn’t be anywhere else on this… very, very big ship… oh spirits, why couldn’t I have just stayed in Daystrom.” With another groan, Alicio collapsed her upper body down onto the table and buried her face in her sleeves once again. “Remind me to never get bored and try to experience something new ever again Lialle.” Alicio muttered between layers of fabric. The Trill’s guard was no doubt gone at this point.

"You were at the Daystrom Institute?" Lialle's voice was full of surprise and awe, though the former emotion was a fabrication; she had after all received a full briefing on her target before coming to the Titan, which included a complete up-to-date CV. "You must be really good at your job, then. As to never experiencing anything new again, I'm pretty sure that's a lost cause on a Starfleet ship. New experiences are all they talk about in the brochures, although the only new experience I've had is the chaos of war." She shrugged, then smiled reassuringly. "This might be a big ship, but I promise you won't be alone on it. Whatever happens, we'll face it together. That's what being lower decks is all about."

“I guess…” Alicio mumbled, though Lialle could sense the Trill feeling not as shitty as she felt before she had said those words. Slowly rising back up, with her hair now a slight mess than it was prior, Alicio looked around rather lazily. “I-I think I should be going…” She abruptly blurted out, to which Alicio quickly caught as her eyes widened and a hand instinctively came over her mouth. “I-I mean… um, I have some things I need to do. I believe I’ve loitered around here long enough… a-and it’s not because of you or I find you boring or anything!! I just… need to go, you know? Do you want to um… come with me?’

"Yeah, sure," Lialle said agreeably, recognizing that the conversation had accomplished several things and it was time to let their friendship incubate for a while. "I still need to find my quarters... I don't even know who my roommate is." This was a blatant lie, as her superiors had made all of the necessary arrangements to facilitate her assignment. "Let me check..." The Betazoid pulled a mini PADD out of her pocket and quickly looked up the crew quarters assignments. Her features formed themselves into a perfectly crafted expression of pleased surprise. "Well, how about that? It looks like we're going to be roommates." She turned the PADD around to show Alicio their room assignment.

Alicio blinked as her eyes glazed over the miniature PADD. It seemed Lialle was indeed telling the truth, and while Alicio had stayed in a room by herself the past few days, it was obvious she was due for a roommate seeing as to how there were two bunks. At least it was Lialle and not some scary Klingon; Alicio wouldn’t know what to do if it was a scary Klingon. Getting to her feet, the Trill looked to the rest of the PADDs that lay on the chair. “Do you um… mind helping me with some of this?” She asked, scratching the back of her head.

"Oh, yeah, of course! What are roommates for?" said the Betazoid with a shy smile. She gathered up some of the Trill's numerous PADDs, and between them they soon managed to have the whole stack well in hand. Together they left the mess hall, and as they headed out, Lialle felt a deep satisfaction at how their first meeting had gone. Her superiors would definitely be pleased.


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