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After a Long Day, I Want a Quiet Night

Posted on Wed Jan 13th, 2021 @ 10:14pm by Lieutenant Evaad Hessen

Mission: Intersession
Location: Cargo Bay 2; Evaad's Quarters
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 1830

Though the USS Altai was largely in the hands of the Deep Space 11 staff, there remained much for Lieutenant Evaad Hessen to do. Resupply was largely a responsibility of Operations; it was his job to make certain that the ship had everything it needed when they departed. Missing spare parts, out of date maps, or spoiled food stores would disrupt their mission quite severely, and it was up to him to make sure everything they needed was on hand.

Thankfully, being busy helped focus his mind. Inspecting crates and comparing their contents to manifest lists was in principle a job for junior personnel. An ordinary Chief Operations Officer would assign the task to a promising Ensign and give him a team of Petty Officers and Able Crewmen. Evaad remembered that taste of responsibility that his own Chief gave him back on the Saturn over two years ago. Back then, he had virtually no motivation to advance, but that opportunity let him and senior officers see that he had potential and even some leadership talent, despite his unique needs.

He knew he should be looking for an Ensign on his team to encourage in this same way. But today, in the presence of so many loud minds from the station, he was desperate to drown out the voices in focus and monotony. Besides, his Ensigns also appreciated the down time.

The focus and the monotony helped, but did not work completely. There were just too many voices. There were a lot of people aboard the Altai from DS11, but also only a handful at a time in Cargo Bay 2. A lot of background noise, with between three and six individuals speaking louder than the rest. Arguably the worst combination of factors for him. Focussing helped.

Crate number 4310-Echo-Papa. It helped to subvocalize as he worked. Engineering Department. Machined parts and components for impulse engines. Impulse driver coil assemblies, counting one, two, three, officer present, Ensign Budaev, engineering, sent in to get gel packs, "Ensign! Far wall, second box from the right. Sign out whatever you take, but you're normally good about that." Sigh. Back to it. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, verified eight impulse driver coil assemblies. High pressure deuterium injector nozzles, counting one, two, three, four, five, six, verified six.

Another new officer, Petty Officer Tapihana, Nurse, not here for equipment, here for me. I've been working a lot, haven't I? It's already 1830. Wait, it is?

"Lieutenant Hessen!" She knows I can here her, and she knows that I know why she's here. Can't ignore her anymore. Especially now that she's said it out loud.

"Nurse Tapihana, but you prefer Kiri," Evaad said. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and tried to drown out the noise once again. "You're right. I should be done, but I'm happy working like this so go back to sickbay and tell them message delivered--wait." Zannah Vait. Sickbay got a communiqué from Counselor Vait. Of course she would do that. Evaad's working too hard again, isn't he, to the detriment of his mental health. "Fine."

He took another deep breath and looked to another officer working nearby, a young woman from his department. "Ensign Quispe Chambi. Ninan. Take over. I want the entire delivery verified by 0900. Assign additional personnel if you need it, and contact me if you have any problems."

"Yes, sir," the Ensign replied, smiling.

She's confident and capable. And also wants me out of here. She'll do fine. Nurse Kiri wants me to leave and won't go back to work until I'm back in my cabin. My goodness, she's even going to escort me there.

Just a few minutes later, Evaad was at the door to his cabin, the nurse on his heels. She was considerate; on the way back she had made an effort to quiet her mind. He was glad she was being so thoughtful; the sheer number of strangers on board, getting them ready to launch, was begin to grate on his senses.

"Do me a favour, Nurse?" he said as the door opened. "When you go back to sickbay, send a message back to Counselor Vait, telling her that you heard me say that I don't appreciate having her intrude on my life like this, but that you got the very strong sense that I was lying."

Nurse Kiri grinned. "Good night, Lieutenant." She walked away and all Evaad could hear was gentle laughter in her mind.

The door closed.

"Computer, activate programs Larose, Park, al-Fayad, Moran, and zh'kohlat."

At once, five holographic women appeared.

Instructor Emmanuelle Larose. Programmed with the knowledge of some of the best engineers and programmers, her primary job was direct instruction for new skills he wanted to learn. Slightly shorter than Evaad, she had pale skin, black hair, and bright blue eyes. She wore a Starfleet uniform that matched Evaad's in colour, with rank pips marking her as a Commander. Her uniform, however, was modified. It hugged her figure more tightly than normal and was partially unzipped to reveal the top of her chest. The heel on her boots was also slightly larger than standard. Emmanuelle was his first such hologram. Someone he could focus his attention on. She had no thoughts to sense and could capture his attention, through instruction and conversation alike. It was from her that the others were all created. She was the first one he installed when he arrived on Altai.

Assistant Amina al-Fayad. Programmed with similar knowledge as Larose, though with different practical skills, her job was to be a partner in solving technical problems. She was usually active if he was at his workbench, passing him tools and helping troubleshoot. She wore Starfleet operations gold coveralls; easily, he could admit a bit sheepishly, the least sexualized of his holograms.

Counselor Ciara Moran. Her uniform was of the same design as Larose's, but blue. She was a stand-in for Counselor Vait if he needed one right away. Despite being programmed to look Betazoid, her black eyes having the same sort of power over him as Vait's always did, Counselor Moran could not read his mind. Thankfully, she had so much knowledge of mental health and psychology that she could read him almost as well as a real telepath.

Coach Lena Park, programmed to be his physical health coach. She made him exercise and had him eating healthily, and was always there with encouraging words. From her skin tone and facial features, the avatar represented someone from East Asia on Earth. She wore a sports bra, sweat pants, and running shoes, and always seemed ready to take on the day.

Yeoman Thassi zh'kohlat. The beautiful Andorian was his most recent creation, made after he became a department head. He needed someone to help manage his calendar and make certain he was on schedule for things. Her outfit was a 2260s red minidress Starfleet uniform.

His quarters were equipped with both holographic emitters and extra computer buffers, installed over a period of time with the help of Chief Engineer Batchelder until the week before his unfortunate medical crisis. The various holographic characters could now all run at the same time. Indeed, barring the ship going to Yellow or Red Alert, he could leave their programs running in background mode. They could turn their power down to essentially nil, leaving just enough awareness to hear themselves be summoned, or run complex calculations without their avatars on, or even manifest themselves at will to do something in his room.

Whether he needed them for work, for conversation, for listening, or even just to concentrate on, they were virtually always helpful whenever the Lieutenant returned home after a shift.

"Evaad, you were supposed to finish your shift almost two hours ago," said Thassi.

"Counselor Vait copied me on her message to sickbay," added Ciara. "It's important to keep track of time. I know you enjoy the zen of repetitive, mindless work, but this is too much."

"You have permission to take longer breaks this week, Evaad!" said Lena, cheerfully. "And the station and planet have so much to offer!"

Another deep breath. His technique for centering himself. It usually work, at least for a few moments. Now that he could focus on these five holograms, the noise from outside faded to nothing.

"So many people," he said quietly.

They all knew what he meant. He was improving, but walking through a crowded starbase or an urban centre, where the population density was much higher than even the ship and large promenades meant little to block his eyelines meant that the noise got deafening very quickly, was a lot to ask of him during his time off.

Thankfully, they were prepared.

Amina spoke next. "I have something for you. A little project I've been working on." She guided him to the workbench and showed him a pair of earbuds. "These are noise-canceling, and they connect to our holo-buffers."

"You can fixate on our voices as you walk through a crowd," explained Emmanuelle. "But we can still hear noises around you and let that data in if it's useful. Like a danger, or someone trying to talk to you specifically. With our voices in your head, it should help block everyone else's."

"And I have two activity ideas for you," said Thassi. "One, the holosuites on DS11 have hundreds of programs that we don't have here. I can reserve two hours for you, and if you bring along an isolinear chip one one us can join you. Two, there's an island chain in the Southern Hemisphere of New Bajor that has been developed as a resort for extreme relaxation. One single cabin per island. Beam in and beam out. There are three available spaces there right now; I can book you in for tonight, and you'll be the only sentient within fifty kilometres."

Both appealed to him, truthfully. A place where he could have fun, play a few games he would ordinarily not be able to find, or a place to relax in nature by himself four twelve or even eighteen hours.

"Holosuites are fun," he said, "but they're also plentiful and that nature day sounds amazing. Thassi, can you please make the reservation for me? I'll head down to their lobby and beam-out site." He put the earbuds in and tested them. He could hear nothing except for the voices of his holograms. "And send a message to Ensign Ninan Quispe Chambi. Tell her her deadline is extended to 1400 hours. Tell her where I'll be in case of emergency. Also notify Commander Talbot. Tell him, barring any emergency and in line with standing orders during our time in dock, that I'll be back aboard by 1400 tomorrow."

After a harrowing time in the resort's busy lobby in New Bajor's capital, made easier with subvocalized communications with his support team back in his quarters, Evaad Hessen found himself surrounded one. Just trees and beach and a beautiful wooden cabin with a food replicator, a bed, and a living area. A few lamps outside gave enough light for him to sit on the beach to enjoy his meal and read a book -- a real paper book he found on the shelf inside. An undetectable energy field kept insects away.

His earbuds were left on a table in the cabin. He didn't need his holograms right now. For right now, he could hear one voice only. His own.

As he breathed in cool, salty air and felt his feet sink into warm, wet sand, Evaad Hessen was at peace.


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