Part of USS Endeavour: There is Another Sky

There is Another Sky – 4

Senior Officers' Quarters, USS Endeavour
January 2400
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‘If you roll your eyes every time you see me,’ Beckett said as Thawn opened her door, ‘you’re going to do yourself serious damage.’

‘Not before I do you serious damage,’ she countered, but let him into her quarters. ‘Remind me why we’re doing this here?’

‘Because T’Sann or Graelin might spot us down in the lab and Athaka might actually explode if you showed up at our place.’ He sauntered in, a box under his arm, and made a bee-line for the comfy seating.

She eyed the box dubiously. ‘You brought more physical records?’

‘Nope. Snacks.’ He set it on the coffee table and cracked it open to bring out a packet of potato chips. ‘Essential for long and boring data analysis.’

‘I do have a replicator here, you know.’

‘And yet, you’d judge me for using your replicator to make my snacks.’ He cracked the packet open and extended it towards her. ‘Crisp?’

Successfully manoeuvred away from another dig at him, Thawn shook her head and took the other armchair. ‘You’ve set up the secure server for us?’

‘And copied the files across. I thought you’d want to start from scratch with your own restoration process instead of whatever protocols T’Sann’s using.’ He smirked at her dubious expression. ‘Just figure you’re the kind of perfectionist where a non-expert’s work isn’t good enough.’

She tilted her nose up. ‘Well. You’re right. Archaeologists are only social scientists, anyway. I can’t expect too much of you.’

He crunched on a chip. ‘Sure, if you ignore all my training for dating techniques, artifact studies, or site-work. No hard science went into Ephrath, only feelings.’

‘Then I suppose you can do this yourself.’

‘Nope.’ He leaned back on the sofa, swinging his legs over the armrest. ‘Digital archive work is one of my weak spots. Professionally. Personally, it’s leggy blondes.’

Thawn visibly stopped herself from rolling her eyes as she set down a PADD and brought up its holographic interface to access the secured file copies. ‘Is that why you throw yourself at Elsa and strike out all the time?’

‘You misunderstand mine and Elsa’s dynamic. We flirt for fun, not because it’ll go anywhere.’

‘I’m sure that’s true,’ Thawn mused in a flat voice as she skimmed files, ‘right until Elsa says, “Your place or mine?” and then all of a sudden you’ll be serious as a heart attack.’ As his eyes narrowed, she expanded her PADD’s projected screen. ‘I’ll need access – read-only will do – to the ongoing file restoration. I can learn a lot from what’s already been done, and I might need to copy other fragments if your assessment of what T’Sann’s drawing from is wrong.’

‘You want me to do that so your fingerprints aren’t all over the server records, I assume,’ he drawled.

‘If someone takes a glance and sees your name making edits and copies and access alterations, nobody will bat an eyelid unless they look deeper. If the Chief Operations Officer is giving herself access to Science Department files? That might make Graelin at least ask,’ she pointed out.

Beckett shrugged. ‘Fair enough. Easily done.’ He put down the chip bag and hopped to his feet, meandering about her quarters as he tapped on his PADD. ‘I didn’t think your place would look like this.’

She tensed. ‘Like what?’

‘Modern art,’ he said, nodding at a piece on the wall. ‘Never would have pegged you as a Torkarey fan. He’s too… what’s the word. Fun?’

‘Sorry for not having walls covered in classical paintings; I live to reaffirm your worldview’ Thawn muttered, not looking up from her work. Then she paused. ‘I don’t like Torkarey for being fun. I like the blurred edges, the hint of movement, the way they work sometimes even beyond the canvas, the hint of…’

‘Freedom?’ He smirked at her. ‘Guessing you had Commander Eltaron at the Academy too, huh.’

She’d stiffened at his suggestion of agreement. ‘Only first year. Then I moved on to real work.’ A notification flashed up on her screen. ‘That’s the access I need. This is going to take a while and if you’re not that good with data restoration, I’m not sure why you’ll stick around.’

Beckett frowned, still wandering about her quarters. ‘Because I pulled you in to help me, so the least I can do is keep you company instead of ditching this work on you? Besides, HT training this week got rescheduled with Rhade away.’

‘Ah. Yes. The away mission.’

He glanced at her, raising an eyebrow. ‘What’s it even about? Him leaving last-minute to go help Dathan with something must be pretty important.’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘He didn’t tell you?’

She pursed her lips, not looking at him. ‘Does it matter?’

‘I guess if my boyfriend left for three or four nights with about five seconds’ notice, I’d at least like an explanation. Tar’lek said he volunteered for it.’ That made her freeze, and Beckett stared. ‘You didn’t know that?’

‘I’m not talking about this with you.’

But Beckett kept talking, thoughts racing as he added things up. ‘Three months ago, Rhade stays in the brig by choice until he’s needed to bust the captain out of a Romulan prison – fair enough. Except that was also to rescue Lieutenant Dathan. For whom he’s now gone on a mysterious away mission with no notice. Spicy.’

‘They work together. They’re friends,’ said Thawn, jaw tight. ‘This is hardly a scandal of the century.’

‘And yet, he didn’t explain to -’

‘Do you have a point, Beckett?’ At last she rounded on him, eyes flashing. ‘Or did you stick around to poke holes in my life for nothing but your petty satisfaction?’

He froze, eyebrows raising. Then he lifted his hands. ‘You’re right, senior officers going off on away missions unexpectedly isn’t a scandal. I was gossiping and, yes, teasing; I apologise.’

‘It’s fine,’ she said transparently, and turned back to her screen. ‘Let’s just work.’

Cautious, he padded back to the sofa. ‘I swear I’m not trying to dig,’ he said slowly. ‘But I figured you two were spending lots of time together lately.’

‘This isn’t digging?’ Thawn muttered, before sighing. ‘We’re – I suppose we’re dating. Which is a complicated prospect with someone you’re arranged to marry anyway. Where we’re only at the point of talking about our day over dinner, and not at the point of discussing how much his various friendships impact his major decisions.’

‘But unlike if you were really casually dating, it feels relevant and like you’re entitled to know if he busted himself out of prison for someone who’s not you? Life and death aside.’

‘I’m not going to be indignant if Lieutenant Dathan matters to him enough to influence his choices about Tagrador. Or for him to drop everything to go on a mission with her. These are normal things for colleagues and friends to do.’

‘But you’re indignant,’ Beckett said cautiously, ‘that you don’t really know what he’s thinking.’ In her silence, he pushed the potato chips across the coffee table.

She was still watching her screen, not him, but she did take a chip. ‘I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to know who and what’s important to your betrothed.’

‘Sure. Does he know who and what’s important to you?’

‘I don’t have that many people on board anyway,’ she said, seemingly without thinking.

‘Really? It’s just Elsa?’

Now she looked defensive, realising her gaffe. ‘The other people I spent time with aboard have left. Or died.’

Beckett scratched his cheek, and considered why Thawn had been able to free up a slew of nights after long shifts to help him with a project that had absolutely nothing to do with her. Even before Rhade’s departure. He took back the packet of chips. ‘How’s the work looking?’

‘I’ve been at it for all of ten minutes.’

‘I mean as a project. It’s weird he’s looking at these files, right, and not any others?’

‘It is,’ Thawn allowed with a sigh. ‘There are files much less degraded. Or ones which, at a glance, it would be easier to restore. So I agree that he’s probably chosen these for a reason.’

‘Do you have any idea what they’re about?’ At her look, he leaned forward. ‘Even in the state they’re in, he had to identify them somehow if he’s looking for something specific. Which means he’s either been able to discern something from the files alone, or he has some sort of familiarity with the categorisations or meta-data from another source.’

‘Which suggests,’ Thawn said, ‘that you should look for where he might have learnt such a thing. Instead of watching me work.’

‘That’s a really good idea.’ He’d brightened for a moment, then froze and slumped. ‘Unless he studied Romulan archives lost with the supernova.’

‘Maybe he did, but don’t borrow trouble,’ she chided, eyes back on her screen.

‘Okay. There’s some overlap with historic Vulcan archival methods, of course, so that might give me something…’ Beckett sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands. ‘So before I dive into historiographic research records – more snacks.’

‘You’ve still got a box,’ she pointed out as he got to his feet.

‘That’s for me. You can’t steal my crisps.’

‘I didn’t say I wanted them.’

‘Then what do you want?’ he demanded, stood at the replicator. ‘Crappy junk food only.’

‘Is that essential to your process? That we both eat junk?’

‘Yes. And after Captain Federation demanding gourmet cooking from a goddamn replicator, because he’s too bloody fancy to take you out for a burger, I think you need it, too.’

‘I don’t think I would ever want to be taken out for a burger.’

‘And it shows. That might be fun,’ said Nathaniel Beckett, scion of a respected bloodline of Starfleet officers who could secure a booking at the fanciest restaurants in the two quadrants with no notice, and thus hardly a champion of slumming it himself.

‘Fine. Chocolate-covered menju nuts.’

‘My, that’s practically bar-food. Now we’re talking.’ He replicated a bowl and set on the table between them, before throwing himself back down on the sofa with a new packet of chips and his PADD to begin his own work.

For long moments, nothing but the chirrup of their devices could be heard as they worked, until Thawn popped a nut into her mouth, swallowed, and said, ‘Dai bao.’ As he lowered the PADD, gaze quizzical, she shrugged. ‘Preferably pork. Better than a burger. There were some great places to get them -’

‘Near campus,’ he finished with an approving nod. ‘You ever told Rhade you’d prefer something more like Chinatown street food every once in a while?’

Her smile was tight, guarded but not unamused. ‘Of course not,’ said Thawn, returning her focus to her work. ‘He’s too fancy for that.’