SIM:JP: Dr. Rahman & LtCmdr Core: The Next Frontier
The events in this SIM occurred on stardates 239112.13-14.
((National University of Singapore, Earth))
::Well, Abba couldn’t say she didn’t try at least. Having accepted Dr. Cheah’s invitation, Roshanara soon found out that her host had planned out nearly every detail, even giving her an hourly itinerary for the day. Fortunately, he seemed to be understanding when she convinced him that she’d prefer to just keep it to the seminar she had been requested to give in the first place.::
::And by “convince,” it was more her telling him bluntly she was going to cancel the whole affair unless otherwise.::
::The lecture hall was gradually filling up as students and faculty slowly trickled in, more than she expected for the rather dry topic, but then, judging from some of the holoimagers, she suspected not all of them were here for their engineering studies but rather to satisfy their curiosities about the scandalous woman they'd read about in the news reports..::
::Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Roshanara took another glance before walking out of the lecture hall for a breather. She walked over to look out at the skyscrapers of the dense Asian city beyond when she heard someone call her name.::
MacNeil: Doctor Rahman?
::She turned around to see a young woman approaching.::
MacNeil: I don’t think you know me - I’m Kyla MacNeil.
::MacNeil. As in...::
MacNeil: I believe you served with my father aboard the USS Mercury?
::Roshanara could feel the color draining from her face. Of course. Graham MacNeil. The assistant chief engineer of the Mercury. He had been killed, along with fifteen other engineers on her first day as chief during a bombing.::
Rahman: ::nodding hesitantly:: I did. I regret I wasn’t able to give my condolences in person.
MacNeil: Actually, that’s what I’m here about. I wanted to say thank you.
::The words caught the former chief engineer off guard. Thank you? For what?::
Rahman: I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
MacNeil: It mustn't have been easy writing it, and from what I was able to get from my mother, you also gave your condolences to her in person.
::The Kriosian returned an apologetic shrug.::
Rahman: As personal as a holocall can be, I suppose.
MacNeil: It was a hard time for us - I just wanted to say thank you for making an effort.
::Roshanara nodded. The conversation she had shared with Lieutenant MacNeil’s widow had haunted her for some time. And now, to be confronted by his own daughter -- and yet, Kyla’s words provided a bit of healing of their own.::
::They shared a few more brief words, and then, just as quickly as she appeared, Kyla MacNeil disappeared into the crowd of students walking to their next set of classes. She heard Dr. Cheah’s voice from the lecture hall, announcing the start of the presentation. Taking a deep breath, Roshanara walked back inside.::
((Ninety minutes later, Emory Erickson Lecture Hall, National University of Singapore, Earth))
Rahman: ...as you can see in figure 22, due to the quantum slipstream drive’s unique tunnelling method, vessels above certain sizes such as the Galaxy class have yielded disappointing results in both simulation and field tests. The Starfleet Corps of Engineers has worked on finding ways to adapt these starship classes for the past several years, but such venerable designs may simply prove incompatible with the technology.
::She looked back out on the audience and saw a number of heads nodding off in addition to a few who had completely dozed off.::
::Well, so much for young minds. She supposed she should wrap it up.::
Rahman: Ahem. ::Flipping her presentation ahead a few slides.:: So while there still remain many unknowns regarding quantum slipstream technology, the expanded opportunities for transportation, commerce, and security enabled through quantum slipstream are clearly evident.
::She cleared her throat before continuing with her conclusion.::
Rahman: We find ourselves today standing on the edge of the next frontier. Continued research and development of the quantum slipstream drive may ultimately usher in a new age of exploration not seen since Cochrane’s first flight over three centuries ago. ::beat:: Thank you.
::There was a momentary pause before Dr. Cheah started clapping, and finally several others slowly began joining in. The engineering professor stood up and went over to shake her hand before taking the podium.::
Cheah: Thank you, Dr. Rahman. That was most fascinating. Well, with that said, I think we have some time for questions, yes?
::She nodded in return, and several hands indeed went up. She was pleased to see a few of them were even from the students. Some of the audience had already begun leaving as Roshanara and Dr. Cheah proceeded to get through the questions. Finally, just as they seemed to have reached the end, one last hand shot up in the back.::
Cheah: Is that it? Oh, yes, I believe we have one more question.
::A scruffy looking figure stood up. Roshanara had been standing patiently with her hands folded behind her back, but truthfully, even she was ready for the presentation to be over.::
Man: Yeah, when will propulsionists realize that moving faster than “faster than the speed of light” shouldn’t be at all a priority?
::Wait, that sounded awfully familiar…::
Cheah: I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?
Man: Why do propulsionists consider the slipstream project to be higher on the to do list when we should really be focusing on better life support systems?
::It couldn’t be. He wouldn’t.::
Man: It seems a little barbaric, don’t you think?
::Several members of the audience had turned around now with interest to see who was talking, but Roshanara already knew.::
Core: Someone would rather test how fast the shuttle can hit someone rather than giving the someone an adequate support system prior to being hit by the shuttle in the first place. ::There was a pause.:: Gravitational force, anyone? Am I seriously the only one here that speaks proper Engineering?
::For his part, Dr. Cheah seemed delighted at the assertion. Roshanara wondered if anything could phase the professor.::
Cheah: Well, what a… passionate discussion point! Dr. Rahman, do you have any thoughts?
::Roshanara took a step out towards the audience, trying to get a better look. She had to be sure.::
Rahman: Well, to the opinionated gentleman in the back, I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of choosing one over the other. The history of engineering and starship design has been one of pushing the limit.
Core: That’s still basically saying you’d rather choose speed over preserving life.
::Preserving life. Hmmph, the only life he should be worrying about now was his own, if the Kriosian’s glare was any indication.::
::She took a breath.::
Rahman: I suppose we’ll just have to disagree on this.
Cheah: All right then! Well, thank you, Dr. Rahman, and thank you, sir, for that provocative commentary--
::But Tristam wasn’t done apparently.::
Core: You admit defeat?
::Though it couldn’t be seen in the darkness of the crowd, it was obvious that there was a certain smile on his face as he said that.::
::There was a distinctive sound of shuffling as everyone turned back to face Tristam, and Roshanara crossed her arms.::
Rahman: I think some people just have difficulty knowing when to quit.
Core: And . . . that’s a yes.
::Roshanara scoffed at the Rodulan’s remark.::
Rahman: What?! No! That’s me trying to--
::She stopped herself as she realized she’d become a bit more animated and now all the heads in the room had turned back to her. She took a breath to regain her composure.::
Rahman: Perhaps the gentleman would like to discuss this further with me afterwards. ::Sternly.:: In private.
Core: So you’ll finally have dinner with me!
::There were some chuckles from the audience, but Roshanara tensed her jaw and looked over at Dr. Cheah to wrap it up. After the professor thanked the audience for attending, the rest of the lecture hall emptied out, leaving just Roshanara and Tristam, who was still sitting in the back.::
::She called out to him now, from the front of the hall.::
Rahman: You… I don’t even have the words…
::Well, she did, but they weren’t very pleasant ones.::
Core: “Thank you”, will suffice.
Rahman: Thank you?! *Thank you*! For what?! For embarrassing me in front of an entire lecture hall? For mocking my work?
::There was a pause as he considered what to say next, pursing his lips and staring at her.:
Core: You spent an hour and a half droning on about the physics behind the quantum slipstream drive of which not only caused several grad students to fall unconscious, but made *me* sleepy. I think you did that on your own.
Rahman: You know what? I’m sorry you wasted your time coming here.
::Did she even *want* to know how he found her?::
Rahman: I don’t know what you thought was going to happen--
::He stood, the cheekiness and smugness that had previously radiated off him now gone.::
Core: I found your toolkit.
::She stopped and looked at him, her frustration still evident before she sighed and closed her eyes for a moment, leaning against the lecture hall’s large display, which still had Roshanara’s final presentation slide on it -- a Vesta class starship hurtling through the slipstream.::
Rahman: What about it?
Core: First rule of Engineering is that you don’t go anywhere without your tools.
::He pulled the kit out from underneath his chair, and made his way to the stage. The Rodulan gently set down the kit in front of her, looking over it as if he were checking for imperfections, before retraining his eyes back to hers.::
Core: I had to borrow them for a day to fix my PADD, but other than that, they’re exactly how you left them.
::She looked at the familiar box lying before her, and she could feel a wave of emotion coming, just as she had felt when she had packed her tools away for the last time that day she left Main Engineering.::
Rahman: Tristam… I left them for you. It’s not my toolkit anymore.
::He crossed his arms.::
Core: Then how on Rodul do you expect to fix the Garuda’s propulsion systems? Bare hands and guts?
Rahman: ::sighs:: What are you talking about?
Core: Look around, Rahman. Public speaking? *Really*? You belong back out there on a starship doing proper work, not stuck in a lecture hall.
Rahman: Oh, really? You got all that from ninety minutes?
Core: Actually I got that from the first fifteen. You looked positively miserable. And, not to mention, *bored*.
::She rolled her eyes in annoyance.::
Rahman: Oh, pardon me! I didn’t realize you could read minds again!
::He winced, and she suddenly regretted her words, realizing how hurtful they could be. She looked up at him remorsefully.::
Rahman: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have--
Core: It’s been a good four years since I lost it, Roshanara - I think I’m tough enough to have come to terms with my disability. ::He grinned.:: You, on the other hand - I wasn’t aware you were easily hurt by the truth.
Rahman: The truth?
Core: You didn’t disagree with what I said about you being miserable.
Rahman: I… maybe I’m just tired, all right? Tired of fighting.
::Tristam’s eyes widened.::
Core: Are you *ill*? Since *when* are you *ever* tired of arguing with me? I’m the only time you get to exercise those argumentative skills.
::She wiped her eyes, dabbing away at a rogue tear as she sniffled, and shook her head.::
Rahman: I think that woman you remember is gone.
Core: She isn’t gone. She’s just got a few self-esteem and confidence issues at the moment.
Rahman: ::shaking her head somberly:: Tristam, I wasn’t declared unfit for duty because of “confidence issues.” I was declared unfit because I can’t do my job. I’m a danger to myself, my colleagues -- you. This isn’t about what I or you want. You’re right: it’s just about the truth. And frankly, the sooner we both accept it, the sooner we can move on.
::He sighed. He knew convincing her to come back wasn’t going to be easy, and he expected this certain road block, but the water works, her tears? No. This was painful.::
Core: You’re right. You were declared unfit for duty. But not because you *can’t* do your job. Because you have these abilities that you can’t yet control.
Rahman: “Yet.” ::She wanted to let out a sick laugh.:: You make it sound so simple.
Core: It’s not. Never will be. When I *was* telepathic, the Academy was a nightmare. Four years of one constant headache - Rodulans don’t train for contact with species without a four lobed brain because we’re expected to stay on our homeworld, so I had to learn by myself. And it wasn’t easy at all.
::She put a hand to her forehead and brushed her hair aside, exposing her scars to the light. Scars that reflected the sacrifices she’d made for her career.::
Rahman: Why is this so important to you? Why can’t you just let it go?
Core: I never told you this - mainly because I never saw you again after the accident.
::She nodded sadly as she remembered those weeks after what had happened on the Pioneer. By the time she’d found out Tristam was awake again, she’d thought of calling him, or even writing, yet every time she’d start, a sense of guilt over what had happened to him -- his loss -- took over.::
Rahman: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have waited so long. I just--
Core: I didn’t lose my telepathy when the bulkhead hit me.
Rahman: I thought...
::Her voice trailed off as she looked intently at him while he explained.::
Core: It faded, yes, but it didn’t just instantly disappear. At least, it didn’t feel like it. But the last thoughts in my head, that weren’t mine, were yours.
::She realized what he was telling her.::
Rahman: ::quietly:: You remember...
Core:::he nodded slowly:: Probably not all of it. According to medical, I wasn’t at all conscious. With all the emotion behind every word and all, your thoughts are hard to miss.
::Her voice was soft as the memories of those nights in the medical starbase came back to her.::
Rahman: They told me you were unresponsive. That it wasn’t looking good.
::She averted her gaze, unable to look at his black Rodulan eyes staring back at her. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Roshanara had visited Tristam’s ICU room every day, hoping each day would be the one when he'd finally wake up again. Eventually, though the Pioneer was called away on its next mission, leaving Tristam behind.::
Rahman: I shouldn’t have let you go down there. I shouldn’t have brought you on the project. ::This time she did let out a light chuckle.:: It’s not like you actually believed in the work. Clearly, even now.
Core: If I remember correctly, if it wasn’t for me bringing you late night beverages in that damn lab, you wouldn’t be past the second phase yet. ::He gave a chuckle.:: Besides, what’s Engineering without a risk? We all have scars for one reason and one reason only: to prove that, despite all the failures, we survived. And that in itself is a success.
::She looked back at him, though, serious again.::
Rahman: You’re telling me you never doubted? Wondered if it was really all worth it?
::The Rodulan gave a light shrug, his hands now in his pockets.::
Core: Everyone has doubts at some point, myself included.
Rahman: I don’t know, Tristam. I don’t think I’m as strong as you.
Core: It’s not a matter of if you’re strong, Roshanara. You just have to be willing to *try*.
::She balled up a fist in frustration and let out a heavy sigh.::
Rahman: Even if I wanted to, I can’t serve on a starship! It’s not up to me.
Core: It doesn’t *have* to be the Garuda. I contacted SCE, they’ve got a position lined up in the Corridor as a project manager - looking for someone with your knowledge and skill set. ::He gave a slight huff, his features softer now.:: Come back with me. Be the engineer I know you are.
Rahman: You keep saying that as if you really know me. But *I* don’t even know who I am anymore.
Core: You’re afraid - and it’s okay to be. I almost didn’t go back to Starfleet after my medical leave was up. But you know what? I got back on the saddle. In a different capacity, maybe, but I didn’t give up. And the only thing keeping me going was *your* thoughts.
Rahman: *My* thoughts?
Core: Yeah. Your thoughts. The last ones in my head.
::She shook her head dolefully.::
Rahman: I don’t remember them being anything special. Just guilt and turmoil seeing you lying there like that. Because of a failed experiment. ::beat:: Because of me.
Core: You had hope.
::Hope. She looked up as he explained further.::
Core: You knew I’d wake up, that I’d be okay. For a while, I wasn’t, sure, but you were right. I *am* okay.
::A very slight smile finally crept out--just a hint, but it was there, behind her tears.::
Rahman: You are? You’re not upset anymore that I dragged you across the quadrant?
Core: Oh, I’m still annoyed. I hate travelling, especially with strangers in small shuttles.
Rahman: I feel sorry for the strangers.
Core: So does everyone else.
::She took another glance at the toolkit--her toolkit--that he had placed before her.::
Rahman: I think I asked, well, had you brought onto the Garuda because I was looking to make amends for what happened. To try and tie up loose ends before… before it’s too late.
::The Rodulan frowned at her.::
Core: It’s never *too late*.
::She looked back at him sadly, her voice tinged by despair.::
Rahman: How can you be so certain?
Core:::he sighed, putting his hands on his hips.:: You told me that you believe you’ll follow in the same footsteps of this random alternate timeline that you somehow heard about.
Rahman: It’s already started, hasn’t it? ::She looked aside.:: Seems that way...
Core: There’s one factor you hadn’t accounted for.
::She turned back to him, intrigued. She wasn’t used to being told she’d overlooked something, especially from him.::
Rahman: And what’s that, commander?
::Seriously? She just looked back at him for a moment before finally cracking a wide grin.::
Rahman: You really are something. I doubt there’s a temporal equation out there that could account for Tristam Core.
::But he was serious.::
Core: Think about it. When . . . Kells - the *other* Kells - experienced that future, I wasn’t at all in the picture. You hadn’t considered bringing me aboard the Mercury, let alone contacting me.
Core: That future doesn’t account for me. It doesn’t account for the fact that I can *help* you, nor does it account for the fact that I at least can convince you to try and hone these abilities causing you trouble.
::What he said made sense. Maybe he could help her. And if not, maybe it was still worth it to at least try.::
::Maybe *he* was worth letting herself finally open up again to someone.::
::As she looked at his earnest expression, she realized that there was something else now she had to tell him. Before it really was too late.::
Rahman: Tristam, you’re right. I am afraid. And, I know I’ve been unfair to you.
::She took a breath and sighed.::
Rahman: I know why you stayed up all those nights with those beverages four years ago.
Core: Then why never tell me?
::She returned a sheepish smile.::
Rahman: Perhaps I did harbor certain thoughts of my own… you did call me out about those swuit sticks.
Core: They *are* hard to not enjoy.
Rahman: The thing is, Tristam, I’ve been hurt before…
::She thought not only of Javed and his broken promise nearly a decade ago but of all the other painful encounters she’d had since then. Each became yet another brick in the wall she had laid to protect herself.::
Rahman: And so I promised myself I wouldn’t let someone in again. I wouldn’t take that chance.
::She shrugged with a grin.::
Rahman: It seemed to be working, too. I avoided men, and they avoided me.
::She returned a coquettish glance at him.::
Rahman: Until I met this one stubborn Rodulan.
::Stubborn apparently was an understatement. Tristam gave a smile, looking down for a brief second.::
Core: I couldn’t let someone else steal you away.
::His words elicited a small smile to escape from her. She could feel how much he cared about her -- but no, how could that be? Her empathic abilities didn’t extend to his four-lobed physiology. Yet regardless, she knew it to be true.::
::Still, there was another hesitation.::
Rahman: You think so highly of me… ::She let her gaze fall downward.:: I don’t want to end up hurting you either, Tristam -- if things don’t turn out okay as you hope. If I’m not really the person you think I am. If I disappoint you.
::It was then that the Rodulan found himself hopping upwards onto the stage, placing himself right in front of Roshanara. With a single finger and a gentle movement, he tilted her chin upwards to meet her gaze. He was close enough now that she could see her reflection in his eyes.::
Core: Rodulans believe that the Artist, a single being, created everything and anything, like painting a canvas. And everything on that canvas changes - but never is it truly perfection. There’s always a risk that a single stroke could change that canvas for worse. ::He gave a small sigh.:: I guess what I’m trying to say is that . . . you shouldn’t be afraid of risks. We’re Engineers - and like artists, experimenting is what we do.
::She looked back at him, considering her words. Instead, though, she reached up and held his cheek as she brought his lips closer to hers.::
::Just as they were about to embrace, someone popped his head into the room.::
Student: Excuse me, is this Engineering 230?
::The Rodulan snapped his head towards the door, all but yelling his reply.::
::The frightened young man scurried out of the hall at warp speed. Tristam gave a huff before turning back to Roshanara.::
Core: Why is it that *every time* I try to-
::She cut him off, pushing him against the lecture hall display as their lips locked. She let her apprehension, fears, and everything else around her melt away in the moment. With gentle hands, the Rodulan pulled her closer, arms around her waist.::
::When they looked back at each other, she sighed.::
Rahman: You’re still a persistent son of a bitch who doesn’t know when to quit.
Core: My best quality, don’t you think?
::She smiled before the two embraced once more.::
Chief Engineer, USS Garuda
Project Manager, Starfleet Corps of Engineers