Coding, Bananas, Mothers, And the Unsaid
Posted on Wed Jun 13th, 2018 @ 8:59pm by Lieutenant Alkan Malaya PhD
Edited on on Sat Jun 16th, 2018 @ 12:28pm
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Location: USS Arcadia
Timeline: MD 3 (March 5, 2393)
What was Malaya going to do with a literal bunch of bananas?
The diminutive Bajoran engineer was hoodwinked by a fresh produce vendor. Two shops down of the Big Belly Burger, to be exact. The shop was called Pynox's Produce and owned by a Bolian with the skills to sell the smartest people snake oil.
The only reason Malaya ended up with so many bananas resting on her lab table, was because Pynox told her his cryogenic freezing unit failed during a recent attack. As his store was not dire on the repair list, no one fixed his cryo unit until his produce started to ripen.
So... there they were. A massive bunch of bananas, taking up all the room on the lab table behind her. Yellow with slight browning. That meant they were ready to eat.
What am I to do with all these? Malaya asked herself with disbelief for what might have been the tenth time.
When two of her engineering apprentices brought the banana bunch to her lab, passersby stared in complete confusion. Her apprentices also gave odd looks which in turn, made Malaya feel odd - because not even she had a logical explanation for bringing them in the engineering corridors.
Focus, she told herself, wiped the sweat from her brow, and went back to writing and repairing some of the logic code on the Themie's AI.
In the middle of dissecting the atrocious things done to the AI, and trying to update herself on the advanced trinary programming language Themie was using... Malaya was feeling the pressure.
Sure, she had programmers in the next room giving her regular updates on their findings, but Malaya did not realize until she started her work, that maybe she bit more than she could chew.
The thrill of a challenge often motivated her to advance her personal knowledge and technical skills, but this was a life-or-death situation. Her first assignment where that was a primary thought and a very real possibility. One she was just starting to realize a good chunk of the battle plan would depend on her with.
"Latest updates from the programming team, Lieutenant." Malaya looked up from her computer to intercept the PADD.
Judging from the young yeoman's shoes, she guessed he took his job seriously. Malaya hardly made eye contact, so his physical features were still a bit foreign to her short-term memory.
"I see..." Malaya mused aloud to herself. The yeoman waited in silence while she checked the team's work. "Yes. I can see how the updated security subroutines are proving problematic. Breaking them with a brute force of hackers would indeed degrade and/or destroy the AI... Let them know I am pleased with their assessment and have them find a workaround with the moral and ethical subroutines. That may be our only way into the AI's control commands until we can learn these new sequences and understand the new command lines."
"Ensign Mallard from cryptology believes that tethering the AI to an external interface might bypass most of the onboard security firewalls," the yeoman offered as he pointed to the bottom paragraph with the said suggestion.
Malaya paused a long moment, thought hard again at the presented facts and considered the pros and cons. "That could work... Pass the team my suggestions and I will begin work on the interface."
"Aye aye, Ma'am." He left just as dutifully.
Mid-way through working on a visor for the interface, she was interrupted by a comm.
"Lieutenant Alkan? Bridge here. You have a call from your family, from Bajor. HQ has allowed five minutes, starting from the time you activate the hail."
"Thank you, Bridge. I shall be brief. Lieutenant Alkan out," Malaya promised.
During an active evolution and on missions, calls were not generally taken from civilians. Malaya saved and closed down her project, then opened the hail on her personal computer.
"Thank the Prophets," spoke a very worried, older Bajoran woman. Greying-blond hair and blue eyes. She was a tad plump with wrinkles around her eyes and mouth.
"Mother," Malaya spoke with a simple nod. Almost stoic. Personal expressions were rarely something she expressed. "To what do I owe this call?"
"We heard the transport you were on was attacked, so your father made some calls to Starfleet HQ - He's part of the Vedek Assembly now, you know..."
Malaya often tuned out her mother's gossiping banter. Alkan Rysa had a tendency to do that. A mother's worry, however, was something Malaya did not comprehend. Nor did she like knowing her father used his political influence to break protocol.
While trying to figure out how best to word what she wanted to say, Malaya missed most of her mother's tangent. She caught a word here or there about Malaya's thin state. Rysa mentioned something about her brother's successful military career too. A major now.
"By the Prophets!!!" Rysa's sudden exclamation brought Malaya out of her reverie. "Why do you have so many bananas in your office?"
"I am in my lab. Chief engineers rarely have offices on Starfleet vessels," Malaya corrected. "I also was told that the bananas would all go bad in a matter of a few days and since I had been a frequent buyer of them, I was asked to take them off the seller's hands."
Rysa gave a vague nod. She looked as if she wanted to say something about that decision, but did not know how to word it without upsetting Malaya. So... Rysa went with a different topic, "...Have you talked to the CMO and your CO yet about your Power of Attorney status?"
"I have not. I plan to once the mission has been completed," Malaya moved her head in a downward slant. A sign of irritation.
"I only ask because I care, my Little Jumja." Rysa's voice had an infliction of worry so strong that one with empathy would know having a child with PDD-NOS or autism was often taxing and heartbreaking.
Feeling helpless to cure them. Feeling you were responsible for your child's disability. Luckily, Malaya never saw it like that at all, nor saw her disorder as a defining characteristic. But the younger Bajoran had suffered socially because of it and would continue to for the rest of her life.
"There is a new light therapy out that the Deltan Medical Academy has been working on with people overly sensitive to bright light. It's been really successful in Reman refugee patients," Rysa told Malaya with a cautious tone. "I know when you get stressy, the lights bother your eyes and sometimes causes massive headaches... Maybe I can pass along the research to your CMO or counselor?"
"I am fine. I use UV-protective one-way shades to protect my eyes in those instances," Malaya deftly parried with her mother. "I am well-prepared to handle my episodes before they become a problem."
"High-functioning does not mean you're invulnerable to raw emotional episodes, Malaya. Even people without your disorder are suspectable. Terrans call it 'Being Human'," Rysa prodded gently. "You need a battle buddy that can manage you when you cannot."
"I have never needed one before. Why is this situation any different?" Malaya spoke with a naivete that rivaled that of a greenhorn fresh from boot's experience.
"Because you have never been in combat until now. The attack on your transport was your first time in a deadly situation. There are variables you logically see and prepare for because you are sooo smart. But there are other variables you cannot predict. Taking a life is one of them. Losing comrades is another."
Malaya did not want to think about the latter. She had tried to pretend it did not phase her - seeing a fellow soldier being sucked into space.
"Do you need me to send you anything specific in your next care package? I assume you lost most of your things in the evacuation," Rysa asked when the silence became too much. She knew Malaya did not know how to express a lot of what she felt inside.
"I need a new fleece. The replicators here do not have the right consistency. And I would like some jumja fruit and jumja syrup, please. And maybe a case of spring wine for the captain." Malaya gave a natural smile when she thought of the taste of jumja.
It brought her back to an earlier time in her youth, when she and her brother would pick fruit in the orchards of Bajor. Before the camps. Before her brother got that hideous scar across his face...
In the following silence, Rysa visually became the most uncomfortable since the beginning of the call. "Erm... Did you happen to see the latest news feeds?"
"Combat blackout until the mission is over," Malaya stated as if that explained itself. "Why do you ask?"
"FNN, Starfleet's Fleet News Net... all the major Federation news outlets are covering a story about Command Master Chief Christopher Adams. He was your basic hand-to-hand instructor, right?"
The uncomfortable pop of Malaya's neck was all that Rysa needed to confirm what she feared - Malaya was another statistic in the horrendous scandal now sweeping Starfleet Academy.
"He's to be court-martialed - A man of two Christopher Pike Medal of Valor medals. Three purple hearts..." Rysa shook her head in disbelief but looked at her daughter with such grief and remorse. "You struggled with that class. I remember those calls to me, about how frustrated you were to get past your non-aggression beliefs... He passed you because of something he did to you, didn't he?"
"Thirty-seconds," Malaya told her mother, fidgeting in such a way, she may as well be on her way to one of those aforementioned episodes.
Why did her mother have to pry? She was fine forgetting and filling her head with work.
"Turn your lights down, put your shades on, and take a lorazepam," Rysa quoted from the established protocol. "Then once it wears off, go talk to someone, if not me."
"I will," Malaya lied. "I need to finish my work. Take care, Mother."
"Love you! And be safe, Little Jumja."
The link went dead and Malaya sat in silence for several seconds before she put her shades on. Tears streamed from the sides of them as she fought hard to get a grasp once more.
Eventually, Malaya fell asleep at her desk. Emotionally drained and unable to work out what it was she was feeling inside.
Lieutenant Alkan Malaya