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Cptn Moose

Ilsen Lo'Ami

Moose appreciated the thoroughness of the buffet table, even if he picked at it absentmindedly.  Under any other circumstances, it would have been magnificent.  Alces had outdone himself, as always.  But right now, he couldn't relax enough to enjoy it.  Besides, it wasn't really for him.  It was for the person he was about to become.  And this was at the center of his anxiety.


  For Christopher T. Moose, captain of a Sovereign class starship, defender of galactic injustice, and once even destroyer of a world, was a psicophobe.  It had taken him years to work through the paranoia he developed over telepathic contact; the sole souvenir from a brief, but all-enveloping love affair he once had with an empathic metamorph.  He had struggled to develop amazingly strong psychic defenses and to protect his mind from unwanted intrusions.  And over time he realized that telepaths, like all life forms, were not inherently good or evil.  Some just made bad choices.  And he began to relax.


  But he still didn't like people in his head, and he was angry with himself over his anxiety.  He felt he had come so far towards mastering his phobia.  He was fooling himself.  He was still damaged.


  "I think they're ready for you, Captain," said Alces.


  Moose wanted to run.  The door was right there.  His mind was his own and he didn't have to let anyone else touch it.  No one would dare judge him over this.


  Except himself.  Again, this wasn't about him.  It was about Lo'Ami.  Arphazed was in trouble and needed his help.  How many times had the trill risked his life for the ship and the crew?  How many sacrifices had he made simply because Moose had asked him to?  How could Moose live with himself if he couldn't do this one, simple thing?  Yet he faltered.  Why wasn't it simple?


  Alces led him into the main room, where Erko was waiting to begin the process.  "Are you sure you want to do this," he asked?


  "I'm sure," Moose said, hoping his voice did not betray his fear.  The Vulcan was a slave to protocol.  Moose hoped he asked all of the participants that same question with just that tone.


  "Then do your best to relax.  My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts ..."


  Moose closed his eyes and waited.  He waited for the familiar sensation of slipping away.  He waited for the tell-tale ping of an alien touch in his head.  He waited ... for nothing.  Nothing happened.  Why had nothing happened?  Even when he wanted to, couldn't he lower his mental defenses?  It was selfish of him.  He had failed.  He failed Lo'Ami and he had failed himself.


  He opened his eyes and was struck by how different the room looked.  It seemed crisper, harsher than he remembered it.  Nothing had changed, per se.  It was like seeing it for the first time.  He opened his mouth to apologize and was as surprised as anyone to hear what he actually said.


  "Hello, I am Ilsen Lo'Ami," said Moose as he looked around the room.  He passed over Alces and his eyes locked on the other Trill standing quietly off to the side.  "And you are?"


  "Arphazed.  The new host."


  "Splendid," he said jovially.  "And you made it to space.  Look at you in your fleet blues.  Science division, isn't it?  Or did you become a doctor?"


  "No, a scientist."


  "I was going to be a scientist.  A mathematician, actually.  It was my skills in warp field dynamics that brought me to the attention of the Symbiosis Commission.  But in the end, that was not the life for me."


  "Why not?" asked Arphazed.


  "I was too impatient.  I didn't actually work math, I saw answers in my head.  And then I had to slow down and justify my conclusions through traditional means.  It was very frustrating, like constantly trying to explain how you know your shirt is blue.  And then I got a little older and a little more impatient, and I suddenly realized I had a blind spot."


  "You couldn't see?"


  "No, no.  In my head.  I discovered that I couldn't compute asymmetrical energy flows.  Even when I sat down with a computer to do the calculations, I just couldn't grasp them.  And you certainly can't create a warp field that stays stable without accounting for them.  At best, the field collapses.  At worst, we can only guess what would happen."


  "But the computers compensate for those."


  "They do?  How extraordinary.  If there's time, you must tell me how you did it.  Scientists were struggling to break Warp 7 back then, but I had my sights on a larger prize."  He paused nostalgically, as if his memories were taking him down an unexpected road.  "They all said it was theoretically impossible to go faster than Warp 10.  But I saw a way ... I could feel the answer my head.  I bullied and pushed to get funding for a prototype, which I built into a remote controlled shuttlecraft.  But I only had one chance, and it failed.  The shuttle disappeared mid-flight, as did my funding.  No debris was ever found, so it must have disintegrated.  But I always knew it was because I had been careless with the asymmetrical energy calculations."


  Moose's head turned to study Arphazed.  He was still conscious inside his body, even though he had been the one speaking.  He wondered how the young trill would react to this story.  It sounded very familiar.


  "What did you do after that?" asked Arphazed.


  "My father became ill shortly thereafter, so I returned to the home world to run the family business.  It was an Inn in the grain belt called 'The Crazy Stallion', but all the locals called it 'Ilsen's Inn-sen'.  They thought it was funny."


  "No!" exclaimed Alces, unable to contain his surprise.  "I was there once.  It was a beat-up little shack with dozens of kids running around, screaming.  But it had the best home-brewed ale in a dozen systems."


  Moose felt himself grinning uncontrollably, basking in what Ilsen must have taken as praise.  "That was the place," he said.  "I married my grade-school sweetheart and we had 7 kids.  The eldest was a handful, he once took ..."


  The rest of the time was spent with stories of kids and animals and a happy time long ago.  Ilsen was a good story teller, and everyone in the room got swept away in his memories, except for Erko.  And all thoughts warp equations were left far, far away to be pondered another time.

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Great story, as always, Captain!

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