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Nijil tr'Korjata

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  1. Lost Years Nijil tr’Korjata as Kushana Chirakis Kirel Brubaker stroked his beard as he watched Whippet frolic with the children. “Ten years,” he murmured with a tinge of regret as well as the thrill of awakening. In the past ten years he had learned much about this planet and its environs, but he had also lost ten years of the life he once knew. Those he left behind had searched, but in the vastness of space they found nothing— not even a clue. His mind wandered, wondering what his burial was like… or if there was one. Is there a tombstone? Any kind of memorial? Did the academy mourn his passing? If he returned to civilization now, how would his family react? How would everyone else react? Would anyone even know him? Would they remember him? Would they want the immense amount of data he had culled from this area of space, or would it be useless and outdated? Should he leave on the Argos II or stay here, in the place he had come to love? And what if Argos II never made it off this planet? What would they do? He sighed into a fatherly smile as he watched Whippet play with the children. Soon he, too, was sitting cross legged on the floor, enjoying the moment and glad that his constant companion had helped them move past their pain. “Dr Brubaker?” Jeremiah spluttered and picked a few dog hairs off his tongue, then leaned back to answer in a slight Scottish lilt, “I am Dr Brubaker.” "I came down once I learned someone was knocking on the side of my vessel." A youthful, but haggerered Rihan woman approached the doctor. "My name is Kushana and I command the Argos II, or what is left of her." She looked down and stopped short of walking over an animal, a touch annoyed. "As au may imagine, I have a few questions for au." Brubaker stood as she spoke and picked at the few dog hairs that still clung to his disheveled clothes. “Of course, Erei'Riov—or should I say ‘Captain’? Or merely Kushana?” "The translator handles it all, but I am not one for formalities, so Kushana is fine." She squatted down after being on her feet for days. She looked the doctor in the eyes. "H-How did au find yourself on this planet? Our sensors are inoperable and we were not even sure of the air quality." A twinge of regret that they had crashed barely showed in his expression, but he nodded into a congenial smile. “Then Kushana it is. I am Jeremiah, though most call me Jeremy. And I must apologize for tapping your ship’s exterior. It was the only way I could get attention. “As for your question, this very small planet is quite habitable. Not far from your vessel— just over the hills that you can see from this viewport.” He pointed casually toward it. “I made my crashed shuttle into quite a cozy home with running water and a small garden. Unfortunately, you landed in one of the few desert areas. They have plenty of salt, but not much more than that. I landed here ten years ago, Kushana, and it has been my home ever since.” “How did I get here? My shuttle was drawn into a crash landing. I lost power, but why?” He shrugged. “I have no idea.” Kushana gruffed. "This has to be a red or brown dwarf star, but it pulled us out of warp. Ten years? Surely not in this arid region. The temperatures alone." She stroked her chin. "I would share information on what happened, but if the sensors collected anything we can't find it." She considered him for a moment. "Are au the only one, other than your friend here?" The Erei'Riov put out her hand to the dog, seemingly friendly to everyone. “As far as I know. I’ve not seen anyone else, and ten years is a long time to go without seeing anyone else on this planet. But… now that my wee brain is remembering a few things from our crash, I remember a push, like a heavy gust of wind, that drew us into the atmosphere. I do not recall much after that since I was trying to land. But,” he chuckled a bit, “it didn’t work. We still crashed.” She was getting more questions than answers. "We had only moments to even land to consider a 'wind' variable. I will have to ask my navigator in greater detail. We have been trying to undue the fail safes from our engine core. Our design does not allow us to simply turn off our main source of power. Given the situation perhaps it is better to leave the singularity as it is." She looked him up and down, then sniffed. "We have a method for au to, err, refresh yourself if that is something au wish." She wished it, but was an uncommonly polite Rihan to say so. “Oh,” he said, sniffing. “My goodness, I am sorry. After ten years of living alone, I don’t even notice. I would appreciate a ‘refresher’, as you call it, and I am sure you and your crew would appreciate it as well.” Brubaker forced a broad smile in his embarrassment. She stood up. "Au claimed to be a doctor, may I ask what discipline?" “I am primarily a geologist. And a paleontologist when the time warrants it and I find something interesting. And there is quite a bit of everything to explore here.” Kashnana nodded. "I purpose an exchange of information so we may all leave this place. That being said, many of the crew need to take a break from what may be a futile effort in repairing the ship." “Ah… a break,” Brubaker said, his Scottish lilt now in full swing. “Perhaps you should all come to my home— the shuttle, that is— and refresh yourselves. The yard and garden are refreshing, and there is a fairly deep pond—no deadly creatures, mind you. I’m not sure of the milage, but it took me just under an hour. And I will gladly share any information I have. I do keep extensive records.”
  2. Green Log of Jylliene and Nijil The long game of Galactic Risk ended days ago in a stalemate. The Nei'rrh warped along at a leisurely pace through the heart of the Federation. Their flight plan was well known and oddly, Starfleet wanted them to be cloaked the entire time. The only reason to do so was to put listening posts through tests. Now the test for them was at an end. "Jy," Nijil called out from the pilot's chair. She had went to nap a while back, the sound of the shuttle interior rather soothing once one gets relaxed. "We have arrived." He waited. "Jy?" He activated a soft chime. Jylliene stretched as she woke, hearing the sound. “Hm? Wh- oh, we’re here?” Rising, she made her way toward the front of the shuttle. He continued to shout. "Yes, I just dropped us to impulse." Resting her hand on the top of his chair, she looked out at the view as they approached the planet Orellius “I’ve needed this. We both have.” He nodded. "Shall I arm disruptors and torpedoes? That sounds more familiar." He smiled as he continued to tap controls to place them in orbit. "Pretty sure Starfleet would be here shortly. Care to take us down?" “You go ahead,” she replied as she took a seat at the console next to him. The weapons console had gone thankfully unused during this trip. It was, as Nijil had indicated, a change of pace for them. A peaceful vacation would be welcome indeed. "Alright, taking us down to our cabin." He pitched the nose down and the planet filled the entire forward view. "Shields to full, brace for atmospheric entry." Nijil patted her arm with his free hand. "Best to secure ourselves, even though the skies are clear where we are going." The blast shield covered the view ahead of them as the craft descended towards Orellius. He continued talking. "I supposed we could have beamed down, but I never like the idea of having the ship just hang up there while we are down there." He laughed. "I mean we can't land the Aegean, but anything that land should land." The interior of the Nei'rrh rumbled as it careened into intense heat of reentry. Nijil turned to Jylliene. "So are you ready to be without replicators?" “I believe so. It will be worth it.” The blast shield retracted, revealing the lush green of the planet. Although Orellius no longer kept itself isolated, the communities there preferred to stay more or less as they had been. Their cabin would be remote enough from the inhabitants that neither would be disturbed by the other. “We will have room to land nearby, right?” "Ie, oddly a platform is there for ships like this to land. I suspect we are not the first ones to seek this isolated getaway. That said, this may be a tight fit." A forest took up the entire view out of the forward view. Somewhere in the middle was their destination. "Ah see it, just over those tall trees dead ahead." "Au see that?" She asked. "Very well. Take us in SubCommander." "Aye Lieutenant Commander." Both of them smiled as they descended to their honeymoon destination.
  3. Bonds and Bands [Joint log, Nijil/Jylliene/Ramson - takes place immediately before the sim of 9/8/2017] Arboretum, Aegis Though there were a number of venues they could have used, including replicating myriad others via holosuite, once the idea of the arboretum came up, there was no further deliberation. The arboretum itself was an oasis of calm in the midst of the station’s bustle, of greenery within the metal and glass. What better venue for a celebration of two creating that same respite for each other? Ramson stood before a flowering cherry tree, awaiting the couple’s arrival. Behind the seated guests, the Vulcan quartet Annisha had hired played quietly. Small white silk banners highlighted representations of the elements set upon pedestals around the area. A pair of stones - one from ch’Rihan, one from Trill - stood upon one; a forcefield generated within another suspended an orb of water above it from the nearby creek. The music itself accented the air bearing it, while a lit censor beside Ramson (“somewhere neither Annisha or I will knock it over,” Nijil had recommended) finalized the honoring of the elements. At Annisha’s cue, the musicians stopped. Nijil and Jylliene approached Ramson on pathways from either side of the waiting captain. Jylliene smiled warmly at him, nervousness largely swept away now that they could focus on each other. Nijil was nervous as ever, but did his best to not show it as he did around the station. He looked deep into Jylliene's eyes to see if she felt the same, or if, not, to draw strength from her. His smile was more like a wide boyish grin. Before her he never imagined bonding with anyone, but now...now he couldn't imagine otherwise, or with anyone else. Lucky for him, he found a warmth in her eyes. (“But what about Trill traditions?” Nijil had asked as Jylliene pieced together the ceremony. “Well, on Trill, the couple enters in unison, in silence. Focus is on them.” “Not one at a time?” “No. The idea is that the guests try to watch both, and recognize that it is more difficult to look back and forth at the individuals, and how much easier and more natural it is once they’re together in front of the prie- well, officiant, in our case.” “Do we need to get a priest from Trill?” Nijil asked. “Elements, no,” came the woman’s immediate reply. “They’d drone on and on about history and symbionts being like a bonded couple and don’t even get me started on the ritual blessings. Just… no.” “No Trill priest. Got it.”) Now in front of Ramson, the couple joined hands. “Throughout all the varied and different peoples we have made contact with in the universe, a desire exists to find someone else to share one's experiences with. Committing ourselves to a bond with another so that we do not have to face the universe alone is one of the most common ceremonies found. Today we have two who wish to do exactly that. And they come forward now to make that known to their families, their friends, and their comrades.” Ramson nodded to the couple, signaling them to state their vows. “I, Nijil, take you, Jylliene, as my ailhun. I promise to lead you through the darkness to the light. I promise to carry you when you falter. I promise to protect you from threat. I promise to provide for your needs, in body and spirit. I promise to give to you all that I am, reserving nothing aside. I will stand by you from this day to the end of our lives; In witness thereof, I give you this ring, as a visible symbol of my vows to you.” “I, Jylliene, take you, Nijil, as my deyhhan. I promise to accompany you through the darkness to the light. I promise to support you when you falter. I promise to stand by you when you are under threat. I promise to provide for your needs, in body and spirit. I promise to give to you all that I am, reserving nothing aside. I will stand by you from this day to the end of our lives; In witness thereof, I give you this ring, as a visible symbol of my vows to you.” Accepting the bands from Ramson, the couple slid them upon each other’s fingers, then clasped hands. Ramson nodded toward Niilan, Nijil's father, who approached with a register. Opening it upon the pedestal, he presented Nijil with a pen. “In keeping with tradition, inscribe your bondmate’s name in our register,” Niilan spoke. Nijil wrote her name beside his own, exhaling quietly in relief as he put the pen down. Niilan looked up at Jylliene and intoned, “We accept you into our house. May it increase in honor, strength, and number.” “With the authority granted me as Commander of Aegis and in accord with the wishes of Nijil Keihv tr’Korjata and Jylliene Kital, I declare them husband and wife.” With visible expressions of both joy and relief, the couple retreated together from the arboretum toward the reception hall, the guests following. Jylliene had not seen the plans for the reception, leaving those to Nijil and (with some trepidation) Annisha. She was unsure what to expect, but was pleased and surprised to see the area highlighted in bright colors and dancing sparkles of light from a reflective orb suspended from the ceiling. Brilliant jewel tones outlined a dance floor, the band Annisha had hired stationed nearby. Tables of desserts, including numerous cakes of different flavors, awaited the hungry arrivals (At Jylliene’s suggestion, there were also gourmet doughnuts). An Andorian stood at the ready behind a counter, gleaming glass decanters and bottles ready for those desiring something a bit stronger than what was partaken of on duty; a silver urn and coffee cups were also available for caffeine needs. For Annisha and her friends, as well as for other guests so inclined, bottles of sweetened non-alcoholic beverages nestled temptingly within bins of ice. A holo-recorder was tucked away in one corner for guests to leave messages for the couple, a drape available to muffle some of the sounds from the celebration.
  4. SubCommander Nijil tr'Korjata Flight Deck Engineer Personal Log Stardate 2388.097 I must have passed through a fluctuating time dilation field lately. I have not felt myself. I don't know if it's day or night anymore. I mean, this is a space station with no real day or night, but I'm feeling the pinch of artificial time. There's no sun to tell me when to wake up, no Remus to tell me when to sleep. I hope after the bonding I can reset my damaged clock with some star, out there. It can't be ch'Rihan at least for a long while. Annisha won't feel the warmth of the Rihan sun either. She did last before me if what she told me was true. For that matter she will not find comfort in the warm embrace of her real mother. I know her adoption has been the best thing for her, for us, since so much was lost to the GRB hitting home. She is so inquisitive, intelligent, and most importantly, a naughty girl. For an entire week I could not order anything that was not a contraband Blubby drink. I had to resort to others getting me a hot coffee because she programmed all of my identification methods linked to her...hack. She'd make a fine spy I would think. Perhaps the Tal Shiar will come in the dead of night in my quarters for recruitment. Tricky devils they are. Enough of that. Annisha told me she has the music and if I protest she will never forgive me, and that she has a present for me involving that. Probably some loud clapping machine to laugh at my bad jokes. Oh, perhaps she's planning to alter my vows. Through all of this Jylliene has been the most patient person I know. I would think she was a Vulcan except she arrives back at our quarters in the same shape as me: exhausted physically and spent mentally. We need the, humans call it...oh, honeymoon more than the bonding itself. Would anyone miss us if we just flew off on the Nei'rrh? <End Log>
  5. Time Between Things Jylliene looked across the table at Nijil. She could see he was just as exhausted as she. At least her duties required far less footwork than a traveling engineer. Lately, their time together was squeezed between eating, shower, and sleep. Tonight: dinner. She brought out one of the many simulated Rihan proteins topped with an assortment of vegetables. It was one of the rather zesty dishes his homeworld offered. He began to stare at his plate while he chewed. “Those cores made for a stressful few shifts. I was glad to see them go,” she remarked, with a sympathetic smile towards him. Of course, what the cores might do now was another concern, but at least they were off-station. "The cores are essential in providing power to the station. It's always a point of stress for the engineering team."Nijil replied, still staring into his meal, perhaps hoping something would pop out just like the seven or so spices did to the flavor. "Cores?" “Droid cores. The diplomatic representatives,” she clarified. He blinked and looked her in the eyes. "Sorry, um, tired.” He yawned. “What a strange name for them. Perhaps the translation was off. I did not get to meet any of them. Were they agreeable?" “They were as polite as you could expect. Just a bit unsettling, since they decided to adopt our crew’s appearances as their own, albeit at about half or two-thirds scale. Given the ease with which they had replicated the captain’s appearance, I think we were all still on edge.” She paused, then added, “I’m not sure what they call themselves.” "Well," he thought, then supposed, "We call ourselvesRihan and au call us Romulans, so they are bound to have a name of their own...unless they were a recent creation. Beyond their programming?" “Entirely possible. I imagine they must have SOME way to refer to themselves, even if only in their own programming, to distinguish themselves from others.” Jylliene shrugged. Nijil cut into another portion of his meal. The taste was a blessing compared to what he ate over the last few days. "Regardless, I am thinking more about us than those robots. Did Annisha tell au she is handling something from our bonding?" “No…” she replied, with some slight trepidation. “Did she say what?” "No on that as well, and she's enlisted her band of friends to keep me from finding out. Maybe it's just a token of celebration. She was quite adamant about me not digging to find out. If I did not know better her feline friend almost hissed at me." She chuckled. “Well, I suppose we’ll just need to hope for the best? Has she asked anything about wedding traditions or the like?” He shook his head, taking a drink of his tea. "Na, but she could merely ask the computer. I don't think she'd sabotage anything, right?" “Not deliberately, no. It's the unintentional that I’d worry about. I imagine she’s done some research, though. She really doesn’t do anything halfway.” Whether that eased or concerned her, Jylliene wasn’t entirely sure. "She will be commanding this station in a year," he laughed. "I did want to ask au something. There's a lot of Rihan tradition in our bonding. Is there anything from Trill you wish to include?" She was so very tempted. “I’m not sure; how far do you think you can crawl on hot coals?” Jylliene kept a straight face for a beat, then grinned. “No, not that. There are a few rituals, but I’ll need to review them myself first. It’s been ages since I’ve been at a Trill wedding, and I kept meaning to look up the ones I recall, but droid cores and yellow alerts and…” she smiled sheepishly. “I’ll have them within the next day.” He laughed again. "Hold tight Commander,na an order. I mean I can't order au not to do research." He looked at her. "There are rituals of the elements that were performed long ago, but I did not include them. Reminded me of something Klingons would choose to do, just fewer pain sticks." He placed his hand over hers. "We could run up to Chirakis' office now and get it out of the way." “My parents would have a fit. Moreover, Annisha would have a fit. No, we go ahead as planned,” she replied. "Very well," he smiled. "Besides, the best part is the, what do humans call it? Oh yes, reception. Before our departure to the resort, I did reserve a holosuite. We need to relax before our long trip on the Nei'rrh. I hope that was not presumptuous." “Not at all. That sounds perfect.” She turned her hand over to clasp his. "Good, I would hope my hours studying holo systems programming is not wasted." He stopped and had a dreadful thought. "Um, what if that's what Annisha was doing?" “Then I imagine we’ll be playing in a park or something similar. I’m sure we can find ways to make that suitably enjoyable,” she reassured with a grin and a wink.
  6. Violet Shroud - 100 Words Nijil awoke on the floor of his quarters, a stuffed animal under his head and a children's violet shroud covering his torso. He felt groggy. His right side throbbed. So exhausted he collapsed only a few meters from the entrance. He got up on his feet, stumbled a little, then threw the blanket and animal upon the couch. "I need sleep, but where's Annisha?" The room was silent. Suddenly his sister's face appeared on the big room screen. "Jolan tru brother. Found au comatose and Annisha wanted to show me the park. Such a sweet daughter au have. Back soon."
  7. The Devil Is in Our Stars The voyage to the nebula would take a good part of two days, even at high warp. The Nei'rrh was built for fast travel, but only in rather short durations. Just try to do that in a Federation runabout. Then again, just watch the man-hours of maintenance of the two and you understand sacrifices are always made. The three were in the final stretch of the trip. Engines performed without issue, as did the modified cloak. Good thing as one did not want to abort a mission even before it really begun. Hours passed and everyone needed to be relaxed for the job ahead. They all read, showered or took shifts on the bridge. Impromptu lessons on Rihan shuttle operations were done every few hours. Lieutenant Tarisa took refuge near the hum of the engines. Nijil did not know if her species purred like other felines, but he could see the attraction. Lawliet, being long lived, had plenty to chat about regarding galactic politics and the like. Engineer or not, Nijil had differing opinions on past decisions and future directions. The both agreed however that the likely outcomes would be a mix of the two. No one faction in the alpha and beta quadrants would get exactly what they want. Eventually the crew settled off on their own as they got closer to their destination. Especially the Rihan. Annisha, his adopted daughter, insisted her father take up playing a musical instrument. She found a shop on the commerce level that had all manners of wind, strummed, and keyboard note makers. She laughed at an Earth instrument called the 'ukulele' and picked two up, one for her and a larger one for her rather. They had be etched with caricatures of each of them, his with pointy-ears and ouchy marks on his face. Her's had an angry girl paired with a targ and a boomerang. He made a genuine effort to play and even try to incorporate the instrument into his English to RIhan song translations. The ukulele did not really fit into his culture's instruments of choice, and it occupied a unique place in Earth's lineup as well. The high-pitch plucks seemed ill-fitted to drones about slicing the throat of one's enemies by any means necessary. Not all songs in the Rihan catalog were about deviousness of course. It contained some of the most emotional and longing romantic passages of any of the alliance music. Hearts were precious elements of the universe and all that. Nijil, after seeing the massive number of songs to translate, began to search randomly among the choices. He landed in the early 21st Earth century, a group called The Jayhawks. A group named after a bird, seemed apt. He had the computer display the chords along with the song, and the rough translation, to be tuned later. The computer picked The Devil Is in Her Eyes. He started to play before he really got into the lyrics, so he could get the song's feeling down. It was not too trying to play, but the headline words caused him to think of his little devil Annisha. Jylliene too if he thought of it, but as he reached chorus the words "the devil is in her eyes" really stuck out. He made it to the first chorus no issue, but at the second he struggled to not think of his little girl. Nijil knew she was not a demonic entity the word alluded to, but her curiosity wrapped up in mischievousness pierced through the words. As the chord progression became easier the merely sung the words as written centuries ago. There she was again, her eyes right in front of him just as the day she plucked out a Klingon knife from his back with no regard for how it might hurt or help him. As the months passed the same eyes greeted him when he got off his shift or when they all went to Blubby's on the commerce level. Those same damned eyes looking right at him with the same affection as the first day they met. It reminded him of when he met Jylliene in the mess of the Aegean. What a chance meeting when he thought of it. Had he just thrown that chance away on this mission fraught with unknown danger? He stopped playing as all of the pent up emotion of leaving those he loved behind broke free. Tears dropped upon the ukulele frets and clung to the strings. He placed the instrument on the table. He wiped the tears away with his sleeve. He walked up to a port window to watch the starlight passing at warp. Now, at mission inception, was not the time to get all emotional. It was after all likely whatever happened to the Byron could happen to Aegis. Countless others he cared for or had never met counting on their discovery of the ship's fate. The galaxy would always be a dangerous place and the Aegis sector was no exception. It was duty after all to protect it, no matter the cost. If the crew of the Nei'rrh did meet their fate in the nebula Annisha would be provided for by Jylliene or if not her his parents. She'd have a good life on that planet, though leaving her friend Alexis may not work out. Duty. Yes, he thought, time to press on, anticipate for the expected and adapt for the unexpected. Jylliene would do and expect no less of him. If Nijil failed to return the preparations he made would ensure both their safety and his daughter would grow into the frightful woman she's destined to become. Frightful in her intelligence and curiosity as it dwarfs his own. The universe should be wary of Annisha t'Korjata.
  8. The Nijil (Log of Shadow and Nijil) "We could have easily conquered your people if not for the Praxis incident," the burly Klingon hologram boasted to his corporeal Rihan programmer. "Oh really, that was how many years ago? The fact you did not see us galavanting across the quadrants does not mean we were weak. I also doubt the Federation would have let that occur, you know how they were then, and now." "Ha!" The Klingon exclaimed. "Romulans never fight with honor and that would have been their undoing." Nijl sighed. "Honor does not win battle, cunning tactics sprinkled with a touch of treachery would win the day. We are not dealing with pistols at twenty paces." "What is that?" "Something from ancient Earth history, a duel where you stand back to back, walk twenty paces forward, then turn and shoot." "Hmm, backs to each other? Sounds like a Rihan would go five paces then turn." "You may be right," Nijil said with a terse smile. "Now to matters at hand. Will you help teach this entity about the Klingon people?" "You have my word, but," he raised his finger, "only if the others do not badmouth other worlds. The teachings, even from the Rihans, must be true and honorable." "Agreed, lying would get us nowhere. Besides, I can have a fact-checking routine added to avoid that." "Whoa, wait a minute, a good story is nothing with a touch of embellishment." "Grr, fine," Nijil nodded to the Klingon hologram. "Computer, save then end program." The computer chirped then shut down the program, the Klingon flickering into nothingness. The lights of his quarters came up. The sudden brightness gave him a headache, or was it from the conversation. He walked over to the replicator on the far wall then ordered a water. He turned to see something not normally in his room. "Technology," Nijil muttered under his breath. "Computer, turn OFF the hologram system in this room." "The hologram system in this room is currently not running," quipped the computer. "What?" Nijil stood his ground as he squinted at the figure clearly in the room with him. He backed up a bit as he realized who this could be. "You look better than last we spoke." “This one learn. This one Seeker. Must learn,” replied the figure, flatly, as it stared in the direction of the inactive hologram. “The Nijil speaks to nothing. Why?” "Speaking to nothing?" The engineer thought for a moment. "Oh, you mean the hologram, that Klingon? It is really just an advanced manifestation of the artificial intelligence programs built into our computer systems to simulate familiar species. An interactive interface really. Used for all kinds of entertainment, information, and training. If that makes any sense to you. Could you not see him?" “The Klingon non biological. Deck 7 Klingon biological. Why speak non-biological when can biological?” "The non-biological one can be told, commanded to do particular tasks, plus he does not tire or question my orders, well, this one does, but I programmed that in too. I guess this one may not have a bias if I program carefully enough." The entity stared intensely, as though the image would return, then turned to Nijil. “Waste energy. This play?” "Waste energy? We have a lot here, but this was developed for you to answer questions about us you may have in a timeframe the computer can handle, but we may not." Nijil thought for a moment. "You mean play as can the program continue or you mean play as in have fun?" “Fun. Waste energy.” "Well, there are a fair amount of programs for fun, but I think most species, at least of higher intelligences, need activities they enjoy rather than duties they have to perform. I often just recreate far away places that I can't visit or that...don't exist any longer." Nijil frowned a bit at the notion of his visits to Old ch'Rihan, specifically his childhood farm. The form took on an expression of curiosity, then the face mirrored Nijil’s frown. “Sad. The Nijil place ceased to exist?” "ch'Rihan was wiped of life on its surface by what we call a gamma ray burst, a highly energetic burst of devastating gamma radiation normally from distant supernova explosion. This particular event propagated through upper subspace levels to reach our homeworld at faster than light speeds." He paused. "I was not on the homeworld at this time. Some escaped, many did not." “The gamma energy powerful. Many biologicals cease to exist?” "Yes, in the billions, but do you mean in general? I would guess nearly all biologicals cease to exist." It regarded Nijil for some time, then a ghastly groan echoed through the room. “The Nijil sad. This one sad. The gamma energy destroy much. The Nijil not cease to exist good. This one protect the Nijil. The Nijil not cease to exist.” "What? I don't think you can protect me from everything, namely myself. If you can stop a gamma ray burst on myself then you posses a truly unknown protection. More importantly, why me? Was it that touch the other day? It was an accident." “Accident.” It seemed to ponder that a while. “Accident. Not on purpose. Unintended.” "That's right." “This one much energy. Biologicals weak. This one learn. Now not so much energy. Less energy? Lower energy? Biological level energy this one now. This one form easier also.” "Listen, you can't go...tasering people around me that may or not hurt me. No matter how careful or intelligent you are I don't believe you are all knowing and immune to the heisenberg uncertainty principle." He shook his head. "Again, why me? I'm one biological among trillions or more in this galaxy alone." Another sigh, softer than the last, came from the form. “This one injure the Nijil. Sad. Must protect.” "Must protect? Oh." Nijil wondered if his new friend could sense the inflection of concern in his verbal response, or worse, in his electromagnetic signature. It faded where it stood. “Must. Protect. The Nijil.”
  9. First Non-Contact (Charikis, Coleridge, Tarisa and loveable Nijil) Nijil had kept his distance from the fog entity, or at least what he believed to be a step back. A mist that could appear and disappear at will was not so easy to track. In fact, the dispersal of mist could be so thin that Tarisa, Coleridge, and Nijil could be breathing it in right now. The Rihan coughed at this possibility. "Are au there?" Nijil called out towards the far end of the reactor room. "There's na need to be shy, or apprehensive. I am not planning to leave this room, so if au wish to talk." He turned to the others. "I'm an engineer, not a first contact specialist. I can't even get a name out of...it." Within seconds, the entity appeared as a formless mist and slowly pulled together to form almost a mirror image of Nijil, but what would have been his feet did not touch the deck, and its transparency showed everything behind it: the bulkhead, the consoles, other engineers who were wandering through and had not noticed anything different. It floated there for several minutes, regarding him with a curious expression before speaking its first phrase. “Secondary positive. What is talk?” "A method of communication we are using now by means of different sounds to form words, in turn forming ideas, requests, and passing information." “Sound,” it repeated, then paused several seconds. “Sound. Compressed. Energy. Vibrates. Waves. Sound. Words.” "Right, right," Nijil agreed. "It's not particularly fast, or efficient. The expressions of one's body play a large role in it as well." He moved a bit closer to the entity. "Remarkable likeness, how do au know how to take the form of others so well?" The entity backed away to its original distance. It seemed puzzled. “Words. Why words. Use energy.” A tendril pointed to Nijil’s head. “Waves. There.” "Energy? I don't have the ability to manipulation energy in that manner, unless...au mean electrical impulses in the brain." He pointed at his own head. "I'm not telepathic, but I could get someone that is." The entity stared for a minute. “Use energy. Energy.” It paused a while and seemed to fade. “Easy. Words no.” The engineer stood silently for a moment pondering what the entity meant. His people, the Romulans, use whatever force is necessary to gather this kind of information. If it is energy it seeks, others of his species would oblige. Turning to Coleridge. "I don't know exactly what energy communication it wishes to use, but I think it's worth a try." Coleridge seemed to be as lost as the rest of them and simply shrugged. "It's your funeral, but Jylliene would kill you...then she'd come after me." Nijil sighed. "Au are right, but how important is communication with," he pointed at the entity, "him." As the entity faded, its sounds became hollow and the tone terrified. “Kill. Negative. Kill. No. No. Kill.” And it was gone. "Aww," clearly disappointed, "I forgot to teach it sarcasm." He spoke louder. "Entity, what he said was not what would actually happen. It's a...figure of speech understood not to be true. Come back please." Tarisa had quietly been watching the exchange between the engineers and entity. She finally spoke up as the being faded. “It is alright,” she called out. “No one is literally going to be killed. Sometimes I get confused by their speech as well,” she pouted. Nijil spoke as he took to a chair along the wall opposite the reactor. "I have paperwork to catch up on," he said reluctantly, waving his worn PADD in the air. "Tarisa...Coleridge, if au like I'll wait here for the entities return, no need for all of us to wait around. Any information on the particularities of the energy generation would be helpful. Perhaps a source apart from the station exists if we can accommodate our guest. The two nodded in agreement and said their goodbyes, "let us know if anything...," and "don't do anything unwise" comments for Nijil. Less than an hour later Nijil had succumbed to the long hours of his shift, the hum of the reactor definitely assisting in creating a pleasant sound in th- Zzzzzzz.
  10. Back in the Saddle by Jylliene and Nijil, after arrival on the Aegean, before the sim of 1/8/16. The Aegean was indeed a beautiful craft. This seemed even more so to Jylliene when returning after an away mission, and more still when it was a challenging one. Admittedly, the team’s safety really had not been under threat; more possible would have been an innocent misunderstanding that might have left them unprotected on the surface with no way of contacting the Aegean before succumbing to exposure to radiation, the elements… whatever. One wondered what those who might eventually have found their naked corpses would have thought. It mattered little now. Their experiences would be logged, and hopefully, the next group to explore this place would be prepared. With ropes. And signal boosters. And extra clothing, just in case. Failing that, with a Caitian who was ridiculously good at parkour, even if her eagerness frustrated those who were trying to ensure that they didn’t lose another crew member. Though Jylliene had, in the moment, planned to write her up, the relief of finding Captain Ramson, as well as the passing time between then and their return to the Aegean, gave her a chance to reconsider. A talk at some point, perhaps, just to make sure she understood Jylliene’s concern and why the Trill was upset by the Lieutenant’s rush to action. Later. Right now, a quick cup of coffee would be most welcome. *** Everyone single-filed off the shuttle onto the more solid deck plating of the Aegean's bay, relieved to be done with whatever that last mission turned out to be. Sentient crystals, intelligent tree branches able to move Rihan engineers with no effort, or perhaps something they were not yet supposed to understand. Regardless many of the team would head to freshen up with a sonic shower or brighten up with the hottest coffee the replicator could muster. Nijil had decided to shower while drinking his coffee, but... "Commander Kital," a roughed up looking Nijil spoke as she walked a few people ahead. "something I wish to show you back at the shuttle." He waited for the perked up eyes, nod, then turn around. “Of course,” Jylliene replied. Coffee. I hope it involves coffee. Nijil walked quickly back inside the shuttle they had just arrived in and waited deep within it for Jylliene. No nosy engineer, merely performing their duty, was starting flight maintenance. Just her and him. “What is it?” she asked him. He wasted no time reaching at the back of her head with one hand and bringing her in for a long-awaited kiss. Nijil locked lips for the better part of 30 seconds before letting her go. "I've waited a long while for something like that Jylliene, work and all. Our duties take up so much time, I thought I could stop time, if only for a little while." He then caressed her shoulders with each hand, then tugged her in for an embrace. "This is far better than having a tree hug you. Are you hungry at all?" “For a few things, thanks to your greeting, but most of that will need to wait. A quick meal would be good,” she replied. Nijil released her from his hold. "Not these replicators," he said, tilting his head towards the shuttle replicator. "Besides, they will report us as missing. Let's go." *** They both had their small trays of food and drink from the Aegean mess hall in hand and searched for a place to sit. On a ship relatively small the place was packed. A center, but familiar table stood unoccupied. Nijil nodded his head in the direction of the vacant table and chairs. "Look at this, just like old times. I think this is the same table." Jylliene chuckled. “It may be,” she agreed. “It’s been a while since that day. A lot has happened.” "You can say that, not to mention a bit of our bonding planning has taken a back-seat." He smiled in a don't-worry look, then he did worry. "I think Annisha said she'd finished the arrangements, surely she does not have access to our files." His eyes went wide as he stared into Jylliene's eyes for reassurance. “Where it concerns Annisha, I’d suggest she quite possibly could, unless you locked it down very well,” Jylliene replied with a grin. Nijil started to speak, but reached for his cup instead, merely nodding. "Jylliene, you were quite impressive on the away team, and I'm not just saying that as someone who has certain connections with you." He cleared his throat. "I knew you were capable, but seeing you in action out there I'm sure the rank of Captain can't be far off, if you desire that." With a slight blush, she smiled at him. “Whether or not that’s true, it can wait. I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to learn before that kind of advancement.” She took a sip of her coffee, then added, “Thank you.” "It involves wearing a lot of black and seclusion in your office collection of daggers," he laughed. "I'm just glad you did not have to bring home my upper half and my lower half. I knew I was being held by something more powerful than any of us and that I was powerless to do anything about it." He paused while munching on bread. "So what now, head back to Aegis? I'm not entirely sure how this all fits into what's been going on." “The pieces will fall into place eventually. It’s just a question of whether we see it as it happens, or simply the results after. And yes, I believe we’re likely heading back toward Aegis,” she replied. "Like the reservations I placed for our honeymoon, those will just fall into pla-" he stopped. "You did not hear me say that. This Rihan said nothing." “Mhm. Nothing.” Jylliene took another sip of her coffee, a relaxed grin on her face. With a slight sigh, she added, “We should hurry.”
  11. When You're Here, You're Family Jylliene, Annisha, and Nijil Dinner. It was good now and then to do something a little different, get a chance to be out as a family. A family thing. Mom, Dad, and the kid going out. Her parents had done the same with some frequency - mostly because of the numerous times when the last thing either of her parents felt like doing after a day’s work was cooking. So, out they went. Dress up? Hm. No, stay casual, Jylliene figured, but still, get out of the uniform, at least. The kid. The young girl was more than ecstatic to be going out to eat with her still new family. Her real parents were rare to go out in public to grab a meal. Either her mother cooked something quick or her father grabbed dinner in a bag. She never really understood why this was until her now father explained a few things. She was quite interested in her biological parent's choice of jobs compared to an engineer and operation officer. Her life before compared nothing to life on a space station. "Oh, oh, this one. Can I get this one?" Annisha prodded Jylliene. Jylliene glanced at the selection, then nodded. “Of course,” she replied with a smile. What Annisha asked for her father could not see. He'd been busy for several minutes looking over the selections. Most of the food from his childhood was made fresh from home and some of the choices were unfamiliar to him. "Is it spicy?" He asked without looking up. “Not from what I can make of the description,” Jylliene replied. "Yes, welcome to Rihan script. It's not obvious to those new to the language. Which one?" She kept a finger pointed to the item and showed him the choice. Nijil nodded. "Are you sure Annisha? You never liked that before." "Oh yes, I'm a big girl now and I have refined taste." Her eyes gazed over large menu obscuring all but her two hands holding it. Jylliene smiled to herself, remembering trying to prove her growing maturity to her parents at a fairly similar age. The struggle to try to act more mature, to prove to her parents she was worthy of more independence - but moreover, to prove to herself. If her parents believed it, then it must be true, after all. It was a strange dance, the back-and-forth desire for independence and the equal desire not to get too much. "I'm getting the...salad and soup." Nijil said, sounding like he gave up from all of the choices, but he thought it would be the least objectionable to his stirring gut. The composition looked intriguing and nothing like it was in the replicator database. "E'lev, what about you?" “Hm. This, I think. Poultry, right? With root vegetables?” she asked, checking her limited understanding of the Romulan menu. He chuckled. "Yes, amoung many choices. We eat as much as we revere birds." He waved over the waiter from the far end of the restaurant. The tea in front of him was getting cold, so he lifted the cup to his mouth and took a first sip. He flinched as he forgot how spicy it was. Not to mention still hot. The waiter arrived moments later. "Ready to order?" the soft spoken Rihan man asked. Each of them, starting with Annisha, gave him their choice. He nodded at each of them, but appeared not to write anything down. He repeated each choice verbatim then left some bird-of-prey shaped bread in the center of the table. "This takes me back, my mother had a set of cutters to get them shaped just right." Nijil gave Jylliene one in the shape of the bird most saw on their Galea emblem. He took one shaped like the real Nei'rrh bird, and he picked one at random for Annisha. As she grabbed for it he held it fast, looking at her then the bread." "Daddy, can I have the bread?" He would not let go. His mouth quivered slightly. He looked worried. "Oh, yes, sorry. I-I.. the shape of that bread looked familiar." He let go, and his daughter used her knife to spread some sweet cream on it. She did not notice, but Nijil looked as if a spirit walked over him. Jylliene glanced at him briefly, a quizzical expression on her face. What was that about? she wondered, then as Nijil returned his attention to his own bread, she did similar. Something to ask about later, perhaps. He had already mentioned the bread reminding him of home; this may not be the last moment that would trigger some memory, perhaps unexpected or strong ones. Minutes passed as they ate their bread and drank their tea. Annisha insisted she have the same as her father, but she seemed to not like it as much. His gut complained as the news from Chirakis swam in his head. One thing obvious as he entered the Rihan military was keeping secrets was his weakest trait. If the information revolved around tactical and political issues, he had few issues. When the item was more personal his body let him know how hard keeping silent was for him. "Did you see how the bread is shaped like the birds in my amulet? Pretty neat don't you think?" she asked cheerfully as she bit the bird's head off. Nijil swallowed his tea then spoke. "Um-" he began, then was cut off. “Not now it doesn’t,” Jylliene chuckled, seeing the girl devour it. “That was always what I did with any animal-shaped treats. Bite the head off first,” she added with a grin. Both Jylliene and Annisha grinned at each other as they took alternating bites of their bread. Pretty soon Annisha had more in her mouth than she could swallow, looking like a Denobulan chipmunk with her puffy cheeks. It took some doing, but she slowly got the mass of bread in her before the entrees arrived. First Nijil's soup and salad. The garden greens were crisp and the soup steaming. Annisha's meat pastry stuffed with spicy sauces created wisps of hot vapors as well. Jylliene's choice spread across the table the most, the portions larger than she had anticipated. The vegetables looked cooked in the ground and the poultry only freshly prepared. Somewhere on the station must lay a secret room full of a variety of Rihan-only food for carnivore and herbivore appetites alike. The other restaurants on the commerce level were just stabbed in the back by the arrival of this Rihan establishment. No one spoke as each of them dug into their choices. The waiter came back minutes later to refill teas and restock the bird-shaped bread. After a few minutes it became clear Jylliene, Annisha, and Nijil were having their first true family moment. Each content in their food, each smiling at each other bite after bite, sharing moments together while the universe outside their table churned on. The worries each of them had before they ate melted away. If they thought about it they'd know this feeling was fleeting, but no one let their thoughts drift out of the moment. Until... "Father, this is just like home, only better." Annisha wiped the mess of red sauce covering her face. "Can you see if they can get food like this to go? They could put it in a bag and you could bring it him like my real father did on ch'Rihan." Nijil took a moment to process what she was saying and did not answer, but the worry buried in his gut bubbled up to his face. He looked suddenly cold. He wiped his own mouth searching for an answer among the twisting emotions her question spawned. Jylliene glanced to Nijil, gathering that something was bothering him. “We’ll need to ask. It’s certainly excellent food. I wouldn’t mind having it at home,” she replied, figuring that she would ask him later what the issue was. Perhaps it was her references to her ‘real’ parents? He found it fortunate his e'lev answered rather than he because the emotions he felt were not abating. The food was so good tonight there would be no doggy bags, but Annisha's plea for Rihan food was genuine. She got up out of her chair to look at the large bird cage perched at the front entrance of the restaurant. Nijil got out of his chair next, but looked like a food poison victim. Following them, Jylliene admired the bird in the cage with Annisha. "Look! It's a nei'rrh, just like your Rihan shuttle," Annisha exclaimed with delight. Her new parents gave her space to watch the bird, but Nijil moved closer to Jylliene. As they held onto the railing he put a hand over hers and grasped tightly. He leaned into her ear and whispered. "Jylliene...they're alive."
  12. Leave it Nijil remained in a state of worry ever since Jylliene arrived back on the Aegean. Her departure unexpected and, as he would learn later, fraught with danger. He and Lawliet at first had no idea what happened to her. The the cloak never faltered before and a technology getting through THAT was a feat Nijil had yet encountered. Cloaking fields, by design, protected the interior from exactly these type of incursions. Evidence mounted of a rarely-encountered matter transport, but not of Federation or Rihan design. After even more research they deduced the transport used a dimensional fold. Scattered records of this technology indicated unhealthy results with continued use. The meeting in the Aegean conference room only complicated matters. His thoughts raced and he needed to ease his mind, and hunger. Standard issue glasses and plates laid on a small table of Jylliene's quarters. Lit by a single candle in an otherwise dark room, the atmosphere provided few distractions. Steam rose from the replicated food the computer chose for them. They both were starving. As they sat at dinner, she looked at him. “Quite a mission so far.” "Ie," he agreed in Rihannsu. "Several unexpected events." He looked up from his hot soup, studying her face for any sign of trouble. The thought of the dimensional fold compressing her molecules through a micro-wormhole sent his mind plotting worse-case scenarios. Untold danger. "I got to command the Aegean." She smiled slightly. “How’d it feel? Other than the unexpected circumstance leading to your taking command.” "She's a larger ship and when I fly the Nei'rrh it's only me and a few passengers." He lit up. "Lawliet rejected my urging to take the Aegean down to the planet." He gave a slight smile. "We just stayed put and waited." “Good,” she replied with a chuckle. “It certainly had me on edge enough when we had not yet established contact with the team.” With a more serious expression, she added, “I imagine you were worried.” "Na, not really," he lied. "After a moment of command structure confusion our teams got to work." “Might work on your skills of deception,” she remarked. Nijil sighed. "I'm an engineer, not a Tal Shiar agent." “I know,” she said, smiling at him, and reaching out to clasp his hand briefly. “I suppose you have your work cut out for you over the next few days.” "I suppose so. I guess we both aren't in command any longer and neither of us have had much sleep." He moved his hands around the tableware and touched hers. "Are you sure you are alright?" Nodding, she replied, “Yes. A little bruised, perhaps, from when I was ‘escorted’ to the room Commander Ramson was in, but beyond that, fine, or I’d have gone to medical.” "Fine? Really? Do you know what that folding does to you, what it had to do to locate you through the cloaking field? How it found the resonance frequency. The computer is still doing the simulations so we can protect ourselves against it." He squeezed her hand with a little bit of his temper, but only for a moment. "I'm sorry." Nijil looked at the soup bowl as if it had answers. It only replied with steam. He spoke again. "This mission just makes me wish for home. I miss my quarters, my daughter... our daughter...us." A realization hit him. "Dealing with stress has not been a strong suit of mine. Give me a shuttle flight or temperamental piece of technology I'm fine. Distance me from the people I care about for an extended period, not so much." Jylliene glanced down at her food, then back up at Nijil. “Perhaps what we both need is a little reconnecting,” she suggested, with a slight smile and a quirked eyebrow. "Something wrong in engin... oh.." Nijil was often a little slow on intention. His smile widened as he interlocked his hand with hers. He started to stand and moved her hand to his lips, kissing each of her fingers one after the other. In his haste his other hand knocked over the half-empty wine glass. Still at her last digit his eyes looked over to see what had happened. Only a spill. His eyes revealed a laugh. "Leave it." “Leaving it,” Jylliene replied with a slight chuckle as she stood and followed him. ______ Notes
  13. The air grew thinner, and Erich knew his time was running out. The most important thing, if he couldn’t save the ship...he had to tell Keb. “I lo…” he projected as he lost consciousness. *** Eight days ago: Erich had left Earth for Betazed after two days with the Mizu family. He needed a break from the chaotic emotions in the household. Keb had encouraged him to go home, to reassure his family that reports of his death were exaggerated (or perhaps understated). Three weeks had passed since, though they’d sent regular subspace messages. Keb suggested they try a holographic messaging system she’d heard about. “It’d be like being together, holonovel style.” Erich made the arrangements, including permission for a personal transmission in the midst of ongoing testing, and stood in the holodeck waiting for the operator to make the connection. After a few minutes the backdrop changed to an early morning meadow. Light years away on Earth, Keb waited with impatience for the hookup to work. The scenery shifted from the grid to green dandelions and blue sky. Keb adjusted her dress again. It matched her teal hair ribbon. “Erich?” she called out. "Hello?" A disembodied voice called out. "I can't see you. I'm seeing a field." “I’m in the field,” she answered. Inches away from her, a flickering image of Erich’s body formed. She couldn’t help reaching for his hand, even knowing it was just a hologram, but the image flickered away before she could take it. “This isn’t working quite as advertised.” "I thought you'd be in that dress. Can't imagine they're let you in there with no clothes." He stated. His image stabilized. Keb blushed and shook her head. “Are your parents okay?” "They had another party for my return. Father is still working in the clock shop, mother still cooking. They wondered why you did not show, and thought something happened to you." “I’ll come see them next chance I get. I-I just needed to be with my family...so much has happened for them, and so little for me. They insist I haven’t aged a day.” Erich laughed. "Mine said I look ten years older. I agreed." He paused. "I wanted to mention something, your parents felt cold toward me. I meant to ask about that earlier." “They can’t help what they’re feeling,” Keb said. “I’m sorry. They don’t hate you...they just spent a year mourning me and...I think they were jealous that you were with me the whole time.” She sat down in the grass, pulling his hand to join her. He didn’t feel quite right--the hologram was good, but it didn’t feel like him. “This is weird,” she murmured. "You are telling me. You have no depth. An emotional disconnect." He stared and thought a moment about something she said. "Jealous? I thought they'd be grateful. I did not expect jealousy. I am no one to covet, believe me. Being with you was great, but knowing anything I told you washed away like an ocean tide, my life became hard to bear." He squeezed her holographic hands tighter. She could feel the pressure, but despite the physical accuracy of the hologram, she couldn’t convince herself they were his hands. She could not explain what felt off about it; she closed her eyes and didn’t try. He was too far away for her to think to; while it was still a strange way to communicate, it was also strange not to have Erich aware of her every thought and emotion when he seemed so close. “I wish I could’ve helped you more,” she said. “But there is something special between us, that anyone would envy. Even my dad’s accepting the fact that....” She shrugged her shoulders as she searched for the words. “I love you.” "I know. I could sense all that." He felt the image crackle; Keb flickered as if she was nothing but a dream. He stiffened up, then clasped her right hand in both of his. "It's not all bad; I learned some basic Rihan language, got my books read, and learned far more about the crew than I ever wanted. But, more importantly, I have a better control of my overactive mind. I'll show you when we get back." He smiled as his image blurred then cleared up. She nodded. “I can’t wait till we get back to Manticore. I...wish I could kiss you, but…” "Oh, come on, let's try." Erich tilted his head as he went in for a holographic kiss. She did as well and... ZAP! Both of them were flung backwards. Erich started to laugh hysterically. "I," he gasped, "guess they still have some bugs to work out. I don't think a kiss was in the specifications report." He laid on his back laughing. Keb caught his infectious laughter and scooted nearer his hologram. “It’s okay. Shore leave’s over in a week.” He sat up and brushed himself off. "Oh, something for you." He waved his hand and a flat box appeared at their side between them. "The holodeck has replicator technology. I can give you things on your side. These are from Betazed, molecularly encoded, but from here.” He pushed the box towards her. She opened it, and pulled out a dozen hair ribbons, handwoven with Betazoid patterns. “They’re beautiful; thank you. Kansas will despise them.” A tone rang overhead. "I think that means…” Flicker "that our time..." Snap "is almost..." Crackle "Up." Pop Keb stood. Everything was gone except for the ribbons in her hand, and she was again surrounded by the holodeck grid. She closed her eyes, reminding herself that she’d see him soon--that they’d have much more time together in only a week. *** The air on the bridge was so thin. Keb couldn’t focus; she couldn’t even get to Erich. They’d had so little time together. She slumped over her console. With her last bit of strength, she thought back to him: I kno…
  14. This log got diverted to Sky Harbor Aegis and found by an engineer working on the messaging system there. The headers were FUBARed, so he routed this to it's destination instead. Enjoy.
  15. Dream a Little Dream of Thee As a last ditch effort the now dead civilization transmitted their entire record into the station's memory cores. Computer access, what was not locked out, slowed to a crawl. No storage. Engineers littered the station shoring up systems accustomed to running smoothly. Jorahl sent Nijil to check out one of the holodecks. Despite being locked down it showed a spike in power and currently active. While Nijil heralded the end of the broadcast, he could not forget the haunting ending. He wondered if the last cries of the Great Fire rang out with the same haunting last moments. Many Romulans survived of course, but billions turned to millions. Whatever happened to this civilization their number was likely zero. Into a lift, down a corridor, and a long walk to the holodeck doors. Surprisingly few people, engineers or not, were making their rounds. He figured ears were still ringing from the audio blasts. Entry into the holodeck proved as slow as everything else on the station. Simply put, all of the computer storage was in use. The dangers of purging it were too great, and just in case the transmission delivered a gold pressed latinum mine of knowledge, engineering proceeded carefully. In the wake of the computer crisis other problems arose, namely power fluctuations. This one in particular was odd since holo matrixes take a different kind of power apart from the main power system. Whatever the problem it locked the holodeck door as well. Old or new technology, Nijil prepared for this. He went directly for the manual override. He removed a panel to the left of the main door to reveal a lever to release the magnetic seals. Either he was weak or the door was especially tough to open. "Not going to make this easy for me," the engineer said to the inanimate foe. Several pulls down to release the seals proved futile. He paused to think. If the manual release did not function, nothing short of a large blast would open it, by design. He moved back to the outside interface to try the normal way. Nijil rubbed his temple at the prospect of hacking the entry code and the many safety overrides in place. The LCARS interface was running, the best news he had all day. The display did not recognize his finger presses. "Oh," he moaned. Voice input. "Computer, is a program running on this holodeck?" "Affirmative." Though the interface did not show, the power signature must be from the running program. No wonder after the massive transmission wreaking havoc with all parts of the station. "Okay, what program is running?" "No holodeck program on record is running on holodeck 2." "What? You said a program was running." Nijil did not understand. "Computer, further explanation." "No Federation, Romulan, Klingon, or other known holodeck program is currently running on holodeck two. The program is of unknown origin." Nijil looked away as he tried to bring the pieces together. Sometimes it took longer than he liked, certainly longer than puzzles took Annisha, but in the end he'd get there. The holodeck does not simply create new programs on its own. Not true to a point. It can be commanded to procedurally generate environments and situations, but... "Computer, when did this program start and who initiated it?" "The program started on stardate 2387.313 10:00 hours by Nijil tr'Korjata." Eyes wide, Nijl disagreed. "I was not even here, your sensors should show that. I demand this program be unlocked." "Access granted. Enter when ready." "Annisha bet- what?" He stopped his demands after hearing those words. "Well, then," he picked up his engineering kit, "let's see what the matter is with the holodeck." The holodeck stated it was he that initiated the program, but that was not possible. Database corruption, or worse, someone hacking into the holodeck systems. Great he thought, a station full of people cut off from their training and entertainment. The door opened for him normally. He walked into the middle of the holodeck grid before looking up in awe. "What is this?" Unknown technology lined the walls from floor to ceiling. Directly in front of him sat a large rectangular table. It appeared configured for someone larger than himself. A vaguely humanoid indentation took up most of the surface. No profile of a species he immediately recognized. Nijil looked at the assembly above the table with interest, but nothing indicated their function. Iridescent lights shined down into the cavity. He felt the table's cold surface along the palm of his hand. Better than machine smooth. Must have been from the replication process. Another oddity about this program. The dancing lights reminded him of a time back on ch'Rihan, at the war college, or between sessions. The table was a little high for an easy climb, so he holstered his scanner and pulled himself up. "Cold to sit on too," he thought. After walking a good distance to get to the holodeck he needed the rest. From the looks of things this bed would not provide much in the way of comfort. Cold metal and strange indentations made even the cushion of a Klingon mattress preferable. He pressed his hands into the bed to push himself back. Annisha often commented about the differences between Rihans and everyone else. So many questions. She would have jumped up to compare herself, but in absence of that, he'd do it. As Nijil moved into position he noticed how, if he was this alien, well the fit should be. No matter where in the galaxy, most sentient species shared a basic shape. He placed his behind in one of those universal locations. "Oof." he called out. "Ouch," he moaned, but finally got into position. He laid back and sort of filled out the shape pressed into the table. As he went to lay back his head fell too far." "Whoa, how large are their heads?" No one answered and he struggled to level his head. He reached to his side to prop himself up. It worked, but the angle now was too much. Better than the alternative. The sleepy engineer yawned at the light show over his head. "I should get readings on this." Nijil's conversations with himself started to become more frequent. Such is the life of a lonely repair man. One engineer called him "Maytag" but that made no sense to him. With one hand he flipped open his tricorder. It blinked and chirped as the lights above continued their randomness. Minutes of standard scans revealed nothing. The lights did nothing but make him increasingly drowsy. Another yawn. The tricorder scanned through all of its frequency bands, but found nothing of note. Much like acid in a glass jar, the lights above seemed inert to any of Nijil's prods. "No pretty picture eh, perhaps you'll talk instead." Again he spoke into the holodeck's darkness. He opened up the hailing protocols, looking for a handshake to this alien technology. Minutes passed. The comm badge startled him. It was SubCommander Jorahl. "Report." Nijil tapped his chest badge. "It's still early in the scans. The holodeck has constructed several technologies I am unfamiliar with. My best guess is a medical examination function. I've only just began my attempts to log into this technology." "Do you need additional engineering personnel?" "I don't believe so, nothing has really happened yet, I will let you know when I have found something, and if I can safely shut it down." "Very well, report back in one hour." He sighed. "Understood, tr'Korjata out." Thankfully Jorahl's comm got him on task again. The neverending radio blast caused a station-wide lack of sleep. Nijil, even accustomed to long engineering hours could not escape this drowsiness. The tricorder chirped and beep, sang and rang. It tried everything in it's tiny database. Nothing. Nothing. Nothin--. Chirp, chirp, beep. The tricorder got an invitation and attempted another series of commands. More time passed and unseen to Nijil the lights above started to synchronize with the tricorder. First he noticed the repeating pattern on his scanner, then he looked up. He smiled. Then a forcefield fell from ceiling to floor and enveloped the table. "Ahhh, fvadt." This was not good. He pressed his finger into the field expecting a shock. Nothing, not even a tingle. Just a smooth surface in mid-air. Fascinating as that was he needed to get out. He tapped his badge. "Korjata to Jorahl." The comm badge made an odd failing sound. The field seemed to be blocking its function. He reached behind him for his kit. He fumbled to open it and dropped it past his feet. It slide down the smooth metal table, stopping as it reached the field perimeter. Nijil was losing patience and reluctantly went for his sidearm. He aimed squarely at the lights above and... ...dropped his phaser. A yellow beam had hit him just before he fired. His arms went to his side and his entire body went limp. The pain from hitting the table would have been notable save for the numbness. His face kept some of it's feeling. "Uhhgh, hel-" Was all he could vocalize. Beams of all kinds started to scan Nijil. Nausea passed through his body at the assault. Red from head to toe. Green from side to side. That yellow one traced the profile of his body. Any part not within the table cavity the beam moved within. He moaned loudly as a tingle swept through his bones. He thought he felt a mist as a tear ran down from one eye. This assault continued for what seemed like an eternity. Only ten minutes passed. The beams stopped. A bright orange beam hit the table below his feet. It trekked slowly up the table. A powerful tingle hit his feet as the beam dematerialized his feet. "Ah.." Ankles. "Ahhh...." Knees. "Aahhh...." Thighs. "Aaahhaa..." Groin. "Aaargh..." Waist. "Annis-!" Chest. Silence. Shoulders. Silence. Neck, chin, mouth, nose, tears, eyes, hair... Nijil. *** "Ahh!" The voice of a Rihan screeched out from the master bedroom of one SubCommander tr'Korjata. With eyes still closed he struggled against an invisible assailant, reaching out with both hands in an attempt to maul them away. Silently he waved his arms as his daughter in her borrowed nightgown entered. "Daddy, Daddy! What's wrong?" She turned on the light above his bed and saw him wrestling wildly into the air. His face covered in sweat and fear, she moved into wake him up. SLAP! "Wake up daddy, you're having those dreams again." SLAP! "Daddy!" She placed her hands at his temples. His eyes opened wide. For a moment he froze in place. He was in shock. "Daddy, it's alright. You just had a bad dream." He reached out with both arms, then embraced her. She woudl hug him tightly until he calmed himself. "It happened again Annisha. It happened again."
  16. Jylliene, I'm deep within the central structure of Aegis waiting on results of a diagnostic. Hope my command of Federation Standard is adequate. Happy holidays if you celebrate that sort of thing, the station surely does. Every culture has some sort of celebration, even stuck-up Vulcans. With pressure from Annisha our wedding plans are underway. I have reserved the park on Aegis for both ceremony and reception. The Klingon chef offered free blood-letting, but I politely declined. The music is so varied I'm wondering if we should let the music director pick it all. We will discuss this later. I looked for any Trill/Rihan crossover songs. Covers yes, but no originals. Perhaps with renewed Fed/Rihan ties this will happen. Oh, are you going Kital-Korjata or Kital or Korjata? It matters not what you choose. Identity is important, but so is change. Food...food. Some urging of replicated meat or the real thing. Some of want all veggie. Earth has some interesting dishes. Hushpuppies, corn dogs, and pizza. Luckily those are not real canines. I suggest the best Trill and Rihan foods. My mother will insist, but would also coordinate with your parents. Our vowals vows. What is there to say. Annisha suggests to choose one's words carefully. She got a little carried away, but I know she's just concerned. I say be brief and not the length of some of Captain Chirakis' conferences. Or for that matter, this diagnostic. Almost done. I just want to leave you with my anticipation of our bonding, both excitation and nervous. Nijil
  17. The Proof is in the Wine (2 of 2) (A Chirakis/Nijil Joint) Dinner went very well and Nijil could not be more relieved. Surprisingly, the wine drew several comments from both the Captain and Jylliene. Only a fraction of the contents remained. He, himself, was on his fourth glass. At this point he was unsure how many of the others had. They were chatting away on the couch about some new crewmember when Nijil decided to read the bottle more closely. "From the family vineyard of Korjata to your home. Prototype Batch #42. Warning: Possibly High Proof." The real proof was not listed as his father must have been testing batches for the year. He looked at the both of them. Chirakis seemed, well, like Chirakis, but Jylliene looked to be a bit...relaxed. “My compliments to the chef,” said the captain, raising her half-empty wine glass, “and to the vintner. If your father succeeds in replanting the cane he needs to produce such a fine vintage, I’ll be the first to visit.” "It's," the wine interrupted him, "nice of you to say." He looked at her with a glazed expression. "I think this particular batch is stronger than intended." Nijil sat closer to his captain and on the edge of her personal space. "I'd like to thank you for pulling me from the brink of my own despair when I first arrived on Aegis. I would not be here now without you." He placed a hand on her shoulder, then quickly removed it as if electrically shocked. She didn’t seem to mind. Maybe she realized he was drunk. “I pulled you from the brink of your despair?” "My planet was essentially destroyed and I only heard that via the announcement from my Captain. I warned my family of the danger and prepared them best I could, but I did not know their fate until months later." He swallowed hard as he felt his own unsteadiness. "I must've looked like a homeless vagrant when I arrived on this Federation station." “I don’t recall that you looked any different than the rest who had just been through Gre’thor*. But warning of the impending destruction of those on ch’Rihan is my duty, SubCommander. I would not have done otherwise.” She took a generous sip of the wine; it didn’t seem to affect her at all. He considered her for a moment and the lack of effect the wine had on her. "I have another request if you are willing. Eventshhhave, oh my. Events have put some things on hold on the station, namely the bonding between Jylliene and I. Along with other more personal endeavors our plans have been pushed aside. W-would...you," he said pointing, "be willing to officiate our bonding? I ask because you often seem, well, a private person and not...outgoing? I know I'm going to get a reprimand for that comment. Thing is you are close to both of us, as close as a captain can be to her crew." Nijil closed his eyes. The captain regarded him a moment, somewhat bemused. Then her expression turned sincere. Placing aside her glass, she stood and bowed respectfully. “SubCommander, I would be honored to officiate your bonding. Make the arrangements. I will do my best to perform the ceremony to the highest Rihan standards.” As if injected with a fresh source of plasma Nijil shot up and forcefully embraced her. "Khlinæ arhem*!" One does not simply embrace their captain, nor do they hold it for more than a moment. Nijil did both. He let her go immediately, making a feanna* of himself. "I...have had too much to drink." As soon as he released his hold, the captain stepped away. “It is your right to enjoy your family’s vintage, SubCommander. However, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting in ten minutes. I thank you for the excellent dinner, and for the wine. Give my best to Lieutenant Kital. I wish you and your family a peaceful evening.” _______________ Note: Look Who's Coming to Dinner was a Chirakis/Alexis/Jylliene/Nijil Joint *Gre'thor: Klingon word for hades. *Khlinæ arhem: Romulan, gratitude from an inferior to a superior. *feanna: Romulan for fool.
  18. Look Who's Coming to Dinner (1 of 2) She’d seen strange messages on her PADD, but never one like this. “See you later tonight. I'll cook something up for all of us. xo” Taking into account the sender, SubCommander Korjata, and the “xo” at the end - which definitely did not refer to the executive officer - Kirel raised her eyes to regard the SubCommander’s fiance, SrLt Kital, for a long moment, then shifted her focus back to the message. Could it be that the engineer used the captain’s first name, and that Kirel and Kital were close enough together that he hit the wrong key in sending? However, the phrase “all of us” changed the meaning altogether. “I look forward to it,” Kirel replied and turned back to her work… until the message repeated itself, and a response came from SrLtn Kital, “Will be nice.” Kital’s expression had changed. A press on her PADD revealed that tr’Korjata had mistakenly chosen default group messaging. She smiled. After some time, she read, “May have invited the Captain to dinner…” “I look forward to it. Make sure you have enough for us all.” “I miss you. It has been too long.” “And I, you. See you this evening.” Nijil chopped. Nijil sliced. Nijil diced. Nijil minced. Nijil was tired. He'd not gotten to the cooking yet, but the guests had to be here for that. Three junior engineers were nice enough to bring up a large fusion-powered cooking stove that now sat in Nijil's living room next to an elongated dining table that would accommodate his guests. He hoped Annisha appreciated his cooking effort compared to her Klingon friend. No targ served here. "Daddy," she pulled at his shirt and looked up to him with her big eyes. "Why is this big thing in here?" "Oh I wanted to cook something nice for Jylliene and you. Nothing replicated. When's the last time you had an unreplicated meal?" Annisha perked up. "Oh last week at the Klingon place. He made sure my food did not move." Her father groaned at the thought of live food. "Oh, did I tell you about my new friend?" "Yes, a thousand times. Something new about her?" "Only that I invited her over." He stopped his chopping. "I mean if you can invite the Captain why not Alexis? She won't eat much." "Probably not, but let me add more." He grabbed more of each vegetable and renewed his work. She hugged his waist tightly. "Thanks, you'll really like her." The door chime sounded. "I'll get it!" Her hair bounced as she hopped to the door and pressed the entry key. "Daddy, she's here!" "Just a moment." He put down his knife and straightened up his shirt. A quick check of his hair and he walked over, prepared to see the smiling face of Jylliene, or, if a bad day, a worn out version. "My e'lev, it-" Nijil froze. "Captain, you are early, I-I thought you were someone else." The captain gave a gracious, though playful smile. “I can always come back later.” "No no, you are welcome anytime Captain. Let me, er, get you something to drink." Next time he spoke to Annisha he would go over the times when names are needed. "Replicated or something from our stock?" Now stock in a Starfleet station is limited to a small refrigeration unit, but this was from the off-world family vineyard. Doubt Chirakis has this spirit in her locked cabinet. “Some of your stock, thank you. Your father’s vineyard and its products are legendary,” she responded, admiring the decor. Her eyes fell on the youngest Korjata. “Annisha.” she said cordially. "Captain." She gave her a look. "Have you ever thought about trying a dark green rather than black? My parents wore black all of the time, but that's the Tal Shiar way." The little girl looked her squarely in the eye. "You have the Tal Shiar look, except for the ears." “I have the Tal Shiar look for good reason, young one. The black serves the same purpose as it does for the Tal Shiar. I’m sure you can figure out the rest.” "In the shaaadows..." She raised her hands and waved them about. “Indeed,” Kirel replied, leaning forward mysteriously. “In the shadows.” Back in her quarters, Alexis was curious to see what would be served at this dinner. Donning one of the new dresses Dacia bought her earlier, she quickly sent a message to Dacia asking permission, and got a quick response back saying she could. Her quarters were close by so it did not take long to arrive. She pressed the chime button and waited. "Daddy, she's here!" Annisha shouted. "Finally," Nijil said, once again putting down his knife. The Captain seemed to enjoy the Korjata wine, or the view out the long window. He wiped his hands, walked to the door, opened it, and spoke. "Long day at work swee-" "I'm not your sweetie. I'm Alexis. Is the lady of the house here?" "Well, Jylliene is not here yet...," he said and paused. "But you mean Annisha." Annisha jumped from behind her father. "Boo!" “Hey Annisha. Long time, no see.” Alexis replied sarcastically. "Wait, did I just try to scare a mind reader?" Annisha looked dejected, thinking Alexis knew she was there the entire time. "It has been long time," she continued in clear earshot of her father, who believed she had never left her room after the broadcast. Alexis giggled. “I didn’t read your mind, but I can detect your presence nearby. You’ll have to try harder than that,” she replied smiling, sauntering over to Annisha. “So, what’s for dinner?” she asked. "He's fixing noodles, vegetables and protein on this large stove thing. Said he had to modify the fire suppression so it would not kill the flame.” “Hmm sounds delish,” replied Alexis tentatively as she peaked into the living area. “So, who else is coming? Ooh, and is that the Captain there? Your father must be making something fancy.” She latched onto Annisha’s waist. "I dunno what he's making. It a big stove is all I know. He said his mother made him cook. She was often on the other side of their farm." Annisha placed her hand over Alexis' clutching hand. "He, let's go see my room. I don't think you've been there. Come on.." Alexis needed no coaxing and the bedroom door slammed behind them. "Whew, thought Annisha was going to hang around me while cooking. Bless her friend." Nijil continued to cut up fungus. "Captain, you are being quiet. I am not keeping you from something am I?" “Not at all, SubCommander. I’m observing your process while enjoying your father’s excellent vintage. It’s too smooth to interrupt with words.” She held her glass up, admiring its contents. "Well the plant does not exist anymore, so it's some of the last batch from the homeworld," he said with disappointment. "He is trying again at his new place though, but it will be a bit before it's ready. He chopped and she observed in silence until he once again broke it. "About the misdirected message. I'm glad you are a good sport about it." “Misdirected? Interesting.” She let it hang, as a smirk broke her otherwise stoic expression while she placed her lips to the glass and raised a brow. Nijil diced the last of the vegetables and wondered where Jylliene was; her shift had been over for some minutes. Lots of ships in orbit he thought. "Unless you think the evening could go somewhere. I'm sure Jylliene won't mind, if she ever gets here. Now where..." The door chimed. Nijil sighed in relief, put down his utensils, approached the door, and opened the comm. "I'm not kissing whomever is at my door. I've been burned twice." "Well then you are going to have a very lonely evening sleeping on the floor." It was Jylliene, but Nijil could not tell if she was serious. Opening the door, he went in for a peck on the cheek, but her hand blocked his attempt. "Nah ah, it's my turn to burn." Jylliene walked in and stopped as she saw the captain. "Captain, good to see you. I presume Nijil is trying to court another?" She gave the woman a grin, barely able to hold back a chuckle. Nijil's face turned green with embarrassment. Kirel turned to face him. “You’ve already consulted Captain d’Ka? Has he accepted the agreement?” "D'Ka? Agreement? I have not spoken to him." Nijil had never even met him. “I thought it was customary to consult with the bond-mate before proposing to his significant other. Am I mistaken?” The captain’s expression turned serious, the wine glass cradled in one hand. Clearly nervous and off-guard, Nijil stammered, his hand shaking. "I-I did not consult with anyone. I did not know he was your significant other; my apologies to both of you. I should contact him now to see if this meal is okay." “Unfortunately, the USS Missouri is not in system. However, the meeting can be arranged at his earliest convenience. You should know that he does not respond well to surprises, nor is he prone to sharing.” Kirel exchanged a playful glance with Jylliene. "Okay, okay. Either I will be roughed up by this d'Ka or I'm being played. In any event I am ready to start the grill." He looked around. "Where are the girls?" Giggling came from Annisha's room. At his comm, they jumped and skipped into the room and to their seats. "Jylliene, I'll begin to cook while you get ready." He heard her affirmative from the other room then turned to the Captain. "This protein will taste like chicken, so how do you like yours cooked?" “However you prefer,” she replied graciously. “I am not particular. And,” she spoke in quiet confidence, “do not worry about Captain d’Ka. He is a peaceful man.”
  19. That’s a good look for you Cup of Nijil and a Dash of Jylliene Annisha remained out of reach upon her father’s return. Not even for Jylliene nor her new friend Doctor Davis. She must have done something wrong to avoid him like this. If true, one of the medical staff would have called him to their office the moment he arrived back on Aegis. Just as well as the sonic shower in the Nei’rrh broke down on the return trip. After many interruptions from fellow engineers and friends he reached the door to his quarters. He pressed the entry pad. Nothing. He pressed it again. Still nothing. “Computer, open the door to my quarters, authorization Docha epsilon one seven two.” “Entry denied,” said the feminine computer voice. Nijil stood back for a moment. His own quarters. “Computer, on whose authority?” This should be good. “Captain Annisha t’Korjata, daughter of Nijil tr’Korjata, minor engineer.” The minor engineer contorted his face. He walked up to the door and used an ancient door opening technique. “Annisha,” he pounded at the door with a closed fist. “Are you in there? Let me in. I need a sonic shower.” A muffled voice within the room spoke. “Daddy, go away.” “But why? I need in there, and there’s something about a boomerang.” “Yeah yeah, later. Can you please come back tonight?” Nijil’s face twisted again. “What? No, I need in there now! You open this up, Captain,” he said with thick sarcasm. “I can’t daddy, it’s a surprise.” “A what?” “I can’t tell you.” Annisha was not alone. “It’s the honorable thing to do SubCommander,” the deep voice bellowed. “Who are you and why are you in my quarters with my daughter?” Nijil said with more force. “A friend.” The voice let the word friend linger a moment. “I owe your daughter favor. Now go!” The force of the command took Nijil aback. Why was the voice familiar? “Annisha, are you alright? I need a change of clothes.” “Yes daddy, I am fine and I’ll get you some clothes. You dress funny, so it should be easy.” A few minutes passed as she gathered a fresh set of clothes for him. He placed his ear to the door to hear. “Daddy!” Nijil almost jumped out of his skin. “Yes?” “Stand down the corridor.” “Sure.” Annisha yelled. “You there?” “Yes!” A crew person walked by, giving the Romulan a strange look. The door down the way from him opened and let a crack of light through. Soon pants flew out of his quarters, followed by a shirt, undershirt, underwear, socks, and finally his old boots. The door closed just as he ran back. “There you go dad, new clothes. Now would you please go?” Her father looked dejected, but backed off. This battle was hers to win, and a lesson in security for her later. He gathered his lump of clothes and headed to Lt. Kital’s quarters. Soon he could get that soothing shower, provided her door was open. Nijil walked down the way to her quarters, looking like a husband thrown out to the targ house. He pressed his thumb to the door security panel and...yes, got that happy chirp. The door opened and... Jylliene let out a high-pitched shriek heard throughout the entire corridor. Nijil was just as startled and dropped hard on his rear, launching his clothes high into the air. Two security down the hall started to run. Her eyes pierced his like daggers. “You son of a targ! What are you doing here? Don’t you know to chime first?” “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get a shower.” His underwear fell over his face. The security guards arrived and just laughed. Jylliene snickered. “That’s a good look for you,” she commented, then with a grandiose gesture toward the shower, added, “By all means, e’lev.”
  20. Little Hazel Eyes - Amanda and Nijil The shipyard wasn’t made to live in, but it was much better than living on several ships and it was comfortable enough. Because it was of Romulan construction, the amenities were sparse, but everyone seemed to be making do. Amanda had taken a few things that were dear to her, like her tea and tea set, two comfortable chairs, and some of the decorative trappings from her informal office on Aegis. The rest she put in storage. In her off-hours the counselor wandered the hallways to get some exercise and to interact informally with the crew. Every household move is traumatic, but it seemed that for the most part the excitement of having a new station - or a fairly new station - overshadowed any regret at having to leave. It was during a morning constitutional that Amanda spotted Nijil coming in the opposite direction and greeted him with a cheery, “Nijil! How are you?” “Oh,” he began, startled. “Jolan tru Doctor. I’m...elements, what am I doing? Oh, making sure this section is secure for the number of people who will occupy it. I’m just happy to get back to work.” He grimaced as he closed the file displayed on his padd. “And it’s good to see you back to work. How are Jylliene and Annisha?” His eyes dilated a bit at their mention. “They are fine. Jylliene is busy as ever and Annisha is packing her things with care. She has more things than both of us.” A smile formed on his weary face. “She’s taking this move better than any of us.” “To me, it’s exciting,” said Amanda. “When we return we’ll have a new, sturdy, and safer place to live, and knowing Captain Chirakis and Mr. Roberts, it will be first rate.” “Chirakis. Right.” Hearing the name shook his confidence. “Engineering will have much to do regardless of the condition.” Something moved behind Dr. Davis. He peered around the corner and spotted Annisha. “Go,” he mouthed, waving her off. Amanda turned to look, then turned back, puzzled. “Nijil,” she said hesitantly, “I need a good cup of tea, and I certainly would enjoy your company. Won’t you join me?” “Sure, I could use a break. I think she’s gone now. My daughter has been following me around all day. I had to shoo her off.” Nijil looked around, unsure where they were having this tea. His daughter popped her tiny head from behind a crate. He held up a finger. “Annisha! Go to your quarters.” “Annisha,” Amanda turned to the empty corridor, “your father needs a break. I’m sure you don’t mind, do you?” She turned back to Nijil. “See, she’s on her way. She knows when we need our space.” Taking Nijil’s arm, the counselor led him to the lift and on to her meager quarters-cum-office. “You think I would know where I am going,” he shrugged. Fifteen minutes later they had settled into Amanda’s cozy area, tea tray on a small table and fresh warm scones next to freshly poured tea. Handing a cup to Nijil, she took hers and snuggled into the cushions, took a sip and began the conversation. “Nijil, why do you think Annisha follows you around everywhere?” “I think she’s worried about me after I scared her to death,” he answered, taking a drink of the hot tea. The pastry looked good, so he bit into it as well. “I told her of my dreams, how she played a part. She was tickled.” Nijil paused, then started again. “That was days ago. Now she just follows me around while I work. Not saying a word.” Amanda continued to sip while Nijil talked. When his pause reached a comfortable level she said, “The attack on the station was traumatic for everyone, Nijil. Because of your injury it was especially traumatic for you, your family, and your friends. Children and adults react to trauma differently. Annisha almost lost her father; she’s bound to be protective.” Amanda paused to regard Nijil in a pleasant, casual manner, but her tone was suggestive. “Adults, on the other hand, may pretend that the event was not as traumatic as they previously thought. Others will form a mental block and not remember it at all. And some… will dismiss it, tell themselves that they can take care of it alone, and try to carry on business as usual.” She moved forward to pour more tea. “Which category do you believe you are in, Nijil?” “Well, I have been through scraps like this before. I once fell down a hill and had my hand nearly crippled. A few more from my youth. I don’t see how this was any different. Like before, if I just get back to work I should pull through.” Nijil had to stop to catch his breath, and to bite more of the scone. “Nijil,” Amanda slowly set her cup on the table, “there was no one in the corridor when you spoke to Annisha.” He gave her a puzzled look. “You are mistaken. I clearly saw her around the corner, like many of the corners she peers around. I shooed her off before you caught sight of her.” “Oh, I have no doubt you saw her, but I assure you she was not there. She is in Emberly Rassiton’s art class, where I left her.” “Wait, let me call her and prove to you.” Nijil tapped his badge. “Nijil to Annisha, this is your father.” “Daddy are you okay? If not I can’t leave yet 'cause my fingers have paint on them.” “I’m fine Annisha. Weren’t you just watching me? I shooed you off not half an hour ago.” “Daddy, you are funny. I’ve been here all day.” “I’m working. Are you sure?” Nijil felt a sinking a feeling in his stomach. “Yes daddy. Can I go back to painting?” “Sure, I will see you at dinner.” The channel closed. He turned his attention to the doctor. “I owe you an apology. I saw her, but not her.” “Nijil, the mind is a powerful thing,” began Amanda. “You saw her because your mind told you she was there, and you may see her again until your mind learns to deal with the trauma you have been through.” Over the course of the next hour Amanda explained Situational Post Traumatic Stress, why it happens, what it triggers in the brain, how the brain uses the trigger to protect the body, and how those affected can learn to cope. "It's normal,” said Amanda. “It's your brain trying to make sense of things it does not understand and it is your brain's way of protecting you so it doesn't happen again." “Doctor,” Nijil said with care. “I can’t work if I’m hallucinating. There’s no telling what I may see next. How do I rid myself of this?” “It’s not a matter of ridding, Nijil, it’s a matter of coping. But we will have to speak to SubCommander Jorahl and get his approval before you go back to work. If we have regular sessions you can learn to cope. However,” she paused in a cautionary tone, “there is one condition for my services.” “Yes?” “If you agree to not call me Doctor, I promise I won’t call you SubCommander.” “Agreed Doc.. Davis, Amanda, Amanda Davis?” “Amanda will do,” she laughed. “Now off with you until tomorrow - or until you need me in an emergency. And take some scones to Jylliene and Annisha. They love them.”
  21. Ihhuein (Water) “Oof!” Nijil fell flat on his back, wind knocked out of him. A throbbing pain from head to toe. He should be dead and it should be dark. Neither was true. Quite alive and sun brightened. Just after midday from the looks of it. Not a space station access shaft either. The gentle sound of the surf greeted Nijil’s ears. A hand extended into his view. “You should have walked around the rock and not over.” A warm smile fell over Jylliene as she helped Nijil up. “I think you fall to make our daughter laugh and it is she who will have the last laugh if you keep this up.” “You are right,” he said with a chuckle. She kept her hand in his and resumed their walk back to the shuttle Nei’rrh at the far end of the beach. Annisha darted ahead, playing between water and sand. She laughed as she jumped over the incoming waves. “She must think I’m a clumsy goof.” “E’lev, she adores you.” Jylliene’s eyes glistened as the light danced off the waves. Nijil met his with hers, and drew a non-Rihan smile. She clutched his hand as she drew closer to him. “I adore you as well, goofs and all. And take no offense, I never imagined bonding with a Romulan, but then there may be none like yourself.” She smiled. “None that cried at their own bonding.” Nijil poked her side in jest. “For how long are you going to have me relive that part of the ceremony?” “Anniversaries, dinner parties, and moments with complete strangers.” “Great...” he mused, rolling his eyes while keeping them on Annisha. “I'm only teasing. Besides, half the station crew knows now already.” This was true, whether Jylliene joked or not. She looked down as she laughed. “The water is deeper here, head up the shore a bit.” She pointed and released his hand. “I had not even noticed, but you are right.” He took her advice and walked where the waves met the sand, but yet this put them off course for the shuttle. Annisha walked to the Nei'rrh as her father directed, but found the water up to her waist. “Annisha,” he yelled. “Head toward the shallow.” He peered at Jylliene, whose earlier expression of happiness turned to puzzlement. Nijil reached out his hand to pull her to shore. “E’lev, have you ever seen waves like this? The ebb and flow is too rapid.” Her eyes scanned the scene for an explanation. The sun hung high in the sky, only a few clouds on the horizon. A perfect day on the beach, but the ocean betrayed reality. “I have visited many beaches, but this does not look right.” The unnaturalness of the water stirred deep feelings in his stomach. It reminded him of a containment breakdown on a Romulan engine core. The frequency increases to compensate for the rising energy output until... Nijil swallowed hard. He knew where he had seen an occurrence like this before, a Rihan engine core going critical. “Annisha! Run to the shuttle! Get inside now!” He started to run, keeping Jylliene in tow. She ran before she spoke. “What’s wrong? Why are we running?” Her voice was frantic. They ran. “Nijil!” “The water will soon consume us. The entire shoreline will retreat into the ocean.” His voice shook as he ran harder. “We must get to the Nei’rrh.” He used his free hand to shade, seeing his daughter struggling ahead. The water now reached Annisha’s chest. “Swim onto the ramp and get in! Start the engines!” The water started to rise at each incoming wave. Hand in hand Nijil and Jylliene ran toward the shuttlecraft. The nose dipped into the ocean as the waves crashed into the shore. Their daughter had climbed her way in, disappearing inside. “Go! Go Jylline!” he exclaimed. Running became impossible as the water greeted their midsections. They released their hold on each other to keep their arms free. “It’s too deep,” Jylliene cried out. “I know, we are going to have to swim like Annisha did.” They looked at each other for what felt like the last time. He nodded. She dived under. The rapidity of the waves kept her close to the shore. Once he saw her swimming toward the shuttle he took his chance. The waves slammed him on the left, then the right, then the left again. Back and forth it pounded at his sides. He swam with all his strength, hoping his effort was rewarded. A minute passed and he reached the limits holding his breath. He needed air. One final stroke, one last kick and...he hit metal. He had touched a stair and searched for the railing. Something grabbed his wrist before finding the railing. Nijil popped his head out of the water. The something was Jylliene. “Come on, the water is rising!” She pulled him to his feet and placed his hand on the railing. The waves crashed hard onto the Nei’rrh, splashing them both. “Get in there, I’m right behind you,” the soaked engineer said. She nodded and turned to enter the shuttle. He righted himself, using all his remaining energy to get to safety. He leapt through the door, only to fall onto hard rock. Okhala (Fire) “Jylliene!” His calls echoed into a never-ending void. The shuttle was no more. He turned around. No shoreline. No open spaces, no touch of her hand in his. Where she once was now lay a narrow winding cavern. Bits of light lined its walls as far as Nijil could see. A warmth crawled up his back as he looked in vain for his e’lev. As the temperature against his skin rose, he turned back around. He trod hesitantly in the only direction available. The cavern opened up to spires stretching from top to bottom far into the distance. From the searing flame within the Fire Caves of Bajor emerged a familiar figure - tall, sinewy, and threatening. As the shadows dissipated, the figure took on an ominous glow and its chiseled features slowly took shape. “Captain?” Nijil asked, fearful of the answer. “SubCommander,” the being replied, her voice deep above the deafening roar of flames. Its taunting, haunting echo summoned every mistake he had ever made. “I've been waiting for you. Areinnye has been waiting for you.” She paused in leering contempt. “Your life is mine, and the time has come to pay your debts.” Flames licked at her back, eddied around her cape, then moved to singe his body in a savage caress as she began a slow, haughty pace around him. He started to reel back in horror. “What? This can't be!” Fear coursed through him. A sickening feeling started in the pit of his stomach. The searing heat across his skin. The putrid smell attacking his senses. “None,” he stuttered. ”None of this can be real.” “Oh? Why not real? You reap what you sow, SubCommander. You have sown death, and the terror of impending doom. You cowered when the KraH'kHn attacked the station. Your shuttle entered Aegis space under cloak and almost took your worthless, pitiful life along with that of your future family and the helpless Romulan child you so easily gave up to slavery.” “I did not know she was heading for that life. I would never send any child into that hell.” The rumble of the flames grew. He spoke louder and with greater force. “I went back for her, and would have even against the Captain’s orders. There was just cause for approaching the station under stealth. Besides, I could have avoided the stations defenses.” If fire was in his eyes, the flames around him hid them. “SubCommander,” she leaned close, her sulfurous breath clogging his nostrils, “You are a weak, pathetic dog who dares to call himself a Romulan… not worthy of grief... or even remembrance. Your time has come, and no one will mourn.” “No one?” he questioned. “How would you know? None from my e’lev, none from my daughter...to say nothing of my parents?” He locked eyes with hers. "It was due to my efforts that they along with my sister and unborn nephew escaped the Great Fire. It was my old shuttle they rode to safety. You can’t say they will not weep for my passing." He held his ground. "You lie when you say no one mourns for Nijil tr'Korjata." "We will see about that!" With a shriek of maniacal laughter her hand shot through his chest, shaking him violently. She began separating his body from his soul. “Ahhhrgahhahhaa!” Nijil cried out as if a dagger drove deep into his heart. He fought to pull away. Life, such as it had been, started to fall away. Images of those he loved filled his slowly fading mind, only to die a horrible death in front of him. Flesh from bone ripped by gamma radiation, drowned bodies floating motionlessly in the ocean, fire consuming them from head to toe as they screamed and others being blown into the empty cold void of space. Death infused itself upon his mind. Nijil’s body collapsed due to the intense weight of what he witnessed.
  22. Avilh (Earth) Sunlight. Bright sunlight. Nijil stood, shielding his eyes. It must be close to noon given the position of the sun. As he brought his gaze down, he spied a tall spire a short walk away. Buildings of various sizes surrounded it. Something about all this was quite familiar. He walked toward the structures. The wind blew softly against his face as the dirt squished beneath his feet. Pollen filled the air with the smells of early spring. The weather, all told, was perfect, save for a lonely cloud in the distance. Down the worn path he walked, feeling years younger. The place appeared bereft of people, but why could he not remember anything? The path declined to a round patch surrounding the spire that towered over the rest of the buildings for a purpose he could not determine. Looking up from its base did not help. “Jolan tru Daddy,” a tiny feminine voice spoke. Nijil stepped back in surprise. “Jolan,” he stuttered. “Annisha, What are you doing here?” “Daddy, you brought me here. This is your family farm, don’t you remember? Just like you last saw it.” She gave her signature innocent smile. “It is, but this can’t be. The farm is destroyed along with most of Romulus.” “Yet we are here. You never really left, did you?” Nijil was puzzled. “You try to leave this place, but you can’t.” “Why, why can’t I leave?” He asked in earnest. “It holds many good memories for you. You needed to leave here, but were sad you did so.” She placed her hands behind her back. “If I hadn’t I would have likely died. I could not have warned my parents.” Annisha squinted. “You could not have known.” They stood silently as Nijil tried to understand. “Daddy?” “Yes Annisha?” “Do you love me?” “Why of course. You know that." “But part of you is here, holding you back. Your family was here, but they are somewhere else. You need to be somewhere else too.” A dark force of wind and dust crept up from the horizon and blew in circles around them. “What’s happening? It’s getting windy.” Annisha’s expression turned somber as she pointed behind him. “The Great Fire is coming. Look.” Nijil turned to face the oncoming wind. Dust filled the horizon. He squinted to see the dust billowing to a growing orange mass of destruction. “Can we stop the Great Fire?” He asked, stunned at its approach. “Daddy, you know we can’t. Just as it will wipe out this place so you must leave its memory behind.” The noise became a screaming force of unnatural nature. The blowing dust swirled around the buildings. The fire itself must be kilometers behind. Both stared into oncoming death. “Annisha...” “I love you daddy,” she said in a calm acceptance of what lay beyond this life. He reached out to her. “Annisha!” He yelled, sprinting to shield her. “ANNISHA!” *BANG! CRACK!* ________________ Jæih (Air) Nijil hit a railing...hard. He expected to throw Annisha to the ground, but met up with a cold, solid bar. The dust disappeared, or rather, never seemed to be here. Metal plating replaced the soft ground of Romulus beneath his feet. Wide-open spaces were now a much narrower conduit stretching vertically into the distance. A constant wind blew from above and out some presumed vent below. Nijil did not recognize this place either, but spied the words: “Level 38, Plasma Ventilation Access Shaft” above a hatch. The walls were a dark duranium. Slowly the where became clear, as if he just left this place. The why he was here remained uncertain. “SubCommander,” a voice chirped over Nijil’s comm badge. The other SubCommander: Chief Jorahl. Nijil tapped in acknowledgement. “Yes Chief?” “Anytime Mister tr’Korjata, the valve won’t shut off manually by itself.” Odd for his boss to display a sense of humor at a time like this. They all have been working hard for hours. A fleet-issue engineering kit lay as his feet. “Yes sir, right away,” he said as he bent down to grab it and climb to the next level. “You know,” Jorahl spoke once more. “I’m not even sure you were the right engineer for this job. I guess the others were doing more important tasks, saving lives, that short of thing.” “Sir?” “Oh don’t mind me SubCommander, I’m just rattling about, about one of my less skilled engineers.” Nijil could not believe what he was hearing. Jorahl, at least to his face, had not felt the need to complain. Perhaps some opinions fail to make it in official reports. Strange his Chief chose this moment to express his views. A hatch two levels above and just visible to Nijil closed shut. Nijil tapped his badge. “Chief, a hatch two levels above me just closed. I presume there’s damage to the control mechanism, can you override?” “No and no, subordinate tr’Korjata. I offer you a challenge. To prove your worth, shut off that valve in time and I may open the hatch to let you escape the heat that must be building up due to the plasma. Heck, I may even not blast that section of the pylon away to save the station.” Now he was worried. What had come over the Chief? Nijil scanned his memories for what had ticked him off so. He just couldn’t figure it. One thing appeared certain, the temperature was rising. This forced the air flow to drastically increase to keep the power plant below critical. “Ah Nijil, how about a cold glass of water.” Jorahl sarcastically offered over the comm. “How silly of me, would you like ice with that? No?” Nijil found it hard to contain his anger. “I don’t know what kind sick game you are playing here, but I’m moving as fast as I am able.” He coughed from the combination of heat and upward air. “Did Jylliene put you up to this? I played pranks on others in the war college. Very funny SubCommander. Your team gets a good laugh.” Jorahl himself gave a good laugh. “Oh this is not intended to be a laughing matter, but I’m sure the vastly more qualified engineers would approve. Tick tock Mister tr’Korjata, get to turning those valves and redirecting the searing heat from the plasma. Otherwise I’ll have to draw straws to see who cleans you up, if by some miracle there’s even a molecule of you left.” He was serious. The elements must have rid his boss of any sense of decency. The heat seemed to rise at each interruption. He did this. He had to be responsible, but how? Nijil tossed the how aside as he reached the manual access panel. “Oh Nijil,” not leaving him to his work. “If my sensors are correct you only have a few minutes. Better get those valves open.” “This is madness!” “Madness of the best kind. Chop chop,” Jorahl quipped. Nijl worked furiously, overriding the locks manually before turning the master valve. The locks stretched across the diameter of the valve, meaning any manual override took a bit of time for one man. After what seemed like eternity the locks were opened. Only the large wheel to turn the valve remained. The sweat dripped from his forehead at a rapid pace. His eyes stung. The engineer grabbed the wheel and turned as much as his fatigue allowed. He made a final tap on his communication badge to plea for his life. “SubCommander Jorahl, please vent some of this heat, the plasma pressure is reaching critical. I beg of you.” Nijil did not want to die. “Oh now you work to your potential. Too bad you chose to do so on your last engineering feat. Wait, I mean failure.” The comm remained quiet as Nijil spun the wheel. Less than twenty-five percent remained to complete the manual redirect. “Jorahl! Do something! No one will die now given how much I’ve turned this valve. Beam me out!” Laughing, “No, but I’ll give you something you asked for earlier. Consider this an early birthday present.” The hatch above him opened. Air from the heat ventilation had built up sizeable pressure in the chamber above him. The combination of heat and air blew Nijil clean off the platform he was working on. SubCommander Nijil tr’Korjata plummeted head over heels into the abyss below, and certain death.
  23. Sky Harbor Aegis listed like a floating frail shell of its former glory. Thirty-six hours of onslaught it bore, protecting those within. Like a wounded animal, it sought to strike back, but fate had other plans. Nothing short of a miracle of the elements allowed those inside to live. Struts twisted. Bulkheads warped. Lives mislaid. Damage not judged superficial cut to Aegis’ very core. One pylon devoid of power, the other nourished. Engineers toiled throughout the battle and aftermath, but Many who call Aegis home now fear it can no longer sustain them. Survival is not enough, it never is.
  24. Mission Grief - Jylliene and Nijil The cheers from the Rihan orphans in the Children’s Center quite made his day. Any engineer could have lugged the heavy reactor and installed it. Having a fellow Rihan, and Nijil himself, made it worthwhile. If not for all of the work to do for Aegis, he would have stayed with Annisha. Nijil thought of his daughter now as the lift took him slowly to the second engineering station on the other pylon. His daughter. For the first time since taking her in he made the Rihan girl to daughter transition. The very real danger of the attack on the station stirred up emotions he’d never experienced, that of guilt and of a protector. More than once he extended the shields over the Children’s Center without Jorahl’s approval and it worked. Now alone in the lift he was finally able to exhale. His daughter was alright, seemingly unharmed. Her normal self. Her father leaned against the wall of the lift and held his head. First silence, then the eyes watered. Not since his belief of his parent’s death had he cried. Neither out of joy nor sorrow did he shed his tears. Emotionally he needed this. Perhaps having Jylliene at his side would be ideal. Sadly, station operations needed her adept routing skills. Annisha, bless her, in short order clutched Nijil’s heart and made it whole. For that matter so did Jylliene. His emotional liberation ended abruptly as the sound of an incoming communication chirped from his uniform. Another cog in an endless wheel of repairs no doubt. “Ops to SubCommander tr’Korjata” "I'm here," he says sniffling. What timing. “The Iagga has confirmed its intended arrival time - I have sent the information to you.” A pause. “Are you okay?” Nijil wiped his eyes as he leaned against the wall. "No, I mean yes. It's not what you think. Just stress." “Which means it’s exactly what I think, e’lev. We are all stretched thin right now.” A slight pause. “I will see you later,” came the com, in a softer tone. “Ops out.” Did she know? The strained station engineer thought of them both, thankful they made it through. He'd not have the frame of mind if any of them had perished.
  25. More than just Power A. Davis and N. tr’Korjata Sky Harbour Aegis creaked and moaned. Repairs teams littered the decks as Nijil made his way to the Children’s Center. Crawling over and under debris is bad enough. The weight of the portable fusion reactor brought his journey to a standstill in places. “Portable” must have been an oversight in the designation, an engineer’s joke. “Sir, can you look at this panel,” a much more junior officer asked from his crouched spot on the floor. Nijil stopped his walk, swinging the reactor to the ground. “I am on my way to the Children’s Center, but, bah...let me look.” The engineer in him peered into the panel. Nijil sighed at the other engineer’s lack of understanding of the indicators from the display. “It’s a matter of routing around the damaged area until the other teams can repair it, Ensign.” “How?” Nijil let out a heavy sigh, “I’ll do it.” He flipped open the side panel next to the display. A code unlocked his access level, allowing a power route around the damage. “I must be on my way.” “Thank you sir.” Nijil nodded and started to pick up the reactor. At first it caused him to wobble, but the Ensign helped him secure the device. The lift to the Children’s Center was just around the corner. People lined the inner wall of the lift to allow the bulky reactor some space. “Children’s Center,” he asked the lift simply. A few minutes and two Bolians later Nijil lugged his burden to the door where the Rihan orphans were housed. The entrance would normally be lit with lively color and lights. Since the attacks the minimal power to this section kept the children in perpetual darkness. The only sign of life was that of the door hissing open. “Jolan tru?” Dr. Davis turned toward the voice, then put aside the things she had been arranging and hurried over. "Nijil," She exclaimed with some anxiety, "it's so good to see you, but..." her hands hovered helplessly for a moment, "can I help? " Her arms dropped and she eyed the reactor with some suspicion, like it might explode if she even tried to touch it. He shrugged. “This device is too large to simply hand off,” he answered, using both hands on the single handle of the reactor. “A type IV reactor is big, bulky, and long lasting.” He continued to hobble and wobble to the far wall where the power taps were hidden. “Well, then… perhaps if I help in some other way?” She followed, clearing things - inanimate, and especially animate, in the form of children - out of the way. “Make sure no one freaks out when I shut down the power to the center before I hook this up.” “Of course.” The reactor landed with a thud. He opened the interlocks and began the power up sequence. A familiar-to-his-ears hum filled the room. Soon it pitched higher and softer until no one could hear. Next he removed the panel. “So, how was this place during our ordeal?” Amanda turned from shooing a group of inquisitive children back to their duties. “It was… interesting,” she said with a forced smile. She moved closer, away from tiny ears, “I’m surprised we’re still here. I suppose I should have more faith.” “An unlikely series of fortunate events saved us far more than faith.” He felt no reason to hush, but in truth he’d been yelling for more than a day. He’d yet to shut down. “There was a pressure build up of plasma in some of the lower sections I almost needed to manually purge.” He turned to her. “While I could have done it, my death would have been a byproduct. Such is the engineer’s life.” A tiny, “Oh,” was all Amanda could muster, fairly stunned at the revelation. She swallowed hard. “I’m glad it didn’t come to that, Nijil. I…” her hands smoothed her skirt as her voice dropped to a sighing whisper, “...I’m glad.” The room darkened. Audible “oh’s” came from around the corner. Someone else, probably Dr. Schawnsee spoke, telling them it was alright. His hands were silhouetted against the LCARS display lights as he worked to hook up the reactor. “I’m glad as well.” He paused to enter commands. “Did Annisha behave herself?” “Oh, yes,” Amanda perked up, “she was quite a help with the other children. She’s an amazing young lady, Nijil, but I’m sure you know that.” “As humans would say: scary smart,” he mused. “I just hope she found friends here, even if some of them only stay for a while.” He kept his back to Dr. Davis, though aware she was close. “She talks about you almost as much as Jy. I think like myself she had few run-ins with non-Rihans until arriving here. Oh, can you hand me the flow regulator, the stick with buttons on it?” “The stick…” her eyes browsed the collection on the floor, “... with the buttons. This one ?” “ Yes, thank you.” He took it from her hand and placed it close to a visible port on the panel. “These things don’t always self adjust.” He seemed satisfied with the progress so far. “So Annisha was no trouble? I was expecting something.” “Oh?” she replied casually. “What kind of something were you expecting?” He laughed. “Frozen room, tropical rains, bubbles filling the room.” “But that’s exciting, Nijil. It’s so much better than sitting around, and it saves us the trouble of having to take the children to the holodeck to experience those things. Furthermore…” a finger went up and her Welsh accent came out full-blown, “it’s so much better for learning when those things happen naturally. And it was fun.” Her smile held a little mischief. “Hmm. I am ready to apply the power.” Nijil waited for a moment and flipped the switch. The room lights and all others sprung to life. He looked all around to see the effects. “Good, this is a good sign. The test of an engineer’s mettle is not their work, but their work years hence.” Cheers where there once were ‘oh’s’ came from around that same corner. When Nijil turned to Amanda, her smile was gone. Apparently they had been protected from more than any of them imagined. Beyond their safe room, the Children’s Home was disastrous. Though the structure was sound, PADDs, toys, equipment, and just about everything they used for daily life was strewn in disarray, much broken, some things completely destroyed. “Thank you for the lights, Nijil. Now…” her lips pursed, “I don’t suppose you could help us with the rest?” He looked nearly as shocked as Davis did. “I can, but I will need more more equipment, and a few more people. Taking Annisha to her own bed will have to wait.”