The Place of Skulls
Location: Starbase 2, Long Range Shuttle
Timeline: Mission Day 18 at 1100
Long range shuttles were such interesting craft. At least Yuri Harukami thought they were. From the front of the small vessel, she ran down a series of pre-launch checks. Another pilot had done this already, but she preferred to run the checks again herself. The console before her lit and adjusted to her commands.
“Shhh…” she said to it, patting the top of the console as if she were hushing a particularly skittish horse. “We’ve got a long run ahead of us, girl.”
It was going to be a long run this time. Starbase 2 down to the edge of Breen and Klingon space and back, passengers both ways would definitely be… well… long. She was curious about the two Starfleet officers she was ferrying to meet their newest assignment. They must have been important, she imagined, to warrant a long range shuttle rather than insisting the ship return to port to pick up its new crew members.
Standing, she stretched, tapping lightly with her ring finger to shut off a few systems that didn’t need to run yet before making her way through to the shuttle’s small galley.
As Harukami concluded her short journey through the shuttle into the galley, she was greeted by an unfamiliar figure sat at one of the small tables. A shock of unruly dark hair curled around his head, almost obscuring the two pointed ears just about piercing through his locks. Despite the Bajoran ridges of his nose, the young man's demeanour was entirely Vulcan, as he looked over steepled hands resting atop the table at a kal-toh set, the tangled display of which was almost as in as much disarray as the man's hair.
He was not dressed in Starfleet uniform, and was instead in a conservative dark jacket of a suede-like material, with black trousers and boots. Despite the lack of uniform, a regulation combadge was affixed to the jacket, and there was an opaque Starfleet-emblazoned travel case at his feet. He did not look up to the newcomer.
"Hello?" Yuri said, the word both greeting and question. She hadn't expected anyone to be aboard yet as protocol dictated she meet her passengers outside of the vessel. For a brief moment she considered whether she should call station security, but then recalled that there was a Vulcan on her manifest for the trip. This one, however, didn't look exactly like any Vulcan she had ever encountered.
Not waiting for the man's reply she made her way into the space, taking quick stock of supplies as her last confirmation before traveling.
"You are the pilot," the man stated, still not looking up from the untouched kal-toh set. "I presume there will be more passengers?"
"Uh, yes," Yuri replied, unsure whether the man at the table actually expected a reply. "I'm headed out to meet Lieutenant Zhaan now if you'd like to join me. You are Lieutenant Commander Karim, I assume?" she asked, her tone jovial despite her curiosity.
"I would not like to join you," he replied flatly without confirming his identity, finally picking up one of the metallic pieces of his game, although he did not look at it, but simply held it tightly between he finger and thumb. "I shall leave the business of empty pleasantries to you, pilot."
[Meanwhile Outside …]
A worn traveling case at her feet, Serana Zhaan leaning against an oversized crate watching the movement of Lintern's hands and when he stopped, she nodded her approval. "That's nearly as good as I can do," she said at once. "You've been practicing, I see." She moved with the innate grace of the dancer she was, circling her former crewmate to find a position where the lighting was a bit better. "Again."
Lint, as he'd been known every day of his service to Starfleet shifted and began again.. A head taller than her and nearly double her body weight, he had never been a subtle man which made the moves harder to learn. "You still knew which one though," he said, bright blue gaze directed down toward the three tented cards.
Zhaan leaned over, hooking her black hair back behind one pointed ear as she did so, and gestured with her index finger toward the leftmost card. "Its this one but the only reason I know is that little knick on the corner of the card." Gossamer tendrils of yellow and pink swirled among the gray in her eyes strengthened by the smile she gave him. "Just use fresh cards and I think you'll win easily."
"Getting so I can fool Marvin the Marvel nearly every time," Lint said as began the moves again. "And what's better, everyone thinks I'm using my holodeck time for swimming. That was a good tip, you had about making sure my hair was wet." He chuckled, a deep rumble in his broad chest, as he angled his head, grinning up at her. "One time I forgot, a waiter came up and started trying to do it for me. Used a chair for height and everything."
"Told you I had you covered," she said. She timed the playful nudge to his shoulder so that it didn't disturb his moves. "Don't forget to let me know how it goes. I want details. Lots of details." She looked up and over at the shuttle. "Going to have to get going, LInt. The pilot will be coming out any minute now."
He nodded and rose from where he had been crouching. "Take care of yourself, Zhaan." He hugged her briefly and headed in the direction of her ship in long, ground-eating strides. No, his ship. The Anaximander would be leaving without her for the first time in what? Nine years or so? It had become home to her. She knew its corridors and secret places as well as she knew the home ship.
Yuri descended down the shuttle's ramp, feet bracing on the decline to make sure she didn't stumble as she went. She had, quickly, pulled up a photo of Lieutenant Command Karim on her way out of the vessel as the man at the table didn't deign to confirm his identity. Sufficiently satisfied that he was one of her two passengers, she noted the time of his arrival in the log and opted to see if Lieutenant Zhaan had arrived.
The Rumari woman was striding towards her even as she came down the ramp.
"Lieutenant Zhaan?" Yuri inquired brightly, sticking out her hand to shakes. "Lieutenant Harukami. I'll be your pilot for this trip. It seems my other passenger was early. If you're ready you're welcome to come aboard."
"Good-byes all said, gear all packed," Zhaan said as she accepted the handshake. Her gray-gaze took in the size of the shuttle while she started sifting through what she knew about them. "Just how long a trip are we taking? And the more important question," she said with a cheerful smile, "just how dreadful are the sleeping arrangements?"
Yuri grinned back at the woman, turning to lead her up the ramp as she spoke. "About a week, give or take depending on where the Sojourner is exactly and how well the shuttle maintains course." Eyes sparkling mirthfully she looked back over her shoulder. "That's up to me, of course."
Stepping into the vessel itself, she waited for Zhaan to join her before pointing. "Galley's over there. We have bunks for the duration. Nothing fancy, but they do the trick. You'll find those there. Privvy's to the left of the galley and the cockpit is at the front, of course. Feel free to make yourself comfortable. I'm going to go start her up so we can be on our way."
Well, Yuri thought, At least one of the passengers was going to be agreeable.
She watched the pilot leave and turned her gaze, gray now, muted and neutral, toward the cabin. She took note of the higher ranked Vulcan absorbed in a game of kal-toh but said nothing. The voice of one of her instructors back at the Academy came back to her. Deep and gravelly, with an accent she'd never heard before, he had told them all that you didn't just walk up to senior officers and start a casual conversation. Mercifully, he hadn't pointed her out by name by then, who knew? On the home ships, there was no rank or hierarchy. The idea of it was strange. Alien. But in those first days at the Academy, everything was. Instead, she set about stowing her gear. She pulled out her latest journal, already more than half full, a fine-pointed pen, and found a seat. With one leg tucked up beneath her, she lost herself in drawing Lint, the way she had last seen him.
"An eidetic memory?" A male voice then asked from over Zhaan's shoulder.
The Vulcan had silently taken himself away from his dedicated glaring at the kal-toh set and brought himself beside the Rumari. His hands were clasped behind his back as he peered with deep-blue eyes at the artwork, a posture that lent itself well to the typical Vulcan presentation, even if that was already in stark contrast to the haphazard styling of his dark hair.
"Not exactly," Zhaan replied as she added about of shading under the eyebrows. The combination of a prominent brow ridge and deep-set eyes meant that shadows collected there. "Some things just cling to me like the look on his face, hunched over the cards the way he was, trying so hard to master the skill. Well, that and I've had a lot of practice. Do you draw at all?"
"All children draw," the casually-clad Vulcan replied, stepping around to claim the chair opposite Zhaan, very deliberately setting himself down, his body movements precise and calculated. He brought his hands together on the table, and examined both the art and the artist. "As they get older, it is the subject matter that becomes arguably more interesting, as much as the drive behind the individual drawings - of why those individuals have failed to move beyond the infantile fascination with replicating that which already exists in the world around them." He gestured towards the picture, but his eyes were now intensely fixated on the eyes of the Rumari. "Why this man?"
"Not sure I agree with much of what you said," Zhaan answered as she capped the pen and closed the journal. She returned his look, the blues and greens once glowing in the depths of her eyes were already fading to gray with the faintest traces of orange curling about the edges. "But I will answer your question. I meet a lot of people, more than most, drawing them is a way of fixing the details in my mind." She placed the journal and pen on the table in front of her. "As to why this him, well, its … complicated."
She paused, her gaze sliding away from the intensity of his as she gathered her thoughts, and then returned. Met his without hesitation. "We seldom get to the see the entirety of a life. What we get are moments like that one with him." Her voice dropped slightly. "What I get anyway. And I record them so that the details don't get lost. Forgotten."
"Forgotten," the man repeated, also maintaining the eye contact, "by whom? Events, people, meetings and emotions are all fleeting, ultimately, and preservation of them for others can be futile, especially without context. Your relationship with this man can only be important to you, and, eventually, you will also not exist to even forget it." He went to place his hand on the journal, without asking, to pull it towards himself.
"You assume a lot, Commander," Zhaan said as she pulled the journal out of his reach. "It's mildly interesting to me, although not unexpected, how you can speak with such authority on a subject of which you clearly have neither information nor understanding. And as for the journal, it's not yours and you haven't earned the right to look."
Naturally, the part-Vulcan's expression did not shift at Zhaan's physical and verbal rebukes. "Not unexpected?" He queried, once again repeating a word used by the Rumari as he settled back in the chair once more.
"You heard correctly," Zhaan said. Her gaze, turned downward toward the journal which now rested on the top of her thigh out of view, changed. Hidden behind lowered lids and long lashes, tiny glowing shards of brilliant red within her eyes were consumed storm-tossed gray in a matter of moments. fál ocht n-uaire. It was a very Rumari thing, a skill she had learned early within the crowded confines of her home ship, born from a saying that every Rumari child knew. Tá a phraghas ag gach rud.
"Then it would appear that I do not have a monopoly on assumptions," the commander remarked, a flicker of interest actually almost palpable as he made no attempt to conceal his examination of the woman's changeable eyes, and there was also a detectable, if faint, shift in his tone, which was decidedly less reserved or Vulcan than the norm expected by his people.
Instead of remaining in his seat, he rose and took himself back to his kal-toh set, steepling his hands in front of himself as he regarded the mass of metal rods with a decidedly dark expression. "It is agreeable to have finely-detailed and reliable, impartial memories of the events and people one has experienced," he said in a slow, careful tone. "When one is inevitably alone, as is the way of existence, with nothing but their thoughts and recollections, it can aid an individual in compromising their mind to combat that daunting reality, as they think of times with friends and family, to assure themselves that they are, or have been, connected to the universe and the people within it in some way." He finally picked up one of the rods. "To believe that they are not inexorably alone and fleeting. That they are not, in fact, forgotten."
The mussy-haired man finally placed the rod onto the shape, and it immediately rearranged itself in a shimmering blur. However, rather than becoming a more structured display, it became more disjointed and chaotic; sharp edges protruded at all angles and any true shape was lost. Several of the t'an pieces even fell from the new chaotic form, scattering across the table in front of the Vulcan haphazardly. However, the man said nothing, as he continued to look impassionately at the destruction he had wrought upon the kal-toh set and table.
=/\= A Mission Post By =/\=
Lieutenant Commander Karim
First Contact Specialist
Lieutenant Serena Zhaan
Chief Operations Officer
Lieutenant Yuri Harukami
Shuttle Pilot (Played by Beth)