The Place of Skulls
Location: Lower Decks Cabins
Timeline: Mission Day 18 at 2200
[Noah, Irynya, Sheldon, and Walsh's Quarters][[This post contains brief sexually explicit depictions and nudity]]
[Day 18, two days after the Asteroid]
Real water beat down between bony shoulder blades and a long, strong neck that dropped its head down to stare at the floor. Sopped hair, matted into a morass of dark, surrendered curls hung down in limp curtains. Noah Balsam closed his eyes for the first time he could remember in thirty hours. His eyes felt dry and scratchy as his lids blinked over their corneas. He sniffed: one of his long nostrils tensing and relaxing. Noah leaned his elbows on the wall and covered his face in its protective nook. His teeth gently sunk into his arm flesh.
A loose fist flew. His shoulder rolled over and over. His bicep tensed and eased, his elbow bobbing and swaying.
He thought of no one: not his usual emotional ties or nascent blooms from Academy, or the Bright School. Purely, it was mechanical. Friction. Feeling. Building. Noah's eyes squinted and he shuddered a breath between teeth and skin at the final feeling. A wash of endorphins felt like heat under his tailbone and swelled into his chest. His neck prickled. It felt alien and then, briefly, like a moment in an oasis. His leg quaked and then, as muscles released their tension, his limbs felt like both jelly and heavy.
Noah slumped against the shower with a long, slow sigh out that fogged the panel. He blinked, watching the last of the evidence swirl down the drain. Noah closed dazed eyes and then, reluctantly, put his hands on the sonic shower wall. He pushed up and righted himself. With a sniff, water dripping with long beads and ripples off his nose, he slow blinked. "Computer... show my schedule..."
The panel lit up, its colors biased into tanzanite purple hues despite its amber LCARS glow. He stared at his name and his Starfleet serial number, and bleary eyes took in his assignment. His brows knit. He softly shook his head. His wet fingers rose and stroked at the panel. It swept smoothly down the hours and then skipped to tomorrow. It was all the same: double shift, emergency repairs, all decks, on-demand, alert status. Several priority sectors flashed with urgent redness: subprocessor junctions 14 omicron and 23 sigma flashed in his mind.
Main Engineering ODN access. 16 Theta Plasma Relay Control. The list was daunting. Endless. Soul-crushing. Noah's line of sight pushed to the timeline conflicts. Holodeck time. A subspace call to Rigil Kentauros to try and talk to Simon. Another to Ganymede and the Fassbinder Thinktank. Dad. "Computer," it squealed at him. Noah tapped at all three. He sighed. "Cancel selected."
"Do you wish to reschedule?" The computer asked.
Noah closed his eyes and shook his head. "Not right now." He mumbled.
One stood out, still in conflict, aglow in red. It was labeled, "Ensign Tor."
[Mission Day 5; sometime after An Altogether Different Mood]
The doors of the Yeoman Pool whispered airily when they opened. Donning a blue-shouldered uniform in the panted skant style, Jyl-eel Tor stepped within. A fragment stick of toka wood wrapped her frizzy hair into a bun, and green eyes surveyed the space. She had expected to see her friends but instead, there was half a person, prone on the ground. He looked all legs, and a portion of his torso- and head- were under the replicator.
The Valt tilted her head, a bemused blink. "Excuse me?"
Jyl-eel winced with a sympathy as the long-limbed person skittered out from under the controls. He was brown-eyed and had somewhat long, wavy brown hair. One of his eyes was winced shut, and a mouth that seemed too wide for his apple-shaped face was turned up in pain. Jyl-eel recognized him: the Betazoid. Or who she thought was a Betazoid before she asked him. Recognition hinted.
"I'm sorry," she chuckled, gesturing at him, "I didn't mean to startle you Midshipman. I'm looking for my friends."
"Oh." Noah rubbed his forehead with circles of his palm. "I-I the last time I saw them was yesterday." Noah propped up against the bulkhead under the replicator and wiped conduit lubrication off his fingers. "The... man with the long hair really w-wanted the replicator fixed." Noah had a note of tension when his brows shot up. "So-so, I... I'm here."
Jyl-eel nodded slowly, taking in the story. Clearly, the Midshipman was referring to Mateo Longhorse. Who, Jyl-eel internally flinched at, was just strangely angry lately. Jyl-eel didn't know why. "Thank you for finally fixing it. It hasn't worked since Drydock." When Noah frowned with an apologetic bend to his brows she added, "But a replicator is a low priority on a Shakedown." She smiled goodnaturedly, "It's not like there isn't food other places."
Noah smiled. "Y-yeah." His eyes darted to the replicator and back.
"I'm Tor. Jyl-eel Tor." She said. The pleasantly plump girl extended her milky mocha hand. Noah stretched for it.
"Noah. Noah Balsam."
She smiled again while their hands shook. "I've seen you. Around." She gestured a little circle with her finger. "Especially in Debbie's. I thought you were a waiter."
Noah smiled into a thin crease of his cheek. "Oh. Um. Duh-Debbie's my friend. I help her out b-because she's shorthanded. She does a lot of the cooking. So I moonlight."
Jyl-eel's mossy green eyes blinked, amused and confused. "Moonlight?"
Noah looked at the pale dance of spots that sprinkled down her hairline. They looked sort of Trill-like, except they seemed to go around her ears, not down her neck. And they were pale, not dark. "Mu-moonlighting. It means to take a second, secret job. It's ar-archaic Earth term."
"So you're Human," Jyl-eel smiled. She eased against Hartree's desk. "I thought you were a Betazoid. You have very dark eyes."
"Oh." Noah blushed and shook his head while he finished on his fingers. he dropped the microfiber sheet into his toolkit. "N-no I'm not a Betazoid. I'm mostly Human. My gra-grandmother was a Catullan."
Jyl-eel's head bobbed with a graceful, easy smoothness. Her eyes dropped and then remet Noah's. "I see. I do not think I've ever met a Catullan before."
Noah fished for a different tool and flicked it on. It was probe-like, with an insertable tubular piece that oscillated with light. "They-they look a lot like most Class One Bipedal Hominids. S-some differences inside."
Jyl-eel nodded with sage silence. When Noah laid down, propped on his elbows, she observed the triangular swoop of his thin pecs through a sweat-stained SOJO t-shirt. His shirt midriffed with a few centimeters of shocking white skin beneath. "I see," she said as he scooted half his body under the replicator. There was a warbling sound. Jyl-eel tilted her head and chuckled.
"Cou-could you hand me my duromyelin fabricator please?" Noah's muffled voice said. Jyl-eel's brow flexed with a vexed wonder. A what?
"What does it look like?" She asked while she pushed off from Hartree's desk. She bent down to look through his dozen or so tools. Her fingers shifted the greasy cloth.
"Um." Noah centered himself. "Wand with a ring on it. The ring opens and shut like a dilating eye?" Jyl-eel surveyed the tools in their haphazard scatter and picked up a dainty thing that looked more like medical equipment than a sturdy engineering tool.
"This looks like a peripheral nerve pathway inducer," she commented while she turned the handle to Noah and put it in his hand. Noah's hand retreated into the cavity he was half-inside.
There was a warbling sound. "Ih-it's similar. Similar technology. I-I'm repairing a few bioneural gelpacks in here." Noah pushed out of the alcove- his shirt bunched around his ribs and he tugged it sheepishly down while he sat up with an 'ack' sound squawking from him. "Wuh-one of the best Engineers in Starfleet before she disappeared once said tha-that Engineering and Medicine are the same. You're fixing broken parts. Buh-but now it's really similar. Very blurred lines." Noah's dark eyes had a peculiar cast of awe as he looked around, gesturing with the wand. "Bioneural gelpacks are-are like the nervous system. There's even autonomic and voluntary systems. The computer c-core's a brain." He activated and deactivated the wand- its ring glowed blue on the inside, retracting inward until it bounced back. "Duromyelin is sort of like biological myelin sheaths around n-nerves."
"Interesting," Jyl-eel blinked at him. She turned back to briefly lean against the console. She tapped at a set of consoles she'd summoned from the console, looking up her friends' locations. "Well," she shrugged. "I'll let you finish. I need to find my group before they go to dinner without me. It was nice to meet you Noah Balsam."
Noah smiled. "Oh um. Th-thanks. Nice to meet you too." He brought his knees to his chest and set aside his tool.
Jyl-eel nodded and moved for the door. "We should have tea together someday. That's what we do on my homeworld."
Noah's eyes skirted away and back. "S-sorry I should've asked... what-what world are you from?"
"Valt Minor," Jyl-eel replied. Noah had to admit, he hadn't the faintest idea about a planet named that. It only served to confirm she wasn't a Trill. "When two people meet, we drink tea. Would you like to?"
Noah considered that with a blank look. "Oh. Um. Y-yeah. We can meet for tea. When?"
"I'll send you an invite," Jyl-eel replied, securing her arms in a cross of limbs under her breasts. "Good Evening," she said with a nod.
"Night," Noah said as she disappeared out the swish of doors. Noah picked up the next set of tools he needed and shoved himself back under the replicator's access space.
Noah stared at the panel as it started to fog up. His dripped fingers swept at it. "Computer. Cancel meeting 'Ensign Tor.'"
"Would you like to request a reschedule?" The computer said after it beeped. The red square of time was blinking. Noah sighed and rubbed his eye, pulling softened crust from its duct.
"Y-yeah. Request a new time from the original sender." The computer trilled and the panel blinked. Noah turned it off with a sigh. He eyed the soap. "Computer. Mirror." In front of him, a holographic space dropped into view, showing him his visage from the chest up. Noah fumbled- and dropped- his razor. He stooped to pick it up and then surveyed his face. Aside from some dusky, fuzzy-soft darkness on his upper lip and chin, he hardly needed it. But he turned the wide beam razor on. It glow white in a flexing band of energy that traced and mapped his facial contours as he ran it over his lip and chin. For extra measure, he did his jawline and neck.
Noah stared at his frailness in the mirror, the razor still humming in his nimble fingers. He wished he was maybe bigger and broader. He had wide-ish shoulders, but not compared to most men. And he quickly tapered into angular, bony slenderness. He frowned into a cheek. "Discontinue mirror." The holographic reflection scrolled upwards like someone had snapped a set of blinds closed.
Noah sighed and reached for the shampoo. He popped the cap and drizzled it on his head. He had to be online in seven hours. Awake in six. He needed to hurry if he wanted to get any decent amount of sleep.
A Post By:
Midshipman Noah Balsam