The Azhadi and the Amrazi
Sojourners of Time
Location: Short Range Transport to Pathfinder Station, Ship's Lounge
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 0130
She sat, cross-legged, on the floor before a bank of windows on the end of the transport vessel’s only lounge area. Well into Gamma Shift, the lounge was quiet except for a sleepy-eyed engineer who sat hunched over a bowl of soup as far away as he could get and still be in the lounge. She thought that if he were to push his chair back an arm’s length from the table, it would trigger the auto-opening mechanism on the doors. She also thought that, given the fact that she was not a part of his edun, that his actions were reasonable.
Edun, a word the people used, had no real equivalent in Federation Standard. It meant members of the tribe who were in service but were also family of a sort, though not in the biological sense of the word. Though the crew of this ship would use other words, to her, it was still an edun and knew that outsiders, even when they are invited to travel with you for a time, are seldom invited into an established edun. Service could be long and often, one lived and died within an edun far from tents of the people, the tribe. One knew its members as well as one knew one’s own face and hands. Privacy could be gained even at a crowded campsite by just pulling the veil across one’s face as a signal to the others. In that way, one could sit, shoulder to shoulder, with the members of one’s edun or one’s tribe, draw comfort from their closeness, and be left alone.
Truly alone was much harder. She would never have a tribe again, this was certain. At the moment, she had no edun either. The one she had found in her thirteen years aboard the Rejsende had been taken from her by Starfleet. For Starfleet, she must begin again. Form a new
Unmoored. That was the right word for it. Kestrel felt unmoored. She had left the temporarily assigned quarters of the transport en route to Pathfinder Station and found herself wondering. It wasn’t a big ship and, eventually, her steps took her to the lounge. Warm milk was the only thing on her mind. Maybe a touch of vanilla in it to sweeten it. She wondered if the replicator on this ship could do frothed or if that was a touch she wouldn’t find in a place so stripped down to the necessities.
The doors to the lounge parted and she skirted left into the space to avoid the man at the table just by the door making a beeline for the replicator. “Steamed milk with vanilla,” she murmured, her voice feeling loud in the quiet of the lounge. Her sketchbook, ever present while she traveled, was tucked under her arm. She readjusted it slightly so it wouldn’t slip as she snagged the handle of the mug that appeared. Warmed milk. Not frothed. She sighed. It would do.
Gray-green eyes panned the room, not settling on any one spot that seemed right until they reached the bank of windows. A dark head of long hair framed a softly angular face, full lips, and arched brows. Dark eyes set in skin the shone warm brown despite the cold light of the stars beyond the window drew her in. Her fingers itched to draw and her feet seemed to find their way to stand next to the other woman of their own accord before she even figured out what she was going to say.
“Is there space for one more?” she asked, her tone warm as she eyed the open space on the floor.
“Yes,” Dani said, in accented Federation Standard, as she too took in the length of space that would have been big enough for six if they didn’t mind bodily contact; her eyes were midnight blue, nearly black, her expression quizzical, as she took in the newcomer. She smiled, a bit sheepishly, as she added, “idiom, right?”
Kestrel offered the other woman a warm smile that bore teeth. “Yes,” she said. The accent was interesting and curiosity already piqued by the creative drive to capture and describe in smudged graphite lines she settled on the ground a person’s length between them. Her mug of milk went to the floor next to her and she placed her sketchbook and pencils on her lap, legs spread out ahead of her and feet crossing at the ankles. She leaned back against the bulkhead below the windows.
“Kestrel,” she said by way of introduction. “What brings you to the floor beneath the windows?”
“Danica True,” Dani responded. This at least was something she understood although it had taken several sessions with the computer for her to really comprehend. Among the Ne’Anakeii, there was a need for self-identification accompanied by rituals that varied, world to world. “I am … in transit … and there is not enough to do. It makes me … restless? I think that is the word.”
The Argelian nodded, sneaking a glance at Danica as she brought her milk to her lips. She took a slow sip. “Transit is always a bit of a drag,” she agreed when the soothing warmth of the milk had settled in her belly. “Restless, yes. I hate not having a place that is mine to settle on trips like this.”
“It is not the same for me,” Dani said. Her gaze returned to stars outside the window as the part of her that would always be Azhadi wrestled with the part of her that was now Starfleet. As an Azhadi, she would have remained silent until given permission by the Imai; as a Starfleet officer, she knew that conversation was part of how things were done. How a new edun was built. “For me, I need to be … active. Run. Workout. Do the job. Sitting still is … problematic.”
“Not much of one for rest, then,” Kestrel replied. “Or for stillness.” Mug returned to lips again, she studied the other woman. She couldn’t place her. There wasn’t a clear identifier, but the accent gave her away.
The milk was doing its work and she tilted her head back against the bulkhead, eyes meeting the ceiling as she settled her mug back in her lap. “I’ve always liked a bit of both, personally. Movement and stillness in turns.” She shrugged lightly. “But this is too much rest for me.”
She flipped open her sketchbook, fingers sorting through pencils until they landed on the one she wanted. She wanted to draw Danica, but that seemed too forward, so instead she let her fingers begin to formulate the mug of warm milk.
“Where’s home?” she asked, once the outline of the mug had begun to take form.
“Home,” Dani repeated. “Not an easy word to understand. What does home mean … to you?”
Kestrel’s pencil paused at the question. “Fair question,” she said with a small smile. “I suppose I should know better than to ask others questions that I find hard to answer myself.” She flipped the pencil so that the butt end was facing her sketchbook and tapped it absently, rolling it between her pointer and middle fingers as she thought. “I was born and raised on Argelius II. That was home once and I suppose some part of me still immediately thinks of it as home when prompted. But really it’s more a P.O.O.” She pronounced the abbreviated term poo as if it were a word rather than an abbreviation. Something that had always made her want to giggle a bit though here she remained serious. Absently she twisted her lips to the side, chewing the inside of her cheek thoughtfully as she considered how best to complete her thought.
“Poo,” Dani repeated because service required an understanding of the language of those she would serve. By her count, Federation Standard would be the sixth, no, seventh language she had learned. “What is …poo?”
Kestrel giggled. An actual honest to goodness giggle as if she were five and not well past childhood. “Place of origin,” she explained, giggles receding slightly. “But P.O.O. sounds funnier, if a bit childish.” She chanced a glance at the other woman wishing she had a read on her. The itch to record her features on paper returned and the Argelian flipped her pencil back over, taking a swig from her now cooling mug before returning to her drawing.
“So home was your point of origin but is no longer,” Dani said as she picked up her teacup, both hands wrapped around it, and took a long sip, savoring the complexity of the taste. “Is home then where you are stationed?”
Dark hair swept across Kestrel’s gaze as she tilted her head and she absently pushed it back with the hand holding her pencil. “Home is…” she frowned, brow creasing lightly in thought, “It’s funny, I want to say that home is wherever I am, but that’s not quite right. Home is certain people… I think… but…” she shrugged, trailing off and looking at her hands, picking lightly at her fingernails where they sat on top of her sketchbook. The pencil had smudged slightly where her hand rested. “Home is a feeling I guess,” she said, considering that from a perspective she hadn’t before. For a moment she wondered what her mother would say about that. Home as an emotion in and of itself. But that moment quickly passed leaving a chilly empty spot behind it.
Her head dropped forward slightly, black hair falling forward to shield her face partly from view, while she struggled. Running across the desert all together. The flash of knives across a circle. Lying on a hilltop, discussing strategy. Knowing her purpose. At peace with herself and her life. Listening to stories around the campfire. The soft comfort that could be found sharing blankets with the Amrazi. Playing with the children while the evening meal was readied. Laughter and challenge. Dedication and duty. Point of origin, the place where she belonged so completely, she could not imagine being anywhere else? Once, maybe. But not any longer.
She cocked her head slightly to one side, taking in Kestrel’s short hair, delicate features, and her focused attention on the drawing she was making. The thought sprung into her mind, artisan. Amrazi. No, such things do not exist in the Federation. The lines are not so sharply drawn here. She shook off the thought and said, “If I understand your meaning, I don’t think I have one. A home that is.”
Kestrel's hand paused in it's work, holding a point in a line as her eyes came up to meet the other woman's. "I suppose neither do I." She held her gaze for just a moment before her eyes dropped. "Sorry," she murmured, self consciousness written in the lines of her shoulders and the downward cast of her lashes, "I didn't mean for the topic to get so… deep."
Dani shrugged, a slight lift of one shoulder as she canted her head to the same side, and waved the apology away. "It is real," she said. "You had a question and you asked. I am better at this than .. " she paused, searching for the right word, "questions without purpose."
The Argelian woman nodded at that, eyes fixed on her work where her pencil had resumed its movement. The coloration of the mug was missing and she quickly swapped pencils, movements turning to filling and darkening from lining and shaping. She glanced back up at her companion again, lips pursed with the question she wanted to ask, but which felt too forward. Instead she sighed and snagged her mug, tipping the now cooled contents back to drain it.
"Questions with purpose," she repeated quietly back. "I like that."
Dani shifted position so that she now sat at an angle, feet tucked beneath her, the teacup sitting on the floor between her legs, and her hands resting lightly on the tops of her thighs. From this position, she could see Kestrel more clearly. She took a sip of tea, considering, and then placed the cup back on the floor in exactly the same position as before. "It is alright," Dani said quietly. "To ask the question you want to ask. If I can answer, I will."
That got her attention though she didn't look up immediately. The only real confirmation that she had heard was the press of her lips together and a quick blink while color crept slowly into her cheeks. She had thought she was less obvious than that. After only a short pause she set her pencil down on the floor next to her and looked up at the other woman. She'd moved and from this new angle the shape of her jawline and the cut of her cheek bones was clearer.
"It's not a knowledge sort of question," she confessed. "More of a permission sort of question."
She studied the woman a moment longer, resisting the temptation to resume her pencil like pulling on a blanket. She felt naked without it in her hand at that moment. Somehow, despite her own best interests, a yawn drew forth from her lips, the warm milk doing its work and she sighed.
"I'd love to draw you sometime," she said with a self-conscious shrug. "But sometime when I can do it justice. Think about it. There's still some time to kill on this trip. Might as well fill it with good company."
She scrambled to her feet then, snagging her mug but leaving her book and pencils while she returned it to the replicator.
Dani watched Kestrel's retreat as she considered the question. By the Imai's word, written records and drawings were not permitted to the Anakei. Art among the Amrazi took other forms instead. In the blankets they wove and the meals they prepared. Really, in so many ways. The idea that someone could be remembered other than in the minds of others had been a bit of a revelation. She saw it as a Federation thing and because she had been thrown away by the Imai, she chose not to be ... less obedient. So, when Kestrel returned, Dani nodded. "Yes," she said.
Kestrel's expression was surprise forced immediately into a tamped down version of excitement. "Ok," Kestrel said and then, as if it needed saying again, "Ok." She bent to pick up her notebook, collecting the pencils in a small bundle and stood. "So... I'll find you then. Tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," Dani answered.
Anakei: Literally means, 'the people' or those who are native to Dusani IV.
Ne’Anakei: How the Anakei describe outworlders/strangers.
Imai: Literally, the spiritual mother and leader of the tribe. The Imai’s word is law.
=/\= A meeting of new officers by =/\=
Lieutenant Danica True
Assistant Chief Security Officer
Lieutenant JG Kestrel