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Scour and Slurry

Posted on Sun Jun 5th, 2022 @ 3:35pm by Lieutenant Gar'rath & Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Ensign Noah Balsam & Ensign Sheldon Parsons

Mission: In the Aftermath
Location: Starboard Bussard Ramscoop; Replication and Fabrication Control
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 0900

[Starboard Bussard Ramscoop]
[Replication and Fabrication Control]
[MD 3: 0900 Hours]

Two days of ten hours shifts wearing protective smart goggles left a sore, pink indent around Noah Balsam's eyes. They dug in now, the carbon black grime staining his fair skin around the dingy smoke-colored safety wear. His mouth was frozen in a rictus of determination. His shoulders ached. His ribs and arms ached. The carbon scourer was a tough machine that had seen little design change over the last 200 years.

In the lenses of his goggles, flashes of magenta and white sparkled like phosporous. When it powered itself off- Noah's gloved hands brushed away at the ashy, graphite-like carbon gunk that adhered to the Delta-Ventral line of the Bussard Ramscoop's filter. It toppled like cindered cakes into crumbly pieces which stained anything they touched. Only another day of this... hopefully.

This was Lieutenant Margarar's way of demonstrating she could reach well past his roommates' ability to safeguard him.

Noah stepped back from the enormous filter. Clumps and pumice-like clots of it began to drop from where he'd atomically weakened its bonding structure. That was the problem with carbon- it bonded with everything. Everything. Noah lifted up his goggles with a soft wince and a gasp of relief. He unplugged the nostril plugs that fed the clean air filter on his hip. He let his arms flop and with a soft clank the carbon scourer's flared nozzle echoed on the deckplate.

"Ow," he said, looking behind him at the man manning the Bussard Ramscoop's diagnostic console.

"You OK over there, Noah?" Parsons said, lifting his eyes from the console to regard the younger man. He felt bad that Noah was being forced into this particular job: it was grimy, it was difficult, and worst of all, it was pure vengeance on Margarar's part. So unnecessary, he thought to himself, spying Noah's almost completely carbon-coated form. "I really don't mind helping. It would go faster with two would she know? There's really no need for me to stand here constantly monitoring the ramscoop," he said, a bit of defiance on his voice. How very like Margarar to punish Noah with grunt work and make himself guiltily watch it all take place.

Noah was torn as he grudged to the vacant chair near Parsons, and dropped his skinny self into it. A puff of dingy smoke billowed on contact. Noah blustered out a sigh over his wide fish-lips-like mouth. He looked like a coal miner in Earth's ancient past. His lips, stained, flexed and he nibbled. Then he shook his head. "If she, um, finds out? She'll just punish us again. She'll double my work. And wh-who knows what she'll do to you." He laid the scourer on its side, bending deeply to power it off with a button tap.

He sat back and sniffed. Was he OK? He hadn't answered Parsons' question. He shook his head. "I-I still can't get over watching that person die. It all just felt so... pointless." He felt guilty for calling another sovereign culture's traditions pointless. But xenophobia was xenophobia. He rested his elbows on his knees in a stoop.

Parsons came around from behind the console and sat next to his friend. Since becoming roommates, the young engineers had spent increasing amounts of time together and Sheldon had become very protective of Noah. While Margarar's treatment of the stick-bug engineer was quite unfounded and unfair, the matter did seem secondary to the turmoil Noah was feeling over what had happened during their stint through time, however. He hoped he could help without making things worse on either front.

"I know what you mean," Sheldon nodded slowly, raising his knees up into a position where he could hug them. "I kind of thought we were in for experiencing a happy memory. Visiting a time when some momentously happy thing happened that Serana wanted to relive. I'm glad the moment we experienced was poignant and meaningful to her but...yeah," he blew out a breath, "hard stuff to watch. I wanted to run up to those people and stop it from happening. I guess the Talbeethians' technology can be both a blessing and a curse...the ability to see and relive without changing anything sounds great on paper. It's another story when you're suddenly helpless to do anything."

Noah followed suit- halfway. He brought one of those stick bug legs up to hug his knee. He smelt of gunpowder, that ozonous acridity. Noah desperately wanted a sonic shower, set on high. He nodded his chin against his kneecap, "I wanted to find a way to use the transporter to transport him out. Or a-a copy of him. And, you know, maybe Kennedy and Commander t'Nai could've saved him." He sighed softly. "It was like... a Holo-recording. B-but it felt more real than a Holodeck. It just had to play out." Noah twisted his mouth. "You-you hear about how... Bajorans have their orbs. And the Melkot can make super-real hallucinations. The Argellians can examine moments of emotion. And the Ba'Ku can slow moments in time." He sighed. "I met a Ullian once."

He looked at Sheldon. "W-when I was a second year. Three of them came to the Presidio. They did a seminar on telepathic historiography. A few cadets got chosen to rebuild a memory." He shook his head, "Not me though. I was too scared to try." He smiled. "If I-I was going to choose something for the Talbeethians, it would've been floating down the Eilat Drop." He rested his cheek on his knee, looking at Sheldon. "Back home. It's the closest I felt to flying until zero-gravity training."

"That sounds amazing," Sheldon smiled softly, imagining what it would have been like to experience the floaty descent. He wondered, not for the first time, what he would have chosen. What moment in time would have been worth revisiting? A lot of thoughts jumbled through his head but one in particular stood out. "If it'd been me, I would have picked the day I was awarded my first medal. My mom was there for the ceremony on Earth: I can't remember her ever being more proud of me. I miss her a lot," he slowly breathed out, sagging a little.

Noah blinked and smiled his too big smile on his sooty face. His nose wrinkled. "I think I remember that ceremony." He said. "I mean, you stand o-out. You're as tall as that Betelgeusian girl was." His eyes narrowed in thought, searching, "Wha-what was her name? Rinta? Rintal?" He shrugged it off. "But I-I remember." He chewed his lip. "I-I don't think I ever knew what happened to your Mom though."

Sheldon looked positively chuffed that Noah remembered the ceremony. "Rintal!" he confirmed, smiling excitedly. "I didn't realize you were there, Noah. I wish I'd known you then," the engineer said, leaning back against the console's base. He hadn't exactly had a lot of friends back then -- Noah would have been a welcome one for sure. He'd been about to say just that when Noah mentioned not knowing what had happened with his mom; Sheldon sighed and shrugged. "Shuttle accident. Low orbital maneuvers gone wrong. I saw the fireball," he lamented, the reflection of such figuratively flashing in his eyes. "These things happen but you're never really prepared for it when they happen to you. Anyway," the man shook his head, "tell me more about the drop. Was it as lovely as it sounds?"

Noah grinned broadly, "Rintal. She-she was intense." He nodded along, confirming he'd been in the crowd. And he nodded again, it would have been nice to have known one another. "I-I guess Starfleet designates the different squadrons. I was in Tau Squadron. But it would've been nice."

A nibbled at grimace followed on Noah from Sheldon's revelation. He reached for Sheldon and touched their shoulders together. "S-sorry..." He grimly nodded. Sheldon moved on before Noah could delve, and maybe that was for the best. It felt a want to move on, and the pressure in Noah's chest eased at the possibility.

OK," he began, "From Eilat Hub to Eilat Anchorage," Noah said, "On Enceladus. There's only microgravity pulling you down toward the Cousteau Abyss. The whole way there's windows and outside is like... the brightest blue ice," his eyes grew and he exploded his hands to effect, "Huge crystals, the whole way. Its l-like floating down a few kilometers of blue diamonds." He wiped at a dribble of grimy gray sweat off his eyebrow. "There-there's a few pockets of water toward Eilat Anchorage. With bioluminescent life. But its small they look like," he twinkled his fingers, "Like little glowing dots floating."

"t’Nai to Balsam." The disembodied voice of the Romulan XO broke into the conversation.

Noah looked up, ears perking to listen. He stood up and touched the comm panel on the nearest wall. His glance at Sheldon was trepidation: if it was Margarar, where else could she possibly send him? He didn't want to imagine. "Balsam here?" He asked, his voice lilting up with uncertainty.

"Mr. Balsam, it seems that the packet of replicator data for our new ops chief either hasn’t been installed or isn’t working properly. If Chief Basheer can spare you for a few would you mind taking a look?" There was a brisk efficiency to the XO's voice.

"Y-yes Ma'am. I'm not with Chief Basheer. But, um, I can take a look." His shoulders slumped with the tension spilling out. He pushed a breath between his lips. "A-anything else?"

"Thank you Mr. Balsam. t'Nai out." The line closed just as abruptly as it had opened.

Noah tapped the comm closed on his end and then, he leaned against the bulkhead. He filled his chest until it arched and then let it out. There was a degree of relief that he was off this job- if even temporarily. But, looking around, he knew he'd have to return to it. He rubbed his hands with a grimace. "Well I don't think I can go there looking like this," he admonished with an open shrug. "We-we have a new Ops Chief? Where's Lieutenant Zhaan?"

"Probably not the best idea," Parsons agreed after listening to the comm exchange with the First Officer. As for Serana, well...the young engineer merely shrugged. "I heard she was heading back for Pathfinder station. I don't know the details. Definitely wish her well, though," he nodded. He rose then, lanky legs gathering underneath him and pushing up. Offering a hand up to the very dirty Noah, Sheldon moved back around the console and called up some information.

Noah's long eyebrows knitted with concern. "I wonder if.... if what she saw on Talbeethia." He shrugged, "Made things not feel right." That was a sad thought. She'd seemed nice... conflicted, exotic and strange. But Noah felt like he knew nothing about her ultimately. How many officers opened up to random cadets? Noah took Sheldon's hand and stood.

"Ah," he said, nodding. "Our new Ops chief is a Gorn named Gar'rath. Whoa...I think he could swallow me in one bite," Sheldon shivered for effect as he regarded the man's personnel picture. "I don't expect he'll be ordering many ice cream sundaes. Probably why he needs the replicator adjusted. And oh," Parsons perked up, "here's the data package that came with him from his last posting. I'll load them into a PADD for you." Picking up a spare device lying atop the console, the engineer uploaded the information to the PADD and then handed it across. "Doesn't exactly take two of us but if you want company?" he let the offer dangle.

A bewildered Balsam glanced at Sheldon, the PADD, back to Sheldon, and then- with a hard swallow- back at the work he'd been doing. "G-Gorn? As in..." Noah's eyes bugged while he chewed his lip. "Gorn Hegemony? With the..." He pointed at his mouth to emphasize teeth, "And that..." He mimicked the hissing, chortling breath of the Gorn. "I-Is this a joke? Starfleet doesn't have any Gorn in it..." He said with a moment of doubt. "They-they don't..." But Noah wasn't even sure how to finish that.

When he looked at the PADD, the face of a Gorn stared back at him- and the primordial shudder of a mammal coming face to face with a cold, saurian reptilianoid rippled down his spine until it winked his rectum. He scrolled the package with a nervous look. "Slurry of... Slaad-ka. H-hearts of B... Bss..... Bssta." He read off some of the Gorn traditional cuisines. "F-fermented Intestine and Bile sac of Tah..." He winced. "Tahrss-chrsst-k." Noah's jaw flexed with he was slightly nauseous. Trepidacious glances went to Sheldon, "Please tell me this," he looked down at the PADD for the gender, "Guh-guy doesn't plan on throwing a lot of dinner parties?

Noah, even then, strode over to the wall where he tapped at the controls of a wall-mounted storage pod. When it clicked open he retrieved a Type I phaser. "Y-you want one too?" He asked, by fiat taking Sheldon's offer to come.

"If he does throw a dinner party," Sheldon shivered again at the list of Gorn delicacies, "I certainly hope to not be invited." The offer of a phaser gave the young engineer pause. "As scary as he looks, I'm going to say no," he said softly. "Starfleet wouldn't have him as an officer if he went around eating ensigns and cadets," Parsons gulped subtly. "So maybe we just...leave the phasers behind in the name of inter-species relations? I think we'll be alright," he said with confidence he didn't entirely feel.

Noah smiled into one cheek. "Then how-how do you explain Lieutenant Margarar?" He dipped into gallows humor, his brow rising and falling as he decided against the phaser, pushed it back into its molding, and closed the case. "She thinks I'm prey," he added with more bitterness, looking down at himself. "I-I guess she likes me Cajun style. B-blackened." He returned to the side of his friend and discarded the goggles off the top of his head. He set it aside and then undid his jumpsuit so he could peel it down to his waist. He had his SOJO t-shirt below. He wiped at his upper lip- smearing the graphite carbon- and then his forehead. "I'll get a quick, um. Qui-quick sonic shower and meet you in ten minutes?"

" a fair question," Sheldon admitted in reference to the new Assistant Chief Engineer. "Has she eaten anyone yet, though?" he smirked lightly. "Besides, I think you'd go much better with a side of marinara. Maybe Debbie can whip some up for the Chief?" Clearly, he was trying to lighten the mood with a bit of dry sarcasm. "You get in a good shower and I'll meet you there, Noah. Just uh...don't leave me standing outside his quarters for too long. Two of us disappearing, Gar'rath won't be able to explain. But just one of us? Dead meat," he chuckled nervously before turning and heading out.

[Outside Lieutenant Gar'rath's Quarters]
[10 minutes later]

Ensign Parsons had arrived only moments before, eyeing the door to Gar'rath's quarters warily. He didn't know if the Executive Officer was still inside, though he could certainly ask the computer to check for him. Her presence would definitely make the job a lot easier. Maybe she could run interference while he and Noah worked on the replicator? Sheldon had been about to invoke the computer but it was, at that moment, that he spied Noah coming down the corridor. "You made it," he breathed with relief. "Ready to get this done?" he asked, gulping audibly.

A freshly cleaned Noah fast-walked down the hall with his Systems Diagnostics Satchel slung over a shoulder and across his body like he was a college boy dashing to classes. He'd changed into a fresh Engineering jumpsuit. He stopped before the doors with Sheldon and, with the same trepidation as before, he glanced at his colleague- then the door. He felt the pressure of time and his cadet-drilled in responsibility for being punctual. "Kay, lets..." He went to tap the comm key at the door and hesitated. "Let's just get this over with." He pushed the key.

"Request entry, Balsam, Noah H. Midshipman. Systems Engineer?" He lilted up his words like a question at the end, and again he looked at Sheldon.

The door to the Gorn's quarters slid open, and the large reptilian dipped his head down just slightly as he peered down at the two mammals that had been dispatched to help him get the food replicator to work properly. The Lieutenant's toothy maw parted slightly as he took in the sight of them, taking note that neither of them seemed very old.

"Younglings," Gar'rath's deep, resonating voice penetrated the corridor around them, "You have my thanks for your assistance. Had I the tools on hand to make the modifications, I might not have needed to disturb you from your task. Please, come inside. I will warn you that I have already made the room more to my liking, so you may think it a tad humid or warm for your mammalian tastes."

Parsons blinked up at the Gornish Lieutenant, making mental note of every. single. tooth. With a gulp, he said, "Humid and warm don't bother me, sir. But thank you for the warning. I'm Ensign Parsons and this," he gestured to his counterpart, "Is Cadet Noah Balsam. Don't let his being a cadet fool you...he's one of our best engineers," he said, trying to smile, though it looked more like a half-grimace. "Want to show us to your replicator, sir? I'm sure Noah and I can get it programmed for you in short order."

Like Sheldon, Noah glimpsed every single sharpened tooth in the Gorn's mouth. It was visceral: coming face to face with someone who reminded the primitive Amygdala to flee, to fight, or to freeze. Noah's amygdala has chosen freeze. And he was staring. The cadet, used to the cold and dry climes of his moon world felt the schvitz spring at his tailbone and under his arms. But he dared not toe out of line.

"I think I know... where-where it is," Noah said, keeping his back to the bulkhead as he sidestep sidled inside. He flashed a rictus of a nervous smile. "M-m-most of the senior officer, uh." He derailed when he caught sight of the Gorn's meaty tail. "Uh... I mean. Most of the senior officers' quarters have a similar lay-lay-layout." He smiled another grimace, "What-what big teeth you have there, Lieutenant, Sir." He vaguely gestured at his destination, "Are-are you sure you wouldn't uh... prefer a kitchenette set-up?"

"Procuring raw materials would be no easy feat, Cadet," Gar'rath commented as he stepped out of the way to allow the two technicians inside, "And when I lived among humans on Cestus, the scale to which they make most cooking implements left much to be desired."

Once the two were fully inside, Gar'rath straightened to his full height as he crossed his arms across his chest, "I could not help but notice you seem uneasy. Have either of you had some unkind encounter with one of my people? I do know that some warriors leave the Hegemony to commit crimes and acts of violence against the mammalian races. Most Gorn see your kind as little more than prey to be hunted and devoured. I will assure you two now that I do not share such baseless sentiments."

"That's um...really good to hear," Parsons breathed a heavy sigh. "With apologies, sir, I know we're taught not to prejudge other races by their appearance. I've just heard of some members of your race kind of...eating us," he gulped audibly. "I know you aren't them, it's just a difficult mental image to set aside. I hope you can understand our very natural prey instincts," Parsons chuckled nervously. "Have you been away from Cestus long, sir?" he asked, hoping to engage the Lieutenant in conversation while Noah worked on the replicator.

"Since joining the regular fleet six years ago," Gar'rath responded to the Ensign's question, his head turning slightly toward him.

"I-I've heard that too," Noah said, while skittish also trying to be friendly. It was hard. He'd accepted the response that a kitchenette wasn't as practical for the Gorn and so he set immediately into uploading the replicator files. "I-I've never met a Gorn," Noah attested from the interface of the food kiosk. "I actually didn't, um, think the Gorn ever left the Hegemony." When his tricorder squawked at him, Noah frowned. "I-I think I see the problem." With the warm humid, Noah had already broken out into a glow of sweat.

Noah frowned into a cheek, knotting one dimple in thought. "Computer, replicate one taste test strip." With a whizz of wispy light and sparkle a thin piece of something like gum with a backing appeared. Noah picked it up with delicate fingers and tentatively approach the Gorn. "This replicator hasn't been calibrated," Noah explained. "Gorn um, puh-palettes are different than Humans. If you could touch the gummy surface to your tongue and hold for five seconds, I can upload a Gorn taste profile."

Gar'rath regarded the object in the young cadet's hand for a moment, eyes narrowing slightly before reaching out to pluck the item from his hand. The Gorn examined the strip for a moment before parting his toothy maw and resting the strip against his tongue as instructed. When the requisite number of seconds had elapsed, the Gorn removed the object and offered it back to the cadet.

Noah watched with instinctive trepidation as the toothy mouth opened and closed on the strip. When the Gorn Lieutenant gave Noah the strip back, the Cadet began toward the replicator.

"The sensation was odd..." Gar'rath grumbled deep in the back of his throat, "I suppose I should have mentioned that I am capable of eating meats that mammals often ingest as well, though I don't prefer it when it has been cooked to the point of turning brown."

Setting the strip down in the replicator's food bay, Noah nodded slowly and then touched several buttons. "It's... strange. Y-yeah," he glanced at Sheldon and Gar'ath. And his acquiescing nod was one of absorption: he understood. With a few taps of keys, the replicator began to scan the flavor test strip. The ambient light double-blinked and the computer stated that it was calibrating.

Noah explained. "B-but the difference between bad replicator food and normal r-replicator food is it, um, doesn't understand how your tastebuds react to food. If-if I input these matrices with a Human or a, um, a Vulcan taste re-receptor profile, so the replicated taste was the way we taste it... it-it might be bland, or..." He shrugged. "Just off. To you." He smiled, "We all taste things... um... a little differently."

"Calibration complete. Updating flavor profile. Ready." The computer stated from the replicator.

"Only one thing to do now..." Parsons said, though he didn't really relish being around for it. "Go ahead and replicate something. See if it's alright?" In his mind's eye, he saw Gar'rath replicating a dead animal dripping in its own blood. He watched sickeningly as the Gorn lifted it from the replicator -- blood running down the sides -- and take a mighty bite out of it, bones crunching and munching as the red river gushed from the corners of his fang-filled maw. The whole idea sent several shivers down Parsons' spine but he knew his imagination was just running wild. It wouldn't -- couldn't -- be that bad, right? He waited to see what Gar'rath would do, his eyes nervously darting back and forth between Noah and the Gorn.

The Gorn nodded at the suggestion to replicate something and stabbed at the controls, summoning a few long strips of what could only be assumed to be meat of some sort. Gar'rath reached out to the plated offering and stabbed a claw into one of the strips, pulling it off the plate and depositing it in his open maw. The reptilian closed his eyes and savored the flavor profile of the snack for a few seconds before swallowing.

"It is good. Thank you for your assistance, gentlemen. You are a credit to your brood," Gar'rath said after a short pause.

Noah couldn't help but wince slightly, a visceral uplift in his guts, at the simple move of claw to food and food to a saurian maw. A hundred fifty years was simply not enough time to go from the Gorn hunting, trapping, consuming, skinning, toying with Humans as prey; being a faceless, ultimate evil that stalked the darkness of remote colonies, to an easy understanding.

This man, this Gorn, this Lieutenant, was not that way. He was not the horror stories, the frontier boogeyman. Just like Lieutenant Timmoz was... quite Orion.. but not the venal, xenophobic and treacherous type that were the pirates or Syndicate. Noah clung to those differences even if his insides wanted to liquify in terror at the stories that now manifested in a physical- and even jovial- form.

"You-you are very welcome, Sir," Noah said. "You-you can adjust the lighting to meet Gorn standards of wavelengths. So you can um, sleep. And all." Noah shivered slightly because a bead of sweat just dropped down from the small of his back down to the apex of his bum crack. He could feel it trickling down his ribs as well, and his nape felt wet.

"Just glad we could help," came Parsons' own reply. Truth be told, he'd done literally nothing but come along as moral (and conversational?) support but he hoped to have helped all the same. "Sir, if you need anything else, please don't hesitate to uh...reach out," he said, eyes eyeing the large claws attached to the Gorn's hands before flitting up to the man's eyes. "Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. We're glad to have you here." Maybe "glad" was a strong word but Parsons was trying to make the Gorn feel welcome, at least in his own way.

The large reptilian draped his clawed hand onto the young cadet’s shoulder, “Your efforts to be hospitable are admirable despite your discomfort, Cadet. If I can repay your consideration in the future, I will.”

Gar’rath turned his head toward the Ensign with narrowed eyes, “Looking out for the younglings in the brood is also worthy of acknowledgement. I have no doubt you accompanied the Cadet out of uncertainty as to my disposition. I am used to this sort of thing, but I am not going to eat any of the crew, I assure you. A true hunter would never toy with their prey in such an underhanded manner.”

Noah rictused a broad, sort of vaguely amphibiously wide smile. "Sorry. And you're welcome. And... thank you." His dark eyes narrowed like he was judging his own awkward word choices. "I-I am getting an education. From you and um," His eyes widened and he pushed out a breath, "Lieu-Lieutenant Timmoz." Noah looked at Parsons. "I-I think Sheldon came more out of curiosity than anything. Life is... um... very-very quiet in the ramscoops." His nose wrinkled, "And sooty."

"So much soot," Parsons drolly replied. "We'll leave you to settle in, Lieutenant. Thanks for, you know," he shrugged and blew out a breath, "not eating us and all. We appreciate that very much," the young ensign finally felt comfortable enough to joke. "We'd better get back. Chief Margarar is probably wondering were we went by now." His face tightened at the mention of the Assistant Chief Engineer. "Sir, it was very nice to meet you. Enjoy the rest of your day," Parsons nodded, dipping his head in acknowledgment of the Gorn before placing a hand on Noah's shoulder to gently indicate they should leave.

At the mention of the Acting Chief Engineer, Noah's back stiffened with what could have only been the instinctive tension of muscles that she elicited. Noah nodded also at the Gorn. "Have-have a good day sir," he said. The Human stick bug lankily reached for the door button. "If-if you have any problems just um call." Noah pushed the button and sidled outside.

The Gorn watched as the two men departed, shaking his head a bit in amusement as they left. He was going to have an interesting experience on this new ship, he could feel it.

A Post By:

Lieutenant Gar'ath
Operations Officer

Ensign Sheldon Parsons

Midshipman Noah Balsam
Systems Specialist and Chimney Sweep, Guv'Na

Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Margarar


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