Echoes and Effigies
Location: Science Lab
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 1100
[MD 3: 1100 hours]
Ensign Brian Davies, the Sojo's resident entomologist, tap-tap-tapped at his console, accessing the Science Lab's transporter controls. Finding the specimen he was looking for in the stasis buffer, Brian's hairy-knuckled hands splayed over the controls and deftly activated the transporter. On his work table, the golden whirling sprites of the transporter deposited a rather beautiful -- and abnormally large -- butterfly clad in azure blue and deeply violet wings. The butterfly had appeared inside a large enclosure but Brian reached forward to open its doors, letting the insect flit free.
About the size of a basketball, the butterfly flapped its delicate wings and rose, leaving clouds of bluish dust floating in the air currents as it flew over to a nearby bookcase. Brian held up a small suction device and followed in the butterfly's wake, sucking in the spore clouds created by the creature's wings-in-motion. Perhaps sensing that his co-workers -- working at their own stations -- might be wondering what in the hell he was doing, he smiled at the group and held up the suction device.
"Rigellian Night Flyer. The scales from their wings," Brian explained, "come off as they fly. What's interesting and, well, damn useful about the scales is their ability to stave off infections. With just a few clouds from this big beauty," he beamed at the butterfly, "Sickbay can synthesize a number of drugs designed to fight powerful infections. Got the call for some a few minutes ago. I promise," he held up his fingers in a 'Scouts Honor' gesture, "I'll put her back in transporter stasis soon."
"Oh, she's beautiful!" Another ensign approached the butterfly where it had perched, a look of wonder on her face. "I've never seen a butterfly this big before! And what a beautiful shade of blue. It almost doesn't look natural. Why do the scales come off in flight? Is it some sort of defense mechanism or something? Or do they just come off whenever they fly because they don't fly often? It seems like it'd be a strange evolutionary mechanism to shed their scales whenever they take flight otherwise. But I don't actually know all that much about insects." She looked up at him and blushed slightly. "Sorry. That's a lot of questions in a row. I'm Mei."
Jyl-eel Tor was sitting on a stool, knees clenched as she perched in the high seat. She sipped at a white ceramic mug, a waft of honeysuckle and lavender coming from the brew. The butterfly was a beautiful specimen and her jade eyes followed its controlled yet graceful movements. "Megahellonis Nocturna Rigellae?" She asked the entomologist. She gestured at it, "I saw one at the Royal Botanarium on Rigel V. She was feeding on a bloom of Jelna Pinon Flowers. Very beautiful."
"My father had one of those," Mothim looked up for a moment from his calculations, his blue eyes following the path of the butterfly. "Well, a pinned one of course. Not a live specimen." The Aurelian looked back towards the screen in front, completely at ease while watching numbers flash past.
Andrew smiled as he observed the interactions from the other side of the room. Ensign Davies's research always commanded the most attention, whether that be in the form of admiration or revulsion, for whichever creature he was working with. Most people seemed to find a zoo more exciting than a botanical garden. In front of him was an open drawer that formed part of an unremarkable wall panel, the likes of which could be found anywhere on the ship. Instead of containing equipment though, this one was sectioned into four parts and each was illuminated with noticeably different spectra. All of the plants inside were in the seedling stage, but they had little else in common. Some looked like they were growing fur, some were forming little funnels, another looked like a web was growing. Their colour varied as much as their form, although it was unclear if they'd be the same colour under white light. It was only when Andrew's gloved hand entered the drawer that the forcefield separating the atmosphere of the lab from the groups of seedlings became visible.
"Mei," Davies smiled back, delighted at her stream-of-consciousness questioning. "I'm Brian," he said, introducing himself by first name as the other ensign had done. He'd seen her working in the lab before but they hadn't had a direct reason to talk until now, it seemed. "To answer your questions, night fliers developed the scales as a defense mechanism. The clouds they produce as they fly are toxic to the avian life on Rigel that tends to prey on them. But you're right about them not flying often," the man patiently explained. "Because their scales come off when they do, they tend to conserve flight time between food stops...saving up their payload, if you will," he nodded.
To Jyl-eel, Brian offered a great big grin. "You know your stuff! Yes, that's absolutely right. They go for the pinon flowers because of a certain enzyme they produce. The night fliers need it to metabolize their food." To Mothim, the entomologist cocked his head to the side and asked, "Was your father a bug collector? Mine was. It's kind of how I fell into all this," he chuckled. As he waited for a response, Brian's eyes were drawn to the plants in front of Andrew. "Oh hey, what're you working on there?" he asked excitedly.
"The Talbeethians shared these samples from their seed bank," Andrew explained. "Their data suggested that these have antibacterial properties, so I'm cultivating some for analysis and test." Glancing back at the odd forms and colors of the specimens, he added "They're also pretty fascinating in their own right. Just reading about them doesn't seem to do them justice."
"Nice of them to share samples," Brian smiled at Andrew. "It fascinates me how medical science is so supported and propelled by plants and insects. I wonder if anyone has done a study on just how many curatives have come from nature's pantry? I bet it's a lot higher number than we might think," he commented.
Jyl-eel bobbed her head once since Botany was her specialty. She'd studied the pinon flowers of Rigel because of their unique reproduction and the soil chemosynthesis.
"I guess he was a bug collector," Mothim shrugged. And a collector of many other things as well. The Aurelian was glad to see some of the scientists chatting, even if biology and butterflies were neither of his favorite topics. Science was science and he loved it all, but he loved math and physics more.
The sensitive Valt turned her attention to the Aurelian. "How are your studies of this nebula going so far?" She asked as pretty eyes stared over her ceramic cup. "We did a scan for astro-botanical spores but the phosphine levels should have been all the clues we needed." She shook her head.
"As interesting as one can expect," the Aurelian shrugged. "It's mostly collecting data right now. Physics stuff is boring in the short term; it only gets interesting once we dump the data in front of bored grad students or scientists stuck at a dock that they make the interesting discoveries." Indeed; field research was one of the more fun parts of science but there wasn't much closure or results. Working on a research vessel was like doing field research at that galactic scale.
"At least you get to see what you're studying first hand," Brian offered back to Mothim. "If all I could do was read about bugs and study other scientists' first-hand accounts, I'd feel pretty secluded from my work. You get the pleasure of seeing the beauty of this nebula up close, while those grad students just have to read your work and study the readings. Could be worse, yeah?" he asked, smiling. He turned back to Mei then, who'd fallen silent since her initial bout of questions about the butterfly. "How about you, Mei? Working on anything interesting?"
"Hm?" Mei looked up, startled at the sudden question. "Oh. Sorry. My mind wandered off a bit there. I went directly from evolutionary processes for insect life to going back over the categories for different types of civilizations and how they might vary between the Alpha and Beta Quadrants and then here in the Delta Quadrant. I mean, sure, civilizations tend to develop in similar ways, but a lot don't and from what I've read about the Delta Quadrant, there are a lot of variations that other anthropologists have cataloged. Of course, you always have to expand and refine the data, so I've got my work cut out for me." She caught her breath and smiled. "And that was probably more about my thought process than you really wanted to hear about."
Brian couldn't help but smile. Mei definitely seemed like a stream-of-consciousness type person, with everything on her mind all rushing out at once. It was an endearing quality. "I imagine there's a lot for you to potentially get involved in out here. I mean, catching up with old races like the Ocampa, Vidiians, or Kazon," he counted the races off on his fingers, "or even meeting new races like the Talbeethians is bound to expose you to societal development patterns that are worth exploring. I bet it's all pretty fascinating," he said with a nod. "If you could study any Delta Quadrant race we know about so far, which one would it be and why?" Brian asked with a grin.
"Oh, wow." Mei's eyes widened. "I mean, studying a race that has a rapid generational shift like the Ocampa would be fascinating. How do they develop stories and cultural touchstones when they have such short lifespans? But the structure of Kazon society is fascinating, too. Why are they so fragmented? Are they all as hostile as the ones Voyager encountered, or was that a matter of circumstance? And what about the societies that abandoned their advanced technology in order to hide from the Borg? We call it regression, but is it really? There are so many questions to ask about the people we already know about. I can't even fathom who else might be out there, and what they're like."
"Well hopefully," Brian smiled winningly, "you'll get an opportunity to get answers to all those questions and more. Though I'll be honest, I wouldn't mind if we did not run into the Vidiians again anytime soon. The Kazon, however, could be interesting," he nodded. "I often wonder how societies develop myself. Obviously not to the level you study them," he said to Mei, "but it's a curiosity. Especially in regards to how indigenous insect-life finds a way to co-exist with the people in their environs. Maybe we can team up sometime," he offered.
"I'm sure we could find a way to." Mei's smile was just as bright as his. "Who knows what sorts of societies are out there? Perhaps we'll find sentient insectoid people out there. There's no sense in being anthropocentric about mammalian or reptilian lifeforms. What is it they say about the universe? 'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine'? Maybe someday we'll be co-authoring a paper about an insectoid civilization we encounter out here in the Delta Quadrant."
"Oooh," Brian grinned even wider, if that were possible. "I do love double-teaming a good paper. Can we put in a request to visit an insectoid species soon? I'm sure the Captain wouldn't mind ditching this nebula if it meant a little action in the name of...well, more science I guess," his grin became a smirk. In actuality, trading one scientific study for another probably wouldn't trip the burly Captain's trigger. "I know we've all got projects going right now but perhaps we could grab a coffee at Debbie's or something, Mei? Talk about how we could collaborate?" Not present were any vestiges that the request was anything more than a working coffee invitation. He seemed earnestly interested in combining efforts.
"That sounds great! I have no idea what we could collaborate on at this point, but you never know. We can put our heads together and come up with something. Or we wind up learning new things. I don't see any disadvantages from here," Mei grinned, and her dark curls seemed to bob with excitement. "Just let me know when's a good day and time. So far, I have not much going on aside from my regular shifts."
"Same here," Brian commented back with a smile. "I'll send you an official working coffee invite and we'll take it from there," he chuckled. "Alright, I should probably put my night flyer back in stasis and get her scales to Sickbay. If you'll all excuse me," Brian nodded to the group at large before moving back to his desk. A few keystrokes was all it took to target the lab's transporter system on the butterfly and dematerialize her back into stasis. Then, with the scales in tow, Brian exited the lab and set course for the medical bay, leaving the rest of the scientists to their work.
=/\= A joint post by... =/\=
Ensign Brian Davies (NPC'd by Kodak)
Chief Science Officer
Ensign Mei Ratthi
Ensign Jyl-eel Tor (NPC'd by Timmoz)