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Posted on 28 Feb 2022 @ 3:05am by Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer & Lieutenant Commander Harva Taliborn

4,296 words; about a 21 minute read

Mission: Home
Location: Mess Hall/Engineering, USS Odin

It was by now late in the afternoon and Sha'mer realised she still hadn't eaten lunch. Or a proper breakfast, come to think of it. This was the time when you couldn't really call it a proper lunch either. An early dinner? Whatever one wanted to call it, it was time to insert some food if she wanted to get anything else done today.

And another thing she needed to do, Sha'mer thought with a grimace, was to take care of that bloody annoying squeaking brace. The sound wasn't loud, but its pitch was annoying. And the clicking sound it occasionally made was probably nothing, but could potentially indicate a problem.

Sha'mer didn't feel at all like heading back all the way to her office from where she was now and decided that the mess hall was probably fairly quiet at this midway point between lunch and dinner. She could grab something to eat and work on the brace at the same time. Yes. That sounded perfect.

It sounded less perfect half an hour later. The brace was lying on the table before her, partly demolished, and she stared at it with mounting frustration. It looked so deceptively simple, fixing it should be straightforward enough. But it wasn't. She had followed the 'brace maintenance course' and was theoretically aware of how it worked, but this minute fiddling with delicate tools was not her thing. She was too impatient for it and felt her frustration rising. If she hadn't needed the thing to be able to actually, like, walk, she would've thrown it clear across the room.

And, as before, she was joined by the ship's largest officer, the resident Sirran. Heavy footfalls carried him to her table and, under the groaning protestations of the chair, there he sat down. A massive plate of various meats, steeaming hot, along with a dip or two, set down on the table in front of him. "Hello again Cin," his thick, warm basso profondo rumbled, as he put his top hat aside. "Second time I meet you here, second time you don't seem to be doing so well. What's the problem?" he asked, stuffing a sizable chunk of meat in his gob.

The twitching stopped abruptly. Sha'mer became very still, looked down and gave a little shrug. "I don't know anymore…" she said in a low voice. "I used to like all kind of physical activities… Mountain climbing, orbital skydiving, hiking. Combat trainings. All stuff I…" She shrugged again. "I haven't had much time to find anything new. Or space of mind. So…" Again the helpless shrug. "I don't know." She looked up again, wiping her eyes with an angry gesture. "You?" Always a good idea to reverse the question. Focus on someone else's thoughts and feelings instead of keeping from getting stuck in your own.
Sha'mer selected something at random and took a bite. The meat was red and dripping and had a rich taste. The single bite gave her new energy and made her realise she had indeed waited too long to eat. "Too spicy?" she asked, pointing with the remains at the red sauce. With her other hand she pulled the brace closer again. "So… when would be a good time to come by?"
Sha'mer blew a loose curl back from her forehead, which began to slide back almost immediately. "Hi, Harva," she said without looking up. "It's this stupid brace. I spent a lot of time crawling through tubes and narrow spaces earlier and now there is this annoying click and I can't find what's causing it. At least I got rid of the squeak. I think." The smell of the food on Harva's plate reminded Sha'mer that she had eaten only a bite or two herself. For the life of her she couldn't remember what she had ordered.

"Mind if I take a look?" he asked, holding out a massive paw for the brace.

"Not at all." The relief was palpable, though she did feel an odd reluctance before she carefully lifted it and handed it over. She felt strangely vulnerable without it.

Once he'd been handed the brace he lifted it to near his face, carefully arching the hinge through its range of motion. He flicked an ear then moved it closer, furrowing his brows, slowly moving the brace again, listening intently.

The squeak was still there, though it was almost inaudible now. And though there was no clicking sound the first time when he moved it, there was one the second time. Also faint now that there was no stress on the hinges, but clearly there.

"The squeak I can do something about here, just need to hop to the replicator. The click - I hear it, but I don't think I can do anything about it here," his voice resonated, as he placed the brace down again, nomming another chunk of meat. "Want some?" he asked, motioning at his plate.

The last remark had the easiest answer. "Sure." Sha'mer looked at the plate with mild curiousity. "What is it? Other than 'meat'." She eyed the brace. The irony of the duality of her feelings for it didn't escape her. On the one hand, she hated it, hated what it stood for. On the other hand, it enabled her to walk around, without it she would be depending on crutches and she hated that even more. "Can it be fixed, and does it need to be fixed?" she asked.

"The squeak is just a bit of wear. I'll put some PTFE oil on and it'll quiet right down. The click - I think a spec of debris, like just a gain, made its way past the main seal. It won't exactly cause harm, but it should come out. I can do that in engineering, take about half an hour to an hour, give or take," he mused. "It's just various roasted meats from various worlds. Should be all good and safe for you, though I'd avoid the red dip if I were you."

Sha'mer selected something at random and took a bite. The meat was red and dripping and had a rich taste. The single bite gave her new energy and made her realise she had indeed waited too long to eat. "Too spicy?" she asked, pointing with the remains at the red sauce. With her other hand she pulled the brace closer again. "So… when would be a good time to come by?"

"It has some ingredients that have been known to cause allergic reactions in more than a few races other than Sirran. You're welcome to try if you think you're brave enough, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's not pretty when the reactions happen," Harva flicked an ear, then considered a moment. "If you can get it to a state functional enough where you can follow me down we can go when I finish my dinner," he added, motioning to his plate.

Since there hadn't been much need for a tactical officer on the quiet little colony where Sha'mer had served last, she had been working there as the science officer for the most part. "That's determined quickly enough," she said and popped the remaining meat in her mouth before pulling out a scanner. She waved it over the red sauce and studied the readouts. "Hmm… interesting stuff… Yes, I see what you mean. Nothing that should trigger anything specific for me as far as I can tell." Being from more or less the other side of the galaxy had its advantages at times. "But let's first tend to this." She began to fit the loose components of the brace together again. "I'd better get this functional or I won't be going anywhere," she added with the wry grimace which often passed for her smile.

"I'd offer a piggy-back ride but the ceilings aren't tall enough," Harva said matter-of-factly, though there was amusement twinkling in his eyes. He simply continued his meal in silence, giving her a good ten minutes or so to get the brace back in a functional state.

It took Sha'mer a few moments to realise what he meant. "Even if they were high enough, I think I'd give it a pass if it's all the same to you." She concentrated on sealing the cover, tested the tiny control panel and nodded slightly when the light winked green. Sha'mer had already begun to strap the brace back on when she realised that one part was still lying on the table. A part which originally had never been part of the brace at all, but which had been the only modification she'd made to it – a slender throwing knife which, when clicked into place, wasn't notificable at all. She scowled at her own inattention, quickly whisked it from the table and slotted it where it belonged.

Harva snickered. "Would be a sight, though," he mused, continuing to eat. "You expecting a mutiny?" he asked, voice muffled through his bite of food, motioning at the knife.

Sha'mer gave a slight shrug and took another piece of meat from Halva's gigantic plate. "I'm not expecting anything, but I want to be prepared for everything," she replied. "At this moment, if something happened, I can't properly fight, I can't run. So I figured I needed an extra edge." Two edges if she carried her cane. She had learned the lesson 'it's best to be prepared' from a very young age.

"You know, why not," Harva smiled, continuing to eat his meal. Wasn't long before it was all gone and he rose to recycle his plate, putting his top hat back on. "Right, down to engineering it is," he mused, his voice rumbling.

Sha'mer winced as the brace tightened itself around her leg when she activated it and the support field began to form. She followed in Harva's wake, quickly recycling her own half-eaten meal. "I've been meaning to ask," she said as she struggled to keep up with him. "What's with the hat?"

"Ah, hehe," Harva snickered. "I'm a Sirran. We're big, broad, with great big teeth and big claws - " he flexed a claw as if to demonstrate. "I'm very aware that there are more than a few myths in several federation memberspecies' mythologies where creatures not much unlike me feature as monstrous, scary antagonist. So I figure that by wearing a silly hat, that draws attention away from the more frightening aspects of my physiology, reducing the risk of someone startling coming across me in a chance encounter, when they don't expect it. Y'see, most brains are wired to latch on to things that don't add up over familiar but scary things, So introduce a silly hat and presto, distraction."

Sha'mer looked up at him, and up again, focusing more on what her eyes told her than the mind behind the towering apparition. "I… see," she said slowly. "You have to make yourself less scary in order for people not to act on their first impulses." She touched the part of the brace again where the throwing knife was hidden. "For me it's maybe the other way around." Even more so since she was also hiding part of herself. Her true name, her true face… yes.

"What, you're trying to appear scarier than you are?" he flicked an ear, glancing down. The contrast of their footfalls silent amused him, her patta patta patta versus his thud ... thud ... thud. He walked slowly as not to push her beyond comfort.

"Not necessarily scarier. More like… trying not to be the weakest of the pack." The lame that would be the first victim of any predator. Of course, she did have a few tricks other than a few hidden blades, but the very fact that she was a cripple now was testimony to the limitations of those talents. The fact was that many people had lost their lives because she had been too slow. She scowled at herself.

He regarded her for a moment in silence as the turbolift brought them to engineering. "There's a story there. And a lot of pain," he quietly mused. "I won't push or ask. Up to you if you ever want to tell me about it. But you don't look weak to me, and I know a thing or two about strength," the towering giant of muscle six times her weight added.

"I might," Sha'mer said in a low voice. "But not just yet. It's still… too raw." She looked down, at her feet, at the ugly brace. "Ah well. What is done is done and all that." Pushing dark thoughts away was also something she had become very good at. "I think we have arrived."

"Sure have," he smiled, cheerful demeanor back after a moment of empathy. "Please, find a seat and take the brace off again. I'll get some oil and tools and get to work," he spoke, heading to the replicator.

Sha'mer looked around for a place to sit, eventually found one near a console in a corner and sat down. "Thanks a lot for helping me," she said as she handed the brace back to Harva. "I'm not always good at this kind of stuff… asking for help, I mean."

"My mother, Migrator watch over her soul, always taught me to help people. She used an old poem for that," he mused, taking the brace, some oils, a fine sander and a power polisher to a workbench, carefully applying the sander to the offending spec of debris that'd lodged itself in the brace.

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjalfr it sama, ek veit einn at aldrei deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern," he spoke in his native tongue of Sirran. "Cattle dies, friends die, so too must you. But I know one thing that never dies, the deeds of one's life," the massive engineer added in translation. "It's a bit grim maybe, but the message is this, your deeds and memories of those deeds will live on long after you're gone. So better make sure they're good deeds, and good memories."

Sha'mer was silent for a long time. Too many thoughts crowded her mind, too many memories. They won't if you're the last one standing… To be fair, she hadn't been the only one who had survived the Firehawk disaster. There had been a handful of others, the CO amongst them. Had he visited her while she was in the sickbay of the ship which had rescued them? She thought she remembered seeing him, but her memories of those days were vague and unreliable, clouded with the haze of painkillers and, well, pain. And before that-

She didn't want to think about the 'before that'.

"You're a good man," she said softly, at last.

"I try to be," he quietly mused, tirelessly continuing to work. After five minutes or so of careful sanding he wiped the sanding dust off with a damp cloth, then set about polishing the area. "All anyone can do, really," he added under his breath.

Sha'mer, whose hearing was above human standard, picked it up. "Some try harder than others," she replied softly. She had tried, before. And as a result, she had fled halfway across the galaxy. "Sometimes it would be really nice if one could just turn off remembering for some time," she sighed.

"Hmm," Harva considered for a moment, just running the polishing wheel over the sanded area. "I don't agree, actually. It's our experiences and memories that make us who we are. Without those, we wouldn't be who we are today. I wouldn't be me. You say I'm a good man, but that's only over the teachings of my parents, the things I've done, the memories I've made. Some of those memories may be painful, but I wouldn't want to lose any of mine - they are the road that led me to this place. Even the one of my parent's shuttle exploding and the realization that it was my negligence which caused it."

She looked up at him and gave a quiet nod to acknowledge his own internal scars in turn. "That's why I said 'for some time'. Remembering the past is important, I agree. But it would be nice to not have to think about it, sometimes. Come to think of it," she added, "there is a way for that, but it's not recommended to do it on a regular base. It's called getting smashed. Y'know. Very drunk." Sha'mer shrugged wryly.

Harva's demeanor turned dark. "You really don't want to see me drunk," he rumbled. "Takes a lot to get me there, but I'm not a pleasant or happy drunk. Argumentative, violent maybe. Not fun. Plus, I don't like losing control of my faculties, you know?" he flicked an ear, glancing over. "I know what I'm capable of, being a Sirran, in a world of - cardboard people. I hate the idea of losing selfcontrol, knowing what one momentary lapse of judgment could lead to."

"It affects all of us differently, true," Sha'mer nodded. "But in your case, you have more need for caution than… well, most. So it's good that you know your limits." She smiled slightly. "I won't offer."

"Good!" he perked up again, ears standing straight, a slight momentary wag of his tail. "If you ever feel a need to though and need someone to watch over you, keep you safe, gimme a call," he added, turning his attention back to his polishing work.

Sha'mer shifted on the chair and looked thoughtful. She usually was quite capable of fending for herself – like the knife hidden in the brace and the sword in the cane, there was more to her than met the eye. But there were situations where being underestimated was useful, and other moments when it helped if she didn't have to prove first that she really meant it if she said something like 'Stop this now'. And in those situations, being big and imposing was definitely advantageous. Or having someone like that at your side. "I'll keep it in mind," she replied. And added with a brief flash of her old grin, "And vice versa."

He gave a low chuckle which was felt more than heard. "I'll keep it in mind," he mused.

Well, of course it would be hard to take her reply serious. Still, who knew what the future would hold? Sha'mer figeted again. She was perfectly capable of sitting still for long periods of time – when she was working. All this sitting and waiting was not something she did well. Meditation was also something she was not fit for. 'Sit still and think of nothing' only seemed to send her mind into overdrive. People had been trying to teach her while she was still bedbound in sickbay and that hadn't worked well.

So now, as she sat here, her mind ran into a thousand different directions again, different tracks of thought. Normally, whenever she reached that point, she would jump up and pace, work off some of that energy, but with Harva working on the brace that was an impossibility. "I love your tail," was one of the thoughts which slipped out. "It's so eloquent."

This made Harva laugh, an honest, mirthful laugh. "You like it? Grew it myself," he chuckled, tail giving a light wag. "Eloquent? I can see that. It tells my mood. I can control it, but the moment my concentration slips it gains a mind of its own," he mused, calmly double checking his polishing efforts. "There's special tail training on Sirrah for public servants, actors, military personnel, etcetera - anyone where a mood tell would be less than ideal."

Sha'mer tried to focus on his movements, anything to take her mind off her own antsy mood. If she had a tail, she wondered, what would it look like now? Twitching, bristling? She wished the chair she sat on had wheels so that she could at least roll around a bit. "I can see that," she answered, nodding. "Must be hard if they want to be a professional poker player."

"Humans look at expressions and eye twitches while playing poker to read a tell, Sirran look at each other's tails," Harva mused. He retrieved a spraycan of lubricant and started applying it. "This is a copper and polybutene based lubricant. Earlier I mentioned teflon based, but this is better for steel on steel lubrication, more wear- and tension resistant," he calmly explained. His movements were perhaps a bit slower than a human's, or maybe they just came across that way because of his size, but displayed a very large amount of purpose, precision and self control. "So, what do you do for fun?"

"I'm a chef, actually," Harva flicked an ear, tail giving a lazy wag. "Meat stuffs, for the most part. I'm a Sirran, we don't have the teeth for mashing or the stomach for digesting more than a small amount of vegetables at a time, so most of what I learned to prepare was meat platters, not unlike the one we shared in the lounge," the big guy mused. "Sirran are strongly encouraged from a young age to not only learn a trade but also adopt what we call an 'artisanic pursuit', where two days in the work week we make something and donate it to the social enrichment services, who distribute it to the needy. We don't have poverty on Sirrah because of this system. And the thing I provided to the needy, was good food."

"That makes your people better than mine." Another train of thought better discarded. "I don't think I'd be a good chef. My approach to eating is more like 'oh yeah, body needs nourishment', something to do in between other things. Usually with an utensil in one hand and a PADD in the other. Unless I forget it altogether and realise somewhere in the afternoon that I haven't eaten yet. That's where I was at when you found me earlier."

"Better people?" he flicked an ear, glancing over, even as he started putting the main hinge back together having lubricated it. "Wasn't a hundred years ago that we were a lot different. Instead of a meritocracy we had an oligarchy. Instead of a concensus we had a dictator. Instead of strong social programs we had exploitation. Then a very violent and bloody revolution happened, millions dead, governments overthrown, and from the ashes we built what we have today. Time will tell if this is truly a sustainable form of rule."

"Huh. That's basically where they're at – or were, when I left," Sha'mer said with a sigh. So much for not wanting to think back about what she had left behind. "Unless someone has managed to overthrow the Emperor, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Maybe there's hope for the next generation, although the eldest isn't much better than dear old dad. Their younger sister took my way out – she up and left, albeit in a very drastic way. The youngest is okay, at least he was while I was there. So maybe there's hope for the next generation. Right now, though, I'm not holding my breath."
She made a throwing-away gesture with one hand and pulled a face. "Don't even know why I should be concerned about it. I left, and am well rid of them." Or so I hope.

"If there's one lesson I've learned from reading about the revolution and the consensus is that civilizations grow strong when the little man bands together and shows the big man just how strong numbers can be," Harva commented, a slight grimness to his voice, which lifted as he handed her the brace back. "Try it? Should be smooth, squeak-free and without clicks now."

"The equation might be different if there are mental police and mental enforcers in play," Sha'mer said distantly. She took the brace back, glad that this was an easy change of subject. "Anyway, as I said… little I can do about it from here." She moved the brace with her hands first, alert for any sounds and feeling the way it moved. She gave a slight nod. "The one disadvantage of a major maintenance is having to reset the constraints… let's see… Set flexion... yes..." she muttered under her breath as she fixed the settings on the tiny control panel, tested the brace once more, then strapped it on again. She rose very cautiously, leaning on the console in front of her with one hand and moved the braced leg, shifting weight and position. Then she looked up at Harva (and up) and smiled. "That is much better. Thank you so much!"

"You're very welcome," he smiled, ears perked. "And here, should the squeak return," he offered, handing her a canister of the lubricant he'd used. "It's good stuff though, you should be good for a good long while. If you ever need the other brace serviced just let me know."

"This looks better than the stuff they gave me in the maintenance kit," Sha'mer said, tucking the canister away. "You're brilliant. If there's anything I can do for you in return, let me know." For the life of her she couldn't think of what, though. But who knew, maybe he could think of something, somewhere down the line.

"Eh, just be a friend. Everyone needs one. Haven't been on the ship long enough to make one yet," he flicked an ear, moving to put away his sander and polishing disk. "Figure you'll do."

"I think I can manage that." The smile almost did feel natural again instead of something she had to force. "And if not, I'll do it just like everything else, fake it until it works."


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