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A Chance Encounter

Posted on 23 Dec 2022 @ 8:23pm by Crewman Apprentice Unknown 'Weirdo' & Lieutenant Callisi Veera

3,459 words; about a 17 minute read

Mission: A New Frontier
Location: Ops Department - External Hallway

Callisi had just finished reviewing the damage reports, reviewing the casualties, approving time off for counseling, and as of ten minutes ago her shift was over. Well, as of two hours and ten minutes ago her shift was over, but she had work that needed her attention. Now, though, that was behind her. Ahead of her was a shower, a warm bowl of soup, and maybe three hours of Kinetic. Something to unwind with, certainly.

Maybe she'd draft a holodeck program of an arena. Nah, that was wishful thinking. It'd never pass Starfleet Medical. Not that she'd be approved to play with...

She paused for a moment for an inner reflection. So much of home was denied to her from her injury. An injury she received in the line of duty. Social expectations vs societal obligations. She shook her head, thoughts for later. Right now, shower then soup. With that, the rabbitess of the Odin started to make her way back to her quarters.

The new arrival strolled through the corridors, still wearing Harva's too-large tophat. The garments he wore with it could've come straight out of an adaption of 'Alice in Wonderland', making him really look like a strange version of the Mad Hatter. He was holding several multicoloured balls in his hands and was attempting to juggle them, with some success.

"Three… four…" he counted under his breath as he moved. "…fi- blast." Two balls collided in mid-air and fell. He picked them up, centred himself and began again. "One, two, three…"

Callisi nudged one of the juggling balls back over to him with a gentle nudge of her footpaw. "I hear the secret is to not think about it. Just move, and trust that the balls know the way." she offered. "I never could juggle. I can track, I can plan, I can predict, but juggling just always eluded me." she confessed.

She paused, "Alright, so the SIDAR tracked, I just kept track." she admitted. She opted not to comment on his attire. Perhaps it was comfort for him, and after what the ship had been though, comfort was in short supply.

The man quickly snatched the balls out of the air and picked up the one Callisi had rolled back to him. "Thanks!" he said, pushing the tophat back which had slid down when he bent forward to retrieve the ball. He smiled. "And hi there. And what's a SIDAR?" He began to juggle again as he spoke. "If you can predict, shouldn't juggling be easy?"

"Oh, apologies. SIDAR is Saturation Indirect Directional Attitude and Range. It's how small craft back in the Navy kept track of their surroundings. Enemy craft, friendlies, the ground. Not as sharp as Swarm Logic, but a lot of the ops I flew I flew solo." she recalled her days before, running grey ops behind lines, troop transport or ordinance delivery. Then the fondness left her eyes.


"My manners, hello." she came back to the here and now. "Callisi Veera. Daughter of Ts'usu and Operations chief." she went through the protocol. "As for juggling, you'd think it would be. I can do everything that I'm supposed to, but putting them all together is the trick." she offered. "Never could get past two. But that's not Juggling, that's just Catch."

"Pleasure to meet you!" the man said with a delighted grin. "I don't really have a name, though nurse Veyo and the captain call me Tychon and Kat calls me Ref, but there's always more. And what's Swarm Logic?" It wasn't clear whether he used the stream of words and questions as a means to not thinking about juggling or just his usual mode. "I've managed to get four balls fairly smoothly, but adding a fifth is a challeng- Clearly." That last word was added as he fumbled a catch, causing several of the balls to fall again.

Once again he picked them up, shoved the hat back with what was now an automated gesture and began again. "Alright, where was I? Oh yeah, Swarm Logic."

She softly smiled at his antics, "So back home, our closest allies are the Dalacari. Most, just about all, of their military forces are drones. Controlled by combat predictive computers about the size of, well, three of my offices."

"Our pilots have drones as wings, and they hook up their sensor network to ours to give us a frightening amount of battlefield control. It's all processed through audio, so rather than overstimulate the eyes, we just hear tones giving us a rough idea where things are that need attention. We're used to our hearing being our best sense, so the system caters to it."

"The drones don't need to worry about overstim, so it's just for us." She paused, "The Enemy often numbered in the hundreds, so knowing where they were grouped was the first step to dealing with them."

The Enemy.

Dealing with them.

Such absolute terms. "Tychon. Ref. What do You want to be known as?"

The balls moved up and down, up and down in a steady rhythm as Callisi talked, while the juggler listened with great interest. "Dalacari," he repeated in a musing tone, as if he was trying to access a database inside his head. "You are not from a Federation species, am I correct? I don't think I came across a species like yours in the list of Federation members. But I could be mistaken, of course, I haven't memorised all of them." He smiled. "As for names, I have no particular preference. If I ever had one, I can't recall it, so I'm open to new suggestions."

She gave a nod, "Correct. At least as far as I know currently, the Ts'usugi and the Federation were allied, but not one in the same. Same with the Dalacari. Though that's probably more from the Three Dawn Accord than anything else." a pause, "Our mutual alliance is known as the Three Dawn Accord." she explained briefly.

"I think you'd enjoy meeting a Dalacari. They're insatiably curious, I think you and a Dalacari could talk for hours and never get bored." she smiled softly. "As for names, it's poor form for me to name you. You aren't my pet, certainly not. When you come across a name to call yourself, tell us all. A name is an important thing, especially in Ts'usugi culture."

"There's an entire mythology behind names. Who you are, who you were, it's all in a name. Or so they say."

The man laughed. "Then my name would be Nobody, because I have no idea who I was or what I'll become. Or 'Riddle' or something."

The balls still moved in that same rhtyhm, with the man standing balanced in the centre. Suddenly he threw one of the balls at her, with a quick: "Catch!" and continued on with the four balls which were left. "Why is it called the Three Dawn Accord?" he asked.

Life in the Federation was pretty soft. Except for the occasional war or border conflict or something like that. The Federation knew conflicts. They knew OF war. They dabbled in it. They experimented in it.

Callisi caught the ball, and her expression went from 'Soft bunny' to 'Soldier' in a moment. Before she even realized she had caught it, it was in her hand. Over the span of just a moment her expression softened back to the relaxed posture she held before.

"Apologies, it's a reflex at this point." she held the juggling ball in her hand, loosely. "You seem to be comfortable with four, I think I'll hold onto this until you're ready... and I think "Riddle" certainly sounds better than "Nobody"."

"Riddle it is. As for the Three Dawn Accord, it was to represent the three new eras the treaty symbolized. The dawn of an age. The future of the Ts'usugi, the future of the Dalacari, and our future together. The Emperor at the time was very fond of symbolism and flourish." she noted. Idly tossing the ball she held up and catching it. "One ball I can juggle." she giggled.

"Our enemies were already their enemies. The signing of the Accord was mostly formality, our peoples were already very peaceful together, and ideas and concepts freely moved across borders, when they could."

The man bowed slightly when she gave him the name. "The Three Dawn Accord certainly sounds very poetic," he said with a nod. "And no apologies are needed, you are what you are. Catch." He threw a second ball, juggled on with three, then did a quick grab into a pocket from which he produced another one and continued on with the four again. "Would you care to tell me more about this mutual enemy?" He studied her as he juggled on, paying attention to her body language as much as to her words.

A friendly toss didn't seem to stir anything trained and burned within her. She fumbled to keep two in the air, though settled on a 'toss one, catch, toss the other, catch' motion. Riddle asked about the enemy, and little things tipped him off. A twitch of her uncovered eye. A tightening of her jaw.

"The Koldaran." perhaps the one thing she disliked far, far more than the notion of the armed AI. "A militant race of expansionist thugs. Driven to serve their Admiralty like gods, moving and expanding from planet to planet. They pollute everything they touch, turning it to a briny pit to spawn the next generation of soldiers. They never read free press, they never speak free speech. They invade our space, they kill our soldiers..." was that a tear forming in her remaining eye?

"They ruin us, they torture us, they cripple us. The leave us broken." her tone, her tempo of speaking got a little frantic, but then she paused and took a breath to calm herself. "They are the enemy."

"Catch." He threw another ball at her, never breaking his own rhythm now that he had found it. "And throw one back if you can." It wasn't hard to guess how much 'me' there was in Callisi's 'us', not with the patch where an eye was supposed to be, nor with the rest of what he saw. "Have you been at war for long?"

His grin had faded now, his expression grave, attentive, absorbing the facts meticulously. Cataloguing threats. It was something he did automatically, without thinking. Just like juggling. Juggling data instead of balls. Koldaran, near two races which were allies of the Federation. The unknown attackers which had left this ship and crew damaged, near Sal'kiiran space which was a recent addition to the Federation. It was logical that a Federation which contained so many species and worlds had several enemies, and part of him was already analysing which others there would be and what their strengths and weaknesses were.

Two was her limit, and it was a break in the seriousness in the moment to watch her faulter, clumsily tossing a ball back. It took her a moment to recover, but recovery brought back his question.

"Forever. As long as I've known. Long enough for every child of Ts'usu to serve three years of service by law. More at their choice." She resumed her two ball tempo. "For every soldier we take, three more take their place. For every officer, we galvanize a generation."

"We've never once seen their admiralty. We don't know if threatening them will end the war or turn it into a crusade." Her voice was soft. This was a war she knew would only end in genocide. No diplomacy. No cease fire.

"As long as I've been alive, they were the enemy."

"Which in turn has left its mark on both your society and that of your ally," he replied, catching the ball she threw and continuing on with five once more. He threw another ball back at her. "Was this one of the reasons why you sought an alliance with the Federation, or does it not play a part in it?" There were many ways in which another race at war could be assisted without becoming an active participant in the war itself.

He fleetingly wondered where that knowledge came from. Things he had read recently, while working through the immense wealth of data regarding the Federation, its laws, its member races? Or did it come from deeper within, was this knowledge which his former self had known? It was a question to which there was no answer, which was therefore irrelevant, so he dismissed it as quickly as it came.

This toss she was ready for. Okay, 'Ready For' is a stretch, she was more prepared. She tossed back one of her's while the other was in mid-flight, and snagged it when she could spare the brain power. Much smoother. His comment stung her, though mostly in her pride than her form. "Indeed." she said, cold. Factual. "That was rude, I apologize. I know what you... what you intended to mean. I took it poorly." she shook her head. "Years later, it still hurts. It still stings."

"The conflict with the Koldaran has shaped the way we see the cosmos, shaped the way we approach situations, and forged the strongest alliance we've ever even considered possible. The alliance with the Federation actually has little to do with it, I think. I think it has more to do with their visit to our home sectors, what they call the Delta Quadrant. We'd rather approach them on our terms, set boundaries, and establish limits that we set. Rather than being the ones encountered, being the ones limited, and having the lines in the proverbial sand drawn for us."

"I doubt it is the will of those above my pay grade to drag the Federation into our war. If we intended such, I doubt the Federation would agree to any terms."

"The aim of any alliance is to be of mutual benefit, which can extend to many areas. Not just assisting in a war," he said mildly. Once again he caught the ball as it was thrown to him and returned one on the next pass. "But I can understand the desire for control. One war where you can barely keep up is one thing, you'd wish to avoid disturbing that delicate balance at all costs…"

He slowly began to walk, keeping the juggling going as he did. "And again, no apologies are necessary. As I said before, you are what you are. On the way from a past through a present to a future." His smile this time wasn't as radiant as before, and his eyes seemed to become a darker blue. Softly, he added: "I remember too little. You – maybe too much. Though every memory makes you what you are… I have the feeling you're as much in transit as I am."

He shrugged, which wasn't an easy feat while juggling, and seemed to shake off the mood which crept over him. "Never mind that. My thoughts seem to have a tendency to run off."

"Well of course. Any alliance that only benefits one side is short of tyranny." Callisi offered, now expecting the toss and returning one in turn. "What each side could benefit, that's a discussion for greyfurs and purple uniforms." she paused, "At least, I *Think* the diplo corp is purple."

She was quiet for a moment. "I have no choice but to remember. Either that, or avoid mirrors forever." she turned to look at him. One eye, lusterless, devoid of reflection, and yet deep. Inviting. The other gone, a ghost, covered by a simple black eyepatch seeming more fitting on a pirate than a pilot turned operations officer. The tiniest, faintest blue dot of light told that there was something beneath that patch. Whatever it was, she was keeping it hidden for the moment.

"Despite how much it hurts, I'd never give up those memories. Learning, thinking, feeling, all of those are lessons for all of us. Otherwise, I'm more drone then I'll admit, and I don't want to think about that." she turned, now with a soft smile on her features. "Mr. Riddle, I think you're more right than you think. Souls in transit, that's all we are."

"Your thoughts are fine. We learn by testing the waters. If you said anything I'd find distasteful you'd know about it. I prefer to be clear with boundaries. Leaves little room for hurt, for confusion, for miscommunication." she paused, "No. You can't see it. Not yet."

The man's face changed at Callisi's last statement, to something like shock. "I would never ask someone to reveal any part of themselves, be it inside or out, until they're ready," he said immediately. The words came out fiercer than he had intended and now it was his turn to apologise. "I'm sorry for that. It probably says more about how many times you've had that question thrown at you. But yes. Being clear with boundaries is good."

"That's a relief to hear." She quickly commented. It spoke volumes for how often it had been inquired about. "I hate it... but I need it."

Throughout all of this he didn't miss a ball, and now he tossed one back to her again. "Have you served long on board of this ship?" he asked now.

"Longer than I..." she stopped talking during the juggle ball prisoner exchange, as it were. ".. Longer than I remember, truthfully. I was placed in a medical coma, something happened during the revivification and I've had a hole in my memories as to why and how. Ship records were scrambled as well, so I imagine the events are one in the same."

"I've been working to piece together what happened from back logs and sensor events, but it's been rough going. I don't like Not Knowing, but at the moment that's all I have. I know it's been at least a year." she offered a soft smile, "I know I wasn't Born on the ship." she giggled at that.

"Huh." He thought back at his own arrival and awakening, such as it was, down in the landing bay of the ship. The state of his clothes, which he hadn't questioned until later. There had been holes in it, some of them with edges which seemed to be scorched, most others edged with different stains. Seeing them, one would think that the person who'd worn them had been pretty banged up, but there wasn't a single mark on him. Not even a scratch. Not even a scar.

"I sometimes wonder if I was…" he said quietly, more to himself than to Callisi. He had stopped juggling while he thought, absentmindedly catching the last few balls and tucking them away again.

Her lengthy ears twitched slightly, "Is everything alright? You've gone silent. Dare I say, introspective." she offered, ceasing the juggling act as he called the activity quits.

"Just thinking," he said with a smile which was a bit fainter than his earlier ones. "I don't have any recollection of what happened before I arrived. And there's something of a mystery there. No idea if I'll ever find out what happened…"

Callisi gave a slow nod, "There's a saying back home. When confronted with a lapse in mind, you must either be content in never knowing, or resign yourself to never knowing everything." she cited. "Always bothered me, until it happened to me. We either have to make peace that we'll never know and move on, or commit to learning everything, and be prepared to admit there's always going to be that tiny piece of the truth that eludes us." she shook her head, "Personally I'd rather know, but I also know that right now learning what happened THEN is on the far range. Or as the Terrans say it, the back burner."

"If nothing else Mr. Riddle, you and I have something in common. Thank you for distracting me, and for the impromptu juggling lesson. It was enjoyable."

"Ah. For me, I've pretty much decided that whatever happened to me in the past, it in essence happened to someone else. Maybe I will regain my memories, maybe it will never happen, but even if I do, I will have changed since then. My experiences here, the people I've met… I won't ever be the person I was, and that's alright." The man's smile returned full force. "This was enjoyable indeed. Thank you for the conversation. It was truly lovely to meet you. Until next time." He gave another bow and walked away while taking the juggling balls out of his pocket. Just before he rounded the corner he said softly: "Now let's try if I can do six…"


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