Obsidian Command

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Sealed Lips

Posted on 20 Jun 2022 @ 5:47pm by Lieutenant Tobias Hirsh & Lieutenant Elli-Navine

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Promenade, Hula Pete's
Timeline: MD01, Dinner hour
1568 words - 3.1 OF Standard Post Measure

“It was a seedship!” She put another forkful of salad in her mouth and crunched at it. Between one another, Grazerites had no etiquette rules about closed mouth chewing, like humans. She was relieved that she could munch in present company without worrying to keep her masticating from being observable.

It wasn’t exactly that Elli was strange that had made her stand out to him, Tobias thought. Elli was just so obviously nervous that Tobias kind of found it flattering on the one hand and endearing on the other. Clearly inexplicably shy around him, it had been difficult to get her to even say hello the first few times they had noticed one another. But now, after seeing each other more evenings than not for a couple of weeks, she did most of the talking and he found that something of a relief, actually. “Seedship?”

“Like, Nagari’s menagerie,” Elli explained eagerly, "I mean usually I'd just say Noah's Ark because everyone else knows the Earth mythos so much more readily, but I know you know Nagari's menagerie! It's in every nursery rhyme collection on Grazer."

"Of course. The tower zoo, starting from the sky and reaching to the ground."

Elli carried on. “Not an inverted tower though, more of a spinning top! They were knocked off course so we had to get to the control room. Doc Artopolis got a little greedy with his sample taking and was poison darted by a tree! Almost everything in there was carnivorous or poisonous or venomous!”

“What kind of seedship is full of deadly plants?”

“I know, right?” It was unthinkable from the Grazerite perspective. “You would think that on their way to settle some place new they wouldn’t pack their deadliest flora and fauna.”

“Maybe they’re adapted to the poison.”

“What?”

“Well, if they developed together maybe it’s not poison to them.” Tobias shrugged. “Maybe it’s just typical food or medicine.”

“Huh.”

Tobias couldn’t help a smile curl on his lip as he watched Elli consider his input. “I could be wrong. It’s just a postulation.”

“I’d have to ask Doc Artopolis. I’m not sure how that stuff works. Probably they know the answer by now from cultural exchange though. Another ship got to make first contact after we sent ahead our report.”

“Oh? So someone did wake the people on the ship? I thought you said they were pre-warp.”

“No, no. Well, yes, but not… The seedship had left their homeworld a long time ago and been knocked off course by the ion storms. In the interim, the next generations from their homeworld developed FTL drives and settled the new world while the seed ship was lost and nearly forgotten!”

“I should like to hear about the lives of those sleepers, woken to a new world, one they believed they would be breaking ground for future generations, but come to find they are the guests of those who came after them.”

“I think they made a few documentaries.” Elli licked her fingers where some sauce had gotten away. “I’ll get you the net reference.”

“The Potemkin encounters quite a number of ancient races… or at least their ruins.” Tobias observed.

“Yeah.” Elli looked down, contemplative. “There was this one in particular, where.. The whole planet. There was no one left after… an event…”

The way she trailed off and her spiritedness drained from her caused Tobias to reach reflexively for her hand, covering it with his own. Elli looked up again to find understanding in his eyes. “Some missions don’t end happily with repairs made and exciting discoveries or successful diplomatic dinners.”

“Yeah,” She shook her head, not willing to accept it no matter how often it was true. “You say that like you’ve experienced it too.”

“I have.”

“But you've never been ship assigned. What happened?”

“I can’t… I can’t talk about it.”

“It wasn’t on Grazer was it? I thought you said that was your last significant post, back at home.” Elli bit her lip, nervous that there was something wrong back home. She’d been worried ever since she caught the glimpse of Grazer in Tenzi Carter’s scrying globe, when they had been aboard the Protectorate flagship in the Great Attractor. She hadn’t gotten a good look, but the fact that it was even called up made her wonder at the significance of the view in the prophetic calculator.

“No, no. Not on Grazer. It was somewhere else. I wasn’t there very long.” Tobias avoided the details in the hope Elli’s hyperactive attentions would alight elsewhere and he wouldn’t need to explain.

“I don’t know how I would have taken it myself if anything ever happened to Grazer.”

“You plan to go back to Grazer?”

“Well, yeah. Someday.”

“It might be difficult,” Tobias said in his careful way that Elli found made her lean forward to hear what it was he was purposing to say. “Difficult to return back to the old homelife, once you’ve grown accustomed to exploring these endless wonders of the galaxy.”

“I hadn’t really thought of it that way.”

“You’re particularly suited to it, I believe.”

“To what?”

“Exploration. You have a soul of wonder.”

She looked away from the intensity of Tobias’ eyes as she felt her belly get fluttery. She wondered if Pete had adjusted the temperature in the restaurant and gulped. “It’s hard isn’t it? Reliving the ugliest things you’ve seen? And yet you can’t get them out of your head either. Sometimes you’re just degaussing filters and— BAM.” Elli slapped her other hand on the table and Tobias jumped in his seat a little at the sudden report. “You’re doing a body count in your head… of everyone… you couldn’t save.”

Tobias gripped Elli’s hand tightly and nodded. He found he had a sympathetic thrum in his heart and was sorry that she bore the same wound. He wanted badly to comfort her, but he couldn’t find words.

“It’s tough to talk about.” Elli agreed with his his unspoken expression. “I’ll start with one of mine. We were in the Shackleton expanse and—”

“It’s not that… not that I don’t want to tell you, Elli.” Tobias interrupted, leaning easily over the table with his entire upper body and shadowing the space between them. Afraid she would expect him to reciprocate after telling her story, he decided to be as upfront as he could before it got too far. He dropped his deep voice to a lower still whisper. “It’s that my experience happens to also have been sealed under Starfleet Classified Intelligence.”

“So’s mine!” She said, somewhat amazed. “We met an advanced civilization, first begun by a Federation ship that was caught in the distant past and developed into a powerful conglomerate of intergalactic peoples. They contacted the Potemkin after we tested an experimental gate and inadvertently fell into the Great Attractor and told us—”

Tobias looked on, horrified at Ellli’s breach of what she’ said was classified information. “El'!” He chided urgently.

“—that the Potemkin is the one key thing standing between a vicious and deadly predator faction, bent on nothing but calcified vengeance throughout multiple parallel universes. We saw what their technology will look like in the future if we don’t stop them, and the bottle neck in the prediction, it’s coming within the year! Their armada will—”

Tobias's eyes looked nervously around at the other patrons. They didn't seem tuned into Elli's account. There was live music and she'd been just as animated the entire time so it likely didn't stand out. And there were no details she’d named exactly, at least yet. He needed to make sure it stopped before she breached protocol and got in trouble and maybe made something much, much worse. Classified things were classified for good reasons, he knew. His entire work was predicated on Security protocols! But she was talking too quickly, spilling everything, and Tobias was afraid if he raised his powerful voice, he might draw undue attention to their table. So he did the only other thing that made sense at the time.

He kissed Elli.

Elli felt a pulse like an EMP shooting through her nervous system and her heart skipped. She seemed frozen in a reboot while he kissed her until she took a breath and came back online… confused.

Tobias opened his eyes when she pulled away. She reflexively threw her napkin at him and he reflexively caught it.

Following this sudden action, people at adjacent tables actually were murmuring and watching and all of the eyes made Elli turn from one side to the other, as if the glances were laser lines in a security field and she had no means of escape. She took uncertain steps in a zig zag before, like a startled gazelle, turning back and dashing away through the kitchen, likely into the service alleys in the back of the promenade.

Tobias crushed the napkin in his fingers as he considered going after her, but all he could imagine was making it worse. He licked the stolen kiss off his lips and looked around, ashamed.

“Can I… get the check?” he asked the waitress meekly.

 

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