Obsidian Command

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Breaking the News

Posted on 18 Nov 2023 @ 3:38pm by Chief Petty Officer Ibis Xeri & Lieutenant JG Agaia Adima

Mission: Ongoing Mission - Station Life
Location: Guest Quarters Corridors, Obsidian Command
Timeline: M4 D4 1820HR - following "Chronological Displacement"
2405 words - 4.8 OF Standard Post Measure

After a few hours of effort put in, the walk back from Aquatics Lab Four felt like a strange dream to Ibis. The corridors surrealistically seemed to go on and on in impossible geometries. She got turned around more than once, and eventually had to spend some time at a reference guide panel to be reminded how to connect back to the appropriate deck.

She was insignificant, like an ant in a maze someone else had tunneled. Just when she thought she might have to resort to asking the computer to guide her with the tour system of light trails on the hall displays, she turned a corner with a familiar landmark. One of her neighbors had fastened a bolian Melon-Day flag beside the doorway to her quarters. Melon Day, Ibis knew, wasn’t the name of the holiday, but it was the design on the little banner. Maybe it was more of a seasonal celebration, like pumpkins in autumn back in New York. Actually, now that she thought of it, pumpkins were also in the melon family.

Squashes, cucumbers, melons. There were only a few primary species and they easily cross bred too. Often resulting in oddball gourds… back on familiar botanical ground, her mind wandered to more comforting subjects. Like squash soup. And the one time as a teenager when, with the help of the gardener and one of his work shirts, she’d dressed as a scarecrow for a children’s fall festival she had volunteered at. It was the perfect costume for a cold fall day, since she’d packed the ratty button down shirt with warm stuffing.

Her mother had been horrified to see her ‘dressed like a hobo’. Ibis had to look up the reference, as she’d never seen a hobo.

“No daughter of mine will be seen like that!”

Her father had reassured Ibis that she looked splendid for the role at the festival, where she would be handing out balloons and painting rosy little faces. And then he proceeded to assure her mother that if Ibis did want to take up acting or modeling, she would be just as lovely in unusual dress as any other. Had she seen the bizarre fashion statements of late? The ‘70’s were quite avant garde. But as her parents had bickered, her father had winked at her. Ibis was off the hook and could leave the house to catch her hoverbus ride to the festival.

Her mother cared, Ibis knew. But as her father would have amended for her, perhaps sometimes her mother cared overly much. Ibis had asked him once, after a particularly intense meeting with her mother and a guidance counselor, as to what he thought she should go into. And he had only said he was sure he would be proud of her, whatever she chose.

“Even if I become a professional scarecrow?”

“You would be my favorite scarecrow. The best in your field.”

Recalling the laugh they had shared seemed to refresh Ibis’ heart all over again.

Out of the corner of her eye she barely registered the trio of people gathered at the junction before her own quarters. Just beyond them, she could see her own numbered door and exhaled, ready to hug Wallace and to curl up with Ikemba.

But as she attempted to walk around the people between her and her destination, one of them stepped out in front of her, jolting Ibis to the present. She tried to swerve, and chirped a meek “Sorry,” as a reflex. But when she moved, the person matched.

“Hello, Ibis. Welcome back to the Federation.”

The familiar voice, made of silk and smoke, her Standard laden with Dutch Afrikaner and carefully articulated, made Ibis lift her head. Sure enough, she wasn’t imagining it. “Eloise Khadra-Vogel…”

“Ah! You know you may call me Lu.” She caught Ibis in a hug and maintained it until Ibis, after a stunned moment, returned the gesture and patted the back of the other woman’s shoulder. “You’re still family to me, Ibis. You always will be.”

Ibis reflexively buried her face into Lu’s shoulder. There was a time that she had thought she would marry into Lu’s family. Only Rafe had never asked… She’d spent some time with Lu on a holiday, and several times when she had visited her son on the Nimitz. With everything she had heard about future in-laws, Ibis had thought she would be judgemental and difficult and had been nervous to impress her, but it had been something of the opposite, really. Lu had been nothing but welcoming and pleasant. Although Ibis had found the surface of her easier to decipher than the complexity of motives and active workings of her conscious mind, which seemed to run non stop though scenarios and social machinations. Ibis had ventured to ask her about it, and Lu had helped her to understand— she was a news reporter and examining all the possible angles and perspectives and underlying possibilities made Lu feel alive. She needed to deliver on stories weekly and update on them daily, and that was just the speed she’d come to love thinking through things.

It occurred to Ibis that Lu had never spoken to her again after her break up with her son. Had she suddenly cared enough to come all the way to OC to just be a comfort, or…

She lifted her head and, squinting against artificial flash bulbs, realized that there were two hover cams and two operators standing apart and guiding the orbs.

Ibis took a step back, while Lu took her by the hands. She felt betrayed as the more likely truth occurred to her. Eloise Khandra Vogel was visiting her for the first time in over fifteen years because she was the news.

“Sorry.” Ibis said again, the one word croaking through her tightened throat.

“I know, it must be so much to take in. I want to sit down with you, Ibis. I want to hear everything. Everything.”

Frozen with uncertainty and something approaching a sense of betrayal, Ibis stared, wide-eyed into the camera over Lu’s shoulder, the small red recording light trained on her face and tracking her motion like the laser of a borg drone. “I can’t… talk about… now,” she managed.

“Of course, not here. I’ve secured a holosuite for a soundstage.”

Ibis didn’t respond. She’d known to expect there would be press, but that her ex’s mother was the first to greet her just hadn’t factored as something to be prepared for. “You’re… recording, I’m… It isn’t.”

“I hurried here as soon as I heard,” Lu further explained, her manicured hands waving the cameras off as if she were protecting Ibis from vultures, pretending she hadn’t been the one to order the holo images be taken from their first greeting. The camera operators recalled their recording drones, catching them out of the air, but at the ready to release them once more.

“I know how this must seem to you. You think I’m trying to muscle in, leveraging our past. But understand, Ibis,” she said earnestly, “soon enough the rest of the press will come flooding in, ready for you at every turn. Dozens of teams, insisting on getting hologhaphics, interviews and exclusives for all of their various outlets, subspace channels, networks, and syndications. The people of the Federation need to hear the story of the Sunrise. Your story.” Lu emphasized, and Ibis felt the weight of her responsibility, what she owed her lost friends and what she owed the worlds. Her chest felt compressed.

“But you don’t want to deal with the entire press. I traveled post haste to get to you because if you promise me exclusive access, the rest of them will have to work through me. We can make the whole ordeal far more pleasant. I hurried here because I can help you.”

“I… I don’t know.. If…” Ibis, quaking uncontrollably, was thankful the cameras were off because she suddenly not only couldn’t speak, but at the thought of more cameras and more strangers, she felt crowded. Breathing itself became difficult. She started to gasp.

“Are you? Oh my stars, you are! The Eloise Khadra-Vogel!” Agaia Adima wore simple civilian clothes, brightly colored, her long black hair tied back by a red scarf and, so, she had no visible authority. Yet somehow, she slipped between the two women. Not rudely or aggressively, both charges brushed past the slight counselor with barely a whisper, but with a clap of command. “I remember when you first started doing your reports. I told my mother that I thought you’d be a sensation. Thank you for proving me right.”

The newscaster was momentarily thrown off her guard. It wasn’t that she didn’t regularly deal with random members of the public recognizing her out and about and trying to slip in a photo op or give her their harebrained ideas for a lead. It was just taking her a moment to compute how someone so seemingly young might recall her earliest live editions. “Did you?” She managed.

“Mmm. Yes. Ambitious, driven,” Agaia nodded. “What're you doing on this level?”

Eloise had no press passes out. She’d been savvy to the fact that security would have turned her away if they thought she was sniffing for a scoop around the special guest quartering. Something about this young lady’s pivot from praise to inquiry made her hesitant. She smiled brightly and motioned towards Ibis. “Just a visit to an old friend…” She paused, as if trying to prompt Ibis to affirm the claim, but Ibis only stared, still fear-frozen.

“With a camera crew?”

“Oh that.” She waved that away with a bubbling laugh. “You never know when the news will happen! They’re with me everywhere. Anyway, I was just going to make a later arrangement to meet with my friend, if you don’t mind.” Eloise folded her hands in front of her, as though waiting for the interloper to clear off.

“Oh. Excellent! And you’ve cleared that with the Media Relations Officer?”

“It seemed unnecessary. As I said… she’s a personal acquaintance.”

Agaia smiled brightly, “Even so, I’m sure that you want to do this properly. There’s a nice young man who’s in charge of corralling the press on the station. He’ll take it to his boss. Who’ll take it to the Captain, who then will probably refer it to the medical department…Stars. That might take a while. You might want to get some quarters!”

As she imagined her head start on the story melting away, Eloise was steamed and trying not to look it. “Just who are you again?”

“Silly me! I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Doctor Agaia Adima. Lieutenant Junior Grade. I’m one of the people in the medical department who’ll review your request. Whenever you get around to making it that is.”

Sensing the invisible red tape accumulating between them, Eloise raised her eyes over this supposed lieutenant’s shoulder and looked to Ibis again. “Just reach out to me, dear. I’ll be filing FNS requests in the meanwhile.” Knowing there was nothing to be gained from making a scene, she gave a tip of her head to Agaia, muttering a brief, “‘Til we meet again,” and sauntered off with her crew to regroup.

Agaia tsked and turned toward Ibis. “Are you okay?”

Ibis nodded, yet involuntarily barely breathed a “No.”

“Let’s get you inside,” the counselor tenderly opened the door while she took Ibis’s arm in her other hand and guided her across the threshold.

Pausing against the wall as the doors closed, Ibis ducked inside like it was cover. She regained her breath and let her eyes adjust— the lights were set dimly. Really it was the first time she had seen the newly assigned quarters as a sanctuary, and she looked around for comforting faces. But the place was quiet.

Quiet but cluttered. It was a mess, the art supplies she had set out for the kids spread all over the dining table, crumbs crushed into the livingroom floor. Game pieces and a toy car set scattered everywhere…

Ibis stepped down the shallow set of stairs into the family area and up to the glass overlooking the environmental deck. Below them was a large fishing pond, with one area roped off for swimming. She remembered she’d told Porter if the kids got to be too much while she was out, maybe he could take them fishing or swimming. There were figures on the stretch of sand, but they were too small for her to make out clearly if any of them were her family.

Without Wallace there, she hugged herself, subconsciously attempting to bring all her sympathetic system’s reactions down. “Probably swimming,” she whispered to Agaia, her throat still impossibly tight.

“Do you want some water?” Agaia asked, moving toward the replicator without waiting for a response, and ordering a small glass. She walked back over to Ibis and handed it to her.

As Agaia passed off the glass, their eyes met. Agaia’s foggy gray irises settled on Ibis and she shivered as they dove into her.

Ibis realized these were not the eyes of a young officer, but eyes sharpened by the grinding of time and perceptive to the tiniest detail, like a telescope perceiving the light of distant galaxies. She’d known that the El Auriens were called a species of Listeners; telepaths seemed more capable of plumbing the mind and getting to the depths of people, but Agaia was diving even deeper than the psyche, as if she was piercing the veil that separated the body from the soul. This was a different kind of knowing.

Finally after seconds or hours, it was hard to tell, Agaia surfaced and smiled. She patted Ibis’s arm. “You need some rest. Can I help you get you into bed? And I want to come back later this evening, if you’ll let me.”

Still gripping the glass of water, Ibis nodded, allowing Agaia to guide her gently by the arm. Rest sounded good.


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