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Unseen Smiles

Posted on Fri Jun 14th, 2024 @ 11:03pm by Lieutenant JG Zo & Ensign Aenardha Sh'vastarth

Mission: The Only Thing Left Was Hope
Location: Transport to Risa
Timeline: current


With a twelve-hour gap to Risa, Lieutenant Zo and the rest of the members of Warp Nine dispersed, leaving Lieutenant Greep at the helm, where he seemed comfortable. Zo wasn't really needed on the bridge, since everything could be automated for the duration of their trip, and Greep was never one for conversation, and he was in command anyway. His place was on the bridge, Zo's was not.

Closing the hatch to the bridge, Zo walked through the tight corridor that split after about ten yards, with one way leading to the galley and the other into the small hallway of tiny, cramped quarters. Going right toward the galley, Zo greeted the other three members of Warp Nine as they played some kind of card game.

"Has Ann awakened?" Zo asked.

"We haven't seen her," Tyler responded.

Zo went to the back of the small kitchen area to the walk-in freezer, where the band had made make-shift quarters for Aenardha, who needed to be in sub-zero temperatures. Zo often remembered how they had solved the issue of her quarters on the Pandora, and how that idea had inspired them to make the Pandora one big ice cube in order to pass through the fiery Rentara Nebula and make their escape from an army of Ravagers. The idea actually worked! Aenardha had been the inspiration for the idea, and Zo found a huge respect for her during that, and was glad to work with her after Pandora's decommission.

He knocked on the freezer door and called, "Ann? It's Zo, may I come in?"

"Oh!" he could hear her voice in something of a start coming through the door. "Yes, moment." Zo could hear some movement; her sitting up on the bed, a brief and hurried ruffling of clothing. "Yes. Enter."

The quarters were beyond cramped, but it was cold in there and that suited Aenardha greatly. Aside from the bed, there was area enough for one person to stand, a single place to sit, and a single light to illuminate the whole room. It was more of a closet, within the walk-in freezer. Still, it suited Aenardha better than whatever quarters the captain had on this transport.

Aenardha sat up as the door opened and Zo stepped in. Her telepathy was still gone and she could not sense anything from him; no thoughts, no sight, no emotion. The only indication she had that he was even there was her hearing him. She looked up at him with her white in white eyes, not quite making eye contact. But those eyes were still heavily bloodshot and she could feel it.

As Zo entered, the room's automatic overhead light came on. Since Aenardha was blind, there didn't seem to be a reason to change it. There was a large wooden crate in the room that wasn't warm, but also not freezing cold, and Zo had used it a couple times as a chair.

"Hi," he said as he entered. The first thing he noticed were her bloodshot eyes, which did not look exactly back at him. He thought this might mean she still couldn't use her telepathy, based on what she'd told him about her condition, and how she could see through another's eyes using those abilities. Her approximation at the moment was close, but not as exact. He tapped the edge of the makeshift bed, so she knew where he was in the room. He saw that her shirt was on backwards and wondered for a fleeting second how often this happened to blind people.

"Mind if I sit down?" he asked.

"No. Please," she waved a hand at the approximate location she remembered the crate, to be used as a chair, resided. "I..." she shrugged, "I think I overdid it this time." She sat fully up. Her antenna drooped somewhat. "To read Poark, cheat at Acquisitor's Might, and to rile the crowd up...that...that was not the smartest of moves." She wiped her nose again. At least that had stopped bleeding. "I tend to have a tendency to act without thinking things through first." Of course she was thinking back to how all this started; the day Khrap visited to ask for her hand in marriage, but ended up in a mental institute instead. "How are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm good," Zo said. "We're about twelve hours away from Risa. Greep and I were trying to find a way to get ahold of Captain Temple. Greep pulled some strings with his Intelligence buddies for some help. A little bit of searching and deduction and we were able to make contact. The Captain said to meet him on Risa. Seems we're not the only ones who have been directed there."

"Risa," she said. "Be sure to give the captain my best. I will remain on board here. That planet is just too hot for me." She looked in what was her best estimate of Zo's direction. "And I know my telepathic abilities will not be back in twelve hours." She was also becoming concerned at just how much she could overextend her abilities before she would lose them entirely...if she could lose them entirely. She reached out with her hand and touched Zo briefly on the leg. "Thank you, by the way. For coming when I called. I knew Poark had information and I also knew I could not get him to hand it over. Nor could I retrieve it on my own."

Zo grinned. "You're welcome," he said, adding, "You made me smile. It's good to feel needed."

Zo shifted on the uncomfortable barrel. "Ok, that was my turn," he said. "I came here to see how you are feeling."

Typical Zo; returning the conversation back around despite her attempts to keep whatever spotlight away from her. "Um...," she managed then stopped as she sought the word. Aenardha shrugged. "I don't know. Empty I guess. More afraid I think." She wiped her nose again but used that feign to really wipe a tear from her eye. "One of these days, I might really overdo it. And then..." she could not bring herself to vocalize the possibility of her telepathic abilities going away entirely. "And then...I don't know." She dropped her head as though looking at her hands. Her antenna drooped even more.

"Your shirt's on backwards," Zo remarked after a brief silence had passed. He could tell this wasn't quite the time to delve further into painful feelings.

It took a second for her to respond. "I thought it felt strange." Holding a sleeve with one hand she started pulling her arm into the shirt. Same with the other. Aenardha had to stand from her bed. It was a big shirt, hard to turn it around while she was also sitting on it. She made sure not to bump into Zo. "I put it on in a hurry when you knocked. I...uh..." and she stopped herself before disclosing that she was not wearing anything else under the shirt. Luckily the fabric fell to just above her knees. She worked her arms back out of the sleeves. "Better?" she asked. "One of the others gave me this to lounge around in once we were back on board. Said it allows heat to escape easily." The shirt was emblazoned with a band logo. With her telepathic abilities hindered for the moment, Aenardha could not see the logo or what band was represented. She moved to sit back down on her bed.

"It's an XL sized Warp Nine shirt," Zo said. "We got them made specifically for venues with a lot of heat. Do you like it?"

"It's great," she said sitting and scooting back on the bed. "I feel I can pitch a tent with this thing if I need."

Zo laughed. "It certainly wouldn't be cramped!"

Aenardha smiled. And laughed along with him shortly. "No I suppose it wouldn't." She was not looking at him, not even in his general direction. She was looking forward and at nothing in particular of course. "Zo, I want to ask your help with something. If you know someone better equipped to help me, then so be it. But I wanted to ask you first."

"You can ask me anything, Ann," Zo said, shifting his position on the barrel to get a little more comfortable.

"I...need to know my limits. I realize I may need additional training. Telepathy is sort of like a muscle. It gets stronger by using it. And it gets stronger in other arenas based on how we use it. I feel I need to undergo a series of tests to better see my limits, know how far I should extend my abilities, know when I might resort myself to this," she pointed to herself in her current state, "again. If you can help me figure out just how to not cause myself this kind of damage, or any permanent damage," that is if she was not permanently in her current state. "I need a series of tests to see what I can safely do."

This was a somewhat surprising request. Zo didn't know if he would be much help, but his curiosity was piqued.

Shifting to a more comfortable position on the barrel, Zo asked, "What kinds of tests?"

Aenardha really had not thought that far ahead yet. She shrugged. "I don't know. Controlling people." She quickly added, "for testing purposes only. And with their consent. Also, astral projection. I know the Aenar are capable of that. I have not done that myself. Mind reading across great distances," she continued. "Anything you can think of. And each can grow in intensity until we find my limit. I would normally ask an Aenar elder, but..." and she let her words drift away. "I know if I try this on my own, I will overdo it and might burn myself out permanently. I need someone to help me." She looked at him, in the eye this time. Lucky guess? "If you can help or have ideas, or if you have someone else in mind to help with this, either is acceptable."

"So you need someone to monitor these tests and keep you in check," Zo said. "Man, this would be something for the Chief... Mindo, I mean. He's not telepathic or anything, he's just really freakin' smart."

Aenardha smiled. "I recall." Aenardha also recalled her many interactions with Mindo and sometimes sensing a vast emptiness about him as though some large part of his life was missing. "I shall look forward to it. In the mean time," Aenardha scooted herself more onto the bed, "I should continue to rest."

Zo stood. "I won't disturb you any longer," he said. "I'll be outside in the lounge if you need me. The whole band's out there too. Greep's still on the bridge." By now the cold was getting to him and he longed for a cup of coffee.

"Not a disturbance at all," she said as he stood and made himself ready to leave. "And Zo," she said with him holding the door half open. "Thank you...for checking on me. I appreciate it."

"You're welcome, Ann," Zo said. "You make me smile."

Aenardha was not entirely sure how to take that. She was gladdened that she was able to make him smile, but found something as insignificant as her, in the grand scheme of things, as the object of his ability to smile. Surely there were other things. Aenardha decided not to dwell of that train of thought and took the compliment for what it was; a common nicety. She smiled back at him as he made his exit and closed the door.

"'You make me smile?'" drummer Tyler said, looking up from the band's card game with a goading smile.

"Yes, Ty," Zo said as he approached the replicator. "How many smiles have you seen with your eyes closed?"

Zo ordered his coffee and joined his friends. There was a blanket he took from one of the chairs and put it over him, still shivering from the ice cold freezer. "What's the game, boys?" he asked as Ty finished shuffling the deck.



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