Canopus Station
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Learners Permit

Posted on Thu Feb 27th, 2020 @ 5:34am by The Narrator & Lieutenant Commander Amie Cerys

Mission: S2:1: Into The Drowning Deeps
Location: Canopus Station, Secure Holding Facility
Timeline: MD3: 15.00

Logically the air filtration systems of the Starbase would have been filtering out any offending particulate matter. Chemical traces, complex hydrocarbons, even the messy biological markers of humanoid existence were all siphoned out of the air before they could reach even the most sentive olfactory receptor.

And yet, there was a heavy and permeating smell in the holding area of sweat and mildewing damp. The air was humid, enough to make even the smart nano fabric of the new model Starfleet Uniform fight to keep its temperature regulated. No doubt there was a Engineering team working around the clock on preventative maintenance to keep the high humidity from frying delicate circuitry.

Gastarox was still in his cell, where he had been left following the Battle of Canopus Station, and his failed interview with Chief Ricci and the FNS reporter Spires. At five feet flat, with mottled dull green skin, wide shouldered, powerful looking arms and legs and large bulbous eyes, he’d stand out in even the most cosmopolitan crowd.

“Huum…” he said upon seeing Aime. “Yellow tends to denote engineering maintainers, or security forces. Blue your science ad medicinal staff. Red command. But grey...huum. I have not seen a grey uniform since I have been incarcerated here. You must be there secret police then, yes? A spy of some variety or colour? Do not bother denying it. It is a the only form of mental stimulation I have been able to achieve as your...huum ...guest.”

Each comma came with a throaty croak as he drew in a bellows breath of air, the horizontal slits of his pupils flicking over Aime.

Listening to what was being said about each of the uniform colors, Amie couldn't help but laugh as she tapped the PADD she had against her hand. There had been some interesting color descriptions of her grey uniform, but not quite like that. "Secret police? Hardly. I'm part of Intelligence. Some may call them secret police, but that isn't what we do. There are some things we do that others don't know about, but I believe that is the same of any department." She walked a bit closer to the cell, trying to see what she could gather from Gastarox's demeanor.

"You seemed to have picked up a lot while down here. Red can be more than command as well, but that depends on where you are located."

"I don't have much in the way of intellectual diversion," Gastarox said, waving a wide webbed hand to gesture at his cell behind the forcefield. "Decoding the mentality of your socio-political bloc has become something of a hobby. How you dress your soldiers, your enlisted enforcers, and how they are presented as explorers tell's me a great deal about your United Federation of Planets."

He stood up, a head shorter than Aime, and waddled closer to the forcefield.

"And now that you are here, there would seem to be another aspect to learn of your people: the price of to which your morality can be bought," he said with a wet chuckle. "You have come to ask questions."

"Perhaps I have. And I am really not trying to be a diversion. Can we not just talk? Maybe being new to this area, I want to get to know those who are here." Amie gave a small shrug.

Gastarox looked at her, his big eyes blinking out of sync before he burst into a hollow, booming laugh that made the under chin flaps of his neck inflate like bellows. After a minute he calmed himself enough to turn his laughter into a wheezing cough before he looked back at Aime.

"You are a naive child, it has a charming quality. A unique viewpoint to the other's who even as we speak gather around this suddenly important star," he said. "I know everything you wish to know, about the Myriad, the Concordance, the Schrimshaw Golems...and yet I am in this cell, behind a forcefield that allows in only so much humidity. If I were to offer you anything, we would need to find an arrangement that would see me rewarded in some fashion. Better quarters? Better food? Diversions? My freedom mayhaps?"

Pulling up the restrictions on Gastarox, Amie thought for a moment. "I might be able to help with the food thing, but as I'm not the one in charge, I can't do much else. And no, no diversions. This information here tells me what you're allowed to have in terms of food, and some general restrictions. But, what are you hungry for?" She hoped that if maybe she got him talking about other things, the parts about the other things would come up.

"Dried garrfark bark, pickled in the bile of a live kow. Perhaps some sucking harnak? Fried in furg root and served on a bed of rice?" Gatarox said, his eyes closing as he spoke the name of each food. "Alas, I fear your matter synthesisers would not know what any of those are. To that end, I am fed something I am assured my metabolism can endure. A sentient mind was not meant to subside on proteins and complex carbohydrates alone! Spices!"

He sighed, his cheek pouches deflating, and then he gestured to her.

"Your computer surely knows the limits of my biology, why not use it to replicate something you might find pleasant?"

"You're right, I don't think the replicator can make any of that. But if you want something with spices..." Amie looked at the information again and smirked. "If you're sure..." She got up and went over to the replicator, not letting him know what it was she was making. She then went back over and opened up the small hole in the forcefield to hand him the food. "Extra spicy tuna roll."

Gastarox took the small tray and looked at the three rolled items on it.

"These...look like snacks, not a meal," he grumbled as he delicately picked one of the tuna rolls with thumb and forefinger, and placed it onto his wide tongue. He began to show, eyes alighting for the new taste sensation. "Huum...a rather bland protein to be sure, but the heat of the sauce is delightful. Is this is a product of your homeworld?"

Amie nodded, "It is. Called sushi. Its fish, rice, seaweed, and some spice for a kick. Figure it wouldn't upset your pallet too much. I'm sure they wouldn't mind if I made you more, if you'd like some."

"But in return, you would want to know something yes?" Gastarox said, sucking on his webbed fingertips to get the last of the sauce off of his fingers. "Ask your question. I shall answer in a way that is commensurate to the payment provided."

Going back to the replicator and getting more of the sushi, as well as some other flavors of the same with more spices, Amie came back over with a tray full but didn't open up the forcefield yet. She knew she was likely getting some odd looks from the guard but she didn't care. If food was working, she'd go with it. "I do agree that the protein is a bit bland but that's the way that this is made. And perhaps I'd like information but at the same time, I figure you can experience some spice in your food since they don't often give that down here." She opened up the forcefield and handed him the next tray. "Whatever information though you believe that is worth, I will take. But I'm enjoying our conversation and seeing you enjoy a new taste."

What she hadn't said was that the PADD she'd pulled up information on earlier was also recording this whole thing. Maybe the captain would be surprised that its as food that got Gastarox talking.

Gastarox grumbled something ad took the plate of food. He took one of the salmon rolls and popped it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.

"Huum...huum yes I think I can accommodate your request," he said after a moment. "When you meet the Benki, you must be aware of their rigid social structure. You cannot blame them for this, they arose from insectoid origins and some of the more chemical active parts of their neurology find comfort in that stratification. They would not mean to ignore you, but to some of their lower cast you would not exist as such because you do not factor into their lives. It makes the Benki an interesting species to interact with, but better metallurgists you will not find within The Sphere."

"I've met those type of people before. They are...interesting to deal with. Rigid social structures can be a pain if you aren't ready for them. Hell, even if you are! That might help us a bit when we go to talk to them. Do we know how to make it so they don't do that?"

"Patience mostly. I once spent six months waiting in orbit before being granted access to their library records, and in that span of time, I only ever spoke to two Benki. One of their record keepers, and one of their diplomatic corp. You see for the Benki the idea of speaking to an alien, to someone from beyond not only their hive but their species, is maddening. It is a profoundly harmful act mentally for a Benki. So those that interact with the outside world are considered quite insane, quite...deranged by Benki standard. They would appear no less reasonable than you or I, but then we are singular where for the Benkie this is a societal group-think mentality," Gastarox explained as he took another morsel of sushi. "Though their records were most fascinating, recorded on discs of solid gold with the data hardcoded into the atomic structure of the metal. Records that would survive the explosion of their home star were it to happen."

Replicating herself a plate, as watching him eat was making her hungry, Amie came back over and sat. "Solid gold data discs. Keeping history if their planet were to be destroyed basically. Honestly, that is smart thinking. But six months, in orbit, talking to two people. What in the world did you do to keep yourself occupied?"

"I went into metabolic stasis. Patience is a virtue, and one my species has seen fit to encode into your DNA. They had records I wanted, ancient pristine records encoded on those marvellous golden discs of theirs. I would have waited a century for access, to glean understanding from them about what their forbearers had seen," Gastarox's face twisted slightly, and then he let out a wet chuckle. "Oh what is the harm of it? My peers and contemporaries might laugh at me, but I seek an elusive prey in the histories of other races. And in the Benki I found it. Records that the Benki had three moons orbiting their world instead of the two that were there when I arrived. A jagged orb that sat in the sky for a century, casting its light over the Hives of the Xinic Dynasty. It informed their scholars for that time, influenced their artists, their architects. And then it vanished one night, and in doing so brought about the end of the Xinic Dynasty as a sign of celestial disfavour. The Wandering World. A rumour I chase, and rumour I can prove with evidence."

"You have more to say than I would have thought," Amie said softly, taking it all in. "Did you get anything specific that might be useful for us, Gastarox? There's more sushi in it, or more spicy foods."

"I would need to know what you would find useful, and in that regard, you have been less than illuminating." Gastarox took another roll and slipped it into his wide mouth. "And I am a member of the Academic Merchantile, I am here to trade and barter for information. I hold no treaties, nor agreements, that bar me from telling what I know. Only that it must be commensurate to what is given in exchange."

Thinking for a bit and finishing her own sushi, Amie had been enjoying the conversation so much that she lost track of what she was there for. "Ah, that is a good point. Can't tell me information if you don't know what I'm looking for." She shifted where she was and smiled. "Any ideas on the Prior Machines?"

"As you might have deduced they are the primary focus of my scholarly pursuits. Enigmatic builders of 'things' is the crudest way of interpreting the intentions of the Priors. Somewhere between a million and a hundred million years ago, they travelled through this area of the galaxy, built incredible structures and devices, and then seemingly left them and departed. No records, nothing to speak to who they were as a people...just the artefacts. Some are mere trinkets, baubles with little real value save their creators shadow. Others...more enticing and dangerous. And nothing more so than a Censor riled to anger," Gastarox finished off the sushi he had been offered. "It is a rare thing for a civilisation to survive angering a Prior Censor. Though one would argue a civilisation that was foolish enough to attempt interfering with such a thing was owed an extinction-level event or two."

"Foolish enough," she said quietly, remembering what happened on the away mission. "We've got the Carcosian's interfering, and a signal the machine is sending out. We're still trying to piece all that together."

"You did WHAT?!"

Gastarox threw the plate with righteous anger, the replicated plastic bouncing off the interior of the force field barrier with a static laced zing of discharge. His wide webbed hands balled up into fists, and he slammed them hard against the barrier.

"You allowed the Carcosian's to tamper with the White Tower! Oh, let me guess, they used one of their 'logic bombs' to render it inert? By the stars, that we are speaking is a miracle in and of itself! A Carcosian can be trusted to look after two things, their own self-interest and the interests of their nation. But then what less harm to them than the removal of a new competitor if something had gone wrong?" Gastarox snarled, pacing back and forth before the field. "You said the Tower released a signal? I assume your station has some crude approximation of sensors? Let me see the data. Let me read it! Hell if your people are so backwards as to trust a puppet on a string, I will assume you relay scientific minute in the form of interpretive dance!"

Amie put up her hands. "This was before I got here. I don't know much of anything right now beyond what I experienced and what I've been told. I haven't even been here long. But from what I've gathered about them, it makes sense that they'd do something like this." She stepped right up to the forcefield. "I had nothing to do with this, I promise. And I don't know what the sensors read, I haven't even looked at the information and if I was given it, I don't know it."

"Of course it makes sense! To the Carcosian mindset, there is only one driving factor, the preservation of the state at all costs! Prior artefact of a suitable size are hazardous to entire stellar regions, let alone planetary bodies. Of course, they would seek to nullify it at the first possible opportunity," Gastarox paced in his cell. "But it sent out a signal huum? A short-range demi matter stream of hard data, an accident report to other nearby devices that might or might not be in a suitable state to respond..."

He turned to look at her.

"You must let me see the data, you must let me interpret it so I might glean something from this utter disaster."

"I don't have it, Gastarox. I haven't seen it. I only know what I've heard and experienced. Besides," she said with a heavy sigh. "I'd have to get Captain approval to say anything more than I have already."

"Then get his approval! If there are more Prior artefacts in this system, ones the Tower deemed worthy to warn of its fate, you could be in grave danger. Or, perhaps, on the cusp of some momentous discovery. Both can be as likely to happen as either," Gastarox said, stroking his chin. "Or, perhaps, I am wrong. I am only a lowly Scholar of the 18th Rank, barely an adult after forty rotations of the Sphere around the galaxy below. Which should I know?"

Amie rubbed the back of her neck. "What can I say you'd give us in return if I can get the approval then, Gastarox?"

"Apart from our own continued existence?" Gastarox said dryly. He then thought better of it and hummed loudly as his throat pouches expanded. "How about I high light the frontier outposts of the Concordance? It will at least give you a place to know where not to go?"

Grabbing the PADD she had thereafter gathering the sushi plates and putting them away, Amie sighed. "I will do what I can, but it still isn't up to me in the end if you're allowed the information."

"Be convincing," Gastarox said. "Besides, I see this little tidbit as but the appetizer to a large banquet I can provide...for a price. Give him the data I will provide on the frontier outposts of the Concordance. Visit them, and you will know the truth of my statements."

"I'm new to the station, Gastarox," Amie said as she headed to the door. "I can only try. I'm just not going to promise anything."

"Then work well," Gastarox said, eyeing the data. "For all our sakes."


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