Canopus Station
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Dream Time

Posted on Mon Feb 15th, 2021 @ 2:34pm by Captain Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci

Mission: S2:3: Snow Drift
Location: Canopus Station, Habitation Units, the Xilosian Quarter
Timeline: MD-1 1900

The construction crews had done a great job of repairing the Hab Units after the Wire Wolves. Bulkheads were shiny and the deck liner still had that unworn feel to it. In most of the Hab Units huddled under the dome of Canopus's docks, the engineers had taken no time in restoring things to normal.

But in the Hab Units given over to the Xilosian refugees, the engineers had been asked to take their time. Changes that could never have been asked of their saviours before the attack were now as simple as replacing what was stock. The most noticeable difference was the light units embedded in the ceiling.

Whereas all of the station's lights projected a universally healthy wavelength of light for most Federation species, the Xilosians found it somewhat dazzling. The lighting was thus lowered considerable, casting the corridors and thoroughfares of the Xilosian Quarter into twilight. UV black lighting was also prevalent, illuminating teeth and combadges alike, as well as a myriad of skin tones.

And it also illuminated the brilliant street art of the Xilosians. A great deal of their art had been lost when the Concordance invaded, save for digitised records. But with special paint, a few of the refugee's had begun to bring a little of their lost homeworld back to life. Images that could come into focus only as you passed them, blazing in colour as the paint floreced. Scenes of a homeworld lost, murals of events without context. A few art installations had even been put up, revealing the Xilosian love of the abstract.

Another change was that of the food courts. Replicators had been hard hit by the incident, so the public ones had been sacrificed and placed in more centralised locations. And in many cases they merely produced raw ingredients, saving the more energy-intensive process of making cooked proteins and carbohydrates. The age of the Line Chef had returned to Canopus Station.

The food court had been walled off, to become a set of narrow bars, taverns and eateries in the Xilosian style of old. Apparently, communal living in big cities was common, so the close confines they asked for were more homely than crowded.

Ingram sat on a stool at a low counter running along the partition wall, fingers idly flicking through a flexi sheet. It was a rare moment of Ingram not in his office, or attached to a commbadge or even in uniform. A white buttoned shirt glowed under the UV lights of what the locals called a 'slot-shot bar'.

He took a small brass teapot off of a hot plate set into the counter top, and poured out a measure of the tea. It was a computer-generated replication of a blend from Xilos, using the stored genetic data from the Xilosain seed vault. It had an odd but not welcome taste to it, like gunpowder darjealing.

Also appearing slightly out of place was a girl in a red sweater dress and leggings with large roses painted on the legs. She had, of course, painted them herself while in secondary school, and to be perfectly honest, she was surprised they were still in good shape. She gazed around at everything as she walked towards said counter. The computer had informed her of where to find him, but she had gotten side tracked. She would have to remember to visit the Xylosians when they finally found a planet on which to settle.

Finally, though, Mara remembered what she was doing down here and resumed her search. The sight of Ingram in a glowing shirt made her grin. It was so out of character for him that she very nearly giggled as she approached, but managed to keep it in.

"Evening, sir," she said, claiming the stool next to his. "Oh, wow, these are really comfortable."

"Commander," Ingram said dryly as he reached out and took his cup of tea and sipped from it. He didn't look up, merely flicked through another page of reports. After a moment he did look over at her. "Oh, you're not in uniform. Am I to assume the Station is not falling apart?"

“I’ve got her stuck together with bubblegum and duct tape,” joked Mara. “Oughta hold for a couple of hours at least.”

"As always you do your best to shore up the bastion of my hope, and fall short of the mark. A simple 'no' would have sufficed," Ingram sighed. A moment later a female Xilosian walked up along the back of the narrow tea house, carrying a tray. In the odd purple illumination, the Xilosian's skin glowed with a bizarre pattern of colours. Usually black with regular jagged stripes of gold, in this light the Xilosian's skin was filled in within the boundaries of those strips in a slowly shifting kaleidoscope of pigments.

"Good evening gentle worthies," she said as she placed a small bowl of triangular green nubs between the two of them. "Are you enjoying your tea?"

"It is a peculiar blend to be sure, but hardly unwelcome," Ingram said with an actual smile, tinged with genuine organic gratitude. "I do not suppose you have heard tell if Prime Philosopher Kisbeck is on his way?"

"I believe he is on his way. There was a minor civil matter he had to attend to before your meeting, he sends his apologies," the woman said with a slight nod of her head. She then turned her golden eyes to Mara. "Would you like anything? I am assured that Xilosian and Human metabolisms share many similarities so there are few items off-limits."

Mara had nobody what anything was, and so just said, “bring me your favorite- that is compatible with humans, of course.”

"You asked for it," the waitress said with a grin and left the two of them, her head fronds glowing a light blue.

As the girl wandered off, Mara turned back to Ingram. “It was joke, sir,” she said with a grin. “Sort of. We were missing a few parts, but we’ve made do until we can get replacements. The station is good for at least a couple of years- barring another attack, of course. All repairs have been completed and we’re just working on day to day maintenance at the moment.”

"Well, at least spirits seem to be high," Ingram said dryly. As he took another sip of his tea, the waitress returned with a small bowl of sticks. Each was no longer nor thicker than a match, and under the UV lighting appeared a dull malevolent orange.

"Kapies," the waitress said. "A snack food from home, though each region had a different take of them. Milled wheat, various spices, salts. These remind me of the spice markets of Palkesh, where I grew up. Sweet, spicy, with just a hint of tartness. It pairs well with this."

She placed a tall glass of fizzing soda water with a lime wedge in it.

"We bring you this food not to commemorate the past, but to enjoy a meal in the present in fine company. Enjoy gentle worthies," she said and departed.

"Exciting!" said Mara, choosing one of the stick things. "New food!" And she took a small bite. "Ooo, that really is spicy. And delicious. You like spicy food, sir?" she asked, motioning to the bowl.

"I like flavour," he said taciturnly and gestured to the tea. He looked at the tea, and for a moment considered something else. "I very much enjoy what the layperson might call people watching. I prefer to think of it as embedded anthropology, you can learn a lot form being stepped in the fluid of civilisation for a time."

He nodded at the bowl.

"Take the waitresses statement. A focus on the present instead of the past, even though for her there are memories of home attached to a simple bowl of snacks. She is not remembering for her sense of loss but is instead providing you with a context for which the food is prepared. A varietal dish with many variations," he remarked and plucked one of the kapies from the bowl. "Also did you notice the honorific 'gentle worthies'? The Xilosian's don't have traditional gender modifiers in their language, due to the fact gender is something that changes depending on a number of factors for them. We hear it because the UT is a best-fit approximation. And all of that..."

He popped the kapies into his mouth.

"From a simple snack food in what amounts to a cafe," he finished.

“Cafe,” repeated Mara, looking around. “I thought it looked more like a bar. I could go for a stiff drink after all that clean up from the wire wolves. I mean, this is actually pretty good,” she added, indicating the soda water. “But it’s not the same, you know? Give me a rum and Coke any day.”

"As you say," Ingram said not quite able to keep the tone of disapproval out of his voice. "A drink for relaxing, not really for enjoying though is it? A nice pear brandy, in good company with good conversation, will always out do a drink designed for the masses."

Mara’s nose wrinkled at first. “That sounds-“ she started, but then her brain out the two flavors together and her eyebrows shot up in surprise, “-actually, delicious. I really need to start trying different things.”

"To a broadening mind," Ingram said and raised his teacup.

"Saluti," agreed Mara, raising her glass of sparkling water. "I'm going to have to get the specs for these so I can program the replicator to make them."

"And deprive yourself of the setting. I assure you, they will not taste nearly as good as you imagine," Ingram admonished.

"Yeah, you're probably right," agreed Mara regretfully. "Nothing's ever as good replicated. Sometimes, I even think MREs taste better. Some of them. You know. Like the fudge brownie. And for some reason, I absolutely adore the garlic onion flavor. Everybody thinks I'm stark raving mad, but there it is."

Well, who was Ingram to argue with such a consensus of thought? He was about to make his departures, Kisbeck was no doubt busy dithering about something inconsequential. Scatterbrained was perhaps a polite term for it. But as he turned toa address Mara, he reached out and touched her arm.

Not in the manner of a friend, or close confidant. He did so with index and middle finger of his right hand, touching her arm and using the middle finger to push the short sleeve slightly higher on her arm. The arm for which there was a stark demarcation between flesh and artificial prosthetic.

A border made all the more definite for the faint illumination that buzzed under the skin at the connection point.

"That's new," Ingram said slowly.

"Whoa," said Mara with a grin. "That's wild. Is that the implant? It must be the lighting in here."

"Palladium does tend to fluoresce under certain wavelengths of light," Ingram said slowly, sounding not at all sure. "And given the fact that you have a small army of nanomachines in your arm helping your body to learn not to eat your implant...well."

Mara blinked, another of the kapies halfway to her mouth. "I had forgotten about them," she confessed. "Oh, damn. I was supposed to go see the doctor about them a week ago. Totally forgot."

"If only there was a device that could tell you the time so that meetings could be scheduled in accordance with one's availability. What a marvellous world we would live in," Ingram thought as he pondered getting Kisbeck a watch. "And you really should have the doctor see you about the nanomachines. Long term use is still something of a rarity, and if this is one of the few side effects it is best documented."

"Yeah," agreed Mara, eyes glued to the glowing skin, slight grin on her face. "It could be the lighting, though. Your teeth glow sort of purple in here."

"Fluoresce. They are fluorescing," Ingram corrected as he finished his tea. "If you are staying here, I would advise against trying the falmork, it's a fermented vegetable matter like kimchi that they are keen on perfecting from memory. It is...potent. Both in flavour and aroma."

He turned on his stool and settled his feet on the deck.

"I'll keep that in mind," she promised with a grin. "I think I'm going to stick around and experience Xylosian culture. I like these guys," she added, watching what looked like an adolescent female seat dancing nearby. It seemed that every species did that, no matter which galaxy they were from. Good music combined with not enough room for proper dancing meant that one could sway and jerk one's shoulders and arms in time with the music. "Have a great night, sir," she added, choosing another Kapie and realizing that there were fewer left than she had hoped.

"And the same to you Commander Ricci. Have a good night, fore the morrow brings the toil of our deeds," Ingram said with a nod of his head.

"Gee, that's not ominous at all," muttered Mara, taking another sip of the sparkling water. "You, too, sir," she said loud enough for him to hear.


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