Canopus Station
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Special Delivery, No Returns

Posted on Wed Aug 4th, 2021 @ 8:10am by Lieutenant T'Niam & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang

Mission: S2:3: Snow Drift
Location: Cargo Bay
Timeline: MD3 1000

It was an undeniable fact that a space station felt different to a ship. Perhaps it was the size relative to the power supply, distribution of personnel, and proximity to planetary bodies. Such things were not T’Niam’s specialty. All she could quantify was that as the door to the shuttle opened, the station immediately had a different harmonic. The vibration beneath her feet was subtler, quieter. She paused for a moment, inhaling steadily, taking in the different scent in the air. Recycled, naturally, but spiced with a different combination of scents to her previous home. She knew it was imperceptible to humans but even ‘canned air’ such as this carried its own signature, blended from the various people aboard. With a Vulcan female’s sensitive nose, T’Niam immediately picked up on it.

Not unpleasant. Simply dissimilar. With a slight nod to herself that she had catalogued the change, T’Niam stepped off the craft after the other passengers. The sight that greeted her had T’Niam tilting her head slightly, lips ticking up at the corners while the rest of her expression remained neutral as she moved out of the path of others who were disembarking. It was her eyes that truly warmed. “Lieutenant Commander Jiang,” T’Niam greeted her old friend serenely, obeying military custom for the mere moment she knew it would be required before shelving it entirely. “Meilin.” She arranged her hands deftly into the feminine form of the zi wu. “Your presence is most welcome.”

"As is yours," Meilin said, grinning for the first time in awhile. "It's hard to believe you're actually here." Hesitant for a moment, she leaned forward. "May I?" Her hands were half-raised for an embrace. They had hugged precisely one other time in their friendship. By all accounts it had been adequate and worth repeating.

Like T'Niam, Meilin was not given to smiling regularly. So the Vulcan appreciated the gesture for what it was, an expression of joy at T'Niam's arrival. "I assure you, were the reality my presence in question, I would advise you if I were not corporeal." It was a small joke and T'Niam knew her own people would not approve of such levity, but they were not there to judge T'Niam's conduct. When Meilin lifted her hands in invitation, T'Niam's lips curved upwards a little more and she stepped forward into Meilin's embrace without hesitation. The act of touching would inevitably result in some telepathic feedback but T'Niam was already familiar with the landscape of Meilin's mind, as Meilin was with hers. T'Niam's arms encircled Meilin calmly. "Human greeting customs are quite pleasing."

Meilin hummed in agreement. "Yes, but only with proper company." After feeling the old tingle of tactile contact with the Vulcan who had once attempted to teach her how to meld minds, Meilin reluctantly pulled away. She did grasp T'Niam by the hand, however. "Have you remained aboard the Palatine all this time? What brings you to Canopus Station?"

T'Niam nodded in acknowledgement of Meilin's observation, the two parting at the same moment. It was a simple matter to gauge the appropriate moment based on Meilin's actions and T'Niam was accustomed to following such cues, though she allowed the holding of hands. "Indeed, there was still much work to be done aboard the Palatine. However, it has come to my attention that there is no permanent counselor aboard Canopus Station. With a larger population and indications of an unfortunate end to my predecessor, it seemed logical to 'fill the gap' as it were." T'Niam took a moment to let her gaze shift to the uniform Meilin was wearing, approval in her eyes. "Teal is a fitting colour for you, Meilin."

Running a hand over her uniform, Meilin smiled yet again, though this time it bore traces of a blush. "Yes, it has a more natural feel," she said. Back on the Palatine, Meilin had been the Chief of Security and Tactical in addition to being Lead Researcher for Tactical Sciences. It was a vestige of her conscription into Tactical despite her training in the sciences. Switching back to her true calling was part of what led her to Project Long Jump and Canopus Station in the first place. "While Canopus Station is an unorthodox frontier outpost, resuming my scientific pursuits was alone worth the trip." Pausing a moment to remember Aimee, it seemed only right for Meilin to give fair warning. "Your predecessor transferred out because she was being stalked by a persistent and peculiar being that believes himself to be an emperor in exile. Handle him with care, as I no doubt expect you to find him a curious study. It would be unfortunate to see you transfer away too."

"I am gratified to see you content in your work," T'Niam replied. It radiated from Meilin, soft an unobtrusive. "Unfortunate indeed. This being will undoubtedly provide a unique challenge. To his detriment, Vulcans do not give up easily. Nor are we as pacifistic as we would have people believe when we are threatened." T'Niam was not a violent person, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there was no denying what a Vulcan was at their core. What they had always been, and most likely always would be. Two thousand years of Surak's teachings had not extinguished that fire, only contained it. T'Niam was unperturbed, more curious than anything, as Meilin had predicted. "You have my word that I will be cautious, my friend."

Meilin smiled again. "I am delighted to hear it." Taking her by the elbow, Meilin led her much taller friend away from the dock. "You should know that Mara is here as well. Candidly, I feel she may have need of a friend and counselor both. You see..." Should this even be mentioned? Of course it should. Matters of duty, honor, and loyalty were absolutely appropriate between friends. "She has taken back up with Stephen Spires. He travelled here of his own accord and they got back together some time ago. I do not trust him, and I believe neither does Mara at heart. When the man shows his true colors, there might be call for clinical help."

T'Niam allowed herself to be led, making no attempt to break the physical contact taking place. To others, it most likely appeared odd for a Vulcan to be walking arm in arm with another person. She didn't attempt to interrupt Meilin as she spoke, trailing off briefly. T'Niam simply inhabited the silence, allowing it to be what it needed to be. It did not require filling, only patience. She recalled Stephen Spires, a man whose reaction to her had been unfavourable with no apparent precedent. "Ah. I will, of course, make myself available to Mara as a friend and in a professional capacity. The deterioration or dissolution of any relationship is akin to encountering an ion storm - murky, riddled with navigational errors, and given to breaking things should it gain sufficient momentum."

Meilin let out a little giggle at the simile. Supercharged particles on the verge of conversion to plasma bore an uncanny likeness to bad romance. "Oh, T'Niam, how I have missed your wit."

As they left the dock, they entered a much larger expanse that ran several levels and was filled with a menagerie of sentients from dozens of civilizations.

"This section of the station is called the Medina," Meilin said. "I still have not explored every part of it."

T'Niam did not smile but there was a distinct glint of humour in her eyes as she followed Meilin's lead. The promenade that opened before them drew the eye upwards and T'Niam did not resist that draw, taking in the general splendour of the station that would be her home for the forseeable future. A tad cold, perhaps, though she was accustomed to the standard temperatures of Federation starships which were set for the dominant species - generally Humans or a race with similar biological make-up and roots on cooler planets. And there it was - the wash of energy, the charge of many minds lacing the air and T'Niam had to adjust her barriers to reduce the volume. They were not voices, no. Nothing so simplistic. They were a tapestry, a painting, a picture of shifting colour, a hum of vibrant presence. She turned her gaze towards Meilin. "I believe we can rectify such an oversight in short order with good company. Have you a favourite thus far?"

"Truthfully, I find solace in the Agricultural Dome," Meilin said. "It has become home to a community of Xilosians. They are the last of their kind, rescued from a subterranean bunker on their devastated homeworld. They have blended seamlessly with the food production." Looking around at the tiers of the Medina, though, Meilin's face did not look displeased. "However, I would say the best of Canopus Station is found in the buskers that frequent the--"

Meilin was interrupted by the sight and sound of a humongous lupine creature on all fours, gagging to the point of near suffocation.

"Fucking hell, Meth," said a Ktarian in a gravelly voice. "I told you not to order that shit."

The dog-like humanoid looked up with sick-matted fur around his snout. "But it sounded so good!"

"You ate the deep-fried asshole of some kind of squid!" shouted the Ktarian. "What the fuck did you think--oh, fuck me running..."

Meth was lapping up the steaming pile he had regurgitated with his nearly prehensile tongue.

"Cut that shit out!"

"I can't help it, Hayk," said Meth as he licked up the last of it. "It's still good!"

The Ktarian called Hayk palmed his face hard enough to flatten his features. "Now I think I'm going to be sick!"

"Oh boy!" Meth wiggled his entire body in excitement.

Hayk kicked him right in the ass at the base of his tail. "Don't you fucking joke like that again!"

As a tenured anthropologist, Meilin maintained a healthy respect for the various lifeforms of the universe. But they had nearly walked into the boisterous pair whose antics were something else altogether. They were shocking.

"Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations, right?" she said in muted horror to T'Niam.

T'Niam watched the display with no change in expression, perfectly polite curiosity in her dark eyes. "If you will forgive my intrusion," T'Niam spoke up to the pair, "but is it actually the sphincter? Or the rectum? The latter is considered a delicacy on several worlds, if I am not mistaken, and utilised in a similar manner to sheep's stomach in haggis on Earth." She glanced at Meilin. "The regurgitation and subsequent re-ingestion of food is a sacred act among the Ytaxis, often preceding a marital proposal. Perhaps they are observing a ritual?"

"Nah," said Hayk. "Meth here is an Amican, which means he's too stupid not to eat his own vomit. Isn't that right, Meth?"

Whatever reply Meth was going to make was cut short when he bent over sharply at the waist and began hurling anew.

"Nothing sacred about that," Hayk quipped. "GODDAMMIT, NOT AGAIN!"

Meth had begun a repeat performance.

T'Niam lifted an eyebrow a fraction. "Does the meal contain a toxin that is causing this reaction? If so, would it not be of benefit to Meth to bring him to the medical facilities for assistance?" she asked, looking at Hayk. "If not, waste products are not without nutritional value. Therefore making a judgement upon one's intellectual abilities based upon dietary habits that differ from our own is unwarranted." The Vulcan woman turned her gaze upon Meth. "Are you functioning optimally, Meth?"

Finished once more, faster this time, Meth looked up at T'Niam and belched right in her face. "I... I don't feel so goo--"

And then he decorated the front of her entire body with his cud.

The explosion of fetid air in her face had quickly overwhelmed her olfactory senses and T'Niam blinked, nostrils flaring in response to the odour. At the half-finished declaration, T'Niam could only be gratified that she had not yet opened her mouth to respond before the Amican regurgitated semi-digested nutriment upon her person. She took a second to analyse the immediate needs of the moment, concluding that as there appeared to be no corrosive properties in the liquid now adorning her uniform, there was no need for alarm. That did not preclude T'Niam from wishing she had a much less sensitive nose, however illogical the impulse might be. "Meilin, I believe we should assist Mister Meth to the Infirmary, or its equivalent," T'Niam decided, looking at her friend in as dignified a manner as she could with vomit dripping off her nose.

"Don't worry, I'll get him somewhere to sleep it off," Hayk said. "I spotted some decon showers over by the docking bay. You oughtta' get yourself cleaned up before the stink sets in." He yanked Meth by his floppy ear. "Let's go, you big, stupid oaf."

"Ow!" Meth shouted as he allowed himself to be dragged away.

Meilin had watched the entire encounter with stark fascination, allowing her academic appreciation to overtake her significant personal distaste. "Now I feel compelled to research Amicans," she said to T'Niam. "I know the decontamination unit the Ktarian mentioned. It's this way."

"Your assistance is appreciated, Meilin," T'Niam replied, following her friend's direction without qualm. The stench was making T'Niam's eyes sting, in spite of the nictating membrane, and she could feel the ooze soaking through her uniform. "In future, I will be sure to bring a second set of clothes with me when disembarking to ensure another such circumstance is more easily rectified. The smell is quite... pungent. Are you aware of what he meant when he suggested that the odour may set in? Was it a general remark or is Amican vomit known for lingering for long periods of time?"

"It's hard to say," Meilin said. "I'll reference what I can from the decon control panel and see if Amican fluids are especially caustic, toxic, or dangerous to vulcanoids."

It was a good step away from the Medina, but fortunately the crowd parted without further encouragement. After their grim march of shame, Meilin input her clearance to open the decon area and stepped inside.

"Once I set the parameters, I'll step out and leave you to your privacy." Meilin began scrolling through the options in search of Amicans. "Hm... Amicans do not appear to be listed in the primary database."

"I believe we can rule out caustic," T'Niam observed, holding in her natural reaction to the vomit upon her skin. Years of practice in holding a neutral expression was invaluable in such circumstances. "The warmth of the fluid appears to be simply a result of Meth's body temperature and is now cooling as expected."

The decon chamber was a welcome reprieve and T'Niam began stripping off the outer layer of her uniform with alacrity. As she was not yet on duty, the undershirt and pants would suffice if she could return them to an adequate state. "We must hope my serial number is in the laundry database in anticipation of my arrival." If not, the shirt would simply have to languish until her details were updated and could provide a match. "Are there cultural taboos regarding the lack of clothing upon this station?"

"No, not since the Rish enclave began to spread out into the rest of the station," Meilin said. The control panel beeped at her. "The search function found an Amican listing within the biohazard details. Evidently the digestive enzymes contain highly acidic proteins that are borderline solvent in strength. According to this, you may need a skin peel in order to avoid a persistent malodor that could otherwise last several days."

"If we are fortunate, we have been able to get here quickly enough to mitigate any unpleasant possibilities,," T'Niam said with a small nod, stripping her trousers off as well, leaving her in the trademark Starfleet undergarments which were free of contamination. If it was not unusual for people to go about in a minimal amount of clothing, her state of partial dress should not raise questions. The uniform went down the biohazard chute for sterilisation and T'Niam cracked open the door to the chamber. "I had expected to be assigned quarters prior to removing my clothes. The inversion is a refreshing change of pace."

Meilin could only agree. "Before the Xilosians came to live in the Ag Dome, I found it a serene location for unclothed qi-gong and tai-qi. Such as it is now, it does not seem appropriate any longer."

"Have you not found a suitable alternate location?" T'Niam enquired, putting her commbadge on her undershirt as she stepped into the decontamination chamber. Acquiring her quarters in her underwear would certainly be a unique experience, however she was confident explaining the circumstances to the appropriate personnel would ensure no difficulties arose. It would be far less reasonable to report covered in vomit. "Qi-gong is a meditation technique, is it not?"

"My quarters and the holodeck do not offer the same natural connection to the Tao," Meilin explained. "Qi-gong is beyond meditation. It is cultivation of mind and body. Perhaps I could requisition a lab for botanical studies, but even that might not feel the same."

Obscured by the sealed decontamination unit, T'Niam tilted her head in thought as the system ran through its cycle. "Would you be willing to instruct me in Qi-gong? The practice sounds most intriguing." She had begun showing Meilin the basics of Vulcan meditation during their time on the Palatine, and she could not help but he curious about a human form of the technique.

"Of course," Meilin said. Interpreting the request as an invitation, she stepped toward the decontamination area and disrobed to match T'Niam's partial state of undress. "Taiji can be done in any attire, but I prefer as few restrictions as possible." Standing with her feet apart as the bioscan lasers ran across her body, Meilin relaxed into a loose and flexible posture. "Stance is everything," she began to explain. "Feet and shoulders at equal placement allow your center of balance to drop into the ground as if you were a tree growing roots. This creates an existential link between you and your environment, forming a bridge between heaven--" Meilin's hand waved to indicate the surrounding air. "--and earth." Her knees bent as she anchored her feet to the ground. "The following frame can only be performed from this proper foundation."

T'Niam studied Meilin's motions as the other woman came into the decontamination chamber. If there was anything ballet had taught her, it was that small variations were the difference between success and failure in a movement. She replicated Meilin's stance, entirely focused on her. "This is similar to a Vulcan theory of immersive meditation. We are taught that to be properly grounded, we must shed all external concerns and simply be present in the moment. All that matters is connection between mind and body and environment."

Nodding in agreement, Meilin said, "It seems our peoples made similar discoveries." She placed her hands in front of her waist, palms down and thumbs point back toward her body. "Breathing and moving are synchronous. Raise your hands very slowly as if rising up on a gust of air." Holding up her hand, Meilin's fingers were staggered with her index finger upright and each subsequent one bent more slightly than the last until her pinky finger which was bent nearly in half. "The little finger leads, yet it is itself a follower guided by intent." Inhaling slowly through her nose, Meilin matched the rate of her diaphragm to her hands which moved in opposing, sweeping arcs up toward the crown of her head. "Once the hands have crested, then we exhale ever so slowly in proportion to our descending hands." And Meilin did just so, speaking softly as he hands drifted downward like leaves in the wind. "Our intent has gathered new yang and is pressing it into our dan-tien to force out the old," she said. "Yin drawn up from our feet's proper stance mixes together with the new yang to form chi, and it is this phenomenon that brings longevity, flexibility, and serenity." After her hands came to rest from their vertical drop at their starting position, Meilin said, "We shall do this two more times, for three is the treasured number denoting the three treasures of the world: heaven, earth, and man."

"Our races are not given enough credit for our similarities," T'Niam noted, the observation stemming from years of people talking about the differences between Vulcans and Humans. How the two races presented to the universe was quite different but beneath the surface, they had many things in common. Those Vulcans who claimed that their people were without emotion had entirely misinterpreted the teachings of Surak, a conclusion T'Niam had come to over the course of decades. A Vulcan without emotion was in no need of logic, for the basic principles of control were rooted in the need to overcome the primal and grow. She copied each movement, making minute adjustments as she detected they were necessary, the decontamination cycle timer fading entirely into the background. T'Niam was measuring everything, from the rate of Meilin's breathing to the millimeters between one foot and the other. "I am not familiar with the term dan-tien. I presume yin and yang are perceived as forms of environmental energy?"

Meilin felt a singular delight at having someone understand the esoteric information she was explaining. "Your insight is impressive," Meilin said. "Yin and yang are more principles than true energy. They are the harmony of opposition which give form to the universe. Yin is dark and dense while yang is bright and airy. Earth and Heaven, Darkness and Light, Night and Day, and so on. As one rises, the other falls, and their infinite combinations manifest as not only energy but, well, everything."

Putting her feet together, Meilin bent at the knees before extending her left foot to shoulder's width from her right. Her hands rose slowly like a fog before wafting slowly back down to waist level. "This is Opening Position. It takes us from the Great Nothing to the Grand Ultimate. From this position, we go from minimal potential to ultimate potential."

"Similar in form to Newton's Third Law among your people then," T'Niam mused as she continued to adjust her stance and follow the flow of Meilin's movements. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or among Vulcans, the eternal balance between emotion and logic."

"Indeed," Meilin said. "Sir Isaac Newton's observations of physics came from his study of alchemy, a metaphysical concept that essentially amounts to the effects of consciousness over the material universe. Mind over matter. It wasn't until the double-slit experiments well after his time that the role of the observer--something previous generations had dismissed as mysticism--became common knowledge in quantum particle physics."

Gently, Meilin moved her hands and pivoted her hips in an unusual yet rhythmic circular motion. The complex maneuver slowly, almost painfully so, ended in a gentle fist coming to palm that was immediately followed by a punch to the same palm and a stomp. "Yin and yang," Meilin explained. "Opposing forces working in unity."

Pounding came from the door to the chamber. "Hey, hey! This is a decontamination chamber, not a love shack!" shouted Hayk the Ktarian from before. "If you two lovebirds wants to clean each other's carpets, get a fuggin' room! There's a line out here, ya know?"

T'Niam may have blinked but as there were no witnesses, she could not be accused of such a thing. Activating the comm, she replied calmly. "I assure you, were 'carpet cleaning' a designated activity, it would not be logical to interrupt at the risk of forcing participants to begin again." And with that, T'Niam gathered her things and exited the decontamination chamber, giving Hayk a regal nod of acknowledgement. "May your day be pleasantly-scented after today's events."

Embarrassed herself, Meilin lagged behind in order to get their names and ranks. T'Niam had advanced a significant distance before she caught up. "I apologize, T'Niam. I will see that they receive a formal reprimand for speaking to superior officers in that fashion."

T'Niam's lips twitched upwards. "I am not offended. That my curiosity caused them to feel that remonstration was necessary is unfortunate. As is the odiferous state of my person." The Vulcan woman glanced down at herself with the smallest hint of dismay at the smell she could still detect. "It would appear the decontamination cycle was not entirely effective, which leads me to believe that the chamber's efficacy will be reduced by the delay they suffered in waiting for our departure. In essence, Meilin, we have already unintentionally punished them."

"Indeed." Meilin allowed a fond smirk with an appreciation of comeuppance that only a Taoist could fathom. "The equilibrium of the Tao requires that all things come back to the one who sends them." Sniffing at T'Niam, she said, "Come. If you have not yet been assigned quarters, I will allow you use of mine."


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