Canopus Station
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Sisterhood of the Burning Pants

Posted on Wed Aug 14th, 2019 @ 5:19am by Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang & Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci

Mission: S0E0: What Came Before
Location: Science labs
Timeline: MD 10

Having spent a lot of time wandering the station adjusting the settings on her new prosthetic with Ravioli in tow, Mara found herself near the science labs. Though she didn’t suppose there was much there, she thought maybe they’d have some samples she could mess with to check the settings further. So, she walked through the doors.

And found the place deserted. “Hello?” she called. “Is anybody in here?” Ravioli gave one of her soft little yips that meant “mama is yelling, so it must be okay for me to yell, too.”

After hours in the Science Labs meant little more than the support staff was off duty. The truly diligent scientists were known to burn the midnight oil. And, so long as any intruders steered clear of the sensitive areas, there was nobody there to question the presence of a nosy engineer and her dog.

Meilin was busy in her office with a holographic storyboard when Ravioli's yip registered in here ears.

"Mara," she said aloud, her mouth upturned in the faintest of grins. "Computer, activate guide lights from Commander Ricci's current location to this office."

The computer's response was a warbling chirp. With that settled, Meilin returned to her cross-references.

The running lights along the floor caught Mara's attention and she gave Ravioli's leash a little tug, following the lights. They led her to an office where she found Meilin hard at work. "Isn't it a bit late to still be working?" she asked.

"Is it work if one enjoys the task?" Meilin softly countered. Her attention was clearly divided between her friend and the threads she'd linked together on her multiple holoboards. "We learned much on this latest venture. It's created an actual backlog for new classifications and entries for species, planets, and even factions. These database updates are precisely why we are out here." Satisfied with the loose end with which she was dealing, Meilin closed out the directory and turned to face Mara without distraction.

"But it is good to see you up and around. And Ravioli as well." She bowed lightly to both.

"Thanks," said Mara, and at the attention, Ravioli began excitedly wagging her tail and whining so Mara took a few steps closer so the dog could thoroughly sniff every inch of the other woman. "I'm doing all right. Still getting used to this," she added, holding up her prosthetic arm. "In fact, that's why I'm here. I'm fussing with the settings and wondered if you have biological samples you don't mind me sticking my fingers into to make sure everything feels right."

Meilin raised her brow in a flood of skepticism. "Ah, I see." She walked over to her office's replicator and pulled up the manual settings. "I'm sure we can synthesize something appropriate." She cast Mara a sidelong look that simultaneously mocked the ruse and solicited the real reason for the visit.

But it was the real reason for the visit. At least Mara thought so, so she was completely baffled my the look Meilin was giving her. “Is...” she started, unsure of how to phrase her question. “I mean... I don’t know what I mean. What’s the look for?” she finally managed to ask.

"Mhmm." Meilin turned back to the replicator. "Ice," she said. "1 kilogram."

The replicator supplied a block of crystallized ice that Meilin supplied to Mara with a subdued, knowing smirk. "Try holding this with both hands. Studies show the human nervous system can calibrate itself given the proper alignment."

Had Meilin heard about what had happened between Mara and Spires? Is that what the smirk was about? How much did she know? She tried to push it from her mind as she took the ice with both hands. It felt wet with her prosthetic, but merely cold with her natural hand. She frowned at it. “So... I take it you’ve heard, then,” she said, almost as a question.

"Straight from the devil himself," she said, voice clipped. "Focus on the ice. Close your eyes if necessary. Let your mind realize each hand is the same."

Mara did as she was instructed. She told the prosthetic that it was not wet, just cold. Slowly, ever so slowly, the ice felt less wet and more cold. "Huh," she said. "I didn't expect that to actually work." Then, she paused for a moment. "Am I an idiot?" she asked, her tone indicating that she didn't think so, but wanted to know other people's opinions.

"You are very intelligent," Meilin said flatly. "Many gongfu forms require discipline to allow the mind to flow through an inanimate object as part of the body. Dao swordsmanship has the practitioner think of the weapon as an extension of their body, while Long Fist often employs the reverse by thinking of one's arms as swords or halberds." She knew Mara was asking if she was being stupid by getting involved with Stephen Spires again, but Meilin did not want to force Mara into any conclusions. That would not be the way of virtue. Some truths needed to be discovered on one's own.

"You know what I mean, Meilin," replied Mara. "I mean, I hold my heart pretty close. Only one man has ever won it before. I'd probably still be with him, but... well, he doesn't exist anymore. And I'm not easily influenced. Even in school, teachers used to stick me with problem students because I was a good influence. Maybe I've influenced Spires." She grinned. "Or maybe I'm imagining things," she added.

Meilin returned Mara's grin, though it carried a hefty dose of skepticism. "Bào xīn jiù huǒ," she said. "It does not sound as if I am the one you think to convince."

"I'm not trying to convince anyone," Mara replied. "I guess I just want a second opinion. Or something. Oh, well. I guess if he messes me over, I can always just murder him, right? Kidding! I'm kidding. I can make him more miserable alive."

"I suppose misery is an easy enough backup plan," Meilin said, brow raised. "But perhaps you could set your sights a little higher. What do you hope to get out of this relationship? And are you likely to receive it?"

"Hm," replied Mara, brow wrinkling. "I haven't thought about it. Come to think of it, I never thought about what I wanted out of any relationship. I just sort of... went with it. I suppose I'll have to think about that."

Meilin pursed her lips together in a tight, satisfied smirk. "Perhaps you should." She looked down at Mara's hands. "Since the sensory issues appear to be more firmware than hardware, you might also consider a meditation regimen. I could recommend a few hand mudras to assist in strengthening your mind-machine interface."

"I have no idea what mudras are," said Mara, wrinkling her brow, "but I'm willing to give it a shot. Convincing my brain of what it's feeling seems to have worked. This doesn't feel wet anymore," she added, indicating the ice that she still had. "And it's cold. And it kinda hurts." With a grin, she set the block of ice back in the replicator and tapped the recycle button.

Meilin gave a gracious dip of her head. "It is incredible what the mind can do. We can deceive ourselves as easily as empower. Wisdom leads us to the narrow but necessary balance."

Mara nodded. Perhaps she was being unwise about Spires. But then again, didn’t everyone deserve a second chance? And she did find herself oddly attracted to him. She supposed she would have to figure out what she wanted from him to figure out if this was a wise decision or not.

With a sigh, she scratched her chin. “Yeah,” she said noncommittally. “Anyway, got anything else for me? Skin feels like scales. Maybe a lizard or something actually scaly?”

"Yes." Meilin raised both hands upward, palms facing Mara. "Mirror me. As you do so, reach out with your yi, your intent, through your palms and touch me -- not with your hands, but your intent. I will do the same." With no further instruction, Meilin's eyes flicked shut as she entered a trance.

Mara hurriedly held up her hands to mirror Meilin. She wrinkled her brow, attempting to work out what she meant by reach out with her intent and then suddenly closed her eyes and really concentrated. She didn’t know what she was supposed to be feeling, but she had a feeling silly wasn’t it. “Am... am I doing it right?” she asked hesitantly.

Meilin canted her head ever so slightly in relaxed concentration. "You're too tense. Be as water. Sink your center mass through the floor as roots in the ground. Feel the resurgence, the equal and opposite reaction, flow back through your body, and then will it in the direction of your hands. Breathe. Let it flow.”

Lips pursed and brow wrinkling, Mara tried to feel her water roots flowing through the floor... or whatever it was Meilin had said. She rolled her shoulders and tried to relax, but it was no good. She couldn’t both concentrate and relax at the same time.

"Enough." Meilin's eyes fluttered open with a knowing shine. "It is counter-intuitive for some to draw by yielding rather than pull by forcing. Some spend their lives in study yet never attain the understanding. You are on your way, my friend, but there are no short cuts. If you wish to learn further, I would be happy to teach you, but it is not for the idly curious."

“I guess I’m in for some work,” admitted Mara. “Especially if you think it’ll help.”

Meilin smiled with a mixture of condescension and joy. "What I think does not matter. If we know anything at all, it should be that."

"Meilin," said Mara. "That's not fair. You wouldn't even tell me what you think. And I wouldn't have asked if I didn't value your opinion. I might not take your advice," she added with a grin, "but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter to me."

"But you have already made up your mind," Meilin said. "It is not well for my will to resist yours in your personal space." Her hands made the mudra for inner peace as if it the matter was settled.

“Okay, that’s a fair point,” Mara replied. “You’ll be there if he rips my heart out and stomps on it, though? I’ll even let you say that you told me so.”

Meilin canted her head, deciding whether to be candid, witty, or both. "I will be where I am."

"I suppose that's good enough," replied Mara with a grin. "Thanks. So! Got anything else for me to feel? Wait... that sounded weird. You know what I mean."

That brought out a rare giggle that Meilin reserved only for her intimate relationships. "I think you've done enough for one day."

"Probably," agreed Mara with a grin. "Well, I'll get out of your hair. Come on, Ravioli," she added to the dog who was currently curled up on the floor. With a wag of her tail, Ravioli jumped up and panted happily at her mistress. "See you later, Meilin," Mara grinned.

"I expect nothing less," Meilin said with a tight grin.


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