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Surreptitious Craftsman
Posted on September 10th, 2019 by Emilaina Acacia

Doctor Acacia found herself scrutinizing her every movement far more than she normally would. She’d never had much cause in her life for lying or hiding anything, so it definitely wasn’t one of her strengths. Despite not actually doing anything wrong, she felt like everyone she passed in the hallway on the way to the holodeck was looking right through her, a heavy and perhaps mildly suspicious burlap bag slung over her shoulder.

She was relieved the moment the doors swished shut. She quickly locked the door behind herself, then paused a moment as she forgot what the program was named, this one not being one of her own. Something with the same letter…

“Acacia.. fake farm,” she decided, and computer bleeped in reply. The ground and sky of Iowa materialized around her, her childhood home just ahead. She made her way around to the back of the house, unzipping her uniform jacket as she walked, and found herself once again glad that her sister had included the workshop in her simulated recreation.

Between the house and the nearest patch of woods was a concrete slab on which the open-air workshop sat, complete with a hefty furnace that took up a quarter of the slab.

The doctor stepped up onto the concrete, letting her bag of supplies fall onto the scuffed-up wooden table with a metallic thud. She slid off her jacket and discarded it next, quickly double-checked with the computer that the door was locked, then put on some country music and put up her hair.

She described a template to the computer, two types of beads. One would hold half-pearls and both would be carved to look like waves. The computer produced holographic beads made from wood and the Doctor sat with a dremel perfecting the angles of the metal waves, smoothing out the sides and getting it to the right thickness.

“Computer…” Emily wondered aloud, wanting to curse herself for not having thought to ask Wright, but also suspecting it might be in the database, “Do you know the Captain’s wrist measurement?” Of course, it did. She measured her wooden beads, did a bit of math, then shortened the non-pearl-holding one a bit.

With the beads done she set up a wooden frame and began tamping loose clay into it with a piece of 1×4. She set the beads in the middle, then used a thin rod to poke pour holes through the mold. She put the top half of the frame on, and repeated the process by tamping more clay down over the beads.

She flipped the apparatus over and told the computer to teleport out the wooden beads, gleefully retrieving the chunk of pure silver from her bag and tossing it in the firing bucket.

Fortunately the holo-furnace was always going so she didn’t have to wait for it to heat up like the real thing. She stuck the silver right into the furnace rack, wielding long metal tongs and industrial oven mitts.

While waiting on that the Doctor took a seat at the table to retrieve the other real item from the bag she’d brought with her, a satin pouch full of precious nacre pearls from a ‘particular’ Risan beach, or so she was told. She carefully laid them out, thinking aloud, “I’m gonna have to cut these in half..”

As she was trying to think of what to use, she wondered, “Computer, can you do that?” It replied with a beep, and the pearls flickered before reappearing in halves. How… unsettling. Humbling, maybe. Definitely convenient. It was hard not to imagine what it would look like if the computer bisected a person that cleanly, but the Doctor managed to distract herself by switching to the next song.

She slipped back on her oversized oven-mitts, this time also donning a pair of protective dark glasses. She retrieved the bucket of molten silver with her long tongs, carefully pouring it into the clay mold with a cheerful whistle. Feeling alone, she found herself talking to her tools, and told the bucket it was doing a nice job.

After enough time had passed Emily cracked open the wooden frame of the mold, dusting away chunks of clay until she could pull out the silver beads. She examined them thoughtfully before setting them aside, then began the process again by tamping down more clay over the wooden beads. While one set of beads would cool she worked on the one before, shaving off the pour hole lines while also individualizing the choppiness of the waves on each bead.

When she had enough of the beads she sat at the work table with a note of finality, everything gathered in front of her. She took one of the beads meant to hold the pearls and carefully shaved away at the inside of the setting with the dremel until she could pop the pearl in. She pinched the wave-shaped prongs down around the pearl, careful not to mar the metal while also ensuring the pearl would never escape.

When the beads were done the Doctor pulled another item from her bag of tricks, a spool of flat silver wire. Using a wire cutter and some pliers, she made small loops to connect the beads of the bracelet together. All said and done it laid flat and was about ⅛ to ¼ inch thick, with the finished product looking a choppy silver glimpse of the ocean offering up its pearls. It clasped with a magnet, and Emily was pretty proud of it.

“Computer, create a piece of paper and a pen,” she flipped the bracelet so it sat back-up, and tapped the pen thoughtfully to her chin. She carefully wrote out, in her best calligraphy, Love ~ Alexis + Kate ~ Forever, with the date that made the pearls so ‘particular’ in a heart-symbol in the center. She had the computer project the engraving onto the metal, then carved it out by hand across the 5 center beads with a diamond-tipped pen so she could touch up her own handwriting.

Finally, she carefully set her creation in the last real item in her bag of tricks–a white satin-bottomed jewelry box. She then set the box in the bottom of her burlap craft bag which she tucked under her arm. The program faded out and metal walls reappeared. The Doctor unlocked the door, heading out to find Alexis.

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Duty to the Xov
Posted on August 31st, 2019 by Kathryn Harper

The Xovul officer, formerly a prisoner aboard the Federation starship Atlantis, now stood on the bridge of the Ykavosh’s flagship, holding the weapon of his dead commander. At its essence, the weapon was simply a spear, but technologically, it was much more than that, a highly-advanced device containing several ways of killing an opponent. Symbolically, the spear was an honor only afforded to decorated field commanders, and the officer still did not find himself worthy to hold it. The human that insisted he take it said that the Ykavosh demanded that it be delivered to him, so that duty he would perform, and here he stood, about to complete it.

Something was not quite right, though. He knew that he did not really feel like himself, but attributed it to his capture and imprisonment, which was a blow to his morale despite the good treatment he had received aboard Atlantis. He could have done without seeing that traitorous heretic scum that now called himself Vance, though; that human had worked among them for years, claiming to follow the Xov, and only now revealed himself to have never believed, likely to endear himself to his own kind again to save his skin during the battle. Pathetic.

Vance… the encounter with him was short, but he remembered waking up in a small room, possibly an interrogation chamber. It would make sense that the Federation would want to question him, but why had he been asleep in the first place? Had they drugged him?

The Ykavosh nodded with pride and extended his hand, expecting to be given the spear. “You have done well to survive and deliver this weapon to me, away from the unwashed hands of the Federation. They do not comprehend its worth or significance, and allowing them to keep it as a trophy would be an unforgivable insult.”

This defeat was his fault, and he leads you into ruin. The best thing for all is to kill the Ykavosh.

The officer blinked several times and took a deep breath, tightening his grip on the spear, wondering where that thought had come from. He could no more kill the Ykavosh than he could kill himself; such thoughts were against everything he believed. Straightening his posture, he started to raise his arm to place the spear in the Ykavosh’s extended hand and fulfil his duty.

The Xov itself has failed you. Kill the Ykavosh with the spear, now!

His arm stopped moving as he gasped in surprise. Whose voice was that in his head? It was not his. And questioning the Xov? He had never done so before.

The Ykavosh’s eyes narrowed as he asked, “What is wrong? You have done the Xovul a great service today by returning this to us. Give it to me and complete your duty.”

All Xovul will benefit if you run him through!

He fell to one knee, suddenly breathing heavily and astonished at how much he now wanted to kill the leader of the entire military sect of his society. Fighting the intense urge took every ounce of willpower he had, and his breaths acquired an undercurrent of guttural growls. One of the bridge officers, a doctor, rushed to his side, but he pushed the doctor away and regained his feet, then spoke through clenched teeth, “I try to obey.”

“You will obey,” came the Ykavosh’s assertive reply. “You have not yet earned the right to wield that weapon.”

What are you waiting for? Kill him, now!

“NO! TO BOTH OF YOU!” he roared. Security officers drew their sidearms, but hesitated as he waved the spear at them, fully aware and respectful of the weapon’s capabilities.

“You overstep your place in the world,” the Ykavosh asserted. “That is an irrational act, so you clearly need help. The Federation must have done something to you. Give me the spear, and you will be helped.”

Yes, give him the spear! RIGHT IN THE FACE!

“Help… yes, I need help,” he panted, still brandishing the spear, turning it to slowly point at the Ykavosh. A war raged in his mind between his usual self and this new insurgency that sought to topple everything he held dear, and he started to wonder if he had the strength to win it. “Help me, please.”

“I will. Put the weapon down, and I will personally see to you getting the help you need.” The Ykavosh took a step forward.

Fire the lightning! KILL THE YKAVOSH.

“No! Stay back! BE QUIET! The re-education camps are not help!” The Ykavosh and the security officers paused as he waved the spear at them, eyes wide and wild as his chest heaved. The voice in his head thundered, and his will began to falter. Perhaps the voice was right, and the Ykavosh had brought this defeat upon them. But how could the Xov have failed them in this way? The code of beliefs that governed every aspect of their lives was infallible… or at least he had believed it to be up to this moment in his life.

QUIT STALLING! Kill him now now NOW NOW NOW NOW

“SHUT UP!” No one else in the room had spoken, so the Ykavosh gave his security officers a quick glance. As they started to raise their weapons, he lifted the spear and extended it straight toward the Ykavosh. Its tip trembled in the air as his arm shook. “Weapons down! I will kill him!” he yelled, and they complied.

“You will not kill me,” the Ykavosh confidently stated as he stared down the length of the deadly weapon. “Your duty is to the Xov, and you will perform it.”

It is your duty to the Xovul to kill him kill kill kill KILL KILL KILL

“My duty,” he quietly confirmed through haggard breaths as he lowered the spear and turned its tip toward himself, “is to the Xov.” The Xovul officer pressed the button to activate the lightning.

A white-hot flash, then merciful oblivion. The voice was finally quiet.

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Blue Clouds
Posted on August 28th, 2019 by Kathryn Harper

by Kuari and Kathryn Harper

In the aftermath of the battle at the Xovul station with sufficient repairs made, the USS Atlantis sailed smoothly through slipstream towards Trondheim. First Officer Kuari had the bridge, having caught up with reports and the status of repairs since being released from sickbay. She lay prone across her backless seat to the right of center, staring ahead at the slipstream tunnel on the main viewer. It wasn’t at all like warp with the stars streaking by. Even though they were going exponentially faster than warp, the effect seemed slower and more relaxed, a calm passing of blue clouds. A freeze-frame of it reminded Kuari of looking into the detailed irises of Lt. Commander T’Lira’s eyes.

Kuari shifted an elbow on the firm front edge of her seat. Further back the seat was softer, and she was especially glad for it with the discomfort in her belly from her injury. Starfleet’s top doctors had healed her up and this gave her peace of mind, but it would take some time before it stopped reminding her of what had happened on the Xovul station.

Her right eye shifted to the ready room door. Captain Harper had disappeared beyond it some time ago, and Kuari thought it a good time to check in with her. She turned her head towards Commander Wright, carefully stepping over and off her seat. “You have the bridge, Alexis.” She was aware of Wright’s professional confirmation in the back of her mind, but her thoughts were already on their captain as she made her way a bit slower on all fours than usual towards the ready room door.

In the ready room, Atlantis’s captain was also watching the slipstream effect out the window behind her desk. Her mind had wandered away from the after-action report she was preparing for Admiral Blackthorne, and the serenity of the view was a welcome diversion from worrying about her injured crew members and what she had been forced to subject them to aboard that Xovul shipyard, along with the pending task of writing letters to the families of those they had lost. Captains tended to stare out their ready room windows in thought, perhaps searching for an answer out in the void, but Kathryn Harper was no closer to whatever she sought when the door chime startled her. With a deep breath, she turned to the door and answered, “Come in!”

Kuari’s practiced eyes were already focused at Harper as the doors swished open. Seeing her looking back told her it was probably a good time, so she walked in all the way to the desk so the door would close beyond the length of her tail. Sitting on the floor, the tail wrapped tightly around her paws. She was still eye level with Harper and she offered a small smile to her friend, a contrast to her professional greeting. After Kuari’s last mission, she knew Kate had worried about her, and they hadn’t yet had a chance to speak in private. “Captain.”

Still grateful to see Kuari back on her feet, Harper subconsciously smiled back and lowered the formality with her reply. “Hi, Kuari! How are you feeling?”

Carefully taking in a deep breath, Kuari’s thoughts turned inward. “Not my best, but good, considering. I still need time.” Her eyes met Harper’s. “I’m no stranger to battle, but being trapped in that room, outnumbered with the Xovul against our Marines…well, I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it out alive.”

Kate’s face sank at seeing her usually unflappably optimistic friend in such a state, and Kate found herself fighting suddenly misty eyes with several quick blinks. “I am sorry, Kuari,” she quietly began, her tone having shifted considerably from her hopeful greeting, “I never want to send any of my people into such hellish situations.”

The Rucara’s heavy eye ridges lowered in a frown, and her chest puffed out a little. She didn’t expect Kate to feel responsible for what happened. “I hope you’re not apologizing for sending me. I would have rather gone through that over another of our Marines. I’m strong, and I’m proud to have brought the Federation’s justice upon the Xovul!”

That was a bit more of the Kuari she knew, and it did actually help Kate to see it, if only slightly, but her voice remained resigned. “No, sending you gave us a better chance of success, and I hate that it sometimes just comes down to cold, heartless numbers. But it never gets easier seeing your people get hurt, or worse… and having to send them anyway, knowing they may not come back. It just pains me to see one of my best friends suffering, regardless of your willingness to do so.”

Kuari nodded her understanding, her posture and expression softening. After a few moments of gazing at Kate’s face and studying the pain she saw there, she added in a resolute tone, “Put the blame on the Xovul where it belongs, not on yourself.”

She had always admired Kuari’s way of putting things right into perspective, but in this case, it was not a new one. Kate did blame the Xovul, and as someone who prided herself on her diplomatic acumen, that was not a welcome thought. She even now accepted that no level of diplomacy short of total capitulation to their strict belief system would have avoided this confrontation, but doubt occasionally surfaced as she replayed their first contact in her mind’s theater. With a deep sigh, Kate answered, “Oh, I do blame them. They have put us both in sickbay now, after all. I just hope this was enough to convince them that an all-out war with the Federation is a bad idea for both of us.”

In a perfect universe, Kuari would want to avoid war, too. Her species in general was peaceful, and their ideals matched up well with the Federation’s. Some species were driven by instinct and were bred into a culture that praised aggression, however, and they could only view peace as weakness to be preyed upon. Kuari had to learn this fact as she grew up, and she imagined Kate and most other peaceful people had to as well. Still, they had to try. “I hope so, too.”

Kate looked down at her desk and, remembering the experience of seeing the bloody battle play out on the bridge’s main viewer along with its deeply unsettling effect on her, quietly confessed, “Watching that battle through Colonel Wolfe’s helmet cam, the sheer brutality of it… I do not know how you Marines cope with it, Kuari.” Marine, in this case, being a mindset, since Kuari had transferred to regular Starfleet when she was promoted to XO, but they say that there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine. “I have taken lives, of course. Shooting down another fighter usually kills the pilot if they are unable to eject, but it is so much more impersonal than what you have to go through.”

Nodding again in full agreement, Kuari found herself recalling her training. “Yes, it is. Not only do Marines train in physical routines, we do it with a specific mindset. When ordered to attack, the enemy has no value, and simply must be neutralized.” Kuari smiled a little, attempting to soften her statement. “An even greater challenge is being able to switch that off and resume your normal life, full of compassion.”

Kate wasn’t sure whether she should be envious of Kuari’s ability to compartmentalize that aspect of herself, or grateful that being properly horrified by the realities of face-to-face military combat had never been trained out of her. Regardless, she was thankful that there were people like Kuari who could maintain that duality and still somehow remain well-adjusted and moral, so that was worth reinforcing. “And you succeed admirably, Kuari. Thank you.”

This time Kuari’s grin was broad, stretching back behind her big eyes. It was brief, though. “Someone must protect those I care about. It might as well be me. It’s do or die, sometimes. I have to keep that scary image of my friends dying from becoming a reality. Despite my training though, this was very real, and if the Marines didn’t put everything they had into this battle, our mission could have failed.” Kuari dipped her head to Kate. “I’m the one who should be thanking you. Just talking to you has helped.”

“No thanks are necessary, and it has helped me, too.” Adding a hopeful smile, Kate added, “You will let me know when you feel up to going for a swim together, yes?”

Kuari brightened and opened her mouth wide, but she stopped herself. She was going to say that now would be a great time, but when she thought about how carried away she tended to get in the water, swimming would probably not count as “light duty”. Smiling sheepishly, she replied, “I definitely will.”

Turning to gaze at the ready room window, Kuari watched as the clouds of the slipstream vortex wall floated by for a moment. The view had come to make her feel safe, and she still marveled at the power the technology granted them, being able to travel so much further than many species could. Even with that power, they were still mortal and could die. Opportunities they never believed possible were presented to them now though, and their decisions could have an even greater effect because of it.

Taking in another careful deep breath, Kuari’s head swiveled back to Harper, her eyes turning down with curiosity at her desk. “How goes the report?”

It took Kate a moment to remember the unfinished work on her terminal after the heavy discussion. “It is… strangely difficult to write for a successful operation. It feels like every sentence should have a footnote containing a caveat, even though that is not true. But, we accomplished our mission, and I know the Admiral will be pleased with our performance.”

Kuari nodded. “I read the reports, what happened while I was in sickbay.” She smiled proudly. “T’Lira handled the situation on the station well. We secured it and captured all the civilians. Mission accomplished, even though neither Wolfe nor I were conscious to see it through.”

“You did your part, nonetheless.” Kate turned toward the terminal and tapped the screen a few times, making minor adjustments to a couple of things that caught her eye. “Everyone did wonderfully, and part of writing these reports is conveying that fact to command. We have four ships full of Starfleet crews that gave their all for this result, and four captains making sure that the admiralty knows it.”

The proud posture returned to Kuari’s sleek form. “We did good. Judging by the Xovul’s behavior and what we’ve heard of them, it’s about time someone showed them decency towards other species. Our alliance will grow with others in the region.”

“Yes, from the Kvolir to the Free Fleets, and perhaps to even those we have yet to meet, it must be good to see someone standing up to the Xovul. And as for the Xovul, I hope that our sparing of their civilians will not go unnoticed.” Kate refrained from mentioning that she also hoped that the aggressive species would not see that as a weakness to exploit in potential future conflicts, and instead offered, “If all goes well, perhaps more peaceful missions await us.”

“We can only hope,” Kuari replied. She was happy to see the more positive side of her friend and captain. Her eyes dropped again to the report. “Also…unless we’re ordered somewhere new, I think the crew could use some leave after a battle like this.”

It was one of Kuari’s duties as XO to report on crew morale, and she was right; it had been a significant length of time since their last shore leave, and the crew had been through a lot of stressful situations. As she leaned forward and pinched her chin, the captain’s mind briefly wandered to thoughts of spending vacation time with her wife, or to hosting one of her beloved crew functions. Kate admitted to herself that she could certainly use some true leisure time, and if she was feeling that way, then the crew must be long overdue for it. “I will include the request in the report. It depends, of course, on the Xovul reaction to our mission, but Atlantis has been away a long time, and we are not the only ship in the fleet.”

Kuari nodded, considering. “We could start at Trondheim. Communication has mostly been war talk, and we could use time to catch up with them. Celebrations of victory together are good at uniting peoples. Atlantis would be in orbit in case the Xovul decide to come back, and we could quickly mobilize if necessary.”

“Trondheim would be a start, yes,” Kate nodded. “But it would hardly be a real vacation since we have been out on the frontier for almost eleven months. I would like to see us get some time closer to home.”

“Yes!” Kuari agreed whole-heartedly. The idea of being in the heart of secured space was very attractive to her in her compromised condition, and comforting thoughts of her family back home made her smile. “That does sound very good.”

“Then, I should get back to this report,” the captain stated, gesturing at her terminal screen. “For some reason, the idea of including a request for shore leave has renewed my enthusiasm for completing it.”

The Rucara stood back up on all fours. “I’ll let you get to it, then.” Dismissed, Kuari left the ready room and returned to the bridge. With a smile, Kate regarded the serene cerulean slipstream effect for a moment longer before diving back into her work.

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Consulting Exoimmunologist Part 2
Posted on August 3rd, 2019 by Emilaina Acacia

The attack was finally over. In the medical research lab stacks of petri dishes labeled with names of the dead contained cellular residue scraped off the walls of the Xovul shipyard after good Starfleet men and women had been vaporized.

And for what?

After the chaos in sickbay died down and Doctor Acacia had done her number of examinations in the morgue she finally returned to the lab, haggard. Her feet screaming with ache, her head fogged with sorrow, she never even saw the very short Human lab tech trying to get her attention and ran chest-first into the girl, knocking her over.

“Oh, god, I’m so sorry,” the Doctor cringed, grabbing Lilly’s arm to pull her back to her feet. The flustered Ensign tried to apologize back, which Emily gently scolded her for.

“There– um, a message came through for you a couple hours ago, we must have missed it in the chaos,” Lilly chirped after the Doctor as she began heading for her office, “It was, ah, Starfleet Medical? A Doctor.. Shippo? Or something like that.”

For just a moment Emily frowned, then her eyes widened as she realized what it was probably about. She doubled her pace, power-walking into her office and scrambling to her chair as the door swished shut behind her.

She pulled up her console immediately and was met with a feed of an empty hospital bed. She stared at it, trying not to imagine the worst, but there were nurses changing sheets that looked like they had blood on them…

A few people passed by the console before anyone noticed Emily. Finally a nurse called for the elder doctor, and a smiling Doctor Shiplan appeared on screen shortly after. Emily couldn’t help her visible concern, though his smile did start to put her at ease.

“Tell me it’s good news,” Emily shamefully pleaded, the lifeless faces of the unlucky Marines still burned into her vision.

Doctor Shiplan wordlessly typed into the console on his end, and Emily’s feed split in two. On one side the Commander still watched for her reaction and on the other, a new feed appeared of a blue-skinned baby in a NICU box with wires and tubes sticking out of him. There was a beep from the monitors and Emily watched his chest rise as he took a breath. She gasped, covering her mouth before allowing herself to tearfully smile.

“It began about five hours ago, wrapped up about one hour ago. I understand you’ve been engaged,” Doctor Shiplan began, “We were unable to stop premature labor and had to terminate the pregnancy via emergency cesarean,” Emily’s eyes were fixed on the little blue baby, studying every detail of the white and blue markings on his skin, the antenna on his face, his silver-blonde tuft of hair…

“But it’s only…” Emily mumbled.

“Yes, a little over a month premature by our calculations, maybe two given the different species’ gestation times, but he’s doing very well thus far. Mom made it too,” the older Human doctor mused, tapping at his console again. This time a feed appeared of the more Human-looking mother, sleeping in surgical recovery. Monitors next to her showed reasonable vitals and Emily slowly sank back into her chair, sighing with relief.

“We did it,” Emily breathed, almost not believing her eyes after the day she’d had.

“You know I told Doctor Mars, our genetic specialist, she could learn a thing or two from you. Her report didn’t have a birth plan near as thorough as yours. When we found you were busy I was stood there flipping through it, I went–Wait, nevermind! We had a plan for emergency surgery!.. and everything else!” Doctor Shiplan laughed, “But I joke, Doctor Mars was on call so she actually assisted in the birth. It wasn’t the smoothest, but I don’t anticipate long-term complications.”

“Well, I was hopeful,” Emily nodded thoughtfully, thinking back to her report–she remembered in medical school when they’d gone over baking ‘contingency plans’ into incomplete case studies, and she remembered the words of one of her favorite teachers, ‘Plan for a pregnancy to end the moment it starts. The mother will be much more eager for it than you.’

“Ah, yes. I won’t hold you up, I’m sure you’ve got plenty going on up there, but everyone on the team will be getting the good news sometime today,” Doctor Shiplan tapped his console again, removing the splitscreen on Emily’s end.

“Thank you, Doctor,” Emily nodded.

Doctor Shiplan offered one last smile, reminding her, “Get your part of the completed case study to me by the end of the month. If you have anything else for the family get that to me as well. You have until our patients are discharged to request additional sample analysis or test results.”

As the screen went dark Emily sank so far into her chair that she began to slide out of it. She hovered there for a moment, letting her neck stretch out as far as it could. A beep at the door signaled someone requesting entry.

“Come in,” Emily called, sitting back up.

“Doctor, your presence is requested in sick–” one of the lab techs spoke through the speaker, and Emily was already on her feet.

“Alright,” she replied as the door’s opening swish cut off the end of the young man’s sentence.

“Good news?” Lilly chimed up to ask hopefully from her station where she stood processing samples through a machine.

Emily paused her walk towards the door and looked around at all of the people in the room. Per Lilly’s prompting they had all paused to look at her, and she felt somewhat on the spot. She could feel it in her bones, though, these people needed some good news.

“Oh, a, uh… a baby boy was born in San Francisco today,” she began. She felt a gentle wash of emotions as her lab techs began to feel wonder and hope and she was emboldened to grandstand just a bit, “With genes from five different Federation species. Which was.. a challenge, there were over fifteen Doctors working on this case. He was premature, but he’s doing well.”

Everyone smiled to themselves, and Emily tilted her head thoughtfully, “Lilly, do you remember when I had you analyze all those blood samples from the cargo drop for me?”

“Oh, like… six months ago? I do, actually,” Lilly tapped her chin.

“And Ethan,” Emily mused, “You double-checked my math on my second immune factor report, you remember that?”

“Of course,” Ethan grinned.

“Well… I know our work is hard sometimes, especially on days like today,” Emily swallowed, feeling every inch of the emotional rollercoaster she was taking her subordinates on rattle down her spine, “But we are both the first and last lines of defence for life. We invent new ways to save lives, and the people we have to bury fight so that we can keep that up.”

“What’s his name?” Lilly wondered aloud, breaking a brief but heavy silence.

“You know, I didn’t check what they picked, but I heard they were planning on Xin,” Emily chuckled. She couldn’t help but smile, feeling the renewed vigor of the techs as they drank in the sweet hope that new life brings. She bobbed her head, turning to head out the door towards sickbay, “Good work, everyone.”

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Weighty Words
Posted on July 10th, 2019 by Diego Ricardo Navarro

by Emily Acacia and Diego Ricardo Navarro

Two grey Andalusian horses galloped through a high river valley of northern Spain, their riders exchanging glances as they passed back and forth. Diego Ricardo Navarro pulled alongside his companion, Emily Acacia, and lingered a moment before retaking the lead, although they were not racing. She was still a mystery to him, but that was part of her allure; they had danced at the ship’s anniversary party, and although they had danced before, this time was different. It had struck him that for the first time he’d seen her in something pretty, even at prior parties she was usually somewhat conservative and closed-off.

In their conversation and dance, Diego Ricardo had found her to be freer than ever before, and felt like there had been a spark between them. That spark was accompanied by something else that he just couldn’t put a finger on, but it wasn’t enough to deter him from finally asking her to a date on the holodeck. Despite seeming surprised, Emily had fortunately accepted, and here they were in the foothills of the Pyrenees, their holographic horses trotting to a stop at the riverside to drink. He hopped down and offered her a hand, though he was certain based on his observation of her riding ability that she did not need it.

Her feet hit the ground before she even noticed his extended hand and she smiled, covering her mouth to half-hide her blush. She followed close by his side, spinning to take in the scenery, “I’ve never seen Earth like this. Not many mountains in Iowa. It’s really something.”

With a smirk, he dropped his offered hand and took a few steps up the river, the familiar landscape triggering fond memories. “Sí, it really is. This is not far from my family’s home, so I grew up out here.” Diego Ricardo removed his riding gloves and, after stashing them in a pocket, knelt by the river and dipped his hand in the cool water, idly wondering if the holodeck got the taste right.

Emily watched him carefully, shifting back and forth on her feet once as she kept trying to convince herself to relax. She stepped up to the river, scooping up a stone and flicking it across the water with a good three skips. As she grabbed a second stone she summoned her inner boldness with a small smirk, asking jovially, “So.. tell me about your ideal woman.”

The question caught him off guard, so he smiled and chuckled as he shook the water off his hand, thinking a moment while searching her expression. Occasionally, women he had dated in the past had asked him this question, and he found that their expectations were that his answer would describe them. Emily seemed more genuine in asking than they had, but he was not sure why. Diego Ricardo stood and took a step closer to her before truthfully answering, “She must be interesting to me. Captivating, in such a way that I find myself needing to know more about her. Beauty,” he gestured to emphasize the word, his hand trailing through the air as if it were tracing her form, “is ephemeral. But witty, smart, interesting people tend to always be so.”

Emily’s smile grew, her eyes trailing his hand through the air, “Charming,” she mused with a smirk, grabbing another rock and palming it as she looked over the water.

“Just the truth, and merely my ideal,” he answered with a chuckle. “I answered you, so you must tell me about your ideal man.”

“There is no ideal man,” Emily wagged her eyebrows conspiratorially, offering a cheeky grin as he laughed in agreement. She then shrugged, doubling back with a more serious answer, “I think that’s a good way to put it—someone who holds my interest. Someone funnier than me,” she half-joked, “Someone who looks at me the way my father looks at my mother.”

“If that is anything like the way my father looks at my mother, then we would all be lucky to have someone like that.” He picked up a worn stone and flicked it across the water, netting three hops; it had clearly been a while since he’d skipped rocks. With a wry grin, he added, “After all, they had eight children, so there must have been something to it.”

Emily flicked a stone and completely whiffed it, the rock landing without a skip and tossing two drops of simulated water a foot upward. She watched the ripples in the water for a moment, her smile gone as her thoughts refused to silence themselves. She inhaled sharply as she could sense that he had expected her to laugh, Diego Ricardo could definitely tell something was on her mind, her eyes darting over and meeting his. She pursed her lips, giving a slow nod, “I… should probably tell you something.”

There it was, the mystery that accompanied the spark between them, or at least he suspected that what she wanted to say would shed some light on the subject. That unknown was just as much of a component to him asking her out as the spark was, so he held off on throwing the rock he’d picked up and turned to give her his undivided attention. “By all means, please do.”

Emily took a deep breath, already partially dedicating her attention to blocking out his emotions, or perhaps the rejection she half expected, so she could focus on her words. They were clear—rehearsed, even, but that never made it easier when it came time to take the plunge, “I’m asexual,” she began, and went on without letting him express his confusion too much, “I don’t experience sexual attraction—I don’t want sex, or particularly like it,” she nodded slowly, powering through the nerves, “I do like you, just.. in a different way, I suppose. but…” she waved a hand, having hit the end of her rehearsed words and searching for her intended ending, “That’s an uncrossable bridge for some people. Which is okay–that’s just… that’s,” she couldn’t help a small laugh, “Why you thought I was holding back.”

Her confession was a surprise, but not a shock. He, like many, was tangentially aware of asexuality, but it had certainly not come to mind as a possibility for what this mystery could have been. Regardless of its implications, the admission was clearly a big thing for her, so he knew that his reaction had to be one that would set her at ease. Offering a warm, reassuring smile, Diego Ricardo quietly answered, “Why, Emily, if that is all that you were holding back, then I’m relieved. It felt like you were going to tell me you had some terminal illness.”

Emily’s eyebrows raised and it took her a moment to believe him, but her sixth sense confirmed what her eyes saw, he was being genuine. Relieved, she cracked a small smile, shrugging and managing a quip, “Well, I do plan on dying at some point. I’d hope you do as well,” finally able to relax, it was like her whole demeanor changed. She grabbed another rock and flicked it, sending it across the water with a small, contemplative smile on her face.

“Of course not, I’m a fighter pilot,” he laughed, and she did as well, finally free and genuine. Diego Ricardo needed some time to think about the notion of a relationship without sex, but the idea of dwelling on it now seemed a bit premature, not to mention presumptuous, and the revelation had done nothing to his interest in knowing her better. “As to what that means for us? This is simply a first date, so it is too soon to know what ‘us’ even means. Regardless, it is not something that would ever cause me to judge you negatively. It’s just you, sí?”

Emily’s smile grew sideways into a crooked, goofy smirk. She nodded again, turning to face him, “Exactly. It’s just the sort of thing that’s best to get out of the way, eh.. before it comes up,” she studied him with that glint of intrigue in her eye, fascinated by the way he seemed to think about things so pragmatically. She scrunched her nose, playfully prodding, “I didn’t even say there has to be an ‘us’.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not. Who knows what the future may bring?” His eyes matched the glint in hers before adding, “Besides, you did accept my invitation here. To tell me this about yourself couldn’t be the only reason for that, or at least I suspect as such, not having your Betazoid gifts.”

“Of course not,” Emily giggled, idling back in the direction of the horses, eyeing the village up the path. Obviously prodding, she added, “I’ve also never been to Spain.”

“You still haven’t,” he answered, following her lead back to the horses. “But this will have to do, at least for now.” Diego Ricardo reached up to the saddle horn with one hand and turned to her before placing a foot in the stirrup. Emily was still enigmatic and captivating, and no matter what may come, it was his gentlemanly duty to show her a good time. Flashing a charming smile, he asked, “Would you care to ride with me to the village for a nice dinner, and then if the mood takes us, dancing in tonight’s festival?”

Emily was back on her horse in one smooth motion, having been riding almost as long as she could walk. She grinned widely in response and gave a nod, reflexively reaching up to twist a curly lock of black hair that was flapping into her eyes back behind her ear. She couldn’t help the admiration showing on her face as she watched him step up onto his own horse, “That sounds perfect.”

Diego Ricardo took the reins and looked ahead to the village, then back at Emily, meeting her eyes before saying, “Then let’s see where this road takes us, shall we?” Time for thinking about this would come later, but for now, nothing had changed. He flicked the reins and his feet to urge the horse into a trot, and shortly after, she was alongside.

Without the weight of unspoken words on Emily’s shoulders, the two had an amazing time. She nearly choked on Spanish food she described as ‘way too spicy’, and she only slipped once on the dancefloor. The next day she was caught smiling at nothing two separate times by her lab techs and barely managed to fend off their curiosity.

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Putting It All on the Table
Posted on July 3rd, 2019 by Diego Ricardo Navarro

by Jester and Zorro

In the lull after the first battle at Trondheim, following his harrowing adventure and short stay in sickbay, Diego Ricardo Navarro, callsign Zorro, found himself unable to sleep. Before he knew it, he had wandered into the assault bay to acquaint himself even further with the quirks of his new fighter. Expecting the place to be empty, he was surprised when he walked in on Suzuki, clad only in shorts and a tank top, in the midst of washing her Mustang.

Kimiko Suzuki, callsign Jester, looked up at Navarro as he approached, holding a dripping wet sponge in her hand, clearly surprised at the intrusion. She cocked her head at him with a questioning expression, and silence lingered between them until she finally said, “Good to see you on your feet, Zorro.” She resumed her work, resisting the urge to cast curious glances in his direction.

“Sí, I’m fine, but after today, I wholeheartedly agree.” He had been shot down, which was always a blow to a pilot’s ego, the brush with death notwithstanding. Then there was the mandatory sickbay visit after ejecting from a fighter—he was uninjured, but pilots had a saying that there were only two ways to leave a doctor’s office, either fine or grounded, so it wasn’t his favorite place to be, and he wasn’t even lucky enough to be seen by his favorite doctor. “Couldn’t sleep, so I’m here for… I don’t know, to see my new Mustang, I suppose.” Eyeing the sponge in her hand, he added, “Washing the old bird?”

She nodded, continuing to scrub. “Shinigami served me well today, so I am showing my appreciation.” Brushing stray hair away from her face with her forearm, she paused and looked over at him. “I’m sorry for the loss of your ship, but it could have been any of us. It was a hard-fought battle today.” She leaned back to survey her work with a sigh. “I’m almost finished, though. Perhaps you’d like to play some pool when I’m done?”

“Might as well, since sleep is off the table. And gracias, Jester; the León was a good ship and I’ll miss her.” He gestured to the unnamed fighter he’d flown back into the battle after being beamed aboard Atlantis. “But now I must learn to dance with a new partner. There’s not much I can do with her sitting on the deck, though, so do you need a hand?”

Kimiko couldn’t help but perk an eyebrow at him. “You… want to help me wash my Mustang?”

“Sure, why not?” he shrugged. “It gets us to the pool table faster.”

She couldn’t help but accept his unassailable logic, and working together, they quickly completed the job. Kimiko gave Shinigami an affectionate pat as they walked toward the pilot rec room, which was, of course, empty at this time of night. Diego Ricardo racked the balls for 9-ball while Kimiko replicated a pair of stiff drinks before returning to the table and carefully placing the cue ball for her break. Just as she was lining up her shot, Navarro interrupted from his relaxed position leaning against the wall, watching her as he casually sipped his drink. “Care to make it interesting?”

Without shifting from her position bent over the table, she glanced over at him. “What did you have in mind, Zorro? Haven’t you already lost enough today?” Her expression revealed nothing, but he knew her well enough to detect the teasing tone in her voice.

He smirked at the jab, then casually offered, “My new Mustang could use a wash, and since you’re so good at that, I thought you might be the right woman for the job, if you lose. But if you win, I’ll wash Shinigami for you after the next flight.”

She paused, considering. Washing her Mustang after a battle was a kind of ritual for her, but it couldn’t hurt to make this bet. Standing up, she pounded her drink and went back to the replicator for another pair. “Very well. You’re on. Best of five.” She returned with the drinks and once again leaned over the table, carefully lined up her shot, and broke to begin the first game.

Two games and drinks a piece later, Diego Ricardo eyed a juicy combination on the 4-ball that would send the 9-ball into the corner pocket. It was not a trivial shot due to the distances and angles involved, but he was confident that he could make it. “It all comes down to this, Jester,” he taunted, grinning and gesturing at the table with his cue. “I think that you’re going to look damn good washing my Mustang.” He leaned over the table and, after a short setup, made the shot, then looked back up at her with a smug smile.

Kimiko groaned and shook her head, then downed the rest of her drink, the alcohol lowering her inhibitions and defenses. “Guess I’ll be washing that unnamed señorita after all! Assuming you don’t get her shot down first.” Her face was a tipsy pink as she, the one nicknamed for her humorless demeanor, let out the tiniest of giggles at her own joke.

He smirked and finished his own drink. “I’ll try to wait until you’re done, so at least she’ll be clean when she goes down.”

She thought for a moment before responding. “You know, everyone knows you’re a ladies’ man, Zorro. Honestly, I’m surprised you didn’t insist on something like me washing it in my underwear while you watched.” Then, for the first time, Kimiko looked her colleague up and down and truly evaluated him as a man. “Actually, I might’ve played harder, if that had been on the table,” she added with a smirk of her own. “Watching you wash Shinigami in your skivvies might’ve been a better incentive.”

Both hands on his upright cue, Zorro leaned against the table and inclined his chin a bit as his friend’s bold flirtation caused him to regard her in a new light. It wasn’t that he’d never noticed her as a woman before, but that his type tended to be more traditionally feminine, and she was, as a fellow pilot, like one of the guys to him. Now, as his dark eyes took in what the tank-top and shorts displayed of her toned, lithe climber’s body, he had to admit that he was intrigued at where this would go. “Alright, Jester, double or nothing. Loser washes the winner’s Mustang in their underwear, while the winner gets to watch.”

She regarded him again, suddenly much more motivated to win. “I’ll take that bet, Zorro. We’re pilots, after all. We live for danger.” The corners of her mouth twitched upward as she racked the balls and they began their second set of games, this time with much more gusto given what was on the line. As they played, they continued to drink, and Kimiko continued to notice the graceful movements of Zorro’s tall, athletic body and look ever more forward to winning. What she was less conscious of was her own movements, and Zorro’s eyes on her while she played much like hers were on him. They prowled around the table like two predators circling a kill, both growing increasingly intent on victory and its spoils.

The pilots played game after game in their latest dogfight, trading wins and drinking to them, until it came to the final bout. They paused for yet another drink, both thoroughly drunk at this point and aware of the electricity in the air. Kimiko eyed him and took a deep breath, deciding to test the waters. She leaned against the table and casually commented, “You know, maybe we should just play this last game in our underwear so we can see what we’re playing for, hmm? I’ll put the prize on the table if you will, Zorro.”

“All in, then, Jester?” Diego Ricardo eyed her as he chalked his cue; this new side of her was compelling, and he definitely wanted to know what would happen next. “As you wish. I call.” Leaning the cue against the table, he pulled his t-shirt over his head and tossed it onto a nearby chair, keeping eye contact with her as he bared his well-muscled chest. Soon after, his shoes and jeans joined the shirt, leaving only his Starfleet-issue boxers. Feigning a few stretches, he nonchalantly asked, “Like what you see?”

Not to be outdone, Kimiko approached him and undressed along with him, keeping her eyes locked on his. She kicked off her shoes and slid her shorts down her legs, kicking them carelessly off to the side, discarding her tank top in a similar fashion in short order, leaving her standing in her bra and panties. “Funny. I was going to ask you the same thing.” She walked slowly around him, finally breaking eye contact to give him an appraising look. “But my answer is yes.”

“So’s mine. Perhaps you can tell.”

Kimiko could not help but smile at this. Drunk enough to not care about the consequences, she hoisted herself up so that she was sitting on the pool table. “Change of plans, then? Your prize is on the table, Zorro. If you want it…” her voice grew low and hungry, “come and claim it.”

Ordinarily, Diego Ricardo would have wordlessly accepted the invitation, but being this drunk, he first quipped, “We’ll call the game a draw,” before closing the distance to her in a single lunge, repercussions be damned. She drew him into her embrace and lips touched flesh, the electricity of the moment consuming them.

Several hours later…

Kimiko and Diego Ricardo awoke, hung over and in a tangle of limbs and naked skin, in what they soon realized was a storage room off the assault bay. “Unnnnnggggghhhhh… Did we…? We did, didn’t we.”

“We did…” Their eyes widened as memories emerged from the morning haze of the night of wild fucking, which was the correct word since what they did could not simply be called sex or lovemaking, since it was pure, primal fucking. “Whoa, we DID. We really did… was that as good for you as it was for me? Because I think that was the best I’ve ever had.”

“…Likewise.”

They slowly extricated themselves from each other and stood up, gingerly picking up and donning their discarded underwear. Diego Ricardo had to help retrieve Kimiko’s bra, which was somehow hanging from the air vent in the ceiling, gently swaying in the breeze.

“Soooo… what now?” he asked, handing Kimiko her bra.

“Now, I think we go out to the rec room and find the rest of our clothes and hope that nobody else found them first,” she replied, in her usual deadpan.

“You know what I mean.”

She turned to look him in the eye, fixing him with her serious expression. “I’m not really looking for any kind of romantic relationship, if that’s what you mean. I’m happy to just be your friend and colleague. I’ll still watch your back when we’re out there.”

“Agreed. You’re a good friend, and I truly value that, but we almost died out there yesterday, so let’s live a little. After a night like that… I have to admit, I’m wondering why we should quit? What would you say to still being friends… but with benefits?”

It was true that they had almost died, and that the past few hours had been amazing… was this really happening? “What, you mean meet up and …‘wash Mustangs’ every now and then, and nobody needs to know about it but us?”

“Well… yes, that is exactly what I mean, sí.”

“Wait, though, aren’t you sort of chasing after that doctor?”

He shrugged. “Sí, kind of, but I don’t know if she’s even interested in me, so who knows where that goes.”

She laughed, letting her guard down for a moment, which seemed a bit strange considering the fact that she was wearing nothing more than panties. She felt safe with this man, her friend, who had always had her back on their missions. Why not live a little? “Okay, Zorro. I trust you, and I think we can deal with the risks. I’m in. …Though, I think we should… do it again, since we’re sober this time.”

“¿Qué? Now?”

“Yeah. Why not? We’re already mostly naked, right?” she said with a wink, gesturing with her bra in one hand.

Without hesitation, Diego Ricardo picked up Kimiko and carried her to a supply crate on an anti-grav pallet, where they proceeded to vigorously cement their agreement. Afterward, they hastily retrieved their clothes from the rec room, high-fived, and hit the showers.

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Acacia Out
Posted on June 20th, 2019 by Emilaina Acacia

The night of Atlantis’s 22nd anniversary party…

Emily laid in her bed staring at the ceiling, a frequent feature of those sleepless nights when her mind was racing. Her heart was torn half way between joy and sorrow, her arms wrapped tightly around the pillow she had hugged to her chest.

The party had been… a lot of fun. Too much fun, maybe. She’d worn a pretty dress for the first time in years, watched a bunch of psychic bears crawl all over her XO, and danced with a boy she liked. Of course, that was the problem–or at least the source of her gnawing guilt.

A part of her wanted to talk to someone, but it wasn’t the sort of thing she thought she could talk to her sister about. Or her dad. Or Riley, or Wright, or.. anyone, really. So instead she just closed her eyes, letting her mind flip between good and bad feelings, waiting, hoping for it to stop.

—-

Over a decade ago, Earth…

Emily was sitting at a lunch table at school. She was almost done with her first year of middle school, and until that point she’d done a fairly good job of avoiding the question. Usually she could slip away or change the subject, but as Emily and her peers got older, they got more insistent on this discussion.

It was something on everyone else’s minds. Like thirst for water or hunger for food, most of the people around Emily thought about this sort of thing every day. Of course they assumed everyone experienced the world the way they did, as all kids do. It only became inconvenient when the subject was unavoidable.

“Who do you like?” Maya Williams, bubbly blue eyes and blonde pigtails, asked the girl sitting next to Emily. As Darcy set down her fork and turned bright red, Emily felt the pit of her stomach drop.

Maya and the other girls at the table squealed and prodded at Darcy while Emily was desperately looking around the room. She knew based on the way the conversation was headed that the question would come to her next, so she had to pick a name, and quickly. She thought of her friends, but immediately realized that giving any of those names was likely to make things awkward.

Her eyes settled on the half-Vulcan boy who attended the school, her shoulders relaxing a bit. Morton Byler was quiet, unassuming, probably not interested in rumors, and not someone Emily knew well… perfect.

“Come on!” Maya squealed, “We won’t tell anyone. We just wanna knooow.”

“I don’t know,” Darcy droned, looking between the three eager, prying faces. After a pause she gave up and sighed, blushing ever more, “Alright, fine,” she lowered her voice, “Morton.”

“Morton!?” Maya squealed, and Darcy flailed both arms to shush her. Maya lowered her voice as well, needling her some more.

Emily’s eyes widened, and she was becoming increasingly pale. This wasn’t good, and she only had a limited amount of time to come up with something else.

“Well.. Emily~” Maya finally relented on Darcy, turning to the panicked half-Betazoid, “You next. Who do you like?”

“Uhh…” Emily reflexively deflated. That was the wrong answer, though, because it made Maya even more excited.

“Ooh! Is it someone we know?” as Emily again looked around the room in a panic Maya gasped, mumbling, “Is it a girl~?”

Fortunately in the twenty-fourth century whether someone was into boys, girls, or others didn’t really matter to most people. The problem was the assumption that it was, by default, someone, when in truth Emily had always been much more interested in math than people.

“No one,” Emily mumbled in a feeble attempt to fend them off with honesty. The problem was, of course, that was exactly what she’d say if it was a lie to fend them off.

“Come ooon,” Maya grinned, bouncing excitedly.

Emily swallowed, then sighed. She’d summoned a name from the back of her mind, the boy she’d sat next to in science the year prior. They hardly saw each other anymore, so she figured it was a safe bet he wouldn’t be upset if he heard about it. It came out more like a question, “James Ano?”

Emily sunk into her chair, bitterly relieved for it to be over as the girls squealed their excitement.

Two years later, The Acacia Family Farm…

Emily had been actively searching for the right time for over two months. It had to be a time when her father was home, which narrowed the potential opportunities considerably, but she’d also already let several opportunities pass her by out of anxiety.

At fifteen going on sixteen, Emily was pretty much certain that she had figured out her sexuality. She knew, both from what they’d told her but also from picking up psychic signals, that the people around her all felt something she didn’t. The lingering fear keeping her from taking the plunge wasn’t a fear of rejection, rather that her parents might say something, well… ignorant.

Darokkatan, her father, sat in one of the plush chairs in the farmhouse living room reading from a PADD, the girls all sitting on the floor around the coffee table on which a mostly forgotten card game sat half-finished. Their mother Janessa was bringing finished plates of food back to the kitchen two at a time.

There was quiet, and Averi and Tori were both staring intently at Emily as they could both feel the dark cloud hovering over her head. Their father was ignoring it–he didn’t want to put pressure on his kids to share their emotions. Still, it was obvious to everyone in the room that Emily was stewing over something.

Tori reached over and grabbed Emily’s arm, giving it a squeeze. Emily looked at her smiling face and managed a small smile of her own, soaking in the silent encouragement. Finally, she stood up, taking a deep breath.

“There’s something I have to get off my chest,” Emily began slowly, choosing her words carefully. Janessa paused behind Darok’s chair to listen, and Darok let out a soft sigh of relief, setting his PADD in his lap.

“I’m asexual,” she blurted out.

Darok was the first to react, simply raising both eyebrows, nodding once, and replying in a definitive tone, “Ah. Alright.”

“What does that mean?” Janessa asked, trying not to sound worried, though her expression gave her away.

“It means she doesn’t experience sexual attraction,” Darok answered, picking back up his PADD to resume reading. As he thought about it he realized he pretty much already knew, he’d just never wanted to linger or think much on his children’s sexualities.

“Ohhhhhh,” Averi gasped, and Emily looked at her with a worried expression of her own. Seeing her sister’s distress, Averi immediately felt the need to clarify, “No, like.. I knew you weren’t straight, I mean.. I just assumed you were gay. That’s cool too, though.”

Emily relaxed visibly, letting out a breath she’d been accidentally holding, a small smile creeping onto her face in response to her sister’s reaction.

“Oh.. but you’re so young, you just haven’t met the right person yet. You don’t have to decide something like that now,” Janessa tried, in good faith, to be encouraging. Emily twinged and the other empaths in the room felt it too, all three of them turning to look at Janessa simultaneously, an often unsettling feature of living with your alien children.

“Dear,” Darok’s tone had changed slightly–the way he spoke when he was making it clear that you will listen to him was a bit closer to the voice he used with patients. He was gentle but completely firm, no one daring to interrupt him, “I’ll provide you some reading materials, okay?”

“Yes, I’ll..” Janessa trailed off, waving her hands to dismiss the thought before going over to hug Emily tightly, “Well you know I love you, no matter what.”

Emily returned her hug, then another much later that night when Janessa burst into her room to tearfully apologize for her initial reaction.

Starfleet Medical Academy, ‘College’ years…

Emily saw a therapist throughout college, a requirement for most medical degree tracks to help mitigate the adverse mental health outcomes associated with being a doctor. Everything Emily had that she’d call ‘a relationship’ through high school and college ended roughly the same way, and at a point it started to grate on her.

“The hard part is when.. and how… to have.. you know, ‘the talk’,” Emily picked at her fingernails, frowning as talking about it made the thoughts surface.

“How have you usually done it?” Joran, her therapist, prodded gently. Emily cringed.

“I mean.. I know I could do better, it’s just–”

“Woah, no, it’s not about you needing to do better,” Joran cut her off to pull her back out of the self-deprecating spiral she was trying to slip into, “These conversations are hard. There’s really no right or wrong answers, just how well it works out and what we learn from it.”

“Well…” Emily sighed, “the first one I waited.. about a week. I didn’t mean to wait that long, I just kept worrying about it and I could never get it out,” she leaned back in her chair slowly, “I’ve only had.. two people not dump me as soon as they found out. There was.. Harris, he wasn’t that great, we only lasted I think three weeks anyway. And.. Violet, the longest, almost six months. She thought it would be fine and we were for a while but I guess… she realized it wasn’t.”

“Have you considered a dating service or event specifically for asexual people?” Joran asked genuinely.

“I mean.. I haven’t found any, if you do let me know,” Emily shrugged meekly, “And online dating is usually a, uh… unique minefield for asexual people.”

“I can imagine,” Joran expressed sympathy, taking notes, “Well. It is an important discussion to have, and the earlier the better because things like sex, whether or not you want kids, basic.. funadamental lifestyle stuff is a big place you find incompatibilities that can’t be worked around.”

“Right,” Emily sighed, nodding lightly.

“It can be very helpful to just.. state what you want, outright. Can you put to words what you want?” Joran prompted.

“I mean.. ideally? Long term? I guess… You know, a relationship.. a partner, someone I live with, love, cuddle.. just… without sex involved,” Emily shrugged, “That’s just such a weird thing to.. say to people.”

“Have you considered some sort of outward visual signifier? I know some people have worn a black ring–”

“Nobody knows what the ring means,” Emily interrupted him without even realizing she had, “I wore one for most of high school, it… yeah. It may be old, but it’s obscure. I don’t really think there’s a good way to visually…” she trailed off, waving a hand to say ‘you know’.

“You know.. odds are slim you’ll face much discrimination for being open and out. As you know, Starfleet doesn’t allow any sort of discrimination so you could deal with anyone who gave you actual trouble administratively,” Joran pointed out, noting her apprehension at talking about this openly. He then checked his watch, sitting up a bit.

“It just feels like… something not worth mentioning, or weird and awkward to bring up, unless it’s.. you know, important. But then, when it is important, I end up agonizing over it and I just never want to bring it up,” Emily groaned.

“Well we should definitely talk about this more next week,” Joran nudged.

The night of the party…

Having thoroughly failed to get to sleep, Emily found herself sitting at the desk in her quarters, flipping through old notes on the console. She’d had an idea and wanted to see if the computer could do it for her, since she hadn’t the slightest idea where to begin in making clothes for herself.

She found a 3D image of a dress she liked the cut of, using her finger to turn it to get a look at all sides. She sat askew in her chair, one knee pulled to her chest and one arm wrapped around it.

“Computer.. overlay this pattern with the asexual pride flag,” she instructed, and the image flickered. The dress re-appeared in evenly sized stripes of four colors; from top to bottom black, grey, white, and purple.

Emily tilted her head, musing thoughtfully, “Hm… add sleeves. No–shorter sleeves. And taper the hem to be longer in the back…”

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A Strange Sort of Irony
Posted on June 12th, 2019 by T'Lira

It was a rather common topic in philosophical writings: staring at the stars and wondering what was beyond the individual’s understanding and comprehension in that strange and unknown place.

T’Lira wasn’t entirely certain this was what they had thought of in their musings.

As she launched, she checked all systems and where the other Sharks were. After previous battles, she made a quick mental note of Zorro’s location. There was no allied planet to land on this time, although there were more ships available to catch a falling fighter.

And so began the usual dance, weaving through enemy fighters as they launched and shooting them down with as much precision as one could manage in a small fighter in a chaotic situation.

She was focused entirely on the battle at hand when the message broke across the channel.

“Firefly couldn’t shoot me down, what makes you think you can? Especially since I’ve downed one of you already.”

T’Lira resolved right then and there to shoot that particular enemy down once she found them.

Unfortunately, Atlantis got there first. It was somewhat ironic, to be entirely honest. A satisfying sort of irony.

With that one dusted, she spins her fighter to come about and go after some of the enemy fighters targeting Ash. Hopefully, they eventually receive the notice that they cannot attempt to single any of the Sharks out and expect the maneuver to succeed.

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Doctor Empath Part 2: Death
Posted on May 26th, 2019 by Emilaina Acacia

USS Atlantis, present day…

Emily was shaken awake, jerking to sit upright, her forehead red where it had been pressed against the surgery table’s screen. She took a moment to blink before mumbling, “Bring in the next one.”

“It’s over, Doctor,” the nurse who had awoken her still had a hand on her shoulder to steady her, “Doctor Straynj just finished the last surgery. Everyone’s stable. You should go sleep.”

“Everyone’s stable?” Emily echoed numbly, rubbing her temples and trying in vain to block out the tide of existential aching coming from every direction.

The nurse grabbed Emily’s arm with a bit more force, pulling her to stand and then trying to help take off the Doctor’s scrubs. Emily swatted her away, mumbling thanks for the effort and untying the cursed red garment herself.

She wanted to hold her head down and hide her shame as she shambled out of sick bay in her blue pajamas polka-dotted with old-timey science fiction references, aching with guilt at the realization she’d just passed out on the surgery table some time after the seventh or eighth operation. Doctor Tailor made it a point, though, to thank her on her way out, bringing her at least that one step out of the darkness.

In the turbolift she leaned her back against the wall and finally let out the deep, guttural groan she’d been holding in.

As she rounded the corner and saw engineers standing in front of the open door to her quarters, she felt her stomach drop. She first slowed her walk as she realized that this was a bad sign, then immediately started power-walking again as she remembered her cat.

“Doctor, it’s alright,” a man put up a hand to stop her from walking into her own quarters. She could see the shimmering of the containment field over his shoulder, and she was struck by its size.

“That bad, huh?” she breathed, then took another step, craning her neck to try and see. She frowned as the engineers shuffled her back, waving a hand as she tried to summon the words through rising panic.

“Doctor,” the stern voice of a Vulcan in Starfleet yellow caught her attention. He had three fresh bright green claw scratches down the side of his face, and the usual dead-serious Vulcan expression, “Your animal was secured and brought to your temporary accommodations if that was your concern.”

“Right,” Emily sighed with relief and a just little tinge of amusement, then followed the jittery Human ensign assigned to take her to usually-empty room she’d be sleeping in. It was much like her quarters but without any character. She found some peace in the fact that she wasn’t worried about her research, her obsessive backup strategy giving her at least that peace of mind–her quarters, sick bay, the medical research lab, and the science backup database all had copies.

She had not seen it but a silver vase was stuck half way out of the containment field between her usual quarters and the vacuum, four silver-cast flowers now listlessly floating through space in tandem with the battle debris. She wouldn’t even think about them for a long time, having lived all her life in a world unconcerned with things. It would sooner cross her mind to wonder how her orchids had fared.

“Apollo?” she called as she turned on the lights. She began searching under and behind furniture, starting with the bed. Finally she found him squished between the standing dresser and the ceiling, a squinted pair of electric blue eyes peering down at her. She wasn’t really in the mood to lose a hand trying to fish him out, as much as she might have liked a hug, so she left him there.

She sat down in front of the mirror and looked at her own face, surprised at once by how bad and how good it looked. Someone must have fixed up the burns and cuts on her face when she’d fallen asleep. She stared in the mirror for a long time, willing herself with all of her might to feel nothing while the world washed with a torrent of emotions around her.

Eventually she gave up and laid down, grabbed one of the pillows from the bed to curl herself around, and cried herself to sleep.

Starfleet Medical Academy, 5 years ago… 2AM

Emily laid on her bed, walking her feet along the ceiling with her head dangling over the bunk mattress’s edge. Her roommate, T’Paea, was sitting at their shared desk working on writing something. Emily had always been confounded by anyone who bothered to write with actual paper and pencil, let alone over-dramatic Vulcans staying up late and writing by candlelight. Fortunately the flickering light at least made for something interesting for Emily to let her bored eyes follow.

Emily’s insomnia was at its worst in med school, and this night was no exception, “You aren’t haunted by… the reality of your own power?”

“Are you?” T’Paea cast neutrally over her shoulder.

“I am, I think,” Emily played with her dangling hair with one hand, holding onto one of the bed’s posts with the other to keep her balance.

“What do you think you will do?” the Vulcan never slowed her writing.

“It’s more.. the sheer potential for harm, you know? Like, if I’m doing surgery, if I’m.. I have tools inside someone’s body, one wrong move and I could just kill them. Or cripple them. For life, you know? Then they’re just.. like that,” Emily rambled, “Or if–with what I want to do, like if you fuck up bad enough with genetic editing and immunology, you can cause–”

“You’re talking about accidents,” T’Paea cut her off, reeling her back to reality, “You’re fortunate enough to live in a society where mistakes are seen as just that–unintended outcomes.”

“My mom says it’s like driving a car,” Emily fluffed her hair again, “You know you could swerve off the road and kill everyone you’re with at any time.. doesn’t mean you would, just that you can. It’s a Human brain thing I guess.”

“You come from not only one hyper-emotional species, but also a second that is telepathically entwined with emotion. I won’t pretend to understand you,” T’Paea glanced up, her serious Vulcan eyebrows accentuating her point, “But I should say–and you should know as well as I do–that intrusive thoughts are likely a symptom of your anxiety or obsessive compulsions.”

A long moment of silence passed. Emily cracked a small smile, “Huh. Yeah.”

More than a decade ago, on Betazed…

Some feelings are harder to shake than others. With some things every time you experience them it’s just as good or as bad as the first time, and with others the pain fades over time. The first time Emily met death, it was actually a surprisingly peaceful experience.

Darokkatan’s great grandmother, Emily’s great great grandmother, was technically the owner of the home Darok’s extended family used as a congregating spot. For most of Emily’s childhood she remembered ‘Mamaw’ as being one of the best chefs she knew. Her property covered a sizable patch of forest where wild Drakberries grew, and on those summers the kids would pick berries for Mamaw to make pie with.

Mamaw spent her second-to-last summer mostly in bed, so when the next year rolled around and she wasn’t doing much better, most of the usual summer festivities were traded for spending time at home. Averianna led the cousin-brigade in making summer pies. Later, the kids all helped decorate a home-made casket for Mamaw, true to old island cultural traditions.

Most of the family was by her side when she passed. The chill of a soul rattling up a Betazoid’s cat-like bones is unforgettable. Emily’s cousins and aunts and uncles embraced and shared in crying. The next day, her surviving friends came over. Some were very old, some surprisingly young. At the end of the week she was buried next to her husband who, in pretty typical Betazoid fashion, she had outlived by almost two decades.

Death is something that aches more than it feels. In moments when life is snuffed out, an empath can feel it, but it’s almost tolerable. It’s like a winter chill pressing on your joints, or breathing in spit you meant to swallow. It stings, but it doesn’t last. What hurts is when people remember, and ache, and mourn. The feeling of remembering someone is compounded the more pain that memory evokes.

The way her family had done a ‘funeral’ wasn’t so bad. When the sitting room was stiflingly full of emotion, Emily wasn’t the only one who stepped outside to cool herself off. Living among people that emotionally in-tune was somewhat helpful, no one looked at her strange or pressured her to talk about it. They all just.. intuitively knew what she needed for her own grieving process.

Emily’s first Starfleet funeral came many years later. She’d almost finished med school when they learned that a pretty recent graduate of Starfleet Medical had killed himself aboard his stationed ship. The story was as publicized as any such tragedy in a post-scarcity utopia, but most memorably, the funeral was an emotional hell.

It wasn’t anything like a calm home wake. His family was there, but they had not seen him die. Everyone there from his friends to his teachers blamed themselves in one way or another. The tears were not of loss, love, and memory, but of regret. The striking difference in feeling between expected and unexpected death marked Emily’s heart forever.

Starfleet Medical Academy, 3 years ago… 8AM

Emily looked at the scattered pile of papers she was still trying to organize despite the physically looming deadline. She was up next, and she may have never worked harder on a project in her life, but she was still incredibly nervous given the nature of the presentation.

Data Visualization was a course with a few different versions. It was pretty standard Starfleet fare, taught soldiers to make charts and graphs that actually made sense. The version of the class specific to medical students had an air of polish to it that Emily found incredibly intimidating, but that had been a problem for most of her time in school.

The most stressful part of this particular presentation was that she didn’t really have the visual she wanted. The algorithm she’d been writing was only half finished. The first presentation was by a future therapist with some really cute ideas for patient-facing graphical gamification of treatment for depression, complete with her own drawings. Something about people who could draw well always made Emily guiltily jealous.

Time seemed to slow as Emily walked up to the front of the classroom, setting her stack of poster-board with clouds of dots drawn in colored pencil leaned up against the blackboard. She took a deep breath, and looked at her notecards.

“In, uh.. in focusing on the presentation of data I’ve developed a somewhat new idea of graphical representation for my own field, immunology. For too long it’s been common to use strict species-centric representation of things–which, I–I do know Human medicine is primary here, but it doesn’t make as much sense for immune factors in the world as we know it now.”

She swallowed nervously and glanced up at the audience. What she saw spurred her on, a few twinkles of interest in the eyes of her peers. She stood up a bit straighter, trying to ride the feeling that people cared about what she had to say. She grabbed one of the poster boards, holding it in front of herself.

“So.. the algorithm I’m working on to do this with a holo-emitter is only half done,” she felt the need to excuse herself, despite the fact that it was something she was working on independently of school for her own research. The actual requirements of the presentation were theoretical anyway, but Emily was still beating herself up over not having her PhD-level work completely done, “But I’ve drawn the idea here. This is uh.. me, actually.”

She pointed to different colored clusters on the diagram, explaining them as she went, “The colors represent factors. Blue are your memory cells, like Human memory b cells or Betazoid antigen markers. Red is your attackers, white blood cells, antibodies.. green is your communication hormones, signals to start or stop actions, nervous responses.”

The second diagram was of a Human student who’d allowed Emily to use her for the presentation. She’d also drawn four lines dividing the dot-cloud into sections, “So you can see a bit more clearly on a Human.. tight clusters around organs that have a lot of immune functions, a clear line of communication between organ clusters.”

After a while she forgot to be nervous, explaining how the dots got tagged with numbers based on protein production and gene activation. At least half of the class glazed over, but the other half learned a lot about the future of an extremely small, specific, and surprisingly important field.

Especially as someone who always struggled with intrusive thoughts, Emily found a sort of perverse satisfaction in the eyes of fifth-and-sixth-year med students glazing over when she spoke about what she knew best. She tried to cling to moments like that, summoning them for strength in times like the breath between the fifth and sixth battle-related surgery.

USS Atlantis, present day, late at night…

Crewmen lay in the morgue being prepared for individual funerals based on different cultural practices. The Trondheim colony and their clinic had an even bigger number to count.

Emily was still in surgery, surely by now it was number twenty… or thirty…

Her hand slipped, and her knife severed the crewman’s ankle tendon. Blood poured everywhere, streaking up the walls. She reached out for him to try and help, but the room stretched forward and he was far out of reach.

A Xovul was there, in the room… he shot one of the nurses, and threw the other against the wall. Everything went from dark to darker, Emily began to stir…

She sat up with a gasp, backing up against the headboard of her borrowed bed. The only light in the room came from a flashing yellow icon on the standing console on the desk–a medium priority message.

With a few hours of sleep in her it occurred to her with a sense of sinking dread that she needed to make a few calls.

Disheveled, she managed to haul herself to the desk chair. She didn’t give much thought to her appearance when she opened the message, though fortunately neither did the caller.

She’d been expecting her sister but she also wasn’t too surprised by what she saw–her father, mouth agape with unabashed snores as his head was lulled completely back. He must have fallen asleep in his desk chair waiting for her to pick up.. probably hours ago.

Suddenly realizing she was a complete mess she quietly got up and went to quickly brush her hair and dab her face with a rag. When she no longer looked like she’d just been through hell, she tapped a finger on the console screen, “Dad? Daaad~”

“Emi?” the man snorted, stirring. It took him only a moment to see her and become visibly overwhelmed with relief, “Oh, thank the four.”

“You fell asleep in your office,” Emily cooed with mock-sadness.

“Word’s out about the Xovul,” the man wasted no time, “Are you alright, Laina?”

“I may never sleep again,” Emily half-joked, still trying to make herself feel better.

“They must’ve failed in your education, then.. I learned that first day of med school,” Darok offered a faint smile, then waved a hand, “Well–you can, you know, get to sleep, I just needed.. to call you.”

“No, it’s okay–thank you, actually. It’s been.. a whirlwind,” Emily sighed.

“I told you to become an engineer,” her father jokingly chided.

“You did,” Emily couldn’t help but smile, “Goodnight dad.”

Screens went dark on both sides, and Darok made his way back to his quarters. Emily dialed up the console to call her sister. Averi was asleep, however, so Emily left a short video message instead.

“Hey.. I’m alive,” Emily smiled awkwardly, “I’m gonna.. try to get some sleep. But… I love you.”

She watched her video back twice with a straight face before sending it, trying to decide if she was satisfied with something so short. It was enough for the middle of the night, though, so she forwarded it to her mother and her other sister as well. She then laid back down, hugging her hug-pillow and staring up at the ceiling.

After a while she got tired of her mind racing and gave herself a sleeping aid, making nice with the nightmares long enough to recharge her body. She expended all of her conscious effort trying to block out the thick, unpleasant emotion that hung through nearby space like a nebula of interwoven pain.

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A Newly-Engaged Tactical Officer
Posted on May 2nd, 2019 by Ryleigh Grey

During one of her shore leaves, Ryleigh had met her boyfriend at his apartment, helping him around the hospital he worked at, and playing the social game. However, what she didn’t expect was to wake up the next morning and find that their apartment was empty. Only thing that was left was their newest German Shepherd puppy sleeping at the foot of their bed.

Ryleigh slowly sat up, sliding out of bed, and gently bending to pick up the puppy, cradling him close to her chest, and exiting into the living room/kitchen combo, finding a note with a bright yellow rose attached to it on the table. Curiousness got the better of her, and she moved to read the note, head cocked to the side as she deciphered his messy handwriting.

‘My dear,
Loving you is always been a best part of our lives together… and it is quite interesting to see how our relationship changed from being friends to being boyfriend/girlfriend. We’ve been dating and been together since sophomore year of high school, and I want to ask you something… follow the path of the yellow roses and you’ll find me at the end. Bring Solandis with you, I think you’d appreciate her presence.

-Ethan’

Ryleigh chuckled at her boyfriend’s note, turning to grab her breakfast and feed the demanding yipping puppy at her ankles before going to get ready and dressed for the day, hair pulled back into a tight bun and Solandis leashed and ready to go, bouncing around the apartment with high volumed barks.

“Ready to go?” She questioned, picking up the yellow rose and letting Solandis pull her out the door, moving to where she saw the flash of yellow. Passing by their neighbor, Ryleigh was stopped by a little boy, handing her a yellow rose with a bright grin before he ran back to his parents.

She shook her head in amusement of her boyfriend’s actions and continued into town. As she passed the shops and cafes they frequented, a staff member outside had handed her a yellow rose.

By the time she had hit the woods just outside the town, she had about ten yellow roses in her hand, with the leash of Solandis in the other as the puppy bounced around, sniffing at everything. Ryleigh looked around before her eyes fell on the distantly lighted trail leading into the woods. Clicking her tongue to call Solandis to her, the two headed deeper into the woods.

Slowly, the trail turned from pavement to forested pine needles, and the light slowly grew brighter the closer she got. Ryleigh looked down at the ground, seeing yellow petals sprinkled in with the greenery of the pine needles, smiling as she continued to walk, the roses in her other hand.

Finally, rounding a corner, she almost stopped dead at seeing fairy lights strung over the trees, brightening the small clearing, with a mat of mixed yellow and blue petals covering the ground. Her gaze slowly moved up to land on the tall form of her boyfriend, holding a yellow rose in his hand and a bright smile focused on her.

“Glad to see you made it. And brought Solar with you.” Ethan’s deep voice was calming, peaceful, as he watched his girlfriend come closer, reaching her other hand to take the offered yellow rose and add it to the bouquet in her hand, head cocked cutely to the side in curiousity.

“I will have to admit, I am interested in all the planning… what do you have planned, Ethan?” Ryleigh questioned with a faint laugh.

He smiled at the beautiful woman, leaning in to whisper something into her ear before whistling for Solandis.

Almost immediately, the puppy bounded over, sending petals flying as she bounced into a sitting position, head tilting up to look at her owners with an eager expression.

“Read her collar.” Ethan whispered into Ryleigh’s ear, pressing a kiss before pulling away. Confused, but trusting her boyfriend, she knelt to gently look at the tag on the puppy’s collar. In quite fancy handwriting, the tag was large, but elegantly written. ‘Will you marry my daddy?’

Ryleigh’s expression went wide in surprise as she straightened, only to find Ethan on one knee, a box open with a beautiful diamond ring surrounded by white silk, smile bright. “So…? Will you?”

Covering her mouth with a hand, the hand not holding the flowers, she nodded slowly, then quicker. Ethan straightened, removing the ring from the box to slide it onto her right ring finger, pulling her into a deep kiss.

Solandis barked, almost startling the two as Ryleigh bent to pick her up, being enfolded into a tight hug by her now-fiancèe.

“What were the yellow roses for?” Ryleigh asked Ethan, still unsure at this moment. He chuckled.

“Count them.” Doing so, she realized the total came up to twelve, and her mind immediately put the pieces together.

“For each year we’ve been together…”

“Exactly.”

“And why yellow roses, when you know blue’s my favorite color?” Ryleigh questioned, a smile forming.

“Because you’re a yellow rose of Texas.” Ethan answered, offering an arm and leading the newly-engaged Ryleigh out of the clearing and back to the town, Solandis eagerly barking and wriggling in excitement.

“Love you.” She presses a kiss to his cheek as he turned his head to capture a kiss pressed to her lips.

“Love you more.”

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