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Stimulance, OPX Galleria. Stardate 201712.28-.29: 3047 Hours **>>
The Galleria was rarely very busy at this hour. It wasn’t yet dawn, and the only people who would be passing through here were the officers and crew of Fourth Watch making their way to their duty assignments, stopping briefly at Stimulance or the Replimat to grab a bite or a morning beverage before continuing on.
Arzie really did appreciate the quiet; a chance to be alone with his thoughts and a warming drink in the chilly damp. At least usually. This evening’s encounter with that Ensign had surprised him. He hadn’t encountered many people who were interested in the problem of penetrating the Galactic Barrier. Most had said just what she had said at the outset: Only 16% of the known galaxy had been explored. Why worry about what was outside yet? Not since defending his Masterwork did most people consider that to be a worthwhile endeavour. <<Fools! He’d show them>>
Of course he looked up her service record before he came walked over from the Science Building. Ensign Ishae t’Lheollah had just graduated from the Academy and this was her first posting, having just arrived two weeks beforehand. He imagined that’s not how she thought meeting her first Commanding Officer would go and chuckled to himself.
A few minutes after the Outpost’s chimes tolled 0000, Ishae appeared at the door to Stimulance, peering into the empty coffeehouse. Arzie wasn’t hard to spot, being the only other person in the place. He smiled and waved her over. With a timid wave, and a nervous grin, she obliged.
‘Glad you could make it.’ Arzie said. ‘Get you a coffee or something?’ He asked.
Ishae looked around. ‘Is this ok? There’s no one here. Not even staff.’
‘Oh yeah, no problem.’ Arzie responded. ‘Thasto and I go way back. He used to have a coffeehouse on Loracus Prime that I used to spend most of my time in when I was working on my Masterwork. He even taught me to work all of his drink-making equipment.’
‘Equipment?’ She said smirking slightly
‘Well, what else would you call it?’ Arzie asked. ‘So what can I get you?’
‘Steamed Travit milk?’
A short time later, Arzie returned with the drink. ‘So, colour me intrigued. I haven’t had many people get past the question, “Why bother?” What makes you so interested in it?’
Taking the mug from Arzie, Ishae cupped it in both hands, feeling its warmth. ‘I don’t know. I never thought of it as a problem before.’ She said. ‘Growing up there were always more important things to do. Planting, harvesting, keeping the plowers working, going into town with friends, wondering where I would be serving my Serona.’ She sighed. ‘Life was so much simpler then.’ Shaking her head. ‘But in a way, I suppose it melds with D’era. What must be on the other side? We know that the next galaxy over was populated. Is there anyone between here and there? Does NGC 224 have a similar Barrier? What about the Magellanic Clouds? Nothing we’ll probably see in our lifetimes, but we might as well start now before our own galaxy is explored, right?’
The Catullan sat there listening to the Romulan talking at a million miles an hour and smiling warmly. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone as excited about it as all that.’ He finally said when she had finished. ‘I suppose I never thought about it in terms of D’era. I’ve never been one for the Endless Sky. I’m way more of a homebody. A warming drink and a pipe in my study solving some problem or analyzing a new rock or plant or whathaveyou.’
Ishae laughed. ‘That doesn’t sound like a Starfleet officer, let alone a Command officer. Isn’t the stock line always exploring the next horizon and pushing the boundaries of explored space?
‘Heh. I never wanted to do this.’ Arzie said with a shrug. ‘I wanted to join the Talzin Institute on Qvarne IV. . . which, looking back would’ve agitated me even ore. All those buildings and people so close together.’ He shuddered for effect. ‘At any rate, I didn’t have enough “practical experience” they said, after I finished my Masterwork. So I said, “What the heck?” And joined Starfleet to get some “experience.” I certainly didn’t expect to be here. . . going on 17 years now.’ He took a sip from his own coffee. ‘Not horribly bad as I had thought it would be, though. I’ve got to catalog and analyze some pretty rad things and work on my own research at my leisure. Not a bad life for a polymath. What about you. Gotta say, I never expected a Rihanha in a Starfleet uniform.’
‘Wasn’t much else to do.’ Ishae said flatly. ‘After Eisn was destroyed, many of the Edgeworlds were left to fend for themselves. The Galae always liked to keep their assets centralized, and once the subspace shockwave hit, the Galae was crippled along with the Praetorate, the Senate, and the vast majority of our infrastructure. It didn’t take long for scavengers to start picking off the Edgeworlds. Orions, Nausicaans. . .’ She looked into her still-cradled mug for a moment. ‘Fortunately we were paid a visit by USS Georges Lemaitre on a relief mission. They put up defense satellites, helped rebuild our infrastructure, and even left two industrial replicators.’ Didn’t really help my family, but after a year working as a liaison between the Starfleeters and my people, Captain Henry felt I’d be worth the trouble to recommend to Starfleet Academy. I didn’t have anything better to do, so here I am. Decided to study and hopefully bring some useful skills back home.’
Nodding as she told her life story, Arzie looked pensive. ‘Just like that? Does mnhei'sahe work like that? Just leaving home to abscond off to join the Lloannen'galae?’ He said, with a bit of a grin.
‘Not a stranger to the Rihannsu, are you, sir?’ Ishae said, eyeing him up and down.
‘Well, as much as any Yikh is, I suppose.’ Arzie said, shrugging. ‘I spent some time on ch’Nahir after the Incident. Oh, this would’ve been five years ago or so, back when I was on Ticonderoga. Lovely place, wonderfully nice people.’ He finished his coffee. ‘But for now, onto business. I could use an apprentice, if you have as much sense with the here-tos and why-fors as you seem to have a passion for the ideas it’d be a huge help. . . and you might learn a thing or two.’
Ishae stared at him for a solid half-minute. ‘I’m a power systems engineer, though, not some sort of quantum theoretician or astrometeorologist, or whatever you need to cross the Barrier. I don’t know what I could contribute to your project.’
‘Feh!’ The Captain exclaimed with a smirk. I don’t need any of those. I, and the universe, need a polymath.’
‘Well, I’m certainly not one of those.’
‘Indeed,’ said Arzie, nodding sagely. ‘Usually you’d start an apprenticeship while still a child, but I have every confidence we can overcome that. The Academy is a fair start as far as education goes, but they suffer from the worst kind of stagnation: over-specialization. You know why I love this posting? It’s not just that the Galactic Barrier is about two weeks away at maximum warp. I’ve got an entire sector to study here alone. From particles to stars and planets to life forms to weather to geology to sociology and anthropology to. . . whatever else is out there, and still be able to work compose music and literature.’
The Rihanha choked on her drink. ‘You do all that? When do you find time to sleep?’ She boggled.
‘Well, usually now.’ He replied with a chuckle. ‘But yeah, been doing it since I was a kid. I couldn’t imagine doing anything less.’
‘I’m not sure. . . ‘ Ishae answered, contemplating the offer. ‘I am still learning my way around as it is.’
‘No problem.’ Arzie said, shrugging again. ‘If you decide you want to give it a whack, you’ll probably be able to find me easily enough.’ He began to stand as light chimes rang through the Galleria tolling 0300. ‘Although, perhaps we better depart for now. I have to be in Ops in four-and-a-half-hours, and I oughta lock up.’
‘Oh yeah, sure.’ Ishae said, looking for a place to set her mug.
‘Just take it and finish it on your way to wherever you’re going.’ Arzie said, watching Ishae uncomfortably try to find a place to set a dirty mug. ‘Bring it to Thasto in the morning. You can pin the blame on me.’
Nodding with a smile, Ishae stood as well and they departed from Stimulance; the young Romulan ensign thanking her Commanding Officer for the drink before heading down the Galleria.