There were several parts to this exercise -- an exercise I found very enjoyable, despite all the time it took me to complete it. October is Halloween for me, when I turn back into a designer and engineer, and try to make fun and spooky animatronics for our haunted house -- haunted yard, really. You'd think, based on the spider theme of our haunt, I'd write more spider-themed things, but for some reason, I do not.
The hardest part of this exercise was writing about the other. No matter what I picked, it seemed like a shallow trait to aspire to give to the other, and at the same time, bring that up in a way that seemed perfectly natural. So, I found myself just making them sound as they do in real life -- genuine, but a little off. I hope it doesn't come across too badly.
Part One: A&B
A: Do we at least have enough energy to send a distress call?
B: Not without losing some of our life support, Sir. Whatever took the generator offline also drained most of our reserves.
A: Do we have enough to keep our shielding?
B: The shielding is down to twenty percent, but holding.
A: So much for our boring survey. I’ll run a diagnostic on the generator.
B: I can take care of that, Sir.
A: No, I can do it. It’s not like you forget basic operations just because you take a command, Lieutenant. Besides, you need to figure out what is causing the power drain.
B: Yessir. The panel is over there, Sir.
A: Maybe a little rusty -- C’mon you -- ow. Gotcha. Well, huh.
A: I don’t get it. The generator has fuel, but it’s not catalyzing. It looks like the safeties are --
B: Something is preventing the containment field from forming.
A: How much reserve power do we have?
A: Time on emergency reserves.
B: Roughly an hour, and the Oppenheimer is more than an hour away unless it moved at maximum speed.
A: Which they won’t do unless they know we’re in trouble.
B: But Sir, a subspace pulse will drain over half of our reserves.
A: Guess we’ll have to take shallow breaths -- what?
B: I-I just don’t find this funny.
A: A little levity in the face of adversity -- Lieutenant.
B: Right. Sorry, Sir.
A: Can you bring containment online?
B: One second, there is an outside energy field that’s -- got it.
A: Okay, restarting the generator in three, two--
B: The energy field changed -- we lost containment again. It was disrupting the containment field so I changed it, and the energy field --
A: Someone’s changing the field?
B: Maybe. Or its responding to our changes, like some sort of refraction --
A: Or echo?
B: Or echo -- possibly. Let me see if I can modify our shield to dampen any induction -- it will take some time.
A: Better not take more than an hour.
B: We could take shallow breaths, Sir.
A: I’d rather not, besides, I thought you weren’t keen on levity, Lieutenant.
As they walked down the dusty trail, the gravel smoothed out to sand and the slope opposite the path deepened. The mosque stood against the far rise, with two bright pink towers, the windows edged with white.
Aaron’s breath caught at the sight. “How can--when did that go up?”
Dave stopped shortly after Aaron. “Couple months ago, I guess.”
“What, with the municipal water tower just a mile down the road, and the electric substation just over that next hill?”
Wasn’t there a law? Aaron wondered? With all the bombs and violence going on over there, it didn’t make sense. “Who gave them a permit?”
“The City, I suppose.”
“Someone messed up.” Aaron said as he studied the layout of the mosque. Steps led up to the double door entrance. He wondered if they had a basement.
“Someone messed up?” David asked.
“Is it even legal for them to be there? Where they can do so much damage?
“It’s just a church, Aaron”
“Not Its -- Its not just a church. It’s a seat of government. The only law they recognize. Look at all the bombings. Beheadings.” He pointed repeatedly to the mosque, his arm working like a hinge. “They don’t believe in separation of church and state.”
“They’re not extremists.”
Aaron pointed again, as if his finger could push the building back. “You don’t know. Sunni, Shia, you can’t tell which is which. They cheered when the towers went down. Cheered. Why are they even here? Because where they come from is always at war. They’ve grown up with it and they’ll bring it with them here.”
“C’mon Aaron, they just want a better life.”
Aaron glared toward the salmon minarets puncturing the sky. “Their better life isn’t our better life. If they have the chance, we’ll all be living under their laws. No one talks about the DC Sniper -- his last name was Muhammed--”
“--that doesn’t mean--”
“And the nation of Islam.”
“He’s one guy.” Dave said with a shrug.
“There were two of them -- Two! They worked in pairs, one guy driving -- they drilled a hole in the trunk to shoot out of it. They were hunting people. Killed almost a dozen people, and every so-called refugee we’re bringing in could be another sniper, or even worse. And during the gulf war, they were using mosques to give instructions to their fighters. They’re not just so-called churches, just like they were hundreds of years ago, they’re forts -- with walls and towers and weapons.” As he listed each item, Aaron jabbed his finger down at the mosque. Dave was a good guy, but too trusting with all his talk of refugees and a better life. Dave had always been tender-hearted. People took advantage of the tender-hearted. Evil people. And see it now, that mask of apathy infuriated Aaron. Couldn’t Dave see this was an invasion?
Part Three: Character by Indirection
The lounger in her quarters had been removed and in its place was a kneeling stool, its wooden frame bleached to a moonlit gray as if baked for years under a harsh desert sun. Likewise, the breakfast nook had been replaced with a Vulcan sitting mat, partially covered in a non-Vulcan tradition by a scattering of brightly colored cushions. Next to the mat was a snow-white porcelain tea-set with black and gold intertwined meanders, representing the Betazoid tenants honesty and compassion, encircled the lid and base of the teapot and each cup. A break from tradition, a Starfleet-approved heating until replaced the usual charcoal brazier. Along the wall, several containers of tea were nestled into a shallow alcove -- easily within each reach of the host. Each tea was kept in a snug, smokey cube labeled with flowing script --Deka Mountain, Summer, first harvest 2406, Osanais Hills, Fall, third harvest 2409, Sas-a-shar, 2385. Apart from the cubes was another container -- a cylinder of cream porcelain, webbed with azure veins, bound to a slender tube of the same material by a long white ribbon. The label on the case was generously labeled in a tall, slender script -- the language unfound in most Federation databases.
Above the teas were a row of tiered shelves each with an ordered queue of what many took as the mementos accumulated through years of travel: a Vulcan incense burner, a Betazoid gong and mallet, an Ocampan meditation crystal. One may even look closer and notice the dark smudges along the edges of the burner and the dry, prickly scent of Vulcan incense, the scuffs at the center of the gong, or the pale scrapes abrading the blackened leather on the scabbard holding the Reman dagger. For most, the crystal would seem a reverently cherished curio; only the those with the sense of telepathy would experience the keen aria lovingly placed within.
A floor to ceiling panel in the opposite wall flickered between images of her home on Betazed: her sisters, her matron and house consorts, and pebbled paths with islands of flowers clustered in bundles of russet and plum. Purple creeper vines shimmer in a breezy scene as the view panned away from the bound trellises toward the misty seashore and the ghostly blue marble stairs that lead to the outdoor great room. While most of the viewscreen was scenes past, a small chyron at the bottom scrolled to give the latest news and gossip on Betazed, and the current house standings for House Sri -- 433rd. Prominent on a planetary scale, but paltry in the galactic scheme of things.
Part III: The Untold Event
On this field, the grass had retreated, trampled down by the legion of boots until even the sod had surrendered, crushed within layers of muck punctured with the splinters of shattered lances and broken arrows. In the hollows of hoofprints, bent and torn rings of mail glint like drowning stars in the mud until bone and loam were one spongy, soggy mass. The ground had congealed some in the night, or what passed for that time between the moment the last soldier falls and the first rises to re-join the field. While the turmoil and traffic of war-scarred the earth, further remnants -- the shattered bone, the spread entrail, even those bodies which remained whole but bludgeoned, pierced or hacked to lifelessness were gone, spirited away, much to the frustration of the late-minded crows that flit and peck at the foodless ground, only to camp the distant trees that lined the field like rows of jurors, to wait. With each new arrival, a group rises up as a shroud thrown up to the leaden sky, then to settle, squabbling for space, albeit briefly. There is room, and food, for all who are patient. A single raven, perched aloof on a blood-stained rock, sharpened its beak against the soft stone and ignored the squabble of distant crows.