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The Sorrow of Lin An

Posted on Wed Aug 25th, 2021 @ 5:12pm by Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: Theta Overwatch Mess Hall
Timeline: 6 Days post The Hills Have Eyes

Commander Qiao sat sipping a cup of tea as he waited for his huiguorou to cool enough to eat. The replicator, bless it, had interpreted the recipe rather literally and served it at the temperature of "still frying in hot oil" so wait he would. He glanced around the room, noting there were only a few other people present. Theta was such a small installation, that was not uncommon, and was a reason he sometimes ate in his quarters instead, but long-standing indoctrination brought him into the communal dining area at least once a day so as not to be seen as anti-social. Sometimes he even had company, though it was looking like probably not today. He did not actually mind overmuch, since he primarily wanted to eat before the time he had booked in holodeck 3 to engage in music practice before his date that evening. He picked up his chopsticks and selected a piece of scallion, testing the temperature. Still a touch too hot.

Every once in a great while, Sophie felt the need to make friends. Usually, she was more comfortable alone, but sometimes, she started to feel lonely. Perhaps she was driven by some primal urge towards socialization or perhaps it was some sort of hunger being from a life largely spent alone. Sophie didn’t really care. All she knew was that she needed a friend now and so she was going to go get one.

Entering the communal dining area, she glanced around before turning to the replicators and ordering pho and bubble tea. She then turned and scanned the area more thoroughly. Her eyes settled in a man seated all alone. She knew him. They’d worked together in the past. Oh, what was his name again? Bao? Or something. Never mind. She could look him up later. She made a beeline for him.

“Mind if I join you?” she said, but she was already setting her tray down across from him.

The Lagashi glanced up at the woman and would have motioned her to sit had she not already been in the process of doing so. "Please do, Miss Xiong," he said, natural accent lilting over her name. He knew they had worked together on the last two missions. Engineer, his brain supplied him helpfully. "I have not heard any explosions today, which I hope is indicative of your having a pleasant day," he added, as he finally began to eat. This was not at all awkward. Nope. Well, at least it was less awkward than having sat at different tables and sitting in silence.

Sophie blinked at him, confused. Of course there were no explosions! Why would she let anything blow up? Did he think she was totally- oh! It had been a joke. Finally, she afforded him a small grin. “Indeed,” she agreed. “Explosions are definitely bad. How has your day been?”

Bao gave no indication of noticing the missed beats in the conversation. He shrugged slightly. "I cannot complain. I have been going through the archive catalogue. I cannot decide between interviewing the Borg drones to build a better model of the Collective's decision making calculus or working with the 'black box' devices," he said, not stopping to think the engineer probably had no idea what he was talking about. "I think I could interface with the latter more directly to get better readings on how they work."

And in fact, Sophie didn't know much of what he was talking about. But, that didn't matter. She could still offer advice. "I suppose the choice comes down to which is the better option and if it's too hard to justify the payout," she said.

The Lagashi quirked his head. "Perhaps then I should just do whichever I want, since I cannot publish the results anyway. You are an engineer if I recall? You could always have a look at the black box devices as well. No one has any clue how they work, if they do at all."

"I'm sure better and smarter engineers than me have tried and failed to find out," Sophie replied fairly, although if she was honest, she believed there was only one engineer in all of Starfleet who was better than her and she was sure that engineer had never even heard of the devices much less looked at them. "But of course I'll look at anything they let me look at."

The man shrugged. "I am not sure what the actual rules are on that," he said truthfully. He never really learned what the protocol was so much as just put in requests for whatever he felt like looking at and it showed up in his lab or he got a note to go pick it up somewhere. "Out of curiousity, what are you studying right now, Miss xiong?"

"Nothing," answered Sophie honestly. "I never really got a chance to learn how things work here. I arrived and they dumped me into missions immediately. I suppose I'll have to find something to look at."

"Eh, you get the hang of it pretty quickly. Someone has probably already set up your clearance level. Plug into the system and see what you are cleared for and pick something is how I did it. Though there are a few things I saw that I am not insane enough to try."

"I'll have to do that," she mused. "Thanks for the tip. I thought I'd got over being new when I left the academy. Turns out I still have a lot to learn."

The Lagashi shrugged. "Sifu Kong* tells us the essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance," he said between bites of food. "I will say it took me some time to get used to the lab expelling me from work. My assignment before this was in the field and I would often just sleep wherever I was studying. It used to drive my section chief mad."

That elicited a very rare genuine grin from Sophie. "Gee, can't imagine why," she joked. "Random guy just falling asleep anywhere and everywhere? Why should that bother anybody?"

Bao shrugged. "He knew exactly where I was. Transponders and emergency transporter units are required equipment on the Jenolan Dyson Sphere," he said. "What did you do before you were...abducted, recruited, strong-armed, or otherwise brought here?"

"Same thing every brilliant engineer does," answered Sophie without a hint of arrogance. "Wasted away on ships repairing all sorts of random systems that were about five years past due for an upgrade. It's boring work, but I suppose it's important. The galaxy isn't going to explore itself."

Bao tilted his head. "I suppose it would not, no. Then again, mayhaps we are simple part of its self-exploration as it seeks its full actualization. Still, yes, engineering is vital work for a civilization." A brief blip of red flashed across his eyes. "However, I am afraid I must be going. I reserved the holodeck to practice my guzheng this afternoon and my time begins soon."

Sophie’s eyes brightened at that. “You’re a musician!” she replied, a slight edge of excitement in her voice. “I play piano and bassoon. We’ll have to collaborate sometime.”

The Lagashi paused for a moment. "I have never encountered a bassoon, but I am familiar with the piano. How long have you played?" he questioned as he began packing his tray.

"Since I was four," answered Sophie. "So 26 years. For piano, anyway. I didn't pick up Bassoon until I was thirteen."

"Perhaps in the future, we might find time to compare notes, and possibly play together then," he said, if for no other reason than it would be nice to be able to play a larger catalog of music as it was written. "Should our free time line up in the future, Lieutenant, I believe you know how to find me."

"I would enjoy that," agreed Sophie, looking for once in her life as if she truly were looking forward to something. "I shall search the database and contact you to let you know what I've found."


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