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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Exes and XOs

Interlude (Chase the Greener Road)

Risa, Sheltered Arms Resort
August 2400
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“Do not be disturbed,” remarked Nelli, that is to say Doctor Pimpinellifolia, in an approximation of a stage whisper.  The sentient-flora Phylosian had trot obstreperously into the suite.  That sound of their four leafy trunks clomping against the tiled floor had roused Leander Nune from an ephemeral doze.  

Nune shuffled against the sofa to prop himself into an upright position.  He tilted his head to regard Nelli, but his eyelids felt heavy almost immediately.  The amber light of the setting sun and the sweet sea air of the Monagas Peninsula entered through the open windows and filled the suite with deliciousness, just like the sticky syrup in a plump oskoid.

Nelli said, “Tonight you would be better served to treasure the dinner buffet without this one.”  The vocoder that translated their communication into humanoid speech continued its paradoxical dance of melodic monotone.  Nune had promised to toy with the settings on the device early in their shore leave together but hadn’t yet found the time.  As they spoke, Pimpinellifolia crept towards their own bedroom on much lighter steps than their entrance, almost silently.  They said, “Your pruning has accentuated your sexual virility.  You will have many dining partners tonight.”

Bracing his palms against the sofa cushions and straightening his back, Nune blinked hard to fight away any lingering fatigue.  Curious about how to interpret his own ‘pruning’, Nune adjusted the collar of his unbuttoned shirt and he tested the knot holding his maroon sarong together.  He ran a hand through his dark hair, in case Nelli was speaking of his grooming, if not his style of dress or his physique.  Still, his attention returned to Nelli’s offer to excuse themself from their dining plans.

“Nelli, we talked about this,” he said, his vowels round and uplifting in encouragement.  “You shouldn’t be embarrassed if you don’t eat at the table.  I enjoy your company regardless.”

Nelli hesitated in their gait across the suite.  Four of their arm-like vines folded diffidently behind the backside of their torso.  

“Your company is enriching too,” Nelli said, speaking more slowly than before.  “Your invitation for recreation away from the USS Dvorak is appreciated.  I find myself…” —Nelli paused and their eye-stalks twitched, before continuing— “depleted… thus, require rest.”

Watching over Nelli with even more attention, Nune shifted the angle where he was sitting and squared his shoulders.  Nelli’s Phylosian biology meant they were largely immune to Nune’s Betazoid telepathy, leaving their intentions a mystery to him.  Even so, his own intuition took notice of a shift in Nelli’s energy.

Nune asked, “I thought you said you had a fun day at the beach, visiting with Kerry Dawson?”

Nelli’s protrusion that was located where a humanoid head would be, even if it looked more like an oversized tarna-bulb, bobbed from side to side when they answered.


The timbre of Nelli’s mechanically-produced voice sounded deeper than before.

“The sunlight proved nourishing,” Nelli explained.  “Kerry and I analyzed the tidal patterns of the water at three different time periods…”  

Nelli trailed off and Nune allowed for a silence between them.  The rest of Nelli’s articulating vines folded behind their torso and their eye-stalks pointed down at the floor.

“I don’t remember you seeming this tired on Kunhri Three,” Nune said.  Although they’d served on the same starship for over six months, they hadn’t developed much of a friendship.  The intention of this shore leave was to address that and Nune couldn’t abide secrets in any form of new, developing relationship.  

Nune asked, “Without all of that refinery pollution, Risa must be a paradise, no?”

Nelli’s eye-stalks swivelled to point in Nune’s direction.  “After weeks aboard Dvorak, the mining pits of Kunhri were rejuvenating, if bracing.  There was… too little water in the deserts and no sun in the swamps, but life thrived in every enviro—“  Nelli’s entire posture changed; they stiffened.  “Nothing thrives on Risa.”

“Huh?” Nune asked, his dark eyebrows creeping up his forehead.  Shaking his head at Nelli, Nune was plainly baffled by Nelli’s closing statement.  “Nelli, Risa is definitive perfection.  By design,” he said like it was a matter of fact.

“Risa offers judgement,” Nelli said simply.

Nune squinted at Nelli in reaction to that statement.  “All that we have is yours,” he said, echoing the motto of every staff member at the Sheltered Arms resort.  Probing for more, Nune asked, “Was somebody rude to you?  Is there an invasive weed on the staff?”

Nelli’s vocoder spat out the feedback noise of an error message.  Nune had heard that sound enough times, given the context clues, he was starting to think of it as a sigh.  “The weather control system is too aggressive. I can feel it in my waters,” Nelli said.  “The matrix urges even me to bend to its will.  The air lacks both humidity and dryness; the grass and sand are chemically induced to attractive colours.  None of this would be permitted on Phylos.”  

“Nelli…” Nune soberly said.  “When was the last time you went home?”

At that question, Nelli’s eye-stalks twirled in the particular way that happened when Nelli was doing math in their head.  

“Before Starfleet Academy?  The mission to earth was diplomatic in nature.  We had only packed for a couple of months, but then I never left?  I never went home again.  Phylos is an aching beauty.  Green skies and green hills on every horizon.  We have constructed our technological society, as you have, but the natural world is welcome within ours.  We have balance.  Risa creates harsh boundaries.”

“Why didn’t you go back?” Nune asked.

“There has been no time,” Nelli said, a little too quickly.  “I was starving for understanding of humanoid life.  This one never expected to be accepted by your Starfleet Academy.  It was too pretty a petal to ignore.  Each assignment: the hospital aboard Starbase 72, USS Dvorak, have proven terribly alien and still irresistible.  It astounds me how greatly my perspectives have changed.”

Despite every encouraging thing Nelli said about the past years of their life, Nune felt himself tense up at his own selfishness.  Risa had been his desire for this shore leave and when he had invited Nelli to join him at the last minute, he had never even considered asking them where they truly wanted to go.  “I’m– I’m sorry.  We should have vacationed on your home world…”

“No,” Nelli said. “That’s not–“

“Maybe,” Nune said. “There could be time.  There could still be time–“

“No, it’s too far,” Nelli said.

Snatching up a PADD from an end table, Nune tapped on its interface to access a star chart.  He began to plot theoretical courses from Risa to Phylos and from Phylos to Deep Space 17.  

“You deserve the comfort of home,” Nune said emphatically.  “You’ve had a hard time of it with the body swap and the Kunhri mission was grueling.  We couldn’t have seeded those algae farms without you.  I can promise you: Captain Taes will understand if you need more time to visit home.  Our mission into the Typhon Frontier will only take us farther away.”

There was a greater intensity to Nelli’s vocoder-produced voice when they said, “I could not impose!”  Reverting to their usual monotone, Nelli said, “When Ensign Dolan did not join you as planned, your invitation to this one was most gracious.  Dolan’s decision not to join you is puzzling.  You fit together.  You enjoy the way each other smells.  On Phylos, there is no separation between one and one’s community.  We work together, we live together, we love together.”

Nune started to say, “Dolan and I… we’re not…” but he shook his head.  He chose not to take the bait of Nelli’s diversion.  “Back on Phylos, do you have somebody you love?”

That question elicited a trill of a laugh from Nelli.  Nune had never heard them laugh before.  Nelli said, “Not in the binary way you understand love.  We give our whole love to others through the way we work, through our manner of photosynthesis, through our song.  Your style of pair-bonding is not the common way of love.”

“Nelli, you’re clearly homesick,” Nune said.  “So what are you avoiding on Phylos?”

Trotting to the window, Nelli said, “Maybe this one has become too alien to Phylos.  Starfleet has changed the way I think; you starships change the way I thrive.  What would I do without community embrace?  What if Phylos expects me to change as harshly as Risa expects me to change here?  I don’t think I could…”

“That would scare me,” Nune said in a very small voice.  “I don’t know how to answer any of that.”

Having grown up amid the gorgeous greenery of Iscandar City, Nune could recognise in himself at least a shadow of what Nelli felt.  Their lives aboard a starship could be isolating on the best days.  A life encased in duranium contrasted all the more harshly against a childhood with one’s feet in soil and lakes and grass.  As Nune reflected on Nelli’s displeasure with their Risian resort, it occurred to him that a planet was a very large place indeed.

Eventually, Nune said, “Forget dinner.  Come with me?”



Not very long later –and yet half a world away– the thrusters for the runabout August screamed through a thunderstorm.  Under Leander Nune’s ministrations within the cockpit, the runabout circled a lonely island and then touched down for a landing.

“Sensors confirm,” Nune said to Nelli, who sat in the co-pilot’s chair, “there’s a hole in the weather control system, where the grids don’t quite meet in this corner of the world.  Most Risians would call this scary island.  There’s no chemicals in the water, no energy fields in the air.”

Nelli didn’t say anything to that.  One of their articulate vines tapped an LCARS panel that opened the exterior hatch.  Like a prisoner granted a rightful pardon, Nelli jaunted across the cockpit and jumped out into the rainstorm.  “Join me!” Nelli shouted back and they were already swinging their vines through the falling hail and raindrops and hopping from trunk to trunk.  Not very much longer, Nune joined them in their dance, as the alien waters drenched them to the skin and their exuberance was lit by lightning.