Riandri sat staring out the large windows at the vast empty void surrounding the ship, lost in thought as the plate of food and tea sat untouched in from of her.
After her visit to sickbay two days earlier, she was feeling rather depressed; after several hours of prodding, they didn’t know what it was that was causing her to feel so miserable. Though she would admit to feeling slightly better, physically anyways but she knew it was down to the drugs that the doctor had been able to provide.
At the doctor’s suggestion, she had reached out to a couple of the El-Aurians she knew who had remained on Earth to ask them about what she had been experiencing in case they had any ideas. To her surprise, they had gotten back to her and shed some light on her current condition as they were experiencing similar effects. She had Af-Kelt, or ‘time sickness,’ both the Doc and her were sure of it and it occurred when the timeline was being disrupted. She knew why it was happening now and was confident of the cause, but what hit her the most was the fact it reminded her of just how little she knew about her own people and their abilities.
She absently reached for her tea and went to take a sip but stopped when it touched her lips; she had been there so long it had gone cold. She was about to turn around to get a new one when she heard footsteps approaching.
Crawford had been concerned about Riandri since their initial conversations, and he hadn’t been able to shake his worries over her deteriorating condition. There was something about the woman beyond her being an El-Aurian. He was starting to feel like there could be something more to their relationship than just crewmates and confidantes. Entering The Mile High Club, he’d spotted her from across the room and her listless stare into the windows. He snagged her a refill of her tea and got his hot black tea. He walked up to the table and gently sat her steaming refill on the table, “Got you a refill, Lieutenant.” He sat opposite her with a quiet smile, “A staring contest with the stars suggests you need an ear…or someone to sit with you.”
Riandri didn’t even look as she let out a little scoffing laugh, “One I will definitely lose.” She turned to look at Crawford and smiled though her thoughts were still clearly elsewhere. After a moment, she blinked and focused on Crawford, “Please.” She glanced over at the tea and smiled again, “Thanks for the refill. I let mine go cold, sadly…not that I won’t drink it that way. How are you?”
Crawford sighed, “Still trying to figure out what went wrong in the simulation.” He related how he’d lost track of the situation and had found himself not really himself for a brief moment and then soon recovered. “The medical check-up didn’t find anything out of the ordinary…so I’ve just been trying to figure out if I’m suddenly losing my mind or my abilities as an officer.” He took a pull from his mug, “You? You seem to be a thousand miles away, Lieutenant.”
Riandri let a small smile when she looked at him. “Likely both I think,” she said before she shrugged. “Spoke to the doctor the other day, as you said I should. She couldn’t place what was causing the headaches and dizziness but gave me some meds at least and that has taken the edge off of it. si what it is.” She took a sip of her tea and closed her eyes enjoying the feeling of the warm drink. “So what exactly happened in the drill? I ran into Jeter, and he mentioned more coming up,” she asked clearly trying to push the conversation away from herself.
He rolled his eyes, “Lieuten…Riandri. Look, I learned early in my life that going things alone is no way to live. If anything, it’s a surefire way to shorten your life expectancy. The more you isolate yourself, the fewer hands you have to grab when you need help up.” He leaned on the table from his seat, “You gotta let me in, just a little. The door doesn’t have to be opened all the way. Just enough so I can listen.”
She turned her head back to the window for a moment and took a deep breath. As she did, her mind went back to the time before Wolf 359 and her husband. She knew he would not be happy with the way she kept everyone out since his death, barring a few people. She closed her eyes and deflated a bit before turning to face Crawford, “Ok.”
She smiled and spoke, “I reached out to a few friends, old friends, you could say. The Federation doesn’t have a huge amount of data on my species; only what we have let them have, really, I guess. It is called Af-Kelt, or ‘time sickness’ and is a normal reaction to, well, disruptions in the timeline. It would appear these visitors are messing with things that shouldn’t be played with.”
Crawford frowned. In his spare time, he had done additional research on the El-Aurians. He had found Af-Kelt in the latter half of his search, and it had given him goosebumps. It was often an indicator of something terrible around the next corner. “I wonder….” He sat back in his chair, “It might explain what happened with the drill…I read somewhere that the existence of your other self at a relative distance can have side effects.” Peter leaned back in, “I know this sounds crazy…but is it possible another of me is somewhere out there?”
Riandri looked at him for a moment with a faint smile, “Have you done research into me?” She then took a sip of her tea and thought for a moment, “We have seen that it is possible that there are others of ourselves out there. The Captain for example; who knows who else came with them? For all, we know there could be an alternate Denver out there right now. And as you said that could have impacted your, um, performance lets say,” she said with a smirk.
Peter faux rolled his eyes, “Double entendre will get you pretty twisted up if you’re not careful,” he let a smile slide across his lips. He thought for a moment, “The concepts of alternate universes and mirror universes always got me mixed up – so many ways it can all go so very wrong.” He regarded her for a moment, “I do my research on all my friends and…well, whatever they might end up being in the end.” He let the statement hang in the air for a moment.
Riandri smirked as she responded but the expression became quizzical as Peter, “You research your friends to see what they might be in alternate universes? How do you go about that?”
Crawford sipped at his tea and nearly spit it out at the question. He had meant it as a flirtatious question but the intelligence officer had taken an entirely different meaning from his statement. He chuckled, “In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“So then, what would an alternative Riandri look like?”
Peter leaned on the table, looking her in the eyes. Yep, his stomach still did some flipping when he looked at her differently. He wasn’t sure what to do with that energy, but it was a refreshing feeling after feeling empty for so long. He teased out his words, throwing a little more flirtation than usual in hopes she would get his drift, “Well, she’d be more of a badass – my guess is the world she grew up in had few restrictions or things keeping her from being her true self. Her reputation would precede her – the ground would figuratively shake when she walked.” He cocked his head, “The world wouldn’t hold her back anymore…she wouldn’t have to hide who she was – there’d be a bright energy of freedom bustling just beneath her skin.”
Riandri snorted a laugh at hearing Peter’s description of her alternative self. She had to admit the conversations with Peter always cheered her up, something that she had not let happen often the last few years, and their conversation had gotten her out of her own head. “So,” she began, “Does that mean I, me, here and now, am closer to my true self? Or am I hiding who I am? Though I like the idea of making the ground shake where I walk.”
He chuckled and sipped at his tea, “Identity is a funny thing sometimes. You’ve hidden your El-Aurian background – for good reason. Now that I know and others know – I think it’s allowed you to draw closer to that true Riandri. The fewer walls you have around you, the more you can put that true self out there.” He finished his tea, “I think you make the ground shake, along with a few other things – but that’s a personal opinion. I’d have to do some scanning to see the actual effect of you on the world around you to make a scientific statement.”
Riandri couldn’t help but laugh at that and gave Peter a half-hearted glare, “If I didn’t know better, that could be a comment about my weight Mr. Crawford.”
Crawford reddened a bit, “That’ll teach me to try and flirt,” he chuckled along with her.
“As for the El-Aurian part, well, I never hid it per see, but you are right that it isn’t something I advertised too much. It brought up to many memories I would prefer not to dwell on, but that time is past.” She paused and looked out the window at the planet below before speaking again, “It is nice to know that you think so highly of me, though.”
Crawford lifted his up in salute, “Not quite on a pedestal but getting there.” He smiled and stood, “I should get back to the mountain of reports. An operations chief’s job is never done.”
“It never ends, that is true enough. I should likely get back to things myself, spend to much time staring out at the stars here,” Riandri remarked.
He gave a nod and started to step away but stopped, “You want to do dinner sometime this week, Riandri?”
Riandri was caught off guard by the question and felt her cheeks warm a little. “Oh,” was the only thing that escaped her lips at first before she got her thoughts together, “Yes, I would like that. Let me know when works best for you.”
Crawford felt his eyes light up, “I’ll be in touch.” He cleared his drink and headed out, stopping at the door to glance back at Riandri. Had she been watching him and then glanced away quickly? He left through the doors thankful she had followed her, ‘oh’ with something other than, ‘no’.