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Part of USS Babylon: In Leviathan’s Wake and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Implying the Existence of a Gom-One

Deck 1
March 2401
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Ixabi closed her eyes and took a slow, deep breath in (‘One, two, three, four…‘) and out (‘…five, six, seven, eight.‘) as she stood in front of the captain’s ready room. ‘It’s fine,’ she thought to herself, ‘You’re not in trouble.

And why would she be in trouble? The new captain and first officer had only been there a day; they were perfectly pleasant during her interview last night; they–the captain at least–seemed incredibly easy-going; she had not detected a single stray critical thought or uncomfortable emotion directed at her since they’d arrived!

You’re acting crazy– no! Not crazy! Self-critical. Allow yourself some grace. And stop staring at his door and go inside already.

She physically shook off her thoughts and flicked her wrist out to hit the door chime.

“Come in!”

Anand swiped aside the display on his desk and beamed at her as she stepped through the door, but his expression didn’t completely eliminate the spark of anxiety in the pit of her stomach.

“Lieutenant Ixabi! Please, have a seat.”

She took the chair he gestured to, and as she settled herself upon the firm surface she felt more of her anxiety dissolve and condense into curiosity.

Anand folded his hands in front of him and seemed ready to speak, but then furrowed his brows and unfolded his hands. The fidgeting should have ignited Ixabi’s anxiety all over again, but it was overlaid by the traces of thoughts and emotions that radiated off every one of her crewmates like body heat. In this case, she was picking up a current of worry and concern.

Concern for her.

Oh, she could feel the anxiety re-condensing. 

“Ixabi,” Anand said at last, “I just got our latest orders in from Fourth Fleet command.”

She nodded, and the curiosity she felt about why she needed to be the first to know was so overwhelming that she actually started to feel a bit numb.

“I wanted to speak to you before the official mission briefing because–” 

Anand cut himself off, sighed, then re-folded his hands and sat up a little bit straighter. Under any other circumstances, Ixabi might have relished catching his brief physical and mental recalibration. When she reoriented herself like that she thought of it as ‘entering Starfleet Officer Mode’.

“Because,” Anand started again, “We’ve been ordered to locate and make contact with a space-borne lifeform, and there was a strong suggestion that I utilize the talents of my telepathic crew members for the task. Well, crew member. Right now, that’s just you.”

Anand leaned forward, and Ixabi was hit with another wave of concern. “But from what I understand, attempting to communicate with such a radically different kind of intelligence can be taxing and even dangerous, so we’re going to go over our options for finding and talking to this creature together before the briefing. If you don’t want to use your telepathy on this mission then I won’t even suggest it during the meeting and I’ll personally shoot it down if anyone else suggests it.”

That was a lot more information than Ixabi was prepared to digest. Part of her had picked up the raw content and was already sifting through the exciting possibilities and practical challenges of encountering a new intelligence. The other part of her had walked straight into a wall of emotional subtext and didn’t know how to proceed. She probably ought to react somehow, but she couldn’t. All she could manage to do was blink, and– oh no. Her eyes were wet.

Anand noticed immediately and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I should have approached this better–”

“No!” Ixabi jolted and started waving her hands at him. “No no no! Captain, I think this is an amazing opportunity! I would love to help you reach out to this creature! I just–”

She couldn’t even begin to untangle and name the surge of emotions she was feeling (gratitude? relief? connection?), so she went with the most convenient half-truth.

“I’m just so in awe at the incredible diversity of life in this universe!”


“I can’t believe you had the audacity to ask us if we’d ever heard of Gomtuu!”

Szarka’s words reverberated down the corridor as the senior staff filed out of the conference room. She caught Ixabi’s eye and gave her a wink and finger guns as the other woman went with Dr. Ang to get some ‘baseline readings’ done. Ixabi gave her a little wave in return as she disappeared into the turbolift.

“Well, you know what they say about people who assume,” said Anand, the last one out of the room. He sounded more weary than facetious, and Szarka felt a little bad for him.

She also noticed Bohkat glowering at her and flaring his nostrils again and decided to tweak her mock indignation into mild self-deprecation as they entered the bridge. “I’m just saying, some people might take that as an insult to their nerd credentials, especially on this ship. Even Zamora’s heard of Gomtuu.”

“Tin Man,” said Zamora, nodding in acknowledgement as she swapped in at the helm.

Anand didn’t seem to be listening anymore. He’d followed Bohkat over to the tactical station and was nodding along as the commander muttered and pointed out little purple blips on a map, probably reiterating the fleet intel they’d just reviewed in the briefing. 

Qsshrr skittered behind them and took up her place at the science station. Szarka never tired of watching the holographic LCARS automatically appear at Horta level as she approached. It was covered with inscrutable patterns in deep reds and bright violets, ghosts of wavelengths that Szarka couldn’t perceive but which seemed to communicate meaningfully to Qsshrr.

Szarka turned back to her workstation and started manually synchronizing the incoming fleet intelligence with their sensor readouts. When the results loaded, she turned in her seat to announce them to Anand, but he was now standing in front of the center seat with his hands on his hips, glaring at the chair as if it might jump up and bite him.

He hasn’t sat in the captain’s seat yet,’ Szarka realized with amusement. And at this rate, he never would.

Anand must have felt her eyes on him because he glanced up in her direction. Szarka smirked and waggled her eyebrows. He looked away and took his seat so quickly that he almost collapsed into it.

“The path is still clear according to the latest cross-reference I made,” she announced, somewhat louder than necessary.

Anand swiveled towards Szarka and nodded; his attempt at nonchalance just made him seem overly stiff, but that was fine. She seemed to be the only one paying attention to the emotional journey he was clearly broadcasting.

“Looks like it’s full speed ahead to our mysterious space creature: Gomtuu Two? No, wait!” Szarka snapped her fingers. “Gomthree!”

Anand groaned and sank into his seat, but he sat upright as he noticed the same sound Szarka was hearing: a low chuckle coming from the tactical station.

“Really!?” Anand called loudly to Bohkat. “That’s what gets a laugh out of you?”

Bohkat cleared his throat and stared back at Anand, all hint of amusement gone. “I appreciate wordplay.”

“Ugh, as if I didn’t suffer enough under the tyranny of my sister’s puns,” said Anand. ”She’s out there somewhere laughing at my expense right now, I can feel it.”

Szarka smirked again as she turned back to her workstation, pleased that she’d found a potential means of disarming Bohkat and his weaponized scowls.

“Hang in there, Gomthree,” she muttered. “We’re coming for you.”

Comments

  • First of all, kudos for the chapter title that explains the joke at the end of the story. Szarka being offended a the suggestion she may not have known of Gomtuu was a funny I never would have expected. As we continue to get to know this crew better, I love the insights we're getting into Anand's kind and thoughtful leadership style and I'm glad we got to witness his first (?) time sitting in the captain's chair! Ixabi's feeling overwhelmed by her emotions was so relatable and so palpably written. Give yourself some grace, indeed!

    May 20, 2023
  • He did it! He took the chair at last! What a nice Captain Anand is, giving careful thought and consideration to Ixabi's feelings. You've given us a range of characters that make this eclectic bunch so likeable. From the emotional Ixabi, to the cocksure attitude of people like Szarka. With each post, we become a little more invested in each of these great characters. We're into the main mission now, with them on the hunt for Gomthree (loved the wordplay as much as Bohkat did). Some excellent writing, can't wait to see how things develop from here on out.

    May 20, 2023
  • Every time I think I have a new favourite, I then have a different new favourite. The star last time was Zamora. I liked already what I saw of Ixabi and this chapter only solidified it, and now we have a little more of Szerka, rubbing people up the wrong way but then pulling out of the fire to be charming and get away with it - and THEN Bohkat laughing at dumb puns, my word. I also madly, MADLY appreciate the briefing happening off-screen. Briefings need a deft hand (one I often do not have) and by just going "We're after A/An Gomtuu" is more than adequate. Beautiful stuff.

    May 20, 2023
  • Telepathy can be a hard topic to describe adequately, but "traces of thoughts and emotions that radiated off every one of her crewmates like body heat" is just such a delightful and relatable description. It also made me feel bad for her. She's got these nerves and apprehensions, and then the captain pressures her, both through his words and through the worries and concerns in his mind, to do something that could leave an indelible scar on her. Ixabi feels like a tragic hero, even if she doesn't realize it, and I love it. Also, those Gompuns, lol!

    May 28, 2023
  • I do have to point out that I appreciate on how you explain the delicate mind of a telepath, it is difficult to explain and to move yourself into that person that experience it from the outside. Wonderful job and of course great interaction between Szarka and Gomtuu, you see the character building is growing between the crew. Keep it up!

    May 30, 2023