((The Boulevard, Starbase 104))
Vendor: Jopclal! Freshly-baked jopclal!
::The astringent aroma of hot cardamom and some unplaceable spices wafted around Molko Trevinien as he passed the Romulan baker’s stall.::
::The hot, spicy air followed him to the next marquee where a grey-haired Orion called out to passers-by. Her once emerald skin had faded to chartreuse and her face and voice were both cracked with age, but Molko found himself allured by her.::
Chezara: Come, come Starfleet.
::Molko slowed, letting his long strides stop beside the large tent. Blue canvas formed a wide canopy and walls, but Molko noticed there was not a lot of interior space - just two couches made of thrown furs and cushions aside a low, intricately carved and possibly antique table. It was hot and humid here, with noisy bursts and hisses of steam coming from a squat, broad stove. Several kettles of various shapes and designs all bubbled and jostled with teas and other concoctions.::
::At the entrance, sat atop a gnarled wooden stool, the old Orion eyed him up and down, half in amusement and half in suspicion, but a crooked smile remained on her face in any case.
Chezara: Sit a spell, Starfleet, have some tea. I have a unique blend taught me by my old Grandmama back on Rigel. Very good for calming your nerves.
::Molko looked at the woman curiously, his half-smile forming unconsciously.::
Trevinien: Is it that obvious?
::Chezara simply simply and reached for a tall, silvery kettle that had far too many spindly spouts emerging at different heights. It did not look remotely practical. She placed two small cups on a metal tray and started to pour. Much to his astonishment, only two trickles of tea left the kettle, from only the spouts beneath which rested the cups.::
::The old Orion winked secretively at his nonplussed expression and laughed deeply.::
Chezara: Old Chezara still has many tricks, Starfleet.
::With one hand she held out a cup to the Ramatisian and with the other she patted a large cushion on the floor inside the entrance of the tent. Molko hesitated, looking along the Boulevard past all the other stalls, kiosks and booths that led to the Space Port.::
::But SB104 was so... immense that Molko discovered he still could not make out the end and his destination. He turned back to the tent.::
Chezara: Don’t worry, Starfleet, you have plenty of time, and the market comes together almost once a month. You won’t miss anything.
::Half-wondering if she might psychic, Molko relented and ducked into the tent, folding his legs under him and he sat on the cushion, placing his duffel bag of personal belongings carefully on the ground. He gladly accepted the tea - it had a sharp, amaroidal aroma - and introduced himself.::
Trevinien: I’m Ensign Trevinien.
Chezara: But only just, am I right?
::She laughed again and knocked back the cup of tea in one draught. Not sure of proper etiquette, Molko copied her. The liquid was hot and bitter with a certain tartness. He enjoyed it.::
Chezara: Forgive old Chezara - when you’ve been serving teas to the Federation for 30 years, you’ll pick up the knack of spotting the freshmen too.
::He placed the cup back on the metal tray.::
Trevinien: Thank you, that was delicious.
::Without asking, she again arranged the cups and poured, but this time the tea fell from two different spouts. Molko’s eyes narrowed and brows knitted. He hated not understanding how something worked.::
Chezara: No, no, Stafleet.
::She chided him with a knowing laugh and handed him the tea.::
Chezara: Some secrets I will never reveal.
::Molko studied the woman’s face, who showed no signs of embarrassment at such scrutiny, and knocked back the second cup of tea. This time he could taste more of the flavours, the subtle layering of different scents and tastes::
Trevinien: Are you very wise, or am I very dumb?
::Chezara laughed delightedly and clapped her hands together, the dozens of bangles and bracelets that adorned her thin arms jangling together. To Molko it all sounded like music and for a moment a picture of the old tea woman flashed in his mind - she was young and radiant with a rich a sonorous laugh.::
Chezara: Aha, now that is an important question! But I think the answer is probably neither. I’m very old and you are very young.
::She nodded sagely to punctuate her statement, which Molko accepted without reply. He wasn’t sure but suspected that he had just learnt something important that he wouldn’t understand for a long time.::
::A third cup was poured, this time in a shared, thoughtful silence.::
Chezara: One for the road, Starfleet.
::In unison, they downed their teas.::
Trevinien: Thank you. And thank your Grandmama too, the tea was delicious.
Chezara: Well, she’s been dead for a long time, Stafleet, so I don’t think she cares one way or the other. But come visit me, I have a little shop down in the Sink and happily accept gratitude.
Trevinien. I will.
::And he meant it sincerely. There was something about this woman that captivated his imagination. She was a puzzle - and Molko could not leave puzzles unsolved. He picked up his bag and was about to leave when he paused.::
::He thought about if for just a moment, but then unzipped and reached into his bag. He removed from it a black felt purse.::
Trevinien: I’d like you to have this.
::He opened the drawstring and revealed a silver-copper device about the size of a child’s fist. He handed it to Chezara.::
::The old woman accepted it silently - it had been a long time since anyone had surprised her. And soon her surprise turned to astonishment as she removed the thing from its purse and it suddenly spread its wings and started to gently hover about the roof of the tent, chirping a cheerful tune.::
Chezara: By the ancients! What is it?
::Her eyes sparkled with delight and she clapped her bespangled hands together again.::
Trevinien: It’s just a toy. A mechanical bird with a small anti-grav unit and a voice box.
Chezara: Where did you find such a thing? I’ve not seen anything like it here on Southend.
::Molko shifted a little awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck::
Trevinien: Oh, I, uh, made it. I like to make things. But I want you to have it. To say thank you.
::Chezara looked down from the toy and examined Molko carefully, with just a hint of suspicion. Molko wanted to run right then, but he met her gaze and withstood her scrutiny as she had done his earlier. He wasn’t certain by what criteria she was assessing him, but it seemed he had passed when she grabbed him by both shoulders and brought him close for a hug.::
Chezara: Starfleet, you will always have a table in my tea shop!
((The Space Port, SB104))
::It was much busier here than along the Boulevard, even with its monthly market. Civilian and Starfleet flights were arriving and departing in a complicated dance around the starbase all the time. He saw uniformed officers hurrying to their destinations, disgruntled-looking Southenders annoyed that their routine is too routinely interrupted by the bustle and groups of tourists coming to explore the base before moving on to some paradise planet or other.::
::It reminded him of home.::
::Although he had been born on Ramatis, and spent the first ten years of his life there, Starbase 157 was his home. The noise, the smell, the feeling of living aboard a giant machine, these are what constituted a true home for Molko. The hustle, the artifice, the entropy, these are why today Molko was an engineer. An engineer about the start a new life.::
::Only then did he catch sight of it through one of the many large portholes: the broad, grey expanse of a Galaxy-class starship. He stood spellbound, mouth open. He could only see its saucer from where he was, but he could already observe that she was a stately old gal - one of the longest serving in the fleet. The Constitution had a reputation he would have to live up to. He smiled to himself - he liked the challenge.::
((Deck 1, USS Constitution-B))
::A little under an hour later, Molko had registered his arrival with the Quartermaster, stowed his gear in his new quarters, and now stood before the entrance to the Bridge. And he’d been standing there for about ten minutes.::
::He couldn’t have explained what was stopping him approaching those doors, crossing that threshold. He had been preparing for this moment for four years, had spent sleepless nights studying and countless days training. What was this fear which now gripped him?::
Trevinien: Come on, Ensign, get ahold of yourself!
::He scolded himself angrily and shook his head. Clenching his fists, he marched forward. The doors hissed open. He took that step, that one step that had so paralysed him, and entered the Bridge.::
((Bridge, USS Constitution-B))
::Trying to act more confident and less awed than he felt, Molko crossed the Bridge towards the centre chair. He had been instructed to come here directly and to report to Commander Blair - he assumed that the immaculately-uniformed and serious looking Human in front of him was his new First Officer.::
Trevinien: Command Blair?
Trevinien: Ensign Molko Trevinien, sir.
::Molko handed over the PADD he’d been carrying to confirm his identity and orders.::
Ensign Molko Trevinien