‘arlogh Qoylu’pu’?

Following a short rehabilitation, Mike found himself back at his normal post, at his normal computer screen, back to his normal job. The Pakled, after being revived by the Vulcans, was sent home in quick order. Thanks to Cynthia’s connections within Starfleet, it was frighteningly easy to reinstate an employee of the spaceport that had been officially dead for quite some time.
“If you know how to get around here,” she had said with a smile, “you can get away with almost anything.”
Mike couldn’t help but wonder if it was one of the things she didn’t get away with that got her stationed at the Churchill. Still, it was shocking how quickly things returned to how they had been before. Humak, with his peculiarities intact, adapted almost seamlessly back into the routine as if nothing had changed. Mike had given up after a week or so of constant needling of the human Vulcan, resigning himself to believe that he’d never get any of the answers he desired.
“The man died and came back,” Mike fumed one day while Humak was on his strictly adhered-to break, “Doesn’t he realize all of the information, all of the knowledge he might have?”
“What kind of information?” Cynthia asked from her raised chair, “Answers to existential questions, vague evidence of an afterlife? No doubt in his mind all of the data would be rendered useless by it being a personal experience, emotionally motivated, and therefore flawed. You’re asking for answers, all he can give you is opinions.”
“But… I want to hear those opinions!”
“He wasn’t raised to have them, Turtle,” Cynthia sighed, “He doesn’t know how to express them, particularly if you have no frame of reference for some kind of scholarly debate.”
“Death is illogical, I suppose,” Mike rolled his eyes, “Or at least, he’d find some way to make it be.”
“He is still human, deep down. And the human mind will do some really strange things to believe what it wants to.”
“Are you speaking from personal experience then, commander?” Mike swiveled his chair around, steepling his fingers and raising one eyebrow in his best impersonation of Humak’s frequent expression.
“That’s for me to know and you to wish you know,” she replied, flicking a bit of her console at him, “now, back to work, Underling.”
Mike spun back around and checked his screen for the umpteenth time
“Work, ha!” he scoffed, “I haven’t had anything to do since I got here this morning.”
“Then you should budget your time better.”
“I finished everything in an hour!” Mike protested.
“Exactly,” Cynthia replied, “you’ve got to better budget your time screwing around so it looks like you have something to do all day.”
“Should you really be saying these things, as my supervisor?”
“Would I have a reason to say them if I hadn’t had to do it myself?”
“Touche.”
Humak returned shortly thereafter, and work resumed in earnest. It seemed like he could always find some sort of work for Mike to do, no matter how arcane and ridiculous. In a way, Mike was thankful for it, as it made the day go faster, and he could retire to one of the leisure decks or libraries. It had been years now and, barring a few exceptions and holiday parties (that Cynthia had insisted be at the spacedock so he could participate) he had spent almost every night alone, wandering the halls of the church and rarely interacting with any of the temporary lodgers or passers-by. It never seemed lonely to him: the big, empty spacedock, the cramped sleeping quarters, the cacophonous sounds of his two echoing footfalls as they traveled down halls that had originally wished to hear hundreds, if not thousands of them… it was never lonely for him, but rather… peaceful. In high school, he had learned a few meditation techniques from his father to control his blood pressure and condition, and he found no better place in the universe to sit quietly and probe the darkest corners of his waking mind than a breathtaking vista dock staring into the serene blackness of space.
Cynthia had given up asking him if he felt lonely about a year in and, he had to admit, it was rather liberating to not feel his father or mother fussing over him every moment. It was particularly his mother who worried overtly about a flare-up or a bleed-out, but his father was always there as well underneath, using his cold, calculated medical knowledge to keep a constant eye on things that seemed so much more unnerving to Mike than his mother’s direct care. He talked to them both once a week, spinning yarn after yarn in regards to his various jobs at a planetside Starfleet base. It had almost become a game, the way he manipulated the databases: for a few months, he was working in a canteen; then a holographic information center; a warehouse and shipping depot and, finally, a commendation from a fictitious Lieutenant had him working as an assistant for an officer that didn’t exist in an office that had never been created. All in all, things seemed to be working out perfectly well.
Too well.
“I still have trouble with this,” Mike complained that afternoon after his break, “I mean, we’re out here in space. We’ve had Klingon encounters, crewman deaths, ancient Vulcan ceremonies taking place in the control room, and we even pulled the entire spacedock out of orbit…”
“Ahem,” Cynthia gave a theatrical cough, “I did that last one, thank you very much.”
Mike paid her no heed.
“But here we are again, doing the same old boring, routine, standard stuff. Is this what it’s usually like out here? One day Klingons; the next, paperwork?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” she replied drily.
“I suppose I wasn’t expecting it to be like this,” Mike grumbled, poking idly at his keyboard.
“That is a fundamental flaw in the presentation of Starfleet to prospective cadets,” Humak chimed in, typing busily away, “it has been my experience with other personnel that the idea of Starfleet presented to them was a much more glamorous ideal than the reality.”
“Oh, really?” Mike turned to Humak, interest piqued, “Tell me more.”
“It is not a new strategy,” Humak responded plainly, “one does not emphasize so-called ‘boring’ aspects of a job when they are attempting to lure in prospective recruits.”
“Sounds logical, eh?”
“Indeed.”
Humak then turned back to his console and his typing. Mike heaved a hefty sigh and pulled up a planet view on the main viewscreen. He heaved another sigh and heard Cynthia shift in her chair behind him.
“I can tell you’re still a kid, Turtle,” she said with a bit of an edge in her voice.
“Excuse me?” Mike turned to her, “I’m almost thirty, thank you very much. Some Starfleet personnel are captaining freighters at my age.”
“Even if you were eligible, Turtle… they wouldn’t give you a ship.”
“Why not?!” Mike was getting defensive.
“Why not? Think about it, Mike: you defy medical advice and risk your own life to get up here, and then proceed to use a linguistic knowledge that puts our software to shame, all the while cracking open the Starfleet confidential program codes on a daily basis and saving our skins on more than a few occasions… and it’s still not enough.”
Mike was silent then, but he could feel his face getting warm.
“What more do you want, kid?” Cynthia was challenging him directly now, “You’ve already done more than anyone ever thought you would in your condition, but you’re still not satisfied. You still complain that you can’t do more when you’ve already done too much, stranding yourself up here in this rust-bucket, probably for the rest of your life. You speak languages most of our Comm officers haven’t even heard of, but you still whine because you have to do paperwork. Hard facts, Turtle: everyone has to do paperwork. Everyone has a job that is a pain, that’s why they call it a job. Sometimes I just don’t get you, kid… when I lived in Idaho, we used to joke that some of the local boys had a chip on their shoulder, that they felt they had something to prove to the whole town, or the state, or the country… but fellas like you, we’d say there was the whole damn potato on their shoulder. You just won’t be happy until the whole damn Federation has you on their mind, will you?”
Mike was obviously embarrassed, feeling childish and silly. Maybe he was ridiculous for wanting something like that, for wanting to achieve that much greatness in his state. Maybe he should have just gotten a desk job, and it was pointless to try to out-do his father, or his classmates, or even the legends of Starfleet itself. But still, there was a little voice, deep down in his core, that just wouldn’t be quiet. He kept repeating three words, over and over until Mike felt them coming out of his mouth. He felt a rush of satisfaction the moment he said them, but almost immediately regretted them and returned to embarrassment… but it seemed to lessen, now. He looked directly into Cynthia’s icy blue eyes and spoke.
“No. I won’t.”

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