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Cabin Fever, Part 1

Posted on Wednesday March 24, 2021 @ 11:30am by Canaan Serine [GM] & Torin Landry

Mission: Lower Decks
Location: Mess Lounge, Deck 1

The warp core churned its normal heartbeat. Torin managed to escape the bunks without making too much of a fuss. Eurus would wake if she heard a movement, but Torin evaded her during her slumber.
The snores of his crewmates were muffled under the sound of the ship itself. His feet bare across the cold plating. A chill shot up his spine. He could put on shoes, but at the risk of waking someone in their sleep.

He was used to tight accommodations. On expeditions, he would sometimes share a tent with up to four other people. But when he woke, there would be the entire rest of the planet to himself. On the Armedia, he had the cargo bay, which was lovingly called the "Zoo.' The Cardinal offered little escape. He didn't mind his colleagues at all. He wasn't close with any of them yet. Alas, Torin needed Torin time.

The mess hall was empty by midnight. Every few nights, he would camp there to eat a quick meal and catch up on some reading. A data PADD held under his arm was loaded with "Animals of Mythos: A Zoological Study of the Impossible." He pulled it up as he walked into the hall. His eyes glued to the words while his free hand worked the replicator. "Coconut Puffs, with milk."

When they'd first launched, both Trinity and Arnie recommended designating a running path on one deck. A long-distance runner, Canaan was enthusiastic about the idea. They'd settled on deck three, as it offered the widest diameter from stem to stern. Ewo laid iridescent markers down the middle of the corridor and one-way directional indicators along the inner-most lane, assigning it a running path. The rec room off the mess lounge had plenty of equipment to offer a well-rounded workout, including treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes. These worked in a pinch; however, when possible, Canaan wanted to be the one running toward a destination rather than in place.

Big surprise, he couldn't sleep. Maddie had taken him off the sleeping aids, and insomnia returned, as did the nightmares, although those had always been there, sitting just under the placid surface of a deceivingly tranquil mind. A run at this late hour meant expending pent-up energy and physically exhausting the body so he might rest, even for a few hours.

Canaan stepped off the lift, winded as he continued his post-run cooldown of a paced walk around deck one until he arrived at the mess lounge. Walking through its open doorway, he noticed that many of the accent lights were turned on yet didn't immediately notice Torin's unassuming presence seated at the table, reading a book and munching on a midnight snack. Instead, he closed the short distance to the chiller, removing a reusable water container. Popping off its lid, Canaan took a long swig of the container's purified contents, gulping hungrily.

A spoon hung out from Torin's mouth, his hand still gripping it as though he would pull it out for another scoop. However, it hung there as his eyes fixated on the PADD. He was dissecting a picture of a mythological Vulcan dragon. After he scanned what seemed like every scale and claw, he sunk his spoon back into the bowl. In this movement, something hooked him from his peripherals.

It was someone he recognized, albeit sweated and reddened. The commander, but what was his name again? He toggled through the list of all he remembered from the ship. Torin could remember thousands of creatures' scientific names but couldn't even store his coworker's first names. It started with a 'C,' he was sure of it, and it wasn't something common. He felt the blood drain from his cheeks.

He must conceit-try to navigate this social situation without having to refer to the other party's name.

"So-," as he spoke, his throat croaked. It wasn't ready to verbalize anything. He coughed it back awake, "Sorry, I didn't think anyone else would be up."

Canaan swallowed a big sip, offering a sheepish grin before wiping a bare arm across his wetted lips, "I'm a bit of a night owl, involuntarily, of course, but one all the same." He gestured to the man's half-eaten bowl of cereal, "You're in good company if you enjoy a midnight snack. Maddie down in sickbay enjoys a cookie around this time." He glanced around as if looking for the Doc before taking a tentative step toward the table, "Whatcha' reading?" He wondered curiously.

Torin scooted his bowl aside and signaled to the empty seat across from him. His luck of not running into anyone at this hour had run out.

"It's called 'Animals of Mythos,'" he explained. "It's just a hypothetical analysis of different animals. I'm not much into fiction." He turned the display to show the other, "But these diagrams are just too beautiful to ignore." The screen showed a meticulously labeled hindquarter of a Bolian rhinocorn.

Canaan, aware of the stink's current state, hadn't planned to stay long except to rehydrate. Then, it was time for a shower and a bit of quiet time reading before calling it quits for the night if he could. But, he liked that Torin, one of the quieter, more private members of the crew, had extended the invitation. He didn't imagine Torin did that often and was glad to accept. So, maybe he'd stay a few minutes longer. "Mmm, what two species are blended there?" He asked, gesturing to the image. His eyes were immediately drawn to the creatures' hide, whose fur of blue and white were similar in pattern to Earth's Zebra.

Torin didn't mind the smell. After spending years around animals, it took a lot to offend his nostrils. He even wondered if they have been desensitized. He nodded, pulling up a full picture. It looked like a furry rhino but with thin, long horns and a smaller striped back-half. "It's what we would consider a rhino mixed with another Bolian species that's like an Okapi. It's said to linger in their savannah during the rainy season and is born when lightning hits a tree. Of course, it's all folk tale, but interesting."

Nodding, Canaan leaned in closer to get a better look. "A lot of folktales are born from reality as a way of making sense of something we don't entirely understand." He added softly, "If this creature were real, what about it would you like to study first?" He wondered.

The mess hall spun, and an image of a savannah flooded in Torin's mind. He could feel the slight breeze and the sun beating down. The low brush fluttered as a Rhinocorn chomped on the greenery.
"I just like watching them; the way their ears and tail whip off a curious fly, which feet they lean on while they eat, where their eyes focus on throughout their environment." The image fell, and the darkened hall returned. Torin looked to the officer. If only he could read a human just as well. So he just assumed the other's feelings. "I'm sorry, I'm probably boring you with all my blabbering." He looked to change the topic, for Canaan's sake. "I see you just got done with a workout."

Canaan wanted to reassure Torin of his interest in the Rhinocorn - He wouldn't have asked the question if he wasn't. Yet, there was a timidness in how Torin withdrew from the topic as if embarrassed by his own passion or believed that Canaan was merely humoring said passion. Canaan didn't know Torin well enough to press the subject, so, instead, he leaned back in the chair and nodded, "A run, yeah." He took another sip of water, watching the scientist with evident curiosity, "I'm a bit of a night owl, and the track on deck three isn't as difficult to run when everyone is asleep. Not that there's many of us here, to begin with." He managed a smile, not going so far as to explain the explicit reasons for being up this late.

"Sleep and I are no friends, either," said Torin. He thought about all the times he had to camp out in the wilderness and how easily he slipped into slumber. The steadiness of a ship irked him, affecting his sleep cycle. "I didn't realize there was a track on deck three. I thought those lines were for cargo transfer or something." It was typical of Torin to ignore the clues when it related to fitness. As well, it was uncommon for him even to have to go to deck three for work. "I guess nothing gets you more tired than physical exercise."

He could appreciate how Torin had made that assumption about the running track given the cargo bay on deck three. "It's not ideal; the few of us who run it all agree we'd much prefer a jaunt outside. But, well, that's not really an option at the moment." He grinned, gesturing to space just outside the lounge's large portals. "It'll have to suffice until our next planetside mission, I suppose. We need to be a bit creative in thinking of new and different ways to preoccupy ourselves during our free time. The ship has very few of the creature comforts we're all accustomed to enjoying. But, that should make our stays in a port all the more exciting, I suspect." Torin was correct in that the run had exhausted him just enough that he felt compelled to rest - Hopefully, the shower would work in tandem with the run, and he'd find at least a few hours respite.

Torin nodded. It was always rough adapting back to ship life. Besides his books or playing with Eurus, he didn't have much else to fill his free time. Sleep was scarce, meaning he had more time that required filling. A rumble started in his stomach. The words escaped before he could think about them. "Maybe... next time you run, I could join you."

Why did he say that? Torin wasn't sure himself. He was not a fan of exercise, but he figured it would be a healthier hobby to get into than the mess's midnight snacks. He felt the need to backtrack. "But, I understand if you'd rather have your alone time."


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