Home on Lagrange

Posted on Sun Feb 25th, 2024 @ 7:29am by Lieutenant Inara Ziro

1,823 words; about a 9 minute read

Mission: In The Beginning
Location: Glaisher Array - Alpha Eridani II
Timeline: 2391
Tags: Glaisher Array, Inara Ziro, backstory, Academy Years

=/\= Glaisher Array - Stardate 20791.9 =/\=

Glaisher Array


A vast and empty frontier...

Inara Ziro had hardly grasped the enormity of her new workplace before. She found herself half a quadrant away from her home planet, crammed into an old-style travel pod moving at a fraction of light speed. Alone. For ten. Hours.

Solace was certainly welcome after three years of bunking with Sarah Fischman at Starfleet Academy. They became best friends, of course, but the music and build projects and movie nights and weekends in San Francisco and their "road trip" had all certainly taken their toll. After all that time, she could hardly remember where her roommate ended and she began. A hazard of her species.

Inara was Sigma Iotian. She possessed the extraordinary ability to mimic the attitudes and social cues of those around her. Her people's signature adaptation allowed her to form community with anyone, free from prejudice or mistrust. But it was also a source of great vulnerability, which Starfleet knew all too well. She needed to prove herself on this assignment. To stand out. Or Starfleet may never let her people out into the galaxy.

The long journey, she thought, would be a welcome respite from the constant call of social expectations. Peace and quiet, just what she needed after three long years. By the end of her journey, however, she was desperate for solid ground and a person to talk to.

Starting her senior year, the cadet had been assigned a three month rotation in space. Sarah, of course, pulled The Enterprise for her assignment. Inara, though not so lucky, was just happy for any opportunity to get out there. She could hardly see why her friends had teased her for her posting. The Glaisher Array was surely an engineer's dream!

The space station was positioned halfway between Alpha Eridani and its sun, inside belt of light-absorbing particulates. This relic of the Romulan war dangerously reduced the amount of light that could reach the planet. The array gathered and transmitted solar energy into the planetary weather-control system at Heliopolis. The technological achievement was inspiring! At least, it was inspiring two-hundred years ago.

But, it was an honor to be a part of that legacy! Who cares if it was hours away from the nearest planet? Who cares if it had a fraction of the crew the station was built for? Who cares if it didn't even have a holodeck?

As the pod docked with its destination, Inara wondered how her ancestors managed cars. Adjusting her uniform in the tiny standing space behind the pilot's seat, she presented her best military stance to... an empty corridor.

"Hello?" Inara called, cautiously. But, nobody was there. How strange.

The cadet had spent many hours reveling in her perplexity of humanity. She had a knack for fitting in, courtesy of her Iotian abilities, but being able to imitate human behavior didn't necessarily allow her to predict it. After three years at Starfleet Academy, she expected a certain amount of formality out there in an operating starbase.

Wondering down the hall, peaking through doors and windows, Inara's confusion grew. Through one door, an empty office was thoroughly covered in sticky notes. Through the next, an abandoned galley was dominated by a precarious stack of replicated food cubes that reached the ceiling. The last door on that deck held an unlit workshop with a woodsaw covered in real sawdust!

Each new sight made her question her surroundings more. Was this even a Starfleet facility? Was there some kind of anomaly? God-like being wreaking havoc? Space sickness? Was she actually alone?

Echoing through the corridor, Inara finally found her answer in the warm strumming of an acoustic guitar. The Iotian pushed back her befuddlement and focused on the vibration of the bulkheads beneath her feet. She wagered she'd find the source a deck below her and set off to find it.

As the turbolift descended, a man's voice joined in harmony with the instrument, muffled by the steel between them. As she closed in, she could make out the words to a tune unlike anything she had heard before.

"Oh give me home
Where the neutrinos roam
Where the dear old An-dor-i-ans play"

Inara wondered if this was what Sarah called a "Sea Shanty." Somehow, she pictured the genre more up-tempo. A door swished open before her, revealing an older man playing the guitar alone in another office, sat atop a table. She recognized him as her new commanding officer.

If he noticed her, he didn't acknowledge it. Afraid to interrupt, she simply stood at attention, praying he wouldn't take offence.

"Home! Home on Lagrange!
A pointofstableorbitbetweentwogravitationalbodies in spa-ace
Where seldom is heard
A-a Rom-u-lan Bird
And the Borg aren't as-sim-il-a-ting"

The man let the last note linger for a moment, savoring its reverberation in the room. He set the guitar down beside him and, still sat atop the table, looked at her with a calm smile.

"Uh.." Inara stammered, suddenly aware of herself again, "Cadet First Class Inara Ziro reporting for duty, sir!"

"At ease, Cadet." He said, amusedly. Inara recognized his accent. Though she had no idea what region of Earth it represented, "Captain Clifford Hatfield. Pleasure to meet you, Inara Ziro."

"Likewise.. sir." She accepted his handshake, surprised the man was familiar with the obscure Iotian custom. "That's... a beautiful instrument."

"You like it?" The captain eagerly handed his guitar to her for inspection. "Made her myself! Replicated the varnish and the tools, of course. But that's real American cedar you got there."

"It.. sounds amazing!" She said, genuinely, awkwardly. She inspected the instrument for a moment out of politeness and then held it out in a silent plea for him to take the fragile heavy thing away from her, which he kindly obliged. "Did you write that song yourself?"

Hatfield chuckled. "No, not exactly. Ain't you from the states? Your profile says you're from Chicago."

"Ah... Not that Chicago." Inara said, practiced at addressing the common mistake. "It's a long story."

"You'll have to tell me, sometime. I presume I'm the first to welcome you to our little perch upon the void?"

"Yes, sir. If I may ask, where is everyone?"

"Asleep, Cadet. It's 2300 hours."

"Of course, but.. where's the night crew?"

"Oh, you're lookin' at him!" He chuckled. "Welcome to the finest crew in Starfleet! All five of us, counting yourself!"

"Here, here!" A voice interrupted them, making Inara yelp.

"Ah! Lieutenant Junior Grade Elliot Caldwell!" the Captain exclaimed, by way of introduction. "Elliot, Inara Ziro."

"Sir!" She addressed the newcomer with as much professionalism as she could muster. Very skinny and tall and wearing a faded tee shirt over space pajamas, he didn't look much like an officer.

"Pleasure to meet you." the sleepyhead replied with an amused smile before turning back to Hatfield. "You know we can all hear you, right?"

The Captain processed this information for a second before laughing at himself. "Guess I got a little carried away."

"You know... I could get you a mobile emitter under the table for cheap! A nice hologram guitar with volume control!"

Inara was aghast at the brazen offer. Was he serious? Hatfield seemed to be as offended as he was amused at the very least.

"Well, since you're up already, Lieutenant" He warned, "Why don't you give the cadet here a tour of the station?"

The boy sighed. "Alright boss. That is... if Inara is up for it! You must be pretty tired after your flight, right?"

"Actually" Inara began, slyly, as she locked in on the dynamic at play. "I wouldn't mind stretching my legs."

The Lieutenant gave a look of resigned amusement. With a mock salute to the CO, he ushered the cadet out into the hall. As soon as the old doors sealed shut behind the pair, they heard a few exploratory chords reverberate from the walls.

Inara scurried to catch up to her guide, reminding herself not to get too caught up in the fun. She was still a junior officer, and had to remember her place. Without looking at her, Elliot noticed her tension and made a point to put his hands in his pockets and slow his gait. Keeping it casual.

"At ease, Cadet." He ordered, when she continued to march alongside him. "Past my bedtime, I'm nobody's boss. Actually, I'm nobody's boss all the time."

Cadet Ziro finally loosened up just as they both heard the captain's muffled baritone once more.

Hoooome, Home on the Raaaaange!

"Is he... always like this?" Inara asked

"More or less." Elliot laughed. "He's been laying on the cowboy thing a little thick ever since he finished that guitar, though. Nurol's threatening to beam it into the Shadow Belt."

"I thought it was nice, actually." Inara opined over her new commander's crooning echoes. "I wonder if I could learn to play like that."

"Oh no, an enabler!" He chuckled. "You're definitely getting the hang of this a lot faster than our last intern. This isn't exactly The Enterprise. But I guess a two hundred year old station is an engineer's dream. You'll certainly never run out of things to fix. Nadine'll love having someone to geek out with her again."

"Oh, I mean..." She considered her situation. "It's definitely an honor to be here. This place is history! But... I guess, I pictured it, actually orbiting the planet, and-"

"-and not parked inside a Romulan war crime?"

"Yeah." She stopped in her tracks, looking out the window at the dim, distorted stars. "I never get tired of watching a whole world spinning below me."

"Really? You don't see a lot of planets running a warp core. Are you in the right department?"

Cadet Ziro looked at the man in the PJs next to her with mild annoyance. As if she hadn't thought about that before. "It's what I'm good at." She finally settled on as a retort.

"Suit yourself." he replied, remaining unconvinced. "Better be as good as you say, though. Nadine runs a tight ship."

"I can handle Nadine." She wryly replied.

"Ha! Oh, you'll fit right in, Cadet. Don't worry, the months will fly by."



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