A Match Made in Limbo

Posted on Sat Nov 4th, 2017 @ 8:02am by Commander Mrazak & Qurban
Edited on on Sat Nov 4th, 2017 @ 8:11am

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: Memory Theta
Timeline: 2378

10 Years Ago

A young Vulcan stepped across the threshold from the shuttlepod to the orbital platform still under construction. Memory Theta had been little more than a myth passed around whispering students at the Academy -- a new initiative filled with clandestine secrecy and unspeakable technological terrors. Now that he was here, a clean-shaven and bright-eyed Mrazak could barely contain his wonder.

Clad in Science blue for the first time in his career, he left his luggage where it dropped for some other poor sod in Operations to ferry to his quarters.

"You will need to fetch that," said a nasally voice from down the corridor.

Mrazak jumped back in a start. "Who said that?"

"As you were." A tall, no-nonsense Human in a pressed and fitted uniform put himself in Mrazak's way. His pips reflected a captain rank. "Lieutenant...?"

"Mrazak, sir. Recently transferred from Outpost 99." Mrazak extended his hand in what he remembered as the Human manual greeting.

The taller superior officer looked down at Mrazak's proffered hand with a sniff. "I am Captain Gorsky. Command has tasked me with the administration of this classified facility, and I intend to see it remains as tip-top as the day it was commissioned." Gorsky leaned down to stare at Mrazak face to face. "The last thing I need is some pointy-eared, spastic little cartoon mucking up my perfectly smooth operation."

"Everybody notices the ears," Mrazak said with a roll of his eyes. "I am a whole person, you know. I have dreams, fears, inhibitions." He wriggled his eyebrows and grinned. "Most of all, sir, I am very excited to be here. Just point me to my research station and I'll--"

"Shut. Up." Gorsky stuck a rigid finger inches from Mrazak's eyes. "You think you're funny, Vulcan? I don't know what kind of secret idiot they sent me in you, but I've never met a funny Vulcan before and I don't care to do so now. Until the new automation system they just installed is brought online, everyone is going to have to pull their weight like they have some sense. Stow your jokes, grab your gear, and get out of my sight."

Mrazak gulped at the angry, old captain and did as ordered. "Yes, sir..."

It didn't take long to find his quarters. The orbital station had little else by way of features outside of the crew quarters, hygiene facilities, and MAM reactor. Most of the archived artifacts were stowed down in the deep storage vault below the planetoid's surface, which meant Mrazak had little to do but reference various star charts, construction schematics, and requisition orders. It had been 3 days since his onboarding, and he had not conversed with Captain Gorsky since then. All of the other Science officers were planetside overseeing the removal of lab equipment for re-installation on the nearly completed orbital platform. As such, Mrazak had not even met the Chief Science Officer... or whatever title the ranking science officer held at Memory Theta.

Mrazak thumped his spoon on the tabletop and pouted without shame. This posting was not at all shaping up the way he had anticipated. Though other officers came and went through the mess hall, no one spoke with him. There was one notable exception.

"Why the long face?"

Though he wore a Starfleet uniform, the man wore no rank insignia. Curious, Mrazak rolled his head to the side and studied him. A Human of no clear distinction and a morose countenance, yet his eyes teased a secret that no one else knew.

"Hello, I'm a Vulcan," Mrazak replied.

The other man stared back at him for a long moment until his taciturn expression broke away into a fit of laughter. "You're funny, my friend."

"So I've been told," Mrazak muttered.

"Humans are supposed to have the greatest sense of humor, but yours is tops them all." The man's face turned solemn again, almost challenging Mrazak to disagree.

"I suppose you would know," Mrazak said carefully. "Being Human and all."

The man shook his head. "No. Well, I suppose that's changed. I didn't used to be. Now..." He sipped from a teacup that he had hidden in his lap until that moment. "We all are who we were meant to be."

"What does that mean?" Mrazak arched his pronounced Vulcan brow.

"I forget," the other man said with a shrug. He extended his hand to Mrazak. "They call me Qurban. Q for short, but that often gives the wrong impression."

"Q? As in... the Q?" Mrazak shot his eyes wide open, then looked around for others. "Can others see you? Am I the only one? Oh, I've always wanted to be special, but--"

Qurban raised a hand. "Calm down. See, this is what I meant. When everyone finds out you're from the Continuum, they start rubbing on you like a genie in a proverbial bottle. Well, I can't grant any wishes, so let's just put a period to that sentence, eh?"

"No, I didn't... you're... it's just..." Mrazak kept stammering the more he tried to get words out.

"It's all right," Qurban said. "After a year in the flesh, I'm used to it. And since there's no way back to where I came from, it's not like I've got any choice in the matter."

"Do you mean you're stuck here?" Mrazak frowned.

Qurban nodded. "Precisely. And not only am I stuck in this... what do you call them? Bodies? I am also a perpetual guest of this fine facility."

"You're a prisoner?!" Mrazak was aghast.

"Nothing so prosaic," Qurban said with a shake of his head. "I am Artifact Zero. Everything here--the facility, its contents, its personnel--is because of me." He leaned forward to whisper covertly. "I'm not supposed to know that, so let's keep it between you and I, hmm?" Qurban winked.

"Your secret's safe with me," Mrazak said. "So, how is it you came to be here?"

"I don't remember," Qurban said with a shrug. "In fact, I don't remember much of anything, which comes as quite a shock since I used to be virtually omniscient. These days, I can't remember one day to the next. You'd think after 365 of them I would be better acclimated to daily existence, but I suppose nobody succeeds at everything."

Mrazak frowned again. "Do you mean you won't remember me tomorrow?"

"Oh, sure I will," Qurban said. "You're the Vulcan who made me laugh. Who could forget that?"

"Who could forget how they got locked out of the Continuum?" Mrazak countered.

Qurban laughed again and raised his teacup to Mrazak. "Touche. When I figure out the answer to that, you will be the first to know."

"If I'm still here when you do," Mrazak groused. "I haven't even met my department head yet, but if it goes anything like my run-in with the administrator, I probably won't be long for this assignment."

Qurban perked up at that. "They've assigned a new administrator already? That was fast." He sipped the last of his tea and set down the cup. "Faster than usual."

"I suppose. Captain Gorsky ran into me when I was less then 10 steps into the station, and, well," Mrazak chuckled wryly, "he did not appreciate my sense of humor."

"I would imagine not," Qurban said. "Gorsky killed himself 2 days ago."

Mrazak dropped his eating utensils. "He did what?"

"Contracted some sort of Denobulan nanotech culture after fiddling around with the wrong crate," Qurban said.

"I thought you said he killed himself," Mrazak said with a wrinkled brow.

"Correct. The nanobots drove him crazy enough to jerry-rig the replicator in his office and dematerialize his own head." He sniffed at the description. "Security found the body, but not the head. Naturally."

Mrazak nodded, still in shock. "Naturally," he murmured in agreement. "How did I not know?"

Qurban shrugged. "I heard it from Security who heard it from the Chief. Perhaps you were meant to hear it from Commander Pujols."

"Commander Pujols?" Mrazak repeated.

"Lead Scientific Specialist," Qurban said. "Since Curator Eigthe is a civilian, Pujols will be in interim command until another administrator arrives. It will be the third one in as many months."

Mrazak balked at that. "Why is there so much turnover?"

"Hazards of the job include psychological strain, lethal exposure to toxic materials, and mind-numbing boredom," Qurban said.

"Is that all?" Mrazak asked.

"Perhaps you can find more," Qurban quipped. "I'm out of tea. Would you like to accompany me as I get more?"

Mrazak furrowed his brow. "I suppose..."

The two stood up together and made strides to the replicator.

"I do not have any friends here," Qurban said. He ordered two more teas, then handed one to Mrazak. "Pujols is a prig. I expect him to follow Gorsky within the fortnight." He turned to Mrazak and stared a hole through him. "Do not die, Mrazak. Neither resign. Instead, stay with me, and help me remember why I am here."

Mrazak pursed his mouth in thought, then nodded. "Absolutely. It's not like I have anything else to do at the moment."

"No," Qurban said. "If you stick around, you will gain seniority, and one day you will stand on top of the mound of bodies who have fallen before you. On that day, you will be my greatest asset... pardon, ally. In exchange, I will help you as best I can. My nearly forgotten knowledge will be at your disposal."

"Why are you telling me this?" Mrazak asked.

"Because I need you to endure," Qurban said. "If I am ever going to uncover the mystery of why I'm here, it won't be with a rotating door of personnel. I believe you have what it takes to endure, Mrazak."

"I will." Mrazak nodded solemnly. "If it's the last thing I do."

"That doesn't make sense," Qurban said, "but it's agreed." He extended his hand one more time. "I'm not sure why Humans do this, though I can't seem to stop myself."

Mrazak shook his hand. "Together we'll unlock the secrets of the universe."

"And then hide them from everyone else," Qurban said. "They're rather adamant about that last part."