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LtJG Iniko Mpeba, "Too much thinking"


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((Corridor, Deck 8, USS Darwin-A))

::Iniko and Iy set off down the corridor, wandering aimlessly. Iniko couldn’t remember the last time jhe had just walked around without a destination in mind. It was not exactly peaceful. Jhe was still agitated and the bright lights and occasional people passing by were irritating and left jhea feeling exposed. Jhe tried to steer jheas mind away from the uncomfortable thoughts.::

Mpeba: We never really got a chance to talk back on Zakdorn, with all the . . . ::jhe shuddered and let that sentence trail off.:: I mean, we worked together, but I don’t know much about you personally. What sort of things do you like to do?

Iy: ::switching to a more serious tone:: I don't do a lot for fun, unfortunately. Before I arrived on the Darwin, life was a bit hard. Being a refugee on the run from your own people is a full-time endeavor. ::ne paused, then lightened up:: But, there's lots of fun things to do now! I'm particularly fond of phaser drills. Reading Starfleet regulations? Not as much! How about you?

Mpeba: ::jhe let out a huff of laughter:: I guess I’m still finding that out. I liked to run, but that’s . . . well, it’s a long story, but that isn’t happening at the moment. Some reading, fiddling with mechanical things. Those are pretty low key, though. There’s nothing to spend my energy on at the moment. Probably part of why I exploded back there . . .

Iy: That's a shame. It's important for everyone to have an outlet. We could always go and shoot targets in the range...

::Iniko wasn’t a big fan of that idea. While jhe could use a phaser for engineering tasks without trouble, shooting targets was just a step closer to shooting living beings, close enough that jhe would break out in cold sweats and jheas hands would shake. It wasn't something jhe could do to relax anymore.::

Mpeba: I guess so. I don't think that would be a very calming exercise for me though.

Iy: ::laughing:: I didn't think so, but it didn't hurt to ask. But it's not so bad here, on the Darwin. I mean, we have a nice ship, a good crew, ::non-committally:: a decent captain.

::Iniko wasn’t sure what to make of that statement. Jhe had assumed that the two J’naii would get along, but Iy didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about their captain. Perhaps the situation was more complicated than jhe had thought. Jhe didn’t want to alienate a new friend, but jhe felt jhe had to defend their absent captain. At the same time, jhe tried to keep jheas words measured, not wanting to begin another fight so soon.::

Mpeba: Ne is more than decent. I couldn't imagine a better captain.

::The look jhe gave Iy would not brook disagreement, but ne did not seem inclined to argue. In fact, ne started talking about how Renos and some other person jhe hadn't met had rescued nem from bounty hunters and given nem refuge in the Darwin, leading to nir request for asylum. Iniko couldn't understand how ne could be lukewarm about Renos after such an introduction. But then, on second thought, maybe jhe could understand. Jhe remembered vividly the few months after escaping Til'ahn and taking refuge in the Federation, how even when jhe was theoretically safe jhe still saw a potential Romulan operative in everyone jhe met, coming to take revenge. For Iy, having been hunted down by nir own people, trust must be even more difficult to find. Jhe tried to reassure nem that Captain Renos was trustworthy by recounting a few stories of jheas own about nem. Jhe quickly realized, though, that jhe really didn't have many stories to tell. Jhe hadn't been aboard very long, and while jhe trusted nem wholeheartedly and would gladly defend nem at any cost . . . jhe didn't really have the history with nem to back that up. Jhe pushed the doubt away for the moment, to contemplate later in private.::

::Iy was beginning to look a little contemplative nemself. Jhe was just about to suggest that maybe they should part ways for the moment when ne stopped outside the arboretum. Iniko hadn't been paying any attention to where they were as they walked, having been so caught up in jheas own thoughts.::

Iy: I apologize for talking so much about Renos. Certainly, though you can see how for someone like me, seeing how ne got to the position ne is in is inspiring. But, enough of that. I'm going to pop in here for a little while, and actually make the rounds I was tasked to do. What are your plans now?

::Iniko hadn't actually given that a thought, but the answer was right in front of jhea.::

Mpeba: The arboretum is actually probably the most calming place on the ship. I should stay here a while and think some things over.

Iy: Very well. It was great talking with you. I hope we get more opportunities to do so again in the near future! And no more fights with uppity scientists!

::Ne affixed jhea with a genuine grin, and Iniko couldn't help but smile back. Jhe was grateful that ne had come along before jhe had done something jhe would really regret, and ne had been easy to talk with. There was potential there for a good friendship.::

Mpeba: I'll do my best. Good luck on your rounds!

((Arboretum, Deck 8, USS Darwin-A))

::Iniko followed nem into the arboretum, but found a secluded corner and sat on the ground, leaning against the trunk of a small tree. Jhe had no intention of mediating or attempting fielding practice today. Jheas mind was overflowing with thoughts and feelings that needed to be sorted through and examined, but jheas main purpose here was simply to become calmer. Jhe leaned jheas head back and watched the leaves of the tree rustle in the light artificial wind. It wasn’t quite like home, just reminiscent of it enough to create a sense of peace. There were no voices here, no people bustling about and possibly giving jhea disappointed looks. It was the ideal place to relax.::

::And still . . . something niggled at jheas conscience, that had been bugging jhea since that conversation. Why had jhe felt such immediate loyalty to Renos? Jhe had read nir Starfleet bio of course, before joining, but it had been pretty standard for a Starfleet captain. And yet jhe had immediately felt curiosity and even hero worship, which had solidified into a sense of loyalty and an odd attachment upon meeting nem. Jhe knew the explanation for it, of course, it just felt a little shallow.::

::Jhe had always looked for a mentor growing up. So much was expected of a young lom, especially after making first contact, when jheas mother had retreated into one of the most conservative sects of Laudean religion, trying to shield her children from alien influences. With that shift, the pressures on Iniko to act as an ideal lomale increased, but Chioma had not had the personal experiences to be able to mentor jhea. She had tried, once, to find a better mentor for jhea.::

((Flashback, 11 Years Ago))

::Iniko's mother had that worried look on her face again. She was talking with a friend, and as usual they had been discussing the aliens and their bad influences, how they were destroying Laudean culture and values. Iniko always felt nervous when they talked like that. Jhe wasn't sure what sort of things the aliens had planned for them, but jheas mother always made it sound like they were lawless pillagers, out to take every resource of their world and steal all the lomales to breed their own race of fielders. Jheas mother usually seemed most worried about Iniko’s future during those discussions. She was off the comm now, and came over to talk to Iniko.::

C. Mpeba: Iniko, come with me. I have someone you need to meet.

::Iniko nodded and followed along, trying to be properly demure. Chioma sat jhea down on the seat next to her and started another call. It took a few moments to be picked up, but when the picture appeared it was of a serene and elaborate garden, full of carefully pruned trees, delicate flowers and exquisite sculptures. The person sitting in the middle of all of this was a handsome lomale a few years older than Iniko's parents. Jheas hair was piled in an sophisticated knot on jheas head, and jhe wore finely embroidered robes of a shimmery and slightly translucent fabric that showed glimpses of jheas form in the afternoon sunlight. Iniko was entranced. This was what jheas mother kept pushing for, and jhe had never been able to grasp. This person was poise and elegance and sensuality personified. Iniko didn't believe jhe could ever achieve such a thing, wasn't entirely sure jhe even wanted to. But it was certainly a beautiful sight.::

Chalor: Hello, how can I -- why, Chioma, isn't it? What a pleasant surprise!

C. Mpeba: Sawat, it's so good to see you again!

Chalor: It is always a good day to see you, my dear. How have you been? It's been far too long.

::The older lomale’s drawl was hypnotizing, but jheas words made Iniko blush. Jhe was finally starting to grasp who this person was, and the images that conjured up were not something jhe wanted to contemplate.::

C. Mpeba: It has been too long. So much has happened recently. But that isn't what I called you about. I wanted you to meet our child, Iniko.

::The lomale on the screen flinched, momentarily losing jheas composure. A moment later jhe had it back, but the smile jhe offered Iniko was weak and brief.::

Chalor: Hello, child. Would you mind running in the other room for a moment? I need to speak privately with your mother.

::Iniko wasn't sure what to make of that reaction, but given jheas mother's crumpled frown, it hadn't been what she had been hoping for. Iniko felt guilty, wondering if jhe had done something wrong, or if it was the lomale on the call who had disappointed her. Chioma turned to Iniko, though, and gave jhea a small nod in the direction of the open doorway. Iniko stood and left the room as quietly as jhe could, but stopped as soon as jhe turned into the hall. Jhe leaned against the doorframe, just out of sight.::

Chalor: Chioma, what were you thinking? I thought we made this clear in our agreement!

C. Mpeba: But Iniko is your only lomale child! I checked the coven records! I thought jhe would mean something to you, especially now that jhe is approaching the age of apprenticeship!

Chalor: ::sternly:: I don't know how to make this any more clear. You and Akinade I would be happy to see again, anytime. You two have always been wonderful fun. But the . . . results of those encounters? I want nothing to do with them, regardless of their age. That was made clear from the very beginning. They are yours, not mine, not in any sense. This child is not my responsibility, and I am entitled to no part of jheas life, nor do I want any.

C. Mpeba: But, surely if you just spoke to jhea for a moment.

Chalor: Do not press this, Chioma. It is a thoroughly inappropriate request. I will not be a part of this conversation. Goodbye.

::Iniko felt jheas throat close up. Jhe stifled jheas anger as best jhe could, but a little squeal of indignation escaped. What jhe was saying was perfectly reasonable, of course. Iniko was well versed in the basic tenets of lomale duties, even if jhe struggled with the more complicated aspects, and this was about as basic as they got. Lomales had no rights or responsibilities regarding their offspring, except in extreme circumstances. Chioma opting to pursue this in opposition to the decrees of the Fielding League she respected so much spoke volumes about her worry for Iniko's future. But it had been for nought, and now they were both humiliated.::

((End Flashback))

::That rejection had stung. Later there had been other lomale teachers, trying to coax jhea down the right path, but those relationships had always ended in disaster, as one after the other finally despaired of teaching Iniko the arts of seduction.::

::Years later, when jhe had finally arrived in the Federation and there were no more behavioral expectations laid upon jhea, jhe had thought things would be easier. They were, actually, much easier. But nonbinary gendered species were few and far between even in the diverse halls of Starfleet Academy. There wasn't even a standard set of pronouns for other-gendered persons in Federation Standard. Jhe had ended up borrowing the lomale pronouns from the Laudean language, even though they sounded odd when speaking a different language. At least they identified jhea correctly. But that had been just one example of the many small hurdles jhe had had to overcome as a lomale in Federation Space, and later in Starfleet. When jhe had seen Renos would be jheas captain, there had been a hope that maybe here, finally, was someone who would understand, who might be able to help jhea navigate the complexities of a binary society. They hadn't discussed it yet, and Iniko had later learned that the Captain's relationship with gender was even more complicated than jheas own. Still, the idea remained, that somehow jhe had finally found someone jhe could emulate. Jhe didn't know if it was a good reason. Jhe didn't even know if it was a valid reason. In fact it was a rather frustratingly vague reason, but jhe remained stubbornly attached to the idea.::

::Jhe sighed and thunked jheas head back against the tree trunk a couple times, frustrated with jheas own thought process. Jhe was more agitated than ever. Silence was clearly not the calming influence jhe had been hoping for. Jhe got up and brushed jheaself off. Maybe there were still some people in Natural Selections.::

Lieutenant JG Mpeba - Engineering Officer, USS Darwin NCC-99312-A
Image Collective

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