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SD41802.11 - Joint Duty Log - LtCmdr Smith & Lt Shran - Miss Communications

Posted on 241803.07 @ 16:34 by Lieutenant Commander John Smith & Lieutenant Anaxar Shran & Lieutenant Si'a Dai'xun
Edited on on 241803.12 @ 19:32

Mission: Lacuna
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 241803.07

=^= Ballroom =^=

The music lilted a gentle melody over the crowd, enchanting the skilled dancers onto the floor, and lulling the foolish youths into endless slumber.

Sadly this was only a figment of the mind behind the plain, black eye mask. He straightened his tuxedo with both hands, if only to give him an excuse to look down and away from the assortment of left feet that were busy murdering this waltz. One of those foolish youths, who likely hadn't danced outside a club in his life, was busy spinning on his back. A gaggle of girls giggled and guffawed behind their fans, which the black mask observed with an amused eyebrow raised unseen. He wondered how many were genuinely impressed, and how many simply batted their eyes to encourage that fool.

Suddenly, movement a few meters to the side of him caught his eye. Some dark shape moving between the glitter and the flash, moving with power and grace. By the time his eyes had moved to catch up, the shape was gone, leaving only the certainty that it had been there.

Enthralled, the black mask pursued the stranger into a thicker crowd, dodging beneath someone's plumage, and apologising neatly to a woman whose third foot he had nearly stepped on. Deeper into the crowd he moved, avoiding a waiter with a tray of finely-balanced drinks. There was a minor wobble, but the beverages were unspilled, and thus the search continued. Or it would, if he had any idea where the figure had gone.

Yet again he spotted the shadow at the edge of his vision, and again he turned to follow it. This time his reflexes were ready, and his head swiveled like a hawk, catching a full glimpse of this stranger.

Tall, tall. Impossibly tall. A voluminous cloak, black as the night, with interwoven patterns which hinted at feathers at times, at stars and constellations at others. A Venetian mask with an elongated nose, also black. It left the bottom half of the face visible, and this part was white as snow. Black ruffled blouse underneath, tight leggings and high boots – that was the vision when studied from up close.

Pleasant and more than pleasant as it was to spend the night dancing with Si'a, there were nevertheless still duties to attend to, even on a night like this. He just couldn't be so egotistical to claim her for himself all the time, so now they had split up – but not before the promise of at least another dance, later. By mutual agreement, the last dance would be theirs.

So now Si'a was off, talking with two of the Elementals he had spotted before – Fire and Ice. Anaxar, not the chatting kind himself, found himself drifting towards a more quieter corner of the room. Not that there was any such thing as a true 'quiet place', not without leaving the actual rooms themselves. Nearby, the white-haired man he'd seen before was talking to a woman who was dressed, quite incongruously, in some kind of oldfashioned human clothing, with only ridiculously thick-rimmed glasses serving as a mask. There was something about the eyes behind those glasses which would have made his antennae twitch if they hadn't been hidden under a hood and mask.

Footsteps behind him, moving quite purposefully in his direction instead of following the mostly rhytmic patter of people dancing. They stopped almost right behind him. With the occipital quadrant of his visual implants still offline, Anaxar had to turn to face the owner of the footsteps to see who they belonged to.

Tuxedo, simple yet elegant black mask… Unless he had taken extra measures to disguise his actual biodata, not someone he knew. He gave a friendly nod – at least, he was aiming for friendly, but it was always hit-or-miss. Social interaction had never been his strong point.

With the elongated nose, what the owner perceived as a nod, the man in the black mask saw as a graceful, submissive bow. Now he was close enough to make out features, he could see that the blouse beneath that enchanting cloak didn't quite mask a pair of tights and tall boots. Though that mask could easily belong to either gender, the man in the black mask was now confident that this graceful figure was a tall woman; who possibly felt isolated due to her height. Too many truly beautiful females, across many species, were excluded from the ranks of the sought-after by simply being taller than their paramour.

That such a confident, yet shy, creature could be excluded from the groups around her based purely on a random chance of genetics sat extremely poorly with the stranger in the black mask. He accepted her perceived invitation and made a bee-line through the crowd to her side, collecting a drink from a passing waiter en route.

"Good evening, milady."

Anaxar just barely managed to hold back a startled 'Wait, what?!' The hidden antennae tried to stiffen in shock. But his startled expression was lost under the mask, though the man might've seen the twitch of his mouth. A split second internal debate followed – one which never would've cropped up if he hadn't been here with Sia' in the first place. The pre-Si'a version probably wouldn't have gone to the ball in the first place, but if that version of him had been here by some chance, the encounter would have ended with a chilly 'I think you are mistaken, sir' and him stalking away. As it was, though, his mouth twitched again, this time a hint of a smile, gone again before it had managed to form. Pitching his voice deliberately at an androgynous tone, he replied with a more neutral: "And a good evening to you, too."

Reading the hesitation as nervousness, the stranger decided to go slow. Taller people were often perceived as strong and capable, mainly due to the fact that their towering presence came across as powerful and controlled due to the extra muscle and discipline required to govern their increased mass. This contrasted with the fact that, statistically, taller people were more likely to be shy and submissive than their diminutive counterparts. He'd heard this was so that people would like them despite their imposing stature, but this was the tallest person he'd ever met, so now was a great time to absorb some first-hand experience.

"Thank you." the stranger replied, "Are you enjoying the ball?"

"For the most part," Anaxar said guardedly. He hadn't expected to be addressed by anyone other than Si'a and maybe a few other crewmembers, certainly not by a random stranger, and certainly not by one who thought he was something quite other than that he was. Still caught somewhat flat-footed, and still pondering just why the man would think he was female, his replies were mainly automatic. "And you?"

"Well, I would say the evening has been mixed." said the man in the black mask, taking a thoughtful sip from his champagne which, on closer inspection, turned out to be sparkling wine.

"On the one hand, some of the costumers are packing chemicals to produce their clouds. This has left me a little light-headed. Also, some seem to lack decorum appropriate for a masquerade; screeching instead of laughing, spinning on their backs on the dance floor, and other behaviours."

"On the other hand," he mused, "this wine is exquisite, the music is sublime, and the company is...quite diverting."

The stranger gave the tall maiden a smile at this, angling his head slightly so she could see his pearly whites from her high vantage point.

The smile was, for the most part, at the thought of You have no idea just how diverting it could be. At the same time, he felt the headache – held at bay by a strong dose of painkillers just before he entered the arboretum – beginning to form again, encouraged by the random flashes of light and cacophony of noises around him. Though he could (and ought to, really) do something about the former, shutting out sound was impossible. He'd come prepared, though, and one hand slid into a pocket, slender fingers reached for the tiny cylinder he'd pocketed earlier. With the deft movements of long practice, he rotated it, squeezed. A brief, sharp sting as the needle penetrated the skin of his palm, and the flush of warmth which washed the pain away. Sounds became tolerable again, some order returned to the multicoloured flashes of light. "Quite diverting indeed," he repeated softly.

The smile on the strangers face could not have widened further without becoming a silly grin, as this fair maiden appeared to agree with the man in the black mask. He moved a half-step closer to her as she appeared to relax in his presence, and offered her his hand while the other deposited the half-empty glass onto a passing waiter's tray

"Then perhaps we should divert onto the dance floor, my fair raven?"

"And how do you know I'm fair, when all you can see is the mask, not the face underneath?" Anaxar asked, more than a little uneasy now. No way he was going to dance with this man. No way.

"With respect, I can see the bottom part of your face from here, and it is as white as snow." the stranger informed her, withdrawing his hand. There was something strange about the way this conversation was going. One moment the lady appeared warm and receptive, and the next she withdrew into herself. It might be some sort of facade, one persona concealing the other, but which one was the true one? The warm, receptive woman, or the aloof, shy maiden? Was she truly shy, and attempting to break free, or truly warming to him, and attempting to remain apart for some reason? Control, perhaps? He couldn't tell.

"If you are uncomfortable with the idea of dancing with a stranger, I will respect your decision." the man in the black mask told her, deciding that if he could not romance this woman, he could at least try to befriend her. There were enough men here who were only after the hunt, with no interest besides the capture. "Would you mind if we continued to talk? I'd like to get to know you better."

"But what is true and what is illusion?" Anaxar asked, drawn into the conversation almost despite himself. Si'a aside, there were few people who willingly engaged in off-duty conversations with him, for various reasons. He nodded to the butterfly flapping her delicate wings, and to the Fire Elemental. "I doubt either wings or flames are real. On a night like this, beauty hides under masks just the same as hideous faces, and none can tell which is which until midnight. Then all illusions are dispelled, to the joy of some, the dismay of others."
Like happened on occasion, he had no idea from which well that descriptive flood of words came, some hidden poetic pocket deep inside himself. But he had given the man fair warning, amidst the words. He should proceed at his own peril, or – if he were wise – detach.

"Ah, but in the fullness of time, do we not become the masks we wear?" the stranger queried, playing the raven's game. More a dance of words than a dance of fancy feet, it was still a way to pass the evening hours, and it offered the prospect of equal entertainment, with the added bonus that he was less likely to get stepped on, though that thought he recognised at once as unfair, pejorative, and unworthy of them both.

"People tend to have different masks depending on the situation," Anaxar replied. "Though very few people take the time to see beyond the mask to the true person underneath. And this evening above all, all masks wear masks, making it even more complicated." From his high vantage point, he continued to scan his surroundings. It appeared Si'a had finished her conversation and was now drifting once again towards him, a glowing star moving nimbly through the crowd.

"Ah, how astute. Our masks may wear masks, but we would be fools to ignore the masks worn by the masks that lie atop our masks, and greater fools still were we not to consider the masks on our masks on our masks on our masks. One can never have too many masks." the stranger opined, running a little low on mask metaphors and taking a momentary refuge in silliness.


LtCMDR Stranger

Lt Raven aka Anaxar Shran
Chief Science Officer


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