The Universe Can Be A Lonely Place
Ch 1. Ten Forward
You were seated in a corner booth in Ten Forward, silently reading the PADD next to you as you slowly ate the replicated meal you had been served. Usually you tended to remain in your quarters for any meals or off-work time but you found yourself longing for the beautiful view of the large observation window tonight. It had been a long week on shift, it seemed that Murphy’s Law and The Enterprise were synonymous at this point, so you were happy for the peace and quiet.
“Hello, stranger.” A voice beside you startled you from your thoughts. You turned and were greeted by Guinan, who was smiling pleasantly at you. You always found her a comforting presence.
“Hello.” You returned the greeting, smiling back. She raised an eyebrow at the empty seat across from you to which you smiled sheepishly and beckoned her to join you. She sat down, always the definition of elegance, and folded her hands on top of the table as she gazed at you. Her eyes seemed to be able to pierce through your entire being but not in an invasive way, it felt as if an old friend who knew more about you than you yourself did was simply studying you. Guinan seemed to have that effect.
“Don’t see you in here very often.”
“Yeah, I just...missed the view.” You gestured your head to the observation window.
“It is something, isn’t it.” Guinan turned around to gaze out at the stars for a moment before returning her attention to you. “You know, I’ve been all over the universe, but it’s the people right here on this ship that have amazed me the most.”
She nodded. “There’s good people on this ship. And good people are hard to come by in this galaxy, each with their own unique story.” She smiled softly from across the table. “So, let’s hear yours.”
“Your story, tell me about it.” She waits patiently for you to answer. You adore Guinan and are always so calmed by her, but being put on the spot and being asked to tell her about yourself seemed to be more anxiety inducing than facing an entire Kardassian fleet. Panic slowly started to set in, your story was benign, boring, plain, just like you; and who knows all the amazing people Guinan has met in her life, no doubt in your mind that you would merely bore her. But of course you couldn’t voice these concerns, she was merely starting a friendly, casual conversation, so you tried to play off your insecurity as nonchalantly as possible.
“Oh you know, same as most people I bet on this ship. Worked hard, went to the academy, picked a major, graduated, and started my career in Starfleet.” You forced a bright smile to reach your eyes.
She studied you intently, a fond look on her features, as she hummed softly in response. “Hmm. Everyone has their own definition of a story I suppose, maybe yours just needs a little extra push.” She winked before taking her leave and making her way back to the bar.
Stunned and slightly confused, you sat at the lonely table mulling over Guinan’s parting words. You felt like she was hinting at something but her mysterious nature always managed to trip you up in deciphering her seemingly endless wisdom.
You let out a huge sigh and returned your attention to the passing star field through the observation window. You always had a fascination with space and exploring other worlds, it’s why you joined Starfleet in the first place. But despite being a source of comfort, the vastness could often make you feel small and alone; knowing you were surrounded by your fellow officers and crew mates didn’t stop you from feeling like you were drifting away in the vacuum of space. Cold, voiceless, and lonely.
Shaking yourself from these destructive, yet repetitive thoughts, you stood and pocketed the long forgotten PADD. Just as you were nearing the door you passed by Commander Riker, who stopped you with a call of your name.
“Well hello Lieutenant, don’t see you in here very often.” His smile seemed to be contagious and you couldn’t stop yourself from returning the smile.
“Yes, well sometimes it’s a nice change of pace.” You could feel your heartbeat start to increase and the nervousness began to set in. You weren’t afraid of the Commander, you actually found him quite charming in an odd sort of way and admired him as both an officer and fellow human being. But this was Commander Riker you were talking about, why was he interrupting his nice evening by talking to someone as uninteresting and quiet as you?! Even without the difference in rank why would he want to spend his evening chatting with a lowly anthropologist.
“Me and a few others were just about to order another round in celebration, care to join us?” His smile radiated warmth as he looked at you expectantly. You knew you could trust him with your life in a dangerous situation, that he would fight tooth-and-nail for the safety of every crew member or innocent life; but you did not trust yourself. You knew what you were and what role you played in the game of life, you couldn’t trust yourself to step out of those boundaries and drag others with you when it all eventually spiraled.
Your smile tightens and you try to morph your outward expression into something that hopefully resembles reluctant but thankful refusal.”I appreciate the offer Commander, but unfortunately I have a lot of reports I need to catch up on since our recent encounter with the Demoorians. Perhaps another time.” You smiled politely before quickly ducking away from the group, missing the slight disappointed expression on Riker’s face.
You made it back to your quarters without interruption and swiftly shut the doors behind you, leaning on the cool metal as you released the breath you hadn’t realized you were holding. After a few more steadying breaths you walked over to your small desk and discarded your PADD on the surface and moved to change out of your uniform.
You felt bad for lying to the Commander, you had finished the reports almost two days prior and although you could continue to work and perfect every detail, it definitely wouldn’t take up enough time to prevent you from engaging with Commander Riker and the others for drinks.
As you put on a comfy pair of sweatpants and oversized hoodie you became acutely aware of the silence that surrounded you. Of course, living on the Enterprise never meant you were in complete silence; the warp core and engines always emitted a low hum throughout the ship that usually felt comforting to you, feeling as though you’re a part of something alive and moving. But tonight, the low thrum only echoed the loneliness you felt engulfing your heart.
Even the ship herself had more connection to others, had a voice that those in it’s company waited and desired to listen to. You liked to imagine that you had a connection with the Enterprise, that it understood you and you in-turn understood her; but the voice in your head reminded you that such things were impossible. An even more poisonous voice then helpfully added that even if it were possible, to befriend such an inanimate object, what makes you think it would find you interesting in the first place? Why would you be worth its time?
You attempted to banish the awful thoughts that haunted you, but they persisted. You had an early shift tomorrow and wanted to get some rest. With a sigh you grabbed your personal PADD from the bedside table and pulled up an old Earth movie you had seen countless times.
If you couldn’t get the voices to stop, then you’d drown them out until exhaustion overtook you; as was almost tradition at this point.
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