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Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

[ Zelosa Ejek | Personal Quarters ] Attn: @Arista

It does no one any good to sit by themselves, simmering in their emotions. As a counselor, Zelosa Ejek knew this very well. To dwell is to waste time doing nothing but cementing whatever emotional turmoil may be going through the patient's mind. Feelings stew is not a delicacy for any species, and yet, despite knowing better, Ejek found herself cooking up just that sort of stew.

She sat in her newly assigned quarters, on a chair that felt familiar but not quite so, in a room that didn't smell quite right and was much too chilly to truly be hers. There was no one there to pester her. Nobody was chiming her door, in need of a walk in, there was no emergency to attend to. Nobody was in the room, talking at her about the latest game of fantasy Efrosian Professional Snowball he simulated in the holodeck and the stats of every single player recited by heart while she tried desperately to imagine she was literally anywhere but here. Her audiobooks were gone, there was no Cardassian literature to fill the silence. All she heard was muffled, like the inside of a shipping crate. In the quiet, her mind played tricks on her, giving glimpses of the past - both ancient and new.
Raising her legs up, she held them against her chest in an impromptu fetal position. She had spent quite some time, alone and unbothered. She knew she should enjoy the silence, she normally did, but this time she did not. Though by comparison her quarters were cavernous, in the stillness of her mind Ejek was back on Cardassia, cowering in that damned storage locker while the Jem’Hadar had come to slaughter any Cardassian they could lay their hands on.

The sound of a dropped glass from the next quarters over jolted Ejek, evoking the memory of the almighty clank as, to what she discovered later was the remains of Matek – the apprentice mail technician, falling against her hiding spot. This time however, instead of trying to remember the young Cardassian’s face like she had many time before, she saw the Cardassian helmswoman she hadn’t even had the chance to meet. Playing over her senseless death a few times, the memories intertwined with others, flicking back and forth, with a few shots of that other Cardassian, Parnak, just for variety. It been well over three years since she had last seen one of her race, and two had come along. One had lived, the other had died. She knew she'd be meeting new people of all types when she came here, so why was it so hard?

It was obvious the battle had left some open wounds to tend to. She knew just how to heal them, but to do so required her to step into some territory she was not going to enjoy. It was so much easier to guide a patient to reach out than it was to do so on her own.

She knew every emotion she'd feel before she'd actually come to feel it. A bit of resolve, trepidation, there was much to lose, loneliness as she initially pushed others away, guilt and regret for causing all her own problems. If all continued her way, she'd be miserable like this forever.

So it was imperative she find companionship in somebody who liked having their way more than she liked having hers.

It did not take her long to locate Parnak's quarters. She walked there with a briskness that suggested to others that she had business to attend to, but was really just a ruse. The less time she had to think about how stupid this was, the less likely she'd be to give up and turn around.

So, at 2103, she chimed the door just outside Parnak's new quarters almost before she stopped in front of his door. After all, she had chimed, so she could no longer walk away in good conscience. She obligated herself to be here.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #1
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters| Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow

Silim Parnak stretched, relaxing into the couch upon which he lazed. For the first time in a while he was content. It had been a busy day. He had battled wits with Ives, ensuring a place to work and the quarters that he currently resided in. Parnak has also managed to see Tancredi again. The gorgeous redhead continued to be a fantastic source of amusement, even if his jaw was still a trite sore. Unable to help himself, Silim wore a huge wide grin as he remembered the pure unadulterated look of frustration on her face when he had basically cat-called her from down the corridor. Finally, he’d found the time to collect his personal belongings, or what pitiful things counted as such from his old quarters. Luckily Drauc didn’t seem to be home at time. Parnak had though about leaving the broken little Romulan a note. Fuck you, I’m leaving – Or something to that effect. Instead he left him nothing, a representation of what Silim thought he brought to the universe. Let him wallow in those quarters by himself. In fact, he added mentally, chortling loudly to himself with mirth. I hope they pair him with that Gorn from the bar the night before. He was sure the telepathic Romulan would undoubtedly enjoy unfettered access to that brain all night.

For now, all Parnak had to do was relax. This was something he could do. These new quarters were of a sufficient size. He had dimmed the lights and turned the heat up. It was probably uncomfortably warm for a human, but for a Cardassian it was suitable basing heat. If only he could do something about the grey walls.

Alongside the furniture, they betrayed the true nature of these quarters - that they were Federation design. Silim hadn’t bothered to change any of the generic paintings on the walls or the same leafy green plant in the cubic grey pot that Starfleet seemed to place in the corner of every one of its habitat areas. Tomorrow, he would decorate - assuming he had time after meeting Martin and settling into his new laboratory. Either ship stores or the replicator should provide the items he needed. Pushing his back further into the couch, Silim wondered if he could get some paint for the walls. Something that he could use to make this place feel more like home. Perhaps a nice brown?

The door chime jolted Parnak from his thoughts and he sat up quickly. Was he expecting guests? No, he hadn’t invited anyone back to his quarters. He was sure of that. Standing, he smoothed his tunic before moving across to the entrance area. Pressing the small panel to the side of the doorway, there was the telltale hiss as the doors parted. A cool breeze pushed itself into the apartment as the air from the corridor attempted to mingle, pulling the warmth.

Well, this was a surprise - even if Silim didn’t try to show it on his face. Silently he stepped to the side, waiving a hand to welcome the only other Cardassian into his inner sanctum. From the doorway he would watch her step in, using the opportunity for another chance to look her over. It was still curious to him as to why she kept her hair in such a childish manner. Was it intentional? Nevermind, he chided himself, this was not the right moment to ask.

A new dance. It was time to begin.

“Could I interest you in a cup of red leaf tea?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #2
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters ] Attn: @Arista
If she were a woman of lesser caliber, she would've froze up in surprise, forgetting why she came here and stammering over her words. She was no lesser woman, however. She wrangled her hesitation into a punishing submission and made her long strides into Parnak's quarters, like she owned the place. All her emotions were going according to schedule; Resolve, falling into trepidation, soon to fade into loneliness when the meeting was over. Really, she despised social calls like this.

“You could interest me in a cup, and a seat, if you have one for me.” She began to walk about, examining the quarters. Looking around, she was surprised, but not too surprised, to see that Parnak's quarters was virtually empty. She couldn't find signs that anyone else except he lived here. It's possible he has an exceptionally clean roommate, or that his roommate hasn't come back yet. Probably.

The room was wonderfully, blissfully warm. She suspected his was the only room on this entire ship with the same environmental settings as hers. She almost regretted wearing layers under her uniform shirt to get here. Almost.

The way she walked around the room was peculiar. Her gait was idle, slow, but she examined everything as if it held significance. Sadly, nothing did. His room was larger than hers, and empty, but that told her very little. Parnak had done nothing to personalize his room, besides change the environmental settings, and he did not seem like the spartan, minimalist, Federation-style sort of man. After all, she thought to herself as she turned on her toe to scan over the doctor with her cool gaze, he certainly dressed as if he was up on the latest Cardassian fashions.
“You've not settled in yet? Waiting to find the next shuttle out?” She hoped not, but if she were in his shoes, that is certainly what she would do. In fact, she sort of wished she could hop on a shuttle and get out of this room right now. Too late.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #3
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

Unable to help himself, Silim could do little else but smirk at the reply. She was a true daughter of Cardassia – accepting what she was offered, and asking for more. How typical. He toyed with the notion of playing combative, after all he only asked if she was interested in a cup of tea, rather than actually offering her one. In the end though, that was just poor hosting. He would at least see what she wanted before he started flirting.

Moving across to the replicator, Parnak paused before activating the device to watch the reflection in the mirror-like black panel. Following Ejek as she strolled around the habitat, Silim couldn’t help but wonder if this had all just been a ruse to rummage through any Cardassian items he had brought abroad. She would be disappointed, he concluded. After all, the only personal effects he had were either on his personage, or in the Starfleet issue duffel that was currently on the floor beside his bed. Even if she ventured into his bag, it would mostly be items given by the quartermaster. Nearly everything of value was either destroyed, or back at Starbase 84 being catalogued and archived. The thought of some ne’er-do-well rifling through his belongings brought a small turn to his stomach and as such, pushed the thought down. Without any more reason to delay at the replicator beside ineptitude, Parnak depressed a button, bringing the panel and device to life. The colorful display, now lit, obscured the reflection so he could no longer spy on his guest.

“Red leaf tea. Two cups” He ordered simply, there was no need to pleasantries with such a device. Following the telltale glow and whir, Silim retrieved the drinks from the alcove and proceeded to take them to the couch. Sitting, he placed one on the small circular coffee table, keeping the other – enjoying the warmth pressing into his palm as watched Ejek inspect. He was about to make a comment, when she turned. With a quick once over she delivered her verdict in the form of a question. One, which one he had heard, he found himself giving a small breath of amusement through his nose.

“Not quite.” He indicated to the space next to him on the couch. “As much as I’d like to evangelize the virtues of Starfleet interior design, the truth is that I have little to unpack and plenty of time to do it. Until I can find more mementos, I will be living the minimalist lifestyle.”

“And what about you?” He started, contemplating her with deep brown eyes. “Is there a reason for this visit besides the chance to judge my living space?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #4
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters ] Attn: @Arista
Being critical of other people was Ejek's favorite hobby. In fact, delivering her verdict almost made her feel just a little bit better. The enjoyment was transient, as are most things. Why would she expect it to last? It was replaced swiftly with her usual sense of dread, a gap in her chest she could fill with tea if she tried. So she seated herself next to Parnak, but not too close. She picked up the cup and took a sip.

Sweet, sweet tea. It wasn't really that sweet, but the Theurgy's replicator system was so much more precise than the Resolve's. At some point in the voyage, the replicator system had been altered in order to conserve what little material they had for the industrial replicator. Without those changes, engineering would not be able to keep the ship in one piece long enough to make it to the Starbase, or so she was told. So for a long time, some edibles always tasted...odd. This though, this was good. This was tasty. If she had no restraint, she'd gulp it down. Here came the sunshine again, a smile on her face. How long would it last?
“Oh, this is just a social visit. I hope you don't mind.” Truth be told, she didn't particularly care if he did. She almost hoped he did. It would shut down the socialization right here and she could return to her quarters to mope, now able to say she tried. “It seems you have the handicap of being from neither Theurgy nor Resolve. And no roommate?” She glanced around, just to confirm no signs of a roomie. It's a hollow gesture, she knows that there's no roomate. She needed small talk. “How did that happen?”

There was a chance Parnak wouldn't believe that she was here just to chat. After all, she could hardly believe she was here on a social call either. She hoped he wouldn't believe her, because she would rather not explain her need to connect with someone to a man who is as good as a stranger. More than that, she also hoped that the other Cardassian had paid no mind to Suq's offhand comment. She was most certainly not here to seek out a partner for the night, and if she were she'd likely choose someone a little more attractive. Though, he didn't look that bad, she thought as she took another sip and gazed over her cup at her conversational partner.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #5
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

A social call? Well, he could do that. He’d been plenty social already, a little extra couldn’t cause any harm. Certainly not with present company. There were many things he wanted to know. Resolve had been lost for three years, he remembered the gossip floating around Starbase 84. What he didn’t know, and what he’d been unable to gleam from the computer with his nominal access was how a Cardassian had ended up aboard. When did she leave Prime? How did she end up in the field of counselling? Had she managed through the three years to amass a suitable collection of yamok sauce? These questions and more floated around but were quashed when Ejek started to speak again.

“Honest work. Just reward.” Silim replied with a grin, resisted the urge to complete the line from Les Misérables. Whilst probably one of the better efforts of musical theatre that had seen from the Federation Art Exchange Program, depending when Ejek left Prime, she may have been deprived of the chance to see it. After the dominion war, alongside industrial replicators, repair staff, temporary housing, and various agricultural seeds, Starfleet also brought artists, actors and directors to what they had dubbed ‘Nuevo Cardassia’. Apparently, this was part of an initiative to not only rejuvenate Cardassia’s operational centers, but to also ignite the creative imaginations of the Cardassian people. To a certain extent, it worked. Parnak had attended most, if not all, of the events that had been put on in Culat and some in Cardassia City when he had been visiting the ruins of the once great city. It was an interesting look into the psyche of this foreign superpower, for both better and worse.

“And no, no roommate.” He waived his cup holding hand around to indicate the space. So far, so good. He was being plenty social, unless, this wasn’t the type of social call the counselor had in mind? The way she posed the question, there may have been something there. Parnak resolved to investigate, after all, it was only polite. Turning back to his guest, he locked those deep brown eyes, watching for the reaction “Unless, of course, you were waiting to join me?” He shrugged, playing coy. “Not happy with your room assignment?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #6
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters ] Attn: @Arista
'Honest work. Just reward?' That certainly was a cryptic reply. Not having read or seen Les Mis, the reference was lost. It gave her something to puzzle over later, so she stashed that away in one of the neatly-kept file cabinets of her mind.

The best part was when he leaned in, their eyes locked, and he asked if she would be his roommate. She almost thought about just laughing in his face. He couldn't be serious. Could he? A smile broke out on her features regardless. This would be fun.
“You're joking. Do you know how many men and women have asked that of me? And I'm not just talking about the Resolve's crew either.” She sat back and broke their joined gaze by turning back to her cup of tea. “I won't dash your hopes. If I feel like shopping around for roommates, I suppose I'll try to remember you.” She was still smiling. That was a delightful little comment he made, and despite her reaction, she was actually quite pleased to hear it. It was true, she receives far more attention than she'd like because of her looks, but a little compliment here and there was a wonderful mood booster.

It also helped her feel a little more...real, in a sense. On the Resolve, she knew most everyone and everyone knew her. Hearing the same flirts from the same people really made it feel repetitive, fake. Parnak's offer confirmed to her that maybe she was pretty after all. She was aware she was still smiling, though. She was aware she 'glowed' when she was pleased, somehow, and she didn't want to be 'glowing' right now. She didn't want to look like she was so easily won over.  Talking to someone new made her unusually mushy, apparently.
“So what are you doing on a Federation ship, of all places. Couldn't find any better work elsewhere, or do you enjoy being bossed around?” Parnak didn't look like the type who liked to be dominated, but she's learned some unusual things about people far more unsuspecting than her social partner.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #7
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

“Never let it be said that I am anything but gracious.” He shrugged, amused at the reply from his compatriot. The simple fact was she didn’t say no. And there was that smile too. The gentle tugging at the corner of her lips. It was more than a polite response, it was natural and one that lit up her face. Silim could tell that he had just received a present only shared by a select few.

Conversation moved on, and onto a topic he had been asked a lot during his time in the Federation. He had heard the same question many ways, often accusatory, but this time it seemed genuine.

“I’d like to say that I’m here to meet the only other Cardassian I’ve seen whilst in Federation territory, but, heh…” Parnak gave a short sharp chuckle “…that wouldn’t be honest now, would it? In truth, I journeyed to Starbase 84 in the spirit of co-operation to undertake a joint scientific venture on behalf of our two governments. Only to find an unfunded project, lack of resources, staff and good company. All of this I would have preferred to have known before I travelled what felt like halfway across the galaxy.” Leaning back, Silim looked over his guest for a moment, his dark oaken eyes studying her before bringing his tea to his lips. Was this all a ploy to get him talk about himself? If so, it was working. There was something about Ejek that allowed Parnak to cut through a lot of his usual posturing. Perhaps that is why she is a counselor? It was time to change the tune. Ejek could lead this dance, if only for a little while

 “Now that, I hear, is nothing in comparison to what you’ve been through?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #8
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista
Parnak described a scenario that felt oh-so familiar. Horrible organization, despite the strict rules. The people making decisions likely haven't had a drop of sense in their heads since the day they were born. She found herself nodding in understanding as Parnak described the situation he was made to work in. She heard his question and took a sip of tea to allow herself to collect her thoughts.

“I suppose it's not all that different. Much the same complaints as yours. Towards the end, there was quite the dearth of good company and staff, since the majority of the good ones all died. We were sorely underfunded and under-equipped when we started, and the ship was never meant for a long term frolic through enemy territory. And of course, you saw the level of hospitality we were greeted with. Sabotage and subterfuge—it wasn't even very good subterfuge.” She gestured. It irritated her that their deception was so easy to figure out. Sure, they were still fucked over, but if she were the one behind the whole scheme, nobody would ever know they were fucked over.

“I at least had plenty of work. Constant death and trauma keeps the counseling department busy, you know.” This didn't feel like over sharing to her. It's just facts, Parnak could figure this all out on his own if he was so inclined. It was...nice, just talking. Complaining, really. Normally she'd slow down, save some words for later, but she was emotionally compromised.

“It didn't help that most of the people who signed on were apparent basket cases to begin with. There's supposed to be a psychological inventory to weed out those who are prone to bad coping mechanisms, and yet, there they all were, concentrated on one ship. Have you ever heard of a spaceship built only with bad decisions and misfortune?”

“But I ramble.” She finally caught herself, going overboard. It felt nice though—but she didn't know if Parnak was actually the sort of person she could ramble with. Did it even matter? After all, she was just using him for her own mental wellness.
“There's much to complain about, I'm sure you understand. You may not have been lost in space, but I'm sure the Starbase had plenty of it's own issues.”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #9
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

Lost in Space? That was an effective way to describe how he felt some of the time. At the moment though, he was relaxed. It was pleasantly warm, with good tea and good company.

“Be that as it may” He said, dismissing the obvious twist to turn the conversation back to himself. “It must have been difficult. The Federation can be so very alien. I’m surprised the uniform doesn’t occasionally choke you.”

Stopping to take a sip, Parnak reflected on their encounters so far. There was still something about this evening that didn’t sit right with him. Some hidden agenda he could not yet see. For now, he would just have to go along with Ejek’s plans, whatever they may be and see where the evening took them.

“Are you hungry?” He offered, with a change to the subject. If she did want a social evening, and a Cardassian one to boot, then food was an excellent choice. There was nothing better than a chance to sit down and debate over a meal. Parnak remembered many a challenging conversation he had had over lunches with both his family as a child and as an undergraduate at the campus food hall. It was a stable of the Cardassian condition. Might it be that this was the itch that Ejek needed to scratch?

OOC: Sorry about the short post and the delay!

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #10
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

Sometimes she wished the uniform would choke certain other members who happened to be wearing the same uniform, but she herself never felt choked. After all, she was clever enough to alter her uniform.
“Actually, I think I will have something. It'll be nice to have a real dinner. I tried earlier to dine with a coworker, it went quite poorly.” She rolled her eyes, trying to purposely re-construct the memory falsely, so she'd never have to remember why Keval was upset so badly. Sadly, she didn't think it'd ever go away. Her urge to see someone choked rose again, she pushed the image out of her mind.
“My only warning is this; if you plan on melodramatic displays of emotion, I'd rather just take my leave. I've had quite enough of that for today. And yes, the irony of being a counselor and sick of emotional displays is not lost on me.” She quickly added. She sat back with her tea, fully expecting her host to treat her to full service.
“Some neemuk, maybe? I had half a dinner earlier, so something light. And anything not considered human food.” She was sick of 'human food'. The greases and fats made her ill, and she was more than a little happy to have a real, honest Cardasian meal, with a real, not-so-honest Cardassian. This night was....not going according to her predictions at all. For that, she was delighted.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #11
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

Stifling a laugh, Parnak couldn’t help but widely grin at the response from his guest. It seemed, the poor girl had had a tough day. Being the charismatic host that he was, Silim knew that he wasn’t going to add to that, so held up his empty hand in a pose which signified that he surrendered.

“Don’t you worry, I promise I’ll give advanced notice before any ’melodramatic displays of emotion’” Standing, he left his cup on the table in front of them before venturing toward the replicator. Pressing a finger to the cold black surface, the unit illuminated in the usual fashion and Parnak began his search.

“Although I also cannot attest to how real this dinner will be. I’m afraid our choices will be limited to the replicator databanks.” He commented while scroll through dining options. The Federation had done much to include as many culture’s food as possible, yet quite often the selection was basic, bland and let much to be desired. Luckily though, neemuk was available. After the telltale whirr and flash of light, Parnak placed the dish onto an ornate silver tray along with some others. He had opted for a small selection of dishes, so that Ejek could take her pick and choose her fancy.

Heading back to his guest, Parnak carefully set out the dinnerware. He had brought flame-grilled fillets of Rokat, Larish Pie and Namika – a summer salad of green beans and seeds tossed in a vinegar-like sauce and served with Cardassian scallion. All in suitably small quantities for two, alongside the requested neemuk. Taking a moment, Parnak arranged them until it gave what he felt was a pleasing display. A light repast.

“A toast.” He said, sitting back down and raising his tea. “Perhaps a vow is a better term? Anyway, to a better meal than the one before.” Whether she joined him or not in celebration had little consequence to him. Using the provided utensil, he scooped a small amount of the namika into a waiting bowl and sat back, relaxing into the couch.

“I hear something interesting last night. Apparently…” He began, trying to set the scene for discussion. “…I am a member of the Resolve by extension. I never knew that getting a Starfleet commission would be so easy!” Snickering, he placed a couple of the beans into his mouth and chewed.  This evening was continuing to turn out for the better.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #12
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

Just a few moments ago, she had been feeling so sour, like the only person in the world. Now that this conversation joined paths with dinner, she found that those empty feelings were farther and farther away.

She did some more damage to her tea and eagerly awaited the selection her host laid out for her. It was not exquisite or luxurious, but compared to what she had previously, it was a big deal. She felt no need to point this out to Parnak any further. After all, he'd get it.

"To a much better dinner."  She agreed,  raising her tea as well. She picked out her neemuk, a type of salad made with gentle, light, aromatic flowers and leaves, with a light vinegarette to match. The dish is sometimes served between courses to cleanse the palette.

She was enjoying her first bite of the dish when Parnak spoke. She giggled as if she thought the idea were childish, so much so that it was delightful.
"All those years, I had though that a Starfleet commission required work. Perhaps the Federation has become so desperate since we've left that they're commissioning kidnapping victims. Tell me then, ensign, would you like to come visit aspiring cadets across the quadrant and teach them the finer points of accidentally being spirited away?"

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #13
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

“I could think of nothing less appealing.” Parnak chortled. Well, that was a lie, but what was a small omission between friends? As he continued to speak, he couldn’t help but show a small, cheeky grin.  “Besides I think, with the speed that I have managed to engrain myself with the Starfleet ideals, that you’ll be calling me ‘Sir’ before too long.”

He didn’t push the joke any further. There was no need. This wasn’t some seedy corner tavern, hidden off a main thoroughfare. It was a place of repute. A sanctum from the outside world - one that, assuming the evening went as well as it was currently going, Ejek would be welcome back to at any time.

“Would you believe this is my first quiet meal since joining the ship?” He spoke his thought aloud as the realisation came. Did this mean he would never eat alone again? That was something he would live with. An evening meal was best with company. On Cardassia, it was a chance to sit down with family and debate. He had spent many meals challenging one of his sisters on her views as a child. The memory was bittersweet. The joy of a time past, but the recognition that it wasn’t going to happen again. He wasn’t home, and she wasn’t alive anymore.

The seemingly permanent grin faltered and slipped for the merest of seconds before it was back. Locked into place. He shook the memories away by raking one hand through his hair. The feeling of the black silk-like strands gliding over skin was relaxing.

“How’s the neemuk?” He asked, changing the topic. “Suitably replicated?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #14
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

She had always been very keen when it came to reading other people. It helped her survive as long as she did, and now it was her profession. It was only natural she noticed Parnak's momentary pause. After all, it was likely she held much of the same heartaches he did.

Purposely filling her mouth with more neemuk, she gave herself some more time to think about the situation. His pause could mean a lot of things. She read some of her own pain into it. She thought about her family, her home, how things could have been so different...

She finished with her bite. Her face reflected her thoughtful mood while eating, but she hoped he would return the favor of not commenting on it.
“It says quite a lot about my situation that I missed this bland taste..” She quipped, but she did nothing to push her neemuk away. After all, it was tasty.
“I apologize if you expected me to be a boisterous dinner partner. If you're looking for someone obnoxious to eat with, I could certainly find you a few people.” She smiled, “But in all honesty, I suppose I've become dreadfully agreeable over time. It is a flaw I'm willing to admit to, but it has a fair explanation.”

She crossed her legs as she began to explain herself. “Aboard the Resolve, there were...certain members who would try to...I suppose make me feel welcome, by sitting with me at dinner and arguing. With each other, mostly, and about the strangest, silliest things sometimes. As inane as it was...I suppose I could admit that it was more entertaining to sit and listen to them than it was to join in some evenings. So after a while, it became my habit to listen more than speak. After all, I couldn't come up with anything half as silly as those boys did.” She sounded exasperated, but she was hiding a smile. She knew who she was talking about, and as annoying as the culprit behind this idea was, he had grown on her. Like fungus.

“I suppose for all it's flaws, and there are many, the individuals aboard a Starfleet ship aren't all that bad. They try, at least. Even if it's not like home at all, it can start to feel like one.”

She realized she had never really admitted that out loud to anyone, until just now. She'd only said that to quell whatever pains she thought Parnak might feel, but instead, she eased her own pains. She hadn't really lost her family when she came aboard the Theurgy, like she had initially felt. It had just grown bigger.

...That is, that's what she would think, if she had the emotional spectrum of a Hallmark movie. She continued with her neemuk and dismissed her silliness almost as soon as it had come.

“Really, this neemuk tastes like whoever programmed it had never had proper neemuk themselves, and I dare suspect that to be the truth. We ought to find someone to reprogram the replicators.”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #15
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

It was easy to dismiss his companion’s claims of being a poor guest, and so he did.

“Oh, pish!” He said, snorting out a small amount of air in amusement. “You have been nothing but a welcome warm breeze.” And he meant the comment. It was easy to change the narrative or aggrandize, after all, it was the Cardassian way. In this however, he hoped she would see the truth. Ejek had shared a small slither of pure vulnerability, Parnak had recognized this and showed his approval in the only way he knew how – by not drawing attention to it or minimizing its importance.

As she continued to philosophize on the virtues of making one’s own family, Silim took the opportunity not to quip about how, yes indeed, Starfleet can be very trying. Instead he took another small bite of the food in front of him and listened as Ejek pivoted the conversation back to the superficial. That moment of speculation and reflection gone. All in all, he didn’t mind though. Not every meal had to be some deep, challenging debate. He had had many dinners consisting mainly of lip service since travelling through the Federation, at least this time he had an interesting guest.

“I would think that attempting to teach the intricacies of the Cardassian palette to a Starfleet engineer would be similar to taking a new occupation as a Netator.” Parnak was quite clear in his meaning and that was to say, pulling teeth. Cardassian children gave their first molar to the Bureau of Identification at age ten and it was a Netator’s job to take them. While vitally important to continuance of a civilized and cultured society, Silim couldn’t think of a more tedious job – except maybe waste extraction.

“You must have studied at the ‘prestigious’ Starfleet Academy.” He commented, placing heavy emphasis on his opinion the main training facility of this exploratory body. “You can’t tell me that you only studied your vocation. Did you not dabble in Holography?” As he spoke, Silim’s grin grew wider, throwing out his hand as if setting out the landscape before him. He was being obtuse and facetious, but he didn’t care. He just enjoyed the company. “You could be our savior? Ejek, counselor and award-winning replicator chef.”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #16
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

She could recognize Parnak’s tact in his words. He did not attempt to seize on her temporary vulnerability, but he wouldn’t point directly at it and go “look! A vulnerability!” as if she didn’t already know. She had assumed he would not have that discretion because she had, for a moment, forgotten people like that existed in the first place.

More than that, he understood why she never bothered to correct her dinner guests. He was exactly right, she would’ve rather been a Netator than continue trying to educate them. At least a Netator deals with teeth, which are simple and do not claim to be anything other than a tooth, and you could pull a tooth out and it would stay out. The idiots running amok on a Federation ship were far more varied and difficult, some of them even convinced of skills they never had. She found herself nodding her head in agreement with his words. Someone who spoke her thoughts, finally.

A warm breeze indeed, Ejek thought. Feeling much like the sun had begun to shine on her skin, she turned to her neemuk, and found she did so at exactly the wrong moment. He delivered to her an image that struck her as absolutely silly and caused her to laugh, with food in her mouth. The end result was a choking mixed with some of the sounds indicative of laughter. She eventually recovered, but there were tears in her eyes from the fit, and a smile on her face from the idea. Her, working on the replicator systems, programming food. Maybe a little chef’s outfit to boot.
“Now if you’re trying to kill me with your hospitality, there are better ways to do it.” Her voice sounded a little harsh. It would recover eventually, but she couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. Zelosa Ejek doesn’t just choke. She set her neemuk down, finding her appetite was slowly fading and being replaced with a knot in her stomach. The happiness was starting to shake and crumble.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #17
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

Parnak couldn’t help but laugh himself at the reaction from his guest. The girl was embarrassed and, in true Cardassian fashion, lashed out. She held a sharp wit and a sharper tongue, but Silim let it wash over him. The rage was misdirected, more at herself than anyone else, and reacted to it with nothing but a small amused curl of his lip.

“I’d say that if I was trying to kill you, hospitality would a poor way to do it.” He commented on the whole situation. Adding quickly with a devilish grin, Silim continued. “Why waste all the energy from the replicator?”

He needed a way to bring the conversation back from accidental choking. Looking over his compatriot once more, he had an idea. Placing down his plate, Silim’s focus was now away from the meal. “I propose a game. Something to celebrate this new-found friendship.”

“We each can ask three questions of the other, on any topic, and you must answer completely honest and truthfully.” Silim watched for her reaction very carefully as he took the cup of red leaf tea in his hand, settling back against the cushion on the couch. This situation had the chance to turn, but from what he had seen so far this evening, he hoped it would be an interesting and diverting conversation topic. With great risk came great reward.

“Being the gracious host that I am, I’ll even let you go first.”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #18
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

Every time she found herself slipping down that slippery slope, Parnak seemed to know exactly what to do to pull her right back up again. That is to say, Parnak did nothing, not even acknowledge her emotions, and she felt so much better for it. Who knew that the solution to her problems would be just ‘hanging out’?

She finished off her tea to clear out her throat and settle herself. Parnak proposed a game, one that did not seem fun at all. After all, what would stop her from just lying to him, or vice versa? But he had indulged her, looked the other way when she had her moments, so the least she could do is indulge him in turn.
“They must’ve invented new games in my absence.” She began to stand up and move towards the replicator. “But I’ll play along. How about...” She thought, as she refilled her cup with water this time. She returned with her cup to the couch, sitting opposite of her new friend.
“Question one, how would you describe your personality?” She was letting her counselor slip again, but it was a good question. She’d hopefully learn more about how he sees himself.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #19
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

Silim couldn’t help but snort amusedly. Blowing air from your nose in a short, sharp moment of mirth wasn’t refined, but he couldn’t help it. Ejek was forever a counsellor, or so it seemed. 

“My personality? I suspect you’d be better at telling me that sort of thing” He commented with a mischievous grin. Quickly, he held up his hand to stop any reply coming before it did so. “But that is not how we play this game, such as it is.”

“I am driven, ambitious, successful. In many ways the paramount of Cardassian ideals.” He held his chin high trying to be statuesque before relaxing, moments later, back into the chair with a sip of his tea. He broke his eye contact and looked to the window as if it held some secrets. Truth, he reminded himself, the truth was promised. “However, there are still elements that leave me wanting more. I have no sons to keep my name. No daughters to share with the world.”

Family was a pinnacle of Cardassian Culture, after all, the saying was simple. Family is all. Without a family, in many ways, Silim Parnak was nothing. For all his posturing, for all his successes within the academic arena, he failed in the one area that was above most others. Parnak had stopped talking, reflecting on the words that he had spoken. When the window offered no comfort, no resolution, he turned back to his guest. A small, ashamed but hidden, smile on his face. It was, as if the last few sentences never happened.

“Personality wise, I like to think of myself as refined. Learned, well-informed and well-read with a keen artistic knowledge. It’s easy to appreciate the paintings, the writings, the poetry. Only someone truly civilized can enjoy the freedom that comes with the theatre.” He was more than a common Cardassian. At least that’s what he told himself. Before he continued, Silim caught himself and deflected with something he used often, humour. “I could go on, but I fear you’d never get to your other questions if I did.”

His compatriot had helped herself to more tea, and now it was his turn. Standing, he walked across to the replicator.

“My question is simpler. One I’ve thought about since we first met.” He said, without even turning back. “Why do you keep your hair as you do? There are many styles for an attractive Cardassian woman, yet you chose one of a child.”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #20
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista
Counseling was a useful tool. From Parnak’s words, she could infer much more about him than she would have been able to without her training. He was proud of his race, but had no children and saw that as a fault. Truly, he was cardassian. In a way, she wished she was more like him. She wasn’t very fond of this alternative cardassian culture she had come to embody. Like she was several units removed, rather than right in the middle where she wanted to be. His shame meant nothing to her. After all, what shame is being childless next to being childish?

In fact, he had addressed that right off the bat. She sipped her tea and thought over her response before speaking.
“There are a lot of answers to that question, and all of them are as truthful as the next.” She let him return to his seat before she continued, so she could meet his eyes.
“For one, why bother with an elaborate hairstyle if there’s no one who will appreciate it? You’re the first I’ve met in three years who thinks of it as a young girl’s hairstyle. Everyone else on the Resolve was content to see it as lovely as it is, so there was no reason for me to do anything more than this.” She smoothed out her ponytail. There wasn’t a hair out of place, but she wanted to be sure. She would have stopped here, but she didn’t feel it right. Parnak seemed to be admitting things that were dear to him, so should she not return the favor? Unless he was lying, of course, to tease out more information from her.
“I suppose it’s also just a habit by this point. Wake up, shower, get dressed, throw my hair up and walk out the door to face whatever horrors we had waiting for us that day. I’m not used to extensive periods of personal time that isn’t spent sleeping. My department was sparse as it was, what with all the deaths.”

She let her words hang. She could go on, but she figured her answered had sufficed. It wasn’t so personal that she risked putting herself out there, but it did allow the other a glimpse into her daily life up until this point.
“As for my second question...forgive me for poking what is obviously an open wound, but why don’t you have children? Has the Federation failed you in healing whatever ailment you may have? Certainly a gentleman of high caliber such as yourself wouldn’t have any trouble finding a woman to settle with.”

She did not want to poke the open wound, as she called it, but it was the only way she could tell that he was not lying to her in an effort to pry information from her. She wanted very badly to spill her heart out, as embarrassing as it was, but trust was hard to come by.

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #21
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

Parnak couldn’t help but chortle softly. It was probably a sign of poor companionship on Ejek’s part rather than the fact he was a new demanding friend, or at least he hoped that was the case. Besides, they had already covered the lack of taste in her friends, as well as Starfleet in general.

The second question caught Parnak a little off guard, even if he tried not to show it. Whilst Silim had expected three questions on different subjects, it appeared the counsellor wasn’t holding back when it came to this game. She would find a topic and get everything she could out of it. An interesting strategy, but when the amount of questions she could ask was limited, she was obviously hoping the thread she was tugging would lead somewhere.

“One question at a time.” He started with a grin. His chiding was gentle, almost jovial. “You don’t want to use all your allotment in one step.”

“Now I am, as you have ever so rightly said, high calibre but I have also been told that I am…” He paused, as if searching for the right way to describe himself. “…an acquired taste.”

Silim raked a hand through his silken black hair. This game had served its purpose. It had allowed him to capture her imagination as well as gently pressing her for information. The pushback was that he had to talk about a subject that wasn’t especially comfortable with. All in all, he guessed it was a fair trade.

“When you decide to take a complete change in career after 20 years, you reset a lot of social standing.” He shrugged, indicating he didn’t particularly care. He wasn’t happy. Service to state was a fundamental area of Cardassian life. No one had said how to serve the state though. So, he had worked hard and when the time was right, he coerced a recommendation for study in the sciences from his commanding officer and left the military. In the end he had to use the remainder of his late father’s influence to gain a space at Central University, but it was worth it. All he had accomplished since outshone anything that had done before, even if it had come with a bit of a social stigma. After all, who wants to be associated, let alone date, a freshman at the age of 38?

“So, there it is, no secret medical condition. Just a man who decided to reach out and take something he wanted.” He hoped she wouldn’t be too disappointed with the story, but then again, the whole point of the game was to tell the truth. Sometimes the truth was dull. Parnak reached down a took his cup in hand, once again taking a sip as a chance to reset. It was his turn again

“What, exactly, was your real purpose here?” Parnak asked his second question all at once, watching closely for the reaction. His near ever-present smile was gone. Replaced now with a stone-faced expectation. If he were to look upon himself, he supposed he looked like that classical psychiatrist, waiting with pen and paper to ask, ‘and how does that make you feel?’. He had played the welcome host, saving face and entertaining, but now it was time for answers. “Sorry to doubt your altruist intentions, but I don’t believe that this visit was purely for my benefit.”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #22
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

She still held doubts. Parnak seemed genuine, but the art of lying is not hard to pick up. This one didn’t seem a lie, it seemed like a common enough situation. She’d heard of many people, not just Cardassians, having the same issue. They say it’s never too late, but that’s just a comforting fib repeated by people with too much feel-good fuzzy optimism and not enough cold hard pessimism.

She supposed if she were an authentic member of her race, she wouldn’t find Parnak to be as fascinating as he was. She felt a twinge of guilt and shame again. The phrase ‘bootleg Cardie’ came to mind.

She did not say anything to him just yet about his lifestyle. She’d have to think it over, determine which of her opinions were appropriate. She was actually relieved when Parnak asked his third question. She’d had enough time to come up with a good dodge too.
“I just wanted to talk to someone.” She shrugged. It was so basic and simple an answer, she hoped it sounded like a lie to him. It was the honest truth though. Just like him, sometimes her truths were boring too.

“And a third question to match your second; Why did you indulge me?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #23
[ Dr. Silim Parnak | VIP Quarters | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @FollowTomorrow 

If Silim was being honest, after all that was what this game was about, he was a little disappointed in Ejek’s response.  They had spent this time together, he had played a gracious host and they had shared some truths.

She could have a least expanded as to why she felt the need to talk to someone, instead of dragging it out. Parnak assumed it was her way of getting him to use his last question to press for further details in what now appeared to be a superficial subject, rather than allowing the subject to move on. It was a cheap trick, but as a counsellor, it was only natural for her to use her ways to get the largest result with minimal effort – or so Silim surmised.

He wouldn’t allow her the satisfaction, much like he wouldn’t allow himself to be pushed in a different direction. First though, he would need to answer her.

Why indulge her? A small part from within wanted to say it was her looks, but that was cruel, uncouth and untrue. While it was just reward for the lacking answer, the truth gave him cause to speak accurately.

“It’s polite to welcome a guest, even an unexpected one, to your home, such as it is.” He said, shrugging. “Besides you’re the first Cardassian I’ve had the pleasure to speak with for months, well, years in your case. I wanted to hear what you had to say.”

Parnak knew he was an outsider, so the idea of an unexpected guest was just that. At no point did he ever think that he would have people just showing up, unless they were venting their frustrations at the actions of the last Cardassian Government.

Looking to Ejek, he smiled. Although unexpected he was certainly enjoying the company.

“That and, frankly, you look like you could use a friend.”

Parnak twisted and shifted, settling himself further into the low backed Federation couch. Did the designers specifically make it difficult to lounge or what it just that he was the wrong shape by human standards?

It was his turn again. The end of the game. Look over to his guest, he took a moment before asking his question. Totally devoid of sarcasm, he asked simply.  “Are you happy here, Ejek?”

Re: Day 02 [2100 hrs.] Lizards of a Scale

Reply #24
[ Zelosa Ejek | VIP quarters | Deck 11 ] Attn: @Arista

“Am I happy here? If you mean in Starfleet, then no.” She answered, quickly and without having to think about it. She’d already thought long and hard about this question. She was not happy in Starfleet, ultimately. She liked her job and she liked the work. Even though she had a hard time  saying it she would at least privately admit that she enjoyed the company sometimes. She liked all those things, But this whole constantly being in danger business, not knowing if or when you’ll make it to tomorrow, it was burning her out. It was too much.

At the same time...She wasn’t very happy before Starfleet either. She couldn’t think of very many times she stopped and felt happy with her situation. “I haven’t been happy in a very long time.” She admitted.  Whether or not she could trust Parnak, it’s not like he could do anything with that information. It’s not like she’s unique.

“but, if you meant am I happy here in this room, right now?” She paused, thinking about this. What was the true answer? What could Parnak gain from it? What could she gain…?
“...I think I am happy here, yes.” She allowed herself the truth. A risk, maybe, but one she wanted to take. She wanted it to pay off. “I came to talk to get away from my life for a little while. So yes, I suppose you’re correct in your observation that I need a friend. More specifically, I’d like a friend whose friendship is not based on getting on my nerves.”

And so it was said. Her real reason for being here. She left her hands folded in her lap, not feeling the urge to eat anymore. She hoped that this would turn out well, but she couldn’t shake a looming feeling over her that said she was a failure. This, like all things, would not end well. That’s just anxiety, she knew, but it was still very real.

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