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A Picture is worth a Thousand Words

Posted on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 @ 2:48pm by Major Cornelius Tremble
Edited on on Sat Sep 19th, 2020 @ 11:23pm

Mission: Episode 10 - New Home, Same Pioneers
Location: Deck 4 Officer's quarters
Timeline: MD007 2200 hrs

Neil eyed the framed picture skeptically and then glanced at the holo-display of his friend Thomas. “So, this thing is safe?”

“Safer than those twins we ran into on Skelepto,” the blonde man chortled.

“The landing on Cipparus was safer than those two,” Neil replied dryly. “And this is meant as a wedding gift for good friends, Tom”

“Yeah, yeah. I know,” Thomas Kincade told him reassuringly. “It’s brand new and moving really well and based on what you told me about them, it should be right up their alley.”

“And this interactive neural interface,” the marine asked, skeptically.

“Totally safe. Talaxian based technology that allows a mind that’s seeking calm to be rewarded,” Kincade related. “As the mind enters an aware, meditative state the tech built into the frame reads the brains emissions and a carrier wave melds and projects them into the picture. It’s like a dream, but you’re still aware of your surroundings and pretty much anything at all will kick you out of the simulation. Joyce’s cat kept booting her just by purring in her lap.”

Neil rubbed his jaw as he took in the gilt frame into which held a painting of a maze, with a plaque declaring it to be Plan du Labirinte de Versailles.

“It’s really relaxing Neil. Looks like you could use some relaxation,” Tom commented.

“Probably, but my mind isn’t the calm type,” Neil replied honestly. “A medical type told me I should get a massage the other day.”

“But she didn’t offer hands on treatment,” his friend grinned.

“Bite me?” Neil said by way of answering. “I’m back to thinking that monk is a better lifestyle. Less distractions.”

“Xaxdamned woman really had her hooks into you and ripped them on the way out man, that sucks,” Thomas said sympathetically.

Neil could only shrug at that and deflect, “It looks great Tom, but if it turns their minds to jelly…”

“They’re fleet right,” Tom asked, laughing now, deciding to let the matter of Tallida go. “Warranty is voided in that case..”

Neil smiled wryly at that himself and then asked after Tom’s family.
* * * * *

He tasted the bourbon in it’s glass as he continued to examine the painting and took a seat across from where it leaned against an interior wall. “Computer, set a thirty minute timer,”Neil instructed. “Sleep tone will do. If I don’t respond within thirty seconds, alert medical.”

Neil liked the idea of the painting, but he wasn’t about to turn it loose on Jen and Billy without having an idea of what it could do. He closed his eyes and tried to relax. It wasn’t easy. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Tallida’s face and it took a lot to drift off. Five minutes after he closed his eyes though, her face began to fade and then…

…he was standing in a hedge maze. It was a summer night, warm with a slight breeze that haphazardly found it’s way into the hedgerow he stood inside. Randomly, he began walking, impressed that the sensation was better than that many of the holo-suite programs he’d seen. Sensory input was better, maybe because it was his mind promoting the input.

Impressed, Neil stopped trying to pick apart the tech and enjoyed the wandering maze and after a brief time found a beautifully sculpted fountain. The sound of the rushing water had reached him before he’d caught a glimmer of the creamy marble statue in the moonlight.

That glimmer had been tantalizing. And sparked a memory. As a buck sergeant, he and Tom had been on leave on Bonsai. The resort they’d stayed at had had a fountain of Aphrodite bathing her feet that had mesmerized him for a drink-addled afternoon.

He made the appropriate turns and soon found himself looking at the a replica of that statue. Which meant that Tom had known he would check out the tech, since this fountain hadn’t been a part of André Le Nôtre design. The maze on earth had contained thirty nine fountains that depicted scenes from Asop’s Fables.

Still, it was a nice touch and as he once more admired Aphrodite’s form, the statue moved. Modestly covering her bosom, the goddess asked “Well, Neil. What do you think.”

“Impressive,” the marine said with a shake of his head. “Send Tom my approval. I assume you aren’t a regular part of this tour?”

“No,” Aphrodite told him, a smile on her lips. “Just in-case you decided to take a look. Thomas knew you wouldn’t admit it to him.”

“Sneaky,” Neil commented, still smiling. “I probably should have known.”

“Probably,” Aphrodite agreed with him. “But, based on your brain wave pattern and other bio-feedback, it seems you were able to find a state of calm.”

“Momentarily,” Neil commented, then opened his mouth to speak again when a beeping caught his attention…

…and he came back to himself, sitting on the couch in his quarters and he blinked. His contact found the alarm function and discontinued it, then took another drink from his bourbon.

“Tom is too clever by half,” Neil commented to himself as he looked at the painting. At least he’d been able to come up with a unique wedding present.

Captain Cornelius Tremble
Marine Commanding Officer/Second Officer, USS Pioneer


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