S.S. Fawkes - CF-142AC
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Queueing up some resentment

Posted on Wednesday March 31st, 2021 @ 13:36 hours by Kari Pahlmihr & Alexandria Farron & Lozen Nachtnebel

Mission: Safe Passage
Location: Sci-Fi Convention, Convention Halls, Betazed
Timeline: Right after 'Conventional Wisdom'
2595 words - 5.2 OF Standard Post Measure

The convention sprawled. For those just arriving by foot, the sheer scope and grandeur of the event could hardly be guessed, but Lozen, Alex, and Kari soon found themselves wandering every farther from their starting point, and quite without any sign of the convention's other boundaries. It turned out that what Lo at first assumed to be the main convention hall was little more than the foyer, the grand entrance building that acted as a gate to a veritable city of festivities.

As they walked through a brilliant landscape of colorful costumes, music, candy-coated smells, and gaggles of excited fans, Lo felt an increasing sensation of giddy dizziness overwhelming her usual composure. It felt like being festooned in some magical realm beyond the confines of reality, a polder in time where the outside universe flowed on unaware of the vibrant enchantment taking place within. All thoughts of the AI, of the loss of her old shipmates, of her angst regarding her old career... melted away, to be replaced by growing jubilation that made her feel very nearly childlike. For a moment, she wondered if this was part of the reason Alex gravitated so sharply toward such things. Lo could imagine life being more pleasant if this was the magic that formed it.

Trusting to Alex's precise calculation of exactly "87 minutes" until the costume contest began, they were heading to the Commander Carter "meet-n-greet" which the e-documentation for the event showed would include a chance for a Q&A with Sherry Lee Ngmoba who had played the somewhat infamous young Commander Carter in a number of the late-season episodes. This was one of the places where Lo deviated from normal fans of the show -- perhaps because she had grown up watching some of those episodes as a kid. Back then, she'd hated the young Ngomba's whiny and foolish portrayal of Carter, but over the years (and as she experienced her own surge of growth) she'd come to appreciate the nuanced way that Ngomba's portrayal indicated all the possibilities that lay ahead for the character. Failures due to arrogance would be smoothed into compassion and command, and young-Carter's bad attitude would evolve into the defining anti-authoritarian qualities that got her into so much trouble. Indeed, in Lo's eyes, Ngomba set up all the basic elements of the character that Lo most loved, and showed how someone flawed could become someone good. Thinking this, she found herself judging her own life and experiences against those of the younger Lozen Nachtnebel who had watched Commander Carter and wanted to be just like her. They say idealism dies at an early age. And yet... It was true that she did not live up to her childhood icon's idealism but then again, who could? If she stepped back for just a moment and thought about it, she realized that in a way she had never stopped trying to reach those ideals. Perhaps that mattered more than reaching them. Perhaps it was in the journey that you found yourself; not the destination, but the trials of the day-to-day.

"This place goes on forever!" she said aloud to her friends. They were outdoors now, exchanging the crowded cathedral of the entrance building for a sort of open-air faire that sprawled in all directions. A number of red and yellow balloons, shiny in the betazoid sunlight, lifted up like painted bubbles against a clear blue sky.

It was nice to step outside and take in some of the fresh air. The old convention hall was beautifully crafted but with the people in attendance, it did get a bit stuffy. Kari tried to gracefully walk besides Alexandria, still holding hands. A small smile was on her features and she still saw them attracting attention left and right from the crowds. There were some muffled conversations going on, and it was clear that their attention to detail was being appreciated, especially from the back with everyone looking at the forged sword in the transparent sheath on the Star Crusader's back.

An Andorian came at them from out of nowhere, "would you mind if I take a capture?" the young blue-skinned man showed his holo-camera, eager to capture this moment for posterity.

Kari looked at Alexandria, wanting to make sure she felt comfortable with the request, this was her day after all. At the very least she had to be the one enjoying herself.

Alexandria was not comfortable, far from it, in fact. But the people around her had less to do with it, and she was doing her best to put on a brave face. It was the outdoors. Alexandria didn't like the outdoors. Her eyes were sensitive to sunlight, and unfortunately sunglasses weren't a part of her chosen cosplay. Plus there were bugs and plants... which for her meant bug bites and pollen. She was sensitive to those things too. And to top it all off, it was a warm, sunny day, and she was wearing a metal/plastic composite suit of armor, which was now baking in the sunlight. She was starting to sweat and the black bodysuit worn under her armor did not have great moisture-wicking properties. Her options had been limited to what the Fawkes' replicator could fabricate. Sooo.... long story short, Alexandria was starting to feel pretty gross. By the time the cosplay competition started, she would be well into her metamorphosis from ultra-badass Star Crusader to a frying, gooey puddle of allergies and sadness.

But not yet.

The navigator drew on her survival training from her (brief) time in the Aerospace Corps. There were mental tricks that could be used to convince the body that it was still in a state of homeostasis, or equilibrium, even when that was clearly not the case. Plus, most of the vital organs in her body were synthetic, and the trade off of mental awareness for physical control over such things only made it that much easier to ignore them. She might black out during the cosplay competition, but for now she could keep her palms and head from sweating.

Alexandria looked at Kari, then to Lo and then the Andorian before nodding. She felt it a safe assumption that Fawkes' Quartermaster would have no issue as she seemed to at ease there. She tugged at Lozen's sleeve, indicating that she should join then. Yes, technically their characters were from two different genres and fandoms, but here they were still a team. She drew the Pulsar Sword, because really, who wouldn't want to have it in the picture, and gently ground it point-down into the ground, resting her palms on the pommel. She struck a pose, mostly cool and collected, even if she was starting to feel like a sweaty mess within.

Lo realized that her cheeks were reddening somewhere around the third electronic "SNAP" from the holo as it captured the three of them striking various poses. The young Andorian seemed quite taken, and Lo was half tempted to ask where, exactly, the 3D images would end up afterwards. But there were so many others there too, all crowding around; it seemed that the Star Crusader fandom was much larger than she had first realized.

"Anyone else getting hot standing around here?" she said in a low voice to her companions. "I swear, it's like being back in California."

"Yeah, it's not great," Kari admitted, the different layers of the dress were not really helping there, "There's shade over at the booths," she pointed at the other end of the small plaza they had found themselves in, "let's see if we can get to the Commander." She started to walk over towards the queues that were starting to form in a more secluded portion of the small outdoors venue they had ventured into.

Alexandria was eager to move on into the more shaded area of the plaza, even if it was more crowded. Several lines had formed, each leading up to one of the booths, but unfortunately, they were not very well marked, and some of them winded and brushed together in places, like double helix strands of DNA. Betazed was like that, apparently. The locals knew which lines they were in, probably feeding off the vibes and anticipation of those waiting in front of them, and thus did not seem to need, or care for a rigid order of things... like lines. They flexed and interconnected where people wanted to mingle, and Alexandria quickly learned that if she wanted to keep her place in line, she had to flexible with them... and keep a continual close eye on the line she was in.

Given how antisocial Alexandria could be, it was fairly easy for her to stay anchored in the correct line, especially considering the only people she was comfortable talking to were adjacent to her in line. It was the last thing she expected, then, to have the line they were in become suddenly tangled with another because of her.

"Stars, it's her!" A woman's voice called out. Alexandria paid them no mind. They might not be talking about her, and if she didn't look, they might go away. "Her! The girl in the armor!" The navigator sighed as it became apparent that someone was talking about her. She dared a look.

Two women in the next line over were cosplaying the main characters in the Starfleet paranormal investigations show that Alexandria had watched a few times, and had a tee-shirt of. She still couldn't remember the name of the show, or the characters in it. It hadn't really been that interesting to her. But she really liked the old-fashioned uniform minidresses the women in Starfleet wore back then. And the two women wore them very well. Super elaborate hair, heeled boots, sheer pantyhose, and the uniform minidresses with skirts so short Alexandria could see their matching undies even with them standing still. She couldn't even fathom wearing something like that in public!

Like a total creep, Alexandria found her eyes first looking down, then drifting up. Then she realized that she knew who one of them was... well, sort of.

"Oh yeah, that's her. Anastasia, was it? The one who threw the drink in your face in Dating Simulator XII after you asked her to--" The Betazoid in red was cut off when her friend, an Orion in blue, silenced her with a fairly sharp nudge. It was Kiezi Rulemi, the professional cosplayer, also known as Kaztya in the aforementioned dating simulator game.

Kari turned to face the two that were talking about Alex out loud, "are these two bothering you, Alex?" she asked as she leaned in. She felt her body tense up. Large crowds didn't really bother her but being cornered by people did still trigger some anxiety. She felt herself clenching her fist awaiting the go-ahead by her friend to jump into action. She was probably going to get hampered by the fact that she was in a full dress, but not enough to not give these two a good scare.

Lozen glanced around, realizing that her companions had dropped behind. "Hey..." she began before she noticed the sudden sense of tension in the air. uh-oh.

Alexandria blinked, not really understanding what was happening. Was Kari going to fight them? She looked really tense. For a moment the navigator had feared that her friend would reveal how embarrassing her own date with Kiezi's fake in-game counterpart had been. She honestly couldn't tell what would've been worse. She tried to think of something witty to say, to try and defuse the situation, but she had nothing. All she could manage was a very poor attempt at trying not to blatantly ogle at their legs.

The Betazoid in red picked up on Kari's defensive stance and actually took an awkward step back. That had not been the response she was expecting, even if it probably should've been. Kiezi, however, never broke character--a true professional. She continued to approach, ignoring Alexandria's eyes on her, and pulled out her fake antique tricorder and made a few fake scans. "Most interesting, the sword appears to defy my attempts to scan it. The armor, however, is mundane. Terran anachronistic in design, and likely ceremonial, though it may offer limited protection from, say... an overly aggressive mate." Kiezi lowered her tricorder and turned to her companion. "Just imagine, ancient Terran warriors used to assemble on hot summer battlefields wearing these, and still have the strength to fight. Clearly, they must have had very important things to fight about." Kiezi's character, whatever her name, had been cute but totally insufferable in the show. In that regard, her cosplay was perfect.

Kari her eyes narrowed and looked at the Orion, she wondered if a swift punch to the face would help her get rid of that gut-wrenching feeling in the pit of her stomach she got from just having to be in the same area as this woman. "No wonder you can't even get digital people to like you," she shook her head, "come, Alex, let's get to this Commander Carter woman." She turned away from the Orion and Betazoid and grabbed Alex' hand moving her away as much as possible from the bully. What was it that made people so obnoxious? Kari remembered the toxic culture surrounding the Symbiosis back on her homeworld. Very different level of stakes, but the toxicity was almost exactly the same.

Completely mystified by the exchange, Lo followed her friends, casting a glance back at the cosplayers who were watching them. There was clearly some subtext that she had missed, something between Kari and the women, perhaps? Alex seemed just as flummoxed as Lo, but then, Lo considered, Alex always seemed confused when it came to social situations. That much, at least, she had come to expect from the woman. Still, I get the feeling that those women aren't going to leave us alone.

Before she could ask Kari or Alex about them, however, Kari had pulled them into line for the Commander Carter panel, which was taking place, thankfully, inside. The line extended out into the open-air portion of the convention, but it looked like the main events were all located within the main building. Lo realized that the convention "hall" itself ran around the whole open-air portion, like a great courtyard, and the lines for various exhibits and events were all funnelled back to it from the outside, like spokes in an old wheel leading from hub to rim.

The line jostled forward and within moments the three women were absorbed into the throng. Lo, casting a glance up at the burning sun overhead, felt that they could not get in line fast enough. And yet everyone around them seemed to be having plenty of fun. Perhaps Betazoids were used to the heat, though Lo failed to recall anything special about the climate. Or maybe they'd just remembered to bring sunscreen, unlike her.

She turned to Kari, finally free to ask what all the tension with the women had been, when one of those same aggressive women rocketed out of the crowd toward them. Whether she was play-acting or serious, Lo couldn't tell, and she felt herself freeze in indecision. If the woman actually meant to hit Kari or Alex, she should intervene... but if this was all just another elaborate game, like the Grand Slime cosplayers, Lo did not fancy the thought of decking some innocent fan.

"Uh, guys?" she said, not able to hide the quiver in her voice.


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