In this continuation of the main OtherSpace storyline, the Meriwether Station food court becomes a site of auspicious encounters:
As food courts go this one is rather big. It is also arranged over multiple floors. There is the lowest floor at the base of the viewport, packed with chairs, tables and people. It is the easiest to get to. The other floors are arranged in an oval arc, each a balcony over the one below it and each populated similarly to the floor below it.
The people are… everywhere. Most are at tables or travelling to and fro. Some are being annoying by standing in everyone’s way. The rest are at the entrance reserving a table at the panels available and waiting. Those who have gotten a table are busy looking over its holographic menu and ordering.
Still, this leaves a lot of empty space and it is filled with two things: drones, flittering to and from the tables with orders and dirty dishes and the view.
And the view dominates. New Admundsen is visible with a clarity you could almost snap. From the frozen, mountainous regions of the northern hemisphere to the jungles of the southern and all the crystral blue waters in between. It sits there, as planets are want to do, in the inky black of space, itself dotted with the millions of suns of the Milky Way.
Eric makes his way through the shopping district and enters the food court where he promptly stops, much to the annoyance of the people behind him. A big grin spreads over his face as he stares at the view. Perfect. It’s not too long, though, before another thought hits him and he heads over to the reservation panels to try and get a table closest to the view.
Meal time… Tilsworth makes his way into the food court, his cane tapping away as he heads for the reservation panels, ending up beside Eric as he begins to make his selections. “Let’s see… ah… roast beef, turkey, lettuce, avocado, on a nice toasted rye I think for today.” he mutters as he makes his choices.
Eric just… waits, staring at the on-screen layout as the tables blink in and out of reservation. That is, until… BAM, “YES!” Newt bolts off for the table, his 5 minute reservation countdown having begun.
Behind one of the food court kiosk counters, a Timonae male sorts through his inventory: a refrigerator containing multiple slabs of “protein mass” of various colors and textures reminiscent of meat, plastic cylinders serving as bushels to hold “vegetable” cubes that can be cut, chopped, and sliced to resemble sandwich toppings, loaves of several varieties of imported bread, and one cooler – locked by a computerized keypad – containing the station’s local supply of avocados.
Eric dodges, weaves and slips through the crowd of people until he makes it to his table closest to the view. There he slides into his seat with a hop and just stares at the view, mind firmly in its grasp.
Tilsworth gets his seat secured, and goes to head up to the counter to wait for and collect his order. Yeah, it may not look like a fresh deli sandwich, but in space, food is food. At least it tastes about the same. He offers a nod and a smile to the employee gathering the ingredients.
Eric eventually snaps out of it, possibly due to his stomach having a word with his brain about priorities. He taps the table and up pops a holographic menu. Leaning back into his chair he ponders for a while before navigating the foods available and heading down the yellow brick road of sandwiches. Eventually he picks one and its holographic representation pops up below the word “reuben” with other details surrounding it. Eric selects it and moves on to pick a drink. That chosen also he goes back to staring at the view.
The Timonae returns the nod to Tilsworth, sliding a basket with the sandwich across the counter. “Fortune favor your appetite, sir,” the clerk says. His attention then shifts to the incoming order. He mumbles: “A ‘roo-ben.’ Odd name.” He checks the associated list of ingredients and then begins to assemble the sandwich. While he works, he consults the ocular HUD over his right eye, studying the origins of the sandwich. “Curious. The history appears to have some muddiness to it.” He prepares the drink, then adds it to the tray with the sandwich. Soon enough, he delivers the meal to the boy gazing out into space. “Eric, right? Your sandwich and drink.”
A Demarian pads into the food court, datapad in one hand and her tail lashing frustratedly. Blackears is intent on the screen and not really watching where she’s going, but her ears are another story – they swivel back and forth quickly as people pass near her. She sidesteps adroitly around a couple that crosses her path. Finally, she looks up with a sigh and scrubs one side of her muzzle with a paw before making her way to a reservation panel to get a table.
Tilsworth chuckles a bit as he takes the basket. “An apt assessment.” he says as he selects a pre-bottled drink from the cooler and heads to his table.
Eric doesn’t respond at first but then something clicks. He looks up at the Timonae. “Uhhh… Yeah. Thanks. Umm…” He looks around. “What happened to the delivery drones?”
The Timonae shrugs. “Offline for maintenance. We had a Zangali go on a bit of a rampage when his order came out wrong. The drones were badly damaged.” He clasps his hands behind his back. “Seemed an overreaction for diet cherry soda.”
Eric’s eyes widen at the news, “Whoa! Seriously?” He then looks at his drink and, after a moment, he reaches for it and brings it closer, giving it a bit of an experimental sniff. He then very carefully tastes it…
Blackears resumes eyeing the screen of her PDA briefly, then shoves it into a pocket with an annoyed chuff. She moves past many tables till she gets to the one she’s been assigned – it’s also near to the viewport. The felinoid looks out at the planet below for a few moments, one ear canting to the side before she turns her attention to the menu. She scrolls through the options somewhat distractedly, backtracking a few times before selecting a Demarian-influenced Earth favorite – a club sandwich made with dribgib in place of chicken.
Tilsworth takes his seat nearby as the Timonae explains the drone genocide. “That is a primary reason most insurance companies carry a ‘Throw Bar’ rider option on their policies.” he says with a chuckle.
“It was fairly distressing,” the Timonae agrees. His datapad pings as a new order arrives. He studies the display, then looks toward Blackears. He strolls toward her and then says, “We’re a little far from Demaria to provide your requested substitution. We do not even have actual chicken at this time. Our stock currently consists of cylindrical protein masses that approximate the texture and color of chicken. Hopefully, that will suffice?”
Eric taks his sip and grins. “Well no need to play ‘Throw Bar’ today.” He looks around, “At least for me.” The cup goes down and he moves for his sandwich. “Cylindrical protein masses that approximate the texture and colour of chicken can be pretty good.” he says as he eyes his prey. Giving it a moment to make peace with its god (or gods) Eric bites into the sanger.
“Hrr. Yes, that will suffice,” Blackears replies, nodding at the Timonae. One ear cants to the side thoughtfully. “I’ll have to bother my father to send some dribgib out this way, though Demar only knows how long it’d take to get here.” The felinoid chuffs quietly to herself, then eyes Eric. “Probably a good call. Unless you enjoy impromptu flights without the benefit of a vehicle, I mean.”
Eric nods, “Uhuh.” He ponders for a moment, “If you really want the dribgib faster I can help you out and stuff.” He munches some more on his sandwich.
Tilsworth takes a bite of his own sandwich. “If we successfully begin to explore the planet below, we may find a more reliable, if exotic, food source. But we have much to do before then.”
The Timonae is walking away from the table when he hears Eric mention faster access to dribgib. He stops, turns, and inquires: “How could you help in that regard? Have you established a farm in the agricultural band? I wasn’t sure the soil was arable yet.”
Eric stops chewing for a bit as if something hard to process was said but then finishes and has a drink, “We have really fast ships. I bet they’d get here faster than any others.”
Blackears tilts her head, eyeing Eric curiously. “Interesting. My father owns and runs a sizeable ranch on Demaria. If you’ve got a way to get it here, we could figure something out.” She then looks to Tilsworth, nodding. “I’m eager to get down there myself, but the more we know the better.”
Eric replies, looking rather pleased with the way things are going, “Yeah. We totally can. It’s just stuff, right? You pack it and ship it and stuff. Easy.”
The Timonae gives a faint smile, inclines his head, and then says, “I’ll happily invest in improved inventory for the cafe.” With that, he makes his way back to the counter.
Tilsworth nods. “Indeed.. the more info, the better. That endeavor is in progress as we speak.”
“Easy?” Blackears asks, one ear canting to the side quizzically. “It couldn’t be that difficult, I suppose.” She nods after a moment. “I’ll talk to my father a bit later. He’s uh…” She wrinkles her snout. “Once I start talking to him I won’t be doing anything else but talking to him for quite awhile.” The Demarian gives a quiet chuff, her expression suggesting amusement.
Eric nods, “Yeah. We’ve transported food before. I don’t get why you don’t just use the vats but,” he shrugs and bites into his sandwich, legs swinging back and forth under his chair. Happy days. “Does your dad like to talk a lot?”
The Timonae prepares the order for Blackears, then returns shortly to deliver the tray and its contents.
The Demarian perks her ears forward as the tray is delivered, sniffing at it a bit. With a slight shrug, Blackears takes a bite. “Not bad,” she notes, giving a small nod. She looks sidewise at Eric then. “Does he ever. About everything. I have nineteen siblings and he likes to fill me in at length about every one of them.” She gives a quiet chuckle, her ears flicking. “It’s not a bad thing, I just have to pick and choose when I talk to him because a fast correspondence is not an option.”
Tilsworth chuckles after a bite of his own sandwich. “Fathers have a tendency to do that. I had to be careful what topics to discuss in front of him, as he could talk for hours if he got on a roll.”
Eric puts his sandwich down and just stares infront of him for a little while. Then he turns to Blackears, wide-eyed. “Nineteen? That’s nuts!”
Since the Demarian is apparently satisfied – or at least not blatantly horrified – by her meal, the Timonae returns to his station.
Blackears shrugs slightly at Eric and nods a bit. “We have a pretty big family even as Demarians go. The house was loud when I was growing up, and the three of us in the last litter could’ve probably gotten away with murder if we’d tried.” She pauses to take a few more bites of sandwich, then eyes Tilsworth sidewise. “You aren’t kidding. I’m just glad I’m one of the youngest, so I’m under no obligation to take over any of the ranch operations. It’s honestly just not my thing.”
Tilsworth nods as he takes a bite of his own sandwich. “I ended up following in my father’s footsteps but I have yet to achieve the legacy he did.” He says. “Perhaps out here, on the frontiers, I can make a difference.”
It is about this time that the Nall warship commander, Luta of Hatch Vril, walks into the food court, accompanied by her small entourage of reptiloid soldiers. She stops near the ordering panels and turns her attention to the young humanoid. She hisses and turns toward one of the soldiers: “That one looks tender. Perhaps we should order off the menu?” Her jaw lolls open in amusement.
Eric stays frozen at the idea of so many brothers and sisters. “Man. I’ve only got 5 brothers and sisters and that’s, like, a total pain in the bu-” He stops talking suddenly, cringes and facepalms.
“It seems like there’s a pretty good chance,” Blackears agrees with Tilsworth. “Who knows what’s down there waiting for us, after all.” As the group of reptiloids arrive and start talking, the Demarian’s ears flick back briefly before settling into a more neutral position. Her tail thumps restlessly against the chair leg a couple of times before she turns back to Eric, shrugging. “It can be,” she agrees, bobbing her head in a small nod. “It gets better as you get older, really. You don’t annoy each other nearly as often.”
The Nall commander clacks her fangs in frustration as she stares at the ordering screen: “Nothing on this menu is served live.” She peers across the room toward the Timonae deli worker, who is doing his best to disappear behind a metal column and failing.
Eric takes a sneak peak at the Nall and puts his hood up, “Uh. Yeah? Really? Cos they annoy me /all/ /the/ /time/.” He looks at his sandwich for a moment and resumes, picking it up and biting into it purposefully.
Tilsworth takes another bite of his rapidly disappearing sandwich. “I doubt you will find anything served live here… at least not for the time being.” he says.
“I may have to broaden my possibilities,” Lutavril agrees. Her eyes drift to the small humanoid.
Natalie enters into the food court wit the rest, noting the restless Nall for just a moment as if pondering if there’s anything she can do to provide a better, she likely decides it’s best not to give them the rise they’re likely looking for. She scans the room, considering the food choices of the others and likewise selects the chicken and a table as close to the viewport as she can mange “Good day” she greets those gathered
The felinoid polishes off the last of her sandwich in a couple of large bites, chewing thoughtfully as she nods at Eric. Thankfully, Blackears swallows before she replies. “Some of them have their own kits to bother them now,” she notes, offering a slight shrug. “So adult company becomes a commodity of sorts. With a large family, there’s usually someone willing to watch them for awhile though.” She eyes the Nall a touch dubiously, then nods and flicks her ears in a greeting to Natalie.
The small humanoid continues to munch on his sandwich. Quietly. Descretely. He looks up at Natalie and gives a little wave mouthing a little “Hello.” from under his hood and then back to sandwich. Nice comforting sandwich to take ones mind off of being eaten.
Tilsworth finishes his sandwich and takes his tray to place into the recycling unit. “Well… time to get back to my duties. A good day to all.” he says as he departs, cane clacking away.
Lutavril’s commlink chimes. She activates the link with a tap of her claw: “Report, but be aware that I am not in a secure location.”
The voice on the other end, silky and lyrical, replies: “We have received a message from Nalhom, Your Glory. Clearance locked to you.”
“I return at once,” the Nall says before shutting off the link. She regards Newt with a lolling jaw. “That one gets more time to fatten up.” With that, she leads the entourage back toward the lift.
Natalie nods to the others and begins eating her sandwich, or what passes for one. When the Nall’s comm blinks, she purposely fixes her gaze on the viewport and the astute may notice she has momentarily stopped chewing and slowly resumes as the entourage of nall exits the room “Curious”
Blackears’ snout wrinkles a bit and her ears lie back as she side-eyes after the group of Nall. With a quiet snort, she shakes her head and looks over at Eric, those huge tufted ears sliding forward again. “I’m reasonably sure she won’t actually eat you.” A pause. “Well, here on the station, at least.” The Demarian shrugs, then gathers her tray to put it in the recycler as well.
Eric waits a moment or two before looking behind him at the retreating Nall. “Maybe,” he says quietly. “They’re still jerks, though.”
“They do it on purpose to see if they can get a rise, I think. Reputations to uphold and all that. I wonder if the’ve had ant more luck with recovering that data.. I’m getting restless” She finishes her meal and looks over to Eric “so what brings you to our little corner of space”
“I agree,” Blackears replies, nodding. “Rising to the bait only gives them what they want. Better to ignore it than make a scene, especially since we need their instrumentation. Like I said, I’m reasonably sure she won’t actually eat you.” The Demarian shrugs at Eric, then shifts her attention to Natalie. “Same. I was sent to help with the landing party bit, so for now I’m just sort of tooling about up here. Hopefully the data turns up soon.”
Eric sighs, “Well they’re jerks so they can go stick their heads in a black hole.” He pauses, takes a bite out of his sandwich and after a careful chew and swallow, “My dad came and I came exploring with him.”
“Well seems like you’ve come at a good time..maybe. I’m getting restless with the waiting and lack of information” Natalie sighs “I’m curious if the nall will leave after getting news from home”
While not the ideal place for a Phyrrian, the food court is an essential visit for Eytan-54 as he studied social interactions between biological species. Philosophically minded as always, he is particularly curious about the connection between eating food and socializing. Families on Luna did it so often, that the young probe couldn’t help but see a link.
Indeed, he could certainly see that link was present here in the food court. He approached a conversational group and simply stood there, eavesdropping on the conversation curiously.
A message appears in Eytan-54’s interface as he approaches the group, flagged as non-urgent but mission-critical from the Overmind on Phyrria:
“SEEK ENGAGEMENT WITH MERIWETHER STATION LEADERSHIP. ACQUIRE INFORMATION ABOUT NEW AMUNDSEN. ASSIST WITH SEARCH FOR MISSING EXPEDITION.”
Blackears tilts her head at Eric quizzically. “Was your father part of the first expedition, then?” she asks, one ear laying back in a thoughtful expression. She looks sidewise at Natalie and opens her mouth to respond, but that’s apparently when she notices the new arrival. “…Errr… greetings?” The felinoid stares, her expression neutral.
As Eytan-54 received the message, the Phyrrian was naturally compelled to obey it. Blackears’ greeting was met with a rather blunt “I have to go now… new assignment.” He followed the departing Tilsworth, not bothering to say anything to the group at the moment. His mission came first, and it now had new objectives.
Eytan-54 followed Tilsworth, silently at first- the science officer would be a great source of information that the Overmind was apparently requesting. Elderly but in surprisingly fair shape, Tilsworth was one of the tallest humans Eytan had ever seen. Eventually the Phyrrian decided to get the attention of the scientist. “Excuse me, Doctor? Do you by any chance know anything about ‘New Amundsen’ or a missing expedition? It’s not urgent, but I have my orders from the Overmind.”
Eric replies to Natalie, “Hope so.” and then turns back to Blackears before letting an exasperated sigh, “Nope. He didn’t. I /so/ wanted to go but everyone was, like, ‘It’s too dangerous.’ and ‘What about school?’ and all sorts of stuff so we never went the…n” He stops as the Phyrrian comes into view. “Whoa.” And continues tracking the bot as it leaves.
“They were looking out for your best interest if you aren’t an experienced survivalist,” Blackears notes, nodding and turning back to Eric, though one ear tracks the Phyrrian as he departs. “Uninhabited planets are poor place to learn. The terrain itself down there is pretty rough from the information they’ve given me, too.” The felinoid gives a one-shouldered shrug and a few erratic tail flicks. “They may let you help finding the lost expedition, though you’d have to talk to the station leadership about it. The Nall from earlier is also helping, so you’d likely have to put up with more of her… unique sense of humor.”
Natalie watches the Phyrrian go with a quizzical look “Which sort of begs the question what it’s original mission was doesn’t it. Why is the entre multiverse taking an interest in this all of a sudden. I think I’m gonna play follow the Phyrian and see if it has any better luck gettinh answers than I do” She rises and heads out the hall
Tilsworth stops as he hears the Phyrrian approach. “My electronic friend, I know about as much as anyone else on this station does. We are gathering data but it is sketchy at best until we launch our rescue mission. Is there anything specific you are interested in? Public knowledge, of course, I can’t share classified data until it’s approved.”
Tilsworth’s answer was surprisingly useful to Eytan-54. A rescue mission was mentioned, and his orders were to “assist with search for missing expedition,” so he could assume that this rescue mission was related to that. “I have orders to assist with searching for the missing expedition, so any public knowledge on New Amundsen or the missing expedition would be useful.”
The Phyrrian then awaited a response.
The Timonae deli clerk hears mention of the New Amundsen expedition and he perks up, calling toward Tilsworth: “Are you going to find my sister?”
Eric scowls and opens his mouth only to shut it, as if one thought overrode another. “You think they would? My dad went on that expedition.”
“I do hope that we find them.” Tilsworth says. “We are doing everything we can to gather all the information possible about what may have happened before we attempt it.”
“I hope their making some progress The longer this goes on the more people keep showing up and I’m not convinced this is a good thing” natalie opines
Blackears looks around at each speaker in turn, then tilts her head at Eric, one ear canting to the side. “They might,” she replies, giving a slight shrug. The Demarian gestures with a paw at Tilsworth. “But as the good doctor here has stated, they’re doing everything they can to gather information from up here before we go to the surface. Searching down there isn’t going to be easy, especially without any clue where to start.” She shifts her eyes at Natalie and nods silently in agreement, her ears briefly flicking back to lie against her head.
Eric considers the possibility of being allowed to go for a moment before getting up on his seat and facing Tilsworth, “When you go look for my dad, I’m coming!”
Eytan-54, considering what he’s heard so far, could guess that he was going to be joined by these organics in the rescue. He turned back to Tilsworth.
“As of yet, I have no data on New Amundsen. But I intend to follow my programming and acquire any public knowledge on it. Even basic information would be useful, if you’re authorized to give it.”
Tilsworth grins. “As of yet, neither, really, do I, as we are still collecting it. You know about as much as we do at this point, I’m afraid.” he says. “I must really be going.” A nod to the Phyrrian, and a nod to Eric, “You will certainly be welcome, but we do want to ensure it is safe first.” he says and he resumes heading out of the food court to return to the labs.
Natalie eyes the Phyrian for the longest of moments,wheels turning in her head or would be if humans had wheels. “I need to talk to the security folks and see how that’s progressing” she says rising from her seat
Blackears nods in reply to Natalie. “Good idea,” she agrees. The Demarian stifles a yawn. “Maybe I’ll go take a nap,” she muses, offering a wave of one paw as she pads toward the exit.
Eric shouts out after Tilsworth, “Thanks!” and then slides back down into his seat. “Yes!” He then looks up at Blackears as she departs, “Bye!”