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On The Dusty Trail

Posted on Tue May 2, 2023 @ 1:18am by Captain Larisna Koralova & Lieutenant Rei Yamashi

Mission: Interludes - These Are Our Voyages...
Location: USS Hornet, Holodeck

Larisna sat at a campsite that was on a hilly plateau overlooking a river at the end of a canyon. The wind whispered through the pine trees as she sipped coffee from a blue enamel covered camp mug. She was in period attire for the "Old West", a powerfully built horse with a dark coat that was reddish brown stood nearby, grazing. In front of her, there was a fire slowly dying out with a matching blue enamel coffee pot on it.

There was a sound of footsteps approaching the camp. In the light of the fire as the figure got closer the identity of the intruder was made known. It was Rei, also in appropriate western themed attire. The firelight danced along her form. The shirt, the vest, the belt, the pants, the hat... the only part of her that didn't shine in the firelight were her eyes. Inky black pools that refused to reflect light, just dark pools of color with no shine to them. Greedy eyes that consumed the light, leaving nothing to gleam. She was spot on for a western era figure, except for the ears. She actually made a pretty good cowboy. Cowgirl. Cowperson.

"Howdy." she said over to Larisna. It was obviously a word she rehearsed.

"Howdy to you too, miss." Larisna said with a tip of her hat, in a drawl that wasn't at all native to her. "I'm glad you could make it." Larisna gestured to the logs around the campfire as the sun began to raise over the rocks. She gestured with the mug, "So. Welcome to Earth. Or rather, a facsimile of it, this program isn't set in any actual location. More representative of various parts of the North America continent at the edge of the 20th Century. The frontier - civilization fast moving in, with it's bittersweet promises of the future. All while butting up with the free spirit of pioneer life, to live off the land and away from the rule of law for the most part. Though that explain why a lot of folks wear firearms on them."

"It felt heavy." Rei commented, which explained why she was unarmed. "We never had anything like this frontier adventure. We had our expansion and exploration phase, but nothing like this." she looked around. At the offer of a seat, she sat. "When you mention bittersweet promises of a bright future, believe me, I know exactly what you mean. Is that coffee?" she quickly changed the subject once she smelled the black sludge in the pot.

"May I?"

"Of course." Larisna said, pulling another cup from the knapsack next to her.

"It varied from place to place. And none of it particularly pretty." Larisna commented as she sipped, "There's a city in this simulation, out east, that gives but a glimpse into how industrialization nearly killed Earth. I mean, frightening as it is to consider, it was pretty bad and only got slightly less bad by the time World War Three broke out. Hell, most places doubled down after the Eugenics Wars in the name of reconstruction or mobilization."

"But, that's not for us to worry about." She smiled a little bit, "So, the Professor I got this off of while I was at the Academy, we tweaked this program in a few ways and I can run it in a few modes. Passive is like right now, no one will disturb us or even notice us, life just goes on around us. Interactive was one we did to have a little fun - basically syncs the characters with the computer so it's more like an Old West themed gathering place. The characters know who you are, keep their mannerisms the same but otherwise..."

"Story mode, well that's where it resumes the story this comes from. A band of outlaws and ne'er-do-wells, caught between past and future. The land of opportunity seemingly falling out from under them." She chuckled, "And can see where spending free time to fantasize about being a criminal in such an archaic time can seem...strange."

"Yes, as strange as a little girl pretending to be the Emperor herself, and her friends playing Warlord." she confided, taking a sip of the oil that was called Coffee in this time, and this place. She seemed to approve. "I'm certain my therapist would call it a healthy outlet for dissident feelings, provided they don't begin to replace reality." she shook her head, "Believe me, I'd take this over what either of us went through any day. I've read stories of Terra's wild west, and it sounds interesting in literature. I imagine it was hell to live through. Meanwhile, folks visit it everyday."

"Did you know if you build a simulation of Ts'usu's warlord-era history to re-enact, you get put on a watch list?" she offered as a comparison. "The government doesn't appreciate folks trying to pretend to be someone important from what is considered a troubling time period in our history. Oh, we have simulations, certainly, but they're purely for educational purposes. You can't interact with them, and you certainly can't pretend to be one of them." a pause, "The warlords of Ts'usu, I mean. That'd be like pretending to be someone terrible from your history, and finding the experience enjoyable."

"That'd get you watched, I imagine."

"Sounds like some of the people who have this fixation on the Second World War." Larisna commented, "There's a certain romanticism associated with the Old West. Not all of the stories were of the outlaws, there were some of the law as well. Though they are quite bloody - such as the Gunfight at the OK Corral, plus Wyatt Earp's subsequent revenge spree. And it's hard to say how much is true, how much is legend."

She finished her mug, "I'm sure that if it weren't protected by the Federation's own laws, there'd be some restrictions, but people tend to draw conclusions on what you use the holodeck for. The Professor I got this from, he and his friend at his last posting would re-enact last stands, desperate battles that usually saw a smaller force heroically defiant but defeated in the end by a superior force. Though he saw more combat than I did, so maybe it was an outlet for him. Me, I think I needed more of a disconnect from reality."

"So. If the Ts'usu's warlord era is taboo of sorts...what is considered more...acceptable?" Larisna asked.

"Anything after the historic emigration to the moons, mostly. We acknowledge our violent history, we learn from what we see and find, but we try not to relive those days. If I were to tell the masses back home that there were people within the Federation with a fascination with a global conflict, they'd worry on your behalf." Rei commented. "Anything after that, from the renaissance of the stars to the reformation, from the signing of the Three Dawns Accord, even conflicts with the Koldaran, anything like that would be better than pretending to be... oh I don't know, Diazuko Ishibura."

"A brutal warlord, known for marking his territorial borders with impaled bodies." she clarified, as there was literally no way for the name to make sense to an outsider.

"It's considered more culturally appropriate to pretend to be the Emperor than a warlord. Mostly because of the violent nature of our ancient history, and perhaps a little because it reminds us of what we lost, and what we are promised to reclaim. Our world."

"We live on our moons. The history and the myth run side by side but the legend is someday, when we're worthy of it, we'll return to Ts'usu." Rei paused, and shook her head. "Personally, I don't think we'll ever go back."

"Tragic. It really is, a true to life expulsion from Eden." Larisna said in awe, "Earth mythology has the story that the first humans were banished from's far less grounded in reality, but you think that the Ts'usugi have given up on it? Or maybe intentionally left it out of reach?"

"We know for a fact that we used to live on the planet." Rei started, "We've found ruins and evidence of civilization. We have to have special equipment to explore the planet because of a difference in gravity between the moons and the world itself." she continued, then crossed her arms over her chest, "As for why we left, we have no solid answer. Theories, myths, legends, speculation. The average Ts'usugi probably believes we'll never go back to the world. Or doesn't really personally care, since we have so many other worlds to travel to. To live on."

"But it makes a fantastic rally point for the soul. Ts'usu is our home. One day we will return. Until then, we better ourselves so that one day we can return." she smirked, "It sounds like the exact same thing someone says to motivate themselves to go to the gym. Personally, Ts'usu is inmy heart. It's part of me. It's why I wake up in the morning. Sometimes... sometimes with a start." she shook her head. "Ts'usu as a whole will never give up on Ts'usu. Individual people, the children of Ts'usu... I think they have more important things to worry about than going home to a location they've never been to. Despite the notion that all you have to do is look up to see it."

She smiled softly, "Expulsion from paradise.... I like that metaphor. I might borrow it."

"Trill don't have the same mythos. Comes from having symbiotes that remember everything." Larisna chuckled. She then stood up, "So, you want to see more? I can have the computer add you a horse at any riding level. I'm still an intermedete skill rider, so it's not entirely true to life. Supposedly it was a favorite pastime for several famous Captains. Admiral Picard, Captain Pike, Captain Kirk. I tend to prefer the first two - Kirk is the one that every First Year Cadet wants to be and finds out that he just got exceptionally lucky when he should have lost his command more than a few times."

Larisna laughed, "I'm sure you know the type I mean - some swashbuckling play-by-their-own-rules type that did all these incredible things but when you look past the myth, you find out that they were bailed out by their crew and/or circumstances. Plus the brass always seemed to sweep the problems under the rug."

Rei laughed along with, and gave a nod. "I've met quite a few Overly Ambitious Captains, even served under one during my Three. So yes, I know the type." a pause, "And sure, I'd love to see more. Though, just one question..."

"What's a horse?"

That got another laugh. Larisna approached hers, "This is a horse. Common to Earth though there are some similar animals around the Quadrant. They were the primary means of transportation in this era, the automobile had yet to come into its own and locomotives were restricted to rails. Herbivores but powerful creatures. And since most cultures didn't see them as good for meat, they weren't really hunted, just sought for domestication and breeding. Takes some getting used to, but most horses are fairly docile unless threatened."

Rei approached the creature, gently placing a hand on its side. "Such an odd creature. No offense." she apologized to the horse. "I've never seen anything like it. Just another reminder of the joys of exploration. Today, I met a horse." she recited with a smirk. "So, no good for food, and only really used for transport. Self sufficient, powerful stock from the look of it. Replaced by the desire to get to a place faster." she shook her head. "So, they're ridden? I... I don't think I'm ready for that." she admitted, fearful of the chiropractic bill afterwards.

"Well, you don't carry them." Larisna said, "And don't worry. Holodeck safeties don't just extend to making sure holographic bullets won't become real replicated ones. Also adjusts the simulation for your experience level. I wouldn't give you a bucking bronco when you never even met a horse until now. I wouldn't even go that far my own self. So up to you. Otherwise, we can just walk. Just thought it'd be nice to go into town, see what life was like on the frontier. Maaaybe get some lunch. I was thinking hasperat...good if you like spicy. Not a human dish, it's Bajoran, though there are some dishes similar to it from Earth."

"Well if that's the case, then I'll try the horse." she offered, giving the horse present another set of pats. "It seems appropriate to the illusion." she said with a giggle.

"As far as lunch goes, I can certainly go for something spicy. We have a different scale of spice tolerance, though, so let's see how well this works." she said, her spirit of adventure returning.

"Oh really? Color me intrigued. My family says I'm the only one who likes spicy. Trying to bring hasperat home did not go quite as well as I'd hoped." Larisna laughed, "Computer. Add horse, set skill level beginner casual. Random breed, set to Rei Yamashi."

There was a chime and then a horse materialized in next to hers, this one was brown with white pinto spots. It had full riding gear on it already as well. Larisna went into one of the saddle bags on her own horse and produced an apple, handing it to Rei.

"I know it's odd, simulated food for simulated critters, but it adds to it. The horse is an herbivore, generally likes hay and oats, but fruits and vegetables are kind of like treats for them. Mine likes carrots and apples. And it's a nice introduction."

Rei took the apple, giving it a once over. "Such an odd thing. To think these grow on trees." she offered, another demonstration of how alien their peoples were. She held it out to the horse, not quite sure what to expect, but she gave a little gasp as it leaned towards the offered fruit, opened it's mouth, and chomped on the apple. "I.. I wasn't expecting that. Alright horse, let's get off on the right foot." she said, practically introducing herself to the beast. She examined the riding gear, the seat.... saddle.... the reins, everything. Even the stirrups sized for her feet appropriately. "Alright, so I put my foot there, and then ... kick over, and pray I don't overshoot and land on the ground behind the horse, yes?" she was an engineer at heart, and engineers solve problems a step at a time.

"Right." Larisna replied with a laugh and swung herself into her own saddle. Rei's horse just amicably enjoyed its snack, but it was also programmed in not to misbehave.

"Take your time. No need reporting to sickbay if we can help it." She teased.

"I'd say something inspiration, like death before disaster or something, but that would essentially assure I'd fall. No no, plenty of time to navigate this creature." and with a little forethought and planning, Rei was on the horse. A moment to center herself, and then she grabbed the reins. "Okay, I think.... yes, I'm on and good." she assured. "So, we just... ride into town then?" she asked, this entire Western Frontier aspect so new and appealing to her.

"Yep. We'll keep it slow and steady, no need to tear into town." Larisna said, clicking her tongue and giving the direction needed towards the trail behind the camp. "It's an agricultural settlement mainly, towns in this era were intended to serve a purpose and we'll see the other means of transportation in this era too. But if a town's resource failed to hold up or the railroad passed them by, it often led to the towns being abandoned."

The duo continued up the trail through the forest until it cleared out to rolling plains and hills. And intersecting their path to the main dirt road was a path, both sides lined with metal and sitting on wood planks.

"Railway locomotives. In this time, they were steam driven. And no small degree of controversy surrounding their development around these parts. One of the main plot points is a very wealthy railway tycoon here who basically throws currency at the problems the gang creates until that problem goes away. Evidently based in fact, though given what I've heard about the Orion Syndicate, that's not far from the truth." Larisna explained.

"Some things never change." the rabbitess mused from the back of the horse. What a surreal sight that must have been. "We have railways as well, though we've come a long way from steam engines. We use position locked superconductive magnets now, but the principle is the same." A pause as she looked around at the board and nail town. "It's a quaint little place, isn't it? Rustic, simple..."

"Makes you wonder why we gave up a life like this..."

The town was fairly small, the railstation near the livestock yard, but the main thoroughfare was a little further up. Wooden buildings with wooden footpaths on either side to let people avoid walking in the semi-muddy street that was well traveled by horses and horse drawn carts. No one reacted to the fact a rabbit was riding a horse, indicating which mode Larisna had left the program in. Most people milled about, carrying on with their simulated lives. A mustached man with a silver star insignia on his chest tilted his hat to the two of them as they rode past a building that had metal bars over its windows and in black letters, SHERRIF OFFICE - VARONA COUNTY JAIL, above the door.

"Progress." Larisna said in response to her question, "Towns like these just either kept growing or died off. The march of progress backed by a capital economy."

"This settlement is more of a hub, there are I think at least half a dozen farms around here, scattered around. Many came out here just to buy up some land and farm it, they were veterans of a major internal conflict in this era. I believe the term is "swords into plowshares"." Larisna mused, "Admiral Picard did that, has a vineyard on Earth he retired to, produces wine. Makes me wonder what I'd have done if I'd retired fully instead of just going to the Academy...still makes me wonder..."

She glanced over at Rei as they trotted through town, "So, what's retirement look like for the Ts'usugi?"

"It's nice. We're a people of protocol, of tradition. Elders are given a lot of freedom since, well, they've earned it. Retired, you can pretty much do anything you want within reason. No breaking state security or doing anything obviously dangerous. My grandfather volunteered at the local primary school, sharing wisdom and experience. Seems pretty universal, really. You retire, you've earned your rest. The question is, can you sit still?"

"Me, I don't think I'll be able to just relax. I'm going to have to keep myself busy." a pause, "Which... defeats the point of retirement." she giggled. "You get a letter from the Emperor thanking you for your service, and a salary based on your earnings and achievements. The letters? Yeah they're mass produced, but the Emperor signs each and every one of them by hand. Or so the story goes. Might have someone handle that, though it's a crime to impersonate the Emperor." she mused. "I wonder if they get a pardon after each letter?"

"As a friend and fellow professor at the Academy said - that's one for the philosophers." Larisna replied with her own giggle.

"I mean, in theory, you can do anything in the Federation so what do you do when you're retired? My father retired from Starfleet but he more just helps my mother in her diplomatic work. Being idle all day every day sounds unappealing even now and I don't think I'd manage that for another century or more. And it's not exactly like I have a lot of skills that translate well outside of Starfleet, either." She shook her head, that was something that had hit a lot of retiring officers from the Dominion War. Perfected a craft that had no real world applications.

"What do I want to do.... hmmm." the question seemed like one she was never really asked. "I... I want to find a place for my own, on a nice busy street. I want to live in a city, someplace where it never gets quiet. I'll sleep in until around oh nine hundred, maybe even ten, go to the window and just know that I'm not alone. Maybe I'll have a little garden on the windowsill. I'd want a cozy little place. Just enough room for me and, who knows, maybe someone else." Rei dreamed out loud. "Frame my letter from the Emperor. Maybe next to a picture of me by a hill at night, with stars in the sky."

"It sounds simple, I know, but with what I've been through, with what I'm going through, and with what I think we'll be going through... I think I've earned simple." a pause, "Oh, and maybe one of those comfort creatures that humans are so fond of. What are they called again? Four legs, slobber, licks everything, big ears wag their tails A DOG!" she remembered, "Yeah, maybe a dog. You think they'd let me have a dog?"

Larisna led the way up to a building marked in white painted letters with SALOON and to what appeared to be a log on two posts next to a large trough of water. She did have to laugh a little.

"Yeah, that'd be a dog. I don't see why they wouldn't." Larisna replied, "I had a place kind of like that off campus in San Francisco when I taught at the Academy. A lot of the city was restored to how it was before the Second American Civil War and World War Three. Plus with Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy in the city, it was quite hectic. There was a cozy little Klingon run barbecue place I'd visit every other week. Next time we're on Earth, I should take you."

She led her horse up to the log and swung off and onto the ground, mud slopping under her boots. "So, this is a hitching post. You just tie the reins onto the log lightly. Or you can just tell the computer to save your horse and reload it when we come back out." Larisna demonstrated the former. She then reached into the holsters on her belt and removed both pistols and tucked them into a saddlebag.

Rei emulated Larisna in securing the horse, but seemed to have left her pistols in her other horse. "I'm always just curious, if there's really a test for us at the end. It's.. it's weird, and I guess I'm just lucky to have someone that I can say stuff like that to without having to explain it." No doubt she explained it often.

"Stay." She commanded the horse, who responded with a snort and returned it's attention to the trough.

"Will I need a pair of my own?" She motioned to the sidearms.

"Only if you want to participate in the main story. Or just see how antiquated chemically fired projectile weapons work." Larisna replied, "There is a bit of a thrill to them, I have to admit. It's nothing like firing a phaser, more like setting off explosions in your hand."

"I like to know who I'm working with and I don't like putting up barriers just because I'm in the center chair. Admiral Picard is a hero of mine, and the senior staff of the Enterprise D was a family of sorts. I'd rather have friends around me than subordinates afraid of me, risks be damned." She said as she led the way up to the dual swinging wooden doors of the saloon. Inside, a piano was being played and various people were inside, talking, drinking, playing card games.

"Galaxy's too big to go it alone."


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