Kairi rolled out of her bunk as soon as she heard the alarm next to her bunk blare: She was due to report to duty in less than an hour. The blue-skinned girl - an Altheaten - brushed a strand of red hair behind one of her elfin ears and yawned.
Her quarters were but a single small bed, a washroom the size of a closet, a nightstand fastened to the floor, and - of course - a door and large window. A few trinkets - pictures of family and home - along with some art pieces made up the decor, and her window gave the ever-stunning view of passing stars twinkling from afar. That sight never got old.
She stretched and bolted to her quarter’s shower. One short-but-efficient shower later and Kairi was dressed in her utility uniform, consisting of a jumpsuit. A glance at the mirror and she straightened her rank insignia of ensign.
“Another grand day in the Patrol,” Kairi told herself.
The young officer wound her way down the narrow halls of the patrol cutter-rocket Endurance. She had only been assigned to the ship for a few months but she already liked it far better than the Thul-Lavok.
Her first assignment as a cadet on the Thul had not been the best experience. the captain and crew did not get along well, and many resented her in particular for being an Altheaten. Kairi had observed that many species didn’t like her empathic ability to sense emotions.
The Endurance was a newer ship than the Thul was. One of the latest patrol cutters, it still had the new ship sign to it, inside and out. Years of service hadn’t left the usually-inevitable tarnish and replaced parts, and everything worked as it was supposed to. Even the mess area was an improvement, with even more flavors of freeze dried ice cream to choose from for dessert.
Kairi passed by a few of her multispecies crewmates and entered the bridge area where she took her post at the internal systems station. Yes, Kairi was in a much happier place now. From the emotions she felt from her shipmates, they all seemed to either like her or be indifferent to her. On top of all of this, she was serving under the legendary Captain Sphinx.
...But there was one thing that wasn’t perfect: A fellow shipmate, who also held the rank of ensign. Ralas was a Thulgrin: a creature with an insect-like body, including multifaceted eyes. Some humans often likened him to something called a ‘dragonfly.’
Every time Kairi and Ralas were in the same room she could feel his hatred for her, and she had no idea why he hated her, she couldn’t recall doing anything intentionally offensive to him. But for whatever reason she felt his hatred, contempt, and even a sense of superiority.
She could feel those feelings like a repugnant stench, like those… What were those things called people used to smoke in the past? ‘Gars’? Whatever they were, she could always imagine the smelly toxic smoke, that was what she could liken his feelings to.
It didn’t take Kairi long to figure things out. She saw him berating the enlisted ranks for petty reasons, though he hid behind the façade that he was trying to ‘ensure maximum efficiency.’ Kairi could see right through that: Ralas was just a bully in her mind.
The fact that someone like Ralas was serving in the patrol filled Kairi with indignation and anger. Kairi had joined because she believed in the cause: The patrol was a peacekeeping and humanitarian organization, catching pirates, conducting search and rescue operations and contributing to disaster relief. She wondered if Ralas had once been more idyllic but had let the power of holding rank corrupt him. It didn’t matter though.
A bully did not deserve to wear the same uniform as her.
Around the noon bell, when all the cadets and junior officers were taking their nav lessons, Kairi wandered over to Ralas’ cube to see how he was treating the others. Ralas was getting question after question right when one of his classmates - directly ahead of him, she could see - who also had all of the correct answers never raised his hand... except for at the very end.
Ralas stretched and kneed him in the back.
The junior that was kneed was a rather unassuming looking human, he looked at who did the deed and Kairi felt his apprehension at calling Ralas out.
“Oh, sorry there.” Ralas said unapologetically.
Kairi didn’t need to be empathic to sense how much he didn’t mean it.
Ralas could see Kairi’s disapproving look and she could sense his smugness. There wasn’t anything Kairi could prove and he knew it. After the lessons ended Kairi thought about taking Ralas aside and speaking with him, but what could she say?
She acted before she lost the will power - she’d been through far worse than a verbal confrontation with a peer. She’d been in actual life and death situations already, in her short career. Why was this even difficult for her?
“Shut your engines there, cadet,” she said to him, sticking up her courage. Ralas fluttered his wings over to her.
“Faas, something the matter?” He said matter of factly.
Kairi clenched her fist and hid it behind her back. “Yes - your attitude.”
“Afraid I don’t quite follow,” Ralas replied, crossing his four arms as crew made their way anxiously around the feuding officers.
“Stow the innocent act, I’m an Altheaten. Your behavior towards those below you is unacceptable.”
Ralas spread four of his arms. “Faas, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. You sure those empathic powers are accurate? I mean who knows how accurate they are except other Altheatens.”
Kairi huffed, it was an age old argument she hated hearing, born of ignorance her people’s empathy was well documented. Ralas continued.
“I was just messing around, Faas. Lighten up will you? Altheatens: always seeing negative emotions where there are none.”
“Play coy if you want. But I’ve got my eye on you Ralas.”
The two parted ways at that.
As she went about her duties, Kairi continued pondering what to do about Ralas. She was even tempted to go up the chain, but it was always hard to convince non-Altheatens of the validity of emotions... and she was the only Altheaten on the ship. Sure, many on the ship had come to trust and rely on her gift, but they probably had more important things to worry about. She guessed she’d have to wait for Ralas to finally make a mistake and get caught.
Kairi needed to blow some steam off so she got some raygun practice in on the range. Later she made her way to the gym and hopped on a treadmill. She had changed to a tanktop and shorts and kept running at a steady place, using her frustrations to fuel her and regulating her breathing.
As Kairi kept running she found the speed of the treadmill increasing despite her not touching anything.
“What?” Kairi gasped.
Nimbly she put her feet on the running boards as the belt suddenly stopped. Kairi panted for a bit before wiping her brow, she didn’t trust the machine and stepped off.
Kairi thought she felt a wave of amusement from somewhere, but it quickly dissipated.
Tampering with equipment was very unprofessional, if Kairi’s hunch was right and Ralas had indeed done the deed there would be consequences. Kairi paused, she was a tech specialist if he’d done something to the machine she might be able to find out what.
Kairi left the gym and returned with her toolkit, quickly she took the treadmill apart and examined the components of its circuitry.
“Ahh, this looks suspicious.” Kairi extracted a small receiver embedded into the machine command circuits.
With a holo emitter she projected an image of the receiver and enlarged the image until she could read the serial number. Whether this came from the ship or was privately purchased she would soon find out.
The next morning, a tired Kairi dragged herself to breakfast.
“Hey, Faas, you get a good workout?” Ralas asked, radiating smugness.
“I know what you did,” Kairi replied.
“Don’t know what you mean,” Ralas replied.
Kairi stared him down. “Your actions are unprofessional and unbecoming of the Patrol. I’m giving you one opportunity to come clean and apologize.”
Ralas shook his head. “Look at you talking like an admiral — Like you’d actually make it that far.”
Kairi shook her head in disgust. She had given Ralas a chance. Now she was going to act. Despite her determination Kairi hesitated, she wondered if she was truly doing the right thing reporting him. But then she remembered everything he had done and she strengthened her resolve.
As she manned her station she heard the PA system come to life.
“Ensign Ralas, report to the ready room in full service dress immediately.”
Kairi smirked. She had traced the receiver right back to Ralas and given her evidence to her superiors she’d also relayed her observations, and cited others who would affirm her stories. Now Ralas was likely going to have the worst day of his life. It felt good standing up for herself, and for others.