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Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Posted on 18 Jan 2019 @ 5:19pm by Lieutenant JG Jazmin Parks

Mission: The Kalisa Conundrum
Location: LTJG Parks Quarters
Timeline: MD1 0700 hours

=== Crew Quarters, LTJG Jazmin Parks, USS Black Hawk ===

Jazmin Parks stood in her quarters, looking out over the expanse of the Finnean Convergence Zone. The Black Hawk was making good time in reaching the Kalisa Sector and the archive contained on the second planet. She put one hand on the viewport and leaned her forehead against it. Closing her eyes, she tried to will away the faint sense of dread that threatened to rise up.

“Dammit, Jazmin!” She spoke to herself, the sound too sharp in the empty room. “What the hell is the matter with you?” She pounded a fist against the viewport bfore turning on one heel.

She knelt by her bed and opened a storage locker, tipping the contents onto the floor, grimly smiling when a bottle of wine rolled out onto the carpet. Kelly’s beautiful face flashed in her mind. The two of them had pitched in on this bottle together. Jazmin touched the bottle as a scared child would touch a friendly stray and she sunk back against the side of her bed.

=== Meerkum Wine Cellars, Alpha Centaury, 2386 ===

Jazmin hooked her arm through Kelly’s as they browsed the racks of wine. The room, located two levels underground, housed thousands of bottles of wine from all over the galaxy. The cool air chilled her and she leaned in close to Kelly, eager to revel in her girlfriend’s touch and her warmth. As Kelly’s perfume reached her nose, she took a deep breath, her mouth watering at the scent of vanilla and peaches.

Kelly looked down at Jazmin, her blue eyes full of love. “How are we going to choose? There have to be three thousand bottles.”

A voice came from behind them. “Three thousand, seven hundred, twenty-two.”

They turned to see an impeccably-dressed human stood behind them, leaning on a wooden cane. His hair was silver-gray but his grey eyes looked decades younger. He smiled and bowed. “Paul Meerkum the Eighth, owner and vintner at your service.”

Jazmin smiled, she liked him, she decided. “There’s so many! How do we choose?”

Paul looked them over with a critical eye. “Hmm.” He bit his lower lip and closed his eyes. “An Earth wine. Something spicy, perhaps?.”

Jazmin though it sounded wonderful.

“Follow me.” He started off without looking back, leading them down rows, finally stopping at the end of one row. He made a grand gesture than took in the whole of the room. “Pick one.”

Standing amid the rows upon rows of wine bottles, she imagined the care and commitment that such a place required. She imagined someone rating the bottles, one at a time, each turn an exact quarter turn. someone going from bottle to battle, rotating each a quarter turn. Her imagination took charge, and she lived a lifetime here, watching an apprentice and his teacher as they worked. One day, the apprentice was allowed to turn a few bottles, then a shelf, then a row, then two, then more, age and experience building as both the caretaker and the wine aged together. How many turns had these bottles experienced? The sudden weight of history fell upon her shoulders and she was nearly undone.

She looked at Kelly who only shrugged. “Go ahead.”

Jazmin ran her fingers across the bottles, lingering at each one the way a lover would linger on her lover’s lips. Then, she stopped and pulled the bottle free. The diamond-shaped label, faded but still readable was once a deep black with a red border and white lettering. Rosemount Estate, Australia, SHIRAZ, 1998.

She turned to Paul. “Is this a good one?”

“Indeed. That bottle is one of the few remaining. It was inexpensive. quite affordable for the average consumer, but the centuries have changed this. The wine, however, is wonderful, spicy, and you could not do much better.”

Kelly smiled. “Now, the question is…”

He held up a hand. “As the saying goes, if you have to ask…”

Jazmin smiled despite herself. “Then we’ll take it.”

Ten minutes later they left the establishment and stopping on the streetcorner. Kelly stopped Jazmin as the warm Centauri breeze washed over them. “On graduation day we’ll open this bottle and celebrate. Then,” she kissed Jazmin on the lips, lingering for a moment, “we get married.”

Jazmin felt her heart skip and her breath catch as Kelly slid to one knee, holding out a ring box. She opened it, sunlight glinting off the diamond. “Jazmin Parks, would you make me the happiest woman in the galaxy, and be my wife?”

“YES!” She screamed in answer, as Kelly embraced her, kissing her passionately. When they broke, Kelly slid the ring on Jazmin’s finger with trembling hands.

It was then they heard the applause from the bystanders on the street.

=== Crew Quarters, LTJG Jazmin Parks, USS Black Hawk ===

Jazmin wept at the memory as she held the bottle up. “We never did get to drink this did we?”

Climbing to her feet, she set the bottle on the counter and looked for a corkscrew. As she rummaged through drawers she stopped as she found a small bag of maroon velvet. The search for the corkscrew was abandoned as she pulled out the back and dumped the contents into her palm.

Two gold bracelets, each engraved with intricate designs lay in her hand. They were the bracelets she had traded for on the last planet and she felt comforted by the weight of them. She stared at them for a moment, then shook her head as if she were clearing out cobwebs. She stopped, remembering an ancient Terran book about a ring that controlled the wearer with its magic before betraying them. Laughing, she clutched the bracelets close to her chest and made her best impression of the imp-like creature from the book. “Myyyyy Precioussssss.”

She laughed, and the sound was painful to her ears. “Oh Jazmin, what would Kelly say if she could see you like this?”

There was no answer from the empty room. After a moment she put bracelets back in the bag and was about to put them away when the voice of the computer spoke out.

“Lieutenant Parks, your duty shift begins in ten minutes.”

Jazmin pocketed the pouch without thinking and headed for the door. “Thank you for the reminder, Computer.”

“Affirmative.”

 

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