Her fingers ran silkily along the edge of the bookshelf, seemingly painting it brown as layers of dust trailed off. Her dark auburn eyes were focused downward though, into the textbook held close to her nose. Seemingly muttering to herself, she nodded and smirked as she paced the library shelves, only half-aware of the otherwise empty semicircular room.

It seemed unrealistic, she pondered, that perpetual-motion engines should be capable of even near-lightspeed travel; the discs, motors, and magnets required would have to be enormous, or extremely dense. Yet she stood in a spaceship powered by such an engine at that very moment, her body otherwise freefalling through space at near-invisible speeds, encased only in walls of various heated metals.

She grinned. It was a dorky image- a thin, librarian-esque woman like herself zipping through the great darkness of space, fleeting past enormous masses of earth and gas like trees in a forest, all the while standing upright and rigid, reading, with a skeptical air, a book on how it could even be possible.

But that, she realized, was her reality. Her duties as a scientist were to take these seemingly magical feats, pin them into the web of human understanding, then take it for granted and find a way for mankind to proceed even further into knowledge, until herself or another like mind could use that as a stepping stone for even greater knowledge.

Just like the negatively-charged electrons in atoms spinning around a positive/neutral nuclei were the same as negatively-charged planets rotating around a positive/neutral celestial center of gravity, her current thoughts, she knew, were but a minute representation of a larger, greater relationship with knowledge to come.

One day, she knew, her mind would be recognized across the universe. She was young, just twenty-seven, but she already knew that she was at the beginning of a path that would lead her, and science, into unexplored realms. It was a strange feeling to be aware of; it was a feeling she had accepted many years ago, when she was a child.

As her eyes scanned the page, half in thought, she became aware of the rhythmic tapping of keys from not far off. Suddenly aware of the heaviness of her thoughts, she gradually let them slide away as she focused on the musical quality of the typing.

They were eloquent, cool strokes, in rapid succession with intermittent spurts of spaced beating. She almost doubted whoever was typing was really typing anything, most likely they were just strumming the keyboard out of boredom, but they sounded too precise and focused to be just playing around.

Her interest piqued, she closed the book on her index finger to save her place and cleared her throat. Straightening her gait, she maneuvered her way to the other room, where a row of computers were situated in the center. Stairs functionally formed from the tops of bookcases led her down the side of the main atrium, spiraling towards the center, where she would find the keyboard musician.

Probably one of the janitors trying to waste time… why am I even bothering-

She couldn't help but grin at the mass of hair seated sloppily on the crouched torso before her. It was bouncing up and down with some unheard rhythm. The man's foot was tapping, also- whatever he's typing, he must be really into it…

Unsure of whether to walk up slowly or pass by quickly and just glance, she bit her lip in thought, and considered turning around. But the same curiosity that piqued her interest and derailed her focus to begin with, held her in place.

He seemed to become aware of her the moment she realized she was holding her breath. She almost blushed as his mane-framed head turned- foot still tapping- to reveal a pair of sharp blue eyes on an otherwise gentle face. Visible stubble etched across the sides of his cheeks and his neck, giving him a contrastingly wild look.

They shared a moment of silence as their eyes met. She had the strange sense that he was searching her for something, but she could not tell by his stone-solid expression whether he found what he sought or not.

As he turned back around to continue typing- a little slower this time- she became aware of her ineptitude. Am I supposed to say something..? He probably thinks I'm creepy, just standing here without saying anything!

But she didn't feel her usual urge to just walk away. She felt like she could stand there for hours and this strange fellow on the computer wouldn't even mind. There wasn't the usual tension in the air.

She ran through the foods and drinks she'd ingested recently, but nothing could explain her impassive attitude. My sugar and vitamin intake are nothing above or below normal… maybe I had a little less water than I should have

She sighed and walked up to his chair, one hand firmly gripping the seat next to his. I might as well see what he's looking at…

Knowing a bit about computers herself, she could see he was scanning over a list of current and background processes, though why he would be doing that on one of the public computers was beyond her.

He scratched his ear and pushed something upward- a headpiece. Ahh, she nodded to herself, he must be a techie. Her hand slid farther down the adjacent chair and she found herself slipping slowly into it, questioning her own actions as she did so. She cleared her throat and waved on her display, readjusting her own headset as she straightened her posture.

A quick glance to her side saw that he was staring at her out of the corner of his eyes, smiling, or smirking- she couldn't tell.

"Hey." He said simply, eyes back on his own monitor, but a warm glow still palpable.

"Hey…" She replied, shifting in her seat.

She expected a heaviness that did not arrive- the sound of his now-fewer keystrokes very much the only salvation from an otherwise empty air. Yet she still felt calm, understood.

A smile spread sheepishly across her face- she wasn't used to being so comfortable around anyone except her sisters. Certainly not after signing on to the Almacy had she felt this way… Most everyone on the ship was tied into their duties- serious. She almost felt like this man, or boy- whoever he was- resembled an Onlander, almost, with his aloofness.

In a few moments, she found herself opening her book and continuing her research on the computer's database; a compendium of multiple, smaller databases accrued through the ship's travels. Usually each port had connections to hubs that filtered content obtained from the thousands, millions, sometimes billions of inlet sources.

Even on a military vessel, she still had access to her favorite sites and networks; the actual central computer of a ship had so much capacity, it would take thousands of hubs of information to fill it, and even then, it could still just overwrite old or compressed data.

She was looking into the power functions of a magnet-based engine, so, since she had basic access to temperatures, GPUs, and other erroneous data as an entry-level core engineer, she quickly directed herself into the engineering division of the ship's logs.

Harumph.

She couldn't even access live feed yet from the core. But she could look at old logs…

From twenty days ago? Maybe the TGA is a little oversensitive with their security clearance? Sighing, she continued to pour over the old notes anyways. Any comparative data is better than no data. Maybe I can compare the thermal readings to the external-output readings, to get a better grasp on just how capable magnetic engines really are…

It wasn't long before she was back into her work again. After a matter of minutes she began to realize how much core technology had developed over the past few years since the book she was reading had been released. The mechanics and theories were all the same, but the result in power and output had expanded considerably in such a short while.

Probably has to do with the influx of the Caldean System… they seem to be a people with an emphasis on efficacy and essentialism.

As the TGA expanded and more civilizations were swept into its glow of sentience that effused ever-onward through space, the impact of every little colony or collective peoples changed it, specifically, in some way. Whether it was a renewed focus on conservative technology through the intake of the vast Caldean System, or the lessening of internal strife by the release of Al'Gra so many years back, the TGA had become an expanding cosmic identity, with entire races and peoples as its defining features.

Perhaps it was that growing sense of identity that inspired her to pursue the engineering field, she realized. She wanted to be right in the thick of the most evolving and important field in the shared universe, working with the very engines that propelled mankind's expansion into space. The TGA was more than just a military dominance; it was an acceptance, a consensus of morals and beliefs. All the planets, solar systems, empires and peoples included had a shared vision, a shared passion. Though there were always clashes and battles within, it was the continued scientific growth that awed her, that inspired her to contribute. It was her dream that, someday, she would be the one to propose a powerful new energy-creation drive, enabling a faster and safer transport between distant galaxies- bringing them closer together in space and in dreams.

After another fifteen or so minutes of browsing, she became aware of someone's gaze on her. She turned to her left almost without pause, only to catch the hairy boy next to her sitting nonchalant in observation.

Her thin eyebrows furrowed at her own reluctant blush as they both smiled. He seemed as aware of their strange, shared casuality as she was, but his overall placidity almost caught her off guard.

They sat, looking at each other in silence for a moment, his strange smile, her lip-biting nervousness all in the obvious, until it finally became too much for her and she brokethe silence. "I'm… Leah. Leah Farroh."

He nodded slowly- more of a bob, really- his eyes never leaving hers, before he replied, "Sakusa- Sakusa Dyblay… Good to meet you, Leah."

"Yeah, you too, Sakusa…"

They both nodded and looked away for a second before he continued.

"So, you're doing engineering work on the Almacy?" He gestured with his chin to her screen, apparently familiar with GTU scans or possessing incredibly acute eyesight.

She nodded, then sighed at the thought of explaining her quandary to him, but he cut her off.

"It never made sense to me how a magnet-based engine could travel at light speeds, ya know?"

She laughed and clenched her hands animatedly in agreement. "I know! That's exactly what I'm looking up right now, actually."

His eyes brightened in genuine shock. "Oh..? No shit? Hahah, well, should I be worried that our engineers don't know how the ship works, either?"

His expression was innately comical- she couldn't help but laugh.

"Well, I'm not really an engineer per-say…"

"Oh, you must be an apprentice then-"

"Yeah, I just started a few weeks ago-"

"Hey, sat'son, that's my same ride, too…"

She almost snorted at the expression. It wasn't uncommon to hear other languages interspersed in casual talk, but the coolness in the way he used it surprised her. She liked him, though- there was an ineffable solidity to his laxness; she wasn't really sure if he was on his toes or just letting loose, but he seemed consistent, smooth.

Suddenly a whining, piercing noise cut through their exchange. Sakusa clenched his hands to his head and gritted his teeth, wincing.

Leah's brows shot up. "Gee, is that your headset? You should really fix that…"

Sakusa's features betrayed his annoyance. He looked positively forlorn as he sighed. "Sorry Leah, I've gotta-"

"I know how it is." She replied, nodding but also disappointed.

She tried not to pay attention as he spoke through his communicator. It really was an abrupt noise, she thought, and she probably knew just how to fix it. One of the magnesium couplings would have to be tightened, unless the wire was shredded and needed replacing. She had already fixed a couple communicators since being onboard- maybe she could have a look at his.

"-be right there. Out." His eyes were downcast as he turned to face her. "Well… You know how it goes. I gotta roll."

"Yeah, I understand. You should really let me look at that communicator for you, though."

He paused as he was rising to leave, as if a thought occurred to him. He quickly ducked down to his console and jabbed at the keyboard, sighing again as he waved the screen off.

"Umm, well, Leah…" As he turned, they both exchanged a smile, the same coolness as before settling. "That sounds good. I'm sure I'll see you around… these terminals, especially, always need more work, ya know."

She nodded as he reluctantly turned away. Before he was out of view, dashing up the stairs, he paused for a wave and a grin, then vanished.

As the last sound of him faded away, Leah lowered her head to her book. It really was outdated.

She smiled and turned to her screen; at least she knew the computers were functioning properly.