Previous Next

Family Loyalty [FLASHBACK]

Posted on Mon Nov 23rd, 2020 @ 6:31pm by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Lieutenant Commander Rhiana t'Aegis & Lieutenant Commander Jörgen Leed

Mission: Interlude 4
Location: Empok Nor
Timeline: 28 April, 2395 - 1900 Hours

[ON]

Two flutes filled halfway with lehe'jhme rounded out the table setting. Jörgen stepped back from the table and scanned it critically. Twin napkins sat like white swans ready to take wing beside plates of sliced travit, steamed kalo root, and toasted makapa bread. The table was as artful has he could make it without help. Many people believed Romulans lacked etiquette, that their combative attitude made them less civil than Vulcans. Jörgen hoped this would help Rhiana feel at ease with their conversation.

"Kan jeg hjælpe dig med noget?" A woman walked through the room. Jörgen half turned to his wife, smiling at her.

"Nej, Anna. Tak." Jörgen indicated the table with a sweep of his arm. "How does it look?"

Anna paused, crossing one arm across her stomach and resting the other on it, bent at the elbow. She nibbled on the tip of a finger. "Det er alle tiders. It looks great." She swept back into motion. "I'll be out late with Birte. I love you." She kissed him on the cheek and in moments was gone. Jörgen paced a few steps towards the door and sipped a chilled Andorian wine. He had only to wait a minute or two; Rhiana wasn't likely to be late.




The chief diplomat's invitation had been entirely unexpected and while Rhiana could not think of any good reason for it, she also could not find a reason for not accepting it. And so she had spent some time on Empok Nor to find a suitable gift. She was the first to admit that this was not her expertise, but in the end she settled on something suitable: a beautifully made small wodden box containing a selection of Romulan leaf teas in hermetically closed glass jars.

She was carrying that box now as she walked towards Leed's quarters. At precisely the appointed time, she pressed her finger against the doorchime.

Precisely as expected. There are underappreciated aspects of Romulan culture, thought Leed. Aloud, he said, "Enter, please," said Jörgen, setting down his goblet.

Rhiana stepped through the entrance into Leed's quarters and came to a halt three paces away from him. Even though she was wearing her uniform, this was a social call and she offered her host a polite bow from the waist, inclining herself naturally to just the perfect angle. "Good evening, Commander." She proffered the wooden box. "Thank you for the invitation."

Leed took the box and lifted the lid. He smiled broadly. "My wife and I are fond of sampling tea from around the quadrant." He placed the box on a nearby shelf, then made a bow similar to the one Rhiana gave. "Khnai'ra. Aefvadh, Rhiana," I would dispense with our titles tonight to keep things informal. Is that acceptable to you?"

Rhiana hesitated for a moment. Not using their ranks would remove boundaries and she quite liked boundaries. But sometimes it was necessary to show some goodwill. "It is. Tell me, do you speak Romulan fluently?" she asked in Standard.

"I am fluent in some phrases. Ironically, most of it was learned as a diplomat to the Klingon Empire and found it much easier to work when I could speak with multiple sides of a conflict. Come, our food grows cold. I hope it is to your liking." Jörgen gestured at the empty seat at the table.

Glancing at the table for the first time, Rhiana stepped towards the indicated chair. She did not recognise all the dishes, but they were probably all edible. "It looks delicious, Co... Jörgen." Noticing the shape of the napkins, she added, "Did you fold these yourself?"

"Yes, as etiquette requires. Now, please join me." He sat down, gesturing at the empty seat. "I admit to this dinner being a bit self-serving, as I have wanted to meet you. Very few Romulans join Starfleet and I would very much like to hear the story from yourself."

Sitting down across from Leed, Rhiana tried to hide her surprise at his request by picking up the artistically folded napkin and studying it for a few moments from various angles. It was a nice touch of him to go to that much trouble. She unfolded the napkin slowly and placed it onto her lap before she made eye contact with her host. "It is not much of a story, I am afraid. There is only one kind of Romulan who join Starfleet: traitors."

"Yet you joined, knowing the penalty. Years of excellent service. Unspeakable tragedy. You are an outstanding addition to the ranks of Starfleet. How have you adapted to life aboard a small emergency craft like the Firebird?"

At his praise, Rhiana inclined her head slightly in a silent thank you gesture. "I will already be executed for treason. Joining Starfleet could not make my sentence worse. Besides, I could not envision life as a civilian." She managed to speak those words lightly, even though she did not feel that way. But her host was just that: her host, not a friend or confidant. "Its size makes the Firebird a rather versatile vessel which allows for a variety of assignments. There is hardly time for boredom. What made you join Starfleet?" She tried to turn the attention away from her without changing inflection.

"A carelessness of nature and a bundle of moderate talents which my parents thought were perfect for private enterprise, but I lacked any cutthroat drive. A friend convinced me to look into Starfleet." Jörgen raised his glass in a nod to Rhiana. "As you said, I cannot envision my life as a civilian. Service on the Firebird has been rather exciting. We are caught in the middle no matter which way we move. Are you happy with how the crew has reacted to you? It cannot have been an easy transition."

"Starfleet and most of its personnel are more inclined to accept an outsider within their ranks than most Romulans would be." Rhiana took a sip of lehe'jhme before she spoke again. "A person with a careless nature does not sound like an ideal candidate for Starfleet and certainly not for a delicate role such as a diplomatic officer," she remarked. "Why did you choose that specialty?"

"Society fascinates me. How people build their views, skills, and even art into the structure of their lives. Why Romulans are less accepting of outsiders tells me something about them before I ever negotiate with them." Jörgen wiped the side of his mouth with a napkin, his eyes steady on Rhiana. "Are you an outsider?"

Rhiana maintained eye contact while she finished chewing and swallowing a bite of the admittedly delicious food. "Do you consider me anything else?" She spoke with a certain amount of interest in her voice, but also with an undertone of acceptance of that status.

"A different question first. The chaos after the destruction of Romulus is settling into factions, each vying openly and in secret for control. I believe you hold coin in the exchange of power. When one of them comes to you with an offer, if they have not already, what will you say?"

Thankfully, Rhiana had not taken another bite yet, else she might have choked on it upon hearing that question. Instead, she quickly picked up her glass and took a sip to mask her surprised expression at least partially. It was a good question. A very pertinent one, too. She had been asked almost the same thing during the debriefing by the UFP following her defection. The answer had been easy then. Now, after almost seven years of asking herself that same question again and again, the answer was not as easy anymore. Especially now that she actually knew someone who might be able to make it possible for her to return home without being executed immediately.

The Romulan gently set the glass back onto the table and looked straight into Leed's eyes. "There is no answer I can give you that you could not immediately challenge."

Leed smiled and raised his glass. "To honesty," he said, and slipped slowly. He did not expect her to open up quickly or completely. They were not close and she had no understanding of his intentions or a reason to believe them even if he stated them completely and honestly. "Home is where you do not have to explain every detail of yourself. Shared vocabulary, traditions, skills, and beliefs. Here, in the Federation, many believe that a Romulan is not to be trusted. Ever. I can only guess how hard it could be to live here, constantly proving your worth to people who may never give worth to your value. But home? One can at least know their place and value. Does any of this come close to your truth?"

Rhiana swallowed hard while she tried to maintain a neutral expression. It should have been easy to achieve, but it was not. Despite all of Leed's questioning, she realised that she had not raised her guard sufficiently. She briefly pondered to continue eating as if his words had not touched her. But she was not hungry anymore. So she did the next best thing: she picked up her napkin and dabbed at her mouth. Buying time.

"Your people are not wrong," she finally replied, her voice sounding rather normal. Not betraying the homesickness his words had caused within her. "We know not to trust fellow Romulans. Everyone has their own agenda. Or do you disagree?"

The tightening of her jaw suggested to Leed she had not anticipated his direct questions. His intention was not to ambush her but show that he respected her too much to banter. One did not proffer friendship to a Romulan through chatting about the weather. "I hear you say that it is hard to know who to trust in the Federation, and admired people of all ranks may have plenty of unseen black marks. Perhaps you expect me to refute that. I do not. Possibly that is why the Academy accepted you: A Romulan with anger; savvy and well-trained; an asset. Possibly that is what you hope to achieve yourself by making yourself an asset that the Empire will welcome back, in all the light and darkness that welcome encompasses.

My plan--my agenda--is two-fold. I want you to stay with the crew because you are smart and insightful. Not as an asset to be used or to gain favor. Second, I am not entirely at home on the Firebird. I grow restless, and dislike to engage in chit-chat. My soul needs conversation and action from similar individuals." Jörgen broke off a piece of sweet biscuit and raised it. "You have had a taste of life here, and the chaos of space stations like Empok Nor. What is your agenda?"

Rhiana picked up her napkin yet again. She dabbed at her mouth one final time - she had not taken a bite since last she had done that - and placed it next to her place. "I thank you for your hospitality, Commander Leed," she said quite formally and maintained eye contact. "The meal was excellent." Pushing her chair back, she rose to her feet and offered him a polite bow. "I wish you a good evening."

Standing quickly, Leed matched her bow with one of his own. "Please, if I have pushed too hard, I apologize. My professional demeanor sometimes bleeds into my personal life or, as my wife would say, runs wildly across the boundaries. Will you stay for dessert?"

"I accept your apology," the Romulan replied after a brief hesitation. "But it is better that I leave now. Good evening, Commander." She did not wait for a reply, but turned around and walked to the door.

Bowing as Rhiana left, he waited until the door closed to stand up. His eyes remained on the door. Hard questions could be honest while not hostile and, though Rhiana was clearly unsettled by his questions, she had to know the difference. Leed rather enjoyed the blunt Romulan woman--that fact of itself might bother her.

With hope Rhiana knew someone was interested in her. Anna would roundly remind him not to interrogate guests. Until then, Jörgen paced a few from the door and sipped a chilled Andorian wine.

[OFF]

Lieutenant Commander Rhiana t'Aegis
Chief Security/Tactical Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298



Lieutenant Commander Jörgen Leed
Chief Diplomatic Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

 

Previous Next

labels_subscribe