Glinn Talmet and Lieutenant Nieru entered the single operating bar on Empok Nor, both of them still carrying their rifles. The Glinn had stated rather flatly that he had no desire to return to his office and the Saurian being armed was no great risk given the circumstances, which led the pair to walk through the threshold with their weapons slung over their shoulders. The bartender on duty looked their way, gave them a single nod, and carried on as if it were simply a matter of course. The Cardassian found a suitable table next to a wall that would allow them to post their rifles up so they didn’t need to worry about where they might fit on the table itself.
Once the two were seated, Glinn Talmet threw an arm over the backrest of the chair he was sitting in and let out a tired sigh, “With how peaceful things are in this damn sector, I’d forgotten what it was like to have to deal with a large group of prisoners all at once.”
“Is that something normal for security officers in the Union?” Nieru asked, her posture only relaxing a little.
“I’m not certain normal is the right word for it,” Talmet said, leaning back a bit further as he gave his answer some thought, “But with all the political infighting we’ve had of late, it isn’t rare.”
“I suppose not. I’ve had a few postings that required a higher than average level of correctional activities even within the heart of the Federation, so I can certainly understand it,” the Saurian nodded.
Before Talmet could respond to what his companion had said, the bartender came over with a bottle and two glasses, setting them down wordlessly before returning to the bar. Without a second thought, Talmet poured the contents into the two glasses, sliding one over to Nieru and picking up his own.
“To an uneventful exchange,” the Cardassian said, raising his glass. The Saurian returned the gesture, tapping the man’s glass with her own. With the toast out of the way, Talent knocked the glass back and consumed the entirety of the liquid in one swallow. Neiru, on the other hand, brought the drink to her lips cautiously and only took a small sip to ensure it was something drinkable.
“Kanar?” the woman inquired after her first taste.
“It is,” the Cardassian nodded, “It isn’t a very old vintage, I’ll admit, but that is simply to ensure that I don’t end up with a bottle that’s already spoiled.”
The Saurian nodded in understanding, finally downing the glass herself. The sight of it caused Talmet to start clapping without even thinking about it. He’d spent next to know time around Federation officers since they’d arrived aboard, and his view of them hadn’t been the most favorable. Watching one down kanar like a seasoned Cardassian veteran was simply too much for him to stay quiet about.
“I’m impressed, Lieutenant. I’ve not had the pleasure of drinking with someone not from Cardassia who could handle kanar with such… passion,” Talmet said, his lips contorted into a rather odd grin.
“I would imagine not. There aren’t many who can keep up with me when I drink either among my crew,” Nieru said with what resembled a smirk of her own.
“Oh?” Talmet said, pouring himself another glass, “I hadn’t suspected that you would be much of a drinker. I’d always thought that drinking wasn’t a favorite pastime among the races in the Federation… and even less so for members of Starfleet considering how much they love synthetic alcohol.”
“That is hardly the case. I have had to break up a countless number of drunken bar fights on both starships and starbases. There are more than a few member races in the Federation that find synthetic alcohol to be offensive, and will not imbibe it if the option to drink the real thing is available, no matter what it might be. My own people have been brewing alcohol for centuries, and it is rather popular all throughout the quadrants,” Nieru said, refilling her own glass.
Talmet grunted as he took in the information she’d given him, his fingers turning the glass in his hand around as he considered his rather erroneous impressions of the Federation. He started to wonder idly if the things he’d been told about the Federation for so long actually had any foundation in truth at all, or if it had simply been propaganda from the start and he’d bought into it wholeheartedly.
“Can I ask you something?” Talmet said after draining about half his glass.
“I see no problem with that,” the Saurian said, setting down her own glass.
“Your Federation,” the Cardassian said, “I’ve always been told that your people are weak. That they live in some idyllic fantasy world of abundance, hoarding all that they have away from anyone they don’t deem to be worthy of having what they do…”
Nieru cocked her head to the side, “That’s not a question…”
Talmet gave her a half-smile, “I realize that. I suppose the question is whether anything I’ve said has even a grain of truth to it.”
“I suppose,” the Saurian nodded, “The Federation does have weaknesses when viewed from the outside. Our insistence on equitability is seen by a great many people as being a major weakness. Our reliance on cooperation between hundreds of different cultures working together to create and advance our collective societies despite each world having their own agendas and their own interests is often an argument I’ve heard when dealing with cultures like the Klingons, who value strength above all else.”
Nieru picked up her glass and tossed back the kanar within it, giving the empty vessel a long look before setting it back down pointedly in the center of the table, “The Federation is like this glass. It has potential to hold something great inside, but it can also hold something incredibly foul. The thing is, it doesn’t actually matter what’s in that glass. You could put water in that glass and someone will pick it up, take a sip, and call it the most vile thing they’ve ever put inside their bodies.”
“An interesting metaphor,” Talmet said, his hand rubbing his chin almost reflexively as he thought about what she’d said.
“I wish I could take credit for it,” the Saurian chuckled.
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” the Lieutenant said, picking up the bottle to refill her glass, “I’m not the one who came up with that metaphor. It was my Captain who did… and oddly enough, while he was drunk.”
Talmet snorted in laughter, “You mean Captain Bastin?”
The Cardassian let out an even louder laugh, “I can’t imagine that man intoxicated! That must have been an experience.”
“It certainly was. But it wasn’t nearly as amusing as the time that the First Officer also got drunk with the Captain. That was a very interesting exchange…” Nieru said with narrowed eyes.
The Cardassian swung his arm back over his chair and leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table, “I’m interested in hearing about this.”
The Saurian looked around the bar for a moment as if looking for a reason not to. When she finally turned back to the Cardassian, she leaned forward herself, “Maybe just the short version, then.”
“I am all ears, Lieutenant,” Talmet said with a grin.
The Saurian then launched into a rather long and involved telling of the story, her audience captive and hanging on her every word as the two of them drained their bottle of kanar and then another, the evening quickly slipping away from them. By the time the second bottle was gone, both of them had traded more than a dozen stories of various exploits. They’d laughed rancorously at times, grown somber at others, but the entire exchange was a positive one when all was said and done.
Glinn Talmet sank back into his seat at one point and shook his head, “I would never have imagined people from the Federation could be so entertaining.”
“Cardassians don’t have a reputation for being the best company either,” the Saurian shot back.
“I suppose there are things we both have to learn about the other,” the Cardassian admitted after a long pause.
“Is that not what this whole station is meant for, Glinn?” a new voice called out to him from just outside his vision. Talmet turned to see Legate Aren standing nearby with her arms folded across her chest, a bemused smile on her lips.
The Glinn rose to his feet, “Legate.”
“You can sit down, Talmet. Seeing you having so much fun with one of our Federation guests pleases me. I’d thought the purpose of our exchange was forever lost on you. And Lieutenant,” the Legate said, turning to the Saurian, “Thank you for helping my Security Chief to lighten up a bit.”
“It has been my pleasure, Legate,” Lt. Nieru said, also rising to her feet.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you two. Please, enjoy the rest of your evening,” Aren said before weaving her way through the crowd to a spot much more hidden from view.
Talmet turned back to his drinking companion, “If the Legate is here, it means that we have spent several hours here already… and I do want to make sure my people have everything well in hand before tomorrow. Perhaps it is best if we end our conversation here.”
“I think you may be right. I need to return to my ship as well,” Nieru said, hoisting her phaser back onto her shoulder, “It was a pleasure though, Glinn. I look forward to sharing another drink with you again sometime.”
“Perhaps I will find some of your people’s alcohol before then, and we can have some together,” Talmet said, putting his own rifle back on his shoulder.
“I look forward to it.”