Part of Empok Nor: The Grand Experiment

Mandatory (Philosophical) Fun

Trivas System
2399
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Legate Sela Aren leaned back in her chair and rolled her stiffened shoulders after finally reaching a point in her backlog that could wait until the following day. Most of the work she’d had to tackle was administrative in nature and was more of an exercise in bureaucracy than anything that she actually had to pay attention to, but it was no less mentally taxing when it piled up and couldn’t be delegated to her Executive Officer.

As she sat basking in her temporary reprieve, Legate Aren recalled her offer to meet with the station’s Federation liaison at the bar. It had been something of an impulsive offer, something she would have offered a coworker in the days when she hadn’t been at the top of the hierarchical ladder. Given that the Captain was the closest thing to a peer she had on the station, difference in rank notwithstanding, it seemed not inappropriate even in hindsight that she’d made such an offer so casually. A few taps of her console’s command inputs saw to it that a message would be transmitted to the USS Hydra, currently moored to the station, letting the man know she was heading toward the Promenade in the next little while.

Legate Aren pushed herself out of her chair, taking a second to stretch out her stiff back muscles, and crossed the small distance it took to exit her office. The sight of her Executive Officer still standing in front of the large central display terminal inspired the woman to make an offer she had yet to make the Dalin since she’d arrived.

“Dalin Nefet,” the Legate said with a small upward quirk to her lips, “I think it’s time you and I shared a drink and socialized with our Federation counterparts.”

The Dalin looked up from her terminal with no small amount of hesitation on her face, “Is there some occasion I wasn’t aware of?”

“No occasion,” Aren said with a shake of her head, “But I do feel that you and I haven’t spent a great deal of time getting to know one another, and from what I can tell, you usually don’t leave Ops until well after I do most days. I believe it is prudent that we get off duty at a respectable time to encourage our subordinates not to think that we expect them to live solely for their duties.”

“I see…” Nefet said with a bit of apprehension.

“If it will ease your misgivings, you may consider it an order,” the Legate said, offering her First Officer no avenues by which she could reasonably refuse.

It seemed that her tactic had proven successful as the Dalin logged off the terminal she was using and fell in behind the Legate as she walked up to the lift. While not entirely pleased that she’d had to resort to implying that it wasn’t optional to motivate her subordinate, Aren was at least glad she hadn’t protested the idea as being simply abhorrent to her. It did, however, make the lift ride down to the Promenade level a silent one.

Once the pair had stepped off the lift, the Legate begane pointing out different things she had started to notice about the way the station, or more importantly, the Promenade was changing. Most of the observations Aren made drew little more than a nod or a grunt of acknowledgment from Nefet, but the woman didn’t seem overly willing to get much more involved in the topics being discussed. Having not spent a great deal of time with the Dalin, Legate Aren couldn’t tell if she was being evasive because of some personal disinterest in the topics or if she simply didn’t care to speak to Aren if it wasn’t related to her duties as the station’s Executive Officer.

As they finally approached the bar, the Legate caught sight of Captain Bastin walking up from the opposite direction, his own First Officer walking beside him. While she hadn’t expected him to have company, the fact that he had brought his own subordinate made things much easier to handle. The Legate put on her best smile as they met up with the Federation group.

“Captain Bastin,” Aren said, shaking the man’s hand despite it not being strictly necessary to do so, “I’m glad to see you brought the Commander with you. I hadn’t thought to tell you I would have Dalin Nefet with me when we parted.”

Capt. Bastin gave his First Officer a sideways look that likely carried some hidden meaning to the two of them before replying, “I thought it would be a good opportunity for the both of us to spend some time with your people in a less formal setting. It would appear that we were thinking the same thing.”

“A pleasure to meet you again, Legate, and a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, Dalin. I’m Commander Yuri, First Officer on the Hydra,” the woman accompanying Bastin said by way of introductions.

“Dalin Nefet,” the station XO remarked curtly with a nod to the Human woman.

“Shall we go inside and have that drink?” Bastin motioned toward the bar, seemingly catching the not so subtle hint that Nefet wasn’t overly thrilled to be involved in the exchange. Legate Aren turned and entered the establishment first, followed closely by Captain Bastin. The two First Officers fell in behind, nearly shoulder to shoulder.

Legate Aren took notice of some patrons occupying a table near the far right of the bar and turned back to the Captain, “If you wouldn’t mind grabbing a table toward the back, I want to speak to my Security Chief for a moment.”

“Not at all,” Bastin nodded, breaking away from the Legate to find a suitable table that was far enough away from the main throng as to grant them a modicum of privacy. Aren watched them wonder off before approaching the table she’d had her eyes on. Judging by how involved Glinn Talmet had been with his table companion, Aren had a feeling he wouldn’t notice her until she spoke.

“I suppose there are things we both have to learn about the other,” Aren overheard her security officer say, which brought a rather bemused smile to her lips.

“Is that not what this whole station is meant for, Glinn?” Legate Aren said in response to the man’s comment. Talmet turned to look at her, his look of momentary confusion morphing into recognition.

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 the table that Captain Bastin had chosen in her absence. The three of them had already taken seats, the two lower ranking individuals closest to the wall while Captain Bastin and the empty chair were on the outermost corner of the table. Legate Aren took her seat, taking a second to get comfortable before resting her arms on the table.

“It was nice to see Glinn Talmet having such an engaging conversation with one of your people, Captain. It gives me hope that the intention behind our endeavor has not been lost on my crew after all,” Aren said with a pleased look.

“I imagine the longer our people are here, the more common it will become. I do appreciate that taking the first steps toward understanding one another are not easy to make and that there will be times when our differences in opinions and outlooks will seem insurmountable,” Bastin remarked.

“I believe there is some Human phrase about that. Something to the effect of worthwhile things being hard…” the Legate said, struggling to recall the actual turn of phrase.

“Most things worth doing are seldom easy,” Cmdr. Yuri offered up, “It’s a phrase my family used on more than one occasion when I was growing up.”

“Ah yes, that was it. Thank you, Commander,” Legate Aren said with a slight bow of her head, “It’s a very pragmatic way of looking at things. It speaks volumes about the importance of hard work.”

“It does indeed,” Capt. Bastin nodded.

Dalin Nefet simply shifted a bit in her seat, not really showing an interest in participating in the small talk. The Legate turned to regard her for a moment before deciding if she didn’t actively prod the woman, she would be content to simply blend into the background and therefore defeat the purpose for her being at the table at all. It was becoming rather apparent that her First Officer wasn’t one to banter with others.

“Nefet, what are your thoughts on such a Cardassian-like sentiment coming from our Federation neighbors?” the Legate inquired.

The Dalin’s eyes narrowed just slightly as she looked over to her superior. That gesture alone told everyone around her that she hadn’t bothered to actually absorb the conversation, instead treating it like part of the background noise in the room. Nefet could tell by the impatient and expectant look on the Legate’s face that her involvement in the conversation wasn’t negotiable.

“It’s unexpected, Legate,” the woman said tersely.

“Unexpected how?” Aren asked, even if she knew the answer she would get. It was an answer she herself would have given had someone asked her the same thing only a few months before. Having no experience with dealing with cultures from outside the Cardassian Union, it had been a bit of a shock to see traits that she had once considered the sole dominion of the Cardassian people being exhibited by people who had once been their enemy.

Nefet let out a breath as if in protest of having to elaborate, “Everything I’ve ever heard regarding the Federation had led me to believe that their rigid adherence to some idealistic moral philosophy made them incapable of any shrewd thinking.”

“Then you might be surprised to hear that among the Federation, Humanity has been admonished a time or two for being two shrewd and suspicious of others despite the outward appearance to the contrary,” Bastin commented with a grin.

The look that crossed the Dalin’s face was a mixture of disbelief and curiosity. Even Aren had a bit of trouble swallowing such a comment at face value. Given the looks Bastin was getting, the man launched into a bit of history.

“Humanity has only really tried to follow the doctrines that the Federation holds as their official position for only two centuries or so. In fact, out of the original signatories of the Federation Charter, Humanity was the newcomer to the galactic stage. We’d only had warp flight for… what… not even a hundred years? And we’d only managed to pull ourselves out of constant political infighting and wars and unite under one banner ten or so years before the Federation Charter was signed. Prior to that, our history was full of people who would, quite frankly, put Cardassians to shame with their schemes and subversive tactics,” Capt. Bastin said with a somewhat somber tone.

His comment actually elicited interest from Dalin Nefet, who couldn’t help but ask, “If your culture was so different, what brought about the radical changes?”

“A lot of it can be attributed to humanity being exposed to races other than itself. Humanity had been convinced for…” Bastin hesitated for a moment before continuing, “practically its entire history as a sentient species that they were alone in the universe. Evidence to the contrary was a pretty big shock when we made first contact with the Vulcans and people were forced to think outside of our one small world. Even before the advent of a warp five capable ship, our neighborhood grew by leaps and bounds. If anything, humanity found itself scrambling to catch up to the rest of the cultures who had been traveling through space for a lot longer than we had. And to be honest, I don’t think humanity truly has caught up with the concepts and values we’ve been asked to embrace. I don’t think any member species in the Federation can honestly claim that they adhere to the idealism that the Federation presents at the foreground.”

“Just look at how we handled the Romulan crisis,” Cmdr. Yuri cut in, “For all of our talk about being there for people who need us, we could have done a whole lot better during that entire period, instead of letting self-interest and our own prejudice against the Romulans for all of the past wrongdoings we’ve endured at their hands taint our response or our willingness to do more than was absolutely required of us.”

“So you’re saying that the Federation backing out of aiding the Romulans after the Mars attack wasn’t purely because of the sudden crippling of your ship building efforts?” Dalin Nefet asked with a dubious look.

“Officially,” Bastin replied, “That’s the rationale behind not sending a rescue fleet to the affected areas. And on the surface it wasn’t a lie in the least, it had crippled out abilities heavily, though not entirely. But it made providing aid an insurmountable project.”

“And your official stance is only a mask for deeper reasons?” Legate Aren said with an intrigued look.

While Bastin merely shrugged, Cmdr. Yuri leaned into the table just a bit, “A lot of people in Starfleet have theories behind why we pulled out of our commitment to help the Romulans after the attack. A lot of rumors went around that it was a sabotage orchestrated by Romulan agencies to prevent us from interfering with their ability to take over the fallen government. I even heard that the Federation just used it as an excuse to get back on the Empire for all the backstabbing we had to put up with since the Romulan War way back when.”

“But all of that is simply rumors,” the Captain followed up flatly.

“But rather intriguing if there is even a hint of truth to them,” Nefet said, rubbing her chin in thought.

“What is so intriguing about that, Dalin?” Aren asked, turning to her XO.

“If any of those rumors have even a kernel of truth to them, it would mean that the Federation as a whole is far less… unfathomable than I had originally thought,” Nefet responded to the question as if it had opened some sort of path that hadn’t been evident before.

Despite not having much to do with her First Officer’s epiphany, Legate Aren looked about as proud of it as if she’d been solely responsible for it, “I think this calls for some drinks.”

“Ah yes… we’re here at a bar to drink and we haven’t had a single sip yet,” Bastin chuckled.

“I will procure us something,” Legate Aren said, slipping out of her chair, “I will be back in a moment.”

As Aren walked away from the table, she could hear the group continue to chat, which was exactly what she’d hoped would happen. As she made her way up to the bar, she was greeted by the man currently running the establishment. He leaned against the counter with a smirk on his face, having noticed how pleased the Legate was.

“I take it that things are going well,” he said smugly.

“They are,” the Legate said with a nod, “Better than I could have hoped, to be blunt. I had thought Nefet was incapable of doing anything that wasn’t part of her duties. I’m very pleased to see that this is not the case, I merely had to find the right catalyst.”

“She’s not a bad officer, but her social skills are a bit lacking,” the bartender said with a cryptic smile.

“So you’ve said before. Someday I’ll even look into how you know that. Today, however, I simply need you to get us a round of drinks,” Aren said, brushing off the man’s attempt at subverting the conversation.

“I have just the thing,” the man said with a sly smile before walking further down the bar.

Legate Aren turned around to take in the bar’s scenery. It was amazing to her as she saw the beginnings of her people merging with the Federation that such a thing had occurred in such a short time. It was even more impressive given that neither of the two camps had gone through any sort of strife that might have spurred such camaraderie in the two wildly different groups. The Legate could only imagine what might happen in the future should they actually share an experience that brings them even closer together.