The newly-commissioned Ensign Tallera watched from her window seat on the Starfleet transport shuttle as the other passengers made their way aboard.
In truth, she wasn’t just excited to get onto her first starship assignment, but to leave this planet in particular as well. While the Federation acclimatization training she’d undergone at the academy there had been interesting enough, she had absolutely no love for the locals. She’d read about the large-scale opposition to romulan refugees early on in her stay there, and from then on had had difficulty looking at the people of Mellstoxx III with anything less than derision. Of course, given that said people were mostly betazoids, pretty much all of them could tell she felt that way, and as such had no desire to treat her particularly well, either. Tallera supposed she couldn’t blame them for that, at the very least.
Fittingly, most of the people boarding the transport were betazoid civilians, as it seemed this wasn’t a particularly high-traffic time for Starfleet members to head to that gigantic starbase hanging above the planet. A pair of bolian non-coms who seemed to be romantically involved had sat down a few rows behind her, but everyone else had been regular people, probably on business trips or something. Well, whatever the Federation equivalent of a business trip was. She still didn’t exactly understand how their economy worked.
Just as Tallera was happily anticipating a flight without a seat mate, a wiry, uncharacteristically disheveled-looking vulcan tossed a bag in the overhead compartment and plopped himself down next to her.
“Greetings,” he said flatly and without eye contact as he pulled out a padd and began reading, clearly not expecting much further communication.
“Hi,” Tallera responded with a weak and slightly forced smile. At this, the vulcan raised an eyebrow and looked over at her, but didn’t exactly make eye contact. His gaze seemed to land on her forehead.
“Are you a romulan?”
Tallera chortled. Her cousin species was every bit as tactless as she’d been told.
“Yeah. I am. Romulan Republic Exchange Officer Ensign Tallera, at your service.” Her tone came out a bit flatter and more bothered-sounding than she’d intended, but figured that a vulcan wouldn’t care. Or notice.
“Fascinating,” he replied, seeming to be studying her like he would an animal at a zoo. It made Tallera a bit uncomfortable, but she reminded herself that the vulcan probably meant no offense nor had anything nefarious on his mind. It was likely nothing more than just a culture clash. “I have never encountered one of your kind before,” he continued. “I had assumed you were a vulcan when I took this seat.”
“Well, I guess I’m kind of a vulcan. Genetically speaking.”
“Genetic drift has led most biologists to consider vulcans and romulans to be separate species. Referring to yourself as vulcan would be akin to, if you are familiar with Earth fauna, referring to a dog as a wolf.”
Tallera was familiar with that particular kind of Earth fauna, having been briefed on how culturally significant dogs are to humans during her primer on Federation species. The analogy seemed backwards, though. Wolves are a species of wild apex predators, while dogs are a domesticated, servile animal known for their complete subservience to humans. It was clear which one more closely resembled vulcans.
Ditch those snarky nationalist thoughts, Tallie, she thought. You’re better than that.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to offend,” she responded, figuring deference was the best option here. After all, she was the interloper. The vulcan was the one who belonged here.
“No offence was taken,” the vulcan said, cocking his head a bit as if surprised by her response. “I apologize if I gave you that impression. I understand that vulcans can often come across as blunt to more emotional species.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
They sat in silence for a bit; Tallera apathetically gazed out the window as the last few passengers boarded, the vulcan kept reading whatever was on his padd. After the last seat was taken, he stat up straighter and briefly looked around at the other passengers before turning back to Tallera.
“Based on the small amount of Federation personnel aboard this flight as well as our seemingly similar age, it is logical to assume we are here for the same reason. Were you assigned to the USS Achana?”
Tallera smirked. “Good guess. Looks like we’ll be working together.”
“That is agreeable. It will be intriguing to witness the cultural differences between our species in the setting of Starfleet service.”
“I’m glad I… intrigue you,” Tallera responded with an expression of equal parts amusement and exasperation. “So, do you have a name?”
Tallera had to resist the urge to face-palm.
“Would it not be logical to assume that I should know your name, given that we’re going to be working together?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered with a nod. “My name is Ensign Dreval. Engineering division. Specialty in damage control.”
Tallera reached over and offered him her hand.
“Nice to meet you.” He took it, gave her a slight nod, and then shook her hand.
“So, do you know what class of starship the Achana is? Nobody gave me that information.”
“I do not. However, given that, at most, only four Starfleet personnel are being transported from the academy campus today, it is logical to assume that it is a rather small vessel. Most vessel departures prompt more significant Mellstoxx III-to-Starbase Bravo transit.”
Oh please, be a Defiant… Tallera thought.
“So, damage control. That’s an interesting specialization,” she asked, deciding that getting to know Dreval a little better couldn’t hurt. “What made you go with that route?”
“I was a volunteer firefighter prior to applying to Officer Candidate School, and graduated from a university on my homeworld with a degree in Engineering Technologies. Damage Control was an obvious choice, given my previous experience.”
“Wow, volunteer firefighter. And did you say OCS? You didn’t go through the Academy?”
“I did not. I had not yet decided on a path for my life by the time university applications took place, and would likely have not been accepted by Starfleet Academy had I applied.”
“Interesting,” Tallera said with a nod. She was starting to get the hang of Dreval’s speech patterns; he may be tactless, but he seemed to speak of himself with that same level of honest bluntness as he did everyone else.
“Did you… attend a service academy amongst your people?” Dreval asked, his tone oddly uncertain.
“Yeah. Romulan Republic Naval Academy,” Tallera said, her tone warmer and more welcoming than it had been. “I was part of one of the first classes to graduate, actually.”
“Fascinating. I have much respect for the Romulan Republic. It takes a great deal of courage to form a representative government in the shadow of totalitarianism.”
“I appreciate that,” Tallera smiled. “You referred to your homeworld earlier, did you not grow up on Vulcan?”
“No. I was born on Harmony.”
“Oh, really? What’s that planet like?”
“It is environmentally pleasant for most species, which is why it was chosen for colonization. It was originally founded by the Vulcan Science Academy…”
As the pair spoke, the shuttle gently lifted off the ground and made way to Starbase Bravo.