Captain’s Log, Supplemental,
Since arriving in orbit of Kunhri III, the crew has worked tirelessly for several days, embarking on the first initiative of our humanitarian mission. Replicators and emergency ration packs have been distributed to the Reman communities in greatest need by Commander Elbon and his teams. Any concerns I’ve had for Doctor Pimpinellifolia do not carry over into her commitment. Nelli’s medical teams have established triage tents across the planet to offer emergency first aid to any who have been wounded, be it from industrial labour or their uprising against the Romulan Star Empire.
The starships Temeraire and Neptune have begun operations to secure the Kunhri system with sentry pods and a tachyon detection grid. Our own security department must also remain vigilant. While the First Consul of the Kunhri system has formally requested Starfleet’s assistance, there have been reports of sparse strikes and rioting on the nearby world of Kunhri IV. In fact, one refinery on Kunhri III has declined our first delivery of supplies, opting to eat the last of the rotting food left behind by the Romulans rather than trust anything from the Federation.
I have begun an initial, fleeting dialogue with my liaison from the Reman provisional government. I will be working closely with Kunhri III’s Consul of Vitality, a Reman named Kecene. I understand hers is a new government posting, jury-rigged into the framework of the existing Romulan structure, to represent the provisional government’s interests in their people’s health and vitality. I trust, in time, the Remans will decide how they wish to govern themselves out of the shadow of the Star Empire.
My first communiques with Kecene have been perfunctory. I requested the locations of refineries that have already run out of food and she identified them. Subsequent messages have expanded, revealing additional shades of her personality. I’ve shown curiosity about Kecene and her intentions in this new role. Kecene has been receptive, mostly. Begrudgingly, she admitted her favourite flavour of Starfleet rations has been chicken and blueberry. We’ve even complained to one another about our respective days. I find mutual complaining helpful to better understand another’s point of view. I can only hope I’ve done enough to convince her to remain in dialogue with Starfleet.
* * *
“That didn’t take long,” Kellin muttered under his breath.
After less than five minutes of inspecting Refinery 01R’s kitchens, Security Chief Kellin Rayco discovered an oddly-sticky dust that had been smeared down the left flank of his uniform jacket. He made an effort to brush it away with the pads of his fingertips, but that only seemed to make it worse. Like much of the capital refinery-city, the industrial kitchen had been constructed underground, with only one entrance. Although he searched the room for possible security risks, all he found was cookery equipment that looked as if it had fallen into disrepair a century ago. At one time, perhaps, the Romulans had opted to cook fresh food for the Remans and other refinery workers. In the kitchen’s current state, it only appeared to be used for storage. The last of the Romulan’s ambient-temperature food packs was tucked away in all manner of equipment. Some of the food in the packs looked like crackers; others looked like liquid sludge.
Idly, Kellin wondered if there was some symbolism to Consul Kecene asking to meet Taes in the refinery’s kitchen. In these hallowed halls where nutrition had been long ago abandoned, Kecene and Taes would plot a course for Kunhri III’s food security. It was poetic. He couldn’t wonder about it for long, because the door to the passageway swung open and Kecene trod into the kitchen, flanked by two other large Remans. Judging by the other two’s bearing, Kellin estimated they were the equivalent to Kecene’s own security officers. All three Remans were dressed in iridescent battle suits, most commonly seen during the Dominion War. Kecene, herself, bore a striking presence. Despite her decades as a refinery labourer, she carried herself with a majestic presence, as if she were made from marble. As a Reman, Kecene’s grey, mottled skin was hairless, and her face was formed with sharp features to match her sharp fangs. Kecene’s recessed eyes were yellow with black irises, and Kellin could identify no trace of emotion anywhere in her expression. Her eyes might as well have been made of glass, as far as he could tell.
Taes had chosen to speak with Kecene one-on-one, and her orders had been for Kellin to remain as unobtrusive as possible. Given Kellin’s height and stature, that wasn’t always easy. He busied himself with the bank of Starfleet replicators that had been installed in the kitchens the other day. Quietly, he ran self-diagnostics on each replicator in succession, while keeping a wary eye on Captain Taes in the heart of the room. Similarly ordered, the Reman security guards held back by the door, leaving Kecene to approach Taes on her own two feet. Although Taes was herself a tall woman by Deltan standards, Kecene was nearly a foot taller, looming over the Starfleet captain.
“On behalf of the Kunhri government… I welcome you to the Kunhri system and I must thank you for your aid, Captain Taes,” Kecene said. Speaking slowly, her words came out with precise enunciation, if not enthusiasm. To call her voice gravelly would suggest the sound of one’s foot dragging through a bit of gravel in a garden. Kecene’s voice sounded gravelly, like the industrial digging through gravel mountains in a quarry. “The rations and replicators you have provided are a… consideration I would not have… predicted,” Kecene said. The dry formality of her words evaporated any hint of an insult in what she had said. It sounded like a matter-of-fact acknowledgement of the tense relations between free Remans and the Federation.
“I am gratified for the opportunity to assist, Consul Kecene,” Taes said, responding in her own formal timbre. Looking up at Kecene, Taes clasped her hands together over her abdomen. “Starfleet cannot look away in your peoples’ time of need.”
“Is that so?” Kecene asked rhetorically. She cocked her head slightly, and then she didn’t pause for a response. “I must be… fortunate the Kunhri system was… beyond the reach of the Romulan supernova. In the time before Starfleet could not look away.” And there was the insult.
Kellin gaped at Kecene, but he didn’t see Taes flinch. Not even one twitch of the eye. Taes nodded slowly, just once, and her visage took a turn for the contrite. “There are no words to explain or excuse our shared history. All I can ask is for you to take me as I am, before you, and take one step forward by my side,” Taes said to acknowledge Kecene’s concerns, without lingering on them, before proposing a way forward.
There was a pregnant pause before Kecene responded to that and Kellin supposed she was considering Taes’ words. Kecene bowed her head to Taes, mirroring the Deltan’s earlier movement. “We sent our envoy, Kasik, to Starbase 23 to plea for… the needs of the Kunhri system,” Kecene finally said, referring to the Reman observer aboard the USS Temeraire. “One of your Starfleet crews has returned our envoy to Kunhri without… harm or coercion. I can accept… that as a show of your good will, captain.”
Taes remained formal in her bearing for this negotiation, but Kellin could see from her intake of breath that she was building momentum. More of Taes’ natural way of speaking was starting to shine through the carefully crafted presentation. Taes further proposed, “It’s important to me that Starfleet work with your government to build solutions that will suit the Reman people. I come to you as a student first and foremost. Would you do me the honour of taking me on a tour of this refinery?”
At that request, Kecene shifted her weight from one foot to the other and she braced a hand on her hip. Kellin could still detect nothing resembling emotion or discomfort in her eyes, but that body language was a clue to something. It said far more than the simple, “No,” Kecene said out loud.
Kellin could see that Taes was taken aback by that response. Her posture stiffened and Kellin didn’t think she tried very hard to hide it. Taes broke her eye-contact with Kecene to shoot a look of worry at Kellin. In that instant, Taes’ formal facade had gone away, replaced with guileless concern for Dvorak. “I’ve received reports of a strike on Kunhri IV, in protest of Federation starships being welcomed into your system,” Taes said to Kecene, as preamble to her real question. “Is my crew safe… out in the refineries here?”
Kecene raised a hand at a measured pace, waving it at Taes to mollify her concerns. “Kunhri III is not the jewel of the Velorum Sector. Our utility is not… what it once was. The empire thought so little of our workers, we were exposed to anti-Starfleet propaganda… infrequently,” Kecene said haltingly. Kecene took a breath, for what seemed like the first time, and her voice softened in elucidation. “I will not take you on a tour of my people at their labour. Romulans observe while others work. I do not know if you want… the association with our previous Romulan overlords.”
The tension across Taes’ shoulders released and she tugged at the lower hem of her uniform jacket. Taes conveyed, “I understand and I thank you for your insight.” Sounding far more like herself, Taes asked, “Would it be impolite… may I ask how you feel about Starfleet, Consul Kecene?”
“My… brother spoke highly of Starfleet. He was conscripted to fight for the alliance, through the end of the Dominion War. I understand Starfleet officers fought well and Starfleet officers died well,” Kecene said. To Kellin’s ears, she made that faint praise sound like a grave compliment. “I… choose to respect Starfleet. However, you must remember this is a Reman world. We have taken it through… strength of purpose… and we can do so again. I will not take you on a tour. I do not know that I want the association… with Starfleet.”
Nodding at Kecene’s words, Taes promised, “I will respect your wishes, of course.” She unclipped a slim PADD from her belt and she tapped the display, accessing a list of refinery cities on Kunhri III. Proffering the PADD to Kecene, Taes said, “It’s more of your insights I request. The first hydroponic garden has been constructed, here in the capital refinery. We are prepared to teach your people how to tend to the flora and to harvest the fruit and vegetables for consumption. Where, may I ask, can we assemble further gardens? It will be important for your peoples’ access to food for the gardens to be embedded in communities, where they work and live.”
Clasping the PADD between both of her clawed hands, Kecene turned her eyes on the down. She dragged a finger tip across the list of possible locations for further hydroponic gardens, and her eyes appeared to follow the names scrolling across the display. “You may experience resistance in… seeking volunteers. Gardening is considered work for low-born Romulans, nearly as undesirable as Remans.” Kecene frowned at the PADD before she tiled her chin and she snorted. “Digging for root vegetables in substrate materials… may approximate mining. It would be good work for children.”
“Children?” Taes immediately echoed, her surprise barely-restrained.
“Yes, for children,” Kecene responded. There was a hint of a threat in her tone, as if she were daring Taes to come at her with moral superiority. “The Kunhri system is aligned with the reforms proposed by Governor Resak. Our First Consul J’mek has declared no child may work inside industrial machinery. Gardening may–“
Kellin didn’t even realise he was talking until after he’d already spat the words out. “I believe what she meant was that children should be in school,” Kellin blurted out.
“Is that so?” Kecene asked, and there was the edge of a haughty challenge in her voice again. She didn’t turn her head, she turned her entire body to consider Kellin. She pointed a claw at a replicator over Kellin’s shoulder. “Will your food replicator… spit out schoolrooms or Reman lessons? No child of mine will be indoctrinated by Romulan… or Starfleet war colleges.”
Taes didn’t spare a look for Kellin at any point in the exchange. Her gaze remained laser-focused on Kecene the entire time. “My apologies, consul,” Taes said in her most deferential timbre. “Our only requests are to build further gardens and the opportunity to teach your people how to produce their own food in a sustainable, self-reliant manner.”
Kecene snorted and she returned her attention to the PADD, rather than to Taes directly. “I will ponder your request and provide you with coordinates within the hour. You may build more gardens,” Kecene replied. “Will that be all, captain?”
“You understand, of course, the hydroponic gardens are an interim measure,” Taes said, carefully treading a respectful air without giving up any ground. “The plant-based food we’re introducing will introduce biodiversity in your nutrition and allow for valuable learning between our cultures. The volume of food will not be sufficient to feed the population in the long term. I hope to continue a dialogue with you as my science department learns more about your people, and this planet, to determine the best path forward to food security.”
Her lips pursed tightly, Kecene patted the back of the PADD into her open palm three times. She took a step closer and handed the PADD back to Taes. Speaking softly, Kecene admitted, “I am… daunted by my duty to feed this world. My predecessor held a… posting as the Consul of Reman Affairs. I took on his thoughts before I took his life. His only goal, in Reman Affairs, was psychological warfare on my people. His goal was to keep us docile and unlikely to rebel. He was… unsuccessful. My goal is health and vitality for all who live within the borders of Kunhri. I would greatly… welcome your further requests and insights, Captain Taes.”