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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Let Them Eat Cake and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Let Them Eat Cake

Kunhri III & USS Dvorak
July 2400
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Watching the romulan shuttle dropping out of the sky, Taes felt her stomach drop in dread at a proportional rate of descent. They were discovered. Not that it was surprising. Taes had expected this day would come. The paranoid shard of Taes had expected it from the very first day of hiding out in the swamps of Kunhri III. After these weeks of cultivating two seaweed farms, a childlike shard of Taes had hoped she might choose her own exit before facing the officials of Kunhri once again.

It wasn’t as if the Dvorak‘s science team of farmers were expert Section 31 agents. Taes and Kellin had taken advantage of Kunhri’s aging planetary defences to disguise their landing sites in a perfunctory manner.  Even so, Taes knew the provisional government had all the resources needed to track down Taes’ team, if they hadn’t been preoccupied with paving a healthier way of living in the refineries.  Even during some of Taes’ subspace negotiations with Consul Kecene, Taes nurtured suspicions that Kecene might already know that Taes was still on the planet.  Taes wouldn’t have been shocked if Kecene was quietly waiting out whatever innovations the Dvorak‘s crew developed, without risking her own political capital by openly supporting them.

The shuttle landed beside the captain’s yacht in the clearing beside the river. After a couple of Reman guards stepped off the shuttle, Consul Kecene followed them out into the open, her posture majestic. She demonstrated no curiosity for the Starfleet base camp, nor the dozen officers wading through the saltwater river. However, Taes did think she saw Kecene tilt her head in the direction of a handful of Remans who had joined Taes’ farmers during the past week. Taes also took notice that Kecene wasn’t wearing the battle armour she’d worn to all their previous negotiations. Kecene was clad in a jumpsuit, similar to what the refinery workers wore, if cleaner. As Kecene approached the water line, Taes could see the jumpsuit was adorned with a patch of the new flag of Kunhri III, along with patches to designate her capacity in the provisional government.

As Taes trudged to shore, Kecene had caught Taes without her own raiments of Starfleet captainhood. Taes’ uniform had been traded in for waterproof overalls, one piece connected from her wader boots to the thick shoulder straps. Only the combadge clipped to her shoulder marked Taes as anything but another Kunhri labourer.

Although taller than her Starfleet counterpart, Kecene came to stand face to face with Captain Taes.  Kecene’s immobile facial features and gravelly voice gave away none of her intentions. As introductions, Kecene asked, “I thought I told you to get off my planet?”

“USS Dvorak has left the Kunhri system as you asked, consul,” Taes affirmed, selecting the points of agreement between them and quickly glossing over the rest. “And I have left your refineries alone.”

“Have you?” Kecene asked, even though it sounded nothing like a question. Kecene made a clicking noise and she said, “We’ll come back to that.  Of immediate concern is a Commander ir-Llantrisant of the… Romulan Republic.  The commander has arrived in orbit and is requesting negotiations with First Consul J’mek.”  Kecene raised her chin by an inch.  “Imagine my… surprise when the commander told me he comes bearing botanists and equipment to support the… harvesting of my seaweed farms.  I told him Kunhri Three has no seaweed farms.  Have you made a liar out of me?”

“About that…” Taes tried to explain.

“I told you,” Kecene said, firmly now. “We will not divert fifteen percent of our population from the refineries to… agriculture.  That would undermine our purpose.  Kunhri relies on our… trade with Psi Velorum.  We must be of use to receive their protection.”

“Agriculture is your only way forward, if you’re to feed your population,” Taes said again, feeling a little like a glitching holo-character.  She pointed back to the river. “This seaweed can be dried as food or it can be processed into an efficient raw matter for the replicators.  If the Romulan Republic is prepared to make further investments, you may negotiate labour or automation to lessen the demands on your refinery staff.”

“That will be for me to decide,” Kecene said, her voice steely.  She cast a brief glance to the river and then sharpened her gaze on Taes. “You say you have left our refineries alone. You say you can be trusted. Then why have you kidnapped our youngest workers?”

“I volunteered!” shouted out Obiruk, stepping forward from where he was wading through the river. Even under the overcast sky, the young Reman wore a wetsuit to protect himself.  He removed his polarised goggles to show his face to Kecene.  Obiruk had worked with Priya Susarla in a hydroponic garden, shortly before her death. He said, “Lieutenant Nune from Suz’s family-crew opened his mind to me, the same way Suz did. They believe in this farming.  They believe in Kunhri.  This is what Suz would have wanted. …And I don’t want to work in the pits.”

“I vouched for Captain Taes to Obiruk, and the others like him here,” said another Reman named Kasik, who stepped onto the shore by Taes’ side. “The crews of Temeraire and Ulysses showed me only respect and kindness,” Kasik said, speaking of his duties as the Khunri system’s observer and envoy to the Federation and their dedicated Starfleet task group.  “Captain sh’Elas assured me I could trust Taes and her vision for Khunri’s potential to feed the people of our world, and maybe the entire system!”

Kecene narrowed her eyes at Kasik for an uncomfortable amount of time and then returned her attention to Taes, her head held high. “I will… discuss your seaweed farms further with First Consul J’mek… and Commander ir-Llantrisant.  You may recall Dvorak to… collect you,” Kecene said and she turned to walk away. Over her shoulder, Kecene said, “Before you leave, if you have remaining equipment, I have reached consensus with the refinery foremen.  You may… rebuild as many hydroponic gardens as you are capable.”

“Thank you, consul,” Taes said, glowing with admiration.

“You may also… escort me to my shuttle, captain,” Kecene requested, although it was presented as a statement. Taes took notice that Kecene made no request the reman volunteers be returned to the refineries. At least not immediately. Taes caught up to to Kecene and the two paced slowly toward the romulan shuttle. The reman guards maintained a respectful distance, out of earshot.

Her voice softened, Kecene asked, “This world you grew up in, where the power generators failed and the weather grew harsh…” Kecene met Taes’ eyes before she asked, “Do you hate it now?”

“I don’t,” Taes said wistfully.  Her placid smile twisted into a painted expression.  Unable to maintain eye contact with Kecene, Taes was too afraid to watch Kecene’s reaction. Busying herself with avoiding the tangle of underbrush between them and the shuttle, Taes said, “I wish I did.  I wish I could forget it.  I still… love Nivoch.”

“Be proud of your home,” Kecene affirmed and she almost sounded maternal at that. “Whatever form it may take now.”

Nodding at Kecene’s wisdom, Taes said, “My people live in enclosed domes now, offering a safe space for Cardassian refugees. Maybe you’ll visit one day. You can explore the entirety of the habitat without once experiencing the harshness of direct sunlight.”

“…Perhaps,” Kecene said noncommittally. “Or perhaps it is you who will visit Kunhri again one day, when we have habitat domes and feed refugees of our own.”

“I can think of nothing I would love more,” Taes promised.

 

***

 

Once the USS Dvorak had been welcomed back with open wings, Commander Elbon returned the science ship to her orbit around Kunhri III.  Taes offered her farming team a reprieve aboard the ship to dry off in fresh uniforms and to sleep in their own beds. They would need to rally one last time before the impending hand off of the hydroponic gardens and seaweed farms to the Remans of Kunhri and their potential patrons from the Romulan Republic.

When Taes invited her senior staff and the farming team to family meal in the planetarium lounge, Kellin was surprised to find most of them had showed up, even Doctor Nelli. He anticipated more of his colleagues would have returned to their typical cliques, but it appeared none of them were quite ready to give up the communal living they’d practiced in the swamps. Not quite yet, at least. Taes had requested the planetarium viewscreen, set into the overhead display, to simulate the night sky, as seen from the surface of Khunri III. While Kellin finished a cup of tea with Commander Elbon, Kellin pointed out the constellations he’d imagined during his nights on the planet’s surface. Elbon laughed at every single one of the stupid names Kellin had made up for those constellations, just as he’d done on their honeymoon.

Kellin excused himself from Elbon’s side to gather a plate of pastries from the buffet.  He sat himself down at another table, where Sootrah Yuulik was sitting alone. They had muttered their way through the briefest of small talk before Kellin said, “You’re a real insensitive one, you know.”

“Security boy, I promise. It was a compliment when I said you were simping for Elbon,” Yuulik said in what sounded like earnestness to Kellin. Drawing comparisons, she added, “My mother challenged any competitors for my father’s affections, but my father was a simp for only her.”

Kellin squinted at Yuulik then. “Sorry, when did you say that?” he asked. His voice cracked a bit on the final vowel.

Yuulik offered no reaction at first, as if her face were made of porcelain. “Huh,” she vocalised, as her eyes searched his with sudden animation. Taking on a tone of radical acceptance, Yuulik said, “I must have told that to somebody else.”

“I suppose we’re even then,” Kellin said affably. “I wanted to apologise for calling you a bitch to Doctor Nelli.  I don’t really think that.  I probably lost my temper?  I don’t think you’re an invasive weed either,” Kellin said, referring to what Nelli had told him about their exchange with Yuulik on the subject. “I’m sorry for saying that to Nelli. What I think is that you’re insensitive. …I mean, your nervous system is literally less sensitive than mine.”

“Hmm. Yes,” Yuulik replied, uneasily. She didn’t expressly accept Kellin’s apology and she didn’t chide him for his words either. “I noticed that too when we were body swapped a few months ago.”

“I would never keep your body from you,” Kellin said as preamble to, “but I wanted to remain Arcadian, at least for a little while. I feel like I absorb the emotions of people around me.  I can feel it in my flesh. When it gets to be too much, the lights feel too bright and loud noises can startle me.”

Yuulik clutched at Kellin’s hand on the table. “I’m not sure a career in security was the wisest choice for you,” she said. Her words, for once, didn’t feel pointed to Kellin. He thought he heard genuine compassion from Yuulik even.

In fact, Kellin had to laugh at the irony of what she said.  “I don’t know why, but it’s different in duty for me,” he said.  “I can be calm for others if I need to aim a phaser or talk down an aggressor. When I get overwhelmed with embarrassment is if I pronounce my own name wrong or if I’ve left my quarters a mess. But nothing like that bothered me through your eyes.” –He stole a glance at his estranged husband, Elbon Jakkelb– “Nothing hurt as much.”

“When I was in your body…” Yuulik started to say, but she chewed on her lip in that way he’d only seen a couple of times: when she was at a loss for words.  Eventually, Yuulik shook her head and she settled on, “Never mind,” and after further consideration she just said, “I can understand why you’re jealous of my insensitivity. It gives me strength.”

Yuulik stood up from her chair and she said, “You should test how strong I really am.”  As she backed away from the table, Yuulik added, “With that jelly donut of yours.”

“What?” Kellin asked, utterly baffled.

Yuulik looked him in the eyes. “You’ll know what to do.”

“Crew of the science ship Dvorak,” Yuulik requested of the room at large. She projected her voice to carry, as she marched to the head banquet table. She put a foot on a chair as a step up to stand on the surface of the table itself. She said, “It is time for my annual performance review as your acting chief science officer!”

Kellin watched Taes’ eyes light up in horror and delight and she folded her hands over her mouth. Elbon swallowed a snicker, while Doctor Nelli simply moved her eye stalks in the direction where Yuulik was standing proudly on the table. Annikafiore rolled her eyes, while T’Kaal watched Yuulik in rapt fascination. Nune and Dolan –sitting at different tables, Kellin noticed– each offered brief words of affirmation.

“I worked well with Taes,” Yuulik said as a matter of fact. Quick to answer her own question, she added, “These seaweed farms are going to be ecologically and culturally sound, yeah?” Grinning from ear to ear, Yuulik looked to the faces around the room for confirmation.

Reticently, T’Kaal acknowledged, “The seaweed cultivation is progressing faster than our simulations predicted.”

Cupping his hands around his mouth like a megaphone, Dolan shouted, “Too soon to call yourself chief! That’s ghoulish. A chief like Suz would have known that!”

“You’re too nosy,” Kellin said about Yuulik’s fervent curiosity into Taes’s troubled childhood. It was a matter dead and buried between them, but he assumed this was part of what Yuulik had in mind: a release of tension about her lacklustre leadership, along with any misplaced anger over Suz’s death.  That or Kellin had horrible miscalculated how desperately Yuulik needed heaps of praise. Kellin further hollered, “Just do your job. You’re good at it!”  And then he chucked his donut as her. The jelly donut exploded on the shoulder of her uniform. He had good aim, like he’d said.

“You only laugh at your own jokes,” Taes joined in and she threw a bit of cake at Yuulik too.

“The punctuation in your duty logs is frightful,” Elbon tossed to her with a donut of his own.

“You made me question my Starfleet commission,” Dolan added, throwing a slice of pie at her.

“Our scanning equipment would be cleaner if you didn’t always declare it a speed-race between officers,” T’Kaal flatly added.

“You’re boring!” Nune booed.

“Your voice is grating,” said another, and someone complained about how very often she joked about demoting science officers.

Yuulik only stopped laughing at it all long enough to pluck a smashed donut from her uniform and take a bite out of it.

Comments

  • This was a particularly heart-warming read that has cemented my Yuulik fandom. There is a cyclical quality to the story, with the Dvorak being allowed back to Kunhri to recommence farming. This comes along with Taes' acceptance of her homeworld, and the younger Remans' acceptance of the challenges faced if they are to make Kunhri into a sustainable home. Of course, what really steals the show here the acceptance of Yuulik. While she might be a grating, arrogant, annoying sociopath at times, it's just who she is. She knows it, the crew knows it. But through the catharsis of throwing food at her, the crew accept her for who she truly is. This is some fantastic thematic consistency, and also showcases what I personally think is the greatest part of Star Trek in the ability for characters from every conceivable background to work together despite their flaws. Beautiful!

    July 6, 2022