Part of USS Shepard: Tales from Virinat

Chapter 2

Virinat
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Tallera inhaled deeply, enjoying the natural air of a garden world as she strode through the humble streets of Virinat’s capital. The planet’s status as the breadbasket of the Republic was obvious wherever she looked; the “city” was clearly little more than an expanded-upon farming settlement, and much of the industrial equipment scattered about were converted agricultural tools. The citizens’ fashion was utilitarian and a bit rustic, and most seemed to carry themselves with a sort of rugged purposefulness that Tallera felt a pointed kinship towards. Even better, they weren’t scrambling to pepper a Romulan in Starfleet uniform with questions like so many Federation citizens were – that trademark Romulan understanding of what was one’s own business was alive and well here.  

Tallera could see herself perhaps retiring to Virinat someday. Farming seemed like a useful, noble profession.

After hopping up a few cobblestone steps to a farmhouse-turned-warehouse with the Republic Navy insignia emblazoned upon its side, Tallera pressed her hand into the palm-reader next to the building’s door, which chimed and unlocked. She cracked the door open, and was met with the sight of a sole Romulan Navy officer standing in front of perhaps two dozen weapons crates. He turned and flashed her an excited smile. 

“You must be Ulhan Tallera,” he said, striding over, looking her up and down, then saluting. He was a fairly average looking fellow, roughly Dreval’s height, of pale complexion, and sporting a quintessentially Romulan pointed bowl cut. “Ulhan Tovan, at your service.” 

Tallera raised an eyebrow. “Why are you saluting me? We’re the same rank.”

“Well, I figure exchange officer has to account for something worth saluting,” he said with a shrug. 

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t,” Tallera smirked. “At ease, Ulhan. I’m just here to help you inspect some military hardware. You’re Virinat’s Junior Security Officer, correct?”

“Suit yourself,” Tovan shrugged again, then beckoned her over to a crate he’d already opened. “And yes, I am. Recently graduated from the Academy, actually. So I think I’m one year your junior.”

“That checks out,” Tallera nodded as she stepped over to his side and placed her hands on her hips. “So, what’re we looking at here?”

“You tell me,” he said, motioning to the contents of the open crate.

She shot him a playfully heavy lidded stare. “I’m pretty sure these are guns, Tovan.”

Tovan chuckled and rolled his eyes, then lifted up one of the firearms and inspected it. “Yeah, I know that. I’m asking how these are different from our guns, Exchange Officer.”

“Good, I was worried that we were slacking off with our Security Officer training.” Tallera lifted one up as well and pressed a few buttons on the receiver to activate the weapon in standby mode. “These are Model-2373 phaser rifles. Introduced during the Dominion War, more durable than the old 60s version, and has an automatic frequency variator to help get around Borg energy adaptation. You can turn that off to extend the battery life.” She deactivated the weapon, then sat it back down in the crate. “They’re not standard issue anymore, so I guess the Feds are offloading some of their old stock to us.”

“Sure is a good thing you’re here,” Tovan chuckled, then looked back at the gun he was holding. “You’re going to have to give me a demonstration of how to use this.”

“I’m sure we can find a firing range somewhere.”

“Absolutely.” He shouldered the rifle inquisitively, then nodded with approval. “It’s more comfortable to hold than our guns are.”

“Yeah, the Federation is pretty good at ergonomics. They like their crews more comfortable than we keep ours.”

“If their guns are this comfortable, I’d kill to see their officer quarters.”

Now Tallera couldn’t help but chuckle. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what they were like.” 

“Try me.”

“For one, I have my own bathroom.” 

“Bullshit.”

“Told you.”

“Come on, you’re only an O-1,” Tovan scoffed. “No way they’d give that to every Ulhan in their fleet.” 

“I don’t know about their fleet, but there are a few junior officer quarters on my ship that do indeed have their own bathroom. I managed to grab one because I got to know the Commander ahead of time, but there are other O-1s that have them, too.”

Tovan let out a brief whistle. “They really are as decadent as the old Empire propaganda said they were, huh?”

“If not moreso,” Tallera smiled, enjoying the catharsis of finally having someone to dish about this towards. “Even if not every O-1 has their own bathroom, they’re sharing it with one other person at most. But they do all have their own private bedroom, complete with a desk and matter replicator.”

“You’re going to have a hell of a time coming back to our fleet, you know that?” Tovan said as he shook his head.

Tallera shrugged with a chuckle, brushing off his comment so as not to go into detail about how uncomfortable a life of such luxury made her.

“How long are you staying with the Feds, anyways?” he continued, placing the rifle back in its crate and moving over to another one.

“Two years, with options for contract renewals at the Federation and Republic’s discretion. Based on what I’ve heard, I’m pretty sure I’m getting renewed at least once.” 

“Well, you’ll certainly be getting a Fed Education. Speaking of which,” Tovan continued as he popped open the next container. “Please educate me as to what these are.”

Tallera cackled as she saw the contents of the crate, then hefted out one of the bulky, underslung-carried weapons. “This is a Model 2380 man-portable phaser assault cannon. It’s built with internal stabilizers to make aiming on the move a little easier, but still better to keep mounted on a tripod. I’ve heard Humans nickname it the ‘chainsaw,’ which I think is a reference to how you can hold it in the portable configuration.”

“That thing is crazy,” Tovan said as he shook his head. “What’s its power output?”

“If you actually manage to hit something? Anything with our body plan is going to be vaporized on even the lowest setting. It was designed to deal with vehicles and fortifications. Since the Federation hasn’t been in a war necessitating ground troops since these things were designed, I guess they don’t feel bad parting with a few dozen of them.”

“And Republic Security Forces don’t feel bad taking them, whatever they are,” Tovan said as he gazed at the stack of massive firearms within the crate. “I think I’m going to need extra time on the range to figure out how to shoot them.”

“Well I’m here all week, so I’ll be happy to provide a tutorial.”

“Good to know,” the security officer said as he shut the crate, then leaned against it and looked at Tallera. “At the risk of prying,” he began, “I’m very interested to know more about what life in the Federation is like.”

Tallera smiled ever-so-slightly, glad to be back around people who communicated like she did, even if only for a short time. Tovan had engaged with her professionally, then built up a personal rapport before cautiously asking a direct question about her life and experiences. That was how Romulans talked to each other, and ironically, the only Federation species she’d met that behaved even remotely similarly was the Vulcans.

“What do you want to know?” she replied, figuring that if Tovan was comfortable taking a pause on work to chat, she had no reason to feel otherwise.

“What’s… well, different? They were our enemies for nearly two and a half centuries, and all we know about them is propaganda.”

“Honestly…” Tallera rapped her fingers against one of the closed crates’ tops. “The thing that really sticks out to me is how many choices they have.”

“Choices of what?”

“Anything. Food, media, sports, there’s just so much of all of it. And it’s not just because they’re a collection of many species while the Republic just has two; Andorians or Humans alone have way, way more films available to watch on-demand on Federation personal devices than Romulan films that have been made, well, ever.”

Tovan seemed to contemplate this for a moment. “Why do you think that is?”

“They kind of approach media in the opposite way than the Star Empire did. We controlled everything that was made and who could watch it, while the culture of the Federation seems to encourage controlling nothing and sharing everything. They believe that exchanging ideas makes them all stronger.”

“That doesn’t… dilute species’ individual cultures?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t think they would care if it did,” Tallera shrugged. “They would probably think it’s a good thing.”

“Weird…” Tovan said, nodding his head as he tried to wrap his mind around what he’d been told. “Now, why are they even interested in other species’ media? Wouldn’t it all be contradictory patriotism, or does the Federation make media for everyone using, like, styles from all their different member states?”

“The species’ states don’t make the media, and neither does the Federation. Their governments don’t really even control it, at least none of the more powerful governments do.”

“Then who makes films?”

“Whoever wants to, I think. Most of their important worlds are post-scarcity, so if someone wants to be, say, an animator, nothing’s stopping them from just learning how to do that at their leisure and then making a movie. If it’s good, people will watch it, and maybe one of the big animation groups will choose to circulate it to give it more publicity.”

“Well… how does the government stop people from subverting it, then? If anyone can make art, couldn’t an angry dissident make a film criticizing the Federation?”

“They could and they do. The Federation encourages that. I think they believe it keeps them accountable to their citizens, or something.”

“That doesn’t seem like a civilization that would be very good at doing anything.”

“It’s a civilization that we’re begging for hand-me-down weapons so we can kill people who used to be members of our civilization, so I think it’s safe to say they’ve done some things better than we have,” Tallera said as she flipped open the next crate, revealing a selection of newer, current-issue Model 2399 phaser carbines. 

“That’s fair enough, I suppose,” Tovan said as he picked up one of the smaller weapons. “Oh, different topic, but I have to ask: how’s Federation booze?”

“Absolutely awful,” Tallera groaned. “The only decent drinks I’ve had are Vulcan Port and Saurian Brandy.”

“Really? Vulcans make good alcohol?”

“Good to our sensibilities, at least. It makes sense that we’d like it since our physiology is so similar. But yeah, if you ever wind up on a Federation ship, don’t bother with human booze. Most of it looks like pee and has such terrible alcohol content that you could drink a whole case and only get a buzz.”

“Eugh. Good to know, I guess. Have you been able to get good Romulan drinks from your replicators?”

“No, unfortunately. They have very, very basic samples of some of our stuff, but I would kill for more regular access to good Kali-Fal or Melshat.”

Tovan shot Tallera a mischievous and knowing smirk. “I think I can help with that.”

Comments

  • It's heartening to see the expansion of the exchange program even in this interaction. As it was rightly put over 200 years of conflict and propaganda can be hard to unlearn, but even these small strides will be seen to be instrumental in the continuing alliance between the Federation and the Republic. Funnily enough I do echo some of the sentiments around humanity's drink options, but as a romulan our offerings must be a bit of a joke. I'm really excited to catch up on the rest of the story and see how it all plays out. All in all a very well written installment I could see playing out as I read

    February 28, 2023
  • I enjoyed the interaction between the two, Tovan seemed interested in the Federation and seeing what it's like through someone else's eyes. I am excited to see where your story takes you during this mission and the character developments you have in store for us. It seems that Tallera is glad to be home even if it's only for awhile. Great work!

    March 11, 2023