Different and the Same
Mission 0 - Leaving the Blue Marble
Location: Deck 10, Ten Forward
Eilaea took a small sip of her drink - Saurian brandy, one of the Federation beverages she had encountered during her short time at the embassy and taken a liking to - and let her eyes and ears survey the room while theoretically paying attention to the game in front of her, one of a variety Vriha had brought aboard with her. That the younger woman was perhaps paying slightly more actual attention to the game itself than Eilaea was perhaps reflected in its layout at the moment.
Knowing that Eilaea would be keeping an eye out, Vriha allowed herself to study her options. She paused to take a sip of saki - a fairly mild drink compared to her companion's, but she'd found that she liked the tea-like flavor. Then, after carefully thinking through the potential decision branches for the next several moves, she carefully inserted a small rod in the roughly spherical structure. The game had it's roots in Vulcan kal-toh, or perhaps kal-toh had evolved from an older game that shared some aspects of this one, and to the casual observer it probably looked like what they were playing was kal-toh. However, the Romulan version was not about cooperation.
Vriha leaned back at smiled at Eilaea. "Your move."
Eilaea set down her glass and surveyed the game with perhaps somewhat more dismay than she had surveyed the room; her divided attention had not unexpectedly allowed Vriha to put her in a difficult position. Most of her current potential moves were fraught with the risk of collapsing the sphere; the object being to play your hand such that you avoided doing so yourself and instead forced your opponent to make the move which did so. Finally, she delicately and carefully slid a rod of her own in, breath almost held as she did so. Luckily, the structure continued to stand for the moment, and she returned Vriha's earlier smile with one of her own.
"Well played," Vriha said, nodding approval. And then, because this was one of only five potential non-fatal moves and so one she had already planned for, efficiently slipped her next rod into place. She resisted grinning. Defeating a superior officer was one thing (most would be annoyed if you didn't present a challenge and especially if they thought you let them win); but enjoying it was another thing entirely. "Back to you."
After getting a warm mug of raktajino from the replicator, T'Sai noticed that the Romulan officers were playing kal-toh. Thinking it a bit odd, the Vulcan intelligence officer made her way to an open table near the pair. The game they were playing was most certainly not kal-toh, but a bastardized version where the goal was to destroy instead of create... to force your opponent into slitting their own throat. It was the most Romulan thing she could imagine, it took every one of her years of training to keep from sneering in disgust. Instead, T'Sai took a long sip of her Klingon coffee.
Eilaea noticed the eyes on them as she slid the next rod into place, aware as she played out these final moves that the victor was a foregone conclusion by this point and the match would not be hers. Still, it was generally not done to yield in advance; one was expected to play out those final moves properly. This was not the first time during the course of the game someone had been watching them; she was would have been surprised, in fact, had they not drawn attention...Though she wondered for a moment how many of those watching them realized how odd the situation was for them, indeed. And that, perhaps, was part of why she noticed this new observer so acutely: Upswept brows and pointed ears much like their own...The only other person in the room at the moment in fact, besides the two of them, who looked as Eilaea was used to for most of her life to date everyone in a room generally looking.
She made no outward reaction to show she noticed, however, instead taking another small, measured sip of her Saurian brandy and nodding at Vriha to complete her next move. As for herself, Eilaea suspected her own subsequent move after her subordinate's would be her final move; the structure becoming more unstable with every addition.
Vriha had also noted the Vulcan observing them, since in this strange new place her awareness of others was heightened. Even it weren't, she would have noticed simply because she paying attention to Eilaea's reactions, since reading one's opponent was almost as much a component of winning as was visualizing the structure of the game. It felt odd to be watched by someone both like and unlike you. Nevertheless, she wasn't going to let that mild discomfort distract her from achieving victory. Placing her next rod with careful grace, she let the slight vibration of its insertion settle and then took another sip of saki as she gave Eilaea a fractional nod indicating that it was again her turn.
Eilaea carefully placed her final rod; her motions if anything more carefully considered and elegant than her prior ones as she played through this final action. As she removed her fingers from the rod, the structure quivered again for a moment, as it had with Vriha's last addition...And collapsed into a pile of it's scattered components. Eilaea, for her part, dipped her head ever-so-slightly to Vriha in recognition of her victory and lifted her glass in a subtle toast. "Well played."
"A good game," Vriha replied, lifting her cup in a small acknowledging toast.
Now, Eilaea turned her head and did acknowledge and engage their silent observer - if they were to fulfill their duty and serve upon this ship, they would need to interact with and build a rapport with their fellow officers; however strange it might seem at the moment to both sides. This seemed as good a place to start as any, and she gave a careful little head-bow in greeting to the Vulcan, and indicated an open chair now that the game had concluded. "Would you care to join us, Lieutenant?"
With a nod, T'Said stood from her table to take an open seat at the Romulan table. She had always been curious about the Empire and their ties to Vulcans, the separation of their people, and their evolutionary divergence. It would also help to start things off on amicable terms. "That would be agreeable," the Vulcan replied unemotionally. T'Sai had paid careful attention to the game. She had missed the opening salvos, yet had picked up the subtle method of destabilizing the structure ever so slightly so that the game pieces would collapse on the other opponent. Looking to the Romulans, T'Sai introduced herself, "I am Lieutenant T'Sai, Chief Intelligence Officer."
"I am Lieutenant Eilaea t'Keirianh." She considered for a moment, and though currently facing one of the few people aboard who would likely have little difficulty pronouncing her own tongue, decided to offer as a measure of consistency what she had realized she would likely already have to inevitably offer to most aboard without the proper vocal chords. "You may call me Eilaea, if you wish." She offered a slight smile with the words; aware it was probably unnecessary to a Vulcan...But also aware that as she understood it, somewhere beneath the surface there, the same passions that flowed through her own heart and mind existed here, in their living ancestors, though they had long since unfortunately suppressed them. Of more immediate interest to note was the other woman's position: Ironic, to say the least, that T'Sai occupied a post which aboard a warbird, in her more usual line of work, would have been her own....Though somehow she doubted T'Sai had officers from the Tal Shiar aboard as well to clash with in the performance of her duties, as she would have; and she took a moment to wonder exactly how much simpler things must be with only one intelligence agency, section, and officer in charge of such aboard a starship...Though, perhaps they also missed things, she supposed, without the second set of eyes. "This is Sublieutenant Vriha t'Ehhelih." Eilaea indicated the junior officer, freeing her to speak, as well. "We will be serving aboard in operations and science, respectively."
Having waited for Eilaea to speak first, as was proper, Vriha took the time to observed the Vulcan. She was only slighter older than Vriha herself, which was somewhat surprising for a Intelligence Chief. Either that spoke extraordinary ability, or of Starfleet's tendency to think in human scale with respect to age and maturity. However, if the former, she should make a good opponent in the games of strategy Vriha enjoyed. "We are pleased to meet you, Lieutenant," she added politely. "Please, have a seat."
With a nod of acknowledgement, T'Sai took the offered seat. "It is... nice to meet both of you," she returned with the Human reply rather than the normal Vulcan greeting. Meeting a Romulan always brought mixed feelings for T'Sai. On one hand, they were biological cousins and she had a real fascination with Romulan culture. She was also of the school that reunification was for the best for both of their people. However, Romulans also presented a dark mirror for herself. They were representations of the warnings she had been given her whole life. They were once Vulcans who let emotions run free while losing the pure logic that her own people valued so highly. The Romulans were almost a physical manifestation of temptation.
It was not lost on her that under most circumstances, a Romulan would usually have been more inclined to Intelligence while a Vulcan would have been stationed at the Science station. Moving her eyes between the other two, T'Sai tried to get a glimpse of their intentions. Then, she decided on a gesture of good will, "May I offer both of you a drink?"
"Thank you." Eilaea replied, glancing for a moment at her nearly empty glass of Saurian brandy and considering for a moment: The single, slowly sipped glass was nowhere near enough to have impacted her to any significant degree; but to the best of her knowledge, most Vulcans did not drink alcohol, which she was certain her father would have considered nearly as much a pity as suppressing ones other passions. But given that, it seemed...not quite proper...to ask a Vulcan to acquire her a drink at the bar. And she was loathe at the moment to start off their time aboard antagonizing anyone: The bitter truth of the matter was at the moment, the Empire was in a vulnerable state; and there was little to be gained at the moment by kicking the neiirrh's nest of galactic politics, even in small ways. Fortunately, there was an easy solution.
"I admit I am curious as to the differences or similarities between our people's respective blends of tea. Perhaps you can recommend one?" She hoped that a Vulcan tea, at least, would perhaps be more in line with her tastes than some of the human blends she had tried while on Earth...though a few of those had also been superb.
Vriha nodded agreement. Honestly, she was more interested in finding good tea than in any alcoholic beverage.
"Three Vulcan spice teas," T'Sai stated to the passing waiter. The Orion's replicators didn't offer the variety of Vulcan beverages that newer ships possessed, but she had found that this version of tea was superior to the rest offered in the limited library. "If I may ask, how do you find Starfleet? Is being an officer in a foreign government agreeable?"
"It is yet early to make an informed assessment," Vriha replied, for once taking the lead in conversation since she was more used to interacting with Vulcans due to her role as a science advisor. "Though I have worked with Starfleet officers on other occasions and found them to be ...dedicated... despite rather more casual standards than are usual in the Galae. As to whether the position is agreeable," she paused, thinking of how to explain what would never need explanation among Romulans, "we serve the Empire, so if this placement aids the Empire's interests I cannot view it as anything but agreeable."
Eilaea nodded in agreement with both these statements, especially the latter one; among their own kind, such a question that implied ones personal opinion of ones duty was so consequential--and solicited or hinted that one might have a disdainful view of it--would under most circumstances be an insult in its implications and asking; she was reasonably certain it was not the case here, but glad of Vriha's somewhat greater experience in such interactions to seemingly confirm that with her response. "It will no doubt be...interesting...to discover the ways and areas in which your service and ours compare and contrast."
T'Sai gave a simple nod of understanding. Their own people shared an almost species first mentality. Vulcan had always held more autonomy than other worlds in the Federation and had always seen their own ranks filled before choosing to join Starfleet. Of course, she wouldn't mention that as it was fairly common knowledge, even outside the Federation. "I am certain that all of us will find interest in the discovery," she agreed.
"Indeed. However, in the interest of discovery and productive interaction, is there any advice or observation you would not mind sharing as to particular ...peculiarities... you may had to adjust to in serving with a predominantly human crew?" Vriha inquired.
"Impulsiveness, they are a short-lived people who want to accomplish their objectives quickly," T'Sai started. Moving her eyes to indicate a particularly pungent plate of chicken wings, she then added, "The... smell... requires time to to become accustomed to your senses."
Eilaea did not find the indicated dish in question off putting of itself (though she suspected to a Vulcan the smell of meat fell under "unappetizing" rather than "delicious"), but she had to admit as an overall consideration, the statement was accurate: She had noted that most humans appeared to have what she could only assume was an abysmal sense of smell, given the degree to which they occasionally doused themselves in scents, or failed to detect those that were more subtle, but quite clear to her, such as the scent of nearby water.
"They appear to favor temperatures somewhat cooler than I would consider ideal." Eilaea broached, wondering if --and suspecting so-- a Vulcan found it even colder than she did.
"That is to be expected from a species that evolved from a continental Class-M," T'Sai agreed. Romulus was a much less arid word than Vulcan, but still hot in comparison to Human average. "If I may, have the two of you made any observations in during your time aboard the Orion so far."
"It is quite...well appointed." Eilaea replied, choosing her words carefully. "I admit I was surprised at the size, amenities, and furnishing of the quarters we were assigned to." Even as officers, they were after all, relatively junior ones; as she understood their place in the Federation rank structure they were no more senior here than either would have been aboard a warbird: Possibly less so in her own case in fact, if only via the lack of certain other aspects of status that might have impacted her quarters assignment aboard a Romulan vessel. It came to mind that given T'Sai's position aboard - and her equal rank - she would likely know exactly which quarters the pair was sharing, and also have insight into how it compared aboard. "Are they typical of those assigned to a lieutenant within your fleet?"
"The assignments of quarters are usually assigned by occupation rather than rank," T'Sai started. "A junior grade Lieutenant Chief Engineer would be given the quarters of a senior officer over a full Lieutenant who served as an assistant department head." Looking to Eilaea, she added, "Those who are closest to the Captain are given the more spacious quarters."
Eilaea took a moment to turn the comment over in her head, pondering its intended meaning or meanings: On the surface, '...Those who are closest to the Captain are given the more spacious quarters' could simply be another way of phrasing what had been recounted directly before that; that those in the chain of command fewer rungs removed from the ship's commander would receive lodging in keeping with their place in the order of things. That was not so different in practice. Or, it could be a way of stating that officers whom a commander favored were given the nicer quarters within a given class of them for their position or rank--which she was sure would be as fraught with issues if practiced too blatantly in this fleet as if in their own. But. The way the lieutenant's eyes looked to her as she had stated it made her wonder if there was perhaps a third meaning as well; an acknowledgement that certain other factors were in play: Officers in certain lines of work tended to interact more closely sometimes with a ship's commander than might otherwise be the case for a given rank or post, rather earlier in their careers. Certain lines of work such as T'Sai's own; Eilaea's own prior to taking this assignment. Once again, she wondered exactly what sort of files, if any, the Federation Starfleet had on her...And once again exactly none of this showed on her face.
"Ah." she replied, as if none of her rapid-fire considerations and analysis had occurred. "Beyond that, we are still...'settling in', I believe the humans would say, and have not yet had the chance to make use of other amenities...Though there appear to be quite many. It is not common practice to have many of the facilities aboard a warbird that I understand are available aboard the Orion: I enjoy gardening and horticulture and will be interested to see what a ship board arboretum is like, for one."
"I have been quite impressed by the range of literature available through the ship's libraries," Vriha put in, limiting the thought to that since she halfway feared that if the intel officer knew how much she had been given access to that access would immediately be curtailed.
T'Sai could almost see the gears turning in the heads of the two Romulan officers. She almost wondered what it would be like to live in a constant state of borderline paranoia. Would having a spy literally over your shoulder at every moment change who she was? "Galaxy-class starships were intended to function as exploration vessels with a long range. It would not have been uncommon for months or years to pass between each resupply. The amenities are intended to assist in what the Humans call stress relief." Her voice was almost set in a tone to give permission for the officers to make use of their access. Galaxies were forty year old ships which had failed spectacularly in the Dominion War, she didn't think the Empire would care much about something so obsolete.
Eilaea thought for a moment at this last comment, back to the three carefully cultivated plants in her quarters, and the satisfaction and relaxation she had taken over the years in tending them, carefully setting aside time and space in her schedule and living spaces at all her postings to do so. Having an entire arboretum to do so in held a distinct appeal, and she wondered if she might be allowed to root cuttings of her plants in it, and resolved to find out who the officer in charge of it was and inquire. She could see potential practical applications of its existence as well, depending on how it was managed--it quite possibly helped to a small degree in air recycling, and in an emergency could provide supplement to the crew's diet if edible species were grown. The more she considered it, the more she thought that perhaps she should recommend similar be experimented with on the Empire's large ships, as well.
Less charitably, however, she also considered that Humans must be particularly prone to stress as a species and vulnerable to folding under it, if they required such as the other luxuries at hand on this vessel in order to relieve or mitigate it. In the interests of diplomacy, however, she decided to leave the thought unvoiced as she took a sip of her tea, rolling it across her tongue in appreciation of the flavors and tilting her head to the cup slightly to indicate it. "....Very nice. It is quite similar in fact to a blend available--" Here, her voice caught for a moment in spite of herself."--A blend which was available at home."
T'Sai nodded, not in agreement but understanding. As a people, the Romulans had become a people without a homeworld twice. Had her own ancestors made different choices, she would perhaps be sitting in the same place as the Romulans at her table. "As much as our people are different, we hold as many similarities."
Eilaea nodded in return at this statement with a small smile as she took another sip of the tea, once again wondering exactly what lay beneath the surface that Vulcans displayed to the universe...How tightly had they suppressed their passions—as merely a show to the rest of the galaxy and to one another, or deeper somehow, even within themselves? Because for all of their differences indeed, and all of her distaste at the idea of forgoing so much of what gave life joy and meaning, she had to admit, if only to herself, that it was in some senses also not so different: The discipline which was drilled into every Romulan from an early age, or the strange emotional control of the Vulcans...In the end, the result in one sense was similar both in result and intent, and perhaps on display at the table in fact: Neither was as their mutual ancestors had been. If they had been, Eilaea thought with amusement, it was likely the ship would have been torn to pieces long ago. “Indeed. It should prove intriguing to observe such.”
Just before she could ponder the significance of her observations, T'Sai's commbadge chirped with news of a possible anomaly on the latest batch of sensor readings. In all likelihood, it was an artifact due to gravitational lensing of the blue giant star, however, she had informed her staff to let her know if anything was found. "I must see to my duties," T'Sai stated to the two Romulans. Looking back to both of them before leaving, she added, "It would be... agreeable to have another meeting. Perhaps next time, I may partake in your game."
"Certainly." Eilaea replied, dipping her head ever-so-slightly in acknowledgement and farewell, and noting in the Vulcan's departure and her handling of the reasons for it one last similarity between their peoples: As creatures of duty and its fulfillment, attended to as diligently and deeply as breathing. Or perhaps, quite honestly, held far more dearly than. While she was aware many in the Empire would look down their nose at such a statement, she personally saw little point in failing to recognize such a virtue when and where it occurred, at least to herself. "Until then."
Chief Intelligence Officer, USS Orion
Lieutenant Eilaea t'Keirianh
Operations Officer, USS Orion
Sublieutenant Vriha t'Ehhelih
Science Officer, USS Orion