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The Black Pearl

Posted on Sat Oct 30th, 2021 @ 3:06am by Freya Mannerheim & Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Drozana station
Timeline: 238703.04

Not long after the meeting with the Subcommander, Captain Mannerheim had yet another meeting. This time, with the Lynn twins and Sergeant - no, Uhlan - Ezra Perez, who had gone AWOL to Earth a few days earlier, with the twins and Major Rogers sent to find them. Even though Perez was no longer on her crew, the Captain could not stop herself from giving the young Terran a stern talking-to, she had filled the trio in on what had happened since their departure. But the day's excitement was not over.

And so, Freya found herself outside the station security office on Drozana. An hour earlier, one of her crewmen had been apprehended, along with a Romulan from Ourainavassa, after the two had seemingly gotten into a brawl over some Orion dancer in a bar on the station's lower levels. Both commanding officers had been called here to collect their respective crewmembers and ensure they received the appropriate disciplinary measures.

She sighed as she entered the office, where a burly-looking Andorian was working on a console behind the main reception desk. "Captain Mannerheim, of the Amelia, here to pick up Ensign Jenkins, Leroy, to be released into my custody?"

The Andorian grunted, without even looking up from his console. "Ah, one of the two amateur wrestlers. We're still waiting for some witness statements to be processed, shouldn't take long." He waved at a row of chairs. "Take a seat if you want."

"I will stand." Kaiae outright glared at the seats offered, which, like many things on Drozana that weren't meant for paying customers, were somewhat dirtier than she approved of. "I am here for Uhlan Kaitek." She resisted the urge to outright slam the bar of latinum she had brought for the "fee"--they ought to just come out and call it a "bribe" as that's what it appeared to be--to release her crewman from station holding; and instead forced herself to simply flash it at the Andorian and slip it back in her pockets for now.

The Andorian grunted again. "Kaitek. The other one. Same goes for you, still being processed."

Mannerheim chuckled. "Twice in a day, Subcommander. We're getting quite familiar with each other now, aren't we?"

"This place is a deathtrap to the concept of good order and discipline." Kaiae said by way of a reply, glaring at Drozana at large and considering how many other things she had to be doing instead of this; such as sweeping the new ship for Tal'Shiar traps in it's coding and electronics.

The Captain nodded. "A veritable hive of scum and villainy. Definitely not a place for civilised people like yourself." She chuckled again. "There are similar establishments where I come from, often visited for shore leave. But then, our people are used to such places. Yours are not. Here's some advice for you. If you can, limit the amount of latinum any of your crewmen carry when they're here. Reduces the chance of them getting scammed. Or robbed."

“You mean it reduces the chances of my having to pay to retrieve them after they respond in the appropriate manner to either of those attempts. I assume the “fee” for killing someone is rather higher. Though I would hope if the case were in response to an attempted mugging, it would be seen as appropriate self defense….But that might be assuming too much civilized behavior out of this place.”

"From what I've experienced, this kind of people respects strength, so killing in self-defence would probably be acceptable. Still, better not risk it. Especially since most of your people still wear uniform, and if word gets around, it might compromise your security. I'm surprised you are still wearing them, actually. Especially in a place like this, uniformed Romulan officers tend to stand out from the crowd."

“And what would they be wearing instead? Gym clothes? Nightclothes?”Kaiae cocked her head to the side slightly. “We did not come aboard with civilian attire. Besides. I prefer they be reminded of the need for proper discipline; and given the nature of this place, that is the only reminder available.”

Freya couldn't help but giggle at the mental image of a Romulan crew walking around in pyjamas. For some reason, she pictured Hatham in a fluffy, pink number, complete with bunny slippers. "I take your point. Nevertheless, should you choose to abandon those uniforms, I am sure an alternative can be found."

Their conversation was interrupted by the Andorian. "Jenkins, Leroy."

As he spoke, the door to the back opened, and a solitary Terran in a torn operations gold uniform emerged, handcuffed and flanked by two more Andorians. His face was covered in bruises. The Captain shook her head. "Ensign Jenkins. What on Terra where you thinking. Our alliance is fragile enough as it is, and you go and get yourself in a brawl with a Romulan over some Orion girl? You know what, I don't care what happened. By the authority of the Sovereign Terran Empire, you are henceforth stripped off all rank and privileges. I furthermore sentence you to eight days of penal duties. You will work, and you will be in the brig, where you will spend one and a half hours each day in the agoniser. The cost of your bail will be taken from your pay. And you will be happy with my leniency. Got that?"

Meekly, Jenkins looked up. "He started it," he muttered. The Captain slapped him across the face. "That's two hours a day. Another word from you, and I'll make it three." She shook her head and turned to the Andorian behind the desk, handing him some latinum. "That should cover it." With a last look at Jenkins, she tapped her badge. "Mannerheim to Amelia. Lock onto Jenkins and beam him straight into the brig. Agoniser three, two hours."

The Andorian guards let go of the Terran, and he was transported away. Mannerheim turned to Kaiae. "I may not like Terran discipline much, but it works well enough. By the end of those eight days, he'll have learned his lesson."

Kaiae's eyebrows shrugged, showing she was seemingly entirely undisturbed by this verdict. "I find 50 lashes in a public setting works just as well. Quite honestly the public disgrace is a stronger deterrent than the pain." The Andorians emerged again with her waylaid crewman; it could be difficult for even one of their own kind to tell the age of a Romulan or Vulcan beyond a general twenty to thirty year timeframe, but inasmuch as anyone could have aged the man they emerged with, he didn't look much older than Miles and Mila did, if that, and looked appropriately chastened as she fixed her glare on him. "Mister Kaitek. Unlike the captain, I actually do care who started it. Keep in mind with your answer that I will have ways of verifying it."

There was a moment of silence before the young man in question--possibly more aptly and pejoratively termed a "kid" in some circles--appeared to gather whatever remained of his courage. "The Orion started it, ma'am. She picked my pocket; when I tried to get my property back she refused. It...may have escalated from there."

"May have?" Kaiae's eyebrow rose just-so; letting the man squirm under her gaze and the expectation that he continue to explain.

"The Terran was letting her get all over him; I swear I was more careful. I just...watched. Somehow she managed to get me anyways. When I confronted her and she refused, somehow she got him to take her side! I tried to retrieve my property from the girl and the Terran punched me."

Kaiae could see the incident in her mind's eye now, nearly; no doubt the cause of a pounding headache later: Humans, as a species, were reasonably susceptible to Orion pheromones. The Amelia's man would have been easy pickings for an experienced Orion...artist....to manipulate. As for her own man... "That you were not so lax as to engage in--" Here, Kaiae's voice picked up a distinct hint of judgement and distaste beyond simply misbehavior; Romulans might be less repressed than Vulcans in their sexual behavior but the idea of such things in public, even among a long mated pair let alone strangers... "--impropriety does not excuse you! Clearly you failed to maintain proper vigilance if you were so caught up in watching that you failed to have the ability to watch anything else. You are lucky the threat was that you lost your money, and not your life! We will discuss your punishment later, aboard the ship." She was not about to give more information to the Drozana security detachment than necessary.; and turned away from Kaitek back towards the collection of Andorians, this time she did remove the bar of latinum and place it on the desk, but she also gave a smoldering glance to the lead man. "I would like to file a report on behalf of my crew; as to the apparent robbery. What consequences will there be for the perpetrator of that?"

The Andorian shrugged. "Wasn't a slip of latinum on the girl. She says the Romulan and the Human were arguing about something. Nothing about no robbery."

At that, Mannerheim walked over to the desk and pulled her dagger out of its sheath, dangling it in front of the Andorian's face. "You're a little blue for a Ferengi," she said, with a threatening bite to her voice. "Else I would have mistaken that for some implication that you want more money."

The security officer looked up and gulped. "She didn't have anything on her, and I mean that in the most literal sense. Sorry that I can't be of more help. I can help you track her down if you want, though. If you want to ask her yourselves."

Mannerheim turned to Kaiae, still keeping her dagger pointed at the Andorian. "What do you think, shall we investigate ourselves? Orion pheromones won't work on us, after all. Unlike this idiot here. Of course he'll believe every word a pretty naked Orion girl says."

“I think I will render my statement on the matter away from the hearing of those who might use such information to advise as to our expected behavior and actions.” Kaiae said flatly with a final glare at the Andorian, then whirled on her unlucky crewman again with a few sharp words in her native tongue making it clear he would return himself to the ship immediately and confine himself to his quarters until she summoned him later.

Mannerheim nodded and turned back to the Andorian. "Where," she asked him curtly.

The man stammered. "A...place called the... the Black Pearl. Two levels down from here. Girl calls herself the Nightingale."

The Captain waved the dagger. "And her real name?"

"T...Thassali."

Satisfied, Freya put her dagger away. "Thank you for your assistance, constable."

Once they’d left the security office behind, Kaiae took a methodical look around at their surroundings, searching for obvious observations of them, and finding none dropped her voice significantly…then remembered she was speaking to a species with inferior hearing and had to raise it slightly more than she might have speaking to one of her own. “Loathe as I am to allow anyone to escape consequences of mishandling my people, I would point out there there are exactly two of us, and undoubtedly far more than two people in alliance with our target. This may not be a wise course of action.”

Freya smirked. "Nothing is going to happen, surely, if we just go in and ask some questions," she replied, speaking Rihannsu. While her pronunciation was heavily accented, her command of the language otherwise was at a near-native level. "How about we take a look at the place first. Two friends going for a drink surely won't raise any eyebrows here."

Kaiae cringed slightly; the command of the language by another species was unusual and reasonably impressive; as linguistics went she was aware her native tongue routinely found itself near the top of ‘most difficult languages to learn’ lists; but the pronunciation and accent left…a great deal to be desired. Which was probably unavoidable; humans lacked the proper vocal chord structure for some of it without a great deal of surgical alteration. “I am unopposed to reconnaissance. Though I intend to ban the location for my crew after this incident and would recommend similar for yours.”

"I will consult with my XO on what actions we will take to prevent a reoccurence," Freya replied. "But yes, I think both our crews are getting a little too used to this station. Shall we go have a look at that establishment, then?"




Ten minutes later, the two officers found themselves outside the "Black Pearl". It advertised itself in garish neon colours, and promised the best dancers on Drozana - a promise that was echoed by every other similar establishment on the station. Outside the club, a bouncer stood watch. Freya had removed some of the rank pips from her uniform and pocketed them, now appearing as a simple lieutenant and opened the jacket, in an attempt to appear more casual. She leaned in to Kaiae. "Take off your insignia as well," she whispered. "And play along, Sublieutenant. This isn't my first time doing something like this."

Kaiae’s eyebrow went up again as she picked the rank pins in question and whispered back. “You are aware that a sublieutenant would wear the appropriate insignia; not a complete lack thereof? All I am doing wearing none is looking bizarre. Or possibly as if I am Tal’Shiar. They don’t really always bother with that even if they decide to wear a uniform.”

"You really think that oaf there knows his Romulan uniform code? Please. Now, play along. We're on a date, and this place was recommended to us for some privacy and some fun." Smiling, Freya approached the door, giving the bouncer a friendly wave.

The bouncer, a hulking Gorn, scowled back, teeth on display. “Get lost. Last time we had a pair of your kind—“ He waved a massive hand at both of them. “—in here earlier it caused a ruckus and broke five bottles of Saurian brandy.”

Freya feigned shock. "Oh no, how horrible! Please, do you really think two lovely ladies like my friend and I would be trouble? It's our first date, and we heard that this was the place to go here on Drozana! I promise we won't be any problem!"

“Then you won’t mind paying double.” The Gorn jerked a massive thumb at the displayed entrance cover charges. He was in all honesty probably planning to simply pocket the ‘difference’ himself.

Mannerheim turned to her Romulan companion. "What do you think, Kai? You think it's gonna be worth it? Oh, I'm sure it's worth it." She reached into the pouch on her belt next to her dagger, and pulled out some latinum, holding it out to the bouncer. "That enough for both of us?"

"Since I assume there's at least as many weapons on your companion--" The Gorn turned his toothy visage to Kaiae for a moment, then back to Freya, "--Throw in ten more. If you cause trouble it's my pay that gets docked for the damages."

The Captain groaned, and took out some more Latinum. "Here, can we go in now?"

The Gorn stepped back with a toothy, almost passive-aggressive smile and waved them in...Though with Gorn, 'passive-aggressive' tended to simply read as an especially obnoxious form of simply 'aggressive', period.

Freya grabbed Kaiae's hand, and led her inside the club, letting go as soon as they were out of the Gorn's view. "Well, that was easier than I feared," she muttered. "Shall we have a look around?"

It took a lot of control for Kaiae to avoid not only pulling away, but striking out, at the hand grab; done between, say, pair of officers in the field giving an assist up to a wounded comrade, it was innocent; but in most other settings, it was a fairly intimate gesture and not the sort one should give unsolicited to....well, anyone except someone they had not only had intentions toward but already knew such were reciprocated. That that was, in fact, their cover was the only thing that stopped her from reacting, and even then, it was a near thing. She wondered for a moment while looking around the space if the Terran was aware that her species was equipped with the ability to use their fingers for rather similar behavior than that hers would require the use of additional anatomy. Even as a cover ID, it bothered her; engaging in those sorts of things as nothing more than a feint was the sort of thing the Tal'Shiar did; among society at large, it was most certainly considered poor behavior indeed.

The lighting level inside the Black Pearl was low; though the walls themselves gave off an otherwordly glow of sorts, as did the various piles of pillows staggered throughout. Rather than a "bar" area like Quark's had featured, all customers appeared to be expected to their their place in one of the "nests"; and when Mannerheim seemed to be leading them to join one that was already occupied by several others as well, Kaiae made use of the hand grip to indeed tighten her own grip and start steering them to one that was currently empty. Offense to her sensibilities aside, it wouldn't be decent cover to join the larger set, either; at least not to anyone with a working knowledge of Romulan behavior.

Freya followed Kaiae to the booth, and sat down. Immediately, a display in the table in front of them lit up - a system for ordering drinks. She quickly ordered a bottle of Romulan Ale with two glasses - taking note of the inflated prices - and turned to Kaiae. "I've been to slave markets classier than this place," she remarked, scanning the crowd for anything unexpected for such an establishment.

"It is most certainly overpriced. Even at the base rate." The fact that one of the "nests" with as close to decent positioning for security purposes had been unoccupied also spoke to a fairly reckless clientele in general, perhaps; that they would choose to first fill some of the ones where their backs would be to more of the room. Of course, that might have been by design and enticement on the parts of the proprietors; since Kaiae noted the dancers appeared to be circulating primarily around the inner ones, only rarely visiting the periphery. The better, no doubt, to manage to pick a little extra payment off their clients. She was beginning to wonder if the Orion the boys had been 'watching' was even the one who had done the actual pick pocketing; or if an accomplice had simply slipped behind while eyes had been elsewhere. She sincerely hoped not, though; that would be a near-unforgivable lack of situational awareness for even a youngster to let a second player in the mix not only approach from behind but make enough physical contact to rob them...And fail to notice the second presence at all.

Freya's eyes narrowed when she noticed a small group of men hanging out around the centre of the room - they were wearing Terran uniform. She shook her head. "Yeah, you're right, I'm definitely blacklisting this place. Looks like half of the engineering department is here." Just then, most of the men got up to leave - and their path would take them right past the booth where Freya and Kaiae were sitting. The Captain leaned in close, as if to kiss Kaiae, until they had gone past. "Sorry about that. And the hand earlier. Need to keep up the cover. Can't afford being recognised now."

Kaiae rolled her eyes ever-so-slightly; noting several of the men in question were rather....wobbly. "Apparently we can assume what that cover charge is paying for is that they don't water down their drinks." It would explain, in part, the popularity with the crew, probably even with those who didn't fancy Orions, or females in general; and also explained the place's probable strategy for keeping their customers easier to con.

Just as Kaiae spoke, an Orion girl appeared, carrying a tray with a flask of ale and two glasses. Like most of the dancers in this establishment, she was entirely nude, except for a small pouch attached to a string around her waist, probably where she kept the latinum. The girl placed the tray on the table and flashed a smile at the two customers, and Freya paid her, making sure to include an appropriate tip, and, with a bow, the girl went back to the bar on the far wall of the club.

"Cute," the Captain observed, as she poured the drinks. "I'd hazard a guess that the naked girls are a big part of this place's appeal." She took a sip from the ale, and nodded. "Yeah, this stuff is pure. Not a hint of watering down. And it's of the strong variety."

Kaiae palmed a tiny scanner from inside her tunic and waved it over her own glass before bringing it to her lips, much as she had with...Well. Basically anything she'd been offered to eat or drink on Drozana since first setting foot on the regrettable place the first time. It looked clean, though, so she knocked back an appreciably sized sip, rather larger than Freya's as befitting her 'rather larger' natural alcohol tolerance. "...Strong, yes. Quality, no." She made a subtle face of sorts. "The grade of sorts junior officers and newly enlisted crew might seek to buy with their first paycheck. Or worse; export grade" The kind of sorts that the noble-born daughter of a banker and a legal intercessor had probably only tasted a few times in her life at all, in Kaiae's case most of them when drinking whatever Quark had available.

Freya nodded. "Never said it was quality. Well, I can see plenty of possible distractions here, in any case. Strong drinks, attractive, naked Orions, loud music. Still not sure how a girl would manage to pickpocket one of your Romulans, though."

"Unless he is terminally lax and clueless to a degree that likely would have prevented him from surviving to turn eight, he would need to have drunk an entire bottle to be impaired enough for that, yes." Kaiae frowned; given the age of the crewman in question, she supposed that wasn't entirely out of the question as possibility though, either: keeping brand-new uhlans from doing insanely stupid things on leave--or in general--was usually a task for more senior enlisted crew; just as keeping new sublieutenants from doing so was somewhat of a challenge generally handled by lieutenants and centurions. The smaller, more haphazard grouping of personnel she had with her, however, had been determined more by allegiance than anything else, and possibly was less well policed for such behavior as a result. "Unless of course the fact that our drinks were not drugged does not mean that no one's drinks ever are." It would still in that case be extremely stupid behavior; to take drinks from an unknown source and down them without checking them, especially in a space like this. But it would be far more understandable an error in a young man from the lower ranks, possibly one who had never so much as traveled outside his village or origin until beginning his service...which given his age, probably had been only a few short years if not mere months even before joining this ill-fated endeavor, and who undoubtedly had no exposure to aliens or alien environments. She fought the urge to grit her teeth at the extreme distaste of her next words. "I think we should risk joining one of the other tables. Just long enough to get a read on the drinks there."

Freya paused for a moment, taking another sip from her drink. "I agree with you that it is well possible that their drinks were drugged. It is common knowledge that there are species out there, such as Vulcans and Romulans, who are far less susceptible to Orions than, for example, Humans and Terrans. But since those pheromones work on barely any females anywhere, there wouldn't be much point in serving them to us." She looked around the room again, and noticed a number of Orion males sat and stood in strategic places. "There's the security. Orion men. Are those..." She burst out laughing. "Orion men in 20th century Earth business suits. This has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Now, you sure we should join another table? That would make our cover a lot more difficult to maintain."

Kaiae got the feeling the joke as to the men's attire had gone over her head. Or possibly human fashion changed so rapidly that a few scant centuries made the men's attire laughably outdated? It would be strange for something to become outdated enough to be the butt of a joke in little more than a single lifetime, but...but then again the human lifetime was a good deal shorter. She reached her hand inside her tunic, covering it by pulling the other woman's hand with, and flicked her little scanner on again while still leaving it concealed. "I fail to see how." She picked up her drink again, looking as if she had taken a small sip, but kept her lips tight, in actuality drinking nothing. One eyebrow rose ever-so-slightly. "Did you not ever learn how to appear to partake of a drink without doing so?"

"A few centuries ago, this kind of suit was worn by the stereotypical gangsters in entertainment vids on Earth," Freya explained. "You know, the 'brawns not brains' type of gangster. Which pretty would pretty accurately describe these guys, would you not say?" She drained her glass. "Oh, and I know full well how to pretend to drink, that is not the difficulty I am referring to. Remember, we are supposedly on a date. Keeping that cover up may be a little more difficult than it had been with the bouncer."

"We do not need to stay for that long." Kaiae shrugged her brows again. "Besides. Some species are known for more restrained behavior in public settings, generally. Even a rather....liberal...member of mine would be likely to observe rather than to engage, in view of so many others. With the dancers or their partner." It was why she hadn't had many doubts about the story Kaitek had given her, overall; the combination of age, inexperience, and what lesser effect the girls pheromones would have might easily have led him to be riveted by the...display; but was unlikely to have on its own been enough to force him to entirely disregard decent behavior and follow the Terran into participating beyond that. She downed the last of the liquid in her glass, using the motion to cover a second reach inside her tunic, this one to shut off the device she'd been using as insurance to not be overheard as easily; for the scanner she'd activated to work at anything but point-blank range, such as while inside her pocket, the other device would need to be off.

Freya shrugged. "If you say so. Well, lead the way. But don't you go being the quiet one in this relationship again."

Kaiae's eyes tipped towards the ceiling slightly again for a moment; that it was a bizarre look with the upswept eyebrows hadn't stopped it from being on of the few human expressions she'd found herself adopting during the war; being around the species again had it resurfacing. It was so...subtlety yet eloquently expressive a gesture. She led them over to one of the more central booths/pillow pits, sliding into it in such a way that left the Terran closer to the other occupants: If any of the others tried to get handsy, it was a situation less likely to end in bloodshed. And also a move entirely in keeping with the sort of behavior anyone who knew about expected behavior for each species--as she suspected the Orions would, or at least whichever of them was in charge--would expect to see in any 'couple' made of a Romulan and a human; with the less cautious, more...open...member of the pair forming a buffer of sorts.

"Come to enjoy the show, eh, ladies?" The Klingon, next to whom Freya had taken a seat, laughed. "You have a good eye. Glad that Romulan of yours hasn't killed your sense of fun!" He grabbed the flask of bloodwine on the table, and two cups, pouring drinks for his new 'friends', as the two other Klingons at the table shook their heads. He turned to his companions. "Come on, you targs, there is honour in sharing bloodwine, is there not?" He turned back to the Terran. "I am Ketash, son of Foh. Who do I have the honour of sharing my wine with?"

Freya leaned in towards Kaiae. "Scanner," she whispered in Rihannsu, as she picked up the goblet the Klingon had given her. With her other hand, out of sight of the Klingons, she pressed a hidden button on her prosthetic leg. Then, she raised her goblet. "I am Sora, daughter of Svanir. This is Kai, daughter of Tek. Honour to your house, my friend. Qapla'!" With that, she lifted the goblet, and drained it in one big gulp.

If Kaiae had been a human, she probably would have her face in her hand; both at the less than inventive cover name for her and mostly at actually drinking the wine. It was an ancient trick, to dose an antidote to poison or an...influence agent...beforehand; but it generally required, well, having done so. Which also usually required at least a general suspicion of the type of types of things in play. The latter of which they had not possessed in advance, and the former of which...Well. The former of which had not occurred. Hopefully the Terran captain was following her own advice about "not carrying much money on Drozana", or she might be about to get robbed herself. For her own part, she accepted a new glass of something appropriately blue from one of the dancers, and took what appeared to be a measured sip but actually was not, after bringing it close enough to her chest for a reading.

Ketash roared with laughter. "Ah, I like you, human. I am not surprised that your friend there didn't touch the bloodwine, that's a drink for a real warrior!" He poured Freya another drink. "Klingons, Humans and Romulans, drinking together. Just like the days of the Dominion War." He barked another laugh. "Oh, the glorious battles we had."

As the obviously drunk Klingon began to ramble on with his war stories, Freya slid closer to Kaiae, and put her left arm around her, leaning in again. "Don't worry about me, got the antidote for most poisons in the leg. Scan the wine while our friend here is distracting everyone."

"That has been occurring already." Kaiae whispered into the Terrans ear, once again having to fight very hard not to react to the arm around her, especially from someone she was not, in point of fact, still certain could be trusted very far, ship acquired or no ship acquired. She was almost certain the bar staff could not be, however, so in this environment for the moment Freya was still as close as she would get to an ally, much like the relations between the Empire, the Federation, and the Klingons against the Dominion. Inside her pocket, in fact, the device vibrated barely-so in a pattern; the signal for a contaminant or other threat detected in the beverage. "I would stop." She whispered by way of communicating this fact without stating it blatantly. Though, if anyone was listening with enough skill and ability to pick up on their words, they would already be tipped off a moment before now by the captain's rather more forward ones...Yet another reason Kaiae found herself despairing of ever expecting properly cautious behavior from most aliens.

Freya emptied the goblet again, and then turned to the Klingon. "My friend, as great an honour it was to make your acquaintance, unfortunately, Kai's Commander has put a curfew on his crew, and, alas, the time is growing near. So, we must take our leave. But I thank you for sharing your wine and your tales of glory."

Ketash nodded. "Ah, yes, I once had a Captain like that. Fine warrior, he was. My friends, I thank you for allowing me to share your company. Glory to your houses, and, if I may say, I do hope things go well for the two of you." He emphasized that last statement with a wink, as Freya got up and took Kaiae's hand, leading her out of the club.

Once they were outside, out of sight of the club's bouncer, Freya let go. "You played your part well, Kai", she said, smiling. "Did your scanner detect anything?"

Kaiae came to a near-involuntary dead stop at that last. "Yes, it did." She said, incredulous. She had given an extremely clear signal, when one combined what she had said with what had been said directly beforehand. She could have parsed the meaning of her own words by the time she was ten, and she had been far from a master of such things at that age; no senator's daughter or Tal'Shiar agent's child to be steeped in such complexities yet. "That is why I said so!"

Freya chuckled at the Romulan's outburst. "Good. I was worried for a moment that you only told me to stop because of the alcohol. Which my handy little antidote dispenser also works against. I think the formula will be discovered some time in the 26th century, if memory serves. Well, I guess we can put together a pretty accurate picture of what happened now. Jenkins and Kaitek both had spiked drinks, that girl used her charms to pilfer your guy's pockets, and then when he noticed got my guy to defend her. Pretty clever strategy, if you ask me. I doubt that station security would care much, though. Still, I think you should give your scans to Miss Lynn for analysis, find out if there's any potential long-term effects."

Kaiae’s response to this was a long and rapid string of words in Rihannsu that would have translated in their general intent, though not their exact meaning, to an equivalent state of affairs to a human proclaiming they were “past done with this shit”; with the ‘shit’ in question in this case being Drozana itself, its policies, and its inhabitants. “If you did not believe it would change matters with security or lead to any ability to enforce consequences upon the perpetrators; why take the risk?!?” Kaiae practically scream-whispered, proving that that was in fact one behavior their species shared. “We could have accomplished roughly the same as now, then, by simply agreeing to ban the location based on the likelihood!”

The Captain sighed. "Proof. That is why we needed to take the risk. As I said in the security station, the alliance between our two ships is on very thin ice already. It always has been. This situation could easily have led to that ice becoming even more fragile. We now have proof that both our crewmen were under the influence of drugs when the brawl happened. That it was not, in fact, an attempt at provoking either side to break off our cooperation. You have proof that your crewman did not dishonour himself by lying about what happened. That he had indeed spoken the truth, as unlikely as his version of events seemed."

She turned away from Kaiae, and looked up at the ceiling in silence for a moment. "And I have proof that, despite your distrust of me, we can indeed work together." She turned back to face the Subcommander. "I now know that I do not need to constantly keep my guard up around you. Our meeting earlier. I took a great risk, coming to your ship, alone. Revealing that I did, in fact, have the override codes for the lockout. At any of these moments, you could well have taken your blade, and attacked me. I took a gamble, Subcommander. One that I could have easily lost."

"I did as well." Kaiae reminded her; or perhaps more likely with a human of any variety, attempted to impress understanding on one the way one might attempt to impress a permanent image upon liquid; beginning to walk again out of relfex, because only a fool had a conversation in a single place, unless that place was on they were certain was secured. Movement through space robbed any single party of an easy opportunity to overhear; it was far far foolproof, especially in an enclosed area like a space station or ship, but it was better a bet than the alternative. She could fast feel a headache coming on, and suspected dealing with aliens was a cause in far more ways than simply exposure to Orion pheromones in high doses. "To not make such a strike, immediately and with extreme effect, against anyone who demonstrated such a thing? That is a risk many of my fellows would call reckless, not simply an 'easily lost gamble'." She sighed. "As for viewing his story as 'unlikely', on the contrary it seemed likely enough to me for the most part. No offense, but comparatively, your species is well known for its susceptibility to Orion biochemistry. That your man would have sided with the dancer seemed likely to me regardless of his trustworthiness in general or any lack thereof; it is simple, if quite regrettable biology, especially when combined with the...skill with which an experienced operator might handle her mark." Kaiae's eyebrows shrugged up and down yet again.

Freya nodded as she walked along with the Subcommander. "Oh, that part wasn't what I doubted. I was in doubt of the 'this girl pickpocketed me' part. Your species, after all, is well known for its inherent sense of suspicion, that some might even call paranoia. For a member of the Romulan military to let himself be pickpocketed is rather unusual, at least by reputation." She paused for a moment, visibly considering something. "Subcommander," she finally said. "Kaiae. You know what the worst part about living outside your own time is? You never have the chance to actually get to know the people you meet, because tomorrow you might be a hundred years away. Do yourself a favour. If you ever get offered the ability to travel through time, through timelines, don't accept it. You have somewhere you belong. It may no longer be your Empire, but you still have your crew, your friends, your family. I am caught between two worlds, between Federation and Empire."

I am soon to likely have nowhere I belong, actually Kaiae thought bitterly and angrily in response; her current status would make her unable to return even to whatever of their people survived the nova, most likely; at most she might find a place with what little of her house and family she might, if they were lucky, manage to save, and a perhaps a few hundred or thousand more refugees who had been saved by their actions, and so would fail to care about the charges that had recently been disseminated.

Suddenly, Mannerheim stopped dead in her tracks. "It's today. I never realised. Today is the day that a fifteen-year old Freya Svanirsdottir, back in the Terran universe, witnesses a pirate attack on her family's merchant vessel. Today, her parents and brother are killed. Today, she loses her leg in attempt to save her own and her sister's life."

Kaiae was entirely uncertain what to say in response to this disclosure; humans as a whole were bizarre and this wasn't even the variety she had prior exposures to. Strangely, one of her first thoughts was a spike of envy at the seeming implication of the sister's survival; the Dominion had killed both her brothers, she was the only one left, now. In relative terms, really, they had been little older at the time than the age Freya was quoting; dead at 25 and 20, a newly minted sublieutenant and a cadet who would not have yet been aboard an active duty vessel at all, save for the dire times they had lived in. In the end, she judged the safest thing to say way simply something that made no judgement on the effects of the matter one way or another. "And did she, in fact, survive? Your sister?"

Freya nodded. "She did, yes. She went on to become Commander Sora Svanirsdottir, first officer of the I.S.S. Asha, under the command of one Captain Mavis Vermillion. She would only be six years old as of today, on this date. And before you ask, no, she was not on Vermillion's ship when it was destroyed." She shook her head. "I wish I could go and prevent that incident from ever happening, you know. Prevent the destruction of my parents' ship. But I would erase my own timeline. And that would cause one hell of a paradox. Changing one's own past is just about the worst thing you can do with time travel." With another sigh, she looked at Kaiae. "I know, we were on a mission this evening. But regardless, I did enjoy myself. And I would like to think that I had the opportunity to share a drink with a friend today. Or, at least someone who could become a friend. I am not your enemy, Kaiae, and I never have been. The only reason my parents die today is because the Empire completely ignored the pirates operating in that sector. Sure, there was a Starfleet vessel nearby, but they only turned up to collect our escape pod. The Empire was far too preoccupied with its own political squabbling to care about the danger its own people were in. Those pirates had been conducting raids in that area for months, but nobody even bothered to inform freighters of it. I lost almost everything I had because my government did not care. Now, answer me this question. Why would I want to stop you from trying to make sure so many others do not suffer the same fate?"

"Answer me why your counterparts in my universe reached out a hand my people against all past experiences and pride accepted, only to betray us?!?" The angry snarl in Kaiae's voice was abrupt and clearly far from planned as a response, and while her next words didn't have nearly the same tone to them, they were still tense. "It is, to be frank, difficult to trust anyone with those ears at the moment."

"The Federation was attacked, and withdrew to defend itself. If things were reversed, if your Empire had offered your assistance to the Federation when one of their core worlds was in danger, and, say, what happened on Mars happened on Remus, what would you have wanted your leaders to do? What would anyone have wanted their leaders to do, if they had been in the Federation's position?" Freya shook her head. "I understand your anger, Kaiae. But do not direct it at us. At me. If I had been a serving Starfleet officer right now, in this time, I would have followed Admiral Picard." She spat out the next few words. "The Federation is a sham. They are more similar to the Terran Empire than they would ever admit. Equality for all, a good life for all, yet, we are within Federation territory. Do you see any Federation laws enforced on this station? Or on any of the other border worlds, where Orion slavers are free from any harassment by their Starfleet? Their wonderful idea of a utopian society exists in one place, and one place alone. Earth. The Federation claims that they have eliminated poverty and scarcity, yet millions of its citizens need to fight for their right to survive every day. The Federation is just like any other Empire. It's only concerned with the power of those who lead it. Those who subscribe to the values they preach, they all see the truth eventually. Like Picard has. Like many others will, in the centuries to come."

“That will be as useless a belated awakening to my people as any actions by our own leaders would be.” The targeted anger gone mostly from her voice, what seemed left mostly was a weariness inappropriate to her age, or to, well, her entire species except before those their deepest friends and their own kin. “It is bitter in the end that keeping one’s honor or one’s oath appears to require breaking likewise on either of our worlds, then.”

Freya moved to put a hand on Kaiae's shoulder, but then thought better of it. "I will not be able to stop the supernova from occurring, and I will not be able to change your government's mind, or that of the Federation. But what I can do is promise you any assistance you need to get as many people out from there as is in any way possible. Under the Temporal Prime Directive, we are only permitted to do what is necessary to prevent an incursion from causing damage to the timeline. To hell with it. We've already pretty much been ignoring it, we might as well throw it out of the proverbial window entirely. Your crew is assisting mine with Hobus. It is only fair and honourable that we provide whatever aid we can to you."

Kaiae’s eyes flicked back and forth at their surroundings, normal paranoia for their surroundings reasserting itself along with some semblance of control. “….Let’s continue this conversation elsewhere.”

 

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