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Posted on Thu Nov 4th, 2021 @ 8:08pm by Lieutenant Mila Lynn & Sublieutenant Seira t'Reiza

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Mess Hall, Ourainavassa
Timeline: 238703.07

Mila sighed, as she looked over at her brother and Sari. Ever since they returned from Earth, the two had been inseparable. The plan had been for the twins and Perez to meet in the mess hall for a few drinks. Of course, Perez then had overexerted themselves a little while training in the gym, and decided to call it a night after only an hour, and then Sari had shown up from duty. As happy as she was for her brother, Mila couldn't help but feel a little abandoned.

She shook her head and waved her wine glass at one of the people Renee had drafted in to help her staff the bar - after all, she couldn't always be there herself. "Refill, please." The young Klingon, whom she recognised as one of the technicians down in engineering, nodded. "Of course, coming right up." "Actually," Mila said with a chuckle, "why don't you just bring me a whole bottle. This stuff is good." The Klingon nodded again, and wandered off, reappearing a moment later with a bottle of wine in his hand. "Sorry, Lieutenant, didn't have a full bottle of that same wine. Got something similar, though. Same vineyard, same grape, just a different vintage." "That will do nicely. Put it on my tab."

Mila had just poured herself a glass, when Miles turned his attention back to her. "Sari and I are going to head back to our quarters." The Lieutenant sighed again. "Fine. I'll drink by myself, then. Not as if anyone cares."

Sari tilted her head to the side. "Sorry for stealing your brother. I'll make it up to you, okay?" "Oh, don't worry about it. You guys have fun." Mila shrugged as the two stood and walked out of the mess hall. (More wine for me), she signed to herself, before draining her glass in one and refilling it.

Seira glanced around the area as she entered, by reflex; and found...well. Nothing of note, really. Which was just as well; she was avoiding the base like it had an outbreak of a plague since hearing rumor that the Tal'Shiar had apparently been observing them their last visit there. She had exactly zero desire to ever be within the same space as one of their officers, if she could help it. What she did give a badly-concealed nervous glance from the corner of an eye to was the current bartender. She was...uncertain she wanted to accept a drink provided to her by a Klingon. Spotting Mila and what appeared to be a full bottle of wine, however, an idea popped into the young pilot's head: If the wine had been provided to the human already, it was far less likely the bartender would have poisoned it than anything she might ask for directly for herself.

"....Might I join you?" Seira asked, standing a respectful distance from Mila's table.

Mila looked up at the young Romulan standing next to her, trying to place her. Very young, pretty cute, looking insecure, prosthetic arm, sublieutenant's pips... "Sublieutenant Seira, pilot, youngest Romulan on the ship. Or did I remember my crew manifest completely wrong and you are someone completely different?" She chuckled. "Please, join me. Lieutenant Mila Lynn, joint youngest overall member of the crew, but also chief science officer. By virtue of being the only science office on the ship. But, if it's alright with you, let's drop the formalities. So, I'm Mila." She waved the Klingon over to bring another glass. "This bottle of wine is a bit much for me to drink on my own, anyway. It's good stuff, too. And it's always better to drink in company."

Seira blinked, the nodded and sat. "I am not sure if I am the youngest of all of us, actually." It was probably, but it was possible one or two of the enlisted personnel might be a year or two younger. She briefly wondered how Mila, a science officer, had somehow had access to the entire crew manifest? "I am the youngest of the officers, though." The next oldest of the sublieutenants among the Romulans aboard had at least eight years on her, she knew; probably more. Not for the first time in fact, she wondered why among the various officers and crew approached by Commander Arreinnye or General Dorvaela...Why had the man had chosen to trust in her, a youngster barely past initial training? Meanwhile, she watched very carefully as the Klingon grabbed the second glass and brought it to the table--one could add poison to a glass within sight of the target, but it generally took advance preparation, so. Unlikely. "May I?" Seira gestured at the bottle, and her empty glass, uncertain what the human etiquette with regards to pouring drinks was.

Mila smiled. "Of course, help yourself. It's pretty good stuff. From Earth, city called W├╝rzburg. Well known for its white wines. This here is a 2222 vintage, some superstitious types say that wines from that year are particularly blessed. All I know is that it's good wine." She took another sip. "I am pretty sure you are the youngest Romulan here, after all, I had to go through the entire crew manifest when I calibrated the intruder detection sensors. Of course, I'll have to reconfigure those to also check for temporal and quantum displacement, now that we have time travelling Terrans involved."

Seira poured herself a full glass of the wine, taking a sip and rolling it around in her mouth for a moment. "Interesting." She grinned slightly. "I've never had beverages from Earth before. Do humans also...wish for good fortune, with their drinks?" She raised her glass tentatively, as if to toast but clearly lacking the human term for it.

"We do indeed." Mila raised her glass. "To your good health, and success in our endeavours." She took another sip, before looking at the Sublieutenant with a curious expression. "You know, I was quite surprised to find someone this young on the crew manifest. Especially given Romulan lifespans and all that. How'd you end up with this rag-tag assortment of people?"

"I am not unusually young for a brand new officer." Seira was nervous admitting such a level of detail of her inexperience to anyone, let alone a human; that she was not simply junior and young but literally in her first year post-commissioning; but...if this woman already had such a level of access as to have seen personnel records, it was probably inevitable she would eventually learn at least that much. Her eyebrows waggled slightly in a shrug. "We just usually do not interact with your Federation Starfleet until we are much higher in rank, and therefore age." She was struck by curiosity. "How old do human officers tend to be; at various ranks?"

Mila shrugged. "I'm from one of the independent systems. Cera, where we went for repairs not too long ago. Cadets can attend the CDF Academy from the age 16, with the course lasting three years for enlisted ranks, four for officers. So the youngest commissioned Sub-Lieutenant, which is our equivalent to the Federation's ensigns, will be around 20. Then, at twenty-five months' service, two and a half years in the Ceran decimal calendar, they are automatically promoted to Lieutenant. Same time after that comes automatic promotion to Senior Lieutenant. Which is equivalent to a full lieutenant in Starfleet. After that comes the rank of Captain-Lieutenant, which has a minimum service of five years, but no automatic promotion any more. Then Captains third, second, and first class - Lieutenant Commander, Commander, and Captain, respectively, in Fed ranks - and finally the flag ranks. A Captain third class needs to have at least served one year as a Captain-Lieutenant. After that, no more time requirements."

She took a deep breath and a long sip of her wine. "Hope I didn't confuse you there. The founders of the original colony from Cera came from Eastern Europe on Earth, so they kept the rank system that was in use there at the time, before Earth was unified under one government." She pointed at the rank board on the shoulder of her uniform. "I am technically commissioned as a Lieutenant in the CDF, after some maneuvering by my dad, but my Romulan-style rank on this crew is more akin to that of a Senior Lieutenant, and takes precedent. Main reason my father went to all the trouble was so I could legally wear this uniform."

Seria had chuckled slightly but seemed to track completely Mila's description of the training period and ages for Ceran officers, making a clumsy human style nod: "Our training for an officer actually begins around a similar age often. It simply lasts for rather longer. And our sublieutenants are also roughly equivalent to the Federations ensigns; the most junior of the Galae officers ranks for standard personnel." 'Standard' personnel: Even Romulans had only general ideas sometimes of how the Tal'Shiar did things...Which was exactly how the organization preferred it be. Seira's left eyebrow crept up significantly though at the description of the promotion times and process for Ceran officers, especially the first part. "But I will not even be considered for advancement to lieutenant, almost certainly, for at least ten more of your years; and it would generally be at least twenty of them after that until a lieutenant becomes a centurion."

With her words, to anyone who could parse the information as a whole, Seira had in a sense inadvertently revealed and explained a typical hidden strength of the Romulan forces: Among the officer ranks at least, generally begin young, train long and hard, then serve a very long time indeed by human standards if you made it a career; generally possessing double or more the experience that a Federation officer of equivalent rank might have. That strength, of course, was on its flipside also a weakness: It was harder and took longer to replace personnel with those of equivalent skill and experience as you were used to being able to call upon, when it took so long to bring them to that point; and if you had spent millennia depending on such in your actions and strategies, it was destabilizing and difficult to work as effectively without.

It was an issue that a variety of Federation intelligence personnel, unknown to Seira, had begun to flag years ago; not only for what the war against the Dominion had wrought, but losses in the internal fighting (no matter how carefully they had tried to conceal it) during Shinzon's aborted coup. And it had not simply been a loss of experienced Galae officers and commanders they had opined on the effects of, but of others as well: The entire Senate had turned over at once, making it suddenly nothing but newly risen heirs and replacements. While the body was practically known by reputation galaxy wide as somewhere where the term "political knife fight" might involve actual knives (or poison), it generally occurred on a one-on-one or 'small conspiracy of political allies' level, leaving knowledge and stability still overall. And the incident had in some cases deprived the Empire of other sets of key stabilizing forces as well: Members of great houses who had been targeted for elimination, for opposition of the brief regime after the murder of their relative in the Senate. Chiefs of staff and aides who had died alongside their patrons and employers. Many of the staff sworn to the Senate itself as a whole even; which had left certain gaps even in knowledge of protocol, and led to much digging through the archives, later. Civilian government personnel who had died in the fighting in the capitol.

More than one such Federation analyst had actually proposed the Empire might well be on borrowed time from such a storm of confluences before the nova was known even; though what they had envisioned was merely the death of the system of government, not the destruction of billions of its citizens and a variety of its core worlds as was now projected. These events and state of affairs had undoubtedly left them unable to respond well when that threat came, though. For her part, after her response to Mila, Seira took another sip of wine, blissfully unaware of the way the death of her Empire and her people's way of life had been predicted in some circles for several years now even before this.

Mila nodded. "It makes sense. After all, a human continuing to serve in the military in an active role once they reach, say, their seventies, is pretty rare, whereas that is a very young age in Romulan terms. After all, you live a lot longer than we do. If we followed your promotion time scale, people would reach the rank of Captain just in time to retire." She picked up her glass, just to find that it was empty, and, with a giggle, refilled it. "Anyway, enough serious talk. I have to deal with enough of that on duty, and I need to unwind a little or I won't be able to get anything done tomorrow. Want to see something cool?"

"Sure." Seira covered with the response for her surprise at having it stated outright to her just how short a time humans lived in comparison and how it played out: It was easier to forget sometimes, at her age; the non-linear vulcanoid aging curve meaning she wasn't that far off the maturity level for a human her own age...But from here on out it would diverge significantly: Her sister Miana was 70, the age Mila quoted as fairly typical for retirement for her own kind...But Miana was a centurion in the prime of life with a young child, not a senior officer signing retirement papers as if she were 100 years older than that.

With a smirk, the young scientist took out a PADD, and entered a command. A moment later, the subdued music in the mess hall had been replaced with some more current, up-beat pop music. "Hacked the audio system. The music in here is so boring sometimes."

"It is...unusual...that it plays such at all." Seira tilted her head to the side ever so slightly. "Do Federation ships - or Ceran ones - generally do so?"

Mila shrugged. "Wouldn't know, haven't been on any Starfleet ships, and only on civilian Ceran vessels."

"I...haven't been on that many warbirds, either." Seira's cheeks flushed ever so slightly greener at the admission, for all that it could probably have been guessed even by a blindfolded Pakled. "Aren't you afraid the chef will get mad at you for changing it?" 'Not making the person making your food angry' was possibly one of those things just taken for granted as a rule to the point of not even being often articulated--an angry, threatened, or otherwise displeased chef could threaten you in turn after all, in a variety of unpleasant and often entirely untraceable ways.

"She's not here, is she? And anyway, she knows. And doesn't mind. So, you're fresh out of training, then?"

"I was commissioned..." Seira tried to do quick math in her head to convert to human time concepts, and hoped she had gotten it right. "...About one of your years ago." This time, she reached for the wine glass with her artificial right arm, not her left; unlike most humans, she hadn't bothered to get it altered to try and conceal that fact; the fingers that closed around the glass were silvery-white and entirely lacking in nail beds, though it was clear at a glance that some type of synthetic skin or polymer sheath that covered the internal mechanisms, providing a sound grip on objects. Useful for a pilot, Seira had been born ambidextrous, a trait she wanted to retain even now; the medical advice given to maximize the function of the prosthetic had included using it as much as possible; a glass of wine was no throwing knife or ship's controls to require speed or aim, but it presented a different sort of challenge; the glass was fragile, requiring a delicate touch lest one apply too much pressure and end up breaking it. "I served in the fleet under General Dorvaela, and came aboard with Centurion Gable and Lieutenant Kaol, and a few others, when we survived the attack on it."

Mila glanced at the prosthetic. "I see. Many people paid a high price for that, as did you I see. You know, my father designs artificial limbs. If you experience any problems with the one you have, I am sure I could help you."

"We got this one one Drozana, so I'm sure some Ferengi charged far too much for it." Seira grinned; unlike many humans she seemed fairly at ease with discussing the device, and the injuries that led to it. "It works well enough. I'm told it will continue to improve for a year or two as the neural connections solidify and the software package adapts." The fingers twitched as she set the wine glass back down after another sip as her face fell into a more neutral expression. "It does feel...different, though. Sensations that are a twisted echo of the way they were before." This part seemed to frustrate her, but she shrugged her eyebrows again, dismissing the inevitable and unavoidable as something that simply would have to be borne. "I heard you have enhanced hearing--that you can adjust it to be far better than what your species normally has, and could even hear across the room if you wished to?" The grin was back. "That is something many of us would pay quite handsomely for...if there was a way to conceal it from discovery."

"Believe me, it's not nearly as great as you make it seem." Mila laughed. "Sure, I could tell you what those two guys all the way on the other side of the mess hall are talking about, but if I do it too long, it gives me one hell of a headache. It's nice that I can switch my hearing off completely, though. Helps me concentrate. And sleep."

Seira seemed entirely unmoved by the warning about a headache from extended use, no doubt considering it an insignificant price for the advantage. Her face flicked a brief expression of subtle horror at this last part though: Turn your hearing off completely? You would be blinded, in a way; deprived of a valuable source of information and warning; vulnerable before any who might choose to strike you.

Mila hesitated for a moment, and then touched the control panel behind her ear, amplifying her hearing and listening in to the two men she had mentioned - two humans from Raven's old crew that worked in operations. After a moment, she giggled, and turned her hearing back to normal. "Interesting. They're speculating about what different species are like in bed."

"They could probably answer their own questions on the station research...if they wished." Seira's glass was now empty, she took the bottle and poured herself another. "I was considering getting some engravings done there--" She held up the silvery-white arm and grinned again, before it faded once more to an angry but cautious scowl with her next words. "--but apparently the last time we docked here, the Tal'Shiar had agents here watching us aboard."

"Very true, but I doubt they'd be willing to spend the latinum." Mila chuckled. "I don't know anything about any Tal Shiar, but..." She took the metal tray that the Klingon had brought drinks on earlier, and placed it in front of her on the table. Then, she took a small instrument out of her pocket, and activated it, releasing a small, weak energy beam. After a few moments, she had engraved a cartoon-style drawing of Raven's pet Eavy into the plate. "Something like this what you're looking for?"

"Yes. Though...Rather different in subject." Eavy was cute; but she hardly wished to spend her life with her displayed on her body. Seira fished a hand inside her tunic into a hidden pocket, pulling out a piece of actual paper, something perhaps easier to find aboard a warbird than many Federation vessels due to the desire for a completely unhackable method of recording certain information, and unfolding it on the table. Over the paper, stylized designs and interlocking swirls and symbols were drawn. "Something more like this."

Mila nodded and flipped the tray over, before trying to imitate some of the lines on the paper. "I think I can do these. I mean, if it were skin, I'd use a tattoo gun, I learned how to do it when we were on some backwater pirate colony for a few months." She chuckled. "My brother was joking around for ages that I should put a tattoo on him some time. Joke's on him, though, one night, he was passed out drunk, and I drew a rather rude motif on his hand. And then hid the dermal regenerator."

"That is brilliant." Seira laughed. "I was the youngest. I am sure my sister and my brothers pulled such sorts of stunts on one another in their younger years, though." Significantly the youngest, really, with 50 years separating her from the eldest; conceived unexpectedly to parents at the time early in their second century and approaching the usual outer limits of natural unassisted fertility; a human might have termed Seira a "menopause baby", though the term would have failed in several aspects to carry over to vulcanoid biology. Seira's head cocked sideways again. "...I have not noted such a feature during our overlap on the bridge, so I assume he eventually succeeded in its removal?"

"Oh, yeah", Mila answered with a chuckle. "After about a week of him being miserable about always having to wear gloves, I decided he had suffered enough and gave him the dermo. And then put a tattoo on him that he actually wanted. Not that he would ever tell anyone, and Sari is the only person at the moment who gets to see it."

One petite eyebrow went up a bit once more at the last admission. She had noted the association between the pair--it would have been hard not to, they were not at all discreet--but still found it rather baffling that anyone would choose to engage in such with an Orion--they were not exactly known for monogamy or long term commitment. "Is it just the two of you, then?" It was a relatively small number of offspring for a bonded pair; not unheard of by any means or even close to such, but certainly not one of the more common numbers.

Mila cocked her head. "What do you mean, just the two of us? If you mean are we our parents' only children, the answer is yes."

"That, yes. That you do not have or did not have other siblings as well." Seira took a rather longer sip of the wine, considering how to put her surprise into words. "It is...a risk, to have only a single child, or even to have just a pair. It is not rare, but neither is it the most common, and many might not think it wise." From political misadventure or run ins with the Tal'Shiar, to war and combat, not to mention a serious duel or challenge or simply an accident, there were enough ways for one's offspring to die in the Empire without yet having had children of their own; and that was even discounting the few who failed to even reach adulthood at all after dying during their survival test as a 7 year old child. Apparently it would seem humans either had a greater arrogance that they assumed their children would all live, or perhaps their children were more likely to? Seira would have to look into the issue further later.

"In your culture, maybe. Not so among humans. Besides, after Miles and I were born..." Mila sighed. "It's a very complicated story. Let's leave it at that. You have family wanting to get out on the Subcommander's scheme, then?"

"I...No." This last word had a bit of an almost sheepish quality to it. "I was approached for the effort overall by General Dorvaela while I served under his flag; and perhaps did...Not fully consider all the implications...Before pledging myself to the cause." The next sip of wine Seira took was the longest yet, and also perhaps more properly termed a 'gulp', the sort one might take to cover the time needed to gather the courage for their next statement. "I am uncertain as to how they will feel about my actions. Though yes, I aim to extract them regardless." Her biggest fear - that they might simply refuse to leave - she judged extremely unlikely, the more she had learned secondhand lately about the continued deterioration of conditions on the homeworld. Deep inside, however, she was still terrified of the possibility that she might save them only to wind up disowned for the actions she had taken to do so, and the way she had done so without sanction, once they finally stood face to face. Again she felt it unlikely, but it was not impossible, or even next to such. She had made reckless choices (though appropriate to her age) in answering Dorvaela mere moments after his query to her; she could have damned them all if things had gone wrong. At this very moment even, she was certain, various of her fellow officers and crewmates kin of those whose names had been on that list published the other day were undoubtedly answering unpleasant questions from the Tal'Shiar; or looking nervously over their shoulders after their release from such. In that sense, how close she had come to death on the Sianna, and the ship's presumed destruction with the rest of Dorvaela's fleet, might well in fact have saved her family much trouble.

Mila put a reassuring hand on Seira's fake one. "Have you spoken to them? About trying to get them out? Or the Subcommander? You did the right thing, Seira. They might not see it now, but, give it some time. If you convince them, no, when you do, and you get them out, they will survive. And they will owe that to you."

Seira flinched at the rather unexpected move, and drew her arm back and away, grabbing for the wine again as a cover move. Humans did the strangest things, it appeared. "I have provided their names and information, yes; and they have been in contact with those coordinating." The fact that all of that had occurred, and no one had been turned over or arrested, was as good a sign as any that her family was, in fact, eager to leave. "I cannot speak directly to them without making them targets for the authorities. It would be quite unusual to receive a call from the dead." Not to mention that she could not speak directly to them on such topics, period, nor could even those organizing such plans, without a variety of intermediary parties who could make or receive calls capable of escaping routine monitoring, or have other ways of passing messages to get around such.

"Well, they may think you are dead, but you look pretty alive to me. You know, Miles asked me if I wanted to go to this nightclub on Drozana with him and Sari tomorrow. I asked Perez, but they're not a fan of those places, said loud music stresses them out. You want to come?"

The eyebrow was rising again. "...If it is 'loud' for Perez, I probably want no part of it." Seira caressed the tip of one ear with a single finger on her natural hand by way of reminder. "I would not, however. be adverse to meeting here for drinks again at some point."

"I mean, in all fairness, it's probably more the crowds that bother them, rather than the noise. But okay, if you're not up for it." Mila shrugged. "So what kind of stuff do you do for fun, then?"

"Probably similar things to your brother, for the most part I'd think." The grin was back on Seira's face, and this time in such a fashion that one could have looked at it across many species and seen similar qualities, followed shortly thereafter by facepalming and muttering 'pilots'. "I like to hang glide and orbital skydive, race hoverbikes, and fly anything fast and agile." The grin widened at this last. "Though I also like acrobatics and silk painting. My grandfather taught me that last one when I was a kid. And you?"

"Oh dear," Mila replied, laughing. "Sari better watch her back. You sound exactly like the kind of girl my brother normally goes for. As for me, I am much less of an adrenaline junkie than you two. I read, watch old vids, play the occasional game, that kind of thing. I'm definitely the nerd in the family."

Seira wasn't entirely certain what a 'nerd' was - the term wasn't coming across well or directly in the translation program - but any attempts she might have made to clarify the issue were interrupted by noting the time, and flushing in embarrassment slightly at having lost track of it to that degree...Or, for that matter, of exactly how much of the bottle of wine she had now managed to consume. Thankfully Earth wines appeared to be a good deal less potent than those she was used to, or she might "Ah. Apologies for the abrupt departure, but I have scheduled time in the holoemitter room for combat practice." She considered asking if the science officer would like to join her, but decided against it; the wine Mila had consumed was likely a greater amount for her species as it hailed from her own kind; and only a fool would fight impaired unless they had no choice. "Thank you for sharing the wine."

Mila smiled and gestured at the empty bottle. "Thank you for helping me empty it. And for your company. Let me know if you ever want me to do that engraving work."


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