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Second Meetings

Posted on Wed Nov 17th, 2021 @ 10:19pm by Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Serana Zhaan

Mission: The Place of Skulls
Location: Operations Chief's Office; Senior Crew Quarters, Deck 4
Timeline: Mission Day 24 at 2000

Her office was sterile and unwelcoming when viewed from a Rumari's sensibilities. Like all her people, she collected things memories and bits of history. She didn't know anyone on the home ship who even understood the concept of minimalism; bare shelves and cabinets were just places begging to be filled. A Federation facility, a Starfleet vessel, always stripped offices and quarters of their individuality, in preparation for a new occupant; standard practice, one she had participated in more than once. Still, then as now, she felt the emptiness, the lack of warmth. On the old ship, she would always leave a welcome gift, a small basket with items tailored to individual tastes, and that too, was a Rumari thing.

The office was vacant. Without a soul. So be it. She would make it her own. Sighing softly, she dropped her carryon on the floor beside her, sat down at her desk and drew her knees up to her chest. An hour passed, the work familiar and yet different, and she found herself looking up, expecting to see Barile leaning against the open door, because hers was never closed, with a cup of tea and one of his endless supply of truly terrible jokes or T'Sen bringing a mistake to her attention and staying to discuss some cultural idiosyncrasy that she had discovered. People, as much as possessions, turned an empty place into a home.

Emni approached the Chief Operations officer's office with care, taking time to lower her defenses. She had been aware, although with only a limited amount of understanding, that the woman she was about to speak with had not gotten as much time on arrival as would have been appropriate and she hoped that she could rectify that. A quick comm later and she had agreed that dropping by her new office would be agreeable.

A small box was cradled in her hand, a gesture. She had been reading about the Rumari and hoped that she had gotten the idea right.

Although Serana's door was open, Emni still knocked, stopping at the open door and wrapping lightly on the inside wall with her knuckles.

"May I come in?" she asked warmly.

"Of course," Serana said as she straightened and stood. She didn't know the faces as yet, that took time, and so, erred on the side of caution. Command red, she thought. Should have done some sort of search. "How can I help?"

Emni smiled disarmingly. "Please, sit," she said quickly. "I wanted to stop in and make sure you were getting settled. We didn't really get a chance to speak properly in the shuttle bay."

She waited for the other woman to sit before settling into a chair in front of her desk. "I understand that the Rumari are collectors of a sort. I thought perhaps you might need something to start your collection here."

The Romulan woman slid the small box she had been holding onto Serana's desk. It was a wooden frame encasing a second wooden box with panels that could be moved. Romulan characters were inset into square blocks along the top. "It's a tan zhekran," Emni explained. "A puzzle box from my home world." Her hand left the box, returning to her lap. "Once you've moved all of the panels into place it opens to reveal a surprise."

Serana picked up the box, running her hands lightly across the Romulan characters, as a memory, one that had long puzzled her, returned. "They were not kind to the people," she said, "and Xentai was old. I look through his eyes, down at his gnarled hands, dirty and shaking with tremors, and I see a box much like this one. He ... we ... look up and there is man in front of us. Romulan. 'Hanaj-ir-Korthre,' the man says as he taps his hand against his chest. We tremble, our whole body shakes, the way it did that last winter when the fires burned low. We are old but we do not wish to die. Hanaj switches to the language of the people. Its halting and incorrect but we understand his meaning. 'We are not all,' Hanaj says, 'the same.' Xentai's eyes fill with tears but we see a kindness we had not expected."

Serana shook off the memory and cocked her head to one side, curiosity and pleasure reflected in a sudden burst of vivid blue within the depths of her gaze, as she smiled. "Thank you," she said. "I always wondered what the box was. I was will treasure this doubly. As a gift from you and because of the tie to an old memory."

Emni listened quietly as the woman spoke, a picture of the scene painted in her mind from the way that Serana described the memory. The Rumari woman's emotional landscape was neutral, painted in gray scale the way a dense fog mutes the color of a scene before the shared memory cleared and a brilliant shock of blue cut through the gray like sunlight through dense clouds.

Emni offered another warm smile to the new Ops Chief, surprising herself with her appreciation of Serana's reaction. "Thank you for sharing the memory with me," she said. "I am glad to know that the Rumari encountered someone with fewer of our negative traits along the way." She didn't know Hanaj, but she did know that her race was not known for leading with kindness upon a first meeting. The thought that perhaps there were memories of her people that did not portray them as paranoid and cruel warmed her.

"I wanted to apologize for the... unusual... nature of our greeting in the shuttle bay. I'm sure, by now, that you have a rough idea of Mr. Karim's demeanor. Our history is complicated and I confess I was distracted." She pointed to her collar here where the command cranberry could be seen. "I'm more comfortable in white than red. The XO duties are a bit new to me still. I hope you can forgive the distraction in that moment. I assure you it wasn't any reflection on my eagerness to meet you."

"The Commander wields his thoughts like weapons with little regard for the truth," Serana said and then shrugged. "I do not take offense. I have lived on crowded ships all my life. There are always moments when its best to disappear and I surmised that that was one of them. I do thank you for coming; you save me the necessity of sleeping in here tonight ... I hope."

Emni chuckled, "I see Commander Karim has been regaling you with his particular brand of wit." Her glance went to her lap where her fingers were laced, a small small on her features before she returned her gaze to the Rumari across from her. "I do have your room assignment. If you're ready I'm glad to walk you there."

She let the matter of the Commander drop rather than say something that might gave offense. She did not excel in such prevarications but this was a new ship and she knew she must feel her way. The vivid blues retreated, threaded through and then replaced by gray, as she rose to her feet and shouldered her carryon. "I would welcome that," she said. "Who will I be sharing with?"

Emni stood as Serana did, noting the change in the tone of her eyes as she spoke, a shift back to the grey tone neutrality in her emotional landscape accompanying the change. "Lieutenant Miriam Lal," she said, indicating the door so that Serana could leave the office ahead of her. "She's our Head Nurse in Sickbay."

Serana exited her office and then stepped to one side to wait. Hard to strike off in a particular direction when one didn't know where they were going. She filed the information away for future reference. As a Rumari, there were ways to create a sense of privacy even in a crowded room and she, having grown up on one of the smaller home ships, knew them all.

The willowy Romulan followed the Rumari out of her new office, stepping ahead to lead the way. She directed their steps toward the lift, walking quietly with the other woman for a moment. When they reached the lift, she stepped inside, waiting until Serana had joined her and the doors had swished closed to advise the lift to take them to Deck Four.

Emni glanced at Serana, taking a moment to connect her physical presence with the emotional fingerprint that she was still becoming familiar with. "Is there anything I can do to assist you with settling in here?" she asked.

"No, Ma'am," Serana said at once. She looked at the older woman, studying her for a moment, and then said, "Its not typical, you know. First Officer and all."

The Romulan considered that a moment, watching Serana from the corner of her eye as she did. The turbolift came to a halt depositing them on Deck 4 where Emni turned to the left, leading the other woman along the corridor. "It is, perhaps, not typical," she finally said, "but it is true to me as a person. The offer stands and is genuine regardless of position. It matters to me if our officers, particularly those that report to me directly, are comfortable, and I believe in leading by example. Besides... I'm not sure that I could ever truly leave behind the doctor part of myself. I was the CMO here before taking on the Acting XO role."

She nodded thoughtfully and made the choice, in that moment, to begin her time on this ship being true to herself and her nature. "My Sovda, what you would call ... ummm ... grandmother? ... was a healer, of sorts," she said with a slight shrug. "Drugs are not always easily obtainable and so, my people rely on more traditional forms of medicine. Every child is taught how to spot useful plants and every ship has a medicinal greenhouse. The first words out of her mouth were nearly always," she hunched over slightly, her voice dropping to a husky quaver reminiscent of her grandmother as she peered at the XO, "you feeling a'right?"

Emni chuckled warmly at Serana's impersonation. "I suspect I would get along with your Sovda. There are many different ways to heal and most of them don't fall into the category of traditional forms of medicine. I've known a good meal with a familiar friend to be as healing for some as a hypospray. The Rumari are smart to consider the options available to them and to cultivate that knowledge in their children."

They reached a t-junction and she paused, directing them down the righthand corridor. "My hru’nanov... the Rihannsu term for grandmother... was what I have heard some humans refer to as a battle axe. She was a force to be reckoned with. Her standard greeting was," here Emni straightened her shoulders, chin up, the imperious disdainful air of a Romulan gracing her features, "You look thin. Have you been eating?"

"I do not know this ... battle axe ," Serana said, a hint of a smile graced her features as the color of her gaze shifted, the gray replaced, moment to moment, by threads of yellow and blue. "But I do recognize the expression from an instructor at the Academy. Politics of the Prime Directive. He had that same look every day."

At this Emni laughed outright. "Kuranov?" she asked, "I remember him well. He does do an excellent impression of a Romulan praetor."

She drew them to a halt then before a non-descript door--one of many that dotted the corridor. "Computer," Emni said, seeming to address the door, "Recognize and set lock for Zhaan-Tango-5-Rho. Assign to Senior Crew Quarters Deck 4, Room 12."

The computer chirped back it's confirmation and, a moment later, the door swished open--the telltale sound of hydraulics giving way to a small sitting area.

"Welcome home," Emni said with a smile and a flourish of her hand to the door.

"Thank you," Serana said as she stepped into the common area and placed the puzzle box on the coffee table. As she turned back toward Emni, the color of her gaze had once again shifted back to the more neutral gray. Her smile was warm however. "I appreciate both the gift and the conversation."

Emni inclined her head to the Rumari woman. "I am glad and I look forward to more conversation in the future." She glanced around the slightly spartan space of the common room and then back to Serana, a matching warmth in her smile. "I'll leave you to it then," she remarked and then, with another slight inclination of her head, she excused herself, the doors whooshing shut between them.

=/\= A Joint Post By =/\=

Lieutenant Emni t'Nai
Acting Executive Officer

Lieutenant Serana Zhaan
Chief Operations Officer


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