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Cmdr Tomar & Ens McKenzie - "I said do you speak-a my language?"

Posted on 2018-03-08 18:30 by Commander Alleira Tomar DSc.Dn & Ensign Liam McKenzie Ph.D.

Mission: Planet of the Sequined Love Nun
Location: XO's Office

Liam turned off his fifth training video of the day, simply unable to absorb any more information. He rubbed his face with his hands and wondered if his onboarding would ever end. He needed to go for a walk.

Still very new to the ship, Liam didn't even know where to go - so he wandered. Before long, by chance he passed the office of Commander Tomar, the Cardassian First Officer. Cardassian was a language that he actively maintained fluency in through daily exercises, but it would be much better to actually talk to a native speaker. Perhaps he should try to strike up a conversation? while they had met briefly when he first came on-board, it felt like a good time to connect again.

Liam straightened his duty uniform and pressed the call button outside her office.

"Come." Alleira's voice played through a hidden speaker somewhere around the door chime.

Liam stepped through the open door with a pleasant expression on his face, taking a few confident steps to her desk.

"Commander," be began before giving her a respectful nod and standing at attention. He didn't know if she preferred a more formal greeting, but until he was sure he decided to play it safe. "Pardon the interruption. If you weren't too busy, I was wondering if I could speak to you for a few minutes."

"At ease, Ensign, Of course you may!" The Cardassian gestured towards the seats that occupied the space in front of her desk with polite cordiality. "What can I do for you?"

The XO's office was adjascent to her quarters, the two doors -appropriately labelled- were only a few feet apart in the corridor outside. Originally a space intended to be a standard crew accomodation, a door had been placed on the bulkhead to the left behind the desk that led through to the XO's living space. On a ship as small as Emperor only the captain and her number one had their own quarters, the rest of the crew shared with one other. The room's roots were obvious, The space felt familiar to anyone who had spent time in a Defiant Class, but as there were amenities such as a bathroom and replicator in the quarters adjascent these had not been installed in the office as well. Where the bathroom would have been to the rear of the room was storage space, some cupboards, closed off with doors, but mostly open shelves, sparsely populated with a few personal items. The desk, an L shape which ran from the shelves behind and then jutted out from the right wall was standard Starfleet issue, although the large-screen Computer terminal that sat on the front corner by the wall was obviously new. A large comfortable chair in which the XO sat was bolted in place behind, typically for a warship, and two smaller chairs were placed in front for guests. On the wall to the right opposite the door leading through to her quarters Commander Tomar had placed some printed items on the wall, the ship's entire crew in hierarchical format, some engineering schematics and various other aides memoire. The room was impeccably tidy and lit in a cosy and welcoming manner.

Less welcoming was the heat, the Life support system was maintaining an increase of a couple of degrees Celsius from the ship's normal that was noticeable as soon as one entered.

Liam nodded and took the offered seat, happy to have a warm reception. The temperature in the room was a bit warmer than usual, but it was probably still cooler than she preferred as a Cardassian. At least the office was well-lit and not overly humid!

"Commander everything is going well so far, I am almost through my onboarding training and am settling in. There are two things I wanted to ask you about. First, I was wondering see if there was anything I could be doing around the ship to help that I'm not at present. Secondly, I was wondering if you would be open to having our meeting in Cardassian." His tone was professional and sincere as he explained. "If you are comfortable with that, it is helpful to me, personally, to talk to native speakers from time to time."

The Commander looked at Liam pointedly for a moment before accessing the computer terminal and pressing a few buttons. The next words she spoke were spoken and heard in Cardassian, as she has disabled the universal translator inside the office.

"You're welcome to find me whenever you require such practice," she said cordially, looking up from the terminal, "but I should confess, I do not consider myself a native. I learned Cardassian in my late teens and have not been inside Cardassian space since I was a few weeks old."

She stretched out a grey hand and turned the silver and glass-edged photo frame on her desk to face him. Inside was a photograph of a rather younger-looking Alleira standing between a Denobulan couple.

"My parents."

Liam nodded as she explained a bit about her background, and how she wasn’t the native speaker he anticipated. Either way, the young man was undeterred. He blinked as he mentally changed gears to think in Cardassian.

“I understand,” he said in the tongue, listening to himself carefully before making an adjustment. Clearing his throat, he then lifted his neck slightly before continuing. “The resonance and timber of proper Cardassian is hard for humans – our necks are more squat by comparison,” he explained. “It takes us some physical coaching to get even in the right neighborhood. I won’t pass as a Cardassian without hologear, but I try hard to sound like one,” he added with a smile, referring to the obvious physical differences between the two species.

“Even though you learned the language later, too,” he went on, “this is still extremely helpful for me. If it isn’t too much trouble, let’s talk about complex ideas. I don’t mean to pry, of course, and stop me anytime if I get too personal of course. Difficult conversations are the most helpful.”

With that qualification behind him, Liam then looked over the image again. “Judging from the photo, it looks like you were well taken care of. May I ask what led you there?”

"My parents. Alleira replied simply. "My biological parents." She added after a moment.

Alleira didn't mind recounting the story. It came up regularly in her Starfleet career, how a Cardassian came to be a Federation citizen and serving in Starfleet.

"Veyna and Xoban..." -she indicated to the holo and turned the frame back around- "told me that my parents feared for their lives after the end of the Dominion war. They were scientists and not researching anything the Cardassian government approved of. In the chaos and rhetoric fuelled wound-licking that immediately followed the war they were worried not only for their lives but also for mine. So a rendezvous was arranged with Veyna and Xoban, Life long friends of theirs, so I could be passed over and given a better life. The Cardassian government of course found out thanks to the paranoid workings of the Obsidian Order and they were executed for treason."

She paused. Thinking about her biological parents was something the scientist had trained herself not to do. It only brought pain, and they were never coming back. She would never know them, so why dwell on the subject? Alleira realised that her waist-length ponytail had been pulled over her left shoulder and she was idly platting it, something she often did when thinking.

"I was well taken care of. Veyna and Xoban Love me as their own, and fortunately for me Cardassians and Denobulans share a few physical similarities, the ridges on our brows, cheeks and foreheads, and on our chins. I was about as well accepted as I think I could have been anywhere in The Federation at that time. But of course the stigma of the war does follow me, even now."

Again she paused, her eyes moving from the left wall of the office at which she had been staring whilst considering her words back to Liam.

"Difficult enough?" She asked. Her Cardassian wasn't perfect, but it wasn't at all far off. A native would detect a small accent, one acquired from speaking other languages a lot. It wasn't dissimilar from that acquired by some Cardassians during the Bajoran occupation, although at the time Alleira didn't know it.

Liam nodded politely as she told the harrowing story of her childhood. He sensed that she probably had to tell this story often, and that it never really became any easier. He leaned forward, his hazel eyes revealing a sincere expression of empathy as he focused on what his XO had to say.

As she continued he wondered if he should have known better than to ask about her adopted parents on their first meeting. Nevertheless, here they were – having a very serious moment. Liam hoped that his sincerity would make this meeting an overall positive experience for them both.

“Thank you for sharing that with me, I’m sure it was very difficult to tell," he continued in his convincing dialect. "I hope I didn’t pry. My childhood was a bit easier, by comparison. He attempted to joke in Cardassian, playing off of a word that meant both ‘boring’ and ‘sleep inducing’, "Frankly it was a bit dull.”

He allowed a friendly, supportive smile to creep across his features as he continued. “I didn’t experience a loss like that until just recently, when some shipmates were killed by a Ralaaram Ocala cell on Alpha Onias II.” His smile faded as his eyes darted away. “Sometimes I wonder…” he said with his voice trailing off. “I wonder why – as sentient creatures who know better - we can’t seem to get out of our own way. It’s not that we can’t learn to get along; it’s almost that we don’t want to.”

The XO chuckled at the word play and nodded her agreement with Liam's final statement.

"It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that sentient life forms will go to to be unpleasant to one another. Perhaps why I choose a career working with machines, at least at the beginning, I had my fill of unpleasantness very early on. A machine can work or fail but it won't call you a spoonhead, at least, not unless you program it to."

She shifted in her chair briefly.

"I prefer to tell the real story than allow myself to become the subject of rumours." She explained, addressing his previous thanks. "It doesn't upset me to think about it, I didn't know my biological parents, I was only a few weeks old. Not like your shipmates. What happened? If you are comfortable speaking about it?"

Liam thought about the question for a long moment before responding.

“I don’t know if I will ever be completely comfortable talking about it,” Liam admitted, “but they tell me it is important to anyway,” he added with a faint smile. He wasn’t used to talking about these sorts of things in Standard, let alone Cardassian. Still, he had opened the door to this conversation by asking about a complex, personal subject. Liam sighed lightly and leaned back in his chair, running one hand through his mostly untamed hair as he began.

“When I was on the Pääbo, we were visiting the M-class moon around Alpha Onias II. I was helping to set up a monitoring station. We didn’t know Ralaaram Ocala had an advance base hidden there.”

He had to gather his thoughts for a moment before continuing.

“We were ambushed in person, they had heavy weapons – and we didn’t. By the time a security team was down to help, four of our crew had been… lost. I was struck with a bladed weapon and nearly perished, but the Pääbo’s medical team managed to patch me up.”

Liam tapped his fingertips together and looked down as he continued. His Cardassian was about as good as a human could get, though his sense of regret was perhaps more profound than the language could easily convey. As such Liam found himself looking around the room as he searched for the proper wording.

“I feel like I should have been better prepared; that I could have been of more help. Frankly the people we lost were some of the best we had. Sometimes I wonder if they more deserved to… well…,” he said, his voice trailing off. In lieu of finishing that sentence, Liam instead closed his eyes and shook his head. Internally he began to emotionally shut down. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be bothering you with this, Commander. I’ve wasted enough of your time,” he added in a resigned tone, standing up.

"On the contrary, Doctor McKenzie, The welfare of the crew of the ship is my primary concern and responsibility." Alleira quickly and authoritatively put down his previous assertion. She leaned forward in her chair, looking up at the now standing Scotsman. "There is no stigma to suffering after difficult or traumatic actions performed in the line of duty, however should you or I allow that suffering to affect your day to day we would both be negligent in our duties. I do not wish to be negligent in my first posting aboard a starship. Do you?"

Maybe it was just an illusion, brought about by the tone of authority, the grey skin, the large, grey eyes nested beneath a bony ridge, The wide, prominent neck scales that sank into her uniform, especially possible considering the pure unenhanced language they were speaking, but there was something about her tone that was so Cardassian, almost like a member of the Order were present. It was sinister, seductive, scheming, just for a moment.

Liam stopped in his tracks when Commander Tomar asserted that it was her job to know what made the crew tick. The subtle intensity of her expression and tone of voice wasn’t lost on him. He realized that he was hearing Cardssian spoken as authentically as he had ever heard, and he absorbed every nuance as only trained linguist could.

“No, Commander,” he answered sincerely in Cardassian after a brief pause. “I never want to let you or anyone else on this ship down. On the contrary – I want to be the best intelligence officer my specialty has ever known,” he added, taking a step back towards her desk. “That is the truth. And it’s not because I have something to prove; it’s because I have something to earn. If I am the one to survive, then I need to make their sacrifice worthwhile. And that is what I am going to do,” he added in no uncertain terms, mirroring the subtle intensity he had just heard in her voice a moment before.

“Thank you commander,” he went on to say, glancing down at the floor for a moment. “This conversation has been… more than helpful. It’s been… essential.”

Alleira held up a finger, to halt his exit for a moment, pointing it at him a few times as she made her next point.

"One further point before you go: I spent many years wondering what may have been if my biological parents hadn't given me up. It was that trip, that encounter with Federation citizens that sealed an otherwise uncertain fate. When I found that out I blamed myself for a while. But then I realised it was their choice to make. They must have known that could happen and they chose to make sure I lived. Your colleagues; perhaps you could have done more to help, perhaps things could have been different, yet to be in that situation in the first place was their decision. You said yourself they were some of the best. They knew what they were doing, they knew the risks and it was their decision to make. Don't dwell on it. Don't let it affect your present and your future here. I guarantee they would not wish you to."

The wideness of her eyes didn't reduce the impression that she was a little intense and sinister at times. But then Doctor Tomar gave Liam a reassuring smile. It was a pretty smile that few on the crew had seen thus far and somewhat changed her appearance. The Obsidian Overtones dropped away and she seemed a kind and supportive starfleet officer again.

Liam was genuinely impressed by the wisdom and presence of mind of the First Officer, and it showed in his voice.

"I'm glad I came here today." he said, turning to face her properly. "I am going to do everything I can to follow that advice. Thank you, Commander. Sincerely." With that, Liam also produced a friendly smile in return. It wasn't an expression borne out of politeness, but rather one of respect and an unexpected bonding - the kind that only can come from mutual pain.

"Good day, and thank you," he added, this time in Standard, with a faint smile.

"Dismissed." Alleira nodded in return and watched him until he had moved beyond the scope of the office door.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Commander Alleira Tomar
Executive Officer
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Liam ‘Mac’ McKenzie
Linguist & Cultural Specialist
USS Joshua Norton


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