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Powers of Observation

Posted on Sun May 22nd, 2022 @ 12:33am by Chief Helmsman Kalahaeia t'Leiya & Oliver Lucas

Mission: Adrift
Location: Cargo Bay
Timeline: MD-02: 1230hrs
2876 words - 5.8 OF Standard Post Measure

Lunchtime - at least that was what people had decided it was - usually generated the busier and noiser time of the day. Probably even more emphasised by the larger group of people all clamouring round for whatever supplies had been prepared for them on that occasion.

Having kept himself busy with the medical team, Oliver hadn't really had a chance to socialise outside of patients and Beya. Not that they were dull, but he was starting to feel the need to stretch his legs socially.

Whatever the broth or soup was, it smelled all right. Taste would be another test, though he'd found that since his liberation from the collective his taste buds weren't quite what he remembered them to be. It was one of those strange quirks of the liberation process, or so he was told. For some it came back. He wasn't as lucky.

Spotting one of the other 'less social' members of the Rosie crew, he did a double-take. She wasn't a patient to his knowledge, but he knew the signs of hastily-seen-to injuries well enough.

"Hello," he said, in his typically soft-spoken manner. "Everything okay? You seem to have a couple of contusions there..." On closer inspection, he spotted the pointed ears tucked behind hair. And the expression definitely said Romulan rather than Vulcan. "Sorry. I shouldn't be rude. I'm a medic, just thought I'd check if you needed any help."

"Need? Not really. I've had worse the last time I picked the wrong fight." Kali shrugged. "Wouldn't mind it, though, if there's nothing more pressing." Little details here and there, tiny bits of barely-visible hardware or scarring, had her fighting the urge of one eyebrow wanting to rise in involuntary surprise; and she wondered if the young man knew exactly how incredibly, almost impossibly lucky he was: She'd seen reports that hinted at what little was known of the strength or tactics of the Borg, and the known number of recoveries vs assimilations, during her SFI days, and effectively the odds of being found and recovered, especially by or near your own kind, were so slim you probably had better chances of surviving a point-blank disruptor shot to the head.

"Nothing more pressing than anything else right now. Besides, nobody's totally invulnerable." He put the mug of soup down next to her and went to examine her - eliciting what was probably an instinctive response to recoil. He put both hands up to show he wasn't a threat. "I won't hurt you, I promise," he said.

"...Spent too much time around thugs lately I guess." Kali's face flushed slightly where it wasn't bruised, an olive-tinged blush to go with the embarrassed mumble as she forced herself to hold still. "Though most of them ended up looking worse once I was done with them."

"I don't doubt it..." he said softly, moving her hair out of the way slightly to get a better view. Her skin felt cool, maybe a little too cold compared to what he expected. "I don't envy their doctor, either." After a few seconds he took a step back. "You shouldn't ignore those. This one looks deep, could potentially have cracked a bone but I can't tell without a proper scan."

"Blame whatever caused the initial lurch when the power went gonzo on us. Kinda had more pressing concerns for awhile. But go ahead. Just don't be surprised when your scanner decides I fail a good quarter of the species-specific reference ranges." It was said in a flippant, offhand way, but a little too deliberately so; a cover rather than true comfort with that fact.

"Would if I had a scanner," he said, showing her his still-open palms. "We're flying old school at the moment." He picked his soup back up and perched next to her. "So what did you mean by failing the species-specific ranges?"

This, Kali thought, angry at herself, was what her aunt had meant once a few years ago when she had shouted, exasperated, that Kali gave away information she did not have to: The man admitted now to not even having the equipment that would have divulged that fact; but now, having made the statement, she had to explain it anyways.

"Not entirely sure the universe didn't mean me as a lesson for my parents: Pregnant women should stay away from radiation hazards, misaligned and badly shielded Ferengi smuggler's warp cores, and starvation level rations; and if you go into premature labor, you should head to a doctor, not hide in a dodgy motel room." Any hidden anger at herself for divulging the first bit earlier was matched maybe with a touch of bitterness in Kali's voice here at her parents in the rest of the statement; the ways in which their choices had condemned her, instead. "I'm not just on the short side." Kali sighed, and her voice dropped a fair bit more to a barely-audible level; she'd probably have to divulge this information to the medical staff eventually anyways, or they'd find it out some other way soon enough; but it wasn't exactly a matter of pride. "My lung capacity is about fifteen percent below average and my bones break a little easier, compared to the vulcanoid norms, and I'm sure a laundry list of other stuff I never bothered looking into too closely."

"Oh. Huh. Wow." The three words were all he could muster in reply to the comprehensive medical history she'd given him. His only real understanding of Romulans was from those who'd worked on the Reclamation projects. They were rarely so open about things. "Well doctor-patient confidentiality and all that. All understood." He shrugged. "And I'm sure you're of average height compared to most people I've met."

That had one elegant eyebrow rising precipitously; while she'd seen a few other Romulans and Vulcans around her height or so, it was definitely shorter than most. "Unless you've spent time on Ferenginar lately, probably not." In case there was any doubt there, she stood for a moment, unfolding her petite frame to her less-than-impressive five-foot-two before sitting back down. "Though the last guy to make a crack about me being the 'travel size version' had to be carried out of that casino on a stretcher, so...I like to think I make it work."

"And now I'm definitely avoiding the casino," he quipped, uncharacteristically light with the reply. "I'm surprised, you know." He pointed to the sliver of technology behind his ear, normally covered by his own hair. One of the few visible indicators of his adolescence. "I figured you noticed it already. I wouldn't have expected you to talk to me at all, never mind provide a medical history."

"I did notice it." She shrugged again. "I don't see why it should make me any more or less likely to speak to you, though. I mean, I'll be honest, getting picked up by the Borg is kinda way up there in my 'top five worst nightmares' list and I made damn sure the rest of the officers I used to serve with knew how strongly my preference was that they just shoot me if I did. But that's mostly because statistically, the odds of getting rescued from them, of getting out later, are slim to none--I might say you should re-evaluate that casino aversion, because you are one lucky son of a bitch. " Kali smiled. "And that you used to be a captive of the Borg does not mean you're about to go around assimilating people or something. As for the medical history...Well." Now her tone became distinctly more sheepish and embarrassed again. "That one is on me, yeah. I don't like providing that to anyone, but..." She sighed. "...I made the mistake of assuming you had a scanner when you talked about one, and figured I'd better provide a warning to prevent the sort of...overreaction...I've encountered from some medics in the past when they first see my readings. Should've just kept my mouth shut...Which is something my aunt has despaired of for years of my inability to do."

"Resistance is futile..." Oliver whispered, mock-vacant-staring for a second. "Eh. Just kidding. Sorry, that's not really that funny when you think about it..." He frowned at himself; his sense of humour was terrible. "Most people - especially the Romulans we met through the recovery program - don't tend have quite so much pity." Perhaps she understood. Her medical issues presented her as a cultural outsider to her own kind. He could get his head around that; he was still 'human' but he was now the 'other'; a reminder of an horrific nightmare, just as she had said. A lot of people still had prejudices.

"If you were where I think you were, then your experience of us has been shaped almost wholly and entirely by the sort of people who'll work on projects sponsored secondhand by the Tal'Shiar, and that was probably crawling with them themselves on the side. That's bound to result in a Probably all the moreso because I'll be the first to admit we are not, generally, that keen on outsiders knowing...Well, nearly anything about us, in most cases. But growing up on Earth, it's a rule I had to get used to disregarding sometimes by the time I was knee-high: To live successfully on someone else's world, all of them judging you by their rules? You kind of have to be willing to share and explain some things, or things go really badly for you when no one understands you enough to interact well with you."

"You grew up on Earth, then," he noted. "Was that before or after Hobus?" he wondered, hoping it wasn't an awkward question to answer.

"Way before. I was born on Earth. In '53, in a cheap Boston motel room." This last bit was said with an eyeroll that would have done any human proud.

"Huh. I guess you might have a better claim to being human than I do." He shrugged in a kind-of self-depreciating way. "I don't mean that with any sort of offence..." he added, realising that she might not actually like that sort of comparison.

"Nah. I mean, I'm not like, adopted or anything. I was raised by my original, Romulan parents. So I guess the problem has always been I don't have a great claim on being, like...anything, actually. Or maybe too many things." She sighed. "Learned how to be two different things, so ended up being neither of them very damn well. Suppose that's why I'm this far away from anywhere that matters, really...Just...Don't quite belong anywhere. Humans think I'm a freak when I act too Romulan, Romulans think I'm a freak when I act too human. This conversation is a prime example of the kind of stuff that leads to the latter, actually; I've said way too much for my aunt not to be wanting to facepalm right about now...If she did that, that is. I suppose I try to adjust my behavior around each; dial up or down certain things based on which species I'm with. But it's not...I mean, it's not like I can just completely forget either culture even when I'm operating in the other one. And it gets complicated fast when both are around at once." She tilted her head curiously to the side slightly. "Why would you think you don't have a good claim on being human anymore? You seem very human to me, so far."

"Are you kidding?" he laughed involuntarily. "People hate us. The freed ones, I mean. We remind them of...the boogeyman. Half the time people I meet won't even look me in the eye." He was grateful that the scars were easily hidden, which was more than he could say for most of the other XBs he'd met. "I don't think they would see me as like them at all."

"...Face of the enemy, eh." Kali remarked softly, and half-unconsciously traced her own chiseled jawline with her finger, up to one pointed ear. "Suppose it's a similar problem, then, in some ways at least. I'm not sure I was even out of primary school the first time I got accused of being an 'enemy spy' or the like by someone. As I got older though, the people who said it meant it more and more seriously." She shook her head. "Unfortunately for me, the idea isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, either. It's been done before. Which didn't help me in pushing back on the assumption; but considering I was about this tall - " Kali held a hand only a few feet off the deck, barely more than a toddler's height " - when the first Tal'Shiar assassination attempt I was old enough to remember happened against my parents; you'd think the smarter, more knowledgeable people would take that into account as a factor to weigh when they were considering whether I was some long-term home-grown plant scheme or not. Judging someone for simply having been Borg is actually even stupider, come to think of it; it's not like there's a history of Borg spies throughout space and time, and to the best of my knowledge at least, there's no instance of an XB trying to assimilate anyone or anything like that, either. If they blame you simply for reminding them of the existence of a threat you were the victim of, that says far more about their lack of character and honor than it does about you."

"We humans like to pretend prejudice is something we fixed centuries ago," he replied. "I think you and I are evidence that it's still there, lurking. Perhaps it's human nature to make those kinds of judgements about others." He shrugged. "We're all guilty of it; I thought you were probably going to break my wrist if I tried to examine you closely." It was a true statement, and might have even happened had he been less cautious with his approach. They both recognised that, though.

"Well." This last led to an awkward grin. "I do have to admit that's...generally the sort of thing that happens to people who try to grab me without asking, yeah." Though, someone seemingly going for her neck might actually have gotten themselves stabbed, not just with their wrist snapped; depending on how much time or braincells she had at the time to think about tempering her response vs just reacting automatically.

"And that's why prejudice exists," he shrugged. It just proved his point, in the end. "I might not be wandering around like a zombie trying to assimilate everyone here, but it never goes away." He finished the soup and put it down, still feeling oddly melancholy about it. "Like you said; the face of the enemy."

"Suppose in my case at least it depends on which side you look at it from: I have flat out had a fellow Romulan tell me before that I should've take the myriad false accusations I got over the years of being some type of an undercover agent as a compliment, because it meant the people making them thought I had what it took to conceal such an effort." Now, it would have been hard for either species to parse Kali's expression; a complicated mix of sorrow and loneliness, exasperation, bristling anger, but also perhaps some small helping of pride; as if, as much as the accusations might have wounded her, some small part of her felt the flipside of it, too. "And honestly I might've in fact mostly taken them that way if they'd come from someone else with the same ears. But I very much tended to feel them in the way I knew they were meant, when a human said them; and it had nothing to do with respect for or caution of me as a credible threat, and everything to do with simply being unwelcome." Her fingers twisted in one another, like an outward expression of some inner turmoil or conflict. "I dunno. If someone's enough of an asshole, I tend to just sucker punch them in the nuts or something; but that may not be the universe's best strategy for me to recommend to you; as if there's one thing humans and Romulans tend to agree on, it's that I can be a bit reckless at times. So tell you what...If anyone acts like enough of an asshole to you around me, I'll sock them for you." She grinned.

"Fixing their face afterwards keeps me in a job, I suppose..." he answered, standing up. "Come by the chapel sometime. Beya or I can give you some proper attention. For your injury, I mean. Don't want to leave it too long."


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Comments (1)

By Captain Rueben Gregnol on Sun May 22nd, 2022 @ 7:49am

Nice exploring of pasts and what it is to be the boogie man.