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Blue & Green

Posted on Mon Jul 18th, 2022 @ 1:46am by Chief Helmsman Kalahaeia t'Leiya & Beya

Mission: Adrift
Timeline: Party time!
4341 words - 8.7 OF Standard Post Measure

Kali, like Liha, was not in the thick of the dance floor. Unlike the taller woman, though, her positioning and bearing were less 'deliberate removal' and more an easy, casual (or meant to seem so) vibe of leaning up against a couple of supply crates set up as one of the bar stations; possibly keeping an eye on and controlling access to and portions of her contribution to the stock, a somewhat larger bottle of Romulan ale than the one she'd brought out at Girl's Night, which was now a quarter of the way empty. Indeed, a moment later a man wandered out of the throng, holding up a glass and pointing to the bottle Kali was guarding; she fixed an appraising glance at him, judging size, species, and current level of sobriety (or lack thereof) before pouring him a small measure. The buddy who'd followed him, though, was visibly staggering a bit; and got a curt, definitive head shake no. Unfortunately he seemed drunk enough to want to press the issue, and Kali shifted slightly, trying to angle it so if things ended up getting physical, their tangle wouldn't risk smashing the bottle.

"Dude. If I gave you any more you'd pass out in the corner within five minutes; buzz off." She glared up and over at him.

"Aw, c'mon... Im good... reaalll good..."

Kali's glare briefly combined with a partial eyeroll at this, a truly impressive look.

Beya saw the man loom closer with a drunken smirk veering toward suggestive grin (which given Kali's species and most of the crew's experience of Liha was a real measure of how inebriated he was). That right there was more work for medics in the offing, and she for one wanted a night off. With a quick dancer's glide she slipped up behind him. "Hey, baby. How about we find you a place to lay down?"

Even in a drunken haze, the innuendo was not lost on the man. Or maybe it was just that Beya's skin color registered and he assumed (or earnestly wished) the rest, but his grin grew substantially as it turned toward the Orion. "Yeah... anawhere ya want..."

She smiled coyly at him, leading him away from the bottle and annoyed Romulan. "Follow me."

The man was more than willing, but despite in his enthusiasm somewhat past the level of coordination to get far with falling over. Deciding on expedience, Beya pushed him into the nearest corner and guided him down the wall with a playful touch to his chest. "Now you just lay down and let me do the work..." she said, and just as he thought dreams were about to come true, she slipped a hypo form her sleeve and sent him off to dreamland.

Returning to the party she nodded to Kali. "He shouldn't want another drink for awhile."

"Thanks." Kali rolled her eyes again, this time at the ceiling. "Humans. They all seem to - the males especially - have a really overinflated concept of how much liquor they can handle." She reached over and poured herself a shot glass, and held a second one out to Beya. "Want some?"

Beya eyed the glass. She did, but she could practically feel her mother and aunties staring over her shoulder, aghast at the very notion of accepting a drink form a Romulan. But the next thought was that Liha and the Romulans among the Fenris Rangers had not only never hurt anyone here (well, not seriously) but fought beside them. So really wasn't that exactly the kind of prejudice that irked her when it was directed at Orions?

Besides, she really did want to have some that ale. "Yes," she said, taking the glass. "It isn't just humans - I've seen that in drunks across dozens of species - though it does seem more prevalent in the males. But I promise you won't have to worry about me handling my liquor."

"I think part of it is the 'forbidden fruit' factor, too, at least with the Federation species." She handed the second shot glass to Beya, then downed her own. "Trade embargo was in place for way longer than it's been lifted just since the war; so I think for some people this stuff still has a bit of a mystique to it." The sly grin that accompanied the remark, though, perhaps implied that any mystique around Romulan ale in some circles was not entirely discouraged by its species of origin...And possibly was appreciated by. "Still. Wasn't until I tasted the good stuff I understood what my parents were talking about. As for drunks...Well, your way of handling them involves less broken bones and shattered bottles than mine does, so he may not appreciate just how 'lucky' he actually got."

"Quality ale is good," Beya remarked taking a sip. "Though the reputation for alcoholic kick is a bit overblown. It's not nearly as intoxicating as Orion rum, but I think expectation is half of it. Sell someone on the idea that something will get them hammered and they'll start acting like they're a litre low on inhibitions even if all you actually gave them was fruit juice. Works the same way with other things." She flashed a mischievous grin. "It doesn't matter than I'm not using pheromones - guys see the green skin and tell themselves they can't help reacting. Makes managing guys like that," she nodded toward the sedated drunk, "a lot easier. And it's certainly easier on me to not have go back to work tonight to patch up broken bones. Though I'm not sure he's lucky there - if he'd needed bones set he'd have gotten an analgesic and fluids. Now he's going to wake up so hung over he'll probably wish you'd killed him."

“Considering he leered at me, I might still be considering it….” Kali muttered. “The number of people willing to take a chance on trying to paw at me in various casinos the last ten years is astounding really, makes me wonder if guys don’t lose their last shred of survival sense along with those inhibitions.” Visibly she was unarmed; but she was fairly certain an Orion would be assuming or deducing that ‘visibly’ did not mean ‘actually’..something the man snoozing in the corner was apparently incapable of, like a variety of them before him in years past.

Beya ducked her head, suppressing a chuckle. She had no doubt the Romulan had a knife (she did too after all) but the talk of killing people was obviously bluster - Gregnol would toss anyone seriously hurting another crewmember and it amazed her that people even pretended otherwise. The Orion hadn't been on the ship all that long, but she'd grokked by now that Liha might glare threateningly, but she'd never actually done more than slam someone against a bulkhead. She doubted Kali was really more prone to violence. "Guys make passes all the time. Women too." She shrugged. To her getting upset over that would be like getting upset over people nodding and saying 'hello'. "They may not be your type, but it's not like they offer some grave insult."

One well-groomed eyebrow arched upwards. "Him--" She indicated the guy in the corner "--maybe not, yeah; but the ones I've run into elsewhere whose idea of making a pass wasn't to leer but instead to make various rather intimate physical contacts without so much as a warning let alone permission? Actually yeah they did offer a grave insult. Not to mention, with a stranger in a random open setting like a bar or casino, the chance that they might be going for your neck next..."

"Intimate physical contact?" A perfectly shaped eyebrow rose in surprise. "They bent you over a gaming table and pulled your panties down? Okay, I'd probably stab someone for that one. My mom would have banned even a big spender for pulling that in her lounge."

"Well, let's see; there was the guy at the Silver Stardust who grabbed my ass...He got a Saurian Brandy bottle broken over his head. Mind you, then I had to pay for the whole bottle." Kali grimaced, remembering the markup on what had been a pricey vintage. "Then there was the creep at the River of Latinum who took both hands and felt up my chest. He got both his wrists and hands broken. Or the idiot at the Wheel of Fortunes who tried to just lean in and kiss me. He just got punched in the nuts." The eyebrow that had settled down went up again, but then shrugged back down. "I probably did them a favor teaching them a lesson. None of that couldn't be fixed in fairly short order with a quick visit to the local urgent care, and the kiss dude likely just needed some ice. If they'd tried most of that stuff on my aunt she would probably have just stabbed them."

"None of that's intimate contact," Beya laughed. "Maybe you taught those guys some caution around Romulans, but if you ask me it was a waste of opportunity. Guys did all of that all the time back when I worked in my mom's lounge. All it meant was I could size up how much latinum they had and help myself to a sizeable surcharge for what they thought was on the menu. So, I taught them caution and I got the price of a good bottle of brandy instead of having to pay for one."

"I prefer to relieve them of all their latinum in other ways." This time, the expression that crossed Kali's face was a clear and unmistakable gambling-shark's grin. "Generally been pretty damn successful at it, too. Bit of a drier spell lately though; followed by that stupid ship crash, so figured I'd try something different for awhile."

It was a fair amount of information to reveal given that Beya had been honestly second on Kali's list of possible threats to look into after Liha, when she'd first come aboard. But while she hadn't dug up much on her - typical for trying to look into Orions - what she had found had been more reassuring, or more matching with known information at least, than what she had on Liha: There were no gaping holes in the Orion's background that chillingly lined up with the sort of gaps you'd find in a Tal'Shiar agent swapping aliases; and after that, Kali had provisionally slid her into the same 'probably fine' column in her head that she kept most of the rest of the ship in. Besides, she assumed at least a casual inquiry had been made on her in return potentially; and if Beya had once been plugged into the lounge scene, possibly one whose results had already included most of what she'd just said.

"I'd heard you were a gambler." The remark was given in such a way that it might easily be assumed to have come from one of the crew who'd found her on the holoworld ship. If Kali imagined more checking had been done, that was fine; Beya had supplied just enough information about her own past to provide some confirmation of what Kali had probably already gathered. Although she was a bit surprised at how much the Romulan was sharing, but then given her diminutive size and outsized attitude, perhaps Kali also suffered from the syndrome of thinking she could handle more liquor than she actually could. "I never went in for gambling myself - saw too clearly how much the house takes." 'And how it deals with people who beat it too often or too well' went unsaid. "Besides, once I was free of lounge life, I was just as happy to say out of them."

"Have to admit I tended to go for Ferengi places a lot of the time." Kali nodded, extrapolating the unsaid bit easily; it was generally a losing proposition to win too often in places the Syndicate had a large enough stake in, and the sort of turning-tables vengeance she'd liked to dole out mostly just got you killed if they thought it was a pattern in their places. Plus, Ferengi tended to be a bit more ham-handed in their cheating setups, and therefore easier to figure out how to work around and beat. "Though, I've run into a surprising number of humans trying their luck in this area of space the last decade."

"Humans go everywhere," Beya chuckled. "It's like they see new niche and have to find a way to fit into it." She took another sip of her drink. "It'd be almost funny, but they almost always seem to manage."

“Yeah; it may be their ‘thing’.” Kali nodded again. “Like they adapt for a living. Though, it can be pretty annoying sometimes when some of them expect that everyone else can pull the same trick just as well.”

It was an area Kali possibly had an interesting window on: Ages ago, she had seen the SFI reports and reference guides spelling out certain aspects of the Romulan psyche and historical influences on mindset; among it a breakdown of the sort of confidence and determination in ones own skill and endurance that might in part derive from ones ancestors having once traveled further and longer than the available technology should have borne them; found and mastered a planet not entirely a natural match for their physiology; survived a relatively small population to build an empire from it. She had also, however, now had the chance to hear snippets of the Romulan take on humans from her aunt...and the fascination and caution that apparently had come in part from having judged them to have an unnatural knack for adapting and surviving, for somehow showing up where you wouldn't expect them and making it work, in the human case less by sheer endurance and determined force of will than by a preternatural ability to bend where most any other species would break, then somehow thrive in it.

"One of my uncles used to say they were the 'cockroaches of the universe'," Beya laughed. "No matter where you go, they find a way to adapt and live there. Of course, that's overblown. There are places just too inhospitable even for a species that seems to take that sort of thing as a challenge. But I think most of the rest of us can adapt pretty well if we need too. I mean, look at the two of us - far from house and clan, making our own way out in the black."

"Yeah." Kali nodded, but her expression took a turn for the somber. "Aren't that many of mine left, though. The Dominion war; the coup Shinzon tried and the internal fighting around it; the lead up to the nova and the tension with the Tal'Shiar, the disaster itself and the instability after it; the fall of the Empire...The way my aunt tells it you can practically just count our house on your two hands of fingers, now." Kali twirled her empty shot glass in her hands; her next words were an area where she expected an Orion would better grasp the level of tragedy of such a small family than she'd found most humans could. "Though I never knew most of them to begin with, growing up on Earth. Always dreamed of it when I was younger, meeting the rest someday. But except for my aunt and her kids, they're dead now."

Beya's brow crinkled in an expression of sympathy. She almost took a step closer but stopped herself - Romulans weren't big on hugging and probably even less accepting of the kiss that went with the normal Orion expression of sympathy. "That must be hard. Even far from family and clan, it's a comfort to know they're there."

"...Why'd you leave yours?" Kali said, carefully but curiously. "Me, I just...didn't feel like I could stay on Earth, anymore back then, after I got kicked out of the fleet."

"I didn't want to work in a lounge anymore, so I took slot on my uncle's ship. Dual role like any Orion merchant, but part of it was assisting the ship's doctor - and I was good at it!" She shot the rest of her drink. "Not that the guy who replaced him would ever acknowledge that. I got completely fed up with him, but I wasn't going to go crawling back to my mom to listen to endless 'I told you so's' so I set out on my own."

"Ah...Me, I used to be a Federation fleet officer. Fought the Dominion and all that, even. Until I punched out a bunch of admirals in '85; and after they finished chewing me out for that, I then got told by my mother that I should have picked my targets better, and made sure I killed them." Kali rolled her eyes again, and one got the feeling it was at both species, and both species standards and their judgement of her failure at them. "Federation space thinks I'm too Romulan, Romulan space thinks I'm too Federation, and everyone thinks I'm doing it wrong, they just can't agree on how. At least in a third-rate Ferengi casino, no one really questions the 'propriety' of whatever I do."

"Eh, propriety is over rated." The Orion shrugged dismissively. "If I worried about other people's weird uptight ideas about propriety I'd have to become a hermit or something. And what fun would that be?"

"I dunno. It would be nice to belong somewhere for once, I think. Probably never gonna happen, though." Kali shrugged, then considered her discussion with Burnie the other week. "Well. It might happen...In a hundred more years, say. When there's enough people like me to force people and society to grapple with accepting it."

Despite all past conditioning to caution and distance when dealing with Romulans, Beya found her heart going out to the little one in front of her. (Okay, her mother's voice somewhere in the back of her head was telling her this was likely a sympathy con and she shouldn't fall for it, but she was choosing to ignore that right now). "I think we belong where we decide to belong. Pick people, make them your little society and to hell with what anyone outside that thinks."

"Tried it; or thought I did. It worked for awhile; mostly. The wheels came off kinda spectacularly though, in a way that when you looked back left you wondering whether it was ever as good a fit as it used to seem, even. And whether it was or not, it wasn't after that." And neither of us were apparently very far and properly on the 'inside' of our respective societies to begin with it seems, Kali thought wearily, or we would have stayed in them, and definitely been a lot less willing to say half of what we just did. Sometimes, she envied the sense of...not surety of decisions per se, but seemingly far moreso surety of identity, that most people seemed to have; 'who or what even am I?' had been a recurring theme in her own life and mind and soul for so long by now that some days Kali couldn't help but see the dark humor it in; that while the more classic gambit for a Romulan (or for that matter an Orion) would have been to leave others guessing at those questions on you; she mostly found herself doing so on herself.

"Honestly I've been moving around since I left home. Seeing the galaxy and getting experience so maybe next time I apply to a med school they won't basically laugh at my lack of credentials," Beya admitted. She frowned briefly into her empty glass. Twice now she'd thought a doctor here would teach her and maybe write her recommendation, but both of them had left within a few months. "Or I'll just learn enough to function as a doctor here, without the official title."

"I mean. If you could front the latinum somehow, there's probably a variety of med schools outside the Federation that would admit you and not want the sort of formal academic record or lengthy list of experience that the Federation schools tend to want at least one of the other of. Not sure how much they cost, though; and you'd probably have to do some serious research to vet which ones were worth it, skills and credentials gained wise." Kali offered; though she wasn't sure how much the advice was or wasn't worth since she wasn't sure of what the cost would be herself, having never been interested in medschool--she was in the end a heck of a lot better at destroying things than fixing them, which is possibly part of why she got on decently with Burnie.

"I could possibly get into a Klingon school, but their medicine..." she grimaced, "...it's more amputation and prosthetics. They tend to take the attitude that you are strong enough to survive illness or you die. And Ferengi schools... even if I could come up with enough latinum, there'd be the 'extra fees', a lot of them involving free oomox for instructors."

"Ewww." Kali grimaced; she'd seen plenty of oomox hanging out in Ferengi casinos; but had given out exactly zero of it; a decent minority of the incidents and fights she'd been in over the years actually stemmed not all from gambling dust-ups or cheating scandals or bar fights, but from big-eared idiots trying to force the issue and subsequently discovering it was a bad idea. "Yeah, definitely give that a pass." She shook her head, as if trying to clear the image of oomox out of it. "Still; if nothing else, I'd try applying again after a few years here - you can count it all as hands-on experience as a medic, then, in the papers."

Kali briefly considered whether she should offer to hook Beya up with Divash for advice; since anti-Orion prejudices and navigating around them, as well as medical school applications, were something she had experience with; but decided against it for the moment - Orion clans were a lot harder to suss out who had membership in what from the outside than Romulan houses; and at least as hard to discern who was allied with or feuding with who, and for all she knew, Beya's clan and Divash's were enemies. No. She'd have to do more research first, there.

"Getting experience has been the plan," Beya said, lifting her glass slightly. "That and earning enough to pay 'entrance' into an Orion school if the Federation still won't have me," she added a bit bitterly, then deciding that enough sharing on her part, changed the subject. "What about you? Drifting works for awhile, but surely you have some long term goals?"

"...I used to. Kinda hard to figure out, now though." Kali drained the last of what was in her glass and started counting off on her fingers. "Pretty much burned my career in spectacular fashion; and not sure if I'd be willing to go back or not even if they would have me. Which they won't. So that's out. Thought I'd try and meet more of my family, but they're dead, so that's out too. Figured I'd see what it was like to live with my own kind; wasn't any better at it than I was on Earth, and maybe actually worse at it." This last bit was said with at least a tiny warble of shame, before the devil-may-care cover that had carried her through dozens of gambling tournaments and bar fights reasserted itself somewhat.

If one had enough of a depth of knowledge of both humans and Romulans and their cultural psychology, one might have looked at the set of years after Kali had left the Republic and before coming to the Rosie and potentially come to the conclusion that she had few long term goals because she had not, subconsciously, intended to have a longer term; or more accurately that she had not cared much if she did or not; Romulan ideals of assuaging shame and dishonor on the point of your own blade mixing with human ones that said such things were not to be done; leading to playing the reckless edge of space in righteous fury, not quite seeking death but neither planning further forward for life.

"I suppose my long term goal is just like I said earlier." Kali shrugged and set the empty glass down entirely. "Belong somewhere; just..." Her voice trained off, because voicing 'figure my life and my s--- out' at nearly fifty was too embarrassing to put words to. "...Figure it out from there. Suppose that's part of why I took the offer here. Tired of living out of suitcases in gaudy hotel rooms. That, and the chance to maybe do some work with the Rangers in the future." Deciding she was cut-and-dry done with SFI regardless of the hooks they had in her had freed her to hopefully finally pursue an association she might have made years ago if not for that complication. "Maybe do some good in the galaxy that way, I guess."

Beya poured a splash of ale into her glass, adding some to Kali's as well, then lifted her glass. "Here's to doing some good while accomplishing our goals."

Kali picked up the glass again, raised it to match Beya's, then drained it in a single gulp with a flourish.

 

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