Haumea Colony

A Play-by-Nova roleplay game.

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Every Side Of The Same Coin

Posted on Mon Nov 8th, 2021 @ 9:07pm by Caithlin t'Leiya & Ieliene t'Leiya & Lieutenant Commander Sofia Nikedoros & Lieutenant Gunnar Arnason

Mission: Frizzle
3950 words - 7.9 OF Standard Post Measure

Their actual house still under construction, some of Haumea's more recent civilian arrivals were still, at the moment, in the temporary apartments they had been given. None of the family had not bothered to unpack all the furniture or the lion's share of much of anything else beyond what was required for day to day survival, since they would only to have to move it again in a few weeks or months once the house was done. Nevertheless, there was plenty enough unpacked for this: Aunt and niece; for all the 78 years separating them; each seated at the kitchen table, a crystal bottle of deep blue liquid between them, each with a glass. The bottle itself was more than half empty by this point, which would have made any onlooker doubt (correctly) that the current glasses had been the first ones.

Both the grown woman and the teenager looked distinctly...Frustrated. In Ieliene's case, though, it was overlaid with teenage passion and angst, while in Caithlin's case the effect was rather wearier.

"--and then, after the chaplain announces that we come in peace, the things jump forward at us all with their huge mouths full of sharp teeth open and their claws out. Like, not in they came in peace way at all. Clear threat move. She's still got her arms out unarmed and so Devora and I decided to move on the things so no one got eaten. Didn't really accomplish much besides spoil their aim; but in the meantime there's all of our classmates, and worse, some of the teachers too--you know, the adults--all of them just frozen like deer in the headlights--"

"What are 'deer'?" Caithlin interrupted, trying to recall which of Earth's seemingly endless wild herd creatures they were. "Are those the ones we saw during that camping trip up north; where your father suggested they were more dangerous than they looked?"

"Nah, that's moose." Liene replied, taking a sip of her drink. "Moose kinda like Gorn with antlers. Bad tempers. Deer are the stupid ones we almost hit with the car once. But anyways, yeah; I mean the Lieutenant and the Commander at least meant to engage, or play for time, or...something. Even if they seemed to kinda suck at it." She shrugged, and the incredulousness was back in her voice. "But the teachers are just standing there with the rest of the class waiting to get attacked, even once it became pretty clear we were all outclassed big time. They didn't even have the sense to run till I screamed 'run' at them. Like it...hadn't occurred to them that maybe if you can't fight something and it wants to fight you, you might wanna withdraw."

"I am uncertain as to whether it did occur to them." Caithlin said in weary frustration with a sip of her own drink. "Considering the human line of behavior also seems to deem it a sound move to fail to defend yourself when threatened by a riot which outnumbers you 100 to 1." A perplexed, angry shake of her head; confusion and a rather larger sip of the glass this time. "I took all possible precautions to stay within Federation rules. Of all the weapons I had at my disposal, I chose the one which would avoid any permanent damage--or even fixable temporary damage for the most part--to those threatening me. I did not even produce that until others in the crowd had made the first strike. I provided, even then, a clear warning to back off, to cease their attempts to attack. I took all possible measures short of what I am left with the feeling that many of those present believe I should have done--to simply have allowed the crowd to continue to strike me, to continue to attack your father and Gunnar; despite how badly we were outnumbered; to hope not only that no one truly meant focused harm in their rage, but that no one got lucky in their hits, either. Humans." This last bit was exasperated in the extreme, and the third sip Caithlin took was to down the entire rest of her glass in a single gulp and pour herself a full measure more from the rapidly emptying bottle.

Several blocks away two others sat at a table with partially filled glasses and a half empty bottle between them. The bottle however was ouzo. Gunnar had been rather surprised when Nikedoros pulled it out - he expected wine, not strong drink from the chaplain - but he had to admit he liked the licorice flavor of the anise liqueur, and it made a nice accompaniment to the saganaki and keftedes that had become a very late dinner after the events of the day.

For her part Sofia had initially intended to indulge in only a glass or two - something to take enough edge off and so that they could speak just as friends; not patient and counselor. While she had a sense after her debrief of why he looked like he could do with a stiff drink, for once she was the one who felt the need of a sympathetic ear. And to be honest, as stiff drink to go with it.

"...I'd barely gotten 'We come in peace' out when they attacked - not the creatures, but the girls!" Sofia could see him about to interject - defend the children he'd become some sort of adopted uncle or older brother to - and waved a hand. "And I know, they thought they were helping, defending us even, but it was our place to defend them. If Ieliene hadn't jumped in, I could have thrown the creature coming at us, or perhaps even gotten it in a submission hold and gotten a sense of their group dynamic by the reaction. Instead her shoulder was torn open and that leap to attack and aggression cost any hope of trying to show we weren't ...well, aggressors."

Gunnar reached across and refilled her glass. "They've spent most of their childhood being trained to fight a threat, because the threats they had to fear would kill them without hesitation. But it's more than that. Ieliene thinks of herself as an adult, at least when it comes to whether she should hang back or join adults in a fight." He shook his head and sighed. "Plus the added complication that they do tend to regard us as being nearly as defenseless as young children."

The remark might have been just a weary observation from someone who had spent a good deal of time watching over Romulan children who, at least when it came to physical defense, regarded him as little more capable than they were. However the counselor detected something more in it. "I heard something about you getting punched," Sofia remarked, one brow lifting slightly. She had had just enough ouzo to nearly chuckle - he had a history of being the guy who tried to stop trouble only wind up on the receiving end of it.

"Yeah. Angry parent." He rubbed the edge of his jaw, the bruise now gone but the memory still fresh. "They were frantic, out of their heads with worry, and I was trying to talk them down, especially since some of them had taken it out on Tal. To his credit, he read the situation and refrained from breaking any of them in half or even drawing his knife." He swallowed a portion of his own drink. "Caithlin...not so much..."

"--and then, they started throwing rocks." Caithlin sighed; by this point, the former senator had drunk enough that, combined with the fact that only her closest kin were present, much of the mask worn day to day was falling away; she spun her empty glass in her fingers against the table as if trying to burn off nervous energy. "Federation law would not look kindly on use of my blade or disruptor even then; but that is clear and present danger and more than just a few dozen fists, even; and even Federation law would condone as self defense the actions I did take in response." The last was said assuredly; Caithlin tended to practice only civil law in the Federation, finding the criminal law practices a bridge too far in bizarre disparity from those she had been used to before; but it didn't mean she hadn't had to study them all the same.

"One of the rocks was aimed at our heads." She continued. "I was uninterested in learning how many more would follow, and drew the phaser, making sure to set it to 'stun'."

"And then you shot 'em?" Ieliene had probably drunk no more than half of what Caithlin had; but it had a similar effect when combined with both her smaller adolescent body and her less practiced tolerance.

"No." Caithlin reached for a skewer of roast spiced meat and vegetables nearby. "I gave the warning; made it clear that no one should persist in their attempts to strike Gunnar and I, or throw any more rocks." She had in point of fact seen men killed by such things before, in riots after the nova, and after the fall of the Empire; not to mention that at least once she had done similar herself--cornered without easy access to a true weapon, simply made use of what was at hand, and bested and killed her would-be assassin with a heavy piece of bath equipment to the head.

"Your father and I were separated early in the incident." Caithlin upended the last of bottle into the pair of glasses. "He managed to extricate himself from the crowd attacking him, but his attempts to do so were hampered by a variety of rioters who pursued him even though they had already wounded him, even though he was attempting to withdraw." Caithlin's eyebrows shrugged up and down; and the words did not have the sort of moral judgement some humans might have put to them; no inclination of horror that someone would strike a wounded, retreating foe. It was clear in her voice however that she would not let her own fall to such. "When they continued to attack him, I fired the first shots to provide him cover to join us."

"There was this kid, about our age - Charlene. She got separated from us, and from the rest of the class, when the creatures showed up the first time. We sorta wandered around after we got away from 'em, and then once we found her we ended up in this weirdo cavern that had plants and stuff. But while we're searching for her and getting ready in case the things come back, like, nobody had a weapon! Except us. The lieutenant did manage to improvise this thing with a laser drill--" Here, Ieliene's voice took on a pleased lilt, approving of Payton's survival skills and ingenuity.

"--but that was it. They literally all went into unknown...whatever...without..." Liene's voice trailed off, and she grabbed a piece of the other food lying nearby, a pepperoni and sausage pizza; her first grab was with her hands, before a reproachful eyebrow rise from her aunt had her spearing it with a fork instead. "Devora gave the chaplain one of her extra knives. But someone should've been carrying a phaser. Just in case." She shrugged. "We come in peace is great and all; but sometimes peace just isn't in the cards."

"Yes." Caithlin favored her niece with a fond smile, and hefted the empty bottle just ever-so-slightly as if in demonstration of how one might use it in their defense if need be. "Still. Remember, even if an opponent strips you of all your weapons; you are never truly unarmed." She placed the bottle back on the table, looking at the half-empty platter of skewers, the half empty platter of pizza, and especially at the entirely empty bottle of quality Romulan ale. It was a substantial amount to drink even for the species in question, and even between two. "...We may regret this tomorrow."

"...the worst part is that I know exactly why she reacted as she did." Gunnar paused to eat a saganaki cube, least without some food to balance the alcohol he started mixing his Standard with Icelandic.

"It must place you in a difficult position," Sofia said nodding sympathetically. "I felt it a little - the conflict between honoring their point of view and upholding Federation values. I suppose everyone in Starfleet does at some point, but these are close personal friends, and you feel compelled to defend them..."

"...even when they make me want to beat my head against a wall?" Gunnar finished for her with a note of wry humor. "Yes. But that's not entirely what I meant. She's Romulan, and high born, so there are expectations of protecting those in her house..."

"Tal, you mean, since he had been assaulted."

...and me, apparently, though I'm not quite ready to discuss that impression even with my counselor... Setting that issue aside, he simply nodded. "So she moved to get between him and the rest of the crowd - I was trying to do the same honestly - but the other thing is that she survived the RSE's fall, and the riots and violent mobs that came after. She'd probably take it as an insult if I brought it up, but for at least a moment there I don't think she was entirely in the present. Something I might have been able help with if..." he looked down as if looking at more than the clear liquid in his glass and swallowed, "...if I hadn't had the same thing happen."

"Gunnar," Sofia reached forward, putting a hand on his shoulder. She'd suspected as much just from the way he'd carried himself when she spotted him in the medical tent - straight and careful, like someone with a barely healed injury - though at the time she'd imagined it had been from descending into the caves with the search party. "There is no more shame in that for you than for her. And I assume you recovered yourself quickly enough to help, or worse might have happened."

Gunnar took a breath. In an odd way just the fact that she'd used his given name instead of the 'Mr. Arnason' from their early counseling sessions helped - a sign she was still seeing him as friend and confidant rather than shifting him straight back to patient. "I did get her to put the knife away." He looked up, giving her half smile. "I might feel better about that but then some idiot in the crowd threw a rock, so she drew a phaser. She did keep it on stun, so there's that, but if any of that crowd had had weapons beyond fists and rocks..." he sat back, wiped a hand over his face, "...and now they know that she carries, if there's a next time, they will."

Dumping the leftover food back into the replicator for recycling, Caithlin left the bottle on the table, instead; it was a work of art in and of itself practically, and no doubt could find some other use. Since there would be no delusions among themselves or others that either of them was anything close to sober at the moment, she left for tomorrow anything else, following Ieliene in making her way towards the bedrooms and into the one that she had claimed as her own.

Whatever of her hair hadn't long since fallen out of its updo came tumbling down as she removed the clips holding it in place...and the tiny thin daggers hidden within; weapons of true last resort only a step above throwing a rock, really. Next, she stripped off the outer layers of her robs, then the inner layers, laying aide no less than four more knives, the phaser that had seemed to disturb everyone so, a Romulan disruptor, and a collection of other things--scanners and jamming devices; antidotes to common poisons; and a handful of felodisine pills, meant for rather the opposite; to ensure if taken by an enemy she judged she cold not escape from, she would not live long enough to provide them any intelligence or sport or suffer at their hands.

Finally, off came the inner most underlayers, and the boots; along with two more knives, one hidden in the seam of each boot, and a smaller second disruptor strapped to one calf. Her fingers played across a tiny safe on the nightstand, popping it open and stowing most all the weapons, except a single blade and the phaser, both of which she stuffed under her pillow after checking the safety, settling down onto the bed herself with a weary sigh beyond even what she had shown before her niece. The space beside her where her husband would have slept had he survived sometimes seemed to mock her. Why hadn't her father moved to place her mate outside the path of danger as he had with her? For that matter, if he had told her what he planned in advance, she could have done so herself. And probably done better, later. It would, she knew, remain for the rest of her life one of the questions that kept her up at night.

"Why didn't you tell me...? Why didn't you trust me....?" Caithlin whispered in exhaustion into the empty darkness as the lights dimmed. The man should have trusted that his heir would have understood his plan, to remain and die with their people while sending her on to survive; to trust that she would play her part in her duty to the Empire and to their house. But for whatever reason, her father had not seen fit to share the plan, nor move to save her husband, or even her siblings. And so she had been left alone, and this was where it had led. To a strange land of strangers who every time she felt she might be grasping their ways, continued to surprise her at every turn, as she slowly drifted off to sleep with no answers.

"...you did your best to keep the peace," Sofia assured, and spun her mostly empty glass contemplating the wisdom of another drink. "I wish I could have done as well. Protecting the children was paramount, but we were the invaders in the creatures' territory after all. I know why the marines did what they did - we were in real danger, and a body to examine could answer a lot of questions - but it felt...excessive, beyond what was necessary. When their Lieutenant told them to 'get me a critter to mount to my wall' I was shocked. To be honest, when I think about it now, I'm..." she frowned at the glass, then drained it. "...angry."

It was Gunnar's turn to place a comforting hand on his friend's arm. "How many times did you tell me it's okay to be angry over real hurt, real wrongs? What he said was probably more marine bravado than anything, but it was crass; if an enemy had said that before going after a downed marine it would have sparked outrage."

Sofia tipped her head in an almost nod, then gave a grudging smile. "Yes, but they're marines, not chaplains. And realistically I know that they saved our lives."

"A difficult position," Gunnar agreed, echoing her earlier observation about him. "But if anyone can come around to forgiving, I know it's you." He lifted the bottle, emptying equal portions of the dregs into their glasses. "Besides, you at least didn't lose your temper in the moment."

That caught her attention, enough in fact to stay her from telling him to finish the rest himself. Sofia lifted an incredulous eyebrow. "Gunnar, did you of all people lose your temper?" Unspoken was the question of whether it was with Caithlin, and if so, was he in one piece because she had been happy to see a break from his normally cool-headed mien?

"Yes." The admission came with a self-recriminatory heaved breath. "Not with Caithlin," he added, as though sensing her unasked question. "I was trying to treat Tal's injuries and a few in the crowd took that as an opportunity to come at us. I meant to just warn them off but...it must have come out sharper than that. People backed away, a few looked genuinely frightened." His brows drew down, in tandem with the corners of his lips. "I don't think I've ever had anyone react to me like that before."

And you plainly didn't like it, which means the experience didn't change you at all. Probably much to Caithlin's disappointment Sofia thought, but knew her own relief would be no balm to his conscience. "That doesn't sound like real anger, though I'm sure you found the reaction was disconcerting. You're a care-giver; you want people to see you as safe, a person to turn to for help and comfort. But Gunnar, you're also a fit young man who's nearly 2 meters tall, and you have a reputation for never getting so much as seriously perturbed. Any sign of temper is going to give people pause." She lifted her glass, one corner of her mouth hooking upward. "In this case, that was probably a good thing - it kept them from pressing further."

"Most of them." Gunnar sighed. "One guy just would not take the hint. He backed off, but he kept sniping at Tal, accusing him, and then veering into outright xenophobia - not just toward Romulans, but any species with a survival based maturity test... the same guy who ignored his own kids getting really sick..." a hand briefly tightened on his glass, "...anyway I called him on it. Not politely, and when he took a swing at me, I took him down ...kind of hard," the medic grimaced almost apologetically, "...though I remembered myself enough kept him from cracking his head at the last moment. Though maybe I shouldn't have."

"Shouldn't have?" Sofia's brows rose. Gunnar regretting preventing injury was extremely out of character.

"The idiot kept yelling at Tal, even when he and Caithlin tried to walk away, and Caithlin pulled her phaser." Gunnar shook his head, less in negation than in continuing disbelief at his own memory. "I told her that I had him; there was no need to shoot him. So she hit him with it! Knocked him out cold."

Her friend was clearly still confounded, and Sofia couldn't blame him, but - perhaps due to half a bottle of ouzo - the scene playing out in her mind gave rise to a snicker. She clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle it, but not quite in time. "Forgive me. I really should have seen that coming."

"Yeah. I should've too," Gunnar agreed wryly, and swallowed the rest of his drink. "I wish I knew how to talk her about it, explain why that wasn't the right thing to do. But I suspect she and Ieliene are sitting together saying roughly the same thing about us."


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