(Nice insight into the both of your characters, and an enjoyable read throughout! And I'm just so relieved that the coffee situation was worked out diplomatically.) 😀
(Deck 15, USS Juneau. Unassigned Science Lab))
Sitting on top of a now-empty transport crate, Geoffrey Teller was wiping his hands and waiting anxiously for the results of his efforts. On the counter nearby, gleaming but irregular pieces of equipment were variously whirring, grinding and beeping away merrily, unaware of their vital importance to the whole project. The work itself had become something of an obsession for Teller in his time aboard the Veritas, and now he had the rare opportunity to share it with another crew. Beyond that, his Captain was counting on him. She’d need what these machines could do in the trying days and weeks ahead. The pressure was enormous and the results far from certain so when the doors to the lab unexpectedly opened, Geoffrey Teller jumped to his feet with a start.
The Romulan stopped dead a few paces into the room, the empty space she was expecting to find anything but. Instead, there was a human with a shock of red hair, no taller than the Admiral who'd sent her to the Juneau, and an expression that seemed to be a confused mix of alarm and guilt. And next to him...
Sienelis: Explain... ::she waved a slim hand toward the counter and all it supported,:: ...this.
He looked around a bit sheepishly. Judging by the woman's blue collar, there was every chance he’d inadvertently taken over a space she was responsible for, but the work he was pursuing was going to be vital to the project.
Teller: Happy to — firstly though, introductions — Lieutenant Commander Geoff Teller, from the Veritas. I’ll be serving as the Juneau's Chief Engineer.
Teller offered a friendly handshake to the still frowning woman. She looked down at the extended limb and as an expression of vague dismay crept onto her features, physically waved the offending hand away.
Sienelis: Lieutenant Valesha Sienelis. Chief Science Officer — and Romulans don't shake hands. ::She arched an elegant brow in his direction, a mote of amusement beginning to glitter in her green eyes.:: Or were you intending to proposition me?
Teller withdrew the offered appendage with a grimace. oO Talk about not getting off on the right foot. Maybe I should’ve opened with a joke? A Tellurite, a Gorn and a Human walk into a bar...Oo
Teller: Yep, sorry, so this all started back aboard the ‘Tas… ::He was about to continue as one of the odd machines chirped happily, its job complete:: ...actually, it’ll be easier to just show you. Don’t suppose you enjoy a cup of proper coffee? And I’m not talking about that burnt brown water the replicators spit out.
Teller: Well then…::Teller walked across to one of the machines and gingerly disconnected a small sample canister filled with newly ground beans.:: Why don’t you crack that open and let me know if you think I’m on the right track.
She cast a suspicious glance in his direction, joining him at the counter. Even on the bare plating of the science lab, her footfalls were quiet, and she moved with a feline grace that had completely snared a certain Russian. Taking the canister from him, she lifted it to her nose and took a cautious sniff, as though half-expecting to fill her lungs with poison.
Sienelis: It smells like... coffee?
Teller: Not just any coffee — this is newly grown, freshly roasted and recently ground full bean coffee, straight from a hydroponic bed to your mug! No replicated junk for this crew once I’m done getting setup.
Sienelis: You know there's a point where appreciation turns into obsession, right?
Valesha handed the canister back, her eyes pointedly landing on the array of roasting, grinding and brewing equipment in the lab. If not for the smell of fresh grounds, it could almost look like some kind of chemistry experiment. If one squinted. In the dark. Teller smirked, and for a second there was a brief echo of that grin on the Romulan's face.
Teller: Oh yeah, I waved at that point as I passed it a while ago. Like the man said, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
Sienelis: I've a feeling that's going to explain a lot over the next twelve weeks. ::She thumbed toward his coffee-making set-up.:: Speaking of explanations, still waiting for that one.
Teller: Skipper aboard the Veritas took a liking to it and the little shop I put together has become something of a fixture aboard ship. I fully appreciate the conveniences of modern living but there are some things…: :Teller took a deep sniff of the aromatic grounds:: ...that’re just better the old fashioned way, don’t you find?
The question caught her by surprise and softened some of the sharp edges in her haughty expression. He didn't know it, but she came from a family of artisan craftsmen that had by-and-large eschewed replicators, preferring the traditional methods of making... well, just about everything.
Sienelis: Actually, yeah. I do.
Teller: Tell you what, you can have the first cup. After that, you still think this is a waste of time, I’ll get it moved to another compartment — fair?
She gave him a long, thoughtful look, a calculation going on behind her eyes. The Romulan glanced from engineer to obsession and then back again, and then with a sly smile tugging at one corner of her mouth, she raised a hand and gestured toward him with two fingers.
Sienelis: Let me make you a counter-offer. Keep Petty Officer Johns supplied and I'll not just let you keep the lab, I'll tell you where the coffee plants are.
Geoff’s eyes went wide, and her grin widened a little. A negotiation made and an accord reached, even if it had yet to be spoken aloud. She suspected he would have been amenable to the suggestion anyway — he seemed like the friendly, generous type — but a little leverage didn't hurt.
Teller: I thought some overeager Ensign ripped them out of the hydroponic beds, how’d you end up with them?!
Sienelis: The wisdom of the enlisted. One of my crewmen thought it might be a good idea to put off disposing of them until we actually know who they belonged to.
Teller: You’ve got yourself a deal, Lieutenant. You can consider Mr. Johns fully caffeinated from here on out. ::He let out a breath.:: That’s a huge relief. I didn’t bring enough seedlings to start over again and I doubt Captain Oddas would give me a few hours to pop over to Earth and pick up some fresh ones.
Sienelis: Well. ::She lifted her shoulders in a light shrug.:: Clearly they were someone's hard work. Seemed wrong to get rid of them instead of just... moving them.
Teller: Glad to know there’s at least one officer with a bit of sense aboard this boat.
She'd heard a few humans say that common sense was anything but common, and Valesha supposed there was some truth to that. Honestly, she'd been guilty of lacking it herself on a few occasions — a desperate rescue attempt across a ruined shuttlebay came to mind, instead of using the transporters right there in the shuttle she'd been sheltering in. But he didn't need to know.
Sienelis: ::Dryly,:: I'll make sure this lab is formally assigned to stop any repeat performances. Commander Teller's "Arabica Project". You can take the empty space next door for your plants, if you need it.
Teller: That’d be perfect. And maybe lock the door, just in case.
A soft huff of a laugh was her answer as he crossed to the infuser. He loaded the freshly ground beans, enjoying the heady aroma as the machine sputtered to life, the scientist looking on.
Teller: Be a few minutes but one of us is having that first cup. If you don’t have anywhere important to be, pull up a crate.
Teller slid one of the other empty packing crates across to the woman and sat back down on his own. After a moment's consideration, she joined him and stretched out her long legs in front of her, crossed at the ankles. He seemed happy enough to carry the conversation, and she was content to let him.
Teller: Sorry to say, I don’t know many folks from the Gorkon. I’ve heard she’s a fine ship. ::He winked:: Not quite so fine as the Veritas, mind you.
The comment was met with a roll of emerald eyes, though if she was inclined first toward a sarcastic retort, it was bitten back. Instead, the Romulan shrugged, glancing over the stark room they were sat in.
Sienelis: They all have their charms. I liked the Invicta, though I'm pretty sure my forebears were screaming at me across the void for daring to serve on a ship with a Vulcan warp drive.
Teller: Glad you suffered the wrath of your ancestors to the benefit of the fleet. Veritas is the first ship I’ve been posted to, and I love the old gal. Tough and clever in equal measures - ::Teller winked:: bit like those honorable ancestors of yours.
She gave him a sidelong glance, the cogs of her mind turning behind her green eyes. There were certain things, certain current events she tried to keep abreast of, and recent reports from his home ship had caught her eye. Valesha dropped her gaze for a moment, taking a breath to summon a little courage, and then looked back toward him.
Sienelis: Didn't I hear that the Veritas met with some of my people recently?
Geoff thought back to the community of refugees they had nominally aided during their last mission on Ketar V. The Romulans he had met were destitute, but they all possessed a quiet dignity and poise, as if their living conditions were but a temporary inconvenience, their loss of their homeworld merely a minor setback to their grander ambitions.
Teller: We did — fine people living in a hard place. We helped a bit around the edges, but the fact is there’s trouble brewing on that planet.
The Romulan's gaze was fixed and intent, a flash of guilt and curiosity in her eyes.
Sienelis: How do you mean?
Teller: It’s a shame. Romulans we met were good folks but that world is grinding them down. The sad thing is, it’s happening to just about everyone who lives there — it’s just happening a little slower for everyone else.
Sienelis: I don't imagine the Shoals is often the easiest place to settle.
Teller: So how about you? How’d you make your way into the uniform?
Sienelis: Oh, ::it was as much a sigh as a word, and she slid her hand into the dark hair on the back of her head, rubbing at her scalp.:: I was a refugee, too. But our caravan ended up on Vulcan.
Teller tried to imagine how difficult it would be to lose a home and then to be forced to accept charity from a mortal enemy. He suddenly wondered if the refugees on Ketar V, largely ignored by the population as a whole, were somehow better off.
Teller: Can’t imagine that was an easy transition. Vulcans can be about the most irritatingly gracious people I’ve ever met.
The description drew a laugh out of Valesha, a grin catching at the corners of her mouth. Her stay on Vulcan had simultaneously proved and disproved a vast swathe of the beliefs she'd been instilled with as a youth. Plunged in the deep waters of the Federation, she'd found that she'd enjoyed swimming in them, afforded freedom and choices that were revelatory to the young Romulan.
Sienelis: That's a diplomatic way of putting it.
Teller: ::Smiling mischievously:: I’m bucking for a promotion to Ambassador - need to work on my polite phrasing if I’m going to get invited to all those fancy banquets. ::Teller examined some of the fresh burns on the back of his hands:: Doubt a fella ever got plasma burns at one of those things.
Sienelis: There's a first time for everything.
As he chuckled, the infuser finished its cycle with a gentle ding and began pouring a steaming mug of rich, black coffee. The robust aroma quickly filled the mostly empty room, tickling Teller’s nose. With a sigh, he rose and crossed to the improvised counter, withdrawing the finished mug and loading another. At least one of these needed to make its way to Captain Rahman or he suspected the Juneau wouldn’t move a centimeter. Still though, some testing was in order.
Teller: ::He brought the piping mug to his lips.:: Finally, something drinkable aboard this hulk. You sure I can’t make one for you? Seems like the least I can do.
Sienelis: Seems rude to say no at this point.
Teller smiled wide as he reloaded the machine for its next cycle, merrily humming an off key tune to himself.
Teller: Be just a few minutes but it’ll be worth your time, and that’s a Good Job Guarantee.
She watched him busy himself, thoughts ticking over in her mind. She'd asked about the refugees that the Veritas had encountered with a purpose in mind, and eventually, she reached into a pocket and pulled out a small PADD. Her thumb flicked over the controls, and once he returned with her coffee, she extended the small device toward him. On the screen there was a picture; a younger Valesha, perhaps in her late teens, with a young man of a similar age and an older woman who bore a resemblance to both.
Sienelis: I don't suppose you saw him while you were there?
He took the offered PADD and looked at the image. It wasn’t hard to make out the young Lieutenant — her features hadn’t changed much over the years, and her scowl was still a perfect likeness. The young man next to her though... something tickled at his memories.
Teller: You know, this fella does look awful familiar.
He racked his brain, trying to connect his vague memory to a face and a name. She looked on with all pretence of casual interest gone; mouth dry, mind blank, her hummingbird pulse thrumming in her veins as the tiny flicker of hope she'd carried for nearly ten years exploded into a bonfire. Eventually, he snapped his fingers and she flinched, sucking in a sharp breath.
Teller: Oh I remember… quiet kid, didn’t say much, but he worked like an ox. Helped a bunch of us out when we were rebuilding a refugee structure that had burned down. Pretty sure he lived there...or he did before it burned down. Probably worked the Docks like most of the other Romulans. Name was...Tavle? Treble?
Her next word was barely more than a whisper, a dream so fragile she wasn't sure she dared speak it aloud.
Teller: Taeval — yep, that’s him — looks a little rougher around the edges, but I’m pretty certain. Why? You two fall out of touch?
There was no answer for a while, the Romulan's gaze unfocused as she tried to process the news, retreating along the path of a decade-long journey of grief. The hiss of steam and the bubble of water filled the space between them, the bitter aroma of roasted coffee suffusing the air. So many thoughts had crowded into Valesha's mind at once she could barely pick one out for the white noise they created, and she stumbled over her words as she tried.
Sienelis: I— ::She reached over, taking the PADD back to stare at the small image. A memory, given life once again.:: I thought he died. We got separated in the evacuation and— Ten years. I thought he was dead.
Teller: Really? Damn. Well, the good news is the Veritas has plenty of contacts with the Romulans and we’ve even know a couple Colonial Marshalls who don’t completely hate us. If the interference in the Shoals is behaving, we could probably even get him on subspace for you. Take a little time to put it all together, but I’m confident we could get it done.
Sienelis: I— I have to go.
The coffee was left on the crate, the Romulan on her feet and stalking toward the door without any further explanation or apology. But a few steps in, she paused and stood still for a moment, then turned and returned to Teller, stooping to press a kiss to his cheek. Words were wholly inadequate for the sentiment she wanted to express, but alas, words were all she had.
Sienelis: Thank you.
Geoff was dumbfounded and felt a warmth rushing to his cheeks.
Teller: Uhhh...you’re welcome?
He watched as the young woman turned and all but sprinted out of the room in a somewhat confused haze. After a moment, he noticed the untouched cup of coffee resting on the crate and took a hesitant sniff before shrugging.
Teller: I guess some people really do appreciate a good cup of coffee.