Garran sat at a table, tall pitcher of drink untouched, PaDD in front of him and a thoughtful, distracted expression upon his wolven brow. He looked less than pleased, even forlorn, with his ears wilted and brows furrowed in concern.
"Is everything alright, Commander?" a soft voice asked. Soft, in the terms of hushed tones and pleasant sounds as opposed to an actual whisper. Close enough to be seen but too far to accidentally read the contents of the PaDD was Valeria Mordin, the resident science officer and Ts'usugi. Perhaps one of the few travelers on this craft who could relate to the phrase 'far from home'.
Garran's ears flicked up and swiveled to the source of the voice, even though his gaze remained a million miles away. "Lieutenant Mordin. Right?" resonated his rumbling bass voice. He paused a moment before looking up and halfheartedly motioning towards a nearby empty seat. "Things are not all well, though I'm sure you didn't come here to listen to my worries. Have a seat if you would, I could use the distraction."
"Correct." she started, indicating he did indeed get her name right. At his invitation, she sat opposite him at the table and set her tray down. A salad accompanying some kind of pasta with meats and veggies. "With respects sir, the ears aren't for show. If you wish to talk, the least i could do is listen."
She opted not to comment that he found her distracting. She simply smirked, "If my listening can help, perhaps I could even offer insight."
"Doubt you have much political influence over a small world in the Beta quadrant, so I don't think there's much you could do." Garran mused. "Even then, I barely know you. I've seen you around, but I think this is the first time we've ever really sat down to talk. Tell me about yourself, Lieutenant?"
"Scholasticly, graduated with honors from local and regional academy, achieved nine marks on prep academy, graduated with distinction from advanced academy." her resume, if you would. "Middle mouth of ni.." she stopped, and gave a soft smile, "Ten. I found out very recently my mother gave birth to a boy."
"Politically, i have very little sway outside of the Delta Quadrant. Personally, i enjoy crowds and being in the presence of people. Long walks, star lit skies. I dislike flowers, but not because i find them offensive. We have a flower back home called the Night Warden, but children call it the Tattle Tail because of its bioluminescent pollen. It always seemed to grow in places children were discouraged to be." she said with a giggle. "As a reminder of home, i brought a sample patch with me."
"You dislike flowers, but love the Night Warden. Do you dislike other flowers because they don't measure up to the ones on your world, or ... " He flicked an ear, looking genuinely interested. "And congratulations on becoming a ninth level sister." Garran smiled. "You're a Ts'usugi if I'm not mistaken, right?" he ventured. "Are large families very common among your people?"
"As a child I couldn't stand them. Mostly because they lived up their name. A glowing patch of fur, or a bit of blue on my clothes, and mother knew everything she needed to know. It wasn't until I was older that i gained, shall we say a respect for them. An admiration." she clarified, "I dislike flowers, because they are seen as gifts. A field of flowers is beautiful. Flowers in a jar is just... Something of a waste."
"And if I compared everything to how it were back home, i would be better off never leaving." she smirked. "And thank you. It will be a while before he's in a position to help with the chores, but we forgive him. I have the video from home that my family sent to announce him. I can show it to you, if and when you wish to view it." she said, still mindful of his disturbance.
"And yes, I am a Ts'usugi, and as for large families the answer depends on location. In rich urban regions not so much. In the rural countryside where family lives, big families are very common. Many hands to do the tasks needed."
"So one might actually argue that you love flowers, as long as they remain where they belong." Garran chuckled. "That's fair enough. I actually agree with you. Nature is beautiful, and best left visited, rather than brought into the home." He smiled, though still seemed like something weighed on him. "I'd love to see that video, if you have it with you."
"It's why live on our moons." she said with a smirk, and then pulled the video on a small PaDD. All of the audio was the native tongue of the Ts'usugi, but after a while didn't matter. It was easy to follow. A brother speaking, a younger sister wanting to talk to her older space fareing sister, grabby hands fron everyone... Then father spoke.
Finally, the video focuses on the star: the little bundle of joy, covered in fuzz and napping. A big yawn, then back to sleep.
"His name is Garra, though the standard phonetic alphabet will name him Gary by the time he's old enough to hear it."
Garran watched, his expression softening at the visuals and sounds, though his ears lay back with a hint of sadness. "Such a precious little one." he mused, offering the PaDD back when the video was done. "Good name too. Garra means 'the wisdom of the old ones' on my world and is also the root of my own name." the wolfman offered.
"Thank you." she started, "and one day maybe, you'll meet him. Let him know the weight of his name, though he may not even comprehend who or what you are if it's too soon." she gave a soft smile. "So what troubles you?" she asked gently.
Garran considered a moment before speaking. "For a moment, I was reminded of my own children. They would've been a hundred and seven and ninety eight standard federation years by now, but they are no longer with us." he explained, voice gentle and soft, he spoke of them with affection.
"My home - ... Is not politically stable, to put it mildly. This instability is part of the reason I had to bury my wife and my two children, eight decades ago. It's also part of the reason I left." He flicked an ear, hesitating a moment before offering her the PaDD he'd been contemplating. "Violent incidents have been steadily on the rise over the past few months. My whole world is a powder keg waiting to explode. I fear full-on global civil war is imminent."
While he spoke, her entire attention was focused on him. Those long ears perked and turned slightly, those reflectionless eyes focused on him. Her shoulders squared back, her posture itself spoke of her focus. He was the center of her world at the moment. As he handed her the PaDD she took it, but refrained from reading it until he had finished speaking. She gave it the review it deserved before she spoke, "My sympathies on your losses. It is the focus of many Ts'usugi tragedies for a parent to bury their children. Let alone everything. If I dug a well tomorrow, that stretched to the core of a world, it wouldn't be deep enough to express my regrets."
"As for your homeworld, we could sit here and discuss the geo-political ends, the hows and whys, and if that would help you cope with this then we certainly can. I won't insult you with questions like 'where do your loyalties lay'. Questions like that insult both parties. What I will ask is are you prepared for the worst, is the Federation aware, and are there plans to process refugees?" she asked in series.
A quick and honest "Thank you" to her expression of sympathy. Truth be told, it had been a long time ago that he buried his family and he had gotten over it as best as anyone ever could. He was alright. But her sympathies were genuine, and appreciated as such.
He contemplated her other words a bit longer before responding, giving her the time to mull over the PaDD. It was a small collection of news reports, footage and stills of aftermaths of various small violent conflicts. Bodies of people like Garran lying in the streets, walls crumbled, vehicles burning. She couldn't read the captions any more than he had understood the words in her much more joyous video, but that didn't make the scenes any less chilling.
"I'm not sure what the Federation can do. Sontaire III is not a Federation world, my people are not a Federation member race. I'll make sure they know though, for whatever good that'll do." he offered. "One small measure of comfort is that I have neither ties nor loyalties on Sontaire. Just memories."
She gave a nod, obviously thinking or at least mulling something over. The visuals on the PaDDs were disturbing, and violence was something that easily broke through any language barrier. "That will make things easier for you, but it obviously won't help your people. That being said, I imagine the Federation will do one of three things: Inform you they cannot interfere due to membership status, Inform you they cannot intervene but will help relocate noncombatants, or work with the current government to a peaceful resolution with membership consideration perhaps being on the negotiating table." she optioned out three possibilities. "These aren't the only options, but I think they're the three most likely. But as far as your involvement, informing the Federation of the situation and seeing their response should be your next step." a pause, "Were you to ask for advise." she added with a ghost of a smile.
"The absolute worst they can say is 'There's nothing we can do'." she cautioned, though she knew this wasn't anything he hadn't already considered. She just figured hearing an outsider say something he had considered would come as some comfort.
"Actually I think the most likely thing they'll do is send relief efforts to the victims, the civilians caught up in these conflicts. Blankets, food rations, fuel, make-shift prefab temporary housing, medical aid." Garran mused. "At least, I'd be sorely disappointed in them if they didn't do at least that." A pause. "If things do escalate like I'm afraid they might, that is."
She gave a nod, "A traveler arrives at an alien world a million miles from the furthest star they can see. They come across a child, scared and crying. If they have a soul, their first desire is to help that child." Valeria mused, "In everything i have observed, in every facet of the Federation, you are correct. Aid will be rendered, but in a manner as to remain out of the conflict. No arms, no munitions, just food and shelter and safety."
She took a sip of her tea, "They are a well meaning group. Stable to a point but willing to help. At least the core members are." she paused, "They're not without their flaws, but something isn't beautiful because of its perfection."
Garran flicked an ear. "That's why I joined the Federation, yes. I've done more than my fair share of getting my hands dirty to further that ideal, too." he mused, before heaving a sigh. "Medical aid will be very important. My people - we do not fight fair and things can get very ugly very quickly when we do fight." Words given weight by his enormous, musclebound stature, claws and fangs. "It'll be a balancing act to provide sufficient relief and aid while avoiding accusations of playing favorites, though."
"There's a startling correlation between 'Species that Fight Fair' and 'Species that Go Extinct'." Valeria offered, "According to our own historians and archaeologists, one of the first acts that primitive Ts'usugi undertook as a community was splitting into massive tribes, wandering everywhere they could manage, and ensuring that no other life on the planet was as 'advanced' as they were." a sip of tea, "No one fights fair. They just change the perspective of 'fair'.
At his final point, she gave a nod, "Indeed. Just take solace in the knowledge that such an act won't be yours to undertake. I apologize if I'm not being helpful in the traditional sense. Offering advise on how to 'solve' the issue, or tossing you suggestions. Simply put, Ts'usugi don't think like that. Though I can offer conversation and insight. Should the situation turn sour, I can offer you two distractions." a pause, "A flower no one in the Beta Quadrant has ever laid eyes on, and someone trained by her elder brother in how to hold their alcohol."
"I don't need 'suggestions' on how to 'solve' this anyways. It's beyond my ability to do much more than watch, and make sure that people who can make the decision to send relief aid know what's happening." Garran offered. "Just talking about it with someone helps me get a perspective on things though. So I thank you for that."
To the offer of two distractions he flicked an ear, though her explanation made him chuckle. "I might actually take you up on that some time. You're good people, Lieutenant."
She gave a nod. Him not expecting solutions to problems beyond his hands was actually something of a relief. Dealing with humans taught her that they expected the moon sometimes, and as someone who lived on her moon that was quite a discredit.
"The more spiritual of our people believe we were given such long ears to listen. Others cite that our ancestry points to long-eared prey species. In either case, you're very welcome." and at his compliment, she gave a smirk as she bowed her head, "You do this farmer's daughter too much justice, sir. I'm just an avid conversationalist. But, I do thank you for your words." she looked back up at him with the smirk being replaced by a soft smile. "There is a gathering planned for tomorrow, around 1800 hours, here in the lounge. Actually, over there." she pointed to a region undergoing renovations.
"It's to celebrate the birth of my baby brother. The Captain suggested it, as a means to remind folks of the positive and boost morale among the crew." she paused, "Everyone is invited, though from your uniform change you've recently been reassigned to a new position. I could understand how needing to adjust and relocate could make attendance difficult."
The famous Ts'usugi practice of saving face.
"Don't sell yourself short, Lieutenant. A paticular spiritual Carnelian would say that each portion of the Migrator's soul is as valuable as the next, and the more pragmatic one would remember that a king bleeds the same color blood as a famer's apprentice." Then to her invitation to the party he simply replied "I didn't live to be as old as I am without being able to deal with unexpected party invitations." he smirked. "I'll be there. What sort of gathering can I expect, so I can dress appropriately?"
"Casual, with perhaps bouts of high pitched 'awww's and such." she warned, "Dress comfortable. There will be simple food and drink, and I'll see about making simple foodstuffs from home but no promises."
She gave a soft smile, "Everyone in the universe is just someone you haven't met yet." she cited, brushing some of her blonde hair out of her eyes, "The Migrator sounds interesting. Would you mind if I asked for an introduction to your beliefs?"
"The Migrator is the central figure in the most popular religion on my world." Garran explained. "At the birth of time, the beginning of beginnings, one perfect soul was created. The bringer of life, the universal Migrator, born to travel the galaxy, leaving small fragments of himself on each world, fragments from which all life on that world would evolve. Each world that he would seed that way, on which he would leave a part of himself, diminished him until the universe was full of life, and the great Migrator was no more, having given himself to the universe. Eventually when all life, all souls but one have passed, the very last soul to die will reincarnate into the new Migrator, and the whole cycle will start anew."
Garran leaned back and took a sip of his drink. "Thus from the most devious Ferengi to the most intelligent Vulcan, the most violent Klingon, the most mysterious of Ts'usugi to the strongest and wisest of Carnelians, we're all equal. It's our most sacred belief that every soul is the same, and we're all part of one, great, universal Migrator."
She listened, her attention focused on the story of a great being and his sacrifice to the universe, and the promise of renewal. "Your Migrator sounds very poetic, very neutral. I wonder what he would think of us, doing what we do with the gift he's given." she posited, but moved on. "The Ts'usugi religion is one of reverence for those that came before. Lessons learned and behaviors influenced by ancestors and long dead figures of history. In our youth, we held that the Emperor was the liaison between the living and the deceased. We're a more mature race now than we were then." she admitted.
"Our religious holdings are still in practice, but as a species we're more interested in the physical than the spiritual. Not to say we aren't a spiritual people any longer, far from it, but the proverbial writing is on the wall."
"He'd probably disapprove of the situation on my world." Scowled the Carnelian. "Sometimes I wish learning from the ones before us was as much part of our faith as it is of yours. Wouldn't be in the situation we're in then I'd wager." A sigh, shoulders slumping. "Ah don't listen to an old man's laments."
"If I didn't listen, and my grandfather found out, I'd be in for the scolding of a lifetime." she offered. "And please, don't hold our beliefs on a pedestal. One of the first things we're taught is how to distract the spirits so they don't observe us doing something shameful or wrong." she gave a smirk. "Though, again... just a farmer's daughter." she took another nibble of her sandwich. "I don't have a recreation of Ts'usu in the holodeck database. We find it eerie to literally bring home with us when we travel. Our starships are decorated with relics of home, but never home itself. Paintings, vids, still images, sculptures... but never home itself." a pause, "Otherwise, I'd offer to show you a world no outsider has ever seen."
"Instead, I can show you images and vids of my village should you ever come over to view the Tattle Tail."
"You know, that sounds nice. In return I can show you Sontaire. At least, the pretty parts of it." he offered, rising to his feet with a wince. "Thank you for sitting and listening. Does an old man good."
"I'd want to see everything. The mask and the face beneath it." she explained with a soft smile, "No Ts'usugi can resist a good mystery." and as he stood she stood as well. "The pleasure and honor are mine, sir. I'm glad that I was able to help you, and should you need anything my doors are open at your disposal." and at that, she gave a smile. Not the ghost of a smile she usually gave, not the hint of a soft smile she wore when expected to smile.
"Call me Garran. At least, unless I'm in official capacity, ofcourse." Garran gave a nod. He'd smile back but there was too much in his mind to. Bear's kidnapping, Soren's condition, his reactivation, his home world's state, it was enough to weigh down any mind.
"Valeera, though In the human standard pronunciation, Valeria." she introduced herself officially, "I'll make you the same offer, Garran, but you outrank me by five marks.." she gave a smirk, and then recited something in the tongue of the Ts'usugi. "Luck and guidance in the trials to come. May your enemies know fear, may your allies know victory." a pause, "Roughly translated."
"I'm not a standard human though." Garran chuckled, finally seeing some humor. "Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends. Old human saying." he added with a wink before lumbering out, with the aid of his walking cane.
His silly play on words made her smirk. The pun was traditionally disapproved of, but used moderately like any good spice, it added to the conversation.
She watched him depart, returning to her seat to finish her meal. Her tea had gone cool, but it was a small price to pay for a good conversation.