Disclaimer : You know the drill...I own nothing, only my sinister view of the world :) and some caracters, and the story, and the idea behind it...The rest, I borrowed it :) and hope they don‘t sue me...
Background : Well, this really is the continuation of another novel, so it would be advisable to read that one first. For those of you stubborn enough not to do so, here‘s a lil‘ summary :
DS9 is still under occupation. The minefield is down, but the Prophets ridded the Federation of the Dominion reinforcements. Oh, yeah, perhaps the most important thing is that Voyager has returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Paris, Tuvok, Data and Crusher are on some sort of special mission for the Federation.
Voyager and Enterprise-E have fought in the battle with the Defiant. When things were running badly indeed for the Feds, some ‚old friends‘ appeared.
And now the Continuation...
Author‘s Note : Again, I have to apologize to all the P/Tlers out there. This one, I‘m afraid, is not really a P/T story either. Perhaps towards the End, but I dunno. But I think there will be plenty of feelings in this one, in other words, perhaps it will get a bit sappy. Or perhaps not. Well, last time we left Picard, hanging out with Sela (I hope you remember her), and Paris being hung out by some Cardassian lunatic. Well, lets see what I got for you this time. :)
Feedback will be appreciated, enshrined, and carefully read! Feel free to write. You liked it? You hated it? You survived it? Tell me about it :) Everything, from praise to scorn, goes to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to Gene Roddenberry, for having invented Star Trek and making us believe in a better future, as always, and to William H. Keith jr. and Micheal A. Stackpole, some of my favourite authors. Oh, yeah, and to Terry Pratchett, my actual (!) favourite author. Also I would like to thank William Shakespeare, who helped me greatly in my last effort, even if he doesn‘t know it...and to the many poets who will appear in this one...As well I would like to apologize to all those who can‘t stand poems and whom I will bother with lots of them...this time and forever and ever :)
Dedication: In 1991, in what we call the 2nd Gulf War, the SAS, a British Special Forces unit, became actively involved in the conflict. An eight men-strong combat patrol of the 22nd SAS was send out to observe the Iraqui Main Supply Road, and, if possible, to locate and destroy Iraqui SCUD launchers. Their outpost‘s security was compromised on the second day, and the unit forced to withdraw. The patrol, Bravo Two Zero, fought its way out of immediate danger, losing one man, and then got separated. The missing three men, of whom two were wounded, headed to the Syrian border. One of them swam across the frozen Euphrat and was rescued. The other two didn‘t. The remaining four of the patrol were captured and submitted to brutal and barbarian torture, before being released. In total, the eight men of Bravo Two Zero left over 200 dead or wounded Iraquis behind. This is for the three who didn‘t come back.
Note: The newly (or rather, soon-to-be) introduced character of Captain Chris Ryan is not named after me, but after Corporal Chris Ryan, SAS, the single soldier of Bravo Two Zero to make it over the Syrian border, after a 300 km march through the Iraqui desert, with only 2 packets of biscuits to eat and practically nothing to drink.
The Price of Admirality
« One cannot make an omelett without breaking an egg. But it is amazing
how many eggs you can break without getting a decent omelett. »
Part 8 - Making History
When Captain Christopher Ryan entered the briefing room of ChickenHawk, the sixteen men of Squadron D stood to attention. The big room was only dimly lit, only a bright spotlight shone on the speaker‘s desk.
As 14 Int‘s flagship, ChickenHawk was totally different in design than any other Defiants outside the Regiment.
The Regiment in itself was parted in four Squadron of sixteen men each, and each Squadron had its own Defiant-class Spaceship. In addition there was the Chickenhawk. Usually, D Squadron‘s ship was the Chinook, but that special ship had been assigned to combat duty in the fleet.
ChickenHawk was an old name, and there was a story about its origins:
In an early Earth war in the 20th century, two soldiers were discussing wether or not they should just quit the army while the war was still raging. One of them said that would probably make them chickens. But the other replied that in the middle of the combat, when he flew his assault helicopter, he would feel brave, almost comfortable. "Like a hawk maybe." But then, in the pauses between combat, he‘d quit at the slightest excuse. "So," he asked. "what am I? A chicken or a hawk?" "You‘re a chickenhawk," the other replied, smiling.
All five ships were modified Defiants. Since only a crew of sixteen men and women needed to be harboured, much of the original crew quarters had been spared. In response, the actual cabins were bigger and more comfortable than standard Defiant issue. The ChickenHawk had like all Squadron ships, a special briefing room on Deck One. Sixteen chairs were in it, in two rows of eight chairs each. As commander of the overall 14 Intelligence, Ryan was not assigned to any Squadron, but could join each of them if his mission required it.
Ian Malenkov sat in the first row, on the outer left of it, directly vis-à-vis to the speaker‘s desk, where Ryan stood. Behind the young Captain, a large monitor had been installed, and showed now a solar system diagramm.
When everybody was seated again, Ryan began to explain in detail to his men what they were up to.
‚Allright people, everybody listen up. Admiral Haze has requested our assisstance on a joint Romulan/Federation mission and the Iron Lady has given it to him.
What you are about to hear is classified, and since there still is the threat of Changlings inside StarFleet, any of you giving information to anyone outside this room will be court-martialed for High-Treason.‘
He pressed a control on his desk, and on the monitor behind him, the view zoomed in and showed one of the planets in detail. A small text appeared to the planet‘s right.
‚This is Corvus II, main Ketracel White storage facility in the Alpha-Quadrant, and that‘s our target.
As some of you may know, we already did send out a team to Corvus, to destroy it. Alex and John, from B Squadron went with it, but their shuttle was shot down, and they were either killed or captured, probably the former.
We‘re not going to make the same mistake again,‘ Ryan concluded, pointing at the far end of the room.
A tall Romulan male stood there, and at Ryan‘s nod began walking up to the desk, and took Ryan‘s place.
‚My name,‘ he said. ‚is Major Jera. I am in command of what you call DEST.‘
There were surprised gasps among the soldiers. ‚For this mission,‘ Ryan said, stepping beside Jera, ‚the Major will give us a lift. The ChickenHawk with two Warbirds as escort will transport us and a DEST Squadron to our first mutual mission. Major Jera here, will give you the details...‘
After the mission briefing, Ken strolled through the narrow corridors of StarBase89. So they were going to war.
A special mission deep inside enemy territory.
Buisiness as usual.
A commando mission to rescue the commandos. Interesting. No, wait, Ryan said it wasn‘t for the away-team, but for the storage depot. If anyone of them is still alive, good, if not...Enough! I should concentrate on getting me out of there alive. And at least, - he smiled - this time I‘ll have a good reason.
Suddenly, Ian stopped dead.
And, where the hell am I?
Clad in a long black robe, decorated with golden sewings, Talina knelt on one end of a mat, in one of Enterprise‘s Holodecks. A dark-green ribbon, a sakhram, ran across her forehead, keeping her har away from her eyes, and ended in a know, on the back of her hat. She had received it, as all absolvents of the Sakahra Academy do, where the future nekekami agents were trained. The training was hard and dangerous. Few finished it, and in Talina‘s year, there had been six fatal casualties. Of her class of seventeen, those six had died and nine more had failed. Only two had made it into DEST. The ribbons were almost holy among the survivors, and there had been stories about fatal wounds healing because they were bandaged with a sakhram.
Detailed, age-old decorations, made of gold- and green textile, were carefully stitched into the fine silky fabric of her robe. They showed an impressive dragon, his face on the front side of the robe, and its wings stretched out, reaching as far as the sides of her ribcage. The dragon was green, outlined with golden, and it sent a fierce stare at anyone who dared to look at it. On the Dragon‘s shoulder set an elegant bird-of-prey, Hawk-like in appearance, but not from Earth, but from Romulus.
On the far side of the robe, an ugly beast held itself in a servile position, though looking as if ready to fight the mightier dragon, snarling at it.
The beautiful decoration symbolized a fighting scene, and the robe had been especially manufactured for Talina and two other members of her team, when they had returned from a particularly dangerous mission against a Klingon outpost.
Thrust through the broad, blood-red satch circling her slim waist, was a ketado, a deadly, curved, fifty-five centimetre-long blade, with razor-sharp edges and a flat point. The traditional weapon of a shinjai, a master in the ancient shinurota discipline, a martial art from the earliest days of Romulus. Only very few, ‚modern‘ Romulans still were trained in that particular fighting skill.
All DEST agents were masters in this art, and some of them routinely took their ketado with them into battle. Hers had belonged to her family for over twelf generations now.
Talina‘s shoulders and chest rose and fell, then she was off. Rising in one smooth motion, she freed the sword from its scabbard. The flashing steel blade swept out and around to the right, exploding a red, helium-filled balloon hovering at head height. Talina continued the spin and let the slightly curved blade drop half a meter. She let the blade rip a jagged gash into another balloon‘s surface. Talina continued her spin, the sound of the balloon bursting almost unnoticed next to the pounding of her heart. Another step forward and she slashed straight down with an overhand blow that shattered a small wooden block a holo-character had lofted through the air towards her. Half the wooden block skittered across the floor and bumped up against Captain Picard‘s right foot. He looked down at it, noticing how cleanly the ketado had sheared through the solid pine cube. ‚Impressive. Very impressive.‘
For a moment, Talina‘s concentration was gone, and she missed the last target, a holo-created dummy, man-high.
Furious with herself, Talina sank to her knees, allowing her momentum to slide her forward, and rehomed the ketado, without looking or giving the task much thought.
Then the sharp sound of a pair of hands clapping reached her ears. Talina thought at first that Picard offered the applause in cruel mockery, but it did not fade away quickly, the way such a false accolade usually did. The clapping remained strong and steady. Talina rose to her feet, and saw the bald Captain for the first time. He was dressed rather strangely she though. A white costume, a helmet with a black visor, and a long, thin blade tucked under his arm. The Captain continued his applause and even let a hint of a smile cross his face.
‚Arigato, Tai-i Picard-sama. But I wish you had been spared this exhibition.‘
Talina thanked Picard slowly, and with respect, but Picard just waved a hand.
‚Until I entered and disturbed your concentration, you were doing excellent.‘
‚Yes, but I hardly showed respect to shinurota or my master with my display.‘
‚Your last cut at the dummy missed, but that is not why I was applauding. There, at the end of the exercise, despite your distraction and humiliation, you resheathed your sword without hesitation, without thought. You showed a presence of mind few, even amongst our both races, ever attain.‘
Talina let his mind replay what she had done. She hadn‘t thought, she had just acted. She had rehomed the blade because it was the right and appropriate action. The idea of cursing or throwing down the sword in frustration had not occurred to her. ‚There are times, Major Talina, where knowing how to return weapon to its scabbard is more important than knowing how to cut with it.‘ The hidden message in Picards‘s sentence did not escape Talina‘s mind. ‚Hai. Thank you Captain, I would like to think that the road I travel is the one through which wisdom can be attained.‘ Picard smiled.
Curiously, Talina pointed to the weapon in Picard‘s hand.
‚What blade is that? I have never seen anything like it before.‘
Picard raised and looked at it.
‚It is what we call a foil. It is not a sword, like yours. With your...‘
‚Ketado,‘ Talina helped.
‚...ketado, you emphasize on using the blade‘s edge. With a foil, you emphasize the point and the lunge.‘
‚I understand.‘ She eyed the foil curiously. ‚May I?‘ Picard handed her his foil, and Talina in return unsheathed her ketaido again, and pointed the handle at Picard. He took it, carefully.
Talina examind the foil closely, and bent the blade several times.
‚Sumimasen, Captain, but your blade seems to be defective.‘
She bent it again, in front of his eyes, to prove her point.
‚No, Major, that is quite allright. It is intended to be flexible.
Otherwise, people could get hurt while using it.‘
‚Yes, but, that is the purpose of a blade, is it not?‘ For a few seconds, Picard eyed her strangely. Then comprehension kicked in.
‚You mean you actually use this sword as a weapon?‘
‚What else should we do with it?‘ Talina asked, non-plussed.
‚Well, it seems...like an anachronism, in the age of energy weaponns.
We use foils like that one for sports. For entertainement.‘ Before Talina could respond to this, another ear had already caught the last statement.
‚A typical human waste of material and opportunities,‘ a new voice said.
Immediately, Talina executed a formal bow, then deepend it and held it an instant longer than she had for Picard. ‚Koywana, Chu-sa Sela.‘
Sela nodded in her direction, then walked over to Picard and took the ketado out of his hand.
‚This blade is old, Captain Picard, perhaps older than your family. It takes month to produce a balanced, a perfect sword like this. Few are made today, perhaps two every year. Most of the blades that exist are family heritage, like this one. It is still manufactured of steel, and the smith still has to use the old energy of the fire, to give it its shape. You thought bat‘thels dreadfully beautiful? Then you have never seen a ketado in action.‘
Picard continued to direct his calm look on her face. ‚And now, Captain Picard, as you very well know, I have to talk to the Major. Please do excuse us.‘
‚Trust Ian to get lost on a StarBase!‘
Just slightly embarassed, Ian picked up the glass in front of him and drank.
David Cranston, a dark, mediterranean type of man, held his glass up, visible to everyone.
‚A toast!‘ he said. ‚To Ian Malenkov!‘ He lowered his voice to a conspirative whisper. ‚The first, and probably only Special Agent, ever to get lost on StarBase89.‘
After two embarassed seconds, Ian simply had to join in with the laughter of his mates.
‚Sastarovje. Your health,‘ he said.
‚Cheers,‘ came the echo from the rest of his Rabid Fox squadron.
After Ian had lost him self in the labyrinth-like corridors of SB89, he had tried his best to avoid contact with any of his team. Useless to say, that he had failed.
Too proud to contact them, he had asked the computer which way to go. Unfortunately, in just that moment Dave Cranston and Galen Cox, of his team, had come around the corner. Oops.
Ranna, a tall dark-haired woman tread nearer. Her black eyes - they were black due to an early-childhood illness - laughed at him.
‚Ian, darling,‘ she said, chuckling. ‚we have got something for you,‘
Ian scanned the faces of his comrades and what he saw did not please him.
‚Re-a-ll-y?‘ he asked carefully.
‚Yes,‘ she smiled.
‚And what could that be, I wonder?‘
Ranna took her hands from behind her and presented him a carefully gift-wrapped present.
Ian eyed her critically, then took the present from her and began to unwrap it. It was a PADD. He activated, and it showed a detailed sketch of SB89. Ian looked at it in disbelief, and then comprehension set in.
‚Ha-ha,‘ he made.
Everyone laughed. ‚So you won‘t get lost again next time,‘ Ranna explained, smiling.
‚I hate you guys, you know that?‘ Ian stated.
Rabid Fox mock-salutedand shouted, ‚Yes sir, we know sir!‘
They earned amused looks and even laughter from the rest of the bar. But, thank god, they started to wander off to a free table, at the other end of the room.
‚We‘ll be over there, waiting. Captain Ryan said he‘d probably join us here, any decade now,‘ Dave Cranston said, before he turned to join the rest of his team.
Ian nodded. ‚I‘ll just wait until I got my Ale, right?‘
Dave waved his OK behind his back.
Turning around on his stool, waiting for his Ale, Ian let his mind wander. He had forgotten something, he was sure of it. But what.
‚Your drink sir,‘ the barman said, interrupting his thoughts.
Ian looked down at the tall glass, filled with a clear blue fluid.
Romulan Ale? he thought. Romulan Al...Oh hell!
He searched the walls for a chronometer, and found one, above one of the food replicators. 2049.
Blast, I forgot the date. She‘s going to kill me.
‚Hell!‘ he muttered. ‚People, I‘m out of here. There‘s something I gotta do,‘ he said, turning to his team-mates sitting at one of the big tables near the windows.
He stood up and headed for the door. Before he could reach it, it already had opened and revealed a duo of Klingon warriors. Ian knew some Klingons were on the station, shipwrecked, their ships destroyed and they had survived it. Waiting for an occasion to hitchhike back to Quo‘nos, they were stranded here. He didn‘t see them at first, and he bumped right into one of them, an especially angry-looking speciman of his race.
‚Sorry,‘ he muttered when he tried to slip past them.
A strong hand held him back. He looked up and saw two angry Klingons looking down at them.
‚I told you I‘m sorry, allright.‘
‚Why in such a hurry?‘ the leader of the Klingon party asked, with a faked smile which bared unregular, gritted teeth.
‚If‘ve got something to do, and it‘s none of your buisiness. And now, if you‘ll excuse me,‘ Ian said, breaking the Klingon‘s grip on him. He turned and turned away, but just could go a few steps, until he heard a deep, unfriendly growl from behind him.
‚You want to play with that patak piece of flax again! Quotj Q‘ua!
Turn around!‘ the Klingon roared.
Several heads turned into their direction, including those of Rabid Fox. Through immense self-control - and his training - Ian managed not to break the immense Klingon‘s face.
‚Because we are allies,‘ he snarled, having trouble to keep his voice under control. ‚I have not heard what you have said. Because we are allies.‘
Now really wanting to leave, Ian turned to the door and set himself in motion.
The Klingon spat on the floor.
‚Coward!‘ he yelled in a disgusted voice. ‚But what could I expect from someone who deals with a Romulan whore.‘ All of sudden, the bar was quiet.
Slowly, trembling with rage, Ian turned. ‚What...did you...say?‘
‚You heard me you honorless pimp!‘
Withtout the slightest warning, the Klingon lunged forward, let himself fall to the floor, and scythed his left leg through the space occupied by Ian‘s.
As Ian leapt above the sweep, the Klingon let the momentum of his kick twist him over to the stomach, then started another sweep with his right leg.
The kick caught a surprised Ian‘s ankles and smashed them together as he came down. He landed heavily on the floor, but before the Klingon could turn and lunge forward to pin him, Ian was on his feet again. He dropped into a crouch, and waved the now furious Klingon forward.
‚Now come on, Klingon. Do you always give up so easily?‘ he said circling his enemy. Though the Klingon warrior stood a third of a meter taller than Ian, and outweighed him by at least twenty kilo, Ian had an advantage: his smaller size, and his agility, acquired through years of training.
Make him angry Ian. Angry Klingons make mistakes. ‚What‘s up?‘ he continued. ‚I would have expected more stamina from a Klingon warri...‘
The Klingon‘s lunge forward made him break off. He spun to the left, just eluding the Klingon‘s outstretched right hand, then darted forward. He hooked his right leg behind the Klingon right knee, then grabbed the Klingon‘s shoulder and threw him down. His fingers stiffened into a spearpoint, he held his right hand over the Klingon‘s throat. ‚Now what?‘ he asked mockingly. The Klingon glanced sidewards, then stiffened.
‚Go on. Kill me.‘
Before Ian could somehow answer, he heard a metallic thump behind him, then another dull sound, as if something had hit the floor. He turned his head, and saw the other Klingon warrior lying on the ground, unconscious, a combat knife lying near his head. He looked at the knife. He looked at his team-mates, Ranna standing in front of the table.
Obviously, a knife threwn by her had hit the second Klingon in the back of his head with its dull end, and had sent him to the floor. Even more obviously, the Klingon had tried to sneak up at Ian from behind.
She nodded seriously.
Just then, Ian heard the hiss of the door opening. He turned his head back again, and saw a security detail rushing in, phasers in hand. They surrounded him and the two grounded Klingons.
‚Sir. Get away from him.‘
Reluctantly, Ian stood, was taken into custody and was lead out of the room.
‚Please tell me it‘s not true.‘
Ian said nothing, but only continued to stare at a point roughly ten centimeters above his friends head.
Ryan shook his head. ‚I don‘t believe it,‘ he half-laughed, half-cried.
He sighed. ‚Lock the room and sit down please.‘ Reaching behind him, Ian tapped a combination of buttons, then sat down in the chair standing in front of Ryan‘s desk. Christopher Ryan gazed at him intensively.
‚If Shelby finds out about this, there‘s a chance you‘ll get fired.‘
‚Heaven‘s sake, why? Why were you killing that Klingon?‘
‚That‘s something I prefer not to talk about. Besides, I really couldn‘t influence it, and I wouldn‘t have killed him.‘
‚I know you wouldn‘t have, but what‘s that "I couldn‘t influence it"?‘
Ryan shook his head slightly, then looked back at the his monitor.
‚I reckon however,‘ he said, ‚from what the witnesses say, he started the fight.‘
Ian opened his mouth, wanting to explain himself, but Ryan raised his right hand and stopped the sentence before it could be spoken. ‚No, wait,‘ he said. ‚I have to make sure I got this right.‘ He took a breath. ‚You were at the bar, when you realized you had forgotten a date - with whomm, you are not going to tell me - and you started to leave. Then this Klingon appeared and started a fight. Just like that.‘Ken nodded in agreement.‚What did he say?‘
‚That‘s about it,‘ he said.
‚He...made some comments about my date.‘
‚What? Why on earth should he do that?‘
Ian winced and shifted nervously on his seat. He started rising from his chair, but was stopped by Ryan‘s look.
‚Really, I should go now, we...‘
‚Ian,‘ Ryan interrupted. ‚I‘m your friend. You should know that you can trust me.‘
‚It‘s not that, it‘s...‘
‚Hell, I...she‘s Romulan.‘
If Ryan had held a cup of coffee, and had he been drinking it at that time, this would have been one of those occasions where, due to a narrative agreement, he inevitably would have had to choke. He looked at Ian incredulously.
‚You‘re not kidding.‘
Ian shook his head. ‚She‘s been assigned as exchange officer to the Enterprise.‘
Ian had to chuckle. Even Ryan had to smile, but his eyes clearly showed disbelief. He studied his friend once again.
‚My best friend went star-craving mad,‘ Ryan mused. ‚She, of course, is pretty, I trust?‘
‚She‘s more than just pretty,‘ Ian interrupted. ‚I mean, she‘s smart, she‘s intelligent, she‘s...‘
‚Romulan?‘ Ryan suggested.
Ryan waved a hand impatiently. ‚Whatever.‘
‚You can‘t understand this, I mean, you haven‘t seen her and you haven‘t...‘ He hesitated. ‚Anything I say now would sound stupid, wouldn‘t it?
‚Spoken like a man in love.‘
For a minute or so, there was complete silence.
‚Heaven‘s sake, she‘s Tal Shiar, Ian.‘
‚We don‘t know that for sure!‘
‚Exchange officer? Colonel Janika here? Doesn‘t that ring a bell?‘
Ian wanted to protest, but his friend was right. Janika being here, it was practically certain that Talina was Tal Shiar. The possibility of positioning an agent - sorry, exchange officer - onboard the Fleet‘s flagship was, so far, unique. A Tal Shiar agent was the obvious choice for the position.
But then, something else came to his mind.
He smiled triumphantly.
‚But, you said there is now an Alliance between our governments. So, what wrong can their be?‘
Immediately, Ryan opened his mouth in protest, but shut it again, after realizing that he hadn‘t really got a sound and logical argument against the one brought up by his friend.
After considering the problem for a few seconds, he finally prompted for prejudices.
‚She‘s Romulan,‘ he repeated.
‚I know. So?‘
‚You know what Tal Shiar is like! I bet you, they‘re up to something.‘
Being the professional that he was, that thought had also crossed Ian‘s mind. But after knowing Talina for nearly ten days now, he had dismissed it pretty quickly.
‚Listen, Chris. I only told you about the whole thing, because we are friends. And because I trust you. Now, please trust me. I know what I‘m getting myself into.‘
Ryan sighed sadly. ‚Shelby‘ll go spare if she knew about this.‘
Ian giggled madly. ‚My thought exactly. Question is, are you going to tell her?‘
Ryan studied his friend‘s face carefully. ‚No,‘ he finally resolved. ‚You‘re my friend, and I do trust you. Besides, I still owe you for saving my butt on Turkana IV.‘
Ian nodded. ‚Thanks,‘ he said, and stood up to leave the room.
‚Just one thing Ian.‘
He turned. ‚Yes?‘
‚I have managed to persuade Admiral Haze not to file a complaint. Or to contact Shelby. That cost me two authentic - and very old - bottles of Saurian Brandy and a lot of charisma. Is she worth it?‘
Ian thought about that. For about two seconds. ‚Yes. Yes, she‘s definitively worth it.‘
He turned to leave, but then another thing came to his mind.
‚Hey Chris,‘ he said. ‚What time is it, anyway?‘
Ryan consulted his monitor.
‚About half past ten. Why?‘
‚Oh hell,‘ Ian muttered, leaving the room, and a perplexed Captain Ryan.
One thing I like about her is that she gives every place she‘s in for a while her touch, Ian thought, as he entered Talina‘s quarters. He had overriden her door‘s access control, by entering his security clearance. He could enter practically every room he wanted with that code.
Though she had been assigned that room only a few days ago, it already looked a bit...Romulan. A beautiful potrait of a Warbird hung above the standard-issue working desk, and somewhere he had seen ancient Romulan artifacts and ceremonial weapons.
Ian walked over to her bedroom.
She was asleep, almost curled into a ball on her bed, when he came in.
Her beautiful silky black hair was spread out around her thin white face. He let the door close behind him and indulged in the rare moment, the chance to observe her freely, to run his eyes over her without fear of discovery, with only his conscience and desire for witnesses. The dark robe she wore didn‘t very much emphasise every single of her curves, but Ryan was stunned at the beauty of her lean body. Her thin legs, her rounded hips, slim waist, the gentle half crescent of her chest, everything was, for lack of a better word, perfect. His gaze caressed each detail and memorized it, finally travelling further along her body, to her graceful neck, leading up to a tanned face flushed with the slightest of the green of her blood, like all her skin. He let the longing seize his chest, as he observed the thin dark-red lines of her lips, the hollow of her cheeks, her lovely snub-nose, the slant of her closed eyes, the curves of her arched eyebrows, her slightly pointed ears, hardly visible underneath her fine hair. Her long fingers twitched in her sleep and he allowed himself a little warm smile.
What are you dreaming about, Major Talina?
This was all wrong. His heart-beat shouldn‘t increase at the mere sight of her. Given the current situation and what had just happened, she was not his to admire, not the way he was now looking at her. But she was intelligent and caring, and she was pretty. Not pretty, he corrected himself. Beautiful. Nothing less than wonderfully beautiful.
At first, he had told himself that that was all to it.
He was simply attracted to her because she was attractive. But he was to intelligent a man to ignore the truth, and he knew himself too well to deny it.
It was strange that some people just fell in love after mere days, while others waited for years, because they don‘t recognize their own feelings, or because they are afraid of them. He had struggled with his feelings since the beginning. His loyalty to his unit and government forbade him such a relationship, but what was he supposed to do?
Kill her, like the other agents he had killed on other missions? No, never. I would never hurt her. I would never let anyone hurt her, he told himself, and knew it to be the truth. A truth that surprised his soldier-soul.
Slowly approaching her bed, he sat down beside her. He ran his right hand through her hair. After a while, he rested it on her neck, stroking her left ear with his thumb. He continued doing this, even after she had stirred and her eyes had fluttered open as she slowly had regained consciousness. ‚Not that I would mind, but why are you doing that?‘ she whispered, her voice still muddled with sleep.
‚Good morning my dear. Or should I say Good night? And I don‘t know why I am doing this, only that I‘m enjoying it,‘ he said, his voice a low whisper.
‚I was beginning to think you‘d have forgotten me,‘ she purred teasingly. He leaned down on her slowly, and Talina parted her lips slightly in anticipation. But instead of kissing her, Ian just brushed his lips over the tip of her nose.
Talina closed her eyes briefly as she felt her pulse quicken at this simple yet sensual touch.
‚I got...stuck up in the bar. Sorry.‘
‚What happened?‘ she asked, looking at him for only the second time since she had awakened.
‚I...met some Klingons,‘ he admitted, still stroking her ear.
For a moment there was a stunned silence.
‚We had some sort of...argument.‘
She raised her eyebrows.
‚He apparently didn‘t like it that his ally was dealing with a Romulan.
And somehow...we kinda had a little row.‘
‚You mean you fought him?‘
Ian nodded his head.
‚Did you win?‘
Ian allowed himself a proud grin.
‚Last thing he saw was my fist hovering above his face.‘ Talina smiled, showed her white, even teeth. Then she drew him down and kissed him fiercely.
Slowly, they separated.
‚What did I do to deserve that?‘ Ian asked, breathless but content.
She looked in his eyes, steely green-blue ones in emerald green. ‚You were ready to defend me. And no matter what the Klingons say, Romulans do have honor, and we are very careful about it. Defending me against that Klingon is something no Romulan will forget. Something, I won‘t forget. Iie Hai-kama Sihaya.‘
They embraced and enjoyed the silence for a while.
Then, Ian‘s brain kicked in and translated what she had said.
He looked at her, surprised.
‚What is it?‘ Talina asked.
‚What did you say?‘ Ian whipsered.
‚I thanked you. Don‘t you understand Romulan?‘ she challenged.
‚Actually, I do speak it quite well. But, why Sihaya?‘ Talina‘s disappointment at that question was considerable, and she could not quite keep it from showing on her face. ‚I‘m sorry...I thought...‘ she stuttered, hurt.
‚It‘s a dialect, isn‘t it? From Remus.‘
She nodded solemnly.
‚I was born on Remus,‘ she whispered.
‚As far as I know it means ... "Desert Spring"?‘
Talina nodded again.
‚Remus is much of a desert world,‘ she said, ‚with only little water and vegetation, but of a very exotic beauty. We didn‘t terraform it, so there still are vast deserts, but we always found ways to survive, found food and water, found spring in a desert. Sihaya means "Desert Spring", to honour the world that has nourished and harboured us for so many years.‘
Her voice betrayed her calm explanation, she knew. Ian‘s eyes widened when, due to her explanation and his knowledge of Romulan culture, the full implications of such simple a word dawned on him.
‚I think the Betazoids have a similar word,‘ Talina said. ‚Izami or so I think.‘
‚Imzadi,‘ Ian corrected.
Talina nodded yet once more.
‚And you called me that? Me?‘
‚I am...honored, but...you should be careful what you say,‘ he advised her. He didn‘t really believe he was actually saying this. ‚I don‘t see why I should have said anything else...Sihaya,‘ Talina countered defiantly.
‚You‘ll get into trouble,‘ he warned, leaning closer to her. ‚Romulus would approve with this no more than the Klingons or StarFleet.‘ ‚How could I refuse the calling of my heart?‘
Ian kissed her.
‚That means more to me than you will ever know.‘
He rose from the bed, and pulled her to her feet. Talina directed her calm, green-blue gaze at his eyes and this time, she was the one to move forward. Their faces were even, and she tilted her head slightly to one side, pressing her lips on his. Her tongue tickled his lips ever so gently, until they slowly parted. When he responded to her, she pulled him closer, her arms around his neck, and deepened their kiss.
Ian gathered her in his arms and hugged her fiercely. They remained in each other‘s arms, oblivious to anything else until they could hear Ian‘s stomach grumble.
‚We still haven‘t eaten anything yet. Should we go to Ten Forward?‘ he whispered.
Talina shook her head.
‚I don‘t think so.‘
He raised his eyebrows. ‚No?‘
She pressed a hand to his lips and looked into his eyes. ‚No. I don‘t want this to end now; not today, not tonight. There will be other romantic dinners, Ian Malenkov, and I would be proud and pleased to attend them with you.‘
‚But not tonight.‘
She shook her head.
‚No, not tonight. Tonight, I have something else to give you.‘ When she had turned away from him, she began unfastening her robe and Ian‘s eyes widened even more. While she still was fumbling with her cloth, she spoke to him.
‚I will be leaving here in a short time. I have been assigned to another mission, but I will return.‘
‚Me too,‘ Ryan said. ‚I‘ll leave here tomorrow morning.‘ ‚Yet another reason why I should give you this,‘ she said, slowly turning around.
‚And I think we really shouldn‘t, ah...‘ Ian‘s voice trailed off when he realized that she still wore a fashionable jumpsuit beneath her robe. Somehow, he felt incredibly embarassed. ‚Shouldn‘t what?‘
‚N-nevermind...ah...You were saying?‘
Talina gave him a confused Humans!-look.
But her expression softened when she took her hands from behind her back, and revealed a long green sash. She handed it over to him. Ian took it carefully and let his fingers play with it. It was made of a smooth fabric, like silk, yet different. ‚What is it?‘ he asked. ‚It‘s marvellous.‘
‚We call it sakhram. It is made of sanglamo, a very rare textile. We get it when we major at a...special school. You would call it a talisman, but to us, it is more of a relic.‘
Ian looked up from the sash.
‚If it that important, I can‘t accept it, I...‘ ‚Take it,‘ Talina said softly. ‚And wear it. Please, it‘s important to me. A sakhram brings luck, and I hope it will protect you as well as it did protect me,‘ she said. Her soft, melodic voice was the sweetest sound Ian could imagine.
Talina took the sash from his hands, and drew it across his forehead. She fastened it behind his back, but allowed his long hair to fall over it.
When she withdrew her hand, it touched his cheek, and she let it rest there. Ian pulled her closer.
‚Thank you,‘ he whispered.
Talina let her fingers wander across his face, touched his lips, the ridge of his nose, his temples.
After a while, they agreed to go to the neighbouring room, and sat on the couch. Ian put his arm around Talina‘s shoulder and pulled h er close to his body. Her head resting against his, their fingers entwined, they fell asleep.