A Casual Encounter

Year 2374
after the alliance with the Romulans to fight against the Dominion.

Back on Starbase 375, Saavik only wanted to retire to her private quarters and meditate. Even if she was as composed as ever and her uniform as sharp as always, she could not deny to herself the weariness the last battle had caused her. The strain war caused her.

She refused to acknowledge defeat, but her ruthlessly logical mind gave her all the undeniable facts. During the past month, her special unit had been unable to provide significant data about the enemy. Data that could lead to their victory or to the desired peace with the Dominion. Instead, they had been forced to drive back from their position, deep behind the enemy lines and that decimating fleet more than once.

She had lost one ship to the last defeat, and, far more importantly, thirty-seven lives. Her mind rang with that statistic instead of letting it slip into memory.

They were losing. Every day, every minute that passed by, they faced total defeat and she seemed powerless to change it.

It was not a pleasant sensation.

She was a very well trained and resourceful officer, all her people were. She had carefully selected and personally instructed everyone of them. Starfleet could get no better personnel for the Intelligence Division.

Yet, all their work seemed to be in vain.

The five ships that constituted her wing were damaged, and some of them needed to be repaired on the base. That gave her crew time to rest, and for her, time to reflect and find a new, more successful strategy. She could not simply linger in the safety and comfort of Starbase 375.

Her plans abruptly changed when she watched four of her Human officers talk excitedly while they headed towards the lounge.

She rarely visited the lounge. She preferred places were she could be in solitude, like the observation areas. Where she could, at least lightly, drop her guard. She had always been a too reserved person to enjoy the loud lounge. There was a time when she had been seen quite often there, when her old comrades had asked her to join them and she had gone.

Those times were over now, since most of her former friends were retired... or dead. Besides, since she had been almost forced to join the Intelligence Division as a career choice, her personal relations had suffered. Some people found her new position intimidating. But since the incident on the Ino colony where a civilian had died and Saavik had undeservingly had to take the blame, Starfleet had kept her far from ship duty.

Or so it appeared in the public records. Command had considered her too valuable an officer and had found a post where she could go back to action, where she belonged, but without offending the civilian’s still powerful family. Covert operations had been the perfect assignment, at least for Starfleet Command's needs.

Saavik realized that she did not have strong links with most of her team members. She had befriended some of her officers, and was especially close to her aide, Thuray, who was also an old friend’s son. But the lounge was once more quite an alien place. She wondered if that was due in part to the hardened and reserved nature of most of her crewmen. The demands of their special mission gave them little time for leisure or real relaxation.

She wondered if this was in part due to herself. She had asked Thuray once, but he had sternly denied the fact. On the other hand, the Andorian had always been too devoted to her; he might not be an impartial observer.

Today, however, she decided to follow the small group of officers, thinking it would be a good idea to let her crew see her. So Saavik took the same turbolift as her crew and soon found herself in the lounge.

The first sight that welcomed her made her almost turn around. Starfleet and Klingon soldiers entertained themselves in the lounge, but so were a small group of Romulans. To see them alongside the Federation’s troops still was a a shock, and an old, ingrained response told her to flee.

But they were allied now, so she forced herself to walk pass them as naturally as she would with her own crew. The Romulans remained true to their nature, and did not mix with the others present. Always aloof, they kept a distance from the others, and even suspiciously and arrogantly watched them. Some of the Starfleet officers answered them with displeased looks; others mirrored most of the Klingons’ glares. The situation grew uneasy, a poorly balanced alliance, but, after all, that was what alliances were about. Only the mutual need motivated them. No want for affection existed between the parts.

Thankfully, none of the Romulan officers seemed to notice her presence as she walked by. She had checked who the Empire had in port and had been less fortunate than here in the lounge. She found the Dhivael, a ship Saavik wanted nowhere near hers.

She glanced around and immediately spotted her people. She kept an eye in their direction as she headed for a less crowded, more private space were she could still stay close enough to them. She picked an almost empty place at the bar and nearly reached it when she realized who else stood there. She cursed herself under her breath for her lack of attention, but could do nothing without provoking dangerous attention.

She sat on the chair available for her. On her right, a Romulan commander poured herself a drink of Ch'topen wine. The bottle of deep purple liquid was already almost empty. The commander gave her an uninterested side glance, and, as she raised her glass, she lightly dipped her head. “Admiral.”

Saavik acknowledge her the same way. Hardly turning towards the other officer, she addressed her with a cool, “Commander.”

The Romulan woman drank her wine. Saavik found herself surreptitiously observing her. Surprisingly, there was no apparent hate or disdain in her eyes, the way other Romulans welcomed her; maybe the commander preferred to just ignore her. Saavik certainly preferred to ignore the other woman. But her virile curiousity -- a trait Vulcans and Romulans shared -- held control over her actions. Her gaze returned over and over to the commander.

Quietly, Saavik took a long breath.

 

She had ordered Vulcan spice tea, and soon the waiter brought it to her. She focused on it, and on her officers' revelry nearby. The commander continued silently drinking her wine. Her gaze usually rested calmly on her soldiers’ table too. They drank and talked, and some of them were engaged in a popular gambling game, apparently ignorant of their superior’s watchful stare.

A Klingon neared the Romulans’ table, and some of them stood up; dangerous glances were exchanged. The commander set her glass suddenly but soundlessly on the bar, and her hand reached down, presumably reaching for her Honor Blade.

But nothing happened. After a grunt, the Klingon walked away, his hand resting on his knife’s hilt, and joined some of his fellow warriors nearby.

Saavik could not hear the comments said by both groups, but had a good idea what they were. So could the Romulan woman seated at her side. She relaxed and took her drink again, snorting, and cursing the Klingons so quietly, Saavik barely made out her words.

She made no comment, only sipped her tea. Soon it would be finished, and so would the wine bottle resting on the bar.

Soon they would not have their drinks to justify their silence.

She planned to leave by then. After all, coming to the lounge had been an unfortunate idea. But now that she was here… she could at least take a good look at the woman seated at her side.

The commander looked different from the image she had formed in her mind. In the holopics she had seemed more somber, maybe because they were her official records from the Empire. She was not a specially remarkable commander. Good, solid work; an honorable, respectable record of a fine warrior and leader, but not one that had garned the spotlight. Saavik had little data on her.

Now that she looked directly at the Romulan, she did not look as cold as Saavik had expected her to be. She did not look soft either, of course. But even if her features were hard, there was something about her that told her this woman was different. Maybe it was the way her lips curved upward, or the way her light brown eyes brightened when looking at her crew.

And then, the commander turned idly and their gazes met once again, and Saavik understood clearly why this woman was so against her expectations. No suppressed hate showed in that dry smile that hardly reached her lips, or in the way she tilted her head with a certain arrogance. The look directed at her lacked the hostility and the cool rage Romulans used to welcome her. The commander showed some disdain, but under it, Saavik read a glimpse of hidden… respect? The revelation shocked her for an instant, and was immediately controlled. As quickly as they had locked their eyes, they both averted them, and once more tried to appear busy with their respective drinks.

For a minute, both crews were forgotten. They were too aware of one another. Saavik realized their situation would be easier if she still hated the Romulans, as she had when she was younger. Or if the woman had shown the strong negative emotions Saavik had expected. Then she could logically dismiss her, instead of now having no reason to ignore the commander.

Why can I not speak with her as I would do if she were not Romulan? Is this not acting out of prejudice?

The Romulan commander did not seem to know what to do either.

A sudden movement nearby broke them both out of their reveries. One of Romulan soldiers had stood up and began walking away, mumbling something against the others. He had drank too many ales and stumbled blindly, almost falling over the two high ranking officers. Another warrior moved quickly towards him and got his comrade. He saluted his commander and briefly apologized for his fellow officer’s behavior. Then quickly dragged the other back to their group, berating him for his stupidity.

Both Saavik and the Romulan commander had followed the two soldiers with their gaze. Their eyes still locked on them, the commander said aloud, “Children should not be sent to war.” And taking up her glass again, she gulped down its contents.

The blunt admission surprised Saavik, even if she realized she had been thinking the same thing. She had also noticed how very young the two officers looked, and had wondered about their age. She had also been drawn by their void stares, too old for those young faces. Pain sat in the drunk man’s eyes, and a cold hardness in his comrade. She had seen that before, in too young ensigns and not so young officers who had been thrown into the ruthless battles. Those people would never be the same again. None of them would.

For a fleeting moment, she thought of a reply to the commander. “No one should be sent to war.”

But she was not about to say so.

Instead, she sipped her tea before turning to the Romulan commanding officer. Unconsciously, she balanced her weight to move quickly and her eyes hardened. The other woman noticed the stance, and, immediately tensing, drew herself up.

They were squared off.

Looking at the commander in the eye, Saavik spoke in the Empire's language, “We will prevail, Commander.”

Her commanding tone sounded utterly alien, and even terribly wrong, when matched with the Romulan words that left her lips.

The slight coloring on the commander’s face told Saavik she understood. The Romulan officer may not have intended to say her words aloud, but they had been spoken. And both knew that even if their statements were plainly true, they were best left unsaid. Just as both also knew well that they would have not been uttered if they were not suffering some strain; if a forbidden word had not been plaguing their heads: defeat.

Because they had been losing, and the moral of the fleets decaying, they, as commanding officers, could not afford the luxury of also falling into despair. This was the moment for them to be stronger, to be more confident than ever, for the sake of the people they commanded.

“So we will, Admiral.” Not even a slight sign of disdain showed in the Romulan's expression now. She accepted Saavik as the flag officer she was.

Even though that proud acceptance was still difficult to believe.

Saavik inclined her head lightly, and was about to turn to her tea cup when she caught her crew looking at her.

She had forgotten about them.

She had meant them to see her as a reassuring presence. Instead, they had seen her with a Romulan officer, speaking in what was still a cursed language for her. She braced for the betrayal in their eyes.

But there was none. Some of them looked surprised, but amused; the ones who better understood her gave supporting smiles. All of them showed her the respect and pride they felt for their commanding officer.

They did not refuse her, not even those who knew she was half-Romulan. Her loyalty was not questioned as once it had been.

After having suffered from the overt hatred or the hidden contempt of some of her past shipmates, the understanding and accepting manner her crew gave was welcome. She nodded to them in acknowledgement before turning again to the bar and the woman seated beside her.

A renewed assurance comforted her now. All the past doubts and uncertainties were under control and did not affect her will and decisions. When she faced the Romulan again, she had no reservations, no old warning telling her what to do or what to expect.

Saavik consciously softened her features, and let her voice grew soft as well. “We have been drinking together as strangers, Commander. I believe it is time for introductions. I am Saavik.”

The Romulan woman was caught a bit off guard. She recovered soon enough, though, and offered a warm, sincere smile. “I am Rakkas.”

It had been as simple as that, and it had been hard. For both had known since the beginning the other’s name, but had been unable to utter it. The Romulan commander simply did not dare to be so friendly with the high ranking Starfleet Intelligence officer, especially one considered a traitor to the Empire. Saavik could not know Rakkas' father had once told her about Hellguard’s children, when she had been younger and had spoken outrageously against this particular daughter of Hellguard standing in admiral's uniform now. Rakkas had not shared her father’s obvious pain over the subject, which had seemed exaggerated, and could not understand why a person like Saavik would serve the Federation.

No, Saavik could not read the older woman's thoughts. Not those, not Rakkas' appreciation for her success, even if it was the Empire’s failure.

For Saavik, it had been even more difficult. It was not just talking friendly to a Romulan; she had done that before. It was not just sharing a mutual respect and even appreciation, or making it public in the base’s lounge. Even with the danger of a Tal Shiar operative or an unfaithful officer possibly hidden amidst the commander's own.

It was that name.

It was this Romulan.

She had seen Rakkas' picture so many times… and all those times she had created her own image in her head. Perhaps because Rakkas was female or older than her brother Ehiil, she had existed in Saavik's mind as a copy of her mother, even though she did not really resemble her. And here they were, Commander and Admiral, the two of them together, and Rakkas did not seem like her mother. Not at all.

Saavik finished her tea and stood up. “Good evening, Commander.”

The commander stood with her. “Good evening, Admiral.” She reached for her glass and lifted it in a toast. Her face was softening again and an easy smile curved her lips. No hate. No rage. No wish to see the other dead.

It still seemed odd.

Saavik dipped her head, and, after saying goodbye to her crew, she left the lounge. She walked toward her quarters, reliving the encounter all over again. She was pleased to have met the commander, pleased to have been so wrong about her. But a shadow in her mind whispered what she did not want to hear.

Rakkas, daughter of Ajeya.

Commander Rakkas did not know of her mother’s deeds. That Ajeya had gone to Hellguard, abused a Vulcan male, and abandoned the child they had conceived: Saavik. That she had sought Saavik's death more than once to wipe away all evidence of the past.

As Saavik had wanted to do to her.

And she wondered, if her half-sister had known the truth, what would their encounter in the lounge have been like then?

Maybe Rakkas was not so different from... their mother after all.