Tea and Romulans
Meet me at the Crossroads
Location: The Bean There and Done That Cafe
Rigel IV was a damp, cold, miserable place. Of that, Jaeih was certain, and she was beginning to wonder just why she'd even come to this planet with its decades of bitter winter. While there had been rumor of ships looking for crew and other such opportunities, most took one look at her and quickly set off in the opposite direction. She supposed she couldn't blame them; despite the recent alliance during the Dominion War, most people in the Alpha Quadrant still feared the Star Empire and its inhabitants. Running in the opposite direction was, for them, a conditioned reflex that would be difficult to break. A more logical woman might have given up and left, seeking a warmer world or at least a more friendly one. After all, she didn't need the money.
Jaeih, however, was not that logical of a woman, nor did she give up quite that easily. Instead, she'd again donned a warm sweater and the thick, heavy cloak that had once been a part of her Navy uniform, braving the cold one more time. However, it seemed luck would again be opposing her, as she was greeted with what seemed to be a solid wall of blowing snow and rain. Quite thoroughly soaked - and damn near frozen - she sought shelter in the closest establishment she could, some sort of coffee house. At least, she thought it was a coffee house. It smelled primarily of that Terran beverage and heavy doses of chocolate, with some undercurrents of the spices more common in Vulcan beverages.
In fact, she'd have ordered a Vulcan spiced tea if the barista hadn't taken one look at her and fled from the counter. Realizing she was unlikely to get the girl to come back, she resigned herself to the cold and turned back to the door.
Captain Braedyn Tann was enjoying a mug of coffee while sitting in a chair by the fire and doing some light reading. He looked up when the door opened and saw a woman enter. Her hood was up, but the cloak looked like one he'd seen Romulan naval officers wearing during the war. When she pulled back her hood, he saw pointed ears. He didn't see pronounced forehead ridges, but she didn't carry herself like a Vulcan. He didn't get a Vulcanoid Rigelian vibe off of her. They were more cheerful...probably from getting laid all the time. No, Braedyn was pretty sure she was Romulan. The barista seemed to get the same vibe because she snubbed the woman, refusing to take her order.
"Wait," Braedyn called out to the Romulan woman. He got up and walked over to the Barista. "Give the lady what ever she wants, on me. I assume my credits are still good here."
His tone was polite, but his meaning was clear: The Barista could, of course, refuse business to anyone, but doing so in this case would not be wise. The barista would give the Romulan what she wanted or Braedyn would know why not. Braedyn turned to the Romulan woman.
"Captain Braedyn Tann," he said, introducing himself. "Master of the SS Juan Cortina. Please, order whatever you want, on me. You're welcome to join me by the fire when you're ready. Please, stay, drink a warm drink and warm yourself by the fire. It's not fit for man nor beast out there right now."
"Thank you." Jaeih's tone was soft and lightly accented. It was obvious that she spoke Federation Standard rather than relying on a universal translator. "Jaeih t'Hwersuil, retired Navy. And I think a Vulcan tea with extra spice would do nicely." Even inside away from the wind, she shivered slightly, and the swiftly delivered mug of tea was a welcome respite. She held it between both her hands for a moment, letting its heat warm her fingers before taking a careful sip of the hot liquid and moving to take one of the empty seats near the fire. "I appreciate your kindness, Captain Tann. Most humans wouldn't think twice about one of my people being turned away."
"Not at all," Braedyn said. "I grew up interacting with your cousins, the Vulcanoid Rigelians. I got pretty good at guessing ages. I figure you for veteran of the recent unpleasantness, as some would have us call it. Am I right?"
"You have a good eye." Most would find Jaeih young for a retiree, but she'd often found that fellow veterans of the War had her easily pegged. "I commanded a warbird during that mess. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, should my service be required."
"So," he said. "What brings you to the frigid planet of my birth? I'm guessing it wasn't the weather."
"Most definitely not the weather." Jaeih chuckled a bit, sipping her tea. "Retirement bores me. I need something to occupy my time, and rumor was this was the place to look."
"There are definitely ships looking for crew in this system," Braedyn said. "It just so happens I'm one of them and I'm more interested in qualifications than points of origin. Technically, my ship is just a simple light freighter. In reality she's much, much more. Which means I'm going to need people who've been in the thick of it before. Any of this sound interesting to you?"
"Hmm." Jaeih thought about it for a moment, quietly sipping her tea while she considered what Braedyn had said. "I haven't spent as much time in light craft as I have in warbirds. And I suppose it does sound adventurous. What sorts of positions are you looking to fill?"
"I just recruited an XO," he said. "She's young, but they all have to learn sometime. How would you feel about handling our security, tactical, and intelligence needs? I know, I know. You're thinking 'what does a light freighter need with a security, tactical, and intelligence officer. Well, that's where the much, much more comes in. We're licensed to carry a considerable amount of firepower and there are going to be situations where we'll need it. I need someone experienced in ship to ship tactics who can learn to anticipate my commands. I need someone who can train the crew in small unit tactics and small arms and secure our cargo and . I need someone who's going to watch my back. Most people would say that I shouldn't trust a Romulan to do this for me, but you and I know different, don't we?"
"Most people do not actually know any Romulans, so they are unqualified to comment on the matter." Jaeih set her tea down, folding her hands together on the tabletop. "Before I commanded a warbird, I was in security and tactical. Many warbirds do not have a separate intelligence department, so I've done my fair share of that work as well. As for watching your back, I believe I can handle that." Having only just met the man, she was impressed with the level of trust he already seemed to place in her, especially after dealing with so many Federation types who had no love for the Romulan people.
"Can I take that to mean you want the job?" he said.
"I do indeed want the job. For one thing, your ship is probably warmer than this Elements-forsaken planet." Jaeih cracked a hint of a smile. "I don't much care what the pay is. Having some work to do is better than sitting at home on ch'Rihan getting fat."
"You and me both, sister," Braedyn said. "You have a place to stay? There's a Spacefarer's House near the yards. It's not fancy, but it's clean and warm and they'll feed you, wash your clothes, etc. I just sent the XO over there. She was a bit down on her luck. The place isn't expensive at all, but if your tapped out at the moment I can give you a chit to carry you until we leave."
"I already have a room, but I do appreciate the offer. I may look into the Spacefarer's House... my current accommodations are a bit lacking in heat. But I do not require a credit chit just yet. I have my retirement funds from the Imperial Navy. Not unlimited, but certainly adequate for now." Jaeih knew most people who came to the Rigel system to find work were less fortunate, but she had no plans to take advantage of Braedyn's kindness in that manner. "I do, however, greatly appreciate the warm drink. I don't tolerate this cold weather very well."
"I grew up here," he said. "The only time I actually experienced warm weather before Starfleet Academy was when my parents took me to one of the warmer planets in the system in search of Orion artifacts or evidence of the Architects, the supposed first race of the Rigel system. We did a fair amount of that here, but there's a lot to be seen in this system if you know where to look...and if the Kaylar don't eat you while you're looking."
"The... Kaylar? Is this an animal?" Jaeih certainly hoped there weren't any animals on Rigel IV big enough or savage enough to eat people, but even the planet Vulcan had its sehlat and le-matya that stalked the deserts.
"They're a primitive species found on most of the habitable worlds of in the system," he said. "They're tall, usually better than two meters in height, and heavy. Most of that weight is heavy bone and muscle. They were soldier-slaves to the Orions, still are on Rigel VII. They aren't very intellectually developed. There are large tribes on most worlds. Most settlements work out some kind of peaceful trade with them or just leave them alone. Mostly the Kaylar keep to themselves. Every now and then. though, they mount an assault on a settlement, swooping down in lighter than air ships. It's been less frequent in recent years, but it still happens. On Rigel II they basically rule the jungle areas. That doesn't stop people from mounting expeditions into the jungles in search of ancient Orion Empire tech. Most just disappear. Sometimes a member or two of an expedition will come wandering out of the jungle, raving about monsters. The government over there officially forbids such expeditions, but likely not for altruistic reasons. More likely is that they want to salvage whatever is there themselves. They just haven't figured out how to do it."
"Ah. Well, I'll be steering well clear of the Kaylar then." And here Jaeih had thought the cold was the worst part of this planet. "I have no intentions of leaving the city until your ship is ready to depart anyway."
"Fair enough, Jaeih," Braedyn said, pronouncing it 'Jay', which was about as close as he could come to pronouncing the Romulan's name correctly, and only they because the language the Vulcanoid Rigelians used was also a derivative of Vulcan. That he could speak, but with a Fed Standard accent. He wasn't even going to attempt her last name until he'd practiced for a month. He handed her a business card. He wrote something on the back. "Take this. My information is on it and I wrote the yard address and hanger number on the back. You have some way for me to contact you?"
Tucking the business card into a hidden pocket in her sweater, Jaeih fished out one of the identity/contact chips she'd managed to procure before her retirement. Setting it on the table, she slid it over to Braedyn. "This holds the frequencies that work with my personal communications devices. I keep one on me at all times, so I'm always available."
Braedyn took the chip offered to him.
"I'll be in touch," he said, rising from his seat. "It was nice to meet you Jaeih."
Braedyn put his field jacket and watch cap back on and pulled on his gloves as he walked to the door of the cafe. He opened the door, turned up his collar against the cold, and left the cafe. He had many more billets to fill on the Cortina.