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The Price of Freedom, Part One
Breakfast with an Andorian

Officer's Lounge <Deck 30> [Gibraltar Station]

The Officer's Lounge is a quiet, subdued space, perfect for relaxing and socializing. The doors are ribbed mahogany, inlaid with circular windows, each with the Starfleet Delta etched in its center. They are placed to fore and aft of the room, on the port side. Between the doors is a long bar, swirled black marble supporting a white top rimmed with mahogany. The bar curves slightly at either end to enclose the area behind, where twin replicators serve the mundane orders. There is space under the bar for exotic liquors from many parts of the galaxy, and an Antarean ice-crystal sculpture is placed on the wall for decoration. Seven low stools, each made of dark metal with navy blue cushions, sit before the bar for use by the patrons. There is an open space starboard of the bar that extends for a few feet until a step up to a raised platform. Just before the steps are two tables, each a white quarter-wedge with two dark chairs. The room's fore and aft walls widen a bit at the platform to create a large seating area. Four square white tables, each ringed by four dark chairs, are the main seating. Couches built against the fore and aft walls provide more, each with a half-wedge white table before it. Three more small white tables complete the arrangement, each set in front of one of the windows, two dark chairs complementing every one. The central table of these three has a 3-D chess set upon it for use by the lounge's patrons. The windows themselves look out onto the black of space, providing an excellent view of the planet below. The carpeting is a deep blue, the walls paneled in a light gray that almost looks maroon under some lights. Soft mood lighting is provided by panels on the steps, decorative lights at the doors and behind the bar, and by hidden panels in the ceiling.

Katheran Omtala
Gwen Hawkins

Commander Katheran "Omtala" (civilian clothing)

Before you lies an interesting blend of severity and tenderness, a woman who bears herself well and yet does not give in to formality. Eyes of the palest blue-green sparkle with the light of one with a keen intellect. Her hair falls like a great swath of snow down her back as a valley of white between the crests of her shoulder blades. Oftentimes it is braided into a single weave that falls the length of her back. The remainder of her face stays yet an echo of her race and though a pale blue lingers in seamless porcelain, two antennae extending forward from above her temples.. Standing tall for a woman she is just over 1.8 meters tall and of a lithe build that is often found in those of her race. She walks with the grace of a cat and the poise of an eagle.

Luxurious golden silks drape from her figure in a v-necked dress forming a scooping neckline that reveals and conceals in tandem. Tucked in at the waist, the long skirt is layered in sheer cloth to become translucent. The dress has long sleeves which billow at upper arm and slim as they near the wrist to finally snug them with a small buttoned cuff. Her feet are covered in delicate slippers of a like material. The material, if examined, bears a pattern in darker gold repeated over its surface. It is that of the Andorian atlirith (eagle).

It's just after gamma shift and the Chief Medical Officer of the station is already showered, changed, and relaxing a moment in the lounge. Sitting a table with a view, she has one leg crossed over her opposite thigh to serve as a brace for the work in her lap. A cup of steaming tea creates a halo effect which she seems to enjoy what for the occasional pause to waft its delicate aroma towards her nostrils. Her back is to the entrance as she faces, but does not regard, the twinkling of space.

"...And then, if you can believe it, he gets down on one knee and claims I'm the love of his life. Which means the Orion swinging at him is coming for me instead." The pair coming in the doors are both in Command Red, a short human woman and a fairly tall Vulcan man. The woman is telling some sort of story which the Vulcan is listening to with the patience of one who's reminding himself she is a senior officer. The Captain (for by the pips she's a Captain, though as she's likely unfamiliar to most of the station, Captain of what is anyone's guess) continues, "I'm pretty sure the only reason I got out of that one without broken limbs or a husband was that the bartender stepped in." She shakes her head as she makes her way to the bar. "I am never ever drinking on Rigel VIII ever again, no matter how much I need the lead."

Solvek stops for a moment. "Captain, may I speak frankly?" Without waiting for an answer, he continues, "I find it highly illogical to tell the same story four times to the same person. I had heard of your adventures on Rigel VIII twice while in the Officer's Lounge on our way to this station, and once during a break in the fighting during the war."

A slight twitch in Omtala's antennae registers the presence of two others within the lounge. More than that, she pauses in her needlework to cant her head a fraction of an inch. Those before her in the lounge would note the thoughtful cast to her eyes as she carefully folds the cloth in her lap and places it upon the table next to her drink. That thoughtful expression is replaced with a welcoming smile as she turns to face the entrants to the lounge. "Ahh. Just so." She proclaims with a quiet victory. Keen eyes absorb the features of the command officers before her. "Good day to you, ma'am and sir." She offers in deference to rank and posting. "If I may interject a query to your tale, Captain, I should think the tale is likely not the same. Surely, you've had at least four marriage proposals in your lifetime." Stepping forward, she inclines her head graciously to both. "Commander Omtala, at your disposal. I do apologize for the lack of uniform but I do rather prefer to wear native dress when not on duty."

The Captain looks indignant. "It is not the same story!" She begins coutning off on her fingers. "The two on the Akagi were Rigel VII and Qo'noS... the second time I went to Qo'noS... and the one during the war was... was... Romulus. Yes. Romulus. And only one of those even involved Orions." Now that she's defended herself, she looks to the Andorian. "Actually, ahh, six. But all but one of them were drunk." Pause, and blinks. "Oh, yes. Commander Omtala, Chief Medical Officer. Well. I am Gwen Hawkins, and this is Solvek. Who evidently does not listen to his Captain, or he would remember not to call her by her rank when off-duty." The banter has a familiar feel to it, the sort of settled, comfortable thing you'd except an old married couple to do.

Solvek looks as complacent as always. "My mistake," he pauses just briefly, "Captain." There is something like a joke in his tone. But since when did Vulcans tell jokes? He looks to the Andorian, "Commander Omtala, as Gwen noted I am Solvek, I believe it is not necessary to use all the 'proper' formalities we are used to when on duty in this environment. May we join you and converse?"

Omtala steps aside and gestures languorously towards the table she had so recently occupied. "Very well, Katheran then. Captain Gwen." She mixes casual and formal address with a tinge of amusement in her eyes. "Can't but be so informal with one's Captain, hmm? At least not without request." Seating herself with a sweep of her arm to smooth the silks of her dress, she continues, "I was just enjoying a cup of gespar tea before retiring for the evening. I apologize if I am a bit distracted with my sewing. My son has managed to break a seam playing." The last added with a feigned sigh of irritation.

Hawkins, after placing an order for her own coffee, chuckles softly as she moves to sit down. "Children are... rambunctious, I'll give them that. How many do you have?" Spoken like one without much experience with youngsters. "And I only insist on the informal address with Solvek because we've known each other so long. How long now?" She glances to the Vulcan as she settles herself in the chair.

Solvek waits for the Captain to seat herself before ordering a bowl of plomeek soup and seating himself in between the two women. His eyes become unfocused, like he is looking at something from a great distance. He shakes himself, the motion so slight that it would go unnoticed if one wasn't looking at him. "Yes, children are quite excitable and easy to run wild if unattended to." He falls silent for a moment. "Katheran, I was looking over your record and noticed you are a xenobiologist. It would appear that we share the same interests, perhaps we should compare notes in the future?"

Omtala all but beams at the mention of xenobiology. "I would love to, Commander. It is one of the things which drew me to this assignment. To say nothing of the lodge. Its not the easiest thing in the world, finding an assignment with a lodge and a free billet to match." Looking to her sewing, she picks up where she left off. "As for the boys... Tharesh is almost eight and Thaal'vor just turned three in October. Tharesh is rather enjoying his hleshvalath... the problem is making sure he's not wearing his good clothes at the time." A glance to the Captain and she smiles. "My apologies, Captain, if I took liberty."

Hawkins peers at Solvek for a moment as her coffee arrives. "Six years," she says, apropos of nothing. Then she turns to Omtala and shakes her head. "It's no problem at all. You will find I'm quite forgiving of liberties, off-duty, as long as work gets done and there is respect all around. I'm curious... what is a hleshvalath?" She manages not to mangle the word too much. Actually, hardly at all.

"Yes Gwen, it has been six years." Solvek says with a very minute hint of approval in his voice. He turns to the Andorian, "Yes, please elaborate, I am not familiar with that term." His expression is still unreadable, though one would think his is excited by the minor inflection in his voice.

Omtala replies easily enough. It seems a question she's used to answering. "Wrestling. Jiujitsu is the closest Terran form I've found. To be honest, its not true hleshvalath but that's a conversation that would take some time to explain and I'm due for a good eight hours of nap time before I have to tend to lodge business and give the boys their requisit mom time." Her smile turns soft, then thoughtful. "I can't imagine how you all balance a career and family with it just being the two of you."

Hawkins stares at Omtala for a long moment. "Whatever are you talking about?" Which is about all she can seem to think of to say in reply. "Two of whom? I certainly don't have children, and Solvek... doesn't either." She clears her throat and takes a sip of her coffee, frowning a moment before smoothing out her face.

Solvek considers the Andorian for amoment. "I believe she is referring to both Vulcan and human marriage customs. Where we have a single pairing, the Andorians have a double pairing, that is to say that four individuals become 'joined' together in marriage." He pauses for a moment that distant look passing over his eyes again. He takes a slow sip from his soup, just noticing it had arrived quite a while ago.

Omtala bows her head to Solvek's superior sociological intellect. "Indeed, that is what I meant. I've met quite a few families with numerous children and there always seems to be one who sacrifices their career to raise children. For us there's no need. Take me? I don't mind working the gamma shift because it lets me get more work done free of distraction. I sleep when most everyone is out of the lodge at school and the like. Then I wake for dinner and evening family time before going in to work. Sure I miss time with my husband some days but that's what creativity is for." She winks playfully before tying off her work deftly and hiding the stitch by burying the thread in the seam.

Hawkins nods slowly. "I don't know, really. My sister's married, and captains a ship, but her husband's a civilian and they only have the one child. I'm quite busy enough running the ship, let alone husbands and children." She chuckles, sips her coffee. "I've never quite understood how anyone managed a family at all. But I suppose plenty of people don't understand how anyone manages a starship either."

Solvek seems to be lost in his thoughts. Then nods slowly, "Yes, I would have to say that the everyday tasks involved with the amanagement of a ship leave very little time for one to properly nuture a family." His words seem to have no substance to them, and he is once again staring distantly out into seemingly nothing.

Omtala picks up her drink and finishes it, letting the contemplative moment preside before setting it down empty. "Some days I don't know how I managed to get through a day during the war what with the number of wounded I treated. I couldn't imagine my life without them." She lets out a contented sigh as she rises to her feet. "I'm sorry to sew and run but I really need to get this to my wife before Tharesh gets off to school. He wanted to wear it today... again..." There's a tone there that says Borva help the boy if he tears it again.

Hawkins frowns at Solvek for a long moment, but as Omtala speaks she turns her attention to the Andorian. "Of course... have a good rest, doctor. I'm sure we'll be in to see you soon. And I certainly hope the boy doesn't do anymore damage to his outfit." She looks to Solvek again. "We should be getting on duty. There's that stack of reports to get through."

Solvek shakes himself free of his reverie once more, again his motion is nearly unnoticable. "Yes, Katheran. We do have to come in for preliminary examinations, perhaps we will see you on duty when we arrange this." He stands, "Sleep well."

Omtala stifles a yawn as she nods to both officers. "Oh don't worry. I'll mesh our schedules and see to it you're taken care of. I'll have to get to everyone at some point. Or my staff will. One of the two." Smoothing her dress, she gathers up her sewing. "I'll be sure to do just that. Thank you, Solvek. Captain." With those pleasantries, she departs the lounge.

Omtala leaves through the door toward Starboard Walkway <Deck 30>.
Omtala has left.

Hawkins stands and turns to leave, motioning a waiter to clear the table. She's silent until she's out in the hallway...

Hawkins leaves through the door toward Starboard Walkway <Deck 30>.
Hawkins has left.

Solvek leaves through the door toward Starboard Walkway <Deck 30>
Solvek has left.

(The camera pushes ahead of the officers, out the doors into the hallway, where it spisn around to face them.)

Starboard Walkway <Deck 30> [Gibraltar Station]

The Promenade is an airy, open cylinder that stretches for five decks. Around the outside of this cylinder on each deck are walkways that allow for easy foot traffic between the various establishments lining the walls. The outer wall of these walkways are paneled in light gray except where interrupted by doors and openings. Some establishments are open to the Promenade, allowing one to look inside before entering, while some merely have a door with a plaque declaring what is beyond. The inner side is bordered by a low rail. Beyond this rail one can look down at the trees of the garden below or up at the higher levels of the Promenade. The lighting on the Promenade adjusts according to the time--by day it is quite bright, dimming at around 1800 until its darkest point (though still light enough to see clearly) at midnight. From here it slowly brightens until reaching its full, daytime brightness once more at 0600. Vertical alert tracers line the doors and other openings, showing the status of the station.

Gwen Hawkins

The camera does its dolly-back-as-the-officers-walk thing. For a few steps down the hall Gwen's silent, and then looks over at Solvek. "Hey." It's a softer tone than earlier, less joking and more concerned, friendly. "What's on your mind?"

Solvek turns to his Captain, "Our conversational topics with Commander Omtala forced the resurfacing of certain memories that I had blocked and certain...'dreams' that occured in my earlier days on the Akagi."

Gwen nods, clasping her hands behind her back. She's silent as a pair of Ensigns pass, nodding to them as well, then says, "What sort of memories?" Trust Gwen to not know when not to push...

Solvek looks around slowly to make sure no one is within sight. He then visibly sighs, resuming his normal posture immediately after, "Gwen, when T'Mar was pregnant, the more illogical human side of my mind was at its most volatile point. Even the mere sight of another beings' offspring would elicit feelings that threatened to break my hold. Remembering those feelings and those emotions and the fact that they are now gone forever..." He pauses. "It still causes me great amounts of pain when I hear of the happiness another experiences due to the actions of their offspring."

Gwen is silent for a long moment, taking in the import of a Vulcan expressing anything about emotion at all. Finally, she sighs. "I know how you feel. Well. To a degree. There's a reason I haven't seen Catrin or Vanessa in over a year. After Jason died, they wanted to come see me, to comfort me, with their happy lives. I was glad of the excuse of the war. It was bad enough when I just didn't have anyone to take to family reunions." She shakes her head, chuckling ruefully. "People like us aren't meant to have families, Solvek. We have starships, and starbases, and that's more than enough responsibility for anyone to bear." She manages to say that without a hint of bitterness.

"I must regretfully agree with you, Gwen." Solvek replies. His stance is still perfectly stern and formal as he walks down the corridor. "I never did apologize for the abandonment of my station during that attack, did I?"

"You don't really need to. It hadn't happened before, and hasn't since. And I'm sure it won't again." The Captain is silent again as other officers pass, and adds, "It's water under the bridge. The dead are gone, and the time to mourn them has passed. We need to go on now, out of respect if nothing else. We have a starbase and a sector to keep us busy." She stops for a moment, putting her hand on Solvek's arm to stop him as well. "You are sleeping? Keeping your mental discipline? I don't want my Exec breaking down at a critical moment. I need to know you're fully recovered. As recovered as you can be, anyhow."

A look of appreciation flashes across the Vulcan's face. "I have never ceased my meditation and sleeping habits since I returned T'Mar's katra to Vulcan. I am as recovered as I can be, there is no need to worry on my account. I do however... appreciate your concern, if not as my Captain, but as my friend."

Gwen looks skeptical for a long moment but finally seems to relent. "You're welcome." She turns to continue walking.

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