The Bolian place the requested tool into Leva’s outstretched hand and the tactical officer didn’t even look at the device as he brought his hand back and into the open access hatch he was buried in up to his waist. After applying the tool his hand remerged to allow Marjorie Alendra to take it off him again.
Once again the lieutenant went to the large toolbox she had brought with her into the narrow Jefferies tube she and Leva had climbed into, found what he had asked for and placed it into his waiting palm. And once again Leva wordlessly applied the device.
“Interphasic coil spanner.”
This time Alendra hesitated for just a brief moment before finding a large device in the toolbox and handing it over.
Leva brought it towards him but apparently not realizing that its size wouldn’t allow it to fit inside the small hatch with him, he bumped it hard against the bulkhead which in turned caused him to flinch suddenly and hit his head.
“Son of a gun,” he moaned and then crawled out of the hatch, only to find Alendra giggling at his misfortune. He looked down at the tool he had dropped. “Interphasic coil spanner, not compensator.”
“Oh, sorry,” she said and then looked back towards the toolbox, rummaging through its content. “I don’t think we brought the coil spanner.”
“I’m going to need the coil spanner here.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “If you need the coil spanner, you’ll need the coil spanner,” she said with a grin.
“I have an idea. Why don’t you go down to engineering and get us the coil spanner?”
Alendra pointed right at him and then winked. “That’s why you’re the boss, boss. You come up with all the great ideas. I’ll be back in a jiffy,” she said and then tried to crawl passed him in the narrow Jefferies tube but just as Leva was attempting to push himself to his left to allow her room to pass, she also moved to his left.
This ensuing back and forth dance achieved nothing but blocking them both from passing each other.
After their fourth attempt, Leva held up his hand. “Stop. Seeing that I’m the man with the ideas here, I suggest the following. I stay put right here, you pass me on my left.”
She gave him a quick nod. “Another excellent suggestion,” she said and then did as he had suggested. As it turned out however the crawlspace was still far too narrow to allow two people to pass comfortably side-by-side, particularly with Leva’s larger frame. Alendra had to practically squeeze himself past him.
“I hope you don’t object to some incidental contact,” she said as she slowly made her way through.
“Not as long as you don’t mind.”
She stopped only halfway through, Leva practically pressed right against her. “I guess it would be silly to go back now, considering I’m already here.”
“Couldn’t agree more. Let’s see this through.”
She nodded. “Truth be told, I’ve been in much worse positions,” Alendra said before she continued on.
“Not even top five,” Leva agreed.
Alendra uttered a little laugh and finally managed to fully dislodge herself and emerge on the other side. She dramatically straightened her uniform jacket which had been ruffled by the tight squeeze. “Wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea.”
“I’ll be back before you know it.”
And with that she crawled off.
He considered Alendra for a moment as he watched her make her way down the Jefferies tube on all fours. The bald-headed, blue-skinned Bolian with the very human given name had been about the only good thing to come out of his short stint as a first officer on the Sacajawea a few months ago.
It hadn’t been easy for him to make the decision to leave Eagle after having served on her for nearly five years, in fact it had very much felt like leaving home. But with the war ravaged fleet in desperate need for experienced officers he had ultimately chosen to try and advance his career instead of sticking to what he knew and with what he had been most comfortable with on Eagle where the chances of climbing ranks were much less likely.
Of course had he known what would have been in store for him as the first officer on the ill-fated Sacajawea, perhaps he would have thought twice about taking on that ultimately doomed assignment.
Sacajawea had not worked out for him, had not worked out for anyone, really, and after her demise he had been more than happy to return to the home he had left behind. He had brought Alendra with him.
She had been one of the very few officers who had sided with him in the conflict with her captain and she had made a great impression on him in other ways as well. Like many young officers during the war, particularly those serving on smaller vessels, Alendra had been a true jack-of-all-trades, serving at various times as a pilot, an engineer, at ops and at tactical. She was also thrust into the position of XO before Leva came onboard, pretty much by default, thanks to being the most veteran officer amongst a crew made up predominantly of enlisted personnel and fresh-faced ensigns just barely out of the Academy.
She had been a good fit on Eagle and quickly became a very reliable relief tactical officer, just behind him on the depth chart, since his previous number two, Lieutenant Trinik, had left the ship to advance his own career. And her varied experience and versatility allowed her to serve as a general duty officer on the bridge, taking over pretty much any position if the occasion called for it.
Leva had taken her under his wing not too differently as he had done on Sacajawea but with much greater success this time and it had become clear that she was just as capable in her new position as he had expected her to be, especially since she was allowed to serve in a much more conducive and nurturing environment than she had ever been exposed to on the only other assignment she had known.
And Leva could not deny that he had taken a liking to the young officer under his command, assuming the role of her mentor and friend with great pleasure. And if their banter was any indication, she was just as happy with the way things had worked out for her on Eagle.
Once she had disappeared into the junction at the far end of the crawlway, Leva turned back around and headed in the other direction where he spotted Nora Laas squatting by the opposite junction where she had been monitoring field strengths on the power taps Leva and Alendra had been modifying. It became quickly apparent however that she had been monitoring something else entirely, judging by the dark scowl the Bajoran security chief was throwing Leva as he headed her way.
“What?” he asked as he approached.
“You know what.”
Leva’s response was a blank expression as he stepped out of the maintenance tunnel. “No, not really.”
“Don’t give me that. You and Lieutenant Alendra.”
“Marjorie? What about her?”
She stared at him incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?”
“We get along well, if that’s what you mean. It’s called developing a rapport.”
She pointed back towards the Jeffries tube. “That was not rapport building. The two of you are behaving like infatuated school children and quite frankly it’s unbecoming and inappropriate.”
Now it was Leva’s turn to look at her askance. “I think you’re exaggerating. We are just friendly with each other.”
She shook her head and pointed at the two of them. “We are friendly with each other and we don’t do … whatever the hells that back there was. You’re a senior officer, So’. What’s more, she’s your subordinate.”
“You’re serious about this,” Leva realized. “I don’t get it. Technically I outrank you, too. Doesn’t mean we cannot be friends.”
She uttered a frustrated sigh. “And that’s obviously not what I’m talking about. Besides we have known each other for years and you are not my direct superior. You have known her for how long? A few months? I cannot believe you don’t see how this is wrong.”
“And I don’t understand why you would believe it is,” he shot back.
“Prophet’s preserve me, how could you possibly be so dense about this?”
Leva was not willing to concede. “Even if you’re right, and my friendship which Marjorie is inappropriate—which I don’t believe to be the case—since when are you so concerned about interpersonal behavior on this ship?”
Nora squared her shoulders almost defensively. “Somebody has to care. And as senior officers we should act as role models. Things have always been very lax on this ship when it comes to discipline. Too lax. And you know what happens when we stop worrying about discipline and everyone acts the way they want to? That’s chaos, So’. That’s how people die. We lost more than enough people during the war and I for one am sick and tired of attending memorial services. People have to realize that this isn’t a pleasure cruise. We’re Starfleet officers and we must—“
She stopped herself in mid-sentence and Leva had noticed that her face had started to turn a shade of red.
“Laas, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, I just need a moment,” she said and then reached for the collar of her gold turtleneck uniform shirt, first pulling at it and then opening the fastener. “It’s just gotten really hot in here.”
He looked around. “I don’t believe that’s the case.”
“No it is hot. And really stuffy,” she said and gasped for air.
“Laas, there’s nothing wrong with the environmental systems. This is you. Are you feeling alright?”
“I’m fine, I just need a moment,” she took just one step but then collapsed. Leva was right there to catch her before she could fall to the floor.
“You’re not fine at all,” he said and reached for her forehead. “You’re burning up.”
She tried to stand again. “Maybe I just need a glass of water or some—“
She never finished that sentence and instead collapsed again against him, her eyes fluttering shut.
But she was no longer responsive.
“Leva to sickbay. Medical emergency, deck twelve, Jefferies tube junction sixty-four Baker. I need some help here right away.”
Leva had spent most of the rest of the day in sickbay, Nora’s health having become a much greater concern than completing the overhaul of Eagle’s weapons systems.
After all he had known Nora since they had served together on Deep Space Two nearly ten year ago, and they had become good friends along the way. During all this time, he had never seen her like this. She had always been the very epitome of a fighter both physically as well as mentally—not always by choice—having grown up on the war torn Bajor and then later choosing a career first as a Starfleet Marine and then later as security officer.
He knew that she had been hit hard by the death of their former first officer Eugene Edison with whom she had been in a short but intense relationship, but even that she had weathered with her usual resilience and fortitude.
He had been relieved when she had regained consciousness only a few minutes after she had been beamed to sickbay and the medical staff had began to treat her. Unsurprisingly her first instinct had been to try to downplay the entire episode and insist to be released to her quarters.
But Doctor Katanga had flat-out refused any such request once he had arrived, even if he did admit that he wasn’t entirely sure what had caused her blackout. Nora tried to blame it on having tasted a new and particularly spicy meal while visiting Earth the night before, but Katanga was adamant that she stayed overnight for further observation.
Nora had objected of course but it had been of little use. Leva had reluctantly left when she had practically demanded that his time was better spent going back to work than hovering over her while she was feeling perfectly fine.
By then it had been near the end of his shift and he had decided to call it a day. After finding Nora still asleep in sickbay the next morning, but being assured by the duty nurse that she had been stable and shown no further signs of ill-health, he had met up with Alendra on the bridge.
“How’s the lieutenant?” she had asked the moment he had left the turbolift.
Leva joined her by the tactical console. “Resting. They say she’s fine and she certainly sounded like her old self last night. Basically threw me out of sickbay all by herself.”
Alendra smirked. “That sounds like Lieutenant Nora alright.”
He nodded absentmindedly.
“Do they know what caused her passing out like that?”
Leva shook his head. “No, and that worries me.”
She reached out to touch his arm, causing him to look into her eyes. “She’ll be fine, So’. Whatever’s wrong, Katanga and his people will figure it out. And even if they can’t, we’re like two minutes away from the most advanced medical facilities in the quadrant.”
“I suppose you’re right.” He hadn’t told her about the conversation he’d had with Nora just before she had passed out. That he had argued with Laas about his relationship with her. He had wondered if it could have been the cause of this episode somehow but it was difficult to believe that Nora, of all people, could get so agitated over a perceived lack of discipline and workplace etiquette that it would cause her to lose consciousness.
The very same woman who had fought Cardassians all her life, who had gone toe-to-toe with Klingons, Nausicaans and Jem’Hadar on more occasions than most people would care for and had come out on top every time. The same woman who herself had been engaged in a short-lived but passionate affair with a senior officer.
“I think what we both need is some busy work to take our minds off things,” she said and turned towards the console. “We still have to complete the simulations to test the new enhancements we made yesterday.”
“We never got to finish them.”
She shot him a smirk over her shoulder. “I did. I went back last night and finished the calibrations on my own.”
“What would I do without you?”
She shrugged. “Probably go back to running your team incredibly inefficiently.”
“That’s out of line, Lieutenant.”
“I beg your pardon, Commander,” she said with a widening smirk decorating her blue lips. “Just callin’em like I see’em. Besides if we get this all done on schedule, who knows, maybe there’ll be time to catch some R&R planetside. There are some places on Earth I wouldn’t mind getting a good look at.”
He considered her suspiciously. “This was a voluntary assignment. You could have taken shore leave instead of staying behind and working on this.”
“And miss out on all the fun?”
“Right,” he said as he began to set up the simulation on the tactical station. “What places,” he said, without making eye contact.
“I hear great things about Anguilla.”
He nodded. “Nice beaches.”
“Just the place to try out my new swimsuit. It’s the absolute latest in fashion design. Uses invisible force fields to hold the fabric in place.”
“You don’t say,” he said, now making every effort to keep his eyes on the console instead of looking up at the Bolian whose tone had suddenly become much more playful.
“Just need somebody to model it for.”
“I might know somebody. But first there is still a lot of work to do. We need to see how the calibrations hold up. And seeing that you’ve done many of these by yourself, if they are off, you know I’m going to have to blame you.”
“Sure, blame the new gal,” she said as she stuck out her lower lip.
They went to work and began running one weapons simulation after the next, while monitoring the simulated energy usage and power distribution as it flowed through the recently recalibrated conduits. Ten minutes into their work, they were interrupted by an incoming signal which lit up the comms display.
“Will you look at that?” said Alendra as she brought up the details of the sub-space message. “Private message for a Lieutenant Commander Leva. Who do you know on the Turing?”
Leva gave her a puzzled look. “Nobody I can think of.”
“Want to take it in the ready room?” she asked, knowing that with Captain Owens not on the ship and Star off-duty, the captain’s office adjacent to the bridge was available.
“Put it on screen here.”
The larger than life face that greeted Leva was perhaps the last one he had ever expected. The comely Romulan woman had a sly grin on her face, apparently enjoying his surprise of finding her contacting him from a Starfleet vessel.
She nodded. “Hello So’Dan. It’s been a while.”
Nearly two years in fact. He had met the Romulan officer as part of the delegation which had facilitated his diplomatic mission to Romulus alongside his sometimes mentor Osanus Dar and his fellow Romulan-born Starfleet officer Commander Xeris, in what had been an appeal to the Romulan government to join the war effort against the Dominion. The mission had been a success, even if other events had factored into the praetor’s ultimate decision to turn against the Dominion and join the Federation and the Klingons.
Donatra had acted as a liaison to him while she had reintroduced him to the world of his mother which he had left behind when he had been but a child. Showing him a side of Romulus he had never known, one that seemed to be tolerant and accepting of half-breeds like him. That, mixed with his budding feelings for the alluring Donatra, had very nearly led to her convincing him to stay on Romulus and make it his home once more.
As it had turned out however, Donatra had been on a very specific mission to attempt his defection from Starfleet. She had offered a full confession afterwards but also claimed that she had not carried out the mission voluntarily. While their relationship had understandably suffered from this revelation, Leva and Donatra had parted on relatively good terms.
“How have you been?”
He nodded slowly. “Considering the circumstances, I am well.”
Her bright lips turned upwards for a smile. “I am glad. And I’m certain you have been wondering about me contacting you. From a Starfleet vessel no lees.”
“That thought had crossed my mind.”
“I am part of a delegation which has been invited to Earth for a diplomatic summit between our people to discuss post-war relations. To be honest, I expect it to be a rather dry affair that ends up going nowhere in the end. Regardless, I understand you too are currently on Earth. Perhaps you could return the favor I once extended you when you visited my home.”
“I am not so certain how much of a favor that truly was.”
She offered a little nod, but her good cheer did not appear to be affected. “I suppose you are right. I just didn’t take you for a man to hold grudges.”
“Used to be.”
She raised an eyebrow in a way that would have put a Vulcan to shame. “And nowadays?”
“Nowadays I see things a little differently.”
“How does that bode for me, I wonder?”
“I suppose you find out once you get here,” he said and offered a smile of his own.
Her grin widened. “Why, Commander Leva, one might think you’ve got Romulan blood pumping through those veins of yours. This enigmatic side really suits you. The Turing is scheduled to arrive on Earth in eighteen hours. Until then. Donatra Out.”
And with that her face disappeared from the screen.
Alendra stared blankly at Leva. “That was … interesting.”
He nodded but said nothing.
“Okay, so who is she?”
It took him a moment to sort his thoughts again after the unexpected call. “Donatra. She’s an officer in the Romulan Guard.”
“Yes, I gathered that much from her uniform. But what is she to you? How do you know her?”
“That’s a long story.
She crossed her arms below her chest. “We’ve got time. Eighteen hours from what I hear.”
He glanced her way. “Do me a favor and finish up here if you don’t mind,” he said and then left the bridge.
“Right,” she said while he was already heading for the turbolift. “Good talk.”
“We eventually got to see the praetor at a lavish reception he held for the diplomatic envoy during which he officially announced the Star Empire joining the allied war effort. Truthfully, I’m fairly certain that the suspiciously well-timed assassination of Senator Vreenak played a much more pivotal role in convincing him to abandon the Dominion than anything our envoy ever did or said. We did get to taste the absolutely worst imitation of champagne known in the universe, however. So there is that. It does make me wonder if replicated kali-fal tastes that awful to Romulans used to the real thing.”
Leva and Alendra were back in the Jefferies tube only a few short hours after the surprising call he had received on the bridge, in order to complete the weapon and shield modifications, however this time sans Nora Laas who to Leva’s relief had been released to her quarters to rest.
He had tried to learn more about what had caused her blackout but neither Katanga nor Nora had been in a sharing mood. And while he was still concerned about his friend, it had been the Romulan woman who had been on his mind for the last few hours.
“Pass me the flux coupler, please,” he said, once again working inside a maintenance hatch with Alendra sitting by his side and passing him the tools he needed.
However, the requested device was not being placed in his waiting palm this time.
“Oh, yes,” she said quickly and then promptly turned to the toolbox and fished out the requested device, handing it over. “Sorry.”
Leva took it and brought his arm back into the hatch to apply the tool to the power tap they were working on.
“So basically what you’re saying is that the only reason this Donatra woman got close to you in the first place was because she was working for the Tal Shiar on a mission to get you to defect.”
“She’s not Tal Shiar, she’s Guard. But yes, she was pressured into a mission to make me change allegiances. It wasn’t something she wanted to do and she developed second thoughts. That’s why she eventually came clean. Phase decompiler.”
Alendra was not going back for the tools. “That’s what she told you. After you figured out what her real agenda was.”
Sensing that she was having trouble accepting this, Leva re-emerged from the hatch and sat down next to her in the Jefferies tube. “Yes. And I believe her.”
She nodded absentmindedly. “But you don’t really know, do you? She could actually be a Tal Shiar agent. Even now as she’s coming to Earth to take part in some sort of conference. Shouldn’t you let Starfleet know about her? About the possible risks she might pose. She could be a spy.”
“I don’t think she is.”
“But that’s my point. You don’t know this for a fact. That’s an awfully big risk to take.”
“I’m sure Starfleet Intelligence has fully vetted the delegation and will ensure none of them have access to sensitive locations or data,” he said, looking at her with growing suspicion. “Why do I feel there is something else you’re worried about?”
“She played you once, I just don’t want you to get played again,” she said. “From the sounds of it, she was manipulating whatever positive feelings you still hold for Romulus and…”
“And what?” he said when she didn’t continue.
“And used her sensuality to get to you.”
Leva laughed out loud.
“I don’t actually think this is funny.”
“You’re saying she seduced me.”
He uttered a heavy sigh. “I don’t think so,” he said but then changed his mind slightly. “Well, maybe at first. But there was more to it than that.”
“You still have feelings for her, even after everything she did?” She shook her head. “So’, you can’t let her get to you like that again. In fact, I don’t even think you should talk to her at all. Let her do whatever business she came here for and stay far away. You cannot trust that woman.”
“I know you’re trying to look out for me but that isn’t necessary, trust me. And the fact of the matter is, I know her much better than you do. I think I know what kind of person she truly is. I’ll return the favor she once extended me, even if it was just a pretense. And if I sense that there is anything else going on, anything beyond the obvious, then I make sure I take the necessary steps.” He handed the flux coupler back to her. “Let’s call it a day, the Turing is due to arrive in a couple of hours and I want to get ready. Take a couple of days off, take some shore leave, maybe go down to Anguilla. We can finish up with the new shield grid when I come back.” He gave her a parting smile and then headed for the junction.
“What if you don’t see it?” she called after him.
He turned to look back at her. “See what?”
“Anything beyond the obvious.”
“I’m a trained tactical officer,” he said as he continued to make his way down the tube. “I’m pretty sure I can read between the lines.”
“Yeah? I’m not so sure you can,” she mumbled in a way Leva almost didn’t hear.“
Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”
The Romulan delegation which had been brought to Earth by the Turing had been housed at a Starfleet compound in Shanghai for the duration of their visit, close enough to Paris and San Francisco where they would spend most of their time, and yet not close enough to the very nerve centers of the Federation and Starfleet to possibly pose a threat. It was a subtle message by the powers that were that the Federation was hoping to normalize the mostly hostile relations that had existed between their respective people for centuries before the Dominion War, but that real trust between the Federation and the Romulan Empire was not yet a reality.
Leva had been one of the few individuals who had been cleared to visit the delegation, thanks to his connections with his fellow Romulan in exile and on-again-off-again mentor Osanus Dar. Dar had apparently been instrumental in making these talks possible.
Security, however, remained tight, many had not forgotten the events that had taken place the last time a Romulan delegation had visited Earth four years earlier during the Antwerp Conference which had ended in disaster when the Dominion had detonated a bomb, killing twenty-seven people. The incident had become infamous for not only marking the beginning of the Dominion aggression against the Alpha Quadrant but also for being the deadliest attack on Earth in over a century, shattering a period of unprecedented peace that had been enjoyed by its populace. Of course, the Antwerp bombing eventually became nothing more than a prelude to the devastating Breen attack on San Francisco during the height of the Dominion War.
Leva met Donatra in the beautifully maintained inner courtyard of the compound she was staying at, judging by her smile, she had been waiting for him.
“Jolan tru,” he said, using the traditional Romulan greeting.
“And hello to you, So’Dan.”
He was immediately struck how much better she looked in person than over the view screen, still wearing her short, Romulan military-style haircut which highlighted her perfectly tapered ears, her gracefully upswept brow as well as her expressive eyes and her bright lips. He couldn’t help but find her attractive even in her bulky gray Romulan uniform.
“Welcome to Earth,” he said.
“Glad to be here. Gladder still you cold be.”
He nodded. “How have you been?”
“It’s been a tough few years," she said, her voice taking on a more serious tone now and Leva could certainly sympathize with the sentiment. The war had been hard on the Romulans as well, while they had not exactly been forthcoming with precise numbers on their losses and while they were likely much lower than those of the Federation and the Klingons who had fought the Dominion for longer, the Romulans had suffered a great deal as well, after all there had been no half-measures when they had joined the war effort, they had thrown everything they'd had at the enemy and even that had very nearly not been enough.
Leva was pleased that she seemed to have survived the war intact. "Yes, for all of us."
“But that’s behind us now, isn’t it? Time to look forward and all that.”
“I believe that’s what has brought you here.”
“Quite an interesting development, wouldn’t you say?”
He nodded but didn’t speak for a moment. He continued before the silence between them threatened to become awkward. “I understand I have you for the rest of the day.”
“That’s right. I have been handed over into your care. I am all yours as they say. My official mission is to immerse myself in human culture to better appreciate our former enemy and perhaps a potential ally one day.”
“You almost make it sound like a chore.”
She laughed. “I suppose that all depends on my guide.”
“I shall try to make this as memorable as I can. But remember, I’m only partly human. I might not be the best person to make you appreciate this planet’s culture.”
“Something tells me I won’t have any complaints. Where do we start?”
Leva took a moment to take in his surroundings. The compound was just outside of Shanghai and completely walled in but did allow a peek at the large city's impressive skyline. "We could start right here. Shanghai is one of Earth's most vibrant cities."
She frowned. “I got to see some of it on our shuttle ride in. To be honest it’s not quite my kind of thing. A lot of modern super skyscrapers. I’ve seen this on Romulus and countless other worlds.”
He nodded. “Shanghai has changed much over the centuries. It didn’t fare well during Earth’s various wars and was rebuilt a number of times. I suppose it has lost some of its unique character, but it remains a great melting pot of Western and Eastern influences.”
Donatra didn’t look impressed.
“Tell you what,” he said. “We’re actually not too far from the place I spent most of my early years after leaving Romulan space. It’s still quite a historic place, even today.”
At that, she lit up. "I wouldn't mind seeing your old stomping grounds. The place that tamed your wild Romulan blood," she said with a smirk.
“Don’t know about tamed,” he said and then nodded her way. “Before we leave, perhaps consider changing your attire?”
She looked down at her uniform. “What’s wrong with it?”
"There aren't many Romulans on Earth, so it depends on how much you want to stick out."
Donatra nodded. “I guess it’s only fair. We made you change into more local garments when you came to visit.”
Twenty minutes and one outfit later, the two set out via shuttle, heading east, Donatra having changed into a simple, tan suit which if it hadn’t been for her ridged brow made her look almost Vulcan. Leva had remained in his uniform.
“So where are we heading?” she asked as the shuttle left the Chinese mainland behind and headed over open waters.
“A place called Kyoto on the Japanese island. My father lived there for some time before he met my mother and we kept our principal residence there. If you are looking for Earth culture and history, you won’t find too many places that offer more on this side of the planet. It’s a city that hasn’t changed all that much over the last few centuries.”
In the shuttle it took them mere minutes to reach Honshu, the Japanese main island and Leva slowed them down once they were back over land to allow his passenger to take in the green and hilly landscape below.
“This almost reminds me of Romulus,” she said as he turned to look at him. “No wonder you chose to live here.”
"Not sure if I would use the word chose. In fact, I couldn't wait to get away from here fast enough when I was younger. Joined Starfleet as soon as I was old enough. I think in hindsight I was probably a little too rash with my decisions. I suppose I was a fairly angry young man back then."
She grinned. “Some insights into So’Dan Leva’s inner psyche. This trip is certainly full of surprises.”
“Well, don’t expect many of those.”
He brought the shuttle down at a landing port near the center of the historic city where they disembarked and began to explore the town on foot and public transport, Leva taking her to see a number of majestic Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples which had survived for centuries and proudly reflected historic Japanese architecture which Donatra admitted to being impressive.
“Considering how violent I hear Earth culture has been in your history, I am surprised to find so much of its architecture has survived,” she said as they strolled through the gorgeous moss garden of the Saihō-ji temple.
“Earth has also experienced nearly two centuries of peace before the Dominion War.”
“Maybe. But for thousands of years before that humans were at war with each other over petty national and religious conflicts. Trust me, most people outside this solar system are stupefied how Earth and its people managed to not only survive but also become the center of a galactic superpower.”
He offered a smile. “I did not know you were a scholar of Earth history.”
“Romulans believe that knowing their enemy is essential to securing victory.”
“I didn’t think we were still enemies.”
She shrugged. “We were when I was taught about Earth.”
He nodded and then stopped when they had reached the temple proper.
“What is it?”
“Two hundred meters behind us. A woman in a dark suit. I think she has been following us since we left Tō-ji.”
Donatra uttered a little, amused laugh.
“She has been following us since we left the shuttle. Her and her partner. What I cannot tell is if they are just bad at trying to be inconspicuous or if they are just not trying very hard at all. Letting me know that we are being watched.”
“They’re with Starfleet? Federation Security maybe?”
She nodded. “You didn’t honestly think they would let a Romulan walk around on Earth supervised solely by one Starfleet officer who himself has some Romulan blood coursing through his veins.”
“I suppose not.”
"I don't blame them. Besides, it's not as if we weren't watched when I took you on a tour of the capital back on Romulus. Trust me we had a lot more eyes on us then we do now."
Leva nodded slowly. “You spotted them pretty quickly though.”
“I tend to be pretty mindful of my surroundings. Particular in unfamiliar territory.”
But he didn’t look fully convinced and Donatra could tell. She smirked. “You think I made them because I’m a spy? An agent of the Tal Shiar?”
“After all we’ve been through, do you really blame me?”
She turned away from him. "I suppose not. In fact, I probably deserve your mistrust."
He took a step towards her. “You did work for them. You got close to me to get me to defect. Those are facts.”
“Right. And what could I possibly say now that would make you trust me? To make you believe that I hated what I did to you. I hated it until I realized that I enjoyed your company so much, I was actually excited about the prospect of being successful in my mission. Of you staying on Romulus. With me.”
Leva placed a hand on her shoulder. “And I almost did. Because of you.”
She shrugged him off. “But now you’ll never be able to trust me again. Now, whenever you look at me there’ll be that voice in the back of your head, trying to warn you, telling you not to get too close because I might not be what you think I am.”
He considered the ancient temple for a moment as he tried to collect his thoughts. She was right of course, everything she had said what absolutely true. It also meant that Lieutenant Donatra was either one of the best Romulan agents the Tal Shiar had ever produced, or a person desperately trying to atone for her past actions. Leva wanted to believe the latter. He turned back to face her even while she kept her back to him. “I don’t know about you, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
She very slowly turned back around. “Are you now?”
He shrugged. “As long as you don’t ask me to reveal Federation secrets.”
Donatra laughed. “You really think that the Tal Shiar doesn’t already know whatever secrets you could share?”
“Now that hurts.”
They continued their sightseeing tour of Kyoto until the late evening and left the city after an extensive seafood dinner in one of the city’s famous eateries. Donatra had asked him to return with her to her room in the compound in Shanghai where she claimed to have a surprise for him.
“I can’t wait to see it,” he had said with a gleam in his eyes.
“You’re fortunate I’m not a telepath because I’m sure I don’t care where your mind has wandered off to.”
He had smartly suppressed any further commentary after that.
As it turned out the surprise had been a case of eight bottles containing an azure beverage.
Leva could hardly complain as he quickly pulled one of the bottles out of the case. “Authentic kali-fal? Now that is a surprise.”
“I remember how much you took to it,” she said and then produced a couple of glasses. “I think a few drinks won’t hurt.”
He didn’t say no. After having spent a lifetime mostly reviling the beverage, he’d found a new appreciation for it after his journey to Romulus. He wasn’t entirely sure if this was because he had never before tasted the real thing—after all he had been too young to try it when he had lived in Romulan space as a child—or because his visit to his former home had somehow changed his complicated attitude towards his Romulan heritage which he had taken pains to ignore or outright deny after having turned his back on that culture. Perhaps it had everything to do with his budding feelings for Donatra herself after he had first met her.
Regardless, he had joined her eagerly in opening a bottle and just like two years earlier, it hadn’t stopped there.
Differently to their encounter two years ago, this time there had been no rushed departure by Donatra. Whereas last time she had attempted sneak away even before he had awoken, Leva found her just where he had left her the night before, lying in bed next to him.
“Jolan tru," he whispered softly as her eyes began to flutter open.
Her response was a satisfied little purr.
“Just as good as you remembered it?”
She smirked. “Better,” she said.
“What time is it?” she asked through still only half-opened eyes.
He turned his head towards the window and the sun streaming into the room. “Late morning, I’d guess.”
She pressed herself closer against him. “Too early.”
“Agreed.” He brushed his hand against her cheek and then moved in closer to kiss her. “We could stay like this the whole day as far as I’m concerned. I have nowhere I need to be.”
Donatra stopped suddenly and pulled back. “I do.”
“Computer. What is the time?”
A soft trill acknowledged the inquiry. “The time is ten thirty-four hours.”
Her eyes opened wide as she rolled away from Leva and practically fell out of bed. It was only a momentary setback as she shot back up onto her feet and then rushed into the washroom.
Leva smirked as he watched her naked, retreating form. “I take it you are late for something.”
“The conference,” she called out from the washer as he heard the sonic shower coming to life. “Starfleet Headquarters in twenty-six minutes. Is that in walking distance?”
Leva couldn't suppress a laugh. She may have studied Earth history but clearly, geography had not been part of her lesson plan. "Not quite. Another continent altogether."
She uttered a colorful Romulan curse.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get priority transporter access. And even if not, I can probably pull some strings.”
She emerged just six minutes later and Leva was impressed what she had been able to accomplish in that time. She looked spotless, already dressed in her uniform, not a hair out of place and even her lip coloring perfectly applied.
"I'm a soldier girl," she said after noticing his surprise. "Being ready is half the battle."
He nodded. “Will I see you after the conference?”
She sighed. “I am not certain it will be possible. The schedule for the next two days is pretty tight. A lot of conferences and meetings and when I’m not in one of those, I will have review sessions with my delegation. This was really the only time I could make available for us.”
"In that case, I'm glad we made such good use of it."
“What’s next after the conference?”
She walked over to a mirror to adjust her uniform even if Leva couldn’t really see the need. “I’ve already been assigned to a ship as a weapons officer. The fleet needs every available hand maintaining order in the Cardassian territory.”
He didn't like the sound of that. None of the stories coming out of that area had been positive since the war had ended and the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans had divided up the territory which had formerly been part of the Cardassian Union amongst themselves. A number of former Cardassian military hardliners had taken arms to oppose the occupation by any means necessary. Blood had already been spilled on all sides, and as expected the Klingons and Romulans were particularly ruthless in quelling any unrest.
“Could you not request an assignment somewhere else? Somebody with your diplomatic experience could be invaluable right here on Earth working for the Romulan mission.”
She turned away from the mirror to face him. "I know what you're trying to do, So'Dan and I don't think I appreciate it. No matter what is happening between the two of us, I am and always will be a loyal Romulan soldier. And I will go wherever I am needed most. Do whatever I must to serve Romulus. You understand this, don't you?"
He nodded slowly. “Yes, of course.”
“Good, I wanted to make sure you knew where we stand.”
“About that. Where exactly do we stand? What is this thing between us exactly?”
She walked over to the bed where he was sitting up against the headrest and she leaned down to kiss him. Then she regarded him for a moment. "I like you, So'Dan Leva."
He smirked. “Good to know.”
Then she uttered a little sigh. “To answer your question, I don’t really know. This isn’t exactly conventional. But I think we need to be realistic about what is possible considering our respective positions. I like you So’Dan but I am not giving up my life. And I don’t think you are either.”
He considered those words for just a moment. “Funny you would say that considering that I almost gave up my life under similar circumstances.”
She frowned, clearly not sure how to respond to this.
He waved it off. “Sorry, that wasn’t entirely fair.”
“There’s some truth to it, I guess.”
But he shook his head. “I am and always have been of two worlds and I have struggled with that all my life. Intentional or not, you opened my eyes to something I had tried to ignore for a long time. That I’m as much Romulan as I am human.”
“And for what it’s worth, I think you represent the best parts of both our people.”
It was a nice sentiment, he thought, even if he was not sure he shared it. He had made his fair share of poor decisions in his life after all.
She headed towards the doors but stopped short and looked at him one last time. “We will see each other again, of that I have no doubt. Thank you for trusting me and for the time we got to spend together. Jolan tru, So’Dan.”
“Until we meet again.”
She gave him one last smile and then was out of the door and at least for now it seemed, out of his life again.
Leva uttered a heavy sigh and let himself fall back onto the bed. As far as he was concerned, he really had nowhere else to be.
After a rather awkward encounter with the local Starfleet personnel running the compound during which he had struggled to explain his presence in Donatra’s quarters, Leva had decided to return to Eagle. After all the modifications on the tactical systems were still not complete and focusing on work, he figured, was favorable to staying on Earth which at least for the moment reminded him too much of the short but memorable time he had spent with Donatra.
Eagle was still running with a skeleton crew and was mostly occupied by spacedock’s maintenance personnel and a few crewmembers who had decided not to take the offered shore leave.
One of the first things he had done was to check in on Nora and had learned that she had since been fully cleared by Doctor Katanga and that she was apparently no longer on board the ship. He had taken some comfort in that. If she felt well enough to spend time planetside, she was probably over whatever had affected her.
He had contacted Alendra next to meet her in main engineering to discuss the next phase of the weapons and shields overhaul they had started a few days earlier.
The Bolian arrived late and Leva quickly noticed that she wasn't quite herself. Her facial expressions were difficult to read as if she was trying to keep them purposefully neutral. "Did you enjoy yourself, Commander?"
He shot her a puzzled look at the unexpected formality which had crept into her tone. "I had a good time," he said nodding. "As I said, there was nothing to worry about, I have not been turned into a Romulan spy by evil Tal Shiar machinations," he added with a grin which completely failed to find any acknowledgment.
“Anyway,” he continued. “I thought we carry on where we left off. I’ve already run a diagnostic on the primary phaser couplers and we’ve achieved a throughput improvement of nearly five percent. I think we can do even better before we move on to the torpedo guidance systems and the new shield grid.”
“Right,” she said, “we’ll just pick up where we left off.”
“Is there a problem with that?”
She shook her head. “No problem, sir. Except that I’ve been thinking about what you told me before you left. I do believe I should take some shore leave,” she said and then presented him with a padd which she had been hiding behind her back.
“What’s this?” he said as he took the device and glanced it over.
“My request for shore leave, sir.”
He frowned. The request she had put in writing would practically keep her away from the ship until Eagle was scheduled to depart for her next mission. There would be no time at all to continue their work together. There was no question that she was entitled to the leave, but it had not been what he had expected.
Alendra noticed his confusion. “I am planning on visiting my family on Bolarus, I haven’t seen them since the war first broke out. Unless of course, you have an objection.”
“I … no, of course not. I just thought—“
She took the padd back from him. "Thank you, sir," she turned and began to walk away.
She stopped to turn and face him again.
“You are upset?”
She laughed mirthlessly. "You're a trained tactical officer. Clearly, you can read between the lines."
He wasn’t sure what to say to that.
Alendra took a few steps back towards him. “You said you can see the obvious but to be honest I’m not so certain. I’ll be back in a week, maybe you’ve figured it out by then.” Her body went stiff. “Permission to be dismissed, sir.”
He hesitated for only a moment and then nodded. “Permission granted.”
She turned on her heel and this time walked away with purpose, leaving Leva behind.
He looked after her with a blank look on his face, not missing the fact that Alendra was the second woman he had watched walking out on him on the same day. He couldn't help but start wonder if Nora hadn’t been right all along.
He wasn’t sure what he was going to do next, the only thing he knew for certain was that just a few days earlier, the galaxy had seemed like a much less complicated place.