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Backhanded Compliments

Posted on Jun 16, 2017 @ 12:24am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Jun 16, 2017 @ 12:24am

Mission: The Romulan Way


= Backhanded Compliments =

(cont’d from “Mind Your Ps and Qs”)



LOCATION: USS PHOENIX

SCENE: Corridor, Saucer Section, Deck 6

STARDATE: [2.17] 0615.1600



Jake led the Romulans through the corridors towards the turbolift. Their temporary accommodations were located on Deck 10, not far from the Vulgar Tribble. This was by design; though the Romulans were technically welcomed diplomatic guests of the Federation, they also represented a possible threat, and Admiral Stiles had ordered that their exposure to the PHOENIX’s interior be as minimal as possible.



Jake had taken the lead, with Sub-Commander Deleem and Centurion Ratal a pace behind him on either side. Ratal’s eyes seemed to move constantly, instantly sizing up every officer they passed in the hallway. Most of them were security officers - this, too, was by design - and so far Ratal hadn’t looked impressed by any of them.



On Jake’s left, Sub-Commander Deleem was being much more cordial. The Romulan second-in-command was Jake’s counterpart aboard the Shai’Dan, and seemed to have something like Jake’s easy-going nature… or at least, the Romulan equivalent of it. Deleem was walking with his hands clasped behind him, and seemed to nod approvingly at everything from Starfleet uniforms to wall paneling to the soothing color of the carpet beneath them.



“I have always been fascinated by Federation architecture,” said Deleem.



Jake looked over at him. “You have?”



“Indeed,” said Deleem. “There’s a faint sense of familiarity to it... that’s the Vulcan influence, of course, before their sensibilities and our own, ah, *diverged* somewhat.”



“Is Romulan architecture similar to old Vulcan designs?” asked Jake.



“Well, there are centuries of independent evolution between the two, and some might say Vulcan design sensibilities have been so sublimated by other races that they’re diluted beyond recognition. But to the trained eye, yes, the similarities are there.”



“Vulcan designs have been sublimated?”



“Of course,” said Deleem, as if the answer were self-evident. “It’s clear that humans are nearest the Federation’s heart, and not just in aesthetics. Though perhaps not so much anymore, after your species staged a coup and attempted to enslave the rest of them.”



Jake gritted his teeth. “That’s not exactly the way it happened.”



“My assessment was fair,” Deleem said, still looking around, apparently oblivious to how he’d gotten under Jake’s skin. “The Neo-Essentialists were an explicitly pro-human group, directly responsible for the murder and persecution of any number of non-humans during their regime. And my, were they militant about it. You know, our strategists theorized we’d be at war with Edgerton’s Federation within two years, but fortunately your civil war curtailed his projected grab for territory.”



“Then I guess it’s a good thing we stopped him,” said Jake. “For everyone.”



They reached the turbolift. Jake stepped in, followed by his Romulan entourage. They rode to Deck 10 in silence, and when the turbolift doors parted, Jake stepped out and resumed his position at the head of the party. Deleem and Ratal once again found themselves at his sides, and Jake briefly wondered if Ratal was assigned as Deleem’s personal bodyguard. He still didn’t think Jaron was being completely on the level - Herut looked too small and squirrely to be a bodyguard, at least in Jake’s opinion - but Ratal carried herself like someone who could fight if it came down to it.



Jake had hoped their talk of the Neo-Essentialists had ended, but a moment later it became clear that Deleem had more to say on the subject.



“I know it’s not my place, but you were better off with Edgerton in power,” Deleem said. “No more coddling legions of weak-willed children. Humans had finally seized the reins, taken their place as superiors. You were right to do so - there is a growing consensus among my people that humanity is the most formidable Federation species, even more so than our Vulcan cousins.”



Jake realized that Deleem had intended this as a compliment, but being lumped with people like Richard Edgerton turned Jake’s stomach. He wanted to stop there in the corridor and explain, at length, how the Neo-Essentialists had corrupted everything about the Federation that he’d held dear, and that the fight against them had cost a lot of people everything they’d ever loved. But then Jake remembered Kane’s admonition to be polite, diplomatic. Everyone needed to look the part.



“I would say humans take their strength from diversity,” Jake said, trying his best to sound polite. “Within our own species, and in our relationships with other species as well.”



Deleem chuckled. “Overwrought optimism. Humans are indeed very adaptable, maybe even more so than Romulans, but the fact that we may learn things from other cultures does not make those cultures equal to our own. You take the pieces that suit you, and eliminate the pieces that don’t.”



“Doesn’t sound very neighborly.”



“A serf is not his lord’s ‘neighbor’, Commander Crichton.”



“Serfs and lords are from what we humans called ‘the Dark Ages’,” said Jake. “Every species has to grow up sometime.”



“I did not intend offense,” Deleem said. “I’m merely objectively appraising the situation. Humanity’s position has gone from one of the dominant known species in the galaxy to mistrusted within their own Federation, forced to genuflect before the other races in an attempt to demonstrate the purity of their intentions. A unified Federation, with humans harnessing the other races to pursue conquest…. They would have been a worthy foe for the Empire. But alas, look at you know… so desperate to be loved that you’ve sacrificed your strength. I fear ‘special interests’ will be the doom of humanity.”



Jake looked over at Ratal. Her expression hadn’t changed, but Jake had a feeling she’d been following the conversation.



“Is that what you think, Centurion?” Jake asked.



Ratal turned to look at him, her features still both lovely and remote. She regarded Jake for a moment, then spoke.



“With all due respect, the Sub-Commander and I disagree.”



“You do?”



“I don’t believe the Federation would ever be a worthy foe for the Empire,” said Ratal. ‘No matter which species is running it.”



“Wow,” Jake said. “I’m feeling more diplomatic by the minute.”



They rounded a bend in the corridor, and came to a halt outside the door to the Romulans’ temporary suite. Jake keyed in the entry code - no one was to be allowed in our out with captain’s orders and a security escort, for the Romulans’ safety as well as the crew - and stood aside from the door.



“You can freshen up in here,” Jake said. “There’s a replicator if you’d like, but I’m told our chef has prepared a delightful meal for you for later. There’s a comms console as well… if you should need anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”



Jaron stepped past Jake without a word. Herut and Ratal filed in after him, equally disinterested. Deleem hesitated at the door, smiling politely at Jake.



“Please forgive the others,” said Deleem. “Many of my people tend to be reserved, especially within our military. Byproduct of the work, as I’m sure you understand.”



“Right,” Jake said.



“We’ll see you at dinner, Commander,” said Deleem. He did not offer to shake, which was good because Jake didn’t think he would have accepted and wasn’t sure if that might constitute a diplomatic incident, but it seemed clear that Deleem had no idea how much Jake disliked him. Jake watched as Deleem stepped into the suite, then the door hissed closed behind him.



=[/\]=



Shawn Putnam

A.k.a.

Jake Crichton

Executive Officer

USS PHOENIX

 

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