Unfortunately, something happened during the 11th season and the story/game just kind of ran out of steam. I'm a little saddened to think that my amatuerish attempts at writing had a lot to do with it, many of the "players" being experienced, published writers. The story just kind of trailed off and some of the characters, mine included, are just kind of left dangling at the end.
Since I did put so much time into the story, I have preserved my character and his story line here. I will probably polish it up a bit to make a single, cohesive story out of the rapid-fire posts.
To those familiar with the Star Trek universe, this story takes place in the "new" time-line presented by the JJ Abrams movie. The setting is the time of the destruction of Romulus (the assumption is, even though people in the past knew that Romulus would be destroyed, all attempts to save it were unsuccessful and its destruction was inevitable.) A fleet has been assigned to enter Romulan space and assist in rescue and salvage operations. My character was assigned to the flagship of this fleet. You will see how it unfolds.
With that, I present you "Herm".
Ensign Hermaratlo, USS Arabella
Current Post: Archeology and Anthropology officer.
Current Location: Classified
Born: Star Date 41174
Place Of Birth: Risa
Species Of Origin: Risa
Hair: None due to genetic anomaly . Dark eyebrows and eyelashes.
Height: 2 meters
Weight: 81 kg.
Place Of Birth: Risa
Species Of Origin: Risa
Hair: None due to genetic anomaly . Dark eyebrows and eyelashes.
Height: 2 meters
Weight: 81 kg.
Skin Tone: Appears to always have a light tan.
Telepathic and Empathic Status: None.
Body: Athletic, yet thin.
Face : Heart shaped, cleft chin, possessing the Risian "birth mark" upon his forehead.
Marital Stats: Marriage dissolved.
Habits: Scratches at the nape of his neck when thinking. Often rubs top of his head as if trying to straighten hair that isn't there. Often prone to musically humming even in tense situations.
Quarters: Cluttered, but not messy. Large pieces of art are scattered about. Many are unfinished. Various antique sculpting tools and paint brushes are found on almost every surface.
Likes: "Thinking" games like 3D chess. Music, "classical". Large gatherings. Theater - especially when performing. Prefers the lounge to the holodeck.
Dislikes: Klingon food, isolation, zero-gravity environments.
Ambitions and Goals: To separate from the Risian stereotype and to use his abilities to help his fellow man and to share art and music with everyone he meets.
Temperament: Joyous without being jovial. Very easy going and handles most stressful situations with ease.
Hobbies: Listens to music that most would consider "classical". Enjoys Vulcan composers above most others. Acting, painting, sculpting, playing music. Things many would consider "fine art".
Mother: Goarangie, Risian.
Father: Meadorgre, Risian.
Siblings: Jonval, brother. Two years younger. Hopes to apply to Star Fleet as well.
"Herm" was born and raised on Risa.
At age 16 he joined a religious sect that sought to rid Risa of it's "sexual" culture and it's reputation as "The Pleasure Planet". A small riot was put down by the Risian government and the sect lost all credibility and public acceptance. Disillusioned by the groups leaders, he left the group, but has maintained his self-imposed celibacy outside of a marriage relationship.
While very proud of his heritage, Herm does not like to talk about the "pleasure planet" aspect of his society and prefers to talk about contributions to art and music his people have made (though often overlooked, simply because they are Risian). When asked what his parents do, he often tries to change the subject, obviously uncomfortable with the thought.
His only brother, Jonval, hopes to apply to Star Fleet soon. However, his acceptance is questionable. Jonval has been arrested several on several occasions for various infractions. He is currently wanted by Cardassian authorities and the Ferengi Alliance has tried on several occasions to extract very heavy fines from him. In spite of his legal troubles, Herm is very close to Jonval and writes him often.
From a very early age Herm showed an aptitude in the arts, visual and performing. He taught himself painting, sculpting, and several musical instruments, including the Earth's guitar. He often worked with acting troops whenever possible.
When the time came, Herm chose Star Fleet academy over art school. He showed incredible competence in the sciences, but most was most adept and attracted to archeology. He interned on many missions to explore ruins found on un-inhabited worlds. His unique insight led to what is now known as the "Rosetta Stone of cave drawings" for a proto-Klingon race that existed on Omega Leonis. This led to special recognition at his Star Fleet graduation ceremony.
Herm was married while attending Star Fleet academy. The relationship ended very badly when her parents (race unknown) insisted that Herm join the religious sect they were a part of on their home world. The marriage was dissolved and Herm was prevented from contacting his ex-wife. Later, she would be killed in the line of duty. Details of the death remain classified. Herm very rarely speaks of this episode in his life, but the themes are often repeated in his stage plays and music.
Herms abilities in art, music, architecture, and especially archeology have proven valuable to ships that include families and children. During his off-duty hours he can sometimes be found on the school decks giving special presentations to the children and filling in for human teachers that are ill and holographic teachers that are malfunctioning.
Still a very young man, Herm looks forward to expanding his professional and artistic abilities in serving Star Fleet. Encountering ancient, long gone, races would not only allow him to apply his skills in documenting and studying them, but also allow him to be inspired by their culture and arts and allow him broaden his own artistic style and skill.
Special Note: Risa was destroyed during the Borg offensive started on Stardate 58501, during Hermaratlos time at Starfleet Academy. Surviving Risians have relocated to a new world simply called New Risa. It is unknown how this event has affected the young ensign. It is suggested that command personnel advocate that he regularly visit the counselor assigned to his posting.
The Story Begins:
“HOOBITY SHOOBITY DOO! Bhawm bah badda..” The cadet's humming echoed throughout the cave, but he didn't seem to notice – or at least not to care.
“Cadet!”, yelled a voice from the mouth of the cave.
“Boogity bam bam chatta!”
“CADET!”, the voice was closer.
“Shoobity shoobity shoobity, oh YEAH!”
“EEEK! I mean, Yes, Professor!”, yelped the cadet, realizing the voice was right behind him. He jumped up off his knees and stood at attention.
“At ease, cadet. I am not a Starfleet officer. However, like your superiors at Starfleet Academy, I am growing tired of reminding you to KEEP IT DOWN!”
Cadet Hermaratlo, or Herm as many preferred to call him, lowered his eyes and relaxed his posture. He'd gotten this lecture many times before, and he knew this wouldn't be the last. However, he knew this would be the last he would get from this particular instructor. Either he'd focus on keeping his humming quiet, or he'd be removed from this expedition.
“There is a time and a place”, continued the lecture, “for practicing your Earth music... jazz, or whatever you call it, but we only have a few hours left before we have to load the shuttle and return to the Argo.”,
Herm didn't know what race the man was, but the professor was obviously not from Earth, given the distaste he put into the word. Herm had never bothered to commit the professor's name to memory.
“So I suggest you finish setting up the imagers”, the professor growled, “ and record these drawings so we can get out of here!”
“Yes, professor!”, returned Herm, habitually falling into the loud, snappy, response he had learned at Starfleet Academy.
As the professor walked away shaking his head, Herm wondered if he would miss him. Very rarely did the cadet meet someone that didn't leave a lasting impression on his memory, but this blustery, overweight teacher might be the first he'd forget. Herm was grateful for the opportunity to intern on this expedition to Omega Leonis, but he was more anxious to get back to the academy and graduation. He didn't yet know what Starfleet had in store for him, but he couldn't wait to find out. After today he probably would never see this professor again.
He turned back to his work, careful to keep his humming to himself. He didn't know why, but he always had a melody in his head. And he could never seem to keep it there. “Shooby-doo...” he hummed quietly as he set up the imagers.
As he switched on the devices, he sat on a nearby rock to wait as they did their work, watching the green laser light play up and down the cave wall. This was his favorite part of recording cave drawings, the time when we could sit and examine them properly in the wavy beams of light. Art was his passion and any time he could spend a few moments examining any work of art, he took it, with great relish. “Shoobity bow wow wow..” continued the song in his head.
This expedition was sanctioned by some university on Betazed to examine traces of a cave-dwelling society found on the edge of Klingon space. He wasn't sure how the Klingons felt about them examining some of their possible ancestors this close to their border, but apart from the occasional growl, the Federation hadn't heard much complaining from the Klingons in a while.
Herm thought about what he had learned of the Klingons at Starfleet Academy as he looked at the cave drawings. He thought about their art and religion and music.... and religion...
Religion. Could these drawings be some sort of religious expression? He stood and looked closer. As the light of the imager swept it, he examined one particular figure that seemed be especially important. No, that can't be right.... but as he looked, something seemed to click. If he was looking at this right... no... but there it was.
Kahless. Kahless? “The Klingon Jesus” as some so rudely called him in the “Religions of the Federation” class, was supposed to have lived several hundred, if not thousands of years later than these drawings were produced, and several hundred light years from here. "But still," thought Herm, "if one assumes this figure is Kahless, then this figure must be Morath... and then...."
“Professor!”, Herm shouted. He backed away from the wall as he yelled, tripping backwards over the rock he was sitting on. “Prof....errr!” he squeaked, having knocked the breath out of his lungs.
“What is it now!”, yelled the professor, as he stormed toward Herm from the mouth of the cave. “Did you break the imagers?”
Herm managed to regain his feet and brushed the dust from his cadet uniform. As he did so, he tried, breathlessly. to describe what he had discovered.
“What in the galaxy are you talking about?”, blustered the professor, after hearing the excited description. “Stop your foolishness and just finish the scan and get the equipment loaded on the shuttle!"
Herm was generally a peaceful person; much preferring to settle disputes with a nice tri-d chess match than a fist fight. His home world of Risa was known as “The Pleasure Planet” and was, quite possibly, the most peaceful world in the Federation. But when he knew he was right, he made sure others saw it his way.
He grabbed the professor by the arm, nor worrying that the much heavier man could throw him to the ground and crush his skull under his enormous feet, and drug him to the cave wall.
“Now LOOK!”, Herm insisted, “If this figure is Kahless, and this figure is the sea, and these the mountains, what are we looking at?”
“Don't be a fool! This can't possibly.... a cadet couldn't possibly... uh... what?” The professor was silent for a moment as the light passed over the scene on the wall. "No... it can't....." he trailed off.
For several long minutes, the professor looked at the cave wall. He just stood there, hands at his side, staring. Staring. Finally, with a heavy “huff”, he sat, or rather fell, on the dusty cave floor.
“Cadet, do you realize what you've found? I mean, if this really is, that is to say, if this is a representation of Kahless, not only is this a great discovery for the Klingons, but it's a Rosetta stone for understanding every other cave drawing on this planet. Possibly this sector!”
Herm rubbed at the back of his neck, then the top of his bald head, “I'm sorry, professor, a 'Rosetta stone'?”
“The expression originated on Earth.” the professor answered absently, still staring at the paintings on the wall, “The Rosetta stone helped archaeologists studying Earth's ancient Egyptian society decipher their pictorial language. You, my boy, may have just done the same for these early Klingons.”
Several hours later, Herm sat alone on his bunk in the cargo-hold-turned-sleeping-quarters aboard the Argo. The captain had invited Herm to dine with him in his private mess, an honor never given to a cadet; apparently his discovery was already making waves in the Federation's archaeological community and at Starfleet. The university on Betazed had sent him a message asking him to present his findings at an invitation-only gathering of the sectors leading archeologists. He was overwhelmed. And exhausted.
But now was not the time for introspection. It was time to party! He accepted the captains invitation, replied to the university saying he'd be glad to prepare a presentation, and got up, changed into his off-duty clothes, and headed for the recreation lounge.
As he walked the corridors, he thought again about what Starfleet had in store for him. Doubtful, anyone aboard a Starfleet vessel would know, or care, about what happened today, but it didn't matter. What did matter was he had a job to do. And he'd do it with pride.
As he entered the recreation lounge he was greeted by his fellow student archaeologists with cheers and slaps on the back.
Yes, with pride. But also a great deal of fun!
Several months later, shortly after Starfleet Academy graduation.
The newly assigned ensign threw his meager belongings on his bunk as he entered his new quarters.
"Computer, begin personal correspondence, my brother, Jonval. Consult New Risa directory for delivery information."
The computer chirped in confirmation. As he began unpacking, Ensign Hermaratlo began dictating in his native Risian language:
I apologize for not being able to respond to you sooner. Someday, when you are in Starfleet, you will understand the insanity of the lifestyle. Oh, but what a glorious insanity it is!
I am sorry, too, that I cannot give you the details of where I have been assigned, but my understanding is that it will be public knowledge soon enough. Maybe then I can tell you where we're going and what I'll be doing.
I can tell you that I have been given the impressive title of "Archeology and Anthropology Officer". Sounds great, right? But, boy oh boy am I freaked out! I so wish I could tell you where we're going and what I'll be doing! Maybe once we're underway they will lift the restrictions on personal communication and I can tell you how awesome my assignment is.
And, yes, it is rare for an Ensign to be assigned as a team leader. But I have yet to decide if this is an honor or a punishment. The level of work in this department is going to be insane. Even though I am technically a team leader, I don't have a permanent team. Much of what I'll be doing, I'll be on my own, but I will be able to beg, borrow, and steal personnel from other departments when I need them for a dig or other projects.
Have I said too much? I don't know. The computer will censor it if I did. Sorry.
How are mother and father? I wish you could convince them to retire. They are too old to be dealing with tourists anymore. How I wish that New Risa wasn't just a duplicate of Old Risa! But you can't undo centuries of tradition, I guess.
Did you tell them about my award at graduation? I know you think it's stupid and childish that both they and I make you be the "go-between", but you know I've tried! And I will continue to try. The riot was a long time ago and I have acknowledged my mistakes and stupidity. I wish they could look past it to what I am doing now. I wish they could be proud of me.
You asked again how I'm feeling at the news of Sulacan's "accident". I don't know how to feel. I hadn't seen her or talked to her in three years. Not since... well, not since we were separated. I have never stopped missing her. I don't know if I feel any different now that I know she's dead. Honestly, I've been too busy to think about it.
What more can I tell you? Right now, not much. I've just arrived on my ship. The crew seems very close. Many of them have been together for a long time and have been through some amazing things. But you know me, it's never hard to make friends. The ship itself is amazing. I will be sharing a suite with someone, another ensign, though I don't know who yet. But my sleeping quarters are still 20 times bigger than the cell I had at the monastery! I have been told that the holodeck library includes extensive information about Old Risa. I shudder to think what most people use that information for, but I look forward to visiting the virtual version of the music conservatory that was near our home.
Speaking of music, I have learned a new instrument from Earth called a "guitar". I have been practicing an ancient human tune called "Classical Gas". I look forward to sharing it with you. Maybe whoever runs the crew lounge will let me play now and then. I know a lot of these newer ships have holographic instrumentalists, but who knows?
Brother, I so wish you could be here. If only... no. I won't lecture you. Maybe, someday, after I've been here a while, I can find the right people to talk to to get you into the Academy. Everyone makes mistakes. I just wish there were a faster way to clean yours up.
I have to go. I hope to be able to write you more detail about our mission, about my job, once we are under way. Maybe in a week or so.
Peace to you, brother.
Oh, P.S. Remind me to tell you about an Earth delicacy called a "hot dog". You'll love it.
Computer, end correspondence."
Herm turned and looked out the hull window in his bedroom. From here he could see the empty space where Romulus used to shine. What was out there? He didn't know, but he was dying to find out.
The Arabella, the starship Herm was assigned to, has encountered a damaged Romulan ship and is about to rescue the crew and passengers...
Ensign Hermaratlo was joyously tearing apart his sleeping quarters looking for his his favorite PADD. "Computer, begin personal correspondence, my brother Jonval."
He continued in his native Risian as he strung his belongings all over the room:
This will be a quick note, but I don't know when I will have a chance to write you again.
As I mentioned in my previous letter, I've been assigned as the Archeology and Anthropology officer on this ship. As I'm sure you've probably figured out, I'm aboard the Arabella as part of the Seventh Fleet and yes, we are in Romulan space.
My mission is to make the first steps in helping the Romulan remnant preserve their history and cultural identity. I know, right? If there was a job I was born to do, this is it!
As I speak, we are bringing aboard the survivors of some sort of attack. I'm headed out to help with the wounded and to make "first contact" with them. My first step is to make friends and learn as much as I can about what's been lost and what might still be saved.
Got it! OK, I gotta go. Wish me luck and I'll be in touch when I can.
Computer, end correspondence."
This last he shouted over his shoulder as he ran out the door.
Herm was on a mad dash to the shuttle bay. He'd have been there sooner, but he was so excited to hear that contact had been made with a Romulan ship that he ignored the part of the ship-wide message that said they were being shuttled and not transported. So he was coming to the shuttle bay by way of the transporter room.
He skidded to a stop at the shuttle bay desk, crashing into it. The Ensign security officer behind the desk shot him an irritated look.
"Ensign Dunn, isn't it? How long before they're here? How many wounded? What can I do to help?"
Herm was nearly jumping up and down with excitement.
Hours later, Herm crouched on his haunches in the hanger bay, shifting his gaze from his PADD to the hanger doors and back again. The highly trained crew did not currently need his help, though he was more than willing to give it. Like any Starfleet Academy graduate he was trained in all areas of ship operations from medic to mechanic, but also like any Starfleet Academy graduate he knew when to stay out of the way when the specialists were at work. He wasn't concerned, there would be plenty of work to do as soon as the evacuees arrived.
He used his PADD to look up some common Romulan phrases. Even though the Universal Translator system made it possible to communicate, he knew that hearing someone speak in your native tongue was always preferable to the very slightly computerized translation, especially in tense situations.
"Aefvadh", Herm practiced aloud, ignoring the glances of those around him. Language had never been his strong point, but it was very important to his job, so he struggled through it.
His job... When he came aboard the Arabella, he had no idea he would be fully engaged in his assignment so soon. Though under the direct command of Captain Sevryll and her command crew, his assignment came from the Federation.
His mind wandered back in time....
Herm had just returned home following his Starfleet Academy graduation. Within hours he had received literally hundreds of offers from universities and archaeological societies all over the quadrant. Apparently, news of the work he had done on Omega Leonis had gotten around. He let the computer play the messages as he packed his few belongings. He didn't yet know where he would unpack them, but he was ready to go.
"Computer, skip message", he said, during one particularly long winded monologue from Doctor Such and Such from the University of Blah de Blah. There was truly only one message he was waiting for, his orders from Starfleet.
He knew, that in spite of the great opportunities available, there was only one group that offered him what no others could. Starfleet could take him "out there", "where no man has gone before", as they used to say.
Herm was in the process of packing his beloved paint brushes when the computer suddenly beeped, interrupting the litany of messages.
"Incoming message from Federation headquaters, current Starfleet personnel only", the computer declared, "please enter ID number for authorization."
Concerned, Herm reached over to the keypad to enter his personnel number. Messages like this, especially delivered to new ensigns were rare and were never good news.
Herm finished punching in his number and the computer continued. "Starfleet intelligence relates that Romulus has been destroyed. Repeat, the planet Romulus has been destroyed. All Starfleet personnel are asked to be on high alert for emergency deployment in light of possible attack by surviving Romulan agents. More information will follow."
The computer chirped off. Herm flopped heavily on the floor. The loss of any life was sad news, but the loss of an entire civilization! It was.... devastating! To someone like him, with the utmost respect for any culture and their arts, the news was a blow to the stomach. He sat on the floor for hours, pondering the loss this brought to the galaxy. In spite of their distrust of the Federation, there was always the hope that someday the curtain would lift and Romulus would open up to their neighbors, sharing their art and culture. Now that hope was gone, and all was lost.
The sun had set, the room was dark. Glancing out the window at the stars, Herm slowly got up and continued to pack.
Herm was shaken from his flashback by the sound of something clanging on the deck. "Sorry!" some young voice sounded from somewhere. The crew of the Arabella was unlike any he had expected to encounter. They had to be the most diverse collection of people he had ever met. From the Vulcan captain to the Bolian counselor to the Ferengi pilot. What he could learn from these people! And now here he was awaiting his first contact with the Romulans! This is what the Federation sent him out here for.
His mind drifted again...
Two weeks he had been home, and no word from Starfleet since the news of Romulus. This was unusual. Often, newly graduated cadets were sent straight from San Francisco to their postings. However, the destruction of Romulus had changed everything. Herm had busied himself catering to the tourist trade that was the planets only industry by playing music at various venues around town.
That is where his assignment finally found him. He was in the middle of a particularly difficult jazz tune on an Earth instrument known as the "saxaphone" when his Starfleet issued communicator beeped. He cut the tune short and left the stage.
Upon activating the communicator, the computer voice chimed: "Incoming message from the Federation Office of Archaeological Affairs, please wait for Counselor Veloram". The Federation? Archaeological Affairs? Why were they contacting him? Something twitched in Herm's stomach as he waited.
Finally, a new voice, deep and serious, came from the communicator. "Ensign Hermaratlo, I presume?"
"Yes, Counselor", Herm croaked. Of course he was very familiar with Counselor Voloram's position at the Federation and his work in both opening and preserving archaeological sites for scientists and scholars.
"I am speaking to you on behalf of the Federation and Starfleet on an urgent matter. This concerns your assignment within Starfleet, but more importantly, we need you to represent the Federation's archaeological and anthropological arm. Are you in a secure location so we may talk?"
"Yes, Counselor, but perhaps I should speak to you at home, it would only take a minute..."
"Ensign, there is no time. I need you to start walking to the nearest transporter station for immediate transport aboard the Starship Inspector which is in orbit above New Risa."
"Yes, Counselor", Herm again replied, always very polite, "but my belongings..."
"You will have to make arrangements to have them sent to you. I need to be brief, please let me continue. You are to report to Captain Sevryll of the Arabella. Further details of your assignment will be given once you are aboard the Inspector and are underway."
"But Counselor, where am I going?"
"I'm sorry, Ensign, but right now that's classified. However, you might want to brush up on your Romulan."
"Romulan? Counselor, but why...."
"I cannot say more now. Please transport to the Inspector immediately."
Again, his memory was interrupted by the noises about him. The hanger bay doors were opening, revealing the shimmering force field and the Romulan ship beyond. He was no expert, but the ship was obviously in serious condition. He hoped the away team made it back safely.
He returned to studying his PADD, but again his mind was on what led him here...
"Incoming message, eyes only." The Federation had found him aboard the Inspector, as expected. He had only just beamed aboard when the computer alerted him. "Acknowledged", Herm replied, asking the transporter chief for the nearest secure terminal.
He keyed in his ID and brought up the message:
You have been chosen for a very delicate assignment. Your work on various archaeological sites, and especially the insight you displayed on Omega Leonis, has shown that you are uniquely suited for this assignment.
You have been assigned to the Arabella as the Archeology and Anthropology officer. You are to report directly to Captain Sevryll, but you will also be under the direction of Counselor Veloram.
The Arabella has been selected to lead a fleet into Romulan space on a humanitarian mission. Your job is to make an investigation into the remnants of Romulan culture. You will be given security clearance to communicate with any Romulans you may encounter as well as investigating any sites of interest that you may find.
It is of utmost importance that we help the survivors of Romulus save and conserve whatever is left of their cultural identity. Their arts, music, literature, we must help them protect it. Given your experience and expertise, as well as your... unusual racial heritage, you are the best choice to fill this post.
You are alone in this mission, but you will be allowed to request aid from your captain as needed. Given the tenuous nature of the mission, we feel that this is the best course for your assignment.
You will send Counselor Veloram weekly updates of your work and what you have encountered. Your reports will be shared with any Romulan authorities as requested.
We look forward to your findings.
End of message.'
Romulan space! Romulans! Any fear he might have had was overwhelmed by the possibilities before him! He would be the first from the Federation to make a direct anthropological investigation into Romulan culture!
He headed to the Inspector's recreation lounge for a celebratory drink.
That was a week ago. He was one of, if not, the last crew member to report for duty before the Arabella got under way. Until today, his job had been to get acquainted with his ship, her captain, and it's crew. He had already become well acquainted with "The Afterburner" lounge. He had also spent some time studying what little was known of Romulan art, culture, and religion.
He stood and looked anxiously toward the open bay. Did the damaged ship just shudder? He said a little prayer to his Risian gods for the safe return of the away team and the Romulan survivors.
From the looks of it, they better hurry.
The away team was successful in rescuing the passengers and crew, but was forced to sacrifice their shuttle to control the explosion of the dying vessel. Instead of arriving in the shuttle bay, the visitors were transported directly to the temporary housing prepared for them in the adjoining shuttle bay...
Herm stood in frustration and left the shuttle bay to try to get to the temporary housing that had been prepared for their Romulan guests.
"Should have just stayed in the transporter room!", he thought, remembering his ignorance of the original message.
Now he had missed an opportunity. He knew working with a crew that had been together for so long and had been through so much would be difficult, but he didn't realize that he'd be left out of the loop entirely. He'd have to be a little more aggressive if he wanted to get his job done.
He rounded the corner to see security was already posted outside the bay-turned-housing.
Hopefully they wouldn't hassle him too much.
Herm runs into the Vulcan Captain and Ship's Counselor as they, too, are about to visit their Romulan guests...
A few crewmen were bustling in and out of the bay carrying supplies. As the Captain and Counselor neared the entrance, Herm gained Captain Sevryll’s attention, "Captain," said Herm, "I'm anxious to begin the interview process, if..."
"Mr.?" She interjected.
"Yes, of course. You are our Anthropology and Archaeology officer." She could see a fervent enthusiasm in his beaming smile and bright eyes. "Ensign Hermaratlo, perhaps you should take the names of our guests for the ship's records instead. Do not harass them with questions this day. They have been through a number of traumatic experiences and I do not wish to add to their discomfort. I am sure you can appreciate the delicate nature of their situation..."
The Captain was right of course. Herm had been so anxious to prove himself to his captain and fellow crewmen that he hadn't stopped to consider their guests. From the corridor, he could hear the chaos in the shuttle bay. By the sound of it, there would be anger, frustration, and confusion. The last thing they needed was some hyper ensign bugging them with a lot of annoying questions about their lost home world. Cataloging the names would allow him do what he should have done in the first place, just talk to them. There would be plenty of time later to ask questions. Who knows? He might even make a friend or two.
"Yes, ma'am!" Said Herm, nearly shouting as he snapped to attention. After receiving a nod from the captain, he allowed them to continue their march toward the shuttlebay and followed on their heels, happy to have something constructive to do.
The day was getting long. Herm had begun his duties early this morning, as usual, but the stress and excitement of finding the Romulans and rescuing them had given him and adrenaline high that was now wearing off.
Still, the Archeology and Anthropology officer was having the time of his life. This is what he loved, meeting new people, learning about them. However, the feeling was not mutual.
"Hello, I am Ensign Heraratlo, may I have your name and family relation, please?"
"Hrmph", replied the particularly grumpy, elder Romulan. Herm knew that, like Vulcans, Romulans were very long lived. A Romulan "senior citizen" was probably several centuries older than he ever hoped to be.
"I'm sorry, sir. I know this is difficult for you. I don't mean to disturb you. But I do need your name for our records. Then I will leave you alone."
The elderly Romulan looked up, examining the young Risian from head to toe. There was something calculating, but not unkind in the way the old man looked at him.
"You are Risian, aren't you?", he finally asked, "Why are you here in Romulan space with these "Starfleet" instead of on your home world making love to fat tourist women? And what happened to your hair?"
The question surprised the young ensign. Not that it was about his home world, as the birthmark on his forehead was unique to his race and well known throughout the galaxy. No, it was the crudeness of it coming from someone who seemed so... stately.
Herm smiled disarmingly at the old man. "It's a long story, sir. And to tell you about my hair would take even longer. Let's just say I lost my.... appetite... for overfed females."
Suddenly, there was a strange sound in the room. It started low, almost blending into the background. At first Herm thought there was something wrong with the ventalation system. But then it grew louder. A choppy, wheezing sound. Then the ensign realized the elder Romulan was laughing. Laughing so hard he couldn't catch his breath!
Then, with a great gasping sound, the man took a huge breath, then the laughter burst from him like geyser, filling the entire shuttlebay with the contagious sound.
Herm didn't know what he was laughing about, but couldn't help but chuckle along.
After several long minutes, the old man wiped tears away from his eyes. "Have a seat, Starfleet." This last he said with kindness, instead of as an insult as he had before.
"I am Sutpak Choro. Sit and keep an old man company."
He'd been talking to the elderly Romulan for hours. In the back of his mind, he knew he was missing out on the "action" in the Afterburner, but as Beta shift wound down, most people were headed to bed anyway. Besides, his elderly guest was probably the most interesting being he had ever encountered.
The Romulan gentleman, who introduced himself as Sutpak Choro, had walked with Herm as he finished the task of recording names and family relations for the ships records, smoothing over the distrust many seemed all too willing to offer Starfleet personnel. They had made the full circle and were back at the bunk he had claimed for himself.
"So how does someone from 'The Pleasure Planet' become a Starfleet Ensign?"
Sutpak asked, genuinely interested.
Herm wondered if he should be surprised by his new friend's knowledge of systems who were members of the Federation. Much of Romulan space was still a mystery, but the Federation was an open book. And Herm's people renown throughout the galaxy.
"Let's just say," answered Herm, "that there's more to my people than sunny beaches and the horga'hn."
"Fascinating. Tell me about your world, your home world, Risa."
Herm talked a long time about Risian art, music, and religion. He spoke of his own experience as part of a failed movement to de-sexualize Risian culture and how that led him to study anthropology and archeology, which in turn led him to the Academy. He avoided talking about the Borg attack that had destroyed Risa and so many other worlds.
"But enough about me, tell me about your world." Herm said, realizing before the words were out of his mouth that it was a mistake to ask. Though he could sympathize with the Romulans, having lost his own home, he should have known that the pain was still too fresh to be so... familiar with his new friend.
Sutpak's friendly, cheerful expression fell. His stately form drooped and he seemed hundreds of years older.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean... that is I didn't think.... I'm sorry." the young ensign managed to stutter.
Sutpak looked up, looking at, and then past the young man as he spoke.
"You know, I saw it. I watched it happen. I watched Romulus die."
He sat back on his bunk, obviously getting comfortable so he could share his story. Herm sat on a stool across from him, holding his tongue and letting his friend speak.
"We had no warning. Few, so few escaped...." He trailed off, lost in his memory. After a few moments, he continued..
"I was one of the fortunate. I was already aboard the transport headed off planet to take care of some business, when the warning sounded. The entire planet had less than 10 minutes to escape or prepare for death.
The transport's crew turned on the view screen to show the news. Some of the passengers wanted to leave the ship, but weren't allowed. Other pounded on the hull, demanding to be let in. We watched in horror as the population descended into chaos. Our proud race, no better than animals in the face of death..."
Sutpak paused again, staring into space, his last words hanging in the air.
"Our transport lifted off. Those of us on board torn between hope that we'd get away and fear that we didn't have time to escape As we left the atmosphere, we saw it. The nova. It seemed to consume everything, huge, monsterous. The transport turned, preparing to go to warp. I watched from my window...."
Tears filled the Romulan's eyes as he continued.
"I didn't want to watch. But I had no choice. I had remained silent and calm through all the chaos so far, but I couldn't help but scream at what I saw.
As the planet shrank below me, the nova, like a wave crashing upon the shore, fell upon Romulus. For a moment it appeared as if the planet might survive. It seemed our proud world was making a final stand. But then, like a ball of glass, it just shattered. Just before our transport went to warp, I caught a final glimpse of the sea where I learned to swim and fish as a boy, consumed and burned by the nova."
Sutpak's voice cracked at he spoke this last. Again he trailed off, closing his eyes as if trying to block out what he saw in his mind. Taking a deep breath, he continued.
"And then it was gone. The rubble of the planet, the nova, everything disappeared as the transport went to warp. The blur and and streaks of the stars replaced the nightmare before my eyes, but it was already seared into my memory.
I don't know how long we were at warp, I'm not even sure I remember where we landed. We all sat for a long time in silence before leaving the ship, all of us numb with shock and horror. A woman sitting behind me had died, apparently from heart failure. The crew left the ship without inviting us to join them. As one, like a beast waking from a long slumber, we all stood and left the ship...
I honestly don't remember the days that followed, but now I'm here."
This last he said with a fake note of cheer.
"So, my friend," he said as he stood, "can you get me out of here? I need a drink."
The next day...
Herm awoke in his quarters about 15 minutes before his alarm sounded. Hearing the loud snoring from across the cabin, he knew that his roommate was still sleeping soundly. It would take a disrupter blast to wake him.
"Computer," he yawned, the computer chirping in reply, "Begin recording."
Herm shuffled out of bed, his muscles sore from the night before. What a rough night.
"Departmental log, continued." He spoke into the air as he stumbled toward the bathroom. He stared into the mirror as he spoke.
"I have completed cataloging names and family relations of our Romulan guests, with the exceptions of the senators who were given different quarters upon arriving. The senior staff has been working closely with them and from the records I see that someone else has completed the task with them."
Herm reached over to turn on the sonic shower, briefly envying the higher ranking officers who got to use water.
"I have not yet officially begun my investigation as the captain suggested that we allow our guests to become a little more settled. She is right, of course, I may be a little too anxious to prove my worth to this seasoned crew."
Herm removed his night shirt, he paused to look in the mirror again, rubbing absently at his Risian birthmark on his forehead.
"Computer, scratch the last statement." The computer chirped the affirmative. "Continue recording.
Upon completion of the roster, I took some time to speak to a gentleman who might just be the eldest member of the refugees on board..."
"Computer, pause recording". Herm continued stripping and stepped into the sonic shower. He allowed his mind to wander to the events of the night before...
"I need a drink!" The elderly Romulan stood, obviously intent on leaving the shuttlebay-turned-refugee-camp. He was allowed, of course, but he had no idea where to go.
Herm stuffed his PADD into his back pocket and stepped out of the cubicle, "I know just the place, let's go."
They had been talking for hours. Sutpak Choro had, for some reason, taken a liking to the young ensign and had shared some surprisingly intimate details of his life. Just moments ago they talked about the destruction of Romulus. The old man seemed to shrink, his eyes going dark, as he thought about it, but then he seemed most anxious to get out of the room and do something. Herm was no dummy, he knew the Romulan was looking for a distraction and he was happy to provide it after such heavy talk.
He led the way into the corridor, Sutpak leaning on his arm as they walked. Herm was surprised by the touch, but also glad that his new friend was displaying a level of trust that others on the ship seemed incapable of.
They talked briefly about the layout of the ship as they rode the turbo lift. Herm promising to make sure some of the more elderly and infirm among the refugees were given special attention when choosing more appropriate housing. They entered the Afterburner just in time to see a bar stool fly through the air and crash into the mirrored wall.
"I may have changed my mind about that drink...", began Sutpak, but the sudden rush of people out of the bar cut him off.
Herm stepped closer to the elderly man and ushered him in the opposite direction.
The rush of bodies knocked both of them to the floor. Herm instinctively grasped the Romulan and twisted, using himself as a cushion between the old man and the floor. The hit was hard, sending a sharp pain up his spine.
Shuffling feet unintentionally kicked him as they went by. He knew he'd be a bruised up mess in the morning, but Sutpak was unharmed and that was the important thing.
As the rush passed, he helped Sutpak to his feet. "I think I know of a better place," said Herm, taking the old man's arm and leading him away from the chaos of the Afterburner.
Herm shook himself out of his memories. He shut off the sonic shower, running his hand over his head, as if to straighten the hair that wasn't there.
"Computer, continue recording last message." He dug a fresh uniform from his disheveled drawers.
"I address this in the log because I may have encountered something of interest in the possession of Sutpak Choro. While I cannot be certain until I am allowed to examine it, it may be an artifact of particular importance to the Romulan people."
Herm sat on the bed, putting on his boots. His mind again drifting to the night before.
Herm and Sutpak sat at a table along the sidewalk of a a delightful little cafe in the capital city on Romulus. Amazingly beautiful young Romulan girls waited on them, bringing them bottle after bottle of Romulan Ale.
"Your holographic program may not be very accurate, but it is a delight to this old man's eyes." Sutpak said as his gaze fell upon the backside of one of the waitresses. "A place like this would never have been allowed to exist this close to the Senate."
Herm tipped back another glass of the simulated drink. While the holodeck did provide replicated drinks, it was not allowed to replicate Romulan Ale. While the projected image looked like the blue elixir, it was completely flavorless and did not even have the effect of synthohol. But he and his guest were having a great time anyway.
"It is a little warm in here for my tastes." Sutpak stated as he loosened his cloak.
Herm's eyes fell upon a pouch he hadn't noticed before, it was slung on a strap that hung from Sutpak's shoulder to the opposite hip. Something inside clunked against the holographic chair as he shifted.
"Computer, decrease ambient temperature 4 degrees." Herm spoke absently as he stared at the pouch.
Sutpak, relaxing as the temperature became more comfortable, noticed the ensign's stare.
"Ah, you noticed my little hiding place." He stated matter-of-fact-ly.
"I'm sorry, I meant no disrespect," replied Herm.
"It's alright, you of all people on board will probably appreciate this more than anyone."
Sutpak reached into the pouch and pulled out the object.
Herm was shaken again from his thoughts by a loud thumping across the cabin. His roommate, a rather large fellow of a species that Herm had yet to identify, was going through his usual morning routine which apparently included smashing his room to pieces.
"Computer, save recording in edit mode, I'll finish it later."
Herm left his room and took the turbolift to the lab that he shared with other science personnel aboard the Arabella. His space was very clean, which was unusual, but until they encountered someplace for him to dig, there wasn't much to do with the tools here. He sat at the table and reviewed the current status of the rest of the Seventh Fleet to see if anyone had encountered anything of interest. As Herm half-heartedly went through his daily routine, his mind was on the item in his Romulan friend's possession.
'Should I alert the science officer about this?' he thought to himself. Checking on his whereabouts, Herm realized Lt. Commander Zremm was in a staff meeting. 'Maybe I'll wait.." he thought again.
Checking the time Herm realized he was late. He had scheduled time to meet with some of the Romulan senators for his archeological investigation. It was his mission to see if anything could be done by Starfleet to help preserve the remnants of Romulan culture, art, and history.
As he waited for the turbolift, he couldn't help but think about Sutpak's item. 'Maybe I should just ask to see it again.' When the turbolift doors opened, Herm paused. 'There would be plenty of time to talk to the senators....' he justified in his mind.
He entered the turbolift and stated "Shuttlebay".
Herm was about to enter the shuttle-bay dormitory when he ran into Sutpak, "Ah, my boy! It's good to see you. Where are you going in such a rush?"
"I was coming to see you," said Herm "I was hoping to..."
"Well, then walk with me. I have an appointment to see that pretty doctor of yours."
Herm noticed he had the pouch with him. The artifact inside had totally consumed his thoughts. How had this Romulan acquired it? What was it's significance to him? How was Herm going to get it from him? Yes. He had to get it from him, at least to examine it.
They entered the turbolift and called for sick-bay.
"Sutpak, I was hoping you would let me look at the tablet again."
"Ah, yes, I knew you'd come asking for it. It seems to have that effect on people. Once you've seen it, you can't think of anything else."
"Please, if I may, I have the equipment back at the science lab to..."
"All in good time my boy... all in good time. Good, we're here."
The Sickbay doors opened to show an unusually large number gathered to see the doctor. Sutpak and Herm waded into the crowd to find a seat and wait.
Dr. Ryla Drett noticed the elderly Romulan with the young ensign when they entered, but was too busy to see them right away. Eventually the crowd dispersed, and the Trill was finally able to help the last patient waiting to see her. "I'm sorry you had to wait," she said. She smiled to the ensign and offered a hand to the old man, "I'm doctor Drett."
"Well, hello!", replied Sutpak, with all the charm he could muster. It seemed there was one thing that didn't change no matter what species you were, old men always flirted shamelessly with attractive young women. "You are much prettier than I expected. Every doctor I've seen before has been a grumpy old man, but you are a sight!"
She waved him over to a biobed and removed her tricorder from her lab coat as Herm helped the older man sit down. Herm couldn't help but notice the pouch clunking against the edge of the biobed. Why was he suddenly so obsessed? He really should be attending to other duties, but here he was, in sickbay, watching an old man get an exam.
Ryla laughed, "thank you...you're a surprise as well. I am afraid most of your fellow passengers adamantly dislike me," she said as she glanced to the two senators across the room who had nearly killed each other in a fight, then refused to be treated by a Starfleet. "I don't think I was given your name...."
"I am Sutpak, Sutpak Choro. It is a great pleasure to meet you" he replied, lifting her hand as if he were about it kiss it. Instead he stopped short of his face and bowed his head.
The doctor smiled and lifted her tricorder again as he released her hand. Its whir replaced the brief lull in conversation, as she observed the stream of readings. A surprising number of the elderly evacuees were in poor health. Fortunately, their numerous afflictions were easily treatable, like Sutpack's arthritis. She noted his gnarled hands and stooped posture; there was little she could do to completely reverse the damage to his joints, but she could at least stop the progression, suppress the pain, and improve his motility. She pocketed the tricorder and reached for a hypo. "May I ask you a question, Mr. Charo?"
"It's 'Choro', but please, just call me Sutpak. You may ask me anything you like, e'lev," he said, using a Romulan term of endearment. Herm began to wonder if Sutpak's friends though of him as a dirty old man.
"You mentioned your doctors... did they treat your arthritis?"
"Diseases like arthritis were often ignored, saving the treatment for more...'important' people. Even though, as I understand, the treatments are quite simple and inexpensive. I'm sure when you examined the senators you found their health to be exceptional."
She nodded then lifted the hypo to Sutpack's neck, "this should effectively cure you. If you wish, I can arrange for a surgeon to correct the damage to your joints. I don't have a physician aboard who has seen these sorts of complications, but I know someone in our fleet who has."
Sutpak seemed to straighten a little as the pain left his system. It was obvious from the expression on his face that he had been suffering, but he had never mentioned it or let it show. "Perhaps later, e'lev, there's time. I plan to be around for many years yet. But for now, if you are finished, perhaps I could interest you in a drink. The young ensign here, has introduced me to a fantastic little place on the holodeck."
Ryla's smile pushed dimples into her cheeks at his offer, "you're very kind, Sutpak." No matter their age, it seemed Romulan males fancied themselves ladies' men. She turned her smile on the Risan Officer standing quietly nearby, "Ensign...?"
Herm was chuckling a bit to himself at the exchange. He hadn't had the opportunity to get to know the doctor very well yet, but he could tell by her look that she was looking for a polite way to decline. Herm had gotten to know his Romulan friend well enough to know that he really didn't expect her to accept anyway, but he waded in to her rescue.
"Sutpak, I'm afraid the doctor is rather busy, maybe we can catch up to her later in the Afterburner," turning back to the doctor, trying to suppress a laugh, he added, "or perhaps some other time, doctor?"
"Of course..." she said with a broadening smile, "Which program is he referring to?"
"It's under 'Sarine's Place' in the library. It's a fictional cafe on Romulus in the capital city," answered Herm.
"And a rather nice one at that," interjected Sutpak, "the wait staff is exceptional. Perhaps some other time then, doctor... I will introduce your beauty to that of my home."
"I would like that," she said as she helped the aged man off the biobed and watched with satisfaction as he straightened to his full height. "I bet you have many interesting stories to tell."
"When you've been around as long as I have, you can't help but be interesting." Sutpak stretched as he stood, letting out a loud sigh of relief as he was able to straighten his back. "But I do not wish to keep you from your duties any longer." Bowing deeply he said, "Until next time, e'lev..."
As he bowed, Herm noticed the pouch hanging from his waist. He wanted to reach out, grab it and run. He had secretly hoped the doctor would ask him to take it off so he could look at it while she did her thing, but it stayed securely where it was. Sutpak noticed Herm's stare.
Straightening, the Romulan grinned and said "Come ensign, I believe it's time for some dinner. Maybe I'll let you play with my toy while we eat." Turning, he nodded to the doctor as he led the way into the corridor, an obvious new spring in his step.
The next day...
Herm was trying to shake off his morning drowsiness as he walked to his workstation. In his left hand he carried a large steaming mug of replicated coffee, an Earth beverage he had come to appreciate on days like this, in his right, the artifact he had acquired from Sutpak Choro the night before.
Herm liked to take "the long way" to his office, preferring the exercise to the turbo lift. Besides, it gave him time to reflect on last night....
Herm was shocked at the difference a hypospray made in his Romulan friend. Years of struggling with arthritis and other ailments had, apparently, completely melted away within a few moments of leaving the doctor. Herm was leading his friend to the mess hall for dinner, but he had other plans.
"I feel GREAT, my boy! That doctor of yours is not only beautiful, but talented. Let's have dinner in your holodeck again. I know a great little spot that's great for dancing!"
Sutpak's grumpy attitude had completely melted away, replaced with something much more annoying.
"Sutpak, please, it's late. I've had a long day. Can we just get dinner and talk about your relic?"
"My boy, you really need to obsess less. It's really just a rock. Here, you can have it."
Sutpak removed the pouch from his shoulder and held it out to the Ensign. As Herm reached for it, he pulled it back.
"On one condition!"
Sighing, Herm stepped past his friend and made the left turn down the corridor toward the holodeck. 10 minutes later they were in a crowded, noisy, Romulan version of a night club, something that you would never actually find in Romulan society, but Sutpak obviously had a "thing" for 20th century Earth culture.
Herm was shaken from his memory when he sleepily bumped into the wall. A big drop of his coffee slopped onto the floor. Herm absently stepped over it as the ship's cleaning systems made it disappear. A few more steps and he was in his workstation. He sat his coffee down with a thunk and his newly acquired relic down with a clunk. Yawning loudly, he flopped into his chair, allowing his bald head to drop forward onto the table.
"Now this is living!" shouted Sutpak over the din. "I haven't been in a place like this in more than 100 years!"
Herm resisted the urge to put his hands over his ears. Obviously Romulans and Risians had very different ideas of what constituted "music", but he did recognize the Earth tune even though the lyrics were sung , or rather shouted, in Romulan. Sutpak pushed a holographic drink into his hand and disappeared into the crowd.
Anxious to get to work on the Romulan artifact, Herm set into his daily routine, checking messages from the fleet, answering messages from his fellow science officers, reviewing reports, so on and so forth. His eyes blurred and he rubbed absently at them, finding it impossible to stay focused.
Six hours later, Sutpak was still dancing with the holographic, scantily clad, waitresses from the lunch cafe they had visited before. He had ordered the computer to include them in the night-club program, though their uniforms seem to have shrunk, and in one case, disappeared. Herm had received several messages from the computer warning him to shut down the program so the computer could cycle through it's maintainence sub-routines during Gamma shift. Eventually the program would just shut down, but Herm was hoping he could get Sutpak out of here and be in bed before that happened. But, alas, as soon as the thought crossed his mind, the music stopped, the people faded, and the plain black and yellow grids appeared on the walls.
Laughing loudly, Sutpak continued to dance as he came toward Herm and the exit.
Herm snapped his head up from his desk, startled by something that reminded him of a Risian water pig. Glancing around, he realized, with a blush, that it was himself, snoring. Shaking his head to clear the sleepy fog, he pushed aside everything on his desk so he may start examining the relic.
Herm walked Sutpak back to his quarters. Alpha shift began in two hours and he really needed some sleep.
"Thank you, my boy, that was a great time. Here." Sutpak pulled the pouch off his shoulder and handed it to the Ensign as if he were handing him a dirty shirt.
With that he stepped into his quarters and the doors closed with a chirp. Herm stood there for a moment wondering if someone was holo-recording this to give the crew a good laugh later.
Shaken from his revelry one final time, Herm set to work on the relic.
"This better be worth it." Herm thought to himself as he set work.
If there is one thing that history had taught archeologists, it's that Romulan artifacts often were never what they appeared to be on the surface. Ships' logs told horror stories of viruses unleashed, or strange energy outbursts, or worse. Herm was taking great care to work carefully to remove the patina that obscured some of the writing on the surface. He knew that most of the threat from anything biological should have been neutralized by the transporters during the rescue, but Romulans were known for their inventiveness in hiding such things.
"Computer, analyze the patina in section 4-2 and vaporize with a setting of .0084", Herm ordered. The sophisticated equipment wasn't as much fun as getting your hands dirty, but it was usually much safer.
The computer chirped in confirmation and activated the miniature phaser to remove the centuries old dirt and mud that had become hard as stone on the plaque.
BANG! Herm was thrown back from his chair. Did the lights just blink? What happened? The tendrils of smoke rising from where his phaser-chisel had been told him that there was, indeed, more to the relic than one could see. The shimmer around him told him that a containment field had been activated.
Oh, great. Zremm's going to love me for this, he thought. "Computer, deactivate containment field and explain what just happened."
"Unable to comply. Security field may only be deactivated by security personnel."
Great. Just great.
Shelby, the only available security officer, got the call shortly after she had arrived at her quarters, there was an alarm going off in Ensign Herm's office and she was one of only a couple of people who had the codes. Walking out of the lift and to the science workstation Shelby chimed the door.
"Come in!" came a muffled, embarrassed, voice from inside. The door opened to show the ensign sitting with his bald head in his hands next to something smoldering on his desk. A class 2 security field shimmered blue and gold around him.
Standing at the door for a moment, Shelby surveyed the situation, seeing no visible signs of danger she walked in; the door hissing shut behind her. "Ensign, are you ok? Shall I call for the medics?"
"I'm fine," replied Herm, without looking up, "just embarass...." as he spoke he looked up to see his favorite security officer had come to help him. He and Shelby had never spoken before, but Herm had had a secret crush on the young, attractive Romulan descended, officer since arriving on the Arabella. And now here she was. Right here. Looking at him. Gulp.
His eyes now fully hypnotized by her's, he tried to continue. "I was... er... that is... um... I was working on this... pretty... that is on this tablet one of the Romulans... I mean one of the OTHER Romulans that aren't as b... er... I meant one of our passengers gave me." With out breaking eye contact he indicated the undamaged tablet amidst the ruins of his work station. "I was trying to kiss... I uh mean CLEAN it when something happened." ...
Concern and some slight confusion etched onto her expression. Herm seemed a little disoriented. Pulling out her tricorder she didn't read any toxic or dangerous levels of any kind. Closing the unit she moved over to the computer. Keying in her access code she cleared the field and within a moment there was a surge of the field and it vanished. Pivoting Shelby moved over and helped the ensign up onto a nearby chair. While he recouped she used the tricorder to scan the smoking remains of the workstation. "Did anyone tell you what this was?" Her attention was on the tablet.
The only thing that might distract Herm from her beauty was his work. He turned excitedly to the tablet.
"Oh yes! I mean, that is, they didn't have to. An elderly gentleman, one of our passengers, was carrying it. The moment I saw it I new it to be from the S'Task era, possibly even pre-dating Surak!" At this Herm turned to look up at his guest, who had stepped closer to see what he was talking about. And was lost again.
As his eyes met hers he tried to continue. "So... uh... I was able to... er ... and I was trying to undress.. I mean UNCOVER some of the writing... and then.... wow. I mean POW. I'm guessing it was some ancient Orion booby... that is um... maybe some kind of trap the computer didn't see."
Glancing over at the man Shelby frowned curiously. "Are you sure that you don't need to go to sick bay?" Herm just stared at her dumbly and smiled. "Well we are going to need to contain the tablet clearly it's unstable. What do you suggest?"
Unable to break his gaze from her eyes, Herm tried to answer. "I should have used the Hawass box," he said, indicating a meter long glass enclosure on the other side of the room, "it... uh... it opens like a breast... I mean CHEST... yeah, and activates a class 7 containment field while using the phaser-chisel. It was just.... oh man... your eyes are so pretty... AHEM! Sorry, I was just careless. I'm sorry, Ensign."
"All right let me help you here." Stepping to the computer she began to type in some commands. Pretty soon a blue field encapsulated just the broken pieces of the table. "I will have a hazmat team come down here and get rid of this. Unless you have another suggestion. In the meantime maybe we should just transport the thing into that box."
"Thank you, sweetie, I mean Shelby, I mean... uh.... ensign. Computer, initiate quarantine protocol 7 on artifact Q42 and teleport to the Hawass box containment level 7." The tablet disappeared from the wreckage that was his desk and reappeared in a shimmering green force field within the glass box.
Embarrassed, but still overwhelmed by her presence, Herm found him self saying: "Let me make this up to you, perhaps we could meet in bed... I mean the Afterburner later and I can buy you. I mean buy a you drink. Er... that is... uh.... maybe I should stop talking."
Shelby had pulled out her tricorder while he was stumbling over his words, concentrating on making sure that the containment was good. She only heard the tail end of his remarks. "Sure you can buy me a drink if you want...later though." She folded up the device and placed it in the holder on her belt.
"Looks like everything has been taken care of here then. I've notified haz-mat they need to come in here and take care of the table. I think you should get out of here and take a break." her businesslike demeanor didn't betray her inner thoughts which consisted of this: she was still worried that he might need to see a doctor. Either that or maybe there was something else wrong with him because he seemed really nervous around her.
Turning her gray orbs towards the man she gave him a half smile. "Here let me help you...I think sickbay might be a good idea just to make sure all your fingers and toes are where they should be."
"No, I'm fine, really" he said, warmed by her smile, yet embarrased. "I have other things to do, I should just get back to work." He hung his head and spun around in his chair. Any first impression me might have made was obviously a poor one. "I'll catch up with you later."
As the security officer left with some hesitancy and upon the door shutting he turned to the wall and started talking to himself, punctuating each word by smacking his forehead against the bulkhead. "Stupid... stupid... stupid...."
This is where the season ended. I wanted to wrap up the story of the tablet, but the season was closed out and this thread left dangling. Maybe I'll wrap it up at some point.
The story picks up as the next season begins. The Romulans rescued from the ship, as well as many others who have been found by the fleet, are being relocated to a formerly secret starbase that is being re-purposed into living quarters. The huge structure is now the new home of the Romulan people.
We catch up to Herm several days after the incident in his lab...
Herm was in a funk. A deep dark nasty smelly kind of funk that can only be achieved by indulging in deep dark nasty smelly kind of thoughts. Normally he was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, but even the most cheerful people sometimes have to throw themselves a pity party.
The party was now in full swing. Fortunately, he was the only one on the guest list.
He sat in his quarters, in the dark, some really hideous Terran music playing - it was filed under "Goth" in the ship's music library - as he reflected on the events of the last three days.
From nearly the moment the Romulan refugees arrived, Ensign Hermaratlo had been obsessed with an artifact that was in the possession of one Sutpak Choro, a mysterious, very elderly Romulan who offered no information about himself, how he had been aboard the ship with the Senators, or how he had come to acquire the artifact.
Artifact. Herm cringed at himself when he thought about it. He had spent days convincing Sutpak to give it to him, only to have it cause a feedback loop in his laser scanner and blow up his work station. No real harm was done and the damaged equipment was easily replaced, but in the process he not only had to endure an embarrassing encounter with a very attractive security officer, he also had to face his commanding officer, Zremm.
Lieutenant Commander Zremm, as Chief Science Officer, naturally wanted to know what had happened. Though Herm had only worked with him a short while, he had great respect for Zremm. He'd heard stories from other Archeology and Anthropology officers that often their skills were overlooked and their department neglected. While all Science Officers, and indeed all Starfleet officers often did other duties outside their field of expertise, there were many cases where the A&A officers were treated as gophers. "Ensign go for this... Ensign go for that..."
Zremm, on the other hand, embraced the opportunity to fully utilize Herm's station, encouraging the young Ensign to spend almost all his time in archeological pursuits. With the fleet spread out over Romulan space and many interesting things being found and sent to him, there was plenty for Herm to do and he was glad for the time to do it.
But facing Zremm after the "incident" was probably the hardest thing Herm had had to do in his short time as a Starfleet officer. The Andorian never yelled, (did any Andorian ever yell?) but he didn't have to. The icy stare coming from the blue face was enough. In what Herm could only describe as an act of sympathy, Zremm did not give him an official reprimand. And while Herm was grateful, nothing on his permanent Starfleet record would compare to that encounter.
The next day, Zremm resigned as Chief Science Officer.
Even though Herm was still smarting from discipline, he felt a sudden rush of sadness when he received the news. While Zremm wasn't leaving Starfleet, and probably not leaving the Arabella - at least as far as anyone knew - Herm and his fellow science officers were left reeling. Now one knew why Zremm was stepping down, all they knew was the reason Zremm himself gave - "Personal Reasons".
But the Science department wasn't the only thing in chaos. The whole ship, indeed the whole fleet and the station was running amok. The murder of a Romulan Senator had everyone on pins and needles.
But more than all this, part of Herm's self-imposed funk was personal. Today marked the 6 year anniversary of the final Borg offensive - and the destruction of his home world, Risa.
On a ship with so many Vulcans and Romulans, people tend to forget that he, too, had lost his home. Risians, however, were far from being a damaged species. The wealth of the entire quadrant was shared with Risa, making it's people able to travel and spread out more so than almost any other race. Risians were not a people without a home, they lived everywhere. But that didn't make the loss of their home planet any less painful. That's what drew him to the Romulans, he thought, they shared something.
Herm was drawn from his thoughts when the comm panel in his quarters chirped. With a heavy sigh, Herm shut of the music, turned on the lights, and hit the connect button.
"Ah, my young Starfleet Ensign. How are you faring without my presence?"
The image of Sutpak Choro smiled widely at him from the screen. Sutpak was far from the usual stoic, serious Romulan. He was jovial almost to the point of being annoying. Often past that point, especially now.
"Sutpak, it's good to see you. I trust your new quarters on the station are comfortable?"
"Yes, my young friend," he answered, chuckling "though the replicators are still being rationed until they are sure the stations power can accommodate the sudden influx of new tenants. I do, however, have a bed and a soft pillow. At my age, I cannot ask for more."
"Good, good. How can I help you, Sutpak?"
Suddenly serious, Stupack answered, "We need to talk."
"Not here. Can you meet me in the cafe on the station?"
"Now?", Herm looked down at his disheveled bed clothes. He was in desperate need of a sonic shower.
"No, they might be watching. Later."
"'They'... 'watching'... what are you...?"
Sutpak interrupted. "I've said too much here. When you come later we will talk."
The communicator screen went blank. With a heavy sigh, Herm turned his eyes to the ceiling. "Now what?" he said aloud.
The next morning...
Normally, Herm could get along with everyone. In his short time in Starfleet, he hadn't encountered anyone that really got on his nerves. Until now.
Sutpak had contacted him no less than 14 times in the last 16 hours, making for a very restless night's sleep. As Herm drug himself out of bed, trying to wake himself enough to get through the day, the communicator chimed again.
What was suddenly so urgent that the Romulan needed to talk to him NOW? Herm still had duties to perform. With a murder investigation going on, it was as important as ever for everyone to stick to their routines and be at their station.
Yawning, stretching, and sighing heavily, Herm got up and hit the button on the screen. Sutpak's wrinkled, dignified, face popped into view.
"Ensign! Good morning! I would like to invite you to a traditional Romulan breakfast here on the station. Please come right away."
Without waiting for Herm to respond, the screen went blank.
Herm was hungry. He had observed a day of fasting - a habit he had picked up during his time as the Risian equivalent of a monk before joining Starfleet - the day before. And if he didn't meet Sutpak soon, he was sure the Romulan would find a way to use a teleporter to get him onto the station.
Stumbling sleepily to the sonic shower, a light went on is Herm's head. Suddenly he knew what Sutpak wanted to talk about.
Two minutes later, the Ensign was running out of his quarters
One of the great things about Ensign Hermaratlo's current post aboard the Arabella was flexibility. Well, at least for now. Who knew what a new Chief will bring to the the department, but for now Herm was able to come and go pretty much as he pleased, as long as his duties were attended to. Herm loved his work, so it wasn't often he was away from his lab space, but this morning he was aboard the station.
Sutpak Choro was driving him crazy. The elderly Romulan was a bit... eccentric... at least by Romulan standards. Since the murder, he seemed to be becoming even more erratic. He was so desperate to meet with Herm that he had called him at least once an hour all night long. The only way to shut him up was to meet with him. Maybe if Herm did that, he could get some sleep.
Herm had not had an opportunity to visit the station yet. When your career involved working with small artifacts, things like starships seemed huge. By that standard, the station was mind boggling. To think that sentient beings are able to build something that hangs in space that can house more than 1.5 million people... There were times Herm could not wrap his brain around it, in spite of his Starfleet Academy training.
As he entered the main plaza, Herm took several minutes just to stand and stare. It was so much like his home Risa, at least how he remembered it when he was young, before it was destroyed by the Borg. The only thing it lacked was green plants, but other than that, this could have been any city on Risa. The mosaic floor, the ring of shops around the edge of the square, even the lighting made it appear as if the sun was rising over the city. Amazing.
Herm walked over to a control panel to let his host know he was here. After several attempts to contact Sutpak, Herm asked the computer.
"Computer, locate Sutpak Choro."
A very serious Romulan voice came in reply. "Sutpak Choro is not aboard the station."
Great. Stood up for breakfast. It's possible his host had business aboard the Arabella or one of the other ships of the fleet currently docked.
"Ensign! Good morning! Come, walk with me!" Sutpak was shouting from somewhere behind Herm.
Surprised, after having been told by the computer that Sutpak wasn't on the station, Herm turned to see that he was already walking away from him, headed toward the cafe at the edge of the main square. Herm jogged up to meet him.
"I thought you weren't on the station.", said Herm.
"Why would you think that? I told you to meet me here.", replied Sutpak.
"I didn't see you, so I asked the computer to find you. It said you weren't on the station."
"Oh, that... it... uh...it must have just been a glitch."
Herm was suddenly concerned for two reasons. In the short time he had known his Romulan friend, he had never been at a loss for words. Also, he had never heard of any Romulan anywhere referring to anything made with Romulan hands as having a 'glitch'. Obviously, Sutpak was hiding something, but Herm didn't press matters. They strode for a while in silence.
Herm was again impressed with the massiveness of the place. The Arabella, in fact much of the fleet, could hang from the glass dome above him. OK, maybe not, but the city square was larger than the town he lived in as a child on Risa.
As if sensing his thoughts, Sutpak broke the silence. "How are you feeling, Ensign? I know when I called you the other day I had interrupted a mourning ceremony. It was the anniversary of the Borg offensive, was it not? When Risa was destroyed?"
Herm was not surprised by his knowledge of the event. While many Romulans were "Romulan-centric", focusing on "Romulan matters", Sutpak was much more personable. Maybe it was his age.
"It wasn't a ceremony, as such, it was more a personal thing. I don't talk about it. I was on Earth when it happened..." Herm trailed off. Sutpak had been on Romulus when it was destoyed, escaping at the last second on a transport. He had watched the planet crumble beneath him. But even though Herm hadn't seen his home world destroyed, he still felt a stabbing pain in his chest when he thought about it.
"Maybe, someday, your people and mine can sit down and talk about it, but I don't think any of us, Romulans, Vulcans, Risians, and many others who have seen devastation in the past century, will ever be able to share one on one about our loss. It's too personal."
Herm could only nod in agreement. They had arrived at a traditional Romulan cafe' and had taken seats in the "outdoor" area. Sutpak took the liberty of ordering for both of them in Romulan. Herm was disappointed when the food arrived moments later, the tell-tale sign that it was replicated, but supply lines were still being established so he shouldn't have expected food made from scratch.
Before Herm could even look at his plate to try to figure out what he was eating, Sutpak started talking.
"Ensign, it's time I told you who I am and why I was on that ship with the senators."
And this is where the story broke down and the writers just lost their spark and interest. I don't know why, maybe it was me. Maybe it was something we just can't explain. Whatever "gel" or "spark" we had as a group just died. Which is a shame because they are a great bunch of people and are great writers.
So now the question is, do I finish this story? Do I pick up these dangling threads and finish the story of Herm? Or do I just let it stand?