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Dinner and a Show

Posted on Mon Apr 27th, 2020 @ 2:11pm by Commander Jacob Kane & Hamilton Broll & Lieutenant Commander Taeler Santu M.D. & Lieutenant Dessame Sar & Lieutenant Savin

Mission: In the Family
Location: Main ball room
Timeline: MD-4 (Evening)

The ballroom was large, and it was filled to the brim with people. A modest buzz of people talking to each other was going around the room. A huge chandelier hung in the centre of the room and lit up the large banquet tables that were set up in a U-shape in the middle of the room. It was already set with some very good smelling food and drinks. Small appetisers to get things started off on the right foot.

Santu her eyes went huge looking at the gathered crowd. She almost didn't want to walk into the room wearing her white gala-gown. She felt super awkward wearing it, with its tight-fitting strapless bodice sporting a sweetheart neckline, the top of which was folded around. It was topping off a super extravagant, puffed up, skirt, finished with tulle. It was so far removed from her usual fare, she barely felt like herself.

She'd not dared to move for the first five minutes she was put in the gown, standing on higher heels than she was comfortable wearing, not wanting to fall over and damage it. She had built up some confidence walking around her room before daring to step outside. The upside to wearing this particular dress was that nobody would see it if she were to misstep in her high heels, as long as she remained upright. She was really not looking forward to the dance.

Virtually sequestered in a roped-off corner of the hall, Hamilton shifted awkwardly in his finest clothing. He'd only worn the formal-wear once, and it still felt a little starched and uncomfortable. He did his best not to stare too hard at the nobles around them, not wanting to cause any friction or insult. He watched for Lt Commander Taeler, surprised at how different she looked in the enormous ballgown. Were he a more confident young man he might have complimented her appearance, but at it was he simply gawked and mumbled something unintelligible when they'd met before the proceedings begun. He glanced at Lt Savin alongside him, wondering if he'd been having the same thoughts.

Savin just stared at her, eyes travelling across the length of her gown before settling in her face. This was not what he had expected and he was forced to admit to himself that she looked gorgeous. Even more so than the queen had when they first met. He glanced sideways at Hamilton, offering a somewhat awkward nod. He was wearing his dress whites, as he had the day before, but it felt a little out of place. He said nothing, however, as his gaze returned to the first officer.

The crowded nobles fell silent as the herald announced the Queen's arrival. Dressed in full regalia and a dress that was clearly designed to match Taeler's, Queen Sarissa entered the ballroom accompanied by aides. As the herald finished reeling off various titles, the Queen approached Taeler and dipped her head in acknowledgement.

"On behalf of the peoples of Paratus, I welcome you once again." She paused, smiling. "What do you think of our hospitality so far, Ms Taeler?"

Santu gave a small curtsy and bowed her head to the queen, "I very much appreciate the warm welcome, your highness." She straightened out and looked around, "this is quite a gathering," she smiled, "I hope the last minute changes didn't disrupt any other plans you might have had for this evening?" She asked, referring to the dress that had to be re-hemmed on her account.

"Not for me," the Queen replied. "This evening would not have happened at all had I not desired it." She mused at that notion with a little smile. "You look very much like you belong with us in that dress. I appreciate you accepting the gift on behalf of your Federation."

"It is expertly made, very beautiful," Santu didn't want to comment on the fact that it made her super uncomfortable, or that she had the constant fear of falling over in the heels, "it pales, of course, in the presence of yourself." Another small curtsy. If the years in the labour camp had taught her anything it was that it never hurt to suck up to the person at the top of the pyramid.

Before the queen could respond there were others that vied for her attention and Santu veered away in the direction of the two men that were part of her landing party, Savin and Hamilton. She saw they were segregated from the main area of the party by fashion of a thick red rope, "are you not on the guest list?" She asked in a hushed tone, though visibly smirking.

"It seems not," Savin answered after taking a moment to understand what she was saying. "And I do not wish to offend by leaving this area without invitation to do so." Unlike her, however, he did not smile over the situation. "The dress suits you ma'am," he added after a few seconds, his expression softening as he regarded her and her outfit.

"I'm sorry, it was an inappropriate joke," Santu looked away a bit when he complimented her dress, "thanks, I guess, it's nothing like I've ever worn before." She shifted her weight between her two feet a bit, "let's hope they let you out of your pen soon." She then turned to face Hamilton and Savin again, "just a few more hours of avoiding a diplomatic incident."

"I-indeed..." Hamilton mumbled, still not sure where to put his gaze. "I get the feeling this is the limit of what we will be permitted to do here. I can't see any other male members of the nobility present. A few servants, by the looks of it." He frowned. "I hadn't expected it to be this way. The reports filed suggested that there were both male and female members of the royal household, yet we've only seen the women."

About half of what Hamilton said had gone unnoticed to Savin, who was stood right beside him. "We seem to be the only males here?" he noted, obviously having missed that section of Hamilton's words. "I feel terribly out of place.... and disregarded. Being treated as second rate, almost as an animal, makes me feel uncomfortable."

'Apologies for my late-coming.' Dessame began within Savin's mind as she approached from the rear. 'I sense your confusion. Hamilton is uncomfortable about being treated as a second class citizen here, and has noticed the lack of a male presence. Apart from you and he the only males seem to be servants.' She added as she stood next to two men and acknowledged Taeler.

"Looking good ma'am. Sorry for my late coming, took a little longer to get myself ready than usual, I'm not used to 'dressing up' for occasions. Although it looks like that dress is a little tighter than how my dress uniform feels on me." Dessame smiled before she saw a male servant waving her forward to stand next to Taeler. She had also communicated this to Savin.

"Thanks," Santu still sounded unsure of the whole ordeal, or the fancy getup that they made her squeeze herself into. There was a renewed hustle and bustle as the Queen had made her way over to the head of the table. Santu turned and looked at all the things going on, it was clear a seat was left open for both her and Dessame next to the queen, "I'm guessing dinner is about to be served."

A lavish plate of various spiced meats was laid-out in front of Queen Sarissa first, then in front of Taeler, as the guest of honour. Various colourful foods appeared shortly after, all immaculately prepared. The Queen motioned for Taeler to go first, a gesture of favour.

"Tell me about yourself, Commander Taeler," she said warmly. "I would like to know more about you. Your position. Your upbringing. Where are you from?"

The sights, the smells of the food were something to behold. They truly were laying out the golden service that was meant to impress. Dessame thought that had made a valiant effort and were definitely giving them the royal treatment. She did remember what had happened above them, the sky above full of destroyed ships that attacked them and she put on her best diplomatic face and waited for the Queen to start eating before she did. The informal grilling began with the Queen asking Santu about herself.

There was a moment of silent contemplation that came over Santu, she wondered how much she should tell the Queen. Whether it would be to her benefit or detriment to detail the time she spent in the resistance and the labour camp. It was an integral part of her identity, but not one she spoke freely of to anyone, least of all a regent of a planet that the Federation would want to add to their fold, "I'm from a planet called Bajor," she started, "we joined the Federation five years ago." she took in a deep breath, "before that we were occupied by a foreign power for over fifty years."

"Our own history is filled with conflicts and occupations, of course. But fifty years is...a long time." The Queen nodded her head gently, sympathising. "Tell me honestly, did the Federation help your people liberate themselves? Were they the great protectors of freedom, as your ambassadors keep telling me?"

"Those are two separate questions, your Highness, and they require a much more in depth answer than a simple yes or no," Santu averted her eyes, she wanted to say that the Federation had left the Bajoran people to rot under the iron heel of the Cardassian. She had heard so many apologists after she joined Starfleet Academy, especially in the bars around campus, diplomatic this, peace accords that. Didn't really make it better in her eyes, "my people fought tooth and nail for fifty years to liberate themselves," she took in a deep breath, "there was some support, but they couldn't do it openly. When the S-.." she stopped herself from uttering the racial slut, "Cardassians lifted the occupation we requested their aid and they immediately, and unconditionally, stood by us."

Sarissa listened to her thoughtfully, processing the statement. From what she could tell the explanation was balanced and indeed honest - the almost-slip showed a little of the emotion in her words. Yet the explanation did bring several other thoughts to mind. "Does your Federation often support such insurrections?" she asked, keeping her tone soft and reasonably neutral. "Not that it wasn't without merit, of course - I am indeed pleased for you and your people. But is it a common occurrence?"

"People involved were reprimanded, commissions were lost, people got jailed. The Federation doesn't interfere with internal affairs, unless it affects the safety of member states or Federation citizens." Santu's biggest gripe was that the UFP basically called the Cardassian occupation an 'internal affair', "Mind you, I've not had first hand experience with this." She wondered how much of her beans she should spill to the queen, "I spent the better part of my youth in an internment camp after being branded a terrorist by the Cardassian government. I didn't know my people were free until three years after it happened," She knew she had overshared, she gave a polite smile, "that does not make very polite dinner conversation, I apologise, your highness."

"You need make no apologies here, Commander. You speak with refreshing honesty and integrity for an ambassador." Sarissa sipped from her glass. "The Federation has made the point many times that they do not interfere with other cultures. Yet, many times I have been asked why Paratan tradition forces what they describe as 'inequality' on our people.

"I see in your answer much of the reason why; in our history we too suffered violent occupation, led by warlords and tyrants. We fought long and hard to overthrow our own oppressors: the Kings and the Princes that dominated this world. We began to understand that their natural instinct for violence and aggression had wrought nothing but pain and loss. So we made sure that they would never be in a position to do so again: no man would ever again hold lordship over our people." She looked at Taeler. "The Federation stood by your people after they overthrew their oppressors. And yet now they are hesitant to support us following our own liberation."

"There's an important difference though," Santu didn't know how far she should go in this conversation, because it was starting to touch on subjects that could make or break the negotiations tomorrow, "The individuals responsible for the situation have been tried, the rest of the Cardassian people are not being punished for the sins of their ancestors," It was difficult to speak the words she knew she had to utter now, "we will never forget what they did to us..." She swallowed a lump in her throat, "but they have been forgiven."

Queen Sarissa smiled comfortingly. "Truly. Only those guilty of the crime should be punished," she agreed. "But enough of politics and morality. Enjoy the fruits of Paratus, Commander Taeler." She lifted her glass. "I believe I understand this is how the people in the Federation celebrate - a toast, I think?" She smiled again. "To freedom from oppression."

"To a liberty we earned for ourselves," Santu raised her glass and clinked it against the Queen's, the sharp tone rang through the hall and people fell silent around her. Her mind started racing, did she just commit some sort of faux pas? She couldn't remember anything about this in her notes. Then again toasting didn't seem to be a part of their culture. She simply took a sip from her drink in the hopes it would blow over.

Sarissa smiled, signalling to the rest of her guests that they should continue.

----

Savin looked around as he and Hamilton were escorted to what appeared to him as a smaller and even lower table, along with a few other men. He could feel the tension in the air, could practically feel the women look at them and he could only guess at what they were whispering about. "Something tells me they do not want us here," he said to his companion, "can you feel the anxiety?"

"Of course they don't want us here. We have a 'Y' chromosome," Hamilton sighed, still shooting a few concerned glances towards the top table. He hoped Lt. Commander Taeler would be okay on her own. "Just try not to draw attention. We're guests, despite how we're being looked-upon. Once we get through this evening I'm sure we can figure-out the next steps."

"Commander Taeler will be fine," Savin commented, catching the concerned looks, "it is us I am more concerned about. I spoke with her majesty earlier and while initially she seemed interested in us, or specifically, in speaking with me because I dared to speak up, later her demeanour turned like a leaf. She was all distant and accusing towards men in particular. She claims that men always want and take, and do nothing in return." He looked at the plates that were set in front of them. "I cannot eat all of this," he commented quietly, pointing at what appeared to be some kind of meat. "Do you want this?"

Hamilton frowned, then clocked that Vulcans were, in his experience, vegetarian. The Paratans couldn't have known. Unless they did, and it was a deliberate jab at their male guest. Impossible to know. He sighed, considering the political implications of even broaching the subject. "Speaking up may not have been the best idea," he remarked. "Perhaps we should leave it to the ladies for the time being."

"Unless directly addressed," Savin countered, "are we not here to improve relations? That should have as condition that at least we get treated as equals even if their own men are not."

"We are here to improve relations, yes. But that doesn't mean ignoring their traditions. If you openly challenged the culture of, say, Klingons, that would very quickly turn into a serious confrontation. Wars have started over less," Hamilton explained, recalling his history lessons from diplomatic school. "Being a diplomat means respecting the beliefs of the person on the opposite side of the table, even if you disagree with them."

"But what about our beliefs? Should we be expected to disrespect ourselves to please someone else? Then relations would be based on a lie. While we must respect their gender disequality, they should respect that in our society, all genders or lack thereof are equal. If they cannot respect our beliefs and allow us to treat our own as equals, then how will they even hope to become members?" Savin shrugged as he returned his attention to the women for a moment. "It looks like Commander Taeler has the favour of the queen."

"Looks like it," Hamilton nodded cautiously. To see them sharing openly and apparently calmly was reassuring. "Hopefully that'll play well into things tomorrow. I just hope we can see this through without causing any major missteps. There are plenty of other Alpha Quadrant powers that would love to deprive the Federation of yet more protectorates along the way."

"They will likely be safer under our protection than that of the Klingons," Savin mused, "even so, there must be some agreement in the end that ensures some form of equal rights. Oppression is not the way of the Federation."

"No, it isn't. So we can't force them to take on our ethics, either," Hamilton noted. "Thus is the complicated line walked by every Federation diplomat. If they want to join the Federation, there are rules, for sure. Not every member has the same core belief, though."

"Core belief is not the same as respecting other people's positions. They would need to respect that in the majority of cultures men are equal, same as where male dominated cultures have to respect that females are equal." Savin continued to move his food around his plate, not feeling very hungry after seeing meat on his plate.



[OFF]


Lieutenant Commander Taeler Santu
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Savin
Chief Counselor

Lt Dessame Sar
Chief of Security

Hamilton Broll
Envoy
(PNPC Kane)

Queen Sarissa Lautara de Rollo Noteuil IV
(PNPC Kane)

 

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