Canopus Station
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Culture Clash

Posted on Sun Apr 14th, 2019 @ 8:35pm by The Narrator & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang

Mission: S1E3: Moments Of Consolidation
Location: Docking Bay Embankment/Rish Enclave.
Timeline: MD6 10.00AM

There wasn't a clear demarcation point from which Canopus Station ended, and the Rish Enclave began.

The transit car, the larger more mass transit friendly version of the turbolift, had taken the scientist and the peace officer on an unhurried tour of the docks. It had circled the command level until it hit the right downward tunnel and then dropped them slowly down the slope of the station large docking bay. The interior of the car held spaces for public announcements advertisements for station services, but for now, the spaces were blank and displayed only the minimalist safety instructions. Here a fire suppressor, there a medical kit, and underneath each seat a survival suit in the event of a hull breach.

"Have you encountered the Rish before?" Meilin asked Theylan amidst the transit card ride.

The Andorian, seemingly moving for the first time since they had boarded the car, turned his eyes to meet the form of Meilin. "Not personally, only gleaned a few things from reports. Human or near-human species, superior tolerance for low-oxygen environments as well as low-vision. Inferior immune system compared to baseline human making them suspectible to a number of means to managing them if one isn't too fussed about ethical considerations but otherwise merely an extra burden on medical staff. A Bolian would probably balk at their terrible sense of aesthetics, being patchwork and whatnot." The Andorian offered.

Meilin sniffed at the man but didn't respond. Brutes are as brutes do.

The doors to the car opened, revealing a wide corridor. Its floors were unscuffed by footfalls, its guide rails still glossy and new. This was a corridor that had probably never been walked down by a living soul, at least not in a pressurised state. And yet with the air that rolled in to mingle with the atmosphere of the transit car, contaminants followed. Rich spices that tickled the nose and promised a dozen possibilities, and the humid touch of air handled by a dozen different lungs and more.

"Here we are." Meilin stepped out first. Not only was she a familiar face, but she was purposely unarmed. The Rish detested violence, save for when it was called for, and so a pacifist like herself would be the better foot to lead with between the two of them.

For which Theylan was more than glad to allow as he merely kept to her back and slightly off the side. A cerulean mass of muscle with twitching antenna, mostly to create a threatening illusion. The human Sun Tzu might have posited that respect was better than fear when dealing with others, but fear as Cardassians had taught him was a fine place to start to build that respect. Until he was satisfied that these Rish wouldn't be a security hazard or at best at security nuisance, he'd be wary.

Well, that and keep an eye out for any physical weaknesses he could exploit directly.

"Captain Bossa," Meilin called out to the dingy expanse. It was unlikely that the Rish leader hadn't been informed of their presence already, but it was still etiquette. She shot a commanding look at Theylan for him to follow her lead. "We have come again... to trade."

A whistle came from down the hall from the transit station. There, sat on a crate, was the young man Meilin had met upon their first eventful meeting. Pallas smiled, his white teeth breaking apart his dark face as he did so. He was not wearing the armoured patched together vac suit of their previous encounter, instead presenting himself in loose trousers and a tunic. A patch here and there for covered parts of the original design, the logo for Colonial Movers.

"Hail to you Dirters," he said in that sing-song voice the Rish had, gesturing them towards him. "You come trading, don't think the Cappa Bossa gonna be shocked to find your weigh bill light with empty hands."

Meilin gave an unfazed smile. "Captain Bossa knows that the goods and services in which I trade are too weighty to be carried by hands. If you could please let her know we've arrived." It would be unlikely that Bossa, or perhaps a representative, wasn't already en route, but Meilin was finished reasoning with the adolescent. There were bigger fish in the pond, and she would not allow herself to get snagged on a minnow.

He was wrong, Bolians wouldn't balk. They'd very likely have strokes. Was the thought that passed through Theylan's mind as he observed the youth with at least a modicum of wariness. If he had to be honest, they almost seemed like some bastardised fusion of Pakleds, Tamarians and a deficient Ferengi, but then he supposed these were not the most impressive examples of the species. Dirters. He wondered for a moment, trying to recall what he read of the notes. He did know they were spacefaring obviously, but he tried to remember if it was exclusive.

The sniff and rather stern throw of a commanding gestures from Jiang did not go unnoticed either, the former gave him the impression that he was being severely underestimated. Which suited him just fine, he liked it when people thought him lesser than he was, made the eventual comeuppance sweeter to savour.. It could have been something else entirely of course but the particular pitch of it gave such an impression. For the latter though, he wondered also if there was some matriarchial element to the species or perhaps the inverse of so for Jiang to act this way.

Or perhaps it was simply the young woman. He did seemed to remember the cultural subset she belonged to did lean more towards such a thing historically. Though if it was the matriarchy then he imagined technological stagnation or regression given examples from human history, these people would not have been starfarers were that the case.

It amused him that he could hear his bondmate Lechia's groan so clearly, she always did say he overthought things. To which the standard reply was that it was an occupational hazard. His antenna tingling gently at the thought of his fiery bondmate.

A pressure hatch behind Pallas hissed open, and a pair of Rish stepped out. The one Jiang would recognise had been named Cadence by Bossa, the space-suited gaurd with the brass and chrome ocular implant replacing her right eye. The other was a Bajoran man, his face half covered by blue tattoo ink in a swirl about his left eye. Pallas turned to see them coming and made a gesture to Cadence. She nodded and waved a hand to the two Starfleeters.

"You's two be following Cadence to Bossa. She be the silent type, so be followin' for she won't be callin' you back from getting lost. Gettin' lost, in a place as big as this rock hoppers paradise, bad business be that."

"I trust that Captain Bossa will uphold the hospitality of the Rish," Meilin said. "If not, then no doubt Starfleet will pay handsomely for our safe return." It went without saying that the Rish would pay severely for the reverse, so Meilin let that syllogism hang in the air unspoken.

Pallas just grinned, and ushered them in.

Past the pressure hatch was more of Canopus Station's wide thoroughfares. Unlike a starship, a starbase could afford the open spaces, and even with open hatchways every twenty meters, the gentle sideways curve of the station's dome could be picked out. But things had begun to change here. Murals had begun to appear on the walls, swirls of colour and bright starbursts. Some of the constellations picked out were familiar, if only from the vantage point of the local cluster orbiting Sol.

And there were Rish about. Men and women, young and old, and not all of them human. Here a Klingon, there a Romulan, even the twitching antenna of an Andorian in the garb of the Rish looked out from the knots and groups that loitered. They spoke quietly as the two Fleet officer's walked past them.

Cadence grunted, a hoarse sound that she accentuated with a jerk of her head, enough to catch the scarred gash that ran across her throat. She held up a hand, making a complicated flicking gesture, and a bubbling brook of conversation broke out as well as a laugh from the gathered Rish. And with that the groups of people dispersed, back into the warrens of storerooms and offices that populated this section of the station.

Meilin made mental notes of the changes to the environments. Graffiti, reorganization, mostly cosmetic cultural imprints. She could chalk this up to social acclimation just fine.

TAG-Remarks.

Cadence lead them further in, turning off the main drag towards the inner wall of the stations docking space. But instead of this being the end of their destination, it was merely another transition point. One whole wall had been cut away, the edges slowly being ground down by a worker in heavy coveralls. At the edges wires and conduits had been redirected or capped, with even the hull breach sensors cleverly fooled into silent capitulation. Beyond the hole Federation design ended, and the warrens of the Rish enclave of Cargo Reef began.

Narrow passageways lead past rooms with fold down chairs and tables affixed to the wrong plane of gravity. And even that gravity was weaker, the footsteps of the Fleeter's now bouncing a little. A half gee? Maybe less. The walls were covered in the trellis of leafy vines, and the guide and their charges had to step carefully around a frail-looking woman who was tending one of them with a spray bottle.

This would be harder to explain. They gave the Rish an inch and they took a parsec. Meilin would have to confer with Mara before bringing this level of structural modification to Ingram's attention.

Echoes of song and conversation rang through the ramshackle structure, the metal humming it seemed to itself. Well kept, but aged, venerated. Cadence reached a sealed door, tapped on it with the boot of one foot, and opened it for Meilin and th'Zohan. Bossa was within, her bleached complexion and dark eyes perfectly suited to the dimmer illumination within. Purple ultraviolet lights filled the space with sharp colour contrast, picking out the room as an office or throne room for a chieftain. Trinkets of a hundred different worlds and cultures littered one wall, netted to it with cargo straps.

"Welcome to my ship and home. I greet you travellers, and offer you the gift of my air and my hospitality," Bossa said in a voice fighting for some sort of cultural touchstone. The sing-song of the Rish dialect fought with something quick moving and watery that slipped out of vowels and made a mockery of consonants. She gestured to a pair of spindly stools that, even in the low gee of Cargo Reef, looked ill-suited for weight bearing.

"Thank you, Captain Bossa," Meilin said, bowing a dip in respect. "And we reciprocate with our own air and hospitality. As you may already know, we have come to trade." Of course their true purpose was to lay down the law, but the Rish responded better to agreements than ultimatums.

"Huum..." Bossa said. She didn't turn her head, and with the dark all uncompassing lenses covering her eyes knowing where she was looking was problematic. "And do this you bring a soldier? We of the Rish do not seek a violent path unless it is something gifted to us by Down Weller's."

Meilin smiled at Bossa's objection. "This is Lieutenant th'Zohan. He is the station's Chief of Security and your main point of contact if you come upon any... trouble." Her eyes flickered with restrained delight at the subtext. "Of course, Starfleet's protection is most effective when served under compliant residents. On our way here, I noticed some alterations. Many of them are beautiful aesthetics befitting your people, but many of them were permanent structural alterations. In exchange for our hospitality and protection services provided, we require access to the Enclave to ensure there are no potential hazards that would affect the entire station. Such would overstep our bargain of mutual hospitality."

"Huum...you tread a fine of insult there Fleeter. You might fly about in your facy starships, but like I said when we first met ain't no one more entitled to the sky than the Rish. We've been out here in the void for centuries, we know its whims, we know it be a beasty ready to kill us if we treat it poorly. My people do work, best damn work you ever did see. We have to live with our mistakes, so we don't make them," Bossa informed calmly, turning her gaze on th'Zohan. "But if your Bully Boy want's to escort one of your work parties here to over look whats been done, I see no harm in that. We're used to tourists takin' an interest."

“If I may speak candidly.” began Theylan, breaking the silence at last, keeping his hands behind his back.

Meilin perked an eyebrow, but said nothing as she stepped aside to let the Chief of Security speak.

“This “Bully Boy” as you call him would rather see the lot of you removed from my station in truth. I have little patience for transients, pinkskin.” The words leaving the lips of the Andorian were icy in tone, but the last one was delivered with no small degree of poignancy. “Particularly for those whom feel entitled to mutilate our new home. As for you 'entitlement,' compared to my clan you are but foolish children, new to the void. You may fly these stars but keep in mind you are guests here, to people whom have been amidst the stars when your kind was still dirt-bound.”

Theylan allowed himself a pause. “Now if you wish to start again and speak to me with the respect I am due, you will gain the same from me. You can either have me as a friend whom will take care of your people as my own, or continue your grievance mongering and see what that earns you. It makes no difference to me, other than I might well enjoy one more than I do the other.” He offered, with the faintest, coldest of smiles on his lips, his eyes gleaming with either mischief, or something far more sinister. “Compared to me, you are the Dirter, nay the 'tourist' here, so shall we try again?” The tone softer this time around.

"Thank you, Lieutenant th'Zohan," Meilin said graciously, "for reminding the good Rish captain that she is welcome to return her people to the void if our terms do not suffice to her satisfaction. But perhaps we can do better, for posterity's sake." Turning back to Bossa, she then straightened herself. "It seems to me that we are agreed: you receive valuable real estate in exchange for compliance with the station's administration; we perform safety inspections in exchange for free access to the Enclave; and we all continue to share one another's air and hospitality." Meilin spit into her palm and extended it to Bossa. "Let us seal it."

"You Fleeter's do things very strangely," Bossa said, and instead reached into a pocket and held out a tissue to Meilin. "I find it agreeable, even this blue skinned ice devil you bring to us to make with the barkin'. He's adorable, but I've seen Gorn who were more threatening. Vulcans, now they knew how to hide insults in their words. But Andorians, well, you bring hammer to to do a job eh?"

Theylan arched his eyebrow. "You seem to be under the impression that I hold my tongue to hide insults. On the contrary, I'm merely being polite." The Andorian bowed his head. "In deference to my superior of course. Pray that it never becomes time for that hammer to fall."

'Oh don't you worry none. Us Rish, well verse are we in avoiding the hit. Won't be the first time we've been run out of a colony, won't be the last. Its how we have fun," Bossa said with a wink to Theylan.

"There is one other thing," Meilin added near the end. "To finalize our trade today, I would request a few of your hydroponic specialists, as many as can be spared. Our Agricultural Dome suffered damage during transit and is in need of repair. In compensation, your workers may claim crop shares commensurate with their contribution."

"I find that agreeable, though I would want the terms of their service in writing to hold all of us to account. We work together, not for one but for all agreed?" Bossa said. "I will not be providing you workers in bondage for your fields, but we be working together so it's not like that is it?

"Compensation is compensation," Meilin said. "In the name of fostering mutual trust -- I'll provide you with a copy of the audio-visual recording of this entire exchange for safe-keeping."

"Good enough for me," Bossa said with a grin on her lips.

Meilin returned her smile with a subdued one of her own. "Excellent. Have your specialists report to me. They will require... clearance... before being given access to sensitive areas."

"I'll make sure they know to keep their hands in their pockets if that's what you're implying," Bossa said, that same grin on her lips.

 

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