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A Trill and a Rigelian Walk into a Bar...

Posted on 29 Jun 2017 @ 3:20pm by Lieutenant Commander Jayla Kij & Selah Eireanne & Lieutenant Callam Jaxer

Mission: The Finnean Crisis
Location: Talons
Timeline: MD4 || 2030hrs

After what turned out to be a somewhat tense meeting with the Black Hawk's squadron commander, Callam was ready to have that drink with Jayla Kig that was on his schedule for tonight. He stopped quickly back at his quarters and changed into some civilian clothing, somewhere between casual and fancy. A black mock turtleneck, a pair of comfortable, relaxed fit khakis, black belt, and the Rigelian equivalent of black 'cowboy' boots. He got comfortable wearing this kind of footwear tending balnoks on Rigel IV. Balnoks were a kind of bovine native to Rigel V. When the colony on Rigel IV was set up, the Rigelians imported balnoks, who did well in all seasons. This was good because seasons on Rigel IV lasted hundreds of years. He was born in the last few decades of summer and grew up just as fall was approaching. Eventually, winter would arrive and that would be the true test of the balnoks' adaptability. Callam checked his appearance in the mirror. Satisfied with what he saw, he set off for Talons. He arrived a bit early and didn't see Jayla anywhere, so he took a seat at the bar.

Spotting the man enter Talons, Selah of course could not resist going over to say hello. Apart from it being her job, she knew every face on this ship and that was a new one. She loved meeting new faces. So, cheerfully, she practically skipped over to the bar grinning from ear to ear. "Good evening!" she said to the new guy. "Welcome to Talons. I am Selah, the owner. I know, I know, I look kinda young to own a bar, but I'm not actually a teenager. I just look like one. Apparently, I'll enjoy that some day, but I seriously doubt that. Anyway, what can I get you?" she asked, smiling lighting up her eyes.

Callam laughed at the bubbly woman's babble.

"Age is just a number," he said. "Or so my human relatives say. Thanks for the spirited welcome. I'll take a very cold hard cider if you've got it."

"If I've got it," Selah replied with a grin. "One hard cider, coming right up."

Talking herself into actually showing up in Talons for that drink was harder than Jayla would have thought. In truth, she just wanted to sulk in her quarters, but she knew that wasn't good for her. So, she had forced herself to get out of uniform, put on a cute yellow sundress, white beaded necklace and earrings and white sandals and head to Talons.

She spotted Callam at the bar just as Selah was heading off- presumably to retrieve his drink- and headed over to join him. "Hi," she said, offering him a cheerful grin. "Have a good first day?"

Callam stood when Jayla entered and gave her a discrete once over, liking what he saw. He helped to a seat at the bar and sat down next to her.

"You look lovely, Spots," he said. "You may have just made me the most envied man in the bar. My first day was...interesting. I met the captain. He seems like a decent enough guy. He's obviously hurting, but I think he's got the stuff to make his way through the pain. The squadron commander...that didn't go as easy as I was hoping. We spent a ridiculous amount of time with him trying to get across the idea that he was in charge, which of course I found irritating because I knew he was in charge already. Why else would it say 'Squadron Commander' on his office door? At one point I was pretty sure I was going to be requesting a transfer, effective immediately, but then we found some common ground. Being fighter pilots, that common ground was of course a war, the Dominion War to be specific. After that, things got a bit better. I think I can work with him."

He waved over at Selah so she would come over and get Jayla a drink.

"What are you drinking?" he asked.

Already returning my with the new guy's drink, Selah hurried over with it and offered a smile to Jayla.

"Evening, Selah," Jayla said to the ever chipper barkeep. "Give me whatever your favorite drink to make is."

"Ooo!" squealed Selah happily. "I love when people do that. One blue Hawaiian, coming right up!" And she was off again.

"If there's an opposite of chronic depression, Selah's got it," Jayla commented. "So, I've never heard of anyone being unable to get along with Walsh right away. That's gotta be a talent."

Callam chuckled at Jayla's description of Selah.

"I think they call that 'chronic mania'," he said. "As for Commander Walsh, well, managing to piss off or at least frustrate superior officers is sort of one of my talents...present company excluded, I hope."

Callam took a drink from his cider and then set it down.

"I got the impression, talking to the Captain and Walsh," Callam said. "That you guys have really been through it. I'd heard about the trouble out here, of course, but I didn't know how deep into it the Black Hawk gotten itself. I know you guys lost people. I'm sorry, really sorry. If you want to talk about any of that, I'll gladly listen. And even though guys trying to solve everyone's problems instead of just listening is a nearly universal male trait, I've gotten pretty good at keeping my ears open and my mouth shut. So, if you need or just want to talk about any of that, I'm here for you, Spots. I'm here and I'll listen."

That made two people who had offered to listen. It was comforting to know that if she ever felt like talking, there were people who would listen. "I think it's just a universal trait," she corrected. "Most women want to solve problems, too." She paused, automatically glancing around for Selah's return, but of course she had only been gone for a few moments, so she wouldn't be returning any time soon. "I don't even know where to begin," she admitted. "I suppose it started for me when we hit some thermal pockets in a nebula and I hit my head. I don't remember it, but apparently, I made it almost to Sick Bay before I collapsed on the floor, dry heaving. One of the other Doctors found me. I had a concussion. So, I was off duty for a couple of days. That doesn't seem like much in the scheme of things, but to a doctor when there are injured pouring in, it's pure torture."

"All pain is relative," Callam said. "To a woman like you, who's dedicated herself to healing the sick and treating the injured, feeling helpless, unable to ease the pain of others...I get it, Spots, I really do."

"Yeah," she replied. "It drove me crazy. I tried to get up and help twice, but I would just get dizzy and nearly fall over. Anyway, the next bit I don't really know much about, but apparently we found these two consortium ships that had been searching for ship that held a thalaron device. Apparently, they tried to activate it and it backfired on them, but not before zapping a few of our people."

"That's awful," Callam said with a shudder. "Violent death sucks in general, but thalaron radiation...what a way to go. Were you close to any of the people that were killed?"

"Not well," she replied. "But, it still sucked looking around at all those piles of ash." She shuddered, remembering how just walking around the ship was depressing. "I'm still not clear on exactly how- I think I remember them saying they used a tricobalt to destroy the thalaron device and the result explosion is how it happened- but we found ourselves in a different universe. Long story short, while gathering information on how to get some captured crewmates back, we were attacked. I- I may have killed someone in self defense. I know I shouldn't feel guilty about it, but I do."

Callam reached out and placed one of his hands on one of Jayla's hands as it rested on the surface of the bar in front of her. He gave it a gentle squeeze of support.

"I'm sorry you had to do that, Spots," Callam said. "I'm not going to tell you how you should or shouldn't feel about it, except to say that feelings of guilt after taking a life are normal, especially if you haven't done it before. I'm a fighter pilot, but I went through some basic ground combat training. I never thought I'd have to use it. After hearing what the marines went through on the ground, I was glad of that. Killing from the cockpit of a fighter is very impersonal. I was still young, and it hadn't really set in that I was taking a life. Then I got shot down flying close air support for some marines on a planet called Genorious III. This was early in my service, my very first campaign, actually, during the Cardassian Border Wars. Anyway, I went down on the wrong side of the lines and had to make my way back to our lines. All of a sudden, I wasn't far above the ground fighting, I was in it. On my way back, I stumbled on a Cardassian soldier, a straggler from a nearby patrol. I looked at him and he looked at me and we just stood there for a moment. I was about twenty years old and he didn't look much older. We just stood there looking at each other for a moment. Then he started to raise his weapon. I knew that I didn't want to get caught or get killed, so I killed him before either of those things could happen. I couldn't risk the whine of a hand phaser so I had to pounce on him and use my knife. Suddenly, war became extremely real to me. I've had to do similar things since, but that first time haunted me for years to follow. But it was me or him, I really didn't want it to be me. I came to terms with it after a while, and you will too. You'll make your peace with it. You're a strong person, Spots."

The story did her a world of good. Just knowing that someone else- anyone be else- could relate made her feel a thousand times better about it. All the counseling sessions she'd been to at the symbiosis commission headquarters hadn't come close to helping as much as Callam just had. "I'll get through it, I'm sure," she replied, picking up her drink and taking a sip. "Oh, that's good," she said, automatically looking around for Selah. "I don't remember her returning with it, do you?"

Callam chuckled.

"I think I felt a breeze a moment ago," he said. "And right after that I noticed your drink was there. So, Doctor Jayla Kij, I want to know all about much of you as you're willing to share with me, that is. Your childhood, your family, your friends. What's your favorite color? Favorite music? I'm partial to Earth jazz, jazz fusion, blues, even some funk, as well as Andorian Blues. My human grandfather and father were both musically inclined, though only as a hobby. Grandfather taught me to play the double bass and bass guitar. I have a few stashed in storage, but I usually bring my baby bass, I mean my acoustic/electric upright bass, and a bass guitar or two. I've got my five-string baby bass and my five string electric bass guitar back in my quarters now. I find playing very relaxing. So, Spots, tell me about you."

"I'm tone deaf," she said, then grinned. "Okay, not really, because people who are truly tone deaf don't even like music. I enjoy listening, but... I can't carry a tune if you gave me a basket to put it in. No, I paint. And sketch. And I've even dabbled in sculpting, but I haven't done that in years. I've got several paintings in my quarters that I did myself. Mostly, though, sports. Tennis is one of my favorites."

"I'd love to see your work sometime, if you're willing to show me," Callam said. "Physical exercise is a huge part of Rigelian culture. Vigorous physical exercise and sex are to us what logic is to our Vulcan ancestors. They're how we keep those pesky and extremely turbulent Vulcan emotions under control. So I dabble in many sports to burn off excess energy, including tennis every now and then. And flesh and blood opponents are so much more fun. Maybe we can have a match someday?"

"Absolutely," answered Jayla cheerfully, glad to be off the depressing subject of the last mission. "I'm always looking for new partners." Of course a Trill wouldn't have any second thoughts about that sentence, and Jayla was no exception. So, instead of feeling awkward or clarifying what she meant, she ploughed right on into the next sentence. "As for my work, you're welcome to come by my quarters and check them out. I've really got to pull out my paints and do some new stuff. I haven't painted in awhile. I miss my happy little trees. I do mostly landscapes," she explained.

"New partners, eh?" Callam said, flashing Jayla a winning smile. Callam was never one to pass up a double entendre. He regarded Jayla with renewed, but discrete interest. She really did look lovely. "That sounds...promising, Spots. And I look forward to seeing your work soon then, tonight even, if you feel like showing me your work tonight, or any other time, for that matter."

Callam let his response sit just long enough to sink in, but not long enough to be an aggressive pass. Jayla was a grown woman. He was sure she'd pick up what he was implying, just as he was relatively sure she wouldn't be offended, at least not too offended. Callam was pretty much putting himself out that as a friend, or potential lover, or some combination of the two. He liked Jayla and figured if they did not progress beyond friendship, he'd still come out ahead.

"So," Callam said. "What attracted you to painting landscapes? Why not people? Or animals...or do you add a few little animals to your landscapes?"

Having spent a lot of time among humans, Jayla completely missed the alternate meaning in his words. Not that she'd have really noticed before. Despite having 9 previous lifetimes experience, she wasn't really one to read too much into anything. "You can absolutely see them tonight, if you like," she offered. "I guess I started painting landscapes because they hold still longer. I started painting when I was a kid and for some reason, working off a picture didn't occurred to four-year-old me." She grinned, sipping her drink again. "I painted a fox once, and a quokka- they're so adorable!- and they turned out good, but I prefer trees and mountains and oceans and clouds and maybe a house or cabin. Sometimes, I add in the vague hint of a figure chopping wood or hunched over in the garden, but usually, it's just the landscapes."

Now Callam wasn't quite sure Jayla had picked up on what he thought had just happened but he let it go. The night was young. Besides, bedding Jayla wasn't the only reason he'd asked her out. She honestly looked like she could use some company. If that included spending the night with her, he'd gladly oblige. If it didn't...well, he wouldn't be much of a friend if he took offense at something like that.

"Makes sense to me," Callam said. "Where were you born and raised, if you don't mind my asking?"

"On Trill, in the middle of nowhere," she replied. "In a little house on a cliff by the sea. It's quiet there. A great place to get away from everything and just relax. I'm surprised nobody has built a resort."

"That sounds nice," Callam said, sipping at his cider. "A perfect place to raise a child. I grew up in a very rural colony. My biological mother worked at a farm that produced some of the botanical pharmaceuticals that my people are famous for. When we first opened trade with the Federation, that was one of the things they were most interested in. That and us granting access to our medical schools on Rigel V to students from the Federation. Anyway, my biological father was a hydroponics engineer. You see, the seasons on Rigel IV last for centuries. I was born at the end Summer and grew up during the beginning of Fall. Because the seasons are so long, we grow our food stuffs and natural medicines on hydroponic farms. We allow in plenty of sunlight, air, and water, but we can also seal off sections of the farm from the planet's environment so as to give the produce a proper growing season. The Human settlement, Polar City, does it that way, too, as do most of the other colonies on the planet, with varying degrees of success. The Orions currently living on the planet have lost the inclination to really grow enough food to support themselves, so the other colonies do well trading food to them in exchange for ore they've mined or whatever they've imported for trade. I worked the farms owned by my clan as a teenager, just enough to give me a taste of what hard work felt like, so I wouldn't be surprised when I found myself doing hard work as an adult."

"There is something to be said about the country," she agreed. "Mum and dad weren't farmers. In fact, they were raised in the city. They moved to the country after some friends of theirs acquired some land. We grew a lot of our own vegetables. I think that's why I liked them so much as a kid. I figured, I put a lot of work in weeding that stupid garden and picking those stupid vegetables and I'm gonna eat them if it kills me!" She grinned. "I think my sister felt the same way. I wonder if her son will start liking veggies. Jessa just adopted a boy who was orphaned when the last Black Hawk went down," she explained. "She's got a place not far from my parents, so I'm sure they'll be over there working the garden with them."

"Is Jessa your older or younger sister?" Callam asked.

"Younger, but everything thinks she's older," Jayla answered. "She's taller and she just looks older."

"Do you have any other siblings?" Callam asked. "Or was it just you and your sister? I've got several siblings, some half, some step. My biological mother decided that one brush with the 'miracle of childbirth' was enough for her, but my biological father had children with some of the other wives, and some of them had children with the other husbands. To me, though, they're all just my siblings, no halves or steps about it."

"No others," she answered. "It was always just me and Jessa. Needless to say, we're very close. Well, and there was our parents' friends' three boys. The five of us played together all the time growing up. And then as teenagers, we hung out a lot. I don't talk to them much anymore, though. They're scattered all over the place. But, anyway, yeah, it was just my sister and me."

"And you and your sister are close?" Callam said. "I try to keep up with my siblings. Most of them stayed close to home, but a few have been more adventurous. I get home when I can. They were very supportive when I left Starfleet and joined the Maquis, my human grandfather even more so. I came home after the war...the Cardassian Border Wars, so angry and disillusioned. I took all of my accumulated leave to visit home, to try and make sense of what I had experienced, of what a total mess the negotiators had made, how they'd betrayed us. My grandfather and I talked and talked until I started to find my way again. I finally sat down with all of my parents and siblings and told them that I was going to resign from Starfleet and go help the people in the newly created 'demilitarized zone', the people the Federation had abandoned. To a one they told me they trusted me to do what I thought was right, that that was what I'd always done. When I came back, after I'd received my full pardon for fighting in the Dominion War, they welcomed me with open arms. I suppose that's the way family should be."

"It is," she agreed. "I had a good talk with my dad when I got home. He didn't really give he me any advice, but just having someone to listen was a relief." Her mind darted to Commander Teixeira momentarily and she grinned inwardly, realizing that she had two people to talk to here. While neither man could compare to her dad, it was still good to know that there were those who would listen. "My whole family is close," she added. "It's kinda hard not to be when you grow up in the country and there's only three other people in a small house. Love grows best in little houses."

"Yes, I suppose it does," Callam said. "What drew you to medicine?"

"My mentor, Doctor Saraja Jellic," she replied. "I lived with her for three years. She was patient. Wow, was she ever patient. I think I'd have smacked my head off." She grinned at the memory of her youth. "Anyway, her patience and heart inspired me. She wrote me a letter of recommendation for Starfleet Medical School and off I went."

"What drew you to the fleet?" Callam asked. "What I mean is, what drew you to choose a medical career with Starfleet as opposed to a civilian medical career?"

"I'm really not sure," she confessed. "Maybe it was hero worship- because Saraja is in Starfleet- or maybe I'd just gotten used to being in space by then."

Callam chuckled.

"I'd rarely ever been in space before I joined Starfleet," Callam said. "We traveled Rigel V a few times to visit relatives, and I spent some time at the Monastery at Gol there studying psionics, but I didn't really spend a lot of time in space itself back then. No, I joined Starfleet because there was a war on and I wanted to do something. I didn't want to wait to complete Starfleet Academy, so I went to the recruiter to enlist. He had me take some tests and apparently I got high scores, because the recruiter was very interested in me all of a sudden. I found out later that Starfleet Aerospace was short on pilots so they'd expanded their Flight Warrant Officer program. Recruiters had been told to be on the look out for anyone who scored high enough on their aptitude tests to qualify for flight school. He filled my head with the advantages of being a fighter pilot and I was hooked. A few months later, when my secondary education was complete, I was on a transport for Earth for Warrant Officer Candidacy School, then SERE School, then Expeditionary Warfare School, and finally Flight School. I've been a fighter pilot ever since."

She offered him one of her more traditional grins that was closer to the old Jayla. "As long as you enjoy it, that's what matters the most," she said. "My dad is fond of saying, 'do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.' Well, that's not always true. There are parts of every profession that are distasteful, no matter how much you like the job as a whole. Overall, though, I'd say he's right. I enjoy being a doctor, so I don't see it as work, really."

"Flying is work," Callam said. "But it's fun work. I've been doing this for over twenty-five years and I still say 'wow' in my head every time my fighter clears the launch bay and enters the great void. I and whatever problems I'm having seem pretty insignificant when I'm out there in my little fighter, a very tiny part of a story so vast that no one person will ever read more than a fraction of it."

Sipping her drink again, Jayla grinned. "There is something about all those stars that makes a person realize how petty and insignificant everything really is," she said. "In a good way, of course."

"Hmm...yeah," Callam said. He took another drink of his cider. The glass was empty, so he attracted Selah's attention and indicated he'd like another. "So, you were saying that your parents weren't farmers. What did they do for a living?"

"Mum was a nanny- for my second year school teacher of all people- and dad is a novelist," she replied. "He's pretty popular among Trill and still cranks out a book every few years, but they're both mostly retired."

"A novelist?" Callam said. "Really? What's his name? Maybe I've read some of his stuff. My interests range far and wide."

"Sabro Gil," replied Jayla with a hint of pride. "He does mostly thrillers, but has done a couple of kids' fantasy novels: Through the Hedgerows and My Perfect Faerie."

"Wow," Callam said. "Sabro Gil. Small universe. I've read a some of his books. I really enjoyed them. They gave me a nice escape from some very unpleasant realities. Let your dad know that he has another fan out here that really appreciates his work. In fact, I think I'll see if I can scrounge up a some of his books that I haven't read yet. They'll help me decompress in my down time."

"I'll be sure to pass it along," she promised as Selah dropped off another drink for him. "He'll be tickled. I'm not sure if he's aware of many non-Trill fans."

Callam took a sip from his drink. It was cold and sweet, just as he liked it. Hard Cider was a weakness of his. He could drink it like others drank fruit juice. This would probably be his last one of the night because he would be flying tomorrow. He'd had ciders made not only from Terran apples, but from analogous fruits from other planets, including something common to his people's homeworld.

"I try to periodically broaden my horizons," he said, in response to Jayla. "I don't want to get old before my time. If I turn into an old grump before I reach one hundred, it won't matter if I look like I'm in my thirties or forties in Human terms at the time. Smart, attractive, lady doctors like you won't want to spend any time with me, and then where would I be?"

"Well, I imagine you'd have to settle for engineers or something," she replied without missing a beat, a twinkle in her eye. "Or men. Men seem less picky."

Callam chuckled.

"Men don't really do it for me," Callam said. "Engineers, on the other hand...I've met some really hot engineers."

Callam smiled at Jayla.

"You know," he said. "I've found that our level of 'pickiness' regarding those our interests are oriented to is directly related to how lonely we are, to how much we need to feel close with another person, how desperately we need to touch and be touched, things like that. That's pretty much universal among both males and females. I suppose it's possible that since my mother's people require and therefore seek physical companionship more often, that we're a bit less picky. I won't say I've never just gone to bed with the first willing partner who attracted my interest, but in general, I'm pretty discriminant about who I pursue an interest in."

"That would make sense," she replied. "It would explain why I'm so picky. My parents taught me to always be happy by myself so that any potential partners were just a plus. I think it's healthier to think of them as an indulgence rather than a necessity."

"I can admire that philosophy," Callam "I suppose, though, it's also a matter of a person's biology, psychology, cultural background, and upbringing. For a Rigelian, abstinence from sex is considered unhealthy and unnatural. And for us, it is both of those things in more than just a theoretical sense. For us, celibacy for any extended length of time, would be unheard of and probably dangerous. The act of making love is an integral part of our society. When we are happy we make love, part of the process of dealing with sad or angry feelings is making love. Lovemaking is considered to have healing properties and doctors in my culture will prescribe it as part of a patient's treatment plan for illness or injury. As I've said, sex and vigorous physical exercise, both on a regular basis, are integral to our emotional and psychological well-being. I suppose, in some cultures, I would be considered to be suffering from codependency of some kind, maybe even a sex addiction. But what's abnormal behavior for one culture, is totally normal for another."

"Oh, I'm not abstinent by any means," she replied. "I'm just content enough on my own that I'm in no hurry to change my current situation. So I'm particular about who I have drinks with." She gave him a wink and sipped her drink again. "Fascinating, though, that it's such a big part of your culture. I'm afraid I don't know a lot about Rigelians."

"That's not surprising," Callam said. "We tend to stay in our home system, mostly on Rigel V, which is the first planet we settled in the system, as well as Rigel IV, where I grew up, and Rigel II, which is a pleasure planet run by an oligarchy made up of Orions, Rigelians, and Humans. They share it with the Chelarians, who are interesting. They're swamp dwellers, bipedal turtles with some impressive fangs in their mouths. Their homeworld, Chelar, is Rigel III. V and IV are members of the Federation, as is III. XII is also a Federation member. You've probably heard of that one. It's a major source of dilithium for the Federation in general and Starfleet specifically. Rigel II is not a Federation world, nor are Rigel VII and Rigel X. VII is home to what's left of the Orion 'Empire'. They don't control anymore than the planet, all the other Orions in the system and beyond are independent of the government on VII. Then there are the Kaylar. They can be a real problem. They were used as mamluqs, soldier-slaves, by the Orions for millennia. The Orions armed then and supported them when my people first arrived on Rigel V in an attempt to drive us off. The attempt failed. On most worlds in the system, the Kaylar limit themselves to the remote parts of the planet. Every now and then they come out and raid nearby settlements, but not very often anymore. They're more visible on Rigel VII where they're still used as mamluqs to settle disputes between 'nobles'. There are many wonders to be found if you're willing risk looking. A strange spacial anomaly that no one has been able to explain, an irradiated planet littered with ancient Orion tech, tech often more advanced than what we have no. Deep in the jungles of Rigel II, it's said you can find plenty of ancient Orion technology...if you can brave the vicious Kaylar tribes that populate those jungles and for whom the prominent pieces of technology are the idols of their gods. The moons of Rigel VI are home to some impressive black markets and off the books resorts where it's said you can find any pleasure, no matter how depraved. Rigel X is a space port controlled by a group of Orions. They defend it with ancient Orion weapons and defensive systems that they no longer understand the workings of. So that's most of the system in a for my people..."

Callam took a drink from his cider and continued.

"I'm sure you know what the Vulcan Diaspora was," he said. "Well, it took along time for the Sundered to arrive and settle in what is now Romulan territory...or what's left of it. Along the way, a group led by an Admiral named Debrune split off from the main group. He was intent on finding a place to settle and he was tired of waiting for the leaders of the Sundered to settle on a place. Along his journey, he had a falling out with a Vice Admiral named Torek, who chose to settle in the Rigel System, specifically on Rigel V. For a while, we stuck to our warlike ways. We fought the Orion-backed Kaylar and eventually drove them to resettle in the Arctic regions of the planet. We continued in our violent ways even after. Our Numerologists tried to tell us that we had to change, but my ancestors didn't listen. Hadn't we left Vulcan so we wouldn't have to change. The Numerologists warned that a great tragedy would befall us. My ancestors still didn't listen. They were proven correct when a plague struck and decimated our society, living cities in ruins inhabited by the memories of my ancestors' loved ones. The planet's lush natural resources were left untouched, though, and my ancestors changed their ways from war and conquest to an agrarian lifestyle, and instead of indulging our violent urges, we took the philosophy we've discussed regarding exercise and lovemaking. We still maintain some parts of our Vulcan heritage, especially the arts of the Vulcan Mind Lords. Some of my people have rather impressive psychokinetic abilities. I'm not so blessed. Don't worry, my story is almost done!"

Callam smiled at Jayla to show he was making fun of himself.

"My people began to live in clans led by matriarchs," he said. "We lived together in family and clan groupings. We still do. However, we've adapted our system of polygamy to be less harmful to society. In the old days, one Matriarch would have many husbands, and there were many children produced, including a good number produced out of wedlock. To get them all taken care of, and to expand power and influence, these children were often married off young, and a good number of the illegitimate ones were left to fend for themselves. Those, I am sad to say, often ended up as child slaves or child prostitutes. All of this changed when we decided to try and join the Federation back in the late 2200s. We cleaned up our act considerably. We're still polygamous, but we have more group marriages with both multiple men and multiple women, a much more equitable relationship. My parents had such a marriage. We're still a very agrarian society, though now we use environmentally safe methods to extract our mineral wealth and have welcomed in some Federation technology. And for quite some time, even before we joined the Federation, we've had some incredible medical schools, and advanced research using botanical pharmaceuticals frequently produces new ways to treat illnesses, especially blood disorders, cancers, and kidney disorders. So, that's us in a nutshell...well, a very large nutshell."

"I wish I knew that much about Trill history," she confessed. "What I do know is dull and nobody wants to hear it. There are two distinct species of Trill: Alpha and Beta. I'm an Alpha. The designations come from the number of each species. There are almost twice as many Alphas as Betas. The Betas haven't got spots; they've got small forehead ridges. Both species are able to be joined. Also, we're marsupials," she added with a grin. "I didn't know that was strange until secondary school when I found out that most humanoids carry their young in their wombs until they are almost fully developed. You should have seen my face when I found out how they get them out!" She laughed at the memory.

Callam laughed, too.

"Yeah," he said. "That's kind of a flaw? That's as good a term as any, I guess. Whoever or whatever designed you Trills had a much better idea. I'm sure that my mothers and my sisters and all of my female cousins wish they had been marsupials, at least when they had to give birth to their children."

"Yeah, some Trill don't even notice when they've given birth," she said. "They just suddenly notice something is in the pouch and they realize they're mothers. When they get a bit older and don't need to suckle constantly, the fathers can carry them sometimes. Until they're old enough to come out of the pouch, of course. A girl once asked me how we know it's time for them to come out of the pouch and I told her, 'when milk starts coming out of the breasts.' You should have seen the look on her face. It was midway between, 'duh, I should have known that' and 'oh my goodness that makes everything so easy'!"

Callam laughed again. He finished the last of his cider and looked at his wrist chronometer.

"Well, Spots," he said. "It's getting late and we've got a busy day tomorrow. As much as I'm enjoying this, I think I'm going to have to call it a night. May I walk you back to your quarters?"

Regretfully, Jayla finished the last of her own drink. "Sure," she replied. "You wanted to see my paintings anyway, didn't you?"

"I did," Callam said. He rose from his seat at the bar and offered his arm to Jayla. "Shall we?"

"We shall," she replied, rising and slipping one hand into his arm.


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