Starbase 621

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The Thing with Feathers

Posted on Tue Jun 30th, 2020 @ 9:10pm by Arrenhe t'Liun
Edited on on Wed Jul 1st, 2020 @ 3:48pm

Mission: Unbroken
Location: Promenade
1299 words - 2.6 OF Standard Post Measure

Dhael practically danced ahead as they left the docking ring. "It's amazing," she said, lifting her head and turning to take in the Promenade.

It was, Arrenhe agreed, but only in the privacy of her own thoughts. Unlike her daughter, her outward reaction was much more reserved, her eyes scanning their immediate surroundings with wary evaluation. Not for the first time she wondered if exposing Dhael to her Qowat Milat sister's philosophy of 'openness' at the impressionable age of 12 had been a mistake, but there had been little choice, and deep down she knew that Hilae's order wasn't the real influence. Years living among the Lloann'nsu with their concepts of freedom of expression and almost childish naivete in expecting such freedom could be practiced without consequence, without it being marked and recorded, had rubbed off on her last living child. Sometimes it filled her with dread to see Dhael allow herself to be so ...vulnerable.

And yet deep down she couldn't help but feel a sort of pride at that boldness, and a certain awe at a culture that not only tolerated but encouraged it. And even deeper, a regret that it had never been even a remote possibility for her, but - faint and wavering - hope.

She didn't acknowledge it. Indeed she did her best to refuse to see it there, hovering like a wraith hanging on the edge of vision. Arrenhe knew about hope. Hope was dangerous. Potent as new strong ale but so very, very fragile, and when it broke - always when - the shards sliced deep, and the first sharp pains were nothing to the lasting ache, like shrapnel from a diamond-glass grenade welded forever to bone.

Yes, Arrenhe remembered hope. She had felt it as a new bride. S'Tal had been such a dashing young officer that he had almost literally swept her away. Back then when she'd left her backwater colony to begin a new life - on ch'Rihan no less! - with a husband promoted to the Imperial guard at only 40, it seemed the future could be nothing but bright. When her belly had swollen with not one life but two, both of them emerging perfect and strong, she felt as though all the blessings of Vorta Vor lay before her while still in mortal life. Of course, raising twins was not always easy, but S'Tal's family were kind and always there to help, so even with two energetic children in their small alotted home, those years were good. She'd watched Ael and Tomen grow and blossom like a pair of her prize Sunfire orchids, and had stood beside S'Tal, glowing with pride when they'd been commissioned in the Galae.

It was the last time she would ever embraced them. Within months the Empire had joined the Dominion War, and barely a half cycle later Ael and Tomen had died fighting back-to-back against the Jem'Hadar. Though she'd worn a grim pride - the perfect outward mask of a respectable Romulan matron - when she hung their memorial flags, inside was a heart torn asunder by the implosion of every hope she had held for them. She could find no joy even in her garden - in neither her flowers nor the carefully cultivated herbs and fine tea plants for which she had become known. Only duty kept S'Tal from falling to the brokenness and mourning that consumed her. It was only because of duty that she dared risk hope again - the imperative to continue their line, to not allow the Jem'Hadar the ultimate triumph of ending their house in that one dreadful blow. In time she conceived, and one month after the war ended she bore a daughter - a child whose first cries joined the spring chorus of birdsong in the garden, and so they named her Dhael (bird). While no child can ever be replaced, nor their loss forgotten, in time Dhael's joyful chirping cut through the sorrow, and she began to see glimpses of hope, rays of dawn after a night of storms. She and S'Tal even began talking about trying for another child.

Then Shinzon's coup came, descending without warning, and proving again that hope was but a cruel illusion. S'Tal died at the gates of the Senate, and the Reman that ravaged through the city, attacking especially the quarter holding those in Imperial service, would have killed her and Dhael as well if her mother-in-law hadn't pushed them through a tunnel passage and then sacrificed herself to seal it off. The coup was soon defeated, but their world was left in ashes.

And now it was ashes. Remnants of ash in an empty no-man's-land of space.

People told her she was lucky - with nothing left on ch'Rihan, she had gone home to a colony outside the range of the supernova's worst effects. But that hadn't stopped the crops from failing, or the waves of civil unrest and then Civil War that finally drove them to the refugee camps in the Federation. Forced to go begging from these former galactic rivals, brought so low she would quietly accept being told to be grateful and think herself lucky to be allowed to accept scraps given in pity - no, she did not feel lucky. Or hopeful, despite this shiny new place they'd arrived in.

"Ri'nanov!" Dhael called excitedly, waving her over. "Look, Sunfires!"

Arrenhe turned from her thoughts to follow the direction of her daughter's gaze and there half-hidden in alcove was a spray of flowers arranged to look like a bird, head uplifted with beak open in song, and forming almost a frame around it were her favorites: bright plumes of Sunfire orchids. She smiled despite herself, both at her beloved Sunfires and in professional appreciation of the arrangement, though it meant that her plan of setting up a horticultural shop here might be for naught.

Dhael gasped softly. "It's titled 'Hope is the thing with feathers'. It's a dedication." She pointed to the words below the display, and Arrenhe studied them a moment, deciphering. For all that she had become proficient in spoken Standard, reading Federation lettering still did not come easily for her.

'Hope' is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

- Emily Dickinson (19th century earth poet)

Dedicated to those lost in the terrorist attack and to the bravery of the crew of Heimdall Station.
We will never stop at all.

Arrenhe's lips curved downward. Hope - it really wouldn't stop trying to get its hooks back into her. But her daughter smiled. "What a wonderful thought, and so soon after the attack. Maybe having known such loss they'll be more welcoming."

There was that Qowat Milat influence again, Arrenhe thought with an inward sigh. In her experience such loss usually had the opposite effect, especially where strangers were concerned. They had seen the signs still left from the blasts as they docked and overheard the talk on the transport. It had been worrisome, but even more a matter of astonishment. What kind of people experienced an attack like that, from enemies still unknown, and yet still chose to open their station to refugees from a former enemy?

She would never understand Lloann'nsu. But looking at Dhael's face, the smile at the prospect of this place, of perhaps for the first time within her young memory having somewhere where she might be able to stay, maybe even come to belong... Arrenhe felt the faint whisper of a tune without words, calling her to imagine that her little bird would find a perch and sing.

Note: Lloann'nsu - Rihannsu word for citizens of the Federation


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