[Ziyal and Val] About that drink
When the Sinful strike back
Timeline: Outside Ziyal Tajor's quarters
Val hesitated for a moment. During the arbitration this Lieutenant Commander Ziyal Tajor had offhandedly remarked that Val should come over for a drink some time, but Val wasn't entirely confident in her understanding of Federation social interactions to be confident in her presence here, or that now would be a good time. Still, here she was, not on duty yet and she knew from the duty roster that Ziyal was off duty too.
Still, the Federation officer seemed an openminded and easygoing individual, and so Val figured that the worst that could happen was that she would be told now wasn't a good time. With that in mind, she rang the doorchime.
Ziyal was reading a rather thick book. She liked the actual printed books, it made it feel more real. It could probably also kill a small dog if she dropped it on one, but that was just a side effect. She put the book on the table and went to the door to open it. She smiled as the door slid open to reveal Val. "Hey! Good to see you, come in." She said, motioning in. "What brings you to my humble quarters?" She asked.
"Hi. Uhm. Thank you." spoke the nearest bioform, stepping inside when bade. The other followed behind, answering Ziyal's question. "Your invitation to 'go for drinks', that you made onboard the Cartogus." she explained. The Dalacari twin forms stood a bit awkwardly, looking around, one of them focusing on Ziyal. "I feel I must apologize, I have no experience with - " Focus shifted from one Dalacari bioform to the other, the speech seemlessly switching between the two. " - Federation standards of socialization. I hope I didn't come at a bad time."
Ziyal was surprised by the switch, but caught up. "For me, any time is a good time. We're not at port yet, so going and doing something outrageously fun is out of the question, but for a quiet drink and talk is probably about right. What do you like to drink?" She asked.
"I've heard good things about 'tea'. Including that it's appropriate in situations like this." Val did notice the momentary surprise when she switched speaking roles, and addressed it. "Normally Dalacari often switch focus mid-sentence. I've learned to keep focus on one of my forms, but it takes a lot of concentration."
Ziyal shook her head, "I'm still getting used to it, I've only ever had the one body." She said, making three cups of tea from some teabags that she had. "It's a Cardassian tea, so it might not be quite to your taste." She warned as she put the tray down on the table.
Val sat when bade and reached for the tea, only one of her at first, the one still with both natural arms. A careful sip taken, which she then seemed to contemplate for a moment, as the other - the body with one prosthetic arm and a somber black armband - spoke. "Hot. Rich. A collection of flavors. Very interesting combination. It's actually rather good, thank you." she smiled, reaching for the other cup as well.
Ziyal had been expecting the one that tasted the drink to speak, but she quickly transitioned to the other one. "I imagine that you have a lot better time talking and eating at the same time then I do." She observed with a smile.
A nod from both, though both took a sip of the tea simultaneously and set the cup back down in perfect sync. "I can, but it's more comfortable if both drink or eat at the same time." Explained one of them. "Some Dalacari delicacies actually have slightly different tasting, differently spiced meals for both forms. Incomplete by themselves, It's the combination of flavors that fills the senses."
Ziyal seemed intrigued by that, "hmm, that's interesting. I guess it's an experience I'll probably not going to fully appreciate. Although there are attempts at similar experiences in a single food. Larish pie with Yamok sauce perhaps. Your ship has been on this side of the galaxy for a while, have you tried any foods yet?"
"No. Not really." Val offered. "Haven't really had a chance to, yet. Been eating the standard Dalacari ship-board rations while onboard the Cartogus, haven't really had a chance to sit down and eat yet since coming onboard Victory." Even though only one of Val's bioforms spoke at a time, they still breathed in sync. "Just been busy with my physical, meeting the captain, getting settled. This is my first free moment."
Ziyal smiled, "Awesome then, I have no idea what you'll find good. So lets replicate some things and see." She said, standing and moving over to the replicator. "Everyone has a different palate, so something that tastes awesome to me, might not taste so good to you. So don't worry if you don't like it. However, I'm going to start with something from my homeworld, the Larish pie I mentioned earlier." She said, quickly ordering three plates and a bottle of Yamok sauce and putting them down on the table between them. It was a small slice of pie, just enough to get a taste. Ziyal put the sauce on her own slice, but let Val decide if she wanted any.
Val simply watched as Ziyal went to the replicator. One of her took the opportunity to look around the room more, as the other watched the officer. "Pardon my bluntness, but, you're Cardassian, arent you?" offered the Dalacari. "I still have much to learn, but I've read about your people." When the pie was set down before her she contemplated a moment, then decided to try some sauce on one slice, but tasting the other one without sauce.
Ziyal nodded, "I am a Cardassian, yes. What have you read?" She asked.
"I think that given the circumstances what I've read is less important than what I learned from it, what conclusions I came to." she mused, her words measured. After a moment's consideration she put some sauce on the other piece of pie as well and took another bite. "I think that your people are very proud and strong-willed. I think that your people are suffering from the mistakes of a few. And I think that it's a great shame that so much of your society, your art and your philosophy is lost."
Ziyal nodded, "There was a lot lost when Cardassia was bombed, we are proud and we are strong. We will survive. However, that pride is also a weakness, one that has bit us more then once. And one that I think is biting us now." Ziyal considered for a moment as she ate the pie. "I'm also often asked why I'm in Starfleet. It's a long story, but the short answer is that I think the Federation is the way forward for the Cardassian people." Ziyal paused for a moment to eat her pie. "So, what do you think?" She asked.
"That I don't know nearly enough about the socio-economic and political state of the Cardassians or the Federation to really have much of an opinion." A pause, then a chuckle. "Oh, you mean the pie? It's nice. Takes some getting used to. There is a lot of aftertaste to it. Especially with the sauce. Is all Cardassian food like that?"
"Roughly, Cardassian food is strong and often has an aftertaste. Perhaps it's not the best thing to start with, but you go with what you know. For something a little different my grandparents spent some time on Bajor, before the occupation, and adopted a couple of their foods, like hasperat." Ziyal explained as she ordered some from the replicator and put the small portions down.
"Well, I'm willing to try anything." Val replied with a soft smile. Seemed that smiles were universal after all. She also seemed to slowly relax, finding her comfort zone. "Do you have any hobbies? Anything you do for fun?" She asked her Cardassian hostess. "I like to sing, for example."
Ziyal lifted her book, which was heavy and thick. "For starters, I love to read, this is part seven of the Ranor saga. It's a historical repetitive epic about the Ranor family. Most non-cardassians don't care that much for repetitive epics, but I love them. Right now, I'm on the part where Gheny Ranor recites the seventy-two page speech that is at the core of every book in the saga. The author is brilliant at making it interesting and relevant every time."
Val looked at the book, tilting her heads a bit, both looking quite impressed. "That is part seven? I'm not sure I would have enough time to read that between my duties, my cooking, my singing and sleeping." spoke one. The other got both her plates of hasperat, allowing both of Val's forms to take a careful bite at the same time.
"I'm a fast reader and Cardassians train ourselves to have Eidetic memory. It's really useful when I'm reading reports for my job." Ziyal explained, taking a bite of the spicy food.
Val made a face - more like two faces - at the spicy taste of the hasperat. She let the taste linger a bit before swallowing. "And this is Bajoran food?" one of the two asked. "The spices are strange to me, but I could get used to this. It's not that it's too hot for me, just ... " She trailed off.
"An unexpected combination of flavors. Takes a bit of getting used to." completed the other bioform, the one with the prosthetic arm.
Ziyal turned her head to follow Val's attention and noticed the arm again. "It's true, my grandmother loved very spicy hasperat. The replicator is more of a mild taste." She glanced at Val's arm. "If you don't mind, may I ask how you lost your arm?"
At the question Val's expression fell, on both of her faces. "Hover-car accident." spoke the bioform that stil had both her arms. "Drunk driver. I lost an arm." A pause, a focus switch. "My husband lost a body." concluded the one with the prosthetic arm, holding up her natural one, with the sombre black armband with gold trim. "This is a Dalacari wedding armband. When you see a Dalacari with - "
Another focus shift. " - only one armband, it's because they're married and their partner lost a body, is a single."
Ziyal did her best to follow the focus shifts, she could tell that she had touched a part of Val. "I'm sorry, is that what lead to you getting better dealing with singles like us?"
"In part. I did take training to better deal with singles when Jorem lost a body, but part is also my military training." Val answered. "We're trained in dealing with singles and dealing with ghosting as part of our training." She looked at her hasperat, just one bite remaining for each form.
Ziyal got up moving to the replicator for some new dish. "Ghosting? What's that?" She asked as the ordered a dark berry filled pie.
"A common, household name for ARDD, Acute Reality Disassociation Disorder." Val answered. "When a Dalacari connection is severed, either permanently by death or temporarily by a Dalacari being out of range of him- or herself, a severe - " A focus shift, this wasn't an easy subject to discuss, and Val couldn't bring up the concentration to keep focus on just one of her.
" - disassociation occurs. The world doesn't seem real anymore, you're missing half of your mind, half of your spatial awareness, the world is in shades, oppressing, surreal. It's like - " another focus shift. She didn't even pick up the new, dark berry filled pie yet, not until she was done explaining. " - some of those ghost holomovies, where you see a ghost but it's like it's not really there. Ghosting is like that, but turned around, with the world not quite there."
Ziyal listened to Val's description. "That doesn't sound good. Although I imagine that if you cut out half of my brain, I'd probably be in a similar state." Ziyal paused to separate the thoughts for a moment. "I lived with a lot of Betazoids for a while and one of their favorite things is Uttaberry pie. Real pie was something of a treat for us." Ziyal explained what she had put down.
"It's not so much that we lose half of our brain, we don't - " a focus shift " - lose brain functions. It's like - " She paused a moment, reaching for the pie, but not taking a bite yet. "It's like a radio. You know, those old radioes that rely on electromagnetic signals through the atmosphere, right? Your people - " A focus shift. " - are familiar with that technology?"
Both Val's bioforms took a bite of the pie now, a look of approval on her faces before she continued. "If a radio is turned on but there is no signal, there's noise. Static from the atmosphere. It's like that." Val explained. "I've had single training where I had to move outside of my own range, and it's like that. The world disassociates and there is an oppressive amount of static on the mind. Move back within range and the noise disappears and is replaced by proper signal."
"Only one in a thousand Dalacari who are rendered single can function with any productivity, but even that is - " She shifted focus again. It was a good thing that both of Val's forms were sitting right next to eachother so Ziyal didn't have far to shift to follow Val's speech. " - at a far reduced level. Most single Dalacari end up in a care home. Our medical and psychiatric care is very advanced as you might imagine."
Ziyal did her best to keep up, but there seemed to be no way to predict which one would be doing the speaking. "I'm not personally familiar with it, I'm a analyst not an engineer. However, I think I get your point about the static." She paused, taking a bite of the pie and thinking. "Betazoids are a telepathic species, I learned more then I ever wanted to know about their telepathy while I was with them. Among other things, I learned blocking techniques. I wonder if one of them could be useful in therapy for singles. Block the static and then teach them something so they can block the static themselves." Ziyal shook her head. "Sorry, just theorizing. I do that whenever I'm given a problem."
"We've tried that." A pause. "We as in the Dalacari scientists and medical specialists who study these things, I mean." Val finished the pie, with a soft smile. "This is good. Pleasant. Soft taste. Sweet, yet with a subtle hint of tart. You know, I'm a bit of an amateur cook myself. Entered some competitions back home. I'll have to cook you something from Dalacar some time, if and when I can get ingredients."
Ziyal nodded, "I'm not good at making food, I mostly paint or write. Now, if you can get the ingredients scanned for a replicator, then we can use the replicator here to make them for you to cook with. Alternatively, we could find some equivalents and cook using those. It's surprising how often it turns out pretty good."
"Paint?" Val replied, both bioforms perking up. "I like art in general. Personally I sing, but I love looking at paintings too. Would you show me an example?" She set the saucers for her cake slices down, attention entirely focused on her host.
Ziyal stood and walked to a piece on the wall, it was with dark colors and showed two Cardassians together in a cave with steam rising from vents. "So, this is my version of 'Lovers' by Crell. The original was destroyed on Cardassia, but images of it still survive, I was practicing with more Cardassian design and then added my own elements, like this rock formation and how the steam swirls. It's one of my favorites."
Val rose to her feet, the both of her heading over and appreciating the painting from two angles, two subtly different lightings. She remained silent for a good few moments before speaking. "I like it. It's nicely done, talented work. The mood is a bit oppressive but it fits the piece and the style. The harmonies of colors and shade really work well." she mused. "The theme is intruiging. Harmony and together-ness, but that shadow, that oppression, looming behind, reminding us that everything is transient, everything ends."
Ziyal listened, "Close, your right about the theme, but Cardassians enjoy lower light levels then standard. We don't 'read' darker colors the same way most species seem to." She tapped a button and the lights went down significantly. "This is the light level that I prefer personally, I also like it a bit warmer. For me, the standard settings on the Victory are too bright and cold. However, part of being in the Federation is learning to live with other species and norms you might not be comfortable with, and not just physically."
A semi-apologetic smile from the Dalacari. "Well, that's just what I was reading into it." She offered, examining the painting again now that it was in the intended light level. "As a being with fur, you can imagine I find the standard temperature setting on the Victory a bit warm, but you're right, that's just the price you pay for meeting and learning about all these fascinating people and cultures."
Ziyal hit the lights and they came back up, "Exactly, a Andorian would probably also find it too warm. A lot of things are about finding a balance that works between so many different species." She moved over a bit to another painting, this one was much simpler, a white canvas with a flower made from single black strokes that tapered to thin points and then highlighted with different colors. A brush of pink for the flower and green for the stem. "This one has a bit more universal appeal, a simple flower in a somewhat abstract style."
"I've always found there was something primal about that style." Val mused, examining the painting. "I like the sparse use of color, contrasting with the black. Very nice."
Ziyal smiled, "Thank you. I try to do a painting a week, although work gets in the way sometimes. I think if I wasn't in Starfleet, I'd probably be a painter. The cave not delved I guess."
"Will not yield its secrets." Val mused. "We have a similar saying, but it's about a box unopened." she smiled. "Same meaning really."
"So, what's your box that you've left unopened?" Ziyal asked.
"Personally I've only got open boxes, I think." Val mused, quietly. "Perhaps more than should be." she added. "Right now the one I'm opening is whether there's a place for Dalacari in the Federation."
Ziyal nodded, "My father opened that box, and passed on to me the job of showing others what's inside." She rubbed the empty spot where her finger was missing absentmindedly.
Val sat back down on the couch, the two forms being ever so careful not to touch, not even by accident. "That looks like there's a story there. I'd be willing to listen if you'd be willing to tell, but I can understand if you don't want to."
Ziyal looked at her hand, not realizing until that moment that she had been touching it. There was indeed a story there, a long one. The short one of her Father's work during the dominion war and how she had been dragged into it and the longer one of her family and people. She nodded, as she sat down across from Val. "I can tell you, but it's a long one."
Val smiled, both of them. "I would be honored if you would be willing. I have the time."