Obsidian Command

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Steiner: These children that you spit on - Part 2

Posted on 27 Apr 2022 @ 11:46am by Chief Deputy Marshal: Ridge Steiner - FMS & Commander Calliope Zahn

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Environmental Ring
Timeline: MD 3 1500hrs
4221 words - 8.4 OF Standard Post Measure

“Ok let’s get you all back up to the environmental level and see if we can find somebody to take care of you” Steiner ushered the five youngsters out of the Marshal’s Office. They were clean, washed, fed and had new replicated clothes. The two oldest carried bags containing more food, a change of clothes and a blanket for each of them.

Lofthammer bent down and patted the youngest, Rhaeina on the head. “You go along with the Chief now honey” The little girl had taken a shine to the big Norwegian and gave him a long sad look. “It’’s ok, we’ll see you on the Promenade tomorrow alright?”

She gave Lofthammer a solemn nod and moved over to stand by Steiner. She had not spoken a word to any of the Marshals and had only whispered a couple of times to her brother. Vrekov had said she had become like that after losing their parents.

Steiner led the group out and down the corridor to a public turbo lift. It was busy, there were a lot of people around and, as they waited for the lift, he felt a small hand take hold of his. He looked down and Rhaeina was stood next to him, looking around at the people nearby, her hand holding tightly on to his, even though she did not look up to him.

He smiled to himself and led them on to the lift when it arrived. They moved into a corner and as they rode it up Vrekov asked him. “You are not Starfleet?”

“No I’m a Federation Marshal, but I’m assigned to work with Starfleet here on the Station” Steiner explained

“What is a Marshal?” One of the other boys, Pardec, asked

“We do law enforcement in the Federation. If people are committing crimes, we investigate and arrest them, and then they go to court, to be judged to see if they are guilty of breaking the law.”

“You are like the Tal Shiar then? Vrekov stated “They arrest people too”

“Er No” Steiner shook his head. “We only arrest people who do bad things”

“That’s what the Tal Shiar do as well” Pardec added “They came and arrested our neighbors once, because they did bad things, they complained about the Senate and the Tal Shiar arrested them!”

“Yeah, but we don’t arrest people for saying things in the Federation, we recognize people’s right to have free expression”

“That does not sound like the Empire” Pardec said seriously

“No, I guess not” Steiner agreed wryly

“Why are you helping us?” Vrekov asked “Didn’t we break the law?”

“Because we also try not to punish people unless we have too and it’s better if we help you out, so that you don’t have to steal food, than if we were to just arrest anyone who was going through a bad time”

“That doesn’t sound like the Empire either” Pardec added again

“Tell me about it” Steiner shook his head smiling to himself.

The lift came to a stop and opened onto a wide concourse, beyond that was a huge vista of open grassland, trails, a stadium, swimming pool complex and woods in the distance. It was Steiner’s first visit here and it was hard to believe he was still on a space station and not on the surface of a planet. He’d seen space-based gardens, atriums and arboretums before but the sheer scale of this one was staggering.

“Ok which way do we go?” He asked the children

“The encampment is over there, around a clearing in the woods” Vrekov said, pointing to the right.

Steiner felt a tug on his hand and Rhaeina began leading the way.

They followed a trail away from the central core, it led they down towards a lake, past a boat ramp and along the lake shore, then branched off into a pine forest.

As they got closer to the woodland Steiner could see groups of people and emergency pop-up geodesic shelters dotted around in the trees. It quickly began apparent there were hundreds of people camping out here.

“You guys have any leaders or people in charge?” He asked Vrekov

“There are some people like that, they have meetings in the clearing” He pointed to an open space through the woods.

They made their way along the trail until it ended, then set off through the trees. People watched the group past, they were mostly Romulans, but Steiner spotted other species there as well. They had that watchful nervous look he had seen before, people who had experienced great trauma, had found a small piece of quiet and stability, but were not sure how long it would last.

In the clearing were several larger shelters that had been set up together and a group of people were stood by one talking, they turned to watch Steiner and the children approach. One came over to meet them.

He was an older, portly gentleman with re-taped glasses perching on a nose that hadn't stopped growing with age. His Romulan ears rose a little over where the ring of long grey hairs, surrounding a balding crown, were pulled back and tied with a bit of string. The other elders and leaders sat back and observed as he approached the uniformed man. They had grown accustomed to allowing him to speak and handle questions from officers and other curious parties. "I am Nathor." The old man offered a hand to shake, as he'd learned was common among humans. "It appears from your countenance and your company that there is something wrong." Nathor cut directly to the chase, squinting at the youth in tow. "How can I be of assistance?"

Steiner nodded to the elder Romulan, and managed to extract his hand from Rhaeina's grip to return the handshake.

"Hello, I'm Ridge Steiner, Federation..." He was going to say Federation's Marshal Service, but caught himself ".. which you... um knew and -"

"- He's Federation Tal Shiar!" Pardec interjected helpfully. "He arrests bad people!"

"No, not exactly. I'm actually Assistant Chief of Security, here on the station." Steiner explained

Nathor smiled at the scared child sympathetically and then his gaze settled to the eager young man. "The Tal Shiar do not operate here in the Federation." He worded it a little cautiously, knowing that there were some rumored to have participated in the attack on the station, and that a Tal Shiar agent could be anywhere, at any time. But they had no authority, of that he could assure. That the boy believed the Tal Shiar to oppose evil was evidence of the thoroughness of their propaganda throughout Romulan territories, he supposed. It brought out the long sorrow in his eyes despite his steady smile.

“Right” Steiner nodded to the older man, exchanging a look that they both knew the real situation. “So young Pardec and his friends here, got into a little mischief down on the Promenade level. They took some food from one of the food cart vendors.

Nothing serious and there will not be any charges. In fact, some of the vendors have agreed to employ them for a few hours each afternoon to help with some chores from now on.

We’ve identified the children; they are part of a Romulan orphan refugee group who arrived here over a month ago. It seems when your people were denied access to settle down on Obsidian their group leaders left for another resettlement planet, but were unable to take all of the children with them. So they were left here and then found their way down to the Promenade…”

"An orphan refugee group..." Nathor processed that, not knowing anything of a specifically orphan ship. "Those of us in this camp are generally politically displaced families and exiles. Most of us only arrived here less than two weeks ago. The children's ship must have been aboard the station before our own contingent and discovered the settlement permits were revoked before we did. There were several grants besides our own in the oasis regions which were retracted."

Steiner nodded and made a mental note to ask the man about that, the reasons for revocation. "Seems this little group has fallen through the cracks somewhat. Can we find them somewhere safe to stay?"

Nathor chuckled good-naturedly. "I can ask around for any extra bed rolls. They are free to stay with us here in the park, but... We have been made keenly aware that our stay here is less than ideal and quite temporary while Lieutenant Winslow is looking into the rescinded charters. If you think it best, I will ask the families present if they will take on your young charges."

"Thank you" Steiner nodded, "I think we can agree it's probably best if they stay with you. If their previous group does come back, they have a better chance of finding them here. We've sorted them out with some clothes and blankets"

He turned to the children. "Nathor here is going to find you somewhere to stay. I will try and trace the ship your other group left on, but for now it's going to be best for you to live up here."

He introduced them to Nathor. "This is Vrekov, his little sister Rhaeina, Pardec and his sister Llunye and Taiebok”

The group looked to the older man.

"Vrekov, Rhaeina, Pardec, llunye, Taiebok." Nathor repeated back, committing each to memory and peppering his expression slightly with a reflection of the personality he saw in each of their young faces. "Please, call me v-hru'diranov." He volunteered to fill the role of grandfather to each of them. "It is my dearest name. But-" He paused at the sourest looking boy among them. "Nathor is fine, should you prefer."

Talebok looked a little crestfallen. "I miss my own grandpa, he was a Star Navy Captain." But cheered up a little when he realized the honorific was not compulsory.

"Come!" The old man took the hand of the shiest child. "We will listen to where you have come." He motioned to a silver haired woman sitting on the ground working a small device that scrolled holographic text in elaborate ancient script, on which she wrote with a stylus in the air. "Elara is a scribe and collects our stories. Yours will be a part of our history now!"

Rhaeina looked up to Steiner questioningly. "It's alright, you can run along. Sven-Erik and T'sar will see you on the Promenade tomorrow ok?"

She thought for a moment and then gave him a solemn nod, before going over to take Nathor's hand.

Once Nathor had settled the children with the scribe, Steiner asked him

"So why were your resettlement requests suddenly denied?" He asked. He had asked Winslow the day he arrived, but his new boss had not known.

"Bureaucracy and politics, everywhere one goes." The old man shook his head and clicked his tongue. "The best I can understand it is that when we were extended the permission to settle beside an oasis, there were different council members in Kalara at that time. The composition of the leadership has changed and they have decided on some sort of invented technicality that the original agreement was invalid. Lieutenant Winslow has made promises to get to the bottom of the matter for us. And so," He shrugged with both of his hands up. "We wait."

"Huh" Steiner nodded "That must be very frustrating for you all and as pleasant as it is here, this is no place to live permanently. Could you show me around? I'd like to learn some more about your situation"

Nathor looked divided. "I hope you don't take offense, Lieutenant, but many here do not trust law enforcement. They are political refugees and some have been political prisoners or lost loved ones to brutality and executions. If they find you looking into their tents and personal spaces, they may be concerned you are of a mind to cause them more difficulties."

Steiner nodded. "No offense taken. I can understand how some may feel. But here in the Federation, our laws are there to protect people and their basic, fundamental rights. We don't use laws and power to persecute. I'm not here to invade anyone's' privacy.

I brought the children back because I care about what happens to them.
I work with Lieutenant Winslow, whom you know, I'd just like to learn more about your situation, so I can help if I can as well."

He held his hands out and smiled "And I promise no poking in tents"

"I will accompany you." Nathor agreed, although with obvious concern. "Just a moment." He hobbled over to a certain stool surrounded by a bedroll and a suitcase and picked up a knapsack of his most important possessions, being wise enough not to let them out of his sight among his sometimes desperate neighbors. Rejoining the law man, he motioned for him to go ahead. "Lead on and satisfy yourself with a look."

Steiner watched the Romulan collect his backpack and recalled the children had told him others were taking their rations, which was why they had gone down to the Promenade looking for food. There seemed to be a bit of pilfering problem developing.

They set off around the clearing, Steiner walking slowly, partly for the comfort of the older man and also because he figured striding around, looking purposeful, would perhaps make some of the refugees a little uncomfortable. The edge of the trees appeared to be a popular spot and there were a large number of the shelters set up around the far side of the clearing. Mostly populated by family groups it seemed. Adults and children watched them approach. Their glances were sometimes friendly, sometimes concerned, mostly questioning and anxious. He nodded and smiled, while Nathor exchanged words with some of the people.

Taking a path through the trees, there were more and more of the shelters and people. Steiner had been keeping a rough count but after ten minutes he’d seen at least two hundred people and there were more shelters wherever he looked. There were literally hundreds of refugees here.

There were some piles of trash and debris back here, and one area looked like it had been marked out as a latrine. Neither of which were sanitary or acceptable. There were also a couple of fire pits, with the remains of burnt logs.

They passed a group of younger adults, somewhere between fifteen and twenty, mostly males. They watched Steiner and Nathor with equal distain, ignoring Steiner’s smile and friendly head nod and a couple made some muttered comments in Romulan, seemingly directed at the older man.

Nathor carried on but it was obvious from his expression that he was both hurt and concerned for the youths.

Such groups could turn into troublemakers Steiner knew. A lack of purposeful activity, a lack of hope, concern about their future and any perceived grievance could turn them ugly quickly.

There were a couple of other groups who seemed to be keeping themselves part from the rest, their shelters circled together around a smaller clearing or in one case what looked like a group of retired and disabled Star Navy Veterans, who even had an old Romulan banner hung from a tree. Another group appeared to be sick or injured people, clustered around a larger tent, with some others tending to them.

They passed a replicator station. There was a long line of people queued up waiting for meals and water, again there was more trash and debris.

Circling back towards the clearing they passed a couple of larger tents, this seemed to be some kind of ad hoc market, there were a couple of stalls and a group of people bartering between themselves, trading what few possessions they had. He also noticed three burly men, who seemed to be keeping an eye on things, not in a menacing way, they seemed more protective.

Steiner caught a certain smell and made a beeline to one tent, forcing Nathor to redirect and pick up his heels a little. Some enterprising refugee had set up a café!

“If I’m not mistaken that’s some kind of coffee?” He asked an older Romulan woman behind a table with some sort of samovar looking urn and some small mugs.

“It is Romulan j’hanna bean tea” She explained. “We can replicate the beans with our ration allowance and my husband roasts them,” She pointed to a small barrel like device on the table “Then we brew them. This was my grandmother’s urn, we make it in the traditional style, would you like some?”

“Yea, thank you” Steiner agreed.

The woman filled two of the two of the small mugs from the samovar, the steaming liquid was a dark earthy green color, pungent and aromatic. “Would you like hot spices?” She held up a shaker.

“My first time, so maybe just a little” Steiner replied. He’d tried Vulcan spice tea before, that could be pretty fiery sometimes.

She smiled and shook just a few spice flakes into one of the mugs, the other got a hefty shake, then she handed them over.

“What do I owe you?” Steiner asked, suddenly realizing he probably had no way to pay the lady.

“You are with Nathor, this one is on us” She smiled and nodded to Nathor.

“Thank you” Steiner smiled and handed Nathor his mug.

Lifting his own, he breathed in the pungent steam, the spices adding a note of heat. “Bit of a raktajno guy myself, but this smells good” He tried a sip, it was hot, strong, a little sweet, a sort of mix between very dark expresso and some kind of herbal tea, the spices gave it a little kick. It was unusual but actually quite pleasant.

He blew on it to cool it some more for a better mouthful. He caught Nathor watching him.

“Hey, look, where I come from and in my line of business, good ..er bean tea… is a daily essential” He grinned.

"I imagine your alertness to be highly prized," Nathor said, turning the cup to take a sip.

"It is when I'm awake!" Steiner grinned back

They walked over to an open space, Steiner working on his brew. “So, here’s what I see. You’ve a few hundred people, with more arriving weekly. And, at the moment, no place to go until they resolve the resettlement issue with the Obsidian authorities.

Now, when I was young, my Grandfather, would take my brother and I out on camping trips. It was great, but it’s no way to live long term. As nice as it here on the environmental level it’s not set up for this. You’ve a trash and sanitation problem, looks like only one replicator station, no real medical care, nothing for the kids and we can’t have people cutting down the trees for firewood.

Socially, you seem to have several different factions emerging, some of those young adults could cause problems if they aren’t engaged and I know you have some issues with people taking things that don’t belong to them. The children told me people took their rations and I saw you didn’t want to leave that behind.” He pointed his chin at Nathor’s backpack.

“Then there are the guys keeping things peaceful at the market.

You need some help Nathor…”

"Hm." Nathor hummed a note of thought as he drank the tea and then sighed. "Our settlement plans were in place months ago, even before the Station was reinstated in its orbit of the planet." Nathor paused as he often did to allow space for the incredulous report of such a feat. Starfleet seemed accustomed to such bizarre acts of science and nature, but it was hardly an everyday occurrence to Nathor to drop sizable ships and stations into void-pockets and fish them out again.

"According to our contacts on Obsidian, it was still in place when we boarded the USS Jupiter, but upon our arrival we discovered it had been revoked. When we settled on this temporary solution, we thought perhaps a few days or a week might go by. There were one hundred and seventy three of our number aboard the USS Jupiter. it is nearly double now by some accounts. I can only be sure of those who arrived from the Jupiter. Others may have heard of the settlement or been told some time ago and arranged their own travel. We had hoped by now to have arrived at our new home, and held a convention to establish an interim government of our own, but we have only the circle of family elders.

Some are friendly to us, others indifferent, still others..." he motioned with his cup back at the troublesome youth, "Do not recognize any authority in us. This has led to much confusion and disorganization," Nathor admitted.

Steiner nodded “And, it’s going to get worse if we don’t have a little less confusion and more organization. I can work on getting you some of the basics, more replicator stations; sanitation and washing facilities; some recyclers for the trash; maybe some heaters if needed.

I can also speak with Medical to find out if they can start a clinic up here or arrange for people to go and see them a couple of times a week.

I can hopefully help provide those things. However, the organization and management aspect will work much better if it comes from within.

Last thing you all need is people like me telling you what the rules are…”

He was sensitive to the old man's earlier words. Refugees from a heavy handed regime might not respond well to rules and restrictions, even from friendly forces with good intentions

He let that sink in and followed up with. “Perhaps you could get your family elders and representatives of some of the other groups together?

Form some version of the interim government you mentioned, establish a council or leadership team?

Set some guidelines for the way you want to live here until the situation on Obsidian is resolved.

I can also help with the security aspects, people should not be afraid of having their possessions taken. I’ll talk with Lieutenant Winslow about providing some patrols and maybe establish a full time Security Post here.

But this needs to be a cooperative effort, I’ll need good people from you to assist the patrols, to go around with them, establish trust, help sort things out, resolve issues. Neither of us want any confrontations between Security and your people. Find me the right people and we can perhaps train and equip them to do the job themselves.

We can also work on getting some bigger temporary structures, somewhere for you to establish your council, welcome new refugees, safely store possessions and maybe something like a school for the younger kids and teenagers.”

He sipped his bean tea and let Nathor think things over.

"Hm, yes. We already have our circle of elders. I will see who outside of the SS Jupiter passengers are willing to join us. I am sure, however, that there are many who will not participate. And to be plain, there will be some that will not wish to join us even on the surface, should they disagree with our chosen leadership. Perhaps there may be some of whom we will not agree to their citizenship with us... Speaking in the hope that Lieutenant Winslow is successful, even after the majority of us have settled, myself included, you may find yourself with the remainder."

Steiner nodded. “I understand. I’m not expecting it to be easy going. People are upset and worried and frustrated, and probably feeling more than bit lost. That doesn’t lead to sound decision making. But I think I can trust you to do the best you can to bring people together.

As for those that do not want to join in, that’s ok, we don’t demand total compliance in the Federation, it’s alright to disagree and not participate, if you’re peaceful about it.

If, or hopefully when, you get your settlement permit reinstated then you’ll be able to set up your own system for accepting people. Any that don’t fit we can help work on their own settlement plans.”

Nathor nodded his agreement as he sipped his own hot drink.

Steiner finished his tea. “That’s really pretty good” He smiled and offered Nathor his hand again. “It was good meeting you. I hope we can work together to find a solution to this situation. I’ll be in touch. If you need me in the meantime, there’s a comm-panel on the Replicator station, just have them contact me and I’ll come up or send somebody.”

Returning the customary human handshake, Nathor said plesantly, "I will contact you with a list of our eldership names and will update you as to the young charges. Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Steiner."

"Call me Ridge" Steiner smiled. "I'll see you soon Nathor"

 

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