Title: The Camaraderie of War
Summary: During the early stages of the Romulan War, Captain Erika Hernandez of the Columbia and Commander Shran of the Kumari bond over their experiences, and their mutual friend, Captain Archer of the Enterprise.

This was a roleplay between myself and the infinitely talented fameanon on Tumblr. So while I have done the setting and the connections in this story, half of what is written are her words. Enterprise roleplayers are always welcome over on the USS Tumblr! This was longer in draft, but with some clever editing (and to help it make sense) I've cut certain bits out. Hope my lovely Enterprise followers enjoy this trek into Erika and Shran.

The voice that she had heard throughout the station for the last week was suddenly right behind her. Somehow, Erika had avoided Shran at every turn, and she wasn't entirely certain how. Now the three flagships of the Allied fleet were all in for maintenance at once, and the three Captains had been trying to arrange time together since arriving, however, it had been more difficult than imagined. As the Andorian caught up with her she slowed her pace in the direction of Columbia's docking berth, and the myriad collection of small modifications that she would no doubt find on her desk once she arrived there.

"Captain, join me for an Andorian Ale?" Shran started, she smiled politely with a nod "Don't mind me, I'm just trying to get my ship together so I'll be top notch for our mission. My crew is rusty! I'm beginning to wonder if I have Andorians or Ferengi under my command." He smirked, and although she didn't get the reference, she understood it to be a mild insult to some of his less ready crew. Apparently though, the stab of worry she had hoped to disguise had shown through in her face. "Not to worry Captain, I'll be ready, I'm beginning battle drills in the morning. That's what I get for letting Andoria put the Kumari on patrol, in the dead lands."

At that she burst out laughing, understanding the feeling of being put on a useless mission when there was a war to be fought. She remembered Shran's surprise when Columbia had been the first ship to pick up their hail when they returned to what was now Allied space. He had immediately pledged his ship and crew to the war effort, and privately she was enthused to have someone with his combat experience on their side. As they approached the Columbia's docking port she turned and looked up at him. "Shran, why don't you come over to the Columbia for some dinner, bring some Andorian ale, I'll invite Jon and we can do some… battle planning. I also want to hear about your stories about Jon. I've only heard the stories from his side."

Shran smiled at her, and nodded. "I'll be over in five of your minutes. It's about time I get to set the records straight, knowing the pink skin sense of humour as I do, I'm betting he only told you half the truth."

"Oh Shran, I thought you knew him better than that. I'm sure your stories will match up." She laughed, and then realised she had absolutely no idea what she could offer Shran to eat that he would enjoy. Since he had spent plenty of time aboard Enterprise she was sure he had a favourite already. "Do you have an requests of chef for dinner?"

"I'm partial to that cow meat Archer serves…I think he calls it steak. We don't have anything like that on Andoria, and it's been a while." He chuckled a deep and throaty laugh before putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. "And don't be surprised if our stories don't match up….I may look a little better in them when I tell them, depending on how much ale we drink, I may look a lot better in them" Erika couldn't help but laugh at that, even as she shook her head.

"Steak it is. With mashed potatoes because that's how I like it. And you looking better in your stories..." She trailed off and watched the tall Captain turn back to her. She smiled a sarcastic smile and continued "...would not surprise me. Regardless of species, men are always the same, trying to impress the pretty lady."

Shran's grin grew wide and his antenna both perked straight. "May that be a trait of my gender that never dies, Captain, pretty ladies should always be wooed with good stories by great men."

"I don't think it would be something that leaves your gender, Shran. It seems to be a universal trait. I've not met a man who doesn't like tall tales." She laughed as he winked and continued on from the docking port. She told the young security officer on the Columbia side of the port that she was expecting Commander Shran, and that he should be shown to the Captain's Mess when he arrived.

She strolled through the decks of her ship, noticing parts and bulkheads that still needed repairing from the battle damage they had experienced, she made a mental note of their locations so she could remind Graylock of what needed doing still. By the time she'd reached her private dining room she had thoroughly lost herself in thought. She stood and looked out of the viewport, and almost jumped when a voice came behind her. She hadn't even heard the door open.

"Thanks for inviting me over, there is nothing more pathetic than an old warrior drinking alone, because his crew is sub-par…" Shran frowned and shook his head before putting one of the bottles he had brought along with him on the table. "But enough of that, I'm going enjoy dinner with a lovely lady this evening with a lovely ship."

"There aren't many more pathetic things, I agree. I'm still quite a young warrior, only 5 battles under my belt so far." Erika smiled as she thought about her battle record so far, she wasn't necessarily proud that she had slipped into being a battle captain so easily, but proud that she had brought her ship and crew home with minimal casualties. "No losses. I'm certain your crew will improve in time. That's the way they always start, isn't it." Erika tapped the two glasses on the table and nodded to the seat on the other side of the table.

Shran poured her drink first, and then his, and took his seat, "Five battles," he grinned, "You are making me feel old. I have lost count of mine, but." he sighed, "Plenty of losses in there too. I'm still alive, so not the big loss. Let's just say the Kumari isn't my first ship." he grinned, and held up his glass to her, "To Captain Hernandez, may she never taste of the bitter pill of loss."

Erika lifted her glass in response to Shran's toast, inclining her head in agreement as the blue liquid pleasantly burnt her throat as she drank. "Well, Starfleet hasn't been involved in too many wars, and the Columbia has only been out of spacedock for 8 months. Enterprise is the flagship" She nodded to him with a smile, remembering the friendship Shran had with Jonathan, "But of course, you know all about our sister ship."

Shran kicked back his drink and his antenna twirled for a second, "That I do, I never thought I'd say this, but…I've missed Archer, hell, I've even miss Soval that old son of a Vulcan." he grinned, "Don't worry, Erika, if I can call you that…" his eyebrows shifted upward, "You'll see plenty of battles out here in the deep black. I'm sure Archer told you all about what he's encountered so far. Take it from an old space god like me, there is always someone looking for a fight." she felt his eyes studying her face, she tried to fight the minor discomfort she felt and instead focused on returning his stare. "And if I were you, I'd stay clear of the Orion sector…they'd sell you in a heartbeat." he grinned, and visibly relaxed, pouring himself and her another drink.

"Oh I've heard about the Orions, and plenty about Jon's battles out here." Erika frowned just a minute then laughed as she thought about what Shran had just said. "I didn't think anyone missed Soval. He's been helpful, though, and has definitely done a lot for peace between your two peoples since the unfortunate business before the alliance was signed." She held up the glass to make a second toast "To… the United Alliance, hopefully sending the Romulans scarpering back into their space."

Shran lifted his glass and clinked it to hers, "To kicking some Romulan ears." he grinned and downed his drink in one swallow, his antenna swirled again, and he refilled their glasses. "In my younger days the only thing I hated more than a Vulcan was a Romulan, but the Orions'," his face twisted with visible disgust "I don't even count them as being worth hating." he huffed, "So, what's going on with Romulans? I've gotten only sketchy information so far." he laughed, "Not that I need a reason to blast them, but I'm curious what they are up to."

"From briefings we've been given, the Romulans are unhappy at the peace between United Earth, the Vulcans, the Andorians and the Tellarites. Not to mention all the other allies that have joined us." Erika drank again and smiled at the gentle burn down her throat. She tried to remember all of the information about the Romulans that she'd been given over the last few months, but knowing that she wouldn't be able too. "They attacked a Tellarite colony and two cargo ships, and several other attacks that I don't always remember."

"Peace is bad for business, Erika," he fixed her with an intense gaze, one that told her he had strong feelings about the Romulans. "Romulans," his eyes narrowed as the anger and distrust rose in his voice, "Think the entirety of space belongs to them, and we lesser being should roll over and give it to them. They are with war, how Tellarites are with arguing, they don't need a reason." he shook his head, "I should have known." he kicked back his drink again and refilled both their glasses, "So how did a nice woman like you end up on a ship like this?" He leaned forward looking at the room around them, then at her, "Are you the explorer Archer is or do you have some other reason?" he smiled in a way she wasn't quite sure if he was mocking her or thought highly of explorers.

Erika smiled, sitting back in her chair and thinking over his question. She had spoken in depth with Jonathan about her thoughts on Starfleet, but she didn't really know Shran that well. However the drink was telling her to go for it.

"I'm an explorer, or at least, that was why I joined Starfleet when it was chartered. Right now I captain a warship, in a few weeks or months, whenever this war is over, I'd like to be an explorer again." She laughed all of a sudden and thought to her home. "My brother is an accountant. Always telling me I should have followed in his footsteps."

Shran leaned over, and patted the table, "You'll get back there, you and Archer both." he waved his hands around in the air and for a moment his antennae were off centre, giving him a slightly manic look, "Pink skins like you and Archer need to be explorers and," he pointed to himself, "Old war-horses like me need to help you by fighting the wars. We'll kick Romulan ass and have you back on the path of finding out what's behind the next star before you can blink." He had a private grin playing behind his eyes, "I keep my word, Captain." he nodded, and refilled their drinks.

Erika laughed and shook her head at him "You can call me Erika, Shran. We're of a rank, no need for formalities." She watched him another moment and knew that he was haunted, in many ways, by his battles, however much he tried to hide it. But talk of the war would come later. Right now, she was more interested in the man in front of her. The man who had so gained the admiration and respect of Jonathan, and many others in Starfleet. "Shran. I've heard from Jon and his crew about an incident with one of your antenna. Care to tell me your side of that tale?"

Shran looked deep into his glass, he swirled it around like a sacred liquid, "My…Mate was killed, she wanted me to avenge her death." he ground his teeth and took in a deep breath shooting his drink, "Archer did the right thing." he bit from between his teeth,"At the time, I wanted him to kill me, or let me kill that…thing, but" he leaned back, placing his hands on his stomach, he sucked air between his teeth, "He beat me fair and square in the battle, and as I saw the swing coming I thought might be my release from this life." He threw his head back and laughed, "Archer cut my antennae off, and I think it hurt his pink skin more than it did me." He looked at Erika and filled their glasses, "To Archer, the fairest pink skin, any skin, I've ever known."

Erika smiled a little at Shran's story. She hadn't known the details, only that Jon had felt sick after their fight. She drank after repeating his toast, then suddenly remembered. "That's what I was doing. Inviting Jon to join us" She stood up and walked to the comm-panel and called up to the Bridge. "Sidra, can you put me through to Captain Archer on Enterprise."

She stood slightly off to the side, where there was a screen she bent in front of, smiling a little as his face filled the screen, it was clear he assumed she was alone from the grin on his face. "Erika, you are looking well," he said, just a hint of lust beneath his words, it had been a few weeks since they'd actually spoken face to face.

"Thanks Jon." She laughed a little, feeling like a school girl at his compliment, and then smiled again. "An old friend and I would like to invite you to join us for dinner. Captains' mess on Columbia, chef should be ready to serve in about 30 minutes."

She watched as Jon processed her small hint that she wasn't alone, and his smile just grew. She shook her head almost imperceptibly, but it was clearly enough for him to rethink what he had been about to say. "I have a few things to do first, then I'll be over. It would be nice to have a change of scenery. I'll see you then. "

She nodded and closed the channel, turning back to Shran with a self-conscious smile. "He'll be here soon" she walked to the cupboard at the back of the room and pulled out another glass, setting it on the table beside the two already half full glasses. "This is strong stuff." She grinned, picking up the glass and knocking back a little more.

Shran grinned, she had become more used to the expression on his face, despite how pained it sometimes looked, she realised it was a genuine smile from him. He indicated the bottle as he polished off his glass "I was going for the long haul, get tight too fast and the night's ruined." he poured another glass, "So," she could see the wheels turning in his mind before he began to speak, "You and Jon….what do you pink skins call it…a couple?" He leaned back, studying Erika in a way she wasn't used too.

She stopped mid drink and just stared at Shran for a second. Wondering what she should answer. What she and Jon had was casual, and they had kept it quiet. As far as she was concerned, it didn't matter to anyone else. Never before had she been asked as outright as Shran had. She felt the colour rising in her cheeks as she answered. "We are… very good friends." She settled on, wondering if that sounded as much like a confirmation as she had imagined it did.

Shran laughed and indicated her cheeks, "Pink skin is really pink skin." he waved his gloved hand around, "You're very good friends. Good enough friends, you wouldn't date someone else though I'm guessing." he grinned and sipped his beverage, seeming to take a perverse pleasure in her discomfort. "Come on, Erika, you can tell me or I can ask you out and that will tell me." his antennae twirled around as he grinned and sipped his drink.

She knew that her face was red, and wondered if Shran knew that was a sign of embarrassment in Humans. "Jon and I have a…." She thought for the appropriate word to explain what they were. "We're a complicated couple, I suppose. Since he came back from the Expanse." She took another sip of her drink and looked out of the viewport. "You're right, I wouldn't date someone else. I'd hope he wouldn't either."

Shran nodded, "It's good to know, Erika." he winked in a slightly flirty way before taking another drink, "The expanse changes you a bit, it takes some time to clear your head after that kind of an experience." he stood and stretched his legs. "Space will change you, Erika, I can remember when I was a fresh blood, who I am now doesn't even look the same. It made me different, in some ways better. I used to hate off-worlders. Oh and don't get me started on Vulcans." he frowned, and nodded, "but you live and learn, and you learn there are far worse things out there than what you think to hate." he turned and looked at her, "Not that I get the hate vibe from you, pink skins don't have that so much. Yes, some of your people do, but it isn't rampant like in my race. We are born with the desire to fight." he shrugged, "My people wanted to hang me for making peace with the Vulcans. I just got sick of all the lying on both sides."

"I think that's a natural response. Nobody likes being lied to." Erika got up and followed him, leaning against the viewport and looking back at Shran, thinking about the past. "Once upon a time… my race were not unlike Andorians. Hate and prejudice was rampant. After first contact, our race began to expand past our preconceptions." She suddenly sat down with a frown. "I've known Jon for a long time. Almost 20 years now. You're right, space has changed him, a lot, but not necessarily in a bad way. He had a naivety about him, about space, and that's something I haven't come out here with because he has shown me that it isn't all good things out here. It's shitty and it's dirty and you have to make the hard choices." She trailed off and thought for a minute, then looked at Shran again taking another sip. "But everything out here is easier for me, because he did it first, and he's always at the end of the comm channels if I need his advice."

Shran nodded, "That's true now, but in a year's time, he'll comm you for advice. Because you are going in a different direction, you'll see and do different things before he does them, even though you are both in space at the same time." he laughed and indicated himself, "And you'll both know I'm on the Comm at the other end. Who would have thought that two years ago for either of you." He leaned against the wall, "Am I the first off-worlder you've really sat down with and talked to? Strange experience isn't it?"

Erika sat and thought about Shran's pronouncement about how space would change her and Jonathan, she had always known that one day their jobs would probably pull them apart, but she had tried not to think about it, and just enjoyed the time they had. She put it back behind her mind and focused on his next statement. "I've spoken to a few Vulcans, but I don't think I'd ever chat with them the way I am with you." She smiled and shook her head. "I wouldn't say strange, a new experience, definitely. I'm finding I enjoy your company though. You have an odd way about you Shran. But you're direct, and you're honest, and I like that."

"You never will chat with a Vulcan like you are with me, Erika, that's the point of Vulcans. They are so far removed from people like us, they don't know how to talk, to really talk to anyone." he looked at her face, and she was certain he could see the melancholy that was settling on her shoulders as she thought about everything that might happen in the future. "You pink skins taught me if there is an emotion we can learn from you, it's hope. I always thought it was worm shit to think that way, but…." he bobbled his head back and forth, in an odd combination of both a nod and a head shake "I might think there is something to it. I didn't think we could slap the Xindi down, and save your planet, but Archer and his boy scout hope thing…the point is, no matter how many light years you have under your belt that seem like nothing is going to work out…" he shrugged, "You pink skins seem to pull it off anyway." He smacked his lips and turned away pouring another drink, he hated getting all mushy like that.

Erika nodded, smiling ever so slightly at Shran's characterisation of Vulcans, and finding herself agreeing completely, though Jon kept telling her his science officer was different, she hadn't seen that for herself yet. "Someone, I don't remember who anymore, said 'there is no such faith as strong as hope'." She smiled, remembering the nights in the 602 club that all the trainees had spent, talking about what they wanted to get out of Starfleet. What they hoped to learn from all the other species in the galaxy. She was fairly sure that was where she had first heard that quote. "That man was correct. As a species, we like to hope. We prepare for the worst, for deaths and losses and wars, but we always hope that the good will happen, and that peace will find a way." She looked again out at the stars beyond the window, then half smirked back at Shran. "Jon is sometimes the most hopeful, but others, he's hopeless. That's when people need to step in." She took her glass and swigged the last of it, then holding her arm out for Shran to fill her up again. "Tell me about your ship?"

"The Kumari is a war-ship, we are a warrior race. It's functional and tough. Not a lot of what you pink skins have, comforts. We are out for months and sometimes years at a time." He chuckled as he refilled her glass, handing it to her as he continued, "So you'd think we would have some comforts, but no." Shran trailed off, and she wondered if he was thinking what he could tell her, then he looked at Erika and frowned into his glass, "Yes, Erika, it's a warship built to destroy things, not to explore. My home world is beautiful though." he grinned thinking of the planet, "A bit cold I guess for you pink skins, but." he nodded, "when the sun reflects into the sky the aura of colours…" he grinned, "Well you and Archer will have to see it for yourselves after this Romulan mess is cleared up."

Erika listened to Shran's description of his ship, she was unsurprised that the Andorian battleship had few comforts for her crew. Andorians' seemed like a race that, in general, tried to avoid creature comforts and anything that might take their minds off the battle or the issue at hand. "Were you always due to be out for so long?" She was curious, if the Andorians had always known they would be away from home. She wondered if her crew understood how long they'd be away from Earth at times as well.

When Shran began talking about his planet, she noticed a streak of pride in his voice, and she knew that he was clearly glad to be talking about his planet. "Sounds like a beautiful planet. Are there many mountains to climb?" She was already planning her next vacation there, and if she could take Jon along with her it would be all the better.

He nodded, "We were on deep patrol, we were scheduled to be out for four years." He smirked, "not that plans always go down that way. Wars, other missions, you will know how it goes." he poured himself a drink, and offered her another as well, "We have amazing Mountains, and ice walls." he rumbled pleasantly, "I'll have to take you and Archer on an ice climb. It makes your earth's Everest look like a school outing." he grinned proudly, and she felt a slight twinge of jealousy. Out of all of her hobbies, climbing had always been her favourite.

"I heard how it goes from Jon," She nodded, taking another sip of her ale and slowly looked off in the distance, imagining ice climbing on Andoria. "We need to end this war, so we can go climbing." She stood up again and went to the door, asking how long for dinner. "Chef normally gets a bit more notice when I'm inviting guests." She smiled apologetically. "I've heard about your campaigns against the Romulans and the Tellarites, but only hear'say and rumours from my senior officers."

"I wouldn't worry about it, Erika, I'm in no hurry. My crew is running drills and they know the consequences if I'm disobeyed. So when the food comes it comes, this is the longest time off I've had for a while." he grinned, "The rumours are probably all true," he laughed, "If they are bad, if they are good, " he shook his hand side to side, "Perhaps not." he smirked, "Yeah, Andoria has been at war for as long as I can remember, and I've had my fair share of battles. If you heard about the time I tricked the Romulans and Tellarites to destroy each other's ship, instead of mine, which was leaking plasma and in no shape to fight. That's true. If you heard about me killing the civilian population of a Tellarite outpost," he slammed his fist on the table, his antennae back against his skull, "that is a lie. Propaganda spread by Romulan spies." he chuckled mirthlessly, "history is written by the winners, and I intend on that bit of history not to be written." He calmed and turned around, "The Romulans have no honour."

Erika watched his outburst soundlessly understanding the anger when lies were spread by those in charge and opposing entities. She had seen the effect of the lies and propaganda on Earth after the Xindi attack, and she was certain that she would see her fair share of lies and slander over her career. "'No honour' That's an almost Klingon statement." She observed, "but you're absolutely correct. Very few people remember the losers after a war. The Romulans… I'm confused about them. Apparently nobody has ever seen them."

Shran turned to Erika, a serious look on his face "If you think Andorians' have some xenophobic tendencies, we are nothing compared to Romulans. We are as open as you humans in comparison to them. There are... rumors… they come from another race that left their planet a long time ago, but." he chuckled, "they are only rumors. Romulans want to conquer the entire galaxy, but no one knows why, given their view of anyone who is not them… I'd say it is so they can get rid of everything that isn't them." He balled his fist against the table, and she watched him as he tried to reign in his anger, "You said I sounded like a Klingon earlier, well, I've fought and drank with Klingons. Mark my words, Erika, you'll be friends easier with the Klingons than you ever would a Romulan." He nodded at her, his antennae forward and earnest, "Klingons have a sense of honor, oh sure they will kill you but," he shrugged and laughed, "If you do right by them, then it's just different. I saved a Klingon's life once, by accident I'll admit. But he stuck by me until he felt he paid his life debt." he sat down and threw his feet up on a stool, "We all have more in common with them than we do Romulans."

Erika inclined her head, willing to accept that Shran had far more experience with other species than she did. She had never really had an opinion on Andorians, having never met more than a handful. She liked to think she was open-minded, but there were rumours and innuendoes about almost every species she had heard about. "I know that the Klingons have a very strong sense of honour and respect. They live by their code, right?" She was interested about Shran's experiences in the galaxy.

"Yes, Klingons operate under a strict system of honour, Erika. They have large family estates, and are governed by a kind of clan system, with the heads of houses acting as a counsel. I'm not expert in their system, having only met a handful of Klingons that it didn't end up with people dead." he smirked, taking another drink.

"A very interesting system" she nodded, sitting down and studying Shran from her position at the table "Shran, answer me this, if you can. Do you ever think all these wars are pointless?"

Shran picked his teeth. He heard her ask about war and his antennae fell with a sigh he stood and joined Erika at the table, "Erika, you don't know how pointless I think it all is any more." he frowned, and looked at his hands. "These hands are responsible for so many deaths. There is blood in shades of colours you wouldn't believe. It's part of the reason I negotiated peace with the Vulcans over Wehtahn. There is too much blood shed, too many lies." he pushed himself up suddenly and started pacing. "I can remember a time, when I was a much younger man, I lived and breathed for the battle, but you can only lose so many friends, loved ones, and so many parts of yourself before you grow weary." He looked over at her from his position by the viewport. "Even at that my pink skin friend, some wars need to be fought, and if I never see peace in my lifetime, perhaps my children might, if I ever have one." a half grin washed over his face, "What we do now will make or destroy the future, Erika, and if I have to fight a dozen more wars to make sure there is a future. I will."

"War is a messy business, and honestly, I don't think Humanity was prepared for this war, I don't think the Vulcans were either" Erika remained at the table but followed Shran's movements around the room, understanding wordlessly that the question had gotten under the elder commanders' skin. "For too long we've focused on petty squabbles, and Earth wasn't involved in what happened with the Xindi. Jonathan took that one on his own shoulders, and Earth owes you a debt for helping him with that mission." She sighed and hung her head, she hated the knowledge that much of what was happening now, what would happen in the years to come, was because of a first step into peace amongst the races in this part of the galaxy, and that was largely thanks to Earth. It was a point that she was both proud of, and utterly terrified of. "Now, we finally took one step towards peace, and the Romulan's come and take us back into a state of open warfare against a race we know next to nothing about!"

"The Romulans don't want to know anything about you or me!" he said, louder than she expected, "They only want us dead, or under their rule. That's why this war needs to be fought." he pointed out to space, "It needs to be fought so they can tuck their tails and go back to Romulans space. If they want to expand, let them expand in the other direction." he growled.

He paced, clearly trying to calm himself, "Archer would have done for me what I did for him, and earth." he waved it off, "The older I get the more I realize the closer we stick together the fewer wars there will be. There will always be someone who wants something, but together…" he nodded, "They won't be so quick to pull triggers."

"Maybe it's the explorer in me, but I'd still like to know more about the Romulans' than the information we have." She fought the urge to pace herself, knowing that her mess room was far too small for it. "Once it's over, I hope that we can maybe initiate some kind of peaceful contact with them, so we could get to know them outside of this xenophobic mess they have gotten themselves into."

Despite the tone of the conversation Erika smiled, hearing an Andorian talk about peace as expressively as Shran had done gave her hope for the future of the galaxy. If a man who had seen more battles than birthdays could believe that peace was the way forward, she was certain that others would in time too. "I agree, in the 90 years since warp drive was discovered on Earth, we've eliminated war and poverty. We're a peace-loving people at heart when we want to work together. Now that Earth is fully united we have more influence and more stability in the galaxy, and I'm sure that if other races embraced the same ideals of peaceful exploration and discovery, maybe in the future there will be no need for war."

Shran laughed openly, "Peaceful contact with the Romulans." He slapped his leg, "Your pink skin sense of humor." he shook his head as antennae went forward, and he grinned at her. "Wipe that out of your pink head, Erika." he pointed his face turning serious, "Romulans are death on raptor wings, they aren't your friends, and unless some miracle of chance happens, they never will be. Not every race is like you pink skins. You turned your culture around, don't be naive enough to think that can happen with them. They might pretend so you guard goes down, but." he chuckled mirthlessly, "They will kill your children while they shake your hand."

He shook his head and sighed, "I hope there is a future with no more war, but it will be here and now where we sow that seed, by showing them this far and no father crawl back into your cave and stay there." he growled and turned away, his head dropped, and Erika felt hers drop alongside.

She was slightly taken aback by his harsh words, she had always believed that even in war there was a chance for meaningful contact, and she was unsure if she was ready to really believe that there was no chance of that with the Romulans, but she had certainly known that in the history of most planets, there wasn't the hope for the future that Humanity had had, and it generally took a lot longer than a century.

"Do you honestly believe that?" She had to ask, because if he truly believed there was no hope for peace at the end of the war, what were they fighting for. Just to drive the Romulans away? Back into their own space, and then hope that they didn't decide in a decade, or a century, that Earth and it's allies were easy pickings again.

Shran's face softened, "Erika," he said in a kind voice, and she realised that he was being harsh to try and shed her of the last few naive notions she had. "I do. You can think me a crazy old xenophobe if you want to." he tilted his head, "But it's the truth. I'm not saying that every romulan deserves death, I'm saying their government can't be trusted. I am saying they want universal domination, and I think they are willing to do whatever it takes" he grinned for a minute, "Erika, tell me are there lengths you aren't willing to go to to achieve a goal?" He threaded his fingers together in front of him and smiled. "Think of the deepest goal of your heart, and imagine you can have it if you killed…" he shrugged passively, "100 people, in cold blood. Do you do it?" He smirked, "If you are a Romulan, you do. Imagine that, and you know all you need to know about Romulans. Plain and simple."

She imagined how desperate, or selfish, or ignorant a culture would have to be to be that self-centred, she thought back to the first time an enemy had been destroyed on her orders, and the sick feeling she had had to try and shake for days afterwards. She knew it was part of war, and that she would need to harden up, fast, and after that encounter she had. But to kill in cold blood, she didn't think it was something she could ever do. After a few seconds she spoke again. "There are things I want out of life. Things I want desperately. Some of them we have discussed tonight. But to go so far as to kill people, for one selfish goal of mine. No, that's not something I could do." She finished her glass and put it on the table again. The alcohol going to her head, but she was determined to make it through this conversation. It was giving her as many insights into Shran's psyche as she was sure he was gaining from her.

Shran nodded gravely, "That's a whole culture." He picked up both bottles, they were empty. He looked at Erika. "Well, Erika, it's getting late, and the bottles are empty. I have drills to run in the morning." He held out his black gloved hand and stood straight before her. "It's been a privilege to share this time with you. Think about what I said, and we'll talk more I'm sure." he pressed both of his hands over hers, giving her a firm warrior's shake. "It's good to know I'll have people like you to watch my back. Tell your pink skinned mate I expect to see him soon" he winked and a half grin curled over his blue lips.

She smiled and returned his handshake, feeling emotionally raw from the conversation they had had. She smiled as she walked him to the doorway, feeling far less than steady on her feet, but hoping she hid it well. "The privilege was mine, Shran. You, I and Jon will be working closely as the spearheads of the Allied force against the Romulans." She smiled as she suddenly realised that Jon had never made it to their dinner. "Speaking of Jon, I should probably give him a call before I turn in." She grinned a little at Shran and nodded. "Until the briefing." She watched him leave, and then sat down to call Jonathan, she wondered what could have possibly held him this late. If he was done though, she still had a bottle of bourbon in her quarters, and she was certain she could persuade him into enjoying a nightcap. She needed to tell him about her conversation with Shran regardless. It was certainly going to be an interesting war.