The Cool Kids Table
Et Tu, Brute?
Location: Mess Hall, USs Kingdom
The mess hall was full of early shift crew, all grabbing up tables and dropping down trays full of variations of the day's chosen 'frosted meatloaf' offerings. It tended to be noisy- which was exactly why the commander chose to take her meals there frequently instead of the quiet and often empty officer's mess. She grabbed up a tray, intrigued, and let it get loaded up before wandering around until she found an empty spot at one of the long tables.
"Hi," she said as she dropped onto the bench, smiling to the people at either side of her. "What's up?"
Some of the conversation at the table fell silent as the captain took her seat. A few seats down it continued as normal--the crew there not noticing what was going on--but in the close vicinity casual conversation took an awkward pause.
Echo, looking down at her tray, didn't even notice who'd sat down next to her... not that she would have recognized her if she did. The junior engineer had yet to meet the Kingdom's captain, and knew next to nothing about the woman except her name.
"Not the good chef's approval ratings, that's for sure..." Echo said, continuing on with the casual banter as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Maybe she figured a new crewman had decided to sit at the ensigns' table, not knowing that it was mostly reserved for those young and energetic junior officers who sometimes got shushed out of the more exclusive officers' mess.
"I mean seriously, this stuff looks just like what I feed my cat. Except slightly less slimy." Echo noticed the ensign seated across from her, who had a slightly alarmed expression. "What?" Echo continued, before testing a mouthful of the mystery meat. "Hmm. Not bad."
Ro took a forkful of the dubious stuff up as well and regarded it carefully, sniffed it, then sampled it. "It's very.. interesting.. Is it beef or pork or something else? The gravy isn't bad. Potato mash is pretty mighty." She looked across the table at a crewman giving her a look just shy of panic and frowned slightly. "Look here, love. Unlike your standard tight wad captains, I still bleed red and I eat with my crew. Promise: I don't bite and I do appreciate the company of my fellows."
Echo's expression glitched slightly as she realized she was brushing elbows with the ship's captain. Though she did have as healthy a fear of command as the next person, she wasn't as easily intimidated in informal settings such as the crew mess. Still, Echo had been expecting, hoping that the eventual first impression of her might have been a bit more... professional. Oh well.
Smiling sweetly and hoping that her comments about the chef's approval ratings would be overlooked, Echo decided that the best course of action would be to forge ahead as if she'd known all along.
"Oveira bites." Echo gestured to the anxious ensign seated across from them with her fork. "Especially when you reach for her jello dessert." Oveira looked about ready to turtle up and hide after that comment.
"But anyway, the mystery meat..." Echo took another bite, and looked to be trying very hard to savor, or at least identify the taste. "You know, Captain, I think it's tuna. With pork gravy." Echo sighed, shoulders slumping slightly at the realization. "So it basically is cat food."
"This is fish? Really? Fish?" In all the years she'd spent growing up along the water, Ro had never- not even once- seen fish prepared in such a way that it was so uniformly indistinguishable. It was an affront to the poor fish, who lost its identity in the mince and mash process of preparation. "I'm at a loss. I thought it was some sort of land rover and that's why I wasn't too familiar with it.. I guess there's a first time for everything."
She took another bite, somewhat less enthused about the whole process as she chewed. "..Fish.." she uttered with disbelief. "Amazing.. So who am I talking to today?"
Echo was the first one to introduce herself, but then again, she had been doing all of the talking. Taking a gulp of coffee, she volunteered her name first. "I'm Echo Solaris, systems engineer. That's Ana Oveira, medical officer. And the strong, silent type over there is Alex Mirza. I don't actually know what he does... but he seems to like eating cat food." Oveira winced as her name was badly mispronounced, but she was too shy to correct. Mirza simply flashed them a thumbs-up between rapid mouthfuls of food.
"Welcome to the cool kids table, ma'am."
"Ro," the redhead offered with a grin. "Lunch breaks are officially hat off times unless otherwise deemed differently. It's good to meet all of you. How's ship life treating all of you so far?"
Mirza was the first to respond, as all he did was flash another thumbs-up. He was a friendly guy, but truth be told Echo wasn't even sure if he could speak, as he never did.
"Life is good. Lots of work to do with the ship, of course, but everyone I've met so far has been really nice." Echo said next. "Haven't even met my roommate yet... we're in the same department but she spends most of her time up on the bridge. And apparently in sickbay." At mention of that, Oveira audibly groaned.
"She got you, didn't she?" Echo asked, knowing a little about how Ana's career in Starfleet had been starting out. She didn't want to be the one to bring it up though.
"Yeah, she did." Ana sighed. She looked up at Ro, not quite so shy as she'd seemed a few moments ago. "Been thrown up on six times in the past forty eight hours. And headbutted twice." Amazingly, that hadn't seemed to affect her appetite, as she continued picking away at her meal.
"Oooo, yeah, I can see where that might be an issue." Ro winced sympathetically. "There was a nasty little thing going around that a lot of our officers picked up from the starbase. Hopefully that'll stop now or I'll make sure that you guys get a nice supply of air sickness bags or something. Why the headbutt though?"
"Well..." Ana said with hesitation, clearly having reservations about going into the details. "One of our sick patients woke up from a sound sleep.... or stupor, as he was still intoxicated at the time, and decided to immediately sit upright while I was leaning over him taking scans. That hurt. The other was from that psycho... Crewman Vootik, during his escape. That hurt more." Ana couldn't help but rub her forehead as she retold the story. "Technically I headbutted a bulkhead that time, but the result was more or less the same."
"Ahh, I caught up with the security chief right after that. Poor guy. There's been a lot of upset and problems and fixes that had to be done to get us on the right track, but luckily that's behind us now. Hopefully for the rest of the voyage. We just got it out of our system quickly and can sail smoothly from there. But- if it isn't-" the co lifted her spoon up out of the potatoes and was using it to make points, careful not to flick food everywhere. "-Don't be afraid to speak up. To your supervisor or your department head or the XO or me if you see me."
Echo and Ana nodded, while Alex seemingly grunted in reply. In actuality he was just clearing his throat. "My boss would flay me alive if he heard I went over his head." Mirza said suddenly, leaving the other ensigns in stunned silence. He actually spoke?
"No offense, ma'am..." Mirza continued "but I'd only come bother you if the chief and XO both told me to blast off first."
Echo almost choked on her cat food. Maybe the man didn't speak very much for a reason. But he was right. In the academy they were taught to always pass a problem or issue to their direct superior, to give them a chance to handle it first. Doing otherwise could cause resentment, or create a lack of communication. She wondered what the captain would have to say about his... informal reply.
"About procedural things, yes. I am, however, a person and can talk about other things just as you can. We'll be on this ship for a number of years. I hope to get to know everyone to some extent and not live in an ivory tower out of reach of everyone else," Ro sighed. She'd known captains that were ghosts on their own ship except for the bridge crew and the senior staff. That just wasn't her. "If I planned on doing that, I'd be eating in the senior mess instead of here with all of you."
Echo got what Ro was saying. She would probably never approach the captain for advice on stuff like dating or fashion... that would be kind of inappropriate. But everyone had personal issues that came up from time to time. Echo definitely had enough of them. She just wasn't sure if she had the nerve to share them yet... with anyone, for that matter.
"Well, you're always welcome..." Echo said, almost ending with ma'am. Despite what the captain had said, calling her Ro seemed a tall order, at least in front of other people. Some habits and regulations were not easy to break.
"And you're right, this is the place to be. Just watch out for the gamma shift crowd. I stayed up late once... you don't even want to know the kind of conversation that goes down with the drama club at table three while we sleep." Echo shuddered, not wanting to repeat the destructively inaccurate bits of gossip she'd overheard.
"I'll keep that in mind," the commander said before sampling the meatloaf again. The mouth feel just still wasn't quite right. It was slowly growing better- or maybe she was just adjusting to the oddity that was the meal- something like that. She still wasn't convinced that it had ever truly been fish.