Mek moved the purple grains across the plate with his fork, scooping them into a small pile to engineer the perfect bite. To him Risian rice was the perfect balance of rich, creamy texture with a hint of zest that carried just the right sour kick to his Pelian tastebuds. The fermented Kordar beans that formed a rough line beside the dome of rice carried fragrant breaths of ginger and Lentet spice up towards him. His eyes closed and Mek focused for a few seconds on the mingled flavours. He tried, and failed, to remember the last time he’d eaten non-replicated food. Brief thoughts of admonishment came and went from his mind as he contemplated his culinary crimes. They were soon dispelled by another mouthful.
He looked behind him towards the kitchen. Behind a transparent aluminium shopfront, six Risian chefs toiled over steaming pots, sauté pans over carefully calibrated stoves, and the infinitely fine chopping of herbs. Hisses, clangs and the clinking of cutlery spilled out across the veranda that demarcated the area in which Captain Mek, Captain Shilo and Commodore Tharc now sat.The covered structure jutted into the steady stream of passersby on the promenade, causing those walking by to course correct with heads turned, investigating the source of the enticing smells coiling through the evening air.
Commodore Ciffao Tharc chewed heartily. Her short Tellarite frame did not rise as far from the table as the bodies of her two colleagues, but she was damned if she was going to let that stop her from enjoying the meal.
“I want to send an official complaint to the Klingon High Council,” Tharc’s all-business, matter of fact tone cut clean through the restaurant hubbub, “that kind of gross interference with a Starfleet operation, with those stakes… We have to say something.”
Francesca had been so engrossed by the food on her plate she wasn’t quite sure when she finally joined the group conversations, but as always it seemed she was too engrossed by her food. She swallowed and nodded at Tharc’s reply, as that was all she could do as she went in for another bite.
Brodie had just arrived at Starbase 86 and was not quite sure of where he was going. He still had his bag and was wandering the promenade when his nose was enticed by the smells of some delicious Risian food. He walked towards the restaurant and noticed three higher ranking officials eating. He didn’t want to interrupt so he went and found a seat by himself and ordered some food. Brodie was sure he would be noticed when the time was needed.
“I’d agree with you, Commodore,” Mek’s words escaped before he’d fully finished chewing, “but I’m just not sure they’d care.” His fork moved as he gave a slight shrug, and his eyes turned back to the food, “They probably approve of what Metraq did, the idiot. Testing our mettle, ‘for the glory of the Empire’.”
“Ugh.” Tharc rolled her eyes, “Cowards if we say nothing, complaining cowards if we protest. Either way, I want to be direct with them. There need to be consequences if they ever try anything like that again.”
Mek nodded, “Needs to be something more than words. What to do…” He mulled this over as he prodded the last of the beans, resolving to simply enjoy the rest of the meal and not let the Klingons ruin another evening. “How’s the food, Francesca?”
Francesca agreed that the Klingons had caused some problems, but the biggest issue would be figuring out what they could do about it. She wasn’t in a position to make that decision and she would make sure to only talk about it if she was asked.
She looked over at Mek and smiled “It’s good considering I haven’t eaten fully in almost three days. I am surprised I am not eating faster.” She chuckled as she took yet another bite of the food. The plate was empty and she frowned “Is anybody up for some dessert?”
The looks from the others showed they were considering it. She waited to see if they would agree to some, if not she was still going to get something.
Mek and Tharc both knew they shouldn’t. Both had, however, walked past the table of frendan milk puddings on the way to their seats. They shared a brief guilty glance, then Mek turned to Shilo, “I blame the Klingons for this.” He said, chair scraping along the tiled floor as he rose.
The trio were halfway to the dessert table when Mek caught sight of another officer in command red. The man looked human and was seated with his back facing them. It wasn’t hard to deduce from the standard issue grey canvas bag propped against the table that the officer was in the process of reassignment. Mek knew the situation well. The silvery hair, thinning slightly at the crown, bobbed down as the man ate with apparent enthusiasm. Then Mek remembered the transfer reports he’d reviewed that afternoon. Cutting a wide arc across the room, Mek tried to look discreet as the man’s face came into view. The failure of Mek’s operation was as instantaneous as the eye contact that was made. The figure at the table frowned, ceasing his chewing as if getting ready to ask Mek what the hell he was doing. Nevertheless, Mek approached and held out a hand, “Commander Lewis, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I trust you’re enjoying the food?”
Brodie had been eating the food, not paying attention to his surroundings. The food was delicious and after his long trip it seemed to hit the spot. The food steaming on the plate and the aroma had made the food so inviting Brody had finished it just before he noticed a man looking over at him in the most obvious way possible.
He looked to see the man finally walk over which began to make Brodie feel nervous. He had seen a lot and learned to trust nothing. Upon hearing the officer’s voice he lifted his eyebrow “And who are you exactly?” He asked with piercing eyes that would make anyone’s skin crawl.
Mek straightened up, unaccustomed to the standoffishness on display. From the personnel file, he knew the Intelligence Officer was not likely to be the kind of person who engaged in idle chat. Nevertheless, Mek resolved that if they were going to be working together then there would need to be at least a degree of civility. He replied, “Captain Erill’Yun Mek, Fourth Fleet, Task Force 86 Command, which I believe is now also your assignment?”
Brodie looked up and straightened his posture slightly “My apologies Captain, but in my line of work, you can never be too careful. Commander Brodie Lewis, the new Task Force 86 Intelligence Director. It is my new assignment, but with my late arrival I figured I would try to find my quarters and report in the morning, but here I am.” he said smiling in a somewhat sarcastic manner.
“Not a problem, Mr. Lewis. Better late than never, and I understand the need for discretion in your line of work.” Mek glanced around, pointing out his two companions who were now over by the dessert table, “That’s Commodore Ciffao Tharc over there, station CO. Then there’s Captain Francesca Shilo, Task Force Executive Officer. Care to join us for some dessert?”
Brodie thought for a moment “I appreciate the offer, but I’m pretty tired. I think the best thing would be for me to get some sleep.”
Mek frowned, taken aback by the rebuff. He could see the man’s eyes were sunken, “Must have been a hell of a trip out here.” Mek recalled Brodie’s previous assignment at Deep Space 43, “Did you come by runabout? Not always easy to sleep on those things.”
Brodie looked over at Mek and nodded “It’s very true you can’t sleep well on a runabout, but then I don’t seem to sleep too great anyways. Hazards of the job I suppose.” he stated.
“Intelligence is a demanding field indeed,” The briefings he’d received so far were made by officers who never seemed to leave the Operations Centre, “but it might be a whole lot easier with a command staff that you get along with?” Mek’s eyebrows raised a little as he smiled.
Brodie thought for a moment, though Brodie only knew the little he had read on the CO he seemed trustworthy. “Ok I’ll join you for dessert.” he said as he got up from his chair grabbing his bags.
“Right this way, Mr. Lewis!” Mek ushered him towards the table where Tharc and Shilo now sat having returned from the dessert table, “I hear the frendan milk pudding here is excellent.”