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Part of USS Altai: Here Be Monsters

The Ensign’s Table

USS Altai, Officers' Wardroom
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After her workout Astrid decided to make her way to the Wardroom for a bite to eat, and maybe take the opportunity to get to know her fellow officers better. She would be here on the Altai for at least one tour of duty.

She had swung by her quarters to shower and change, so it elicited some stares as she walked into the Wardroom wearing a pair of light blue jeans and a black tee shirt that was probably a little too tight.

After replicating a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and brown gravy, and a cup of English Breakfast she turned to look around the room. Spotting someone she recognized she walked over to his table and sat down without invitation. “Kappler right?” She asked. Extending her hand, “Astrid Vogler.”

He shook her hand and said, “Yes, Hladson Kappler from Engineering.” He then looked embarrassed to the three pieces of pie in front of him. “You caught me sampling the replicator. I’m not really that Hlad.” He looked at the ceiling with frustration. “Hlad! No computer, I said Hlad.” He sighed and continued speaking with a thick Eastern European accent. “The universal translator on this ship hates me. My name sounds like the Slovak word for hungry, so when I say the word ‘hungry’ it thinks I’m saying my name. So,” he awkwardly transitioned, “where are you from?”

Astrid sipped her tea before answering, “North America, specifically Denver.” She smirked at his story of the pie, “then perhaps you should refrain from using your name while ordering.”

“Yeah, I’d probably end up with four meatloafs,” he joked. “How long have you been on the crew? I’ve only been here a week myself.”

She stopped with a bite of meatloaf halfway to her mouth and grinned, “First day. Talk about diving in headfirst eh? I haven’t even unpacked yet.” She finished the bite, and teased, “With four meatloafs you might get so big you’ll have a hard time walking through the door.”

“Wait,” Kappler said. “Were you one of the crew that beamed in before we got the door down? Did you see… it?”

“Yeah, whatever ‘it’ is. I posted two armed Hazard Team members at the cargo bay in case things go all haywire, but for the most part our job is done. It’s really up to the rest of the crew to do the rest. We just move in secure the area and let you guys do the rest.”

“I just hope I’m on the team that gets to pull it apart and see how it works once we catch it.”

She shrugged. The she’d spent the last two years in engineering after becoming an officer so that side of her was undoubtedly curious, but in that vein the four years in Security as an enlisted crewman had taught her to be suspicious of the unknown. “I think I will try to stay as far away from it as necessary. Of course…” She shrugged and grinned, “If it turns into some sort of robotic spider thing hell bent on dominating the universe I’ll be there with bells on.”

“I’m glad you’re on our side,” Kappler said, grinning.

“Are you now?” She picked up her mug and sipped the tea and smiled happily. “This really is a good imitation. Not as good as the real thing of course. Before I left Earth last time I went to London and stopped at Twinings and stocked up.”

“The pie is not even close to homemade. It’s like this,” he cleared his throat and continued with his thick accent. “When I do the work of translating my own talking, I sound like this.” He paused and continued without the accent, “When I let the computer translate, my words have no discernible accent. I’m sure it’s easier to understand, yes, but a little bit of the flavor is gone.”

“I actually understand.” Astrid shrugged, “We didn’t even have a replicator in my house until I was twelve or thirteen. Mom had a garden for vegetables in the summer, and she would trade jewelry she made for our food for the rest of the year. We would get replicated meat from the replimat down the street of course. We weren’t barbarians after all.”

“So other than drinking a good cup of real tea and eating civilized, replicated meat, what do you like to do for fun?”

“Hiking and mountain biking in the summer and fall. In the winter I would ski and ice skate. Played a little hockey growing up.” She shrugged, “Oh and read. Do you know how wonderful it is to sit next to the fire on a cold winter night and read a good book? So, how about you?”

“I prefer the heat of summer,” Kappler answered. “I love getting out into nature, but growing up in a city we didn’t see much. I got a soft-light holo-generator as a teen and would spend hours getting the images of fantastic locations to line up with the walls of my bedroom. If you sat still enough it was like being there, well at least that’s what I chose to believe at the time. I’m thinking of getting into creating some Holodeck programs now that I have access to one, maybe even recreating the Pezinska Baba, a ski resort north of Bratislava where I grew up.”

“Never made a holodeck program myself either,” Astrid replied with a shrug, but I’ll help if you need it. I have a program for Monarch and Vail too if you need to borrow them for reference.”

“That would be a great help,” He said. “No need to reinvent downhill skiing Holodeck physics if it already exists.” He took one more bite of pie and frowned. “These really aren’t worth replicating again.”

She laughed, “No, probably not. Neither is this meatloaf.” She had finished her meal, but theatrically pushed it away. “Tell you what. Let’s make this our table. An Ensign’s table. It can be a place for friends, and new friends. We leave rank, Starfleet, and the day’s problems at the door. We tell stories and in general have each other’s backs.”

“I’m up for that. Now we just need to find an ensign who knows how to cook.”

“Well, I have no experience with Eastern European dishes, but if you want Western American, TexMex or German with a Midwestern flare I’m your girl. I make a killer Shephard’s pie. I learned it from an old cowboy cooking off the back of an ancient chuck wagon with little more than a campfire. He said he was, ‘keeping the Old West alive’. I didn’t care why this eccentric old man did it. He made some of the best food you’d ever eaten. Besides my parents were… are eccentric themselves. We didn’t have a shuttle or anti-grav vehicle. We had a car. An honest to goodness four rubber wheels car. My dad was a civilian contractor at the San Francisco Fleet Yards, and I think he used their industrial replicator to make the parts.”

Astrid checked her chronometer, “I’m going to be an aunt. My sister Mindy said she was going to send me a message at 1700 and I promised I would watch it when it came in.” She stood and started gathering up her tray. “It was good to meet you Hladson.”

“Great meeting you too. You’d better get moving. Nothing’s more important than family.” He said this with a momentary look of sadness in his eyes, but then smiled genuinely. “I expect to see pictures of the baby, Aunt Astrid.”

She caught that sadness, “We may not be blood, but we are still a family here on this ship. We are all brothers and sisters in uniform, and I am there for you if you ever need anything. Just like any sister would.”

“That means the world to me,” he said, “See you here tomorrow at lunch, assuming duty allows and the ship isn’t about to fall apart?”

“And assuming we aren’t being over run by alien monsters,” She added with a grin. “See you tomorrow.”