Part of USS Venture: Episode 1: On the Frontier’s Edge and USS Venture: Season 1: Into the Frontier

What a Mess

Mess Hall
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Mara felt her stomach growl. It was an hour past her regular lunch period, but she was determined to finish her work. As Chief Science Officer on the USS Venture, Mara Shepard oversaw all science-related missions conducted on and off the ship. For most, she read and signed the reports and forwarded them to the captain. She had five more to go.

“Feck it all, Mara. Yer gonna pass out if ye don’ eat.” The woman switched off her computer, grabbed her PADD, and made her way into the hall. As she began to stride toward the mess, she started to sway. The computer chimed in from her combadge.

“Lt. Shepard. Your blood sugar is dropping. You should consider taking in nourishment soon.”

“Where the feck do ye thin’ I’m going, ya tin can?”

Feeling shaky, Mara bolted for the turbo lift. “Mess,” she said quickly and waited for her floor. Once the lift opened, the CSO bolted forward without a look and slammed into another crewman. The PADD flew out of her hand. She took a dive, bottom first, onto the floor.

“Feckin’ hell! Whatdya dink da hel yer dun?”

Immediately, Mara realized the collision was her fault, but the words were already out. She looked up to see the red-headed CFOO.

“Sorry, aye?” she offered with a sheepish grin.

Lt. Cmdr. Nate Wilmer had just been heading towards the mess hall and lunch, when he collided with Mara Shepard. The fiery haired Starfleet officer was smaller than he was, but had struck him with sufficient force that he felt the impact. Slightly jarred, but coming to his senses first, Nate reached down with a friendly outstretched hand, and offered her a way up from her prone state.

“No, completely my fault. Should’ve watched for red headed tornadoes on this deck.” He said with a charming smile.

He was joking of course, a small one at her expense, but he meant no offense by it.

“Ha! That’s me, a red-headed tornado.” Mara blushed from embarrassment as Wilmer helped the small woman to her feet. “Thank ye fer being so gentlemanly.”

Leaning over to pick up the PADD, Nate quickly retrieved it and handed it back to the young woman.

“Nate Wilmer…” He smiled, “I’m the helmsman.”

“Mara Shepard. CSO around these parts.” 

Nate threw a thumb over his shoulder and with inclusive gesturing he posed an open invitation to the young Lieutenant.

“I was just about to get some lunch,” He said, “Want to join me?”

“Are ye kidding? Mah sugar’s low as it is, and I’m about to pass out just standing here. Let’s go.” 

A few minutes passed and Nate found himself seated at the officers mess. He preferred the booths near the window. Perhaps it was a remnant of childhood paranoia, or years of being involved in away team skirmishes, but Nate never liked having his back to a crowd. Nate sat on the side of the booth nearest the window, stretched out, and relaxed. He’d replicated his usual for lunch, grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, with a mug of Vulcan mint tea.

He looked over to Mara and listened to her talk. Her accent was a bit thick, but not undecipherable to him. Though he had spent his formative years growing up on Mars, there were quite a few of his relatives back home in Scotland and Ireland. Once and a while he’d travel back to Earth and visit extended family. Hearing her speak in a similar brogue reminded him of being back home on Earth and it put him at ease.

“So, where you from exactly? Galway?” He asked.

For the most part, Mara disliked the mess hall. It was too quiet. The people were fine; those she had met anyway. She was used to the clamor of a pub. That was her refuge. As she sat in the booth across from Wilmer, it dawned on her how fast the luncheon was arranged. Her father, the pastor, would frown on his little girl breaking bread with a man she had just met. She didn’t care, but the helmsman seemed kind enough. 

Famished, Shepard dispensed with her usual and replicated a bowl of stew and a side of mashed potatoes. She mixed both together and began to enjoy. “Ye got the country right. Killarney. Born and raised, mostly. Never left until I went ta Cambridge.” The girl took another big spoonful of stew. “Do I detect a wee bit of Scotch in yer tone? We’re not gonna have a tussle, are we?” she smirked and took another bite.

“Aye, a wee bit,” Nate said, exaggerating his accent and giving her a tiny harmless wink, “Are you kidding me? A tussle? We’re the firecrackers on this ship. I reckon if we team up, its the rest of the ship that has to worry about us.”

Nate was a quick eater, but he slowed things down a bit when company was present. He watched Mara eat her food, and found the smell quite inviting. He pointed to her food with keen interest.

“Whatever that is, it smells amazing.” He said. He continued on sharing more details about his life. “I’m a Mars kid. Grew up most of my life at Utopia Planitia.”

His mind thought back to the synth attack on Mars, and how everything had been destroyed. He hadn’t meant to bring down the conversation, and yet it was relevant to what they were talking about. She’d shared some important details about her life and background, it was only fair that he do the same.

“That was fecked up, right?” Mara often spoke before she thought when being social. Her spoon was halfway to he mouth before she realized her mistake. “Ah didn’t mean ta sound so glib. That was yer home. I’d be pretty pissed if someone did that to Killarney; so sorry, aye. Still, it was pretty fecked up.” 

“Yeah, I know… it was awful,” he said, “But it was…”

He did the math in his head, and realized how many years had gone by since the incident.

“Wow…it just occurred to me, its the 15 year anniversary this year.” He said with a huff, “Wow…guess we’re getting old.”“Fifteen years? Damn. I would have been twelve at the time, I think. Like everyone, I hear about Utopia Planitia. Me Dad was a minister then … still is, I guess. The choir I was in sang a song fer the fallen.” She shrugged. “Not that it did any good, but it’s supposed to be the sentiment, right?” 

Shepard twirled her spoon into the stew and mashed potato mixture. The thought of her own loss came to the front of her mind for a moment. Her brother, sister, and parents. Not all were dead, but they were all out of her life. She shrugged it off and took another bite. “Oh, and this?” She pointed the spoon down at her bowl. “It’s beef stew with mashed potatoes rolled in it. In the academy, I was a slow eater, so I had ta mash everything up to get something ta eat and get ta class on time.”

Nate understood her sentiment. Mara seemed like a nice kid, and though there was quite an age difference between them, Nate could see a long possible friendship between the two of them. They had common ancestry after all. They were countrymen, so to speak. Their family’s were deep and rooted, and it seemed full of faith.

“So young Mara is in the choir, and her father is a minister.” Nate smiled feeling a connection through shared faith, “My family also has a long history of service to the church.”

He took the last bite of his sandwich and focused his attention on his soup.

“Do you still go…to church I mean?” He asked.

Mara was still a slow eater. So despite mixing her food, she was only halfway through her stew when Nate asked about her faith. Not that the subject of religion entered the conversation often, but when it did, Mara often waved her personal beliefs aside. She placed her spoon on the side of the bowl, ready with a casual joke to steer the conversation elsewhere, but instead, the truth slipped through her lips.

“No. I haven’t gone ta church in years.” She thought for a moment; her tongue clicked at the side of her mouth. “I reckon I lost mah way a few years back … the Dominion War.” Mara didn’t elaborate. “I guess I still believe in something, y’know … something like the Eisntienian God, that God is the whole. Although, I don’t give it much thought these days, ta be honest.”

“And do you still sing?” He said with a mischievous smile.Mara tapped the side of her bowl to the tune of the ‘Banana Boat Song.’ “Aye. I still sing now and then.”

Nate was thoroughly enjoying his lunch with Mara. He could see this becoming a regular thing that they did. He hoped that she felt the same. Her company was enjoyable, her sense of humor was refreshing and real. And she had red hair, and how could he beat that? It was one of the better lunches he’d had in a long time. And he imagined that had quite a bit to with her company.

Mara leaned back and patted her stomach. The stew and potatoes had been filling, and the company wasn’t bad either. She didn’t know many on the ship, so lunch with Nate was a pleasant change. He was easy on the eyes and seemed to have just enough ego to helm the ship. And his humor didn’t hurt. 

“Tank ye fer da béile,” she said with a wink, adding a bit of Irish Gaelic for fun. “Ah wouldn’t mind another round sometime.” Mara stood from the table, unsure how to end the conversation. She did not want to become involved with anyone, but a friend was another matter. She didn’t have any on the ship. 

“See ye around, aye?” she said with a smile and wave and headed out of the mess.