Part of USS Al-Batani: 001 – Uncertainty at Alim and Roosevelt Station: 001 – The Hunt

5: The Most Esteemed Chef

USS Al-Batani - Bridge
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Eden Enigma took the center chair, setting her coffee on the small table beside it. She took a moment to watch the second shift crew go about their work, quiet apart from the constant drone of Fnorch’s grumbling. Less than a month into her time serving with the man, and that had already become part of the background noise of her life, a small irritation rather than a painful problem.

She nodded to the human woman at the helm – Li Ling had gone off shift an hour earlier – before taking her PADD from the table beside her mug and starting to read. “A starship runs on paperwork as much as antimatter,” a mentor of hers had told her once, and she had definitely found that to be true. She thumbprinted a set of duty rosters, assembled from the work of her department heads by Kirlas, before moving on to operational reports.

She needed a yeoman. While being around people was often difficult for her – the din of sounds and looks and emotions could quickly become overwhelming – she did her best thinking in dialog. She’d learned that while serving on the Sovereign during her cadet cruise and later as the captain’s yeoman, and found a very effective sounding board in Li Ling.

It likely helped that they were in many ways sisters, that she had known Li Ling since the younger woman was a child. There were few with whom Eden was as comfortable.

She frowned at a report from the shuttlebay. The vehicle replicator was suffering another critical error, returning even standardized plans as invalid due to insufficient antimatter containment. She forwarded it to the engineering department.

It would be nice to have a chief engineer aboard, too.

“Captain,” the Betazoid at Ops – Serina – said. Thankfully, she didn’t try to communicate telepathically; little was as grating to Eden as unexpected telepathic contact. “Call incoming, from Earth. Personal, to you.”

Eden nodded, rising to her feet. “I’ll take it in my ready room. Serina, you have the conn.” Of those on the bridge, only Serina and Fnorch were center chair qualified, and her science chief hated to be away from his sensors while on duty. Besides, Serina had ambitions of command, and if she was to achieve them she would have to get center chair time.

Eden’s ready room was small but comfortable, with her desk and two chairs tucked against one wall and a long sofa under the viewport. Rather than the standard aquarium, Eden had opted for a terrarium, and two small tortoises browsed on large leaves of lettuce within. Both looked up as Eden walked to the desk, past her shelves of memories and trophies – a case with her decorations, a Rish eggshell fragment, a disruptor pistol taken from Thot Ren during the Valoris conflict. In a separate case from her Starfleet decorations were those given to her by Federation member worlds, with her Bajoran Shi’kar Cross and Lagashi Parliamentary Medal of Honor occupying pride of place. Under that case was a d’k tahg, a gift from the Emperor; next to it was the crest of House Starisha, her mother’s family.

She sat at her broad black desk, flipping up the small screen built into it, and activated the communications system to bring up the waiting call. The man on the other end of the call was much older than her, his once-blonde hair long since gone silver, his blue eyes bright and penetrating. He wore a civilian outfit in bright colors under a white chef’s apron.

Once, Jaques Enigma had been a Starfleet admiral, tasked with securing the Federation’s most secret technological development projects. That was long ago, before Eden’s birth and during her childhood. Before the death of his wife and her mother. Now, he cooked, and the most people he ever commanded were his apprentices and wait staff at the Napoleon House in New Orleans.

“Father,” she said, smiling. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

“I do try to be pleasant when I’m surprising,” Jaques said. “I was looking at the stars, and thought of you.”

She folded her hands on the desk. “You’re lonely.” Her father had left the stars behind, and only looked at them when he was missing her or her mother.

“I am.” He looked at her face. “Unless I’m projecting, so are you.”

Eden sighed. “I’m a starship commander, father. Loneliness is part of the job. You, on the other hand…”

“I am fine,” Jaques said, cutting her off. “I have the restaurant. My neighbors check on me. Old friends from my time in service visit. Pa’ren sent me a lovely letter and some tea last week. You are making a mistake nearly every command officer makes at some point.”

“What’s that?” Eden raised an eyebrow.

“You’re idealizing Jean-Luc’s time on the Enterprise-D,” Jaques said. “The solitary captain, alone in her ready room, always above the crew, remote and aloof. We all try it, though how long depends on who we are, and those who last are the ones who learn to be the captain when the captain is called for, but to also have friends. On a starship, with your crewmates the only people you see regularly… you need to make connections where you can.”

Eden drew in a breath to argue, to push back against his words. Of course the captain had to remain distant, hold to professional detachment. But… her father had commanded starships and border outposts. He had been marked a great captain, before her mother’s death changed him. She touched the edge of the screen with light fingers. “How do I do that?”

“We all do it differently,” Jaques said. “Surval taught, connecting with his friends through a shared desire to improve. I cooked dinners and played board games with my staff… and listened to your mother when she told me what people needed. Bill worked out with his people. I understand Jean-Luc took up poker eventually, but you shouldn’t wait as long as he did. But, Eden… the important thing is to find your way. You can’t get by on just Ailiang for company.”

“I already realized that,” Eden said with a quiet laugh. “She needs to make her own friends among the crew, and being the only one I’m close with…”

“Would not help her in that at all.” Jaques smiled. “Very true. Now… do you have a bit of time to catch up on the local gossip?”

Eden grinned. “As long as it doesn’t involve Maurice. Your Maurice stories would take my entire duty shift, and I do need to be back on the bridge eventually.”

“I’ll stick to the lower Quarter, then.”