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Part of USS Venture: Episode 2: The First 90 Days and USS Venture: Season 1: Into the Frontier

Strangers in a Strange Land

Starbase 11
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After leaving his runabout in the docking area Endoll had spent the last few hours walking around the various shops and stalls of the planet-side installation of Starbase 11.  The evening air was warm, warmer than most Human worlds he had been on in his life, and definitely warmer than the standard temperature of federation starships. He let the warm air wash over him as she strolled along a series of small shopfronts.  He had arranged for his footlockers to be transported up when he arrived but had decided that he needed some time to stretch his legs, he had spent 12 days alone in a runabout living on replicated meals; he needed to explore and eat something that wasn’t synthesised from recycled matter. He knew from the information he had been provided on arrival that transporters were currently down for maintenance and it would be an hour or so until he could transport to the ship that would be his new home for…however long the mission lasted. 

As he walked his senses were met with a cacophony of smells, some sweet, some putrid, and some completely new to him.  He reached a stall with a large stand outside, his Klingon was basic, to say the least, but he recognised the word ‘gagh’.  He held down his instinct to heave, and smiled politely at the Klingon chef who was holding a large plate of what looked like the lung of some mammal on a large sliver plate, “No thank you” he said as she briskly moved on.  Ahead he could see a small stall with Bajoran ideograms, with these he was much more familiar, it was serving delicacies ‘fresh from Bajor’ but Endoll knew that even though many years had passed, and he was not Cardassian but Hebitian, the chances of him having a warm welcome there would be slim.  Very few people truly understood what Cardassian meant, it had become the common word for his species, but in reality, many centuries earlier his people had been known as Hebitians and had lived a truly peaceful life, not unlike that of the ancient Bajorans.  It was only when a natural catastrophe happened and scorched their world and destroyed their natural resources did a populist militant group known as Cardassians from one of the southern continents become known and slowly but surely became dominant in society.  The Hebitians were subjugated or killed, those who were lucky hid their Hebitianess and superficially adopted the Cardassian ways until they were able to escape the world.  The Endoll family and others were lucky to escape Cardassia and hoped one day that the Hebitians would return, but he had learnt from experience that telling Bajorans he was just as much a victim of Cardassian imperialism as they were often fell on deaf ears.  

As he walked past the Bajoran shop he didn’t need to turn to feel their eyes burning into him, and he felt the familiar twinge in his neck plates.  It was psychosomatic he knew all too well, but he still felt it.  He reached a Vulcan food stall, knowing this would be a safe bet as Vulcans also refrained from animal products, he ordered a bowl of plomeek soup and looked around the seating area for somewhere to sit.  He scanned the area for a moment ruling out several tables that had spaces until his eyes rested upon a young woman with dark hair and the markings of a Trill in a gold Starfleet uniform, he approached her “Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

“No, be my guest!” The words were out of Kazjra’s mouth before she even looked up from her notebook, but as Endoll took his seat she finally put her pen down to acknowledge him properly. Her slight jolt of surprise transitioned immediately into her adjusting her tinted glasses, hoping to obscure the awkward reflex, but the wide smile that spread across her face was genuine: she hadn’t met many Cardassians, and this was the second Cardassian Starfleet officer she’d encountered in the last month. It made her think back to her secondary school statistics classes: point clusters in random data sets.

“If you have room for dessert after that,” Kazjra pointed her pen at his plomeek soup, “The saffir bread with gespar chutney is actually really good! They told me they have a hydroponic garden in the back so the fruit is always fresh, and you can really tell by the taste that it’s not dried or replicated!”

She raised the slice of bread to her mouth but abruptly stopped just before taking a bite. ‘Introductions, right!’ “I’m Kazjra Zel, by the way. Nice to meet you!”

Endoll smiled warmly back at the woman as he set his tray on the table, “It’s a pleasure to meet you” he gently placed his spoon into the soup and tasted it, “Sadly I lack, what is the phrase I am looking for, a sweet tooth”  he replaced his spoon and looked around the table for something to add to the soup to make it more palatable, “I am Endoll” he said offering his hand forward, “It’s not every day you meet a joined Trill this far from…I mean especially in Starfleet” his eyes met hers “Zel is a symbiont name correct?”

“That’s right!” Kazjra took his hand in a vigorous shake that was evidently his reward for being knowledgeable about Trill linguistics. “And ‘Endoll’? My name before joining was Kazjra Endal! I love it, more point clusters.” The fact that she had not articulated her previous thoughts about statistical randomness out loud did not seem to occur to her.

“To your other point, once my ship gets underway we’ll only need to travel for a day before I’m further from Trill than I’ve ever traveled before, by my calculations. Assuming we’re traveling rimward, and it seems likely.” She paused briefly to collect her thoughts and realized she’d skipped some vital information again. “I was assigned to the USS Venture a month ago.”

Endoll smiled, and found something called ‘hot sauce’ and poured a large helping into his soup, he tasted it and it was more palatable, “It’s my family name, it’s traditional amongst my people that given names are only used by immediate family, outside of that we are all known by our family name” he dipped some bread into his soup, “How long have you been joined?”

“Good question!” Her saffir bread, which had been hanging in the air this whole time, was gradually lowered back to the table as she tried to sort through the various joinings in her memory and recall which one was hers. “Ah, 13 years now. Nearly 14. Ha! And did you know the humans consider 13 to be an unlucky number? I read it has something to do with their lunisolar calendars back on Earth.”

“I didn’t,” he said dipping the bread back into his soup. “Human culture had little impact upon me growing up,” he said as he took a bite of the bread, “It must have been quite a life-changing experience suddenly having the memories of others, and then the process of integrating different aspects of the symbiont and other hosts into your own” he paused and dipped the bread into the soup again and “It’s fascinating really” the popped the last of the soup covered bread in his mouth and chewed “What’s your position on the Venture?”

“Oh, I’m the Chief Engineer.” Kazjra’s grin had slowly fizzled as Endoll’s comments on joining made her briefly contemplative, but the grin tentatively returned with the opportunity to talk about her posting. “It will be my first mission as a department head.” Oops, no. ‘Anxiety looming! Think about something else!‘ “What about you? I’m not surprised to see someone so inquisitive wearing science-&-medical blue. Where are you posted?”

Pushing the tray of soup away from him slightly before dabbing at the corner of his lips with the napkin his eyes flashed around the seating area, “Congratulations on your first head of department billet, you must be a very promising officer to be assigned to a Sovereign-class.” He sat back in his chair as he lifted and sipped from a glass of redleaf tea, “I’m the new chief medical officer of the Venture; until just under two weeks ago I was the head of psychiatry on DS13.” 

Kazjra sat up a little straighter. “Well nice to meet you, Doctor Crewmate! Now you know someone who can give you a tour of the ship if you want. Speaking of which,” she said, glancing at the nearest clock. The disappearing minutes made her reevaluate the large piece of saffir bread she still held in her hand, and before she could think better of it she had stuffed the entire piece into her mouth. With no choice left but to commit, she leaned back in her seat and sighed heavily through her nose as she kept on chewing.

“I am sure I will take you up on that,” he said, raising the cup to his lips again and draining the glass, “If you will excuse me, I have some shopping to do before I transport to the ship.” He stood up and nodded at her, “It has been a pleasure to meet you Kazjra Zel.”

She finally swallowed the oversized bite in one large gulp, just in time to respond. “Same here, Dr. Endoll.” 

Kazjra gave him a gentle wave as he left the restaurant, then sat for a moment trying to muster the motivation to do the same instead of taking a food-induced nap right there at the table. She had to check in at Main Engineering soon, but maybe she’d come back to the station afterward. With senior staff filling out surely it wouldn’t be long before they had their command crew, and then they’d set off for the stars at last.