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Part of USS Denver: Mission 5: A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Getting ta know ya

Ship's lounge
August 28 2374 starting at 1730 hours ship time
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After a hard day of training updates, Arin needed to relax. She didn’t like drinking alone if she didn’t have to. Changing into stretchy jeans and thick short-sleeved sweatshirt, Arin pulled her slightly red hair into a pony tail. Adding soft sneakers she headed for the ship’s lounge. 

Looking at the name of the lounge, Arin almost cringed. In her experience, people didn’t need encouragement in that respect. Though it was refreshing to see a partially open mind.

 Walking up to the bar, she asked what real Irish whiskey’s were on hand. “We have a large selection of sythnehol …”  Arin put up her hand. “No. I might as well be drinking tea.” “I’m sorry, I’m kind of new here. I know where the real stuff is, but some of it isn’t labeled.” the server offered.“Adventure drinking. Brilliant.” Lead on, MacDuff.” Arin said with a chuckle.

Soon she was pilfering through a few things. She was able to point out a few. Sadly there wasn’t much in the way of what she really wanted. She settled for an interesting brandy. it wasn’t Saurian, but it had potential. She had the server add a shot into a cola with ice. No that she could more relax, she looked around at the rest of the room.  

Lt. Ming opted to take advantage of what down time was left.  Denver wasn’t going to be in sector 001 for too much longer and he, as well as his pilots, deserved one last huzzah. He’d given the flight crew and ground crew the next 18 hours off after verifying the ship’s itenerary.  He’d made no secret he’d be here but they likely didn’t want to hang out with the boss.  That had disappointed him to some degree.  Perhaps they’d show up later…Maybe not.  It was their free time either which way. This was his.  

He’d put on black denim pants, a solid black tunic and his modified uniform long coat over both.  The command red stripe wrapped around from his chest, around his shoulders and across his back.  Each lapel had two solid pips of a lieutenant.  On his left breast was a combadge underneath aviators wings.   He wore his favorite black boots as well.  As the commander of the Knights walked into the lounge the gaze of more than one bar goer looked in his direction.  Some were curious about the new patron. Others had the additional interest in his….choice of outfit.  

Unfazed he walked up to the bar and took a seat, a few spots over from Arin. After a moment the bartender came over to him and asked for his order.  

Marcus smiled and said, “There was…at least should have been… a couple of packages dropped off here for Marcus Ming earlier.  Is it here?”

The bartender paused and said, “Why…..yes sir.”  

Marcus smiled and said, “Please consider that my personal stock.  Please extract a bottle from container Alpha then deliver it and a high ball glass loaded with ice if you would.”  

“Right away sir,” the server said before dissappearing.  A moment later returning with a ice filled high ball glass and a bottle of Tullamore Dew.

She quickly drained her brandy and coke, putting on a sweet and needy demeanor.  “You wouldn’t be willing to share that bounty semi-decent whiskey for a poor Irish girl leavin’ her homeland, would ya? It’s just that I really don’t want to retreive something drinkable from storage.” Arin offered addressing the new arrival.  “Arin Jones. Chief Helm Officer. I just got here a few days ago.” She offered her hand. 

The fighter pilot glanced at Arin for a heartbeat before returning the gesture and saying, “Lieutenant Marcus Ming, Commanding officer of Bravo Flight and senior fighter pilot on the Denver.  Nice to meet you.”

Without missing another beat he added, “How do you enjoy your whiskey?  On the rocks, shooter, maybe with a splash…..”

While Marcus had asked he was fairly certain he knew what was coming.  He waited, however, to verify if his instincts came threw once again or not.

“In a glass. Nothing else. If it’s good whiskey, it’ll stand up to that.” Arin offered. “I have some Tyrconnell stashed.” 

The Knight CO grinned at the new Chief Helm Officer.  A woman after his own heart.  He gestured toward the bartender as he said, “I’ve tried a lot of whiskies over the years.  Tully Dew is the best I have had….so far anyhow.  How about we give my stash a go then we can try out your favorite after?” 

The bartender arrived just as Ming finished and he asked for an empty high ball glass.   The bartender did so swiftly and with a smile.  After some brief pleasantries the bartender went off to help other patrons.  Ming dutifully poured some whiskey for the woman beside him filling the glass to the customary ⅓ and a bit beyond. He raised his glass and toasted in a conversational way, “Here’s to new friends and the Denver.”

She raised her glass in salute. With an acknowledging nod and repeat of the toast, she swirled the golden fluid in the glass before putting the glass to her nose. Citrus with undertones of vanilla. She had to admit it was a good one, if different to the whiskey she was used to. Spicier rather than the tart bite of fresh fruit she liked about the Tyrconnell. 

“All water does is change the whiskey. Like adding salt before tasting your food. My Da (dad) was a former starfleet Captain so he set me up with a pallet of I don’t even know what yet. I just know there is at least one case of Tyrconnell 16. ” 

“Favorite Aircraft of all time? Just remember, now I’m judging you.” Arin said with a smile. She pulled up an image of her standing in front of a what looked like a civilian Saab J21R jet trainer in ancient RAF colors. “Took me two years to finish her. Found her in a field rotting. It’s not accurate. She was in such bad shape, I just replaced all the electronics and jets with something more modern. I have her on a holodeck file along with a few others.”

Ming looked thoughtful for a moment, using the time to take a sip of his favorite whiskey as he did so.  As soon as he had done so and lowered his glass he said, “P-51 Mustang.  It played a very large role in helping the Allied Forces win World War II, it was the best fighter of it’s era, and it’s a damned good time to fly.”Marcus paused somewhere between half of a heartbeat and a full one before continuing, “For the era I would put the Lockheed P-38 Lightning as a runner up.  It was, at the time, also a very able warplane and was a figther/bomber that is also a lot of fun to fly.   The F-14 Tomcat is quite possibly my favorite fighter from the jet age.  It was, hands down, the best naval fighter of the late 20th century.  The wing configuration was pretty unique in that it could be altered for combat situations as well as flight configuration.  I’m a little surprised that the United States Navy retired the class as early as it did.  It was very solid in the role and had a fairly solid airframe as well.” 

“Currently I would place the Peregrine over the Sparrow in most situations.  It’s tougher, better armed, and good for giving the Dominion (or whomever else) a good, solid kick in the ass.  The Sparrows are great for hit and fades but not ideal for more head on tussles.  The Danube and Orion class runabouts are both good….Depending on the mission profile of course.  Almost a case of apples and oranges but not quite.   I also have all the mentioned craft and more programmed into the holodeck.  I brought over most of the files from my previous assignment…..I do have to keep my skills sharp for when I am out there in the dark after all,” Marcus finished up with a bit of a smile. 

He realized that his breakdown was likely more than the, beautiful he realized, helm officer had likely expected however she perhaps should have.  As a trained and experienced small craft expert he was going to give out details when asked.  He shrugged, mentally anyhow, before he took another sip of his whiskey as a signal he was finished as much as anything else.

She thought about his about choices. Choosing a grin she started her reply.” Nothing wrong with the Mustang but I’d take the far better armed and armored P-47. No P-51 ever flew back to base missing teso or three cylinders.

Best naval jet. F-4 Phantom. Far longer career and very distinguished combat record. Served in 20+ Air Arms. Which the Peregringe reminds me of. Put enough engines and even a brick flies.” She giggled taking a sip. “But she is well armed and armored. Since you’re a plane buff, the if the F-4 is the Peregrine. That makes the sparrow the F-5.. For the record I love the Mustang and Tomcat.”

“No doubt that the P-47 Thunderbolt was a badass bird.  It was the Mustang that turned the tables against the previously far superior Mitsubishi Zero which was flown by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces.  And the F-4 absolutely held on for quite a while.  The USA had it in service from…..1961 to 1996 (give or take a year or two). Thirty five years was a long time especially in the 20th century.  Likewise the A-6 Intruder was a modestly successful attack aircraft that lasted from 1960 until 1997 which would put it at 37 years in service.  It’s counterpart, the EA-6 Prowler, was the electronic warfare version went from 1971 until 2019 which is just short of a fifty year span.  Those were fun simulations too if I am to be honest,”  Ming went on.

He paused to finish his drink and poured another for himself.  Once done he offered more to Arin with a gesture as he mentioned, “I had a dissertation on late 20th century aircraft for one of my academy courses.  Much of it stuck with me unlike some of the other classes.  In fact that is what got me interested in small craft and into fighters when they were introduced by Star Fleet.  Would you like more to drink?”

My paper was on the overcomplexity of the V-22 Osprey when competing tech was available. Namely the Vought XF5U flying flapjack.” But how about a new drinking game. Everytime we shot each other down, the downed pilot takes shot.”Ming considered that for a long moment before he answered.  When he did he started with a shake of the head before he said, “Leasurely flights maybe. Dogfights are my day job and, as interesting as it might be, I’m here to relax, have some fun maybe and NOT think about work for a bit.  Out of curiousity what do you know about poker?” 

“That’s perfectly acceptable. But be on notice. If I hear the words strip in conjuction with Poker….you’re going to eat that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band jacket.” Arin said 

Ming knew a verbal jab when he heard one.  He shook it off and said adding a condensdending smile, “Afaid of losing fast are we?  I was going to suggest shots poker but maybe that’s too high stakes for you too.  Then again with that outfit strip poker might not be a big loss considering your fashion sense.”  

Her Irish brogue became far thicker. “This isn’t dressing up. You’re telling me that’s your best effort?” She placed a hand on his shoulder, shook her head, and offered, “the smart money would be to fold now.”

The fighter pilot studied the woman’s face for maybe a heartbeat or two before nodding and letting his eyes meet hers before saying, “That apparently came across differently than intended.  I assure you that it was meant to be playful rather than insulting. Please forgive me.”

He paused a short beat and added, “And, to answer your question, no…It is not my best effort.  While I intended to look nice if it were my best effort I’d be wearing my dress uniform or, at the least, a tuxedo.  And I acknowledge that a quiet drink out doesn’t even necessitate anything remotely dressy.”

Ming stopped there and seriously hoped he didn’t seriously insult the other officer.  He was meaning his comments to be a bit of a return salvo but still to be less than offensive.  He also recognized that he thought she was quite beautiful which furthered his hopes of not offending her. The fire behind those amber eyes of hers was pretty hard to miss however.  He didn’t even notice that he was holding his breath or that he’d read her reason for being here using more than basic deduction.

 Still stuck in a thickish accent Arin said, ‘Listen, I’m sure you’re nice. But after having to dampen my natural ablilities,” she said, pulling out her ponytail, shaking her hair out a bit, then ran her hands down to tighten the sweatshirt. It was clear it was oversized to de-emphasize her curves. “I’ve learned that far too many people aren’t in it for mutuality.” Arin paused. “If I mis-read that, I apologize. I do suggest something of a venue change. I’ll even grab a bottle for the trip. I have a few open cockpit planes and a car or three we could take an easy flight/drive. Do you know what a Morgan three wheeler is?”

Ming blinked his eyes a couple of times then exhaled as his face gained a very brief look of disbelief and then a mask of curiousity.  He was usually the one to read people and the one thought apparently carried over to be somehow read by someone else.  His violet eyes looked around then returned to look back into into her amber and said quietly but sincerely, “Look…I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t think you’re beautiful.  I you are quite beautiful if I may be so bold.  However I am not into taking advantage of anyone and, regardless, we’ve not even had our first date yet so I’d say you may’ve read more into it than I had in mind.”

He then broke into a bit of a grin, “But then pilots have a bit of a reputation so I get it.  And I am familiar with it in a general sense.  I’ve read about them plus I’ve seen old 2-d pictures and one or two holographics of them but never more than that.  Never real or even on a holodeck.   So many airplanes so little time…..Especially since this damned war started.  Plus, I admit, I did linger around flying some of my favorites rather than doing more exporation from time to time.” 

“Keep it up. I’ll change my mind yet. Maybe get a glass of ice water to go since you don’t have the stomach for the real stuff.” Arin joked. “I have a scanned program of the Hangar back home. There is my Cessna 210 or family truck. She pretty docile. The other is a Beechcraft Staggerwing. God she’s a looker. I did use a modern electric motor with fuel cell. She’ll get close to 300mph with a tailwind. I did have the original engine programmed for effect though. If the motor is good enough, who needs a radio. ”

Ming did a double take before his eyebrow arched quite Vulcan manor.  He took a deep breath before saying through a smile, “That almost sounds like a challenge.  If so it might just be one I might have to accept.  Beyond that I am more than pleased to try your beverage of choice whenever you wish.  Simply say when.” 

He made it a point to try to learn about the more senior staff as was habit since his time on the USS Tucson.  He knew she lived on Earth from an early age which explained her accent.   

He continued after considering her for a moment.  His , “You’re actually serious…..?  You have all that back home?”

“Da and I had to build much of it after the move. The logistics of Solarion are a bit different. Time on the industrial replicators is very limited due to the nature of the community but I can make all the sub assemblies I want. So, Cessna 210 he an I built as the ‘runabout’. ” She took his hand for a spliut second to lead him out of the lounge. “So we built one for the family and I built the Staggerwing. Still thinking about building a radial engine for it. They sounds so good. ” A wicked smile came across her face. “I’m gonna change. Not proper flying attire at all. I just opened the first box. It’s not all the whiskey I have by far, it’s just what I happen to have out. Small fridge next to will have stone tumblers. ”

Ming gave the woman a small smile as she turned for the bedroom.  The trip from the lounge to her quarters seemed a much shorter walk than it should have.  He idlely wondered if that had been due to the whiskey or the company.  Likely a little of both.  He also realized that there were times where he might’ve followed someone but he realized that would be a …. tragic mistake if he’d done so.  Instead he went to grab a bottle of whisky she’d been so adamently touted and the rather beautiful glasses she had mentioned.  As he did so he started talking making a point to project his voice rather than shout so she could hear.   

“I got to see some incredible things back on Earth.  Hard not to with my dad being a professor of Archaic Chinese History.  His archeological and historical connections got us through some impressive sites back on Earth.  My mom, on the other hand, was a tactical officer in the Fleet.   Our home on New Berlin, Luna didn’t really allow for some of the machines I grew to study and love.   With parents like I had it’s likely not a shock why I enrolled in Starfleet Academy and graduated with a dual major in Astronautics / Astronautical Tactics paired with a minor in History….World War II, Atlantic Theater of Operations.  I’ve no real regrets about my life but I am suddenly a bit envious of at least one aspect of your life,” the pilot said fixing the woman across from him with a genuine smile once she reentered the room.

After a minute he got more serious and addded, “Sorry.  I didn’t quite mean to give you my life story.  I’ve not even got a moderate buzz going.  But I do have a request if I may……”

Arin came out in thicker but much tighter jeans. The sweatshirt had changed into a dark green and gold blouse, over the top was a black leather civilian flight jacket. 

“Nice outfit.  Very nice in fact. I have a proposal Lieutenant Jones.  I am quite happy to fly with you in the aircraft you chose.  I request and propose we do so in an area of my chosing. Further more I would like, if I may be so bold, to suggest a place that we can just….Talk while we have a few drinks either before or after our flight.  I’ll admit that you piqued my curiousity and I would like for us to perhaps get to know each other.  By that I mean as friends for starters,” Ming said confidently but without any tone that suggested command. 

“You keep swinging. One of these days, you may hit one.” Arin quipped. She winked at him. “Honestly. I was looking for whiskey, we happen to have that in common. Happy to be a wingman. I wasn’t looking for anything else. Fellow pilots, We both happen to share interests. Stop reading ahead. ” She kissed him on the cheek. 

“And not those tumblers.” she took the two he had out and moved a few feet to right. Reaching in she pulled to cold marble tumblers from the freezer. She reached over and grabbed a bottle with an orange label. “Hold onto your shorts. I’ll even help you out. This is an Irish single malt. Finished in madeira wine casks which is a sweet or dry Spanish fortified wine. Think walnuts, apricots, and raisins. Life is short have dessert first. She cracked the label and filled each glass with three fingers of the golden fluid. Handing him a glass, she lifted the tumbler and said. ”So many planes, so little time.” 

Ming grinned and toasted in response, “May all flights have a tailwind, and may all landings be smooth landings.”

Bravoflight’s commanding officer waited for the other officer to start for her drink first.  She must’ve read the look she was getting and moved the glass to take a sip herself.  Once that process started Ming took a fair sized sip after giving it an appraising sniff that was more a deep inhale.  

After a moment Ming swallowed and gave an approving nod.  He said, “I’m not sure it’ll replace Tully Dew as my favorite but I think I just found one that’ll take a place high on my list.  Ardbeg might have compitition for a tight second place on said list actually.  Might mind you.”

Ming grinned as he finished making it clear he was teasing a bit though it wasn’t too playful as he didn’t want to seem OVERLY friendly.  He did, however, did take another drink as he honestly did appreciate this one.  It was quite good, he didn’t mind admitting to himself, Mercy or anyone else.  

Arin drained her glass in a last long sip, encouraging her drinking partner to do the same. Grabbing the bottle and tumblers, she said. “Come on, I have a nice holo-hangar to show you and I think, something you’ve never flown.”

With a mental shrug Ming slugged back what was left in his glass and grinned at the woman.  Marcus said, “Well, there’s one way to find out.  As Shakespeare once said, ‘Lay on MacDuff!’”