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Sugar Sweet Sugar

Posted on Mon Jun 10th, 2019 @ 3:14pm by Commander Jonathan Mantell & Lieutenant Asahi Kita

Mission: Snow Birds
Location: Galaxy's End, Deck 14
Timeline: MD06, 1600

"Ahhh."

The utterance came on a breath of air as the glass was set on the table with a sharp clatter, earning curious glances from other occupants of Galaxy's End. The drinker didn't mind them much, he was too busy reveling in the blissful taste and heavenly sensation of the liquid washing down his gullet. After a hard day's work fixing the ship's problems, there was little he liked to do more than to knock back a tall glass of the beverage, lulling him into sweet relaxation with a massage of tingling carbonation.

Jack turned the glass of root beer in its place on the table, staring at the caramel liquid as if sight alone would compel it to divulge its bubbly secrets. Karrun had mentioned something about a new variety, and the Miran could certainly taste that something was different. Tarkalean sugar, perhaps, or a tri-aziridine carbonation base. Taking another sip, Jack decided just not to care, and discarded the thought with his other worries.

Settling back in his seat with the root beer close at hand, Jack barely noticed the newcomer until the figure loomed over him.

Asahi had made a point of finding Galaxy's End at pointed times of the few night shifts he had before their drop of to Haumea. It seemed to be where everyone hung out when they wanted to relax, and was therefore the best place to observe the crew without interacting. Most times, he would sit in a corner, eyeing those who filtered in for their beverages of choice, but he couldn't help himself when he spied the young, golden uniformed engineer who was enjoying a bubbly beverage to himself. Having met Nolan, Asahi could surmise that this was the other Miran on the ship. Either that or he was a real young-looking cadet.

His approach was slow, beverage of his own in hand, eyes on Jack as he was innocently relaxing. "Ey, this seat taken?"

"What?" the boy looked up, unintentionally burping at the same time as he posed the question, so it came out more like 'Bwoat?' He clamped a hand over his mouth quickly and looked away, burping again as the gas from the carbonation bubbled up inside his throat. When he turned back to the man, Jack grinned at his own misfortune. "Sorry about that," the child said with a little more glee than he should have. "This new one is super bubbly!"

He shook his head then, gesturing to the chair. "Go ahead, sit down," the Miran boy invited. He was always happy to meet new members of the crew, even if they didn't always want to meet him. A kid in a Starfleet uniform was a strange sight, even on a ship with two known Mirans, so most of the crew tended to think he was just a kid playing dress-up until they learned otherwise. The golden uniform was soft and pliable on his form, not the crumpled stiffness of a mere costume, this was something that Jack wore and wore hard. "I'm Jack, what's your name?"

Asahi squinted at Jack as he sat down, though not because of the reason the Miran might have assumed. The name that was offered was not one that he would have considered as a nickname for 'Jonathan.' They did both begin with the letter J. And with the three pips adorning his collar, Asahi could surmise that this was not a really young cadet.

He was overthinking it. "Asahi. I'm ah, in Intel, if the uniform didn't give it away." Eyeing the drink in Jack's hand, he made a gesture toward it. "What'd you end up getting? I didn't think the bartender had a whole lot of super bubbly back there."

“Asahi,” the boy said, rolling the name over his tongue. An intel officer who didn’t immediately try to show off by acting like he knew everything and everyone onboard, this was a good sign. The few spooks that Jack had known before had come off as either comical or unsettling, so he was happy for the reprieve. At the question, the boy lifted the glass, wiggling it a little as he intoned, “Only the most refreshing drink in all the cosmos. Root beer, of course.” He grinned, knowing that the humor would be lost on a heavier drinker. “Ms. Karrun has some new type, from Breton’s Planet? No, Forcas Three? No, I dunno, it’s someplace new, but it’s really good!

"I dunno, if you ask the Bolians, they might combat that with a myriad of fizzy pops all of their own," Asahi pointed out as if Jack's comment made sense to him. Had it? It was hard to tell, even for the Intelligence Officer, who was half a glass into his own rather alcoholic beverage. It looked like Jack was enjoying himself nonetheless, so he couldn't say much. "Does Ms. Karrun happen to have a whole stock of the good stuff back there for all sorts? Can't just be alcohol and fizzy drinks, can it?"

Jack was mid-sip when the man's words caught his ears. He stopped, lowering the glass a bit. "The good stuff?" He held out the glass again and shook it, "Hellooo? What part of root beer don't you get?" The boy hid his grin behind the glass as he raised it to his lips again, using the opportunity to down the rest of the drink. He opened his mouth to speak again, but instead let out a giant burp. No embarrassment this time, the boy grinned and cried, "Alright! Best one yet."

"Now," Jack started again, setting the glass down on the table, "If you want the really good stuff, that's somewhere else. Ms. Karrun is nice, but she made all her real connections in the Delta Quadrant. If you want someone who's on the up and up in this quadrant, well..." the boy raised his eyebrows a few times and leaned over the table to get closer, dropping his voice low, "we'll have to go on a field trip."

Asahi had to admit, Jack seemed super into root beer. But he was so into the beverage that Asahi couldn't help but lean in. "A field trip, huh? I'm hoping not to the Delta Quadrant. That might be a longer field trip than I'd like."

"The Delta Quadrant?" the boy shook his head as he sat back up. "No way, I'm not going back there if I can help it, that trip never ends well," Jack said as he pushed back with his hands on the table, lifting his legs so the chair slid back against the floor for a few inches. He stood, bumping the chair back a little more with the back of his legs, gesturing for Asahi to follow. "You ever time traveled? We did, and it sucked. I do not recommend it, zero stars from me."

Asahi's brow raised. He was going to have to re-read the nature of their time traveling mishap to get the exact nature of it. "Well, I can tell you right now you don't have to be in Delta to be time traveling. Or alternate-reality traveling. You just have to have a drive you really have no business having that's so experimental I can't even find documents on it now." It was perhaps the most he had divulged to anyone about his time traveling incidents since he arrived. "Don't tell me that's where the real good stuff is, because I would rather be forcibly fed rotten broccoli than do that again."

Jack grimaced at the notion of eating rotten broccoli, but he waited until the doors to the lounge had closed behind them to look at the man, taking advantage of the lack of crewmembers around. Intel types could be kind of skittish about being overheard, he wasn't about to take Asahi's willingness to follow him as a real sign of trust yet. "Wait, you too? How much time did you lose?"

"Depends on your perspective." Asahi shook his head. "If you ask Starfleet Intelligence or DTI? Two years. You ask me? Hell, I dunno. Long enough to know that I've lost time and it's a little confusing." It was only half a lie. Asahi knew damn well how long he had missed time wise. "All I know is that it was the opposite of what happened to you guys. You snapped, missed three years, I lost more time than I was actually gone for. But, once I got it all pieced together, I'll have more stories... whatever I'm allowed to tell, anyway."

"The opposite? So you went back in time?" the boy asked giddily, skipping ahead a little bit down the corridor before turning around to walk backwards. Time travel on its concept was cool, but the reality was that going forward in time was disorienting and the short duration of their absence meant that the amount of bureaucratic scrutiny had been sheer hell. For Jack in particular, he never again wanted to hear the letters D, T, and I in the same acronym again. Going back in time, though, that could actually be fun, as long as it was far enough back. Go back twenty years and position himself as the creator of the Quantum Slipstream Drive or something, rescue Voyager, what could possibly be wrong with a timeline like that? The boy's thoughts propelled him as he walked backwards in front of the man until he bumped into the wall next to the turbolift, and after pressing the call button with a finger, turned back to ask Asahi, "Did you go back and fight dinosaurs or something? Meet the Iconians? Arm-wrestle with Captain Kirk?"

Asahi leaned against the wall closest to the turbolift, folding his arms against his chest. "Well, I didn't get too far to see the dinosaurs - though that would have been pretty damn cool - but I saw a couple spots in history that I probably shouldn't have. Most of it is classified, or at least I've been told not to tell anyone anything until we're able to determine... something about the affect of my time travel on history. You know how that goes. But I would have much rather been in one of those dinosaur periods, preferably one with something I could tame and ride. It'd probably be a herbivore, just to reduce all that dangerousness, though raptor riding would have been cool."

Jack nodded, already painting the mental image of the man mounted on a raptor, perhaps even a theropod like the T-Rex, wielding a spear and fighting to survive long enough to get home. It was a pleasant daydream that was harshly interrupted by the whooshing sound of the turbolift doors opening. "Well, you can tell me, I'd never spill your secrets!" the boy promised as he entered. When they were both inside the lift, he ordered it to Deck 5. "They already trust me with the specs to the Quantum Slipstream Drive, you wouldn't believe the spam mail my inbox gets from Ferengi," Jack threw up fingers in the air to highlight the quotes around, "'investors.'"

"I might not have been on this ship long, but I've been around the block enough." Asahi replied with a snort. "As a fellow crewmate, I have discretion. As a Commander - " he pointed toward Jack's collar, "That's another matter. Just gotta suss out what everyone's actually privy to, and that's something not even DTI has jurisdiction over."

"That's a lot of words for 'no,'" the boy remarked offhandedly. He wasn't upset, really, just let down. That the only person onboard with some interesting time travel stories would also be the Intel chief, exactly the type not to tell any of those stories, was the worst combination since cookies and orange juice. His mood didn't last for long, and by the time the turbolift was at the correct level, Jack had moved on, "So, who else have you met on Vesta yet? Do you know our main pilot is a big, furry dog?!"

Breathing a sigh of relief at not having to tell any other stories, Asahi trotted after Jack. "Well I haven't met Rufus yet, but I've heard about him. Nah, I met Doc Sorenson a few times. He's real adamant on making sure people get those physicals. And Izzy, but I'm pretty sure we're gonna end up working together the most so it makes sense. And uh... Nolan? Yeah, he liked the little portable holoprojector I made."

"So I'm the low man on your totem pole, huh?" Jack mused, grinning a bit at himself. He pushed out of the turbolift and into the corridor to lead the Intel officer to their destination. "That's okay, I'm used to it. No one thinks of the engineer until something breaks or needs building," the boy's grin turned devilish, "But that just means no one suspects our connections. Some people think of you Intel folks, or Security, or the Doctor when they want to find something. People connections, you know, who knows who? Everyone seems to underestimate what engineers overhear or stumble upon, we're all over the ship without being noticed." The diminutive commander paused outside the door, and turned to Asahi, "So, what I'm saying is, you came to the right person for the job."

With that, the boy activated the door to the Diplomatic Complex and walked inside. Late after hours as it was, there were only a few people working and none of them free enough to look up at the newcomers. Jack made his way through the unsecured area and paused at the doors which required more credentials to pass through.

"Or I'm saving the best for... somewhere in the middle." Asahi added a smirk to his thought. "What Intel didn't realize when they made an engineer an Intel officer is exactly what you just pointed out. Engineers hear all sorts of gossip out of the blue."

Asahi paused as they reached the complex, tentatively following Jack inside. "... So, I'm not exactly an expert on annoying people, but wouldn't Izzy not approve... of any of this?"

Jack turned slightly to show off the smirk he was wearing. "Oh, don't worry," the boy said as he began to activate the door lock and provide the clearance it required. "We have...an arrangement." With that, the doors parted and the Miran skipped through their open passageway into the secured bullpen of the diplomatic offices. He passed by the desks, not even pausing to glance at them, and disappeared out of view after taking a sharp turn past one of them into an adjacent room.

"... You paused way too long, what arrangement?" But it was too late, and Jack was already making his way down to the offices by the time Asahi was ready to protest. He looked about, following after the Miran out of sheer curiosity. He knew this was probably not going to end in his favor, but what else was he going to do? "Ok but it Izzy doesn't like it, I'm throwing you right under the bus," he completed as he rounded the corner after Jack.

"That's not really how this ship works," Jack offered graciously. He might have been mad, but even an engineer-turned-intel officer was still an intel officer. They weren't always the most creative bunch, which was probably why this one left engineering to begin with. "Plus," the boy added with a twinkle in his eye, "If you do, you'll never learn what the good stuff is."

Asahi's eyes narrowed. Something about this seemed fishy, and it wasn't an 'intel hunch' that made him think that. This seemed like something he would have done to someone hapless in middle school, which led to something chaotic, which led to them getting suspended. This was a gut feeling from

He took to leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. "I don't know how this ship works, but this seems pretty much like breaking into a diplomatic office. You might have earned everyone's trust, but I sure haven't yet. I'd rather not get on anyone's bad side around here."

"You're no fun!" Jack declared, mimicking the man's posture, but then he giggled for a second and added, "No, no, Ms. Cerin and I have a deal. I keep her computer systems working at 97% uptime, and I get access to their replicator. It's a special replicator, see?" The boy gestured to the device set into the counter of the lounge to demonstrate. "Not Starfleet issue, built to Federation diplomatic standards. Which means it can replicate just about anything, food-wise, and get as close to the real thing as possible. You know how normal food replicators have a resolution of three thousand parts per centimeter? This one is more like thirty thousand, and can reproduce textures and structures that would fall apart even in the mess hall replicator!"

Asahi looked Jack up and down for a sign of unrevealed mischief. "... Alright. Fine. Though now the challenge is to modify one of the other replicators to get a better resolution." He lifted himself from the wall, stroking his cheek. "Although, I'm surprised they somehow managed to get one in here that has that power. Izzy must have some connections to get something like that going. So if this is so high quality, does that make the food better tasting as well? Because that might not have to do with replication resolution. It has to have a different level of specification filter too. That's all just programming, right? God, I haven't looked at a replicator in years..."

"Well," the boy said, drawing out the word, "I don't know if it's just resolution. But that helps a lot, probably for the non-Starfleeters who aren't used to the grub the replicators serve." Starfleet cuisine was something of an acquired taste, after all. At least for most of the foods Jack preferred, it didn't usually matter too much how fine the resolution was, he could always compensate with stronger flavors. Like extra cheese for his Mac & Cheese. But the diplomatic replicator had its uses.

"Anyway, this whole diplomatic block is like a black box to Ops," Jack explained, gesturing around them. "They just get power, Ops can't really decide where it goes. And it's one of the essential systems, like Sickbay, and you'd have to talk with Ms. Cerin to get the power requirements lowered if it wasn't an emergency." With that, the diminutive engineer shrugged, "So I dunno, it might draw a lot of power, or that could be something else in here. It's all Diplomatic Corps magic, same as the replicator abilities."

The boy walked to the machine and gave it a gentle pat, "But just because I don't know how it works doesn't mean I don't know that it works well." Grinning, he turned to the machine and ordered, "One hot chocolate, 60% cacao, extra sweet, extra marshmallows, extra whipped cream."

"Hm." Asahi peered into the depths of the replicator as it performed its magic. "... I'm determined to figure out how to get this to work. I wonder if Izzy'll give me specs on the thing so I can make my own. Or if this is going to be one of those proprietary things that no one in Starfleet can get their hands on." He seemed solely focused on trying to reverse engineer a machine he desperately wanted to dismantle but knew full well he should not have. Not out of fear of simply Isabella (though that was a big aspect of why he wasn't tearing it apart right now), but he knew there was nothing scarier than angry civilian staff. "They have their own Ops staff too to determine the power flow down here? I kinda wanna talk to them about it too."

He stopped himself, taking a step back and rubbing the back of his head. "I get a little carried away with all this, forget to actually enjoy what's in front of me."

Jack pulled the cup away from his lips, ignoring the mustache of whipped cream that was covering his mouth and nose. It gave the world a saccharine sweet taste to breathe in. The boy looked at the man with a knowing gaze, then said, "For someone in Intelligence who spent time in the past, you sure are pretty obsessed with technology. Are you sure you're not an engineer in disguise?"

Asahi gave a snort. "You can dress me in whatever you'd like, but I don't think even dinosaurs could take out the engineer in me." He gave Jack a sideways look of amusement. "I might not be as accomplished as everyone else, but once I get my tools back, Intel is one less department you'll probably have to worry about breaking down. But that's neither here nor there." He turned to the replicator, punching in the command for his own hot chocolate. "For now, we should probably just enjoy the good stuff."

 

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