USS Vesta

A Play-by-Nova roleplay game.

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A Time to Relax

Posted on Wed Jul 21st, 2021 @ 11:47am by Commander Martin Sorenson & Lieutenant JG Njalia Sayffier

Mission: R&R: To the Edge of the World
Location: The restaurant at the end of the ship
Timeline: After 'Check in, check up'
3618 words - 7.2 OF Standard Post Measure

Njalia toyed with her drink and waited for the Doctor to arrive, she was early as she hated being late. Though still in uniform, who knew what disaster might strike?, she was relaxed having carved a few hours our of her schedule for this dinner.

Martin could see Njalia already at the table as he entered. He sighed inwardly - try as he might, getting away from medbay in time to wash up and meet someone for dinner, or anything else, never seemed to work. "Sorry," he said, offering an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid being a doctor means always being late."

Njalia smiled. "Such is the way of Starfleet. Please have a seat." She gestured. "How should I address you? Doctor seems a bit . . . distant. Please call me Njalia when we are off duty, well, as off duty as we get."

"I understand. CMO means never really off duty, and I'm sure it's the same for you. But outside medbay please call me Martin," he replied and settled into his seat. "So, how have you found the ship so far?"

"Fascinating, daunting, finicky and delightful," replied Njalia, "often all at the same time."

"Yes, that sounds like Vesta," Martin chuckled, picking up the drink a holographic server delivered to the table - a chilled glass of his favorite coffee porter. He smiled a little considering that he had been on the ship long enough for his drink preferences to be that well established. "She was only my second posting and I was honestly a bit overwhelmed when I first arrived."

Njalia nodded. "This is my first ship since my cadet cruise. Immediately out of the Academy, I was assigned to a roving team that was doing critical updates and upgrades across the fleet, never staying in any one place for longer than it took to get everything installed and tested. It was incredibly wearing. The Vesta may be a challenge but at least I am in my same quarters at the end of the day."

"It sounds challenging," Martin remarked, thinking it sounded a bit like rotations during residency - you learned a lot and got exposure to nearly everything, but over time it was exhausting. "Was one of those update assignments when you were exposed to that extreme temperature drop?"

Njalia nods. "On a starbase, of all place, it was a . . . freak occurrence? That is right, yes? It happened so quickly I did not have time to be afraid only time to confront the problem. Luckily I was rushed to sickbay quickly."

"Freak occurrence sounds about right as a description." Martin nodded. Keeping her head and confronting the problem probably explained why someone so young had gotten a posting to the flagship, but it was a solid criterion as far as he was concerned. "I'm glad medbay got you right away. As a doctor I'd like to believe that the most important thing is skill, but the truth is that response time is really the most crucial factor in a lot of cases."

"That is true in so many things," nodded Njalia, "there is a military maxim on Andor, 'A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.'" She shrugs. "I am not good at waiting, I am good at acting, so that is what I do."

"That maxim would apply for emergency medicine, except for the 'violently' part," Martin chuckled. "But there's a balance. Other times a patience is a virtue since the wrong treatment can be worse than no treatment at all, and the old carpenter's maxim about 'measure twice, cut once' goes double when what you're cutting is someone's body."

"Very true," agrees Njalia, "the art of it all is know when to act and when to plan. I many acts it is obvious but sometimes . . ." She spreads her hands. "So, you had mentioned early that you did not start in Starfleet. How did you end up joining our merry band?"

"I had joined Doctors Without Borders and was at the end of my term there when Hobus went supernova and the Federation had an attack of conscious and decided to mount an aide mission. They were asking for medical volunteers, so I signed on." Martin shrugged slightly. "Starfleet was running it, naturally, and by the time we wrapped up the mission, I'd been talked into enlisting."

"That was a good mission, the sort of thing Starfleet should be doing," nodded Njalia. "I read about it. Evacuations require a lot of logistics, which is part of Ops, so we have been working up protocols and systems to manage them more efficiently in the future."

"I agree. We've done a bit of it, but it's seldom just relief and rescue." Even when that's what we're supposed to be there for... he thought unhappily, looking down at his beer at the thought of the lost colony. Pushing the thought away, he offered a half-smile. "Better logistics is always good, but even the best can't always anticipate circumstances. The post-Hobus effort was less evacuation than setting up care centers for the refugees who had made it out in the last days or even hours. Treating radiation poisoning, and all too often wounds from fighting their way out, and helping the worlds on the fringe of the affected zone to salvage their ecosystems." His mouth went a bit sideways. "Since people can be awfully stubborn about leaving their homes even when things are really bad."

"No surprises there," said Njalia. She pauses in thought for a moment before saying, "But to veer to a different part of logistic, should we order some food? Perhaps you can order something from your home for me? I try to expand upon my culinary horizons."

"Okay," Martin agreed. "If you'll order something for me from yours as well. I've had spice bread, but not a lot of other Andorian dishes. Also did you want to try a popular earth dish or something from my region of earth?"

"Something with meaning to you and I will choose something that has meaning for me, that way we can learn a bit about each other's culture and our pasts," she explains.

"Okay, I hope you like cheese," Martin said with a grin as he waved the holographic waiter over. "Two orders of cheese curds, both of my favorite dips. And as long as I'm being nostalgic, fried walleye with sauteed green peas and wild rice, and sweet corn on the side."

"And from me, two bowls of komolous chowder with rachas bread, a plate of iri spears and sliced mut with a blue ice vinaigrette," she ordered. "Oh and a pot of uly mint tea, hot, with two cups." She smiled. "My order is food from my childhood. The same for you?"

Martin nodded. "Yes. There was food from all over the planet and the Federation in the city where we lived, but these are all local foods - things I had at picnics or summer camp or visiting up at my uncle's cabin." He smiled. "Though some, like the cheese curds, were favorites anywhere."

Njalia smiled. "These are favourtes from coming in from playing on the ice. Nothing better than a warm bowl of chowder and hot mint tea."

"That does sound good. Hot soup after coming in from ice skating or playing in the snow was always good," Martin reminisced with smile. "Though hot cocoa is the drink I associate with warming up after being outdoors in the winter."

"Oh, yes, chocolate is quite good," agreed Njalia. "Chocolate milk is almost the drink of choice among Ops these days. I will have to try some hot cocoa again. Did you get much snow where you grew up? I know some part of Terra are quite cool."

"Try it with some little marshmallows - that was part of the charm of it when I was kid. But if you want to try top quality on the ship, I understand the diplomatic office has their replicator programmed for real chocolate," Martin chuckled, recalling that that was the deal for expedited service from the Miran chief engineer. "As to snow, yes. Nothing like Andoria, of course," he demurred. "And not even on that close to earth's Arctic circle, but well into earth latitudes that got long winters and plenty of snow."

"Sadly, I did not get to explore Terra as much as it deserved while I was at the Academy," said Njalia. "As you know, the demand for trained personnel is high and training is being accelerated. It did not leave much time for sightseeing. But hopefully in the future. And San Francisco is not known for its wintry climate."

"I know. I hardly saw San Francisco. But then I didn't really go to the Academy," Martin explained. "Since I was already a doctor I only went through Officer Candidate School, though I worked in the medical center there while I was doing that. I do remember it being sort of warm though."

"Pretty in its own way but I missed home, I am sure it was the same for you," said Njalia with a smile as the food arrived. She looked at the cheese curds curiously. "How do you eat these?" she asked politely.

"Being in San Fran was closer to home than I'd been for years at that point, but I did enjoy getting to go home for holidays," Martin replied as he picked up a cheese curd. "They're what we call 'finger food' though you can use a fork if you prefer. Just pick it up and eat it, or dip it. I have a tomato-based sauce with a touch of jalapeno here," he illustrated by dipping the curd in it and gestured to the other small bowl, "and that's a honey mustard sauce." Then he popped the morsel into his mouth and smiled - perfect bit of squeak.

Njalia nods and picks one up and dips it, lightly, in the tomato sauce and takes a bite. "Chewy but nice." She tries the mustard sauce next. "Hmm, not something I normally taste. But interesting."

"I suppose not. There are variations on fried cheese in most earth cultures, but if I recall correctly dairy isn't common in Andorian food?" Martin took one more cheese curd, dipped in the mustard sauce this time, before turning to Njalia's choices. The food certainly looked intriguing. "So, I can guess how to eat chowder, but how do you normally eat the iri spears and sliced mut?"

"Children usually use their fingers and make a mess, adults are suppose to use forks," she said with a smile grabbing a bluish-green spear of fruit with her fingers. "I hope you like it."

"Oh really?" Martin laughed, and picked up a spear with his fingers. "Don't tell Jack or Nolan, I'll never hear the end of it." With that he took a bite. "Mmm. Crisp, light - it reminds me a little of watermelon, but also Orion garcia pears."

"I have had those pears, they are quite good, but the Orion charge too much for fresh ones," says Njalia. "I have only had watermelon once, as part of a cultural exchange. Is it very common?"

"Watermelon is pretty common were I'm from, and it's especially good fresh. As to the pears, I've never had those fresh. Some were shipped in to one of the refugee camps and Orions hate being in any sort of debt so they insisted on sharing." He took drink of tea, avoiding thought of anything else they'd offered to share. Focusing on the sliced mut and vinaigrette, he picked up a piece. "Do you typically eat this plain or dip it?"

Njalia takes the vinaigrette and pours it over about half of the plate of mut and iri. "Like this, another reason it is considered juvenile to eat it with you fingers." Which did not stop her from doing just that as she wrapped a piece of mut around a spear and ate it, "Perfect!"

Martin laughed and followed suit. Popping the mut-wrapped spear coated with vinaigrette into his mouth, his eyes widened a moment as he chewed. "Mmm... that is perfect. I think I have to add this to my regular menu," he said, smiling.

"Another victory for Andor," said Njalia with a smile. "Now let's try this fish," she said taking a helping. "Fish seem to look fairly similar on the core worlds. Is this fresh water or salt water fish?" she asks.

"This fresh water," Martin explained, cutting a filet with a fork to show the chunks of white meat. "A white fish typically found in northern rivers and lakes, so it tends to cold waters - at least by human standards - as well."

NJalia nods as she tries some. "It is good." She has a bit more. "I tried to get a group of my fellow cadets to go up to Alaska for some ocean swimming but, no, too cold they said."

"Chilly by human standards to be sure," Martin chuckled. "On the other hand, I doubt you'd be interested in hiking the Negev. Some of the other doctors at Fleet Medical did that one summer. The pictures they brought back were stunning, but," he rolled eyes, "even the Vulcans that went with them thought it was a bit hot."

"Yes, we did take a jaunt to Death Valley and I needed a cooling vest the whole time," said Njalia. "Terra is a much more varied world in climate from Andor which may explain why your ended up with more cultures than Andor. If I had the time, I would enjoy exploring more of Terran history."

"Probably what makes my species 'jack-of-all-trades, master of none' when it comes to adapting to different biomes," Martin agreed. "We're complete wimps for what Andorians consider cold and vulcanoids consider hot, but we seem to have a fairly broad range of environments that we can fit in. And it probably does explain a lot about our diversity of cultures. There are some good studies on the impact of environment on sociocultural development. And on history. My father dual majored in history, so if you ever want recommendations for books, let me know."

"Thank you, I will keep that in mind," she smiled and tried some of the corn. "I am not so sure on this though. Corn, yes? I like it in your corn bread but not as much by itself."

"Corn on the cob, though only the corn kernels are edible," Martin explained. "Unless it's fresh sweet corn, it usually isn't such a treat by itself. But," he took a knife full of butter and began to spread it slowly over the corn, letting it melt into the rows of kernels, "drenched in butter and then salted," he applied the salt liberally, a took a bite, "...Mmm... I should say as doctor that this is not exactly a healthy side dish, but it is good."

Njalia follows suit. "Better. Unhealthy because of the salt?"

"More because of all the butter. It's mostly fat. Not unhealthy - we need a certain amount of fat, just like we need a certain amount of salt - but corn on the cob makes it really easy to over-indulge," Martin explained while rolling his corn in the puddle of butter on his plate. He grinned at her. "I came up a little underweight at my last check-up after the de-aging/re-aging thing, so I figure I can indulge a bit more than usual."

Njalia nodded. "I remember talking to some potential cadets and explaining that you could be too thin to be healthy, especially in Starfleet when you might be called upon to have to do all sorts of physical tasks. Several of your Terran groups have an odd obsession with thinness." She added a bit on fish to the chowder and tasted it, nodding approvingly.

"That's another cultural diversity thing," Martin noted. "At various points in past in several places being fat was considered a sign of wealth and status. There aren't many who subscribe to that now, but some places on earth people think super thin is good, while others find it unattractive." He shrugged a little, thinking of Dr. Abrams' comment about how some of the nurses might like how 'cut' he looked but all she saw was an unhealthy level of body fat. He added a little more butter to his corn, then looked at Njalia's chowder mixture. Fusion fish chowder... Following her lead, he added some walleye to his chowder and took a spoonful and smiled. "That's a great combination."

Njalia fishes a datapad out of her satchel. "Walleye yes? Anything special about how if was prepared?" she asks making notes.

"Lightly coated in flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then pan fried," Martin said, tapping open his own PaDD. "How about the chowder?"

"Komolous lightly cooked and diced, thickened with aus, a root vegetable, and gaffel flour, a variety of spices, a family secret, but I will give you my replicator code for it," said Njalia with a smile.

"Yes, thank you, I'd appreciate that," Martin said and beamed a smile. "You know, this is one of the things I love about Starfleet. So many opportunities for exchange and collaboration - even in culinary science."

"Nothing builds cultural understanding like a shared meal," she says. "About the only thing I can remember from my diplomacy course in the Academy."

"Yes, and camaraderie in general," Martin agreed. "We had people move in and out of the relief groups I worked with, so we always tried to have meals together to get to know each other and help integrate everyone in." He took another spoon of newly elevated soup, thinking. "I wish I could do that with the medical staff here, but between duty shifts that regularly run over and the people trying to balance that with families, it would probably not work out well. But we usually do something for birthdays, and we host a regular Halloween party, so there's at least occasional opportunities to share a meal, or cake and candy at least."

"Yes, it is always a challenge with people working radically different shifts," she agreed. "But I will have to see if I can set something up for Ops to help build ties. I will have to see what I can work out. Thank you, Martin. Being a department head is new to me, so much to take in and plan for."

"Any time. Honestly, I'm one of the newer department heads here - even a year ago I had to remind myself that when some asked after the CMO they meant me," he chuckled. "But I'm glad to help any way I can. And I'd be happy to share more meals, and try some other foods too - in fact, it might make the 'show the flag' tour we have coming up a bit less boring if we pick some from whatever planet we're visiting."

"It might be a good way to reach out, especially if we could host something that could be attended by a wide range of people," mused Njalia. "We will have to work with the diplomats on this. But it would be fun."

It was a nice idea, so he hated to pour cold water on it but Martin had seen the schedule. "Unfortunately these things are usually pretty tightly choreographed, and this one has us moving port to port on too tight a schedule to invite people in for a nice sit down meal. But maybe we could do something with tasting local foods for the crew who won't be getting a chance to go ashore," he suggested. "That would boost morale a bit and I'd think a request for suggestions of local dishes for the crew to try would be taken as a compliment. We could certainly reach out to Ms. Cerin and ask."

"Unfortunate that," she said. "Building ties with the political elite is all well and good, but it is the people who build the society that we really need to reach and bring into the Federation. But, yes, reaching out for local food would be a good sign that we are interest in them as people and not just as a source of materials."

She pauses. "I have not met our diplomat is residence yet, anything I should know?"

"Other than that her office is the one with the good hot cocoa?" Martin joked. "Besides using her different chain of command exemption to circumvent the usual health restrictions for replicators, she's great - both as a professional and a person. I think you'll like her. For someone only a few years older than I am, she's had a lot of experience in a number of different postings, and I have to say is very tolerant of the fact that being one of the few human/Bajoran hybrids in her age range means I have to run more medical analysis with her. Also, her aide is Andorian so at least one room in the diplomatic offices should be set at good temperature for you." He took a sip of tea, thinking if there was anything else. "You know, it occurs to me that they may have shared some meals. I'm going to have to ask if any Bajoran food goes as well with other Andorian cuisine as my walleye does in your chowder."

"More experimentation ahead," smiled Njalia. "I look forward to meeting them both."

"More experimentation," Martin lifting his tea in a semi-toast. "I'll drink to that."

"To experimentation and new friends," she said raising her cup.


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