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Thread: Star Trek RPG - Mission #3: "Some Other Side of Paradise"

  1. #201
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    Collins takes one of the appetizers as the tray passes by her. Damn that's good, she thinks, so I'm not going to ask what it's made from. She smiles and circulates through the crowd, participating in the conversations that catch her fancy.

  2. #202
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    T'Var is quite impressed with her surroundings. Everything neat and clean. Everything in its proper place. And the appetizers smell wonderful!

    After acknowledging Dr. Villa's welcome, T'Var asks, "Could you recommend an appetizer for me to try -- and the best wine to accompany it?"

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    Graham can't help but smile. He's seen many events like this--only from the door, where he was posted making sure no one uninvited got in. He realizes he's probably doing a bad job of making small talk, but he can't help but focus on scanning the room for anything out of the ordinary or signs of a security risk; he feels slightly out of place without a phaser, and his hand unconsciously drops to his hip for a second. He sighs: OK Booker, free food and booze and a VIP ticket. Probably not going to happen every day, so relax and take advantage of it...

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    The elegant, elaborate room is almost comforting to Kylah, somewhat ironically since as familiar as she is with such trappings thanks to her upbringing back on Elas, she always hated the events that required them.

    She takes a glass of the Picard '50--vowing to herself that this will be her sole drink tonight--and thanks the steward before she takes a sip. Cool, dry and just sweet enough. Kylah searches the room for someone who seems welcoming. Examining the other women, she starts to regret having styled her hair quite as formally, following the tradition of Elas to weave her hair into braids and let them fall loosely around her head. The sweep of gold eyeshadow on her lids above her inky black eyes matches the gilding of her uniform. At least she left her lips natural, since they have enough color that using lipstick is unnecessary. It is a formal event, she justifies to herself. Honoring my culture's traditions is appropriate for a social gathering, even among crewmembers.

    While glancing around, she spots the newcomer, Ensign Graham, by the doorway. He's scanning the room like a professional guard, as if he expects there to be some sort of trouble. For a moment she can't tell if he's here as a guest or for undercover security. Not for the first time, she wonders why she's been invited to this event. It seems a strange mixture of people. The senior officers and even assistant chiefs such as Collins and Delaney make sense. But mere ensigns like her and Graham, two of the newest members on board? And Rangin too, though at least he's served on the ship longer than a mere month.

    The thought of Rangin makes Kylah stand a little straighter, lower the glass, and sweep her gaze across the room. Is he here yet? She doesn't see him immediately and decides it would be well to be seen interacting with others instead of drinking by herself. Her instinct is to greet her fellow newcomer, but Graham might be on duty and she remembers back on Elas it was considered bad form to distract a security guard's attention. Instead she draws closer to Lt. Thalen, and when his conversation with Lt. JG Bennett pauses she gives him a courteous but somewhat hopeful nod. "Good evening, sir," she says, and then greets Bennett as well.
    Last edited by choie; 15 Sep 2013 at 01:40 PM.

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    As Rangin heads into the dinner with everyone standing around, he reminds himself to be social, good company and to smile regardless of who might be here and what gets said. It is a little disconcerting to him to be invited to such a meal,especially given the notable presence, but as he looks round he is slightly relieved to other people there he recognises.

    He accepts a glass of wine and an appetiser as they go by and looks round. Seeing Kylah already involved in conversation as are the others, he heads across to Ensign Graham.

    "Evening, have I missed anything yet?"
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Graham nods to acknowledge Rangin’s greeting and then shrugs his shoulders. “Nope,” he replies. After a brief pause he smiles slightly and adds, “I mean, nothing besides my scintillating conversation.” He shifts uncomfortably and tugs at the collar of his dress shirt. “You science guys get invited to things like this a lot? For my part, I’m thinking guarding the door at soirees like this is an easier assignment than getting all dressed up and ‘mingling.’ Your—ah…friend there, Ens. Kylah...she seems to be pretty good at it, though.”

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    Cmdr. Vargas comes over to Collins and says, "Good to see you, Lieutenant. How are you this evening?"

    Dr. Villa says to T'Var, "I'm partial to the chablis, but it might not be to your taste. Some find it too dry, but I think it's just right. And the Edoan savory crackers are quite good." She subtly glances around and moves a little closer. "I've been looking over the latest scans of Mr. Fujishiro. The Sakathian virus seems to be mutating. Nothing dangerous, at least not yet, but it's spread to a majority of her white blood cells now and shows no sign of slowing down."

    The Andorian communications chief raises his glass and says cheerily, "Hello, Kylah! Glad you could come. How's everything?"

    Bennett adds, "You look amazing. You must give me some tips on how you do your hair." The navigator has her lustrous brown hair up in an elegant chignon for the occasion.

    A passing steward asks Graham, "Something to drink, sir?"
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 15 Sep 2013 at 11:22 PM.

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    "I'm fine, Commander, thank you. And you?" Collins smiles politely. She is more than just a little intimidated by Vargas, but she hides it well. She wonders if she'll be trying to impress him her entire career.

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    Kylah wears her most pleasant expression and says, "Everything is very good, thank you, sir. I am learning more about the ship and my duties every day, and hope soon to be a credit to the Yorktown." She thanks Bennett modestly and returns the compliment, as she herself has never been able to keep her hair nearly as smooth and silky straight.

    She tilts her glass, from which she's only had two sips. "This is a marvelous wine. I have never heard of this vineyard before. Is it from Earth?"

    Past Thalen's shoulder she sees Graham and Rangin, and notices the former glancing in her direction. She lifts her glass slightly in a silent greeting, then returns her polite gaze to the two senior officers.

  10. #210
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    "Yeah," Graham says, a little too abruptly, taking a glass of wine from the steward. Kylah seems to gesture in his direction: probably to Rangin, given whatever they have going on, but he's not sure, and the degree to which she reminds him of his daughter has been gnawing at him. "You are not ugly," she said earlier. At the back of his mind, the young ensign's face elides into Elizabeth's, only she is saying "It wasn't your fault." He drinks half the glass of wine at a gulp. But she would never say that, Graham thinks. Because it was.

    Graham silently wishes a Klingon suicide commando squad would blast through the side bulkhead to spare him the rest of the evening's social niceties. He finishes the glass and grabs another before the steward can get too far away.

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    Rangin smiles at Graham's comment.

    "Invited to one of these, are you kidding. I only get to go to science symposiums, where the sparkling repartee is yet another lead scientist grandstanding his latest work as being better than all the others. As an ensign, all I'm supposed to to do is nod, be grateful I'm in their presence and be suitably awestruck by how intelligent they are."

    Rangin looks across at where Kylah is talking away and notices the slight hesitation in Graham's comment before turning back to face him. "She's in communications, so she should be good at talking to people. She's from a slightly different culture, a bit formal in most situations and sometimes takes things the wrong way, but her heart's in the right place."

    He waits while Graham accepts the drink from the steward, and shakes his head slightly when also offered, he doesn't plan on drinking that much this evening.

    "Somehow I think saying you should relax will only make you more tense. I doubt you're the only one wondering what on earth a bunch of Ensigns are doing here, but we may as well enjoy it."
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    All thoughts of food and drink disappear as T'Var takes in what Villa has just shared with her about Fujishiro. The doctor can't wait to leave the dinner and follow up on this new information.

    "Dr. Bucci and I will look into this mutation as soon as possible," T'Var assures Villa. "Perhaps this is the breakthrough we need."

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    Vargas says to Collins, "I'm just fine, thank you. How are you feeling? Well, I hope...?" He glances meaningfully at her belly.

    Thalen has a glass of the Picard '50 himself, takes a sip and says to Kylah, "It is rather good, isn't it? It's definitely from Earth - a small vineyard in Belgium, I think... or is it France? Croatia?"

    "France, I think," Bennett says. "The Captain told me once."

    Delaney comes over to Rangin and Graham. "Gentlemen! Good to see you both. Booker, someone told me you were a commander once for two weeks. Is that right? I'd love to hear the story."

    Dr. Villa purses her lips. "Well, perhaps, T'Var, but I doubt it. Don't get your hopes up. She remains in a persistent vegetative state, and her higher brain function has been almost zeroed."

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    "Oh," Collins says, a little surprised. She puts her hand on her abdomen "that. Fine. I haven't felt nauseated in over 36 hours." She's surprised Vargas asked about her pregnancy since he seemed indifferent to it when she told him and the Captain. "I'm still mulling over my options."

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    Graham grits his teeth. Anytime now for that Klingon suicide squad would be just…. damned…fine, he thinks.

    “Lieutenant Commander, actually,” he grunts, taking a swig of wine. He takes a second to swallow a brief flash of anger; it seems pretty clear Delaney isn’t trying to needle him, and it’s not as if his service record is a secret (well, most of it, anyway). He reminds himself it was certain to come up sooner or later… Of course, he adds as a mental note—just my luck that it is here in front of the whole command staff.

    “Ah, you know, there really isn’t much to tell,” he says, shrugging his shoulders and trying to come across as good-natured rather than sarcastic. “It’s just that Starfleet doesn’t like it much when officers go AWOL and create a diplomatic incident.” He takes another sip of wine, doubting anyone will let it drop there but giving the delay tactic a shot.

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    Kylah has only half-listened to the banter between Bennett and Thalen. She's been getting a strong sense of discomfort--barely suppressed shame mixed with anger--from someone not far away, and it is impossible to ignore. She looks over and sees Rangin and Graham have been joined by Delaney, who's talking to the new security officer. Considering Delaney's pleasant grin and Rangin's usual calm demeanor, Kylah easily homes in on Graham as the person who quite clearly feels as if he'd rather stun himself than be at this event... a feeling that's only worsened since Delaney started speaking.

    Her empathy is acute. How many formal dinners did she attend as a shy child or even on visits home from the Academy, hating how awkward she felt among the strangers? The memory gives Kylah an idea.

    After making a swift calculation, she excuses herself to her superiors before moving with unusual vivacity over to the men by the door. Of course she knows she's about to make herself sound like a scatterbrained fool or a drunk--or both--but right now her mission is to remove the source of discomfort.

    "I beg your pardon for interrupting, Lt. Delaney... Mr. Rangin," she adds with a slightly softer tone before she focuses her attention on the newcomer. "Mr. Graham, you are from Earth, are you not?" She places a hand on his arm, lifting her glass with the other one. "Perhaps you can settle a question for me. Lieutenants Thalen and Bennett just confirmed that this wonderful wine is apparently from your planet, some place called France. Is this anywhere near San Francisco? It seems likely as I remember other cadets saying there were many vineyards near the Academy." She turns to Delaney and adds conversationally, "I was sometimes invited to go to winetasting outings but was far too studious to attend. If a wine such as this is an example of what is produced there, I fear I missed out."
    Last edited by choie; 16 Sep 2013 at 07:14 PM.

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    Graham feels a moment of relief as Ensign Kylah approaches at a moment miraculously timed to let him off the hook.

    “It’s…there are lots of vineyards near San Francisco,” he mumbles in response to her question. “France is on the other side of the planet, though. But if you’re headed to Europe, you’re better off stopping in Scotland for whisky, in my opinion…I…”

    He has to suppress a deep sense of shame as she touches his arm: really, Booker? You’re going…to hide…behind…her? Every syllable of each thought is accusatory.

    He speaks more loudly. “You know—you’re just in time, Ensign!” He says to Kylah, pointing a thumb sharply at his other two crewmates—“I was telling Rangin and Delaney here how I got busted from Lt. Commander to Ensign, and almost thrown out of Starfleet to boot.” He waves over a wine steward. “Make yourself comfortable, I’m just getting started. But leave room in case more folks want to gather around…”

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    Vargas looks a little surprised, but says, "Of course, Mr. Collins. I didn't mean to pry. I know you'll do what's best." He clears his throat and looks around the room, his gaze finally alighting on Graham. "Our newest Security officer seems quite popular, wouldn't you say? How does he strike you so far?"

    Across the room, and still well out of Vargas's earshot, Delaney realizes too late that perhaps Graham is actually not all that enthused about telling the story. "Oh, uh, Booker, jeez, I'm sorry. If you'd rather not say, you don't...."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 16 Sep 2013 at 10:57 PM.

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    Kylah steps back abruptly, dismayed and confused by Graham's determination to reveal something that's obviously causing him distress. She has no idea what he did to get demoted but it cannot be a pleasant memory despite the ebullient facade the man is presenting. Did her clumsy attempt to distract him actually goad him into this? Kylah stares helplessly at Rangin, wondering what he must think of her. Probably nothing very much at all, she suspects with a pang.

    Finally she turns with hopeful eyes to Delaney when he speaks up. Maybe Graham will listen to him... Maybe Vargas will speak up... Maybe the Captain will arrive and silence them all before the security officer says something he truly regrets.

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    He shakes his head. "But we've already gotten started. So...” Graham’s muscles tense, and he flexes his knees slightly he gets into telling the story.

    No one to be mad at but yourself, Booker, he thinks. Own it.

    He tries to make sure he looks into each of his crewmate’s eyes as he starts the story.

    Look at Delaney.

    “I had a lead on some real bad guys—slaving was just the tip of the iceberg.”

    Look at Rangin.

    “Following up on it was…uh, outside the mission parameters of my assignment at the time.”

    Look at Kylah.

    “But it was persona…” his voice catches. He can’t finish the word “personal” and look at the young woman his daughter’s age at the same time. He turns and winds up looking at the wall. “I had my reasons, it doesn’t matter.”

    He takes another swig of wine and a clenches a fist. “So I trace this big shot trader my informant says I need to talk to all the way to a colony on frontier of Federation space. Their story is that they’ve set up a self-regulating syndicate of merchants, so you get all the opportunities of trading in neutral space, but it’s legit—they screen and weed out all the crooks and bad actors.” He shrugs. “Only problem is, the ship isn’t going anywhere near it. So I take a shuttlecraft and go.”

    “I track this guy down…he’s human, but deep into dealing with the Orions. I want to have a little chat, except he’s not so keen on sticking around. Only I’m not so keen on letting him go.” He unconsciously traces the scar down his face and looks at Delaney. “I got hurt. He got…” he looks around and points at T’Var. “The doctor would say the clinical definition is ‘dead.’”

    He hops side to side a little bit. He remembers pain, a haze of blood. He remembers being removed from the hospital facility and taken into custody by Starfleet security. Some guys I knew, he thinks—I was pissed at first, but then I realized Captain Gral sent them to get me off planet so I wouldn’t be disappeared by the locals.

    “Here’s where it gets interesting. The trading syndicate is screaming bloody murder. It looks like I’m going up on manslaughter charges. But my captain…” he pauses. thinking of the tough old Tellarite he’d let down in so many ways. “My captain at the time on the Liffey…he made sure Starfleet poked around. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. Turns out the dead guy had been vetted and approved by the local syndicate, but was dirty as hell if you actually took the time to look.”

    He smiles grimly and spreads his arms. “So there it is: I run off half-cocked, and the locals are saying I’m a murderous Federation vigilante. But the fact is the guy was such bad news that either the syndicate was corrupt or totally incompetent—he deserved to be on the wrong end of a phaser a hundred times over. So all of a sudden everybody—Federation, locals—wants this whole incident to disappear.”

    Graham isn’t sure whether he’s growling or shouting at this point. “Priceless, isn’t it? I take out a bad guy, only the fact that I had no evidence for doing so means Starfleet needs to make the thing go away. And the fact that he was a bad guy means there’s nobody to press charges against me. But you’ve got to pay the piper.” He shakes his head. “Captain Gral said he would take me back, after I got busted down to ensign. But I didn’t deserve it. He’d done enough.”

    He finishes his glass. “Good wine.” He grins wolfishly. “What do you think’s for dinner?” he asks his crewmates.

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    There's a slight pang of jealousy from Rangin as Kylah touches Graham on the arm before his own words come back to haunt him. Different Cullture. How could he have been foolish to recognise it as anything else. She really was just being friends on leave, nothing more. Fortunately, Kylah was looking at Graham at the time, so the slight tinge of red colouring Rangin's face will not give anything away.

    Distracted by Kylah for a moment, Rangin was about to say something but Graham starts his story before he can think of anything to say. Although he does seem desperate to get something off his chest. He politely listens while Graham finished his story.

    As he's speaking, Rangin keeps his own counsel about Graham. But anyone who can get to LT Commander is worthy of respect. Anyone who takes on the Orion Syndicate or affiliates alone is certifiable, or desperate. Rangin is well aware of how corrupt and dangerous they can be.

    Responding to Graham with a raised glass and a calm demeanour, "That's one hell of a story, somehow I doubt dinner will match it. It will be probably be something small, exotic and unidentifiable."
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    T'Var frowns. "I understand," she tells Villa. "However, I also believe in hope. It is most logical. 'Where there is life, there is hope', after all."

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    "Oh, I'm sure he'll work out fine." Collins tells Vargas, "I haven't spoken to him much, yet. I'll bet he's full of stories." She looks over to the group talking to Graham, rather listening to him. "If you'll excuse me, Commander?" Her body language is pointing towards that group. She very much would like to hear some of Graham's war stories.

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    Kylah hardly knows which part of Graham's tale is most horrible, and combined with the flood of emotions she's sensing from him, the violence and corruption and injustice he's just related make her stomach churn. She might expect to find Ensign Graham among Aldaan's employees--if not for the weight of regret that's so obviously crushing him. Quite honestly, she's torn between being frightened of and sympathetic toward this man.

    His lighthearted pretense at the end is met by Rangin's, and Kylah is genuinely confused at how they can joke after such a tale. But it must be what's expected--perhaps of men, perhaps of Starfleet officers. She has many questions, one first and foremost, about something he either accidentally or intentionally omitted. But she immediately quashes her instincts. If she ever speaks to Graham again--though it is probably doubtful their paths will meet often on the ship--and if she feels safe enough, maybe she will ask.

    Or maybe not. When he had been about to mention the reason behind his obsessive hunt for the slavers, he couldn't even look at her. Why? He had looked at the others frankly enough. Did her questions earlier make her seem so shallow that Graham thought her sensibilities too delicate, her mind too flighty, to treat as an equal? Those who do not meet her gaze usually have contempt for her or simply dismiss her worth. It is a sore point for Kylah and she knows she might be wrong to take it personally. This man has many demons and who knows what lies behind his actions... any of them.

    She cannot match the insouciance, feigned or otherwise, of the men. She merely takes another sip of wine, the glass clinking against her teeth due to her trembling hand, and remains silent.
    Last edited by choie; 17 Sep 2013 at 01:01 PM.

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    "Of course," Vargas says, slightly lifting his glass in salute to Collins. She joins the group around Graham and is able to hear most of his story.

    Delaney has turned beet red by the time Graham finishes. He mumbles something apologetic and makes a beeline for Thalen and Bennett.

    Dr. Villa says with a rueful smile, "Oh, I'm always hopeful, T'Var. But I've been in this game long enough, I'm also a realist."

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    Collins picks up the story around “Here’s where it gets interesting.”. She listens with interest and wonders about the part of the story she missed.
    In answer to Graham's question, Collins says "Rubber chicken in a cream sauce, undercooked veggies, and an overcooked potato" and gives the group a big smile.

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    Graham chuckles and gives Collins a brief mock salute.

    This Rangin’s got a dry sense of humor, he thinks—not bad for a Science Guy. And Collins just may be all right after all.

    He wants to catch the obviously embarrassed Delany before he bolts, but the engineer moves too quickly. The guy shouldn’t feel bad, Graham thinks. God knows I’ve put my foot in mouth a thousand times.

    And maybe I’ve done it again—he glances at Kylah. “A different culture,” Rangin had said. But different in what way? Graham’s frustrated that he seems to have—what? Hurt her feelings? Made her angry? Convinced her I’m a sorry excuse for a fa—he catches himself. For an officer, not for a father.

    Unless she can read minds, she only has a basis for the former judgment, not the latter, he thinks. I left that part of the story out tonight.

    Hell, maybe she can read minds, he muses. He sighs and lets his gaze pass over Lt. Bennett. There’s at least one reason to be in favor of forcing everyone to put on a dress uniform, anyway.

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    Bennett looks over and notices Graham's gaze. She smiles and gives a little nod, then goes back to talking to Thalen and Delaney. Graham suddenly notices his palms sweating a bit.

    The doors whoosh open and Capt. Singh, Vice Adm. Hardin and Lt. Cmdr. Ebling enter. You all stand to attention. The Captain says, "As you were. Welcome to the Wardroom, Admiral. If I may introduce you to my officers...?"

    Hardin takes a moment to shake hands and speak with each of you. Several of you notice that he seems friendly but tired.

    To T'Var he says, "A pleasure, Doctor. Some of the best physicians I know are Vulcans. Do you get back to your homeworld often?"

    To Collins, "Anyone whom Mr. Vargas chooses to have at his right hand must be an exceptional officer indeed. I understand your Sakathian mission was difficult?"

    To Kylah, "It's good to meet you, Ensign. I hope you'll be one of many Elasian officers to join Starfleet. Long life to you, and success to your House."

    To Rangin, "As it happens, xenobiology is a hobby of mine, Mr. Rangin. Tell me, do you have a particular favorite among the Bolian estuarine crabs?"

    To Graham, "I think we were both on the Swift recently, Ensign. I hope you'll forgive me for not being more sociable; my health is not what it once was."

    Ebling, his Tellarite flag aide, stays nearby at all times, but says little.

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    Collins's joke cements the notion in Kylah's mind that everyone is intending to ignore Ensign Graham's story. Not that she blames them, but somehow... somehow she feels it's wrong not to acknowledge everything he's just revealed. The man took a huge risk--at least, she would consider it a risk; from the way the others are reacting, one might assume Starfleet officers find such things common occurences, from justifying a murder after-the-fact to the original crimes going unpunished. And the Federation once considered Elasians barely civilized?

    Unable--maybe unwilling--to let the story go by without some more significant response, Kylah finally looks directly up at the tall man and murmurs gently, "I am glad you were not more grievously injured, Mr. Graham. That was a dangerous mission and it is fortunate you are here to tell us about it."

    Looking quickly away, she wrestles to think of something similar to the others' comments, not wanting to seem out of place. What would her mother have said? Never the wrong thing at the wrong time, that much is certain. She was a pure diplomat till the end.

    Kylah swallows and makes an effort, looking from Collins to Rangin with a bright-eyed gaze. "I hope for the sake of our reputations as hosts, you are all underestimating the Yorktown's chef," she says with as casual an air as she can manage. "We do not want to insult the Comptroller. But then it might be beneficiary after all. Perhaps he will help lobby for an increased allocation of funds to the ships' kitchen resources."

    Even as her last word leaves her lips, the doors open and the Captain and the guests enter. She inhales sharply and stands straighter. When the Vice Admiral takes the trouble to greet her personally, she bows her head in honor of the recognition. "Thank you very much, sir. I hope that I, and my House, may endeavor to reflect all that is good and honorable in the Federation." Though apparently there is less of that than I thought, she thinks.
    Last edited by choie; 17 Sep 2013 at 09:14 PM.

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    "Thank you, sir," Collins responds, "Difficult, yes. But I am pleased with how my team responded."

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    Graham isn’t sure whether Kylah is mocking him or being genuinely kind…the latter is much harder for him to deal with. He’s wrestling with whether he should make a joke, or whether he can manage to choke out “thank you” when the Vice Admiral enters the room.

    The brass greets folks by name: impressive, and a little strange. When he greets Kylah, Graham is shocked: son of a bitch, she’s Elasian, he thinks. If she’s carrying concealed weapons and I haven’t noticed, I’m getting sloppy.

    He clocks himself back in and looks for signs of weapons on her —he thinks it’s knives that the women carry—but is interrupted by the Vice Admiral himself.

    Graham shakes his head. “You didn’t miss anything—sir—my… social skills…aren’t what they once were. I…” he pauses; the guy seems genuinely nice. “I’m no doctor, but if there’s anything I can do, say the word, Admiral.”

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    Rangin grins at her response while meeting her gaze and is about to compliment Kylah on the response when the doors opened.

    He takes his place lining up with everyone up as the Vice Admiral comes round.

    Outwardly urbane, the thoughts going round Rangin's head are a lot simpler. She's a royalty from Elas, relax, take it easy, she's still just an ensign...who still mixes things up...and gets all confused...and she's still a friend.

    Rangin smiles as he is greeted. "Thank you sir, I believe my favourites are still the first I saw when I was in Bokitu by the Bay of Bolse."
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    "A pleasure and an honor, sir," T'Var replies. "I have not visited my home world in quite some time. However, I consider Starfleet to be my home as well."

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    The admiral says, "I'm sure you will, Ens. Kylah. Good luck to you."

    He replies to Collins, "Of course. It's good to have shipmates on whom you can rely."

    He bestows a weary smile on Graham and says quietly, "Thank you, Ensign; I appreciate it."

    To the Yorktown's xenobiologist he says, "Bokitu by the Bay of Bolse, eh? You have a gift for alliteration, Mr. Rangin. The crabs there certainly are remarkable, even if they do taste terrible."

    To T'Var he says, "Ah, there's nothing like Sasek's Canyon in the early fall. I hope you'll have the chance to get back there sometime soon, Doctor."

    The Captain's Yeoman, acting as maitre 'd, invites you all to sit down. Your places are marked with calligraphed cards. The Captain is at the head of the table, with the Comptroller General to her right and the First Officer to her left. Among the junior officers, Kylah and Rangin are next to each other, as are Drs. T'Var and Noel. Collins and Lt. Cmdr. Ebling find themselves side by side, and likewise Graham and Bennett. The other senior officers are seated here and there.

    Soon dinner is served by the Mess stewards. Notwithstanding Rangin's and Collins's predictions, it is quite good. An icy salad of Spican mixed greens is followed by cups of piping hot Earth seafood bisque, then by thickly-sliced Morranian beef with a peppery mustard glaze, and mixed vegetables. Graham's not sure he's ever eaten as well on a Starfleet vessel.

    Wine and other beverages, or refills, are offered anew as the meal goes on.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 18 Sep 2013 at 03:47 PM.

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    Collins chats amicably with the Tellarite woman. Ebling is only the third, no, second she's ever met. She keeps it to small talk because she has one ear focused on Ensign Graham sitting across from her. She listens for an opening in his conversation to engage him. There is something appealing about him. She's not attracted to him in that way, but she does feel drawn to him.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 18 Sep 2013 at 09:37 PM. Reason: Corrected Ebling's race and gender, per anyrose's request.

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    If Rangin gets the chance and is allowed to do so, he will hold Kylah's chair for her, while attempting to be a gentleman.

    He looks down slightly nervously at the dinner and leans slightly across to her with a whisper. "You know, this was one of the few parts of Starfleet I didn't pay much attention to. How does this go again?"
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Kylah is surprised by Rangin pulling out her chair, but remembers it's an Earth custom. Elasian women are usually not treated as delicate objects who require such niceties--of course, the entire royal family is treated with deference by servants, but it is not gender-based. And yet Kylah doesn't mind the gesture, because it seems to indicate...

    She's not entirely sure what it indicates. But it's an act of kindness. Unnecessary, but those are the most pleasant ones. She thanks him and gives him one of her rare smiles, trying not to assume anything about his motives. After all, if he were seated beside Noel, Bennett, Collins or T'Var he might do the same.

    His question also charms her. "Do you mean the utensils?" she asks, also in a whisper. "As I was taught, the Earth custom is to use those on the farthest side away from the plate first, then move inward with each course." Hoping to reassure him, Kylah adds: "I only remember this because it was an enforced lesson to us on Elas. Until we were about to join the Federation, we never used anything other than knives and--with broths--a sort of..." The appropriate equivalent for the Elasian caleera escapes her. She looks down at the spoon, but that doesn't quite match it--far too small and inefficient. At last, glancing at the center of the table where the tureen of bisque sits, she nods gratefully toward the silver utensil within. "Something like that. I do not know the word... A... a scoop? Ladle," she suddenly corrects, embarrassed. And you pride yourself on your knowledge of foreign languages!

    She quickly departs from the subject to greet Noel, across from her, and--somewhat awkwardly--Pourtash, to her left. Kylah has not forgotten his aiming his phaser at her back on the research station, and she doubts she ever will.

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    Graham gives Lt. Bennett a gentle nudge with his elbow. "I guess we're having dinner, ma'am."

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    During the meal, Ebling opens up a bit more with Collins. She has been the Vice Admiral's flag aide for eight months, and before that was most recently assigned to the USS Minsk, a light cruiser frequently on convoy duty along the Orion frontier. She seems introverted by nature but is pleasant enough.

    Pourtash and Dr. Noel seem to hit it off, and include Kylah in their conversation about recent novels. These days, Dr. Noel is engrossed in Longworth's Last Days of the Tyrants, a novel about the African unification of the late 21st century.

    Bennett laughs and nudges Graham back. "So it seems, Mr. Graham. But not quite the setting you originally had in mind, is it? How are you and Faisal getting on as cabinmates, anyway?"

    Those close enough to the head of the table overhear Hardin telling Singh about an early assignment he had: "Our Chief Engineer asked me to program the ship's computer to give answers to the most common, otherwise-unanswerable or joke questions that it had been asked. Let me see if I remember... for 'What are you wearing?,' I input 'I'm as naked as the day I was activated.' For 'Will you marry me?,' it was 'Thank you. I'm flattered, but I just don't think it would last.' For 'What's the meaning of life?,' it was '42.' Old, old joke. Do you know it? No matter. Quite a surprise for those who asked, though."

    They laugh, and the Captain, smiling, says to the Chief Engineer, "What a marvelous idea. See to it, will you, Mr. Cheverez?"

    "First thing in the morning, ma'am," he replies, chuckling as he raises his glass.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 18 Sep 2013 at 10:05 PM.

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    Graham gestures at the fine spread. "Well, obviously ma'am the fact that onight we're not being serenaded by strolling musicians is a big let down compared to what old Security grunts like me are used to...," he says to Bennett. "Faisal's solid. Delusional about his snoring, which he refuses to cop to. But it's good to see him...we were assign--."

    Edbling and Collins are talking just across the table: he overhears the words "Orion frontier."

    "I'm sorry to interrupt," he says to the two of them, a little too intensely. Calm down, Booker, he tells himself; there's a cold, hard hatred starting to well up in his gut. "Did I hear that you served on the Orion frontier? I've...spent some time there. Any headway lately against the bast--" he pauses and collects himself before he crushes the wine glass he's holding in his hand. "I mean, what's the latest word around the patrol fleet?"

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    "Thanks Kylah." responds Rangin.

    While Kylah is greeting the others next to her, Rangin greets Dr T'Var across from him and Lt. Cmdr. Roble next to him, before examining the cutlery in preparation and then digging in to the course,.
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    "Good evening, Mr. Rangin," T'Var says with a smile. "You look well. I hope you are feeling better?"

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    Kylah listens politely to the discussion, though she hasn't read the novels Pourtash and Noel have. She enjoys the food, which is quite good, and especially appreciates the peppery sauce of the beef.

    When there's a lull, she tries to engage Lt. Cheverez in conversation--difficult considering she knows nothing about either engineering or Cheverez personally. "Are you an avid reader yourself, sir?"

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    The Tellarite woman picks up her glass of ale in one lightly-furred paw and says, "We escorted five convoys while I was aboard the Minsk, and were twice attacked. We took some casualties and had one freighter badly damaged, but destroyed the pirate sloops both times. Most of the time I was rather bored on convoy duty, but when it got exciting, it was very exciting." She takes a sip and looks at Graham shrewdly. "You've had some run-ins of your own with the Orions, Ensign?"

    Cheverez tells Kylah, "Now and then I'll tackle a novel, but I like poetry and short stories more. For the past month or so I've been reading the collected works of Ryti, the Finnish poet. Have you read any of his work? Very homespun stuff, but it has a depth and a seriousness that appeals to me."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 19 Sep 2013 at 04:29 PM.

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    "Dr T'Var, good evening to you too." replies Rangin. "Yes, I am feeling better thank you, although still getting back to full fitness. I only managed half of what I normally would while swimming this morning. I know it will take time, but at least I am still walking around."

    Rangin looks slightly glum and continues. "My apologies for asking but how is Fujishiro? Still no change from before?"
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    Collins picks up on Graham's, what, hatred? anger? He doesn't like Orions, that's for sure. She leans in to listen to story.

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    The name Cheverez mentions is unknown to Kylah, and she worries she'll seem incredibly poor-read compared to everyone else on the ship. "I'm afraid I haven't heard of him, sir, though I too prefer poems. Oral narratives are very important to my people, along with stories told in song or dance. I think that is why I am drawn to Klingon operas so much, and miss the gifts of recordings I left behind by--" Kylah almost chokes on her words as she cuts herself off. What am I saying? I cannot bring up the Klingons here! She desperately tries to think of something to cover. "--By other races that value music similarly, such as the Catullans or Vulcans. But at any rate I shall make it a point to read Ryti's poems, thank you for the recommendation, sir."

    She looks down at her plate and aims her full attention on cutting a piece of beef, as if it's not already incredibly tender.

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    Graham shakes his head slightly. "Someone comes at you in a fair fight--I can't hate them. Doesn't mean I'll hesitate to put them down, but doesn't mean I'll like it either." He shrugs and tries to smile a little. "In some alternate universe I'd bet Klingons and Irishmen would even get along: loud singing, strong drink...ah, strong women..." His smile fades. "But if your reason to live is preying on the helpless, those you think are weaker than you...well...You don't deserve to...I've done some to remedy that situation." He takes a sip of wine: But not enough--not yet, he thinks, and almost says but thinks better of it.

    As he sips his wine, he sees Collins leaning forward slightly. Guess she likes war stories...or wait...me? Was that head shake thing around Kylah some kind of female jealousy thing? He mentally reminds himself of his track record assessing these sorts of things: don't even try to guess, Booker, just do your job and don't screw up.. He can't help but grimace a little. "More."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 19 Sep 2013 at 06:11 PM. Reason: corrections at g_u's request.

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    "Do you have a favorite Elasian poem, Mr. Kylah?" the Filipino engineer asks. "And if you know it by heart, would you feel comfortable telling it to me?"

    "How would you compare the Klingons and the Orions when it comes to preying on the helpless, Mr. Graham?" Bennett asks, setting down her fork. "Have you dealt with both?"

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    “’Dealt with,’” Graham says, shaking his head a little. “That’s a funny phrase. Yeah—I guess so. It was a little more violent than like this, you know, sitting around a table sipping wine...”

    He turns to look at Bennett. “I’m not trying to hand out any compliments here, ma’am. The Orions seek out the weak—and they don’t even pretend otherwise. Now the Klingons—yeah, from what I’ve seen they’ll kill anyone who gets in their way, period— so-called ‘warrior’s honor’ notwithstanding.” He pauses to take a sip of wine and shrugs.

    “Maybe that’s worse--pretending to have honor, a code. After Culloden, there were Grahams among the wounded Scots massacred by the so-called ‘civilized’ damned English…”

    Oh hell, Booker Charles Graham, he thinks. You’re talking to “Cecilia Bennett.” She’s English, you idiot.

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