Getting in Some Reading
Episode 3: Foxes and Henhouses
Location: Officer's Lounge, USS Defiant
Timeline: MD1, Evening
Charlotte swirled the glass of wine in her hand leisurely, not really paying too much attention to the room around her. She'd taken up a couch, boots kicked off and feet on the cushions. The luxuries of command. Thankfully off duty, she had changed into a green short sleeve shirt and a pair of jeans, grabbed her current book, some cheap political thriller set on Tellar, and brought herself to the lounge.
About an hour later, she'd hardly moved, but she was a good several dozen pages further along. The lighting was set low due to the time and most of the other officers in the room had entertained themselves with a surprisingly rowdy game of cribbage. Charlotte wasn't exactly in a gaming mood though, so she kept herself off to the side under the reading lamp.
They'd be departing Defiant tomorrow to begin the baryon purge and she wanted to enjoy the atmosphere before she had to leave it for a while. Especially since she'd be meeting Maralen to do a little stargazing in a few hours.
Dante had finished getting himself familiarized with the more basic aspects of his department, and had decided to call it a night. Having nothing better to do he decided to check out the lounge aboard the Defiant, and see what sort of atmosphere it had. He'd dressed for the occassion, and was in a pair of nice form fitting jeans, some slip on dress shoes, and a button down black shirt with a nice embroidery style floral print in dark oranges, reds, and pinks. In his hand was a very old black book, leather bound, with a cracked spine from constant rereading. On the spine was printed, in flaking, barely legible gold leaf, was the title, Memoires of a Geisha. Stepping up to the bar he ordered a glass of cognac, on the rocks, and as he picked it up he turned to survey the room.
Off towards the back of the room was a group playing cards around a large table. They were rather into the game, by the looks of it, but weren't being too distracting. He could even still hear the soft jazz music playing over the speakers. Closer, but almost blending into the background she was so still, sat the captain of the ship. She too had come with a book, and was sitting in a plush chair, reading, with a glass of wine in her hand.
Carrying his own book, and the chilly glass of liquor with him, he approached. "This seat taken?", he asked, quietly, indicating the identical chair beside her own.
"It is not," Charlotte said, giving him a quizzical look. "Though I may have missed the memo about the formal meeting taking place." She gestured toward his outfit. "Wasn't sure what the vibe would be like in the lounge, huh?"
As he sat Dante smiled, "I was raised to believe that a man should dress for the respect he seeks to get. I don't like walking around looking like a hood rat, even if I'm not from the most affluent of neighborhoods.", he replied, chuckling drily. "Good book?", he asked, pointing to her reading material.
"I was raised to believe a girl should where whatever the hell she wants. Though I'm probably partly to blame for bringing the dress code down. If the captain puts her feet on the couch and shows up in t-shirts or sweatpants, its not exactly going to inspire formality. But that's fine with me. Formality plays a second fiddle to comfort. At least when off duty," Charlotte said with a smile. "I do respect your choice though. Always good to value yourself, whether that means yoga pants or button downs."
She lifted her book. "And not really. It's a pretty cliche story. But its an easy read and I don't feel like thinking too hard today. What about you? That thing looks ancient."
Dante looked down lovingly to the book in his lap, his fingers moving across the soft leather. "It was my great grandmothers. She used to read it to me when I was growing up. It was her favorite book, and when she died she left it to me. I've read it once a year, every year since then.', he replied. "It tells a pretty tragic story, but it also has so much hope.", he added, looking up from the book.
“That’s very touching. It’s got quite the history,” Charlotte replied genuinely. She took a sip of the wine she’s been nursing for a while and closed her book, shifting in her seat to face him a little better. “I suppose I can be social for a bit. Unless you’d rather read the book.”
"I wouldn't mind being social, but I don't want to keep you from your book. If you'd rather read I can do the same.", he replied, sipping his drink, feeling the icy cold burn of the sweet liquor on his tongue, and in the back of his throat.
“Like I said, it’s not that great anyway,” Charlotte said. She set the book down on the table and pulled in her knees, cradling the wine glass in hand. “How’s settling in gone so far? Your quarters alright?”
Taking another sip of his drink Dante sat the book on the table, and leaned back, letting his body relax back into the soft chair, elbows propped up on the arms. "My quarters are great. And I feel like I'm going to like it here. It's a beautiful ship, but I also feel welcome, somehow. I can't really explain it. I guess the way you carry yourself, and deal with your officers, especially us new ones, just makes this seem like a very nice place to be.", he replied. Glancing over to her with a chuckle, "I certainly feel more relaxed. I'd have never dreamed of approaching any of my previous co's with a drink in my hand, even if I ever saw one in the lounge,” he added.
“It’s sorta how I like to operate. A ship is your assignment, but it’s also your home. When I’m on duty, I’m usually pretty professional. But off duty, I want people to feel at home,” Charlotte said, sipping her wine. “For some, a ship is just a job, and home is halfway across the Quadrant. But there are a lot of people who don’t have anywhere else to consider home. My goal is that if nothing else, they feel safe here.”
"Cheers." Dante said, holding up his glass. "You've done a hell of a job," he added. "So, what do you usually prefer to read, since that's not holding your attention,” he asked.
“Mysteries, fantasy novels, historical books. I enjoy a good political thriller, keyword being good. I just like to have a book around. This one was an impulse decision, but they can’t all be great.” She gestured toward his own. “What about you? I imagine that’s not the only book you read, unless you only read once a year.”
Laughing quietly Dante shook his head, "No, I read all the time. But I'm pretty open on what I like to read. I do prefer classical lit though. I have an entire collection of them actually. I've got some pretty good thrillers, if you ever wanna check them out. I'd be more than happy to let you borrow anything. Just stop by any time and I'll let you peruse.", he replied.
“I’ll have to take you up on that at some point,” Charlotte replied. “I prefer paper, and getting your hands on a physical book is quite difficult out this far. It’s nice to know there’s a collection on board.”
"So, I checked out what I could about the command staff before I got here, and this isn't your first command. Are you enjoying it so far?", he asked.
“You’re correct, it’s not. It’s my second command actually,” Charlotte replied. “But yes, I’m enjoying it quite a bit. It hasn’t exactly been an uneventful time. But Defiant is an amazing ship. And unlike my last command, she’s not older than me.”
"Well, I suppose that's a plus,” Dante replied with a smile. "I hope to have a command of my own one day, and I can honestly say I think I'll learn a thing or two from you that will help me along the way,” he added.
“Our Chief Engineer is actually pursuing command certification. I can assist you both if you’d like,” Charlotte said. “Though you’ll want to avoid picking up my habit of fight with Admirals.”
Soaring his hands and shrugging Dante replied, "If it's necessary, it's necessary.", He said, and laughed. "Honestly, if I feel strongly about something I'm going to stand my ground, rank be damned.", He added.
“Now you’re starting to sound like me,” Charlotte laughed. She sipped the last bit of her wine, setting the glass down. “Regardless, if Command is something you’re interested in, just let me know.” She pointed at his glass. “What’s your drink of choice?”
"I'll definitely do that.", Dante replied. Then, taking the last sip of his drink he nodded to the empty glass, "Cognac, on the rocks.", He replied.
“I prefer whiskey myself. But not a bad choice,” she gestured to her glass. I went a bit more decadent and chose wine for a change. It was a nice change up though.”
She sighed. “I’m afraid we’re all going to be drinking a bit more until this parasite situation is resolved. It’s all a bit too cloak and dagger for me.”
Dante paused, and then his face lit up a bit as a thought occurred to him. "Actually, if you trust me to get the drinks I'd like to surprise you.", he said. "Is that alright?"
"Sure. But not too strong," she said, curious as to what his surprise drink would be.
After getting her permission Dante wandered back over to the bar. He was there for a few minutes, and then approached her again. This time he had a tray.
"I figured I might as well join you with the wine.", He said, setting the tray down and handing her a glass. It was filled with a wine that was such a deep burgundy it seemed black, until the light caught it at the right angle and turned it a beautiful, glowing maroon.
"And this," he said, holding up a small plate, "is Betazoid dark chocolate. It is the best pairing I've ever come across for this wine.", He said with a smile.
She took sampled a little bit of both, raising an eyebrow afterward. "Oh that is quite good," she said, sampling a little more. "Where'd you learn of this little combination?"
"I dated a girl in the academy that was a huge chocoholic. I love wine, especially burgundies, so, it just sort of happened as a happy accident. She had the chocolate one night while we were watching movies, and I wanted some wine, and the two just came together quite well. Too bad the same wasn't the case for the two of us.", he added with a chuckle.
"Well...at least you got this pairing out of it," Charlotte said with a chuckle. "So what brought you to the academy in the first place? I'm always curious to know someone's origin story."
"Honestly, doing my part, and participating in society has always been pretty big to me. In school I was a member of the student council any chance I got, and it molded me, in a lot of ways. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I feel that it's very important to give back when I can. Serving in Starfleet is a way for me to do that, and also enjoy the time while I'm doing it.", he answered.
"That's also why I want to get into command. I want to be in a position where I can have some sort of influence. Does any of that make any sense?, he asked.
"Yeah it does. I'm not terribly far off myself. I got into Starfleet from a spirit of idealism. I just have an issue keeping my mouth shut sometimes. Its not easy to watch some of your strongest beliefs stepped on, but that's the kind of thing you sometimes need to stomach when meeting other cultures." She laughed. "That's why I was helm and not diplomacy. Who'd have thought I'd eventually get stuck doing diplomacy anyway."
Charlotte held up her hands in defense. "Not that I dislike diplomacy itself. Its an extremely important duty. I just don't like smiling and drinking tea with a despot."
"My time in debate in school taught me a valuable lesson. Sometimes, no matter how hard it is, you have to force yourself to try to see the other side of an argument. I can honestly say, diplomacy wouldn't bother me. I think I'd rather enjoy the challenge. With that said, however, I feel like I've got some time left in the hot seat of helm before I'm ready to get myself wrapped up in that sort of thing.", Dante replied.
"With that said, if the opportunity for advancement were to present itself I don't know that I'd necessarily turn it down. It'd have to be a pretty attractive offer, though.", he added.
Settling more into the chair, and balancing the wine glass on his leg he turning more towards her. "So, I don't like to pry too much, I prefer to get to know people naturally. Where are you from originally?", he asked.
“I grew up on a lot of ships, but ‘home’ is back on Earth. Our family had some land in Arizona. Cactuses, scorching summers, beautiful winters. And I had relatives a short shuttle ride north, in the colder parts of the old state.” Charlotte said. “I still wear the boots. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see me pull out the hat at some point. It made a rare appearance last night when the girls and I hit the station lounge.”
"Now that had to be a sight.", Dante replied. "I did some desert training in Arizona. Looked like a fun place, but I doubt I could live there.", he added.
The Captain nodded. “Yeah, the heat is an acquired taste. But the scenery is beautiful. And the open airspace was perfect for a burgeoning hotshot pilot during my return trips. Lots of unrestricted air to let the throttle loose in. Not that I didn’t push the boundaries and piss off a few traffic control workers.”
With a laugh Dante finished the last sip of his wine and stood up, "Well, I should let you get back to your book. It was really nice talking with you though. You'll have to take me out in a shuttle one day and teach me some of your tricks. Maybe help me piss off some traffic controllers of my own.", he said. Grabbing his book he also took one last piece of chocolate off the small plate and popped it into his mouth. "Have a good night, Captain.", he said, smiling, and then turned to leave.
“Good night, Lieutenant,” she said with a smile, before returning to Frigh’s ill fated and poorly written attempt to rig a vote on Tellarite grain tax.