Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Mess Hall
Cats were generally solitary hunters, but he was not on a hunt. They were also prowlers, and that would accurately describe him to an extent. Sometimes they could be social, and he was trying to be that. As the Executive Officer, he needed to get to know the crew in more than an on duty manner, so he had decided to go where they mostly congregated and see if he could get to know one or more of them.
Entering the Mess Hall, he took a quick look around before getting a small plate of food and tea and heading to a table where he could watch but that was not too 'hidden'. He was easily accessible. His normal shield of calm was down, letting his natural warmth show as he observed and nibbled.
Colby was off duty, so he walked into the mess hall, got a mug of iced green tea, and a sandwich, then started looking for a table to sit at. A lot of people were already here, so most of the tables were taken. He looked for someone familiar to sit with.
As he watched, Maralen noted the entrance of the Security Ensign. What was his name? His mind immediately provided the identity; Colby Pierce. The man looked as though he had no idea where to go, so Maralen decided to assist him. After all, he was here to meet the crew off duty, right?
"Mr. Pierce, if you want somewhere to sit, you may join me." he offered, motioning to the chair across the table from him.
Colby had heard that the commander was...aloof and didn't mingle with junior officers, but not seeing an available seat, he moved to his table. "Thank you, sir.", and sat.
Maralen had not missed the slight hesitation. He wondered what it was about but held that back for the moment. "You're welcome. And we're off duty, so Maralen will do." he told the younger man with a smile that was meant to put him more at ease.
"Respectfully, commander, you're the ship's first officer, even off duty, it would be inappropriate for a junior officer to address a senior officer by his first name."
Maralen frowned slightly. So this guy was one of those who insisted on protocol even off duty. Noted. He shrugged, the frown being replaced by a small smile. "Very well." He took a sip of his tea and watched the other man for a moment. "May I ask you something, Mr. Pierce?"
"Of course sir." Colby had seen the commander many times, on the bridge and in the corridors. They've even said a passing hello to each other.
Maralen set down the glass and held gazes with the other man. "I am curious as to the reason for your hesitation before." he said. "Is it the difference in rank as well?" he asked.
"No disrespect, commander," he tried to choose his words carefully, "it's not often that a senior officer sits with a junior officer, usually you dine in the officers mess," he kept his eye on him, "plus your reputation regarding junior officers is well known, sir."
Maralen frowned slightly, but the rest of his expression registered slight confusion and curiosity. "My... reputation?" he asked. "What reputation is that?" He knew that lower officers talked, and that rumors were a common phenomenon on Starfleet ships -- that had taken getting used to after his background; there had not really been that in either organization -- but he had not been aware of any regarding him. if they did exist, he needed to know what they were and separate the fact from the non-fact for the other man at least.
"Well sir," Colby was hoping not to say the wrong thing, after all, he liked it here and really didn't want to have to leave, "talk is that you feel that junior officers are generally....worthless. I'm not saying I agree with that, but, until now, I haven't had a chance to talk to you."
Maralen frowned, but his general expression didn't show anger. He was... disappointed? "That's what the crew thinks?" he asked. Where had they gotten that idea from? To his knowledge, he had never demonstrated such an attitude. And he certainly didn't think that.
"Honestly sir, is this the first time you asked a junior officer to dine with you? And that's what I heard, that you think junior officers are worthless, but it doesn't mean I believe it, sir."
Maralen chewed that over for a moment. "Well, admittedly, I haven't issued a direct invitation as I just did with you. But neither have I discouraged it. I try to be warm and friendly when I'm among the crew, so I confess a bit of confusion as to where someone might have gotten that notion." He sighed then smiled. "Well, we'll just have to dispel that rumor then."
"We, sir?" Colby looked at him, wondering what he meant by "we'll just have to...."
Mar nodded with a smile. "Certainly. This interaction is a beginning. By sitting here and talking with me, you are helping me to begin to dispel these rumors. Oh, I know it will take many such encounters with many crew, but this is a beginning. So yes... we."
"Understood, sir." Colby relaxed and did a lot of smiling, so if anyone was watching, they would see that the commander was actively engaging with a junior officer.
Mar sat back in his chair and sipped his tea. "All right then," he began, the smile genuinely warm, "tell me about yourself." That was a purposely vague question because how people answered it told him as much about them as the answer itself. It wasn't a trap or anything, just a way he learned about those around him.
"Not much to say. I'm a military brat. Parents were line officers, and I followed them into the service. My academy days were unremarkable, but I survived a few battles on the way here." Colby sipped his drink.
This one had a knack for avoidance, and a creative way of executing it. He had answered the question without really giving Mar anything of value to work with. Interesting. "All right. Do you have any hobbies or interests beyond your duty to Starfleet?" he tried again, this time with a more directing question. It wasn't intended as an interrogation, and he didn't want it to come off that way. He was just trying to get to know the man.
Colby thought that the commander seemed to be almost prying into his private life. "I paint, sir. Objects. Scenery. People. Real or imagined. Depends on my mood." He normally would start asking questions of the person who was asking him, but this was the ship's 1st officer...he didn't feel right about doing that.
"Ah, an artist," Maralen observed. "I'm afraid I'm not much of a painter, but I do sketch sometimes." he offered by way of giving up something about himself to the other man in exchange for the information he had just been given. This one was not going to make it easy to get to know him, it seemed. But no one could say that he hadn't tried.
Colby responded, "I also sketch. I sketch images of something I might want to paint later on. Sketching can sometimes be difficult....catching the right light....trying to determine what you want to sketch. I also have dabbled in sculpture....but gave up on that."
Mar nodded. "Sketching doesn't lend itself as easily to realism as painting does. It's difficult to capture lighting and such with pencils or chalks," he agreed. "As to sculpting, I never really tried it, but it didn't attract me. Figured I'd get all that clay or other material in my fur." He made a face meant to convey 'ewww' but in a kind of playful way.
"To me, sir, sketching is all about figures....lightning doesn't figure into it." He went to the replicator, got a pencil and paper, returned to the table and sat. "Let me show you what I mean." He looked around the room, found a subject, in this case, 4 people around the table, and started drawing. In a few minutes, he was done. The people in the picture were just shapes, but the table and chairs were more detailed. "See, sir? No need of light effects, just a image of 4 individuals at a table."
Maralen studied the drawing for a moment. Fortunately for Colby, Mar was no psychologist. "An interesting method," he commented. "Different from mine. I tend to go for as much realism as I can with pencils, capture as many details of the moment I'm drawing as possible." He wondered why he did that. Was it to do with the fact that he had lost so many people? Or was it more to do with the way the Realm had trained him to be observant and miss as little as possible? Did it even matter? This was art, not a mission. Still, his art, like Pierce's, was a window into who he was for those who knew how to interpret it.
Pierce nodded. "That's what art is. It all comes down to individual styles and tastes, commander. If we were all the same, it would be boring, sir."
"Exactly, Mr. Pierce," he agreed with a smile. "Each artist expresses the world through his or her own personal filters and via his or her own media and style." He considered the drawing again, curiosity drawing the next question forward. "May I ask the reason the people are drawn merely as figures?"
"Unless the person gives me their permission, I don't draw actual figures, sir. Plus, I sometimes think that a figure would take away from a sketch, so I just draw a simple image."
Maralen thought about that for a moment. He had never really thought about it before. "Interesting," he mused in soft tones. "I had never thought about it that way. I had always just tried to capture what I experienced," he commented, somewhat to himself and somewhat to Pierce. "Though you do have a valid point."
Pierce looked at the commander. "Art means something different to different people. Look at the works of Picasso, da Vinci, Rubens, Monet, Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dali. Each of them had a unique style. You don't have to copy someone....let your art be yours."
Mar studied the younger man for a moment before responding. It hadn't been his intention to suggest that he was copying someone else's art, merely that he used art to capture the things that he experienced in as much detail as he could. Still, Pierce was right. "Very true, but that wasn't what I meant," he said with a slight smile. "I don't want to copy your art or anyone else's." That was meant as an assurance. "I think I was comparing our styles as a way to understand the differences in the way we think." And that was information.
"All I was saying, sir...is to let your art flow from your hand to the paper.....and let it take you wherever it goes."
Maralen nodded. "I understand," he acknowledged with a kind smile. Secretly, he wished he was better at that 'flowing' thing, but after being subjugated by things that directed his every move, the idea of letting something just 'take him wherever it goes' was not as innocent to him as it was to someone like the man before him. Though Pierce had no way to know this. "Thank you for the insight."
Ensign Colby Pierce
Assistant Chief of Security/Tactical Officer
Lieutenant Commander Maralen Seitha