The Ice Queen and the Spitfire
Episode 2: Inevitable
Location: Science Labs, USS Defiant
Timeline: End of Shift
Claire Lafayette was wrapping up another day of experimentation. Her recent projections of planetary nebula development were coming along nicely, but after a few hours of staring at it, she needed something else to look at for a change, even if it was the side of a bulkhead.
She shut down her terminal and was about to head out of the office before she had an idea strike her. Lieutenant Isley was still at work in her office, meticulously dressed and seemingly distant as ever. Claire realized that she actually knew remarkably little about the woman she served under. She'd gotten to know a good number of other officers aboard the ship. But the Chief Science Officer had eluded her, even after an attempt to drag the woman into some social settings. By proxy, of course. Claire had never directly approached her.
Perhaps it was time to rectify that, and get to know a little more about her boss. Crossing the labs, she made her way over toward Isley's door, brushing her uniform to look at least a little bit more pressed. The effect was still a poor imitation, making her wonder what exactly the blonde did to the uniform to make it stay so straight. Without much else to do, she reached up and knocked on the door frame. "Ma'am, mind if I steal a moment of your time?"
Caroline Isley was seated at her desk looking over performance evaluations when she heard Lafayette's knock. There were many parts of being a department head that the blonde liked, but lots of direct interaction with the dozens of personnel under her command wasn't necessarily one of them. Caroline liked the prestige of being the head of Science on a front-line starship, but a part of her wished it involved less people.
She looked up from her desk and saw Claire standing there. "Yes, ensign?" she said, not necessarily coldly, but less inviting than she probably intended. "How can I help you?"
Claire wasn't positive how exactly to pose the question. Hi boss. We don't hang out much. Tell me about your life, seemed a little odd. "Actually, I led into that a little professional. I was wondering if we could just...talk? We haven't had a chance to interact much off duty."
Isley raised an eyebrow briefly and then let it fall back down. It was an unexpected question, but not a bad one. She hadn't interacted much with Lafayette, or really any of her junior officers. It wasn't unreasonable that they might want to know more about her than duty rotations, evaluations, and icy orders.
"Oh," Caroline said. "Sure. Why not?" she added a little more pleasantly. "Do you want to sit down?"
Claire had almost expected some sort of refusal, but the Chief Science Officer's offer caught her off guard in a good way. She entered and took one of the seats in front of her superior's desk. "Hopefully this doesn't come across unprofessional. I actually started the first few years of my career outside the Starfleet structure. I've just found I enjoy knowing the people I work around, and realized I hadn't really reached out to you."
Isley listened and there was a small pause before she replied. Personal relations outside duty hours wasn't really one of her priorities, particularly not recently. She knew that wasn't how other department heads approached it. "That's partly on me, I suppose," the blonde said. "I could have asked you about your background when we first started to serve together." She couldn't offhand recall Lafayette's personal details from her file, so she just decided to ask. "What drew you to Starfleet then? And what types of things do you like to know?"
"Oh, I don't blame you. We're a weird bunch in the science division. You're space is probably very welcome," Claire replied humorously. "As for me, I was honestly hesitant to join Starfleet because I got the impression it was pretty militaristic. Turns out it's not nearly as bad as I thought. But for the kind of research I want to do, Starfleet is really the only way to get out here and see the cool stuff."
Isley sighed. "Honestly, it is more militaristic than I thought it would be, particularly when I joined this ship." She looked back at Claire. "I don't begrudge Starfleet Command or anything like that. Our main purpose is to defend the Federation after all. But I thought there would be a lot less combat when I graduated from the Academy." She then giggled. "Maybe that's just this ship though."
"Unfortunately, I think it might be the state of the quadrant," Claire replied a little sullenly. She looked at the Chief Science Officer, considering the question for a moment. "I'm not really sure what I want to know. Favorite hobbies? Secret department head gossip? Have a favorite drink?" She paused, getting herself focused. "I'll be honest. I'm not really sure where to start."
"I spend most of my off time here or the gym," Isley said with a shrug. "Too much time reading about Tholians or being resentful that other scientists are getting their work published faster than me." She then thought of another conversation she had recently. "I do like classical music and can play the piano. Although I'm a bit out of practice."
"I've been admittedly lax on getting my stuff published. I suppose I should be more forward about that," Claire mused. "Classical music is fun though! I have no musical skill myself. I tend to stick to the reacting to music side of things. But you should consider playing some music in the lounge sometime! No one would judge and I think the live performance would be welcome."
Caroline couldn't help but laugh at the idea of playing in front of people. "I don't think I'm quite ready for a public performance. I haven't done that since I was a girl. Even an indulgent audience might not be forgiving enough for my fragile ego." She gave a sly smile at the end. "What else do you like to do?" She knew Claire was outgoing and definitely a lot more social than she was. Isley didn't necessarily want to emulate her subordinate in that regard, but she was curious.
Claire laughed as she thought about her answer to the question. "A lot of planetside activities unfortunately. Swimming, rock climbing, and hiking are hard to accomplish on a starship. But I like most competitive games we can play aboard. I'm not that good at some of them, but I suppose I enjoy the chase. We have a weekly poker game going, which I tend to play in when I'm able."
Isley arched an eyebrow. "You must feel very cooped up on the ship. Our gyms are bigger than anything I've seen outside of a base, but they don't allow a lot of hiking and rock climbing." She then looked thoughtful. "What do you do to stay in shape on the ship?"
"I hit the gym often. A lot of running. Laps around the saucer tend to help get the cardiac in. And I've gotten clearance to climb certain service ladders while most of the crew are off shift. But yes, the ship can feel small despite her size," Claire said, leaning back a little. "Suffice it to say, I like taking advantage of away missions."
"I'll keep you in mind for the most dangerous and strenuous missions that need a science officer," Isley said with an arched eyebrow and smile. "I try to use the gym a lot too. Staying in shape is important for a lot of different reasons," Isley said, not adding that the reason for her was mostly her vanity. "Running isn't super comfortable, but I find yoga and other advanced stretching techniques can be very useful."
Caroline suddenly had a thought. "Perhaps we could combine workout sessions sometime, just to see what each of us is doing. Or just as a way to do something outside office hours."
Claire smiled at the unexpected invitation. “Yeah, I’d like that a lot actually! I’ll admit I’m not the most familiar with these advanced stretching techniques, so you might need to give me some guidance there. And I’ll do my best to demonstrate how running doesn’t always inherently suck...once you get used to it.” She made no promises about the conditioning phase.
Caroline smiled, not quite believing that anyone could make running that comfortable. Her figure didn't really lend itself to that kind of exercise, though she did enough to get by for conditioning purposes. "Let's do it then. How about you check in with me after our next shift together?"
Claire gave a nod as she got to her feet. “Sounds like a plan!”