Shore Leave: Starbase Arcadia (S3)
Location: USS Defiant - Dante's Quarters
Timeline: Day 1 of Shore Leave
Dante reclined on the couch, wearing a pair of loose lounge pants, with a book in one hand, and a cup of hot tea in the other. His head still ached at how much work there was to be done on the Defiant, and how much of it the Corps of Engineers apparently wanted his input in. He had spent nearly fourteen hours working with them on getting the propulsion and navigation systems back to the way he was used to running them, and he was utterly exhausted. When the door chime went off he sighed and considered ignoring it.
Finally, closing the book and tossing it down on the coffee table he stood up, tea still in hand. "Enter," he called out.
Jovani strode through the doors, ducking slightly so he wouldn't hit his head, his long legs and arms swinging with the awkwardness of youth, still going through the last of its growing pains. Noting that Dante was obviously dressed to relax he suddenly felt a bit like an ass, but he was already here, and he figured it would be more annoying to interrupt his downtime and then just leave, so he pushed on.
"Good evening, Lieutenant," he said, smiling sheepishly.
"Jovani... I've told you to call me Dante when we aren't on duty..." Dante replied with a smile. "Can I get you something? I was just having some tea to unwind."
Jovani noted the still-steaming mug and nodded, "Actually, tea sounds good. Jasmine green, if you've got it. Been my favorite since I was a kid."
"It just so happens, I do," Dante said, moving towards the small stand where he kept his stash of teas and the electric kettle of water. Putting the loose leaf tea in a small porcelain teacup he turned on the kettle, and seconds later returned with a perfectly steaming cup of very fragrant tea, perfectly brewing.
"So, what can I do for you," he asked, as he handed the cup over.
Jovani took the cup and brought it up just under his nose, inhaling the floral aroma of the tea. He felt comforted, which was nice after everything they'd been through. It reminded him of home, of being a little boy wrapped in his mother's arms. Sometimes he wondered why he'd ever hoped to grow up when that feeling of safety and total love were so easily attainable. "Thank you," he said, with a smile, as he sipped the warm liquid. "And honestly, I just wanted to stop by and see how you were doing. I know how much you've been working today, I saw you off and on as I popped in and out of the bridge, and realized you weren't getting much of a shore leave so far."
Dante flopped down on the sofa, waving Jovani to sit as well, and sighed. "Yeah, no, and it looks like it's going to be a few more days like today before I get to do so. But it will be worth it. This is a fine ship, and I enjoy flying her. I'd hate to have the CoE fix something so well they make her a pain in the ass to deal with. You ever heard the motto 'If it ain't broke, fix it till it is?'" he asked.
Jovani chuckled, "No, I don't think I have, actually."
Dante chuckled as well, throwing his arms back on the back of the couch and stretching with a groan. "That seems to be the unofficial motto of the CoE, these days. They are always trying to make things better, but it just tends to overcomplicate what should be easy and make far too easy what should be complicated. They even tried to install a new, more flashy, and more feature-rich throttle lever today, saying it would help me do my job more efficiently. Problem was it was stupidly complex to use, and would actually make my job harder..." he said, letting his annoyance clearly show through in his voice.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the Mark VI throttle lever?" Jovani asked.
Dante gave him a bit of a side-eye and then laughed. "Yeah, someone's been doing their homework it seems. I remember when you used to walk around in security reds, now look at you."
Jovani blushed, slightly, he wasn't used to being praised by people, well, other than his parents, and it felt strange. "I mean, here and there I pick up the odd manual, or tech guide..." he admitted. "I saw the specs on the Mark VI the other day and thought it looked really impressive. Then I started reading and realized it was complete garbage."
"Yeah, it's adaptive, can be set to store the personal usage criteria of up to twenty individual helmsman, and instead of being on a sliding pivot, it's totally electronic, with the idiotic little button on the side so once you've got the throttle where you want it you can let go and it just springs back to the middle position, until you need it again. I much prefer feeling some resistance when I push the lever, and knowing that it's going to remain where I put it so I can get a good read on speed just by looking at the position," Dante replied.
"I'm guessing it was designed by someone who never really sat behind the console at a helm station before," Jovani commiserated, taking another sip of his tea.
Dante sat back up and grabbed his tea, "Sorry, I know you didn't come here to talk about work. So, what have you been up to today? I'm a little surprised to see you on the ship, and in uniform as well."
Jovani looked down at his uniform and then back up with a guilty grin. "I, uh... I spent my day shuttling people back and forth from the surface, getting my practice hours in. And I talked to a few people about possible signing up for officer candidacy school via distance learning..." he admitted.
Dante leaned forward, placing his elbows on his thighs and giving Jovani a wide-eyed stare, his mouth in a wide smile. "Dude, that's amazing! Congrats on that!" he said, incredibly happy for the younger man to be taking that leap.
Jovani blushed again, and then grinned back, sheepishly, "I guess that has something to do with me coming here tonight. I was curious if you had any advice...?" he asked, feeling guilty for coming here with an ulterior motive.
Dante chuckled, "Yeah, because I didn't already guess it wasn't just a social call. If you wanted to hang out I'm pretty sure you'd have picked somewhere a little more fun than my quarters."
"Now, as far as advice, I started out at the Academy, so I'm not exactly sure what you will be going into when you go through Officer Candidacy, but I guess my biggest piece of advice would be the same no matter what. Prepare yourself for a much higher workload, get used to harsh, sometimes cruel criticisms from the people teaching you, and no matter what, never give up. If it's something you truly want, fight for it with everything you've got. It'll be worth it, in the end, I promise you," he added.
Jovani sat, absorbing everything the older man said, nodding along. "That makes so much sense. I guess the only thing I'm nervous about is the criticisms. Here on Defiant you've all been great, and even at STSC the instructors were friendly, but they weren't training officers, just crewmen, so I guess they could afford to be more lenient. I've heard some horror stories about the Academy instructors, and even worse about the OCS."
"Don't believe everything you hear. That's another piece of advice," Dante replied. "The four years I spent at the Academy were some of the best times of my life, and that includes the harsh criticism, the punishments for failure, getting up at four am to go run six miles in the pouring rain because I failed my physical endurance test by less than fifteen seconds. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you everything is going to be fun, or friendly, but it's the way it is for a reason, and you will value the experiences more than you can even guess."
"Oh, and of course, there's no way they can make you run six miles in the rain via distance ed, on a starship..." he added, with a grin.
Jovani chuckled lightly, "No, I don't suppose they could..."
Then, standing up he nodded, "Well, I guess I should let you get back to relaxing. But when you do finally get around to getting your shore-leave, maybe we could meet up, go have dinner, or a drink or something, and just pass the time?" he asked.
Dante stood as well, and clapped Jovani on the shoulder, squeezing slightly, "Definitely! I know a place near where I grew up that has amazing, home-cooked food, and a damn good bartender. I'll let you know when I'm free."
Once Jovani had exited, he found himself still smiling at the younger man's enthusiasm and his devotion to his new career path. If that was any indication of what the future held he was going to make a damn fine officer. Putting the two tea-cups inside he activated the small washer that was built into the tea table and watched as they were sprayed with hot, soapy water and then rinsed, before turning them upside down and leaving them to dry. With another stretch, this one making him go up on his tip-toes, and shudder, he admitted it was time to admit defeat and crawl into his bed.
Five minutes later, all that could be heard in his cabin was the gentle sound of his snoring and the almost imperceptible sounds of the air circulators pushing freshly recycled air into the room.