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"I swear it's not a bribe!", vol. 1

Posted on Sun Jul 5th, 2020 @ 8:19pm by Commander Evan Merlin & Ensign Noq Vodd

Mission: When The Circus Comes To Town
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 242007.05

=/\= Ready Room, Cold Station Theta

Ensign Noq Vod was practically vibrating as he stood before the closed doors of Commander Merlin's office. It had taken him all night to decide when, exactly, was the best time to officially report for duty. He finally decided that the end of shift the day before was the best bet. On the one hand, if he really messed up his first impression the offended parties would have a night to sleep off their irritation; by then he would have figured out the best way to make a great first professional impression. His plan was foolproof.

This being his first time reporting for duty for an official Starfleet deep space assignment, he wasn't sure what to bring—it was gauche to show up empty handed. Dinner seemed a bit inappropriate as the Commander may have already had plans. Oh why hadn't he looked up the man's service record before coming here? Was there enough time to glance over it now? No... he'd already rung the chime, and the bottle of authentic Bolian spirits he'd finally chosen was getting cold.

What if the Commander didn't drink? What if he drank too much? What if he thought the bottle was some sort of bribe? Noq couldn't imagine what he'd be bribing the Commander for, but the possibility that his gift may be misconstrued suddenly breached his consciousness. ~What's the worst that could happen?~ he thought, in attempt to calm his nerves.

That line of thought had the exact opposite effect.

All in all, the Commander didn't spend much time in his ready room. Usually he preferred to be out there, among people, either in Ops or in other parts of the station. But from time to time he needed to be here. For private, official meetings, for the occasional visiting dignitaries or brass, and above all, but mostly for keeping on top of the administration.

Administration! Even with brilliant inventions such as XO's and yeomen, there was always a mountain of PADDs waiting for him. "PADDs breed," he had heard more than one Captain complain, and he had discovered the hard truth of that soon after taking command of the station. He could clear his desk in the morning, and by evening a fresh pile would be waiting for him. So he had cleared two 'PADD hunting' moments in his schedule, one early in the morning and one at the end of day shift, so that at least he could close his door on a clean desk.

He was right in the middle of reading a lengthy report about the new health and safety procedures of visiting ships when the chime rang. He straightened in his chair (his usual reading positions had been likened by one roommate, back at the Academy, as 'something from a game of Twister') and called cheerfully: "Come on in!"

“Commander!” Vodd exclaimed enthusiastically as he entered the office, crossing quickly with an outstretched hand. Handshakes were among Noq's favorite human customs, along with the fist bump, thumb-wars, and most especially the high-five.

“Is it Captain, or do you prefer Commander? I am aware of the human naval tradition where the CO is addressed as captain no matter their rank, but with this being a space station does that rule apply? I suppose it's like that other tradition where the females are addressed as 'sir' but in practice some prefer 'ma'am.' Naturally that wouldn't be an issue in this case, unless it is... You know, preferred pronouns and all.” Vodd paused, as if realizing that he was talking too much, but he just had one more thing to say: “My pronouns are he and his, by the way,” he concluded with visible effort.

At the Bolian's enthusiastic greeting, the Commander jumped to his feet and shook the man's hand. "Ensign Vodd, yes?" he said with his customary grin. "Welcome to Cold Station Theta. As for the rank, I usually just go by Commander. It's easiest, just count pips and go. As for names and pronouns, I'm not really attached to stuff like that, so use whatever makes you comfortable." He gestured to the curved couch on the other side of the room. "If you like to take a seat, let's use that one. I don't like to talk to people with a desk in between if I can help it." He babbled as much as the Ensign did, but was considerably more at ease with it.

“Thank you, Command-sir,” Noq quipped as he moved to the couch, chuckling at his own joke. “Hmm... not too bad. Did you order this yourself, of did it come with the nice digs?” he asked, running his fingers along the armrest. “This can't possibly be standard issue.”

He grinned back as he strolled over to the couch and draped himself into the other corner. "Came with the place," he replied. "All I had to do was add some little knick-knacks here and there." He gestured around. The 'knick-knacks' were diverse: a Vulcan harp hung on the wall, a nearby shelf displayed a few flame gems, a 3D chess board, a small statue, an astrolabe and some other interesting things. "Oh! Would you care for something to drink?" he asked, suddenly straightening.

“Permission to speak freely?” Noq asked. “I brought you this—Bolian spirits--fresh from my storage unit, and prior to that: the original distillery on Bolius. It's best served at least at room temperature, but a lot of people like to warm it up just a bit to give it that real kick. I'd say 'extra kick' but there's no such thing when it comes to Spirits. Officially your shift is over, my orders don't kick in until next morning, and if you have the time...” he said with a wink for good measure.

Well, that was a new one! He suddenly regarded the newest member of his crew with more interest. Not many people would offer to share a bottle of spirits with their new CO on their first encounter. He imagined trying that with Captain Farragut of the USS Pitcairn, the first ship he ever served on, the ink on his diploma not even dry. He could just imagine the look of stern disapproval on the old man's face. 'Old Ironheart', he had been called by the officers… well out of his earshot, of course.

"That's… certainly very interesting," he replied. "Bolian spirits… I don't think I've ever tried that before." He referred both to the drink and to the action itself, of course. "Well, the night's still young. So why not?"

Vodd smiled, rising to heat the spirits and replicate a couple of glasses. “You know, the interesting thing about this beverage is the way it's distilled. Y'see while it's traditionally served hot—about 100 degrees, slightly above human body temperature—Bolian spirits are actually cold filtered and stored at near-freezing temperatures. There's something about the chemical reaction to the application of heat that truly brings out the flavors. It's said to be an acquired taste, and that's a statement I would never try to refute. I remember the first time I tried it; and interesting tale that starts with a misplaced glass and ends with a certain aversion toward it.”

With the glasses replicated, and portions pored as he'd been talking, Noq returned to the couch and offered the Commander a glass. “It's so rare--because they only make a certain number of bottles each year due to the fermentation procedures—many off-worlders aren't even aware it exists! Thankfully, my father built his career making the stuff, and upon retirement started making his own varieties in his workshop, which, by the way, my siblings and I helped build back when I was in my teenage years.

“In any case, I'm getting off topic. Now there is a couple of little things that we're known to do, and the first is to give a freshly pored glass a quick sniff.” Noq raised his glass to his now, and closing his eyes inhaled the fumes. “Ah, yeah, this is a great batch. 2403 if I had to guess. What do you think?” he asked.

"I love it when people are passionate about something, and it shows," the commander replied with a smile. "I'd love to hear that tale about your first time at some point. Let's hope my first time will be less memorable, though." It probably wouldn't. His tolerance for alcohol was way higher than that of the average human. He could only remember being mildly intoxicated once, and that was after a Klingon had challenged him to a drinking contest. Another interesting tale, perhaps he could tell it once in exchange for the one about the misplaced glass.

He sniffed the glass, as suggested. A rich smell, like a blend of colours, rich and aromatic, with a deep ground tone and very light, subtle overtones which only gradually unfolded. He voiced his observations, speaking slowly, analysing the sensations carefully and delightedly. "It is certainly promising," he concluded.

"Ah, fantastic!" Vodd exclaimed with a little bounce in his seat, "now that you've gotten an idea of--Oh!--wait--sip first." He raised the bell-shaped glass to his lips and took only the most delicate of tastes, his experienced tongue ready for the explosion of flavors that filled his palette like a warp core breach, then all but vanished a split second later; almost like a gust of cool winter air while standing in an endless, arid desert. With a satisfied grin he turned to gauge the Commander's reaction.

[To be continued...]


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