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Small Talk

Posted on Wed Jan 17th, 2018 @ 11:21pm by Senior Chief Petty Officer Coltan Xan & Commander Leigh Jacobs

Mission: Tholian Deception
Location: Messhall; USS Valiant
Timeline: Current

With the Valiant having recently departed Starbase 336, Leigh had taken the time to grab a bite to eat from the Mess Hall. With the preparations of launching, she had forgone eating breakfast and now she had some down time. Before her sat a nutritional replicated steak, or so she told herself. Taking a bite to eat, she was surprised it wasn't gross but it wasn't the same texture and taste as a real steak.

Colt entered and clocked the captain sitting by herself, eating what he assumed was a replicated 'fake steak'. He smiled and walked up to her table.

"Want some company, Skip?" he said jovially. "That is, if you'll break bread with someone who works for a living."

Leigh chuckled and looked around. "I don't see any junior enlisted personnel around for you to boss around so it can't be you," she joked back. "Have a seat," she gestured to the seat across from her.

"Thanks," Colt replied. "Let me just quickly grab something to eat and drink and I'll be right back."

Colt walked over to the replicators and ordered up corned beef hash with two eggs over medium and a glass of iced tea. As he always did with replicated food, he drove all thoughts of where replicator matter came from in the interests of not starving to death. He returned to the captain's table where he took a seat across from her. He broke his 'egg' yokes and took a few bites of his hash with the eggs. Satisfied that his meal was palatable, he turned some of his attention to his dining companion.

"So," he said. "You were a ground-pounder before you went to the academy?"

"Yeah. Spent four years with the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines and saw my first action on Cardassia during the invasion," she said, remembering the hate she had for the Dominion for taking her life away from her. She still hated them and the Cardassians.

"That was the one part of that war I missed out on," Colt said. "I was a little preoccupied, what with being left on Chintoka. The Breen and the Jem'Hadar didn't really take kindly to us blowing up their facilities and supplies. The Jem'Hadar were particularly touchy about us blowing up their ketrecel white. The Battle for Cardassia must have been a shocking introduction to life in the SFMC."

Colt smiled at the last part to show he was joking.

Leigh returned the smile after finishing another bite. "It was. You think you're prepared for it, but you never are but yeah, I'd imagine the Jem H'dar were very pissed at you for destroying their ketrecel white. So, you never found the urge to get a commission?"

"Not yet, anyway," Colt said. "The warrant ranks might be more my style. I've considered applying to the Fleet Staff Operator's Course. I have the educational background and it's available to CPOs and commissioned officers below O-5. I've also considered applying to the Physician Assistant program at Starfleet Medical or even to the full MD program. I'd take a commission for either of those. I'm going to be alive for at least another 150 years, probably active for over 100 of those years. I've got time. At this point, I've dug myself into a bit of a hole that I'll have to claw my way out of before I can consider anything like that. Funny how it takes a lifetime of good decisions to earn the respect of your colleagues and superiors and just one bad decision to lose it. Why'd you apply to the Academy? More attractive lifestyle options?"

Again Colt grinned to show he was just poking fun with the lifestyle options comment. He was career Starfleet (for the time being, anyway) but for most of that he'd been assigned to the Marines as a Corpsman. He knew exactly how rough life in the Corps was. Beyond that, though, he was genuinely interested in the woman who would be making life and death decisions about his life.

Leigh laughed. "Well, it does help not having to sleep on the ground or the mud. But it was actually my Battalion CO who gave me the idea to go to the academy. I guess he thought I was officer material and convinced me to go. I also remembered how in awe and intimidated I was the first time I walked onto the Bridge of a Federation ship as an enlisted Marine. I had heard of the stories of Admirals Archer, Kirk, and Picard growing up and that was what I wanted--to make a difference--more so than I ever could as a Marine so that's why I decided to join."

"You didn't feel like you were making a difference as a Marine?" Colt asked.

Leigh shook her head slightly. "I never said that. But who can make more of a difference in the galaxy--a Marine or a captain with a starship? As a Marine, I could only do so much to protect people but with a starship, I can travel to different planets and defend them against ground and space borne threats."

"True," Colt said. "But I think you're generalizing. You, specifically, can make a bigger difference as a starship captain, but that's not true for everyone. The ranks of the Corps and even Starfleet for that matter are filled with people who can make a bigger difference in the roles they currently fill than they would as a starship captain. Don't forget the 'little people', Commander. Starship captains don't make a difference in a void. You make crucial decisions and issue orders. The rest of us make those orders reality. Without us, you'd be that famous tree in the forest, falling with no one around to notice whether you made a sound or not."

Colt laughed and shook his head.

"Bet you realize that your steak came with a side of Old Earth philosophy!" he said.

"No, but it could use some seasoning," she said as she swallowed the last bite. "So, any family to miss?"

"Plenty," Colt said. "If you count all the people in my clan. Lots and lots of relatives by blood or by marriage. I'm 'Uncle Colt' to a lot of people from my clan, and I have some Human cousins who have kids so I've got some second cousins, and some of them have kids, so I've got third cousins. I send out general messages to them regularly with updates on me and some images here and there of me in strange places or with interesting people. Not as often as they'd like, but I've spent a lot of my career doing stuff I'm not really allowed to tell my family about. If someone has a special day, a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding, has a baby, you know, the important stuff, I try to send them something more personal. And boy, do they contact me! When I can, I try to make it back to Rigel IV. Sometimes I'll go and visit some cousins on Alpha Centauri or Earth. I split one leave between Bajor and Cardassia recently. I have family working on agricultural projects on both planets. What about you?"

Leigh shook her head. "I lost my biological family in the Dominion War but I'm rather close with my foster family. Besides my foster parents, I have two foster brothers and one foster sister. I'm especially close with my foster sister--she's always looked up to me."

"I'm sorry about your biological family," Colt said, his tone genuine. "Were they on Betazed during the occupation?"

Leigh nodded as she recalled what happened. "My father was a member of the Betazed Council when they invaded so he...and most of the other ruling members of the government and their families were killed. I survived because I was on a trip with friends off world when it happened."

"Well, I'm very sorry," he said. "Their deaths motivated you to enlist, then?"

"Not at first. Their deaths initially sent me into a deep depression for several months. I had a friend on Earth who convinced me to enlist into the Marines. At first, I thought he was nuts but he convinced me it was better to do something about my parents' deaths instead of 'moping around' as he put it.

"Hey," Colt replied. "Don't knock moping. I've made some of my most life changing self-discoveries while moping. But, yeah, I get it. At some point the moping has to stop and you have to get up and start living again. Once you pass that point, you start to forget what it means to be alive, to have people in your life. Did it help? Joining the Marines? I mean, it led you to this point, where I get to have you as my boss and colleague, so I think your decision to enlist was a good choice, but that's just me."

Leigh grinned. "Thanks but yes, it was a good decision--it gave me focus and direction in my life. Before my parents were killed, I was, to be honest, a spoiled materialistic brat. I had everything I could have ever wanted and then one day it was all gone and I had no clue on how to move on until I enlisted. Funny how it takes a Drill Instructor calling me "cupcake" and kicking sand in my face to get you to realize that."

Colt chuckled.

"Even the most outgoing, socially conscious teenager finds their worldview challenged in Basic," he said. "I thought I knew what it meant to want to serve, but what I learned in Starfleet Basic is that I really didn't know anywhere near as much as I thought I did about how things in the galaxy worked. That's the intention, of course. At that point, I was ready to really learn."

Leigh nodded in agreement before standing. "I better get back to the bridge. See you, Senior Chief," she grinned as she took her tray back to the replicator to be recycled.

"See you around, Skip," Colt replied. He pulled a PaDD from one of his leg pouches and began looking over some things as he finished his iced tea and gave his stomach time to start digesting his meal before he went back to work.


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