Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Timeline: Day 6 at 0730
Ensign Ekal didn't want to visit engineering, but she had to adress the issue with her room's humidity controls. She couldn't stand to waste water the way she was currently. Apparently the humidity limit hadn't been removed n her quarters the same way the temperature limit had.
Engineering was bustling compared to the rest of the ship, wasn't it. Much had to be squared away before the ship was ready to leave DS5. Even in her red shirt with her grey skin, she didn't look particularly out of place. She couldn't identify Lt.Matero among the activity, so she stood out of the way and observed. Surely it would be more evident as time went on who was in charge here.
"Can I assist, Ensign?" He had seen Ekal standing near the pool table. He was wearing a radsuit and was carrying a helmet. Next to him, two crewmen were similarly dressed. "My apologies," he said, offering a hand, "CJ Matero, the new Engineer." He found her gaze mildly unsettling. "I was just about to inspect the deuterium tanks. Strange to think," he said wistfully, "that all of this," he gestured to the warp core "relies upon a simple isotope of hydrogen, which is one of the most common elements in the entire universe." He looked at Ekal. "Sorry. Er, how can I help?"
She judged him for a moment before reciprocating the handshake, assessing his garment and statement. "Yes, strange." Then, she smiled broadly, "I need the humidity controls in my room to have their limit removed or raised. I would prefer my sleeping area to have a more comfortable humidity level. The temperature controls were very helpful, but I can't sleep when my scales get too dry." That was a lie. If she got tired enough she could sleep anywhere, in fact on her last assignment she had to sleep in a very dry room. Ekal leaned forward just a touch to make herself look smaller, a little more vulnerable, and opened her eyes wider. "If it's not too much trouble, of course."
CJ frowned. Cardassian Ensigns asking for cabin control changes was definitely in the 'not had this before' category and he had the unnerving feeling of a game being played, but what and how he did not know. He struggled to remember what ambient was for a Cardassian. "Shouldn't be a problem," he said half to himself, the scientist wrestling with the problem, "just need to isolate the EPS to your cabin, configure it as you want and adjust the safeties. Please," he gestured to Ekal to follow him, "join me in the office." He handed, silently, the helmet to a crewman. "Start the inspection, I'll join you later." He turned awkwardly to Ekal. "I'm afraid I did not recall the name." He was being slightly sly, as she hadn't offered it.
"Ekal Dreisor, I'm the Flight Operations Officer." She followed him closely, the smile falling from her face so she could focus on analysing his body language and voice tone. His attempt at asking without asking was incredibly cute. She'd memorized most of the names she might have to know, and knew his name wasn't 'CJ', not really, but she'd call him what he'd offered. Was 'Caspar' an embarassing name? "I truely hope I'm not bothering you or disrupting your work with this, it seems kind of silly in hindsight. humidity on Cardassia is entirely spotty, with our mix of swamps and deserts. I was raised in a swampy region, so my scales are as dry as raisins in the standard environment." Swamp region of Cardassia, farmland on a colonized planet comperable to a swamp, same difference. CJ seemed smart enough not to trust her straight away, but surely he wouldn't question an innoculous statement like her homeland.
CJ sat down at his desk and waved Ekal to a seat. He closed his eyes for a second. "The easiest thing for you to do, Ensign, is to tell me precisely what you need. You'll be performing an incredibly demanding role for Nogura and you have the right to be comfortable in your off duty time," he said with conviction. He suddenly thought of the Romulan refugee camp from his last mission on Venerable. Simple tasks made difficult by a lack of resources. "Every member of this crew can set out their requirements and we will meet them if we possibly can. I'll have Crewman Crane call by to make the adjustments today. Now," he offered a weak smile, worried that he seemed pompous when in fact he was merely earnest, "is there anything else that you need? Any physical alterations to the accommodation?"
Ekal considered, her dark eyes carving his smile up. He seemed sincere, if a not little passionate about using the resources availible for everyone's best interests. Sentimental. "I require the humidity in my quarters raised to a dewpoint of 30 degrees celsius, though I'd like to be able to lower that in the event I have to lower the temperature to a more comofrtable level for a guest. I'd prefer it didn't rain in my quarters, I'm sure you understand." She suddenly was smiling and jovial, laughter creeping into her voice. She wasn't dismissing his feelings, but apparently accepting them and appreciative. "There are no other alterations I require to my quarters, unless you know how I can get my hands on a firmer matress." Cardassian beds were usually no more than two inches of padding on a metal surface, really, so lying in a human bed always felt like trying to sleep inside a gelatin mold. "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."
CJ, faced with a mental image of this shrewd Ensign sinking into her bed, erupted with unforced laughter causing two crewmen to poke curious heads into their Chief Engineer's office; he waved them away. He realised that he had almost let his guard down, but he had also realised that this was the first real Cardassian that he had ever met; the Dominion War had raged during his childhood and he was used to Cardassians being 2D enemies. Deneva had never really been threatened, although the fall of Betazed had caused alarm. As a young adult he had been deeply moved by their suffering. And now this young Ensign, what his sister would describe as 'a mix of vinegar and gunpowder', sat in his office casually asking him to make her cabin habitable. He yearned to ask her about her background, to learn more about her and her culture, but as usual couldn't concoct a form of words somewhere between chat-up line or interrogation. He winced as he realised that he hadn't even offered her a coffee; this triggered a wave of angst and uncertainty over the correct drink to offer Cardassians.
"If you are uncomfortable sleeping, Ensign, we can fashion a suitable bed. Both Klingons and, I believe, Tellarites, need firmer beds and that is absolutely possible. I do have another question. Are the replicators producing the right food? I have no idea whether they're even programmed for Cardassian food." He now looked deeply worried, concerned that she was starving.
"I've only been on board a few hours, sir, but the replicators already have a better selection of Cardassian food than I've had in quite some time." She couldn't shake the feeling he'd been laughing at her, but tried to assure herself he meant no insult by it. If he had she could just find a way to embarass him later. She was quite used to getting mocked or ignored by people who actually remembered the Dominion War. She only remembered the aftermath. Growing up on a half-starving colony planet with access to little more than education programs and her own two claws had given her perspective. She knew her people weren't exactly welcomed in the galactic community, and her manners would likely be misinterpreted. She gave all she had to sneak under the radar socially. "In fact, I had a redleaf tea this morning. Have you ever had redleaf tea?" His concern for her tastes or dietary needs seemed kindness enough to tone her plans of public embarassment back to more private embarassment in the event he was mocking her. When she spoke none of her discomfort showed. When she listened it could peek through her eyes.
CJ frowned. "I'm not sure," he said, silently taking a PADD from one of the hovering crewmen who had rather noisily entered the office. He glanced at it quickly, "I'll need a dozen more, Doyle," he said quietly, "and have them prepared for fitting immediately."
His eyes followed the young crewman out of the office and then vaguely smiled an apology at Ekal. "If you want the mattress it can be done, and done today with the rest of the corrections." His guard was back up, his natural reserve reasserting itself, although he lapsed for one more comment. "If there are any further issues you must come and tell us." His Deputy, Lieutenant (JG) Murphy, arrived and stood in the doorway. CJ was snapped out of his thoughts. "Ah! Ensign Ekal Dreisor, Lieutenant Conrad Murphy." Murphy offered a wary nod. "Some cabin adjustments to be made: I'll brief Crane in a minute." He rose from his chair, "Duty calls, I'm afraid, but rest assured that we will attend to what you need."
"Thank you, Lieutenant Matero." She returned the wary nod to Murphy and quickly turned on her heel, wanting to get out of a room she was suddenly feelng cornered in.
As the Cardassian walked to the turbolift, Murphy turned mocking eyes to CJ. "How'd that go?" Murphy sensed Ekal's air of intrigue.
CJ, who hadn't, or else hadn't understood it, nodded as if in confirmation to himself. "Very well, I think. She rather charmingly asked us to make her cabin more comfortable, I said yes, we chatted. Yes, very well, I think."
Murphy smiled, with false innocence. "That means, Boss, you're in trouble." He said it very cheerfully, enthusiastically, centuries of Boston politics and Luna survival in the blood. "That means you are in trouble."
On the way up the turbolift, Ekal decided she'd offer CJ a redleaf tea sometime.