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An Exchange over Ethanol

Posted on Thu Oct 26th, 2023 @ 7:43pm by Lieutenant Jin-soo Tae & Lieutenant Commander T'Raen

3,281 words; about a 16 minute read

Mission: Untested
Location: Officer's Lounge
Timeline: Day 3, 1730

A crack rang through the corridor as Jin-soo tread down the halls and into the officer’s lounge at the conclusion of her shift. She spent the majority of it on the bridge, in poor posture no less, but the latter half was spent in the shuttlebay as an ersatz engineer. For one reason or another, the EPS conduit on one of their Flyer classes had become unaligned, the ODN relay had become uncoupled, and the transtater interface had… transtated? Regardless of what, this only meant she had to take off her uniform jacket and crawl inside and outside the shuttle until all the issues were fixed. A bit annoying, but she didn’t mind getting her hands dirty every now and then though this was most definitely a job meant for an engineer and not CFCO. Still, given the lack of personnel and her lax attitude towards command over her ‘department’, she was given a call by the Ensign responsible for the shuttle and was obligated to help upon hearing his cries of distress. Now she felt sore and her eyes burned having spent the last few hours on her back staring at things she had only seen since the Academy.

The lounge, like most parts of the ship, was near empty save for a few pairs or stragglers enjoying their time off between shifts. Most seemed to be in Operations gold from where Jin-soo stood and while she might’ve been conspicuous in red, she had taken off her jacket and wrapped it around her waist. Now only in a short-sleeve black undershirt, she approached the replicator, her hands folded behind her back.

“Plum wine, chilled please,” She asked, her head swaying slowly from side to side as she waited for the drink to materialise.

After the satisfying swirl of blue particles, she concluded her time with the replicator by a grin given to herself and took a seat at the bar, slightly away from all the others.

Given her penchant for organization, T'Raen had had no issues getting all of the Sciences Labs and Personnel on schedule and working at peak efficiency once the Horizon had been officially launched and already on its way towards its initially plotted destination. With how fresh the ship and its crew were, and the speed at which she'd gotten all responsibilities delegated and management settled, the last hour of her shift had dragged on until her relief had appeared almost unexpectedly. Accepting it but feeling a bit lost with what to do with her time off duty, the Vulcan ended up meandering to the place she had often found herself in recent years…

"...Vulcan Brandy, double," she responded to the prompt coming from the replicator. Snatching up the rounded snifter glass as soon as it had finished materializing, T'Raen didn't wait to take a seat before taking a sip. Not really paying much attention to anything beyond the pale amber liquid in her glass, the Vulcan took a seat at the bar, one empty spot down from the helmsman.

Raising the glass to her nose, the science officer did her best to attempt to take in the aroma of the brandy but was disgruntled by the lack of ability to do so given the inhibitors Vulcans required to serve aboard Starfleet vessels. Letting out a slight hum before taking a second sip, T'Raen glanced to her side and noticed the appearance of the familiar officer. It didn't take long before she failed to realize she was staring.

"Lieutenant," she said, attempting to draw Jin-soo's attention, "Is that an authorized way to wear the duty uniform?" asking with just the slightest air of authority, mostly due to her Vulcan-ness.

Her mind and body relaxed after the first sip of the sweet beverage, a drink perhaps too sweet for some but Jin-soo always had a taste for the absurdly sweet. It relaxed her to the point where she didn’t notice the Vulcan taking a seat nearby, at least not until the stiff address by rank that elicited a sudden jolt to her system. Turning her gaze, she returned the stare, albeit with slightly wider eyes. She remembered her from the bridge, the science officer, though that didn’t really matter as her eyes soon glazed across the three pips laid neatly across the officer’s shoulders. Seeing that, paired with the stern reminder in the guise of a question, Jin-soo straightened herself, her expression warping into an awkward smile.

“Heyyy… Commander.” She replied as she slowly turned her figure to face the Vulcan. “It’s uh…”

Her mind drew a blank as she attempted to search for an excuse, at least an excuse that can placate such a tenacious taskmaster. Having ultimately found nothing, she gave a brief but forced chuckle to fill the silent air before undoing the jacket and sliding it back on.

“N-No you’re right, it’s not,” She relented, zipping up the zipper before shooting her cuffs so the jacket may straighten to its furthest extent, though having been around her waist for the past hour, there wasn’t much she could do. Giving her superior officer a final nod paired with that awkward smile, she slumped herself over the bar and stared straight ahead.

But something didn’t feel right and the feeling gnawed at her enough to force at least a small attempt towards pleading her case. Leaning over within hearing range, she whispered: “It’s just… I was working in shuttle bay five earlier and it can get pretty hot down there so I thought I…” Jin-soo stopped as she stared at T’Raen, coming to the realisation that thermic comforts might not be as high on the list of priorities for some as it was for her.

“You know what? You’re absolutely correct. My apologies, Commander.” She quickly added, sounding far more composed than before.

Having turned her gaze back forward after watching the lieutenant correct their uniform issue, T'Raen wasn't concerned with how wrinkled it had become, but with the fact that it was no longer being treated so casually as if nothing more than a hoodie. While it may not have been seen as such a 'big deal' by other officers, especially much more casual humans, the Vulcan hadn't the advantage of growing up in a society where such was allowed, let alone common.

Taking a couple of large sips of her brandy as her mind focused on nothing more than the muted tastes of a drink she'd found much more enjoyable before, the sudden sound of the woman's voice caused the Vulcan's attention to turn back to the lieutenant with a look of scrutiny in her gaze. Listening to the attempted excuse, but watching the sudden surrender of the fellow chief, T'Raen's gaze lingered on the fellow officer for a moment before she spoke up.

"It is not about regulations, Lieutenant, but about setting an example for junior officers and the enlisted alike. As a Chief, they look to you as an example of what proper conduct is and what is to be expected from them. I did not mean to correct you unjustly or question your autonomy as an officer, but to ensure we all are setting the proper example for the younger amongst us," the Science chief explained before turning her eyes back forward and taking another sip of her brandy, which was already draining to empty.

As the liquid slid down her throat, the smooth burn gave the Vulcan a moment of reflection, which caused her to quickly turn back to her fellow officer. "You are off duty, correct? As such, if you desired to be more comfortable, you were well within regulations to change into casual attire. Furthermore, if you wished to relieve yourself of the uniform jacket, the proper behavior would be to remove it completely, fold it neatly, and set it on a seat or console to your side."

Not having the need to, but wanting to give the example anyway, T'Raen set her glass down on the bartop and removed her uniform jacket, revealing the same black undershirt underneath that seemed to cling to the Vulcan's form. Folding it neatly along its natural, vertical panels, the Science Chief folded it in half and placed it on the bar top in front of her to the right of her glass.

Having already been sitting stiffly upright, she picked up her glass, but turned to address the lieutenant, "This is an acceptable way to treat the uniform in off-duty situations when in public. Feel free to do the same. We would not want to set a negative example, correct?" she asked, seemingly offering her glass in an attempt to invite Jin-soo to find common ground with the uptight Vulcan.

Jin-soo blinked as T’Raen launched into her lecture. She didn’t expect all of this, certainly not after her own admission of defeat followed by a hasty retreat. Was it really in line with Vulcan ethics to run down a fleeing foe? At least she was nice about it, if it had been her mother, she’d have had her ears chewed off by now. Still, this did little to alleviate the feeling of anxiety and embarrassment that had begun to build up during the entire exchange. Like a cobblestone wall, the pieces piled up to the point where a substantial barrier had formed in the manner of her posture, slouched over with her eyes glued to the ground. She could only imagine what the Vulcan officer thought of her now after this sordid introduction.

But perhaps her reputation has yet to find its place with the rest of the mavericks that had come and gone after giving sass at inopportune times and at inopportune figures. Indeed as she glanced over to T’Raen who was now in the midst of demonstrating proper care for the uniform jacket whilst off-duty, she knew she had overexaggerated this situation in her head. Correcting her posture, she leaned her elbow on the bar counter before placing the right side of her cheek on the propped up fist, giving the demonstration the attention it deserved. She did still feel the pangs of humiliation, but in the spirit of not furthering the agenda of self-imposed negativity, she just smiled on as the Vulcan continued.

“Yes,” She answered quietly once the demonstration had concluded, straightening herself whilst her hands tugged at the hems of the uniform.

“Look I think we got off on the wrong foot,” She continued after a brief moment of silence before sliding into the barstool adjacent of T’Raen. “I’m usually not this sloppy, it's just I…” She stopped herself, “Sorry, no more excuses and uniform talk from me at this point.” She gave a small chuckle before taking a sip of the plum wine.

“My name is Tae Jin-soo, you’re um…” She paused, trying to coalesce the memories of that one time she spent glossing over the personnel files. “Commander T’Raen?”

"That is correct, lieutenant, but I believe you misunderstood the purpose of my demonstration. But first…" Finishing off what little of her brandy was left, T'Raen glanced at the lieutenant's drink a moment before getting up and walking over to the replicator to order fresh drinks for both of the chiefs. Returning to the lieutenant, the Vulcan took the stool right next to the woman instead of leaving an empty seat between them. Setting the glass of plum wine in front of Jin-soo, "Here, a peace offering."

Settling in her seat, the commander felt it prudent to explain, "As a new chief, your subordinates will look to you as the example on which to follow and base their judgments on how you conduct yourself. If they were to see you treat the uniform as you have, they would take it as permissible behavior for them. On the contrary, if they were the type to see your lack of professionalism as disrespect, that disrespect would be shown to you in kind, which could negatively impact the efficiency of the ship. I was not looking to correct you, lieutenant, but to ensure your first service as a senior officer started off on the 'right foot', as you might say."

Picking up her glass and offering it in solidarity to the chief helmsman, "An important aspect of being senior staff is monitoring each other to ensure we are all serving to the best of our ability. Just as I was monitoring you in this interaction, I would hope you would do the same for me, should I ever falter while serving in my position. Do you agree with this concept, Chief?" T'Raen asked, making it a point to use Jin-soo's title as a sign of respect.

Jin-soo replied with a small smile paired by a bow of her head as the Commander brought her another glass of the flaxen coloured beverage. She had slowly polished her initial cup to the point where an eighth of the drink remained at the very bottom. Certainly not close to being completely drained, but having the new glass be a peace offering, she took a sip from it instead. All the while, she listened intently to T’Raen as she explained the finer points of command--or at least ‘command’ over a department. But she supposed the Commander was right. Despite intention, circumstance, and any other excuse she can come up with, it was clear now that it wasn’t the wisest idea to use the jacket as if it was an old Christmas sweater.

“I’ll be sure to pay extra close attention to you then,” Jin-soo said with a smirk before raising her own to T’Raen. Taking a sip before setting it down, she leaned both elbows on the countertop, her hands coming together to form a sort of cup so she may rest her head.

“I guess it was pretty obvious to you I’m new to this whole ‘Chief’ business,” She continued, her eyes glued to the kaleidoscopic display of alcoholic beverages on shelf. “I don’t know… I suppose my position among the senior staff does set me apart from all of them, but I don’t really feel any different. We do practically the same work and we’ve gone to the Academy together as peers. It’s…” She knit her brows. “Hard? To put myself in this position of ‘Chief’.”

She sighed, turning her eyes towards T’Raen. “I’m being too much of a downer am I?”

"No… It seems logical given your age and rank that you may question your leadership skills. I often find moments where I do not believe I am being the type of leader I strive to be," T'Raen replied dryly. "You must keep in mind that your superiors believe you have the capability to command a department. If they have seen those qualities in you, then it seems likely you have them, but just do not recognize them, as is common when it comes to one evaluating themselves."

Jin-soo smiled. Despite the dryness of T’Raen’s delivery, there was a sort of comfort to the lack of pretension within her words. “Yeah, I know…” She admitted, “But I suppose it’s easier to hear it from someone else rather than having it mimed to myself in front of the mirror every morning.”

She looked down to her drink, her transparent reflection staring back. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you're not all that I imagined.” She said before picking up her glass to take a slow sip, conveniently masking the lower half of her face as her eyes panned over to gage T’Raen’s reaction.

Besides a slight twitch of her eyebrow, T'Raen's gaze remained forward as she raised her glass to her lips, asking "What did you imagine?" before taking a sip of her Vulcan brandy.

“Well for one, I would have imagined you more as a spice tea drinker,” She continued, though her gaze remained fixed on T’Raen. “I don’t know, I guess you’re not as…” Her brows knit, trying to find the correct but inoffensive word. “Austere? as some of your compatriots.”

"Austere?" the Vulcan questioned turning her attention to the woman. Staring, as if looking through Jin-soo, T'Raen turned back to her brandy after a moment to answer, "Are not humans quite unique in their behavior? Why would Vulcans not also show such variety in personality?" After letting the thought linger a second, she added, "I prefer Vulcan brandy to tea. I do not find tea nearly as soothing," taking a heavy sip from her glass.

The stare felt uncanny, forcing Jin-soo to sit up and look forward. She wondered if she touched a nerve, though in typical Vulcan fashion, the response was as passionless as this entire conversation and impossible to discern.

“You sound like my grandfather, he’d rather drink soju than water,” She said, trying to inject some brevity though that ended quickly when she caught herself. “N-not that I’m calling you old or comparing the two of you!” She corrected, snapping her head back to T’Raen.

Glancing the woman's direction with a raised brow for only a moment, T'Raen's gaze turned back forward to the back of the bar as she replied, "Age is relative to the species being discussed. While I am rather young by Vulcan standards, I would be considered older by human standards. If I am not mistaken, I am approximately forty years older than you. Based on human biology, it would not be impossible for me to be the same age as your grandfather, though highly unlikely."

Turning her head to appraise the flight control chief, the Vulcan's gaze didn't turn away when she inquired, "Are you usually this...excitable when having a conversation with a fellow senior officer?" While T'Raen paused, it was certainly not long enough for Jin-soo to reply before the science chief added, "Perhaps you should follow in the example your grandfather sets. It seems it would benefit you to be soothed by such beverages."

“Huh? Do you really think so?” Jin-soo asked, considering the recommendation for a moment. Perhaps a harder beverage might work to loosen her up, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll soothe her. “I don’t know,” She continued, “You might find me more excitable if I start drinking something like that and who knows. I might even become…” Her eyes widened, “Annoying!” She laughed, but quickly quieted herself before clearing her throat.

“Sorry… “ She admitted, eyes lowering to the bar counter, her fingers drumming against the hard surface to fill the void of intolerable silence.

“Well, I think you’re positively sick of me by now… heh. “ She said after a pause, looking up towards T’Raen. “I should get going anyways, I promised Lieutenant Chu I’d go to her ‘awakening’ or whatever and I don’t think she is one to forgive someone for breaking promises.” Drinking the last few drops of her wine, she stood and stacked the cups on top of one another before sliding out of the stool.

“I’ll see you around then?” She smiled, walking towards the replicator before sliding her two cups into the tray.

Watching the woman retreat, T'Raen was a bit surprised by the self-deprecation the young officer presented, though none of it would show on the Vulcan's face. "Goodbye," she replied simply as she watched the woman leave before turning back to her brandy.


Chief Science Officer

LT Tae Jin-soo
Chief Flight Control Officer


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