Robert DeSoto, Junior was having the time of his life and why not? He had only recently graduated from Starfleet Academy and had already secured a dream job as the helmsman of the brand new Akira
-class USS Agamemnon
. And while his academic grades had been decent, he was well aware that some questioned his appointment to such a coveted position. He was fairly cognizant that a number of his fellow graduates hedged suspicions that his influential father had pulled the necessary steps to see his son start off his Starfleet career in a place that mattered.
The truth was that Bobbie didn’t mind getting a head start in life and it wouldn’t have been the first time that the old man had helped him out along the way. While he hadn’t exactly inherited the legendary captains ambitions and command presence or even his academic acumen, he made up for it with good-looks, enthusiasm and joie de vivre.
The same could apparently not be said for his lunch companion Wayne Daystrom with whom he shared a table with in the mess hall along with the ship’s Selay doctor Ssesar-Rass.
“You need to lighten up, dude,” he said to the dark-skinned science officer with the serious expression on his face. It occurred to Bobbie that he couldn’t remember having seen the science officer smile once since they had first met just a few weeks earlier on their journey to their current assignment. The young, broad-shouldered man was far too serious for his liking and yet the two of them had bonded early on. “You’ve been made chief science officer on Starfleet’s newest ship and one look at you and people would think that your parents just died.”
The doctor’s eyes blinked rapidly and then she aimed a seemingly befuddled look at Daystrom. “Your life-bringers have passed away? I offer my sincere condolences.”
Bobbie smirked. “An expression, Sess, that’s all.”
The reptilian looked lost.
“My parents are fine.”
She turned her cobra-like head back and forth between the two officers for a moment. “My apologies. I am still familiarizing myself with human expressions.”
“No worries,” said DeSoto. “For the first of your kind to ever join Starfleet you’re doing a pretty decent job.”
She gave him a barely perceivable nod in response.
“Unless of course you consider my dad,” continued Daystrom with out making eye contact with anyone at the table. “Last week he got lost in the town he has lived in over the last twenty years. Nobody is saying it but it could very well be the early signs of dementia.”
Bobbie considered his new friend for a moment. “Your dad is a busy researcher, right? Doing a lot of important work –“
“Unlike me,” mumbled the science officer.
“He’s got a lot on his plate, I’m sure. Sometimes people like that just forget about the routine stuff. Back me up here, Sses.”
The reptilian woman nodded. “Mister DeSoto is correct.”
“Sess, we talked about this. Mister DeSoto is my old man. I’m Bobby.”
“Bobby is correct,” she said, starting over. “Temporary short-term memory loss is not uncommon in many humanoid races, especially amongst individuals who neglect balanced nutrition or sleep cycles which may lead to a heightened state of psychological stress. Of course the term stress itself is a highly subjective –“
Bobbie held up his hand. “I think you made your point there. Tell me did they feed you dictionaries as children or does all that come naturally?”
Ssesar was about to respond but the young helmsman beat her to it. “Never mind, don’t answer that,” he said and then looked back at Wayne. “Point being that just because your old man forgets something from time to time as his brain is so focused on his work, doesn’t mean he’s going to end up like your great-grandfather did.”
“I do not understand,” the ship’s CMO said. “Doctor Richard Daystrom was a highly regarded and influential scientist.”
“Yeah, well, people like to focus on his genius and gloss over the fact that he was a total mental case,” the younger Daystrom said.
“Wayne here is obsessed that eventually the Daystrom curse will come after him,” Bobbie said with a playful grin.
Ssesar nodded. “I understand. Certain psychological diseases can be hereditary.”
At that Wayne looked up with a startled expression on his face.
“Not helping,” Bobbie hissed.
“However … however not all disorders linked to the human brain are due to genetic factors and oftentimes do not reappear in subsequent generations,” she said quickly, apparently having realized the error of her correct yet inappropriate observation.
“You need to stop focusing on the past and start looking ahead,” he said but then got sidetracked by a pretty, blond-haired lieutenant in a red-trimmed Starfleet uniform walking by their table and towards the replicators.
“Or in your case, at the ladies,” said Daystrom without much humor.
“Huh?” he said looking back at he science officer. “What, Allenby? It’s not like that at all,” he said quickly. “She’s way to prim and proper for me. Besides, her sense of humor makes our doctor look like a stand-up comedian,” he added and picked up a padd from the table, tapping away on it. “Allow me to demonstrate. I guarantee this will lighten your mood.”
The two officers observed the ensign working on his padd and then looking over his shoulder to observe Tess Allenby who had just stepped up to the replicator to fetch her lunch.
Her meal materialized and she picked it up without giving it as much as a glance. This turned out to be a big mistake because that plate did not contain the chicken salad she had ordered but something very much alive and wriggling.
Allenby uttered a surprised shriek and flung the plate back into the replicator alcove, quickly garnering her surprised looks from the entire mess hall followed by a number of amused chuckles.
Bobbie DeSoto himself had to struggle to keep from bursting out with laughter, not having expected such a terrific reaction from his little prank and even Daystrom had a tiny smirk on his face for once.
“Was that hilarious or what?” Bobbie said after he had turned back to his companions.
“Is Lieutenant Allenby’s misfortune with the replicator a source of amusement?” asked the doctor with an unsure facial expression etched on her reptilian features, her head slightly skewed to the side.
“It’s called humor, Sses. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it eventually,” Bobbie responded.
“Let’s see how funny she thinks that was,” said Daystrom quickly redirecting his glance towards DeSoto after having looked past his shoulder.
“Don’t tell me.”
He gave him a quick nod. “Six o’clock and coming in furious.”
“Act natural,” he whispered.
Furious had not been an exaggeration. She slapped the plate with seemingly live Klingon gagh
onto the table and right in front of Bobbie. “Don’t even try to deny it, Ensign. I know it was you.”
He looked up at her with the best innocent expression he could muster. “Me?” he said and put a hand on his chest for dramatic effect.
“I’ve had it with this crap of yours. Hear me on this: You’ve finally gone too far. This time I make sure I have you written up and officially reprimanded. Enjoy the rest of your meal, Ensign, it’ll be your last on this ship,” she said and stormed off.
Bobby rolled his eyes dramatically and then stood. “Tess, come on,” he called after her.
She raised a hand into the air, indicating that she was not interested in whatever else he had to say, certainly didn’t stop or turn around for him as she continued towards the exit.
“It was just a harmless little joke, Lieutenant,” he added and then quickly followed her out of the mess hall in a seemingly futile attempt to calm her fury.
Sessar-Rass looked after them both until they had disappeared. “Is this an example of a human mating ritual?”
At that Wayne Daystrom actually laughed out loud. “You know what? You may be on to something there.”
The doctor nodded and then found the plate Allenby had dumped onto the table. She pulled it in front of her and then picked up the wriggling worms in between two claw-like fingers.
Daystrom looked on with barely hidden revulsion as she dropped the gagh
into her mouth, chewed and swallowed.
“I am not certain why Lieutenant Allenby was so upset,” she said and dug into the plate once more. “This has a very agreeable taste.”
* * *