Captain Archer said, "Today we're taking on the MACO contingent. I know you all know this. But we're also taking on a new – let me see if I have this term right – sous-chef."
"What's a sous-chef? Is that like what Preston did before the Xindi attack?" asked Travis Mayweather as he piloted the NX-01.
"Kind of," answered Jonathan Archer. "But she can apparently do more than Preston Jennings ever could. He was really just a steward until we switched him to Navigation. But this new sous-chef," he emphasized the word a little; "she has restaurant experience. I've had her food; it's very good."
"Her?" Malcolm Reed asked, looking up from the Tactical station. Perhaps she'd be a blonde.
Jonathan smiled a little. "Yes, her. We'll have lunch in the Observation Lounge and Chef is having her do the cooking. You'll also meet the MACOs' CO then; his name is, er," he checked his PADD a moment, "Major Jay Hayes."
"And this assistant chef's name?" asked Hoshi.
"Uh," another check of the PADD, "Lili O'Day."
It was them, and the doctor, a Denobulan named Phlox, the Science Officer, a Vulcan named T'Pol and Charles Tucker III, the Chief Engineer, along with a tall, muscular fellow with a high forehead and a steely gaze who was clearly the Major.
The Major stood at attention as he was introduced to everyone, stopping for just a moment every time to shake hands but otherwise kept his focus. Once the introductions were done, Malcolm stepped back to talk to Tucker. "My," he quietly said, "I had no idea he'd be such a, well, such a damned giant."
"Well, the cap'n wanted muscle. It looks like he got it."
"Still! We're supposed to find the Xindi ultimate weapon and destroy it, not wrestle it to the ground."
"Lieutenant?" it was a soft tenor voice – the Major's.
"Yes?" Malcolm turned around, perhaps a tad too quickly.
"I'm here – and my men are here – to help you. And if we have to wrestle the Xindi ultimate weapon to the ground in order to do so, then we will." The Major walked a little bit away and Malcolm swallowed. This was not going well.
They turned to the sound of the doors swishing open. The chef, William Slocum, was followed by a middle-aged woman. She was a little short, with extremely light blonde hair that was straight and held back by a New England Red Sox baseball cap. She wore chef's whites, as did Slocum. She was wheeling in a small cart.
"Sorry we're late," said Will, "we were getting the last of it all together. Captain?"
"Yes," Jonathan said as the sous-chef began to hurriedly set the table, occasionally clattering flatware together. "This is Lili O'Day. She comes to us from her restaurant, Voracious, which was a fusion place in San Mateo. Lili has her degree from the Mars Culinary Institute and will serve, make most of the desserts and a lot of the sides."
"Don't forget the sauces," Will prompted. "She and I will both make them. Uh, Lili? You can finish that in a moment."
"Oh! All right." She wiped her hands on a small dish towel she'd stuck in her back pocket. "Um, today's meal is a specialty of mine from Voracious. It's a Harvest Salad. It is completely vegan, and I understand Vulcans are vegans so I figure that should work. The salad is a bed of mixed greens with various colorful fruits, vegetables and nuts on top. Dressings are orange vinaigrette, a Ranch and plain vinaigrette. Obviously the Ranch is dairy but everything else is vegan."
"Lili also made or assembled everything herself," Will stated.
"I'd better get the setting and serving done, sir." She grabbed a teacup to adjust its placement.
"Just a second," said the captain. "I would like to point out that Lili has been commissioned as an Ensign. And now for the introductions." The remainder of the staff lined up. "First, on my left, is Doctor Phlox."
"Ensign," said the Denobulan, "is that a favored team?"
"Team?" Lili asked as they shook hands.
"On your cap."
"Oh! Yes! Absolutely! Do you follow baseball at all?" she asked, nervous and speaking quickly.
"I'm afraid I do not. But perhaps we can chat about it someday." He grinned and it was far too wide, which unnerved her even more, and she dropped the teacup that was still in her left hand.
"Next is Ensign Hoshi Sato; she's our Communications Officer."
"I like to cook sometimes," said Hoshi. "Is that a problem? I don't want to trespass on your turf."
"Oh, that's all right," said Lili. "Maybe you can teach me something."
"Next is Commander Charles Tucker."
"Call me Tripp. Can you make a pecan pie?"
"You bet," she said. "Do you like sweet potato pie, too? I'm hearing a southern inflection there."
"I'm from, well, it's a place that was destroyed by the Xindi weapon," he said, looking down.
"Oh, yeah, it was so horrible. Being on Earth, everyone's affected, it seems. Commander, I'll try to make you a few things to remind you of home, if that's all right."
He was too affected to answer her.
"On my right is Ensign Travis Mayweather, our pilot."
"Is anyone flying the ship?" Lili asked.
"Chris Harris," he said, "I think he's missing something good."
"Well, thanks; that's kind of you to say so."
"Next is Major Jay Hayes; he's the commanding officer for our MACO contingent."
They shook hands and she was captivated by his eyes, which seemed to be blue, green and grey, all at the same time. He smiled a kind of half-smile. "It's my first day here, too," he admitted to her.
"Oh," she said, "what kind of fruit do you like?"
"I kinda like blueberries," he said.
"Good," Lili replied, "there are some in the salad. I'll make sure to give you a portion with extras."
"You don't have to."
"It's no trouble."
"Next up is Commander T'Pol. She is my Science Officer and is the First Officer of the Enterprise."
"I can make a plomeek broth, but I know that spices are to individual taste. Will you tell me what your preference is? Please, I hope you'll point out to me when it's incorrect; otherwise, I won't learn."
"Naturally," was the cool Vulcan reply.
"And finally, this is our Armory Officer, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed."
"How do you do?" he said, grasping her hand and shaking it. She looked up – they were fairly close in height – and he found himself gazing into her eyes, which were an impossibly light crystal blue that he had never seen before. For a split second he thought of an old girlfriend – Rochelle. She had also had exceptional eyes, but they had been nothing like this. Then he shook himself a little, realized he still had her hand in his and she was saying something to him. "I beg your pardon, Ensign?"
"I was saying, I hope I can make a good plum pudding if you like that, or whatever, uh, you like, Lieutenant."
"My mother makes a dreadful one," he admitted. "Actually, I prefer, do you make anything with pineapple?"
"Sure. And the salad has a little in it, too. I'll make sure you get a portion with some extra." She was fiddling with the teacup and dropped it again. He helped her get it and they sat down as she and Chef served and the ship made its way to the Delphic Expanse and began its mission to find and destroy the Xindi ultimate weapon.