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"My thoughts are many miles away"

Posted on 2021-09-30 09:06 by Petty Officer 3rd Class Rao Komasch & Captain Amelia Waterhouse

Mission: Toys in the Attic
Location: USS Joshua Norton, Captain's Ready Room

Rao was nonplussed. He had no business on the bridge and had little idea of how he might offer to contribute there. But when your section commander sent you to make yourself useful, you went to make yourself useful.

The crew on duty on the bridge had little idea of how he might contribute, either.

Rao did not recognize the ensign working the ops station as a member of the senior crew, but they were the first to ask whether Rao needed assistance. Once he explained why he had come, the ensign – finding no better job to occupy Rao – suggested that perhaps he could make tea for the Captain.

The door to the Captain's ready room swooshed open. Rao had almost expected it to refuse him. He poked his head into the room, and finding it empty, he entered.

"Hello? Sir?" he said, just in case. But no one answered.

On the table was the box of tea the ensign had described. The Captain did not – per the ensign – drink replicated tea. He lifted the lid to find several smaller tins, all labeled with their contents.

Rao did not recognize any of the names. How many different kinds of tea did humans drink, anyway? He wished he had brought a PADD...

Well, the ready room had a replicator, even if he could not use it to make the tea.

"Computer, PADD," he said and pulled the device from the replicator to poke at it. The database would be able to tell him everything he needed to know about the tea. The most commonly ordered variety of tea among the names on the tins. How to prepare that tea...

"Computer, water, 150 milliliters, 88 degrees Celsius," he muttered as he absentmindedly stared at the PADD. Where did the Captain get conventionally grown tea? Perhaps there was a hydroponics bay on board. Or could someone build one? he wondered.

Rao's mind wandered as he scanned through the database, searching for information on the soil quality required to grow tea and the equivalent nutrient solution to simulate the environment in hydroponics, the ideal amount of sunlight, ambient temperature...

Before he knew it, he was standing in the middle of the Captain's ready room, fully engrossed in programming a simulation for growing tea aboard the ship. Perhaps if he had brought his own PADD, he could have used Ensign Waterhouse's time management software to avoid this. Perhaps.

On the bridge, Amelia had half registered the suggestion to 'go make the Captain tea' when Rao had appeared on the bridge. She made a mental note to have another chat with Sienna, but decided to otherwise leave well enough alone. If the petty officer wasn't needed elsewhere, she wasn't going to turn down a fresh cuppa as the shift drug on. They still had a little more time before they'd arrive at Ocan Zir, and as far as reports told her, preparations were running smoothly. As she waited for the tea, she found herself looking at the chronometer more and more as time passed — if he wasn't familiar with how to make tea, a little extra time to figure it out would be understandable, but this was starting to get implausible. She stood from her chair, told Div he was in charge, and headed for the readyroom.

"Mr. Komasch, it doesn't take this long to make tea," she said as the doors slid open, and she stopped as she took in the scene — the tellarite stood with a PADD in hand, a cooling mug of water sitting on the desk next to her tea box which lay open with all its tins still closed within. She took one more step inside to leave the range of the door sensor, and it slid shut behind her with a soft sigh.

Rao let out an unbecoming squeak and dropped the PADD.

"Captain!" He scrambled to retrieve it, then stood back up at attention. "I'm sorry, sir, I... got distracted." He spoiled his formal stance nervously tugging at his beard.

Amelia pursed her lip as she looked from Rao to the mug and the tea. "What is so distracting?"

"I... was programming a simulation. To determine the maximum yield of tea from a hydroponics appliance while minimizing space and energy consumed." He sheepishly held out the PADD. "I'm sorry, sir, I should have waited to do this on my own time, but I got a little carried away."

Amelia tilted her head to one side as she accepted the PADD, her eyes skimming over the information presented. "I know I'd asked for tea among the things growing in the mess, but I haven't had time to review the final complement of plants they put in. My Gram had a little success growing one tea plant, but it was hardly enough to keep up with our family of voracious tea drinkers."

"I... didn't even think to check the manifest." Rao tugged harder on his beard. "I'm sorry I don't have a more complete report after wasting your time, sir. I'll get right to making the– oh..."

The water had gone cold. He picked up the teacup and put it back into the replicator to recycle it for a fresh one with hot water. Meanwhile, the simulation continued to run, compiling data on which configuration iterations resulted in yields above the baseline.

Amelia continued to watch the data scroll by on the PADD and stepped around her desk to sit down in her chair. She only paid a little mind as Rao started to fuss over the tea he'd been sent in here to make, and she turned on her terminal. The final manifest for the plants in the mess hall was easy to find, and she smirked when she noted that Cecil had left notes all over the file.

"It looks like they didn't figure out how to integrate the tea into the mix in the mess. But if you're interested, I can see that you get allocated resources to follow up on this–" Amelia held up Rao's PADD and gestured at him with it– "I can put in a requisition for plants if you tell me which variety is going to be best suited to your technique. Maybe we could put them into the mess as table dividers? We'd probably have to reduce the number of tables by one or two, or we could make one larger table in the center with the tea plant as the center piece..." Amelia rolled her eyes up as she pondered it. "What do you think?"

Rao's jaw dropped, and he took an embarrassingly long time to recompose himself. It may only have been a matter of seconds, but it felt like ages to Rao. The Captain was interested in seeing him follow through on a silly idea he had?

Rao had seldom followed through on a simulation for something he had effectively done for fun.

"I-I. I only chose this particular tea strain for the simulation because it was the one most commonly ordered from the replicator from among your collection," Rao explained. "I could run the simulation again with your favorite. Or I could run them all and choose the one with the greatest yield," he suggested.

"Ah, that. That is what you said, isn't it. Of course, yes, sir. I'll find the best strain. And I'll add the crew's use of the mess hall into the simulation and factor in minimization of disruption as a key variable. The computer will find the best configuration of tables and appliances, assuming we've used the ship long enough to..." Rao realized he was rambling.

"Er. That is, I can get you an answer within 24 to 48 hours, sir." That would give him time to ask for a few expert opinions from the sciences department, too, instead of relying on hard numbers from the database and his own intuition alone. A layman often did not know the right questions to ask to get the right answers from a computer.

"As we'll be arriving at Ocan Zir soon, there isn't a rush to get me a report with your needs for this project. The mission comes first, of course. But if some cross training in botany would be something you'd like, I can put in a good word with Lieutenant Lexil to see if she can spare someone to give you some guidance." Amelia winked at Rao.

"Oh, yes. Of course, sir. That would be fantastic, sir." Rao looked down at his hand and then set the fresh hot water down next to the tea box. "Which one is your favorite?" he asked.

"It's hard to choose just one, it tends to shift with my mood," Amelia responded, turning the box to look at the selection. With her collection spread between here and her quarters, she couldn't remember what she had where — then she spotted the tin she knew had a twin in the box in her quarters. Her finger settled on the one labeled 'Earl Grey with Lavender' as she turned the box back towards Rao. "I have fond memories of Grandad laying out a proper tea service in the garden one summer when my brother and I were staying with my grandparents on Earth. He sat me and Noah down, and taught us how to have a proper tea, and Gram pulled out all the stops to make sure we had all the trimmings. Dad was jealous when I told him about it, until Noah gave him the sketch of the table he did using his tea to shade it instead of drinking it." Amelia smiled and shook her head. "I think that's still hanging in Dad's office."

"That's sweet." Rao smiled. "We never did anything so fancy with my grandparents. Ate a lot of melon. Raked up leaves to burn and had big bonfires. They were more the types to drink beer than tea, actually..."

"Trask and Breddes always liked to go swimming, but I don't much care for being wet myself." He wrinkled his nose. "My brothers," he explained.

"Gram put Noah and I to work in her garden and kitchen both when we'd visit — Noah took to that better, and I'd do what I could to slip off with Grandad when he'd go on a wander to scare up some trouble." Amelia grinned.

"I wouldn't have thought you'd be the type to scare up trouble, sir!" Rao chuckled. It did not seem much like the captainly type – or, at least, his former CO had not been the type. Or had he?

"You have to be the only person in the galaxy that can look at my forehead and my red hair, and not immediately assume trouble." Amelia winked.

"Red hair, is it?" Rao tugged his beard. "On Tellar, it's the silver-haired ones you have to watch out for. Harder to tell by the forehead, though, I think."

Amelia tilted her head to one side, biting back an amused smirk. "How's my tea coming, Mr. Komasch?"

Rao's eyes went wide and then he hurried to heat the water a third time.

"Sorry, sir..." He spooned one scoop of the tea from the closest tin into the captain's strainer and then carefully set it into the teacup. Then he set a timer on his PADD.

"What was that Task program Tory mentioned to you before the briefing yesterday?" Amelia chose to use Tory's familiar name, since both their interactions before the briefing, and the mention by Noah in passing that somehow Komasch had ended up involved in the new Pelican's building effort and gotten an invite to one of Gram's family dinners indicated that Tory had developed a fondness for the Tellarite who stood in front of her.

"Oh, yes. It automatically prioritizes tasks according to Starfleet regulations – to start with," Rao explained. "It's very helpful for keeping me from getting too focused on stray thoughts, like growing tea aboard the ship. But it also allows for overrides and exceptions. My personal task manager, for instance, has started to learn when to let me have a few moments for a tangent when it will end up improving efficiency in the long run. And when it won't, it logs away what I was distracted with so I can come back to it on my own time."

"I left my PADD in Engineering... I could have transferred the program, I suppose, but I underestimated how fascinating tea would be." He was tugging his beard much more than usual.

"There's a whole rabbit hole to go into with tea — good and bad in fact, as there's some pretty heavy colonial history tied up in it on Earth." She chewed her lip as she looked at Rao for a long moment. "Have you talked to medical about how easily you get lost in these tangents? I'm glad that Tory's program is helping you, but sometimes you'll forget your PADD—like happened here today—or you'll be in a situation where you can't depend on it to sort your tasks for you, like an away mission for example. It reminds me of one of my uncles, and the stories I heard of his early days of his Starfleet career. He still has an occasional challenging day, but as long as he's on top of his meds he's been mostly good."

Rao blinked a few times as he considered this.

"It had not occurred to me," he admitted, "that it could be treated." It would very likely be much easier to do... well, everything if he had an easier time staying on task. Or remembering that time existed.

"I will bring it up."

"Just be mindful it can be a little bit of trial and error. Even with the ability to scan to calculate the medications most likely to work, and find the best delivery method that works with your particular symptoms, it can take some time to work out. Make sure you keep Commander Oswin informed when you get the chance to pursue treatment, so she can adjust your duty assignments to let you ease into the medication or other treatment if they've got other suitable options you want to pursue." Amelia offered an encourage smile.

"I will, sir." Rao tapped his chin and thought for a moment about Commander Oswin. "Does Commander Oswin know about your uncle, sir?" he wondered. Perhaps she had sent him to the bridge in the first place knowing he might end up in sickbay to ask for treatment for his distractability.

He supposed she could have just suggested it herself, but now that it had come up organically as a part of his interaction with the captain, he did not feel as... defensive as he might have if she had brought it up directly.

"She probably knows who he is as he developed the language localization packs that Tory, Ensign Drayok, and the other photons use in addition to their UT and learned language — he's contributed significantly to the Universal Translator code base, as well as the photons' language learning abilities. But she wouldn't have been privy to his medical history, as I know they have not served together, and that is private information. I only shared it here for context why I made the recommendation I did, and I am trusting you to respect his privacy."

Rao's eyes widened, and he nodded emphatically. Coincidences were hard to believe in his current line of work.

"My lips are sealed, sir," Rao assured her. "I just... thought for a moment that was why she sent me to the bridge. It feels like I've run into a few... overly convenient coincidences lately, and I just... my instinct was to presume they were orchestrated intentionally. Of course, I will not betray your confidence."

"If you ask my brother, he'll insist that's the noodley appendage guiding you. But life truly is a combination of luck and seizing the opportunities presented to you. From what I remember of your service record, it sounds like you've certainly seized some luck to get you where you are now." Her eyes moved to his PADD, and her lip quirked into a smirk. "Does your timer say my tea's ready now?" She fully expected the timer to go off in just a moment, as she had a pretty good judge of tea steeping times — her grandad accused her of cheating with a hidden timer sometimes.

Rao tilted his head, blinked several times, and then poked his combadge. That had to be some minor fault in the UT. Noodly... Well, he would have to look it up later. It was probably some inscrutable Earthy idiom.

Rao gazed down at his PADD, which ticked down to zero mere moments after the Captain asked about the tea and beeped with the standard Starfleet alert tone – as it was not Rao's own PADD. The Captain must have had a very good sense for how long it took to make tea. Rao carefully removed the strainer and slid the mug handle first toward her.

"Tea is served," he said. "Can I interest you in a scone with..." He glanced at the PADD again. "Clotted cream and jam, or a chocolate biscuit?"

"Clotted cream and jam on scones nearly started a civil war on this crew the last time I served them for a briefing," Amelia remarked with a twinkle in her eye. "But the tea is more than enough, thank you." She collected the mug in her hands and held it under her nose a long moment with her eyes closed. Even though he'd asked which her favorite was, he'd clearly been flustered when he selected which tea to prepare and had grabbed at random; his luck had worked in his favor and selected the Hot Cinnamon Spice, which is one that Amelia enjoyed without honey or milk. The only flaw was it was an open mug, which was not ideal to take on the bridge, but she could work on some paperwork in the readyroom long enough to finish it, so it was a minor issue.

"Oh, good." Rao sighed with relief. "I daresay if I caused another ruckus, my luck would have run out." He smiled. "Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?"

"When you head back to Engineering, please let Commander Oswin know she needs to make some time for a chat with me. Thank you for the tea." Amelia grinned and raised her cup in a salute before taking another sip of the warm beverage.

"It was my pleasure, sir. Once the mission at hand is complete, I'll submit my tea project proposal for the mess hall," said Rao, standing to attention. He suspected that was what the captain wanted to speak to Commander Oswin about.

"Very good, Mr. Komasch. You're dismissed." Amelia smiled again before a small nod and another sip of the tea.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Captain Amelia Waterhouse
Commanding Officer
USS Joshua Norton, NCC-74819-B

PO3 Rao bem Komasch
Computer and Communications Specialist
USS Joshua Norton


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