The Baby Shower
Posted on Tue Dec 28th, 2021 @ 12:59am by Captain Björn Kodak & Ensign Sheldon Parsons & Debbie Gless & Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Serana Zhaan & Lieutenant Sharrina Blackstone & Lieutenant Mothim-Ril & Lieutenant Kennedy Ryan Walsh & Ensign Noah Balsam & Andrew Munro & Lieutenant Timmoz & Lieutenant JG Irynya
Sojourners of Time
Location: Holodeck 2
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1730
[MD 1: 1730 Hours]
The holodeck had been transformed for Ensign Denise Grackle’s baby shower. In place of alternating gridlines and holo-emitters, the environment had been replaced with that of an old house on Earth. It wasn’t tiny by any means but it wasn’t large, either; the house was sized to provide just enough space for a small family and perhaps a couple of pets. Based on Grackle’s own home in New Mexico, the place was filled with the voices of well-wishers who’d come to help celebrate the forthcoming birth of Denise’s little girl. Practically the whole crew had been invited.
Light jazz played in the background as people stood around the main living area of the house, holding drinks and chatting animatedly with each other. Others buzzed the food table in the dining room, which was laden with trays of various finger foods: tiny sandwiches, rolled meats and cheeses, barbecued mini-hot dogs, and even a large crock of white queso dip, infused with green chiles and something called “Rotel.” Desserts of all kinds filled a second table, this one off to the side. It groaned under the weight of cakes, pies, lemon bars, cupcakes, cookies, and more. The spread of food was more than anyone could ever eat.
In the den — an offshoot of the living room — some party games had been setup. There were a few people playing Pin the Pacifier. Each would take a turn at being blindfolded and then spun around several times to disorient them. At that point, they were given a pacifier and had to place it correctly on the face of a cartoon baby hanging on the wall. There were plenty of laughs as people stumbled to and fro, blinded with arms held out in front of them as they moved.
On the wall was another game: this one a bit more passive but fun all the same. Denise had asked the Senior Staff and the Second Stringers to all submit baby pictures, which now hung on the wall with numbers next to each. The aim of the game was to guess which baby picture belonged to which staff member. Some were easier than others — Kodak’s eyes were unmistakable, for instance — while others were quite a bit harder to place. People signed sheets next to each picture with their guesses: whoever got the most right would win.
The shower was only an hour in but was already proving a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the evening. People came and went as they needed, some dropping in just to say hello and drop off a gift before heading to their duties elsewhere. Others came for the long haul, settling in with a cocktail and immersing themselves in all the stories being told. Denise was at the center of it all, quite pregnant but moving fluidly from one group to another, making a point of thanking everyone for coming.
Debbie Gless had a small plate in hand — adorned with some of those little sandwiches and smoky links — and was perusing the baby picture game. Sheldon Parsons was at her side, his own plate stacked high with baked goods. Together, they spent time looking at each of the pictures and chuckling to each other.
“Look at little Emni,” Debbie positively glowed as she pointed at a particular picture. “Those little ear points are the cutest damned thing I’ve seen,” she chuckled, reaching down to pop a pinwheel cookie into her mouth.
“Deb look,” Parsons chuckled himself, pointing to another picture. “I’ll be damned if that isn’t the Chief,” he said, referring to Nico Oliveria. “Those cheeks are rosier than your strawberry pie,” he smirked prissily.
“Is Denise giving out awards for cutest baby pictures? She should be,” Deb grinned back. “That is adorable. Makes me want to pinch his cheeks so hard next time I see him.”
Mothim watched the party from above, his tall shape peering over the crowd even as he tried to hunker down and make himself a bit shorter. He found this human tradition of a baby shower fascinating. How did they choose when, during the pregnancy, to host it? Frankly, the idea of a pregnancy and live birth in and of itself were odd. It sounded painful for the mammal involved. He supposed this celebration would take the place of an egg-laying celebration, as a celebration to be held shortly before welcoming a child into the world.
The Aurelian smiled as the crewmembers walked by him. He hadn't exactly been on board long enough to develop "friends," but that didn't mean he couldn't have fun. The baby picture thing was amusing. While the rest of the pictures showed chubby, naked humanoids, his picture stood out. As a baby, the Aurelian had been covered in a layer of white down, with large, solid blue eyes and a beak that was, in that moment, open in a grin. It was a cute picture, if he said so himself, even if it did not perhaps play into the maternal "cute" instincts of a mammal.
Timmoz, lanky and tall, strode the individual pictures with a cryptic look. It was a quaint V'draysh... largely Human custom to regard childhood as a time of innocence and cuteness. But Timmoz's perspective was quite different. With hands behind his back, he walked to each, discerning which baby looked most- and least- like their adult form. Yet his own picture was lacking. Timmoz had no baby pictures. Orions didn't have the same reverence for the past as Humans. 200 millennia of rising and falling and rising again civilizations wasn't the reason. Orion's just... didn't focus on the past in the same way.
Timmoz stooped, looking a child with messy brown hair in unkept cowlicks and curls, with squinted black eyes and a mouth that was far. far too big and bent like a fish for the child's apple-shaped face. This, on a tiny, skinny little neck made the person look almost like a caricature. He studied it. Thankfully his Tahedrin and Kaheedi had never caught him looking so... comical.
Emni had settled herself at a small table, a plate bearing an assortment of sweet and savory items barely touched next to her. At the table across from her was the tossel-haired form of her Vulcan roommate. "I really should have asked T'Vel for a baby picture for this," she commented to the man with gentle amusement.
Although one would assume it would be impossible, theoretically speaking, for a Vulcan to appear uncomfortable in any given situation, with their supposed emotional restraint and decades of strict composure, Karim did not give the appearance of a man comfortable with his surroundings. A few crew members that were not familiar with him, having not necessarily served on the Adelphi, had briefly made attempts at small talk. Karim's response to them, however, had not quite been caught by Emni, but none had walked away looking particularly cheered by their interaction.
To her own comment, dark blue eyes flicked to examine Emni, as well as the unfinished assortment of food beside her, which seemed to receive an equal level of disdain from him.
"It is curious how so many conflate vulnerability with innocence," he said. "It also seems curious that everyone has taken the opportunity to bring an element of themselves to this event, rather than focusing on Ensign Grackle's experience. When in doubt, do your colleagues think, 'why not attempt to find a common theme between everyone; surely, we must all be the same, as we were all once infants?'"
Karim watched Emni for a few short seconds after he made his comment, and to his credit, seemed to detect that his proselytizing was perhaps ill-suited to their engagement.
"All Vulcan infants look the same," he then said, looking aside, his eyes seeming to settle on Timmoz. "Although few have such aesthetically pleasing ridged noses."
Emni harrumphed at the final observation made by the man next to her. Her eyes mirrored back the path his had taken, darting to him to look him over, noticing the practiced demeanor and smooth features that overlaid his curiosity. Emotional tendrils reached out, something she now did out of habit with him, a temperature check of sorts. Satisfied that he was simply being himself and that the press of people was not, in fact, creating a significant issue, she followed his gaze over to the wall of photographs where Debbie, and Sheldon could be seen.
"It's hardly logical to conclude that all Vulcan infants look the same," she remarked wryly, a small smile playing across her lips. "And now I most certainly will have to ask T'Vel for a baby picture."
"In the Counselor's defense," Timmoz swayed nearby. "Not every civilization looks at childhood as something to remember, Commander." Timmoz smiled his Cluros smile and regarded the two. His long green fingers parted in a Vulcan style. "Counselor." He nodded at Emni, "And Jolan Tru, Doctor." His brow rose and he grinned, "However. Cute pictures."
Emni's eyebrow crept up with amusement before gesturing to an open seat where they sat. "That's a fair point," Emni conceded, "but in the Counselor's case, I have the benefit of knowing his mother and I suspect she does lean toward the type to find childhood worth remembering. Join us Mr. Timmoz?" she inquired.
The sly of the Orion's smile tilted while he side-glanced Karim. "I bet you wish you and I shared a mother right now, Counselor. My Kaheedi couldn't have given a damn." he nodded at the offer, a small arm-spread of a bow. "Why not. I've temporarily misplaced my pocket-sized paramour. I suspect he is wherever there is food," Timmoz bemused, cranking an eyebrow up under his curly fringe.
Across the way, Irynya had dragged Kennedy over to the pacifier game. A pink cloth was tied around her eyes and she giggled as hands turned her in circles, knocking her directional perception off balance. Someone set a pacifier in her hand and nudged her. Feeling her way forward slowly she held one hand out in front of her, reaching with her fingertips for the wall. She stopped abruptly when they met, her other hand darting out and affixing the pacifier. She tugged the blindfold free, seeing that she had affixed the pacifier not to the cartoon baby's mouth, but to his foot.
A peal of laughter escaped her as she saw it and whirled around, eyes dancing while she made her way over to Kennedy. "Think you can do better?" she asked teasingly while she waved the blindfold.
"No I probably would not get it anywhere near the baby," Kennedy chuckled lightly, "Do you think they sterilize the pacifier before they place it in the baby's mouth from the foot? That's not very hygienic."
"Nah," Iry replied flippantly. "A little dirt is good for them." She twirled her finger at him then. "Turn around. Even if you get the pacifier on the dessert table, you're trying this."
Kennedy's fingers lightly loosened his collar on his shirt nodding his head, "Only if you have the pleasure of blindfolding me?"
Iry chuckled lightly, but didn't comment, arms raising to loop the cloth in front of Kennedy's head. She stepped close, settling it gently, but firmly, on his face to cover his eyes before tying the knot in the back. "Can you see anything?" she asked.
"I cannot and I'm not a fan," Kennedy nodded his head, "Now what?"
The Risian chuckled and moved in to place her hands on Kennedy's shoulders. Her long tunic swished as she guided him into a few turns before pointing him in the direction of the baby on the wall and letting him go. "Now you pin the pacifier on the baby," she said, laughing as she felt Kennedy's half step to catch his footing when she finally stopped him.
Kennedy reached out with his hand on the pacifier while he moved his hand over the baby on the wall and then pinned it.
A peal of laughter sounded behind the doctor. "You can take your blindfold off Kennedy," Irynya's voice called, mirth in every syllable.
Kennedy's hand scrambled behind his head to untie the blindfold revealing that he had placed the pacifier a meter off the baby on the wall, "I can see why you are laughing." He laughed uncomfortably.
"Oh, it's fine," Irynya purred, coming over to stand beside him before planting a kiss on his cheek. Her arm wound around his waist and she tugged him into a half side hug. "Missing the target is half the fun. If everyone got it right on every time it wouldn't be a game."
Kennedy smiled at Irynya softly, "Want to take a look at the baby photos of the crew?" He extended his hand offering to hold hers.
Sharrina entered quietly, a thing that tended to surprise people given her Klingon heritage. It was her father's Native American heritage showing itself in her, though. She gave a look over the room as she entered, eyes pausing at each of the games, then really pausing as they fell on the even-taller-than-her-uncle being. That was someone she had not met as of yet, and she was curious. So, after gathering a plate with a few of the sandwiches, a couple of different cookie types, and a drink to go with them, she approached the tall being. "Hello, new person," she greeted lightly. "I'm Sharrina Blackstone, one of the security officers on this flying nut ward," she introduced, the description of the ship being a little joke.
"Why, hello." The Aurelian looked down at the security officer. Sharrina Blackstone. Now that was an interesting name. "I'm Mothim. One of the scientists on this... how did you call it? 'Flying nut ward'?" He spoke the last bit with a tone of amusement. The term 'flying' did not perhaps have the same connotations among his species. He could understand what she meant from context, but he would probably describe the ship as something more like 'floating'. They couldn't quite pin the species on the lady they were talking to. A Klingon perhaps? Or maybe a human with a strangely shaped skull. All the featherless species looked similar to him. "And I am quite new here."
Sharrina chuckled at the amusement in his tone. It occurred to her then how that must have sounded to a winged being. "Yeah, maybe that wasn't the best choice of words," she admitted with a self-effacing laugh. "It's nice to meet you, though. I can't say I've met too many of your species," she admitted, studying him for a moment. The fact of the matter was that he was the first, and therefore, he fascinated her. She did like the coloration of his feathers and thought that, in flight, he likely looked like a phoenix. "May I ask you some questions?"
"Certainly," Mothim nodded, just glad to have somebody to talk to. He would hardly be much of a scientist if he shunned the idea of being asked questions. Even if they were likely about his species, he took a bit of pride in his own kind. No offense meant towards other species, or towards disabled Aurelians, but couldn't imagine living locked to the ground all the time. "And it's nice to meet you."
Sharrina smiled, pleased. "Thank you. I've found that some are impatient with that since they likely get the same questions many, many times," she admitted. "First, is the coloration of your feathers common among your people? They are lovely."
"You should have seen all the questions I had for humans when I first started in Starfleet." Mothim looked over his shoulder at his wing. He shrugged. "It's not uncommon. Gold is a very common feather color. My plumage is a little more red than a lot of people, but not more than one standard deviation away from the average."
Sharrina nodded. "They are lovely, though, your feathers. I think, in flight, you might resemble a phoenix." She smiled then realized that he might not know the reference. "Do you know that reference?" she asked. If not, she would explain, but she didn't immediately do so as he might indeed know, and Sharrina was not one of those tell-someone-what-they-already-knew people.
"Why thank you. I have to say, they are much nicer to look at while in flight. You'll have to see them one day." Mothim couldn't help but fluff his feathers up his a touch at the compliment. "And yes. I've heard of them. We have a similar creature to phoenixes in our own mythology." Mothim didn't mention that he had heard of phoenixes from humans many times before, as well. Aurelians were notorious historians; they ate up other species's histories and mythologies like breakfast and although Mothim was more of a mathematician himself, he did find a special interest in other species' more avian figures.
Sharrina grinned, pleased at his assertion that she needed to see his feathers in flight. "I would love to see that," she said genuinely. At his comment about his kind having a similar bird to a phoenix in their legends, she found herself curious. It didn't really surprise her given that such beings were, in essence, birds, and so were his people. "I am curious to know your legend then," she said, curiosity in her tones and shining in her eyes. No, she didn't have any cat DNA, but sometimes her father said she acted as if she did.
Mothim nodded. Perhaps he'd have to go flying with this Sharrina person at some point on the holodeck, if she were up to it. "Well, a couple figures in our legends share things with a phoenix. There is, of course, the bird that is reborn through a new egg every time he dies, though there is no fire involved with that legend. They say that he does look more like a bird than like an Aurelian; that he's been reincarnating for so long that we had not yet evolved arms when he was first born. Then there are... hmm, I don't know the best way to describe them. I believe the closest human equivalent - are you Klingon, though? I'm afraid I don't know too much Klingon lore," Mothim casually added in the question as he spoke. "The closest human equivalent would be a siren. They are fiery humanoid birds, who draw people in through temptation. Any that succumb to it are burned up on contact and reborn from their ashes as another, well, siren."
Sharrina listened carefully to everything he said, fascinated. The food in her hands had been temporarily forgotten. "I am half Klingon, yes, but don't worry about not knowing our legends. They wouldn't really apply here anyway," she said with a chuckle. "Both of those legends are fascinating, though. You're right; each has something in common with the phoenix legend, but neither is quite the same. It's all very fascinating, though." She finally remembered the food and took a small bite, chewing as she thought.
"I do have an odd question," she admitted after a moment of silent thought, her curiosity getting the better of her once more. "How strong are your wings? Meaning could you carry another being or only your own weight?"
"Oh, no," Mothim chuckled. "I could probably carry a child. But not a whole other person. I mean, there's some stronger folk among my species that might be able to, but, well, I can't say that I escape the mathematician stereotype for being weak..."
"These little cookies are amazing," Captain Kodak said from his spot near the fireplace. Speaking to Andrew Munro -- ship's civilian biologist and his loving partner -- the Chameloid held up a confectionery treat for the younger man to take a bite of if he wished. The cookie was star-shaped and light yellow, iced with a purple-and-blue frosting combination that looked like the night sky. Little white balls made of candy dotted the frosting, completing the look. Dressed informally in a button down shirt and cargo shorts, the Captain looked quite at ease amongst the gathered crowd.
Andrew took a bite and was pleasantly surprised that the little candy balls seemed to pop once in his mouth. "They're ... interesting" he agreed, but he seemed to be more interested in the puddle of yellow goop on his plate. 'Queso' he'd heard it called but there was more in it than just cheese. There was a little kick in it too. He scooped some up on a tortilla chip to transport it into his mouth. "This stuff is amazing though!". He was glad of the interesting snacks, they served as a talking point when he knew nothing about pregnancies or babies beyond the biological facts. At least the ship's database had contained a lot of guidance about appropriate gifts to bring for such an event.
Serana, who didn't really know anyone, still understood a bit about what was happening. On the home ship, the gifts were hand-made or passed down, but the idea, a gathering in celebration, was the same. She was late since it had time find one of the few pictures she had of herself; this one had been taken at a party celebrating her birth. Wrapped in a green blanket and held by her mother encircled by a group of smiling well-wishers. She'd found it, almost by accident, tucked into the back of a completed journal. For a gift, she had a hand-woven blanket, a purple and blue runic pattern that symbolized wishes for health and long life, joy and laughter, that one of the elders on her ship had made. It had traveled with her, from place to place, waiting to find the right owner because that was tradition. Rumari always carried a few gifts with them. It just made sense. She tacked her picture up with the others and left her gift, unwrapped, with the others.
"Lieutenant Zhaan," came a voice from behind. The tones were warm and welcoming. "It's good to see you here," said Captain Kodak, offering the woman a charming smile. "Thanks for being a good sport with the baby pictures. I know not everyone has them," Kodak commented, "but I think it's a fun idea for sure." Looking at the picture she'd just pinned up, he could see the backdrop of her ship behind the baby, who was surrounded by onlookers. "Seems like a beautiful day," he commented, gesturing to lead Serana away so their conversation didn't spoil others as to who went with the picture.
"What was it like growing up on a ship like that?" Kodak wondered, eyes alight with curiosity. "There's a romantic quality to the idea of jetting from place to place, with everyone who loves you onboard. Was it as alluring as it might sound to some?"
"We were refugees," Serana said though the sting that accompanied the words was lessened by her smile as memories tumbled through her mind. Cautious gray disappeared beneath threads of pinks and yellows, and greens. "Generations of us have grown up on the home ships surrounded by family and friends. We all had the same life, you know? I knew every hidden place before my sixth birthday. They said I had a gift for that. Finding things. Especially trouble." She laughed lightly, a musical trill, and shook her head. "Not sure about romantic but its all I've ever known. Till Starfleet anyway."
Kodak's smile faltered some as the young woman spoke of life as a refugee. He'd not intended to drudge up difficult memories and was about to apologize until laughter tumbled from Serena's lips. With a surge of relief, the Chameloid smiled back at full strength, nodding. "I'm sure you had the run of the place. I can't imagine keeping up with a six year old who knows every nook and cranny to hide in," he chuckled lightly. "Life in Starfleet must be similar in some way, I imagine. True you aren't a refugee," he rasped warmly, "but I bet you can find some pretty great hiding places on the Sojourner. Me?" he asked, smirking. "I'm rather fond of the secondary ODN junction on deck six. Believe it or not, it's a great place to read," the Captain grinned. "Well, as long as you don't mind being crammed into a small space."
"Space is the one thing a home ship doesn't have much of so no, cramped spaces don't bother me much at all," Serana said. "I prefer them actually. Haven't been on the ship long enough to find my own spot yet but I will. Mug of spiced tea, a warm blanket and a big book. Sounds perfect to me."
"I think you just described my next shoreleave," Kodak chuckled lightly. A chittering sound interrupted whatever the Chameloid Captain was about to say next, however. It was his combadge, happily chirping from its place on his chest. "Will you excuse me?" he asked Serana, nodding an apology and then waving back to Andrew, whom he'd left near the fireplace. He made a gesture to indicate that he'd be right back and then walked across the way, finding a quiet corner to tap his combadge and take the call.
"Kodak here," he said, wondering who was reaching out.
"Sorry to bother you, sir. Ensign Bazeer on the Bridge. Just wanted to let you know we've received a transmission. Text based in nature, though we haven't been able to parse its meaning just yet. We've got the universal translator working on it, though."
"Understood, Ensign," Kodak nodded. "Thanks for letting me know. Alert me the moment we can decipher the message. Kodak out," he said, tapping his combadge to close the channel and move back towards where he'd left Andrew and Serana. Offering his paramour a broad smile, he gestured to Zhaan. "Lieutenant, this is Andrew Munro, civilian biologist. Andrew, this is Lieutenant Zhaan," he said, "our new Operations officer."
"Pleased to meet you," Andrew smiled. Her stylish asymmetric hairstyle drew his attention to her pointed ear that had a different profile than any he'd seen before. "Where are you from?"
"Pleased to meet you as well," Serana answered. "I grew up on a ship actually. Never called a planet home. And you? Where are you from?"
"I'm from Earth, but work has taken me to Bajor and Risa as well," Andrew replied. "Living on a ship is still fairly new to me."
"This one must be you," Jyl-eel Tor said whilst she stopped and stooped to look at an impish little face with dark curls. Noah Balmsam blushed across the apple of his cheeks and fought valiantly back a snicker.
"Um... y-yes. I don't- I don't know how they found that. Um. At-at least they didn't use the one of me, um, dancing naked on the couch."
Jyl-eel Tor raised a perplexed eyebrow in Vulcan fashion before she grinned. She straightened. "My mother has a similar picture. I am sitting in my father's clay vat, covered in birthclay."
"Bir-birthclay?" Noah asked. Jyl-eel nodded sagely.
"A special clay is used to make a pregnancy canopic jar for the afterbirth of a child. My father is a regionally renowned potter on Valt." She explained. "It's very smooth clay, like Human porcelain. But red."
"Oh," Noah nodded, absorbing that. They milled toward the next picture.
Meanwhile, Kodak had been chatting amiably with Andrew and Zhaan but had, again, stepped off to answer a summons from his combadge. It was the Bridge again and this time, they'd struck pay dirt with the translation of the text message. After filling the Captain in on the details, the Bridge signed off and Kodak stepped forward, finding a dinner fork to quickly and loudly tap against his wine glass. The sound drew the attention of everyone in the surrounding area, some from the other room drifting in to find out what the chiming noise was all about.
"My apologies, Ensign," Kodak spoke directly to Grackle, "but we've just received a distress call. There's a lone shuttle out there with a single lifesign: it's faint but whoever it is needs our help. We're the only ship we can detect within range, so we've set a course. Until we arrive, there isn't much we can do so please," he smiled warmly, "continue to enjoy the party, everyone. But I do want my senior staff at their posts at 1930 hours in preparation of our arrival. Thank you, everyone," he nodded, waving the gathered crowd to return to their milling about.
Doctor Kennedy Ryan Walsh gathered closer to the Captain to hear what he had to say. He wasn't bothered by the news in fact he was intrigued about running Sickbay in an area of space that was unfamiliar to him.
Emni's lips pursed as she looked from Karim to Timmoz and back. Her gaze turned to the room, slowly removing mental shielding. Tension, certainly, but also anticipation and curiosity. No panic. She could pinpoint the former Adelphi crew members in the crowd. Their reactions, as the veterans returning to the Delta Quadrant, were more reserved, some even bordering on suspicious. She sighed. But still no panic. Letting out a long breath she turned back to the two men at the table. "Never a dull moment, I suppose."
Timmoz smiled into an angular cheek. "Mmm," he nuanced agreement in the back of his mouth. It was apparently time to get back to work.
The captain's voice cut across the room easily even though she doubted he had raised it. Hearing what he said, Blackstone made a mental note of the time and nodded, returning her attention to Mothim once more. "Things are about to get interesting," she commented with a smirk. Distress signals were no joke, and she was not making light of that specifically. She was more indicating her own slight eagerness to get into the thick of it. And there was the reflection of her Klingon blood.
"Exciting," Mothim responded, whatever emotion that word might have carried getting lost in a bird-like chirrup. It was unfortunate that somebody had to use a distress signal, but he couldn't deny that he was curious about what might be going on. Besides; this was his first ship as a department head and he found a little bit of excitement in the fact that he might be involved with this ordeal.
The party continued on, though the Senior Officers and Second Stringers began to peel off and return to their duty stations as the time wore on. Ensign Grackle thanked each person for coming, making it very clear how much she appreciated people helping her celebrate her forthcoming baby. Raising a child on a starship in the Delta Quadrant wasn't exactly her favorite idea but neither did Grackle wish to be cooped up on Pathfinder Station, surrounded by people she didn't know, just to be sent home with her baby. She felt very lucky that the Captain had allowed her to stay aboard with her friends and felt so thankful to have seen so many of them for the shower.
=/\= A joint post by... =/\=
Lots and lots of folks