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Order's Up

Posted on Tue Jul 19th, 2022 @ 4:23am by Debbie Gless & Ensign Mei Ratthi

Mission: Echoes and Effigies
Location: Debbie's Diner
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 1730

[Debbie's Diner]
[USS Sojourner]
[MD 2: 1730 Hours]

Rock and roll: that's what the diner was, pure and simple. Decked out in metal-flecked red tables, chairs, and booths, the dining space was something straight out of 1950's Americana on Earth. A black-and-white checkerboard floor stretched out beneath while gray-scale pictures of famous actors, musicians, and other notables graced the walls. There, too, were signs one might find in a mechanics shop with pictures of muscle cars and slogans like "Lube me up!" and "Hit the road."

Amidst the loud cloud of chatter from crowded tables and booths, an undercurrent of music played throughout the diner, the current song blaring on about a "Runaway" that made someone "wah-wah-wah-wonder." The clanking of plates and silverware added to the ambiance in concert with the sound of the loudly whirring shake machine and something sizzling in the off-shoot kitchen. There were even loud popping sounds as cans of soda were opened, the fizzing sound altogether too happy.

And in the middle of all of this, a diva on roller skates was dancing as she rolled from table to table, checking in on her customers. Her hair was a bright mixture of bubble-gum pink and violet, accenting, hoop-style earrings in gold dangling from her earlobes. She blew a rather large bubble of gum, which popped loudly as she whizzed towards the doors, spying someone new entering her establishment.

"Heya honey," the woman beamed, offering a hand in greeting. "Haven't seen you here before. I'm Debbie," she smiled warmly, popping her gum again. "In the mood for dinner? Or just here for a drink? We've got a booth open but if you want to sit by the observation windows," the matronly proprietor of the diner gestured towards the large apertures looking out on a wide swatch of space, "we can make that happen, too. Whatever suits your fancy," Debbie clucked kindly, her voice a bit gravelly in her advancing age.

"Uh, a booth? I think?" Mei said, wincing inwardly. She sounded like an idiot, for sure, but the place was so bright and unexpected that it threw her completely off her game. She'd been expecting a regular sort of lounge like she'd seen on other ships and starbases. Gray and white and quiet. And with fewer wheels. "And dinner, I guess." She closed her mouth and did her best to put a calm expression on her face and not hug her book to her chest.

"Honey," Debbie smirked in wig-matching lipstick, "you look more lost than a virgin at an orgy. But that's OK, I've got you. C'mon," she smiled, beckoning the young woman into the diner proper. She skated slowly, snagging a heavy-looking menu from a nearby podium as she passed. Swiveling around as they reached the open booth in question, she gestured Mei to take a seat and handed her the menu. "Anything in there we make fresh from replicated ingredients. We got a lot: breakfast all day, all kinds of homestyle diner-type food, and the lemon bars are to die for. I should know, I make 'em myself," Debbie beamed. "Anything not on the menu can be replicated. What sounds good?"

"I don't know." Mei scanned the menu a couple of times, bypassing most of the 'home-style' food, as it was nothing like what she'd eaten growing up. Was 'home-style' meant to indicate a kind of regional food, or was it part of the theme of the place? She itched to ask, but she had a feeling her host wasn't in the mood for an anthropological discussion of historic or regional cuisine. "I guess the waffles? That sounds good. With tea, though, not coffee. I need to sleep sometime."

"Waffles I can do," Debbie said, producing a small PADD from the pocket of her vest, which was emblazoned in a variety of pins with various sayings on them. Some of them included phrases like "Bite me!" and "If I had a quarter for every time..." Pulling a stylus from behind her ear, the matron asked, "You want them with any kind of fruit? Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries," she counted off with her free hand. "Or maybe a filling? I can do chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, any kind of nuts you want, etc. Unless you just want plain waffles. A bit boring, but hey...who am I to judge. Oh," she looked up from scribbling the order on her PADD, "what kind of tea?"

"How about strawberries? I like strawberries. As for tea? Well, it should be in the replicator. I input the recipe a couple of days after I got here. Unless I did something dumb and just logged it in the replicator in my quarters. Which I don't think I did. I think I did that right." Mei rattled off the tongue-twister name, and smiled at the raised eyebrow she got in return. "I can spell it for you. It was something I got when I lived on Andor, and I got to like it after a while. It's kind of cinnamon-y, but not quite. But if it's not in the replicator, a masala chai is fine. And. I think that's it. I've got my book, so I'm good." She raised lifted a paperback and waved it like she was saying hello.

"Strawberries, got it." Debbie did, indeed, raise that hawkish eyebrow of hers but as Mei explained further about the tea, the matron finally nodded. "Alright," she rattled back her best pronunciation of the tea, "I'll go put this in for you. But before I go, you never told me your name, honey. What can I call ya?" she asked, chomping her gum as she cradled the PADD in her right armpit. The woman's face was kind as she regarded the young ensign who, along with others her age, seemed to be getting younger and younger all the time. The joys of aging, she thought to herself.

"Oh! Sorry. I'm Mei. Ratthi. Ensign Mei Ratthi. I'm an anthropologist. I'm new on board. But you probably had that one figured out by now." A faint blush appeared on Mei's cheeks, not at all hidden by the curls that bounced around her face like they had a mind of their own. "There's a lot to get used to around here."

"Mei," Debbie repeated back. "That's a pretty name. And you ain't kidding, baby. As if being in the Delta Quadrant weren't enough, you got a ship full of people to meet, not to mention a whole ship to become familiar with. It can be pretty damned intimidating. As things go, though, it's not so bad. The crew is small and most everyone is nice. There's a few here and there you might want to avoid on their bad days but, by and large, you couldn't ask for a better group of folks to explore with." With a parting smile, she said, "I'll put this in and be back in a bit. Won't take long so don't get too engrossed in your book," Debbie chuckled before skating away.

As promised, she put the order in with Mel -- the short-order cook in the kitchen -- before replicating the requested tea. Since it was ready first, Debbie delivered it right away, noticing that it was hotter than one might otherwise order it. It was curious but that's how the instructions in the computer went, so Debbie didn't question it further. In a teacup on a saucer, the tea was set down for Mei as the woman skated by, checking in with another table afterward. Someone must have told a helluva joke there because Debbie let loose a volley of raucous laughter, placing one of her age-spotted hands on the man who'd made her laugh so hard. And then she was off again, a Hollywood darling skating from table to table.

Mei watched in bafflement as Debbie went about her business. A pink and violet-haired server was not what she'd expected here, but perhaps it would be a reminder to not come into a new situation with a particular set of expectations. She'd just have to take the place and its people as they were, not as she'd imagined they would be. The scowling medical officer over there might be a perfectly charming person having a bad day, and the engineer staring off into literal space with a somewhat vapid expression might be the smartest person she'd ever meet. You couldn't make assumptions about people based on a first impression.

You also shouldn't stare at said people, Mei realized with a start. She put her book down on the table and opened it to the marked page, though it was hard to focus with so much going on around her. At least she didn't look like some wide-eyed kid gawping at all the newness around her now. Books were good for that. And after a few minutes, she'd even managed to read a few pages.

The time had afforded Mel the moments he needed to whip up a couple of waffles. Pulling the second one from the press, he plated both in a 3/4 overlapping pattern. Then went on a handful of strawberry slices, followed by a miniature carafe full of maple syrup set on the side. Placing a set of silverware next to the plate on a tray, the short order cook slid the tray out of the kitchen -- where it stayed hot thanks to heat lamps -- Mel hit the bell to signal Debbie, followed by a shout of "Order's up!" in his gruff voice.

Debbie heard the bell and waved in its direction, indicating acknowledgment of the readied order. With a parting laugh to another set of patrons, the woman lifted a ring-beset hand to her lips, blew them a kiss, and then began to skate away, making her way around the diner's counter, where she reached up to grab the tray with Mei's dinner. She snagged a fresh flower in a fluted glass with water, placed it on the left side of the tray, and then made her way to deliver.

"Alright Mei," Deb grinned as she arrived, "time to eat." She gave the woman a moment to put away her book and then set out the flower for decor, then followed with the silverware -- wrapped in a white napkin -- and the plate of waffles. "Here you go, honey," she smiled before placing the tray under her right arm. "You need anything else?"

"No, I think I'm fine here." Mei speared a strawberry slice with her fork, then paused with it halfway to her mouth. She put the fork down and looked up at Debbie before she could turn about and skate away. "Except, well . . . What's it like? Out here? I mean, you hear stories and all, but people exaggerate. Or they go the other way and they downplay things, and, well, I might be a bit of an empath, but it's honestly less helpful than you'd think it is. And anyway. I haven't seen that much of the galaxy, honestly. Some travel here and there with my parents and then at the Academy, but then I spent the last two years doing my post-grad work on Andor and I barely left there, and now . . . Now I'm out here. In the Delta Quadrant." Mei laughed nervously. "And I have no idea what to expect."

Debbie blinked and then blinked again. It was like a bomb of thought had gone off: certainly way too much for her to parse while just standing there. And so the matron did what came naturally to her: she sat down in the other side of the booth. "Mind a little company? That's a lot on your mind and my dogs are barking. Skates aren't as comfortable as they look," she chuckled, setting the tray she'd been carrying back down on the table. "Those are good questions, baby. And understandable ones, too," Debbie nodded slowly. "I wish I could say that most days are routine momma didn't raise a liar," she smirked.

"Anything can and does happen out here. Some of it good," Debbie smiled thinly, "some of it bad. The best advice I can give you is to just take things one day at a time. You never know what this quadrant is going to throw at you. Face-stealing Vidiians, time-traveling Talbeethians, unexplained duplicates of people running all over the ship..." she referenced the current mystery plaguing the ship, "you just can't tell what's gonna happen next around here. But you can control the people you surround yourself with. Reach out to people, let them in...because when the shit hits the fan and believe me," she clucked, "it're gonna want to lean on those people to make things better."

"Face stealing..." Mei's eyes widened. She took an unwise sip of her still too-hot tea and winced when she burned her tongue. "I guess I'd better make some friends, then. Outside my department. And more than just my bunkmates. I guess I might be spending more time here than I thought." She looked up at Debbie, an impish smile barely contained and one eyebrow rising. "Unless this isn't a great place to meet people?"

“This place is perfect for making new friends,” Debbie smiled back before looking around the diner. “It gets busy here at times. All the tables and booths fill up. If you want to make friends, offering up room in your booth can be a great way to meet new faces. That,” she chucked a thumb toward the counter, where various people sat talking and eating, “or sit at the counter. Strike up a conversation with someone new and you never know where it’ll lead ya,” Debbie beamed. “And of course, you’ve always got me, honey.”

"Sounds like I'll be spending some more time here, then. And if your, dogs?, are still barking, I guess I wouldn't mind the company. Unless you're busy or something." Mei popped the strawberry in her mouth and tilted her head toward the crowd that wasn't going to ease up anytime soon. "But I've got time, if you get back around. And I have a book. Or maybe someone else will come by and there will be a whole flock of people here when you come by again."

"Sweety," Deb grinned as she rose again to her feet, "I'll always have time for ya. Dogs or no dogs," she smirked, snagging up the tray she'd set down. "But I probably should get back to work for now. Your timing is pretty good, though," she nodded towards someone who'd just entered: a beautiful Risian in Starfleet flygirl red. "That's Irynya...and I have a feeling you two are about to get along real well," she said, waving her arms at the newly entered arrival to catch her attention.

=/\= A joint post by... =/\=

Debbie Gless
Hostess and Proprietor


Ensign Mei Rathi
Ship's Anthropologist


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