Well Done II
Three days into our second mission and my jaw was aching. It wasn’t because I’d been hit, or had a cavity; no it came from clenching it tightly as I put up with Justine Zindal in my galley. By rights everything should be smooth sailing: I had a new and improved kitchen, I loved the work I was doing and I was now happily married to a complete stud slash teddy bear. All of that should be enough to put me over the moon.
Well we were well past the moon and unfortunately, I had to put up with a sous who second-guessed every decision I made and kept me on edge. From the first day Justine questioned everything I did and wasn’t happy with any of the answers. By the second day I decided to work around her as best I could which seemed to be what she wanted, unfortunately. So here I was twenty-four hours after that, preparing food for eight-nine people three times a day while she did the minimum to help me.
“Oh I can’t grate carrots; my arthritis won’t let me,” Justine informed me. “Don’t you have an electric grater?”
“I can run the sterilizer but you’ll have to stack the plates,” she told me a few hours later. “That sort of bending isn’t good for my back.”
And finally, “You’re spoiling this crew and not being efficient, Chef. Three entrée choices all by hand is ridiculous, and you’re not even using the protein re-sequencer! They don’t need that much variety!”
She conveniently disappeared after that, leaving me to handle all the prep for the next day.
After I finished laying out the materials for breakfast and programed the dishwashers, I stalked off to the quarters I shared with Jon and began growling as I peeled off my clothes and roamed the living room. Porthos thought this was some new game got up and followed me around, giving every dropped item the sniff test.
“Damn it, who does she think she is? It’s one thing to criticize my work, but Christo! Doing only forty percent of her job and leaving me to pick up the other sixty on top of everything else? I’d like to . . .” I stopped my rant as Jon looked up from the desk, his expression caught between amusement and worry.
“Rage striptease is a new one,” he commented, eyeing me and grinning. “Don’t let me interrupt.”
“Grrrrr,” I sighed, pulling the net off my chignon and letting my hair loose. “I’m going crazy right now. It’s Justine.”
He sighed. “Still slacking?”
“Big-time,” I nodded. “She’s claiming medical excuses for it and I need to check with Phlox to see if any of them are valid. How many would it take to deem her physically unfit for duty?”
“I’m not sure,” Jon admitted, rising up and coming over to me. “Because it’s still a new billet that sort of regulation is still being worked out. I really like this bra.”
“So I should keep it on?”
“No, I think you should take it off so we can keep it safe somewhere else,” he purred, taking me into his arms. I relaxed a bit, but my mind was still on the galley situation even as Jon deftly worked open the hooks in the back.
“Maybe there’s a psychological clause I can use.”
“Maybe,” he agreed. “In the meantime, go take a hot shower and relax. We’ve got vids from the moms.”
I brightened and kissed him before slipping away to the little bathroom to wash Justine out of my thoughts for a while. When I was done I climbed into my pink nightie and climbed into bed, where Jon was already sitting against the headboard, working on some last minute computations that he set aside to pull the covers back for me.
“Much,” I agreed. “Play on.”
His mother came on first, looking a little startled; not everyone was comfortable filming themselves and Sally Archer was one of them. She blinked a little. “Hi you two. It’s me.”
Jon and I always chuckled at that. I mean we were looking at her and yes of course we knew who she was but it was also such a sweetly goofy Sally sort of thing that she always said—as if we might mistake her for someone else. He slid an arm around me.
“Anyway, I wanted to know what you two wanted for the holidays. I’m expressing things to Vulcan since Starfleet’s got a series of rendezvous supply freights there and a little bird told me which one will be meeting up with the Enterprise within a few months,” she cocked her head just the way Jon did once in a while so I knew where he’d learned the gesture. “Don’t be practical!” Sally urged. “Tell me what you’d really like or it’s going to be all underwear and socks!”
“I wouldn’t mind the socks,” I murmured.
“I’d definitely mind the underwear,” Jon replied. “The last boxers she sent me had little spaceships on them. NOT exactly what a Starship captain needs to be caught dead in.”
“Seriously?” I giggled. “Where are they now?” On the screen Sally was talking about her date with someone called Harry Reingart, who seemed to be a microbiologist she’d met at some gardening event. Jon was caught between listening to her rambles and my question.
“Back of the top drawer I think.”
“Can I have them?”
“Yes,” he shot me a sidelong glance. “Umm, any particular reason?”
“For . . . that time,” I replied softly. “I’m due in a few days and they’ll be more comfortable.”
He tightened his arm around me. “Franny—my underwear is your underwear. Jon paused and added, “Not something I ever thought I’d say in my life, but . . .”
“But thank you,” I told him. He was a good husband, very considerate when I had my period and I appreciated that. Most of the time they were mild to bearable, but every third one or so would be truly awful and Jon would do whatever I needed: curl up around me, bring me tea or just go away if I told him to. He wasn’t grossed out, either, which was a blessing as well.
“Anyway, love to both of you and I’ll expect a gift list soon!” Sally chirped from the video before it came to an end.
“Do you think she’s serious about this Reingart fellah?” Jon asked me.
“Maybe,” replied, “you could have him checked out you know.”
“I might,” he nodded and started the second vid.
Mom and Nona popped up on the screen, both of them grinning.
“Hello there, Sweeties!” Mom waved. “And Porthos!”
From beside the bed I hear him stir at the mention of his name. Mom and Porthos were good friends, especially when she introduced him to the joys of pasta.
“We’re going to be making ravioli today and taking it to the Starfleet Parent’s Picnic! Not sure how much to make so we’ll keep going until the flour runs out!”
“Holy Guacamole—Mom, your canister holds fifteen pounds!” I told the screen. “You’re going to feed the entire fleet with that much!”
Nona spoke up. “Start looking up semolino recipes, Francesca. You will be ma-king it soon!”
“Nona!” I shook my head. Jon waited until my mother finished talking about missing us, wishing us a safe mission and signing off before shooting me a curious look.
I rolled my eyes. “Semolino is durum wheat that’s used for porridge. It’s um, a common Italian baby food.”
“Ah,” he replied. “I kind of figured. But not much chance of that. Speaking of which, I do need to see Phlox for the next injection.”
“I’ll remind you in the morning,” I promised him, and after turning out the lights, we kissed, and curled up to sleep.
As it turned out, I saw Phlox myself during breakfast. I took a piece of toast and joined him at his table, sitting so I could keep an eye on the galley. Phlox being his usual observant self noted this with a nod.
“So, I need to ask you about my sous,” I began. “I realize some information is confidential and part of doctor/patient privilege, but . . .”
“But?” he prompted me before digging into his cheese and avocado omelet.
“But are there any legitimate reasons Commander Zindal cannot do certain jobs or physical activities in the galley?”
Phlox considered my question a moment, fork hovering. “I’d have to check my records, which are still being uploaded and updated before I could answer that,” he told me.
“All right,” I sighed. “Thanks.”
“Is everything all right?” he asked, putting on that ‘I’m listening even though I’m eating’ face.
“Well . . . I’m doing a lot of extra work,” I told him quietly. “Things that Maalik would have been doing if he was here. Right now it’s merely annoying but if we get into any sort of trouble or rush . . .” I trailed off, knowing Phlox would understand.
“I see,” he nodded. “Well, whatever I can share or do to rectify the situation, I shall. In the meantime, thank you for the omelet.”
“You’re welcome. Also, the captain needs a Null injection,” I added, feeling myself go a little pink in the face.
To his credit, Phlox merely nodded again. “An easy fix.”
I rose and headed back to the galley, where Justine was seated at the back desk, watching something on the holoscreen while the breakfast dishes piled up on the conveyor belt.
“Hey!” I called sharply. “We can’t let things sit!”
She looked over and slowly turned the monitor off. “You’re understaffed,” Justine groused. “There should be a crewman or two to do the drudge work like this.”
Privately I agreed, but to her face I merely shook my head. “Well there aren’t any, and we need to keep the galley as clean as possible. Let’s get busy.”
We gloved up and ran the dishes through the rinse and racked them for the sterilizer. I spoke above the sprays. “I think we ought to have recyclable dishes instead of reusing these polycarbonate ones.”
“Make them out of what?” Justine scoffed, “You’re just lazy.”
I thought that was the pot calling the kettle black and nearly snapped at her but it wasn’t worth it. I focused instead on my idea, wondering what we could use to create dishes and by the time we were done loading and unloading them I knew.
I waved her off and sat down, typing up my hypothetical idea and listing questions for Trip about the feasibility of filtering out the protein-heavy recyclable waste to create sterile blocks that could be synthesized into plates. If we could do that, I reasoned, we could reduce the size of the dishwasher/sterilizer we’d need on a ship by at least half, and if worst came to worst, even EAT the dishes themselves if we needed to.
Yes it was radical and a little bizarre, but in terms of saving space and time, it could be feasible. I wrote it up and sent it to Trip, feeling pleased about the idea. He might shoot the whole thing down of course, but if there was even the tiniest possibility it could work, he’d be the engineer to spot it.
I stretched and as I stood up, I felt the tiniest trickle along the inside of one thigh and sighed; my period was here. Hormones, especially in artificial and unknown environments were more susceptible to fluctuation, and while Null wasn’t perfect it was the best option for space travelers. I’d been on Null just to counter my period, but women could only be on that for two years before they needed to take a six-month break, and Jon had opted to take the male version so I could do so. I appreciated his support even though I wasn’t thrilled about re-establishing a cycle.
On the bright side, I had found the boxers, and was looking forward to wearing them.