Sester enjoyed late mornings. It meant a quiet time in the dining hall by himself, savouring a relaxing cup of tea and having a biscuit or two. No rush to plot - an idle smile curled his lips - plan the day's activities. Just a calm, reflective time without any people around.
He leaned back lazily in his chair, brought the cup to his nose and savoured the delicate aroma. Ah. There was nothing like a solitary cup of deliciously brewed tea. At the right temperature, not too strong, the steam rising like wisps of scented smoke, its delicate odour tantalizingly tickling his nostrils. It was civilization, in a universe where that was often a misunderstood word.
Everything can be cured with a cup of tea. Puts things in perspective.
He'd heard that sage bit advice from…Nurse Restal. The corners of Sester's lips curled fondly at the bittersweet memory of Vila's mother. He'd scoffed at the idea as a bright Alpha child. But after the Machiavellian life he'd led, something as pedestrian as the enjoyment of a sane, simple cup of tea, was something to be cherished.
Of course, this was the precise product of a drinks dispenser. Its flavours, numbers calculated in a computer and reconstituted in a simulacrum-ly acceptable form as fit for human consumption. The recreation was almost exact, to the untutored palate. His was not, of course, being an Alpha, and an ultra-privileged one at that. But it was good enough that he could imagine that it was.
Sester sighed and shook his head, an expression that was lost in the empty room. He always thought too much, at times it spoiled what could be perfect moments. He brought the cup to his lips and sipped; slurping was, not only uncivilized, but also spoiled the experience. His eyes closed, shutting off the sense of vision in order to concentrate on the ones that mattered.
Hot liquid. Not searing. Clear flavour. With a subtle hint of...
Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. Clump. Clump. Clump.
Sester's eyes flew open in irritation at being interrupted. This was his time to enjoy. What were they doing here? Shouldn't they be, working, training, following orders, killing people... Somewhere else? Anywhere else but here?
More soldiers came in. Followed by still more.
What is this? A convention? Where did they all come from and why are they all here?
The soldiers were lining up at the various dispensers. Obviously not passing through just to make his life miserable. They were going to stay here and eat.
The hall was filling up quickly. Every table now groaned under the weight of mountains of food. All except his. They kept respectfully clear of his.
One thing he like about these soldiers was their exceedingly polite manners. Apart from the clomping around in big boots, which seemed to be a feature of military forces everywhere, and the ability to kill people with their bare hands, they seemed decent enough.
Big black boots. The better to scare people with. So you could hear them from miles away and run screaming.
Sester was in a whimsical, irreverent mood now.
Of course, it could be that they were wary of him, being their commander's arch nemesis. He didn't mind, as long as he had some semblance of solitude while he finished his tea and biscuits. The full enjoyment was wasted but he was determined to finish the rest of it. He raised a buttered biscuit to his lips, preparing to take a bit, when Vila came in.
Sester bit into the soft pastry, chewing slowly, savouring the slight sweetness… Vila's eyes brightened when he saw him and immediately came over and plopped down in the opposite seat. "D'you mind if I sit down?" Sester's face had assumed its normal faintly amused look. He refrained from pointing out that Vila was already sitting. Vila added, "All the other seats are taken."
Sester said, "I can see that."
"What are you doing here?" Vila was eyeing his other biscuit with a hungry look.
Sester wondered how Vila had acquired this habit of making obvious observations. He decided to play the game. "What does it look like?"
"Did you miss the memo?"
Memo? So Vila wasn't just stating the obvious, he was surprised to find him here eating breakfast.
Vila continued talking without waiting for the answer. "Don't worry, I did too. Came into it late. I hate memos, don't you? They always expect you to do something when you have plans…" There was a brief faraway look in Vila's eyes and a private smile. "…well, with someone else."
There was no question that he was thinking about Corinne. Sester still had no ideas about the memo that Vila was talking about. The lack of information always spurred his restless mind to finding answers. He asked casually, "Which memo are you referring to?"
There was momentary panic in Vila's eyes. "You mean there's been more than one? Why doesn't anyone tell me these things?"
Sester said teasingly, "They did. There was a memo."
"You mean, there was a memo … about the memos? Now that's going too far."
Some of the soldiers were milling around, trays in hand, looking for empty seats. A few glanced over at the remaining ones, which happened to be at Sester's table. Vila gave Lt. Dain a wave. "Over here."
Sester tried not to groan as four soldiers bore down on them. He quickly finished the rest of his biscuit and picked up his tea. It was cold. He sighed and drank the rest of it.
"Thanks," said Lt. Dain as he set his tray down and sat beside Sester. "Did I forget to send you a memo about this morning, sir?"
So Dain was the culprit behind this mysterious memo. Sester still didn't know what it was about.
"I'm not usually included in these things."
Dain seemed puzzled. "But you are a member of the crew."
"Am I? I'm sure your commander would be very surprised to hear that."
Argus darkened the doorway. It didn't take the man long to favour him with a glare. Reya appeared behind him and with her hand supportively on his elbow, they both came over.
Sester stood up, along with Vila and the soldiers, and they all offered her their seats. Argus scowled at him some more and Sester could almost hear the characteristic low growl forming at the back of the man's throat.
Reya said, "No, that's alright, gentlemen. Please sit down." They all sat hesitantly.
Reya nudged Argus with her elbow. Argus said, "Didn't you get the memo?"
Sester was finally going to find out what this mysterious memo was about.
"You're sending me memos now?"
Reya nudged Argus again. He had a faintly rebellious look on his face. "The one about your surprise birthday party."
"Surprise birthday party?" How could it be a surprise if there had been a memo?
He was starting to get a sneaking suspicion that something strange was going on when Avon, Cally and Corinne pushed in a huge cake. The entire room erupted in motion as everyone stood up and shouted at once, "Surprise! Happy Birthday, Sester!"
Sester nearly fell out of his chair. And then a woman burst out from the top of the cake, covered in icing and very little else. All coherent thought dribbled from his mind. "Kirsten!"
She gave him a wonderful smile that lit up the room brighter than the rays from a thousand suns. "Happy Birthday!" Suddenly she was out of the cake, her arms encompassing him like a warm drink against his thirsty skin. She gave him a big kiss. Sweet, delicious, enticing… It was better than tea.
"Emergency stations! Incoming Federation ships! Emergency!" A klaxon sounded.
Sester woke with a rude start and groaned. It had all been a dream. With a heavy disappointment, he got up and dressed quickly. Maybe in the far future, one of these dreams might no longer be a dream, but he doubted it. At least he did have the dreams. He wondered how Kirsten felt about icing... With that mad, cheery thought, he rushed out.
Happy Birthday, Reapermum! Have a great day and hope yours is not just a dream!