Traeth always used to tell me how he felt that, in Earth's lighter gravity, he should be able to fly—and I believed he possibly could. He was very athletic; he could run faster than I and leapt much higher too. When one of the boys in the foster home tried to bully me one day, it was Traeth that sorted him out by challenging him to an arm wrestling match. The boy laughed at the skinny kid who challenged him but soon paid the price of his folly. Traeth won the game with ease... three times.
The delegation of Dirrians gazed about the room, at me and my two colleagues and I knew I had chosen well. A smile tinged the lips of the Head of the delegation but only for a moment.
I stepped forward boldly and held out my arms, crossing them at the wrists to extend the traditional Dirrian greeting that is so similar to a Terran handshake. The leader of the delegation stepped forward and took my hands firmly. I returned the pressure, eager not to insult him with a limp grip that might suggest he was fragile and beamed a smile at him.
"Good afternoon, sir. I bid you a hearty welcome to the USS Drakonia. My name is Crewman Jenny Terran and I shall be your guide during your visit. These are my colleagues, Ensign Gideon Flavell and Ensign Luke Brightman. If there is anything you need, please just ask any one of us."
He smiled slyly at me.
"You are uncannily familiar with our culture," he replied, studying our hands, still holding.
"I am privileged to have spent much time in the company of a Dirrian."
"I do not see how that could be. Do you have spies on our world?" he asked with deep suspicion.
"No, sir. I assure you, that is not the way of Starfleet. No. Many years ago, two Dirrians ventured from your lands with their son—"
"That was a long time ago and they are both dead."
Of course, such a rare occurrence would likely be legendary amongst the Dirrians.
"Indeed it was, but Traeth, their son, was my friend. He told me much about his world and the ways of his people before he was able to return home."
"Hmm," he frowned and said no more.
"If you are ready, may I escort you to meet the Captain?" I enquired.
"Thank you. May I also be so bold as to ask your name so I may formally introduce you?"
My eyes nearly popped out of my head and I found my mouth had gaped a little. I snapped it shut, but gazed hard into his face. Was this... could this truly be... Traeth?
"I jest... My name is Fergan and these are my colleagues, Jerrop and Sharney."
He was so blasé about the introductions but looked distinctly pleased with himself at having thrown me. I wasn't sure I liked this Dirrian.
I led the delegation to the Theatre Lounge with Luke and Gideon bringing up the rear. It was worthwhile as they sauntered, walking deliberately slowly, but I let them take as much time as they wanted. I think they wanted to see more of our crew and they weren't disappointed. We passed a number of people on the way and each time they stood a little to one side, smiled a greeting but did not bow, exactly as they had been briefed. Fergan seemed disappointed that he was unable to find fault with us, so far.
As we approached the Theatre Lounge, the doors slid open. The delegation entered to find our Captain seated, patiently waiting. He rose and I could almost see the cogs working as he went through the process we had rehearsed.
Count to five then stand.
Do not climb the stairs.
Do not bow.
Cross at the wrists.
"Greetings," beamed the Captain. "I am Captain Brian Burrows. It is an honour to have you aboard our ship. Please, won't you join me for some refreshments? We have a variety of dishes—none of them Dirrian I'm afraid but prepared in accordance to your diet and custom, I believe."
Fergan scowled and swept past the Captain, descending the stairs and making his way over to the platters of food, exquisitely prepared and arranged on the low tables. The Captain glanced at me unsure if he should follow or wait for the rest of the delegation to descend the stairs.
"Gentlemen," I smiled. "Shall we?" I encouraged them.
Soon all three members were studying the dishes so beautifully prepared. It was hard to tell what their impression was and for a while, we all seemed to be standing around doing very little.
"Shall we sit?" I suggested and immediately sat down. Captain Burrows took my cue, followed suit and we both beamed more smiles at the delegation. Soon, they too sat down.
"An interesting attempt," said Fergan. It wasn't intended as a compliment. "And what is this?" he asked, pointing at the dips. "This is certainly NOT Dirrian!"
"No, it's isn't, but I do remember how much Traeth enjoyed these little accompaniments to his food on Earth, especially this one. It's called riata and is made from yoghurt, cucumber and mint."
"Yes, a dairy product—made from the milk of cows."
"A meat product!"
"No, no. Traditionally, cows are kept for their milk. They live many, many years feeding off the grass in the fields."
He looked at it sceptically, picked up the little dish and smelt it. His eyebrows bobbed in surprise.
"What a wonderful aroma!" he exclaimed joyously and immediately seemed to reprimand himself for the outburst, grumbling something under his breath.
"That'll be the mint," explained the Captain. "Would you care to try?" and he picked up a dish of dipping vegetables.
Fergan took a baton of celery and dipped it into the sauce. Suspiciously, he dabbed a little bit onto his tongue and his eyes lit up as he gasped. It galled him to admit it, but he adored it and it wasn't long before the entire delegation were nibbling at fruits and vegetables from all over the galaxy, dipping them into sauces from an equal number of different worlds.
I looked at the Captain and the Captain smiled at me. We had something the Dirrians wanted! At last, I was able to take a back seat and let the Captain work his magic. It was a long haul, talks concentrating more on the food that the carva seed, so Luke, Gideon and I simply made sure that the dishes were refreshed and a steady supply of different fruit juices were on hand.
Of course, the Captain successfully negotiated for the carva seed in exchange for a wide variety of herbs, fruit, vegetables and our recipes! It was a sterling success!
After the delegation had departed, hours later, the Captain thanked me.
"Don't thank me," I said. "I couldn't have done any of this alone. Thank your crew—our voluntary cooks in particular. They've done a wonderful job."
With that, the Captain strode down to our makeshift galley and heartily thanked and congratulated them all. Needless to say, spirits are particularly high at the moment.
As to the carva seed, it will be coming aboard shortly and then we can make our way to Andoria while our Medical Centre starts work on producing the antidotes and vaccines.
It has been a very long day and my time as an acting Ensign is nearly up. It's been fun but I shall also be relieved once I have returned the Theatre Lounge to its former purpose and returned to the humble role of Crewman (3rd Class).