I felt wracked with guilt. Was there something I could have done or said? How did I not notice that he wasn't well? It doesn't matter that this happened while I was at the Academy; I felt that I should have been able to do something. But I am not alone with those questions either. It seems everyone had been oblivious to Karl's mental state, even Rosie, so many feel the same way.
Karl died an empty death. Karl died alone.
We sat moping over our drinks, sitting in silence, not knowing what to say ... because there was nothing to say. Only when a shadow appeared over our table was our trance broken. We all looked up simultaneously.
"Mind if I join you?" asked T'Roc. Her voice was clipped with that condescending Vulcan irritation her father's race had endowed to her. And it wasn't a question, but a statement made obvious as she sat herself down without invitation and clicked her fingers at Alex.
"Already on it," he shouted weaving his way elegantly across the room with a tray perched upon his fingers. He swept the tray downwards and plucked from it a glass with four knobs of ice and a bottle of whiskey which he delivered to the table.
"Scotch?" enquired Rutter, surprised at her choice of beverage.
T'Roc baulked, picked up the bottle and virtually rammed it into his face.
"Heathen!" she spat.
Rutter pulled back, shocked at her outburst. He didn't understand, but I did.
I raised my finger like a silly schoolgirl and immediately felt stupid for it, so dove straight in with my comment.
"Scotch whisky is from Scotland. This is whiskey not scotch."
Rutter scowled so I continued my explanation.
"It's Irish. You can tell by the fact whiskey is spelt with an 'e' in it." I tapped the bottle, pointing out the spelling. "Scotch whisky doesn't have an 'e'. It's all to do with the origin of the word and its translation from the original Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages."
"Ah, my little cultural advisor strikes again," muttered T'Roc. "Is there no end to the depths of your knowledge?"
I laughed. "Until this assignment, it was nothing more than silly factoids—all useless information. Who knew that one day, knowing daft things like that would be useful?"
T'Roc poured herself a generous helping, leaned back in her chair and took a good swig that she held in her mouth, savouring the flavours. Her cheeks coloured slightly.
"Ahhh!" she sighed blissfully.
"Blood wine not your poison then?" I asked.
"No. I don't mind the odd Vulcan brandy ... but Irish is so much better. Would you care to try a little? It's very good," and with that she summoned Alex again, who dutifully brought three more tumblers, a small bucket of ice and a bottle of soda water. "Snobs will tell you to drink it neat. I say enjoy it however you wish," and she poured each of us a couple of fingers of the honey-coloured liquid.
I added a couple of knobs of ice and a splash of soda water, being very particular that it was just a dash, before settling back with my drink. I took a mouthful and felt the familiar warming as the golden nectar descended into my stomach.
"You've partaken of the Irish before?" guessed T'Roc.
"Indeed, I have. It's been a while but a decent bit of Irish always goes down well."
Rutter and Al seemed a little uncomfortable sharing a drink with the captain, but I nudged Al and nodded at Rutter. Both then took their drinks and touched it against their lips. I could see that Al immediately warmed to it. She added a knob of ice and then settled back into her chair taking a good gulp. Rutter declined both ice and soda preferring it neat.
"To Karl," T'Roc said. We all raised our glasses and completed the toast.
For the next ten minutes, we sat in silence, quietly enjoying our drinks, staring at the walls or ceiling and pensive. As the ice melted and the whiskey disappeared, T'Roc sat in silence. Finally, Rutter could stand it no more.
"So?" he asked.
T'Roc looked up coldly. "So?" she repeated. "So, what?"
"So am I still a Starfleet officer or has my resignation been accepted?"
T'Roc burst into roaring Klingon laughter.
"Oh no, Rutter. You're not going to escape my punishment that easily. You're stuck with me," she grinned.
"Thank you," he said, genuinely pleased.
"You're not fond of your parents are you, Rutter?" she demanded.
"I barely know them to be honest. I was palmed off onto nannies when I was little and then various boarding schools. I'm just sorry they're making life difficult for you."
She roared again, slammed her glass onto the table and leaned forward, her eyes wide and bright with Klingon excitement.
"Never challenge a Klingon unless you intend to do battle against them."
"I thought I was the one that challenged them."
"Oh, you poor fool," she grinned, mock pity in her voice and flashing sharp, white teeth. "Your input was most satisfying, but the battle was never yours. The battle had already begun. No one tells me who I can have on my bridge!" she suddenly spat. "No one!" she bellowed.
T'Roc leaned back in her seat and smiled more sedately. "I'd have made the bloody cat an ensign if it served my ends," and with that, she threw back the last of her drink, slammed the glass down, stood up and left.
"What was that about?" asked Al after a few moments of staring at the closed door.
"Starfleet General Orders and Regulations: Regulation 437.39.2d: Only qualified and duly appointed Starfleet personnel may serve as bridge crew except by special appointment and circumstance, " I quoted.
"And what, exactly, does that mean?"
"It means that you can't have cadets permanently assigned to the bridge crew."
"The wily old witch!" exclaimed Rutter. "That's why she made you both ensigns!"
"Yep," I confirmed for him. "And that's T'Roc's way of telling us not to let those promotions go to our heads. She's not going to let two snotty admirals tell her what to do. She's giving them two fingers and making sure she gets exactly what she wants."
Rutter snorted a laugh.
"I like her," he grinned.