Note:I was looking back at my story The Surprises of Captain Kirk, and saw a few comments where people had mentioned they wanted to see more of the sentient ship. She was already going to make a return visit soon, but since reading those comments I really wanted to make a quick, less serious spin-off about what exactly living on a sentient ship would be like - especially if you had no idea it was alive. This is the result of that! Hope you enjoy this short series of shenanigans. ;)
Zenessa wasn't quite sure what to expect when she was assigned to the USS Enterprise. She was honored to be chosen for the position since the rumor going around was that the captain himself picked out and approved all new crewmembers, but she'd also heard plenty of other stories about the crew of this particular starship that made her a little less certain about what she should expect.
She, of course, ran into a good example of this during her first week aboard. She had noticed that several of the senior crewmembers seemed to talk aloud to themselves as they retrieved their coffee and breakfast from the replicator each morning. She was rather curious about the habit but wasn't about to harass her commanding officers to get an answer - especially since she was so new. They - the Bridge Crew in particular - were also a little intimidating to be around. So smart they unintentionally made the rest of the crew look average at best, and there was an underlying intensity to them that made Zenessa nervous with a little more than just awe at meeting Starfleet legends.
So it wasn't until she had seen a fellow newbie doing the same thing that she had felt comfortable approaching to ask about it. As she got closer though, she noticed that he was taking it a step further than she had seen before, and looked almost like he was praying.
"...Um, what are you doing?" she asked. Zenessa was pretty sure the officer's name was Nungh, and at her approach, he smiled up at her cheerfully.
"Praying to the replicator!" he exclaimed. "I swear I've seen some of our senior officers do it, and they get better coffee from it. I accidentally picked up the wrong cup yesterday, and theirs is so much better, that stuff is like nectar. So, I figured it was worth a shot."
"Or they just get better codes?" Zenessa suggested hesitantly. "I mean they are senior officers, there's got to be some perks."
"I'm telling you! I watched one of them put the code in!" Nungh insisted, gesturing at the replicator. "It's the same one I use every morning. Look, just try it and see. Maybe it will work for you."
"Fine," Zenessa conceded, a slightly indulgent smile pulling at her lips. She stepped forward and lilted her voice dramatically. "Oh great Enterprise, please bless me with the good coffee today."
She then went to punch in her code and request the beverage, only for the replicator to begin whirring before her hand could even touch the panel. In half the time it normally took, a cup of steaming coffee was sitting innocently in front of her. A glance at its coloration also showed that it seemed to have the right milk ratio in it too. Zenessa blinked at it blankly for a moment, before Nungh nudged her, and she slowly reached out to grab it.
"Er, thanks?" she said, staring at the mug in her hands. She looked up at Nungh, whose eyes had gone wide, a little at a loss.
"Well?" he finally asked, gesturing hesitantly at the cup of coffee. Zenessa looked down at it again and blinked. She raised it to her lips and took a sip, before freezing in surprise.
"...You were right, this is so much better," she quietly admitted. "The milk to coffee ratio is perfect, and this tastes like a real roast, not that synthetic instant stuff it normally tastes like. As a woman of science, I can't believe I'm saying this, but praying to the replicator actually works."
They both turned to look at the machine, a little at a loss about what to do. Nungh had been copying their senior officers just as a joke, and even Zenessa hadn't expected it to work. Now they had irrefutable proof, and their senior officers clearly knew something that they didn't if they were all doing it too.
"Excuse me," came a voice from behind them.
The pair of them turned to see Lieutenant Uhura standing with First Officer Spock and Captain Kirk, the three of them clearly having just arrived to eat breakfast. Zenessa immediately backed up, her free hand dragging Nungh back as well, barely suppressing a squeak of shock at suddenly being confronted with the trio she'd heard all about at the Academy. The Lieutenant moved forward to request her breakfast, and Zenessa was debating about fleeing the situation even as she automatically saluted as best she could with the full cup in her hands.
"Oh, you got the good coffee!" the Captain exclaimed, peering at her mug. Something about that statement made the other two turn to her as well. Zenessa felt like she was being re-evaluated as all three of her senior officers watched her for a long moment. She nervously shifted her weight, and the motion seemed to snap her seniors from their study of her.
"Sorry, didn't mean to stare," Lieutenant Uhura smiled. "Not many figure out how to get the good stuff, and even then not all of them receive it. You must have a way with machines."
Something about that statement implied there was a second meaning to it, but whatever it was went right over Zenessa's head. She flicked a glance at Nungh, surprised that he'd gone as quiet as he had after his cheerful greeting to her, but he must have been slightly starstruck as well.
"Not - not really," she replied, wincing internally at her stutter. "Nungh had a suggestion and I tried it, that's all. I'm not an engineer, I'm in Communications - an officer in the xenoculture sector as of last week."
"You are Ensign Zenessa Davis," the Commander suddenly spoke up. His eyes watched her closely, no doubt picking up dozens of data tidbits Zenessa wasn't even aware she was giving off. "The captain approved your assignment two point six months ago, and signed off on your placement under Second Lieutenant Harrison due to start at the beginning of this week."
"That's right." Zenessa's voice wasn't quite an octave higher than normal, but it was getting close.
"Spock, stop, you're scaring her," the Captain laughed, clapping his First Officer's shoulder playfully. "I've told you that you can get really intense when relaying data."
"My apologies, it was not my intention to cause you discomfort," the Commander responded promptly, and his intensity eased a little. Before Zenessa could respond, the captain returned his attention to her.
"I remember your file, you specialize in artifacts, right? Figuring out how things from other cultures work?" Zenessa nodded, a little speechless at the revelation that he could remember a file he'd read over two and a half months ago, according to the Commander. The captain hummed, turning his attention to Nungh. "And you're Ensign Nungh Dao, right? Working in electrical, down in Engineering?"
Nungh nodded from beside her. There was something calculated about the way the captain was looking at them both, and he studied them for a long moment before glancing at the replicator.
"I'll see to it that you're added to the rotation of Yeomen for the senior officers," he finally said casually, as if nothing was unexpected about that statement. "That should help you two get some more opportunities to move up the ranks a little faster. Besides, anyone who can manage to get the good coffee from the ship is someone to keep around!"
He laughed, before moving forward to the replicator himself. Nungh and Zenessa shared a glance, both doing their best to communicate their internal screaming to the other. Glancing back to the others, the Lieutenant seemed to take pity on them, smiling kindly.
"I know this is a bit sudden, so sorry this idiot sprung all of this at you at once," she said, casting a mild glare at the captain who let out a squawk of indignation that the Lieutenant promptly ignored. "You guys just arrived and are suddenly becoming Yeomen in addition to Ensigns. But, when it comes to this ship, we like those who she likes or who can figure her out. You'll understand eventually, I think."
Her smile is more enigmatic at this point, but by now the Captain has gotten his food, as has the Commander, so Lieutenant Uhura sends them both a small wave and goes to sit down at a table with the two of them, leaving behind the two ensigns and a rapidly-cooling cup of coffee.
"That just happened, right?" Nungh finally asked, finding his voice again now that their senior officers were gone. "We basically just got offered Yeoman positions our first week here because we prayed to the coffee gods to bless the replicator and they answered you? That wasn't some fever dream?"
"No, that definitely happened," Zenessa said, looking down at her coffee and taking another sip, before turning back to the replicator. There was something about it that made the senior officers take notice of her and Nungh, more than was warranted for just figuring out a useful replicator trick. "Hey Nungh, do you know how to pull up a schematic of this replicator? I'd like to take a closer look at it."
A hint of intrigue entered Nungh's gaze as he looked over the machine before he slowly began to smile.
"I think I can pull that off," he said, clearly catching on to her thoughts. "Between your specialty and mine, we should be able to figure out what our commanding officers were hinting at sooner or later."
"Well, it looks like we have our work cut out for us, then," Zenessa responded, smiling as well. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught the eye of the Captain. He looked at the two of them for a moment before smirking and sending the pair of them a wink as he turned back to his conversation. That did it. There was officially a mystery on the Enterprise, and Zenessa was going to find it. Turning back to Nungh, she smiled as well, then finished her coffee.
After all, the first step of science was repeated testing.
"Hey Enterprise? Could I get another cup of coffee? And I think Nungh would like one too if you're willing."