Ten Forward is busy. Several tables are occupied by crew from various departments and various species, the most common unintentionally being human. A few tables are empty but only one has a single resident. She is the Captain of the vessel, itself traversing the deep silent black between stars. Kathryn Beringer sits alone deliberately in the shade of an overhanging seraph tree, the blue and violet leaves easily blocking the overhead lighting at the corner of the viewport. Her fingertips lightly pushing and pulling a small clear glass containing a dark liquid only a few sips away from being empty. She gazed into the blackness of space as streaks of faraway stars race toward and past the Solaris.
At one table ...
"You could set a chronometer to it. Every fifth day, assuming she's not on a mission; she sits there and stares into space, literally." The bartender finished answering the question to the patrons who were taking turns looking over shoulders to look at their Captain.
"Do you know why?"
The Human bartender looked at the Bolian and shrugged as he placed the last drink on the table. "She's a private person if you can't tell, but scuttlebutt is she can't forgive herself for something that happened on a rescue mission against some Orion slave traders a few months past."
The Betazoid at the table looked at Kathryn again then shook her head. "Was it successful? I remember hearing about that mission but I really shouldn't try anything. I'm not a counselor yet I don't need to sense there is a sadness about her."
The bartender looked at the speaker. "I think it went well, but I'm not sure. I've only ever heard her speak with confidence and strength, like a Captain should in my opinion. If you think she is sad then we should play poker one night. I need to go, but I wouldn't call it sadness ... more like regret."
At one table ...
"You go ask her."
"No, you go her!"
The other used his hands to signal his friend to lower his voice. "Damn it, come on and help me out a little!"
The Pakled's frustration subsided at her friend's attempt to keep their conversation from spilling onto other tables and sighed. "I meet her for bridge repairs. If you want love, ask her for it. You not need my help."
Her Human friend looked shocked, "Who said anything about love? All I'm saying is that I've heard rumors she is lonely and available. Look at her. She's smart, beautiful, sexy, tall ... everything a man could want!" He looked over his shoulder to the burgundy haired woman staring out the viewport.
Rolling her eyes, the Pakled shook her head and grabbed a fork to stab at the food on her plate.
The man wrung his hands together nervously. "I mean, she's a woman, I'm a man. What could go wrong?"
"She's Captain, you're not," the Pakled said with a mouthful of food.
His shoulders fell and he sighed.
At one table ...
The female Andorian looked at the Trill and Klingon. "I'm telling you this so we can stop discussing it. They dated in the Academy. It was a serious relationship the way she talked about it but she broke it off when he proposed to her. After that you'd think a man would crumble but his work in temporal physics blossomed last I heard. I don't know why she did that and she hasn't talked about it to me since."
The Klingon scientist crossed her arms and frowned. "It is really none of our business and dishonorable to gossip about a superior officer."
Looking down as if personally shamed by the comment, the Trill Science Officer reached for her drink. "I didn't mean to impose on anyone. It's just ... she's not the most affable person to work with."
"I disagree. She gets the job done and very efficiently. She has a warrior's spirit," the Klingon half-whispered.
The Andorian nodded, "I agree with that at least. I'm probably her only real friend on the boat and I assure you, spend enough time with her and you'll see her bite is worse than her bark."
"Are you sure you said that right?"
Looking at the Trill, she responded, "About being the Captain's only friend? To be honest, I really don't know."
"No, I ... oh, nevermind."
At one table ...
"Are you serious?!" The Security officer put down his drink at the resolution to the story.
"As a heart attack!" The Security Chief smiled as he rejoiced in the surprised look on the other three officer?s faces. "Don't cross her path, she has a heart of stone."
Another officer whistled a note as he recovered from the tale. "I can't believe she ignored Liberation Protocols."
The Chief nodded and took a sip from his drink. "Neither did I until the XO told me about her being a slave."
The third officer smirked. "Makes you wonder what kind of slave she was. Orion women are -"
"Hey!" The Chief pounded the table and looked around as nearby patrons looked at him. He waited for them to get back to their conversations before he turned his gaze to the members at his table. "Stow that talk, right here and now. She's not like that at all and she deserves more respect. Besides, she not Orion you jackass."
"Okay, okay, sorry Chief."
The first recovered from his commander?s defense. "I thought you didn't like the Captain?"
"Have you ever heard me actually say anything like that? You three know she pulled each of us out of some very tight situations over the past year. Remember that assault on Mallory's World? We'd all be dead if it wasn't for her single-handed defense at the crash site." The other three nodded as they recalled the scene. "I've stopped caring what she's gone through before Starfleet, and I'm proud she's Captain of this ship."
The Chief looked over his shoulder to the woman in the corner of the room. Without looking away he said, "I know she has some demons, but I think they fuel her to be the officer she is." He looked into his drink, took a sip and then looked to each of his comrades. "If I hear any rumors about her past coming from anyone on my team, they'll have to answer to me and you can spread that around."
At her table ...
The streaks of light had no pattern and that helped Kathryn's storm of thoughts find order and calm. The aroma from the Scotch in her glass soothed her muscles while the liquid warmed her core. The Excelsior-class ship was massive compared to her previous commands. It wasn't the largest ship in the fleet but it was plenty big for her. She considered the officer reports she had finished reading prior to coming down to Ten Forward and made some decisions, then prepared some phrases she would use to various persons she would be having meetings with over the next few hours.
When she looked toward the room, she caught the eyes of various persons. Some were too far away to discern if they were really looking at her or at least toward her direction. Ten Forward was busier than when she entered the room and it started to feel crowded.