Langley Station

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Meal for One

Posted on Wed Dec 18, 2019 @ 7:21am by Gino Romano & Petty Officer 2nd Class Vrama Jalu

Mission: First Unity
Location: Langley/Strip/Gino's
Timeline: Mission Day 52 at 1200


Jalu detested the busyness of the Strip. It had no appeal to her whatsoever. Everyone here seemed to talk Federation Standard, or, if they didn’t, it was usually a conversation she had no interest in overhearing. But it did have one thing. Food, and this week was Chinese week at Gino’s. A perfect excuse to try out her Cantonese on a few holograms, a language that had long since been dead, other than to a select few who clung on to it as a part of the culture. Entering the restaurant, the first thing she noticed was the smell. A mix of sweetness and spice filled the air amongst the chatter. She could hear the holograms in the kitchen scraping at pans, and squawking at each other in Cantonese.

People were sitting in groups of all sizes with at least one pot of tea per table and food arranged carefully on plates or in bamboo steamers being served around the table. Everyone was eating out of dainty little dishes, with the teacups being the only thing smaller, and Jalu couldn’t help but laugh at the struggle some of the customers were having with chopsticks.

The waiters and waitresses all wore black waistcoats and casually walked from table to table, obviously aware of the serventude if their role. The owners, however, were immediately obvious, dressed from head to toe in red robes the same colour as the wallpaper, a sign of prosperity.

“Table for one, please,” Jalu asked the greeter.

“Welcome,” the woman returned, giving a bow. She was obviously not Chinese, though she wore the red Chinese dress, and her makeup was in the Chinese style. Tall and very buxom, she had blue eyes and blonde hair piled up and held in place by emerald chopsticks. “Right this way.”

She led the Bajoran-Cardassian woman to a table by the window. It looked out on a busy cobblestone street at twilight. Rickshaws pulled by Chinese in traditional clothes and conical straw hats and filled with ladies in voluminous, colorful dresses and gentlemen in black tie and tails rattled past, a lovely sun setting over the city.

“Can I start you with something to drink, madam?” the blonde asked, placing a menu on the table in front of Jalu.

“A pot of tea, please,” the hybrid replied, eyeing over the menu, noticing it to be in Federation Standard. “Would you happen to have a menu in Cantonese for me to order from?” she asked sheepishly, as if she knew she was being a bother.

“Take another look,” the waitress said. When Jalu looked again, the menu was in Cantonese. The perks of being a holo-restaurant. “I’m Charlene,” the waitress said. “I’ll be right back with your tea.” She gave another bow.

Jalu was a little disappointed that she wasn’t to be served by a Chinese hologram, but was very impressed by the standard of her holographic menu. She eyed through it, picking out dishes from the Dim Sum section. Not all of it looked remarkably healthy, but what did that matter when she could experience a culture she had only experienced in text books in the comfort of her home station.

Charlene returned with the tea and poured a cup with perfect ceremonial perfection before taking Jalu’s order. “Excellent selections,” Charlene said in fluent Cantonese. She tilted her head slightly as she entered the order into the computer. “I will bring it out when it is ready, if there is nothing else you need.”

“You speak Cantonese?” Jalu asked equally fluent in the language. “Are you a linguist? Or do you have some connection?”

Charlene laughed. “I speak many different languages. I have access to the Universal Translator,” she said. “It proves helpful with the non-Human customers to explain just what the menu items are.”

“You’re a...” Jalu paused for a moment, struggling for the correct Cantonese word. “Hologram?”

Charlene laughed. “Of course,” she said. “Most of the employees here are. Though I don’t suppose they know it. Most holograms aren’t self-aware like that,” she said. “I’m a little...extra.”

“Does it not bother you?” the linguist asked, perhaps speaking to herself as much as the holographic waitress. “Knowing you are different? Not Human, but not the usual fit for a hologram either?”

“Why should I be bothered?” Charlene asked. “Are you bothered by being who you are?” she asked.

Jalu took a moment to reflect on the question. “Yes,” she said after a long, thoughtful pause. “Yes, I am. Wherever I am, I don’t feel like I belong. On Bajor, all they see is the Cardassian in me. They hate me. My father on Cardassia doesn’t even know me, so I am seen as dirty blood. I don’t even fit in here. I don’t have friends, or a social life. All I have is my work.”

“That’s so sad. This seems a friendly enough place. If you like, I can mention you to some people,” Charlene offered. “You shouldn’t let what those others think bother you. You are more than the fleshy stuff that makes you up. Just like I can be more than just a bunch of photons and force fields.”

“Maybe,” shrugged the linguist. “But this fleshy stuff has a habit of acting as a barrier that stops anyone seeing what’s on the inside.”

Charlene leaned in conspiratorially. “You know, I might have a few holodeck scenarios that could help with that,” she said, giving Jalu a wink.

Jalu sat up a little more in her chair intrigued, by the suggestion of the holodeck. “What sort of scenarios?” she asked naively.

Charlene chuckled. “Of the more...vigorous variety,” she hinted. She glanced over to the large man behind the bar. He wasn’t fat, just solid and broad, handsome. He was chatting with some customers and pouring Chinese beer.

“Don’t tell anyone, but Gino is Richard Longwood,” Charlene hinted.

“Oh, erm,” the hybrid blushed. “I don’t know. Not really my scene.” She had never read any of Richard Longwood’s books. Nor did she really intend to. But what she had done is seen the covers, which often depicted a well-oiled, muscular man being held by an unclothed woman, not too dissimilar looking to Charlene herself.

Charlene patted Jalu’s shoulder. “Not everyone appreciates them,” she agreed. “But they sell very well, and allowed him to open his restaurants and live a quiet life,” she said with amusement. “I am sure we can find something much more...tame that is to your liking. What is it that is your scene?” the buxom blonde asked.

“Languages,” the customer shrugged. “I like any opportunity to speak anything that’s not Federation Standard or Bajoran. That’s what brought me here.”

“Ah,” Charlene said. “Well, any of the programs can be made multilingual,” she told Jalu. “Richard Longwood’s books have been translated into many languages.”

“Which languages?” Jalu asked, rising in her seat as she did. “Are there any languages that have not yet been translated? Would Longwood be okay if I translated them into a few more?”

“Most of the major Federation languages,” Charlene said. “There isn’t much call for that sort of story outside the Federation, so any of those could be done. You could ask him.” She looked over to Gino at the bar.

With that, Jalu leapt from her seat and marched herself toward the esteemed Longwood. “Excuse me, sir,” she said on her approach, speaking as if her voice barely escaped her mouth.

Gino looked up and smiled at the Cardassian-Bajoran woman. “Good evening, ma’am. Get you a drink?” he offered, leaning on the bar.

“Yes, I mean no, I...” A buzz of nervous excitement was about the woman as she dithered around. “I was...ermm, I was wondering if I could translate some of your novels? I know you already have many translations, but I was wondering if you would let me do a few more. I wouldn’t charge. Being able to work with languages would be enough...” She continued talking for a few minutes in her excitement, barely allowing herself time to breathe, and dancing around the point she was trying to make in an intricate verbal ballet.

Gino held up a hand, giving a chuckle. He mixed up a drink and set it in front of Jalu. “Have a drink. Get your thoughts together, darling,” he told her with a smile. “Always nice to meet a fan. Charlene’s been talking out of turn again, I see,” he said with amusement. “Do you have a favorite of my books you like?” he asked, leaning on the bar conversationally.

“Erm, well, erm,” the hybrid stumbled. “I haven’t actually experienced any yet. But I’m excited about the possibility of the challenge of translating some. I guess it will be a new experience sitting through one as well, right?” She was embarrassed by her lack of knowledge on his writing, and her excitement had dulled slightly. But she was still hopeful.

“You haven’t been through one?” Gino said, a bit surprised. “Well, if you want to borrow one, I can give you a copy,” he offered. “What do you like in your romantic fiction, darling?”

“I don’t know,” Jalu admitted. “I don’t usually go for fiction at all. What would you suggest?”

Gino considered. “Do you like Earth history?” he asked the Bajoran. “Any favorite period? The Highlander’s Bride has gotten good reviews. So has The Pirate’s Paramour. Maybe something a little edgier? The Sultan’s Scandal, for some harem scenarios? The Dilettante's Dare, if you want some light bondage?”

"Bondage?" she replied in shock. "Erm, no. Lets just go for that Highlanders one." She didn't really know what it was she was getting herself into, and somehow the entire idea filled her with dread. It wasn't really her at all, but how could she say no without offending.

“Sure thing, doll,” Gino said. He pulled a small case out from under the bar and opened it, revealing a line of isolinear chips with discrete labels on them. He pulled one out and held it up for her with a smile. “There you go, darling,” he told her. “You can keep it, if you like. I have copies. Should work in any holosuite on the station. Let me know what you think.”

“Thanks,” Jalu said as she took the chip, sounding nervously unsure. “I’ll have a look after I have eaten.” This was not exactly what she had in mind, but it would be impolite not to at least have some feedback for the man. “I will see you later I guess.”


Petty Officer (2nd class) Vrama Jalu
Language Specialist
Langley Station

Gino Romano
Owner, Gino’s
NPC Caleb Ryan

NPC Caleb Ryan


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