“There is no formal seating arrangement here, we are all officers and the table is round after all.” She gestured to it. “Find a seat and get yourself a drink and do not worry about protocol.”
A wave of relief washed over the girl, easing her into a more relaxed posture, and though she hardly considered herself an officer as measured against the career sort gathered, the affirmation of relative equivalence was welcome. "Thank you ma'am. We don't really adhere to such things at the APL, so it's been an adjustment, especially given that I'm barely an officer as the ranks go. I had no idea until quite recently, which made for several awkward days at dock." Martina continued as took up a now half-emptied carafe and poured herself a cup of coffee, which was to be her only salvation for the upcoming shift that would follow the meal, and sprinkled it with a drizzle of cream. "I was correcting a number of minor construction errors and spotty welds, one of which required an extra set of hands. Anyway, I shouted over to a gentleman passing by. He stopped but wasn't jumping to the task, so I was maybe a little ... umm ... firm with him, and used ... colorful, language. As it turned out, it was Rear Admiral Farragut. Thankfully, he has a sense of humor." Turning her attention back toward the table, she looked over the remaining seating, though admittedly it made little difference as she'd forged no friendships above the engine room yet and, even there they were few.
"Ms. Von Helmholtz, please don’t let me forget to speak with you after dinner regarding the forward gun batteries. When I was up there earlier, assisting in cleaning the bores, I noticed that some of the hydraulic gimbals that control the gun elevation seemed sluggish for such a new vessel. I’d very much like to pick your brain about it."
The Executive Commander's acknowledgement sealed it, as there were both an empty seat beside him and a conversational topic she could take interest in. The young ensign circled the table to take the spot, her willowy frame moving with uncommon grace. "That sounds painful, sir." She slipped into the seat and took a sip of coffee before placing it gently on the table alongside her plate. "Honestly, I'm not surprised. It's been my general impression that a number of decisions were made to launch this vessel on schedule, rather than construct it optimally. I can't blame those responsible, because time is finite, but we'll need to prioritize our tasks. I have a team reviewing pressure to the aft guns this shift, and will take a look at the forward guns myself when I leave here."
The dinner service was swift and, in at one particular instance, the deboning and consumption of it swifter still. For her part, she picked at it half-heartedly, seafood being less to her liking than heartier inland fare. She'd never quite decided which was the least palatable of the lot - texture, smell, or taste - but she'd found fish to be especially disagreeable with even the bitter aftertaste of mussels preferable. While she prodded at the meal absently with her fork, the exchange between the Captain's assistant and the doctor served to occupy her, and while the subtleties of Kyra's flirtations may have eluded her, the obvious glances from the doctor toward the young officer's cleavage did not. On that point, Martina was grateful for her relative lack of womanly assets, as it at least allowed men to meet her eyes as they conversed.
“I'm sorry,” he met the eyes of the officer opposite him, speaking now in what he had learned was a crystal-cut Carodith accent, “Would you like me to pass you the salt?”
The doctor's pause allowed room for interjection, and Martina took the opportunity. Dispatching her utensils, she slid the plate forward slightly, presenting it for his inspection. "So, doctor, fate seems to have served me well. Were I Frise, it appears I'd be doomed to husband-less life." She paused for an instant before continuing, as if struck by an epiphany, "Or blessed, perhaps, if a man's primary criterion for a mate is how well she debones a fish."