Real Men Eat Quiche
Jean-Luc Picard, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise NC-1701-D, sat peacefully at his desk in his Ready Room.
He was reading the ship's daily report. Well, reports, really. There was one from his first officer, Commander Riker, detailing the changes in shifts; one from Geordi LaForge on the warp drive, one from Lt. Commander Data on nearby spatial phenomenons, one from Counselor Troi on the crew's general emotional well-being, one from...
There were a lot of reports. They were stacked neatly on the Captain's desk, but some had slipped, and as a result one couldn't even see the polished surface of the desk any longer.
Picard sighed gently and reached for his ever-present cup of tea. It was empty. Frowning, he set down the padd he had been examining, and strode briskly over to the replicator. Although he was aging, Captain Picard was doing so slowly, and he still had a youthful spring to his step. When anyone was watching to see if he needed a walking stick yet, anyway.
Picard placed his empty cup in the replicator, and spoke clearly. "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."
The replicator beeped and whirred its acquiescence, and Picard reached for the new cup of tea. Instead, his fingers met the edge of a plate.
He pulled the plate out of the replicator and held it up to eye-level. The plate was an elegant china one, with a rather attractive pattern of chrysanthemums painted on. On top of the plate, an appealing slice of something yellow, flecked with green, sat.
It smelled quite nice, in fact. But it wasn't what the Captain had ordered.
He replaced the plate in the replicator, and cleared his throat, leaning close to the hidden voice-activation unit. "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot," he enunciated clearly.
The replicator beeped. The replicator whirred. On the plate, another yellow-and-green slice appeared.
Captain Picard frowned. "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot!" he said loudly.
A third slice appeared.
The Captain scowled. "Recycle," he said. The plate and its contents disappeared.
Picard sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had a mountain of padds to get through; the last thing he needed was a malfunctioning replicator. However...
He tapped his commbadge. "Picard to LaForge."
"LaForge here, Captain." The chief engineer's voice came through loud and clear, with a gentle throbbing hum in the background and the sound of voices. LaForge was undoubtedly at his usual post in Engineering.
"Geordi, I'm afraid something is wrong with my replicator." Picard peered at the machine. "I asked for tea. Three times. But it only gave me..."
"A slice of quiche?" Picard raised an eyebrow at the wall, wondering if the Lieutenant Commander was reading his mind.
"Three, actually. But yes. How did you know?" He strode back to his desk and sat down, listening to LaForge shout something to one of his engineering staff and then return his attention to the still-open commlink.
"We've been having the same problem all over the ship. Every replicator. No matter what anyone asks for, it just dispenses quiche. On china plates. With a..."
"Quite attractive pattern of chrysanthemums painted on?" said Picard drolly.
"Yeah," laughed Geordi. "Don't worry, Captain. I'm on it."
"Good. Let me know when it's fixed. Picard out." The Captain sighed and picked up the padd he had previously abandoned.
He really wanted a cup of tea.
Deanna Troi, Counselor on the Starship Enterprise, loved chocolate sundaes. She rarely indulged herself, though; and averaged about two or three a week. It was the end of the week now, and she had only had two - never mind that they had been consecutive, on a binge last night - but she was craving chocolate.
She was off-duty - her shift started in an hour. One glorious hour to enjoy a glorious sundae. Troi sighed wistfully as she put away the old-fashioned paper book she'd been reading and stood up, moving over to her replicator. She smiled as she spoke to it. "One large chocolate sundae."
The replicator beeped. The replicator whirred. A slice of quiche, on a china plate patterned with chrysanthemums, appeared in the replicator.
Troi tried five more times with no success. Eventually, she retrieved her commbadge from her bedside table and pressed it.
"Geordi, my replicator's not working..."
The complaints were pouring in from all over the ship. People in Ten Forward, coming off their shifts and going hungrily to the bar for a glass of synthehol; people just enjoying a quiet meal in their quarters, the Captain asking for some tea, Earl Grey, hot...
It was a disaster. According to the diagnostic, absolutely nothing was wrong with the replicators. Geordi LaForge sighed and rubbed his forehead above his visor, squeezing his eyes shut. His visor rarely gave him trouble, but right now, he had a splitting headache. He shook his head, returning his attention to the diagnostic screen in front of him. It still told him there was absolutely nothing wrong.
"Geordi. May I be of assistance?" A cool, emotionless voice said from over Geordi's shoulder. He spun around to face the yellow-eyed, shiny-skinned android, Data.
"Data. Yeah," Geordi said, frowning at his console. "You know about the problem with the replicators?"
"Yes," said Data. "In fact, I was just trying to replicate some cat food for Spot. However, he did not seem to mind having the quiche instead."
"Hmmm," the Chief Engineer replied. He stood up and paced up and down in front of the perplexed android. "The thing is, Data, the computer isn't detecting anything wrong with the replicators. I've run every diagnostic I can think of, and still - nothing."
"Perhaps the problem is not with the replicators themselves, but with the program governing them," said Data wisely. He sat down in the seat vacated by Geordi, and tapped at the console. His fingers flew over the shiny surface, too fast for the human eye to follow. Sometimes it was extremely useful to have an android with super-human reflexes around.
"Aha. Just as I suspected," said Data suddenly. Geordi winced and wondered if Data was going to start calling him 'Watson'. That whole Sherlock Holmes thing had been...odd.
"What?" he asked anxiously, leaning over Data's shoulder.
"It seems someone has tampered with the replicator's molecular pattern directory. Everything except quiche has been..."
"Deleted?" Geordi frowned.
"Yes. It should be a simple matter of downloading the files from the Federation database...But, finding out who did this will be another matter entirely." Data peered at the console screen, and once more his fingers dissolved into a blur.
Geordi walked away from the console, rubbing his head. Who would possibly do something like that?
Lieutenant Commander Worf sat back in his stiff metal chair. His face was twisted into an odd, unnatural expression - he was smiling.
It had been two days previously that he, Deanna Troi and Commander William Riker had dined in Ten Forward. Worf had been sitting on his own, consuming a plate of synthesized gagh, when Troi had approached and asked him if she could sit down.
"Of course, Counselor," Worf had said, motioning to one of the empty seats across from him. She had sat down with her chocolate sundae, trying not to watch the Klingon eat his own meal.
"So, Worf," Troi had said, eventually giving up on eating. "How have you been?"
Worf swallowed some of the squirming Gagh before replying. "I have been fine, Counselor."
"Are you sure? I'm sensing some hostility from you at the moment."
"I. Am. Fine," Worf grunted. His glaring gaze was fixed over the Counselor's shoulder.
That was when Riker had announced himself. "Worf. Deanna. Mind if I join you?"
Worf grunted something that might have been assent or not. In any case, the Commander sat down next to the Counselor, knife and fork poised over a slice of something yellow, flecked with green.
"What is that?" Worf had asked in disgust as Riker chopped off a bit of the thing and popped it in his mouth. The bearded Commander chewed and swallowed, smiling broadly.
"It's quiche, Worf. You should try it sometime."
The Klingon grumbled as he finished the last strings of gagh off his plate. "I much prefer fresh, squirming gagh to...quiche."
"It's really tasty, Worf," continued Riker cheerfully, munching away. "It's French, I think. Are you sure you don't want some?"
"No." Worf had glared viciously at Riker, who didn't seem much deterred.
"You sure? It's really good. Only real men can eat quiche, you know. It puts hairs on your chest."
Next to Riker, Deanna had started to giggle. She covered up her mouth with her hand as Worf stood, bristling.
"I will stick to gagh. Goodbye, Commander. Counselor," And with that, Worf had stormed off, thankful his Klingon complexion didn't allow him to blush.
That Riker! Worf had thought. He is always trying to upstage me. Well, now it is my turn...
Commander Riker hadn't had a good day. Most of it had been spent writing reports, and the rest had been trying to get the replicator to dispense anything but quiche. It was then, whilst writing another report, he groaned as he acknowledged a beep from his commbadge.
"Worf to Riker." The Klingon's deep voice boomed out from the commlink. Riker scowled.
"Yes, Worf? What is it?"
In his quarters, Worf smiled. "I was wondering, sir," he said, "Whether you are enjoying your quiche."
Riker stood up so fast he banged his knees on the table. "Worf!"
Lt. Commander Worf stood in front of the Captain's desk in the ready room, back stiff, eyes fixed somewhere just above Captain Picard's left ear. Picard was looking at a padd he held in his long hands.
"You deleted the ship's entire culinary database, Lieutenant," he said coldly. "It could have been permanent. We might never have been able to retrieve the files without a full overhaul at a shipyard. By the way, the nearest shipyard is a hundred light-years from here." He frowned.
"I am sorry, Captain," Worf said woodenly. "I did not mean to. I merely meant to alter Commander Riker's replicator database, so-"
"So he would only get quiche," Picard finished. Worf's face did not flicker. Picard sighed and set down his padd, looking up at his chief security officer's face.
"Worf. I understand there is some rivalry between you and Commander Riker. However, as you know, I am quite fond of my tea. Next time you decide to alter the replicator database, leave in Earl Grey as well as quiche. Understood?" He smiled, faintly.
Worf's eyelid twitched in confusion. He did not let his face show just how surprised he was. "Understood, Captain."
Worf turned smartly on his heel and left the Ready Room, emerging onto the bridge to be met with scowling faces. It appeared he had not only annoyed Riker, but the rest of the crew as well.
Riker was seated in the Captain's chair. He stood up and walked towards Worf, who began moving towards the turbolift.
The Klingon spun, barely concealing his annoyance. "Yes, Commander."
Riker leaned in so only Worf could hear. He had a smirk on his bearded face. "Good one."
Worf's eyelid twitched for the second time that day.
"Next time you pull a prank, though - make sure it doesn't affect the whole crew. Not everyone likes quiche." He slapped Worf on the shoulder.
The big Klingon twitched, scowled, and turned stiffly, marching into the turbolift without a second glance back.
Only real men eat quiche, indeed.