2236-11-21 - The Universal and the Particular

A Scorpian, a Hibernian, and a Virgon walk into a mess hall... Some things are universal. Some people are particular.

Date: 2236-11-21

Location: Mess Hall, Deck 8, //Galactica//

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 886

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It's not breakfast, but Eli managed to find cereal. He's sitting at a table that is otherwise unoccupied (pretend that's a coincidence if you wish). He's in his blues, though the fact that it's undone suggests firmly off-duty. He's got his eyes cast down at a book that he seems to be quite in to, judging by the serious brow furrowing that's currently going on, and by the fact that he doesn't seem aware that he's dribbled milk in his beard.

Drifting in with hair still wet from the shower, dressed in modified, cut-down tanks, Rhona McRae is very much of the opinion that if she's just woken up then this is breakfast. Her eyes are open and she's technically awake, but there's only one destination in her mind, and that's the coffee station. Teabag. Water. Milk. Sugar. All are combined in automatic motions, then stirred and stirred with a spoon as she wanders away from the urn to find a seat in which to wake up properly. Eli wins. What joy, what luck. He even gets a grunt of what might be considered to be greeting. Rhona is not a morning person.

Progressing through the chow line with patience and just a hint of resignation is a slightly-built, white-haired woman in a flight suit the insignia upon which marks her as Raptor crew, and a captain despite her years. There's a tightness about her blue eyes, along with the crow's feet -- she looks tired, and she is. Otherwise she'd probably have been watching out to see who she sits down next to... But fatigue coupled with vague and incorrect assumptions about who's likely to be out of her bunk at this hour and who isn't, brings her to the table adjacent to Eli's, and a seat separated from Rhona McRae's only by a narrow gap. She's next to the Hibernian pilot and across from, did she but know it, a Scorpian physician. What a comfortable position for a Virgon veteran. To say nothing of the benches, which are viciously hard.

Her tray is tidy, laden with pork sausages and a salad of some sort -- water to drink, rather than anything stronger or more caffeinated -- no hint of anything frivolous or sweet. She sets to her supper with a will.

Eli is not...well, no one has found his preferred time of day as of yet. He looks up and raises an eyebrow at the monosyllabic Rhona. He isn't even that. Not even a grunt - just a look. Then he dips his head again to find his spot in the book. When Cressida sits, he sighs and then purposefully slides a strip of some kind of red plastic which serves as a bookmark into his book, then closes it. It appears he's readying himself to make expected smalltalk.

Rhona is not quiet about slurping her tea, finding that the easiest way to cool it quickly while still being able to drink it. She cradles the mug in both hands, staring over at Eli for no particular reason other than that he's there and her eyes are open. It's only when she hears the quiet, clipped tones of Cressida behind her, asking for the salt, that her expression changes to one of more alertness, and considerably more vitriol. A quick glance over her shoulder confirms the identity of her nemesis, and she can't help but suggest, "What, no servants to wait on you, here? How awful for you."

Salt in hand Cressida Hart turns to bestow upon Rhona another of those cool and patient glances the pilot has routinely been receiving over the side of the upper bunk. She declines to rise to the bait the younger woman has roused herself so heroically from her stupor to dangle before her. "Good morning, Ensign McRae," she says mildly. Her gaze flicks across to Eli -- tired, yes, but intelligent and instinctively measuring. "Doctor," she adds with a polite inclination of her head of short-cropped, slightly-ruffled pale hair.

Eli seems to realize he's in the middle of something. He'd beat a hasty retreat, but that'd be rude or something. He rubs his face with a napkin and nods in return to Cressida and gives Rhona a sidelong look. "I'd say I felt like I walked into the middle of something," a beat, and then in a droll tone, "...but I was sitting here first."

"S'fine, she's just not used to sitting down to eat without sterling silver cutlery," Rhona continues to needle, jerking her head backwards to indicate exactly who she's talking about. "Maybe we should all club together and buy her some. With monogrammed serviettes, sure."

The superannuated captain with the clipped Virgon accent inclines her head next toward Rhona in acknowledgment of this sally, whilst making use of the salt; she hands it back to whomever is on the far side of her with a courteous, "Thank you, crewman," and takes up what cutlery there is in small, clean, pale hands. "Ensign McRae is a young woman of decided opinions," she remarks in passing to Eli, cutting off a bite-sized piece of pork sausage. "If I've distracted you from your book, I do apologise," she says sincerely, glancing down at the closed volume next to the doctor's bowl of cereal and back up to meet his eyes with a silent question as to its contents. She does indeed deliver that morsel of sausage to her lips as neatly as if she were in a five-star restaurant -- but with a swiftness suggestive of hunger.

Eli would lean back in his chair to consider the situation, but the bench doesn't exactly have a back. Instead he slumps forward. And starts to grin. He rubs his cheek and shakes his head. "I'm pretty surprised I haven't seen this before. Do you know what you should do? Put some gloves on and take it out in the gym. Because if we're all going to live and work together, staring daggers over colonial bullshit isn't gonna help that."

Rhona groans, setting her tea down on the table. "You could punch her and she'd probably still never react. Wasp, do you even own emotions? Or were they shot off in the war?"

A slight lift of Cressida's eyebrows at Eli's prescription, suggests she is perhaps not after all hewn from the finest Virgon marble. When addressed she sets down her cutlery, finishes chewing, touches a paper napkin to her lips, and drinks a quick sip of water before saying: "I agree with you in principle, doctor," she sounds tired, "but I'm not interested in fighting people on my own side... I'm not interested," she repeats with different emphasis, "in fighting people." Cylons are another matter. But she does manage a faint, apologetic quirk of a smile. "I haven't the energy at the end of a shift. Have you?" she asks them both rhetorically.

"I tell ya, your unwilligness to hash things out and get it all out there is only gonna make things worse," says Eli with a lift of one shoulder that suggests he's really not fussed one way or another. He picks up his spoon and eats a mouthful of slightly soggy cereal. "Sometimes it's not about you want, it's about what's good for your crewmates."

"And having a punch up is good for crewmates?" Rhona queries, raising a brow. "Well. I know the different colonies have different cultures, but I don't think I've ever met a doctor before who prescribed a good flannelling. I suppose a nice cup of tea won't cut it, will it?"

And now the women are united in their dubiety if nothing else. Cressida continues to put away her sausages at the greatest speed consonant with good manners, letting Rhona weigh in first; then she remarks offhandedly, "In my experience some kinds of personality conflict aboard ship certainly are best settled directly -- but others burn out on their own for lack of fuel, and the less there is to forgive, the better. At the moment I don't believe Wolfpack Squadron would be well-served by a brawl between the two of us." She glances from Eli to Rhona and gives the younger woman a slight shrug. "Do you?" she asks quietly. It appears, in fact, to be a serious question.

"I'm a military doctor. I understand soldiers. Sometimes soldiers need to blow off steam. I hope it would be punching an inanimate object, but sometimes you do need to hash it out with the person you've got a grievance with." Eli arches his brows and looks between the two of them. "And if the problem isn't serious enough to punch someone over, then it's not serious at all. And you should just suck it up and get on with your life."

"I think there's been some sort of confusion here," Rhona concludes, resting an elbow on the table. "There's nothing personal about it. Throwing a punch at one old, white, upper class Virgon woman isn't going to fix anything. How's the cereal? Worth risking? I swear everything on the menu here is just covered in butter. I can't face that much grease in my diet."

When Rhona agrees with her, more or less -- agrees that there's no call to be punching anybody, anyway -- Cressida shrugs again and addresses herself to another sausage. A minute later she puts in for Eli's benefit, "I believe that to be true as far as it goes. I understand that Ensign McRae is offended by what I represent," she explains calmly; "I don't take personally what she doesn't know me well enough to mean personally. She'll work it out on her own, or she won't. As long as she confines her remarks to me," rather than spreading them about to her more callow countrymen, "I see no reason to pursue the matter any further. The sausages," she concludes, "aren't altogether bad, and I think they would suffice as well for breakfast as for supper, Ensign."

"Ah, so it is just a petty colonial difference, gotcha," says Eli, matter-of-factly. "The cereal is...cereal. I think it's from Caprica. At least, I can't imagine anything else having this much sugar. It turned my milk blue," he tilts the bowl towards Rhona. "So you can choose between grease or sugar, with some greens mixed in there somewhere." Then he glances to Cressida and pruses his lips. "Well, talking about her like she isn't sitting right here is probably not going to endear you to her." he nods towards Rhona, then sucks air through his teeth. "Not that I'm the king of choosing my words carefully. But I try to keep it personal instead of colonial. That way the issue stays between two people instead of provoking a ship-wide civil war."

"You're the doctor, would you rather treat heart disease or diabetes?" Rhona queries with a half smile. "And I'll lay off her when she stops prancing about in a tailored uniform, telling us all about her ponies at the country club, shoving all her money and power in our faces. We get it. Some of us didn't have mummy and daddy and a million cubit handout to get us here, that's all I'm saying."

In her few weeks aboard Galactica Captain Cressida Hart has in fact been a reserved, courteous presence in bunk room and mess hall and communal showers -- not given to gossip about others, or to any remarks about her own self more personal than what time her shift starts or whether she has any spare coathangers. Spare ponies, she hasn't addressed at all. Her uniforms are suspiciously well-fitting, yes, that can't be denied. Right now the inside of her flight suit is as sweaty as anyone's at the end of a long shift.

"You're right, of course, Doctor Cadmus," she agrees, turning to Rhona; "I apologise for speaking across you rather than to you, Ensign," she states with quiet sincerity. "It was discourteous of me, and unprofessional." And sometimes a sincere apology qualifies not just as a good example but as a guerilla conversational move, when its recipient is in much the same habit herself... Another sip of water and she addresses herself again to the good doctor. "May I ask what you're reading?" she wonders, nodding again to his book.

"This is the military," says Eli to Rhona. "The best way to stick it to her is to one day outrank her. Then you can get her to shine your shoes and you'll feel oh so much better." His lip curls upwards in a wry little grin. He nudges his blue milk bowl away and cracks his neck. The question about his book causes him to flip over the cover. "Just a little turn my brain off reading." It's a spy novel. Brund, Jan Brund - service number 022. It's a well-worn volume by the looks of it, and about twenty years old.

"Best way to stick it to the establishment is to show we're better," Rhona argues, giving Cressida a slight nod of somewhat ashamed acknowledgement of that carefully worded apology. She rises to her feet, glancing about to find where to deposit her empty cup. "Twenty cubits says my bird takes out more toasters than yours, Wasp."

As Rhona rises next to her Cressida's eyes lift sideways from contemplation of the cover of Eli's book, to study the younger woman's face. "She's bound to," she points out evenly, "while I'm assigned to recon. Ask me again when you've come up with a more sporting proposition, Ensign," she suggests.

And then, when the pilot has taken her leave, her gaze drifts back to the Jan Brund novel and after a moment's hesitation she admits, "I have a son who reads those." It's in no way a condemnation of his taste. "He tells me I would like them, but with one thing and another I've not had the time, unfortunately."

Eli shrugs to Rhona's statement in a way that seems to say 'to each their own.' Then as Rhona moves out, he turns his attention to Cressida. "I found one of these books in the break room at the hospital during my residency. I had a few hours of downtime and I started reading it. There's probably a hundred books, so it'll take me awhile to get through them all. It's something I read to tell my brain, 'OK, you're off duty now.'"

"I don't think my son's got through the whole lot yet either," offers Cressida after another infinitesimal hesitation. The plate which held her sausages now stands bare: she rearranges her repast by the simple expedient of placing her salad plate atop the empty one, taking her two courses in unorthodox order lest the one get cold whilst she was concentrating on the other. Salad is salad. It has not suffered from its brief neglect at the side of her tray.

"... Something to look forward to," she suggests, lifting a leaf with an inquisitive fork to see what's underneath. No caterpillars, one hopes. "Your residency...?" she inquires, open-endedly, just for conversation's sake. "On Virgon? Or is Jan Brund a universal?"

"Hah, no, no. Leonis. Military hospital. I'm not one of those doctors who got drafted and has to adapt to military life." Eli considers the book. "I don't know if it's a universal, but it's certainly a classic. I doubt I would have ever just happened upon one of these on Scorpia, though." He eyes her careful salad eating with a look that crinkles the corners of his eyes but barely tugs up a smile. It's a silent comment.

It's not clear whether Cressida catches that look, in between delicately poking at her salad and bringing knife and fork together to create for herself a perfectly sized, perfectly tidy first bite. As Rhona theorises, punching her would not necessarily be enough to get a reaction. She looks up, chewing, nodding along with Eli's words. "... We pulled out in a hurry," she observes quietly, meeting his eyes without shying away from the past; "the gods alone know what might have been left behind in those days. But I'm fond enough of Leonese classics," she adds with care, navigating back into safer airspace, "to be glad that some Leonese soldiers have had amusement from ours."

"A good story is a good story," says Eli as he examines the cover of the book. Jan Brund is looking particularly dashing. The skyline of Caprica a few decades ago can be seen peeking out behind him. He's wielding a pistol in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other. Nobody Dies Twice is the title. "Though the one where he fought aliens was stretching it a little. I think the author was on drugs at the time." He frowns pensively.

"That's true," the Virgon woman says softly, from the other table and the other side of a long, hard struggle. She flicks another glance down at the cover of the book. "A universal, then," she decides. And, lifting an eyebrow at the medical commentary, she wonders in a neutral tone, "You disapprove?"

"Of the drugs? No, not certain ones, anyway," Eli's brows raise, then drop. "I disapprove of the plotine that resulted from said drugs, though." He grins, then stands and tucks the book under his arm. He picks up his tray to bus it like a good little troper. "I've got rounds. I'll see you around, Captain."

Cressida lifts her head and lowers it again in a slow nod, mouthing the word 'ah' more than speaking it. That of course makes perfect sense.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, doctor," she says then. "And again, I apologise for taking you away from Mr Brund. I understand he's a delightful breakfast companion." She gives him the ghost of a smile, which fades slowly as she applies herself in earnest to the remainder of her salad.


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