Lili O’Day was walking down the hall of the NX-01, getting to the galley in order to start supper. It was January second of 2154.
She’d gone to her quarters in order to get a new hair tie, as the old one had finally snapped. She was walking along, thinking about what to make, when she heard coughing.
She approached the fellow who was coughing and patted him on the back a couple of times. Startled, he turned to her. “What?!” he snarled.
“Oh, sorry if I scared ya, Major.”
“Uh, it’s okay. I’m just always on high alert.”
“Good thing you didn’t have a phase pistol on you,” she said.
“Yeah.” He coughed several more times.
“Are you okay? Maybe you should go to Sick Bay.”
“I’m fine,” he said, jaw tight.
“No, no, I don’t think you are,” she said. She reached up and felt his high forehead, her fingers cool on his brow. “Hmm, I don’t think you have a fever.”
“I said, I’m fine.”
“Listen,” she said, “I’m just concerned. There’s no need to get snippy.”
“Uh, I’m sorry,” he said. He was about to depart when he added, “Can I tell you something in confidence?”
He looked around furtively, as if he were about to divulge state secrets. “I, uh, there was something in one of those Xindi spheres. Everybody else is fine; I guess it got into my EV suit. Phlox missed it and everything.”
“Maybe you should go to Sick Bay,” she suggested again.
“I can’t,” he said, “I’ve gotta remain on high alert at all times. No one can, no one can see that I’m, you know, weak in any way.”
“Major, everybody gets sick.”
“I know. But, uh, Ensign, this is really minor. And I know a lotta people are counting on me. So, uh, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anybody. I know about Rumor Central around here.”
“I won’t tell a soul,” she said, “but are you sure you’re okay? You’ll be a lot worse off it this turns into some kind of flu, yanno.”
“It’s, it’s not bad.” He coughed several more times, glancing around again.
“Here’s what I can do,” she said, “I can make you something that’ll help you feel better, okay?”
“If you single me out, everybody’ll know.”
“I’ll serve it to everyone. So don’t worry.”
“Oh, uh, thanks,” he said, turning to leave.
“There’s just one thing.”
“Oh?” That set off another bout of coughing.
“I’ll be expecting payment,” she said.
“Yeah. In payment, I want you to smile every now and then, okay? It doesn’t have to be too often. Just sometimes.”
“I can pay that. And you won’t, you won’t tell anybody?”
“I don’t tell anyone when I see people on C deck go in and out of each other’s cabins at all hours, even in the middle of the night, when it’s obvious that they’re not sleeping in their own beds. I see all of that and I don’t say a word. So don’t sweat it. I can keep a secret.”
“Thanks, uh,” he smiled a little. “I guess here’s an advance.” He left.
Lili served the chow line. There was a huge tureen in front of her, with a smaller one off to the side. Then there were various filled, steaming chafing dishes. The first person in the line was MACO Eddie Hamboyan.
“What we have for dinner tonight,” she said, “is chicken soup with vegetables, in a lightly salted broth. Now, I know everyone takes it differently – that’s why there are all of these hot dishes. There’s noodles and rice and potatoes. I’ve also made matzoh balls.”
“Do they sink or float?” asked Engineering Crewman Josh Rosen, who was second in line.
“No, that’s great. It’s how my Dad makes ‘em.”
“Then I planned it that way,” Lili said, smiling. “There are also spices on the side – oregano and basil, or curry and cumin, or ginger and garlic. I can even drop an egg in if you like. The smaller tureen is vegan vegetable soup, also in a lightly salted broth, for those who don’t eat meat. Oh, and the chicken soup is completely non-dairy, kosher and halal. Plus there’s leftover sourdough rounds and I experimented a bit and tried to make crackers. Bon appetit!”
“Uh, just noodles,” Eddie said as she served him.
The line moved. Lieutenant Reed took about a half a helping of rice and one of her homemade crackers. He tasted it and took another. “Did you make everything, Ensign?”
“I did,” she said, “it’s Chef’s day off, yanno.”
“Perhaps we can persuade Chef Slocum to take a few more holidays.”
“Well, thank you,” she said as he went on his way.
Major Hayes came over, after almost everyone else. “Jewish penicillin, huh?” He almost coughed, and covered it by clearing his throat.
“Matzoh ball?” she asked.
“Sure. I’ll take the full effect.” He sliced off a hunk of the sourdough bread and was about to go find a seat when he turned to face her. “Thank you,” he said quietly and, when no one else was looking, he smiled at her.