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Rated: 18+ · Book · Sci-fi · #2256133
Round Ten of the World Weavers' Championship
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#1015693 added August 16, 2021 at 1:34pm
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[R10] Prompt Five - A Special Dish
Prompt

Since the traitorous Barstow's last supper at the Captain's table, this would be the ship's officers' first Sunday gathering in the Wardroom. Barstow's attempt to poison Captain Bledsoe had earned him a trip out of the Cumberland's airlock without an environment suit, and without a Wardroom cook, the tradition of The Captain's Table suffered.

The First had spoken plainly and directly. "No way around it Mr. Bilton, you've found us this new cook, and the Wardroom will hold you responsible for his success or failure."

Heeding those words, Bilton cornered the new cook in the Pantry. "Cullen, a word, please."

"Is everything a'right, Sir? Is there a probl—"

"Your reply should be 'Aye, Sir', Cullen, then wait for the officer to speak —"

"Aye, Sir, this whole navy thing is a bit new, Sir. Was something wrong with yer breakfast, Sir?"

— "No, no breakfast was fine; the coffee was quite good, in fact."

"Thankee, Sir!" Cullen beamed at the compliment.

Bilton continued. "I wanted to speak with you about this Sunday's Captain's Table —"

"Ahh, yes, Sir. Cullen looked thoughtful. I've been plannin' the meal a'ready. A roast of beef, of course. It has ta be the Roast Beef of Old England, Sir"

— "it's our first since, well since the man you replaced left our employ."

"Aye, Sir, the cheeky bugger who got hisself spaced, bad business, that, Sir"

"Err, yes." Noting the fact that Cullen was already in tune with the ship's scuttlebutt. "Well, at any rate, Sunday needs to be special, quite special in fact."

Cullen looked a bit hurt. "Sir, I will do all—"

"Ahh, no Cullen, I wasn't commenting on your abilities, I was more referring to the ingredients at your disposal."

"Well, Sir, I am at me wit's end, the Pantry stores left me are, well, a bit sparse, Sir"

Bilton smiled. "Yes, my point entirely! We are fortunate that we still orbit a rich planet, with a fine larder."

Cullen's eyes lit up. "Do you mean I might set Sunday's meal from the planet's markets, Sir?"

"Indeed I do, Cullen," Bilton added. "It is my wish that you restock the Pantry to better standards, your standards."

Excited, Cullen answered. "Sir, that will be a might expensive. There ain't that much credits in the Panty's kitty, so to speak —"

"Not to worry, Cullen, I'll restock the Pantry's Kitty, you see to filling the Pantry proper."

"W’it pleasure!” At Bilton’s frown. “I mean, Aye, Sir”

“And, wine and cigars Cullen, be sure to procure a sufficient supply of both.” Before leaving the Pantry Bilton admonished Cullen. “Not a word about this to the other officers Cullen, no need for them to know."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The roast of beef, or rather two roasts were scrumptious, filling the Wardroom with aromas that had been absent during Barstow’s turn as cook — served with a traditional Yorkshire Pudding and a host of other sides. The quality of the cooking was attested to by a silence that fell over the room as the officers ate.

The gathered officers, satiated from the tasty meal, sat back. Happy and pleasantly full, the officers enjoyed a fine Port before dessert.

Captain Bledsoe tapped his glass for attention. “A toast, or toasts I must say; First, a hearty toast to Her Majesty and the Empire!”

A chorus of ‘here, here Her Majesty and the Empire’ rang out in the Wardroom as each man drained his glass in Her Majesty’s Honor.

“And, another to Lieutenant Compton.” Compton looked surprised. “Newly appointed First of Her Majesty’s Sirius.

Muted ‘here heres’ this time, as each of the other Lieutenants calculating what this meant for their own futures.

Before Bledsoe could raise his refilled glass again, Cullen entered the Wardroom with a decorated tray, an ornate crystal dish at its center.

“Ah Cullen – I believe —"

Swallowing nervously, his first time answering the Captain. “Aye err –. M’Lord?”

Bilton groaned, but Bledsoe laughed. “I thank you, my good sir, but there’s no peerage to be found here, just a simple ‘Aye, Sir’ will suffice. But, more importantly, what more do you think we can eat man? Now, what have you brought us?"

“Aye, Sir.” A bit unsure if the dessert was welcome. “A fresh strawberry trifle, Sir, the berries are in season below, and I handpicked each one meself, I did. But, if no one wants it —"

“Don’t be daft, man.” The First laughed heartily as he raised his glass. “A toast! To Lieutenant Bilton, may all his recruitments serve as well as our new Wardroom cook!” Casting an eye at the smiling cook. “And, well done Cullen, now let's have that trifle.”

Bledsoe winked and smiled. “But first, I think Lieutenant Bilton should lead us in a chorus or two of “Roast Beef of Old England.”

Bilton blushed. Singing in public was not a strong suit for him. But, with a voice made strong by the hearty port, he led the laughing group in song. A strange thought tickled his mind as he sang, twice now he had been referred to by rank, not the customary Mr. generally reserved for juniors. He shrugged the thought off. A manifestation of the port, perhaps?

“As a matter of course gentlemen, Compton’s good fortune means a bit more work for all of the rest until we receive a new officer.” Frowning, Bledsoe continued. “If fleet ever sees fit to give us a new one, but until then, there’ll some shifting about and changes. The First will fill you in as needed.”

Bilton enjoyed his port, and the trifle was delicious, fresh strawberries, freshly whipped cream and a homemade pound cake. He didn’t give much thought to Compton’s promotion. Yes, it moved him up a step. But, not until a new officer came aboard. There was no official Second, an unofficial pecking order based on seniority amongst the junior Lieutenants was traditional. The most senior Lieutenant, aside from the First, got to serve a watch unsupervised. That was Compton’s old watch, it marked him as the next officer to be promoted to First. The other, more senior Lieutenants vied openly for the spot, hoping to advance to the next level. Bilton knew, as the freshest and most recent officer to join, he had no chance for Compton’s old watch. He had hopes of who it would not go to, Rodgers was an egotistical ass who had made his life miserable, but not as bleak as he made life for the ship's section he commanded. Given the prestige of a new position of power, there was no telling what poison he might spread. Rodgers was the next most senior time-wise, though. ‘Well, we’ll know soon enough, First will ask someone to stay behind, and that will tell all.’ Bilton dismissed further thoughts from his head.

The signal to rise and leave was left to Captain Bledsoe, he rose a bit unsteadily, having enjoyed far more port than normal. “Thank you, gentleman, for a fine meal and better company, I look forward to many more Sunday repasts in your company. Lieutenant Bilton, my compliments, and please pass them on to Cullen.”

“Aye, Sir, and thank you, Captain.” Again with the Lieutenant, this was a bit intriguing. “I’ll be sure to, Sir.”

The officers began filing out, some to their duties and others to sleep off the meal in their bunks, all waiting and wondering who the First called to stay behind.

Shock, exhilaration, and a fair measure of surprise filled the officer who’s name the First called. The shock and surprise were mirrored in the faces of the others. Destain and anger showed in Rodgers' face; this was to have been his, not this usurper to his to his promotion.

“Lieutenant Bilton, a word if you please.”


Word Count

Nota bene;
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