Drinks Among Friends - First Installment
My first attempt at some form of humor.
Eli suppressed a sigh. He had never been one to enjoy these sorts of gatherings. Officer’s dinners were all well and good for moral, and he had to admit it felt good to unwind after a victory, but did the unwinding have to happen in a large group? He’d much prefer an informal gathering of friends, people he already knew and enjoyed speaking with. Fortunately, at this particular officers had already begun to leave the table, thankfully. Thrawn was always careful to seat Eli among those with whom he would enjoy conversing. Of course, he was always at Thrawn’s side, but on this evening, he also found himself in an excellent position to speak with Captain Faro and the visiting Colonel Yularen, so the dinner hadn’t been nearly as painful as he’d feared.
Thrawn himself, for the past hour, had become deeply engrossed in a conversation with the Chief Medical Officer, Alhea Cleo. Officer Cleo had been an odd edition to the crew. An exceptional medical surgeon, she had been forcefully drafted from Alderaan’s med corps upon completion of her residency, due to the Empire’s pressing need to supply its new ships with apt medical personnel. But with an academic history of philosophy and art history, she was not an average military officer. As soon as Thrawn had discovered she was eager to philosophize about art she had risen to being a top priority when it came to people with whom he spoke at these gatherings.
Eli had to smile as he dropped an ear on their conversation. They had started with the topic of the intimate relationship between an artist, object, and material, but it seemed to have shifted to the distinction between art and technology.
Eli had followed the conversation intently in the beginning, but as soon as they began to energetically parse definitions of where technology ended and art began, and where craftsmanship came into all of it, not to mention a heated exchange of numerous species-specific examples that supported each of their own opinions – he had shifted his attention to the entertaining military stories being traded between Yularen and Faro.
“ . . . and Anakin didn’t succeed?” Faro and Yularen had discovered a mutual love of a specific variety of classic whisky, strong-smelling, smoky, hinting of earth, and ocean brine. Eli himself preferred the smoothness of strong, Corellian Brandy. Thrawn and Cleo seemed to have taken neat care of a bottle of dry, red Alderaanian wine. I’ve never seen him have more than a glass of anything. No wonder he’s talking so much.
Yularen smirked, “Well, Anakin was eventually victorious. He was a very great warrior, no matter how unconventional his methods and … ehrm … nearly non-existent his respect for authority and tradition.”
Faro’s eyes held knowing amusement, admiration … and a dash of affirmation. She herself was not fond of the hierarchical structure of command, and had a rebellious streak when it came to proper deference. Fortunately, her time serving with Thrawn had encouraged those qualities as strengths, rather than punishing them as flaws. “But you disapproved of his tactics?”
Yularen’s shoulders bobbed, “At the time, they were concerning to me. As I reflect, it is difficult to argue with effectiveness.” He gave her a playfully chastising look, “though I wouldn’t suggest them as anything a newly minted captain should emulate.”
“I once heard a wise Navy Admiral say that ‘it is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission’.”
“Hmm.” Yularen shot a wry glance in Thrawn’s direction. “I wonder which Admiral that might have been.”
Faro barked a laugh. “Admiral Thrawn is not the only exceptional commander I’ve served with. I learned plenty of valuable lessons before I ever came aboard the Chimaera.”
Yularen inclined his head. “Yes, we often do not give enough credit to the many excellent officers who have served, both in the Republic, and the Empire.”
Faro rose from her seat and lifted her glass, “A toast to them; the unnamed leaders of the Naval Fleet, who imparted wisdom, courage, and fortitude to those of us who have succeeded them.” Her strident voice brought all of the remaining officers to their feet as well. A hearty ‘aye’ hit the air before everyone tossed back their drinks.
To Eli’s relief, the other officers seemed to consider that as being their signal to leave. Before long, it was just Eli, Yularen, Faro, Cleo, and Thrawn.
Faro looked around at the nearly empty table, “Finally.” She got up and went to rummage in the liquor cabinet at the far end of the officer’s private mess hall.
“What are you doing?” Thrawn asked.
“Getting this party started, Admiral.” She returned with several bottles, one of Island Whiskey, one of Corellian Brandy – an excellent year, Eli noted to himself – and a third of some kind of dark bourbon.
Thrawn assessed the fresh collection of bottles, mild concern creeping into his expression. He then looked around at the empty table. “I believe, Captain, the party to which you refer has ended.”
“I believe that in this instance, you would be wrong, Admiral.” She began to uncork the bottles. “We’re all friends here. If I’m correct, we still have some very interesting conversations to pursue, and some very delicious liquor to consume.”
“I’ve had quite enough liquor for one evening, but thank you, Captain.” Thrawn made as though to leave, but Faro halted him with words, “You mean, a few glasses of wine are enough to send our esteemed Admiral to his quarters?”
Eli and Yularen both shot warning glares in her direction. She just smiled at them, before resting her hand on her hip and shifting her weight cockily at the Admiral. “I happen to hold the Chimeara’s record for highest number of shots consumed without loss of consciousness. I have no fear of a glass of whisky. Though I can understand why some, less experienced individuals would feel … threatened, by said glass. ”
Thrawn looked her up and down before his lip twisted slightly upward, “I’m sure you do hold such a record, Captain. As I am also sure I hold no fear of a glass of liquid. Now, a good evening to you all.”
Don’t do it; just don’t. I should be going too. I don’t even like parties. And yet, this could be quite fun … we might see Thrawn finally bested at something, for once. Maybe he can handle it, but if he can’t …
Eli stood and intercepted Thrawn. Under his breath he whispered, “Admiral, it is a sign of cowardice and weakness if you refuse her. Consider that before you leave.” Well, not strictly speaking, but close enough to be defensible. Maybe.
Thrawn studied him. He looked over Eli’s shoulder in the direction of Faro, back at Eli, then at Yularen and Cleo. Those eyes returned to Eli’s own. Hold it. Convince him. He’s almost there. “Very well, Commander.” He still doesn’t sound fully sold on this.
Thrawn moved towards the set of sofas at the far corner of the luxury mess, gesturing for the others to follow, “Shall we make ourselves comfortable?”
Faro grinned and brought her stash of drinks to the low table.
Officer Cleo shook her head slightly, “As the Chief Medical officer on board, I feel obligated to point out that this is far from healthy behavior.”
Faro pulled a face, “It seems that Lieutenant Vanto is the only one with a sense of adventure around here.”
Yularen would have none of that. “Now, now Captain, it may have been a long time since my glory days of drinking in the officer’s mess, but I assure, you, I’m no less keen.”
Faro actually winked, “A man after my own heart.”
Cleo crossed her arms, smiling slightly despite herself as she headed for the door, “Well, when you all feel like death in the morning, don’t come crawling to my med bay looking for a quick fix. I don’t have any medication to cure stupidity.”
Thrawn looked a bit like he wanted to follow her example, but before he could change his mind about staying, Faro pressed a glass of whisky into his hand and beamed a smile, “Well then, Admiral, shall we begin?”
. . .