“Are you sure we don’t have to prep for this?” asked Preston Jennings a little nervously. 

“’Course not!” enthused Chef William Slocum. 

“But Lili and Brian met, like, four times this week,” said the former steward. Jennings had been replaced by Lili O’Day, and he had gone to Navigation. It was all done as a part of the crew changes necessary for the NX-01 to fight the Xindi war. This had even included bringing on a complement of MACOs. 

“Stop fretting. They probably just met a lot because Brian Delacroix is in Security. But you, Preston, you’ve got steward experience! We are going to win this, I can tell.” 

“Sir, I was never a real sous-chef like she is. And I haven’t done it in a while.” 

“We are not gonna lose. Now, chin up, Jennings. This will be a fine diversion for the crew.” Will checked the time on his PADD – almost eleven hundred hours. And then the PADD’s display slid over to the date – June the twelfth of 2153. “It’s almost show time. Let’s head over to the galley, all right?” 

=/\= 

The small galley contained Lili, Brian and another fellow, Chip Masterson, who worked in Communications. Chip was setting up a video link that could be piped into the rest of the ship. “Now, I don’t need to tell you,” Chip said, “that this is just for fun. We’ve got plenty of serious stuff going on, but the captain wanted something light. So be light about it, okay?” 

There were huge baskets of foodstuffs. There were all sorts of produce from Shelby Pike, the Botanist on board. Plus the refrigeration unit was packed. Various utensils and small appliances were in view as well. “Brian,” Lili said to the young – perhaps underaged – Security crewman next to her, “We’ll need to share the microwave and the flash cooker with Chef and Preston. So pick your moments, okay?” 

“Sure thing,” he replied. They were both short, and he looked around for the step stool, just in case. 

There was a communications chime. “Okay,” Chip said, answering it, “We’re just about ready. Masterson out.” He turned to the four other people in the room. “We got a small substitution.” 

“Oh?” asked Will. 

“Commander Tucker said he couldn’t do it. It’s, uh, I guess it’s too soon. So his replacement is Major Hayes.” 

“Major Hayes?” asked Lili. She gulped a little. The man rarely smiled. 

“Yeah,” Chip confirmed. “Now, don’t forget to smile. You’re having fun, right?” He checked the time on his PADD. “Okay, three, two, one!” He turned on a camera for the video link. “Hiya NX-01, and welcome to our first-ever cook-off, between Chef William Slocum and challenger sous-chef Lili O’Day. Chef’s assistant for this competition will be former steward Preston Jennings.” Jennings waved a little. “Lili’s helper is Brian Delacroix from Security. Now I’ll turn things over to Hoshi briefly. Hoshi?” 

Hoshi was in the cafeteria with a portion of the crew, who were watching on the viewer. “Thanks, Chip. Members of the crew, the judges have been sequestered! They will not be watching. Ah, thanks,” she said when MACO Private Eddie Hamboyan handed her a large jar filled with blue papers and a few yellow ones. “You may remember, you were asked to predict who the winner would be. Votes for Chef Slocum are on blue paper. Votes for Ensign O’Day are on yellow. Looks like most of the votes were for Chef so T’Pol won’t need to break any ties. Here’s how it’ll work. Chef and Lili will make three dishes with the mystery ingredient – an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. And those dishes will be presented to our three judges who will judge them on taste, presentation and originality. The winner gets bragging rights. And then we’ll pick a correct vote at random and that lucky person will get dinner in the Captain’s Mess where, of course, all three winning dishes will be served. Chip?” 

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