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The Captain’s Table – Rike Herschel
Posted on June 4th, 2021 by Kathryn Harper and Rike Herschel

by Kathryn Harper and Rike Herschel

Rike was just outside the holodeck door and stretching as she waited for the Captain. A morning run was a part of her normal routine, although she usually submitted herself to the tortuous difficult conditions of Vulcan. Thanks to the twice-daily runs and calisthenics, Rike was remarkably fit for a 57-year-old. After all, one needs to be able to keep up with those ensigns in their 20’s, eh? She stood up straight and grunted to herself as she spotted Harper approaching out of the corner of her eye. Bavaria or Tulgana IV…?

Kate Harper rounded the corner to the holodeck, dressed in a yellow athletic tank top, green track shorts, and white trainers, while also wearing a sunny smile in anticipation of having another guest for her morning run. “Good morning, Rike!” Her cheerful greeting rang through the corridor, causing a glance or two from passing members of the crew who were less appreciative of mornings. “Thank you for accepting my invitation. ”

Unlike those particular crew members, Rike was most certainly a morning person and thus responded in kind, “Morning Captain! Lovely day for a run. But then again, with the holodeck, when is it not?”

“That is very true! I must admit that it spoils me sometimes, running on the beach back home whenever I like.” Kate stepped up to the panel, arms akimbo, and gave it an inquisitive glance before turning to Rike. “Have you chosen a program for us?”

“Ah!” Rike raised a finger, “I have two personal programs that I enjoy that would be good for a run. I thought I would leave it up to you which one, though. The first is the town near my family’s farm in Bavaria, which is small but quite hilly. The second is of the Tulgana IV property I lived on, which has a trail leading from my gardens and through woods.” She raised her chin as she waited for a response from Harper.

After a moment examining the previews of each program that the panel displayed, a clear favorite arose, at least in Kate’s mind. “The garden path through the woods does sound lovely… but, I would imagine that the Bavarian town has the better breakfast available following the run? Hills are not a problem for me and besides, they just make the meal at the end even more rewarding. ”

There was a twinkle in Rike’s eye as she thought of a route through the town. “There are some runes of an old castle that overlook the entire town. It brings a feeling of… hmm.” She scrunched her eyebrows together in deep thought, trying to mentally translate a word. With the lack of a single translation, she attempted to describe it. “Waldeinsamkeit. Wood-alone. The sort of… sublime and spiritual experience of solitude while in nature.” Rike unscrunched her eyebrows as she continued, “As for breakfast, if we are going to eat anywhere in town, we will have to have Weißwurstfrühstück.”

With a bright grin, Kate answered, “That sounds wonderful!” She gestured at the doors and continued, “So, shall we get running? Oh, and by the way, if you want to speak German, I am rusty, but I should be able to manage.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. It’s only the compound words that tend to be a bit messy,” Rike spoke as she entered the holodeck. She took in the scene– half-timbered buildings going up a hill, a river to the east flowing through a grassy field, trees rising in the distance and surrounding the village, and distinct rubble stone walls of a spur castle to the south. The skies were clear and the morning air was a cool 15°. Rike grinned to herself after taking a deep breath of the air and without looking back, she took off.

Kate joined her in the deep breath while taking in the scenery, and when Rike suddenly departed, she laughed and followed, her red ponytail swishing in time with her stride. Once she caught up and fell into step alongside, Kate asked, “So, this is where you are from, yes? It is lovely!”

“I actually used to live on a farm about 5 kilometers away from here! We produced wheat, barley, and maize and my mother made beer with any leftover crop. Her beers are served at the pub just a few blocks away from here.” Rike looked up at the sky as she heard the caw of a carrion crow. “Oh, by the way, don’t pay any mind to the crows. They tend to follow me around and drop shiny things.”

A few rhythmic footfalls after a skyward glance that followed Rike’s, Kate wondered, “…Is that normal for birds here?”

“It is actually quite common throughout human history to befriend crows. Corvids are intelligent enough to memorize faces and even hold grudges against people.” Rike glanced over at Harper and grinned. “Though if you feed them regularly, they get to know you and bring you gifts in return.” She looked back up at the sky, watching a crow fly overhead, “I consider these guys to be my little friends.”

Returning Rike’s grin, Kate gushed, “How adorable and just delightful! This seems like such a wonderful place to have grown up, and you seem to have had quite the interesting journey from here to Atlantis.”

“That’s putting it mildly, especially the seven years I spent traveling prior to settling down on Tulgana IV. I actually spent a few months on Maranga IV, and I still have some Klingon friends from my time there.” Rike looked down a side street and pointed it out, “Oh! Down there was Mr. Walter’s home! I used to care for his garden when I was a teenager and when he passed I turned it into a community garden.”

Settling in to her breathing, Kate enjoyed the tour as they ran, and the hilly streets made her glad that she never skipped leg day. She found the Bavarian village to be incredibly charming, along with Rike’s tales of its inhabitants from her time here, and her adventurous life after her departure. Kate found herself reminded of Lt. Commander Ilaihr’s unorthodox path to Atlantis; the venerable Aenar had spent a veritable lifetime gaining insight and his unique flavor of wisdom before ever setting foot at the Academy. “You know,” Kate remarked as they crested a hill together, “I think that your life experiences have given you a unique perspective to bring to Starfleet.”

“Don’t most people join Starfleet after graduating from secondary school?” Rike squinted as she thought… she did have that option considering her grades when she graduated from her Gesamtschule, but she had foregone that to travel without restriction. She would not have done well if she had chosen to join Starfleet at 18, as she valued her own freedom over their strict regulations. After 50 years of life experience and watching as Starfleet crew came by, she gained an appreciation for such an organization that she had lacked in her youth.

“Yes, that is usually the case, but as you well know, there are exceptions.” Kate noticed some ruins starting to come into view ahead, but knew she would probably not have to ask Rike to tell her about them. “And you know, I am certain that we are better for them. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, as the Vulcans say.”

“I’ve always found the culture of Vulcans very interesting! I know I talk a lot, which would explain why some of them seem to get annoyed.” Rike gave an innocent shrug, as she pushed herself up the hill towards the ruins. “But like I tell people, if they want me to stop just tell me. I have a tendency to ramble, especially when I am overly excited about a topic. One time I literally talked someone to sleep over how dendrochronology works—”

With a mirthful chuckle as she wondered if Rike realized that she was rambling about her tendency to ramble, Kate turned and lowered her gaze to try to catch the shorter woman’s blue eyes. Rike was still talking about what specific areas of dendrochronology put that person to sleep, and as soon as she made eye contact, Kate interrupted as gently as possible, “So, what are these ruins all about?”

Rike didn’t realize she was rambling about her tendency to ramble but slowed down then stopped once she saw Harper looking down at her. She looked around at the ruins, taking in the view overlooking the village below. Fields were visible in the distance with trees surrounding the general area. To the opposite side of the village, more castle ruins could be seen. She gave a few moments of silence as she arranged her thoughts. She had already spent a little bit of the entire time talking as they made their way up to the ruins so for once, she wanted to have an ending to her usual endless rambles.

“This is the ruins of a high medieval aristocratic castle known as Streitburg Castle and just over there is the ruins of Neideck Castle. The area has been used in prehistoric times as a settlement area, and archeologists have found traces of the Early Roman Empire as well as the Great Migration period. The castles were also likely in use as early medieval hillforts.”

“How interesting!” Kate remarked after nodding along to the explanation, her eyes following Rike’s indications of the different areas. “Nothing is so old near my hometown on Risa, even though it is a more traditional area.” She stretched while they paused, grateful for the bit of rest; despite her excellent physical conditioning, the hills of this place demanded her body’s respect. Kate placed one hand on her waist and gestured at the ruins with another, and started to ask a question as her stomach growled. Instead, she grinned and asked, “So, where is the breakfast around here? It is about that time, yes?”

“Yes! There’s a tavern that serves the Weißwurstfrühstück that I mentioned earlier! It’s just riiiight down there—” Rike closed an eye and then pointed at the tavern near the middle of the village. “I hope you like sausage, pretzels, and beer!”

Her face brightened at the idea as she answered, “I do like those things, yes!” Kate’s sharp fighter pilot eyes easily picked out the tavern in the distance and, with her hunger making itself known, she was glad that the run there would be downhill. The two women set off running and, spurred onward by the prospect of a hearty German breakfast, made it to their destination in record time. Several minutes later, they shared a table loaded with a variety of the local fare. After washing down a mouthful of wurst with a swallow of beer, Kate nodded appreciatively. “This is quite the breakfast!”

“Mmm! Yes! The reason that we have Weißwurst for breakfast is that because it isn’t smoked or otherwise preserved, but rather boiled, it is perishable. Since the Weißwurst is made in the morning, it is best to eat it before noon, hence the Weißwurstfrühstück!” Rike dipped a piece of pretzel and dipped it into the sweet mustard on the plate before taking a bite.

“Then we had better not leave any leftovers.” Kate feigned a serious tone, but could only manage it for a moment before a vivacious grin lit up her face. Captain Harper found her new science officer to be positively captivating, and Rike’s tendency to ramble only added to her charm. With hopes that a new friendship was burgeoning, Kate raised her beer mug for a toast. “Rike, thank you so much for running with me this morning, and I would love to do it again, soon! Prost!

“Indeed, prost!” Rike raised her mug in turn and gave Kate a big smile. “Next time, you choose the destination and I will be sure to quiet myself and listen to whatever stories you have to share. As a Starfleet officer, I’m sure you’ve been around much more interesting people and places that a civilian couldn’t possibly go.”

“It is a deal!” Kate was skeptical that Rike would be able to keep quiet long enough to hear about one of her adventures, but that didn’t matter to her. Their mugs clinked together over the table as Kate added, still grinning, “I have a few tales to tell… on Atlantis, the stories tend to find us.”

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  •  Scott Ammora says:

    Character interaction at its finest! Love to see Rike’s backstory a bit, and Harper’s engagement with her crew. Solid work! Thanks for sharing!

  •  Emilaina Acacia says:

    Yet another great Captain’s Table (or Captain’s Run). Rike is a really great character, I appreciate her reflections on spending her young life free. Excited to see where else Rike goes. Good work!

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