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It is time for a few small repairs, she said

Posted on Wednesday, 1 June 2022 - 7:38am by Ensign T'Nile Xera & Captain Pippa Whitley

Mission: Operation: My Unfair Lady
Location: Main Engineering

"Good to meet you too."

Xera T'Nile murmured quietly. The self proclaimed Bajulcan (Bajoran/Vulcan hybrid) had just reported aboard the Standing Bear, where the Officer of the Deck had given her directions. Although the transport courier had been high speed, getting from her previous posting to the Standing Bear still took some time. Without much in the way of amenities or recreation, even her mental skills had been taxed. Even worse was her body clock, which was calibrated to the courier, but now she wasn't sure what time it was shipboard, or even when her shift was. Storing her possessions in her new quarters (which ended up being mostly Engineering tools), the replicators provided everything else. After a quick sonic shower to freshen up and dressed in a neatly pressed gold uniform, she wandered into Main Engineering.

For a moment, there was a standoff, as the resident Engineers on duty had stared at her. Not hostile, of course, as Engineers somehow recognized another member of the tribe, but they were aloof, akin to lions protecting their homes. After the novelty had worn off, she had been left to her own devices, figuratively and literally. In her standard posture, not quite ramrod straight, she had walked around, elbows by her side, her hands forward, fingertips touching, looking somewhat like a ship plowing the waves. That impression had lasted a few seconds, as the fingers on her left hand were in motion, tapping her right hand in apparently random motions.

T'Nile ended up near a workbench, on which sat... She leaned over and blinked at it, pulling a silver rimmed monocle and put it over her left eye. Clearing her throat slightly, the fingers of her left hand flying about, began her Professional Rapid Assessment Monologue. "Item appears to be sensor pallet, based on GCS-SSPFF, stop. Ingeniously designed pathways and shielding ensure no cross bleed or feed between elemental functions, stop. Sensor clusters in right upper quadrant, enhanced optical zoom mounted within a resonance platform feed, stop. Cluster of quad high speed data nodes and subprocessors with FTL core, stop."

Pausing to adjust the monocle, leaned forward to one section as she resumed the left hand finger taps onto her right hand. "New paragraph. Curious, sensor cluster here appears to be TDAR, stop. Tachyon Detection And Ranging, for lack of a better term, stop. While tachyons have been used for multiple purposes, travelling faster than light does not provide adequate sensor resolution or closer control, stop. However, if this device is a chroniton core, the resulting returns could in fact mean this sensor pallet is a Low Probability of Intercept sensor, stop. Logical, given the ship's intended function as reconnaissance, as tachyon scans would be rather difficult yo detect, hence the LPI appellation, stop. From Engineering standpoint, consider implications for EW and FTL sensor spoof through inverse reticulating spline projection."

"Stop, new paragraph, inclusion of narrow band EM sensor implies short range work by designers, potentially in the form of orbital studies analysis. Stop, newly designed power distribution network with octuple redundant transtator based MOSFET allows for sufficient power and minimized thermal bloom and drowning out instrumentation." Pulling off the monocle and storing it, T'Nile nodded approvingly at the hardware, even on just the cursory observations she performed

Captain Pippa Whitley and their acting First Officer, Lieutenant T’Lanna Vali had been working ‘round the clock to ensure that the new USS Standing Bear would be ready to leave on schedule for its first sanctioned mission under the United Federation of Planets with a Starfleet crew. The starship itself, had a handful of years on it according to the engineering reports, but having been taken from a mirror universe, it had never been in service of Starfleet nor the Federation until now. There was still a lot to be studied and much to be learned about the new starship, its Ulaan class design, and all the bells and whistles that were still being examined including but certainly not limited to its cloaking device which was so far being kept offline and hushed by order of the Federation. They did not want to ruffle too many feathers with their recent acquisition.

The half-Efrosian Commanding Officer assigned to the newly acquired starship had briefly been in command of the previous starship bearing the namesake of Standing Bear, and they were responsible for the Federation getting their hands on this unexpected consolation prize for after Captain Whitley ordered all crew to abandon ship as they set a collision course for a mirror universe Borg cube, and had rigged their starship to self-destruct, anticipating the Borg to prevent the collision, and use a holding beam to secure it and bring the starship within itself, a costly mistake for them.

It had been ample time for the crew to take claim to a partially assimilated starship as the Borg Cube set off and began immediate repairs. Whitley and her crew were able to take the captured starship back home through the tear in space after retrieving their escaped crew from escape pods and auxiliary craft. Whitley’s actions were brazened and unconventional, proving there was something more to them than just a scientist and diplomat. The captain’s actions saved the lives of their crew and ensured the captured vessel would become theirs to command.

Pippa and T’Lanna had gone through dozens of personnel files and had painstakingly accepted and rejected an abundance of transfer requests. The tedious task of getting the right personnel for the new USS Standing Bear, and they could not afford to personally interview most of them. With Lieutenant Kolani’s request to transfer to be placed on a special assignment, Operations was skeletal, and Pippa still had the matter of a bare bones Engineering department to handle. It had made the most sense to move Hamura from Engineering to Operations and find someone capable of taking the Chief Engineer seat. Pippa had scouted a few personnel files of engineers, all newly assigned to the starship. As Commanding Officer, Captain Whitley knew their next Chief Engineer was among those few.

“Don’t go stealing any of it for your personal collection,” teased Pippa as they had found themselves stumbling across a woman taking note of equipment. Pippa had recognized the woman as an ensign they recently approved of for the starship, and one of the ‘candidates’ that was up for consideration to take over the department, but Pippa wanted to proceed without a Chief Engineer for the time being. I’ll get to know each of them and evaluate how they are doing. I want to make sure we have the right person for the job Captain Whitley thought to themself.

Whitley smiled briefly at the woman. “You’re Ensign…” Pippa fumbled with some mental fog. The woman was half Bajoran and half Vulcan. They could not remember which naming convention that the ensign used. “I’m sorry. There’s a lot of new faces coming aboard, and I am still learning names, pronouns, and everything in between” explained Captain Whitley.

"Ensign Xera. Xera T'Nile, Captain." T'Nile was able to think quickly enough. As a young child, she had visited Bajor, which was memorable for a number of reasons, the most of which happened early. The Cardassian Occupation of Bajor, plus the Bajorans' rugged, outdoors lifestyle meant more than a few looked older due to hardships. She had accidentally referred to a man's wife as his mother, which had caused more than a few giggles even as the husband tried to keep a straight face, but couldn't. However, the lesson sprung to mind to assign titles or assumptions, so she settled on rank, in turn demonstrating her name preference.

"Hardly, Captain." T'Nile gave her new CO a somewhat wry look. "I do not know who has more ego. The Designer who believed they have made the perfect product, or the Engineer who thinks the Designer has never left their lab and thinks said product is a kludge." Wrinkling her nose slightly (which was impressive given her Bajoran ridges), she wandered over to an industrial replicator, calling up a menu and keypad. Her short, stubby fingers poked rapidly but clumsily and after a minute, the replicator hummed and she moved to a bench, carrying everything.

"Scale model, good for proof of concept." This time, T'Nile raised an eyebrow, Vulcan style. "The use of a tachyon sensor inbuilt has some intriguing possibilities, Captain." While she spoke, she carefully brushed the components away to reveal a breadboard. Employing the skills of a surgeon she continued, her hands performing an intricate dance while connecting leads and moving the smaller gadgets around. "The problem of sensors has been one since the dawn of time. Limited by distance and resolution, in a sense. If you can get higher, you can see further, but then eyesight becomes a limiting factor, you must get closer to see what that something is. Long range subspace sensors have the same problem. Similar to a telescope, you only see in a limited field of view. To effectively determine what an object is, get close, drop to impulse, use all the other sensors at your disposal."

She pointed at a scale model of the same sensor cluster. "Tachyons travel faster than light, but you cannot detect them. We can detect ships entering warp, or dropping out of warp, but typically not in between, not without getting exotic. Even then, due to the nature of tachyons, you cannot get a lot of useful information out of it. You can use it for detection and ranging, but that would be about it given our current level of technology. However, you can insert this miniature pallet into say, a Class 8 or Class 9 probe. Turn it from passive into active. By including a neutrino generator, add in a holoprojector, maybe even a comm system, you could use it to return the sensor signature of a decloaking Bird of Prey. It would not work for long, but it could prove a useful distraction."

T'Nile paused, stepped back from the table and with both arms, and let them drop to her sides, shaking them slightly. After a few moments, the sleeves bulged. Being left handed, she reached into her right sleeve, from which was sticking out a hyperspanner, which she was using to join the circuits. From her left sleeve, her right hand pulled out, "Where are my manners, Captain. Sugared lemon?" She held up a small, rounded, yellow-white shape.

The Captain declined the offer politely. "Perhaps another time," Pippa replied gesturing to the sugared lemon. "I am doing a bit of exploring to get to know my starship a bit better. She and I haven't had much time together yet, and part of me cannot help but feel she's very much a wild mare."

"Ensign Xera," Pippa added warmly. It was nice to have the name matter settled. "As a scientist, I certainly appreciate anything that can be done to our probes or sensor systems to improve them. I'm sure when my Chief Science Officer is back on duty, she too will be grateful. Though I do caution you, a lot of the equipment aboard is still being examined because of its origins, not being from our universe that is. You may find some things a bit perplexing."

"Technology is neutral, Captain. We will adapt it to our needs." T'Nile replaced the sugared lemon into her left sleeve. "I am concerned, however. Hardware is hardware is hardware, though it is up to our programming. I am certain some yard Engineer with a high forehead took the code apart line by line, which is easy enough, but then did a poor job converting it into our LCARS code. It may limit our uses. We would need to shake down the ship."

Tilting her head slightly, she gave the Captain another wry look. "Attend. Have you heard the story of the new Starbase Grand Opening? It was occurring at the same time a new Starship was being commissioned, along with a newly promoted Captain. The Starbase was impressive, the centerpiece of a stepping stone for Federation exploration, dignitaries, Admirals, everyone wanted to be present for history. However, this Captain was impatient, his brand new Starship should be out exploring, not sitting around while the speeches were made. In due course and on queue, he gets the signal and he presses a control. Instead of launching pyrotechnics, he instead launches a volley of photon torpedoes. The Starbase Grand Opening became a Huge Opening."

T'Nile somehow kept her expression neutral. "They also serve who only stand and wait, Captain. We just have to do our parts."

Pippa had to admit that Ensign Xera was a bit strange, but strange came with Starfleet. Scientist and engineers were probably of the oddest variety, and having been a career science officer, Pippa felt a sort of kinship with the ensign. "I leave the Engineering Department to handle the hardware and plate over the software matters to Operations personnel. Unfortunately, our Chief Operations Officer has left us and I have yet to formally assign someone in his place" explained Captain Whitley.

"Lieutenant Hamura has been our Chief Engineer, but I have begun the paperwork to transfer them from Engineering to Operations. I haven't broken the news to them yet. So, I'd appreciate if that bit of news stays between us for now. Proceed with what you need to and work with our Operations personnel to complete the job. You'll continue to report as you would, and Lieutenant Hamura will be heading the Engineering Department until further notice."

"Aye aye, Captain." T'Nile bowed semi formally, her arms crooked at her elbows again, the fingertips gently touching, but also the left fingers rapidly tapping against the right hand in apparent random patterns. Though still suffering time lag due to not having synchronized her body clock yet, the Captain's comments encouraged her to chip in and help the understaffed Engineering crew.


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