What's the Tea (Part I)
Operation: My Unfair Lady
Location: USS Standing Bear | Deck 01 | Captain's Ready Room
(PART 1 of 2)
Standing there looking out at the stars and the Starbase, Captain Pippa Whitley clasped the warm mug of a lady gray tea latte in their hands, nursing it with an occasional sip. To say that there was a lot going on in the captain’s mind was a woefully understated stance. The Chief Medical Officer was now a patient in their own sick bay, catatonic for some unknown reason. Answers they reminded themself. Those would come in due time, probably at the most random moment.
It was not just a Chief Medical Officer that was vacant though. The starship had lost Lieutenant Kolani from Operations, Harley from Flight Control as well. Positions needed to be filled, but rotating helmsmen would be a fine bandage for now. Chief Medical Officer was being taken out of Pippa's hands, something the captain was on edge about. The discussion with Commander Soral, however, was productive. They both were on the same page when it came to Operations.
Now, it was just a matter of breaking the 'good news' to Lieutenant Hamura and getting the Engineering Department to function as smoothly as possible under current circumstances and conditions. The captain had summoned Hamura and one of recently assigned engineers to the Standing Bear's briefing room and awaited their arrival.
"Captain?" Xera T'Nile stood in the doorway of the Briefing Room, half hesitating. It is not the Ready Room, but the Briefing Room, she chided herself. Personal quarters aside, the Captain's Chair and the Ready Room were two of the perqs and symbols of authority of the most senior person aboard a Starship. For her part, she had taken to spending most of her off duty hours exploring. Not the ship as such, but the Jeffries Tubes, the access crawlways and the small maintenance areas, even bodily climbing into the ceiling above the main Bridge, to inspect the data nodes and sub-processors, physically. It had been her quirk, having bruised knees and elbows from crawling all over, hauling a small set of circuits, probes and PADDs, performing her own hands-on readings through the ship.
T'Nile wore her dark hair long and flowing, opting to show off her Bajoran nose ridges, because those carried less baggage than her tapered ears, which once discovered raised the expectations of Vulcan calm and pure logic to spring forthwith. She was both and she was neither Bajoran and Vulcan, being her own person and charting her own course. Immaculately dressed in her gold Engineering uniform, her standard issue boots were a slightly but not noticeably thicker in the soles. Her shoulders and legs were fairly muscular, though her middle presented a very mild soft bulge through a complete lack of exercise.
Striding into the room, her standard posture of keeping her elbows by her sides, the outstretched fingers touching, though her land hand constantly in motion, making tapping movements all over the palm and fingers of her right hand. "Captain." She said and bowed semi formally from the shoulders, her somewhat breathy, higher pitched voice added a slight lilt and melody to all she did.
Hamura had made their rounds feeling at peace for the first time in a long time. They knew what Soral had done for them was...great and both Hamura's that now resided within were on the same page. Things were slow. They'd just broken the news to Oriana last night of everything and as expected it had been a difficult conversation but a productive one.
Now, being back in their home, their soul home the felt that they were back in balance be it with a different temperament. It would take some getting used to.
They had just been doing a few engine tests when the call came in to see the CO. They sighed and headed out.
=/\=Main Bridge =/\=
Hamura had stopped by the bridge to check on some interfaces and then run into Ori. They stared over her shoulder. "You look tired."
Oriana looked up. "We talked until a few hours ago, how are you so chipper?"
Hamura grinned. "I have my engines back. That and you are all I need."
Oriana smiled, "Well I'm glad that the merging thing hasn't changed your charm."
Hamura smiled. "Nothing could do that short of taking away my engines. Dinner tonight, more talking?"
Oriana gave a nod. "Sounds good. I have a few questions."
= Briefing Room =
Hamura smiled and then said their goodbyes heading to the briefing room. They entered whistling. "Hello all." And all was the captain and an unknown element. He nodded at the addition. "Hello there." Taking in the uniform she maybe in his department. "You will be happy to know Captain that our engines are purring and ready to go."
Captain Whitley was pleased to see that both individuals were on time and had arrived closely one after the other. This certainly made matters easier for greeting purposes. "Welcome, both of you. Please feel free to help yourself to the replicator for a refreshment and sit wherever you would prefer," added Pippa who already had a mug that they were nursing with an occasional sip here and there.
The half-Efrosian Captain eyed the two officers over, very different. They both were engineers through and through, but having served with Hyashi Hamura the past few months, and having met the ensign a not too long ago, Pippa knew that they would each have their own approach to matters. In some ways, compliment one another nicely though there was certainly potential for friction as well. "I like my engines purring," Pippa replied to the current Chief Engineer.
"Lieutenant Hamura, this is Ensign Xera, she's recently came aboard and will be serving in engineering alongside the rest of our returning and newly assigned engineers. I know that you will ensure that they are welcomed,” said Captain Whitley. "Ensign, if you'd like to share a summary of your areas of expertise?"
"Lieutenant." T'Nile bowed formally to her Department Head again from the shoulders but froze in place as the next words registered. For once, she was thankful that Mother had paid some attention to her after all and had taught some semblance of Vulcan calm. Managing to keep her face under control, she went to the Replicator, not because she was thirsty, nor being polite, she knew it was a stalling tactic. Taking her lemon lime mineral water to the table, she also ruefully noted with her hand holding the glass, she could not even use her hands to trigger mental exercises. Calculating briefly, she moved to the captain’s left, remembering that right handed people often favoured their next most senior to their right.
Standing at the table, she unconsciously plonked her tall glass down, without sitting down first. With her arms in their normal position with elbows near the ribs, that was her normal posture. However, standing up, it caused the contents of her left sleeve to drop onto the table, which included a deck of playing cards (Terran), two isolinear optical chips and a circuit probe. "Excuse me." However, that was worse. Still standing, the hyperspanner dropped from her right sleeve as she attempted to rectify the problem. After a few seconds of scrambling, everything was tucked back into her sleeves.
"Captain. I do not believe Engineers should focus on a specialty too much." T'Nile began her opening volley after hesitating briefly. "The best tool in an engineer’s toolkit is their mind. Form and function of equipment may be foreign, but given enough foundation, a good Engineer can puzzle out any piece of technology from first principles. Take shields, for example. Space being relatively empty for our purposes, every race must use graviton generators, from which the shield bubble will sit and conform, or else it will dissipate. Power algorithms may vary and the form of energy generation and materials, though shields are shields."
Her eyes glazed over briefly as she became lost in thought. "My specialty is likely power distribution. I have spent most of the past few days in the crawlways. From the EPS nodes, how much energy dropoff. Our ODN, what is the network latency. By building this profile, we can optimize and reroute power and computer traffic, or determine where maintenance may be needed. By also measuring this, it is also possible to form a health check. Much as how if you sleep on your arm and minimize the blood circulation, your fingers begin tingling. In this manner, we can get a better feel for the overall health of the ship even without damage control reports." Frowning slightly, she looked at her superiors in turn. "I believe, respectfully, that all Engineers should rotate specialties, as well as learn new certifications, much as how our ship's Doctors must constantly attend conferences and learn new surgical techniques, Engineers too should learn more about their field and be given the opportunity to learn others... Respectfully... Lieutenant, Captain." T'Nile trailed off.
Hamura was both impressed and overwhelmed. This new recruit was smart as a whip, they could tell that. "Well, first off," They said with their most charming smile. "Welcome aboard. Second I can tell you know your engines and I look forward to working with you." Hamura smiled. "I think T'Nile will be a great addition to the team based on her introduction." They looked at both women. "I must admit I am a bit lax in the welcome package department, but I can arrange for yourself," they said to T'Nile, "And the rest of the new crew to have a tour and be brought up to speed. As chief I have a way of doing things but I'm always open to suggestions."
Captain Whitley looked at Ensign Xera, nodding in agreement with the majority of what the engineer had said. "I am fine with that philosophy of learning and expanding your knowledge, just remember to avoid becoming a jack of many, but master of none," Pippa said cautioning the enthusiasm.
"As for your lack of a welcoming package, Lieutenant Hamura, I do not believe you need to worry about that. I have a welcoming package of my own, and I need you both at your best," Captain Whitley premised. "Doctor Selin was left catatonic in her quarters after consuming some tea she replicated that contained a very particular plant-based toxin damn well lethal to Vulcans. Our current working theory is that it was delivered by the replicator unit, tampered with and safety protocols neutralized. I've taken precaution by taking them offline ."
Whitley gestured to the mug that they had been sipping from. "I made that myself the old fashioned manual way. I didn't want to chance being the next one sent to Sickbay. I need the two of you to join the ongoing investigation and determine how that poison ended up in the Doctor's tea, and if it is isolated to simply her replicator unit or the whole system."
Hamura madly made notes. They were silently fuming. How did that happen using one of their replicators. It was unheard of. They were proud of their systems. "The fact that it came that way makes this a sticky situation. Ops and Engineering are responsible for replicators we need to treat all of them as suspects." They gestured to Xera. "The Ensign is not a suspect as she just came on and I was off ship so that leaves me out but anyone who was here..."
Pippa nodded "Yes, you both are off the list of suspects. One issue us we are still moored here at the starbase. One of the starbase's personnel members could be responsible. We are looking at that end as well. My personal suspicions are that this is tied to what's going on in Cardassian space currently. They may be directly responsible. We won't know more until you take that replicator unit apart and do a thorough check of the systems."
T'Nile finally looked up at them both slowly. "Three things, Captain, Lieutenant." Oddly, her hands were in place and apart from breathing, she had not moved at all, though she raised arm and extended the index finger. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. V equals I times R." She finally said aloud. "While we can break Ohm's law into a simple memetic, the basic foundations are still relevant after all these centues. A Commanding Officer starts out as a junior member of a Department, working up to competency, rising through position and rank. They turn from specialist to generalist in turn, their knowledge becoming more broad based, in turn delegating tasks to their subordinates, while still maintaining a broad working knowledge of the principles, if not the applicables. My point was merely to build the skillset of the Engineering Department to ensure equal adeptness in the basics. With a strong foundation, focused learning will yield better results, merely requiring subject matter certification."
Shifting posture slightly, she held up a second finger, to denote the second topic. "Since you asked, I have studied Federation Replicator technology. Despite popular belief, it cannot create foodstuffs or otherwise by itself. Inorganic requests. Tools and the such are easy. For food, the replicator cannot generate living cells, or else it would be able to create life. Replicators use an organic protein base. Most typically Soy. Easy to farm, procure and store. It changes the cellular structure and uses additional stored nutrients, vitamins, minerals and similar to create food that can be eaten and digested by organic beings. This is a reason why I will happily eat replicated meat dishes, because the meat does not contain animal cells or matter, just converted plant, soy. The issue with the Replicators is not hardware based, since any food it generates comes from the same source. it is more likely software to the Doctor's Replicator."
T'Nile frowned and extended a third finger briefly before putting it down on the table and staring directly at the Captain. Her usual higher pitched, almost sing-song voice became flat. "You stated the Doctor's tea had a toxin lethal to Vulcans, though you did not know if it was isolated to that particular Replicator or through the ship's network. A plant based poison damn well lethal to Vulcans were your exact words. I am a half Vulcan. When you invited us to collect refreshments from the Replicator, you did so without considering that I might have been affected. Or perhaps you did consider it as part of your overall plan. While I do also have partial Bajoran physiology and my blended biology is unique, you did not warn me of the possibility I may too end up a patient in Sickbay, or worse. I took an oath to protect and defend the Federation. I serve at the pleasure of my Commanding Officer and I am duty bound to follow the orders of my superior officers, including sacrificing my wellbeing or life as necessary." Her nostrils flared slightly as she went silent again.
Hamura stared, blinked, then stared. A sudden flush coated their face. They had to take a few breaths. "First off," they started. "Ensign when speaking to the Captain you will show more respect to them. Especially since you are in my department, I won't tolerate it. Second of all each replicator has its own preset and code it's a fail-safe to ensure that meals and vitamins are created to each person's code for the in-house replicators as well as the ones in public that are meant to work by fingerprint and voice recognition. So, the chances of all the replicators being contaminated are slim. "And furthermore..."
"And furthermore, the Captain is right here, Lieutenant Hamura, and I can assure you that I can fight my own battles though I appreciate the overprotectiveness" Pippa said cutting the Chief Engineer off.
The Captain finished off their tea and chuckled for a few seconds longer than comfortable. "Ensign, you will do well aboard the Standing Bear. It is thinking like that which will keep you alive. Though I would counter that if something looks like meat, tastes close enough to meat, and manages to fool our olfactory system, it is strange to partake in the experience if one does not typically consume actual meat."
"Now, as to the replicator matter, congratulations. An officer does not achieve the rank of Captain without being at least moderately cunning. If you would have tried to order something, it should have prevented the request. Should that have failed, I would have stopped you. You haven't been aboard the Standing Bear long, but because you had arrived at the station beforehand, you were still a suspect to me until a few moments ago."
Pippa gave a nod of approval. "You completely turned down my hospitality regarding the replicator. The would be assassin would have wisely done the same unless they were immune; however, what they would not have done is berate me about it. I have been looking at your body posture and looking into your eyes, you are no longer a suspect."
=TO BE CONTINUED=