Location: Main Bridge | USS Standing Bear
Before heading out Soral decided that he wanted to make one last round of the bridge. As he moved along hit his hands rested on various instruments. He was both familiar and unfamiliar with the ship itself.
He had never been there but his mirror self, the mind woven within his own had been there and had taken the controls very often. These reg-verse screwups didn’t know what they were doing. The thought was floating in his mind and he had to shake his head to clear it.
I am a reg-verse screwup. he said to his companion mind separate yet woven in.
Sighing Soral swung the console out and took the con. They weren’t going anywhere of course but his hands did the checks on the ship more for his mind and his nostalgic indulgence than anything else.
He would have indulged for hours if Hamura hadn’t have come by and drawn him into a conversation away from the helm. He was so focused that he didn’t notice the new helm arrival.
=/\= Later =/\=
Charlie was focused, eyes glued to the helm console as his fingers danced across the controls, entering parameters and checking outputs. He was still in the very final stages of calibrating the helm controls, the thrusters and the impulse engines to his liking. He'd only had seven-and-change hours to get it done and it was rougher than he'd prefer, smoother than what had been there, to begin with.
The helmsman was working on double-checking the last of his manoeuvres. For some of them, standard orbital and positional stuff, the computer did everything, adjusting power management and thruster output to achieve the desired effect. For others, the more intuitive ones like offensive and defensive manoeuvres and a couple of the extra special ones, the settings were only for systems and power, and he'd execute the actual manoeuvre manually.
The computer beeped thrice, indicating the last variable for the final setting had been accepted and Charlie grinned to himself, performing a tiny shuffle of a chair dance on impulse. He'd achieved in seven-and-a-bit hours what should have taken 24.
When his conversation with Hamura was over Soral walked back to the helm. “Hello,” He said to the person there. “You are new.” It was a statement plain and simple.
Charlie turned, eyes tracking up the commander's uniform to the rank pips and past to the pointed ears, and then he slid sideways out of his chair, coming to his feet. He took Soral for a Vulcan, and Vulcans tended to be sticklers for decorum. "Yes sir," he confirmed, "Lieutenant junior grade Charles McCullen, Chief Conn Officer."
Soral gave a nod. “Indeed. I look forward to reading your record when I return from leave.” He looked at the console that he’d sat it a while ago. “What is your impression of this unusual ship?”
Ah, yeah, the captain had mentioned that the XO was going on leave, and he assumed this was who he was talking with. "It's, uh... hard to say, sir." Charlie hedged his bets, "until I take her out and, uh..." get to know her, didn't seem right for a Vulcan, "... learn her, uh... characteristics in flight. But first impressions... she's a warship, a hunter-killer, kinda like the Defiant concept but more aggressive. She doesn't have any of the, uh... compromises, made by the Federation."
Soral’s lip twitched, “Indeed, she is a huntress. Although she has been renamed to the Standing Bear, the previous owner, I have it on good authority, named her Wrath of Artemis, Destiny’s fist. Destiny for short.” He motioned to the consol. “She will treat you well you must learn the feel of her, I would suggest a few manoeuvres on route while you learn to hear her whispers.”
Caught off guard, Charlie's eyes widened. He had believed that he was the only one who half-imagined, half-heard the voice of a vessel. It wasn't a real voice, of course, he wasn't mentally unstable, but a combination of his own imagination, the disposition of the ship and sensory feedback from his control inputs. The voice varied depending on who the ship was, how she responded to his touch and what kind of dance they could perform together. The concept of a ship as a living, breathing person was not something he had shared and from an objective point of view it probably sounded insane, but so much of being not just a good, but a great pilot depended on it, on the relationship between the helmsman and the ship. The only other group of people who would probably understand were the engineers. Charlie was compelled to reach out and touch the edge of the console, Destiny would be her name in his head, from now on. Her true name. He was excited to find out what kind of person he would be dancing with.
"Destiny it is, then." The helmsman turned to the commander, unable and unwilling to inhibit the excited grin growing across his face. He was beginning to get the idea that there was more to Soral than your average Vulcan. He doubted pure logic allowed for sentimentality over past names, or imagined whispers from the consoles of starships. "I'm looking forwards to getting to know her."
“Indeed. She will serve Starfleet well and I have no doubt that you will find a way to dance together.” He studied the officer. “I shall not be joining you for a while yet as I have some…leave time however when I return I shall see you out and you can tell me of your adventures with Destiny. And by that being said when I am back at my post, I tell all crew that my door is opened to all who wish to speak.” He paused. “Perhaps an informal interview but tell me of yourself and your philosophy of flight.”
"I'm a Starfleet brat," Charlie replied simply, "I was born on a ship an' I grew up in space. I've done just about every job there is to do on a starship, but piloting is the only thing I'm really good at." He patted the console, "piloting is about feeling and, and... understanding what a ship can and can't do, and it's... it's a conversation between the systems, the engines, the pilot and the ship, it's a dance." The helmsman shook his head, aware he wasn't explaining himself very well. "It isn't like science, or, or... engineering or, like that... it's not a skill you can learn from a book, or in a classroom. Ask me to write a paper about how to pilot a ship through the atmosphere and land on a planet, I'd be stuck. Put me at the helm and I'll do the calculations in my head and I'll just... do it."
“Then I am guessing that Destiny is in good hands. Piloting is an art, a way to create flow with your hands and even in the most tumultuous of times there is peace at the helm.” Before he could say anything Hamura walked up.
“Your ship is ready to depart, sir,” They said keeping it formal when crew was present. Their friendship only started when duty was completed.
“Thank you Hamura.”
Hamura looked at the pilot and grinned. “I see you’re getting the informal grilling. Has he told you about this ship’s special feature?”
Soral raised an eyebrow. “I did not want to frighten him.”
Hamura looked at Charlie, “You don’t seem like you frighten easy do you?”
~Aside from being in a constant state of near-crippling social anxiety~, "No, I guess I don't." Charlie mustered a grin for his fellow junior lieutenant, he assumed Hamura was talking about the cloak, which he did already know about. "Like I said I'm a Starfleet brat, I've been out here my entire life. I've learned that there isn't much a solid crew and a good ship can't handle together."
Hamura smiled, "Well I'll be in the transporter room, you might ask the commander about the big blue button." Hamura walked away.
Soral stared after them. "Indeed, perhaps I should tell you...not even the captain knowns of this."
Half of Charlie's brain was trying very hard to be sceptical in fear that the commander was playing some kind of practical joke on him, but the other half was jumping up and down like a child at a candy store and as usual, the little kid was winning the battle of wills. "Please," He replied, doing his level best to keep the excited tone out of his voice, "do tell."
He smiled, "Reach under the panel. Towards the back, you will feel two a triangle of finger grooves. Compress them at the same time."
Somewhat gingerly, Charlie reached under the panel, his fingers seeking and finding the grooves towards the back. After a second's hesitation, he squeezed them together.
A small buzz sound was heard and then a small section of the right panel popped open revealing a blue button underneath. "If the ship is ever in danger but not boarded press the button once. If the ship is boarded press it twice. I shall let you find out by choice what one press will do but two presses will allow the ship to focus on all life signs that are not the norm for the ship and listed on the manifest of the crew. Those will be transported, wherever they may be, and into one of the holodecks that will be sealed and walls electrified." A darkness passed Soral's stormy eyes. "The previous owner was a rather boorish man who found the security of his crew very important."
Charlie sobered at the realisation of what he was looking at. A single control that bypassed a bunch of security protocols and took over multiple functions of the ship that the captain didn't know about? Every part of him that was the Starfleet brat, born and raised, warned 'danger! This was the underbelly, the hidden darkness that lay under the veneer of Starfleet pastel colours and padded panels. This was not the USS Standing Bear,, but the ISS Wrath of Artemis, Destiny’s fist.
Charlie knew almost immediately that he'd have to report this to the captain, and to the chief of security. He was also aware that doing so would likely put him in a bad place with the XO, and there was something... sinister, about the person standing in front of him. It was almost too wild to believe and he looked at the commander, incredulous. "At least," he told Soral, trying to maintain as light and casual a tone as he had used before, "it doesn't beam them out into space. Who else knows about this... thing?"
"You, myself and Hamura and I am guessing you will let the captain know. Just by way of something else, the captain's code will need to be entered to use this feature fully or Hamura can disable it if the Captain wishes."
As quickly as Charlie's fears had grown, they slipped away and he was left feeling slightly foolish, "you, uh... guess right, sir." He was compelled to rub at the back of his neck, giving him a momentary school boyish appearance. "What, uh... what does the single press do?"
Soral’s mouth turned up in the shadow of a smile. “It is something that I shall let you figure out. When you are trying to shakedown the ship...I shall dare you to try it.” He placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Welcome to the Bear. I shall enjoy working with you.”
Charlie couldn't help but grin, he was a sucker for a dare, and the thrill-seeker in him couldn't resist. "All right, commander." He agreed, "but if I get thrown in the brig, you're baling me out, sir."
"It shall not come to that. The Captain will discover a new way to protect crew and ship, you shall be the hero." He sighed. "If you will excuse me I have a ship to catch to Vulcan."