Whetu shifted nervously from foot to foot. She tapped the PADD in her hand softly, repeatedly, against her other hand. She glanced once more at Elyos, next to her, then back to the starfield outside the window of the shuttle. The shuttle pilot, apparently oblivious to her fidgeting, guided the small craft in a slow arc along the port side of the gantries and the ship that occupied them.
“I think your eyes still look swollen,” said Whetu to Elyos without turning to look at him.
“The doctor said that all of the capillary damage was repaired by vascular regeneration. You’re imagining it,” said Elyos.
“Even so,” said Whetu. She glanced at the PADD that she was holding, where the lengthy task list started with preliminary visual inspection of exterior hull.
The shuttle pilot banked slightly and made a slow, curving turn around the stern of the massive starship that hung like a jewel in a spiderweb over Mars. Elyos reached out a hand and steadied himself against the wall, then craned his head back at the gaggle of junior technicians on the bench seats in back. An enigmatic smile crossed his face.
“The enlistees are excited,” he said.
Whetu looked to Elyos, then back at the technicians. Most of the youngsters were leaning forward, eagerly trying to catch a sliver of a view through the forward window. She sighed and said to Elyos, “You’re getting a buzz from their excitement, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the empath said after a moment, with just a hint of smugness.
The shuttle continued in its long, slow journey, and Whetu heard the pilot humming under his breath. She glanced over the long curves of the ship as the shuttle weaved underneath, then along the starboard side, and finally settled into the shuttle bay. The rear door of the shuttle descended and the technicians filed out into a line and stood at attention. Whetu tucked her PADD under her arm and stepped out after them.
Elyos leaned over toward Whetu as they descended the shuttle ramp and said, “It’s just the flagship of the fleet. No pressure.”
Whetu grunted noncommittally in reply, but her breath caught for a second when she saw who’d come to greet them.
“That’s… Lieutenant Commander O’Brien,” she stammered.
Elyos said, “So it is. Why are you surprised? He’s the chief engineer.”
“I didn’t expect him to come in person. I thought he’d delegate this to one of his staff,” Whetu said.
O’Brien smiled broadly at the row of technicians as Whetu and Elyos fell into place with their enlistees. He said, “Welcome to the Enterprise. I’m glad to have the help of experienced engineers from Utopia Planitia here for our latest series of upgrades. We’ve made some modifications from the usual specs on the basis of experiences that we had during the Iconian War, so I’ve had updated technical specifications sent to your PADDs. I’ll be assigning junior officers and technicians from Enterprise to assist you as well so that this repair-and-upscale process will go as smoothly as possible. Those of you who are new to the fleet can learn a lot from the vets, so keep your eyes and ears open.”
O’Brien glanced over the assembled Utopia Planitia staff once more, his gaze sweeping over them as if he could identify their strengths and their skills with just a glance. Then he clasped his hands behind his back and said, “Basically, if you don’t know what something does, ask. If something doesn’t look like the schematics for an Odyssey-class, ask. And in the words of one of my father’s co-workers, ‘if you break it, you bought it.’” That brought a chuckle from a few of the technicians.
“That’s it,” O’Brien finished. “Head to the engineering conference room and you can meet up with your Enterprise counterparts. Make some introductions, have some Deka tea together, and set up your plans for tackling your assignments. Dismissed.”
As the technicians separated into a loose group and headed for the turbolifts, the chief engineer turned toward Whetu and Elyos. “Lieutenant Whetu, a moment of your time, please?” O’Brien asked.
Whetu nodded and suddenly realized that the odd whistling sound, somewhat like a balloon releasing just enough air to squeak, had come from her. “Um, yes, of course, Commander O’Brien,” she replied. She straightened slightly and tried to look professional.
O’Brien approached and offered his hand. “I’ve heard about your work at Utopia Planitia, naturally. I’m really looking forward to working with both of you. You’re on the rare list of folks who manage to have an adventure while in spacedock.” He grinned disarmingly.
Whetu started to hold out her hand, nearly dropped her PADD, then switched it to her other hand and shook O’Brien’s. “Thank you, sir. We’ve been reading all about your work on bringing the Enterprise to the top of the performance curve. A lot of it made it into the recommended revisions for the Odyssey-class in general.”
Elyos interjected dryly, saying, “I believe I saw your hand in some of those EPS modifications mentioned in the recent Jayce’s article.”
O’Brien laughed and released Whetu’s hand. He inclined his head briefly toward the Deltan and said, “Yeah, they got really excited about the upgraded capacities, especially for the phaser emitters. They’ve got that sort of militaristic heritage; you know, their largest subscriber base is Andorian. The captain reads them!”
“Why would Captain Shon read Jayce’s?” asked Elyos, looking puzzled. “He commands one of the top ships of the fleet. He’s not going to learn anything new from them.”
“Nostalgia, I think,” said O’Brien. “He’s been reading them since he was a kid on Andoria. Anyway, I just wanted to talk about our procedure here. I know that UP is used to having a hand on the rudder of ships in the gantry, Lieutenant Whetu, so I’m hoping to stay out of your way and focus on sharing my specialized knowledge with your crew. I just wanted to underscore that there are already a lot of nonstandard modifications on Enterprise. I’m happy to help out and to explain everything, and I want to make sure that nothing gets broken and, most of all, that nobody gets hurt by tinkering with something that’s not working according to the original specs.”
Whetu nodded. “Naturally,” she said. “I have our itinerary right here. I’ll keep an eye on the technicians. They’re reliable workers and good engineers. I don’t think we’ll have any problems.” She held up her PADD for emphasis.
“Great,” said O’Brien easily. “I have a department heads meeting at 1600 hours, so I have to duck out right after I look over the mains, but I’ll check in with you once that’s done and get on your schedule. Main engineering’s going to be full of fresh-faced ensigns working on the overall console and UI parameterizations, so we could meet up in ten-forward, if you like.”
“Sure,” said Whetu. “We need to go supervise the team and give the briefing on the ship layout and assignments, so that’ll give me time to get that out of the way.”
“See you then!” said O’Brien with another friendly smile. He turned and headed toward the turbolift, and gave a mock salute as the doors closed behind him.
Whetu paused for a moment, then without turning toward Elyos she said, “Did I just agree to a dinner date to discuss engineering with the chief engineer of the Enterprise?”
Elyos dryly replied, “Your limbic system thinks so.”
Staff Game Designer
Star Trek Online