Lieutenant Isa Cortez
After several years as a lead project designer at San Francisco Fleet Yards, Lieutenant Cortez's return to serve as Chief Engineer of a starship, especially one as relatively inauspicious as the Endeavour, has been of some surprise to her contemporaries. A brilliant engineer and excellent team player, Cortez runs an engine room with a light touch, constant good humour, and that element of magical brilliance that marks her as one of Starfleet's miracle workers.
Isabella Cortez grew up on Archer IV, eldest of a large family with a history going back to the colony’s first settlers. Living in a resort town, her parents operated a hire service of luxury shuttles for tourists. Isa’s childhood was thus spent either helping her busy parents look after her siblings, or, as she was older, with them in the shuttle maintenance bays. Otherwise she was high-achieving at school, naturally bright if not the most fastidious student, but her interest in the stars stemmed from more than a fondness for spacecraft. Travellers from across the galaxy visited her parents’ business, and an eager, friendly child absorbed the stories of dozens of worlds and lifestyles.
Her parents were initially resistant to her desire to join Starfleet out of worry for her being so far from her family and her safety. But Isa dug her heels and they eventually supported her. At the Academy she enjoyed a varied social life, but was challenged by her instructors after her first year for not applying herself enough. She buckled down and focused her studies as an engineer with a specialisation in propulsion systems, finding new outlets for her gregarious nature and fondness for challenges. In her final year she led the deck crew for the competition-winning Starfire Flight Team, sharing in the commendation they earned and joining them on the podium in their victories.
Graduating high in her class, she served two years on the USS Albright as a Damage Control Specialist. The Albright was on a long-distance exploration mission, during which Cortez gained serious experience with starship maintenance away from regular starbase support. She earned a commendation after the Albright was struck by an ion storm and damaged, risking injury by entering a maintenance tunnel engulfed in high temperatures to repair an EPS conduit that was in danger of overloading and taking out half a deck. It was also here she met then-Lieutenant JG Aria Vincente, a computer systems specialist. The two had a casual relationship before they were both transferred, parting on good terms, but Cortez jumped at an opportunity for a prestigious assignment on the USS Odyssey.
For these two years she capitalised on being assigned to one of the most advanced ships in the fleet. Cortez’s attentive eye on how the systems handled the challenges of her adventures was more than that of a dutiful engineer; she kept meticulous records and submitted many of her findings to Starfleet R&D, publishing several papers on how these technologies performed in the field. With her accompanying recommendations for future developments, she began to cultivate a reputation as a forward-thinking scientist, as well as a practical engineer.
She requested a post with the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, but with her experience was offered a fairly inauspicious position. At their recommendation she took an assignment as Chief Engineer on the USS Cook, a light cruiser operating on the Breen border. Contending with occasional raids, the ship saw a relatively high amount of combat and Cortez began to be considered one of Starfleet’s miracle worker engineers as she kept the Cook in one piece.
After three years she was offered, and accepted, an R&D team leader position at San Francisco Fleet Yards, now Starfleet’s foremost hub of starship development. It was there she was also reunited with Vincente, now one of her designers, and the two rekindled their nascent relationship. It grew more serious as the work did, or so Cortez believed. She led efforts to advance Starfleet’s power systems technology, which if improved could maximise starship efficiency and versatility. It was cutting edge work with the promise of a shining career in the SCE once she had successes under her belt, and Cortez’s superiors expected her to be the next big name in starship R&D. Two and a half years into the project, Cortez received an award for her work and, in an act she’d later claim was caused by being drunk on her own success, impulsively proposed to Vincente.
A shocked Vincente had to turn her down; the relationship was far less serious to her than Cortez. The immediate breakdown of their romance had a bad enough effect on Cortez’s work ethic as her team, under her now dispirited guidance, missed their next deadline. For two months Cortez was listless, believing Vincente’s refusal to commit was from some personal failing until a colleague, aggravated by her demeanour, revealed the truth. Not only had Vincente been less committed to the relationship, but she had also been unfaithful. When confronted, Vincente did not deny it but refused to transfer off the R&D team.
An attempt to pressure Vincente to leave brought Cortez before her superiors months later under accusations of abusing her position to deal with a romantic grievance. While the intervention was informal, Cortez was decided it was time for a change. In a characteristically impulsive move, she seized an opportunity when the USS Endeavour needed a new Chief Engineer. The posting was considered beneath one of her promise, but it meant that within a matter of days she was shipping away from San Francisco, and was off to the Klingon border.