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Part of Avalon Fleet Yards: Inside the Frontier

A Pig and a Mutton

Drydock AFY-713
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Mara’s steps faltered as she navigated the corridor toward Drydock AFY-713. The tension in her stomach twisted and turned like a relentless storm brewing within her. Each footfall felt heavier, laden with the weight of her apprehension. She couldn’t escape the fluttery feeling that had plagued her since dawn, a nervous energy that refused to dissipate.

Inside the sonic shower, the rush of water couldn’t drown out the whirlwind of thoughts swirling in Mara’s mind. She clenched her fists, trying to steady herself against the onslaught of emotions. Even as she grabbed a quick breakfast in the cafeteria, the atmosphere seemed suffused with her unease, casting a shadow over the mundane act of eating.

Now, as she approached the door to Drydock AFY-713, the knot in her stomach tightened further, threatening to suffocate her. With each step, the feeling intensified, like a vice grip tightening around her chest. The hiss of the door sliding open reverberated through the corridor, a mechanical echo of Mara’s own inner turmoil.

Stepping into the drydock, Mara’s gaze fell upon the figure of a woman standing with her back turned. The sight sent a jolt of nerves shooting through her veins. The woman’s brown hair was neatly coiled into a bun, a bag slung over her shoulder – the unmistakable silhouette of Mara’s new commander.

With trembling hands, Mara approached the woman, her heart pounding in her ears. She struggled to find her voice amidst the cacophony of emotions raging within her. “Excuse me,” she finally managed, her words tinged with uncertainty, “are you Commander Tolsa?”

The question hung unanswered in the air, floating alongside the small drifts of white smoke emanating from the desk concealed by Gail’s figure. The constant stream of dense white wisps floated elegantly through the air, each quiet hiss of her tools emitting another pair of spectral tango dancers on the minute currents of the environmental systems. As the woman lifted her right hand over her shoulder, her short stubby fingers extended awkwardly in an attempt at a welcoming wave, the silence was interrupted by a sudden piercing tone from the nearby wall panel. 

“’it that ‘ig ’ed ‘utton ’or ‘e.” She wiggled her head towards the wall panel next to her where a large red stop button had been fitted into the console, it’s angry red mushroom shape noticeably at odds with the smooth grey Starfleet aesthetic. “’oove got ‘bout ’en seconds.” Gail threw a glance over her shoulder, towards the button that lay slightly out of reach, the cause of her muffled speech to be a tool clutched between her teeth. 

Mara’s brows furrowed in confusion as she gaped at the unlikely sight before her. “A pig and a mutton!? On a space station?” Her voice carried genuine bewilderment, betraying her struggle to comprehend the absurdity of the situation.

Her gaze then shifted to a conspicuous object, her eyes narrowing in contemplation. “And what has that got to do with that big red… oh!” Recognition dawned on her, accompanied by a flicker of embarrassment. She cursed herself inwardly, realizing her apparent obliviousness.

Without further hesitation, Mara’s hand moved instinctively towards the wall, her fingers hesitating briefly before decisively pressing the big red button, fulfilling the mysterious request.

Both women waited nervously as the warning tone was silenced, the last of the small clouds of white smoke disintegrating into the ether. Satisfied there were no further warnings Gail quickly clicked a few final components into place and took the small driver from between her teeth and began screwing in the last plate. 

“Thanks for that Lieutenant, you just saved me a from another dull conversation with the dock master.” She stooped ever so slightly and pulled her chin to her chest, stoking a long imaginary beard as she imitated the officious Tellerite in a mock baritone, “That’s the sixth time you’ve set of the fire alert systems this month Commander. I get the feeling you aren’t taking the health and safety of the station very seriously” She tutted through her teeth. “What does he expect, we make and break things for a living, sometimes things get set on fire.” She smiled conspiratorially, “I found it on the Trinidad,” she motioned to the large red stop button, “a gorgeous old Saladin that came in from the Auxillary, ‘parently their chief engineer had the same issue.” She smiled, happily lost in the thought of the classic vessel for a moment. “Broosh would probably court-martial me if he found out. And now you’re an accomplice I suppose!” Gail shrugged dismissively, “Not a bad start for a new Breaker!”

Mara’s brows furrowed slightly as she glanced up, her voice laced with uncertainty. “Thank you, ma’am?” she replied, her tone betraying a hint of question. 

A faint smile danced on her lips as she continued, “You know, back home, whenever we encountered situations like these, we’d improvise with a bypass system at the main valve.” Her fingers tapped on a side panel as if she was illustrating something, her gaze drifting momentarily into the distance before returning to the present. “But,” she added, a twinkle of reminiscence in her eyes, “we weren’t exactly bound by Starfleet regulations back then.”

“Just Gail will do my love. Or crinkles…” She rustled a pocket on her jumpsuit, the secreted sweet wrappers crumpling their own miniature symphony. “Bypass valve is a fair call, how did you get around the inbuilt safety limitations of the computer infrastructure? That’s no small amount of coding to hide during your annual certification.” Her eyes lingered on the young woman’s fingers, still trailing a course over the cracks in the grey panel that indicated an access hatch, her distant gaze a sign of her journey on a familiar path. Starships and engineers, Avalon was home to many broken things, some found their way out quickly, some took a little longer. 

Mara’s eyes remained fixed on Gail, her expression revealing a mix of anticipation and observation. “Well, another bypass basically,” she said, her tone tinged with a hint of mischief. “It allowed us to flip the switch to turn it on and off.” Then, as if an afterthought had struck her, she added, “But civilian freighters don’t get the deep-dive audits that ‘the bureau’ claims to be doing. Sometimes we wouldn’t spot them for up to three years.”

Gail toyed with the soldering tool in her hand, rolling it’s tip around her palm in one of the many divots in her calloused skin. The latest addition to the team was promising, a young woman with a singular mind for understanding the mechanics, particularly when it came to the historic vessels 713 often saw, but she was nervous and lacked confidence. A smile alighting on the corner of her lips Gail decided to test the waters. 

“And if, hypothetically, I asked you to replicate that bypass here, purely as a research tool, would you be able?”

Mara’s laughter bubbled up, a spontaneous reaction to the sudden realization of how comfortably this place had woven already itself into her sense of belonging. She fought to suppress the grin tugging at her lips, striving for a serious façade. “I wonder,” she mused aloud, “if it could seamlessly integrate with these systems. Purely for research purposes, naturally.”

The two women locked eyes, grins growing wider by the second. “Lets do some research then shall we? Hyperspanners are in the top drawer, watch out for Daisy, she gets excitable.” An unexpected giggle escaped Gail’s lips as bags were shoved to the side and experiments placed on the shelf as another Breaker joined the family.