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Part of USS Aquarius: Unstable Weather

Space Invaders

USS Aquarius
Day 0
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“Lieutenant Kyle?” Spoke a young bolian woman as she approached the Chief Engineer. “I’m Ensign Jalta…systems analysis.”

Elizabeth was sitting at one of the diagnostic consoles in main engineering with a PADD in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other.  Looking up from her report she paused a moment taking in the Bolian.  “Yes, Ensign.  What can I do for you?”

Jalta nervously ran her hand over the blue ridges that bifurcated her face vertically. “I was running a second pass over some of the targeting sensors…we’d been having trouble with the upgraded ODN lines shorting them out and throwing the alignment off…but it looks like it’s fixed now, as of my last pass.”

“That’s good, but what is the cause? ODN lines don’t just ordinarily overload systems unless improperly installed or faulty.”

”Well, ma’am, that’s the problem…there wasn’t any repair teams assigned to that job in the schedule yet.” Ensign Jalta replied. “…and then I checked the repair logs, and there wasn’t any notation left either about it.”

Elizabeth set both her coffee and the PADD down and started entering commands onto to the panel. The Bolian was correct.  The repair log was incomplete,  and she certainly hadn’t ordered any upgrades.   The time for fine tuning and upgrading wasn’t here yet.

”…it happened recently.” The Bolian glanced down at a nearby display console. “Looks like…just a few minutes, over in Junction 8E.”

Elizabeth sighed,  “I better go check it out.  Sounds like a tactical officer trying to take the initiative.   It wouldn’t be the first time.”

She reached under the console and retrieved her tool kit. She glanced around. All of her officers were leading teams elsewhere.  “Well Ensign,  engineering is yours,  but I suggest listening to Chief Petty Officer Leisten. He’s got a decade more experience than both of us combined.”

“Er, yes ma’am!” Jalta said hesitantly, the full extent of what the Lieutenant had just said hitting her.


The Jefferies Tubes were close and cramped of course, illuminated by light fixtures running in strips along the sides and the glow of consoles and circuitry dimly shining through grates and access panels that lined the interior surfaces. Crawling was required to get through them…but one could stand at the end of each tube, past the access hatch, where the tubes either would end into the main rooms and hallways of the Aquarius or into a Junction where multiple tubes would meet.

The Junction rooms themselves were still cramped by comparison to a typical room or section of Hallway, but the majority of the Aquarius’s humanoid crew could stand quite comfortably in them…this accessibility also made them prime locations in which to get work done on nearby major ship systems.

Junction 8-E for instance, allowed access to multiple systems and sub-systems…two of which were currently being accessed by a towering figure who had to hunch over to stand up in the cramped room. Dressed in full Klingon-styled armour, the statuesque pale-skinned woman was busy working on a sensor array monitor, occassionaly retrieving a small engineering tool from the variety of similar devices that were threaded through her thick dreadlocks.

She suddenly stopped and turned around while dropping to a knee to peer down one of the Jefferies Tubes with a snarl. “Who comes this way?” She growled with an instinctive defensiveness.

Elizabeth popped out the end of a tube and casually sat down on the edge of it.  She was tall for more human females, but this Klingon woman towered over her. Don’t show you are intimidated, she reminded herself.

“You know, someone could ask the same of you.  It’s not often someone comes mucking about in my playground,  and I don’t know about it.”

“I am Lieutenant Commander Q’orvha.” The Klingon responded, her purple eyes leering out the shadows of the hood of her robes, studying the sitting human. “Daughter of Kortar the Ferryman…and as of a few hours ago, Chief of Strategic Operations for this, Aquarius.

“That’s an impressive set of titles. I am Lieutenant Elizabeth Kyle,  Chief Engineer. My friends call me Liz.”

“…well, that explains the metaphor.” Q’orvha replied, taking out a probe device from her dreads and turning back around to continue her work. “If you are worried about not knowing who’s ‘mucking about’ in your ‘playground’, perhaps you should tighten your operational security…especially while we are still stationary, in dock.”

The Klingon paused for a moment and frowned as the probe beeped out a negatory signal. “Hmm…that toolcase, you have…does it contain a TR-33 or equivalent multitool? This task requires something more precise then the basic tools I brought.”

“It does not,” she replied,  and plucked the TR-33 from the front breast pocket of her uniform. “Never leave home without it. What precisely is it that you are doing?”

“I am increasing the fidelity and resolution of the lateral sensor array.” Q’orvha said as she took the device from Lieutenant Kyle and aimed it towards the opened access panel. “…I noticed deficiency while I was fixing the targeting systems…both arrays use a similar frequency which is just close enough to cause them to interfere with the other when both are active at the same time…if I can adjust the array’s frequency by .03-” The klingon gave a measurement unit that sounded like a komodo dragon with a hacking cough, that the Universal Translator could not effective translate. “-then I can not only prevent this unintended error, but also gain a small boost to the lateral array’s efficiency.”

“You could have requested the repair.  I could have assigned a repair crew to this.” She sighed, “It’s going to take months to sort this ship out.  ‘Good enough’ may be fine for the yard monkeys,  but I don’t accept anything less than optimal.”

“As someone who has once laboured as the lead engineer of another Starfleet Vessel, I more than understand your trials and tribulations.” Q’orvha replied. “As for the repair…I checked the duty assignments and noticed that it had been assigned yet, while both the dock workers and your own staff already had a full docket of work to complete. As I had identified the problem and I had the skills to fix it, I ventured forth into this ship’s bowels to conquer it myself. Now, it need not be heaped upon the roster at all.”

The TR-33 device gave an affirmative beep and Q’orvha double-checked her own work before slamming the access panel shut with a hearty “Q’aplaH! It is done!”

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at that and shrugged figuring it was a Klingon thing and she probably wouldn’t understand.   “May I ask a question? What’s with the  whole cloak and dagger thing with the hood pulled over your head?”

”You are actually asking three different questions…which I will answer to the extent that I am allowed.” Q’orvha replied, her moment of scant jubilation receding into a heavy sigh. “To the first, the phrase “Cloak and Dagger” as a metaphor…as Strategist, my work is linked closely with Starfleet Intelligence…as one officer once put it, I am the ‘Resident Spook’…

”The second, cloak and dagger in the literal sense: Despite everything, I am still Klingon…and technically, a civilian specialist, as I have never attended your Starfleet Academy…and my rank and assignment are all provisional, a position to which the only real advantage is that I have more leeway in what I wear…my rank this time recognizes my seniority however, and that affords me further dispensation to carry a sidearm and items of cultural significance…” Q’orvha paused for a moment to shift her robe, revealing the sheathed daggers hanging from her belt over her hips. “I would have preferred a brace of disruptor pistols, but alas my dispensations only go so far for everyday wear.”

The Klingon paused to hand back the TR-33 and then continued. “To the final question, why do I wear the hood of my robes drawn over my head…simply put, to offset the symptoms of a genetic curse. Most Klingons do not have skin as white as bleached ivory…I was born an albino and as such my eyes are rather sensitive to light.

”On a Klingon vessel, my vision would not be an issue…but you Federation types do so love your ambient luminance.

Elizabeth nodded taking in the information and tapping her chin.  After a moment she spoke, “The later was to which I was referring,  but as such I do not see any honor in calling your condition s curse.  Without it you would not be you.  It has shaped the person you are. As far as the lights.   What can I do? No one should be in physical pain.  We could start with your quarters and the deck on which you reside.  We could do the same for the crew lounge.   It’s a lounge,  a little mood lighting would never be questioned.”

“You presume much for such a young officer, Lieutenant.” Q’orvha rebuked with a hand wave and an low growl of irritation. “Especially knowing so little about me or the person I am. I have already made the adjustments to the environmental settings in my quarters…this is not my first assignment on a Starfleet vessel, and I have submitted requests for my bridge duties to occur during the so-called ‘Graveyard’ shift, where lowering the lights is customary on most vessels to maintain an artificial day-night cycle…for all else, a lowered hood or a brief bit of discomfort will do fine.

“While I do find myself missing the dim din of the Bird of Prey I once commanded, I am not about to make my…environmental preferences…a daily imposition upon this vessel or her crew.” Q’orvha sighed again and drew her growling back down as she regained her cold composure. “It is not in my current disposition nor circumstance to do so.”

Elizabeth shrugged,  “I presumed nothing, nor am I so young. To that end, I wouldn’t act without the blessing of the captain and XO. I only presented to you options to reasonably accommodate your condition.  It’s very Klingon of you to suffer in silence,  but you shouldn’t have to.” She picked up her tool kit and sighed. “If you need anything and it is within my power to do so, it shall be granted.”

Q’orvha just stared at the younger woman for a brief moment, before bursting out in a chortling laugh. “Klingons? Suffer in silence? Hah!” This break in her serious demeanor was accompanied by several loud and powerful slaps of her hands against the bulkheads. “Hardly…you really must not have been around that many Klingons in your life…when a Klingon, especially warrior-class is suffering, he may not admit to it…but he definitely will not be quiet until the issue is resolved one way or another. If not outright mewling like a Ferengi getting their lobes pierced, then at least they will be complaining about every little thing or shouting at the moons like a targ during mating season!”

The pale warrioress slowly regained her breathing as she recovered from the jovial outburst. “Hah…I needed that…and as a former Chief Engineer myself, I understand the impulse to see a problem and immediately try to fix it…but I have lived with my…singular condition…for well over six of your decades, and despite a life that can inadequately be described as ‘tumultuous’, I have prospered with it.

“I am a Daughter of Gre’thor…If I suffer, it will not be by passing material pain or discomfort. Whether by bright light, blistering fire or the blades and barbs of those who stand opposed to my path.” Q’orvha’s declaration had an almost recited quality to it, as if she were paraphrasing a chant or oath. “…besides, the hood works fine. Simple solution, uses an available material, and minimum impact and low risk of entangled complications.

”It is…agreeable, in any event, however, to know that if I do require assistance in these or similar matters, that there is someone on this vessel with such a raw problem solver’s impulse, that I can seek.”

“I was speaking in more general terms, but yes that too,” Elizabeth replied.  “It is my job to fix, and sometimes build.  I prefer building, but that isn’t often in the job description.”

”…then why serve on a Starship?” The Klingon questioned. “If you prefer construction to maintenance, would not somewhere like the fleet yards or a position with your S-C-E offer more opportunity for such projects?”

She shrugged, “A couple of reasons. One: I was denied the position at the San Francisco Yards. Two: I would like to be Captain someday, and I need the experience a starship provides.  And don’t get me wrong. I like the maintenance work, just prefer one over the other if that makes any sense at all.”

”Assuming something was not lost in translation, it does.” Q’orvha replied with a nod. “So the Aquarius was not your first choice…but you intend to make the most of it?”

She laughed, “The Wessex, my old ship, wasn’t my first choice. This ship is like a holiday in comparison.”

“A commendable outlook.” The Chief Strategist said. “When I was training in my youth, one of my…mentors, would recite an old proverb that fits well.”

Elizabeth smiled, “And that proverb is?”

”When life hands you a lame hunting targ…eat it’s heart.”

Elizabeth laughed, “Sounds like an old human proverb, about lemons and lemonade.”

“Lemons? Those are the vaugely ovoid yellow fruit, yes?” Q’orvha looked quizzically for a moment before shrugging and offering what passed for a mischievous grin for her species. “Ah, once again, much like MacBeth or Hamlet, so much better in the original Klingon version.”

Elizabeth hesitated trying to remember the line, then in a very bad accent, but tolerable pronunciation she recited Shakespeare’s famous “To be or not to be” line in Klingon.

As she finished, there was an almost audible silence in the close confines of Junction 8E, as Q’orvha just stared at her with a face devoid of any expression.

Then, in a sudden moment, the features on the Klingon’s facade of cold ivory stillness cracked and Q’orvha let out a deep belting laugh that echoed through the Junction’s connected Jefferies Tubes. “Hah…I will have to find a proper recording for you…I do not think I have ever heard a Hamlet who sounded like a drunken farmer came from the Tukavka Lowlands! The visual it conjures is…most humorous.”

Elizabeth laughed,  and bowed, “Druken farmer is a new one.  I made the mistake of taking Klingon as  my foreign language course in high school. I never could get the accent right. ”  She shrugged and picked up her tool kit. “See you around Commamder. I have to get back to work.”  With that she plunged into the Jefferies tube and was gone.