“You know, I think these People people have a good idea going here,” Benjamin Maxwell, Atlantis’ assistant chief engineer, said as he wiped his brow with the back of his arm. Normally while working on the exterior of Atlantis, such an action would be impossible, save for the People’s Docking Slip T-04A.
The entire slip was surrounded by atmospheric forcefields, double layered, with two power sources for each layer. Apparently, some workplace survey decades ago had set them down this particular pathway and right now the fruits of it was Atlantis’ to enjoy. While the entire slip was still zero-gee, they had atmosphere and could work in a short-sleeve environment. Magboots and safety lines were still the name of the game, but without EV suits getting in the way, repairs and refits to the warp nacelles were proceeding along at a vastly increased rate.
“Maybe, but you try getting any of the major shipyards back home to adopt this. HSE would have a field day with this place,” one salty Chief Harry Shackleton responded as he continued to work at releasing a jammed coil release mechanism that stubbornly refused to let go of it’s prize. “Hand me the phaser would you. This lock can’t be stuck if I turn it into a liquid.”
“You’re not melting parts of the ship Chief,” Maxwell replied, but nonetheless picked up an engineering grade phaser cutter. “I on the other hand…” He waited for the Chief to move out of the way before aiming at the locking piece and firing, cutting it so it could be removed and freeing the warp coil for removal with the next Workbee that came around. “That’s what, three jammed locks now? Damage from running the engines hot or bad locks?”
“Five. Starboard team has the same problems. Same places too so far so money is on P-6 being jammed as well. Must be a bad batch. We’ll have to file paperwork and send it back. Guess though you typically only cycle the damn things in dock anyway so some yardie would do the same as we’ve done anyway.”
“Right, I’m going to talk to Velan. Each lock gets two goes, then cut it. We can replace them while the coils are out.”
Shackleton nodded and then looked up to the current half-crescent of the world of Trent. “Accommodating folks these People. Offering to give us what we need to rebuild our warp drive. Weird that every offer we’ve made to share specs they’ve declined but they’re willing to come on tours and look though.”
“Yah, thought so myself till I asked one of them. Something about not wanting the answers given to them and wanting to work it out themselves, but at the same time, no harm in looking at more advanced models to get an idea of where to go,” Maxwell said, shrugged his shoulders and then helped Shackleton to his feet. “Workbee will be around shortly to remove the hull panels around P-6. I’ll give Velan a call now and catch up with you.”
“Sounds good Lieutenant.”
While the crew were getting to enjoy a proper shore leave, curtesy of their gracious hosts, one Tikva Theodoras found herself the prisoner of expectations upon her rank and position. A formal meeting with the planetary governor and a visiting Minister for Local Government had turned into a preamble for the formal dinner that clearly had been planned days in advance, despite the claims of ‘just a little something we threw together’. The experience hadn’t been torturous at all, but compared with the expectation she’d been building in her head of either an alpine retreat or a beach getaway, it was a far, far cry from those dreams.
But the joy of being captain was that she could at least drag a few people along with her for comfort in those dark hours of politicians rattling on. While she hadn’t inflicted the entire chain of events on her senior officers, she did at least choose victims for the dinner who would have to learn to suffer. To her left sat Mac, to her right sat Adelinde, both of them in animated conversations with those opposite them at the table. Curse them for avoiding the pitfalls of such dinners!
Tikva on the other hand hadn’t been able to get a word in edgewise with Minister Talorm, whom had many an effusive thing to say about the People. “…and so, while I’m led to understand that your ship has far more sensors, and far smaller systems then those found on our premier research vessels, I understand that most of ours happen to be far more sensitive and detailed then those found aboard your ship. Our scientists are very proud of the achievements they’ve made in EM and subspace-based sensor technology over the last fifty years.”
“Yes, well Minister,” she started, only to be cut off as the man continued speaking, oblivious to her attempts to respond.
“Of course, I understand, your vessel isn’t a dedicated research platform. Perhaps your Federation could send one of those our way for a true technological comparison of your sensor technology compared to our own. Then we can,” he continued, only stopped when a uniformed individual, an Admiral Lorc stepped up behind the Minister and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Minister, please, Atlantis might not be as adept at finding microbes upon a planetary surface as one of our ships, but she’s faster, better shielded, more powerful particle beam weapons…all around a superior vessel then even PRS Resolute.” The Admiral looked straight at Tikva and gave her a smile. “Captain, could I steal you away from the Minister and your meal for a moment?”
“Now hang on a moment Admiral,” the Minister started, then stopped when the hand on his shoulder gave him a quick squeeze.
“Just a moment dear Minister. A small issue has come up I wish to resolve.”
“Oh, very well.”
With that rather lacklustre dismissal, Tikva took the moment to whisper something in Adelinde’s ear, then stood and walked around the long table to a window overlooking the capital city where the Admiral had headed to, even capturing two glasses of a beverage roughly equivalent to wine, offering one as Tikva approached.
“What might be the issue Admiral?” she asked.
“That you looked like you needed rescuing. The Minister is very enthusiastic, but many under command have found him to be tiring.”
“Was it that obvious?” Tikva asked, lightly shaking her head at herself before taking a sip of her wine.
“Only to those in uniform. That and I’m sure I’ve had the same look on my face when I’ve been sat opposite the Minister. I tried to insist as senior naval officer in system that I should be opposite you, or the Governor but it would seem the Minister must know the seating coordinator.”
She couldn’t help but snort at that. “Well, for my first formal dinner as a starship Captain, it hasn’t gone to badly. And your Minister Talorm is pleasant enough, just…enamoured with your people’s accomplishments.” She stopped for barely a moment before correcting herself. “Not that he shouldn’t be mind you! Trust me, my people want a good hard look at any equipment you’re willing to let them look at.”
“Captain, relax,” the older man said with a smile. “I’ve read the reports my captain’s provided and the one in which you provided as well. If it wasn’t for your assistance, we’ve have likely lost another ship and never even heard of these Vaadwuur. I know you’ve given your crew shore leave, but I hate to impress upon you and some of your command staff for some briefings if you’re willing.”
“Will the Minister be there?” she asked.
“By the Maker no. Though there will be an Under-Minister for Defence arriving tomorrow. He’s a good sort and will stay quiet and listen. Give me…three days, then I’ll see what I can arrange with the Governor and we’ll give you cover to have some time off.”
“Three days? I was expecting a week Admiral. Consider Starfleet at your disposal. If we’ve made a mistake in introducing a new foe to you, I wouldn’t want to leave till you understood the threat anyway.”
“Oh, do tell Commander, why did your Captain elect to bring you along to this dinner? I’m most fascinated in her thought processes.”
Mac picked up his wine glass, taking a sip to give him a chance to think of a response from the Deputy-Governor and elected to stick with the honest truth, since the People seemed to value it. “Because I have aspirations of command myself and these sorts of dinners are an occasional expectation of command crews.”
“Oh really? Your Federation doesn’t have a dedicated diplomatic corps for these sorts of engagements?”
“Oh they do Deputy-Governor, but Starfleet tends to be ones making first contact and humans have a particular expression – first impressions matter. How we initially present the Federation can have a lasting impact. Therefore, command staff need to not just be explorers and scientists, but capable diplomats as well.”
“And warriors as I understand it as well.” The Deputy-Governor, a tall, lanky man named Toril Glent, was busying his hands with slicing something analogous to a steak into strips. “A regrettable business war, don’t you think?”
“Whole heartedly agree with you.”
“And yet I understand your crew was undertaking something called a Top Gun competition while you made your way to Trent. To…practise fighter pilot skills. If sounds as if your people preach that war is regrettable, then practise for it nonetheless.” Glent punctuated the sentence with the final knife slice. “Why is that?”
“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” Mac let that sit for a moment before continuing, letting the idiom settle in. “We’d rather be friends with everyone in the galaxy if we could, but some actors in the galaxy would prefer conflict, it not total annihilation of the Federation, or anyone in fact for a few of them. So, while we’d like to be friends with all, we prepare for those who mean us ill will.”
“Have you considered acquiescing to their demands to avoid the need for conflict?”
He couldn’t help himself, he scoffed. “I did say some of them want total annihilation. If the Borg ever come your way Deputy-Governor, no amount of good will and nice words will help. My own homeworld was minutes away from coming under Borg attack on two occasions and only luck and stubborn doggedness saw the Federation through both times.”
Glent nodded, chewed on a strip of steak for a moment and spoke only once he’d washed it down. “I apologise Commander. I wanted to probe into your way of thinking. Your Federation and my People seem to be along similar lines – explorers and optimists who have to guard against the night, but hopefully never to let it wear them down.”
A thought came to him and Mac lifted his wineglass in salute. “To optimism and beacons in the dark.” He hadn’t expected the salute to be picked up by a few around who had been listening.
“I’m telling the Captain,” Adelinde whispered in his direction as she leaned over the empty seat between them, “that you can actually make a toast. You can actually do one at the next dinner.”
“Ra-tesh’mi! So good to see you again! Was the tour of the smelting facility yesterday what you expected?” asked the large, verging on spherical, engineer who emerged from the turbolift bank into the lobby of the University of Trent School of Engineering.
“Mostly Felkir, mostly. Your people are a little behind us on material sciences. I don’t think we’ll be able to fashion exacting replacements with what you’ve got, but we can certainly melt down our damaged coils and recast them. Course we’ll end up short a coil in each nacelle which won’t do.” Velan shrugged and allowed himself to be led back towards the turbolift bank, his People Navy escort in tow. The woman was an easily forgettable shadow, existing more to keep track of him unobtrusively and rescue him when he became a dumb tourist, which was more than once to his shame yesterday and just this morning.
“What about an alloy? Recast your coils and mix in some of our verterium cortenide to make the difference?” Felkir asked as the doors closed, whisking them up only three stories and to the Aeronautical Engineering department.
“I thought about it, but modelling back on Atlantis showed we’d like wreck our engines that way. We’re going to melt a couple of coils down to use to refit and relay the majority of ours I’ve decided, but we’ll then cast a couple of coil sets from your supplies and mount them as the last coil in each nacelle.” Finally arriving at Felkir’s office, Velan set down a small holoprojector, which just yesterday had ended up being hand studied by Felkir for a good five minutes, but today was just another tool. A tap and little hologram of Atlantis appeared within a nice smooth green bubble.
“This is our warp field in ideal conditions running at a nice steady warp seven. And here is the field according to modelling with a People coil at the back of the nacelle.” A new bubble surrounded the ship, this time in orange, the curves mostly the same, though the tapering at the rear of the bubble was very different. That different shape required more power to maintain the same speed due to the subspace turbulence it would produce. “I ran two other simulations with your coil elsewhere in our nacelles and this one is the smoothest. Oddly enough it’s more efficient at lower warp speeds, but once we try to get our legs under us it doesn’t play well.”
“Hmm…do you have the modelling for the lower speeds? I’m most intrigued in understanding why you think it would be better then at higher speeds.” Before either of them realised it, the morning had disappeared into technical discussions, a few of Felkir’s colleagues had come and gone to offer advice and, in the end, both sides were content, after rerunning the simulations on a People’s computer system, that indeed Velan’s proposal was the correct one.
“Well Ra-tesh’mi, I’ll see to it that you have all the staff at the smelter you could possibly need to recast your ship’s warp coils and even to cast new coils from our finest materials. But you have to promise me I can bring up my doctoral students to look at your warp drive. Vertically integrated warp drive, I can’t wait.”
“Felkir, I’m have expecting you to trying and bring your entire university through the ship! But yes, I’ll personally give you a tour, even have you aboard ship for trial runs?”
“Oh now that would be a delight!”
“You know,” Adelinde said as she stepped up behind a dressing gown clad Tikva, looking out across the sunlight skyline of the city below them from the tower’s lofty height, “I could get used to this.” She’d wrapped an arm around the smaller woman’s waist and brushed hair with her free hand to hook it behind Tikva’s ear before whispering to her. “But you need to get ready. We have a meeting in an hour.”
“Bless the Admiral for making it mid-morning and not oh ungodly hours first thing.” Tikva leaned back into her form and she found herself supporting the smaller woman. “Sorry for dragging you along, I just…wanted you there with me.”
“I had fun actually,” she found herself telling her lover, then continued after a faint scoff of disbelief. “I did. I spoke with General Khall for most of the evening. Very enlightening discussion on the comparison of People and Federation tactics.” She couldn’t help but give Tikva a slight squeeze. “Including small craft tactics. She wants to talk with our best pilots at some point, so I dobbed you in Ace.”
“Did you now?” Tikva asked as she turned in her arms and then planted a light kiss on her lips, with a little support from herself. “Well in that case you’re definently coming with me today to see the Admiral, oh Chief Tactical Officer.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way, Captain. Now, would you please go get dressed?” she asked.
“We both know how that’ll end and we don’t have time, or practise spears to fight with,” she replied, then released Tikva from her grasp, giving her a slight nudge in the direction of the bedroom for the suite they’d been given last night. “Uniform is in the refresher. Should be done by now.”
“Work, work, work…”