Engineering aboard the USS Atlantis had been pretty much the exact same for the last three days, the last few weeks for that matter. Cruising between the stars at a steady warp six deep inside Federation territory meant that nothing terribly exciting was occurring today, so the mixed crew of the former Atlantis and all the new blood were spending the time getting to know the ship and each other. Commissioning tests were still being run, diagnostics regularly to ensure everything was working in correctly and a host of other minor maintenance a ship needed every single day to stay in perfect condition.
For one Lieutenant Commander Ra-tesh’mi Velan that meant reading the personnel records and having sitdowns with all the new officers under his command and not nearly as much time doing what he wanted, which was picking his new toy apart and finding out just what made her tick. He wanted to be with the teams running checks on systems, crawling through jefferies tubes, or even just taking over whatever spaces they could aboard ship to sit and read the manuals and procedure guides as groups to figure out the specifics of this ship. But alas, he, like any responsible officer, was confining himself to his office till he knew who he was working with. This, this was why he’d resisted larger ships until now, but he wasn’t going to let his captain and friends down by refusing this assignment.
And what an office it was that he’d been given. Sure, it wasn’t like Mac’s office, or the Cap’s new Ready Room, or even Rrr’s office, but it was his. It wasn’t terribly big, but it was isolated just enough from Engineering that he could sit and read, do reports, have private conversations with staff, but respond in an emergency quickly. A large wall-mounted monitor, a desk, two chairs opposite his own, windows that could be frosted over at a whim to hide who he was talking to, or project details from prying eyes. Perfectly suited for a chief engineer, or whoever was on duty really, to have a quiet space.
Much, much better than not having an office that was for sure.
He’d been there for hours, occasionally interrupted by a passing lieutenant, ensign or even petty officer, all taking advantage of his open-door policy to ask a quick question, get his opinion on something or just say hello. That latter part would likely need to change, but the first two cases were already paying dividends as the new crew knew they could always reach out to the Chief if they needed to, following the examples of those that he’d already worked with. New fresh faces were usually emboldened when they say a petty officer just as fresh as them knock on his door frame to ask a quick question and not get spoken down to for daring to approach the upper echelons of command aboard ship.
The reverie of his thoughts however was broken this time not by some intrusion to his office, but by a change in the constant and steady thrum through the deck plating that any engineer became attuned to.
He was still trying to learn the rhythm of this new girl, pretty confident he had found it, but he couldn’t pick out the minute details just yet. She had her own dialect, her own way of saying things and it was an art to learn it. This was not some minor change he felt, but major. A glance out the window of his office and into Engineering proper confirmed his suspicion when the pulsing of the warp core increased in speed. Matter and antimatter were annihilating each other with enough energy every second to make the thermonuclear weapons of so many civilizations look like popguns and here it was all contained in a complex restraining system so it could be harnessed to violate classic physics.
“What’s going on?” he asked a young lieutenant, Krel Merktin, a Tellarite with a particularly amenable attitude, as he exited his office. He’d left Merktin in charge while he was reviewing records, having already read the young woman’s record and chosen her as his shift supervisor. She was slightly above average height for her species and gender, lanky even compared to other Tellarites he’d met, but her demeanor couldn’t be anything but Tellarite. Her record spoke for itself and the recommendations on file from her previous commanders reinforced it. She was a damn good engineer, passionate about her job and apparently a good teacher. It didn’t take much for him to see her teaching at the Academy on day.
“Helm has changed course and increased speed to warp nine,” she replied, not looking up from a console she was reading over someone else’s shoulder. He couldn’t place the young human, who was looking nervous like this was his first cruise. Which it could very well be. He noted how she wasn’t looming, but standing as if she’d been showing the man something.
“Nine point five, ma’am,” she was corrected by the man, who pointed to the corrected value on his own screen. “Maximum sustainable speed.”
“Something must be up because this isn’t part of any test schedule,” he said before being interrupted by the whistle of the all-hands call.
“Senior staff to the brief room please,” came Captain Theodoras’ voice, echoing in the cavernous engineering space, less so in every compartment across the ship most likely. It made him think that perhaps installing some sound absorbing tiles around Engineering wouldn’t go amiss to reducing some of that echo.
“Well, that’s my queue to go find out why we’re running as fast as we are,” Ra said with a smile, then stroked his beard in thought for a moment. “Lieutenant Merktin, keep an eye on the engines. If we start to waver in any way you don’t like, you have my personal authority to override the helm and slow us down to warp nine. If the engines still look off, make your best call and I’ll back you on it.”
“Including a complete shutdown?” she asked, looking at him with a stern, no-nonsense expression.
“Hey, if it keeps us all alive and breathing, I’m sure no one will mind. After all, I keep all my stuff aboard ship, I don’t want it blowing up.” And with that, he departed Engineering to comply with the order to assemble. Thanks to the size of the new ship versus the old, his journey wasn’t nearly as quick as it used to be and he was pleasantly surprised by a stop and Doctor Terax joining him. He’d forgotten that the sickbay complex aboard ship was along the route from Engineering to the Bridge.
“Doctor, fancy meeting you here,” he joked, though the perpetual scowl he received in response he knew, from working with the man for a few years now, was just his normal expression, which softened slightly after a moment, clearly parsing what he’d said. Terax’s sense of humour was always either slow on the pickup or somewhat on the darker side.
“Yes, quite,” came the response from the Edosian. “Do you happen to know what this might be about? I was in the middle of trying to explain to his new doctor of mine how my sickbay is to be run and don’t exactly appreciate the interruption.” Terax’s voice sounded irritated and more so then normal. From what he’d heard Dr Pisani was apparently quite the character whom he’d only had chance to meet a few times so far.
“And I don’t like the idea of pushing the warp engines at the red line for an undefined period of time,” he replied with a shrug. “If I knew anything I’d let you know, friend. But alas, we’ll just have to learn together.”
“Delightful,” Terax said, letting silence fall over the car as they proceeded to the bridge and the briefing room beyond.
In the following few minutes Ra was pleased that he wasn’t the last to arrive, in fact, the last to arrive being the captain herself, who took the seat at the head of the table as soon as she entered, proceeded only by a few steps by Lieutenant T’Val directly from the bridge.
“Right folks, I’ll get right to it. Fourth Fleet command has just dropped new orders on us because once again all ships are needed for this particular problem and well, we’re not an easily set aside asset.” A button pressed on the controls built into the conference table and she looked towards the large briefing monitor built into the wall opposite the rear-facing windows. Everyone whose back was to it, including Ra himself, turned to face the screen.
“Details at this time are still in flux and we’ll be having more briefings in the next few days as I’m briefed myself, but it looks like someone in the Romulan Star Empire has decided to make a direct play for the senate it seems. Initial reports are of a military coup centred on Rator III itself. Apparently, it’s been received rather poorly across the majority of the Empire.” The screen changed to focus not on Rator, but on a sector of the empire adjacent to the Romulan Free State and Romulan Republic. “This area here is the Velorum sector, one of the RSE’s more…lucrative territories. Just like with Rator, a coup has rolled the existing government and declared the sector an independent state at this time. From what I’ve been told, it sounds like a worker’s revolution that’s gained some local military support.”
The room was silent and Ra couldn’t help but stroke his chin in thought. Stellar politics wasn’t his cup of tea, he was an engineer through and through, but the collapse of the Star Empire rump state wasn’t something to be ignored at all. Even he could see this would have repercussions for years to come, if not decades.
“The Provisional Government of the Velorum Sector, a mouthful I know, has requested Starfleet assistance in securing their territory and worlds so they can have a fair chance at determining their own future. We’ve been marked for the world of Daloon.” With that, the screen zoomed in until it showed a star system on one side, a world on the other, with key metrics beside both diagrams.
“Captain,” he found himself saying before anyone else spoke, “I’m inclined to point out we’re still commissioning. We’ve only had a couple of weeks and still have thousands of tests and retests to complete. We’re talking days of high warp just to reach the border, more to get to this Daloon.”
“And potential conflict with Romulan warships,” Gantzmann added, giving him a nod that said she understood his complaint. “We’ve only briefly tested the ship’s weapons at this point. Shield testing has been minimal at this point. And the torpedoes have only been test fired once so far. Heading into combat with untested weapons is not recommended.”
“Not to mention the crew are still finding their feet,” Rrr chipped in with their trademark rumble. “Mac and I are still shuffling rosters around to smooth out…personality issues.” They looked to the XO and shrugged. “We need to look at Beta shift again.”
“Science is pretty confident,” Gabrielle Camargo threw in with a cheerful lilt to her voice. “Sure, we could do with more time making sure everything is working, but the critical sensor pallets and packages have been checked out. We’re now down to checking and confirming all the labs, but hopefully, that won’t be a problem.”
Before anyone else could complain, it was Mac whose hand rose to quieten the table down. “Don’t think the captain and I didn’t try to say that, but as she said, we’re not an easily set aside asset anymore. Command is giving us a soft target and hoping that just our presence alone will help ease any tensions in nearby systems as well. The Romulans don’t know we’re brand spanking new, just that a Sovereign-class has arrived once we do.”
“Talk softly and carry a big stick?” Gantzmann asked and he found he couldn’t help but smile. Humans had some delightful sayings.
“Something like that. Though we’re likely to have to play a big stick for a number of other ships.” Mac stood and walked towards the monitor. “Daloon approached the Federation separately from the Velorum provisional government, requesting Federation assistance in a local plebiscite to determine their own fate. We’re going along to show everyone in the region that we’re not going to stand for coercion, be that from the RSE, the Free State, the Republic or this provisional government. Any world that wants to go it alone has a right to self-determination.”
“Noble enough,” Terax spoke.
“We’ve been asked to defend the world from raiders and provide mediation between local factions so that the plebiscite can be organised peacefully,” Mac continued. “And yes, the message was undersigned by what we believe to be all the local factions, at least when it arrived.”
“Humanitarian support?” Terax asked.
“Most certainly,” Mac’s reply came with an animated graphic of ships swooping on the planet. “Reports already show that RSE ships, or at least ships previously identified as RSE ships, have already raided Daloon twice. We haven’t been provided with any details of the raids so far, but we’ll get those details soon hopefully. Initial reports say that Daloon authorities likely bought the raiders off while trying to figure out what to do.”
“All in all,” the captain spoke up, “Daloon is some sleepy backwater apparently and we’ve been given it so others nearby can use the threat of us if need be, but to give us the chance hopefully to continue working up without any real threat. That said, I want Tactical and Engineering to rework the commissioning tests and move weapons and shields up the priority list.”
“Aye ma’am,” both he and Gantzmann said at the same time.
“Good. Ch’tkk’va, I want you to find me four or your best for protection work. I’ve been informed that if I think about going planetside without proper protection I’m likely to regret it.” That earned a bit of a chuckle around the table as everyone knew who that particular threat had come from, despite it actually being in line with regulations about the wellbeing of starship captains anyway.
“Certainly captain,” the Xindi replied. “There are many suitable warrior-drones aboard ship.” Everyone stopped and looked at Ch’tkk’va for a moment before they spoke once more. “The translator is very literal, yes? Many suitable persons to choose from. I was thinking of raising the prospect of an honour guard with Command MacIntrye.”
“A Hazard team?” Mac said as he took his seat once more. “Yeah, we should sit down and discuss that in detail Ch’tkk’va. I’ll find some time in the next few days.”
“We will need suitable carapaces for them. Mammals are ill-equipped for royal protection.” Again Ch’tkk’va looked over everyone, then corrected themselves. “Command protection.”
“And I should prepare sickbay,” Terax grumbled. “If we’re looking at potential humanitarian issues I’m sure Doctor Pisani will come in handy. We also have enough parts this time in inventory for replacement cybernetics if required.”
“I don’t plan on getting a limb shot off this time Doctor,” the Captain replied, not amused with Terax’s statement. Her attention turned on him and he offered nought but a faint smile in reply. “Ra, keep those engines running for me. Any hiccups, let me know straight away. Whoever you need for the next four days, you’ve got them, understood?”
“Aye, ma’am. We’ll even see if we can’t squeeze a bit more out of these new engines,” he offered. “But we’ll try and keep away from engine rich exhaust this time.”
“Be appreciated.” The captain gave a smile and then stood with a slap to the table as she did so. “Right, you’ve all got work to do, be about it. Dismissed all.”