A good engineer's worth his weight in latinum
Glinn Jarol glanced at her commender's office door and saw him throw a padd at the bulkhead, shattering it into pieces. She knew Gul Corak had just talked to – now powerless – Central Command, requesting reinforcements, and his mood was clearly indicating he didn't get what he wanted. Maybe it was a good moment to talk to him. In spite of his fury he might be most receptive to it right now, and Roumar, a Galor class warship dealing with the Maquis, needed crew more than any other day, especially engineers.
No risk, no gain
, she thought and went upstairs, stopping in front of the doors. The doors parted and it was a sign she could enter.
“You know, how am I suppose to fight terrorists and be affective, if my ship lacks almost a quarter of crew?” he shouted, getting up and started pacing behind his desk.
“Won't they send anyone?” she asked standing on the other side of the desk, following him with her eyes.
“They will. Fresh graduates. What will I do with a ship full of freshmen? It's not a training mission, it's a real war with ruthless enemy!”
“I might have a suggestion for an experienced officer,” she said slowly.
He stopped pacing and looked at her.
“Go on,” he sat in his chair, not inviting her to do the same on the other side of the desk.
“There is a very experienced and talented engineer, who currently is without assignment. He does not only know Cardassian systems well, but also Klingon.”
“That sounds tempting. And why exactly is this magician without a job?”
“Several months ago he went through a traumatic event, and it left some scars not only on his face, but also on his soul.”
“Ah, another poor man who lost his mind?”
“Sir, I believe all he needs is to start serving Cardassia again, to have a purpose and goal in his life. With no assignment coming he feels useless, which deepens his disturbed state.”
“Can you vouch for him?”
“I will be responsible for him, yes.”
“Fine, Jarol. What is the name of this unfairly neglected officer?”
“Brenok, Kara Arenn Brenok.”
Eight months earlier
Gil Jarol entered the mess hall of Cardassian freighter Groumall under Gul Dukat's command, went to the replicator, ordered a soup and looked around. It seemed all of seats were taken. The freighter's crew wasn't numerous, but obviously too many for such a small mess hall still. She was just about to take her soup to her quarters and eat it there, when she noticed a hand, raised and waving clearly to her. It belonged to the helm (or was he tactical?) officer. What was his name?
She headed to his table, smiling slightly. Ah, Damar. Glinn Damar.
“Glinn,” she said by the way of greeting and then sat. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” he nodded and continued his meal.
They ate in silence for a while and then he asked: “So how do you enjoy your new assignment?”
She gave him an asking look. There was a smile crawling on his face, so obviously it was supposed to be a joke. She didn't find it funny; she had found her new posting totally inadequate, but there was little she could do about it. And it still was better than charges. “It's... something new for me,” she replied evasively.
“Oh, I see. You love it,” his smile became clearer.
Was he trying to make her say something she shouldn't? Was he spying? Was he an Obsidian Order agent in fact?
“I have a lot to learn,” she said seriously. “My speciality is tactical, but here I'm more an engineer. And a freighter is not exactly the same as a warship, so everything is slightly... different.”
“Yes it is,” he admitted. “Gul Dukat expects it to work as efficiently as a warship, but... it's not so easy with this level of armament.”
“Yes, I know,” she nodded. “We're trying to upgrade some critical systems, but there is that much we can do. We won't be able to make it a Galor, no matter how hard we try.”
“But I've noticed the shields recharged a little faster”.
She couldn't stop her smile. She wondered if he really was that good at noticing details, or it was just his wishing that made him delude himself something indeed was upgraded. “'A little' is right. We upgraded them and they're three percent more efficient. We could do better, but there is no way to get more energy to make that work.”
“Isn't there any way to improve reactor's output?” he asked, finishing his food. He pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair, clearly not intending to leave.
“Not really, not if we don't want it to explode in our faces.”
“That would not be desirable,” he smiled again.
“Do you know what's our next assignment?” she asked. She only knew they were heading for Terok Nor, which was now in Federation hands. She didn't relish visiting that place again.
“We are to escort someone to a conference, but first we must take her aboard and she's on the station” he answered.
“So we won't stay there?”
He must have noticed the relief on her face, as his eyes lingered on her for a long while.
“That station... something bad happened there to me,” she tried to explain, in case he was an Obsidian Order agent. Last thing she wanted him to think about her was her lack of bravery or defying her Gul. “Visiting it brings sad memories.”
“I'm sorry to hear that,” he said; she thought he sounded sincerely. “But no worries, we don't stop there for long.”
“Good,” she muttered.
She noticed he finished his meal, but still sat at the table, observing her. She was getting sure he was an agent, maybe even sent specifically to observe her.
“How long have you served on Groumall?” she asked for the sake of conversation.
“Too long,” he replied. “They always say I'm a good officer, but somehow never assign me to a better ship,” she heard a note of bitterness in his voice.
“Did you ask for transfer?”
“Yes, I did. I got promoted, but not transferred.”
“I suppose it would be another case of someone's son in need of a good post at the cost of someone less privileged.”
“Ah, same old story,” she nodded with understanding.
“How about you? How did you get here?”
“Straight from a Galor class warship,” she bitterly smiled.
His eye ridges went up. “What did you do?”
“I had to serve under one of those talentless sons of someone's and finally had enough. And frankly, it's better here than in a grave,” she said. “I don't mind to die for Cardassia,” she added quickly, for the sake of Damar being an agent, “but I don't want to die needlessly.”
He smiled. “I understand. Gul Dukat seems capable, so you shouldn't worry here. His demotion had nothing to do with lack of leadership talents.”
“I know. I had served under him.”
“Had you?” he was surprised.
“Indeed, on Terok Nor.”
She finished her soup and looked at him. He was a handsome man with a friendly face. Perfect looks for an agent, especially if assigned to observe a female. He seemed a few years junior her, but carried higher rank. Maybe he really was just another officer, who had got unfair treatment due to his family's low social status.
She still didn't trust him.
No, wait, Obsidian Order was no more! They were replaced by Intelligence Bureau... but how could she know if there was any difference in their means of operation. An agent was an agent, no matter how one calls the organisation the agent works for.
Next evening she was the one, who invited him to her table. They talked a lot and she found out they had a lot in common. Neither of them was a high born child of a Gul or a Legate. Both of them had to work hard to achieve something. She had no idea when her suspicions of him being an agent to spy her vaporised and he occurred to be a fellow officer on a lousy assignment. She liked his grim sense of humour. She admired his loyalty to his superiors. She was sure there was nothing about her he could admire.
It was an awful day. Their mission was to take one official to an outpost, but the outpost was no more and Gul Dukat decided to punish Klingon murderers for their crime. The problem was the freighter was not the best choice to fight a bird-of-prey. The Gul instructed them to apply some strange improvements to the armament, but it made no sense to her. She had no idea where he took such strange ideas from, but she suspected their Bajoran passenger. She wasn't sure if there was any reasonable plan to it, or the woman wanted them to sabotage their own ship to eliminate more Cardassians from the face of the galaxy.
Changes in engineering duty schedules, extending duty hours and reducing number of shifts made the workspace quite crowdy. Jarol saw a few new faces, most likely from other shifts. She could not believe there still were officers aboard, who she haven't met yet. This ship was really small and crew not so numerous.
Since her duty hours were long, she had little time for her meal. Dukat made them work long hours, but knew they couldn't go on and be effective without food, so they had a right to a short break in the middle of their shifts. It was time to use that privilege right now.
She entered the mess hall to see Damar picking up his dish from the replicator. She ordered her food and then stood next to him.
“Seems like today we eat at our consoles,” he said.
“No, there's space,” she pointed a table in the corner, occupied by one officer only.
They approached him. It was a young Dja, punching at the padd he kept in his hand and... singing. Or rather half singing, half humming. They stood staring at him, but he seemed to be completely oblivious of their presence.
“Dja,” Damar spoke at last.
The young officer raised his head, looked at them and rose.
“Yes, I leave, you can sit,” he stated.
“Sit down,” Jarol told him, sitting herself. Damar took an empty chair, standing at another table, put it at theirs and also sat.
“What was that you were singing?” Jarol asked.
“You were singing.”
Jarol smiled and suddenly felt a sting of longing for her younger brother. The Dja appeared so innocent and benign, almost like a child. She glanced at his armour and read he was assigned to the engineering. She searched her memory and finally connected the face with the file. It was Dja Brenok. He was assigned to night shift.
“So,” Damar looked at her, “how are improvements?”
She just smiled. “No matter what we try to do, it's still a freighter and nothing will change that.”
“We have problems with dealing with overflowing of secondary capacity phase regulators,” Brenok suddenly spoke. Then he realised it wasn't his place to offer unsolicited opinion to two ranking officers, so he quickly lowered his head and concentrated on his padd.
“Do you think you could overcome this problem?” Damar asked. Joral knew that Damar was most eager to solve this as it was him, who had to suffer Dukat's... unhappiness, caused by unsatisfactory combat drills' results.
Dja looked up at him not sure if Damar's question was genuine or a challenge. Both officers kept looking at him expectantly, without a shadow of irritation, so he decided to honestly answer the Glinn's question. “Maybe, if we could install new regulators, like Hideki class ones. It would require some modifications, but I believe it is doable. But... we have no such thing in our cargo, so...”
Damar nodded. “So is there any way to do something about it, utilising the resources we do
“Not much, but my simulations,” he indicated his padd, “show that we could improve phaser charging speed by seven percent.”
“Seven,” gasped Jarol. That would be barely noticeable, if at all.
Brenok looked at them apologetically.
Damar and Jarol started eating, while the younger officer went back to his work on the padd. A few moments later Jarol heard him humming again. She glanced at Damar and they smiled to each other. Brenok's humming progressed to quiet singing and then Jarol realised the song was some kind of lullaby.
After her long shift ended she checked the Dja's file, then his work aboard Groumall and asked Dukat to move him to the day shift. She believed there was potential in that young Cardassian. He had many interesting ideas, which they discussed during their shift and after that and his incredible engineering skill helped in installation of a canon, which was by no means meant to operate on a ship.
Dining together became a sort of little habit of theirs and continued on a Klingon bird-of-prey the crew acquired during their next mission.