NCC-74229 (USS Gallant
Docked at Special Projects Dock Bravo, Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, Mars.
Stardate 54661.3 (30 August 2377)
Part of the white noise of any engineering compartment aboard a ship with a warp core included the rhythmic thrum from the matter and antimatter injectors as they fed the dilithium reaction chamber. To Gallant
's chief engineering officer, Senior Chief Petty Officer Karis Amdal, it was the heartbeat of the ship. Gallant
was small enough that he could feel the vibration when he placed his hands flat on the bulkhead near his bunk in the aft section on deck three.
During periods of refit or maintenance, however, an offline core meant silence within the compartment. To Karis, it felt wrong to have the ship be that silent, and though he would not admit it to anyone, it annoyed him. He missed the gentle purr of his warp core and bustled through the stealth system installation steps in order to bring the core back online as soon as possible. Karis worked alongside the Romulan for the three and a half weeks the ship had spent at Utopia Planitia. He spent every waking minute installing, adjusting, testing, and starting the cycle all over again in the hopes of getting the warp core back online sooner.
The Romulan certainly did not make his task any easier. Each day was a clone of the one before. She would announce the day's tasks in the refit and they would begin. Then he had to make it all work.
"There," said the senior chief in a tight tenor tone. "The new waveguides are showing a positive connection and assuming they don't blow out the main energizer, should feed power to the holographic system." He leaned to the side and shouted to a nearby petty officer third class, "Send two to deck four to lock down that damned secondary, now!"
As the petty officer slapped his commbadge to pass the order, Teelis raised her eyebrow. "Is there a problem, Senior?"
Karis slapped the side of the console. "Defiant-class ships have always been overpowered little ships and the secondaries are used to route excess plasma to the other systems."
She understood immediately and finished the thought aloud. "As a result, the system must overload regularly. You must go through a lot of parts."
"You might be a bit too young to recall during the Dominion War, the Defiant-class would churn through phaser power cells," he replied while he waited for a report from the maintenance team on deck four. "Normally, you would see a burned out cell once every six to eight months. With the cannons firing non-stop, those cells were burning out once every week. That's a result of that excess energy being fed to the systems."
Teelis listened, but her eyes were focused on the status display. "You have an unusual talent for handling this class, Senior."
"I was assigned to the class prototype at Utopia Planitia," he admitted. "I served aboard Defiant
as a petty officer before the war began and had the good fortune of working with Captain Sisko while he was a Commander at Utopia and under Senior Chief O'Brien when the ship was attached to Deep Space Nine. I've been aboard Defiants ever since."
"This is the first one I've stepped aboard, although I studied the design previously."
"There we go," he said on the heels of her words. "Secondaries are locked down on deck four and we can proceed with a power test to the new node."
Teelis' hands quickly moved over her console. "Standby status confirmed and the EPS power taps are ready to feed."
Karis tapped his commbadge. "Engineering to bridge."
The voice of the ship's executive officer replied over the comm system, "Bridge. This is Kelley. Go ahead."
"XO, Lieutenant Tei and I are ready to perform the first power test. You wished to be notified," he reminded her.
At the mention of Teelis' presence, a noticeable tension entered the exec's tone. "Very well," she said, clipping her words slightly. "I will notify the captain. Kelley, out."
Karis allowed himself a quiet smirk. The only good thing about this refit was that the presence of the Romulan had sparked something in the personality of the XO. "As I was saying, I've served on Defiants for years. On Gallant
, just over a year and a half. I've served with Lieutenant Kelley for most of that and this is the first time I've ever seen her act like that around anyone. Didn't know she had it in her."
Teelis said nothing in response, as if totally engrossed in the task before her.
"Did you and her serve someplace before or something?"
"The lieutenant and I have never met prior to my arrival aboard this vessel nor am I aware of her having served with my elder sister."
Karis' antennae twitched slightly. "I see. So, she's irritated on spec?"
"I am not familiar with that idiom, Chief."
A long pause followed as he considered her irritatingly Vulcky attitude. The engineer folded his arms and tried another tack; "Maybe she doesn't like Romulans?"
"Who doesn't like Rihannsu?" said Kircheis pointedly as she took the final step to stand behind them at the master situation monitor.
Before Karis could frame a reply, Teelis turned to face her friend and temporary commanding officer. "Idle conversation, Captain. Would you like to be updated on the status of the project, sir?"
Kircheis appeared to hold the pair of them with a curious expression before she nodded toward the display. "Where are we?" In tandem, both engineers brought her to the most recent accomplishment, to which Kircheis gave an understanding nod. "And once we pass this power test, we're cleared to move on to the next phase?"
"The emitter test, yes, sir," replied Karis. "We can then move to the automatics testing and so on and so forth."
The captain gave a quick nod. "I don't think that I need to be told at every little step of the way. Let's proceed toward the final test with all due speed. People are waiting on us."
Teelis gave him a look and he responded to the captain for them both. "Yes, sir."
The mess hall was busy during this time of the evening, with first shift getting dinner and third beginning to show up for breakfast. Despite that, there were a few tables where no one asked to join those already there. The first was the Captain's table, where Kircheis was already seated. The second was occupied by both Vulcanoids on board and they were speaking in low tones.
Grey passed a PADD back to Teelis with his inputs on the display. "Would I use this conjugation with that context?" he asked softly. His eyes drifted over toward the Captain's table a couple of times as he did so, out of habit.
"No. That would be more appropriate for a high-ranking person addressing another person of similar social status," Teelis clarified after looking over the words. "You will be mimicking a common member of the House and as such, you would not have need for this conjugation." She seemed to have no interest in the activities of others in the mess hall.
He pressed his lips together and flared his nostrils as he exhaled. "The learning curve is a bit steep with this language. It has a passing relationship with some of the older dialects of Vulcan, but I think that I may use a form incorrectly and betray the fact that I am not a native speaker."
"Think of it as a more structured form of Vulcan. That is what my sister believes occurred during the passage from Vulcan to ch'Rihan; the settlers formalized the language and tenses. When I see ancient Vulcan, it is like viewing my own language through a cloudy lens. It looks familiar, but nothing more." As she spoke, Teelis made a few changes to the PADD. "I have erased all the tenses you need not bother to learn at this juncture. Hopefully, this will enable you to streamline your learning." She smiled encouragingly as she looked up again.
Grey accepted the PADD and his eyes glanced over the contents. "This is less overwhelming, to be sure," he said, his fingers tapping the display downward. "And I would say that modern Vulcan is far more logical a language. No need to couch our verbs in formal or informal forms; we simply prefer clarity over all else."
"Our culture prizes knowledge but not necessarily the transmission of knowledge far and wide," Teelis admitted. "There is a lot of deliberate ambiguity in our language, as well as many indicators of status. It does complicate the language but when you are born into it, it seems quite natural."
"'Never use one word where ten will suffice?,' I suppose," Piggy interjected. The ensign had made his way into the hall and picked up a tray without the lieutenant having noticed. Only she expressed some surprise when he spoke.
"I suppose," Teelis allowed slowly, glancing at the warrant officer as if asking for his assistance.
Grey chose to misunderstand her look. "A twist on an old Terran saying. It's supposed to be 'never use ten where one will suffice.' The ensign is attempting levity."
Nearly over Teelis' murmured, "I see," Piggy asked eagerly, "Mind a third for dinner, sir, Mister Grey?" He did not exactly wait for a response to his query, already having set down his tray before Teelis could nod slightly, resigned.
"More language lessons?" Piggy plowed on in the conversation he was having with the other officer.
"The installation schedule does not permit me much time to tutor the warrant officer on language and cultural norms except over meals at this juncture," Teelis noted succinctly. Grey noticed that her back had straightened and her tone had become more formal. He doubted that Piggy noticed. Or cared.
"I've always been fascinated by the Rihannsu culture," Piggy eagerly noted. "Like the naming conventions, with the honoring of your ancestors and the use of geographical locations as middle names."
"Apparently," Grey affirmed.
"I do not think that is terribly different from Terran naming norms," Teelis answered, carefully cutting into her clam pancake.
"Definitely not. My last name, Schweinfurt, is actually a city in Germany. When my ancestors moved from that region to the Americas, their name was inadvertently recorded as their hometown. But they used it anyway because it was easier for non-German speakers to pronounce."
Despite his instinct to remain silent, Grey asked curiously, "What was the original surname of your family?"
"Pflueger. It's a strange consonant sound in English," Piggy answered the man, giving him only a brief glance.
Despite her own obvious reluctance, Teelis seemed drawn into the conversation. She admitted, "When my family immigrated to the Federation, we also changed our surname. We were t'Khnialmnae, which means of the House of Khnialmnae. When we arrived, we choose the name Tei, which is the name of the House in which my mother was born. We dropped the possessive since we are not of that House, merely genetically related to it."
"Why didn't you just keep Khnialmnae?" Piggy wondered.
"We felt it was inappropriate to keep the name of the House that would execute us if we were ever caught."
Grey looked from one officer to the other before pronouncing, "Her story is better."
Within the same mess hall, the table nearest to the replicator bank on the portside was informally known as "the captain's table." Gallant
's size precluded a captain's mess, as larger starships often carried. In lieu of that, Kircheis often chose to sit at a particular table out of habit and over time the rest of the crew simply accepted it as an unspoken norm. Of course, Merrit Kelley often dined with the captain, as she did that evening. Ship's business was sometimes conducted over meals, so long as it was not sensitive information.
When the executive officer arrived, Kircheis noticed the sudden change in her demeanor, but could not ascertain what caused it. "Something wrong, Merrit?"
Kelley took her seat, with a mug already in her hand and set it upon the metallic table. Her tone briefly distracted, she replied, "Uh, no, sir. Nothing's wrong."
The captain decided to take her at face value, and changed the subject. She kept her tone low as she intimated, "I spoke with Captain Tersh'on this morning. He mentioned that he's looking for an officer to command Audacious
"The new construction?" Kelley said. "I'm sure you're an excellent choice, sir."
Kircheis chuckled. "Well, thank you. However, the officer I recommended was you."
Kelley sat quietly for what seemed to be a long time. "I don't know what to say."
"How about, 'thank you?'"
"Thank you, sir," came her quick reply. "I'm not sure that I have enough seniority."
Kircheis picked up her mug and brought it to her lips. Before she took a sip, she mentioned, "You will in six months. The timing is perfect, because she won't be ready until then. They have a series of modifications in mind for her. Probably if our mission goes well, this new holodevice will be one of them."
"Even so, sir, I'm sure there are more senior lieutenants in the fleet who're primed for command."
"Actually," Kircheis showed off her teeth as she smiled, "you're among the group at the top of the list in seniority. At least, of those serving within the squadron." She paused to consider the sudden lack of confidence. "Do you not want command? I can go back to the captain and let him know to look at someone else."
Kelley shook her head. "No, sir. I'm very gratified by your confidence in me. I would be honored to assume command, it's just that I was taken aback by the news. I assumed that at the end of the year, I would simply put in for another tour aboard Gallant
Kicheis put her left elbow on the table and leaned in to stress the sincerity of her words. "I would have thought to see a little more excitement from you on this. Or are you more suited to just being my XO?"
Kelley swallowed before responding in an earnest tone. "Sir, I've been privileged to serve under your command. The last year and half, we've seen more action than the typical Defiant-class ship, given our attachment to Admiral Leone's flag."
"I guess it never occurred to me that command would come this early in my career. I saw myself being transferred to a larger ship, taking a staff position aboard and so on and so forth."
"It works a little differently when you're working on the smaller ships, of course. But, I see what you're saying. You thought you would be moving out of the squadron and onto a light or heavy cruiser?"
Kelley nodded slowly. "When I sought my appointment to the Academy, I had visions in my head of standing on the bridge in command of a Galaxy-class starship on the edge of known space." Off her captain's amused expression, she shrugged. "At least, that's what the recruitment propaganda always seems to show."
"Seen those, yeah."
As Piggy walked by with his tray to join Teelis and Grey, Kelley continued, "Like I said, it was a surprise."
"A pleasant one, I hope."
"Absolutely, sir. Thank you for your recommendation."
"You more than deserve it," Kircheis turned back to her mug. "And for what it's worth, I wouldn't mind keeping you aboard as my XO for another tour of duty, but as your captain, I also have to do what's right for your career. Staying aboard Gallant
might seem like the safer option, but Starfleet needs good, experienced officers to lead in the field. You are one of those people, Merrit."
Kircheis could not help but smile at how the compliment caused her exec to flush under her scrutiny. Kelley's eyes stared down at the table, but lifted up her gaze to meet Kircheis'. "I won't let you down, sir."