TUE: USS Pugnacious – “Hide and Seek” Stardate 2356.9 (16 May 2325) USS Pugnacious NCC-487 Star Station Echo – Berth 7 Lt. Commander January “Jan” Sylvest, C.O. of the Patrol Cutter, USS Pugnacious, surveyed Engineering with hands on hips and a smile of satisfaction on her face. “Nice work, 'Zed,'” she enthused to her Chief Engineer. “I wager Engineering didn't look this good when it first left the Copernicus shipyards back in the day.” “I would say considerably better,” boasted Lt. Zora Duntov. Humility was not one of the Chief Engineer's strong points. “Warp performance is the best it's ever been. Sytems are operating at peak efficiency. There's no question that engineering is much improved since I took over.” Sylvest had learned to ignore Duntov's hyperbole. The fact was, the cramped engine room was immaculate and the horizontal warp core which occupied much of the space thrummed softly in standby mode. Everything appeared squared away. While she would not test the theory, she could probably eat off of the deck, it was so clean. Main Engineering on the Pugnacious echoed a design dating back to the venerable NX-class. An arched ceiling loomed closely overhead, festooned with conduits and pipes. Captain Sylvest fought the urge to duck every time she entered the space. The twin catwalks that lined the horizontal warp core cut into the clearance even more. The ratings that manned those consoles probably had sore necks after a shift of monitoring the intermix chamber. CPO Relek Torv Torsk, the Tellarite Chief of the Boat wore a disgruntled scowl. Since that was his default expression, it could signify anything from disdain to intense interest. At 61 standard years of age, Torsk was the oldest of Pugnacious' crew. He was also the longest serving member, having joined the Pug some 26 years earlier as a Petty Officer, Third Class. Despite his dour outlook on officers in general and the Chief Engineer, in particular, he was an excellent NCO and knew the ship's systems better than anyone, including Lt. Duntov. “Too much time and effort going into spit and polish when that time would be better spent running the boots through their paces,” groused Torsk, referring to the ten brand new crewmen who had just arrived from Mars. Sylvest stifled a sigh. “It's not everyday that we have a visit from Admiral Odegaard, Boats. I have every confidence that you'll bring our new crewmen up to speed.” “Yes ma'am,” grunted the Chief, obviously not mollified in the least. “Just remember, I was here when we went through this same frelp when the old man turned 100. Days wasted on scut-work for the Admiral to wander around my ship for twenty minutes. Admiral Lars Odegaard (ret.), was considered the Father of the Border Service. He was scheduled to visit the Pugnacious the very next day, on the occasion of his 125th birthday. The Pugnacious was his first command, and the Border Service brass seldom passed up an opportunity for some positive P.R. Accordingly, Commodore Munson, Commander of the 7th Border Squadron, had strongly impressed upon Lt. Commander Sylvest the importance that the 97 year-old patrol cutter be “ship shape, from bow to stern and from bridge to bilge.” Sylvest was unsure what a “bilge” was until she looked it up. She was relieved to learn that Pugnacious did not actually have a bilge and that Munson merely had an affinity for anachronistic nautical terms. Satisfied that Pug was ready for Admiral Odegaard's visit, whether that be a quick walk-through or formal inspection, Sylvest made her way back to Deck One. The bridge of Pugnacious was a virtual replica of the original Constitution-class bridge layout, with the exception of being about 25% smaller. Even the red, black, and gray colors were a throwback to that era. It was functional but certainly not spacious. The ring-shaped control center had a large main viewscreen, multiple stations around the perimeter, and the helm/ops twin station just forward of the command chair. As Captain Sylvest stepped off the turbo-lift, Lt. Pasqal, the cutter's Executive Officer, quietly rose from the center seat, eschewing the standard “Captain on the bridge” announcement. Sylvest felt it to be a needless interruption for the bridge personnel. “Status, Mr. Pasqal?” “Quiet as a mortuary and still docked in berth 7 with no sign of Orion pirates or Nausicaan raiders,” he replied. “Petty Officer Hayes reported one minor injury when Crewman DeLauney slipped coming down a ladder and sprained his ankle. He is expected to live.” "Thank goodness for small miracles," she replied, accepting a data slate from the XO and scanning it. PO1C Maggie Hayes was their Nurse Practitioner / Paramedic, as the cutter was too small to rate an M.D. Hayes was very good at her job and brave to the point of sometimes being reckless. Sylvest settled into the command chair, turning it to regard the Denobulan. “One more day, XO, and we can get back to the real work.” The Denobulan's bushy eyebrows rose a fraction. “As opposed to applying saliva and rubbing compound?” “Spit and polish,” she corrected, “but, yeah. I am more than ready to repair a subspace relay, tow a disabled transport, or defend the Federation against carnivorous Tribbles.” “Ah, sarcasm,” he beamed. “Very good, ma'am, I'll add that one to my collection.” Smiling, she shook her head. “I relieve you, Mr. Pasqal.” “And I stand relieved. Perchance there is still some leftover pizza in the ward room.” “Good hunting,” she replied as the XO moved to the turbo-lift. Sylvest returned her attention to the data slate, wishing someone would bring her a cup of Gwin'tja tea. But the Border Service did not have stewards or yeomen, so she set that thought aside, noting wryly that, with few exceptions, the morning brief was virtually unchanged from yesterday, and the day before. Stellar meteorology indicated some low-level ion storms in the Molari Badlands, and gravitic waves were creating massive swirling dust clouds in the sector, but that had little to do with a cutter docked at a star station. Something intruded on her thoughts. She heard a slight cough and looked up. A young Tellarite stood to the side of the command chair, black eyes peering at her either balefully or in abject terror. (She had a terribly difficult time reading the expressions of Tellarites.) His crisp uniform and shiny rank flash indicated he was a newly minted Ensign. She placed the slate on her lap and studied the Ensign, waiting. He continued to stare. She stared back. “Do say something, Ensign. Your projected life-span is twice mine, and I have a head start. I would hate to die of old age before you make jay-gee.” That made him blink. “Uh, Ensign Maonkarv Gav Gralt, reporting for duty, sir.” This time, it was Sylvest's turn to stare blankly. “Ensign Gralt? I don't believe you are assigned to Pugnacious.” “I wasn't, sir. My original assignment was Albacore. The transport from Tellar Prime was delayed and Albacore was already underway when I arrived. They won't return for six weeks.” He paused. “The Squadron Commander assigned me TDY to Pugancious, sir.” His voice lacked the gravelly timbre of a mature Tellarite. This one was barely out of adolescence. “So you quite literally missed the boat,” she responded with a wry smile. “Sir, Albacore is a ship. A boat can be placed aboard a vessel, as a shuttlecraft could be carried in this ship. A ship cannot be carried on a ship, thus Albacore cannot be a boat, sir.” Sylvest rested her chin on her fist, continuing to study the young Ensign. Tellarites were masters of sarcasm; it was part of their cultural identity. CPO Torsk, for example, had a tongue sharp enough to shave Tritanium. “Thank you, Mr. Gralt, I bow to your superior knowledge,” she replied, in her best sarcastic tone, inter-species understanding and all that. He blinked. “Sir?” My God, she thought, a Tellarite in whom is no guile. “Ma'am,” she corrected, absently wondering where the Border Service found this kid. “Sir?” he replied, clearly confused. Sylvest rubbed her eyes, feeling the first tingle of a headache. “Mr. Gralt, you may refer to me as 'Captain,' 'Skipper,' or 'Ma'am.' I prefer that over 'Sir.' Is that understood?” “Yes si . . . ma'am.” “Now, what to do with you, Ensign Gralt . . . ,” She noted the gold at his neck. Why did they change the engineering color from red to gold? . . . oh, yeah . . .redshirts . . . 'deadshirts' . . . Heh . . . Good Lord, I'm a horrible person . . . Deciding this was no longer going to be her problem, she toggled the comm switch for the ward room. “Mr. Pasqal, are you finished scarfing pizza?” “Oh, yes. And there's a lovely cheesecake in the stasis box. I saved you a piece.” “Nice. When you've brushed the crumbs from your jacket, please come to the bridge. We've a poor little lamb who has lost his way.” “On my way,” Looking back at Gralt, she asked, “Do you have your personal gear, Ensign?” “Yes ma'am, I left it at the airlock.” “Our Executive Officer, Lt. Pasqal, will assign you quarters and get you on the duty rotation. I presume engineering is your specialty?” “Yes ma'am, it is.” “Very well.” Pasqal stepped off the turbo-lift, so she stood, finding she was considerably taller than the young Tellarite. “Welcome aboard the Pugnacious, Mr. Gralt. I will leave you in the XO's capable hands.” * * * Wayward ensigns aside, the morning shift moved along with a sort of numbing monotony. Sylvest was counting the hours until the arrival of Admiral Odegaard and his entourage (27 hours, 33 minutes), and was seriously contemplating cheesecake, when the comm officer spoke up. “Skipper, we're receiving an incoming message from Squadron Command.” Sylvest frowned. Was it too far for Munson to walk? “On screen.” The image of Commodore Arlen Munson, C.O. Of the 7th Border Service Squadron, loomed from the viewscreen. He did not look happy. “Captain Sylvest, sorry as hell to do this to you, but I need Pugnacious ready for departure within the hour for a rescue mission. I'm transmitting details as we speak . . .” Sylvest managed to keep her face impassive while she did an internal happy dance. “Just say the word, sir.” * * * To Be Continued . . .