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Cptn Swain

The Engines of Command

Commander Korin Hazlet frowned deeply. It had been just over two months since he’d taken over the orbital shipyards on Cait, following a rather sordid affair involving the former chief foreman. His predecessor -- Captain Cierra Cohen -- had been relieved of duty following the incident and put on leave. The last he’d heard she’d been cleared of any wrong doing, but it certainly wasn’t a good look for anyone involved.


His first task had been to clean house. It wasn’t something he liked doing, but it was needed. Cohen ran an okay operation, but the fact that a terrorist had so easily ingratiated himself meant he had few choices. The bright spot, however, had been the Excalibur. Hazlet had at first been hesitant to turn over the management of refit to her XO, and even more so when he’d learned she was also an engineer, but he’d found her an excellent project manager and even better at keeping their hare-brained chief engineer in check.


So of course, some lame-brain moron at Command had to ruin all that, didn’t they? He frowned again, looking at his watch. It was almost 0700. The newly refurbished messhall of the Excalibur gleamed with a fresh polish on the flooring, and the sun was beginning to rise over Cait through the floor-to-ceiling windows. He looked back down to the PADD on the table and took a deep breath as he heard the doors open.


Miranda strode in, admiring the shiny new repairs. “I’ve not seen this room look so nice in… well… ever.” Joining Hazlet, she smiled. “They’ve done a nice job, haven’t they? Repairs, refits, even an upgrade or two. We’re just about ready to shove off, pending a final inspection.”


Hazlet forced a smile on his oblong face. “Yes, I think all things considered it’s gone pretty well. I have to say that I was nervous, really, taking over with everything going on, but you guys really made it work.” He paused looking back to the PADD.


“Unfortunately,” he said after a moment. “I am afraid you’ll be here a bit longer than just an inspection.”


Miranda’s smile faded to something most would consider neutral, though it was really just one small step above scorn. Her ‘Commander’ face. Most on the Excalibur had seen it at least once and all had been happy to slip away without witnessing anything harsher. As an engineer, she expected perfection of all her crew. Those that missed the mark once, didn’t usually miss it a second time. It was far easier (for everyone) to remain in her good graces.



“I don’t like the sound of that, Commander. It sounds as though you’re about to spring some bad news on me, and I very much dislike bad news.”


“I am afraid so,” Hazlet said, putting on a good front. He wasn’t thrilled about the situation and he totally understood her perspective. “Normally this would go to the CO first, but since Captain Swain is still on leave, I thought it’d be best to bring you and your Chief in on it instead.”


“Well, my Chief of Engineering isn’t here, obviously. He’s busy getting ready for our final inspection so we can get underway and on to our next assignment. Or at least, that was the plan. So, out with it. What did Central Command decide this time without consulting any of us?”


“How familiar are you with Quantum Slipstream Drives?” he said, ignoring her entirely understandable gruffness.


She stared at him. “You’ve got to be joking. They’re incredibly dangerous, for all the benefits they provide in propulsion. Incredibly dangerous. Not to mention difficult to properly regulate.”


“Yes,” Hazlet said matter-of-factly, “However R&D back home has spent the last several years working on making it work and are, apparently, ready for a live field trial. Why they chose Excalibur, I am not clear, though it could be because of the upgrades fitted to your deflector array -- apparently that’s a key component.”


“Quantum slipstream requires an enormous amount of energy to be funneled into the deflector array in order to create a quantum field. It’s a delicate balance. If the field collapses while the ship is in transit, the ship would be thrown violently out of quantum space. There’s no controlling where you’d land. The ship could, very literally, break apart in piec…” She stopped, staring even harder, which quickly turned into a glower. “Wait a minute, why they chose Excalibur? CHOSE? What in seven hells are you trying to say, Commander?” Tense and rigid, she was bristling with anger.


Hazlet didn’t react to the sudden flare other than to force a smile again. “I only know what the project leader told me,” he said flatly. “They apparently had planned to do it on another ship at Utopia Planitia but a complication with that ship’s navigational deflector meant they had to find another ship. Normally this kind of thing is done on an older ship, but given the stresses of slipstream and the updates required to the power generation and distribution systems, they needed a newer ship -- apparently Excalibur fit the bill.”


“No. Absolutely not.” She shook her head. “I don’t care who this comes from, or who I have to talk to in order to have the decision reversed, but it’s not happening. Not on my ship. Not to my crew.” The back of one hand smacked against the palm of her other. “Do you even realize what we’ve just been through? How we barely escaped the GQ? The state of this ship before we started repairs? We’ve been sent on one insane mission after another! And now, when we have the chance for some normalcy, they want to outfit our ship with what is, effectively, a ticking bomb that could destroy the entire ship and everyone with it!”


“I understand your concerns, I really do,” Hazlet said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “If it were upto me -- well I think it’s a terrible idea -- but it’s not. You’re obviously free to lodge a complaint with Command, I won’t begrudge you for it.


“That said, I doubt it will do much good. The orders came directly from Starfleet Research and Development and were countersigned by Fleet HQ. The project team is already en route from Mars and should arrive later this week.”


Miranda glowered. “No, it won’t do much good, will it? But that doesn’t mean I won’t yell at them at the top of my lungs. Just see if don’t. You think Captain Swain will be willing to go along with this?” She snapped her fingers. “Oh, I see. He’s on leave and can’t do anything about it. So you sneak in here with the project team, install this blasted thing while he’s away, and scurry back to the hole from which you crawled. A low blow, even for HQ.”


“Who is your project leader? I want his or her name and location. We’re going to have a chat, the two of us.”


It was now Hazlet’s turn to put a stern, withering look on his face. “Commander,” he said firmly. “She is not my project leader. I had nothing to do with this, other than being given orders that the installation was going to happen. Now I could have simply ordered it done and not brought you in on it, given that this is my facility and that for the duration of her refit, the Excalibur is nominally under my authority, but I didn’t so let’s just get that cleared up right now. If you want to blow your stack on Dr. Ilyan, that’s perfectly fine with me -- hell in your position I’d do the same -- but keep me well clear of your fury.”


“You’re riding thin on technicalities, especially considering what happened to our ship while docked at this station. Granted, that wasn’t under your command, but I had more faith in Captain Cohen to stand up for what is right. I finished the repairs to our ship because I didn’t trust anyone from the station to complete them properly. My team made them happen. So don’t go spouting regulation at me. Excalibur is no more under your command than I’m the Empress of the Romulan Empire.”


“Commander,” he said raising his voice only slightly above normal. “I understand you’re upset, really I do, and I do and did appreciate the assistance you and your teams provided. I did explain to Command that I didn’t think this was a good idea, but hell if you care about details. Now if you want to keep insulting me because you’re mad keep it up. Fortunately for you, I am not one to hold grudges because trust me, Commander, if I wanted to be an ass I could have your whole team pulled off this project and sent down to Cait to twiddle your damned thumbs. I know you’re mad, I know you’re upset but good lord, pick the right damn target. I guess someone never learned not to shoot the messenger.”


“Rest assured that when I do find the appropriate target, they’ll get a lot more than a dressing down. I might be upset, but this isn’t even a fraction of what’s going to happen when my Chief Engineer hears about this.” She sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. Moving away from his table, she stared out at the station, her brow still creased with irritation. “You’d better go and finish doing whatever it is that you’ve been tasked to do. As you have the misfortune of being the messenger, and the only target we currently have, you’re not going to want to be here when the news hits the rest of the ship.”


Softening, he nodded before standing. “Yes, I do have a lot of work to do. I have three inspections this afternoon. I’ll have all the technical details forwarded to you, as well the contact details for the project team.”


“Very well,” she said, a tad calmer than before. “I’ll be sure to mention your reservations when I file my formal complaint.” She glanced over her shoulder at him briefly, then turned back to the star field.


Miranda waited patiently until she heard the doors swish closed behind her to punch the transparent aluminum. “Ow.” Hand throbbing and most likely fractured, she ignored the pain and turned sharply on her heel, heading for engineering. The shiny new panels in engineering were going to have several dents in them once she gave Admiran the news.

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