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‘Problems in Engineering'

Main Engineering, Deck 4

"Is this what they call an upgrade? Do they seriously think this work warrants recertification? It's not fit for a paddle in a pond."

Eddie Garner grumbled his way out of a Jeffries tube, which to anyone who had worked with him over the last twenty years was an all too familiar sight and sound.

The young lieutenant trailing at his side though was not a past colleague but newly assigned to the ship's crew and therefore bore an expression of chastisement as if every fault of the refit yard crew was his own. The humour in which Eddie Gardner was in, meant he probably did lay every blame with the young lieutenant.

"What are they teaching you children at Starfleet anyway?" Not for the first time, Eddie Gardner mused to himself (and often times he mused quite vocally to others) that the Academy just could not train engineers the way practical real life hands on experience did.

He himself, was a graduate of the school of life, beginning his career in Starfleet as an enlisted and working his way from the literal deck plates up, through the ranks of the non-commissioned officers before crossing over to the dark side to become an ‘actual' officer.

To this day, he still thought of himself as an NCO; those were his proudest achievements earning his rank through hard work and experience not pieces of paper and set exams. If it weren't for his Captain desiring Eddie as one of his trusted hands over the years to be able to hold command of the ship and away parties as was often the case then he would not have contemplated seeking his piece of paper.

Looking at the lieutenant in front of him Eddie shook his head in consideration not quite believing that a lieutenant could look so young and inexperienced. Was it just him growing older? How young did his new ensign who arrived this very day appear to be? She was a young whippersnapper for heaven's sake! Though of course the ancientness of her grey Trill eyes belied the youth of her complexion.

Eddie Gardner looked quickly at the entrance doors he heard part, thinking it to be the Captain conducting his tour with the new ensigns. Two hours as yet and he still had not shown up. Where was he at with them? He's probably in the torpedo bay showing them how to load the photon torpedoes.

The lieutenant for his part saw the measuring look and the shake of the head and felt that surely they were not meeting their chief's expectations. Only a month ago filled with confidence and optimism at receiving his promotion the lowly lieutenant was a dejected and scared former shell of himself.

Over his superior's shoulder, he spied one of the engineers from the starbase (she had actually been the one to enter into the engineering department causing Gardner to look around for the Captain) and saw his route of escape and a means to deflect the chief's scorn from himself.

"Um sir ... Chief Hashap is ... um ... here. To give you the final debrief."

"Is she indeed?" Gardner turned from the pale faced lieutenant and sought out the new target for his wrath. He squared up for a confrontation.

"Yes just over there." The young lieutenant pointed his newly acquired senior officer towards where a medium tawny haired NCO gave a wan smile that looked quite uncomfortable on her face probably use to more sincere smiles than solicitous pretences at overhearing her work being derided.

Gardner barrelled her with a long hard look and barked, "So chief petty officer, this is the report telling me that everything is tickety-boo with the ship." He waved the padd accusingly in front of her face. To her credit, she continued to smile sweetly.

"What kind of ham-fisted operation do you run here? Starbase 49 never enjoyed much of a reputation and now I can see why."

Truthfully he was disappointed at one of his own ilk, an NCO, had let him down. Truthfully too the starbase was not renowned for the calibre of its work but then it was a frontier refit yard, a sort of patch ‘em up and send ‘em on their way sort of place. Exactly the kind of place Starfleet Command believed fitting for the maintenance of an old workhorse such as the Kestrel. With that said such a yard was the lifesaver of many starships and made up the backbone of support, supply and succour for the efforts of the border patrol vessels.

"If you have any issues sir then Commandant Georgetown will happily listen to any and all complaints."

"I'm sure. And are you happy to stand over your work here Ms Hashap?"

"Actually sir I was not part of the refit team; however Lt Hanover was unable to present himself and asked me to fill in."

Gardner gave her a grudging nod uncommitted to believing her or displaying disgust at the cowardice of Hanover to show his face. Though secretly, he felt reassured that it was one of those paper degree engineers at fault for the mess of his engines.

"Well let's have it then. Not that the report is likely to hold any credence. I probably would have been better off not putting the old bird in for a service from what I have seen thus far."

"Together we can go through the report and compare it to your preliminary findings. Once we target areas to be attended to we can make up an agenda and coordinate crews before hand over." She held up a hand and stopped him before he started, "Unfortunately Lt Commander Gardner, Mr Hanover is due to start a new job assignment repairs to the vessel Manhattan."

"I don't suppose he rushed through this job in order to catch such a plum job as a Galaxy class?" Would be just bloody typical of those jumped up types!

"Of course not sir, though it does mean I will be leading the crews working in conjunction with your crew if that would be acceptable."

"Better that than my being hauled in front of the Captain for an altercation with your Mr Hanover."

Quietly aside, though perhaps not deliberately quietly enough, "We all run the risk of doing that."

Eddie grinned fractionally for the briefest second. Those with engines in their blood had fire in their bellies he firmly believed. This Hashap might just have a bit of that fire in her. "I might just be able to work with you Ms Hashap."

She gave a winning and heartfelt smile in reply. "Please, call me Laura."

* * *

Lt Berkley felt relief as he bent over the nearest console to catch a breath. A hand slapped him mildly on the back. Jumping for height he turned around to see it was none other than Becca Swift.

"Is everything ok Berkley?"

Berkley was still getting use to the informal tone taken by the NCO petite and slender brunette in front of him. She was plain and certainly not unattractive. Her athletically toned body attested to her fitness regime, all the better for lugging about equipment and parts through the innards of the ship's Jeffries tubes and conduits.

He imagined that as an old hand of the Kestrel she had a greater standing with its Chief Engineer. He imagined too, the fact that she was an enlisted crewmate added kudos to her standing with the Chief who had a certain disliking or at the very least poor opinion of the Academy trained engineers like himself.

In these musings, he was correct.

"Em ... fine thanks Becca."

"In that case why don't we get along to the warp nacelles and start to check out the primary plasma input conduit." In anticipation, she held a bag of equipment and spare parts. At her foot was a similar bag for Berkley to carry.

Berkley took on board the almost implicit order of her suggestion. It somewhat irked him that he had extensively trained at Starfleet Academy and that he had gone on to prove himself as an ensign to receive his promotion to Lieutenant (junior grade) only to find an enlisted crewmate like Becca order him about.

Becca leaned in conspiratorially to Berkley and in whispered tones informed him, "The way I see it Berkley, the Chief will make it through five or four paragraphs of the report at most when he'll notice the discrepancy in the optimum levels at which the primary plasma input conduit should be operating and the reality as reported."

"When he does, his first call will be for us to make our way pronto, in particular to the port nacelle which is particularly out of alignment. When he does we, by which I mean you, can tell him that we are already on the way to fix the problem."

"Oh." He eyed her suspiciously.

"Don't worry, it's not some trick or trap. I noticed it when Hashap forwarded a copy of the report in advance of her visit. This will certainly win a few brownie points."

He bristled slightly at this. "Becca I'm not trying to win brownie points! Anyway, are you saying I have to win brownie points?"

"Of course you're not trying to win points. But it never hurts to help. It's better that than licking up to him without having done anything to warrant it. From my experience with the Chief on our last tour of duty that is an attribute he finds most annoying and he finds a lot of things annoying but that comes near the top of the list. I know his ways a bit. So it will hurt no-one to keep ahead of his plans."

She hoisted up his bag placing it in his hands. "Come on then."

He took the bag, put it over his shoulder, and followed her as she began to make the way towards the nacelles. "Why are you being so helpful though?"

On his last tour the senior enlisted crewmates had shown antagonism towards the ‘Fleets' because of the bullying behaviour of the ship's chief of engineer towards the enlisteds. In a roundabout form of retribution, they had then contrived to make life difficult for the chief's subordinate ‘Fleet' officers, such as Berkley.

Hence, Berkley's enthusiasm and renewed confidence at having a new berth envisioning much more cordial relations and better teamwork. Such expectations sadly dispelled upon meeting Gardner. He had such high hopes and the gruff engineer had dashed them. Consequently, the friendly good-natured advice of crewmates such as Becca was met with scepticism.

"Look Berkley, Gardner is the way that he is but he is a fine, fine engineer and you'll learn a lot from him. With that said, he is a right royal pain in thee arse! There is no denying that. But we all work along to his expectations and all of us in the engineering department work together fine."

She continued, "I gather you came from the Gloucester where things were less than ideal regards team morale. We Kestrels are an entirely different bunch. Our only attitudes lie with the senior officers such as Gardner and well - well, you met the Captain right?"

Berkley slowly nodded paling as he remembered the meeting.

Exiting a Jeffries tube twenty minutes later into the manual control bay of the port nacelle, Becca felt the Lieutenant had warmed to her and was coming round. He obviously had a few issues from the Gloucester.

As they straightened themselves and prepared for the trek through the crawl spaces towards their destination towards the fore of the nacelle along came the Captain with the new recruits. Becca gave the party a friendly smile and welcome.

Berkley was a whole lot more formal almost tripping over himself when he spied the Captain his voice proceeding. "That my dears, was the port nacelle."

Straightening up the Captain dusted down his hands and then proffered a hand to Jex to help her stand. "And as you will find out the warp drive control reactor is rather vital to our business so it was important for us to gather our bearings about it. Now that completes our tour of the port nacelle. As you can imagine the starboard nacelle is exactly the same except for its being on the other side."

"Ahh some more of my minions doing my bidding. Cutler, Jex and Templar this is ... well he's new too so you can hardly imagine me to know his name yet. Sorry if that makes you think I'm going to forget your names. Of course that wouldn't happen." He looked at them with what passed as an attempt at earnest intentions but he then shrugged the attempt off, "Well perhaps it will."

"Em ... it is Lieutenant Berkley sir."

"Don't tell me, I actually have met you before!" He jerked his head in the direction of the ensigns.

Berkley turned his attention to the ensigns. "Lt Berkley. Second in Engineering."

Jex stepped forward eagerly to shake his hand in greeting. The Captain muttered something to the likes of ‘God bloody help us!' before he launched more volubly, "This is Becca - Becca Swift - a runt from engineering whom we've helped to shape aboard the Kestrel."

"There was the Jonah prior to that too Captain."

"Pawh! A mere paddling about expedition. You hardly learnt anything with the likes of Higgins. It is only under mine tutelage, and Gardner to a lesser degree, that you have garnered the skills and talents you possess today. Obviously I saw something in you to allow you to come aboard and become one of my Kestrels."

The Captain then uncomfortably took in the fact he was surrounded by no less than four new crewmembers that would look upon his remarks as an endorsement of their talents.

That was not the message he wanted to send out. Particularly in light of the fact on this one occasion, it was patently not true. Not that any one else knew it. And the fact that his personnel requests were rebuffed and he was having these ensigns foisted on him for no good reason was something he did not want to think about just now. Else, he would throw all three out of the nearest airlock and celebrate their loss with a tankard of whisky. "Well often that is the case but not always."

Berkley had swelled proudly at the Captain's remarks and then deflated just as suddenly. Cutler echoed those feelings though he felt the Captain's eyes on him particularly at the last of the statement. He gulped. Jex smiled knowingly at the Captain's ploy and caught Becca's hidden smirk. Templar shifted from foot to foot. The movement caught Becca's attention and then she looked at Templar more closely and a look of recognition and disgust passed her face. Before Jex could enquire, the Captain moved the party on.

They passed into the Jeffries tube with the Captain calling back to Becca and Berkley, "Tallyho." To the ensigns following him he called, "This way to Engineering then."

Becca smiled at the procedure and the ensigns filing behind the Captain like ducklings after the mother duck. A niggling thought nagged at her as she looked back at the frame of Templar. She returned to the moment and then to Berkley remarked, "The Captain certainly believes in a thorough tour of the ship."

Berkley nodded, thinking how chafed his knees were by the end of his own tour a month ago when he swore he had traversed every single conduit and intersection of Jeffries tube aboard the ship only to spill out at last in Main Engineering before a run through of ship systems from there and finally being led to his berth.

"Yes it is very thorough." He rubbed his knees in memory.

"It comes from his time as an upper-yardsman." Becca caught the look of confusion on the lieutenant's face. "Sorry old earth nautical term. He started out like the Chief as an enlisted, worked his way up through the different ranks and departments onboard vessels. There's probably no-one who knows this ship as much as he does. Never mind the fact that he has commanded the Kestrel for nigh on twenty years he also served on the Kestrel as an NCO and a junior officer. No surprise then that he's of the firm belief that all crew should be intimately knowledgeable about the ship."

Picking up her gear for the short (though cramped) journey to the node junction they were looking for she remarked, "And wait till he starts drilling the crew!"

* * *


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