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‘Hanging About'

Deck 6 and 5, Hangar Bay 1

As they crawled out of the conduit on their hands and knees, Noah looked up confused. "Erm ... Captain this isn't the Engineering room."

"Ten out of ten for you Mr Cutler. What gave it away, the lack of a warp core or the number of shuttlecraft sitting around on deck?"

He blushed at the mild rebuke. The Captain stepped into the centre of the hangar bay. He slapped the side of a Marco Palo class scientific shuttle. "As our good ensign Cutler pointed out we find ourselves not in the engineering department but in one of our shuttle hangars."

"Of course, you should have surmised that before we reached our destination if you read the numbers and letters printed to the sides of the conduits and Jeffries we travelled through and realised too that we were on Deck 6 and yet Engineering is on Deck 4 but enough talk about your failings. We will get to the engineering department later."

"It is pretty much the same as any other ship. Funny blue strobing lights giving people fits - what passes for a pretty lame-ass disco really. Don't tell Gardner I said that he's as grumpy as hell when it comes to his engines and basically everything else. Plus he doesn't like disco music - grouchy mentalist that he is. Not the happy go lucky type like myself."

The three ensigns dropped their eye level from the captain's not daring to make eye contact at such an absurdity. In doing so, they each examined the hangar more closely.

It was compact with a large shuttered opening to the rear. Against the sides various compartments held tools, panels to the hangar bay's tractor beam emitters, and on the lower level caged into their own little coops sat six of the ship's twelve work bee utility craft as numerated by the captain as he detailed the various embarked craft the Kestrel.

In total, there were twenty embarked craft. Among these were the work bee utility craft, squat bumblebee yellow stubby things with dexterous elongated arms, utilised by the engineering department to carry out maintenance and services and repairs to the ship. Mostly to the hull but also to areas not so easily accessed from the interior of the ship, from the nacelles to the deflector grids etc. Although the more modern approach was to suit up in EVA suits, the original Miranda design had included these workhorses and they served their purpose well.

In addition the original design of the Miranda class was outfitted with both assault and interceptor vehicles. The four Killer Bee class Assault craft housed on board paled in comparison to the modern Valkyrie fighters and as their name implied the design was derived from the work bee utility craft. It looked as though a work bee had an extended and more powerful engine housing shunted onto its backside with its dextrous arms amputated in favour of two long pointed tapering wings adding a new menace to the innoxious shape of the work bee craft. The midnight blue hulls added to the mean appearance of the craft whose purpose was to act as a defensive shield for the ship.

McGregor now standing beside one of the craft suspended from the ceiling by secure lines that allowed it to be hauled along to its launch point in the hangar, patted one of the menacing wings housing its ordnance.

"They might not look like much but they do have quite a sting to their tail." The Captain went on to explain how they were also often used to help drive off attackers from defenceless ships under attack from rogue Klingons, Orions, Ferengi marauders or Fien pirates and any other number of criminals they often encountered.

Although limited in their range and purposes, they were a useful weapon and tactic and just in defence as they worked well in assaults too, though normally the captain granted they acted more in defence than in the offence; ‘however foolish such a policy was' he had also added.

Sebastian Templar walked up to the craft the Captain stood beside, maintained an appreciative silence, and ran a hand reverently over the wing.

"I see you appreciate my killers Templar. Your record showed you had quite an aptitude with piloting attack craft, hence your inclusion upon my crew. You'll be working under Tac but as your skills also lie with piloting these assault vehicles, you will sometimes co-ordinate with Stanley too. Your record does show though that you never had an opportunity to fly one of these ..."

McGregor turned and stepped through a door where a further number of craft hung suspended from the ceiling. "My Wasps. And a pretty and deadly thing they are too."

For slightly further afield duties there were four other more streamlined craft. The four Wasp class craft had a keener look, speedier looking too as the captain explained they were Interceptors used to chase down escaping enemies, make pursuit or follow enemy craft to their whereabouts and hideouts. These vessels were black, and recently updated with scan deflecting technology to allow them to carry out their espionage roles to greater effect. The fact they were atmospheric flight capable only added to their range and versatility.

Sebastian whistled appreciatively and Jex too looked upon the mean craft with a certain relish. Noah imagined she recollected flying them before or some like memory. He himself quailed at the thought of such a cooped up space in such a precarious position. The vacuum of space was no more than a windshield away!

"Of course Jex and Cutler we will have to rectify your lack of experience in these vehicles - something I'll get Stanley to work on as soon as. I expect all of my crew to be able to do anyone else's job with confidence and skill. Save my own of course. I can't expect too much of you."

"Actually, Jex has flown these before. Some of the very first Wasps actually."

"Oh dear you're doing that Trill thing talking about yourself in the third person. Tsk, Tsk." McGregor paused then to consider, "Per chance I haven't dated you before."

Jex almost blushed and laughed, "No Captain you haven't!"

"Just checking, can never be too careful when it comes to a Trill!" To the two men he said in an aside, "Memories like elephants they do - and that's just women for you - so if you cross a female Trill sheesh! You promise to call and they hold you to it." Then to Jex he remarked, "Now by date I don't exactly mean ..."

Jex cut in before he said something too outrageous. "No Captain, not in any shape or form whatsoever."

Again, in an aside to the blokes McGregor stage whispered. "Didn't think so! I'm pretty unforgettable," he dug an elbow into Noah's ribs in a bantering manner, "if you know what I mean."

Embarrassed Noah meekly replied, "Yes sir."

"What do you mean you know Cutler? Somehow I doubt if I ever," he made matching bunny ears fingers for the quote marks, "‘dated' you Cutler!"

Noah went red but the Captain did not miss a beat and instead stepped out of the room housing the wasps and led the way back to the main hangar. As they made their way along the gangways and then down the ladders, McGregor approached two specially adapted shuttles.

"The ship obviously also has numerous personnel shuttlecraft. Nothing too fancy mind." He wagged a scolding finger and then will false graciousness related, "We are after all the under belly of the fleet and they don't tend to extend us too many favours even though we spare them the grunt of any real work. For the retro look, we have one Galileo class multi-purpose warp shuttle. We have one CHSU class dockport shuttle. Funny looking thing isn't it."

Indeed it was, like some sort of angular insect, a sort of triangularised grasshopper head with its legs chopped off and a rectangular block for a body to Noah's mind. "No need for it to be deployed here with the spacebase amenities allowing for a wide range of vessels to dock and it is rarely used if ever, but you never know when it might be needed to help mate the Kestrel to an alien ship or base. Can't throw it away for Admiralty would be peeved. Can't see though us ever really needing it. But isn't it always the way, you throw something away and the next week it's the very thing you need!"

He went up to one of the specially outfitted shuttles. He gave it a hearty slap as if it were a pet dog. "But this here is a true beauty. This, this is one of our true grunts of the Border Service. A Stallion class shuttle. More robust and all round tough guy of the shuttle world."

"With the type of SAR and boarding missions we perform, we need a craft with real balls. It has to be able to withstand heavy fire, tricky nebulas, attach itself and cut into a hostile craft. The big surprise about it is the fact it isn't a standard design throughout Starfleet, the Fleeters fly such delicate tin cans that seem to run into all manner of difficulties and need rescuing more often than not. Obviously, trusted with the mission to rescue others we need something up to the job. And these are it."

McGregor clapped his hands together as if calling this section of the tour complete. He rubbed them together with relish and anticipation. "Now my dears, it's time we went outside for a breath of fresh air."

Noah blurted out, "Beg your pardon Captain?"

"Not to worry young Cutler. Better out than in." he slapped the ensign roughly on the back. "Oh you didn't mean you'd passed wind you're just puzzled by my statement. I actually thought it was rather obvious. Suit up. There's no better way to appreciate the ship than to tour the hull."

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