Chapter 20 - Readying the Runabouts

In the hangar bay, Mira was familiarizing herself with the computer systems of the three runabouts, tapping notes on a PaDD as she did so. She had already pulled one panel off the console, then remembered the Tanjura had people to do such things, people who would absolutely do it better than she, whose attempt would have been a messy jury-rig at best.

Kyle took a careful step inside, staring ahead at the three small ships. Feeling like it wasn’t that long ago he’d taken one from Earth to Andora, flip flopped Deja vu it feels. But there’s only one of the ship’s with clear life signs. Much like finding a doctor in the infirmary, he finds the FCO behind the console of a ship. He walks towards the back and gives a small knock on the door frame so as to not startle her. 

“Hello there, if I’m not interrupting too badly…” Noticing the panelless console, “i’d like to introduce myself; Counselor Kyle Hawthorne.” He said smiling, really hoping he hadn’t walked in at a bad time.

Mira looked up from her work, flashing a grin.  “Hello!  Lt Vashan.  Am I up for a psych report already?  Because I’m pretty sure I haven’t done anything yet.”  She looked down at the removed panel.  “Ok, almost anything.  I’ll just, uh, slide that back where it belongs,” she continued as she snapped it back into place.

He snickered, “oh no, I’m just making my rounds much like security; panic attacks fear my wit and low morale hides like a child when it hears my laugh.” With an exaggerated tone and an arm flex to finish it off like he was some showboating fool. He took a few steps more into the runabout.

“I’m just trying to get better acquainted with the crew, there’s still a few I haven’t been able to yet, and I hate introducing myself during a crisis.” He held out a hand for her to shake.

Mira took the offered head and gave it a good shake. “I think I’m going to like you.” She picked up her PaDD and waved it for emphasis.  “You may already know, but we’re gonna try towing the Tanjura with the runabouts.  I’m just trying to get them to cooperate.”

“Yes I heard, it’s quite an interesting idea Lieutenant.” It reminded Kyle of ancient history, like they were an old antiquity ship being brought back to shore. 

“And how are they not cooperating? Are you trying to fly the ships from inside the Tanjura?” He asked. 

“Uh…no?” she responded. She assumed he was joking, but didn’t feel like laughing along with it in case he was not. “I’m waiting on Engineering to help me link the control systems, let all three runabouts know what the other two are doing, slave some of the systems together so they can better act in sync. I also need to find out where the best points are to latch the tractor beams to. Otherwise we’re just wrecking the paint job.”

He nodded along, admittedly engineering and things attached was his weakest point, but it made sense. Like making sure the wheels all stay straight, so to say.

“And a wrecked paint job stays on your record, longer than you’d think.” He threw out as an acknowledgment. 

“I guess my main question after that is who’s gonna be flying these runabouts?” Cocking an eyebrow in her direction.
“Um….the pilots?  I feel like I’m not understanding the question,” Mira replied awkwardly.

“Right…” He nodded, eyes casting about anywhere and hoping he’d quit with the stampeding work questions, at least ones that make no sense. 

“So… how far along have you made it in your progress? Settling down on the Tanjura alright?” Combining the two questions together, trying to get himself back on track.

“Mostly waiting on Engineering, as far as the runabouts are concerned. As for the Tanjura…I mean, first day on board I got catapulted across my quarters, so I could say I’m still working on the ‘settling down’ part. You?”

Kyle can’t help but wince at that, remembering his own catapulting experience on the bridge. “Other than that night, has been going pretty good. First Starship I’ve been on, longer than a decade now, and it’s something else I gotta say.” A low and short whistle to punctuate his sentence. 

“Oh? where’ve they been keeping you for a decade?”

“Earth, I’ve been in the Reserves until they finally decided to pull this old Counselor back into the stars.” A wave of his hands past the roundabout window. 

Mira opened her mouth to respond, but she was interrupted by a chime from the console and a flashing of lights.  She touched a couple of controls and eyed the readouts.  “Hey, I think I got us connected to the second runabout. 80% sure Engineering won’t even object.” More data scrolled across the display.  “Eh…75%. But it’s a firm 75. Excuse me.”

She squeezed past Kyle, exited the craft and disappeared into the one beside it. A couple minutes later, she poked her head back in. “Solid 90%. But I gotta be at the other runabout now.” She disappeared once more. Either Kyle would follow her over, or he wouldn’t. She was enjoying his company, but he just might have other business to attend to.

Kyle waited a few seconds, debating in his head and judging the interaction; if that was the invitation he assumed it was. Before shrugging and following her to the next roundabout.

“Where have they been keeping you before this?” Asking Mira upon entering the small ship, a few steps behind her working form. 

“They weren’t,” Mira dropped down in front of the controls. “I ‘transferred from the civilian fleet,’ as they put it. Been sitting through officer training since then. I like to think of people like me as the Baker Street Irregulars of Starfleet.”

“Ah…” Kyle raised his eyebrows, more and more crew he meets really keeps reinforcing the idea of how… experimental this type of ship and crew was. 

“Better to be irregular than not,” said with a small shrug. 

“So which ‘fleet’ did you hail from before? Must’ve given you enough experience to skip the awkward Cadet/Ensign stage.” 

“Better part of ten years with the Fenris Rangers,” she replied, her gaze darting between her PaDD and the console. “Trying to keep some illusion of safety and order around the old Romulan Neutral Zone.”

“That’s a noble quest to undertake,” he said after a moment of silence. Quite a few different questions came to mind before he finally settled on: “What made you switch over to Starfleet?

She looked up at Kyle. She got a lot of reactions to her past, and “noble quest” was not one she had heard often in the last few months. “Reality.  We don’t have the resources. We don’t even have a tenth of the resources needed. We scraped by, helping a bit here or there, but it was always temporary.  The criminals, the warlords, they always moved back in. Barely organized nowadays.  Can’t depend on backup. I feel like there should be an applicable Don Quixote metaphor.  We weren’t tilting at windmills, because the giants are real.  We just held onto the illusion we could tilt at them.”

She eyed the display over the console as more data came up. “Starfleet talks the talk, and for a long time walked the walk.” She shrugged. “I’m hoping that can be the case again.” And I hope I’m not disappointed, she refrained from saying. “Be the change you want to be, right?”

“It all has to start somewhere.” Kyle agrees, “good and bad.” He takes a moment, trying to find the right words. Watching the new FCO in action as she multitasked between her PaDD and the console.

“But that must’ve been hard…” his arms fumble for a second, trying to decide. “All around, I imagine besides resources; morale was another thing to keep careful supply of before you burned out.”  

“Yeah, it….yeah,” was all she said. Was he trying to shrink her? She supposed by his nature, yes, in that he understood his field. She imagined he had a subconscious list of boxes to check, just like she had every time she sat in front of a pilot console, a thing your brain did, whether you tried to or not.  He was trying to find the right words for the situation, as people do.  But he didn’t seem to be deliberately prodding; he wasn’t looking for triggers. It seemed, in fact, to just be conversation.

You’re on the same side, she reminded herself. She had been jaded about Starfleet for too many years. Nyah, you’re still jaded. You’re just optimistically so. 

“Nowhere to go but up,” she mused out loud, possibly accidentally.

“Or flung sideways-” he joked. He could feel the tiny, absolutely minute temperature drop of the conversation. Reminding him of the difference between space, Earth vs the old Neutral Zone, to not just live but fight in it. The feeling it gives him is akin to being a young academy cadet getting too big for his britches in front of an old grizzled officer. (Or maybe he’s just psychoanalyzing himself again.)

“But I’m glad you’ve decided to bring your experience our way, it’s already coming in handy!” Giving the roundabout a small quick knock with his knuckles.  

Mira eyed some more readouts. “So… you’ve probably met more of the crew than me.  Insights?  CO?  XO? Other senior officers?”

“I haven’t spent much time with our Captain, but she’s definitely got her work cut out for her. But so far Njessa’s been pretty efficient, takes a lot to get a motley crew off the ground; and her record isn’t anything to spit at either.” He tapped his pointer finger onto his chin, “plus for me personally gets points for how she’s handling this; I once had a Captain insist on Calisthenics in the aftermath of any shipwide emergency as a way to ‘release energy’… you’d never see a stronger research vessel.” A chuckle for his own joke before continuing.

“Our XO and Chief Engineer are one in the same, Tomaasz. Used to be security, but now chases through the jeffrey tubes for a different reason. He’s a good sort, a touch grouchy but you didn’t hear it from me.” Spreading his hands on the last part, like the Caitain was going to pop up over his shoulder. 

“Our current Security Officer though, Jason Williams, is on the younger side but I think he’ll do just fine. I’ve gotten to talk to him just a bit, seeing as we were trying to get settled before the shakedown. Certainly seems ready and anxious for the job though.” He wondered how these characterizations would play out, and just how they would describe him. 

Tomaasz hurried down the corridor toward the Deck 14 hangar. He was running late to meet Lieutenant Vashan at the runabouts. Not an auspicious first meeting, especially for a newly-minted XO. But the trio of isolinear chips in his hand would be worth the wait.

Padding quietly into the hangar, it only took a moment to locate the lieutenant. To his surprise, Kyle was there as well. Perhaps not so surprising, though. The counselor had a knack for turning up in the oddest places.

Mira caught sight of the Caitian outside the window of the runabout. “Is that Tomaasz?” she asked Kyle.

Kyle’s head swung in Mira’s direction and a grin broke out on his face. “Speak of the devil.” Waving a hand up in greeting towards the man as he came closer. 

“Guess you’ll see him in action soon enough.” He said.  

“Good morning, Lieutenant. Hello, Kyle, nice to see you.” Tomaasz stepped in to the runabout. ‘I apologize for running late. I was finishing up a project that should help synchronize the control systems.” He held up the chips. “These have a dedicated networking protocol embedded that should share real-time maneuvering guidance without yanking control away from the pilots.”

“Yes, sir,” Mira said, taking the chips and setting about installing them. Kyle might notice the change in her voice. It had lost its mirth. What the hell have I been doing for the last hour if the Chief of Engineering had been working on the problem?

“I’ve laid out a few possible locations on the Tanjura to anchor the tractor beams,” Mira continued. “Will three of these be suitable?”  She handed her PaDD over to Tomaasz. A ship schematic with various points on the hull were marked out. The PaDD just happened to also contain all her notes for her work so far.

Quickly surveying the schematic, Tomaasz tapped three of the indicated points. “I think these should be the most stable points to work from. We can adjust the structural integrity fields for interlaced reinforcement around those areas.”

He glanced at the notes showing under the schematic, then at the rearranged components in the access panel as Mira installed the chip. One ear cocked sideways in embarrassment. “And I just stepped on your tail, didn’t I?”

“I am…unsure why I was given the directions I was,” Mira replied. “I only got half of it working, so the chips will save some time,” she tacked on and immediately regretted it.  She reminded herself not to downplay her own work because someone at the top muddled the orders.

Looking back and forth between the notes on her PaDD and the reconfiguring she had done, Tomaasz took in Mira’s approach (assertively reckless) and ideas (effective and insightful). Ears perked in interest, he leaned over the panel.

“Did you manually cross-link the subspace transducer to the flight-plan system? Intriguing. That way will actually shave milliseconds off the response time over my approach.” Lost in the tech, he barreled forward. “Ah, I see. You got two runabouts synchronized, but hit a wall for number three. But if we reroute through the multi-channel buffer, dovetail with my software, and hard-code the inputs, that should bring all three into maximum integration.”

Finally slowing, he seemed to absorb what else she had said. “Ah, no, your orders were straightforward, same as mine. To work together on synchronizing the runabouts. The breakdown in communication was mine.” His ears lowered. “I got caught up brainstorming ideas, then building the one I liked best, and lost track of time. A simple comm call would have brought you into the process earlier, and saved us both time. I apologize.” He swept a graceful bow, more ancient Caitian than modern Starfleet. 

Kyle watched the interaction trying to hide the amusement in his eyes, not directed at either of them but the nostalgia. How so many little issues would be fixed with a simple comm call? He wondered if maybe the holograms would come in use here? 

“Uh…thank you, sir.” Mira replied, not quite sure what to do with that. What do you do when a superior offer bows to you? She gave a nod, hoping that would be taken as reasonable acknowledgment.  ”I’ll get the rest of this installed. We should be ready to go within the hour.” 

Taking the hint, Tomaasz nodded and stepped back from the console. “Excellent. I’ll notify the captain of our anticipated readiness.” He took a step toward the hatch, then turned back. “And, Lieutenant. That was good work indeed. Your time here was not wasted.”

Kyle grins, nodding along with Tomaasz, and standing up straight from his relaxed position against the wall. He watched him leave, waiting a couple beats and for the arguable hearing distance of a human before departing with: “and who said he was a touch grouchy?” Giving Mira a wink and a smile, before leaving her to her work.