Location: USS Victory, Deck 11, Enlisted Mess
Fiona had gotten the request for a meeting on her PDD an hour before the 1100 meeting time, asking her to meet with the captain and chief engineer in the enlisted mess on deck eleven, where she had been conducting her interviews all morning.
The first officer signed some more forms on the fly and scattered a small flock of yeomen to the 4 winds with a fire lit under their tails. She grabbed a protein bar and juice on her way past the canteen and double timed it on down to the enlisted mess.
A reminder came in across Chief Weaver's PDD an hour before the meeting reminding him of the location and time of the meeting, giving him ample time to gather his materials and presentations.
Maur was tired but enthusiastic. He even took ten minutes from his day to pop into his quarters, catch a shower, and actually put on his uniform - he'd been going since zero five the previous day... so... that was what, thirty hours? No matter, he was energized in a manner that he hadn't been for years. New duty rosters, training schedules, two crewmen lost in the bulkheads that he'd had to go find at two in the morning and reorient to their task, and that warp core needed serious realignment. Still, a PDD in hand, hardcopy prints with penciled notes, he'd always thought best with hardcopy, he almost trotted towards the meeting, plans and designs and modifications in mind. The thought wafted through his head - had he eaten lately? Probably not.
He reviewed in his head what he had: someone had lied, or at least mislead Fleet. There were bits missing, isolinear chips were out of date - that was pure cost cutting, and someone would pay the piper, eventually. If it hadn't been caught, that someone would've been at a minimum the engineering team in the secondary hull. Weapons were offline, not a surprise there, but unless something were done...
Char was exhausted... not physically, but emotionally. All morning she had maintained unbridled enthusiasm, listened patiently to the horror stories or the complaints, worked to undo damage... really, a captain's mast for the man's arms being too long for the uniforms? But this was the job, and she had to do this right or it wasn't going to work, and her command would remain a shambles. And this one was one of, if not the, most important interview of all.
She wolfed down a cheeseburger... nothing but coffee was going to kill her stomach, and somehow the first cheeseburger hadn't quite done the trick. And she made sure one was sitting waiting for the two engineers who were coming.. after all, while Fi was great at forcing her to eat, she was terrible at taking care of herself when she was on the go, and she didn't know if it was an engineer trait or just a Scottish one.
So far so good, girl... you know what to do, just trust yourself. And listen to the people who know what they're doing.
Chin up, posture straight, tug down the jacket, wipe the mouth and she was ready.
"Morning, XO," Maur nodded - luck of the draw, he'd ended up arriving simultaneously with the Executive Officer. Somehow, he managed to tuck his gear up under his arms without dropping anything, just enough to offer a hand. "Lieutenant Maur Weaver, Engineering."
The First officer nearly shook his hand with her juice box. She shook her head " Sorry." did a bit of juggling and gave him a quick firm handshake " Commander Fiona McCray, pleased to meet you" She spoke into the communicator in her other hand " I dinna care whut Captain Herod requisitioned. Those aren't tae spec...you come and pick them oop and drop off the right chips by 12:00 or I'll cuim duin there an fetch them m'self" her tone implied that the person on the other end of the link didn't want that to happen. She clicked it shut and shook her head " Jaysus... whut a ...cluster.." she quickly edited herself " Whut a mess... Sorry Lt.Weaver, hectic mornin..."
"Tell me 'bout it, Ex," the Engineering officer commented. "I've got the bottom feeders of the academy working for me - almost all of whom received and believed it when they got 'Fleet Issue Lingerie'." He shook his head. "Had to pull two of them out of a wall last night. This morning. Whatever. He took her measure. "Johnny sure as hell had his way here, din't he."
The petite woman's expression soured " Aye...and I'd like tae hae my way with his sorry..ah.. too mooch tae do...I've been goin oover tha manifests... did ye get a single part thet was tae spec?" she asked bluntly.
"Some," he admitted. "Someone's been playin' with manifests - I bet good money we'll find the real parts elsewhere, and I hate t'say it, but I think we might end up calling in Fleet Internal Investigations." His lips were pursed and near white.
The XO gave a sharklike grin " Oh... I'm sure. and you'd better believe I've ordered a hold on tha former Captain's parsonal accounts." She looked at her Captain " Sorry Sir... we were joost commiseratin."
"Commisseratin' or bitchin', take yer pick," Maur grinned humorlessly. "Mornin' again, Skipper."
The captain stood to receive the two harried senior officers, and with an upraised eyebrow she realized that she should have held this meeting elsewhere. She turned to a pair of enlisted men nearby, whispered a few rapid instructions, and moved to intercept.
"Commiserate away, by all means, please. And good morning again Chief. Obviously I have erred... we are going to need somewhere with far more space than one small table in the galley- gymnasium, deck three, if you please. Can I help you with some of those, Chief...?"
"Ma'am, it's good, more my notes than anything else." Maur gestured about, turning and almost upsetting a flask of coffee. "I work better with blueprints than I do the electronics, we'll be using these only for reference on my notes for immediate fixes."
"As you like, Chief. We should have some room to spread out, your lunch is on the way to the gym as we speak, and while I am enjoying the open door policy, I've seen how these meetings go, so let's get room to spread out. Shall we?" At that she began walking, head turned back to maintain conversation.
"Fiona, any fires I need to be personally involved in just yet or is the threat of the angry Vulcan still being held in reserve while the angry MCray is working just fine?" she asked with some small degree of amusement in her voice. "And I will withhold my indignation at corruption, scavenging et al... I've a call scheduled with a certain admiral later this afternoon. If you can both give me bullet points I don't think they will come as any surprise, but better to be thorough than to be slipshod and assume the admiralty is well informed."
"Oh tha whole magilla is in yer inbox... at least what I've uncovered so far... and I've been chewin arse from San Francisco tae Beta five." The XO practically trotted to keep up with the longer legged Captain and Chief.
Noticing the distress, Char slowed it down a bit... apparently those two pots of coffee were having an effect after all. She took a moment to skim through her mail on her PDD, opened the mail and her violet eyes went wide, then a phrase escaped her lips in an alien tongue, but the context was clear. She looked wide-eyed from the PDD to the first officer, who nodded and shrugged.
"I know... reet!?!"
"I will have that man living on a moisture farm on Mercury with insufficient shielding while mining comets with a butterfly net for his income, I swear to Janus...." the captain growled as the turbolift carried them up to Deck Three.
Maur kept walking, completely oblivious for a moment while the duo talked, blathering on. "Structural manufacture is within tolerance, but that's about all it is..." He stopped and looked backwards. "Crap." He retreated to catch up with the women.
The XO waved the door to the gym open and waited for the other two to proceed in. She bustled in after them and grabbed a chair waited for the Captain to sit before she sank into it with a sigh. "First time I've sat duin since last night," she chuckled then looked at the other two officers expectantly.
The captain lowered herself gracefully to the floor, tucking her legs beneath her to maintain her modesty- her skirt seemed to ride a bit higher than most, and it was going to take creative positioning to maintain that modesty. She caught the look from her first officer and rolled her eyes. "I know, I know, and yes, as a matter of fact, the skirts DO still come with briefs, even though they've gotten a few inches longer... in theory, though they still seem to fit me the same..."
The XO grinned at her friend and Captain but didn't tease her in front of the troops. " Perhaps tailoring?" she suggested mildly.
"This IS tailored..." she said with a sigh, then turned to the Chief Engineer. "Sorry Chief... it's a long standing conversation. So let's see if we can get this in order... what's missing, what's wrong, what is critical, who do you need, who needs to go, and then we can move to what I am sure is the oh-so-brief 'what's right' list, shall we?"
Maur didn't seem to notice the interplay, he was laying out blueprints here, there, and whilst doing so, keyed in a display into the PDD and tied it into theirs - and into a wall-mounted screen shot of someone's painted conception of Victory in Flight. "First, we've got troubles in Victory City, and I mean, we've got problems." He keyed up the first slide then stopped. "Sorry, getting ahead of myself, Skipper, we met only for a few yesterday, probably wasn't the best time to bring up my dirty laundry, hell, I'm always doing that, Ex, good t'meet ya formally."
"You aren't a politician- your service record speaks for that, but it hints at a lot more than it says," the captain said with a nod as she stood up to be able to see the diagrams easier at a glance. "Show me Chief... we may be a little out of date but we're neither of us stupid. Spell it out for us. What's wrong with our girl?"
Maur looked down at the sprawl of papers. "Not so much what's wrong, but what's right. She's put together right, but with substandard parts, poor fusing, inadequate systems for the required power loads... but she's still right at spec, mostly."
He unfurled a blueprint schematic while keying the next slide. It showed stress points on the warp core. "Ordinarily, this isn't a problem, all ships have them - but the problem comes into the materials utilized.
"Jaysus on toast..." Fiona frowned, " Take her oop oover warp 5 and thet sucker cuid crack like an egg." She shook her head, "Who tha hell authorized tha use oov hoover grade shielding? Sure it's tae spec... joost barely."
"It's within spec for Fleet, but not on a ship this class," Maur commented, "a bit heavier, and it'd be fine with structural reinforcement and standard shielding technology. We're using seriously high-grade transparent aluminum on a lot of warp cores these days, this is just a step back to original Constitution-class materials for something that should be a lot heavier." He nodded. "We're rated Warp 6.2. I wouldn't push it past 5.5."
Char was already beginning to pace amongst the specs, blueprints and notes, taking them all in, and she continued to look more and more aghast as she did so. At one point she looked encouraged, then she realized she was looking at one of the chief's proposals, not an actual rendering of current reality. Her left hand was spending an awful lot of time on her forehead, while the other one was balled up on her hip in a fist.
Maur kept talking, folding and unfolding various blueprints, hitting the pdd for the CO and XO to follow along. "...anyway, now we start moving into substandard power grids, it's all on track for a ship twenty years back, that's the parts they were using, and I'm sure at a discount, I'm not tracking that, but the relays here," he pointed to primary junction one, at the base of the connecting pylon for primary and secondary hull, "here," primary junction two, photon control, "here," primary junction three, top of the pylon, and here, primary junction four, phaser bank distribution center, and these are going to go up in smoke and flames in any hard and heavy combat action. Not that the Federation has those, you know, but anything's possible in hard times."
The XO let out a long low whistle " Well... given where we're heading I think we need tae rework thet system in a serious way. How long will ti take and whut di ye need?" she sighed "How long tae refit tha core containment with heavier grade transparent aluminum then that shuttle sidin' you've been making do with?" Fiona asked seriously."And would suim extra hands thet know one end oov a wrench from tha oother help?"
"Dunno yet," he admitted. "I got an engine crew that's all over themselves as it is, more help just might hurt rather than help, but yer first on my list fer volunteers t'call. Promise." He then looked a little introspective and considered the first part of the question. "Well...we ain't got that kind of time.I can upgrade power and if I can get some minishield generators... I can improvise, adapt, and overcome the problems. It still comes down to mass vs thrust ratios, and I can beat that in a heartbeat."
"Is this a system for a dual warp core...?" Char asked absently, pointing to one of the schematics that she had uncovered with her toe. "Sorry.. it's rather a fascinating concept and ties in directly with one of my projects. So power systems are made of tinfoil, the actual frame and structure are substandard, the core is a bomb waiting to happen at any decent speed... don't stop now, Chief, because I know the bad news doesn't stop there. You haven't mentioned the shield generators that are going to burn out at the first power surge here because their power couplings are all substandard across the boards here and here, or the phaser banks that are improperly insulated so that it'll be a race to see if they'll blow internally from overheating or externally from those focusing lenses melting down."
"Nope, and yeah, that's a dual core system, I've been working the blueprints and math for about four years, ever since they announced the Transwarp competitions, and tell you what, I can make this ship faster than Excelsior's supposed to go, but it's gonna take me time, and that, we don't have." he grinned. "I helped lay the foundation for the ICW project, Improved Conventional Warp project, take me a month that we don't have to upgrade, so I'm going to cheat, with permission."
"Faster than the Excelsior's speed?" The XO looked intrigued.She looked over at the Captain and said, "Give him permission!" with a grin.
"Excelsior's transwarp is a piece of crap at best, won't work, not the way they project it. Mine will." Another grin. "Can't help but, but there's inherent problems with it, including having to dial up the power output of the core, and I have to get the relays up to my code, not Fleet's, first."
"So... what are yer codes Chief?" Fiona asked with genuine curiosity.
"Fleet calls for one-hundred twenty-five percent over rating. I think one-hundred seventy-five to two-hundred is more reasonable." He smiled. "Captain Scott taught me that lesson fifteen years ago."
That got a grin of approval, "Moost have been a Scot in blood as well as in name"
"Yeah, Montgomery Scott," there was a slight tremble to Maur's hands. "Chief Engineer, Enterprise. He moved over to Construction Command for a time, then taught at the Academy."
The vivacious Vulcan noted the tremble but said nothing at this point. Instead she shook her head. "If it wouldn't have led to the deaths of four hundred and twenty-nine crewmen who didn't deserve to die like that, it would have served him right to set out in this deathtrap he set out to build." She patted the bulkhead gently. "Don't you worry girl... we'll set you right somehow. Just give us some time to work."
Fiona gnawed on the nub that was left of her pencil "...and a minor miracle or two wuid be nice too..."
"I'm not worried about it," Maur said. "I've got ideas, I know where a new core is, I know where there's a whole warehouse of up-to-code wiring, I spent five years at the UP gulag for sins against Engineering, not that I'm advocating the free liberation of such materials, but..." he shrugged.
The XO's head came up. "Free liberation? Umm... did Herod have anythin tae do with thet warp core and warehouse?"
"Don't know, I just happen to know where it is, not who ordered it, or why. UP's got a lot of stuff sittin' 'round, waitin' for the next set of construction contracts."
"Seems a right shame fer it tae joost be sittin there gatherin dust and losing it's freshness," the first officer mused.
"Fiona... forgive my naivete, but how does embezzling profit one in a society with no currency system?" Charybdis asked. The wheels were beginning to turn, but she needed more data.
"Well... one would assume thet tha ill-gotten gains wuid be transferred to a system where there is a currency system," the first officer said with a shrug.
"Don't know, don't care, but I do have one bit of good news for you," Maur said. "Found it today about oh-four-hundred, tucked up in the back of the hanger deck. You want a Captain's Yacht?"
"Seriously? a Captain's Yacht?" the Scot was incredulous. "The ships nae oop tae snuff boot he's got a Yacht?"
"It's a modified shuttle on a warp sled, like what the Vulcan Academy of Sciences likes t'use, but this is a smaller, more compact version - decked out and prepped up for flight." He shrugged. "And got itself a phaser package boresighted to the flight path. You want my call? He was headed for Orion space."
Fiona nodded, that was just about what she'd determined after a morning spent clearing the former Captain's ready room and files.
The smile that settled over the voluptuous Vulcan vixen's face was unpleasant to an observer... to one in the know, it might be described as predatory, even. "I believe I have an idea. We're going to break a great number of rules... but then, that only matters if anyone catches us, and cares. Chief, please run those dual core specs past the Commander here, but yes, you are very much approved. Before we set about stealing what we need, what do you say if our dear Mister Herod wouldn't mind buying it all for us... along with enough additional workforce to get everything rebuilt and installed before we're due to shove off?"
Maur tucked his hands behind his back and stared at the wall, lips moving.
"Stealin?!" Fiona sounded indignant " Please... liberatin... requisitioning fer proper use."
"My apologies, I misspeak. And I think you're right Chief... I think he was headed for Orion space. And we're going to help him get there, oh yes we are... We need to get Yuna involved in this, I think."
"Aye... Sir... an it might be time fer you tae get a bit of plausible deniability" Fiona said with a completely straight face.
"Ordinarily I'd agree Fi, but in this case, I believe that I have a certain degree of leeway in this matter. And I am not committing officers that just came under my command to acts for my command that I am not willing to take a risk of punishment for. Hell no, the shit hits me first rather than my crew. I'm in for all of this plan..." Charybdis said, then took a calming breath and put on her 'company' smile, "but your professional concern and sensible advice are noted and duly appreciated, Commander."
Maur came back, obviously missing the conversation that had twisted its way around him while he was in thought. "The Warp Core is mostly interchangeable, just need to drop this one and replace it, that's a forty-eight hour task including dry run tests; I know where there are a stockpile of microshield generators, those are at the fleet construction yards; let me get Ven and a good team he trusts working on upgrading and replacing the wiring harnesses. Given the best, we might be able to be spaceworthy and on trials in two weeks." He shook his head. "Maybe. What's the timeline you were given?"
"Three weeks" The XO answered.
"Warp seven point two in three weeks." Maur said. "Best I can give you."
"I'll buy you an extra.... two weeks with a shakedown cruise in which I promise to treat her with kid gloves. Then?" That left eyebrow and the left side of her mouth were both raised, giving the captain a half-faced smirk.
Maur just looked at the two. "Conventional? I think we can bust nine. Depends on how things go." There was something he wasn't saying. "Let me work things out, see what I can get."
"And unconventional?" Fiona wanted to know. "We're not terribly conventional, you may have noticed..." Char added, though obviously she liked the sound of warp nine.
His hands slid in his pockets - must be a custom job, uniform trousers didn't have pockets. "I don't know. I will say it'll be a hell of a ride, if it works." His lips were pursed and tight. "I need...time. More power than what we currently have available. I can't do dual cores right now, no way in hell, that'd take six weeks in a spacedock, we'd have to rip out the entire pylon between primary and secondary and rebuild it, probably cut out five, ten meters to make it more compact."
He looked at the two women. "Max is what, a thousand C? Warp ten? I... think I can nurse out warp twelve, and don't say a goddamn thing, with an effective not-quite doubling of power off the core. Already started work on the one we have, but I'm not feeling kosher with the physical structure."
The two senior officers exchanged looks, then they turned back in unison, smiling.
"You get my baby to fly past nine point nine and not shake apart, I'll make you a commander, Mister Weaver. You have my word on that."
"It's not that easy," he said, "but it'll work. I know it will, but we need shield generators, we need enhanced deutronium feeds, I can make it happen, but it's going to be a cast iron bitch."
"We need a shopping list. And a lot of credits. And some creative people with unconventional solutions," the lady captain said with a smile, placing her hand on the engineer's shoulder fondly. "The cast iron bitch we already have..."
Fiona flashed them an angelic grin "I take after me Mum!"
"If you ladies don't mind," Maur said, starting to gather his stuff, "I'll be in Engineering, I have shore leave to get back to." He flipped open a communicator. "Vanlith, Weaver, drop the core. Pull the plug on the power, we're not even bringing it up to test. I'll be there in five."
"He's takin' shoreleave in tha Engine room?" Fiona gave a snort of laughter " Smart man"
"Twice! Twice my shore leaves turn into deadly and terrible life-ruining fiascos and somehow I'm marked for life!" Char mock lamented, throwing her hands dramatically up in the air.
"Joost sayin..." Fi grinned puckishly.
"So did you get Fleet Issue Lingerie? I know I did..."