Log of the Month for November, 2023
Posted on November 5th, 2023 by Nico Slate
“Those settings were accurate not fifteen minutes ago, sir, I can run a diagnostic and see what I come up with. Give me twenty minutes? I’m sure that it’s just a fluctuation as the ship settles into warp.” A blonde-haired 2nd Lieutenant leaned over Nico’s shoulder as he was gauging the readout on the screen.
Nico was hit with two distinct sensations. First, the aroma of her presence resembled a flower garden after a fresh rainfall. Fragrances were frowned upon, if not completely banned during shift, but Nico would let that one slide. The more resounding of the two intrusions on his senses was the concern and worry emanating from her. He was finding his empathetic abilities were being heightened from being around the multitudes of different personalities. It was quite the nuisance, to be honest.
Although, sometimes it was helpful. The concern, he felt, was not for the irregularity in the power grid. This worry was from something different. Nico couldn’t put his finger on it, but he felt like he was being rushed away from the issue. Nico held up a hand, “It’s quite all right, Lieutenant…?
“Sission, sir.” She offered her hand. “Chrissy Sission.”
“Pleasure, Lieutenant Sission, Nico Slate.”
“Yeah, I heard you talk at the briefing.” She nodded unenergetically.
Nico motioned to the screen and then up at his surroundings. “It’s a great engineering with a great crew. I’ve only done a walkthrough once, but I realized I skipped the nacelle catwalks and junction rooms. This gives me the perfect opportunity to explore a little more of this monster.”
An uneasy smile wafted across the young woman’s facial features. “Well, I, uh, I could go instead? I mean, I’m sure you’re settling in and have more pressing matters to attend to. The nacelle pylons aren’t going anywhere, we hope!” The uneasy smile broke into a visually uncomfortable giggle. “If you would like, of course, Lieutenant.”
“No, I think I can handle it. Gets me up and out.” Nico grabbed a toolkit from the workstation behind him and checked its contents. He smiled at her and nodded as he moved towards the door, “I’ll be back. If anyone needs me, call me, I’ll be in the dorsal port nacelle power distribution hub.”
“O-o-okay, Chief, safe… uh… crawling!” The doors slid closed and the smell of rain, flowers, and awkwardness faded away.
The person who invented the idea of the Jefferies tubes, the person who authorized the research and construction of the Jefferies tubes, the Admiral or Commandant or whomever gave the greenlight to have them mass produced and installed across the fleets, and every single person who didn’t speak up about the atrociousness of the design could go burn in hell. Whatever hell they believed in. Actually, no, any hell. The worst hell. Take the worst hell one could think of and multiply it by a thousand. That hell.
Nico had obviously searched for the quickest way to the work location without using Jefferies tubes. He hated them. They hurt his back, they hurt his knees, and if he had a day of shore leave for every time he smacked his head off a crossbeam at a junction aperture, he wouldn’t ever need to work again. But, alas, there are some places out of the way that require the crawl of shame. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far and he was making good time.
He got to the end of the first segment and stretched out in the primary junction chamber, the one with the ladder up and down. This irregularity was coming from the front alignment node. This was directly tied into the nacelles and the Bussard collectors. Yes, the irregularity was minimal, negligible even, but the systems are fine-tuned to pick up the slightest of variations. Could the Minuteman sustain engine power, a stable warp field, and still engage in hostile combat? Of course. But, that isn’t how Nico ran his engine room and he was sure, from just the little bit he’d gleaned of his new commanding officer, that it wasn’t how the colonel operated his vessel either.
Climbing up to the next level and wedging himself into another tendril of the ship’s internal network of service corridors, Nico took in the actual beauty of the architecture of the ship. While he wouldn’t dismiss the horrendous Jefferies tubes, he did appreciate the intricacies of design, style, and aesthetic. Shipbuilders and those that create the floorplans should be revered. Nico had once dabbled with the idea at the Academy to go into ship construction, but he hadn’t. Working on Utopia Planitia put the final nail in that coffin.
Nico saw that the door to the final room was closed, which wasn’t standard procedure. Sitting cross-legged in front of the door he whipped out his tricorder and scanned. The manual release had been activated. It wasn’t locked, just closed. Nico pressed the button on the panel and the door slid open. He should have just done that first. Holstering his tricorder, he grabbed his gear, and slid out of the tube. Again, the relief of standing was amazing.
Then he realized he wasn’t alone.
He had his back to the center of the room. There wasn’t a solitary sound other than the hum of the power coils. Nico didn’t move. Then he felt it. There was love here. He couldn’t tell what type of love it was: compassion, tenderness, lust, or simple comfort. There was also another, more penetrating emotion, though; there was fear. Nico turned on his heel to face the source. Standing before him was a strapping young gentleman, maybe twenty-five to thirty. On the collar of his uniform there was the blue piping of the medical department, which was pulled off his shoulders to around his waist exposing a well-defined torso.
On that torso were the hands of female engineer, one of Nico’s own. He couldn’t place the face and the name at the moment, but the yellow piping on her uniform gave it away. Her hair was disheveled and she tried to brush it down quickly, removing her hands from their place on the man’s chest. She pulled her zipper up, concealing what little skin had been exposed. She pushed back slightly and took a step forward. “Lieutenant Slate, I-I-I’m, uh, sorry, uh… we were just… Lance was just…”
“Lily, I think he gets it.” The man, who Nico assumed as ‘Lance’, said as he pulled his uniform back into the appropriate position. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant Slate, it’s been hard for Lily and I to find time together with all the shift changes happening. She works days and is up and out before I get off the night shift and she gets back after I go on again.”
A lot was happening at once. Nico’s mind was still on that damn power grid anomaly, how his knees hurt from the metal flooring in the tubes, and sifting through the emotions that were still tumbling about his head after gleaning them off his colleagues. He opened his mouth briefly, then shut it. He tilted his head and then looked at the two again. “Names.”
“I’m Crewman Lance Nelson and this is 2nd Lieutenant Lily Hayes.”
“I assume both of you are on shift currently?”
“Yes, sir.” Lance and Lilly both nodded.
Nico folded his arms, “Where are you both assigned at this moment?”
Lance spoke first: “Medical supply inventory and organization.”
“If I remember my schematics of this ship, and I do, you aren’t anywhere close to that location, am I correct?”
The man’s head dropped slightly, “No, sir. I mean, yes, sir. I’m not near the supply bay.”
“Then I suggest that you beat feet, crewman.”
Throwing a look of concern towards Lily as he finally zipped up the rest of his shirt, Lance nodded pathetically. “Yes, Lieutenant.” There was moment that Nico could tell that the young man wanted to know what the Chief’s next move was. Would Slate turn him in to his superior? Would he tell the Captain? Would he let it go?
Truthfully, Nico hadn’t decided yet. He remembered being young and in love and finding the most inopportune times to engage in physical activity. However, his life had been a lot less structured, so when you found the time… you went with it. The last thing he wanted was the create unneeded tension. Plus, Nico had always subscribed to the age old adage of ‘everyone gets one’. These two just used theirs up more quickly than anyone else.
Once he was alone with his subordinate, Nico folded his arms. He willed his face into a scowl. “Lieutenant Hayes, where are you supposed to be at this moment?”
“Actually, I’m working on the power relay manifolds, just back down there.” Lily motioned back down the way that Nico had entered from, and that Crewman Nelson had just used to exit. “I know that this is terribly unprofessional and I was ignoring my duties, but it wasn’t for that long. Not that it matters how long. It’s dereliction, right? Or just a momentary lapse in judgement. It was a harmless, I mean, I want to… Ugh. I don’t want Lance to get in trouble, it was my idea, I just miss him…”
“Lieutenant, at ease.” Nico said, putting his palms up to face her. “Whatever you did, or touched, or bumped into, set off an alert in engineering that the power grid contained an irregularity in this junction point. Not enough to do anything damage-wise, but a pain in my ass nonetheless.”
Agreement from the lovesick woman followed. “I know, I’m sorry, sir. But I never accessed that console. It’s still sealed behind its protective panel.”
Nico gazed at the sealed unit and perked an eyebrow. “Huh. Will you look at that?”
“I can help you fix it, if you’d like?”
She was being sheepish on purpose. It was her non-verbally, but verbally, admitting her fault and wanting to atone for the mistake. Sincerity was spun through every word. Nico knew that she, they, had not meant any harm. Who knows how many times they’d done something like that in the past and never gotten caught? Engaging in debauchery was almost a prerequisite to graduate from the Academy and it was definitely a rite of passage on your first assignment. Those events tended to be with your colleagues after hours, in a better secluded space, and with less skin-on-skin contact.
“I will handle the adjustments and repair. I want you to return to engineering and I want you to run a full diagnostic on the power relays for all four nacelles. The deepest dive you can get done before the end of your shift. I want a report on your findings on my desk first thing tomorrow morning.” Nico had attempted to shift to a sterner authoritarian figure, but felt he was coming off more as a puffed up, older brother trying to be in charge.
Lily bounced her head vigorously as she grabbed her own toolkit. “Yes, Chief, tomorrow morning. Sorry again.”
“One more thing, Lieutenant?”
She stopped, one foot and leg in the tube to depart, “Yes, sir?”
“I don’t know how things were run by the last chief. I know they ran a tight engine room and there are some big shoes that I need to fill. I want you to know that I’m not them. If you want to request a transfer to the night shift to better appease your, uh, recreational activities, I’m open to the suggestion and approval.” Nico said this without making eye contact with her, but started sorting through his tools to begin the work he had set out to accomplish.
Relief. That emotion was familiar. “Thank you, sir, I’ll consider that.”
It was her turn to leave a dangling silence in the air. She had wanted to ask the same questions that Lance had wanted to ask. Nico smirked because he could feel their connection to each other. Whether it was purely physical and out of animal instincts, or if it was a true relationship, it didn’t matter. There was something there. “Just consider this a warning to make better decisions. Tell Lance too.”
“Understood.” And she was gone.
The panel lifted off easily enough. The quiet settled in and Nico worked diligently on his task. It was a simple fix adjusting the harmonics, realigning the matrix compatibility, and a reinitialization of the connecting subroutines. After about twenty minutes the casing was replaced in its original position, his tools were stowed, and he was back on his knees crawling through the metal purgatory of the Jefferies tubes.
Upon returning to engineering he saw Chrissy Sisson and Lily Hayes at a station working hard. There was no doubt in his mind that Ms. Sisson was aware of the shenanigans taking place between Lily and her beau, but there wasn’t a need for disciplinary action anywhere. The problem in the power grid had not been connected to the romp between the two lovers, just bad timing.
Sitting back down in his chair, he started his maintenance report. He paused a moment as he reflected on the short time that he had been in his position. In his previous assignments Nico hadn’t had the choice in getting to know a vast number of people, he kept mostly to his unit and those in his specific squad. Supervising a team of engineers was going to be different process.
Obstacles would come on the front line and in-house. AJ Zuriyev may have been joking in her statement of watching particular people. Though it had been in jest, Nico did realize he was going to have to start making notes about those that he needed to keep an eye on. He assumed that Lily Hayes didn’t warrant being on that list yet, but it had planted the seed. The Marines were a fickle bunch, he knew, but getting to know people and interacting with them would set the foundation for a trusting team.
For now, he would build relationships one person at a time.