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Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 62
05-23-2011, 12:23 PM
Title: Choices

Brigid heard a raised voice before she even stepped into engineering.

“You can’t be serious!”

“Your conclusion is in error.”

She stopped as the door swished shut behind her and looked around. The Ecliptic was a new ship—new to her, at least—but engineering looked the same. Perhaps a little more compact. The Ecliptic was a Nova class, and space was at a premium, even more than on the Deborah Sampson, her previous command.

The source of the commotion was obvious at once. She saw two figures in one of the dimly lit alcoves across from the warp core, one standing unnaturally straight and still, facing off against a second in almost constant motion, gesturing with his hands and shifting from one foot to another as he spoke.

“It seems 4 of 12 is making new friends.” The voice over Brigid’s right shoulder nearly startled her. “In this case, Ensign Rivers,” her first officer, Sayvok, continued.

“That’s Andreas Rivers?” Brigid had expected…well, she wasn’t certain. She’d been making a habit out of reading personnel files every night with the same intensity that she packed and sometimes re-packed her equipment before a long camping trip. It was a ritual of sorts. It made her feel prepared, though, unlike excursions into the wilderness or repairing machines, she never felt fully prepared in dealing with people. More than once, she’d wondered why she was in command of a starship in the first place.

She’d read Rivers bio several days before, shortly after arriving at Starbase K-7 and taking formal command of the Ecliptic. He was, by all accounts, a genius. He wore science blue, partly because his primary training was in oceanography, but he was also an accomplished engineer. He’d published several papers on advanced information system theory using his study of the oceans as a model for the digital universe. As someone who shared an interest both in the natural world and technology, she’d been looking forward to meeting him, but not like this.

He was shouting again. “If you want to blow the ship up, I’ll happily bring up the self-destruct routine for you. That would be so much more ‘efficient’…”

Brigid sighed and walked toward the alcove. She could feel every eye in engineering following her. It was one part of command she hated most. But not the most. That part was coming up.

She cleared her throat and did her best to keep her voice calm and even. “Is there a problem here? Aside from the obvious.”

The “obvious” was that the artificial gravity was malfunctioning all over the ship. Several decks were operating at reduced levels and the bridge was currently at zero g.

Both 4 of 12 and Rivers looked at her as if she’d appeared out of nowhere.

“Captain, I’m glad you’re here. I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances.” Rivers held out a hand. “I’m actually honored to meet you. I heard about some of your missions on the Deborah Sampson. I understand you bringing your own chief engineer on board, but, with all due respect, it would have been better to include someone who knew what she was doing.”

Rivers was brash and arrogant. She’d expected that.

“Ensign Rivers’s assessment is not accurate, Captain Zeen.” 4 of 12’s voice was as monotone as ever. Her grey skin looked even paler in the murkiness of the alcove, and her Borg implants seemed twice as prominent.

Brigid felt the usual knot in her stomach as soon as 4 of 12 spoke. She often wondered why the woman made her feel so uncomfortable. Her chief engineer was more machine than person, something that might have been blamed on her assimilation—though from what Brigid knew, she’d been uncomfortable with her humanity even before the Borg found her.

In either case, Brigid had always felt more at home with pieces of equipment than with people. They were so much simpler and more straightforward, at least once you understood them. The wilderness, for all its unforgiving harshness, was the same. People were messy.

And yet, she found 4 of 12 unnerving. Even more than the Vulcans she knew—like her First Officer, who now stood silently at her side, and her Chief Security Officer, T'Pell, who she’d left in command. She would even call these two friends, particularly since they’d begun meeting for weekly dinners together. Vulcans were logical, but not inhuman. And there was probably no better way to describe 4 of 12 than inhuman. Or maybe the former borg just reminded her of her own awkwardness.

She’d seriously considered not bringing her over from the Deborah Sampson, but their final hours on that old ship had allowed her to see the full extent of her chief engineer's skills and she’d resolved never to doubt 4 of 12—at least not in technical matters—again.

She shook herself from her thoughts long enough to shake Rivers’s hand. “So, do you know what the problem is?”

“I know what one of the problems is, Captain,” Rivers jumped in, ignoring his superior officer. “A subroutine in the gravitational regulation control has begun looping. We need to reboot the entire environmental control system or things will just get worse.”

4 of 12 swiveled her head to look at Brigid. “Ensign Rivers is mistaken. Rebooting the environmental control system will not fix the subroutine looping. It will deprive the Ecliptic of environmental controls entirely for three point seven days and require a ship-wide evacuation.”

Rivers snapped his attention back to 4 of 12. “You don’t know this ship or its systems. I’ve made several modifications…”

“Perhaps those are to blame.” Brigid thought she almost heard an uncharacteristically smug tone in 4 of 12’s voice.

“I…wha…you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve been on this ship for a year and a half. I know ever inch of her. What do you know? Maybe if this were a cube…”

Brigid took a deep breath. “Ensign, enough.” She stepped forward and did a quick diagnostic of the environmental control subroutines. She laughed inwardly as she did—captaining a starship and still running diagnostics.

Her quick survey didn’t show her anything new. Maybe she’d been on the bridge too long. But then, information tech was never her specialty. She’d always been most at home with things she could take apart, feeling the pieces in her hands, seeing how they fit together.

She paused, momentarily uncertain.

Then she smiled at Rivers. “Ensign, I appreciate all the work you’ve done on the Ecliptic. I’d like you to compile a report so you can inform Lt. 4 of 12 and me about all the improvements you’ve made. Once we understand them, we can all agree on a plan to let you continue making things even better.”

She hesitated only for a moment. “But, I’ve learned to trust my chief engineer.”

She felt Rivers frown as she turned to 4 of 12. She tried hard to ignore the anger and frustration radiating from him. “What do you propose?”

“If we make the following modifications, Captain Zeen…” She began typing on the nearest console, her fingers a blur.

Brigid tried to keep up but to no avail. After a moment, the LCARS display flashed once, and the computer announced: “Gravitational parameters returning to normal. All environmental systems responding.”

Brigid looked up at 4 of 12. She half-expected to see a smile of triumph on her face, but as usual there was nothing.

By contrast, Rivers’s expression turned from angry to curious as he studied the display. “I…I see what you’ve done here…but this? Wait…yes…”

She stepped back out of the alcove, glancing back at the two forms leaning over the gravitational subsystem display, comparing notes.

“Well done, Captain.” Once again, she’d nearly forgotten about Sayvok.

“You might have said something,” she said as they stepped into the corridor.

“Perhaps. But it did not seem necessary. You had the situation well in hand.”

“Really? Next time, I’m bringing T’Pell.”

Sayvok raised his eyebrow. “As you wish, Captain. Unfortunately, you will find that she believes in you as much as I.”

She raised her own eyebrow.

“Perhaps even more.”

Brigid laughed despite herself. “And I thought Vulcans were logical.”

They stepped into the turbolift. “Bridge,” she said, still chuckling to herself.