Episode 2: The Assembly (Side Stories)
Location: Plaza - Deck 8, USS Defiant
Timeline: MD 21
The scene on Deck 8 of the plaza was peculiar. Light stream down the cylindrical open space, coming up from Deck 9 and down from Deck 1-7. But Deck 8 itself was still dark. The power systems were proving to be more difficult to restore than they would have hoped.
A group of engineers used a cutting torch to get access to a blown conduit, sending showers of sparks around the surrounding area. Charlotte walked around them toward the woman in red standing near a portable light. "I feel the need to apologize for these damages again, Lieutenant. How are the repairs going?"
Michaela looked surprisingly good compared to the state of affairs surrounding her, but then again, she was fueled by coffee--copious amounts of it--that, and the unshakable notion that she was lucky to be alive.
As usual the Defiant's chief engineer was out and about with her usual sense of style and flair. Any day she wore the uniform dress to work was a day started out free of dread. Her black tights didn't have any tears in them--another good sign--and her boots were recently polished. There was no mistaking the fact that she was geared up for plenty of work though. She wore her black, elbow-length gloves that looked more for the opera than for utility, and had most of her hair tucked under a matching black regulation watch cap, with only a few blonde tufts poking out to cover her neck, ears and brow. She couldn't have any stray sparks singing her hair. Or coolant dying it pink. Not again.
Hearing a visitor, Michaela stepped back from the torch work and raised her mad scientist safety goggles to rest over the brow of her cap. An apology? The engineer didn't think that was quite warranted. Not when the plan had worked. Charlotte must be worried sick over what their mad plan had done to her crew and ship. She hadn't heard the captain call anyone by their first name since before they'd escaped the web.
"You look like you could use a hug." Michaela said, not quite meeting Charlotte's formal tone.
The reply put a crack in the semblance of order she’d been maintaining. Instead of fighting it, she allowed herself to loosen up. Her shoulders dropped slightly and a visibly tired look peaked through for a brief moment. Not physically tired for a change, but mentally. “Is it that obvious?” Charlotte said, cracking a smile. “I feel like we’re still on pins and needles. We’re cloaked and the Tholian ships can’t seem to narrow our location down. And we’re almost back to Federation space. But I keep waiting for the next shoe to drop.”
She met the Engineer’s gaze and spoke in a more hushed tone. “Honestly, I don’t think many people realize how close we all came to being euthanized.”
Michaela had been serious about the hug, but she wasn't surprised that Charlotte hadn't seemed to take her literally. She didn't think many starship captains could afford to be the hugging type. Or maybe Michaela had grease on her face or smelled funny. That was possible. She was a Starfleet engineer.
"Hey, none of that, now." Michaela said, waving a hand dismissively. She preferred to avoid thinking about just how close she came to meeting some tragic end after each mission. Besides, the captain knew just how close more than anyone, considering she'd almost been killed in her ready room by one of her own officers... or what had been one of her own.
"Though I might never be able to look at Petty Officer Redgrave the same way again, that's for certain. Not after seeing her phase pistol pointed at me." Michaela continued, stepping back and kneeling to retrieve her coffee thermos. She unscrewed the cup that doubled as a lid, and filled it.
"Well, if you won't take a hug, here's the next best thing." She gently pressed the cup into Charlotte's hands.
Charlotte took the cup and laughed softly. “Thank you, this is perfect. I’ll have to offer a rain check on the hug. I’m just feeling a little weird about personal space right now.” She took a sip and gestured toward the exposed power line. “Any idea how close we are to getting Deck 8 back?”
Michaela shrugged. "This section? End of shift, maybe." She took another sip of coffee from the thermos. "We're focusing more on the relay junctions and corridors. Those might be powered tomorrow. Maybe not. Rec rooms and gyms are going to have to wait. I don't really want people hanging out around here anyway. Not yet. I can't tell you how frickin' dangerous it is trying to work on power systems while we've got that active cloaking generator sucking up every scrap of energy like a black hole." Michaela rubbed at some beading sweat on her forehead and left soot marks behind. She didn't seem to notice. That was the problem with black gloves... it was tough to tell how dirty they were.
Charlotte nodded in agreement. “I know. I hate having you all working under these conditions. We’ll be back in Federation territory in about 14 hours. And we should be decloaking a few hours after that. We’ll be able to do repairs in earnest after that.” She paused for a moment. “Do you think we’re going to have any issues with lowering the cloak?”
"I don't think so." Michaela said, sounding more confident about that, than her earlier repair estimates. "So long as we do it in a controlled manner. We're still gathering data on how the cloak is affecting the ship, in hopes that things will go more smoothly if we ever have to use it again. Sadly we have no idea how effective it actually is, as we don't have access to the sensor data of anyone trying to find us." Michaela shrugged again. She wasn't much of a scientist. Her friend Caroline was probably beside herself over not being able to launch a shuttle or probe to trail in their wake and gather valuable data.
Michaela looked down at her coffee thermos, realizing there was soot and grease all over it. "Ugh." She said with a scowl, realizing where there was probably also soot. She looked at Charlotte, her gaze softening. "You could've let me know I had this stuff all over my face. What if the captain stopped by?" It was tough to tell if Michaela was talking to Charlotte, the engineers at work behind her, or herself.
“It’s a good look on you. Nobody can deny that you’re working,” Charlotte teased. “Speaking of Caroline, I want to get a group together for once we get back to Starbase Arcadia. I’m thinking we could hit up the bars and play some pool.”
At first Michaela wondered if Charlotte had been reading her mind. When had she mentioned Caroline? Then she realized that she had just been talking about trying to study the cloak--a task more involving the science department.
"I'm awful at that." Michaela said with a laugh. "Half the time I can't even hit them when they're all racked together.. Buuut it sure beats repairing plasma relays. I'm in. Have you talked to her?"
"If we're being honest, I'm not so great myself. The odds should be a little more even." Charlotte opened her mouth to continue, but her communicator chirped an interruption.
"Bridge to Captain Reynolds. We have a message coming in from the Artemis."
"Understood. I'm on my way." Charlotte flipped the device shut and returned her gaze to Michaela. "Duty calls, unfortunately. I'll check in a bit later."
Michaela nodded. She'd had her share of whirlwind shifts, but she couldn't imagine having to deal with several departments worth of interruptions, plus mission planning to top it all off. She did not envy Charlotte being in command.
"I'll probably be here..." Michaela added with a slightly nervous laugh. Lots of work to do. If things kept up, she might be ready to hibernate once the ship got back to port.