AQ/D32-35 - Main Engineering
#1
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#2
== Soon after meeting with Captain Brooks ==

Niels returned to his office after his meeting with the Captain, and sat behind his desk. He looked around the room, still trying to get used to the different layout. A few boxes from his old office on the Charon remained unpacked, but neatly stacked in the corner. A mix of engineering journals and departmental reports sat on his desk waiting to be addressed. In his old office, the desk was oriented so that he had a direct line of sight to the warp core. Now, it faced the door, relegating the warp core to his periphery. He thought about having the office rearranged, but it felt like an odd thing to request.

I’ll just have to get used to it.

Neatly stacking the PADDs to one side of the desk, Niels placed the small black box he had received from the Captain in front of him. He looked at the box for a moment, before turning to his computer to pull up Lt. Thorn’s personnel record. She was quite the accomplished engineer, but her record also made note of her unconventional nature. Niels still had some reservations, but ultimately only time would tell. Closing the file, he closed his eyes briefly as he stretched his neck, then rose from his desk.

“Computer, Initiate Hoekstra Coffee Program Foxtrot-Zero-Three”

Niels crossed the room as the computer chirped in response. The replicator in his office hummed as a french press and two mugs appeared on a tray. He placed the tray on his desk before heading over to the stack of boxes. From the top box, he produced a small handheld grinder, a small container of roasted coffee beans, and a small scale. Gathering all the materials on his desk, Niels carefully measured out the beans on the scale before transferring them to the grinder. There were easier ways to make coffee, but Niels found this method to be something of a relaxing ritual.

When the coffee was processed, Niels placed the grounds in the carafe. He walked back over to the replicator and asked for water at precisely 92.6 celsius. An insulated pitcher appeared and he brought it back to the desk and slowly poured the contents into the carafe with the grounds. The slightly sterile scent of the office was slowly replaced with that of freshly brewed coffee, a marked improvement in Niels’ opinion. As he placed the pitcher on the tray next to the mugs, he asked the computer to set a timer, then cleaned up a few stray grounds from his desk. Satisfied everything was in order, Niels decided it was time to proceed.

“Lieutenant Thorn, please report to the Chief Engineer’s Office.”

== Tag Lt. Thorn ==
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#3
Lt Thorn had been running through data from diagnostics since 0600. Her efforts had discovered some unusual signal readings from some of the fiber data couplings that were showing spikes in fresnel reflection. She was going to have to flag those for replacement and check on the lot numbers to see if they were going to have a rash of those on the ship. It was one thing to hope for the best, but it was best to plan for the worst.

While crawling through a Jeffries Tube to access one of the couplings, she heard the call from her boss. She acknowledged the call with an automated signal, as the location she was in was rather noisy. She quickly made her way to the nearest access hatch and got to his office, as it wouldn't look good to keep him waiting.

She was in a rugged version of the duty uniform of the day and outfitted with a tool belt that held a number of small but potent versions of the most common items that would handle the majority of jobs on the ship. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and sleeves were rolled up and ready for action. It appeared that she had already been occupying herself, as there was a smudge or two on her hands and face. She was wearinging a pair of specialized interface glasses when she entered, but removed them as she entered, tucking them into a pocket.

At the open door, she spoke up right away, "Yes, sir?"

It was going to take her a bit of adjustment to working with someone so close to her own rank as being her boss, but it was more about her not being accustomed to having much rank more than anything else. She was familiar with a squad or two of people taking her commands and doing tasks, even under combat conditions, but this ship was huge and they had quite  crew of people trying to keep it together.

Her nose caught the smell of something and it took a second for it to register that it was his morning coffee she was picking up on. The thought crossed her mind that he at least seemed to have good taste, based on the smell of it.

== Tag Lt Hoekstra ==
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#4
Lieutenant Thorn’s acknowledgement came through almost immediately, though not in a typical fashion. Niels thought it quite fitting for the engineer, who seemed to have an unusual way of doing things. As he mused, the first timer sounded and he retrieved a long handled spoon from the tray. He poked the end through the crust of grounds that had gathered at the top and gave the mixture a quick stir. Then, with careful precision, he scooped out some of the foam and large grounds that remained at the surface. Kalli arrived just as he fished out the last bit. He set the spoon aside and gestured for her to take a seat.

Kalli’s appearance suggested she had been hard at work when Niels called. He initially felt a pang of guilt for disturbing her. If he were in her position, he knew that he would have preferred not being interrupted mid-task. To compound the issue more, she had arrived sooner than expected. The coffee still had another five minutes until it was done. Niels sighed. In hindsight, it would have been more efficient to wait for a more opportune time, like the end of her shift. The whole situation made him realize that he needed to work that much harder to adjust to the new ship.

“I apologize for pulling you away from your work,” Niels began, “but there was a matter I needed to discuss with you. Would you like some coffee? I’ve got an Earth-grown Ethiopian blend brewing. It should be ready in a few minutes.”

== Tag Kalli ==
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#5
Kalli had entered with a friendly but relatively neutral grin, being polite and professional, as was her habit. His greeting indicated that whatever he wanted to discuss might take a moment and since it included an invitation for some coffee that would require a couple more minutes to brew, she would logically take a seat. Her appreciation for a good cup of coffee tugged at her as well. This was not only smelling good, but understanding the care he took to be making it by hand and steeping it for a determined amount of time, that said a great deal about his own appreciation for such thing. Her smile widened as this crossed her mind.

Taking a seat, she said, "I'm not certain about the name of this blend, but it certainly has a rich smell to it that I would be delighted to try. I confess a soft spot for a number of hot beverages that qualify as unique." Tucking a stray strand of hair back behind an ear, Kalli then said, "You'll find that almost anytime you contact me, you have a very high chance that I am working. I average between 12-16 hours a day, typically spanning into all shifts to some degree or other. It might vary, depending on which shift I am technically assigned, though I take care when there are any requirements for the weapons systems, but those are rare. Standard Operating Procedure is that most crew quickly grow to understand that I'm pretty much part of the ship after a couple weeks of working around me."

She realized that she might sound like she was rambling, so changed the topic, "So, what did you need to talk about, boss?"

What she was keeping hidden deep down was that she was relieved that he was alone in his office when she had arrived. There was no Security and no other officer that might be connected to legal on one side or the other, so those were good signs. She knew that it was doubtful that such a thing might happen, given that if it were going to happen, it would likely have already been over with by now. The face of the Tellarite flashed across her mind, but his was only the latest in her mental collection and she had found ways to push such things to the deepest corners of her mind.

== Tag Niels ==
== Reference to weapons systems is a vague mention that some military weapons systems (like nukes) require that the people touching them have not worked more than a 12 hours shift, for certification purposes. It might be presumed that the torpedo launch system or any maintenance involving the warheads might have such restrictions by Star Fleet regulations. ==
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#6
A faint grin flashed on Niels’ face as Kali accepted the cup of coffee. The probability of them working well together was increasing. She continued by detailing her unusual work hours, noting that she was aware and respectful of Star Fleet safety regulations. The hours didn’t surprise Niels and, to a certain degree, he was jealous. The Chief Engineer position came with a desk and an office. While they afforded him a quiet space to work uninterrupted, they also acted like a tether. When he first started on the Charon, he had the freedom to work long shifts exploring and learning about the ship section by section. While he could technically do so now, the obligations of his administrative duties kept him chained to Main Engineering.

"So,” Kalli asked, “what did you need to talk about, boss?"

Niels pushed the small black box across the desk, gesturing for her to take it.

“Someone once told me that we don't do the hard work we do for recognition, but sometimes it comes with the territory. I’m not normally one for elaborate ceremonies, long speeches, or the like, but I do like to recognize a job well done. So, it is with great honor that I get to award you with the Starfleet Achievement Medal, in recognition of your dedicated service and outstanding contributions on your previous mission."

As if on cue, the second timer sounded. Niels gave Kalli a quiet moment to reflect on the award as he continued the coffee preparation. He placed the plunger atop the french press, carefully lowering it to a level just beneath the surface of the liquid inside. His technique wasn’t the normal one for using a french press, but the method was designed to create a good tasting brew while reducing the amount of sediment transferred to the cup. Lifting the carafe, being careful not to agitate the liquid contained within, he slowly poured two mugs of coffee. He slid one across the desk.

“Cream or sugar,” Niels asked, despite neither of those things being on the table.

== Tag Kalli ==
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#7
Kalli's curiosity began to perk up as the CEO began quoting someone about recognition. She then considered the box as if she was unsure about opening it or not. He had told her what was inside, so there was no real need to open it. Kalli simply stared at the box while he continued with his ritual of making the coffee. She was clearly thinking about something, but remained silent until he slid the cup over.

Finally breaking her gaze at the box, her grin returned to her face as she picked it up and gave it a good sniff, her grin widening as she did so, "One should never pollute a beverage before sampling it in the natural state."

She took a sip and let it sit in her mouth a moment, evaluating the flavor and letting it warm her mouth. It went down smooth and she took another sip, this time a bigger one. As she finally brought it away from her mouth, but kept it in her hands she commented, "This is GOOD! If a coffee is middle of the road, I might add something to it to smooth it out and give me some added sugar to get me going, but this is fine as is. I do appreciate someone who knows their drinks. Perhaps I will have to share with you my hot chocolate recipe. It has a hint of a chili pepper added to it, from a very ancient recipe, or so I'll told. The little bit of heat from the spice makes for an unexpectedly delightful flavor enhancement."

Her grin had turned into a wide smile and she took another long moment to inhale the aroma of the coffee before taking a gulp this time. She savored the drink, not rushing it, but genuinely enjoying it. After a moment, she gave a nod toward the box and began to speak of what had been going through her mind, "When I graduated the academy, I got a ribbon. I thought I understood the concept of ribbons and medals at the time, but now they only confuse me. I have no idea how often these are given out, so I am not sure if it speaks good or ill of my performance to say that this is the third one of these in four years. Please, don't misunderstand, I'm not complaining, I'm just a little confused is all. On the Copernicus, I managed to help save the ship from being taken over by the Borg. I confess that with ships blowing up and Borg boarding the ship, my blood pressure was definitely up that day. that one made sense to me. On the Titania, I saved the life of my then FO, Commander Talion. He apparently had a difference of opinion with some kind of Q entity or whatever and I had to carry him out of a forested region for a number of miles. Nobody even took notice...well, other than Talion, of course. We're still friends to this day. Then I manage to resurrect a drifting derelict from 10 years of scavenging and even restore warp power to it to...well...wait...um...that part is classified...maybe all of that was...anyway the Geronimo gave me one for that, so that sort of fit."

She pointed a finger at the box and gave a half eye roll, "Huh...now I get another one for showing up on a backwater colony where they are happily attempting to slowly kill themselves with stupidity and I patch up some simple plumbing. How does that compare? How do I rate what some young troop under me deserves when my own points of reference are so different? I mean, if I had killed the murderer who was fine with taking as many lives as it took to get someone's attention so they could hitch a ride off the planet, then I could understand getting a medal. I will admit that the thought did cross my mind for just a second, but nobody was in any immediate danger, so we did the civilized thing and took them into custody. The only thing I found good about that mission was that we likely extended their life spans considerably. Curing them of the lead poisoning was pretty simple after I pointed out that we could simply use the biofiltering of the transporters to remove the toxins and we treated the entire colony in short order. I still think they are doomed in the long run, but that was out of my hands. I also managed to get some valuable data from field testing my program with the drone prototypes. I'm still excited about how well that went, but hardly anyone is even going to care to read about that for a while, other than a few of the people on this ship."

Kalli chuckled and looked a little embarrassed as she looked into her mug, "Wow, I'm going to guess this has a pretty high caffeine content. Here I am babbling away like I've been drinking espresso."

== Tag Niels ==
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#8
Niels gave Kalli time to savor her own cup of coffee as he did the same with his. He studied her initial reaction, which seemed to be a positive one. In the next moment she said as much, to his delight. To Niels, a well made cup of coffee required little in the way of additives. But he was also aware that people have varying tastes and require different seasonings to stoke their taste buds. Her hot chocolate recipe was a prime example, the added piquancy providing flavor not typically found in the drink.

“I’m glad you like it,” Niels responded with a genuine smile, “and I’m always interested in learning new recipes.”

Kalli continued to speak. Whether it was from nervousness, a need to fill the void of silence, or just genuine discussion, Niels could not tell. He just listened, quietly sipping on his coffee. Within the context of the sometimes illogical nature of awards, she spoke of her experience in StarFleet. From her own retelling, it sounded as if she had had quite the storied career so far. In relation to his own experiences, Niels felt that her time in StarFleet, like her hot chocolate recipe, had more spice to it than his own. He wasn’t jealous by any means, but it did make him wonder where he would have been, had he not been assigned to the Charon.

"Wow, I'm going to guess this has a pretty high caffeine content. Here I am babbling away like I've been drinking espresso."

“The espresso method extracts 5 to 6 times more milligrams of caffeine per liter from the coffee than this method,” Niels replied with a chuckle.

Placing his cup on the desk, he continued. 

“Given your prior relationship, I’m presuming you’ve already discussed your drone prototypes with Commander Tallion. If memory serves he published a paper a few years back on the use of  holography with drones. It seems like that might be right up his alley, so to speak. And, if you’d like to pursue your drone research in a more formal manner, I can arrange some time in one of the engineering labs, perhaps a small team to assist you. Assuming that’s something you’d be interested in.”

== Tag Kalli ==
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#9
Kalli was impressed with his knowledge of his coffee making. She was getting a feel for the kind of technical mind he had and how he approached subjects. It was easy for her to appreciate such things about people.

When he commented about the drones, she chuckled, "Oh, I can't take much credit for what I'm currently working on. The drones were an existing technology that has been relatively under used. Commander Talion made some modifications by adapting current technologies in new ways and trying to encourage people to explore the possibilities. Some are as simple as allowing an EMH to be able to function in the field, for emergency purposes. Our conversations mostly revolved around the idea that in small ways, such programs could augment a small Away Team, especially when a qualified crew member is not available, or there might not be room for enough people to fit into a transport vehicle for some mundane task assistance. At the same time...um..."

She hesitated a moment, trying to pick her words carefully, "...well...the Commander has been well known for his less conventional programs. Cindy is a very good example. Even though I understand the difference between a simulated personality and a sentient program, the problem is that not everyone else does. I will spare you the finer points of it, but I deliberately have chosen to create a program that is less able to be mistaken for a person, while still being highly functional and having a favorable interface style. Most people don't have an issue working with an intelligently built and pleasant machine. The problems and confusion enter into things when they aren't sure if it's a person or not. I find people are much more productive and able to make snap decisions when it is clear that the program and device is not something they will anthropomorphize. Much like the use of a tricorder or any other tool, I'm trying to create a version of his drones that help us make those life or death decisions as quickly and accurately as possible, hoping to save more lives as a result."

Kalli paused and looked into her cup of coffee for a moment, before adding in a somewhat sobering tone, "I've...seen lots of bad things happen to people. Most of the time, things go well and we're able to bring peace to places and enjoy the wonders of exploration. However, when things go wrong, they tend to do so very quickly. Add Space and hostile encounters into the mix and you find out how quickly every second counts. That's part of why I specialized in Damage Control and did so well with it in the Academy. I can appreciate how his holographics can be used to imitate life forms and so on, but I mostly only use it to have the drone render itself invisible to the naked eye, so that bystanders are not made nervous by the presence of a drone hovering near them. Instead of using it to engage, it tries not to be a distraction. I do make use of it for simple interface exchanges, but I strive to keep things simple and effective."

She finally looked up and her smile returned, in a shy sort of way, "I would certainly love to take you up on that lab time though. So far I've mostly been making my modifications in my quarters or on holodecks. I would also love to hear your thoughts on the use of such devices."

== Tag Niels ==
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#10
As Kalli spoke, Niels found himself nodding in agreement with her assessment. The anthropomorphization of tools was a subject he hadn’t given much thought to until recently. His encounter with the holograms aboard the mining facility had not only introduced him to the topic, but also given him some strong opinions.

Niels’ took a more serious tone as he spoke. “With regards to these sorts of devices, I am open to innovation as long as it is done in a safe and controlled manner. Given the results of our prior mission, I could probably talk for some time on the hazards of lifelike interfaces for complex systems. However, it’s been my experience that the user is often one of the biggest sources of problems in any given interaction with technology. It’s the reason we have redundant safeguards and maintenance lockouts, to prevent people from messing up.”

“Personally,” Niels continued, “I’d take simple interfaces that make it painfully clear what functions are being performed and what data has been collected over so-called ‘natural user interfaces’ any day. I don’t need personality with my readouts, just cold, hard facts. While these types of interfaces make it easier to interact with complex systems, it also makes it easier for people to inject their own biases into the mix. The last thing I need is a cut-rate engineer putting everyone’s lives in danger because they thought they knew better than the computer.”

Niels sighed and shifted in his chair as he realized how his words may be taken.

“Sorry, I wasn’t referring to you. A couple of the people working at the mining facility we visited in our last mission decided to alter their old Mark 1 holograms. They clearly had no idea what they were doing and were in over their heads. The holograms even told them as much. But they kept on with their alterations and ultimately ended up endangering the lives of both their crew and our away team when the holograms gained full control of all the mine’s systems. But I digress”

Taking a sip of his coffee, Niels paused, before adding. “I’ll work you into the lab schedule and would be more than happy to review anything you’re working on.”

== Tag ==
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#11
Kalli nodded enthusiastically, "Oh, I completely agree. I once heard a phrase that I have never forgotten about such designs. They need to be designed by geniuses, so they can be run by idiots. By that, I don't mean we work with idiots, but that you need to make such things as idiot-proof as possible. I also don't allow their programs to be accessed by just anyone."

She reached into one of her belt pouches and pulled what looked like a metal baseball. Pressing a button on it, it lit up and instantly changed into what appeared to be a large white sphere the size of a soccer ball.

Kalli addressed it as it floated in front of her, "DeeDee, deliver the relay report to the CEO."

The sphere appeared to rotate to face Niels. There was a black area with two blue dots that might have been eyes, but no other features. In a clear voice, it said, [Greetings, Lieutenant Hoekstra. Here is the latest report on the questionable lot of relays that are under review for replacement.]

The sphere then turned into a PADD with slowly scrolling data, floating in front of him. The sphere was no longer visible and the PADD floated conveniently within reach of the CEO while the same disembodied voice added, [Please review at your convenience. If you wish this file to be sent to you for review later, simply say the word SAVE. Other acceptable commands are DONE or MENU.]

Kalli said, "I appreciate that, sir. I will be sure to send you some of the most current data on my efforts to date and give you regular updates." Pointing at the PADD floating in front of him, she clarified, "You can hold the PADD, but if you move too quickly it will return to default, as if you had tossed it aside, which is a gesture to close the PADD simulated interface."

== Tag Niels ==
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