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#1 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22011.29 @ 01:06 (01:06 AM)

==Late November/Early December 2420, USS Artemis Shuttlebay==

 

Benjamin was tired. He was frustrated. And he was ready to take it out on someone.

 

The problem, of course, was that he was a senior officer, and generally a nice person. He wanted to just hit something, or yell at someone, and work out some of his frustrations about the slipstream problems, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. After all, it wasn't anyone else's fault that the Slipstream cores were only barely functioning, and that their fuel supply was so dangerously low that they couldn't really utilize them if they still wanted to go home ever.

 

And it's not your fault either, he tried to remind himself, just as Nathan and Cera both had tried to tell him. But he wasn't feeling it. He had been in conferences with the engineers on the other five ships of the flotilla for days, and there simply wasn't anything to be done about it. They didn't have the raw materials to make more benamite crystals, and none of the surveys they had access to had been looking for the right minerals in the nearby systems. They would have to find it on their own, and given how rare it was even in Federation space the likelihood of their finding any was remote, at best.

 

So Benjamin had come down to the shuttlebay, and the work areas there. Normally he'd try to work on a new project - either a new weapon for someone, maybe, or even a new model to build and paint - but he was too keyed up. Anything that delicate or cerebral was just going to frustrate him more, and could even scuttle whatever he was working on. But working on refurbishing a shuttle, that could be good.

 

The two runabouts, Hippolytus and Orion, were practically new and had rolled off the line mere months before Artemis launched. However, that had still been over a year ago, and they were due for a service and rebuild. Vollik, the chief engineer on the Scott, and offered to have his expansive engineering staff handle the problem for them, but Benjamin had declined. "Better to keep my crew up-to-date on their specs," he'd said, and refused to state that the Artemis' shuttle chief, Lieutenant McKenzie, scared the willies out of him.

 

And it seemed that the idea had borne fruit - getting elbow-deep in a shuttle sounded therapeutic right now. He'd checked the schedule, and no one was working in here at the moment. He had a while to himself. He sighed and smiled, walking across the hangar on deck 7, steps echoing through the large chamber. Maybe I should turn on some music, he thought, but couldn't decide on what to start before he heard a tool clatter to the deck from over near the runabouts he was heading to.

 

"Hello?" he called, and kept walking. Maybe someone else from his staff had had a similar idea, he considered, though he had most of them busy with any number of other tasks. "Nobody should be in here," he said, "unless they're working in teams." He recognized the hypocrisy - he was going to do the work alone, as well - but he still had a job to do, keeping his people safe, and so he harped on those kinds of things.

 

He still hadn't heard a response as he got to the front of the far runabout and rounded the corner. "Did you hear me?" he said, noticing the culprit laying on a board underneath the runabout's nose compartment, working on the underside access ports. He set a foot on the board and slid them out. "You've got to have a partner if you're going to be working in here, particularly off-shift."

 

==Tag... but who??==


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#2 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22011.30 @ 16:18 (04:18 PM)

Jenny cursed as viscous fluid spewed from the ruptured feed line and splashed her face and exposed arms; it was not the first leak of the evening, nor would it be the last, apparently Star Fleet had once again skimped on their manifold connectors, which caused them to collect excess fluid while in use and then douse the poor mechanic sent to service them. Wiping excess fluid from her face with a cloth, Jenny returned her attention to the manifold system and disconnected the rest of the pump - as expected, it was shoddy workmanship made by the lowest bidder and signed off by a bureaucratic dockmaster somewhere who was more concerned with crossing Ts and dotting Is than the safety of those these ships were meant to serve.

 

That explains the seemingly random pressure variances.

 

Tossing the component aside into the pile of parts that she had disconnected and slated for recycling, Jenny reached up into the access panel and tugged at the pipes that were also in need of replacement and grunted with exertion as she overcame the push-studs that held them in place. These new Shuttles and Runabouts might be state of the art, but that also meant they were expensive, and Jenny wondered what junker these parts had been salvaged from; she'd make sure to compare serial numbers with the database once she was done.

 

The next thing Jenny knew, she was sliding backwards out from under the Runabout and into the bright Hangar lights. A shadow stood above her, and Jenny had to squint to make out anything more than the amorphous shape of a humanoid.

 

"You've got to have a partner if you're going to be working in here, particularly off-shift."

 

Jenny recognised the voice even as her vision cleared; Benjamin Elias, Chief Engineer and the infamous "Shadow". They'd not really spoken much since his investiture with the Cross of Gallantry alongside her Medal of Honour, but he'd apparently been instrumental in solving many of the problems on the Talaxian Asteroid Colony. That, however, did not excuse his attitude towards his First Officer, even if she was wearing dirty overalls tied off at the waist and a stained tank top that exposed her slender and muscular arms.

 

"I know the rules, Lieutenant, but I also know that no maintenance was scheduled on this ship when I spoke with Lieutenant McKenzie this afternoon."

 

Reaching back under the ship, Jenny grabbed the rag she had used on her face and wiped most of the grease off her hands before rising to her feet.

 

"Which begs the question, what are you doing here?"


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#3 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22012.01 @ 04:06 (04:06 AM)

Benjamin was mortified. His foot slid off the board quickly as he realized just who it was he was interrupting, and he should've known it was a possibility. He'd assumed it was Whitby, or maybe Parlagi trying to get ahead on something - both were smaller and fit the profile of someone who'd be down here alone.

 

But he hadn't expected Braggins. "I know the rules, Lieutenant, but I also know that no maintenance was scheduled on this ship when I spoke with Lieutenant McKenzie this afternoon," she said as she reached back under the runabout to grab a rag and wipe the grease off her face. She was wearing coveralls, he noticed, rather than a duty uniform, which also likely contributed to his misidentification. "Which begs the question, what are you doing here?"

 

"Um," he started brilliantly. "Sorry, ma'am," he got out before much more time had passed as he backed up just a touch to give her space to sit up if she wanted. "I'd assumed that you were one of mine trying to get work in after hours, and I've been trying to put my foot down on a lot of that." He sighed, and leaned against the edge of the runabout's nose. "I've got far too many engineers running themselves ragged to let them work too much over like this. Actually had to send Sanderson back to his quarters about halfway through his shift today, he was just so tired."

 

It hadn't been a good scene when it happened. Sanderson had been pushing himself too hard, pulling doubles helping here on Artemis as well as on the Freyja. Benjamin had gotten a call from Freyja's chief engineer, Morton, just before lunch, and had beamed over there as quick as he could. It turned out that while working with a team down in Freyja's lower sensor pod, he'd collapsed. He'd only lost consciousness for half a minute, but it was still a major problem. Their doctor had pulled him from active duty - an action that Benjamin wholeheartedly agreed with - but that, of course, had only added to his frustration. Sanderson had been his night-shift manager, after all, and now he had a shift with no supervisor.

 

For now, he'd rotated Orivessa to that shift for tonight, at least, but that wasn't sustainable either. An end was in sight for repair work - the last of the structural repairs was just about done after having to wait for the fabricators on the Scott to free up - but all the engineers were still trying to figure out how they were going to make the slipstream work again. Just like everyone else in the flotilla, he thought.

 

He shook his head and came back to the present, realizing there was an actual question asked of him. "As for me," he said, "well, I guess I'm just a hypocrite. I needed to work on something, and my usual projects are just a little too... fragile for my current mood." He looked down at the tools and detritus littering the floor, toeing a discarded pump. He knelt down to look at it, and understood immediately why she had pulled it out - it was a piece of crap that he would've been ashamed to use back when he was in civilian service, though even then he might have had to. Evidently Star Fleet, in their infinite wisdom, had deemed it acceptable. "Appears that you have your own things to work through," he added, and tossed the thing further away from them.

 

"I guess we could always work together," he said, and set down his own tool kit before pulling out a hyperspanner of his own. "It is the way regs want it, after all, and besides - I'm sure you've got some fun ideas, if the Voltaire was anything to go by." He gave her a smile - a bit weary, but still game. "Where have you gotten to already, and how can I help?"

 

==Tag Braggins==


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#4 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.03 @ 15:36 (03:36 PM)

Why was it always tales of woe with the new Star Fleet officers coming to the Artemis? They were either unprofessionally bad at their jobs, or so good at their jobs that they became unprofessional and took stupid risks; Jenny had been notified of Sanderson's collapse the moment he'd been examined by a medical officer, and she made a mental note to have him sit down with Alex LaHaye when he had a chance - the engineers had been running themselves ragged, everyone had, but the engineers had simply refused to accept that unless a recrystalisation method was discovered, the Slipstream Drive was still too unreliable for such long-range missions. Pathfinder was on the knife-edge, and would slip off if there were more stupid accidents.

 

"I guess we could always work together. It is the way regs want it, after all, and besides - I'm sure you've got some fun ideas, if the Voltaire was anything to go by. Where have you gotten to already, and how can I help?"

 

Jenny resisted the urge to sigh; she'd come down here to escape from the junior officers, and here was one now offering to get in her personal space. Worse, he'd referenced the Voltaire, which still languished in a hangar on Earth awaiting the final repairs to its power distribution system after Elias had used it as a glorified battery and thoroughly trashed it. The moron serving at Tactical on the Ozaki had helped, of course. She doubted she would ever truly forgive Elias for the damage he'd done to the ship she'd essentially built by hand, restored from being little more than salvage to an escort vessel capable of a multitude of missions ranging from convoy escort and pirate deterrence to survey and small-scale medical evacuation. There was never going to be another ship like the Voltaire.

 

Still, it would be rude not to invite Elias to help.

 

"Most of my improvements on the Voltaire already made it into the design of these things, and I try not to tinker too hard until it's had a few hundred hours' flight time to really bed the components in."

 

Sitting up on the board, Jenny surveyed the detritus strewn around the hangar floor surrounding the Runabout.

 

"Realistically, none of this needed doing, but I noticed a coolant pressure drop during the run to the Rogue Planet, and on landing when we returned the nose gear wouldn't deploy fully without a little help. Star Fleet provided us with a supply of spares but in the run up to the Megasphere battle and its aftermath, there just wasn't time or manpower to conduct minor repairs to auxiliary craft when yard hands were needed repairing ships or finishing their replacements. So it falls to us to get the work done."

 

Leaning back on the board, Jenny began sliding herself back under the Runabout before pausing and glancing back up at the engineer with a raised eyebrow.

 

"You have read the manual on these things, right?"


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#5 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22012.06 @ 21:34 (09:34 PM)

Benjamin could tell immediately that he’d spoken wrong when he mentioned the Voltaire. Her irritation at the interruption ratcheted up just a bit at the mere mention of the old scout, and he wondered just how understated the information he’d been given about her working on it had been. Cera had told him that the first officer loved that ship, but he hadn’t thought of just how much[/] Jenny must have loved it.

 

Maybe I should have left the ship alone, he considered, but immediately dismissed the notion. No, they had been in combat, and it was either use the Voltaire’s power to supplement Artemis’ own, or they were going to be destroyed. [I]If she can’t forgive me for saving all our lives, then that’s her problem.

 

Fortunately, though, that seemed to not be the case, as she offered the tacit invitation to work with him, though she couldn’t resist a bit of needling, evidently. “You have read the manual on these things, right?”

 

He chuckled and shook his head, picking up some tools and moving around the side of the engine compartment. “I have indeed,” he said, “though I've rarely put a lot of stock in the manuals. In my experience, the manuals usually are a little more conservative than what the mechanisms can actually take on a regular basis.”

 

He settled down on his back and pulled himself under the runabout’s nose so he could see what was being worked on. “In my experience,” he continued as he surveyed the damage she’d inflicted on the cooling system - all well deserved, from what he’d seen - “the manuals are usually written by the most conservative of the designers, rather than the ones that actually know what the mechanism can do.”

 

He pointed with the end of a spanner at a hose at the top of the compartment. “This look loose to you?” he asked. Picturing where the pump and manifold that she’d already removed would have fit into the space, he thought he was right. “Wonder if the pump mechanisms weren’t vibrating those hoses, and pulling the injectors just enough to cause a slight pressure drop.” He shrugged, and got to work fixing them - the hoses were still in good shape, after all. “Pump is still a piece of crap, but maybe this was another part of the prob--”

 

He was cut off when, having removed the hose so he could make sure it was secured to where it needed to be in the space, he was in his own turn doused with… something. “Son of a…” He stopped mid-curse - not because he was in the presence of a superior officer, but to keep the fluid from getting in his mouth. Producing a rag from his back pocket he started trying to clean off. “Just glad that didn’t get in my eye,” he added. “Pain in the *** to clean this mechanical thing, and then it shorts out worse than normal for better part of a week…”


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#6 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.07 @ 18:38 (06:38 PM)

Jenny remained silent as Elias spoke of his disdain for the technical manuals and their writers, claiming they were more conservative than they needed to be. In some instances, he was perfectly right - Montgomery Scott had famously written his technical manuals so conservatively that it would take four times as long on paper to do a task than was actually needed - it contributed to his status as a miracle worker, and the man was certainly a technical genius, but it did devalue the excellent work and stories of working against the odds in those days somewhat. Jenny herself had torn the Cicero class manual apart the day she'd rebuilt the Voltaire from scratch, penning a new manual for dissemination among those who used the Support Escort on a regular basis and starting the path of paperwork and late nights in front of her terminal that had led to her PhD - not that many people knew she had one.

 

"In this case, the manual isn't that conservative - I helped write it. And yes, that's loose because the fittings are s**t."

 

As if on cue, Elias was doused in the same gloopy liquid that Jenny had been covered in moments earlier; it was the lot of the auxiliary craft mechanic to come home from every shift coated in some sticky residue and smelling of God-knows-what; the working parts of the craft they worked on were only usually accessible from beneath, and gravity was a harsh mistress. Elias lamented the problems of getting such fluids on his artificial eye.

 

"You could always wear goggles..."

 

Shining a light into the access bay she was working in, Jenny swore a particularly nasty curse in Klingon; the problems extended the entire way through the ship's hull and, if allowed to remain, could reduce the Runabout's handling characteristics to a dangerous degree and compromise the overall flightworthiness. This was just another way the bureaucrats tried to screw Star Fleet in the modern era; such defects should have been found at the assembly line, or during initial testing, but here they were - still uncorrected over a year later on an active vessel.

 

"Someone at Command should be shot for this..."

 

The comment was muttered under her breath, but given the close proximity, there was no way Elias wasn't going to hear her. Hooking the lamp on a handy piece of conduit, Jenny reached up and gave the offending equipment a tug; there was too much give to be safe, but not enough to remove it without tools. At this rate, they were going to have to remove and service or replace every hydraulic line or servo that controlled the attitude thrusters; a time consuming and costly process.

 

Otherwise they'll crap out at the wrong moment and someone will slam into an asteroid or plummet into an ocean...

 

Having conducted similar refits in the past, Jenny knew that it would just be easier to scrap the ship and start again from the ground up, but without the resources for such a feat (the Voltaire had been rebuilt at Starbase Alpha, after all), that simply was not an option. It was going to be a long night...


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#7 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22012.08 @ 04:04 (04:04 AM)

Benjamin finished cleaning his face as he contemplated just how he had managed to step in it with his first officer twice in less than five minutes. First, he mentions the Voltaire which dredged up old memories. Then, he insulted her direct work.

 

Of course she wrote the damn book on this ship, he thought. Of all the things he had read in the manual, the one page he hadn’t bothered with was the author credits. He made a note to pay more attention to the runabout manuals - he’d grown far too used to the ones written for civilian equipment, which usually assumed that the end user was an idiot.

 

“I could wear goggles,” he said, “but the eye acts up when pressure gets applied around the eye, like goggles tend to. Stupid Ferengi lowest-bidder medicine,” he muttered, and got back under the runabout in time to hear another low curse, one he didn’t recognize - a fairly impressive feat, given the breadth of his curses. Never did like Klingon ones, he thought. Despite their vehemence, they never felt good on his tongue like Andorian and Ferengi curses did.

 

He followed Braggins’ light, and saw the problem. He let out a couple of those Ferengi curses - ironically, it was one traditionally used equating cheaply-made unreliable goods with the Federation - and shook his head. He heard her following comment, though it sounded like she was trying to not have it heard. He honored her wishes and ignored it, even as he silently agreed with it. For a moment, he considered how much work it would take to manipulate Aitrus’ work with wormholes and combine it with a rifle to make that muttered curse a reality. But only for a moment. Aitrus would never let it happen, he thought, and let the idle daydream drop.

 

There was too much work to do to let his mind wander for long.

 

He sighed, and got to work. “Y’know,” he let his mouth run for a bit while his mind focused on the massive workload they were going to have to deal with, “I’m sure that between the Scott and Jupiter, there are more than enough spare parts, we could just build a new runabout instead of trying to fix this mess.”

 

He slid out from under the runabout, just far enough to grab some tools before coming back in to start removing the hydraulic line - including a pump to hook up to the shuttlebay’s systems so as to prevent another situation like they’d both already experienced. “Hell, we could probably make a few improvements as we went, make a one-off for the model…” He’d had a few ideas, including doing some research on the sensor cloak they’d put in the Voltaire. He didn’t think they could get it to work well in a runabout - it was simply too power intensive - but he had ideas.


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#8 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.10 @ 15:11 (03:11 PM)

The string of Ferengi curses from Elias had made Jenny smirk, albeit very briefly; even her non-enhanced younger self was a wizard with languages and had a keen sense for sound (which was why she was on an arts scholarship playing the piano at a respected San Fransisco school), but her genetically-engineered intellect allowed her to better understand the more obscure curse words from languages one didn't often hear - Ferengi being one of them. Still, that the engineer agreed with her proved worrisome - he'd majored in engineering, Jenny held a minor that was conferred by getting her hands dirty under less than adequate circumstances more than book-study.

 

“Y’know, I’m sure that between the Scott and Jupiter, there are more than enough spare parts, we could just build a new runabout instead of trying to fix this mess.”

 

Jenny had considered this more than once, what harm was diverting some of the supplies and spares for a pet project of her own. Pulling more conduit, Jenny mentally ran the numbers on just how much air they'd need to bleed from the system before it was safe to use once the replacement parts had been installed; they were probably going to be here all night, and if the other Runabout had been constructed in a similarly-sloppy manner, nobody was going anywhere for a while...

 

“Hell, we could probably make a few improvements as we went, make a one-off for the model…”

 

It was a tempting prospect, for sure. The issue was that the Voltaire had been created on Starbase Alpha with unlimited resources and they were 30-ish thousand Light Years from that facility with limited resources that needed to be reserved for more important projects. Worse, if the problem was spread across the entire Archangel line, replacing one Runabout would solve exactly nothing. The Lunas had their little Waveriders, but it deprived all three of the Vesta-class vessels in the fleet their largest auxiliary and most capable craft. 

 

"Put a pin in that idea; we need to conserve resources until we know we can continue our mission out here and get home safely. The Scott and Jupiter might be able to act as a mobile shipyard between them when it comes to repairs and spare parts, but if this problem is spread across all Runabouts, we can't afford to replace them all. Actually, when we're done here I want you to get with the Scott's Chief Engineer and arrange an inspection and overhaul of all auxiliary craft while we're sitting in New Talax orbit."

 

Reaching down to the toolbelt wrapped around her waist, Jenny retrieved a pair of goggles and slipped them over her face. Until now, they'd been dealing with low-pressure lines which would dribble any fluid they contained, she was about to start unhooking high pressure lines, and that meant that things were about to get incredibly messy if this wasn't done correctly. Flashlight held between her teeth, Jenny rose into a crouch and manoeuvred herself up into the compartment itself as she inspected the hoses that pumped vital coolants and lubricants to the small ship's various systems. Some showed signs of wear and tear, while others were coated in a greasy film that indicated that either a seal or the tubing itself had failed.

 

"This s**t is what gets pilots killed."

 

Clamping one end of the hose with a wrench to prevent excess spray, Jenny began to loosen the bolts holding the hose in place.

 

"Pass me a bucket, I don't want to have Eli yelling at me for messing up her hangar again..."


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#9 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22012.15 @ 04:58 (04:58 AM)

Benjamin deflated a bit as Jenny replied. But she was right - ensuring the existing ships were good took priority. Until they could be sure they weren't going to suddenly be down an entire class of ship, they needed to conserve their supplies for the moment. "Will do," he acknowledged, and added contacting Vollik once they were done here. So, sometime middle of next shift, he thought as they kept going.

 

He saw her put on a pair of goggles and sighed. It was time for the high-pressure lines. He hadn't lied before: he really did hate wearing goggles. Of course, that didn't mean he didn't recognize the need to do so when necessary, and working on high-pressure lines was one of them. Risking it with regular work was one thing; deliberately courting disaster was another. He followed Braggins' work for a moment, looking at the tell-tale wear on several of the hoses, and that several more were already coated in a greasy film. "This **** is what gets pilots killed," she said, and he couldn't help but agree.

 

He slid out and grabbed his goggles out of the kit, getting ready to put them on. "Pass me a bucket," she called while he was out there. "I don't want to have Eli yelling at me for messing up her hangar again." He grunted, and remembered all too well the chewing-out the shuttlebay manager had given him after he had done all of that work on the Voltaire. For half a second, Benjamin considered mentioning that, but did think better of it very quickly.

 

"Definitely don't want that," he said instead. He got his goggles on and grabbed a bucket as requested before getting back under the runabout's nose. They worked in amiable silence for a while - she was better at fitting into the tight spaces than he was, and in any event he was the one who had intruded on her so he let her take the lead. Besides, she was more experienced on small craft than he was, and like she said earlier she literally wrote the book on this particular craft. She can do whatever she wants, then, he thought.

 

So acting as a nurse to her surgeon for the moment, he let his mind wander a bit. He tried to think back to the last time he'd operated in close proximity to Braggins, and other than the attack on the Megasphere - which had been both briefer and interminably longer than he thought it was - there really wasn't much that he could think of. He scoffed as they kept working, and realized they had done something together more recently.

 

His mind drifted to that damn medal ceremony after the battle. The powers that be had recognized that she was worthy of a Medal of Honor, despite the bloodbath the battle had become. Of course, that wasn’t her fault; too many things had gone wrong, and there had been a lot that they didn’t know about the Borg when they went in guns blazing. It had been a good plan, but it hadn’t panned out.

 

For some reason, though, they’d also seen fit to give him a Cross of Gallantry. He’d been embarrassed to be on that stage with genuine heroes, people who had fought hard and given so much for the battle. There had even been pilots that had lost limbs and such on the stage, and that didn’t include the posthumous awards. All he’d done was his job, making sure the Artemis wasn’t left dead in the water, and trying to keep them running when the worst happened. 

 

He got to the next section they were working through and evidently his frustration had been building a little more than he’d thought. Loosening the attachments for the next length of hose he tensed too much and, instead of gently loosening the line, it pulled free of the socket and fell to the floor. Fortunately, they had bled off most of the pressure by this point.

 

Unfortunately, even an unpressurized line makes a mess when you’re not prepared for it. He let out a few more curses at himself. “Dammit,” he finally finished as he went to get some rags and the vacuum hose, “I’m sorry. I guess I…” He sighed. “Guess I got a little distracted.” He started getting as much of the liquid up as he could before he went to get the mop to finish up - less for cleanliness at this point as to keep it safe to work, as the floor was so smooth it was already slick at times anyway.

 

A few more moments passed - the vacuum cleaned up most of it, and a bit of mopping finished off the rest - before they were ready to resume work again. “How,” he started before he’d even realized he was going to ask the question, “how do you deal with it?” He stopped for a moment, head down. 

 

If you’re gonna ask, he thought, finish the question - even if you didn’t want to. A short breath, and he pressed on. “I’m used to failure. I’ve learned to deal with that - first by what not to do, but lately I’ve learned how to cope with it in better ways.” He sighed and looked at her. “But on that stage at the award ceremony, all I could think was ‘Why are you here, Benjamin? You didn’t do anything special.’

“All I did was my job,” he said. “Any one of my officers would have done the same; I just happened to be the one in a position to do so, and suddenly I’m up on that stage.” Now that he came to the point of it all, it felt so stupid, so petty. But he’d come this far, and had to finish. “How do you deal with actual success?”


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#10 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.18 @ 17:56 (05:56 PM)

The silence was awkward at first, as both mechanics internalised how much they wanted to be the only person working on the Runabout; it seemed to suit them until Jenny heard Elias swear the sudden telltale rush of leaking fluid. Resisting the urge to sigh, Jenny continued what she was doing and tried not to get covered in more grease or lubircating fluid while Elias cleaned up the mess. The noise of the vacuum was an irritant she didn't need, she normally listened to music at a volume loud enough to drown such things out while she worked, but she'd forgotten to and now tried to tune out the incessant whine of the impeller as it removed the greasy substance from the floor.

 

With the mess now cleaned up, Jenny had pulled herself even further into the guts of the ship to the point where only her legs from the knee down were visible, dangling from the hatch as she lay on her back and examined the housings for the landing gear actuators. They were obviously reconditioned units rather than factory-fresh, which meant they were tried and tested. They'd need a bit of a clean and a service before Jenny was entirely happy with them, but they were far lower on the priority list than faulty control systems.

 

“How, how do you deal with it?”

 

Jenny paused, unsure whether Elias was directing the question at her or really expecting an answer to such a vague question.

 

“I’m used to failure. I’ve learned to deal with that - first by what not to do, but lately I’ve learned how to cope with it in better ways. But on that stage at the award ceremony, all I could think was ‘Why are you here, Benjamin? You didn’t do anything special.’ All I did was my job. Any one of my officers would have done the same; I just happened to be the one in a position to do so, and suddenly I’m up on that stage. How do you deal with actual success?”
 
It wasn't a question Jenny heard often, but it was one she'd asked herself more than once. Even in the 24th century, survivor's guilt and PTSD were taboo topics among the Star Fleet community as it might tarnish the civilians' perception of those who served in their defence - humanitarian armada by charter or or not, Star Fleet remained the military arm of the Federation and as such, its members were going to be subjected to countless horrors that nobody should be expected to face.
 
"When I was younger, back before the Krynar War really got going, I was assigned to a group tasked with destroying Uihvueri strongholds on this side of the Romulan Neutral Zone; they were still fighting their war against the Romulans despite having lost it years before, but they were determined and they were causing trouble for us as well. Still, it wasn't our fight and we had no real right to interfere in anyone else's war, but we went where we were told. In this case, we were making a solo attack on a bridge they were using to ferry troops and supplies."
 
Placing the wrench she had been holding on the floor of the compartment, she reached down to the water flask strapped to her toolbelt and retrieved it, opening the lid but not drinking any.
 
"We were flying a couple of the older Type-1Fs at the time; not really suited to the task but they flew well and they did their job. Anyway, we made our approach down the valley and straight in to the target; it wasn't meant to be defended, it was just a rickety old bridge that hadn't been used for decades. Next thing I know, there's an almighty bang and the flight deck is full of smoke and blood and body parts; a crew of five reduced to just me in a flash. I regained control of the ship, blew the c**p out of the bridge, and got the hell out of there. Turned out they'd fortified the bridge and Intel had screwed up. They wanted to give me a medal for it, 'courage under fire' they called it."
 
Pausing to take a drink, Jenny re-capped the bottle and slid out of the compartment so she could see Elias.
 
"There's not a day goes by when I don't relieve that or any number of situations like it, and I still lose sleep over it. Ultimately, you have to look at the end goal; that day, I prevented weapons being transported that would have been used against civilians. Against the Borg, we stopped an invasion that might have wiped the Federation off of the map. In your case, you saved over four hundred lives on this ship alone and allowed us to cover the ships that got the killing blows on the Megasphere."
 
Offering the water bottle to Elias, Jenny continued.
 
"You're always going to ask yourself what you could have done better, what you could have done differently. The answer is usually 'nothing'; had things been that different, you or I or all of us could all be dead right now."

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#11 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22012.24 @ 03:11 (03:11 AM)

Benjamin sighed as Braggins worked for a moment more after he asked the question. For a moment, he wasn't sure she would answer - it wasn't exactly a subject he'd planned to bring up, either, so he wouldn't have blamed her for ignoring it - but she did. He listened as she related a story he hadn't heard, a war story from her younger days. As she went along through it, it was plain to see why it wasn't a story that he'd heard - it wasn't one that the government would like the public to know, and definitely wasn't one that Jenny was likely to tell without need.

 

He regretted that he'd been the one that made her bring it out.

 

She slid out of the compartment she was working in, a bottle in her hand, and looked at him. "There's not a day goes by when I don't relive that or any number of situations like it, and I still lose sleep over it," she said pointedly, before reminding him of a very basic principle, one they'd drilled into him at the Academy but that didn't make things any better: the mission comes first. No matter the losses, so long as the mission was successful, it counted as a win in the Big Book of War.

 

She handed him the bottle, and he took it as she finished. "You're always going to ask yourself what you could have done better, what you could have done differently. The answer is usually 'nothing'; had things been that different, you or I or all of us could all be dead right now."

 

He sighed and nodded, taking the cap off the bottle. She was right, after all. Sitting there thinking about what could have been, what might have gone differently, was a losing proposition. If anything, his long experience in the bottle after his marriage ended should have taught him that. I'm just not used to seeing it from a positive angle, he considered. Usually, he was too busy thinking about his regrets, and how he could have changed things to look back on things that had ended well and how they could have been better. 

 

He took a sip from the bottle, and then coughed. "This is water," he said to the bottle in a bit of amazement. Then he started chuckling for a moment before taking another swig and recapping the bottle.

 

"Somehow," he said as he handed it back, "I'd expected liquor of some kind. Maybe that says more about me than about you." He smiled and turned to pick up some more tools, getting ready to keep going with the work. "Thank you," he continued. "I'm sorry for getting morose on you. It's just... Been a long couple of months, I guess." Not that Jenny didn't know that, he knew. But he felt like he needed to say something, and that was about all he had by way of reasoning.

 

He handed her a dyno-torsioner to get into the next section of the compartment she was in - heading from the landing gear actuators towards the flight control systems, if he was guessing right - before continuing on. "It's funny. You know I helped return Lieutenant Commander L'Haan's things to her family on Vulcan? Well, evidently she had started crocheting while in Star Fleet, and her family didn't approve. So her mentor gave me the blanket she had made, and it's still there in my quarters." He stopped for a moment before shaking his head. "She was actually pretty good; it's really warm, too. That's one reason I don't use it." He left the other, primary reason unspoken; he was pretty sure the commander could figure that part out for herself.


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