Location: USS Nimitz, Aft Phaser Control Room
Timeline: 4 days after Captian Diaz' memorial
"Nikki, what time is it?"
The AI's smooth contralto come through the overhead speakers. "The time is zero one thirty seven. You should really be in bed lieutenant."
"Oh stow it." Korvin groused. "You know damn well why I'm still here. And I'm not on duty, so stop referring to me by rank."
"Remaining to work will result in a continuing drop in efficiency when the onset of fatigue begins to compound your frustration. I calculate the drop at..."
"Yadda, yadda, yadda." He cut her off. "Nikki you're a great conversationalist but you can be a damn pain in the neck sometimes."
"I am only concerned for your efficiency and well being as a member of the crew."
"Yes, yes..." He sighed resignedly, flicking his tail unconsciously. "That's touching though I must say still very odd to hear from a disembodied voice."
"Your service record suggests that you will adapt in time." He could practically hear the grin in the AI's voice.
"Was that a joke? Nikki, I don't know what to say."
"Say, perhaps, that I am spending too much time talking to you and I am experiencing some transferrance of your mannerisms."
"Me? Rubbing off on you? That's a good one."
"I have observed that levity relaxes you and increases your efficiency. I do, after all, wish for you to sleep at some point."
Korvin let out a rueful chuckle. "Still on that, are we? Tell you what. You want to relax me? Give me some music. Something slow and smooth and jazzy."
"Coming right up." Smooth, relaxing piano started to play, followed a moment later by a low, smokey saxophone.
"Good choice." Korvin murmured as he pulled himself out of the bulkhead he'd been working in. He sighed and glared at the stubborn beam attenuation assembly in the open compartment before him. It was still off by point two seven five microns. Not misaligned per se. In fact it was well, well within established tolerance for the Type X phaser emitters but the veteran gunner preferred his beams tighter than that, so here he was a good three and a half hours after his duty shift had ended working on a willfully stubborn assembly that flatly refused to get any tighter. Compounding the problem, an EPS junction had been thoughtfully placed next to the assembly just close enough to make fitting any tools in exceedingly awkward not to mention ever so slightly dangerous. He was, at this point both fairly certain the design engineers had done this quite on purpose and right on the verge of ripping the blasted thing out of the wall with his bare hands.
He glanced around the control room, which was empty save for him and an open tool box. In all fairness, he shouldn't have been there either. He didnt have to be and it was only his own compulsion to keep his weapons in tip top shape that kept him here. That said, he wasn't leaving until the attenuators assembly had a phase variance of less than point one five microns and it looked increasingly like that would require some drastic measures. He stripped off his sweat soaked, grease smudged uniform shirt, leaving him clad in only his black uniform undershirt and a pair of loose fitting utility trousers that ended at his knees and resembled what in another era might have been called cargo shorts. "Maybe if I remove the secondary signal relay there will be room to slide the focusing crystal over..." He mused to no one in particular as he picked up a micro router and leaned back into the assembly housing, muttering colorful, creative, anatomically improbable curses in cait as a means of venting.
"You might be the first Caitian I've ever known who actually enjoys jazz," Daniela Moreno said from the doorway of the aft phaser control room. She wiped some sweat out of her face with the arm of a gray t-shirt with the Starfleet Academy logo blazoned across the chest as the Caitian growled and hissed and swore his way out of the tight space he'd jammed himself into. His shirt got stuck something and his tail began to twitch irritably as he unhitched himself. At length he finally pulled himself out of the bulkhead and wiped the sweat and silicone grease from his eyes.
"Mrrrrow? You mean you've known more than one? Now that is a rarity." He said as he shook his head to clear it, his mane starting to come loose.
Daniela nodded. "I've known a couple actually. I spent almost 2 years serving with a Caitian on a deep-space assignment when I was a lieutenant. Though I agree, there aren't a lot of your kind serving in Starfleet."
He took a moment to rein in his unruly mane before giving up and focusing on the woman talking to him. "Yeah. Diplomatic Corps for most of us in Federation Service. Linguists, a lot of them. Anyway, good morning." He said as he bent down to fish for a spanner and some durabond. "Didn't expect anyone here this late. Or early. Whatever it is. I'm Korvin. And you are...?"
"I don't sleep much, so I like to run the ship late at night. What brings you here this late?" she asked, purposefully dodging the question of her identity.
He stood and stuck his hand back into the housing, now fishing for the micro router he'd left in there. "Oh well this is kind of my spot. I like to have things a particular way." He shrugged, pausing for a moment to search and grinning when he found it. "Damn attenuator assembly isn't quite where I wanted to be and being a bit stubborn." He turned the half smile half smirk on Daniela. "You know how it is, right?" He twisted the spanner a few times. "Nikki, what's the phase variance at now?"
"Zero point one eight microns."
"Damn. So close."
"And your efficiency has dropped two point-"
"Shut up," he called up good naturedly before shooting Daniela another grin, this one rueful. "Damn AI thinks she's my mother."
"You have a way with her," Daniela said, her eyes darting toward the ceiling for a moment.
"Well we do talk a lot, especially on the late watches. She's good company after I send the rest of the crew to bed. She's got some unique perspectives on things too. No surprise, that, I suppose."
"And," Nikki added, "I prevented you from blowing out the secondary capacitor bank."
"I wasn't going to let it blow up," He shot back with a laugh. "Ai ya," he murmured, lowering his voice despite knowing full well that Nikki could still hear him. "Between you and me I think she enjoys needling me."
"You're not the only one," Daniela replied. "I have half a mind to tear the program out with my bare hands sometimes."
Korvin made an amused sound halfway between a chuckle and a purr. "Awwww, but she just learned to banter. Be a shame to waste all that self development," he said with a wink before turning and and durabonding a component in place.
"I could do without the banter," Daniela said quickly. She changed the topic quickly, eyeing the work the Caitian was doing. "I'm no tactical expert, but isn't 0.18 microns WELL within Starfleet tolerances?"
"Starfleet has its tolerances and I have mine." He hauled on the spanner some more. "I mean, yeah sure, it is easily within the numbers listed on the spec sheet. The ship's weapons, though, are literally a matter of life and death for every man and woman aboard. The more efficient and powerful they are, the better their deterrent effect. Combat effect too, should it come down to that. I want to make damn sure that when the big chairs on the bridge decide to pull those triggers, whatever they're pointing at goes 'boom', you know?"
"Do you really think that's a huge issue on a ship meant for exploration though?" she asked, probing to get deeper insight into the man.
"On a ship like the Nimitz, more than most," he affirmed, half turned so as to continue working. "Back here in civilization, even on a ship in a dangerous sector like the Romulan border, there's always the fleet. Help is never more than a subspace call away. Someone will come for you if you can hold out. You can be sure of that. Out where the Nimitz is going though..." He trailed off, collecting his thoughts.
"I mean, sure, maybe we won't run into any problems. Maybe the Cap and the bridge crew and the diplomats will be able to talk and bluff their way out of any tight spots. I hear the captain's a real pistol so I'm sure she's got a hell of a poker face. Maybe we won't ever fire these weapons. That'd be nice. It'd be a bit boring for me but I can handle boring. I'll just bug Nikki some more," he grinned. "But all that I said before, that's scientist and explorer thinking. Scientists and explorers can afford to be optimists. Hell, its practically their job. Maybe there's something new in the next system, on the next planet, or the next stellar phenomenon. Maybe it's something we've never seen before. Maybe there's a new culture out there. An undiscovered race. What could it teach us about the universe? What could it teach us about ourselves? That's what they're all about. It's what the Federation is all about, right? The best case scenario. The shining 'what if'."
Korivn sighed and shook his head. "I'm a soldier though. Used to be a marine and now they call me 'tactical' but it's the same thing. I can't afford to be an optimist. My job is the worst case scenario. The other 'what if'. What if they're hostile. What if they're dangerous. Out where the Nimitz is going there is no fleet to back us up, and no Federation in many cases. If we get into trouble, Starfleet can't do anything for us. We will live or die on our own. The galaxy is a dangerous place. Odds are pretty good if we're out there for long enough that we'll end up in a fight. When and if that time comes, MY ship is going to have the best tools I can possibly give her."
Daniela was impressed. She'd never heard it phrased quite that way, but it made a lot of sense, especially from someone who'd spent a 2 year deep-space assignment in the Science department. "I guess you're right. We're probably all better off with a few people around thinking like that."
He hauled on the spanner some more. "Chu'rowl!" he spat. "I don't think this is getting any tighter. It may be time to try Newtonian realignment."
"Oh dear..." Nikki sighed from overhead.
"I'll leave you to your work," Moreno said with a quick nod, eager to get back to her run.
Before she could exit, a ringing clang sounded out behind her. Korvin had just slammed the assembly bodily. "How about now, Nikki?"
"Zero point one four six microns," the computer said in a tone that suggested an eye roll.
"Hah!" Korvin flashed Daniela a triumphant grin. "Going back to your run? Have a good evening then." He started to pick up his tools and then stopped. "Oh, say, I don't think I caught your name."
The captain gave an amused smile. "I'm Daniela. Carry on, soldier," she said before vanishing out the door to continue her run.
So quickly was she out the door that she missed the nonplussed look on Korvin's face, a true rarity. Perhaps it was her imagination, but it sounded as the door slid shut Nikki was chortling with laughter as her furry companion demanded "And at what point were you going to clue me in? Ai ya..."