Location: U.S.S. Nimitz, Deck 17 Power Junction
Korvin swore as sweat dripped into his eyes in the cramped confines of the Jefferies Tube. Beside and around him were a series of burnt out components from a relay that had blown when he'd had his team try to increase the reload speed on the aft torpedo launcher. Fortunately for him the only thing this particular relay was attached to was the reload mechanism itself... and possibly a few things in main engineering which was only a few corridors over. Luckily the complaints had stopped coming hours ago when he finished replacement. Now he was working on installing heavier shielding and conduits to ensure it didn't blow out again. "Why are Starfleet components so damn fragile?" he grumbled as he worked.
"They're actually pretty robust, you're just a menace," Nikki chuckled. Her new favored way of interacting with Korvin was via a small holo emitter normally used to project tactical briefs or technical specifications. She generally appeared as an amorphous data stream in which the features of a humanoid face could barely be picked out if one looked hard enough. Apparently, she hadn't decided on an appearance just yet.
"Thanks..." Korvin said dryly.
"Well it's sort of true. How many things have you broken since - oh hang on. Incoming transmission."
"Torpedo room to Korvin," a male voice came from his comm badge.
"Go ahead, Marcus" the Caitian grunted and hissed as he tightened down on a set of bolts.
"End of watch. I'm sending everyone home."
"Great. What's the status on that double feed issue we were having?"
"Still having it, I'm afraid. Everything's closed up now. Chief Devereux and I will stay behind to take everything offline before we go."
"Leave it. I've got another half hour of work here, then I'll come do it myself. I want to have a look at this double feed issue. You and Lilith go grab some chow and relax, okay?"
A woman's voice broke in. "Pulling another late night?"
"I prefer to think of it as finishing my work. Now go on you two. I swear if you're both there when I get there I'm taking you both to the mat."
"Alright, alright, we're going," Marcus sighed. "Good night." The line switched off.
"May I ask what you're doing?" Nikki said as Korvin opened another panel and began to scan it with his tricorder.
"Well I was thinking, that double feed issue we're experiencing is probably a mechanical one right?"
"The primary loading actuators were not designed to support the rate of fire you wish to attain, so yes that seems likely."
"Right, which means the loading actuators have to be either upgraded or re-tuned which means in turn that I'll have to increase the power flow to the torpedo room or risk another blackout like the one a few days ago."
"Ah so you do learn," the AI laughed. "That's comforting."
Korvin's purred response in Cait echoed in the tubes around the small junction.
"Comforting indeed," said a voice then suddenly from outside of the Jefferies tube, its female tone neither aggressive nor joking, but merely impassive. Apparently having arrived at the end of Korvin's conversation, a pair of black trousered legs could be seen just outside of the tube's confines, the owner of the voice not making a move to look in at the Caitian.
"Although," the voice then continued, "one must realise that it is also important to learn when something does not require further tampering, given the Starfleet engineers who design and construct these vessels do so to the greatest standard of quality; had an idea been so good, it would likely have already occurred to them."
"Mrrrrrrrrrrrrr..." Korvin tapped the bolts to make sure they were securely in place. "Starfleet engineers aren't combatants. Applied violence is as much art as science. And, it's not their tufted tails on the line if worse comes to worse."
"You just like mucking around in the innards of the weapons systems," Nikki countered. "I'll bet you were the type that broke down your rifle for fun."
"And that too," the supine tactical officer laughed. "In any case," he addressed the pair of pants again. "I don't think a ten percent increase in the sustainable rate of fire is asking too much."
"The actuators clearly think so."
"Yes, well, screw them."
Finally, the owner of the trousers and the voice revealed her face to Korvin, a raised eyebrow perfectly accentuating the woman's starkly Vulcan features, bar the ridges that rested upon her nose. Her three solid pips perfectly visible upon her collar, T'Vel looked in upon the Caitian.
"Very eloquently put, Lieutenant," she commented simply, her blue eyes searching about within the narrow compartment. Almost, there was a hint of amusement threatening to play across her features, but that was easily countered by a slight glimmer of annoyance. "And whilst I confess to share in your interest of tactical upgrades, I cannot confess to be particularly enamoured with the constant complaints I have been receiving from engineering."
"Are they still complaining? I fixed this thing hours ago." He couldn't keep a small smirk off his face. "You'd think I'd broken one of their children the way they were carrying on then."
"Just think of how they'll howl when you turn your attention to the shield generators," Nikki's smooth contralto laughed.
"One misadventure at a time if you please." The Caitian chuckled and gave the half-Vulcan an apologetic grin. "Sorry you had to listen to their whining."
T'Vel looked stoically at the tactical officer. "Whether or not I accept your apology," she finally said, "is entirely dependent on the success of these 'upgrades'. You are aware as well as I am how protective the engineers are of their (as you put it) children, as well as their tenacity when it comes to seeking retribution."
The part-Vulcan now gestured in towards Korvin's workspace. "Would you care, therefore, to show me the fruits of your labours, should you wish to be protected from the incoming onslaught of hyperspanner-toting gold jumpsuits?"
"Mrrrrow. You'd like to see what I've done? Well sure. Hang on just a moment there. Nikki, c'mere. Can you call up the technical data for the modifications I've done so far?" Korvin started to squirm and worm his way out of the tube, his tail feeling around outside for purchase that would help him pull himself free.
"You mean that holo presentation you asked me to help you with for the Chief of Security?"
"Yes that's the one," he practically purred, apparently pleased to be showing this off. At length he pulled himself out of the crawlspace and managed to stand upright. His shirt was soaked in sweat and his fur liberally smudged with lubricant, but he was grinning wide enough to be showing fangs as he held up the holo emitter in one outstretched palm as it displayed a rotating image of the Nimitz with the weapon systems highlighted in red. "Nikki, if you don't mind?"
"The phaser array has been optimized for output and efficiency. The beam emitters have been tuned to allow very focused salvos with individual energy streams as fine as zero point one five microns. The capacitor system has been tuned to allow for faster discharge, allowing more power to be funneled to the emitters more quickly. Doing so, however, does increase the power demands of the array itself. The torpedo launcher guidance firmware has been updated with the latest threat profiles culled from Starfleet Intelligence intercepts and work has begun on increasing the reload speed of the launchers themselves." Nikki paused here and then added. "Though that modification has yet to become operational."
T'Vel's features had softened slightly at the explanation provided, definitely impressed, as well as a few creases forming that indicated her growing curiosity, yet the sceptic Vulcan within her kept her from being vocally positive. "You are certainly an ambitious and creative officer, Lieutenant," she observed, "and whilst I applaud your resourcefulness, I would be wary of the information you employ from Starfleet Intelligence intercepts."
Reaching forward to brush some of the dirt from M'Rowl's shoulder, she said, "The last time I decided to borrow SI's 'hard-earned' intelligence on an enemy cruiser, what we initially believed to be a crucial offensive system was little more than a redundant landing gear."
With the barest of smiles beginning to gently nudge at the corners of her mouth, she looked the man up and down, noting what an impressive specimen he was, even for a Caitian - the singular factor that declared his identity to her, being the only one currently serving on the Nimitz. "Korvin M'Rowl," she began as she then extended a hand, "I am First Officer T'Vel."
Korvin grasped her hand in a firm, fuzzy grip. "You're the first one I've met who knew my name without asking, so either you really know the personnel files or I really pissed off the engineers." He flashed her a broad, genuine smile. "Either way, it's a pleasure to meet you."
The commander then nodded to the small holoemitter. "And this is the vessel's artificial intelligence?" She enquired, not concerned about the dirt that now coated her hands as she clasped them once more behind her back, as was her custom.
Within just a short time of her appointment to the vessel, T'Vel had learned of the AI and its apparent uses, but had yet to come into direct contact with it nor had she attempted to do so, yet she certainly saw the practical uses of its implementation. Hearing of Korvin's work here and the AI's apparent assistance, her interest had been piqued further.
The Caitian glanced to the blue-green stream of light and numbers floating above his hand. "Oh yeah, this is Nikki. She keeps me company most nights. Say hi, Nikki."
"Dif tor heh smusma," Nikki rendered the traditional greeting to T'Vel in the Vulcan language. "It is, as my enthusiastic companion says, a pleasure to speak with you, Commander."
In truth, T'Vel was slightly unsettled by the AI's human affectations in her speech and demeanour. Whilst she prized its worth as a utility and firmly advocated their use in improving efficiency on Starfleet installations, she was nevertheless concerned by humans' - and many other similar species' - need to personalise such constructs. Such a decision, T'Vel felt, would only lead to future problems as the construct inevitably developed.
"Indeed, Nikki," she decided on replying, her attention once again shifting primarily to Korvin. Putting her approval of his work to one side, she asked, "Do you often undertake such projects without first receiving the necessary approval?" T'Vel gestured to the now-empty Jefferies tube, one eyebrow raised as she sought to decipher what she could from his mannerisms, although Caitians - whilst emotive - were less readable than most humanoids in the traditional sense.
The man's physical tells were indeed... unusual. He'd flick an ear, or lay them back, or his tail would sway. The one constant thing about Korvin seemed to be that some part of him was always in motion. "Murrrow? Approval?" He scratched the back of his neck with his free hand. "Mmmmm. Depends on the situation if I'm honest. Nikki did I-"
"No." Nikki cut him off, anticipating his question.
"Oops. Guess I got a bit ahead of myself. The usual maintenance and optimization doesn't need it but I suppose if we're going to be overhauling hard components..." Korvin made a face. "Never did do very well with the pogs," he shrugged, pronouncing the word with an 'oh' sound. "Back when I was a company commander I used to give my battalion S-4 fits."
"You will forgive my manner when I say this," T'Vel began, angling her head to make it appear she was giving a downcast look, "but you are not with the marines any more, Lieutenant, nor are we in a traditional state of war. I respect the work you are attempting to accomplish - and your results - but you will, nevertheless, seek the appropriate permission before taking such actions that will interfere with other people's own line of work, even if that does not seem suitable to you."
She then cocked her head slightly to the side, eyes narrowing ever-so-slightly. "Is that understood, Mr M'Rowl?" As she had said: his work was admirable and laudable in fact, but his behaviour was not acceptable, causing such an inconvenience to those in other departments. Ultimately, she knew she had said what she did to attempt to handle one issue - this apparent marine attitude that he had failed to overcome, and although T'Vel respected ingenuity, mavericks were rarely a commodity she sought or saw the worth in.
Korvin cocked his head off to the side and for the briefest of moments there was the rather distinct impression that he was mulling her over as one might a particularly interesting conundrum. Whatever it was it lasted for only a moment and he seemed to reach some sort of decision, nodding more it seemed to himself than to her. "Make sure the department chiefs don't have a reason to complain. Roger that. Only neighborly, I suppose."
"Do I get to say I told you so now?" For a computer Nikki seemed to be very capable of conveying emotion.
"You do rather enjoy that, don't you?"
"And you should perhaps pay heed to when she tells you as such," T'Vel inserted, "but thank you, Lieutenant." Truly, she was pleased at his agreement, having been fearful of a reprisal from the junior officer but was instead satisfied that he had accepted what she had said. "Whilst nothing has gone wrong of note on this occasion, I trust there will not be a repeat performance of this sort of behaviour from you."
Her look now softened and that faint smile threatened to return once again. "That said, very good work. You clearly have a capacity for this sort of work that has not been appropriately documented in your personnel profile, or at least has not yet been properly made use of by your superiors." Nodding once again to the Jefferies tube, she said, "I intend to recommend a small extra technical team be assigned to you to speed up your work. I understand you may well appreciate working alone or with your own group, but if your upgrades are as of much use as I suspect they will be, it seems only right that we attempt to install them across more systems more rapidly - once they have been trialled, of course."
"That sounds quite helpful actually. It's not so much that I like working alone as it is that I don't like keeping my people late. My team needs their downtime as much as anyone. They don't need to pay for my... Murrrrrr... Professional enthusiasm more than they already do. I can forward the modification specs to your office... Or you can get them from the Chief's office, I'm sure they're there. I was actually expecting a tail chewing from the chief over this one, so I rather think I'm coming out ahead tonight all things considered. Bit unusual for a gunner like me to see top brass walking around though..." He trailed off regarding her with some curiosity for a moment before shrugging. "Anyway, was there anything else I can help you with?"
"I'm sure she'll be happy if you haven't blown anything up by the morning. I know I will," the transmitter murmured.
"Bite your digital tongue. I haven't blown anything up in well over a year... That fire on the Invincible doesn't count." He offered T'Vel a sheepish grin. "Long story."
At that, the half-Bajoran eyed him suspiciously for a moment. "I see," she managed, partly at the consideration of the Caitian causing fires, and partly due to the odd dynamic that had clearly developed between the AI and Korvin. "Well, it would hardly do for me to interfere with your schedule any further. Forward the specifications directly to my office, if you would; whilst I don't make for a good office worker, it is usually the best place to review such things."
T'Vel's blue eyes peered at the various bits of murk dotted across the officer, knowing she too would have to clean her hands. "See that you tidy everything up accordingly. If you have any problems with the security chief or the engineers, tell them to consult me immediately." Her eyes, though, narrowed slightly. "Of course, I don't expect too many further complaints, if you would not mind, however. Even so, I wish you well in your work, and I expect to see the results from the trials as soon as possible - after all, I'm as much a part of your potential failure as you are now, and I have no wish to begin my career as executive officer responsible for getting us assimilated, merely because the torpedoes could not fire."
"Wouldn't that be embarrassing?" Korvin laughed as he clipped the holo emitter to his belt where it continued to project. "Don't worry. I'd never leave a tactical system in a non functional state. It'd be unprofessional. They'll fire, I promise you that and you'll have those data read outs before I rack out tonight. Besides, I've a reputation to uphold. If we get assimilated it'll be for something suitably creative." Unusual as his mannerisms may be the mirth shining in his amber eyes was incredibly human and never seemed entirely absent, even when speaking in earnest. "It'll also be over my rapidly cooling body."
"In such a scenario, Lieutenant," T'Vel now warned in a deadpan and very Vulcan tone, "it shall come down to whether the Collective is the first to reach you - or I am." Holding his gaze for a few seconds, reinforcing her comment, she then gave a small bow of her head. "Until next time, Mr M'Rowl." And with that, she turned on her heel and strode with definite purpose towards the nearest turbolift, likely to assuage any further inane complaints from the engineering staff.
It would be, Korvin decided at that moment as he bent down to crawl back into the Jefferies tube, infinitely preferable to be assimilated. "Remind me not to piss her off, Nikki."
"If you ever need a reminder it'll probably be too late, but I'll do my best. If its any consolation, I don't think she was too upset. I've seen sterner reprimands."
"Hope you're right. Last thing I need is brass on my tail. I've already seen them more than I expected to in the last month."
"Well... If I'm wrong I promise you a very stirring eulogy at your funeral."
"Thank Spirits for small comforts," the Caitian laughed as he got back to work. "Mind helping me with these EPS regulators?"
"Not at all."