"Counterpoints," Part Three / by Charlynn Schmiedt

Part of the Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Let’s do this, thought Ensign Hegg, as he stepped inside the ship’s main shuttlebay for the first time. I’m excited but scaredEver since I got that commendation, I never know how a new senior officer will treat me.

It was almost a year ago since Hegg had received the Pantares Ribbon of Commendation. The Bolian had hoped he could remain silent about the incident after leaving the U.S.S. Merrimac. On that fateful day, all of the flight deck officers (FDOs) had been injured on the Nebula-class ship, following a series of plasma explosions in the power grid and a coolant leak in the main engine. Hegg had single-handedly organized a shuttle evacuation of all civilians and non-essential personnel to safety. In the end, the ship’s chief engineer managed to eject the warp core and save the ship, before shortly dying from her injuries.

Hegg could still remember the screams of his injured shipmates, the smell of plasma burning flesh, and the look of fright on his friend’s children, as he directed them into shuttlecrafts. The flashing red alert klaxons, smoke everywhere, the faces of terror…

Hegg closed his eyes, shook away the memory, and told himself, You’re on the Enterprise now, you have a duty to do, ensign. Let’s get to it.

He instinctively made his way to the center of the shuttlebay and walked up the main stairwell to the deck three upper main shuttlebay. Hegg assumed he would find his new commanding officer in the flight control room. Hegg soon found himself looking slightly down at a Tellarite lieutenant. Hegg knew about the race’s argumentative and confrontational reputation, but decided to stick to protocol when it came to introductions.

Hegg straightened to a position of attention and said, “Ensign Hegg reporting for duty, sir.”

“Well, well, look who finally made it to his required place of duty,” retorted the lieutenant, making a series of snorts in displeasure, as he turned to face Hegg. “If it isn’t Ensign Commendation himself, well, let me take a look at the newest officer gracing us with his presence.”

Hegg didn’t know whether to relax or not from his stiff posture as the Tellarite slowly circled him.

“Evacuated a whole shuttlebay with one hand tied behind your back, huh? I’ve read your personnel file. That’s all right. Not bad,” said the lieutenant. He suddenly pointed his left hoof-like hand in Hegg’s face.

“But this is the Enterprise, not some backwater science ship. Let’s see what you know about shuttlecraft protocols. How many shuttles must be kept operational at all times?!” the Tellerite screamed the question out, following it with another series of snorts.

“Well, um, sir, it depends on the…” Hegg struggled for a moment, trying to remember the Galaxy-class specifications, unsure if he was mixing them up with his old ship’s regulations.

“Eleven! That’s the answer,” the Tellarite bellowed, appearing almost to spit on the floor in disgust. “How many shuttlecraft must be kept on immediate standby at all times, with as little as thirty minutes prep time?!”

Hegg looked him directly in the eye. “Four.”

“Wrong, it’s fo-…oh, uh, yes, that’s right, ensign.”

The Tellarite ceased his circling and, despite the fact that he was almost half a meter shorter than Hegg, he gave the Bolian his most piercing stare.

“Looks like we got a smart one here.” The lieutenant looked over his right shoulder. “Hear that, lieutenant? We’ve got a smart one.”

Hegg quickly stole a glance to his left and saw a female lieutenant junior grade who was squatting underneath a console conducting repairs. She gave him a wink and a smile. Hegg translated the Terran’s gestures as saying, Yep, that’s how he is, sorry.

“Well, since I’m stuck with you, ensign, you’ll remained assigned to the main shuttlebay as a FDO here. But if…!” the Tellarite poked Hegg in the chest with his left hand-hoof for emphasis. “If! If you prove your mettle, and I remain dubious, we’ll put you in charge of shuttlebay three. How does that sound?”

Hegg’s nervousness started changing to amusement. He had to fight himself from smiling over the lieutenant’s overdramatic behavior.

“I’m happy to serve wherever you need me, sir.”

“Happy to serve…well, Ensign Crusher reported some issues with the shuttlecraft Justman that he piloted you new officers in. Why don’t you go service it and see what the problem is. Unless that’s too menial of a task for such a highly-decorated officer as yourself?!”

“No, sir, I’ll get right on it. What bay is it in?”

“Bay three. Do I have to tell you everything?!” With that, the lieutenant turned around quickly and walked to a flight control station.

Hegg walked down to the flight deck, found a maintenance kit, and walked to bay three. He found theJustman, opened the shuttle’s rear door, and walked over to a diagnostic control panel. 

“Excuse me!”

Hegg almost dropped his tricorder at the sound of a woman’s voice. He looked up to see the lieutenant junior grade he had noticed earlier.

She was a blonde human who looked to be in her early 30s. She reached out her hand in greeting.

“I just wanted to give you the official welcome. New people don’t usually get one from Lt. Fwaaks. My name is Jenna.”

Hegg shook her hand, happy to see a friendly face.

“I’m Ensign Hegg. That’s Lt. Fwaaks? Well, it’s been an…interesting first day here.”

“Oh, I bet! But, don’t mind Fwaaks. He can be a, well, typical Tellarite, but he can also be a real sweetheart at times, too,” said Jenna, in an almost sing-song voice. “If you need a tour of the ship or anything, let me know. Jeff always says we need to look out for each other on this ship.”

“Is Jeff another FDO here?”

“Huh? Oh, no, he’s my boyfriend,” she said, giving a small laugh. “Oh, I know Fwaaks assigned you to repair this shuttle. I wanted to let you know that Ensign Crusher said he thought the problem was in the thruster assembly. But I have a feeling it could also be a problem with the conn computer system. Do you need any help?”

“Sure, I don’t mind an extra hand.”

Jenna walked over to the shuttle’s conn and powered it up. “I remember the first day I came onboard, I was so nervous! I didn’t know anyone and kept getting lost! I think my first friend was the ship’s computer, since I kept having to ask it how to get everywhere. Then there ended up being a mix-up in my quarters assignment, and then I ended up making Fwaaks mad when I turned over an entire…oh no! Here I am babbling when you’re trying to get your first mission done. I’m sorry, I just tend to babble sometimes. I’ll go access the EPS control panel on the exterior nacelles, you can keep doing your diagnostic.”

Jenna walked out of the shuttle, leaving Hegg alone in the cabin. The diagnostic revealed four fused EPS conduits on the port thruster assembly. The Bolian knew he would have to replace them. He told Jenna what he had found, and she showed him where to replicate four new conduits from the shuttlebay’s stores.

“Here, I have to go report to cargo bay four and help supervise a mission over there. Will you be all right on your own?” asked Lt. (jg) D’Sora.

“Oh, yes. Thanks. And thanks for the help,” said Hegg, giving her a grateful nod.

“Sure, anytime!” She smiled. “Just look me up if you need anything.”

Hegg gave her a small wave and began to work. He had to admit that it had been awhile since he had worked on a Type VI thruster assembly. Maybe I should have asked for help after all, he thought. Oh well, it’s the Enterprise, I need to prove myself. Hegg managed to install two conduits quickly, but was struggling with the third when Lt. Fwaaks walked into the shuttle cabin.

“Aren’t you done yet with this, I might add, very simple assignment?” barked the Tellarite.

“I was able to diagnose the problem and was just installing these replacements,” answered Hegg.

“You know, perhaps I’ve given you too much to do on your first day. Either that or I need to think about reassigning you to captain’s yacht duty. How about you let a more experienced officer get this done and you can go about redecorating your quarters for the rest of the day?” he snarled.

Hegg thought about arguing, but decided that on his first day, as humans say, discretion was the better part of valor. He put down the conduits, said, “Yes, sir,” and exited the bay.

Not a great first impression, Hegg thought, as he walked the ship’s corridors on deck four. But I’m sure things will get better.

Any more thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of the ship going to red alert.