Lieutenant Svetlana Nadhezda Cherneshevsky reporting for duty." I said formally as the door to the captain's ready room slid shut behind me. She blinked, confusion clouding her otherwise authoritative features. A small part of me found her confusion quite funny but I suppressed it. This was not the pace such feelings and it would be bad to start an assignment by laughing in the face of my commanding officer.
She frowned at me. "I find myself somewhat at a loss Lieutenant. You're not supposed to be here for more then a month.." She tapped a few commands into her console and said, "Perhaps you could explain why you're not serving temporary assignment aboard the Shazrah?"
I allowed myself to look slightly confused. "Captain I did receive orders to serve temporary duty on the Shazrah after having leave on Deep Space Nine. However when I arrived at the station I received a new set of orders stating that I was to take command of the Runabout Trafalgar and rendezvous directly with the Takeda Shingen. If the captain will allow me to speculate I heard from one of the workers the Trafalgar had finished its refit early and someone in the chain of command there took the opportunity to clear the birth ahead of schedule?"
She fixed me with a penetrating stare, "Starfleet prides itself on efficiency. However I have never seen it be quite this efficient." She paused, "It is, in fact, suspiciously efficient." Her gaze intensified.
Someone, probably Cousin Yeli, had once told me that Starfleet Captains were a special breed. They had to be independent thinkers to handle the number and variety of problems that cropped up on a starship. But they also had to follow orders, maintain and uphold regulations. They had to be strict to enforce discipline on a ship that could hold thousands of people. But they also had to be personable to encourage good working relationships and a tightly knit crew. They had to be capable of commanding a ship not only through months and years of routine patrols but also through catastrophes that could, in space, take any form. They had to be able to command obedience.
Unfortunately for the captain I had been stared down by far more intimidating people in my career, my mother chief among them. Years of training allowed me to meet the captain's stare with the appropriate blank expression while in my head I counted.
The count reached fifteen before the captain leaned back and said, "Well whatever the circumstances you are here and we shall have to find a place for you." She turned to her console and I smiled to myself as I took a seat. Whatever the runabout's original name and number the captain wasn't going to press me further on the subject. I had to admire her a little. Fifteen was above average. "I can see from your file that you specialized in both warp and impulse drives in the academy. Unfortunately we're already over crewed in engineering."
"That is unfortunate" I agreed.
"Your record is remarkably incomplete; you appear to have done quite a bit of classified work. Can you elaborate at all?"
I shifted in my seat. "Engineering projects mostly." Social engineering was still engineering. "As related to my specialty." I gestured vaguely. "You understand I cannot go into detail."
"Of course not, I understand." She said. "I see you have a secondary specialization in sensors and communications."
"Ah yes." I nodded. "It is not uncommon where I come from to learn such systems. Though when I was at the academy I found drive systems to be much more interesting."
"Indeed." She said. "Well, we have had an upgrade packet for our sensor array gathering dust since our last stop. We haven't had anyone capable of properly installing it." She winced, possibly recalling a botched attempt. "While you install that I'll have a talk with my first officer and if it works right I believe I'll put you at ops."
I stood. "I'll begin at once sir."
"Dismissed." She turned back to her console.
Installing the upgrades was simple enough though it took the rest of the shift. In fact it was so easy that I suspected it had been specifically designed for me to install as there were a number of occasions that my toolbot had to provide a third and fourth hand in tight spaces.
The toolbot attracted its fair share of attention. Six legs, two arms with three opposable fingers each and a “head” full of sensors on the front. It followed me around like a pet and responded to a range of commands. It also carried a number of useful tools not limited to engineering applications.
After that it was simply a matter of unpacking my few personal belongings. There was the Icehouse set that had been a graduation gift from my mother. The jewelry box from my aunts. The toolbot’s charging station. My spare and dress uniforms and civilian clothes. My cipher kit. Three sealed containers of Premium New Siberian Ice Wine, two of which were new vintages I had picked up the last time I had visited home. The third was old and had been a gift from my great grandfather before he died. “For emergencies.” He had said. Ice Wine was a rather amusing name for the stuff which was actually a byproduct of the phosphorus extraction and refinement process. As it aged it became volatile.
Last was the little wooden carving of a ballet dancer. Unpainted but otherwise intricate down to the smallest detail. Uncle Gregorov himself had given it to me with instructions to give it to the Admiral at the earliest opportunity. “You are to place it in his hands.” He said, his weathered hands closing mine over the dancer, “You need not say anything at all.”
I had scanned the carving several times and found it to be completely benign. Still I was certain it was connected to the upgrades I had just completed and my resulting access to everything being picked up by a communicator anywhere on the ship. Judging by the schedule of upgrades I had seen I would probably be able to hear the entire fleet before too long. It would make for a lot of noise to listen to, I was sure, and no one had told me what to do with the records when I got them. If I read the program files correctly they were automatically being compressed and sent to Starfleet Headquarters.
It was tempting to open a file and start listening right away but I resisted. I wasn’t a snitch. Not yet anyway. And I hadn’t been assigned to the Takeda Shingen as a spy.
I looked at the clock. There was a party in one of the holodecks and if I hurried I could make it. I showered and changed into some normal clothes. I hesitated before leaving, opened the jewelry box and took out the necklace Aleksi had given me. A star sapphire the size of my thumbnail on a silver chain. I put it on and headed for the turbolift.