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A Working Lunch

Posted on Fri Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:28am by Commander Khelev ch'Koro [Halan] & Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Photons Everywhere
Location: Main Engineering
Timeline: MD 2 -1230 Hours


There was a replicator in Engineering, of course. It would have been a crime in the eyes of the engineer to not have ready access to coffee, raktajino, or other legal stimulant beverages. Of course, it would have been a crime in the eyes of most departments, but engineers were a different breed, and if there was one thing Vanora had learned in her short tenure as a freighter captain, it was that you do whatever you can to keep your engineers happy. All that being said, there was something sentimental about carrying a lunch basket around the ship. Most of the crew that had run into her along the way had probably assumed she was headed for the holodeck for some retro holoprogram in the meadows.

The Elasian woman smiled and nodded politely to the engineers she passed as she entered, though by and large they all had their heads literally stuck in some open panel, and it was likely they didn't notice her at all.

Khelev was standing on the platform in front of the warp core, hunched over the pool table that had a 3-D projection above it of the section of the ship he was currently focus on. The EPS grid was showing in red in a couple of spots and the plasma flow was fluctuating. "Have we figured out what's trying to bleed energy from this section yet?"

"Not yet," A Lieutenant JG standing next to him shook his head. "Every time we seem to lock it down, the flow shifts. If I didn't know any better I'd say there's an energy life form snacking on our power grid."

"Don't rule it out," Khelev replied. "Let everyone know that we're going to start testing all the plasma circuits on decks ten through twelve. I'd have to have something overload right when we need it most."

There was a shout up from the second level that drew his attention and an engineer pointing at one of the consoles by the warp core. There was another surge just as he looked over and the plasma energy relay popped and the console started on fire. His team was well drilled and they had a plasma extinguisher on it in seconds and all he could do is shake his head before turning and spotting Vanora.

"Welcome to main engineering," Khelev nodded to her before turning back to his assistant. "Get that console up and running as fast as you can and figure out why that relay blew."

"Yes, sir."

"What can I do for you Vanora?" Khelev asked, turning his attention fully towards her.

"You can eat something, so that you don't end up in Sickbay and make me pick up your slack." She placed the lunch basket on the edge of the pool table where no unusual activity was being displayed. "Yes, I brought you lunch. Don't make a big deal out of it," she smiled.

"Very well, I will treat it as if it were a very small deal indeed. Come, we can head into my office while they get that mess cleaned up," Khelev replied, before he picked up the basket and started to head towards the door of main engineering. His office was just across the hallway. "What brings you down to the belly of the beast? Other then lunch of course."

"Of course. Other than lunch, and your company. I think you already know. The grid has had multiple energy spikes outside of the acceptable normal limits. And apparently," she motioned back toward the warp core, "The secondary EPS relay network you set up is not handling whatever is going on."

"Whatever is causing the spikes is random, its as if something or someone just starts sucking all the energy from a certain area and red lines the system and that's before we've powered the damn hologrid to a hundred percent. That and shutting down the hologrid doesn't seem to stop it," Khelev explained as they entered his office. He motioned to a small table and set the basket down on it before he pulled out her chair for her. "I'm ready to start tearing the grid apart deck by deck until we find the problem."

Vanora sat and mouthed a silent thank you. "A gentleman, I see," she smiled, "But still a typical engineer's response. If we weren't in warp and headed for our first meeting with our new fleet on the border of the Neutral Zone, I might agree with you. But as we aren't." She reached into the basket and pulled out the spread. It was a mix of Andorian, Elasian, and Human foods. She had checked to make sure that everything was edible by both of them; fortunately, their bodies both seemed compatible in most ways. She picked up a gristhera. "I've been running a level one diagnostic, and I'm not sure that the spikes are completely random." She reached into her satchel and handed Khelev a PADD. "Here are the preliminary results, although it will be another four hours before the diagnostic is complete."

"My mother raised me to be," Khelev nodded picked up a gristhera and looked it over before taking a bite before accepting the PADD she offered. "And yes, I think the Captain might not like me wanting to pull over and work on whatever this is. Maybe your fresh eyes can help. I've run a couple of diagnostics but nothing conclusive. I've even started to wonder if someone is running some off the book experiments."

"It's a valid hypothesis. Although, I wouldn't be so ready to attribute the fluctuations to a 'someone.' It could easily be a 'something.' When you look just at the power grid, it can be pretty baffling, and I thought it was random at first as well. Like you, my first guess was the holographic program drawing past the EPS relays' capacity, as we'd previously discussed. But the early results of the level one show something interesting. It's right there at 1217 hours, the diagnostic shows a substantial increase in the secondary computing core's memory usage that correlates strongly to the spikes."

"That is very interesting indeed," Khelev replied softly, looking at data on the PaDD while he took a few bites of food and considered this new information. "I'll have the computer look into spikes of computer usage and power usage. Have you checked the internal sensor logs for any activity during that time?"

"Aye. Nothing so far, though I'm having someone sleuth around for any tampering with the logs. I do have another theory, though, that we might want to consider. These holograms, we've given them their own advanced AI, programmed them to learn and grow. Is it possible that they are the ones running off-the-book experiments or tests?"

"I would be lying if I said the thought hadn't cross my mind but for them to develop so quickly suggests a deep flaw in the programming. They were meant to mimic skill development naturally, so slowly over time. There are, of course, always acceptations to the rule and bugs to work out," Khelev replied with a nod. "If one was given more access, it could develop at an accelerated rate."

"It's a possibility to consider, in any case. An energy-eating life form is another possibility, though perhaps less likely." She managed a smile. "I overhead your fellow engineer pitching the idea." She sliced each of them a piece of Andorian spice bread. "How's the replicator's imitation of Andorian food?"

"It's got nothing on the spice bread my mother could bake," Khelev replied, taking a big bite. It wasn't very satisfying but it was the best he was going to get and he knew it. "If she's ever close I'll bring you some real Andorian food. What about you? I know you're part human. What kind of food do your people eat?"

"My father is Human. He's a xenoanthropologist, so he was always trying to cook and program replicator recipes of foods from all over the Alpha Quadrant. I guess I would say that the spice bread has nothing on my father's, either, but he's was certainly its own kind of abomination. Not that I knew that until I finally had the real thing," she smiled. "Elasians are not a particularly culinary people. Food is simple, cooked more for ease, quickness, and preservation. A lot of smoked and cured meats, jams and preserves, as well as plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable. Often as not, everything got stewed. Thankfully, the Troyians are much more into that sort of thing, and we imported a lot of their cuisine."

"I don't know a lot about the Elasians, other then that at one time they were at war with the Troyians and that they're female dominated. Something to do with the chemical make up I think," Khelev furrowed his brow in thought, his antenna responding in kind. "I know there's a couple of trashy romance holonovels about a Troyian and an Elasian falling in love. Much like the human play, Romeo and Juliet."

"I've read it. My father made sure we had exposures to the great Earth masters, though I'll admit I wasn't the best of students. Yes, there was a century of war between Elas and Troyius after both our peoples discovered spaceflight, but we've been at peace now for as long as we've been at war. Being a Federation member for a century seems to have erased most of those old wounds. Give us another century, and I'm sure we'll all be fast friends, like your people and the Vulcans or the Tellarites."

"Although among Andorians, there is still something of a rivalry with the Vulcans. Any Vulcan would say that it is high illogical but they're full of it," Khelev said with a bright laugh. "I like the Vulcans sure enough and spent a lot of time working with Tellarites because I grew up on a freighter but I could never see wanting to go to war with either race, even if my people never lost their warrior's edge."

She finished chewing a slice of cured meat before responding. "An edge is a good thing. I'd say the Vulcans have gone soft with all the peace, but I've seen them in drills and I saw footage from the War. Seems like since the War and the Hobus supernova, pretty much everyone has an edge these days." Vanora paused, circling back. "I was always more partial to the Comedies myself. Shakespeare, I mean. Much Ado About Nothing. Taming of the Shrew. It all seemed so backwards to me, so farcical, growing up in a matriarchal society. But, still, there were universal stories and timeless humor in his stories. How about you? How have you fared living among so many humans?"

"I spend my first eight years on Andor, so I grew up with mostly my own kind but there were some humans. Our planet was a mix of cultures just as earth has become one. The adjustment onto a ship was a little harder because there were a great deal more of them," Khelev explained. "But I made some very close friends and family among humans. I've always been curious about matriarchal societies, of course the way my mother runs things I almost wonder if I'm more familiar with the concept then I believe."

"I think I prefer the egalitarian society of Starfleet more, though the remaining tinges of patriarchy that pervade the more prolific Federation races have been very hard to get used to. There's not much to explain, if you've seen a gender-dominated civilization. Women on Elas are considered to be smarter, faster, more capable, and more natural leaders than men. Men are considered to be too emotional, too quick to anger, too much a prisoner of their hormones and too reliant on brute force to guide any group of people in a reasoned, responsible way. Only women may lead a clan, and women are presumed the heads of households. The effects of our psychotropic tears on our social organization is mostly overstated. You have to remember, Elasians are warriors, and crying in a warrior culture can be seen as a sign of weakness." She threw her hands up with a laugh. "That's my dad's theory, anyway. I usually leave it up to the social scientists to argue and worry about this sort of thing."

Khelev laughed as well and nodded his understanding, there was a great deal of humor in his ice blue eyes. "Andorians cannot cry for our tears would freeze and cloud our vision. In truth it's not that simple, but any people raised on the ice are a hard people indeed. Your parents must be an interesting mix, what was it like growing up?"

"Father was an anthropologist. It felt like every interaction was potentially something he was storing away for his research. In a way, I think our whole family was part of his research. Don't get me wrong, though; he cared about us very much. He was never trying to push any of us into any particular path in life, he just wanted us to have the full range of options, in case we did decide we wanted to leave Elas and pursue our careers elsewhere, which half of us children did. My mother, on the other hand, she is an Elasian through and through. I'm still a bit baffled that she would choose a non-warrior as her life partner, and I think the versions of their romance that were told were always a little filtered, through a romantic lens by my father and through a practical lens by my mother. She was always thinking of the clan, it was her job to. In the traditional Elasian way of thinking, us children were part of the clan's growing strength. It was a bit confining for some of us, me included, which I think is why we took off. For my other siblings, though, they were happy to become warriors, and I think the partial success rate was good enough for my mother to be content." Vanora looked at the still mostly untouched food. "You talk now, so I can eat," she laughed. "I'm not sure why it's so easy to talk to you, but now it feels like I've told you everything. Tell me about your mother, and your family."

"Ah you want to know all about my family," Khelev smiled as he thought about them, it also reminded him that he really needed to call and see how they were doing. "The ch'Koro's are a proud Andorian family. My father was trained as an Imperial Commando and my Mother taught at my school in Lar'Vela. My father helped maintain the local post until he retired when I was about eight earth years old. His brother was working security on a freighter and they recruited my parents, my Father worked security and my mother helped teach the children aboard. It took time to get used but I ended up happy, I started learning engineering when I was twelve and machines have always spoke to me. My father is a good man, he instilled a sense of family and strength into us that very few possess. My mother may not have been a trained warrior but she was as strong as my father. My brother, sister and I are as thick as thieves when we're together and if I counted all the kids my Mother took in and helped raid I'd have more kin then engineers on this ship. She had a heart for the broken and was the difference in a lot of people's lives, including my own. My brother, Hryni, just made Lieutenant Commander and is the Chief of Security on the USS Stalwart. My sister, the lovely Thora, is now the Chief Engineer on the ship I grew up on."

"A whole clan of spacefarers and do-gooders," she smiled.

Khelev laughed at that and shook his head, "We're not without sin, even if I make it sound all rosy and wonderful. That doesn't make us any less proud though."

"It sounds like you have a lot to be proud of. And I think you're going to have even more to be proud of after this mission." She wiped her hands clean. "Speaking of which, we should probably get back to figuring out these anomalous energy spikes before any more plasma conduits explode."

"Of course, thank you for bringing this though," Khelev smiled at her before he started to help clear everything. "It was most enjoyable. Now, let's get back to work."



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