Commander On Deck
Posted on Sun Feb 23rd, 2020 @ 12:30am by Lieutenant Mona Gonadie & Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & Ensign Briaar Gavarus & Ensign Fiona O'Dell
Edited on on Wed Feb 26th, 2020 @ 1:03pm
Location: USS Hera, Deck 3. R&D flight deck
"Yes, I'm absolutely sure. I appreciate it, and we'll do a tandem flight, but I think they can only handle so much rank other than Mona in the area before their heads will explode. Just keep one watchful eye if you'd like, but really, it'll be fine."
Walking out of the Chief Flight Control Officer's office, Commander Rita Paris closed the door, ending the conversation with a grin. Lieutenant Commander Dox meant well, of course, and she wanted to watch out for her people as well as the first officer. But the oddballs of the Research and Development department of the USS Hera were a bit skittish around ranking officers. Scaling the ladder outside the flight control office to Deck 3, Paris considered the suspects in question.
While Lieutenant Mona Gonadie was a quiet-spoken chief-genius-exotic-flight-systems-designer who was reasonably unflappable, she was also experiencing limited mobility in the late stages of a pregnancy of triplets. Children who would somehow be a hybrid of Romulan and Miradonian, a race literally born to fly, who could fly from birth. Rita was, she had to admit, curious as to just what exactly that was going to look like. But she'd find out in due course, what with the linear flow of time. The true power of Gonadie was the ability she had to draw out the best in her people. Which in turn translated to a rather fierce and protective loyalty to her. Her misfit crew had risked court-martial more than once just to protect her reputation and dignity, and Paris had no doubt they’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Considering she expected Mona's water to break... or eggs to hatch, Rita still wasn't sure- on the R&D deck, it was bound to be a comedic occurrence, given her crew.
The rotund tower of Tellarite standing at the engineering console, all two meters of her, was one Ensign Briaar Gavarus. A space swine with an eye for engineering, a keen mind and a thorough attention to detail, she served as the R&D flight engineer. Far from a mere mechanic, though, she coordinated analyzing the issues, developing solutions and often streamlining systems, which she dismissively attributed to her innate laziness. Yet the woman was hardworking and dedicated, inventive and courageous when it was called for. While she was large and imposing and argumentative, her sarcasm and derision hid a gentle soul, ill-suited for violence despite her size and strength.
As Gavarus stood at the engineering panel, climbing up to the upper flight deck Paris had the odd experience to come eye to eye with her pint-sized partner in crime. The 'right stuff', in this case, came in a compact package. Historically, the original Earth astronauts, and even pilots, were always preferred to be slight of build and no greater than average in stature. Less mass made more room for equipment, and less weight meant less fuel to propel the craft. But that theory was somewhat distilled in one Ensign Fiona O'Dell.
All of 145 centimeters tall, with a stick figure body supporting a somewhat mellonish head, covered in a thick red mop of curls, O'Dell immediately brought to mind a leprechaun, complete with stereotypical Irish accent. Even when clad in the modified EVA armor flight suit, which Paris noted was now color-coded with the cerulean blue unique to the department, she was tiny. The product of a distant colony that had been saved from extinction by the USS Enterprise-D then wedded to a sterile race of clones, she was an odd mix of worlds old and new. But she was a daredevil test pilot, fearless behind the stick, inventive and intuitive. Driven to prove herself, as she had been easily dismissed all her life, the midget Mariposian often pushed herself too hard. But no one had been able to make the prototype of the variable mode fighter craft Rita had envisioned quite like O'Dell. The picayune pilot could literally make the clunky mechanoid dance a jig, and no other pilots thus far had been able to even approach her skill with the craft.
Watching footage of the little woman using the robotic arms to snatch a bottle out of the air had impressed the comely commander, amongst a number of her other piloting feats.
Stepping onto the flight deck, Paris saw into the remodeling break room. Again, it had been shes who had given the order to construct a daycare on the flight deck, and she had also ordered that said daycare should be a lifeboat in case of emergency. Inside the partial renovation, she could see the Romulan intelligence asset turned smuggler, now reformed nanny Jaeih Dox, currently holding aloft the lime-skinned Moira Artan, the Captain's daughter. Heir to the Artan privateering empire, she would someday command a vast fleet- unless the emerald-skinned toddler chose another path for her life, which Rita was quite confident that Enalia Telvan would support. She had no doubt that somewhere in the room was Minerva Carrot, the Minotaur babe who was the adopted child of the leprechaun and the leviathan, and perhaps a few more children from about the Hera.
While there was a daycare on Deck 13, this was the R&D department, which had somehow pulled together into its own microcosm, forming a family out of the materials at hand. A disgraced Tal'Shiar agent turned nanny to exceptional children. A first generation of genetic mixing with entirely too much inbreeding. The daughter of a wealthy and influential family who was the underachiever of the lot. And one of the last of her species, intermingling with another race to procreate, gathering them all to her nest atop the flight deck.
Looking around, Paris smiled, her hands settling on her hips even as an errant draft blew up the skirt of her anachronistic uniform a bit. Great things were happening here, and forces were at work. The USS Hera was a family, as were all such crews. But with the goddess namesake of the starship aboard, families formed of strangers, which forged bonds that could move mountains. It was so perfectly Starfleet, and for just a few seconds, Rita Paris basked in it- the vision of a cooperative future where compassion and caring guided the varied and wondrous denizens of the United Federation of Planets into the future. One that shone with hope and promise, of equality and celebrated diversity.
Leaning into Gavarus, O'Dell muttered, "She's joost standin there. Ye think she's had a stroke...?"
"No, Ensign," the Starfleet siren declared, engaging the moment once more. "Just a little lost in thought is all. As I scheduled the time, this visit should be no surprise. I want to flight test the prototypes, get a feel for them, see what you did with my cockamamie idea."
"Yuir idea?" O'Dell looked up at the gold-clad commander quizzically. "Yuir the one who came oop wi' this?"
"I had the idea.... the looks of those Scorpion fighters we liberated from Station 335 gave me the idea, plus Lieutenant Commander Dox was brainstorming for small craft that could be beamed in for personnel in an emergency. I thought if we were going that far, why not make them into powersuits for that much more versatility," Paris explained as she paced the deck a few steps. "So the concept was mine, but the execution was all Lieutenant Gonadie over there.
"Well, the Banshee's fueled and ready. Well, 98 percent. Ish. I... I uh... I need to finish flushing the coolant for the left, rear hydraulic pressure... thingy. But, yeah. That's two minutes tops." Gavarus said, stuttering nervously and looking over her control console as she finished up a systems update on the experimental craft. "The Thunderchicken is on the parking deck, and I'd need to run her OS through a few checks first, though. She's been on stand-by for a bit."
"See, THIS is what I originally envisioned," the imaginative explorer wagged her finger at the parked Thunderchicken prototype. "Something large enough for it to get shot up, but not you, and as long as the forcefields held, she was solid. Made for space, air or ground maneuvers. Vehicular weaponry with a diverse payload at your fingertips, and jets on your feet. Full tricorder sensor rig with a cockpit's worth of viewscreen to take in all the data. I watched that test run, O'Dell. You put that thing through it's paces, and showed what it was capable of, how it reacted to sustained damage, and the need for physical fitness of the pilots. I see you still run 2 miles a day, sometimes closer to three."
Moving parallel to the Commander as she made her way across the deck, talking to the Thunderchicken, O'Dell was surprised the superior officer knew as much about the spacecraft as she did. That she had seen the reports the tiny test pilot assumed, but she didn't realize the first officer had studied the experiment, nor that she had kept up on it to the point of monitoring O'Dell's fitness. Catching back up to the moment, the quick-witted wee lass nodded. "Aye mum, give or take. S'an 06:00 feedin' fuir Minerva, so once she's doon- which is a five-minute task, believe you me- I took her into bed wi' Briaar and I go fuir me run."
"Ye get her, then?" O'Dell pressed the point as Gavarus hustled over to the Thunderchicken's engineering console, starting to warm her up, reading the deck. "Alla the things she kin do, an' the advantages and the testin' and allavit. Yuir why she's here, then? This whole project, allavit, t'was something you wanted. Because ye wanted to fly one?"
"Ohhhhhh yes, Miss O'Dell." Tracing a finger along the extended flap-shouldered walker mode in which the Thunderchicken was conventionally parked, as it was O'Dell's preferred method of piloting, it was quite clear that Paris was quite fond of the ungainly-appearing craft.
"This entire project, I have very patiently waited for it to go from prototype to production model. I have been hands off, just allocating resources and leaving you alone to work. You're all doing fine work, which likely goes without saying, but it's nice to hear it from command. So," Paris turned, flashed them all a bright and sincere smile, and nodded at each of them in turn. "All of you. Outstanding documentation, stress tests, field tests, not to mention the work on the cyclones... really exemplary work all around."
"Thank you, Commander. We couldn't have done it without your support," the brightly plumed and gravid Miradonian replied, beaming with pride. She'd been working hard to make her own dreams come true, and these craft went a long way towards that.
“We couldn’t have done it without your design and engineering breakthroughs, the testing and all of the hard work your entire department has put in,” the curvaceous commander countered. “You all deserve the credit for this accomplishment.”
"Also medals," Paris wagged her finger at the assemblage. "I think I have a backlog list from your chief that Starfleet owes you, on top of the commendations she's recommended for you both. Although..." The mod minidressed right hand of the Captain paused, then drew herself erect, smoothing her skirt down in in a practiced maneuver. "I've noticed that in your little corner of the world, rank equals responsibility, and in your school of keeping your head down, the first rule of an officer is to avoid all responsibility. Thus, you are intimidated by rank- be it someone else's or your own. The thought of being promoted gives you cold sweats."
Nodding to Mona Gonadie, the department's chief from whom Rita had learned this particular phenomenon of the 24th century, Paris smiled benignly at the odd pilot and flight engineer pair. "Assuming that I'm correct, have no fear. I will pin on medals and give you a crisp salute, but I promise not to promote you nor put you in charge of anyone other than yourselves. As is, that's dubious command of JUST yourselves, depending on how many beers you are into the evening."
"She only needs half of one." Gavarus muttered under her breath with a light smile, noting her pint-sized partners predilection for being a remarkably lightweight drunk.
Pivoting suddenly in place, Paris snapped her fingers and shook her head. "No, darnit. That just isn't true. You'll be in charge of making the training materials, and thus you will actually have to teach a crew of pilots and engineers how to fly these things. Because that, too, is R&D, and the skills must be trainable. So, with that said," the blonde bombshell stepped over, then reached down to offer her hand to O'Dell.
"Hi, I'm Commander Rita Paris. I'm your first pupil." As the stunned O'Dell took the pretty pilot's hand, a smile came over the face of the little Leprechaun. "And I would very much appreciate it if you were to teach me how to pilot both of these vehicles. Thank you."
When she said it like that, it sounded less like a request, and more like an order.
"Aye mum, I'll teach ye everything I know, glad to." Noting the frantic actions of her porcine partner who grimaced, then flashed a toothy and clearly forced smile while she worked, O'Dell took the cue to steer the officer.
"Gavarus still has a lotta preflights ta run on the Thunderchicken afore she's warmed oop, on accounta we dinna take her oot much noowadays, what wi' the Banshees in testin." Patting the solid leg panel, O'Dell stroked the surface of the ship. "She's a veteran, aye? Captured a bloody pirate ship, she did... the bloody queen of the pirates, aye?" Patting the hull once more, O'Dell clearly swept away a tear. "The Banshee's ready, mum. So we could take a peek at her first maybe, aye?"
With that, the portly porcine all but broke into a run on her delicate and tiny hooves as she grabbed her toolkit to hoof it over to the Thunderchicken. The mech had been largely dormant for a few months since the design of its successor, the Silver Banshee, and there was more than a smidge of work to get her ready to fly as quickly as Paris would want her. As O'Dell led the first officer back to the Banshee and out of earshot, Gavarus muttered to herself, "Of COURSE Thunderjugs wants to fly the old one! Frickin' hell... that manifold is practically disassembled! F***!"
Glancing up, Gavarus checked to see that her words hadn't carried, then sighed in relief when she saw that they hadn't. The danger past, she dove beneath the craft to get to work.
“Noow, ye kin pilot the Banshee wi’oot a flight suit, mum, but yui’ll need at least a suit of EVA armor to really make her work well. It can be done without the interface, but I would recommend ye suit oop,” O’Dell advised. Here in her own element, under the watchful eye of the mother hen of the department, O’Dell was far less skittish around the superior officer than she might be under different circumstances. While Paris intimidated the firecracker on a number of levels, here she was the expert, and here, in her comfort zone, she was dealing with the Commander as just another pilot, with whom she was sharing her knowledge and technique.
This is where Mona had to step in and try to explain the difference. "The Thunderchicken was designed with the original EV suits and armor in mind, so the canopy can act as your systems control. However, with the redesign of the interface and the new flight suit systems, I've been able to build almost the entire flight control system and HUD into the suit for remote holographic gesture control of the entire line. It's similar to what's on the bridge, but standalone and visible only to the user. On top of that, it's designed to interface with the virtual intelligence in the mechs rather than directly, just in case your subconscious decides to take them for a stroll. You still have full control, but the VI makes sure it's your conscious mind and not either a shadow copy or you dreaming or a virus trying to control it."
"Now, when the Banshee Mark 2 gets approved for construction..." Mona couldn't help but drop that little hint with a grin.
“Well, I guess I’ll need to get fitted for a flight suit, then,” the Commander declared, nodding with a half-smile. “Now, that interface that was carrying a ‘leftover’ mentality from the pilot- have we turned that over to Sickbay? I suspect that there may be some synthetic researchers who would be very interested in that, as well as some who might see applications for preserving brainwaves, or potentially restoring them, or transferring them to another. It could be a great boon to science if the technology can be perfected. So let’s make sure Dr, Mah receives those materials and hardware, so she can prepare a report, please.”
“So do I need to go down to the Armory to get suited up or do you have fabricators up here ready for the job?” In the case of some officers, that might be a loaded question. After all, Paris was clearly up to speed on the workings of the department. Yet she asked all the same, to offer deference to the Chief in her department- professional courtesy, which was a hallmark of Paris’ leadership style.
Hoofing it over, huffing and puffing slightly, Gavarus had a grease stain across her forehead and her cheeks were beat red, "Sorry... *HUFF* I was just... *HUFF* upside down over there under the 'Chicken's chassis. Any... anywho... She's fueling up and I just... *HUFF* I just need to... uh... readjust a few settings on the board and she'll be ready to fly. Just... about ten minutes, Commander."
Stretching to the side, there were three loud and audible pops from the portly porcine as she let out a light grunt. "Sorry. Stitch in the baby backs. Anyway. To answer your question, we actually have a scanning and replication station for that that me and the Chief put in a few months ago back by the locker rooms. We were making so many tweaks to the flight suits on the fly that it just made more sense to keep it in-house."
"Fee... uh... Ensign O'Dell can show you the set up while I'm finishing up the 'Chicken for you." Gavarus grinned broadly, something she rarely did, which let Fiona know she needed every second of those ten minutes to work.
“Ensign, take your time. That’s an order,” Paris advised with a soft tone and a gentle smile. “A rushed flight crew is a flight crew that’s cutting corners, and you have absolutely no need to rush on my account. Take your time, do your due diligence, and when she’s ready to fly, she’s ready to fly. I’m the one who asked you to get the mothballed prototype online. See the Banshee over there, all primed and ready to go? That was the expectation, and you met it handily. This isn't an emergency, so we aren’t racing the clock. Relax, do your work, take your time and when she’s ready, she’s ready. Meanwhile I’ll investigate the new flight suit and see what surprises are in store for me with that redesign, hm?”
"Uh... aye. Aye aye, Commander." Gavarus said, trying to not let out an audible sigh of relief as she saluted, clearly overdoing it only to then wipe the smudge of grease on her thick, three-fingered hand. Noticing that, she finally cracked and let out an audible groan.
"Ugh... right. Thanks, Commander. I'll get her up and ready as soon as possible." This time, the smile was a bit more authentic and relaxed as she then looked around for the mobile workbench with the hand wipes on them. Spotting them, she headed off to clean up and finish her work, leaving Rita with O'Dell and Mona.
“Now that’s settled, lead on, Ensign O’Dell. So since this is a scanner run, do I need to strip down…?” Paris asked as the child-sized crash tester and the buxom bombshell both headed for the locker room.
“NO! I mean, no, mum,” O’Dell stated, perhaps a bit more forcefully than she’d intended. The curvaceous commander gave her body issues just standing there breathing, and that was IN uniform. Fiona O’Dell had no desire to see all of that defying gravity and making her feel more like an 11-year-old girl. “The, ah, the scanners dinna need ye to be nekked, joost helps when yuir getting into the body glove, aye?”
“Of course, Ensign… I understand,” Paris replied. This was something she was accustomed to from women of many walks of life, and she could certainly see O’Dell having some anxiety in that arena. After all, standing beside one another she looked like a mom at ‘bring your kid to work’ day. But Rita Paris had blossomed at a relatively early age, and was accustomed to the effect her looks and physicality tended to have on people. So it was easy for her to be gracious, and she exercised that now.
“Would you like to wait on the flight deck while I get into the skeinsuit?” Paris offered solicitously. “That part I’m quite familiar with, and if you wanted to confer with the rest of the team to coordinate efforts, I can handle this part alone?”
“Aye mum, that’d be fine,” O’Dell sighed in relief as she left the room, although she suspected Briaar Gavarus might not mind a peek. But as her porcine partner had pointed out, while she was still attracted to other women, she was a one-woman gal, and while the asexual O’Dell offered her no physical pleasures, Gavarus found fulfilment with her diminutive damsel through their shared lives, the rearing of their child, their time together in bars, and cuddling as they slept. All of which ran through O’Dell’s mind as she crossed the flight deck again, a bright red blush overtaking her face, which bore a somewhat dopey grin.
From underneath the Thunderchicken's open belly, Gavarus lowered the grav platform she was laying on, her arms buried in the open compartment working as her ears twitched at the sound of her pint-sized partner's delicate footsteps. It was a sound she knew well, and always loved hearing. Turning, the Tellarite engineer caught Fiona's grin and smiled back. "That looks like a good puss on your face. Everything okay back there?"
“Oh, aye, aye…” Fiona replied, headed over to pat her bestie on the thigh. While they shared a relationship that was still odd, even to her, she cared about the Tellarite woman like no other. “Joost… something reminded me of ye, is all, and… well.” Bashful wasn’t O’Dell’s stock in trade, yet here she was, blushing and bashful. Changing the subject, she chucked a thumb over her shoulder. “Commander Cupcakes is in there getting changed so’s she kin get herself fitted, so I figured I’d come back oot here and give ye a hand, hm?”
With that, she handed a microspanner over to Gavarus, which she suspected was the next tool needed in the procedure. Briaar had made sure that Fiona knew much of the maintenance and mechanical operation of the prototype she had piloted, which made her a handy helper in a pinch when the working-class warthog needed a spare hand.
"Ooh, thanks. Perfect." Briaar said, confirming the need as she went back to work. "The Chicken's not messed up or anything, but you let a machine just sit there for a while and everything needs readjusting or it's all... gummy and shit. Tweak here and there and she should be better than specs."
"Wait, what with her reminded you about me? She hiding an extra hundred kilos of gut in a secret third boob under her shirt, or something?" the Tellarite tinkerer asked with a scrunched-up face.
“Nae, ye silly swine,” O’Dell swatted the knee of the grouchy grease monkey. “It’s… complicated. Joost take it as a compliment, aye? That yuir odd monogamy that I still dinna understand is still… well, it’s sweet and it shows me how mooch ye care and we REALLY should ought to not be talkin aboot this on duty, aye? Just know that when we get off tonight, there’ll be a shepherd’s pie waitin fer ye the size a’yuir head, alreet?”
While Fiona was often surprisingly recalcitrant to discuss their relationship, one of the ways that she did show her affection for the space swine was in making her meals that were hearty, filling fare from her homeworld, which often involved potatoes. While she herself was carnivorous, her partner and child were both vegetarians by design- neither had the digestion for animal protein. Thus O’Dell found herself seeking vegetarian recipes to feed her family, and the traditional dishes of her culture came in quite handy.
Knowing better than to press a point when Fiona was using the promise of food as a distraction, Briaar was well distracted. "Oooh, sweet. That shit is the tits. Consider me on board."
"At's me girl... oh, willye lookit that..."
The comely commander's ability to get into the pressure suit that conformed to the body, custom made for every individual officer, was not hobbled by having to actually wriggle into it. Thanks to the bracers she wore which stored it, along with the entirety of her EVA armor, in a finite extradimensional pocket of space. Accessible with a thought, her uniform went into storage to be replaced by the black body glove across her impressive physique. As the fabricator had spun around her, semicircular arms whirring and pivoting about her to first scan, then fabricate the components directly onto her physique. As the final layers hardened, she called out her preference.
"Computer, please paint the armor plates command gold, 03 Paris," she asked as the shiny exo-plates solidified, and they magically frosted themselves the same color as her usual EVA armor. The same color as her own specialized exploratory vessel, the Getaway Driver, created specifically to get her out of dangerous situations when a sane person would beam out. Which had, in turn, led to all of this. Looking around, Paris couldn't find a mirror, so she just bounced a sensor wave around the room and examined herself from external telemetry. Which led to her seeing that the suit was tracking the energy wavelength's trajectories, like firing solutions or flight paths, and she began to get an inkling of just why Lieutenant Gonadie had felt the need to design a specialty flight suit.
"Oh my yes..." the California girl marveled as she made her way back to the flight deck, wiggling her fingers in amazement. "It's like I'm not even wearing gloves at all, this is impressive. And the readouts... I see why you redesigned the helmet, you're right, this makes much more sense for piloting than a convex surface."
Moving across the flight deck, Paris was still talking, even though it seemed she'd barely had time to even get into her skeinsuit. "Wow, this is going to take a few minutes just to adapt to the interface, look at all the additional controls you have on this.... oh, of course, you set it up so it automatically interacts with the holocontrols, because why would you not. More efficiency, increased reaction time. Very impressive, Lieutenant, at least so far."
"Yuir... vurrah fast at changin' mum," O'Dell frowned, but shrugged it off. "Alreet... so I suppose this is the part where I teach ye how to interact wi' the controls and the interface, aye? Dye want to start in a simulator, or in the real thing?"
"Simulators are very useful training tools, I'll admit, Ensign," Paris turned to eye the Banshee, parked on pad 1 and ready to go. "But I'd prefer to learn in a real, actual, solid starcraft, if it's all the same to you. Holographics are great and all, but they're no substitute for real experience in my book. I like to get a feel for her, you know?"
"Aye mum, that I do," O'Dell nodded. It was a pilot thing... you wanted to feel the craft, to feel her weight and her pull and which thrusters were firing at what point. The tiny test pilot's estimation of the pin-up first officer went up a tiny notch, as the woman's passion for what O'Dell had devoted her life to was clearly evident. "Alreet, so, welcome to the Silver Banshee, or as she's known technically, VFC 301. We're parked here in walker mode, as wi' this model, we did away with the robot mode-"
"Space considerations or pilot preference drove that decision- I was never clear on that front," Paris asked, cutting off O'Dell's introduction by redirecting to the project head.
"Torsion stress on the space frame was too high on the structural integrity generators. In that mode, we were using double the power just to hold the thing together while transforming. It wouldn't take much for someone to get a lucky shot in and blow it up." Mona didn't even bat an eyelash as she explained it. "It's an issue I'm working on in the Mark 2 as well."
“I see, I see. Well, I would like to see if it’s viable, so do keep working on it, please,” Paris replied without missing a beat. There was no argument- when it came to the systems, the analysis and application of the data, Rita Paris knew practically nothing. Her own minor engineering know-how was 130 years out of date, and from another universe to boot. Thus it was easy for her to cede a point to the well-educated and well-trained professionals who knew what they were talking about. When it came to projects such as this, Rita was an ‘idea’ gal- her contribution was to envision something new and different that might not have yet been invented, then turn it over to the miracle workers to make it happen.
As her flight suit and the Silver Banshee had recognized one another, they were offering to make the handshake of data exchange, so Paris brought up her command code in the holographic interface, and logged into the starcraft. As the options screen opened, she began reading and reviewing them, realizing that she was quite out of her depth with all of the options available. Thus, she deferred to the expert.
“Alright Miss O’Dell, why don’t you walk me through these preflight options and give me something of a tour here. Let’s pretend the old lady is not too bright and way behind the times, shall we?”
“Uh, beggin yuir pardon mum, but ye dinna look like much of an old lady,” O’Dell offered dubiously, which brought a peal of laughter from the cheerful commander.
“Ahhhhh… sorry, Ensign. I always imagine it’s made the rounds and scuttlebutt has had it’s way, but I suppose you haven’t been on the Hera for that long,” Paris explained good-naturedly. “I was born on stardate -89880.7, or February 13th, 2233 on the old Earth calendar. Chronologically speaking, that makes me… 164 years old, in a few days. At best guess I think I might be turning 33 or 34, physically, mind you. My own timeline in that arena is a bit of a mess, so I’m never quite certain, and that is it's own even longer story. But, in brief, I graduated Starfleet Academy in 2255, and was lost in 2268. So I’m not exactly familiar with all of the technological advances that have come to pass in the 130 years I wasn’t around. Make a bit more sense to you now?”
For her part, the diminutive daredevil eyed the Commander through narrowed, suspicious eyes, waiting for the punchline, certain that she was being pranked. Looking over to Gavarus, the broad-shouldered space swine shrugged, not sure what to make of the story either as she got down off of her repair platform and hoofed it over to the control console to run a systems diagnostic. But as the time-tossed temptress waited patiently, it began to dawn on O’Dell that the woman wasn’t pulling her leg, she was serious. Thus the request for help was also serious, as if she had come from that era, the fact that she could function in the modern-day was just shy of a miracle.
“Ah… okay then, mum,” O’Dell nodded, not really sure how to react to that. What the actual fook… and they made YOU first officer?!? Given that the subject was just not something she was prepared to deal with, the tiny test pilot stuck to the business at hand. “I guess let’s start with the main menus, examine what they’re used for and what ye need to know aboot them…”
"I loaded several interface options into the system so if the default one isn't to your liking..." Mona began, pulling out a PaDD and cycling through the Banshee's interfaces manually. "Perhaps the one styled after the original Miranda class? With a few extra controls from the shuttles of the era for atmospheric flight, of course."
“The courtesy is certainly appreciated, Lieutenant,” the comely commander replied as O’Dell linked their suits so that she could piggyback and help direct and illustrate the lesson for the anachronistic astronaut. “Honestly, I feel it’s better to learn the modern systems, than try to adapt them to something closer to what I’m familiar with. But again,” Paris half-turned as she spoke, deep in the menus and clearly distracted, “color me impressed with your thoroughness, Lieutenant. Multiple interface options is a very good idea, since it’s anyone’s guess who might end up piloting one of these flight suits, assuming Starfleet likes the design.”
“Which… wait, is this… no… that? Yes, okay, I see….” It was clear that Paris was distracted by her attempts to learn the interface, navigating the systems with false starts and dead ends, but she was exploring them quickly and efficiently with O’Dell’s assistance and guidance. “So have the flight suits moved to submission to Starfleet yet, or are they still in prototype as well?”
"I submitted the initial design for quality assurance testing at Daystrom a few days ago, actually," Mona confirmed with a bright smile.
“Outstanding,” Paris replied, offering a distracted thumbs-up as she continued exploring the interface.
Walking back over, Gavarus was wiping her hands clean on a somewhat greasy rag and finally had something resembling a calm expression. "And in no time, there'll probably be robot fights in Japan using the base designs, Chief. I'm still blown away that that shhh... stuff is still happening. It's so awesome."
Then, clearing her throat, the two-meter tall Tellarite engineer in blue waved her thick, three-fingered hand towards the massive mech behind her. "Annnnd, the Thunderchicken is up, running, fueled and ready to go, Commander. Just had to re-tune a few connections and tweak the settings. The left ankle joint was low on lube. Basic maintenance, but I just ran the full systems diagnostic, and she’s green across the board."
“Well done, Ensign Gavarus, and in record time, no less. Miss O’Dell barely needed to stall for you at all,” Paris observed, pointing out that she was aware that she was being steered by the R&D crew, but appreciative of their efforts. “Given that she hasn’t flown in 72 days, that’s some commendable work. Very impressive, keep it up. But don’t worry- I’ll try to keep the surprises down to a minimum, so you won’t have to produce engineering miracles on demand on a regular basis.”
Eyeing the large mechanoid prototype, Paris looked back to the smaller, sleeker banshee, then back to the Thunderchicken. “I have to admit, though… while I am excited to try out the newest model, I’d really like a crack at the big girl first. Thunderchicken… an unusual name for an unusual craft. Rather than let Ensign Gavarus’ speedy and efficient work go to waste, let’s try out the big girl, here…”
What followed were a series of halting motions, ungainly steps and a demonstration that while O’Dell had taken to piloting the mech like she’d been born in the cockpit, the Commander was nowhere near as deft or natural a talent. In fact, working with her, O’Dell began to get a feel for the woman as a pilot. Paris made no assumptions, and it was clear that she did not share O’Dell’s degree of manual dexterity or agility. While natural aptitude and ability had augmented skill in O’Dell’s case, the Commander, it was clear, learned by doing, and that skill was hard won. By the time they had walked the mech around in a circle and transformed it a few times, it was clear to the pixie pilot that the executive officer accomplished everything the same way- through hard work, and practice.
When she overwhelmed the internal gyros in robot mode and the mech toppled over on its side, Paris got an arm under it and managed to lever the mechanoid up into a sitting position, and laughed at her amateur ineptitude in the vehicle. “Well, I won’t be giving you a run for your money anytime soon, Miss O’Dell, that’s for certain. This is… quite the involved piloting experience,” the Starfleet siren admitted, flexing the mechanical fingers before her. “But I’m quite fond of how she moves and how she handles. I suppose I should try the improved model now…”
As she spoke, Paris transformed the mech back to the walker mode, and levered herself back upright during the transformation. Stepping to stabilize it, she popped the cockpit and looked surprisingly pleased with herself. “Miss Gonadie, what’s to come of the Thunderchicken, now that the next prototype is built and in testing?”
The colorfully feathered woman grinned proudly as she looked up from her PaDD. She'd been monitoring the readouts remotely to make sure nothing went wrong while the Commander was in there. "Well, Daystrom has requested a copy of all of our research data on the Banshee so I'm considering disarming the Thunderchicken and sending her to them as well. With yours and the Captain's approval, of course. They're interested in the bipedal mode for construction purposes, I think."
Looking around fondly at the variable mode fighter, Paris shook her head. "I don't think so, Lieutenant. Let's send them the more advanced prototype, once you've moved on to the mach 2. As Miss O'Dell remarked, this is a veteran, a storied warship with a rather distinguished pedigree. I'll have to clear it with the Captain, but I think we'll keep her on here, as the mascot of R&D, if nothing else. She'll be maintained and ready to fly- and I do intend to fly her, make no mistake. For today I think I've taken enough of the department's time, and put enough dings and dents in your flight deck, Chief."
Clambering out of the cockpit, Paris vaulted out of the craft to the deck, retracting her helmet as she did so. "Thank you all very much. This has been an enjoyable excursion today. I feel I’ve made some progress, and I have a bit of a better understanding. I'll be booking your time for an hour a day, Ensign O'Dell, until I'm satisfied with my competency. If you have homework to assign as you walk me through the instruction, I expect to receive it. I'm your guinea pig, and teaching me should give you all the materials you need to design the first test course. Agreed?"
"Uh... aye, mum," O'Dell, far from glum or intimidated, was actually distracted because she was lost in thought. Considering how to instruct another pilot how to get the most out of the versatile transforming craft was an intriguing challenge, and deep down, it appealed to the drunken braggart within her to be the authority on the subject to a class of learners. Looking up, eyes bright and excited, O'Dell nodded enthusiastically. "Aye, mum! Will do, Commander!"
It would be a number of years until the Banshee variable fighters would be put into use by Starfleet, and the development and creation of the revolutionary craft would be lost to all but aerospace historians. But with the establishment of a teaching curriculum, the first step to full legitimacy had been accomplished. Which was due to the efforts of these four women, in the experimental department of the shadowy starship, the USS Hera.