Captain's Log, Stardate 3842.9:
We have arrived at Starbase 12 ahead of schedule and I have authorized some well-earned R and R for the crew while the base repair teams finish whatever Mr. Scott has been unable to repair in the past six weeks. Although I would rather have reported in here weeks earlier, the situation on Stanos II was critical and I commend the engineering section for their efforts in keeping things together in the face of such a drastic shortage of personnel. When the last of our new crewmen arrive and the repairs have been completed, we will head on to Sigma Tau VII, to assess the situation of the natives, who have been at war with one another, as near as we can figure, for the past seven hundred years.
McCoy and Scott walked into the starbase general recreation area and looked around the busy room. "Damn, it's crowded," McCoy muttered.
"What did you expect? There are over four hundred people down here on leave."
"I didn't expect them all to be here in this room."
Scott laughed softly. They managed to find an empty table and sat down. McCoy sighed and said, "I'll get us some drinks. I'll be right back."
The chief engineer leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. He'd been working double shifts for the past six weeks to compensate for the shortage of personnel since the accident, and overwork had certainly taken its toll on him. He was particularly plagued by the absence of a seasoned officer in the position of first engineer since the death of Lt. DeSalle in that accident. The young man filling the position at the moment was hardly capable of the job and, although he tried hard, his inexperience only added to the chief engineer's burdens. He'd also lost his swing shift supervisor and thus had no one he felt capable of running the section unsupervised during that shift. So he'd taken it upon himself to work the shift rather than force it on his midshift supervisor. After all, he was less prone to exhaustion-related errors than any engineer in his section and the good Lord knew there had been enough damage lately…and enough death, he mused sadly.
Now he was to receive two dozen new engineers, which would relieve some of the pressure. They were all seasoned engineers, not raw recruits, and included among them was the officer who would assume the first engineer's position. There were only twenty-four, less than half the number he'd lost in that damn accident, but one engineer with a decent number of years' experience was worth half a dozen with little or no experience. All he knew was that he was tired and, as much as he loved his work, he would be glad to be going back to working his regular shift and actually sleeping at night.
A rather loud conversation at the table behind him caught his attention. Two men and a woman were seated at the table, arguing about the feasibility of channeling phaser power through the warp drive. One of the men was shaking his head. "No way, Fallon. You're out of your mind. The warp integration circuits weren't meant to take that kind of stress."
"So you bypass the integration circuits."
"Then you'll blow every relay in the system. The engines were not meant to have phaser power channeled through them."
"Not on a regular basis, no. But if it's done right, it's possible."
"No, it's not."
Scott turned around and looked at the three occupants of the table. The woman glanced up and met his eyes. He held her gaze. The young man turned around, curious. Scott's eyes didn't leave the woman's. Softly he said, "I couldn't help overhearing your discussion."
"Do you know anything about warp engines?" she asked.
"A little." Reluctantly, he drew his gaze from hers and met the young man's eyes. "What makes you so sure what the lassie says can't be done?'
The young man studied him. "If you really knew anything about warp engines, you wouldn't have to ask me that question."
McCoy was approaching the table and he heard that last comment. "Uh-oh."
Scott raised his eyebrows. "Is that a fact? Your friend there seems to know what she's talking about."
"Speculation, man. That's all it is. Speculation."
"Oh…" Scott nodded slowly. "I see. How long have you worked on a starship, then?"
"I spent two months on the Constellation as a midshipman. But I read a lot."
"Reading is good," Scott muttered. "Just what do you read, lad? Popular fiction?"
The young man flushed, his temper flared. "No, Orion trade magazines," he snapped. "What the hell do you think I'm talking about? Technical manuals, space jockey. Of course, I wouldn't expect you to know anything about them."
Scott calmly nodded and looked again at the woman seated at the table. Her soft chestnut brown hair flowed over her shoulders and her warm dark eyes had already captivated him. Her quiet voice was characterized by a faint accent similar to his own, though not nearly as pronounced. "And what about you, lass? Ever spend time on a starship?"
"I was a junior assistant to the chief engineer on the Excaliber for two-and-a-half years."
Scott nodded, then reluctantly trained his gaze back to the young man. "If I were you, lad, I would be certain of what I'm talking about before I went around sticking my foot in my mouth. The lass is right. Phaser power can be channeled through the warp drive, without blowing every circuit in the system, if you know what you're doing and you do it right. You'd be damn surprised what you can do with warp technology when you know what the hell you're doing."
The arrogant young man glared at the Enterprise's chief engineer. "Ever seen it done?" he challenged.
Scott met his glare steadily. "I've done it."
The young man choked. Recovering, he snapped, "Bullshit."
McCoy rolled his eyes, glad to be sitting beside Scott and not in the young man's seat at the adjoining table. He wondered if there would have been an argument at all if they had been in their uniforms instead of civilian clothes, but that was kind of a moot point. As it was it was quite obvious that the young man had no idea who he was arguing with. Scott looked at McCoy, who shrugged and pushed Scott's drink toward him with a silent plea to let the matter drop. Scott nodded reassuringly at his friend and turned back to the young hothead. "Are you still in Starfleet, lad?"
"Damn straight I am. Have you ever even laid eyes on a starship?"
Scott turned back toward McCoy and picked up his drink. The surgeon could see the dark anger beginning to brew in the engineer's eyes. "Scotty, let it go," he pleaded. He'd had his fill of patching up injured engineers lately, and Scott had been included in that number more than once over the past few weeks.
Scott nodded. He had no intention of getting into a fight. He downed his drink and got to his feet. The young man rose to meet the challenge but the other man at his table grabbed him. Scott shook his head, disgusted. "If you ever hope to get stationed on a starship, and stay there, you had damn well better grow up, lad. You need to learn when to speak, and what to say, and when to keep your mouth shut. I sure as hell hope you're a better engineer in practice than you are with theory. You may think you know a great deal, lad, but you really don't, and you severely limit what you can learn when you refuse to open your mind to what can be done instead of what already has."
The young man lunged at him, but his friend held him fast. Scott ignored him. His eyes met the woman's once more before he turned and left the room. McCoy let out the breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding. He finished his drink and rose, shaking his head. He looked over at the adjoining table and said "Well, I haven't seen a reaction like that from him in a while. Consider yourself lucky he's exhausted or he would have taken you up on your offer of a fight, and you'd be the one seeing stars, make no mistake."
The young man slowly sat back down, watching the doctor leave. His quiet friend slid back into his seat and shook his head. "Smooth move, Ray. What the hell is wrong with you? Couldn't you tell he knew what he was talking about or are you that stupid?"
"Get out of here, Carl. I'd bet a month's pay he's just a station-bound paper jockey who's read a few tech manuals and wishes he was out there with a real job on a starship."
The woman, deeply impressed by the handsome man with the dark eyes, had watched him leave and her thoughts lingered on him. "That's a bet you would lose, Ray."
She had met the two men two weeks earlier, when they arrived at the station to await the arrival of the ship they'd all been assigned to: the Enterprise. Mutual interests had hastened the formation of a fast friendship among them. The two men had been inseparable since they met at the Academy. Ray Preston was a headstrong, stubborn man of twenty-seven with a knack for getting into trouble. Mischievous gray eyes hid behind a shock of dark wavy hair and his infectious grin was seldom absent from his handsome face. Though he wouldn't yet admit it, Preston was impressed by the woman's vast engineering knowledge. He'd never met anyone who had such enthusiasm for engineering. He enjoyed his job and loved to putter around with machines, but his enjoyment of his job was no match for her greater love for what she did.
Carl Wilson, also twenty-seven, was the son of a Wyoming rancher and a small town physician and had a quiet shy nature which belied his impish tendencies. His bright blue eyes sparkled with a boyish playfulness and his quiet, subtle charm made him popular among his peers and co-workers. Wilson was just as impressed by their female companion, and he had no reservations about telling her so. Fallon Kincaid was a modest woman and his expression of his admiration only caused her to blush and try to downplay his perception of her engineering expertise. Having just spent two-and-a-half years on a starship, she insisted that she was merely more familiar with the systems than they were. But both men knew better…and so did Kincaid.
McCoy found Scott on the observation deck that overlooked the bay where the Enterprise was docked. The base maintenance crews had been giving her a thorough once-over before beginning the repairs that were needed following the recent accident, but Scott and his people, though understaffed, had managed to complete much of the repair work, leaving mostly work that Scott did not have the facilities, equipment or manpower to repair. Knowing the stress Scott had been under, Kirk had insisted that his overworked chief engineer relax and enjoy some shore leave rather than supervise the base engineers as they worked on the starship. Annoyed, Scott begrudgingly followed the request Kirk had transformed into an order at the first sign of balking from the engineer he knew so well.
McCoy looked across the bay at the ship. "How are you feeling?" he asked nonchalantly.
Scott shook his head. "No. It's not worth it."
"Glad to hear you say that. I thought you were going to take him up on his offer to fight."
Scott shook his head, laughing softly. "No. He was just running off at the mouth. Besides, I'm not in any mood for a fight."
"Good. I'm not really up to patching you up again. Why don't you get some rest? You've been working much too hard lately and it's catching up with you."
Scott nodded wearily. "Aye. I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right. Come on."
He and the exhausted engineer left the deck for their respective quarters. It was time to rest and Scott needed it.