In At The Deep End
Et Tu, Brute?
Location: Main Bridge [Deck 1, USS Kingdom]
Stepping onto the spacious deck of Starbase 17 was a shock to the system after five days eating, sleeping and generally trying to exist aboard a cramped transport shuttle from Kappa Persei. Wyse Kehoe had returned to the planet to visit his family, a trip he always dreaded but one which was necessary with a long exploratory mission on the cards.
His father had filled him with the usual platitudes about duty, honour and the Federation - things he had read on the back of a cigarette packet no doubt - while his mother had spent most of the two day trip trying to send his stomach into gastric shock with helping upon helping of her Fracri stew.
Fracri were a bit like cows, Kehoe had noted one night as he sat on the porch, gazing out at the city which lay across the lake. They produced the most exceptionally lean meat which had to be gently aged and then cooked in order to stop it toughening. His mother's, he noted after a particularly loud stomach rumble, would have been better processed for military boots.
He looked down, feeling the stretch in his muscles and listening for the satisfying clink of the deck-plating as he took his first steps on the impressive space station. Now there was the small matter of finding his way to his new assignment, the USS Kingdom.
"Kehoe, Wyse, Lieutenant." He told the first, but not the only, pissed off looking orderly in the hangar. The orderly spent much too long searching his pad for the information and pointed vaguely down another corridor.
Another corridor, another orderly and another vague suggestion that the ship he was seeking was further down another corridor. Kehoe tried peering out of the windows which lined the exterior of the station but to no avail, the Kingdom was probably on the other side.
"Hey sugar," a warm voice sounded from Wyse's elbow, belonging to an older human woman that barely stood as tall as his biceps. Her skin, hair and eyes all seemed to share the same hue of warm chocolate. "You look lost, honey. Did you get turned around?"
"I think I must have done." Kehoe replied, still unconvinced that his current issue was his fault. "I'm looking for the USS Kingdom - one of the orderlies back there pointed me in this direction but I'm starting to think he was mistaken."
"The Kingdom? I think I had a guy from the Kingdom at my place yesterday. My name's Ruby. I run the Grand Central Coffee Shop tucked back off the hub. Real upset fella said his orders were wrong. Let's see if we can get you to your ship." She patted the taller man's arm as if he was an old friend. "Hey Marty! Do you know where the Kingdom is?"
"Sorry Ruby," the civilian dressed guy across the hub that she'd called out to answered back with a shrug. "Violetta!"
"I think it's that way a few down from the Perseus!" A security officer yelled back.
"Thank you baby! You come in for a cup later and I'll make sure your chocolate chip cookies are there this time. So," Ruby turned back to Wyse with a little girl grin. "Keep on down the ring until you hit the Perseus and then keep your eye out there. If you need snacks, you come find me. I take care of all of my boys and girls in uniform."
"I will, thank you." Wyse smiled uncomfortably. He was quite unused to people being helpful in any way and Ruby, although clearly interested in his business, had saved him from embarrassment.
The docking slip for the USS Kingdom looked much like any other except for the frazzled officer at the ramp and the mass of crates separated into two clusters on either side of the ramp. As Wyse approached, the man stepped out to greet him. "This is the USS Kingdom, he announced almost tiredly. "Are you checking in or picking up mistransferred cargo or are the mistransferred cargo?"
"Checking in." Kehoe said, finally defeated by the sight of yet another downtrodden dogsbody with no interest in their work. "Kehoe, Wyse. Lieutenant. Reporting in."
The man halfheartedly scanned the documents then nodded to the airlock behind him. "Welcome aboard, lieutenant."
"Cheers." Wyse replied half-heartedly as he made his way up the ramp, tugging down the sleeves of his uniform which always rode up to his forearms whenever he walked anywhere. He would usually have taken a moment to appreciate the form of the Kingdom. It was an impressive ship based on the photos he had seen but the docking slip didn't allow for much of a view, although he could see the blue hue of the dorsal nacelle creeping through the slip.
He reached the top of the ramp and was greeted by a small group of young - too young - officers who all snapped to attention when he stepped into the main body of the ship. One lifted a little Bosun's Whistle to his lips but Wyse had bypassed them before the shrill sound of its call could penetrate his ears.
The corridors of the Kingdom had something of an earthy quality to them - Kehoe liked it a lot. His belongings would be brought on board by the shuttle's staff which freed him up to head straight for the bridge.
The bridge was a hotbed of activity with nearly twice the required amount of crew working the scene, many of them seeing to repairs or running messages. The over all effect was chaotic. In the middle of all of it, the woman in the command chair was signing off on multiple PADDs one at a time and scowling as she did so. "There's got to be a better way to do this," she was saying as she traded off for another one.
"Anything I can help with, Sir?" He asked as he sidled up to the chair. "Lieutenant Wyse Kehoe, reporting for duty."
"Wyse.." the red headed captain repeated, looking momentarily confused. "Wyse Wyse Wyse.. Yes. I just got your orders last night pretty late. You're my new comms chief, right? Sorry for the blank stare. I've had three new comms chiefs this week. There's been problems in some staffing program somewhere and my crew seem to be on revolving door status. Anything you can do to add to the amount of yelling and kicking that I've done over getting that solved, I'd appreciate greatly."
Wyse nodded his response to the first question. "I might actually be able to sort something out for you on that front." He replied, turning his back and taking a seat at the communications station. He tapped in his activation code and felt the uncomfortable sensation of the earpiece sliding into his ear. "Seventeen, Kingdom. I'm experiencing some problems with my personnel manifest."
There was a pause while Kehoe listened to the voice on the other end. "Error code is niner-niner-alpha-two." Another prolonged pause.
"Reassigned personnel, by the look of it. We keep getting personnel cycled out." Another, shorter pause. "Oh, alpha-four, that's the one. Can you get it sorted for me? Reboot the system and lock the positions down? Thanks, I appreciate it."
Kehoe turned back to the Captain. "That should be sorted now, sir. It's amazing how far a made up error can get you."
The commander hopped out of her chair and stepped up beside Wyse to peer at his handiwork, impressed. "You must be some kind of prodigy, Wyse. We've been pecking at that issue for a few days now and it just wouldn't play nice."
Kehoe's panel lit up with a hail from the station again. He turned back to it with a smile. "Kingdom." He listened, his smile falling into a grimace as the other side continued. "Fantastic." His voice was oozing with sarcasm. "Captain, Seventeen reports that the system reboot had no effect. Whatever it is seems to be hard-coded into the programming."
"Rats.. I've never even heard of a ship having this issue before. You'd think that having the ability yo keep tabs on your crew roster would be a little important. Do me a favor and see who you can scale up this issue to, would ya? The quartermaster's going to have a coronary if I keep making him do head counts. He's already fussing about bunions.." she sighed as she leaned back a little.
"I am all over it." Wyse replied. He pressed his earpiece deep into his ear and started sending static bursts to every vital department on the starbase until someone came over the comm.
"This is Seventeen, Commander Thompson - Kingdom - your comm system is sending static bursts. Is this a known fault?"
"Seventeen, Kingdom." Kehoe replied. "Commander Thompson, are you aware that your system keeps assigning and reassigning crew and that we can't take our dodgy comm system anywhere until you get someone with serious know-how to sort it. Kingdom out."
He turned back to his Commanding Officer. "You might have to field a complaint or two, sir."
"I think I've got about six in. Lt. Kheylen had a bunch more before that . It should be a fairly well known issue by this point, but if I need to I'll start sending singing telegrams and fruit baskets," the commander sighed, obviously frustrated. She started to say more when a yeoman at her elbow cleared her throat politely before thrusting the stack of documents she'd been working on previously back into her hands again. "Sorry for the lack of tickertape, Wyse, but welcome aboard. You've come into the middle of a mess, but I'm confident that you can work some magic."
"Tickertape just needs cleared up at the end of the day, sir. Not unlike this mess."