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Lt. Theo Whittaker: Day One


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(( Main Engineering, Deck 24, USS Columbia ))



(( 0800 – The morning after the party ))



:: Like the majority of Columbia’s crew, the newly promoted Lieutenant Theo Whittaker was still on shore leave. He was not due to report as Chief Engineering Officer until the order to rescind their scheduled downtime was officially given. Given his new position, however, there was much to be done in order to make the transition easier for his department and he did not want to have to juggle those pressing concerns with whatever mission the Nebula-class starship was assigned to next.



Thusly, Theo found himself entering his new domain instead of making use of Starbase 118’s vast array of recreational facilities. Feeling that it would be wholly inappropriate to begin his new role in his civilian attire, he had donned his uniform- removing the solitary black pip and attaching the new gold one he had received from Commander Brek the previous evening. As he had left his quarters, he had replicated a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and ginger root, his regular beverage.



His entrance into engineering had been surreptitious. Never one to command or enjoy attention, he had wanted to avoid his presence causing “a fuss” as his mother would call it. Luckily, none of the engineering staff who had not been granted leave or the Starbase technicians had noticed his arrival. As he reached what the staff had colloquially coined “the office” (the space in front of and to the left of the warp core, which looked upon the powerful machine) he nodded to an unfamiliar technician likely from 118. The Bajoran woman returned the gesture and went back to inputting data into the console she was tending to.



He sat down on a stool at the bank of consoles than ran the length of the dividing glass that cordoned off ‘the office’ from the warp core and set his mug down on the ledge above them after taking a sip and savouring its taste. Entering his new clearance code- what a novelty that was!- began to peruse the latest reports. It was all unremarkable fare, Lieutenant Stineman from astrophysics had filed a report for a broken replicator in his laboratory, Ensign K’Chak’Krrr’A wanted somebody to take a look at her sonic shower- who knew Pak’Shree showered!- and Crewman Laplex’Vrin wanted to enquire about installing a birthing chamber in his quarters as he was approaching budding season.



He had scarcely been reviewing the request log for two minutes when the sound of footsteps approaching drew Theo’s attention towards the entrance to the office where a middle aged Ullian woman was stood, holding a PADD. She was enlisted, having a petty officer 2nd class badge on her collar. The hair at her pronounced temples was beginning to thin and turn white, slight wrinkles had begun to tug at the corners of her mouth and around her soft green eyes. Upon seeing him, her mouth curled into the beginnings of a smile. ::



Tish: :: she spoke in soft tones that put Theo in mind of the voice his mother adopted whenever Theo injured himself as a small boy :: “Are you Lieutenant Whittaker?”



Whittaker: “I am indeed. How can help you…?” :: he left the question hanging as Tish would have no choice but the identity herself. ::



Tish: “Koytra Tish. Petty Officer 2nd Class Koytra Tish that is. I’ve been assigned to Columbia as an antimatter supply manifold specialist for about six months”



:: She stepped into the office a fraction, but came no father. Ever a gentleman, Theo rose from the stool and extended his hand. She took it in hers and shook it ::



Whittaker: “A pleasure to meet you”. :: he wondered why he had not encountered her before, but remembering her position, he realised that she had spent most of her six month tour thus far ensconced on Deck 29. Her’s was an exacting, unsung role, yet amongst the most vital on the ship due to the potentially catastrophic repercussions of working with a substance like antimatter ::



Tish: :: she smiled warmly :: “I was sure you wouldn’t be here since you are on leave but I thought I would check anyway”.




Whittaker: :: curious :: “Is there something that I can do you?”



Tish: “Not at all sir. I just wanted to congratulate you on your promotion and new position”.



:: As she beamed at him, Theo felt rather touched and he found himself reflecting how far he had come. Four months ago, almost to the very day, he was a nervous young ensign- unsure of what awaited him. Now he was a Lieutenant, decorated and the chief engineer of a frontline starship. That Commander Brek and, by extension Starfleet, would have such faith in him as to give him such a crucial position aboard the Columbia… it was almost overwhelming ::



Whittaker: “Thank you very much crewman” :: this time, she extended her hand- rather sheepishly. He shook it again :: “Make sure you don’t stay on Deck 29 all of the time. We’d like to see you up here sometimes”.



Tish: “Of course sir. If you’ll excuse me, I have to report for duty”.



Whittaker: “Of course”



:: Tish smiled at him again one last time and walked off, down engineering before rounding a corner and disappearing. He watched the Petty Officer as she went. It was a simple gesture, but it meant everything to him.



He was about turn back into the office when he was struck with the sensation that he was being watched. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and felt a shiver travel from the top of his head all the way down to his toes. While he managed to keep his sudden unease hidden from everybody, he cast his eyes around the large chamber. At first sight, everybody had their backs to him busy with their own work and all he could hear were the faint beeps and clicks common to the background noise of an engineering compartment. He then cast his eyes upwards towards the warp core and the second and tertiary levels that ran around the rough diameter of it.



He caught sight of somebody disappearing behind the warp core. Given his recent experience at the hands of a being who claimed to be an Iconian, he could not blame himself as he felt a greater sense of trepidation. For the briefest of moments he was tempted to call for security, but common sense won out. It was unlikely that anybody could infiltrate the Columbia given that it was berthed at one of the Federation’s most secure outposts ::



Whittaker: oO Not that it stopped that being Oo



:: The figure emerged on the other side of the warp core and the new chief engineer saw Crewman T’Laris running scans of what appeared to be a deuterium inject assembly on the second level. She was studiously looking at the readings on her tricorder. Irrational as it may have been, Theo was certain that she had been staring at him moments before, He recalled her attitude the next before after he had tasked her returning some of his possessions to his quarters. She had been sharp… almost rude. Vulcans had a habit of coming across as abrupt, but Theo had thought at the time there was something more ::



Whittaker: :: he called out :: “T’Laris-” :: she did not look up. He was not convinced that she had failed to hear him but he still increased the volume of his voice :: “T’Laris!”



T’Laris: :: she did not look up from her device as she curtly replied :: “I can hear you Mr. Whittaker. I am presently collating readings of the deuterium injection assembly”.



:: Mr. Whittaker? He would not have been surprised to hear Commander Brek or Doctor MacLaren call him that- after all they outranked him and it was expected. What was not expected was for one of his subordinates to call him that. He took a moment to reply as he bristled against what- in other- was tantamount to insubordination. ::



Whittaker: :: he tried to keep the growing irritation from his voice :: “May I see you for a moment please?”



:: There was no response from the engineer as she left her tricorder resting on the rail in front of her and made her way to the small lift that brought her down to the same level as Theo. Watching her keenly he looked for any sign that something was wrong. She moved with grace, her ponytail bobbing gently as she went. Her porcelain face and cool hazel eyes were impassive, a mask of equanimity. She came to a halt before Theo and placed her hands behind her back. Approximately three inches taller than he, Theo tilted his head slight to look at her, schooling his features into his own facade of calmness. In reality he wanted nothing more than grind his jaw in frustration ::



Whittaker: :: evenly :: “Is everything alright?”



T’Laris: “I am… eager to resume my work.”



Whittaker: “I just wanted to check because you seemed somewhat… pointed at the beach party yesterday evening”



T’Laris: “I am unaccustomed to large scale social gatherings. I prefer solitude and meditation.”



Whittaker: “If that’s so, why did you attend?”



T’Laris: :: matter of factly :: “I received an invitation and I felt it would be impolite to refuse”.



:: He could not put his finger on what it was but there was something that did not ring true. He thought of pressing the matter, but until he was certain that there was an issue and not just the musings of Theo’s overactive imagination, he stayed his tongue and favoured the Vulcan with a small, but terse smile. ::



Whittaker: Very well. Thank you crewman.



:: As T’Laris turned her back, Theo could have sworn he saw a flash of emotion dance briefly across her face. Somewhat stunned, he stood there for several seconds considering it. He was sure he had imagined it, but then again- her attitude the previous night had suggested something more than her being socially anxious. He watched her return to her task. She never looked up from her tricorder but there was a spikiness about her that left him unsettled. Making his way back to ‘the office’ he resolved to keep a close eye on his Vulcan subordinate, but tried to remain hopeful that he was indulging himself in another bout of over-thinking ::



Whittaker: oO You are just being silly Theo Oo



:: He wished he could believe that ::



--


Lieutenant Theo Whittaker


Chief Engineering Officer


USS Columbia


NCC 85279


C239203TW0


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