Welcome Aboard, Now Shut Up and Listen

I’m not going to tell you the story you want to hear: you want to hear about my home world, or the war, or if I was in love with my last captain. I’ll answer that now, because otherwise you’ll just bug me about it constantly:

It was boring.

It was horrific.

None of your damned business and also he wishes .

There. Got that all out of the way, right? Don’t be disappointed, I have a better story for you. One that I bet you really want to know but are too afraid to ask. It’s too obscene, too terrifying, and I’m far too intimidating to approach.

You’d be right on all three counts. That’s not bravado; that’s what cheap knuckleheads have just before they get cleaved in half or lanced by a disrupter or eaten by some nameless monster on an even less remarkable world.

Those are tales told by idiots. Yeah, I quoted Shakespeare. What? You think just because I’m an engineer, I don’t read? Why—and don’t tell him I said this—but Hadley—my old XO who was really good looking—used to go on about the stuff. Shakespeare, not reading. Yes I’m getting to a point, damnit listen: it isn’t all wrenches, and grease, and miracles pulled hot and streaming from my transporter buffer. It’s about—well, why tell you when I can tell you?

It was 2399 and I was hanging around Earth Spacedock, hoping there’d be a disaster, so I’d have something to do. I was between postings after a useless three months on the West Friesland where I nearly airlocked my boss and his little dog, too. It doesn’t matter what it was about or why I’m dragging his dog into it. No, keep up, it’s about the most important thing:

Being right.

You see, being right is what matters most. Not winning petty arguments—if they’re petty why are you wasting your time and energy on them?—Stupid people argue about things that don’t matter. They use it as a way to feel bigger than they are; for frack’s sake I’m barely over a meter and I tower. Why? Because I only fight real battles, only focus on real issues. When I open my mouth, admirals cower because they know I’ll eat them for dinner.

Keep this in mind, there’ll be a quiz later, crewman.

Now, I was in the Earth Spacedock waiting, wandering, and being stepped on or over by the tall folk when I overheard a conversation. This blond Commander was talking to this other man who isn’t important in the slightest as most captains, including and especially our current one, are not worth mentioning. Anyways, they were talking about a staffing problem they were having for their ship. “Where are we going to find a crack engineer to replace the dumbass we lost?”

Don’t look at me like that! That’s what he—fine, fine I’ll tell it like it was:

“I can’t find anyone in the roster who meets your requirements, sir!” Gah! The word tastes like poison in my mouth. They chatted for a bit while they walked; because that’s how people move in the ESD: always moving, never stopping, never being impressed by the sheer incredible sights just outside the window.

No, not Earth. Earth is dumb. Oh, definitely not Luna. Wow, just really low bars for you Humans. No, I mean the ships inside the station. Seriously, crewman, and you call yourself an engineer. Okay, yes, the shipyard is “cool” but—do you want to hear this or scrub the airlock from the outside without a spacesuit?

Good choice.

The officers I was following stopped, possibly to breathe because walking, talking, and thinking are three things most people can’t do well at once, particularly anyone wearing a red uniform. Keep that in mind: Gold Gets it Done or Throws You in the Brig if You Refuse. What? You wanted a rhyme? Go back to school. Besides, I’ve clocked a lot of brig hours. Pay attention!

A lot of brig hours.

So, they stop talking and I figure now’s my chance, right? Wow them with my brilliance. Well, I called up: “Excuse me! Hey you!” but they couldn’t hear me, which was amazing because their heads were almost eye-level for me.

By which I mean their asses. They were shi—okay, okay, I finally got their attention and explained I was who they needed. I didn’t tell them I was the highest rated engineer to graduate that year, or that I’ve submitted more innovation designs in the last year than the Daystrom Institute bothered to publish, no I told them the truth: “I’m Lieutenant Wimini Zolwink, best damned engineer in the fleet. I need a ship, you need an engineer. This one’s a no-brainer.”

Needless to say, they were stunned by my brilliant logic and that’s how I became Chief Engineer of the Enterprise.

Okay, fine, right. I don’t know who the hell those guys were, but they rudely declined and left. I was just building up to a fuming rage when I heard a slow, repetitious sound. One, two, three, four , followed by a, “bravo, Lieutenant.”

I looked and saw him. Tall, handsome, and hint of green is eyes. I knew I must have him. Uhg, I’m kidding, jeeze but this guy did look good. I immediately figured he was as dumb as the command uniform he was wearing. I was already mad and I realized he was sarcastic clapping—SLOW CLAP! Yes, that was it exactly. You’re brighter than you look.

“Enjoy the show dumb-dumb?” I asked bitterly. I didn’t care if he outranked me. I was bored and angry: two things you should never be at the same time. “Take a holo, then you enjoy my kicking your ass from here to Cardassia and everywhere in between.”

“Oh, I’d probably enjoy that too much,” he laughed. It took me a dangerous moment to realize he was laughing at himself. “Are you really the ‘best damned engineer in the fleet’ or is that just the worst captain pickup line in the book?”

“I don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass to do my job.”

“No, but you still need to learn how to court them.” He flashed those pearly whites at me. “Captains are like kids, right? Always want what they can’t have and sooner than it can be delivered.” He paused and added another, “Right?”

I liked this guy.

A few minutes later, we were having drinks at a lounge. “You look like an airhead but talk like an engineer. Which is it?” I asked him, because both were kind of true. He spent the last three drinks talking in a very casual, but astutely technical way. It was almost like seeing the edges of real intelligence behind those hazel —they were hazel —eyes.

“I was a Chief Engineer, once,” he said and I might have been in love, but no, I still knew he wasn’t near by level, technically or attractively. What? I said he was good looking. That doesn’t mean he was in my league.

“What happened? Fail down into Command?” I asked. “You know there are better things to do with your time than kissing ass and worrying about your next promotion.”

“Like what?” He was screwing with me, but fine, whatever, because at least he and I were having a real conversation. What the hell does that mean, crewman? Lonely? Was I lonely? Pish!

Anyways, so I told him. I launched into an impassioned speech about all the different kinds of things we could be building instead of weapons and he asked me questions, so I answered him. He asked a lot of dumb questions, too. Like, he should have known better, but he asked them anyways and I explained all the different ways he was an idiot and he just smiled and listened and at one point pulled out a PADD and started taking notes and do you know why he was doing all those things?

No, jeeze, for the Brahe’s sake, he was not going to try to recreate my inventions. I told you, he was a dumb pretty-boy. So, after what turned out to be a three hour lecture in a bar, he gets up, puts the PADD away, and says to me. “You know, I genuinely believe you’re the best damned engineer in the fleet.”

Yes! He actually said that! Close your mouth and listen. “Zolwink, right?” he asked and spelled out my name. I confirmed, he thanked me and said. “My Captain—Captain Palakiko—has been looking for a Chief Engineer. I can’t promise anything, but I’d like you to meet with him.”

So, I did.

He was a big man with lean, hard muscles and he wore his hair sh—would you let me describe this man who changed my life yes his jaw was sharp enough to cut a salami on crewman if you interrupt this story once more I will go back in time and slap you as a baby —Now, where was I? Yes, he was strong but there was something else: he regarded everything in this very quiet way. Like, you’ve met me: I’m not quiet at all. I speak my mind. I don’t care if people like it. I speak righteous truth to power.

But he just sat there listening. Not in that stuffy way Vulcans do—yes they do, don’t pretend they don’t—or that patient but stupid way Tellerites do when they’re trying to think of a comeback. No, no , listen: he sat there and watched me go over the same presentation I have Hadely—the handsome fellow from the bar the night before—and he didn’t ask any questions. He just sat there and watched. Sometimes he would shift a little but not from boredom. No, I could tell: he was trying to learn .

I’ve had a lot—a lot —of Captains. Most will tell you how much they want to learn about other cultures and become friendly, but you know what they want? They want to expose others to their culture so they can decide just how “alien” they are. Well, get this, Human, you’re an alien to me but I’m the one who’s had to endure annual potlucks and The Sound of Music and stupid wars I had nothing to do with. In almost a hundred postings, I never met a Starfleet Captain who knew how to keep his mouth shut, listen , and not interrupt me all the while trying to sound smart.

Anyways, I finished my speech which had a number of unkind words about the Admiralty in it—and there I think he actually flinched a smile—then he stood, thanked me for my time, and asked Hadley to give me tour. I was onboarded by the end of the day, promoted within three months, and I’ve been on this ship since—fifteen years!—crewman. The first ten were great, but then the war and, well, that’s enough chatting for now. You’ll be bunking on Deck 6 and working as my personal assistant and as a Diagnostics Technician Grade Three until you get the stealing under control—yes, I know about that, crewman. I know everything …

And I’m always right.