Ellie Doall had a shameful secret. Well, shameful to her. Anyone else would think it perfectly normal. Ellie was not good with her hands. She could visualize her way through just about any problem, technical or personal. She always had an idea, especially when the pressure was on. She was amazingly good at telling people or computers how to fix something…but to do it herself? That was her Achilles heel.

Which is why she felt like a fraud whenever she went into Engineering. That, and because Deary, so soft-spoken elsewhere on the ship, was a yeller when it came to his engines.

Part of that could have simply been because of the equipment itself. On Union ships, engine rooms were clean, almost sterile environments, with computer consoles and automated systems that let you program repairs, while the actual engines hid neatly hidden behind sound-absorbing panels designed by Academy industrial artists. Some even had flowing lights and recorded sounds of the engine purr which changed according to set cues. Of course, that meant any major damage could only be repaired in a spaceport.

HuFleet ships were a little more hands-on. While possessing the same consoles and repair bots as the average Union ship, more of its working parts were exposed or easily accessible. It wasn’t so much because HuFleet ships needed more frequent repairs or that HuFleet engineers would rather do it themselves than trust their “wee bairns” to some commercial enterprise.  Wait, no; it was the latter. Not to mention, HuFleet engineers were selected particularly for their propensity to tinker. The saying went, “If the warranty isn’t voided by the third month, hire a new Chief Engineer.”

Commander Angus Deary, of course, had taken the Impulsive engines apart and put them back together before the first month of flight – during flight, in fact. He kept the “extraneous bits” in a jar by the center console, as if to thumb his nose at the ship designers. The jar measured three feet in diameter and nearly twice as tall. It rested on wheels in case they needed to get at the console behind it. On occasion, pieces were added or taken from it as some new improvement was made or they figured out what a part was supposed to have done, after all.

At the moment, the jar was toppled to the floor and three junior engineers were combing through the contents holding up items while Deary yelled. 

“Ach, no! Are ye daft? We need a spline reticulator. How are we going to reticulate splines with that thing? We can’t use the replicators, so we need to adapt. Use the brains ye poor mothers gave you!”

When he caught sight of Ellie, Deary placed his second in charge of the yelling and went to her. “Well, Ensign. Grab some coveralls and gloves and come with me. The splines aren’t reticulating quickly enough to navigate the spacetime fold. We’ll need to add more reticulators, so you and I are preparing the connection points.”

Ellie grabbed a spare outfit from the lockers and slipped it on quickly. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, she followed the chief engineer to a panel marked, “Engineering personnel only. Unauthorized personnel might lose a limb.” As she passed the stuff scattered on the floor, she nudged a curved piece toward the hand of Engineering Minion Jean Carter. 

“I found something!” Carter called out and held it up.

Deary gave it a brief glance. “Do ye want a medal? Get to reshaping it.”

He opened the door, and when he saw her glance at the warning sign, said, “Don’t worry. We’re not going as far as the chompers this time,” and dove into the narrow opening. 

Ellie followed on hands and knees.