He stepped through the armored hatch and stopped in shock. The bodies had been removed, but other than that, everything seemed to be as it was six days ago. The gunner on duty, one Kavesh recognized from the forward compartment, turned to see who had just entered and snapped to his feet.
"Lieutenant, I didn't know you were out of sickbay!"
"Neither does the doctor," Kavesh replied dismissively. "Where's the duty tech?"
A familiar orange head popped up from behind the command panel. "So nice to see you up and around, Sir. Just trying to make a few repairs."
"Repair work is for the work watch, technician. While we are on duty watch, you are supposed to monitor your panels," Kavesh scolded.
"Uh yes, Sir. We've only got two shifts, each with two personnel. The technician from the other shift is borrowed from another battery, and works on their equipment during his work watch. Engineering has no repair technicians available at this time. I estimated that we'd save time if I worked on watch while the gunner monitored both panels, Sir."
"Ordinarily, you'd be wrong; but considering the circumstances," he said, gesturing around the empty room, "it could be considered necessary." He studied them again, noticing signs of fatigue in both. "Who here has gone the longest without sleep?"
The gunner pointed quickly at the technician. "Over eighteen hours for him, Sir."
"Very well. I am a qualified technician, of course. Not as efficient as you, perhaps, but good enough. Go, get some rest, return refreshed in six hours."
"Sir, is that appropriate? You are an officer, a wounded one at thatŠ Your dedication is admirable, but perhaps you should rest?"
"I am not in the habit of giving orders twice, technician. Such as the order I gave you to practice on close combat in your next off shift," Kavesh said by way of reply, and the technician beat a hasty retreat into the passage.
Kavesh winced in pain as he slid underneath the panels, he could feel at least one of the wounds threatening to reopen. He had only been below a few minutes when he heard the hatch open.
"What is the status of this compartment, Gunner? I heard that slimy cur of a battery lieutenant was out of sickbay," a familiar voice snarled, "I figured his sense of 'duty' would have him here first, but perhaps I was wrong."
"Here I am, Kelar," he said, rolling his eyes at the other's sense of drama and beginning the process of extricating himself. Kelar was waiting for him.
"Heard you shot your way out of sickbay, and thought I'd drop by. I brought you some soup, since you didn't have the brains to go to the mess hall first. It's better than the combat rations you would eventually think about eating."
Kavesh took the offered mug, removed the lid, and drank it in two gulps. "My appreciation for your concern."
Kelar gestured toward the panel. "Why are you doing this drudge work? Why not your technicians?"
"I've only got one technician left," Kavesh growled. "and he just finished eighteen hours on duty. Do you want to loan me one of yours?"
"You don't need to do these repairs. Your station will be repaired once we dock. That's the weapons officer's orders," Kelar said. "He figures these can be operated from elsewhere for the duration."
"The duration of what? Operating remotely will reduce efficiency; we may need these weapons."
"I know you've been out friend, but check the monitor, we're almost back in Klingon space now! Heading for dock for repairs and rearming. There is nothing here to threaten us. Relax, you are wounded, let your technician finish this."
"A Federation ship with the same technology could have trailed us home, ready to strike when we are off guard."
"Pirates!" Kelar laughed again. "No pirate could threaten this ship! And which pirate would want to? But suit yourself," he called as he headed for the door. "Put the whole damn place back together if you want. Then you can ask the engineer for something else to repair. It will look good at your next promotion board."
The echo of Kelar's laugh stayed with Kavesh as he slid back under the panel. These weapons are necessary, he thought. He didn't know when or how the weapons would be needed, but he knew they would be needed again, and when they were needed to strike, they would be ready. I swear it.