"Camille," Sella Rammiode said. "Should you be doing that?"
The little girl's feet in their bright green boots - the only part of her not hidden by the control console of the simulator - wiggled. "Yes!" she said. "I should!"
Sella crouched down and peered under the console. "And what exactly is the that that you're doing?"
"Fixing the inertial compensators!"
"I didn't know they were broken," Sella said.
"They aren't broken!" Camille said. "They're just not sensitive enough!"
"Uh-huh," Sella said. She lowered herself onto her back and pulled herself under the console to lie side-by-side with Camille. "How sensitive should they be?"
Camille turned her head and grinned. "So your stomach goes whoosh!"
Sella couldn't help smiling. "Most pilots don't want their stomachs to go whoosh, Cami."
"Most pilots don't know how to have fun with a ship!" Camille said.
"Mmmhmm," Sella said, studying the wiring Camille was working on. "You know, we did talk about how you weren't going to make any changes to the hardware without talking to me about it first."
"Um," Camille said, studying the wiring intently.
"Camille," Sella said. "Didn't we talk about that? It was one of Pilot's rules, wasn't it? For you having this sim set up here in the hangar in the first place."
"Well," Camille said. "This doesn't count. It's not really hardware."
Sella had to turn her head to hide her smile. "I think it maybe is really hardware, Camille."
"Oh." The little girl stared at the wiring, biting her lip. "You don't have to tell Cia, do you?"
"Mmnm. Well," Sella said. "How about if I check over what you've done and we make a deal that next time you really will remember to talk to me first. I mean, I'm your engineer, right? Real pilots would never make systems changes without telling their engineers about it."
"Oh," Camille said thoughtfully.
"You sister wouldn't," Sella said, pressing her advantage. "And Captain Night certainly wouldn't. If you ask him, I bet that's what he'd tell you."
Camille narrowed her eyes. "I will ask him, you know."
Sella smiled. "You do that, Cami. And now, let's have a look at what you've done here."
Drones, I expected, Sella thought as she studied the wiring. Warp cores, afterburners, juggling grids ... all part of the chief engineer's job.
But void take me and spit me out, I never expected to be making a simulator more 'whooshy' for an eight year old kid.
"Hold that for me, Cami, will you?" Cross-link that and maybe ... "There we go. That should work."
Sella wriggled out from under the console. "No problem, sweetness. I don't mind giving you a hand, so long as you ask first, okay?"
And strangely enough, Sella found she didn't mind, much as she'd thought she would when Pilot installed the simulator and told her that its safety was the chief engineer's personal responsibility.
The Cluster, Sella thought, it's a funny old place.
Not a bad one.
Just ... unexpected.