Starfleet Corps of Engineers is a series of novellas in the so-called Star Trek Novel Verse. Originally published as e-books, they are reprinted in paperback editions periodically. The series focuses on the crew of the starship da Vinci, a ship attached to, would you believe it, the Corps of Engineers. The series was originally entitled "Star Trek: SCE" (standing in for Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers), before being rebooted as, simply, Corps of Engineers.Despite the potential for the dreaded technobabble, the series, like much of the Star Trek Novel Verse, is focused on character and worldbuilding, so it isn't anywhere near as inaccessible as it might sound...The paperback collections are as follows:
Starfleet Corps of Engineers provides examples of the following tropes:
Abnormal Ammo: The Nachri rebels in the story Aftermath have armed their ships not with the usual energy weapons or torpedoes, but with the equivalent of cannon balls.
Acquired Situational Narcissism: Tev in Creative Couplings. Its Serial Escalation seeing how puffed-up and full of himself he is in the first place. To the horror of Fabian Stevens, he ends up even worse after getting a short taste of command. On reflection, having Tev serve as "captain" for the cadet's holographic "voyage" wasn't a good idea.
Adventure Towns: The da Vinci usually ends up at a different planet (or other notable location) in each successive story. The character arcs (of which there are plenty) take place over a backdrop of largely unrelated missions. They fix the Master Computer on Eerlik in one story, clear up the mess with the Starsearcher crash on Intar in the next, and get the Defiant out of interspace in the following. On to Empok Nor!
After the End: The da Vinci has to pick up the pieces after a planetary disaster more than once.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Learning Mech, particularly when it tries to bring fifteen asteroids to the surface of Keorga for study purposes, threatening an extinction-level event.
“The rules of learning were manually overridden. Automatic safety feature no longer engaged. Discipline must be maintained. A lesson must be learned. Thank you for using Learning Mech.”
Sinnravian drad music, though not appreciated by all. A Running Gag consists of Carol Abramowitz (and Nog during the crossovers with the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch) enjoying this particular brand of alien music. The other characters can't stand it. Abramowitz's roommate, P8 Blue, asks a superior officer for permission to feed Abramowitz to her larvae, in order to put a stop to it.
Everyone holds planet Keorga in high regard for its arts. And building on the Sinnravian drad, Abramowitz has branched out into Nausicaan tusk opera.
Alien Blood: Nalori have blue blood, like previously-established canonical species Andorians and Bolians.
Alien Catnip: Strawberries are a mild narcotic to Mizarians.
All of the Other Reindeer: The Nasats treat P8 Blue and other "Quiets" like this. P8 Blue was regularly dismissed by her fellows and viewed as freakish or deformed. In fact, her differently-wired brain is a trait that lets her play a vital role in establishing relations with another race living on the Nasat homeworld. Naturally, P8 saves the day.
Bar Brawl: Mor glasch Tev, the Tellarite second officer, accidentally starts one on Rhaax, due to mistaking hostility for Tellarite-esque argumentative politeness. Under his people's Blue and Orange Morality, insults and blustering argument are a form of polite discourse. He misjudged in this case, though.
Bizarrchitecture: Due to the natives' love of symmetry, houses on Bundinal have faux front doors at the back - not a back door, but a door identical to the one in front, and looking equally important, even though it isn't.
Blessed with Suck: Nasat Quiets, whose special cross-species communication abilities render them outcasts among their own kind. They can communicate with Plant Aliens the Citoac, but the unique brain activity allowing this renders them unable to communicate normally with other Nasats.
Booby Trap: There were quite a few in the city of Stratos on Ardana. Also, Bart Faulwell's sister was killed by one when he was a teenager. It was in a tomb; the family were essentially Adventurer Archaeologists.
Brain Food: The creators of the monster shii on Sarindar. A race which colonized the planet centuries ago, they fed on brain matter. The artificial constructs in the shape of shii beasts were built to collect the heads, decapitating victims in order to gather the brains.
Breather Episode: The four stories following on from Wham EpisodeWildfire. These are quieter tales focusing on various characters' off-duty activities as they come to terms with what's happened.
Continuity Snarl: The fate of the Constitution-class Defiant as depicted in this series was different from what was later shown on Star Trek: Enterprise. Reconciling the accounts is not unworkable, but it is going to require a lot of thought. The writers of the installment featuring the Defiant are reportedly working on a suitable reconciliation idea that will tie it all together.
Conveniently Close Planet: In Collective Hindsight, a runaway ship is on a collision course with a planet, despite how unlikely that would be in reality. The ship even passes through several star systems en route, apparently threading the needle several times.
Cool Ship: Several, notably the Strata ringship (which is a giant spinning wheel in space), the Dancing Star (powered by actual flares of stellar matter and capable of diving into a sun), and the Minstrel's Whisper (an ancient vessel with, essentially, an improbability drive). Then there's the arc-ship on which the People are carried to their new home. They've been locked into a medieval culture in an internal artificial world they don't even realize is aboard a ship.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Rod Portlyn. How corrupt is he? He deliberately poisoned an entire colony world to induce crop failures, then came in to buy the increasingly useless land. He kept the farmers on as workers and thus earned their gratitude by "saving them" from bankruptcy. He turned another world in the same star system into a dumping ground for garbage, and he later tries to murder its population. All in the name of profit, obviously.
Creative Sterility: Played with in the case of Keorga. Its inhabitants seem to lack the capacity for imagination or innovation as humans understand it, yet channel much of their culture into creating beautiful displays of art, for which they’re renowned. The humans struggle to comprehend the contradiction.
Damned by Faint Praise: Tev's "compliments" to the rest of the team. Sonya Gomez accuses him of acting as though the rest of them are simply holding him back. Tev denies this:
Tev You're all exceptionally competent. Sonya Gomez: Well, thank you so much for your stamp of approval. "Exceptionally competent." That ranks right up there with "superbly adequate" and "remarkably acceptable" in the backhanded compliment hall of fame.
The Dead Have Names: Near the end of the Wham EpisodeWildfire, there's an extract from the Captain's Log that lists the 23 (out of a crew of 40) crewmembers who were killed in that mission. The most "important" character in the list, Second Officer Duffy is just tossed into the list with no significant importance.
Derelict Graveyard: The Sargasso Sector, named for the Sargasso Sea on Earth. It's a junkyard of abandoned ships floating around a collection of black holes and quasars. The da Vinci crew are assigned to clear a path through it to allow a convoy access — one of the series' more notable cases of Space Is an Ocean.
Depopulation Bomb: The Miradorn nearly fell victim to one of these that would have killed all twinned Miradorn (that's 98% of them) had it not been stopped. It wasn't actually intended to be a depopulation bomb, though.
During the War: The "War Stories" installments, as well as a couple of the "What's Past" stories.
Ear Worm: Discussed in-universe; Gomez uses an Ear Worm lyric from a Lurian folk song as part of her personal access code.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Overseer Biron, a recurring villain, doesn't understand the Federation or its Starfleet heroes, in particular their compassion. Why Starfleet officers and captains expend valuable resources helping "expendable" crewmen or those of lesser station is beyond his comprehension. Biron is a highly intelligent being, but a product of a brutal and calculating culture that assigns worth to people based only on how productive and useful they are.
Failsafe Failure: A Federation space probe in one story (which is actually entitled Failsafe) suffers a Failsafe Failure, requiring the crew undergo a mission to retrieve it from a pre-warp planet. Sonya Gomez even seems to lampshade the improbability.
Fantastic Caste System: The Androssi, who have a vertically stratified example. Worker caste Androssi can be killed on a whim by the Officer class. Recurring villain Overseer Biron is an Officer class Androssi, and indeed treats the lives of his subordinates very casually indeed.
Forgotten Phlebotinum: Often averted. In the story The Cleanup, a character resolves a problem using advanced technology picked up in a previous tale.
Fur and Loathing: This doesn't come up, but possibly we'd expect it to. It is mentioned in an off-hand line in one story that Klingon characters are wearing al'Hmatti fur. Seeing as the al'Hmatti are a sapient subject species of the Klingon Empire, we can only hope it's harvested from those whose die naturally (which might well be bad enough)...
Fabian Stevens: We're about to find out what this thing is supposed to do. What do you want to bet it's extremely dangerous and nearly unstoppable?
Giant Spider: The Koas resemble very large spiders, only with a head like an octopus. Don't worry; they're friendly.
A God Am I: The crazy Vorta in Fables of the Prime Directive.
Gut Feeling: Discussed in one story as something P8 "Pattie" Blue has learnt to respect, due to influence from the other races she works with:
Though she knew she'd be checking out other facilities, Pattie had a good feeling about this one. One thing she'd learned from softs was to trust intuition. More times than she cared to recall, one of her crewmates had said something along the lines of "I have a bad feeling about this," and the feeling had proved to be an accurate barometer of the situation. As she walked down the corridor, she fingered the pouch containing the datachip. Yes, I definitely have a good feeling about this.
Human Outside, Alien Inside: The Ardanans, who were established in Star Trek: The Original Series as looking just like humans (as did many of the series' aliens). The SCE stories describe the Ardanan brain and demonstrate that its structure and chemistry is very different from that of humans.
Humanity Is Infectious: Some of P8 Blue's belief systems are influenced by the humans she works with; she begins to find an interest in history, and even feels slightly maternal towards her larvae, being a little sad when she drops them off at the childcare centre, never to see them again.
Hurl It into the Sun: A solution to the Dancing Star problem, or so the characters initially thought. The Dancing Star is a very advanced ship, though, and was designed to survive in there. In fact, it dives into stars to refuel.
In-Series Nickname: P8 Blue is known by the nickname "Pattie". In fact, most members of her race have a nickname - B6 Blue, for instance, is "Bishop" and Z4 Blue is "Ziff".
Informed Judaism: Averted. Captain Gold and his family are Jewish (his wife is a rabbi, no less), and it’s most definitely not Informed Judaism. As a result, Jewish customs and traditions are frequently mentioned or observed.
Insectoid Aliens: The Nasat, who resemble pillbugs. They therefore look like crustaceans, and are actually arachnid (eight limbs). Major character P8 Blue is a Nasat, and they're allies of humans, being part of the United Federation of Planets.
Lampshade Hanging: In "War Stories", Sonya Gomez, looking for every bit of extra power, curses the "fool of an engineer who designed the holodeck with an incompatible power system." This was a reference to the much maligned Hand Wave from Voyager to explain why the crew could use the holodeck under their desperate circumstances.
Luck-Based Mission: The Minstrel's Whisper, being a ship powered by what is more or less an improbability drive, essentially turns any mission into this. Beware the peanut butter... it can be quite unlucky at times. Tev later turns this to his advantage, though; he uses technology from the Minstrel's Whisper to help bring a crisis on New Mirada under control.
Nasat-Eating Plant: The Citoac are a sapient variety... though they only eat their Nasat neighbours when they can't get their usual nourishment through photosynthetic means.
The first is P8 Blue, who likes to "shake things up" and have adventures, in contrast to the rest of the Nasats, who are super-cautious, conservative, and hate taking risks.
There's also Soloman the Bynar (formally known as 110), who received his name after his mate died, and he refused to return home and take a new partner as expected.
But the trope is averted with the third alien character, Tev, who is very much the stereotypical Tellarite. This is noted by a human character, who in fact thinks Tev is the most stereotypical Tellarite he's ever encountered.
Named After Their Planet: Sometimes played straight (Resaurians from Resaurus, Rhaaxans from Rhaax), sometimes averted. Most notably, the Shmoam-ag aren’t from “Shmoam” or “Shmoamia” but from “Earth”. Apparently, it isn’t the first time the translator has done that — many cultures call their planet of origin “earth”, “dirt” or “ground”.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Security chief Lt. Commander/Commander Domenica Corsi is nicknamed Core-Breach for her temper. We don't see if often, but that's mainly because the crew are extremely careful about setting her off.
Penal Colony: The Resaurians in the two-part story The Demon have a penal colony inside a black hole, of all places.
Pig Man: The Tellarites, of course. Fabian Stevens insists he finds racist jokes about the Tellarite-pig resemblance tasteless, yet he seems to have an awfully large collection of them stored away in his mind. He would never accuse Tellarite team-member Tev of "hogging the glory", oh no...
The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Usually averted. Rebel movements are often very ambiguous and/or complex. The Silgov, though clearly victimized, are presented as questionable in some regards themselves, willing to victimize Koa in turn in order to get what they want. Likewise, the X'Mari Resistance are sympathetic, but clearly no saints. The Nachri rebels are questionable in conduct, too, although their grievances may well be legitimate.
The Bynars were originally this to a race of now-departed AIs, though they now have their own civilization.
The unnamed race who once colonized Sarindar created artificial creatures to gather food for them; two of these remained intact up until 2376 and took the form of crystal creatures known as shii, contributing to the legend of the monster shii.
Shout-Out: The story Out of the Cocoon features a colony of clones. One of the clone family lines is named DiCamino, suggesting the cloning planet Kamino from Star Wars. Another line is named Hammond, after the fictional creator of Jurassic Park.
The series as a whole has more than a few to M*A*S*H. Captain Gold is directly based on Colonel Potter, and in several stories it really shows. The basic concept for Tev, meanwhile, was "Charles Emerson Winchester the Tellarite."
Skewed Priorities: Played with in Age of Unreason; a character trying to violate his world's laws and contact the Federation for help is chased down, and the police plead with him to surrender so they don't have to shoot — which might damage the building he's in. The character actually feels pride and hope that they consider the building's health more important than his, reflecting that "perhaps there's hope for my people after all".
Snake People: The Resaurians. Unusually, most of them are friendly.
Space Mines: The Gorn Hegemony makes use of these, and fields specialized mine-launcher ships. One such vessel causes trouble for the Corps of Engineers in the story “Where Time Stands Still”.
Spinoff Sendoff: Captain Picard and the crew of Enterprise feature heavily in the first novella; Geordi La Forge hangs around for a few stories more, until the new characters are established enough to carry the series.
Starfish Language: The Citoac communicate by using sounds of a pitch that stimulates the brain of another being, directly influencing their neurology.
Stay in the Kitchen: The Nalori have a similar ideology, and resent having a female performing administrative work at their facility on Sarindar.
Stop Being Stereotypical: P8 Blue to many of her fellow Nasats; she hangs a lampshade on it in a discussion with a non-Nasat friend.
Terraform: A two-part installment features the da Vinci called to Venus, to participate in the terraforming project there. The Bynars are providing the humans with assistance.
Time Travel for Fun and Profit: One story involves a Ferengi finding a time machine and using it to manipulate the stock market in his favour. He becomes a success story "overnight", but his meddling is soon dealt with by the Corps of Engineers, who stumble across his base. After a short chase through planet Ferenginar's recent past, he's apprehended and his time machine destroyed.
To Be Lawful or Good: Scotty and Admiral Ross have a lengthy conversation about this in the story The Future Begins, following Scotty's temporary retirement (having lost faith in Starfleet after being roped into one of Admiral Nechayev's more underhanded operations). The exchange involves Ross revealing the incident that led to his awareness of Section 31 (as revealed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
Weapon of Mass Destruction: Several times. The Rhaaxan homeworld and its colonies were both secretly developing them, for potential use against the other. In the Wham EpisodeWildfire, it was feared the title Wildfire device could be used for this purpose, though it wasn't intended as a weapon. Finally, recurring villain Overseer Biron and his crew were attempting to reconfigure the abandoned Empok Nor station into a superweapon. The da Vinci crew team up with characters from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch to stop them.
Weirdness Magnet: The da Vinci, as lampshaded in unusually specific terms by Fabian Stevens following their second crazy Vorta adventure in as many weeks.
Wham Episode: Wildfire, in which a major character is killed off, along with several supporting characters, and the ship is crippled and nearly destroyed. For the entirety of the rest of the series, the events of Wildfire will be haunting the surviving characters.
What a Piece of Junk: The Lovell. It's an old Daedalus-class starship that had been decommissioned for half a century before the Starfleet Corps of Engineers claimed it for their own. It has mismatched hull plates, welds and patches all over, and rattles like it's about to explode when it first accelerates to warp speed. But because it's a ship full of engineers who have nothing better to do than tinker, repair, or rebuild things it can keep up with (or outrun) any ship in the fleet.
Whole Episode Flashback: 10 Is Better Than 01. Most of the other "What's Past" stories, too, though they usually have a prologue and epilogue set in the "present".
You Didn't Ask: This is the Keorgans' response when Carol Abramowitz and Bart Faulwell demand to know why the danger facing the Keorgan capital wasn't explained in the report they were sent before arriving.
You Have Failed Me: Averted with Overseer Biron's Sponsor, who is quite understanding on those occasions where Biron fails in his task. Biron himself, on the other hand, is happy to kill crewmen who disappoint him, as is his right as an Officer class Androssi.