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Old November 9 2009, 08:44 PM   #2
Lieutenant Commander
Re: It is a Significant Assigment: Completed

It is a Significant Assignment
Chapter 1

The financial wizards of the United Federation of Planets are well known for their penny-pinching ways. Unlike most government bureaucrats, they have long years of experiences across many cultures that tells them one clear fact: Governments Waste Resources. With multiple threats on multiple borders, and a rapidly growing sphere of influence in the newly named “Alpha Quadrant” of the galaxy, these accountants and fiscal officers fight every day to keep expenses to a minimum, so that when the real conflict comes, the Federation can withstand any disaster or war.

But one place number crunchers were happy to see credits go was to the PR flacks at Starfleet MR/PAC (Media Relations/Public Affairs Council). These people had hit upon some great ideas that actually brought resources to Starfleet, instead of another hungry mouth to feed credits to. Even “Scrooge”, the Federation Security Directorate name for the head of the Federation Accounting Service, would crack a smile when another MR/PAC spreadsheet hit his terminal.

Whenever a Starfleet vessel stopped at a Starbase, civilian station, or planet, it seemed that large crowds of people would line up at every window to see the majestic ship in orbit. Even if it was an outdated NX-class, or an obsolete Royal Oak-class carrier, a majestic Federation Starship drew a crowd. So MR/PAC developed a set of materials to sell to crowds. From CAD drawings to children’s toys, to detailed modelers’ kits, MR/PAC found a way to magically have a stock of merchandise to sell, and tell a story of Starfleet, the protector of the peaceful and freedom-loving Federation.

The best-selling MR/PAC items were the ones associated with the 12 majestic Constitution-class Heavy Cruisers of Starfleet, the “Crown Jewels” of the UFP. The best seller of them all was the second ship of the class, NCC-1701, the aptly named USS Enterprise. But in all the manuals and drawings, models and history texts, there was one small part of the Enterprise nobody ever really saw…

The Main Briefing Room has cleared out of personnel from the last routine command staff meeting. Captain Kirk has already exited the room for the Bridge, and most everyone else had gone back to duty stations or offices for the “paperwork” these needed meetings generated. Two people had not exited the MBR, First Officer Spock and Chief Engineer LTC Montgomery Scott. As first officer, Spock had the responsibility of handling crew matters, be it assignments, duty shifts, or drills. Scott, or “Scotty” to people he befriended, had the same power in Engineering and its related departments, under Spock’s supervision. However, there was one personnel decision they had to make together. Scott began the discussion.

“Aye, it’s time to move ch-Rhind. He’s been there long enough. I’m told he’s even toned down his voice, not scaring the enlisted lot any more.”

“I concur; his manners and leadership have greatly improved in the last star month he has been assigned. I believe it is my choice to replace him.”

“Aye Spock, ‘tis true. But I’d be asking a favor of you this time. I have a new J.G., Reed is her name. She has some rough ends to sand off, and I need her to shape up quickly, or I have to find a new warp computer specialist. Her ego is too big for her rank at this moment.”

“Mr. Scott, while I sympathize with your problems molding Lt. Reed into your staff, I have a full lieutenant who needs to expand his operational knowledge of a Starship. He has a good future in Command, but...”

“But he reconfigured the helm station and did not tell Sulu he switched the Emergency Warp and main viewscreen controls.”

“Yes”, responded Spock dryly. “The Captain still has not gotten the coffee off his dress uniform yet, and Dr. McCoy has not let him forget about losing several lab samples.”

Scott thought it was more like a bottle of Saurian brandy the good doctor “lost”, but he let the thought pass. “Aye then, well, I surrender to your choice, Commander. And may God have mercy on his soul.” Scotty’s eyes twinkled, wondering what would happen to an unfortunate young officer in the coming day.

Lt. John “Mack” King was that unfortunate young officer. He had graduated at the top of his class at the Academy, was moved up the ranks quickly, and had finished Command School in almost as fast a time as the famous James T. Kirk. The curly red hair, big frame, leadership skills, and happy-go-lucky personality made him a lot of friends, and revealed a person with real gifts for command. Recently assigned to the Enterprise as the Gamma-shift helmsman, “Mack” had a great record, until that fateful day when Capt. Kirk wore his coffee, and Lt. Sulu almost flew the Enterprise into a Class 3 ion storm. After that, well, let’s say that Sulu always seemed to relieve Mack four or five minutes before Alpha Shift came on duty, so Mack was not around when the Captain entered the Bridge. Well, Mack may have been gone, but he was not forgotten…

“Aye sir” was all Mack had said when Spock had given him his new assignment. He had been instructed to go to turbolift 27 on deck 7 to travel to his “short-term transfer” station. It was a “significant assignment” according to the First Officer, and since Vulcans never lie, Mack was very willing to get at it, to give it his best shot. After a few days of this new work, he can get back to his helm position. Or so he thought.

Unlike other turbolifts, this one was pristine, like it was used infrequently. It was also a long trip for Mack, with several changes in direction and speed changes, “almost like it’s going around the piping”, he thought. Then it stopped.

When the doors opened, Mack found himself in a small room. There was a set of doors leading to a sleeping cabin on his left, a food processor and environmental suit closet on his right, and in front of him, a small control station and chair. Above the station was a small access hatch. Other than that there was a constant, deep-pitched hum that filled the space.

Several non-regulation oaths came to Mack’s mind as he looked around, but there was a blinking light just above an access port for the control station mainboard. Obviously, the data chip in his hand was meant to go in the port, so he put it in. The even, almost bored expression of the Vulcan first officer stared back at him. The speaker relayed the message.

Lieutenant King, this is an introductory message to your new station. This is a temporary duty for an undetermined length of time. As chief MSORR of the Enterprise, your job is to coordinate C systems and crew aboard the ship…” He never heard the rest of the introduction. All he could repeat was, “O shit, I am now the toilet cleaner.”

The “Multi Species Organic Resource Recycling” officer on board was the person responsible for the reprocessing of all the waste in the ship. The MSORR was designed to break down waste materials into its basic atomic elements, and then reorganize them into useful items for the use of the ship and crew. It had lots of good ideas behind it, from security to hazmat safety, and it did help feed and care for the crew.

However, the process was totally automated, and the monitoring systems were usually in a small corner of Engineering. The few problems the MSORR system had were usually handled by engineering crewmen, and to have an officer on station to monitor the system was “an unnecessary bunch of crap” according to one young ensign. A Philbite was overheard calling it a “tolpepop” duty, and the few who knew what it meant agreed totally.

Being the intelligent young officer Mack was, it did not take very long to figure out why he was here. “If only I had told Sulu”, he kept saying over and over. But it did not make him feel any better.

It always takes a while to “adjust” to a new posting, and even Mack would go through the same stages other officers did as they got the call to go to the “schiest duty station”: Shock was first (“I can’t believe I’m here”), then anger (What is that stupid Vulcan doing putting me here?”), then resignation (“Well, I screwed up somewhere, so I deserve this”), then acceptance (“Like a Kidney stone, this too will pass”), to prayer (“ Please {insert deity name here}, don’t let my friends find out where I am”), to resignation (“My career is toast {insert appropriate obscene oath here}).

The hardest adjustment there was for MSORR officers became the daily horror of the food processor, since you knew exactly where your “chicken sandwich and coffee” came from. Most MSORR officers lost weight during their posting, and some seemed to never use the officers’ mess, or any other food processing unit after their tour of duty was over. For several, the ancient “3 martini lunch” diet became their main source of nutrition.

If there was one thing a MSORR officer had, it was time to adjust and reflect. This posting was a 24 hour on-call station. There would be days, or even weeks, when the system worked fine, and it only took a few status reports to complete the daily tasks of monitoring and maintenance. Then there were hours of misery, when a waste clog fouled up the system, and several crew members had to work several automated systems to get the “sewage” flowing again. The MSORR officer had to coordinate the “repair” or, as one former occupant of the job said, “use the plunger”.

For Mack, the transition from acceptance to prayer came on day seven of his tour. The main OC (organic canal) became hopelessly clogged after some battle damage picked up in a fight with a Romulan warbird backed up the whole system. Of course, after a battle of any duration and intensity, the crew had certain needs that had to be taken care of, which led to even higher levels of organic material going through the system. A back up in the MSORR system was a real crisis, and in this case there was only one solution.

The system board flashed the signal: “Manual intervention required, Junction A”. At this point, the environmental suit closet doors opened, and the hatch above the station monitor board opened. Mack did not have too much trouble figuring out what happened next. After putting his environmental suit on, double checking his connections and oxygen supply, he then climbed the ladder, saw the OC access hatch, and entered the 10 meter wide Organic Canal. It was big enough to stand in, and once he fastened himself to the wall of the main trunk, he got out the OC unit tricorder, and scanned the clog. Time was of the essence, since 430 crew members needed food, water, and relief.

Once the clog site was found, Mack had two chores of great importance. One was to use a special low powered phaser unit to break up the clog. The other was to set up a short duration force field, like a security screen in the Brig. As the clog broke up, the force field would hold back the newly released material in the backup long enough for Mack to get to the trunk access hatch. But Mack had to get out of the OC before the field decayed, or the rush of “material” would flow over him, keeping him in the OC until the flow slowed, usually meaning 20 minutes of darkness, or agony, or one of several other names for it. If Mack had not made it out within 30 minutes of the clog breaking up, a crewman would receive a signal that he was stuck in the system. Then the officer on duty at the main transporter room would beam him out to the main hanger deck, and Mack would spend a longer tour of duty as MSORR officer. After cleaning up his gear, of course.

This time, Mack was lucky, the system worked well, he got out in time, and he spent the next hour in a sonic shower, making sure he was clean, several times over.

During Mack’s tour of duty “down below”, the good ship Enterprise moved through the stars on its historic mission of peaceful exploration for the Federation. Little did he, or anyone else on Enterprise know the man with the plunger would have to deal with a bigger issue than the OC in the coming days….
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