It is a Significant Assignment
was the most loved of the crown jewels of Starfleet, the 12 heavy cruisers of the Constitution
class. The 12 ships of the class had much of the elite of Starfleet serving on them, and the 430 slots on the ship were coveted by both officers and enlisted crew.
Was it the glamour of the ship, the danger, the status, or “to go where no man had gone before?” Yes to all, to some degree, but a “Connie
” also offered opportunity to every member of the crew. These were multi-role ships, but there were only 430 people to staff it. That meant everyone except the highest of the command staff had to be “generalists” in the eyes of Starfleet’s Personnel Directorate. PD had developed a “1 to 5” rule for staffing them. The rule mandated that for every specialist on a ship from the Captain on down, there needed to be five others who had two or more roles they could perform at a high level to keep the ship functioning.
Crew members were cross trained in two or even three specialties. New Starfleet Academy graduates found that a first posting on a Constitution
-class ship was not always in their favorite area of study. Security officers could do geology research under a science officer, engineers would spend some time as supply officers. Even lowly rated crewmen were trained to assist in sickbay, and NCOs’ did run communications and other important main bridge duties. And of course, everyone trained hard in self-defense and weapons usage.
The result: A posting on a Constitution-class
vessel gave an enlisted man or officer the chance to move up the promotions ladder quickly. The Enterprise
was the Connie that has the highest rate of advancement, and it all started with a dynamic staff of senior officers who set the pace.
It also led to command track bridge officers being given MSORR duty. When said officer botches something up.
In his little “throne room” Lt. John “Mack” King, MSORR supervisor, had learned something about himself. He began to understand what a member of a religious monastery does for a living, and how he was not cut out for that life. In the solitude of his station he found out that even an awful station had opportunities for him, since the long hours of downtime allowed him to expand his knowledge base of a Starship. He read and studied everything he could see on his screen, from technical journals to Starfleet situation reports, and an occasional view of a certain young lieutenant who served bridge duty on occasion…
The short of it was he spent a lot of time shoveling “sh—“ on multiple levels, but he was becoming a better officer for it.
Dr. McCoy and Lieutenant Sulu were talking in the Officer’s Mess after Sulu had come off duty, and the dinner had become a celebration of sorts. The doctor had a reputation as a crusty old geezer among members of the crew. But like so many delectable food offerings on Centarus, their last port of call, there was a very soft and marvelous center under a thick and crusty exterior. That was a great description of one Leonard McCoy.
McCoy made it a point to keep his ear to the ground about the lives of members of the crew. McCoy was not just a CMO of a starship, making the mental health of the crew his concern; he became the unofficial “morale officer” of the Enterprise.
From Jim Kirk to the newest crewman getting over “green gills” on his first cruise, the good doctor kept up on all 430 members of the crew as beings.
McCoy had just unloaded news on the chief helmsman of the Enterprise
. The Captain needed another senior officer with added responsibilities, and Sulu had all the makings of a capable senior officer. McCoy gave Sulu the word on the QT that Captain Kirk was talking to SPD about adding a stripe on someone’s sleeve soon, and starship captains usually won those arguments on the edge of Federation space. Sulu was the man Kirk wanted, and McCoy also felt the need to make Sulu understand that a massive workload increase came with a stripe. That workload would center around more than just a Botany lab and the helm station on the bridge. It would center on people, and hard decisions.
McCoy suddenly noticed that Sulu’s head hit the salad bowl on his tray, and then his head did the same thing into a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Mack was “shoveling” again, and after being stuck in the Organic Canal the previous week for 15 minutes after moving a clog, he was determined to get out quickly this time. He hoped that his job of being the Enterprise’s
“enema” was close to ending, and all kinds of chatter on his environmental suit’s communications tie-in reminded him he was still on the Enterprise.
But to his surprise there was sudden silence on the channel, except for static.
“Crewman Poolo, respond please.”
“Poolo, please confirm A trunk clearance.”
Mack keyed a new channel: “Operations, this is MSORR station, please confirm signal link.”
“Operations, this is King, please respond.”
“I will have somebody’s head for this”, thought Mack as he exited the OC and returned to his station. It’s a bad joke to shut out an officer at the MSORR station, even if it is the MSORR station.
When Mack got to the station board he saw two lights, and two words came out of his mouth: “O God.”
Certain stations on Enterprise
had different lighting sets for alerts, not just Red and Yellow as the Bridge usually displayed. This panel had a dual alert light in front of him, Red/Orange. It was the gas alert. Thankfully, he still had his suit on, even if everything else was crapping out on him.
Another curse: “What the hell, there was no Intruder Alert called, and we are in the middle of nowhere. Computer, status of ship alert condition?”
“Ship is under no alert at this time.”
“Computer, why has anesticene gas been released?”
“Computer, why has anesticene gas been released?”
Then it hit him. The computer will not answer his question, since he was not authorized to get an answer. Well, he was going to get an answer, one way or the other.
Mack ran (if you can call it that in his suit) for the lift at the end of the hallway from the MSORR station. Getting to the lift doors, he called for the turbolift, got in, then hesitated. Standing orders required the MSORR station to be manned at all times, even in alerts. Leaving the station without a reason could cost him a demotion, or even worse. “Screw it”, Mack said, and off he went.
“Deck five, security office.”
“Inaccessible from this station,”
the computer responded.
“Then have turbolift 24 waiting when I get off this one.”
“Lt. King to Security Office, please respond.”
“Lt. King to Communications, please respond.”
“Lt. King to Bridge, please respond.”
“Lt. King to Engineering, please respond.”
“Lt. King to Sick Bay, please respond.”
“Computer, how many crew members are on board?”
“Working. 432 crew members on board. Full crew manifest on board.”
“Number of unauthorized beings on board.”
“Working. None, all beings on board are authorized crew members.
With that answer in his ears, the turbolift halted and Mack ran as fast as an earth turtle for lift 24, and the answers to the mystery. It was a short haul out of turbolift 24 to the Security office.
“Computer, open the Security Office doors.”
“Doors cannot be opened.”
“Of course not, dipstick”, responded Mack, “but that’s why they give bridge officers command codes.”
“Computer, this is Lt. Mark King, Helm Officer USS Enterprise
, authorization Brown-24-Tribe-23-Roller. Open Security Office doors.” The doors opened, revealing a full room of security personnel, all in a state of altered consciousness, or lack thereof.
“Well, this looks no different than my Academy graduation party”, thought Mack. The hangover was going to be a lot worse for them, unless he did something to change it. But the first question that needed to be asked was simple: What happened?
The main security board was clear of intruders; there were no incursions of any kind. But, the board also revealed a more disturbing fact. The anti-intruder anesticene gas had been distributed through out the whole ship, and was still being pumped into the life support system. That meant there was nobody awake to run the ship, a catastrophic failure of a safety/security system that would lead to Enterprise’s
destruction if not corrected.
Every Starfleet ship had what was known as a “Failure Tree”. It is a purposeful software design to make sure ships at warp speed would not somehow run into a destination they were going, or just fly off into somewhere. And since a large amount of “somewhere” included Klingon, Rommulan, or Gorn space, a lot of Federation technology could end up in the hands of a less noble species. The Failure Tree path was unknown, which was its genius. It would be a more or less silent event, until the “boom” happened when the warp core exploded.
Mack keyed his suit communicator: “Computer, ship-wide broadcast. Attention all hands, please report your presence.” After a moment, with a snicker, “Anyone home?”
“John, this is Mack King, Carleton sucks.”
“Get off it Mack, they won the premiership again.”
Being the only two people on the ship who cared about the old game of Australian Rules football, Mack had assured himself this was Lt. John Kyle, not some planted agent with an air supply. It was time to get down to business.
“Where are you?”
“Chief Mauer and I are in a shuttlecraft on the Hanger Deck. The hanger is in vacuum, and the exit doors are locked. Is there an intruder alert Mack?”
“No, we have a failure in the system somewhere. I need to get you up to the Bridge or we will crash and burn somewhere. Suit up from the shuttlecraft, and I will override the doors at the deck control station.”
“Sir,” broke in the Chief, “you can’t do that.”
“Why not?” asked Mack.
“Well sir, there are two reasons. One, the override control in an alert is on the Bridge or Auxiliary Bridge environmental station. Two, how much air does your suit have, sir?”
“A good question, Chief. My suit tells me I have 37 minutes left, plus five or six of reserve.”
“Mack, the Main Bridge will be too far away for us. You need to meet us at the Auxiliary Bridge so we can get the ship under control. We can meet you there 10 minutes after you let us out.”
“Get up here when you can, John, Chief.”
“Aye, sir” was the reply.
Mack snickered into his suit, as he headed for the turbolift. The trip to Deck 8 and the Auxiliary Bridge took five minutes in his turtle run.
“Computer, Open Auxiliary Bridge doors, authorization Brown-24-Tribe-23-Roller.”
When the doors opened, reality set in for Lt. John “Mack” King. The “Yes, sir
” from Kyle and Chief Mauer was not a joke. It was a correct response in the situation, for “the toilet cleaner of the Enterprise”
was now her captain. At least for the next 30 minutes or so he was Captain, until he either got the ship fixed, or he took a long, permanent nap.
“Computer, route all command functions to the Auxiliary Bridge.”
Finding the environmental control station, Mack pulled up a control schematic, and then keyed in the override sequence for Kyle and Mauer to get out of jail. Now he had 25 minutes or so.
What to do next?
“Computer, display next destination and current course and speed.”
“Bullfurd, not the damn Neutral Zone.”
was in fact heading for its newly assigned patrol zone at the Klingon/ Federation border. They were 20 minutes from the border at current speed, which meant that everyone out there knew who they were, and where they were going, on both sides of the zone. Problem is the captain didn’t know where he
was supposed to be going. And unless he got the ship under control, the Failure Tree would be working.
Mack’s first thought had been to take the ship out of warp and power down it down until he could sort it out. But if he did that now, it would be an open invitation for any Klingon warship on the other side of the zone to go try their luck against a Federation starship. Right now, well they would get really lucky.
Well, Mack King may be low on the totem pole, but he didn’t hesitate. He never thought he would ever get the chance to do this, and he dreaded doing it. But he pushed the Red Alert button anyway.
“John, Chief, we are at Battle Stations, no matter how stupid it sounds. Chief, get up to the Auxiliary Bridge on the double. John, I need you in Engineering, here is what you do. First, cut off ventilation to the Aux, next, find a way to get rid of this gas, pronto.”
“Mack, I am at main engineering now. You will be vented in 5 minutes or so. Where will your air come from?”
“Don’t worry John; I have lots of gas to pass.”
“You always do, Captain
“Shut up Kyle. That’s an order.”
Chief Mauer made it a few moments later, putting his hands on his knees for a rest.
“Chief,” Mack said from the help station, what bridge stations are you qualified for?”
“I can work the sensors and science station, sir.”
“That’s great, Chief. Find me a solar system just off our base course. I need a big one with a scrubber planet and an asteroid belt.”
“Computer, status of Torpedo Bay.”
“Torpedo bay is unmanned. Ready tubes are loaded
“Mack, all air is vented from your bridge, and system is closed. You have six minutes plus reserve of suit air, more or less.”
“Thanks John. Chief, I need a course to somewhere in four minutes.”
“Aye, sir. There is not a lot out here to see. This is not the normal course from Starbase 13 to this patrol area.”
“Just find something.”
Now it was time to roll the dice. Mack had vented out the “Aux” for one reason. According to his recent studies of the ship in his “throne room”, he noticed that the “Aux” had an emergency air supply. It was two hours of breathable air for a fully crewed station. It was air set aside in case of a massive decompression of the ship in battle, to give the crew a chance to fight on after significant battle damage. Mack’s gamble was that this air was not contaminated; if it was, then Mack was out of air. He would have to stop the ship in open space and hope that Kyle and the chief woke the crew before real trouble came.
Mack walked over to the cover panel, started the emergency supply system, and then turned to the chief.
“Got a tree hole for us, chief?”
“Yessir! Sending the coordinates to the helm, sir.”
“Course plotted chief, executing at Warp 1.
Chief, I have about two minutes of air left. Here are your orders. If I pass out, you are to hit the lighted button on the nav panel. It will put you in the solar system between the star and the scrubber planet. You are to tell Lt. Kyle to dump the warp core, and fix the problem with the gas if he can. You will monitor the space around us, and if trouble comes wipe the computer core clean, then repel boarders. Chief, don’t get captured.”
“Aye, sir. We will do our best.”
“Well, let’s see what happens. I’m getting a little fuzzy chief. Give me a hand will you?”
Mack and the chief took off his helmet.