UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador V.
October 23rd 2151.
Although relativly quiet right now, main Engineering was usually deafeningly loud. As such the Chief Engineer's office had some pretty heavy soundproofing. Knocking on the door would be useless, as would waiting to here a cry of 'enter' from within. Malcolm Reed hit the door chime. A moment later a green light flashed, letting him know he could come in.
Trip Tucker was sat behind his desk, intently studying his computer display, plus half a dozen or so pads scattered about. He wore a pair of ear defenders, the engineering ones with the built in communications system. It was pushed up on the left side of his head, allowing him to also use his desk's handset. He looked haggard. Bags under the eyes. A couple of days worth of stubble. As Reed came in he glanced up and gestured to the chair opposite.
"Taylor, you sure 'bout that? There's a red light on my board, ahm lookin' at it right now. Check the couplin's again." he said into the ear defenders microphone, before switching to the handset. "Clare, if we can't get that subspace variance down below thirty percent, we ain't goin' anywhere. If it stays above fifty percent, then we're goin' everywhere
. At once." A pause. "Well try a purge. No, a complete purge. And if that don't work..."
Despite the invitation to sit Reed stayed at parade rest, eyes fixed straight ahead. In his experience it was better to show respect to officers higher than himself in the chain of command. At least, while you did respect them. If they started messing up things were different. And as Reed had found out, that was a regrettably common occurrence. Still, this Tucker fellow seemed the decent sort, for a UESPA, and had acquitted himself well during the Enterprise's maiden flight. He'd have the benefit of the doubt, for now.
Eventually the parade of technobabble drew to a close, and Tucker replaced the handset and and removed the ear defenders. He stretched his arms out, joints audibly clicking, and tried unsuccessfully to hide a yawn. "Sorry 'bout that. Take a seat Malky. What can I do for you?"
Reed paused halfway into the chair. "Actually...you wanted to see me, sir."
"I did?" Tucker looked bewildered.
"Yes sir." Reed sat and fished out a mini pad. "I received a message ordering me to---"
"Oh right, yeah, now I 'member. Sorry, I'm a little caught up in things at the moment."
Reed nodded. "That's alright sir, things do seem a little busy at the moment."
"Right, right." Tucker rubbed his chin. "What it was, I wanted to apologise for not allowing my people to take part in the security drills you got runnin'. I know you want everyone involved...." He trailed off.
"That's quite alright Commander. Even I can recognise that there's some value to having fully functioning engines on a ship. There'll be time for more drills later, when everyone's available. Assuming the Captain allows them, of course." He paused. Tucker could have sent his apology by internal message, or waited until they saw each other at the next daily briefing. No need to summon him for that."Is there anything else sir?"
"Actually, yes. It's not somethin' I normally take much interest in, but with John away I'm second in command of this ship, so I guess I should be kept in the loop. How are the drills comin' along."
Reed hesitated. "Acceptable sir."
"Acceptable." Tucker echoed.
"Yes sir. The results so far are within the acceptable parameters set down by the Admiralty. Just." he added.
Tucker closed his weary eyes and pressed the heels of his hands against them for a moment. "Hmm. I need coffee. D'you wanna coffee?" He stood and went to the drinks dispenser in the corner.
Reed didn't much care for the dispenser's offerings. "Ah...no. Thank you."
The chief Engineer took a sip from his steaming mug. "So. Just acceptable. What's the problem? No, let me guess, The UEMA guys are doin' OK. It's us UESPAs who are lettin' the side down."
"It's a bit more complex than that, sir. Whilst it's true that, on average, the UEMA crew score more highly than the UESPA ones, that's simply because of a greater familiarity with weapons and military procedure. If you look at the security trained UESPAs, their scores are comparable to their military counterparts."
"So anyone with security trainin' does best, huh?"
The Major allowed himself a small smile. "The Marines
do best, sir. Then security trained officers, irrespective of service. Then UEMAs, and then UESPAs. That's dealing in averages of course, there's a bit of variation. Except for the Marines of course. We're always at the top.
"So there's a number of factors as to why Enterprise fares badly compared to the rest of the fleet. For one, half the crew is non military. Slightly more than half, if you count the civilians. A lower percentage of UESPAs have security training, and many of those are currently off ship on the landing party. So that pushes the score down. I ran a few simulations, based on their official records. If they were
with us, that would help. Maybe not equivalent to fleet average, but it'll help."
Trip dropped back into his chair. "Plus you'll have your own people back, that'll make a difference."
"Yes sir, although, not as much as you'd think."
Tucker took another sip. "Really? I'd ha' thought four more marines would make a whole world o' difference."
Reed shrugged. "It's a question of numbers. Enterprise carries twenty marines, sixteen bayonets and four support people." 'Bayonets' was slang for those whose primary job was fighting. "The other Declaration class ships carry forty bayonets, and ten support. And that's on general duties, routine patrol and such. They can go for double that if sent on a high risk mission. Meanwhile we're toddling along here in unknown space. There's no way to judge just how much danger we could be in at any time. In my opinion sir, Enterprise's security level is critically low."
"But hang on a minute. The other ships only have ordinary marines. You guys are the Pathfinders, the best of the best. Surely that gives you the edge?"
"Well, I'd take exception to the idea that any marine could be described as ordinary. But that aside, this is still one of those situations where numbers count. You may think having one super trooper who's the equal of ten normal blokes is a good idea, but what if there are five critical areas, all which need defending at once? The ten normal blokes are a better bet in that situation. And the Enterprise has a lot of critical areas. Plus of course, not even an elite super dooper trooper is invulnerable. One lucky shot by the opposition and it's game over."
"Huh. I see your point. What ya suggest?" asked Trip.
Reed leant forward. "Well, we've been planning things out, running a few simulations. Our best tactic seems to be using the security trained crew as our main line of defence, with regular crew as back up. The marines operate in four man squads, shoring up our defences as needed and if possible launching counter attacks. Sealing the main hatches and bulkheads can slow an enemy advance, while our own people can use the service ducts to get behind them. I'd recommend the addition of movement sensors to the ducts, make sure no one tries the same thing with us. And we've identified a few choke points, places where an advance would have to slow down. If we prepared barricades that'd really help.
"Ultimately though, what we need, really
need, is more people who know how to use guns. That's what'll really make a difference."
The engineer leant back in his chair, deep in though for a moment. He finished his coffee. "OK. OK. I'll be honest with you, I can't see the Cap'n allowin' you to set up barricades on his ship, just not his style. This is a ship o' peace, after all. When he comes back though I'm gonna recommend we offer security trainin' to anyone who wants it. I think you an' your people are qualified to teach. It'll have to be volunteer only though, an' no one'll be officially qualified 'till they take the test. An' they can only do that back at Earth. How's that sound?"
"Very reasonable sir. Just knowing there are more trained people on board would be highly reassuring, even if they don't have the certificate. And yes, my boys and girls will whip them into shape. Thank you sir"
"Hey, if the Enterprise is over run by little grey dudes who wanna give us a severe probin', I don't want you on the table next to me sayin' 'I told you so'."
Reed grinned. "Hopefully, we can prevent that. Is there anything else sir?"
"No, don't think so. See you later Malky."
Reed stood, saluted, and turned for the door.
"Oh, Malky? Just remembered, there was one other thing." Tucker waited until Reed had turned back. "Tell me about the stash, Major."
It's 'Major' now
, Reed thought with foreboding, not 'Malky
'. "The stash, sir?" he asked innocently.
Tucker wasn't buying it. "Yes, Major, the stash. Or the cache, or the stockpile, or whatever the hell you wanna call it."
"I...don't know what you mean sir."
Tucker regarded him coldly for a moment. He tapped a few buttons on his computer then turned the screen around so Reed could see it. "Ring any bells?"
The object on the screen was an olive green storage case, marked with the UEMA Marine Division insignia. A keypad lock held it tightly shut, and sturdy metal struts kept it secure to the wall.
Reed peered closer, but the resolution was too low to make out the identification number. Damn
"We've not ran a scan," Tucker said, "as we weren't entirely sure what sort of safeguards your folk might ha' put in there. But this is a standard weapons locker, isn't it? Half a dozen rifles, pistols, ammo. Mebbe even explosives. Hidden away in one of the service ducts."
Reed's shoulders slumped. "Yes sir. We...I thought it prudent to have a small stockpile. Just in case."
"Just the one, eh?
"Yes sir, just that one."
Tucker turned the screen around so Reed could no longer see it. "And where did we find it, Major?"
Reed thought a very bad word. "Ah, well...you don't need me to tell you that, do you? You've already found it."
"Tell me, Major. That's an order."
"You don't know where we found it, do you Major? Because I took steps to ensure there were no distinguishing features in the image I showed you. Even blurring the ID number. There's more than one of these lockers hidden away on board and you can't tell which one we've found. Now records show you brought four of these onboard last time we were at Earth so I reckon there's at least three more."
Reed tried to brazen it out with forced levity. "Have you ever considered transferring to Intelligence sir? You've got a talent for---"
"Goddamnit Reed! This is serious. We're having a hard enough time fixing the ship as it is without worryin' about stockpiles of weapons around ev'ry corner."
"You damn well should be sorry. You do know we're in this mess because the warp field de-phased, right? Warp fields are affected by all sorts o' things. It's possible, just possible, that one o' your lockers is at a critical point. Could'a distorted the entire field."
"You mean this could all be our fault?" Reed asked, shocked. He shook his head. "I asked M'boto to double check the placements. He said it would be safe."
"Your Mr M'boto is a good technician, but unless he's a better warp field specialist than me I wouldn't take his opinion as gospel. And here's a hint: he's not. So the next time you get a break from playin' your war games, you an' your guys go remove those lockers. Understood?"
Reed nodded resignedly. "Yes sir. Sir, I did get clearance from the XO before installing them."
"I'm sure you did. But I know you didn't get it from the Cap'n. He'd have told me. Now if, if
, he agrees to it on his return, I'll help you find a suitable place or two. Until then you're forbidden' from havi' hidden weapon supplies on this ship. Alright Major, dismissed."
Reed saluted and left. Tucker stood and moved to the offices window, looking down on main engineering. He waited until the big hatch had closed behind the marine before allowing himself a slight smile. There was no realistic way one of those lockers could have been responsible for the warp field de-phasing, not unless it had been place within the engines themselves, but it was a useful fiction. No way was he having anything hidden on his ship without the Captain's knowledge and approval. It just wasn't on.
He stretched his arms out, then turned back to his computer. There was still a lot of work to do.