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Old February 17 2014, 06:17 PM   #70
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Re: The Star Eagle Adventures V: Shadows in the Haze

Day Nine: Last Seen Wearing

– I –

“Fusion reactor at 23 percent power output,” said DeMara Deen even while her fingers danced across the Nebuchadrezzar’s piloting controls, desperately trying to get the damaged reactor to produce enough power for the impulse engines to allow them to get back into orbit.

“Not sufficient for engine initialization,” Xylion said calmly, overseeing the efforts from one of the aft stations. “The impulse engine has only 5.2 percent power and requires a minimum of 21.4 is required for safe operation.”

“We don’t need that much, just enough to lift off and for a single thrust strong enough to clear the planet’s gravity. 13 percent engine output should be enough.”

“With the damage sustained by the fusion reactor upon landing, our chances to achieve the required power without further repairs is unlikely.”

But Deen shook her head, unwilling to give up on the attempt. “We’ve been through this. We don’t have the time for more repairs. We need to go now or Srena is not going to make it,” she said. “How do the power couplings look?”

The voice of the tactical officer came over the speakers. “Not good. I don’t think the temporary fix we applied will be enough to maintain this power flow.”

“They just need to hold for a few minutes.”

“If the power couplings fail,” said Xylion, “we will not be able to utilize the impulse engines to attempt to return into orbit.”

Deen turned to look at the Vulcan behind her, her eyes piercing into him. “Xylion, do you happen to have any constructive comments instead of telling us what won’t work?”

Her tone was sharp but if he was offended by it, he did well to hide this. “We may be able to transfer power from the life support system to the impulse engines.”

“And what do you suggest we breathe once we get up there?”

“I estimate the remaining atmosphere in the vessel will be sufficient to support life for thirty-two minutes and twelve seconds.”

“If this works and we can use the impulse engines to get us into orbit, we won’t have enough power left to take us back to Eagle.”

Xylion offered a barely noticeable nod. “Correct. We would have to find a way to draw sufficient attention to ourselves so that Eagle will come to us instead.”

Deen turned back around with a little sigh. “And without communications that’s not going to be easy,” she said. “Oh, well, one problem at the time, I guess. Transferring life support to impulse engines now.”

“Power to impulse engines increasing,” said Xylion as he read his display. “Now at 6.4 percent. 7.8 percent. 9.1 percent. 10.2 percent.”

“Come on, come on, just give me a little more,” said Deen quietly, “and I promise I’ll never speak ill of you again.”

“11.2 percent. Impulse engine power now at 12.7 percent and holding steady.”

“That has to be enough.”

Leva voice came crackling over the speakers. “The couplings can’t handle the power. They’re about to buckle.”

“Attempting to compensate,” said Deen, suddenly very much aware that while the ship could perhaps produce the power they needed to clear this planet, the damaged energy relays were unable to channel it to where it needed to go.”

“It’s no good, the couplings will rupture,” the half-Romulan said, his voice taking on an undeniable edge of urgency.

“Not if I can help,” Deen said and, impossibly, her fingers began to move even faster. “Come on, hold together. We had a deal.”

“Dee, shut it down.”

“One second, I think I got it. Just one more second.”

Xylion stepped away from his station and closed in on the Tenarian in the pilot’s seat. “Lieutenant, Mister Leva is correct. You must shut it down now.”

With a heavy sigh Deen found the shut down command. Except it didn’t work.

“Dee?” Leva shouted urgently.

She shook her head in frustration. “Some sort of energy feedback loop is interfering with the shut down commands.”

Xylion didn’t hesitate. “Commander Leva, you must manually disengage the couplings now.”

The runabout shook from a small explosion in the rear of the vessel. The room went dark as the lighting and displays failed at the same time.

Deen jumped to her feet. “So?”

To her immense relief the tall Romulan stepped into the cockpit moments later. His already dirty golden uniform shirt further stained, his face smeared and his usually impeccable hair standing up. “Still alive,” he said and let himself fall into a chair, clearly exhausted. “Wish I could say the same for the main power coupling.”

Not entirely convinced Deen grabbed a tricorder and checked him over. He had minor burns on his hands and face but was otherwise uninjured.

Xylion returned to a workstation after Deen had been able to confirm he was mostly unharmed. Within seconds he had the lighting and most consoles working again. “A power surge from the defective coupling has caused further damage to various systems including life support and the impulse engines.”

“We’re lucky the fusion generator is still running or we would be out of power for good,” said Leva while Deen applied a dermal regenerator to his wounds.

Xylion turned. “I am afraid that luck is not something we have in any kind of supply,” he said. “The power surge has damaged the impulse engine beyond our capabilities to repair.”

Deen, having finished with Leva’s injuries, droppedinto the chair next to her patient. Her usually beautiful face uncharacteristically mirroring her feelings of complete defeat. “And without engines we have no way to get off this world.”

There was silence in the room for a moment as the reality of the situation slowly sank in. They were stranded now with seemingly no chance at all to be able to affect the kind of repairs that needed to be done to change their circumstances. And with that Ensign Srena’s fate was apparently sealed as well.

“There may be another alternative,” said Xylion, his eyes focused out of the starboard viewport.

His two fellow officers turned to see what he’d been looking at.

Deen stood. “Oh, you cannot be serious.”

Tela had returned once more and now stood a few meters away from the stranded runabout, looking straight back at Xylion through the viewport.

“She is insistent, I give her that,” said Leva.

But Deen angrily shook her head, her recent failure of attempting a lift-off only adding fuel to the fire. “I don’t care. We’ve warned her repeatedly to stay away and I’m done playing these games,” she said and headed for the nearest equipment locker to retrieve a phaser. The fire burning in her eyes making it clear that this time she intended to use it.

“Lieutenant, Tela and her people may be our only remaining option to return the Nebuchadrezzar to Eagle in a timely manner.”

Deen looked confused. “How so?”

“They have agreed to help us with repairs.”

She shook her head. “I think they were very clear on the matter,” she said but then considered him more suspiciously. “Wait a minute. This is about Tela’s last visit. What did you agree?”

“That, if we were to be unsuccessful in our attempts to leave this planet, she and her people would assist us.”

“And why would they do this?” Leva said. “Why the sudden change of heart?”

Xylion considered first the half-Romulan and then Deen. “Their condition is that I remain behind.”

“What?” Deen said. “Absolutely not.”

“Lieutenant, may I remind you that I am in command of this away team and therefore this decision falls to me alone. I firmly believe that we have exhausted all other options.”

But she wasn’t going to have any of that. “I don’t care. We’re not leaving you behind with these people,” she said adamantly. “You are not thinking straight. If necessary we’ll have you relieved of command.”

“Neither you nor Commander Leva have the authority or the required medical competence to relive me of command under Starfleet regulations,” he said in his usually calm tone of voice. “I would further point out that Ensign Srena’s life depends on her swift return to Eagle.”

Deen clearly wanted to argue the point but in the end, she didn’t know how.

“Alright,” said Leva. “Let’s say we agree to this and you stay behind. What exactly can they offer us to get out of here?”

“I intend to find out,” said Xylion and headed for the airlock.

Leva and Deen remained behind for just a moment, long enough to exchange a quick look with each other, before they followed him outside.

Tela had greeted her fellow Vulcan with the traditional salute which Xylion quickly reciprocated. “Have you considered my offer?”

“We appear to have no other option available to us.”

The young Vulcan woman almost frowned at this. “Please do not assume that it was my wish to place you into a position in which you are forced to accept our terms. I was hoping you would agree to remain with us of your own volition. At least for the time being.”

Leva and Deen joined them.

“Nicely put,” said Deen. “Where we come from we still call this blackmail. And most Vulcans I know would never stoop to such a low level.”

“Perhaps even more reason why we so desperately require Xylion’s help,” she said.

But Deen was not convinced. “You’ve really built yourself a nice circular and self-serving argument there. I suppose that way you can justify just about anything, including beating somebody half to death.”

Tela held the other woman’s gaze without flinching “I am greatly disturbed and saddened by what happened to your colleague. It is unforgivable.”

“Right about that.”

Leva took a step closer. “How do you intend to help us?”

The young Vulcan woman turned, apparently sending an agreed signal as at least half a dozen of her fellow settlers came into view from where they had been staying out of sight, carrying a heavy equipment crate.

Deen tensed and reached for her weapon.

Tela noticed. “There is no reason for alarm. We have been able to identify spare parts from our own vessel which we believe may be able to assist you with your repairs.”

The Vulcans brought the crate closer and opened the lid, allowing the three Starfleet officers to inspect the content.

“I’ll be damned,” said Leva, surprised at what he found inside. “Is that a—“

“Yes,” Xylion said. “A thruster control module. An antiquated model but with a few modifications we should be able to adapt it so that it will be compatible with our systems.”

Deen glared at Tela. “What, you couldn’t give us back the module you stole?”

“That has proven more difficult. I am convinced we will locate it eventually but perhaps not in the time frame which is so essential to your injured officer.”

“This will be sufficient,” Xylion said.

“Commander, I don’t like this one bit,” said Deen.

“If you can offer an alternative solution to our problem, Lieutenant, do not hesitate to voice it.”

Deen looked around for a moment. At the almost eager face of the young Vulcan woman, at Leva who seemed uncomfortable with what he knew was the their best and perhaps only option and then at Xylion who kept his own visage so perfectly neutral, it was impossible to tell how he felt about having been placed into this position. Lastly she considered Nebuchadrezzar which in her current condition wouldn’t go anywhere and as such serve as Ensign Srena’s deathbed.

She sighed heavily and then led Xylion away a few meters. “As soon as we get back to Eagle we come back for you.”

“No. If I decide to stay I will do so voluntarily and without deception.”

“What is this, some sort of Vulcan honor code I’ve never heard of before? And besides, nothing about this situation is voluntary.”

“I agree that this is not a decision I would have made if the situation was different. However, I must agree that the scientific opportunities to remain here and study not just this particular rogue planet but also the Vulcan population seemingly having devolved into a more unstable Vulcan society are fascinating.”

Deen shook her head. “You are a Starfleet officer, you have responsibilities.”

“I am also Vulcan and have a responsibility to those who are stranded here who may very well not survive without my assistance. Whereas my skills as a science officer on Eagle are in much lesser need at this time.”

“The captain won’t like this.”

Xylion nodded. “I expect that he will not. I have recorded a statement on the Nebuchadrezzar’s computer to fully explain my reasoning to the captain as well as offer my resignation to Starfleet should this be required.”

“You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”

Xylion raised an eyebrow at that, as if to imply that that had been a silly question, that of course he applied great scrutiny to all of his decisions.

And Deen understood it was pointless in arguing this point with him any further. There was no changing his mind on this one.

“Now, I suggest we focus our efforts installing the new thruster module. I estimate the modifications as well as carrying out repairs to the damaged energy couplings will consume the rest of this day cycle and as you are aware we do not have time to spare,” he said and turned away. The last word on the subject had apparently been spoken.
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