Here goes, guys, cranking it up a notch for you..
Marine Captain Shelly O’Connell, fully awake but only partially dressed, stepped onto the already crowded bridge. Her pant cuffs hung, un-bloused over her black boots while her uniform blouse was conspicuously absent, only the skin-tight black undershirt covered the upper half of her body, from narrow waist to amply curved chest. Quickly sizing up the lack of emergency footing on the bridge, she leaned back against the doorway, crossing her arms. “Well, If I must say so, that’s an interestin way to invite someone to a party. What’s the occasion?” At times, O’Connell slipped from her almost neutral sounding standard to a lilting Irish brough. This was one of those times.
Chief Prak didn’t miss a beat. “Got a nav marker out, and the Commander was kind enough to offer his services in locating it. Ridgeway managed a shrug, “Not really much else going on.” Captain O’Connell stepped towards Ridgeway and felt his forehead with the palm of her hand. “Are you feelin’ alright Commander?”
Without waiting for an answer, she turned towards Chief Prak. “Do you have a medic onboard? I’d like to run routine physicals on my crew, but I’ll be happy to help out your people as well.”
Chief Prak snorted, “Nothing wrong with my people that a good kick in the pants won’t fix. Our ‘Doc’ is in the first office to the port, just aft of the mess deck. Can’t miss the sterile smell. You can run your physicals there.” No Maam, no Sir. Chief Prak clearly wasn’t big on protocol. O’Connell reminded herself that it had probably been quite some time since any commissioned officer had set foot on the Persepheron
Addressing each of the three future Shepard
officers and crew, O’Connell, in doctor mode, said simply “I expect the three of you to report for physicals by 10:00 tomorrow. Do not make me come looking for you.” With that she simply turned and walked out of the bridge, apparently headed somewhere else on a mission.
Forward Observation Bubble, 0015
The panoramic view of the local star field combined with the gentle hum of the impulse engines lulled the already tired Commander Ridgeway into a doze for at least the second time. He had been unable to locate anything remotely resembling a nav marker. This was despite being given a detailed description by Chief Prak before climbing the short jeffries tube up to the isolated bubble.
Below him, unbeknownst to Ridgeway, the Persepheron
slept. A skeleton crew ran the bridge, and a mere two engineers stood watch in engineering. Even his junior officers and XO had gotten over the initial excitement of being underway on a new assignment and realized how tired they were and turned in.
Master Chief Arthrun had tried to get to sleep in the cot Chief Prak had generously placed in his private stateroom, but the Chief turned out to be a heavy snorer and sleep elusive. Thoughts of his wife started playing inside his head. Instead of surrendering to melancholy, Rexar arose quietly, dressed and slipped out of the cabin.
Unsure at first where to go, even on the small tug, Rexar remembered Ridgeway. Deducing that since they were still at impulse, Chief Prak’s joke must still be ongoing, Rexar decided enough was enough. Some light-hearted fun was no problem, but staying at impulse for several hours, just to satisfy the Chief’s smug sense of humor was too much. It was delaying their arrival at the Shepard
With direction behind his step, Rexar walked through the quiet tug towards the observation bubble. When he reached the ladder he called up, “Commander Ridgeway?” A grunt came back down the tube, then, “What is it?”
Rexar started climbing up the tube, “Sir, Master Chief Arthrun here, I’m coming up to you. There is something I think you should know.”
Ridgeway shook himself further awake, “Alright Master Chief, it’s cramped, but the view is spectacular.”
Rexar climbed easily up the ladder and stood next to Ridgeway with his elbows resting on the padded ring that surrounded the top of the jeffries tube. “Sir, you are the victim of a prank, there is no nav marker.”
Ridgeway chuckled softly, “I know, Master Chief. I was curious to see how far Chief Prak would take this, and I didn’t want to ruin his fun. Then I realized how sleepy I was and....” A loud clunk, followed by a cracking noise that surrounded the two stopped Ridgeway mid sentence. To Rexar’s surprise, spider cracks spread out in the clear dome behind Ridgeway’s head as a dark object tumbled against the top of the dome and off into space. The cracking noise continued and was instantly accompanied by the telltale hiss of an atmosphere leak.
Thinking quickly, the Master Chief was unwilling to risk their lives on the assumption that the tug was equipped with emergency containment shielding. He unceremoniously shoved Ridgeway down the Jeffries tube, and while sliding down after him, hit the emergency hatch button hard with the palm of his hand. The hatch swung into place just as the fractured dome gave way and exploded outward, wind rushing past Ridgeway and Arthrun until the hatch closed fully.
The hull contact sensors might be broken, but the decompression alarm functioned flawlessly. Within seconds, crewmembers were running to stations throughout the tug, and Chief Prak groggily called the bridge to get a status report. “What have you done to my boat?” He barked through the speaker. The crewman’s answer brought Prak instantly awake and out his door without even clicking off the intercom or listening to the full report, “Chief, status board indicates decompression in the forward observation bubble...”
The Tellarite might have been shorter than the average human, but as he ran through the cramped passageway, pushing crewmen out of his way, his size proved to be an advantage. Within seconds he had reached the access tube to the observation bubble, and was first relieved and then apprehensive at finding Ridgeway and his Andorian Engineer dusting themselves off as they stood from the deck. “Are you injured?” was all he could think to say.
Rexar spoke first, “We seem to be unharmed, but I can’t say the same for your observation bubble. Something must be wrong with the deflector array, and it’s obviously not showing up on normal operational diagnostics. In a way, we are fortunate we didn’t go to warp, as it might have proved fatal. Take me to engineering. I want to find out what’s going on.
Chief Prak made a mental note to thank the Andorian for not blaming him for the accident, despite the fact that he felt a great deal of responsibility for what had happened. At least he felt bad for having Ridgeway in the observation bubble in the first place. As far as the deflector array, someone was going to get a serious portion of his posterior chewed off when Prak found out who was responsible.
The Master Chief seemed like a no-nonsense non-com, at least where work was concerned. Maybe, Prak thought, the Andorian would be able to coax performance from the Persepheron’s
engineers that so far had eluded the Tellarites brash leadership style. Chief Prak headed off towards engineering. “This way,” he said, Arthrun and Ridgeway in tow.
A damage control team moved in as soon as the area around the observation bubble emptied of non-DC personnel. The investigator climbed up the jeffries tube and checked a gauge before climbing back down. “Showing zero press on the other side of the e-hatch, let’s just bolt it down. Nothing we can do until we can get to it from the outside.”
Chief Prak stormed into engineering. “Where’s Thompson?” He growled. The on duty engineer came around a pylon, “He’s with the DC team, Chief.”
Stomping over to the deflector controls, Prak shouted, “Get him here, NOW!” Then, lowering his voice only slightly he waved Rexar over, “Here’s the deflector grid, it’s showing normal operation. No, wait a minute, what do you make of this?”
It had been years since Master Chief Arthrun had been anywhere near a deflector grid. The closest thing was the control system on the geothermal climate control Rexar had maintained for the greenhouse at his living complex. Still, years of Starfleet experience, while they may fade, never disappear completely. As he tentatively pushed a few buttons and studied readouts, knowledge, and what to do with it, returned.
It only took Rexar a minute to run a brief diagnostics and look over the system log for the past day. With Ridgeway looking over his shoulder, doing his best to look part of the process, the Master Chief found what he was looking for.
“Here it is. Right after the Persepheron
left the starbase, when we ran into that debris field, someone did a fast restart of the deflector power shunt. Some sort of feedback loop was threatening to take the deflector offline. The restart actually would have worked if the primary inductor coil hadn’t already been overloaded. From the looks of it, the coil was far enough out of calibration that it even made the feedback loop possible in the first place.”
Master Chief Arthrun punched a few more buttons as he continued speaking. “Someone was sloppy here. He knew what he was doing, but it seems like he took an unnecessarily dangerous shortcut.”
Chief Prak was fuming by this point. Petty Officer Thompson had the misfortune to come striding into Engineering at that precise moment. “You wanted to see me, Chief?” He asked, obliviously optimistic.
Thompson was lucky that nothing throwable was close to Chief Prak. The look Prak gave the poor Petty Officer visibly withered the man on the spot. “Unless you want to be reminded, very personally, what it’s like to be a Crewman Apprentice, get over here and tell me WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY DEFLECTOR!”
Rexar, with his sensitive antennae, winced at the sheer volume that emanated from the Tellarite. Even Ridgeway took a step away and had to avoid clasping his hands over his ears. Thompson withered further, but approached, looking puzzled. “What do you mean Chief?”
Chief Prak stood, practically shaking with rage, “What I mean is that we nearly lost two of our guests when something collided with the forward observation bubble! If the deflector had been working properly, it would not have happened!”
Thompson nodded, “The last time anyone touched that panel was when we bumped that freighter debris. Chief Marconi was down here helping out and…”
Ridgeway went from being as mildly amused as someone who had just nearly been sucked out into space could be to being quite annoyed. Ridgeway was not one to make snap judgments about people, but so far Chief Marconi was not developing a good track record, and they hadn’t even reached their ship yet. “Chief Marconi worked on the deflector?” He said, trying not to grit his teeth.
Thomspson nodded, relieved “Yes sir, he did something right after we hit those first pieces of debris. Then he told me he’d help with the replicators and other problems.”
Ridgeway looked at Master Chief Rexar and shook his head, slowly “Nice of the Chief to volunteer, but I really wish he had asked permission first. Would you handle this Master Chief?”
Rexar grinned, but it was cold grin, “Yes Sir, I’d be glad to.”
Chief Marconi could have picked a worse time to arrive in Engineering, but not much worse. “What’s going on, I heard the depressurization alarm?”
Chief Prak looked at Thompson and gestured towards the exit. “Come on Thompson, we need to have a little chat, and I believe these gentlemen could use some alone time.” Then he looked at the other crewmembers trying to look busy at a control station, “That goes for you two as well, take a break.”
Ridgeway glanced at Chief Marconi who was still in his night clothes, “Chief, you will explain what you did to the Deflector, and why, to Master Chief Rexar. I suggest you make it a very thorough explanation. I will be talking to both of you tomorrow.” With that Ridgeway turned and followed Chief Prak and the other engineers from the compartment.
Chief Prak walked down the corridor, with three of his engineers close at heel, and Ridgeway closing the gap from the rear. The tugs intercom activated on all-call, “Chief Prak, contact the bridge. Chief Prak, contact the bridge.”
Prak stopped suddenly and his engineers bunched up to avoid piling into the Tellarite as he quickly punched an intercom button. “What?” He said gruffly.
Ridgeway wondered briefly what the Chief was like on a good day, and then listened to the voice coming from the speaker box. “Chief, we’re getting an audio transmission I think you should hear.” Chief Prak asked, less gruff, “What channel?”
The Crewman on the bridge answered, “Um, it’s not on any channel Chief, it’s on tight beam laser.”
Prak became annoyed, clearly not enjoying the guessing game. “Just patch it over the speaker, I haven’t got all night.”
As Ridgeway listened, a voice came over the speaker, echoic and synthesized. “We Are The Borg. Resistance Is Futile. We Will Add Your Cultural Distinctiveness To…” Chief Prak punched the com override button, cutting of the transmission, “Gragnar’s balls, what are you doing just listening to this, GO TO RED ALERT.”