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Old March 15 2012, 10:56 PM   #1
milo bloom
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Location: The varied and beautiful Chicagoland suburbs.
March 2012 challenge "What if" TNG - Of Fires and Fate

This was gathering dust in my Google Docs folder for a little while now, and I just happened to check this month's challenge. I didn't spend a whole lot of time on it, it just kept rattling around in my brain until I put the words down. Glad I found an opportunity to share it.


Jean-Luc Picard was doing helm duty on the bridge. He was doing very basic navigational computation exercises. Orbit a planet. Orbit a planet with a moon. With two moons. With three moons. With three moons and a Romulan battle cruiser trying to hide in the gravity well of the second moon, but doing a poor job of it, but you want to act like they're doing a good job of it so you can lull them into a false sense of security. Orbiting a planet in a dual planet system where people keep mistaking the other planet for a moon. Picard had been to that one. Nice place to visit, but he wouldn't want to live there.

To be clear, the exercises were not for Picard's sake. They were for the ship's computers. They had suffered so very badly. The repair crew had had to pull the isolated memory chips containing the backup data out of secure storage, plugging them into the (usually hidden) access ports on stations all over the ship, and then have somebody else metaphorically hold the shipboard computer's hand through all kinds of exercises like this. You couldn't just dump the info into a computer like this, it had to learn how to use it also. Picard had done these types of helm exercises years ago, and had rarely had the chance to sit at a bridge station during his decades as a ship's commander, but the basics never left you and he quietly went about the task, doing his fair share of the cleanup. An ensign sat at Ops beside him and a lieutenant j.g. at the tactical horseshoe, both doing their part to "teach" the computer. The aft stations were being left alone for the time being.

The port turbolift hissed open, though it sounded closer to a wheeze these days and a fresh-faced female ensign jumped out before the door could shut on her. Again. She came down to the station where Picard was sitting, "Sir? Doctor Crusher just cleared me, it was only a hairline fracture." The ships fiery CMO was working near non-stop, she had drafted every able bodied crewmember as orderlies and nurses, and anybody well enough to move around on their own was either put to work helping the strained medical staff, or simply kicked out of one of the many sickbay's all over the ship to get them out of the way. Several of the cargo bays had also been converted into sickbays, and one also for an additional morgue. Any replicator patched into working order was immediately confiscated by the medical team, so all meals were from ration packs. "She also sent this, with a message." She held out one of the food packs to Captain Picard.

Picard took the proffered package as he stood up to allow the ensign to sit at the station, "thank you, what was the message?" The ensign stammered for a moment, "she was worried about you taking time out to eat and she wanted to me to relay the message: 'don't make me come up there'. I'm just relaying the message sir." She hastily added.

"Of course, ensign, I'm not going to phaser the messenger." He allowed a small smile to cross his face. He could just imagine the red-headed doctor forcing the food pack and message on a hapless ensign that happened to be going to the bridge. Inwardly he frowned as he updated his mental picture of his good friend Beverly, her hair had actually caught fire during the incident and she had impatiently asked the ship's barber to chop off several inches since it was just getting in her way. "Now that you're here, I need to attend to some other business, I'll be in engineering first, " he explained as he walked back towards the turbolift. He glanced at the lieutenant at Tactical, "you have the bridge Lt." He noticed the ensign that had brought him the food pack was watching him with a worried look on her face, and Picard knew she was internally debating whose wrath would be worse: Dr. Crusher's for not making sure the Captain ate something; or Captain Picard's, for acting like a mother hen towards him about said food. He peeled the food packet open and began eating, "to assuage your conscience ensign," he stated, with another half smile on his face. She relaxed and turned back to continue the task of re-teaching the ship's computers how to navigate the celestial heavens without bumping into every third planet. Orbiting a planet with rings. Orbiting a planet while being shot at...

As Picard rode the very slow (since they weren't completely trusting of the ship's inertial dampeners yet) turbolift, he quickly ate the food that Beverly had sent. She was absolutely correct to send it along, as he had been neglectful of eating anything on his own. He washed the bland, but filling meal down with the included tube of water just in time for the turbolift to deposit him a few decks above main engineering. That was as far as the turbolift was going lately, but it was close enough to walk the rest of the way. A few paces down the hall someone had taken a waist high storage bin and written "TRASH" on it. It was filled with all manner of detritus, including empty food packs like the one Picard was carrying, and were placed all over the ship. He added his to its contents, knowing of course there was very little of anything that was ever just disposed of on a starship. Once more of the ship's systems were restored, the contents of the cargo container would be recycled into other tools, textiles, toys, whatnot. In the meantime, that type of refuse needed to be taken care of and Picard was glad someone on his crew had thought to set these up.

As he walked into main engineering, he was brought up short by a hastily erected barrier, with another handwritten sign like the trashcan: "WATCH YOUR DAMN STEP!" Looking down, he saw the reason why: various members of the crew were sitting in front of the open panels, and scores upon scores of parts and tools were carefully arrayed around each person on the floor. Isolinear memory chips. Isolinear circuit jumpers. Miniature spot welders. Handheld degaussers. And on the "pool table" in the center of the room, sat another crew member who was surrounded by the boxes of the isolated memory chips for the engineering systems. He had several PADD's he constantly consulted, and from time to time one of the repair crew on the floor would call a part number out to him: "J-52!" The person sitting on the pool table would pull it out of the storage box, "J-52!" he would call back and hand down the needed chip, checking it off on one of his PADD's as he went.

"Oh, good afternoon Captain, Commander La Forge is on the crystal frame, almost has it aligned," the pool table occupant called out to him. "I know this looks a little odd," he gestured around him, "but it helps to keep these backup chips in one place."

"Never apologize for creativity, Ensign, it's what keeps Starfleet going sometimes...especially times like these," Picard answered as he delicately picked his way through the clearly delineated path towards the other side of the room where La Forge was. The callouts and chip distribution continued as he found his way to the ship's Chief Engineer.

"Captain, that was Ensign Kyle's idea," indicating the one sitting on the pool table. "No fuss, no muss, he just got up on the table, which isn't working at the moment by the way and could support four of him if need be, and got everybody into position. He's a natural leader, he needs a few years seasoning of course, but he'll be a great Chief Engineer someday. Anyways, I'm sure you're more interested in the dilithium crystal frame at the moment. All the little detail work is done, it's just putting it all back together and running the tests. Another few hours and we can get warp 1 out of her."

"Excellent work, by everyone," Picard paused, then continued somewhat softly, "I needed to speak to you about Lt. Sally Richards, your first assistant chief." Geordi knew exactly where this conversation was headed. He had always thought he would end up going down this path, but certainly not under circumstances such as these. He had known the conversation would be coming soon though, and had been waiting for it.

"She's great, she's pretty much ready to step up to chief." Geordi and the captain both looked up at the lights. While La Forge had been speaking they had subtly increased in brightness. As if her ears had been burning, the assistant chief engineer's voice came over Geordi's combadge, "Richards to La Forge. I've got the impulse engines up to 81%, that's as good as we're going to get outside of drydock. All the lights and computers should be running a lot better." La Forge looked around the engine room confirming, "looks good Sally, hang on a second" Geordi noticed the captain wanting to talk to her.

"Lt Richards, please keep this line open a moment. Everyone present, just a moment of your time please. Geordi La Forge's time on this ship has been nothing but exemplary since she launched, and even more so here lately. I now must ask him to give a little more, as I assign him to the position of Executive Officer. Lt Richards will step up to Chief Engineer." A polite applause went around the room, restrained for the memory of those that were with them no longer that necessitated pulling La Forge out of engineering and onto the bridge.

For La Forge's ears only, Picard continued, "I know how it feels to step into another's shoes like this, but you and I both knew you were destined to get back on the command track someday. The best way to do honor to our friends' memories, is to take every little thing you learned from them and not only make use of it but also pass it on to those below you now."

"Thank you sir, I'll remember that."
'Tis a lie! Thy backside is whole and ungobbled, thou ungrateful whelp!

Last edited by milo bloom; March 15 2012 at 10:58 PM. Reason: paragraphs
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Old March 29 2012, 12:00 AM   #2
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Re: March 2012 challenge "What if" TNG - Of Fires and Fate

Oh, man, that was a little rough to read; pretty obvious who lost their lives. Sometimes a promotion comes from a tragedy. Nicely done.
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Old April 1 2012, 10:12 PM   #3
Count Zero
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Re: March 2012 challenge "What if" TNG - Of Fires and Fate

I liked this story a lot. You managed to convey the atmosphere and the characters very well with a few, inspired brushes. I especially liked the beginning. It was something Picard might think. The way the crew kept going was quite impressive and nicely shown with a couple of details like the sign in engineering or the requisition of the replicators. All in all, a bitter-sweet story, but well written. You should post here more often!
It's been a while since I last watched TNG so I was unable to figure out on which episode the what if-scenario was based, though.
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