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Old February 13 2009, 06:16 AM   #1
Lieutenant Commander
February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

This is the first part of a two-part saga of a lowly lieutenant on the TOS USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, Part 2 will be posted later. Hope you enjoy it, and all comments are welcome!

Let us say that it is not your average story of duty, honor and reward. Let's just call it:

It is a Significant Assignment
Part 1 of 2

The financial wizards of the United Federation of Planets are well known for their penny-pinching ways. Unlike most government bureaucrats, they have long years of experiences across many cultures that tells them one clear fact: Governments Waste Resources. With multiple threats on multiple borders, and a rapidly growing sphere of influence in the newly named “Alpha Quadrant” of the galaxy, these accountants and fiscal officers fight every day to keep expenses to a minimum, so that when the real conflict comes, the Federation can withstand any disaster or war.

But one place number crunchers were happy to see credits go was to the PR flacks at Starfleet MR/PAC (Media Relations/Public Affairs Council). These people had hit upon some great ideas that actually brought resources to Starfleet, instead of another hungry mouth to feed credits to. Even “Scrooge”, the Federation Security Directorate name for the head of the Federation Accounting Service, would crack a smile when another MR/PAC spreadsheet hit his terminal.

Whenever a Starfleet vessel stopped at a Starbase, civilian station, or planet, it seemed that large crowds of people would line up at every window to see the majestic ship in orbit. Even if it was an outdated NX-class, or an obsolete Royal Oak-class carrier, a majestic Federation Starship drew a crowd. So MR/PAC developed a set of materials to sell to crowds. From CAD drawings to children’s toys, to detailed modelers’ kits, MR/PAC found a way to magically have a stock of merchandise to sell, and tell a story of Starfleet, the protector of the peaceful and freedom-loving Federation.

The best-selling MR/PAC items were the ones associated with the 12 majestic Constitution-class Heavy Cruisers of Starfleet, the “Crown Jewels” of the UFP. The best seller of them all was the second ship of the class, NCC-1701, the aptly named USS Enterprise. But in all the manuals and drawings, models and history texts, there was one small part of the Enterprise nobody ever really saw…

The Main Briefing Room has cleared out of personnel from the last routine command staff meeting. Captain Kirk has already exited the room for the Bridge, and most everyone else had gone back to duty stations or offices for the “paperwork” these needed meetings generated. Two people had not exited the MBR, First Officer Spock and Chief Engineer LTC Montgomery Scott. As first officer, Spock had the responsibility of handling crew matters, be it assignments, duty shifts, or drills. Scott, or “Scotty” to people he befriended, had the same power in Engineering and its related departments, under Spock’s supervision. However, there was one personnel decision they had to make together. Scott began the discussion.

“Aye, it’s time to move ch-Rhind. He’s a-been there long enough. I’m told he’s even toned down his voice, not scaring the enlisted lot any more.”

“I concur; his manners and leadership have greatly improved in the last star month he has been assigned. I believe it is my choice to replace him.”

“Aye Spock, ‘tis true. But I’d be asking a favor of you this time. I have a new J.G., Reed is her name. She has some rough ends to sand off, and I need her to shape up quickly, or I have to find a new warp computer specialist. Her ego is too big for her rank at this moment.”

“Mr. Scott, while I sympathize with your problems molding Lt. Reed into your staff, I have a full lieutenant who needs to expand his operational knowledge of a Starship. He has a good future in Command, but...”

“But he reconfigured the helm station and did not tell Sulu he switched the Emergency Warp and main viewscreen controls.”

“Yes”, responded Spock dryly. “The Captain still has not gotten the coffee off his dress uniform yet, and Dr. McCoy has not let him forget about losing several lab samples.”

Scott thought it was more like a bottle of Saurian brandy the good doctor “lost”, but he let the thought pass. “Aye then, well, I surrender to your choice, Commander. And may God have mercy on his soul.” Scotty’s eyes twinkled, wondering what would happen to an unfortunate young officer in the coming day.

Lt. John “Mack” King was that unfortunate young officer. He had graduated at the top of his class at the Academy, was moved up the ranks quickly, and had finished Command School in almost as fast a time as the famous James T. Kirk. The curly red hair, big frame, leadership skills, and happy-go-lucky personality made him a lot of friends, and revealed a person with real gifts for command. Recently assigned to the Enterprise as the Gamma-shift helmsman, “Mack” had a great record, until that fateful day when Capt. Kirk wore his coffee, and Lt. Sulu almost flew the Enterprise into a Class 3 ion storm. After that, well, let’s say that Sulu always seemed to relieve Mack four or five minutes before Alpha Shift came on duty, so Mack was not around when the Captain entered the Bridge. Well, Mack may have been gone, but he was not forgotten…

“Aye sir” was all Mack had said when Spock had given him his new assignment. He had been instructed to go to turbolift 27 on deck 7 to travel to his “short-term transfer” station. It was a “significant assignment” according to the First Officer, and since Vulcans never lie, Mack was very willing to get at it, to give it his best shot. After a few days of this new work, he can get back to his helm position. Or so he thought.

Unlike other turbolifts, this one was pristine, like it was used infrequently. It was also a long trip for Mack, with several changes in direction and speed changes, “almost like it’s going around the piping”, he thought. Then it stopped.

When the doors opened, Mack found himself in a small room. There was a set of doors leading to a sleeping cabin on his left, a food processor and environmental suit closet on his right, and in front of him, a small control station and chair. Above the station was a small access hatch. Other than that there was a constant, deep-pitched hum that filled the space.

Several non-regulation oaths came to Mack’s mind as he looked around, but there was a blinking light just above an access port for the control station mainboard. Obviously, the data chip in his hand was meant to go in the port, so he put it in. The even, almost bored expression of the Vulcan first officer stared back at him. The speaker relayed the message.

Lieutenant King, this is an introductory message to your new station. This is a temporary duty for an undetermined length of time. As chief MSORR of the Enterprise, your job is to coordinate C systems and crew aboard the ship…” He never heard the rest of the introduction. All he could repeat was, “O sh--, I am now the toilet cleaner.”

The “Multi Species Organic Resource Recycling” officer on board was the person responsible for the reprocessing of all the waste in the ship. The MSORR was designed to break down waste materials into its basic atomic elements, and then reorganize them into useful items for the use of the ship and crew. It had lots of good ideas behind it, from security to hazmat safety, and it did help feed and care for the crew.

However, the process was totally automated, and the monitoring systems were usually in a small corner of Engineering. The few problems the MSORR system had were usually handled by engineering crewmen, and to have an officer on station to monitor the system was “an unnecessary bunch of crap” according to one young ensign. A Philbite was overheard calling it a “tolpepop” duty, and the few who knew what it meant agreed totally.

Being the intelligent young officer Mack was, it did not take very long to figure out why he was here. “If only I had told Sulu”, he kept saying over and over. But it did not make him feel any better.

It always takes a while to “adjust” to a new posting, and even Mack would go through the same stages other officers did as they got the call to go to the “schiest duty station”: Shock was first (“I can’t believe I’m here”), then anger (What is that stupid Vulcan doing putting me here?”), then resignation (“Well, I screwed up somewhere, so I deserve this”), then acceptance (“Like a Kidney stone, this too will pass”), to prayer (“ Please {insert deity name here}, don’t let my friends find out where I am”), to resignation (“My career is toast {insert appropriate obscene oath here}).

The hardest adjustment there was for MSORR officers became the daily horror of the food processor, since you knew exactly where your “chicken sandwich and coffee” came from. Most MSORR officers lost weight during their posting, and some seemed to never use the officers’ mess after their tour of duty was over.

If there was one thing a MSORR officer had, it was time to adjust and reflect. This posting was a 24 hour on-call station. There would be days, or even weeks, when the system worked fine, and it only took a few status reports to complete the daily tasks of monitoring and maintenance. Then there were hours of misery, when a waste clog fouled up the system, and several crew members had to work several automated systems to get the “sewage” flowing again. The MSORR officer had to coordinate the “repair” or, as one former occupant of the job said, “use the plunger”.

For Mack, the transition from acceptance to prayer came on day seven of his tour. The main OC (organic canal) became hopelessly clogged after some battle damage picked up in a fight with a Romulan warbird backed up the whole system. Of course, after a battle of any duration and intensity, the crew had certain needs that had to be taken care of, which led to even higher levels of organic material going through the system. A back up in the MSORR system was a real crisis, and in this case there was only one solution.

The system board flashed the signal: “Manual intervention required, Junction A”. At this point, the environmental suit closet doors opened, and the hatch above the station monitor board opened. Mack did not have too much trouble figuring out what happened next. After putting his environmental suit on, double checking his connections and oxygen supply, he then climbed the ladder, saw the OC access hatch, and entered the 3 meter wide Organic Canal. It was big enough to stand in, and once he fastened himself to the wall of the main trunk, he got out the OC unit tricorder, and scanned the clog. Time was of the essence, since 430 crew members needed food, water, and relief.

Once the clog site was found, Mack had two chores of great importance. One was to use a special low powered phaser unit to break up the clog. The other was to set up a short duration force field, like a security screen in the Brig. As the clog broke up, the force field would hold back the newly released material in the backup long enough for Mack to get to the trunk access hatch. But Mack had to get out of the OC before the field decayed, or the rush of “material” would flow over him, keeping him in the OC until the flow slowed, usually meaning 20 minutes of darkness, or agony, or one of several other names for it. If Mack had not made it out within 30 minutes of the clog breaking up, a crewman would receive a signal that he was stuck in the system. Then the officer on duty at the main transporter room would beam him out to the main hanger deck, and Mack would spend a longer tour of duty as MSORR officer.

This time, Mack was lucky, the system worked well, he got out in time, and he spent the next hour in a sonic shower, making sure he was clean, several times over.

During Mack’s tour of duty “down below”, the good ship Enterprise moved through the stars on its historic mission of peaceful exploration for the Federation. Little did he, or anyone else on Enterprise know the man with the plunger would have to deal with a bigger issue than the OC in the coming days….

(End of Part 1)

Last edited by CaptainGold; February 13 2009 at 04:06 PM.
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Old February 13 2009, 09:52 PM   #2
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Ok, when the call came for a "lower decks" story you answered it with a vengeance. I'm still cracking up. Well, done!
...sf fandom is only a personality disorder if you do it right.-Klaus - archive stories! for honest gaming

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Old February 13 2009, 09:57 PM   #3
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

A fun story, and TOS era no less! Which, of course, makes me happy. One quibble (yes, I'm really that anal):

“Aye, it’s time to move ch-Rhind. He’s a-been there long enough. I’m told he’s even toned down his voice, not scaring the enlisted lot any more.”
The 'a-been' is incorrect. Dunno if you were trying to go for more authentic, but that's not quite proper for a Doric-scots accent. Just 'been' is fine.

Otherwise, though, it was funny and enjoyable and I really liked it!
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Old February 13 2009, 09:59 PM   #4
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Ah, not just a look at the rarely noticed personnel but also a (way too detailed) look at the rarely seen ... uhm ... sewage system on a starship. Ok, you weren't that detailed but the imagery was quite enough to make me regret my lunch, thanks a lot.

Having said that. A fun story so far, looking forward to the conclusion.
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Old February 14 2009, 06:56 AM   #5
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Quite funny! I'm curious--will "Part 2" be part of your official submission as well?
Are you a Cardassian fan, citizen? Prove your loyalty--check out my fanfic universe, Star Trek: Sigils and Unions. Or keep the faith on my AU Cardassia, Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius!
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Old February 15 2009, 08:25 PM   #6
Lieutenant Commander
Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Thank you for your very kind comments! (Just between us CeJay, I almost put in the header, "Do not read just before or after meals and/or good Pizza". But with the amount of anacids on the market, I decided not too. )

I have been away so, let me just put my answers in one post:

SL, You are right, and the change will be made, unless I can't edit the thing. The more I saw it, the less I liked it, but I did put it in. Thanks for the editing. By the bye, where in NE Ohio do you live? I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, near Akron. PM is fine for an answer.

Nerys, I am not sure at this point. I will post Part 2 in a couple of days, but I fear that Part 2 will push it over the word limit for the story contest.
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Old February 15 2009, 08:50 PM   #7
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

CaptainGold wrote: View Post
SL, You are right, and the change will be made, unless I can't edit the thing. The more I saw it, the less I liked it, but I did put it in. Thanks for the editing. By the bye, where in NE Ohio do you live? I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, near Akron. PM is fine for an answer.
Where you grew up is about thirty miles almost due west of me. ;-) I currently live in Lordstown.
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Old February 16 2009, 03:37 PM   #8
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

It is indeed a significant assignment. This is a great tale from the Lower Decks! It not only shows us a job not many of us would envision as part of the Trek universe but is also illustrates how Spock and Scotty are seen by the lower deck hands. Not to mention the other hero - The Enterprise herself - is seen from an entirely new perspective. Excellent tale.

I don't think CeJay is too strict with the word limits for this month's challenge but you could always check with him. But so far I'd have to say you have my vote.
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Old February 25 2009, 04:17 AM   #9
Lieutenant Commander
Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Well folks, here is Part 2 of "It is a Significant Assignment".

I would request that for the purpose of our contest this month you would judge the first part as the complete prize entry. Parts 2 and 3 make the narrative way too long, and since the tenor of Part 2 is different than Part 1, please consider it as a different tale.

Hope you like it, please pass along comments, corrections, suggestions, and good words, I hope.


It is a Significant Assignment
Part 2 of 3

The Enterprise 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 glamor 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.”

“Stupid transmitter.”

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?”

“Kyle here.”

“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.”

The Enterprise 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 Mack.”

“Shut up Kyle. That’s an order.”

“Aye, sir!”

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.”

“Aye, sir”.

“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 36 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 navigation, 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.

Last edited by CaptainGold; February 26 2009 at 03:03 AM.
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Old February 25 2009, 07:18 AM   #10
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Interesting--can't wait to see what happens!
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Old February 25 2009, 08:20 AM   #11
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

This story just keeps getting better and better! I'm really looking forward to seeing how you wrap this up.
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Old February 25 2009, 11:00 PM   #12
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

To be honest, I don't think you should have posted the second part until after the end of the challenge in order to ensure people would not consider it as part of your entry.

But oh well, what's done is done.

As for the story itself, I'm still impressed by your technical attention to detail, especially for a TOS era story.

Mack is quite on the ball for a junior officer and considering the gravity of the situation. One would think he has some real potential. But not on the Enterprise. Or so history would let us believe. Of course there is still time to royally screw this all up.

Well done, looking forward to the conclusion.
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Old February 26 2009, 03:00 AM   #13
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"


Thank you for the kind words, and your thoughts about putting part 2 up. I will wait to finish until after the voting is complete. If you believe part 2 will disqualify my story from consideration, let me know and I will take it down.

Mack has a lot on the ball, being a full lieutenant at a young age is a good trajectory for an officer. His age is why he is the 3rd shift helmsman. Your quote about "...on the Enterprise," is very perceptive as well. The twists and turns of the "roto-rooter" man of the Enterprise are not done yet.
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Old February 27 2009, 09:47 PM   #14
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

This is both entertaining and rich in texture-you put a lot of thought into the details and it is paying off. Eager for more.
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Old March 6 2009, 07:46 PM   #15
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Re: February Writing Challenge: "It is a Significant Assignment"

Thank you to those who voted for my entry in the February contest. I hope that everyone who read the story has enjoyed it!

After some thinking, and some work, I added some more parts and events, so we have a new section or two added. Please enjoy, and pass your comments along!

It is a Significant Assignment
Part 3 of 4

Anesticene gas was another one of those marvelous products of Federation technology that was constantly making life better for all. It was not quite on the level of the duotronic circuit, but it was above, say, the newly discovered medicine called Sricozone. That new product resulted from the discovery of a natural substance that made Tribbles into what Tribbles are, or rather, do what they do.

Anesticene gas is a potent, but not necessarily toxic gas, which made it perfect for crowd control in confined spaces. It was a product of Andor, surprisingly developed in a crash program by the Andorian military. It seemed that the “blueskins” of Andor could be a cranky lot, especially when it was closing time at the local watering hole and the consumers were not done consuming.

The Andorian military “brass” got tired of losing so many “man hours” to the resultant activity, so they invented a gas that was hard to resist, with few after effects, and did not sink into fabrics, walls, or parts of buildings. The local tavern owners loved it, since they could gas their rowdy customers, call the local police, and be open for business a few hours later with no after effects left for the next shift’s clientele.

Simply put, the gas was “idiot-proof”. Starfleet had one of its best engineering designers, O. K. Murphy, perfect the delivery system, then they put it on newer Starships. The gas had always worked perfectly...

Lt. John “Mack” King did not know it, but Anesticene gas was to work its magic seven seconds after first contact. So he took 30 seconds of breaths, then turned around and told Chief Herman Mauer, “You look just as bad as you did 30 seconds ago Chief. I must still be awake.”

“Thank you, sir. I was just hoping that you didn’t snore.” Mack thought it was good to know that chiefs would smile every so often, anyway.

“Take a moment and get your helmet off at least. You will need to save suit air in case we have problems later. We will get to the system in 10 minutes, then I will need you to help to find a parking spot.”

Chief Mauer took his helmet off, checked the sensors before taking his suit off, then he stopped.

“Sir, I got a funny energy reading from the system. It was there, and then it was gone.”

“What? I thought it was a dead system.”

“Yes sir, it is. 10 planets, a scrubber planet, with a nice asteroid field and a Class B Star. No planets that can host life, according to the sensors. While it has not been explored, it has been charted and there is little of interest.”

“Well it just got a lot more interesting, Chief. Did the energy reading just shut off, or did it fade?”

“Hard to say, sir. If we were not at alert status, with the shields not at full power, I doubt I would have seen it. Commander Spock might have detected it, I couldn’t.”

“Well, good catch chief. Both on the power source and shield strength. Raising shields to maximum.” Mack said that with a sheepish grin on his face. He forgot that shields have to be raised to 100% power, they just don’t go there automatically when an alert is sounded.

“Chief, can you plot the place where you picked up the energy reading? At least get it down to where we can see what planet or body that source is on? I’d rather not have any company until the crew wakes up.”

“I think so, as we get closer I can ask the computer to give us a fix.”

“Good, stay on it.” Keying the communicator at his station, Mack called Lt. John Kyle down in Engineering. “John, have any news. Are you still okay?”

“Mack, I can keep things stable until everyone wakes up. That’s about it. Once we park the ship and power down the shields I will feel much better about the situation. The alert power drain is running me ragged. The good news is that the gas has finished spreading. I accessed the computer records on the anti-intruder system, and my guess is we have about three more hours of the ship to ourselves. Then the crew will wake up with one collective massive headache. The gas is starting to dissipate but not enough to let us go without suits.”

“John, I need to know this. If we get into a scrape, how long can you keep shields and phaser power going with out compromising the ship?”

“Thought you might ask that. Without a phaser room crew, you get about two or three volleys before the circuitry shorts out. I think I can manage the power requirements for 3 to 5 minutes before it gets too complicated for one person to handle. If we take any damage, all bets are off. Mack, don’t get in a fight.”

“I won’t, John. I think we will be parked in a cozy little spot shortly, I’ll let you know when. King out.”

“Bekk, cut all power now!”

“Done, Lieutenant.”

“What did the scans register that tripped the alert?”

“I am not sure sir, but it was big enough to be a Federation Battle Cruiser. He must have scanned the system but there is no way the swine could find us.”

“The PetaQ must have seen our energy output, or he got very lucky. We must hope they do not get lucky again and spot the installation.”

“Chief, has that power reading surfaced again?”

“No Lieutenant, it has not. I have a decent fix on where it was, but nothing exact. It came from the area of the fourth planet in the system.”

Running in the system at half impulse made the trip slow, but it gave Mack time to think. Something was eating at him about that power reading. Like the idea that this system was not as barren as it seemed.

“Chief, call up a tactical map of the area around this system. On screen when you get it.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Okay Chief, think with me about this. This system is 2 light hours from the Neutral Zone.” Chief Mauer nodded. “Look at its location. It is close to no marker or Federation listening post. There is no habitable planet near it. Now, post the normal shipping route from Anneex to Serisutis on the board. What do you see?”

“Lieutenant, I see lots of space, and a leaky border.”

“Yes, but there is something else to see. Let’s assume you want to know the trading traffic close to your border, and get a look at your opponent’s dispositions and patrol routes. The trade routes are too far off the border to see, so how do you get the intel? You find a spot between the patrol routes and the transportation network off the beaten path, and start collecting data. If you run passive scans, or are careful with your power usage, nobody knows you are there. Unless someone comes looking.

“It could also be a cloaked ship, sir. Or just a sensor ghost.”

“Yes it could, and let’s hope it is just a strange reading. It’s not a ship, why waste a ship and crew sitting here? No chief, I’ll bet you a beer the Klingons have a listening post in the system. And if we had knowledge of the Captain’s orders, I’d say they include information about trouble with “pirates” or missing merchant traffic. So they tried to route Enterprise into a patrol region where it would not be spotted. We got lucky and saw them, which shut them down.

“What are we going to do?”

“Chief, we are going to hide, and then we shut down. If there is nothing here, we are fine. If not, well, Klingons being Klingons, if they are here, will shortly power on, and then we have to go hunting. I am going to put us above the South Magnetic pole of the fourth planet. We will be well hidden there from the in-system sensors if they have any here, and we will be close to them if your location is right.”

“If they are there, you want to attack them?”

“No Chief, I don’t. But put yourself in their shoes. When they start scanning, and don’t see a warp trail from us they will suspect that we are still here hiding in system.”

“And think we are either damaged or looking for them? So they will attack, or call their friends in.”

“Right you are, Chief.” And muttering to himself: “I also hope I am totally wrong.”

Pushing the call button again, Mack called Engineering: “John, secure from Battle Stations. Is there…”

“Bekk, where is the Earther ship?”

“No sign of them, sir. They never made it into the system.”

“What about our in-system sensors?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Then power up the station, and resume scanning. Look for a warp trail of the Earther ship.”



“We have active scanning, from multiple points in the system. The activity all leads to these co-ordinates. On the board, sir.”

“You’re kidding? Red Alert! Coordinates fed into firing system, firing photon torpedo.”

“Mack!” called Kyle, “what is going on?”

“We’ve been seen, John. I need full power for phasers and shields. Plotting course to transfer orbit, execute.”

“But you just used a photon torpedo. Mack!”

“Yes John, I did.” Let’s see what happened.”

“Sir, sensor network finds no warp trail.”

“What! Shut down the external system. Raise the shield!”


Darkness filled the small installation. Only after some moments did the small team recover enough to discuss their situation.

“All systems are dead, sir. We are blind.”



“We head for sto-vo-kor, Bekk. Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam.To’ba!”

Looking around, the two suddenly found themselves in a most unlikely place, the cargo transporter pad of a Federation battle crusier. And a very close race began between two hands reaching for their disuptors, a suited human being reaching for a phaser, and a colorless, odorless gas. The gas won.

Mack, you didn’t tell me they would be alive! I almost got shot you jackass.”

“Uhmm, sorry John, we thought they were unconscious from the concussion. You will be happy to know that we are secured form Battle Stations, and Engineering is still in one piece. Is everything under control there?”

“Well, they are under restraint, and out cold from the gas, at least for a while. What’s next?”

“John, we find a new hiding place, and then get lucky. Thanks John, great work. Mack out.”

“Lieutenant, how did you know a photon torpedo would destroy their base?”

“Chief, I didn’t. Once we found out where they were, and that they were looking in-system for us, I just hoped to have the torpedo explosion interfere with their systems long enough to get to phaser range. Being such a small base, I guess they didn’t have enough power to automatically raise shields on contacts. And the torpedo got there before the shields got raised. We were just plain lucky. Who knew we were right on top of them in the first place.”

“Sir, doesn’t luck happen when hard work meets opportunity?”

“It had better. We have to a lot of work to do to keep alive for about two more hours if Mr. Kyle is correct. Chief, you drew the short straw. I will look for a hiding place. Mr. Kyle will try to recover control of Engineering, and you get to check sensor logs. Please look through the logs of the attack, and see if any signal got out from that base. If nothing got out, then we are in the clear.”

“Lieutenant, if a signal did get out, what happens next?”

“We get company.”

Who, sir?”

“A D7 would be my first guess.”

Last edited by CaptainGold; March 6 2009 at 09:56 PM. Reason: Spelling and Format editing
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