SEASON 2: EPISODE 09
WAITING FOR THE SUN: Part Five
“I’m surprised you kept her going this long,” confessed Lt. Commander Pavlo Celcho to the person in charge of the Fairstar’s engineering crew.
He was one of the first people to beam over from the Swiftfire when Commander Core deployed the repair teams. There were six teams on the enormous vessel all spread from bow to stern. He was commanding the team in the cavernous engineering bay of the vessel as they inspected what would be the largest warp core any of them had ever seen. It had to be more then twice the size of the warp core on the Galaxy class starship.
“In truth so am I,” said Caleb Banner. The tall wiry humanoid was tired and dirty, which Celcho could understand. Banner had been working non-stop trying to get the warp drive back online.
“The problem is you don’t have enough personnel to keep a ship of this size at an adequate level of repair,” stated Celcho.
“You’re telling me! When I joined up I didn’t realise how few personnel we would have and how many would be required. These ships normally operate with an engineering crew not much larger then the one we have!”
Celcho ran a diagnostic on the main engineering console. “These ships do have an impressive array of backup systems, automation and automated repair systems to allow for a comparatively small engineering crew,” he agreed. “The only problem is that they don’t ship out for extended periods of time as you have done. They do one or two cruises and then go into the company docks for a complete work through.”
“Now I know that,” said Banner. “How did you know?”
“My parents ran a shuttle repair and maintenance business on Earth and we had a contract with a company that ran one of these vessels to service their shuttle force,” revealed Celcho. “Have you had much experience with operating warp cores?”
“Yes I have!” said Banner defensively. “I’ll have you know I’ve served on half a dozen different vessels in engineering, two as chief engineer and I’ve never had a ship lost from a fault in engineering either. Not only Starfleet Academy can produce people who know how to operate starships you know!”
“Sorry,” apologised Celcho. “I didn’t mean to offend. So you checked for the common problems?”
“Of course! I checked the purity of the deuterium and the antideuterium. The dilithium crystals are fine and so are the field coils. The warp drive should work”
“But it isn’t…so something must be wrong,” said Celcho. The diagnostic again revealed that the warp drive was offline but it stated that everything was working. Celcho started to think that it was the diagnostic that was wrong. “Have you checked the diagnostic?”
“What? Why would we do that?”
“Well, it is telling you nothing is wrong with any of your systems yet the warp drive won’t work.”
“Well, that doesn’t mean anything. The diagnostics on this ship are not that all-encompassing. The problem could be a number of other things. Plus if the diagnostics aren’t working properly how do we test what is working? To test individual components of the system manually would take days at least.”
Celcho gave Banner that, it would take far too long to find the problem that way. “You haven’t tried to engage the warp drive have you?”
Banner looked at Celcho as if he had just insulted his mother. “Of course not! The system says its offline, so the safeties won’t allow you to get very far so that you don’t cause a feedback that could destabilise the core.”
“I think we should try.”
This time Banner was speechless from the shock.
“We’ll remove the safeties and channel a very small amount of plasma through the warp plasma conduits into the nacelles. The charge won’t be enough to actually jump to warp but it should be enough that a live test will actually show where the problem lies.”
“What about feedback?”
“We’ll set up a grounding device so that any feedback can be channelled away from the core and into the general electro-plasma system. It might make the lights a bit brighter for a second but other then that it should be fine.”
Banner still did not think it was a good idea. He voiced his opinion at least a dozen times as they disengaged the safeties and prepared the grounding coil on the EPS conduits. He was the type of engineer that went by the manual, which told Celcho one thing, he was not a home trained engineer. In his experience there were two types of engineers, the ones that grew up doing it and the ones that went through proper academies. The ones that went through academies were your Banners, they were good engineers but they were limited by rules and regulations that they were taught. The ones that grew up doing it were just as good but more reckless and open minded towards how things should be done. Starfleet tried to produce engineers in the middle, ones that were trained into safe and good practices but were also inventive and open towards ingenuity.
“We’re all ready, sir,” reported Crewman Davis.
“Great. Remember, I only want a very small flow of energy into the warp drive system so we’re going to start with a very low power setting and then work our way up until we get something definitive.”
“Or we blow up the ship,” muttered Banner.
“Or that happens…which ever is first,” joked Celcho. Banner did not seem too impressed by the joke. “Tough crowd,” he said under his breath. “Okay, give me power…now!”
Despite Banner’s grim predictions the experiment went exactly as planned. The slow and steady power increase finally did give Celcho the answers he was seeking. As he and Banner analysed the results Banner admitted that his plan was not that bad of an idea after all.
“You seeing what I’m seeing?” asked Celcho.
“I am. This is worse then I thought.”
“Damn, the commander isn’t going to like the sound of this.”
Commander Core was giving her report to Rear Admiral Douglas from the bridge of the Fairstar; Captain Smith was by her side.
“As you can see that the warp drive system is not in good shape with the plasma injectors are completely failing and a number of other niggling problems.”
“Does your chief engineer think he can get the warp drive back up and running?” asked the Admiral.
Core sighed. “It will take time, but he thinks they should be able to do it. The other problem is that with the diagnostics system failing it brings him doubts as to the safety and the working order of other systems onboard. The central computer core appears to be damaged and is the reason for the erroneous reports. That problem is not one he can fix with the parts he has available.”
Admiral Douglas looked off screen briefly as she consulted another display. “I’m going to bring the rest of the task force to you. We’ll set up defensive positions around the ship. I’m going to evacuate the civilians and any non-essential personnel from the ship to the carriers in the task force. They’ll be escorted to the nearest Federation facility that can handle them. We’ll try and save your ship, Captain Smith.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” said Smith sounding relieved.
“We should be there within the hour. Oh, before I go has Captain Masters returned yet?”
Core had forgotten about the captain in her dealing with the Fairstar. “Not yet, Admiral. He departed from Deep Space 9 two days ago. He should arrive sometime in the next twenty-four hours.”
“Very well. Admiral Douglas out.”
“What a pleasant lady,” commented Smith. “I wonder if there is any El Aurian in her.”
“I think you should inform the civilians and your crew about the change of plans and prepare to depart this vessel.”
“I’m not sure how some of them will take the news. As I mentioned before some of the people onboard partake in some extra-legal activities and might not be happy or willing to be turned over to Starfleet.”
Core admitted that this could be a problem. “Tell them because of their service in protecting civilians that will not be prosecuted on any of their past crimes once they transfer to a Starfleet vessel, as long as they act appropriately. They will also be allowed to leave the place they depart the vessel from without arrest. If they have a ship, they are welcome to leave now and take their chances.”
Core knew that at this time she did not have the authority to make such claims or to offer any deals to any wanted criminals and that Admiral Douglas might not be too pleased with her overstepping her boundaries as she had just done. She hoped that when the admiral did arrive she would understand and support her decision. Last thing they needed was to have a fire fight break out on the ship or for anyone to be taken hostage. Plus if any did leave there was a good chance that they would run into ships from the task force as they came to join the Swiftfire and any vile criminals that might escape that way could still be apprehended.
Captain Smith accepted her decision and went to inform the ship’s passengers and crew. Core silently wished that Captain Masters was there dealing with this instead of her.