“These calculations check out, eh?”
Lieutenant Commander Klaproth stared critically at the display in front of them. Data flowed gently down the left side of the panel, rippling around an outline for the modifications to the impulse reactors. Caelian nodded very carefully, one hand gripping his other wrist tightly behind his back to keep his gaze steady. Klaproth was not his favorite superior officer. The man tried to run a tight ship, so to speak, and had a reputation of being hard to please. Many of the crew liked to joke that the man ate duranium for breakfast. Never to his face, of course; Klaproth’s sense of humor was much like the man: dry and difficult.
He was also incredibly astute and well-versed in astrophysics, which was one of the reasons Caelian had sought him out. Weir had taken the time to refine the boridium sample and run it through rigorous simulations before bringing it to the other man’s attention. Klaproth had scrutinized his work from every angle, and for quite a while, before he’d spoken at all.
“Yes, sir,” Caelian replied carefully. “I wanted to be sure I had a solid plan before bringing it to Command.”
Klaproth nodded slowly, folding his arms across his chest and swinging his gaze in the engineer’s direction. The grip on his wrist tightened until he could feel his pulse against his palm. “A sensible precaution. Before I bring this to the chief—and possibly the captain—go through your proposal one more time. Succinctly.”
Weir edged warily closer to the display, struggling to maintain his professional smile. If dourness had been a harnessable energy source, Klaproth could have gotten them home easily.
“Energy is one of our greatest resources right now. Whether it’s dilithium, hydrogen, deuterium, or antimatter the Ark Angel needs fuel to do just about everything. And since we’re quite far from Federation space, we need to make every source of fuel count. Thankfully this region of space seems to have a proverbial gold mine of solutions in the form of natural boridium. While we’re still not sure exactly how the stuff occurs naturally, what we should be concerned with is that it’s here… and remarkably pure. It’s proven quite simple to refine and—”
Klaproth’s face hardened enough that it should have cracked. “Your notes were thorough on your process, Ensign. I’m more interested in understanding your proposed modifications.“
“Y-Yes, sir.” Caelian grit his teeth and tapped a few commands into the workstation display. The cascading data faded and the drive schematic loomed closer to fill the display. He indicated several highlighted sections. “In three hours and with a modest team, I can have our impulse drive and auxiliary systems running on modified boridium generators. For the sake of efficiency I’d like to make the bulk of the modifications here, on Deck 18. We can repurpose one of the emergency transporter rooms to serve as storage and containment for the reaction chamber. That way if there’s a problem our simulations didn’t catch, we can beam the unit safely into space. Our current systems would remain intact, allowing us to restore power and maintain a relatively-uninterrupted level of service—especially in an emergency situation.”
Klaproth nodded. “A fuse, then.”
“Yes, sir, basically.” Caelian gestured to a faint protrusion on the projected ship’s hull. “Optimally, I would rather modify the ventral section here to make the entire system ejectable. It would take two weeks to assure structural integrity, containment, and defensive strength, but we’d be able to cut the whole thing loose in a crisis if our power systems were damaged or compromised. It would also be a larger draw on our current resources, so it’s a matter of risk either way.”
“Either we modify for efficiency’s sake to get underway and risk containment issues,” the lieutenant murmured thoughtfully, “or we chance to deplete resources that we might need on the way home for the sake of security.”
“Exactly, sir. If we were in Federation space, I wouldn’t have even considered such heavy modifications to the ship but…”
Klaproth’s expression softened for a moment, grew distant. Almost melancholy. “Understood. Proceed.”
“We would store any additional, dormant boridium in Shuttle Bay 1. Modifications for containment would be minimum, and if there were an issue with our stores it wouldn’t be hard to jettison it into space. In the worst-case damage to the ship would prove minimal, and we’d still have the other shuttle bays for use. Hull reinforcements in those areas are more than satisfactory to minimize risk, and it’s closer to Deck 18 than other options I’ve looked at.”
The lieutenant leaned closer and nodded at the display. “I see you’ve added an auxiliary intermix chamber. Another failsafe against disaster?”
“No, sir. While the element is similar to the stuff we know back home, this boridium has a slightly different reaction rate. I had to add it to maintain flow rate and reaction pattern to minimize output discrepancy.”
Another nod. “How much of a power loss will we see once this system is online?”
“Loss?” Caelian blinked. “I didn’t mean to imply we were going to lose efficiency, sir. We’re looking at a zero-point-seven-three percent increase in power output from either modification.”
The corner of Klaproth’s mouth twitched. Had he almost… smiled? “Just making sure you’re paying attention, Ensign. This is solid work, but I see several flaws in your design. With a few simple, further modifications we would likely be able to increase power to the ship’s systems by at least one-point-seven percent.”
Caelian shook his head. “I understand, sir, but I was also concerned that the increase would overload the ODN conduits on Decks 12 and 17, as well as increase strain to the aft EPS grid. Once we can secure additional supplies, we can adapt the ship to the increased flow. My primary concern was getting us underway as soon as possible. Safely and reliably.”
The lieutenant keyed the display into stand-by mode and turned to him. Whatever engineering understanding had passed between them was quickly buried under the man’s usual guise. Turning, he retrieved Caelian’s data pad and handed it to him.
“Ensign, organize your team and get started on the projected power relays and auxiliary shunts.” Klaproth nodded suggestively toward the workstation. “I’ll add my recommendation to your proposal and pass it along to the chief for the captain’s consideration during the next staff meeting. If you think of anything else, you have until the end of your shift to let me know. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Caelian nearly vibrated with excitement. Progress! “Thank you, sir. I’ll get started right away.”
—Caelian Weir, Engineer—
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