Posted by Kvasir (Story Teller) in Main Sim [Deck 8]: Chaos and Reason
Ensign Reyes crouched at the mouth of the jefferies tube trying very hard to ignore the chaos milling all around her. The corridor was a river of activity, sometimes nudging her gently and other times nearly sending her sprawling. She huffed a wisp of chocolate curl from her brow and tried to ignore the sweat slithering down the back of her collar. With the environmental controls acting up, everyone was uncomfortable; she had to remind herself of that fact constantly. Lieutenant Lovok was the exception, tapping at his PaDD blithely as if it was just another day under the Vulcan sun. Not a thread out of place on his engineer’s uniform; Reyes felt a rumpled mess and ached for a sonic shower.
“How’s it look in there, Drix?” she grumbled into the workspace.
A thoughtful hum rang down the crawl way, somehow managing to be both dubious and cheerful. “Honestly, it’s not that bad. Gelpack!”
Reyes tipped to the side without blinking, and something rushed past her shoulder to hit the deck with an oddly wet sound. She picked it up and frowned. It was completely fried like all the others. The ensign turned the pack over in her hands, marveling darkly at the brackish slop sloshing behind a thin membrane that felt slick like oil against her cappuccino skin. A gelpack was supposed to be a firm gelatinous mass that only flexed to the touch, but this…?
The young engineer sighed and placed it on the pile next to her. The anti-grav sled didn’t seem to mind, simply hushed along with the din of workmen shuffling about behind her. Carefully Reyes lifted a fresh gelpack from the nearby case and lifted it to her shoulder. With a grunt, it disappeared into the jefferies tube; a surprised cackle echoed back.
“Gelpack!” she snickered under her breath.
“That is not the approved method for delivery of sensitive equipment, Ensign.” Reyes could feel Lovok’s disapproving stare between her shoulder blades. “If one, or more, of these gelpacks become damaged or otherwise unfit for use, it could compromise the operation and safety of this vessel. We do not have the luxury of being careless in the name of jockularity.”
A resigned sigh deflated her a bit, and she nodded. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s been a long day. It won’t happen again.”
“Thermal coupler!” Drix called jovially.
Reyes scooped up the tool from the kit seated between her boots and lobbed it into the jefferies tube. Dissatisfaction pressed down on her like a weight. She pivoted on the balls of her feet and smiled up at the scowling Vulcan. If he had been capable of emotion, Reyes would have thought he scowled at her. The hair of his raised brow was almost bristling with indignation. She managed not to giggle; that would only make things worse. Vulcans, of all species, demanded being taken seriously. Lovok was certainly no exception.
Reyes, of course, knew just how far to toe the line. She let her smile slip to a demure curve of lip. Inside, she chortled.
“Sorry, sir. I thought you just meant the gelpacks.”
“Indeed.” There was a long, heavy pause between them before Lovok’s attention returned to his PaDD. Reyes choked back the urge to make a face. “That makes seven gelpacks completely liquefied, and still we are no closer to understanding how or why. Theories?”
“It’s honestly not that bad,” Drix’s voice mused. Then, louder, “Phase decompiler!”
Reyes snapped to face the jefferies tube, one hand reaching up to snag the thermal coupler from the air and the other scooping the decompiler back into the crawlspace. Swatting the errant strand of hair from her face, she returned her attention to the Vulcan.
“The gelpacks look burned or fried, so it’s possible these things are overloading them simply by coming into contact with them.” Reyes put her elbows on her knees as she thought. “Gelpacks operate on a carefully-balanced system of energy, so an additional charge could cause an overload. Excess heat would destabilize the bio-neural bonds, which would then untether the positronic nuclei and present us with a bag full of black slush.”
Lovok pursed his lips, inclining his head slightly. “But why were the gelpacks the only major system components affected? If it was an energy surge as we suspect, it would have coursed along all intervening systems and caused substantially more damage. Nearly every gelpack on the Viking has shown some sign of degradation, and yet we are experiencing no critical malfunctions.”
“An isolated energy source,” Reyes offered. “If these energy beings are self-contained, they could have gone from pack to pack without necessarily bothering any adjacent system.”
“That would imply an intent or purpose.”
The ensign shook her head, gesturing to the sled hovering nearby. “Not necessarily. We haven’t found any errant signatures in any of these packs. If it were an attack of some kind, we should see residual traces like ion discharges from phaser fire. These packs are completely inert!”
A thoughtful noise wafted from the hatch opening. “Don’t these things work a lot like our gelpacks? Some kind of biomolecular protoplasma that can somehow store and process information? You’d think that kind of thing would be compatible with a gelpack, not detrimental.”
“Unless they were downloading the data!” Reyes’s face paled at the thought. “That’s why the bonds were affected and not the rest of the system. They pulled out the bioneural energy that’s only found in the packs. Ay dios mio, every command and data process runs through these things! They could have command codes, protocols, shield frequencies—!”
“My grandmatron’s secret recipe for kriblean stew!” Drix wailed from the bowels of the wall.
Lovok held up a hand to stem the flood of fear dripping between Reyes’ shoulder blades. “That information is encrypted and processed across several systems to prevent such occurrences. We are also dealing with a species from the farthest reaches of our galaxy. It is highly unlikely that they possess an adequate grasp of our language and systems required to successfully exploit any advantage they might have gleaned. Furthermore, we do not have any confirmation that these beings are indeed hostile. It could simply be an unfortunate side effect of their attempts to learn about us.”
Reyes lifted a finger to object on quite a few number of panic-inducing points when Drix hauled himself to the opening of the jefferies tube. The bolian looked uncharacteristically glum. He opened his hand to reveal several isolinear chips, all slightly cracked along their lengths.
“I take back everything I said,” he groaned. “It’s very bad.”
Reyes scooped the chips from Drix’s hand and examined them one by one. Though she knew she’d have to run a scan to be sure, her gut told her that these had been smashed by something heavy. A boot, judging from the black smear pressed into some of the sharper striations. “These are—”
“Regulator chips,” the bolian finished. “That’s why the computer didn’t detect the surge, and why our failsafes… failed. Someone pulled these from the junctions before we started the switchover from main to auxiliary systems.”
Swallowing hard, Reyes tapped her comm badge. She tried her very best to keep her voice steady. =^=”Repair Team Alpha to Lieutenant Asam. Will you join us on Deck Eight at your earliest convenience? There’s… there’s something you should see.”=^=
While smacking at the panel, the unexpected incoming message had interrupted. At least not all bad news. He thought, with ears ready for further instructions. Deck 11 through 15 were potentially affected by the gravity generators. And the control was from the environmental room. He hoped the other team had already figured out a way to solve the fluctuations by this pace. It was also great to know that the comms were functioning. He pushed the badge and hailed, =^= Little to Lieutenant Woods. If you can hear this, Sir. I have linked up with the Chief Engineer’s team and working on the repairs. =^=
Ens Little, Sci
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