Episode 8: A Greater Power
Location: Officer Berth 43C, Deck 5
Timeline: Day 183 at 2120
The hour was late, nearly a week since the incident with the Nihari had come to light and the crew were finally settling back into a routine. Those from the Roehampton who had declared their intention to stay with the Nogura had been found homes and responsibilities, and those who had elected to move on had boarded the Lexington which was sat just a few hundred meters off the Nogura's port bow.
The vessel had arrived, ahead of schedule, to deliver personnel, cargo and a new complement of starfighters that the Major was very lucky to have access to at such short notice. Perhaps the biggest arrival was that of the ships new Chief Engineer.
Rumour had it that Lieutenant Hask Rassak had been involved in more than one incident aboard the Lexington during his travels, with more than one man referred to as speciesist. But when you look like an iguana, move like an iguana and probably sound like an iguana (albeit with words to vocalise), then it was likely people would make comparisons to iguanas, but the Feldite male had clearly taken exception to this. To be fair, from what the Captain had read already, the iguana-like crewman (the Nogura's first reptilian crewman) was not afraid to take exception or issue with pretty much anything. It would make the Captain's first meeting with him quite interesting for sure.
Departing the peaceful sanctuary of his ready room and entering the bridge, the Captain turned out the lights in his private office, happy to put the paperwork aside for the next few hours. Looking around at the crew from gamma shift, the Captain noted that this weeks senior staff rotation had fallen to Lieutenant Okan.
"Okay Akaria. Time for me to turn in," Drayton smiled as he let out a stifled yawn. "Anything to report before I go?" he queried of his Cardassian Tactical Officer.
"Sickbay reports that Lexa kom Trikru's recovery continues, slowly but steadily. They have requested permission to keep her aboard until her recovery is complete," the Cardassian relayed the information to her Captain, "and Lexington is ready to depart."
"Very well," the Captain nodded slowly. "Let sickbay know that our guest can stay as long as they need her to. And contact the Lexington. Wish them luck on their journey," he informed before walking towards the aft of the bridge. "See you tomorrow!" he called before disappearing into the turbo lift and standing in the centre of the transportation unit. It took him a few seconds but he soon made his decision.
"Computer, location of Lieutenant Hask Rassak?"
"Lieutenant Hask Rassak is in Room 34A, Deck 5." The computer calmly reported. With a hum of induction motors, the turbolift car began to move towards its destination before it came to a halt. "Lieutenant Hask Rassak is in room 56D, Deck 5." The car then resumed its progress, and moments later began to come to rest with the momentary shudder of the inner door aligning with the exit portal.
"Lieutenant Hask Rassak is in room 43C, Deck 5." The computer reported, and with a sharp twist shuffled sideways to meet with the exit at the other end of the deck. This time when the turbolift came to a rest, the door opened without throwing up another location on the Chief Engineer Mystery Hunt. Though the raised voice of discussion could be heard from just out of sight.
"Huum...thermal couple on this unit looked moderately new, serial code denotes it has not been changed out yet even though the refit cycle for these units is a six-monthly rotation. It should probably be able to handle the thermal load, but with a worrying tendency towards entropy. I'll add that to the list," said Hask who was standing outside of the empty officers quarters with the wall panel neatly removed. Wide of the shoulder, stocky perhaps being a good word, the short engineer was peering into the plumbing and wiring conduit of the wall with narrow slitted eyes. A crewman pushing a small baggage cart holding Hask's personal effects, and what appeared to be a giant boulder the size of a bean bag chair, noticed the captain approaching and stood to attention.
But Hask only had eyes for the life support unit he was interrogating.
"AH HA!" he said, yanking a large white corrugated cartridge from the wall. He then took out a large ruggedized tablet from a satchel and began to make notes with delicate little claw strikes. "Still using poly nuclei foam air scrubbers I see. They might have passed muster a year ago, but surely the Fleet supply train has stored aboard some of the newer gel matrix scrubbers. Much better for the lung sacks. That goes on the list along with all of the others."
Coming to a halt a few steps away from the Engineer and looking over what the reptilian creature was up to, the Captain finally decided to address the 'man' and get to the bottom of what was going on. "Care to explain why you are ripping apart the walls of my ship, Lieutenant?"
"To get to the pulp of course," Hask said absently, tapping a claw on the data padd's frame. "Huum, you know I didn't test the imaging resolution on the replicators in the last berthing compartment. Another note to make."
After making that note, and reinstalling the air scrubber into its socket, the short reptilian turned around to look up at the captain of the USS Nogura. The jerky little head bobs, the dark eyes, and the way two little sacks under his snout like chin inflated and deflated in time with his breathing made him look like an iguana. It was uncanny.
"Lieutenant Hask Ral'kesh Rassak, Sir. And as for what I am doing, well it is the beginning of what I hope you will come to see as our great work. As I have tried to inform Lieutenant Zar about for the last three days, there are many deficiencies the Nogura suffers from," his chin pouches inflated with pride. "I look forward to solving them, and making this ship an exemplar of her class. And that cannot be done if the quarters provided do not meet my...some what unique needs. Nor my exacting expectations."
Colby's eyes narrowed as he glared down at the engineer. "Many deficiencies? It is never a good idea to tell a ships commanding officer that his vessel has many deficiencies, Lieutenant," Drayton advised as he took a step forward and regarded the work the reptilian had done so far. "I'll admit, she's had some tough times since she was built, but nothing we haven't been able to handle."
"And that is the very thing Sir: you shouldn't have to handle anything! A good engineer should be able to keep the ship running at peak performance well within specs, without it deviating. You should not have to worry if the warp coils will be able to handle the load of a high warp pursuit, or if the main power router will blow out during a battle! I am here....to bring order to what I have witnessed to be a chaotic system of make do and patch jobs," he held out the padd. "I have summarised a list of minor defects I will be rectifying within the first week of my assignment here."
Page 1 of...14?
"It is a shortlist, I know, but I had only so much time to go over the diagnostics reports before my appointment," Hask said apologetically.
"There's fourteen pages here Lieutenant," the Captain frowned as he waved the PADD around in his hand. "You've been here two minutes and you've already figured out there is fourteen pages worth of deficiencies to fix?!" he queried with an exasperated look on his face. Or was it one of incredulity?
"I've been working on this for three days since I was appointed as your Chief Engineer. I had the comm's department of the Lexington tap into the Nogura's diagnostic telemetry signal. It was from there that I began to highlight the more troubling issues I have highlighted there. I did try to bring these up with Lieutenant Zar, but at each turn, I was pushed aside by his deputy. So, you can understand I want to rip off the rind and get straight to the flesh of the fruit as they say," Hask said enthusiastically.
"Commander Zar is currently off duty. His Assistant is Acting Chief of Operations until further notice," the Captain told sternly, not impressed with the first impression he had got from the Engineer so far. "So let me get this straight; You tap into our systems from another vessel, without permission, before you have even reported for duty. You then come aboard, but instead of reporting in to either myself or the executive officer, you proceed to start modifying systems. You've made a significant list of so-called deficiencies you have deemed this ship has," the Captain glared at the iguana-like being with his arms folded across his chest, "and you think this is acceptable?"
"So-called? So-called??" Hask said, the little chin punches under his snout inflating as his biochemistry went with 'look big and scary!' as a tactic. "I took the initiative to look into my posting, using readily available metadata that is not beyond my security clearance limit. I took the initiative to look at the way I could bring improvement to my new ship. I would point that that this list would be shorter, if not entirely devoid of entries, had your engineering team taken similar steps towards self-improvement."
He took the padd from the captain's hand, hissing out something the UT was choosing to leave in the uncanny valley of interspecies relations, and the turned it around to reveal a schematic. It was clearly the upright vertical column of the ships Warp core.
"Seven of sixteen barium bracing joints holding the antimatter lattice in place show signed of significant particle ablation. Seven!" Hask said, shaking the padd enough to make the pixels dance for a second. "If they broke we'd still have an antimatter reaction, only the antimatter reaction would be happening to the entire ship all at once!"
"YOU need to give my people some credit before you start judging their work," the Captain demanded, taking a step forward somewhat assertively. "This crew have gone through things you will never be able to comprehend Lieutenant. They've had their own Captain betray them and try to murder them all. They've lost countless crewmembers in battle, yet through EVERYTHING, they have managed to keep this ship functioning and functioning well," he declared, his chest puffed out in an attempt to make himself look more formidable. "Don't you dare judge their work until you have walked a day in their shoes!"
"Fildian's do not wear shoes!" Hask retorted, his tongue adding a few more s's into the last word than was strictly warranted. "But if you are saying that their experiences give them a pass to shoddy workmanships that is putting this ship at risk, I would have to disagree Captain. The next threat this ship faces might not come from an enemy, but from a grain of sand slipping through a hole in our deflector grid at warp speed and atomising the port nacelle."
Now the barbs and spines along the nape of Hask's neck and crown were rising up, joining the throat sacks in the 'Bigger Is Better' arms race that had seen the Fildian people reign as the top of the food chain of their homeworld. Here it threatened to tickle the chin.
"A saying of my people, Captain, is that the tallest dune is undone by a single mote of sand. This list of failings might seem a trifle, but any of these can and will lead to disaster if blatantly ignored. I am trying to help you Sir, not take pride from you or your crew!"
Drayton looked the Fildian up and down several times and took in the words that he had said. "Then I suggest you get to work," the master and commander of the Nogura declared at last before turning around and walking away slowly, but assuredly. He might not have approved of the Lieutenant's methods so far, but he couldn't fault his work ethic.
Hask held onto the padd for a few minutes, long after the Captain had departed, like a shield against enemy fire held to his chest.
"What does he think I've been doing since I arrived?" Hask asked, dumbfounded as he turned to the Crewman manning the cart. "These quarters will do. And stop staring! The grundle sacks take time to deflate and slacked jawed 'curiosity' does not aid in the process. Now come, there is much to be done."
He opened the door to the quarters and pointed at the runny of the door as he stepped over it.
"That death trap will need to go."