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Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 4: Tried turning it off and on again? and Bravo Fleet: Phase 3: Vanishing Point

“Engine rich exhaust.”

USS Atlantis
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Stepping into Engineering, Lieutenant T’Val had expected to find a scene of Engineers stressed, working to their extremes. Frayed emotions, people having clear displays of internal thought processes and impulsive responses. Instead, what she found was an oddly ordered, if still somewhat busy workspace. Yes, the warp core was thrumming away much faster than she had ever experienced aboard Atlantis, or any ship she’d been on before, but expectations for the state of those working here did not align with reality at all.

“Ah, Lieutenant, come to see if we’ve blown up just yet?” Maxwell, the Assistant Chief asked when he spotted her. A statement which portrayed his ‘human-ness’ with its inanity.

“If Lieutenant, I wanted to see if Engineering had blown up, I am reasonably certain the plasma wave would have informed me before the thought had finished,” she answered him as she passed him and approached the warp core itself. “I had actually come down out of curiosity to compare expectations with reality for the state of the crew as the sensors and readouts on the bridge were more than sufficient to confirm we are indeed breaking the ship’s design specifications for speed and endurance.”

“Yah,” the man said as he came beside her, then leaned into the railing around the warp core and the rather perilous drop down four decks to the antimatter injectors. “Wouldn’t believe it if you told me, but can’t deny the reality of it. Someone’s tinkered with our warp drive, mainly at just a control level, but we’re doing it. Nine point nine nine. Oh, sure, we’re going to need to refit the coils after this, they weren’t rated for this after all, but…”

“It’s an impressive feat,” T’Val finished for him. “I was introduced to a term by the Captain just briefly. Engine rich exhaust, to indicate when exhaust plumes were containing material from the engines.”

Maxwell laughed, a single bark of laughter, but still laughed, a natural smile coming to his face that she found fascinating if vulgar. Like so many humans he seemed to wear his emotions so easily. They weren’t private considerations, discussed logically with family or friends, but public displays for all to see. “Engine rich exhaust. I’ll have to let Ra-tesh’vi know about that one.”

He stood, then chuckled to himself. “Engine rich exhaust. Good one. Well, if you need anything Lieutenant, just give me a yell.”

“I will do no such thing,” she replied, not harshly, just matter of fact.

“It’s a human expression, Lieutenant. Like…you know where to find me. Or engine rich exhaust.”

“That last one is a technical term.”

He chuckled again, then sighed. “Vulcans,” he said shaking his head. “It’s just a saying T’Val.”

“I see,” she replied, not entirely understanding the human term, but accepting it at least for now. “I shall give you a yell then, if I have need of anything.”

“Gabrielle, we’re archaeologists, and you left us behind,” Simmons protested over the comm channel. “I’m not sure just how much help we can be on this issue.”

“I mussst agree with Sssimmonsss,” W’a’le’ki said, being next to Simmons back on W’a’le’krell’ti after all. “We will however prioritissse looking for anything sssimilar to the relic and this pillar you have outlined for usss.”

“That’s all I’m asking you two. We’re not getting much out of this Architect program, but maybe you’ll find something back there that might outline or explain just what is going on,” Gabrielle responded, shrugging her shoulders. “Just please get on it ASAP. We’re just over twelve hours out from our destination and the Architect has started replicating parts it would seem.”

“I heard it’s been playing with life support,” Simmons asked. “I was wondering if…”

“I’ve already asked Hitchcock to look into your orchids, Simmons. She said something about them being tasty.” Gabrielle waited for the look of horror to fully mature before cracking a smile. “They’re fine. Watered, fed and moved to a climate stable cabin.”

“Thank you. Right, well we’ll get right on getting everyone free to look over the lower levels of the ruins and see what we can find, if we can find anything.”

With that and a round of goodbyes, the comm channel was closed and Gabrielle looked around the little office she had as Chief Science Officer, just off of Lab 1. It wasn’t a big office, but enough for her to hold one on ones, make private calls, that sort of thing. Right now though it was a private retreat from the full lab just past the door. Everyone was pouring over the scans of the parts that the Architect had replicated, trying to ascertain their purpose.

Twenty minutes after the call had ended her door was opened by an Ensign with a rather excited look on his face, entreating her to come and look at something. A couple of dozen foot falls and she was standing in front of a rotating holographic representation of…something.

“Okay, does someone want to explain this?”

“It’s a heavy nuclei synthesiser,” someone responded, that tone that always carried a final word of ‘obviously’ without ever having to actually say it. “The Architect has been replicating the components for it for hours on end, then assembling them in cargo bay three as of an hour ago. Should be done in…an hour perhaps?”

“Okay, but why?” she asked.

“To create heavy nuclei that we don’t have in stock aboard ship,” the same voice as earlier spoke. “We don’t think it’s as good as the elemental forges back home, say at Antares or New Providence, or those being built at Utopia Plantia, but we don’t exactly carry the plans for those with us and this is probably part of the Tkon process. Build a forge, crank out some heavy elements, do what needs doing.”

“And this beacon?” she asked of the assembled mass. “Any ideas about that so far?”

Another voice spoke up, Krek it sounded like and confirmed when the Tellarite pushed their way through the crowd. “No idea as to the specifics so far, but we’ve been given a repair guide.” They brought up an exploded view of the beacon, replacing the previous hologram. “Everything in blue is assembled components. Everything in red is yet to be crafted. Yellow is a component of the beacon that needs removing. We’ve been told,” Krek said in a dismissive tone, “we will need to undertake final repairs as some sort of distortion field prevents transporters within twenty kilometers of the beacon.”

“Well, that’s something at least. Gabrielle to Captain Theodoras,” she spoke after tapping her commbadge. “Got something on that Tkon device. You might want to come to lab 1.”

“On my way Lieutenant,” came the response.

“Nurse Bendî,” Doctor Terax announced loudly as he stepped out of his office, a padd in all three arms.

“Yes Doctor?” the mahogany skinned man replied as he looked up from his work.

“I need you to head to stores and bring back the following items,” he stated, handing the man one of the padds. “We have personnel apparently that will be working in high radiation environments and will start inoculations in six hours.”

“Yes sir,” Bendî responded, then looked the list over. “Plenty of post-incident drugs as well. Should I bring up the full radiation kits as well?”

Terax stopped and looked up from his current padd of interest, blinked once at Bendî and then sighed. “Yes, add them to the list. Bring all of them out of stores. Where is Nurse Ayo?”

“He’s with Doctor Chaplin setting up a triage center in cargo bay one. Doctor Chaplin had said something about Sickbay being out of commission, which with this,” the nurse said indicating the padd in his hand, “makes sense now Sir.”

“Very well. Take this,” Terax handed another padd over, “and deliver it to Ayo and Chaplin. They will be managing business as usual. I’m sure they have most of this sorted already but I would prefer to make sure.”

“Right you are Doctor.”

Waiting for his dismissal, Bendî then departed, leaving Terax with only a couple of corpsmen in Sickbay. “You two, I want you to run diagnostics on all Sickbay forcefields. Get the radiation sources out as well and ensure the fields are shielding appropriately. Then make yourself familiar with the radiation exposure guidelines.”

A round of ‘Yes sir’ and Terax nodded to both before returning to his office.

Stepping into the ready room, Mac set his padd down on the desk and sat himself down in one of the chairs without asking or being told. He’d at least reached that level of understanding when he could and couldn’t get away with such actions. “Terax just reported in. Sickbay is ready for radiation exposure cases.”

He watched his Captain take the padd, cast her eyes over it, acknowledge receipt and then set the padd back down in front of him. “Thanks Mac.”

“What’s up Cap?”

She stopped, turned her computer terminal around so he could see the display. “We’re burning out the warp drive at this rate. We’ll be lucky to make warp five after this sprint. It’ll take the better part of a year just to get back to the Barzan wormhole without a refit and rebuild.”

“Perhaps the People can help? They’re not that far.”

“And we have a standing invite. I’ve had two calls from Captain Korlin just today as well. He’s going to return to W’a’le’krell’ti and pick up our people for us. We’ll then rendezvous at their capital. Sounds like first contact protocols, so if it’s a safe harbour, and my feeling is the People are genuinely nice people, we should be able to undertake some self-care. Don’t think we’ll get the upper limits back until we visit a shipyard, but at least we won’t be looking at a year limping home, more like six months? Plenty of time to get some real exploring done, cross the finish line in twelve months?”

“Mug the Commodore before we go through the wormhole, remember,” Mac offered.

“That too. Right, I think you’re due in sickbay soon since you’re going down with Velan and his people. Don’t envy that task.”

“Don’t remind me,” he replied, standing up and taking his padd with him. “Put your XO in an EV suit, char broil and microwave for four to six hours or until golden brown,” he quipped as he left the office.