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Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 6: Turbulent Waters and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

“Just give it some time.”

High Croft Tower 19, Shuttle Selwyn
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Ra was most certainly not impressed with the weather that he found himself in right now. The impact of the ion storm on the atmosphere of Highcroft would result in a planetwide storm of truly disastrous levels. This on the other hand was just ordinary run of the mill bad. The rain was horizontal, the wind was steady but with gusts that made trying to erect the magnetospheric reinforcement towers an absolute nightmare. Though Tower 18 was nearly complete, the entire experience had been just that – an experience.

Normally he’d have waited for the rainstorm to have blown over the completely uninhabited territory before rushing in to get the tower, but unfortunately, time was not a commodity that he had in great quantities. Most of the other towers were at least going in more hospitable locals right now, those teams reporting in regularly and all of them having some snarky thing or another to say about their sedate by comparison weather. A few reported rain, or wind, one even had snow, but none had the totality of regrettable weather choices as Tower 18.

The horizontal rain, the driving wind, the altitude and cold all combined to make this a spectacularly bad site for the tower, but modelling said it had to go here, so here it would go. All this combined is why they had one of the few shuttles at their disposal. It served as a place for workers to warm up on occasion, as a heavy scale tractor haulier when needed and on a few occasions and thanks to the precision flying of Atlantis’ chief helmswoman, a windshield, using the shuttle’s bulk to give workers up in the gantry some cover.

“Really wish,” one of his junior engineers said in a shout over the wind, “that this world had a weather control grid right about now.” Jamieson was a stocky fellow, slightly taller than Ra’s own impressive height, but he’d been a professed advocate for warmer temperatures ever since he’d boarded the Atlantis a year and a bit ago at the tail end of their last major refit cycle.

“Oh, I don’t know Jamieson, I’m starting to like it,” he said, trying to inject as much sarcasm as he could in his voice. “Another fifteen minutes or so and we can call this one done, then be on our way.”

The man nodded and indicated the guide wires stretching out from the tower to the ground in four different directions. His hand was gloved, like most of the crew, but even the gloves were having difficulty with the driving rain. “I’ll go give the securing points one last check. The last thing we need is this thing toppling in the storm.”

“Good idea Lieutenant!” Ra had to shout over a gust then watched as Jamieson tilted his head down and walked into the wind to the further wire securing point. Oddly enough it was slightly downhill from where they were, but the wind would have made it more of a struggle than the walking uphill. He chuckled once to himself about that thought before leaving the slight shelter of the lee of the shuttle for the base of the tower.

One of the PAM engineers was there, struggling with the generator at the base of the tower. It wasn’t what truly powered the entire magnetospheric reinforcement, but just the power generator to start everything up, including the wireless power receiver that was built into the array at the top of the tower. The tower’s batteries were only good for powering comms and attempting to start the generator a half dozen times and lacked the ommpf needed to start everything up either.

PAM, Harold in particular, had opted for an old but reliable portable generator tech that relied on a hydrogen fuel cell. Typically, a robust piece of technology, with little in the way of complexity, PAM had been able to acquire them off the shelf to fill that part of the tower process. But right there, right now, was an example of a generator not working. The little diagnostic screen for it was an angry combination of greens and reds, with a flashing orange banner at the top. “What’s up?” he offered, crouching down next to the man so neither would have to shout, but also because part of the tower’s construction gave another one of those lovely wind shelters.

“Generator won’t start. I’m checking the error codes and resolving them, but when I try again, they just come back up. None of them makes sense either.” The engineer, a human woman about his own age, didn’t even look up from the screen. “I’ve got two more tries before I drain the battery on this sucker and it’s dead in the water, but I can’t see anything wrong.” She tapped away at the screen a few more times, then looked to him. “Starting to think it’s either a dead starter or a faulty ECU.”

Ra nodded, mulled his options, not stroking his beard at this time as that would mean exposing more of his chin to the cold than he really wanted to. “Let’s skip the generator then. Grab Mickelson and run an extension from the Selwyn. We’ll just use the shuttle to provide the jumpstart to the tower. Then grab the emergency generator from the shuttle and wire it in just in case the tower restarts.

A rattling of the tower superstructure caught both of their attention, Ra was concerned something was falling down and relieved when it was just Ensign Trel jumping down to ground level. The man seemed to have an aversion to proper ladders but he’d been pretty smart about using them today save for this latest escapade. “Ensign!” he shouted out at Trel, waving at him. A pat on the PAM woman’s back sent her off so he could deal with his Ensign.

“It’s wet, cold and windy. Use the ladder! You could have killed yourself!”

“Sorry sir,” Trel said. If Jamieson had been a stocky fellow, then Trel was a powerhouse. Over two meters tall, seemingly made of nothing but dense muscle. Apparently, they made them big on Bajor, though with a sample size of one in person and live specimen, he couldn’t really confirm that just yet. “We’ve got a problem with the array. We were just running some alignment diagnostics and it’s not giving four green.”

Which wasn’t the most helpful error message that could be given, but was enough. Harold and the designers at PAM had made the systems relatively simple and that included relatively simple error messages. Four green on diagnostics would mean the system was aligned and primed for start-up. Anything less meant some sort of error up to the dreaded four red, or as Harold called it ‘Four Dead’ when he described the error case for four red lights. ‘Throw it away as that array is dead’.

He looked up and up and up, the whole height of the thirty-meter tower, whose top, despite the sturdy construction and heavy materials, its latticework design to let the wind through and the securing guide wires, was swaying in the wind with the all-important array mounted on the top. “Great bird of the galaxy,” Ra muttered. He didn’t relish the idea of climbing one of these towers on the best of days, let alone in this howling storm.

“And straight on to the Prophets,” Trel followed up with. “It’s really not that bad a climb sir, especially if you use the ladder light you say.”

Thankfully for all involved, the ladder was surrounded by a safety cage to prevent someone from falling straight off the ladder, keeping them in proximity to grab onto something, anything really should they come loose. But in weather like this with their gear on, the cage was just a touch tight. You’d have to work hard at falling down, which was of little comfort as distance to the ground crew and the tower’s ability to flex became more and more noticeable.

Ra really couldn’t remember much of what he did when he got up there. He recalled the climb, the swaying, the biting cold even worse off the ground than it already was at ground level. He remembered three green lights, a single solitary red light, a quick conversation with Ensign Potts and then the light going green. As he climbed back down, he tried to recall what he did but the anxiety of the height and conditions clearly was doing a number on his recollection. Had that error light just disappeared simply because he’d gone up there? Was that spiritual entity Maxwell kept invoking cursing him now too?

“Power’s on now,” the PAM engineer said, helping coil the extension she’d used and heading for the shuttle. “Tower 19?”

“After the last two hours Caro,” he said following her into the shuttle along with the rest of the team, the door closing behind them and only the sound of pelting rain on the hull to annoy them now, “I’m pulling rank. Maxwell can have 19, we’ll jump to tower 20. Last I heard it’s in the tropics and expecting nice weather all day.”

There was a general muttering of agreement there as Ra squelched forward through the shuttle to the front. “T’Val, tower 20 if you please and don’t spare the horses.”

“Why do you use human idioms?” the Vulcan woman asked as she moved the shuttle Selwyn away, punching up through the clouds as quick as she could to remove the difficulty of an alpine rainstorm from her flying.

“Because they’re colourful, because most of his lot are human and because I know it annoys you T’Val,” he replied and sat down in the co-pilot seat, his wet gear giving out another squelch as water started to seep into the seat, just like all the seats in the back of the shuttle already. “Don’t worry, we’ll groom the shuttle when we get home. Don’t want it smelling like a wet carpet after all.”

“It already does,” T’Val snapped back. “Just give it some time.”