There was no one else in the hangar where the USS Susquehanna sat in all her buffed and polished glory, for which Dawa was immensely thankful. “If I detach one of the phaser arrays and take apart the assembly, I can attach one of the assemblies to one of the sample extractors we were using before, hook that up to the warp core, and modulate the energy input to create dekyon particles instead of nadion particles. And then, you know.” She mimed pointing a phaser rifle at the ground and shooting. “Pew pew!”
Joshua thought about her idea, “That would work. And if we ran the modulation slow enough, it’d be less of a jackhammer and more of a delayed dekyon cascade. The effects wouldn’t be immediate, but it would increase dekyon particle absorption in the soil.”
Dawa nodded. “Except you’re gonna have to help me, because if I ask one of the technicians here to start taking this lovely girl apart after they spent the last several days putting her back together, they’re either gonna pop a vessel or cry crocodile tears, and I can’t handle either one of those.”
“I’d wager on the first one,” Joshua said, keeping his voice low. “Nothing says ‘I appreciate all your hard work’ like completely undoing said work. I imagine you’d piss off most of the colony’s engineers. But as long as you put it back together, no harm no foul, right? I’m not an engineer by any stretch of the imagination, but I can turn a wrench. Show me what I need to do.”
Dawa patted his shoulder. “Not here. The hangar walls are judging me already. Let’s get far away from the colony like your friend suggested and make the modifications on-site. I’ll help you load the equipment.”
Thirty minutes later they were flying low and slow through the atmosphere in the Susquehanna, banking left and right as they went to get a better look at the landscape below. “Plenty of places flat and wide enough to put the runabout down, but, uh, how far out from inhabited areas do you think we should go?”
“Ah…” Joshua looked at the Sciences station screen, “Set down about 100 kilometers out. I think Prill’s estimates were not quite as dangerous as they seemed. He didn’t account for the slow cascade we’ll be doing. Still, it pays to be cautious.” He scanned the topographical map, “Set down right here,” he pointed, “it’s a high enough concentration to determine effectiveness. But not enough to,” he mimicked an explosion with his hands.
The runabout slowed and descended in the open field. Joshua stood up and moved to the cargo space. “I’ll unload the extraction equipment and set up a perimeter outside.”
“Copy that!” Dawa landed the runabout with a gentle thump, and the second it was completely powered down she leaped out of her seat. “I’ll start taking apart one of the phaser assemblies! By the time we’re both finished, we can hook our makeshift injector up to the warp core, find religion, and start praying real hard.”
“If this works, I might take up religion. Not that I don’t trust your plan, “Joshua said with a smirk.
He set up the table and accompanying equipment. “Let’s start small, 1 to 2 meters and work out from there.” Pressing a few buttons, a laser grid outlined the perimeter on the ground. Joshua opened up a cargo box and began assembling the sample extractor.
After several hours of assembling, disassembling, checking, double-checking and triple-checking, there was finally nothing left to do but flip the switch.
Dawa sat at her station in the runabout, eyes glued to the energy readouts from the warp core. She tapped her comm badge and spoke to Joshua, still outside. “We’re about as ready as we’re gonna get in here. You wanna come in and ‘fire the phasers’ so to speak?”
She certainly could have reached across the console and done so herself, but she knew she’d feel much more comfortable if Josh was safely ensconced in the runabout when their experiment began. ‘Though if the calculations are off, I don’t think it’ll make much difference either way.’
Joshua looked up at Dawa in the runabout window and nodded, there wasn’t any further fine-tuning to do. The moment had arrived. He walked into the runabout, closed the door, and took a seat at the tactical. “This is the second time I’ve sat at this station on this trip.” He looked down at the controls and chuckled, “Hopefully this time ends better.”
“Let’s start at .03 microns. You shouldn’t even see a blip from the core, but keep an eye on the radiation. Initiating dekyon cascade,” he pushed the button on the console. Part of the viewscreen was taken up by the radar from the surveying equipment. One advantage of using the survey extractor is the equipped radar.
Joshua’s stomach instinctively clinched as he watched the particles move down the extractor. They spread throughout the ground, no reaction. “Increase output to .07 microns,” he said, his eyes glued to the radar. “How’s the radiation?”
Once Dawa’s heart dislodged itself from her throat, she answered. “No measurable sustained change.”
“All right, once this cascade cycle disperses, hit it with a 1.2 micron pulse and roll back to .05…”
Dawa waited for the ripple of dekyon particles on the screen to cascade away until there was no trace of them left, then adjusted the energy output and nodded to Josh to “fire phasers” again.
Joshua watched as the burst of dekyon spread through the ground, his soldiers preparing to meet the enemy. The radar display wavered and blinked, causing Joshua’s breath to catch. When the display returned, he breathed, “Just a bit of radiation interference there,” he smiled. “Increase the rate to 1.2 from .05, in .01 increments a minute, then drop it to .05, and keep repeating the cycle.”
He watched with bated breath as the particles rhythmically went from a trickle to a flood. “On this next cycle, sustain 1.2 for a full minute, then drop it down to .03.” The meter jumped to 1.2 and Joshua counted the seconds. Forty-five ticked in his mind and a low rumble caused the Susquehanna to quiver, then the rumble slowly became more severe. “Back it off! Back it off!”
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Dawa muttered, as if she could soothe the warp core like a skittish animal, lowering the energy output as quickly as she thought could without creating any feedback.
The meter jumped down, and a tremor like a tide wave ripped underneath them. “She didn’t like that,” Joshua said, keeping his voice calm while looking at the screen. “The particles have made contact with the radiation… Incoming seismic activity!” The ground rippled again in anger. “Hang on… work with me here…” Joshua said, his eyes glued to the radar.
He chuckled incredulously as the specks of tachyon blanketing the soil slowly blinked out. Joshua’s fingers flew across the sensor display that was scanning the ground. “Tachyon radiation readings in the soil,” his voice caught in his throat, “is negative. It’s gone Dawa… Every particle within a 3-meter radius. And,” he chuckled, “the dekyon is neutralizing itself. That’s a fun little surprise.”
“’Fun’, yeah! Compared to the other surprises we could have had today, I would absolutely classify that as a fun surprise.” Dawa sat back and crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes at the sensor displays as if they might suddenly reverse their readings and all that was keeping reality in check was the intensity of her gaze. After a moment, she finally relaxed and allowed a smile to creep onto her face.
Breathing a deep, cleansing breath, Joshua closed his eyes. It was finally over. After nearly two weeks of defeats and setbacks, “’Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat’.” He said, in stunned silence as the sensor information came in. “Let’s contact the Science Council.”