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Part of USS Valhalla: Mission 2: Ragnarök and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

(10) Chiefs, Ensigns and Bees Oh My!

Shuttlebay, USS Valhalla
MD 11
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Ensign Sara Taylor piloted the workbee through the open bay doors to a scene of organized chaos. Engineers scurried about the deck like ants. Here and there were flashes of white-blue light from the welders.

She chose an open space to land. With a flick of her wrist the workbee spun and side slipped to her chosen landing spot. Once settled on the deck she pressed a button and the hatch sprung open. Climbing out of the cockpit a cacophony of banging, shouts and equipment assaulted her ears.

Sara approached a bearded man. He had streaks of white at the temples, and through his beard and sorrel hair. Senior Chief Petty Officer Charles Gibson was a brute of a man in his mid forties. With over twenty years of service he was a grizzled veteran. He fought the Dominion, the Klingons, and every known threat to the Federation in the last quarter century.

“How’s it going Chief?”

He looked up at her and then across the bay, “It’s coming along. That section over there is almost done.” He checked his notes, “Uhhh… that’s piece nineteen.”

Sara checked her notes scrawled in blue ink on her right hand, “Lance is looking for piece fifteen or twelve.”

Chief Gibson ran his fingers through his thick bush of hair. “Yeah, okay let’s see.” He led her through the narrow aisles of hull sections under fabrication. A crewman pushed an anti-grav sled back towards them from the opposite direction. Returning from another trip from the industrial replicator Gibson stopped him. “What lot is that?”

The crewman hesitated, “56 or 57 I think.”

Gibson frowned, “Well, which is it? 56 or 57. These parts aren’t interchangeable.”

The crewman fumbled with his PADD, and scanned the barcode affixed to the tritanium panels. “56, yeah 56,” he replied.

Gibson checked his PADD, “That goes to station six. Can you handle that?”

The young crewman nodded with a sheepish nod, “I can Chief.”

“Good, you best get to it. They’re waiting on those panels.”

The crewman nodded and pushed the cart forward with a little more authority in his step. As he passed Sara caught his glance and she gave him a sympathetic smile. When he was out of ear shot, “You should have been a drill instructor Chief.”

“I was,” he said a serious expression etched on his face. “It wasn’t for me. These kids, well… Half of them get out of school with their heads on backwards. The other half have their heads so far up their hind ends they can’t see daylight.” He noticed her smirk, “Don’t look so cocky ma’am. You ensigns are worse.”

“How are we worse?” Sara demanded feeling a little defensive for her entire rank.

“Most of you would get lost heading for the chow hall if there wasn’t an NCO to point you in the right direction. Ya’ll are book smart, but you lack common sense. Some of you, like yourself, recognize your inexperience. You respect and learn from your NCOs. Others, like young Mr. Collins, think that because they went to Starfleet Academy there is nothing else to learn.”

At a junction they turned right and approached a section of hull. An engineer was feeding wires and optic cable through a conduit when Gibson spoke. “Hey Stu, this is section fifteen isn’t it?”

The man grunted as he pulled a bundle of wires through the conduit and shoved them into a junction box. Without looking up he started to wire up the box. “Yeah, it is. This is the last of it and it’s ready to ship. Hand me that hyperspaner would you?”

Gibson bent and picked up the tool and placed it in Stu’s outstretched hand. The engineer ran the wires with expert ease and with a whir of the tool he finished the install.

“Heads!” Someone shouted. A gantry crane was swinging the skeletal structure of a Jefferies tube over to a section next to them. Three pairs of hands guided the tube to its proper placement. With electric pops and the flying of sparks the tube section was welded into place.

“That’s section twelve,” Gibson said to Sara. “I’ll make sure its done by the time you get back.”

“Thanks Chief,” She shouted over the noise as someone had taken a grinder to clean up some welds.

“Stu you done with this section?”

“All done Chief,” the man replied wiping dirty hands on his trousers.

“Then get that gantry crane to move it over to that workbee,” Gibson ordered.

“Sure thing Chief.” Stu turned and started shouting to his crew. Within a matter of minutes the hull section lifted off the deck and moved across the bay.

Sara patted the shorter man on the shoulder, “Glad you are on our side. We’d be in trouble if you were a Vorta.”

“Well, I reckon if I were a Vorta I wouldn’t be me, and no more use to them than any other Vorta ma’am.”

Sara laughed at that, “I’ll give you that Chief.”

She climbed into the cockpit of the workbee and started through her preflight checklist.  After pressing numerous buttons on the touchscreen in front of her and even flipping a handful of physical switches she fired up the engines and sealed the exterior hatch.

“Workbee Eight to Operations,” Sara spoke into the com.

“Go ahead Eight,” The voice of Lieutenant Commander Abbygale Willis replied.

“Preflight checks are complete, and ready to depart for Andromeda.”

“Cleared for departure,” Abby replied.  “Once clear of Valhalla make a hard turn to the left.  We have an incoming shuttle from Arkan II.”

“Understood. Workbee Eight out.”

Sara increased the throttle and the tiny craft lifted off the deck.  She rotated the workbee and activated its tractor beam lifting the hull section off the deck. Tapping out controls the workbee gradually surged forward pushing through the forcefield and into the vacuum of space. 

Pushing the nose down she dipped below the lower warp nacelles of the Valhalla and make a sharp left turn just as a shuttle from the planet approached. She waved at the incoming pilot, but didn’t get a response in return.

The starboard side of the Andromeda’s engineering section from just forward of midpoint all the way to the deflector had been ripped open to space.  The main deflector was unsalvageable as was the starboard torpedo tube.  Replacement at a starbase was the only option there. But, like all ships of its class the Andromeda had an auxiliary deflector. That would have to work for now. The squadron could ill afford to lose the ship at this point. Even in its diminished capacity.

Ensign Lance Collins was using a plasma torch to cut sections of the damaged hull away from the undamaged areas. The rib spars had already been replaced, now it was just a matter of fitting the hull plating to them.  Without thinking he tried to wipe the sweat from his brow and smacked the face of his helmet with the back of his gloved hand.  He swore bitterly.

“What’s that Lance?” Sara’s voice crackled over the intercom.

“Nothing,” he replied bitterly. “I just hate working in these damn things.”

“Now, now Ensign. You’re an officer. You are supposed to set the example to the crew on how to be dignified,” she teased.

“I don’t care,” he replied as he kicked free a twisted section of hull and let if float away from the ship.

“You ready for the next section?”

“Yeah. I’ve been ready.”

The workbee approached and released the new hull section from the tractor beam and allowed its inertia to carry it past the workbee.  Then four individual, and smaller tractor beams caught the section.  Under the direction of Ensing Collins, Sara was able to slide the section neatly into place.  She imagined that had they not been in the vacuum of space there would have likely been a satisfying clunk.  Instead the flashes of welding indicating perfect placement would have to suffice as her reward.

Comments

  • Awesome work to show the engineering side of things on how life goes for them. The interaction between the Officers and Enlisted are old but very much gold. You nailed it in that post awesome to read!

    June 2, 2023