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Stardate: 1604.15 [15 April, 2016]
Sails and Slipsticks
Panels were littered all over decks, having been thrown off the walls and ceilings during their wild ride through space. A few were warped into odd shapes while some looked aged beyond repair. Portions of the carpet was worn thin, and there was a gaping hole right by one of the diagnostic stations. There were a number of the thin glass dividers that appeared melted or shattered, with a greenish tint moving inwards from the edges. Most of the consoles had survived the barrage of distortions that had thrown the ship into other chaos, but several had not - surfaces melted or cracked and others looked weathered by time.
“Engineering probably has seen better days,” muttered Marielle as she maneuvered around a growing pile of panels. She made her way towards a quiet corner and her hand brushed off the debris that had fallen over the glass surface. A corner had been cracked, and there was some bubbling around the edges where the surface looked to have been melted, but over all, it looked like a useable space. Her hands danced over the surface, thankful that the console was in working condition.
Marielle looked up and smiled at young Orion that called out for her attention. “Yeah?” She took a seat in front of the console, hands moving over the system to bring up the ship’s communication commands.
“We were able to take care of the smaller injuries with the emergency medical kits. We’ve moved the severely injured to the quietest corner of Engineering,” Levani reported, her eyes darting to the dozen bodies that were carefully laid on the carpet. There were just enough emergency blankets to keep them warm, but everyone was well aware that they needed medical attention.
“Good. Let’s do our best to keep them comfortable until we can get out of here.” Marielle turned her attention back to the console in front of her, the ship’s schematics flashing into view. A good portion of the ship was highlighted in red. At first glance, it certainly looked as if the entire ship had suffered damages. “Any word on clearing out the plasma in the jefferies tubes?”
Levani shrugged. “Slow moving. Moving in the EV suit is hard.”
“And, moving through the jefferies tubes while wearing an EV suit is like squeezing a giant Klingon into a clown car,” Marielle broke out into a mad laugh, her head thrown back in hysterical mirth at the
image. It was so easy to picture the old fashioned automobile dragging along the dirt towards the center ring of a circus. The door would open, and the burly warrior would step out in a rainbow striped clown outfit - the long dark mane hidden under the crunchy plastic curls, face painted in a gigantic smile, and the ever present red nose.
The Orion took a step back from the laughing woman. She didn’t quite understand what Marielle had said, but Levani just thought the whole thing was a little frightening - especially when the young engineer suddenly stopped laughing.
Marielle suddenly shuddered as the image of the Klingon clown grinned menacingly at her, and suddenly she wasn’t as entertained by the thought. “Oh gosh, that’s scarier than it is funny,” she muttered to herself. She shook her head as if to erase the image from her mind, and her green eyes settled on the Orion, who looked a bit frightened by her. It made Marielle giggle sheepishly. “Moving on,” she cleared her throat, “I’m hoping to get a hold of someone in Science. I need to know what caused the distortions before we start repairing anything. Do you think you can coordinate cleaning up this place a little?”
Levani blinked, and she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Um,” she hesitated, “are you sure you want me to handle it?”
She smiled reassuringly. “I do. We can’t manage the repairs if we’re tripping over debris. Just make sure there are clear paths to working stations and key systems. I especially need the area around the warp core cleared. It won’t take long.” The young woman watched as the Orion woman looked uncomfortable. “You can do this, Sen,” Marielle assured her with a kind and patient tone.
Levani only offered a small weak smile and a frantic nod as an answer, trying to hide her disbelief in such a statement.
Marielle watched as the green-skinned engineer walked away, and her smile dropped slightly as her thoughts moved over what she had observed of the Orion. Her thoughts on Levani Sen would have to wait until later, she reminded herself. She slumped over the console, her eyes dry and heavy from exhaustion, and her fingers danced over the smooth surface of the console. “Engineering to Science?” her voice carried over the sounds of engineers calling out loudly to each other.
Kiki was still going through all the sensor reports on the bridge at the Science One console. There were dents in the railing behind her where her tail had been holding onto it for dear life and several scratch marks from her claws on her second set of paws on the console’s edge. She tapped her communicator to answer the call, her voice coming through the speakers surrounding the console. It was clear despite the soft crackle of static. “Science here. Go ahead, Engineering. It’s kinda a mess up here but we’re mostly functional, how about down there? ” She finally was able to release the near death grip she had on the two and get back to work on the problem at hand. She knew that she’d be working closely with Engineering for the duration of the emergency. Now, if she could just get the rest of the department to help out...
The feminine voice was modulated, controlled with a tone that was pleasant and strong. It brought a smile to Marielle’s voice, and her imagination flared with the image of a tall brunette with confident posture and a kind smile. “I’m in the process of coordinating repairs,” she began. “I was hoping you could give me an idea of what happened out there because the quality of these damages do not appear ordinary.” Marielle’s finger grazed over the solidified bubble on the corner edge of her console. It had formed under the glassy surface, and a dulled solid frost had formed within the bubble. To Marielle, it looked like some of the aged glass in her parents’ cellar.
“Well, the long and the short of it, without all the technobabble, is that we are orbiting a binary black hole configuration.”
At the words “binary black hole configuration”, Marielle shot up in her chair. “Oh that’s not good,” she whispered to herself. Logos instantly had the information to the forefront of her mind, and she picked at the knowledge as she continued to listen.
“And, the gravitational waves that are being created by them were playing with us like a bratty kid with a concertina and NO sense of musical aesthetics.”
Marielle laughed softly at the imagery. The voice had a personality. Personality was always good.
“The geometry of the waves is similar to a corkscrew’s helix or that of a child’s pinwheel. One side of it was spaghetti-fying us while the other was doing its best to broaden us, and not our horizons,” Kiki explained over the comm system. “Now, the real fun part is that the distance between the black holes is shrinking, so we need to find a way out of here.” She paused then added, “Any suggestions would be appreciated. We’ve already had one suggestion of someone willing to get out and push...”
Marielle chewed the corner of her bottom lip as Logos went to work. Equations moved through her mind as a steady stream as she pulled at what she knew of binary black holes and the resulting gravitational waves. “We- we don‘t nearly have enough power to get us moving at the speed we need to maintain a safe distance when the black holes coalesce,” she admitted. A corner of Logos had a list of repairs that was needed to get the ship moving, and the added knowledge of their situation only had Pathos in “flailing arms in the air while screaming hysterically” panic mode.
The voice over the comm systems remained silent for a moment.”Well we’ll need to find it, have you thought of adding in all the non essential systems to the matrix as well as the shuttles, runabouts and Captain’s gig? They can add additional power as needed.”
“Yes, but it still won’t be enough, especially considering the current situation.” Marielle closed her eyes and willed her brain to slow down. First, the repairs. That was her priority. The distortions had stopped, which meant that the “Ludicrous Speed” effort must have been an attempt to get into an area between the gravitational waves. Logos opened up a file folder on gravitational waves. She knew they warped the space-time continuum. It would explain the nature of the damage, and that would require stabilizing chroniton particles in the molecules of damaged systems. “Would it be safe to assume that the distortions we experienced were temporal in nature?” she asked.
“Yes. As well as spatial. I’m almost ready to suggest hanging a huge sail out from behind the ship so that when the explosion DOES come, the force would act like a spinnaker to drag us outta the area, but I’ll have to do more models of that first,” Kiki replied from her location. She was frustrated that the Vulcans on the Science staff had not added in their knowledge to the equations she had been running. She continued to speak into the communication system, speaking to the young woman whose voice filled the space around her whenever she spoke. “A bunch of parachutes in a millefiori pattern could do the same thing. Think a parachute version of a ‘Grandma’s Flower Garden’ quilt. Of course, this is just a simplified idea, one means of getting out of this pickle.”
“Oh! That would be brilliant!” Marielle cheered. Her eyes darted to the engineering floor, watching as Levani moved with a group to pile damaged panels to the side. A group of engineers were hovering by an open jefferies tube, no doubt waiting for the small team in EV suits to clear the path of plasma. They had just started their repairs, but the knowledge the voice over the comm system had given them the missing piece of the puzzle. Repairs would be efficiently handled now that they knew what needed to be done and what they would need to continue doing. “I’m going to need to take this one step at a time,” Marielle told the voice.
“I hear ya there, Engineering, unfortunately that may be too slow, depending on the rate of coalescence.” Kiki was frustrated that she didn’t have the same cool logic that the Vulcans did to solve this conundrum brilliantly. If she didn’t know better, she’d have guessed that “Q” was the one behind their finding the binary black holes and he was playing another game with them.
“Engineering will need to focus on key repairs to be made so we can handle whatever escape plan we create. So, stable flow of power will be our top priority,” Marielle began. “We’re running on auxiliary batteries at the moment, but that won’t last for very long. Shields are up to combat radiation as I’m more than certain that portions of the outer hull plates have been compromised by the temporal and spatial distortions. She paused, fingers moving over the console as she began tracing a line between systems. These were the conduits she needed running, Logos filed the information. Marielle had assumed ALICE would have been affected; there was no way she wouldn’t have been considering the nature of the distortions. Science would need stable power to run their calculations if ALICE wasn’t there to assist. “How much power will you need to make your calculations? I haven’t even attempted to approach ALICE at the moment.”
Kiki’s voice filled the space around Marielle. “ALICE is back up and running on her own, looking like she’s on a treadmill running a Marathon. She’s working on the problem too, and I have a small but powerful personal backup computer that has an indie power source, so you don’t need to worry about that. If needed, I can add the power supply from that into the rest of the ship’s power but only as a last resort. Then I resort to the slipsticks.”
Marielle released a thankful breath at hearing ALICE’s status. “No,” she replied to the offer, “you’ll need it for your calculations.” She leaned back into the chair and stared at the schematics. A sail would be difficult to create on such short notice and without the proper resources. It wasn’t impossible, but it would certainly be a challenge. “We’re going to need a lot of power. We’re going to need to create a subspace chroniton particle field around the ship. If we can create solar sails,” she began, her voice trailing off. Logos brought forward a glaring issue. “Wait. That blast wouldn’t last very long. Once the black holes coalesce, aren’t we going to be pulled into the mass? I mean, the solar mass on those two will be monstrous.”
“I know and I was thinking of using the sail as a boost mechanism, like a springboard a gymnast would use, to propel us out far enough that the gravity well. The duration would not have to be that great to handle it. Then we could get the engines to take us the rest of the way out of there. That explosion is going to produce one heck of a shockwave for us to deal with, and if we can catch part of it in the sail, while having the bow facing the wave front, we may have a chance. I’m also going to run it by the Vulcans and see what they have to add to it.The sit’s can be bad, but they’re not hopeless by any means, I learned that back on Rural Penned-up.”
She chuckled at the optimism. Marielle liked optimism. “I know. I just rather like this ship, and the thought of it getting crushed before I could even hug it is, well, upsetting.” Her tone was wry and she smiled as she tilted her head back to stare at the ceiling. “It’s just that we need to get the ship out to a different star system on just one black hole. It’s another matter when they’re binary. I’m not sure the sails will push us far enough, and I can barely get impulse going as it is.”
“It might help if we moved all the nonessential people and everything more toward the center of the ship so we’ll have a few layers of bulkheads to add shielding from the radiation without adding to the extra workload on the engines. Now if we could find a way to harness all that power from those black holes...who knows what all we could accomplish?” Kiki was wishing that the brown curly haired man with ready grin, the impossibly long scarf and the bag of jelly babies in the blue box would show up again. She missed those candies.
Marielle sighed softly. “It’s gone all wibbly wobbly and timey wimey outside, and I can’t even enjoy it,” she complained, mostly to herself but loud enough for the comm to pick up her voice. “Okay, uh,” she stopped, realizing she never bothered to ask who was on the other side of the comm. “I’m sorry. I failed to catch your name. Ensign Marielle Deniaud here in Engineering.”
“Ensign Kiki Zomaii here in Sciences, just look for the wolf-faced kangaroo centaur when we get through all this mess.”
Marielle blinked. Wolf-faced kangaroo centaur? The original image - the brunette with the confident posture and the kind smile - disappeared instantly. Her imagination quickly painted a kangaroo body, with a clothed human torso, and a wolf face. Could a human torso have a kangaroo pouch? Her head tilted to the side as it tried to contemplate this, and Marielle smiled. She really had to meet this scientist. “I have no clue what such a species may look like,” she admitted kindly, “but I’m sure I’ll be able to spot you just from the name alone. Thank you, Ensign Zomaii. I’ll coordinate with you once we’ve made headway with the repairs.” Marielle was already standing and taking steps to join the rest of the engineering staff.
”Sounds good, and the Vulcans may have a better plan than I do to get us out of this pressure cooker. And see if you can also steal the auxiliary generator from Sickbay that they use for their battle-time power needs.” Kiki was continually trying to think of every place they could snatch power from for the big attempt to get out of there. There, more than likely, would be no second chance. “Zomaii out.”