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Stardate: 1604.15 [15 April, 2016]
The Ship’s Fool
- Proverbs 23:9
“Nobody was able to redirect the power flow out of the auxiliary battery from the damaged conduits on Decks 19 and 20, and I was able to realign the induction coils. It won’t give us much beyond running vital systems, but it will do. The bridge should be able to get shields up in a few minutes, but it won’t last for more than three hours.”
Marielle wiped the sweat from her brow as she yanked at another set of wires from the depths of the console and threw it to the side. “Great work, guys! Hopefully we can more power moving through her soon, but you’re giving us a much needed breather. Be sure to tell the Bridge. They need some good news right about now.”
“What do you want us to tackle next?”
“Grab a few people. Reroute plasma from the EPS conduits that look damaged, even if it’s the most minor of leaks. We need to maximize our power flow throughout the ship.” When the pair disappeared, she shifted a tangled mess of wires around her neck to allow it to dangle more comfortably over her shoulders before diving right back into the fray of her repairs. Her neck ached as her face pressed against the cold metal surface of the console, her hand reached blindly to the back and her fingers wiggled desperately to grab the dangling connector. She could feel it just beyond her reach. Her eyes squeezed shut as she all but dislocated her arm to pinch it between two fingers. With a strong yank, she pulled it out and grinned at the small victory. The feeling of success was brief when her eyes fell on the near blackened end. Her back curved as she slouched, and her head lightly tapped against the side of the console as she remained seated on the floor.
“Okay. Okay,” she talked to herself. “One step at a time, and go about it logically.” Her fingers lightly gripped at the edge and her fingernails went to work, scratching at the blackened end to see if she could salvage it. It wouldn’t do; new connections were necessary and there was no way of replicating them. Her heart nearly sank at the sight, black flakes falling with each scrape. Her fingers moved a few centimeters from the end and pulled at the protective layer to expose the fresh wiring.
“What are you doing, Ensign Dah-ni-awd?”
Marielle didn’t bother looking up as the pair of scuffed boots came into view within the edge of her vision. The contempt in his voice and the manner in which he purposely butchered her surname was enough to identify the source. Lieutenant Peterson. Peter Paul Peterson was quickly becoming the bane of her young career, with absolutely no intelligence to support the gigantic ego that made his head swell with imagined importance. “I’m trying to salvage these wires, Lieutenant Peterson,” she stopped herself before she could add ‘What does it look like?’ to the end of her explanation.
His eyes watched as Marielle snapped the blackened end of the salvaged wire and then proceeded to wipe the ash on the side of her pants. “Why? This console doesn’t work, and there is no way to make a new one. Replicators are down.”
She told herself not to sigh as her impatience continued to rise. Was this man absolutely useless? Engineers were supposed to think on their feet and be adaptive. This was the stuff from which they were made. No replicator? No problem. She’d make it happen with a piece of bulkhead, burnt wire, and her spit if necessary. Because she was an engineer and this was her domain. “I know the replicators are down,” Marielle managed with a barely controlled tone. “That’s why I’m salvaging the wire and replacing the connection piece.” She gripped the pristine connection piece, unscrewing it from the mess of wires over her shoulders, and then carefully connecting the newly cleaned set.
“Ensign,” Peterson placed extra emphasis on her rank and relished in the confidence it gave him. She was an ensign, and he was not. While the Commodore had specifically called for her to take control, she couldn’t argue with his rank. “Your time would be better spent working on repairing other aspects of the ship.”
The condescension made Marielle’s jaw clench as she held back the biting remarks that appeared on the tip of her tongue. She inhaled deeply and released a controlled breath between her narrowly parted lips. Her focus remained on the freshly repaired wire in her hand as she dove into the console’s opening, her upper half disappearing while her legs remained within view. “With all due respect, Lieutenant,” Marielle snickered at the thought - the man deserved none - as she spoke to him from the depths of the console, “the Commodore has asked that I coordinate these repairs. I believe that your skills would be better served elsewhere.” She pushed the end back into place, tightening the connection to the console’s motherboard with a twist. At the sounds of clicking and the display humming, she grinned widely. Her celebratory exclamation echoed from within the space space, “Ah!”
Peterson’s eyes widened briefly as the lights on the console flickered alive, but they narrowed as Marielle scrambled from within the console to jump to her feet. His uniform had remained pristine, but the woman had become a mess - her uniform stained with the dirt of her work and her skin marred by light scratches. Sweat glistened along her brow, and the fringes of her hair clung to her skin. The low chignon at the base of her neck had come undone, and she looked like a wild woman with large clumps of her long hair cascading wildly from the loose hair tie.
“Look! It’s working! It’s blink- It’s… It’s alive. It’s alive. It’s alive. It’s working, it’s alive! It’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive! It’s alive!” she cackled madly as she danced, her hips swaying to and fro as she jumped on the balls of her feet. Her fingers moved with precision over the console, schematics and diagnostics moving into view as if data flowed readily from the very tips of her fingers.
The mad look in her eyes frightened him. “Ensign!” his voice snapped at her and felt a flash of satisfaction when she immediately turned to face him, muscle memory from years as a cadet had her snapping to attention. “Your superior officer is speaking to you!”
Marielle’s shoulders lost their tension as Logos immediately registered that it was Peterson who had called for her attention. “Yes, sir?” she managed with a thinly veiled tone of irritation.
Peterson cleared his throat. “It may be better for you to move away from here. This is too big of a job for an inexperienced officer such as yourself,” he all but sneered his explanation.
When the Commodore ordered her to coordinate the repairs, she had ordered him to make his way to the warp coils, hoping that it would get him out of everyone’s hair. Marielle had slapped a device in his hand, a coil spanner that she had jerry-rigged into a chronoton subspace converter, and then pointed to the jefferies tubes. He should have disappeared into the labyrinth and left her in peace! It irritated her to no end that he was still standing around. Doing nothing. There were systems to check and repair! Marielle’s mouth opened and shut several times as she tried to choose from the long list of responses, each containing an intricate combination of words that were vividly descriptive of his neglected and shrunken male anatomy. Finally, the young woman settled on stepping to the side as she motioned to the console. “Then, Lieutenant,” she paused to allow him to step up to the newly repaired equipment, “please educate me of our next step.”
He smirked as his hands danced over the console, immediately going to work to remove the schematics from view and replaced them with the diminished power readings. Peterson’s eyes remained on the console. “We need to get matter and anti-matter moving through the core first and immediately establish full power-”
Marielle pinched her nose as the beginnings of a headache pounded a loud and steady rhythm against the back of her skull. Not this again. “No.”
He gritted his teeth. “Do not interrupt me, Ensign Denny-dude,” he grumbled, butchering her name on purpose yet again. Small victories were still victories. “We need to get the warp core back online, but we need the replicators to run-”
Peterson growled and slammed his hand on the console, the screen flickered under the force. “Then what do you suggest we do, Ensign?!”
Marielle’s eyes closed tightly as she kept herself from pushing the man away from the console. It had taken her a significant amount of effort to get it working, and the repairs were delicate at best. “Our priority is to repair the warp core before we even attempt to use it. These distortion waves were temporal in nature, and it altered the very nature of matter.” She was sure to use the most basic of vocabulary. Ever since the impromptu staff meeting in the cargo bay over her use of the Chief Engineer office, Marielle had taken special care to watch Peterson. His complaint about his warp core diagnostic had stuck out clearly in her mind. This man was a certifiable idiot. A disgrace to the very concept of engineering, and the very notion of such a man touching something her uncle had so lovingly built, of touching ALICE, had her seeing red.
“So?” he asked her impatiently.
Her hand moved to massage her right temple with her right thumb, and her eyes opened to stare at him. Pathos moved her with a steady melody to combat the storm of frustration and impatience. She had better things to do than have to explain something so simple. “That means that we do not know the extent the warp core has been compromised. It could fail now or it could fail once we get out of here; there’s no way of knowing. It’s a wonder we didn’t explode when we made that last ditch effort. Our first step was to reroute what power we could from the auxiliary batteries, but that will not last with the amount of power we are expending. It will, however, give us the time we need to make the repairs that can get us moving out of here in something more than limping speed.”
Peterson’s mouth dropped as her explanation moved through his brain.
“We are currently undertaking the next step, which is to secure the EPS and reroute plasma throughout a smaller number of conduits. This will drastically lessen our need to scan and repair every conduit on this ship,” she paused when his expression turned confused.
His brow furrowed together in concentration, and his brain was having issues processing. “That makes no sense,” he managed, though his voice had no strength behind it. “Repair all the conduits, watch the core while in use, and just get us moving. I don’t see why this is so hard.”
Marielle sighed. Did she have to explain everything to him? “If we reroute power through a smaller number of conduits, we only have to repair the damages found in those lines. We won’t need to thin out engineering in a massive game of seek-and-repair to hunt down a miniscule break in one conduit, and the repairs will be done only to the conduits we’ll be using. It’ll also help concentrate the energy so that we can at least get impulse power from the fusion reactors, which is safer than hoping that the core won’t breach if we just stare at it.” She watched Peterson’s mind slowly make the connections. She couldn’t hold back any longer. “Augh. ALICE is tirelessly producing oxygen so you can breathe. You really owe her an apology,” she muttered under her breath.
There was a tickle of a laughter that moved through Engineering, easily drowned over the murmured speech of the staff as they made their way through the extensive repair list. But Peterson had heard it, and his ears twitched as he glowered at Marielle. He really hated the upstart - with her annoying smile, her annoying happy voice, and her annoying skip to her step. “What was that, Ensign Done-awb?”
Her eyes steeled at the third butchering of her name, and Marielle turned her body to face the console. Her hands moved with elegant motions over the cracked surface, the power relay readings disappearing for the diagnostic numbers and warp core schematics.
“What do you think you’re doing, Ensign?”
“Setting up a level 3 containment field.”
“But there’s no pow-,” he stopped at the shimmer of the containment field surrounded the warp core and wondered how she managed such a feat.
“As I said, we redirected the power flow from the auxiliary batteries,” she answered his unspoken question. Marielle’s head bobbed as she looked down at the console and back to the core. “Permission to speak freely, sir.”
His jaw clenched. The shimmer of the containment field had gained the attention of the surrounding engineers, and he didn’t enjoy the extra eyes that naturally drifted to them. He wanted to deny her the allowance to speak her mind, knew it would be nothing but trouble because that was all that she was. Trouble. Yet, his traitorous mouth answered before his brain could stop it. “Granted,” he replied, and Peterson nearly physically smacked himself for his apparent stupidity.
“You are entirely deficient in all things that lends to character,” she began with an apathetic tone. Irritation had drowned in the stoic calm of her dangerous side. Her eyes remained focused on the core, hands moving over the console with perfect precision. “As far as your ability is concerned, you couldn’t fall out of a boat and hit water.”
A light laughter lifted over the quickly hushing crowd that began to watch Peterson and Marielle.
Peterson’s eyes grew wide. This was beyond anything he had expected. “Excuse me?!”
“After you told Commander Durandus that you had been working on that warp core diagnostics all day, I’ve been watching you work,” she informed him flatly. When he remained silent, she continued as if she was speaking of nothing more than the weather. “This department has had to settle for your incompetence because you’ve been here the longest. Someone needed to act as the department head, but you are far from actually being one. You pass off tasks to lower ranked officers yet take full credit for their work. When there is a chance for you to actually do the work yourself, you take hours because you don’t know what you’re doing. You make mistakes and blame others for them.”
“Now listen here!”
“We’re partially in this mess because of you,” Marielle kept speaking as if he had not said a thing.
The silence was almost deafening as the accusation was cast out into the open.
“During that diagnostic, did you ever unlock the magnetic constrictors? Close the injector ports?” She waited a beat for him to answer. “Did you even set the computer to safe mode so that the diagnostic itself wouldn’t throw off all your calibrations?” She paused, giving Peterson an opportunity to answer. “You should have done all of these before you even start a warp core diagnostic. There’s a reason why the plasma conduits couldn’t handle the distortions. They were already weak because you never bothered to keep them in the right conditions.”
“How could he not know that?” someone whispered, the voice carrying over the silence.
Marielle kept on, her tone dripping with derision. “You are lazy, dishonest, and just plain thick. You have no imagination, which is surprising considering that is the inherent nature of our post. It’s in the damn job description, Peterson. Troubleshooting. Did you even get the memo?”
There it was again, the lithe sound of a giggle filtering over the crowd of engineers. Peterson growled. He closed the space between them, his body straightening as he tried to intimidate her to stop.
“I know it was you,” her voice low and her tone ominous.
“What?” Peterson blanched at her words, eyes darting nervously around him. He took a step back as if the action would make her stop. His mouth opened to interrupt her, but the words immediately died when her head turned to stare at him with a leveling coldness.
“I know you gave your authorization code to Ensign Sen. Really, Peterson? Levani?” Marielle let the meaning of her words sink in slowly, and she let her eyes flicker to the Orion in question to flash her a supportive smile. The engineer was sweet, but she had been poorly trained and it showed.
“I- I have no idea what you’re saying, Ensign,” he weakly managed. “You- you’re treading on dangerous ground here. I will warn you to watc-”
She sighed the moment his mouth opened, turning her attention back to the console. “You make easy things look difficult. I honestly have an extraordinarily hard time picturing a more wicked hell than listening to you attempt to think. In fact, I can pretty much hear all four of your brain cells rallying to assemble a coherent thought.”
At that, the engineers who surrounded them snickered and laughed openly at his expense.
“Ensign, you are out of line!”
“You’ve given me permission to speak freely, and I plan on using my time wisely,” she retorted with ease. Marielle raised a hand to stop him from speaking again while the other hand remained to dance over the console. “I’m sure whatever you have to say can wait until you’re smarter,” and she waved the hand towards the core.
“That’s never going to happen!” called out a feminine voice from the crowd, and there was a rumble of agreement with a sprinkling of laughter.
“Who said that?!” Peterson spun on his heels, his head whipping for the source of the voice.
“Oh, nobody,” responded the same feminine voice. It laughed when Peterson’s head snapped to Nobody’s direction, and the ensign only shrugged in response.
Marielle continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “The Commodore has specifically ordered me to coordinate the repairs, which I am doing, and for you to give me your help, which you are not. I’ve organized teams, with the help of the others, to handle what needs to be done. I’ve asked you to deal with the warp coils because even a man who is as severely deficient in ability as you can handle such a task. We cannot function unless everyone is doing what they must, and you are only being a bother with your incessant posturing.”
Peterson’s mouth opened and closed as if he was a fish out of water. At the very edge of his peripherals, he caught sight of Sen giggling and whispering to Nobody, who was nodding with a slight smirk on his lips.
“If I wanted to relax, I would have climbed up your ego and jumped down to your IQ level, you soggy piece of toast,” at this, Marielle finally turned to face him, ignoring the cacophony of laughter that erupted at her words.
Peterson’s face only grew redder, warming his face and the base of his neck.
She placed a hand on her hip and stared at him with a flat and unamused expression. “You're just... stupid. You have travelled beyond stupid as we know it and ventured deep into a new dimension of stupid. You emit more stupid in one minute than our entire quadrant does in a decade.”
Mouths dropped as the words flowed so easily.
“Stupid collapsed into a singularity where even the stupons have collapsed into a stuponium.”
It was then the staff erupted with laughter. “Stupons have collapsed into a stuponium!” someone repeated with a howl of laughter. “Holy frak, that was the best sentence in the known universe!” The crowd just roared all the more.
“Shut up you- you- short midget!” he screamed at her and found some solace at the silence that came with it. It was short lived as the laughter filled the space again.
“Is that all you’ve got? I’m short?” she prodded him and shook her head with pity as he stammered to gather his thoughts. Marielle blinked once. Twice. “I'm sorry. Did I hurt your feelings when I called you stupid? I really thought you already knew.” The laughter grew. “I don’t have time to deal with your inferiority complex, no matter how justified it may be.”
Peterson’s fists closed tightly, his fingernails digging deep into the palms of his hand.
“We have a job to do, and people are depending on us to do it. I neither have the time nor the crayons to explain this to you, so I’m just going to say this once. Listen closely.” Marielle’s shoulders squared as her head tilted up. Despite her short stature in comparison to his tall and lanky one, her very presence filled the space around them. “While you may outrank me, it does not make you my superior. At this moment in time, I am in charge of coordinating these repairs, and I plan on following through with that duty. Do not presume to bully me simply because you think you can.”
His mouth dropped and still Peterson could only remain silent. His brain struggled to keep him standing.
She turned back to the console. “One last thing, Lieutenant. It’s D-uhn-ee-aud,” she corrected and repeated for good measure, “Deniaud. D-uhn-ee-aud.” Marielle paused to let the pronunciation linger between them. “Now, I don’t think I can summon any more strength to further mock your moronic opinion and your malformed logic. Please go back to your assigned repairs. The Bridge is expecting stable power and some semblance of propulsion, and the rest of us are planning on delivering.”
Peterson watched as Marielle moved away from the console and approached the dilithium crystal housing unit. He turned to see engineers staring openly at him, some wiping tears from their eyes while their faces were flushed red with mirth. He remained rooted in his spot. His mouth opened to retort at her barrage of insults, to inform her that she had stepped well beyond the boundaries of protocol and Starfleet decorum and to find some sort of face in front of the engineering staff, but no sound escaped.
“Lieutenant,” she called out to him, tone filled with empty yet practiced respect, “would you mind taking Robinson with you? He mentioned that he’d rather handle the warp coils. Something about women having no business tinkering with them. I think his skills would be of better use under your supervision.” Marielle turned to stare into the dilithium crystal housing and openly sighed as she pulled the hair tie from the base of her neck, releasing the poorly gathered chignon into a mess of sweat drenched hair.
Engineers dispersed, returning to their respective tasks. A group approached Marielle, many as dirty and as unkempt as she. “What’s next?”
“Morrison, right? You, and um, Daniels? - Yay! I remembered! Please handle the cracks in the warp core power transfer conduit. Make sure the structural integrity hasn’t been compromised from the distortions. Nobody, take a look at the cracks in the structural supports around the warp core. I think they’re fine, but better safe than sorry. That being said, any ideas on what we can do if they aren’t? Replicators are down, and there’s no way to get what we need.”
The group stared at each other, not accustomed to being asked their opinion. Peterson had always directed, and they never questioned it because they were ensigns. “Some old fashioned welding to some 80’s montage tune?” suggested Nobody.
Marielle giggled at the response. “Which 80’s? 1980’s? 2080’s? 2280’s?”
“2180’s,” Nobody responded with a smirk. “I have a thing for crap music.”
Peterson remained standing near the core, ignored as the engineers moved seamlessly around him. His eyes narrowed on the diminutive woman as she laughed with the group at what Nobody said. Unnoticed, he dashed off, thinking of his revenge.
“I’ll need to be careful near the actual tubing, but I think I can do it,” Nobody expanded eventually.
“Sounds like a plan. Blake. Johnston How are the fusion reactors?”
Blake glanced at the PADD in her hands. “Minor cracks and structural integrity issues, but the two three-man teams you assigned are making great progress. Should be running in an hour, that’s assuming that the warp coils haven’t been compromised.” Her eyes flickered to Peterson, who only stared at her blankly.
“If we can get the ship moving forward, the Bussard collectors can gather whatever interstellar hydrogen isn’t being pulled into the binary black holes. It’ll give us enough fuel to get us moving and power up more systems at least,” Johnston added.
“Well, that’s good news. The Commodore will want this ship moving away from here as soon as possible, even if it’s at limping speed.” Marielle turned to the Orion woman to her left. “Sen, I’m going to need you to go around and get status reports from all the other engineers. They’ll respond better to you than me. We need to make sure the EPS conduits are sealed properly to keep shields working once we drain out the auxiliary batteries.”
Sen nodded. “That shouldn’t take long. Everyone’s really moving.”
Marielle gathered her hair, combing through it roughly with her fingers, and tied it into a high ponytail. “Any word on the plasma leak that has us trapped in here?”
The Orion shook her head. “Teams are still working on venting it, but so far only the jefferies tubes on those decks have been vented.”
“Okay. Well, once we’re actually able to leave this place without crawling, do you think you can manage coordinating with the Doc?” Marielle’s eyes lingered on the bodies that had been gingerly moved to a quiet corner of Engineering, the worse off moaning from the extent of their injuries. “We need to get our guys to Sickbay immediately.” When Sen nodded, Marielle smiled appreciatively before looking at the dilithium housing unit. Her smile dropped immediately. “Terrison, I’m going need help with the dilithium crystals the housing unit. I could really use your expertise here because I have no idea how to even approach this.”
The group openly gaped at her. Peterson had never bothered to admit anything less than perfect knowledge.
She didn’t notice. Logos was already moving quickly, filing cabinets snapping open with information zooming into the forefront of her thoughts. “I noticed two crystals with cracks. If we even attempt anything like the ‘Ludicrous Speed!’ stunt from earlier, we’ll have problems. I’m betting the temporal distortions sped up the decay, and that light mist in there reeks of Illium 629.” Marielle smiled as the group started brainstorming, and she made a silent note to thank ALICE - at least that’s what she assumed from the beautiful ringing laughter that had inspired the others - for the show of support. She’d be reaping the consequences of her insubordination later, she was sure, but she couldn’t worry about that now.