Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Next Life

I wrote this one on my way to work one morning. I heard a song on the radio and for some reason this story came into my brain fully written. I pulled to the side of the road and spent 22 minutes writing it and have changed it hardly at all from that first writing.

It wasn’t so bad.
She’d cried at first, not knowing what the next life would be like. She’d been scared and didn’t want to leave the only life she’d known. The transition from one life to next had been experienced by everyone who had ever lived, but she didn’t know that, nor did she care. She wanted to live her life forever and didn’t want to go to the next.
But God had ordained that she would move from one life to the next, and thus it had been done.
She had been so scared.
She’d loved the life she’d been living. It had been a simple life for more time than she could remember. Not that she really knew how much time she’d been given to enjoy that life, but she did know that she was comfortable, loved and had plenty to eat.
Emily, the only name she’d ever known, was content with the life she’d been given.
There was nothing she could comprehend that she’d want more, than the life she was living.
As she slowly grew, she felt the love and affection of her mother and father around her. She explored where she could and enjoyed what she had, not knowing there was a greater world around her, with experiences and knowledge that would take another lifetime to learn.
All she had was her own little world and she loved it.
And then the time came and she knew her life here was at an end.
The joy of waking and sleeping at her whim had come to an end.
She didn’t know what the next life would bring and it scared her deep into her soul. It was a primal fear of losing everything that was loved; a fear deeper than any Emily had ever experienced.
She’d never had to leave life before, and she didn’t want to leave the only home, the only place, she could remember.
She also didn’t know how many others come to the door of the next life and were afeared of what was beyond. She was one unto herself in her world and was not ready for the next life.
Like all things however, the time came when Emily was taken into the next life.
As her mother held her close to her breast to feed little Emily, the baby girl, the apple of her daddy’s eye, fresh into her new life, decided it wasn’t so bad after all.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Gate

The young woman walked the dirt road in a slow and measured trudging stride. Her plain white skirt hung lifelessly and the equally plain white blouse she wore seemed as dull as the day.
The damp dirt she walked over made little noise and no echo.
She had been walking the same road for more than five years now. Her plodding steps were rhythmic to her ears, but the slow progress she made to wherever she was going was aging her another day with ever passing step.
She was not a lovely, not a classic woman. She was ordinary; neither pretty nor plain. She was unimpressive and unadorned. She walked the road down the middle neither too far to the left nor too far to the right.
She had features that made her not stand out in a crowd and she'd heard one time that she could hide in a group of five.
The air hung about her. It was neither a cold, nor a warm day, just as it had been since she found this never-ending sameness. The constant low hanging clouds obscured the sun which never shown on her face since she began her walk. No shadow accompanied her on her walk. She was alone.
The road had no scenery. Small tufts of grass sprouted at irregular intervals along her path, but they were as uninteresting as the dirt upon which she walked. The grass was as uninteresting as its greenish-brown coloring.
She had had a coat when she began her walk. She had used it to protect her from the environs that now had become her monotony. The young woman's coat had fallen by the wayside. She believed she no longer needed the protection of the coat, but in retrospect, she now wishes she had the company of her coat. Walking along down this road had become nearly unbearable to her.
Her days were always the same on this road of loneliness. Mists from the clouds occasionally dampened her spirits and made her walk more slowly. Sadness enveloped her on some days while on others the monotony remained unchallenged.
The road she walked was nearly always silent. No birds sang, no trees whispered, there was no distant hush of vehicles going somewhere and she never heard an aircraft passing over her in its destination to somewhere else.
Her solitude was close to absolute.
At times she would pass another person on this road of solitude, but they had baggage she didn't want to have to help carry. She often recalled the people who passed her, always men, some had baggage filled with empty bottles, others had bags filled with lies or anger, some had issues which were hidden in the bags, but she could tell their burdens were heavy.
The young lady had baggage of her own and she often wondered to herself if maybe she shouldn't shed some of it to help make her walk easier. But the baggage was all she had of her past. With no future in her sights, other than the road she now walked, she held her baggage close to her.
Breaking the solitude on her walk were gates. These were the openings she would pass where she would here the voices of others. Every few weeks she would pass a gate. Sometimes they were open to her only enough for her to see through the cracks, other times they would open enough for her to slip through, but not her baggage. She wouldn't leave her baggage.
She would look through the gates to the other side. She had seen men happily playing with their children; she had seen men sitting at their desks working. Through other gates she saw men on the beach playing games. All looked as if they were waiting for someone to walk through the gate and join them, but she never entered.
Many years in her past, when her bags were few and she had been on a different road, she had entered through one of the gates and had gleefully played with the man inside. They had made joy and basked in the sunshine.
But the man had hurt her, had broken her trust and defiled her soul. She left in pain and began her lonely walk down this new road of solitude
Those memories were now in her baggage. She vowed that she had been hurt to the core by that man and no one would ever again have the power over her to hurt her so deeply.
The coat of her childhood protected her somewhat from the pain, but it too became a burden she could no longer carry. So her coat fell by the wayside and it was just her and her baggage.
She couldn't leave her baggage. So these gates to fell behind her in her walk down the desolate road. At some point in her walk, she even stopped looking at what was beyond the gates and just looked ahead of her on the road, noticing how it narrowed further ahead. She wondered at times in the road would ever stop for her, if there would ever be an end to this ennui.
Well into her fifth year on the road, she happened upon a swinging gate.
The gate was rusted and creaked from the wind she didn't feel.
It had been months since a gate had piqued her interest. She had become so used to ignoring the gates that she's almost forgotten that they were there; almost forgot that there was a way off this road of desolation and loneliness.
Her curiosity got the better of her and she had to look at what was beyond the gate. It had been so long since she had looked through a gate, she was somewhat shaken by what she saw.
Peering through the opening, she could smell the fragrances of a thousand flowers; the stiff breeze that had brought the gate to her attention assailed her hair. Colors, which were so lacking in her world of mediocre grays and browns, attacked her eyes to a point where she had to cover them. The sky beyond the gate was a blue she'd never seen before. Her soul sighed in awe at the beauty.
It was only after her eyes had adjusted to the startling yellows, luscious greens, deep purples and delicate reds, that she saw the one thing that drew her attention the most.
In the center of the field, beyond the gate, a man stood.
He was a nondescript man, neither large nor small. He stood in the center of the field looking off to the horizon. He stood strong against the warm wind that whipped his hair. His arms were bare to the elbow and the small hairs on his muscled hands danced with water droplets the size of teardrops.
The flannel work shirt whipped in the warm winds and the denim jeans he wore were faded, but sturdy.
As the lady from the road watched, the sun grew warm upon her face. Birds sang songs of summer and the winds became gentle relief from the summer heat. Grass grew and waved to the sky while she watched and trees blossomed generous leaves that provided shade to the man in the field. Storms came and soaked the man even though he was under the trees, but his face, haggard but sensitive, never lost its small smile.
Soon the cool autumn winds came to blow summer away. The sound of rustling leaves startled her for a moment. It had been a long time since the lady had experienced such raw life. Thunderstorms rattled the man, but he stood staring into the distance.
Something he stared at made him happy, the young lady concluded. That something must be very wonderful for him to keep smiling that way. She wondered what rapture could bring such joy.
Autumn turned to winter and cool winds became and icy blizzard. Snowdrifts formed around the man's feet. Ice hung from his hair that was no longer whipping in the wind. The tree that had shaded the man from the summer's heat now stood lifeless, cracking slightly in the winds that blew the snow.
Frigid temperatures froze the young lady's fingers and again she wished for the coat she had left behind.
As she thought about the coat, the gate was nearly blown shut, cutting off her view of the man in the field. She couldn't help herself, she had to watch that man and soon put all thoughts of the coat away forever.
The gate again swung open again. The man was still standing there, staring enigmatically into the distance. Try as she might, she could not see what drew the man's attention. She wanted to know what it was the man saw that caused him to stand in this field full of changes.
The snow, which had piled around his legs, began to melt with the warm breezes of spring. Ice fell from his hair and his eyes softened like the breezes. The spring rains caused flowers and grass to jump out of their dormancy.
Birds once again sang their songs and the warming winds kissed the man in the field as soft as a butterfly's whisper. The man's smile widened just a little, but to the lady, it was the first emotion she had seen in so very long, and she had almost missed it.
The lady compared this man's life to her own.
Here there was a multitude of weathers he must contend with, a series of challenges he must overcome. He must face the stinging autumn rains, the ice and snow of the winter, but he also got to hear the spring and feel the heat of the summer.
In her life there on the road was nothing.
The road she walked was never changing. It was neither warm nor cold. The sun never shined on her and she never smelled the flowers of spring, but she never had the chance to feel the cold of winter or feel the sting of a hard autumn rain. Her life was an unending road of nothing, no emotions, no joy, no sorrows, no pain.
But how was this man's world different from those in the gates she had passed before? What had drawn her to this man in the field? What could he see in the distance?
She looked again at the man's face as the summer sun beamed its light upon him. His smile was still as it had been when she first looked. She decided this man must be happy. He always seemed to enjoy whatever it was that he was looking at. She also noticed the baggage he had beside him. There was a bag lying limply on the ground. It was small and opened to her. She could see what he carried and it scared her not at all.
But it was the something in the distance the young lady wanted to see. The young lady from the road, who had grown in years and maturity wanted to feel that happiness.
The gate that blocked her way was rusted. She could squeeze through, and for the first time, her baggage followed her through.
Entering to field and cautiously walking up to the man, her baggage fell to the ground. In the first few steps she had already forgotten the reason she had kept the smaller baggage. They fell to the wayside and were left to the field.
The young lady took a moment to examine this man well. His eyes were thoughtful and she could see them shed a tear. She supposed it was because of the beauty of the new day arising.
His hands looked strong but gentle. As the weather here changed from blistering highs to frigid lows, the hands of this man seemed to grow weathered but never cracked under the strain.
He stood tall against everything this land threw at him. He never angered at the unfairness of the rains or the heat that reddened his fore head. His calmness was a stark contrast to the field in which he lived.
The lady, who had become a woman, noticed that her baggage was being blown away in this man's field. The pain and hurt, which she had been keeping with her, was fading into her yesterdays.
She had to know what it was that he saw in the distance. She wanted so badly to feel the eminent joy he so obviously felt. She had to know what it was that made this man so happy that he would stand all the ups and downs this field was throwing at him.
Speaking softly she asked: "What is it you see?"
Gently taking her small hand in his, eyes never leaving what he saw in the distance, he spoke in a smooth baritone voice: "Our tomorrows."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dear Mr. President and members of Congress,

The situation is unacceptable. The “shutting down of our government” because the lot of you are in a pissing contest over who is right and who is wrong is a situation that needs to be rectified immediately.

WE are who you represent, and WE the people can and will put you out of office. We are not fodder from which you can take money from our labors while you sit back and play with our rights.

We do not serve you, YOU serve us and if you don’t we’ll fire you. That is a fundamental right (one many of us want to do today) of We The People. We put you in office to run the government and if you’re not going to do it, you will find out what unemployment feels like. I am neither a republican nor a democrat and do not care who can blame who. I blame all of you, just as parents will blame all their children for not finding a way to play together. This simile is just as I have children who acted like you are now.

You have a responsibility to the American people.

I am an American and I pay taxes to have a government. I have the right to demand my government stop wasting time bickering and seeing whose penis is longer to find a compromise.

Also, if there is a shutdown because your inflated ego doesn’t want to be bruised and any of you receive a paycheck while our men and women in the military receive I.O.U.s, I will personally start an e-mail chain detailing this action.

How can you in good conscience receive money for not doing your job while the men and women who defend all of us, who die far from home at an age too young, receive slips of paper saying “nice work, we’ll pay you later?” Too many of our fine service people are receiving food stamps, living in substandard housing and receiving sometimes shoddy health care, while you have chauffer-driven cars, plush offices and expense accounts. How do you sleep at night?

This is wrong and NOT what this country is about.

I am just one person, but I am an American and served with men and women in the military, and this is probably not much of a statement, but I am posting this to my website and sharing with my friends. Some of them may agree and some will share with their friends, and then with their friends’ friends and so on and so on until every one knows who is getting paid for not doing their job and who is not getting paid for defending our freedoms.

Pull your head out elected officials because the American people, when properly motivated, can and will pull together and set aside their differences for the greater good of the country. The Southern belle and the New York socialite will hold the same placard; the tall Texan and the Michigan deer hunter will protest with same fervor; the techno-talented and the back-to-nature crowd will cry out with one voice that the problem is not being American, but rather with the men and women who are supposed to be leading our country. Your charisma, your staff-written words, your spin specialists will not be enough to stave off the anger the American public feel toward the ineffectual people whose job it is to run the government.

Do your job. Pay OUR defenders. Don’t waste OUR money. Find a way to compromise for the greater good of the American people, not your ego.

An American
Terry Stenzelbarton

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mirrored Voice

Yes - No
Equal but opposite
Open - Close
Mirrored image, exactly the same but different
Good - Bad
One side and the other, without the one, the other does not and can not exist
Young - Old
I see me in the mirror; a face I've seen through my life
Joy - Sorrow
But he is not me; he is my reflection; he is the same but opposite; he is me but different
Tell - Ask
Who are you there in the reflection? Are you me or am I you?
Deep - Shallow
Are you an honest man or are you living the lie so well, no one knows?
Stay - Leave
Are you a gentle soul or is there a roiling pit of anger, waiting to erupt in uncontrolled fury, brandishing the sword of hate?
Real - Fake
Are you a man of true faith, you there looking in the mirror? Or is it you who is looking out at me?
Somewhere - No where
Are you hiding your sorrows reflection that I see? Or am I hiding mine? Who is living the real life? Who is living the lie?
Lies - Truths
I stare at you. You stare at me. What part of you is me and what part of me is you?
Fore - Aft
I scream at him for answers; he whispers to me just questions. I am searching for truths he is looking for lies.
Damned - Saved
I watch him, the reflection of me in the mirror, and wonder what he is thinking.
Order - Chaos
"Give me the answer, you hateful bastard," he orders. In sorrow, what I say is "All I have is questions."
Alpha - Omega / Beginning - End

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Dalin Tossak felt the Hideki-class patrol ship roll hard to starboard. The two Miranda-class Star Fleet ships missed on their attack pass and must have been pulling off for another attack run.
Tossak’s ship was an older but sturdy design that had been in use with the Cardassian space fleet for more than 30 years. It was currently protecting a landing party that had beamed down from the troop transport ship to the mining settlement below.
The Federation ships didn’t want the Cardassians here. They claimed the indigenous population on the planet had asked for help, but the Cardassian Union claimed jurisdiction of the planet’s location. The argument was filtering its way through diplomatic channels at the time, but the ships in space were standing toe-to-toe while ambassadors and councils argued.
The planet was ripe with the mineral fistrium, which, in processed form, was used to focus delta waves into harmonics which could be used for ship shielding at hyper-light.
Most space-faring cultures in the Alpha Quadrant used fistrium in the shipyards and ship building. It was not a rare mineral, not like dilithium or latinum, but it was rare enough to make finding a planet with fistrium on or near the surface, a real treasure. Most fistrium had to be mined from hundreds or even thousands of feet below the surface.
Cardassia’s Obsidian Order had known the planet below had vast amounts of the mineral, but had tried to keep that a secret from the military branch for reason’s of its own. They would have kept the secret if some independent prospector hadn’t stumbled across the planet and blabbed about it aboard Deep Space 9.
Word filtered to the Order through one of its operatives on the station and the Order had nothing in the area to protect the planet from the Federation getting a foothold. It had to share the information with the Fleet.
The Fleet dispatched the ship on which Tossak had been assigned as a junior engineer along with a troop transport. The two ships arrived six hours before the two Miranda-class Star Fleet ships.
The Cardassian patrol ship was out gunned, but had superior shielding and maneuverability. The troop transport had beamed down 500 Cardassian troops and warped back to the safety of the home worlds, leaving the patrol ship alone for spatial defense and to keep the Federation from landing troops. As long as they could keep the Star Fleet ships from dropping their shields or sending down landing craft, the troops on the ground had time to dig in and erect defenses.
Dalin Tossak had hoped to make the rank of Glin before this cruise and be promoted to some nice safe desk job on one of the home planets. The promotion had not come through for the junior engineer and he remained assigned to the old patrol ship, maintaining the offensive weaponry.
Tossak hated it. He hated working every day aboard the ship because of Glin Happern. Happern, the chief engineer aboard the patrol ship was an old Cardassian, set in his ways and very insistent that the Cardassian military was as strong as it was because of men like him, who followed the orders of their commanders without question and without straying.
Tossak was of a different generation.
Tossak believed that sometimes individuals had to think for themselves. Not every rule had been written for every situation, but he could never get Glin Happern to believe that.
Four times since Tossak had been assigned this berth, he’d been reprimanded by Happern for “failure to follow standard procedures” when maintaining the two spiral-wave disruptors and one large aft disruptor wave cannon.
Tossak hated the old Cardassian, but right now, he was glad the senior engineer had maintained the ship with such attention to detail. The Miranda ships were maneuvering in concert and the weapons systems aboard those ships were doing a fine job of beating at the Cardassian shields.
“Bring the secondary exciters online,” he heard Happern holler to one of the enlisted on the lower level of the engineering deck. “I want them ready in case we lose the primaries.
“Tossak, scavenge the leakage from the aft ventral shields if you need it, not the fore shields, you idiot. We have to protect the command deck and your weapons are not making a dent on those ships.”
Tossak had hoped the old engineer hadn’t seen him re-routing the over-flow from any of the shields, but he couldn’t slip anything by the old man. He knew if the Cardassians held the day, he might receive another reprimand, but it wouldn’t be for not trying to find a way to improve their chances.
The ship rolled into a port Z-minus turn to get under the onrushing Star Fleet ships. The pilot was doing every thing he could do to keep the smaller Cardassian ship from taking direct hits. He was doing a good job and so far after 20 minutes of action, the small ship had only suffered minor damage.
The problem was the weapons aboard the patrol ship had no chance of penetrating the shields of the Federation ships. The Federation ships would eventually beat down the Cardassians and everyone aboard would die as the ship exploded when the single matter/anti-matter conversion system aboard collapsed.
The time constraint was the two Galor-class ships that would arrive in system within an hour. If the patrol ship could keep the Federation in space and off planet, the Galor-class ships would easily re-buff the Mirandas. The Federation had to get boots on-planet or their intel would suffer. The more boots the better, and with the two battleships less than an hour away, the patrol ship was the only thing standing between the planet and the Federation boots.
The two Miranda ships needed to eliminate the patrol ship in a hurry.
And they were trying desperately.
The patrol ship just needed to survive.
And they were losing.
The second Federation ship fired it ventral banks and caught the Cardassian’s starboard aft shield in recompiling. “Shield five down 65 percent,” someone called out. “Damage to Number Two impulse vent.”
Tossak knew this would limit the pilot’s ability to maneuver. The patrol ship was taking too much damage and doing next to none to the Federation ships. He was beginning to sweat. He wondered how much longer before the Galors would arrive and looked at his chronometer. Too long.
Tossak thought back to his childhood and recalled the fun times he had with his four brothers on their estate. They’d played Vetti and Hoshball for hours. He’d been the youngest, but his three older brothers always included him. The days were long where Tossak grew up and school studies took up most of their days. But in the late afternoon the four would walk together the 20 minutes from the military school to their home. Their father would already be home from the manufacturing plant where he worked and their mother would arrive later in the evening from the lab where she worked.
As childhoods went, there was little drama and few politics.
Something about his childhood struck a chord with Tossak.
He recalled the day his older brother Sossom had used a magnifying glass to focus sunlight onto a crawling insect. The focused light caused the shell to crack and boil the internal organs of the hand-wide insect.
Tossak knew how he could, with only the materials at hand, increase their chances against the Federation ships. The problem would be getting Glin Happern to go along with him. It wasn’t standard procedure and he’d not be easy to convince with the ship in the middle of the battle.
Tossak had to be forceful.
“I know how we can defeat their shields, Glin,” Tossak shouted over the noises. “I need two minutes to reconfigure the emitters and bring our solar sails online.”
“Solar sails? Are you drunk on Kanar?”
“No, Glin. Trust me, I can make this work. It’s our only chance at getting through their shields. We need to stop trying to defeat their harmonics and instead overheat them.”
The old Cardassian paused for a few breaths and looked down the deck at the damage control crew working on other parts of engineering.
“You have 90 seconds Tossak and you can not take anything off line.”
Tossak started reconfiguring the injectors for the conical-wave emitters. He pulled the conduits for the solar panels out off their ports and re-wired them into the emitters. He started the cycle for dropping the solar wings. They weren’t very large and usually hugged the hull. In combat they were useless and usually left in their stored position.
Tossak felt the bump as the panels locked into place just as the pilot lifted the nose of the ship as the Federation started firing. Another hit caused sparks from the ODN conduits and Tossak had to re-configure his re-wiring.
He activated the new system and looked over to the chief engineer. “We need to get from behind the planet. The more sun the better.”
Happern called up to the captain and told him the weapons had been reconfigured, and then nodded to Tossak. “We need to get within six ship lengths for this to work, captain, but it will work.”
The patrol ship had already shown it could out-maneuver either of the Federation ships, but now the pilot was being put to the real test. He could almost hear the captain telling the pilot what he wanted. He was glad he couldn’t hear the pilot’s response.
On the next pass of the leading Federation ship, the patrol ship nosed over looking like it was trying to escape, but as the Miranda closed in, punched its six ventral thrusters and closed on the Federation ship.
A new color of beam came from the patrol ship. It was a bright white and the main screen darkened. The screens on the Star Fleet ship flared blood red and the heat from the beam was disrupting the plating on the bottom side of the main hull. The ship broke off its attack on the patrol ship when 16 square meters of hull erupted into space.
The wing-man, following close behind the first, hadn’t expected the turn of events and was pulling out of formation when the first started venting atmosphere.
The dorsal hull and bridge of the second ship became an easy target for the patrol ship’s improved beam and the captain made use of it while he had the advantage.
The beam was concentrated on the bridge bubble and it was just fortune that kept the bubble from exploding from the heat. The second ship went to full impulse to get out of range.
Both Federation ships had been injured by what they saw as a new, more powerful weapon. They were forced out of the battle area when the captain began a run at their impulse manifolds.
The captain didn’t hear the communicator and Tossak hollering at him that the emitters had burned out on the weapon and it was now useless.
The captain didn’t need to hear the call. The Federation ships were leaving.
Tossak’s weapon, while it only lasted nine seconds in combat, turned the battle in favor of the Cardassians. It was enough.
He’d make sure to tell his brothers. They’d get a kick out of it.

Occam ’s razor

“Lt. Nog, we’re running out of time,” the young Ferengi heard from his communicator on the right side of his brand new Star Fleet uniform. It was Capt. Benjamin Sisko and Nog could tell the station’s commander was reaching the limit of his patience.
Slapping the badge, he said hurriedly, “five more minutes, captain. I know I’ll figure it out.”
“We may not have five minutes, Mister Nog. Chief O’Brien says heat sinks are at maximum on that spar. The secondary coolant has run out and the temperatures are continuing to rise. If you can’t bring the coolant lines back into service in three minutes, we’ll be forced to blow the spar and you with it.”
Nog didn’t spare the time to answer. He felt he was close to the answer and the captain, for all the respect he deserved, needed to just shut up and let him work for three more minutes.
The lieutenant was working on his first night as gamma shift supervisor and he expected a full night's work, but not a life or death struggle with the station.
Peace had come to the Federation. The Founder had been transferred to Star Fleet custody earlier that day, ships that had been taken part in the final Dominion War battle were in orbit around Deep Space 9 waiting repairs and soldiers were still being transferred through DS9 to other facilities to receive advanced medical care.
The war was over, but there was still so much work to be done.
Tomorrow there would be parties and good byes. Chief Myles O’Brien announced to everyone his acceptance of a teaching position at Star Fleet Academy. Commander Worf was headed to Qo'noS to fill his position as Ambassador. Odo was going home with Col. Kira as his escort.
Sisko would be away to earth with his son Jake for two weeks of debriefings.
Bashir and Ezri would remain with Nog on Deep Space 9, cleaning up the mess the war had wrought and continuing the medical support for the ships still limping to the station.
Nog was relieved the war was over and that he’d survived. He had scars and an artificial leg, but he had survived when hundreds of millions had not.
All that was behind him and he’d have the rest of his life to deal with it, if he could get the coolant lines to the heat sinks flowing. The heat sinks on the spars of the six pylons of Deep Space 9 were instrumental in keeping the station’s attitude and location stable in the area of the wormhole. They were part of the station’s stabilization network and bled off heat from the reactors which powered everything from the artificial gravity to the environmental equipment inboard, to the station-keeping thrusters and six rudimentary impulse drive engines.
They were heat sinks and instead of bleeding off the heat from the reactors, the pair on this spar of the station were overheating. The coolant that was supposed to flow through the sinks was in the pipes, but not cooling anything.
In all the excitement with the end of the war and the signing of the peace treaty, Beta shift hadn’t noticed the increased pressure in the coolant tubes running up the pylon to the docking clamp spar. The automatic equipment didn’t shut down the sinks or re-route the super-heated plasma from the reactors to one of the working spars or pylons.
Only when Nog signed on duty and began handing out assignments did he see there was an issue quickly becoming a problem. He sent the rest of Gamma shift on to their assignments, and pulled one of the multi-tool cases and another diagnostic case from the rack.
Just before leaving the engineering offices he reported to Lt. Ayava, the Bajoran Gamma Shift bridge officer, that he’d noticed a problem in Pylon 3 and was on his way to affect repairs. She acknowledged and logged the communications, flagging it for Captain Sisko and Chief O’Brien’s attention.
That’d been 42 minutes ago.
Things had not gone well.
What should have been a simple matter of shutting down the heat sinks, shunting a few valves, turned into a battle to save Pylon 3 and in the last ten minutes, his own life.
Arriving at the location where the machinery should have shunted the plasma, the control circuitry looked undamaged. Nog opened his diagnostics case and began running the troubleshooting routine. It took less than two minutes for the equipment to tell him that the machinery wasn’t working. He queried as to why but the computer was only able to tell him something was wrong, not what was causing it to be wrong. Try as he might, he couldn't get the tiny computer to figure out what was wrong.
Still confident he could keep the heat sinks from going critical, Nog began removing panels along the corridor. The piping looked right at first glance so he concentrated on the circuitry.
Twenty-two minutes into the circuit tests, the first alarm sounded. The temperature in the heat sinks had reached maximum and the emergency coolant tanks were pumping 500 liters of Ever-Kool across the heat sink baffles.
Deep Space 9’s Ferengi engineer had about 10 minutes to shunt the plasma flow to another group of heat sinks, get the primary coolant flowing to the sinks again, or blow 25 meters worth of spar off the end of Pylon 3.
The station would be unbalanced and the other engineers would have to manually compensate to keep the station from tearing itself apart, but it would survive.
Nog, however, would not.
He knew his time was running out when the pumps for the secondary coolant wheezed silent. The back ups were now empty and the sinks would begin heating again.
The corridor he was working in was in the 25 meters that would be blown free of the station. It wasn’t just a few explosive bolts. The blast doors beside the extension that would connect up with a moored ship, had slammed down with the first alarm. It was a cruel fact, but one engineers understood. Sometimes you had to sacrifice a few to save the whole. The corridor he was in would be blasted free of the pylon, hopefully clear of the station. There would be no place for Nog to take refuge. He’d be blown into space.
There had been some hope for a transporter lock, but 15 minutes after the emergency bulkheads had slammed shut, Ensign Polk, a Star Fleet officer working in Ops, started explaining why he couldn’t get a transporter lock.
“Just keep trying, Mister Polk. If I don’t give up trying, you can’t either,” Nog told the young ensign.
“Excellent advice, Mr. Nog,” Sisko added. “Is there anything we can try beaming in to your location?”
“No, sir. I can fix this. I know I can. I just need to concentrate.”
“Have it your, way, lieutenant. The Defiant has cleared moorings and is maneuvering into position to tractor the spar clear of the station. You now have three minutes,” Sisko told him and closed the channel.
“My way, your way, any way I can make it work,” Nog muttered to himself, looking at the piping and wiring in the corridor wall. “My way is the right way. What is the right way for this work?” he slammed the computer diagnostic tool against the main coolant pipe.
The sound was wrong. The pipe should have been filled with cooling fluid, but to Nog’s hyper-sensitive ears, he could tell the pipe was only mostly full, and not moving. He looked to the far end of the corridor and saw the valves had been worked on recently. They looked installed correctly except for the arrow on the main valve. It was pointed to the left, but it should have been pointing to the right.
The valve had been put in wrong by some inattentive engineer. With all that had happened over the past few weeks on the station, no one had chance to use the system. It was only through a mis-fortunate turn of events the system hadn’t been caught by the computers and alerted someone to the dangers. With more than seven million parts to the station, the computer could only monitor and prioritize so much.
“The right way is right way!” he shouted, grabbing the tools in the work box.
It took 20 seconds and Nog suffered freezing burns to his hands and face, but with the valve re-installed correctly, the fluid started moving through the pipes and up to the heat sinks.
He was sitting on the deck plates, soaked with coolant fluids, hands stuffed inside his uniform, when the emergency bulkhead opened and alarms ceased. Dr. Bashir got to him first, followed closely by O’Brien and Sisko. Three other Gamma Shift engineers started work on cleaning up and putting the spar corridor back together.
“Well done, engineer,” Sisko told him. “Well done.”