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.”