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One Good Soldier: Chapter Five

       Last updated: Monday, September 28, 2009 19:00 EDT



July 1, 2394 A.D.
Mars Orbit, Sol System
Saturday, 7:59 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

    “Aw shit!” Lieutenant Commander Buckley said as Engineer’s Mate Petty Officer First Class (EM1) Andy Sanchez screamed from behind a control panel. “What now?”

    “Caught a little extra current flow in my elbow, Joe. I’m alright.” The EM1 replied while rubbing at a new burn mark on the left elbow of his orange coveralls.

    “You’ve been trained on that shit, Engineer’s Mate Petty Officer First Class. Don’t make us have to write some incident up.” Joe laughed at his senior enlisted man on the team. Hell, Andy looked young but he had at least fifteen years in carriers. He had transferred over from the Lincoln just after the Battle of the Oort. Joe liked him, mostly because he was a very proficient Engineer’s Mate. He planned to do everything he could not to fry this petty officer with hard x-rays like he had done his last one. He turned to his Main Propulsion Assistant for an update on the jaunt projector.

    “All looks good, Joe.”

    “Engineering! Bridge!”

    “Go Bridge,” Joe replied. He could tell by the voice it was the Air Boss.

    “CHENG, I don’t know what you people are doing down there, but I’ve got two squadrons of Ares mecha stuck on the lower cat bay! When do we expect to have that back up?”

    “We’re on it, bridge!” Joe turned to his DCAS operator. “Goddamnit, I thought I was gonna get verbal updates on the main systems until the Damage Control Assessment System was back online?”

    “Joe?” Damage Control Assistant Lieutenant Concepcion gulped. “I’m checking that, sir. I sent two Firemen to watch that but haven’t heard a thing.”

    “Mira, get them on the speaker. And check out what other systems are down!” Joe turned to check on the Engineer’s Mate as he was crawling from behind the DCAS control panel on his hands and knees.

    “I’ve got the diagnostic for Aux and Main Prop hardwired directly to the readouts now, Joe. We should be able to keep continuous watch on them until the DCAS is fully up again.” EM1 Sanchez took Joe’s hand as he offered it and hauled himself up.

    “Good work, Andy. Do me a favor and run follow the power flow to the cats and see where they are shut off.”

    “I’m on it, Joe,” the young Engineer’s Mate took off through the hatch, down the hall, and out of sight.

    He’ll find it. He’s a good sailor, Joe thought.

    I’m tracing it, too. I see a disruption two decks down and one over between here and the hangar bay. There is something else interesting there, too,his AIC Debbie Three November One Uniform Zulu Juliet One added with a very animated tone in her mindvoice.

    What? Joe tried to keep himself cool and focused. It’s just a sim.

    That corridor is very close to the exterior hull and the air pressure reads as though we are venting.

    You mean a sim right? There is a simulated leak?

    No, Joe. I mean there is an actual venting taking place. The air handlers had to kick in. Wait. It just stopped. Debbie sounded perplexed, but Joe wasn’t. Joe had loved every aspect of the modern day hyperspace supercarrier and enjoyed pouring over the blueprints, designs, and construction plans almost as much as he enjoyed sex. Sometimes he thought, even more. And he knew immediately where that corridor led and how many maintenance hatches there were along the way. If the SIFs were down, somebody could QMT inside the outer armor layer inside the bulkhead. There was no atmosphere in the outer hull sections to prevent fire from transferring from the armor to the inner pressure walls, but that wouldn’t stop Marines in armored environment-suits.

    “EM1 Sanchez! This is Buckley. Stop dead in your tracks! I repeat. Stop dead in your tracks. Communicate DTM only and hide your ass! I think we’ve been boarded and they are right on top of you!” Joe turned toward two Firemen at the aft edge of Engineering near the hatch who, in a real fight would have been putting out fires, pounding damaged metal back into shape, and scurrying about with heavy tools or repair parts for some senior NCO or officer. As it was, they were standing around watching with nothing to do but stay out of the way and keep their thumbs in a neutral posterior location.

    “You two! Go out the passageways from both Engineering Room exits three hatches deep and secure them. Dog them down and step back each level dogging the hatch doors from the inside with lock down protocol. Then get back in here and secure that hatch. Watch out for enemy boarding parties and get yourselves some firearms!”

    “Aye, sir!” they responded eagerly. They were probably just happy to remove their thumbs from where they’d been and to get busy doing something useful to help the ship win the wargame.

    Debbie, patch me through DTM to Sanchez.

    Patched! Go, Joe.

    Andy! What do you see?

    Nothing yet, Joe, he replied in a somewhat shaky mindvoice.

    “CO, CHENG!”

    “Hold one, CHENG!” the CO replied. Joe hated having to wait. Every second could matter here. In the meantime he turned to his Technology Officer Lieutenant Kurt Hyerdahl. “Kurt, I think the structural integrity fields are down! Get on it! And Goddamnit Mira, get that DCAS back online or get me a work-around!”

    “CHENG, CO. Go!”

    “CO. I think we’ve been boarded, sir. I’ve got someone trying to confirm visually, but we have real venting in the aft section that suddenly stopped. It’s in the same corridor near an exterior maintenance hatch, sir,” Joe said quickly.

    “Understood, CHENG! Keep your man under cover.”

    “Aye, sir!”

    “Kurt! Tell me about those SIFs!” Joe shouted with urgency.

    “I’ve got it, Joe! There is a power inverter blown out on the main control panel of the SIF generator distribution assembly. It is, uh, hold one…” Kurt clacked away at his panel keys and at the same time was talking DTM with his AIC, but it didn’t matter. Joe knew the answer.

    “Never mind, Kurt. I know where it is.” Joe whipped his head around to look across the room at the SIF control panels. They should have been lit up like a damned Christmas tree, but instead the looked normal. Then he shook his head and glanced to his left at the DCAS panel. That damned diagnostic system was a single point failure in the major systems. They weren’t there six years prior before the fight at the Oort. During the repair, updating, and retrofitting of the ship afterward the damned engineers at the Luna City shipyards had seen fit to upgrade to the new approved all in one Damage Control Assessment System. If you asked Joe, it was a piece of shit.

    To calm himself he let his gaze settle for just a second on the Main Prop system – the true love of his life. The power couplings between the vacuum fluctuation energy collectors and storage system and the hyperspace projector and fluctuation field shields were intact, and the spacetime metric modification projector tube was swirling a perfect pink and purple hue. That meant that the Main Prop was in tip-top shape and humming beautifully.

    It’s just a sim, Joe reminded himself. Joe had seen the real thing up close, personal, and almost deadly for himself. Sims were a piece of cake. Hell, there was no violent ship motion and gravity lurches that nearly made you vomit. There were no horrendous thwangs against the hull plating from enemy missiles. The constant and never ending fires, blowing circuit panels, fused breakers, overheating power couplings, and, best of all, no goddamned liver toasting hard x-rays! It was just a sim. Hell, the firemen and other lower rank sailors might as well have been playing checkers for all they could add. In a fight, they’d be working their collective asses off. At least now they were getting to stand guard and dog down the doors. Maybe there was more they could do. But Joe decided he’d just have to get back to that one.

    Right, it’s just a sim, Debbie agreed with him.

    The sentiment brought Joe’s heart rate down a good fifteen beats per minute. That enabled him to focus on winning the sim. After all, winning was what the crew of the flagship of the fleet was best at. Under all types of unbelievable overwhelming odds they had come out on top time and time again in wargames and in battle. Joe was sure that the admiral wasn’t going to let up without a fight, so he wasn’t about to let up now either.

    “The problem here is, folks,” he shouted to his engineering team as he tried to keep a calm demeanor and look each of them in the eye, “we have a blown fuse between the power to the SIFs, Aux Prop, Main Prop, Directed Energy Guns, etc. And that fuse is the goddamned DCAS piece of crap. We need to unhook that thing and bypass it without shutting down the major systems. I’m sure if the admiral were to out of the blue lose his DEGs just because we are monkeying around with shit down here he would be a bit, uh, unnerved. Any suggestions?”

    Joe looked around and he scratched at his head for a brief instant. He was perplexed. How the hell did he bypass that damned DCAS panel without wrecking the ship?

    The problem was that there was no way to get the energy from the storage units on one side of the DCAS to the power inverters across the room on the SIF panel. That was a distance between the two panels that might as well have been light years. Besides, that damned DCAS was tied into everything. Joe was beginning to feel like he had been in this situation before. It was déjà vu all over again for him.

    “Joe,” Lieutenant Mira Concepcion snapped her fingers. “Who cares about the DCAS? If we bypass each system to the appropriate control panel the DCAS will just read that they are not working. But we’re using visuals anyway, so who gives a shit.”

    “Alright! Good plan. Everybody, we’re breaking into teams. I’ll take the SIFs. Fireman’s Apprentice, you’re with me.” Joe pointed at a sailor behind the Aux Prop panel and motioned the young enlisted woman to follow him, “Keri, take the Props. Kurt the DEGs. Mira, get the cats going.”

    “Aye, Joe!”

    Joe! Eighteen AEMs just passed by me. They’re headed you’re way! EM1 Sanchez reported through the DTM link.

    Thanks, Andy. Good job. Unless you’ve got a weapon and want to tangle with a bunch of jarheads just stay out of it. My guess is that the cat bay has been taken also, so don’t go that way either. Best to stay put and wait it out. If you see something nearby that needs fixin’ and you can get to it, go ahead. Otherwise, sit the bench for a little while. Joe hated not having one of his well-trained, more-senior enlisted sailors where he needed him, but that was just the way it was.

    “We’ve got company headed our way people! Everybody grab a sidearm!”

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