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The Station part 8

back to The Station Part 7 Three entries, to end of Station log

      Log Entry: Star Date 45372.9 Information also added from Station Historian.
      The log entry opened with a graphic of the two solid rank pins of a full Lieutenant.
      "This is long overdue. And he has turned it down twice before. As far as I can tell, MarcTall is the longest serving Ensign in Star Fleet. He has been an Ensign for over seven years." Commander Straider said. "But this time, This Time. I am making him an offer he can't refuse."
      Lt. Davis: Even the most bumbling and incompetent academy graduate spends less than five years in the rank of Ensign. If you don't get bumped up to at least Lt. Junior Grade, you'll end up being discharged or relegated to the reserves or something. Typically, on your third anniversary you get your JG pin. Fast trackers spend less than two as an Ensign. MarcTall had pulled strings all the way to Vulcan to be left as an Ensign on the station both times promotion had come up, one of which offered him a tactical job on a brand new NEBULA class ship. So he remained the second most senior Ensign in active duty Star Fleet, and on his station fifteen parsecs from nowhere.
      "Sir. I do not wish to be promoted." MarcTall said standing at full attention.
      "Tough. These are your options. Take a three step jump and become a Lieutenant Commander at Strategic Studies, or be a full Lieutenant here and simply formally assume the duties you are already doing."
      "I chose to remain what I am and do what I do."
      "Not an option."
      Commander Straider cut him off. "Here's a memo I got from the Vulcan Deputy Consul to Star Fleet. You have two choices." He tapped the pad and held it out to him. MarcTall took it, but did not look at it.
      "No sir. I have three. I could resign my commission as Ensign."
      "OK, you have three choices."
      "But two of them are non-viable options."
      "Of course." Straider agreed.
      "I will allow the promotion to Lieutenant and remain here."
      "Good. You will be sworn in at 0800 hours tomorrow." Straider said with a nod.
      "Very well sir."
      Straider's ears may have been playing tricks on him, but he thought he heard a sigh.
      The Vulcan turned to leave then paused and turned back to him.
      "Sir. Was the option of the Division of Strategic Studies a real offer?"
      "Yes it was. They have an opening for a Junior Planner."
      "And I was really considered for that position?"
      "You were third on their list."
      "Most excellent." He nodded. "Thank you sir."

      Bright and early the next morning the compliment of the station turned out to watch the promotion ceremony.
      MarcTall stood in dress uniform and ignored the hooting and jeering from several of the others.
      Commander Straider ordered them to attention. Most complied.
      "Mister MarcTall SchrveaelistOnsCHotck."
      MarcTall seemed startled by a halfway close pronunciation of his family name.
      Straider took a deep breath. "I hereby promote you to Full Lieutenant with all the duties and privileges of that rank. And, by special request of the Vulcan Deputy Consul to Star Fleet Command you are also extended the office of Assistant Tactical Plan Reviewer for the Division of Strategic Studies."
      Straider pinned the two insignia on the Vulcan's jacket and shook his hand. Then he raised his hand in the Vulcan Salute. "Live long, and prosper."
      MarcTall returned it. "Peace, and long life. Sir"
      "I present, Lieutenant ... MarcTall." Straider said to the crowd.
      MarcTall turned slightly and bowed to the applause.

      Log Entry: Star Date 47424.5
      The screen showed Lieutenant Dastace. "Commander Straider is off to a command conference for a few days. After we had threatened him for a month to get him to go." She smiled. "So with him away. I am the CO." She smiled. "And I love it. I'm having a blast."

      Documentation of Formal Grievance. Recorded by Lieutenant Donel.
      "There is no reason, nor is it supported anywhere in Star Fleet's regulations, that we have to stand inspection in National Costume."

      Dastace was back. "We had a rescue call today. Nothing major. An automated hauler had a systems failure and sent out a call. I had it towed until a Lattorian tug met them to take it in."

      Personal log entry entered into station log. Lieutenant MarcTall reporting. "I do not mind having my efficiency questioned, or even having to state my reasons for certain actions. Such follow-up sharpens one's reasoning and develops confidence in the long run. However. An inquiry into the tractor beam energy settings and usage by my patrol craft while towing what amounted to little more than space junk to a rendezvous is excessive."

      The acting commander smiled into the camera. "I ran a station efficiency report. Then I had to meet with several of the section heads to review the findings."

      The log switched to the engineering/maintenance room. The new engineer, an exchange officer from the Corielian Authority, Chief Shuo, was less surly than Mr. Martin, but no less distrustful of command officers.
      "Yes." Shuo said.
      "So you admit your energy consumption is the highest for any section on the station?" The acting CO asked.
      "What are you going to do about it?"
      "I need you to reduce your energy consumption."
      "Of course. I am the acting CO."
      "No problem." Shuo walked to a control panel and pushed several buttons in sequence.
      In a second the gravity on the station dropped to nearly zero, the air circulation stopped and a warning alarm began wailing. Then the lights went off and the emergency lighting came on.
      "In about an hour the air will be bad. I'm not sure if we'll suffocate before we freeze to death or not. It'll be close." Shuo said.
      "You can reduce your energy consumption without killing all of us."
      He nodded. "Maybe, if I leave the replicators off, or stop the clothing processors. Or if you quit taking a shower every day."
      "OK OK. I got the point. Turn it back on."
      "All of it?"
      She nodded in the dim light. "All of it."
      He brought everything back on line.
      She sighed. "I need to find the officer in charge of the communications station. The subspace bandwidth usage is too high."
      He looked at her with a strange look on his face. "You're kidding."
      "No. We are using far too much for a station our size."
      "Not that. You don't know who it is?"
      Light dawned. "It's me." She said softly.
      "Maybe you should let the efficiency report go."
      She nodded.

      "The one thing I made a point of correcting was the problems with the landing sequence handover to the station's new landing control program. There has been a massive lag as the station runs through the checklist before landing. Something the pilot has already done before even getting that far. If the ship has a problem, the pilot shuts down and requests a beam out, and we deal with it one step at a time. There is no reason for the computer to do it all again, and delay landing, sometimes to the point of altering the ship's course to take it around the station while it evaluates the temperature of the injector shield plating."
      She grinned. "This is one project everybody is behind me on."
      The screen changed to the control station for the landing bays. Lieutenant Dastace nodded to Ensign Greg, "Go for it."
      Lieutenant MarcTall, in the approaching fighter began his final check as his engines powered down for the run in. "MarcTall to base. Requesting approach vector."
      "Standard approach, course 178.3 mark 82."
      "Acknowledged. Pre-approach check test." He touched his new button.
      The station computer began its check as he did his own. Everything was fine.
      The fighter began its turn to its approach course.
      "Handoff to automatic landing control in five." Greg said from the console.
      They counted down.
      "Beginning handover checklist." The computer said.
      "Abort landing." Dastace said to the computer.
      "Landing aborted."
      "Permission for manual landing." MarcTall said from his ship.
      "Acknowledged." Greg said checking a few things. "Cleared."
      "What went wrong?" Dastace asked herself as she rant through the program.
      "The back half of the program didn't know what the front half did."
      She looked at the new ensign, "That's probably pretty close to the truth."
      They spent the next two hours going through it all again. The problem was that the station's computer didn't accept the data from the landing computer, they had forgotten to tell the station things were happening a little earlier now.
      Ensign Benson volunteered to be the next victim of the test. He blasted off in a fighter and did a short patrol.
      "Ready to come home?" Dastace asked him.
      "Sure am. Approach vector?"
      They went through the dance.
      "Two. ... One. ... Handoff to automatic control now." Greg said.
      "Beginning..." The computer said, everybody grimaced, but it said something different this time. "...Landing Sequence."
      They all sighed. The fighter was brought in perfectly as advertised.
      Lieutenant Dastace Filia led the cheers.

      Commander Straider looked through the logs of the time he was gone.
      "So, all that really happened was that you got that glitch fixed?" He asked his second in command.
      "Yes sir." Lieutenant Dastace said.
      "No pop inspections. No efficiency reports?"
      She smiled sheepishly. "I ran a couple, but it was no big deal. Everything went smoothly."
      The Commander looked through a few other files, one had a title that demanded his attention, 'I hereby declare a MUTINY!'.
      The body of the message simply said, 'If you EVER leave HER in CHARGE AGAIN!'
      There was no name attached to it.
      Straider nodded to her.
      She turned to leave.
      "Oh, Filia."
      "Yes sir."
      He thought about it, then changed his mind. "Nothing. It's just good to be back."
      The log ended and the screen faded out.

After a brief shot of the station, the screen changed to Commander Straider
      "Star Date 47627.6. This is wonderful. We are doing absolutely pure observational science."
      The view changed to a large gaseous planet with several small moons in orbit around it.
      "We are recording the death of a planet in the Porraby system not far from the station. A gas giant is, there is no other word for it, going nova. The fifth planet has been known to radiate enough heat to be called a 'Cold Star' by some. But the phenomenon has never been thoroughly researched. Now, the planet is exploding in a textbook supernova fashion."
      "We have been sitting in orbit in the runabout taking every reading we possibly can."
      The view went back to the commander. "The Starship PERU is on its way, but I don't think Porraby Five is going to wait for them."
      Lieutenant Welden spoke up, the screen changed to her. "Already the radiation output of the core is pushing the upper layers away. The gravitational field is all over the place, we're showing the magnetic field running like a dynamo."
      The commander stood behind her and looked down at the instruments. "The core has collapsed to half its original size. Its output of energy is triple what it was just yesterday."
      "It's going. Look at that. It's going to blow." She looked up.
      The view changed to the exterior again. The center of the planet was burning like a small star. Then the outer layers shown with light and began expanding away from the white-hot interior.
      "Shields up, I'm backing us away. That's a level four shockwave. We can handle it but I want to be a little further away." Staider said.
      "The outer atmosphere is actually burning, methane and ammonia fueled plasma fires." Welden reported with a smile.
      "The core is cobalt and a lot of uranium, not much iron or nickel. It's turned itself into a bomb."
      "I'm reading a lot of lead salts too, it should have been stable."
      "My kingdom for a planetary survey from a hundred years ago." The commander said watching the show.
      They were silent for a few seconds.
      "Stand by for shockwave." Straider said.
      It hit, the ship rocked and bucked for a minute.
      "That wasn't bad at all." She observed. "There, we got a clear shot at the core now. Scanning."
      "The temperature is still going up, it's not done yet."
      "Fusion. We got live fusion in the core."
      "Gravity is climbing again."
      She twisted her chair around and worked at a side station for a second. "I don't understand these readings, what is happening?"
      "Scanning for quantum disturbances."
      "This is Captain Owens on the PERU. You started without us Commander."
      "Welcome to the neighborhood. Watch out for our shockwave." Straider smiled.
      "We're getting it now. Nice little show out there."
      "See if you can get a good quantum scan. I'm afraid we're a little limited here."
      "Lieutenant Haggerty here. I'm showing two quantum sources in the planetary core. One appears to be dead center, the other is just below the surface. They are moving toward each other."
      "A mini black hole?" Lieutenant Welden asked.
      "There's your cause. Porraby Five swallowed a singularity."
      "No wonder it got upset."
      "Captain, I'm reading a gravitational flux in the core." Haggerty shouted from the PERU. "It's getting worse."
      "I've got it too. Looks like you're here for the second act." The commander confirmed.
      "Shields up full." Owens ordered.
      "The quantum centers are merging. Gravity eddies are increasing." Welden said urgently.
      "I'm backing us off some more." Staider said.
      "Us too. Pull it back Ensign."
      The view showed the PERU from the runabout. The front-heavy NORWAY class ship moved slowly back from the fiery dying planet.
      Suddenly the brightness from inside the burning outer reaches vanished.
      "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to announce the birth of a new baby black hole." Haggerty said over the comm.
      "Strong baby." Straider said. "We're pulling back more, that gravity is getting too much for us."
      "Good move commander. We're all right for now."
      Beeping was heard from the bridge of the PERU.
      "Sir, the gravity well is getting steeper." The ensign on the starship said.
      "OK, in that case, move us away."
      The ring of fire around the black hole began to drift into oblivion.
      Haggerty came back on. "I'm getting disturbances in the Porraby star now. Porraby Five's inner moons are changing orbits."
      "Captain, ahhh, well... Time to go?" Staider said.
      "Yeah. Ensign get us out of here. We'll leave a couple of class one probes to watch the final act."
      "The inner moon is breaking up."
      "We see it. Steer us clear of that debris, thanks Lieutenant Welden."
      The two ships pulled away from the emerging accretion disc around the hole in space. The PERU launched a series of probes.
      "In a word, wow." Commander Owens said.
      "Yes sir." Staider said.
      "We'd like to go over your observations with you, and get a copy of your data Commander."
      "How about dinner and discussion back at my station?"
      "Excellent idea. Lead the way."
      The view showed the PERU near the station, then it cut to an official dinner in the large multi-purpose room on the station. The chatter between the crews was deafening.
      "Did the source happen to note when Porraby five had changed?" Welden asked.
      "No, the prospector simply said the planet was different and something was going on. We didn't know anything was wrong until you said it was coming apart at the seams."
      "Has anything turned up that might suggest this was not a natural occurrence?" MarcTall asked.
      "Not so far." Haggerty said.
      "We didn't detect any residual traces in the area, but with all that was going on, it may have been impossible to detect." Commander Staider added.
      "The probes are still in place and sending. If somebody comes by to admire their handiwork, we'll know about it." Lieutenant Welden smiled and picked at her plate. "Why do you always keep the good food for out of town guests?" She looked sideways at the commander.
      "Because I don't want you getting used to this."
      There was laughter around the table.
      The view faded to the station in space.

      The guests turned to the historian and accepted the offer of refreshments from the Historian.
      "Most interesting." Their leader said. "I would love to see more."
      "No problem. We've got a lot more." Lt. Davis grinned.

End the Station Continued in: The PATROL Part 1

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