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Herding Cats

Posted on Mon Jul 3rd, 2023 @ 6:51pm by Lieutenant Didrea Zade & Ensign Vivienne Conrad & Ensign Kateyo Fenn

Mission: Wrath of the People
Location: USS Athena
Timeline: MD7
2920 words - 5.8 OF Standard Post Measure

Zade was at her post on the bridge, staring at the readout from the targeting sensors while she waited for engineering to process her request. The sensors were currently showing horrendous accuracy, perhaps due to the electromagnetic interference from the asteroid field, but it was bad enough that she'd have a better shot if she simply looked out the viewscreen. Engineering had responded a few minutes ago that Ensign Vivienne Conrad would take the assignment. According to the response, the Ensign would alert Zade once she finished up with her current task. While she was waiting, the Trill had pulled up the Ensign's file out of curiosity and learned that she was actually a fairly fresh support craft pilot. Initially considered strange that she would take on an engineering-heavy assignment, Zade read more and saw that she did actually have an engineering background.

A response, as it turned out, was reasonably efficient. Conrad's communication skills might have needed some refinement but when she was trusted to work on an assignment alone, she typically put in an above-average shift quota that was in no way fuelled by an unspoken rivalry amongst the lower-deckers in the department. She, of course, was openly disdainful about turning routine maintenance into point-scoring opportunities, and besides, it wasn't as if any of them would actually have been able to keep up with her if she really tried.

Zade's communicator chirped.

[[Conrad to Zade. Spanner monkey reporting for duty.]]

The call made Zade straighten a little, moving the personnel file to the side on her console as she tapped her communicator to accept the call. [[Zade here. Thank you for helping fix this.]] The words sounded a little strange, given it was the Ensign's job to respond to tasks given to her, but Zade pressed on. [[The ship's targeting sensors are out of alignment,]] she added, summarizing the request she had sent in. [[I'm not sure if it's a technical issue or if the interference in this area of space is causing it. I'm hoping you can provide an answer, and a solution.]]

Tucked away out of sight from prying eyes, Conrad allowed her head to drop forward in withered defeat. If it wasn't one sensor grid acting up, it was another. It wasn't lost on the woman that Starfleet was building a sizeable reputation for hurling the warship into the middle of celestial gumbo and expecting them to wave sticks at the ground until they stumbled their way out. "On my way."

[[I'll need to stay on the bridge so I can test the sensors, but otherwise let me know if I can help with troubleshooting.]]

Technically, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have another security officer man her post while Zade went to help troubleshoot, but she'd still need one of the tactical stations to actually test the sensors. Plus, they had to be aligned a certain way, otherwise it was like aiming while cross-eyed. Unless the Ensign came up to the bridge, it made more sense to simply communicate over comms.

In other words, Conrad thought to herself, You stay at your nice cushy post and I'll just go sliding around inside the crawl space, no problem.. A roll of her eyes focused her gaze on the ceiling of the turbolift as she stepped in, and then moved aside for two other crewmen whose request intercepted the lift's journey and forced a detour. Pursed lips puttered out a rhythmic patience, more a charade than anything, and the Ensign's gaze didn't shift until the turbolift stopped again and the pair disembarked.

At least she'd know the back of their heads if she ever saw them again.

Eventually arriving at her intended floor, Vivienne tapped her comm. badge again before realising that the channel was still open. A slight hesitation moved swiftly towards careless acceptance and she spoke up. "Headed to first relay interface now. Do we have any kind of ballpark on how many of grid sections are out of whack?" Please don't say all of them.

There was a pause as Zade presumably typed something into her workstation. Since there was tentative discussion around splitting the ship into its three parts, the Trill checked the status of each section's sensor grids.

[[For the alpha section, the forward grid is below 50 percent. For beta, the forward grid is out and the starboard grid is below 50. The gamma section's port grid is also out. The other eight grids are within tolerance.]]

Hand extended in front of her, Vivienne followed along with her fingers until four were held aloft and then she held them up in front of her face to stare at them. Okay, so it wasn't all of them. All three sections were involved, however, with two grids entirely offline. The engineer flipped up her pinky finger as an unnecessary addition and used the open palm to smack herself in the forehead, fingers curled into her hair as she stopped in her tracks and took a moment to calculate just how much going back and forth that was going to be.

[[Did you log the extent when you contacted Engineering?]] It was a bold question to direct at a Departmental Head but Conrad managed to keep it on the measured side of a query with intent, rather than a criticism. [[With two grids out, it'd be easier with two of us hitting the reboot button at the same time. Any idea if they're allocating you another monkey?]]

Despite knowing the answer, Zade pulled up her initial request to make sure she actually included it and didn't think she had included it. [[Yes, I logged the extent, Ensign.]] While a perfectly reasonable question to ask, there was still a nearly undetectable undertone of questioning competency, the actual presence of it uncertain enough that the Trill chose to ignore it. Reading the response from engineering again, Zade fought the urge to roll her eyes when she saw the footnotes. [[Engineering mentioned to contact Ensign Fenn if you needed extra hands for this task.]]

If an eyeroll could be audible, Conrad was well on the way to perfecting it. Oh, I bet they did. Out loud, she retorted, "Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Approaching forward grid controls, alpha section. I'll plug in a diagnostic profiler and we'll see what's up. I'm not hopeful we can bring the half-dead sections properly online until we figure out what's taken out the two dead-in-the-waters but I can find out what we're working with. Stand-by."

Opening the access panel was half the battle. Crawling inside it in an attempt to reach the plug-in port lead Vivienne to, once again, question the aptitude of those in charge of drafting system schematics. For the second time, the ensign forgot that the Bridge, at least those close enough to Zade's terminal to overhear, were well-able to enjoy her tirade of muttered expletives and it went without saying that she spared no second thought to the fact she was essentially hanging up on the Security Chief when she smashed her fingers against her comm. badge and barked, "Conrad to Fenn."

Teyo was leaning back in his chair, with his feet on the workstation in one of the auxiliary diagnostic control rooms. He had been scheduled to monitor one of the EPS conduits and since that was clearly busy work he was currently taking it easy, air drumming to one of his favourite Bolian bands, the volume well above regulation. He was startled as his combadge chirped, causing him to nearly fall backwards off of his chair. [[Yo,]] he replied after turning the music off.

Several decks away, Conrad searched the ceiling as if asking for additional strength. She ought to have known she'd spoken too soon, it had taken exactly two minutes to realise she needed the other engineer in a way she wasn't all that thrilled with letting him know. "You're up for helping me help Zade with her targeting systems. And no," she added, "that's not a euphemism for anything, put your tongue away. All four quadrants need manual adjustments and I'm already stuck halfway inside the forward array on alpha section. I need you to head to Gamma and tell me why port grid is non-operational."

Put my tongue away! Teyo thought as he stuck his middle finger up, clearly at no one as he was alone in the room, unless you counted the disembodied voice of Vivenne thinks-a-lot-of-herself Conrad. He begrudgingly lowered his feet to the floor and got out of his seat, knowing that his easy day was going to be much less easy. [[Aye, I'll let you know when I'm there,]] he replied, closing the channel before she could bark more orders at him. Grabbing his toolkit he made his way to the gamma section of the ship.

Upon reaching the right section, Teyo whistled loudly as he tapped his combadge. [[Fenn to Conrad and Lieutenant Zade,]] he said, thinking he should keep the chief of security in the loop, after all, he didn't want another broken arm. [[You weren't kidding about the sensor grid, I've got nothing down here, even the self-diagnostic sensors are dead. Any idea what happened?]]

The latter half of the whistle came through on Zade's end, and she turned down the volume further on her communicator while offering an apologetic expression to whoever on the bridge happened to hear it. She already turned down the volume once when Conrad decided to summon the personality of a 20th century sailor before hanging up on her. [[The short answer: no. We're in an area of space with some EM interference that's been causing hell with all the sensors, but this could be an issue from our last mission that was overlooked due to the short turnaround.]]

[[We keep flying into regions of space that have no respect for countless decades of innovation and design.]] Conrad's tone, whilst every bit as flippant as usual, also carried an air of pained resignation. They'd already spent time babysitting the grid the previous mission, when flying too close to unstable radiation had unsurprisingly revealed itself to be a terrible idea. Now they were back at it and damned if it didn't feel like she and Fenn had become unwilling guardians of a vital ship's system that just didn't want to play nice. [[It'll probably be a manual readjust again, another reroute so the Lieutenant can swivel all the shiny bits in the right direction without expecting the automatic sensors to know what's going on in the soup.]]

[[Roger.]] Teyo replied simply as he moved to the access panel and removed the cover. Experience had told him that these covers were notoriously hard to remove and so some extra force would be needed. As his back slammed into the bulkhead opposite where he had previously stood, he came to the realisation that this particular cover was much looser than the ones he had previously interacted with. Figures!

Teyo plugged in the diagnostic profiler and waited for the device to run its cycle. He drummed his fingers along the wall to the beat of the song he had been listening to earlier until the bleeping alerted him to the end of the cycle. [[Looks like an overload to the power matrix,]] he said to the open com channel. [[I think everything is working but nothing is talking to each other. Is that what you're seeing Viv?]]

A muffled grunt suggested the other engineer was having far less luck with cooperative circuitry. [[That's the problem with all this whizz-bang gadgetry. One sniff of interspatial disturbance and it flips its own safety switch. Nothing seems damaged,]] Vivienne confirmed, [[I am struggling to convince it to stay online, the calibration is set to be way too responsive for conditions. We might have to revert you back a few upgrades, Lieutenant. These targeting protocols might be great for shooting a wart of a Ferengi's backside in an open field but I'm just not seeing them cope under load. Something for the code monkeys to iron out next time we're not actively flying into gumbo.]]

Zade's reply was brief. [[Understood.]]

[[Fenn, what do you think? Dial it back to about three-quarters threshold, cut the automated sequencer and rig up something with a bit more of a manual oomph for the Chief?]] With her head stuck inside the console, partially upside down, Conrad's voice sounded strained. [[You'll still have target differentiation and tracking, Lieutenant, locking may respond faster to verification input rather than relying on the computer to determine whether or not the object deserves to be blown to smithereens. Won't be the usual snoozefest this class usually permits but the grid will stabilise if it's not running overtime on threat analysis.]]

[[Given we're about to drive into an asteroid field, verification input may be a preferred option. But do what you can.]] If one thing was guaranteed to test the limits of targeting sensors, it was a dense cluster of rocks floating in space. Zade made a note to look at the shooting accuracy scores of the crew so she could recommend people to be on the other two modules. It was one thing to be competent enough to press a button, but to tell the ship where to aim was an entirely different beast to tame.

[[Agreed,]] Teyo said as he pulled open the service panel to start the required modifications. The isolinear circuitry should have been upgraded during the ship's last maintenance sweep, though it looks like the powers that be were too eager to get the ship out of sector 001 and away from Kane's trial to worry about a simple thing like targeting sensors on a battleship. [[The shuttle crew will be using tachyon radiation to light the path so we can instruct the targeting sensors to ignore them too. It won't help with all the asteroids, but it'll help.]]

[[They're flying a shuttle into that mess? What are they going to do, fill it with a bunch of people they don't like and pretend they have a chance?]] As usual, Conrad's incredulity bypassed standard procedure by utterly failing to pretend it didn't exist.

[[Damn,]] Teyo said as he paused mid-action. [[What's the betting I get assigned to that mission?]]

[[You think you've got problems,]] came the immediate response, laced with the slow realisation of impending dread. [[At least you don't have 'shuttle pilot' scribbled next to your name for the time when it's suddenly convenient to remember what I actually signed up for.]]

Meanwhile, on the bridge, Zade pinched the bridge of her nose as the two talked over comms. Was this the first year at the Academy again? [[It's the only way we can safely navigate the field,]] she said, unsure if her words would be picked up in their conversation.

[[And us junior officers are indispensable,]] Teyo said, rolling his eyes. It was always like this on starships, the junior officers doing all of the grunt work and being the real heroes, the senior officers taking all of the glory. [[Yeah, we get you Lieutenant. It's going to take a while to make these modifications, but I'm sure we'll have the targeting sensor singing to your tune.]] Robotic tune.

Unperturbed by the potential audience, Conrad snickered. It was probably a bad idea to let Fenn know when you found him amusing but the Trill had a way of catching a person off-guard in that respect. [[Don't worry, Lieutenant, at least one of us has decent taste in music.]]

Oh boy. Zade looked down at the console, trying to keep her hands busy so she wouldn't use one of them to facepalm. She didn't want to babysit them, the two ensigns were adults and she had to trust that they would complete their tasks in a timely manner. It also felt weird to join in on their conversation; it was similar to a mom trying to communicate with her kids using their language. [[I'm sure you do. Do one of you have a time estimate so we can test the sensors?]] Zade asked. Despite her efforts, a subtle hint of impatience leaked into her voice.

[[I have great taste in music, and since the damage is ship-wide,]] Teyo said, [[and the plan is to spit the modules, it may take a couple of hours. Normally we can rely on the secondary systems to help out the primary systems when the ship is in one piece, but we gotta be more thorough in this circumstance. Obviously, if we had more help we could get it done faster.]]

[[A couple of hours at most,]] Vivienne challenged, [[We'll up the priority and see if we can get a couple more personnel allocated. Maybe if we phrase it as 'taking the big shiny target off our foreheads due to lack of reliable weaponry' we might qualify for additional backup.]]

[[Do what you must.]]

[[Yes Sir,]] Teyo replied. His fingers found his PADD, accessing his personal music files and playing the same song from earlier at full blast, a second before he cut the comlink. He smiled to himself at his small act of rebellion; simultaneously he felt a small ache in his arm, at the very spot he had broken when he first met Zade. He failed to make the connection.


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