Someone Needs a Nose Job
Location: USS Highlander - Main Engineering Hologram (within Holodeck One)
Timeline: En-route to Dreyas System
"We've lost all contact with everything above deck seven," Leon called out from one of the wall-side consoles that lined the main section of Engineering, leading up to the warp core. There was constant movement amongst the engineers present as they tried to follow their procedures and orders to contain the disaster that was unfolding on the ship.
"The EPS overload is spreading!" Ethan leant over the railing in the level immediately above Leon to call his report down from where he was monitoring systems from the upper tier console. "It's spreading to all systems. If it gets out of the saucer section, it could blow the deflector or - worse - cause a warp core breach."
Hawke watched the disaster unfolding and felt the adrenaline surge through his veins. Even though he knew it was a simulation, they made these things as realistic as possible. He was standing at one of the consoles facing in to the warp core and leaned forward to look up at Ethan. "How long before the overload gets out of the saucer?" he asked.
"Two minutes, three at most," Ethan responded from the upper level, turning his attention back to his console in a futile attempt to stop the overload from progressing any further.
"Leon, get as many people out of the saucer section as you can," Hawke called across to the operations officer. "In two minutes, seal off everything from deck eight up."
"Sir, there are only two decks that I can contact in that section!" Leon called out. Deck seven was completely cut off to him, and the levels that he could access were mostly taken up by the aeroshuttle dock on the underside of the ship. "We'll be cutting off a lot of the crew!"
Hawke knew that. He didn't like it, but unless they stopped this overload in its tracks everybody would be lost. There was no time for debate and the consequences would be on his head. "I gave you an order, Ensign."
He turned away from Kingson and looked back up to the chief engineer. They had to isolate the overload or the entire ship would be vaporised. Not on my watch, he told himself before shouting up to Ethan, "Can we seal the EPS conduits that run between the saucer and drive sections? Would that stop the cascade from reaching the deflector?"
"It might," Ethan called back down. "But then again it might just cause the conduits to explode at the point where the overload can't progress any further, shearing the ship into two." Some starships were designed for saucer separation, but the Highlander wasn't one of them. Ethan seriously doubted that the rest of the ship could survive of it were torn in half.
Hawke furrowed his brow, trying to remember the schematics and devise a solution. Then the thought occurred to him, a moment of clarity in the cacophony of alarms and frantic action. He bolted up a nearby ladder to join the chief engineer on the upper level. "Then let's give it somewhere to progress further," he said as he climbed.
Pulling up a schematic of the ship on the console next to Ethan, Hawke zoomed in on the forward airlock on deck eight. "If we can direct the plasma through the grid to this plasma canister behind this airlock and open the airlock, that should effectively vent the plasma into space. We'd still suffer some damage from the canister exploding, but the majority of the plasma would be vented. Wouldn't it?"
"Maybe," Ethan conceded, tapping at his console and computing what route they could try to divert the plasma down in order to get it to the location that Hawke had indicated. "We'd blow out almost every EPS relay on that deck in the process, though."
"Sir," Leon said, turning from the lower station to face Hawke. "We're storing several containers of quaratum in that cargo bay. A plasma explosion would almost certainly increase the rad level to the point of igniting the barrels. With the amount of containers we have in there, we could take out the entire forward section of the ship."
"Dammit," Hawke cursed. Why can't this be easy? he complained internally. Outwardly he turned to Leon and said, "I don't want to hear could, Ensign. Tell me what will happen. How much of the ship will we lose and is there anything we can do to contain or avoid that explosion?"
Leon turned back to his console and instructed it to run a simulation based on current conditions. He watched the simulated explosion as it moved through the ship, going at least as far back as the main sensor array visible on the dorsal hull. "We'd lose everything forward of section 6," he reported, as the computer ran through a number of different simulations with the most likely automated variables. "There's a seventy percent chance that the explosion could overload both the ventral and dorsal phaser arrays on the primary hull, causing damage along those section for the entire length of the arrays, and a sixty five percent chance that the explosion could breach the forward turbolift shaft." He sent the graphic of that particular worst-case scenario to Hawke's workstation. "Once in the shaft, the explosion would almost certainly take out the bridge, secondary computer core and the primary deuterium cryo storage tanks."
He paused as he tried to swallow around a lump that had appeared in his throat before pressing on. "If we vent the atmosphere in all sections surrounding the forward cargo hold... we can reduce the risk of the explosion spreading to forty percent." It was clear from his expression that the unsaid "but" was along the lines of "but we have no way of warning the crew in those sections to prepare".
That unspoken 'but' weighed heavily in Hawke's mind as he took in the information Leon shouted up to him. The brutal calculus of command.
Time was running out. He looked at the graphic displaying the path of the overload and saw it creeping closer and closer to that point of no return between the saucer and drive sections of the ship. The brutal calculus of it was that if the surge got that far, the entire ship and all of her crew would be vaporised in the warp core breach that would inevitably follow. "In the service," he mumbled to himself. "We must chose the lesser of two evils."
Hawke turned to Ethan and steeled his expression against the horror of his next order. "If we do nothing, they're all dead anyway. Lieutenant Kessel, vent those sections and divert the surge to the forward airlock." There was nothing more to say.
Ethan nodded somberly as he turned to his console. "Aye, sir," he replied, as he tapped the controls on his console. "Beginning venting procedures... decompression in five seconds."
"Redirecting plasma flow," Leon said from his console. As he tapped in the commands, the graphic on Hawke's screen changed, showing EPS conduits closing ahead of the flow, redirecting it down the path of least restriction; towards the front of the saucer section.
"Venting complete. All sections around the cargo bay show zero atmosphere."
"Plasma approaching forward cargo bay. Detonation in five... four... three... two... one..."
The ship shook violently as alarms blared in engineering, and the ship graphics all started glowing red around the ship's bow. When the shaking stopped, everyone's expressions said one thing; we're still here.
A moment later, all of the personnel in engineering disappeared. A second after that, engineering itself vanished, replaced by the latticework grid of the holodeck.
"Not bad," Tim said, walking over from near the exit to the holodeck, approaching Hawke who now stood in the centre of an empty room. "Luckily those sections were empty, so all you did was blow off the nose of my ship."
Horatio let out a sigh of relief and wiped a sleeve across his forehead as the adrenaline from the simulation started to drop. It was over, but now came the assessment. He smiled as the captain approached, "We can always get her a new nose, sir."
"Know any good plastic surgeons?" Tim joked, as he stopped a few steps away. After a natural pause, he said, "Not too shabby, aside from that though. You could have probably saved a lot of repair work though by diverting the flow to multiple exits from the hull. Nevertheless; you've passed!"
The pilot grinned as he heard the captain's verdict; he had started to second guess himself in preparation for the engineering test, so his relief was palpable.
"Thank you, sir."
Captain Tim Williams
Lieutenant Horatio Hawke
Lieutenant Kessel and Ensign Kingson holograms played with the owner's permissions by Captain Williams