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A Matter Of Integrity

Posted on 25 Jan 2019 @ 8:52pm by Staff Warrant Officer William Griffin & Lieutenant JG Kemm

Mission: The Kalisa Conundrum
Location: Main Engineering
Timeline: MD 1 || 1400 hours

92.3 percent.

The Kelpien Lieutenant JG Kemm considered themselves to be lucky. The barrier to the Convergence Zone, and then the experience in the Time Warp Nebula had done a number on the ship's external hull and skeletal structure, not to mention the Engineering crew count. He hadn't minded Lieutenant Hawthorne, who still had a hidden still halfway down the port PTC. It didn't seem prudent to remove it. After all, both Lieutenants T'Pai and Hawthorne had simply disappeared. One could assume them dead, but this was the Black Hawk.

Yes, the Black Hawk. A ship whose Captain seemed to be attracted to mysteries and challenges most would deem unnatural. A crew who had known both suffering and wild experiences. Despite all of the danger that surrounded them all, the Captain had slowly built a close-knit crew willing to do almost anything.

Including whatever unusual mission that kept them inside the Zone and not running for the nearest starbase for repair.

Until then, one of Kemm's jobs would be to keep an eye on structural integrity among his other duties. Most of the officers would be pulling extra duty until they were back at full staff, however long that would be.

Groaning inwardly at the thought, Kemm shook his head and looked back at the gauges.

92.1 percent.

Kemm blinked, staring at the point-one. He didn't understand it at all. Fluctuations were to be expected, especially with the ship in motion, but not now. The ship was holding position, exerting as little power as possible. The Kelpien tapped his comm badge, knowing there wasn't much other option. "Kemm to Chief Griffin. Do you have a moment?"

Griffin looked up from the bridge console he was sitting at. He had spent the first half of his shift working on smoothing out a kink in the plasma flow, a bent conduit panel had been interfering with the flow, not enough to cause a serious problem, but enough to knock off the flow and cause intermittent faults in several systems that ran on the affected conduit. it had been a good morning, the kind of problem he enjoyed working on, mechanical and physical more than theoretical and he'd enjoyed the work. He had just finished rerouting the flow back through the repaired conduit when his comm badge chirped.

=/\= "What can I do for you, Lieutenant?" He asked, the gruff rumble of his voice at odds with the fairly pleasant tone he had used.

The Kelpien took note of the tone, but that wasn't going to change what he had to inform the Lieutenant. "Sir, I'm seeing some fluctuations in the ship's structural integrity. The rate appears to be falling, Chief."

"Hold on." The chief grumbled, just like that his good mood was evaporating away like a Tzartak aperitif got too hot. He brought up the structural integrity figures and frowned at the number, 91.1%. Barely, he resisted the urge to swear on the bridge, using that energy to push himself up from the chair he had been perched on instead.

The engineering team, small as it was, had been wrestling with the structural integrity of the Black Hawk ever since the encounter with the quantum string fragment, the ship had taken a pounding and there were cracks, weakened supports, damaged mountings and twisted beams throughout most of the ship, which they'd been systematically patching and repairing the damage in a seemingly never-ending cycle, but the structural integrity field was the glue that was holding the whole mess together. This was a problem that if left unsolved, could quickly develop into a crisis, and an absolute pain in the ass. "Start a level one diagnostic of the structural integrity field emitters," he told Kemm, "I'm on my way down."

"Acknowledged," the Kelpian replied, his tall form rising from his station to approach a nearby maintenance hatch. Carefully, his spry fingers removed the panel and withdrew the isolinear substructure. As it was on rails, it provided easy access to the SIF diagnostic ports. Kemm moved an isolinear chip from a standby port to the diagnostic relay, setting the field generators into an operative mode that would allow for a close look at the system in order to begin the diagnostic.

Shortly after, Griffin strode into main engineering, his long legs carrying his bulk at a brisk pace that didn't slow as he approached the Kelpian lieutenant, "report, Mr. Kemm?" He grumbled as he passed, going directly to the master systems display and noting that the SIF was already highlighted.

"I've only just begun, Chief." Lieutenant Kemm moved over from the access panel to the control station in order to start looking at the diagnostic results. "This is odd," he said quickly, pointing a long finger at some of the readouts. "According to this, the field generators have not changed their field output at all, nor is there any noticeable drop in efficiency or effectiveness. Yet, structural integrity is falling at a slow, but steady, rate."

"Dammit," the chief engineer cursed. Mechanical problems were his bread and butter, his comfort zone. Dealing with weird sciency problems were not what he considered his strong suit. "Let's try boosting the output of the generators and see if that stabilizes the field, while we figure out what the hell is going on."

Kemm fought the urge to exhale as he examined the master system display, wondering where he'd get the extra power. "All right," he said at last. "I'll shut down the replicators in the crew quarters to get the extra power. Shunting it all to SIF output now..." Kemm's fingers gracefully danced over the controls, rerouting system after system to make this work. His attention returned to the SIF gauges. "Power output now 108.2 percent. Field integrity... untouched."

"Return power to the replicators, then, before the crew starts calling down here complainin' that they can't get their lunches," Griffin grumbled, his own fingers working on a separate panel of the console. "I'm settin' up a hull integrity scan, see if I can find anythin' fouling us up."

"Aye." The Kelpian worked diligently to shift the power back where it belonged, though it took him a bit longer to complete the task than he would have liked. For whatever reason, he'd found it difficult to interface with the power transfer system, and in turn, the system seemed to have a few quirks of its own. "That's odd," he muttered, trying to perform another quick diagnostic.

"What? Griffin queried, glancing over what the Kelpian Lieutenant was doing while the hull scan was running, 'odd' was a term he had learned to respect. When things were 'odd' it generally didn't bode well.

Kemm appeared to be flustered. "The controls. If I didn't know better, I'd say the computer is getting to be a little sluggish. The sensors appear to be falling out of alignment as well. They say hull width is widening. Marginally, but it's something."

"It never rains," Griffin murmured to himself, glowering down at the readings and putting things together in his head. "A. The computer is malfunctioning and the sensors are giving false readings, that could extend to the structural integrity readings, too. B. The computer, sensors and structural integrity are all being affected by the same thing. C. The computer and sensors are being affected because of something happening to the hull, or the other way round. In either case, the hull takes priority. Where do the sensors say the hull is widening?"

The Lieutenant pulled up an outline of the Black Hawk and overlaid the sensor readings on top. Three areas were highlighted in yellow, including the port nacelle, a fifteen-meter section along the port side of the engineering hull, and a twenty-meter section along the underside of the saucer on the port side. "They're all on the port side," the Kelpian observed, his words seeming unnecessary aside from the surprised tone in his voice.

"What the hell..." Griffin grumbled, "it's not damage from the encounter, or battle damage, but it looks like there's something affecting the hull. Focus in on the secondary hull and see if the sensors can get a bead on what it is. If that doesn't work then we'll take a tricorder to..." Griffin paused, looking at the overlay and calculating the location, "section seventeen, deck twenty-one, I think would be the closest."

Kemm focused his attention on the sensors, doing his best to isolate what could be happening. He grimaced all the while as each scan came back more and more inconclusive. "We might have to take the tricorders, Chief. The sensors are being less than helpful."

"Hrm," the chief grumbled deep in his chest, it was another concern all together that the computer and the sensors were misbehaving, but that would have to wait until they found out what was affecting the hull. "All right, grab a tricorder and let's go." He turned to walk to his small office, offering "toolkit, be with you in a second," as he walked away.

The tall lanky frame that was the Kelpian Kemm rose from the station and reached into the nearby equipment locker to grab one of the toolkits stored inside. He set it on a nearby table and opened it, performing a quick test of the tools inside. All of the charge levels appeared to be adequate. Kemm removed the tricorder next and performed a few quick adjustments on the unit. Thankfully, it seemed to be responding at a rate much quicker than the computer did, so he left it in internal mode, keeping it isolated from the ship's computer feed.

In his office, Griffin took a moment to pop open his personal tool kit, a large black case made of burnished tritanium alloy and emblazoned with a large image of a mythical Griffin holding a wrench in it's talons, and checked that everything was accounted for. It was an expansive kit, containing all the standard tools and many additional gadgets he'd picked up along the way, various tools and devices from many different races and eras, and a type one phaser. Some of the tools were older than he was, well worn but in perfect working order.

Snapping the case shut, he stepped out into main engineering and nodded at Kemm, "ready, Lieutenant?"

Kemm nodded, deactivating the tricorder and holstering it on his belt. "As ready as I'll ever be, sir." He picked up his toolkit and approached the Staff Warrant Officer.

The two men made their way through the ship to the affected area and it took them a few minutes to strip away the panels and protective layers to get to the hull. McCullen bent to drop his coil spanner back where it belonged and he felt a wave of odd disorientation. It passed quickly but left him feeling oddly fuzzy.

"What does the tricorder say," the chief grumbled, trying to shake off the feeling and focus on the task at hand.

"This is odd," Kemm spoke aloud, getting his tricorder as close as possible to the cold plate that separated both engineers from the vacuum of space. "Our hull structure, like all Starfleet vessels, is a combination of duranium, tritanium, and other materials in layers, with the outermost being duranium fibers that are gamma welded to composite panels and then coated with ablative armor, which itself is a fabric bonded with tritanium. Our outer hull normally sports ten centimeters of armor. I'm detecting something twelve centimeters in thickness, but only possesses ninety percent of the ablative materials and eighty percent of the tritanium that is consistent with Starfleet usage."

"Ten... twelve. Eighty." Griffin said aloud, the information Kemm had given him both made sense and didn't, at some level he understood, but his brain was struggling to put the numbers and information together into a cohesive pattern, like a transporter targeting scanner that was out of alignment. He gazed at Kemm, suddenly feeling a sense of paranoia, was the Kelpian up to something?

It all came rushing back in an almost-audible whoosh, and the world snapped into focus. He shook his head slightly, like a punch-drunk fighter, "Damn... can you detect any emissions from... whatever it is? Something's wrong, here..."

Kemm shook his head. "Even though the tricorder is more effective than the sensor array at the moment, I'm still not getting clear readings. We're going to need a hull sample."

"Show me the damn thing," Griffin growled, holding out his hand for the tricorder. If the Kelpian was up to something, he reasoned he'd be better looking at the scans himself.

Kemm looked at the Chief strangely. He didn't know the Warrant Officer well, but this behavior seemed to be quite unlike him. Still, he handed over the tricorder as he did not wish to quarrel.

Griffin took the tricorder and stared at the readings - various graphs and numbers scrolled across the small screen and it was all garbled, none of it made any sense to the chief engineer. The only reason that he could think of, the only explanation that made sense to him was that Kemm had somehow scrambled the device, to hide whatever it was that he was doing.

"What the hell," the big man snarled, dropping the tricorder to the deck and raising his fists as he took a step towards the Kelpian, "are you doing to my ship?" If he had to, he would beat the information out of the lieutenant.

His ganglia slipped out from the base of Kemm's skull, stretching themselves out fully. Though his face did not show it, the Lieutenant actually thought his life was in danger. Holding both hands up as if he were surrendering, Kemm urged, "I've done nothing, Chief. We are trying to fix the ship. You and me. Together."

In one fluid motion, Griffin's right foot slid back and turned as he twisted at the waist and shoulders, his fist coming up to Kemm's head-height as he pulled his arm back and wound up for the mother of all straight punches. He got to the fulcrum, cocked and ready, and as quick as a snap of the fingers, his reason popped back into place.

For a moment, there was absolute confusion as he stood there, ready to ruin the Lieutenant's day in a spectacular way, utterly unaware of why he'd thought of punching an officer, a good one at that, and a generally hard working and pleasant man, square in the face.

"Lieutenant," he grumbled as he let his shoulders relax and his arm drop, all traces of the rage he had felt just a moment ago apparently gone, "what the hell is wrong with me?"

Kemm wasn't sure how to answer, nor was he sure if he should approach his superior. Chief Griffin was an inch or two taller than he, but definitely carried more stock on his figure. Like most Kelpians, he was long and twig-like, carrying less than 180 pounds on his figure. Griffin's punch would have easily rendered Kemm unconscious.

"I wish I knew, sir," Kemm replied, his voice trembling. His hand hovered near his comm badge, ready to summon security. "Perhaps we should get you to sickbay for a stress evaluation."

"You get back to engineering and figure out getting a hull sample," Griffin replied, bending to pick up the tricorder. There was no point in wasting Kemm's valuable time as well as his own. "I'll go to sickbay."

"Do you want someone to go with you, sir?" Kemm asked, taking a step backward in case Griffin decided to do something else entirely. Kemm's ganglia remained extended, further indicating that he believed he was still in danger.

"No, lieutenant, we're short staffed as it is and I don't wanna waste anyone's time escorting me anywhere," Griffin grumbled, he noted the extended ganglia and remembered from some distant exobiology course that it was an indicator of fear, or a sense of being in danger, and tried to relax his posture. "I'll go first, you close up this crap," he gestured at the open access panels, "and I'll see you back in engineering."

Kemm nodded, eager to finish this unpleasant part of the day. Still, he made no move to retrieve his tricorder, or turn his back to the man until Kemm was certain that he was no longer in danger.

"Here, you'll need this." Griffin thought to reach out and hand the tricorder to Kemm, but the man's obvious distress made it seem like less than a good idea, so he set the thing down on top of Kemm's toolbox, resisting the urge to give it a little pat, tossed his tools into his own toolbox and withdrew, heading in the opposite direction towards the nearest turbolift.

The Kelpian stood there, his ganglia not relaxing until he lost sight of the burly man. In a moment of relief, he closed his eyes and bowed his head. He sighed, shook his head, then opened his eyes back up to see the vacant corridor. Kemm hoped that what had happened in this moment was just an isolated incident and not indicative of what was coming. If only they could just be done with this forsaken Zone...


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