A Fiery Idea
Aenardha made her way to Engineering after meeting with her boss. LT Smith rather liked her idea and was going to set up a meeting with Commander Nash. Actually excited about the prospect of it all, and visibly showing her excitement, Aenardha entered the area ready to detail her idea to LT Mindo.
Engineering was rather empty. Public vision got her to Engineering and inside, but she would have to use her memory of the place, which was not yet great, or the help of other personnel to get around. With preparations underway for the push home, most of the personnel were in meetings, getting psyched up, going over respective duties and the like. Their work was going to be abundant in the near future. Perhaps, with Aenardha’s plan, they could get home far sooner than expected and take a long and well deserved break.
It was rather quite in Engineering save for the constant hum on the Pandora, a few bleeps here and there, and the low ramblings of people working in places almost out of earshot. Aenardha did hear the dutiful working of someone close by. This person was at a console, working away. She was getting no telepathic information from the occupant and concluded him to be Petty Officer Greep. No thoughts, no vision. He was an empty void that she knew was there only through her sense of hearing alone.
She stood there, waiting for him to break for a moment.
Greep had sensed her presence upon the Aenar's entrance to Engineering. He'd seen her before, he knew, but had not yet interacted with her. He turned and saw her standing behind him, and at first he went back to realigning the shield harmonics, but realized she was still standing there.
Finally he turned around to face her. "Were you sent to observe me? Or do you intend to socialize?" he squawked. A small clicking followed his words.
Aenardha looked in the direction of his voice, but could not look straight at him. It had been a long time since she had conversed with someone she could not read. It was like a small abyss of emptiness with a voice. “I would like to meet with LT Mindo,” she said. “I have some findings to go over with him, if he is in his office.”
Greep made a throatal popping sound before replying, "The Chief usually takes this time of day to close and conduct maintenance on his arcade establishment in Holodeck Four. According to him, he is still available during this time. I don't think he would be bothered by an interruption."
Aenardha nodded. "I thank you Mr. Greep. I will seek him out there."
She did not see Greep nod and turn back to his terminal.
=== Holodeck 4 ===
Seeing through Lieutenant Mindo's eyes, Aenardha could see everything in the room was the same, however as she walked in there were no blips or sirens or ambient noise of any kind. In fact, she could see as Mindo came down the stairs that the entire lower part was entirely empty. None of the game cabinets were there, but the walls had the same artwork and various items she'd "seen" in her earlier visit. The stairs were still there too, but no sounds were reverberating from above either. You could hear a pin drop.
Mindo reached the bottom of the stairs and walked toward her. Greep had been right in that he didn't seem to feel perturbed over someone entering the place.
"What can I do for you, Ensign?" the Chief asked.
“Lieutenant,” she said with a nod, almost a slight bow. She used his vision to look about the place. Before getting to what she wanted to talk about, “It…it is so quiet in here now. When last I was in here, it was overwhelming.”
"I remove the games when I clean the place," Mindo said. "The games are the only holograms in here. The rest of the place, including the upstairs tables, bar, and drinks and food are the genuine thing."
“Now I see why Holodeck 4 is always booked up,” she said. Aenardha did not want to take any more of the lieutenant’s time than she needed. “Lieutenant, I have an idea to run by you.” It was decidedly convenient that they were in a holodeck because, “Computer,” she continued, “Run program Sh’vastarth: A Fiery Idea, partial fill of the room, 4 feet from where I stand.”
The computer bleeped and called up her program. Taking in account the second floor and other not-holograms spread about the room, her program faded into existence before them, scaled down from when she showed it to LT Smith.
Before Mindo’s eyes was a gaseous region of space. Inside the dense gas was the Pandora, zipping along at sublight speeds. Aenardha could sense that the most troubling detail was the fact that the ship was burning, leaving a trail of fire in its wake as it sped along at an unsafe velocity through the nebula.
“Lieutenant, I have an idea that could get us home far sooner than expected. This region of the nebula is what we have to travel around to get out and away from the Expanse. We can save a lot of time if we travel through it instead. This region of dense gas and cannot be travelled at warp speed. In fact, this simulation has the Pandora travelling at four-tenths the speed of light. The friction produced by the ship travelling at this speed will cause the gas to ignite into flame, thus creating a trail of fire behind. Based on my intel gathered from the ship schematics, the Pandora can withstand this level of friction and heat for extended durations. We will have to run with shields down otherwise we would overload the Warp Core within a day. The hull plating will hold up however. Yeah, we will be giving away out position but no one can follow in our wake without burning up and no one can fire on us without their torpedoes burning up. Phasers cannot reach us. And, at this rate, we will be out of the nebula and away from the Expanse in 9 days if we can maintain speed.”
Mindo sighed as he watched the simulation carefully. She was right, it would greatly decrease their travel time. The concept made sense, but...
"You're asking me to navigate the most hostile part of a very hostile nebula at point-four impulse with shields down and most of the outer hull on fire... for nine days."
“Well, the gas density should lessen from time to time,” she quickly added.
He paused and watched the simulation again, checking the data carefully. Finally he shook his head and looked about to deny the idea, but something stopped him. Finally he tapped his communicator and summoned Crewmen Greep and Zo.
In the next ten minutes, he and Aenardha briefed the two senior engineers on the idea.
Zo was very engrossed with the simulation. "This is downright batty-eyed crazy," he said.
"Not nearly as crazy as passing by a wormhole in dark matter," Mindo said, reminding Zo of their journey to Salvaxe shortly after reaching the Expanse. "We had Ravagers after us then too. In this simulation, nobody could follow us."
Greep cocked his head. "The amount of strain on the hull plating, though," he squawked. "This would work on a brand new starship, but our outer hull has seen its share of wear and tear over the last couple of years without any chance to refit."
"Our outer hull could hold for nine days," Mindo said.
"Barely," Zo replied. "I'm not sure, Chief."
Aenardha broke in with, “This would require us to reduce our work shifts from three eight-hour shifts to two twelve-hour shifts, with half the crew complement working non-stop. We will have no need for transporters, no enemies can follow us and the respective personnel who perform these tasks can be repurposed to Engineering if all they need to do is hold a stablilizer in place or watch a set of readings.”
Mindo looked at Aenardha and once again appeared about to give the young Ensign the bad news, but again he stopped.
"Zo," said the Chief, "how is the cooling system coming for Ensign Sh'vastarth's quarters?"
Zo shook his head. "Um... pretty good, actually. Once we have the system up and running, her quarters will be surrounded in a self-contained vacuum that will deflect the heating systems of the rest of the deck, making her quarters a sort of 'freezing cocoon.'" Zo's eyes widened as he realized the Chief's train of thought. "Oh god, no!"
"How soon can you rig the ship's outer hull to deflect the heat?" Mindo asked.
"You're asking me to freeze the entire interior of the ship!" Zo said.
Greep made a rapid clicking noise. "No, just the outer-most areas. The effect would be enough that our outer plating would not suffer as much strain." Greep cocked his head. "In fact, I could modify a sustained pulse on the ship's deflectors, which would provide a further deterrent. Also," the Ontarion added, "we could potentially get through the area at twice the original speed."
“Which would cut our travel time to four, maybe five days,” Aenardha added.
Zo seemed to understand. "The only potential areas of damage would be in the stern," he observed.
Mindo nodded. "Which we just reinforced a few days ago. There'd hardly be any damage."
They all turned to the very bright Ensign. "I think we can do this," Mindo said. "And at the same time, your quarters will be ready way ahead of schedule!"
Aenardha did not know what to say. She was half expecting the entire plan to be thrown to the ground immediately, but here they spent almost a quarter of an hour figuring out how to make it work. On top of that, her work request for her quarters could be completed; not something she wanted to inquire about until after their trek through the Expanse.
She managed a smile and her antennae stood erect. Aenardha looked between them all, using Mindo’s and Zo’s public vision to ensure she was looking Greep in the eye.
“I…,” she began, “LT Smith and I, that is, still need to take this up with Commander Nash for approval. I will certainly apply these new parameters and update the simulation for him to peruse. I thank you all.”
"Make sure Smith tells Commander Nash you have my full support," Mindo said with a nod. "Crewman Greep, seeing as you are still on duty, you may return to your post. Crewman Zo, thanks for giving us some of your free time."
"Actually," Zo said, "I'd like to get back to preparing Ensign Sh'vastarth's quarters immediately. The more I can get done on that..."
Mindo grinned. "I get your point. Mr. Greep, I would like you to assist as soon as I return to Engineering."
"Yes Chief," Greep replied.
As both of them left, Mindo turned his focus to Ensign Sh'vastarth. "If there's nothing else, Ensign, you are dismissed."
“Thank you sir,” she said with a nod and a step back. “I will make sure the commander knows of your support.”