Month 5, Day 11
Smitty gulped down the rest of his coffee without tasting it, then reluctantly returned his attention to the computer screen. Never used to have trouble getting these blasted reports done, though paperwork isn’t my favorite part of the job. Jane’ll have my head, I keep this up. Maybe I should explain- Oh, yeah. Sorry my paperwork’s late, Captain, but I can’t concentrate because my minds’ full of lust for one of my subordinates. Yeah, that would go over fine.
At least she didn’t ask about Colleen’s test. I’d just as soon not hand her the same test 2 months running. Maybe she didn’t ask because she knows we didn’t finish. Blasted dreams. By the time my sleep-deprived brain remembered to tell her about Takor’s strange behavior, she already knew about it.
Now, there’s a double-standard. Jane’s perfectly calm about him getting aroused at Colleen’s test, but she’d read me the riot act if she knew how I felt about the girl.
He looked up to glare at the speaker grate mounted next to his office door, then scanned the screens that displayed various views of engineering. Why is everybody standing around the power net display? “What is it?” he growled.
The door opened, revealing Harris. “Sorry to bother you, Mr Smythe, but Mr Peron would like you to join us. He says he’s never seen anything like this before.”
Peron rarely feels inclined to ask for assistance. “What’s the problem?” The prospect of a break from paperwork to do some actual engineering softened his mood.
Harris bit her lip. “There’s a... squiggle... in the power net.”
There’s a fine engineering term for you; squiggle. Wonder what she means by it. Surprising, really. Harris may not be the brightest, but she usually knows what term to use. He climbed to his feet. “Let’s have a look.” He walked out with her. “How long has it been there? How bad is it?”
His simple questions increased her nervousness. “Um. Ah. It wasn’t there when I went to lunch. I noticed it after I got back. And it doesn’t seem bad, but maybe that’s because it’s intermittent.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had it fixed, but it cropped up again.”
No, she probably can’t. She doesn’t keep track of details. “Any thoughts on this, Peron?” he asked the Argentinean as they joined the group at the display.
“I think it’s a short,” Peron responded. “But it doesn’t act like one, doesn’t look like one, and appears so randomly, I can’t get it isolated.” He pointed to the display’s upper left corner, where 1 of the lines writhed in slow motion for a second, and then settled into its normal path.
“Definitely a squiggle,” Smitty muttered. There is no official term to describe that. I’ll ask Harris to write a description, and help her finish the paper with an explanation of what caused it and how we fixed it. Once we do. Harris may have coined a new engineering term.
“You know what it is, Mr Smythe?” Peron asked.
“Nope.” One should never be embarrassed by a lack of knowledge when confronting the unknown. “Like you, I think it’s some kind of short. How often does it occur?”
“It varies,” Peron answered. “Anywhere from 5 seconds to 100.”
Definitely intermittent, too. That’s 2 points for Harris. And since she discovered it, “Harris, inform the ship that we need to deal with a technical difficulty, and their power needs may be shifted to the backup system.”
Smitty continued to study the display for several moments, letting the announcement sink into people’s awareness. “Okay, Harris, now I want you to-
“Sick Bay to Engineering,” came over the intercom.
Should have seen that coming. He touched the controls of the nearest intercom unit. “Engineering. Smythe here.”
“Smitty, what do you mean you’re switching us to back-up power?”
“MacGreg, are you in the middle of an operation?” he asked.
“Do you have any patients on life-support?”
“Even in those cases, you wouldn’t notice anything, because I know how to do it smoothly. Now kindly allow me to do my job.” He turned off the intercom. “Harris, put weapons on the back-up grid.” He waited as she completed the chore, but the main power grid developed a short-lived squiggle at the display’s bottom. “Move fabrication,” he instructed. And so it went, moving the various power users to the back-up system one by one, and then waiting to see if it effected the mysterious squiggle. For quite a long time, the squiggle continued to appear in the display at irregular intervals, at irregular positions, and even at irregular strengths.
This is getting disturbing. “Computers next.” That’s a misnomer. Even with ‘computers’ switched over to the back-up, most of the computer stations are still connected to the main power net.
“Squiggle on the backup net,” Peron stated.
It’s in the computers. That means- Wait a minute. He stared at the squiggle that had just appeared on the main power net display. “Switch computers back,” he instructed. Harris almost questioned his instructions, but chose not to. Everyone seemed to hold their breath, waiting to see what happened.
“Squiggle on the main power net,” Smitty observed, and then his eye was caught by another squiggle on the display. “Correction. Two squiggles.” Do I continue with slow and steady, or follow the apparent lead? “Switch everything except computers and miscellaneous.” Again they waited, then he turned his gaze to Peron. “I’ve still got squiggles on the main net,” Smitty stated.
“Back-up has been steady since you took computers back,” Peron replied.
It is a computer, though I still haven’t seen anything like it before. “Harris, move everything in the aft half of the ship to back-up.”
“Yes.” She’s wondering about the main computer banks down there. We all probably are. There’s few computer stations on those decks. “I still have squiggles.”
“Back-up is steady,” Peron returned.
So they continued, switching entire decks to the back-up system, until the squiggle moved to back-up when deck 4 was moved over. Now we’re getting somewhere. “Give deck 4 back to me, and just to be sure, put decks 1-3 on back-up.” He grunted. “I’ve got squiggles.”
“Back-up looks steady,” Peron reported.
Smitty had Harris move blocks of rooms to the back-up, and they finally had it pinned down. “It’s in room 42.”
“That’s my room!” Harris exclaimed softly.
Jones snickered. “Leave your curling iron on this morning, Della?”
“No!” she answered, then hesitated. “If I had, Mac would have turned it off.”
“Call me Mac,” came the woman’s voice. Flaming red hair, green eyes, white face with luscious lips, all the right curves and plenty of them. “You’re Colleen’s roommate,” Smitty realized.
“Yeah,” she confirmed, confused by his mention of that fact.
“I just... hadn’t made the connection,” he muttered. Nothing like letting everybody know she’s always on my mind. He turned and pulled a tool belt from the supply locker. “I’ll check it out.”
“Mr Smythe, there’s no need for you to do it,” Peron told him. “I know you’re busy. I can have Jones check it out.”
Not Jones! Smitty forced a smile. “I need a break from paperwork,” he stated. “All work and no play makes Smythe a grouchy man. It’ll just take a moment. The rest of you, get back to work.” He turned without waiting for any further protests and strode out, headed for the lift.
What am I doing? She’ll be there! Probably. Maybe not. But if she is, she’ll be asleep, since she hasn’t noticed any short. Wait, if she’s asleep, she’s not using the computer, which appears to be where the problem is. And Harris is on duty, so neither computer would be on. That is a puzzle.
Jane’s going to kill me over those reports.
The lift door opened, and he walked down the corridor to enter Quarters 42. Wondering which station to start with, he glanced at both, then froze as the door closed behind him.