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Posted on May 29, 2020 @ 6:57am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer


(Continued from "Mockingbird")


Location: USS Phoenix, docked at Starbase 56
Stardate: [2.20]0528.2300
Scene: Captain's quarters - deck 2, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane was ready for them when they arrived. He'd gotten up early, had a light breakfast, gone over some departmental reports, and put away his stuff into the various closets in his quarters, all the while mentally preparing himself to face a day where he wouldn't be back here. Fortunately, there was quite a bit of work to be done while the Starbase engineers were installing HCARS in his quarters - he wanted to inspect Engineering, which was almost finished its upgrade, and he had set up a meeting with Jake and Malin-Argo to facilitate that. He probably needed to stop by sickbay to get this damned physical over and done with too. All that ought to eat up the morning at least, and then he supposed he could always head to one of the Starbase holosuites for the afternoon.

He made sure his uniform jumpsuit was smooth and that his collar was straight, and waited where he was until the chronometer beeped oh-eight-hundred hours. As if on cue, the door to his quarters chimed. "Come in."

The doors hissed open, admitting a young Human ensign leading a team of five engineers. She seemed Polynesian, with an attractive golden-brown skin tone and dark eyes that were affixed on him. Kane eyeballed her - she looked like she had just left the Academy, and his heart sank a little when he realised that there was an entire generation now active in Starfleet who probably saw him as an old man. "Ah, Ensign. You're here to install HCARS."

The ensign nodded. Two of the technicians were lugging a new replicator between them, and another had a small anti-grav platform that held several boxes of what looked like holographic emitters. The other two held toolboxes in their hands. "That's right, Captain," she smiled. "It'll be four hours at a minimum. We need to upgrade all the ODN network in this section of the deck before installing your equipment."

"I understand," Kane said half-truthfully. Engineering wasn't his strong point. "I won't return until late this afternoon. Thank you for your assistance." He motioned for the team to enter, and moved past them into the corridor. As the doors hissed closed again, he saw them drop their equipment onto his nice clean carpet with a series of heavy thumps.


Scene: Main Engineering - deck 37, drive section

A short time later, Kane found himself in Engineering, on the bottom deck of the three-deck open plan. As he moved from the turbolift to the control room proper, he noted the new corridor walls - all of the old touch-screen control panels had been removed, being replaced instead with a series of stud-like holographic emitters built into the walls at regular intervals. Here and there, a larger emitter stud lay beneath a small screen - when Kane paused to examine one of these screens, he saw that it was a back-up access panel to the main computer that could be activated by both voice and touch.

There must have been over a hundred engineers at work in Engineering, spread over its three decks. Kane saw Jake and Malin-Argo standing near the dilithium chamber, and as he moved closer to them, he glanced upward, looking up past the vast bulk of the warp core that was pulsing intermittently with a calm violet light. There seemed to be much more open space than before. Many workstations seemed to be gone, but he reminded himself that they had been replaced with holographic emitter nodes, and that even though the actual hardware seemed to be the warp core itself, Engineering was one of those parts of the ship that was liable to be absolutely riddled with holographic emitters.

Malin-Argo and Jake turned to face him as he approached. They had not been speaking to one another, simply watching the engineers at their work, the tension between the two of them almost palpable. Kane made a mental note to try to arbitrate some kind of resolution of their differences as soon as possible - if that was even possible.

"Captain Kane," rumbled Malin-Argo. The Grazerite gestured upward, his meaty hand encompassing all three Engineering decks. "You are two minutes early, but I am ready to begin my briefing."

Kane nodded a greeting to Jake. "Go ahead, Commander Malin-Argo."

Moving forward like a real estate agent, Malin-Argo indicated various panels built into the deck plate beneath their feet. Some of them were circular rings, others were thin, L-shaped buttresses that began at floor-level and moved up along the walls. Interspersed through them were various backup panels like there were out in the corridor. "Our installation of Engineering's holo-emitters is complete, and we have been running system simulations since yesterday afternoon. So far, we have had a one-hundred per-cent success rate."

"That's impressive," said Jake.

Malin-Argo looked at him witheringly. "It is the minimum expected." He turned to Kane. "By your leave, Captain Kane, I will demonstrate a one per-cent increase in warp core power output using the new holographic plasma controls."

Kane nodded.

Malin-Argo moved forward to an open space where the old plasma controls used to be. Last week, there was a whole bank of computer nodes, touch-screen panels, readouts and displays here, but now there was a small platform - a circular dais one step up from the deck plate - surrounded by one of those ring-shaped backlit holographic emitters in the floor. Malin-Argo stepped up onto the platform, and as soon as he did, the emitter burst into light, projecting dozens of images around him in a three-sixty display. It was all there - direct access to the entire plasma control system, coupled with monitors for the warp core, exhaust manifolds, intermix ratios - everything.

Kane and Jake looked at each other.

"That's impressive," said Kane.

"That's what I said," Jake deadpanned.

Malin-Argo lifted his hands and began to manipulate the controls. From Kane's perspective, it looked like he was simply pawing at the air, dragging and sweeping his big hands through empty space, but whatever he was doing was having a discernible effect. The violet light from the warp core was a little brighter, pulsing a little quicker. "As you can see," the Grazerite announced, "I have successfully increased the power output of the warp core by one per cent. This has been accomplished within a target time of eleven seconds - we project that an operator will be more time-efficient in carrying out system adjustments by a factor of up to seventeen per cent. Now, observe."

Malin-Argo beckoned to an enlisted Human engineering technician that was standing nearby. The crewman - a dark-haired white man sporting light stubble - stepped forward onto the dais, and Malin-Argo stepped down. Immediately, the entire layout of the displays changed - all the information jumped around to new positions. It was still there, but seemingly had automatically corrected itself for the new technician.

Malin-Argo moved his hand through the displays, demonstrating that he was having no effect on them. "The HCARS has switched to a new user profile. In this manner, each member of the crew can customise their own layout, giving us much more flexibility with regard to individual heights and favoured working limbs. When an operator is working, I cannot affect the system. When it is vacant, the displays simply vanish. Step down, Crewman."

The Human technician obeyed, and the light show disappeared like someone had pulled the plug. Malin-Argo approached Kane and Jake again. "In the event of that emitter being damaged or destroyed, the plasma controls can be rerouted to a new emitter anywhere on the ship. Needless to say, this gives us enormous tactical flexibility."

"Would it not also present a security problem?" asked Jake. "If an intruder was hacking the main computer in sickbay, for example, he would only be able to access local medical systems. Are you telling me that HCARS is an open network?"

"Of course not," said Malin-Argo dismissively. "It is compartmentalised like any large operating system, with several encryption layers between each compartment."

"How many encryption layers?" asked Jake.

"Two," snapped Malin-Argo.

"That's not several. If I breach the first layer, have I breached it across all compartments?" asked Jake.

Malin-Argo set his jaw and narrowed his eyes. "Yes."

Jake turned to Kane. "Someone in the Vulgar Tribble could conceivably hack through one layer of Iphie's recipes and have only one more layer between themselves and the self-destruct mechanism."

Kane shook his head. "That's alarming. What's the solution?"

Jake shrugged. "Instead of two generic encryption layers between each network compartment, we need randomised, constantly-shifting algorithms between each compartment, stacked up on top of each other in layers. That way, an external hacker would get no further than a neighbouring compartment before being faced with a new encryption layer."

Kane frowned. "Is that possible?" he asked Malin-Argo.

The Grazerite looked angry, but he kept his tone of voice carefully modulated. "Yes, Captain, but an entirely new code will need to be written. That task alone will take several days at a minimum, and in the meantime installation of HCARS will be slowed. Not only will that impact the Phoenix crew who are awaiting installation of the new system at their workstations, but it will impact the timetables for the Starbase's Engineering department. If you choose to proceed with that, you will need to explain why to Admiral Stiles."

Kane raised an eyebrow. Malin-Argo had a talent for walking right up to the line of insubordination, but not crossing it. "You will organise your staff to begin writing the new code immediately. The Phoenix is not leaving this docking bay until we are satisfied that she is ship-shape. Furthermore, as head of this project, it is *you* who will notify Starbase Operations of our delay, advising them to follow up with me if there are any further questions. If they choose to do that, then I will be immediately referring them back to you for a technical explanation. Do you understand?"

Malin-Argo glowered at him. "Aye, sir."

"Good." Kane looked around one last time. "You are doing fine work here otherwise, Commander Malin-Argo, and it is, as always, very much appreciated. Please pass on my compliments to your staff."

The Grazerite inclined his head neutrally. "Very well, Captain."

Kane turned to Jake. "Let's leave them to their work, Commander."

Together, they headed back into the corridor and toward the turbolift.


Scene: Turbolift, en route upward

The turbolift doors hissed closed on Kane and he turned to face front. "Deck twelve, saucer section." As the turbolift slid smoothly into motion, he glanced at his ExO. "How have you been, Jake?"

Jake raised an eyebrow. "Fine, sir. I've been trying to keep track of the HCARS installation. Most of my days are spent working with Operations and liaising with the Starbase engineers." His tone of voice was flat, and he kept his eyes dead straight.

Kane didn't blame him. During the search for the Satet, Jake had been vocal when he had disagreed with Kane's decisions about how to proceed. Jake had gone so far as to privately recommend that the entire mission be scrubbed, and when the time came to scuttle the Satet with a torpedo spread, Jake had been outraged that he was not consulted beforehand. From Kane's point of view their relationship had deteriorated, but he was painfully aware that there was another side to the story, and he was looking right at him. "How are your children?"

Jake raised an eyebrow. "Well enough." Silence fell, and for a moment, Kane thought he wasn't going to break it. "Things are slow to fall into place after the divorce. I think it might do Benito some good to talk to someone."

"Like Counselor Dalziel?"

"Her, or the guy who owns the pug." Jake put his hands behind his back. "The crew seems to like that dog."

"That's the only reason it hasn't been punted out an airlock," muttered Kane darkly.


"Nothing. You were saying about Benito?"

"Yeah. Well, now that the Phoenix looks like spending the better part of the year on this upgrade and shakedown, it might be easier on him." Jake paused. "More and more every day, I question Starfleet's decision to put families on starships. It's - well, it's really making me think, sir."

"I agree completely with you, Commander," said Kane, and he did. If the Phoenix was lost with all hands, it would a tragedy for Starfleet, but there were thirty-five civilians aboard in a variety of roles, twenty of them children, who also had families and had not sworn an oath of service to the fleet. How much more tragic would it be if any one of those children was killed by one of the myriad dangers of life in Starfleet?

The conversation died as both men fell into their thoughts. All too soon, the turbolift arrived at sickbay. Kane stepped forward. "You have a good day, Jake, alright?"

Jake mouth widened into a smile, but it didn't touch his eyes. "You too, Captain."


Scene: Primary sickbay - deck 12, saucer section

There was a different kind of excitement afoot in sickbay. There was no sign of HCARS here yet - instead, all hands seemed to be on deck for a line of enlisted crew who were waiting patiently for a physical exam. Kane passed the line, nodding at those who greeted him, and paused in the main infirmary, looking around at the organised chaos.

It was easy to pick out the new assistant CMO. As a Klingon-Betazoid, she was one of the tallest figures in the room, and was moving efficiently around a biobed off to his right, muttering readings to herself, while an enlisted Trill man lay under the biobed's lid and watched her with his blue eyes. After a moment, she stopped moving and nodded, lifting the biobed back up. "You are fit for duty, Crewman Kir. Back to work, now. And because I can sense your feelings, and before you ask, I'm married."

Crewman Kir moved as fast as he dared, veritably leaping off the biobed and walking quickly out of sickbay. The Klingon-Betazoid doctor pointed at the next person in line. "Next!"

"She's been like that all morning," murmured Sidney Bartlett from behind Kane. Kane turned around - the older man was smiling at him from beneath his mess of white hair. "She's most efficient. I might be out of a job before too long."

One of the nearby enlisted crew was urging him to move to the front of line. Kane shook his head and turned to face Bartlett. "I came to talk to you about this physical that you're trying to rope me into."

"No, you came down here to inspect our new arrival," smiled Bartlett. "You want her to see you watching her so that she feels noticed by the captain's beady eye. Perhaps sometime soon you'll even bless her with an actual audience."

Kane made a face.

"I've been in Starfleet for thirty-eight years, Captain Kane," chuckled Bartlett. "I know all the tricks. As for the physical exam - well, Doctor Keiku wrote the order. I just signed off on it." Bartlett took Kane by the arm and led him towards his office. "We're processing between seven and ten crewmembers an hour and we've been at it since the weekend. At this rate, we'll be all done in about two days." As they passed through the alcove, Bartlett leaned against his desk. "Your last physical was nine months ago. You can afford to delay it for a few weeks."

Kane nodded. "Good. Consider it delayed."

"Wait a moment, Captain. How is the HCARS refit proceeding?"

Kane shrugged. "As well as can be expected. It's going to take a little longer than we thought - something about computer security."

Bartlett nodded. "When the time comes for this place to be upgraded, we will, of course, temporarily move down to secondary sickbay. But speaking from a purely logistical point of view, there are currently over twelve hundred people working aboard the Phoenix. If even one-tenth of those need medical attention, secondary sickbay will be overwhelmed."

Kane nodded. That made sense. "Your recommendation?"

"Convert one of the cargo bays into a temporary sickbay until HCARS is installed," said Bartlett. "We're docked to the Starbase so we have the space. Strictly a contingency plan."

Kane shrugged. "I have no objections. Arrange it with Commander Crichton."

"Will do," said Bartlett. "Alright, Captain, run along. As you can see, we're up the walls down here."

Kane left the CMO's office behind and crossed the floor, stopping in the main entrance, keeping his gaze on Tulla Keiku. As he did, she looked up and, for a moment, their eyes met.

Immediately, Kane blinked and looked away, moving to the nearest turbolift. The doors hissed behind him, and he ordered it to take him back to his quarters, wondering if that young Ensign and her engineers were done yet.


NRPG: Moving things along somewhat! Don't forget HCARS - coming to a workstation near you!

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turloghn Kane
Commanding Officer

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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