CSU: Frontier

Chapter 03: Control Circuit Crisis

The single tone of an incoming message drew everyone's attention.

Joe pressed the button to accept the message and said, "Deflector Control."

"Lieutenant Bowers, Crewman Walker and Crewman Winters are to report to briefing room one immediately." A female voice said through the intercom.

"We're on our way." Joe said quickly then pressed the button again.

Everyone looked at Joe with question.

"Don't ask me. But it's not good to keep the captain waiting. Let's go." Joe said as he started walking toward the door.

"Jimmy, will you keep an eye on my diagnostic?" Susan asked with concern.

"I've got it." Jimmy said seriously and moved to her station.

Susan checked to see that she was presentable, then walked to Joe and Vincent who were waiting at the door.

* * * * *

As the lift came to a stop, Vincent was stunned by the realization that he was visiting the B deck, right below the bridge, for the second time that day.

When the doors opened, Vincent recognized several of the people sitting at the large conference table immediately.

Captain Byrne was sitting at the head of the table, Commander M'Butu and Chief Morgan were sitting to his left.

The next person in line at the table reminded Vincent very much of his Uncle Brady and he suspected that it was because this man was probably a security officer.

Joe, Susan and Vincent formed a line just inside the room and stood at attention.

"Please have a seat. We haven't much time." Captain Byrne said in a distracted voice.

Joe was first to move and took the chair across from Commander M'Butu.

Susan sat down across from Chief Morgan and Vincent took the next seat, across from the man he was now sure was a security officer.

The lift doors opened again and four more people emerged.

"Please, everyone take a seat so we may begin." The captain said in a voice filled with concern.

Vincent glanced over to see that the people who had joined them were all Lieutenants.

"First of all, Crewman Walker, could you tell us how you came to find the faulty control circuit today?" Captain Byrne asked seriously.

"Yes sir. Before we docked at TerraMain we registered a failure in the E4 power distribution conduit. We put in a work order and while we were docked, the engineering crew replaced the entire conduit. When we brought the deflector online, the new power distribution conduit failed. So Vincent and I went to check the distribution node and the control circuit since it isn't likely that a brand new conduit would fail." Susan said carefully.

"Vincent?" The man across from Vincent asked.

"I'm sorry, I meant Crewman Winters." Susan corrected quickly.

The man nodded for her to continue.

"So while we were testing the control circuit, Crewman Winters asked a question about the diagnostic routine. I tested the diagnostic system and found that it wasn't operating as it should." Susan said carefully.

"Excuse me, what was the question Crewman Winters asked?" Chief Morgan asked seriously.

"He asked why the diagnostic would show as a bad power distribution conduit rather than a bad control circuit." Susan said in thought.

Chief Morgan nodded at the answer.

"What did your test of the diagnostic system show?" Commander M'Butu asked curiously.

"That the diagnostic system was generating a false reading of a conduit failure. The strange thing is that the reading was coded as coming from the control circuit, not the diagnostic. As I understand the design of the diagnostic system, that shouldn't be possible." Susan said carefully.

"No, it shouldn't be." Chief Morgan said gravely.

"Do you happen to know if the new conduit was tested before it was brought online?" A woman asked from the other end of the table.

"Yes. Crewman Tullis from deflector control ran a level two diagnostic on the system just before we left TerraMain. It showed the system to be functioning perfectly." Susan said carefully.

"I see." The woman said in a dark tone.

"So that means that standard diagnostics won't detect the problem. Chief Morgan has done some investigation and found that nearly all the control circuits in the supply room have been altered to mask the fact that they are refurbished used parts." Commander M'Butu said seriously.

"And that means that every control circuit on the ship is suspect. We will have to go in and manually test each and every circuit the way Crewman Walker did to find if they have been altered." Captain Byrne said in a low voice.

"Excuse me Captain, but why do we have refurbished parts?" The woman at the far end of the table asked curiously.

"Lieutenant Simms?" Captain Byrne prompted.

"It appears that certain past and present members of the crew have been selling the used parts from the†Yorktown†rather than discarding them as is proper. Those parts were then refitted and altered to pass as new parts. Then those same parts were sold back to us as new. The result is an increasing failure rate as the worn parts are removed and reinstalled again and again." Lieutenant Simms said carefully.

"How long has this been going on?" The Lieutenant next to Vincent asked curiously.

"Almost two years. But the records have been routinely falsified to prevent anyone from noticing a trend in failed parts. We can't count on our records to tell us which parts we have replaced in that time." Chief Morgan said seriously.

"Is it just control circuits or are there other parts we need to be worried about?" Joe asked curiously.

"Any part that could conceivably be reworked and reused, has been. But a control circuit with a properly functioning diagnostic system can be used to determine the need for replacement parts in their sub-systems. The replacement of the control circuits is of the utmost concern at this time." Chief Morgan said firmly.

"Which means that we have to manually check every single control circuit on the ship." Commander M'Butu said to no one in particular.

"But what do we do for replacements?" The woman at the end of the table asked.

"My staff is working on that right now. They are undoing the work-arounds on the control circuits from the supply room so they will give us accurate readings. They might still be more prone to failure than a new control circuit, but the diagnostic systems will be operating correctly." Chief Morgan said seriously.

Captain Byrne looked around the table and said, "Then we'd better get to it. Chief Morgan, I want all engineering staff from all shifts put on this immediately. Commander M'Butu, talk to the division heads of sciences, ship's services, security, communications... talk to all of them and get them to commit anyone with the necessary skills to help in the effort to resolve this problem."

"Lieutenant Bowers, I want to commend you and your staff for uncovering this problem. A note will be made in your service records recognizing this contribution to the ship's safety. Well done." Captain Byrne said to all three deflector control personnel.

'Thank you sir." Joe said with astonishment.

"Now it's time to get the crew working. It's going to be a very long night." Captain Byrne said frankly.

Joe nodded and quickly stood.

Vincent and Susan followed a moment later.

* * * * *

"What's up boss?" Connie asked as Joe led the trio into deflector control.

"It seems that two of our crewmen have stirred up a hornet's nest on the ship." Joe said, then the synthetic two-tone whistle of a ship-wide announcement came over the comm system.

"All engineering staff, all shifts, report to duty stations immediately. All engineering staff, all shifts, report to duty stations immediately." A female voice said in a firm tone.

Connie looked at Joe with wide eyes.

Joe looked around the room and said, "I guess someone let their greed override their good sense and they've been selling our used parts back to us with a modification to the diagnostic program to make us think they're working properly."

"Oh my God! How could anyone do that?" Connie asked in horror.

"For money." Joe said simply.

"And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. We won't know how serious the problem is until we have the diagnostic systems working." Susan said seriously.

The doors to deflector control opened to admit two very sleepy looking women.

"Okay, now that we're all here, let's get to work. We have to go through every power conduit that routes into deflector control and manually check the control circuits to see that the diagnostic program hasn't been altered or disabled." Joe said to the room.

"You've got to be kidding!" One of the women said in a whimper.

"Sorry Lou, but it has to be done." Joe said with sympathy.

"You've just had five days off, you should be well rested." Connie said to Lou cheerfully.

"Blow me Connie." Lou said in a snarl.

Vincent and Darin looked at Joe with identical expressions of shock.

"Lou works third shift, she's a little grumpy when she gets called into work four hours early." Joe explained quietly.

"Where's Lari and Kent? If we have to be here, they sure as hell can't get out of it." Lou said to Joe in a raspy voice.

"They're gone Lou. Larissa fell off the wagon and it looks like she took Kent down with her this time." Joe said quietly.

Lou's eyes opened fully for the first time since she entered the room.

The woman beside Lou looked around and her gaze stopped on Vincent and Darin.

"Crewman Vincent Winters and Ensign..." Joe stopped, not remembering if he had ever heard Ensign Cooper's first name.

"Darin." Vincent said quietly.

"Thank you Vincent. Crewman Vincent Winters and Ensign Darin Cooper, I'd like you to meet Ensign Lourdes DeGama and Crewman Judy Wills." Joe said professionally.

"You gotta be shitting me Joe. What are we supposed to do with a five year old and a cadet?" Lou asked in disbelief.

Joe's expression turned hard as he said, "I know you feel like crap Lou, and I'm sorry you had to wake up early. But don't take it out on Vincent and Darin. We're lucky to have them. It's thanks to Darin that you won't have to pull twelve hour shifts for the next two weeks to cover Larissa and Kent's places on the schedule. And it's thanks to Vincent that we might get to live to see the next two weeks."

Everyone, including Vincent looked at Joe with question at the last statement.

"It was because Vincent asked a question about the work Susan was doing that caused her to investigate the diagnostic feature of the control circuit they were working on. If he hadn't asked the question, Susan would have probably replaced the faulty unit and not even thought about 'why' it had failed. And right now the†Yorktown†would be traveling on her merry way and we wouldn't have any idea that there are diagnostic systems all over the ship giving false readings." Joe said seriously.

"So that's why every person in engineering was called to duty?" Lou asked in thought.

"Not just engineering. Everyone on the ship who knows how to use a tester is probably being called to duty right now." Joe said carefully.

"Got it... sorry guys. I'm not a pleasant person when I first wake up." Lou said to Vincent and Darin.

"Really?" Vincent asked in his most sarcastic voice.

"Oh, a smartass. You'll fit in fine around here." Lou said with a tired smile.

"That being said, let's get to it people. I've got the main. Connie and Darin, go check E1. Susan and Vincent, E2. Lou and Judy, E3. Susan and Vincent already took care of E4. Jimmy can stay here and second for me while you're gone. Call in when your conduit is ready for testing and Jimmy will run a level three on it." Joe said firmly.

Vincent walked immediately to the locker where Susan's tools were and got her tool case.

* * * * *

When Vincent and Susan stepped off the turbo lift, it looked like the engineering crew were tearing the place apart.

"Where are you headed Susan?" Chief Morgan asked before they had taken two steps into Engineering.

"E2." Susan answered immediately.

Chief Morgan made a note on his data padd, then said, "Nyman's crew are taking care of the R-cells, so you won't have to deal with any of the battery distribution nodes. And I have a team working all the consoles in engineering so you won't have to worry about the back-up deflector control console."

Susan nodded and said, "I'll tell Joe when we check in. What about the bridge station?"

Chief Morgan shook his head and said, "It'll probably be faster if you get your own people on that. We're working our way through the bridge stations by their priority and the third back-up deflector control panel isn't way up on our list."

Susan noticed that Connie and Lou were waiting to check in and said, "Got it. We'll let you know when it's done."

"Thanks." Chief Morgan said quickly, then turned his attention to Connie.

* * * * *

Susan went to the panel she needed and started to pull it down.

Rather than ask for the decoupler she would need to release the access panel inside, she just held out her hand, knowing that Vincent would already have it out and waiting.

"I don't think I've ever seen this many people working in here at once." Susan said conversationally as she worked her way into the tight space.

Vincent pulled out the tester, then glanced up and down the corridor they were in to see about half the panels down and people working everywhere.

"Tester." She said quickly.

Vincent handed her the tester, then automatically shined the flashlight so she could easily find the test points.

After a moment of testing, Susan said, "It's a good one. Let's check in with Joe then move on to E5."

Susan handed the tester out, then began to work her way out of the tight space.

An electrical sound drew Vincent's attention and he turned to see someone jerking violently, hanging half out of a panel.

Vincent dropped the decoupler he had been holding and ran to the nearest comm station on the wall.

He hit the button and quickly said, "Medical emergency right behind main engineering, port side. It's an electrical discharge."

"A medical team is on it's way." A voice responded immediately.

Vincent hit the button to turn off the comm, then ran to see if there was anything he could do to help.

Everyone had stopped what they were doing and were gathering around the man who was now lying in the floor.

"Someone call for help. He's not breathing." A crewman hunched over the unconscious man said in a panicked voice.

"They're already on their way. But they won't be able to get to him with everyone standing here." Vincent said forcefully.

"Come on people. Make a path!" Susan said loudly.

As everyone realized what Vincent and Susan were saying, they made an effort to step away and clear a decent path for the medical team to use.

Just then the medical team entered the hallway and hurried to the unconscious man's side.

* * * * *

Vincent and Susan stood against the wall and watched from six feet away as the medical team worked.

When it was obvious that they had succeeded in stabilizing the man, Susan said, "We need to check in with Joe."

Vincent looked up and saw her expression of concern.

"Yeah. Let's go." Vincent said quietly.

* * * * *

After two hours of work, Vincent and Susan made their way back to deflector control.

They had had to replace three control circuits and weren't looking forward to the tasks that lay ahead of them.

"What next?" Susan asked in a tired voice.

Joe looked up at her and gave a tentative smile.

"No. Not that... Why am I always the one who has to work on the bridge?" Susan asked in a pained voice.

"Your winning personality?" Joe offered weakly.

Susan shook her head, then thought to ask, "How are things down here?"

"Not too bad. The diagnostics haven't turned up anything terrible. We'll have a little extra work for a few days, but so far it's all minor." Joe said with a small amount of cheer in his voice.

"Well, that's something anyway. How are the other teams?" Susan asked in thought.

"Fine. Lou and Judy are finishing up E16. Connie and Darin are checking the auxiliary bridge console." Joe said seriously.

"How are you doing Jimmy?" Susan asked with concern.

"Me? Oh I'm fine. I've always wanted to run thirty level three diagnostics simultaneously." Jimmy said in a tired voice.

"I tell you what Jimmy. As soon as Vincent and I are done on the bridge, I'll come down and give you a break for a while." Susan said gently.

"Thanks. That would be great." Jimmy said with a tired smile.

"Ready?" Susan asked Vincent as she turned to leave.

Vincent let out a long sigh, then said, "Yeah. Let's do it."

Joe watched with concern as Vincent and Susan walked out of the room.

* * * * *

"How many control circuits do you have to check on the bridge?" Vincent asked quietly as they walked toward the turbo lift.

"Just two. A main and a redundant." Susan said, matching his quiet tone.

"Good. I feel like I could sleep for a week." Vincent said as they finally got on the lift.

"Main bridge." Susan said into the air.

There was a moment of silence before Susan finally asked, "Are you sorry that you came to work on the†Yorktown?"

Vincent didn't even have to think about it before he answered, "No way. It's just nothing like what I expected. I think I'm going to be really happy here."

"I'm glad. You've been a big help to me already." Susan said with a smile.

"Thanks, you've helped me too. I'm learning a lot." Vincent said, then fell silent as the turbo lift doors opened.

* * * * *

Vincent looked around in wonder as he stepped onto the bridge.

"Over here." Susan whispered and started walking to one of the bridge stations along the edge of the room.

Vincent forced himself to move and followed her to the console.

"Hex decoupler." Susan said as she knelt down in front of the station.

Vincent fumbled through the bag of tools and finally found the one she wanted.

After a moment to get the panel off, Susan said, "Tester."

Vincent handed the tester to her, then automatically held the flashlight to help her see what she was doing.

"We've got a bad one. This is really wedged in here. Go to engineering and get a replacement while I work this out." Susan said with effort in her voice.

"Okay. I'll be right back." Vincent said and sat the flashlight back in the tool bag.

Vincent walked to the turbo lift with purpose and the doors opened as he approached.

"Crewman Winters, I heard about what you did in engineering this evening. You're making quite an impression on your first day." Commander M'Butu said as he stepped off the lift.

Vincent looked at him in confusion, then asked, "What did I do in engineering?"

Commander M'Butu chuckled and said, "From what I just heard in Sickbay, you're being credited for saving Crewman Channing's life."

"All I did was call for help. Anyone could have done that." Vincent said in disbelief.

"But the fact of the matter is that anyone didn't do it, you did." Commander M'Butu said with a smile.

Vincent thought about it, then said, "Yeah, I guess so, but I just did the same thing you would've done."

"Perhaps. Be that as it may, well done Crewman." Commander M'Butu said with a grand smile.

"Thank you sir." Vincent said with a small, proud smile in return, then stepped onto the turbo lift.

* * * * *

"Can I have two control circuits? I know I need one for sure, but the console we're working on has two and I'd like to be prepared." Vincent said seriously.

A very tired looking crewman stared at Vincent for a moment, then said, "Sure. But it may take a few minutes, I think they're testing a batch of reworked control circuits right now."

"Okay. Thanks." Vincent said quietly.

"He looks like I feel." A voice said from beside Vincent.

Vincent turned to see Darin.

"How is it going?" Vincent asked with surprise.

"I couldn't sleep last night because I was so excited about my orders. It's finally catching up to me." Darin said with a tired smile.

"How are you liking the job?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"It's great. All this time I thought I wanted to be a helmsman, but I think if I was permanently assigned to deflector control I wouldn't mind a bit." Darin said in thought.

Vincent smiled and said, "I'm really glad. I like it too. It's nothing like I thought it would be."

Darin chuckled and said, "I'm with you on that one. Somehow I thought deflector control would be a big quiet room where all you'd do is sit at a console all day and push a button every hour or so."

Vincent laughed at the statement, then heard a throat clearing.

He looked up to see the very tired crewman holding out three control circuit units to them.

"Thanks. I'll bring the old ones down as soon as we've got them out of the console." Vincent said quietly.

"Thanks." Darin said as he accepted the other unit.

The crewman gave a tired little nod, then walked to another person who had just approached the counter.

"Well, I guess we'd better get back to it." Darin said in resignation.

"Yeah. I'll see you later." Vincent said and started for the door.

As he was about to walk out the door, he glanced at the guy behind the counter and felt sympathy for the tired man.

* * * * *

"I brought you two control circuits just in case you needed to change them both." Vincent said as he squatted beside Susan.

"Good work Vincent. I had time to check the other one while you were gone and it was bad too. Hand me the first one, then you can take the bad ones to engineering. This will take me a few minutes and I'm sure they're needing them." Susan said seriously.

Vincent handed her the first control circuit, then picked up the two bad units and said, "I'll be back in just a minute."

"Take your time, these things are really packed in here." Susan said in concentration.

Vincent took the bad control circuit units and headed for the turbo lift.

"P Deck" Vincent said as the doors closed.

* * * * *

As soon as the doors opened, he walked with purpose to the engineer's mess hall.

When he used to study the deck plans, he had thought it was interesting that the engineering crew had their own separate mess hall on the deck below main engineering. But after his first day on the job, he felt that they deserved to have something that they could call their own.

Finally Vincent spotted what he was looking for and went to a coffee dispenser at the end of a long serving line of food.

"I've heard that coffee will stunt your growth." A young crewman said as he watched Vincent filling a cup of coffee.

"You heard right, I'm twenty-six years old." Vincent said as he put a lid on the cup, then picked up the faulty control units to leave.

The crewman laughed at the statement and asked, "You're that new guy in deflector control, aren't you?"

"Yeah. That's me. I'm Vincent." He said as he turned.

"I'm Chance." The young man said with a smile.

Vincent was going to offer his hand but one hand was holding a cup of coffee and the other held two faulty circuit control units.

Chance laughed and said, "It's nice to meet you Vincent. I heard about what you did for Channing and I wanted to say thanks."

"Um... Sure. How's he doing?" Vincent asked timidly.

"Doc Perry says he's going to be fine. She said she'd call me when he wakes up... Oh, you probably need to be going, I bet someone is waiting on those things." Chance said as he looked down at the control circuits.

"These are bad ones, but yeah. I'd better get going. I'll talk to you later." Vincent said with a smile.

Chance nodded with a smile of admiration as he watched Vincent walk out the door.

* * * * *

Vincent waited in line at the supply desk for about two minutes before he made it to the front.

"It'll be about ten minutes." The tired young man said when he saw the control circuits in Vincent's hand.

"No. I already got the replacements, I'm just turning these in." Vincent said as he sat the control units and coffee on the desk.

The crewman looked at the coffee, then up at Vincent with question.

"You looked like you could use this." Vincent said quietly.

"Thanks" The tired crewman said with an almost happy smile.

Vincent smiled and nodded, then got out of the way so the next person could move up in line.

* * * * *

"Are you ready for the next one yet?" Vincent asked as he knelt beside Susan.

"Oh, you have perfect timing. Yeah, hand it in." Susan said with surprise.

Vincent handed the control circuit in to her and waited for her to take it.

Vincent looked around the bridge briefly, then at Susan working in the small space and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No. Just stay there for a minute. The second one isn't in too bad of a place. I'll have it installed in no time." Susan said in deep concentration.

"What do you think we'll have to do next?" Vincent asked quietly.

"I don't know for sure, but if the diagnostics don't show anything dangerous, we'll probably call it a night and you'll be back at 08:00 to work your shift." Susan said seriously.

Vincent nodded, then asked, "Is it always like this?"

Susan chuckled and said, "No. It's always different. No two days are exactly the same. Some days are boring, some are exciting and some are even a little scary."

Vincent smiled and said, "Well I don't know if any day is going to be better than this one."

Susan chuckled again and said, "That's a good sign. If at the end of your first day you're tired and happy, then you've got a good shot at making a career out of Starfleet."

Vincent smiled at the thought, then noticed that Susan was starting to work herself out of the tight space.

"That should do it." She said as she finally backed completely out of the opening under the console.

Vincent took the tester from her when she handed it to him and had the decoupler ready when she needed it.

* * * * *

"So, what did we miss?" Susan asked as she and Vincent walked into Deflector Control.

"One major headache and several small nuisances." Joe said seriously.

"What's the headache?" Susan asked with concern.

"When Connie and Darin replaced the control circuit on the auxiliary bridge console the diagnostic system showed that the central processor for the console is bad." Joe said flatly.

"And they have to basically dismantle the entire console to get to it." Susan said in a tired voice.

"I'm guessing they've got about half an hour of work ahead of them." Joe said frankly.

"Maybe it's not so bad getting stuck with the main bridge console." Susan said in thought.

"Is there anything we can do to help them?" Vincent asked carefully.

"No. It's a two man job at most. Anyone else would just be in the way." Joe said regretfully.

Vincent nodded.

"So Vincent, if you want to go back to our cabin, I'll see you there when everyone's back. It shouldn't be too long." Joe said with a note of regret at not being able to go with him.

"Our cabin?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there when you finished your talk with the captain, but I really needed to check in here before we left TerraMain." Joe said with concern at Vincent's expression.

"I was assigned to quarters on G deck. Darin is my bunk mate." Vincent said carefully.

"Oh... I thought you would be sharing quarters with me." Joe said in a small voice.

Vincent could tell that Joe was disappointed but didn't know what to say to make it better.

"I guess since you're going to be doing an adult job, you should have some independence and live on your own." Joe said in thought.

Vincent looked around and saw that Susan was taking the second control station and Jimmy was walking toward the door.

Quietly, Vincent said, "I'm still going to need kid time. In fact, if you didn't have to stay here with that control panel, I think I'd be asking for some kid time right now."

Joe smiled at Vincent's statement and said, "As soon as Connie gets back, we'll go and have as much kid time as you need."

Vincent smiled, then had a thought.

"You said you'd be here for about half an hour, right?" Vincent asked seriously.

"More or less." Joe said cautiously.

"I've got something I'd like to do. I'll be back before you're done." Vincent said in thought.

"Are you going to tell me what you're going to do?" Joe asked hesitantly.

"Only if you order me to." Vincent said with an impish grin.

Joe shook his head and watched as Vincent left.

* * * * *

"It'll be five minutes until anymore control circuits are ready." The crewman said in a tired voice.

"My department is done, I just wanted to stop by and see if there's anything you guys in supply needed. You know, like coffee or anything like that." Vincent said quietly.

"Oh, it's you. You're a real lifesaver." The Crewman said with a tired smile.

Vincent smiled at the compliment and waited expectantly.

"Oh, um. Come on back. Let's ask the guys what they want." The Crewman said with distraction.

Vincent walked around the desk and followed the crewman to the back room.

* * * * *

Vincent was surprised to see only two crewmen working on the control circuits.

"I thought there would be more of you." Vincent said in surprise.

"There were, but as the different departments finished, our guys went to work on other things. Gary and Brock are keeping up with the demand fairly well." The Crewman said casually.

"What's the kid here for?" One of the guys asked as he looked up from his circuitry for an instant.

"This is the guy who brought me the coffee a while ago." The crewman said shyly.

Both guys looked up from what they were doing simultaneously, then one of them said, "From the way Randy described you, I thought you'd have wings."

"He came down to see if you guys wanted anything." Randy said with a smile.

"Up." Vincent corrected.

"What?" Randy asked in confusion.

"I came up. I'm in deflector control." Vincent said and pointed at the floor.

"Oh. He came up to see if you guys wanted anything." Randy said with a smile.

"Really? Well it looks like we're going to be here for a while, so one of those coffees Randy was talking about sounds really good." One of the guys said.

"Yeah, make that two." The other one said quickly.

"Do you guys like cream or anything?" Vincent asked casually.

"No way! Cream is a sin against good coffee." One of the guys said forcefully.

The other one nodded his agreement.

Vincent smiled, then asked, "Would you like another one Randy?"

"Um. Sure. I really appreciate it..." Randy trailed off, silently asking for Vincent's name.

"Vincent. I'll be back in a few minutes." Vincent said quickly and rushed out of the room.

* * * * *

Vincent looked around the coffee station and found a cup carrier.

After filling and capping three cups of coffee, Vincent made his way out of the engineering mess hall and nearly walked straight into Chief Morgan.

"Crewman Winters. Our paths seem destined to cross today." Chief Morgan said pleasantly.

"Yes sir." Vincent said shyly.

"It looks like deflector control must be settling in for a long night if Joe sent you out for coffee." Chief Morgan said with a smile.

"No. I think once the auxiliary bridge station is fixed, there's only small stuff left to be done. I'm getting coffee for the guys in the Engineering Supply room." Vincent said timidly.

"Why in heaven's name are you doing that?" Chief Morgan asked with surprise.

"Because I could tell that they were really tired. Everyone on the ship has been coming to them for hours asking for stuff. But every time I asked for control circuit units they were nice about it. So when my work was done and I had some time I thought I'd bring them some coffee to let them know I appreciate the job they're doing." Vincent said in thought.

"Would you mind if I come with you? Now that you've pointed out the fine job that they're doing, I think I'd like to express my own appreciation." Chief Morgan said with a smile.

Vincent giggled as he said, "I bet when they see you, they're gonna think they're in trouble."

Chief Morgan chuckled and said, "You're probably right."

* * * * *

"Chief Morgan, what can I get for you?" Randy asked as he stood from behind the desk.

"Nothing right now. Come in the back for a moment." Chief Morgan said, not betraying any emotion in his voice or expression.

Randy paled slightly and hurried ahead of Chief Morgan into the back room.

Vincent tried to keep his giggles to himself as he followed Chief Morgan.

* * * * *

Brock and Gary dropped what they were doing and stood when Chief Morgan entered the room.

"Please sit down. I've just had a report about the conduct of Engineering Supply that I wanted to discuss with you." Chief Morgan said seriously.

Brock and Gary hesitantly took their seats and waited apprehensively.

"It has been brought to my attention that after the unusual demand that has been put on this department, you've kept up with demand and maintained a level of professionalism and courtesy when dealing with your fellow crew members. Well done gentlemen." Chief Morgan finished with a grand smile.

The level of tension in the room seemed to wash away in one big gust of relief.

"And I brought your coffee." Vincent said in a small voice as he walked from behind Chief Morgan.

Randy couldn't contain his laughter and fought to say, "Thank you Vincent."

"I thought we'd screwed up one of the control circuits. You scared me half to death." Brock said with nervous laughter.

Vincent smiled as he handed out the cups of coffee.

"No. You've done a fine job. It's in a crisis that people tend to show their true colors. You've shown yourselves to be the type of people that Captain Byrne wants all his crew to be. I'm very proud to have you as part of my Engineering crew." Chief Morgan said warmly.

"Thank you Chief. We really appreciate it." Randy said sincerely.

Chief Morgan nodded, then walked out of the room.

A long moment of silence fell over the room before Randy finally said, "You're the one who told him, aren't you Vincent?"

Vincent nodded and said, "He asked where I was taking the coffee, so I told him."

Gary chuckled as Brock said, "I think Randy was right about you. I'm starting to see the wings."

Vincent smiled at the statement, then said, "I've got to get back to deflector control now. Thanks again for all you did today."

"Thank you too Vincent." Randy said with a genuine smile as he watched Vincent leave.

* * * * *

Vincent walked into deflector control and to Joe's side.

"How are things going?" Vincent asked quietly.

Joe looked at Vincent and gave a gentle smile before saying, "We're going to be busy for a few days, but I think it will be a good experience for you and Darin. By the time we're done with our list of repairs, you'll probably be familiar with most of the deflector control systems."

"How much longer until Connie is done?" Vincent asked curiously.

"A few minutes. He's finished the repairs, he's just waiting on the diagnostic to come back clear before he closes it up." Joe said casually.

"Are we going to get something to eat when we leave?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"That sounds like a great idea." Joe said with a smile.

"I think I want to have the chicken. It looked really good." Vincent said with excitement.

"When were you in the mess hall?" Joe asked curiously.

"Just a few minutes ago. I was getting some coffee for someone who looked even more tired than Lou." Vincent finished with a giggle.

"I'll have to take your word on that because I can't even imagine anyone looking more tired than she did." Joe said with a smile.

"Would it be okay if I invited Darin to have dinner with us? He's probably hungry too." Vincent asked hopefully.

"I don't know if he'd feel comfortable in the officer's mess hall." Joe said in thought.

"I thought we'd eat in the engineer's mess hall. I mean, deflector control is a part of engineering." Vincent said carefully.

Joe shrugged and said, "If that's what you want. I'm just used to eating in the officer's mess because my cabin is on E deck."

"Oh. I didn't think of that. Well, I really want to have dinner with Darin so he doesn't have to eat his first meal on the†Yorktown†alone." Vincent said quietly.

"Works for me." Joe said with a smile, then looked at the door as Connie and Darin entered.

"How are things on the auxiliary bridge?" Joe asked with a smile.

"As exciting as ever." Connie said dryly.

"Are you ready to take the main?" Joe asked with a chuckle.

"Yeah. Go and get some rest. It looks like you're going to have a long day tomorrow." Connie said with a slight smile.

"Why do you say that?" Joe asked hesitantly.

"Oh, I don't know. You and two trainees for an eight hour shift... Who knows? Maybe it'll fly by." Connie said before breaking up into laughter.

Joe shook his head and smiled, then noticed Darin watching them.

"Vincent and I are going to have dinner. Would you like to join us Darin?" Joe asked in a friendly voice.

"Really? I mean yeah. Thanks." Darin said in surprise.

"You ready Vincent?" Joe asked as he stood.

"Ready, starving and able." Vincent said with a grin.

* * * * *

All three made their way through the serving line and filled their plates with something beyond the standard portions of food.

When they finally sat down at a table, Joe looked at Vincent's plate and said, "You weren't kidding about getting some of that chicken."

Vincent smiled and said, "I told you it looked good. I bet you go back for some more."

Darin watched the pair and tried to understand their relationship.

"So Darin, how was it working with Connie?" Joe asked casually.

"It was great. He was explaining everything he was doing while he was doing it. I learned a lot." Darin said happily.

"I'm glad. You'll be the one doing repairs tomorrow." Joe said simply.

Darin looked at Joe with a frightened expression.

Joe smiled and said, "You won't be disassembling an entire console like you did today. Tomorrow you'll probably be replacing faulty relays and switches, little stuff a first year cadet could do. I'm just glad you got to see Connie in action so you'll know how we do things."

Darin smiled in relief and said, "Okay. You had me scared for a second. When he started taking that console apart, I was sure we were never going to get everything back in its right place."

Joe nodded and said, "It can look like that. But if you decide to stay in deflector control, you'll eventually get to the point where you'll be able to do the same thing. You just get so familiar with all the components after a while that you don't even think about it."

"What about you Vincent? Did Susan show you a lot of things too?" Darin asked casually.

"Yeah. But we didn't get to disassemble a console. Just about everything we did had to do with the control circuits. But I got to see her change so many out I could probably do it myself." Vincent said in a cheerful voice.

"And we meet yet again Crewman Winters." Chief Morgan said with a chuckle as he approached the table.

"Hello Chief Morgan, would you like to join us?" Vincent said happily.

"No thank you Vincent. I'm just here to refill my cup. It's good to see you Joe, and... Ensign Cooper is it?" Chief Morgan asked, straining his memory.

"Yes sir." Daren said shyly.

"You three have a good meal. I'm sure you've earned it." Chief Morgan said with a smile.

"We will. Thank you Chief." Joe said in a slightly bewildered tone.

"He seems like a really nice man." Darin said as he watched Chief Morgan walk away.

"He really is. But he also knows how to get things done. I doubt that there are five other chief engineers in all of Starfleet that could handle a situation like today without it breaking into complete chaos." Joe said frankly.

"Hey Vincent, how are you doing?" A voice called from behind him.

Vincent turned and smiled when he saw a trio of crewmen approaching.

"Hi guys." Vincent said as he stood.

"Does this mean you're done in deflector control for the day?" Gary asked casually.

"Yeah. Come over here. I want to introduce you." Vincent said happily.

The three crewmen approached cautiously when they recognized that the other two people at Vincent's table were officers.

"This is Randy, Gary and Brock from engineering supply. Guys, this is Lieutenant Joe Bowers and Ensign Darin Cooper from deflector control." Vincent said happily.

"Nice to meet you." The three crewmen said in unison.

Joe nodded his greeting and Darin was frozen in place.

"So did you guys just get off?" Vincent asked casually.

Randy turned to Vincent and smiled at his casual nature.

"Chief Morgan is giving us a break. All three of us are gamma shift, so we have to be back on duty in about an hour." Randy said with a peaceful smile.

"And we had to come down and get some more of that coffee. That stuff really did the trick." Brock said happily.

"Would you guys like to have dinner with us?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"No thanks. We have some other things to do first. We're just here for the coffee. We saw you here and wanted to say hi." Randy said with a smile.

"Oh. Okay. Well I hope you guys have a good night." Vincent said with cheer.

"Yeah. You too." Randy said as he turned to walk toward the coffee dispenser.

"Was that the tired guy from the supply room?" Darin asked uncertainly.

"Yeah. I guess since he's on gamma shift, it's time for him to be awake now." Vincent said with a shrug.

"It looks like you've made a few friends today." Joe said with surprise.

"I guess so." Vincent said, then noticed someone else approaching.

"Channing wants to talk to you." The young man said seriously as he walked up to Vincent.

"Um. Chance, this is Lieutenant Bowers and Ensign Cooper from deflector control." Vincent said quickly.

Chance looked at the officers and stood a little straighter as he said, "Please excuse me for interrupting your meal. I just had something important to tell Vincent."

"That's okay. Go ahead." Joe said cautiously.

"Channing just woke up and after he found out what happened, he wanted to talk to you. Will you come with me to Sickbay?" Chance asked hopefully.

Vincent looked up into Chance's hopeful eyes, then asked, "Do you mind if Lieutenant Bowers and Ensign Cooper come too?"

"No problem. Just come on before he falls asleep again." Chance said urgently.

Vincent picked up his nearly empty plate and stopped at the feeling of a hand on his arm.

"I'll take care of it. You go ahead and we'll catch up to you in Sickbay." Joe said quietly.

"Thanks." Vincent said with a full smile and handed his plate to Joe.

* * * * *

"He's right in here." Chance said quickly as he led the way.

Vincent followed, and walked into a bright sterile room.

"I got him Chan, just like you wanted." Chance said in nearly a whisper.

"Thanks." Channing said with a small smile, then turned his head slightly to look at Vincent.

"You're just a kid." Channing said with confusion.

Vincent smiled at the statement and said, "Yeah. I am."

Channing got a look of concentration, then asked, "Are you the one who saved my life?"

Vincent quietly said, "When I saw you get shocked, I called for a med team. That's all I did."

Joe and Darin walked into the room in time to see a Vulcan woman approach Vincent.

"Your statement is inaccurate." She said firmly.

Vincent turned and looked at the medical assistant with question, then said, "I remember you, you're Ensign T'Lani daughter of Sufaal of the house of Sukaan of Vulcan."

The Vulcan woman raised an eyebrow, then responded, "And you are Crewman Vincent Winters, son of Clan Short of the house of Surak of Vulcan. And your statement regarding your contribution to Crewman Channing's well being is in error."

Vincent looked at the Vulcan woman with question, then asked in his most reasonable voice, "How am I in error?"

"You called for a medical team immediately following the incident. You stated clearly and concisely where the incident occurred and what had caused the injury, which enabled us to have the supplies and equipment to give proper treatment. Reports indicate that your subsequent action of asking people to stand aside assured that the medical team would not be delayed in their efforts to give immediate aid to Crewman Channing. The result of your actions is that Crewman Channing is expected to make a full recovery. Given the nature of his injury, if you had not taken these actions, Crewman Channing would in all probability be facing months of treatment to deal with the effects of prolonged oxygen deprivation... assuming that he survived." Ensign T'Lani said firmly.

"Um... okay." Vincent said weakly.

Channing giggled and said in a whispery voice, "I guess she told you."

Vincent smiled at the man in the bed and said, "Okay. I guess I did do all that stuff. I'm just glad you're going to be okay."

Channing held out one hand to Vincent, palm up.

Vincent took the hand and held it firmly.

Channing looked him in the eyes and said, "Thank you."

Vincent smiled and said, "Anytime."

Channing closed his eyes and the grip on Vincent's hand went slack.

Vincent looked at Ensign T'Lani with concern.

"His recent trauma has caused fatigue. Do not be concerned, he is sleeping." T'Lani said seriously.

Vincent carefully laid Channing's hand on the bed, then turned to see Joe, Darin and Chance all watching him.

"Thank you." Chance said quietly.

Vincent smiled and nodded.

"Are you guys about ready to call it a day? We have work in the morning and it's getting late." Joe said quietly.

"Yeah. I'm ready." Vincent said as he walked toward the door.

Joe, Vincent and Darin walked slowly out of Sickbay.

Chance looked at T'Lani and said, "It just seems unreal that a kid could save Channing's life like that."

T'Lani looked at Chance with full Vulcan calmness and said, "Crewman Winters is a son of Clan Short. Perhaps if you were to investigate what that means, you would understand how it is so."

* * * * *

"It sounds like you've had a very interesting day." Joe said as the trio walked slowly down the corridor away from Sickbay.

Vincent shrugged and said, "I think if it was Cory or Sean doing that stuff instead of me, no one would have thought anything about it."

"But you're not Cory." Joe said carefully.

Vincent stopped in his tracks and looked Joe in the eyes as he said, "No. I'm not him. But him and Sean and the other guys in the Clan are fathers to me just like you are. For the first time I have people in my life that I want to be like. When I saw the guys in supply all tired and working so hard and still being nice, I thought about what Sean or Cory would do. When I saw Channing get shocked, I thought about what you would do. I didn't really do anything special today, I just did what you guys would have done if you'd been there."

Darin looked at Vincent with wonder and said, "I think I understand something that I never understood before."

Joe and Vincent turned to look at Darin with matching looks of question.

"I've always thought I wasn't good enough to do... anything. I worked hard and did my best but... I never felt like it was enough. It's like I'm... scattered." Darin said with difficulty.

"I would look at people around me and see that they had things like courage or ambition and I couldn't find those things in me."

"But what you just said made sense. I don't have to find those things in myself, I can find them in the people I respect. Then I just have to try and honor them by doing things the way they would... It makes so much sense. I can't believe I never saw it before." Darin finished in wonder.

"Maybe you needed to get to know someone who lives with that philosophy before it would make sense." Joe said with a loving look at Vincent.

Darin looked at Joe and said, "You're probably right. Would it be... um, weird or anything if I... tried to be like you?"

Joe chuckled at the question and said, "No, it wouldn't be weird at all. In fact, I can't think of any greater compliment that anyone could give me."

"Thank you Lieutenant Bowers." Darin said shyly.

"Darin, if you're going to be one of my sons, I'll be very offended if you don't call me Joe."

On impulse, Vincent went to Joe's side and gave him a warm hug.

Joe put an arm around Vincent, then looked at Darin with question.

"Okay Joe." Darin said in a surprised but happy voice.

Joe held out his other arm in invitation.

Darin hesitantly walked to Joe and was pulled into a gentle hug.