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‘A Hostile Environment'


Main Engineering, Deck 4

 "Damn fools!"

 Jex stepped back from the console thinking the Chief implied her in his condemnation. Gardner gave a quick look at the cowed ensign and resignedly sighed. "I don't mean you Ensign. Just whatever bloody fools decided to tinker with the docking port. I never assigned any teams to do any work there and I explicitly stated I wanted no-one, no-one, to do anything with any power relays! How can I track errant systems if wool-brained idiots start experimenting with the most basic of power points?"

Jex shrugged and offered a warm smile. She actually enjoyed the Chief's idiosyncrasies, which mostly consisted of a foul temper, numerous outbursts and a disparaging opinion of all who worked under him until they completed a job when he rewarded them with a quick pleased smile with a hint of pride before he gave them a further task to work on.

"Don't smirk ensign. It is unbecoming in an engineering officer."

Looking down at her feet, she hid the smile his comment elicited. "Yes sir." She coughed to clear her throat not trusting herself to not laugh aloud. "Do you want me to go to docking port 2 and try to repair the damage caused?"

"And slap silly the blundering idiots who caused the power overload in the coupling!" He slapped down a sonic wrench more in annoyance than anger. "No don't, or rather I'll go with you. Don't want you getting lost on your first day."

Jex nodded her head as if conforming to his wise decision but couldn't help to add impishly, "And you want to give them the tongue lashing yourself."

"Of course!" He gave Jex an appraising look. "You think you have the measure of me ensign?"

"No sir but I do see that you do enjoy doling out the verbal tirades and I like hearing listening in so long as I'm not on the receiving of any."

Gardner curtly nodded at that sentiment. "Make sure it stays that way. Right let's get on our way." He grabbed his tool kit and showed Jex the storage compartment that held spare kits. "You'll stow this somewhere safe. In my engineering department we all look after and have responsibility for our own tool kit."

Jex noted Gardner's name stitched into the side of the kit and saw how some of the others also similarly labelled. Gardner explained as he handed her what was to become her own kit and led the way out of Engineering. "The golden rule is to never touch anyone else's tool kit. You have your standard tools and equipment with all the necessary components and materials to carry out repairs. Obviously, you use any up you get them replenished. Lose any tools and you come to me for the regulatory verbal tirade before you get any replacements."

Gardner set a brisk pace and Jex noted the keen eyes of Gardner as he took any work crews they passed. She noted too the work crews stiffen and become even more alert as Gardner passed. He didn't interfere however, trusting them to get on with their work. Jex imagined he relished making the work crews uncomfortable. She also noted that Gardner did not take the turbolift but instead traversed the corridors in order to see the different repair teams at work and make a mental list to himself.

What neither them noticed was the lone technician stalking the corridor ahead of them on his way towards environmental engineering.

* * *

Vardros made his way past Gardner smiling thankfully that the engineer was caught up in a foul mood as the intelligence from T'Hos predicted was likely. This could have been a blessing or a curse depending on whether the chief engineer deigned to take him under notice. If he had then Vardros did not imagine he could bluff his way out of it too readily.

He turned a corridor and found the inset in the wall that held the rung ladders that gave access to the decks below. He quickly clambered down the rungs towards Deck 7's life support systems and environmental engineering.

* * *

Also headed towards this level were Becca Swift and Lt Berkley as they made their way up from the nacelle via the Jeffries tube that terminated on Deck 7 near to the life support systems.

* * *

Security checkpoint, Docking Port 2, Deck 6

"Here we are ensign. I can smell the charred circuits from down the corridor. And I can smell ... "he paused briefly as he took in the smoking panel beside the door and the worried faces of the security guards at their post, "... I can smell the incompetence of the fool engineer who messed about with these controls."

Jex came to a stop beside Eddie Gardner some distance from the security station. For a moment she wondered why had he stopped then she recognised a familiar smell. She then took in the two security guards, their weapons ready and unholstered. She was about to voice her concerns when Gardner barked.

"What fool ass engineer did this? Do either of you clowns know?" He stormed up to them taking in the surrounds of the entrance and security station even as sparks spat from the controls. "Never mind. I'll get the damned fool myself. Come on ensign. I'll be damned if I'm going to fix the school boy errors of some incompetent hack from the station." He then marched off forcing Jex to follow at his heels.

As they rounded a corner Jex caught up to Gardner and hissed, "Chief there's something suss ..."

"Damned right there is. Well spotted. How did you know?"

"I could smell burned flesh very reminiscent of phaser fire hitting a person. Also the security guards had the wrong footwear."

"Good though I'm disappointed you didn't mention that the relay controls were scorched from the outside, therefore sabotaged, and not from within, implying an actual overload."

"What are they up to? And what do we do?"

He stopped in front of an armoury cabinet and tapped in his security code. "First we arm you. I see you haven't been issued with your personal firearm as yet. McGregor's slipping that's usually part of the tour."

"It is, it was. I left it in my quarters for I was attending the party."

Gardner looked aghast and almost turned livid at the confession. "Rule number two in the Captain's book, never go anywhere without your sidearm. Do you hear?"

She nodded her head disappointed. "Yes."

Chief grabbed a carbine and a hand phaser, which he handed to Jex. Slapping his combadge, he called quietly, "Caleb. This is Gardner. We have a situation."

Dexter's disembodied voice sounded unimpressed. "You're kidding right?"

Gardner turned to Jex and frowned. "What's his prob-"

"Chief!" Jex lunged and toppled Gardner to the deck. A blast of energy exploded the wall they had stood in front of.  Lying on his back Eddie looked back to see one of the ‘security guards' firing at them. With her newly acquired phaser Jex fumbled for a second with the controls and then discharged a high energy beam down the corridor. Her aim was far from true but it deterred their attacker causing him to fall back.

"They're on to us."

The ship went to red alert suddenly and Dexter's voice echoed over the ship intercom. "This is an intruder alert. Intruders have commandeered the bridge and docking gate 2. All crew be on the look out for other-"

The intercom was suddenly cut off. "Looks like we're onto them too. That means they have access to controls from the bridge. Let's try to keep routing them until security get here." Gardner pushed himself up and shouldered his carbine.

* * *

"Damn what does that mean?"

Becca rolled her eyes as she stowed her tool kit in a nearby recess as she pulled out her sidearm. She gave Berkley a meaningful glance that prompted him to do likewise. "It means exactly what it says on the tin Berkley. We have boarders and obviously they are up to no good. Let's make it back to Engineering. We can try to wrest control from the bridge from there. Plus it might be a target for the boarders."

Becca took off down the corridor without glancing back to see if Berkley, her superior officer, was following. For his part all Berkley could do was run after Becca.

Her form sprinting ahead suddenly came to a stop and Berkley queried her action when her ready stance warned him that something was amiss. Her voice reached him before he reached her. "What are you doing here?" Berkley took the last few steps up to her position and slightly labouring for breath he stood back to see what it was that was unfolding. He was sorely tempted to lean up against the wall whose signage indicated environmental control.

"I said, what are you doing here? Who are you?"

The man turned slowly a toolbox in one hand the other raised in surrender or innocence. "I'm from the starbase."

"That explains why I don't know you but it doesn't explain what you are doing here in the midst of a red alert."

He nervously replied, "I was trying to stay out of the way. I'm just an engineer. I don't want to be part of any heroics so I was going to just hide out here."

"Here? Environmental controls?"

He nodded. "Yes. I know sounds crazy but it's where I was supposed to be headed to finish some repairs before the alert. I figured it was the best place for anyone to find me."

"Perhaps. Except, I'm just an engineer and I don't shirk at the thought of a fight and two I finished up in environmental controls two days ago myself. So there's no possible way you are supposed to have been sent here." She levelled the phaser at him.

Berkley blanched at how aggressive Becca was. He raised his voice to be heard over the klaxon. "Perhaps we should confirm his story first Becca before jumping to conclusions."

"We can check out his story after we stun him."


"Listen to the lieutenant. This is not what you should be doing."

"I've been doing this for a number of years and I know the score. Trust me I'm going to be in a lot less trouble for shooting you than not doing so. Innocent or not."

"I think not." At that Vardros threw his toolbox at Becca. She ducked to avoid but he sprang forward at the same time pulling out a hidden disruptor.

Berkley immediately ran forward even as Becca hollered at him to shoot.

Vardros crashed into Becca causing her phaser to skitter across the deck.  He smashed his fist into her jaw then raised his disruptor at Berkley who received the shot to his chest with wide-eyed shock before crumpling backwards.

* * *

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