“Witch Hunt”

Stardate 74782.6; October 13, 2397

 

Episode 68

 

Written by Chris Adamek

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Starfleet Tactical Ops, upgrading the Starlight’s phaser banks should have been a simple task.  By making a few minor adjustments to the plasma accelerators, the report alleged, it would be possible to bolster phaser efficiency more than fifty percent.  It was a very tempting prospect and Lucas Tompkins—eager to benefit from the added efficiency—almost immediately set out to make the necessary modifications.

 

Six hours and one massive headache later, the chief engineer regretted his bout of eagerness.

 

Not only did the modifications not work, they also managed to screw up the EPS grid on three decks, causing some wild temperature fluctuations on decks sixteen and seventeen, and a power failure on deck fifteen that managed to disrupt the ODN relays—which somehow managed to screw the targeting sensors to hell (or in other words, the Starlight was incapable of hitting the broad side of a Borg cube).

 

To say that Lucas Tompkins was upset by these events would be a grave understatement, for the chief engineer had spent most of the morning—and now afternoon—crammed in some far-flung Jefferies tube attempting to reverse his ‘upgrade.’  And as he worked, Tompkins was left with the distinct feeling that he would also be spending a good part of the evening in the company of the Jefferies tubes, leading him to one very concise conclusion: “This sucks.”

 

His words echoed throughout the narrow corridors for several seconds before fading into oblivion.  In their wake, a haunting silence lingered in the musty air.  The calm was relaxing, and in the wake of this day, Tompkins allowed himself a brief respite from his work to enjoy the tranquil moment.

 

He rested his weary head on the cool metallic wall and slouched down into the most relaxing position he could muster.  As he closed his eyes, thoughts of a large steak dinner filled his mind, beckoning him to the mess hall… Baked potatoes, drenched in smooth butter… Jayla Trinn, dressed in nothing but her spots…  What an evening that would make!

 

But a sudden clank at the end of the Jefferies tube brought Tompkins’ daydream to an abrupt conclusion.  Crouched at the source of the noise was the aforementioned Jayla Trinn—fully clothed, of course.  She held a large engineering kit in her left hand, and slowly started to shove it down the Jefferies tube; as it clanked across the deck, Jayla cast her gaze upon Lucas.  “Lieutenant Kinsey says the power is still out on parts of deck fifteen.”

 

Lucas straightened his back and expelled a long sigh.  “Damn,” he grumbled.  “I’ve been working on these ODN relays for an hour!  Power should be restored!”

 

Jayla shrugged, and said,  “It is.  On most of the deck.”  She crept a few meters closer, and then gave the engineering kit a good shove.

 

“And ‘most of the deck’ isn’t good enough,” Lucas replied, easily intercepting the approaching kit.  He quickly flipped it open and removed a sleek hyperspanner. “Has Lieutenant Kinsey made any progress?”

 

“Not much more than we have,” said Jayla.  “But we’ve been at this for six hours.  Maybe we should take a break.”

 

A break sounded like a very good idea to Tompkins, but he knew better than anyone that once he left the Jefferies tubes, he would not want to return.  “I’d rather get all this crap taken care of now.  No use in drawing it out any longer than we have to.”  He activated the hyperspanner and slowly began to run it over the exposed conduits.

 

“I guess you’re right,” Jayla agreed, her eyes rapidly flitting between the conduit and her tricorder.  “You’re not having any effect,” she reported after a moment.  “Try a lower frequency.”

 

Tompkins immediately complied.  “How’s that?”

 

She glanced back to the tricorder.  “Better.”

 

“Good.” Though his mind was focused almost entirely upon the task at hand, Tompkins kept an ear open, just to keep himself aware of his surroundings; with his luck, the ship was under attack by hostile aliens, and the last thing he wanted was to be caught off guard.  Thankfully, he did not detect any danger, but he was fairly certain he could hear Jayla mumbling something in the distance.  “What is it?” he inquired, slowly turning his gaze to the delicate Trill.

 

She shrugged sheepishly, and dove her eyes back into her tricorder.  “Lower the frequency a little bit more,” she suggested.  “I think we can start making some real progress then.”

 

“All right.”  Tompkins promptly made the necessary adjustment, but he wasn’t about to let the conversation die.  “Is something bothering you?  Heh… I know I shouldn’t have had that three-bean salad for breakfast, but the ventilation in—”

 

“No,” Jayla promptly interrupted, her voice hinting at disgust.  In retrospect, Tompkins wished he had not mentioned the salad, but hindsight was always twenty-twenty.  Thankfully, Jayla allowed the salad to fall by the wayside, and continued, “We both have a couple weeks of shore leave coming, and I was about to suggest we spend them together…”

 

That was about the last thing Lucas had expected Jayla to say, and the words practically shocked him into submission.  His hands immediately froze in the open conduit, and as the exciting prospect of a vacation with Jayla filled his mind, Tompkins heart began to pound.  “Hell yeah!” he exclaimed.  “I’m there!”

 

But Tompkins’ excitement was ultimately his undoing—for his left hand suddenly had an unfortunate encounter with the hyperspanner in his right hand.  Pain abruptly replaced jubilation as the hyperspanner’s tiny beam of light pierced his skin.  Damn it!!  He dropped the spanner into the conduit and grabbed his burning hand.  Shit!!!

 

“Are you okay?” Jayla abruptly inquired, placing a caring hand on Tompkins’ shoulder.

 

He promptly bit his lip, hoping to ebb the flow of swear words, but Lucas quickly realized that it only hurt his lip.  “Do I look okay?” he grunted.  “Have you ever been burned by one of those bad boys?  Damn…”

 

Jayla shook her head.  “I’m a little more careful with my tools,” she replied.  “You should get to sickbay.  I’ll take care of this.”

 

Tompkins was not about to argue.  His hand still burned with pain, and he could feel the blood beginning to trickle down his arm.  “Good luck,” he grumbled.

 

“I didn’t think you believed in luck,” Jayla replied.

 

“I don’t,” Tompkins said as he scooted his way toward the exit.  “But you do.  And you’re going to need it.”

 

 

 

After almost fifteen years of practicing medicine, Sarah Hartman thought she had seen everything.  True, fifteen years was not a long time, but on a starship at the edge of the final frontier, Hartman found herself exposed to situations that other people could only imagine.  But the moment she started to grow complacent, something would inevitably happen to show the Doctor that she had only scratched the surface of the wonders offered by the universe.  And today’s incident was a classic.

 

“So let me get this straight,” said the Doctor as she scanned Lucas Tompkins’ bloodied hand, “you swiped yourself with a hyperspanner after Jayla Trinn suggested the two of you go on vacation?”

 

Tompkins glanced at the gaping wound in the palm of his hand.  “Heh… Yeah.  I wasn’t expecting her to say that.”

 

Satisfied with the tricorder’s analysis Hartman snapped the scanner shut and reached for a dermal regenerator.  “So you decided to slice off you decided to slice off a chunk of your hand?  Brilliant, Einstein.  Next time, aim a little more to the left and you can sever a couple major veins.”

 

“Hey,” said Tompkins defensively, “the thought of getting some action in the bedroom is enough to rattle any guy’s cage.”

 

“Would you like an injection avagralinacine?” Hartman inquired, carefully running the dermal regenerator over Tompkins’ wound.

 

The engineer paused.  “What will that do?”

 

The Doctor began to open her mouth, but before the words could roll from her tongue, the doors behind her slid apart.  She briefly glanced up to see Captain Christopher crossing the threshold into sickbay.  “What do you want?” she demanded.

 

Christopher flashed a quick smile.  “Good to see you, too Sarah,” he said, his tone annoyingly pleasant. 

 

“If you’re here about the bionitrate samples we collected last week—”

 

“Actually,” Christopher interrupted, “I’m not here to see you at all.”

 

Hartman paused, and shrugged indolently.  “Good,” she said.  She didn’t really want to talk the Christopher in the first place.  “But if you ever want to look at those damn bionitrate samples, they’re in the medlab.”

 

Christopher nodded politely, and said, “Thank you, dearest Sarah,” before turning his attention to Lucas Tompkins.  “You’re not too badly injured, are you?”

 

The engineer gazed at his hand; it was almost completely healed thanks to Hartman’s administrations.  “It was just a minor scratch,” he quipped.  “Why?”

 

Christopher drew himself even nearer.  “How would you like to go on a little undercover mission?”

 

 

 

 

Proceed to Chapter One

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