Entrance Examination, Chapter Seventeen

Time passed without concern for the cadets, and the cadets made as much of the time as they could. Slowly the cadets repaired the power plant. One of the first things that they discovered was that the maintenance schematics for the power plant were not accurate and they began making their repairs blind. Twenty-seven hours after the power plant quit, the cadets got the first trickle of power from it. This was a welcome sign since they were now able to recharge the flashlights and suit batteries. Quinn and Elder rotated off the bridge so that they could recharge as well. Three hours later, they got power to the life support system oxygen generators so that the oxygen tanks could recharge as well. It took until late on day twenty-four that power was completely restored. As expected, Quinn called a general meeting, but this time on the bridge.

“Once again I commend each of you for your exertions in repairing the power plant. When I established the priorities for the repair and maintenance of this ship, I expected that there would be little to stand in our way. The crisis with the life support and the following crisis with the ship’s flight control system did not modify that fundamental assumption. I now believe that assumption must be replaced. In case you have not noticed the pattern, I will mention that the period between the crises is shortening. There was the initial dilemma of the engines activating shortly following our arrival, the crisis being that if we did not proceed to the bridge, and later to the engine room, and acquire control over the flight controls we would have been in considerable danger from the asteroid field. On the eleventh day, there was the life support failure, a crisis that could have slain us through either a lack of oxygen or a lack of heat. The third crisis, the flight control failure, occurred on day seventeen and this latest crisis, the power plant failure, occurred on day twenty-one. I anticipate that the next crisis will occur on the day after tomorrow. The composition of this next crisis is something I do not claim knowledge of. Therefore, we will stand down from all maintenance undertakings for the remainder of this day and tomorrow so that we are able to recuperate. We will then deal with the crisis once it begins. I will stand watch until someone comes to relieve me. Once everyone has slept and become refreshed, we will await the next crisis. Does anyone have any questions?”

“Captain, what if your guess is wrong? How long will we stand down?” There was no mistaking that rumble or the worry it held.

“I do not know Cadet Trainee Sloan. We require rest, so it is my intention that regardless of the circumstances, we will stand down for two days unless the expected crisis occurs during that interval; but, after that period, I cannot claim certainty. Probably on the third day, if no crisis occurs, we will resume repairs on the ship. If that is definitely the occurrence, we will begin investigating the power plant, then the life support, and then whichever systems seems most critical. During the rest period, the bridge watches will continue, but that will be the only duty required.” Quinn looked around the bridge with a questioning look on his face.

Jackson spoke up. “Captain, there has to be another source of power. While the main power plant was down, the main computer, and the engines never shut off due to lack of power. Moreover, while I was checking out some of the lines, I ran across some power lines that were active, but I could not figure out where they came from or where they went to. More power lines than are required by either the engines of computer was my guess. Something else was running during that time and I don’t know what it was.”

“Was there any indication in the maintenance schematics about what system would use these extra power lines Cadet Trainee Jackson?” Quinn’s tired face did not show as much concern as his voice expressed.

Jackson turned to MacBeath and motioned for him to take over. “Nothing.” he said, “The maintenance schematics and manuals on the power plant only cover about half what we need. Life support is pretty much all right, and maybe sensors, but all the other systems are barely covered by the schematics. In addition, a lot of the information is wrong. Like, maybe, the equipment was upgraded and the manuals were not changed to reflect the new equipment. It looks like we’re trying to do today’s service with last years prayer books.”

“The previous repairs, were they performed properly? Has our efforts in some fashion made the situation worse by inadvertently performing the wrong repairs?”

“No, I don’t think so. However, I cannot be sure. I would not think that repairing something wrong would have given us equipment that works like a professional choir. Some of the repairs we did did not fix anything but there was not much of that early on. We ran into the information problem as we expanded our efforts. The early stuff we did was all right. At least I believe so. It looks as if the Navy designed the maintenance manuals to help us early on, and then no longer help us.”

“Has anyone seen another power source?” Everyone looked around and no one said anything. “Very well, this extra power source is another mystery for us to solve if we are able to do so. Does anyone have some other comment that they wish to make at this present time?” No one said anything for several seconds.

“Well, if this is all you have to say Captain, I’m going to bed.” Corrbet rose and walked off the bridge. The others followed after a moment’s hesitation until Quinn nodded his head in permission.

The twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth days passed without incident. Everyone spent hours cleaning themselves and their uniforms. The environmental controls were adjusted to try and get rid of the smell. The cadets worried throughout the twenty-sixth day, gathering in small groups and discussing events up to then.

Elder sought out Irving. Seeing him, she flinched slightly. “Cadet Trainee Irving, we haven’t really settled the problem between us. Yes, I have apologized and you have accepted it but we are still avoiding each other. Is there anything else we can do so we don’t keep acting like school kids on our first date?”

“Silly it is, agree I. Adults should we be. Hands shake we should and let the matter go the past into. Intentional your behavior was not and uncivilized are you not. Only image can I get from my mind not. Image that only your Constance know should.”

“Well, I can’t go into your mind and erase the image. I am only glad that it was not worse in some way. As it was, it was bad enough and I’m truly sorry.”

“Know I that and forgive I do. Forget harder is. Used to such images am I not.” Irving’s face was slowly turning red.

Feeling his own face grow warm from a blush, Elder said, “Well, look, all I can do is repeat how sorry I am.”

“Problem is mine and in the past will I put it. Shake on our friendship let us.”

“Deal.” And the two cadets shook hands and the matter began really dying out.

The twenty-seventh day was filled with work, the cadets working on two long shifts. One cadet on each shift maintained watch on the bridge, with the duty rotating between the cadets so that everyone spent some time on the bridge. Everyone started in on the power plant, tracing conduits and examining equipment, making their own maintenance manuals. Slowly the cadets made headway. The efforts on the power plant took all of days twenty-seven and twenty-eight.

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