NCC - 86105
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Exchanging the pods

Posted on Sun Aug 6th, 2017 @ 8:28pm by Lieutenant JG Dhael t’Riuurren & Lieutenant JG Eric O'Shea

Mission: Livingstone Navigates the Great River

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Location: Antos 4 station
Timeline: Day 26

Dhael and her team were now satisfied with the plans in place for swapping the sensor and agricultural pods; this was a risky manoeuvre but they had calculated the risk of collision as low. She had enjoyed working closely with the pilots and Lieutenant O’Shea was brimming with confidence in the ability of his team to bring about a successful operation.

Light from the 3D drafting console lit Eric’s face as he watched the simulation the engineering department had put together flickered through its paces. He watched as the green glowing pod was tractored into place by various blinking dots representing the ships shuttlecraft as they pulled the advanced sensor pod from the starships upper yoke.
Overall the sim ran correctly and the engineering staff had apparently crunched all of the numbers. Eric called up manifest of Livingstone’s shuttlecraft and began running the most recent maintenance logs of each craft and matching them to a blinking light on the holo image, then ran the sims again.

Everything looked right. At that point it was down to individual crews. And the small amount of engineering this was going to take. Basically, each of the shuttles were going to act as individually controlled thruster units to slip the pod into place with the minimum amount of stress on the yoke. That was the key stress point, the yoke.

Eric stood and stretched as the Livingstone’s Chief Engineer approached, aware that he likely looked like he felt: slightly beaten up and lacking in sleep.

"Morning" Dhael said, her Romulan eye not failing to notice Lieutenant O'Shea's unkempt appearance.

“The numbers look right and I’ve updated the sim with the latest shuttle specs and the pilots will all start training in the next watch cycle. That leaves us with modifying all of the shuttles with grappling arms and running diagnostics. Lots of diagnostics. The stressors on the yoke itself are ridiculous.”

Dhael was calm and poised although every nerve in her body was standing to attention … she reminded herself to breathe out! As she quickly glanced around the bridge her eyes momentarily caught Lieutenant O’Shea’s. Eric’s concerns over the reliability of the yoke during the changeover of the pods, Dhael hoped, had been assuaged following the analysis Engineering had completed.

The tension on the bridge was palpable. Eric could feel it around him as all stations reported ready and the Commander indicated they begin. Engineering had placed thruster units on the sensor pod and the Livingstone’s tractor array’s flickered to life and latched onto the pod, pulling it down and away from the yoke.

Eric had seconded the engineering readouts from the structural integrity field surrounding the yoke and noted it had been handily accomplished. In the tight quarters this swap was being made, the ship’s tractors would be maintaining control of the pod until the new one was in place. Once the pod was safely out of the way, Eric sent a heads up alert to the shuttlecraft waiting for them to begin.

As he rechecked his readouts, his hands trembled and he had to clench them and count to five to get his nerves under control. There were about fifty different ways this could go badly, and if the universe hated them enough, at least half of those things could happen all at once.
Suddenly, Chief Engineer Dhael was signalling that they were ready and Commander Stevenson gave the order to start. Wiping his hands on his pants, Eric swallowed and keyed his counsel. “Alright. All Flights, we have a go. Commence operation.”

At once, the assembled nine shuttles moved forward to latch onto the colony pod and one by one the indicators on his console lit up, showing a good docking connection. A minute later all of the ships were signalling ready and Eric engaged the autopilot link to the shuttles.
“Commander, we’re a go. All ships show ready,” Eric announced, looking over his shoulder. He nearly jumped, not having realized the Commander had come up behind him.

Dhael returned the nod Commander Stevenson gave her as he passed her console with his familiar warm but crooked smile. She looked across to Lieutenant O’Shea just as the Commander stopped.

Eric nodded and gave the go command and together, they watched the shuttles slowly reverse thrusters and power up. In response, the colony pod began to move from its mooring. He felt his mouth muscles tighten as the pod drifted through space, moving into the clear.

Then came the tricky part. Shuttles five through nine began powering down and reversing their plants while shuttles one through four increased their power output to turn the pod to face the Livingstone. Suddenly, Eric’s console flashed and he swore.

“Captain, the emitter on shuttle five and seven are red lining and putting stress on the hard point attachment. Right now, the pods structural integrity is holding, but we’re going to have to slow it down. I must have missed something somewhere in the sims.”

Dhael bit her lower lip “ Damn!” she whispered under her breath, they had a long way to go with this operation and a glitch this early on was doing nothing to calm nerves.

Eric had no idea what he might have missed. Maybe the way they had attached the hard points or he’d missed something in the calculations in the power matrix of the shuttles. Regardless, they were in danger of snapping off the grappling arms of those shuttles catastrophically. Bringing up the controls, he contacted both shuttles and ordered them to go to independent control. Eric desperately wanted to be at the controls himself, but that wasn’t an option.

Slowly … ever so slowly … the pod began to turn and Eric fretted each second until the unit was lined up and the shuttles brought the pod to station keeping, then gave micro bursts from their thruster until the pod was sliding through, headed towards the docking yoke. Bridge crew, engineering teams and bookies from the station all watched as the pod drifted to within twenty meters of the yoke before the computer kicked in the breaking routine. Slowly … again … ever so slowly … the pod braked, leaving it hanging ten meters from the docking shoe.

Dhael braced herself, unable to breathe. It was quite a sight seeing the pod dangling in that way.

Six of the nine shuttles cut their hawser beams, un-grappled, and backed out from their grappling points. The remaining three shuttles slaved over to engineering control and Eric could only grip the edge of the console and wait and watch as the docking shoe blossomed open and two fifteen meter long booms extended. The Chief Engineer’s team worried the pod via the shuttle thruster into range until the booms could attach and then the shuttles work were done. Like their fellows, the shuttles detached and backed off as the booms first grappled, then slowly jacked into the pod.

Thruster packs on the pod fired, helping align the boom jacks and once the engineering teams were satisfied, began to retract the pod into the docking shoe. Once the shoe was fully inserted into the pod, the blossoms folded back, interlocking the shoe into the pod’s structure. Part of Eric’s console began to feed as the hulls matched, pressurized and meshed with the rest of the Livingstone’s systems, becoming one.

The colony pod was now fully docked and within the hour, the Livingstone would be ready for the next leg of the mission. Eric’s shuttle crews all returned to the bays and he sat back, feeling the stress starting to bleed from him as he switched feeds and watched as the sensor pod mated to its transport.

And they were done.

 

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