How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy: Part 7
DeSoto glared. Her hand scratched around the top of her cast, apparently without her knowledge. I shuffled my feet. I was starting to really hate the scrutiny. I'd tried my best, I really had. It wasn't my fault the fake warp core had exploded for real. I only touched a few dials and conduits. The other cadets would recover, eventually. McKay was the one who dropped the screwdriver into the circuitry. After I pushed him. But he'd deserved a lot worse.
"Stevens, I have never in all my time working with warp engines seen anything like that. I don't even know how to program the simulator to do that. And don't try to explain. I really don't want to hear it."
I opened my mouth, then shut it again.
"The real question is what to do with you." DeSoto fiddled with her crutches. Rumor had it that she'd be back on duty in another couple of weeks, right after our first training flight. "Commander Williamson won't let me release you. He says you belong in engineering. But, I can't have you killing the other cadets, even on accident. I could have Sergeant Warner keep you in the barracks on cleaning detail. Or assign you to kitchen staff."
I hung my head, shoulders slumping in defeat. Nicole would never let me forget my failure if DeSoto did either. I'd have to withdraw from the Academy in shame. Except then Nicole would win and I couldn't let her do that.
"Come with me." DeSoto stood, grimacing as she tucked the crutches under her arms. "I hate these stupid things. Can't get off them soon enough."
I followed her thumping progress down the hall. We passed the warp core mock-up and the other ship systems rooms. She opened the last door on the hall.
"You are not to leave this room until you fix the problem. Everything you need is inside. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir." I entered the room, curious now.
It was the staff break room. The door shut behind me. I heard the click of a lock. I resisted the urge to smash the tables and chairs into the wall. She'd tricked me. I dropped into a chair, fuming.
The room held three round tables, a dozen chairs, a sink, and a food replicator unit with an "out-of-order" sign. A toolbox and datapad sat in front of the unit.
What had DeSoto said? Fix the problem. It was obvious to me what problem she meant. I crossed to the replicator. I stared at it for a long moment before pulling the sign off. I punched the button for a sandwich. I was a bit hungry. The machine hummed to itself. The door slid open. My sandwich sat on a tray, a blackened lump of charcoal. The unit really was broken.
I dragged a table and a chair over to the unit. I sat while I opened up the toolbox. It held all the normal tools for basic repairs. I tapped the datapad. The only item was the manual for the replicator.
I started reading. DeSoto meant what she said and she told me I wasn't leaving until I fixed the problem. I assumed she meant with the replicator, so I got busy figuring out how it worked.
I tested a few more dishes. All of them, even the salad, came out as smoking lumps. Food replicators are supposed to take a variety of yeast cultures, stored as dry powders, mix them with the appropriate liquid, and create an approximation of whatever food was programmed. The taste is a little odd, but easy enough to get used to. They were a staple on starships mostly because yeast culture was much easier to grow, store, and transport than fresh foods.
I got to the troubleshooting section of the manual. I scrolled through to the list of things to test when the cooking unit was out of whack. I punched buttons on the panel, accessing the unit's programming. I didn't see any errors there, at least not ones that matched the manual, so I moved on to other steps.
I unfastened the screws holding the front panel on. I couldn't help my grin as I poked into the innards of the mechanism. I enjoyed this, even if it was a food replicator and not a warp core. I didn't have any bossy arrogant cadets screaming at me. Just the stench of burnt food.
Personal Log 3-8: Whispered Secrets