Paula Sweetwater, Ace Engineer
by Ignatius F. Makarevich
The night seemed tediously normal. How quickly things can change. To Paula Sweetwater, the twenty-something, academy-trained and provocatively attractive warp-drive engineer, the routine was starting to become annoyingly banal. Her sleek young body sinuously arose from her seat at the spartan, yet elegant, dining table. It was time for her stint at controlling the ship’s engines. Paula picked up her nanodriver, turned, and left, the air trailing the sweet smell of lilacs, her favorite scent. She had to admit that the utilitarian ship had a warmer, friendlier aura after the ship’s last star base visit. The Solaran technicians, blue-skinned beings, resplendent in their bright green uniforms, had replaced all the lighting devices with units that duplicated the Sun of Earth. “The stuff really works!” Paula thought.
Matter-of-factly entering the large, ergonomic control room, a subtle smile on her sensuous lips, Paula took her seat at the well-padded command chair. She was happy because her plan was to combat the banality by finally catching up on looking at an anomalous object she’d found. Settling herself fully into the comfy chair, she turned on her palmtop to do a quick scan of the system in her charge. Paula figured that it was better to get this first run out of the way, so she could concentrate on more stimulating pursuits.
The little smile that had so attractively adorned her lips quickly faded. For there, before her eyes, was trouble. A double-take rapidly revealed that the readouts for the engine were alarming - the fuel mixtures were all wrong. If she did nothing, there could soon be a detonation, which would send shockwaves coursing throughout the quadrant. She turned on the automatic repair program, but found it frighteningly inoperative. Paula’s pulse accelerated. Gnawingly aware of her now pounding heartbeat, her mind racing, she went through every mixture calculation that she knew. Switching the system into manual control, Paula started moving the seldom-used faders into their needed positions. A feeling of awe enveloped her as she watched the screens – nothing happened! A small, misshapen demon of fear reared up in her mind, but Paula’s supreme desire to survive had now been kindled, and the demon was deftly dispatched as if it were a series-winning home run.
Paula’s cat-like body sprang from the now uncomfortable chair, and she dashed around to the back of her console. Rapidly releasing the access panel, she saw what the real problem was. Paula’s incredulous gaze was slammed with the sight of a voracious family of Andoran dock rats, who up until that very moment had been chowing down on the tie line of the machine like gluttons. This scenario seemed unthinkable! And yet, the rats indeed were there. Paula’s hand snatched the phaser off her taut rounded hip, and shot them dead in what seemed slow motion. Victory was hers! The bizarre vermin gone, Paula quickly snapped out of her elation at their dispatch on realization that the engines were still going to detonate in due course. She ran through the scenario a hundred times in her mind, in the blink of an eye, without a result. Doom seemed imminent. The final surge of fear triggered in Paula’s wonderfully sharp mind locked onto that most elusive thought. Her palmtop had the answer! In a flash, she remembered backing up the entire console onto it two weeks ago. At the time, the exercise had just been something to do to relieve the boredom.
Suddenly, the door slid open and through it rushed an enormous, upset security Sasquatch in full attack. He was heading for Paula. Sweetwater’s firing of her phaser had set bells to ringing at the security office. In a flash the awesome guard had a tenacious hold on Paula and had powerfully slapped the phaser across the room. She seemed a helpless, flailing mess. A flash exploded in Sweetwater’s mind as she remembered the nerve pinch perfected centuries ago by the Vulcans. Using every fiber of her body, she twisted around like a cobra and applied the technique, causing the enormous creature to crumble like a sack of potatoes. To the console she flew.
Ripping away the rat-frayed wires like a scalp, she undid the large, well-formed precision connector, directed the transporter to beam an adaptor to hand and plugged in the little galaxy-saving palmtop. And then, as if by wizardry, a palpable calming coursed through room. All was as before, safe, warm and secure.
As the mixtures started moving in a friendly direction, Paula Sweetwater realized, settling back in the comfy chair, ringing up the security office, that she could still get in a look at her artifact. “Perhaps this trip won’t be that bad, after all,” she mused.