Star Trek Hunter
Episode 2: The Colony of New Hope
Scene 15: Grounded
Chief Guth was not happy. He had completed the post flight check and maintenance on the wagon and was ready to return to his quarters - this was not his regular shift. Ensign Sun Ho Hui was neither anxious nor bored. As long as he was in the shuttle bay, he might as well check out all of the consoles to ensure they were working properly. Justice Irons had told them to expect Lt. Dolphin in twenty minutes. It actually took only thirteen.
Guth came to attention as Dolphin entered the shuttle bay. Sun was not as certain of the lieutenant's expectations, but took his cue from the chief flight specialist - he locked the console he had been working on and came to attention. He knew how to respond to Dr. Carrera, but Dr. Dolphin was famous for not liking hybrids. Sun wasn't really certain why.
"Ensign Sun, did you follow recommended protocol while providing air support today?"
"Yes, sir?" Sun answered, not knowing where this was going.
Chief Guth had a good idea where Dolphin was going and did not like it. He had done some fine flying and was not feeling apologetic about it. "Sir.." he started
"As you were, Chief, my issue is with Ensign Sun." Dolphin had a warm sound to his voice, but there was a steely sound underneath. Guth really didn't want to get off to a bad start with the new director of his department.
"Ensign, you do recall that I assigned command of the wagon to you," Dolphin continued.
"Yes sir," Sun answered, still not really following.
"As mission commander, were you responsible for all activities onboard from beginning to end of mission?"
"Yes sir.." Sun was beginning to understand what the issue was.
"And during the mission, was the internal inertial dampener manually adjusted?"
"Yes sir.." Sun's features registered a dawning understanding.
"Please answer my first question again, Mr. Sun"
"Sir, I believe I failed to follow protocol during this mission. I allowed the inertial dampener to be adjusted and the fly-by to be conducted manually."
"Thank you, Mr. Sun. Lieutenant Tauk brought your oversight to my attention from the flight telemetry. I am not entering a reprimand for you at this time. But as Director of Flight Operations, I am grounding you from flight missions on the wagon, the interceptors, the tactical unit and the main bridge until you complete the written recertification exams for all these vehicles including the Hunter itself. We'll forgo the practical exams - I know you can fly. What I need to be certain of is your grasp of protocol. Complete them on your own time - and do so soon. I would like you to be requalified before your next shift on bridge duty, which I believe is in four days. I prefer not to enter this on your record."
Dolphin turned to his pilot. "Chief.. Flight.. Specialist.. Dewayne.. Guth.." He pronounced each word slowly, with pauses for emphasis - then looked surreptitiously over his shoulder to verify that Ensign Sun had left the shuttle bay. "Give me a tour of the wagon, Chief."
Guth, braced for a reprimand, was taken off guard. "Sir?"
"I haven't actually flown one of these - except in simulation."
Guth walked Lt. Dolphin around the uparmored shuttle, then inside, "Two brig units port midship, three starboard, open passage between them connecting the rear operations staging area to the flight operations booth in the fore," he said as they walked inside the craft.
"Pop the stick for me, Guth," said Dolphin as they reached the flight ops booth.
Guth sat in the pilot seat, touched a control and reached under the console to pull the flight operation stick out and rotated it 90 degrees into the upright, operating position.
"When are you to use manual flight control?" Dolphin asked.
"During any operation in which tolerances are beyond computer control or when the computer is non-functional," Guth responded.
"And was the computer functional when you dropped altitude for your fly-by?"
Dolphin kept his voice quiet and friendly, "Please explain exactly how the fly-by operation was outside of computer control tolerances."
Guth thought for only a second. Dolphin was a test pilot as well. For Guth, honesty had always been the best policy anyway - especially when talking to a fellow pilot. "I wanted to get closer to the buildings than the computer would allow."
"A meter. The computer would not allow less than five meters."
Dolphin deliberately spoke very quietly and calmly. "Eighty eight centimeters, Mr. Guth. You came within eighty eight centimeters of a building at 412 kph with the inertial dampeners reduced. If you had hit that building you would have turned yourself and Ensign Sun into jelly. Furthermore, although you did not know this, Investigator Buttans was inside that building. You would have dropped that building on top of him before he could deactivate the jamming device - in the basement of that building - and as well as destroying the wagon, killing Buttans, Sun and yourself, you would have made it impossible to rescue the ground operations team and the command staff. You wanted to pass by 100 centimeters at 400 kph - correct?"
Guth's eyes had widened as he realized just how badly things could have gone.
"Yes sir," he responded.
"So you were out of your personal tolerances by more than five percent. If you had set the computer for a fly-by at five meters, at 300 kph, what would the tolerance be?"
"Less than one-thousandth of one percent," Guth responded.
"Chief, you've been a Star Fleet pilot for nearly fifteen years. You reached the top of the non-comm grades years ago. Have you ever considered going to OCS?"
"Not really, sir. I never really wanted to be an officer. I just want to fly."
"I came in as a civilian test pilot," Dolphin replied. "I had to go through 6 months of Officer Candidate School to obtain clearance to fly the most experimental birds - stuff I can't even tell you about. But you would love them - there are some amazing new birds coming out of Utopia Planitia. Chief, you're my top pilot. I have to rely on you to set the example for the rest of the department. I can't let this go. I am entering a reprimand on your record and grounding you from operating the wagon until you recertify - both written and practical. I know interceptor pilots prefer to fly stick - and they have that option during combat. But this wagon is not an interceptor."
Understood, sir." Guth felt oddly relieved. He had also heard stories about Dolphin's dislike for hybrids - Guth was evidently part trill - he shaved his head to reveal the spots - which created a subtle effect against his dark skin - an inheritance from his African-American ancestors. Lt. Dolphin actually seemed to care about his people and after a lifetime of encountering prejudice from both humans and trills, Guth did not detect any hint of prejudice from his new department director.
"All right, Mr. Guth - get some sack time. I will leave it to you to explain your error to the other pilots - so they are never tempted to do the same." Dolphin stood up and walked to the back of the wagon, paused and turned before walking off the rear plank, "That was some pretty fancy flying, down there, Guth."
Guth smiled, "Thank you, sir."
"Don't ever do it again."