- This article is about an engineering tool. You may be looking for the P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft.
A P-38 is a small-handheld engineering tool which emits sound and light frequencies designed to open wedged hatches and fused circuitry panels. They are sometimes jokingly referred to by Starfleet personnel as glorified can openers. (SCE eBook: Interphase, Part Two)
History and specifics
The device unsealed magnetic hatches, airlocks and access panels. These were stored in tool kits or engineering satchels and were small enough to fit in the pocket of an environmental suit. When one was affixed to a hatch, a status indicator light beeped and flashed from red to green after it had completed its task.
In 2265, Ronald Hanagan ,a.k.a. Komaleq, brought a tool kit containing a P-38 aboard the freighter Bacchus Plateau. He used it to unseal a cargo container that not even a crowbar could force open. After killing him, covert agent Anna Sandesjo resealed the container with the P-38, then returned it to his kit. (VAN - Declassified short story: "Almost Tomorrow")
In 2368, after the USS Enterprise-D had been crippled in a collision with a quantum filament, Lieutenants Kieran Duffy and Sonya Gomez were able to jury-rig a P-38 from a gardening tool and an Elllix baffler, and rescue six trapped engineers. (SCE eBook: Many Splendors)
In 2375, when the USS da Vinci came to the aid of a crippled Pakled ship, the Pakled captain was particularly impressed with the P-38s, telling the S.C.E. crew, "You make things open; that is good." (SCE eBook: Interphase, Part Two)
In 2385, a P-38 was used by Geordi La Forge and Taurik to unseal an airlock and board the damaged Andorian freighter Cereshta. Security Chief Aneta Šmrhová used one to open an interior hatch. (TNG - The Fall novel: Peaceable Kingdoms)
- According to author Keith R. A. DeCandido's annotations for Many Splendors, a P-38 was first seen in TOS episode: "The Trouble with Tribbles" (presumably the tool Kirk used to open the storage compartment), though its designation originated in Interphase.