Read Violations Online

Authors: Susan Wright

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fiction, #General

Violations (20 page)

BOOK: Violations
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“Sorry to interrupt, sir, but I am reading an unusual energy surge through the power conduits.”

“I’m on my way.” Chakotay tapped his comm badge to alert the computer.

“Chakotay to Ensign Kim—what’s happening with the EPS?”

“I’m not sure,” Kim’s voice answered. “Maybe there was damage we didn’t detect when the umbilicals were connected. Whatever it is, it’s affecting the doctor, as well. He isn’t moving.”

Chakotay felt an uncharacteristic urge to curse the fates that continued to test them so relentlessly. “I’m on my way to the bridge.

Keep me informed.”

Kes waited until the channel was closed before she asked Kim, “Why didn’t you tell him?”

Kim accessed the Ops control system through the medical terminal.

“Tell him what?”

“That the doctor is trying to take control of the ship.” Kes politely averted her eyes from Zimmerman, standing motionless near the desk.

“What?” Kim asked.

“You heard what he said. He’s attempting to access the ODN.”

Kim gave her a strange look. “He was just rambling again. He isn’t capable of doing that.”

“But what if he is?” Kes slowly circled the doctor, wondering if he had chosen this for himself. “What if his program can act as a control unit, diverting the input away from the main core?”

Kim didn’t bother to answer. His fingers flew over the panel, attempting to initiate a level-five diagnostic.” Something’s blocking my input.”

“It’s him. He’s doing something.” She didn’t add that she could sense activity within the doctor, knowing Kim wouldn’t understand. He would just say that Zimmerman was a holograph, a machine projection, but she’d always believed that Zimmerman was more than sum total of the bytes of his program, just as organic life-forms were more than their tissue masses.

The lights gradually faded. Kes was glad she’d convinced Neelix to go back to their quarters after his ordeal—this was exactly the sort of thing that made him nervous about living with the Starfleet crew. She hoped he was deep asleep.

“Well, if Zimmerman’s doing this, he’d better stop.” Kim was unable to make his terminal respond. “The power conduits are off-line, and systems are locking down.”

Chakotay climbed the last Jeffries tube, breathing much harder than he had been during his meditation. The turbolift hadn’t responded to his summons.

“Report,” he ordered as he stepped onto the bridge. The air felt markedly drier than usual, and the resolution of the viewscreen was reduced.

“Auxiliary fusion Renerators are off-line, and all environmental systems are cycling down. Emergency utilities have not initiated.”

Chakotay spoke into the tricorder tuned to sickbay frequency, not trusting the comm badge to carry his words. “Ensign Kim—we’re living on borrowed time.”

Kim stared at Kes. “We’ve got to stop him.”

“End program,” she instantly ordered. But Zimmerman’s image didn’t so much as flicker. “Computer, end program.”

“It’s not working.” Kim shoved himself out of his chair. “I’ve got to get to the core.”

Kes saw it coming but she didn’t have time to call out as Kim ran smack into the door, face-first.

“Yow!” he exclaimed, holding his hand to his bloodied nose.

She ignored her instinct to render aid, going instead to the doctor’s projection module. That was the source of their problem.

With a few quick motions, she opened the rear panel and disconnected the optical cables that joined the holographic projection module to the computer. Zimmerman’s image disappeared.

“Power conduits are responding,” Tuvok announced.

“I can’t control the linear induction conduits,” Ensign Yarro said frantically. “It’s routing the entire system to the umbilical ports.”

“Lock those ports down!” Chakotay ordered. “We can’t afford to lose those resources—” He broke off at the sight of millions of flashing pinpoint lights enveloping the viewscreen. The cloud of particles expanded rapidly in the vacuum, turning and sparkling as they bombarded the ships docked next to them.

As if to complete the picture, the lights surged back to their normal level.

“Tuvok?” Chakotay asked.

“The computer has returned us to Reduced Power Mode.” Tuvok tightened his lips, still working. “However, we lost approximately five thousand liters of wastewater before the port could be closed.”

Chakotay slumped back. “Almost ten days’ worth of valuable resources.”

The particles continued to expand, colliding with the Hub. The lazy swirling motion reminded him of a dance, but it was a show he couldn’t afford to enjoy.

“We are being hailed on the Cartel frequency,” Tuvok announced.

“I’m not surprised,” Chakotay replied with a sigh.

“Don’t reconnect him!” Kim shouted from across the room.

Kes hesitated. “Why not?”

“He could do it again.”

“I’ll tell him not to,” she said mildly. Ignoring Kim’s protests, she reattached the optical cables.

Zimmerman appeared. “How may I help you?” Then he frowned, obviously following the dictates of a special start-up program.

“I was attempting to access the main control unit of the core.

Was I successful?”

“No!” Kim said.

“Yes,” Kes contradicted. “You were able to affect the ship, but it blocked the other systems from functioning.”

“Don’t try it again,” Kim ordered darkly.

Kes could understand his irritation, but she also sympathized with the doctor. Both of them were relatively inexperienced life-forms compared with everyone else on board the ship, and sometimes she felt exactly the way Zimmerman looked right now—lost.

“It’s all right,” she told the doctor. “You proved that your systems are integrated with those of the ship.”

“If my attempts to help are becoming detrimental,” Zimmerman said, regarding Kim with an expression of hurt pride. “Perhaps you should terminate my program until the problem is resolved.”

“We can’t do that,” Kim said bluntly. “We need to use your condition to help guide our treatment of the bioneural tissue.”

“Use me?” Zimmerman repeated dryly.

“Yes, and that means you have to stay away from the computer,” Kim insisted. Kes winced at his tone, but the young officer was adamant.

“Don’t touch anything, and don’t do anything without our approval.

Understand?”

Zimmerman seemed reluctant to answer. “Yes.”

Kes wished there was something she could say that would help, but it looked as if this was one of those times when a person had to be restrained for his own good. She gave him an encouraging smile, but the doctor turned away, his expression stricken.

“Your ship has been fined 10.000 credits for contaminating shipping lanes,” the official told Chakotay.

“Our utilities systems malfunctioned.” Chakotay didn’t intend to let this opportunity slip by. “And unless you agree to reconnect the umbilical attachments, our systems will probably continue to malfunction.”

The official acted as if she hadn’t heard a word. “How do you intend to pay the fine?”

“First, you tell me what’s happening with Tom Paris.”

There was a pause as she accessed the pertinent files. “Baseline reaction had been recorded, and the testing is under way. You may pay your fine by cooperating in the interrogation procedures of Prisoner 07119.”

“How could we help you?”

“By providing another subject of the same species to undergo testing.

This subject would also be used during the interrogation to obtain a collaborative reading of the data.”

“You still haven’t explained what’s involved in this testing procedure.”

“Testing is the generation of a simulation matrix that corresponds to the subject’s biophysical and behavioral responses. Chemical analysis of these responses provide the factual data during interrogation. Will you provide an additional member of this species to undergo testing?”

“I can’t allow that. Will you let me speak to Tom Paris?”

Chakotay countered.

“I will note your refusal to cooperate in your file. If you have any information you would like to provide—” “Yes, I know—I can submit it through your office.” Chakotay closed the channel, adding, “You’ve been a great help.”

Chakotay rested his head in his hands, wondering if it was worth it to try to return to his quarters so he could finish his meditation. The way things were going, something else would probably interrupt.

“I still have not been able to reach the away team,” Tuvok informed him in a low voice. “It is not like Captain Janeway to remain out of contact for over twenty-seven hours.”

Chakotay glanced over. “What about Andross?”

“I have spoken to his associates in the Hub office, but they have been unable to provide me with a link to Min-Tutopa. I am currently attempting to deal with Cartel communications on this matter.”

“But they won’t do anything until we give them our transporter technology, or another member of our crew so they can render them down for their chemical parts.” Chakotay forced himself to stop.

It didn’t do any good to spread his frustration to the rest of the crew. “Keep trying, Tuvok. I don’t know which of them I’m worried about more—Janeway and Torres, or Tom Paris.”

Chapter 15

Paris fell to his hands and knees. The jolt seemed to clear his mind, and he felt the scrape of sand against his palms.

Sand?

He lifted his head with effort, but there was nothing to see in every direction except for a plain of sand. Overhead, two suns burned in the white-hot sky.

Drawing the back of his hand over his parched lips, he looked behind him. A short trail of his own footprints led back to a transport container. The hatch was open, where he’d obviously crawled out and gotten this far before his mind had finally caught up with his body.

He figured that last dose of gas must have been a tad too much for him.

“Where am I?” he asked out loud. But there was nothing around that could answer.

Besides, he already knew the answer. That airlock cubicle had transferred him to a ship, and they had dropped him off on one of their waste asteroids. Maybe this is what they did to all the aliens they caught messing around with their computer files.

They certainly did take their information seriously, but if that warranted a death sentence, why didn’t they simply eject him into space and get it over with?

Paris stood up, looking back at the transport container. Maybe he should stay with it. The metal must be salvaged at some point. But that would mean he’d have to sit there doing nothing, and anything would be better than that.

Turning, he caught sight of a distant smudge on the horizon.

He’d been heading toward it.

Paris figured he was probably right the first time, and started walking over the hard-packed sand. The heat was so dry it made it difficult to breathe. He took off his jacket but that did little to help. His sweat evaporated as soon as it hit the air, and his skin felt taut. He wondered how long it would take before he was lying prone on the endless plain, his body wrinkled and dried into a tough, desiccated shell of his former self.

The longer he walked, the less sense everything made. But he’d given up a long time ago trying to make sense of alien cultures.

They had to have some reason for putting him here.

Uneasy, he glanced behind him again. He couldn’t see the transport container anymore, but directly ahead, the smudge was getting darker.

He focused on the horizon, trying to ignore the vast emptiness around him. The first rule in survival courses counseled against panic. He was supposed to assess the situation and the resources available to him. He checked his pockets—his fibroknife and the pieces of his comm badge were gone. That wasn’t reason to panic, he told himself.

Neither was the fact that he had no water, and no way to get any in this arid landscape.

He decided it was time to count his blessings. He was unharmed and moving—always a good sign. And thankfully he wasn’t agoraphobic like some truly hardened space-cases he’d met in his travels; otherwise he’d be curled into a screaming ball right about now. He could also tell by the angle of the suns that he was in the polar region of the asteroid.

That meant there’d be almost continuous sunlight, but at least the powerful rays were deflected at an angle. He didn’t want to imagine what sort of hell existed near the equator.

His blessings lasted until he could get close enough to make out the smudge through the distorting heat waves. It was another transport container.

He hurried, not sure if he would find another desperate alien or a mummified corpse. Yet caution made him slow on the final approach.

There was no telling what kind of dangerous criminals the Tutopans were in the habit of depositing on this godforsaken asteroid.

A form was huddled in the meager shadow cast by the transport container. Paris waited until he saw it move. It was alive, and hardly looked threatening, so he went closer.

Flat Tutopan face, familiar somehow…

“Tracer!” Paris exclaimed when he realized it was the janitor.

“What are you doing here?”

Tracer started in surprise, apparently unaware of his approach.

He hunched one shoulder, looking up at Paris warily. “I haven’t decided yet. What are you doing?”

Paris wasn’t sure if Tracer was taking him literally, or being evasive as Tutopans typically were. “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.

Last thing I remember, I was being dragged out of an airlock. Then I woke up here.”

Tracer glanced around, his expression vacant.

“Why are you here?” Paris pressed.

“I committed a crime against the Cartel.” Tracer sniffed, wiping his bud of a nose against his sleeve. “I’m already bonded to the Hub as a maintenance worker for twenty-nine more rotations. I don’t know what they’ll have me do now. Maybe deep-space work.”

“What crime did you commit?” Paris asked sharply, hoping it didn’t have anything to do with him.

“I let you into the Auxiliary Waste Management Control room.”

“You didn’t let me in,” Paris denied. “I held your wrist badge to the sensor pad to open the door.”

BOOK: Violations
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