Read Violations Online

Authors: Susan Wright

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fiction, #General

Violations (4 page)

BOOK: Violations
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Her eyes had glowed with belief as she did it. Even so, that hadn’t stopped Paris from talking Harry into using his holo-ration last night to run the pool-room program so everyone could have some fun after their tedious shifts. It hadn’t taken much to convince him, and then the kid had sat there all night with a tricorder, working on a new holodeck program to improve the place. As everyone offered suggestions, Paris had scoffed that one good way to ruin a holoprogram was to have too many parameters. But it had given him the idea to get together with Harry later to work a new program he had in mind—the kid was a genius when it came to computers.

Now Paris only hoped they’d have the chance. Adrift with minutes of life support left, he was sure this was the last place he wanted to be.

Torres arrived panting through the Jeffries tube. “I slipped on the rungs. Between decks three and four. I almost fell eight levels—” “You can give us the dramatic details later,” Janeway cut in.

Kim cringed down behind the modules of bioneural circuitry even though her irritation wasn’t directed at him. “Is the subspace field intact?”

“Aye, Captain.” Torres quickly moved to the Ops station, her grace belying the strength of her half-Klingon body. After watching her work out, Paris had made a silent vow that he stay out of her way when she was angry. She could be downright vicious.

“I’ll download from here,” Kim announced from the subprocessor.

“Let me know when that panel has access, and we’ll do the diagnostics.”

“Forget the diagnostics,” Janeway told them. “We need to know what’s out there.”

“I should have visual in a few moments,” Kim confirmed nervously.

“And the most basic scanning procedures.”

“I can tell you what’s out there,” Paris muttered, surprised they hadn’t been boarded already. Only the intimidation of their sheer size must be holding the other scavengers at bay. “They’re gathering out there, wondering how damaged we are, daring each other to make the first move. They could have scanned us already and found out we’re sitting here helpless—” “Shields?” Janeway asked.

“Shields at five percent,” Tuvok informed her. “Near minimum levels for habitable environment, blocking EM and nuclear radiation.”

An uneasy silence followed, and Paris focused his attention on Kim along with the rest of the bridge crew. Without panel displays, there was nothing else they could do, but Kim flinched when he turned to find every eye on him. “A—any second now…”

The lights sputtered, and somewhere in the distance a fan shut off, leaving them in perfect silence. Paris suddenly realized he didn’t know where the nearest emergency lifeboat was located”Got it!” Kim exclaimed, as the control panels began to glow.

“ODN back on-line.”

“Power up auxiliary generators,” the captain ordered. “Maximum power to shields.”

The viewscreen brightened, with horizontal lines scrolling upward in a dizzy surge before resolving into an image of the starfield.

The focus and resolution was slightly off, reminding Paris of the screens he had used in middle school. Nevertheless, in and above the rocky swath of the asteroid belt, small geometrical objects could be seen. “There they are,” he warned the rest.

Tuvok spoke right over him. “There are approximately eight vessels within one hundred thousand kilometers, and closing. I am attempting to widen the bandwidth of the sensors.”

“The ship has stabilized into Reduced Power Mode,” Kim announced, not bothering to wait for the captain to ask. “Deflectors and inertial damping at minimum power; communications and tactical systems off-line; environmental systems at thirty percent.”

“Torres, can you get us moving?” the captain demanded.

“Warp and impulse engines are cold, but maybe I can get the Reaction and Control Assembly back on-line.” Torres hurried over to the engineering control panel. “It’s a good thing we were in drift mode when the processor was cut. I’d hate to imagine an unsupervised cold shutdown—we could have lost the whole core assembly.”

“Vessels approaching at eighty thousand kilometers,” Tuvok announced calmly.

“I’m having trouble with the guidance and navigation subprocessor,” Paris called out. “Only partial data is being delivered.” He concentrated on routing the sensors and deflector input away from the main computer. “But if you can give me thrusters, Torres, I’ll fly this ship manually if I have to.”

“Working!” Torres snapped.

Paris felt rebuffed, even though he knew she was in her usual “loose cannon” mode, firing at any target. “Of course, if you prefer,” he added with elaborate courtesy, “I could take a shuttle out front and tow the ship.”

“You’ll do whatever it takes, Mr. Paris,” Janeway told him. “To get us moving again.”

“Aye, Captain.” Paris wished he’d kept his mouth shut, as the RCS began responding, followed by a glare from Torres. “All systems go.

Well, enough of them to get us going, anyway.”

“Set a course for”Captain,” Tuvok interrupted, his rapid fingers betraying more urgency than his voice. “Infrared readings are detecting emission lines from the vessels, in wavelengths up to one hundred microns.”

Janeway seemed puzzled. “Those sound like nebula readings.”

“They are similar; however, these emission lines are created by the hydrogen-fusion engines of the Tutopan vessels. I have detected one set of lines that originates one thousand kilometers off our starboard.”

“The Kapon,” Janeway instantly agreed. “Very good, Mr. Tuvok.

Give navigation the coordinates, and plot a course along that trail.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Janeway sat back, her lips tightening. “Let’s go get our processor back.”

“Ready when you are.” Paris was also ready to sing a silent Hallelujah—maybe things were starting to get better. He plotted a course right through the approaching vessels, figuring if they couldn’t be fast, they might as well make it threatening.

“Engage,” the captain ordered.

Paris boosted the main thrusters, smoothly routing plasma flow to hold them in a steady line. He fell into the complicated rhythms of manual navigation as if it were his natural element, as if the ship were an extension of his own body. Nothing else mattered when he could fly, not the Tutopans, not Starfleet—in spite of everyone, he was satisfied.

Really, I don’t ask for very much.

He was sure the situation was improving when Kes arrived on the bridge to administer an antidote for their neurogenic shock.

“Chemical neuromolecular inhibitor…” the captain murmured, reading the padd. “That’s why some people were more affected than others.”

“Different biochemistry,” Kes agreed, as she administered the antidote to Janeway.

“I don’t wonder it happened so fast,” Janeway commented.

“According to the doctor, only one part per million was needed to affect the crew members.”

Kes gave Paris a smile along with his injection, and his mouth puckered in a silent whistle. Yes, sir, things are certainly looking up.

According to the limited sensor data that was available, the Kapon trail was heading straight for the primary system. He was going to get to see the Hub after all.

Chapter 3

Torres was getting tired of this. She had done everything she could to get impulse power back on-line, but the system kept getting shut down by minor fault errors and command delays.

“Status?” the captain asked.

Torres tried to think positively. “We’re running power off auxiliary fusion generators now instead of depleting our reserves. And I’m almost done valving the surplus plasma flow to the ship’s emergency utilities network to replenish what we used.”

“Approaching another buoy,” Tuvok warned the bridge crew.

The buoy emerged into view, marked by official codes and brilliant yellow lights as if warning off trespassers. Voyager had been skirting along the boundary of the primary system, marked by the line of buoys, following the trail left behind by the Kapon. Using only thrusters, it was slow going. It seemed to take forever just to pass the buoy.

Torres clenched her hands, trying to hide the frustration that was shaking her entire body. The situation was intolerable. How could everyone sit here, content to travel at forty meters a second? They should be doing something, anything, to get more power to the ship.

“Are they still back there, Tuvok?” the captain asked.

“Nine vessels maintaining pursuit.”

“They’re persistent, I’ll say that for them,” Janeway grudgingly conceded.

Torres could barely hear Paris when he said, “They’re vultures.”

But Vulcans had superior hearing, and of course Tuvok couldn’t let anything as important as protocol lapse, even when everything else was spinning out of control. “Did you have a comment, Lieutenant?” Tuvok asked.

“I said they’re vultures,” Paris repeated. “Did you think I called them Vulcans?”

“It doesn’t matter what they are!” Torres snapped, gripping the sides of her engineering console. What she really wanted to do was hit the sluggish panel with both her fists.

She was lucky she was braced when the ship lurched, coming to a heart-stopping pause, then leaping forward again. Kim wasn’t as fortunate, and he let out a muted cry as he was thrown against the mainframe of the gel packs.

“Systems failure in the velocity indicator,” Paris said, as if they couldn’t tell for themselves. “I’m getting it back on-line….”

Kim crawled back up to the Ops terminal. “I’m reading falling pressure within the bioneural masses of the main core. The tissue may have been damaged when the shunts were severed.”

“I looped those shunts myself,” Torres retorted. “Only the junction nodes were touched.”

“That shouldn’t affect the rest of the ODN or the circuitry in the local subprocessors,” Kim agreed.

The ship lurched again, and this time, Paris didn’t bother announcing the obvious.

“We have to do something,” Torres insisted.

“I’m taking suggestions,” Janeway retorted, her face flushed from the effort of staying in her seat. “Do you have any?”

“We could disconnect the main core from the optical data network.”

Torres took a deep breath, watching the captain’s reaction. “For some reason the systems are still trying to access the main core, instead of defaulting to the auxiliary computer. It’s causing minor failures and shutdowns as the ODN sends back null signals.”

Kim gave Torres a dubious look, as if he didn’t agree.

“Computing speed is already down ninety-four percent, and even if local subprocessors can operate routine systems—” “They can,” Torres interrupted. “And network processing should improve overall system reliability.”

“I can’t advise it.” Even in the face of her conviction, Kim seemed uneasy. “The control unit is gone, but the main core continues to regulate the ODN. If you isolate the core, there won’t be anything to keep conflicting courses of action from shutting down individual systems.”

“Isn’t that what we want?” Torres demanded.

“We need the safety overrides,” Kim insisted. “Even if the ODN is operating slowly with many fault errors.”

Torres made a derisive sound in her throat, but she managed to stifle her sarcastic retort. She’d made her point; now it was up to the captain to take control or they’d never get the ODN back on-line.

“Sickbay to Captain Janeway,” Kes interrupted, speaking over the open tricorder.

Janeway picked it up with an irritation that Torres could certainly sympathize with. “Go ahead, Kes.”

The Ocampa’s voice was high and reedy through the small speaker.

“The doctor’s holograph program keeps shutting off—” She paused, then added, “He’s back on again, but it’s interfering with the treatment of our patients.”

“We’ll give priority power to sickbay,” the captain assured her.

The doctor’s irascible voice replaced Kes. “Captain, the computer seems to be down at the moment—perhaps you could get someone working on repairs for the medical unit. And my holograph projector is malfunctioning again. If you want these people taken care of—” He didn’t finish, and the short silence was followed by Kes saying, “He’s gone again.”

As if shifting mental gears, Janeway asked, “How many are seriously injured?”

“We’ve got fourteen people down here right now. None are critical.”

Janeway sighed, obviously relieved. “How is Chakotay?”

“He hasn’t recovered consciousness, yet. They’ve all had a neural stimulant, and they’re in stable condition. But these malfunctions are interfering with the replication of the antidote.”

“Understood,” Janeway said. “We’ll do our best. Captain out.”

Torres almost held her breath in anticipation, as Janeway slowly turned and considered her. She couldn’t resist putting in one last bid.

“Captain, if we cut the ODN link to the main core, the network has to default data to the auxiliary computer or the local subprocessors. We may even get impulse power.”

“As long as we can follow that trail, that’s all we need.”

Janeway braced herself as another tremor shook the ship.

Tuvok took the opportunity to say quietly, “The vessels are closing.

Distance, under thirty thousand kilometers.”

“Very well, Lieutenant,” Janeway told Torres. “You may proceed.”

Torres wanted to clap her hands, but instead channeled the surge of energy into taking her across the bridge to the Jeffries tube.

“I’ll have to disconnect the ODN at the main junction node under the core.”

One thing she could say for Kim, he was a graceful loser. “I’ll make sure the radio links are shut down,” he called after her.

Kim tried not to care when Torres left the bridge without answering him. He had to admit, if only to himself, the woman was intimidating. He hoped he wasn’t letting his personal feelings override his professional judgment, and wondered if he should have insisted that this was a big mistake.

“Captain—” he started, but the sight of the rest of the bridge crew preparing for the procedure made him hesitate.

“Yes, Ensign?” the captain asked.

“Radio frequency links are shut down,” Kim finished weakly. The captain had already made her decision, and now it was his duty to support her.

BOOK: Violations
12.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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