“Sir, the Perseus just went to red alert.”
“What? Why?” Lieutenant Commander Harry Kim stood from the center seat and signaled for activation of the main viewscreen.
Lieutenant Vorik checked the scans from his position at Ops. As Chief Engineer of Voyager, he had been taking his free time in spacedock to bone up on bridge operations, in a prelude to a possible career arc in bridge command. Or perhaps
, Harry thought, it was because Seven was back in engineering on special assignment for Starfleet
“Unknown. There are no discernable threats within range.”
As acting First Officer of Voyager for the duration of the Perseus Project, Harry Kim had relished his command—which for the past month had consisted largely of spacedock duty, and the occasional night cycle command, which allowed him not only to keep abreast of construction progress of the Perseus
engine, but also afforded him the opportunity to make himself indispensable to Captain Chakotay. Starfleet Command had not made its intentions clear as to the disposition of the Perseus
crew—and command—should the trials prove successful. And as much as Harry enjoyed being on buddy terms with the First Officer, he had to admit he’d trade Tom Paris for a Ferengi used shuttle if it meant his own chance at the left hand seat. Perseus
would need a first officer, and a chief engineer, among others. Which meant that, if Seven of Nine was still unwilling to qualify for command, that left the good, brilliant, gallant Lieutenant Commander Kim next in line for an extended billet as the heroic vessel’s Exec. And about time. “Let’s see if we can’t give Commander Paris a hand. Open a channel to Perseus.”
The sparse white bridge of the USS Perseus
appeared on Voyager’s main viewer. Captain Tuvok turned his attention from one console on his command chair to the other. “Commander Kim.”
Tuvok continued his work. “We are experiencing—” Harry saw him shift his head, placing a young Vulcan woman at a rear wall console within his peripheral field, “—a slight malfunction of the security grid.”
“We are attempting to bypass the automatic protocols which have temporarily locked out control.”
“So there’s no actual emergency?”
“Negative. The statement ‘There is no actual emergency’ is stated in the affirmative. It is simply a programming error made during a diagnostic upgrade.”
The Vulcan girl turned to Tuvok. “Try it now, Sir,” she said.
“Computer.” Tuvok lifted his eyes to the verbal interface focal zone. “Override security lockout, authorization Tuvok alpha one one three.”
The computer received and rejected the command.
Only the bottom halves of Captain Tuvok’s Vulcan irises were staring at Harry when he suddenly, slowly dematerialized in a bluish transporter beam.
The Vulcan girl’s eyes widened, and she looked entreatingly at Harry. “He was beamed to the brig.”
Harry regarded the young Vulcan woman. She was operating her controls in a hurried, exacting pace, focusing so intently on her task that she seemed to forget about him on the viewer. She had a smallish figure clothed in a white Vulcan jumpsuit; a dainty, heart-shaped face that was cut into soft edges. Her hair curved off her forehead; black and slick and bobbed at the nape of her neck; yet swayed like silk with her movements. Her eyes—were inquisitive, unclouded obsidian. Harry didn’t know much about her; just that she had been assigned to the Utopia Planitia Fleetyards, and Perseus
specifically, through the Starfleet Deep Space Systems Prototype Division, as an adjunct of the Vulcan Science Directorate. In spite of Vulcan longevity, she appeared to be in her early twenties, an estimate supported by her apparent urgency in the face of what Harry considered a minor computing error in actual ship operations. Was I ever that green
, he asked himself, and allowed a subtle smirk at the young, smooth-cheeked Ensign who’d reported for duty on a small, insignificant Intrepid-class ship called Voyager
, all those years ago. He knocked on Captain Janeway’s armrest. “Lieutenant--”
She turned from a station on the back wall of the bridge. “Vexa. Sublieutenant Vexa, Sir,” she said in a remarkably calm voice despite her quiet frenzy.
A Sublieutenant? The Vulcan Science Directorate must not put much hope into a sustainable quantum slipstream drive
, he thought. But then—hope is an emotion, isn’t it. Illogical, perhaps—but if it meant entertaining the possibility of outrunning the Federation’s fastest ships, then Harry Kim would hope
. Which is why Starfleet Command had assigned Voyager to Utopia Planitia at the fruition of the Daystrom Institute’s Perseus Project; Captain Janeway’s former crew had actually achieved quantum slipstream velocities—traveling hundreds, thousands
of light years in a matter of hours—and on more than one occasion—and so was the most qualified crew in all of Starfleet to attempt an experimental replication. He couldn’t say to what degree this Sublieutenant believed in the project goal; or frankly what her function was. He made a mental note to hope just a little extra before sleep. “Sublieutenant Vexa. Have you tried shunting main power through auxiliary controls in order to reestablish command protocols through isolated systems?”
“Affirmative, Commander. However Perseus has automated command functionality that supplants primary system controls. I was attempting to initiate a diagnostic upgrade on the automated systems when I….”
“When I accidentally reset all computer command authorizations.”
“Which initiated a security lockdown.” Vorik assessed his Vulcan counterpart in a way, which, while not showing disapproval, certainly didn’t convey approval. “Commander, Perseus crew count has been gradually increased by one hundred fifty.”
“What? Where did they come from?”
Sublieutenant Vexa exhaled in what Vorik might have interpreted as an outburst of emotion—not that he had always kept collected
, Harry thought, remembering his uncontrollable rage at the crew the last time he had entered his seven-year mating cycle.
She closed her eyes. “They are Emergency Security Holograms, Sir.”
Of course. Analog crewmen of the Prometheus class automated systems, which were designed to allow the ship to be fully operational with even a skeleton crew. Now he remembered more of the service record: Sublieutenant Vexa had been recruited while conducting dissertation research under Dr. Leah Brahms at the Daystrom Institute’s Theoretical Propulsion Group in the field of automated control systems—one of a hatful of doctorates the young woman already possessed.
“They appear to be taking station in critical areas of the ship,” she said.
“Brig population has increased to one hundred,” said Vorik.
“We need to shut down the holoemitter grid,” Commander Paris entered the bridge with a phaser in his hand. “Hi Harry. I’d have gotten here sooner, but—I had to play a few rounds of Captain Proton with some holographic villains.”
“Commander,” Vexa seemed positively relieved to see Tom, which made Harry a bit envious. Commander Paris possessed a singular talent for putting his crew at ease—and civilians at red alert—with a natural charm that Harry, despite his best efforts, could never quite replicate. “It is imperative that you do not authorize any commands to the computer,” she said.
“Commander Paris, rise and shine. Should I notify the Admiral?” Harry asked. “She arrived at the station a few hours ago.”
“Not yet, Harry. We wouldn’t want to wake Admiral Janeway for something, I’m quite certain, the Sublieutenant can rectify in her sleep. Right, Vexa?”
Sublieutenant Vexa straightened and her eyes dilated like deflector dishes. “Yes, Commander.”
“You see, Harry? Nothing to worry about. Ops, reroute power to the holoemitter grid.”
“Don’t you mean, from
the grid, sir?” The bantam Andorian Ensign Ujio Shir turned to the First Officer for confirmation.
Tom nodded to Harry. “Why don’t we try to simulate an overload instead. That might make these automated protocols shut themselves down to protect us, instead of working against us.
Ensign Ujio Shir began the sequence, raised his blue antennae and disappeared in a transporter beam. He was replaced by a holographic crewman in a red uniform, who—which—proceeded to monitor ship operations.
Tom touched his chair console. “This is the First Officer.” His voice echoed over shipwide. “Do not attempt to engage the security holograms. Cooperate with all security teams, whether real or holographic. Until command protocols are restored, do not authorize any computer commands at risk of…being replaced by a better-looking crewman.
Harry snickered as Tom moved to Vexa’s station. He put his hand on her shoulder as she worked. “Don’t be alarmed.”
“I beg your pardon, Sir?”
“It’s just a precautionary measure.” He slowly withdrew his phaser.
“Tom…” Harry urged.
“Ready? Now.” Tom shot at a holoemitter wedged into the ceiling. The overload blew the emitters at intervals around the bridge grid. “Got ‘em,” he said as the Ops crewman blinked out.
Harry couldn’t help but smile when he saw Sublieutenant Vexa start and gasp despite being warned. Lieutenant Commander Vorik cleared his throat in some unemotional variation of distaste.
Vexa straightened her petite frame and leveled her gaze at Vorik. “It would be illogical,” she said with full intent, “to suppress one’s central nervous system in the event of arbitrary fire from a hand phaser.”
“She’s got you there, Vorik,” Harry grinned.
Vorik raised his brow and resumed his scans.
Tom was smiling at Vexa in apology when a turbolift opened. A team of armed security holograms flickered into existence around his bridge.
Harry processed the event. Tom looked at Harry. “Turbolift emitter,” they said simultaneously. As one security crewman took him by the arm, Tom said, “Give me a break.” Then, as the blue transporter field took him, “That wasn’t a command! It was rhetorical!”
Harry went to Ops. “Sublieutenant Vexa, I’m afraid it’s time I woke Admiral Janeway. I’m sending Vorik over to assist you.”
“That would be sufficient,” she said, composing herself, small hands trembling over her controls.