- Paris to Vexa. I need you to go to the turbolift, and look up.
- Yes Sir. I beg your pardon?
- Paris to Seven.
Tom and Grif materialized in the gap between the bridge turbolift and the shaft bulkhead. They removed their EVA helmets and opened the lift’s trap door. Sublieutenant Vexa looked up.
“Feel like going for a walk, Sublieutenant?”
Vexa reached for the trap door, and Tom took her arms. Something began to sound: a holomatrix compiling in its magnetic field. Suddenly, Vexa was no longer alone in the turbolift.
The Emergency Security Hologram threw his bulky arms around Vexa’s leg and tried to wrest her from Tom. Her Vulcan grip viced into his arm. Tom grabbed the ladder to stabilize himself. “Hang on Vexa! Chief! Manual release!”
Vexa’s face strained to keep composure, but Tom could see the raw, mute fear in her eyes. She started to gasp from the strain.
“Here goes,” the Chief shouted. The turbolift lurched, then plummeted in free fall.
As Vexa was drawn up through the trap door, the arms of the ESH decompiled outside the scan range of the emitter diode. Armless, the ESH fell to the floor, watching Tom as the turbolift plunged down the long shaft and curved out of sight.
“Hang on, Vexa!” Tom strained to bring the sublieutenant to the ladder. When she found purchase, Tom climbed down and took station beneath her. Chief Grifahni climbed down to her side, while she noticed the long drop of the turboshaft, and drew in a sharp breath.
“Sublieutenant Vexa,” Tom said, “Meet Chief Master-At-Arms Grifahni Jace. Chief Grifahni, Sublieutenant Vexa.”
“Grif,” he said, offering his hand.
Vexa braced her arm through the ladder and looked at his hand—but for some reason, her clamped fingers didn’t release the rung. “Greetings,” she managed.
“It’s the sublieutenant’s first day of active duty,” Tom informed him.
“Is that right?” said Grif. “You want to quit yet?”
She looked at them both, the long drop below, regained her composure, and regarded the Chief. “Not yet.”
“Good. Welcome to the Fleet, Sublieutenant.”
As they climbed down the shaft Tom considered their next course of action. The Chief—Grif’s
plan had so far succeeded, giving them access to any number of decks without worrying about activation of the turbolifts any time soon. He needed to find a way to either reset three computer cores, or enable a warp core shutdown, in order to reassert control of the ship.
“We can access any number of plasma coupling interfaces,” Grif offered. “It just depends on which systems you want to shut down. How much damage you want to do.”
“How do we shut down the warp core?” Tom asked. “Without ‘decommissioning’ the ship, that is.”
“If we disable enough random systems eventually the core failsafes will engage. That’s how the Maquis did it—when they wanted to keep the ship and not overload it.”
“Utilizing that method increases our probability of capture,” Vexa replied. “Logically we should first disable secondary systems; including the holoemitter grid and transporters. Then we could move uninhibited to engineering to initiate a tricore shutdown using manual controls.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Tom. “There’s an auxiliary master control on the Secondary Cruiser bridge. We could access its junction from the jeffries tubes; and hopefully deactivate secondary systems before we’re beamed out. Four more decks."
Tom regarded the crewmen. He couldn’t help but see a piece of himself in each of them; and envied them their beginnings.
Sublieutenant Vexa removed a panel and moved toward the ODN fiberoptic conduit, but Chief Grifahni stayed her arm. “Disengaging it manually will alert security systems. The computer will dispatch a holo-man to investigate. Instead, we misdirect the computer. We create a ‘random malfunction’.” He drew his short sword.
“I fail to see the distinction; when the unit ceases to function, the computer will automatically schedule diagnostic repair.”
“This is a security problem. It requires a security solution. Not an egghead solution.” He severed the ODN line with a fast, smooth cut.
“Efficient,” Vexa noted, examining the perfect cut across hundreds of optical lines. “If crude.”
“Thanks,” the Chief replied.
Tom heard—or rather felt the secondary power grid shut down throughout the ship. He tapped his suit communicator. “Paris to Captain.”
“Go ahead, Mr. Paris.”
“Secondary systems are down. You should be able to leave the brig.”
“We are doing so presently.”
“Turbolifts are down. Recommend you proceed to Main Engineering.
“Warp core shutdown in progress,” Tuvok communicated. “Ship systems are powering down.”
From his position on the space-efficient, emergency-lit bridge of the Secondary Cruiser, Tom took a deep breath and wondered if B’Elanna was cleared for duty yet. She would not be pleased with the damage his team had managed to do throughout the ship. But compared with the possibility of a Borg nanoprobe malfunction? He would win the battle. The war, however, was an entirely different matter.
“Sir,” Vexa interrupted. “I’m reading a microsurge in engineering.”
Tom tapped his communicator. “Captain Tuvok, are you—“
“Tetryon warp plasma destabilizing,” Tuvok responded. “And increasing. All systems operating within normal parameters. I cannot explain it. At present rate, the core will breach in three minutes.”
“Sir,” Vexa interrupted. “I’m reading a compressed energy beam focused on the main warp core.” She raised a brow and looked at him. “It’s coming from transporter room two.”
“Can you disengage it from here?”
“Negative. Insufficient analysis, Sir.” She activated the remote transporter control; it revealed activity in progress. “I am locked out of control.”
“Paris to Tuvok. It’s a transporter beam destabilizing the plasma. We’re on our way to it now!”
The trio rushed out of the secondary bridge. “This way,” Grif shouted, pointing to a Jeffries tube. As they crawled through the tube, Tom heard Captain Tuvok on shipwide order the crew to abandon ship. Several moments later he felt the muted concussions of escape pods beginning to launch from the ship. He tapped his com. “Captain! Abandon ship!”
“Negative, Mr. Paris. Core breach in two minutes.”
They entered the transporter room. Vexa swept the controls with her tricorder. “Here,” she said, somehow calmer than she was before.
Grif tore open the panel underneath the main transporter control. A device sounded, wedged between the circuits. All of its diodes were lit.
“It appears to be an actuator,” she said. “powered by a dedicated fusion generator.”
” Grif popped open a compartment and grabbed a hand phaser. Vexa stayed his arm and looked directly at him. “This requires an ‘egghead’ solution.”
She began to tinker with the interface.
“If we fail, the core goes critical,” Grif reminded her. “But we’ll lose more than just this ship. If there’s a matter/antimatter annhilation event so close to all this ballistic material—the docks and stations and ships—”
“Then the debris will most likely shred not only the Fleet Yards, but the starships, stations and planetary facilities are going to be annhilated and possibly exposed from Federation security. You are not even considering the tetryon fallout and it’s devastating destruction of the planet’s terraformation, Chief,” she said, concentrating on her algorithms. “There is approximately an eighty-nine point four probability Mars’ ecology will be exposed to enough radiation to result in a catastrophic loss of all biological life, and delay any future terraformation attempts for hundreds if not thousands of years. Hundreds of colonies and planetary terraformation projects, for which Mars stands as a model, may be disrupted by this catastrophe. Billions of people and countless biological lifeforms may be effected throughout the entire Federation.”
Warning: Warp core breach in one minute
, said the computer.
Chief Grifahni leveled his phaser. Tom placed his hand on his shoulder and shook his head. “Look at those readings. The actuator has locked transporters into a diagnostic phase transition power up. Destroying the device won’t stop the transporter cycle or kill the annular confinement beam in time. And we still don’t have command access.”
“The Commander is correct,” Vexa said. “However I may be able to ‘misdirect’ the computer into a diagnostic of the virtual focus molecular imaging scanner, instead.”
Warning: Warp core breach in thirty seconds.
She wiped her eyes in tacit exasperation.
“I know you can do it, Vexa,” Tom said. He thought of his qualifying exam, and B’Elanna, lying there at his feet.
“Plasma overloads on decks two through eight!” Tuvok broke in. “We are losing containment! Injectors are fusing! Magnetic bottles destabilizing!”
Explosions rocked the ship.
Tom braced himself against Vexa, and saw Grif. Eyes closed, the security chief was clutching the console and uttering a silent prayer to the Prophets of Bajor.
Warning: Warp core breach in ten seconds.
Tom closed his eyes. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Not even Seven’s shuttle, if it were still near, could get them out in time to outrun even one matter-antimatter explosion—let alone a chain reaction. He had let down his captain. His crew. His family. Starfleet. Earth and the United Federation of Planets itself.
The Perseus Trial was the trial of Commander Thomas Eugene Paris, and it had failed before it had even begun.
, he whispered, as the ship stormed around him.
My love, goodbye.