8 The Inquiry Bell
Three crystalline bell chimes echoed throughout the Justice Assembly of the Starfleet Lunar Complex, New Piedmont, Sol III, Luna, and brought the crowd of officers, dignitaries, and investigators to stillness. Starfleet Command Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway lay aside the mallet and called the Assembly to order.
To her left, Rear Admiral Leth Valxaen representing Federation Security; a resplendent Andorian officer sitting straight and still in militant demeanor. He was attended by the Legal Advisor to the Board of Inquiry, Judge Advocate Trelliq Pel of the Starfleet JAG Corps; an ageless, smooth-pated, statuesque Bolian, who was easily taller than most of the people in the room.
To Janeway’s right, the eminent Captain Jean Luc Picard of Starfleet's flagship U.S.S. Enterprise
, gravely sizing up the Counsel to the Court, the stocky Zakdorn legal strategist Counselor Rima Toloruk, of the Federation Justice Office of Legal Counsel. Standing behind Captain Picard's right shoulder, in full dress uniform, Commander Deanna Troi silently watched, radiating an implacable tranquility that seemed to resound through the great chamber with the echoes of the bell.
To the right of Captain Picard, unofficially observing Federation Justice on behalf of the Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets, the gaunt, grave, gray Vulcan Emissary known throughout the quadrants as Kel’Akann sat like a timeworn outcropping of rock with an inner flame burning like a Vulcan sun. He was unattended, and clad in a simple sand-hued ceremonial robe with no dressing.
Across from the four empty seats of the Accused, the assembly of witnesses and attending dignitaries: Seven of Nine, Acting Chief Engineer of U.S.S. Perseus
’s Emergency Medical Hologram; and Dr. Tenan Yx of the Jupiter Station Holographic Design Laboratory. Also in attendance were Utopia Planitia Fleet Yard’s Tellerite Yardmaster Vuj Sorgas, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, Commander Barul, the Maori-tattooed Captain Kerei Hanara of Mars Joint Security, and Starfleet Captain Kira Nerys of the Bajoran Militia; (who would be facing the crush of representatives from various member worlds waiting outside, including those from the Bajor Council of Ministers and the Bajoran Citizen’s Action Group, or BCAG - beyond the doors). In addition to these attendees, there was an assembly of Captains and officers, including a number from the Voyager crew.
So much for classified projects
, Janeway thought. Perseus exploded figuratively across the quadrant, if not literally. Once the pods started landing on Mars, the cat was out of the bag, that this was no ordinary ship.
An advisory bench sat along the right divider; this table was attended by the Technical Advisory to the Board of Inquiry. It consisted of Captain Tuvok of the U.S.S. Perseus
, Captain Chakotay of the U.S.S. Voyager
, Dr. Leah Brahms of the Advanced Starship Design Bureau; Admiral Owen Paris representing Starfleet Command and Deep Space Systems (in an observing capacity only); and representing the newly-formed department of Automated Emergency Holography at the Jupiter Station Holographic Design Laboratory, a very stiff, and very pale, Commander Reginald Barclay.
“The Board of Inquiry now calls the accused.”
The computer read the roster:
: Torres, B’Elanna, Commander, Chief Engineer, U.S.S. Perseus.
“Grifahni, Jace, Chief Master-At-Arms Petty Officer First Class, Mars Joint Security at Utopia Planitia.
“Vexa, Sublieutenant, Operations, U.S.S. Perseus. Adjunct, Vulcan Science Directorate, Systems Engineering. Adjunct, Vulcan Science Directorate, Applied Theoretical Science. Technology Officer, Vulcan Diplomatic Corps.
“Paris, Thomas Eugene, Commander; Executive Officer, U.S.S. Perseus.”
Three of the accused filed in, stood, and took their seats. One seat remained empty.
The bell rang.
Vice Admiral Janeway tapped her padd for a moment, took her coffee cup, stood, and faced the assembly. “Computer, freeze program, and advance to the selected time-indexes.”
The computer chirped and the Justice Assembly froze in time. Kathryn walked to the end of the table, thought for a moment, and sat down. “If only it were really that easy,” she said around her drink.
That query is not recognized.
“Never mind. Reinitialize Janeway hologram and begin playback of the first index.”
TIME INDEX: 08:11:35
WITNESS: Vexa, SLT, Operations, USS Perseus NCV-901; Vulcan Science Directorate: ADJUNCT: SE, ATS; Vulcan Diplomatic Corps: TO
EXAMINER: Toloruk, Rima, UFP Justice OLC
“- hmm, ermm...now Sublieutenant Vexa, perhaps you can help us to understand, why would Commander Paris order you to shut down the warp core of the Perseus?”
“The Perseus was undergoing a security lockout, which could only be overridden by a reset of the computer core.”
“You are referring to the 'unforeseen' lockout, hum, of all the command authorizations.”
“Could whoever have planted the actuator bomb have also rigged the security lockdown?”
“Negative.” She made no indication of emotional reaction; “That was entirely...me.”
“You instigated the security lockdown which prevented command access that might have made short work of that actuator problem?”
Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk
. “And when did you shut down the actuator?”
“Four hundred twenty-seven milliseconds before the plasma could reach its destabilization threshold.”
“Don't you think that's cutting things rather close?”
“Actually, had power not been cut to certain areas of the ship, the core would have destabilized sooner – too soon to prevent.”
“You have quite an impressive background in science and engineering, Sublieutenant. Would you consider yourself an expert in technical systems?”
“Both Starfleet and the Vulcan Science Directorate have qualified me as a starship operations officer. I should think their assessments would supersede mine.”
“Certainly, yes, no doubt.... In your technical opinion what triggered the actuator in the first place?”
“The actuator was set to engage in the event of a warp core shutdown.”
“Hrm, yes... another particularly questionable occurrence; but we'll save that for later. How did you finally shut down the transporter microbeam before it overloaded the warp core plasma?”
“After I altered the diagnostic command process, the warp core plasma neutralized. Once that happened, the remote actuator simply self-destructed. Perhaps as a precaution in case it failed. Just as it did.”
“Have you ever seen that technology before?”
“Negative. I have only seen a theoretical schematic of the energy used. And of course, holographic simulations.”
“Yet you knew exactly how to reprogram it. How?”
“Logic.” She looked at the Zakdorn as if the question made no sense. “It is a machine.”
“Ah. Then you must know what it used as a power source?”
“The generator operated by a trellium fusion reaction.”
“Starfleet Security, the Judge Advocate General's office and the Federation Office of Legal Counsel wish to procure such a device for examination; but unfortunately they have not been able to locate one. Do you know how one may find this type of power source?”
“It is a type of proprietary military technology. There is only one known producer of this type of power.”
“Military? Pray, whose?”
She regarded him placidly. “The Cardassian Union.”
TIME INDEX: 10:25:21
WITNESS: Seven of Nine, Acting Chief Engineer, USS Perseus NCV-901
EXAMINER: Toloruk, Rima, UFP Justice OLC
“ - for now it appears that this was the extent of the sabotage.”
“And the state of the ship now?”
“Damage was extensive but confined to centralized locations - thanks in large part to the deactivation of power to secondary systems, as well as several deck outages, which prevented excess of flow buildup in critical junctions.”
“At the time of the lockout – you were attempting to infuse the ship's bioneural network with nanotechnology, were you not?
“You were, in essence, attempting a complete takeover of ship systems with Borg nanoprobes, were you not?”
“Hm. Hrrm. That is troubling, indeed. I must admit I hesitate to think of the threat we might be facing should your 'solution' have succeeded. But for now
I've got no reason to keep you on that stand. Hm troubling indeed. I wonder how you feel knowing your Borg plan was thwarted.”
“The actuator device was activated prematurely by Sublieutenant Vexa’s error. It was more likely set to go off during the Perseus trial run – with hundreds of people on board and alone in space. As the actuator was not locked into the power systems, my
plan would have failed to counter the transporter beam – and the nanoprobes would not have responded early enough to stop the threat. Instead they would have interfered with all counterprogramming to prevent the core from breaching.
Toloruk asked her, “Why did Commander Paris disregard your best course of action and take the matter into his own hands, despite your protest?”
Seven looked at Tom. “Commander Paris somehow, without knowing all the facts, intuited the wiser course of action. It is something I cannot explain. Had he followed my directive this inquiry would instead be a funeral ceremony.”