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Chapter One

Captain Limis Vircona paced through the darkened engineering section of the USS Lambda Paz. The hours since a virus knocked out the ship’s computers seemed to drag by very slowly. And the coming hours would pass by just as slowly while Limis heard officers and technicians throughout engineering speaking in technical jargon she could barely understand.

Lieutenant Commander Shinar sh’Aqba and Lieutenant Rebecca Sullivan were among the officers working to resolve the systems failures caused by this computer virus. Limis paced towards one of the master situation monitors where the chief engineer and her assistant were conducting an inventory of the affected systems.

“We’ve run a full diagnostic on the warp and impulse engines,” sh’Aqba tersely informed the captain, “…that is, as full a diagnostic as possible without the computer. Everything is in full working order; the engines are just not receiving commands from the helm.”

Limis looked in the direction of Lieutenant Sara Carson, who was conferring with an engineering technician about that particular problem with helm control. “Any luck with manual override?” she asked her flight controller.

“None,” Carson grimly replied. “Whatever it was that crashed our computers somehow branched out into most of the power distribution manifolds, including those that control manual steering. And reserve power packs just aren’t feeding enough energy into the emergency batteries, which are already past their limit for keeping life support and basic functions like turbolifts and doors operating.”

Limis rolled her eyes to avoid thinking of how much trouble the crew was in when life support did eventually fail, and the choices were to either choke to death or freeze to death. “Don’t the power distribution manifolds have seven redundant safety interlocks to keep most of the main systems running without the computer?”

“This virus was programmed with algorithms that anticipated those emergency procedures,” Sullivan chimed in. “Sounds like something the Maquis used to disable the Cardassian munitions depot on Heldra Seven.”

Limis briefly recalled that victory fondly, but wasn’t so amused when her ship the latest victim of a similar attack. “I wouldn’t put something that clever past the Obsidian Order.” But wanting to get back to heart of current matter and how to resolve it, she looked back to sh’Aqba for answers. “How long would it take to clear this virus from the computer?”

“The crews that aren’t surveying the engines are working around the clock to isolate all the corrupted partitions in the mainframe,” sh’Aqba explained. “That’s complicated by the fact that the protected archives were also corrupted.”

Limis bit her lower lip to avoid expressing impatience for her query not being answered. At that same moment, she noticed Lieutenant Commander Mandel Morrison entering engineering from the upper level of the warp core chamber. He had just arrived from the bridge to provide a status report in person, as internal communications were offline. “Have Huckaby and M’Rev made any progress in that area?” she asked him.

“Slow going,” Morrison bluntly replied. “I told Huckaby to make engines and life support a priority. Even with a sizeable portion of those files corrupted, anything’s better than nothing.”

Limis took quick glances at each of her senior officers. “Any good news?” she demanded in a slightly amused tone.

“The virus does not appear to have disabled weapons, sensors, or external communications,” sh’Aqba weakly attempted. “Those won’t do us much good if we have to retreat from a firefight.”

“Not to mention we won’t be able to make our deadline for delivering our relief supplies to the Akrynites,” Limis added. “Morrison, locate the nearest Starfleet vessel and ask them if they can lend a hand.”

“I’ve already sent out a coded signal,” Morrison abruptly replied. “The Derna’s on her way.”

“Very good. But we have no way of communicating on any ultra-secure channels, do we?

“Afraid not,” Morrison reluctantly answered. “That means Commander Kozar and Lieutenant Commander Neeley are on their own.”

“They’ll find a way to survive,” Limis offered to assuage his concerns about two people important to him. “How long before we’re back up and running?”

“Once we’ve isolated all the corrupted partitions,” sh’Aqba said, “a full shutdown and restart should take upwards of another eight hours.”

“Let’s not waste any time,” Limis enthusiastically responded. “Let me know what I can lend a hand with.”

“Captain,” Morrison cut in, “when’s the last time you ate?”

“What exactly is it to you?” Limis snapped.

“Even Sh’Aqba and Sullivan were able to stop for a bite to eat these last three hours,” Morrison offered. “The Derna will get here when it gets here. And sh’Aqba only manages to shave an hour off her usual repair estimates. As acting first officer, I’m fully capable of overseeing the finer details.”

As much as Limis hated to admit, he was right. She had once praised Kozar for protecting her from her own stubbornness, and now Morrison was doing the same as a temporary second-in-command. “I’ll relieve you in two hours then.”

“Three hours,” Morrison countered.

“Two and a half.”


Limis scoffed at having been outsmarted for the second time in less than a minute. “Just don’t bury yourself in the part, acting first officer. Becca, are the replicators at least working?”

“Our saboteur managed to crash those, too,” Sullivan answered.

Limis rolled her eyes while heading out of the engineering section. Maybe what was so irritating about all the broken machinery was that she wouldn’t have complained three years ago. She lived most of her life with very little. Now, to her own embarrassment, she had gotten used to all the amenities of a Starfleet vessel. “Mmm… field rations,” she derisively muttered.

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