Star Trek: The Original Series: Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages (9 page)

BOOK: Star Trek: The Original Series: Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages
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Chapter Six

“How’s the focus, Jerry?”

“Mmm—can’t see any difference. Here, change places with me.”

They were the first words Jim heard that morning as he passed through recreation in search of a cup of coffee and Harb Tanzer, the rec chief; but Jim forgot the search for a moment and paused in the middle of the room. The place was as busy as always—the gamma workshift had gone off duty some six hours before, but was still playing hard; and delta shift would start tickling in shortly, as soon as alpha relieved them. Jim was alpha shift right now, all the department heads of the various ships in the task force having gone over to that schedule to make meetings and communications easier. That was why he was slightly surprised to find Uhura, apparently long awake and sprightly, stretched out more or less under the control console for the holography stage and tinkering with its innards. Standing over the console was Lieutenant Freeman from life sciences, making swift adjustments and scowling at the results.

“How’s that?”

“Uh-uh. Come on, Nyota, let me do it.”

“Heading up to the bridge?” said a voice by his shoulder. Jim turned around. There was Harb Tanzer, holding two cups of coffee, one of which he offered to Jim.

“Do you read minds?” Jim said, taking a careful sip.

“No, I leave that to Spock.” Harb grinned. “Vulcans might think it was an infringement on their prerogatives. Or I’d probably get in trouble with their unions or something. Do Vulcans have unions?”

“Only by mail,” Jim said, and took another drink of coffee, watching with satisfaction as Harb spluttered into his. “What’re these two up to?”

“I was about to come find out myself; they’ve been in here since the middle of delta. Uhura’s up early, and it has to be the middle of the night for Freeman….”

“It can wait. I was looking for you. You’re up early, too, now that I think of it.”

“Talking to the computer, that’s all. Checking out the crew efficiency levels.”

“You
do
read minds.”

“No, just my job description.”

“How are they?”

Harb actually shrugged. “They’re fine, Captain. Reaction time to orders is excellent—very crisp. The crew as a whole is calm, assured—very unworried. They trust you to bring them through this without any major problems.”

“I wish I had their confidence in me.”

“You should.”

“So McCoy tells me…”

“Yes, I saw that game. Jim, the computer’s analysis shows no department aboard this ship exhibiting signs of an anxiety level higher than plus-one. It’s the unknown that frightens people. This is just Romulans.”

“‘Just…’” Jim gazed over at Freeman, who was now lying under the console, and Uhura, who was adjusting the controls on top. “Oh, well. How are the other ships?”


Constellation
’s fine. Randy Cross, the rec officer over there, tells me they’re about on a par with us—plus-ones and an occasional plus-one point five. By the way, why do they call Captain Walsh ‘Mike the Greek’? I thought he was Irish or something.”

“Reference to an old Earth legend, I think. The Greek either invented democracy or handicapping, I can’t remember which.” Harb snorted into his coffee again. “But do a little discreet snooping for me and see if there’s a betting pool going on over there.”

“Certainly, Captain. Want a little action?”

“Mr. Tanzer! Are you accusing me of being a gambler?”

“Oh,
never,
sir.”

“Good—I think. What about the Vulcans?”

“Well,
Intrepid
doesn’t have a recreation department per se, though they have the same sort of rec room as we have. Recreation’s handled out of medicine, and gets prescribed if someone needs it. But Sobek tells me that no one does. They’re all running the usual Vulcan equivalency levels, plus-point five or so.
Inaieu,
though—”

“I bet they’re having a good time over there. They love trouble.”

“Plus-point fives and point sevens, right across the board.”

Jim glanced at Harb in concern. “That’s
too
good a time.”

“Not for Denebians. The Deirr are the most nervous, generally. But they’re not very worried either.”

Jim gave silent thanks that Rihaul was a Deirr; nervous captains tended to be better at keeping their crews alive. “Something should be done to harness levels like those, nevertheless. I’ll talk to Rihaul. Anyway, you’ve answered all the questions I had for you.” Jim glanced up at the wall chrono. “About ten minutes, yet. No harm in being early…” He trailed off. “What
are
they doing?”

“Okay, try it now,” Freeman’s voice said, slightly muffled since his head and shoulders were up inside the console. “That first tape.”

Uhura picked a tape up from the console, inserted it and hit one of the console’s controls. Immediately the holography stage lit up with the figure of a seated man, with another man beside him. They both looked bitter. “I coulda
been
somebody!” the first man said angrily. “I coulda been a con
tenda!

“No, the other one,” Freeman’s voice said from inside the machinery. Uhura pulled the tape, and the two men vanished.

Realization dawned. “Harb,” Jim said, “
this
is the crewman who’s been rechanneling all that archival stuff and showing it on ship’s channels in the evenings? I thought he was in life sciences.”

“Xenobiology,” Harb said. “This is his hobby, though. It’s useful enough. The data have been digitized and available for flat display for years, but no one’s cared enough about a lot of this material to rechannel it for 3-D and ambient sound. Freeman, though, loves everything as long as it was made before 2200. It took him about three months to get the image-processing program running right, but since it’s been up he’s enlarged the entertainment-holo library by about ten percent. He mentioned to me yesterday that he wanted to do some fine-tuning on the program so he could rechannel some of the old Vulcan dramas and send them over to
Intrepid
.”

Jim stepped closer to the console, followed by Harb, and stood there watching the proceedings along with several other curious crewpeople. “Captain,” one of them said to him, knotting several tentacles in a gesture of respect. “Well rested?”

“Very well, Mr. Athendë,” Jim said absently. “How’s Lieutenant Sjveda’s music appreciation seminar coming along?”

“Classical period still, sir. Beethoven, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Barber, Lennon, Devo. Head hurts.”

“Bet it does,” Jim said, wondering where the Sulamid, who seemed to be nothing but a tangle of tentacles and a sheaf of stalked eyes, might consider his head to be. “Not overdo it, Mr. Athendë. Take in small doses.”

“Here we are,” Uhura said, and dropped another tape in the read slot, hit the control. For a second nothing seemed to be happening on the stage. Then a peculiar grinding, wheezing sound began to fill the air. On the platform there slowly faded into existence a tall blue rectangular structure with doors in it, and a flashing white light on top, and what appeared to be the Anglish words
POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX
blazoned on the front panel above the doors. There was a pause, during which the noise and the flashing light both stopped. Then one of the box’s doors opened. To Jim’s mild amusement, a hominid, quite Terran-looking, peered out and gazed around him in great interest; a curly-haired person in a burgundy jacket, with a floppy hat, a striped scarf of truly excessive length, and sharp bright eyes above a dazzling smile, ingenuous as a child’s. “I beg your pardon,” the man said merrily in a British-accented voice, apparently looking right at Jim, “but is this Heathrow?”

Brother, have you ever taken a wrong turn!
was Jim’s first thought. “Harb,” he said, “is that man happy in xeno?”

“Very.”

“Pity. With a talent like this, we could use him in communications.”

“Uhura thinks so too.”

“Speaking of which—” But Uhura had been watching the chrono. She reached down and thumped on the side of the console. “Jerry, I’m on duty in a few minutes.” She glanced up, caught sight of Jim and Harb standing there, and grinned a little. “Keep up the good work,” she said. “I’ll see you later.”

She left him there with his head still inside the console, and crossed to Jim and Harb. “You really must be bored if you’re getting up early to watch old sterries, Uhura,” Jim said. “Maybe I should find you some more work to do….”

She chuckled at him. “Harb,” she said, “I think we’ve got the last bugs worked out of it. Mr. Freeman wanted to be very sure—he knows how picky Vulcans are. Once he’s done with that last batch for
Intrepid,
though, he’s ready for requests.”

“Good enough. Thanks, Lieutenant.”

“My pleasure. Coming, Captain?”

“After you.”

They headed for the bridge lift together. “Are you taking up this hobby too, Uhura?”

“Oh, no, sir. Bridge,” she said to the lift as the doors closed. “This is professional interest. Mr. Freeman has some novel ideas in image and signal processing, computer techniques that a communications specialist might not think to try. He’s been doing some specialty programs for the xeno labs that might actually be of some use in cleaning up subspace communication. Interstellar ionization is always a problem, it mangles the highest and lowest bandwidths and slows down transmission speed. The sub-ether carrier wavicles—”

The doors opened onto the bridge. “Uhura,” Jim said, “I’m still working on my coffee….”

She smiled wryly at him. “Noted,” she said. “I’ll write you a report.”

“Do that. And log me in, please.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And a good morning to you, Mr. Spock,” Jim said, stepping down to the center seat as Spock stood up from it. “Report, please.”

“Your initial patrol pattern is running without incident,” Spock said, “and the Neutral Zone appears quiet.
Intrepid
is at ‘point’ position at this time, two hundred eighty-four light-years ahead of us on bearing one-eighty mark plus six, in the vicinity of 2450 Trianguli. We have dropped back to pace
Inaieu
, which is at two-seventy mark zero, one hundred fifteen light-years away; and
Constellation
is flying rearguard at zero mark minus three, two hundred ninety-two light-years behind. The whole task force is maintaining an average speed of warp four point four five.”

“Very good. How’s the weather?”

Spock looked grave. “Generally unremarkable so far. However, Captain, the computer has presented me with some very unusual figures regarding the ion-flux research we were pursuing before this operation.”

Jim nodded at Spock to continue. The Vulcan looked down at the clipboard he was carrying with an expression that suggested there was something distasteful about the data on it. “You remember the analysis of a meteoric debris sample that Mr. Naraht carried out at my request.”

“You were interested in the figure for the iridium, weren’t you?”

“Affirmative. The amount of the isotope—for it was not ‘normal’ iridium—was abnormally high, indicating that the piece of matter in question had been bombarded with extremely high levels of hard radiation in the recent past. That sample was taken from one of the areas we passed through on the way to maneuvers, an area on which I had other data and desired a fresh sample. The peculiar thing is that other samples from approximately the same area, older ones, do not reflect the same bombardment. And there has been ion-storm activity in that area since.”

“Any conclusion?”

Spock looked as unhappy as he ever allowed himself to in public. “None as yet, Captain. It would be possible to indulge in all kinds of flights of speculation—”

“But you are refraining.”

“With difficulty,” Spock said, quietly enough for only Jim to hear him. “The situation is most abnormal. Mr. Naraht is running further studies for me.”

“Yes. How
is
my favorite pan pizza doing?”

“Sir?”

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist. How is he?”

Jim never found out, for at that moment Uhura’s board beeped for attention. She put a hand up to the transdator in her ear, listened briefly, then said, “Captain, it’s the
Intrepid,
if you want to talk to them.”

“Put them on.”

Uhura flicked a switch. The main screen’s starfield blinked out—to be replaced by a screen full of static.

“Bloody,” Uhura said under her breath. “Sorry, sir, I can’t raise them now. The
Intrepid
’s comm officer was reporting the bow-shock edge of an ion storm—force four, he said, and it looked to be worsening.”

“Were they all right?”

“Oh, yes, he said it wasn’t anything they couldn’t ride out. It was just their routine hourly report.”

“Very well. Pass the information along to the other ships and have them take precautions.” Jim sighed in very mild annoyance, then looked up at Spock and saw him still wearing that uncomfortable look. “Well,” Jim said, “here it comes. It’s not as if you didn’t warn Fleet that the climate around here is changing in a hurry. Looks like our operation’s going to get caught right in the middle of it.”

“So it appears,” Spock said. “Though, truly, Captain, I am uncertain what we could do about the problem even if Starfleet Command decided to dedicate all of Fleet to the problem. Relocating entire populations is hardly desirable, or feasible. And there is still something….” He trailed off.

BOOK: Star Trek: The Original Series: Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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