Elapsed time on the surface: four hours, nine minutes.
Janeway rolled over and groaned. How long had she been asleep? Not enough. "What is it, Tuvok?" she said.
"Sensors have detected the Kazon fleet moving in this direction. The advance elements will be here in sixty minutes."
"Did Paris and that Maquis make it back?"
"Miss Torres is in the engine room now. I'm led to understand she's here for the duration; Lieutenant Carey does not believe the shields will withstand another shuttle launch."
Janeway sat up. Her head was swimming. She was still so tired. The air in the cabin was hot and sticky, oppressive. Tuvok presented her a hypospray.
"From the Doctor," he said. "It will keep you alert for several hours."
"And then I pay for it, right?"
"I believe so," said Tuvok.
"Give it to me." Tuvok obliged, giving her a shot in the neck. It was as if someone had pushed an "on" button. Instantly, she felt awake and aware. But it was a thin, jittery awareness, like too much coffee, a rickety bridge over a chasm of exhaustion. She cursed herself for not sleeping more when she had a chance.
"Help me take this sling off," she said. Once it was gone, she tried moving her arm and shoulder. It was stiff and sore, but she had her full range. She pulled off her bloodstained blue tunic, took a red one out of Bujold's closet, tried it on, checked herself in the mirror.
"I think I still look like hell, Tuvok," said Janeway. She fixed her rank pips to her collar and her combadge to her chest. "Come on."
B'Elana Torres wanted to drool when she got her first look at Voyager's warp core. If I had a reactor like that.... Then Ensign Vorick briefed her on the warp system's state and she wanted to cry.
"What the hell have you been doing all this time?" she said.
"Making repairs to everything else that's broken on this tub," said Rodriguez, the backup chief engineer. Chief Engineer Carey was conspicuous by his absence. "And inspecting the system. The good news is, we can still get warp speed from the portside nacelle. Unfortunately, the starboard plasma injector is completely shot, so we'll have to run on one nacelle."
"Do you have a spare injector?" said Torres.
"No," said Rodriguez.
"Typical Starfleet," sneered Torres.
"The plasma injectors for an Intrepid class starship weigh twenty-six tons each," said Ensign Vorick. "It would not be practical to carry a spare, as installing it would require drydock facilities anyway."
Torres thought about the injectors on Val Jean, that were small enough for two strong men to wrestle into and out of place. If I had an engine like this..., she thought again.
"All right, what about the core itself?"
"There doesn't appear to be any cracking or spalling in the reaction chamber or the dilithium matrix," said Rodriguez. "And the antimatter injectors--"
"Forget it," said Carey. "The main antimatter constrictor valve is shot."
Torres rolled her eyes. The ACV weighed less than a kilogram and could be installed in fifteen minutes. "So replace it," she said.
"Right, I forgot. You're some dipshit Academy washout, while I'm a professional engineer, so obviously you know everything," said Carey. "I checked the cargo manifest. The spares were delivered to DS9 but they were never loaded on the ship. And we can't replicate the force field relays, so don't even ask."
Torres cursed in Klingon. Carey looked vaguely satisfied--obviously the kind of guy who preferred being right to being alive.
"Perhaps we can generate enough power with the impulse reactors to energize the warp coils," said Vorick.
"That might have worked if the Maquis hadn't blown one of them up," said Carey. "As it is, we can't generate enough electrical power with the impulse engines to cross the warp threshold, and we can't get the warp core back online. Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, we have about two hours left before this ship gets so hot we all die of heatstroke, so we can't hide down here much longer, either."
"It's such a simple part," said Torres.
For the first time, Carey seemed sympathetic. "Yeah, it is," he said. "Until it breaks and you don't have a replacement."
"Is there a spare on Val Jean?" said Rodriguez.
Torres shook her head. "I had to bypass it because the line kept choking. I control the antimatter flow from the tank end."
The three Starfleet engineers all looked appalled. "That's insane," said Carey. "If you have to shut your warp core down, you have to burn off all the antimatter in the fuel line first."
"Can we do that here?" said Rodriguez.
"It took me three days," said Torres. "Even with all the extra hands here, I don't know if you could do it."
"Well, we have to do something," said Rodriguez. He snapped his fingers and looked up. "Wait a minute. That guy Neelix--he makes his living raiding a junkyard. What if he has one?"
"What do you think the odds are that some civilization in the Delta Quadrant just so happens to use the same type of ACV as us, and that it happens to be floating in that particular junk field, and that hedgehog happens to have one?"
"Exceptionally poor," said Vorick. "However, given what we know about the Caretaker and this solar system, the odds are, the wrecks in that junkyard did not all originate from the Delta Quadrant."
Nobody said anything for a moment. Finally, Carey tapped his combadge. "Engineering to bridge."
"I didn't know you guys were still in the system," said Neelix. Torres, Carey, Rodriguez, and Vorick were sitting in on the call from a repeater screen in Engineering.
"We're having some mechanical problems still," said Janeway. "We were hoping you could help us out with a part."
"I'll see what I can do. What do you need?"
"We need an antimatter constrictor valve," said Carey.
Neelix frowned. "The Kazon don't leave me a lot of engine parts. I have everything on board cataloged; I'll let you go through it. Stand by."
"He's not going to have it," said Carey.
"You must be great at parties," said Torres.
A nearby computer panel *bleeped*. Neelix had transmitted his catalog over. Torres whistled; for a one-man operation, he was organized. Most of the parts had descriptions, which the computer dutifully translated, and pictures. She hoped it was indexed, too. "Computer," said Torres, "scan for any compatible ACVs."
The scan took less than a moment. "No compatible antimatter constrictor valves found," said the computer.
"Well, so much for that," said Rodriguez.
"Wait," said Torres. "Computer, find any ACVs."
Three of them flashed on the screen. One was so badly burnt she barely recognized it. The second was so alien she had to take the computer's word it was actually a constrictor.
The third was Cardassian. Torres yelped and pointed at the screen. "That one!"
Rodriguez looked. "That's a Cardassian valve."
"It'll work, though," said Torres. "I use spoon-head parts all the time."
"No it won't," said Carey. "Look at the damn connectors. We'll never get it to fit on our fuel line."
"Yes we can. If I can..." said Torres. "Captain Janeway, hail Val Jean." Oh God, please have the radio fixed.
"Hailing now," said Janeway.
"This is Chakotay. B'Elana, what's happening?"
"Chakotay, tell Seska I need my blueprint book. Transmit it to Voyager right away."
"What's going on?" said Rodriguez.
"Cardassians like to use a standard connecter design for all their antimatter lines," said Torres. "Just like the Federation."
"So?" said Carey.
"Seska's sending it over now," said Chakotay. "Stand by."
The computer *bleeped* again; Torres found a free PADD and opened the file. "Do the replicators down here work?" she said.
"Yes," said Vorick.
"Are you going to tell us what's going on or not?" said Carey.
"Shut up," said Torres. She looked around, spotted a replicator, and plugged in her PADD. A touch of a button later, and two pieces of what appeared to be finely machined brass materialized in the output tray. She held them up for the Starfleet engineers to see.
"Cardassian-to-Federation socket adapters," said Torres. "I designed them myself. They never touch the antimatter stream."
"Do they work?" said Carey. "Because if they don't and the valve leaks, it'll blow the ship apart."
"You want me to tell you how many times Val Jean's had the shit kicked out of her and these adapters have never failed? Besides, either we try these and we might die, or we sit here until the Kazon come and bomb us and we definitely die. Unless you have a better idea, this is it."
"The logic of her position seems inescapable, sir," said Vorick.
"Yeah," said Rodriguez. "I don't see any other choice."
"Engineering, what's going on down there?" said Janeway.
Carey tapped his combadge. "Captain, Neelix has the part."
Talaxian shuttle Baxial
Neelix cut off the channel to Voyager and started prepping his ship for warp. He was trying to figure out how much he would charge Janeway for the part--running back to Ocampa when there were angry Kazons in the system would cost a lot more than a bath. Maybe some of their guns--he'd seen a security goon carrying one. They were shaped funny and they didn't seem to have trigger guards, but he was sure they were powerful. "I wonder how much a collector would pay for one," he said. He patted the alien ACV sitting on his passenger seat.
Neelix had his course charted and his warp core warmed up. "All right," he said. He pushed the "go" button.
All the lights on the control panel went out.
"Oh hell," he said. "Blew another motivator. Knew I shouldn't have used cheap ones." At least Baxial's cabin sat above the ship's small fusion-powered warp core, for easy repair access. He pulled up the access plate, yanked out the bad part, and was reaching in his parts cabinet for a spare when somebody shot his ship.
"Looks like Torres might have fixed their engine," said Chakotay. "Turns out there was a Cardassian valve sitting on board Neelix's ship."
Seska was still trying to test and calibrate the new sensors. "That's good to hear. Do we need to...oh, shit."
"What?" said Chakotay.
"Three Kazon scouts just showed up in the junk field. They're firing. They're...I think they're broadcasting something."
"On speakers," said Chakotay.
"...of the Kazon Ogla. You're under arrest for abetting enemies of the Ogla Sect and the Grand Maj. Heave to and prepare to be boarded."
Everyone looked to Chakotay, like they always did. He didn't hesitate.
"A'sha, lay in a course, maximum warp. Battlestations."
Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves…We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.--Ada Louise Huxtable, "Farewell to Penn Station", New York Times editorial, 30 October 1963X-Ray Blues