Test to Destruction, Part One


By Tommyhawk1@aol.com

*
Paris walked with Hal down the corridors towards the holodeck. They got to the holodeck and Paris stopped. Hal did too, puzzled. "What is it, Papa?"
*
Paris looked at his son, at the black hair and skin that reminded him so much of Chakotay, but those eyes were blue, his eyes. He smiled. "I just wanted to say 'good luck.'"
*
"You're not supposed to be talking to me right now." Hal reminded him. "I'm a Starfleet cadet and you're my teacher at the moment."
*
"I know that, Hal, I just...never mind." Paris sighed. His son had such a funny sense of the rightness about such things. And Hal was right, he wasn't supposed to be doing anything right now but acting like a teacher, and a hard-nosed one, too. "Let's get inside."
*
And they walked into the holodeck.
*
"Captain on the bridge." Chakotay announced. "Lieutenant Paris, take your station."
*
"Aye, aye, sir." Paris said. Easy to see where Hal gets it, he thought at he sat at the pilot's console.
*
"Status, Commander?" Hal asked in a thin voice. Just enough stress behind that voice to know that Hal was nervous about this, after all. Good; Paris had fretted how calmly Hal had been acting about this test.
*
"All systems operational." Chakotay reported.
*
"Course." Hal snapped out.
*
Paris punched the keys to change the forward viewer to a tactical display. "Course laid in for the Altair colony." he reported. "Our course will bring us within half a light year of the Neutral Zone."
*
"Any Romulan ships in the area?" Hal asked without batting an eyelash. He had never known Romulans except as figures in programs from Voyager's databanks.
*
"None we can detect." Paris reported. "The Altairan Nebula is interfering with our scanning abilities."
*
"Maintain course to avoid the Neutral Zone." Hal ordered. "Enhanced scanning for any motion on either side of the Neutral Zone."
*
"Aye, aye, Captain." Paris responded. Play it straight, that's how they told you in the books. He remembered his first test. Damn it, it'd been rough enough for him, running the Command Test. They never tell you until it's over that there is never a way to win this test, you're never even told it's purpose until well after you are done with it, and agonizing over the deaths under your command, and the utter failure of your mission. A fucking character test. And Dad had let him wonder what he'd done to foul up for six months before admitting it to him.
*
Then you're sworn to secrecy about it, ever afterwards, even given medical hypnosis to bind the secret. No cadet must ever learn prior to the Command Test that he is being tested for character, not his skills on bridge. Even Hal, for all his perusing of the databanks, would never have learned this.
*
They'd had some trouble finding the proper Command Test for Hal. He'd done so much reading that they feared he had broken the integrity of all the usual tests. They'd had to reach back an entire century to find the old "Kobiyashi Maru" test. Paris and B'Elanna had done some heavy modifications on that program to make it adapt to Voyager's specifications. And still be an unwinnable situation, naturally.
*
Hal was too young for a character test of this caliber! But it was in the cadet rules; he had to pass it to move on to advanced training.
*
His fake control console beeped at him. "Entering the Altairan Nebula." he reported. "Long-range scanners are now off-line."
*
"Steady as she goes, Helm."
*
"Aye, aye, sir." But damn it, Hal was only six years old! Okay, he'd be seven next month, but that's still too young to foist off an utter and complete failure onto him. And the deaths, even though only computer data. They weighed on you, heavily. Paris felt the small pack of fake blood hidden under false skin on his forehead and grimaced.
*
Paris was so busy stewing that he almost missed Harry's report. "Distress signal!"
*
"On screen!" Hal ordered.
*
Paris listened to the distress call, broken by static, barely only the vessel's name coming through. As it ended, Tuvok reported on the Kobiyashi Maru's complement of 108 passengers and crew. Defenseless and under attack inside the Neutral Zone.
*
Hal's response was almost de rigeur. "Set course for the Kobiyashi Maru's last known position."
*
Then he said. "Weapons, program three photon torpedoes to modulate in the frequencies of 75 megacycles, 120 megacycles and 180 megacycles. Then load them for immediate deployment upon my command, sequential firing only."
*
"Aye, aye." came a computer-generated voice. Paris exchanged a startled glance with Chakotay. What was Hal doing?
*
He further baffled them with his next order. "Computer, program the deflector array to emit a wide-beam multi-phasic ionization pulse. Initiate when ready."
*
"Acknowledged." came the computer's voice.
*
"May I ask the Captain's plan?" Chakotay said as they continued on, the screen giving off only multi-colored lights and static.
*
"Watch what happens to the nebula when we fire that ionization pulse." Hal said.
*
"Ionization pulse ready." the computer replied.
*
"Initiate."
*
"Initiating."
*
And the nebula dispersed in front of them! Driven by the ionization beam emitted by the deflector array, they were carving a wide path through the nebula, like boring a hole in soft clay.
*
"Ensign Kim, report any divergences in the waves of the nebular flux."
*
"Divergences?"
*
"Swirls, like it's having to go around something." Hal said, exasperated.
*
"Affirmative." Kim paused. "Divergences...are at...thirty-seven Mark fifty-four, forty-seven Mark one hundred twelve and...fifteen Mark seventy-two.
*
"On screen, multi-panel display."
*
The areas showed, and they each showed a clear Klingon Warbird configuration. "Romulans." Hal said with satisfaction. "No other divergences, Ensign Kim?"
*
"None." Kim reported.
*
"Then it was a Romulan trap. There is no Kobiyashi Maru." Hal said. "Helm, get us out of here, stat."
*
"Aye, aye." Paris said. He turned the ship in a tight circle and they headed back through the rift in the nebula.
*
"Warbirds on intercept course!" Kim reported.
*
"Weapons, fire the altered photon torpedoes. One at a time, proximity explosions, on my command only."
*
"Aye, aye." Weapons reported matter-of-factly. It was completely computer generated, so it didn't bear any of the consternation of the bridge members. "Torpedo Number One fired."
*
"On screen." Hal ordered.
*
The photon torpedo dove into the nebula and a burst occurred near the nearest Warbird. And the Romulan ship involved promptly stopped dead in its tracks!
*
"What have you done?" Chakotay asked. Belatedly, "Sir?"
*
"Shut their computers down with an electromagnetic burst." Hal said, as if the answer was obvious. "They'll have it back on-line in about ninety seconds, but by then, we'll be out of here."
*
"If the other two don't catch us." Chakotay pointed out. "They'll increase their shields to avoid the electromagnetic bursts."
*
"Yes, but Romulan shields, if they behave like I think they do with their cloaking abilities, can only modulate on certain frequencies. Wouldn't you step to the next nearest frequency to keep yourself cloaked?"
*
"I...guess so." Chakotay said.
*
"Fire second photon torpedo."
*
Paris watched as the second one exploded near the Romulan Warbird. Again, it slowed down and stopped.
*
The third one stopped as well, too far away to catch them on this side of the Neutral Zone.
*
"Leaving the Neutral Zone." Paris reported. "Now clear of the Altairan Nebula."
*
"Steady as she goes, Helm." Hal said.
*
"Aye, aye, Captain." Paris said.
*
They gave up and shut down the test when they entered orbit around the Altair colony.
*

* * * * *

*
Captain Janeway was waiting outside the holodeck when they opened the arch. "Dismissed, Cadet." she told Hal. "Everyone else, stay where you are."
*
"Yes, Captain." Hal saluted her.
*
"Well done, Cadet." Janeway frowned at him.
*
"Thank you, Captain." Hal walked out and as the door shut, they heard him, barely, go, "Yahoo!"
*
"Explanations." Janeway demanded of them.
*
"Captain, I don't know what to say." B'Elanna stuttered. "He succeeded. No loss of life, no damage to the ship, no permanent damage to the Romulans, even."
*
"We should have put a real ship in there." Paris said. "Rescuing them would have given the Romulans time to attack us despite his photon torpedoes."
*
"I want to know why you didn't calculate for the use of the photon torpedoes in that fashion?" Janeway wanted to know.
*
"We...just didn't think of it." B'Elanna admitted. "Captain, we can set up another test for him."
*
"On what grounds?" Janeway asked. "Starfleet regulations state that the cadet must take the Command Test once, and only once, unless he petitions for a retest in the event of failure. Nothing in the regulations for the Command Test say you can force a successful candidate to take it over again."
*
"Then what do we do?" Paris asked. "He just finished his final tests and is ready to be posted to a starship. And we only have one starship to post him on."
*
"I'm aware of that." Janeway said. "So we're faced with the likelihood of a Starfleet officer taking command some day without any foreknowledge of how he'll behave in a crisis situation."
*
"Yes, Captain." Paris said.
*
"Well.... Order Cadet Paris to bridge duty. I'll put him on my shift and see how he makes out. We'll start him off at Tactical, he has the highest marks there."
*
"He has perfect scores on all the bridge stations." Paris pointed out, not without a good deal of satisfaction.
*
"Don't remind me." Janeway said. "I'm not pleased here. You can't know whether someone is fit for command until you know their limits. We don't know Cadet Paris' limits yet. I just hope we can find out some day without him being put in the command chair on a badly damaged ship."
*
And she stormed out.
*
"Whoo!" Paris said as the door closed. "That was a trip."
*
"He passed the Command Test on his first try." Kim was in awe. "With a perfect score. Nobody ever gets a perfect score on the Command Test."
*
"They do now." Paris said. "That's my boy we're talking about!"
*
"You're being quiet." B'Elanna said to Chakotay.
*
"Hm?" Chakotay turned around. "Oh, I was just thinking. When we had Hal, I could visualize him on the bridge with me, us traveling the stars together. But it never occurred to me that when we did, he'd be the one giving orders to me, not the other way around!"
*
"You and I can practice saluting him tonight. Let's go get some lunch." Paris said. "I'm starved!"
*

* * * * *

*
In the Mess Hall, Hal was the center of attention. "I don't see why everyone says the Command Test was so hard." Hal was bragging. "The minute I knew of the nebula's presence, I knew how to see any Romulans hanging around. And there were going to be Romulans around with a Federation ship broadcasting a distress signal strong enough to make it out of the nebula as well as that one did. So I just set up a few photon torpedoes for the Romulans and the deflector array...oh, hello, Daddy! Papa! Uncle Harry, Aunt B'Elanna! Come on over, I was just talking them about the Command Test! I did pretty good, didn't I?"
*
"Yep." Paris said. "Pretty good."
*
"Very good." B'Elanna agreed cautiously.
*
"Extremely good." Harry said with the same tone.
*
"I think it's safe to say you passed the test." Chakotay concluded. "No doubt about that, at least."
*
"He passed the test?" Ensign Galloway asked, wide-eyed.
*
"Yes." Paris made the comment as noncommital as he could, warning Galloway not to spill the beans on the true test just yet.
*
"He passed? He really passed it?"
*
"Naturally." Paris said. "Cadets pass the Command Test you know. It'd be silly to have a test nobody could pass, now wouldn't it?" He stressed the last two words while staring significantly at the ensigns around Hal.
*
"Uh, sure." Galloway got the message as did the others, they dispersed.
*
"So, now what do I do, Lieutenant Torres?" Hal asked. "I get posted to bridge duty now, right?"
*
"Yep." B'Elanna said. "Captain wants you on her shift, at Tactical. Show up at 0830 tomorrow morning, Cadet Paris. Or should I say, Acting Ensign Paris?"
*
"I feel like celebrating." Hal said. "Can we replicate some ice cream for desert?"
*
"Sure, Hal." Paris said. "In fact, ice cream for everybody! The whole house! We're celebrating. Neelix, if you'll do the honors."
*
"You're going to bankrupt us." Chakotay said under the general joviality that prevailed at that moment.
*
"Who cares! Our son is now a passed cadet. And he's not even seven years old yet." Paris paused. "You know, I think I'd better put some rum in our ice cream. A strong shot of rum."
*
"Make that two." Chakotay agreed. "Tomorrow's going to be a very busy day."
*
"Yeah."
*
And they stood there regarding their prodigal child.
*

END OF PART ONE

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Test to Destruction,Conclusion