The Antares Maelstrom by Greg Cox

The Antares Maelstrom by Greg Cox

Author:Greg Cox
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek


Eighteen

Baldur III

“The sooner we wean you off this creaky old rust bucket the better.”

Montgomery Scott barely remembered his quarters back on the Enterprise. He had been practically living in the Thunderbird, trying to keep the rickety refurbished spacecraft up and running. It was well into the night shift and he slugged down a cup of coffee, wishing he had something a wee bit stronger to spike it with, as he conferred with the power plant’s manager, Paul Galligan, in an administrative office just off the main control room. The blueprints for a new hydroelectric generator, currently being constructed in the hills outside town, were displayed on a desktop terminal before them. Scotty hoped that this and other such projects would soon get Jackpot City to the point where they could take Thunderbird offline for good.

“Someday perhaps,” Galligan said. He was a middle-aged family man whose job had become much more demanding in recent months. Worry lines creased his face, while Scotty was pretty sure he had been wearing the same ratty wool sweater for days now. “But that generator won’t be operational for weeks at best, unless we cut some pretty serious corners.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Scott said sternly. “You’re going to build that thing, you build it right or you’re just asking for heartache down the road.” He glanced around at his surroundings. “One jury-rigged time bomb is quite enough, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“Oh, you’ve made your opinion of this operation quite clear,” Galligan said, shrugging, “and I’ll concede that getting our power supply from Thunderbird’s old engine room is more of a matter of necessity than preference. As for the hydroelectric plant, I suppose we could try to throw more people and resources at the project, although I’m not entirely sure where we’d get them from.”

“Aye, there’s the rub.” Scott was torn between making Thunderbird as safe as possible and helping the colony develop viable alternatives in a timely fashion. The truth was, he ought to concentrate on both, but there was never enough time or people to get it all done, especially if he wanted to keep the Enterprise adequately staffed as well. Lieutenant Charlene Masters was currently minding engineering in his absence, but he was reluctant to pull any more technicians away from her to assist him planetside. “We’d be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“Hard to know what to prioritize,” Galligan agreed. “In the meantime, and you’re not going to like this, we’ve been requested to increase our output by another nine percent.”

Scott nearly spit out his coffee. “Are ye out of your mind? We should be scaling down, not ramping up!”

“I don’t like the idea either,” Galligan said, “but demand keeps increasing faster than we can keep up with. You’ve got the new expansion at the spaceport, which is now operating around the clock; new computers and offices being set to process mining claims and disputes; temporary housing for all the new arrivals . . . all of that requires additional energy, beyond what we’re already producing.



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