“Everything just suddenly became all right,” Tarlazzi reported to Limis.
The captain convened a meeting of the senior most engineers on duty. Tarlazzi and petty officer Margose were those engineers with Charles Logan, Shinar sh’Aqba and some of the engineering staff on special assignment for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. “If I understand starship operations correctly,” Limis half-sarcastically replied, “the entire antimatter containment system doesn’t just suddenly crash out of the blue. That system has seven magnetic safety interlocks to prevent that.”
“We just got lucky I guess,” Margose offered. “What’s suspicious is that a highly set of circumstances would need to take place even with the gel pack overhaul taking place, and then we were saved in the nick of time.
“You’re right, I don’t buy that all these problems repaired themselves,” Limis insisted. The eerie quiet from the absences of first officer Ronnie Kozar and second officer Mandel Morrison, who were assigned to convoy duty along the Klingon border, was almost lulling her half to sleep. Looking to Tellarite Ensign Goris M’Rev, she said, “Mister M’Rev, could the proximity to the Briar Patch also be a factor?”
“The metreon pockets cause disruptions to subspace,” M’Rev explained. “External subspace communications and warp drive are the most affected.”
“We can’t afford to overlook anything,” Limis replied. “We’ll be rejoining the Seventh Fleet in a week. Keep a close eye on any possible future glitches. Dismissed.”
The three crewmen filed out. Once the door leading to the side corridor closed, Limis tapped her combadge. “Lieutenant Ra Hoth,” she called. “Report to my ready room in five minutes.”
Tirren Ra Hoth, a Triexian serving as acting chief of security in Morrison’s absence, waited in the ready room for the captain as ordered. Limis quickly paced into the office and took a seat behind the desk. She accessed the engineering duty roster for the gamma shift on the monitor and entered a command to download that file to a padd.
“I’ll come right to the point, Lieutenant,” Limis said while the download was in progress. “We have a saboteur on board.”
“Based on this near disaster?” Ra Hoth asked, taking a seat in one of the guest chairs.”
“Too many variables don’t add up. The warp core doesn’t come close to breaching and suddenly become all right at the very last nanosecond.”
Limis then handed Ra Hoth the padd with the fully downloaded file. “This is the engineering duty roster,” she said. “Per Starfleet protocol, the chief of security is to question everyone who was on duty at the time. But be discreet. I don’t want the whole ship knowing we have a saboteur.”
“How do you expect to keep this on the down low? Even if you have the science and engineering departments investigating those other possibilities, they’ll eventually come to the same conclusion you have.”
“Let me worry about that. You just do your job. Besides, this is a relatively unexplored sector of space full of endless mysteries. That should keep Tarlazzi and the others busy.”
Ra Hoth stood up and headed for the door. He stopped and looked back at the desk. “A former colleague of mine once said one of the privileges of being a starship captain is you get to keep some things to yourself,” he stated. “But there is an old Triexian saying. Lack of evidence is often evidence of a conspiracy. You may be stoking the paranoia you hope to avoid.”
“Carry on with the investigation, Mister Ra Hoth.”
“State your name, rank, and position,” Ra Hoth requested of Margose in the security office.
“Chief Petty Officer Willem Margose,” the Betazoid engineer confidently answered, “maintenance engineer.”
“And what are your responsibilities?”
“Maintaining dilithium, obviously,” Tarlazzi half-heartedly responded. “What is the point of these questions?”
“I am following protocol. Your sarcasm could be construed as subterfuge.”
“Construed as, but not proof of guilt.”
“I am not suggesting that you deliberately caused the system malfunctions. But when a problem of this magnitude occurs, then at the very least, someone acted improperly.”
“You believe me incompetent because I was Maquis,” grumbled Saul Mavik, the Bajoran technician on duty at the time disaster was averted.
“I did not intend to suggest that. I am attempting to learn how such a highly improbable set of circumstances took place. And you were manning the matter-antimatter conversion monitor when containment began to collapse.”
“Again, I am not specifically accusing anyone. What were you doing?”
“I discovered a misalignment in the articulation frame,” the technician answered with a sigh. “I downloaded a set of technical specifications into my tricorder to refer to when I went to fix the problem. Starfleet technology is very complex. I was doing my job. That is hardly a crime.”
“Of course not,” Ra Hoth calmly answered. “Your resistance to answering my questions does suggest you have something to hide.”
“Can I assume you view a lot of 21st Century Earth crime dramas where the most argumentative suspect is guilty?”
“That is often the case, but not always. But I have to ask that you swallow your pride and answer my questions as truthfully as you can.”
Saul Mavik later crawled through a Jeffries’ tube on the lowest deck of the secondary hull. He entered a corridor that ended with a nearby hull breach incurred from the last skirmish. The crimson gases of the nearby Briar Patch had a certain beauty that could not be appreciated looking at them on a stellar cartography monitor. The imagery was also scary even knowing that as long as a forcefield was in place, he was in danger of meeting gruesome death.
An arm grabbed both of Saul’s shoulders. Kelsen Daron, an older Bajoran man with graying brown hair, dressed in a Bajoran militia uniform pulled Saul into an empty storage locker. “I told you not to cause a near warp core breach just yet,” he growled. “You’ve already aroused suspicion.”
“At least the security officer thinks it was a result of incompetence at best,” Saul replied calmly. “They do not believe they have a saboteur aboard yet. But we have to move up our plans.”
“No!” the other Bajoran officer whispered loudly and emphatically. “Not without the proper equipment. But we should improvise. Come to my quarters on the starbase when your shift is over.”
Kelsen’s combadge chirped. “Lenaris to Kelsen,” his superior called.
“Kelsen here,” he replied tapping his combadge.
“Where the hell are you, Major?” Lenaris demanded. “The next meeting is about to start.”
“Sorry, sir. There was a mix up about the time.”
Limis sat in her ready room, sipping a raktajino
while engaging in some recreational reading. Morrison had suggested the stories of fictional Earth detective Dixon Hill. She found “The Big Goodbye” to be an intriguing story of murder, scandal and treachery. The narrative was difficult to understand, especially since the characters spoke a bizarre dialect of Federation Standard.
A thumping noise in the ceiling caught her attention. She looked up, but the noise subsided. Maybe it was nothing. Looking back at the padd, she heard the thump again. “Hello?” she called out.
Limis reached into a drawer behind the desk and grabbed a phaser. She stood up pointing the weapon at the ceiling. Some gold gelatinous material began spilling out of a hole in the ceiling. Immediately knowing that this was the remains of a Changeling, she tapped her combadge. “Security to captain’s ready room,” she called out.