~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
From her desk in the Assistant Engineer’s corner office, Mary Donovan saw someone exit the impulse drive bay. It wasn’t any one she recognized, but whoever it was, they were out of uniform. It was one of the ensign’s pet peeves; the chief engineer might not give a flying-flip about that sort of stuff, but to a Star Fleet brat like Ensign Donovan, a well-run ship began with a self-disciplined crew. Until two days ago, she wasn’t getting the support she needed from Chief O’Hara. Thank God, she rejoiced, they finally had someone deserving in the center seat. It was going to be a long road, but she was sure the new commander would turn things around on the ship.
Donovan got up and walked to the open door. Her first question in her head of ‘who was that’ was replaced with ‘where is everybody?’ There were only two engine techs on-duty. She expected a half-dozen or more Boatswains and specialists working on various routine maintenance issues. Lord knows, there was enough to do. Before she left, Commander Gonzales let a lot of things slide, including requests for spare parts and other supplies. While at Star Base, Donovan filed emergency requisition forms to fill a six-month back-log. The exec wasn’t happy the way she jumped the chain of command, but she was too used to his wrath to care.
She walked out into the control room. Looking around, she saw a small repair project scattered about on the table, and some of the tool lockers were not closed properly. What a mess. She began to ask the petty officers what was going on when she noticed the bridge relay screen. “We’re off course,” she stated. Then she noticed something else. “We’re being followed.”
As the ensign reached to the intercom button, she failed to notice one of the petty officers had removed his gloves. He was a member of a minor species within the United Federation of Planets, a people that was known for two things: they are considered rather unattractive by most other humanoids, and their ability to generate an electrical discharge, much like some eels on Earth. Before she knew what happened, he grabbed her by the forearm with one hand and the back of the neck with the other. Her eyes rolled back into her head as she slumped to the floor.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
McKendrey found that going down the tight shaft was not as easy as going up. It was made for plumbing, electrical conduits, and ventilation ductwork, not for people. There were no lights, and the ladder was intended only for crew performing repairs with proper safety equipment. As he moved down past main engineering, he heard a short yelp of pain. He continued climbing down. He had three viable exit points. The easiest was on Deck Seven, into the trash compactor near the mess hall. A funny thought popped into his head: he didn’t have a little robot friend to get him out of trouble if someone should activate the press. It was an antique, but he loved that movie. Stephanie Tillman introduced it to him and his troops.
His foot slipped. He had to force stray thoughts out of his head, but not before wondering why he thought of her as by her first name and not as ‘Ensign.’ He reached Deck Six and wiggled his way out, being extra careful not to put any weight on the plumbing leading the bio-waste treatment system. The engineer’s jacket he was wearing was filthy, so he stripped it off and left it behind. Quickly, he retraced his steps back through the still-vacant common areas to the next-forward set of stairs. He climbed up one flight to Deck Five. He felt the turbolift cars moving.
He poked his head around the corner and saw the corridor was clear, then sprinted the thirty meters to the public restroom near the ‘neck’ of the ship where the forward and aft hull sections joined. It felt like the turbolift was going to stop just a couple meters ahead, so he ducked into the restroom. He heard the turbolift door open, followed by a gruff voice say, “Don’t worry, boss. It’s only one guy. We’ll get him.” Whoever these guys were, they weren’t cops.
The police force only had two classes of ships: a few hundred cutters and several dozen flagships. There wasn’t a cop in uniform that hadn’t served on a cutter. Cops knew their ship better than the backs of their own hands; they trained constantly in various emergency scenarios, mainly dealing with escaped prisoners and repelling boarding parties. Whoever these guys were, they didn’t know standard search procedures.
McKendrey waited until he heard them enter one of the crew quarters before making his move. It was fifteen meters to the forensics lab, and another fifteen meters to his goal, the astrophysics lab. He heard the search team behind exit a room behind him, so he was forced to stop for cover in the forensics lab. There was one person, a Rigellian female wearing an Ensign’s uniform, in the room. “Who are you? What’s going on?” she demanded.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
Chief Engineer Sammilaarote, otherwise known has Lieutenant Sam to the crew, stepped out of his office just in time to see his assistant approach the duty technicians. He knew by the now-too-familiar look on her face that she was ready “to rip somebody a new one,” to use her own words. Inwardly, he sighed. His people, for the most part, did not believe in direct confrontation. He tried to teach her the power of quiet persuasion. Before he could interrupt her, she said something, and then one of the enlisted used his electrical powers to knock her out. Sam back-peddled into his room and hit the lock button as the door closed.
He hit the alarm button, but nothing happened. He grabbed the mechanical locking bar and forced it into place. Next, he moved to his desk and tried the intercom, only to find that it too had been disabled. He could hear someone attacking the door with power tools. It was only a matter of time before they forced their way in. He would have to surrender. But first, he had to protect the ship.
Sam moved the keyboard to the side of his desk, reached under the desktop to press in a certain spot a certain way. A panel opened to reveal a little lever. He pulled on it, and a panel opened where his keyboard had been on the desk top. He removed a chain from around his neck. He took the command key and inserted it into the slot. He twisted it one-quarter turn to the right, then typed a six-digit code on the small keypad, and then pushing down hard he twisted the key one-half turn the opposite direction. It clicked. He typed in another six-digit code. A discreet yellow light winked on beside the intercom. Sam closed the lid, replaced the keyboard, and pushed the chair back under the desk. The Gendarme
’s chief engineer walked to the door and opened it to accept his fate.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
“It looks like a mutiny, Ma’am”, McKendrey told the ensign. She looked panicked. “They have half the crew tied up in the gymnasium. I didn’t see any of the officers, though. How did you escape?” He didn’t trust her. How could he?
“Escape? I’ve been here all morning, catching up on reports,” she indicated to the computer screen on a desk. “What do we do now?”
McKendrey walked over to a control station in front of a large wall-mounted view screen. “Do you have full access to the ship’s sensors from here like they do in the astrophysics lab?”
“No, not really. We can do some of what they do. Why? What do you have planned?”
“I’m going to send a message,” he explained, “and I should be able to access the internal sensor grid to locate everyone. Maybe I can still send the ....” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the object she held, some sort of pry bar. She wielded it like a bat aimed for his head.
The Marine had just enough time to reflexively raise his shoulder to take the brunt of the attack. Still, she rang his bell pretty good. She reared back for another go, but he was faster. He grew up being taught to never hit a lady, but if she was trying to bash his brains in, she was no lady. He hit her with a right-cross to the jaw, followed up with a pair of quick jabs with the left, and finished with another right fist that smashed her nose. She dropped to the floor in a heap. He staggered to the controls, shook his head and felt for blood. He had a goose-egg of a lump, but no blood. Stupid. He knew he couldn’t trust her.
He looked the control panel over and tried to recall the demonstration that Lieutenant Dupree and Crewman Page gave him and his team. It took about two minutes to figure out how to do what he wanted. He set the command on a sixty-second time delay and exited the lab.
Hearing footsteps down the hall, he ran to the astrophysics lab. There he accessed the ship’s internal sensors. Whoever these people were, they didn’t have a sensor tech amongst them. If they had, he would have been captured before he crawled out of that plumbing stack. Good fortune had smiled on him thus far. According to the sensors, there were people approaching the lab from both the port and starboard corridors. Both exits were blocked. There was a third way out, but it was almost never used.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~