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Old December 12 2013, 09:08 PM   #40
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Re: The Star Eagle Adventures V: Shadows in the Haze

- IV –

Main engineering was a hive of activity much more so than usual. Starfleet personnel and civilian engineers were coordinating the construction of the sensor array from here and given the limited time they had until the shields would no longer protect them from the nebula’s radiation, things had to proceed on a tight schedule.

This was one of the reasons Nora Laas had begrudgingly agreed to carry out follow up interviews with the last people who had seen Lieutenant Gedar right here in their workplace instead of asking them to come up to the security office.

She did her best to stay out of the way of those men and women rushing back and forth doing their jobs and thanks to her mustard-uniform shirt she didn’t look much out of place here.

The same could not be said for Alex Clancy.

“So sorry, coming through,” he said apologetically after bumping into at least two crewmembers carrying heavy equipment, both aiming the assistant counselor annoyed looks.

Nora smirked. “Very smooth, Counselor.”

“Dodging people is not exactly one of my strength, I’m afraid,” he said as he joined the security chief in one of the few quiet corners of the engineering room.

“That’s right, you have other skills.”

He smiled at that. “Is that a compliment? Are you actually coming to appreciate my assistance in this investigation?”

“Jury still out on that,” she shot back with a smirk. “What do you have?”

He held her bemused look for a moment before bringing up his padd. “Chief Petty Officer Telrik confirmed that Gedar returned to engineering at 2322 hours from his meeting with Hopkins, Colcord and Professor Rosenthal.”

“That’s pretty precise.”

“What do you expect from a Vulcan? But here is something interesting. Telrik says that he returned with Lieutenant Hopkins, the two of them appeared to be in the middle of a heated conversation before she returned to her meeting. Now Hopkins did not mention any of this when we talked to her.”

Nora found their chief engineer talking to some of her people near the warp core. She noticed the security chief made brief eye contact but then quickly turned away again to continue her discussion with her engineers. “He just got kicked out of a meeting with a high profile Federation scientist, I’m sure she had words for him afterwards.”

“You don’t find it suspicious she didn’t mention this?”

The Bajoran considered Clancy again. “It probably slipped her mind, it was a routine conversation with a member of her staff. What else did Telrik say?”

Clancy did not look convinced but considering how sensitive she had turned out to be when he had suspected her friend before, he clearly decided to shelve that particular point for now. “Things get even better,” he said and referred back to his padd. “According to Telrik, Kolrami ordered him and McPhee to recalibrate the plasma injectors and they both left him and Gedar alone in engineering at 2327 hours.”

Nora nodded. “McPhee confirmed this?”

“You’re missing the crucial point,” said Clancy. “Kolrami ordered them to leave engineering to carry out these repairs which were not part on the maintenance schedule for that night.”

“Alright,” she said, “so maybe he felt it was a good time to overhaul those injectors.”

Clancy raised his eyebrows. “On the same day they started working on constructing a sensor array which has to be completed within ten days?”

But Nora wasn’t paying attention any more. Instead she had found somebody else in the crowd of engineers who had caught her interest. “I don’t think Kolrami is on duty right now,” she said absent-mindedly. “We’ll talk to him tomorrow. There’s somebody else here I want to speak with,” she added and already moved off.

“Who is that?” he said but then quickly found who she was talking to. Nora was heading across the room and right towards Charlie Colcord.

Clancy sighed and followed only to bump right into another engineer. “I’m so sorry.”

“Miss Colcord?” Nora said as she approached the woman, who somehow managed to hold three padds, two in one hand, one squeezed in under her armpit and still had one hand free to type away at a computer console. “Do you have a minute?”

She responded without turning to see who had approached her. “No, not really.”

“That’s too bad,” said Nora and stepped up her. “Seeing that I have a few more questions.”

“Lieutenant,” she said when she shot her a brief glance. “Can’t this wait, I’m in a middle of something here?”

“We can talk here and now or you can come to the security office,” she deadpanned. “Your choice.”

Colcord stopped what she was doing and turned to look at the Bajoran. “You do realize what we are trying to do here, don’t you, Lieutenant?”

She nodded. “You’re doing important work for the war effort, whereas I’m just trying to solve a simple murder. I suppose I can see how you would not consider that particularly important work.”

“I was not implying—“

She didn’t let her talk. “I do hope that you caught the captain’s announcement earlier. The one about cooperating with the investigation.”

“I did,” she said sharply, getting agitated by the tone and demeanor of the security officer. “And I’m happy to do so to the best of my abilities but I cannot see why this can’t wait until we’re done with our project here.”

“Because we have a murderer running around on this ship who could strike again at any time if we don’t find her first.”

Her eyes widened. “You know the killer was a woman?”

Clancy, who had joined the two after having managed to navigate his way across the room without inciting a riot, aimed the security chief an astonished look at her deliberate use of the pronoun.

“I’m leaning that way, yes,” Nora said and looked Colcord straight in the eye.

The intense look actually caused her to drop that padd that she had squeezed under her arm. “Now wait just a minute. You can’t be seriously considering that I had anything—“

“Miss Colcord, if we could just have a couple of minutes of your time to clarify a few questions we have, I promise we’ll be out of your hair in no time,” Clancy said, putting on his friendliest smile in an obvious effort to calm the situation.

It worked and she nodded slowly.

“Let’s go over there,” Clancy said and pointed at an area behind the bright pulsating warp core which appeared devoid of heavy traffic.

Colcord began to walk over to the indicated spot while Clancy threw Nora another look. “Very smooth, Lieutenant,” he whispered.

Nora just shrugged her shoulders.

“What do you want to know?” Colcord said as soon as they had gotten out of earshot of most of the people in engineering and its noisy surroundings replaced instead by the low, pulsating hum of the warp core chamber.

Eagle wasn’t your first choice for this mission, was she?” Nora said.

The engineer looked confused. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Nora looked at her padd. “In fact only two days after you learned that Starfleet Command had assigned Eagle to your mission, you made a case to Admiral Throl to make another ship available instead.”

Colcord sighed. “The Nebula-class starship design has certain limitations which do not lend themselves to a mission of this particular nature,” she said. “We’ve made it work but it may have been an easier job on another vessel.”

“Right,” said Nora unconvinced. “According to Captain Owens you spoke to Captain Donners about the possibility of staying onboard Agamemnon to carry out the mission of constructing the array instead of transferring to Eagle, didn’t you?”

She didn’t seem to want to answer that one. “I may have had a conversation with her about it. I really don’t see—“

“Now here is what I find interesting,” said Nora and studied her padd. “The Starship Design Bureau defines the mission objectives for the Nebula-class among others to, and I quote, ‘provide a mobile platform for testing and implementation of mission-specific or new technology of any kind.’ Now the Agamemnon is an Akira-class starship which is sometimes classified as a tactical cruiser and has no such provision listed in its objectives,” she said and looked up again. “So explain to me how exactly Agamemnon would have been the better choice for this mission?”

“I … look,” she said, clearly exasperated now. “Everyone knows those objectives are pretty much interchangeable in today’s Starfleet.”

Nora smiled. “You’re probably right and you’re the engineer so you must know about these things better than I do. But I find it odd that if these objectives are really interchangeable why you would be so eager to insist that Eagle was not the right ship for this mission?”

The questioned left her flustered.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with the ship,” Nora said. “I think it has something to do with the crew.”

“That’s nonsense.”

The Bajoran checked her padd again. “You didn’t tell us that you knew Gedar before coming on board.”

“Because I didn’t.”

Nora looked her right in the eye with a little twinkle as if she had just caught her out in an obvious lie. “Even though you were both in the same Starfleet Academy year?”

“There have to be thousands of cadets in a year, Lieutenant.”

“Oh yes,” she said and nodded. “And granted back when I was in San Francisco I barely knew a quarter of the people in my year,” she admitted. “But I tell you what, if somebody had shared three classes with me, I was sure to have know them by name.”

That left her speechless. She turned away to face the warp core, placing both her hands on the bright red railing surrounding the pit. Then, as if remembered how how Gedar had been killed, she quickly removed her hands again and took a step backwards. She uttered a heavy sigh. “Okay, so I knew Gedar at the Academy,” she finally said without turning. “That was a long time ago.”

“And that’s why you didn’t want to come on Eagle?” said Clancy. “You had a history with him, didn’t you?”

She had crossed her arms and her eyes were cast downward but she kept her backs to the two investigators. “Yes.”

Clancy noticed the beaming and triumphant smile on Nora’s face as if to say that she didn’t need him or anyone else to help her solve this case. That she was perfectly capable to dig her way to the truth herself.

“That’s a detail you probably should have told us about,” he said. “You appreciate that this makes you a prime suspect.”

She practically whirled around. “I didn’t kill him,” she said a little too forcefully and then quickly looked over her shoulder to see if anyone had overheard her. “Yes, I was stupid enough to get fooled by his fake charm and honey-dripping words back when I was at the Academy. We broke-up; I left Stafleet and pursued a different career which as you can tell has worked out alright for me. I had no reason to kill him.”

“He cheated on you, didn’t he?” Nora said.

She took her time to respond but eventually nodded.

“And that must have hurt you quite a bit,” said the Bajoran. “Clearly enough to make you reconsider your entire life and leave the Academy for good. I’d say that’s a motive.”

But she shook her head. “There were other factors which contributed to my decision to leave the Academy. Besides, all that happened years ago. I got over it. Why would I kill him now?”

“Opportunity,” Nora said. “You found out he served on Eagle and you had no way to avoid coming here. When your attempts to get another vessel failed, you decided to settle an old score.”

“And risk everything I’ve worked for since?” she said and shook her head again. “Listen, I admit I obviously had some bad history with Jin and that I wasn’t his biggest fan because of that. I didn’t like the way Hopkins put him on this pedestal as her resident genius and showed him off at the meeting. But I wouldn’t have killed him and there is no evidence that I did. You want to charge me with being pissed off with a guy who broke my heart seven years ago, go ahead. But you go after me for killing him, you better make sure you’ve got a hell of a prosecutor to make this case because I promise you it’ll get shot down so fast it’ll make your head spin,” she said, fuming. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m quite busy trying to safe the Federation,” she added and then walked off.

Nora looked after her. “Oh, I so like her for this.”

“Do me a favor,” he said. “Next time you want to accuse somebody of murder, let’s talk it through first, alright? Maybe that way we won’t reveal all our cards straight away.”

“What?” she said. “I thought that went really well.”

Clancy just shook his head and turned towards the exit.
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