- V -
“How much longer will this take, Doctor?”
“Is there somewhere else you need to be, Captain?” Katanga asked while he was working on a computer station, his back to Owens who was sitting on a bio-bed with small probes attached to his temples.
Owens frowned but before he could shoot back a terse reply, Tazla Star stepped up. “Believe it or not but being the captain of a starship is a busy job, Doctor,” she said, and offering Owens an apologetic look. “So anything you could do to speed this up would be greatly appreciated.”
Katanga turned. He was wearing a blue coat which matched the uniform shirt he wore underneath. There was still no sign of the jacket which usually completed the outfit. He seemed to notice Star’s pleading look and appeared to reconsider his response. “Of course, I understand,” he said and then looked at his impatient patient. “I do apologize to keep you from your duties, Captain. I’m utilizing a new kind of cerebral scan technique since I was unable to find anything out of the ordinary using more conventional methods.”
“What exactly does this involve and—“ Owens stopped himself when he felt a sudden stinging pain behind his forehead and reached for his temples. “That … was not pleasant. A heads up would have been appreciated.”
Star gave the Doctor a frosty look, clearly not pleased that he was apparently torturing her boss.
“Ah yes, I failed to mention that you might feel a little sting there at the end,” he said and then quickly stepped up to Owens to remove the probes.
“That was more than a little sting,” Owens said sharply.
“Sincere apologies,” he said as he detached the devices and then walked back to his workstation to review the scan results.
Owens and Star joined him.
“Ar least tell me that there was a point to all of this,” the captain said.
“I cannot be sure yet,” he said as he looked at the screen. “The computer is just now finishing compiling all the data,” he added and pointed at the screen were four brain wave patterns were displayed next to each other. “I’ve already taken the scans from Lieutenant Hopkins, Kate Smith and Lif Culsten. Now, by adding yours I’m hoping that we find something that could shed some light on what is happening on this ship.”
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
“I don’t really know until I’ve seen it.”
Owens sighed and turned away from the screen.
It didn’t take much for Star to notice his skepticism. “Sir, I’m convinced there must be something to link all four of you.”
“But why me? I just had a bad night’s sleep. That doesn’t mean that whatever affected the others affected me as well. If you recall I didn’t try to blow up my own ship.”
She nodded. “Yes, but it all seems to have started with that event.”
“Or it could all be complete coincidence.”
“It could. But do you have another explanation, sir? I think we should pursue this and see where it leads.”
Owens looked back at Katanga as he closely studied the results on the screen “Well, that’s why I agreed to this,” he said. “But if we don’t find anything we need to start thinking about other theories which—“
The red alert klaxon cut him off.
Star and Owens exchanged a concerned look. Then, before the captain could call the bridge for a status report, the ship was hit hard, causing everyone in sickbay to lose their footing for a brief moment.
“Oh, my stars and garters, that can’t be good?” Katanga said after he had picked himself up from the bulkhead he had been pushed into.
Owens had grabbed a nearby bio-bed to stay on his feet and then helped Star back on hers who hadn’t been as lucky. “Bridge, what’s going on?”
There wasn’t an immediate response.
Then Stanmore came on the line, his voice sounded stressed. “Sir, it appears we are under attack.”
The captain and the first officer were out of sickbay in an instant, leaving Katanga to look after them with befuddlement. “Attack? Who in damnation would attack us within a toxic nebula?”
Just then his workstation beeped when it had apparently finished its analysis and the veteran doctor turned to look at the screen.
* * *
Before anyone in the security office even had the time to get their bearings back, another, smaller explosion rocked the room. The door to the storage room opened to allow thick white smoke to escape from it.
Nora pulled herself up. “Decaux.”
Clancy looked that way as well and just in time to the see the lithe blonde woman come shooting out of the interview room, a crazed expression on her face. She ran right into the security guard who had been posted to secure the door. As the man had not been able to fully get back on his feet yet, he was practically steamrolled by the much smaller woman. And yet, somehow, she had the presence of mind to grab his phaser.
“Decaux!” Nora shouted. “Stop her.”
The crewman looked up like a startled animal at a room filled with men and women seemingly determined to catch her.
Her advantage for the moment however was not just the fact that she had been able to secure a weapon, most of the security personnel were still trying to recover from the unexpectedly heaving deck moments earlier.
She managed to shove the first person she got to over a desk before shooting off into the opposite direction and then continued to zigzag through the room, trying to find her way to the exit and avoiding the guards attempting to keep her from escaping.
Decaux was small and slippery and clearly very much determined not to be cornered. She weaved and bobbed around the startled personnel which had not expected to have to stop a fugitive so shortly after having been slung to the floor by unknown forces.
Nora watched with dread. She was out of position to try and cut her off and had already made the painful determination that nobody else was going to catch her before she got to the doors. She spotted Carlos on the opposite side of the room, removing a phaser from an equipment locker. “Jose,” she called and reached out her hand, indicating for the weapon.
Her deputy understood immediately and tossed the phaser her way.
Nora felt as if the firearm was sailing through the air in slow motion, very much aware that with every second, Decaux was getting closer to that exit.
She finally managed to snag it out of the air when it was in reach, turned on her heels and fired.
Only to see the crimson beam catch the bulkhead outside the security office through the open doors through which Sierra Decaux had only a split second earlier slipped out of.
“Frak,” she cursed and immediately ran after her. The quickest route being across a couple of desks which she unceremoniously slid across, not caring that she deposited their content across the floor in the process.
She reached the corridor and immediately found it packed with people. She cursed her luck. Shift change.
Nora could hear the commotion down the corridor as her fugitive was apparently barreling her way through the crowd.
“Decaux!” she called after her as she made her own way through the far too slowly parting throng. “Stop.” Of course she did not and Nora nearly missed her dashing into a smaller side corridor which was thankfully less filled with people.
“Computer, I need a force field. Deck fifteen, section nine, junction Baker-four,” she said as she continued her pursuit.
The computer replied with a soft trill. “Force field erected.”
She smirked when she turned another corner and saw Decaux at the far end of the corridor, her forward progress stopped by an invisible barrier. The woman turned to see the security chief approaching and her eyes grew wider.
She raised her phaser. “End of the line, Sierra.”
The woman slipped into an adjacent room.
“Oh, come on,” Nora moaned and ran up to the doors to follow her. She carefully activated the door mechanism before stepping inside. It was a small room with only two other doors leading out of it. “Computer, what is the location of Crewman Sierra Decaux?”
“Crewman Sierra Decaux is on deck fifteen, section nine, environmental substation eight-eight-one.”
That sounded familiar. “Computer, what’s my location?”
“Your current location is deck fifteen, section nine, environmental substation eight-eight-one.”
Nora looked around. There was no place to hide in this room and according to the computer she hadn’t left it. That’s when she noticed the small shiny object in the corner. She took a knee and picked it up to discover that it was her combadge. “Clever girl,” she said. “Computer, disregard Crewman Decaux’s combadge and determine her location.”
“Unable to comply.”
“Why the hells not?”
“Internal sensors are not operational.”
“Right,” she said and stood. She quickly made her way to the first door, opened it and found that it led back into another corridor. Both sides were clear. So she went back to check on the other door. This one led to an empty storage closet.
Frustrated she returned back to the substation. There was a Jeffries tube access hatch. When she inspected it more closely she realized it was slightly ajar. Nora yanked the hatch open and found nothing but an empty crawlspace. But she thought she heard something. Boots climbing a ladder.
She holstered her weapon and crawled into the tube. After a few short meters she reached a central junction along with a ladder leading upwards and just in time to see a figure disappear into another junction above.
Without hesitating she climbed the stairs to follow her once more.
She thought Decaux had climbed at least two decks but was fairly certain when she heard another Jeffries tube access hatch opening just above her. She tapped her combadge. “Security team to deck seventeen, section … uh … Charlie-six. And make it quick,” she said but kept her voice down in order not to let Decaux know that she was close on her tail.
Nora made it to deck seventeen and down the same Jeffries tube she was certain Decaux had used just moments before. Her suspicions were confirmed when she found another hatch left ajar. She opened it carefully to find one of Eagle’s
large, cavernous cargo bays beyond.
“Computer, lights,” she said just loud enough to ensure the audio interface would pick-up her request.
An aborted trill indicated that the computer wasn’t able to comply. Decaux had managed to disable the lights somehow.
“Okay, so you’re not stupid,” she said as she was forced to climb out of the hatch and into an almost completely dark cargo bay. This one had been used to store parts for the sensor array, and even though it was nearly complete, the bay was still packed with crates and containers, some stapled so tall, they nearly reached the six-meter tall ceiling.
She drew her phaser and took a few careful steps forward. There were far too many dark places to hide here. Nora had a good view of the main doors and considering that she hadn’t heard them opening, it was a good bet Decaux was still in here. Perhaps trying to get to a secondary exit.
“It’s over, Sierra, you’re just making things worse for yourself,” she said, loudly, hearing her voice reverberating throughout the hold. “Come out, with your hands up and I’ll make sure you get a fair trial.” Nora slowly began to search the room, making sure she kept an eye on the main doors in case Decaux made a run for them.
Then she thought she heard footsteps to her right.
She stopped and listened. A skill she had honed well when she had been much younger and leading a cell of teenage freedom fighters on Bajor many years ago. Back then it had been a skill which could have meant the different between life and death.
Decaux was on the move.
Nora turned towards the far corner from which she was sure the sound was coming from.
Then she saw her.
“Last chance, Crewman,” she said as she leveled her phaser and moving sideways to get into optimal position.
The other woman still didn’t respond.
When she was sure Decaux was cornered, she took a few long leaps and reached out for her prey.
Her hands made contact with fabric and she yanked hard.
Only to come away with a loose jacket.
Decaux had used part of her uniform as a ruse. Nora cursed for falling for such an obvious ploy, one she had used herself on many occasions against her Cardassian enemies.
She heard a loud grunt coming from just a few meters away and whipped around, ready to blast the other woman into unconsciousness.
But she wasn’t there.
Instead she saw a tower of bright yellow barrels teetering precariously. Too late did she realize what had happened.
Decaux, on the other side of those highly stacked barrels, had given them a hard shove and while for a moment it had appeared too much for the young woman to topple them, the ship trembled once more at the most inopportune moment and just enough to allow gravity to make her plan work and bringing the barrels down.
The woman was sprinting towards the exit.
For Nora, chasing after her was suddenly a distant priority. Those barrels were coming right for her and she had only a couple of seconds to make a move which might save her life.
So she jumped as far as she could, rolling on the floor when she made contact and tried her hardest to get out of the way. When she heard the first ones slam into the floor, she thought she had come away clean.
That’s when she felt something hitting her hard in the shoulder and she stumbled just as she tried to get back onto her feet, landing painfully on her chest.
Knowing that she may not have time to catch her breath, she instantly flipped onto her back and just in time to see one of those bright yellow barrels coming for her head.
She rolled away a split second before it had a chance to turn her into paste.
Nora heard the doors opening and immediately tried to get back on her hands and knees but felt her strength give out.
The sound of multiple boots rushing her way let her know that reinforcements had finally arrived.
“Laas, are you alright?”
She glanced up to see Alex Clancy hovering over her. He had arrived at her side even before any of her security people, clearly having raced to her prone form the moment he had spotted her.
Nora moaned and tried to get herself off the floor.
“Easy,” he said as he helped her up. “You’ve been injured.”
But the security chief wasn’t interested in taking things easy. “Decaux,” she said and looked towards the heavy cargo bay doors, fully extended at the moment with at least five heavily armed security guards covering the exit and the corridor beyond. But there was no sign of the fugitive. “Where … where is she?”
Clancy seemed much more concerned with Nora and the way she winced when he gingerly touched her upper body. “I think you have dislocated your shoulder,” he said. “You must be in a great deal of pain.”
She glared at him and tried a few steps but ultimately was forced to lean against a container when she felt her strength not returning as quickly as she had hoped. “Never mind the pain,” she fumed. “Where is she?”
Clancy slowly shook his head. “She must have slipped away just before we got here,” he said ruefully. “Carlos and a team are searching the deck.”
Nora let herself slide down onto the floor, unable to keep on her feet. “Find her. Find her now. She’s our killer and I will not let her slip through my fingers again, do you hear me? I’m going to get her if it’s the last thing I do.”