- IX -
When Nora and Star arrived in main engineering, Clancy as well as an armed, four-man security team headed by Jose Carlos had already arrived.
It didn’t take Nora long to find what had prompted the response.
Sierra Decaux stood just a few feet from the warp core, holding a flustered and clearly scared Sirna Kolrami in front of her with a matchbox sized phaser digging deep into his neck.
Everyone in the room was focused on the developing hostage situation, including chief engineer Louise Hopkins who stood closest, desperately trying to appeal to the enraged crewman with the weapon.
Clancy turned to the two women as soon as they had arrived. “She showed up here a couple of minutes ago looking for Kolrami and then threatening him with a phaser. She is totally convinced that he is responsible for Gedar’s death.”
Nora and Star exchanged knowing looks.
“You killed him!” An obviously unhinged Decaux yelled as she forced the cone of that phaser even deeper into him. “You hated Jin. You always have. You were jealous, you knew he was a better engineer and you hated him for it. Tell them, tell everyone how you hated him.”
“I … please … just don’t—“
Clancy looked on with obvious concern. “This is not going to end well. Decaux is clearly unstable. She was when she came to see me in my quarters last night,” he whispered. “It’s her mental disorder. If it has gone untreated, she could be subject to all kinds of severe symptoms, including hallucinations.”
Nora nodded but kept her eyes on Decaux by the warp core. “You mean like believing that alien life forms have taken over the crew and killed Gedar?”
He looked at her, obviously noticing the tone in her voice which seemed to imply that there was much more going on that he was aware of.
“It’s not such a crazy theory anymore,” said Nora.
But Star shook her head. “It doesn’t matter what she believes. We do not have the time for this. We need to neutralize her quickly so that we can get the rescue mission under way. Any further delay does not just risk Xylion’s life but the life of the entire crew as well,” she said and reached for her weapon.
“Agreed,” Nora said. “But that type-I phaser she’s got pinned to Kolrami’s neck is deadly at point blank range. Besides, you don’t want to risk hitting the warp core with a stray shot.”
“You have a better idea?”
“Let me try to talk to her.”
Even Clancy looked unconvinced. “You? No offense but I don’t think she may be particularly responsive to you at the moment.”
But the Bajoran glanced at Star instead.
The first officer gave her a nod. “Give it a try.”
Clancy looked rather befuddled at the sudden trust between these two women who just a couple of days earlier had been pretty much at each other’s throats.
In the meantime Hopkins was doing her best to try and defuse the situation, concerned of course for her own officer as well as all the security personnel with phasers pointed into the one direction which could easily invite a catastrophe. “Please, we can talk about this? Just let him go and lower your weapon.”
But Decaux’s eyes just grew wider when she saw the chief engineer. “You, you had something to do with this as well,” she said. “Why couldn’t you just stay away from him? You knew he was with me. You knew he was mine.”
Hopkins swallowed, apparently not sure how to reply to this and fully aware that Decaux was at least halfway right. She had been involved with Gedar and it had been a tragic mistake.
Before she could think of any kind of response which could somehow release the quickly building tension in the room, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Nora Laas having stepped up behind her.
Hopkins nodded thankfully when she gave her a look to let her know that she was going to deal with Decaux. Hopkins stepped back while Nora took a careful step closer to the hostage taker.
“You’ve come to finish what you started, Lieutenant?” Sierra Decaux barked. “You’ve come to finally kill me.”
The security chief raised her arms, showing her empty palms. “I’m not armed.”
Decaux laughed at that. “We all know you don’t need weapons to kill.”
“You’re probably right but I have no intentions of harming you, Sierra. I just want to ensure that you won’t either.”
“You’ve given me no choice. You think I killed Gedar. You all do,” she said, raising her voice. “But it was him. I saw it with my own two eyes. He killed Gedar and he needs to pay for it,” she said and moved the phaser to the side of his head, pressing it against him with such force, it was beginning to draw blood.
“I didn’t … I really didn’t. Please … stop this.”
“Shut up,” she barked. “I know what I saw. You attacked him and threw him down the pit,” she said and when she turned slightly to look behind her where the alleged crime had taken place, one of the security guards shifted position to get a better shot. But Decaux noticed when she turned back. “Get back!” she shouted. And then to Nora. “Tell them to stay back or I will kill him. I’ll make him pay for what he did, I swear.”
The Bajoran nodded and turned around to address her people. “You heard her, get back and do not open fire. That’s an order,” she said and then faced Decaux again. “Satisfied? None of my man will fire. You have nothing to fear from us, alright?”
“No,” she said, vehemently shaking her head. “Nothing is alright. Nothing. You think I killed him.”
“Not anymore, I don’t,” she said. “You were right all along. Right about what you saw, you were even right about what you told Clancy when you went to see him. You’re theory about alien life forms on the ship. You were right about that, too. They are here. In the nebula. And they were responsible for what happened to Gedar. Not you, not Kolrami.”
The agitated woman considered Nora carefully and for a moment the security chief thought she had gotten through to her.
“No,” she said and took a step back, closer to the warp core, pushing Kolrami with her. “You’re telling me what I want to hear. That’s all. I’m not stupid. I know I’m suffering from a condition. I know that it messes with my mind sometimes. There are no life forms. It was Kolrami, I saw him do it.”
Nora suddenly wondered what the hell she was doing, standing there just a few feet from a crazed woman ready to kill her hostage because she was convinced he had killed the man she had loved. She wasn’t a detective and she sure as hell wasn’t a negotiator. This was Clancy’s area of expertise. She was a warrior. A fighter. Given the chance she’d be able to easily disarm and neutralize this mostly untrained woman. That was what she was good at, not talking somebody down. Problem was, the chance simply wasn’t there. Decaux would be able to depress that trigger long before she could even make it halfway towards her.
“I believe you. I really do. In fact I know you are right. I know Lieutenant Kolrami threw Gedar over that railing and to his death,” she said, running out of ideas and hoping to be able to distract her to get closer.
“What?” Kolrami said. “You’re as insane as she is. I didn’t—“
“Shut up,” Nora and Decaux said in unison.
“You’re … you’re just saying what I want to hear.”
Nora shook her head and took a very small, very careful step closer. “Not at all. Let’s go through the events of that night together, shall we?” she said and then continued before she could object. “You were angry at Gedar for being unfaithful to you. You wanted to teach him a lesson and confront and embarrass him in public. And you found that Kolrami and Yunta were more than willing to go along with this and help out, both of them holding their own grudges. You three made a plan to come here and confront him. Alone initially and then with an audience. Correct?”
She nodded along slowly.
“Kolrami was to make sure he was alone in engineering at first. Then you were going to confront him and after that Yunta would walk in as well. And then when he was on the defensive Kolrami was going to bring in a crowd. Maybe even Hopkins as well, to reveal him as the fraud he was.”
Tears were beginning to stream into her eyes. “He was a fraud. But he didn’t deserve to die.”
“Of course not.”
“When I came in, Kolrami was there. He shouldn’t have been but he was there and he was fighting with Gedar,” she said, as she recalled the events of that night.
The engineer in the death grip was beginning to shake his head. “No, I wasn’t … I wasn’t there.”
“Yes, you were,” Nora said sharply. “But you don’t remember, do you? In fact you don’t remember what happened at all that night. You have inexplicably lost all memory of what took place.”
“I …” but Kolrami got stuck on his own words.
“You threw him over,” said Decaux. “I saw you do it.”
“No,” he said but sounded a lot less convinced of this than just a moment ago.
“But can you be certain, Lieutenant?” Nora said. “Can you be absolutely certain, without a hint of doubt, that you didn’t do it?”
“I … I didn’t do it. I would never kill a fellow crewman,” he said, sounding less and less assured of himself.
Nora focused back on the hostage taker. “There have been a number of odd incidents aboard this ship lately. A lot of unexplained things have happened which didn’t appear to make any sense initially. People acting strangely and out of character. Now we know why. The nebula is home to a non-corporeal life form and our presence here has damaged them. They’ve tried to communicate with us but when it didn’t work they become more desperate. Taking over certain crewmembers and making them do things. Like they took over Kolrami here. Gedar tried to interfere and was killed. The life form didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident.”
The engineer’s eyes opened wider.
“That’s ... that’s not possible,” mumbled Decaux.
At that Nora smirked. “You haven’t been out in space very long, have you? We’ve seen much crazier things than that. Trust me.”
Decaux made eye contact with the Bajoran security officer who had managed to take another step towards her now, seemingly trying to judge if the tough security chief could be telling her the truth.
“Point is; you didn’t kill Gedar. Kolrami didn’t kill him. Nobody on this ship did.”
Nora noticed that the pressure on the phaser digging into the engineer’s skull lessened. Kolrami noticed this too and still fearing for his life, took action.
“No, wait,” Nora shouted but it was already too late.
Kolrami drove his elbow hard into Decaux’s midsection. The woman lost her grip on the phaser and on the engineer who didn’t hesitate to push himself off Decaux and jump away from her.
Decaux doubled over in pain but was also pushed backwards and towards the warp core with enough momentum to easily go over the protective railing around the pit.
Nora reacted instantly. But she had no clear path to Decaux as Kolrami was coming flying her way in a desperate attempt to escape. The security chief spun around him to avoid Kolrami, for now not so much concerned about him but rather about Decaux’s uncontrolled tumble towards the warp core pit.
Once she had completed the spin and the engineer was behind her, Decaux was still out of reach. Nora watched in horror as the woman hit the red safety railing backwards with such force, she flipped right over it, falling head over heals into the space between the deck and warp core chamber to plummet to her death in pretty much the exact same manner as Jinlu Gedar had days earlier.
Decaux’s eyes were wide open in shock and with the terrible realization that she would die just like the man she had loved, perhaps even considering the tragic irony of getting killed in the exact same fashion at the hands of very much the same man.
Nora Laas jumped forward in a last ditch effort to try and prevent exactly that from taking place. She flew through the air, towards Decaux and the warp core pit, determined not to allow another such incident on her ship but also unable to convince herself that she wasn’t already too late.
She hit the deck painfully, landing on her chest and her own momentum allowed her slip across the smooth flooring. But by that time Decaux had already fallen out of her line of sight, disappearing into the pit.
She arrived at the edge of the deck less than a split-second later immediately reaching down, hoping against hope to be able to grab something but already aware that it would likely be nothing but air.
Her right hand made contact with fabric and without even thinking about it she brought in her other hand to take hold of whatever she had snatched.
A sudden, powerful pull, made her grunt, as she nearly dislocated her shoulders. She somehow managed to keep her balance and avoid going over and into the pit herself and only once she was reasonably sure she was wasn’t going to go head first to her own death, she allowed herself to look down and see Sierra Decaux dangling in the air where she was holding on to her arm.