The Star Eagle Adventures V: Shadows in the Haze

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    I loved Owens' reaction to the murder, as well as how he handled the bickering between XO and Security Chief. And he's absolutely right, standing over the body of one of your crewmates isn't the idea time to get into a pissing match over job qualifications.

    And Deen continues to shine (or glow) while underway on Xylion's away mission... and boy can that woman play the Vulcan like a fiddle!

    Great character work all the way around! :bolian:
     
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – II –


    She was still trying to get her head around the fact that a member of her crew had quite possibly been the victim of a heinous crime. Had been murdered. And no matter how one looked at this, the truth was it had happened on her watch. Security, after all, was her role and therefore the safety of all crewmembers was solely her responsibility. She had failed. She had failed Lieutenant Gedar.

    Nora Laas crouched near the body of the Krellonian engineer and watched quietly while members of her security team scanned every last bit of forensic evidence possible before the body would be transported to the morgue for an autopsy by Doctor Katanga.

    It still bothered her that Commander Star had openly declared that she wasn’t up to the task of heading this investigation. So perhaps criminal matters were not her specialty. She was a fighter first and foremost. A leader of men if she had to be. Probably the best hand-to-hand combatant on the ship and deadly accurate with almost any weapon. She had partaken in a couple of investigations before, most recently as a deputy security chief on Deep Space Two almost five years ago. Her colleague and friend So’Dan Leva had been in charge of the investigation initially as the head of security and frankly her contributions had not been significant.

    Her lack of experience didn’t mean she’d yield to Tazla Star. She was head of security and no matter what, she would find the guilty party and bring them to justice. That she had promised the captain, and perhaps even more importantly, she had promised herself.

    Jose Carlos, her deputy, approached holding a padd. The man was loyal to a fault, tall and muscular, the Hispanic officer had been made for security work. Did he have the finesse, as Star had put it, to find a killer, she wondered. She hadn’t exactly recruited her team based on their investigative skills. An oversight she came to regret now.

    Nora stood. “What precisely do we know so far?”

    Carlos had been prepared for the question and referred to his padd. “Cause of death appears to be severe trauma from impact,” he said and looked up along the warp core shaft and towards where he had likely plummeted to his death. “I’d say he fell about ten meters and landed face down.” He turned back to his padd. “Time of death was between 2330 hours and 0045 hours. The doctor is trying to narrow it down but that might not be that easy.”

    “Why not?”

    “Apparently we don’t know much about Krellonian physiology or how their bodies react after death. His body temperature is nowhere near what it should be.”

    “Who found the body?”

    “Crewman Wyche at 0045,” he said. “He called in the medical emergency. The medical team arrived two minutes later and found Gedar already dead. Doctor Katanga arrived at 0053 and officially pronounced death before calling us. By 0055 we were on site and engineering had been sealed off.”

    “Ten minute after he was discovered,” she said, mostly to herself as she considered the body still sitting in a large puddle of his slowly drying blood. “Plenty of time for the killer to slip away. If he hadn’t already,” she said and turned back to her deputy. “Internal sensors?”

    He shook his head. “Turned off.”

    “What? How?” she said, fully aware if the sensors had been operating, especially the visual pickups, this investigation would have been over before it had even begun.

    “They were turned off after we entered the nebula,” he said, sounding frustrated himself. “Apparently the background radiation rendered them useless and provided false data.”

    “Splendid,” she said. “Glad I was told about this.”

    He shrugged helplessly. Clearly he hadn’t been told either.

    She turned back to watch as the medical technicians began to remove the body now that the site had been thoroughly scanned and documented. “I want statements from everyone who’s seen the body along with everyone else who’s been talking to Gedar within the last twenty-four hours. Let’s start with everyone in engineering and then widen the net in the morning.”

    “I’ve already taken Wyche’s statement.”

    She nodded. “Good. Make sure every last square inch of the room has been scanned. I want to be able to create an exact replica on the holodeck. Then seal off this area but reopen main engineering. I want two armed guards here for the rest of the day.”

    Carlos seemed surprised by these orders. “We’re letting people back onto the crime scene already?”

    She frowned. “Not my choice,” she said curtly. “After you’re done tell everyone to get a good night’s rest. We start first thing at 0700 to put the pieces together and find whoever the hells did this.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Nora shot a last glance at Gedar’s body before it began to dematerialize, leaving behind only the large stain of his dark red blood as gruesome evidence that a young man had met his death here tonight. Then she turned and headed back to the elevator which would deposit her to the main engineering deck above. Once there she’d make her way straight back to her quarters. Not to catch up on sleep she knew she wouldn’t find but start her investigation and learn everything she could about the victim.

    No matter what Star or anyone else thought, she was going to find whoever did this. After all she had promised herself and Nora Laas was not a woman to make empty promises. No matter what it would take, she would not allow a killer to roam free on her ship.
     
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – III –


    “I thought we’d have more time,” said the young man on the screen.

    The connection was already mostly garbled and she had found it more and more difficult to make out the face of the dark-haired man, but now the sound was beginning to fade out as well. “Not in this soup,” she said. “This nebula is different to most others we’ve encountered. It has some fairly interesting attributes; unfortunately they affect most of our equipment, including sensors, communications and engines.”

    His smirk was noticeable even through the deteriorating com-channel. “Look at you being the big scientist all of sudden.”

    She responded with her own little smile. “Hardly. I did write a paper on proto-nebulae in my sophomore year, took me almost the entire semester to do research on it, too.”

    “Must be why Commander Xylion chose you,” he said, “I didn’t know you had scientific ambitions.”

    “I was considering it back at the Academy,” the Andorian said. “But then the war happened and I had to choose a focus. I figured I was more likely to make my mark as the best pilot in Starfleet instead of a second-rate research assistant.”

    The connection cut out for a moment before his face popped back up. “It’s going to go any moment now.”

    “Yeah.”

    “Listen, you watch yourself out there, okay?”

    She nodded and then offered a wide smile, showing off her pearly whites against her dark blue lips. “It’s just a survey mission,” she said. “It’s not like I’m piloting a combat shuttle against Jem’Hadar warships.”

    His concern was obvious, after all he was one of the few people who knew about her combat mission a year earlier when, after her shuttle had been nearly crippled, she had been ordered to carry out a suicide run against a Jem’Hadar ship threatening to destroy Eagle. He knew that the mission had affected her greatly, maybe even changed her forever, for the first time understanding that Starfleet was much more than just an adventure. It had become a life and death struggle for those fighting the war against the Dominion.

    “I don’t want you to worry,” she added quickly.

    “I’ll try not to. And just to make sure you come back in one piece, I may have a surprise in store for you once you return.”

    “Ah, the anticipation is going to kill me.”

    “Make sure it doesn’t. I see―“

    The comm. system finally gave up compensating for the interference caused by the nebula’s radiation. The shield modifications made sure that they remained relatively safe inside the runabout but it could do nothing to prevent it affecting their communications.

    “Lance?”

    But the connection was dead. When she tried to re-establish, the computer quickly advised her that it was unable to comply and she knew she wouldn’t be able to see or talk to him again until they returned from their mission.

    When she heard the approaching footsteps, she quickly ceased her attempts. She was supposed to pilot the runabout, not chat with her friends back on Eagle.

    DeMara Deen took the seat next to her. “Anything to report?”

    “No, sir … I mean, Dee,” she said, correcting herself quickly. “We’re still two hours out from our destination.”

    She nodded and looked over the latest sensor readouts. The sensitive high-resolution scanners they had installed on the runabout before departure were running nonstop to collect as much data as possible about the nebula. They weren’t as efficient as usual due to the strong radiation but they were able to learn much more than they would have if they had stayed on Eagle.

    “How are people back on the ship?” she said without taking her eyes off her screens.

    “They’re fine,” she said without thinking. Then her head jerked up. “I mean … I think … I think they’re fine,” she added looking at the beautiful, golden-locked lieutenant to her right, trying to appear as clueless as possible and of course failing miserably.

    Dee looked up. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing part of your conversation with Lieutenant Stanmore. I know it was rude but I didn’t want to interrupt.”

    Her mouth opened and then closed. “How much … how much did you hear?”

    “Just the last bit.”

    Srena’s face gained some color. Bad enough that she had been caught red-handed chatting with her boyfriend, as it so happened, DeMara Deen was Lance Stanmore’s boss. “I’m so sorry, sir, I swear it won’t happen again.”

    She offered a sweet smile. “Don’t worry about it. In fact I think you and Lance make a great couple.”

    Now she turned periwinkle. “We’re not … I mean, not really. Actually I don’t know what we are.”

    “Well, it seemed pretty obvious to me that you two care a great deal for each other,” she said. “And there is nothing wrong with that.”

    “We work together,” Srena said. “And I’m sure if Commander Star found out; she’d give me hell over it. She’s singled me out as a special project of hers and I know she’d be rather displeased if I let myself get distracted like this.”

    “Distracted?” she said with a smirk.

    “Well, I’d imagine that would be what she’d call it.”

    Deen nodded. “Your secret is safe with me. But if you ask me, you shouldn’t have to hide things. Fraternizing with a fellow crewmember is not a taboo, and we live in the kind of times we can’t take anything for granted.”

    The Andorian nodded thoughtfully. It was a conclusion she’d arrived at herself, especially since having come within inches of dying in a fiery kamikaze attack.

    “How do you do it?”

    The Tenarian glanced at the young ensign with a little twinkle in her eye. “Do what?”

    “Uh, I mean, aren’t you with anyone right now?”

    Deen’s face turned thoughtful for just a brief moment, almost wistful. It was quickly dispelled but not quickly enough to not make Srena feel extremely uncomfortable, even embarrassed at having asked the question. She quickly turned back to her instrument. “I’m sorry that was way out of line. It’s none of my business.”

    Dee quickly shook her head. “No, not at all,” she said, sounding like her good-natured self again. “And I’m not seeing anyone. What would make you think I was?”

    “Well,” she said, starting out carefully now. “I suppose I just assumed because you are, you know …”

    “Tenarian?”

    “I was going to say beautiful and sensual,” she said and suddenly felt like sinking into her seat until she disappeared.

    She uttered a little laugh. “Thank you, Srena,” she said. “I shall take that as a compliment. But I have you know I haven’t been in any kind of relationship since my early days at the Academy.”

    “Oh, ok,” she said. “Now I feel stupid.”

    “Don’t. I just haven’t found the right person yet. Clearly you have and you should take full advantage,” she said but even Srena could tell that there appeared to be more to what she was saying than she let on, no matter how much Deen tried to pretend otherwise.

    “Right person for what?”

    The two turned to see So’Dan Leva stride into the compartment. A large smirk was plastered on the half-Romulan’s face, as if extremely intrigued at the conversation between the two young women.

    Deen frowned at him. “Girl talk,” she said. “Not for your tapered ears to hear.”

    “What a shame, I’m sure it would’ve made great material for my personal log.”

    The Andorian giggled, realizing perhaps for the first time that senior officers weren’t really all that different. Even the usually dead-serious half-Romulan tactical officer was much less intimidating up close and the normally stoic Vulcan science officer actually had a sense of humor, even if it was so subtle, one blink and you’d miss it.

    She wasn’t entirely sure if these usually stone-faced men had let their guard down thanks to Deen’s inherent charm or if this simply was the way these people carried themselves when they were socializing among themselves and not faced with the latest crisis.

    After a couple more minutes of light banter, the small crew of the runabout fell into their various roles, mostly observing and analyzing whatever information the sensors were able to gleam from their marvelous surroundings and Srena, too, decided to apply some of her admittedly limited astrophysics background to the study of the nebula while keeping at least one eye on the navigational data least they’d run into some unexpected trouble.

    The truth was that she had always been fascinated by stellar phenomenon which couldn’t be neatly classified or categorized. It was why she had developed an interest in travelling the stars and becoming an explorer in the first place and what had led her to consider a science career while at the Academy. In fact her paper had focused on nebulae with unexpected and unexplainable attributes just like Aphrodite. Lance had probably been right when he had guessed that her work at the Academy had likely garnered her the spot on the away team.

    After just a few minutes of analyzing the wide-band EM spectrum sensor results she found something very odd about the composition of this particular nebula. It possessed all the elements one would expect from a proto-nebula of this size and type, including dust, hydrogen, helium and a variety of other ionized gases but there was another element here not usually observed in nebulae. Those bright little sprites of various colors which gave Aphrodite their unique look were for all intents and purposes plasma fragments and most likely a holdover from a planetary body, possibly a gas giant, which had dissolved and helped create the nebula.

    In her paper, Srena had speculated that similar plasma fragments could exhibit an almost instinctive movement pattern not unlike single-cell organisms, traversing their environments not just randomly but with some sort of purpose. And this seemed to be the case here as well. Perhaps even more so than in the examples she had studied and she couldn’t help wonder if there was more to this than she had theorized in her thesis where she had attributed these patterns to an electromagnetic attraction, like protons constantly racing after oppositely-charged electrons. But there were no signs of electromagnetic radiation in Aphrodite significant enough to explain those movements. There had to be another explanation for how and why these little sprites roamed across the nebula.

    Srena’s considerations were cut short when the runabout trembled suddenly and caused a loud warning siren to echo across the cockpit.

    “What’s going on?” said Leva from his station, clearly startled by the unexpected turbulence.

    The Andorian pilot cursed herself for having been so distracted with her findings, actually having taken her eyes of navigation completely for a while. She quickly turned back to the helm controls and sensors. “We’re running into gravimetric sheer,” she said. “I … I don’t understand where this came from.”

    Deen shot her an encouraging look. “It didn’t show up on sensors.”

    She replied with a thankful nod at the revelation that while the operations officer had been keeping her eyes on the navigational instruments, it hadn’t made much of a difference.

    The small vessel began to heave and shake, forcing the occupants to hold on tightly to their stations.

    Srena couldn’t help but be reminded of the unnatural storm in the play she’d watched a couple of days ago and a ship, albeit a much different one, getting into a tough scrape with nature they’d ultimately lose. She tried to ban those thoughts out of her head. “The sheer is intensifying; navigational deflector is losing power and forward momentum has increased by thirty percent.”

    “I’d say we’ve found the source of this mysterious gravimetric disturbance,” said Deen even while her fingers raced over her console, trying to compensate for the increasingly rough ride.

    “Excellent,” said Leva sarcastically. “Now that we’ve felt it, can we move on?”

    “Helm is responding very sluggishly,” Srena said. “Whatever this is, it’s as if it’s pulling us in.”

    Deen’s efforts to stabilize the ship also bore little fruit. “There’s more to this than just some spatial disturbance.”

    “I’d say.”

    Srena turned to see that Commander Leva had stepped up right in-between her and Deen, grabbing the back of their chairs to maintain his balance while his eyes were focused on the forward viewports.

    She followed his gaze, curious at what had made him get out of his chair under these conditions. The thick, colorful gasses making up the nebula pulled back like a veil to reveal something she had not expected to find here. A planet.

    “Sensors are confirming a rogue planetoid dead ahead,” said Xylion, his voice sounding surprised at this discovery. “It appears to be surrounded by significant electromagnetic disturbance.”

    “Lightning,” said Srena who couldn’t find a better analogy as she saw the massive, bright discharges which rippled across the space around the planet.

    “And we’re heading straight for it,” said Leva.

    “Ensign, change your heading to four-six mark one-eight seven.”

    She quickly entered the course correction but to her frustration found that the runabout hardly responded to her prompts at all. The nose turned far too slowly.

    “It’s not working, the gravimetric sheer is pulling us in,” said the operations officer.

    “Ensign, full reverse, all thrusters.”

    Srena shook her head when that too made little difference. “It’s not significantly arresting our momentum.”

    “Switching to full impulse,” said Deen.

    The runabout lurched hard and a new alarm klaxons alerted the crew to a possible catastrophic structural failure.

    “It’s ripping the ship apart!” Srena shouted.

    “Lieutenant, terminate the impulse engines,” said the Vulcan just as they were struck by the lightning-like discharges surrounding the ever increasing orb they were approaching.

    Srena lifted her fingers off her controls as powerful electric currents began to course through them, flicking them on and off.

    “No need,” said Deen. “We have massive system failures all across the board.”

    Srena was close to panic. “We’re losing helm control.”

    “This is going to get a lot worse,” said Leva and the Andorian knew exactly what he was talking about when she looked back up and out of the viewport. They were now tumbling uncontrollably towards the surface of the planet.

    Xylion put into words what everyone was already thinking. “Brace for crash landing.”
     
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – IV –​


    Sleep hadn’t come easy to her. The notion that somebody had been killed on her watch had been difficult enough to digest, the fact that it had fallen to her ― at her own insistence ― to catch the killer, was a challenge she had rarely faced in her career as a security officer.

    Protecting assets or personnel on an away mission, boarding hostile vessels or repel enemy forces, disarm booby traps, she even had basic certification to take over the tactical station on the bridge if the need arose, but criminal investigations were really not something Starfleet security officers normally trained for and her experience as a teenage freedom fighter on Bajor and later a Marine hadn’t exactly prepared her for this either.

    Of course she hadn’t admitted any of this to Owens when she had demanded that it had to be her to lead the investigation. No matter how one looked at it, as the security chief it had to be her job to prevent or if necessary investigate crimes committed on her ship. Even if it was the most heinous crime imaginable.

    So she had spent most of her night reading up on Starfleet criminal investigations. Sure, there was the obligatory textbook on the matter but other than that, actual records were in scarce supply. Crimes of this nature usually didn’t take place on Starfleet vessels or installations and when they did, one could usually rely on the Starfleet JAG corps for assistance and guidance.

    Considering Eagle’s current mission parameters, that, of course, was not an option. She had to do this by herself and she was determined to be successful.

    She was still reading one of the few case studies which were somewhat comparable with her own when she entered her security office at 0700 sharp.

    Lieutenant Jose Carlos was already waiting for her with a cup of hot raktajino which she took off him without so much as looking him in the eyes.

    “Good Morning, sir.”

    “Not sure what’s good about it,” she said and made the mistake of trying to sip the steaming hot coffee, which she quickly came to regret. “We’ve got a killer on the loose on the ship. In fact, no more good mornings until we’ve brought whoever did this to justice.”

    The Hispanic officer nodded sharply.

    “Has the crime scene been recorded?”

    “Every last square centimeter, just as you asked. The computer has already finished compiling the data and holodeck two has been reserved to reproduce main engineering exactly the way we found it last night. You should also know that―“

    “Access has been restricted? We can’t have the killer just stroll in there and fool around with my crime scene.”

    “Doors have been locked only to accept access to yourself,” he said. “As an additional precaution I’ve stationed two armed guards around the clock.”

    “Good,” she said and tried the rakatjino again. She really needed a shot of it to get herself ready for what undoubtedly was going to be a long, hard day. But she froze just before the cup reached her lips as she watched a couple of her people entering the room. They were joking and laughing amongst themselves and leisurely heading over to the replicator.

    “There is somebody―“ but Carlos didn’t get a chance to finish as Nora abruptly turned away from him to face her seemingly relaxed officers, engaging in ‘water-cooler’ banter around the replicator.

    Unbeknownst to him, her gaze drilled itself into a junior officer who had laughed out loud following something his fellow colleague had said. “Ensign, I didn’t quite catch that joke,” she said loudly enough to make every last person turn her way.

    The young man she had addressed looked at her with wide-open eyes. “I … I’m sorry, ma’am?”

    She took a step towards the human. “You seem to be having a terribly good time so I was just wondering what the joke is?”

    The ensign seemed to be at a loss for words.

    “Well?”

    He shook his head. “Uh … there was no, joke, ma’am. I apologize if―“

    But Nora Laas had lost interest when she spotted another couple of her people enter the room. Quickly checking the chronometer, she found it was already 0706 hours.

    Petty Officer Skyler McIntyre and Caitian Ensign T’Nerr immediately sensed the tense atmosphere in the room, not to mention the hawk-like gaze from their boss and instantly stopped talking amongst themselves.

    Nora for her part took a deep breath, allowed a few more stragglers to come in and then turned to the dozen or so personnel who made up alpha shift. “Some of you may have heard we’ve had a murder last night,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Some of you may even have realized that this does not happen on Eagle and that I specifically asked for everyone to be here at 0700 sharp this morning. Let me make something very clear to you now. And please, by all means, make sure you communicate this to the rest of the team. From this point forward until whoever was responsible for killing Ensign Gedar has been apprehended, we will be entirely focuses on the task at hand. And you will get here, exactly when I ask you to get here and when you do you’ll be focused on one thing only. I will not accept tardiness and complacency from anyone. If you find you cannot behave like a professional, than quite frankly you have no place in my team or in security for that matter. Go see if they have an opening for you in engineering. Do I make myself clear?”

    There were nods all around, each and every one of her people standing up straighter and their gazes fixes at the security chief.

    “Do I make myself clear?” she repeated in a louder voice.

    “Yes, ma’am,” they shouted back in unison.

    “Good, now get to work. There’s much to be done,” she added and then turned back to Carlos. “I will rely on you to make sure to keep them focused and in line. I know people were thinking that because we’re no longer on the frontlines we could relax but that’s not the case. There’s a new war going on and this one will be fought right here on board this ship.”

    She had suddenly lost her taste in rakatjino and passed it back to her deputy.

    “Uh, Lieutenant.”

    “And before I forget, I want you to pull Gedar’s service record along with all the information we have on anyone in engineering around the time of his death. Start with Professor Rosenthal’s civilian team,” she said and turned to head to her office. She managed three steps before she stopped suddenly. “Jose?”

    “Yes, sir?”

    “Who is that sitting in my office?”

    “Ah, yes, I’ve been trying to tell you. That’s Lieutenant Clancy. He said he’s here to see you.”

    She turned back around to shoot him a displeased look. “Why didn’t you say so earlier?”

    “Uh, I tried but you―“

    “Never mind,” she said. “Just get me those files, will you?”

    “Yes, sir,” he said before he quickly retreated, clearly thankful for the opportunity to be out of his her line of fire for now.

    Nora Laas stepped into her office and the man sitting in the chair facing her desk quickly stood. He was tall, with an athletic look, wavy brown hair and a friendly, inviting face. His rank insignia identified him as a junior lieutenant and he wore sciences colors underneath his uniform jacket. Nora was sure she’d seen him around before but couldn’t immediately place him.

    He offered and easy smile and held out his hand. “Ah, Lieutenant Nora. I don’t think we ever formally met. I’m Alex Clancy.”

    She shook his hand shortly before she stepped around him to get to her own chair.
    “That was a nice speech, you gave by the way. Way to motivate the troops during a crisis.”

    She looked him over suspiciously. “How may I help you, Lieutenant? As you can imagine, we’re all quite busy at the moment,” she said as she took her chair.

    “Of course. That’s why I’m here,” he said and followed suit. That easy smile not leaving his lips. “I’m here to offer my services to your investigation.”

    “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

    “I’m an assistant counselor and I have a little bit of experience dealing with homicide investigations. There aren’t too many people within Starfleet who can say that so I thought it made sense that I’d offer you my services any way you see fit.”

    “You’re a counselor?”

    “Assistant counselor.”

    “I see.” She seemed to consider that for a moment and then abruptly stood again. Clancy quickly left his chair as well. “Well, I’m certainly thankful that you’ve came by and I’ll make sure to call you if I think I’ll need your help.”

    It didn’t take a counselor, assistant or otherwise, to tell that Nora had just dismissed Clancy and yet the man stayed rooted to the spot. That smile was gone now and he seemed somewhat uncomfortable all of sudden.

    “As I said,” Nora repeated, adding a little fire to her tone. “I’ll call if I need you.”

    “About that, you see, I wasn’t entirely honest with you just now and I feel quite silly about that, to tell you the truth.”

    She raised an eyebrow, clearly not comprehending.

    “That certainly was no way to start our relationship.”

    “What relationship?” she said, clearly beginning to get frustrated with this conversation. “We don’t have a relationship.”

    He nodded slowly. “Honestly, I thought she would have told you already.”

    “Told me what? What the hells are you talking about?”

    “See the fact of the matter is, while I do believe I could be helpful to you, this wasn’t actually my idea. I was approached by―“

    “Commander Star,” Nora interrupted, seething now.

    He nodded. “In fact I’m under orders to assist―“

    But the security chief was already half way to the door by then. “Don’t get comfortable, I’ll be right back,” she said a moment before she stormed out of her own office.

    Clancy looked after her. “Guess she didn’t tell you then.”


     
  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    (Re: Chapter 1) I can't believe I overlooked this, CeJay! I've got some reading to do to catch up, but the opening chapter was excellent. Allowing the Eagle's crew some time away from the front was a smart call on the part of Owens, as was offering the play to take their minds off of the war. Some intriguing interplay is taking place after the performance. Looking forward to where this leads.
     
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Hey, thanks for checking this out.

    Yeah, this story has been flying a little bit under the radar which I partially attribute to the irregular frequency of updates while I was focusing on other projects. Hopefully interest will pick up once I have more time to dedicate to this story.
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – V –


    “The benefits are quite obvious. Higher crew rotations means that we have more focused and rested personnel on duty on any given day. By adding the additional shift we also increase and reinforce overall crew experience and skill in key positions. Of course there’ll have to be additional training and we’d probably want to rotate shifts around a little bit. Move delta shift up to beta and vice versa, that kind of thing.”

    But Michael Owens was barely listening to his first officer explaining her recent proposal in more detail. It wasn’t because he didn’t think it had merit or because he was still feeling tired from a night seemingly lost and another interrupted. But it was hard to focus on routine ship operations when in reality recent events had made it clear that anything but routine applied.

    A crime taking place on a starship was rare enough, a murder was almost unheard of. And it had happened on his ship. During a war which was claiming people by the thousands, somebody had felt it necessary to thin their ranks even further by this despicable act. It was incomprehensible to him.

    The sound of the door’s enunciator finally managed what Star had not been able to do, refocus his thoughts.

    “Enter.”

    But before the words had even come over his lips, the doors had already parted and a clearly fuming Nora Laas was practically barging into his office. “Captain, I apologize for this interruption,” she said and regardless of her words, sounded rather unapologetic, “but would you kindly remind Commander Star of your earlier decision of assigning me the Gedar case as I don’t believe she fully understood.”

    The first officer jumped to her feet, blushing slightly at the rude manner in which the security chief had entered the room and almost barked at the captain. “Lieutenant, you’re way out of line.”

    “I’m out of line?” she said, aiming a perplexed look at the Trill. “I’m not the one disregarding clear orders from a superior officer.”

    For a moment the redheaded first officer didn’t even seem to know how to respond to this accusation.

    “Sir,” said Nora and considered Owens again, “you had made yourself perfectly clear to the both of us as to who was to take the lead on this investigation. How am I expected to do this if I’m being undermined—“

    “What in the seven hells are you talking about?” Star barked at the lieutenant, clearly losing her composure for a split-second before reining herself in again.

    “Don’t play coy, Commander. You had this … this counselor take over the investigation on your behalf and—“

    “I did no such thing, Lieutenant.”

    “That’s funny because according to him you’ve given him explicit orders to—“

    “Enough.”

    The two women stopped and looked at the captain almost as if only just realizing that he was also still in the room.

    “Sit down. Both of you,” he said sharply, as if unable to believe that he was playing arbiter in a seemingly childish fight between his own senior officers.

    The two women took the seats in front of his desk, both looking at least slightly chastised for allowing to let it come to a near shouting match in the captain’s ready room no less. Both absolutely avoided eye contact with each other.

    “This is not acceptable,” Owens said, his voice sounding much softer now. “A heinous crime has been committed on my ship and I cannot have the two of you fighting each other instead of focusing on getting me whoever is responsible for this.”

    “Sir, if I may,” Nora began tentatively and then continued when he responded with a little nod. “I believe you were perfectly clear as how you wished to handle this matter. As your chief of security, you asked me to solve this crime and handle all aspects of this investigation. My team and I were all set up to do just that until I was undermined by Commander Star who clearly has her own designs in regards to this investigation.”

    The first officer’s face turned a darker shade of red and she did everything but bite her lip to bark out a fierce rebuttal to Nora’s provocative words.

    “This counselor is neither requested nor required and clearly has only been assigned to me so that Commander Star may have a spy within the investigative team and influence it to her own purposes,” she continued, keeping her steely focus on Owens the entire time.

    The captain uttered a little sigh before looking at his first officer. Her brimming eyes considered him for moment and Michael thought he could see a hint of pain in them. Perhaps it was even anger for having been placed in a situation in which she had to justify her actions in front of a subordinate. “Commander, who is this counselor?”

    She took a small breath of air, presumably in order to not allow her angered state to dictate her next words. “First of all, sir, may I just point out that I resent Lieutenant Nora’s implications that I have any designs on her investigation other than finding the person responsible for this crime.”

    Owens nodded. The atmosphere in his ready room had taken on a distinct courtroom feel and he wasn’t all too pleased about this.

    “I have asked Assistant Counselor Alex Clancy to aid Lieutenant Nora in her investigation—“

    Nora grunted noticeably, shooting the captain a ‘get-a-load-of-this’ look.

    “To aid the Lieutenant with her investigation,” Star continued, her voice taking on a little volume to stress her point, “in the best interest of finding the person or persons responsible for this as quickly as possible.”

    “And how would a counselor be able to assist me with that, Commander?” Nora asked, unable to keep her voice free of sarcasm.

    The Trill turned to glance at the woman sitting next to her and if looks could kill, Nora would have died on the spot. “Well, for starters, Lieutenant, presumably we are dealing with a living person here. Somebody with a mind, possibly a disturbed mind, who felt it necessary to kill another living person for reasons which must have been entirely unacceptable. Who better to try and understand such a person than somebody whose job it is to study minds?”

    “Fine then,” she said. “Once I find whoever did this, you can have this counselor of yours psychoanalyze the perpetrator until the fleet comes home.”

    “Secondly, Lieutenant Clancy was stationed for three years on Farius Prime. I don’t have to tell you that that planet is practically run by the Orion Syndicate and that crimes are rampant there. As a Starfleet liaison to the local government, Clancy took part or assisted in a number of criminal investigations ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. How many criminal investigations have you taken part of, Lieutenant?”

    “I’ll have you know that I successfully investigated a homicide when I served on Deep Space Two,” she responded lamely.

    Star considered the woman for a moment with a little twinkle in her eye, almost as if she had been waiting for that point to come up. “Investigate?” she said. “A bit generous of a term, don’t you think? You were assisting Commander Leva at the time who did most of the heavy lifting. Besides, that was nearly six years ago. Do you have any other relevant experience you’d like us to acknowledge? Other than your mandatory Academy classes that is.”

    Before the Bajoran could form a retort, Star turned back to the captain. “Sir, I’m not denying that Lieutenant Nora, as the head of security, should take the lead in this investigation. But I do think that Clancy is uniquely qualified to assist and compliment her efforts to bring the responsible party to justice as quickly as possible.”

    “Captain,” Nora began but was stopped when Owens held up his hand.

    He rubbed his temples for a moment. “Lieutenant, the Commander here makes a very convincing argument. Work with Clancy. You’re the lead of course but I see no harm in having the closest thing to a subject matter expert in on this.”

    “But, sir,” she started again, clearly trying to object. Once again she was stopped by her captain.

    “That would be all, Lieutenant. Go to work and find me whoever did this.”

    Nora looked like she wasn’t done arguing her point. But after seeing the resolute expression on Owens’ face, she decided against it. She shot a last, withering look at Star and then stood. “Sir,” she said once more, clearly addressing only the captain and then quickly departed.

    Owens uttered a heavy sigh just after the doors had closed behind his departing security chief.

    For a moment silence reigned in his ready room which dragged on just short of becoming uncomfortable.

    “This isn’t working,” he finally said.

    “I’ve studied Clancy’s file very closely. He has the right set of experiences for this task. And I trust his abilities to find a way to get on with Nora.”

    “I’m not talking about Clancy.”

    She nodded as if knowing exactly what he meant.

    “Captain,” she began and then left her seat and took a few steps towards the bulkhead, considering her next words carefully. She turned back around. “I’m trying here, sir, I really am. There is nobody on this ship who wants to make this work more than I do. There is nobody who has a bigger stake in my assignment here. No matter my past, I am a Starfleet officer and this is exactly where I want to be. And without this, without Eagle, I have nothing. I have no illusions about that. Nobody else would touch me considering my past. So I ask you, sir. What is it you want me to do? I’ll be whatever kind of officer you need me to be.”

    He looked up at her expectant eyes. “You’d think you could do that?”

    “I’ll do whatever it takes, sir.”

    “I don’t doubt that. What I don’t believe however is that you are the kind of person who can completely and entirely dismiss her own nature and become somebody else just to accommodate others. ‘This above all: to thine ownself be true.’”

    She turned away to face the bulkhead again. “If you’re right then I’m not the first officer you need.”

    Michael considered her for a moment, thinking back to both Maya’s and Deen’s assessments of his controversial first officer. In a way they had both been right about her. But what he couldn’t deny was the fact that he had been anything than fair to an officer who had done nothing but try her hardest to make the best out of her second chance. “We’ve both undertaken on this journey together, Commander and we both knew that there would be bumps along the way. We’ll both learn from them and move on.”

    “I don’t know if I can,” she said, still with her back to the captain. “You said it yourself, I can’t fight my nature. It took everything I had just now to keep from boiling over.”

    “I understand that. And you’re not wrong. Laas was out of line.”

    Star turned to face the captain, a perplexed look on her face. “Then why did you allow—“

    Owens grimaced. “Because I’ve known her for a long time. Served with her for years. Because, and I’m not proud to say this, I understand her pain and anger and while it has no place in this room nor on duty for that matter, I can’t just dismiss it either because the truth is, it’s a pain I share with her,” he stood and walked over to the window to consider the majestic beauty of the Aphrodite nebula for a moment. “Nora Laas is broken and I don’t know what it will take to fix her again but I know that I’m not going to be the one to be able to do it. And I can’t give up on her either,” he said and then faced his first officer. “So you see, Commander, I need you on this ship. I need you to do the things I cannot do.”


     
  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Re: Chapter 2

    Wenera really droped a bombshell on Deen. The good doctor is being hard on herself over the circumstances regarding her pregnancy, yet her point is sound: Bringing a baby into the world on a ship in the middle of a war is probably not a great idea. Sounds like her replacement will be more than up for the task.
     
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – VI –


    When Nora returned to her office she found much to her chagrin that Alex Clancy was still there. He stood the moment she stepped into the room but before he could say a single word she shot him an icy look which she had perfected over the years and was usually reserved for subordinates who had displeased her.

    It had the intended effect on Clancy.

    “You are here to assist me with my investigation and clearly there is nothing I can do about that. But before we start let’s set some ground rules. First, I’m in charge. You are merely here in an advisory capacity. You do what I tell you and nothing else. Is that clear?”

    He nodded. “As crystal. You’re the principal on the investigation. The boss, the big cheese, the top dog, the bigwig, the head honcho, the Big Kahuna. I’m just a lowly foot solider following your every order,” he said with a large grin plastered on his face.

    She considered him suspiciously. “I don’t even know what half those words meant but I believe I got my point across.”

    “You sure did.”

    She walked back to her chair and sat down behind her desk, keeping her eyes peeled on the counselor as if he might jump across the table and attack her any second.

    He took his seat again. “Contrary to what you may believe, Lieutenant, I am not here to spy on your progress or further anyone else’s agenda. I just want to help you find whoever did this in any way I can. That is my one and only concern here.”

    Nora hadn’t even realized how tense she had been until she felt her muscles slowly relaxing. It suddenly struck her that he was in fact quite good at what he did. Even though she had been determined not to let her guard down, he had managed to calm her with just a few well-placed words. “Alright then, Counselor, where do you suggest we start?”

    “You can call me Alex if you prefer,” he said with a grin.

    When her look remained frosty he seemed to realize that she clearly did not prefer that at all.

    “Uh, okay. Well the good news about a crime on a starship is that our culprit cannot be far and has no means to escape. That’s making this job a lot easier for us. What we have to establish now is means, motive and opportunity. Starting with opportunity, that pretty much covers nearly the entire crew.”

    She shook her head. “We can rule out the regular crew,” she said. “The killer is more than likely amongst the civilians who recently came aboard.”

    “At this point we shouldn’t rule out anybody unless we can establish and alibi.”

    “You’re suggesting somebody of the crew did this?”

    “I’m suggesting that anyone could be the killer. You, me, the captain, at this point we don’t do ourselves any favors by excluding anyone from consideration.”

    “That’s insane.”

    “Maybe. But by using the process of elimination, whoever remains is likely our culprit.”

    “There are somewhere near six-hundred people on this ship.”

    He nodded. “So we better get started. Where were you last night?”

    She gave him that look again, making it clear that she was not amused by the question. But when he didn’t back down, she actually began to consider it. “I was up late finishing up a report. Check the log if you want.”

    He offered her that easy smile again. “That’s one down, 599 to go.”


    * * *​


    “When I said that I was hoping to sign on a starship once more for some excitement and adventure, this is not exactly what I had in mind,” said Doctor Elijah Katanga as he hovered over the dead body of Lieutenant Jin Gedar. “Don’t we have enough death and killing with the Dominion on our hands? Do we have to start killing each other?”

    “So you can definitely confirm then that this man was the victim of a homicide?” asked Alex Clancy who along with Nora Laas and the doctor were the only other persons in the morgue.

    “Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve performed a post-mortem—“

    “Wait,” said Clancy. “You’re saying you actually cut the body open?”

    “Of course not, don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “We stopped doing open body autopsies a century ago. Why cut a person open when scanners can tell you all you need to know without ever touching the body.”

    “Right,” he said, sounding somewhat relieved.

    “Well, regardless how long it’s been,” Katanga said, “I know defensive bruising when I see it.”

    Nora stepped closer to the naked corpse. She couldn’t deny that the dark-skinned Krellonian had been a handsome man. His toned physique was still evident, as were his kind face and his long silver and black hair which tended to cover his earless skull. He was ghostly pale now of course and cold as stone. She couldn’t immediately see any form of bruising on his skin until Katanga activated an ultraviolet light which revealed a whole pattern of sub-dermal damage underneath the skin.

    Nora had seen many dead bodies in her various lives, as a resistance fighter, as a Marine, as a Starfleet security officer, different to murder, death was nothing knew to her.

    She noticed with some satisfaction that Clancy apparently couldn’t quite say the same. He seemed to keep himself as far away as possible to the slab containing the corpse. “Lieutenant, do you see all these bruises?” she said.

    “Uh, yeah.”

    She turned around and noticed that he was making every effort not to look at Gedar’s body. “Really? Because you’re standing all the way over there and I don’t really think you can get a good look at things from there.”

    “I’m seeing just fine, thank you very much.”

    She smirked. “I thought you had experience with this kind of thing?”

    Clancy looked her straight in the eye. “Doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with dead bodies.”

    “He won’t bite, son,” said Katanga.

    Clancy took a deep breath but whatever courage this was supposed to have given him wasn’t quite enough to step closer. If anything he only gagged slightly at the smell of death which apparently even the advanced sterilization field in the morgue couldn’t quite neutralize.

    “So let me get this straight,” said the security chief, crossing her arms below her chest. “Star thinks you are some sort of expert in homicide investigations and yet you can’t stand looking at a dead body.”

    He frowned at that. “I never said I was an expert. I said I had some experience. As a counselor. You know what you do as a counselor, Lieutenant? You speak to people. And they tend to be alive when you talk to them.”

    Nora and Katanga exchanged a bemused look. “I don’t think the man has the stomach for this kind of work,” said the security chief.

    “He should consider himself lucky we didn’t cut him open then,” the doctor said. “Would have made an incision right here along his sternum,” he added and then drew an imaginary line across the dead man’s chest. “With all those organs crammed in there so tightly, it’s a real mess, I tell you.”

    “If you … eh … excuse me a moment,” Clancy said. “I’ll be right outside.” And then he practically ran out of the morgue.

    Nora Laas threw the man a cheeky grin. “You’re a wicked man, Doctor, I like it.”

    “What’s the point of being a physician if you cannot scare off the squeamish from time to time?”

    Nora laughed.

    “Back to the less amusing dead body in front of us,” he said, his face as stern and serious as ever.

    “Of course,” she said, her humor suddenly gone as she focused on the many bruises on Gedar’s body. “This must’ve been one hell of a fight.”

    But Katanga shook his head. “Most of the bruises are not recent.”

    She looked up at him with a surprised look. “He got those before last night? How?”

    The doctor produced a padd. “According to his medical file, he was bruised after an accident in engineering two weeks ago.”

    “These don’t look like they’re from an accident.”

    Katanga nodded. “I’d have to agree. But that’s what was recorded in the official log.”

    “Recorded by whom?”

    Katanga appeared uncomfortable revealing that information.

    “By whom, Doctor?” she said again, this time more insistent.

    “Doctor Wenera,” he said hesitantly.

    Nora looked back down at the body. The bruises, now mostly dark patches around his shoulder, chest and arms looked as if they had been quite painful. “Wenera,” she mouthed silently.

    “Now, listen here, young lady, I’ve known Jane for a long time and if you are implying that she’s done anything improper—“

    But Nora held up a hand. “I’m not implying anything. And she’s certainly not a suspect. She left the ship long before the time of death, correct?”

    Katanga nodded. “That is right. TOD is around 2345, give or take 15 minutes. Unfortunately I cannot be more accurate. We don’t exactly have a wealth of information on Krellonian physiology in our databanks.”

    “But you said that some of the bruising is recent?”

    “Yes,” the doctor confirmed and lifted one of his lifeless arms. “Around the hands and wrists. It doesn’t tell us much except that there must have been a struggle before he fell.”

    “Which means we’re definitely dealing with murder,” she said and studied the bruising up close.

    Katanga nodded.

    Nora stood back up. “Thank you, Doctor. Please let me know if you find anything else which might be relevant to the investigation,” she said. “I better go and find Clancy. I suppose I have to fill him in.”

    “You’ll have a full report within a couple of hours.”

    She gave him a final nod and headed for the doors.

    “And Lieutenant.”

    Nora stopped and turned to face him again shy of reaching the doors.

    “I’ve seen and done a lot of things during my long career in Starfleet. Both beautiful and horrible things alike. But I don’t think there is anything worse than the willful murder of another person in cold blood. Do me a favor and find whatever bastard did this.”

    “You’ve got my word.”


     
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – VII –


    “And you are absolutely certain about this?” asked Tazla Star while she paced Doctor Katanga’s office.

    “Absolutely.”

    “No chance this could have been an accident or perhaps even a suicide?” she continued as she kept moving, clearly deep in thought while assimilating the information Katanga had given her on his findings after completing his post-mortem on Lieutenant Gedar.

    “Well, there is of course always a chance but I’m fairly convinced that his injuries were sustained during a brief struggle, implying that he did not go down that shaft voluntarily or accidently.”

    “Interesting. And you’re sure about time of death?”

    “I put all this in my report to Lieutenant Nora, Taz, why are you quizzing me on this?”

    She shot him a quick look. “Nora and I have a thing.”

    “A thing? What does that mean? She’s your subordinate, isn’t she? You’re the first officer for Christ’s sake.”

    “Look, it’s complicated, alright?”

    He massaged his forehead in frustration. “I’m beginning to sense a lot of thing are rather complicated on this ship.”

    She stopped and stepped up to his desk. “Don’t tell me you’re already regretting leaving your comfy old post on Earth for the rough and tumble world of a starship.”

    “To be honest, I could’ve done without a murder on my first day,” he responded in a deadpan.

    She nodded to that but her mind seemed to be going off again at warp speed as her gaze drifted towards empty space.

    “I know I’m going to regret asking this,” he said, “but what’s on your mind?”

    She didn’t respond right away but her eyes slowly found his again. “You remember my theory?”

    “Ah yes, the spy,” he said. “Wait a minute, you think your mystery person is responsible for this?”

    “Makes a certain amount of sense, don’t you think? Maybe Gedar found out about the spy’s identity or got to close to learning the truth.”

    Katanga didn’t look convinced. “And he goes ahead and kills him in such a manner which kicks off a ship-wide hunt for a murderer?” he said. “Not a very good spy if you ask me.”

    Star shrugged. “Maybe it wasn’t planned like that. Maybe something went wrong. Maybe he or she didn’t expect a fight.”

    “A lot of maybes. But let’s assume you’re right. Don’t you think you should share your suspicions this with our security chief who is investigating the Gedar’s death?”

    She gave him a look as if he had lost his mind.

    “Right, I forgot, you two have a thing,” he said and uttered a heavy sigh.

    Before the Trill could say anything further on this, the room shook suddenly and enough to cause pieces of equipment to fall onto the floor.

    Katanga managed to snatch a tricorder before it dropped off his desk. “Something else I didn’t miss about starships,” he said. “What is it now? More turbulence caused by this nebula?”

    But Star shook hear head right away. “No, this is something else.”

    As if to be proven right, the red alert klaxons came to life just then, alerting the crew to imminent danger.

    She tapped her combadge. “Star to bridge, what’s happening?”

    Lieutenant Lance Stanmore responded. “We have detected a massive plasma overload in the starboard EPS manifold, Commander. It’s threatening to reach critical levels. If it does it could lead to sever hull damage and we might lose shields.”

    “Have you been able to localize the source?”

    “It’s coming from EPS sub-station three alpha on deck thirteen, section nine.”

    Star had since memorized Eagle’s deck layout so she immediately knew where the problem was coming from. “That’s right below us.”

    Katanga’s eyes went wide.

    “Lieutenant, I’ll be heading their now. Inform the captain and have Damage Control meet me there.”

    “Star, this is Owens, I just got to the bridge,” the captain said. “Let Damage Control handle this.”

    Tazla Star looked frustrated and she bit her lip just before she shot back: “Understood, sir, Star out,” she said, closed the channel and turned towards the doors.

    “Where are you going? Didn’t he just tell you to—¬“

    “It’s right below us, Eli. I can get there before Damage Control. Unless you’d prefer to get your floor blown out from under your feet,” she said and was already out of the door by the time she had finished.

    The doctor uttered another sigh. “’Join a starship, Eli,’ she said. ‘See the galaxy,’ she said. ‘Never a dull moment.’ Yeah, she got that one right,” he mumbled before he started to pick up the equipment strewn across the floor. “I’m getting too old for this.”

    The turbolift was down the corridor so the better option was the Jeffries tube access panel just opposite from sickbay. She took a knee, unceremoniously removed the cover and slipped inside.

    She could feel he heat immediately and understood this to be a bad sign. Starship bulkheads were made out of a duranium polymer which was near indestructible. If she could feel the heat through a number of layers of duranium, there had to be a fire already.

    The ladder to reach the deck below was just a short crawl away and upon reaching it she quickly slid down. She crawled a few more meters and then blew out another access cover with her boots.

    She got out onto corridor right next to the EPS sub-station. A clearly dazed crewmember was sitting up against the bulkhead, her face and hair dirty from soot and burn marks.

    “Lieutenant Smith,” Star said as he approached, recognizing the engineering officer. “What happened?”

    The woman looked up but appeared as if she hadn’t understood the question.

    Star pointed at the closed doors of the sub-station. Everything looked normal from the outside, but judging from Smith’s appearance and the red alert strobes in the corridor, things were bad inside.

    “I … I’m not sure.”

    “Anyone else still in there?”

    She shook her head slightly.

    It was a frustratingly slow response considering the circumstances. She quickly decided that the woman wouldn’t be of much assistance. She looked down the corridor and when she could found nobody from the Damage Control team, she decided to have a look herself.

    Kate Smith decided to speak up then. “You … you can’t go in there,” she said. “We … we have to evacuate … evacuate the deck. The overload is building up … catastrophic levels.”

    Star looked back at her. “Go ahead and evacuate,” she said and turned back towards the doors which of course didn’t open, the computer having them sealed shut after detecting the emergency. Star found the manual release hidden within the bulkhead beside it. But the doors still didn’t budge, not until she removed a manual override tool, slapping it onto the door and began to pull the panels apart.

    She got it open just wide enough to slip through.

    Inside she found an inferno in the making.

    Hot, green flames had engulfed much of the exposed EPS conduit which transported ultra-hot plasma from the warp core to various other systems across the ship. Something had happened to interrupt that flow which had caused the overload and the resulting fire. Star knew enough about engineering to realize that if something wasn’t done quickly, the entire conduit would blow and with hit, destroy a huge chunk of Eagle along with it. Not to mention her and dozens of other crewmembers.

    And perhaps even worse yet, according to Stanmore, this particular station regulated power flow to the main shields. And if they went down they’d be completely exposed to the fatal radiation of the nebula.

    The heat was unbearable and her skin had almost instantly broken out in a heavy sweat and in a futile effort to cool it.

    She quickly stripped out of her jacket and red shirt and then brought up an arm to cover her mouth and nose to try and keep from breathing in too many of those noxious fumes saturated in the rapidly thinning air.

    Her eyes already stung and tears were streaming down her face but there was little she could do about that. Instead she stepped further into the room, desperately trying to remember the exact layout for the controls to tackle such an emergency.

    She quickly came to the conclusion that she had two options. Find the fire suppression system which for whatever reason had failed and contain the plasma fires or find the emergency EPS shut-down to deal with the overload.

    The fires were bad, the overload was potentially far worse.

    After she found the first two consoles she looked at completely destroyed or partially melted, she came across a third station which thankfully was still functional.

    She nearly burned her fingers when she tried to touch the control surfaces.

    Of course he had no other choice and hit those panels as quickly as she could. The next ten seconds felt like minutes, with the heat bearing down on her and robbing her of air and strength. Then the panels finally turned from bright red to soothing green and when she looked up, through blurry eyes, she could see that the plasma within the conduit was receding.

    Too bad the fire still had enough fuel to burn her alive.

    She was determined not to stick around for that, turned towards the exit and high-tailed it out of there.

    Out in the corridor she dropped on her hands and knees when her strength had finally given out, coughing hard and eagerly sucking up non-toxic air.

    The Damage Control team came sprinting down the corridor with their firefighting equipment just as she got back on her feet. Kate Smith was nowhere to be seen.

    Star pointed a thumb over her shoulder. “I’ve left you with the clean up,” she said and turned away from the surprised members of the Damage Control team. She couldn’t keep a large smirk in check as she walked off. Yes, she had come close to be burnt to a crisp but then what was life without a little challenge now and then?


     
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Four: The Woman In White


    – I –



    Bright light was causing her to squint open her eyes and she immediately regretted the decision when her mind was pierced with sensory overload.

    She raised an arm to try and shield her face and found that her muscles were stiff and bruised.

    Only very slowly did she recall her last conscious thoughts.

    A planet where none should have been, losing control of the runabout and watching on helplessly as they plummeted towards the planetoid’s surface. A crash landing.

    She was lying in a cot in the compact crew compartment and bright sunlight streamed through the small viewport.

    Deen tried to stand but was unsuccessful at first when her limbs chose not to respond to her own requests. It took a few seconds before she managed to will herself to sit up and ultimately stand.

    She was sense her uniform jacket or golden shirt and she quickly noticed the bruising and cuts on her arms and shoulders which apparently had been recently treated with a dermal regenerator. She also felt the presence of two small medical devices attached to her forehead which likely had helped her recover.

    She removed them and then found her shirt and jacket nearby. It took some effort to get her stiff joints to bend enough to allow her to fully dress again.

    Next she stepped up to the viewport to get a look at their surroundings. At first look it appeared they had crashed in a canyon of sorts and she could see steep cliff walls any way she looked. The ground looked sandy, amber-colored, like one would typically expect from a desert planet. The sky—the little of it she could see from the small viewport—was mostly gray and white, the few clouds she could spot appeared to be pulsing with energy.

    Deen stepped away and left the cabin to head for the cockpit.

    “Dee,” Srena immediately exclaimed euphorically when the young pilot saw the woman enter. “Are you alright?”

    She offered a little smile in return. “My head still feels as if somebody detonated a photon torpedo inside but otherwise I think I just might make it.”

    She saw that Xylion and Leva were also back on their feet. The former was working on one of the few operational computer consoles why Leva turned to look at her. “You may thank the ensign for your recovery. Turns out she’s quite useful to have around. Pilot, part-time medic and astrophysicist. She treated my broken arm with little effort.”

    The Andorian blushed, her face turning dark blue. “It’s just what I managed to pick up at the Academy, is all.”

    “And to think you only spend three years there,” Leva said with a smirk. “Had you stayed a full four years, you’d probably make us all look superfluous.”

    Srena didn’t have words to offer to that.

    But Deen smiled. It wasn’t very often, in her experience, that the half-Romulan made new friends. Apparently he had really taken a liking to the perky Andorian and she couldn’t blame him.

    “I can’t say I remember much from the landing but it looks like we managed to pull off a minor miracle keeping the runabout in once piece and us along with it,” said Deen and stepped closer to the forward viewports which offered her a better view of the outside than the one in her cabin had.

    “It is unlikely that a miracle is to be credited for our fortunate landing,” said the Vulcan without pausing his efforts to work on the computer.

    “And we won’t be going anywhere soon, either,” said Srena, now sounding a lot less enthusiastic. “From what we can tell so far, both thrusters and the impulse engine didn’t survive the crash. We’re also without communications and the emergency beacon is damaged.”

    “Figures,” said Deen.

    “We won’t know the full extend of the damage until we’ve been able to make a full visual inspection,” Leva added.

    “What about this rogue planet?” said Deen. “Have we been able to learn anything about it yet?” She could see the canyon stretch on for another few hundred meters until the ground slowly sloped upwards and towards what appeared to be mostly open terrain. But interestingly, she could now spot sparse vegetation growing in various patches along the canyon floor and even what looked like a small stream of brownish water. The exo-biologist in her was immediately intrigued. “There is life here,” she said.

    “The planet actually registers as Class-M. There is an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere out there. It’s a little thin but breathable. The current temperature outside the runabout measures at thirty-four degrees Celsius and gravity is only slightly higher than standard,” said Leva.

    Deen turned to look at him. “That’s remarkable.”

    “I think we should get out there and have a look for ourselves,” said the eager pilot.

    But Xylion appeared less fond of the idea. “There are still questions I would prefer answered before we expose ourselves to the environment. It is unlikely that a rouge planetoid within a nebula would be able to sustain life.”

    “And yet here we are,” said Deen and walked up behind him to look over his shoulder. “Toxicology is negative, air is breathable, there are no signs of contagions in the air or soil and no higher life-forms according to sensors,” she added, as she read the latest report he had been able to collate. “I say we go and have a look for ourselves.”

    “It may not be wise to rush such a decision.”

    “I don’t think we’re going to learn a great deal from just sitting in here,” she said.


    Xylion stood. “You may recall that your previous insistence on altering our planned arrangements has led us into our current predicament.”

    “Guilty as charged,” she said. “But now we have to find a way to get ourselves out of it.”

    “Not to mention that we will have to carry out external repairs if we want any chance to get her back into the air,” offered the Andorian.

    Xylion seemed to consider this for a moment, studying the faces of the three officers around him who all seemed united in their opinion. Deen knew that he was the ranking officer and his pragmatism did not generally caused him to change his mind because the majority did not share his view. It didn’t stop her to offer him her most insistent look. It had, after all, worked the last time.

    “Very well,” he finally said. “We will carry out a cursory survey but we will remain within visual range of the runabout at all times.”

    Deen offered a large smile. “You got it.”

    As the current tactical officer and former security guard, Leva’s first instinct had been to retrieve four phasers from the weapons locker.

    The Tenarian frowned at that. “Is that necessary? There are no higher life forms out there according to sensors?”

    But the Romulan was not to be swayed. “Standard procedure, Dee.”

    Xylion nodded in agreement and the four officers quickly strapped on the weapons before retrieving a set of tricorders as well and then stepped into the airlock.

    “Somebody remind me why I volunteered to step onto a hot and humid desert planet?” said the ensign as soon as she had stepped outside and felt the dry heat hit her skin like a brick wall.

    Deen sympathized with the younger woman. As an Andorian she was naturally more sensitive to extreme heat than the others, hailing from a planet which was mostly ice and snow. It was a few degrees higher than she found comfortable as well and even Leva seemed to suffer a little. Their standard-issue Starfleet uniforms were made of material which was supposed to keep their bodies warm when the temperatures dropped and allow their skin to breath in hot weather but even the intelligent fabric had its limits and apparently it had just been reached.

    Xylion was the only member of the team who seemed entirely unaffected by the climate. Not surprisingly, she thought, considering that this almost felt like being on Vulcan.

    Deen’s first order of business was to take a soil sample by opening her tricorder, taking a knee and then run the sensor close to the ground. She did the same for the small stream which trickled along the canyon floor and then the few bushes and grasses she could find. “Truly remarkable,” she said again and then looked up at the sky. “There is sufficient air and water here for life but what I can’t quite account for is the light.”

    Srena shot her a puzzled look.

    “Did you happen to see a star on your way here?”

    The Andorian shook her head. “Right. No star, no light.”

    Deen nodded.

    “The nebula is fairly bright,” said the Romulan. “Perhaps it’s what allowed this planet to thrive.”

    “Must be.”

    Srena had stepped further away from the runabout and was closely studying some of the ragged cliffs around her. Something it particular seemed to have caught her attention. “Sir,” she called out suddenly.

    The others turned to look at her.

    “I think I saw something.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow. “Could you be more specific, Ensign?”

    “Something's up there,” she said and pointed at a rock dais further up the cliff. “I swear I saw something move.”

    “Maybe a tumble weed,” said Leva.

    “I don’t feel any wind,” said Deen.

    “Sensors show no indication of any higher life-forms,” added Xylion, “it is unlikely that what you saw was any kind of actual—“

    The Vulcan stopped in midsentence when he spotted movement as well.

    Deen and the others saw it too. There was something behind the rock and as if startled, it had suddenly moved away from them. It had only been a blur but it had certainly not been a tumble weed.

    Srena had instinctively jumped backwards.

    The tactical officer raised a hand towards the others, indicating for them to be silent as he freed his phaser and slowly began to move down the canyon and parallel to the movement above. He indicated for Srena to follow him but for her to stay closer to the cliff wall.

    Xylion and Deen in the meantime moved towards the other side of the canyon, drawing their weapons also, and hoping to get into a better vantage point to find what was lurking above them.

    Whatever it was had clearly been startled and judging by the sounds of skipping rocks above, was now moving at a faster pace, as if to get away from the curious Starfleet away team.

    Leva matched the increasingly furious speed and when he spotted a break and sharp turn in the plateau above, he leveled his phaser, expecting to see whatever they were chasing to come into the open for perhaps only a moment.

    It did. But it failed to make the turn and slipped instead, causing it to tumble off the cliff and towards the canyon floor some five meters below. It uttered a very human-like shriek before it landed harshly on the ground.

    Leva was the first on the scene but the others were there moments later.

    “By Utzvah, it’s a person,” said Srena as soon as she saw the humanoid shape, dressed in a long white dress of sorts.

    Deen immediately went to her knees to turn the body and find that it belonged to a woman. She appeared young, no older than herself and with admittedly attractive features, fair skin and long flowing black hair. She was clearly still alive judging from the small groan that escaped her lips. When Deen pushed that hair out of her face to get a better look, her hand brushed against her ear and she felt the distinctive shape. She drew her hair back further and then looked up to give first Leva and then Xylion an astounded look.

    Her ears were shaped exactly like theirs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2013
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    - II –


    “Lieutenant Sirna Kolrami the Younger,” said Nora Laas as she read from her padd and then looked up at the Zakdorn engineer sitting in the chair on the other side of the table, obviously not entirely comfortable being there. “Any relation to the Sirna Kolrami?”

    “He’s my father,” the man said, immediately sitting up a little straighter and puffing out his chest.

    “Forgive my ignorance,” said Alex Clancy as he placed a glass of water in front of the engineering officer. “But who is the Sirna Kolrami?”

    Kolrami the Younger was not in a forgiving mood, judging by the icy stare he aimed at the counselor. “My father is the foremost strategic mind within the Federation. Quite honestly, you should probably read up more on those things,” he said and then reached for the glass to take a sip.

    The counselor shot a look at Nora who offered a little smirk. “He’s probably right.”

    Clancy took a seat next to her. “I’m afraid military strategy was not covered in counselor school,” he said and when he noticed the continued frown on the engineer’s fleshy face, he quickly added: “Something I’m sure they’ll be rectifying soon.”

    Nora referred back to her padd. “According to the personnel roster, Mister Kolrami, you were on duty in engineering two nights ago. Is that correct?”

    The junior lieutenant gave a quick nod in response. “Correct. Along with Chief Petty Officer Telrik, Crewmen McPhee and Sanzenbacher and Lieutenant Gedar.”

    The Bajoran nodded and made notes on her padd. “And according to your statement, you last saw the lieutenant at around 2330 hours when you and the other duty engineers left engineering for various maintenance related work?”

    Another curt nod. “Sanzenbacher was already gone by then, working on overhauling a corroded EPS conduit on deck eight. Telrik and McPhee had to recalibrate the plasma injectors in the starboard nacelle’s control room. That left only myself and Gedar when sensors showed anomalous readings for the navigational deflector. I decided to go and check it out. Since internal sensors are down while we’re in the nebula, we get sensor alerts all time and somebody has to look into those.”

    “So when you left, Gedar was alone in engineering?” Nora asked.

    “That is correct.”

    Clancy leaned forward a little. “Is that unusual? To leave a single person on duty in engineering?”

    “Not really,” he said. “Not during the night shift.” Then he huffed noticeably. “But I should have known better than to leave Gedar by himself. I should have told him to go and check out the deflector instead.”

    “Why do you say that?”

    Kolrami considered the counselor for a moment, almost as if he was trying to ascertain if the man was a telepath like many others who had chosen his profession. However his blue eyes probably ruled him out as a Betazoid. “Gedar had a way to attract trouble, ask anyone. He’s been like that ever since he’s come aboard. And he got easily distracted by matters unrelated to his work.”

    “Such as?” Nora said.

    The engineer shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t really know him all that well personally but I tell you his mind was not on the job. I can’t say if that’s what let to his demise or not but I’m sure it didn’t help.” He took another sip of the water.

    “You didn’t like him very much, did you?” the counselor asked.

    Kolrami looked right into the other man’s eyes before responding. “He wasn’t the greatest engineer I’ve ever met but he was decent enough,” he said and then diverted his glance. “As I said I didn’t know him outside of engineering. I just needed him to do his job.”

    Nora referred back to the padd. “We have determined that Gedar was killed at around 2345—“

    “I was at deflector control. You can check the log.”

    The security chief nodded. “We did and according to the log you were. From what we can tell, you were the last person to see Gedar alive when you left engineering. Did you notice anything suspicious at the time? With him or anyone else?”

    “No.”

    Nora and Clancy exchanged quick looks at the prompt response.

    “Nothing at all?” the counselor asked.

    “If there had been something suspicious, I wouldn’t have left him by himself.”

    “Alright,” said Clancy. “How about in the last few days then? Anything unusual about him? Did he act differently perhaps?”

    “He was talking a great deal about his play and how wonderful it had been and how he hoped to perform it again soon. Mentioned how the captain had congratulated him personally.”

    “Did you see it?” Clancy asked.

    Kolrami shot the man a look as if he had just lost his mind. “No, I have not.”

    “Shame,” he said. “It was pretty good.”

    “If you say so. Now, is there anything else? I really should be getting back to engineering. We’re quite busy with the sensor array and as you can imagine, now that we’re a man down, it’s more work for the rest of us.”

    “We understand,” Nora said. “Thank you for your time, Lieutenant. We may have more questions for you later.”

    The Zakdorn huffed again a little, before he quickly stood and strode out of the interview room.

    Clancy watched him leave. “Charming fellow.”

    “Zakdorns aren’t known for their charisma,” said Nora as she made a few more notes on the padd.

    The counselor was still looking at the now closed doors when he spoke. “It’s obvious there was no love lost between him and Gedar. I think he warrants another look.”

    “Perhaps. But Kolrami has been a distinguished engineer in Starfleet for a long time and has been on Eagle for the last two years. Not to mention he’s clearly incredibly proud of his family’s heritage. I can’t see him doing anything to bring shame to it.”

    Clancy stood. “Good point,” he said and then turned back to look at the Bajoran. “But we’ll have to look past those considerations if we want to find whoever did this. Most murderers haven’t been born or bred to kill people in cold blood. But at some point, regardless of their own moral standards or their upbringing, they snap and do the previously unthinkable.”

    Nora folded her arms in front of her chest. “Alright then, you’re the expert here, Counselor. What is it that made Lieutenant Junior Grade Kolrami snap and turn into a cold-blooded killer?”

    He shot her a boyish grin. “Maybe he really hates Shakespeare.”

    * * *​

    “He seemed like a very gifted young man to me, very charismatic as well. What a horrible tragedy for somebody to die like this. So very sad,” said Erez Rosenthal, the professor was sitting in the interview room, facing both Nora and Clancy, while he was cleaning his spectacles with a cloth. “The big reason why we’re out here,” he said and put his glasses back on, “is to make sure to stop all this senseless killing we’ve been seeing ever since this cursed war started. My array will give us a tactical advantage we’ve never had before,” he added and then shook his head. “But then to learn that somebody died in such a way for no reason at all, it’s just such a terrible tragedy.”

    “Indeed, it is,” said Nora and referred to her padd. “Now according to our initial interviews, you had a meeting with Lieutenant Gedar on the night he was killed, is that correct?”

    “A meeting?” He seemed momentarily confused.

    The security chief checked her padd again. “According to what we’ve been told; you, your assistant Miss Colcord, Lieutenant Hopkins and Gedar were having a meeting to discuss the progress on the sensor array that night.”

    “Oh yes, of course,” he said quickly, nodding along. “We needed to go through some of the details pertaining to the second phase of the project and regarding attaching the sensor modules to the array framework and the resources required for that operation.”

    “How come Gedar was in attendance?” said Clancy who differently to the security chief, was leaning back in his chair, seeming almost relaxed as he studied the professor on the other side of the table.

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Well, you had to be there of course, it’s your project. And I assume Miss Colcord is probably also quite essential. Lieutenant Hopkins is the chief engineer but Gedar was a junior officer. Third or fourth in line in engineering?” he said and looked at Nora for clarification.

    “Fourth,” she said.

    The counselor looked back at the professor. “I’m just curious to know what his purpose was at the meeting. From what others have told us, he wasn’t even that good of an engineer.”

    “Mister Gedar is … I mean was quite an accomplished man, I’m not sure why you would have been told otherwise,” Rosenthal said, prompting the two Starfleet officers to exchange quick glances. “I believe Ms. Hopkins wanted him along. He had some … uh … ideas regarding the project. Some of them where quite interesting.”


    “Interesting?” Colcord said, when it was her turn in the seat and after the professor had departed. “ I wouldn’t necessarily call them interesting. Starfleet officers like to brainstorm ideas all the time but unfortunately they have very little discipline,” she added. “No offense.” The young woman quickly continued. “Anyway, Gedar was no different. He had an opinion on pretty much everything and for some reason Lieutenant Hopkins seemed to encourage it. I believe she thought quite highly of him. But the truth is, we didn’t come here to discuss the sensor array or the shield modifications. They are already working exactly the way they should. We are here to put together this array. And in very little time, I should add. So the sooner we can wrap this up, the sooner I can go back and ensure it goes up before we all die of radiation poisoning.”

    Both Nora and Clancy needed a second to catch up with everything that had come over her lips in her rapid-fire speech.

    Nora looked at her padd. “What time did this meeting start?”

    Colcord uttered a little sigh. “About 2320. Maybe 30, I don’t recall precisely, I wasn’t looking at a chronometer at the time.”

    The Bajoran nodded. “And what time did it finish?

    “That would have been when Lieutenant Hopkins got the call about Gedar being found in engineering. That must have been around 0045 hours.”

    “So Gedar left the meeting at some point?” Clancy asked.


    Louise Hopkins nodded slowly but didn’t answer the question.

    Nora actually put the padd on the table and leaned forward, reaching out for the engineer’s hand. “Are you alright, Lou? We can talk later about this if you don’t feel up to it.”

    The engineer shook her head. “No, no it’s alright. It’s just tough, you know. I’m really trying hard not to think about what happened to him because when I do think about it… “ she stopped herself again. “It’s not as if I haven’t lost people over the last few years. Accidents happen all the time. Somebody stands to close to a exploding EPS conduit when it blows in battle, some Jem’Hadar ship gets in a lucky shot, somebody gets burned by plasma, but those are the risk which are inherit to the job. War casualties,” she said.

    “I know it’s difficult,” Nora told her friend.

    The young engineer took a deep breath and then looked back at the counselor who offered a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, what was the question?”

    “Lieutenant Gedar left the meeting early. What time was that?”

    “Pretty early on. Maybe five or ten minutes after we started.”

    “And why was that?” he asked.

    “Rosenthal and Colcord weren’t particularly happy for him to be there,” she said. “I mean they barely tolerate me but as they need our people and resources to build this array of theirs, I suppose I was not optional. Gedar was.”

    Nora peeked up at that. “Where they hostile towards him?”

    “Uh … I don’t know if I’d call it hostility,” she said, not sounding so entirely sure of herself. “Maybe more indifferent than hostile. Especially Colcord. She really doesn’t like Starfleet or maybe Starfleet engineers. I thought that was odd because Jin had some very good ideas about improving their shield modifications further. But she was adamant that it was good enough already and that they didn’t need any Starfleet design input.”

    “So they didn’t get along?” said Nora.

    “I don’t think it was personal,” Hopkins said. “She didn’t really care for anyone in my team and I don’t think she expected anyone else in the meeting apart from me.

    “Lieutenant Kolrami mentioned that Gedar wasn’t a particularly good engineer,” said Clancy.

    Hopkins shot the counselor an astonished look.

    “That wasn’t the case?” he said.

    “He could be a little unfocused at times, I suppose. He’d been spending a lot of time lately on that play he was in and perhaps some of his colleagues felt that he was neglecting his duties.”

    “Did Kolrami have more of an issue with that than others?” Clancy continued.

    “I don’t know,” she said. “But Kolrami and Gedar were up for the same position in engineering and Zakdorn can be quite blunt and undiplomatic, especially when they’re after something,” she said but then quickly looked guilty over what she had said. “Sorry, that probably didn’t sound right.”

    “It’s fine, Lou,” Nora said. “And you are right about the Zakdorn. But their assertive nature does not make them killers,” she added and aimed a sidelong look at Clancy.

    “Of course not,” she said quickly. “I’ve worked with Kolrami for years and I can vouch for him. He can be difficult at times but he’d never hurt a colleague.”

    “Could you think of anyone who may have had reason to?”

    Hopkins hesitated for a moment, briefly glancing away. “No,” she said.

    “If he didn’t have any enemies on board,” Clancy said, “who were his friends?”


    “We’re two out of maybe half a dozen Krellonian’s in Starfleet,” Lif Culsten said. “Yeah, we knew each other.”

    “How well?” said Clancy as he considered the helmsman whose features were not all that dissimilar from Gedar. His skin was lighter but he possessed the same earless head and fine, long, silver hair.

    “We talked socially from time to time. He had some problems adjusting to life outside the Star Alliance and I was happy to help him where I could.”

    “Anything in particular he had problems with?” Nora said as she made notes on her padd.

    He considered that for a moment. “My people have some, I guess you would call them old-fashioned views, about gender roles.”

    Nora raised her eyebrows. “Lovely. I had no idea.”

    “I don’t share those views, Lieutenant.”

    She nodded slowly but skeptically. “So what? Gedar saw women as inferior to him?”

    He quickly shook his head. “No, not inferior. Quite the opposite really. He worshipped women.”

    Nora looked confused.

    “I think what the lieutenant is trying to say is that Gedar was a bit of a ladies’ man.”

    “I believe that is the term.”

    The Bajoran security chief nodded. “Was he seeing somebody on Eagle?”

    “For many of my people it is almost unthinkable not to be engaged in some sort of relationship with the opposite sex at all times. And Gedar was very much of that same persuasion. He called it his weakness.”

    Nora rolled her eyes and Clancy smirked.

    “Do you know who he was involved with?”

    “A Bajoran Marine. I think her name is Yunta,” he said. “Yes, Yunta Fay.”
     
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – III –


    “You’re saying you were in here when this happened?”

    “It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” said Star while she leaned against one of the very few bulkheads in the room which were not covered with soot and grime. She had her arms crossed in front of her chest and watched as Hopkins and a pair of technicians were going through what remained of the EPS substation.

    “No kidding,” said the chief engineer. “It must have been near sixty degrees in here when the plasma fire broke out.”

    “What are your findings?”

    Hopkins, wearing a plain, mustard-colored jumpsuit was on her hands and knees trying to gain access to the flashpoint of the fire. “So far, I haven’t found anything yet that could shed light on what caused the rupture. It almost looks as if—“

    “Lieutenant.”

    Hopkins got on her feet and turned to one of her engineers.

    “Have a look at this?” the man said and handed her a palm-sized device, blackened and singed by the fire but otherwise apparently still in one piece.

    She took it off his hands and inspected it closely. “Now that’s interesting.”

    Star stepped closer. “What is it?”

    “This,” she said, “is the emergency shut-off seal for the EPS conduit. The very same which should prevent an accident like this to happen.”

    “It failed?” the Trill asked.

    Hopkins shook head. “It worked perfectly.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “Commander, there is nothing wrong with the seal. In theory it should have activated and immediately stopped the plasma flow after detecting the rupture.”

    “But it didn’t. Why?”

    Hopkins shrugged her small shoulders. “Honestly? Beats me.”

    The first officer frowned at that, not happy with that explanation at all.

    “The only way I can see this could have happened is if …” apparently she didn’t want to finish her own thought.

    “If what, Lieutenant?”

    She uttered a sigh. “If somebody purposefully tried to cause the EPS overload and circumvented the emergency seal.”

    The Trill considered that for a moment.

    “But it makes no sense, Commander,” she added quickly. “If we hadn’t gotten the EPS rupture under control when we did, we would have lost shields protecting half the ship. We would have been exposed to the nebula’s radiation.”

    “Meaning we would have had to abandon our current mission to build the sensor array,” Star said.

    Hopkins nodded slowly but apparently not quite on the same page as the XO yet. It took her a couple of seconds to catch up. “Wait, you’re saying somebody is trying to sabotage this mission?”

    “What can you tell me about Katherine Smith?”

    “Kate?” she said, momentarily dumbfounded by the new line of inquiry. “She’s been on Eagle as long as I’ve been here. Day one. She’s one of my best people. Dedicated, hard-working, skilled at her job.”

    “She was the only person who accessed this substation yesterday, wasn’t she?”

    “Yes, but—“

    “She had both opportunity and the knowledge to carry out an intentional overload of the EPC conduit.”

    “Yes but no reason,” Hopkins said quickly, desperate to defend her man. “I know Kate. We spend time together off-duty on occasions. We’ve been on shore leave together. She’s not a saboteur. She’d have no reason to be. This makes no sense.”

    But Star considered the other woman suspiciously. “Then give me another explanation?”

    Clearly Hopkins didn’t have one.

    The Trill turned and headed for the exit and the chief engineer followed closely. Outside they found Kate Smith near the very bulkhead where Star had found her, cowering on the floor after the fire had started. An armed security guard was standing watch over the woman as to Star’s orders.

    She knew that technically this fell into the security chief’s department but Star had pulled rank and done an end around Nora Laas. After all these events were fitting perfectly into her theory of an enemy spy operating on board Eagle. She hadn’t shared those views with anyone except for Katanga but given current events, it would become difficult not to draw the conclusions she already had. But the last thing she wanted was to get Nora involved. Besides the security chief was busy with the murder investigation and while there was a chance that these events were related, so far there was no evidence connecting the two. She did not rule it out, of course, and her saboteur could have very easily have been the same person responsible for killing Lieutenant Gedar. Right now that person appeared to be Lieutenant Junior Grade Kate Smith.

    The slim dark-haired engineer watched Star and Hopkins emerge with large eyes, apparently anxious as to their findings. She didn’t appear encouraged by the dour look on her boss’ face.

    Star cut right to the chase. “No mechanical fault whatsoever,” she said to the woman.

    “I … I don’t understand,” Smith said.

    “Then let me clarify,” said Star and crossed her arms again. “Either you caused the overload accidently due to negligence on your part or you did so purposefully with the intention of harming this ship and her crew.”

    Smith immediately shook her head. “No, no that can’t be.”

    The XO glanced at the chief engineer. “You told me Lieutenant Smith is a competent engineer who is fully able to operate the EPS substation safely and without causing an accident. Am I also correct in saying that even if there had been some sort of equipment malfunction, she would have been able to take quick corrective actions to avoid what took place here yesterday?”

    Hopkins didn’t respond straight away. Instead she kept her focus on her engineer who was pleading with her eyes. Then she nodded.

    “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that,” said Star.

    Hopkins swallowed before speaking. “Yes. With the emergency seal fully in tact, she should have been able to shut-off the plasma flow at the first sign of trouble, even if it didn’t engage automatically.”

    Star turned back to look at Smith.

    “I … I can’t explain it,” she stammered. “I simply don’t know what happened. I mean … I was there and there was no sign of any malfunction. The plasma flow was … it was normal, I’m sure of it.”

    “Then what caused the rupture, Lieutenant?” Star asked.

    “I … “ she clearly had no explanation to offer, instead her eyes were starting to become moist. “I don’t know,” she finally said and hung her head.

    “Lieutenant, I’m removing you from active duty and you are restricted to quarters until further notice and pending a full investigation of what happened here. Crewman, please escort the lieutenant to her quarters.”

    The security guard nodded and when Smith didn’t move, she prodded her gently until the engineer began to head down her corridor, the armed guard staying two steps behind her.

    Hopkins watched her engineer leave. “It’s going to be very difficult for us to keep on schedule with the array without having her around. It’s the second good man I’ve lost on my team.”

    “Pull people from other departments if you must but I’m not taking the risk of having a possible saboteur walking around freely on the ship. Not while we have a killer onboard as well.”

    “Wait,” she said and turned to face the Trill. “You don’t think Kate—“

    “I don’t know yet but I can’t see how we can rule anything out at this point,” she said and then looked at the fire damaged EPS substation. “I know you’re already stretched thin but I need you to put a team together to fine comb through that room and find out exactly how she caused the rupture.”

    “Internal sensors were non-operational, we’re going to have limited data to analyze.”

    “Do what you can. I expect a full report within twenty-four hours,” Star said and then walked away.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – IV –


    “I suppose this is how things worked before internal sensors,” said Alex Clancy as he walked down the corridor with Nora Laas at his side. “Can you even imagine not being able to rely on something we now take for granted?”

    The Bajoran aimed a frown in his direction. “We didn’t have internal sensors in the resistance on Bajor.”

    Clancy looked pained. “Of course not, sorry.”

    “I still don’t understand why we are doing it this way,” she said, apparently quite happy not to dwell on her past. “We could have easily commed her and have her report to the security office.”

    “Yunta Fey is our first suspect outside of engineering we haven’t spoken to yet,” he said. “I want to see her reaction when she hears about Gedar’s death.”

    “Is that a trick you picked up in your vast investigative career, Lieutenant?”

    Clancy ignored the sarcasm in her tone. “It’s simple psychology. Most people are unable to hide their true feelings when they are caught by surprise. It may only last a second but sometimes that’s enough.”

    “Just remember, last time I checked you can’t prosecute somebody based on their feelings.”

    “Not in the Federation, no,” he said with a little smirk and then pointed to the two wooden doors they were approaching, embossed with a large Starfleet delta in a transparent inset. “According to Major Wasco, we’ll find the corporal in here. Sounds like she’s one of the few Marines who likes to mix with the Starfleet crew.”

    They entered the Nest, Eagle’s largest crew lounge located at the very front of deck ten. The two-level room offered relaxed seating arrangements below and replicators and dining tables above.

    The Nest was busy which didn’t come as much of a surprise considering that the majority of the crew was not while they were parked in the nebula, constructing the sensors array. And of course the large panorama windows allowed one of the best views of their mesmerizing surroundings and many were taking full advantage of this.

    Bensu, Eagle’s enigmatic bartender appeared out of seemingly nowhere to greet his latest guests. “Welcome to the Nest, may I interest you in some refreshments?”

    But before Nora could speak, the dark-skinned man with his white bony ridges protruding from his otherwise hairless scalp beat her to it. “You’re here on official business, aren’t you?”

    “How can you tell?”

    “It’s that look in your eyes, Alex,” he said. “You are here because of what happened in engineering.”

    “How do you know about that?” Nora said, sounding almost accusatory now. After all they had agreed with the captain to delay the official announcement for twenty-four hours in order to give them a head start of catching the perpetrator.

    He smiled sadly. “It’s very difficult to keep a secret on a starship no matter how hard you try.”

    Nora wanted to respond but something in his look changed her mind. She had once tried to keep a secret on this ship too and it hadn’t worked out very well. She didn’t want to think of the painful emotions the thought stirred up in her.

    As if he could sense that pain, Bensu quickly moved on. “Is there somebody specific you are looking for?”

    “Lance Corporal Yunta Fey,” Clancy said.

    “Yes, she’s here,” he said and pointed at the far corner of the room where a woman sat by herself at a table, staring off into the nebula and sipping at her drink. “A remarkable woman, that one. Strong and determined, a warrior through and through,” he added and then looked back at Nora.

    She nodded along.

    “I can see why you would want to talk to her.”

    “Why is that?” said Clancy.

    “I couldn’t tell you for certain,” the bartender said, “but I think she knew Gedar. I may have seen them together a couple of times.”

    “Thank you,” Nora said in a clipped tone and headed in the direction of where Yunta was sitting.

    Clancy caught up quickly. “Not very tactful, Lieutenant.”

    “I don’t trust the man,” she said in a near whisper. “He knows too much, it creeps me out.”

    He uttered a little laugh.

    “Lance Corporal Yunta Fey,” Nora said as they stepped up to the table.

    The woman turned to look at the two Starfleet officers. Bensu hadn’t been wrong about her. Even sitting down it was clear Yunta was a fighter, possessing strong shoulders and a muscular built and a hard look in her bright blue eyes. She was also, however, undeniably attractive and apparently without having to give it much effort. She had naturally high cheekbones, flawless skin and silky blonde hair which she currently wore down to her neck. “Yes?”

    “I’m Lieutenant Nora Laas, this is Lieutenant Clancy. May we sit down and talk to you?”

    She nodded and the two took seats opposite her.

    “I know you, Lieutenant. You are the chief of security.”

    Nora nodded.

    “You are from Rakantha Province, aren’t you?” she continued. “I remember reading about you and your sister. Leena, was it? You raised some serious hells for the Cardies back in the resistance. I was too young to join at the time but after reading about what you did at an early age, I couldn’t wait to get my hands around their murderous throats.”

    “Did you join?”

    “Yes but by then you had left Bajor,” she said this without accusation or bitterness which Bajorans who stayed behind often felt for those who had fled before their home world was liberated. “I don’t blame you for doing that. Tell you the truth, I would’ve left too if I’d had the chance. Couldn’t get out quickly enough after the Cardies left. Joint Starfleet’s Marines.”

    “It’s a good place to be.”

    She nodded and took another drink. “It’s what we Bajorans are good at. Killing spoon-heads.”

    Nora cringed a little at the derogative term she herself hadn’t used since her days fighting the Cardassians in the border wars as a Marine but Yunta didn’t seem to notice.

    “So how may I help you?” she said. “I doubt you came to see me just to reminisce about the good old days.”

    “We’re investigating the murder of Lieutenant Gedar,” said Clancy.

    The Marine looked at him, her expressions seemingly carefully schooled. “Gedar is dead?”

    “He was killed yesterday in engineering between 2330 and midnight,” the assistant counselor said.

    Yunta said nothing, her empty eyes focused on Clancy as if they were engaged in some sort of staring contest.

    “We understand you knew Gedar quite well?” said Nora.

    But Yunta still didn’t react.

    “Corporal?”

    She turned to look at Nora. “Yes. Yes, I knew him.”

    But Nora’s asking expression was not rewarded with an answer. “How well?”

    “Are you asking me if we had sexual congress?”

    Clancy and Nora exchanged a quick, surprised look, neither having expected such a frank response. Clancy took that one. “Well, I wouldn’t have gone there straight away but sure, I suppose that’s what we’re asking.”

    “I don’t mince words, Lieutenant,” she said. “And yes, we had an intimate relationship at one point. But I would appreciate if this information did not find it’s way back to Major Wasco.”

    “You can be assured of our discretion on that matter, Corporal,” said Nora.

    “You said at one point,” Clancy continued. “Does that mean you were no longer in a relationship with him?”

    She sipped her drink again before responding. “It ended a few months ago.”

    “Who ended it?” Clancy asked.

    She considered that for a moment. “It was a mutual decision.”

    The counselor did not look convinced at all and even Yunta could tell. “Listen, I’d be lying if I said that what we had wasn’t extremely stimulating for the both of us. But that’s all it was. Physical. We both understood this and decided to move on.”

    “Would you happen to know who he moved on to?” said Nora.

    “Excuse me?”

    Clancy clarified. “Was there a woman he was involved with after you two broke it off?”

    “I believe so, yes.”

    Clancy looked a little exasperated. “And would you happen to know her name?”

    The Marine seemed momentarily lost, staring passed both Starfleet officers and into the nebula behind them.

    “Corporal?” Clancy said.

    “Sierra Decaux,” she finally said. “I have to report back to my unit. I’m sure you know where to find me if you need anything else,” she added hastily, finished her drink with one last gulp and stood.

    “Yes,” Nora said, clearly caught on the back foot a little by her sudden move.

    “One more question before you go, Corporal,” Clancy said, looking up and finding Yunta almost six feet tall. “Where were you between 2330 and midnight on that day?”

    “In my quarters,” she said. “Sleeping.”

    “Alone?” Clancy said.

    “I’m afraid so,” she added and then turned and walked away.

    They both watched her leave.

    “What a charmer,” said Clancy.

    Nora shot him a dark look. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “You have to admit she doesn’t exactly possess the greatest set of social skills.”

    “She doesn’t have to,” she countered. “She’s a Marine.”

    “I’m sorry I didn’t know those two qualities were mutually exclusive.”

    Nora leaned back in her chair a bit. “She couldn’t have had an easy life. Young women that looked like her on Bajor where prime candidates to become courtesans for the Cardassian leadership. And often they were not treated very well.”

    “She looks like she can handle herself in a fight.”

    But Nora shook her head. “She wasn’t always the strong fighter she is now, I’m sure of it. I was a slim little thing when I first started out in the resistance. I leaned a few tricks along the way and became a decent shot and handy with a knife but it wasn’t until I joined the Marines that I turned into a true warrior with the kind of deadly skills I wish I’d have had back in the resistance.”

    “So what you’re saying is that she’s got the strength and the resolve to kill.”

    The security chief didn’t like the sound of that. “Just because she can do it doesn’t mean she did, Lieutenant.”

    “Of course not but let’s recap what we’ve learned, shall we? She has no alibi. She has a connection to the victim, perhaps even a motive if he wronged her somehow which considering his reputation is a good possibility and she had the opportunity.”

    Nora stood and began heading for the exit. “I’m not willing to consider that just yet.”

    Clancy followed suit. “Don’t get blinded by the fact that she reminds you of yourself. She may have had a similar journey but you are not the same person.”

    “I realize that,” she said a little too quickly. “Let’s go find Decaux.”
     
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – V –


    Xylion had quite effortlessly swooped up the unconscious young woman and brought her into the back compartment of the runabout where they had placed her into a cot.

    “Other than a few scrapes, she seems uninjured,” said Srena who was running a medical tricorder of her still body, the slight rise and fall of her chest giving proof that she was indeed alive.

    “Can you verify her race?” asked Deen who stood close by and like the others had been unable to take her eyes off the mystery woman.

    “Oh, she’s definitely Vulcan. According to this she’s about nineteen or twenty years old,” the Andorian said.

    “How can this be?” said Leva, his arms crossed in front of his broad chest.

    Srena shot him a look and shrugged, obviously this was not a question her tricorder could answer.

    “Are you able to wake her?” Xylion wanted to know.

    “Wait a minute,” said Deen and stepped closer. “Are we sure that’s a good idea? We don’t have the slightest clue who she is or how she came to be here.”

    The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. “Precisely. The only person who can answer those questions is her.”

    “I agree with Xylion,” the tactical officer added. “Besides, it’s obvious she’s already seen us. She was watching us while we were disembarking the runabout.”

    “Yes, and scared her half to death. Literally,” said Deen.

    “Wake her, Ensign,” the Vulcan said.

    Srena aimed a quick look at the still skeptical Deen but then retrieved a hypo-spray, checked the content and then applied it to the woman’s neck where it emptied into her system with a little hiss.

    It didn’t take long for the girl in the white dress to stir. Then she uttered a little moan and reached for her head.

    The four Starfleet officers watched quietly and with obvious anticipation as she slowly recovered from her fall.

    “Perhaps you should attempt to speak to her first, Lieutenant,” Xylion said.

    “Let the people person break the ice, I get it,” she said and took a small step towards the cot.

    The Vulcan woman opened her eyes and not a moment later jerked up into a sitting position, clearly disturbed as to where she found herself.

    “Hello there. Don’t be alarmed,” said Deen with her most charming smile which usually managed to break just about any kind of tension she faced. “You’re on a Starfleet—“

    That’s as far she got. The woman was on her feet instantly and before even appraising her situation, she struck out at the first person she saw. And she did so with surprising quickness and strength, hitting the totally unprepared Deen right under her chin and sending her crashing to the floor.

    “Whoa, easy there,” Srena said, palms facing the startled woman.

    But the short Andorian was also unprepared for the woman’s ferocity and was promptly shoved harshly into the bulkhead, causing her to groan in pain by the sudden impact.

    Once passed Srena, she vaulted over the table in the middle of the room to get to the back of the runabout and the large viewports which offered her a view she was likely more familiar with. She pressed herself against the transparent aluminum but quickly found that she would not be able to escape through there.

    She whirled back around and found a door at the opposite side of the room, almost leaping towards it.

    “We are trying to help you,” said Leva who stepped up to the door to block her way.

    She spun around again so suddenly that she lost her balance and fell to the floor only to jump back up and head into the opposite direction. She ran right into a brick wall. Or at least that’s what it must have felt for her when she bumped into Xylion who hardly moved from the impact at all. The woman landed by his feet.

    The science officer reached down, picked her up by her shoulders and pulled her up almost effortlessly. “You are Vulcan,” he said.

    She didn’t fight his strong grip, instead she simply stared back at him, almost as if she recognized this stranger.

    Xylion let her go when she was back on her feet and she made no more apparent attempts to run.

    “I am … Vulcan,” she said gingerly. “What … are you?”

    He considered her for a moment. Then he raised his hand to offer the traditional salute of his people. “I am as well.”

    She looked at the hand gesture curiously and then tried to emulate it but her small fingers didn’t quite get the v-shape right.

    He noticed her difficulty. “Fascinating.”

    “Who … who are you?” she said.

    “I am Lieutenant Commander Xylion, chief science officer of the Starfleet vessel USS Eagle. We mean you no harm. There is no need for you to be afraid.”

    “I am not afraid.”

    “Could have fooled me,” said Leva and tended to Deen, helping her back on her feet even while she rubbed her bruised chin.

    “These are my colleagues,” said Xylion. “They were trying to help you.”

    The woman looked around to see, perhaps for the first time, the chaos she had caused, including knocking down two of the strangers as well as equipment and a fruit bowl which had stood on the table she had leaped over.

    “While your actions may have been explicable,” Xylion continued, “they were entirely unwarranted.”

    “I second that,” Deen mumbled, still unable to open her jaw fully after the blow she’d taken.

    “What is your name?” the science officer asked.

    The woman turned back to consider Xylion. “Tela.”

    “How did you get to be on this planet?”

    She looked confused by that question.

    Leva stepped closer carefully. “Tela, my name is So’Dan. Where are you from? Where do you live?”

    “Are you Vulcan as well?” she asked him, noticing the similarly shaped ears.

    He smirked. “Not quite. But I can see how one can make that mistake.”

    She nodded. “This is my home.”

    “You live here?” said Deen who had replicated a small ice bag which she now kept pressed against her chin.

    Tela seemed suddenly disturbed and took a couple of steps towards the Tenarian. “I have hurt you,” she said.

    She waved it off. “I’ve had worse.”

    Leva offered a dry smile. “But getting hit in the face is not the reaction DeMara is used to.”

    Deen aimed a dark look into his direction.

    The young woman noticed the pilot next.

    The Andorian tried to be as cavalier about it and offered a smile. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it. My name is Srena by the way.”

    Tela nodded slowly.

    “You were telling us that you live here,” said Deen. “Where exactly?”

    “We have a village about an hour’s walk from here.”

    Xylion seemed intrigued. “How many Vulcans live there?”

    She looked back at him and considered that question as if it sounded entirely odd to her. “We are all Vulcans.”

    “I don’t know about you guys,” said Deen, her jaw clearly doing a lot better now, “but I think I want to see that.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    - VI -


    Nora pressed the annunicator and after waiting a few seconds, the doors to the private quarter opened to reveal a young woman of about twenty-three years who was mostly the exact opposite of what Yunta Fey had been. At least in height, posture and build. Smaller, shorter and much less muscular, she was clearly not the fighter the Bajoran Marine had been. But that didn’t make her any less attractive with her similar blonde hair, small eyes and a button nose. She wore a long white shirt with matching loose pants.

    “Crewman Sierra Decaux?” Nora asked.

    Her eyes widened when she realized her visitors were officers and she quickly jumped to attention. “Yes, ma’am.”

    “As you were,” the Bajoran said.

    The woman relaxed but only very hesitantly.

    “I’m Alex Clancy and this is Lieutenant Nora Laas. May we come in?”

    She looked confused at the request. “Come in?”

    The counselor offered a smile meant to put her at ease. “We’d like to talk to you if you don’t mind. However if this is not a good time, we can come back later.”

    The security chief aimed a rather incredulous look at her partner. Obviously he had improvised that line.

    But it had the intended effect and the young woman seemed to relax somewhat. “No, of course, you may come in,” she said and stepped away to let them enter. “It’s just, I wasn’t expecting any visitors and uh … I didn’t really clean up or anything.”

    “That’s understandable,” he said as he walked passed her. “And don’t worry, this is not an inspection of your quarters.”

    The place was a bit of a mess. She shared a modest living room with four other crewmembers so it wasn’t easy to tell if all clothes, uneaten foodstuffs and knickknacks belonged to just her or her roommates.

    By the embarrassed blush on her face and the way she desperately darted around the room, picking up various items only to then struggle to find a place for them to go, it was a good guess that most of it belonged to her. “If you give me a minute, sir, I’ll just get this right in order and—“

    “Sierra?”

    She stopped in her tracks and looked back at Clancy.

    “It’s alright, really.”

    She looked not convinced at all.

    “Hang on,” he said as if he recognized something about her. “You were in the play weren’t you? You’re Miranda.”

    That did the trick and she broke out in a beaming smile, the state of the room suddenly forgotten.

    “Boy you were really good in that,” he said.

    “Thanks but it wasn’t just me, you know, we all rehearsed really hard for that. We’re hoping to put on another show next week.”

    At that Clancy cringed a little.

    “Can we sit down, Crewman?” Nora asked.

    “I’m sorry, I forgot my manners, please,” she said hurried over to the sofa to clear off a few pieces of pink, non-regulation underwear, quickly dumping them out of sight, her face bright red yet again.

    The two lieutenants sat and Clancy gestured towards the lounge chair opposite him. Decaux needed a moment to understand what he meant before she gingerly sat on it.

    “Crewman, how would you describe your relationship to Lieutenant Gedar?”

    “Jin?” she said, once again caught off-guard. “I mean, I know the lieutenant, we were in the play together and we rehearsed quite a bit. He also helped us calibrate some of our lab equipment.”

    “You’re a research assistant in astrophysics?” asked Nora, referring to her padd.

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    “And you have been on Eagle for eight months, is that right?” she said.

    Decaux nodded. “Came on board straight out of basic training. They told us they needed every able person to serve to fight the Dominion and I was happy to sign-up and do my part. However small that might be.”

    “Sierra, you mentioned you knew Gedar from the play and when he came to the lab but did you ever meet him on other occasions?”

    “I’m not sure … uh … what you mean,” she said, doing an awful job of trying to deflect the question.

    Clancy offered another smile. “Sierra, there is no regulation that forbids fraternization between the crew and officers.”

    She nodded slowly but didn’t say anything further, probably fully aware that even though he was right, Starfleet tended to discourage such practices.

    Nora was not patient enough to let this drag on. “Crewman, please answer this question for me. Did you have a romantic relationship with Lieutenant Gedar?”

    “Is that what he said?”

    Nora sighed.

    Clancy leaned forward. “Sierra, Lieutenant Gedar is dead. He was killed in engineering two nights ago.”

    “What? No,” she said jumped onto her feet. “That’s not possible.”

    “Sierra, please—“

    “He can’t be dead he was just … I mean how is that possible?” she nearly cried, her eyes rapidly becoming wet. “There must be some sort of mistake.”

    “I’m afraid not,” Clancy said.

    She began to pace the room. “My god, my god, my god.”

    “Sierra, I know this is hard but try to calm down, okay? Take a seat, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, trust me it helps.”

    She nodded and then followed his instructions.

    “This hurts right now, I know,” he continued while she had her eyes closed. “And it’ll hurt for some time before it gets better. But right now you have to understand that there is nothing we can do for Gedar anymore except trying to find who did this to him and bring him or her to justice.”

    She opened her eyes again.

    “I take it the answer to my questions is yes, then,” said Nora Laas.

    Decaux shot her an empty look.

    “You were involved with him?”

    She nodded very slowly.

    “How long have you been seeing him?” she said.

    Decaux considered that for a moment. “About three months, I think.”

    The security chief made notes in her padd.

    “Wait, you don’t think I had something to do with his death, do you?” she asked suddenly, sounding almost panicked at the thought. “Because I would never be able to hurt anyone. You have to believe me.”

    Nora looked up suspiciously. “You went through basic training, didn’t you?”

    “Yes.”

    “And you learned combat skills there? Hand-to-hand fighting, weapons training and the like?”

    “Yes but really just the absolute basics,” she said quickly. “I went through the accelerated program because of the war. Most of my training was focused on astrophysics.”

    “We understand that, Sierra but we have to investigate every lead. Where were you two nights ago between 2330 and zero-hundred hours,” the counselor asked.

    She considered that for a moment. A very long moment. Then she looked up. “I was here in my quarters.”

    “Will your roommates be able to corroborate that?” Nora asked.

    “Uh, I don’t know, we all have different shifts, it’s kind of rare we see each other at all.”

    Nora made more notes.

    “Can you think of anyone who might have held a grudge against Gedar?” Clancy said.

    “Not really, no,” she said quickly.

    “Maybe somebody he worked with in engineering?” he prodded. “Perhaps he mentioned something to you?”

    She thought about that one. “He did say that there was this engineer he worked with, a Zakdorn I think, who didn’t like him and was jealous of him.”

    “Did he say anything else? About him or anyone else?” he asked.

    She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

    “Okay, thanks Sierra, I think we better leave you alone now unless you have any more questions, Lieutenant,” Clancy said and looked at Nora.

    “Not right now but maybe later,” she said and stood.

    Clancy followed suit and after a moment so did Decaux.

    “I’m going to see what I can do to get you a couple of days off, Sierra, would you like that?”

    She nodded delicately.

    “Thank you for your time,” he said, “I know you’re hurting, Sierra and while it may not feel like it right now, it’s going to get better,” he added with a genuine smile.

    The two investigators headed for the door but just before they reached them, Clancy turned back around. “There is just one more thing,” he said and referred back to his padd. “Do you know a Marine corporal by the name of Yunta Fey?”

    “Uh, what?”

    “Corporal Yunta,” Clancy repeated. “She’s Bajoran. Do you know of her?”

    “I’m not … sure.”

    “Apparently she was seeing Gedar up until recently,” said Nora. “She pointed us in your direction.”

    At that her eyes widened.

    Clancy took a step towards her. “You must have known about the lieutenant’s reputation.”

    She nodded after a moment.

    “Crewman, is there any possibility that Lieutenant Gedar was involved with anyone else? Perhaps even while he was with you?”

    “I … “ she couldn’t say it and looked away instead.

    Clancy took a few more steps towards the young woman. “Sierra, this is very important,” he said. “Did you have any suspicions somebody else may have been involved?”

    She made eye contact with the counselor but didn’t speak straight away. It took her moment to find her voice again. “Yes.”

    “Who?” Nora wanted to know.

    She shook her head. “I can’t be certain but we suspected that he was involved with a senior officer.”

    “A senior officer?” Nora said, clearly having a hard time believing this.

    But she nodded. “I don’t know who but I have my suspicions.”

    “Whom did you suspect?”

    She looked straight at Clancy, likely because she was off put by the noticeable frown on the security chief’s face. “Doctor Wenera. He spent a lot of time in sickbay and now she’s suddenly left the ship in a hurry. I’m thinking it must have been her.”
     
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Five: Presumed Innocent


    – I –​


    This time it had not required any convincing at all on her part to get Xylion to agree to set out and visit Tela’s settlement. In fact, it seemed as if the Vulcan science officer was more eager than the others to learn more about this colony made up entirely of his own people and understandably so.

    The day/night cycle on the rogue planet lasted an Earth similar 21 hours and they had agreed with the young Vulcan woman that they’d visit her home first thing in the morning.

    Tela was already waiting outside the crashed runabout only minutes after dawn, still wearing the same, simple white dress, and was quick to show the away team the way to her settlement.

    “There are no records of any Vulcan colonies either inside this nebula or in close proximity,” said Xylion as he walked at her side across the arid terrain. “How exactly did you and your people arrive at this place?”

    “I was born here,” she said. “Father should be able to explain better than I how this became our world before my birth.”

    “Fascinating.”

    “And how did their ship survive in the nebula long enough to get this far inside?” said Deen.

    Tela considered her for a moment. “I believe father would be able to explain this better than I.”

    Deen nodded and afforded the young woman with a smile.

    “Maybe they didn’t,” said the Andorian who more so than anyone else was struggling with the dry heat on this world which was already intense just minutes after first light and had made her strip out of her uniform jacket. “I mean maybe they got off course somehow and crashed on this planet like we did.”

    “This world is almost half a light-year inside the nebula, I find it hard to believe they could have survived this long,” said Leva. “They must have had some sort of technology to protect them from the radiation.”

    “My father would be—“

    “Able to better explain it. Of course,” the Romulan officer said.

    “So perhaps we wait to ask the questions until we get to the settlement,” said Deen, “ and take in the scenery until we get there,” she added with a little smirk. The arid, tundra-like surface didn’t exactly offer a great many highlights. This changed somewhat the closer they got to their destination when she found scarce evidence of flora and fauna.

    The first settlers they encountered were working on small fields in the outskirts of the settlement, tending to their crops. The Vulcans turned towards the newcomers when they spotted them but after just a few seconds their curiosity appeared to be satisfied and they returned to their work.

    “Not exactly the warmest of welcomes,” said Leva.

    “They’re Vulcans,” said Deen. “What did you expect? Shouts of joy and hugs?”

    Leva smirked.

    The settlement proper was made out of somewhere between twenty to thirty buildings, most of which constructed out of wood and other local materials. The larger buildings towards the center had clearly been converted from hull fragments of a transport ship.

    There were about a two dozen Vulcans carrying out daily task all around the settlement. Everyone seemed to have a very specific purpose and nobody seemed to be wasting time with idle chitchat or taking time to rest. It appeared to be a model of efficiency just like one would come to expect from a Vulcan settlement.

    And just like in the fields, no one here seemed to afford the stranded away team with more than a moment’s worth of consideration and to Leva’s disappointment, there was no welcoming committee awaiting them.

    Tela led them right to the center of the settlement and close to the largest building which seemed to have been converted from the hull of an old-fashioned transport ship and was reinforced in places by wooden constructs and sheet metal which all looked professionally applied and functionally designed if not particularly ecstatically pleasing.

    There they actually did find somebody waiting for them. The tall, gray-haired Vulcan man wore long, spotless ember robes and watched the away team patiently, with his hands clasped behind his back, as they were led to him by the young woman.

    “May I introduce Elder Volik, my father,” she said when they had reached the man. “Father, these are the people I spoke of. DeMara Deen, Srena, So’Dan Leva and Xylion. Xylion is a Vulcan.”

    Volik considered the newcomers carefully but appeared most intrigued by the science officer. “Indeed,” he said. “Welcome to our humble settlement.”

    Xylion raised his hand in the traditional Vulcan gesture and found that it took Volik a moment to respond in kind. “We are honored that you have received us as your guests.”

    “Kind of wish it was under different circumstances,” said Srena quietly.

    But Volik appeared to have overhead her comment. “I understand that your vessel landed on this world unintentionally. That of course is regretful however this happenstance may perhaps be to our mutual benefit.”

    “Do I take it your vessel crashed here as well?” Deen said.

    Volik turned to look at her. “That is correct. Twenty-one standard years ago.”

    “And may I inquire what brought you inside the nebula?” Xylion asked. “You must have known of the radiation’s effects on biological tissue.”

    “Our vessel was headed to colonize a new world in the Brydon Expanse when a navigational fault caused us to enter the nebula and we came across this world. Our ship was unable to maintain orbit and we were forced to land here.”

    “You didn’t try to leave this place?” asked Deen.

    “We attempted initially, however we found our vessel too severely damaged to overcome this planet’s gravity field. When we found that this world offered everything we needed to survive, we decided to make this our new home.”

    “Well,” said Leva, looking around. “I like what’ you’ve done with the place. A little remote for my taste but then again I suppose you can’t have it all.”

    The attempt of a joke, of course, was for nothing, Tela and Volik simply considered the half-Romulan with blank stares.

    Then Volik turned to the Vulcan Starfleet officer. “We are currently making preparations for a meal so that you may meet every member of the settlement. In the meantime perhaps you would appreciate if my daughter showed you what we have been able to achieve here.”

    Xylion looked at the young woman. “That would be satisfactory.”

    Neither Deen nor Leva seemed to miss the focus in Tela’s eyes when she glanced at Xylion. They exchanged quick glanced before Deen turned to the science officer. “Perhaps you should go ahead with the tour, Commander. The rest of us can go exploring on our own. I for one am really interested to learn more about what kind of crops are being grown here.”

    “Yes,” said Leva. “And I think I saw a hunting party earlier. I’d love to see what game you have on this world.”

    Both Deen and Leva turned to look at the Andorian who didn’t seem to understand right away. Then it clicked. “Right … uh, are those the remains of an Antares-class transport?” said the ensign, pointing at the building before them. “Maybe I can have a closer look at that.”

    “You are free to explore on your own,” Volik said. “I suggest we return here by dusk at which time the preparations for the meal should be complete.”

    With that Volik turned to leave. Tela didn’t waste much time leading Xylion away, leaving behind the three other Starfleet officers.

    Srena appeared puzzled. “What was that about?”

    “You didn’t notice the goo-goo eyes she was giving our esteemed colleague?” said Deen with a knowing little grin. “She couldn’t wait to get some alone time with him.”

    “She looked perfectly normal to me.”

    “Trust me, Ensign,” said Leva. “For a Vulcan that was practically a romantic invitation.”

    “You think he feels the same way?”

    Deen shook her head. “Xylion? No way. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a little bit of admiration now and then. I say we let them have their fun and hope that he lets her down easy.”

    “In the meantime there is plenty for us to see here. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to look out for anything that might help us with repairs to the runabout,” said Leva.

    The two women nodded and went their separate ways.
     
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – II –​


    On Clancy’s suggestion they had set up a large, freestanding computer screen in the middle of the security office. The multi-functional transparent screen had been re-purposed to keep track of the ongoing murder investigation and featured on the very top an image of the smiling Lieutenant Gedar.

    Just below him was an entire row of additional headshots starting with Lieutenant Kolrami, the sour-looking Zakdorn engineer; Corporal Yunta Fey who wore a hard expression on her Bajoran features; Crewman Sierra Decaux, smiling broadly; Charlie Colcord, the attractive, blond engineering advisor to Rosenthal; then the bespectacled professor himself. The last image was that of recently departed and raven-locked Doctor Ashley Wenera.

    There was a short description underneath every suspect’s photograph including their claimed whereabouts during the time of Gedar’s death and possible motives.

    Underneath all that was a timeline of events starting at 2315 with Gedar attending and then leaving a late-night meeting on deck twenty-four with Hopkins, Rosenthal and Colcord.

    2320: Gedar returns to main engineering also on deck twenty-four.

    2330: Kolrami leaves main engineering with the remaining engineers, leaving Gedar by himself.

    2330-0000: Gedar is killed.

    0025: The body is discovered by Crewman Sanzenbacher.

    0035: Security arrives and locks down main engineering.

    “Raktajino?”

    Nora Laas turned away from scrutinizing the board to find Alex Clancy with two cups of steaming hot Klingon coffee, holding out one for her. She took it off him. “How’d you know?”

    “I’m an assistant counselor,” he said with a little smirk. “It’s supposed to be my job to know what people around me are thinking.”

    She frowned. “Do me a favor, Lieutenant, and do not try to psychoanalyze me.”

    “You had a raktajino when I first came down here to visit you,” he said soberly. “It didn’t take much psychoanalysis to figure out that it is your beverage of choice in the morning.”

    She nodded as she took a little sip.

    “So, did you have any breakthroughs yet?” he asked and looked back at what some in security had taken to calling the murder board, much to Nora’s displeasure.

    She followed his gaze. “Far too many suspects and too much empty space on our timeline. It doesn’t help that we can’t narrow down his time of death either.”

    “I believe the remaining duty engineers are due to come in later, they may be able to fill in some of the blanks for us.”

    The boatswain whistle interrupted their conversation and everyone in the room stopped what they were doing to await an announcement which followed promptly.

    “Attention all hands, this is the captain. It is with great sadness that I have to announce that a fellow crewmember has been killed on board Eagle the day before yesterday. Lieutenant Jinsu Gedar was a valued member of this crew who was well liked by his colleagues and made friends easily wherever he went. Only a day before his gruesome death he delighted us all with his splendid performance in a marvelous play on which he had worked hard over the last few weeks with his fellow performers.

    Mister Gedar had served in Starfleet with distinction for nearly five years and had a bright future ahead of him. His death was tragic and entirely unnecessary. He did not die defending his ship, his crewmates or the Federation. Instead, all evidence points towards a willful and cowardly act committed by one of our own.

    Rest assured that whoever is responsible for this crime will be found and brought to justice and I have instructed Lieutenant Nora to take whatever actions are necessary to identify and apprehend the perpetrator. I expect every member of this crew to fully cooperate with her and her colleagues while they carry out this investigation.

    A memorial service for Lieutenant Gedar will be held tomorrow at 1600 hours in holodeck three. Any who wish to attend may be released from their duty shift to do so.

    That is all.”


    The security chief uttered a heavy sigh. “And there goes our element of surprise,” she said. “I tried to convince the captain to keep things under wraps for longer but clearly he didn’t agree.”

    “We should be thankful we’re on a starship. On any planet or a civilian outpost the media would have been all over this within minutes of finding the dead body. Besides, as Bensu pointed out, you can’t keep a secret on a starship for long.”

    “Right,” she said. “Thank the Prophets for small miracles then,” she said and stepped closer to the board. “But the captain no doubt will want some updates and this,” she said and pointed at the large screen, “is not good enough.”

    Clancy nodded and took a chair. “Alright then, let’s go through what we have so far. It may help.”

    She tapped on the first suspect’s image which immediately grew to fill up most of the screen. “There’s Sirna Kolrami the Younger.”

    “Who we know didn’t care much for Gedar and obviously couldn’t understand why he was in the running for a promotion that he probably felt was suppose to be his. That could be a strong motive.”

    Nora shook her head. “Maybe on a Klingon ship or perhaps in some twisted parallel universe but not in Starfleet, it’s not.”

    “Let’s not forget that not only is he a Zakdorn, he also hails from a family of master tacticians. Which means he probably is more than able to come up with some sort of ingenious scheme to carry out something like this.”

    “So now we persecute people based on their race?”

    “I’m just putting it all out there, Lieutenant,” said Clancy and then placed his boots leisurely onto a nearby desk and leaned back in his chair while sipping on his own raktajino.

    Nora rolled his eyes. “He’s got an alibi,” she said. “According to the logs he was checked in working on deflector control during the time of death window.”

    “Checked in, yes, but without internal sensors there isn’t a way to verify that. Besides logs can be altered.”

    She tapped on the larger-than-life Zakdorn face to return it back into the line-up, clearly done for now considering the Starfleet engineer as a murderer and brought up the hard features of Corporal Yunta next.

    “Ah yes,” said Clancy, “if Kolrami is the brain, she’s got to be the fighter. And she’d be more than capable of killing a man, probably needing nothing more than her bare hands to do it.”

    “If that’s all it takes to be a suspect on this ship, we can add the entire Marines contingent and most of my security team onto the board,” she said with a frown.

    “Yes but Yunta had an intimate relationship with Gedar. And her responses when we questioned her were more than a little bit suspect.”

    “She just learned that a man she only recently had a relationship with had been killed, she was clearly not thinking straight,” said Nora and crossed her arms underneath her chest.

    “She’s a Marine, isn’t she?” he said. “Trained to think quickly in a life or death situation? And yet she seemed completely out of it for a while there. And I’m not buying the whole mutual break-up story for a minute. That’s what people say to safe face.”

    “Or maybe it’s the truth.”

    “Well, she’s got no alibi at all.”

    She swiped the screen to bring up Crewman Decaux’s photo next.

    “The death of Gedar seemed to come as a real shock to her,” said Nora as she considered that large smile on the young woman’s face.

    “Either that or she is a great actress.”

    The security chief shot him an annoyed look.

    “I think we have an abundance of witnesses who can testify first hand that she is a natural on stage. Besides, again, no alibi. Not to mention that she suspected her boyfriend to be cheating on her. Now there’s a motive alright.”

    Nora brought up the next two images together so that Colcord and Rosenthal were side by side.

    “Not much there,” Clancy admitted, “we know they aren’t the biggest fan of Starfleet engineers and Colcord really didn’t care for Gedar being at that late-night meeting on the night of the murder but that hardly makes either of them killers.”

    But Nora kept scrutinizing the pair.

    “Now please tell me you’re not being biased because they are civilians?”

    “Of course not.”

    “Besides they both have alibis. They were with Hopkins in that meeting until well after the time of death,” he said.

    “They could have had somebody else do it. Perhaps somebody on their team.”

    “Sounds like a bit of stretch to me.”

    But Nora turned to her deputy who was standing close by watching their discussion. “Jose, have you run a background check on all the civilians? Anyone with priors or a criminal record?”

    The Latin lieutenant shook his head. “None I could find, sir. We are limited however on how much information we have on civilians as we cannot sync with any external networks while we are in this soup.”

    Nora nodded and then reluctantly moved to the last suspect. “I find it hard to believe Wenera is somehow mixed up in this.”

    Alex Clancy got onto his feet. “For once I agree,” he said and stepped up next to her. “I know for a fact why Doctor Wenera left the ship and it’s not because of an illicit affair with our victim.”

    “Oh?”

    “Sorry, doctor-patient confidentiality,” he said with a boyish grin. “Or is it doctor-doctor confidentiality in this case?” he added with a confused look on his face.

    “Sorry to burst your bubble but you’re not a doctor,” she said and closed Wenera’s image.

    “My, Lieutenant, is that a sense of humor I detect?” he said. “Could there be a softer core underneath that tough shell of yours?”

    She shook her head. “No, just more toughness.”

    He gave her another smirk as if to say that he didn’t completely believe that before he went back to work on the board. “According to Decaux’s suspicions a senior officer was involved with Gedar. And with Wenera out of the picture, it narrows down our list of suspects.”

    Nora grasped her coffee cup again and walked to the seat Clancy had recently occupied. “There is no way a senior officer is involved in this.”

    “We should follow every lead,” he said and brought up the first candidate, DeMara Deen.

    The Bajoran quickly shook her head. “No way.”

    “They were both performing in the play which means they must have spent some time together.”

    “I know DeMara almost as well as I knew my own sister. Regardless of her supposed attractiveness and whatever you want to call her aura—“

    “Tenarian Glow, is it?”

    “Whatever,” she said. “She is not the one to have casual sexual relationships with the likes of Gedar and she’s a pacifist. Besides she left Eagle well before Gedar was killed.”

    “Good point,” he said and swiped the screen to bring up the next image, this one of the sandy-blond chief engineer.

    “Absolutely not.”

    “Now wait a second,” he said. “Lieutenant Hopkins actually makes a lot of sense. She was Gedar’s immediate superior officer and she clearly saw something in him as she admitted herself. So much in fact that she brought him along to a meeting with Colcord and Rosenthal even though they had made it clear that they did not care for Starfleet input on their ideas.”

    Nora shook her head. “No.”

    “She was also really shook up over his death,” he continued. “She all but started crying when we talked to her.”

    “And that makes her a killer?”

    “Maybe not but she may have been involved with him,” he said.

    Nora leaned forward in the chair. “Louise and I went to the Academy together. When I said I know Dee like a sister, well I know Louise better than a sister. She is not involved here. Move on.”

    But Clancy was not willing to do so just yet. “Listen, I know you have friends on this ship and on the senior staff but if we want to catch whoever did this, you will have to free yourself from all preconceptions.”

    She looked him square in the eye, her own killer instinct asserting itself for just a moment. “Move on.”

    He did. But the next suspect didn’t sit very well with the security chief either. After all it was her own, no-nonsense portrait that looked back at her from the murder board.

    Clancy looked at her over his shoulder, once more seeing those smoldering eyes directed at him.

    “Move on.”

    “Just saying, if those peepers could kill, nobody on this ship’s safe,” he said but then quickly swiped her off the screen.

    Nora seemed to like the next suspect much better and she sat up in her chair. “Wouldn’t put it passed her.”

    “Wouldn’t put what passed me, Lieutenant?”

    Nora and Clancy turned around to see the real life version of the person currently gracing the board standing near the doors.

    The counselor quickly tapped the board to minimize the large face of Tazla Star again and return the screen to its previous configuration.

    “Wait,” the Trill first officer said as she stepped further into the room. “You have me down as a suspect?” she said when she saw her face among the others.

    “I think the Lieutenant meant this in relation to having had a relationship with our victim,” Clancy said but then considered his words for a moment. “I don’t think that sounds much better.”

    “No, it does not.”

    Nora stood as well. “We’re simply pursuing every lead, Commander,” she said, garnering her a surprised look from Clancy. “So maybe you’d like to tell us where you were on the night of Mister Gedar’s death?”

    The first officer glared back at the security chief but then spoke before it could develop into a staring contest. “On the bridge, on duty,” she said. “I was pulling a double shift. I think there are about four or five witnesses who can confirm that if you want to look into that.”

    “We probably will,” Nora said without breaking eye contact.

    “Ah, so Commander, what bring you down here?” Clancy asked, clearly in an attempt to lower the rising tension in the room her arrival seemed to have caused.

    She looked at him and then at the board. “I’m about to brief the captain with an update on your progress.”

    “I was going to brief him myself shortly,” said Nora.

    “I’m sure you were,” said the first officer without affording the security chief another look. “So these are your suspects so far?”

    Clancy nodded. “Yeah. Ignore that last one.”

    “I will.”

    “Do you have any insights on the suspects, Commander,” he asked, noticed the disapproving look from Nora but chose to ignore it.

    “I can’t say that I know any of these people particularly well,” she said after studying the names and their faces. “Colcord is interesting.”

    “How so?”

    “Well, I hear she made a strong case to Command to be assigned a different ship to carry out this mission. I don’t know the details or the reasons but she seemed quite insistent on the point initially. When it became clear that we were the only ones available, she eventually relented.”

    Clancy nodded and added the new information into a padd. “That is interesting and warrants further investigation, thank you, Commander.”

    “Glad to be of help,” she said. “I’ll leave you to it then,” she added and then headed back towards the exit without making eye contact with the security chief.

    “Commander,” Nora said.

    She stopped and turned.

    “You didn’t answer the most pertinent question.”

    The Trill considered Nora for a brief moment. “I told you I was on the bridge, Lieutenant.”

    She smirked without humor. “About having a relationship with our victim.”

    Star took a deep breath but then appeared to change her mind regarding her response before she spoke. “From what I can tell I wasn’t Mister Gedar’s type,” she said and gestured towards the murder board. “It looks like he preferred blondes,” the red-haired Trill said and promptly left.

    Nora looked back at the screen, studying it closely.

    Clancy stepped closer to her. “So you and Commander Star—“

    She held up a hand to stop him in mid-sentence.

    “Sometimes it helps to just let out your frustrations and talk about…,“ he didn’t go on when he noticed those killer eyes on him again. He swallowed. “Maybe some other time then.”

    But Nora was already too focused on her padd and a new lead she was going to follow up on to pay the counselor any further consideration.
     
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    – III –


    Tazla Star had made an actual effort to get to Owens before Nora Laas had been able to. It was childish, even she had to admit that, but it was important to her that the captain would get an update about the murder investigation from her instead of from the security chief conducting it. She was of course still of the mind that the investigation should have been delegated to her but she didn’t think her motives were purely petty. As far as she was concerned one of her chief functions on this ship was to keep to the captain informed about everything happening on Eagle, if everyone simply did an end around her, then what exactly was the point of having her around at all?

    It was not a question she hadn’t asked herself before in the last four months she had been onboard.

    It was perhaps slightly more petty when she suggested to the captain once more that she took a more active role in the investigation itself, that Nora could use her help even after she had successfully lobbied for Lieutenant Clancy to be added to her team. But there was another motive for this as well of course. While she hadn’t mentioned anything to Owens, she couldn’t completely shake the feeling that her own clandestine investigation into a possible spy on board Eagle was somehow linked to the incident in engineering.

    Owens had predictably shot her down once again. He had let her down easy and diplomatically, which if nothing else had been a nice touch. But in the end, no matter how tactfully he put it, it was obvious that Owens was not yet happy to give her the responsibilities she felt she deserved in her role.

    With a heavy sigh, Tazla Star stepped onto the bridge just in time for the shift change from gamma to alpha. Owens had not yet signed off on her suggestion to switch to a four-shift rotation. Yet another clear sign of the lack of faith he had in her abilities.

    She found Lif Culsten standing near the CONN and apparently cracking jokes with Ensign Aliris who was one of ship’s shuttle pilots but sometimes pulled late shifts at the helm.

    The mood changed as soon as they noticed her and the jokes stopped. She seemed to have this effect on people.

    “Uh, Commander,” Culsten said. “Anything we can help you with?”

    The Krellonian helmsman had a tendency to try and go out of his way to assist the other senior officers whenever he could. At first Star had thought this quality to be excessively obsequious but she had since accepted that it was simply part of his character. Try to be everybody’s friend. She had long since learned that things just didn’t work that way.

    She considered the silver-haired officer for a moment as well as the attractive, caramel-colored Risian standing next to him, both looking at her expectantly.

    “I’m taking this shift,” she said and then headed for the command chair and took the seat.
    She didn’t miss the looks the two junior officers exchanged with each other. “Is there a problem?”

    Culsten took a step towards her. “It’s just that, well, you see I was going to take this shift and Ensign Aliris was to take the CONN in my stead.”

    She smirked with little amusement, remembering her own days as a young helmsman. If you had joined Starfleet with high ambitions—and everyone knew that every pilot worth his salt wanted to sit in the big chair one day—you did whatever you could to get yourself to that coveted center seat as quickly as possible. That often meant trying to squeeze in command time whenever possible, even when the ship sat idly in a nebula without plans of going anywhere soon. It was still time logged as having been in charge of the ship. And as a pilot even lower on the food chain, you’d always jump at a chance at sitting behind the main controls.

    “Sorry,” she said and began to log herself in via the armrest controls. “Not today.” When she looked up, he was still standing there. She aimed him an impatient look. “You are free to stick around and take the helm.”

    “We, uh, we kind of made this arrangement with the captain, sir,” he said, clearly uncomfortable at having to bring this up.

    Star was feeling her anger rising but did an admirable job at keeping it in check. “That’s too bad, Lieutenant, because I had already decided to take this shift and had you checked in with me first—as you should have done—I would have told you so,” she said, not caring that it was at least a partial lie. But she was determined not to back down to a junior lieutenant. It hadn’t come to that yet, she had decided.

    They stared at each other for a moment and Star wondered if he was going to call her bluff and contact the captain. Fortunately for her, Culsten was not petty enough for that and then nodded. “Of course, sir. I’ll take the helm.”

    “Good.”

    He turned around and made eye contact with a clearly disappointed Aliris who had hoped to be able to take the station for the duration of the shift. When Culsten took that seat instead, she turned and headed for the exit.

    “Ensign,” Star called after her.

    The young woman stopped and turned around. “Sir?”

    Star stood and took a step towards her. She had noticed that the Risian woman, true to the more sybaritic nature of her people, wore both her uniform jacket and the red shirt underneath unzipped halfway down her chest, showing off a hint of cleavage. This was obviously a violation of the Starfleet dress code and Star had every intention of setting the woman straight.

    That was until she remembered Katanga and his own peculiarities regarding the way he wore his uniform.

    “Is there something you need me to do, sir?” she said when Star didn’t elaborate further.

    “Why don’t you go and get some rest and I’ll make sure you get the CONN on the next shift?”

    She beamed at that. “Yes, sir, thank you,” she said and left the bridge.

    Star smirked, wondering if Owens would approve considering that he hadn’t been too happy about Katanga’s chosen style. It tickled her slightly that he may not have appreciated the liberal dress code starting to take hold on his ship.

    She sat back in her chair, pulled out a padd and began to review Lieutenant Hopkins’ report on the explosion in the EPS substation the previous day.

    Just as she had already insinuated, the report made it clear that there had been no technical or mechanical fault that could have led to the incident which had nearly flooded parts of the ship with toxic nebula radiation. Even though the chief engineer had put in writing that she could not conceive of Kate Smith having been negligent in her duties or willfully causing the accident, once taking the computer error out of the equation, there really seemed to be no other explanation.

    Reviewing Smith’s file did not shed any light why Smith may have done what she did. It was clear that she was a competent engineer, making it difficult to believe that she could have made such a critical error by mistake. Her record was exemplary, she was pretty much a model Starfleet officer ever since she had graduated the Academy and came from a long line of officers who had served in the various Starfleet branches.

    But it also didn’t escape her that as a skilled engineer she could have been able to send out secret subspace messages by making them look like nothing more than background noise, exactly what had started her off on this investigation and her suspicions that Eagle had a spy on board.

    “Commander, we seem to be … moving?” said Rachel Milestone from ops.

    Star glanced up from her padd and looked at the screen where she found the large frame of the sensor array in mid-construction. Nothing there made it appear as if they were in motion.

    “Are you sure?”

    The young ensign nodded. “Yes, sir. 12 meters per hour and increasing, heading directly aft.”

    “Why?”

    “I’m not sure, sir, it could be a thruster malfunction.”

    “Colcord to bridge, would you kindly keep the ship in one place please?” said the voice of the clearly agitated civilian engineer. “We’re trying to do precision work down here which quite frankly is impossible if you move the ship.”

    “So noted, Ms. Colcord. We’re looking into this now.”

    “What do you mean, you’re looking into it? Just stop the damn ship.”

    “We’re on it, Star out,” she said and quickly closed the channel. She walked up closer to the ops station. “Can you shut down the malfunctioning thruster, Ensign?”

    “Just did, sir.”

    “Good, get somebody in engineering to look into what’s wrong with it and then reestablish our previous—“

    “Sir, another one just came online,” she said urgently. “Speed now 44 meters per hour. Wait, three more thrusters are now engaging.”

    “What in the seven hells is going on?”

    “Sir, I don’t think they’re malfunctioning.”

    Star shot the younger woman a puzzled look. “What are you saying? Somebody is purposefully activating them?”

    She nodded. “Yes, sir.”

    “Who?”

    Milestone focused back on her station. “According to this the commands are coming from…” she stopped herself and then looked to her right. “Lif?”

    But Culsten didn’t respond, instead his fingers busily danced over his consoles, activating panels as they went.

    Star turned to the helmsman. “Lieutenant, what are you doing?”

    “Sir, all forward RCS packages are now online and pushing as backwards at 500 meters per hour and increasing,” Milestone said.

    “Colcord to bridge, you really have to—“

    “Yes, I know,” Star barked. “Stand by. Bridge Out.” She closed in on the helmsman. “Lieutenant, shut down the thrusters, now.”

    But he continued as if she wasn’t even there.

    “Mister Culsten, stand down.”

    He took no notice.

    Fed up, Star reached out for his chair and swiveled it away from his station. Culsten never made eye contact with her, instead he simply swiveled it back and continued his efforts.

    He didn’t even stop when she grabbed his shoulder.

    “Alright, Mister, you asked for this,” she said pulled back on his shoulder and then delivered a picture perfect right hook to his chin, causing him to flop out of his seat and land on the deck next to his station.

    Milestone jumped out of her seat and went to check on the fallen helmsman. She turned him onto his back and checked him over. Then she looked up at the first officer. “He’s out cold.”

    Star shook out her bruised knuckles. “It’s like he’s made out of duranium,” she said and then pointed at the helm station. “Shut down the forward thrusters and put us back into our original position. Then get Aliris back up here. Looks like she’s getting her chance to man CONN after all.”

    Milestone nodded and temporarily took the helm.

    “Star to sickbay,” she said as she looked down at the unconscious Krellonian still lying on the deck. “We need a medical team on the bridge.”
     
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    - 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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