The Star Eagle Adventures V: Shadows in the Haze

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

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – V –​

    Leva had not been dishonest when he had claimed that he had been interested in learning more about the settler’s hunting habits and in particular their weaponry.

    It hadn’t been difficult to locate the hunters. While the Vulcans were not particular welcoming or inquisitive themselves, they were more than happy to answer questions or point him in the right direction. Or at least he thought they were more than happy to. In truth he couldn’t tell one way or the other. Of course he hadn’t come to expect much different from Vulcans.

    He couldn’t exactly claim extensive knowledge with the pragmatic race. During his time at the Academy and early in his career he had made a point to avoid Vulcan Starfleet officers as much as possible. And first this had been a merely subconscious effort until he shamefully realized that he was in fact harboring a prejudice for them likely born from the fact that many people throughout his life had mistaken him for Vulcan due to his similarly shaped ears and his underdeveloped forehead ridges which were common Romulan characteristics. Conflicted with his own heritage already, he had found no solace in being mistaken as a Vulcan which only added to his confusion and anger.

    He had long since weaned himself of those feelings and after working closely with Xylion on Eagle for a few years, he could safely claim that he had no lingering issues with Vulcans at all.

    “We are about to set out on a hunt,” said Stadik, a tall and muscular looking Vulcan who Leva had managed to locate among a group of other hunters. “You may join us if you so wish.”

    “I’d like that.”

    And so they set out, leaving the settlement behind and headed north where Stadik explained most of the larger animals roamed.

    The small hunting party was armed with primitive weapons, mostly simple bows and steel-tipped arrows and spears.

    It didn’t take them long to locate their first target. To Leva it looked like a slightly larger American bison with thick fur and a small, elephant-like tusks growing out of its upper jaw.

    “We call it the veltek,” Stadik whispered as he and Leva snuck up on the unsuspecting creature. “It is the largest mammal we have found on this continent. We use its fur for winter clothing and the tusk is ideal for tool making.”

    Leva watched as the hunting party completely surrounded the beast. Then Stadik stood up suddenly and yelled.

    The spooked animal immediately took off into the opposite direction only to run right into the hunter’s ambush, being pierced by spears and arrows which came flying from three concealed locations.

    When the veltek didn’t go down straight away and instead turned back towards Stadik and Leva in what appeared to be a mad, adrenaline infused rush, Leva reached for his phaser.

    But before he could bring it to bear, Stadik was already running towards the creature in what looked to become terribly painful head-on collision with a five-hundred-pound animal.

    Instead Stadik skillfully leaped on the injured creatures back, brought out his long knife and then rapidly stabbed the animal in the neck. The veltek hauled in pain, then its legs gave out and it went crashing into the ground where he remained.

    By the time Leva caught up with it, Stadik had already demounted the beast and the other hunters were making preparations to skin the animal.

    The Romulan felt slightly ashamed when he realized that he found the entire process, including the skinning of the dead creature somewhat disgusting. A life with replicators had apparently sensitized him to ways of preparing real animals.

    “A good hunt,” said Stadik, “This will feed a great many of our people tonight.”

    Leva considered the hunter with surprise. “Wait a minute, I thought Vulcans were all vegetarian.”

    The man grabbed hold of his dagger firmly and plunged it deep into the dead animal. “We adapt when needed.”

    * * *​

    The mostly arid conditions on the surface had made Deen curious how it was that these settlers were able to grow such varied crops. She had found at least four different types in the various fields surrounding the settlement. A couple of Vulcan staples and one which she had been told was an apple-like fruit which the settlers had discovered on a trip to a nearby mountain-range and had been successful in growing here.

    Always the scientist, she took samples of everything she found for later study but for the moment she was more intrigued with elaborate irrigation system the settlers had constructed to allow them to raise their crops.

    The water, she had been told came from underground streams which they had been able to access by burrowing deep into the ground. An aqueduct system was crisscrossing the settlement and delivering fresh water not just to most homes but also to the many outlying fields with a sprinkler system ensuring that irrigation was delivered equally.

    “We have identified two additional underground water sources and we hope to have two more wells in operation by next year,” said T’Par, a middle-aged woman who seemed to have been a horticulturist on Vulcan once. “Most of our equipment was destroyed when the ship broke up following impact but we were able to create new digging tools by utilizing surviving components.”

    “Impressive,” said Deen as she looked over the expansive field on which dozens of Vulcans were busily laboring, shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight which she knew not to be sunlight. “I understand the water and obviously the soil here appears to be fertile. But how do you account for the sunshine. There’s no star within light-years of this planet.”

    “We have determined that the unique atmosphere of this world amplifies the natural light emanations from the nebula. As the atmospheric density is not universally equal and reflects light in certain places, as the planet rotates on its own axis, it creates a day and light cycle on the surface.”

    Deen considered that for a moment. “Where does the heat come from?”

    She pointed at the nearby mountain ranges. “Vents and volcanoes spread across the mountains allow superheated gasses from the planet’s core to escape into the atmosphere and heating this continent.”

    “That’s truly remarkable.”

    “We were very fortunate to encounter this world.”

    “No kidding,” she said. “What are the chances of crash landing on a rogue planet with its own natural ecosystem so similar to a class-M planet?”

    “Would you like to taste one of the fruits we grow here?” said T’Par and handed the Tenarian the bluish fruit she had picked from a tree.

    “Thanks,” Deen said, took it off her and bit into it, finding it soft, juicy and sweet. “This is very good. I bet the kids love this.”

    T’Par considered the Starfleet officer with an empty look.

    “You know, the little ones, the children,” she said, trying to clarify and unable to account for T’Par’s odd reaction. Deen turned to find examples only to realize that as far as she could see, neither in the fields nor in the settlement itself, she could find no children at all. And when she thought about it, she could not remember seeing any since she had arrived.

    “Allow me to show you another crop we were able to successfully harvest,” said the Vulcan and began to set out to the next field.

    * * *​

    Srena was relieved to be able to escape the stifling heat by slipping into the settlement’s main building which clearly had been build upon the main hull of the freighter which had brought the Vulcans to this world.

    They had added and expanded to the structure over the years but its origins were still very much discernable. From the outside she had noticed the large thruster ports as well as the remnants of the engine module. She hoped that she’d be able to locate spare parts which could assist them in carrying out repairs to the runabout and with any luck they’d be able to take off again and rescue not just themselves but also these stranded colonists.

    She found the inside refreshingly cool but also surprisingly dark and empty. Considering this appeared to be the largest structure in the settlement, positioned centrally, she had expected the building to see a lot of use. The opposite appeared to be true.

    “Hello? Anyone in here?”

    She shivered slightly hearing her own echo respond. The building opened up into a large, seemingly mostly empty hall with the ceiling a good ten to fifteen meters high. No doubt this had functioned as the main cargo hold of the freighter once but had apparently now been converted into some sort of meeting hall.

    She took a few steps, looking for the light switch. When she couldn’t find anything she regretted not bringing a beacon.

    Srena walked slowly across the hall and headed towards the aft part of what had once been a starship and where she expected to find the engine room. All she could hear were her own footsteps reverberating across the large room.

    She found a heavy, metal door and pushed it open. She found a corridor beyond it and it was just as dark as the main hall.


    Once again she heard nothing but her own voice.

    For a moment she considered turning around and maybe returning with Deen or Leva. Then she decided that she was being silly. There was nothing here to be afraid of. What could be safer than a colony of Vulcans?

    She stepped into the corridor with newfound determination. But after just a few steps she heard the loudest bang and nearly jumped out of her skin in shock.

    When she turned around she realized that the metal door she had stepped through had shut unexpectedly.

    “Well done, Srena, be scared of a closing door. What a fearless Starfleet explorer you are,” she mumbled to herself before taking a deep breath and moving on down the dark corridor. “And for Uzaveh’s sake, stop talking to yourself.”

    The only illumination came from dim lightning strips inserted into the floor. The light they gave off was rather insufficient but at least it proved that some sort of power generator was in operation. And where there was power, they may have been other parts they may be able to use.

    She continued on slowly until she reached another heavy door. This time she made sure to close it behind her to avoid another heart-attack inducing incident.

    “Jackpot,” she said when she realized that she had stepped into what obviously was the engineering section. Albeit smaller than the main hall, this room was cramped with machinery, most noticeably six huge fusion reactors which reached all the way to the ceiling. Only one was humming away slowly, operating at a very low level. There were a few more lights in here but mostly all they did was throw large shadows which made this room look even more ominous then the rest of the building.

    “Get a grip,” she told herself. “There are no monsters in the dark.”

    She stepped up to the operational reactor first and began to inspect it. As a pilot she had a basic familiarity regarding power systems and drive components but not enough to fully understand how this particular device operated.

    She though she caught a flicker of light from the corner of her eye and turned around. But the lights appeared to be working fine.

    Then she realized that it hadn’t been the light to flicker but the shadow. It had moved. “Hello?”

    It did so again, this time on the far side of the room.

    She began to step backwards. “Is anyone here?”

    There, she was certain she had seen something or someone move.

    “I’m just here to find some spare parts,” she said, her voice sounding very small to her ears now and she had the desperate urge to run away.

    Then all was quite again. For a moment she heard nothing but her breathing and she was absolutely certain there was nobody else there.

    “Damn you, imagination,” she said but kept her voice low as a whisper just in case.

    She turned back around to study the reactor some more and shrieked.

    There was a man right in front of her.

    “You shouldn’t be here.”

    “Uzaveh be damned,” she cried out, absolutely mortified at finding the Vulcan directly in front of her, the dim light casting half his face in shadow. “Are you trying to scare me to death?”

    He raised an eyebrow as if he didn’t understand.

    Srena was mostly angry now. “Why are you skulking around in here like an animal? Why didn’t you respond when I called out?”

    “I was not aware of your presence until just now.”

    She considered him closely and wondered about that saying about Vulcans not being able to lie. “Is there anyone else in here with you?”


    “That’s odd.”

    “This is a sensitive area,” the Vulcan said. “You should not be here.”

    “Sorry,” she said. “We weren’t told that this place is off limits.”

    “I will show you back outside,” he said and headed towards the door leading back to the corridor.

    “I was hoping to find any components here which could help us with repairs to our ship.”

    “You will not find any here,” he said after he reached the door and held it open for her.

    Srena looked around. “Are you sure? There are a lot of parts in here.”

    “These are required to maintain power for the settlement.”

    “You have one generator in operation. What about the others? What about the drive components, the impulse engines, the thruster assembly? You don’t need those to maintain power.”

    “We have previously explored all possible options to utilize any parts and components available to us to facilitate leaving this world and have come to the conclusion that it is not possible.”

    Srena took a single step towards him and the door he was still holding for her. “Okay, I get that,” she said. “But things have changed now. We’ve got a ship which is a lot more spaceworthy than your stranded freighter here. Surely if we combine our resources we may find a way to get off this rock.”


    She took another step, struggling to keep her temper in check. She was fully aware how stubborn Vulcans could be, in fact her own people had been at war with Vulcan before they both founded the Federation together but this man was taking the cake as far as his people’s obstinacy was concerned. “It would not hurt to try.”

    “It would be a wasted effort,” he said sharply. “Now I must insist that you leave this area.”

    She stared at the man for a moment longer before realizing that there wasn’t really anything else she could do and then trotted out of the room. She heard the door being slammed shut behind her and sealed.

    “Thanks for your help.”
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    I'm loading this terrific story onto my new Kindle so as to make it portable as I start over from the beginning! :)

    Looking forward to a fantastic Eagle tale.
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    That's awesome, thanks.

    If I may, I recommend you grab it from Ad Astra as that version has been revised slightly for spelling and grammar. You can use the excellent FanFictionDownLoader to turn it into a Kindle ebook.

    And do tell me what you think once you had a chance to read it.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – VI –​

    “I still don’t understand what we’re doing back here. We’ve already been through his quarters.”

    Alex Clancy turned to see Nora Laas with her arms crossed under her chest and leaning against the bulkhead of the late Lieutenant Gedar’s bedroom. It wasn’t difficult to tell that she was still annoyed by his lack of appreciation of the manner in which she had confronted Colcord. She had not taken well to his point that they should have made a strong case against her before accusing her of killing Gedar and that catching her in the blatant lie that she hadn’t known Gedar, was not equal to an admission of guilt.

    They’d had words since then and as Clancy had quickly learned, you did not want to get into an argument with the fiery security chief.

    “I figured that if we want to go after Colcord we need some better evidence,” he said and watched her frown at that. “According to witness statements Gedar and Colcord have never been seen together outside of engineering. Now if it were me, and I came back on the ship where my former lover who crossed me serves on, and I considering killing him, I’d probably confront him at least once first.”

    “Here?” she said and looked around skeptically.

    He shrugged. “Where else? She couldn’t have risked being seen with him in public and inviting him to her quarters may have seemed suspicious as well. I figure she would have come here.”

    “And how do you plan on proving this, Detective?” she said with obvious sarcasm in her tone.

    That’s when the annunicator sounded.

    “Ah, just on cue,” said Clancy and walked over to the doors to let Elijah Katanga enter the quarters. “Welcome, Doctor. Did you bring it?”

    He showed him the tricorder. It didn’t look standard-issue and had clearly been modified with a bulkier sensor module. “Naturally.”

    “And what is that?”

    Katanga considered Nora for a moment. “Well, medical tricroders are really great if you are trying to find out what is wrong with people. It gives you all the basic biological and medical readings you might need. But it’s usually only showing you what is. Not what was.”

    The security chief looked perplexed.

    Katanga stepped into the room and opened his tricorder to begin scanning the room. “Say I scanned this room with a regular tricorder. I could probably tell you that it belonged to Lieutenant Gedar as I would find numerous recent DNA traces belonging to him. This little fellow can find out who may have been in his quarters by picking up the very faint DNA traces of persons who may have only been here a short while.”

    “So you’re saying you can tell who has been in his quarters recently?”

    Katanga shook his head. “Not with absolute certainty, no. It depends how many hair follicles and skin cells that person left behind while they were here. I’ve been in the room for only a minute or so, I wouldn’t be able to find any traces of my DNA.”

    Clancy followed the doctor across the room. “I’m thinking that Colcord would have spend some time here, if she came. It may have even become physical.”

    The African doctor nodded. “That would make it more likely to pick up a trace,” he said and then as the two investigators watched with curiosity, the veteran doctor actually went down onto his hands and knees to scan the carpet more closely while slowly crawling across it.

    Nora looked on with interest. “Why didn’t we use this technique at the murder scene?”

    “Dust,” Katanga said.

    “Beg your pardon?”

    “That’s what we’re looking for. Dead skin cells mixed in with tiny hairs and all kinds of other microscopic remains.”

    “And?” Nora said.

    “And,” Katanga said, still on all fours. “Starships and most Federation installations are regularly swept by invisible sterilization beams to eliminate dust build up,” he added stopped and looked up at her. “It’s how we keep everything so damn clean all the time.”

    The Bajoran nodded. “Okay, but not here?”

    “No,” said the Doctor and went back to scanning. “Somebody had the ingenious idea to have the sweeps suspended in this room after Mister Gedar was killed.”

    “Me,” said Clancy and looked at Nora with a grin. “He’s talking about me in case you were wondering.”


    He nodded proudly.

    “I’m still not following why you didn’t do this for main engineering.”

    “Because of the dust mites,” he said.


    “Dermatophagoides farinae,” said Katanga from the floor. “Where there’s dust those microscopic little buggers show up as well. And you can’t have that around sensitive technology.”

    When Nora was still not quite following, Clancy quickly jumped in to explain further. “It means main engineering gets sterilized much more regularly than other parts of the ship. By the time it occurred to me to suspend the sweeps it was already too late for engineering.”

    “Wouldn’t have worked there anyway,” Katanga said as he continued to scan. “The device becomes unreliable in a place where there are too many traces. And engineering is visited by two dozen people each day, there’ll be no way to sort through all that. Besides … ah.”

    Clancy stepped closer to Katanga. “Doctor, did you find anything?”

    “Yes, my intervertebral disc,” he said with a little groan and then looked up to see the two investigator with worried expressions on their faces. “Why the hell am I the one crawling around the floor anyway? This is a job for the young and able-bodied,” he said and slowly pulled himself back up, Clancy quickly coming to his aid. “Who wants to crawl around on all fours?”

    “Don’t look at me,” said Nora when she noticed Clancy glancing his way. “I outrank you.”

    She couldn’t help but smirk when he nodded and then lowered himself onto the floor after Katanga had thrust the device into the counselor’s hand.

    After a couple of minutes of crisscrossing the room on his hands and knees, the device uttered an alarm.

    “Let me see that?”

    Clancy handed it back for the doctor to review.

    “Definitely female.”

    “Can you determine who it belongs to?” Clancy said

    Katanga began to manipulate his tricorder. “Cross-referencing with the ship’s database now and … Crewman Decaux, Sierra,” he said triumphantly.

    “There’s a surprise,” said Nora, sounding unimpressed. “She was his girlfriend so obviously we’d find traces of her DNA in his quarters.”

    “Well, there is plenty of room left for you to scan,” he said and gave the device back to Alex Clancy once more who dutifully went back to crawling and scanning every square inch of the quarters from the bedroom, the wash room and finally returning to the main living area.

    Just before they were about to give up, the device piped up once more.

    “I think we hit the jackpot, boys and girls,” Katanga said once he had been handed back the device. “Another trace, very faint, no wonder we didn’t pick it up before. According to the database this one does not belong to a Starfleet crewmember at all.”

    That got the Bajoran’s attention. “It’s Colcord,” she said and smirked as if she had been vindicated and then looked at Clancy who was standing up again. “Now let’s see how she’ll explain that away.”

    “I hate to be reason for disappointment,” said Katanga, “but these are definitely male DNA traces.”

    “What?” Nora said. “Are you sure?”

    Katanga shot her a stern look. “My dear girl, I believe I’ve been doing this long enough to be able to distinguish between a Y and an X chromosome.”

    “Who is it?” Clancy asked.

    The doctor referred back to his tricroder. “According to this, the DNA trace belongs to one Professor Erez Rosenthal.”

    Nora and Clancy exchanged befuddled looks.
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – VII –​

    “I was born two months after we were marooned on this world,” Tela said as she led Xylion up a mountain close to her settlement. “I have never known any place but this one. I have read much about the home world and I have seen pictures and sometimes I have imagined what it would be like to see it with my own eyes.”

    “Vulcan is not too dissimilar in climate and terrain as this world,” he said, following her up a steep ravine with little effort. A human may have struggled climbing the mountain but Xylion was used to the heat and the thin air. He had taken many similar expeditions, crossing the Vulcan’s Forge in his younger days. And the young Tela was clearly not unaccustomed to climbing this mountain, the way in which she enthusiastically led the way.

    “Perhaps than I am not missing much,” she said and turned around, considering the Starfleet officer for a moment as he caught up to her.

    “Vulcan may be similar to this world, but they are not comparable.”

    “How about you? Do you miss it?”

    He raised an eyebrow at the seemingly odd question. “It is my home. I tend to be most comfortable there.”

    She nodded and then set out again.

    “I have never before heard of the name of the vessel that crashed on this world, nor was I aware of any Vulcan colonial projects in this sector of space,” he said, following her once more.

    “I do not believe our mission was sanctioned by High Command. There may not have been official records of our colonization efforts.”

    “That would explain why no rescue mission was ever attempted.”

    “It would have been difficult to reach us within this nebula in any case,” she said. “How were you able to penetrate it so deeply?”

    “We utilized advanced transphasic shield technology which protect our vessel from the harmful thermionic radiation prevalent in the nebula.”

    It was already the late afternoon by the time they finally reached the plateau at the top of the mountain and Xylion realized why she had brought them to this place. From their vantage point they had an unobstructed view of the full extent of the settlement below, including its many outlying fields, the vast steppe to the north and he could even spot the canyon in which the Nebuchadrezzar had crash landed.

    “I enjoy coming here from time to time,” she said and stepped fairly close to the edge of the plateau which terminated suddenly and into an almost vertical cliff which plunged downwards a good five-hundred meters or so.

    “I can understand why,” he said as he took in the view.

    She turned to him. “Is Vulcan as magnificent as this?”

    “Beauty is a subjective standard.”

    Her lips curled up slightly, coming dangerously close to a smile. “Do our people not appreciate beauty then?”

    “On the contrary,” he said. “Vulcans are more than able to appreciate esthetically pleasing qualities.”

    She took another step towards him. “Do you think I am ecstatically pleasing, Xylion?”

    He couldn’t stop his eyebrow from shooting up again.

    Tela quickly turned away as if embarrassed. “I ask your forgiveness for the inappropriate nature of my question.”

    “None are necessary. I understand that living so far removed from our people has been a great challenge for yourself as well as the other colonists here. It requires great mental discipline to survive in such an environment.”

    “I suppose we are not quite like the Vulcans you are used to,” she said but keeping her eyes on the vista below.

    “I have met many different kinds of Vulcans, including those who did not live their life according to the same principles that most of us follow. I was once betrothed to a woman who followed the teachings of v’tosh ka’tur. I am not disturbed by this. In fact I find myself fascinated by alternative Vulcan lifestyles.”

    She turned to face him once more, her eyes wide open in curiosity. “What happened to your betrothed?”

    “She was killed.”

    Tela couldn’t quite hide the frown crossing her face. “I am very sorry to hear that.”

    “While her death was without purpose I continue to treasure the memories I shared with her.”

    “And there is no other woman in your life now?”

    “No,” he said simply.

    She nodded slowly before she turned her back on him again.

    Xylion stepped up next to her, being mindful of the dangerously steep precipice just a few feet away, and joined her in overlooking the settlement and the lands beyond.

    For a moment neither of them spoke as they stood side by side, quietly taking in the seemingly endless view.

    “When was the last time you visited Vulcan?” she finally asked.

    “Four years, two months and twenty-three days.”

    She shot him a sidelong look. “That is a long time.”

    “My duties on Eagle have not allowed me to return to Vulcan. Since the war with the Dominion has broken out I have found myself with even fewer opportunities to return home.”

    Eagle,” she said. “Your starship.”

    “That is correct.”

    “It has become your new home. Perhaps like this place has become mine.”

    He considered her for a moment. “A crude analogy but not entirely incorrect.”

    Tela diverted her eyes back to the settlement below and for a moment didn’t speak almost as if she was considering her next words very carefully. Or perhaps she was trying to find the courage to speak them. “Xylion,” she began. “Could you ever imagine a place like this becoming a home to you?”

    * * *​

    The temperature had plummeted after dark and Deen marveled how well this orphaned planet simulated the dark/night cycle which clearly warranted further research. At this point she was convinced that the cycle, supposedly created by the way in which the atmosphere reflected the light of the nebula was somehow connected to the geothermal gasses which were released at a much slower rate during the night cycle, causing the noticeable drop in temperature.

    The cooler climate was manageable mostly thanks to the huge bonfire the Vulcans had set up close to the center of their settlement and the many smaller fires all around it. True to his world, Volik and his people had prepared a lavish feast to welcome the Starfleet away team and the settlement was like transformed from the way it had looked after their arrival in the morning.

    Tables had been set up all around the central bonfire which now held all manner of foods and drink which the settlers had worked all day to prepare. There were wooden tables and chairs set up by the smaller fires as well which were now occupied with those Vulcans who were not busy with last minute preparation.

    Deen and her colleagues sat at one of those tables.

    “You wanted a welcome party?” said Deen and aimed a smirk at the half-Romulan tactical officer sitting by her side.

    “I have to say, I’m impressed,” he said as he considered the many foods on the tables, much of it he had observed being hunted down and skinned himself earlier. “I didn’t think Vulcans knew how to put together a party. I was also under the impression that they were vegetarians.”

    “Indeed,” said Xylion but didn’t add anything further.

    “Well, I know I am,” said Deen. “Fortunately they have plenty of fruits and vegetables they managed to cultivate so I doubt I’ll starve. But don’t you think there is something else odd here?” She continued when Leva and Srena aimed puzzled looks at her. “Who is missing from this picture?”

    The Andorian seemed to realize it first. “Children?”

    Deen nodded. “I think the youngest person I’ve seen in this settlement is Tela and she must be in her early twenties.”

    “She was born shortly after they arrived on this world,” Xylion said.

    “And Vulcans mate at least every seven years, right?” said Deen. “Even if there were no children on the transport you would think they had produced some offspring by now.”

    “Maybe they just haven’t been in the mood,” said Leva with a smirk.

    “That’s one hell of a dry spell, even for Vulcans,” the Andorian said.

    “Considering my people’s longevity, it is possible that they decided not to create offspring due to the difficulty of raising children in this environment.”

    “I’m not sure how serious they are about getting out of here,” said Srena. “They were not particularly fond of the idea of letting me scavenge for parts to repair the runabout. In fact that’s putting it mildly, I was pretty much thrown out of their engine room.”

    Deen considered the Andorina curiously but didn’t get much of a chance to pursue this further when a whole throng of Vulcans brought them plates filled with food. “You don’t have to serve us,” she told them. “We’d be glad to come and get our own.”

    “You are our guest and more,” said Tela who led the procession. “And I hope you enjoy the foods we have prepared for you.”

    She nodded thankfully and didn’t miss the tiniest hint of a smile she reserved for Xylion before she quickly departed again to take her seat at a nearby table and next to her father.

    Shortly thereafter every Vulcan was seated and an eerie quiet befell the settlement with only the cracking of the fires to be heard.

    Then the elder Vulcan rose from his chair to address the newcomers and his people alike. “We have gathered here tonight to welcome these intrepid men and women who have travelled from afar to find us here in the most remote place in the galaxy. And for us this visit is a most joyful occasion,” he said but kept the tone of his voice so neutral, one would have been hard-pressed to detect any such sentiments within it. “It has been a long time since we have seen faces which were not our own. It has been a long time since we were able to grow our community.”

    Srena gave the others a befuddled look. “What does that mean?” she whispered.

    “We have waited a long time for this opportunity,” Volik continued, “and our patience is finally rewarded as I always knew it would be. Today not only are we welcoming these strangers as friends in our midst, we are welcoming four new and healthy members to join our settlement. And what better way to commemorate such a significant event then by celebrating the forthcoming betrothal of my daughter Tela to Xylion son of Xenek.”

    Silence followed once more but this time mostly due to the stunned reactions of the away team.

    “Say what now?” said Leva after a few moments.

    Xylion’s face however betrayed no emotion other than a single eyebrow climbing his brow.
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Six: Military Justice

    – I –​

    Charlie Colcord entered the security office like a woman possessed. “Where is he? Tell me now.”

    Jose Carlos spotted the engineer and quickly moved to intercept her. “Ma’am, I need you to calm down.”

    She considered the Hispanic officer with a scowl. “Don’t you tell me to calm down,” she said. “This is absolutely outrageous. Your boss obsessed with coming after me and now she thinks the best way to get to me is by having the professor arrested. On absolutely no grounds whatsoever. I will not stand for this. I will lodge a formal complaint at the highest levels of the Federation Council over this.”

    Carlos shook his head. “Professor Rosenthal is not under arrest. We’ve merely brought him in for—“

    But Colcord had already spotted the room in which the professor was being kept and apparently being interrogated by Nora Laas and Alex Clancy. She quickly sidestepped the burly security officer and headed straight for those doors.

    “Ma’am, you can’t go in there,” he protested but was too slow to stop her.

    “Never mind telling me what I can’t do,” she said and slipped into the room, immediately causing all three occupants to rise from their chairs at the surprising disruption. “This is an outrage,” she said. “You can’t do this and I’ll make sure the captain learns that you are dragging the professor in here just to get to me, Lieutenant.”

    “Charlie,” Rosenthal began but didn’t get a chance to continue when Nora cut in.

    “You won’t have an opportunity to complain to the captain when I have you locked up for impeding a murder investigation,” the security chief said sharply as she stepped right up into the engineer’s personal space.

    Colcord, recognizing the hard eyes and body posture of a born fighter, took half a step back. But she refused to back down entirely. “You are way out of line here, Lieutenant,” she said. “And to make matters worse your mistakes will have far-reaching consequences. While you grasp at straws you are endangering a mission vital to the war effort. Millions of people could die because of what you are doing here.”

    “Oh please, spare me your self-righteous blabber.”

    Colcord grew noticeably red in the face.

    Clancy quickly positioned himself between the two fuming women. “Ladies, perhaps we all need to take a little breath and calm down before we say something that we can’t take back.”

    Both Colcord and Nora immediately redirected their fury at the assistant counselor.

    “Charlie,” Rosenthal said again, this time getting the woman’s attention. “It’s alright, really. I have not been put under arrest as far as I know, isn’t that right?” he said and looked at Clancy who for the moment appeared to be the much more coolheaded investigator in the room.

    The counselor nodded. “That’s right.”

    “They’ve just asked me to come in and answer a few questions and I was happy to help. It’s really quite harmless,” he said, looking at his colleague again. “They’re just doing their job and I’m sure this won’t take all that long.”

    Colcord considered her boss for a moment and noticeably calmed herself. Then she nodded. “Very well, Professor but be careful, I don’t trust this one at all,” she said and shot venom at the Bajoran.

    “Well that’s mutual,” Nora said with a humorless grin.

    “Uh … Mister Carlos, why don’t you escort Miss Colcord to a place she can wait until we’re finished here.”

    “I’ll go back to engineering,” the woman seethed instead. “And I damn well know the way,” she added when Carlos tried to point into the right direction. She was gone as quickly as she had appeared, leaving the two investigators and Rosenthal alone in the room once more.

    “Please forgive my eager colleague. I know she’s a bit of a firebrand but that kind of dedication is exactly the reason why we’ve been able to make this sensor array work like we did,” he said as he took his seat again.

    “Yeah well, that kind of temperament can get somebody in trouble quite easily,” said Nora, still looking after the civilian engineer as she stormed out of the security office.

    But Rosenthal resolutely shook his head. “I know what you’re tying to imply, Lieutenant but let me dispel any such notion straight away. Charlie is not a killer.”

    Clancy sat back in the chair at the table opposite the engineer. “Where you aware that she had a history with the victim? That they had attended the Academy together and had a bad breakup there?”

    The professor took off his glasses to polish them with a cloth. “Not until recently, no.”

    Nora had needed a minute herself to calm down after her encounter with Colcord. She took the seat next to Clancy. “I believe you were just about to tell us why you went to see Gedar the day before he was killed. ”

    The professor placed the spectacles back onto his nose. “The lieutenant had made some interesting observations about my shield design that I wished to discuss with him further.”

    “In his quarters?” said Nora skeptically.

    “It seemed like as good a place as any.”

    “I’m sorry, Professor but I’m not buying it,” she said.

    “Look,” he said and took a breath of air before continuing. “Both Charlie and I had made it quite clear that we were not interested in any input on our project. We both understood the tendency of Starfleet engineers to try and overanalyze everything which I’m sure under normal circumstances is perfectly fine and probably even appropriate. But we were mindful that on our tight schedule we didn’t have the time for this kind of approach by people who were not familiar with the extensive work we’d already put into this.”

    “So you were concerned about meeting with Gedar in public after you had made your views on this known?” said Clancy.

    He nodded. “It would have sent the wrong message.”

    “What exactly did you discuss with him?” Nora wanted to know.

    “No offense, Lieutenant, but I doubt I would be able to fully make you understand the particularities of our conversation.”

    Nora frowned but Clancy jumped in before she could fire back. “Colcord mentioned earlier that Lieutenant Hopkins had a rather high opinion of Gedar. Did you share that view?”

    “Oh absolutely,” he said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he was a very gifted young man, I wouldn’t have sought him out otherwise.”

    Nora crossed her arms below her chest and leaned back in her chair. “So you’re telling me that after the years you’ve worked on these shield designs of yours and after you made it clear that no one on this ship would be able to wrap their heads around this in just a few days, you come across Gedar who had such a great insight on your work that you just had to speak to him about it in private?”

    Rosenthal considered her for moment, peering at the Bajoran through his eyeglasses. “Yes, essentially, I suppose that is exactly what I’m saying.”

    She looked less then convinced.

    “You can see of course how all this sounds rather implausible,” said Clancy.

    He nodded understandingly. “It sounded implausible to me as well,” he admitted. “That’s why I was quite eager to speak to the young man. And I have to say he was quite happy to share his theories with me, some of which, to my surprise were very similar to my own.”

    The doors to the room opened once more, this time to let Carlos enter who, judging by his expression, was at least a little bit uncomfortable at having to disrupt the security chief again. “Apologies for the interruption, sir, but we have a situation in the Nest,” he said, referring to Eagle’s main crew lounge.

    “What kind of situation?” she said and was already on her feet.

    “It appears to be some sort of alteration and involves two of our suspects,” he said.

    “Have a security team meet me there,” said Nora but was already halfway out of the door.

    After exchanging a look with the deputy, Clancy got out of his chair and rushed after her but already knew that he had very little chance of keeping up with the security chief.

    * * *
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Nora Laas had been so eager to get to the Nest and hopefully catch a significant break in the murder case, only halfway there did she realize that she hadn’t brought a weapon. Confident in her abilities to subdue a suspect or two without a phaser she wasn’t all that concerned. The captain had already given the order, on her recommendation, that while the investigation was ongoing, only security personnel were allowed to wear sidearms while all other weapons would be locked away until required or once the killer had been apprehended. The last thing anyone wanted was for an armed murderer to roam the ship.

    She could hear the noise even before she had stepped into the crew lounge located at the forward part of deck ten.

    “You killed him, you bitch.”

    She recognized that voice.

    “You were always jealous that he left you for me. You couldn’t take it, could you? But you were never right for him. Never.”

    It belonged to Sierra Decaux and her ire was directed at Corporal Yunta Fey who was being held back, barely, by a couple of off-duty security crewmen. Her face was dripping wet while Decaux still held on to an empty glass.

    Nora didn’t need to be a trained detective to understand what had happened here.

    “Why don’t you come closer and say that again to my face?”

    “I’m not afraid of you.”

    “Maybe you should be.”

    Nora approached the scene with quick strides. “Okay, people, let’s break this up, now.”

    “What are you going to do?” said Decaux, her anger still directed at the Marine. “You going to kill me? Are you and Kolrami going to put together another cowardly scheme to get rid of me, too?”

    Yunta freed herself from the man trying to hold her back, slipping out of his grasp and then rushed a wide-eyed Decaux who didn’t react nearly quickly enough to avoid being tackled by the other woman.

    They both went crashing down onto a table before they fell onto the floor with Yunta on top of the clearly overpowered crewman. The Marine didn’t waste much time, drew back her arm and delivered a powerful blow against Decaux’s head, causing it to jerk violently with blood and spittle flying free.

    Nora was on the Yunta within seconds. “Stand down, Corporal.”

    But Yunta wasn’t listening, instead she seemed lost in her fury.

    The security chief grabbed the woman by her shoulder before she could land another blow and pulled her back forcefully, getting her off Decaux.

    “Stand down,” she said again. “Now.”

    But instead of heeding the warning, the Marine launched herself at Nora, going in low and taking out her legs to force the surprised lieutenant onto the floor, bracing herself at the last second to avoid a painful landing. “Oh no you didn’t,” she said as she slowly stood again, her eyes narrowing at the fellow Bajoran who had attacked her.

    “Stay out of this,” Yunta hissed. “This is between me and Decaux.”

    “I warned you,” said Nora as she stepped closer. “But you didn’t want to listen.”

    Yunta apparently decided a preemptive strike was in order and Nora was too late to recognize the martial art move designed to incapacitate her. The strike came from her left and she was not quite fast enough to weave to her right to fully dodge it. She mentally berated herself even before Yunta managed to land the hit. She had been a Marine once. She knew exactly what tactic the corporal had employed but she had simply been too slow to defend against it.

    The blow against her head was powerful enough to causer her to stumble back to the floor and for a moment she couldn’t quite get the room to stop spinning.

    Then she noticed that Alex Clancy and a handful of security officers had entered the Nest, just in time to see her go down like a first year cadet. Besides the pulsating pain in her skull, she now felt the much more painful sting of embarrassment.

    “Nora,” Clancy cried out and was already heading her way with Carlos and the security team right behind him.

    “Stay … stay back,” she said and waved them off, determined to finish Yunta on her own, security protocols be damned. The younger woman had managed to strike her twice already and she was determined that there wouldn’t be a third. Yunta Fey had started this fight, ignoring her warnings. Nora Laas was determined to end it. And she would not allow herself to underestimate her opponent again.
    “I told you to stay out of it,” said Yunta, breathing hard and clearly worked up and filled to the brim with adrenaline, she was approaching the downed security chief again.

    “See, that’s just something I cannot do,” she said and waited until the Yunta was just a couple of feet away. Then she took a deep breath and leashed out, swiping her leg in a wide arch and cutting away Yunta’s legs from underneath her.

    She went crashing down to the floor.

    Nora was not done. She bounced back up like a wound-up spring, gripped Yunta Fey by the throat and pulled her up quickly only to push her hard into a nearby column, the force of the impact causing the woman to groan.

    “You shouldn’t have made me angry,” Nora said and then before she had a chance to catch her breath again, she pulled her away again and then brought the stunned woman down hard onto a table with such force that the glass surface cracked under the impact.

    Yunta was dazed but that didn’t stop Nora to pull her up once more, even if the Marine was barely able to stand on her own two feet, and then deliver a right hook which send her flying over a chair and land sprawled out on the floor.

    The security chief’s hard eyes made it obvious that she still wasn’t done and she took a step towards the prone figure.

    “I think she’s had about enough,” said Clancy and placed a hand gently on Nora’s shoulder.

    This hadn’t been a wise move as it caused the security chief to whirl around with her elbow cocked and ready for another blow.

    “Woah, woah, same side, same side,” Clancy cried out and held up his hands in surrender.

    Nora relaxed. “Don’t sneak up on me.”


    Yunta in the meantime was pulling herself back up slowly by holding on to the back of a chair but before she could even think of trying another move, she was surrounded by armed security personnel.

    Nora stepped up to her as well, looking down at the other Bajoran for a moment. “Brig. Now,” she said.

    Jose Carlos and the rest of the squad quickly grabbed the woman who put up far too little resistance at this point to stop them and then was dragged out of the room.

    “Are you alright? You’re bleeding,” said Clancy after having stepped up to her again.

    Nora reached out for her face and above her right eye where she could feel a bruise. Her fingers came away with blood. “I’ll be alright,” she said.

    But Clancy had already found a few napkins and passed them to her. “Are you sure? I think maybe you should stop by sickbay.”

    She took the napkins and wiped away the blood. “Only thing hurt is my pride.”

    Clancy smirked. “I don’t know, I though you had things under control. Maybe a little bit too much so.”

    She aimed him a hard stare and he quickly turned away. He didn’t notice her tiny smile. She hadn’t forgotten how concerned he had sounded when Yunta had surprised her.

    The counselor had found Decaux who had been helped back onto a chair by some of the patrons. She had a noticeably black eye and a bleeding lip. “Now you need to go to sickbay, young lady. No arguments.”

    Decaux was back on her feet in an instant. “Sickbay?” she said, sounding terrified. “No, no, I’m fine, really,” she said quickly and before Clancy could insist any further, she was already hurrying towards the exit.

    “Crewman,” he called after her but it was too late, she was gone.

    Clancy turned back to Nora. “I seem to have the worst effect on women lately.”

    She offered a little smirk before her face turned serious again. “Let’s see how you do with murderers. We’ve got one in the brig waiting to be questioned.”
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – II –

    “I don’t get it, Lieutenant,” said Tazla Star as she looked over the padd she held before she glanced up to look the Krellonian helmsman in eye. “You have a mostly spotless record, a few high honors including the Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry. You’re at best a few months away from getting a promotion to full lieutenant and after that, your career options are wide open. What would make you do what you did? Why turn on your own people like that?”

    Culsten was clearly frustrated, the deep frown on his face a clear indication. “But I didn’t.”

    “You willfully steered this vessel away from the construction site, disobeyed all orders and refused to stand down,” said the first officer, keeping her voice firm as steel.

    The young man looked over to Elijah Katanga who was standing to the side in the XO’s office to find an answer in his sympathetic eyes which apparently, however, he was unable to provide. He glanced back at the first officer. “I … I didn’t do any of that.”

    “Then explain my bruised knuckles.”

    He tenderly touched his jaw. “I wish I could. That hit is about the only thing I do remember. Or at least the resulting pain.”

    “The doctor ran a through scan and he could find no signs of memory loss, Lieutenant,” Star said sternly. “You now what that leads me to believe? That you knew exactly what you were doing.”

    A frustrated Culsten shook his head. “No, I … Commander, I can’t explain what happened, I wish I could. But there is no way I would have endangered this ship and crew on purpose.”

    “I want to believe you but the evidence says otherwise,” she said and shot a quick glance at the armed security guard standing by the door. “For the time being you’re relieved of duty and confined to quarters.”

    The security guard stepped up and Culsten got onto his feet, a pleading look in his eyes. When it was obvious that the XO was not going to change her mind, his shoulder slumped and he was escorted out of the office.

    “I don’t know,” said Katanga once they were alone. “He does not strike me as an enemy spy.”

    Star leaned back in her chair. “We know very little about the Krellonians. A very secretive race. And let’s not forget that our murder victim hailed from the same species and was a friend of his.”

    “You make it sound like there was some sort of conspiracy in the works here.”

    “It would be a plausible explanation.”

    “But you have no evidence, other than an unsolved murder and a couple of officers behaving very erratically. Something else could be at work here,” said the doctor.

    Star stood. “You performed scans on both Culsten and Smith and you found no medical explanation for their behavior.”

    But Katanga shook his head. “Taz, I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things that cannot be explained by known science. Just because I haven’t found anything, doesn’t mean there isn’t something there.”

    “Fair enough. But what do you expect me to do? I can’t simply attribute everything that’s happened to some unexplained phenomenon. Right now my theory is the only one that makes the most sense and I’ll pursue it until I have reason to do otherwise.”

    The door to her office opened, startling Star for a moment. She was just about to snap at whoever had dared to waltz into her office unannounced when she realized that it had been the only person on board she did not outrank. She instinctively straightened her shoulders and reestablish her composure. “Sir?”

    “Commander, where is Lieutenant Culsten?” he said with little preamble.

    “We just finished interrogating him and I’ve restricted him to quarters.”

    Owens didn’t appear particularly happy with that explanation. He glanced at the doctor next, ignoring for the moment the fact that he was still refusing to wear his uniform jacket. “Did you find anything that could explain his behavior?”

    “I’m afraid not,” he said. “All his scans came back normal. No signs of memory loss or alteration. No changes at all to his biochemistry or brain patterns as far as I can tell. We’re still analyzing and comparing with the scans we took of Lieutenant Smith to see if something shows up.”

    “I cannot believe that Culsten would just snap like this. He’s always been an extremely reliable officer,” said the captain and then glanced at Star. “Commander, what the hell is going on my ship?”

    Star considered the question for a moment as if she was not sure how exactly to respond. She made eye contact with Katanga for a moment and it didn’t take a mind reader to tell what he was thinking.

    Owens didn’t miss the telling look and focused on his first officer. “If there is something you’d like to tell me, Commander, now would be a good time.”
    The Trill hesitated for a moment. She suppressed a sigh and then looked straight at her commanding officer. “I believe we may have a spy on board, sir.”

    The captain looked understandingly surprised. “A spy? Explain.”

    Star couldn’t hide her discomfort at having to reveal her theory even though she still had no tangible evidence to support it. “A couple of weeks ago I came across a few irregular readings which led me to believe that somebody was sending out encrypted and unauthorized transmissions. However who ever was behind it knew exactly what they were doing. It was virtually impossible to distinguish the transmission from background radiation and any traces that remained were deleted before I could make any records. Next thing we know, we have a dead body, an engineer trying to blow out the shields and a helmsman attempting to hijack the ship.”

    Owens face spoke volumes, surprise and skepticism battling for dominance.

    “What’s more,” she continued. “All three persons are connected. Katherine Smith worked closely with Jin Gedar in engineering and Lif Culsten was not only a fellow Krellonian, he was also a close friend of Gedar’s.”

    It took a moment for all that to sink in. When it finally did, Owens glanced at Katanga. “Doctor, would you mind giving us a minute?”

    He nodded, shot Star a parting look of sympathy and then left the office.

    Owens stepped closer to his first officer’s desk. “And you’re telling me you’ve had this theory for a couple of weeks now?”

    She looked visibly pained. “You have to understand, sir, I had nothing. A few transmissions which I wasn’t even sure were noteworthy at all. It was just a feeling, really, that something wasn’t right.”

    Owens sighed heavily and then turned his back on her and took a few steps towards the windows from which Aphrodite sparkled in all its colorful glory. Then he turned to face her again. “Commander, I’m trying to trust you, I really am. But you are not making things easy for me.”

    “Sir, I—“

    He stopped her with a raised hand. “You had no evidence, I understand that. But there was more than enough reason to suspect something. And I don’t care if it’s just your gut telling you this, as my first officer I expect you to come to me with those things right away.”

    “I …” she was trying to think of an excuse but ultimately she knew she didn’t have one. “You’re right, sir,” she said, sounding noticeably deflated by her admission.

    “Granted, I haven’t made things easy for you since you’ve come aboard,” he said, “so perhaps part of the blame lies with me. But Commander,” he added and then took a step closer. “If this is ever going to work between us, I need your full confidence and trust. You understand that, don’t you?”

    She nodded slowly. Deep inside she wanted to shoot back that it was supposed to be a two way street. Owens wanted her trust but he was clearly unwilling to give her his. She didn’t put those thoughts into words. After all he was the captain and it was his prerogative whom to trust. “Yes, sir.”

    “I want you to find out what the hell is happening on my ship. If there really is a spy who is responsible for all this, I want to know.”

    “You have my word.”

    Owens turned on his heels and had gone as quickly as he had appeared.

    Star let herself fall into her chair again and swiveled it around until she faced the windows to stare into the mysterious cloud. Not only did she not have the slightest idea how to do what she had just promised, after this she didn’t even know how she would ever be able to get the captain to place even a shred of trust into her ever again.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – III –

    The two women were perhaps more alike then he had guessed, Alex Clancy thought as he considered them while they appraised each other across the table in the interview room. Both had refused but the most basic medical treatment and wore their bruises almost like badges of honor and proof of the battle they had fought.

    They were both Bajoran but more than that, they were both proud warriors.

    Yunta Fey broke eye contact first, conceding the first round of this battle to her opponent. There was of course little doubt that she already found herself in the weaker position after the altercation in the Nest. Her wrist were shackled together and two armed security guards stood by the wall behind her and within easy reach should she try another ill-advised show of force.

    She understood she was in trouble.

    “It’s not looking good for you, Corporal,” said Nora with a half-smile on her lips. The security chief clearly had come around on the issue of suspecting a fellow Starfleet officer for to be the culprit. The idea that a Bajoran Marine could have been involved had not sat particularly well with her either. But a good fight had the tendency to change one’s perspective on things.

    Fey glanced up at her briefly, glowering at the other woman before diverting her eyes once more.

    “We can do this one of two ways,” Nora said. “You can come clean with us now, tell us everything and make a full confession. You do that and I’ll promise to do whatever I can to ensure the court martial will be lenient. Or you can be uncooperative, bide your time until we get back to starbase and you can be assigned a counsel. In which case I will ensure they throw the book at you.”

    The Marine had a little smile on her face now, even if she refused to look at the lieutenant.

    “This amuses you?”

    “All you have on me is disorderly conduct and striking a superior officer.”

    “Serious accusations in the Marines, no?” said Clancy who sat next to Nora.

    She nodded as she looked at the counselor. “Oh yes, I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks in a brig. Might even lose my rank.”

    Nora hit the top of the table so forcefully Clancy, Fey and even the two guards jumped a little. Fey’s eyes were forced back onto the security chief.

    “Let’s stop playing games,” she said. “You killed Gedar. I don’t know, maybe you weren’t in love with him, you don’t seem the type, but you couldn’t accept him choosing Decaux over you. It drove you mad and you killed him for it.”

    Fey stared at her fellow Bajoran for a moment and then began to laugh. “Nice theory but completely wrong.”

    “Decaux didn’t seem to think so,” said Clancy.

    “Decaux,” Fey repeated slowly, making it clear that there was little love lost between the two women. She looked right at Clancy when she spoke. “That’s probably who you should be looking at more closely. There is something very wrong about that woman. She’s off-kilter somehow. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to make her snap.”

    “And why would she?” Clancy said.

    Fey leaned forward over the table far enough to cause the guards to step closer. But the corporal didn’t seem to care, not even when the female security officer placed a hand on her shoulder. Instead her eyes drilled themselves into the counselor. “Because she found out about us, me and Gedar. And she couldn’t take it.”

    “You said it had been over.”

    She shrugged and leaned back in her chair. “I told you there’s something wrong about Decaux. She’s not one to reason with.”

    * * *​

    Back in the security office, Nora watched as the two security guards were escorting Yunta Fey back to holding.

    Clancy could tell that it was eating her up inside. “She’s right, you know, we don’t really have anything on her.”

    “So she just goes on a rampage because she’s innocent? No, she’s involved somehow,” she said without ever taking her eyes of the other women, not even when she glanced back across the room, just before she was taken outside. “Godsdamnit, I hate this.”

    He sat down close to her. “Maybe you should take a break from this.”

    Nora looked at him as if he had lost his mind. “A break? I promised the captain that I find whoever did this. And now it looks as if I did and I wish I hadn’t. There’s no break from that.”

    Clancy nodded, understanding.

    “She’s just like me, Alex,” she said in a softer tone. “Just like I used to be at her age. Full of anger and rage and ready to boil over at any moment. The smallest thing could’ve lit my fuse and I might very well have done what she did had I been in that same position.”

    He considered her for a moment, not missing the fact that she had called him by his first name for the first time since they’d met. Not missing the anguish in her eyes or the vulnerability which had crept into her tone. “Listen to me. I know she reminds you a lot of a younger you and understandably so but you must understand that you are a very different kind of person. You are not the same.”

    “And how would you know?”

    “Because it’s my job to know these things. It’s my job to understand people, what they think and what they are capable of doing.”

    “You think I wouldn’t have been able to do what she did?”

    “Right now, I’m not even convinced that she’s the cold-blooded killer you make her out to be,” he said.

    That hard look returned into her eyes. “Well if she did, I swear I’m going to find out and make her pay,” she said and stood. “Let’s go speak to Katanga again.”

    “What for?”

    “There’s something about Gedar’s body I’ve been wondering about and if I’m right, it might be all the evidence we need to lock her up for good.”

    * * *​

    “Are you sure about this?”

    “I’ll be fine.”

    “You weren’t last time.”

    “I wasn’t prepared last time.”

    Nora gave him a skeptical look.

    “Honestly, It’s going to be alright,” Clancy said.

    The security chief gave Doctor Katanga the nod to proceed and the veteran medic activated the controls with a little smirk, allowing the morgue’s receded slab to slide out of the wall and revealing the dead, naked body of Jinlu Gedar.

    All eyes were on the counselor who did an admirable job of pretending that the corpse didn’t bother him in the least. His eyes were focused on an indistinct spot as he nodded slowly, almost as if to give himself courage. “Let’s just get on with it.”

    Nora couldn’t quite manage to wipe that silly smirk off her face as she looked at the equally amused doctor.

    However the reality of the situation caught up with them quickly enough and Katanga grew more serious. “I had another look just like you asked.”

    “Did you find anything?”

    “Oh yes. I missed it at first because I attributed the bruising to the accident which had been logged but this was no accident,” he said. “The bruises are too deliberate, almost intentional.”

    “Are you saying Doctor Wenera falsified the records?” said Nora.

    Katanga shot her a less than pleased look, clearly not happy with the implication that his close friend and apprentice would have been involved in any kind of illicit activities. It quickly vanished, after all the evidence was damning. “The only reason I can imagine she would’ve done something like this, is because he asked her to. Jane can be very compassionate and Gedar likely didn’t want a record of this.”

    “So it was no accident,” said Clancy. “Did he do this to himself?”

    Katanga shook his head. “Some of the bruising is in places that would’ve made it very difficult for him to self-inflict them.”

    Nora stepped closer to the naked body. Even though dead for a few days now, thanks to the morgue’s stasis field, his body was still nearly perfectly preserved. His dark skin had barely begun to fade. “Somebody did this to him,” she said, voicing a theory which had already begun to form in her mind.

    “And you think it was Fey,” said Clancy.

    “She would have had the strength to do this. Not many other people on the ship could say the same.”

    “It’s a theory,” said the counselor.

    “I’m afraid it’s more than that,” said Katanga and began to turn the body, causing Clancy to grimace slightly at the way he was handling the dead body. The doctor reached for a medical device and ran its bright light over Gedar’s back shoulder to reveal two small and faint semi circles, forming a roughly oval shape.

    The security chief leaned in closer. “Are those bite marks?”

    Katanga nodded.

    She looked up at him. “DNA traces?”

    “Too degraded for a perfect match. But Lieutenant, it’s definitely Bajoran.”

    Nora stood and aimed Clancy a meaningful look.
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – IV –

    There was something off about the nebula, she just couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Sensors weren’t a big help while the runabout was sitting crashed on the surface of the unlikely planet.

    Srena had been going through whatever sensor data had not been destroyed by the damage to the small vessel’s computer core after the rough landing and run a number of automated algorithms which she hoped would give her a clearer understanding of the make-up of the Aphrodite cloud.

    “I’m not sure what you want me to say, Dee?”

    The Andorian turned around startled from the workstation in the ship’s cockpit when she heard Commander Leva and Lieutenant Deen enter and then quickly changed the display mode to hide her scientific investigation and instead focused once more on the level one diagnostic she had been told to run instead. She felt a little guilty for having had her concentration wander but diagnostics tended to be very mundane affairs.

    “I don’t want you to say anything,” said the Tenarian as she followed the tactical officer. She had discarded both her jacket and her mustard uniform shirt and wore only a gray tank top with her black slacks. “I want you to do something.”

    He turned around to face her. “Like what? He’s the ranking officer on the away mission. He’s in charge.”

    “How can he be in charge if he isn’t even around? Our priority has to be to get off this planet and find a way to report back to Eagle. As much as I’m intrigued by this world and these stranded Vulcans, we can’t let ourselves get distracted.”

    Leva raised an eyebrow in a very good approximation of the way Xylion would have done. “And that’s coming from you?”

    She nodded. “That’s coming from me.”

    “So you want me to go find him in that Vulcan colony and drag him back here? Do you suggest I use a phaser?”

    “Whatever it takes.”

    “I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” said Srena when she spotted Commander Xylion through the bulkhead windows approaching the Nebuchadrezzar.

    “About time,” said Deen and then headed for the exit, apparently determined to give the science officer a piece of her mind.

    Leva and Srena followed her outside.

    “How very nice of you to deign us with your presence,” said Deen the moment she had exited the ship. “We weren’t quite sure you’d find your way back to us.”

    Xylion didn’t react to the sarcastic tone in her voice and instead continued to approach and only spoke once he was just a few meters out. “Your concern was not justified, I was perfectly aware of the location of the runabout at all times.”

    She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Could have fooled me.”

    “Judging by the tone in your voice I assume that you are displeased for some reason.”

    Deen turned to look at Leva, aiming him an incredulous look. “He thinks I’m displeased.”

    “We were assuming that you would assist with repairs to the ship, Commander,” said Leva, who in an odd reversal of usual roles actually sounded a great deal more diplomatic than Deen had.

    The Tenarian however clearly wasn’t in the mood to mince words. “I am as fascinated by these people as you are, Commander,” she said. “But their notion that we would join their little community here, or that you marry that woman is simply ludicrous. Our priority is clear, get the ship repaired and return to Eagle as soon as possible.”

    There was a momentary, almost uncomfortable silence between them. Srena stayed well out of the argument, feeling especially awkward, as if she had walked into a fight between her parents.

    “Wait a minute,” said Deen. “You can’t tell me you’re actually considering this.”

    Leva couldn’t help but smirk, garnering him a less than pleased look from the lieutenant. “Oh come on, the idea that Xylion, of all people, is going off the reservation for a girl is priceless.”

    Deen apparently didn’t see the humor.

    “Your line of reasoning is flawed,” said Xylion. “I am a Starfleet officer and my curiosity for the settlement and its residents is purely scientific in nature. I have no intention of being betrothed with any of the Vulcans on this world nor do I have designs of joining them.”

    Deen looked skeptical.

    “You have to admit you’ve been spending a lot of time with these people, Commander and with this Tela women especially,” said the half-Romulan.

    “As I have said,” he said and then began to walk towards the ship again. “Studying the society these people have built for themselves here opens up fascinating research possibilities and Tela has proven to be an excellent case study. Now I suggest we discontinue this line of discussion and focus on repairs. Our priority should be to ensure full structural integrity across the superstructure.”

    “We’ve done that already,” said Deen looking after the Vulcan.

    Xylion stopped and turned around to consider her.

    “You think we’ve just been sitting here twiddling our thumbs while you’ve been on your little field study trip?”

    “I see. Very well, in that case, engines and drive components are our next focus. I’ll review your progress as we continue our efforts. Ensign, I will require your assistance with the navigational systems,” he said, apparently considered the discussion concluded and boarded the runabout.

    Srena looked at him and then back at Deen and Leva as if unsure of herself. “Yes, sir,” she said quickly and then followed him inside.

    “I don’t like this,” said Deen.

    “He’s back and he’s helping with repairs,” he said, “that’s what you’ve asked for,” he added and then headed back for Nebuchadrezzar himself.

    But before he could take more than one step, she stopped him by holding on to his upper arm, causing him to look back at her. “You don’t find all this a little bit concerning? And why exactly are these Vulcans so eager for us to join them? The ones Srena met were not even willing to assist us in any way, not even allowing us to take any spare parts we may require.”

    “Since when are you the suspicious type?”

    She shrugged her shoulder. “I suppose war does that to people.”

    “Well, relax,” he said. “There are no Jem’Hadar around. Let’s just get these repairs done and report back to the ship.”

    She nodded slowly but she couldn’t help herself and look over her shoulder and towards the direction of the Vulcan settlement, unable to shake the feeling that they were being watched. When she spotted nothing but the canyon, she shook it off and followed the others.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – V –

    “It proves nothing.”

    “Really?” said Nora Laas with obvious skepticism in her voice while she carefully watched Yunta Fey across the table from her. “Bajoran DNA on Gedar’s skin proves nothing? Do you think somebody else took a bite out of him? Do you think it was me, Corporal?”

    The Marine offered a little smile. “No, somehow I don’t quite see you as the type.”

    Clancy took the reins before a clearly agitated Nora could respond to the jibe. He leaned forward. “But you are, isn’t that right? You like to get physical with the people you are involved with.”

    She shrugged. “Yes, so what? It’s not a crime.”

    “It is if it is involuntary,” said Nora.

    “Gedar liked it just fine.”

    “Too bad we can’t ask him,” the security chief said.

    Yunta considered the other Bajoran and the counselor. “You really think that just because I liked to play a little rough, I killed him? You can’t be serious.”

    Clancy glanced at a padd. “I’ll tell you what we think. That DNA and bruising on Gedar’s skin is just a couple of weeks old,” he said and then looked right into her eyes. “You had told us that it had been over between the two of you months ago. Instead he received these injuries while he was involved with Crewman Decaux and we know she isn’t responsible for them.”

    Yunta didn’t say anything to that.

    “You want to hear my theory on that?” said Nora and then continued when Yunta offered nothing more than a scowl in response. “My theory is that it hadn’t been over months ago and certainly not that it was a mutual breakup as you would have liked us to believe. In fact, I think Gedar got involved with Decaux while he was still with you and you found out about it.”

    Clancy took over. “And from what I can tell, you are not the kind of woman to cross. You were furious at Gedar for cheating on you with Decaux. You confronted him about it and things turned ugly. And I’m not talking about some sort of mutual sexual practice with a violent twist. This was pure violence, the bruising on his body leaves little doubt of that.”

    “In other words, Corporal, you beat the hell out of him,” said Nora.

    Yunta remained silent.

    “Would you like legal representation at this time?” said Clancy and judging by Nora’s sidelong look, she wasn’t too happy he’d made the suggestion, she was obviously hoping for a confession.

    The Marine stood suddenly, causing Nora to follow suit immediately, already painfully aware that the woman could hold herself in battle. But instead of making any aggressive moves against either investigator, she turned her back to them and walked towards the far bulkhead. She eventually took a deep breath. “Yes, okay, I did hurt him a little,” she said and then whipped around again. “But the bastard had it coming. He didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was fooling around with that little bimbo. Instead he blamed it all on his nature as a Krellonian. Give me a break. What kind of stupid excuse is that? He was fully aware of what he was doing at all times, nobody forced him to do it. But he thought that because of his race he had a free pass to do what he pleased. Well, I set him straight.”

    “You certainly did that,” said Clancy.

    She locked eyes with the man and it took her a moment to understand the implication and vehemently shook her head. “Not like that, I didn’t. Yes, I beat him a little the day I found out but that was a couple of weeks ago. After that I didn’t touch him again. Didn’t even speak to him.”

    “I find that hard to believe,” said Nora. “By your own admission you were furious with Gedar. You wanted him to pay for what he’d done to you.”

    “Yes and he did,” she said and then quickly corrected herself. “I mean, I made him pay that day but that is it. I didn’t kill him.” She continued when she found neither Clancy nor Nora convinced by her words. She took a step closer to the table. “If you are looking for the killer, I think you should have another chat with that civilian engineer.”

    “Colcord?” said Clancy.

    She shook her head again. “No, not the woman. The professor. I know for a fact he was hanging around engineering at around the time of Gedar’s death while he was all alone in there. Plenty of opportunity.”

    “Right,” said Nora. “And what would have been his motive to kill Gedar?”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know, you’re the detective here, why don’t you find out?” she said. “But Jin clearly had a tendency to get under people’s skin. I’m telling you, I’m not the only one he managed to tick off.”

    Nora had apparently heard enough. She pressed a panel on the table and within moments Lieutenant Carlos and another security officer stepped into the room. “Take her to holding.”

    “You’re arresting me?” she said incredulously. “On what charge?”

    “For now it’s conduct unbecoming and striking a superior officer,” said Nora, holding her intense glare. “Don’t be surprised if we add first degree murder by the morning,” she said and gestured for Carlos to take her away.

    “I’m telling you,” she said as she was being escorted out, “you’ve got the wrong guy. I did not—“ she stopped herself suddenly when the doors to the room parted and she spotted Major Wasco standing outside, watching her carefully as she was led away. Nora and Clancy didn’t miss how she quickly diverted her glance in apparent shame.

    The burly Marines commander watched her go for a moment before he stepped into the doorframe of the interview room. “Lieutenant, may I have a word?”

    Nora nodded. “Major Wasco. Of course, come in. This is Lieutenant Alex Clancy, he is assisting with the investigation.”

    Wasco offered the younger man a sharp nod as he walked into the room, taking the seat opposite the two investigators which Yunta had only recently vacated. “It’s about my man.”

    Nora nodded for him to proceed.

    “You’ll be charging her?”

    “At the moment she is our prime suspect,” said Clancy. “Her relationship with the victim and the way in which it ended give her a strong motive.”

    “I see. Do you have enough to convict her?”

    Nora and Clancy exchanged quick looks. “Not yet,” said the security chief. “But I expect this to be only a matter of time. We can hold her for now on the charges of getting in a fight with Crewman Decaux in the Nest. Not to mention taking a few swings at me after I interceded.”

    The major trained his intense eyes on the Bajoran. “That was completely unacceptable behavior and I sincerely apologize that it came to that.”

    Clancy shook his head. “Not your fault, Major.”

    “I’m her commanding officer, Lieutenant. I am responsible for everything she does and if she steps out of line, that is my fault.”

    “Well, we’re not going to arrest you for something she did,” he said with a little smirk that went unreciprocated.

    “Major, no offense, but why are you here?” said Nora.

    “I want to ask you to hand Corporal Yunta over to me.”

    “She’s a murder suspect,” said Clancy, clearly surprised by the unusual request. “And even if she wasn’t, she’s disregarded orders and has committed other crimes.”

    “You’ve said it yourself,” Wasco said. “You have no evidence to definitively link her to Mister Gedar’s murder. And as for the other crimes you speak of, as a Marine she should be punished by her peers. And I will see to that personally, I guarantee you that.”

    The counselor shot Nora a puzzled look, as if he couldn’t quite believe that Wasco would be audacious enough to make such a request of them. But Nora kept her eyes on the Marine. “You don’t think she did it, do you?”

    “No,” he said. “I’m convinced she didn’t.”

    “How do you know?” Clancy said.

    “For one she had a drill first thing the morning of the murder,” he said and looked at Nora. “And she was there, bright eyes and all. You know what that means, she had to hit the bunk early, she wouldn’t’ have had time to stay out late and get into trouble,” he added and then focused on the counselor again. “But more importantly than that, Lieutenant, Corporal Yunta is a Marine. I’ve known her since the first day she put on that uniform. I trained her myself. Turned her from a broken and angry little girl into a formidable warrior.”

    “You ask me, she’s still plenty angry,” said Clancy.

    “And so would you be if you’d had a life like hers,” he said before he made eye contact with Nora again. “She isn’t all that different to you, Lieutenant,” he continued. “She went to much the same things you did back on Bajor and I bet she was just as angry and frustrated about her life. You know she once told me that you were her inspiration for joining the Marines. She figured if you had made it to were you are now, then so could she.” He shook his head slightly. “I’ve tried very hard with her. And I know she is nowhere near where you are now,” he said. “Sometimes her anger still boils over and gets the better of her but she has ways to control it.”

    “Like when she went off at Crewman Decaux and then at Lieutenant Nora? Like when she beat Gedar senseless after finding out that he had cheated on her?” said Clancy.

    Wasco shot the man an astonished look, apparently not having known about the Gedar beating.

    “What makes you so sure that this time she didn’t control her anger?” he continued.

    But the Marine quickly managed to put on a more confident face again. “I don’t expect you to understand, Lieutenant, but as Marines we go through challenges together that not only bond us in a way which would be difficult for you to understand, it also means that we know the people we fight alongside with better than we know ourselves. And I’ve fought with Yunta and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that she would not have killed Gedar in this manner.”

    “I’m sorry, I’m not buying this whole Marines ethos thing. No offense, Major, I know you and your men accomplish extraordinary feats but that doesn’t mean that they are above suspicion.”

    “That is not what I’m saying. But I am vouching for Corporal Yunta. She did not do this.”

    Nora once again activated the control panel on the table and within moments Carlos appeared again. “Lieutenant, please hand over the prisoner to Major Wasco.”

    “Sir?” he said, clearly confused by the order. He wasn’t alone; Clancy shot the security chief a befuddled look as well.

    Nora ignored them all and kept her eyes on the Marine instead. “You’ll keep her under guard at all times and she’ll not be allowed to move freely around the ship.”

    Wasco stood. “You have my word, Lieutenant. And thank you,” he said and then left the room, following Carlos to the holding cells.

    Nora could feel Clancy’s eyes on her and decided on a preemptive strike. “She’s got nowhere to go. Makes little difference if she’s in our holding cell or under guard by the Marines.”

    “It’s the principle of the matter,” he said. “She’s our prime suspect in a murder investigation. She should be treated as such. I think the good major got to you with his whole, she’s-just-like-you speech. Or is it that Marines always look out for each other?”

    Nora sighed. “You said it yourself, we don’t have enough evidence to charge her. We keep investigating Yunta until we’ve got a solid case. And once we do, I’m going to drag her into a cell myself.”

    Alex Clancy grinned.


    “Just never thought I’d see the infamously hard-ass Nora Laas going soft.”

    “Stow it.”
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – V –

    “Srena, go get some rest, we need to get up with the first light to get on with the repairs,” said Deen as she headed towards the back compartment of the runabout, barely stifling a yawn herself.

    “I’ll be right there,” she said without interrupting her efforts on the workstation she was sitting at. “I just want to go through this data real quick.”

    The Tenarian stepped up behind the blue-skinned ensign to look over her shoulder and spy onto the display. “Sensor analysis?”

    She nodded. “I found that some of the data I took of the nebula has survived the landing. I just want to quickly look it over,” she said and then made eye contact with Deen behind her, quickly noticing the doubt in her eyes. Considering how frustrated she had been with Xylion for prioritizing the Vulcan settlement over essential repairs, she tried to dispel any concerns with a smile. “I promise it won’t take long. The computer is just finishing an analysis of the data and I wanted to get it done before we continue repairs, in case we lose some of it.”

    Deen’s features softened and she returned the smile. “Good thinking. But don’t take too long, alright? The repairs should take precedent to scientific study. At least for the time being.”

    “Yes, of course.”

    The lieutenant offered a parting smile, not hiding how impressed she was with the young ensign’s dedication and then departed for the bunks in the back of the ship.

    A soft trill from her computer station caused Srena to focus back on the screen. The results were in. “Wait, that can’t be right,” she said to herself even as her fingers were already racing across the panels, trying to verify the data. But when the output refused to change, she decided to start over, no matter that it could take another couple of hours to complete. This was too important, too significant not to be certain about it. The implications were immense and if the findings held up, she knew it could change everything. Deen, Leva and of course Xylion would have to know. The captain had to be made aware as well, and as soon as possible, as this revelation could change the entire scope of their mission.

    A sudden noise startled the ensign. “Lieutenant?”

    But there was no answer.

    The sound returned. It was almost as if somebody was working on the outside of the runabout.

    Srena stood. “Commander, is that you?”

    Again nothing.

    She looked out of the viewport but could see nothing outside in the dark.

    Another soft, metallic bang convinced her somebody was definitely outside.

    She slowly made her away to the airlock. She considered getting one of the senior officers but then dismissed the idea. She didn’t want to wake them if it turned out to be nothing more than the wind or perhaps a wild animal.

    She opened the inner airlock and then the outer one as well and without stepping out of the ship, she craned her neck out. She could see nothing of consequence. “Hello? Anyone out here?”

    She thought she heard a sudden shuffle but couldn’t be sure. It was coming from the nose of the runabout.

    The ensign slowly stepped out of the ship and staying close to the hull moved towards the front. “Hello?” she said again but once again got no response.

    She approached the nose very carefully and then ventured a look around the corner, immediately spotting the source of the sound. An access panel had been removed to expose the innards behind.

    Srena stepped up to it and then looked around but could see nobody who could’ve been responsible for removing the small hatch.

    She took a knee in front of it to see if any damage had been done.

    Before she could get a good look at what had happened, another sound startled her and this time it was unmistakable footsteps.

    She looked to her right to see a person right in front of her and gasped with surprise.

    “Oh, it’s you,” she said once she recognized the familiar face and then stood. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – VII –

    Clancy noticed the young man entering the security office immediately. And even though he wore a mustard colored undershirt, he obviously didn’t belong. Over the last few days the counselor had gotten to know almost all of the members of Eagle’s security team but he couldn’t recall having seen the red-haired crewman’s face before.

    And then there was the fact that he looked nervous being there. He had taken only a couple of steps into the room and it almost looked as if he was reconsidering having come here at all.

    Clancy looked around, it was late in the day and he noticed that the few security people on duty were not paying the newcomer any attention. He quickly jumped out of his seat but by the time he was approaching him, he seemed to have decided to leave again and was just about to turn away.

    “Can I help you?”

    He turned back around, seeing the counselor aiming an easy smile at him.

    “Uh … I was just leaving.

    “You know, I could be wrong about this, but something tells me you came here to speak to somebody.”

    “Yeah, I guess I kinda did.”

    “And I’m kinda here to listen.”

    The crewman nodded but didn’t say anything further.

    “Could this be about the ongoing investigation into Lieutenant Gedar’s death?” Clancy said, still smiling.

    He looked at him with widening eyes “How’d you know?”

    “Lucky guess.”

    “Listen, I don’t want to get anybody in trouble.”

    He nodded understandingly. “Of course not. But if you know something that could help us, you really shouldn’t keep it to yourself.”

    “Yeah,” he said and then looked around the security office, apparently looking for somebody.

    Clancy thought he knew why. “Lieutenant Nora isn’t here right now but you can talk to me.”

    His smile was uneasy. “Actually, I think I would prefer that. I’ve heard stories about her. She can get a little tough.”

    “Tell me about it,” he said and led him into the interview room. “Just talk to me for now and I’ll fill her in later.”

    This seemed to be putting him at ease and he followed him into the room and then identified himself as Crewman Asher Sanzenbacher, an engineering specialist.

    Clancy remembered his name. “You were on duty of the night of the murder. You discovered the body.”

    He nodded slowly.

    “If I’m not mistake we already took your statement.”

    He didn’t say anything to that.

    Clancy could tell that he was concerned. “Why don’t you take a seat?”

    Sanzenbacher did as suggested.

    “Tell me what it is you remembered about that night that you may have forgotten to mention before.”

    He made eye contact again but apparently Clancy’s calm tone encouraged him. “I’m not sure how important it is or if it means anything at all but there was a meeting about an hour before I found the lieutenant’s body in engineering.”

    Clancy nodded. “Yes. Between Hopkins, Gedar, Rosenthal and Colcord.”

    “That’s right. I was walking past the meeting room at about 2315 hours and I stopped for a moment because I was hearing pretty loud voices coming from inside. After a moment I realized it was an argument.”

    “Could you make out what it was about?”

    “Not everything but it was clear that Miss Colcord didn’t want Gedar on the team working on the sensor array and she wasn’t shy in letting Lieutenant Hopkins know.”

    “How bad was it?”

    “Oh it was bad. Colcord was shouting at that point and the weirdest thing was that the chief was shouting right back. I don’t know how well you know Lieutenant Hopkins but she practically never shouts at anyone. She hardly even raises her voice to people. I swear I’ve never heard her so agitated.”

    “And all this was about Gedar being part of the project?”

    “I think so. Or maybe Lieutenant Hopkins did not appreciate the way in which Colcord was talking to one of her people. She tends to be quite protective of us.”

    Clancy thought about this for a moment. “Then what happened?”

    “I heard footsteps heading for the doors so I quickly walked on. I didn’t want to be caught eavesdropping. But I turned around one more time before I reached the corner and I saw them come out.”

    “Them? You mean Gedar?”

    He shook his head. “No, both Gedar and Hopkins came out together and then—“ he said and stopped, apparently developing second thoughts.

    “And then what, Crewman?”

    It was obvious that he didn’t want to say the next part and avoided making eye contact with the counselor.

    “It’s okay, you can tell me.”

    He looked up and right into his eyes. “Hopkins and Gedar walked away together and back towards main engineering.”

    That came as complete news to Clancy. According to the statements made, Gedar had left the meeting early but nobody had mentioned that Hopkins had accompanied him. So far they had operated under the assumption that Hopkins had stayed in the meeting room along with Colcord and Rosenthal. “Is there anything else you remember?”

    He shook his head. “No. I left and went to impulse drive control where I stayed with another engineer until I returned to main engineering and found—“

    The door to the room opened to allow Nora Laas to stick her head in. “What’s going on?”

    Sanzenbacher immediately jumped onto his feet.

    “Ah, Lieutenant,” said Clancy casually.

    But Nora was peering suspiciously at the other man. “Crewman Sanzenbacher?”


    Clancy left his seat. “Anyway, thank you for coming in, Crewman. We’ll call you if we need to speak to you again.”

    Sanzenbacher looked at Clancy, seemingly relived and then back at Nora who continued to stare daggers at the man. “Ma’am,” he said and then managed to quickly slip out and passed her towards the exit.

    “What was that about?” she said.

    “The Crewman had something to tell us.”

    “Really? And why exactly didn’t he tell me?”

    He shrugged innocently. “Some people prefer talking to a counselor than to a security officer, didn’t you know that?”

    She seemed visibly annoyed by that.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in. But I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.”
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Seven: The Devil in Disguise

    – I –

    0535 hours was the perfect time on Eagle for an early morning run around the ship’s saucer section. With the slowest shift of the day still on duty for the next few hours and most everyone on Alpha shift still fast asleep, this was usually the time the ship was almost serene and the corridors barely frequented. And Nora Laas appreciated the quiet for her morning routine as she began her warm up stretches near to her quarters on deck nine.

    The only problem: It was already 0540 and she was not yet on the move.

    After she had let slip of her morning run to the counselor he had quickly shown interest and asked if he could join her. At first she had been hesitant but after he had revealed that he had been looking to start a ritual of his own but had never found anyone willing to partake, she had ultimately agreed to let him join her.

    However he was late.

    Nora noticed the odd glances she received from the few, mostly male crewmembers who passed her by. It didn’t take her long to realize why. She normally wore an old Marines shirt and sweatpants when she ran her laps in the morning but since investigating Sergeant Yunta as a prime suspect in her murder case she had felt it inappropriate. So instead this morning she had decided to go with a simple combination of a black athletic bra and matching shorts, showing off a lot more skin than she did usually. And both, she suddenly realized, where also a lot tighter than her normal workout clothes, showing off all her feminine curves as well as her athletic figure.

    Her choice of outfit had nothing to do with the fact that she was expecting company this morning, or at least that’s what she told herself. She wasn’t trying to show off, she had simply not given her wardrobe much thought when she had asked the replicator to produce something appropriate. But Alex Clancy of course was a counselor. A psychologist very much trained to analyze people’s behavior and their reasoning. Seeing her like this, he could infer a completely mistaken meaning to her attire and so she quickly resolved to return to her quarters and select something far less revealing.

    She only managed a few steps before she spotted him approaching her hurriedly.

    “Lieutenant?” he said as he came jogging down the corridor, wearing running shoes, shorts and a Starfleet Academy t-shirt. “I’m so sorry, I’m late. I could’ve sworn I told the computer to wake me at 0520.”

    To his credit he didn’t even seem to notice her outfit.

    Nora wasn’t sure if to feel relieved or annoyed that he didn’t even snuck so much as a peek. After all she was proud of her body. Or at least of the work she had put into it and not many people ever got to see so much of it.

    “Are you alright?” he said, when she didn’t speak. “Where you going somewhere?”

    She shook her head. “No. Just waiting for you. You ready?”

    “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
    “Good. Let’s get started.”

    “How many are we doing?”

    “I like to do thirty laps,” she said and offered a little smirk when she noticed his eyes opening wider. “But perhaps fifteen will do this morning.”

    “Oh, please, don’t take it easy on my account.”

    Soon after they were off, jogging alongside each other on deck nine’s widest corridor which completely circumferenced the elliptically shaped saucer section. As expected there was fairly little traffic to dodge at this early hour.

    Nora was not used to having company on her morning jog and reduced her pace, not only to avoid burning Clancy out too early but also to allow them to discuss their progress on the Gedar investigation.

    “I have to admit, this case is becoming more and more convoluted. Just when you think you have your suspect, something else comes out of nowhere,” he said.

    “We shouldn’t dismiss Fey just yet.”

    He turned to look at her, even though she kept her eyes trained forward. “And this is coming from you.”

    She aimed him a look. “What does that mean?”

    “You’re the one who was determined of her innocence. You’re the one who let her out of the brig.”

    Nora shook her head. “Not because I think she’s innocent.”

    Not wanting to rehash their conversation about her logic of letting Yunta Fey rejoin her Marines contingent, the counselor moved on. “Alright, so now we’ve got Hopkins and Gedar leaving their meeting together just a few minutes before he died. Something nobody seemed to think was important to tell us.”

    The Bajoran didn’t say anything to that.

    “What I cannot figure out is why nobody would tell us,” he continued. “I can see why Lieutenant Hopkins would want to keep this under wraps so as not to implicate herself but what about Rosenthal and Colcord. Why didn’t they say anything?”

    “Lou probably just forgot.”

    “Really?” he said, perplexed. “Forgot? To point out that she may have been the last person to see him alive.”

    “She wasn’t. We know that. He returned to engineering and was seen there by Kolrami and others.”

    “Still, the fact that she didn’t¬¬—“

    “Rosenthal and Colcord are the real story here,” she said, cutting him off. “According to Sanzenbacher that argument got a lot more heated than anyone was willing to admit to. Colcord was furious.”

    “So was Hopkins according to Sanzenbacher.”

    “She was just defending her man.”

    “Well, you know her much better than I do, you tell me if that’s normal behavior for her.”

    She had nothing to say to that. “Why was Colcord so agitated?”

    “Clearly because she has history with him. He broke her heart back at the Academy, maybe even made her leave and now she has to unexpectedly work with him again,” said Clancy.

    But Nora shook her head. “There’s got to be more to it. And why did Rosenthal go to see Gedar in his quarters the day before his death? Are you telling me you’re buying his story about him wanting to brainstorm about his own invention in private after having made it abundantly clear to everyone involved that he didn’t wish to discuss the project with any Starfleet officer?”

    “It’s not impossible.”

    “And what about Yunta claiming to have seen Rosenthal around engineering shortly before his death?”

    “If she’s guiltily, she’s obviously trying to deflect blame.”

    She turned her head to look at him. “And I though I was the skeptic here.”

    “Okay, let’s assume you’re right and Rosenthal is involved. What’s his motive? As far as we can tell he didn’t have a … a relationship with … uh … with Gedar.”

    Nora smirked. Clancy was running out breath and it had not gone unnoticed by her that he had slowed over the last few minutes. “Do you need us to take a break?”

    He quickly waved her off. “I’m … I’m fine.”

    “Just ten more laps.”

    “Ten … more?” he said in surprised, clearly having thought they were much closer to their target already. “No … problem.”

    And yet he couldn’t quite match his earlier pace again. Nora showed pity and slowed. “There is something about Rosenthal and Gedar we’re not seeing, she said. Some sort of connection.”

    “The only connection we’ve got right now,” he said, taking his time to speak, “is Colcord.”

    “And the fact that he was clearly quite impressed with Gedar. Much more so than Colcord.”

    That’s when Clancy slowed to a trot and when Nora looked over she realized he was no longer at her side. She turned around to find him having come to complete stop a few meters behind her.

    “About that break you mentioned. Maybe I do need it after all.”

    She stopped herself. “Maybe fifteen laps were a bit ambitious for a beginner,” she said with a large smile plastered on her face.

    “It’s just I haven’t done anything like this in a while. Probably not since the Academy.”

    She nodded. “Let’s grab some water and head for the gym.”

    “The gym?”

    “Of course,” she said and clasped him good-naturedly on the back as she walked passed him. “You didn’t think just running around the ship is my entire work out regimen, did you? How do you think I maintain this fabulous body,” she added, shooting him a wink over her shoulder.

    Apparently that was enough to convince him to follow her.

    To his great relief they took the turbolift to the ship’s gymnasium and then entered the large facility moments later, each already cradling bottles of water which Clancy sucked down eagerly.

    The room, filled with exercise equipment was almost empty, only a couple of other morning birds were using the facility.

    Nora walked over to the replicator and retrieved two fresh towels, tossing one to Clancy who, still in the process of gulping water, caught it only clumsily. She then walked up to a weight machine designed to exercise her back muscles and triceps, easily pushing weights with her powerful arms.

    “Hey, Doctor, stop staring and start working out,” she said when she caught him just standing there, watching her work that machine. She gestured to the device to her side.

    “Right,” he said quickly, put down his bottle and walked over to the machine, looking over the settings.

    “Start on a low setting and work yourself up.”

    He did as he was told and then looked back at her to make sure he was using it right.

    Nora’s amusement was evident. “Not a place you come to regularly, I take it.”

    “I should but … been so busy lately.”

    “I know an excuse when I hear one. I have to say though, for a medical professional, I would have thought you’d take better care of your body.”

    “I’m not sure if you can tell but I’m really more of a mind over body kind of guy,” he said and tapped his temple. “That’s the muscle I prefer to work out.”

    “I see,” she said. “So I’m nothing more than a simple minded brute to you.”

    He quickly shook his head. “Absolutely not. In fact I admire you greatly.”

    “Oh?” she said shooting him a surprised look.

    “Of course, you are the epitome of strength and resilience. I must say I was mightily impressed the way you took down Yunta in the Nest without even a weapon.”

    The Bajoran noticed that the remaining two people in the gym had left. She got back on her feet and began to stretch, doing so almost directly in front of Clancy, making it almost impossible for him not to get a great view. She caught his eye and smiled. “Then maybe we need to get you all strong and resilient as well so that next time I get in a fight, you can help out instead of standing on the sidelines.”

    “Honestly, I think I might be a lost cause.”

    “No such thing,” she said. “First of all, you’ve got to learn how to use that machine you’re on correctly,” she added and stepped closer, changing the settings.

    “Oh, that’s a lot harder now,” he said when he felt the weight resistance go up.

    “You need to get your arms all the way into the device,” she said and then practically stood over him and in-between his legs, leaning into him and guiding his arm where it was supposed to be.

    Clancy clearly couldn’t deny the affect her proximity had on him.

    And Nora felt it too. She looked down to find that he was now just inches away, his eyes no longer focused on her body but staring intently into hers.

    She wasn’t sure why she was so affected by him all of a sudden. There had been zero attraction when she had first met Alex Clancy a few days earlier. In fact, if anything she had been mad as hell that Star had assigned him to her investigation and she’d had little qualms about letting her anger out on him initially.

    And yet now, having worked with him closely, having come to appreciate his sharp reasoning but also, she had to admit, his sense of humor, his reasonably good looks and his general, almost carefree attitude, she felt something she hadn’t felt since Gene Edison.

    Nora had never been one to over think an issue.

    She moved her head down further until her lips pressed against his gently. He did not resist, didn’t try to stop it or slow it down somehow. Her hands touched his face and then moved down to his neck and shoulders even while their tongues explored each other’s mouths.

    Clancy reached out for her hips and then she felt his touch on her bare sides. Like she had been shocked by a jolt of electricity, she jumped back.

    “I’m sorry,” he said, even though it was clear he wasn’t entirely sure what he was apologizing for.

    She looked back at him with a blank expression on her face, almost as if she had no idea what had just happened. What she had allowed to happen. Then she shook her head and took another step back. “That was wrong, I’m sorry.”

    “You don’t have to apologize.”

    “Yes, I do. I shouldn’t have done that. And … I don’t know why I did. I’m truly sorry,” she said, her words now flying out of her mouth. And before Clancy could say anything else, Nora had already grabbed her towel and fled the room.
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - II –

    She awoke with the first light and much to her distress following a rather vivid dream featuring her captain and commanding officer in a much more ambiguous role than as her closest friend.

    The thoughts had been stirred after Srena’s comments about relationships and her mistaken assumption that because she was Tenarian, she must have been involved with somebody on Eagle.

    She didn’t resent the young ensign for those errant thoughts. What she did resent, were her confusing feelings for her captain, ones she had carried with her for over a year now and she had either tried to ignore or otherwise rationalize as nothing more than natural affection she had for him.

    There was, of course, no time for this, she told herself. Not while there was war going on and certainly not while stranded on a rogue planetoid inside a nebula. Besides it was clear that there couldn’t be a future between her and Owens. He was almost twice her age—not that she felt that should matter—and more importantly her commanding officer and also, quite obviously, interested in another woman altogether.

    Deen quickly dispelled all those thoughts like she had done plenty of times before. She got out of her bunk inside the tiny crew compartment and pulled on her pants and her mustard-colored uniform shirt.

    “Srena, let’s get up and get repairs underway, we’ve got a busy day ahead of us,” she said as she finished zipping up. But when she turned to look at the other bunk she found that the ensign was not there, the sheets seemingly untouched.

    She allowed herself a smirk. The ensign had been a true surprise already, her eagerness and efficiency rather unexpected considering that she was a wartime recruit and as such never having enjoyed a complete training at the Academy.

    Deen left the small compartment and found Xylion stepping out of the one he shared with Leva opposite hers. As expected the Vulcan was already dressed in full uniform, looking flawless all over. “Good morning, Commander.”


    “What’s the plan?”

    “Following ascertaining full structural integrity yesterday we were able to further determine that the impulse engine is beyond our facility to repair. However the remaining thruster modules should be sufficient to take the runabout back into orbit. As the thruster control module has taken no damage, we will have to focus on repairing the six workable RCS packages,” he said as they walked towards the cockpit together.

    She nodded. “With all four of us we should be able to get the packages firing again within a day. Perhaps two.”

    “Allowing time for rest and regeneration, I estimate repairs will be completed in 11.23 hours.”

    Deen smirked at that. “I’m so glad your allowing for sleep.”

    He cocked an eyebrow. “6.2 hours for you, Commander Leva and Ensign Srena. 2.1 hours for myself.”

    “Right. Well, I hope you do realize that I get real grumpy if I don’t get my eight hours worth.”

    Apparently he had no words to offer to this.

    “Listen, Xyl, about yesterday, I’m sorry if I came across a tad tasty. I was out of line. I know you only have our best interests in mind and to suggest otherwise was uncalled for.”

    “Your apology is noted but not required, Lieutenant. I understand your concern and that our focus must be on completing repairs in the most timely fashion possible.”

    A large smile came over her lips. “Say, you’re not getting soft on me in you old age, are you?”

    Another eyebrow climbed towards the ceiling. “Soft?”

    “Never mind,” she said.

    That’s when Leva stepped into the cockpit to join them, like Deen, wearing his uniform in a more utilitarian manner sans jacket and with the sleeves of his golden shirt rolled up. He rubbed his hands together. “Alright, people, let’s get to work and take this hunk of steel off this rock.”

    Xylion retrieved a padd. “I completed a repairs assignment schedule last night to maximize efficiency and tailored to our individual strengths. Commander Leva and I will carry out repairs to the external thruster components while Lieutenant Deen and Ensign Srena will calibrate the internal couplings.”

    “Speaking of Srena, anyone seen her this morning?” said Deen.

    “She’s not in the back,” said Leva.

    “That’s odd.”

    “Perhaps she has already commenced external repairs,” said Xylion.

    Deen headed for the airlock and the two others followed her outside. Even though it had only been light for a few minutes, the temperature was already close to thirty degrees centigrade, thanks to the massive subterranean vents close by, filling the atmosphere with superheated gasses.

    “Srena, are you out here?” Deen called out.

    When she got no response, she looked at the others, concern now etched into her beautiful features.

    “Spread out and find her,” Xylion said.

    The three officers headed out, each into a different direction.

    Deen stayed close to the hull and walked towards the bow. It didn’t take her long to find something. “Over here,” she called out and then picked up the pace when she thought she saw the top of her boots, a sickening feeling spreading in her gut.

    She rounded the runabout and found the Andorian lying face down on the ground. “Srena?” she said with palpable concern and knelt next to her. She immediately reached for her neck and felt immense relieve when she found a pulse. But it was far too weak. She carefully turned the short woman over and onto her back and gasped at what she found. Her face was severely bruised and swollen. Azure blood was trickling down the corner of her lips and from her nose. “Srena?” she said again, more forcefully this time, but the ensign didn’t even stir. Deen looked over her shoulder. “I found her. She’s been injured. I need a med-kit, right now.”

    It didn’t take long for Xylion and Leva to converge on them, Leva arriving with a first aid kit and immediately offering it to Deen. “What happened?”

    She shook her head as she retrieved a medical tricorder. “I don’t know, I just found her lying here.”

    Xylion walked passed them and inspected a hatch on the bow of the runabout.

    “She’s got multiple lacerations, a fractured skull and a severe concussion. It’s a miracle she’s still alive,” said Deen and then quickly found a stabilizing agent, injecting it into her neck.

    “What could have done this?” Leva asked. “Some sort of animal?”

    But Deen shook her head. “It looks like she was beaten.”

    “By whom?”

    She looked up, her eyes brimming with anger.

    “There appears to be an additional complication,” said Xylion, following his inspection. “Somebody removed the thruster control module.”

    Leva retrieved a collapsible anti-grav stretcher from the Nebuchadrezzar and they carefully lifted her onto it before returning her to the ship. The runabout was a fully modular vessel and could be outfitted with a complete surgical unit if necessary. Unfortunately their mission had not required extensive medical equipment and so they were forced to improvise and placed her into a spare cot in the large aft compartment. It was not a bio-bed but Deen found some neural monitors which she attached to her forehead and which hopefully would keep her stable.

    “We don’t have anything here to treat injuries of this scale,” she said with frustration. “We need to take her back to Eagle as soon as possible.”

    Xylion was working on his padd. “If we reduce rest periods, we may still be able to complete repairs within fourteen hours,” he said and looked up. “However without the thruster control module we have no means to produce sufficient escape velocity.”

    “I don’t understand this,” said Leva as he looked down at the still form of Srena, her slowly raising chest the only indication that she was indeed still alive. “Why would they attack her and take the module?”

    “Isn’t it obvious?” Deen said. “They don’t want us to leave. They already made that much perfectly clear. Srena tried to stop them and they beat her half to death for it.”

    “We should not make assumptions without further evidence,” said Xylion.

    “What more evidence do you need?” she said. “This was no animal. And who else but the settlers would have been able to remove a part of the ship? It’s obvious they are responsible.”

    “They are Vulcans.”

    “One upon a time perhaps,” she shot back. “But not anymore. Look at her,” she added and pointed at her swollen and bruised face. “Is that the work of Vulcans?”

    “She’s right, Commander,” said Leva. “They clearly didn’t take no for an answer and this is their response. They intend on keeping us here at any cost.”

    “That is not logical,” he said. “If their aim was to assimilate us into their society, why would they cause life threatening injuries to Ensign Srena?”

    “Who knows,” said Deen. “Maybe they don’t like Andorians. Maybe they don’t know their own strength. Maybe they lost control,” she said and walked over to a weapons locker to retrieve three phasers. “It doesn’t matter, really. We need to get the module back and get off this planet.”

    Leva accepted the weapon but Xylion hesitated.

    Deen shot him a dark scowl. “We need to take action. Now.”

    Xylion nodded and took the weapon. “Very well, I shall go and talk to them.”

    “I’m coming with you.”

    “I do not believe that to be a good idea.”

    “I don’t care. They attacked us, Commander. In the most vicious and cowardly manner possible. I know I’m normally the last person to call for arms and I have no intentions of escalating this conflict but if they do, you’d be on your own against an entire settlement.”

    “I’ll go with Xylion,” said Leva.

    “We need somebody to stay with Srena,” said Deen.

    Leva nodded when he spotted the fire in the lieutenant’s eyes. She had been right to say that she wasn’t the aggressive type. In fact quite the opposite was the case. DeMara Deen was by her very nature a pacifist who abhorred the use of violence to settle a dispute. Nevertheless she had come to learn how to use it in her time in Starfleet and the last few years of war had changed something within her. It was that anger, now clearly awoken and shimmering underneath the surface which required her to go and face those responsible for this unwarranted crime.

    “Very well,” the tactical officer said. “But don’t get into a fight you cannot win. In fact, try to avoid a fight altogether. If you think it may come to one, get the hells out of there and fall back to the runabout. If you have absolutely no other choice, set your phasers to heavy stun and don’t be afraid to use wide-beam setting if you get surrounded.”

    Deen and Xylion adjusted their weapons as advised. Moments later they were on their way. The Tenarian taking the lead.
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – III –

    “We had a minor setback when the we lost power to two cargo bays because of that EPS grid … uh … incident,” said Louise Hopkins to give the captain an update on the sensor array construction in the observation lounge, along with Tazla Star, Doctor Katanga as well as Nora Laas and Alex Clancy in attendance. Nobody missed that the young engineer had hesitated when referring to the incident in which one of her own had been involved and suspected of foul play. Hopkins had fiercely defended Kate Smith’s innocence. “We were able to convert the secondary shuttle bay to coordinate construction efforts instead. We won’t be able to launch any shuttles from there for a while but we’ll still have the main shuttle bay operational.”

    Owens nodded. “Are we still on schedule?”

    “Absolutely,” she said. “The external framework is already complete and sensor pallet installation should be finished by the end of tomorrow. After that we’ll do final calibrations and we should be ready for our first test run.”

    “Good work, Lieutenant,” said the captain. “And please communicate this to the rest of your team as well as to Professor Rosenthal and his people. I think we’ll let you get back to your work now. Thanks for your report.”

    Hopkins nodded shortly, made eye contact with Nora Laas, and then left the observation lounge.

    “What is the update on the murder investigation?” the captain continued once the chief engineer had gone.

    The question had clearly been posed to Lieutenant Nora but when she didn’t respond immediately, Clancy fielded it instead. “Our best lead remains Sergeant Yunta. She had means, motive and opportunity,” he said from where he sat. Nora had chosen a chair just about as far away from him as physically possible.

    Owens shook his head sadly. “That a Starfleet officer, serving on this ship, could be able of such a despicable crime. I have to be honest, it’s hard to swallow.”

    The Trill first officer seemed to have fewer difficulties accepting such a reality and leaned forward, first looking towards the security chief, but when she refused to make eye contact, she focused on the counselor instead. “But you haven’t charged her yet?”

    “Well, no,” he said. “There are still some questions—“

    “There are still other suspects,” Nora said, speaking up for the first time since the meeting had started.

    “What other suspects?” Star said.

    When Nora didn’t immediately respond, Clancy jumped back in. “It appears Lieutenant Gedar had managed to make a number of enemies on the ship. He was involved with multiple women on board and members of Rosenthal’s team had personal history with him as well.”

    The captain frowned, clearly not happy hearing such stories about a former crewmember.

    “It’s been four days since Gedar was murdered, we need to bring this investigation to a close and get the guiltily party behind bars before they can strike again,” said the first officer.

    The Bajoran glared at the other woman. “I’m sorry, Commander, I was under the impression you wanted to make sure we have the right person before we charge somebody with this crime. If you prefer of course that we ruined somebody’s life and career over a whim—“

    Star glared right back. “My understanding was you had more than a whim to implicate Yunta,” she said in a tone icy enough to freeze over a small sun.

    Owens quickly inserted himself. “Let’s be absolutely certain before we charge anyone of murder. I trust we are able to hold the sergeant until we have more definitive proof.”

    Clancy looked uncomfortable answering that and avoided looking back at the captain.

    “You do have her locked up, Lieutenant, don’t you?” said Star, her piercing eyes resting on the security chief.

    “I’ve released her into Major Wasco’s custody for now.”

    She looked shocked at this. “You can’t be serious? She’s a prime murder suspect. She belongs—“

    Nora leaned forward suddenly, projecting her anger. “Commander, I was a Marine once. And I fully trust Major Wasco and his people to handle this situation with all appropriate means both for the safety of this crew and the sergeant’s herself.”

    Star glanced at the captain as if to say that she couldn’t believe how Nora had decided to handle this. But Owens remained unmoved, regarding the security chief carefully. “Very well, Lieutenant. We shall trust your judgment on this.”

    Nora took her baleful eyes off the Trill to look at the captain. “Thank you, sir.”

    “But I expect results,” he said, his voice taking on a harder edge. “Right now there is a killer on my ship and I cannot abide by that. I fully expect you to have identified the culprit before we leave this nebula. I do not want to have to bring in external investigators to resolve this crime.”

    “You won’t, sir.”

    He nodded and then looked at his first officer. “Where do we stand with the investigations into these strange occurrences that have been happening?”

    “Both Culsten and Smith are currently restricted to quarters. Both are still insisting that they have no idea what happened to them.”

    He considered the doctor. “Do we believe them?”

    “I’ve been doing this a long time, Captain, and I have seen a lot of strange and crazy things. Mind control, memory wipes, split-personality syndromes and what have you,” he said. “I’ve tested both these kids for all of that and everything else I could think of and so far I have found nothing which could explain it.”

    “Let’s assume for a moment they were not influenced somehow,” said Owens. “And that their actions were malicious and pre-determined. What would be their motive for doing so?”

    Star took that one. “Sabotage.”

    Owens looked skeptical.

    “We already have circumstantial evidence that suggests that we may have a spy on board. The hidden transmissions I was able to locate seemed to imply somebody had been sending unauthorized messages to unknown parties. What we are doing here, building the sensor array, could significantly alter the course of this war. If the Cardassians or the Dominion had a spy on this ship, they would greatly benefit from our efforts being disrupted.”

    “I’m sorry, sir,” said Nora and looked right at the captain when she spoke, “but if you ask me that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Culsten has served on this ship as long as most of us. He’s been nothing if not loyal to a fault. What possible reason could he have to betray us?”

    “How much do you know about the lieutenant?” Star said sharply, once again glowering at the Bajoran.

    “More than you, I’m sure.”

    She smirked. “Really? So then, did you know that the Kellonian Star Empire which is not a member of the Federation and with which we barely even have diplomatic relations, has only recently signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion? Did you know that they have a comparatively ruthless intelligence network and a monetary based economy in which material wealth is almost as much, if not more, revered as in the Ferengi Alliance?”

    The blank look on her face, all their faces, told her that nobody in the room had known this. Had known much about anything about the enigmatic and mostly isolated people from which Lif Culsten hailed.

    “How do you know all of this?” said Owens.

    “I still have quite a few contacts in the intelligence community,” she said and knew Owens had no reason to doubt that, considering her history.

    He nodded. “Alright, at this point I’m certainly not willing to rule anything out, the stakes are too high. But let’s say for argument’s sake, Culsten is somehow involved in this, perhaps by pressure he’s been put under by his own people, how do you factor Smith is involved?”

    “I’m not sure yet. But there is a connection. I haven’t ruled out yet that Gedar was involved as well. After all he was a Krellonian as well and friend’s with Culsten. Gedar worked closely with Smith in engineering and—“

    Nora leaned back in her chair and uttered and exasperated sigh. “Great, now we’ve got a ship-wide conspiracy on our hands.”

    “Lieutenant, I would prefer you did not interrupt me again.”

    A chastising look from the captain stressed her point and Nora offered a contrite look in response. “I apologize,” she said, even though when she looked back at Star, it didn’t quite ring true. “But if we’re playing a game of separation here as a basis for some sort of conspiracy, there’d be no end to it. Everyone on board is connected in some way or form, most obviously by the fact that we’re all on the same ship to begin with.”

    “I realize this, Lieutenant, and I’m still working on my theory.”

    Nora swallowed a flippant response to this when she saw Owens’ hard eyes focused on her. “Sir, permission to be excused to carry out my investigation,” she said, the implication not all that subtle, that hers was the only one with any real merit.

    He nodded. “By all means,” he said and looked at both her and Clancy to let them know to get on with it, perhaps even a little bit relieved to not have the two women in the same room together.

    Moments later the security chief and the counselor were gone. It escaped nobody’s notice however that Nora hadn’t even waited for her supposed partner, hadn’t even as much as looked at him from the moment they had arrived.

    “Well, that was a fun meeting,” said Katanga after they were gone. “Is it just me or did it just get five degrees warmer in here?”

    Star gave the veteran physician a look to let her know that she didn’t think his observations were helping.

    He nodded. “Just me, then.”

    She turned to the captain. “Sir, Lieutenant Nora’s colorful insights aside, something else is happening on this ship than a murder investigation and we need to find out what it is.”

    “An EPS explosion nearly took out two decks, Commander and I have a helmsman apparently dead set on commandeering my ship. I’m fully aware that things aren’t right here,” he said and stood. “Find out what it is and make it stop,” he added before he headed out of the doors.

    Katanga raised an eyebrow. “I wonder if it’s too late to ask Jane to come back.”

    Star uttered a heavy sigh and let herself fall back into her chair.
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – IV –

    “How come civilian engineers always think they are the gods’ gift to the universe?” said Lieutenant Jin Gedar as he entered main engineering, clearly in a foul mood.

    Crewman Christina McPhee chuckled at that. “Must be your charming personality.”

    “Yeah,” he said. “That and the fact that they haven’t got a single original thought in those big useless brains of theirs.”

    The young woman offered a surprised look. “I thought Rosenthal’s transphasic shield design is pretty damn clever.”

    “It’s nothing short than ingenious.”

    McPhee apparently didn’t know how to respond to that.

    “I bet the Orions or the Ferengi would have paid through their nose to get their hands on that,” the lieutenant continued. “That would have been one hell of a payday.”

    Crewman Telrik turned from his workstation. “As there is no monetary economy within the Federation, it would be illogical to seek any kind of financial compensation for the shield design.”

    Gedar smirked at that. “Telrik, my friend, your imagination is far too limited. There is more out there than the Federation and riches you can’t hardly fathom with that far too logical mind of yours.”

    The Vulcan raised an eyebrow in response.


    The lieutenant turned at hearing his name being barked sharply across main engineering to see the only other crewmember currently on duty during the late shift. He sighed heavily. “Sirna.”

    “Enough with these pointless observations,” he said as he walked over to the trio. “There is much work to be done.”

    “Really? Like what? It’s the middle of the night and we’re all exhausted from running double shifts to work on that blasted sensor array. Maybe we should take it easy for a few hours, what’d you think?”

    The Zakdorn quickly shook his head. “Your lack of dedication to duty is both appalling and concerning, Lieutenant. I have half a mind to report your attitude to Lieutenant Hopkins.”

    “What? Again?” he said and flashed McPhee a quick smile, showing just how concerned he was by being snitched on by Kolrami.

    The other man ignored the statement. “There is quite a bit of routine maintenance work which we can carry out during this shift so that it will not interfere with construction efforts.”

    Gedar crossed his arms. “You go and knock yourself out. I’ll stay here and hold the fort.”

    “I wish I could say I was surprised about your attitude, Lieutenant,” he said and turned to the two crewmen. “Telrik, McPhee, I want you two to go and investigate the plasma injectors in the starboard warp nacelle. They could use an overhaul.”

    The two noncoms acknowledged, grabbed a toolkit each and headed for the exit.

    “You work these guys too hard,” said Gedar after watching them leave.

    Kolrami had already stepped up to another workstation. “An assistant chief engineer would understand the value of getting the most out of his people.”

    “Or he would understand when to allow for some downtime to keep the minds fresh and the bodies relaxed.”

    The Zakdorn was working on his station. “If you ever get the chance to become the ACE you may test that theory but I find that unlikely.”

    Gedar smirked. “Not as unlikely as you may think.”

    “I don’t like the modulation output of the main deflector array. I think I will go and run a local diagnostic on the deflector,” he said and then reached for a toolkit himself.

    “What and leave me all here by myself?”

    Kolrami was already on his way to the exit. “An assistant chief engineer would have little difficulties taking charge of engineering on his own. Try not to break anything important while I’m gone,” he said and stepped through the double doors which had obediently parted for his departure.

    Gedar stood like frozen as the computer beeped loudly. “End of simulation. No further data exists beyond time index 02330:43.”

    “Computer, re-run simulation.”

    “Computer, belay that order,” said Nora Laas who stood to the side with Alex Clancy after they had watched the holodeck simulation of the night of Gedar’s murder play out in front of them for the third time in a row. “We’ve seen enough. There is nothing here.”

    “I’m not so sure,” said Clancy as he walked around Gedar to consider the man carefully. “I think we’re missing something.”

    Nora sighed. “The only thing this simulation confirms is that Gedar was left alone in engineering before he was killed. That and that Kolrami clearly didn’t like him very much. We already knew all that.”

    But Clancy didn’t respond.

    “Lieutenant,” she said sharply. “We’re wasting our time here.”

    The counselor turned to look at the security officer. “It’s back to lieutenant, then, is it?”

    “That is your rank, is it not?”

    He nodded. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”

    “There is nothing to talk about.”

    “You kissed me.”

    “I made a mistake.”

    “Hell of a mistake.”

    “Lieutenant, I would prefer if you drop this matter before I …,” she didn’t finish the sentence.

    He took a step towards her. “Before you do what?”

    Nora locked eyes with the man. “Before I do something else I regret.”

    Her hard eyes left little doubt that she was dead serious and Clancy clearly decided it was better not to test her on this and nodded, raising his hands defensively. “Okay, I’ll drop it. As a counselor I do think that there is something more to be discussed about what happened but I honor your decision not wishing to face it. That and self-preservation.”

    She rolled her eyes. “Focus on the case, Counselor.”

    He spread out his hands to emphasize the simulated main engineering in which they stood. “I thought I was trying to do just that.”

    She sighed. “Our focus should be Yunta. I can’t see any evidence here that could connect her to Gedar’s murder.”

    “You said it yourself, you don’t want her to be the killer. Maybe we can find something here that could exonerate her,” he said. “Let’s run it one more time. Humor me.”

    She sighed heavily. “One more time.”

    Clancy looked towards the ceiling. “Computer, re-run simulation from beginning.”

    The computer beeped and reset the program. Once again Jin Gedar entered main engineering in a bad mood, just as was to be expected after having come out of a meeting with Hopkins, Rosenthal and Concord and which he had been kicked out of. He joked with McPhee and Telrik about the engineers and the worth of their designs to the Orions and then egged on Kolrami about the vacant assistant chief engineer spot which they were both apparently in the running for.

    “Computer, freeze program,” said Clancy just after the other two crewmen had left and leaving only Gedar and Kolrami in the room. “I can’t help but find it odd that he would leave Gedar all alone in engineering,” said the counselor.

    Nora shrugged. “You heard him say it. He doesn’t believe in complacency just because it’s a night shift. I happen to agree with his work ethic.”

    “I have no doubt that you do.”

    Her stern look wiped that smirk right off his face. “But he also didn’t believe Gedar to be a very capable engineer. Fair enough, that evaluation may have been colored by his own preconceptions but still, if he doesn’t trust him, why leave him alone in engineering?”

    “He didn’t plan on it,” she said.

    Clancy considered a padd his was holding. “He did plan on overhauling the plasma injectors. In fact he made a note in his log earlier that day about it.”

    “Computer, continue program,” said Nora.

    Gedar leaned casually against a support beam as he looked at Kolrami’s back while he was working on a computer station. “Not as unlikely as you may think.”

    “I don’t like the modulation output of the main deflector array. I think I will go and run a local diagnostic on the deflector.”

    “Freeze program,” Nora said and the two simulated officers stopped in their tracks. “There. That wasn’t planned. Something came up and he needed that looked into. He clearly didn’t trust Gedar to do it so he went himself.”

    Clancy walked towards the frozen Zakdorn. “Yes, it would certainly appear that way, wouldn’t it?”

    “Stop testing my patience, please.”

    The counselor ignored her tasty tone as he studied first the engineer working on the console and then the console itself. “These displays are supposed to show exactly what they would have seen at the time, correct?”

    “That’s right. Why?”

    “Well, I cannot claim to have extensive technical skills but I can tell that this display is configured to monitor the warp core chamber and not the main deflector,” he said and turned to Nora.

    She offered nothing but a surprised look in response.
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - V -

    “You lied to us, Lieutenant.”

    “I did no such thing,” the Zakdorn defended himself at Nora’s furious claim, while back in the interrogation room.

    “And I really don’t like liars,” she continued as if he hadn’t even spoken. “Especially when they wear the uniform.”

    “I didn’t lie to you,” Kolrami said through clenched teeth.

    Nora placed a padd on the desk and slid it over to him with such force, he struggled to catch it before it went over the edge. “You had no reason to leave main engineering on the day of Gedar’s death. There was no problem with the navigational deflector.”

    His eyes opened wider and then he quickly looked over the padd.

    “I have to say, that is one stupid lie to be caught on, Lieutenant, you don’t think we would check the records?”

    His noticeably blanched at the revelation and after quickly scanning the padd he made eye contact with the security officer again. “Check the logs. I did go to deflector control and carried out maintenance there.”

    “Logs can be altered,” she said.

    “But I didn’t alter them.”

    Clancy leaned forward in his chair next to the Bajoran, managing to remain a lot calmer and more collected than his partner as per usual. “You do realize of course what this looks like, Lieutenant,” he said and looked the other man deep into his eyes. “Mister Telrik, Crewman McPhee and Crewman Sanzenbacher were all out of main engineering on your orders to carry out various tasks across the ship and then all of a sudden, and with no reason we can determine, you also head out of engineering, leaving Gedar all by himself. Shortly after he’s found dead.”

    The Zakdorn reached for his temples, massaging them nervously.

    “You killed him, Lieutenant,” Nora said sharply. “You arranged for engineering to be empty, created an alibi for yourself and then returned to throw him down the warp core pit.”

    He shook his head urgently. “This is ridiculous.”

    “You didn’t like Gedar. You never did. Here was a guy who didn’t take anything seriously. Certainly not his job. And now he was threatening to take away the assistant job which you had worked towards ever since you’ve joined the crew. And for that he had to die.”

    Kolrami jumped out of his chair, so fast, it toppled over. “Yes, yes, I hated his guts. Alright? All he ever did was talk about women and his foolish notions of gaining monetary wealth. The man was not fit to serve in Starfleet. He was not fit to wear the uniform,” the Zakdorn yelled. “He wasn’t even a Federation citizen. What business did he have on this ship?”

    Nora leaned back in her chair with a large, satisfied grin now decorating her face.

    “But I did not kill him. I would never do that. Do you understand? Never. I would not disgrace my uniform or my family in such a manner and certainly not for a little weasel like Jin Gedar. I didn’t do it.”

    He remained standing there for a moment, exhausted after his tirade, breathing heavily now and looking at the two investigators sitting on the other side of the table. Then he shook his head again. “It’s not me you want, it’s the Chief.”

    “Lieutenant Hopkins?” Clancy said.

    Kolrami nodded, picked up his chair and sat down again. “Yes.”

    “That’s nonsense,” Nora said. “You’re trying to accuse her to deflect the blame away from yourself. What possible reason could Hopkins have had to kill Gedar?”

    The engineer had calmed himself somewhat before he spoke again. “I saw the two of them together just before he returned to engineering. They were having a rather heated argument.”

    “And you didn’t tell us this before now?” said Clancy, clearly skeptical himself.

    “I didn’t think it was relevant. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to get the Chief into trouble but the more I think of it, the nature of the argument makes it clear to me know that she must have been involved.”

    “What was the nature of the argument?”

    “I’m not entirely sure but I overheard her say that he was going to destroy her career in Starfleet and she was furious about it. I mean, the lieutenant is a very easy-going person but I’ve never seen her so mad before. I tell you, she had murder in her eyes that night.”

    Nora stood suddenly. “I don’t believe a word you’re saying, Lieutenant.”

    “It’s the truth, I swear on the honor of my family. I don’t know how much that means to you, but to a Zakdorn, his family is sacred.”

    She whipped around. “It was you who ordered Telrik, McPhee and Sanzenbacher out of engineering. It was you who went to carry out repairs to the navigational deflector without any evidence something was wrong. Not Hopkins,” she said. “Do you deny that?”

    He shook his head. “I don’t. But I had legitimate reasons for all those things. I knew that with the focus on constructing the sensor array over the next few days we would have little time to carry out routine maintenance. I was just being proactive.”

    Nora walked over to the door. It slid open and she waved somebody else inside.

    The young dark-haired man had a pair of intense black eyes and like Nora wore a mustard colored shirt under his uniform jacket.

    She turned back towards her suspect. “Have you met Ensign Andrus Stadi?”

    Kolrami shook his head.

    “One of our most recent additions to security. Very efficient man. And you wouldn’t believe the benefits of having a full-fledged Betazoid on the team.”

    The engineer stood. “Wait a minute, you can’t just—“

    “I can’t what, Lieutenant?” she said sharply, interrupting him. “Ask Andrus here to verify your story to determine your innocence you so desperately cling to?” she said and took a step closer to him. “And why not, exactly? Is it because you are hiding something?”

    Clancy also stood and faced the Bajoran. “Lieutenant, may I have a word with you?”

    Nora looked at him surprised and then back at the clearly rattled engineer.

    “Now, please,” Clancy said again.

    She uttered a heavy sigh and headed out of the doors, followed by Clancy and Stadi. All three gathered right outside the room. She whirled on the counselor. “What is it? We’re almost there. We’re this close to getting our man,” she said, holding her finger and thumb mere inches apart.

    “I’m very concerned about asking a Betazoid to read Kolrami’s mind against his will. It’s immoral and unethical.”

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. Did you hear his rant against Gedar? He loathed that man. He was all but ready to admit of killing him.”

    Clancy turned to look at the engineer through the window into the interrogation room, still visibly upset, he was now pacing in front of the table. “I’m not so sure.”

    “Well, I am. And Ensign Stadi here can give us the last piece of the puzzle.”

    “Lieutenant,” the young security officer said, sounding more than a little unsure of himself speaking up in front of his clearly agitated superior. “If I’m perfectly honest, sir, I’m very uncomfortable about this. I’ve never, uh, read somebody without their consent.” He didn’t miss the angry look he was getting from his boss, and certainly felt her ire at that moment. “If you give me an order, I will follow it of course, but even then, I’m not sure if I could tell you for certain if he’s a killer or not. My skills are more emphatic than telepathic.”


    “Not to mention,” said Clancy, “the ensign’s testimony based on what he would get telepathically or even emphatically from Kolrami would not be admissible in any Federation court.”

    “I can’t believe this,” she said, clearly still fuming. “We’re this close on nailing this guy and you’re both putting up road blocks. Fine,” she said and looked back at the ensign. “Give me your impressions then. Surface feelings, whatever. I know you’ve done that before, even without somebody’s permission,” she added and then shot Clancy another look. “And yes, I know, we won’t be able to hold it against him.”

    Stadi considered the engineer in the room closely. “He’s afraid, sir, I can tell you that. And he’s hiding something,” he said and looked at her again. “He’s definitely desperate.”

    “I don’t need a Betazoid to tell me that,” she said but then continued in a softer tone. “Thank you, Ensign, you’re dismissed.”

    “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help,” he said just before he left the two investigators alone.

    “There is another option.”

    Nora gave Clancy a quizzical look.

    “He could agree to an ARA. An autonomic response analysis. But he would have to volunteer to it. We can’t force him to take it.”

    “Like an encephalographic polygraph?”

    He nodded. “The ARA is a little more advanced. It’s by no means fool proof and again, not admissible in a court martial, but it may provide us some answers.”

    She turned on her heels and walked back into the room, Clancy quickly following her and they both took their seats again.

    Kolrami seemed to notice with relief that the Betazoid ensign had not come back in.

    “We will not require Ensign Stadi’s talents at this point,” said the counselor and noticed that Kolrami visibly relaxed.

    “Computer,” Nora said without taking his eyes off the engineer. “Please set up an autonomic response analysis for Lieutenant Junior Grade Sirna Kolrami the Younger. Security clearance Nora-Foxtrot-Charlie-Four-Niner-Baker-One.”

    “Security clearance verified. Proceed when ready.”

    “What are you doing?” Kolrami asked.

    Clancy shot her a sidelong look. “Voluntary.”

    She sighed. “A lie detector test, Lieutenant. You said you didn’t kill Gedar. Well now is the time to prove it. Agree to the test and prove your innocence once and for all.”

    Kolrami seemed unsure of himself, looking back and forth between the two officers.

    “You said you had nothing to hide,” she added.

    He nodded slowly and took the seat. “Fine. Let’s do this.”

    Clancy picked up his padd and configured it so that it would tie into the ARA, then he looked at the other man and offering him a disarming smile. “Try to calm yourself and answer my questions truthfully with a yes or no only. We’ll start when you think you’re ready.”

    He took a deep breath and then after a few seconds: “Yeah, okay. Go ahead.”

    “Computer, commence ARA,” said Clancy.

    “Autonomous response analysis for Lieutenant Sirna Kolrami the Younger is now in progress.”

    “Lieutenant, is your name Sirna Kolrami?”


    A soft beep from the padd prompted both Clancy and Nora to look down at its display. It showed the result in a bright green box: Estimated veracity of response: 95.5%

    “Are you currently serving as an engineer on the USS Eagle?”


    Estimated veracity of response: 97.1%

    “Have you ever been to the Andromeda galaxy?”


    “Please just answer yes or no in order for the computer to establish a baseline to analyze your responses,” Clancy said.


    Estimated veracity of response: 88.9%

    “Are you currently married?”

    “Uh, no.”

    Estimated veracity of response: 92.7%

    “Did you see Lieutenant Gedar on the day he died?”


    Estimated veracity of response: 89.6%

    “Did you kill Lieutenant Gedar?”

    “No, I did not,” he said sharply.

    Estimated veracity of response: 81.1%

    Nora frowned when she saw the analysis. The box was still green. She exchanged looks with Clancy.

    “Did you witness a heated argument between Lieutenant Hopkins and Lieutenant Gedar on the night Gedar was killed?”

    He hesitated for a moment and then nodded. “Yes.”

    Estimated veracity of response: 90.3%

    Clancy looked back at the security chief, apparently not sure what other questions to ask.

    She asked her own. “Are you hiding something from us?”

    “I … uh … what?”

    “Yes or no, Lieutenant,” she said.

    “No, I’m not.”

    The box turned amber. Estimated veracity of response: 53.7%

    “What are you not telling us?” Nora barked.

    “I’m not hiding anything,” he shot back with frustration lining his words.

    Clancy shook his head. “It doesn’t work that way.”

    He was right; the computer was unable to analyze his last statement.

    “Was there anyone else with Gedar on the night before he was killed?” she continued.

    “No,” he said angrily.

    The box turned into a bright red. Estimated veracity of response: 22.9%

    Nora leaned forward. “You’re lying.”

    The Zakdorn reached for his forehead, looking frustrated. Then he suddenly diverted his glance towards empty space, as if recalling something. “Wait, I did see somebody else.”

    “Who was it?” Clancy said.

    He looked him straight in the eye. “On my way to deflector control, I’m certain I saw Professor Rosenthal head towards main engineering.”

    Nora leaned back in her chair and crossing her arms below her chest, clearly not buying this at all. “And you didn’t tell us that before either?”

    “I didn’t think much of it at the time. Certainly not that he was going to engineering but that’s where he must have been headed, thinking of it now,” he said, sounding excited by his own revelation. “Yes, yes, that’s where he was going. I’m sure of it,” he added and then looked at the counselor. “Ask me the question.”

    “Did you see Professor Rosenthal outside engineering on the night of Gedar’s death?”


    Nora and Clancy looked at the display. The box turned a bright green. Estimated veracity of response: 93.4%
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VI -​

    “None of this makes any sense,” said a clearly frustrated Nora Laas as she considered the murder board set up in the security office where the latest pertinent statements from their suspects and witnesses had been added.

    “In my, admittedly limited experience, there are exactly two kind of murder investigations. Those were the guilty party is identified within forty-eight hours and then there are those were the investigation drags on over weeks, sometimes without ever getting enough evidence to convict anyone. We might be in for a long haul for this one.”

    The security chief resolutely shook her head. “That cannot happen here. We need to find somebody before we’re out of the nebula which means we have maybe three or four more days but that’s it.”

    “I was not aware there was a time limit on this investigation.”

    “I made a promise to the captain.”

    He frowned at that.

    “Besides, once we get out of here and return to the nearest starbase, JAG will simply take over and bring in their own investigators. I’d be damned if I let some outside people handle this investigation. Or worse: Tazla Star.”

    “Right,” he said. “That would be truly awful.”

    She aimed him a scolding look. “We have more than enough suspects each with their own motives. I’m convinced we’ve already talked to our killer, we just have to get that last piece of missing evidence to make that final connection.”

    “The easy part, then.”

    When Nora was about unleash one of her deadly looks again, Clancy quickly raised his arms in surrender. “Okay, okay. We can figure this out, I’m sure. Let’s start from the beginning and put the pieces together,” he said and walked closer to the board, tapping a control and to Nora’s surprise the transparent surface was cleared of all content. “Best to start with a blank slate,” he said and produced a short, stick like device. He removed a cap at the very end to reveal a thin, felt-covered tip.

    “What’s that?”

    He held up the stick. “A marker pen. I thought we’d go old-school on this,” he said and then drew a small black x-mark at the very center of the board.

    “What the hells are you doing?” she said when she saw him defacing the sensitive screen.

    “Don’t worry, this isn’t permanent,” he said, offering a little grin over his shoulder. “Doctor Katanga has narrowed down the time of death to close to 2345 hours, plus minus ten minutes,” he said and wrote that number underneath the x and then drew a big circle around it. “What do we know so far?”

    Now nodding after she realized what Clancy was up to, “According to multiple witnesses, Gedar returned to main engineering at 2322.”

    Clancy created a small mark to the left of the x and wrote the time and a short description. “And he returned with Louise Hopkins.”

    The security chief quickly shook her head. “No, he didn’t.”

    “According to Kolrami—“

    “According to Kolrami,” she interrupted, “he saw them together arguing but that was just before he returned to engineering by himself.”

    He nodded to accede the point and noted the Hopkins argument for 2320. “I suppose next we have Kolrami and the rest of the duty crew leaving main engineering by 2330,” he said and made another note.

    “And approximately at the same time, Kolrami spots Professor Rosenthal, seemingly heading for main engineering.”

    Clancy made another note. “At the same time he was supposed to be in a meeting with Hopkins and Colcord. We should speak to them and get verification.

    Nora stood and tapped her combadge. “Nora to Hopkins.”

    “This is Hopkins,” came her prompt reply.

    “Lou, I’ve got some questions about the murder case, do you have a few minutes?”

    The chief engineer hesitated before responding. “We’re in the middle of aligning the main sensor platform for the array. It’s not the best time.”

    Nora looked at the counselor but his insistent look made it clear that he thought they shouldn’t delay.

    “Just a few questions. You don’t have to come here. Can you go into your office and talk?”

    “Give me a second.”

    They could hear her excusing herself from her team and walk away. After a moment there was the sound of a door closing. “Alright, go ahead.”

    “We’ve taken a witness statement that places Professor Rosenthal outside of main engineering at around 2330. But according to previous statements, you, Colcord and Rosenthal were in a meeting until you were called away after Gedar’s body was found. Do you remember Rosenthal leaving at any point before?”

    “Let me think for a second,” she said. “Yes, you’re right. The professor left at some point shortly after I returned to get a refreshment. We decided to have a short break.”

    Clancy could tell she was surprised to hear this. Or perhaps slightly irritated that her friend had not shared this before.

    “I’m sorry it totally slipped my mind,” Hopkins went on, perhaps sensing Nora’s frustration by her silence. “I left the meeting with Jin … Lieutenant Gedar. We talked for a minute or so then he headed back for main engineering and I returned to the meeting. A short time later Rosenthal left to get a refreshment.”

    While Hopkins talked, Clancy scribbled something onto the board. It took Nora a second to find out what he had written: ‘Ask her about the argument with Gedar!!!’

    “A few minutes later Colcord stepped out as well.”

    Nora nearly gasped audibly “Charlie Colcord left the meeting?”

    “Yes. She was wondering what was taking the professor and went to look for him. Rosenthal returned and after a few minutes so did Colcord and we continued the meeting until … you know.”

    The security chief rubbed her forehead after hearing all this for the first time. “What time did Rosenthal leave the meeting and how long was he gone?”

    “I’m sorry, Laas, I couldn’t tell you the exact time. But he was gone for about ten minutes. Colcord for maybe five.”

    “Okay, think very carefully, what were Rosenthal and Colcord like when they returned? Was there something different about either one? Anything suspicious.”

    “My God, do you think that either of them could have … done this?”

    “I don’t know yet. What do you remember about their behavior after they came back? Anything out of the ordinary at all?”

    She was clearly thinking about it. “Not really. The professor made a joke about the replicator not working properly, or not giving him what he had been after and that that had been the reason he was gone that long. But both of them were pretty focused for the rest of the meeting.”

    Nora nodded even though Hopkins wouldn’t be able to see it. “Thank you, Lou. I’ll contact you again if I have any more questions. Nora out.”

    In the meantime Clancy had made more notes to the board.

    2330 (estimated): Rosenthal leaves meeting.

    2335 (estimated): Colcord leaves meeting.

    2340 (estimated): Rosenthal returns to meeting.

    2342 (estimated): Colcord returns to meeting.

    Next he produced another pen, this one bright red and drew a short line underneath the first, covering roughly ten minutes before the time of death and ten minutes after. The overlap made things pretty obvious.

    “Damnit, both of them had plenty of opportunity to go over to main engineering and kill Gedar,” said Nora, looking over the board.

    “But according to Hopkins neither of them acted suspicious after returning. Now, I could be wrong but neither Professor Rosenthal nor Ms. Colcord strike me as the stone cold killer type.”

    “I don’t care,” she said sharply. “They both had opportunity and we know that Colcord had motive.”

    “Yes, but let’s remember that Rosenthal is actually the one who left first and was gone the longest. And he’s the one who was spotted heading for engineering. Problem is he does not have a motive.”

    “That we know of,” she said. “We need to bring him in again. Both of them. Something happened while they were gone and I’m not going to let them go until we now exactly what that was.”
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VII –

    They spent the walk back to the settlement mostly in silence, both of them preoccupied with their own thoughts.

    Deen was mostly mad which she had to admit was not a sensation she was too familiar with. Tenarians tended to be placid and harmonious people after all. There hadn’t been a war on her world in a thousand years and crime was virtually non-existent. Tenarians had overcome the need for violence to settle an argument or a conflict long before humans and even before Vulcans and they had achieved this without losing their sense of passion or otherwise hiding their emotions.

    Of course serving in Starfleet had changed her perceptions somewhat and violence had become something she had come accustomed to. Since the war had broken out she had partaken in its viciousness herself, had been forced to in order to protect that what she cherished most. Her friends, her colleagues as well as all the citizens of the Federation who depended on Starfleet to keep them save from unwarranted aggression.

    But she had never expected violence from a group of stranded Vulcans, no matter how isolated and disconnected they were from the outside world, here in the middle of a practically impassable nebula. She had never expected one of their own to become victim of such vial aggression and the fact that it had been Srena who had been attacked made matters even worse.

    She had grown quite fond of the young Andorian and her bright-eyed, excitable nature which she had been able to maintain even in the face of fighting a nasty, painful war. Perhaps she saw in the woman a little bit of herself. An innocence she feared she was losing with every passing day.

    Deen was mad. She wanted to find who was responsible, she wanted an explanation and most of all she wanted justice.

    She glanced over at Xylion but predictably his thoughts were almost impossible to ascertain, judging by his masterfully maintained mien. She suspected that he still harbored doubts that anyone in the settlement had attacked the ensign. How could they? After all they were Vulcan, like he was. Dedicated to reason and logic. And where was the logic in attacking a defenseless young woman?

    They reached the outskirts of the settlement and the few people they encountered reacted pretty much exactly the way they had the first time they had come here. That is to say, hardly at all. A few furtive glances wandered their way before they returned to their duties, be that working the fields, gathering wood or heading out for another hunt, the arrival of the two armed Starfleet officers was not noteworthy enough for them to interrupt their routine.

    Deen was determined that she would get their attention anyway necessary.

    They found Volik, the town elder in discussion with some of his fellow Vulcans close to the town square.

    “Volik?” Deen called out as soon as she had spotted the man. It garnered her a sidelong glance from Xylion but she chose to ignore it.

    The elder for his part turned towards the newcomers for only a moment before he returned to his discussions with his own people.

    It made her only angrier and she picked up the pace. “Volik, we need to talk. Now.”

    He turned his head once more. “I shall bet with you shortly,” he said.

    She shook her head as she stepped up to him. “Not good enough. Whatever else you are doing will have to wait,” she said and un-holstered her weapon. The implication wasn’t subtle and she didn’t care.

    He noticed the phaser in her hand, held close to her leg. So did the others who stood with him, a few of the younger men tensing noticeably. “This is most irregular.”

    “I agree completely.”

    He glanced at Xylion who had not made any move for his own sidearm. “You have returned, as I knew you would. However, I must question your motives. Members of our community do not threaten each other. It is not logical.”

    “First of all, let’s get one thing straight right away,” she said. “We’re not members of your little community and we never will be. We’ve already made that clear to you previously.”

    But Volik kept his eyes squarely on the other Vulcan. “I believe that remains to be determined. Don’t you agree, Commander?”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow. “Our loyalty is to Starfleet. This has not changed.”

    “I see,” he said and then looked back at the heated Tenarian and her weapon. “But something else has. There is a reason you have come back here and have taken such an aggressive stance.”

    “The reason is you,” she said. “You and your people came out and attacked Ensign Srena last night. She was beaten viciously and is in a coma. She may not survive. What logical explanation do you have to offer for that, I wonder?”

    Like Xylion, Volik was a master at schooling his features and he revealed nothing. “You’re colleague’s circumstances are unfortunate but our people are not to blame.”

    “There is nobody else here,” she shot back angrily.

    “Volik,” the science officer said. “It is logical to assume that the assailant is a member of your settlement. How can you be certain that you are not responsible?”

    “It is not logical.”

    “Most Vulcans would also say that it isn’t logical to refuse assistance when requested, as your people did when Srena tried to get your help with spare parts. Most Vulcans would agree it is not logical to slaughter animals and consume their meat,” Deen said.

    “We had to adapt to the situation we have found here.”

    “What about your idea to have us join your little commune here without so much as asking our opinion first? Is that logical? To simply assume we would want to set up camp here permanently? I’d say somebody in this settlement didn’t respond too well to rejection and decided to take matters into their own hands.”

    The elder Vulcan took his time to speak. “You are making assumptions without a basis on fact, Lieutenant.”

    “Volik is correct.”

    Deen aimed Xylion a venomous look. The last things she wanted now was for him to take his side.

    “We cannot be certain of the attacker’s motives. However, it stands to reason that whoever is responsible is part of this settlement.”

    She nodded to accede to his point, trying to calm herself in the process, before focusing on Volik again. “Whoever is responsible needs to face justice. They must be found and incarcerated until they can face a Federation court.”

    “I understand this to mean that you are still seeking to leave this planet.”

    Deen looked at him as if he had just grown another head. “Yes, we very much intend to do just that, as soon as repairs are completed. But first we need to find who attacked Ensign Srena and retrieve the thruster control module they removed.”

    “I will not be able to spare any persons to help you in that endeavor. The harvest season has begun and we must prepare for the impending cold season. Every person in the settlement will have a specific task to complete and little time to do so. However, I am willing to offer our hospitality and care to your wounded crewmember. We have been able to successfully produce a number of remedies from naturally growing ingredients which may help in her recovery.”

    The operations officer uttered a frustrated sigh and then turned away to look over the settlement. Her eyes settled on the large central building which still resembled the cargo hold and engineering section of the freighter which had brought the Vulcans to this place. “Allow us to salvage what remains of your ship for parts then,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll find something that we can use to control the runabout’s thrusters. After that it’ll be a matter of hours until we can get out of here, take you with us and avoid this cold season altogether.”

    “That will not be possible.”

    “Why the hells not?” she barked, surprising herself with the fire in her tone.

    “Is it not obvious, Lieutenant,” said Xylion in the other man’s stead. “Volik and his people have no intention on leaving this world.”

    She gaped at him and then at the town elder.

    “Xylion is correct. This is our home now and we do not intend to leave it behind.”

    The Tenarian reached for her forehead, rubbing her temples in the hopes of staving off a headache. “Fine, I don’t care if you stay or go. But we’re not staying. Let us have those parts you clearly do not require, find who attacked Srena so we can take him or her back with us and we’ll go our separate ways.”

    “We shall treat any such person in a manner befitting our own ways. And we will not be able to spare any parts from our former vessel.”

    Deen glanced back at Xylion, unable to believe that she was being rebuffed at every point, pleading with him wordlessly to take charge and get this stubborn Vulcan to relent.

    But Xylion refused to do any of that.

    For a moment nobody spoke.

    Volik remained rooted to the spot, his eyes focused on the tall science officer who stared right back without saying so much as a word. Deen was unable to stand by calmly and took a few steps away only to come right back, the phaser in her hand tapping against her leg. Then she turned to Xylion. “Commander?”

    He didn’t respond straight away. “Mister Volik has made his intentions clear. He will not assist us any further.”

    “I have offered any assistance I can,” said Volik, “but I cannot put the needs of the many over the needs of the few.”

    “One of your people attacked and nearly killed another person,” Deen nearly shouted at the man. When he showed no visible sign that he had acknowledged her outburst she decided to give up. She holstered her phaser again. “What’s the point?” she said, mostly to herself. “Commander, I suggest we return to the runabout and try to find some way to get off this rock without the thruster module, seeing that we will not get any help from these people.”


    “One more thing,” said Deen and looked Volik square in the eye. “Tell your fellow settlers to stay well clear of the runabout. If I see any of your people within five hundred meters of our vessel, I will have no scruples of opening fire.”

    “If that is what you wish, it shall be so,” he said but looked at Xylion instead.

    The commander offered a small nod in response.

    “Let’s get out of here,” she said and turned on her heels to head back towards the runabout.

    Xylion lingered for just a moment longer.

    “If you reconsider your decision,” Volik said, “we will gladly accept you and the rest of your people as part of our community. I know that Tela would very much appreciate if you were to decide to stay,” he added and indicated to his daughter who had appeared close to one of the buildings, looking at Xylion from a good two hundred yards away.

    “Commander?” Deen called out, clearly growing impatient at having to wait for him to join her.

    “That will not possible,” he said to Volik.

    The older Vulcan raised his hands and offered the Vulcan salute. “Unfortunate but regardless, life long and prosper, Xylion.”

    Xylion returned the gesture. “You as well, although I wish we had been able to arrive at a more mutually beneficial outcome,” he said, shot the young Vulcan woman one last glance and then followed Deen out of the settlement.