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
    - VIII -

    Professor Erez Rosenthal and Charlie Colcord had been escorted to the interview rooms by armed security guards but not before the woman had vocally voiced her opinion about this treatment to the officers who had come to engineering to pick them up.

    She was still furious when Nora and Clancy entered the interview room.

    While Rosenthal remained in his chair, his colleague had been angrily pacing the room, whipping around to face the doors the moment they opened.

    “Do you have any idea of the disruptions your causing to the ongoing construction of the sensor array?” she said. “Do you have any notion of the possible damage you will be responsible for if we fail to finish the array within the next few days? Millions of people may depend on the intelligence that this device will be able to gather about Dominion movements. The Federation’s entire war strategy may be at stake here and you single-handedly undermine all of this by having us dragged here by your goons. It is entirely unacceptable and I will make sure Starfleet Command learns of your actions here which are based solely on your desire to harass the Professor and me.”

    To their credit, neither of the investigators paid the raging woman much mind and instead sat down in their chairs, placed their padds on the desk and considered their content for a moment.

    “What do you have to say for yourselves?” she said angrily.

    Clancy looked up with a disarming smile. “We understand from Lieutenant Hopkins, that the array is undergoing a process of automatic alignment for the next few hours,” he said. “Apparently your immediate involvement will not be required for that process.”

    Colcord was stunned for a moment. She quickly recovered. “So now you’re an engineer? You have no idea what you’re talking about. And neither does Lieutenant Hopkins for that matter. There is still plenty for us to do to ensure the array will work as intended.”

    “Charlie,” Rosenthal said softly.

    “No, this is not acceptable, Professor,” she shot back, still on her feet, still agitated. “This woman has been trying to find a way to blame me for Jin’s death for days now. And now that she’s desperate, she’s resorting to strong hand tactics with no regard for the work we are trying to accomplish here.”

    But Rosenthal was not so easily rattled. “Please, Charlie, take a seat and let’s hear what they have to say. They are partially right about the automatic alignment process.”

    She shook head but did sit down. “We could still fine-tune the fuel cells and run testing simulations on the long-range sensor packages. Much remains to be done.”

    “If you answer our questions quickly, we’ll try to have you out of here in a jiffy,” Clancy said with a smile.

    It did nothing to calm Colcord.

    “You lied to us,” said Nora Laas brusquely, making it immediately apparent that she had fallen back into the bad cop mode, one role that seemed to suit the fiery Bajoran quite well.

    “What the hell are you talking about?” Colcord said.

    “Well, let’s not go so far and call it a lie,” said Clancy, “so much as a significant omission.”

    The blonde woman still looked perplexed and on the verge of rising to her feet in protest once more.

    Nora focused in on Rosenthal. “You left the meeting with Hopkins early on the day of Gedar’s murder.”

    There was a moment of silence following this damning accusation.

    Colcord ensured it didn’t drag on too long. “We were both exhausted, especially after the argument we had with her and Gedar.”

    “About Gedar’s involvement in the meeting?” said Nora.

    Colcord decided to ignore that point. “The Professor needed a short refreshment break and left the room for perhaps a couple of minutes.”

    “In fact, it was more like ten minutes, according to Lieutenant Hopkins.”

    The woman uttered a disparaging moan to communicate her feelings regarding the chief engineer. “She got confused.”

    Nora shook her head. “We don’t think so. Also, we have a witness placing you just outside main engineering, Professor. And you didn’t return to the meeting room for ten minutes, which means that you were at the crime scene during the time of Gedar’s death.”

    Colcord jumped back onto her feet. “What you are implying is preposterous.”

    “We also have evidence to place you in Gedar’s quarters the day before he died,” said Clancy and his laser-like eyes focused on Rosenthal who, to his credit, didn’t flinch at the close scrutiny. “We already established a history between Gedar and Colcord. One which would lend itself to a motive to want him dead, but there is no obvious connection between you and Gedar. And yet you seemed to have sought him out twice over two days, even after making it clear you had no interest in getting assistance from any of the Starfleet engineers.”

    Nora leaned in closer. “What was it Professor? Where you angry that Gedar had hurt Colcord back at the Academy? Where you looking to settle your partner’s score yourself?”

    Colcord hesitated for a moment, almost as if suddenly unsure of herself. She looked at the professor who didn’t immediately offer any defense. Her moment of indecision lasted a mere second before she focused on the two investigators again. “You are grasping at straws here. You have nothing to charge any of us other than suspicions and circumstantial evidence. Either charge us right now or let us go.”

    Clancy focused back on Colcord, thinking for a moment. “You are pretty young to be a full-fledged partner to one of Starfleet’s preeminent scientist and engineer, wouldn’t you say?”

    “What?” she said, almost as if unable to believe his audacity.

    “It just occurred to me that the Professor here has decades of experience in his field whereas you are fairly new to the scene. In fact there is hardly a single record about any of your work we could find. So naturally I was wondering exactly what you were bringing to this partnership of yours.”

    The look on Clancy’s face seemed to be implication enough.

    Rosenthal offered a smile. “You have done your research, Counselor but apparently it wasn’t quite thorough enough. I am a happily married man,” he said. “And I’ve been with my husband for over forty years. My relationship with Charlie is strictly professional.”

    Clancy nodded to accede the point.

    “Why then,” said Nora, “have you decided to enter into this professional partnership?”

    “That is none of your—“

    But Rosenthal raised his hand to stop her and she slowly took her seat again. “Charlie brought some very important element to this project. I can safely say that without her involvement, we wouldn’t be in this nebula today.”

    Clancy referred back to his padd. “It’s not the sensor technology, that much seems obvious. I’m admittedly no expert but from what I understand most of it is based on your previous work, Professor.”

    “The shields,” said Nora, making the connection herself.

    The counselor nodded and then looked at Colcord. “You are responsible for the shield design.”

    “I contributed to it, yes,” she said.

    “And it’s a design that Lieutenant Gedar seemed to be quite familiar with. More so than anyone else on this ship. Is it possible he was more familiar with the design than you were?”

    “That’s ridiculous.”

    “Really?” said Clancy. “Because you knew Gedar extremely well at the Academy. Attended many of the same classes and probably worked on very similar projects. Then you have a sudden falling out—“

    “The bastard cheated one me,” she said but with a lot less fire than before.

    Clancy nodded. “Right. And you decide to leave the Academy.”

    Nora was following her colleague’s train of thought. “It wasn’t your design.”

    The other woman turned red. “It was as much mine as it was his.”

    “Maybe that’s right,” said Clancy. “But it was you who brought it to Professor Rosenthal, not him. And you did so without his knowledge.”

    “That’s why you didn’t want to come here,” said Nora, realizing the true reason for the first time. “It had nothing to do with your past relationship with him. You didn’t want him to find out that you had stolen his designs.”

    She forcefully hit the table. “I didn’t steal anything. We worked on the transphasic shield together. After what he did to me, he had no more claim to it.”

    Nora grinned. “I’m not sure the courts would agree. Besides, he’s no longer around to verify that, is he?”

    “I didn’t kill Gedar.”

    Clancy nodded and looked at Rosenthal. “You found out, didn’t you?”

    Even Colcord now turned to look at the man sitting next to her.

    He removed his glasses very slowly and began to polish them with a cloth he kept in the vest of his three-piece suit. “I had suspected something for a while now. Don’t misunderstand. Charlie is very efficient and smart as a tack but just not quite smart enough to come up with the transphasic design,” he said and then looked at the blank expression on her face. “Sorry, dear, but I suspected for a while now that you didn’t come up with this by yourself.”

    “And your suspicions were confirmed when you met Gedar,” said Clancy.

    The professor nodded. “He had the kind of inside knowledge on the design that I would not have expected from a Starfleet engineer with no direct involvement with the project. I knew right away after meeting him the first time that he had seen the design before. That he’d had a hand in creating it.”

    “That’s why you went to see him in his quarters the day before he died,” said Nora. “You didn’t want to share the credit with him, did you? What did you do? Threaten him?”

    He quickly shook his head. “Nothing as crude as that. Mister Gedar had a quite peculiar set of priorities one doesn’t usually find among Starfleet officers.”

    “What does that mean?” said the Bajoran.

    “He was interested in money. Lots of it. We came to an agreement. I would sell the design to the Ferengi or the Orions and he would receive the majority of the profit.”

    But Nora was not convinced. “What would he need with money?”

    “I’m not sure. But he did mention to me that he was not intending on staying in Starfleet much longer. I don’t think he was happy here or maybe he had gotten himself in some other trouble, he wouldn’t elaborate on that.”

    “Presumably you made this arrangement the day before he died,” said Clancy. “But then you sought him out again on the day he was killed. Why?”

    “Part of our arrangement had been that he kept well clear of getting involved in the sensor array construction. I was naturally concerned when he showed up to the meeting with Hopkins and the insights he offered at the time,” said the professor before placing his spectacles back on his nose. “I was concerned that he had changed his mind.”

    “Did he?” Nora said.

    He shook his head. “No. At least he claimed not to when I found him by himself in engineering. He said that he had only joined the meeting at Lieutenant Hopkins’ insistence; that she apparently wanted him to take a bigger role in the project over his objections. I think she thought very highly of him as an engineer, which I suppose is understandable. He told me that he’d had a word with her about it after he had left the meeting and that it became rather heated. But he assured me he would stay away in the future as he still needed the money I could get him. He was still determined to get out of Starfleet as soon as he could. And he was very much alive when I left him.”

    Nora and Clancy exchanged looks and it was obvious that the security chief was not yet entirely convinced of this story.

    The counselor turned back to face the scientist. “Professor, would you agree to undergo an autonomous response analysis?”

    He nodded without hesitation. “Certainly.”
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Eight: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

    – I –​

    Srena moaned quietly and Deen immediately turned away from the console she had been working at and within moments was at the young Andorian’s side. The pilot had drifted in and out of consciousness over the last few hours, often mumbling incoherent nonsense which to Deen was a great concern and a sign of a significant traumatic brain injury. Something that had to be treated quickly but which required not only the care of a medical professional—which she was not—but also much more specialized equipment and medication than she had access to on the runabout.

    “Lance?” she asked softly.

    Deen took her hand, like the rest of her body much of the healthy blue color had drained from it and it was clammy to the touch. “I’m going to get you back to him, I promise you that,” she said and brushed her short white hair. “You just hang in there for me, alright?”

    There was no indication that she had understood a word Deen had said.

    The Tenarian reached for a medical tricorder, removed the separate scanner and ran it over the injured woman. The results were not encouraging. If anything, here vital signs were getting worse.

    Next she found a hypospray, checked its content and injected it into her neck and then watched as the Andorian slowly drifted back to sleep.

    With a heavy sigh, Deen stood and left the runabout. She found Leva and Xylion working at the front of the small vessel, where the thruster control module had been.

    The tactical officer turned to look at her as she approached. “How is she?”

    She shook her head sadly. “Not well. Besides a broken clavicle and numerous broken and cracked ribs, she’s also got a skull fracture, a severe concussion and most concerning of all, an intracranial hemorrhage. And that we can’t treat here. She needs to get back to Eagle as soon as possible.”

    “I recommend you induce a coma to give Ensign Srena the best chance of survival until we are able to return her to the ship,” said Xylion.

    “I’ve done that but her injuries are so severe, her vital signs are still dropping. I don’t think it will give us enough time,” she said and then looked at the work they had done. “Any progress here?”

    “Without the thruster control module we are unlikely to produce enough thrust to be able to lift off,” said Xylion.

    “We’re considering rewiring the impulse engine to give us a boost sufficient to clear the planet’s gravity but it was severely damaged in the crash,” said Leva.

    “Can we repair it?”

    “It is possible,” the Vulcan said. “However, according to my calculations it will require at least seventy-two hours of labor to manually carry out repairs and configure the impulse engine to allow us to lift-off the runabout.”

    Deen shook her head. “Srena doesn’t have that kind of time.”

    “We were discussing some shortcuts we could take,” the tactical officer offered. “It won’t be pretty and its definitely not going to meet safety regs but we might be able to shave off a few hours.”

    The Tenarian didn’t look comforted by this, fully aware that they needed to do far more than gain a few hours. They needed days if they wanted any hope of being able to safe Srena.

    Leva looked passed her, his eyes narrowing. “What is she doing here?”

    Deen and Xylion quickly followed his glance to spot somebody approaching the runabout from the direction of the settlement.

    “I don’t believe it,” said Deen and rushed back inside the Nebuchadrezzar.

    “I thought you had made your feelings regarding any visits clear,” said Leva.

    “The lieutenant was very specific.”

    “Looks like it didn’t take,” the Romulan said as he watched the young Vulcan woman approach the runabout.

    Deen came back holding a phaser, clearly intending to make good on the promise she had made to Volik. She would not stand for any of the Vulcans trying to interfere with them again.

    “Stay here, Commander,” Xylion said to Leva when he saw Deen moving to head off the approaching Tela.

    The tactical officer frowned. “You know, I’m the one with the security background. I think maybe I should—“ But Xylion and Deen were already on their way. “Fine, I suppose you two can handle an unarmed young woman by yourselves.”

    “You have been warned to stay away,” said Deen as she closed in on their unwelcome visitor, her phaser held at the ready. “You’ve done enough here already.”

    The woman was not to be deterred and kept coming.

    Deen raised the weapon. “Stay where you are.”

    “I must speak to Xylion,” she said and then stopped a good twenty yards away from Deen.

    “He’s got nothing to say to you.”

    “Lieutenant,” the science officer said as he caught up with her. “I will hear what she has to say.”

    The golden-haired operations officer didn’t seem to agree. “Everything has already been said, Commander. We’re just wasting time.”

    He regarded the other Vulcan for a moment before turning to face his fellow officer. “We spoke to Volik. It may be possible that other members of the settlement have diverging opinions. We should hear her out.”

    “I wish to speak to you in private,” Tela said from where she stood. “Please.”

    Deen shook her head. “I don’t like this.”

    “Stand down, Lieutenant,” he said and then approached the young woman.

    She holstered her phaser. “Vulcans. If there are any more stubborn creatures in the galaxy, I haven’t met them yet,” she said. “I’ll stay right here and keep my eye on her,” she called after him.

    “That is acceptable,” Xylion said but kept his focus on Tela. “What have you come to discuss with me?”

    But for the moment she seemed more concerned with the armed Deen, watching her with sharp eyes.

    Xylion noticed. “You will not be harmed as long as you remain peaceful.”

    “I have not come here to hurt anyone.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “However some of your people did. They attacked and nearly killed Ensign Srena.”

    Her facial expression visibly darkened. Then she slowly headed away from the runabout, indicating for Xylion to follow her, clearly not wishing to be overheard by Deen. He did as she asked and they came to a halt by the canyon wall and not too far away from where the Starfleet away team had first encountered the young Vulcan woman.

    She turned to face him. “I greatly regret what has happened to your colleague, Xylion, and I wish for nothing more than that it had never happened.”

    “It is not logical to wish for something that cannot come to pass.”

    “Our people have been on their own for a very long time and I’m afraid to say that some may have lost their way. Many no longer follow Surak’s teachings the way they should. They have lost their grip on logic and I fear that it will destroy our settlement.”

    “And you believe those individuals are responsible for the attack on the ensign?”

    She nodded. “Yes. I would not be able to say who exactly was responsible but I have my suspicions.”

    “While those responsible should answer for the crime they have committed, our more immediate priority is to return our injured crewmember to our ship where she can receive the medical attention she requires to survive.”

    “I understand this. That is why I have come, Xylion. I’ve spoken to my father and he is willing to help you.”

    The science officer’s schooled features only allowed the tiniest hint of his skepticism to show. “He appeared adamant that he was not in a position to do so when we spoke to him before.”

    “He is concerned. Like me and like many of us are about our colony here falling apart. If logic truly begins to fail us we may be in danger of reverting back to the violent and aggressive ways of our forefathers.”

    “Interesting,” said Xylion with the intrigue of a scientist. “Studying such a anthropological shift among an isolated group of Vulcans could have significant scientific value. However, I find it doubtful that such a considerable behavioral change could take place within the time this colony has existed on this world.”

    “I don’t know, maybe it is something inherent to this world, but Xylion, we’re not a science experiment. We need your help to survive.”

    “What do you suggest?”

    Tela glanced back towards the runabout where she could still see Deen, watching her like a hawk. Then she looked him straight in the eye. “You could teach us so much, Xylion. You could ensure that we stay true to Surak’s teachings. That we remain true to what it means to be Vulcan,” she said and the reached out to gently touch his wrist. “Choose to stay here with us and Volik has agreed to do whatever is in his power to provide you with what your friends require to leave this world.”
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – II –

    The first thing she noticed, as she always did when having stepped onto the bridge over the last few days, was the far too busy and colorful nebula on the large forward facing view screen. While most everyone else on the ship found the sight mesmerizing, to her it was disturbing, more like a feverish, drug-induced nightmare than a spectacle of nature.

    More interesting to her was the fact that the sensor array sitting just a few hundred meters from their starboard bow was now practically fully assembled. It wasn’t much to look at really, and not too different from most other long-range sensor platforms such as the Argus array for example. It wasn’t much more than a collection of large hexagonal pallets merged together to form a single, powerful array, calibrated just right to be able to spy through the nebula and far into Dominion held territory. It really fulfilled much the same function as the Argus array, except that the subspace telescope had been far too exposed and had ultimately become an easy and early target of Dominion forces. This sensor platform on the other hand was hidden deep within the Aphrodite nebula in a place the Dominion was unlikely to suspect and even less likely able to traverse.

    Tazla Star had not come to the bridge to inspect the nearly completed sensor array. Instead she turned to the aft stations lining the bridge. She found a number of crewmembers and civilian engineers busy at the engineering and mission ops station, overseeing the construction efforts from here as well as from engineering. Only a single officer occupied the Science I console and it was him she had come to see. She stepped right up to the officer, not wishing to be overheard by the rest of the bridge. “What do you have for me, Lieutenant?”

    Lance Stanmore turned and looked up at the first officer. “The computer just finished the analysis of that subspace noise you had me check out.”

    Intrigued she placed a hand on the back of his chair and another on the console and then leaned in closer. “Were you able to get a positive identification?”

    “You mean other than to say that it’s nothing more than subspace noise?” the blonde-haired junior lieutenant said and offered a smirk. When he noticed that the Trill was not in a joking mood, he quickly wiped it off his face. “Uh, no, sir, sorry. However, there are some characteristics here that could possibly hint that this was indeed a deliberate subspace message.”

    “Show me.”

    He quickly manipulated the controls and it brought up a severely eroded waveform pattern on the screen. Over eighty percent of it however were completely missing.

    Stanmore didn’t miss her skeptical eyes. “I’m afraid this was all the computer was able to recover,” he said and then pointed at two visible spikes on the screen. “See these patterns here? According to the computer there are roughly sixty-eight known communication patterns that would fit that particular wavelength.”

    “No way to narrow that down?”

    “I’m afraid not,” he said. “The computer still believes with a seventy-six percent probability that we’re looking at nothing more than random subspace noise here.”

    The first officer considered that for a second. “Alright, let’s assume for a moment we know that this isn’t subspace noise. How about we enter those variables in the computer. Tell it to treat it as a communication burst, encrypted and sent out only to mimic subspace noise. What would be the most likely result?”

    “One moment,” he said and entered Star’s hypothesis into the computer.

    Within a few seconds the display changed to overlay a wide variety of patterns on the existing remnant. Most were quickly dismissed as incompatible. At the end thirty-eight remained as possible matches.

    The beta-shift operations officer looked over his shoulder to find Star’s sharp gaze focused on the screen. “None of these make any sense,” he said.

    But the first officer was still thinking. Then she looked him directly in the eye. “On the contrary, Lieutenant, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for,” she said and handed him a padd. “Transfer your findings, please.”

    “Yes, sir,” he said and quickly did as he was told and returned her padd.

    Star turned on her heels and headed back towards the turbolift, convinced that she now had in her possession the missing link to turn her theories into hard evidence which would allow her to for once and for all reveal the spy operating on board and bring his activities to an end.
  4. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Hey, CeJay, I have a question. I've been reading your works and the Operation: Vanguard stories and I'm wondering out of curiosity, will Eagle be making an appearance in that story arc at some point?
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Great question.

    While both Eagle and Agamemnon are theoretically taking part in Taskforce Vanguard, don't expect a Star Eagle Vanguard story anytime soon. The events of Vanguard take place some years after the current Star Eagle novel timeline and I'm unlikely to jump that far forward.

    While there are no immediate plans, I wouldn't rule out a Star Eagle/Vanguard themed novella or short story. Eagle characters may also pop-up in stories by other UT authors.
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - III -​

    “Deck nine.”

    The turbolift set in motion the moment Nora Laas had specified their location. She then turned to look at the man next to her. “Let me do the talking on this one.”

    Clancy consider her for a moment. Then he nodded. “I understand.”

    “You understand what?”

    “I suppose he’s not technically a senior officer but he’s part of the inner circle of the command staff. Part of the family as it were. You’ve worked closely with him over the last few years and therefore you wish to approach this delicately.”

    She shook her head. “That’s not it at all.”

    “Oh? What then?”

    “It’s just that…” she said but then stopped herself. “Listen, I don’t have to justify myself. I’m in charge of this investigation, remember? What was it you called me? Big Meat?”

    He chuckled. “Big Cheese.”

    “Right. And do me a favor and stop trying to psychoanalyze me.”

    He nodded seriously. “Of course, I apologize. Won’t happen again. But I do think you have to be prepared to face the senior officers just like you were when you went after the rest of the crew. Even if they are close colleagues and friends. Otherwise we might never get to the bottom of this.”

    “He’s not a suspect,” she said defensively,” we’re just talking to him to verify some of the things that have been said about our victim.”

    “He could still be involved. All I’m saying is that sooner or later, you may have to ask tough questions to people you know quite well.”

    “I’ll handle it.”

    “You don’t have to do it alone. I can be of—“

    “I said I’ll handle it,” she said sharply. Then the turbolift came to a halt and the doors parted, allowing Nora to step out.

    “I’m sure you will,” he called after her just before he followed the security chief.

    They reached their final destination not a moment later.

    “One of yours?” Clancy said when he spotted a slender, red-headed young woman guarding the entrance to the quarters they were heading for. She had a phaser strapped to her hip.

    Nora rolled her eyes. “I forgot that Star had him restricted to quarters after the incident on the bridge. Didn’t realize she had him under guard as well,” she said, making it clear that she didn’t agree with the decision and perhaps sounding a little annoyed at herself that she had lost track of events on her own ship.

    The woman immediately straightened her shoulders when she saw her boss approach. “Sir.”

    “At ease, Skyler,” she said.

    Petty Officer McIntyre relaxed slightly.

    “I take it the lieutenant is safely in his quarters?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” the guard said. “As to Commander Star’s orders, he has not left since he has been restricted to quarters.”

    “Very well,” said Nora and then stepped up the doors and activated the annunicator.

    The response was almost instantaneous. “Come in,” an excited voice called out.

    Nora and Clancy exchanged surprised looks before entering the junior officer’s quarters.

    Lif Culsten was coming out of the small, adjacent bedroom to greet his visitors. “Welcome, welcome,” he said. “Please tell me you’re bringing good news. You found who’s behind all this craziness and you’ve come to tell me that I’m a free man once more.”

    Clancy smirked at the earless and silver haired Krellonian. “I’m sorry but that’s not us.”

    He nodded slowly. “Right, you two are looking into Jin’s murder,” he said, his voice dropping noticeably. “But where are my manners,” he said and pointed at the compact couch. “Please sit. Can I offer you a beverage?”

    “We’re good,” said the counselor when he noticed Nora shaking her head. They both sat and Culsten took a nearby chair.

    “Regardless of the reason for your visit, I’m thankful you’re here. I’m starting to get a bit stir crazy. Skyler’s good company when she’s on duty but there is only so much we can talk about.”

    The security chief clearly didn’t like what he had alluded to and shot the junior lieutenant a hard stare. “Petty Officer McIntyre has been in here? As a guest?”

    Culsten’s eyes grew bigger when he realized what he had said, and more importantly to whom. He noticed Clancy slightly shaking his head.

    “Uh … no, not like that,” he said quickly. “She’s been the utter professional. Keeping an eye on me like she should.”

    Nora did not appear to buy that story.

    “Lieutenant,” Clancy said, quickly making sure to move the conversation back on topic. “We have spoken to a number of witnesses and possible suspects about Gedar and they have revealed a number of things about him we were not previously aware of. We were hoping you could shed some light on those aspects of his life.”

    He nodded. “Sure, I help where I can but … uh … as I told you before we weren’t all that close. I wouldn’t have said that he was a close friend.”

    “You did mentioned that you spent some time with him socially,” said Nora. “That you helped him acclimate to life in the Federation.”

    He nodded. “He’s been in Starfleet some years now but Eagle was his first starship assignment. I suppose it’s more difficult on a ship. There is a lot less privacy.”

    “From what we’ve heard, that wasn’t his problem,” said the security chief. “In fact, if anything, he was seeking out companionship perhaps more than he should have.”

    Culsten nodded. “We talked about that. He had a definite weakness for women. Many of my people tend to get into multiple relationships but usually that urge lessens at his age. But not always and Gedar, even though he tried, couldn’t stay away from getting involved.”

    “Even if he was already with somebody else?” Nora said.

    “Yes, even then.”

    “Do you think he may have been planning on leaving Starfleet altogether? Maybe return to the Star Alliance?” she asked.

    He shifted in his seat and didn’t make immediate eye contact with the Bajoran. “No, it’s nothing he talked to me about.”

    Before she could ask a follow up question, the door chime rang again.

    Culsten looked up. “You expecting somebody else?”

    She shook her head.

    He got out of his chair and headed for the doors. “Well, the more the merrier, I suppose. Come in.”

    The doors slid open to reveal the Trill first officer.

    “Ah, Commander. I guess now we can officially start the party,” he said with a lopsided grin.

    The first officer was in no party mood and if her hard features weren’t proof enough, the two armed security guards who followed her inside made it undoubtedly clear that this was no social visit.

    Nora jumped to her feet. “What are you doing here?”

    “I could ask you the same question, Lieutenant,” she said, her jaw twitching slightly, clearly not having expected to find the security chief in Culsten’s quarters.

    Clancy stood also. It didn’t take a trained counselor to realize that the tension level in the room had just risen by about a hundred percent. “We’re just following up with Lieutenant Culsten, asking him a few questions about Gedar.”

    Star nodded slowly. “We’re here to search his quarters.”

    “On what grounds?” Nora asked, beating Culsten to it.

    “Suspicion of sabotage and espionage.”

    The pilot shook his head. “I told you before I didn’t do it on purpose. I don’t know what happened on the bridge.”

    “Is that so?” said Star and held up a padd. “We have new evidence that links you to at least two possible subspace messages which were secretly sent from Eagle a week ago.”

    “I didn’t send any messages.”

    “How exactly is he connected, Commander?” Nora said.

    Star glared at the other woman for a moment before responding. “The messages were sent in a non-Federation lingua code. And Krellonian is a very close match.”

    “That doesn’t prove anything,” Nora spat. “Even if those really were subspace messages, anyone could have sent them in a different language to redirect suspicion.”

    “Sorry, Commander,” said Clancy. “But the lieutenant is right. I don’t believe it is enough evidence for a search warrant.”

    The Trill took the opposition in stride. “I’m not looking for a search warrant,” she said and then focused in on the Krellonian. “I’m asking for your permission to search your quarters. If you are as innocent as you claim, you have nothing to hide.”

    He considered that for a moment, looking towards Clancy and Nora and then back at Star. Then he finally nodded. “Fine, go ahead and search the place. But, Commander, I expect an apology once I’m cleared of all these charges. You’ll owe me.”

    She turned to the security guards she had brought. “Go ahead.”

    But the two men hesitated, glancing at the fuming security chief. They had quite obviously not expected their immediate superior to be here and their loyalties were clearly to her. It wasn’t difficult to tell that she was not pleased what was happening here.

    “Gentlemen,” Star said sharply. “Get to it.”

    Ultimately of course, they had no choice. Tazla Star outranked Nora Laas, and they went to work.

    “Just be careful, I’ve got some delicate stuff.”

    “We won’t be damaging anything,” Star assured him. “Why don’t you take a seat?”

    He followed her suggestion reluctantly and after a moment Nora and Clancy followed suit.

    Perhaps realizing Culsten was a little on edge from having people go through his things, Clancy focused on the pilot again. “Lieutenant, a few witnesses have told us that Gedar had an interest in acquiring material wealth. Do you have any idea why?”

    It took the young man a few seconds before he was satisfied Star and her guards were not completely tossing his place and considered the counselor again. “Material wealth?”

    “Money,” he clarified. “For most Starfleet officers that’s not a priority but Gedar seemed different.”

    He nodded slowly but didn’t speak right away.

    Nora noticed and leaned forward. “Lif?”

    “We do have a fairly dominant monetary based economy in the Star Alliance,” he said. “Wealth is something to strive for among my people. Maybe he was trying to send money to his family.”

    “But he must have known that it be unlikely he’d have much of a chance doing this when joining Starfleet,” said Nora, clearly not convinced by that answer. “If that was truly one of his goals wouldn’t he have been better off joining the Nyberrites or maybe even the Ferengi Merchant Navy?”

    He shrugged. “I guess he had his heart set on Starfleet. It’s not easy to join when you come from a non-Federation world but he went through great lengths to pull it off.”

    Clancy thought about that for a moment. “If that transmission the commander found was indeed sent in a Krellonian language and you didn’t send it,” he said but didn’t have to finish the thought.

    “Gedar,” said Nora. “He’s the spy. He sent the transmissions,” she added and looked back at the helmsman. “And he was doing it for the money. Somebody was paying him for passing on sensitive information, wasn’t he? Either for your people or some other third party. That’s why he was looking to leave Starfleet. And a little extra money from Rosenthal’s designs would probably set him up quite nicely outside of the Federation.”

    But Culsten shook his head. “You’re … you’re speculating.”

    “It makes sense.”

    Star stepped back into the room. “It does, indeed. Except for it doesn’t explain any of the things that have happened since he has been killed. Unless you were involved somehow, Lieutenant.”

    He shook his head.

    The Trill was not giving up and stepped closer. “You knew about him, didn’t you? You knew that your friend, your fellow Krellonian, was an enemy spy and you didn’t tell anybody else about it.”

    Lif stood and walked to the window, keeping his back to the others in the room.

    “I still don’t see it,” said Nora and stood also. “If Culsten was helping Gedar what possible reason could he have had to try and take over the ship or blow up EPS conduits?”

    “I don’t know but I’m going to find out.”

    Clancy, back on his feet as well now, took a step towards the Krellonian who refused to face any of his accusers. “You’re trying to protect some one, aren’t you, Lieutenant? It’s obviously not Gedar, he’s dead now. Somebody else.”

    “Another coconspirator,” Star said.

    “I believe there is a … a provision in the Federation constitution about not answering certain questions,” he said, sounding unsteady and keeping his back to the others.

    Clancy nodded. “The Seventh Guarantee.”

    The helmsman turned. “I’d like to invoke this now.”

    “You’re not doing yourself any favors doing that, Lif,” Nora said. “It’s only going to incriminate you further.”

    He bit his lower lip, clearly frustrated and unsure of himself. “All the same, I think I’d prefer speaking to an attorney before I answer any more questions.”

    Star uttered a sigh. “Have it your way, Lieutenant but mark my words, I will get to the bottom of this and if you are involved, which I strongly suspect you are, you will lose your rank and your position. In fact, your career will be over.”

    He didn’t say anything to that.

    “You’ll remain restricted to quarters for now,” she said, gestured to her security guards who had clearly not turned up anything in the search and left.

    When Culsten was not willing to speak with Nora and Clancy about the case anymore either, the two of them left as well.

    “It’s Hopkins,” he said just after they had stepped into the corridor outside.

    Nora threw him a glare, then when realizing that McIntrye guarding Culsten’s quarters was still within earshot, she grabbed his lower arm and dragged him away. “What?”

    “It’s got to be her he’s trying to protect.”


    “Think about it. Everything points at her. She was Gedar’s superior officer. Not only that but according to a number of witness statements she was particularly fond of him and I suspect they were having an intimate relationship.”

    “There is absolutely no basis for that,” she said angrily.

    “No? Decaux was convinced that there was another woman and that she was a senior officer. She suspected Wenera but we know that not to be the case. Colcord could see it too. As well as Yunta.”

    She shook her head. “Colcord was trying to throw us off her own guilt and Yunta Fey was clearly jealous and hurt.”

    “Then there was that argument the night Gedar was killed. Both Kolrami and Sanzenbacher claimed to having seem them having a heated argument,” he said and looked at this padd. “According to him, Kolrami overheard Hopkins accuse Gedar of destroying her career. If Gedar was a spy and she had found out somehow, maybe even covering for him—“

    “You’re way out of line.”

    “I don’t think I am,” he shot back. “Can’t you see that you are letting your personal feelings for her cloud your judgment? I’ve told you, you have to be able to look at everyone objectively and without preconceptions if you are serious about getting to the bottom of this.”

    “And you’ve been trying to implicate a senior officer into this from the very first day. What is that about, I wonder? Do you somehow see this as an opportunity to make your career? Get a promotion? You think that if you can pin this on a member of the senior staff, you’ll lose the assistant from your title?” she said, her voice no longer able to contain her flaring anger.

    Clancy simply stared back at her, for once not having any words to offer in response.

    “You know what? You’re off this case, Lieutenant.”

    “What? You can’t be serious.”

    The hard look in her eyes made it clear that she was.

    “We’re really close to solving the case. Don’t do this now.”

    “It’s done,” she said and walked away.

    “Commander Star is not going to be happy, you know,” he called after her.

    Of course that had been the wrong thing to say to Nora Laas. “Oh no, what a shame that will be. Why don’t you go and complain to your good pal about how unfair the galaxy is? But stay away from my case,” she told him without gracing him with another look.
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – IV –

    Nora Laas entered main engineering and found it significantly less busy than it had been the last time she had visited here. The reason seemed obvious. Despite the disruptions, including of course Lieutenant Gedar’s horrific murder, the construction effort was apparently on schedule and in fact nearing completion. For Rosenthal’s people as well as Eagle’s engineering crew, this meant that things were winding down as they focused on the final touches and software calibrations to ensure the spy array would work as advertised and be able to fulfill its purpose of collecting valuable intelligence on their enemy.

    The Bajoran still felt somewhat shook up over her argument with the man who until very recently had been her partner in this investigation. She wasn’t happy how she had handled it but at the same time she was also convinced that she had done the right thing. Alex Clancy had a tendency of trying to take this case where it didn’t belong and she was fed up with it. He simply didn’t understand people like Hopkins like she did. That there was simply no way that she could be mixed up in this nasty business. After all, Hopkins was more than a friend to her. They had been roommates at the Academy and ever since she had felt it to be her responsibility to look out for her. Clancy didn’t understand that.

    Of course she couldn’t entirely deny that his assistance had been more helpful than she had expected when she had been initially forced to work with him. But things had progressed quite a bit since then, and she was sure she could take things from here. Especially if he insisted on drawing the wrong conclusions about the people she cared for.

    She knew she had to speak to Hopkins regardless of how she felt about her involvement if for no other reason than to put her own mind at rest and to give her the heads up that Clancy or Star would potentially confront her over their ridiculous accusations.

    The chief engineer wasn’t working on the main engineering level and after checking in with Kolrami, he directed her to the upper deck.

    She took one of those small, single-person elevators which lifted her to the level directly above. It took her a moment to locate the chief engineer. She was working on a computer station in the far corner, away even from the much reduced hustle and bustle of main engineering.


    But whatever the sandy-blonde engineer was working on, it held her entire focus without exception. She didn’t give a single outward sign that she had heard Nora.

    Undeterred, she stepped up to her friend. “Busy?”

    Still no response. Instead her fingers continued to race across her work station at a near frantic pace, her eyes practically glued to the monitors. Nora, lacking an engineering background, couldn’t make out what the other woman was working on.

    “Lou, hey?”

    But the chief engineer continued to treat her as if she was air.

    Nora turned to look around to see if anybody else was nearby to bear witness to the chief engineer’s odd behavior but found that they were alone. When she looked back at her friend, she noticed the sweat pearls forming on her forehead. She reached out for her shoulder, squeezing it. “Louise!”

    The woman stopped suddenly, gasped for air and then turned to see the Bajoran, her eyes wide as if seeing her for the first time. “Laas?”

    “Uh, yeah.”

    Hopkins wiped the sweat off her brow with her uniform sleeve.

    “Are you alright?”

    She nodded slowly. “Yes, I think so.”

    “Didn’t look like it,” said Nora, sounding noticeably concerned. “You were completely zoned out there. What are you working on?”

    The engineer looked unsure of herself and glanced back at the screen. “I … I was running a level two warp core diagnostic.”

    Nora looked skeptical. “That must have been the most intense diagnostic I’ve ever seen.”

    She uttered a little sigh and cleared the screen. “I guess I’ve been a little stressed out lately with everything that’s been going on.”

    “Are you sure? You look pretty pale. Maybe you should pay sickbay a visit.”

    She shook her head. “No, I’m alright. What brings you here?”

    The security chief continued to consider her for a moment but then seemed to decide that she was no worse for wear, her odd behavior a minute ago notwithstanding. She offered her friend a serious look. “We need to talk. About Gedar.”

    A dark look crossed Hopkins’ features and Nora instantly understood that she was not yet over Gedar’s death. She couldn’t blame her. As the chief of security she had lost people under her command, not as many as on some other ships, thankfully, but more than she cared to admit. And even then she had never lost anyone in such a senseless manner.

    She nodded slowly. “What do you want to know?”

    “Not here. Let’s go to your office.”

    The young chief engineer hesitated for a moment, as if she feared the notion of having to face her friend over the issue within the privacy of her own office. But before Nora could prompt her again, she set out to lead the way.

    The room was fairly small and spartan. Enough space for a desk and three chairs. A few pictures hung on the wall, Nora recognized as the same she had kept in their Academy room all those years ago, including one of her hometown of Ottawa on the North American continent on Earth.

    Hopkins walked behind her desk and took a seat.

    Nora remained standing. She decided against beating around the bush. “There are some on this ship who believe that you were involved with Jin Gedar and I want to put those speculations to rest for once and for all. Tell me it’s nonsense.”

    But the engineer refused to make eye contact and didn’t respond.

    The silence dragged on for too long. Nora covered her eyes with her hand and then turned her back on her friend. “By the Prophets, it’s true.”

    When she still didn’t say anything, Nora continued. “Why, Lou? You must have known what kind of guy he was,” she said and faced her again.

    She nodded gingerly. “I knew that it was never going to be anything serious. And I knew it was wrong to get involved with somebody under my command but for a while there, it just felt so right and I didn’t want it to end,” she said, her voice small and obviously guilt-ridden. “I thought that maybe I could have what you had. I mean, you were so happy then and everybody could see it,” she added, sounding defeated. “Maybe I wanted a bit of that happiness even if it wasn’t going to last.”

    The Bajoran let herself fall into one of the chairs facing the desk. It had never occurred to her that her friend had been looking for a relationship similar to the one she had shared with Eugene Edison. She knew of course of her attraction to their ultra-pragmatic Vulcan science officer but that had always seemed to her more like a schoolgirl crush, an improbable fantasy, considering that Xylion was unlikely to ever reciprocate those feelings. So when she had not been able to make him see her the way she wanted to be seen, she had found a much more willing partner in the outgoing Krellonian. Nora couldn’t deny that she felt shame at having judged her so quickly. Not to mention the pain at realizing how much she still missed Edison, the man she had loved without compromise.

    “I’m sorry,” said Nora. “It wasn’t my place to judge.”

    “But you’re right about Gedar. I can’t say that we didn’t have fun, that I even cared for him but I also quickly learned that he wasn’t exactly a one-woman man,” she said but with no bitterness or anger in her voice. “He didn’t deserve this fate.”

    Nora nodded and stood. “Okay, being involved with a junior officer isn’t a crime. But it now appears Gedar may have been leaking classified information.”

    “What does that matter now?” she said. “He’s dead.”

    “Lou, this isn’t just going to go away. Culsten already all but admitted it by refusing to answer any more questions on the subject. He is protecting somebody and it isn’t himself or Gedar. He’s protecting you and it’s only a matter of time until Clancy or Star—” she stopped herself when she spotted the very same having just entered engineering and after a moment’s delay making a beeline for Hopkins’ office. “Damn, just what I needed,” she said and turned back to Hopkins. “Listen, just stay quiet and let me do the talking.”


    But then the doors parted to allow the first officer to enter, quickly crowding the small office. “Lieutenant Nora, why am I not surprised finding you here?”

    “I don’t need your permission to visit a friend.”

    Star nodded. “Yes, of course. You two go back, don’t you? If I remember correctly it was you who recommended Lieutenant Hopkins to the captain for chief engineer when you first came aboard.”

    Nora frowned at that. Star had to have been looking fairly deep into the official records to dig out that little fact. “I take it your little bird came flying back to its coop to chirp.”

    Star shot the security chief a blank look. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Lieutenant.” Her confusion appeared genuine enough.

    “I came to speak to Lieutenant Hopkins about Gedar.”

    “Clancy talked to you.”

    “I haven’t seen Lieutenant Clancy since earlier in Culsten’s quarters,” she said firmly. “Now, would you mind giving us a minute?” It hadn’t really been phrased as a question.

    Nora took a seat instead. “Whatever you need to discuss with Lieutenant Hopkins, you can do it with me in the room. Besides, if this is related to my murder victim, I should be here anyway.”

    The two women shot lasers at each other.

    “I’d really rather have this conversation in private. Do you need me to make this an order?”

    The Bajoran smirked. “You can try. You might want to call in some of my men, seeing that you are already so well acquainted with them, and see if you can get them to drag me out of here because that’s what’ll take.”

    “Laas, please,” Hopkins begged, clearly not wanting to escalate this any further.

    “Don’t test me, Lieutenant,” Star said, her voice taking on an even sharper edge.

    Before the security chief could come back with yet another retort, Hopkins beat her to the punch. “Gedar was the spy. He was a spy and I knew about it.”

    The two women whipped their heads around to look at the chief engineer who had suddenly risen from her chair.

    “Lou, you can’t—“

    But Hopkins stopped her with a hand. “No, Laas. There is no more point in denying it,” she said and let herself fall back in her chair. “In fact, I’m relieved to have it in the open at last. Bad enough that Gedar was killed and that Lif got dragged into all of this for no other reason than being a good friend to me. This is all my fault and I can’t stand keeping quiet about it any longer.”

    It took a moment for the confession to sink in. Then Star addressed the mugato in the room. “Did you kill Gedar?”

    She shook her head decidedly. “No.”

    “You do realize however that this makes you a suspect.”

    “I believe her,” said Nora.

    Star shot the security chief a less than surprised look.

    “Even if she had motive, she didn’t have opportunity. She has an alibi for the time of death. She was in a meeting with Professor Rosenthal and Charlie Colcord. We know that Rosenthal saw Gedar alive and then returned to the meeting room. Hopkins would not have had time to kill Gedar,” she said but conveniently leaving out the small yet pertinent detail that Hopkins had been left alone in the meeting room for a short time, even if it was barely enough to commit a murder.

    “It doesn’t mean she wasn’t involved,” said Star and continued before either could protest, focusing on the engineer. “And even if you aren’t, you suppressed knowledge of a spy operating on board. At the very least that is aiding and abetting and at worst, conspiracy and treason.”

    “Now wait just a minute,” Nora protested.

    But Louise already nodded. “She’s right. On all accounts.” When nobody spoke up straight away, she continued. “I found out about a week ago when I traced a subspace message made to look like background noise to a work station he had used. I confronted him about it, not expecting anything malicious at first. But the more I talked to him, the more evasive he became until he finally came clean and admitted that he had been sending engine specifications to the Orion Syndicate. He said he had been approached by them just a few months ago. Apparently targeting Starfleet officers from non-Federation member worlds is their modus operandi and they were able to recruit him by offering him significant financial compensation. He said he was pretty conflicted about it but that his family back home needed the money.”

    Star shook her head. “That doesn’t excuse it. And you should have reported this straight away.”

    “Yes, I know. But for all he had done, I just couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t want him to spend the rest of his life in the stockade. We came to an agreement. He’d sever his ties with the Orions and as soon as our latest mission was over he would either resign his commission or desert if they wouldn’t let him.”

    “And you believed him?” said the commander, suspicion written all over her face.

    Nora jumped in. “It makes sense. He’d already hinted at leaving Starfleet. He even arranged with Rosenthal to be paid for selling his transphasic shield design, presumably to have enough money to escape to a place outside the Federation or perhaps even to go back home.”

    Just then Sirna Kolrami appeared by the doors to the office. “Chief, sorry to disturb you but we’ve got a problem with the starboard main power tap. Looks bad.”

    Star responded in the chief engineer’s stead. “We’re in the middle of something here, can you not look into this?”

    The Zakdorn hesitated for a moment. “I suppose. But I really think the chief should have a look. This could get ugly.”

    Hopkins didn’t make a move and looked at the first officer instead.

    After a moment’s consideration, she nodded. “Alright, go. But do not leave main engineering.”

    “Yes, sir,” she said, left her chair and followed her engineer.

    Star began to head out as well.


    The Trill turned to find Nora Laas now standing and facing her. “What do you intend to do about all this?”

    “My duty,” she said. “I’m inclined to believe that she was not involved in Gedar’s death but her crimes of covering up are just as serious.”

    Nora nodded, unable to disagree with that statement. “It could destroy her career. As well as Culsten’s if he knew about it as well.”

    “Most likely.”

    She took a step closer. “We can’t afford losing people like them while we’re fighting the Dominion with tooth and nail.”

    “So what do you expect me to do, Lieutenant? Simply ignore all this?”

    “Gedar was the spy. The truly guilty party here is dead. He won’t be sharing any more secrets,” she said. “What’s the point in dragging good people like Hopkins and Culsten down with him?”

    “The point, Lieutenant, is the principle,” said the Trill and took a step towards the security chief. “Your friend may have forgotten, but as Starfleet officers it is our duty to oppose all enemies. Foreign or domestic.”

    The Bajoran paced the small office. “There has to be punishment, I agree,” she said and then stopped and faced the other woman again. “Charge them both with obstructing an official investigation or failure to follow orders. Something that can be negotiated down to a formal reprimand instead of a court martial.”

    “That would not be punishment befitting the crime.”

    “It would keep them from being promoted for a good while. Their careers would be stalled but they wouldn’t be over.”

    The look in Star’s eyes remained ice cold.

    Nora realized that she was not being swayed. She took a deep breath. “I’m asking you, please, to consider it. I know we haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye on things since you’ve come aboard but you agree that losing Hopkins and Culsten now would be seriously hindering our effectiveness against the Dominion.”

    A smile began to grow on Star’s face. “Not seen things eye-to-eye? Let’s call a spade a spade, Lieutenant. You’ve opposed me being here every chance you’ve had. Not five minutes ago you were treading dangerously close to insubordination and that’s hardly been the first time we’ve had this little dance of ours.”

    The security chief looked visibly deflated and Star was clearly enjoying seeing the usually tough as nails Bajoran who never passed on a chance to openly disagree or otherwise oppose her backed into a corner as she desperately tried to find a way to save her friend from losing her commission or worse even, be sentenced to a long, involuntary stay at the Starfleet stockade.

    Nora raised her hands in defeat. “Tell me what you want, Commander.”

    That smirk grew a little wider. “You really think it works that way? You offering me something in order to overlook a severe crime committed on this ship? There is a word for what you’re trying to do, Lieutenant.”

    “Call it what you want,” she said, “but I’m still offering. You want my resignation? You’ll have it. You want me to transfer off this ship? I’ll put in the papers today.”

    The smile faded from Star’s face. “Why I had no idea you could be so loyal.”

    “I’m not surprised that you can’t see the value of loyalty.”

    “Ah, there it is, the Nora Laas I know, with all the spite and anger I’ve come to cherish.”

    Nora blanched. “I’m sorry, I was out of line.”

    “Now that’s something I haven’t heard you say before.”

    Nora nodded. “Alright then. You want me to be a good little officer and say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘with pleasure, sir’ whenever you open your mouth? I can do that. You want my unquestioned loyalty. I can do that, too.”

    She shook her head. “I don’t want you to grovel, Lieutenant. What I want—no, what I deserve—is your respect. I want you to start following my orders like you’d follow orders from any superior officer. I want you to stop questioning everything I say or oppose me just because you have a problem with me being your first officer. In short, Lieutenant, I want you to behave like a Starfleet officer is expected to behave.”

    The security chief considered that for only a few seconds and then nodded firmly. “You are right. My personal feelings aside, you are my superior on this ship and as such you deserve my full compliance. I’m sorry if you didn’t have it before.”

    “You’re saying this because you want to save your friend.”

    Nora stood a little bit straighter. “I’m saying it because it’s the truth, sir. Whatever you decide to do with Hopkins and Culsten, I will follow your orders as if they came straight from the captain.”

    Tazla Star considered the lieutenant for a moment, as if enjoying her deference, the first time since she had come aboard that she had truly given it. Then she nodded. “I’ll figure out how to deal with them without either having to face a court martial. I’ve been through it and I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    “Don’t think I’m doing this solely so you finally treat me like a humanoid being, I’m not that desperate. I don’t want to lose good people. Not Hopkins, not Culsten and not you.”

    She nodded sharply.

    They exchanged a last look and an unspoken understanding passed between the two women. Then Star turned towards the doors again.

    “Commander, if I ever disagree with an order you give—“

    She looked over her shoulder. “I expect you to voice it, just like you would with the captain or another superior. But once I make a decision, it’s final.”

    Nora Laas nodded her agreement.

    Then the alarm klaxons came to life and the ship shook hard. Nora lost her footing and stumbled forward. Star kept her balance somehow and caught the lieutenant before she could be painfully introduced to the deck plating.

    “What’s going on?” Nora asked when she had found her footing again.

    But Star was already rushing out of the office, the security chief close behind.
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – V –

    Star and Nora stepped into chaos when they returned to main engineering.

    People were hurriedly running back and forth between computer work stations and judging by their panicked expressions, they appeared to be mostly clueless as to what exactly had happened to get them to this point, or worse didn’t have the first idea how to stop it.

    That something was terribly wrong was not difficult to determine. The ship was still at red alert and while Eagle had not shook again, the initial tremble had been bad enough for most to realize that something very much out of the ordinary had transpired.

    “What’s going on?” the first officer said immediately, focusing in on the chief engineer who looked just about as concerned as the rest of her people.

    She did not stop to look up as she spoke. “We’re not sure yet. It looks like the starboard main power tap leading to the nacelle experienced a malfunction.”

    “What kind of malfunction?” Star said.

    But Hopkins was already addressing her own engineers. “Sirna, try to reroute EPS main flow to secondary outlets. Cor, find out what happened to the emergency shut-off. It should have kicked in by now.”

    The two men acknowledged with a nod but didn’t take the time to respond verbally, fully aware that time had become a critical commodity.

    The chief engineer shook her head. “It looks like an overload in progress,” she said and then actually looked up. “This is bad. Very bad. It could lead to a catastrophic feedback surge right into the main chamber,” she added and momentarily glanced towards the back of the room.

    Star followed her glance to see the bulky warp core intermix chamber in which the dilithium crystal produced the incredible power necessary for the warp drive and most other ship’s systems by being bombarded by deuterium from above and anti-matter from below. The explosive mixture was turned into raw power which was then channeled directly into the two large warp nacelles which hung underneath the ship via highly-charged electro-plasma. But something had clearly gone wrong and now that very same plasma supposed to provide power to the ship was threatening to tear apart the warp core chamber which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the entire ship.

    “Is this the same thing that happened a few days ago?” said Nora, doing her best to stay to one side and out of the way of the engineers desperately trying to avoid a catastrophe.

    Hopkins nodded. “Similar but on a much larger scale. If we cannot stop this quickly… damn,” she said and hit the table-like master control console with frustration as she worked on it. “I cannot vent the excessive plasma build up. The radiation level must have melted the vents shut.”

    “Unable to reroute the plasma flow,” shouted the Zakdorn from halfway across engineering and working from a different console. “The valves are not responding.”

    “Yeah, same problem I’ve got here,” said Hopkins and then turned to look the other way. “Cor, where is my emergency shut-off?”

    The other engineer was shaking his head. “It’s been … I don’t understand, it’s not coming on.”

    Louise Hopkins’ eyes grew wider. “What? Why the hell not?” she said and headed towards Cormac Wibberly as he unsuccessfully attempted to activate the one thing designed to save the ship in this circumstance. She nearly shoved him aside to have a look herself.

    “Critical overload in two minutes, thirty-eight seconds,” said Chief Petty Officer Telrik, the Vulcan able to keep his voice free of any emotional response to the impending disaster.

    “Can we eject the core?” asked Kolrami.

    Wibberly shook his head. “Not inside the nebula. The thermionic radiation would cause a premature detonation we would not survive,” he said as he watched his boss working on the shut-off valve problem he had been unable to solve.

    “It almost looks as if it’s programming has been overridden,” said the chief, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. “I don’t understand this at all.”

    “It’s sabotage, then,” said the first officer.

    Nora shook her head. “How is that possible? We identified the spy already.”

    “We’ve know that there must be accomplices who’ve been sabotaging the ship since we arrived in the nebula. Clearly this is their work,” said Star.

    “There are very few people on board who could have had the engineering knowledge, not to mention the authorization level to reprogram the main shut-off valve,” said the chief, still hard at work at trying to undo the damage, her fingers in constant motion.

    “How many?”

    “All due respect, Commander,” said Hopkins without looking up. “I think we need to focus on averting the ship being blown to dust before we can start wondering who’s to blame.”

    “Agreed. Can you reset the valve?”

    She nodded. “Yes but it will take time. Time we don’t have.”

    “Sir, we appear to have access to one of the secondary valves on deck twenty-six,” said Telrik.

    But Kolrami was already shaking his head when he reviewed what the CPO had found. “Not good enough,” he said. “The valve is stuck halfway. At this rate it will not divert enough plasma to avoid the overload and we cannot control it from here.”

    The Trill first officer stepped closer. “The secondary valves have manual overrides, don’t they? Accessible via Jeffries tubes.”

    Kolrami nodded. “Yes but it’s pointless. The radiation in those tubes is way above tolerances by now. Nobody would survive that.”

    Star considered that for a moment. Then she abruptly turned and headed for the nearest turbolift.

    “Commander, where do you think you’re going?” Hopkins called after her.

    “I’m going to go and buy you that time you need,” she said without losing her stride.

    “I can’t let you do that,” she said, sounding surprisingly firm, once again showing off her surprising resolve once she was in her element. “You’d be killed.”

    Star stopped for a second. “Somebody has to do it.”

    The security chief smirked. “Planning on going out a martyr, Commander?”

    “Trust me, Lieutenant, I have no intention on sacrificing myself just yet.”

    But Hopkins was not buying it. “If anyone should go, it’s me,” she said, to her credit, apparently not even thinking twice about giving her life to safe her ship and crew. “I’m the chief engineer, this is my responsibility,” she added and was already making steps to head in the direction which would spell her certain doom.

    “As you were, Chief,” Star said sharply. “It has to be me. Besides, I need you to reprogram the shut-off valve, you’re the only one who can to do that in the time we have.”

    Hopkins stopped in her tracks when her logic began to sink in.

    Then Star was gone.

    Hopkins and Nora exchanged looks.

    “I hate when she goes and tries to play the hero,” said the Bajoran.

    * * *​

    Even though her destination was two decks below, Star didn’t bother heading for the turbolift. Instead she headed for the nearest Jeffries tube access point, practically ripped away the hatch cover and jumped inside.

    She had never been more grateful that she had spent all those sleepless nights since coming onboard Eagle to carefully study every last blueprint and technical diagram available, practically making her an expert on the layout of the majority of all systems, including the secondary valves on deck twenty-six.

    She moved as fast as she could on her hands and knees and after a few moments she reached the intersecting hub which allowed her access to the below decks. She found the ladder, opened up the below hatches with a tap of a control panel and then slid all the way down.

    The heat was the first thing she felt. It was far higher than comfortable levels but the EPS tabs were fairly well insulated so it wasn’t nearly as bad as what she had felt a few days ago when she had run into a room with a raging plasma fire. She already knew that it was the radiation that was going to be a far greater concern this time. Thankfully she had a small edge which she hoped would make all the difference as she crawled closer to her destination.

    It didn’t stop her from feeling light-headed almost immediately or the sickness beginning to grow in her stomach.

    “Owens to Star.”

    Still on the move, she tapped her combadge. “Go ahead, sir.”

    “Hopkins has just filled me in on what’s happening. I want you to get out of there now and leave this to people with appropriate protective gear.”

    “I’m not sure what Hopkins has told you, sir, but we don’t have the time for that. The EPS feedback will destabilize the warp core and destroy containment in less than two minutes. She’ll need more time than that to get the shut-off valve engaged again and this is the only way to do it. How soon can you get somebody else in here?”

    Owens hesitated. “Not soon enough.”

    “Like it or not,” she said as she crawled around a bend and suddenly feeling the overwhelming urge to vomit. “I’m the best chance we’ve got right now.”

    “How close are you?”

    “I’m here,” she said and stopped to remove another cover. However she quickly found the crawl space too restrictive to get a hand on the equipment she needed to manipulate. And the throbbing pain right behind her forehead didn’t help matters. She flopped over onto her back with the hatch directly above her now. This allowed her a little more room to work. Of course the hatch cover refused to come off easily. “How much time do we have?”

    “One minute, forty-eight seconds until containment failure.”

    She nodded and then tried the cover again, putting all her strength into pulling down onto the handles. It didn’t come free until her third attempt. She unceremoniously dumped the cover and then studied the controls which had been revealed. A lot of them didn’t appear to be functioning, most likely destroyed or disabled by the far too hot and irregular EPS flow in the manifold just beyond it. “Never an easy day,” she said as she began to work on the few controls which still accepted input.

    “How does it look?”

    “Well, I’m no engineer but in my expert opinion this is thoroughly FUBAR.”

    “Anything you can do?”

    “I would hate having come all the way out here for nothing,” she said and had to wipe the sweat off her brow as it was threatening to drop into her eyes. Then she reached for one of the controls regulating the valve currently flashing in bright red to indicate imminent danger. She howled in pain upon contact.

    “Commander? Are you alright,” said Owens, genuine concern lining his words.

    She retracted her burned fingers. “Hot, is all,” she said and then continued with a more careful approach, gingerly testing any control and surface before trying to work it properly. After a few moments she managed to turn about two out of the twelve bright red lights to green, indicating that she was making some sort of progress.

    “I’m looking at the engineering station,” Owens said from the bridge. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. EPS pressure has reduced by about five percent. Hopkins says she needs another couple of minutes. Right now the computer estimates containment failure in sixty-eight seconds. Try to further reduce the pressure.”

    “Sounds so easy when you’re saying it,” she mumbled and reached out again. Even though she had been more careful her fingers were burning and every touch send shockwaves of pain through her digits and up her arms. She gagged as she felt her bile coming up her throat but managed to suppress it, fully aware that she might drown on her own vomit while lying on her back. She managed to get half the light to green.

    “Well done,” he said. “We just need a little more time.”

    But Star shook her head. “That’s all I can do, the other controls are not responding anymore.”

    “According to the diagram we’re looking at here, there should be a manual release lever to the right. If you can get to it, it should redirect enough plasma to significantly reduce the pressure.”

    Star saw it. The problem was that it was too far up to reach from her current position. She tried to pull up slightly but immediately realized that it wasn’t going to be possible. Her entire upper body protested with intense pain at any movement and it was an effort just to keep her arms up. “I … I don’t think I can.”

    “Warning, warp core containment failure imminent,” the computer announced with its infuriatingly calm voice.

    “Tell me something I don’t know,” she said and surprised herself how weak her own voice sounded all of a sudden. She felt pain just trying to talk.

    “Commander,” Owens said, “we’ve been here before, remember?”

    She uttered a little laugh. “You mean … me trying to safe the day in a … totally absurd and … irresponsible fashion,” she said, vividly remembering her unorthodox method of trying to stop a bomb from detonating over a major city a few months ago which involved jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.

    “It’s beginning to become your MO,” he said. “And I’m not sure I much care for it.”

    “Right there with you, Captain.”

    There was a moment of silence. Silence except for the drowning sound of her throbbing head coming closer and closer to explode.

    “I need you to focus and get this done.”

    She took a deep breath and reached out again. But as much as she tried her fingers couldn’t get to the lever, falling short by less than an inch. As much as she tried to, her upper body wouldn’t move any further. “I’m trying. I really am.”

    “I’m not going to lose you or this ship, do you hear me?” he said, his voice now taking on a hard edge as if he wouldn’t accept failure. “I rolled the dice on you. Taking a chance when I didn’t have to. You are not going to let me down now.”

    She gritted her teeth and she stretched her hands further. “All you’ve done … since I’ve come aboard … is keep me in check … on the short leash. All … respect … you haven’t taken much of a chance … on anything,” she said and could actually feel her fingertips brushing against the surface of the lever. Just not enough to move it.

    “You’re probably right.”

    “Probably?” she said, her chest burning with each word. “I … haven’t been a first officer on this ship … I’ve been a glorified … a glorified secretary. If that’s … all you need … all you want from me … I’ll take it,” she said, having somehow managed to touch the handle of the lever but with no leverage whatsoever to move it. “It’s better than the alternative. But … at least be straight … with me. Tell me that’s what you … what you want. I think I deserve that much.”

    “No,” he said sternly. “I want you to be more than that, Taz. I want you to be my first officer,” he added. “And I want to have a ship left for you to be one on.”

    Despite herself, a smile crept onto her lips. “That … must have been the first time you’ve … you’ve called me … that.” But she couldn’t keep her hand up any longer and it dropped back down as she uttered a gasp.

    “Ten seconds,” Owens said.

    “The hell with it,” she said. “I’m not going … out like this. Not now.” She craned her head to look further up the Jeffries tube and spotted a couple of handholds at either side. With herculean effort she managed to extend both her arms again to hold on to each and drag her radiation wrecked body along the tube for a foot or two. Then she focused back on that elusive lever above.

    She took another breath even though her stomach content was once again threatening to spill out along with her used up air and then managed to bring up a leg and smash her boot against the lever.

    It bulged slightly.

    “Move, you godsforsaken piece of junk,” she yelled with frustration as she hit it again. “Move!”

    She hit it a third time and the lever turned.

    All the light changed to green.

    It was the last thing she saw.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – VI –

    She took a deep breath, knowing that she needed all her strength and courage for what she was about to do. Of course nobody could have ever accused Nora Laas of being in lack of either. And yet the challenge she now faced was much more frightening than even the prospect of meeting the Cardassians or the Jem’Hadar on the battlefield. No, this was something much tougher than going into battle.

    “This is ridiculous,” she mumbled to herself after realizing that she had stood in front of those doors for at least a full minute. Then she activated the annunciator. And almost immediately she wished for nothing more than being able to undo that one simple action.

    Too late. The doors parted and Alex Clancy stood in the doorway of his quarters. He was wearing a civilian shirt with his uniform pants and considering the late hour this wasn’t all that surprising. It did help remind Nora how inappropriate her coming here at this time really was.

    “Lieutenant?” he said, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice.

    “It’s late, sorry, I shouldn’t have come and bother you. It’s just that I was passing by here anyway and I thought that maybe…” she stopped herself, cringing at the sound of her own words and hoped they didn’t come across as awkward to him as they sounded to her.

    He quickly shook his head. “No bother at all, Lieutenant. Please come in,” he said and stepped aside to let her enter.

    She debated the wisdom of stepping into his quarters for just about a split second. Ultimately she decided she’d rather be inside than do what she had come here to do in the corridor were any passer by could overhear.

    She quickly slipped into his quarters.

    They were not what she had expected. The light levels had been dimmed but that couldn’t hide the elaborately decorated lounge featuring numerous little statuettes of dragons and lions as well as stone figures of bearded men in what appeared to be monk-like robes. There was a noticeable smell of incense in the room and it didn’t take her long to discover a number of still glowing sticks which were releasing the aromatic fragrance in little wafts of smoke.

    She had no doubt that most of what she saw had some sort of religious significance. “I’m disturbing you,” she said and turned to face him.

    “Nonsense. I was just finishing up here anyway,” he said and walked over something that looked like an altar, adorned with a number of figurines and then began to put out the glowing incense sticks.

    Nora found herself fascinated by all the decorations. She noticed an especially prominent symbol hanging on the far wall. She had seen it before but could not immediately place it. A circle half white and half black, with a black dot on white background at the top and a white dot on a black background at the bottom.

    “This has a religious meaning, doesn’t it?”

    “Among other things. The ying-yang is a concept embraced by a number of lifestyles and philosophies on Earth. At its core it’s a symbol of how opposite forces are interconnected to each other while also remaining independent.”

    She nodded slowly. “But all this seems like it is more than a lifestyle for you. It feels more … spiritual.”

    “It better. I’m a Taoist.”

    Her eyes opened wide. “You are religious?”

    “Why is that hard to believe?”

    “I just always thought humans were not particularly spiritual people.”

    “I suppose most aren’t.”

    Nora walked around the room, carefully studying the many intricate statuettes decorating the room. “So what is it you believe in? Some sort of higher being or deity?”

    “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.”

    She turned to aim him a quizzical look.

    He shrugged. “It’s difficult to explain. We do believe in a force that is responsible for everything. But it is beyond description. It can not be expressed in words,” he said but when he noticed that it didn’t little to help her comprehend, he added: “Those who follow the Tao, the Way, live their lives according to the Three Treasures. Compassion, moderation and humility.”

    Nora nodded and turned back towards the ying-yang symbol on the wall. She considered it for a moment before she spoke. “I’ve never been very spiritual myself,” she said. “Which I suppose is odd considering the role it played for us during the Occupation. Many believe that we would never have fought off the Cardassians without our faith in the Prophets. I liked to think it was our actions and shedding our blood which forced the Cardassians to leave, not the belief in some sort of intangible concept.”

    “But the Prophets didn’t turn out to be quite that intangible. They truly exist within the Bajoran wormhole. The Celestial Temple, you call it?”

    “Yes,” she said and then turned. “And I can’t help feel as if I may have betrayed the Prophets. I can’t help think that the bad things that have happen to me, to those closest to me, that somehow I’m responsible.”

    “Because you refused to believe?”

    She nodded.

    “Spirituality is a tricky thing. It’s all about your emotional connection and your own feelings towards you faith. I can’t tell you if you are right or wrong about the way you feel about this because at the end of the day, those are your feelings and only you can truly make sense of them.”

    She offered a weak smile. “Is that you professional opinion, Counselor?”

    “You want a professional opinion? Stop punishing yourself for what is passed. Move forward with your life and try to make a difference where you can. Maybe spirituality is your answer, maybe not, all you can do is try.”

    “Perhaps you’re right,” she said but then quickly shook her head as if to shake loose those thoughts. “But I didn’t come here to talk about spirituality.”

    “I had guessed that much.”

    “I came here to say that you were … well that I spoke to Louise and that perhaps you were not entirely mistaken,” she said, clearly finding it difficult to get those words over her lips.

    He smirked. “Apology accepted.”

    Nora glared at him but only for a moment until her features softened again.

    Clancy walked over to a table and poured two cups of tea. He offered her one before taking the other.

    She accepted the cup and took a sip.

    “What did you learn?”

    “She was involved,” she said after a heavy sigh. “She didn’t kill him but she was involved with him. And she knew something about him. Something bad that she should have told somebody. But she and Culsten kept it a secret and now it may endanger their careers in Starfleet.”

    “I’m not going to pry as to what that was. But I do have a good idea,” he said. “Are you concerned about Hopkins and Culsten being court martialed over this?”

    “Yes. No,” she said, sounding frustrated. “I was. Star agreed to try and mitigate the charges so it won’t come to that. But at a price,” she added and put down the cup again, her composure slipping now after recalling the deal she had made with their first officer. “Damn it, Alex. She was ready to throw the book at them. I had no choice.”

    “What did you do?”

    She turned towards the window. “I agreed to play nice with her. I agreed to accept her as our first officer.”

    A small smile formed on his lips. “I don’t know about you but that sounds like a small price to pay considering it’s what she has every right to expect from you.”

    “That’s what makes this all so damn frustrating,” she said, still unwilling to face him. “And now, if she decides to take away this investigation from me, I will have no choice but to let her.”

    “Then we just have to crack the case before it comes to that,” he said and walked over to his desk.

    She followed him, quickly finding it just about as much in disarray as her own, with padds filled with reports littered all over and giving proof that he had done just like she had and tried to immerse himself into the case during every waking moment. It didn’t give her much confidence, after all they still seamed no way closer of solving the murder of Gedar. “There are just too many suspects who could have had reason to kill him. Colcord settling an old score, Rosenthal trying to keep him quiet about the shield designs, Yunta for him seeing Decaux and Decaux for him seeing Hopkins. Kolrami had a motive to further his career and with Lou’s admission, even she has a strong motive now.”

    Apparently that struck a cord with the counselor and he turned to face her suddenly. “We’ve been operating under the assumption that Gedar was killed by a single individual. What if we are a looking at a conspiracy instead? What if this was a Murder on the Orient Express kind of thing?”

    “Murder on the what?”

    He smirked. “A famous crime novel from Earth in which it turns out every single suspect was complicit in the murder.”

    “Wait a minute,” she said and walked to the desk to pick up a few padds. “This reminds me of something I believe Sierra Decaux said very early on.” She continued to search the padds until she found the one with the transcript of her statement. “Yes, here it is. When we spoke to her for the first time.

    You asked her: ‘Did you have any suspicions somebody else may have been involved?’

    Decaux: ‘Yes.’

    Me: ‘Who?’

    Decaux: ‘I can’t be certain but we suspected that he was involved with a senior officer.’

    At the time I just thought that it was an innocent slip of the tongue. Or maybe she was talking about her friends or cabin-mates with whom she discussed her personal life but what if she was accidently referring to co-conspirators?”

    He nodded. “It could be but it’s not evidence.”

    “Let’s assume for a moment she did. Whom would she have partnered with?”

    “I think we can rule out Rosenthal and Colcord. They’ve only been on the ship a short while, it’s unlikely she knew about their history with Gedar.”

    “Alright. How about Yunta?”

    “Yes, that makes sense. Especially if they had begun to suspect that he had been seeing somebody else,” he said. “That would have had to infuriate both of them as he was apparently moving on from one woman to the next. And we already know that Yunta is both aggressive and physical.”

    Nora continued to look at the case notes on the desk. “Decaux doesn’t have an alibi and Yunta …”

    Clancy presented her another padd. “Yunta was near engineering that night.”


    Clancy read another transcript:

    “Yunta: ‘If you are looking for the killer, I think you should have another chat with that civilian engineer.’

    Me: ‘Colcord?’

    Yunta: ‘No, not the woman. Rosenthal. 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.’

    And she was absolutely right. Rosenthal did admit that he was in engineering and spoke to Gedar that night. But how could she have known this? According to Major Wasco she had an early exercise the next morning which means he would have expected her to be back in her rack long before 2300.”

    Nora nodded and took the padd. “I remember that. I thought she was just trying to deflect the blame when everything pointed to her.”

    “And then let’s not forget that altercation in the Nest. That did not look like a random encounter.”

    Nora took a seat when the pieces began to fall in place. “Decaux lost her nerve,” she said. “And she blamed Yunta for everything.”

    “Yunta and Kolrami.”

    She looked up. “The third conspirator?”

    “Without him there wouldn’t have been the opportunity. It was on his orders that Gedar was alone in engineering that night,” said Clancy. “He set the scene.”

    “But passed the lie detector.”

    Clancy nodded. “Maybe because he wasn’t the one to push Gedar over the railing. Maybe that was Decaux or Yunta. Or both of them.”

    “Yes, and that’s why he agreed to take the test in the first place because he knew he would pass it,” she said and then looked for the padd with his results. “Look at this. When I asked him if there was anyone else in engineering with Gedar the night he was killed, he said no. Which the computer determined to be a lie.”

    “That is interesting,” said Clancy as he looked at the same padd. “He eventually remembered Rosenthal being there.”

    A large smile formed on her lips. “Yes, eventually. But when the question is asked he doesn’t. Which means he knew that there was somebody else with Gedar. His coconspirators.”

    Clancy took a seat in one of the chairs and considered their conversation. “It all fits. There is just one problem with this theory.”

    “We have no proof.”

    He nodded. “So far this is all circumstantial.”

    Nora Laas stood, a sudden fire in her eyes. “Then what we need is a confession.”

    The counselor offered a quizzical look.

    “Three people were involved in this murder. One of them has already cracked once. All we have to do is find the weakest link and break it.”
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Nine: Last Seen Wearing

    – I –​

    “Fusion reactor at 23 percent power output,” said DeMara Deen even while her fingers danced across the Nebuchadrezzar’s piloting controls, desperately trying to get the damaged reactor to produce enough power for the impulse engines to allow them to get back into orbit.

    “Not sufficient for engine initialization,” Xylion said calmly, overseeing the efforts from one of the aft stations. “The impulse engine has only 5.2 percent power and requires a minimum of 21.4 is required for safe operation.”

    “We don’t need that much, just enough to lift off and for a single thrust strong enough to clear the planet’s gravity. 13 percent engine output should be enough.”

    “With the damage sustained by the fusion reactor upon landing, our chances to achieve the required power without further repairs is unlikely.”

    But Deen shook her head, unwilling to give up on the attempt. “We’ve been through this. We don’t have the time for more repairs. We need to go now or Srena is not going to make it,” she said. “How do the power couplings look?”

    The voice of the tactical officer came over the speakers. “Not good. I don’t think the temporary fix we applied will be enough to maintain this power flow.”

    “They just need to hold for a few minutes.”

    “If the power couplings fail,” said Xylion, “we will not be able to utilize the impulse engines to attempt to return into orbit.”

    Deen turned to look at the Vulcan behind her, her eyes piercing into him. “Xylion, do you happen to have any constructive comments instead of telling us what won’t work?”

    Her tone was sharp but if he was offended by it, he did well to hide this. “We may be able to transfer power from the life support system to the impulse engines.”

    “And what do you suggest we breathe once we get up there?”

    “I estimate the remaining atmosphere in the vessel will be sufficient to support life for thirty-two minutes and twelve seconds.”

    “If this works and we can use the impulse engines to get us into orbit, we won’t have enough power left to take us back to Eagle.”

    Xylion offered a barely noticeable nod. “Correct. We would have to find a way to draw sufficient attention to ourselves so that Eagle will come to us instead.”

    Deen turned back around with a little sigh. “And without communications that’s not going to be easy,” she said. “Oh, well, one problem at the time, I guess. Transferring life support to impulse engines now.”

    “Power to impulse engines increasing,” said Xylion as he read his display. “Now at 6.4 percent. 7.8 percent. 9.1 percent. 10.2 percent.”

    “Come on, come on, just give me a little more,” said Deen quietly, “and I promise I’ll never speak ill of you again.”

    “11.2 percent. Impulse engine power now at 12.7 percent and holding steady.”

    “That has to be enough.”

    Leva voice came crackling over the speakers. “The couplings can’t handle the power. They’re about to buckle.”

    “Attempting to compensate,” said Deen, suddenly very much aware that while the ship could perhaps produce the power they needed to clear this planet, the damaged energy relays were unable to channel it to where it needed to go.”

    “It’s no good, the couplings will rupture,” the half-Romulan said, his voice taking on an undeniable edge of urgency.

    “Not if I can help,” Deen said and, impossibly, her fingers began to move even faster. “Come on, hold together. We had a deal.”

    “Dee, shut it down.”

    “One second, I think I got it. Just one more second.”

    Xylion stepped away from his station and closed in on the Tenarian in the pilot’s seat. “Lieutenant, Mister Leva is correct. You must shut it down now.”

    With a heavy sigh Deen found the shut down command. Except it didn’t work.

    “Dee?” Leva shouted urgently.

    She shook her head in frustration. “Some sort of energy feedback loop is interfering with the shut down commands.”

    Xylion didn’t hesitate. “Commander Leva, you must manually disengage the couplings now.”

    The runabout shook from a small explosion in the rear of the vessel. The room went dark as the lighting and displays failed at the same time.

    Deen jumped to her feet. “So?”

    To her immense relief the tall Romulan stepped into the cockpit moments later. His already dirty golden uniform shirt further stained, his face smeared and his usually impeccable hair standing up. “Still alive,” he said and let himself fall into a chair, clearly exhausted. “Wish I could say the same for the main power coupling.”

    Not entirely convinced Deen grabbed a tricorder and checked him over. He had minor burns on his hands and face but was otherwise uninjured.

    Xylion returned to a workstation after Deen had been able to confirm he was mostly unharmed. Within seconds he had the lighting and most consoles working again. “A power surge from the defective coupling has caused further damage to various systems including life support and the impulse engines.”

    “We’re lucky the fusion generator is still running or we would be out of power for good,” said Leva while Deen applied a dermal regenerator to his wounds.

    Xylion turned. “I am afraid that luck is not something we have in any kind of supply,” he said. “The power surge has damaged the impulse engine beyond our capabilities to repair.”

    Deen, having finished with Leva’s injuries, droppedinto the chair next to her patient. Her usually beautiful face uncharacteristically mirroring her feelings of complete defeat. “And without engines we have no way to get off this world.”

    There was silence in the room for a moment as the reality of the situation slowly sank in. They were stranded now with seemingly no chance at all to be able to affect the kind of repairs that needed to be done to change their circumstances. And with that Ensign Srena’s fate was apparently sealed as well.

    “There may be another alternative,” said Xylion, his eyes focused out of the starboard viewport.

    His two fellow officers turned to see what he’d been looking at.

    Deen stood. “Oh, you cannot be serious.”

    Tela had returned once more and now stood a few meters away from the stranded runabout, looking straight back at Xylion through the viewport.

    “She is insistent, I give her that,” said Leva.

    But Deen angrily shook her head, her recent failure of attempting a lift-off only adding fuel to the fire. “I don’t care. We’ve warned her repeatedly to stay away and I’m done playing these games,” she said and headed for the nearest equipment locker to retrieve a phaser. The fire burning in her eyes making it clear that this time she intended to use it.

    “Lieutenant, Tela and her people may be our only remaining option to return the Nebuchadrezzar to Eagle in a timely manner.”

    Deen looked confused. “How so?”

    “They have agreed to help us with repairs.”

    She shook her head. “I think they were very clear on the matter,” she said but then considered him more suspiciously. “Wait a minute. This is about Tela’s last visit. What did you agree?”

    “That, if we were to be unsuccessful in our attempts to leave this planet, she and her people would assist us.”

    “And why would they do this?” Leva said. “Why the sudden change of heart?”

    Xylion considered first the half-Romulan and then Deen. “Their condition is that I remain behind.”

    “What?” Deen said. “Absolutely not.”

    “Lieutenant, may I remind you that I am in command of this away team and therefore this decision falls to me alone. I firmly believe that we have exhausted all other options.”

    But she wasn’t going to have any of that. “I don’t care. We’re not leaving you behind with these people,” she said adamantly. “You are not thinking straight. If necessary we’ll have you relieved of command.”

    “Neither you nor Commander Leva have the authority or the required medical competence to relive me of command under Starfleet regulations,” he said in his usually calm tone of voice. “I would further point out that Ensign Srena’s life depends on her swift return to Eagle.”

    Deen clearly wanted to argue the point but in the end, she didn’t know how.

    “Alright,” said Leva. “Let’s say we agree to this and you stay behind. What exactly can they offer us to get out of here?”

    “I intend to find out,” said Xylion and headed for the airlock.

    Leva and Deen remained behind for just a moment, long enough to exchange a quick look with each other, before they followed him outside.

    Tela had greeted her fellow Vulcan with the traditional salute which Xylion quickly reciprocated. “Have you considered my offer?”

    “We appear to have no other option available to us.”

    The young Vulcan woman almost frowned at this. “Please do not assume that it was my wish to place you into a position in which you are forced to accept our terms. I was hoping you would agree to remain with us of your own volition. At least for the time being.”

    Leva and Deen joined them.

    “Nicely put,” said Deen. “Where we come from we still call this blackmail. And most Vulcans I know would never stoop to such a low level.”

    “Perhaps even more reason why we so desperately require Xylion’s help,” she said.

    But Deen was not convinced. “You’ve really built yourself a nice circular and self-serving argument there. I suppose that way you can justify just about anything, including beating somebody half to death.”

    Tela held the other woman’s gaze without flinching “I am greatly disturbed and saddened by what happened to your colleague. It is unforgivable.”

    “Right about that.”

    Leva took a step closer. “How do you intend to help us?”

    The young Vulcan woman turned, apparently sending an agreed signal as at least half a dozen of her fellow settlers came into view from where they had been staying out of sight, carrying a heavy equipment crate.

    Deen tensed and reached for her weapon.

    Tela noticed. “There is no reason for alarm. We have been able to identify spare parts from our own vessel which we believe may be able to assist you with your repairs.”

    The Vulcans brought the crate closer and opened the lid, allowing the three Starfleet officers to inspect the content.

    “I’ll be damned,” said Leva, surprised at what he found inside. “Is that a—“

    “Yes,” Xylion said. “A thruster control module. An antiquated model but with a few modifications we should be able to adapt it so that it will be compatible with our systems.”

    Deen glared at Tela. “What, you couldn’t give us back the module you stole?”

    “That has proven more difficult. I am convinced we will locate it eventually but perhaps not in the time frame which is so essential to your injured officer.”

    “This will be sufficient,” Xylion said.

    “Commander, I don’t like this one bit,” said Deen.

    “If you can offer an alternative solution to our problem, Lieutenant, do not hesitate to voice it.”

    Deen looked around for a moment. At the almost eager face of the young Vulcan woman, at Leva who seemed uncomfortable with what he knew was the their best and perhaps only option and then at Xylion who kept his own visage so perfectly neutral, it was impossible to tell how he felt about having been placed into this position. Lastly she considered Nebuchadrezzar which in her current condition wouldn’t go anywhere and as such serve as Ensign Srena’s deathbed.

    She sighed heavily and then led Xylion away a few meters. “As soon as we get back to Eagle we come back for you.”

    “No. If I decide to stay I will do so voluntarily and without deception.”

    “What is this, some sort of Vulcan honor code I’ve never heard of before? And besides, nothing about this situation is voluntary.”

    “I agree that this is not a decision I would have made if the situation was different. However, I must agree that the scientific opportunities to remain here and study not just this particular rogue planet but also the Vulcan population seemingly having devolved into a more unstable Vulcan society are fascinating.”

    Deen shook her head. “You are a Starfleet officer, you have responsibilities.”

    “I am also Vulcan and have a responsibility to those who are stranded here who may very well not survive without my assistance. Whereas my skills as a science officer on Eagle are in much lesser need at this time.”

    “The captain won’t like this.”

    Xylion nodded. “I expect that he will not. I have recorded a statement on the Nebuchadrezzar’s computer to fully explain my reasoning to the captain as well as offer my resignation to Starfleet should this be required.”

    “You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow at that, as if to imply that that had been a silly question, that of course he applied great scrutiny to all of his decisions.

    And Deen understood it was pointless in arguing this point with him any further. There was no changing his mind on this one.

    “Now, I suggest we focus our efforts installing the new thruster module. I estimate the modifications as well as carrying out repairs to the damaged energy couplings will consume the rest of this day cycle and as you are aware we do not have time to spare,” he said and turned away. The last word on the subject had apparently been spoken.
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - II -

    The turbolift doors opened and Elijah Katanga joined Tazla Star already inside. They exchanged quick looks but didn’t speak to each other while the doctor took position to her left.

    “Deck four,” he said and the computer acknowledged with a chirp before the lift sped away again. “So, imagine my surprise when I came into sickbay this morning and unbeknownst to me, my patient had already left before she’d been cleared for duty,” he said but kept his eyes trained forward.

    “I’m fine.”

    “Yeah? Well, last I checked I was the one with the fancy medical degrees so the diagnosis should really rest with me,” he said and then turned to look at her but finding that she was unwilling to make eye contact. “And I can tell you straight, without the smallest doubt in my mind, you are anything but fine.”

    “You said it yourself,” she said, still not glancing the veteran physician’s way. “The radiation exposure caused a lot less damage to my system than expected and you were able repair the vast majority of it. You’ve dealt with all the symptoms.”

    “What concerns me is why you suffered so few ill-effects while you were exposed to enough radiation to kill a Plygorian mammoth.”

    She shot him a little smirk. “Must be because I am a lot tougher than you ever gave me credit for.”

    “Computer, halt lift.”

    Another chirp and they stopped in their tracks.

    Katanga turned to face her. “That is not it, Taz.”

    “Wait a minute,” she said. “I almost die saving this ship including your backside and instead of words of thanks or encouragement, I am treated with suspicion? I expected something like this from Nora, maybe even from the captain but from one of my oldest friends?”

    “You have my eternal thanks for heroically sacrificing your own safety to try and save all our collective butts, you know that,” he said. “But do me a favor and don’t use indignant anger to deflect from the real issue here.”

    “Which is what precisely?”

    “The fact that you knew you would survive it. That you knew your life wasn’t in danger.”

    She gave him a puzzled look. “If they hadn’t beamed me out of there when—“

    He waved her off. “Yes, yes of course. You could have died of radiation poisoning. That doesn’t change the fact that by all accounts you should have succumbed to its effects five to ten minutes before they got you out. But you didn’t. Not because you are some kind of tough guy. Not because you’re a Trill. But because your system has been altered by a substances that has no business being inside of you in the first place. It saved your life and you knew it would. And nobody else knows about it, do they?”

    Star was speechless.

    “Jesus, Taz, what do you think would happen once somebody took a closer look? You may have been able to fool your routine physicals but once something serious happened, and we know in this line of work that could be any day of the week, somebody was bound to find out.”

    She took a deep breath and turned towards the bulkhead. “Who else knows?”

    “Just me. I haven’t made any notes in my log yet. Which according to the regs I helped write, by the way, is gross misconduct and reason enough¬—“

    “What are you planning to do?”

    “That’s a question I should be asking you?”

    She whipped around. “What can I do? I come out with this and not only do I prove all those skeptics right about me, it’ll be the end of my career. And this time for good. There won’t be any third chances for me.”

    “But you can’t go on like this. The harm you’re doing to your body is bad enough but you might be endangering the people under your command by being addicted to a substance which alters your mental state.”

    “I’ve been alright handling it so far.”

    “No, Taz, you have not. And this cannot go on.”

    They stared at each other for a moment perhaps to determine who would back down first. It turned out to be Star when she nodded slowly. “Alright,” she said. “But allow me to do this on my terms, alright? I finally managed to establish a little bit of trust with the captain and I don’t want to throw all of it away. Let me finish this mission and then I find a way to end all this gracefully.”

    He looked into her bright green eyes. “This is a terrible idea.”

    “Please,” she said and placed a hand on his shoulder. “If our friendship means anything to you, let me do this one thing.”

    He uttered another sigh but his facial features didn’t relax. “I don’t like this one bit but I’ll give you a few more days. Then we will have to address this one way or the other.”

    “Thanks, Eli, I really mean it.”

    “Don’t make me regret this.”

    * * *​

    A few moments later Tazla Star entered the captain’s ready room, trying hard to put her conversation with the doctor behind her. At least for now.

    “Commander, shouldn’t you still be in sickbay?”

    “Made a miraculous recovery according to our good doctor,” she said, comforting herself with the fact that it was half a lie only.

    Owens didn’t buy it and offered a skeptical look.

    “I stole away.”

    He nodded. “Well, as a man who isn’t particularly fond of lying on a bio-bed doing nothing, I can sympathize and won’t tell on you.”

    “I appreciate that.”

    Owens walked to the replicator and ordered a tonic water for himself and his guest, before placing each on the desk and offering Star a seat.

    She took a sip of the beverage. “I never thought I’d develop a taste for it,” she said.

    “It grows on you.”

    She nodded and placed the glass back on the desk.

    “Now, mind telling me what compelled you to crawl into a radiated Jeffries tube, risking your own life in such a manner?”

    “I always thought that’s Command 101. Take the initiative when you can even if means to risk your own neck to save those of the crew.”

    “Actually, Command 101 is to asses a situation, identify the most capable person for the job and then order that person to carry out the task even if it risks their neck.”

    She smiled. “I supposed I’ve always had a more hands-on approach to those things.”

    Owens was not in the mood to reciprocate it. “What you did was commendable but I’m not convinced you were the right person for the job, Commander. You’re no engineer. You don’t know nearly as much about those systems than somebody like Lieutenant Hopkins,” he said and leaned forward. “My concern is that you decided to do this in order to prove something.”

    She nodded. “Maybe you’re right.”

    He glanced at her sharply.

    “Sir,” she said and adjusted in her seat. “I will always do what is best for this ship and crew. And when I see such an opportunity, I will take the initiative instead of letting somebody else come to harm. That’s who I am.”

    “What if you had gotten yourself in a situation that you could not have handled?”

    “I was confident enough of my knowledge of this ship and the systems involved that I knew it wouldn’t come to that,” she said and leaned forward herself. “Sir, if I’d had any doubt that I couldn’t do this, I wouldn’t have gone. I promise you that. I’m not trying to prove myself at the expense of this crew. On the contrary.”

    Owens nodded, apparently satisfied with that response for now and then leaned back into his chair again. “Well, Commander, you did it. You saved the ship and I am immensely grateful.”

    “Frankly, sir, I don’t require your gratitude. I just need your trust. And your understanding that there are no lengths I won’t go to in order to serve you and your ship,” she said and not a little cognizant of the irony of her case following the conversation she just had with Katanga. Here she was, trying to convince Owens that she needed to be trusted while she kept her biggest secret well hidden.

    “You have it. As long as you refrain from any more solo heroics.”

    She couldn’t help but smirk. She wasn’t entirely sure if he was being all that honest himself at that moment. Only time would tell but for now it was good enough.

    “Now that we’ve covered this, any ideas yet who or what nearly caused my starship to blow into little pieces? Is your saboteur behind this?”

    “The bad news is that like the other recent cases, this too was no accident. There are simply too many fail-safes in place to avoid this. In fact, from what I can tell this crisis was caused because one of those fail-safes was reprogrammed. And only a very few people on board would have been able to do this.”

    Owens nodded, following her logic. “By which I take it the good news is that this greatly reduces the number of possible suspects.”

    “There is only one person on this ship who could have caused the emergency shut-off valve to behave in the way it did.”

    The captain aimed her a quizzical look.

    “Lieutenant Louise Hopkins.”

    That look turned into one of astonishment. “You suggest Lieutenant Hopkins is the spy?”

    Star shook her head. “No. I can’t see her having any motive to harm the ship and crew. Besides if the crisis had not been averted she would have died along with everyone else on Eagle.”

    “I don’t believe for one second that Hopkins could be an enemy agent but if there really is one on board this ship, this would have clearly been a suicide mission.”

    She nodded. “Yes but it doesn’t make any sense. None of the previous attempts to interfere with the systems on board would have caused the ship to be completely destroyed. Why would a saboteur resolve to such drastic actions now?”

    “Because he or she is becoming more desperate,” said Owens.

    “That was my first thought,” she said. “Or perhaps we are not dealing with a saboteur at all.”

    The captain looked puzzled. “It was your theory, Commander. You said you discovered subspace noise which could have been secret messages.”

    She was painfully aware that she had indeed made such a claim and that her theory had in fact turned out to be absolutely correct. Jinsu Gedar had been the spy and both Louise Hopkins and Lif Culsten had known about it but instead of reporting him, had made a deal with him in which he would agree to leave Starfleet following this mission. Considering the new found trust Owens claimed to have put in her, she knew she should have told him exactly what she had learned and thereby likely ending both Hopkins’ and Culsten’s Starfleet careers. But nothing was ever that easy. Nothing was ever quite black and white. Something that she had come to realize once again just a few minutes earlier when she had practically begged Katanga to keep her secret a little while longer. She was under no illusions that that conversation had probably been very similar to the one Gedar had had with Hopkins and Culsten after they had found out the truth about him.

    “Or it could have been nothing more than random subspace noise,” she said. “There is no way to know for sure.” At least that much was technically true.

    He looked skeptical and she couldn’t blame her for it. After all she had been quite insistent on the accuracy of her theory only to dismiss it now. “Alright, so let’s say there isn’t a saboteur on this ship. How do you explain all these events?”

    She presented him with a padd which he took and looked over. “I can’t. Not yet. But I’ve put together a list of what could be considered unusual events over the last few days and what I’ve found is that the vast majority of them started once we entered the nebula.”

    He nodded as he read the report. “The sudden manifold failure almost leading to a warp core breach, the overload in the EPS control room, Culsten hijacking the ship. Wait a minute,” he said and looked up. “You’ve listed my lost night on here?”

    She nodded. “From what I can tell, that particular event started it all. And in every cases the person in question claimed to be unable to remember doing what they did. Including you.”

    Owens considered that for a moment. “I’ve never though of that.”

    “Sir, I think something else may be going on here. With your permission I would like Doctor Katanga to examine you as well as all the others involved in these events to see if we can find a connection.”

    “I’m never the first to volunteer for a medical exam,” he said with a little smile and stood. “In this case I’ll make an exception.”
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - III -​

    “Are you quite sure about this?” said Alex Clancy as he stood outside the cargo bay doors, looking over the team of eight security officers in the corridor who besides wearing their standard sidearms also carried phaser rifles at the ready.

    “You said we need to put on a show,” said Nora, also armed with a hand phaser but sans rifle.

    “I didn’t say to prepare for battle with the Dominion.”

    “Trust me, I’ve been a Marine,” she said. “There is nothing they understand better than a show of force.”

    “Honestly, that’s what got me worried.”

    She gave him a smirk. “You can always wait out here.”

    He seemed to consider this for just a second but then shook her head. “The whole idea is to measure their reactions. I need to see this.”

    “And you’re sure you don’t want a weapon?”

    He shook his head again. “I’m playing the good cop.”

    “Right,” she said and then turned to her men. “Let’s go.”

    The heavy doors opened in front of them and the team stepped into the cargo bay which had been modified to serve as a combined parade ground and exercise facility for the Marines unit which had been stationed on Eagle ever since the early days of the war. At the moment a group of about twenty Marines were in the middle of a calisthenics program combining hand-to-hand sparring with multiple other exercises. Nora recognized those drills from her days in the Marines.

    The sudden appearance of over half a dozen heavily armed security guards had the intended effect and everyone in the cargo bay immediately stopped what they were doing and turned to the approaching Starfleet team with Nora confidently leading the way, Clancy by her side.

    The Bajoran didn’t miss that quite a few of the Marines tensed up noticeably. None of them were currently armed, most weren’t even wearing combat gear but she understood well that these people prided themselves on the fact that they were always ready for battle, regardless the circumstances and would have fought naked if they had to. And every single one of them was a formidable fighter. Together they not only outnumbered her security detail, she knew they’d be more than a challenge even as unarmed as they were.

    Yunta Fey was among those who was participating in the exercises and judging by her expression she knew they were here for her. To her credit she held her ground even while her fellow Marines closed in around her as if to shield her from an approaching enemy.

    Nora smirked inwardly. She hadn’t expected anything less.

    She and her team came to a stop just a few meters away from the main bulk of about twenty Marines. Nora had told her men not to point their weapons. Marines were well trained and disciplined. She was fairly sure they wouldn’t initiate a conflict but there was no reason to take chances.

    “Lance Corporal Yunta Fey,” she called out.

    For a moment silence was her only response. Yunta was hidden among her peers and the hardened Marines simply stared at Nora and her men as if to bait them to make the first move. After all there wasn’t a great love lost between Starfleet Security and the Marines. Sure, they both answered to the same Commander-in-Chief but other than that both saw each other as entirely different animals and usually more competent than the other. Nora, having been on both sides knew the arguments well. The Marines considered Starfleet Security as a wannabe army, not nearly well enough trained or equipped to protect the Federation from the dangers it faced while Security thought of the Marines as hammers who saw every problem as a nail needing to be pounded into submission. Nora knew they were both half-right.

    The silence was beginning to become uncomfortable when Yunta finally appeared from within her protective cocoon, apparently unhappy to hide herself away like a scared animal any longer. “I’m here.”

    “You are under arrest,” Nora said.

    “On what charges?”

    The question had not been posed by Yunta but by Major Caesar Wasco who had slipped into the room through a side door and was now approaching the standoff with long strides. “I thought we had reached an understanding,” he said once he had closed in on Nora, the veteran Marine seemingly unimpressed by the armed detail backing her up.

    “That was before new evidence came to light,” said Clancy.

    Wasco considered the man. “What evidence.”

    “I think this is hardly the place to discuss this.”

    “Agreed,” said the major. “But I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish with this display here. It is entirely unwarranted.”

    But Nora kept her eyes on her fellow Bajoran. “We have already witnessed the corporal’s temperament once before. I’m not taking any chances this time.”

    Yunta took a step forward and offered a smirk. “So you are afraid you can’t take me a second time, is that it, Lieutenant?”

    “Attention!” Wasco barked and every single Marine, including Yunta snapped to instantly. Then he turned back towards the security chief. “You still haven’t told us the charges, Lieutenant.”

    Nora’s eyes remained on her suspect. She stood perfectly still and at attention now but she could see the restlessness brewing under the surface. She had to fight herself to remain settled. She knew the feeling all to well. “Conspiracy to commit murder and suspicion of murder in the first degree,” she said and then gestured for her people to step forward causing the Marines to tense again. “Now, will you be coming with us or are we going to have a problem?”

    “Marines, stand down,” Wasco said and once again they responded to his commands straight away. “There will be no problems here. Corporal, you will accompany these people and cooperate in every way, understood?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Nora nodded with satisfaction and watched as two of her people put restraints on Yunta.

    Wasco in the meantime stepped closer to his security counterpart. “I really hope you know what you’re doing, Lieutenant,” he said barely loud enough to be a whisper. “If this turns out to be nothing more than a witch hunt, we’ll be having some serious words.”

    Nora nodded sharply. “Noted, Major,” she said and turned around as the team escorted Yunta Fey out of the cargo bay.
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    – IV – ​

    Nora and Clancy escorted Yunta into the security office only to find Sirna Kolrami and Sierra Decaux already there, both equally handcuffed and with a security guard watching over them.

    “What is the meaning of this?” Kolrami said and jumped on his feet the moment he saw Nora Laas enter the room. He didn’t get far when the security officer placed a strong hand on his shoulder to restrain him. “You can’t treat us like this,” he huffed loudly. “This is completely out of line,” he continued, clearly having received the same treatment as Yunta Fey.

    “Have they made you aware of the charges against you?” Nora said.

    “Something about a conspiracy nonsense.”

    “Conspiracy to commit murder and suspicion of murder,” she said calmly. “Do you understand these charges?”

    “No, I don’t understand at all,” he said. “I passed your lie detector test. You know I didn’t kill Gedar.”

    But Nora glanced at Decaux who still sat in her chair, keeping her eyes diverted. “Crewman, do you understand the charges brought against you?”

    She looked up, her eyes wide but didn’t speak.

    Clancy spoke next. “All three of you have the right to refuse questioning as well as legal representation.”

    “However, if you cooperate now we may be able to clear things up more quickly,” added Nora.

    “Then let’s clear things up right now,” said the engineer. “I’m innocent.”

    Clancy didn’t miss the odd look Decaux was giving the Zakdorn. It was gone in a flash.

    “We will talk to all three of you in turn,” said Nora and then gestured for her security officers to separate the three suspects and move them into individual rooms. The security office only had one interview room so they had cleared Nora’s office and converted a storage room to be use for questioning.

    Once all three were secure, Nora turned to the counselor. “Alright, so now what?”

    “Now we wait.”

    Ten minutes they waited until they went to see Yunta Fey who was sitting anxiously in her chair when they walked into the interview room. Clancy sat down while Nora stayed on her feet, her eyes piercing the other Bajoran but otherwise keeping mum.

    Yunta returned the stare but it was Clancy who spoke up first.

    “I have to be honest, Corporal, it’s not looking good.”

    She redirected her glance. “What are you talking about?”

    “We have enough evidence to make a case against you plotting with the others to kill Lieutenant Gedar and so far it appears you are the ringleader,” he said while he kept reviewing a padd he had brought.


    “We already know that you went to see Gedar that night in engineering,” he continued. “Which means we can place you at the scene of the crime, giving you opportunity. We know you had the means as you are physically stronger than Gedar which we can evidence by the bruising on his body and you have motive as you admitted that you were enraged that he had cheated on you with Crewman Decaux.”

    “I didn’t kill him, I told you this.”

    Clancy continued unperturbed. “Maybe a deal can be made,” he said. “There is a small chance we can reduce the charge to manslaughter but only if you cooperate. If you’ll help us reconstruct exactly what happened, perhaps we can convince the prosecution to seek a lesser sentence.”

    She stared hard at the counselor and then back at the security chief. “You’re bluffing. You’ve got nothing on me.”

    “Stop playing games, Fey,” Nora said sharply. “We know that you along with Kolrami and Decaux planned this together. You all had your own reasons to go after Gedar. The only question remains, which one of you actually killed him. I’m guessing Decaux, she’s the most unstable of the bunch but if we can’t get one of you to go down for this, you’ll go down together.”

    The Marine turned her head away.

    * * *​

    Nora rushed into the converted storage room. Most of the items kept here had been removed save for a couple of bolted down and locked cabinets. A small table and three chairs had been set up. Decaux looked up with concern in her big eyes as the Bajoran barged inside, Clancy following closely.

    “She gave you up,” Nora said without preamble.


    Clancy took one of the chairs opposite her and offered a sympathetic look. “We know, Sierra. We know what you, Kolrami and Yunta had planned. We know that you all had a bone to pick with Gedar. Yunta says it was your idea.”

    “What? My idea?”

    Nora hit the table hard with the palm of her hands, causing the lithe woman to jump and look up. “She gave us everything, Crewman. Kolrami hated Gedar’s guts for his behavior and the fact that he was in line for promotion over him. Yunta was furious that he had picked you over her and you, you couldn’t take it that he had already decided to move on to somebody else. So you got together with them to teach Gedar a lesson he would never forget.”

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Clancy offered.

    “No, no you don’t understand,” she said, shaking her head desperately.

    “Oh we understand, alright,” said Nora. “All three of you will pay for what you did. Yunta and Kolrami will be charged with conspiracy and spend the next ten to fifteen years in a rehabilitation colony. You on the other hand will go straight to a supermax facility for cold-blooded murder.”

    “I … listen, it’s not like that.”

    “Are you denying that you planned to go after Gedar?” Clancy said, keeping his voice much calmer and steadier than Nora did.

    “Yes, I mean no. I was mad at him. We all were but we just wanted to teach him a lesson. That’s all.”

    Nora and Clancy exchanged a brief glance while Decaux unsuccessfully attempted to dry her tears. They had suspected some form of conspiracy but so far there had been nothing but circumstantial evidence. Contrary to their claims Yunta had held fast, not admitting anything. Decaux’s confession was their first break.

    “So something went wrong,” said Clancy focusing on their suspect again. “You confronted him and things went out of control and he was killed.”

    “You pushed him over, didn’t you? You pushed him over that railing,” Nora pressed.

    “No, no, no,” she cried. “I didn’t kill him, I loved him. I … I think I loved him. I don’t know anymore.”

    “You were blinded by your passion,” Nora said.

    She shook her head furiously. “Fey and I were supposed to confront him and Kolrami would ensure he’d be alone. We were going to shame him … and … I don’t know but before … before we could do it…,” she was sobbing now.

    Clancy leaned forward. “What happened before you could confront him?”

    She looked right at him. “Kolrami killed him. I saw him do it. Right there in front of my eyes.”

    * * *​

    “This is completely and entirely inappropriate,” the engineer fumed, sitting at Nora’s desk while the security chief, Clancy and two armed security guards entered the office. “The way your men came into engineering and picked me up in front of everyone like a common thug. I will be logging a formal complaint with the captain over this.”

    “You will have plenty of opportunity to do so in your prison cell,” said Nora with a smug little smile while she stood close to the desk.

    “I didn’t kill Gedar,” he said. “You know that. You performed the lie detector on me and I passed it.”

    Clancy took a seat again. “Surely you now that those are not foolproof.”

    “And not admissible in court either,” Nora added.

    “And there was an interesting irregularity in your response,” said Clancy as he looked at the padd.

    “What are you talking about?”

    “See when we asked you if you knew of anybody else with Gedar on the night he died you said that you weren’t aware of anyone,” said the counselor.

    “No, that’s not right. I told you I saw Professor Rosenthal.”

    Nora smirked. “You remembered Professor Rosenthal after your answer. But the autonomous response analysis doesn’t quite work like that. It measures your responses at the time you answer the question. It cannot take into account things you may remember after the fact.”

    “Which means you told us a purposeful lie when you said that you didn’t know anyone else being with Gedar that night,” said Clancy.

    “That’s preposterous.”

    “Not quite,” said Nora. “Seeing that Decaux and Yunta just confessed to your little conspiracy to teaching Gedar a lesson.”

    His face went blank.

    “Your mission,” said Clancy, “was to ensure engineering was clear for the little spectacle you had set up so that first Decaux and then Yunta could confront him while you came back at just the opportune moment with a little crowd to reveal to everyone what a supposed fraud Gedar really was.”

    “Humiliating Gedar in front of witnesses would ensure that nobody on board would even consider going out with him again while his reputation would take such a hit that even his upcoming promotion might be in doubt,” Nora continued. “But you decided that humiliating him was not enough, isn’t that right?”

    “That is not true.”

    “The only thing I don’t understand is how you figured you’d get away with this,” said Clancy.

    “It’s easy really,” said the security chief. “You probably thought that the other conspirators would accuse each other with nobody ever really knowing who really killed Gedar. All of them with a motive, none would ever come forward. And maybe that is true for Yunta, after all she is a Marine, passionate but also tough and unlikely to bend under pressure but Decaux is not.”

    “Wait a minute—“

    “She saw you, Lieutenant. She saw you kill him,” Nora said, leaning in closer.

    “She’s lying,” he screamed. “She’s lying or she did it herself and is trying to frame me.” He took a deep breath. “Yes, we did plan to humiliate Gedar in public but we didn’t mean to kill him. By the time I got back to engineering neither Yunta nor Decaux were there so I assumed that the plan was off and I left. And later they found him dead down in the pit. But I did not kill him. It must have been Decaux. She’s unstable, surely you’ve realized this by now. She’s lost control and did this.”

    * * *​

    “I have nothing more to say to you,” said Yunta Fey when the two investigators returned to the interview room. “I know what you are trying to do here, playing us off each other and I’ll be no part in it. I’ll say nothing more until I get a legal representative.”

    “That’s fine. For now we just need you to listen,” said Nora, this time taking a seat next to Clancy and opposite Yunta who had crossed her arms below her chest defiantly. “You may be the tough one in your little group but Decaux and Kolrami are not and they have given us everything we need to know.”

    She refused to make eye contact.

    “I’ll just tell you what we’ve got so far and you can decide if you wish to continue the silent routine,” added Clancy and referred back to his padd. “You, Kolrami and Decaux planned to teach Gedar a lesson. Not kill him but humiliate him in public and reveal him for what he truly was. Kolrami was to set the stage in engineering then both you and Decaux would get your turn at him until the grand finale in front of half the engineering crew.”

    Nora picked it up from there. “But something went wrong and one of you snapped and killed him, leaving each of you to suspect the other. Decaux believes it was Kolrami and Kolrami is figuring it must have been you.”

    Clancy and Nora studied her face intently and the way her lower jar twitched it was obvious she wanted to talk.

    “With no clear witness statement we would have to arrest all three of you for conspiracy,” said Clancy.

    She shook her head. “It wasn’t me.”

    “Now there is something I haven’t heard before,” said Nora dismissively.

    Yunta leaned closer. “It wasn’t me.”

    “Then who?” Clancy asked.

    “Decaux,” she said without hesitation.

    “You saw her kill him?” he said

    She shook her head. “No, but it’s the only one that makes any sense. She’s not all there, if you know what I mean. She’s got … I don’t know what but she not healthy. She behaved oddly at times when we planned this and then she confronted me in the Nest, shouting and screaming that Kolrami and I had conspired to kill Gedar and blame it on her. Mark my words, it was her.”

    * * *​

    “I like Decaux for this,” said Nora once they had left the interview room again.

    But Clancy didn’t appear as convinced. “We don’t really have anything on her. We have her confession that she planned with the others to confront Gedar but not kill him.”

    “Both Kolrami and Yunta are firmly pointing her way,” she said.

    “But they have offered no evidence or even an eyewitness account. In fact the only one who has given us one is Decaux herself and she claims it was Kolrami.”

    Nora looked towards the doors leading into the storage room where Decaux was being kept. “So what does that mean? That we’re back to square one? All this for nothing? I can’t accept that. I say we push Decaux harder and make her give us a confession.”

    But Clancy shook his head. “I don’t think that’ll work.”

    “She’s weak, I can sense it,” she said, her eyes taking on the hard look of a warrior. “I can break her.”

    “Oh, I’m convinced of that but I don’t think that would help us.”

    “A confession wouldn’t help us?”

    “I think that with enough pressure Crewman Decaux will admit to being the Klingon chancellor, that doesn’t mean she is,” he said shaking his head again. “No, a coerced confession is not admissible in court. The defense will figure it out in no time and not only will the case be thrown out of court, it will also seriously damage your reputation. Not to mention that it would be inhumane to treat her in that manner.”

    Nora uttered a heavy sigh and let herself fall back in a chair, knowing that he was right. “Damn you and your humane ways.”

    He shrugged his shoulders. “Comes with the species, I’m afraid.”

    “I’m not letting any of these people go, not until I get a confession from somebody,” she said and looked up at him. “So what do you suggest we do?”

    Before he could get an answer the red alert klaxons came to life, warning of impending danger.

    Nora jumped back to her feet. “What now?”

    That’s when everybody in the room was suddenly and unceremoniously slung to the floor.
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - V -

    “How much longer will this take, Doctor?”

    “Is there somewhere else you need to be, Captain?” Katanga asked while he was working on a computer station, his back to Owens who was sitting on a bio-bed with small probes attached to his temples.

    Owens frowned but before he could shoot back a terse reply, Tazla Star stepped up. “Believe it or not but being the captain of a starship is a busy job, Doctor,” she said, and offering Owens an apologetic look. “So anything you could do to speed this up would be greatly appreciated.”

    Katanga turned. He was wearing a blue coat which matched the uniform shirt he wore underneath. There was still no sign of the jacket which usually completed the outfit. He seemed to notice Star’s pleading look and appeared to reconsider his response. “Of course, I understand,” he said and then looked at his impatient patient. “I do apologize to keep you from your duties, Captain. I’m utilizing a new kind of cerebral scan technique since I was unable to find anything out of the ordinary using more conventional methods.”

    “What exactly does this involve and—“ Owens stopped himself when he felt a sudden stinging pain behind his forehead and reached for his temples. “That … was not pleasant. A heads up would have been appreciated.”

    Star gave the Doctor a frosty look, clearly not pleased that he was apparently torturing her boss.

    “Ah yes, I failed to mention that you might feel a little sting there at the end,” he said and then quickly stepped up to Owens to remove the probes.

    “That was more than a little sting,” Owens said sharply.

    “Sincere apologies,” he said as he detached the devices and then walked back to his workstation to review the scan results.

    Owens and Star joined him.

    “Ar least tell me that there was a point to all of this,” the captain said.

    “I cannot be sure yet,” he said as he looked at the screen. “The computer is just now finishing compiling all the data,” he added and pointed at the screen were four brain wave patterns were displayed next to each other. “I’ve already taken the scans from Lieutenant Hopkins, Kate Smith and Lif Culsten. Now, by adding yours I’m hoping that we find something that could shed some light on what is happening on this ship.”

    “What are you looking for?” he asked.

    “I don’t really know until I’ve seen it.”

    Owens sighed and turned away from the screen.

    It didn’t take much for Star to notice his skepticism. “Sir, I’m convinced there must be something to link all four of you.”

    “But why me? I just had a bad night’s sleep. That doesn’t mean that whatever affected the others affected me as well. If you recall I didn’t try to blow up my own ship.”

    She nodded. “Yes, but it all seems to have started with that event.”

    “Or it could all be complete coincidence.”

    “It could. But do you have another explanation, sir? I think we should pursue this and see where it leads.”

    Owens looked back at Katanga as he closely studied the results on the screen “Well, that’s why I agreed to this,” he said. “But if we don’t find anything we need to start thinking about other theories which—“

    The red alert klaxon cut him off.

    Star and Owens exchanged a concerned look. Then, before the captain could call the bridge for a status report, the ship was hit hard, causing everyone in sickbay to lose their footing for a brief moment.

    “Oh, my stars and garters, that can’t be good?” Katanga said after he had picked himself up from the bulkhead he had been pushed into.

    Owens had grabbed a nearby bio-bed to stay on his feet and then helped Star back on hers who hadn’t been as lucky. “Bridge, what’s going on?”

    There wasn’t an immediate response.

    Then Stanmore came on the line, his voice sounded stressed. “Sir, it appears we are under attack.”

    The captain and the first officer were out of sickbay in an instant, leaving Katanga to look after them with befuddlement. “Attack? Who in damnation would attack us within a toxic nebula?”

    Just then his workstation beeped when it had apparently finished its analysis and the veteran doctor turned to look at the screen.


    * * *​

    Before anyone in the security office even had the time to get their bearings back, another, smaller explosion rocked the room. The door to the storage room opened to allow thick white smoke to escape from it.

    Nora pulled herself up. “Decaux.”

    Clancy looked that way as well and just in time to the see the lithe blonde woman come shooting out of the interview room, a crazed expression on her face. She ran right into the security guard who had been posted to secure the door. As the man had not been able to fully get back on his feet yet, he was practically steamrolled by the much smaller woman. And yet, somehow, she had the presence of mind to grab his phaser.

    “Decaux!” Nora shouted. “Stop her.”

    The crewman looked up like a startled animal at a room filled with men and women seemingly determined to catch her.

    Her advantage for the moment however was not just the fact that she had been able to secure a weapon, most of the security personnel were still trying to recover from the unexpectedly heaving deck moments earlier.

    She managed to shove the first person she got to over a desk before shooting off into the opposite direction and then continued to zigzag through the room, trying to find her way to the exit and avoiding the guards attempting to keep her from escaping.

    Decaux was small and slippery and clearly very much determined not to be cornered. She weaved and bobbed around the startled personnel which had not expected to have to stop a fugitive so shortly after having been slung to the floor by unknown forces.

    Nora watched with dread. She was out of position to try and cut her off and had already made the painful determination that nobody else was going to catch her before she got to the doors. She spotted Carlos on the opposite side of the room, removing a phaser from an equipment locker. “Jose,” she called and reached out her hand, indicating for the weapon.

    Her deputy understood immediately and tossed the phaser her way.

    Nora felt as if the firearm was sailing through the air in slow motion, very much aware that with every second, Decaux was getting closer to that exit.

    She finally managed to snag it out of the air when it was in reach, turned on her heels and fired.

    Only to see the crimson beam catch the bulkhead outside the security office through the open doors through which Sierra Decaux had only a split second earlier slipped out of.

    “Frak,” she cursed and immediately ran after her. The quickest route being across a couple of desks which she unceremoniously slid across, not caring that she deposited their content across the floor in the process.

    She reached the corridor and immediately found it packed with people. She cursed her luck. Shift change.

    Nora could hear the commotion down the corridor as her fugitive was apparently barreling her way through the crowd.

    “Decaux!” she called after her as she made her own way through the far too slowly parting throng. “Stop.” Of course she did not and Nora nearly missed her dashing into a smaller side corridor which was thankfully less filled with people.

    “Computer, I need a force field. Deck fifteen, section nine, junction Baker-four,” she said as she continued her pursuit.

    The computer replied with a soft trill. “Force field erected.”

    She smirked when she turned another corner and saw Decaux at the far end of the corridor, her forward progress stopped by an invisible barrier. The woman turned to see the security chief approaching and her eyes grew wider.

    She raised her phaser. “End of the line, Sierra.”

    The woman slipped into an adjacent room.

    “Oh, come on,” Nora moaned and ran up to the doors to follow her. She carefully activated the door mechanism before stepping inside. It was a small room with only two other doors leading out of it. “Computer, what is the location of Crewman Sierra Decaux?”

    “Crewman Sierra Decaux is on deck fifteen, section nine, environmental substation eight-eight-one.”

    That sounded familiar. “Computer, what’s my location?”

    “Your current location is deck fifteen, section nine, environmental substation eight-eight-one.”

    Nora looked around. There was no place to hide in this room and according to the computer she hadn’t left it. That’s when she noticed the small shiny object in the corner. She took a knee and picked it up to discover that it was her combadge. “Clever girl,” she said. “Computer, disregard Crewman Decaux’s combadge and determine her location.”

    “Unable to comply.”

    “Why the hells not?”

    “Internal sensors are not operational.”

    “Right,” she said and stood. She quickly made her way to the first door, opened it and found that it led back into another corridor. Both sides were clear. So she went back to check on the other door. This one led to an empty storage closet.

    Frustrated she returned back to the substation. There was a Jeffries tube access hatch. When she inspected it more closely she realized it was slightly ajar. Nora yanked the hatch open and found nothing but an empty crawlspace. But she thought she heard something. Boots climbing a ladder.

    She holstered her weapon and crawled into the tube. After a few short meters she reached a central junction along with a ladder leading upwards and just in time to see a figure disappear into another junction above.

    Without hesitating she climbed the stairs to follow her once more.

    She thought Decaux had climbed at least two decks but was fairly certain when she heard another Jeffries tube access hatch opening just above her. She tapped her combadge. “Security team to deck seventeen, section … uh … Charlie-six. And make it quick,” she said but kept her voice down in order not to let Decaux know that she was close on her tail.

    Nora made it to deck seventeen and down the same Jeffries tube she was certain Decaux had used just moments before. Her suspicions were confirmed when she found another hatch left ajar. She opened it carefully to find one of Eagle’s large, cavernous cargo bays beyond.

    “Computer, lights,” she said just loud enough to ensure the audio interface would pick-up her request.

    An aborted trill indicated that the computer wasn’t able to comply. Decaux had managed to disable the lights somehow.

    “Okay, so you’re not stupid,” she said as she was forced to climb out of the hatch and into an almost completely dark cargo bay. This one had been used to store parts for the sensor array, and even though it was nearly complete, the bay was still packed with crates and containers, some stapled so tall, they nearly reached the six-meter tall ceiling.

    She drew her phaser and took a few careful steps forward. There were far too many dark places to hide here. Nora had a good view of the main doors and considering that she hadn’t heard them opening, it was a good bet Decaux was still in here. Perhaps trying to get to a secondary exit.

    “It’s over, Sierra, you’re just making things worse for yourself,” she said, loudly, hearing her voice reverberating throughout the hold. “Come out, with your hands up and I’ll make sure you get a fair trial.” Nora slowly began to search the room, making sure she kept an eye on the main doors in case Decaux made a run for them.

    Then she thought she heard footsteps to her right.

    She stopped and listened. A skill she had honed well when she had been much younger and leading a cell of teenage freedom fighters on Bajor many years ago. Back then it had been a skill which could have meant the different between life and death.

    Decaux was on the move.

    Nora turned towards the far corner from which she was sure the sound was coming from.

    Then she saw her.

    “Last chance, Crewman,” she said as she leveled her phaser and moving sideways to get into optimal position.

    The other woman still didn’t respond.

    When she was sure Decaux was cornered, she took a few long leaps and reached out for her prey.

    Her hands made contact with fabric and she yanked hard.

    Only to come away with a loose jacket.

    Decaux had used part of her uniform as a ruse. Nora cursed for falling for such an obvious ploy, one she had used herself on many occasions against her Cardassian enemies.

    She heard a loud grunt coming from just a few meters away and whipped around, ready to blast the other woman into unconsciousness.

    But she wasn’t there.

    Instead she saw a tower of bright yellow barrels teetering precariously. Too late did she realize what had happened.

    Decaux, on the other side of those highly stacked barrels, had given them a hard shove and while for a moment it had appeared too much for the young woman to topple them, the ship trembled once more at the most inopportune moment and just enough to allow gravity to make her plan work and bringing the barrels down.


    The woman was sprinting towards the exit.

    For Nora, chasing after her was suddenly a distant priority. Those barrels were coming right for her and she had only a couple of seconds to make a move which might save her life.

    So she jumped as far as she could, rolling on the floor when she made contact and tried her hardest to get out of the way. When she heard the first ones slam into the floor, she thought she had come away clean.

    That’s when she felt something hitting her hard in the shoulder and she stumbled just as she tried to get back onto her feet, landing painfully on her chest.

    Knowing that she may not have time to catch her breath, she instantly flipped onto her back and just in time to see one of those bright yellow barrels coming for her head.

    She rolled away a split second before it had a chance to turn her into paste.

    Nora heard the doors opening and immediately tried to get back on her hands and knees but felt her strength give out.

    The sound of multiple boots rushing her way let her know that reinforcements had finally arrived.

    “Laas, are you alright?”

    She glanced up to see Alex Clancy hovering over her. He had arrived at her side even before any of her security people, clearly having raced to her prone form the moment he had spotted her.

    Nora moaned and tried to get herself off the floor.

    “Easy,” he said as he helped her up. “You’ve been injured.”

    But the security chief wasn’t interested in taking things easy. “Decaux,” she said and looked towards the heavy cargo bay doors, fully extended at the moment with at least five heavily armed security guards covering the exit and the corridor beyond. But there was no sign of the fugitive. “Where … where is she?”

    Clancy seemed much more concerned with Nora and the way she winced when he gingerly touched her upper body. “I think you have dislocated your shoulder,” he said. “You must be in a great deal of pain.”

    She glared at him and tried a few steps but ultimately was forced to lean against a container when she felt her strength not returning as quickly as she had hoped. “Never mind the pain,” she fumed. “Where is she?”

    Clancy slowly shook his head. “She must have slipped away just before we got here,” he said ruefully. “Carlos and a team are searching the deck.”

    Nora let herself slide down onto the floor, unable to keep on her feet. “Find her. Find her now. She’s our killer and I will not let her slip through my fingers again, do you hear me? I’m going to get her if it’s the last thing I do.”
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VI -

    “Report,” Owens barked as he stepped out of the turbolift, followed closely by Tazla Star.

    Lieutenant Lance Stanmore stood at the center of the bridge, the junior officer obviously not having been quite comfortable enough to sit in the big chair while he was in temporary command, now turned to face the two senior officers striding his way. “We appear to be under attack, sir?”

    Star frowned at the man. “Appear?”

    He looked apologetic at his vague report. “We have not been able to detect an attacker. There are no other vessels in the immediate vicinity, we can’t even detect weapon’s fire but something has hit our shields. Something powerful.”

    As if on cue, the ship trembled again. Nowhere near as much as it had the first time, but the deck plates rumbled noticeably.

    Stanmore headed for the operations console to relief Ensign Milestone. “We were unprepared for the initial attack. Had no warning,” he said as he sat in the chair after Milestone stood up smoothly. “We were able to reinforce the shields.”

    Star glanced at Trinik, the Vulcan officer in charge of tactical operations while So’Dan Leva was away.

    “Another hit to our aft shield grid,” he said. “Shields are down to eighty-five percent.”

    Owens sat down in the command chair with purpose, ready to face their attackers. “Put that section on the screen, Lieutenant.”

    The main viewer shifted from showing the almost completed sensory array slightly to starboard to instead allow a view if the area immediately behind the ship from where the latest attack had originated.

    But instead of showing a vessel that might have been responsible, the screen revealed nothing but the empty nebula.

    Star and Owens exchanged looks.

    “Sensors?” he said.

    Stanmore shook his head. “There’s nothing there, sir.”

    “No,” said the Trill officer. “There is nothing there according to sensors but obviously we are being target by somebody or something.”

    The captain nodded in agreement. “Mister Trinik, scan for cloaked vessels.”

    “Metaphasic sweep is negative,” said the Vulcan after initiating another scan, specifically designed to reveal more primitive cloaking technologies.

    “We should try a tachyon scan as well,” said Star.

    “Mister Stanmore?” Owens said.

    “It’ll take a minute to set up, sir.”

    “Get started.”

    The first officer turned to the captain. “It makes no sense, why would a cloaked vessel be attacking us? And how would they even be able to operate within Aphrodite?”

    He considered that for a moment. “Perhaps the Dominion has learned of our efforts to construct the spy array. After all your own theory proposed that we have a spy onboard.”

    Star did not look convinced. “And they’ve suddenly developed a cloaking technology they’ve never before used?”

    The ship shook again from another attack.

    “Starboard shields have been hit,” said the tactical officer. “Shields now at seventy-nine percent power.”

    “On screen,” said the captain.

    But once again there was nothing there.

    And then another strike.

    “Upper port shields,” said Trinik. “Power at seventy-six percent.”

    “It has to be more than one attacker,” concluded Star.

    Owens stood and took a step closer to ops. “Where’s that tachyon scan, Lieutenant?”

    “Ready now, sir. But it will have a limited range. The best I could do on short notice.”

    “Whoever is attacking us is nearby,” he said. “It will do. Scan our immediate surrounding for cloaked ships.”

    Stanmore nodded and went to work.

    On the main viewer, Owens could see bright azure beams shooting out into the nebula around them, trying to reveal what was hidden.

    After just a few moments, the operations officer shook his head with frustration. “Nothing, sir.”

    The next attack came from directly ahead, judging by the way the ship shuddered. Owens turned to look at the tactical officer standing at his elevated station behind his chair, frustration clearly evident on his face.

    “Direct hit to forward shield grid,” he said. “Shields down to seventy-two percent.” He looked up from his board. “Sir, judging by the intervals between each attack, as well as the location of the impacts, it is my belief that we are being attacked by at least five different sources.”

    Star stood. “We’re surrounded?”

    He offered a minimal nod. “That would be the logical conclusion.”

    “I’m not willing to just sit here and take one hit after the next. Let’s see if we can discourage whoever is responsible,” said Owens and looked at tactical. “Program a firing solution. I want sustained phaser burst into each direction from where we’ve been hit.”

    The Vulcan nodded and within a few moments signaled his readiness.


    “Firing phasers.”

    Lances of hot crimson energy were slung every which way and yet seemingly nowhere at all. Everyone on the bridge could tell that none of the many blasts were connecting with any tangible targets.

    The response however came quickly enough.

    Owens steadied himself against his chair. “Random patterns, Lieutenant. Fire into every direction. Make sure you do not hit the sensor array.”

    “Firing random sequence,” the tactical officer said.

    Eagle sprayed phaser fire once more in a desperate attempt to connect with anything but finding nothing.

    “No hits detected,” Trinik said.

    And yet Eagle was hit again.

    The captain looked at his first officer.

    “I can’t explain it,” she said. “But considering the situation I don’t think we should stay in one place for too long. We’re a sitting duck here.”

    He nodded. “Agreed,” he said and turned to Aliris, the young Risian woman who was now handling piloting duties while Culsten was suspended and Srena was off the ship. “Ensign, find us a place to go. Any direction from which we have not yet been attacked. One quarter impulse.”

    The brown-skinned woman nodded and consulted her board. “Changing course to one-six-four mark nine, engaging at one quarter impulse.”

    The first officer stepped closer to the captain. “That’ll take us into a direction towards the boundary of the nebula.”

    Owens considered her for a moment before he looked back towards the screen.

    Then she voiced his own fears. “It could be leading us right into a trap.”
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VII -

    He could tell that she was fuming, had been ever since he had found her in the cargo bay earlier, and having come within a hair’s length of being crushed by an avalanche of barrels which had fallen on top of her. And she was still just as angry as she stepped back into the security office.

    Clancy watched her as she retrieved a phaser rifle and checked its energy cells. He walked up to her. “What did the captain say?”

    She didn’t even look up or otherwise acknowledged his presence. “There wasn’t much to say. We found the killer and I let her go.”

    “It wasn’t your fault, Laas.”

    She whirled around to face the counselor. “How was it not my fault?” she said, her voice higher perhaps than she had intended and causing a number of heads to turn her way. She took a deep breath before continuing in a softer tone. “I had her cornered in that cargo hold. Had her dead to rights. Until she played me like a first year cadet. Nearly took me out as well. I should’ve been able to stop her.”

    “She has nowhere to go.”

    Nora activated her phaser rifle, allowing it to whine loudly for a moment. “That’s right. The captain is busy with whatever is attacking us and I can’t be much help to him with that. But I can find Decaux and bring her to justice. He gave me the green light to search the ship. Room by room if necessary.”

    He nodded slowly. “There is something else you should know,” Clancy said and raised a padd. “I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before. It’s something both Yunta and Kolrami alluded to earlier. That she was somehow off and not quite there. It reminded me of her seemingly irrational fear the other day of going to sickbay after her altercation with Yunta in the Nest.”

    “What is it?”

    “I did some digging through her medical file. We don’t have much about her before she joined Starfleet and her psych evaluation wasn’t as thorough as I would have liked, no doubt one of the sacrifices made due to personnel shortages.”

    Nora looked impatient, clearly eager to join the search for the fugitive. “Get to the point please.”

    “Well from all I’ve read about her and granted that isn’t much, she has all the signs of some sort of personality disorder,” he said. “I think she could be suffering from paranoia and perhaps may even be schizophrenic.”

    “Fantastic. We could have used that information a few days ago.”

    He shook his head. “It doesn’t make her a killer.”

    “Doesn’t it?” she said. “May I remind you that she set off an improvised smoke bomb in here, escaped and tried to kill me? I don’t think she could be any more guilty.”

    “Maybe but we need to be careful with her when we find her.”

    “I’m done playing it nice,” she said and headed for the doors, she stopped when she noticed that Clancy was following her and turned around.

    “I’m going with you. You may need my help when you find her.”

    She shook her head resolutely. “We’re not going to need your help to find her,” she said. “And once we have her we’ll slap some restraints on her and put her into a holding cell from which she won’t be able to escape. Once she’s secured you can have a go at her. But until then, I suggest you go get some rest. It’s been a long day.”

    Clancy couldn’t deny that, nor the exhaustion he felt. Of course however long and stressful it had been for him, he knew it had been much more so for Nora. Naturally she was not inclined to show any sign of weakness. Especially not now and in front of him.

    “Listen, Alex, I appreciate all your help, I really do. But this is something I need to do. I promise I’ll call you as soon as I have her in chains.”

    He frowned at her wording but also didn’t miss her softer tone, the fact that she had called him by his given name, that she had perhaps even started to see him as more than just a fellow officer. “Good luck.”

    She shot him a lopsided grin. “Not a matter of luck. Just a matter of time,” she said and headed through the doors.

    * * *​

    Alex Clancy didn’t quite manage to stifle a yawn as he headed back towards his quarters. He was tired, he realized. But he also knew that he wouldn’t find that rest that Nora had recommended. Instead he’d do what he had done every night since he had joined the investigation and go through the case notes until sleep eventually overwhelmed him.

    He was even more determined tonight, after all he couldn’t help but feel guiltily that he hadn’t made the connection regarding Sierra Decaux’s mental state sooner. Granted, there wasn’t any definitive evidence that she suffered from a personality disorder but Clancy had been in his field long enough to be able to put the pieces together.

    He also understood that many psychological illnesses could be cured with the right medication and treatments and many who suffered from them could still live mostly normal and productive lives, could even serve Starfleet and the Federation with distinction.

    But he was concerned about Decaux. She had either hidden her condition, perhaps fearful that she wouldn’t be allowed in Starfleet or even worse, had severely underestimated how it affected her mental and emotional health.

    And if that was the case, perhaps she had indeed snapped when she had realized that Gedar had been involved with another women. Or had not been able to process that he had wanted far less than a relationship from her and had moved on when she was not willing to compromise. Perhaps she hadn’t meant to kill him but had been unable to ignore the opportunity when it had presented itself as part of her plan with Yunta and Kolrami to teach him a lesson and things had spun out of control.

    Whatever the case, he knew they needed to find her and get her the help she needed.

    Clancy stepped into his dark quarters and headed straight for his desk where his collection of padds still littered the surface. “Computer, time.”

    “The time is 2349 hours.”

    That alone caused him to yawn again.

    “Maybe just a few minutes,” he said as he looked over his notes, not sure if he’d last even that long.

    “It wasn’t me.”

    The voice coming from behind him caused him to spin around, suddenly feeling wide awake.

    Sierra Decaux stepped out of the darkness and she looked awful. Her usually finely combed, long blond hair completely disheveled and her eyes bright red as if she had cried for a long time. She was shivering noticeably. “I didn’t do it.”

    “Sierra,” he said and took a step towards her. He froze when he spotted that tiny type-one phaser. Not yet pointed at him but nervously shaking in her hand.

    “Nobody believes me but I didn’t kill Jin,” she said. “I … I loved him.”

    Clancy nodded slowly. “I believe you.”

    She fixed him with a hard stare. “No … no you don’t. You are like her. Like Nora and all the others. You think I killed him.”

    “What I think,” he said, careful not to make any threatening moves towards her, “is that you are not well. That you need help and I can—“

    “No,” she screamed so loudly it caused him to flinch. “I don’t need help. I know what I saw. I know.”

    He nodded slowly. “Okay, what did you see?”

    “I saw him do it. I saw him kill Jin. I saw him throw him down that warp pit,” she said her voice taking on a couple of octaves.

    “Who did you see?”

    “Kolrami. It was Kolrami,” she said and then looked away and towards the windows still showing the nebula filled with seemingly endless colorful sprites dancing around the ship. “Or perhaps … perhaps not him. Perhaps it wasn’t him.”

    Clancy could feel that he was losing her and more worrisome, losing control. He was never more painfully aware that he was after all just an assistant counselor. Sure, he had partaken in criminal investigations in some seedy places, and had plenty of experience counseling fellow crewmembers but confronting a seemingly crazed and armed woman was not an art he had yet mastered. “Why don’t we sit down and talk about this?” he said. “I’ll get us something to drink. How does some tea sound?”

    But before he could even turn towards the replicator, Decaux jumped forward and grabbed him by his shoulders. “It’s them, don’t you see? It’s them!”

    He was too startled to even think of trying to free himself. “Who?”

    “They are inside of us. Inside our heads,” she said and let go and then stepped away again, turning her back on him. “They made him do it.”

    Clancy braced himself for his chance. “Who made him do it?”

    She whirled back around before he could make a move and perhaps tackle her to the floor. “They are in our heads. Maybe they are in my head, too,” she cried, her eyes growing moist as she moved the phaser to her temple. “I need to get them out.”

    Now he did take a step closer, fully aware that at point blank range, the small weapon was going to be deadly. “Wait, Sierra. Whoever they are, they’re not in your head.”

    “How do you know?”

    “Because … because you were aware of your actions, weren’t you? The way you built that smoke bomb in that room from just a few supplies, that was all you, wasn’t it? Your knowledge, your ingenuity, nobody else’s, right?” he said, knowing full well he was grasping at straws but he needed to do whatever it took to get her to point that weapon away from her body.

    She nodded slowly. “Then maybe they’re not in me,” she said and turned the weapon on him. “Maybe they are in you. Maybe they are controlling you right now. You and everyone else on this ship.”

    Clancy took a step backwards and raising his hands. “But then why would I not want to see you hurt? Why would I want to help you, Sierra? Those things … you said they killed Gedar. They are evil?”

    “Yes, they are monsters,” she said and her hand was trembling now with the phaser still pointed at him. “They are killers, evil things inside of us.”

    “And I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Please, think about this. What if you’re wrong about me?”

    “But I’ve seen them. I know what I’ve seen, I know they are real,” she cried but did lower her weapon and then paced the room. “I know they are here. Inside the ship, inside our minds.”

    “And I believe you. But running around with a phaser is not going to make others believe you, you must see that. Just give me the weapon and we’ll explain to the others what has happened.”

    She seemed to consider that for a moment, or maybe she was too preoccupied with other thoughts but she didn’t speak, simply continued to pace the length of the quarters, refusing to let go of the phaser.

    “Sierra, please, let me help you.”

    “No,” she screamed again, taking hold of her hair with one hand and raising the phaser with the other, once again pointing it at the counselor. “No, you don’t believe me. None of you do. You think I killed Jin. Don’t try to deny it. But I’ll make you see, I’ll make all of you see,” she said and then darted for the door.

    “Sierra, wait,” he called after her. She had already disappeared. Alex followed her out of the doors just to see her rush around a corner down the corridor. By the time he had reached it there was no longer any sign of her.

    He hit his combadge. “Clancy to Nora.”

    “Go ahead,” came her prompt reply.

    “I’ve found her,” he said. “Or rather, she found me.”
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Ten: Storm Warning

    - I -​

    It had taken them the better part of the day just to install the antiquated thruster module into the innards of Nebuchadrezzar and then just as much time to get its systems to accept the alien part as one of its own. But in the end, it had seemingly all worked out. They didn’t have the time to run comprehensive tests but those they had carried out all showed the same, encouraging results. The module would allow them to lift off and produce sufficient thrust to clear the rogue planetoid’s gravity. By all indications they’d even be able to clear orbit and set a course back towards Eagle. It would take them too long to reach the ship without a working impulse engine but with any luck it might take them just far enough to be back in communications range.

    “I say it’s as good as it gets,” said Leva after he finished the latest simulation with Deen and Xylion standing behind him and observing the results.

    “I would prefer another round of tests,” said Deen but then turned her head to look towards the back of the ship where she knew Srena still lay unconscious in a bunk, her vital signs slowly fading. “But I’d rather not take the chance.”

    “It is agreed then,” said Xylion. “You will depart immediately and attempt to return to Eagle.”

    Leva rose from his chair. “And you are sure we can’t change your mind about this.”

    “The Vulcan settlers require my help,” he said.

    “You’ve got people back on the ship who’ll need you.”

    Xylion shook his head fractionally. “The difference I might be able to make here is far more significant. My capacity on Eagle has been limited, especially now since my duties as a first officer are no longer required and the need for a science officer has become nearly superfluous. However these settlers show clear signs of slowly devolving in such a manner which could put them at significant risk and cause them sufficient harm to destroy themselves,” he said and then headed to the back of the runabout.

    Leva glanced at Deen. “So we’re just leaving him behind?”

    “Unless you want to stun him and drag him off this planet against his will, I’m not quite sure we have a choice,” she said as she looked after him.

    “This doesn’t feel right,” he said shaking his head. “We’ve already lost Commander Edison. Wenera left us and now him, too.”

    Deen had nothing to offer to this. She understood that life meant change, more so during time of war when every tomorrow was uncertain. Perhaps, she wondered, they had been lucky that the crew had been together for as long as they had. She’d always felt that the senior officers on Eagle, for the most part, had considered their assignments as more than just a stepping-stone in their careers. They had become friends over the years and with a desire to stay together and make Eagle their home. It was the reason why she had never seriously attempted to get promoted out of her post or onto another starship even if her true passion had been science and not operations. She had simply become too comfortable on Eagle and surrounded with the people there.

    She knew of many other ships where officers came and went as they climbed through the ranks but then she also knew of those where the senior staff had stayed almost unchanged for years. Then there were ships which attracted tragedy like a magnet and involuntary crew rotations were the norm. She couldn’t help but wonder if Eagle wasn’t becoming one of those ships.

    When Xylion returned not two minutes later, he was carrying a duffel bag around his shoulder. He had packed light for what very well may have been a long stay away from the rest of the galaxy.

    He raised his hand in the traditional Vulcan fashion. “It was an honor to serve with you both,” he said. “May you live long and prosper.”

    But Deen resolutely shook her head. “Oh no, you’re not getting away that easily,” she said and then quickly stepped up to him and before he could even brace himself, she quickly hugged him tightly. She felt tears in her eyes at having to say goodbye to the second friend in the same week. “I’ll miss you, Xyl. It won’t be the same without you and your jokes.”

    He gave her a curious look, raising one of his eyebrows in true Vulcan fashion after she had let him go and she uttered a little laugh at his dumbfounded expression.

    Leva stepped up next to her. He wasn’t a hugger but he did hold out his hand and Xylion, to his credit, didn’t hesitate to shake it. “You watch out for yourself, Commander.”

    He offered a quick nod and then after looking both his fellow officers in the eye one last time, turned towards the airlock and left the ship.

    Deen could see Tela waiting for him through the lateral viewports. She seemed genuinely pleased to see him coming her way. “Someone’s loss is somebody else’s gain,” she said quietly.

    Leva had already sat down in the co-pilot’s chair. “We better get started,” he said. “The longer we delay the less chance Ensign Srena has.”

    She nodded quickly and took her seat next to him. But before she began the pre-flight preparations, she glanced at the half-Romulan at her side. “You think he’s going to be alright?”

    “Who Xylion?” he said and then looked out of the viewport where he could see him standing next to the young Vulcan woman, watching the runabout. “I’m sure he’s going to be just fine considering his new company.”

    Deen frowned. “You don’t think that’s the reason he decided to stay. For her?”

    He continued to look their way, not missing how close the two Vulcans stood to each other. “I’m not sure. The attraction seems undeniable, especially from her. And if he were any other man I’d say that it must have played a part in his decision.”

    “But not Xylion. He’s as pragmatic as a Vulcan can be.”

    “Maybe not quite as much as we thought,” he said and then turned back to his instruments.

    Deen did the same even if she wasn’t quite able to keep it completely out of her mind.

    “Engaging thrusters.”

    The runabout rocked slightly as it tried to free itself from the ground it had been wedged into for the last few days. It was a short battle and one which the small starship eventually won. It lifted off shakily at first, like a bird which had only just learned to defy gravity.

    “Increasing power to thrusters,” she said and activated the corresponding panels.

    The ship stabilized about five meters above ground.

    “So far so good,” said the tactical officer. “Let’s take her up.”

    “Activating aft propulsion,” she said as she shifted power from the ventral thrusters designed to allow them to lift off, to the much more powerful engines at the back of the ship.

    They kicked in with surprising power, pushing both pilots into their seat as they quickly accelerated to multiple speeds of sound. Deen angled the nose upwards in time to avoid a rather unfortunate and likely fatal encounter with the mountain range which had surrounded them since they had crashed on the planet, and the Nebuchadrezzar hurled towards the skies like she’d been shot out of a cannon.

    “Artificial gravity, life support and inertial dampers are all working at minimal power but hopefully will last long enough to get us back to Eagle.”

    “Or rather Eagle come to us,” said Deen, fully aware that they were not going to make it under their own power.

    “Clearing the atmosphere now.”

    Her eyes grew wider when they had broken through the deceptively gray and white sky to reveal the nebula hidden beyond it. But they were greeted by far more than the beautiful spectrum of colors which made up Aphrodite. “I forgot about those.”

    “Evasive actions!”

    Deen’s fingers were already on the right controls and she rolled Nebuchadrezzar sharply to the starboard, feeling it respond much more slowly and sluggishly now that its primary thrusters were controlled by outdated technology. She was also painfully aware that she wasn’t nearly as fast or imaginative controlling the ship as Srena may have been. It was however, just enough to avoid a lightning bolt like energy discharge to make direct contact with the ship. In their weakened state and without functional shields, she was pretty sure they would not have survived the hit.

    “Is it just me or did that seem like it was aiming for us?”

    “Another one. Look out!” Leva cried.

    They both held on to their consoles for dear life as Deen managed to dive underneath another incoming strike. She had the foresight, or perhaps it was luck, to bring the Nebuchadrezzar back on a heading towards the planet itself. The sudden pull of gravity was fortuitous because it caused another lighting attack to miss the runabout by what appeared to be a hair’s width. Deen managed to redirect their thrust just in time to avoid a fiery reentry into the atmosphere and instead the ship bounced off the planet’s outer atmosphere and pushed away from its gravity well like a slingshot. Two more bolts of angry, white energy zapped through the space around the Nebuchadrezzar but failed to hit the ship on both occasions, just before it dived back into the apparent safety of the thick crimson-glowing nebula surrounding the rogue planet.

    Leva let go a heavy sigh as if he had held his breath. “That was entirely too close.”

    “Call me crazy but it almost felt as if those things were trying to keep us from getting away from that planet in one piece,” she said as he collected her wits again after the near-death experience. She would have liked to ascribe their miraculous escape to her flying skills but she knew that it had been sheer luck. She wasn’t that good and the ship not that maneuverable.

    “Let’s contemplate that once we get back to Eagle.”

    She agreed with the sentiment whole-heartedly, however another problem seemed to be developing. Her status board was rapidly turning from amber, indicating systems operating at non-optimal condition, to a glowing red, advising of imminent failures.

    Leva saw it too. “What’s happening? Where we hit?”

    Deen shook her head. “No, not according to sensor but all systems are shutting down one by one.”

    “I don’t understand,” he said and desperately began to work his controls in an attempt to stop or at least slow down the cascade failures. “Maybe the energy discharges somehow affected the ship by their proximity.”

    “I can’t see how,” she said. “None of the systems registered any kind of spikes. No, I think this may be unrelated.”

    “Then why are our systems shutting down?”

    She had no idea. “Can you determine the source?”

    “It looks like the first system to fail was…” he stopped and looked at her. “The thruster control module.”

    Her eyes grew a little wider. “Was it faulty?”

    “I don’t think so. At least there was no sign of a malfunction. And even if that’s the case, why would it affect all other systems?”

    The lights dimmed at first before they completely went out. The hum of the engines went next. Then every single console shut down and the runabout began to drift.

    “I don’t think we’re going to get answers to any of that soon,” she said. “We’re dead in the water.”

    “Without life support we only have maybe eight to ten hours of breathable air left.”

    She left her seat and headed for one of the aft stations. “I wouldn’t worry about that. We’ll freeze to death much sooner than that.”

    He looked after her. “That’s what I love about you, Dee. You’re an eternal optimist.”

    She offered him one of her trademark smiles. “Somebody has to be,” she said and then removed a hatch underneath the console. “Also, before it gets to any of that, I was hoping we could try and get communications working again.”

    After a couple of minutes of working on the innards of the runabout, Leva’s console came back to life. It flickered noticeably and remained dimmer than when it operated normally but at least it was operational.

    “You did it,” he said and began to work.

    She stood with a satisfied smile and walked over to him. Her sense of accomplishment quickly waned when she noticed his frustrated frown.

    “Damn, not enough power to send a message. Best I can do is a low frequency pulse. But in this soup, by the time it gets to Eagle, it be nothing more than static.”

    She considered that for a moment. “Then we have to make sure that they’ll be able to recognize whatever we send.”

    “Easier said than done. We have only one shot at this. After that we’re out of power.”

    She nodded. “Okay, let’s think about this. We can’t send clear text or a recognizable voice message. What does that leave us?”

    “We could try a series of tones. If we’re lucky they might receive those.”

    Deen smirked again. “I think I know just the thing.”
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - II -​

    Owens looked down at this desk and the glass of tonic water on top of it, the clear liquid making small waves from the vibrations caused by the ongoing and still unidentified attacks against his ship.

    The frequency and more importantly the intensity had significantly reduced since Eagle had set course for the periphery of the nebula, giving further credence to the theory that whoever was behind the attack, wanted them to head into that direction.

    The implications of being herded to a specific location concerned him, but not as much as staying in one place and slowly being picked to death by an unknown enemy.

    He looked up at the other two people in his ready room. Commander Star and Doctor Katanga.

    The latter didn’t look particularly comfortable at the intermittent rumbles which were shaking the ship, evidence that the veteran physician hadn’t been assigned to starship duty in quite some time.

    “So, Doctor, what have you learned?”

    He didn’t respond right away, instead he steadied himself against the bulkhead he was standing close to while the ship trembled once more. “Uh … well … the good news is that I was able to determine that whatever has affected Lieutenant Culsten, Katherine Smith and Louise Hopkins has also affected you.”

    “Not sure how any of that is good news,” said Owens. “Something or someone is controlling our crew. And you are saying I was affected as well. However, if you remember I didn’t try to blow up the ship.”

    “Not as far as we know, no.”

    The captain didn’t see the humor.

    Star stood forward before he could focus his ire on Katanga. “My theory is that whatever took hold of you and the others, started with you first. You were the first reported incident of this phenomenon.”

    “That makes sense,” he said. “But we still don’t know who, what or why.”

    “I’d be willing to go on a limb here and guess it is somehow related to these blasted…” Katanga stopped himself when the deck plates under his feet moved again, “with these … attacks. Whatever the hell they are.”

    Michael stood and walked towards the viewport as if he could somehow gleam the enemy, which had eluded their sensors, with the naked eye. He gave up after just a few seconds and turned back to the others. “What do we know so far? I was affected somehow but we don’t know to what end. Culsten tried to move the ship. Smith nearly caused the shields to fail and Hopkins came fairly close to destroying the entire ship.”

    “And now we’re seemingly headed towards a certain point in the nebula.”

    “A certain point or out of it entirely?” asked the doctor.

    Star and Owens glanced his way.

    “You said it yourself. Culsten tried to move the ship against our will. Was he trying to get us out of it? Because isn’t that where we are headed now?”

    Star considered that for a moment. “And if the shields had failed, we would have been forced to leave. Not to mention that Hopkins’ actions would have caused us to disappear quite permanently.”

    “Something wants us out of the nebula.” Owens said what his officers were already thinking. “But why?”

    The Trill looked towards her old friend. “Eli, have you been able to gleam anything else from your scans. Anything at all that could give us an idea who may have been behind taking over and controlling crewmembers?”

    “Well, I did detected lower than normal serotonin levels in all cases. Nothing serious but it was what made me make the connection initially. That led me to find other brain wave irregularities which were so subtle, they did not show up on normal scans. But they could indicate some sort of intelligence, suppressing the victim’s brain wave activity temporarily.”

    “An intelligence?” said Star. “Perhaps we’re not dealing with a conventional enemy at all.”

    “Or an enemy for that matter,” said Katanga.

    “Whatever it is,” said the captain, “it has already attempted to destroy us once before and I’d rather not give it another chance. We’ll have to treat it as a hostile force for now.”

    “That’s so very typically militaristic of you, Captain,” said Katanga who still refused to wear his uniform jacket over his blue medical shirt.

    Star shot Katanga a dark look.

    “In case you hadn’t noticed, Doctor,” Owens said frostily, “we’ve been fighting a war over the last fourteen months. So you’ll forgive me if I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to attacks on my ship.”

    The doctor raised a hand. “The safety of this ship and crew is paramount, I’m well aware of that. I’m just saying that we should keep an open mind here.”

    Before Owens could respond, Lieutenant Stanmore’s voice sounded over the intercom. “Bridge to Captain Owens.”

    Michael looked towards the doors leading to the bridge. “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

    “Sir, we’re picking up some sort of signal.”

    “We’ll be right there,” Owens said and already headed for the doors, his two senior officers close behind.

    Stanmore turned to them as soon as they emerged from the ready room. “It may be nothing at all, sir,” he said a little contritely. “It doesn’t seem to contain any kind of message and could be nothing more than background interference but it only showed up a minute ago.”

    “Put it on speakers,” said Owens as he walked over to his chair and took a seat.

    What they heard next was nothing more than static. It lasted perhaps five seconds before it cut out again.

    “That wasn’t much at all,” said Katanga.

    “It’s too random to be background radiation, too precise in length,” said the first officer and looked at the doctor. “Could it be that intelligence you were talking about? Could they be trying to communicate?”

    But Katanga shrugged, clearly out of his element.

    “Play it again,” said Owens. “And run it through the computer. Get sciences on it, see if they can detect a pattern.”

    Star, who had taken a seat next to Owens, leaned over to him. “That could take awhile. Especially without Xylion on board,” she whispered.

    He nodded before he listened to the static-laden signal again.

    “Captain, I believe I can detect a certain mathematical logic within the signal.”

    Both Owens and Star stood to turn and look at the Vulcan tactical officer Lieutenant Trinik who stood at Leva’s usual post. He wasn’t looking at his instruments but instead was concentrating on the nonsensical sounds coming over the speakers.

    “Thank God for Vulcan ears,” said Katanga.

    Trinik played the signal one more time and then looked at his captain with a slight nod. “I am certain of it, sir.”

    “Good work,” he said and turned to operations. “Mister Stanmore, see if you can highlight those qualities and suppress the static.”

    He went to work immediately. After he played it again, the sound had changed significantly. The static was much less prevalent and Owens could detect something else. A tone of some kind and it seemed almost melodious.

    “Is that … music?” said Katanga.

    Star nodded. “Yes. And I’ve heard it before. Keep playing it.”

    The signal repeated in a loop and the more Owens heard the clearer it seemed to become in his mind.

    “Come unto these yellow sands, and then take hands,” Star said after a moment and then whipped around to look at the captain.

    He smirked as he continued. “Curtsied when you have and kissed the wild waves whist.”

    “Is that Shakespeare?” Katanga said, clearly confused at hearing this within a nebula.

    “It’s Deen,” said Star.

    Owens took a couple of steps towards Stanmore’s station. “Can you get a fix on the source of the signal, Lieutenant?”

    “Not with complete accuracy, no. But I have a general direction,” he said and then turned towards the captain. “It is coming from deeper within the nebula.”

    “They’re in trouble,” said Star.

    Owens nodded. “If they’re being attacked in a similar manner, the runabout’s shields may not protect them as long as ours have.”

    “But if we turn around now, we may not be able to make it ourselves.”

    Katanga glared at Star. “We have to try. We’re not going to leave our people behind.”

    Michael Owens took his seat and tugged down on his uniform jacket. “Agreed. Helm, set course towards the source of the signal. Best speed. Tactical, I need maximum power to shields. Get it from wherever you need to but keep them up. We need to make it to the runabout with enough time to spare to allow for our own escape.”
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - III -​

    “Food production could be increased by at least 33% if we installed a more efficient irrigation scheme and created additional arable fields on the western and eastern ridges,” Xylion said as he surveyed some of the land near the settlement while reviewing a padd.

    “You are probably correct,” said Tela who stayed close by his side and had in fact hardly even ventured more than a few meters from him since he had set out to inspect the settlement in greater detail. “But don’t you think this can wait? You have not even spent an entire day here yet and you are already looking at ways to improve things. Let me show to your new accommodation. Let me help you settle in before you commit yourself to work.”

    He considered her curiously. “There is a great amount of work to be done in order to ensure the settlement remains viable.”

    The young Vulcan nodded. “Of course. And I have no doubt that you have many ideas to ensure it will. But we have survived here for twenty-three years. I am certain waiting a few days to make improvements will have no ill-effects.”

    “I disagree,” he said. “We are already aware of elements within this settlement which are not only behaving illogically but destructively. It is imperative that we implement changes swiftly for the well-being of the settlement and its residents.”

    “You speak of the attack on your former crewmember.”


    She looked off into the distance for a moment, into the general direction where until this morning the Starfleet runabout had been stranded. “They are gone, Xylion. And with them the factors which most likely have contributed to that unfortunate incident.”

    “Regardless of the motivation for the attack, I am convinced that it reveals an inherent instability within this colony which could be a symptom of a much more dangerous underlying trend.”

    “You really believe we might revert back to our more basic and violent nature?”

    He offered a minuscule nod. “We should not rule out the possibility that some colonists may de-evolve in such a manner. But I need to carry out further research before I can be entirely certain of the root causes and if they truly present a significant danger. The sooner I can do this, the better chance the colony has for survival.”

    She nodded slowly without looking at him directly.

    “I also still wish to locate the person or persons responsible for the attack on Ensign Srena.”

    This caused her to focus back on him. “For what purpose?”

    “Those actions were criminal. The guilty parties must be found. A society, even one as small as this, must have a functioning criminal justice system in order to maintain order. And if the individuals responsible require medial attention, it is even more imperative that they are located. It will also assist my research to question the perpetrators and learn the full scope of their motivations.”

    “I understand.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow, not missing her subtle reservations. “Tela, if you recall it was your suggestion which prompted me to consider this matter in the first place. You were the one to mention the possibility that elements of the settlement were no longer following Surak’s teachings. It was you who feared what this might mean for the future of the settlement.”

    She nodded, almost absent mindedly as she kept her gaze far away.

    “I trust that you did not raise those possibilities simply as a strategy to convince me to stay here.”

    At that she quickly glanced back on him. “Of course not.”

    Xylion’s face remained hard. Neutral to most observers but those who knew him well may have been able to detect the barest hint of skepticism around his eyes.

    “I meant what I said. I truly did. When I was a child I read about pre-Surak Vulcans. About the manner in which they lived and nearly destroyed each other before they turned towards logic. I care for this settlement and my people. I do not wish for the same fate to befall them here.” When Xylion didn’t speak and instead simply continued to consider her, she continued. “But you can also not deny a certain … attraction between the two of us. Surely. We are Vulcan of course but we also love, do we not? And we consume those notions.”

    Another raised eyebrow his sole response.

    She took a small step closer to him and then looking for his hand which she took in hers with little resistance. “Isn’t it also logical that this settlement cannot survive without continued procreation?” she said, looking deep into his eyes.

    “Vulcan procreation is achieved through the pon farr and takes place only once every seven years. Neither of us is currently experiencing that stage.”

    Tela moved close still so that their bodies were mere inches apart now. “But there are exceptions to this, are there not? In cases such as this where reproduction is essential to survival.”

    “Yes. However your logical is flawed. As you have pointed out moments ago, the immediate survival of the settlement is not yet at stake,” he said and took a step backwards.

    Her lips nearly formed a smile. “But you have not denied my assertion regarding the attraction that exists between us.”

    “Tela,” he began, sounding much more softly than usual. “You are still very young and as you have correctly observed, I have only just joined your community. Vulcan mating rituals can take many years to develop. I recommend patience in this matter.”

    “I do not wish to be patient,” she said, almost pouting now.

    “Consider it my first lesson on understanding Vulcan ways.”

    The frown on her beautiful young face was difficult to miss. Then she turned suddenly, looking back towards the settlement. “My father has assembled the rest of the colony. We should go and meet them,” she said and headed off.

    Xylion wasn’t entirely certain how she had been able to determine this, he had heard no announcement or signal to that effect. He followed her nevertheless.
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - IV -​

    Over the years commanding his ship, Michael Owens had gotten to know it well enough to be able to read it by its feel, by the way the deck plates rattled under his feet and by the manner in which the bulkheads vibrated around him. He had learned to know how his ship was doing by the sounds it made, the hums and groans of the superstructure usually gave him a good idea of the status of the starship. And he knew it was hurting.

    The flashing red alert beacons and the constant jolting as Eagle dove deeper into the nebula were steady reminders but they didn’t tell the entire story. Something was out there to destroy the Starfleet vessel and with every kilometer, the ship was coming closer to that fate.

    Owens had to force himself from grinding his teeth together as he felt another angry jolt through the cushion of his command seat. “How much longer?”

    Stanmore at ops responded. “We are no longer detecting the signal but judging from its last transmission, we should be getting into visual range any moment now.”

    “On screen,” said Commander Star who, perhaps slightly unwisely, remained on her feet between her chair next to Owens’ and the forward stations. So far she was doing an admirable job of keeping her balance.

    The captain shook his head when all he could spot on the screen was the nebula itself.

    “Is it just me or does this place look a lot more unwelcoming than it used to?” said Ensign Aliris who was currently in charge of piloting the ship.

    Owens had to agree with the young Risian woman. What had not too long ago appeared like a marvelous natural phenomenon, dazzling with its wide variety of color and light had somehow become an angry, throbbing mass, apparently determined to put and end to his ship and crew. And yet the nebula hadn’t really changed in appearance, it just felt as if it had decided to put all its splendor to one single, destructive goal.

    “I certainly vote to cut our little excursion short at our earliest convenience,” said Katanga. The doctor was hanging on tightly to his chair to the left of the captain. “This place seems to have lost a lot of its charm recently.”

    “Wait, what is that,” Star said, took a step closer to the main screen and pointed at an area in the lower left quadrant. “Enhance grid gamma-six.”

    Stanmore had the requested section highlighted with little delay and then expanded to fill the screen.

    Owens smirked when he spotted the familiar hull configuration of a Starfleet Danube-class runabout.

    The operations officer tapped a few more panels until the small vessel almost filled the screen. “It’s the Nebuchadrezzar,” he said, sounding noticeably relieved.

    “She appears to be in trouble,” said Star, noticing her unusual angle and apparent lack of proper forward momentum.

    Stanmore confirmed. “She’s adrift.”

    “Hail her.”

    Lieutenant Trinik carried out the order. “No response, sir. The vessel appears to have taken significant damage consistent with an emergency landing.”

    “A landing?” Katanga said, befuddled. “Where would it have landed?”

    “Questions for later,” said Owens. “Helm, bring us in closer.”

    “Aye, sir,” said Aliris.

    “Scan for life signs,” said the first officer, beating the captain to the exact same order by less than a second.

    “There are three life signs,” said Katanga who was using a console positioned within arm’s length of his chair. “One is very weak and will require immediate medical attention.”

    “Doctor, prepare—“

    “Already on my way,” the physician said before Owens could even complete the order and was on his feet, talking to his staff in sickbay before he had even reached the turbolift doors.

    Under different circumstances Michael would have been annoyed by Katanga’s tendency to cut him off in mid-sentence but right now he appreciated the man’s dedication to his craft. He focused back on the image of the battered and bruised ship on the screen, unable to hide the concern for his crewmembers on board and fully aware that the away team had numbered four souls instead of the three they’d been able to detect. He couldn’t help but fear the worst.

    Star had moved behind Stanmore, holding on to the back of his chair to keep her balance. “Lieutenant, can you attempt to send a comm. signal on the same frequency as the one on which they send their distress signal? That way, perhaps we can talk to them.”

    The young officer needed a moment to understand and then nodded. “Theoretically that should be possible,” he said. “That frequency was not designed to handle audio-visual communications but if I boost the power to our transmitter it should be possible.”

    “Do it,” she said.

    In the meantime Owens turned to his tactical officer. “Can we beam the life-signs directly to sickbay?” he asked but already suspecting the answer was not going to be encouraging. As if to stress the complications of their situation, the ship jolted again from another attack, reminding him and the rest of the crew that the invisible assault which had intensified since they had pushed deeper into Aphrodite’s Cloud had no intentions to let up any time soon.

    “We are not able to get a transporter lock through the interference generated by the nebula’s radiation. I would also not recommend to lower the shields at this time,” the Vulcan replied efficiently. “Severe damage to the outer hull would be a likely result.”

    Stanmore turned from his station to glance at Star and then Owens. “Channel open, sir.”

    Eagle to Nebuchadrezzar, do you read?” the captain said.

    There was no reply.

    “Boost power to the receiver,” ordered the first officer.

    Stanmore did as he was told. “Done. Any more and we blow it out.”

    “This is Owens, Nebuchadrezzar, please respond?”

    The sound of static was all he got in return.

    Nebuchadrezzar, say again.”

    Another burst of static but this time there was something more. A voice buried deep within the electronic white noise was trying to push through. After a moment it took on a familiar and very pleasant female voice. “I see you got my … message.”

    Owens smirked. He felt a sense of immense relief to hear DeMara’s voice and then immediately berated himself for his own feelings. His close friend was alive and well, it appeared, but clearly the same could not be said for all the members of the away team. “Admittedly we don’t get many communiqués in song format so it took us a moment to figure it out.”

    “That’s a real shame. I always thought it be a much better universe if people broke out in song more often.”

    Michael stood. “I’ll make sure to bring it up with the Dominion next time I get the chance. What’s your status, Lieutenant?”

    “Ensign Srena has been injured and requires immediate medical attention. I don’t suppose you can lock on to her and beam her straight to sickbay?”

    “Not an option while we’re in this nebula, I’m afraid.”

    “Shuttle bay, then?” Deen said. “But you need to bring us in, we’ve lost the ability to maneuver.”

    The captain glanced at the tactical officer. “Can we lower shields long enough to bring in the runabout?”

    “It is not a recommended procedure given our circumstances,” he said.

    Michael frowned and just for a short moment had the urge to snap at the junior lieutenant and to let him know that he didn’t care about procedures while the life of one of his crew was in serious danger. He quickly remembered that the young man was simply doing his job, albeit a little too pragmatically. Even for a Vulcan.

    “Sir,” said So’Dan Leva over the comlink. “It may be possible for you to create a second shield envelope around the runabout then drop the inner shields and bring us in.”

    Owens nodded, immediately being reminded why the half-Romulan was the ship’s senior tactical officer. He glanced towards Star and she quickly headed towards the tactical station to assist the Vulcan officer there.

    “That’s what we’ll do, Commander. Stand ready,” said the captain and then looked at the Risian at helm. “Ensign, bring us in range and then align us with the runabout.”

    “Aye, sir,” she said quickly and went to work.

    Owens took his seat again while the crew around him prepared the ship to take the runabout on board under less than optimal conditions. A quick glance at the status displays embedded in the armrests of his chair were not painting heartening picture. Shields were already below sixty percent power and the double envelope would only drain them even quicker. It was a risky move, he understood, but it was their only option. “Divert auxiliary power to structural integrity,” he said and then looked at Stanmore acknowledging the order and making it happen.

    “We’re ready, sir,” said Star from the tactical board behind him. “We will be particularly vulnerable during the maneuver however and we are likely to take additional damage.”

    He nodded and then activated a panel on his armrest console. “Bridge to all hands, brace yourselves,” he said and then looked up and toward Star, giving her the nod to proceed.

    “Engaging secondary shield envelope,” said the tactical officer.

    “Activating tractor beam,” this from Stanmore.

    On the screen an azure energy beam took hold of the drifting runabout and began to pull her towards Eagle.

    “Lowering main shields,” said Star.

    And as if on cue, the ship was immediately gripped by a shockwave and everyone on the bridge had to hold on for dear life as their unknown assailants had somehow detected their weakening prey and taken full advantage.

    “Report” Owens said.

    “Outer shields down to twelve percent. Hull damage to deck seven, eight and nine.”

    “Evacuate the affected areas and initiate radiation protocols,” Owens said even as he typed commands into his armrest console. “Status of the Nebuchadrezzar?”

    “The attack seems to have been focused on us, sir,” said Star. “Shuttle bay doors are opening.”

    “Small miracles,” he said. “Reel her in.”
    On the screen the runabout disappeared as it was being pulled passed the visual pickup angle of the sensors.

    Another jolt followed the first, this one even more violent. The helm station erupted in sparks and Aliris went flying out of her chair with a grunt.

    “The outer shield envelope has collapsed,” said Star urgently.

    “Hull breach on deck seven, section nine. Emergency force-fields are in place,” the Vulcan added, keeping his voice much more neutral.

    Owens’ first instinct was to check on the downed helmsman but as much as he wanted to, she simply wasn’t a priority at the moment. With no shields to protect the ship and crew, everybody was at grave risk now. Not to mention that by opening the main shuttle bay doors, the very innards of Eagle now lay vulnerable and exposed. “Whatever it takes, bring main shields back online.”

    Stanmore was shaking his head as his hands were furiously racing over his console. “We cannot keep the tractor beam and the shields running at the same time.”

    Owens looked at the two officers behind him. “How much longer until we have the runabout?”

    “About thirty seconds,” Star said.

    In other words a lifetime under current conditions. All it took was a lucky shot to their vulnerable shuttle bay to cause catastrophic damage to the ship. “Cut the beam, bring them in under their own momentum and give me back my shields.”

    “Tractor beam disabled,” said Stanmore.

    “Shields coming up,” said Star.

    That’s when Owens saw the mass of pulsating light on the corner of the main view screen. It looked just like those little specks of colorful light they had witnessed in this nebula ever since they had arrived except that this one was at least three to four times larger than anything he had seen before. And instead of shining in soothing colorful lights, this one was pulsating angrily in a glaring red. It was on a collision course with his ship.

    “Brace for impact,” he said.

    It did him little good.

    The thing hit with a bright flash and for a moment Michael felt as if time itself had slowed. His first thought was that the artificial gravity had failed, as he suddenly felt weightless. It lasted for but a heartbeat before he was reminded that gravity was working all too well, slamming him onto the floor with unforgiving force.

    * * *​

    “They’ve cut the tractor beam,” said Deen unable to keep a slight hint of concern out of her voice after their tether to Eagle had been severed. “We’re moving on momentum only.”

    Leva nodded, almost as if he had expected this. “They are having trouble keeping the shields up. And whatever is going after the ship has apparently noticed the weakness. Transfer all power we’ve got left to thrusters and inertial dampers, including life support.”

    The Tenarian went to work but a grimace gave proof that she wasn’t having much success. “There isn’t much.”

    Leva looked up to see the wide-open shuttle bay doors. But they were coming in much too fast with little to no control. At this speed there was a good chance the already weakened runabout hull would split open upon impact like an egg, most likely killing everybody on board. “We don’t need much. Just a couple of thruster burst to slow us down.”

    “I can give you one.”

    “I’ll take it. Dump the warp core, all anti-matter and fuel,” said the half-Romulan and then looked back up from his controls to the viewport. The shuttle bay had been cleared of all equipment and personnel as a preventive measure but with all power diverted to protecting the ship from an external attack, the systems usually designed to prevent a hard landing and safeguard the runabout did not appear fully functioning.

    “Oh, this is not good.”

    It took him a moment to realize that Deen wasn’t talking about their imminent crash landing but about events taking place outside in the nebula. Leva had only a few seconds to register that some sort of energy was building up just a few short kilometers from their position, preparing for a devastating strike against Eagle. And that it was coming right for them.

    He had planned to use what little he had left for the thrusters to slow their approach enough to not break up the runabout on impact. Things had changed in a heartbeat as a seemingly much more urgent threat had emerged. Without giving it more thought than necessary he engaged the thrusters to carry out an emergency evasive maneuver.

    The runabout swerved sharply to avoid the incoming energy discharge.

    Leva’s fingers turned white as he pushed down hard on the control panels, trying to force the runabout back towards the waiting shuttle bay.

    “Brace!” he shouted when he realized that they were coming in on an entirely wrong angle, now moving sideways towards their landing coordinates.

    Deen and Leva lowered their heads and covered them with their arms just before they made contact.

    The impact was bone jarring and both went flying out of their seats. The screech of metal against metal was nearly unbearable as the runabout appeared to try and drive itself into the shuttle bay deck.

    “Hold on!” Leva cried as he realized that their momentum would not only push the ship across the entire length of the bay, it would not remain upright for long.

    A hard jolt and the screaming sound of metal rendered into scrap was the first sign that the hull had been compromised. The second was Nebuchadrezzar’s starboard warp nacelle hitting the viewports, cracking them thoroughly, before it bounced off the frame and went flying out towards space.

    Then the runabout flipped to its side and both Leva and Deen hung on for dear life when the artificial gravity net was unable to compensate for the ship flipping over and rolling across the bay, shedding hull plates and other equipment as it went.

    It flipped back right side up just in time for its nose to smash into the rear bulkhead, causing both officers to collide painfully with the forward control console of the cockpit.

    An eerie quite settled across the shuttle bay.

    “We need to stop landing this way,” said Deen in-between coughs.

    Leva couldn’t help but laugh, even though his entire body punished him for this sudden onset of humor.

    Then the door to the cockpit opened and a team of medical personnel streamed inside, Elijah Katanga leading the charge.

    The African doctor had quickly determined that Leva had been injured more severely and knelt at his side in an instant. “You have a broken arm and multiple fractured ribs but overall I’d say you got lucky.”

    Nurse Leeta was tending to Deen. “Mostly bruises as far as I can tell, Lieutenant,” she said and smiled at the Tenarian.

    But Deen shook her head. “It’s not me,” she said and tried to stand even though the nurse was doing her best to discourage her from moving at all. Deen managed to get on her feet regardless and began to head towards the exit.

    “Where are you going?” Leeta said.

    “Ensign Srena,” she said over her shoulder. “Quickly, she needs urgent medical attention.”

    Katanga left his medics to care for Leva and followed Deen and Leeta towards the back.

    The Tenarian was glad that they’d had the foresight of strapping the injured ensign tightly to her bunk where she had remained securely when they arrived in the aft compartment.

    Leeta referred to her medical tricorder. “Reading multiple internal injuries as well as a subdural hematoma. Her heart-rate is dangerously unstable.”

    Katanga had already tapped his combadge. “Sickbay, prep an immediate surgical bay for high priority patient with a subdural hematoma. Prepare for emergency transport.”

    “Yes, Doctor, right away.”

    That’s when Srena’s blue eyelids fluttered opened. “Dee?”

    “Doctor, she’s coming out of the coma,” Leeta said urgently.

    Deen was at her side in an instance. “It’s alright, Srena, you’re back on Eagle. You’re going to be fine now, just rest.”

    “Dee … the nebula…”

    “Don’t try to talk, you’re going to be alright.”

    Leeta pushed Deen away gently to get closer to the patient and inject her with a hypospray, causing the Andorian’s eyelids to slowly close again. “She’s ready for transport, Doctor.”

    Katanga nodded. “Transporter room, three to beam directly to sickbay.”

    “Energizing,” responded the voice of the transporter operator.

    “Alive,” Srena mumbled just before she, along with Leeta and Katanga dematerialized in a stream of azure light.