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Fanfic: Federation Space

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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,410 Arc User
    Hmmm... it's looking to be a little more involved than I'd thought. Good. :smile:
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Red Herring is on the menu tonight!

    ***

    Lee met the Magistrate and his delegation at the airlock used by the moon shuttle.

    "Welcome to the Interstellar Trade Commission, Magistrate Mar'ne'nak. As you know, I am Marshal Lee. We are currently conducting witness interviews, and we will be happy to share with you the records of all interviews undertaken so far. I'm currently arranging seating for you to observe the questioning..."

    "I object to the entire proceeding!" The magistrate said in a very aggressive tone of voice. "This is my jurisdiction, and I want you off the case immediately, I want to take custody of the prisoners, and what I want most of all is to speak to the Deputy Commissioner about here allowing you in here in the first place."

    "Ah, then you have an order from the Fifth Appellate Court assigning the case to you?" Lee asked mildly.

    "There hasn't been time for that, and you know it!"

    "Odd. I was able to secure a conversation with Judge Aarasi of the 591st Judicial District Court last night and she assured me that the case was well within her jurisdiction. Further, I was instructed by her to continue my investigations. Magistrate, I am not here to cause you troubles or embarrassment, I am here to perform a job for which I am trained and equipped. If at a later time it is deemed that this case is more properly handled by your courts, you will have had the benefit of my investigation to assist you in holding the guilty parties to account.

    "You lose nothing by allowing me to proceed, and potentially gain from my investment of resources in the investigation. Now, if that's settled for now, let me show you to the room where witnesses are being interviewed."

    "I want to see the prisoners! I've been informed that you're letting them wander around on their own."

    "An inaccurate description of the situation. However, if you wish, follow me."

    Lee ignored the entourage of eight armed D'jul as he escorted the Magistrate to the holding area. Crewman Voght was on duty when they arrived, and scanned the Magistrate before allowing his entry.

    "What do you mean disarm?" the Magistrate cried when informed his guards would not be allowed in with weapons.

    "Magistrate, we do not allow armed persons to enter the holding area, with no exceptions," Lee said. "If your guard wishes to disarm themselves they may enter with you. Otherwise, they remain here."

    "I'm adding this to my report on you, Marshal. Believe me, you superiors aren't going to like what I have to say."

    "I'm sure they won't Magistrate. Please decide if you want to enter or not, and with how many of your guards. Meanwhile I have some details to see to. One of which is to determine how many seats you will require in the Interview Room."

    "Just me," the Magistrate said.

    "Very well," Lee said, "And I'll have the recordings of the earlier interviews waiting for you there. Let my crewman know when you're ready to proceed to the Interview Room and she will contact someone to guide you there."

    "You do that," the Magistrate said.

    Lee nodded and left, removing his Starfleet combadge from his pocket as he walked away.

    "Lee to Number One," he said after tapping the gold delta.

    "Mirra here," came the reply.

    "I'd like a little insurance. How are the guest quarters?"

    "Thinking of taking on a passenger sir?"

    "Five passengers, actually."

    ***

    Lee looked around as the observers settled into their seats, the D'jul Magistrate between the Advocate and the Prosecutor, whose aides had been moved to a smaller table to one side. Mason and the Deputy Constable bracketed the door. He hoped everyone was ready.

    "If everyone is ready," Lee said, "I'd like to get on with the last witness interview."

    "I am quite ready," the Saurian advocate said.

    "Get on with it," the Tellarite prosecutor said.

    After a moment the D'Jul magistrate noticed Lee looking at him and said, "Oh, yes, let's ge this farce over with so I can take my prisoners back to stand trial on Car'ad'ak."

    "This is a matter for the Federation Courts," insisted Prosecutor Mose.

    "I insist on..."

    "Please, please!" interrupted Lee. "We can deal with that later. Please allow me to complete my investigation, then I will gladly leave you to decide where the trial is to be held."

    "Yes, let's get this over with," insisted the D'jul Magistrate.

    "Thank you," Lee said. "My next witness is Deputy Commissioner Jalla Harnom."

    Mason opened the door and almost immediately the Deputy Commissioner entered. She was wearing a copy of the D'jul style, a light flowing robe in a swirl of pastel colors, and she had shaved her head, using makeup to simulate the double-line of wide scales the D'jul showed as a central crest.

    "Deputy Commissioner, you look lovely in the D'jul fashion," Lee said with a smile.

    "Thank you," she replied without emotion.

    "I have to inform you that earlier today your Security Chief was in here. Unfortunately he attempted to lie when questioned and he attempted to interfere with the recording equipment. The prosecutor felt there was sufficient cause to place Mister Mahr under arrest. Since those actions may or may no be connected to you, and may or may not implicate you in crimes, I must inform you that you have the right to remain silent, and to seek advice from competent counsel. However, I have not placed you under arrest because I have insufficient evidence to do so at this time."

    "So, you want to threaten me and make me confess?" she asked contemptuously.

    "No. I want to be certain that I do not violate your civil rights. As to the charges the Chief of Security will face, I will not address them here, and leave it to Prosecutor Mose to determine if there is cause to indict you as a co-conspirator or accomplice."

    She sat back glaring at the Marshal, but her poise was ruined by a poorly stifled cough which was followed by a chain of coughing and clearing of her throat.

    When she regained her composure, Lee asked with a tone of concern in his voice, "Have you seen your physician about that cough yet?"

    "No, it's just a cold."

    "How did you get a cold here on a lunar station?"

    "I got it on my vacation."

    "Where did you go on that vacation?"

    "To the Go'ak Glacier."

    "Ah, yes, sightseeing."

    "Skiing, I told you."

    "Yes that's right. You know, I might take up skiing while I'm here. What's the name of the lodge you went to?"

    "Is all this really necessary?" the Deputy Commissioner asked.

    "I'm curious. I've never visited Car'ad'ak before, and I was hoping to get some vacation time in once this unpleasant business is over. Would you recommend the lodge you visited on you ski trip?"

    "No, it's not all that great and I got sick. Had a miserable time."

    "I see." Lee looked up at the Advocate, whose Saurian face revealed nothing. Lee smiled, and said, "No matter I'm sure I could call around."

    "Something else occurred to me. It's probably something I've overlooked, but did you say how long you vacation was?"

    "Two weeks," the Deputy Commissioner said.

    "So, you were gone from here for two weeks? Or were you on Car'ad'ak for two weeks?"

    "Two weeks total," she said.

    "But the Magistrate traveled here from Car'ad'ak in seven days."

    "Five to seven days, sometimes it's shorter depending on the orbit of the moons."

    "Ah, so you had as much as four days of skiing, then."

    "Two."

    "Okay. I just wanted to be certain you hadn't traveled by shuttlecraft or something."

    "The D'jul prefer to use their own ships."

    "Yes, I see. They prefer to do things themselves rather than rely on outsiders."

    "Essentially, yes."

    "Okay. I'm not entirely clear on the matter of transportation. Aren't the shuttle runs only scheduled every two months?"

    "Usually, but there was a special delivery which required them to send a shuttle early. So I took advantage of it."

    "Ah, okay. I'm curious as to what the special delivery was about?"

    "You'd have to ask the Commissioner."

    "Ah. Inconvenient. Okay, let's move on. Do you recall any discussions of a new school for the Ver'si'ak?"

    "No, I don't."

    "Interesting. Because the first time I spoke to the Hierarch she informed me of the plans she and the Commissioner had been making to establish school. A vocational school, actually."

    "This is the first I've heard of it."

    "Really? I thought as Deputy Commissioner you'd b kept in the loop regarding things the Commissioner felt were important."

    "You may have been deceived by the Ver'si'ak Hierarch."

    "For what purpose?"

    "For the purpose of getting away with murder, perhaps?"

    "Yes, I can see that as a powerful motive to deceive. Okay, then let me ask, who on this station could delete communications and computer files?"

    "Do what?"

    "Delete communications and computer files. You know, alter data files by having them removed from the computer?"

    "I know what that means. I just..."

    "Who could do it?"

    "Well, whoever generated the files could."

    "So, if I created a file, I could delete it?"

    "Yes."

    "Could I delete a file you created?"

    "No. I guess only someone with higher access could do that."

    "So, who could delete the files of others in the system?"

    "Any department head, theoretically."

    "And who could delete files in the Comm System?"

    "The Communications Director."

    "And no one else?"

    "The Commissioner, probably."

    "But not you? Not the Deputy Commissioner?"

    "I suppose theoretically I could, but it's never occurred to me to try."

    "Would it interest you to learn that we discovered a number of communications files and computer files which had been deleted?"

    "Probably by the people who created them. You know how it is, you start something, figure out a better way to do it, and delete the first try."

    "But only two or three people could delete communications files." Lee paused and paced a bit as if thinking.

    "You know," he said, stopping and turning to the Deputy Commissioner, "We commonly think of deleted files as gone forever, but they're really not. They still exist in the memory of the computer system. But data strings have addresses. Little hooks, so to speak, that can be caught by the inquiry data string, and pulled up for the user. Deleting a file actually only deletes the hook, but a good technician can go into a computer memory bank and find these hookless strings. Were you aware of this?"

    "No...ah..." she coughed again, for almost a minute before she regained her composure.

    "If you would like, I have a human doctor on my staff who could help you with that cough."

    "I'm fine, thanks," she said as she recovered her breath.

    "I only offer because you appear to have an aversion to Doctor Fe'pa'dak."

    "I don't have an aversion to him," he said, clearing her throat again.

    "Really? When was the last time you saw him?"

    "I guess the night of the murder."

    "You were sick then?"

    "Yes, I came back from my trip with a cold."

    "Ah. He seemed pretty insistent that no one on the station was ill. He must have overlooked your cough then."

    "I suppose so."

    "Were you at the party? The Festival?"

    "Yes."

    "Was the Doctor?"

    "I guess so."

    "And he overlooked your illness then as well?"

    "It appears so."

    "I'm sorry to dwell on this, Deputy Commissioner. Illness makes me nervous, and I'm afraid I might catch the bug you have. In fact, I'm surprised none of the other members of the commission have contracted your cold."

    "Lucky me."

    "Gallows humor! That's the spirit, Deputy Commissioner!" He resumed his pacing.

    "Okay, we were discussing the deleted files. We managed to reconstruct all but two of the missing communications files: they were among the files deleted from the commissioner's computer. It was interesting to note that all of the recovered files have something in common. Every one of them is either a communication with the Hierarch or a research inquiry, about mining."

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Ben sat on a bench slowly munching replicated pork rinds from a replicated cellulose bag. Chewing fat was a good thing to do. He wished he was chewing fat with his friends, but he knew what they wanted him to do. He had been given a P.A.D.D. with his instructions: a cartoonish image of Crewman Voght was being swarmed by the small pink people, and a cartoonish version of himself shot them with a pistol. He even knew to not shoot the pink people who did not have a weapon. He could see the cartoon Ben avoiding them.

    But there was no one attacking Crewman Voght. As he chewed his pork rinds he wondered why Crewman Voght thought she was his mother. She acted like his mother, but his mother was not so thin, and she was not blue. Crewman Voght wanted babies, but Ben was not a baby. Ben's sister had babies. Soon he would be with them.

    The first plasma bolt caught him by surprise. The screaming pink people ran away, but some ran toward Crewman Voght. His pork rinds scattered as he dropped the bag and drew his pistol. From thirty meters he fired and fired again, and the little people rushing Crewman Voght fell.

    He saw her jump and a force field formed in front of her blocking the weapons fire from the little people, but they were rushing. From the side and above an orange lance struck Crewman Voght on the shoulder and she fell. He saw a human with a rifle on the balcony above the open area. He fired and the man fell on the balcony, his rifle falling down to break on the floor.

    Ben saw others with rifles on the balcony as he walked toward his fallen friend, firing his pistol. He was unaware of it, but he was voicing the cry of warning and despair his people had used before any of them even conceived of a verbal language. It was a sound certain to attract others to help. He saw Crewman Brock arrive and then he and Crewman Voght were transported away.

    ***

    Voght was waiting. The Skipper suspected an attempt to seize the prisoners, and had taken steps to stop them if they did. The Skipper knew about people. If he suspected, Voght was certain he was right.

    When the attack came she was ready. She jumped on the foot pedal which activated the cover shield, and hit her com-badge at the same time, calling, "Shaka when AAIEE!"

    The last wasn't the code, it was her reaction to the pain she felt when the plasma bolt struck her. As she fell she saw Ben marching across the plaza, out in the open, firing his pistol. And everywhere he fired someone fell.

    She thought she sensed Doc, but then blackness swallowed her. Her last thought was to wonder what was making that strange noise? It sounded like REEEEEEEEEE! REEEEEEEEEE! REEEEEEEEE!

    ***

    Nem'la'dok had her orders. She had surveyed the plaza and the passageway. One guard, easily taken by surprise. Their human accomplices would cover their retreat if necessary, but she intended to accomplish her assignment so rapidly that they would not have to expose themselves. She waited for the appointed time, allowing her troops to spread out a little in the plaza, among the gossiping gathering who wondered what was going on in the assembly that they were calling a 'trial.'

    Justice on the murderers would be done in D'jul court, not in some alien court on a distant world. She was to make certain of that. When the appointed time came she fired the first shot and lead the charge. At that range it was no surprise she missed, but the giant blue alien didn't run for cover as it should have. Instead it jumped, and a force field appeared between them, absorbing their shots!

    Fortunately a guard on the upper balcony shot the blue alien, and she was down. Before her squad reached the end of the corridor a human appeared and then vanished into thin air with the blue alien. "Good, they're gone," she thought as she went around the shield. She turned and saw that five of her team were lying in a trail behind her!

    And there was a giant alien screaming something unintelligible, firing its weapon at her!

    Now the force field protected her from the alien, and she ran down the corridor to secure the prisoners, confident that the human guards would take down the giant. One of her team opened the first door on the right side of the passageway and an orange bolt seared her before the door closed again. She ran to the end of the corridor and opened the last door. It was an empty room!

    The last member of her squad was keeping a steady fire on the door that had killed her teammate when a nightmare filled the end of the passageway and fired its weapon into her. She fell like a discarded doll. Nem'la'dok jumped into the empty room and wished she had a way to vanish like the prisoners and aliens had done.

    When the horror filled the doorway she fired her weapon. The creature looked at the burn it left on his midriff, then roared and leapt, its hand sprouting knives as long as her forearms. When that huge daggered hand grasped her she fainted.

    ***

    Crewman Aktay was asleep when the alarm went off. She jumped out of bed, forgot where her pistol was, found it, and looked out of the door in time to see Doc and Thalys vanish as the little D'jul reached the cover shield. She ducked back into the room and flipped her bed to make a place to hide. With her pistol on the edge of the bed to steady it she aimed at the door and waited.

    Voght was down, but Doc had her. She must have shot someone out there before they got her, though, because even in the soundproofed quarters she could hear the REEE! REEEEE! REEEEE! of someone wounded.

    The door opened and she fired. It was one of the little D'jul, who fell back as the door closed. She waited, listening to the wail of the wounded person. She jumped the bed frame and opened the door, but the doorframe was lashed with an energy bolt. She tried again, but another bolt played on the doorframe. She grinned, thinking she could keep the guy busy for a while this way as she operated the door again.

    The next time she operated the door there was no fire, and she looked into the corridor, saw a lash of light, then heard Chuss roar as he leapt into the room at the end. The keening droned on. Someone needed help. She tried to remember Mason's training sessions. "Secure you six," he would say.

    She stood to the side and opened the door to the room Doc and Mason had used. Nothing fired out. she looked in. Empty.

    Nothing approached the cover shield either, and she could see Ben out there. He was the one making the noise!

    When Chuss came out of the room he had entered she said, "These two rooms are clear, I don't know about the rest! Ben needs me!"

    "Go!" he said, and she did.

    She saw nothing through the force field. The aliens who had been there earlier were all gone and the plaza was empty except for Ben and half-a-dozen fallen D'jul. With an abundance of caution she looked either way as she emerged slowly from the passageway, but nothing threatening appeared. She ran to Ben.

    "Hey! Ben! It's Masha! Ben, look a me!"

    He stopped his keening and looked. Masha took his pistol away, and said, "Ben, Thalys is going to be okay! Doc's got her, okay? She's with Doc!"

    "She is okay." He said the words, but looked doubtful. Masha hoped she wasn't lying to him. She tapped his com-badge and said, "Aktay to Brock!"

    "Go ahead," Doc's voice said.

    "Ben needs to see Thalys now!"

    "Is he wounded?"

    "No! He's in a panic!"

    The Lieutenant interrupted, "Is anyone else wounded?"

    "Only the aliens, and some guards, I think."

    "Sibley, beam Ben back. Brock, I want you out there with the injured," the Lieutenant said.

    Ben transported away a second later, and what seemed an eternity later Doc appeared. Aktay stood watch as he began to check over the fallen and Chuss carried the unconscious bodies back into the prison area.

    ***

    "One of the most difficult things a commander can do, "Lee was saying to the observers, "Is to wait while his plans unfold, knowing that others lives depend on his attention to detail."

    "You knew this was going to happen?" asked the Tellarite. "Why didn't you stop it?"

    "Because suspecting a thing is likely is not the same as having probable cause to make an arrest."

    "And you wanted to make the arrest?"

    "No, Advocate. I wanted with all my heart to be wrong."

    "It's been quiet for five minutes now," said the advocate's aide.

    "We'll get a report soon. I'm as impatient as you are," Lee confided. "Shall we continue with the interview while we wait?"

    "Might as well," Prosecutor Mose said.

    "I agree," said Advocate Selss.

    "How can you people sit there while others may be dying?"

    "Magistrate, whether you believe it or not, I am doing my job right now. My job is to defend the persons of the Federation Court, here embodied by these two gentlebeings and their aides. If I were to abandon them now to run off after vigilantes, I would be derelict in my duty. Rest assured, if any hostile beings attempt to enter this chamber, I will deal with them."

    The Magistrate appeared to want to say something, but he saw the smiling face of Crewman Mason. "I am surrounded by the insane!" he thought. Leaning back in his chair he sighed and waved them to continue their show. It was all a waste of time anyway, the prisoners by now were aboard his ship and headed back to Car'ad'ak.

    Before Lee could resume his questioning he was interrupted again, this time by the illumination of the holoprojector. Lieutenant Mirra was there in the room with them.

    "My apologies for the interruption, sir," she said.

    "Not at all, Lieutenant. Report."

    "Crewman Voght is injured and being treated now. Plasma rifle burn on her neck and shoulder. Doctor Sar says she will be okay with reconstructive surgery. Tell Crewman Mason she's going to be okay."

    "He heard you, Lieutenant," Lee said, turning toward the door. When the Magistrate turned to look his way he saw the eyes of the smiling crewman boring into him and he got the impression of an intense, passionate hate that flowed from the crewman.

    "Continue," Lee said.

    "Eight D'jul prisoners, all stunned by phaser, except one who apparently fainted. Six human prisoners, all phasered. One fell from a balcony and has a broken arm. They are in the holding area now."

    "Have you made a positive identification of any of the prisoners?"

    "Yes. All of them are either members of the squad which accompanied Magistrate Mar'ne'nak or are members of the Mission security forces."

    "Anything else?"

    "A more complete report is being compiled now. I'll let you know when it's ready."

    "Thank you, Number One. Good job to all, and see about a commendation for Crewman Aktay."

    "Aye, sir." She disconnected the signal and vanished from the room.

    "Da Mar'ne'nak, how do you account for the actions of your squad?" Lee asked, turning toward the Magistrate.

    "I didn't... I don't..."

    "I advise you to not answer that question," said the Advocate.

    "I advise you that you are under arrest for attempting to interfere with an investigation of a crime, and that you have the right to remain silent," said the Tellarite. "You have the right to competent counsel, and you have the right to communicate your situation with your family, friends, and associates."

    "You can't do this!" said the Magistrate. "I'm a high ranking official in the government of Car'ad'ak! I'll make you all pay for this!"

    "Please exercise you right to silence, Magistrate, you can only make things worse this way," the Saurian said.

    "Deputy Constable," the Tellarite said, "Please see to it that the Magistrate is able to rejoin his squad, and that they are all granted privacy and a means to arrange for counsel and to communicate their situation to their families."

    "Aye, sir." The Constable approached the D'jul who backed away until he was in a corner.

    "No! No! No! You can't do this!" the Magistrate kept saying.

    "Now there's the question of the Station Guard's involvement," said the Prosecutor.

    "Please, Mister Prosecutor," Lee said. "Before we get to that I'd like to complete the investigation into the death of Commissioner Gau'mre'prek."

    "There's cause to doubt the involvement of the arrested. I don't think we could secure a conviction with the evidence at hand."

    "I'm certain we can obtain a conviction with just a little patience," Lee said.

    "We can?" asked the Advocate.

    "Yes," Lee said. "Deputy Commissioner, we were discussing computer files. I'd like to change tack a bit and ask you, where were you born and raised?"

    "What?"

    "It's in the computer files. It's easy to check if you don't recall."

    "Of course I recall where I was born an raised. It was on Lavour."

    "I see." Lee said. "And how long have you been assigned to the Interstellar Trade Commission for Car'ad'ak?"

    "Almost three years, with an unblemished record, I might add."

    "I'm sure." Lee said. "Now, your Security Chief Mahr. Where was he born and raised?"

    "I don't know."

    "You hired a senior official without performing a background check?"

    "I didn't hire him, the Commissioner did."

    "I find that difficult to believe. Wouldn't the commissioner prefer a D'jul Security Chief?"

    "She wanted someone who was wise to the ways of the aliens who would visit this base."

    "Makes sense, but there is the issue of her not knowing many offworlders, right? Someone had to recommend him, someone had to vouch for him, and someone had to conceal the fact that he had no security experience whatsoever. So, Deputy Commissioner, who, if not you, did all of this?"

    "I advise you to not answer that question," the Advocate said.

    "Okay," Lee said, "Would it surprise you to know he was from Lavour?"

    "I don't think, I mean, why would that matter?"

    "It would surprise me if you didn't know, just based on his accent, his mannerisms, and a host of other social cues which separate us across this wide galaxy."

    The Deputy Commissioner sat silently, watching the Marshal the way a mouse watches a cat pace back and forth in front of its hole.

    "What's the market price on Dilithium Ore these days?" asked Lee.

    "Dilithium ore?"

    "Yes, you know, the stuff that makes Warp Drive possible, the unreplicatable material valued all across the galaxy."

    "I wouldn't know."

    "Perhaps. A crewman on my ship comes from a mining family, and when I asked him his guess was within a few credits of the going rate. But maybe you don't keep up with the prices of commodities, being the Deputy Commissioner of an interstellar trade delegation."

    "I wonder, can you tell me the chief export of Lavour?"

    "Minerals, I guess. They mine a lot there."

    "You were born and raised on a world devoted to mining, and you expect me to believe you don't know your planet's chief export?"

    "What's the chief export of Earth?" she challenged.

    "Educational and research materials, along with cultural artifacts such as music, literature, and other forms of art," Lee replied.

    "When was the last time you were in contact with officials of Lavour Minerals A.G.?"

    "What?"

    "You worked for them three years ago. Four years ago a delegation, at the request of the Federation Ambassador to Carreda, performed a mineralogical survey of Car'ad'ak. They found no useful exports, but did identify several deposits of minerals which might be beneficial for the local economy. Immediately thereafter, they lobbied for a person from their organization to join the new Trade Commission being formed as Car'ad'ak's petition to join the Federation was being applauded by the Federation Council.

    "That position was filled by you. A former mid-level security office clerk. Your first act as Deputy Commissioner was to hire Mister Mahr as Chief of Security. A supercargo on ore freighters operating out of Lavour. Why was a former security officer interested in hiring an ore cargo specialist?"

    "I don't see what you're trying to imply."

    "I'm implying that on the day an official of the Lavour Minerals Company was contacted by the Commissioner who expressed an interest in teaching dilithium ore mining, that same official contacted you, a former employee of his."

    "I never received such a call."

    "No? I have here a subpoena for your communications and computer records, signed by Judge Aarasi. Even if you've deleted your files, as you deleted the Communications Log of the event, we can find it. Just like we found the log of the return call on the Communications Relay."

    "Marshal, did you secure a subpoena to search the relay's data logs?" asked the Advocate.

    "I didn't need one, Advocate. The relay is Starfleet property, and as an officer of Starfleet I am authorized to access communications relays at need."

    "I would challenge that assumption."

    "Berit vs. Starfleet, 2319. Starfleet is authorized to maintain and administer its property, and any data found thereon, as the sole owner of that property."

    "You are acting in your capacity as a Federation Marshal, not as an officer of Starfleet."

    "The data was secured by a Starfleet Communications Officer who forwarded it to me. However, the subpoena I now hold was not obtained with this information, it was obtained due to a pattern of evidence tampering detected while examining the victim's communications and data logs. It would remain valid even were your challenge successful."

    "He's got you there, Selss!" the Prosecutor said.

    "Deputy Commissioner," Lee said, turning to the witness. "Would I find when I exercise this subpoena that you did in fact, discuss the dilithium find on Car'ad'ak? The very dilithium find you were sent here to keep concealed?"

    "I advise you to not answer that question," the Advocate said.

    "Okay, then let's get back to something we discussed earlier. How did you get your cough?"

    "I got it while on vacation."

    "No, you didn't. Try again."

    "I got it," she coughed again as she became agitated, and said nothing when the cough subsided.

    "But you never went on that vacation. We have testimony from the Exhalted of the Monastery that the last human to visit that place left over five months ago. So, where did you go for your vacation?"

    The Deputy Commissioner sat silently.

    "Were you aware that a shipload of children visited the Warp Research Complex on An'mak'dek during the same time? And that a communication from this station to that ship was erased from the log as well?"

    "No."

    "It was almost the perfect crime," Lee said. "But you framed the wrong party for it."

    She sat stoically now, just staring at the Marshal.

    "Your boss discovered that the Ver'si'ak found, on their own, a rich vein of dilithium. One which would help them bootstrap their local economy and grow into a modern society. But your boss realized that a competing dilithium mine in this region of space might well cause his own company's exports to suffer. Dilithium just isn't as valuable as it used to be, you know. And that's about all Lavour has to keep the company in the black.

    "So a scheme was concocted where you would eliminate those who knew about the deposit, and at the same time create civil strife which would further inhibit the ability of the Ver'si'ak to exploit their natural resources. A toxin was passed on to you, under the guise of a school field trip, of all things, and you used it to murder the Commissioner.

    "Then, with no more than a tattered shred of evidence you wove a fiction and sold it to the government of Car'ad'ak. And to make things worse, you incited a minister of that government to commit a crime which resulted in severe harm to a Starfleet crewman and which will result in the Magistrate and eight innocent government employees spending a significant amount of time at a rehabilitation institute.

    "But your mistake was, you panicked. When you discovered I was coming, you tried to plant evidence that would confirm your accusations. It was you who spread that neurotoxin all over the kitchen, not the Ver'si'ak. They were all in prison when you did that dirty little deed. They couldn't have done it."

    "You can't prove any of that."

    "Oh?" Lee walked over to a table upon which assorted P.A.D.D.s were sitting and he brought one over to show her. "I have a warrant here which allows me to search your person generally, and specifically to have you tested for signs of the inhalation of botulinum neurotoxin, signed by Judge Aarasi of the 491st District Court."

    "May I see that warrant?" asked the Advocate.

    Wordlessly, Lee walked over and placed it beside the subpoena.

    After looking at the P.A.D.D. for a moment, the Advocate said, "I advise you to make no further statements whatsoever, and to fully comply with the medical examination ordered by this warrant."

    "And I advise you that you are under arrest for the murder of Commissioner Gre'mre'prek," said the Prosecutor.

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    "I don't like the overuse of the neural inhibitor, Crewman," Dr. Sar said to his patient. "Pain is a part of the healing process, and suppression of it slows recovery."

    "It hurts, Doctor!" Voght replied in what she considered a calm and reasonable tone, given the circumstances. Of course, Dr. Sar heard it as a scream, but he appeared to be immune to her attempts to intimidate him.

    "I will set it to full inhibition when you are ready to sleep, but for now the best I can do is level 2. Biofeedback is very important in order for your therapy to be effective. You don't want to spend another day in here that you don't have to, do you?"

    "When I get out of here the first thing I'm going to do is find a plasma rifle and shoot you with it. Let's see how you like that!"

    "Good, we have something to look forward to then. If you really want to speed up your recovery so you can fulfill your new ambition, try eating the protein concentrate."

    "It tastes horrid."

    "It tastes like chicken soup. If you like, it can be replicated in a variety of flavors, but you do need to eat the protein concentrate at least six hours before your next regeneration therapy. Now, eat."

    "If she's complaining she's getting better," Brock said.

    ***

    The first day in sickbay wasn't too bad. She was unconscious the whole time, and undergoing regeneration therapy. The next day was a little worse. When she was awake she hurt, and when she didn't hurt she fell asleep, only to be wakened by Dr. Sar to drink this, eat that, relieve herself. As if she were his puppet to perform whatever bodily function he called upon her to perform.

    She was awake for much of the third day, which made it the worst day yet.

    Ben came in. Again. Almost every time she woke up he was there, hovering, telling her she was okay.

    "Hey, Ben," she said, "Did you complete the maintenance cycle for today?"

    "I am all done," he said. "System functioning normal parameters."

    "Good job, buddy."

    "You are not functioning normal parameters. You are hurting."

    "I know, Ben, but I'm getting better. You don't worry about me, okay? You keep up with the maintenance cycles."

    "You are getting better."

    "Ben," she said, "It's good of you to worry about me, but Doctor Sar is going to get mad at you again. You need to relax, eat, rest."

    "Doctor Sar is not mad."

    "He will be if you stick around here for too long. How's your latest math problem? Did you figure out Dr. Cochrane's secondary field formula?"

    "There is no correlation. It is wrong."

    "Do you have proof?"

    "I have disproof."

    "You need to write it up and submit it to Doctor T'serel. Why don't you double-check it before you have it sent? Make sure it checks out."

    "It checks out," he insisted. "I will double-check it."

    "Good, and I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

    "I will see you tomorrow. You are okay."

    She was shifting on the bed trying to find a position that didn't hurt more, and noticed Crewman Brock taking readings from the regenerator they had used and would use again on her wound.

    "Hey, Doc, got a minute?"

    "Only if you eat while we talk. You know Doctor Sar is monitoring you."

    She used her working hand to draw the table close, then spooned the broth a few times.

    "You now, everyone's been in here to see me. Ensign Tanaka could hardly look at my bandages, and the Lieutenant going on about how well Ben did. Mason. At least he doesn't hover like Ben. Masha with her gossip about the D'jul, Ladner and Sibley. Even the Chief, and he don't like me."

    "Chief likes you just fine," Brock said.

    "He doesn't act like it."

    "He's a Tellarite. If he's taking the trouble to annoy you, that's how you know he likes you."

    "He is very good at annoying me."

    "There you go," Brock said.

    "The one person I haven't seen is the Skipper. Where's he been?"

    "He's been busy with the situation on the station. There are a million details to sort out before we can leave."

    "Doc, you'd think a guy like the Skipper could take a minute or two to stop in and say hi."

    "He's been in here almost all night every night since you were wounded," Doc said. "Eat your soup."

    ***

    The next day, just after her morning treatment, Sibley and Ben came in together pushing some contraption that was held up by a grav-plate.

    "Hey, Thalys," Sibley said. "Doc says they're kicking you out, so we brought you a present."

    "It is a chair," Ben said.

    "I didn't get shot in the legs," Crewman Voght said.

    "No," said Dr. Sar, stepping out of his clear-walled office. "But you will find that the neural inhibitor interferes with your motor functions, and I don't want you to fall on that shoulder. I've done a marvelous job of osteo-remodeling there and I'd hate to have my hard work ruined by a moment of clumsiness."

    When Doctor Sar saw the look on her face he said, "Don't worry. I'm helping Crewman Mason to develop a physical therapy routine which will shorten the time you're required to use the inhibitor and to restore your lost muscle tone. If you thought I was inflicting pain on you, just wait."

    The Doctor pushed the floating chair to a position beside the bed, then stood by her wounded shoulder. "Sibley, if you would?"

    Sibley stepped to the opposite side of the bed and took Voght's upper arm.

    "Let her do the work, I just want you to stop her if she starts to fall."

    "Ready, sir," Sibley said.

    "Ben, please hold the chair," the Doctor said. "Now, sit up. It will be more difficult than you'd expect: you've had massive trauma and then you spent three days immobilized. Take your time."

    "Ah-haa!" she said as her attempt to raise herself strained the wounded area. With an act of will she bore through the pain and achieved a sitting position. After that it was all she could do to keep from blacking out.

    "Good, good, your doing fine, just sit there a moment and catch your breath. No one's in a hurry."

    "Why can't I see straight?" she asked.

    "Low copper salts. Don't worry, your body will process more as you heal. I've already put too much synthetic blood in you, so you'll just have to endure a little lightheadedness for now. There you go, are you ready for the next step?"

    "Why do you always ask me dumb questions?"

    "I ask questions I think my audience can understand. Turn your legs over the edge of the bed now, slowly, you don't want to jostle the shoulder. Good, Good. Sibley, over here please."

    Sibley came around the bed to stand beside the chair, and then Voght realized they had rehearsed this little evolution.

    "Okay, Ben, keep the chair steady. Now, Sibley will support you if you start to fall, I'll do my best to protect your injury. I want you to scoot to the edge of the bed until your feet touch the floor. Don't try to stand until both feet can touch... there you go. Okay, stand if you don't feel dizzy... Excellent, turn, and sit... there you go."

    She sat in the chair, amazed at how exhausting a simple thing like getting out of bed could be.

    "I'm going to leave the neural inhibitor on you for now. I don't want you to get out of the chair, or into it, without someone to help you, is that understood?"

    She nodded.

    "After your therapy this evening you can sleep in your quarters, but don't try to bypass the restrictions on the replicator, don't use the sonic shower, and don't for any reason consume alcohol. Understood?"

    "I think I can do that, Doctor."

    "Now, get out of here, I have work to do, and I can't do it with everyone on the crew stopping by every two minutes to feel sorry for you."

    "Let's head up to the Skylight Lounge and see who's there," Sibley said.

    Voght winced when she attempted to shrug then said, "Why not?"

    Ben pushed her up the ramp then forward along the Port Passageway. It was too narrow for Sibley to walk beside her, so he went ahead, keeping up a running stream of chatter: Ladner's latest project, the things Masha was finding on the station's computer, something Chief said that Sibley thought funny and Voght didn't.

    "Nobody here," Sibley said as he lead the way into the Crew's Mess. "Want to get something to eat? Maybe a drink?"

    "No thank you," Voght said. She was about to suggest they drop her off in her quarters when Sibley said, "Let's go see who's in the Briefing room!"

    "In the Briefing Room," Ben said.

    "Why not?" Voght agreed, and they went down the Starboard Passageway. It was as quiet and as empty as the port side had been. She began to suspect that something was going on while she ignored Sibley's story about the D'jul fascination with Deputy Chuss. Her suspicion was confirmed when Ben pushed her up to the closed hatch of the Briefing Room. That hatch was never closed unless the ship was at alert.

    It opened to reveal the assembled crew, who shouted, "Surprise!"

    She summoned up a smile for them while she wished they hadn't gone to the bother of a party she couldn't enjoy.

    Lieutenant Mirra shouted, "ATTENTION!" over the babble of voices and the room settled down.

    "Crewman Voght! Front and center!"

    "The following has been entered into your record:" Mirra proclaimed, "For courage in the face of fire Torpedoman First Class Thalys Voght is recognized and commended for her actions on Stardate 89010.6"

    "Also known as the 'duck next time' award," added the Chief from somewhere in the back.

    "Now, if I may continue," the Lieutnant said, and the laughter died down. "There is another purpose to this meeting besides the awarding of the Lame Duck: Crewman Voght, you have met the qualifications for every duty station aboard the USS Kestrel, which entitles you to the insignia and title of Space Warfare Specialist."

    The Lieutenant held up a gold pin with a three-pronged lightning bolt superimposed on the Starfeet Delta, then carefully avoiding the bandage pinned it onto Voght's hospital gown. The assembled crew applauded this and the Lieutenant let it go on for longer than Voght felt comfortable.

    "Crewman Voght is the first crew member of the USS Kestrel to earn this qualification, but she had better not be the last." She glared around the room at the assembled crew. "Crewman Sibley, the junior-most crew member in age and in time of service, has Navigation, Deflector, Sensor, Weapons, and Damage Control qualifications remaining, and he is closely followed by Crewman Aktay who has the second most qualifications. I expect some of you older crewmen to pick up the slack. You know who you are!"

    Someone pushed Ladner from behind and he staggered a step into the open space in front of the Lieutenant.

    "Uuh, yes, Lieutenant," he said, backing back into his place in the group.

    "And finally, the Skipper has one final announcement."

    The Skipper took Lieutenant Mirra's place and said, "From the dawn of time ships have been commanded by officers, but they have been kept running, and sailing, by the enlisted crew. These enlisted crewmen who have shown proficiency in their assigned duties and leadership qualities in their daily activities have earned the title Chief Petty Officer. It is not a job, role, or title for everyone: indeed of the many who have served, few are those who have attained this rank. It is a great honor to have been considered for the position, and I am privileged to recommend Torpedoman First Class Thalys Voght for consideration by a Chief's Board to be assembled six weeks from this date at Starbase 77.

    "There are six requirements which must be completed before the Chief's Board meets.

    "One: complete and pass the Three-Sixty by Three-sixty examination, also known as the CPO exam.

    "Two: undergo a mentorship by a serving Chief Petty Officer until that Chief Petty Officer is satisfied that the candidate is ready to advance.

    "Three: demonstrate to a board of three Command Grade Officers that you have the required depth of knowledge of Starfleet history, culture, and tradition.

    "Four: demonstrate mastery of the skills and knowledge of your rating specialty by passing a practical examination.

    "Five: demonstrate species-optimal physical fitness in medical and practical examinations.

    "Six: maintain a complete and accurate record of all official acts undertaken during the selection process except those deemed by your superior to be Secret. This record to be turned over to the Chief's Board for review."

    Lee stepped to the side and said, "Master Chief Petty Officer Garadda, front and center."

    A metallic dragging sound began as the crewmen parted to allow the Chief to make his way to the front. He carried an oversized P.A.D.D. to which was attached a very large chain.

    "Have you prepared the badge of office for the selectee?"

    "Aye sir."

    "Chief Petty Officer Selectee Voght, your assigned Mentor will now endow you with the badge of office of Chief Petty Officer Selectees which you will maintain until you are required to surrender it to your Chief's Board. You will record your official actions in the provided log. Should you lose or allow this record to be stolen, your term as selectee will be at an end. Is this understood?

    "Aye, sir," she said."

    "Hold still, I'll try not to hurt you too much," the Chief said as he passed the loose end of the chain around her waist, then attached an oversized mechanical lock on it. He held up a ring of two keys, pulled one off and handed it to her, putting the other in his pocket.

    "Let the reindeer games commence!" shouted the Chief when the chain was belted to her waist.

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Okay, time to find out how well I did in providing clues to the reader.

    I feel I could have offered more information about the investigation of the Lavour Minerals Group, but I was afraid I'd give things away. I intended to, and absolutely forgot, to make mention that the Security Chief and the Deputy Commissioner had the same accent, and that it was the same as the engineer from Lavour, but I cut out the part where he was interviewed because of my fear mentioned above, and forgot to put the accent thing back in.

    But I think I provided enough clues before interview day began to answer everything but the 'why'. If I didn't please let me know.

    Who: The Deputy Commissioner
    What: Murder by aerosolized botulinum poisoning
    Where: via ductwork, introduced as an aerosol into the sleeping Commissioner's bedroom
    When: After the commissioner left the festival
    Why: to prevent competing dilithium sources from ruining Lavour
    How: via delivery while the Deputy Commissioner was 'on vacation'

    If I missed any of those marks completely, I'll have to rework the story. I probably should put the bit with the mining engineer back in, but it was getting very long and I even had a couple of cases of being unable to post until I cut out enough words. So, let me know.

    Again, thank you to those who have read this far. Your interest in my story is gratifying.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited November 2018
    Season 1, Episode 9

    The USS Kestrel was finally on its way back to Starbase 77. The Advocate and the Prosecutor had taken the prisoners with them in their chartered ship intending to stop at Lavour to continue their investigation and, with the unpleasant business of the Car'ad'ak behind them, the crew was looking forward to the next big change.

    Crewman Ladner, perhaps prompted by the Lieutenant's speech, had volunteered to train on the Weapons stations. He was still doing his daily watch and duty in Engineering, but for four hours a day he was being trained by Crewman Voght, who was officially on light duty. The result was that Ladner did her job while she bossed him.

    After five days of regeneration therapy Crewman Mason was assigned to begin her physical rehabilitation therapy, so for the past three days she was back in the gym in the mornings. The simple act of moving her arm, so easily taken for granted before, was a new kind of torture as new muscle and bone were taught to do what they were intended to do. She suspected Mason of being a TRIBBLE. Compared to physical therapy she by far preferred the release she got from her sparring sessions with the Lieutenant, who was doing her best to mentor Sibley while Voght was in recovery.

    But the one thing that bothered her the most, that had weighed on her mind for the last two weeks, even after she had been stuck in Sickbay with a hole in her shoulder, was Ben. He wanted to be with his sister. Voght could only imagine his sister wanted him with her. The Lieutenant's only answer to all her inquiries was, 'Give me time; I'm working on it.' She didn't think Ben had much time left before he had to go.

    Ladner was headfirst in a torpedo casing with Ben looking in. Voght sat in her float chair, not because she needed it any more, but because she still needed the neural inhibitor from time to time, and her legs went wobbly when she used it. This morning's workout had involved full rotation, which Mason apparently understood to require ripping her arm from its socket. Without the neural inhibitor she wouldn't have been able to concentrate on the assignment.

    "Okay, I have the three screws out of the fuse assembly," Ladner said,

    "Use the calipers to secure the spring before you... she heard the 'ping' of the trigger-spring slipping from its guide sleeve. "You pulled on the fuse assembly, didn't you?"

    "That was a bad idea, wasn't it?" Ladner asked.

    "No, now you get to break down the trigger mechanism too. You have to completely disassemble the fuse assembly now to get to it. Be sure you don't disconnect the plasma network until you've isolated and bled the system. The residual spark can be a..."

    She saw the flash and heard Ladner yelp. "Are you deliberately doing this wrong for a reason? I thought you were good with fixing things?"

    "Crewman Bengogg," the ship's A.I. announced on the Port Weapons Locker's intercom, "Please report to the Skylight Lounge."

    "I will report to the Skylight Lounge, Mister Friday," he said, standing up.

    "Here, push me there too, Ben," Crewman Voght said as she lifted the oversized P.A.D.D. into her lap, along with its three kilograms of chain links.

    "I don't think I can break this any more without your help," Ladner said.

    "We will make fat to chew," said Ben, pushing Voght out of the hatch and into the passageway.

    The ramp to the Mess Deck, called the Skylight Lounge by the crew, was half the height of the ramp to the Bridge and Briefing Room, and Ben had no trouble pushing Voght up the slope to the cross passage that was also the crew's galley. The open space in front of this was accessible via a much shorter ramp which placed them beneath the five curved panels which formed a skylight above the Crew's Mess.

    "Hello, Ben, come in," the Lieutenant said, standing up from the center-forward table. Crewmen Aktay and Brock were in a booth on the port side. The Chief, Doctor Sar, and the Ensign were in a booth on the starboard side.

    "I got her, buddy," Ladner said to Ben and he pushed Voght over to the side of the booth before sliding in with Aktay. "Where's Mason?" he whispered to his table-mates.

    "Helm training on the Bridge with Mister Chuss," whispered Aktay, her eyes glued on Ben, the Lieutenant, and the P.A.D.D.s on her table.

    "I was thinking about that myself," Ladner said.

    "Better not. If you fly the way you maintain torpedoes, the ship will fall apart in your hands," Voght said.

    "Ssh!" Brock said, a bit impatiently.

    "Ben, please sit down," the Lieutenant said. "We're going to take you to your sister soon."

    "I must go to her. I must take care of my sister," he said.

    "Yes, and we're going to take you to her. I want to know what you want to do after," the Lieutenant said. "Do you want to stay with us? Do you want to go somewhere else? Do you want to stay on your homeworld?"

    She pushed the three P.A.D.D.s to his side of the table. There was a slightly different cartoon on each.

    On the first the USS Kestrel flew to the Pakled Homeworld in the Pakled system. Cartoon Ben got off the ship, was met by his sister, and the Kestrel flew away, leaving him and his sister behind. Ben was not wearing his Starfleet uniform.

    On the second the USS Kestrel flew to the Pakled system and his sister came aboard. The ship then flew to a starbase that looked like Starbase 77, where he and his sister got off and the Kestrel flew away. In this one Ben was wearing his uniform.

    On the third one the USS Kestrel flew to the Pakled Homeworld and his sister boarded. This time Ben was wearing his uniform and both he and his sister remained on the Kestrel.

    "This one is good," he said, selecting a P.A.D.D.

    "Will that choice make your sister happy? Ben, your sister has to want this too," Mirra insisted.

    "She will be happy. I will take care of her."

    ***
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,410 Arc User
    I had thought that the ethnic tensions on that world, and the Deputy Commissioner's "going native", would have factored more heavily into the "why" (and they did factor heavily into why the local government was so anxious to sweep this under the proverbial rug - echoes of Rwanda and the American South, so well done there). I also didn't get the clue about the exposure being after the party until the courtroom scene, but that's okay, because making it any more clear earlier in the story would have ruined the mystery. (Larry Niven, in comments concerning his Gil the Arm stories, noted that any good mystery requires giving the reader enough clues to solve it, but not so many that the reader solves it too soon - ideally, they should reach the same conclusion as the investigator, but either at the same time or slightly later. In SF mysteries, that becomes more difficult, especially when the limitations of future tech haven't been explored fully enough for the reader to know them; "ARM" in fact uses this to confuse Gil during a murder investigation, as the scene is dominated by a strange device the victim/inventor created just before he was killed inside its field.)

    The indications that the Deputy Commissioner had been infected were nicely laid, however. It gradually became clear that she hadn't been exposed accidentally, but in the course of her crime. She's also not a good liar, but that's what you get for growing up in the Federation, right? :smile:
    Lorna-Wing-sig.png
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited November 2018
    Thanks. I'm hoping there are enough clues in retrospect to say, "Yeah, that makes sense." I hate when a supposed mystery can't be solved internally until the inspector reveals the key clue at the end: there should be the keys to the solution all along. I was afraid I might have done that by cutting the Lavour bit, but when I had it written I realized that part was, as you mentioned, too revealing.

    I'm glad you caught the 'sweep under the rug' aspect. I didn't want that to be the obvious motive, and thought I might have been too subtle in expressing it. I also hope I made it apparent that someone on station had been in communication with the Magistrate before he left and while he was on his way. That would also be a giveaway clue as to who done it if I made it too obvious.

    Finally: huge Niven fan here. Protector was probably his best work, even superior to The Wizard of Oz.... Ringworld. But I loved the Arm and Beowulf stories too, which were hard-core sci-fi mysteries.

    And now you see that Chuss is not a Star Trek Caitian at all, but a native of Known Space. That mystery is solved, and after all, it was Niven who gave the Caitians to Trek in the first place.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Starbase 77 was beginning to feel like home to the crew of the Kestrel, and pulling into sight of the station was a cause for celebration. As soon as in port watches were established, Aktay was donning a gown and makeup and, for a change, was not wearing her portable computer. Ladner and Brock were holding a strategy meeting in the Skylight Lounge regarding their evening's campaign, and even Chuss was putting a brush to his otherwise immaculate tawny coat.

    With Ensign Tanaka drawing OOD Mirra too was free to go out and have some fun, but she had another destination in mind. She waved to her crewmates as they diverged on their various errands and found her way to Starfleet Medical. After a few inquiries and a short wait she finally got to see the person she had come to see.

    "Welcome," he said. "I'm glad to see you again." And he meant it. He liked the young lieutenant, but even more, he respected her.

    "Commander S'lott, thank you for seeing me on short notice."

    "Not at all, Lieutenant. I meant it when I said my door is always open for you." He offered her a seat then took the facing chair and asked, "How are things with your crew?"

    "Good, mostly. Crewman Voght received a nasty plasma burn, but Doctor Sar says she's going to be okay."

    "And Crewman Bengogg?"

    "Oh, he's fine. We're going to offer his sister a chance to live aboard with her brother."

    "I think it's an excellent solution to the problem. I confess the Office of the Ombudsman for Family Affairs asked for my evaluation of the potential situation."

    "Thank you for your help, Counselor."

    He smiled and asked, "You assume my report was a positive one?"

    "I assume it was an objective one, sir."

    The Commander waited, knowing the Lieutenant was wrestling with her desire to be viewed as strong and her desire for help. He was genuinely curious which part of her would win. And then she made her decision.

    "Counselor, how do I know when I'm losing my ability to remain objective?"

    "When you forget to ask the question," he said. "Perhaps if you could tell me about the particular issue you've been dealing with? I suspect Crewman Bengogg is a part of it, but why don't you tell me what's really bothering you?"

    ***

    Starbase engineers were crawling on the machinery again, and the Chief was growing tired of re-explaining the concept of harmonic resonance dampening. For some reason Admiral Franklin back on Earth had authorized these idiots to crawl around in his engine room and measure this and that. It was enough to make a Tellarite scream.

    "The core is laminated," the chief said to an assembly of engineering officers, "Both to increase strength and to allow micro-structural integrity nodes and force field projectors to be embedded in the layers. In the single axial warp core you can use a molded polyduranium casing but you have to make it's large enough that the force of the implosion and expansion of the matter/antimatter reaction dissipates before it impacts the force field protecting the casing.

    "The whole point of the transverse warp core is to generate more power in less volume. To do that the dual injectors double the implosion firing rate, so you'd either need double the volume, or double the armor. And because of the unique effects of creating implosions inside an incomplete implosion, you'd better reinforce the reactor casing to at least four times what a standard warp core requires."

    "You're getting double the output, but about half of that extra power is being consumed in your field reinforcement and structural integrity containment systems. How is that superior to existing, slightly larger, warp cores?" asked a young lieutenant.

    "Our output is 1.4 times that of a typical warp core of this volume, which is already a savings on space, but most of the parasitic power drain exists because some construction engineers re-wrote the design specifications. They didn't believe that the power curve shown in the original design was possible. We've proved it, but because the implosion chamber design was compromised in the construction yard, we've had to siphon power from the engine to maintain its structural integrity. Had this reactor been built the way the Theoretical Propulsion Group designed it, we'd still need to install a parasitic structural integrity system on the casing, because harmonics can't be completely eliminated, but we'd be getting at least 1.8 times the power output of a standard warp core."

    "About these harmonics..." began another lieutenant, but the Tellarite interrupted him.

    "Wait, hold on..." The Chief ran out of the control room into the Engine room and shouted, "What are you doing on the Warp Plasma Converter? It's a standard converter, you idiot! If you break anything I swear I'm going to make a replacement for it out of your hide!"

    ***

    Lee finally finished his paperwork, including catching up on what he had been neglecting, and decided a celebratory drink was in order.

    "Mister Friday, thanks again. I'd never be able to keep up with all of this without your help."

    "Yes sir, but you can't help being less efficient. After all, your data network is a random neural matrix embedded in a gelatinous protein structure."

    "Agreed, and now I am about to randomize my neural matrix some more by having a drink. Meet you in the Briefing Room?"

    "I'll be there, sir."

    When he arrived in the Briefing Room he found Crewman Mason seated at the bar with a beer bottle in hand. Stepping behind the bar he asked, "How's Crewman Voght?"

    He was surprised by the reaction he received. Crewman Mason was not the sort to glare at anyone, especially with the anger Lee sensed in him.

    "Sorry, sir," Mason said when he realized what he was doing. I guess you didn't know she threw me out."

    "I'm sorry, but you'll have to forgive my ignorance," Lee said. "I didn't know you were 'in' to be thrown out. I was asking about her rehabilitation progress."

    Lee drew a pair of tall glasses from behind the bar and filled them from the ice-maker beneath it.

    "Oh," Mason said. "She's right on schedule. she has full mobility, but the muscle growth will take time. Two more weeks if she keeps up on her therapy and regeneration program. She can be stubborn at times about the stupidest things."

    Lee took a bottle of whiskey from the rack behind him and expertly tossed off two shots, one in each glass, then added another half-shot to one. "I'm told that's a trait Andorians prize. I've known a few humans with that trait as well."

    Lee sorted through some bottles behind the bar and came up with two different brands of ginger ale. "Sweet or sour?" he asked.

    "Sir?" Mason asked.

    "Sweet or sour, which do you prefer?"

    "Sour, I suppose."

    Lee replaced one of the bottles and opened the other, splitting it between the two drinks. Then he pushed the one with the extra half shot in front of Mason and asked, "So, you and Voght? I had no idea."

    "If that's true, you're the only one on the ship. I wouldn't be surprised if Friday knows."

    "I'd be surprised if she didn't," Lee said. "But if she does, she didn't tell me. She's very discreet."

    Thank you, sir," the A.I. said.

    "So, why did she kick you out?" Lee asked. "Maybe if you talk about it you'll have a better idea what you want to do about it."

    "That's just it: I don't know. She just picked a fight and everything I tried to do to smooth things over just made things worse."

    "Maybe she wanted a fight? She can be pretty confrontational when she wants to be."

    "I don't mind fighting, sir, but her shoulder... she might become physical if I argued back and I don't want to reinjure her wound."

    "So you were treating her with kindness and consideration, and every time she got upset you were determined to not let her escalate things to the point where you'd have to hurt her."

    "Well, yes. Sir."

    Lee sipped his highball and thought for a minute. "When has Crewman Voght ever responded to kindness and consideration?"

    "What?" asked Mason.

    "She's an Andorian. You've been treating her like a human. Now, Crewman Aktay would love someone to hold her hand and fix her dinner and be patient with her when she was out of sorts. But an Andorian? Especially our Andorian?"

    "So, I've only been making things worse..."

    "Hold on, now," Lee said. "I'm only guessing. She may have other intentions altogether."

    "Yes, yes, sir. I mean, I see that. I owe her an apology. Wait, If I apologize that might just..."

    "To the joys of relationships," Lee said, raising his glass.

    Mason clinked his glass to Lee's and drank it down, hit the bar with the glass, and said, "I'm going to make her apologize to me!"

    Lee said nothing as the crewman left the Briefing Room, then exhaled. "I hope I didn't send him off to get a broken nose."

    "I am curious to see the result of your experiment, sir," Cadet Friday said.

    "My experiment?" he asked. "Don't blame this on me, I didn't know a thing about it until ten minutes ago."

    "Yet everyone comments on your ability to read people, sir. I'm told it is one of your outstanding qualities."

    "I've been wrong before, Friday. Nobody's perfect. Speaking of which, I've still yet to master my billiards game. Didn't I see Sibley and Brock playing a game on your hologenerator not so long ago?"

    "That will have been Pool."

    "Ah. Can you make a billiards table?"

    Beneath the curved viewports at the aft end of the Briefing Room a billiards table appeared with three balls and two cues.

    "The name of the game is Carambole, Mister Friday. Do you play?"

    "I now know the rules, but I have never payed before."

    "Well, let's see how you do," Lee said, as he sighted his first shot at the lone red ball.

    After the first game he introduced Friday to the idea of a handicap.

    He was into his third game and second highball when Ensign Tanaka called him to the bridge.

    "Marshal T'eset," he said, as he stepped onto the bridge. "I hope this isn't an emergency?"

    "No, Marshal Lee, it is not." The Vulcan on the main viewer appeared to be examining Lee as she said, "Ideally, due to your emotional investment in this case I would not have called upon you at all, but there is a high probability that you will be dealing with further aspects of the Aguilar case, and so I find it necessary to keep you informed."

    "I appreciate your position, Marshal. What do you require of me?"

    "At your earliest convenience I would like you to return to Mirell VI B for a debriefing by the Starfleet Captain who has undertaken the investigation and quarantine of the station. You are to be completely candid with Starfleet in this matter, including all classified materials we have available in your report. In return, they have been issued the same order regarding their findings."

    "I understand, Marshal. If I leave Starbase 77 before fifteen hundred tomorrow, we should be in orbit of Mirell VI B by zero seven hundred the day after. Is this sufficient expediency?"

    "It should be adequate. I recommend you show up in Starfleet uniform. And sober."

    "Understood, Marshal."

    T'eset terminated the communication, and Tanaka said, "Ouch." Then added, "Sir."

    Lee smiled. "The Senior Marshal has never understood what she terms my 'infatuation with inebriation,' Mister Tanaka. Post an announcement to all crew that as of zero seven hundred all liberties are cancelled. We'll give the station engineers until twelve hundred to complete what they have set up, and as soon as we can thereafter we'll depart. You might try plotting a course to Mirell before you go to sleep tonight and have Mister Chuss look it over in the morning."

    "Aye, sir," the Ensign said.

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Mirell VI and its moons looked very much the same as they did the first time the Kestrel visited, but this time there were orbital beacons transmitting a plague quarantine warning. The quarantine was being enforced by the USS Faith, a Hope subclass refit of the old Olympic Class Hospital ships.

    "I expect Doctor Rihar has learned quite a lot about our little friends down there in my absence," Dr. Sar said. "I am anxious to get up to date on what Aguilar was doing."

    "I'm wondering what concerned Marshal T'eset enough to send us back," Chuss said.

    "I'm sure the answers await us on the Faith. Number One, you have the conn. Come on you two, let's find out what Starfleet wants to tell us."

    Lee lead his deputies to the Transporter Room where Crewman Mason waited. Doctor Sar was dressed in a black lightweight Mandarin cut wool suit with his Deputy Marshal badge on his left breast pocket while Chuss wore his black leather kilt and sporran with his badge attached to his belt just forward of the watsai on his left hip. Lee wore a formal Starfleet uniform jacket with his Command ribbon and two lesser awards, one for deployment into the Dominion War Zone and the other a Good Conduct medal. Above his meager ribbon bar where a com-badge would usually be worn was his Marshal badge.

    As they beamed into the Faith's Transporter Room their height differential was conspicuous. Dr. Sar was just over 1.6 meters, if one allowed for the dense grey curls still struggling to hold against the encroaching bald spot in the rear and the receding hairline in the front. Marshal Lee's 1.9 meter height, by contrast, seemed extraordinarily tall until one saw the bulk of the Caitian behind them, whose eartips often bushed the overheads of the Kestrel's passageways. On the Faith there was ample room above the 2.4 meters his medical chart claimed as his height.

    "Party from the USS Kestrel requesting permission to come aboard, sir," Lee said.

    The commander standing in front of the transporter console said, "Permission granted, welcome to the USS Faith. I am Commander Rainwater, and this is my Security Officer Lieutenant Kelan," the human commander gestured to a Xindi Reptilian, and Doctor Rihar," he waved to the third officer, a Rigelian.

    "I'm Marshal Lee, and this is Doctor Sar and Deputy Chuss."

    "Thuvi," Dr. Sar said, "It's good to see you again!" The Doctor stepped off of the transporter pad and over to the ship's doctor.

    "Turaj! I've been reading up on your work lately. Simply incredible, what you've found here. I've been reading up on your idea for the manipulation of the nanites using a tricorder-regulated vinculum. Genius! How did it perform in testing?"

    "I have to be honest, I didn't dream that one up. We have an extraordinarily talented crew..."

    As the two wandered out talking like old friends Commander Rainwater turned and said, "Shall we follow them?"

    Lee and Rainwater exited, leaving Chuss and Kelan in the Transporter Room. "Lead the way," said Chuss.

    "After you," said Kelan.

    They both stood still for a moment, then Chuss laughed and said, "It's your ship."

    With that he hopped off the pad and followed Lee, with Lieutenant Kelan right behind him.

    "I have heard yours is a race of warriors," Chuss said, navigating the long curved corridor behind theMarshal."

    "I have heard the same about Caitians. However, I've never been particularly impressed by them. They seem somewhat lazy and undisciplined to me."

    "You are the first of your kind I've met. You seem... fragile."

    "My species is renowned for our hardiness."

    "And mine for our ferocity."

    "We should test our respective strengths in the ring," the Lieutenant said.

    "I am forbidden to spar with unarmored opponents," Chuss replied, flexing his left paw and showing its serrated claws.

    "Ah, I see. It is as I thought."

    Chuss laughed then, saying,"Now you try to goad me? Believe what you like." With a long stride he was ahead of the Reptilian, and closer to Lee.

    "The Marshal Service is not without its share of bureaucracy," Lee was saying. "We're much smaller than Starfleet, of course, so we tend to do more direct reporting than you, and we have far fewer people to report to. Even my little ship has six different bureaus who want reports on this and that. I actually have a yoeman whose sole job is to keep me up to date on paperwork. If not for Cadet Friday I'd be so swamped with reports I'd never get the time to actually do my job."

    The commander replied, "This plan you have to create a fleet of police cutters for your service is going to increase that paperwork. There's more to running a ship than navigation. You need an infrastructure to support the ship."

    "It's my hope that we can use existing infrastructure: civilian and Starfleet facilities."

    "Even so, it's going to require people to track the ships' maintenance cycles, schedule spacedock time, maintain crew qualifications, train new personnel to crew the ships."

    "You're right, of course, but for now I have only the one ship to worry about. Maybe we can hire some retired admirals to run the show."

    "I have an admiral or two in mind I'd recommend for the job," Commander Rainwater said with a smirk.

    They followed the two doctors into a conference room which was furnished with large pillows and very low tables. Seated at one end of the room on a cushion which almost hid her was the ship's captain, an Ithenite with dark copper skin that tended to crease and wrinkle around her mouth and eyes. When she rose to greet her guests she stood marginally more than a meter tall, her height somewhat enhanced by the over-sized red fez she wore.

    "Welcome Guests. I am Captain Velis. Please be seated, make yourselves comfortable. Among the Dayan Tribes we hold the Welcome Ceremony in high esteem. Please, be seated." She sat in a single fluid motion which brought her to a comfortable cross-legged position on her very large cushion which puffed up behind her when she sat, giving the appearance of swallowing her. Lee followed her example, as did the rest, except for Chuss, whose legs would not cross in that manner. Instead he crouched with his knees in his chest.

    Velis clapped and another Ithenite, this one in light green robes and hat, entered with a tray of small cups and a samovar of beaten copper. A ground black material was in the bottom of each cup, and as he passed a cup to each person in the gathering he poured nearly boiling water into them. He served his captain last, then retired from the room. Lee watched the black substance dissolve creating a foamy dark brown layer on top of the cup.

    "It is kalc, a root used by my people for thousands of years," Captain Velis explained. "Doctor Rihar assures me it is safe for anyone who is not at risk from simple caffeine. If you are, or if you find the taste unpleasant, simply touching the cup to your lip is sufficient to complete the ceremony. While the kalc cools to a temperature safe to drink, one should savor the aroma it produces."

    Indeed, the room was filling with a rich cinnamon-caramel scent. The Captain held her cup beneath her nose, breathing in the steam rising from her cup. Lee was surprised by the way the pleasant aroma opened his sinuses, but Chuss sneezed.

    Ignoring the Caitian's response, the Captain said, "There is an old homily told by the Dayan Tribes that kalc was a gift to us by the ancient gods before they passed away. It is said that kalc is a reminder that life is pleasant in the anticipation, the expectation of what is to come, but it must be drunk, and the first sip can be bitter. For those who have the strength to take a second sip, however, and to consume it in full, the bitterness gives way to a fullness of flavor, and in the end the drinker appreciates the draught more fully because of the bitterness he must endure."

    She took a tiny sip of her cup then, and smiled. "I find I have come to anticipate the bitterness because it reminds me of what is to come."

    Lee tried a sip, starting small as she did, and found it was indeed bitter, and still exceedingly hot. He looked around as the the others tried theirs. The doctor and security chief of the Faith touched their cups to their lips and set them down. They were obviously familiar with the ceremony. Doctor Sar savored the aroma after his first sip. Chuss blew on his cup to cool it, then tossed it down like bad-tasting medicine.

    Lee did his best to match the captain, and he found that by the end of the small cup he was sorry he had to set it aside. "Captain Velis, I'm very surprised." he said. "I had thought that it would be too bitter at first, but now I'm already missing it."

    "Like life, only one cup at a time!" she said, setting her own cup aside.

    The green-robed Ithenite must have been watching because he returned with the tray and retrieved the cups, then vanished again.

    "Now we may conduct business in a civilized fashion," she said. "Unfortunately, our business is grim today. Marshal Lee, this house of horrors you found here... I cannot imagine a civilized being doing such things."

    "Unfortunately, Captain, such horrors are not as rare as I'd like. I was sent here to learn what you have found, and to give you any data you don't already have on the Aguilar case. Doctor Sar has the most experience of anyone in Federation Space in dealing with this nightmare but, as you can see, the Kestrel is not the ideal ship for dealing with an infestation of this scale."

    "Which is why I'm here. I was a scientist before they dressed me in red, Commander Lee, and I am well aware of the horrors scientists have unleashed on unsuspecting worlds, but this is madness."

    Changing the subject, she said, "I'm told you were in the research station, but not the base from which the ship launched?"

    "That is correct. I was unaware of the ship until after it's launch. More properly, I was unconscious when it launched, having been attacked by a nanite weapon which proved resistant to Doctor Sar's repellent device."

    "We have better methods now," Dr. Sar interjected.

    "Yes, but always a step behind the madman." The Captain sighed. "My science teams have found some fascinating horrors down there. Were you aware that eighty percent of the infected corpses in that station were clones?"

    "Clones?" Lee looked at Sar.

    "We never had the opportunity to study them, Captain," Dr. Sar said. "Our First Officer attempted to catch the ship in which Dr. Aguilar was fleeing, and by the time I was able to stabilize the Marshal and to eradicate the nanites we had accidentally imported to the Kestrel, there was already a Starfleet vessel on site."

    "I'll deliver the data to you, but I have a composite here of the image of the clones, which were all of the same DNA."

    The captain removed a P.A.D.D. from beneath her cushion and slid it across the carpeted deck to Lee. He looked at the image, and his face became very rigid. He handed the P.A.D.D. to Chuss, who said, "That's Aguilar."

    Dr. Sar took the P.A.D.D. from Chuss, nodded, and slid it back to the Captain.

    "We also found seventeen clones in growth chambers which were in various stages of development, from fetal to juvenile. We found what may have been the place where three more growth chambers were located. We believe that those three clones were removed to the ship which escaped."

    The Captain rose to her feet and said, "We believe we've found out why Dr. Aguilar was growing clones. Have you ever heard of a Dr. Ira Graves?"

    ***
  • Options
    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    "Lieutenant Kelan, thank you for taking my call. I'm Lieutenant Mirra of the USS Kestrel. I've heard you have an interest in our martial arts program and I'd like to invite you to attend our morning workouts while we're in the same area."

    "It would be pointless, Lieutenant. My interest was in testing the Caitian, not in human unarmed combat. I have found humans to be somewhat limited in their ability to fight without weapons."

    "In that case, I'd like to invite you to participate as my sparring partner. My current sparring partner is undergoing medical treatment and will be restricted from full contact for a while yet."

    "An unfortunate situation. But I have a better idea: let us have a tournament. How many fighters can your little crew field?"

    "I think three."

    "Yourself, your Captain, and his Deputy?"

    "Myself, my master at arms, and a relatively untrained crewman with a lot of enthusiasm."

    "You anticipate your Captain would refuse my challenge as his Deputy has?"

    "He can't accept your challenge."

    "Because of the dignity of his rank, or some similar human notion?"

    "Because he's a registered lethal weapon. Challenging the Skipper in hand to hand combat is about the mental equivalent of challenging a plasma grenade. Let me know when you have approval and we can schedule some training and evaluation bouts. Our gym is small, but it's open any time we might need it."

    When the call ended Sibley asked, "Who's your third?"

    Lieutenant Mirra looked at him and smiled.

    "You think I'm ready, sir?"

    "Against a similarly skilled opponent, yes. You've come a long way in four months, but you've been getting a bit cocky lately. Getting your face pounded might just do you a bit of good."

    "Hey!"

    "So, why are you up here listening in on my calls instead of whatever you're supposed to be doing?"

    "Actually, sir, I'm not on duty rotation today, it's Ladner's turn, and I have time to practice for my navigation quals. So I'm kind of where I'm supposed to be." He pointed to the powered down console. "But there's another reason I wanted to come up here: do you think the Faith would mind if we borrowed her sensors for a while?"

    "Setting aside the logistical argument for a moment, why do you want to borrow the Faith's sensors?"

    "Because the hologenerators are still on the hull and I'd like to test some ideas I've been working on. Plus, the Faith's sensor package is almost as good as ours. If we can fool them, we can fool anybody."

    "Draw up the proposal when you've finished with your Nav training and I'll look it over."

    "Can't you just call them and ask, sir?"

    "That's the kind of thing that has to go through at least two captains plus me."

    "Okay, thanks sir. Oh, and the proposal is in your mailbox already."

    ***

    Lee wore the polysilicate suit as a precaution, but the small base was bug-free as far as their sensors could detect. And it was a very small base: a hangar for a small ship, a repair bay, quarters for twenty-five, and a galley attached to a common room. All of this was powered by a vacuum-energy generator which provided enough power to maintain the environmental system with some surplus to charge the power packs of the hangar equipment. The base didn't even have grav-plating to compensate for the moon's miniscule gravity.

    The common room had been repurposed as a lab for the twenty growth chambers used to manufacture and mature clones. This had been the key which Marshal Jasse had been after. The medical equipment he had been tracking, or some of it, was still here. Deputy Vine was here as well, and she was what Senior Marshal T'eset would call 'Emotionally Compromised.'

    "I will not allow you to wake even one of these monsters!" she said, in a tone of voice that edged on manic. Lee knew she needed to be pulled out. All of Jasse's deputies needed to be pulled back, reassigned. Moved as far from the Aguilar case as possible. Maybe, afterward, he might take her on. But so long as Aguilar was on the move, it might be his ship that was called upon to chase him.

    "Sam!" Lee called.

    She glared at the Starfleet medic, then stalked toward Lee mumbling, "Inalienable rights of Aguilar's clones!"

    "I need a forensics analysis. How many people lived here, how many crew on the ship?"

    "None."

    "Excuse me?" Lee asked.

    "None. Sorry, Marshal. It's in the report. I guess you haven't read it yet. The quarters were unused, the area around the ship was unused. There were signs of a group packing up, but we have reason to believe it was done by clones. The only DNA we were able to detect was Aguilar's."

    "Even clones would need a place to sleep, eat, relax..."

    "Unless they were cored." Samantha Vine was tough, but she had been living in a chamber of horrors for a month, having arrived with the first Deputy Specialists who came while Lee was recovering from his wounds. She had had time to think it through. By her expression, and the involuntary shudder that rippled through her, she had had too much time to think it through.

    "Okay, listen." Lee was calm, precise, and very persuasive. "I want you to beam up to Faith, clean up, and move your gear to the Kestrel. Once you've done all of that we'll talk."

    "Lee, I..."

    "No. Listen to me. You're done here. You've been a huge help, but this is Starfleet's show now. You're a good deputy, but everyone needs to back off of a case now and again. Myself included. I'll tell you all about it tonight, after you've gotten at least four hours of sleep. If you can't sleep, talk to my medic about a sleep inducer."

    "Lee.."

    "This isn't a discipline issue, Sam. It's for the good of the Service. You've done your part. Now step back and let them do theirs."

    He waited until she had contacted the Faith and dematerialized, then he activated his com-badge.

    "Number One, make ready crew quarters for Deputy Vine, she will be joining us for a short while. Inform Captain Velis of the transfer. If she has any issues you can't resolve, forward her to me."

    "The Captain, sir? Or the Deputy?"

    "Either. Both."

    "Aye, sir. You said Crew Quarters, not Guest Quarters?"

    "Affirmative."

    "Will do sir. Anything else?"

    "That's all for now. Lee out."

    ***

    "When we hosed down the Control Room we destabilized the power reactors," Chuss said to the assembled officers of the Faith and the two remaining Deputy Speialists. "It caused them to go off line one by one as their safeties kicked in, and that shut down everything else that didn't have battery backup. The computer was able to record to archive before it went down, but we'll never know what was lost in the active buffer because it was wiped on restart."

    "Is it something Aktay could fish for?" Lee asked.

    "No. The computer restart sequence used the buffer, so it overwrote."

    "It appears," Dr. Sar said, "That the process used by Doctor Aguilar was crude, but effectively it was intended to convert memory pathways to computer data. As we saw, it was also quite destructive."

    Lee nodded, and waited for the Captain.

    "Doctor Idrial, I think it's your turn," Velis said from her tall chair at the head of the table.

    "Thank you Captain," said a very tall, thin, dark human woman whose thick curly black hair had a tendency toward kinking at her temples and behind her ears. She wore a pair of spectacles similar to Aktay's, but hers were framed in heavy tortoise-shell patterned material with silver embellishments at the hinge and bridge. She was a Deputy Specialist in the Marshal Service, and her specialty was Data System Forensics.

    She stood and touched the table in front of her seat. A hologram of the facility appeared, largely transparent and rendered in wire-frame mode. There was a red-shaded system highlighted, and she pointed to it.

    "This is the heart of the facility and, we believe, it's main purpose. This is a subspace receiver array," she pointed to a red cylinder studded with erect rods, "And it feeds data to the main computer via a waveguide which leads into the central computer room."

    She caused the image to expand. "In the computer there are two distinct pathways, to the data processor, and to what I've been calling a 'recorder' for lack of a better word. I had no idea what it was until I stumbled across a reference to a design patent by a Doctor Ira Graves. Exploring his work I began to discover similarities. The recorder is essentially an analog computer rather than a digital one. It operates on pathway vectors rather than binary code.

    "Let me explain: A pathway vector is a repetitive pattern of firing charged diode-like devices which can have from three to ten external connections. These signals are reinforced when they cause the next diode to fire its charge and are tamped when another signal quells the diode. Thus you get multiple loops and chains of energy flow which vary in intensity based on inputs, the reactions of other diodes connected to the pathway diodes but not in the loop, and from changes to the loop diode themselves over time.

    "The creation of these vectors of energy flow allows the recorder to simulate a biological brain by copying an existing brainwave pattern on it, and then to download that data to a new brain. That would be done via this waveguide, which lead up to the operating room where Marshal Jasse was said to have been discovered.

    "When Ira Graves downloaded himself into the digitalized computer banks of the Entereprise D his memories were stored as data. With this device, a mind could be stored as if a brain, with the context and emotion of the data present.

    "Or, it could be transferred to a database without the emotional aspects. We have one such database in the computer, and we believe it was once the mind of Marshal Jasse, left behind for whatever reason."

    "Wait, are you saying you can give Jasse back his mind?" Lee interjected.

    "No: first because the recording was interrupted, second because I would need one of those devices which Doctor Sar calls a 'vinculum' installed in his head, which I would strenuously object to having done, and third because there was no attempt to use the recorder to store the memory patterns. As his brain was being dissected its information was directly digitalized. The best we can do is to make a digital scrapbook of his memories. Not even that because a scrapbook conveys an emotional context. All we could manage is images and hard data.

    "But the system here was designed to receive a signal then transfer that signal via a special vinculum to a clone which was kept in stasis until needed, with an implant already installed. These special implants are different from the ones taken from your most recent victims in that they have a subspace transmitter which, if activated, transmits to the nearest relay, and leapfrogs to here for installation in the next clone.

    "Serial immortality."

    ***
  • Options
    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited November 2018
    patrickngo wrote: »
    Damn, this is good stuff. I know i like someone else's stuff, when I start imagining how their world would interact with one of mine.

    (Drum riff).

    I loved how you set this up, and your mystery work is better than mine.

    Thanks for the props. When they come from a guy who just impressed the hell out of me with his writing, it's a real lift.

    Mystery is hard, but I've been a DM for a long time now, and it taught me how to sprinkle clues without having to grab players by the head and stick their nose in them!

    ***

    [boring stuff not directly related to the story warning]

    The Federation Justice System, (My Version, anyway):

    The Federation Supreme Court
    9 Permanent Justices, 12 Rotating Justices

    Permanent Justices are appointed for life (or more commonly until retirement), and one is selected as Senior Supreme Court Justice whose special role is administrative: he gets no more or less authority than any other justice on the court. Permanent Justices are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Full Federation Council with a required 60% margin for confirmation.

    Rotating Justices are appointed for 20 year terms, (or until retirement,) and one is selected as Speaker For The Court whose special role is communicating the business of the court to the Federation Council and to the Public. Each Rotating Justice is nominated by the Regional Caucus of the Federation Council for that seat, and approved by the Full Federation Council with a required 60% margin for confirmation.

    The duties and powers of any justice on the Supreme Court are not dependent upon the type of membership. A Rotating Justice has the same authority as a Permanent Justice. A Serving or Past Rotating Justice may be considered for nomination to a Permanent seat.

    The Senior Justice and Speaker roles are not bound to a particular seat. If a particular one dies, retires, or is promoted from a Rotating to a Permanent seat, his replacement need not necessarily succeed to the additional role. When the Court is in full session they may, upon a majority vote, transfer the title and responsibilities to another Justice for any or no reason.

    The Federation Appellate Courts
    Currently 26 Appellate Court Districts

    Appellate Court Justices are appointed to 20 year terms by the President from a list of Justices provided by the Federation Council Judiciary Committee and are confirmed by a 51% margin by the Full Federation Council. The Appellate Courts are divided into Districts which encompass a number of Circuit and District Courts. The role of the Appellate Court is largely supervisory of the inferior courts which are assigned to it. If a case does come before an Appellate Court Justice, he may Confirm or Overturn the lower court's ruling, (an overturned case is retried or dismissed by the lower court,) or he may Refer the case to the Supreme Court.

    The Federation Circuit Courts and The Federation District Courts
    Currently 18 Circuit Courts and over 500 District Courts

    Circuit and District Court Justices are apponted to 20 year terms by Regional Caucuses of the Federation Council, and confirmed by a simple majority of the Federation Council Judiciary Committee, with the potential for the President to Veto the appointment (which may then be overturned by a 66% margin of the Federation Council.)

    Cases brought before the Federation Circuit and District Courts are the first step in the Federation legal process, and must be based on a violation of Federation Law. Civil Law and Local Criminal Law are handled at the local level.

    The only real difference between Circuit and District Courts are that Circuit Courts are not constrained within a defined district, but operate on the outskirts of the Federation where District Courts have not yet been established, such as in military occupation zones during war, new colony worlds, or newly allied native populations. Thus Circuit Court Justices must be more mobile in order to serve their assigned worlds while District Courts tend to operate from a single world or station where their infrastructure is based.

    ***

    The Federation Marshal Service

    The Marshal Service is authorized under the Judiciary Branch section of the Federation Charter, and is charged with:
    1) Protecting the persons of the Federation Court System
    2) Transportation and Custody of Prisoners of the Federation Justice System
    3) Interdiction of the unregulated transfer of persons from or high technology to developing Federation Member Worlds
    (Note: Starfleet is responsible for 3 in the case of non-Federation Member developing worlds, and 3 is a statutory rather than Charter derived authority.)

    The Chief Marshal
    Badge is an iridium shield with a Federation Starfield over which is the capital letter Alpha. A banner encircling this letter reads "United Federation Of Planets Chief Marshal"

    In addition to the responsibility for the membership of the Supreme Court, the Chief Marshal is the titular Chief Administrator of the Marshal Service, and is the senior-most administrator of the bureaucracy which support the Marshal Service.

    Senior Marshals
    Badge is a platinum shield with a Federation Starfield over which is the number of the Appellate Court Justice they serve. A banner encircling this number reads, "United Federation Of Planets Senior Marshal"

    The Senior Marshal is responsible for the protection of the Appellate Court Justice and for the administration of the Marshal Service Personnel assigned to that Justice and to the courts subordinate to that Justice.

    Marshals
    Badge is a silver shield with a Federation Starfield over which is the number of their Senior Marshal followed by their individual number.

    Marshals are responsible for the daily work, duties, and responsibilities of the Marshal Service.

    Circuit and District Court Marshals
    Badge is a silver eleven-pointed star with a banner reading Federation Circuit # or District # Marshal

    Marshals are responsible for the daily work, duties, and responsibilities of the Marshal Service.

    Deputy Marshals
    Badge is a gold replica of their Marshal's badge with their individual deputy number following their Marshal's number.

    Deputies are responsible for the assignments given to them by their Marshal or in his absence by their Senior Marshal or Justice.



    The appointment of the Chief Marshal and the Senior Marshals is the responsibility of the President. This is an executive privilege and not subject to overturn by the Federation Council or Judiciary.

    The appointment of Marshals is technically a privilege of the individual Justices, but long-standing tradition, (outside of emergency appointments,) is that the Senior or Chief Marshal submit qualified candidates for the Justices' approval.

    The appointment of Deputies is technically a privilege of the individual Marshals, but long-standing tradition and practical application is for Senior Marshals and/or Justices to review and approve such appointments (outside of emergency situations.)

    Administrative and Specialist Deputies are hired and administered through the Chief Marshal's office. A Marshal may deputize one and remove him from the direct authority of the bureaucracy, but the Chief Marshal reserves the power to recall such deputies at will. Typically such transfers will be negotiated.

    [/boring stuff not directly related to the story warning]

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    patrickngo wrote: »
    VERY well done, kinda takes the wind out of something I've got going in "Myrmidons", although it CAN exist in the same setting as the discovery and works are sufficiently different.

    I really need to check out your timeline, I think you might have something that can 'free up' a story I've been wanting to complete.

    My timeline is kind of vague: it's after the TNG movies, and sort of at the end of STO as we know it now. I'm thinking 2414 or thereabouts, but this isn't hard canon for my tale. If you need it to be before, after, somewhere in the middle, that's fine.

    I have 12 years from the mothball of the Kestrel in my story, so 14 to 16 years after Wolf 359 is another vague guideline. This too is flexible, so I can shift around if I need to.

    Just what is it in Myrmidons that I'm conflicting with? I'm willing to adjust! Note in my attack on the Orion battleship I used nothing but obsolete, second line ships. The reason for that is because STO has been shoving every new hull to the front as fast as it could be built, and obsolete/refit ships are what they have to cover the rear. But I also haven't referenced in game or in canon events in order to avoid locking into a particular time.

    If you like something I've written, feel free to use it. I'm not too worried about continuity and such. Worst case, I'll say off camera that it was an alternate timeline and just move on. The idea is to tell a story, have fun, and for me, to learn better writing through interacting with my audience and seeing where I need to improve.

    As an aside: The Myrmidons would consider the Kestrel crew a bunch of candyasses because they aren't out in front putting it on the line.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited November 2018
    Samantha hurled her badge at the wall. It felt good. So she hurled a chair. There was a shortage of throwable objects in the room, so she flipped the sofa, and with a scream of frustration she pulled the mattress from the lower bunk and hurled it too across the room.

    It didn't help; she still felt like a soup sandwich in a goldfish bowl. She slumped to the floor, her back sliding down the wall.

    They pulled her from the case. It wasn't fair. She had been working on this for months! It was her idea to track medical equipment, it was her hard work that had found the missing inventory, her tracking, her...

    It was her fault. Everything that lead to Jasse getting his brain ripped out: it was her fault! She grabbed a cushion from the chair, held it to her face, and screamed. She tried to scream again, but it broke. For the first time since this whole festival of farces began, she shed a tear. And then she couldn't stop. She hugged her knees, buried her face in the cushion, and sobbed.

    ***

    Voght heard the thump of something hitting the bulkhead through the well insulated bulkhead. There was another thump.

    "Mister Friday, have you been instructed to keep an eye on Deputy Vine?"

    "If I had, Crewman Voght, I would also have been instructed to not discuss it outside a particular circle of personnel. Privacy is a right under Federation Law and is protected with certain provisions for health, safety, and public welfare."

    "I just want you to tell me when it's appropriate to visit. I wouldn't want to embarrass her by walking in at a bad time."

    "If you plan to visit her I would advise giving her a few minutes to settle in."

    "Not too many minutes, I think."

    Voght shifted her weight before easing herself out of bed. The pain was muted now, and mostly tolerable, but movement sent waves of needle-prickles all through her wound. It was almost worse than the pain: an annoying itch that couldn't be scratched. Actually, scratching usually made it worse.

    She went to the foot of her bunk and opened her locker. It was an old, battered chest which had followed her from home, through boot camp, service school, and three assignments. It contained her meager treasures: mementos from places she had been and people she had known. Her rack of medals. Her ushaan: one of the edge-guards had come off. It had fallen into the bottom and required some digging to retrieve. She snapped the guard back in place, and then found what she was looking for.

    The bottle was old, it's spiral shape and the millions of tiny cracks in its outer surface reflected rainbows of light which were oddly blue-shifted due to the rich blood-colored ale inside. Doctor Sar would be mad. Thaw him.

    She toggled the replicator panel and said, "Two tumblers of ice."

    She toggled the replicator again and said, "Two tumblers made of ice."

    The glass tumblers filled with ice cubes vanished and were replaced by two frozen cups. She grabbed them and headed for the hatch. "Last chance, Mister Friday!" The A.I. didn't answer, which Voght took for an answer.

    She tapped her neighbor's annunciator. After a decent interval she tapped it again. And waited. Then she knocked. A moment later the hatch opened and a tall human, (who still had to look up to the Andorian,) was standing there.

    "What?" she challenged.

    "Heard I had a new neighbor and I wanted to drop by with a house-warming present."

    Voght stepped in without invitation and set the glasses on the breakfast table, broke the seal on the twenty-five year old bottle of ale, and poured.

    "Love what you've done with the place," she said as she said as she handed the second tumbler to the human. "Might get you to do my quarters when you have time."

    Samantha looked at the Andorian and her face writhed while her various emotions struggled for dominance. Laughter won, and she followed that by draining her cup, which Voght refilled.

    "Crewman Thalys Voght," she said, "Call me Voght. In Starfleet you sometimes forget you have a first name,"

    "Deputy Marshal Samantha Vine. Everyone calls me Sam except my mother."

    They tapped their cups and drank.

    "So, what's with the leash?" Sam asked, pointing to the chain wrapped three times around Voght's waist with the P.A.D.D. tucked in between the chain and her midriff.

    "The Chain Of Command," Voght said. "I'm up for promotion to Chief and it's kind of a big deal. Lots of traditions. If you're really interested in the details I can give you a pamphlet."

    "Not really. Just curiosity." She polished off her ale and held out the cup, which Voght refilled.

    After a moment Voght looked around and said, "Not an empty seat in the house. Here, come with me."

    She wove a path through the litter to the raised platform by the windows, where she sat on the floor. "Computer, Eiffel Tower Observation Deck."

    "Wow," Samantha said. "What is this place?"

    "Earth. Europe, I think. I've never been myself. When I was in the Sol system I spent some time in New Zealand climbing and skiing, but I never made it to Europe. You don't recognize it?"

    "I'm from Bergstrom Colony in orbit of Betelgeuse."

    "Oh? We can see if they have any views from there."

    "Don't bother," Sam said. "It's an orbital arcology. Just the windows were enough to remind me of home."

    Voght refilled their cups and said, "So, after you failed out of interior decorating college, you decided to become a marshal?"

    Sam snorted her chuckle to avoid spraying a mouth full of ale. "Interior decorating..."

    Voght refilled her cup and pretended to refill her own, though she was still nursing her first drink. She said nothing, waiting.

    "It was the family business. Dad was public defense, Mom was corporate security. I learned about the Marshal Service while studying Federation Law, and I always wanted to travel, so..."

    "For me Starfleet was a way out. I didn't realize I was bringing Adnyondor City with me when I left. It's caused me to do a little interior decorating from time to time too. So, what brought this one on?"

    "What? Are you the ship's counselor?"

    "Just someone who's lost friends along the way. I always blame myself. Doesn't seem to matter if it was my fault or not, or even if I could have possibly done anything about it. Just my luck, I join the service and it's one war after another. This is my first non-combat assignment and I went and got myself shot. You know the worst part? I see my crewmates blaming themselves for me getting shot. What could any of them have done to stop it? It was just my lucky day, and sometimes that's all it ever is."

    After a minute of staring into her cup Samantha tossed it down and held it out for a refill, which Voght obliged.

    "This time it was my fault," Sam said. "If I hadn't thought to track medical equipment Jasse would never have walked into that trap."

    "How did that happen?" Voght asked.

    "How much time do you have?"

    "Voght held up the ale and said, "A little better than half a bottle, or until one of us has to go pee."

    ******
    Post edited by brian334 on
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    I'd look for the MOM:

    Method: how the crime was committed
    Opportunity: who had the chance to do it
    Motive: why would they want to do it

    Someone cracked a secure database? Okay, you're limited in scope here to suspects with skill/talent in hacking. There is crossover from other fields, but this is going to require someone who understands computer security systems. Apparently at a high level. Corporate Security/Military high levels. That ain't Ma 'n' Pa Sociology Professor, unless they had previous lives. Background check ought to clear them of suspicion or demonstrate they have the skills. It ought to clear the kid too. If any of the three were involved, there will have been a third party feeding them the info they needed in order to do the hack, because none of them should be able to accomplish the crime by the method actually used.

    Anyone in the universe had a chance to commit this crime because the exact time frame is too vague to rule out, say the kid who was at a boy/girl dance when it was committed, or the parents who were playing bridge with the Murphys. Nailing down the exact moments that the suspects had to commit the crime would be a priority, and some could be weeded out that way.

    So far nothing points to any of the Whalbergs as having a reason to do this crime. Any halfway decent hacker could set up a remote on some TRIBBLE's computer and ghost from it, leaving a trail to nowhere. On the other hand, the destruction of the computer and the disappearance of the kid are definitely clues that something is going on there.

    My hypothesis for testing is to determine that there was not a third party manipulating the child, feeding her data or compromising her by getting her to aid him in the hack, then 'protecting' her by convincing her to disable the computer and run away because she's going to be arrested and put in a penal colony forever. The dark side is a criminal who used the kid, then covered his trail the old fashioned way. In which case, why isn't the body in the basement with mommy and daddy's fingerprints all over?

    Begin with colleagues and friends, examine the family history for oddities, and otherwise seek out influences which might have links back to the TRIBBLE organization. Professional hackers don't just randomly pop databases for fun; they have a real goal, which means they knew what they were looking for.

    How long do I have on his case? Statute of limitations on non-violent felonies should not run more than 15 yeas or so.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    The gymnasium was originally intended for physical rehabilitation in Faith's intended role as a hospital ship, and thus was a major commitment of interior volume. It was two decks tall, fifty meters long, and twenty-five meters wide, located in the secondary hull just forward of the flight deck. The space was also considered additional cargo volume, and a wide manual hatch on its aft bulkhead connected the gym to the Main Cargo Bay.

    Around the upper level a 100 meter oval track with three lanes encircled the compartment, with the 'corners' containing various exercise machines and access ladders between the two levels. The aft segment of the track was a removable grating in case the extra height of the access hatch was needed.The central space had been marked out for, of all things, a basketball court. For some reason the meter-tall Ithenian captain was enamored of the sport typically played by 2 meter tall athletes. There were even courtside bleachers which could be pulled out to allow four rows of spectators seating on both sides of the court.

    Today the center of the basketball court was occupied by a 3cm thick mat in Starfleet Blue with a 10m circle marked out in yellow in its center. About a hundred of the Faith's crew were present and filling the bleachers with the bottom row center reserved for the six members of the Kestrel's crew.

    There was a festival atmosphere in the gathering, an anticipation of excitement which might have had more than a little to do with the month-long series of horrific discoveries found on the moon. Today was a welcome break from routine, and the crew was taking advantage of it. There was even a Ferengi strolling along the fronts of the benches hawking roasted nuts of some kind. Voght acquired two bags, one of which she handed to Ben and the other she passed down the line of her crewmates.

    Some signal must have been given because Captain Verin rose from her seat opposite Lee and stepped into the center of the ring, holding up her hands as the gathering cheered. She turned her palms down and lowered her arms slowly, and the crowd settled.

    When it was quiet enough she said, "We welcome the crew of the USS Kestrel to our home as friends. And in the name of friendly gamesmanship they have agreed to participate in a demonstration of the art of combat. What you will witness today is not fighting. There are no hostilities, no victory, no loss. Only the opportunity to demonstrate skill and excellence of physical performance. In this there can be no loser.

    "The skill levels of our warriors vary from marginal to excellent, and we will begin with the least experienced warriors. Each match will consist of three rounds of ninety seconds duration. Ninety seconds is a very long time in a fight! The opponents will wear pads for safety reasons, and will be monitored by Doctor Rihar. Our referee will be Commander Rainwater."

    Commander Rainwater stepped to the edge of the mat to the crowd's cheers, (and occasional cat-calls.) At the mat's edge he paused with his toes touching the edge of the mat, folded his hands in front of himself, and bowed. When he straightened he stepped to the center of the ring with his captain. She shook his hand, said something that couldn't be heard, and stepped back to the bleachers.

    "In the martial..." He paused as the cheering continued, then he shouted, "Who wants extra duty?"

    The crowd settle quickly, and he tried again.

    "In the martial arts we teach, above all else, the concept of respect. Respect for self, for the teachers, for the place in which we learn, the dojo. And we teach respect for our opponents. You may have noticed when I came to the mat I bowed. It is a sign hat I am here for a purpose, to guard and guide those who come into this ring today that they may leave stronger than they came in. You will see the warriors do this as well, and before and after they fight they will bow to one another to demonstrate and to acknowledge their mutual respect.

    "This is very important, because the skills we teach and learn in the dojo are very serious, and potentially deadly. Without respect, without restraint, those same skills which build character and confidence can turn a person into a monster. Now, please show your respect as we introduce our warriors!"

    From the locker room in the aft port corner of the gym came a line of officers and crewmen, the first five in blue and the second five in gold. The blue team, the crew of the Kestrel, filed to the left at the edge of the mat and the gold team filed to the right. Together they bowed to the ring, then again to the referee who acknowledged this by returning their bows. This ceremony complete, the First Officer of the Faith held up a hand to silence the cheers and announced the first fight.

    "From the USS Kestrel we have Crewman Sibley, with three months experience in martial arts. From the USS Faith we have Crewman Jin, with six months of training."

    They entered the ring, young human and young Saurian, and took opposite sides of the circle, and bowed to one another. Then Commander Rainwater stood between them and held out his hand. He gave them a moment to settle. then he pulled back his hand and said, "Fight!"

    Jn was a little taller, and thinner, but Sibley was the more aggressive. Without hesitation he rushed his opponent, and as she tried a kick to stop his chage he dropped to a knee, grabbed her leg with his arms, and stood, pulling her foot off the floor. Of course, she fell and rolled.

    "Break!" commanded the Commander, and Sibley returned to his edge of the ring. Jin resumed her place and the Commander held his hand out again before giving the command to fight again.

    Sibley faked the charge again but this time instead of dropping to his knee to grapple he attempted to close in to punch. Jin was ready and dropped to the floor to perform a beautiful leg sweep which landed Sibley on the mat. Jin capitalized by snatching and rm-locking his outflung fist behind his back.

    "Break!" the referee shouted, and they both returned to their places.

    The Saurian's face showed no emotion, but her eyes were wide and her stance wary as the referee's hand pulled away. Sibley deflected her foot, then closed to punch, which she blocked. When he tried to grapple she spun and would have hooked his jaw with her elbow had he not stepped back to avoid it. She hooked his foot to trip, but he had the front of her padded gi in his fists and they went down together, with neither able to gain the advantage. After a few seconds of ineffectual attempts by both to grapple the Ref said, "Break!"

    "Round One!" he said, and the crowd cheered as the fighters went to their edges of the circle.

    In the second round both fought more conservatively, with Sibley attempting to get into punching range while Jin held him back with her kicks. At one point it looked like Sibley was going to successfully arm-bar her but she twisted away and placed a heel in his hip that forced him back. Just before the round break Jin was able to jab into Sibley's unprotected mid-section with a flurry of punches, but she left her head exposed and Sibley managed to land a strong punch on her headgear as she twisted away.

    "Watch her pattern, Sibley!" shouted Voght as they took their twenty second break. He nodded.

    In round three Jin came out hard, and feet-first. Attempting to kick Sibley's head, his thigh, his mid-section, she pushed him toward the edge of the circle. He was able to defend himself, but had no time left to counterattack. A narrowly missed roundhouse with his fee just shy of the circle allowed him to mirror the kick, catching the Saurian by surprise in her padded lower ribs. He followed up with a series of blocked punches which didn't score, but which bought him some room. She dropped to the mat in an attempt to sweep his legs and he jumped, kicked her planted foot, and she sprawled in a 120 degree spit on the mat.

    "Break!" shouted the Ref, and Sibley had to pull a punch to her unguarded chin.

    Dr. Riha stepped in with a tricorder and scanned her, looked at the Commander shaking her head side to side, and helped Jin to get her legs straight. Sibley dropped to one knee at the edge of the ring with a look of worry on his face as the Doctor flexed the injured Saurian's legs. The crowd cheered as the Doctor helped Jin to her feet.

    "Bout called due to injury, seventy-two seconds into the third round!" the Commander called, and Sibley bowed to Jin, who tied to return the gesture while supported by the Doctor and standing on one leg.

    Then Sibley ran to help the Doctor help Jin off the mat, and the crowd cheered until they were back into the locker room.

    Dr. Sar got up and stepped over to the commander as the crowd's cheering faded.

    "Doctor Sar of the USS Kestrel has agreed to monitor the medical status of the contestants in the next bout, at least until Doctor Rihar returns. Therefore, the next bout is between Ensign Tanaka of the USS Kestrel and Lieutenant Junior Grade Royers of the USS Faith!"

    The two fighters took their place. Tanaka was compact and dark, while Royers was tall, lean, and fair. When the fight began it became apparent that both had similar training, both Academy graduates who had trained in different years under the Academy staff. They both sought to attack pressure points and defend their own, with defense being prioritized. Neither demonstrated the clumsiness of the previous fighters, but then, neither could gain the advantage.

    An exciting turn came in the second round when Tanaka pulled back to avoid a hook to the jaw which was followed by a leg sweep that dropped him to the mat. Instead of trying to get to his feet he swept the feet of Lt. Royers, who was trying to regain his feet. When Tanaka went for the leg-lock Royer rolled out. Both bounced to their feet, and resumed the blow-and-counter pattern which held to the final seconds of the third round when Tanaka finally landed a jab on the Lieutenant's chin just as the Referee called "Break!"

    The combatants bowed to each other then walked out of the circle patting each other on the back to the audience's applause.

    When the command to fight was given, Crewman Brock and Lieutenant Sileyu came out to fight.The Bandi Lieutenant scored first with a rapid flurry of kicks, then followed up with a devastating series of punches, and was completely taken by surprise when Brock unleashed a full Muay Thai counterattack: elbows and knees in powerful blows to the body and head. He was trying to back away when Brock hooked his leg, but the Bandi performed a cartwheel to put some distance between them.

    With renewed respect the two began to trade kicks, some few of which landed. By the end of Round 1 the crowd was on their feet cheering, and they screamed even louder when the pair resumed their ferocious assault. By the end of Round 3 both fighters were nearing exhaustion, but Brock managed to get inside the Lieutenant's cover and deliver what would have been a serious combination had he not been wearing pads, only to be driven back by Lt. Sileyu's knees. The round ended to a sustained cheer as the fighters bowed.

    When Lieutenants Mirra and T'Lweii were announced there was a ripple of concern in the crowd. The crew of the Faith knew their Romulan crewmate as a formidable fighter, and she massed a third more than the tiny human facing her. There was a gasp of surprise when they saw Mirra's initial attack break through T'Lweii's guard. The Romulan tried to grapple, but Mirra was almost a match for her strength, and much faster. It was only the innate toughness of T'Lweii which allowed her to withstand the repeated attacks, and only Mirra's agility which allowed her to turn out of T'Lweii's more powerful attacks.

    The crowd was on their feet in Round 2 when it looked like T'Lweii was going to grapple Mirra with a submission hold, only to watch Mirra deliver a powerful series of punches to her torso that staggered the Romulan. In flinging Mirra away from her she tossed her to the edge of the ring, forcing a break, and the round timed out before they were called back to the fight.

    Early in the third round T'Lweii staggered Mirra with a well placed punch to the jaw, and Dr. Sar called the match over Lt. Mirra's objection. When the contestants bowed to one another the crowd cheered, and they continued as the pair walked off the mat.

    When Mason and Kelan were announced the crowd grew quiet as they anticipated the fight to come. Mason stood and allowed the Xindi to come to him. Kelan tried for a grapple and was driven back by Mason's knee. Both fighters were concentrating on the bout, so neither saw Lee and Chuss head back to the locker room, but many in the crowd commented on it.

    Kelan tried to grapple again and Mason turned it into a wrist-lock. Kelan rolled out and chopped at Mason's neck, but his chop was turned and Mason took advantage of his lowered guard by punching the Xindi's jaw. Kelan kicked and Mason was shoved back. When they came together again Mason used Kelan's punch to draw him off-balance, but as Kelan fell past Mason his knee jammed into Mason't ribs with an audible slap to the padded gi he wore.

    Before Round 2 Dr. Sar scanned him, and then allowed the second round to begin. Kelan opened with a series of punches that pressed Mason's defense and Mason countered with pressure-point attacks when he could afford to let down his guard enough to attack. Mason used his greater mobility to stay just at the edge of Kelan's attacks, but he was constantly under attack. Kelan paid for it when he overreached and Mason unloaded into his midsection with a rapid series of punches followed by a kick that folded the Xindi in half, forcing the Referee to call a break.

    Dr. Sar checked the Reptilian, then backed out of the ring, and Commander Rainwater let the match continue. When Round 3 began the crowd was on its feet as the match looked like it was going to be first one fighter's match, then the other. In the final seconds of the match Kelan managed to grapple Mason and lift him over his head. As he was trying to throw the human, Mason's leg snagged the Xindi's neck and he managed to lock his legs, drawing the Xindi out of the ring with him from the momentum of his own throw.

    The crowd was cheering what they thought was the final match as the two contestants bowed and headed off the mat together, but Chuss and Marshal Lee were bowing to the ring, then to the Comander. Lee was wearing a slick grey suit that covered all but his eyes, while Chuss wore shorts with a tail-hole. The unexpected match caught their attention and they quickly resumed their seats. After speaking to the Referee for a moment the two took opposite sides of the circle and waited for the call to fight.

    Chus roared and leapt. Once in the air his trajectory was set, and Lee hit the deck to roll beneath him, coming up in the Caitian's rear as he hit the deck. Lee slammed chuss with a rapid set of punches to Chuss' side, where Humans keep their kidneys. Chuss hit the ground with his forepaws and reached back to attempt to rake Lee with his feet, but Lee was just out of reach. Chuss rolled forward and sprang to his feet with Lee following up at a run.

    Whatever Lee was planning to do, Chuss ruined it with a swipe of his paw, his claws retracted. Lee gave him the room, just in case they had been extended. Chuss followed, swiping left and right. Lee backed for three steps then grappled a left-sided swipe, using the momentum of Chuss' body to turn him into a flip. Chuss converted that momentum into a roll and sprang to his feet. Lee's attempt to follow up allowed Chuss to pull a similar trick, but instead of pulling Lee into a flip he managed to draw the Marshal only enough to get him behind himself, then Lee was on Chuss' back trying for a necklock. Chuss solved that problem by reaching over his shoulders and grabbing Lee, then flipping him forward to slam him to the deck on his back. His followup was to extend his claws in an attempt to pin Lee to the deck, but Lee was already rolling away.

    The speed and ferocity of their attacks made it apparent why neither had accepted Lt. Kelan's challenge. Either one of them would have had the speed to avoid his attacks, and the power to break through his defenses. The Commander called the break and the two dropped back, both panting, to opposite sides.

    When the command to fight was given Lee leapt to the side to avoid Chuss' leap, but the Caitian had not leapt. Instead he was running across the ring toward Lee. He ploughed into the Human, who fell like a rag-doll only to reach up punching into Chuss' midriff and rolling away from Chuss's huge claws as they tried to stomp the human. When Chuss tried to prevent Lee from regaining his feet, Lee converted his momentum into a flying sprawl with his feet. Lee was upight before the Caitian hit the deck, halfway outside the circle, which was enough for Rainwater to call a break. They were barely into twenty seconds of the second round!

    They resumed and Lee again ended up behind Chuss. He was exploiting the Caitian's forward-facing shoulderbones which limited the ability of Chuss to protect his rear, but the Caitian had a fix: he could attack with his feet behind him, and his feet were as heavily as clawed as his hands. Chuss jabbed behind with his feet, then twisted his torso to swipe, and Lee was forced to give him the room he needed to renew his attack. The Marshal was forced into defense again until Chuss leapt a leg-sweep. Lee spun full circle and caught the Caitian' knees just as his feet hit the deck, and Chuss found himself on his back.

    For most species this was a bad place to be, and it would have been so if Chuss was fighting one of his own, but Lee lacked claws on his feet, and Chuss had four heavily clawed appendages ready to rake and claw anything in his reach. Again Lee backed up. When Chuss regained his feet he attempted to corral Lee into the circle's edge, and Lee fell back before his wide attacks. Then he ducked a sweep, and in a perfect imitation of Sibley's first attack he dropped to a knee and locked onto Chuss' leg, heaving as he stood, forcing Chuss to fall backward. Chuss' other foot raked down Lee's side, and would have left him crippled had Lee not been wearing the puncture-resistant suit.

    Commander Rainwater called the end of the second round and the crowd cheered as they took places on opposite sides of the circle. When they resumed Lee and Chuss charged one another, and again Lee proved more agile by dodging the Caitian's lunge and rolling away from the reaching claws that tried to rake him in passing. As Chuss hit the deck Lee was on his back, and the Caitian was attempting to roll him off. Instead he got Lee beneath him, and Lee's powerful legs heaved, sending the Caitian flying from the ring.

    When they reset and the command to fight as given they charged again. This time Lee faked a dodge. When the Caitian reached to stop it he left himself open to Lee's rapid-fire punches along his centerline, beginning at his crotch and ending at his neck. this attack dropped the Caitian to his knees as he struggled to catch his breath. Dr. Sar entered the ring to scan the Caitian and Lee took a knee. Dr. Sar then called the fight and began to apply a medical device to Chuss' windpipe as the crowd went wild.

    When Chuss could stand again they bowed and joined the other contestants at the edge of the mat. They all bowed once more and retired to the locker room as the crowd began to drift away.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    [author's notes] The fight scenes require rework, as they come across as stale newspaper report rather than the blow-by-blow radio show which was intended. [/author's note]
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    The party after the fights went on through the night watch, and more than a few crewmen on both ships showed up for morning muster unfit for duty.

    "It has been a catharsis my crew badly needed, Commander," Captain Verin said on the viewscreen of the Kestrel. "We've been dealing with the... inhumanity... of Doctor Aguilar's handiwork, and the pressure's been building up. I admit I probably celebrated a bit too hard myself last night."

    "I can't thank you enough for the hard work and sacrifice your crew has been putting into this," Lee answered. "If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know."

    "Take care of Deputy Vine. She's taken this all very personally."

    "I will," Lee said. "She's a good deputy, and a friend."

    "Good. Then there's only one more thing I want from you: get that TRIBBLE."

    "I will do my best, Captain."

    When the screen blanked and the starfield with the USS Faith in the foreground returned, Lee said, "Helm, set course for Starbase 135, Warp 6."

    "Course laid in for Starbase 135, Warp 6 aye," Chuss answered.

    After the ship went to warp Mirra said, "If I may make an observation, sir?"

    "Please do."

    "Captain Verin seemed to lack a certain degree of emotional detachment."

    "It's not easy. We have to be aware of it, and wary of it."

    "And you sir?"

    "I worry Marshal T'esset with my rampant emotionalism all the time, Number One. It's one thing to have emotions, and another to allow them to dominate your critical thinking process. That's where the disconnect needs to be."

    "I see," she said.

    "Course laid in, helm locked on course. If you don't need me I'm off for bed. I didn't get much sleep last night."

    "Your harem kept you up late?" Mirra asked.

    Ensign Tanaka said, "Six girls brushing and petting him and telling him how wonderful he is doesn't constitute a harem, Lieutenant."

    "Your jealousy doesn't do you credit, Mister Tanaka," Chuss said as he walked toward the hatch.

    "Intrcom, Mister Tanaka," Lee said. When his 'live' light blinked green he announced, "All hands, secure from departure stations, set underway watch rotation. For all hands not on watch, light duty is the order of the day." He toggled the switch and his pickup indicator blinked red, then went off.

    "Lieutenant, you're morning shift, right?"

    "Aye, sir."

    "Mister Tanaka, how much longer until you are qualified for Conn?"

    "I still have Navigation, Weapons, Deflectors, Damage Control, and Helm."

    "You might want to stick around and have the Lieutenant get you started on Weapons."

    "Aye, sir."

    "Lieutenant, the bridge is yours."

    "I relieve you, sir," she said.

    "I stand relieved," Lee replied as he got up from the center seat. "I think I'll go check in on our Deputy and see what she needs to settle in. Care to take on a trainee, Lieutenant?"

    "She's going to be with us for a while sir? Or permanently?"

    "Mashal T'esset will make that call. Until she's reassigned she's ours. And she's not a guest, so we need to put her to work."

    "Aye, sir. What's her specialty?"

    "Technology, data systems."

    "Could use her on sensors; we don't have a Science Officer."

    "Good call. I'll go talk to her." Lee stretched and yawned as he left the bridge.

    ***

    "Are you still carrying bugs?" asked the traffic controller on Stabase 135 as Kestrel assumed station-keeping orbit nearby.

    "We're clear," Lieutenant Mirra said.

    Once on the station, however, it appeared that the starbase crew had forgotten the incident. Lee and Sam made their way to the Medical Department, then to the Recovery Annex, guided by the computer's illuminated floor-strips and by helpful medical personnel as they made their way through the three dimensional maze of the station.

    Both were in uniform, but Sam wore a leather bolero half-jacket with three-quarter sleeves rather than Lee's wool Mandarin Collar style. Her badge showed a dent in the lower left corner.

    They were eventually guided to an atrium which did its best to appear to be an outdoor park where ambulatory patients played or relaxed. The orderly left the Marshals a dozen meters away from a pair of Rigelians: an elderly woman who sat on a park bench beside the wheelchair-bound Jasse.

    "Forgive our intrusion, Mrs. Jasse, but we were told you had approved our visit. We won't keep you for long."

    The woman looked at Lee with poisoned, and pained, eyes. "Why are you here?"

    Lee placed his left hand on his lower right ribs, a gesture Jasse had taught him was a sign of respect, and said, "A lifetime of commiseration on my part will not pay for a moment of your grief, Ma'am, but I am truly sorry for your son's sacrifice. I was too late to save him, and for that I deserve your anger, and your hate.

    "I am Huang Kai Lee. Ichal and I were deputies together, and later Marshals. Most importantly he is my friend. This is his deputy, Samantha Vine, who is also his friend."

    The Rigelian looked at her son, who was looking at Lee. "Don't upset him," she said. "He's had too much of that."

    "Thank you," Lee said, and he took a knee in front of his old friend. "Hey, Jasse, it's Lee. I'm glad you're getting better. We're missing you, all of us. I had to come to see you, to let you know how sorry I am I wasn't there for you when you needed backup. Don't worry about us, we'll be fine. Worry about getting better, okay?"

    "Lll...Ll...Llll..." Jasse strugled to speak, and finally blurted out,"Llllleeeh."

    The surprised look on his mother's face was doubled when he said, "Ssssaaa...m...m."

    "You're going to be okay, buddy," Lee said. "You're going to be okay."

    Lee saw Sam's face and stood, saying, "Mrs. Jasse, please walk with me for a moment. I have something important to discuss."

    He then took Jasse's questing hand and held it steady, patting it with his other hand before leading his mother a short distance away. She was looking back as Sam knelt in front of Jasse, tears flowing now as she tried to speak to him.

    "I think they were more than friends, but if so it wasn't a public relationship. Also, she blames herself for his condition," Lee explained. "But I've called you over to give you these."

    He drew a case from his jacket pocket and opened it. Inside were five data rods. "The butcher who did this wasn't just mutilating him, he was extracting Ichal's memories. We'll never know what has been lost forever, but these are what we've been able to save. We can't put them back," he said, dashing the dawning hope he saw on the mother's face.

    "A best," he continued as she took the case, "They're a scrapbook of data, taken out of context and without any emotional component. I'm told they would be like watching someone else's vacation holographs."

    "You haven't viewed them?" the care-worn Rigelian asked.

    "It would be improper," Lee replied.

    She nodded. "What was done to him... the doctors here won't give me details: just clinical jargon that means very little to me."

    "I'm afraid it wouldn't help you to know the exact mechanical procedure, and I would then be responsible for passing my nightmares on to you. I would beg you to not dwell on that."

    "You have nightmares of this?"

    "The worst ones are when I'm the one performing... the procedure." He looked away to the distance where a pair of children were throwing a ball as a large shaggy red dog chased it.

    The old Rigelian could see the act of will it took for Lee to regain his composure. She took his arm and hugged it.

    "I have been selfish," Mrs. Jasse said. "My son is not the only victim."

    "I intend to make his sacrifice worth the cost," Lee said.

    They turned and looked back to Jasse, who now sat with Sam's head in his lap, clumsily stroking her hair as she sobbed.

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Lee stood looking into the holopaint display which showed Senior Marshal T'eset standing in her office on Celes II. When a Vulcan approaches an issue obliquely it is because she believes there is an emotional component the listener will dislike. In this case, Lee suspected, she disliked the emotional component as much as he was about to.

    "Sometimes it's better to just rip the bandage off, Marshal," Lee said. "I may scream, but at least it will be over."

    "Very well. When Deputy Alyssa Claire is finished with her current assignment she will be shifted to Judge Yuvl and the Seventh Appellate Court, there to be commissioned as a Marshal. It is anticipated that this will occur in six months, depending on the success of her current mission into which, again, you may not inquire. Deputy Marshal Gri Siefer will be promoted to Marshal Thrr's position. Marshal Jasse's badge will not be reassigned at this time, and his deputies will be dispersed as needed within the Service. Marshal Siefer will undertake the lead on the Aguilar case. You may be called upon to assist, if necessary, but you are not to undertake investigations on your own in that case. Any data you may encounter regarding the Aguilar case is to be forwarded via my office to Marshal Siefer."

    "Understood, Marshal."

    "I admit I did anticipate a stronger reaction. Perhaps there is hope for you yet."

    "I've had cause to discuss with my crew the impact of emotionalism on command decisions. I would be a hypocrite if I didn't acknowledge my own shortcomings in this area."

    "Very good, Marshal."

    "I would like a little reward, though. Deputy Vine: she's been cast loose. I could use her investigative skills and she seems to fit in with my crew."

    "In about a month I will require her elsewhere. She retains her badge until then. I was going to offer her leave; however, if she prefers to remain with you until then that is acceptable."

    "Understood. This leaves us at loose ends, Marshal. Your orders?"

    "You still had six days of stand-down time due to you when you were called to Mirell. I suggest you use the time to deal with the unresolved quality-of-life issues of your crew."

    "Understood, Marshal. We will be ready when you call."

    "I expect nothing less. T'eset out."

    Lee sat in his chair and leaned back, exhaling through pursed lips. He relaxed his neck and back muscles then, slumping into the padded desk chair in a position which was bad for his posture.

    "Mister Friday."

    "Yes sir."

    "Message to Deputy Vine: Sam, you have a choice of a month's leave or as much of the next month as you like here with us. After that Senior Marshal T'eset has a job for you elsewhere. We can talk if you like; otherwise, let me know what you decide. Obviously, I'm in no hurry for you to go. Take all the time you need to decide. End message."

    "Message delivered."

    "Thank you. She may not know she has a mailbox, so please prompt her and let her know."

    "Yes sir."

    "Who are our Navigation trainees at the moment?"

    "Crewman Mason and Crewman Sibley."

    "Not Aktay?"

    "Crewman Aktay is currently undertaking Engineering Qualifications as her duties permit, sir."

    "Are either Mason or Sibley on watch at the moment?"

    "Neither are on watch."

    "Then get me both of them on the comm."

    He sat up straight and waited. Sibley was on first, with the Engineering Status Board behind him. Mason was on a moment later with the Starboard Weapons Control hatch behind him.

    "Crewmen, I understand you're both on Navigation. I have a practical or you: plot a course to the Pakled Homeworld. Manually. I'll check them myself. Remember to half-step your destination plots."

    "Understood."

    "Yes sir."

    "Well get moving, Crewmen, you'll be needed at departure stations in half an hour!. Whoever gets it right can ride the Nav Console for Departure."

    "Aye sir!" they said in unison and both images vanished.

    "Mister Friday, intercom please."

    "Ready sir."

    "All hands, prepare for departure in one-half hour. Department Heads report readiness to the Bridge."

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    patrickngo wrote: »
    brian334 wrote: »
    I'd look for the MOM:

    Method: how the crime was committed
    Opportunity: who had the chance to do it
    Motive: why would they want to do it

    Someone cracked a secure database? Okay, you're limited in scope here to suspects with skill/talent in hacking. There is crossover from other fields, but this is going to require someone who understands computer security systems. Apparently at a high level. Corporate Security/Military high levels. That ain't Ma 'n' Pa Sociology Professor, unless they had previous lives. Background check ought to clear them of suspicion or demonstrate they have the skills. It ought to clear the kid too. If any of the three were involved, there will have been a third party feeding them the info they needed in order to do the hack, because none of them should be able to accomplish the crime by the method actually used.

    Anyone in the universe had a chance to commit this crime because the exact time frame is too vague to rule out, say the kid who was at a boy/girl dance when it was committed, or the parents who were playing bridge with the Murphys. Nailing down the exact moments that the suspects had to commit the crime would be a priority, and some could be weeded out that way.

    So far nothing points to any of the Whalbergs as having a reason to do this crime. Any halfway decent hacker could set up a remote on some TRIBBLE's computer and ghost from it, leaving a trail to nowhere. On the other hand, the destruction of the computer and the disappearance of the kid are definitely clues that something is going on there.

    My hypothesis for testing is to determine that there was not a third party manipulating the child, feeding her data or compromising her by getting her to aid him in the hack, then 'protecting' her by convincing her to disable the computer and run away because she's going to be arrested and put in a penal colony forever. The dark side is a criminal who used the kid, then covered his trail the old fashioned way. In which case, why isn't the body in the basement with mommy and daddy's fingerprints all over?

    Begin with colleagues and friends, examine the family history for oddities, and otherwise seek out influences which might have links back to the TRIBBLE organization. Professional hackers don't just randomly pop databases for fun; they have a real goal, which means they knew what they were looking for.

    How long do I have on his case? Statute of limitations on non-violent felonies should not run more than 15 yeas or so.

    figure it's a 15 year period where this case CAN be brought to trial (travel times, the scale of interstellar movement).

    Peregrine was highly intelligent, but she made mistakes-enough of them that a thorough investigation of the gear shows she was involved with a bunch of 'online anarchists' (Modeled on "Anonymous") prior to the incident and her disappearance. (able to recover her login ident, even. "Dahak".)

    Her chain of inquiries link to dark-net discussions on Eugenic Augments and technology. (Yeah, she didn't cover her trax real well. 'almost professional level' but not quite.)

    There's enough details after forensics to suggest she's a viable suspect on her own. (This puts, I think, the final nail on the case against her parents-clearly they were not involved.)

    her other searches (and some trace) indicates a 'surging' interest in her family's ethnic background (Ethnic ashenazie Jewish heritage in both parents). Notably, her parents were raised 'traditional' and turned atheist before she was born, but there are downloaded courses in Hebrew on the drives that weren't properly destroyed, and possible evidence of where she might be heading.

    The Hromi Cluster, a war zone.

    there's also a chatlog reference to "Project: Siegfried" she failed to purge. Just the reference, and the date it was made; three days before the intrusion that set things in motion.

    Actually, Lee would have been in that region a about that time, but it would have been before he had a ship. He might have been able to requisition an Executive Shuttlecraft or an older model Runabout if he had need and an extra was available.

    Step one: he puts Deputy Alyssa Claire on the tracking down the parents. She's a bloodhound. He assumes they are victims, not the perpetrators, because this isn't their Method. (They are academics, their method is to sit around tables arguing, theorizing, devising blind and double-blind tests, and then not actually doing anything!) The assumption is that someone is setting them up for whatever purpose.

    Step two: pull strings until a good hacker falls out of the sky. Lots of people owe favors to the marshals, and lots of the marshals owe him favors. That hacker's job is to find out who fed this kid the lure that got her started and then fed her the tools that got her in. That Project: Siegfried looks like a lure, and tracking its origin is likely to unravel the whole ball of yarn. Again, the assumption is that the kid is being used because she simply lacks the Motive given the present data.

    (I know and you know Siegfried is a black augment project, but Lee doesn't know this at all yet.)

    Step three: I want a subpoena for the TRIBBLE database, and don't give me any c-rap about this, Starfleet, because I can push this to the Supreme Court. Even if I never get the authority to know what was in the database, and what set off the poor kid, I expose you for the hypocrisy you've demonstrated in running a massively illegal and secret from your own chain-of-command operation. If you want to keep a lid on it, you'd best be frank, forthcoming, and fast. Otherwise, it's open season and the news loves a good scandal. So the only real question is how many heads have to roll before I get a look at your data. Oh, I work for Justice Webster. If I vanish, you're going to have the entire power of the Department of Justice parked on your corpse.

    My purpose for having the D-base, at east in outline, is so I can establish the motive for its being TRIBBLE, and to identify who could have known in order to tip off the kid that it was there. The info the kid got came from inside, and she was induced to commit a felony by someone who is the real guilty party in this.

    If you want to continue without giving stuff away to the masses, message me.
  • Options
    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Season 1: Episode 10

    "We like to trade for things," said the Pakled in what passed for System Traffic Control in the Pakled system.

    "We want to visit. We have nothing to trade," said Lee.

    "We trade for things," the Pakled insisted. "You bring us things."

    "Sir, if I may?" asked Mirra.

    "Please," said Lee.

    "Ask him where to trade."

    "Where do we trade?" asked Lee.

    "We will trade here," the Pakled said, and his plot showed a standard planetary coordinate system with a marker beside a relatively small city. Pakled appeared to prefer to spread out, so their cities, even on a planet of several billions, were small by Federation standards.

    "Thank you..." Lee began, but the transmission was terminated.

    "There appear to be two dismantled freighters at that location," Mirra said. "I recommend we contact the Federation Mission. Lieutenant Commander Kyle said she'd try to find Ben's sister.

    "Mister Tanaka, since traffic control has no further interest in us, try to contact the mission."

    "Aye, sir," the Ensign said.

    "What can we expect on the Pakled homeworld, Number One?"

    "Anarchy, sir."

    "Okay, I'll bite: explain."

    "Skipper, according to Commander Kyle, the Pakled do work together, and have hierarchies when necessary, but they seem to operate as a pure meritocracy. They follow whatever works. They are very pragmatic, and they seem to have avoided pollution, war, and for the most part famine by supporting those leaders who create societal stability. When a leader comes along with a better way they adopt her as readily as they adopted the policies of the previous leader.

    "For example, they learned from example about the use of force and piracy early in their starfaring days, but leaders who followed those policies were quickly put out of business, while traders became rich. Thus, the followers of the pirates abandoned the pirate leaders to get rich.

    "With that said, Commander Kyle warns me to not generalize too much when dealing with Pakled because their leadership constantly changes, inducing an ever-evolving melange of policy."

    "I have the Federation Mission to the Pakled Homeworld, Skipper."

    "On screen."

    "Hello, and welcome to the Pakled Homeworld. I'm Deputy Ambassador Storch. How may we at the Federation Mission be of service?"

    "Deputy Ambassador Storch, I'm Lieutenant Commander Lee of the USS Kestrel. I'm here to assist a crewman of mine in reuniting with his sister."

    "Kestrel, Kestrel, why does that name sound familiar?" the middle-aged human asked, apparently consulting his console as he did.

    "We have a Pakled crewman on board whose sister has recently become a mother..." Lee prompted.

    "Yes, very important to the Pakled. Did you know they practice shaming as a method of enforcing societal norms? Ah, here it is, a note from our Chief of Linguistics. She asks to be notified when you arrive." He looked up into the monitor and asked, "You are in the Pakled System, right?"

    "Yes, in orbit of the planet. We've been given landing instructions to a location forty-two degrees North by eighty-seven degrees West according to the grid they provided."

    "For goodness sake, don't land there unless you want your ship stripped for parts!"

    "Excuse me?"

    "They don't mean to steal, Captain. They're just... well, to call them children is to oversimplify. They are incredibly naive. They share everything here, and lack a sense of property. If they need something and it appears to not be needed more by someone else at that moment, they simply take it. We've had a devil of a time keeping basic equipment here at the mission. We've had two replicators taken from our dining room just this year."

    "And this doesn't lead to civil strife?"

    "They tend to make a new one of whatever when they need it. For example, you'll find their three-wheeled vehicles all over the place down here, abandoned and available for anyone to use. When we arrived with things they can't make locally, we created an artificial shortage, so they take ours and try to figure out how to duplicate it. I understand there is a going concern here which is replicating replicators with our 'repurposed' units. If you happen to have rhodenium crystals, I'd bet you could trade well for them."

    "They're having trouble replicating Heisenberg compensators without them?"

    "My guess is that they broke the first unit trying to figure out why the ones they replicated didn't work. And now they have a better idea about unreplicateable materials."

    "This is fascinating, Deputy Ambassador, but we do need instructions on..."

    "Hold on, Captain, our Dr. Kyle has just come in. "Amanda!"

    The gentleman waved to someone out of the holoimager's pickup radius and in a moment Lieutenant Commander Kyle walked into view to stand beside Deputy Ambassador Storch.

    "Hi, Lieutenant!" she said, "And you would be Lieutenant Commander Lee. A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, sir."

    "I understand that you've been a big help in our attempts to integrate Crewman Bengogg, Commander. The Kestrel owes you a debt of gratitude."

    "Just doing my job, Sir," she replied. "I've been able to track down your crewman's sister, which was a major challenge given the lack of centralized databases on Pakled. If you can beam me aboard I can take you to her."

    "We can do that. Number One, if you would?"

    "Aye, sir," she said, as she headed off of the bridge.

    "Wait, I need a second to grab my dataslate. Never go anywhere on Pakled without it!"

    "Dataslate?" asked Lee to the vanishing Commander.

    "It's her new P.A.D.D.," the Deputy Ambassador explained. "About two months ago she had one manufactured with a large imaging screen, and she uses it to draw cartoons for the Pakled. I admit it's improved our ability to communicate with them a great deal. The Ambassador has one now, and as soon as the Pakled delegation is outfitted, I'm going to get one of my own. I assumed you would know about them, being as it was your crewman who invented them."

    "It seems not every detail was entered into my daily reports, Mister Storch."

    "I can empathize. Record-keeping here is less than optimal."

    The commander returned with a tablet that was at least twice the usual size. "I'm ready!"

    After a moment she began to frown.

    "Mister Tanaka, did you notify the Transporter Room?"

    A switch gave its annunciation chirp and the Ensign said, "Aye, sir."

    The Lieutenant Commander dematerialized.

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    patrickngo wrote: »
    Oh, this looks like it's going to be INTERESTING.

    Prepare to be underwhelmed.

    ***

    Lieutenant Commander Kyle, Lieutenant Mirra, and Crewman Bengogg transported to the center plaza of a village near the city in which the Federation Embassy was located. Crewman Ben had equipped himself with a large bag of replicated pork rinds.

    The buildings were almost universally spiral towers, usually no more than two or three stories at their peaks, with a broad arch or gap facing the plaza. Within moments Ben was the center of attention; the Pakleds who were present gathered around him either silently or with nonsense grunts accompanying their arm-patting greetings.

    They lead him, and the two officers followed, into one of the larger spiral houses. It's entry arch gave access to a fifteen meter deep tunnel through the building which opened into a central courtyard surrounded by a ramp that lead up to the right past several dozen doors before reaching the top, three and a half stories above the court, which was one and a half full turns of the spiral ramp. Opposite the entry arch was a broad opening with no door, and this was the destination of the gathering of Ben's friends.

    Inside was a wide bench facing the opening, upon which an ancient Pakled sat. The wisps of hair she still retained were white, and the skin of her face sagged, forming folds and pleats which gave her a look of intense sadness. The crowd parted, leaving Ben standing alone in the center of the room before the bench, giving the two officers room to come up behind him.

    He stepped to the bench and bowed, and the old woman reached out with a shaking hand to touch his head for a moment. When she released him Ben opened the bag of pork rinds, the bag now stained with spots of pseudo-grease, and put one in his mouth. He chewed, tilting his head back in the gesture Lt. Mirra had come to recognize as amusement or laughter, then held the bag out to the elder. A much younger Pakled, whether boy or girl was difficult to tell in the teen, took the bag and removed one of the treats to place it in the elder's hand.

    She chewed the treat, then tilted her head back and held out her hand for another. She must have given some signal then, because the child took one for herself and passed the bag around the room. The Pakled appeared to enjoy the crunchy salty snacks.

    "I wonder what they'll make of crisps?" Mirra said to Kyle. "Or pretzels."

    The Commander gave no answer; her eyes and ears remained focused on the little ceremony. Ben stood silently observing the old Pakled and when she finished her snack she appeared to simply observe him. After a few minutes of this Ben nodded and turned to exit the building. The gathering of Pakleds followed him out, leaving room this time for Mirra and Kyle to accompany him.

    Ben appeared to know his way through the maze of streets, some paved with cobblestones, some with an asphalt-like material or concrete. The haphazard arrangement of streets and buildings was surprisingly clean, but three-wheeled vehicles, some of which were motorized, were parked at random, or were driven apparently carelessly through the streets. Pakled went about their business in pairs. Sometimes larger groups were encountered, but seldom was a Pakled alone.

    Ben came to a small apartment building which had an open alley instead of a covered tunnel to access its courtyard, and it was only two stories at its peak. The courtyard and the ramp were filled with wooden sculptures: some busts of Pakled, some animals, some abstract, or with meanings only discernible to Pakled. Ben turned up the left-hand ramp and went to the topmost door where he passed his hand over an electronic sensor.

    When the door opened Ben's twin stood inside. After a moment's hesitation she tilted her head back and held her hands up, palms toward Ben. He touched his palms to hers and they stood there, neither speaking. Mirra was about to comment until she saw Kyle's fixed attention and realized the linguist was at work attempting to unravel the secret of Pakled communication.

    They finally dropped their hands after about five minutes. Ben turned to the officers and said, "My sister."

    "Ben, does she want to come with us?" Mirra asked.

    "I will take care of her," he said.

    It took them less than half an hour to pack. Most of what they packed made no sense to the Lieutenant, but seemed to fascinate the Commander. "Knowing what a species values is a major key in communication," she said.

    When they were ready Mirra tapped her combadge and said, "Mirra to Kestrel, four to beam up, plus baggage."

    "Give us a minute, Lieutenant," Ensign Tanaka said. "We have an issue here."

    ***
  • Options
    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited November 2018
    After Lt. Mirra left the bridge Ens. Tanaka transferred Communications to the Tactial station where he could stand beside Deputy Vine, who was at the Science half of the console behind the Skipper.

    He was giving instructions in a low voice. "When you scan an object there is an identification algorithm in the computer that decides what it is and prompts the information the computer thinks you might want. That asteroid there, for example, is presented as a composite of minerals: 46% ferric compounds, 38% carbonaceous compounds, 7% silicate compounds, 3.5% helium, 2% hydrogen compounds, including .05%, water, and 2.5% assorted minerals, such as cobalt, ruthenium, rhodium, and palladium."

    "Wait, wasn't that the crystals the ambassador said we could trade?" the Deputy asked.

    "Those are elements in other compounds. Rhodenium crystals are naturally occurring minerals created by intense shock causing nearly instantaneous superheating of rhodium and palladium which are chemically bonded. That kind of thing happens when small planets are destroyed by meteoric impact.

    "But when we scan that asteroid, the one with the mining facility, the..."

    "24 life forms," Deputy Vine said. "Pakled, duranium alloy construction, nitrogn/oxygen atmosphere, (76%/23%,) with less than 1% argon, and other gasses at less than 1% each. Pressure .7kilograms per square centimeter, which makes it a bit thin, but breathable."

    "Exactly, and you can query for the asteroid data..."

    "76% nickle, 20% iron..."

    "Exactly. Knowing what the computer will pick first is important. By default it's life forms, then artificial structures, then mineral formations..."

    "And don't forget to maintain a short range broadband scan while you're playing with the sensors," Lee interrupted.

    Tanaka looked up to see a ship in the viewscreen. He toggled the scanner and checked the com display.

    "Thirty kilometers and closing, they appear to be matching orbit, sir. Transponder I.D. indicates it's the Pakled Merchant Vessel Mung."

    "They're scanning us," Sam said.

    "Scan them back," Lee said. "Mister Tanaka, open coms with the Mung."

    The viewscreen filled with a Pakled bridge, the apparent captain of which stood with his, (or her,) back to the viewer.

    "I'm Lieutenant Commander Lee of the USS Kestrel..."

    "Intruder Alert!" the computer chimed. "Unauthorized transport into Cargo Bay, port side frame 30."

    "Shields up," Lee said. "Crewman Mason, can you get them?"

    "Internal sensors show three Pakled in the cargo bay," said Deputy Vine.

    "Shield up, defense systems online," Sibley said.

    From the com system Tanaka heard, "Mirra to Kestrel, four to beam up, plus baggage."

    "Give us a minute, Lieutenant," Tanaka said, "We have an issue here."

    ***

    The Chief stormed out of the engine room, yelling, "Hey! Put that down!"

    The Pakled was holding a warp plasma injector while two more were digging through the piles of spare parts they had 'appropriated' from Mars.

    "Trade for this," the Pakled said.

    "No, I will not!" the chief yelled, "Put it down! Hey you!" He turned to shout at another of the boarders, who had picked up a holoemitter. "That's not yours! Keep your ear-pickers off of it! Hey!"

    The chief tried to wrestle the holoemitter from the Pakled, but the taller man won simply by holding it over the chief's head. So the chief did the next best thing: he kicked the Packled in the knee.

    "Reeeee!" the creature shouted as it hopped around on one foot, holding its offended knee with both hands. The holoemotter slammed into the deck and something shattered, spraying small parts around the Cargo Bay floor. The one with the plasma injector ran toward the Engine Room, and the Chief chased after him while the third appeared oblivious to the whole situation. It was still rummaging through the spare parts as if taking a very careless inventory.

    Chief didn't see the two behind him dematerialize, but he saw the third vanish as it tried to open the hatch into the port Worker Bee hangar. He tapped his com-badge.

    "They got a warp plasma injector!" he announced.

    "One we were using?" Lee asked.

    "From the spares store," Chief said.

    "Let him keep it. If it's essential we'll have another fabricated."

    "You can't just let them come in here and take our stuff!"

    "You're right, but I don't think one injector is going to prove mission critical, do you?"

    "I guess not," the Chief admitted.

    ***

    Lee waited for the last Pakled, this one holding the injector like a trophy, to beam onto the Pakled bridge, then he said, "Captain, if you want to trade, follow me."

    "You will trade?" asked the Pakled captain.

    "Follow me," Lee repeated. "Mute voice pickups"

    "Muted, sir," Tanaka said.

    "Find that asteroid you found earlier, the one without the facility."

    "Have it sir," Ensign Tanaka said.

    "Put it on Mister Chuss' station. Helm, head to that location at one eighth impulse."

    "It will take us days to get there at that speed."

    "As soon as the Pakled start to follow increase speed. Keep increasing just enough to let them keep up."

    "Aye, sir."

    The Kestrel took a slow, lazy turn toward the Pakled asteroid belt and soon the Pakled vessel was in pursuit.

    "Sam," Lee said, "Give us a tactical readout on our friend."

    "Matter/Antimatter engines, standard configuration warp engine, with a maximum output of Warp 6 in that hull. Impulse reaction drives capable of two-thirds impulse, but underpowered: the system says it has a maximum of Warp 5. I'm reading eight... no, eleven weapons systems: a Klingon style Disruptor Dual Beam Bank, four Disruptor cannons, a Polaron Cannon, three Phaser Arrays, and two Plasma turrets. They might activate the Dual Beam Bank or two of the other weapons, counting both Plasma Turrets as a single weapon for this purpose, but they aren't armored, and their shields are barely sustainable at warp."

    "Could we fight them?" Lee asked.

    "Lee, I don't know anything about fighting ships."

    "Mister Tanaka?"

    "Sir, their main deflector plasma conduit is exposed, and they have no shielding around their vectored exhaust main-thrusters. It would be a very short fight."

    "On the other hand, they could cripple us with that Raptor main battery," Lee said.

    He toggled a switch on his console.

    "Weapons," came the reply.

    Chief Selectee Voght, I'm going to want a ventral emitter set to low-power, infrared spectrum, and another in the same firing arc set to pulse, full power."

    "Sir?" Then Voght said, "Two ventral emitters, one set to low power infrared, the other to full power pulse, aye, sir. Five minutes."

    "Mister Tanaka, please contact the away team and let them know we'll be gone for about six hours."

    "Aye sir."

    "May I ask what it is you think you're doing?" Sam asked.

    "Cooking," Lee answered.

    ***

    They chose two of the smaller vehicles, with paired seats over and just behind the fixed forward wheels, with the engine mounted over the rear wheel which was also the steering wheel. Commander Kyle insisted on driving.

    "You can easily flip these if you oversteer, and the Pakled appear to have a 'look out for yourself' law when it comes to driving."

    Mirra had ridden horses all her life, and on one memorable occasion a trained elephant. She had surfed, ridden motorcycles and safari rovers. She had piloted shuttles and starships. The Pakled trikes scared and thrilled her as they wove through the city into the dust-covered road headed out toward the hills that dropped down to the coast.

    The Pakled farms appeared like wilderness to Mirra, but from time to time she saw fields mowed by a strange hairless herbivore which resembled a huge armadillo, and she could identify identical plants in others, though what they were or what they were used for was another question. These fields, toward the end of the highway, gave way to managed parkland. When the highway ended the road continued onward toward the coast, a rutted dirt trail familiar to the daughter of a safari guide except for its having three ruts instead of two.

    One of the armadillo creatures was waddling toward them, and then Mirra saw what looked to her to be the origin of the three-wheeled vehicle; it was a farm wagon with two poles attached to the rigid front axle, to which the traces of the animal's harness were attached, with a free-spinning rear wheel. The driver walked beside his animal rather than riding on the cart. Ben and Commander Kyle pulled over and turned off their motors until they had passed.

    There was, of course, no name for the beast in Pakled, though Commander called it "Robinsonii Grazer Domesticus," saying that the Robinsons, a husband-and-wife Botany and Biology team, were having great fun giving names to all the nameless creatures and plants of Pakled. When the beast and its herder were gone with whatever the strange reed-like load in their wagonmight have been, they resumed their trip to the coast.

    A little more than an hour away from the city the road ended and they walked up a sandy hill. Beyond was a cove straight out of a semi-historical romance: the kind where the innocent young heroine is marooned with a dashing, devil-may-care survival type.

    After the crest of the hill, sea-grasses and shrubs covered the slope down to a long beach of almost pure white sand. Two arms of land enclosed half the bay, their crests lined with forests of dark green almost tree-like plants whose leaves were patterned with gold and red streaks, and their slopes were lined with low dune grass. The water was turquoise near the shore, and deep blue in the distance, with wind-swept clouds marching across a deep azure sky.

    As a child Mirra had loved the crowded beaches of the South African coast. Any day that was warm enough brought the locals out in droves. Here there were only three others with her; she had the entire beach virtually to herself. In a fairytale dream it couldn't have been more beautiful, and the mesmerized Lieutenant marched down the slope to the beach, stopping to drape her clothes on the last shrub before the open beach began, then continuing down to the water.

    It was cold enough to bite, but she didn't care. She went in, watching the bottom for rays or anything else she might step on, and allowing the chill water to slowly rise until an incoming wave forced her to dive. She whooped as she emerged from the other side, and swam further out. In the water she could hear the boom of the surf on the outer coast; only small ripples made it this far into the cove, but she judged one of them big enough to body surf, at least a little.

    When she finally caught one and let it pick her up high enough to allow her to skid forward on its face, the familiar thrill of the ride proved all too brief, but by this time she was cold enough that her teeth chattered. Dragging up on the beach again, she felt her body weight reassert itself when she lifted out of the water.

    She saw the worried expressions on the faces of Ben and his sister and couldn't help but laugh. She hugged them in turn then lay down on the hot sand in the sun to dry and warm herself, noting that the commander had been content to wade.

    ***

    The asteroid had no name: it was simply one of hundreds in this arc of the planetary plane of the Pakled star. Lee had the asteroid scanned, and sent the scans to the Pakled ship. Then he carefully selected his target: a point where the elements rhodium and palladium were densely clustered. He took control of the weapons then.

    With great care he played the infrared emitter over the area, cooking the various compounds with superheated phased nadion particles until the silicates melted into a black glass blob. In the vacuum of space the glass cooled quickly, bu before its core could become solid Lee fired the pulse-modified phaser array. It drove the glass blob into the asteroid, splattering hot shards of glass everywhere. Then he scanned the wound in the asteroid's body and sent the scans to the Pakled ship.

    The Pakled saw the scans and reacted with a degree of emotionalism they had never seen in Ben, leaning their heads back, patting one another on the arm and backs, and making an array of nonsense sounds.

    "What did you just do?" asked Sam.

    "Mister Tanaka, explain," Lee said.

    "He created Rhodenium Crytals! It's... Sir, I didn't know you could do that."

    "Shock-formed crystals are ancient tech. Unfortunately, those will be microscopic, but suitable for replicators. Once the Pakled get going, though, I'm willing to bet they have what it takes to industrialize the process. In a few years they'll be shock-forming crystals large enough to build transporters.

    The Pakled were already working on imitating Lee's process as the Kestrel set a course back to the planet.

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    After Mirra's glowing report to the crew there was no other choice. Kestrel set down in the sandy meadow just behind the beach dunes where the trikes had been parked the day before. Watches had been selected by pulling names out of a hat. They had to replicate the hat. Even the Skipper put his name in for OOD. And then, at the last moment, Mirra volunteered for the first watch on account of having been there the day before.

    The crew hit the boarding ramp running as soon as it was down. The eastern sky behind them was glowing in anticipation of sunrise, casting a red shade across the beach. The tranquil waters of the enclosed bay lapped at the sand forming a miniature cliff all along the length of the cove.

    Flocks of blond hairless bat-analogues were landing along the water's edge, scraping through the sand with their wing-claws, munching on morsels they uncovered, then launching in waves to move down the beach. From the dune-top forests their larger cousins took wing and headed out to sea.

    The crew of the Kestrel was as active as the native wildlife, setting up beach chairs and umbrellas, running up and down the wave-lapped sand at the water's edge, or occupying themselves with their investigation of the beach. The skipper wandered with a tricorder in hand investigating the dunes, the beach, the shallows, while Chuss took one look at the beach then headed up into the forest that ringed the cove, his caramel-and-chocolate colored coat quickly vanishing in the colors of the trees.

    Chief Garadda took a long look at the beach as Brock and a struggling Ladner tromped through the sand with a keg of beer between them, then turned back. He had another destination in mind. Behind the dunes was a massive salt marsh: a zone of sand and mud covered in winding, currentless waterways that looped upon themselves. He carried his tricorer and a phaser, and found what he was looking for as the sun broke over the horion.

    He scanned the mud pit: it was only about two meter deep over a bed of compacted sand, and it had only a few centimeters of water covering it. Best of all, the tricorder registered nothing toxic or large enough to be a threat. It was perfect! He adjusted his phaser to infrared and fired into the mud, passing its beam back and forth across the mud until it began to bubble with released gas. the familiar scent of life wafted on the breeze: methane and sulfur.

    He discarded his clothes and tricorder and jumped in, retaining the phaser in case the mud cooled. It had been far too long since he had a proper mud-bath! He jumped in, buried himself up to his nose, and relaxed in the warm mud, idly enjoying the sky as it was painted and repainted by the rising sun in images that would drive the impressionists mad.

    ***

    Ben and his sister carried serving bowls of toasted meusli and yogurt, along with smaller bowls and spoons, to the crew on the beach. The Pakled sat side-by-side in the sand. The mid-morning sun was just beginning to warm the top layer of sand, which remained cool just below the crust. They appeared curious about the antics of the humans who played at the edge of the water, which was beginning to build up sustained wave patterns in the onshore morning breeze, but they wouldn't be coaxed down to the edge of the water.

    Even for the humans the water, running somewhere between twelve and fifteen degrees, was too cold to swim for very long. However, it was perfect for splashing, wading, and shoving one another into. Ladner had a sandcastle going and was working on an addition while Aktay lay nearby in the sand 'working on her tan' which was going to be an all-day affair given the amount of sunscreen she had slathered on herself.

    ***

    Lee had confirmed his suspicions: Pakled life-forms were edible. So he returned to the ship, suited up and returned to the beach in a full-body wetsuit with fins, snorkel and mask, and a band-powered spear gun. Everyone appeared curious about his getup, but none cared to join him in his hunt. He walked out, giving the cold water a chance to seep into his suit and warm up. It wasn't long before his body was able to sustain the suit's temperature. He donned fins and mask and began to explore the bottom of the cove.

    Just beyond the surf, in deep ruts in the sand, were mats of clam-like creatures which lived in translucent glass jars. Instead of the familiar pumping action of Earth's bivalves, they extruded waving fronds from their silica shells, withdrawing them instantly and sealing their shell with a silicate cap when Lee swam down to look at them. Their jar weren't simply milky-white glass: there were color patterns, rainbows, threaded through their spiral construction.

    There were also fish-analogues: scaleless versions with fleshy lobes instead of fins, and tri-axially finned fish with no limbs which swam by making spirals. The lobed fish tended to stick to the bottom, and their eyes were usually upward-oriented, while the eel-like fish with a triple-hinged jaw had three eyes, each mounted on a retractable stalk just behind the three corners of its mouth. Neither kind had gills, or at least not as he understood them, and he wondered how they breathed

    The sand bars which divided the rainbow-clam beds were home to a grass-like seaweed which the lobed fish seemed to use for protection and food, but the three-jawed fish appeared to be strict carnivores. Lee extrapolated the presence of massive oceanic spiral-fish, which gave the water a bit more chill than it had mere moments before. Among the weeds a strange kind of creature streched and pulled its way through the seafloor meadows: it was translucent, visible only by chains of darker blobs within its body, which could only be seen by its distortion of what lay beyond it. Knowing Earth's jellies to be painful and sometimes deadly Lee gave the creatures room, as did the lobed fish they came near.

    Anthropomorphizing, or more correctly, Terramorphizing, was a bad habit in biology, but Lee had no other frame of reference for the wonders he was seeing. He substituted his knowledge of predators in general to fill in the gaps of what he was seeing.

    A directionless crunching sound could be heard: the sound traveled too fast in water for his ears to orient him on the sound's source. Then he saw it: a large fleshy lobed fish was in one of the clam-beds crunching their glass shells and gulping down the clams. Swarms of smaller lobed fish swam as the large fish's escort, and they greedily fought over every morsel that escaped the crunching maw of the larger fish. He estimated its thickness at ten to twelve centimeters and its length at around sixty.

    He drew back the elastic bands of his speargun until all four were locked to the sliding nock which would push the arrow and its tailing retrieval line forward. As he loaded the bands one by one he examined the fish. It was bilaterally symmetrical, with its sense organs clustered around its mouth. At least, the ones he could see. If it had a brain it should be located close to those sense organs. If he wasn't Terramorphizing again.

    He breathed and dove. Slowly he approached. Its upward facing eyes gave it a view of Lee no matter from which direction he came, so he settled for simply not appearing threatening. Using what peripheral vision his mask allowed, he was able to never face directly toward the creature. At fifteen meters the creature shied, but settled down to eat again as Lee floated up to get another breath.

    At the surface Lee huffed heavily, oxygenating his body as he thought about his next dive. There was a ridge of grass nearby which might allow a quicker approach, but the creature seemed to be staying fifteen meters from it. In the direction it was going there was a large outcrop which had become encrusted with thousands of small glass shells. If the fish continued to graze in that direction he might be able to get within a few meters before firing his spear. He moved over to it on the surface and watched the prey as it slowly munched a line of destruction through the city of glass.

    He dove down behind the outcrop, then peeked. Holding his breath for more than two minutes was difficult, and at around four he would pass out. If the fish was too slow, if he had mistimed his dive, if he waited too long, he could be in trouble.

    Well, not really trouble. He was wearing a medical monitor which would trigger an emergency transport if his body was in distress. But he would miss his shot and earn him a lecture from Dr. Sar.

    He waited.

    When he finally looked the creature was less than two meters away. As carefully as he could he moved his speargun into position, aimed, and fired.

    ***

    Chief woke as the mud cooled enough to give him a chill. The sun was past noon already. And he sensed he wasn't alone. He listened: there it was, breathing, and branches scraping, but not in time with the breeze. Then he heard his tricorder activate.

    He surged from the mud and turned, pointing his phaser...

    At a pair of screaming Pakled children.

    He had frightened the poor kids, (teens, perhaps?) One of them had fallen and the other, on the verge of escaping, turned back to stand between him and the other. Chief lowered the phaser.

    That was when he realized one of them was wearing his tunic and the other his pants. The tunic wearer wasn't too bad, though he had it inside-out and backwards. The pants wearer had his arms through the pants legs, with the fly being used to allow some give across the neck.

    "That's mine!" the Chief said, pointing at the tricorder the seated Pakled juvenile delinquent held. It made no reply other than to sit with the waistband of the trousers pulling its shoulders back.

    When Chief Garadda moved to crawl from the mud the pair ran off, taking his tricorder and his com-badge with them. He could chase after them, naked and covered in mud, which he was certain had been the cause of their fright, or he could go back to the ship, clean up, and get dressed before hunting for his lost gear.

    ***

    When Ensign Tanaka came to relieve Mirra, she was ready. She had replicated a wetsuit which left her legs and arms bare, and she had replicated a surfboard. At the bottom of the ramp she noticed something moving, something almost black, shuffling toward the ship.

    She almost laughed when she realized it was the Chief, but stifled it for the sake of his dignity.

    "Did you fall in the mud, Chief?" she asked as he passed her to go up the ramp.

    "Did you replicate a boat?" was his response.

    Crewman Aktay, who was on watch at the quarterdeck, was certain to give him a hard time. With a smile Mirra let it slide and trotted off to the beach. There was a knot of crewmen on the shoreline watching the Skipper phaser something in the sand, and there was a second pair of Pakled with Ben and his sister. She waved to them and angled toward the nearest headland.

    She could feel the booming of the waves as she neared the sloped cliff. She had to rock-hop to get around it and n the other side the beach was a narrow rocky strip beneath a broken cliff a dozen meters tall. She stuck her board in the sand and climbed to a vantage where she could see the curve of the coast.

    Out beyond the opening of the cove there was a sandbar which forced the ocean's swells over. It was almost parallel to the coast, and the entire wave crested and broke, creating the booming effect. but off to her right the bar curved with the land, and the oncoming waves hit it at an oblique that forced the wave to roll in a smooth curl which ran down the rocky beach for a full minute before encountering the cup of the shoreline.

    Mirra launched the three globes Aktay had given her as she watched the flow of the water, looking for the rip currents. In her mind she drew maps of the features she could see: there foam indicated shallows, and there a channel was surely where the undertow would drag the unwary out to sea. Wherever water rolled onto a beach, or in this case, a rocky shoreline, there would be ripcurrents that sent that water back out to sea. And moving water would drag her frail body across sharp rocks if she allowed herself to be caught in them.

    Out beyond the break there was a deep trench, the intense blue of deep ocean water and its deceptive tranquility were the clues. The water could be calm in appearance, but move as a river in virtually any direction, and at speeds no swimmer could overcome. When she thought she had the pattern down she hopped down the rocks to her board, found the rip, and allowed it to assist her out to the beginning of the big break.

    Paddling across the rip, she picked up speed, but missed the first curl due to timing and got clobbered by tons of seawater. The second time she caught it, but slipped on the board in trying to stand. Surfing was something one had to practice. She paddled back to the rip current and allowed it to bring her out again.

    Third time's the charm! She had to work to stay in the curl, her board kept wanting to shoot ahead of the wave. Just as she was finding the sweet spot the ride was over, and she crashed into the curl coming from the other direction. She lay on her board a moment to catch her breath and went a second time, paddling back across the length of the beach rather than trying to walk along the rocky shoreline.

    She got better with each ride, but muscles which had not been used for years began to protest. About two-thirds of the way down the last run she felt a jerk and plunged into the water. There was a jerk on the safety line that almost pulled her back, but it went slack. The board must have hit something: it was nowhere to be seen when she popped up.

    She allowed the waves to push her to the shore, careful of the wave-sharpened stones that became deadly obstacles to her progress. She checked the safety lanyard which was supposed to have kept her and her board together, and found its end had been neatly sliced. The rock she hit must have been a razor! Lucky she hadn't been sliced to ribbons on it.

    She disconnected it from her ankle and wrapped it up, carrying it back to shore, then tapped the armband that controlled the holorecorder spheres which had followed her as she rode the waves. they returned to dock on the armband as she climbed a little way up the cliff to see where her board had gotten off to.

    A fragment of what might have been her board floated out on the dark blue, beyond retrieval. It must have been chewed up by the rocks, but she had passed that point many times and even no she couldn't see any rocks where she thought she must have been when it happened.

    The ocean is a funny thing. And this wasn't even her ocean. She began to make her way along the beach back to the others.

    ***

    Aktay came down to the beach after being relieved. The sun was now well on it way to setting, and she brought a tote of sweaters for the crew who had spent the day in the hot sun. She also brought a portable holoprojector.

    A dozen Pakled now sat around in pairs, ranging from young to old. They hadn't said much, but spent a good deal of time looking at one another. They brought a huge pot, a very powerful heating element for it, and several sacks of spider-like crustaceans which they began to boil in seawater with an assortment of vegetables.

    The humans, and the Tellarite, ate the meat from the legs and discarded the shells, which the Pakleds apparently thought wasteful: they ate the entire crustacean. Around dark Chuss returned. He gave no explanation for his day, other than to admit he had had fun.

    The skipper shard his fish, which most agreed tasted like pork, and which had taken most of the afternoon to cook, and Ladner and Brock shared their keg of beer, which the Pakled thoroughly enjoyed, forcing them to call in for reinforcements from the ship. They had also assembled a campfire which now sat ready for it to grow cold enough to light.

    "Guys! Guys! Hey!" Aktay said, to get their attention. When enough faces had turned to her she said, "I want to show you what the Lieutenant was up to this afternoon!"

    She clicked on the holoprojector which showed Mirra's runs along the beach, riding the curling wave as it pushed across the bar toward the beach. There were some chuckles as she fell on the first ties, and again when she ran head-first into the curl coming from the other direction, but everyone cheered her runs when she found the sweet spot, and the long sequence inside a curl with the spray closing off the end of the tube in a rainbow of shattered sunlight.

    "What's that?" asked Brock when an undulating red shape appeared in the background inside the wave.

    "Spiral-fish," said Lee.

    "A what, sir?"

    "I saw some little ones when I was spear-fishing, about the size of my arm or leg. That one's got to be huge. Aktay, can you zoom out and get a better view?"

    Aktay manipulated the controls and Mirra shrunk. And there it was: a massive spiral-fish pacing the surfboard, with its nether curls breaking water behind Mirra, who rode on oblivious to the presence of the carnivore.

    A chill ran down Mirra's spine The fish was about the same diameter as Mirra, but it was eight to ten surfboard lengths.

    "Now we know why the Pakled don't swim!" said Ladner.

    "Just wait," Mirra said. "I had no idea that thing was in the water."

    Two-thrds of the way through the third run the spiral-fish hit the board, its triple-jaws clamping on the tail-end, sending Mirra flying to the end of her tether as the wave crashed over her. Then the ribbon-fish shot of into the deep with most of the surfboard in its jaws. Its razor-sharp teeth had severed the line. A few moment later pieces of the board popped up and were scattered by wind and current.

    The hologram ended with Mirra standing on the shore calling the spheres home.

    There was a moment of silence, into which Mirra said, "I was having so much fun I never even saw it."

    Ladner said, "Time for the bonfire!"

    ***
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited November 2018
    When the fire died down and their Pakled guests wandered off to wherever they came from, they cleaned up the beach and lifted ship. Ben and his sister watched from the Skylight Lounge until the ship went to warp, then they ambled off to Ben's quarters.

    Ben's Sister walked through the room, looking, touching, but the two said nothing to one another: there was no need for words.

    Language, for the Pakled, was unnecessary. They learned from infancy to observe, to read thoughts written in the way they carried themselves, the facial expressions they wore, the very tiny, very subtle clues humans call 'body language' which so few humans ever learn.

    She ran her fingers along the latest problem Ben was solving on the wall.

    You are getting better in this.

    I am learning.

    Good, it is good for you. Your mind is strong.

    She stepped up to the platform beneath the three curved windows which formed the edge of the saucer of the Kestrel, where Ben had set a carving banker with a 50cm cube of replicated wood he had placed upon it. Beneath the window she could stand erect, but the dividing beams just grazed the top of her head causing her to duck. A bench near the aft wall displayed her tools, laid out in a haphazard order that amused her.

    I have much work to do here, she emoted.

    I will stay out of your way, he responded.

    She dropped the mallet she had been examining and turned to him. Not with this. With you.

    I am strong, Ben emoted.

    Of course you are, she replied, But you are not home. I will make for you a home. Then you can be happy.

    His worry, which he had been holding back for so long, came to the forefront. Can you be happy here? With these strange people?

    She stepped down the stairs toward him, emoting, I can be happy anywhere, but I cannot be happy without you.

    She held out her hands to him and he touched her palm to palm. They leaned together until their foreheads touched, standing together as the rainbowed stars flew by their windows.

    ***
    Post edited by brian334 on
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