Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“State of Confusion”
By Alan Decker
Firmly in control of Lisa Beck’s physical form, the Selvan moved closer to its goal. Before it lay the bleeding forms of Phillip Harper and Commander Walter Morales. They had served their purpose, allowing the Selvan the leverage it needed to force Beck’s surrender.
But now there were larger issues to attend to…
And a conduit to forge.
He’d originally decided that he would sit back and see what happened, but Bradley Dillon had never been much for the sitting back approach. That plan lasted for approximately five hours before Bradley couldn’t take it anymore. He needed to take action and quickly. If John Edward Simms, Jr. thought that he was just going to stroll onto Waystation and build his so-called docking arm, he was in for a big surprise.
Waystation was Bradley’s home, and he was not about to stand by while some villain like Simms gained a foothold there.
If anyone had bothered to ask Bradley why he seemed to be loitering in the corridor outside Lisa Beck’s quarters, he would have taken offense and insisted in no uncertain terms that he was not loitering. He was simply out for an evening stroll.
Truth be told, though, he wasn’t so much loitering as laying in wait. Certainly the odds of Beck emerging from her quarters at this late hour were somewhat remote, but there was still a chance. Besides, Bradley really had nowhere else to be and nothing pressing on his mind so much as derailing Simms’s plan.
Bradley was so busy formulating his argument to present to Beck that he didn’t notice her leave her quarters until she strode by him with the look of someone on her way somewhere important.
“Captain!” Bradley said, jogging slightly to catch up. “What a pleasure to run into you like this! I was actually hoping to talk to you at some point.”
“I am busy,” the Selvan replied. Who was this annoyance and why did he have to pick now, of all times, to need to speak to Lisa Beck?
“Of course you are,” Bradley replied. “People like us are always busy, Captain Beck. We have to keep a careful watch over our respective domains.” He followed her into the turbolift.
“Docking bay,” the Selvan said flatly. The turbolift began to move as Bradley continued talking.
“You and I are a lot alike in many regards, Captain. We’re both in positions of importance, and we both want what’s best for Waystation. As such, I wanted to speak to you about a potential danger I’ve recently learned of: John Edward Simms, Junior. Now I know that the owner of a starliner company may not seem like much of a threat on the surface; however, today he informed me that he intended to destroy me no matter what it took. To that end, he plans on constructing a large, unsightly, and ill-advised docking arm on the station. I know this must sound like petty bickering to you, but I warn you not to underestimate the danger posed by a man out for revenge.”
“True words,” the Selvan replied.
“So you’ll stop the project?” Bradley said. “Excellent. If you would, please copy Gisele on all correspondence between yourself and Starfleet about the matter. I would like the information for my records.”
The turbolift slowed to a halt, then the doors opened, allowing the Selvan to exit.
“I won’t forget this, Captain,” Bradley called after her. “I do hope you and Mister Harper will come to Dillon’s for dinner again. The meal is on me. That’s not a bribe; it’s merely a gesture of appreciation for your continued wisdom and skill as Waystation’s commanding officer.”
Beck didn’t look back, not that Bradley really cared. The Captain had her own issues to attend to, and Bradley’s business with her was complete. Now if only he could find a way to see Simms’s face when he learned that his little plan had been foiled before it had even truly begun.
Ensign Chalandra Loas looked up from the docking control console in Ops, confusion filling her delicate Hytellan features. “Did you know anything about a runabout launch scheduled for this evening?” she asked Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter, who was manning Waystation’s science/operations console. Technically, Ensign Loas was not even supposed to be at that station, but since Commander Morales had left Ops in a hurry a while earlier, she’d been forced to cover docking control.
“Runabout launch?” Lieutenant Sean Russell exclaimed. “I didn’t order any runabout launch!”
“Don’t make me regret letting you be in command,” Porter said, checking the readouts on his own console. Sure enough, the Runabout Roanoke was just slipping out of Docking Bay Three.
“I don’t see anything in the departure schedule,” Loas said.
“That’s because it’s not there,” Porter said. He looked at the commbadge signal coming from the craft. “I guess Captain Beck had somewhere she needed to be.”
“Captain Beck?” Russell said. “Well, if it’s her…” He noticed Porter staring at him. “I should at least comm her.”
“Good plan,” Porter replied.
“Waystation to Runabout Roanoke,” Russell said, trying to sound official. “This is Lieutenant Russell, Captain. Is there a problem?”
“No problem,” Beck’s voice replied.
“Um…okay. That’s good…but you left without mentioning anything to anyone. Going anywhere in particular?”
“I have business to attend to,” Beck replied. The comm channel clicked closed. A split-second later, the runabout leapt into warp.
Russell looked over at Porter, who was scowling disapprovingly. “What? She has business! She is the captain.”
“He does have a point, sir,” Loas said.
Porter shook his head. “I know, but something just doesn’t feel right. The captain doesn’t usually take off on her own without telling anyone where she’s heading.”
“Family emergency?” Russell offered.
“It’s possible,” Porter said. He could always confirm that by digging through the comm logs to see if Captain Beck received any personal comms in the last hour or so, but that would be an awfully big invasion of her privacy for very little reason. Beck would be back when she was finished. They’d just have to hold down the fort in the meantime.
“You’d better let Commander Morales know,” Porter said.
“Right. Ops to Commander Morales.” No response. Russell exchanged a confused glance with Porter. Actually, only Russell looked confused. Porter had leapt straight to concerned.
“Ops to Commander Morales,” Russell repeated. Again, no response. “Computer, where is Commander Morales?”
“Commander Morales is in Captain Beck’s quarters,” the computer replied flatly.
“Oh really?” Russell said, raising an amused eyebrow. “Isn’t that an interesting development?”
“And what? He said something to her that made her leave the station?” Porter snapped. “What the hell is going on?”
“I don’t know!”
“No kidding!” Porter shot back, checking his sensor readouts. Commander Morales’ commbadge was in Beck’s quarters all right…
…And it was currently attached to someone with VERY weak life signs.
“Porter to Doctor Nelson! Get to Captain Beck’s quarters NOW!” Porter shouted suddenly, racing toward the turbolift.
“What? What’s happening?” Russell cried.
“But who’s in command!”
“ME! Now let’s move!” Porter said, yanking Russell into the turbolift with him.
Dr. Amedon Nelson was just jogging up to Captain Beck’s door as Porter and Russell raced up from the opposite direction.
“What’s the emergency?” Nelson demanded. “I was just about to go to bed, and now you’ve got Midon doing the rhumba in my belly.”
“I’m not sure,” Porter said while Russell punched in his security override code on the door lock.
Nelson glared at him. “You rousted me out of bed for an ‘I’m not’…OH SH**!” The doors had slid open revealing two bloody bodies. Nelson sprang into action, quickly sweeping both figures with her medical tricorder.
“Dead,” she said, pointing at Phillip Harper’s fallen form. She turned her attention to Morales. The commander was almost unrecognizable under the layer of blood covering his face. His uniform was sliced in several places, revealing bloody gashes. “Alive…barely.”
“Porter to Ops. Transport Doctor Nelson and Commander Morales to the Infirmary NOW!”
“Energizing!” Ensign Loas’ voice replied. A split second later, Nelson and Morales’ unconscious body dematerialized, leaving Porter and Russell alone with the corpse of Phillip Harper.
Porter took the opportunity to throw up.
“I know,” Russell said, patting Porter on the back. “It’s tough to look at the first few times. Back at the Academy, we had to go through this holodeck program of…”
“Don’t…touch me,” Porter gasped between heaves.
“Sorry about that. I can take it from here. I need to start my investigation anyway,” Russell said. He let out a low sigh. “Two murders in less than a year. This place is becoming a bad neighborhood.”
Porter stumbled toward the door. “We’ll meet later. I need…to get to Ops.”
“Good idea. And while you’re there, find Captain Beck,” Russell replied, surveying the blood-covered room. “I really think I’m going to need to talk to her.”
At first there was nothing, just a nondescript greyness stretching out in every direction, not that she could tell how far out every direction stretched. The monotone gray hurt her eyes as they valiantly attempted to get some sense of depth where there was none to be had.
Was this what the rest of her existence was going to be like? Stuck in a giant blob of nothing while the Selvan used her body for who knew what?
Captain Lisa Beck reran the sequence of events, looking for an alternative she might have missed. Phillip was dead, and Morales was under the control of some being. She could have probably gotten to Morales, but would she have been fast enough to prevent the Selvan from killing him, too.
Would the Selvan really have killed him? Maybe it was a bluff. Maybe if it was killed inside a physical body, it would cease to exist as well.
She couldn’t take that chance. But as far as she knew, Morales was still alive because she’d agreed to the Selvan’s demands. And she may have saved the lives of several others as well, if the Selvan wasn’t bluffing about returning again and again until Beck surrendered.
Surrendered. What a horrible sounding word. It made it sound like she’d given up. She HADN’T given up, but she didn’t see any other way out of the situation she was faced with. So now the Selvan had her body, and she was here…wherever here was.
Phillip was dead.
No time to think about that now. She had to find a way back to herself. Beck trusted her crew. No doubt they’d figure out something was wrong, especially once they discovered the dead body.
Phillip was dead.
Stop thinking about that, Lisa. Focus. FOCUS!
Okay. The crew would figure things out. If Morales remembered the Selvan, he could get things rolling. They’d be working to get her back, but she couldn’t just wait for them. She had to try from this end as well…wherever this end was.
Phillip was dead.
“I KNOW!!!” Beck screamed suddenly, her voice echoing all around her. “There was nothing I could do! All right!”
She let herself drop to the ground, sitting in a hunched-over heap. “Nothing I could do,” she muttered, involuntarily remembering the blank look in Phillip’s eyes as the last bit of life drained from him, the Selvan crouched beside him bearing Morales’ features, bloodied knife in hand.
Phillip was dead because the Selvan wanted her. Why her? What was so important about Lisa Beck that a creature was willing to kill the first man she’d loved in many years? The first man ever that she truly felt she connected with in every way. He’d understood her and the life she led, and he loved her for it. She felt the same way about him. While their different careers kept them apart more often than they may have liked, they both understood that was the reality of things. Never did it cause any stress or resentment. All of that was surface, though. All that really mattered was that when they were together, whether it be eating a meal, visiting the holodeck, or laying in bed, Beck felt wonderful being with this intelligent, handsome, funny loving man who wanted nothing more than to be with her.
And now he was gone…because some damn monster wanted her.
Beck got back to her feet, angry determination blazing in her eyes. She wasn’t finished yet. The Selvan may have gotten her body, but he wouldn’t have it for long. Beck was going to find a way back, put a stop to whatever the Selvan wanted it for, then make the Selvan suffer for what it had done.
First, though, was finding a way back. There had to be something else here. A door, a passage, another being. And she was damn well going to find it.
Beck picked a direction at random, then strode off into the greyness.
Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter paced the floor of Dr. Nelson’s office in Waystation’s Infirmary wondering if he was in way over his head. With Beck gone and Morales incapacitated, he was in command, but he had no idea if he was proceeding the right way. Was there a right way to proceed in these circumstances?
For now, he’d decided to keep news of what happened in Beck’s quarters quiet. Ensign Loas didn’t know the full details of what had occurred, but she knew enough that Porter felt it necessary to tell her to consider the incident classified. She was interested enough in her career that that would probably ensure her silence.
There was only so long he’d be able to keep a lid on things, though. The dead civilian was the biggest problem. Phillip Harper’s body had been transported to the Infirmary’s morgue. However, people would have to be called, next of kin informed, but Porter didn’t want to take that step until he’d had a chance to talk to Captain Beck. As things stood, Beck looked like the prime suspect, but Porter couldn’t believe that she could ever perform these acts.
No. He had to believe that Beck left the station for a good reason. He’d known her long enough that it was all he could believe. Now he just needed confirmation.
Lieutenant Russell entered the office a few moments later carrying a padd. “I’ve got the security logs.”
“Okay. Doctor Nelson’s nurse told me a couple of minutes ago that they were just finishing up with Morales.”
“Just finishing?” Russell said. “It’s been two hours! How bad off was he?”
“Pretty bad, I guess. In any case, let’s wait until she gets here, so we can go over things all at once.”
They didn’t have long to wait. Doctor Nelson entered the office a few minutes later pulling off the red surgical hood and heading straight for her chair, which she dropped into tiredly.
“He’s going to live,” she said unceremoniously.
“What about his wounds?” Russell asked.
“He had a lot of them.”
“All from a knife?”
“A knife?” Porter asked.
“I found it on the sofa. It looked like it had just been tossed aside. I’ve got it sealed up for testing.”
“What about another weapon?” Porter asked.
“Did we need another one?” Russell asked.
“I’m just trying to figure out what happened down there.”
Nelson leaned back in her chair, putting her feet up in her desk as she did so. “I haven’t had a chance to check out Harper’s body yet, but Morales only had stab wounds. Fourteen in the torso, then a slice across the forehead. No other injuries.”
“Okay,” Porter said, turning to Russell. “What about…”
“Did you not hear me?” Nelson said. “I said there weren’t any other injuries.”
“So?” Porter said.
Russell considered this for a moment. “None?” he asked, confused.
“None. Nada. Zip.”
“Would somebody tell me why this is so damn important?” Porter snapped.
Nelson got up from her chair and stood in front of Porter, raising her arm in the air as though she had a knife. “If I’m coming at you with a knife, what’s your first reaction?” She suddenly stabbed down at Porter. Reflexively, he moved to block her arm.
“Exactly,” she said.
“If Morales had fought his attacker, his arms should be sliced up, too,” Russell said.
“So was he unconscious?” Porter asked.
“I didn’t see any signs of stun blast or drugs in his system,” Nelson said. “Near as I can figure, he was just out. Any luck finding Captain Beck?”
“The ion trail from the runabout has already started to dissipate, and she was headed toward the main space lanes. Even if I went out after her, the odds of me being able to track the runabout are between slim and none. I’ve got Loas checking into any ships that may have left here at around the same time. It’s possible that Captain Beck is tracking down the killer herself.”
“So you don’t think she’s responsible,” Nelson said.
“Not a chance,” Nelson said.
“I’ve got to be objective, Craig. She’s the only one who left that room on her own two feet.”
Porter glanced at the padd in Russell’s hand. “Do you have something then?”
Russell shook his head. “The security logs are shot. Nothing but interference.”
“Where have I seen this before?” Porter muttered.
“I don’t think we have any more Andorian assassins on the station,” Russell said, handing Porter the padd. “You want to see if you can get anything out of it?”
“Yeah,” Porter replied, taking the padd. “And I’m going to need to talk to Commander Morales.”
“He’s resting, which is exactly what we should be doing,” Nelson said. Porter opened his mouth to protest, but Nelson cut him off. “You aren’t going to solve this if your brain is mush. Get some sleep. We’ll start fresh tomorrow.”
Porter nodded. “Breakfast in the Ops conference room at 0930,” he said. “And let’s keep this need-to-know.”
“We’re the only ones who know Harper’s in the morgue, and I told my staff that Commander Morales had an accident in the holodeck with the safeties off,” Nelson said.
“And I’m handling the investigation myself,” Russell added. “No one else knows.”
“Good. And Captain Beck is attending a conference on Alpha Centauri. It was a last minute invitation,” Porter said.
“That should work for now, but how long are we going to keep this up, Craig?” Russell asked.
“As long as it takes to get some answers.”
So this was what a road to nowhere felt like. Captain Beck had heard Captain Andy Baxter of the USS Aerostar (now Explorer) toss off the term after the Aerostar returned from six months of being trapped in the Delta Quadrant. Beck had to believe that the Aerostar’s unwelcome trip to that far-flung region of space was far more scenic than the endless gray she was trudging through now.
Determination had been easy for the first several hours (Had it been hours? She had no way to judge time here beyond her own subjective impressions.), but now that determination had given way to boredom, drudgery, and a tiny bit of fear that there wasn’t actually anywhere to go.
Beck kept on walking. What was the alternative? Give up? Spend the rest of her existence in an endless field of blah?
She would find something, anything. She would…
Was that something up ahead?
She squinted into the grayness, which seemed to be giving way as though it were just a thick fog. Shapes and forms were gradually becoming visible all around her.
The forms became more and more distinct until she realized where she was.
“I should have known,” Beck muttered, looking at her surroundings.
Her family beach house on the North Carolina coast.
“What should you have known?” a vaguely-feminine voice asked from behind her.
Beck spun around and saw a figure approaching, its appearance shifting rapidly from Beck’s mother to her sister to her father to Stephanie Hodges to Stephanie Hodges as a kid to Phillip Harper to…
“Pick something!” Beck shouted, slamming her eyes shut. The rapid shifts were giving her a headache…not that she actually had a head now. Her physical head was elsewhere, leaving her only with this version of herself that she assumed had been created by her own consciousness.
“You pick something,” the figure replied. “I have no control over your memories.”
Beck tried to focus on the newcomer, picturing her as someone she felt neutrally about. No sense in having emotional attachments to a figment of her own imagination. Beck opened her eyes, the figure before her now in the form of Gurat, the fry cook at Wok-A-Chodok in Waystation’s food court. An odd choice possibly, but at least the being wasn’t switching faces randomly anymore.
“Is that better?” the not-Gurat asked.
“Much. Now where am I?”
“I was going to ask you the same question,” not-Gurat said gazing around at her surroundings. “It is pleasing to view, though. Do you come here often?”
Beck had to laugh. “Lately, only in my mind,” she replied. A couple of years earlier, Karyna had brought Beck to a representation of this house while trying to tempt her with the power of the Q, a temptation Beck eventually accepted. Then she had come here in her dream, the dream when the Selvan first attempted to take control of her body.
“Your mind must like it here.”
“I guess so,” Beck said. “So do you mind telling me where here REALLY is?”
“Here is here,” not-Gurat replied simply.
“Great. And you are?”
“I am here.”
“Are you literally ‘Here’ or are you just here as in this is the place where you currently reside? Good god that was complicated.”
“This is where I am.”
“Uh huh. Are there others here?”
“There was another like yourself, but he never moved. He lay quietly. His mind never created a here to exist in. And then he vanished.”
Was that Morales, Beck wondered. If he had been asleep when the Selvan took control, perhaps his unconscious mind was sent here and was unable to awaken. He never would have known what was happening.
Of course, none of that mattered now.
“How do I get out of here?” Beck asked.
“Where would you go?”
“Back to my body.”
“My physical form. This…” Beck gestured at the ‘body’ she currently had. “…isn’t really me. It looks like me and wears my uniform, but the real me is back in the physical world.”
“This isn’t the real you?”
“You have your mind, your thoughts, your personality, your memories. What else is there that makes you you?” not-Gurat asked.
“You don’t understand. Something called the Selvan has my body, and he’s planning to do something with it. I have to stop him.”
“What if the Selvan is planning to do something just?”
“‘Just’ as in to achieve justice.”
“Then he should have asked first,” Beck said. “Wait…what do you know about the Selvan?”
“Selvan are here.”
“He is? So that means I’m still inside my own body. He’s just pushed me aside.”
“No, the Selvan has your body. You are no longer with your body. You are here. Selvan are here. I am here.”
Beck had the feeling she was getting nowhere rather quickly. “Okay. Let’s back up,” she said. “How long have you been here?”
“Lovely,” Beck muttered, wondering if she could just run into the beach house, curl up in her own bed, and make it all go away.
Rest, Dr. Nelson had said. Yeah right. How was Porter supposed to rest when he was in command of a station with a missing captain, a mangled first officer, and a corpse? He’d tossed and turned in his bed for a few hours, possibly even drifting off into a fitful sleep occasionally; although, he wasn’t sure. Finally, though, he’d given up and headed to Ops, where Lieutenant Mason was currently in command.
Mason had no idea that anything was amiss other than Morales’ “holodeck injury.” Porter felt slightly bad for keeping him in the dark about things, but he still believed that fewer people knowing what really happened was for the best. The last thing he needed was anyone jumping to the conclusion that Captain Beck had committed two very serious crimes (possibly three, if it turned out she’d just stolen a runabout).
With sleep not an option, Porter turned his attention to the sensor readings from Beck’s quarters. As Russell had said, the security sensors hadn’t picked up anything, or, if they had, the readings were buried under so much interference as to be unusable.
He’d seen this kind of thing before last year when a sensor scrambling device had been used to cover up the murder of an Andorian visiting the station. Porter started there, attempting to use some of the same filtering routines he used in that instance to try and break through whatever had affected the sensor readings from Beck’s quarters.
He had no idea how much time had passed before he was interrupted by the sound of the turbolift doors in Ops opening and closing followed by firm footsteps toward his console. Porter looked up tiredly into the angry eyes of Yeoman Tina Jones.
“Morning, Tina,” Porter said as warmly as he could. “Something wrong?”
“What the hell happened to Commander Morales?” she demanded.
“Holodeck accident,” Porter said. “Near as we can figure the poor guy accidentally turned off the safeties.”
“I don’t think so,” Jones said, planting her hand on the top of the console and leaning in face-to-face with Porter. “WHAT happened?”
“Tina, this isn’t a good time…”
“Er…could I talk to you in Captain Beck’s office?”
“Please don’t jerk me around, Craig.”
“Now,” Porter said, coming out from behind his console and heading toward Beck’s office. Jones grudgingly following, then positioned herself in the middle of the office, arms crossed, while Porter collapsed onto the sofa along the side wall.
“Walter doesn’t use the holodeck,” Jones said before Porter could get a word in edgewise. “He doesn’t really like them, and even if he did, he’d know enough not to turn off the safeties. And now Doctor Nelson won’t let me see him, and you’re avoiding my questions, and I just want to know what the hell is happening around here!”
“Join the club,” Porter said with a tired sigh.
“So it wasn’t the holodeck,” Jones said.
“No,” Porter admitted. “What I’m about to tell you does not leave this room, you understand me.”
“Uh huh,” Jones said, nodding quickly as she grabbed a seat across from Porter and rocked in it anxiously.
“Last night at about 2230 hours, Commander Morales was attacked in Captain Beck’s quarters.”
“Oh god! Is he all right?”
“Nelson says he’s going to be fine. She patched up all the knife wounds, so he’ll make a full recovery.”
“Thank goodness. Wait, what was he doing there?” Jones asked confused.
“We don’t know. We don’t know a lot unfortunately. Captain Beck left the station, then we went to her quarters and found Morales and Phillip Harper.”
“Was he stabbed, too?” Jones asked.
“Harper was dead when we got there.”
Jones nodded numbly, her eyes wide. “Who would…?”
“We don’t know. Sensors were scrambled. I was working on them when you got here.” Porter glanced over at the chronometer. It was close to 930 hours. “Russell, Nelson, and I are having a meeting in a couple of minutes to go over what we know. You can sit in with us, if you’d like.”
Jones just nodded again.
“Good,” Porter said, standing up and placing his hand on Jones’s shoulder. “We’re going to figure out what happened. It’s just a matter of time. Don’t worry.”
Jones moved to follow Porter, her mind trying to resist seeing the worst case scenario that was forming there. Could Captain Beck have done this? Why would she unless…
No. Impossible. No matter how jealous he was, Walter would never do anything to hurt anyone.
“The DNA scans have all come up negative,” Lieutenant Russell reported as he, Porter, Nelson, and Jones sat around the table in the Ops briefing room, large mugs of coffee sitting in front of each of them. “As far as I can tell, no one else was in that room. You had any luck with the sensor recordings?”
“Not yet,” Porter said. “I’m focusing on the video. I’ve got a few algorithms working on it now, but so far all I’ve gotten is a load of static and noise.” He turned to Nelson. “Did you get a chance to look at Harper?”
Nelson nodded as she sucked down a large gulp of coffee. “Deep stab wound to the abdomen along with a lot of damage to the surrounding organs. My guess is that after Harper was stabbed, his assailant yanked the knife sideways.”
“Yikes,” Jones winced.
“What about those arm wounds we were talking about yesterday?” Porter said.
“He didn’t have any either, but I’d say that’s because he was caught off-guard. The assailant stabbed, slashed, then later came back and slit Harper’s throat.”
“Oh god,” Jones muttered.
The briefing room doors opened suddenly, allowing Colonel Martin Lazlo of the Federation Marine Corps battalion stationed on board to storm into the room, waving a padd as he went.
“Where is she?” Lazlo demanded, slamming the padd down on the table.
“Alpha Centauri,” Porter replied. “What’s the problem?”
“Holodeck injury,” Jones added quickly.
“So you’re in charge?” Lazlo asked, pointing an accusing finger at Porter.
“The buck stops there,” Nelson said. “And he’s busy. If you didn’t notice, we’re having a meeting here. Say what you have to say, then get the hell out.”
“Beck denied my training request,” Lazlo said, his mustache quivering as it usually did when the marine was angry.
“You wanted to take your troops to Nerenna Three?” Porter said, looking at the padd. “But there’s a colony there.”
“So? We were going to be several kilometers away from them.”
“In the swamps?” Porter asked, reading further down.
“We have to be ready for anything. Now get Beck on the comm. I want this straightened out NOW!”
Porter exchanged a quick glance with Russell. If Lazlo started pushing to talk to Beck, their whole plan of keeping things quiet would go down the tubes pretty quickly. The last thing they needed right now was an overzealous marine stirring things up.
“Fengallis,” Porter said, an idea popping into his head.
“Excuse me?” Lazlo said.
“We ran across it on a survey mission a little over a month ago. Most of the planet is swamps, and there’s not a single sentient being to be found. Just lots of nasty snakes, alligator-things, and such. It’s about a three day trip from here.” Which meant close to a week round trip, and that didn’t even count the time the marines would spend on the planet itself.
“I’ll take it,” Lazlo said, snatching his padd back before Porter could rescind the offer.
“Good. I’ll have the coordinates sent to your office,” Porter replied as Lazlo stormed out of the briefing room as quickly as he had come.
“There. That was easy,” Porter said.
“What about Captain Beck?” Russell asked.
“Still no word.”
“That’s not what I meant, Craig. We’ve got to get her back here…whether she wants to come back or not. We have to send out an alert.”
“She didn’t do this, Sean.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Then who did? Give me a suspect because everything I’ve seen so far points straight at Lisa Beck. I don’t like it any more than you do, but I have to have her brought in.”
“At least let me talk to Commander Morales first,” Porter said.
Russell was silent for several moments. “Okay,” he said finally. “But you realize that if he fingers Captain Beck, we’ve given her that much more of a head start.”
“Then you can lock me up for aiding and abetting,” Porter replied, rising from his seat. “But it’s not going to happen. She didn’t do it.”
“Is that ‘meeting adjourned’?” Nelson asked as Porter headed toward the door.
“I’ve got work to do,” Porter replied. “Let me know if Morales’ status changes.” With that, he was gone.
“Did that seem irrational to anyone else?” Russell asked.
“Friendships usually are,” Jones replied. “He knows Lisa well enough to know she’d never kill anyone, especially not Phillip Harper.”
“Maybe he dumped her,” Russell said. “And she snapped.”
“So what happened to Morales?” Nelson asked.
“He was walking by, heard Harper screaming, rushed in and got attacked for his trouble. It makes perfect sense.”
“Except for the part where she would never snap,” Nelson said, standing up. “I’ve got to get back to the Infirmary.”
“Can I sit with Walter?” Jones asked.
“Sure. The presence of a friend could help him along,” Nelson replied. She turned on Russell. “As for you…you’re doing what you have to do. All of us realize that. We just hope you’re wrong.”
“So do I,” Russell said softly as the women walked out the room. “So do I.”
The arrival of yet another runabout was nothing out of the ordinary for Vega Two planetary control. While not one of the planets traditionally considered to be a “core world” of the Federation, Vega Two was close enough to the center of the UFP that it had become a bustling world in its own right. As such, Starfleet Officers and their craft were a common sight, so no one took any special interest when the Runabout Roanoke requested landing clearance at the docking facility orbiting above Kellex, the Vegan capital city.
Nor did the arrival of the Selvan at the Transport Hub in Kellex raise so much as an eyebrow. Well, an eyebrow or two raised, but only from those beings admiring the form of Lisa Beck that the Selvan currently occupied.
Unaware and uncaring of these few stares, the Selvan adjusted the shoulder pack it was carrying and made its way out of the Transport Hub and into the city proper.
He’d awakened in the Infirmary, a fact that surprised him until he felt the dull twinges of pain in various spots across his torso. The next thing Walter Morales sensed was that he wasn’t alone.
Slowly, he opened his eyes, straining to focus on his dim surroundings and the figure seated beside his bed.
“Hey there,” Yeoman Tina Jones’s voice said softly. “How are you doing?”
“What happened?” Morales croaked.
“You don’t remember?” Jones asked. Morales could tell from the anxiousness in her voice that evidently no one else knew what had happened to him either.
Morales shook his head. “I went to bed. Now I’m here.” He tried to raise himself onto his elbows.
“Hang on there, big guy,” Dr. Nelson said, entering the recovery room with medical tricorder in hand. “Lay down and let me take a look at you.”
Morales did as he was told while Nelson looked at the biobed readouts and performed a few scans of her own. “Looks like things are healing nicely in there, but you don’t need to be moving around too much just yet.”
“He doesn’t remember what happened,” Jones told Nelson.
“He will,” Nelson replied. “He’s just been through a hell of a trauma. It’ll take some time for his mind to let those memories come back to the surface.”
“Would somebody tell me what happened?” Morales asked as sternly as he could manage in his condition.
“You were stabbed,” Nelson said. “Repeatedly. We don’t know who did it, but you’re lucky…luckier than Phillip Harper.”
“Harper’s dead?” Morales asked in disbelief and growing panic. “What about Lisa? Is she okay? Where’s Captain Beck?”
“Gone,” Jones said. “She took a runabout and left just before we found you and Mister Harper. We haven’t been able to find her or talk to her.”
Morales’ mind reeled as he tried to process this news. “Why would she leave? She couldn’t have…”
“She’s Russell’s primary suspect,” Nelson said. “Speaking of, I’d better tell him you’re awake.” Nelson stepped over to the door and activated the comm unit.
“Lisa?” Morales said. “No. There’s no way. Captain Beck would never hurt anyone like this, much less kill Phillip Harper. That’s just ridiculous. Something else must have happened. I won’t accept that she had anything to do with this.”
“Craig feels the same way,” Jones said, placing a calming hand on Morales’ arm. “He’s working on the sensor feeds right now.”
“Working on them?”
“They were scrambled.”
“We don’t know.”
“Nobody seems to know much of anything,” Morales said. “Least of all me. Why would anyone come into my quarters while I was asleep and stab me?”
“You were found in Captain Beck’s quarters. You’re sure all you remember is going to sleep? In your own bed?” Jones asked.
“Yes. I painted, then I went to bed. That was my night. I’m just having a hard time accepting that someone would break in there, stab me, and evidently move my body to Captain Beck’s quarters. Is this supposed to be some kind of message? Maybe a threat against Lisa. Whoever it is, we have to find them right now and get Lisa back here. If she’s in danger…”
“Calm down, Walter,” Jones said. “We’re doing everything we can. You’re just going to hurt yourself if you try to get up.”
“Russell and Porter are on their way here,” Nelson said, coming back over to complete her examination.
“Have they found Captain Beck?”
“Just relax,” Nelson replied, turning her attention back to her scans. Morales tried to lay still for the next few minutes while Nelson worked. His every instinct was to race to the docking bay, take a ship, and go after Beck, but he knew Jones was right. If he tried to go now in his present condition, he was liable just to make his own health situation worse.
Finally, he saw Porter and Russell at the door, both looking solemn. Nelson waved the pair inside.
“Please tell me you’ve found Captain Beck,” Morales began before Porter or Russell could even open their mouths. “We’ve got to get her side of things. There’s no way she could have done this. You know that, Craig.”
Porter nodded and handed Morales a padd. “This is what I’ve been able to get from the scrambled sensor readings.
Morales watched in horror as the recording played back. There was no sound, and the video was reduced to static in places, but he could see what was happening. He watched himself hiding in Beck’s quarters, then threatening Beck and Phillip Harper with a knife when they returned. A quick scuffle, then the stabbing.
“Captain Beck didn’t kill Phillip Harper,” Porter said as Morales watched himself slit Harper’s throat. “You did.”
TO BE CONTINUED…