Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“9/10ths of the Law”
By Alan Decker
Getting out more was overrated, Sean Russell thought to himself, shivering from the cold of a Halydol winter as he and his cousin Olivia strolled (if you could call anything in these temperatures a stroll) along the riverfront shopping district of Carter City, which was named for the founder of the human colony that first existed here two hundred years ago.
The citizens of Halydol were proud of their pioneering past, as was evidenced by the distinctly 22nd and 23rd century feel to the planet’s architecture. In the Museum of Halydol in Carter City, artifacts from these past eras were prominently displayed among pictures, vids, and holos of the personages of Halydol’s history. The planet bore the distinction of being one of the few places in the galaxy visited by five different versions of the Starship Enterprise, one of which was commanded by Captain James T. Kirk himself. Kirk had even autographed a photo of himself with the colony administrator of the time, a picture which now sat inside the museum next to one of Kirk’s ripped command tunics, the cloth of which, legend had it, was torn when Kirk single-handedly took on two Klingon spies who were attempting to sabotage the colony’s water supply.
All signs of Klingon saboteurs and other assorted havoc were long gone, though. Now Carter City was a clean, thriving community complete with lush parkland, opulent shopping districts, and a scenic riverwalk.
And if it weren’t so damn cold out, Russell might have been able to enjoy some of it. So far it wasn’t a great first day on the planet.
“Are you having a good time?” Olivia asked after the two had walked in silence for a good while. “You don’t look like you’re having a good time.”
“I’m great,” Russell said, forcing a smile.
“You look cold.”
“It is winter.”
“Come on. It’s not that bad,” Olivia said. Not that bad. Not that bad? Russell understood that even in this day and age of planet-wide weather control, people still wanted seasons, but did they have to make winter this frigid? How could anyone enjoy this?
“It’s not even below freezing,” Olivia added.
Of course, it was possible that Russell had just spent too much timing living in climate controlled comfort on Waystation. He pushed the thought out of his mind. He was on vacation. Waystation was two weeks’ travel and several sectors away.
Honestly, Russell had expected more of a reaction from Captain Beck when he told her that he was planning on using two months of his leave. She not only approved the leave but went so far as to tell him that she thought it was a good idea.
“Go have a good time,” Beck had said. “Celebrate that promotion.”
The promotion. He was Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell now. Somehow he thought it would feel different. Important. Satisfying. He’d been a Lieutenant for eight years. Eight years, five of which he was chief of security for an entire space station. Russell had started to wonder if he had to save the universe by himself to prove to Beck and Starfleet that he was Lieutenant Commander material, but in the end, the promotion just kind of happened. No big event. No shining in a crisis. When she brought him the news and his third pip, Captain Beck had told him that it was a long overdue reward for a job well-done. He should have been happy. Hell, he should have been thrilled, but somehow the whole thing just felt anti-climactic.
He needed to get away for a while. Take some time to himself to think and take stock. Fortunately, Olivia had been pestering him for a while to visit her on Halydol. The two had practically grown up together, since Russell’s father and his uncle, Olivia’s father, were in business together and all. She was a year older than him and had gone off on her own about a year before Russell entered Starfleet Academy. Life being what it was, they hadn’t seen each other in years, which made Russell all the more eager to come to Halydol for a few weeks so they could spend some quality time together.
“You in there?” Olivia asked, tugging on Russell’s arm.
“Yeah. I’m sorry,” Russell said. “Just thinking.”
“I noticed. You’re far too pensive for a man on vacation.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“So you said. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. It’s just…did you ever wonder if you were in the right job?”
“All the time. That’s when I know I need to get another one,” Olivia replied.
“And that works?”
Olivia shrugged. “It does for me. If I like a place, I’ll stick around and see what work I can get. Don’t like a job, get another. Don’t like a place, move.”
“Sounds simple,” Russell said.
“Is it supposed to be hard?”
“I guess not.”
“This is getting too deep,” Olivia said, dragging her cousin toward the door of a small cafe. “Let’s eat. You’re going to love this place. I promise.”
“And don’t worry. You’ll be fine. I know everybody back on that station of yours misses you a lot.”
“Nah,” Russell said, following Olivia inside. “I’m sure they’re doing just great without me.”
Ensign Mike Waits, acting chief of Waystation security, looked over his team one more time as they stood outside the doors of Dillon’s Casino and Entertainment Complex on Deck 97. “All right, people,” Waits said, basking in his role of authority. “We get in, find the disturbance, and shut it down. Any questions? Yuen?”
“Why isn’t Casino security handling this?” Ensign Yuen asked.
“No idea. I guess they thought it was over their heads. Anyone else?”
“When is Lieutenant Commander Russell coming back?” Ensign Weston asked.
“Can we wait for him?”
“No. We’re going in. NOW!” Waits activated the Casino doors and charged inside, his five member security team close behind.
“Everyone freeze!” Waits shouted, brandishing his phaser. The casino patrons were a little too busy having a brawl to pay him any attention.
“Holy crap!” he screamed, narrowly ducking under a thrown chair. Ensign Weston wasn’t so lucky. She went down in a heap. “Um…just lay there,” Waits said, grabbing Weston’s phaser. With one weapon in each hand, he opened fire, sending stun blasts into the rioting crowd as his other officers did the same.
Judging by the reaction Olivia got when she and Russell walked through the door, Russell quickly deduced that she must be a regular here. Of course, the fact that she was on a first name basis with their waiter was something of a giveaway as well.
After Olivia ordered a round of drinks for them both and they put in their food orders, she leaned across the table and stared at him intently as though searching for something. “So…Starfleet huh?” she said finally.
“Yep,” Russell replied, taking a sip of the Carter’s Carnival Olivia had ordered for him, whatever that was. He instantly gagged. “Is this real?”
“Absolutely. None of that synthehol crap for my cousin,” Olivia stated proudly.
“Thanks,” Russell gasped, taking another sip. Now that he was prepared for it, he found that the drink was actually quite good.
“I just never figured you for Starfleet.”
“Why not?” Russell asked. “It’s a good career.”
“Yes, but you…you just never seemed real interested in…well…”
“They gave me a phaser,” Russell said.
“What about you? Why Halydol? Until you commed me a few months ago, I thought you were on Vega Two…and Alpha Centauri before that, and Sherman’s Planet before that.”
“Like I said, I get bored, I move,” Olivia said.
“Are you bored here?”
“Not yet.” She craned her neck around toward the bar running along the side of the cafe. “Another Carnival for my cousin please, Ned.”
“Thanks,” Russell said, pushing aside his empty glass. “What are you doing to keep yourself unbored?”
“Really?” Russell said impressed as Ned delivered his new beverage.
“Kind of. There are a few sites leftover from the original colony several miles outside of the city, and I’m helping clean them up and look for artifacts. There’s a risk of leakage from some of the old equipment they buried there, so I get to wear a clean suit and everything when I’m on site. Otherwise, I’m in our offices downtown cataloging what we’ve found. It’s kind of cool…for now.”
“I didn’t realize you had an archaeology degree,” Russell said after a long sip.
“Xenobotany,” Olivia said. “Never cared much for that, though. I’ll do this for a while until I think of something else to try.”
“But isn’t that awfully…unstable?”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“I don’t know. I’ve just never been like that.”
“You don’t say,” Olivia said with a grin. “Just an observation here, but you don’t seem real happy with your stability right now.”
“You know what they say. Stability breeds contempt.”
“That too,” Russell said. “I just don’t know what I’m doing there sometimes. I mean I sat there for years, and nobody seemed to give a damn about the work I was doing unless I was screwing up, and then suddenly out of nowhere I get a promotion…”
“Wait. You got promoted?” Olivia said.
“Yeah,” Russell replied, not sounding at all excited.
“Congratulations! Ned, another round!” Olivia shouted back to the bar. She spun back to Russell. “Sorry about that. Go on.”
“I’m just not feeling…”
“Yeah. That’s it,” Russell said as another drink found its way into his hand. Pretty soon the Carter’s Carnival was resting inside his stomach, and the words began pouring out.
“There. How does that feel?” Dr. Amelia Nelson asked in the infirmary after she finished her work on Waits’ head.
The ensign worked his jaw experimentally. “Much better,” he said. “You know, that Vulcan hit really hard for a pacifist. And he looked really mad too.”
“An angry gambling Vulcan?” Nelson asked pointedly, glaring at Waits.
Waits stared back at her for a few moments before her point sunk in. “Crap! Waits to security,” he said hopping down from the biobed and heading toward the exit. “Run a scan on that Vulcan we arrested in the casino. We may have a Romulan spy on our hands.” He glanced back at Nelson. “Thanks, Doc!”
“Don’t mention it. I do the same thing for your boss all the time,” Nelson said with a smile as Waits rushed off into the mall concourse on his way back to the security office.
With the last of the injuries from the casino melee dealt with, Dr. Nelson headed back to her office to finish up some other work. Near her desk, the Midon symbiont floated peacefully inside its tank. Nelson smiled and opened the lid. “How are you doing in there?” she asked lovingly, reaching in and patting the being that had until a couple months ago resided inside her abdominal cavity.
An electric jolt flashed through Nelson’s body as her hand made contact with Midon. Nelson bolted upright, one word branded into her mind.
Nelson shook the effects off as another voice buzzed in the background. Gradually, the words became clearer.
“Bridge to Doctor Nelson!” Commander Walter Morales’s voice said anxiously. “Are you there, Doctor?”
“Yeah,” Nelson said dazed. “I’m here.”
“Are you all right? You didn’t respond for a while.”
“I’m fine. Just dozed off for a moment. What’s the problem?”
“We just got a comm from Bracktia Prime. They have a ship heading this way that should arrive tomorrow,” Morales said. Nelson’s eyes widened in alarm. The Bracktians? Why would they be coming here unless…
Morales’s voice confirmed what she already feared. “They’re coming for Midon.”
What was that binging noise?
Russell was in the middle of his palace enjoying a nice private bubble bath with four of his favorite girlfriends, and he was fairly certain that nothing should be binging. He was just about to reach over and summon his very proper Vulcan butler when he suddenly snapped awake and found himself on Olivia’s sofa-bed in the living room of her small apartment.
And something was still binging.
“I’ll get it,” Olivia said, exiting her bedroom as she tied a robe around her waist. “Just go back to sleep.”
Russell tried to move but quickly discovered that this particular decision had been overruled by the incredible pounding in his head. He tried to speak but found that his mouth appeared to be on vacation somewhere. And a bit lower down, his stomach informed him in no uncertain terms that it would empty itself violently if he attempted to move again.
So this is what a real hangover was like. No wonder someone invented synthehol. It was probably some poor sap who woke up one morning feeling like Russell did now.
Olivia’s use of the word “officer” yanked Russell out of his own musings of misery to what was happening at the apartment door.
“Would you mind if we came inside?” Russell heard a no- nonsense female voice ask.
“Of course,” Olivia said. A man and a woman in crisp suits moved to sit on the sofa but found it occupied.
“Hi,” Russell croaked.
“Who is this?” the man asked.
“My cousin,” Olivia said. “He’s staying with me for a couple of weeks.”
“And why is that?” the man asked, pointing the question at Russell.
“Vacation,” Russell muttered.
“Starfleet,” Russell said, forcing himself into a sitting position. He held himself very, very still for a moment to calm his stomach before continuing. “Lieutenant Commander Sean Russell. I’m Chief of Security for Waystation.” He saw the man and woman exchange a glance. “Is there a problem?”
“I’m Inspector Chambers,” the woman said. “This is Inspector Malone. We’re with the Halydol Constabulary. We’re investigating a robbery that occurred at the Museum of Halydol last night.”
“We weren’t at the museum last night,” Russell said confused. Of course, it could be the general fog encasing his brain that was causing this confusion, but he just couldn’t imagine why the constabulary would want to talk to them.
“We?” Chambers said. “So you and your cousin were together?”
“Yes,” Russell said. “All night. We went to dinner at some cafe then came back here.”
“Which cafe, ma’am?” Malone asked Olivia.
“Alley Cats,” Olivia said as Malone made a note on a padd.
“Wait,” Russell said. He’d been involved in enough investigations to know that the constabulary would not be here without cause. “Do you think we’re involved in this robbery? What was stolen? And what does it have to do with us?”
“We do not believe you’re involved, Commander,” Chambers said. “In fact, until about sixty seconds ago, we were not aware of your existence. Your cousin, however, has been seen five times in the last week lingering in the vicinity of the exhibit in question.”
“What exhibit?” Russell asked, growing a little annoyed and a lot nauseous.
“The Enterprise exhibit. And our authentic Captain James Tiberius Kirk ripped uniform tunic is missing.”
“Why would I steal a ripped shirt?” Olivia demanded.
“Explain your presence in the exhibit,” Chambers shot back.
“My company’s offices are nearby. I go to walk the museum at lunch sometimes.”
“Hang on. Don’t you have security recordings of the actual robbery?” Russell said.
“Blank. Some kind of jamming.”
Russell winced. “Ooooh. Ick. Been through that enough times. But that still doesn’t make Olivia the prime suspect just because she happened to be in the museum a lot.”
“You must admit that her background is enough to provoke curiosity, though,” Malone said.
“What about her background?” Russell said. He turned to Olivia. “What about your background?”
“Ancient history,” Olivia said.
“Tell that to the authorities on Alpha Centauri,” Chambers said.
“That was a misunderstanding.”
“You were convicted of robbery, Miss Russell. Where was the misunderstanding?”
“I’m clean now.”
“Of course you are,” Malone snorted.
“Has she been accused of anything on Halydol?” Russell asked, not looking away from his cousin.
“Well…no,” Malone replied.
“But because she has a past record, you immediately assumed she was involved in this robbery.”
“She’s the only person we’ve identified on the security recordings from the week prior who has a criminal record,” Chambers said.
“So? Don’t we believe in rehabilitation here? Just because she did something then doesn’t make her the culprit now.”
“We’re simply investigating, Commander Russell. We aren’t here to make an arrest.” Chambers turned to Olivia. “But you would be well-advised to stay in the immediate area, ma’am.”
“But I told you she was with me,” Russell said.
“Yes. Yes you did. We’ll be corroborating that. We may be back with further questions. Good day to you both.” Chambers gave a curt nod of her head, then headed out the door with Malone close behind.
“Thank you!” Olivia exclaimed once the investigators were gone. “I thought they were going to arrest me!”
“Thank me quietly,” Russell moaned, clutching the sides of his head.
“Sorry,” Olivia whispered.
“What was that about Alpha Centauri?”
“Just a misunderstanding, like I said.”
“I have the authority to pull your record.”
“A previous employer had me arrested for stealing company property,” Olivia said, obviously not liking Russell’s suggestion.
“And did you?”
“Steal the property.”
“Technically yes, but I was told it was part of my severance package. The owner disagreed.”
“Uh huh.” Russell thought this over for a moment, then pushed it aside. “None of that has anything to do with last night. I’m not about to let those two put you away for something you didn’t do.”
“How do you plan to do that?”
“I’m going to start my own investigation.”
Before he knew it, Olivia’s arms were wrapped around him, holding him in a tight hug. “Thank you,” she said. “You’re the best.”
“Wait until I clear you before you say that.”
“Are you sure you want to be here for this?” Captain Lisa Beck asked Dr. Nelson as they stood with Yeoman Tina Jones in the corridor outside the airlock leading to Docking Arm Five.
“I’m not going to hide from the Bracktians. If they think they’re going to take Midon, they can look me in the eye and tell me so to my face,” Nelson said.
“I’m really surprised they even care,” Jones said. “It seemed like most of the planet hated symbionts last time we were there. They had that whole Hinaree group attacking people who had been joined.” Jones grinned suddenly.
“Why are you smiling?” Beck asked.
“Sorry. I got to shoot a lot of the Hinaree while we were there. It was kind of fun,” Jones said. Her smile broadened. “It was a lot of fun.”
“I changed my mind,” Nelson said.
“You want to leave?” Beck asked.
“No. I don’t want the Bracktians here. Deny them permission to dock. Tell them to turn around and go home,” Nelson said quickly, her eyes darting about.
“I can’t do that, Amelia,” Beck said.
“Why not?” Nelson demanded. “You’re the captain. Give an order!”
“They’re going to take her away!” Nelson cried.
“You don’t know that,” Beck said soothingly.
“Yes, I do. Morales told me. ‘They’re coming for Midon,’ he said. Those were his exact words.”
“We’ll talk to them. Work something out…if that’s what you want.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nelson said.
“I just didn’t think you wanted Midon around anymore,” Beck replied. “You told me how much you were enjoying being just Amelia again.”
Nelson hesitated for a bit. “I am…but my research…”
Beck nodded understanding. “Ahh. You need to keep Midon as a lab rat.”
“It’s not like that. We’re doing important work together.”
“But does Midon want to stay here as a research subject or would it prefer to return to its homeworld and be with others of its kind…maybe even be joined to someone else?
“Someone else,” Nelson mumbled numbly.
“They’re here,” Jones said, peering out the small airlock window where she could see a ship approaching.
Beck nodded in acknowledgment, but kept her focus on Nelson. “Midon has a life as well,” she said. “And maybe that life isn’t here anymore.”
The airlock status light flashed green as the Bracktian ship beyond completed its docking procedure. Moments later, two men in the uniforms of the Bracktian Military emerged followed by three Bracktian civilians, two men and a woman.
“Doctor Landris!” Nelson said surprised as she recognized one of the group.
“Hello, Doctor Nelson,” the taller of the two male civilians said warmly. “It’s good to see you again.”
The other male in the group, a stocky older man with white hair, cleared his throat imperiously, sending a clear message that Landris was to be quiet.
“Welcome to Waystation,” Captain Beck said. “I’m Captain Lisa Beck, station commander. This is Doctor Amelia Nelson and Yeoman Tina Jones. If you need anything while you are on board, contact Yeoman Jones, and she’ll be able to assist you.”
“Thank you, Captain,” the male in charge of the Bracktian delegation said without a hint of actual thanks in his voice. “Keaden Preol.”
“Preol!” Nelson and Jones exclaimed in alarm.
“Is there a problem?” Beck asked displeased.
“I believe your officers met my daughter, Ouren, during their visit to our world,” Preol said. “Is that correct?”
“If ‘met’ means ‘were taken hostage by’ then yes,” Nelson said.
“My daughter’s activities are a bit outside of the scope of this visit,” Preol said. “Dr. Landris, Representative Diermed, and I do not wish to impose too much upon your time, however. If you would just take us to the symbiont, we will prepare it for transport and be on our way.”
Beck forced a diplomatic smile. “I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple,” she said.
“You do not have the authority to stop us,” Representative Diermed, the woman of the group, said pointedly.
“No one is stopping anyone,” Beck said. “I just want us all to have a little discussion first.”
“A discussion,” Preol said flatly.
“No harm in that now is there?” Beck said. “Shall we adjourn to our conference room?” she added, gesturing toward the turbolift.
“Very well,” Preol said, shooting a glare at Nelson before he and the other Bracktians stalked into the waiting lift. Jones moved to follow, but Beck held her back. “Get security into Nelson’s office,” Beck whispered. “No one gets close to that symbiont without my say so.” Jones nodded and headed off down the corridor.
“After you, Doctor,” Beck said, waving Nelson into the turbolift with everyone else. “And it’d be great if you’d figure out what you want me to do here real quickly. No pressure, though.”
“Yeah right,” Nelson muttered.
Starfleet Security credentials could get you pretty far on any Federation world, but there were limits, which Lieutenant Commander Russell had discovered and which was why he was now standing in the middle of the Enterprise room of the Museum of Halydol doing pretty much nothing except waiting.
He had to admit that the statues of the Enterprise crew were incredibly lifelike. That Uhura certainly had a set of legs on her, which were well displayed by that glorified shirttail they called a skirt. Curiosity got the better of Russell, and, after taking a quick glance around to make sure he wasn’t being watched, he lifted the skirt.
“Am I interrupting?” Inspector Chambers said, striding into the room looking somewhat bemused as Russell let out a surprised yell and leapt back about ten feet.
“Wha! No! Fine. I’m fine. Just waiting…waiting for you. And you’re here. So I’m not waiting anymore. Hi there!”
“Hello,” Chambers said chuckling. She suddenly turned serious. “Now do you want to tell me why you had me summoned? And what you’re doing in my crime scene?”
“I’m not really in your crime scene. Your crime scene is over there,” Russell replied, pointing at the far side of the room where a torso bust of Captain James T. Kirk sat completely shirtless inside of a display case, a case that now had a rather large irregular hole cut in its transparent aluminum front. “I called you because I want to actually get into the crime scene.”
“You want me to let you tromp around my crime scene,” Chambers snapped. “Why the hell would I want to do that?”
“Because your only suspect has an alibi, and you have no idea where your investigation should go next,” Russell said confidently.
Chambers blanched. “How do you know that?”
“I’m right?” Russell said astounded. He quickly caught himself. “Um…I deduced it.”
“Well, you have to admit that going after my cousin just because she happened to visit the museum and has a record on another planet is a bit weak…almost desperate.”
“It is not desperate,” Chambers protested. “Did it seem desperate?”
“A little. But I’m going to help you.”
“Why would I want your help?”
“Um…remember the part where you don’t have any suspects?”
“We’ll find some.”
“I’m sure you will. So why not let me help you? I do this kind of thing all the time.”
“Lot of crime on your space station?” Chambers asked.
“Well…no, but stuff happens occasionally. I’ve even worked a couple of murders. The second guy came back to life, but still I did a lot of investigating before that happened. The point is I can help, but I can’t do anything unless you take down that force field surrounding the crime scene, so I can take some scans,” Russell said, waving his tricorder at Chambers.
“Oh, so what? Is your tricorder better than my scanners?” Chambers thought for a second. “Yeah. Okay. It probably is, but you’re related to my prime suspect.”
“The one with the alibi. I know. But I want to clear her definitively, and you get some free Starfleet help. Why not let me in?”
“Does Starfleet normally charge?” Chambers asked confused.
“I don’t think so, but that’s not the point. The point is…”
“Do it!” Chambers said, holding her hands up to get Russell to stop. She stepped over to the portable force field generator sitting by the display case in question and input the code to deactivate it.
“Thanks,” Russell said, stepping over and opening his tricorder. He began to thoroughly scan the area. “Hmm…hmm…ahh…oh…er…hmm…I see.”
“What?” Chambers said, craning to look over Russell’s shoulder. “What do you see?”
“Not a thing. There’s nothing here. Not a hair. A skin flake. Nothing.”
“I know,” Chambers said. “We did check for DNA. We’re not that backward. We also checked for transporter traces, not that we’d expect any with the case sliced open like this.”
“A robot,” Russell mused.
“Maybe a robot did it. Any criminal masterminds on the planet with skills in robotics?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Darn.” Russell thought for a second. “You want to have lunch with me?”
“Sure,” Chambers nodded. “My place? I have a replicator.”
“Well…isn’t this nice?” Captain Beck said as she looked around the Ops briefing room at the people gathered at the table.
“With all due respect, Captain, I am beginning to feel as though my time is being wasted,” Representative Diermed said impatiently, tapping her fingers against the table.
“Patience, Lona,” Preol said. “I’m sure the captain has a good reason for bringing us here rather than allowing us to complete our business in a timely fashion. Please continue, Captain…or begin actually.”
“You’re too kind,” Beck said forcing a smile as Dr. Nelson rolled her eyes. “I understand that you wish to be on your way, but this is something of a serious matter. You’re planning to take away one of the residents of my station, and I want to be absolutely sure that I know what kind of situation you’re taking her into.”
“It,” Preol said.
“The symbiont has no gender. It is an it.”
“Midon,” Nelson said.
“The symbiont’s name is Midon,” Nelson said.
“Of course,” Preol said. “As for your concerns, Captain Beck, while I appreciate them, they really are irrelevant in this instance. Bracktian law is quite clear on this subject. Symbionts are consider a part of the planet’s ecology and, therefore, belong on the planet. The…unique circumstances surrounding Dr. Nelson’s implantation are the only reason the symbiont was allowed off- world in the first place.”
Beck leaned forward in her chair. “Pardon my ignorance, Mister Preol…”
“Representative Preol,” Diermed corrected in a huff.
“Now now, Lona. I never did properly introduce myself,” Preol said.
“As I was saying, Representative Preol,” Beck continued, “I have never actually visited your world, but as I understand it from my officers, symbionts were being hunted down and killed by the Hinaree organization last time they were there.”
“That was five years ago. The Hinaree are no longer a threat.”
“That’s a pretty impersonal way to talk about an organization your daughter was involved with,” Dr. Nelson said.
“There are ways to effect social change other than violence.”
“Social change? You mean banning joining with symbionts?” Nelson said, getting angry.
“The creatures are well cared for,” Preol said. “And our citizens who wish to join with a symbiont are now able to get state- sponsored psychiatric care before they throw their lives away.”
Nelson turned on Dr. Landris. “You’re going along with this? We worked together! I thought you loved the symbionts!”
“I still do. I now have hundreds to look after. It’s wonderful,” Landris said. “Midon will be coming home to pools full of other symbionts.”
“To do what?” Nelson asked.
“Live in peace and safety.”
“And never join again.”
“Would you prefer that they were hunted to extinction?” Preol asked. “You should be pleased by this development, Doctor. Our world is now at peace because we were able to find a way to neutralize the symbiont threat without exterminating them.”
“The symbionts were a threat?” Beck asked skeptically.
“How would you view a creature that imposes its own personality and motives on a host and cannot be removed without killing said host?” Diermed asked.
“And what about the people who currently host symbionts?” Nelson asked. “What have you done to them?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Preol said. “Current hosts are registered with the government and restricted from holding positions in certain fields. And when they die, their symbiont is harvested and returned to the pools. That’s all.”
“But they are treated differently,” Beck said.
Preol shrugged. “They are controlled by an alien mind. What would you do?”
“Alien? You said the symbionts are part of your planet’s ecology.”
“We’re mincing words, Captain. And I believe we’ve explained enough about our world’s social structure to ease your concerns for the creature’s safety. We wish to return to Bracktia Prime as soon as possible, so if you would be so kind as to hand over our symbiont, we’ll be on our way.”
Beck glanced at Nelson, who stared back pleadingly. “Doctor…” Beck began unhappily.
“You can’t do this,” Nelson interrupted.
“Doctor Nelson, I cannot…”
Nelson suddenly let out a loud “Ha!”
“Huh?” the collected crowd replied.
“You can’t have her!” Nelson exclaimed.
“Captain Beck!” Preol shouted, turning to Waystation’s commander.
“Amelia,” Beck said, her voice a warning.
“Midon has been here for five years now. That makes her eligible for Federation citizenship. You can’t have her!”
Beck was about to say something but stopped herself.
“This is ridiculous, Captain!” Representative Diermed said.
“Maybe not,” Beck said thoughtfully. “I need to do some checking, but Doctor Nelson may have a valid point. And if she does, I cannot allow you to remove Midon from this station.” She could see the fury building in Preol’s eyes. “No decision has been made,” she said quickly. “We’ll reconvene in three hours after I’ve had time to do some research. Beck to Yeoman Jones.”
“Jones here,” Waystation’s liaison officer’s voice replied.
“Please come collect our Bracktian guests in the conference room and show them to the mall level for some lunch.”
“On my way. Jones out.”
“We will be filing a protest with your government,” Diermed said as Preol glared at Nelson.
“You do that,” Beck said, rising from her chair. “Heck, the President lives on board. I’m sure you could get an appointment to see him in about six weeks. I’m offering you an answer in three little hours. I’d suggest you take me up on it,” she finished before striding out of the room.
Olivia emerged from her bedroom as Russell stepped back into her apartment. “Back so soon?” she asked, trying to force a little levity.
“Yeah. Wait. Weren’t you supposed to work today?”
“After this morning, I just couldn’t,” Olivia replied, heading over to the replicator. She ordered herself an iced tea, then, after retrieving the beverage, plopped down in an armchair in the living area.
“Don’t worry about it,” Russell said. “We’ll find the real culprit. I promise.”
“You having any luck?”
“Kind of,” he said. “I need to get back out there. I’m meeting back up with Inspector Chambers at the police station pretty soon, but I needed a shower.”
“Uh huh,” Olivia said distractedly. She suddenly sat bolt upright. “Shower! You slept with that cop!” she exclaimed. Russell shuffled in place a bit. “Don’t even try to deny it!” Olivia said, grinning broadly.
“We had lunch first,” Russell insisted.
“Did you work on the case at all?”
“Yes,” Russell shot back. “It might have been a robot.”
“A robot?” Olivia said incredulously.
“Maybe. Right now we’re just trying to figure out who on Halydol would want to steal an old shirt.”
“It was James T. Kirk’s,” Olivia said.
“Yeah, but still. That’s just weird. Kind of obsessive really,” Russell said, making his way back to the bathroom. “Hmmm…”
“I think I know what we should be looking for.”
Beck looked up from her desk monitor as her office door chime sounded.
“Go away!” she shouted.
The office doors opened allowing Dr. Nelson to rush in.
“Did you miss the part where I said ‘go away’?” Beck asked before Nelson could launch into whatever tirade she’d come to deliver. “I’m pretty sure ‘go away’ doesn’t sound anything like ‘come in.’”
“You didn’t say ‘Simon Says’,” Nelson replied, planting her hands on Beck’s desk. “Did you find anything?”
“A reason I should lock my door.”
“This isn’t the time, Lisa.”
“You’re right. It isn’t. The time is 40 minutes from now when we all meet back in the conference room. You breathing down my neck is not going to help matters.”
“But I’m right, aren’t I? Midon can stay.”
Beck pushed her chair back and sighed. “It’s dodgy, Amelia. Technically, Midon could apply for Federation citizenship now.”
“Fine. I’ll fill out the forms.”
“You don’t know if that’s what Midon wants. You haven’t even asked, remember?”
“How the hell am I supposed to ask? Grab a Vulcan and have him meld with Midon?” Nelson thought for a second. “Can I do that?”
“I don’t think there’s much of anything you can do. Bracktia Prime is not a Federation member, but we’re bound to respect their authority in this matter. And maybe it’s for the best. Midon might like spending its life with other symbionts.”
“But there will be nothing to do. The only real living Midon has really ever done is with me. Do you know why I never talked about Midon’s past hosts when I was joined? They were boring! Boring! A pre-school teacher and a manure farmer!”
“You can farm manure?”
“Oh yes!” Nelson said. “You need several hundred large hondokins. Set them loose in a large pasture for a while, then let nature take its course. When the hondokins go into the barn for the night, the farmer brings out the manure harvester, collects and packages it up, then sends it off to the processing plant. What comes out is some of the finest fertilizer that…” Nelson fell silent as she realized Beck was watching her with an amused expression on her face.
“Don’t stop on my account,” Beck said.
“Sorry. Some of the past host’s memories filtered into my brain. Comes with the territory. At least I guess it does. No one’s ever really been able to study the effects on someone who no longer has a symbiont after a long-term joining.”
“It’s okay. And think about it this way, maybe you have your next research project.”
“Does that mean Midon is going to Bracktia Prime?”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, but it looks that way. You don’t have to come back to the briefing. Go to the infirmary. Spend some time with Midon, and get her ready to go.”
“And if I find a willing Vulcan along the way?” Nelson asked, forcing a slight smile.
“I’ll be here if you want to talk afterwards.”
“Thanks, Lisa. I know you did what you could.”
“Doesn’t seem like enough somehow,” Beck replied as Nelson headed toward the door.
“Your hands were tied. Don’t worry about it,” Nelson said. “I’ll talk to you later.” Beck didn’t respond as Nelson stepped out into Ops. What else was there to say?
Slipping back to Olivia’s for the shower had been a good idea. It had given Russell a chance to replicate a crisp new Starfleet uniform instead of the civilian clothes he’d been in since his arrival on Halydol. It was best to look official when confronting a suspect, which was what he and Inspector Chambers were about to do based on Russell’s brainstorm. It had occurred to him back at Olivia’s that they needed to figure out who would want an old Starfleet uniform tunic in the first place. A quick search of the Federnet had turned up one Morris Quinn, a Carter City resident who was very active in the Enterprise collectibles arena. Granted, an interest in the Enterprise wasn’t much of a motive to go on, but Russell felt it was certainly better than the excuse the Halydol authorities had used to come after Olivia. Evidently, on a planet with almost no crime, you take whatever leads you can get. The magistrate had even given them a warrant.
“I think I’d better do the talking,” Inspector Chambers said as she and Russell stepped up to Morris Quinn’s door. “You just stand there and look stern. Maybe it will rattle him.”
“Okay,” Russell said. “One question.”
“What’s your first name?”
Chambers smiled. “Rebecca.”
Russell returned the smile. “Just felt like I should know that considering…”
“Yeah. You ready?”
Russell nodded, and Chambers pressed the door chime of Morris Quinn’s apartment.
After several moments, the speaker on the door panel barked to life. “Who…is…atmydoor?”
Russell and Chambers exchanged a confused glance. “Halydol Constabulary, Mister Quinn. Could we speak with you for a few minutes?” Chambers asked.
They could hear rustling and bumping inside the apartment gradually growing louder as something (presumably Quinn) approached the door, which finally opened revealing an unshaven disheveled man who was several centimeters shorter than either Russell or Chambers.
“Did…somethinghappen…toone…of MY neighbors?” he asked, looking up and down the corridor of the apartment building.
“Actually, we’re here to speak to you, Mister Quinn,” Chambers said. “May we come inside?”
“What is THIS…about?” Quinn asked as he stood aside and let Russell and Chambers enter. The living room, if you could call it that, was covered in padds, bits of electronics, and other assorted clutter. The presence of a desk and the absence of a sofa gave Russell the sense that Quinn used this more as a home/office than a living room.
It was also obviously the home of an Enterprise nut. Holographs of officers, including Captain Kirk, old equipment, and various other trinkets stood on shelves lining the walls and on cabinets scattered around the room. Pretty much the only place not covered in memorabilia was the desk, which was buried in the aforementioned padds and electronics.
“I must inform you that we do have a warrant to search your residence.” Chambers said, looking around the apartment in a mix of horror and fascination.
“What…doyouwant…in my home?” Quinn demanded in his unusual staccato rhythm.
“Why are you talking like that?” Russell asked, unable to take it anymore.
“It’s an homage,” Quinn said.
“I’m sorry. Were you born with it?”
“Lieutenant Commander, we have other business,” Chambers said.
Russell nodded, gesturing for Chambers to continue. The Inspector quickly laid out the robbery for Quinn, who stared at her in growing alarm.
“I…would not…desecrate…our museum…inthisway.”
“We only have your word for that, Mister Quinn,” Chambers said. “That’s why we brought the warrant.”
On cue, Russell whipped out his tricorder and started to scan.
“Wait!” Quinn cried. “What…areyou…looking for?”
“Velour,” Russell replied, aiming his tricorder at the desk. “Ha! Gotcha!” He raced over, yanked open a drawer, and came up triumphantly with a old uniform tunic.
“Be careful with that!” Quinn screamed. “It’s authentic!”
“It’s red,” Chambers said.
“So?” Russell demanded.
“We’re looking for gold.”
“Show…some respect,” Quinn pleaded. “An…Enterprise crewman…died…inthatshirt.”
“He did?” Russell said looking at the garment in his hand. “How?”
“Uh huh. Well if this is so valuable, why do you have it stuffed in a drawer? Are you trying to hide it? Where did you steal this from, Mister Quinn?”
“I…didn’t steal it,” Quinn shot back. “I’m repairing…its…display case.”
“Convenient! It was almost…rippedtoshreds. That’s the last time…I…userealglass,” Quinn said, pointing to a display case with a broken front sitting on the floor against the wall.
“Ah. Here’s your shirt back,” Russell said, handing the uniform to Quinn, who carefully folded it back up while Russell went back to his tricorder scans. He clapped the device shut a few moments later. “The place is clean,” he said in disgust. He looked around at the clutter surrounding him. “Well not clean, but you know what I mean.” He turned back to Quinn. “You don’t work with robots by any chance, do you?”
“I write user manuals for Maracaan Industries products.”
“We’ll be in touch, Mister Quinn,” Chambers said, gesturing for Russell to join her at the door. “Thank you for your time.”
“And don’t leave town,” Russell said, following her out into the corridor.
“Any other ideas?” Chambers said once Quinn’s door had closed, leaving her and Russell alone in the hallway.
“Put surveillance on Quinn. There’s something weird about him.”
“He’s just eccentric. And you said it yourself. His apartment was clean. Except for the part where it was filthy. I’m not going back in there without an environmental suit.
“Yeah,” Russell replied distractedly as his mind worked.
“You want to go back to the office and think up a new plan?”
“No,” Russell said. “I think I’m done for the day.”
“Can I give you a ride home?”
“No. I want to walk.”
“In the middle of winter?”
“I’ll be fine. Thank you, though. I’ll comm you later.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I just need to think.”
“Well, if you think of anything important to the case, let me know,” Chambers said.
Russell just nodded in reply as he headed off toward the exit.
At least the Bracktians hadn’t been able to take Midon without her permission, Dr. Nelson thought as she sat at her desk in the infirmary staring at the symbiont floating in the small tank next to her while Ensign Mike Waits, the acting chief of security, and one of the other security officers stood guard outside her office.
She should be packing Midon up. She should be securing the tank and saying her goodbyes.
But she couldn’t move.
“What do you want?” she demanded finally, even though there was no way for the symbiont to answer her. “Stay here? Go to Bracktia Prime? What?”
Unable to sit any longer, Nelson jumped up from her chair and ran a hand through her hair. “They’re going to be coming for you soon,” she said. “Supposedly there’s a halfway decent life waiting for you on Bracktia Prime. You’ll be with bunches of other symbionts. I guess that’s good. I never did get around to studying how you Brackto relate to others of your kind when you’re not joined. And you won’t be joined. Never again. Your life will be your own, and mine will be mine. That’s good isn’t it?”
Nelson sighed and put her hand in the tank, resting it on Midon. “Tell me something,” she whispered. With a jolt, another word flashed into her mind.
And Nelson knew what she had to do.
“Do you mind doing this?” Joan Redding asked as she and Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter strolled along the corridor toward the Associated Worlds Network studios.
“What?” Porter asked.
“Walking with me to work.”
“Why would I mind?”
“I don’t know. I wanted to see if you did.”
“It’s time I get to spend with you,” Porter said, drawing a smile from Redding.
“Good answer,” she said before planting a kiss on his cheek.
“Nelson to Porter,” Porter’s commbadge barked suddenly.
“Porter here,” he said, slapping the device.
“I need you in the infirmary. Now.”
“You’ll have to wait, Doc. He’s with me,” Redding said, speaking into Porter’s chest.
“Craig! This is serious!”
“I’m on my way, Doctor,” Porter said trying not to look at the glare coming at him from Redding’s direction. “Porter out.” He tapped his commbadge closing the channel. “Duty calls,” he said to Redding sheepishly.
“I can see that,” she replied coldly.
“I’ll catch up with you later,” Porter said, jogging into the nearest turbolift.
“Whatever,” Redding muttered, leaving Porter with the distinct impression that he’d managed to upset her yet again.
Porter approached Nelson’s office door minutes later and found his way blocked by Ensign Waits. “Sorry, sir. No one gets to the symbiont without Captain Beck or Doctor Nelson’s approval.”
“Doctor Nelson asked me to come up here,” Porter said.
“I asked him to come up here,” Dr. Nelson said from behind Waits, standing in her office doorway.
“That works,” Waits said, quickly stepping aside.
“How very kind,” Porter said, patting Waits on the arm before he headed into Nelson’s office. “What can I do you for, Doctor?” he asked.
Nelson waited until the door closed before she started to speak. “I need you to put Midon back.”
“Back? Back where?” Porter’s eyes widened as a realization hit. “In you? No. No way.”
“You put her in the first time.”
“Yeah, but my surgery days are over,” Porter said, backing toward the door.
“I’ll talk you through it again. Please, Craig. They’re going to take Midon away.”
“Captain Beck wouldn’t let that happen unless she’d be safe.”
“Safe and happy are two different things. She’ll be kept as a prisoner in a pool and never allowed to join again. I can’t let that happen. She wants to stay with me.”
“How do you know?”
“She told me,” Nelson said. “She wants to go home. I’m her home. She lives in me. And I want her back.”
“Beck to Nelson,” the comm system said suddenly. “We’re about finished here. Are you ready?”
Nelson looked at Porter pleadingly. He nodded without a word. “Ready, Captain,” Nelson said, a soft smile crossing her face. “Infirmary out.”
“We’ve got to get you two out of here,” Porter said once the comm channel was closed.
“I’m not sure that the guards will let me leave.”
“Then we’ll go around them,” Porter replied, dashing over to Nelson’s desk console. He typed furiously, accessing the station’s systems and making the necessary arrangements.
“Here we go,” he said.
Nelson only managed to get out “Are we…” before she, Porter, and Midon, tank and all, dematerialized in transporter beams.
Out in the infirmary proper, Ensign Waits cocked his head at the sound of a familiar hum. “Do you hear that?” he asked.
“What?” Ensign Yuen said.
“Sounded like a transporter.”
“I know. It doesn’t make any sense for a transporter beam to be in the middle of the infirmary,” Waits said, glancing back into Nelson’s office. “Ohhh,” he said.
“What?” Yuen asked, turning to look back into the office. “Ohhhhh.”
“Waits to Captain Beck.”
Captain Beck was just escorting the Bracktians toward the turbolift in Ops when Waits’ comm came in. “Excuse me,” she said to her guests. “Beck here. What is it, Ensign?”
“Um…Doctor Nelson and her symbiont are gone. They were beamed out.”
“Beamed out?” Beck snapped, turning on Representative Preol.
“We did not do this!” Preol replied.
“No. It sounded like a Starfleet transporter. Lieutenant Commander Porter was with her and…”
“Stop right there,” Beck said. She wasn’t completely sure what was happening, but she had a few good theories. Unfortunately, she also knew what her position required that she do about the situation. “Ensign, I want you to find them. Now.”
“Yes, ma’am. We’re all over them. Waits out.”
“What is going on?” Representative Diermed demanded.
“I’m not quite sure,” Beck said. “But we’re taking care of it.”
“Pardon us if we decide to take actions of our own,” Preol said, pulling a small communicator out of his pocket. “Preol to Captain Kergin. The symbiont is missing. Locate it immediately and beam it aboard our ship.”
Nelson, Porter, and Midon and tank reappeared moments later in a corridor deep in the lower saucer. “We need to find a place for the procedure,” Nelson said.
“We need to make sure we’re not found first,” Porter replied. “Porter to Mason.”
“Mason here,” the voice of Lieutenant Mason, Porter’s primary assistant, replied.
“Are you in engineering?”
“Good. Access the security system and activate the Fogblock protocol.”
“Fogblock? Now?” Mason asked hesitantly.
“Right now. That’s an order.”
“All right. Activating it now.”
“Thanks, Mason. Porter out.”
“Fogblock?” Nelson asked confused.
“It was Russell’s idea. If the station were ever taken over by hostile forces…or Colonel Lazlo, we could activate Fogblock, and it would set up a scrambling field, which would wreak havoc with the internal sensors and block transporter beams, preventing the occupying force from locating and transporting Waystation officers who might be trying to take the station back.”
“Good idea. And it was Russell’s?”
“Huh. Who knew?”
“We still have one minor issue, which is that the Bracktians have a ship parked right outside and a set of very distinctive bio- readings to search for, namely Midon’s. Since their scans will be coming from outside, the scrambling field will not be as effective. But as long as we keep moving, we should be fine.”
“Keep moving!” Nelson exclaimed. “I need you to perform surgery!”
“I know. But don’t worry,” Porter said. “I have an idea.”
After a nice long lunch and a little bit of shopping, Mr. and Mrs. Abel Benz, who, along with 38 other senior couples, were in the midst of a nineteen-stop tour of the Alpha Quadrant, waited for a turbolift to take them away from the mall to their guest quarters in the lower saucer.
The turbolift doors opened, revealing a woman lying on her back on the lift floor while a man stood over her, laser scalpel in hand.
“Are you my three o’clock appendectomy?” Porter asked as the elderly couple stared at him open-mouthed. “I’m running a little behind. Just sit tight. I’ll be back around in a few minutes.”
Fifteen minutes had passed, and with each and every one, Representative Preol’s brow seemed to furrow deeper and deeper as the group waited in Ops for word of Dr. Nelson and Midon.
Beck knew that she should probably be angry. Nelson had defied Beck’s directives and had somehow convinced Porter to help her carry out whatever scheme she was plotting. Running from the station didn’t seem likely, since the bays and docking ports were locked down. And they couldn’t hide forever, even with the Fogblock protocol running. Beck had gone so far as to order engineering to shut Fogblock down, but they found they were locked out. Evidently Porter had put in a little bit of programming that stated if Fogblock was ever activated from engineering instead of by security, he was the only one who could deactivate it. Beck was starting to get the sense that her officers were a wee bit paranoid.
In any case, this meant that Waits and the security officers were left searching the station blindly in the hope that they would happen to stumble across Nelson and Porter. Yet despite all of this, Beck wasn’t angry.
Maybe because the Bracktians seemed to be a bunch of pig-headed bastards.
And Beck had to admit that seeing the frustration on Preol’s face as his ship found itself equally unable to track down Midon was rather entertaining.
The opening of a turbolift into Ops drew everyone’s attention away from the chase unfolding around the station. “What’s everybody doing?” Porter asked, supporting Dr. Nelson as they stepped slowly out of the turbolift.
“Fondue party,” Captain Beck replied. “Did you bring the skewers?”
“Sorry. It’s just the two of us.”
“Two?” Beck asked, looking at Nelson, who was barely holding herself upright.
“We are one again,” Nelson said weakly.
“You joined with it again!” Preol thundered angrily, charging toward Nelson. Beck moved in a flash, putting herself between the furious Bracktian and the doctor.
“I’m pretty sure your legal claim to the symbiont just expired,” Beck said darkly.
“I should rip that monster right out of you,” Preol seethed, glaring at Nelson.
“You’re about five seconds from a visit to our brig,” Beck said.
“How can you stand for this?” Diermed said. “She’s openly disobeyed you and put a dangerous creature inside her body.”
“That ‘creature’ has been a part of Doctor Nelson since the day I met her. The only reason we ended up in this situation is because some other beings separated Nelson and Midon against their will. If they decided to rejoin, that was their choice. Theirs.” Beck looked back at Nelson, who nodded in agreement.
“Ours,” Nelson said.
“I hope you all enjoyed your stay,” Beck said. “Go home.”
Preol fumed impotently for a few moments before shouting, “Your government will hear of this!” and storming into the turbolift with Representative Diermed close behind. Dr. Landris moved to follow, but stopped by Nelson for a moment.
“I’m happy for you both,” he said smiling. “Be well.”
“We…I will try,” Nelson said. Landris patted her stomach gently, then stepped into the turbolift with his fellow Bracktians. A moment later, they were gone.
“How are you feeling?” Beck asked.
“A little weak. A lot queasy,” Nelson said. “It takes Midon a few minutes to get perfectly situated.”
“Do you want a symbiont, Captain?” Porter asked. “I’m getting to be an old pro at this.”
“Don’t quit your day job,” Nelson said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re lucky you both still have day jobs after that stunt,” Beck said.
“I’m sorry, Captain. I did not want to cause trouble for you.”
“No trouble here. You’re happy. The Bracktians are leaving empty handed. And we got to test out Fogblock. All in all, I’d say things actually went pretty well.”
“And this is why we love you,” Porter said.
“You’re both taking me to dinner,” Beck said.
“Oh, absolutely,” Porter said. “It’s the least we can do.”
The sound of her front door opening and closing once again drew Olivia out into the living room of her apartment where Russell stood, his brown hair blown in every possible direction and his cheeks a bright red.
“What happened to you?” Olivia asked.
“I thought you hated the cold. I also thought you were busy with the constabulary.”
“I just needed to take a walk,” Russell said.
“Oh. The case isn’t going well then?”
“I solved it.”
“You did?” Olivia said surprised.
“It was you. The local police were right from the start.”
“Sean, how can you…”
“I was confused by the complete lack of biological evidence at the crime scene, but you yourself told me how you did it. I just didn’t realize it until Inspector Chambers said something. You wear a clean suit for your work, and you used it for the robbery, which made sure that you didn’t leave any evidence behind. I don’t quite know how you jammed the museum’s security system yet, but I will.”
“This is crazy. You were with me last night, remember?”
“Actually, I don’t. And that was your plan. On my way here I stopped by the restaurant and talked to your waiter friend, Ned. He remembers bringing several drinks to me, but you stopped at the first one. You kept ordering me those drinks because you knew they’d effectively take me out for the evening, so you could go pull off your heist.”
“I’m not listening to this anymore,” Olivia said, storming back toward her room. “You’re out of your mind.”
Russell was caught up with her in a flash. “I don’t think so,” he said, pushing her aside and charging into the bedroom. The room was a disaster with drawers thrown open and the closet door ajar. On the unmade bed sat two travel cases and a thin metal box about 4 centimeters high and 30 centimeters square.
“Going somewhere?” Russell said, looking back at his cousin, who had entered the room behind him. Her face was a cold mask of anger.
“I commed Alpha Centauri on my way home as well,” he continued. “That ‘company property’ you were arrested for stealing was an ancient Andorian ceremonial axe, which was kept in the company president’s office. Odd item to include in a severance package.”
“My buyer has a taste for antiquities,” Olivia said.
“So you admit it.”
“Might as well.”
“But why me?”
“You were the perfect alibi. No one would question the word of a Starfleet officer.”
“But I’m Starfleet Security. You had to know that I would investigate,” Russell said.
Olivia smiled ruefully. “Honestly, I was counting on it. I know you, Sean…at least I knew you. I figured you’d flail around for a bit, then either pin it on somebody else or just give up altogether. You’re a wonderful guy and a lot of fun, but let’s face it. You’ve never been known for your smarts.”
Russell stiffened. “I may not be some kind of genius, but I know my job. I’ve been chief of security on a space station the size of a town for five years now. I’ve dealt with robberies, riots, and even the occasional murder. If you thought you could use me like this, you were sadly mistaken.”
“Obviously. Congratulations. You solved the case,” Olivia said, moving over to her belongings on the bed. “As you can see, though, I’m heading out, so I need to cut your big triumphant scene a bit short.”
“I can’t let you leave,” Russell said firmly. “I’m taking you to the authorities.”
“We’re family, Sean.”
“Doesn’t matter. You broke the law.”
“It’s a stupid shirt. Let it go.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Fine, then,” Olivia snapped, snatching up the metal case with one hand as she went for a small communicator hidden in her pocket. “Ozymandias, come in. This is…”
Russell pounced, smacking the metal box. It hit the floor and popped open revealing a gold Starfleet uniform shirt cris-crossed with rips. It also revealed one hell of a stench.
“Oh hell,” Russell moaned, staggering back. “What is that?”
“Century old fermented Kirk sweat,” Olivia gasped, grabbing up the garment by the collar. Russell overcame his revulsion and latched onto the shirt’s other end.
“Let go!” Olivia screamed, yanking on the uniform.
“This isn’t yours.”
“It is now!”
Olivia’s communicator spoke up suddenly. “This is the Ozymandias. Is that you, Olivia?”
“Yes! Get me out of here!”
“Olivia! Stop!” Russell cried.
“YES!” Russell tugged hard on the shirt just as Olivia began to dematerialize. After a horrible ripping sound, he fell to the floor, grasping onto what was now only the bottom half of an authentic James T. Kirk uniform tunic. The other half of the shirt and Olivia were gone.
Moments later, the apartment’s front door whooshed open, allowing Inspectors Chambers and Malone to rush inside. They found Russell still sitting on the bedroom floor, clutching the uniform in his hand.
“She’s gone,” Russell said flatly.
“We know,” Chambers said.
“Wait,” Russell said, looking up at the inspectors. “What are you doing here?”
“I followed you,” Chambers said. “I’ve seen the look you had on your face when you left earlier. You’d put the pieces together, but you weren’t happy about it. And Malone has been keeping an eye on your cousin since this morning. When we detected transporter activity in here, we moved in.”
“You were right about her. You were right the whole time.”
“Yeah, maybe. But she had an alibi, and we didn’t have any proof. If you hadn’t been involved, she would have gotten away scott free.”
“She did get away scott free,” Russell said, pushing himself to his feet.
“Did she?” Chambers said. “Looks to me like she left something behind.”
“Yeah,” Russell said. He started to chuckle and held up the scrap of uniform. “Do you think the museum will notice?”
“Nah. It was ripped to begin with.” Chambers took the cloth from Russell and handed it to Malone. “See that this gets back to the curator. And put an alert out on subspace for Olivia Russell.”
“She beamed up to a ship called the Ozymandias,” Russell said.
“Got it,” Malone said, taking the shirt and heading toward the exit as Russell sat down on the edge of the bed. Chambers sat down beside him.
“Nice work,” she said.
“I just put the clues together.”
“That is our job, isn’t it? And you had to confront a family member. That can’t have been easy.”
Russell shrugged. “She broke the law.”
“Your station is lucky to have you,” Chambers said, patting Russell’s knee.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re good at your job. And you seem to enjoy it.”
“I do…most of the time,” Russell said. “Lately, though, I’ve just felt…unappreciated.”
“We appreciate you. You basically solved this case for us. And I appreciated lunch.”
“So did I,” Russell said, unable to stop a grin for spreading across his face.
“What are you going to do now?”
“Well, I’ve got a couple of weeks of leave left, and I seem to have an apartment all to myself. Maybe I’ll just stick around here before I head back. Think there’s anything around here for me to do?”
“I’m sure we’ll find ways to keep you busy,” Chambers said getting up from the bed. “I’ve got to get back to the office, but I’ll comm you later.”
“But let’s meet somewhere else,” Chambers said, wrinkling up her nose. “Great bird, what is that smell?”
“Never mind. You don’t want to know,” Russell said. “You really don’t want to know.”