S.S. Fawkes - CF-142AC
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Mystery Woman

Posted on Saturday October 10th, 2020 @ 23:27 hours by Mayterial Droz & Lozen Nachtnebel

Mission: Safe Passage
Location: Cargo bay 2, Deck 3, S.S. Fawkes
2485 words - 5 OF Standard Post Measure

Ensconced in a seat in the mess, Lozen leaned back in the flimsy aluminium-colored chair, staring at the PADD in her hands. The tablet's screen flickered with a running video. FantasyCon. Ever since her talk with Alexandria, Lo couldn't get the event out of her head. She found herself grinning at the recording of last year's costume contestants, including a vulcan dressed in a suit of incredibly authentic 20th century Earth clothing. Apparently, even vulcans could have hobbies. She didn't have the time or energy to fabricate herself something for the show, but it felt good just to enjoy what others had made. A silver mug on the table in front of her steamed gently and she reached for it, savoring the scent of warm chocolate floating up from within.

Just then, a message popped up on her feed. Keith Emerson, deck hand. She frowned, wondering what one of the deck hands could possibly need from her directly. She pressed the message icon, opening a channel.

"This is Quartermaster Nachtnebel. What can I help you with, crewman?"

"Hey, morning, there's this thing. It's been bugging me since yesterday and I thought you might be able to help me. Do we have a Liliah on the passenger list?" Keith had tried to covertly inspect all of the guest's quarters, and none of them showed any signs of the woman. He also hadn't seen her at the communal dinner they always had in the mess hall for the passengers.

"One moment," Lo said. She switched screens on her tablet and did a quick search. "No, nobody by that name. Why, what is it?"

Keith shrugged a bit, "I don't know, might be nothing, might've used a different name. Trill, dark skin, wild hair." He tried to describe her in the hopes that Lozen would recognise the person he was talking about.

Lo scanned the list of passengers again. None of them matched. Then, just in case, she checked the crew manifest. A couple of Trill on board, sure, but none of them matched the crewman's description either. She said as much into the comm. Something's wrong. The thought popped unbidden into her mind and the trailing vestige of her happy mood vanished. She frowned down at the unhelpful passenger list.

"What's this about, crewman? Did you see this woman on the ship?"

Keith remained quiet for a bit, "Yeah, had a conversation with her and everything, both Mark and that pain in the ass passenger, what's his name, Hirral something or other, also saw her." There had been this incident with hallucinogenics the last 'mystery box' they opened, so the question whether something was real was always in the back of his mind. He tried to figure out exactly who to get more information on this woman, "Can we look into this, maybe? Try and find her?"

"I don't think we have a choice." Lo stood, grabbing her PADD as she headed for the exit. "Where are you now, Emerson? I'll meet you. This might be something serious, if we have a stowaway on board."

"I'll meet you at the computer core, I'm just around the corner there," Keith replied to the quartermaster, the sooner they'd get to the bottom of this, the better. Uninvited guests were never a good sign for a freighter, "I'll start a search for the name on the Federation network, if we're connected that is."

The doors to the computer core swished open a few minutes later. Lo entered the computer core and looked around. If the warp core were Fawkes's heart then the computer core, three decks below the mess hall, was her brain. The room's air felt dry and warm on Lo's skin as the door closed behind her. A number of floor-to-ceiling memory banks occupied the space, looking like twisted library stacks as they bent to conform to the core room's circular design. Panels of lights blinked status readings and everything smelled faintly of warm plastic.

"Mr. Emerson?" she called out. The stacks of memory banks created a maze of sorts, making it impossible to see one side of the room from the other. In the middle, hidden from her sight, would be the core's main access control station, where the central processor maintained the ship's systems.

Not receiving a response, she walked around the bend of the outer wall, following the circular bend of the wall and the stacks. A thin film of glass protected the stacks and kept the cores at perfect conditions for operation, but could be retracted into the ceiling if need arose for maintenance. She paused to inspect an isolinear circuit panel glowing softly behind this protective screen. Clever design. The Cardassians must have realized that, should power fail and the hull be breached, this room could sustain ship operations all on its own as long as the vacuum didn't damage the hardware. I bet this glass forms a pressure seal...

She looked up as she heard the door swish open and closed, her heart skipping a beat. Get a hold of yourself. Because she had walked some way around the curve of the stack, she could no longer see the door, but being jumpy would do nobody any good at all.

"Emerson?" she called out again.

"Right here," Emerson could hear there was a bit of a startle, and he couldn't really blame her, this room always creeped him out as well, "I always imagine there's a Cardassian from the Dominion War still on board and this is where he hides from prying eyes." He chuckled a bit to himself as he started to walk around the circularly stacked processing power, "So, are we any the wiser, yet?"

Lo recognized him from her perusal of the crew manifest a few days before, a dark-haired man with a worried expression. "Not as such. Tell me what's going on." She did not add that, after her unfortunate encounter with the abrasive passenger Mr. Piper, she did not want to bring something to Captain May's attention unless absolutely necessary.

"Me and Mark were in the cargobay, you know the one with the mystery crate," He knew that she knew because it's all anyone talked about on the ship for the past few days, "Well, something came loose and knocked into. It started whirring and sputtering, then this woman walked through the door. Trill woman, beautiful dark skin, long flowing dress. Barefeet." That had stuck out to him, he hadn't really seen anyone walk around the Fawkes barefooted, and with good reason. It wasn't the cleanest place to be strolling through, especially the cargobays, "Said we shouldn't be meddling with the box. Probably had some triggered alarm or something on it."

"Bare feet?" Lo frowned. "What sort of stowaway walks around without shoes?" The pieces didn't add up. I'm missing something here. Still, I'll be damned if I bring May into this. Next thing I know we'll be dealing with another heart attack. "Okay... maybe this is simpler than it looks. Can you show me where this happened?"

"Eh, yes. Of course." Keith scratched behind his ear a bit, "The box is stored in the cargobay, but I'm sure if we disturb it again we'll bring the wrath of that Hirral guy, and by extension the Captain, down on us." He then hit the communicator on his wrist, =A= Mark Cross, this is Keith Emerson, The quartermaster and I are heading out to investigate the stowaway situation, can you meet us in the cargobay please? You know the one. =A=


Keith looked over at Lozen, "Maybe he can help put some other parts of the puzzle into place." With that he headed for the exit, in the direction of the cargobay, "you must be super busy with everything, especially now that the Captain has decided to bring passengers into the equation."

"Oh, it's been a..." she stopped herself, caught in a liminal moment. On a Starfleet ship you don't let loose with your mood, especially on duty. But I'm not Fleet anymore, am I? At this thought, she felt a profound moment of loss. She settled for finishing her sentence with: "...it's been a crazy ride. Did you hear about that passenger, Piper? The man was an absolute snot but I swear, I'll stick my chin out and take it next time. Better that than go through dealing with another bloody heart attack."

"Probably would've had a heart attack, either way, to be honest," Keith had heard all about it, it was the only thing that distracted the people from the mysterious box they were headed towards. They left the computer core, headed down the long angular hallway toward the turbolift. Within a few moments, they were on their way, shooting along Fawkes' spine toward the cargo bay and the mystery which awaited them there, "The man's alive, though, isn't he? I'm sure Lorpax is charging him for all kinds of stupid shit as he recovers in sickbay."

"Yeah, he'll be fine. I don't really know about the doc, though." Lo laughed. "I mean, a Ferengi doctor? Who thought that would be a good idea?"

Keith gave a bit of a shrug, "The Captain, I reckon. Though she might be regretting it," he leaned in a bit, "word below decks is she's struggling with the demon in the bottle, and the Ferengi is profiting off of it." He spoke in hushed tones, as if someone else would hear it as the racket of the turbolift carried them to the right deck. It came to a halt before Lozen could respond and Keith stepped out with a shrug, as if to say 'who knows', "it's this way."

Lo considered the man's comment in silence for a few moments as they paced the corridor toward the cargo bay door. It never even occurred to me that she might have a problem. The thought left her feeling both uneasy and a little ashamed. You can take the Fleetie out of the Fleet, but not the Fleet out of the Fleetie. Damn, I'm stupid. Of course that's it. All the signs seemed obvious, now. She was working for a drunk! Then she envisioned the Ferangi doctor's face and knew that Keith spoke the truth. I'll break his bloody nose, she thought, and found herself surprised by it. Now, where did that come from? Apparently, some piece of her felt more protective of her new CO than she'd realized.

Keith stepped into the cargo bay and looked around, there weren't any other people in there, so it would just be the two of them. He spotted the box, it seemed to be powered down. Perhaps he needed to activate it again to make the woman come to them and tell them off. Then they could hold her and try and find out what she was doing on the ship.

Lo hesitated just a moment before following Keith inside. Like all the cargo bays, the temperature controls in the room kept the air slightly cool and dry. She looked around at the stacked crates, most tied back with straps and net against the risk of gravity loss or a failure of inertial dampening. "So, where's this box?" This box which apparently everyone else has been discussing while I sit in my quarters and get May's paperwork done. Inexplicably, the thought brought the tiniest of grins to her face.

Stepping up to the box, "This is it." He said and he placed a hand on top of the metal container. Even though it was silent, just placing his hand on it he immediately felt that it was still operational. It was slightly warm to the touch and vibrating ever so slightly. Though that last bit could definitely be because of the vessel, the internal dampeners definitely weren't the best anymore.

Lo knelt down to the box. Not especially large, plain in a way. And yet something about it caught and held her attention, sort of like thinking you're alone but knowing that someone is watching you from some unseen vantage. A spiderstep prickle at the back of her neck. She gave the room a quick glance. Empty. Alright, then. What is this?

Still kneeling, she pulled out her scanner, an old-model Starfleet tricorder which barely managed to run the current software suite. "Try scanning it?" she asked the crewman.

"We didn't have any on us at the time, our approach was a little more... rudementary." Keith walked up to the box and looked around the place where Hirral had stood to find the interface. The metal was perfectly smooth. He wondered for a moment but just ran his hand over it. The strip of metal lit up red, "oh, very clever." He then shook his head, "we shouldn't really be here, last time we opened this the woman was here in seconds, the man came some time later. Pissed off beyond belief. I'm sure the Captain heard about it."

Lo shrugged. "Well, I'll take responsibility." She flicked the general scan on, waited while the program loaded and the electromagnetic scanner activated. When it did, her brow raised. "That's one hell of a lot of circuitry in there. It's way beyond me, but I swear, this image looks a lot like the one from the Academy engineering course... the density in this is off the charts. Could just be a serious storage system, for a program or something." She looked up at Keith. "Does anyone else on board know about this?"

"Me and Mark, as far as I know," He walked back around to the side where the container had hit the box. He gently kicked the side, "This is where we hit it with a container, and then it popped open." He waited expectantly but the box didn't respond to his gentle tap with the foot.

Lo pressed her palm to the area Keith indicated. A faint hum filtered through the metal and into her arm. "Must have a fair power source in there, too." She stood back up and looked around. "No sign of your mystery woman, though." Lo tuned her tricorder settings to the maximum that the old model could make, gently moved it's sensor field across the cargo bay. "There are some mild fluctuations in the ambient radiation levels, a bit more than normal... but nothing that could be a stowaway."

"The Hirral man had come in and..." Keith looked around carefully before stepping up and pressing down on the side where Hirral had stood, suddenly a panel lit up, "like that..." He couldn't quite make out what the console said, probably written in some form of Trill, and he definitely wasn't familiar with the Trill script.

"Wait, I'm not sure we should--"


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