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Blood Moon

Posted on Mon May 3rd, 2021 @ 11:21pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Commander Finley Chu & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Ensign Khaiel D'hikatsi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Leonora Wolf MD & Lieutenant Teejay & Chief Petty Officer Reggie Hawthorn

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: Belmont Station | Theta-Corvus System
Timeline: MD 2

After a quick hop to the Bajoran system where the Phantom dropped out of warp long enough to beam Akiva and the others aboard Deep Space 9, the modified Defiant-class ship burned the Quantum Slipstream Drive directly to the Theta-Corvus system. Even so, the trip was the better part of the day. On arrival, the buzz of emergency responders from Starfleet and assorted corporate interests filled local space.

Under normal circumstances on a normal ship, Sophie would be in Main Engineering, keeping an eye on ship's systems and ordering people about. But this wasn't a normal ship. It was kept in such good shape that the most interesting job was at the bridge engineering station- a job usually reserved for an ensign straight out of the academy or the lowest enlisted grunt in the Engineering department. But here, it was Sophie's job because this ship was boring.

From a comfortable jumpseat at the back of the bridge Fin was overlooking it all. In her hands a steaming cup of green tea.

"Traffic is up a tick," Ryland said from the helm, "by 5000% according to system flight logs."

Mrazak stared intently at the viewscreen which displayed the dozens of vessels as blips against the stellar grid as if it were a chess match. "I had hoped to arrive before the bulk of interference did. We just had to make that little detour..." Never mind that the little detour was actually where he was ordered to be at that moment. There was a Theta alert at hand.

"Captain, we're being hailed by the flagship." Ryland's brow furled with surprise. "It's... civilian. The INS Demeter."

"INS?" Mrazak asked.

"Ingram Nanoscale Ship," Ryland said. "Seems they're a major player 'round here. Even the local subspace comms buoy has their name on it instead of Starfleet's."

Khaiel's ears perked up at the Ingram name. That was a name with some negative association in his mind, and he wasn't sure it was a good idea to get mixed up with them again.

"I could tell you that from a surface scan. The hull is a mono-molecule design, incredibly durable as it has no seams as such. With power and data runs running through a latticework within the hull matrix itself, mean even if it suffers a major hull breach power and computer functionality wouldn't be affected. No more rerouting power or computing loads," Ferrofax mused. "Starfleet might set the bar for technology, but it would seem the private sector is the one pushing the limits."

Bao smiled darkly at Ferrofax's pronouncement. "If I am not much mistaken, they also use a distributive VI system to manage ship operations. The latest patent application from Ingram is a joint project with the ExoGeni corporation to develop a bioneural lattice for the hull, though given how much gene editing is involved..." he trailed off as scans finished up on the ship. "At any rate, nothing looks abnormal, aside from the fact that it is armed rather more heavily than one might expect for a civilian vessel, but considering the vitality of certain cargoes to the planet and current events, it is not exactly imprudent to come prepared."

"We'd win." Rodi said confident from his tactical console.

"My man," Ryland said with approval. As a former commander of a wing of starfighters, Ryland understood and appreciated bringing big cannons to every situation.

"As fascinating as Ingram Nanoscale Solutions is," said Sophie, a slight edge of annoyance in her voice, "maybe we want to take a look at that relief ship? The one sensors indicate is civilian? Yanno, just a thought."

Letting out a groan, Mrazak said, "I hate civilians. Change the ghost registry to something from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers."

Ryland ran his hand over the helm three times before it beeped in acknowledgement. "Done."

"Well, somebody answer them!" Mrazak barked.

"Oh." Khaiel pressed a few controls on his panel. "Channel open."

The star grid was replaced by a pale face with starkly black features. Onyx lips, oiled raven hair, eyes that were black within black.

"Greetings," said the living nightmare with a silky smooth voice. "I am Percival Blackwood, special quaestor to the Conclave of Corvus Prime and liaison to the coordinated relief efforts. It is customary for vessels to identify themselves before entering someone else's star system." The calm tenor of his voice could have been ordering a spiced tea in a formal sitting room. "Who are you and what are your intentions?"

Mrazak was just annoyed enough not to be unsettled by the unnatural specimen addressing him. "I am Captain Mrazak of the USS..." Pausing to read off the fake registry from his chair console, he said, "Neville, and we are with the Starfleet Corps of Engineers to render assistance however we may."

"We are most grateful for your untimely assistance," Blackwood said. "Report to Belmont Station to link up with the rest of the Starfleet quarter. I'm sure I need not give any prosaic warning about veering off course, what with all the dangers afoot."

"I understand," Mrazak said through gritted teeth. "Neville out." As soon as the words passed his lips, Mrazak cut the channel himself. "I hate civilians!"

"To be fair you don't really like anyone, according to your confidential psychological report," Ferrofax chimed in.

"That had better be all you're reading from my personal file!" Mrazak yelled at the ceiling.

"If the sensor scans of this station are accurate, I think I would prefer the civilians," Bao muttered looking down. "The prefab modules they have bolted together are not even from same company."

Mrazak rubbed his chin. "Maximum corporate interests, minimal Starfleet oversight. Seems like the optimal place to conduct illegal research and development." A wolfish grin spread over his face. "We'll be over and done before we know it!"

"Fateful words and updated next of kin information loaded into the crash beacon's memory drive, along with a copy of my core heuristics," Ferrofax said. "Just in case."

"Ferrofax," said Mrazak with glib indifference that belied his sentiments, "sometimes I envy you."




The Phantom soon docked with Belmont Station just as ordered. Mrazak smoothed out nonexistent wrinkles in his uniform and prepared his usual smarmy and superior demeanor. This was a Starfleet facility. Here his clearance was uncontested. As the rest of the team formed up behind him at the airlock, Mrazak marched forward with an eager spring in his step. He led them into a spartan space station that was clearly built for medical research and little more.

"Ferrofax, go for a walk, if you please, and see if any interesting morsels of data were left out in the open." Thanks to the open commlink, Mrazak could converse with Ferrofax at any time. His extensive field experience advised him against severing contact.

"Its nice that you gave me permission, as I wasn't really going to ask for forgiveness," the AI muttered quietly from a combadge. "Though fair warning, the local data sphere is lousy with spyware loaded to the gills with the sort of weaponised code I'd expect to see locked up in the Daystrom Institute's Hazardous Material Vault. Also, the local comm node is reporting an intermittent signal loss. Only communications assessed by local authorities as a priority are being transmitted until the 'fault' is detected."

Mrazak nodded. "Makes sense. We clearly weren't expected among the rank and file responders. It would seem that perhaps everyone else is here by invitation only, which means we need to go where we were not invited."

"So it's Tuesday, regardless of what my internal chronograph says," Ferrofax said dryly.

Ignoring Ferofax, Sophie said, "as long as I don't have to go crawling through ventilation shafts. I hate ventilation shafts."

"This way," Mrazak said to the others and started off even though he hadn't the slightest idea of the layout of the place. Belmont Station was small enough it would be difficult to get lost, and it was clearly cobbled together without interest for long-term habitation and the patchwork maintenance modifications showed it. If any of Starfleet's stations were cookie cutter, this would not be one of them. "What was the name of our contact again? Commander Cassandra, was it not?"

"It was indeed such a name. Rolls off the tongue like silk," Reggie grinned as he shouldered his kitbag a little more securely. "And can I say, it is gratifying as all hell to see so many fine gold shirts doing the work of honest folk."

"Except my name is Lieutenant Commander Leonora Wolf, MD." Leah stepped over to the team, accompanied by a dusky skinned man with slightly pointed ears. "This is Lieutenant Teejay, welcome to Belmont station."

Leah hadn't told Teejay anything about her secret message to Starfleet Intelligence nor the call for a Theta team. At this point in time, he didn't need to know her other connections or her service history.

Leah's eyes fell upon an old colleague, causing a small smile to form in her features. "Hello, Fin."

"Just how well acquainted are the two of you?" Mrazak asked with suspicion.

"We used to work together." Leah replied easily.

"Leah." Fin replied with a smile before turning to Mrazak. "I could tell you, but you don't have the right security clearance." Fin answered, her smile turning into a grin.

Teejay'd caught the words spoken by the rough looking fella with the warm grin, but was still mulling the two questions uttered by the Vulcan. He silently compared those queries to his female companion's introduction and said nothing. This was an interesting situation already, made more so by the presence of what looked a solid little away team. For the moment, he let Commander Wolf field the direct question and keep his own mouth shut, intrigued to see how this conversation played out. It didn't take long before things developed nicely in an informative direction, and the half-Vulcan frowned.

"Is that the sort of 'worked together' that you can talk about, or the sort that'll find a fella taking up residence in the fires down below?" Reggie asked, sidling himself into the conversation with an outstretched hand. "Reginald Madison Hawthorn, I help make stuff blow up and I am downright delighted to meet someone with the inside track on all of this. Your redacted SFI file does not do you credit, as the genuine article is fit more for sonnets than paper shuffling."

Leah bit the inside of her cheek as she shook Reggie's hand. "Pleasure. We'll take you to Ops, we can get you the necessary access from there." She said, not replying to Reggie's intro-compliment.

"And here my momma said folks in the Federation were lacking in manners and an accommodating spirit, I am feeling all sorts of welcome here," Reggie smiled.

"Just maybe don't blow anything up for a bit," Teejay slid lazily into the conversation with a bright grin. He avoided making eye contact with Leah, and focused instead on this apparent demolitions expert. "We've had enough destruction already." Redacted SFI file? Well, now, that was something Wolf had neglected to mention.

Mrazak turned a skeptical eye over Teejay. "Is this Teejay privy to your report, Cassandra?" he asked, assessing the Vulcanoid half-breed without looking at Leah. "If not, then he may be excused."

It was going to be like that, was it? Leah sized up the other Vulcanoid, deciding instantly she liked Teejay and the others much better than this one.

"It is customary to return introductions in a civilized society." She added by way of reply, hoping that Teejay would play along. "The Lieutenant is aware of my report, we learned the information together after we got capability back."

"But of course," Mrazak said. "I am Captain Nobody of the USS Neverwas from Starbase Nowhere. Now that we have that out of the way, let's go somewhere private and see about that authorization."

Now they were speaking the same language. Leonora nodded, "this way, Captain." She motioned for the team and Teejay to follow.

That look and the indirect reference was an introduction combo that Teejay was well accustomed to for a variety of different reasons. None of them bothered him as long as he remained involved at the epicentre of this evolving situation, and it seemed that Leah had no intention of removing him. Good. Nothing else really mattered. He did, however give a bright smile at the Vulcan's flippant explanation of who he was. Sarcasm or cover story? Either way, Teejay was right where he wanted to be.

Mrazak led the way, or rather followed Leah and her pet while forcing the rest to follow him, to their destination. "So who is the ghostly fellow in black? Blackwood, as it were." He chuckled at his weak pun. "Why is he aboard an Ingram vessel and why is Starfleet taking cues from civilians?" The word spat from Mrazak's mouth like bitter venom. "We're pretending to be with the Corps of Engineers, but it almost seems as if that cover is wasted since Starfleet's jurisdiction is minimal at this moment."

Leah shook her head, "why he's on the INS ship, I don't know. If it came out who you really were that would spread like wildfire around this place and Corvus Prime sooner than you could blink." She said, glancing over at Mrazak. "Posing as Engineers more or less makes you invisible to the general populous. Isn't that what you want?"

Before Mrazak could simultaneously agree and disagree, he found himself cut off.

“All I want is to see how an itty bitty explosion could knock a moon out of its orbit. I got theories out to the stars and back, but I want data. Ideally, I’d love to go to then blast site. Hey, Lieutenant Commander Leonora Wolf, you’re the one with local knowledge. You wouldn’t be opposed to guiding me there? Why with your local knowledge, and my witty banter we could make a date of it,” Reggie said gamely.

"I don't remember anyone asking you anything, Chief," Mrazak scolded Reggie. "If you're so desperate to reconnoiter the blast site of a probable thalaron particle detonation, then be my guest. You can even take Song and anyone else who might share your death wish. But the good doctor is going to brief the rest of us on the happenings in this system and why she requested our assistance."

Leah blinked at the sheer abruptness that was Mrazak as she lead the way around the corner towards Ops. "It would probably be best if you had a look at the readouts before you go anywhere, yes. I'm sure we all want the same thing here?"

"Yes," Mrazak said. "And we want it quickly." As they crossed the threshold into Ops, Mrazak couldn't help but marvel at the place. It wasn't the least impressive facility he'd ever seen, but its makeup certainly did not match with the seeming importance of its mandate. "While you get us our local authorizations, what can you tell us about the natives here? We read the brief on the planet's early colonization, but it's suspiciously sparse on current events."

Leah stepped over to a console, tapping a few commands, "Corvans mostly keep to themselves, though they aren't xenophobic. Likely there was a degree of Xenophobia before, but with the progressive failure of NOS-4-A2, they realized that they need help if they were to not regress to their savage ways. Teejay's the cultural expert here..." Wolf motioned to the far more likable half-Vulcan.

"I'd not exactly call it 'culture' so much as Bram Stoker's fantasy land writ large," Ferrofax's voice purred from the console. "And whilst the Corvan's might be shy to the point of rudeness, the INS people are downright friendly. Nearly every single piece of native software in the Corvan noosphere has spyware attached to it that would make a Cardassian flush with desire. I'm also seeing that same level of corruption on some of the SCE data links. I've set up a virtual copy of the 'Neville' for the INS bots to infect if they can, they won't get further than that. But I wouldn't trust any technology we didn't bring with us."

Teejay shot Leah a look of happy surprise, eyebrows raised high as he considered this unexpected stage on which she'd placed him. Cultural expert huh? Well.... nope... he'd take that without a fuss given the severity of their current audience.

"Swift and brutal update, right, Captain Nobody?" Teejay addressed Mrazak with semi-amused expectation, then launched into the beginnings of a swift update on their current situation. "So, you already know that Corvans are medical vampires with a social dependency on NOS-4-A2 since it allows them to interact without using the rest of us as lunch. Well, seems someone with great skills in bioengineering might be deliberately screwing with that synthetic band-aid." He paused, waiting to see if he still had the Vulcan's attention.

Wheels turning, Mrazak felt his eyes widen in mixed horror and sordid wonder. "So... the thalaron could be a misdirection altogether. It wipes away all evidence of illegal bioengineering while pointing investigators in the completely wrong direction. The perpetrators make a clean getaway and no one is the wiser!" He couldn't hold back a grin at the brilliance of it, but it quickly turned to a scowl at the implication. "But that prolongs our investigation. We need to move quickly if we're to complete our investigation in time to..." He was going to mention the inquest happening at Deep Space 9, but that was none of these outsiders' concern. "... make a difference. No splitting up this time. We move together and pool all of our resources at each leg of the investigation." Eyeballing both Leah and Teejay, Mrazak made a snap decision which would surely not come back to bite him. "Under authorization Sigma-9-Theta, I hereby conscript you both into my investigation which will supersede every other assignment to which you have been ordered. Do well and you'll see a desirable transfer in your future. Don't, and..." He let out a fiendish chuckle before resuming his standard disposition. "Ferrofax, please record the conscription in the mission log."

"The compact is made," Ferrofax said solemnly.

Leah's straightened her back, nodding. She knew the Sigma-9-Theta authorization well, hell she'd used it herself at times when she was in the Cardassian section and especially when she ran Delphi. It was that authorization that had helped her bring Karna onboard to serve at Delphi.

"Yes, sir." She briefly locked eyes with Fin, then whispered to Teejay. "You're about to have a first hand experience of 'my world'."

Well, that happened with a swift brutality he wasn't previously accustomed to with Command individuals. The half-Vulcan noted the odd code-words, but was somewhat distracted by the calling on 'Ferrofax' as a disembodied voice that responded to this intriguing captain and his team. Not a bad thing, in fact Teejay had the distinct impression that Things Were About to Happen. This being a Good Thing, despite and also because of the undercurrent of mysteriousness with these newcomers. Captain Nobody was certainly no slouch on the uptake of information and jumped immediately to the same conclusion as Teejay and Leah.

"Yessir," Teejay repeated, allowing himself a lingering look over this group as he wondered how the 'in time to...' sentence would have ended. He kept his gaze fully on Mrazak as Leah whispered, and allowed himself a big, dumb grin. Oh hell yes. He was up for this. This had the sense of intrigue about it that hooked him like an addict. "Fine by me," he whispered back.

"Who is in charge of the Corvan medical apparatus?" Mrazak asked. "I want to speak to an administrator, not Blackwood, that insufferable blackguard in bureaucratic clothing."

"Pathos Biomedical have a controlling interest in the Corvan medical infrastructure, to the point that the government-run clinics are little more than Pathos field offices. You could contact the Department of Health, but I think going to the Pathos Medical offices in the capital would render more actionable results," Ferrofax purred. "In fact the director of Pathos Biomedical is a Winton Ingram. A fun little factoid I can dig up is that he's the black sheep of the family, meaning he has a functioning conscience alongside his multiple PhD's."

Mrazak raised a power fist to his chest. "Then to this Director Ingram we shall go! Where can we find the gentleman?"

Leonora tapped a few commands, "coordinates sent to your docket, sir."

"Central Targovista, in the capitol district. They were given generous land settlements following their work on behalf of the Corvan people. According to their data net presence, Pathos BioMed holds weekly school outings to tour their facilities, as well as numerous outreach programs across the planet. In fact, if I wasn't looking at the data files I'd swear this wasn't even an INS run operation," Ferrofax mused. "On that note, INS data infiltration of the Corvan system is near 100%. Assume you're being watched, and that I can't get to all the cameras. As I said, the Cardassian Union could learn a thing or two here."

"The entire planet depends on their services to function. They can afford to be magnanimous, and have to at least appear to be so to manage societal risk. It is important that everyone know how important they are and how bad things would be without them," Bao supplied. "A fundamental interaction at work: INS has a monopoly and seeks to maintain it. Should it ever lose it, the Corvans gain the opposite effect of being a monopsony. I would not be surprised to find that Pathos is also a major backer of the dominate political consensus either."

Mrazak shook his head at that. "Terrific. Another bureaucrat in a lab coat." The scoff he let out was dripping with disdain. "I want all resources tasked toward pulling up any sign of malfeasance, corruption, bribery--anything we can use as leverage to ensure this Director Ingram's cooperation." Then, as if lightning struck, he headed toward the door. "Back to the Phantom! We have not a moment to lose!"

 

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