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No Shadows Thrown

Posted on Wed Feb 2nd, 2022 @ 8:29pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Ensign Khaiel D'hikatsi & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Leonora Wolf MD & Lieutenant Teejay & Chief Petty Officer Reggie Hawthorn
Edited on on Wed Feb 2nd, 2022 @ 8:29pm

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: Strategic Operations Conference Room | USS Phantom
Timeline: MD 2

Mrazak stood at the head of the conference table wearing a full zero-g exosuit. It was the most obvious sign that things had not gone as planned aboard the INS Demeter. While the ship's labs were analyzing the Vendorian who had been captured down on Corvus Prime, Winton Ingram was sitting in the brig snug and smug as a bug. The collected data was being processed, but enough had been collated in order to call for an updated briefing.

"This investigation has taken a few hard turns," Mrazak began, his voice slightly canned due to the exosuit's speaker. The semi-transparent faceplate did little to hide his facial features which were turning pall. "As it is, we have good news and we have bad news. It is time to review what we have discovered so far. Time..." He did not intend to pause, and when he did, it added a gravitas which betrayed his subtle worry. "... is now of the essence."

Leah who stood next to Teejay, whispered out of the corner of her lips, "are you okay?" as she let one of the others take the podium first.

"Yeah." He nodded. Teejay then stepped in just a tiny bit closer and flashed a very swift smile. "It's been emotional. You?"

The nord nodded, "touch and go for a bit but science prevailed." Her fingers brushed Teejay's for a brief second as she flashed him a swift smile back before she refocused on the meeting.

"Yay science!" the half-Vulcan cheered merrily, volume just a little too loud for their to and fro to remain private (if it had ever really been in this gathering).

Teejay laughed at himself, dark eyes bright with happiness at Leah's slight touch. He'd missed her. Was glad she was unharmed. And even more jovial that she was being tactile. But now that he'd drawn attention, he gave an upward nod of his head in Mrazak's direction, locked eyes and spoke with his outdoors voice. Loud and clear. "I'll go first," he stated, confident and sure of himself. "So, our Vendorian friend harboured an isolinear implant in his head. It holds data, a fair amount of it. But unfortunately, said data is caught up in a non-standard Klingon encryption. Could be it functions as a communicator, but it's defeated me so far. Anyone wanna help?"

"Ah, yes, the vile impostor," Mrazak said. "The one who thought to frame me for a political assassination." The exosuit's filters screeched with static as he let out a harrumph. "Ensign D'hitkatsi," he said, uncharacteristically getting a subordinate's name correct. "I trust you will not find this encryption an insurmountable barrier?" Back to Teejay, he then asked, "Did it survive the implant's extraction?"

Khaiel shook his head. So far, he hadn't found any encryption he couldn't break, and still held the record for fastest decryption of any software at the Academy. Hopefully this reputation wouldn't break with this challenge.

"It did," confirmed the half-Vulcan, and he was about to say something else when he was interrupted by an unexpected burst of audio.

A garble of feedback played over the speakers. "Oh, sorry about that. Wanted to make sure the speakers were working as you were handing the data cache to the meat puppet and not me."

"As I recall, the Klingons got the better of you during their ambush," Mrazak said. "Seems as though your decryption efforts might benefit from an organic touch. This is, of course, assuming that you have already extracted all relevant data from the Demeter's memory core?"

"There lacks a proper grounding in Nth dimensional physics for me to tell you where you can place that suggestion," Ferrofax sniffed. "And the Demeter is giving up its ghosts one by one. INS are...creepily paranoid about data sanitation. Like I said the ship was running off of portable drives for all key computer-controlled systems. And what data was there was simply there to aid in running the ship. No recreational files, no sensor readings that weren't burned after being read. Not even a kilobyte of pornography. Unlike the fifteen redundant memory drives on the Phantom which keep appearing every time I have one of my drones laser them out of existence."

"Well, keep digging then," Mrazak snapped. "Don't interrupt again until you find something."

Bao looked around. "The Vendorian is probably still alive. It survived not less than 2 dozen kill setting phaser beams, a destabilization pulse, multiple severed tentacles, Kos Sergeant's very well thrown blades. If the Federation had not foolishly abolished the death penalty, I would suggest submerging it in orientine acid to make of the matter," he said, filing the Klingon encryption information away. "However, there is a certain, vampiric looking elephant in the room. Captain, why is your skin turning pale, and why are you wearing a full exo-suit? And since we're on the topic of impostors, has anyone located the real Quaestor Blackwood?"

The signature scowl Mrazak leveled at Bao was somewhat diminished by the faceplate. "Quaestor Blackwood was relieved of his head aboard the Demeter after he had become feral and attacked me. I am wearing this suit as a preventative countermeasure due to the...questionable readings...that were taken from a medical scan of the bite mark he left on my person before his demise." His lip curled in anger. "Suffice it to say," he nearly growled, "that there is added motivation to get to the bottom of whatever illegal research was being conducted here. Despite the testimony of Director Winton Ingram, it does not appear the failure of NOS-4-A2 was due to natural evolution. Our working theory shall be that illegal biotech weapons program was taking place on the Corvan moon Alucard and was covered up by the thalaron detonation. We need to find evidence to the fact to not only prove the hypothesis but also lead us back to the perpetrators who have thus far left others to take the fall." He took a breath and then added, "If this was a bioweapon, then there is undoubtedly an antigen."

"He bit you?" Teejay's rhetorical question was lost to the conversationally busy room.

"Well, what about the dead Klingon we found in Demeter's Sickbay?" Leah spoke up. "We detected traces of modified Corvan virus in his system with the vectors that enabled cross-species infection. And we know he bit at least one Corvan. If we can cross reference the data from the Demeter and see when and how this individual was brought aboard and if he was already infected then, we may may have more intel. So far, the common denominator seems to be Klingons, whether or not they are working with either of the two parties remains to be seen."

"The House of Judd," Ferrofax said. "It's as low tier House in Klingon society as you can get, but back during the Federation-Klingon War it was one of the power brokers of its time. I bring this up as there is a mention of it in a heavily redacted memo stored in a broken comm's buffer on the Demeter. The memo detailed, well, it's rather inventive in its cursing of the House of Judd for providing poor quality goods. These goods can be assumed to be viral reagents unique to the Klingon process, crude but very effective all the same. So you have a link, though I am parsing that memo through a number of filters to make it readable. In a court...who's to say. In either case someone in INS was in communication with our Klingon friends, and went some way to hiding that fact from INS itself."

"That correlates well with what we found on the surface," Bao followed up. "Pathos and the Corvan government are aware of NOS-4-A2-resistant vampirism emerging in the general population and were deeply concerned about the rate it was spreading through the population. A bio-weapon vector would be a considerably better explanation than the ridiculous misrepresentation of evolution that was being but forward," he continued.

He spared a look at Teejay. "Pathos has been working on an update to their NOS-4-A2 treatment, under the codename of an unpronounceable ancient Babylonian king of Earth. The impostor implied that Alucard, and more or less outright admitted the more recent destruction of the Pathos headquarters were deliberate sabotage of that effort. A mole inside Pathos would be the logical explanation of how this was known. What I really want to know is what the point of this is. Either way Lieutenant Teejay did recover a storage case from Ingram's office."

Said Lieutenant lifted his acquired case from the floor and placed it neatly up on the table. Teejay gifted it a proud pat with the underside of flat palmed fingers and nodded. "I did indeed," he confirmed.

"While I would love to nail all of Ingram Nanoscale to the wall, I doubt we can indict the entire conglomerate," Mrazak conceded, his voice still bitter. "This House of Judd that is in bed with INS. Since the only Klingons we have encountered so far have been operatives for a Klingon clandestine agency, as ridiculous as that is to believe, we need to understand just with whom we are dealing. The Klingons who attacked us on and around Alucard were not ill-equipped. Either this House of Judd is a proxy for the Secret Inquisition--"

He threw a glance at Finley that still held incredulity at the mere existence of the organization.

"-- or INS has been a proxy for either one. Director Ingram is not being forthcoming about anything, nor would I expect it from a civilian bureaucrat in a labcoat. It would make matters far easier if we could identify the point of collusion between the Klingons and the Ingrams."

A large clang came from the mitts of the exosuit as Mrazak pounded his fist into his palm. He jumped back at the unexpected noise. "AHH!" Choosing to ignore the faux pas entirely, Mrazak said, "That's actually a brilliant point. I am glad I thought of it. We need to run the list of all essential personnel within the Ingram network against any and all individuals with known contacts in or near Klingon space. Not just names. I want deep background checks, I want facial recognition, I want biometric scans, by Fusion!"

This time when he pounded the table instead of his palm, he was ready for the resonating sound. A proud smirk pulled at his lip. "We will find this weak link and exploit it! We will get that antigen and we will use it on anyone who might potentially be at a slight risk of infection! And then? We rub the whole thing in the Admiralty's smug faces."

"Found it," Ferrofax said. "A senior researcher at Pathos, a Bajoran male of middling years. He left Corvus Prime a little over a week ago on a tramp freighter that makes the Three Star Route from Corvus Prime back to the two nearest ports of interest. The reason this person stands out from the crowd is he's flagged on the Starfleet Medical Red List. Words like 'war crimes' and 'plague doctor for hire' are the highlights from that file. He'd have gotten away with it if he'd gone through the main entrance to exit the facility, he instead he used the back door and can caught by a camera put up to catch vandals."

Ferrofax purred with contentment.

"I don't get to Scooby the Doo like that often, but's its nice," Ferrofax said. "You can praise me, I'm not beneath that."

"At last! Competence!" Mrazak's exclamation fogged up his faceplate. "Leave it to the AI. Is there any point in asking how and why this individual was gainfully employed in gain-of-function research by Pathos BioMed in the first place?" Mrazak asked. Rather than ask for his name, which was at the top of the list of irrelevant details in Mrazak's mind, he went straight to the plan of action. "Of course there isn't. Belmont Station is clearly under the Ingram thumb--" Mrazak paused to cast a suspicious eye on Teejay and Leah but he continued apace. "--so we won't bother enlisting aid from there any further. We will track down this mercenary plague doctor and squeeze answers out of him...hopefully before the Klingons or Ingrams do."

The relevant reference flashed across the Lagashi's eyes. "Good boy, Ferrofax," he deadpanned. "You can have a Scooby Snack if you have a name, last port of call, and extrapolate a likely current position of that freighter," he finished.

"The freighter is an old J-class hauler, retrofitted for warp 5 transits if it's heading towards a black hole. The Three-Star Route is an old stellar trade lane that connected the worlds of Blue Box, Janner's World and Corvus Prime. It would have been a major artery into the Federation if the Corvus colony hadn't failed so spectacularly. Blue Box is a ocean planet whose main export is fish and fish-based products. In including fish-based narcotics, it's little more than a fueling stop. But Janner's World is a major transit hub with a population of two billion sentients compacted into two city spires on the north and south pole. From there you can get passage into any part of the Federation, or out to the fringes of the Orion Marches and Perseus Vale," Ferrofax expotated. "Going by past flight record, and sensor data from Bellmont Station, the freighter 'Charming Delights' would have just left Blue Box. If we leave shortly we should be able to catch them as they warp out into Janner's World's stellar effect area."

The lights dimmed and brightened.

"I have amazed you, say it again," Ferrofax demanded.

"Uh...Ferrofax?" Leah spoke up, "yes, you are amazing. Could you be a bit more amazing and get us a name of this Bajoran?" Deep in her gut, Leonora was getting an uncomfortable feeling, all the information brought up signalled one name, but she needed to be sure.

A holographic pane popped into existence in the air, revolving slowly to show the image of a Starfleet Medical file. Unlike most SFM documents that held patient information, this one came with seals from Starfleet Intelligence and the Epidemiology Investigation Service, black ops of the medical profession. Two images appeared side by side: one was of an old man, skin wrinkled and parched by time with his left ear nothing more than a ragged scarred patch of skin. Whilst the other was of a middle-aged man with strong cheekbones and the sort of smile that could be best called devilish. But the eyes were the same, flat and colourless, and more worryingly the two pictures were dated. The older one was taken by the Bajoran Provisional Government, dated in the opening days of 2369. The second picture, a candid snap taken at range as he passed through a milling crowd, was dated sometime in 2389.

"Dr Santra Arron, former researcher of the Bajoran Lower Valleys's Medical Service before the occupation. As a doctor he was earmarked by the Cardassian's as having skills worthy of avoiding the labour camps, and his expertise in germ medicine and his already chequered past with Bajoran genetic tampering brought him under the attention of Caleb Mosset, the infamous Cardassian doctor who ran a number of camps on the surface of Bajor. Santra was plucked from the execution dock by SFI in 2370 during Operation File Folder, as his in-depth knowledge of Cardassian bioweapons and tatics were seen as vital to long-term Federation goals. Sometime in 2380 he slipped out of SFI custody and has since made a name for himself making tailor-made pathogens, bio modifications, and anything else that springs from the horrors of a mad mans imaginings. He is credited with the Talix Plauge, as well as Agent Phi: a chemical aerosol that inhibits the absorption of ketracell white into the bodies of Jem'hadar soldiers. Defining features are hard to determine given his access to advanced medical treatments, but he seems to keep the left ear missing: it was hacked off by the Bajoran Resitance, a way of marking all Cardassian collaborators by removing the ear from which their native ear rings are worn." Ferrofax said. "All in all...I'm shocked he's not sat at this table as your on call MD."

Mrazak snorted with contempt. "We are Starfleet's scientific gatekeepers, not freelance mercenary researchers. Our solemn duty is to snatch up dangerous, powerful technology and keep it out of the hands of the masses, not develop and distribute it like a latinum-grubbing Ferengi. That goes against everything we stand for." Even through his faceplate, Mrazak's prominent brow visibly dropped. "We will apprehend this Dr. Santra by any means necessary!"

Now Leah was sure. "I need to call Arkady!" She thought to herself. "Captain," she said to Mrazak, "I know a guy who can help us apprehend him. If I can get in contact with him, he could intercept him and hold him for us until we get there."

"Oh, you know a guy, do you?" Mrazak scoffed. "Everyone from the Ingrams to the Klingons and possibly even Cardassians want this man, and he knows it. Why else is he traveling on nearly derelict freighters? If we are to have a hope in Fusion, we are going to need all the people we can get. This plague doctor is everything. Without him, we don't have the contagion or its cure." He pondered. "We don't have time to return to Overwatch Station for a full complement of Marines, but surely Colonel Garlic and his retinue are finished at Deep Space Nine by now. Once we gather our forces, we will abduct this Dr. Santra and show our smug Attendant AI what we do to mad scientists who give the fruits of their labor to the highest bidder." He looked around and then added, "Oh, and make sure you all do the other things I ordered...mining databases, interrogating our captives, cracking encryption, and so on and so forth."

Leah nodded, stepping over to a console. "Ferrofax, I need a copy of your findings attached to the message I'm assembling, please." She typed in a message, "Arkasha, posylayu tebe tot spisok, kotoryy ty prosil. Idu za tovarom." (Arkasha, sending you that list you requested. On my way to pick up the goods.).

As Ferrofax attached the information, Leah encoded it and sent it away.

"With that fun, little side venture done and over with, does anybody have any questions about their orders?" Mrazak asked. His voice seemed more grating than usual through the exosuit's speaker. "We can't afford any mistakes on this one."

Khaiel just shook his head again. Though he knew he needed to start being more vocal, he couldn't help but stick to the more quiet side as these more seasoned Officers spoke. But he had his orders, and he knew he could complete them in no time.

"Why change the habit of a life time?" Ferrofax asked dryly.

Keying into the background chatter, complicated interactions and wordplay between AI and those entities being run by the magical interplay of chemistry, biology, brain matter and nervous systems, Teejay picked up his stolen storage case and neatly tucked his arm back at his side. As far as he could tell he hadn't been given any direct orders, but this seemed as good a place to start as any. That and the information from Mrazak's intellectually superior invisible friend with the disembodied voice. All very interesting and far better fixed to unravel any encryptions. Nope, Teejay had a contagion to study, and the mention of nearly derelict freighters raised a single eyebrow above a dark eye while he watched to see which direction Lt Wolf would wander in. He had no questions, not for the Captain anyways, and no need to draw attention to himself with regards any expectations. As the room shifted, Teejay aimed to coincide directions with Leah.

"Very funny, Ferrofax," Mrazak said, dripping with sarcasm. "We'll reconvene after we get our backup from Deep Space 9. I hope we have more answers by then. Dismissed."


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