We’ve completed our mission of downloading logs and accounting for all the crewmen. As Lieutenant Doall suspected, we did find a couple in the back seats of a shuttle, but they were obviously not hiding. We also found 17 in the mess hall. One wall had been painted with the words, “Halt and be fricasseed.” Six of the crewmen were near the wall, apparently dodging shots from another crewman. It seemed to be a game. There was even a table set up for taking bets. The rest of the crew were in various parts of the ship, but few at their duty stations. The remainder we found in their quarters, having died in their sleep.
The ship is in towable condition, so we should be able to bring it back with us. I’ve instructed the engineering team to turn the environmental controls off again, however. Despite the computer’s insistence that the temperature is set to just below freezing, I don’t want to chance the bodies putrefying en route.
The decontamination sequence on a teleporter is a marvel, as it can remove any particulates on the body down to a molecular level, and it knows what constitutes a “body.” It removed the slight sheen of sweat starting to form on Phineas’ brow and all the dust from Enigo and Becca, but did not remove so much as a hair from their arms, for example. However, what it could not do was remove anything that was already entangled in the body itself.
Rather, it could, when used by a very capable teleporter chief and usually at great cost to the system and some danger to the participant, and then only in very particular plot needs…er, physical conditions.
All this is to explain how the away teams could go through decontamination and still experience the events we all know are coming.
Commander Phineas Smythe stepped off the teleporter dais, his brow furrowed with confusion. “Chief, I thought you were sending us directly to Sickbay.”
Dour replied with his usual tone, which is to say, he made the next words sound like a proclamation of doom. “The doctor contacted me as I was initiating teleport. She said she wishes to examine each of you individually and will contact you once she has finished with Commander Deary. Until then, she wants all of you to self-quarantine in your quarters.”
“Fine by me,” Lt. LaFuentes muttered. He plopped his tricorder into Lt. Straus’s hands and stormed out without waiting to be dismissed.
What’s got into him? The commander wondered, then shrugged it off. Dour was bringing in the rest of the away teams. Once everyone was there, he addressed the group, relaying the doctor’s order. “All right then, I want everyone to prepare their reports and pass them to the bridge and to my quarters. No, wait.”
He pointed to the engineering team. “You six. You’re going to join me in auxiliary control. We’ll isolate there.”
The six who were chosen cheered and high-fived.
Lt. Doall spoke up, “Sir, do you want me there, too?”
“No, no. Let’s have everyone pass their reports to you instead. I want to know what caused the space loonies on that ship, and when we have to go to prevent it from happening.”
“You’ll understand if my idea works. Go on, all of you. Allons-y!”
Dour watched as everyone filed out. He turned to his mistress, the teleporter console, to reset the systems and run an analysis of whatever the decontamination process picked up when the doors opened again and one of the engineering minions came back in. She took a couple of steps toward him, opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated.
“Yes, Minion First Class? I have rituals to attend to.”
“Oh, I know,” she said. “I, uh, I wanted to thank you. You know, for, um, bringing us back in one piece and everything.”
“I destroyed you all and remade you in an image suiting to my Mistress’s whims,” he corrected. “It is my job.”
She moved closer. “Yes, well, I just wanted to say you do a great job at it, and I appreciate it.”
Then, with a sudden dash, she kissed him on the cheek and scurried away.
For a quick peck, it was certainly moist. He wiped his cheek with the back of his hand, then rubbed it against his pant leg. He thought no more of it. Teleporter chiefs were the masters of life and death on a daily basis. The bigger surprise was that they did not receive such adulation more often.
“They take us for granted, my Mistress,” he murmured as he caressed the teleporter console. It seemed especially smooth under his fingertips.
Ellie Doall felt like there was something wrong with what had happened in the teleporter room, but she kept getting distracted by her teeth. She turned to her friend, Leslie, who was twirling the tricorders in one hand and sashaying with a little extra swing in her hips.
“Have you ever noticed how clean the decontamination leaves your teeth?” she asked her and ran her tongue along hers to show what she meant.
“Oh, I know! They’re all smooth, like wet pearls!” Leslie ran her tongue over her own, but more slowly, savoring the feeling. A passing ensign glanced at her, then quickly looked away, embarrassed. She giggled.
“Missing Hot Toddy?” Leslie asked.
“Always! I should be on Sapphire right now, getting to know his parents or maybe getting lost in those gorgeous blue eyes…”
“Or locking lips?” Leslie teased, then seeing her friend’s frustrated, tortured expression, said, “Want to hit the gym?”
“Les! Isolation, remember? Besides, we have reports to compose.”
“Reports, blah! Did you see how the L.T. dumped his homework on me? Hmmm…” She looked down the hall, say a minion in Security Red. “Tank! Come here!”
Minion Second Class Francisco “Tank” Martinez changed directions and went to them. “Lieutenants?”
Leslie passed him the tricorders. “These are the mission logs from the HMB Marvin. Go over them for anything unusual that might give a clue to what happened to the crew or that might pose a danger to the Impulsive. Flag them and send me the summary. Got it? Top priority. Preliminary report in 45 minutes. Good man.”
She patted him on the cheek, then grabbed Ellie by the elbow and led her away before Tank could even get out a “Yes, ma’am.”
“Leslie!” Ellie scolded. “Should you do that?”
“It’s called ‘delegation,’ and every good leader knows to do it. You always do all the work yourself. If you ever want to be a First Officer on a bigger ship where you and Todd can be together all the time and make sweet, sweet love, you need to learn how to do it.”
She sighed. “True…but not now. I need the distraction. Just saying his name gets me all hot and bothered.”
Leslie laughed and wiped her brow. “It’s not just that. It does seem hot in here. I guess we got used to the cold on the Marvin.”
“I might turn down the temperature in my room for a bit. Anyway, this is my room. Now, go to your quarters until the doc calls, okay? I’m going to dig into space loonies and see what I can learn.”
“Have fun.” Leslie left her at her quarters and moved on. It was still the middle of the third shift, but mealtime, so there were more people in the hall than usual. Leslie smiled at them, thinking how lucky she was to be on a ship with so many great people—and attractive men.
And decontaminating teleporters, she thought, again running her tongue over her teeth. Nurse Bradshaw was passing by just then. He glanced her way, but unlike the other crewman, did not quickly turn away. Interesting.
What the hell, she thought, and strode up to him and kissed him soundly. Now he could quarantine with her, and that sounded a lot more fun.
Tank grunted as his superior officers sauntered away. He wondered casually what had gotten into the two ladies, but he wasn’t the most curious person. He called in his new assignment to the duty officer, then went to a briefing room to view the files. The first one made him tilt his head in confusion. He squinted at the second one, not sure he believed what he was seeing. Before he finished the next one, however, he knew what he had to do.
“Tank to all available Security personnel. Meet me in Briefing Room 3—and bring beer.”
He pulled off his shirt, revealing a black muscle shirt underneath, and set it over the back of the chair. Then he rewound the log he’d been watching, which showed several people running and ducking to avoid phaser blasts while people cheered and placed bets. The guys were going to get a kick out of this.