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Part of USS Lakota: Episode 2: A Parting of Ways

6 – A Parting of Ways

Departing Un'giri
Stardate 24016.9
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Across the ship, there were very few signs of life on this particular evening. Engineering had only a skeleton crew keeping things ticking over; sickbay was deserted; even the social capital of the ship, the messhall, was all but abandoned. It wasn’t that something sinister was taking place; her crew certainly hadn’t been abducted by the proverbial aliens. No, on this evening, people were taking the opportunity to stay in their quarters, reaching out to their loved ones to share their love for friends and family alike.

Much like the rest of the ship, the bridge was quiet this evening, too. Lieutenant Voran and a few relief officers manned the duty stations as required, but everyone else was either on the surface or going about their private business. Even in command of the ship, he couldn’t stop himself from performing his usual duties and was keeping a close eye on the communications transceiver, which was handling an abnormally high volume of traffic. In the chaos of the stream of transmissions, he’d missed one important one in particular; the one informing him that the personnel on the surface would start beaming up anytime now. In fact, when he did see it, the message was already five minutes old, so it was no surprise when the turbo lift arrived at the command center and the Captain entered the bridge, followed by the Chief Flight Operations Officer.

“I hope the ceremony was worthy of your comrade, Captain?” Voran questioned the Trill, standing behind his console’s chair, hands clasped together behind his back.

“It was quite beautiful Voran,” the Trill smiled as she took ownership of her command chair and unzipped her high collar a little. “Thank you for staying up here,” she added once comfortable.

“Of course,” the Vulcan answered with a nod, “since I did not know the Lieutenant as well as the rest of you, it was only logical I remain. Are we expecting the rest of the senior staff, or shall I summon relief officers?”

Adjusting her position, the Captain shook her head. “Nah, it can wait. I’ve let the rest of the staff have some time. We’ll return to normal staffing at the start of the alpha shift tomorrow unless anything occurs in the meantime,” she directed. “Anything to report?” she asked him, slipping her dress uniform jacket off and laying it on her lap.

“All is quiet,” Voran reported, “however the communications array is under extreme pressure this evening. A great many crewmembers had urgent transmissions to make.” He returned to the Operations station and took a seat. “We received a transmission from Starbase 38, confirming the bridge module replacement you had enquired about is set to proceed at our convenience.”

“That was quick,” Nazir nodded slowly as if to some sort of tune in her head. She’d only put the request in a few days ago and expected it to be some time before they could undergo the final refit that would bring the ship up to the same twenty-fifth-century standard as the rest of the Excelsior fleet.

“Henry,” she called to the Flight Operations officer, who dutifully turned in her direction. “I think it’s about time we left this place, what do you think?”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Flyboy nodded, happily spinning his chair back towards the front of the bridge. “Setting a course for the asteroid belt,” he told anyone who was listening.

Standing from her chair, the Captain tucked her jacket under her right arm and walked towards the ready room. As she passed behind Henry, she slowed and gave him a tap on the shoulder. “I’ll be in there for a while. You have the CONN,” she told, sharing a smile with the man before vanishing into her private office.

Once inside, she tossed the jacket onto the sofa and headed for the replicator on the far wall. “Hot chocolate, milky, dark chocolate variety,” she gave her beverage instruction to the wall-mounted device and waited for the steaming beverage to be produced. When the materialisation process was completed, she took the drink by the saucer it sat on and walked the few paces to the window.

There she stood for a considerable amount of time, in deep contemplation whilst sipping on her hot beverage. As undeniably beautiful as the Un’gar system was, Keziah would happily see the back of it if it meant the tragedies would stop. First the losses during the systems liberation, and now, the loss of their good friend. With Un’giri disappearing from view, she was sad to leave her fallen comrade behind, but it was time to put this place behind them. Hopefully for good.

[Some considerable time later…]

Yawning as he crossed the threshold into sickbay, Doctor Zinn noted that he was, for once, the first to arrive for his shift. Nikti was nowhere to be seen, Counsellor Zh’ito wasn’t in her office, and the nursing team were running as fashionably late as always. Not that he minded, not today anyway. He had a tonne of paperwork to catch up on following recent events, and he was happy to have the place in silence.

Having replicated himself a raktajino, and whistling away happily to himself, he had a quick scout around the bay and then entered his private office. Everything seemed normal for a while until he got comfortable and was about to log on to his terminal. He arched an eyebrow at the computer screen. It was already logged on, and active. A message flashed on the screen which immediately caused him concern. It was encrypted and for him alone.

Inching forward in his seat and looking over the top of the terminal, he noted that he was still alone, so opted to find out just what the hell was going on. “Computer,” he called out. He was answered by a beep from the system. “Decrypt and play this message. Authorisation Zinn, alpha six-three-seven.”

Working…” the computer retorted quickly. When it beeped a few seconds later, the message on the screen changed. It was still a text message, but it was the contents that concerned him even more. The words were ominous, perhaps even sinister.

All is not what it seems,” he whispered, reading the words out loud, all the while checking he was still alone. “Revisit Case File Omega-6-9. I remember your concerns about the circumstances of your colleague’s death. You were lied to.

He collapsed back into his chair, staring at the screen in shock. Whoever had sent him the transmission knew his case files, and knew about Or’uil’s death. But Zinn had been there when it happened. He saw Or’uil pass. He couldn’t have missed something, could he? And who could have lied to him? And about what?

But it was the final words on the screen, flashing in bold, crimson letters, that concerned him the most.

Trust no one until you’ve found what you are looking for.

“How the hell do I know what to look for?” he whispered, leaning towards the screen.

“Sorry, doctor?”

Startled, the Deltan slammed a hand onto the control pad in front of him and deactivated the screen before peering over and making eye contact with Lieutenant Keesa, who had finally arrived. “What?” he asked, confused.

“I thought you said something,” the Orion answered, a raised eyebrow showing her own confusion.

“No, no,” the Doctor grinned the best fake smile he could whilst jumping to his feet. “Let’s get started, shall we?” he advised, stepping around the desk and into the bay once again. But even as he set about his normal routine with his deputy, three words repeated over and over in his brain.

Trust no one.