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Part of USS Pioneer: Murder on the Oridian Express

One Too Many Glasses (Prologue)

SS Christie, In orbit of Agrima III
Late 2401
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Alliana clutched her champagne flute tightly between her slender fingers, acutely aware the delicate crystal neck could snap at any moment and make her embarrassing situation all the worse. Taking a deep breath and flashing her most convincing smile to a passing Andorian server, who responded with only a curt head nod, she began slowly crossing the seemingly vast lounge to the restroom hidden beside the main doors. Unruly deck plates swayed unhelpfully back and forth beneath her feet, challenging her balance atop two glittering golden stiletto heels that seemed intent on wrapping themselves around the hem of her sequined fishtail dress. 

“Only a few meters, just get to the door. Just get out of the room at least.”

Descending from the small raised platform that ran alongside the ring of windows her right foot refused to raise sufficiently and her delicate heel caught on the luxuriously thick Bolian wool carpet, causing her to stumble onto the lower deck. She barely caught herself before her balance was lost completely, her arms splayed like a diving bird, cracked like short wings at the elbows, clutch purse in one hand, empty crystal in the other. 

“Do. Not. Fall. Over.” Her stomach lurched, causing the Saurian brandy within to rock in frothy waves that threatened to destroy the mask of glamorous effortlessness she fought to convey. 

“Don’t be sick.” she thought to herself, feeling the liquid squirm in her belly. “Do not be sick in front of these people.” 

Her eye scanned the room for evidence anyone had noticed her calf-like stumble. Nothing, they were all too busy gathered around the tall deck to ceiling windows, chattering in hushed tones about views of the blue gas giant below, the epic backdrop to the evenings aperitifs. Satisfied no-one was watching she continued to shuffle across the floor, thankful the mauve shag carpet had given way to smooth shimmering deck plates that clacked quietly beneath her feet. She didn’t expect anyone to have noticed, they like Alliana had all spent a great deal of time and effort to be aboard Christie, they weren’t going to waste it by focusing on the stumbling woman in the corner. She had entered the lottery a dozen times before Frontier Day when it was shut down temporarily in the interests of security, when she heard news it was open again her applications also resumed. To journey on the Oridian Express was an exclusive experience, taking a hundred lucky lottery winning passengers on a three month tour around the Federation’s most interesting sites of the time. This quarters tour included a mysterious core-ward planetary system that popular rumour suggested was Coppelius, home to the Federation’s newest synthetic protectorate. The mysterious destination was days away on the itinerary but the mill aboard was working overtime, passengers, servers and deck crew alike all whispered from the corner of their mouths that the synth planet was their destination. Right now she would settle for the bathroom. 

It felt like an hour passed between each step, all her attention focused making the next move. When days later she made it to the small non-descript doors, their tall grey panels barely discernible against the dark wood panelling, she allowed herself a small breath of relief. She reached down to the small panel nestled in the wood pressing the non-descript button causing the doors to slide aside with a barely audible beep and quickly stumbled inside, hurrying to press the mirror button drawing the doors closed. Its agreement fulfilled, her stomach now threatened again. With a hand over her mouth she begged for a few moments more. Her stomach groaned, unwilling to negotiate. Her attention quickly raced to find a basin, but the barely illuminated room was devoid of plumbing. At the far end of the room a ladder built into the wall carried on above and below the room, its rungs disappearing into the innards of the vessel, the walls were otherwise bare save for a flickering console recessed into the bulkhead, its surface a spiderweb of cracks radiating from the centre. 

“Bugger, wrong room.” She sighed through her fingers, slow to remove them from her mouth lest her stomach take the initiative. It grumbled threateningly but maintained it’s reluctant order. 

“Computer, nearest restroom.” She hissed through her teeth, embarrassed to ask for help. 

“The nearest rest room is 10 metres down the corridor.” a disembodied voice answered, the voice calm and unbothered by the woman’s embarrassment. 

“We can do 10 metres.” She promised herself. Brushing her dress down, she began turning on her heel back towards the door when her shoe slid beneath her, the floor suddenly slick with liquid. 

“I swear Alliana, if you’ve split booze down your dress…” she eyed up the glass in her hand, the faint light from the broken console cutting through the slender shape of the champagne flute, projecting dagger like shadows across the bulkhead. She didn’t think there had been anything in her glass, that was the cause of the problem at hand. Popping her purse open she retrieved a crumpled handkerchief. 

“Lets see the damage then. Computer, lights to 50 percent.” The disembodied woman did not answer but obeyed, immediately pouring light into the room from recessed roof panels causing Alliana to blink in discomfort as her eyes struggled to adjust. Patting down her dress she was satisfied to find it undamaged by brandy and she pulled up the hem of her dress, expecting a pool of barely orange liquid to be pooling at her feet. Instead she found a puddle of viscous green liquid lapping up a against the slim shores of her shoe its thick, waves slowly radiating out as a result of her earlier movement. Her brow furrowed in confusion as she followed the small lake of liquid back downstream, following its snaking path towards the shadowed corner of the room, up the leg of the body hastily stuffed into the cabinet and to the temples of an olive skinned man. His peaked ears caked in dried green liquid, his long pale duster jacket turning a grimy emerald, his face locked in a panicked expression. 

Her stomach suddenly the least of her worries Alianna pressed the door button once more and raced from the room, her shouts of help echoing through the corridors, her golden stilettoes tracking bloody footprints behind her.