The morning dawned bright and early as the ambient lighting filled Muninn’s room with false starlight, but it did not wake her. The last five hours of work were spread about her where she sat upon her new apartment floor: seventeen pieces of replicated plexi filled with dates and details. Three PADDs as well, each part of the way through a different avenue of research. Romulan dialects and history, Reman cultural norms, and, finally, the result’s of the computer’s deep dive into Starfleet personnel movements.
Three stainless-steel cups lay carelessly within the semicircle of this pile of research, giving off the slightly stale aroma of dried coffee. Strictly speaking, Muninn did not need the caffeine to stay awake, but the added stimulation came as a welcome boost.
As the lights turned to full intensity, Muninn blinked. For a moment, the room seemed impossibly bright, glaring, and she scrunched up her face against the shine.
“Oh frell.” The lights meant that her duty shift was due in a little over an hour. Walk-in time in the public clinic, then computer-assigned appointments for the rest of the day. She mentally checked them off. Five Starfleet officers with various stress-related and relational problems, and another three slots for ‘walk-ins’ like Asenth. The system seemed to believe that her matriculation period for the posting was over. Time for her to start pulling her weight.
By all rights, she should have stayed up late working on the breadth of her main assignments, not diving deep into the life history of one lost Romulan orphan. But last night, when she lay down to sleep, a face appeared in every one of her dreams. A face with hurt brown eyes looking out from beneath a dark bowl-cut, pleading.
She stared at the pieces of her research, then picked up one of the blank plexis and her stylus and started jotting down brief notes from the others. Then she hopped up, tied her hair into a messy bun, and hurried from her room with her plastic sheet of notes clutched firmly in her hand.This was too much for her to handle alone.
“Muninn!” Lish beamed when he opened the door. “You’re up early, I was just having breakfast. Sausages, Terran eggs… would you like to join me?” Muninn was about to say no, but then her stomach rumbled, reminding her of the last time she accidentally skipped a meal. Some things did not bear repeating, as she had learned painfully over the years in a great many areas when it came to her unique needs. So she nodded, and the happy lieutenant ushered her inside.
Lish’s quarters were an identical layout to her own, but his tastes were almost as colorful as his personality. Bright paintings hung on the walls, alongside various framed photos of people Muninn assumed were his family. His Starfleet diploma hung up above a glass display cabinet featuring an impressive collection of apparently antique coins. There were a number of plants, too, palms with large spiny fronds, and plump trailing tendrils of ivy sprouting little red flowers that hung from hooks on the ceiling.
At a small table near the replicator, Lish hurriedly pulled out a second chair for her. His own meal, barely touched, sat on a plate next to an active PADD.
“Adatith suasage?” Lish said as he went to the replicator. “Best recipe on Bolias, trust me! Pairs well with marmite on toast.”
Muninn seated herself while Lish happily programmed in her plate and brought it, steaming, back to the table. The sausages were plump, large, and extremely pungent. But, Muninn reasoned, couldn’t be any stranger than a number of Earth delicacies she’d sampled over the years.
“Nothing of it! It’s a pleasure to have someone over. You know, I don’t often get the chance to entertain guests, what with one thing or another. It makes everything in here feel so much larger when I do.” He made a show of turning off the PADD screen and flipping it over as a matter of courtesy. Then stabbed one of his own sausages on the tines of his fork and started munching happily.
Muninn followed suit. To her surprise, and relief, the meat tasted far better than it smelled, and it did go well alongside the marmite-topped toast.
“I have the feeling,” Lish said after she took a few bites, “that you have something on your mind? I must say, I expected this eventually.”
Muninn looked at him curiously. “You did?”
“Oh yes. It happens to everyone. The first week is all settling in and getting used to routine, but the second week is when the panic sets in. Especially for officers who served on smaller ships before coming here. I served for two years aboard a Saber-class starship. Let me tell you, those things are cramped, don’t let the brochure fool you! So, when I transferred from that to one of the refitted Galaxy-class, well, it was a bit of a shock to the senses. And then, coming here! I have to admit, I still sometimes find the promenade overwhelming during a busy period.” He finally paused for a breath and smiled.
“Ah,” Muninn said, now feeling somewhat awkward. “It’s not that so much as…”
“Yes?” Lish looked at her expectantly.
“It’s one of my new patients.”
“Shop talk!” Lish waved his fork over the table. “Excellent. Of course, I’m glad you came to me. I am, as goes the English saying, ‘all ears’, though I suppose that would make more sense if I were a Ferangi,” he chortled at his own humor.
Muninn slipped the plexi out of her pocket and handed it over to the lieutenant, then bit into a piece of her toast. She watched Lish carefully as he scanned her handwritten notes, a line of concentration forming on his brow.
“This is fascinating,” he said after a moment. His gaze moved from the plexi to her face. It was the first time Muninn had seen him take something completely seriously since they met, to sobering effect. “One question. Why write it down? Why not send it to me?”
“For one thing, I think best when I write by hand. And for another…” she hesitated. It would not have been difficult to have the computer transcribe her writing, which was her usual procedure. “I wanted your advice on what I should do.”
“Is this case urgent?”
“I believe it may be so, yes. For the girl, certainly. But what do you think about her story?”
Lish placed his eggs and a bit of sausage on top of a toast triangle and bit into it thoughtfully. “Well,” he said after swallowing, “it’s an interesting problem. Did you have the computer run a check into Starfleet personnel in the sector?”
“I did, and there was one match. But the record was sealed. I don’t have security clearance.”
“Odd, you should have clearance for just about anything through your medical license.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Lish picked his PADD up again. “Computer, access file PA-N977s8V. Helen Anderson, Starfleet.”
The computer’s response was prompt and curt. “Access to that file is restricted to Starfleet Intelligence personnel, rank lieutenant commander or above.”
Lish and Muninn exchanged a glance over the table, and Lish said, “Bugger that. Computer, override lockout. Official Starfleet medical emergency access. Not to be used lightly,” he added to Muninn as the computer process his command. “But sometimes valuable.”
“Override accepted,” said the computer. “Helen Anderson, Age forty-two. Lieutenant with Starfleet Intelligence. Assigned to unlisted covert operation fifteen years ago. Listed as Missing In Action. File sealed and closed.”
Lish let out a little whistle. “That’s in interesting development. ‘Missing in action’ was she… And how old did you say your patient was?”
“Probably about thirteen, maybe fourteen at the outside. Can’t we pull anything else from Anderson’s file?”
“Not without a court order or someone with command privilege. But I’m willing to bet that this is the same Anderson related to your patient.” He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, frowning slightly. “It seems that we have a bit of a conundrum on our hands. A missing Starfleet officer is a matter of some concern, and your notes about this Romulan teenager are equally alarming.” He glanced at the notes again. “She said saw her parents killed by Remans?”
“It took a while to get all the details. Apparently, Reman soldiers entered their home, where her family and some of their friends were having dinner. And, when she went in afterward to look, her parents and her little brother were dead.”
Lish rubbed at his bald blue head. “That’s a horrible thing. And quite within the realm of possibility, I’m afraid. It seems that a number of the ex-Reman mining colonies were sites of rather brutal disciplinary methods by the Romulans, especially after the local governors were given direct control over their territories. That’s one of the reasons why the diplomatic talks are so important with this Resak fellow. He’s got Romulan and Reman support behind him, and the potential to turn this entire sector into a stable bastion of law and order.”
“And something like this could throw mud in the face of everything he’s building,” Muninn said. A knot nested inside her stomach as she considered the implications. “A messy massacre is the last thing that Starfleet’s going to want to poke its nose into.”
“Possibly. Possibly not.” Lish handed back the plexi, his expression thoughtful. “Mind if I look into this for you? I have the feeling that there’s something interesting at the other end.”
“Be my guest. Just… let me know what you find out?”
Lish’s smile returned. “You’ll be the first to know.”