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Part of USS Erigone: In Distant Countries

Walking a Thin Line

Cargo Bay
January 4, 2401
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There was a fine line between useful and harmful paranoia, especially in an intelligence/security officer. Being able to pick out patterns and indicators of danger or opportunity helped greatly with the survival rate. It was easy to let that fall into suspicion of everything. That was just as likely to get you in trouble as never suspecting anything. So when Grigor’s palms began tingling and the back of his brain tickled with ‘what if’ when he stepped over the seam of the cargo bay hatches in the deck, he frowned and sighed softly, pushing those sensations to the side. 

“Damper’s not working right,” Zinn said, looking up from the tricorder he was holding over a set of green metal crates and anticipating Grigor’s question. “Coming up as an unknown power source rather than the lithium circuits on the label.”

“Expecting an inspection at Khitomer?”

“Expecting we may get stopped by pirates. Would you rather they take the decoy crates or start tossing this stuff because of a scan looking odd?” Zinn frowned and set his tricorder beeping with a new scan. “Showing up as photon grenades now.”

Stepping close to the crates, Grigor reached out and grabbed the lock releases, waiting the half second it took the hidden security readers to validate him before unclasping and opening the lid. A foam insert cradled two dozen lithium circuits. Lifting the insert out and handing it carefully to Zinn, Grigor frowned as he looked at the insert below. This one held six miniature transport enhancers rigged with disintegration charges. Not the sort of thing a civilian transport was supposed to be carrying. Really, not the sort of thing anybody was supposed to be carrying.

In the middle of the six lay the damper, blinking merrily away blue and green and looking for all the world like a piece of technology that was working correctly. Grigor tapped it twice and the light changed to a slowly pulsing red. “Now?”

“Reads true.”

Another double tap brought the green and blue blink back. A few additional deft movements and six grey thumb-sized boxes rested in Grigor’s hand. “Now?”

“Lithium circuits.”

Zinn and Grigor traded items and soon the crate was buttoned back up and reading like it should, minus the disintegrator charges from the enhancers. “If you can’t figure out why they started showing up, they’ll need hidden better or destroyed.”

With a sigh, Zinn nodded and looked down at the charges. “I’ll get right on it. Worst case, I’ll rig the power cells on the enhancers for timed detonation. Messier, but would rather leave scorch marks than tech behind. Provided it’s not the damper itself that’s the issue. Can’t replicate another if this one fails.”

“Let us hope it is not an issue with the dampers then.”

“From your lips to your god’s ears.” Zinn cracked a smile and put the charges on top of the crate, picking it up and carrying it over towards the workstation in the cargo bay to begin diagnostics.

Grigor stood for a few minutes looking over the contents of the cargo bay from where he was. There was a lot riding on this already ill-advised mission. Each additional complication they hit made it riskier to continue. How many more before they had to all sit down and decide if the risk was worth the potential benefits? How many would leave? How many would stay? How many was he willing to risk on this exercise of hope and vanity?

He pretended to wrestle with the questions and the many answers that presented themselves. But he knew what the real answers were, for him and for the others, and he was both proud and ashamed of what they were. They had embarked to either rescue a lost friend or eliminate a returned threat.  Nothing save success or utter failure would stop them now.

Black eyes and red hair danced in Grigor’s memory. He nearly smiled. Instead, he shook his head to clear it and walked briskly from the cargo bay.