Canopus Station
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Where There's Smoke

Posted on Thu Jul 23rd, 2020 @ 12:49am by Captain Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci & Lieutenant Commander Gerrin Rhonin & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang & Lieutenant Murray Jacobs & Senior Chief Petty Officer Sharona Deluna & Staff Warrant Officer Blaise Birch

Mission: S2:2: Best Laid Plans
Location: Canopus Station, Engineering Module, Power Distribution Hall
Timeline: MD1: 19.15

Lt Gareth Wenix had been first on the scene, followed by station security, then station medical. The medical team had come along mostly for Gareth, who was having a hard time accepting three dimensional without babbling.

Lt Jon Tucker's remains had been found ten metres from the entrance to the turbolift. Positive identification was still being worked up, given the genetic evidence was badly damaged, but given the comm log and the fact Tucker's bio tracking data was no longer being recorded by the station, it was a safe bet.

But not one Ingram enjoyed looking at.

A holographic blind had been set up around the body to provide it with a modicum of respect, but that still didn't keep the scent of cooked and seared meat from permeating the air. Within the cordon, it was even stronger. Ingram settled down on his haunches, and looked the body over.

What little remained of the flesh clung to the bones in black obsidian like smears of tar, the carbon scorching of vaporising soft and fatty tissues baking onto the powdery white bones. The teeth had been fused together, melding the lower half of the jaw into a solid mass. Here and there sparkling metal rivulets could be seen spattered across the chest and shoulders, little holes drilled into the bones leaving behind jagged little needles of metal.

"That...should have shattered," Ingram stated. "The bone I mean. Exposed to enough heat the bone should has shattered, or vaporised. Melting...that new. Don't you agree?"

Fighting to keep her lunch down and not even bothering to conceal the fact that she was holding her nose against the smell, Mara nodded. “Definitely,” she agreed, sounding a lot less disturbed than she actually was. “I don’t know if that means the heat was less intense or more.”

"More," Meilin sad flatly. "Much more. Skeletal tissue turns to ash only at extreme temperatures, which is why it survives cremation. However, for this... there would have to not only be temperatures in excess of 1400°C, but also far greater pressure than is present on the station." Looking to the others with her dark almond eyes deep in thought, she concluded, "One might expect this within a star or gas giant, but not in the station's environment."

"If one of these plasma conduits had ruptured I think we would see more evidence of it," Ingram said. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a pen, which he uncapped to reveal an intricately detailed fountain nib. He used it to turn the skull slightly, revealing a single metal-rimmed hole punched into the back of it. "Narrow gauge and these metallic deposits are interesting."

That scent of cooked flesh took Murray back to far less pleasant times, but his gag reflex was strong, and used to such levels of carnage. He was, however, unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the destruction, and cursed inventively under his breath as he joined the others around the corpse. Previous experience of such injuries had been fleeting and found in external situations, and so, like Meilin, Murray wouldn't expect something like this on a station...

"The body was found right here?" The medic asked, curiosity wrapped about his words as he wrinkled his nose despite himself. He knelt down, and studied the wounds Ingram's motion revealed, then looked up. "It looks like someone dragged him through a sun and took potshots at him while they were at it."

"Or brought them to ground," Ingram said with a sniff. "I had the singular displeasure of being invited to a Klingon Great Hunt. Not something I'm proud of, but I was young and sought treasure and adventure as a young man might. Look at the body, he's pointed towards the turbolift. He was running for it."

"But from what..?" Murray voiced the million dollar question.

The smell of burned meat, in particular human burned meat was nauseating to the Selelvean and she had pulled the sleeve of her uniform down to cover her nose. "What was he running from, though?" she asked, her voice muffled.

"That, Miss Deluna, is the question," Ingram said as he stood back up, holding his soiled pen out to her. "By the way, I heard tell our new Security Chief started today. I don't see them around the crime scene, hardly sets the right tone do you not think?"

Sharona took the pend from the clean end and held it at arms length. "Would you like me to summon him, Sir?"

The station security that had been assigned patrol duty near the Power Distribution Hall had been the second to arrive at the scene. The blind had gotten set up and boundaries established while they contacted their new Chief, Gerrin Rhonin. A soft chuckle escaped his mouth as Gerrin came upon the crime scene moments later. It seemed that the rest of the station senior staff was quick of feet and light of weight as they were already there. The odor met his nose fast enough resulting in a slight wrinkle as he walked behind the blind and took in a quick observation. "Heading towards the lift and away from something. Or someone." He turned toward a Lieutenant Junior Grade that had posted himself at the perimeter. "I want all recorded bio tracking from this area and the hall leading up to it for the time of death. Well, as soon as we have a time of death." He turned back to the group. "Captain, Commanders, Lieutenant, Senior Chief," he said with a nod.

"And I'm going to short circuit that feedback loop of greetings right there," Ingram said. "Nice of you to join us Mr Rhonin. I can only assume that this tardiness has something to do with your new status on my staff and not a product of future endeavours?"

"Indeed," said Gerrin, "it's my new status on your staff. And no, it won't be a problem in the future. So, do we have a time of death?"

Mara has been distracted by what she had thought was the most perfect eyeliner she had ever seen on anybody, man or woman. She quickly realized, though, that it was simply the security officer’s incredibly thick eyelashes and she was even more envious. “Engineering logs show him heading down here about an hour ago,” she replied after she reminded herself to stop staring at his envy-inducing eyes. “Sensor logs indicate that his bio data stopped logging in the computer about thirty minutes after that. I’m not one hundred percent sure when or how he was found, though.”

"It'll all come together," he replied. Gerrin turned towards the security minion he talked to a moment ago. "An hour ago down to thirty minutes. I want a summary in my hands in less than five minutes." He watched as the Lieutenant Junior Grade left to find the nearest security checkpoint with a console linked to the security complex. Turning back to the group, "We'll have more information in a couple of minutes."

"Was anything else burned besides him?" Sharona asked. "If he died running, he was running from something. Something hot enough to make him well done. Something that hot would melt everything around it. There has to be a trail."

"And is there anything... anyone..." Murray winced, as he crouched beside the corpse and continued to look it over. He needed to get this back to the infirmary, but he could wait the five minutes Rhonin needed to collate his data, keep the body in context while they discussed those. "On the station that's capable of doing this to a person?"

"We are standing in a room not fifty meters above a Mordred-Kline series Matter/Antimatter reactor, with a fusion rating that is putting the local stellar mass in this system to shame running at idle," Ingram mused. "No. The power output that is coursing through this room would have atomised this fellow, and in the release probably burn through the hull and the containment bottle of the reactor below us. This was something controlled."

There was a commotion of sound as a pair of Engineer's in heavy-duty hazard gear came stomping in from the back of the Power Hall.

"Captain, Sir's and Ma'am's," one of the Hazard techs said, holding up in a shielded gloved hand an item. "We found the junction that Lt Tucker was investigating. Major damage to it, serious melting of the insulator housing to the point there wasn't any conductive material in the conduit at all. Just melted and slagged ceramics and plastics. Then on the far side of the hall by the main junction into the local network, we found this..."

The item the Hazard tech held in his hands was a length of red metal, braided and melted in places into a wicked tip at one end. At the other, where it had been cut off, the bare metal seemed to glow with malevolent intent.

"We cut it off the main mass we found by the main junction. By mass, I'd say that pile of tangled melted wire was the missing conductive material from the conduits. But see, this stuff is meant to be blue. See it's a little known fact that Starfleet Engineer's make little tricks to help ourselves, so the conductive material used in EPS conduits has a programmed atomic life span. After a certain amount of gigawatt-hours have passed through any given conduit the material becomes less conductive. At that point the insulator can be peeled back during the inspection, and if it's not blue and it's red it's dead. But, this was all new six months ago. Everything on this level was earmarked for the Beta Eridani station refit before the Canopus Expedition got its hands on it. See, another little known fact is the Beta Eridani station was the first to use a mass/energy converter for its many deuterium bunkers. Amazing piece of tech, had it worked."

"Fascinating," Ingram said nicely, his eyes flicking to the nameplate on the Hazard tech's suit.

Mechanical failures outside the mean failure rate. Human remains immolated and melted as if compresses inside the nucleus of a star. It was all adding up very wrong for Meilin.

"Captain Ingram, I strongly recommend that a full science team gets down here to analyze the local environment from the constituent atoms on up to the station infrastructure." Her voice was calm and even, but her almond eyes betrayed a concern that has not been there before. "Something is amiss, and I fear it is outside the purview of Security and Engineering to ascertain."

Murray nodded his silent agreement with that analysis of current events. "And I'll see what more I can find from the body," he noted. "Soon as I can move it to the Infirmary."

The security officer came back and handed the PADD to Gerrin. "And it looks like we have a little more to go on." He scanned through the contents before continuing. "Lieutenant Tucker was a model officer from what I can tell...no filed complaints and no demerits in his service jacket. A career officer with no black marks." He took a deep breath, "And it looks like we have a timeline. According to his access code, he was the sole occupant of the Power Distribution Hall between 1825 and 1835 Federation Standard Time. At least as far as we can tell, due to the electromagnetic flux in the chamber. Makes precise bio tracking hard. At 1831, he and Gareth began a holoComm call. And thanks to the EM flux, the subspace band used for the high bandwidth holoComm call was disrupted...signal packets lost. At 1835, Gareth is shown as leaving Main Power Management along with three members of an engineering damage control party. That brings us to right now."

"So someone or something tore apart a power junction, and then by means unknown atomised a good portion of a human being before vanishing without a trace. Its a mystery to be sure...I detest mysteries, they tend to have contrived endings," Ingram growled.

Meilin tapped her combadge. "Jiang to Birch. Assemble every available Science officer on duty and come to the Power Distribution deck of the Engineering Module. Bring quantum spectral analyzers."

=/\="Acknowledged.=/\=

For Ingram all Meilin had was a terse smile.

"Really? The Vampire?" Ingram said, his nose wrinkling in distaste. "I thought he was on medical leave following his exposure to the Tortured Space of The Mire?"

"Out of all the mirror reflections on this station, Captain Ingram, the one with which you should be most concerned is your own." Meilin held her ground in defense of her team. "Dr. Birch is on light duty pending the completion of his battery of psychological tests, and that is all that I care to say in public."

"One should never stare into the mirror, for it is not the reflection in which evils lurks by in the vanity of the viewer. Instead, they should only catch a glimpse," Ingram said. "I can tell you've never been Dr Birch's homeworld. I have, it was...educational in a word. But back to this."

Yes, please, thought Mara with a mental roll of her eyes. She loved Meilin as a sister and respected Ingram for his knowledge and ability, but all of this existentialism was annoying.

A cadre of four teal Science officers made their way into the area. At their head was the chalk-and-ebony Dr. Birch. Noting the large cluster of people, Birch approached Meilin and said nothing.

"Run a full spectrum analysis of the immediate vicinity," Meilin said. "Search for any trace or artifact of anomalous quantum activity, zero-point spatial distortions, even temporal phenomena."

"Yes, Commander." Birch's voice was low, scratchy, and solemn, as if he had spent the previous night screaming into a void.

"Scanning for the proverbial kitchen sink Commander Meilin? I appreciate your determination," Ingram beamed, nodding curtly at Dr Birch.

Gerrin had been taking in as much of the conversation as he could while visually inspected the remains and surrounding area a bit more. The screen activated on the PADD he'd been handed earlier. It was a message from the Watch Officer in the Security Complex. 'Security Alert, reports of multiple threat to life events occurring in Residential Hab Module Seven. Local data abstraction is down, and sensors are detected a high energy EM flux that is scrambling attempts to gain further details. Local Station Security patrols has been sent, but have not reported in due to the data blackout.'

"We have another problem," Gerrin spoke to no one in particular. "There have been multiple threats to life in Residential Module Seven. Local security has been dispatched but has not reported in. There's a high energy EM flux that's scrambling data and sensors. Whoever this is, is now going after station families. Civilians. I recommend a stage one security lockdown for the safety of station personnel. A General Quarters, if you will. Or yellow alert. Whichever is preferred."

As he quietly examined the corpse, Murray listened to the others speak, picking up words the lingered in the forefront of his mind while he did. Vampire. Temporal phenomena. Threats to life.

"Permission to move the body to the Infirmary, Captain?" Dr Jacobs asked, waiting for the response before instigating any team for this act. Then he looked to Commander Rhonin with an eyebrow raised in genuine concern. The words needed some translation into fact for his own ears. Multiple threats to life.

"Were they responding to threat events or actual reported casualties?" Murray asked Gerrin, referring to the original despatch, since it seemed Security were likely now in trouble themselves.

"Threat events, I believe," said Gerrin. "Though that could have changed as we haven't been able to get anything further from the security teams. Or the sensors. Does anyone have an idea what could be causing the random high energy EM fluxes? What are my people walking into?"

"A power surge of staggering magnitude," Ingram said as he turned to the turbolift. "Doctor get the corpse to the medical facility and then bring a medic team to the Residential Module. Mister Rhonin, drum us to yellow alert and have a security team meet us there. Everyone, with me."

Gerrin nodded and tapped his combadge. "Commander Rhonin to Station Operations, take us to yellow alert immediately. Rhonin out." He tapped his combadge again, ending the communication. He didn't want to waste any time getting things in place. Tapping it again, he opened another channel. "Rhonin to Security, I want a team to meet us outside Residential Habitat Module Seven. Out." He ended the communication and fell in step behind Captain Ingram.

TAG-All/End?

 

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