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[Age of Mouldwarp]    
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Cadavers (Part 1)
The Remarkable Likeness of Beings

Grandfather, oh grandfather…

If there was a day that went by in which Harmon Franzoni did not curse his ancestors, he did not know it.  It was a rather vain consideration on his part, since he should have been preoccupied with his duties as first officer of the U.S.S. Copernicus, a Soyuz class ship of the grand Starfleet tradition.  Still, he could hardly think of a time when it was not on his mind.  What should be on his mind at the moment was Ensign Laurie Nicholson, who was presently seated in front of him in his office, sparsely decorated, as were his quarters.  It was an innovation of the Copernicus to have an office for the first officer, and Franzoni’s was located adjacent to the Captain’s ready room just off of the bridge.  It was smaller and saw less action, but it was there and Franzoni spent much of his time there, brooding.

Nicholson was the next in a long line of officers being reviewed for promotion.  She was an able navigator, but was she good enough to warrant elevation in her field?  He wondered.  In her profile it was listed that her father was Betazoid.  Most interesting.  Franzoni hadn’t been aware that there were any Betazoids, or even half-Betazoids, onboard.  He scrutinized the squirming brunette in front of him, and decided to ask her a question.

"What brought you to join Starfleet?"

"Pardon me, sir?" Ensign Nicholson responded blankly, as if wondering what this had to do with promotions.

"It is a perfectly valid question, Ensign," he said.  "Why did you sign up for the Academy?"

"I’m sorry, Sir," she said.  "The question caught me off guard."

"Things can do that in Starfleet," he noted.  "Now?"

"I…suppose it was because my family has a tradition in Starfleet," Ensign Nicholson began, cautiously.  "Four generations.  My grandmother attained the rank of admiral, Ida Monroe.  You might have heard of her?"

"That is hardly the point…Listen, answer the question," he urged, suddenly becoming impatient, even though he couldn’t care less about the answer.

Ensign Nicholson squirmed more.  She was aware of the impression she was giving.  "Other cultures.  I wanted to study other cultures."

"You could easily do that from Byron Archives at Mars Colony.  Less dangerous."

"I’m sure could, Sir.  But you couldn’t experience them, feel the thrill of actually meeting the unfamiliar.  Earth has a large variety of people, but they all more or less look the same, and act the same once you get down to it."

"I suppose so.  Consider our destination this mission.  Are you feeling anxious about these aliens?"

"The Phalli?  Anxious…would be one way to put it, Sir."

"Anxious," he almost snorted.  "You are aware of our history with these people, and what we are going there to work with?"

"The civil war between the Pasterns and Macrons?  It concerns me, Sir, but I still consider them worthy of examining."

"Even if you die there, on that planet?"  Much as Franzoni would have liked a reply to that question, he didn’t get the opportunity.  The voice of his captain, Robin Matheson, sounded suddenly over the comm system.

Commander Franzoni, Lieutenant Fonden, report to my ready room.  There was urgency sapping the words.  He excused Nicholson immediately and slid through the sliding doors to the room thusly connected to his own.  Fonden was walking through the main entrance and Matheson was pacing the deck plating.  A metallic clink clink greeted him, and reminded him of the one area of sparseness Matheson permitted in her ready room.  The rest was crammed with mementoes of her career to date, and truth be told it was not an altogether modest collection for a lesser starship commander.  A miniature Copernicus sat next to a miniature Obelisk, the Captain’s previous command, on her desk.

"Commander, Lieutenant.  There has been a murder aboard this ship," Matheson stated as frankly as she could.  "Lieutenant Jacobi discovered the body of Crewman Kryx’quarop-id in Jefferies tube 4, section 12 on Deck 6.  He reported to me and not you [referring to Fonden] because of the seriousness of the situation.  As you both know, this ship has a past with the residents of Haley Minor, and now that we’re headed back there, it is not outside the realm of possibility that an intruder associated with the Phalli has perpetrated this murder.  Jacobi is already casing the tube for evidence, but I need you both to work on finding the culprit.  Commander, I’ve sealed off the ship from transport beams and runabouts seeking egress, but I need you to coordinate with Commander Hounsou a full inspection of the ship’s security.  We need to solve this now."

Her long summary concluded, Matheson settled down at her desk.  Franzoni eyed her and then turned to Fonden.  "You have your orders.  Dismissed."  And he and Matheson were left alone, "I think you should consider canceling the mission.  Get another ship to cover it."

"That’s more drastic than the situation warrants, Harm."

"Caution is Starfleet’s unwritten Directive One," he remarked.  "It dictates all other rules.  What did Logan say?" referring to the ship’s immediate superior in the admiralty.

"He recommended caution," she said with a laugh.  "I guess that’s why you’re my first officer.  Still, he’s putting the Madison on alert, in case she’s needed.  In bailing us out, and that’s not something I want on my record."

"A death on your starship is not exactly a keen selling point," Franzoni remarked.

"Agreed," Matheson said.  "You’d better get on it."

And so he did.  As Franzoni was consulting with Hounsou, the ship’s chief of operations, he was considering his heritage again.  Why?  Oh grandfather, you’re going to be the death of me.  Everything was secured fairly easily, and Fonden reported to him that Jacobi had made a good start in the investigation.  Franzoni had an inclination about it all, and it disturbed him.  What disturbed him even more was his grandfather, who had been Betazoid.  That wasn’t in Franzoni’s record.  

Two days later and nearly arrived at Haley Minor, another death occurred aboard the Copernicus.  Another homicide.  Fonden wasn’t making any progress in her investigation, and Jacobi had been assigned in the meantime to address security matters immediately involving the Phalli, a delegation of whom had been scheduled to come aboard the ship to begin talks.  Things had changed, and now Jacobi would need to find a likely candidate on the planet itself for the talks, in neutral territory.  The headaches were beginning to come for Franzoni, who had to coordinate both efforts with the security officers.  He began wishing for a different assignment, as had been his other preoccupation for months now.  He wondered which would eventually make him unfit for duty.

The second death took place in a cargo bay on Deck 3.  The evidence gathered supported the theory of a link between it and the previous murder, that much had been considered obvious as an outcome.  But as it had eventually become evident in Jeffries tube 4, the perpetrator had managed to erase their tracks with a dissolving compound, which had the frustrating work habit of leaving the scene intact only long enough for an initial review before things began to change.  Fonden was frustrated.  Franzoni was slowly becoming furious.  In his mind he saw more than he wanted to see.  In his mind he could identify the killer.  Oh grandfather.  Why did you leave me with this curse?  

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characters and story © copyright Sean "Waterloo" McKenna 2001-2003; Star Trek copyright Paramount