[Age of Mouldwarp]
Cadavers (Part 2)
Blood For the Leech's Sake
Xeno Minister Holm of the Phalli Parliament, neither representing the House of Macrons nor the House of Pasterns, though both be codified before the stars and before my people. Extended to you is the sovereign right of entitlement, and with this our gratitude for your patronage, to which you are given full privilege of audience with our government. Thusly sanctioned, I humbly receive your dialogue. All this, Franzoni perceived, delivered with an air of tediousness. He well understood.
"We are approaching your world, Minister Holm," he spoke into his monitor, "but there are certain concerns you must be made aware of." The Commander was seated in his office again.
"I trust our appointed diplomat is secured?" Minister Holm implored.
"Derek Parkes is," Franzoni said. "He remains, as he has the entire voyage, inside our brig. There have been several murders aboard the Copernicus. Because of this, as you will see, Starfleet is having concerns that we may not be able to make our appointment."
"Derek Parkes is secure?" Minister Holm confirmed.
"He is, but the ship is not," Franzoni reiterated.
"That is not my concern. Our world is not secure, and Derek Parkes is a convicted criminal within your law, yet he remains in my view the best hope to resolve our conflict," Minister Holm explained. "Of all your Federation minds, his alone has been able to grasp the delicate political grounds we walk on."
"Parkes is notÖ" Franzoni began. He meant to say, not representative of the Federation, but in Minister Holmís mind that hardly mattered. Like many alien races, the Phalli viewed humanity as the Federation. Starfleet hardly helped that image. "Under our law, a breach of law compounded is unheard of. That is not how we operate."
"Yet you have agreed to our proposal of employing Derek Parkes in this endeavor," Minister Holm mouthed in puzzlement. "Nevertheless, whatever dangers your ship poses to you and your crew, do not pose any additional danger to my world. You may proceed."
"Weíve been ordered to wait for an escort along the remainder of the journey," Franzoni stated. "Itís up to you. Either a Phalli ship could be spared for this engagement, or we would wait seven days for another Starfleet vessel to arrive. The time in between as to the latter would leave our situation time to develop into something thatÖmight eventually concern you."
"I see," Minister Holm said. "Unfortunately, all of our starships are held up in the conflict you were meant to alleviate. In order to emancipate them, we would need Derek Parkes, and without your shipÖ"
"We could arrange alternative transport for Parkes," Franzoni said. "If thatís what is called for, we could do that. The Copernicus is not incapacitated, merely compromised at this point."
"Without Derek Parkesí presence onboard you vessel," Minister Holm began, "it would be made vulnerable."
"That may be true, but we are capable of defending ourselves. Iíll see what I can do," Franzoni promised before nodding and breaking the communications link. He feared a similarly longwinded salutatory formality would have followed, and he was of the mind that Pomp and Circumstance had altogether been too well named. He sat back in his seat. Two murders had taken place aboard his ship and still no progress, now three days past the first murder, had been made in Lt. Fondenís investigation. Captain Matheson had begun breathing down his neck by the end of the first day, and it was not the seductive kind of breathing Franzoni sometimes enjoyed. He had become more and more involved in the investigation, until he was joining Fonden and Jacobi in the dirty specifics of the case, calling on Chief Engineer Zimmer and Doctor Chenoweth as experts in the eccentricities that continued to crop up.
It had gotten to the point where the Phalli were seriously being considered suspects. The technology they used to enhance their microscopic world for the benefit of the outside world was being scrutinized in the cross-examining of the protean elements left behind by the murderer in the two scenes that continued to baffle them. Franzoni was ordering the clearing of all nonessential personnel to their quarters before long, to decontaminate the ship of any continuing criminal activity, and even that didnít help progress the investigation in any significant degree. Soon, he was haggling with Matheson over the need to cut the shipís operations to a bare minimum, to reduce the operating staff to a skeleton crew.
"All of this emergency maneuvering is only causing a bigger headache than it will solve," Matheson argued. "Weíre giving the conspirators exactly the opportunities they need."
"Thatís progressive reasoning for you," Franzoni ventured boldly. "But the fact remains that there is the truth hiding behind all of this Starfleet clutter, and youíve ordered me to get to the bottom of it, and thatís what Iím attempting to do. With all due respect, Lt. Fonden is perhaps the weakest link in the whole investigation. She has repeatedly fumbled collaborations with all of my operatives, leaving little breathing room for Ethan to study the remnants of the residual evidence and blocking Zimmer from properly establishing any base with which to work from. Sheís too inexperienced, and this is not the time to change that."
Mathesonís expression soured quickly. "Fonden? The chief of security is the most inept piece of the circle. This is your excuse? Perhaps I should relegate her to guarding of Mr. Parkes?"
"That wouldnít be a bad idea," Franzoni replied nonchalantly, ignoring his captainís sarcasm. "Iíd recommend you enact that as your first priority in the matter."
"The first priority is to the Phalli," Matheson said.
"Funny, I seem to be the only one concerned for the Copernicus," Franzoni said. "No matter, Iíll continue to play your game."
"Excused," Matheson said curtly. The Commander didnít have to be told twice. He decided that a little excursion to the brig would be in his best interests, laying aside whatever guilt he had from the conversation that had been allowed to become too heated with his captain. He understood the pressure she was under, and the urgency of the situation. These were a few more of the things he wanted to get away from. He was running from her, in a sense, and all the way to Derek Parkes, who sat behind the humming of a faintly visible force field.
"Parkes," Franzoni intoned. "Captain Matheson has agreed to send you on your way, but before you thank your lucky warp cores, you should know that you are receiving a full security escort for your journey. I wonít be going like Iíd hoped, but Lt. Jacobi will, and you do not want to cross him. You understand?"
"Fully," the barely audible reply. Parkes looked even less present in mind than the last time Franzoni had visited him. It was an eerie feeling that his eyes gave the Commander, staring both at him and not. There was something elseÖ
"You will not be granted access to the Hall of Congregation as you might have hoped," Franzoni informed. Minister Holm could not influence the two Houses to that end. Instead, you will be brought to the Chancellery, where Holm and delegations from the two Houses will hear you."
"What good is it to be heard by the few when the many is whom I hope to influence," Parkes suggested in a brisk manner.
"Youíll have to work that out with them," Franzoni said. "Be prepared to leave in an hourís time." He would not have said that last line had it been anyone but Parkes, but he did, for the full demeaning effect. The Commander had very little respect for brigands.
Ethan Chenoweth, who was well known among the crew to be Doctor Sokorís project, had nothing but intrigue to offer Franzoni. The young doctorís cheery disposition was off-putting to the Commanderís chaffing personage, affected as it was by his constantly irritating mind. What Chenoweth possessed was possibility for Franzoni, the possibility for exploitation, and that was what the Commander was doing now. Parkes, before he, Jacobi, and a pack of security personnel departed aboard the shuttle Alaric, had been fitted with a tracking devise of Franzoniís conception, implanted by Chenoweth in the sub dermal layer of his right palm. It acted also as a transmitter, so that it acted as a perfect spy for the Commander, who unlike Matheson did not enjoy taking chances.
All this, he realized, was not entirely unique in the annals of history, yet there was something else about Parkes that troubled him. Parkes was not who he seemed to be, that is what Franzoni had read in his eyes. There was an incongruity there, as if the eyes did not match the face they hid behind. No matter, the prisoner-turned-diplomat was now out of his hands, at least for the most part.
Fonden had begun relenting in her stubbornness in the meantime. Franzoni wondered if Matheson had anything to do with this, or in his more cynical mind if the Benzite was finally beginning to crack. He was, naturally, leaning toward the second conclusion. Time, for the murders to be solved, would soon leave the past behind, and so would the unproductive nature of the Phalli disagreement. Things were slowly seeping in favor of Franzoniís unasked-for thoughts, and the killer was laughing all the while.
In the bowels of the Copernicus, something stirred.
characters and story © copyright Sean "Waterloo" McKenna 2001-2003; Star Trek copyright Paramount