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[Age of Mouldwarp]   
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Cadavers (Part 3)
Colors Perverted and Tokens Diverted
The heavily burdened sound of the two doors sliding open alerted Franzoni to activity at the entrance of the holodeck.  Whether it had been a mistake or someone had actually entered, he could not say, as his back was turned away at the moment, and he considered himself too busy to look.  The doors labored their way back into sync.  He wasnít engaged in a program of some diversion, but rather with the control panel, whose lid rested beside him in a flat pile atop a kit of equipment the Commander found that he did not need after all.  Zimmer had directed him to this outlet in their continuing investigation of the two murders aboard the Copernicus, saying hurriedly as he wanted to pursue another angle heíd uncovered, "Somethingís there.  You just have to poke around a bit."

For the first few hours of poking around, Franzoni had found, in fact, nothing at all, but as the third hour approached, he found signs that some of the command codes had been tampered with.  Perhaps a crewman or an ensign had wanted to have a go of some adventure without the safety protocols, and had been clever enough to circumvent the codes in some manner.  That was his first guess, but it was wrong.  There hadnít been very much holodeck activity in the past twenty-four hours, and as he reviewed what little activity there had been, he decided to widen the search to the preceding days, and found little or nothing there as well.  He then began to scrutinize what heíd already gone over, the specific activities logged into the back-up files delinquents rarely consider because incredibly theyíre better protected.  Someone had spent a great deal of time constructing an image of some kind, and connected into the holodeck control panel a foreign devise for additional utilities.

That was the true beginning of his search, Franzoni had decided.  A voice called over his shoulder, "Mind if I take a look?"

Looking around finally, he saw Lt. Fonden, her blue hands held behind her back as she leaned over toward him.  "There isnít much to see, Lt.  Be my guest."  She did and it was a rather speedy inspection, the kind that said, he was right.  She straightened out.  "How is your investigation going?"  "I think I finally made a bit of progress," he intimated, reaching.  

Fonden had been relieved from the case a day earlier, to Mathesonís annoyance and reluctance, given her earlier stance.  Admiral Logan had insisted upon it, and Matheson rarely second-guessed Logan.  Franzoni had allowed himself a brief moment of gloating, but in private, and to himself.  Still, it had been worth the wait, even if he would no longer have such luxuries, having been placed in charge of the investigation himself now, with Zimmer and Chenoweth continuing on as his aides.

"IÖunderstand you have Dolan in custody," she ventured, referring to the Tellarite whom Franzoni had found tampering with the deflection grid on Deck 12 a day before her dismissal.  Her own inaction in the event had been the motivation for Loganís call.
"We gathered enough to nail him," the Commander replied, before resuming his study of the control panel.  "What we donít know is what he was doing, if he was a part of whatever conspiracy led to the duel casualties.  But heís worried, and it isnít out of innocence."

"Why do you say that?"

"The explanation he gave wasnít fitting well with the pieces of information weíd scrapped together.  Thereís due concern."

"I see."  Fonden had nearly decided to walk away when she remembered that she was still curious about what Franzoni had found here.  "Is it worth sharing?"

The Commander was not confused at the sudden turn in thought, as others might have been in his shoes.  "Someone was designing a holographic image, a fairly specific one.  They didnít make any corrections to the perimeters once they set them in."

"Maybe they knew what they wanted."

"Perhaps they had a blueprint to work off of."

"WellÖwas it for a program?"

"Not that Iíve been able to determine."  Fondenís chatter was helping him think, and that was the sole reason he was allowing this conversation to continue.  His voice was abnormally high-pitched, thanks to the odd position he was forced to fold into, the control panel being so low on the deck plating.

"Can you recall the image?"

"Thatís what Iíve been working on.  The only thing the designer made sure to scramble was the codes to the final design, and it was of course the only design.  At any rate, that makes it suspicious."

"Do you think it was simply uploaded?"

"Thatís a possibility.  There wasnít that much work done on it, what might amount to a few finishing touches."  He couldnít take it any more.  He uncrouched and stood up.  His legs had begun to cramp.  

"Do you want me to see what I could do?"

"No," Franzoni said, "Iíll be fine in a moment.  Youíve got other duties?"

"No, I was coming off shift."  She was not facing her dismissal yet, but she knew that when she did, it would be unpleasant, and she was beginning to feel nauseous.  

"Get some rest," Franzoni beckoned, and Fonden seemed to relax after that.

"I will.  Thank you, Sir."  The doors performed their grinding task twice and the Commander was once again alone.  He went back to work.

A few hours later, he was seated at Mathesonís desk, reporting his discoveries.  "Dolan is a security officer.  He couldnít have the expertise for such activities," he concluded.

"Agreed," Matheson said.  "Iíve heard from Logan again.  It seems that another starship was able to make it here with more promptness than weíd calculated.  The Salient will be here within the hour."

"I donít understand.  Why are they necessary?"

"Logan tells me the brass would like a little more supervision a little sooner for Mr. Parkes."

"But the Phalli have made it clear that the smaller Starfleet presence, the better.  Is it wise to tread on their toes like this?"

"Lt. Jacobi has been attempting to carry out hisÖassignment, and he has run into a few obstacles.  Thatís our new concern."

"Can you elaborate?"

"Not at this point," the Captain sighed.  "Besides, you have enough on your mind."

Franzoni smirked, but not for the reason Matheson might have expected.  "You have me there.  Another ship might do us all some good."

Matheson looked away for a moment.  "I sorry it ever advanced so far.  I never meant to lash out at you."

"Understood."

"Has Hounsou reported to you yet?"

"No.  Why?"

"Heís found certain discrepancies in the crew manifest, including all guests weíre supposed to have aboard."

"Oh?"
"Are you sure he hasnít?  He left my office several hours ago."

"Iíve been occupied in the holodeck most of the day, but Iím certain he never approached me there.  Only Fonden came to see me."

"What did she want?"

"I canít be certain.  She didnít say it outright, but I think sheís disappointed about the dismissal."

"More than disappointed, Iíd warrant."

"Certainly.  We discussed the image for a while."

"Does she know?  Itís not something I would have wanted circulating."

"It wonít circulate.  She was headed for her quarters at the time."

"That damned image.  You couldnít find a copy of it anywhere?"

"Iíll enlist Zimmer when heís free.  Did he happen to mention to you what he was up to?"

"No, I thought he was reporting to you now," spoken almost regrettably, like a portion of her power was missing and greatly missed.

"Thatís another thing Iíll have to look into, I guess.  The Salient wonít arrive soon enough.  The lockdown will still be in effect?"

"The comm lines will still be open, Harm."

"Commander Pritchett will be just as effective.  Are we going to advance any closer to Haley when she arrives?"

"That hardly seems necessary."

Hounsou to Matheson.

"Matheson here," she stated before whispering to Franzoni, "Weíll soon have some answers, or hopefully so."

The Salient is within sensor range.  Should I open hailing frequencies?

"No, we know who we are.  We can wait.  Commander, report to my ready room."  Franzoni was going to get his chance to speak with Hounsou now, rather than later.

Fonden had only been asleep for an hour when she sat up, startled out of a dream.  Her head felt numb, as if sheíd had something to drink recently, even though that was impossible.  She never drank.  Benzites werenít able to drink standard liquids; their physiology restricted them to strictly Benzite provisions.  It was something that often got in the way of routine living in Federation facilities, as they had to program most of the Benzite varieties into the replicators themselves.  She stepped back into uniform as if in a haze and walked blindly to the same holodeck she had encountered the Commander at.

She blinked a few times upon arrival and wondered about, now that she was there, what she was going to do.  She was confused.

The Salient ran side parallel to the Copernicus while she considered this, with the urgent message that Derek Parkes needed to be brought back from Haley Minor immediately.  There was a medical emergency.        
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characters and story © copyright Sean "Waterloo" McKenna 2001-2003; Star Trek copyright Paramount