[Insert ‘Pink Panther’ theme here]
((Apartment Block, Deck 801, Habitat Zone, Starbase 118))
The three Officers had mostly avoided contact with each other since arriving back at the base, apart from Lt. Cmdr. Hael’s party - which it would have been odd for them to not attend, or to be seen to be avoiding each other all evening.
Now though, after finding out the location of Londonderry’s apartment, Gogi had called Malko and Dante and arranged to meet with them outside the block.
It was, of course, an unassuming apartment block, one of the many apartment blocks that had been constructed to house Starbase 118’s many, many residents, in the uniform style that they had all been built in. A smooth white building, with nondescript, square windows on each of its several floors.
Gogi’s access code had gotten them into the building and up to the 7th floor in the elevator, but as they stepped out onto the landing, their eyes were immediately drawn to the Starfleet Security Officer standing to attention outside apartment number 66.
The stocky Bardeezan FO did not recognize the young, light-brown-haired, fresh-faced, Terran-looking man guarding Londonderry’s apartment and nor did he know of any order that had come from Captain Taybrim that the apartment should be guarded. Okay, he didn’t know absolutely everything that the Fleet Captain did, but he guessed he would have heard of something like this.
Dante and Malko exchanged a meaningful glance of worry before Gogi frowned deeply as he cracked his knuckles and began to stride up to the guard. Malko and Dante followed, all three of them dressed in their duty uniforms.
Fairhug: ::approaching the young man:: Good day to you…::making a show of looking at his pips::...Ensign…?
The Ensign’s eyes widened as he took note of three senior officers suddenly standing in front of him. One dressed in a Medical uniform, one a Diplomat and this third, relatively short Officer with the long ginger hair was dressed in a Command uniform with Lt. Cmdr. Pips.
Matterface: ::stuttering slightly:: M..Matterface, Sir. Ensign Matterface.
Fairhug: Good day, Ensign Matterface. My colleagues and I require access to this apartment.
Malko: Thank you for standing watch, who knows what ne'er-do-wells could have been coming around to stick their nose in.
Termine: We’ll make sure to inform your superior of your exemplary conduct. :: Dante flipped through a PADD. In reality it just had economic data of the sector, but he knew that seeming like you knew more that you did was often an effective bargaining tool ::
Matterface: I...I’m sorry, Sirs, the access has been limited to priority Alpha One.
The lines on Gogi’s weather-beaten brow grew even deeper, if that was at all possible, like the grooves of long-dried river beds in a dessert.
Fairhug: By whom?
Matterface: I...I can’t say, Sir.
Malko shared a knowing look with the others - Alpha One? That seems like overkill for an engineer’s quarters. Something wasn’t sitting right with the counsellor. Dante stepped forward, if there was one thing he DID know, it was starfleet code and regulation.
Termine: I admire your diligence Ensign, but Priority Alpha One security protocol can only be exercised in starfleet internal security matters. Although it will barr most non-briefed personnel...
Without missing a beat Malko stepped in.
Malko: Surely that doesn’t apply to the investigating officers...
The young Ensign’s eyes were darting between the Officers as beads of sweat began to form on his forehead. He was rattled.
Matterface: I’m s...sorry, Sirs. I’ve been given orders.
Gogi stepped closer to the man, reaching up to put a calming hand on his shoulder. Dante looked down at his Padd again, presenting a face of irritation. If Malko was going to play the good cop, Dante was going to play bad.
Fairhug: Okay, Ensign. It’s okay.
The young man tried to calm his breathing.
Fairhug: How long have you been on Starbase 118, Mister Matterface?
Matterface: This is my third week, Sir.
Fairhug: ::nodding knowingly:: Alright. Listen. I am Lieutenant Commander Fairhug, former Chief of Security of the Embassy of Duronis II, former Commanding Officer of the Iron Jaegers and current First Officer of this Starbase.
Gogi was never one to pull rank or blow his own trumpet, usually, but occasionally, the situation called for it - and this was one of those situations. Malko held the elevator so no one could enter the floor as Gogi launched into his monologue.
Fairhug: Now, I understand that you have been given orders and that you want to be seen to be obeying those orders. That’s a good thing. But let me ask you this; as First Officer of this very Starbase, do you think I would report you for allowing me to do my job?
The Ensign’s expression changed to one of confusion, his eyebrows almost knitting together.
Matterface: N...No, Sir…?
Fairhug: Of course I wouldn’t!
Gogi let out a hearty laugh, turning to Dante and Malko, to indicate for them to follow suit. Then he turned back to Ensign Matterface, his expression much more serious again, one of almost parental concern.
Fairhug: But...might I report you for obstructing me from doing my job?
Malko: It would be your obligation, I’d say. Your hands would be tied. :: to the Ensign :: He’s even reported me before.
Termine: :: Dante tapped on his pad a few times before leaning into Gogi’s ear but speaking just loud enough for all to hear:: Need I remind you sir about your upcoming appointment? The ambassador would be insulted if we were late.
Once again, Matterface’s eyes began to dart between the Officers. The boy looked like his mind had imploded with the difficulty of making this decision.
Fairhug: Okay, let me make this easy for you, Ensign. Stand aside and let me and my colleagues here do what we have to do and nothing more will come of this...little incident.
Gogi’s hand had been rested on Matterface’s shoulder this whole time, now he patted the man’s uniform, brushing some dust off of it.
Fairhug: How does that sound?
The young Officer, who had been standing at attention this entire time, let out a sigh and relaxed his posture.
Matterface: Yes, Sir. I understand.
Fairhug: ::patting the Ensign’s shoulder again:: You’re doing the right thing, Ensign.
He turned to Malko and Dante and indicated with his head. Matterface stepped aside and they made their way into the apartment. Gogi poked his head round the doorframe one last time as he entered.
Fairhug: Mister Matterface, inform us immediately if anybody else approaches.
Matterface: ::snapping to attention again:: Aye, aye, Commander.
((PO3 Rickard Londonderry’s Apartment, Deck 801, Starbase 118))
Termine: Nicely handled, but how could security be here already, and with such a high clearance level! I’m starting to think we’re not the only ones on the same trail.
Gogi huffed through his nose. The Starfleet cover-up was already in full motion.
Fairhug: Probably just some Admiral at Command making sure Londonderry’s myth is preserved.
Malko: Myth of being loyal?
Termine: We can look into who might have placed that order later, Malko and I can give face-of-the-matter back there a debriefing if it comes to it, but let's stay focused and search this room while we can. We might not have much time.
The three officers started to pace around the room. The quarters were small and sparse with only minimal personalization. This wasn’t uncommon amongst junior officers but something about it felt… off.
Gogi looked around, immediately dismayed by the lack of potential evidence, but then, if someone had gotten there first, it was hardly surprising that the apartment had been “sterilised”.
Malko: No garbage, no laundry, no spoiled food.
After a good long while of searching Malko checked amongst every fold in the closet and Gogi opened every drawer Dante stood staring up at the ceiling.
Malko: There’s almost no evidence that Londonderry even lived here anymore. It’s all been passed over.
The Bardeezan looked up, unsure of what Dante was so transfixed by.
Fairhug: Something caught your eye, Dante?
Termine: ...Wha? Oh... No it’s just that… Do you see those bolts holding that ventilation cover on?
Malko: With enough force you can open those with a letter opener if you really need to… Just saying…
Termine: They’re wrong.
Malko: ::quietly:: Not that I’ve had to...
Termine: I mean, they’re wrong. It’s only something a refurb crew would notice but those bolts up there… They should be self-sealing stem bolts but they’re not. They’re regular bolts that seem to have been made up to look sealed.
Malko: Prophets - you’re right. They’re smaller.
Fairhug: What do you think that means?
Termine: well, it either means that there were supply issues during this room’s construction or… Somebody has used a blast torch to cut through the original bolts and put their own in so that they could open that cover without any trouble.
Malko: Actually that sounds much easier than bending your good letter opener.
Gogi stroked his beard in thought as he looked around. The only furniture in the room was bolted down and of course, none of it was near the ventilation cover.
Fairhug: Okay, ::he looked at Dante, who stood a foot taller than him:: Dante, you’re the tallest, Malko…
He made a gesture with his arm for the Counsellor to follow his lead as he crouched down to get on all fours.
Malko: Careful now, Termine.
Dante wobbled as he slowly rose into the air, supported on the backs of Malko and Gogi - the human pyramid swayed and lurched. Slowly, Dante brought his hand up to the vent covering having to stretch considerably to reach and began to pry at the bolts holding the panel on. Much to his surprise the panel, bolts and all, came crashing down on him just as he came crashing down on his friends.
Rolling away from the heap onto his back, Gogi almost wanted to laugh. Maybe he would have under different circumstances. They must have looked quite the sight.
Fairhug: ::standing up, brushing off his uniform:: Well, I hope that was worth it.
Malko: And I hope nobody heard the raucous.
Termine: Not elegant - but it worked and… what do we have here!
Clipped into the back of the vent cover was a small silver tube, less than the length of a PADD stylus, with a blinking red light on it’s end and a single indent on it’s length.
Fairhug: Some kind of tracking device...or…
The Counsellor had taken the words out of his mouth. If it was a transponder, evidently whoever had been here before them had not been aware of its presence, as surely they would have removed it.
Fairhug: There’s one way to find out, can we activate it?
Malko: It looks to me like it’s already been activated...
As simmed by
Lieutenant Commander Gogigobo Fairhug
Starbase 118 Ops.
Starbase 118 Ops
Lt. JG Dante Termine
Diplomatic Corps, Starbase 118