302: The Unknown

By Lt. (jg) Rada Dengar
After Heading Down

-=Underground: Stra II=-

With a noticeable jolt from the lift they knew they had arrived. The door slid open sticking in place for a moment almost as though it were reluctant to let them through. When it was finally open, light began to bleed out of the lift only to be lost in what seemed like the unending darkness which now confronted them.

Rada distributed torches to the other three members of the away team present and then took one for himself. They cautiously stepped out of the lift and the door clamped shut behind them, observably quicker than it had opened. They could see in the distance the moving glow of wrist-lamps scuttling around but their immediate environment was blank.

“You’d think a species this technologically advanced would know how to properly install a light bulb,” whispered Reece as they all switched on their torches and the area a few metres in front of them gained some visibility.

“We should keep them on the low setting,” Rada softly advised “someone around here has gone to a lot of trouble to keep us from getting this far. We can’t risk drawing attention to ourselves now that we’re here.”

Reluctantly the torches were turned down and the feeling of blindness crept back upon them with the shadows drawing nearer.

“It looks like this may be the only way to get down here from the upper levels.” suggested Kellyn. “If we can lock this door then we should gain ourselves a little more time”

Rada nodded in agreement as Kellyn set to work removing the casing from the panel next to the lift door. Grace obligingly focused her torch beam upon it so that Kellyn could see what she was doing.

There were constant yet incomprehensible murmurs in the distance and a disturbing slow creak seemed to echo around them. It sounded somehow mechanical; like rusty gears trying to force themselves to move but finding age to be too powerful an adversary. The creak bluntly halted as did instantly the murmurs. Dengar, Lair, Grace and even Reece remained perfectly still and silent as the wrist-lights seemed momentarily to freeze in one place. Slowly the murmurs and the movements of the lights returned and they were free to exhale again.

Rada removed a cloth from his pocket and wiped the sweat away which had already begun to form on his brow. It was hot down here. It was too hot down here. Rada had no doubt that this was why the lighting down here had been deactivated. If Rada was right in his suspicions, this place must have power but in an environment like this even the lights would provide an unacceptable increase in temperature.

Kellyn snapped the panel’s covering back in place and gave the nod to say that it was done. Rada took the lead with the security scans as his guide on the tricorder in his hand. With stooped stature they slowly progressed towards the only other door. Whatever was on the other side was completely unknown.

The tricorder reported two male Strasa life forms approaching their positions. They all turned off their torches becoming close enough to invisible in all of this darkness. Rada said a silent prayer to no one in particular, hoping that close enough would indeed be close enough. They would have hidden behind some cover but there was nothing in this room except for empty space.

“What Lank wants is crazy,” muttered one Strasa man, “it’s such a waste to destroy the M8.”

“We must.” Retorted the other “The Federation crew is getting too close. We’ve been unable to repair the malfunction and it is still refusing to work. All we can do now is to make sure no one finds out about it.”

“The m8?” Dengar mouthed to Kellyn but she just shook her head in acknowledgement that she didn’t recognise the term.

“But what chance do we have of fixing this mess without it?” the first one asked.

The second one just shook his head and replied in a defeated tone “We have no chance anyway. This world is going to die and its blood’ll be on our hands.”

Eventually the sounds of the Strasa’s feet seemed to fade away and Rada gestured for everyone to stand up. He couldn’t help but observe that the wrist-lights were paying them no attention.

“I’m sure that if Pointy were here he’d make a point of pointing out that:” Reece paused to get into character, keeping his voice down but putting on the best ‘Salvek face’ he could muster, “It would be a logical conclusion to suggest that since this m8 in about to be destroyed and this Mim seems to consider itself to be in danger that the two may be one and the same." Grace had to suppress a giggle and to remember that Salvek’s wife was right next to them.

Rada tried adjusting the settings on his tricorder but it wasn’t working. He had been tracking the two Strasa men’s movement until the point that they had entered the very door way that they themselves were heading for but he had lost any trace of them on the other side. The tricorder simply refused to read anything over there.

“Well, their computer seemed to think that this Mim was here.” Rada pointed out with deep concern in his voice “It seems there’s only one place it could be.”

Kellyn agreed and understood Rada’s worried tone when she glanced at his tricorder readings. “Let’s just hope that we can get to it in time.”

*Well Mim,* Rada thought to himself *It looks like your rescue mission is going to consist of two hyper-active trills, a Bajoran who’s well known for her habit of dying and an Angosian who’s incapable of violence,* and then said softly to himself before starting to move again “Good luck.”

Lt. (jg) Rada Dengar
Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

301: Save Mim

By Orad, Research Engineer, Stra II
Concurrent with Heading Down

-=Technology Allocation Control Center: 3 miles beneath the surface of Stra II=-

"That's it. We've done everything we could do. The unit is damaged beyond repair."

The woman called Lind sighed and moved toward a small sonic sink. She activated it and rubbed her hands together beneath the waves, working quickly to remove the grease that coated her hands.

The substance had bonded to her skin as she had tried physically to reach inside of the malfunctioning robot and find some burned out component, some frayed wiring, anything that could account for the fact that the Mechanical Interface Maintenance Bot Mark VIII had ceased to function the way that it was designed to.

"There's got to be something else we can,"

"No, Orad." Lind turned on him angrily. "The time for one more try is over. You of all people should be able to understand why this thing is not working. But you don't."

Orad's eyes flashed anger, and he looked at MIM sadly as the little mechanical sat temporarily powered down in the corner, head hanging, it seemed, in shame.

"When my father created that thing he never intended for it to be the only power allocation bot to run the grid alone for the next century," Orad objected. "There were supposed to be others. It was supposed to have help. So, if our leaders decided that they would simply ignore the warning signs of impending breakdown and continued to run the old system until it failed, fault for our current situation lies with them. Not me. They were shortsighted, and they chose to believe this day would never come. Well, it's come, and we will all suffer for their inaction."

"We will suffer because you can't fix the M8. End of story. If you'd been worthy of taking on the job that you were given by birthright, you'd have been able to head off this problem before things got so bad." Lind snarled back.

*I didn't know the mechanical would become. . .* Orad thought, but he stopped himself.

He couldn't let himself believe, truly, that MIM had somehow, somewhere along the line, become sentient. If he did, how could he possibly do what he was now expected to do? It would be nothing short, in his mind, of committing murder.

"You've got to pull yourself together." Lind chastised. "Things continue to deteriorate on the surface. We are out of time and out of options."

She moved toward a bank of screens and brought up the latest security report from the Medical Center. "The people are suffering withdrawal and soon they will be panicked beyond reason. We have to carry out our orders, and move on. We can't fix the M8, we have to destroy it."

"How are the organic workers settling in? Is there an update?" Orad tried to buy himself a few more moments to think by changing the subject. He and Lind had been sequestered in this small, interior room in the deepest part of the underground network of tunnels that linked the Medical Center to the Central Power Allocation facility for hours, and so by this point had no idea if anything beyond the four walls still existed.

"There are four hundred and ninety two people up there trying to do the work of that one thing," Lind complained, ". . .and doing it badly."

"I thought Starfleet was supposed to be sending an Engineering crew to help. Why aren't things locked down?"

"You know why." Lind turned and headed toward the door.

Indeed, Orad did know why. *Because their hands are bound too tightly, there is no way they'd be allowed into any areas where they could do any real good.*

"Are you going to finish this, or must I? At least you can make yourself useful by disposing of the components and recycling them. I have to go up to the control rooms, and try to see if we can streamline any of the basic power systems so that people can at least get a partial feed restored to their Wires. If we can just get people stabilized with enough data coming in to keep them calm. . ." She shrugged, and sighed. "Hurry up and finish this, then come up to control as well."

Lind locked the door behind her, and Orad slumped down, despair overtaking him as he sank into the chair next to Mim, and regarded the little being.

The mechanical was half gutted already, with various components strewn around and about him. Orad thought back to the day that he'd taken over this job by birthright from his father and finally, to the things his father had said to him as he lay on his deathbed. . .

-=Flashback: Ten Years Ago=-

"Father, please, tell me. Why haven't they been able to construct another mechanical to assist the M8, or supercede it?" Orad asked, as he sat in the dimly lit room beside his father.

Glar was a frail old man now, one whose thick head of once-ebon hair shone like silver as he turned his head away from his only son, refusing to answer.

"Father, I must know. Everyone expects me to fix the mechanical's defects, or replace it with a better model. With several better models. But your schematics, your designs for future bots, they're all flawed."

"Are they." Glar stated flatly, before asking his own question. "Are you so certain?"

"Yes, Father. I've tried to build them. I've tried every last one." Orad was desperate. He knew he had very little time left, and as much as he wished he could use this time to speak of memories of times they'd shared, or whatever people may speak to their parents about in the remaining hours of their lives, Orad did not have any such a well of memories to draw upon even if he had the time. His father's work had been his life, and the only time the two had spent together had been in the lab- means to the end that would assure that Orad would take his father's place one day as was the way of their people.

"You're so brilliant, Father. I don't understand why the designs don't. . ." then something occurred to Orad as the old man's thin, dry lips parted into a satisfied smirk.

"The designs don't work because I didn't want them to work." Glar announced. "Mim was never supposed to be the only one of his kind. But the Resident Overseer wouldn't let me have the resources that I needed to build the fleet of them that was supposed to safeguard our society from the eventual breakdown of the one little robot. But Lenk was more interested in using all of our scientists and engineers to continually work on the Wires, to make the feed more addictive to the people. To give him more control over the minds of the people. His son Lank is even worse as Overseer and continued tying my hands as his father had- until finally all that mattered to anyone was maintaining that control of the people and working poor little Mim to death."

"Why do you call it that? Like it has a name. Father, people think that you're,"

"A crazy old man? Maybe I am. But I'm telling you, son, that little being. . .changed, somewhere along the way. It's not just a machine anymore, and you can't treat it as just a machine. If you do, he won't last your lifetime. He'll burn out, he'll shut down. No being could do what Mim does indefinitely, alone."

"It's a MACHINE!" Orad shouted. "One that our people depend on. You have to help me, you have to tell me what you've left out of the designs so I can make more like it."

"I will never help them make more so they can enslave them the way they've enslaved Mim." Glar sputtered. "I won't help them, and I won't help you."

"You'd take the secrets for our survival to your grave with you?" Orad turned back, and knelt before his father's bed, taking the man's pale, skeletal hand in his own. "You'd damn us all?"

"Our leaders have damned us all," Glar closed his eyes and a tear shimmered between his eyelashes for a long moment before it finally rolled silently down his face. "With their need to control the people more than care for them, and no one can blame me for that."

"They will blame you, and me."

"Then, son, you had better decide if a life on this world is the one you want. Frankly if I were you," Glar advised, "I'd move."

-=End Flashback=-

For a time after his father's death, Orad considered leaving. But in the end he, like the rest of the population, cared more about the Wire and receiving their daily doses of biochemically induced pleasure than about making a life on another world, even if that life would be a better one for not only themselves but their eventual offspring as well.

Even though those brought into the engineering field by birthright were given adjusted implants, which allowed them much more mental control than that possessed by the average citizen- the lure of the drug was just too enticing to break free from.

Now, they would all be caught up in the middle of complete madness on a world forced to give up its drug, in an instant.

Orad thought about the times he had wondered if this creation of his father was something more than wires and relays. Time and again they had wiped its memory to try to keep it in line. Yet in the end, even though the mechanical could now no longer remember with certainty as it once did who its builder was, it insisted stubbornly that there was a Builder.

It always returned to asking everyone it came into contact with, upon first meeting, if they were that Builder.

As Orad looked up at the security report screen once more it flashed, another update coming in.

The text only display read, "Medical Center under siege. All personnel evacuate immediately through tunnels. This is not a drill."

Orad sighed, and he realized what he had to do.

He plugged Mim's missing components back in, and reactivated the little bot. After a moment, Mim's processors whirred to life, and his eyes blinked as his head pivoted toward Orad.
"Are you my Builder?" Mim asked gently.

"I am but a shadow of the man your Builder was, Mim. And I'm so sorry."

Mim started to remember what had happened to him right before he'd last been deactivated, and he began to roll backwards, pressing up against the two walls as they met at the corner behind him. "No! No! Save Mim!" He cried.

Orad glanced at Mim sadly. "Don't worry, little one," he whispered, as he blinked back tears at the thought of what this little machine really was. Mim was his father's legacy.

He began attempting to override the security lockouts in order to locate the Starfleet Engineering team that had been dispatched- and should be somewhere in the building.

"Help Mim? Save Mim?" The mechanical repeated sadly.

"I'm sure as hell going to try."

-=Meanwhile: Temporary Control Center, Level Five=-

Lind stormed into the room and grabbed the first two security officers she could locate. "Go down to the locker and finish off the M8. It has been damaged beyond repair, and I don't trust Orad to do it."

"What if Orad protests?"

Without a moment's pause or hesitation, Lind answered the question.

"Then finish off Orad too."


Research Engineer
Technology Allocation Control Center
Beneath the surface of Stra II

300: Walking The Wire

By Keiran O'Sullivan
Hours after Condition: Critical and concurrent with the end of Save Mim

-=Medical Center, Tower City Complex, Stra II=-

Keiran wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his tunic. For hours, they had been working in the increasingly heated environment; under pressure as well as subject to rising physical temperatures around them.

As Salvek, Hok and Cristiane had continued working with General Dret, working as fast as they could to allocate troops to wherever trouble was threatening to spring up. As time wore on, they found that they were facing many more hotspots outside the hospital than the troops on hand were going to be able to contain for much longer.

Keiran, for his part, had been acting as personal security for Dr. Breaux as he moved from ward to ward, trying to assess patients and figure a way to stave off the pangs of withdrawal that so many of them were suffering so badly from.

Keiran observed Breaux as he worked, standing watch as the physician conferred with the Strasa medical staff. How different he seemed to be as he went about his duties, a perfect photo negative of the man Keiran had spent so much time investigating and chasing all over Earth.

Keiran wondered how two sides of the same man could be so different, but then he remembered that when he looked in the mirror, he saw a man staring back at him that was so deeply divided into fragments, he didn't even begin to know how to reassemble them into a whole.

*Judge not. . .* he thought, repeating the Bible admonition made to him so often during his troubled youth.

The local doctors themselves were suffering too, it seemed. While not as badly as those in their charge, they were suffering still.

After observing the way that different individuals they had met were effected by the information outage and asking questions along the way, Breaux and O'Sullivan had individually come to the same conclusion- and finally Avery spoke to Keiran as they prepared to move on to the next ward- pediatrics.

"It seems that people have varying levels of addiction going on here," Breaux announced. "They call it 'The Wire," his eyes were troubled, and his feet dragged a little as exhaustion began to take its toll. They'd been here for what seemed forever at this point, without the ability to contact the ship, or the other Away Teams.

"It seems to me that those with more. . .professional jobs assigned to them by birthright are less addicted than those whose lineage assigns them to more. . ." he stopped.

"More menial work?" Keiran sputtered. He came from a humble, working class family. His father had worked the shipyards all his life, and Keiran had joined Starfleet to pursue what he considered as a boy to be a brighter future than the one he would have if followed in his father's footsteps. "I noticed that too. Those who perform the everyday, low wage positions are kept in line by the control the upper echelon exerts over the feed to their wires."

"Exactly," Breaux concluded sadly. He moved through the doors of the pediatric ward and saw that there were a group of children who did not yet have the telltale blinking blue light that appeared as a small blue dot illuminating beneath their skin at intervals. He moved toward the tallest one, who couldn't have been a day older than four.

"How are you feeling, my young friend?" Avery offered a smile to the child.

"I feel fine. Can't I go home? I don't want to be here any more. I'm not even sick."

"Why are you here?"

"To get my Wire." The boy replied innocently.

Avery's stomach clenched, and he fought the sensation of nausea that made him want to gag. He turned to O'Sullivan and swore, for a moment, he saw tears welling in the burly Irishman's eyes.

"Gods," Avery breathed, "what have these people done?"

Suddenly Keiran heard someone call his name, and he turned to see Dane running toward them as fast as he could go.

"Problem!" Dane declared as he skidded to a stop. "Commander Salvek wants to talk to you right away, Sir."

"What's wrong?"

"They've lost control of the line out front," Dane said, pale and sick at the thought. "They're coming in."

All three men hurried back to the command station, where they found a terrified looking Dret in an animated discussion with Salvek.

"I'm sorry, Commander. I was only following orders." Dret insisted. "I regret that you are now in this position, but there is little I can do for you other than show you the tunnels and send you on your way."

"What's happening?" Keiran asked Salvek.

"It seems that we have been prevented by General Dret from receiving communications from not only the Serendipity but also our fellow Away Teams for the past several hours," Salvek responded, clearly displeased. "It seems that the Captain has recalled all teams to the ship as Overseer Lank refused to cooperate with her, and there was some kind of incident involving one of the delegation which happened aboard the Serendipity hours ago. We have been isolated, and used, by the Strasa even though they outwardly demanded we leave."

Salvek glared at Dret, who looked away in disgrace. "Now, the troops have lost control of the crowds out front and they are breaching the perimeter."

"What about the patients? The children!" Breaux jumped into the fray, outraged. "We can't leave them here,"

"We will not leave them here." Salvek decided, his paternal instincts and his logic in full agreement with the doctor. "Neither will I leave until I know what has become of my wife. The rest of you, however," Salvek glanced at O'Sullivan and Breaux in turn.

Both men had their own brand of respect for Lair, as well as for each member of the team she was assigned to.

Breaux and Dengar were great friends, and O'Sullivan had developed a soft spot for the female Trill, even if her husband was a bit of a. . .

"We go where you go." Avery spoke up, and Keiran nodded slowly in agreement.
"Aye," Added Dane and Hok.

"Very well. We remain together as a team." Salvek turned back to Dret. "Where can we take the children?"

"There are safe rooms, down in the tunnels, I can take you there, then show you where they connect through the system to the engineering buildings. . ." Dret offered softly, clearly defeated.

"Then let's get going," Keiran implored, as he kept gazing anxiously at the surveillance displays which showed the crowds advancing on the fenced-in facility with frightening speed fueled by the destructive power of their addiction.

Lt. Commander Keiran O'Sullivan
Chief of Security
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

299: Heading Down

By Dabin Reece and Lair Kellyn
Immediately following Busted

(Captain's Note: which, for the sake of continuity- happens hours after the end of "The Party's Over, Part Two, in case anybody was wondering. . .we have a little catching up to do aboard the ship to bring us in line with this post, but we'll get there. ~ZL)

-=Underground, Stra II=-

There was an awkward moment of silence. Well, silence, between the people anyway. The room itself was alive with noise from the reactivated communications system.

Dabin braced himself for the wrath that was sure to come. He wondered if the Strasa guards would come at them with the simple classic fist, or the more sophisticated butt of the weapon to the face. Either way Avery Breaux and the LMH were probably going to have four broken noses and concussions to deal with.

"Do me a favor, hit me twice, and spare the female Trill. She's too beautiful to have her face rearranged." Dabin said, in what was probably the most noble act of selflessness he had ever displayed.

"Thanks." Lair Kellyn said sarcastically.

"Hey! How many times have you died now? Two, three? You aren't going to woose out on me over a punch to the face are you?" Reece shot back.

"Commander." Rada hissed to get Dabin's attention. Reece looked up at the engineer, and Rada nodded his head towards the Strasa, who were simply staring off into space.

"They're getting their first access to any kind of communications in a long while." February said. "They probably don't even realize where they are."

Dabin decided to test that theory. He approached one of the guards and waved his hand in front of the man's face. The guard did not budge. Dabin circled behind the man and grasped the strap that held the man's weapon over his shoulder. Slowly he lifted the strap up, and lowered it down the Strasa's arm to the floor. Reece slung the weapon over his own shoulder. The rest of the team did the same 'til they each were armed. Rada hid all the remaining weapons inside a communications panel, leaving the Sera crew as the only armed persons in the room.

"What now?" Reece whispered.

"There's no telling how long the Strasa are going to be in this trance like state, but I'd love to know what they are hiding down below, and who or what MIM is." Rada looked at the tricorder that contained the security scans they had uploaded to the Sera.

He hoped by now the Captain was reviewing them and making use of whatever information she had to make the Overseer sweat. From what he saw the lowest level of the complex, deep beneath the ground, contained a large circular control room, with the largest concentration of Strasa lifesigns.

The amount of technology in this area was staggering and it was simply not possible to tell one component from another with only a basic scan.

"Shouldn't we get approval from the Captain before we go snooping around their complex?" February asked.

Rada tapped his comm badge, in the hope that communications with the ship may now be on line.

"Engineering Away Team to Captain Zanh."

[One moment Lieutenant.] A chirp indicated that Zanh Liis closed the line, probably because she was not free to speak. A few moments later she reopened the channel.

[I'm clear now, Danger. Go ahead.]

"Captain some communications have been restored down at this complex. For the time being, the Strasa are completely absorbed in their internally wired technology and paying us no mind at all. . ." Before he could finish, Zanh interrupted.

[I can barely hear you, Mr. Dengar. . .you're breaking up.] Rada wondered how this could be, since he could hear her just fine. . .[But you need to know things have gone badly here. Lank is gone. You are to. . .the ship.]

Everyone exchanged glances.

"Sir, we have intercepted something of a distress call down here, and I'd like permission to take advantage of this situation with the guards by exploring some of the other levels of this facility to try to answer it."

Rada realized he was basically asking the Captain for permission to trespass in areas that a Federation ally specifically requested they not go. The Captain could use this as grounds to court marshal him and have him sent back to Angosia in disgrace, never to be heard from again... but based on what he knew of Zanh Liis...

[Do. . .what you can. . .Mr. Dengar. . .befo. . .withdrawal. Dangerous situation. . .use. . .extreme. . .return to ship.]

"Please repeat?" Rada was beginning to think someone was trying to undo what he had done to stabilize the comm net.

[Go for it. What. . .condition of your. . . Team?. . .treated well?]

"We are all in good health. As for our treatment, frankly it seems like we are more in the way here than anything. They had us making menial repairs and forbade us access to the areas we really needed to get into to help fix their power problems. We just sent you some scans. hopefully you can decipher what's going on down here." Rada tried to clear up the signal as he spoke, and Kellyn pitched in to help, momentarily, the pair succeeded.

[We'll get on it right away. We still don't have transporters, but Palahna is trying to get the weather net locked down- no more teams will be allowed to the surface and the Strasa government has officially asked us to withdraw. I anticipate at least two hours till we have the net secured and can beam anyone up- get back to the shuttle, as soon as you've sorted out that distress call, and be careful.]


Rada closed the line.

"Onward we go!" Reece said. "What if the Strasa figure out what we're doing?"

"And then we can't get back to the shuttle. . ." Grace added, biting her lip.

"Then, we find a place to hide until the Captain can beam us out of here safely." Rada decided. "We should hurry."

*Oh great. All four of us stuffed in a broom closet. Sounds like a great plan* Thought Reece.

Rada led the way, tricorder in hand, as they left the room they had been closed in since their arrival. Kellyn walked beside him, as February and Dabin watched for signs of other Strasa.

"I suppose we should head straight for the lower level." Kellyn suggested. "I think that's where the action is."

"What do we know about their security systems? Anything? There could be booby traps all over this place." February warned.

*Ha ha! You said...* Dabin thought.

*Yeah, I knew that was coming,* February thought back. Lair Kellyn rolled her eyes as the Trill both grinned. She couldn't hear there thoughts but she was smart enough to know they were talking and what they were saying.

"I'm scanning for all know forms of traps. That doesn't mean the Strasa don't have anything we don't know about.

The group walked slowly down the long empty corridor, towards the lifts at the end that would take them below. There were no Strasa in sight. As they reached the lift, Reece walked up to the door, which refused to open. The panel beside the door was demanding an access code.

Reece tried to pry the door open but it was no use.

"It's magnetically sealed. I don't think all the power in our weapons would be enough to cut through the door. Maybe if we had some of Fleur's cookies we could use them as an explosive." Reece offered.

"Excuse me," February said. She took out her tricorder, scanned the lock, tapped a code into the panel, and the lift opened.

"How did you do that?" Kellyn asked.

"I found a few things other than communiqués while I was poking around their system." February walked into the lift, and the others followed. The doors remained open, waiting for a command.

*Destination please.* The lift prompted.

"So where do we go?" Kellyn asked.

"I have an idea!" Reece said, then he addressed the computer and asked simply. "MIM."

The doors snapped shut, and the lift whirred into motion.

Commander Dabin Reece
Chief of Science
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project

298: Blank Canvas, Part Two

by Vol Tryst and Zanh Liis
Following Part One

-=USS Serendipity=-

Zanh Liis walked into Sickbay with the barkeep right on her heels. She was relieved to see the Counselor sitting up on his own.

"Counselor, how are you?" She asked from across the room.

Vol did not answer.

"Vol?" Zanh tried again, realizing her optimism may have been premature. Maybe he wasn't as fine as he appeared.

She made a move to go closer to his bedside, but a soft hand held her arm. Trick London looked liked he'd just seen a ghost, and he shook his head, silently advising her to stay put.

But Zanh didn't accept that, she needed to make sure her crew member was alright, and to maybe get some answers as to what Blik had done to him. The sooner she got those answers, the better, so she walked towards Vol. When she neared him, she reached out a comforting hand to rest on his left shoulder.

"Hey, are you---"

If Vol had had an ounce of physical defense training, the swinging arm that came out of nowhere would have smacked her right in the jaw. But Zanh ducked and quickly moved away as Vol simultaneously let out a horrible yell and clumsily staggered from his med bed, backing himself into a corner.

His face was contorted in a terrified grimace, and tears streamed down his face when he finally blinked. Vol could only shake with empty sobs, a mere two hours ago this was a woman whose mind and emotions were vivid to him and extraordinarily interesting. It was like being a child, watching an artist paint something from start to finish with an array of vibrant colors.

Now all he saw was a blank canvas, a shell of the woman he was just getting to know. This is what it would be like with everyone on this ship, he couldn't even sense her presence. If he closed his eyes, he'd never guess she was even there.

"Ensign Tryst!" Zanh summoned her Commanding Officer voice in order to break through to Vol and reprimand him for almost striking her, but to no avail. Vol let out another yelp as he seemed to be going back and forth between rage, depression and sheer terror. London came up from behind Zanh, as the LMH finally made an entrance, approaching his patient with a hypospray.

"No!" Vol was on the ground now, his back against the wall as he directed a swift kick at the LMH. McKay merely blinked, unfazed as he deflected the kick and moved closer to administer the sleeping agent.

"Son, I don't care if I have to hog tie you, you're gettin' this shot! How 'bout a little help here?" McKay sputtered, and London and Zanh immediately obliged as Trick held the Counselor's ankles, and Zanh held his arm and shoulder against the wall. The struggling stopped as soon as the hypo penetrated his neck. Vol's body went limp and the episode was over.

After returning the Counselor to his bed, McKay went back to the view screen on the medical console in the center of the room, and Zanh stood on the other side of the island, glaring him down.

"What the hell, McKay?"

"Believe it or not Captain, he was much worse when I first got him here."

"I can't say I'm surprised..." mumbled Trick.

*What ever happened to straight-forward answers on this ship, are they extinct and no one bothered to tell me?* Zanh Liis thought to herself.

"Exactly what's wrong with him?" she demanded. The doctor sighed before raising his gaze from his work and looked at the Captain.

"Everything that had made him a Betazoid is now gone. The part of his brain that governs his empathic and telepathic abilities has ceased to function."

"What?!" Zanh nearly shouted. "That's not possible."

"That explains it..." Trick looked to Vol, with an obvious sense of sympathy.

"Explains what?" Zanh asked, still trying to process this new information.

"His sudden violence Captain..." Dalton answered. "...I'd imagine you wouldn't react too differently if you had been robbed of your sense of sight or hearing."

As much a part of her existence as music had become throughout the course of her life, Liis was struck by the example, and could hardly comprehend how she would feel if she lost the ability to listen to it.

"It's deeper than that though, Doctor McKay," insisted Trick, as he took a moment to ponder how he was going to explain this to the Captain. "Captain, when you meet a person for the first time, you make judgments immediately, correct?"

"Don't we all to some extent?" As she spoke, Liis considered the fact that every time in her life she'd ever gone against her first gut impression of someone, she regretted it.

"Humans do, Bajorans do, and that's natural for most non-empathic species. You rely on your visual, and other senses to come to a conclusion about the person. You may be willing to change such judgments afterwards, but there's still the initial judgment. You even do it with old friends or colleagues, you judge their mood and their frame of mind by what your vision, hearing, and other senses tell you.

"Betazoids don't experience it like that at all. We just know, right off the bat. Our empathy tells us exactly what a person is like as their emotions are like an open book to read."

"Also..." Dalton continued, "...empathy isn't exactly a robotic sense." Trick nodded in agreement, and Zanh raised an annoyed eyebrow as she crossed her arms and silently urged the LMH to explain himself.

"Androids can hear and see Captain, but very rarely are they made with the function to process touch, taste, and smell. Think of hearing and seeing as robotic functions; in a lot of ways organics depend on them the most, but in some ways the remaining three are more tragic to lose."

Zanh understood that it is tragic to lose any sense, but she had seen people do so and, for the most part, recover. Jariel had lost his ability to speak, and he had adapted, she wondered why these two were acting as if someone had just died, instead of looking at this as a challenge that Vol could adjust to, and work around. Her frustration grew as it became obvious that there was some reluctance on the part of both gentleman to continue.

"I am in a bit of a hurry, so if you could just cut to the chase, boys," Zanh clarified, and Trick rolled his eyes and bit the bullet.

"The senses of sight and hearing aren't the primary senses used when interacting. . .intimately with other people, Captain."

*Oh.* Liis' eyes widening was her only outward reaction, as she grasped the full implications of what Vol had lost.

The LMH signaled for the Captain to stand beside him, and she circled the console and looked at the view screen he'd been looking at. There was a computer diagram of the inside of Vol's brain, with blood vessels and neural pathways.

"See this?" Dalton pointed to what looked like a tiny micro chip. "This gadget has attached itself to the wall of the blood vessel in his paracortex, and it's acting like an electromagnet."

Zanh looked up suddenly into the eyes of the hologram, that did not sound good.

"All the naturally occurring electricity that normally operates in that part of the brain is instead going directly into the foreign body. What's worse, is that's what is continuously supplying the machine with energy to work."

*Not good.* Thought Zanh, maybe there was a reason why straight-forward answers were a rarity on the Sera, it made bad news easier to deliver.

"So, the electrical impulses of Vol's brain are serving as this thing's battery?" Trick asked, dumbfounded.

"As long as Vol's brain is working, this thing will keep on sapping the necessary electricity in his paracortex."

"What if you were to induce a coma? Or to put it bluntly, what if you were to cause brain death to occur, and then revive him?" Asked Zanh plainly, but Dalton shook his head.

"This is a sophisticated piece of technology Sir, it would be like turning off the switch, and then just turning it back on again."

"So there is no way you can remove it, or turn it, and only it, off?"

"The device has embedded itself in the wall of a blood vessel. It's small enough not to cause a clot, but big enough to cause a hemorrhage if I remove it, I'd be ripping open a blood vessel in his brain, and it would most certainly kill him. As far as the device specifically..." The doctor pulled up some documents on the viewscreen.

"I've compared it to some similar known devices. . ." he mumbled beneath his breath, "all outlawed in the Federation, by the by, and I'm willing to bet that our bad bug is similar, if not identical."

"The Romulans have been known to possess technology of this sort, wonder where they got it." Zanh growled sarcastically. Now she knew full well where they'd gotten it; from the Strasa.

"There is no 'off' state for this thing, as far as I can hypothesize. It's made to be on and stay on, and inhibit brain activity indefinitely." McKay concluded.

"Damn," Liis whispered, softly shaking her head. She stepped slowly forward, and reached gently out toward the young Counselor's face. She hadn't known Tryst very long, still he had managed to work his way into her mind and heart from the first day, and seeing him like this was, for her, physically painful.

She brushed the tracks of Vol's tears away, the back of her hand softly touching his cheek in a much more gentle gesture than either the LMH, or London, thought her capable of.

"We're going to hang Blik for this, Vol, I promise you, and what's more," She looked up at Trick and Dalton, just the slightest glimmer of tears in the corners of large blue eyes which could not conceal a rage fathoms deep.

"We're going to find out how to get this thing out of your head, if I have to wring the information we need out of Blik with my bare hands."

Ensign Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

297: Blank Canvas, Part One

by Vol Tryst and Zanh Liis
During and after The Party is Over, Part Two

-=Sickbay, USS Serendipity=-

The silence was excruciatingly uncomfortable. As if the only sound he could hear was similar to the hollow wind sound of a seashell that's held up to your ear. This room, this sickbay, this entire vessel was... void. Empty, as if he were on a ship filled with holograms. Just like this doctor was, this LMH, who had stopped poking and prodding him and was now standing at the medical console inputting information into a PADD.

"Gave us all quite a scare there m'boy." The Doctor said aloud, raising his gaze to look at Vol's back. After Vol had recovered from the initial shock of. . .whatever it was that happened to him, he sat completely still. Cross legged and facing away from the LMH and the front door of the Sickbay, he was visibly shaking, and almost never blinked.

Dalton McKay took note of his patient's irregular breathing, tense muscles, and tightened chest as he clutched his arms around his chest and shoulders. McKay was concerned that the man would stress himself into a heart attack, so he tried again to convince the man to lay down.

"Counselor, you just endured quite an ordeal, how 'bout some shut eye?"

Again, Vol refused to answer. The hologram sighed, and retreated into his adjoining office. He needed to look up past cases, about foreign bodies in the brains of Betazoids.

Vol was wringing his hands so hard that they were noticeably paler than the rest of his skin. His eyes were dry, his breathing still unpredictable,
uncontrolled. His face held a blank expression, and he rocked his body back and forth slowly, trying to console himself. It felt hopeless though. He could never recover from this, he simply could not function without his abilities.


Trick London and Zanh Liis took a long, silent turbolift ride from her private dining hall, where the evening's entertainment, and also what now appeared to the deliberate act of violence perpetrated against Vol Tryst, had occurred.

London knew enough of Zanh to wait for her to speak before trying to say anything, and she parted her lips several times, only to close them again without making a sound. He could feel the rage radiating from her, so fresh and raw that it drowned out nearly everything else that he could pick up from her, except one other emotion.


"London, I just arrested a very powerful man based on two words written on a paper napkin," Zanh said at last. "One hell of a bluff. You'd better be right about this. Explain to me, please, how you know that Blik injured Vol?"

"Captain, first please allow me to remind you that I am not a trained empath. I have the natural ability to sense what others are feeling thanks to my father's DNA, but I am not trained in the use of that talent."

"Halt lift," Zanh took a step closer to the man. Standing tall in her boots, she equaled him in height and stared directly into his eyes. "Do not back-peddle on me now. You said it was Blik. I need to know what you felt."

Trick nodded, and folded his arms. "All evening, I have sensed a great uneasiness coming from the Strasa whenever Vol tried to engage them, or even just as he observed them. They had obviously figured out that he was an empath, and then, when Vol appeared ill, I felt this wave of. . ." Trick searched for the correct word, as his eyes rolled upward and he contemplated his choices. "Satisfaction sweep over the group. Then, from Blik, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief, as well as true happiness. That was what struck me, and the feeling was so shocking that I dropped the tray."

Zanh listened mutely, twisting the chain of her earring between her fingers as she did so.

"He was happy that Vol was suffering. He was relieved that he'd done what he was supposed to do. I have no doubt, Captain, that he was carrying out orders to in some way incapacitate the empath."

Zanh sighed deeply, rocked her weight forward from her heels to her toes and back again, and then told the lift to resume course.

"The question remains, how did he do it, and when?" London added.

"I'm hoping that Doc McKay will be able to tell us. So I can give Security something to go on, to look for when they review the data from the surveillance cameras in the dining hall," Zanh said softly, once again twisting her earring chain. "I need you to listen carefully to everything he says, see if you can put it together with anything you saw or heard or felt tonight to try to give us a real case against Blik. Because right now. . ." Zanh didn't need to finish.

Right now, when it came to concrete evidence of foul play, they had nothing.

"Tryst is so young, he's just," she added, but the doors hissed open before her and she left the words hanging in the air as she moved quickly forward.

Ensign Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

296: The Party is Over Part Two

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Following Part One

-=The Captain's Dining Hall, USS Serendipity=-

"What did Blik do to Vol Tryst?" Zanh demanded.

[[Liis?!]] Jariel signed, shocked she would make such a blatant accusation out of the blue.

"You must know, you arrested him for it. Surely you wouldn't place a man under arrest unless you had proof of his guilt, would you Captain?"

"I have proof enough." Zanh closed the space between her and Lank in two swift strides, and the man actually picked up the chair he'd been sitting in and placed it between them as a physical barrier, still cowering.

"If you lay a hand on me, your whole crew will be finished! I will own this ship and I will own you! I will see you hanging from the-"

"Oh, knock it off." Zanh waved her hand. "I'm not going to touch you. At least not yet," She added just enough of a menacing glare to further unnerve him. "I am a Starfleet Captain. There are, unfortunately, rules that I must obey, so I will obey them. And you will honor the good-faith agreement that your world has as a trade ally with the Federation and you will tell me the truth of what is going on down there on your planet."

"Whatever do you mean?" Lank examined his fingernails, the air of arrogance reappearing the moment he felt the threat of imminent physical injury had passed.

"I mean, you're hiding something down there and are so desperate to keep whatever it is that has really happened to cause this power cascade a secret that you are willing to inflict injury on my people to do so, as well as suffering on your own."

Jariel sighed, and for a moment, held his head in his hand. *This is not diplomacy,* he thought to himself, and he raised his hand a moment to get Liis' attention. She tried to ignore him, but he finally tapped her on the shoulder, and held his finger up toward Lank begging a moment's pause.

"What!" Liis turned on Jariel sharply, then she cringed. "Apologies." She whispered. "What?" she asked, much more calmly. Jariel began to sign to her furiously, and she nodded.

"I know, I know." She replied. She sighed, squared his shoulders and stepped back two paces. "Of course. Go right ahead."

Jariel began to sign, and Liis translated his questions for the Overseer.

"Why are you so afraid of letting our teams actually go to work down on the planet? Isn't there some sort of agreement we can come to for the benefit of everyone? Then we can finish as quickly as possible, and we will take our leave of your world. Which appears to be what you would prefer." Liis translated aloud.

"Yes, I would prefer that. Truthfully, it would have been better if you had never come."

"It was you," Jariel reminded Lank through Zanh, "who sent the distress call."

"Indeed." Lank's shoulders sank and he sat heavily down onto the chair before him. "None of this was ever supposed to happen."

"What wasn't supposed to happen?" Liis asked the question before Jariel could sign it.

"You have to understand, Captain, we are a species who have based our entire livelihood, our entire economy, on being one of the top suppliers of technology to other worlds. We must keep our trade secrets, well, secret. If technologies we have under development were leaked from our facilities to other worlds, don't you understand what will happen to us?"

Liis was almost amused, thinking that this guy was worried that they, of all crews in Starfleet, would be interested in stealing their technology. The Strasa had no idea of the goldmine of future technology that he was literally standing above. The Alchemy, the Gateway, all the secrets of advanced technology that the Sera and her crew reigned over. . .things so beyond what the Strasa had provided to the Federation in the past that his head would spin if he only knew.

"I assure you, Overseer, we have no interest in spying on your projects in development. Our aim is to help you restore power to your city, to your people, and then, to be blunt, to get the hell out of here. We were on another assignment when your distress call came in, and to be frank this has been nothing but an inconvenience for me since the get-go." Zanh informed him bluntly.

"Now, however, it has turned into something worse. You are obviously hiding much more down there than next year's tech toys. My teams have been refused admission to the weather net, putting your people as well as mine at great risk and tying my hands. I can do my job much better and we can shake hands and part company much more quickly if I can use my transporters. But I can't do that without a stable atmosphere to beam my people in and out of. So until we can secure the weather net and put it into a stable stand-by mode, locked down, here we are."

"Then it would be best if you gathered your teams and left my planet, immediately." Lank insisted, heading for the door.

"What about the charges against Blik?"

"You can have Blik." Lank said dismissively. "If you do, in fact, have any proof against him I assure you that you will never be able to tie it in any way back to me, or any of the others here tonight."

*That bastard,* Zanh thought. *He gave Blik the order to take Vol out and now he's going to throw him under the bus and leave.* Jariel got Liis' attention again and signed. She sighed.

"I know that we cannot hold your entire delegation without cause, and therefore I will do just what you ask, Overseer. I will beam you and the rest back to your ship, I will recall my Away Teams," Zanh's eyes locked on Lank's, "And when it comes to restoring power to your city before your inhabitants overrun the capitol to get to water and food," Zanh turned away. "Good luck with that."

[[I'll see that he rejoins the others,]] Jariel signed to her, following Lank out the door.

Liis called out, seeking the Betazoid/Human bartender. "London," She called. "Where the hell are you? You're going with me."

"Where are we going?" Trick asked, reappearing from behind the doors.


-=/\=-Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

295: The Party is Over: Part One

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Following Regrets Only Part Two

-=The Captain's Dining Hall, USS Serendipity=-

Zanh Liis had officially hit the limit of her patience with the Strasa leader. She gestured for her fellow officers to join her in sitting back down, while she took a moment to regain her composure.

Lank's people were suffering, without the basic needs for survival. One of her officers had just fallen gravely and inexplicably ill, and here he was raising his glass and demanding more wine as if he were celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square back on Earth.

Everything was one big party to this man, never-ending and self-indulgent.

Fleur LeMarc quickly moved to get another bottle of wine and as she did so, Trick London hurried back in from the adjoining galley. It was the first time he'd been seen since his uncharacteristic, clumsy accident a few moments before, in which he had dropped a tray full of dishes.

He rushed up to Fleur and whispered in her ear. She misunderstood his remark and tried to wrestle the bottle of wine between them, intent on carrying out the request of their guest herself to refill his glass.

"No, no, dearie, let me do that. We need fresh glasses," Trick growled to her through gritted teeth, and still dragging Fleur along behind him as she refused to let go of the bottle, he pulled both her and the beverage container forcefully along with him, back through the doors. He called back over his shoulder in a sing-song tone that Zanh had never heard him use before.

"My most humble apologies. Be riiiight baaa-ack!"

Lank sighed, visibly annoyed, setting down his glass at last as he reluctantly returned for the moment to his food.

Zanh and Blane were both growing more uneasy by the moment, waiting anxiously for some sort of sign from Sickbay that Vol was going to be all right. Some sign from the surface that the Away Teams were safe. Some sign of anything. . .

"So sorry about that. I wanted to fresh stemware and a clean corkscrew," Trick chattered, much more excessively than was normal for him. Zanh Liis, though no empath herself, immediately picked up on the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice and knew him well enough to know something was amiss.

As she contemplated what that might be, London did something so akin to pulling out a flare gun and shooting the moon to get her attention that her lips parted in surprise.

He set a small paper napkin down before her, placed a wine glass on top of it, and then filled the glass to the brim.

Trick knew full well that she drank nothing stronger than coffee. He was trying to tell her something without tipping his hand, and if he was picking up on something so sinister that he felt he needed to act this way, the situation was indeed as serious now as she had feared.

Jariel's eyes widened as he watched Liis casually nod to London, thanking him. *She isn't actually going to drink that, is she?* He asked himself, worried by the thought.

Zanh waited until Trick had distributed the glasses of wine to everyone. Then she lifted her glass, prepared to make a toast of some sort to set Lank on edge before she dismissed everyone else from the room and went for the throat.

It was only when she looked down at the cocktail napkin below her glass that she finally received London's intended message.

He'd scrawled, in tiny letters on the napkin, just below the Starfleet insignia, "Blik- Tryst."

Zanh's stomach began to burn. So, they did have something to do with the Counselor's illness- at least one of them did. She'd need proof, and she only hoped that London could help her find it, otherwise. . .still, she knew she had no choice but to trust him.

London, who was watching her from around the corner, sighed with relief.

Message received.

Liis rose slowly from her chair. A quick glance Blane told him that he should stand as well, and be ready for anything. Jariel rose as soon as he saw Blane push away from the table. He noticed that Blane's hand instinctively reached for his hip. . .

"To our friends, the population of Stra II." Zanh began, glass aloft. "May the Federation enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with you for all time." She finished with a flourish, and then she turned to Blik, who was seated just down the table to her left. "Except for you. You are under arrest."

"What?" Blik was so stunned, he barely reacted, but the other Strasa were much faster to understand what was about to happen.

Zanh dropped her glass and leapt forward and grabbed the man by the collar, lifting him up out of the chair. Blane and Jariel set themselves up as a barrier between Zanh and the other Strasa politicians, and the security detail that had been standing by at the doors rushed forward to assist.

Lank and his cohorts immediately raised their arms in a gesture of surrender, clearly more worried about their own safety than that of their apprehended colleague, Blik.

"What is the meaning of this, Zanh Liis?" Lank shouted, as Liis turned to the security detail and asked for a pair of cuffs. She placed them onto Blik's wrists and then turned him over to the guards. "Put him in the brig. I'll be along to question him myself shortly."

"I demand to know the charges!" Blik cried, futilely straining to free his hands from the cuffs.

As Zanh was about to open her mouth to answer, her combadge chirped.

[Sickbay to the Captain,]

"How is he, Dalton?"

[We nearly lost him, but I believe he's stable for now. You should come down here, Sir, soon as you can.]

"Soon as I can." Liis assured him. "Zanh out." Liis turned toward London, her eyes asking him if he was certain of the accusation he'd made. He nodded to her slowly. "The charge, Junior Overseer Blik, is the attempted murder of a Starfleet Officer. Get him out of my sight." Zanh barked, "And clear the room. I want to speak with Overseer Lank," she glared at the Strasa leader, "alone."

"I. . .I. . .I. . .object!" Lank sputtered. He moved behind the rest of his men the way a frightened child would hide behind the apron of his mother.

"Fine. Ambassador Jariel can stay." Liis was so angry, that her mind leaped back to the time when Jariel carried that official title, perhaps her mind's way of stressing to the cowering Lank that the Vedek could be trusted to prevent her from ripping him limb from limb, even though at the moment that was what she dearly wanted to do.

"Orders for the rest of the group, Captain? Should I put them into a holding cell?" Blane inquired.

"Unless and until we can charge them all with conspiracy, which is highly likely," Zanh relented a little, "Take them back to guest quarters and hold them there under your own watch, Commander. Don't let one of them out of your sight for a moment, not even to go to the lavatory."

"Understood. Let's go." TC and the remaining security officers rounded up the Strasa delegation and herded them out the door, leaving only Jariel, Liis, and Lank before the table still spread with enough food and wine to fill the bellies and quench the thirst of a small village.

"Captain Zanh, I will have your commission for this," Lank threatened. "Do you not know who you're dealing with here?"

"I think it's you," Zanh's voice lowered in volume as she choked the words out through barely controlled rage, "who does not yet comprehend who they are dealing with."

-=/\=-Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

294: Busted

By Lt. (jg) Rada Dengar
After Bru's Clues

-= Tri City Tower area of Stra II=-

*Save Mim* Rada ran these two words through his head over and over again. There was such a pure desperation in that cry from the darkness repeated over and over again. It was more than just a distress call; these were not the well considered words of a prisoner yearning for freedom who had managed to steal control of a communication station nor were they the single blip on their radar of a desperate man sending what small burst of data he could before some unseen force intervened to stop him, these words were everywhere, always the same message: Save Mim. No information was given about how, why, what or who. They were the words of an innocent caught up in the cross fires of life on a world like this, facing an enemy they could barely comprehend in a galaxy too cruel for them to know. Seeing no way out and being so terrified that they could do nothing except scream, but getting no response. Finding everyone just turned away. Well they wouldn’t be turning away, the Serendipity wouldn’t be turning away, whomever or whatever this Mim was; they were going to help.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of Dabin Reece with his singing and the incredible will power of everyone else on the away team not to strangle him for it, Rada almost had access to the security scanners. This design was elegant, even beautiful from an Engineer’s perspective but it did have one fatal flaw which Rada had been able to exploit, it was as if the required level of inbuilt control at the lowest level simply wasn’t there, by all rights it had to be for a system like this to operate but it wasn’t.

*Well, here goes* Rada told himself, he was certain that somewhere within Federation law it was specifically stated that offering Engineering aid to a devastated populus and then when they accept, even if it is a bizarre kind of weapons in hand acceptance, hacking into their security systems, which with the surveillance done on a planet like this basically means robbing them of all privacy, is most certainly illegal. At the moment he didn’t care about that though. He activated one of several tricorders he had subtly set up around the panel; he had been concerned about arousing suspicion by spending too long ‘configuring’ one particular tricorder so he had instead been writing the necessary routines onto several different machines, if he had the link up correct then the code should be simultaneously transmitted from each of them at once and then a quick transmission should be sent back and hopefully the transmission will be cut off before anyone has a chance to notice it.

Kolm who had snuck up behind him suddenly shuddered with pleasure and then dropped to the ground, Kellyn looked at Rada and Rada looked at Kellyn, they both realised what had happened thanks to those damn communication chips and it wasn’t going to be long before Kolm figured it out as well. Dabin and February read the exchange between the two Engineers well enough.

*We have to keep him distracted,* thought Grace to Reece.

They both quickly besieged the poor junior engineer rapidly firing question after question. Kellyn and Rada took this disruption to set to work.

“Are you okay?” asked Grace.

“Is there anything we can get you?” asked Reece.

“Do you need a glass of water?” asked Greece .

“Or maybe a foot rub?” asked Reece.

“He does give excellent foot rubs,” advised February.

“Actually I thought you were going to be the one to give the foot rub.” Replied Reece.

All of the other Security Officers on both sides were rushing over to see what the commotion was. One particularly burly Strasa guard declared “Enough!” and pushed Reece out of the way.

Kolm was still in a slight daze “For a brief second there I thought…”

Kellyn was already dissecting her Combadge to patch in through the Strasa Communication System so that she could target the message.

“I was receiving images through my communication chip again. It looked like…”

Rada handed Kellyn the tricorder he had just configured.

“The Security Scans”

Everyone suddenly turned to Rada and Kellyn who with the press of a button sent the scan data hurdling off towards the Serendipity as the communication system suddenly burst back to life.

Lt. (jg) Rada Dengar
Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

293: Filling in the Blanks

Filling in the Blanks
Ensign Hok

-=Stra II=-

Hok was in his position as the small team quietly advanced toward the medical center. Though they were advancing slowly, he found it difficult, at times, to keep pace with the long strides of O'Sullivan, who was leading the team.

The darkness and quiet around them was eerie. Hok knew where the people had gone, and knew they were alive, but the scene reminded him of what the Hewmons called a ghost town, a place that failed to earn profit, so the people had abandoned it.

What a horrible place.

O'Sullivan signaled for everyone to halt. His tricorder detected something, and he had stopped to focus his scan.

Hok craned his head to listen.

"Is there a problem, Commander," said Salvek.

Hok spun around to face Christiane, who was bringing up the rear. "Look out!"

It was too late. A man had leaped off an awning of a nearby building, tackled Christiane, and taken the communications officer's phaser, which he was now brandishing menacingly.

"Nobody move!"

Hok obliged the man, freezing in place, his eyes riveted on the distraught Strasa, who looked like he had gone ten rounds with a drunk Nausicaan.

"Ferengi, over here. Give him your phaser," said the Strasa, gesturing toward Salvek.

Hok's eyes widened with surprise. Why did the man choose him to be his hostage. Sighing, he tossed his phaser to Salvek and stood next to the man.

"Listen, I make my living as a day trader on the Ferengi open market. I haven't logged on and made a trade since all this happened. I need to get to your shuttle to check my portfolio."

A man after my own heart, thought Hok. He smiled inwardly, as he thought of an opportunity to exploit the Strasa for some profit. The man was so desperate, Hok could probably get away with charging him a full brick of latinum to use the shuttle comm system.

"I would need my superior's approval on that," said Hok, hoping so very much that Salvek would give it. Instead, the Vulcan tried to persuade the man to take some food and water.

"I don't care about food and water! I need to check my portfolio!"

The man was angry now. Hok pleaded to Salvek with his eyes.

As the negotiations continued, O'Sullivan had managed to circle around to the side. He tossed a flash grenade, which knocked the man to the ground.

Filled with disappointment, Hok grabbed the phaser the man had taken from Christiane. *Frakking do-gooders,* he thought.

-=Medical Complex, Stra II=-

Upon reaching the medical center, Salvek and O'Sullivan met the Strasa military officer in command and were trying to persuade him to activate a large screen they had seen outside. The thought was, to give the people some sort of technology to appease them, which would prevent the eventual riot and rush on the medical center the unruly crowd would do once their withdrawal became bad enough. Oddly, the military officer, Dret, was unwilling to do so.

Bored, Hok managed to slip away and was talking to a small group of men that wanted to buy his tricorder.

"So far, the top offer is a latinum pen. Can anyone do better?" Hok looked hopefully at each man, though he wasn't expecting anything.

"I can give you my wedding ring," said one of the men, his hands trembling as he removed it from his finger. "It's solid platinum, and has a full carat diamond in it."

Hok was about to agree to the deal, when two Strasa soldiers came over and shooed away the men negotiating with him. Dumbfounded, he wondered what he would need to do to catch a break.

Wondering away casually, when no one was paying attention to him, Hok slipped away again and approached another group of patients.

"I have a perfectly good power cell available for the highest bidder," said Hok quietly, as he showed the group his tricorder.

"A power cell?" said one of the Strasa. "Here are the medications the doctors gave me. Take what you want, just give me the cell."

"No, take mine," said another Strasa. "My dose is bigger."

"Ferengi, take these," said a woman with a child. "There's two of us, so I have more drugs."

Hok stared at the medication the woman held out to him, then at the wild look in her eyes. Slumping his shoulders and lowering his head, he shuffled away and rejoined his fellow officers.

Breaux questioned him with a glance.

"These people were offering me their pain medications in exchange for the power cell in my tricorder," Hok grimaced, as he gestured towards the group he had just been with. "They had no other currency to offer."

Hok couldn't believe he had actually turned down profit, to show compassion. The Hewmons had infected him worse than he ever thought.

Ensign Hok
Conn Officer
USS Serendipity NCC 2012

292: Condition: Critical

By O'Sullivan and Breaux
Immediately following Desperate Times

-=Medical Complex, Stra II=-

"These people are already showing clear, clinical signs of withdrawal." Dr. Breaux informed the rest of the team. "The only thing standing between them and their drug of choice is a flimsy fence and a couple hundred nervous soldiers," Avery shook his head, worry evident in his voice. "This could end in bloodshed." Avery considered his own personal demons when addressing his concerns...it only served to heighten his concern for this group.

"It is our job to see that does not happen." Salvek replied evenly. "Is there any way that we could perhaps buy some time, appease the crowds outside, to keep them at bay a little longer?"

"What if we allocated just enough power to run the giant vid screen that we passed in the square coming in," Dane offered. "Give them something to watch, maybe divert their attention? It could be a news feed, information on where to go and how to get food and water, split with a screen with a sporting event or some sort of other recorded entertainment that might pacify them."

Avery, Keiran, Hok, and Breaux all stared at Dane, blinking slowly.

"What?" Cristiane folded his arms defiantly. "What did I say?"

"What you said, Ensign, may just buy us a little more of the time we so badly need." Salvek nodded approvingly.

"I am Dret, Commander General of the Strasa Planetary Guard." A man in uniform approached the Away Team. "Commander Salvek, I presume?" He nodded toward the Vulcan.

"I am. Commander General, the situation out in front is becoming quite volatile," Salvek warned. "One of our team just suggested that if perhaps we could make use of the audio visual equipment in the square by rerouting just enough power from the medical center's supply to run it that,"

"Impossible." Dret responded, dismissing the suggestion with a wave of his hand. "We are operating under an absolute power conservation order. That means that only the medical equipment for the most critical of patients is allowed to consume power, until the main grid can be restored to full."

"But all of the computers here are operating." Breaux chimed in, indicating a large bank of terminals, each with a line of people, presumably doctors, nurses, soldiers, and even some patients queuing up for a chance to use them.

"Those are necessary." Dret replied with a roll of his eyes, as if stating the obvious.

"Are they?" Keiran stepped forward. "Pardon me, General Dret, I'm Keiran O'Sullivan, Chief of Security of the USS Serendipity. What our First Officer is saying here makes sense, and as one officer of law enforcement to another, I'm askin' ya, please listen to him. Take the power needed to run two of those terminals and power the large screen outside with it- otherwise all hell is shortly goin'ta break loose and you will have more trouble than you know how to deal with."

"The people will not have to wait much longer," Dret replied. "I have full confidence in the system in place, and trust that soon all will be right again."

"Ask him what a MIM is." Dane whispered, as he noticed that several of the patients who were ambulatory seemed to have gotten Hok away from the group and were attempting, it seemed, to get him to give up his tricorder to them. "And somebody might have to help the Ferengi, he seems in a bit of a jam."

Dret gestured to two of his men, and they moved toward Hok, shooing the would-be technology thieves away.

"What was your question, young man?" Dret asked, turning back toward Dane.

Dane's eyes questioned Salvek, and Salvek nodded to him slowly.

"Well, I for one am dying to know, what's a MIM?"

Dret's otherwise pleasant features turned sour. "Where did you hear that term?"

"From a man. On the street, on our way into the complex." Dane replied.

Dret blinked several times in quick succession. "I'm afraid that man was speaking nonsense to you, Ensign. I have never heard the name before in my life."

Dane nodded, and waited for Dret to turn away before leaning closer to Keiran. "I never said it was a name." Dane whispered.

"We need to get into contact with our engineering Away Team," Salvek spoke up. "We must restore the weather modification net if we are to beam the needed equipment down to the surface to truly help your people."

Dret shook his head. "They will not be allowed access to the Weather Net."

"Why not?" Avery's senses told him that something was very wrong here. "Forgive me for saying so, but we are here to extend a helping hand, and to run into bureaucratic obstacles really isn't in the best interest of these people."

"All of the components that run it are classified. I am certain that the engineering teams would be asked to perform repairs to. . .less sensitive equipment."

"Why do I get the feeling that these people don't really want our help?" Keiran whispered to Avery.

Breaux, nodded to Keiran, "Commander General...perhaps it would be easier for all of us, if you told us what we...would...be able to access...and at the very least the department heads that we could work with to make things happen...surely they would be cognizant of your edicts and we would avoid any political gaffes."

Breaux had only so much patience for diplomacy.

"Doctor, is it?" Dret sighed, observing the equipment Breaux carried and the color of his uniform, "I appreciate your concern for our people. But we have these safeguards in place for a reason, because they protect the very lifeblood of our society, which is our technology."

"And yet...here we are," countered Breaux. "Doctor, and fifteen years in Engineering...so my concern is not only for the people, but the inefficacy of the machinery you are counting on to rescue them. We're here on a mission of mercy...be that brokering of politicians, saving lives or restoring technology."

"The technology will be of no use to anyone if the people are dead." Keiran added impatiently. Diplomacy was not the Irishman's strongest suit. "Fine. We work on a short leash. Could you at least tell us what you want us to do for ya, then?"

"We will ask you to lend your expertise in organizing the security patrols and distribution of the supplies that are being dropped off by the shuttles from your base ship. Our forces are stretched a bit thin at the moment, especially in the streets."

"Reports of looting already coming in are they?" Keiran asked. Dret winced. Obviously, this man had experience in dealing with crowds in panic situations.

"Yes." Dret admitted reluctantly.

"We should begin without further delay." Salvek strode forward, approaching a computer terminal. "The priority for us is to reestablish a communications link with our ship, and with our other away teams so that we can truly assess the situation on each front; engineering progress, the integrity of current security measures, and so that we will know the moment that the weather net has been locked down and stabilized so that we can begin using the transporters once again. . ."

Hok finally rejoined the group, shaking his head. Breaux questioned him with a glance.

"These people were offering me their pain medications in exchange for the power cell in my tricorder." Hok grimaced. "They had no other currency to offer."

Avery was seething at the last comment, but restrained himself, "They needn't exchange anything, least of all their medications." He turned his attention to Salvek, "Sir...I'm going to need unlimited access to the sick and infirmed, and I'll want to be able to blanket those that aren't ill, to have them screened-this is preposterous-this has the earmarks of a third world nation more so than a technologically advanced civilization...trading their medical supplies...that's ludicrous."

"I agree. We must turn the momentum of this situation quickly, or the outcome will not be good for anyone. Give me a moment, and what ever I may say, please 'play along' as the human saying goes."

Salvek moved closer to Dret. "Commander General, I regret to inform you that we will not be able to help you, and will be returning to our ship immediately and recommending to our Captain that we break orbit."

"What? You can't do that!" Dret objected.

"I can, and I must. We are a team of only a few men. You do not have the situation adequately secured, and I feel that my team is at great risk. I will not willingly jeopardize their lives because you refuse to cooperate with us."

"Do you think I have a choice?" Dret was sweating profusely now. "My orders come from the Resident Overseer himself. He is the equal of your Federation President in the eyes of our people. You would have me go against his dictates?"

"The Overseer," Salvek said slowly, "is not here present. If you are truly in command of military operations on the ground, then you must be willing to make a judgment call and allow us to do our job in a way that will truly help you. If you are unwilling to even allow us access to communications with our other teams, we are powerless to help you and we are going to turn around, take our generators and go. The choice is yours."

Dret considered Overseer Lank. . .even now up above the chaos below on the luxurious Federation ship. . .and he looked over his shoulder at the people in the medical center around them. He knew he was dangerously close to losing control of the situation, and that the figureheads at the top had no idea how dangerous tech-addicts could become without their artificially induced biochemical high.

"Is there something you can give them. . .for the symptoms?" Dret turned to Breaux now.

"I may be able to take the edge off. If I know exactly what chemicals are at work here. But it's a stop-gap, not a cure."

"Commander Salvek, I will allow you access to a working communications array. We have. . .one or two which are powerful enough to cut through the interference of the malfunctioning weather net."

"Speaking of the weather net, you must see to it that Lt. Samson's team is allowed to stabilize it."

Now, Dret looked guilty.

"Is there a problem?"

"We already turned them away." Dret admitted. "Twice."

Salvek's voice conveyed that he was quickly losing the last of his patience, even with all of his Vulcan discipline. "You will not turn them away a third time, General. If you do, we will leave."

"What if we are not willing to let you leave?" Dret was growing desperate, and running out of options.

Breaux laughed aloud, his intent to irritate Dret.

"Then you will have to explain to the Federation why you are responsible for the deaths of the Away Teams," Salvek concluded, firmly standing his ground.

Lt. Commander Keiran O'Sullivan
Chief of Security
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. Commander Avery Breaux
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

291: Bru's Clues

by Dabin Reece and February Grace
After Breaking the Ice

-=Underground, on Stra II=-

"Keeeelllllllynnnnnnnnnnn." Reece whined. They had been at this business of repairing the communications relays for over an hour now. All the while Reece had been singing his version of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, though his enthusiasm for it had waned. The guards had followed their orders and let the Sera personnel go about their business, but Reece saw a few of them brush their weapons as they considered silencing the Trill once and for all. After about 70verses of the dreaded song Reece was honestly ready to do the deed for them.

He had come to appreciate the Strasa, however. Their accomplishments were impressive and admirable. They had, amazingly, found a task more boring and tedious than anything Reece had ever done. That included all the years of experience in the Reece symbiont, not just the comparatively short existence of Dabin. Reece actually found himself longing for days when an angry Zanh Liis would send him to clean the deuterium ports with a toothbrush.

Lair Kellyn crossed the room in her typically graceful manner. “What is it now Dabin?” She spoke as a mother would to a child.

“This one is doing the thing again where the thing doesn’t go into the thingy right.” Reece gestured helplessly towards the dangling part and wires inside the panel.

Kellyn leaned into the panel to begin to fix the mess and Reece took the opportunity to whisper in her ear.

“How’s it going?”

“Rada has almost got access to the security scanners through the comm-panels. We’ll be able to take a look around the complex soon.” Kellyn whispered back.

“How soon? The guards are going to flambé me if I keep up the song much longer.”

“Maybe half an hour. You just keep them distracted. Grace has almost tapped into some of their messaging systems too, but we need you to keep their eyes off us.”

Dabin rolled his eyes. He would be the decoy a little longer, if everyone insisted.

Kellyn slammed the door shut. “There, was that so bad?”

“Thank you Kellyn.” Dabin said. Lair took her leave of him, and Dabin went to work on the next panel, cheerfully singing his little tune. One of the guards finally had heard enough and walked over to Reece.

*Oh boy, here we go.* Thought Reece to himself. February looked over her shoulder, having heard his thought.

*Be careful.* She warned.

“MUST you keep singing that?” The guard asked through gritted teeth.

“It helps me focus.” Dabin said.

“It is AGGRIVATING. I think you should work in silence.”
Reece put his hands on his hips indigently and cocked his head to the side.

“Hey, look, I have work to do here, and if its not done, your communications systems aren’t going to work when the time comes. Do you want to explain to Kumquat that the reason why our work isn’t done is because you kept slowing us down?”

“Yeah come on, I can’t concentrate with all these negative vibes in the room!” February chimed in.

The guard set his jaw, spun on his heel and rejoined his mates.

“Just keep on walking.” Dabin mumbled, than began his singing again.

*You got anything over there yet Bru?*

*Just a few more minutes.*

Rada had taken advantage of the commotion to briefly transfer power from his tricorder to one of the comm-units. Little did the guards know he was currently trying to hack his way into the security system. Kellyn hovered next to him, offering her help.

The chief engineer had nearly completely dismantled the panel, leaving wires and parts dangling everywhere to give the impression that the unit required massive repairs. That afforded him the luxury of working in one place for quite a while.

Nearby, February had finally gained access to some of the message logs. She, like Rada, used the tricorder to power one of the units. She moved the device up and down to give the impression she was scanning the panel for some unseen problem, when in fact she was actually downloading log files to the device that she intended to read for clues.

A moment later her tricorder began beeping wildly, and the noise caught the attention of one of the guards.

*Great, * Grace thought. . .

*What great? * Dabin asked, but then he glanced over and saw that she was already looking way up at a guard who loomed over her. No small thing herself, Bru figured this guy had to be at least seven feet tall.

“Power fluctuation.” She shrugged, holding up her tricorder while doing her best to obscure the reading that it displayed. She had no idea if the guard would have the technical knowledge to understand the binary code she’d downloaded, but she was taking no chances.

After glaring at her a moment longer, during which she neither flinched nor spoke again, the guard seemed satisfied with her explanation and moved away, back toward the group guarding the door- and closely watching Reece.

“Chief, if I could have your help for a moment? I’m stuck on whether I need to re-engage the secondary capacitors or reinitialize the primary sequencers.” February knew that such fictitious babbling would be hard to distinguish from actual names of real components- unless you were one of the senior engineers in the room.

Lair and Dengar exchanged a look.

“Right there.” Rada said cheerfully, as he left Lair to guard his work in progress.

“Here, if you do this,” Rada reached into February’s panel and pretended to adjust some settings, “And then this, the problem will resolve itself. No more power fluctuations.” The tone of the last two words told her that he wanted to know what she had for him.

“It’s puzzling why that happened. The levels had been so predictable, then they just went up and down suddenly. See?" She handed him her tricorder.

“Maybe your tricorder is malfunctioning. I’d best have a look. Just wait a moment, and I’ll bring you another.” Rada moved back toward his tool kit, removed a spare and handed it to Bru. “Here you go.”

“Thank you, Sir.” February turned back to her ‘work’ at the panel, and Dengar returned to Lair.

February pondered the message she’d seen, repeating over and over, screens and screens worth of characters in code.

She was surprised that she understood what the letters spelled out in the binary alphabet- that was a language that had ceased use in modern technology two centuries before, for the most part. Still, she knew what it meant because Kimare, who had been an architect and engineer for Starfleet during the time she was a Grace host, knew what it meant.

Bru saw the pattern again in her mind when she closed her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts.

01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101
01010011 01000001 01010110 01000101
01001101 01001001 01001101

“Tricorder malfunction?” Kellyn asked Rada, playing along.

He nodded slowly.

“Here, let me do that for you, we’ll get it up and running again in no time.”

Kellyn took the tricorder and attached it, rather dramatically and obviously, to several computer components she had set up before her. Then, as the guards were distracted by all the blinking lights, longing it seemed for their entertainment technology, she took a second and uploaded the data from Bru’s tricorder into a PADD.

She turned it toward Dengar surreptitiously, and his eyes widened. The code spelled out two words, over and over. Though the identity of the sender of the message was a mystery, the meaning of the words was clear.

Someone was in trouble.

*What did the code read?* Dabin asked, curiosity making it hard for him to remember which bottle-of-beer was left on the wall.

*It said the same thing over and over, * Bru informed him sadly. *It said, SAVE MIM.*

Commander Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. (SG) February Grace
Senior Flight Controller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

290: Desperate Times

by Commander Salvek
After Help is on the Way Part 2

"We are sixty seconds from the landing site." Hok said.

Salvek watched the port and starboard sides of the ship to make sure they did not lose any paint. Hok reduced their speed and elevation and guided the shuttle smoothly through the open doors and into the abandoned bay.

"Try to avoid contact with the people on the planet until we reach the medical center." Salvek took one final review of his supplies. Phaser, tricorder, medkit, water and rations. Hok powered down the engines and secured the shuttle.

Each man gathered up his pack and walked down the shuttle's ramp into the warehouse. As the old saying goes, the silence was deafening. O'Sullivan took the lead and led them out. He scanned continuously and detected no life signs, but that meant little to Keiran. He had seen too many tricks to fool a tricorder in his years, and given the nature of the people of Stra II, he had no doubt they could be lurking anywhere waiting for the chance to ambush an unsuspecting away team.

In the distance there was the glow of artificial light, the only illumination to be seen, and a clear indication or where the medical center was located.

Using his tricorder as a source, Salvek was able to provide enough power to the bay doors to shut them and seal the shuttlecraft safely inside. He fell in line alongside Hok and Breaux as Keiran lead the group out of the warehouse lot and onto the street. The businesses and apartment buildings around them were all dark and quiet.

"Where have all the people gone?" Avery wondered out loud.

"This society worships technology much like a typical culture worships a deity or higher power." Salvek mused.

"Then they would go to the only place where they can get what they need." Hok said.

"Aye lad, and that is exactly the direction we are headin' in as well." O’Sullivan warned the group that trouble was likely ahead. He continued to sweep his tricorder back and forth along their path, keeping the group out of the middle of the street and close to the building where they wouldn't be seen as easily.

The glow of the medical center grew brighter now, and the sound of many distant voices could be heard. No doubt there were people at the medical center- a LOT of people.

O'Sullivan raised his hand suddenly and the group stopped. Keiran focused on his tricorder while Salvek unclipped his phaser just in case.

"Is there a problem Commander?"

Keiran never had a chance to respond to Salvek's query. Faster than anyone could react, a figure leapt from the awning of the business they had stopped in front of, taking out Dane Cristiane at the rear of the group.

Cristiane yelled as he unexpectedly found himself face to face with the sidewalk that had so recently been beneath his feet. The assailant snatched Dane's dropped phaser up off the ground.

"Nobody move!"

The man's dark hair was ruffled and his eyes wide open and wild. Looking at him you would think he had just spent a month in the jungle, not a few hours without power and computers.

Salvek held his phaser, but kept it at his hip in a non-threatening manner. The attacker had Dane's weapon, but had not adjusted it above stun, and there were five men in Salvek's team, and only one Strasa. The worst that could happen is one of them gets stunned, but Salvek hoped the situation could be resolved without the use of any weapons.

Dane dragged himself to his feet and joined his comrades.

"Are you all right?" Avery asked, noting a few scrapes and a trickle of blood.

"I've had worse." Cristiane spat, in the direction of the Strasa.

"May I inquire as to the nature of your unprovoked attack?" Salvek asked.

"Shut up! You have a shuttle, I saw it fly over. Where is it?"

"I cannot tell you if I am to shut up." Salvek pointed out.

Avery took note of the man's physical appearance. He appeared to be trembling as if he had the chills, and constantly licked his lips.

"Never mind. Ferengi, over here. Give him your phaser." The man gestured towards Salvek. Hok handed over his phaser, and approached the attacker.

"This man is severely dehydrated. He needs water." Avery whispered to Salvek.

The man took Hok aside, keeping the Ferengi between himself and the rest of the Sera crew.

"Listen, I make my living as a day trader on the Ferengi open market. I haven't logged on and made a trade since all this happened. I need to get to your shuttle to check my portfolio."

"I would.... need my superior's approval on that."

The man scratched his head in agitation and began to pace.

"Sir!" Salvek interjected. "We have food and water we would be glad to share with you, if that is what you require. But I must ask you to surrender the phaser."

"I don't care about food and water! I need to check my portfolio!" The man replied angrily.

As all this went on, Keiran had slowly positioned himself between the Strasa and the rest of the away team for protection.

"But, sir, you are suffering from the effects of dehydration. Without water soon you will likely began to suffer the effects of organ failure." Avery protested.

"Just tell me where the shuttle is! I'm not going to steal it, I just need your communications array.

Keiran watched the man pace, and when the Strasa was a safe distance from Hok, quickly threw a small device in the man's direction. There was a brief flash of light and the man was thrown to the ground. Hok grabbed the phaser, and the attacker held up his hands in surrender.

Salvek reached into his pack and withdrew several pouches of drinking water. He handed them to the man.

"Drink one of these now, or I will tell my security officer to force it upon you." The Strasa relented and drank one of the packets.

"Give the others to your friends and family. A gift from the Federation. Do you have any idea what happened here?"

The man laughed, in a manner that could only be described as crazily. "Ask the people at the power allocation center. They think nobody knows. I know."

"About what?" O'Sullivan asked.

"MIM. If you have any people down there, tell them to watch out. They won't want their dirty little secret to be discovered by Starfleet." The man scampered to his feet, and before Salvek could protest, was gone.

"What in the worlds is a MIM?" Dane asked.

"That is the question we will need to answer Ensign." Salvek replied. He tapped is comm badge. "Salvek to Dengar.... Salvek to Serendipity." There was no reply to either hail.

"Too much interference to talk to the Sera. Dengar's group may be in a shielded area underground our signals can't reach." Dane pointed out.

The group continued towards the medical center. The voices grew louder till they were finally in sight of the building. There were hundreds, if not thousands of angry Strasa jammed into the street in front of the building. They pressed up again barricades, reaching longingly towards the lights emanating from the computers within the emergency receiving lobby. About one hundred terrified and very exhausted looking Strasa soldiers kept watch on the group and pushed back anyone attempting to break into the building.

O'Sullivan led the way, pushing his way through the crowd to reach the barricades. One of the soldiers saw them coming, and waved over his Commander.

"We're from Starfleet. We are here to set a command post to oversee the distribution of aid and help with repairs to your city." Keiran shouted over the roar of the crowd.

The Strasa Commander grabbed a young soldier and pointed at the Sera crew. "Show these men in. Bring them to the operations center on the eighth floor."

The soldier nodded and waved them around the barricade. Several civilians attempted to follow and were forced back. One of the soldiers was hit in the head by some sort of flying fruit and looked around angrily for someone to shoot.

Once inside the building, Salvek spoke to his crew. "The situation is deteriorating rapidly. We need to make communications a priority to warn Mr. Dengar's party, and the Captain."

"What about the relief supplies?" Avery asked.

"We will proceed as planned. These people need food and water even if it is not what they desire. I will recommend to the Captain we make drops from the air with the shuttles since landing appears to be too dangerous. That should suffice until Samson can repair the weather modification net so we can use the transporters."

"And what if that angry little group outside decides they don't feel like waitin' anymore?" O'Sullivan asked.

"In that case Commander, we prepare to defend ourselves."

Commander Salvek
First Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012