1133: Always On Duty

by Aubrey Church

-=London, England, Earth=-

“Oh, how about this one!” The slightly graying woman held up the scarf that would best be described by the word loud. It was red and green with large felt cutouts arranged into the visage of Santa’s face on either end. The eyes of the young man with her lit up.

“Is beautiful mum, I love it,” He smiled broadly. Loud and festive was exactly what he liked in Christmas themes whether it be trees, music, food or scarves. But his smile eventually fell off into a frown.

His mother saw the look on his face and just shook her head. “Look at this child,” She held up the tag. “It is a,” She squinted to read the name on the tag. “Emily Atchinson original. One of only ten thousand made exclusively for Harrods! Who would not love this! This cannot be replicated. This is a work of art!”

The pair stood huddled around the scarf rack, as shoppers carrying oversized bags streamed up and down the aisles and around the giant Christmas trees that lined the store. Outdoors, large fluffy flakes drifted down upon the streetlamps as dusk settled upon the City of London.

A large balding man holding a bag in one hand, and a visual communicator in the other approached the young man from the side. He was arguing with his wife over the link as he walked about whether they should serve the green bean casserole or the yams with marshmallows for Christmas dinner with his in-laws.

Without breaking stride or tirade, he slammed directly into Aubrey Church, causing the young man to stagger a bit before finding his balance up against a clothing rack. Upon realizing he had nearly injured another human being, the balding man snarled back at Aubrey, clearly annoyed that the collision had impeded his progress. “Sorry.”

“Oh, no problem at all, have a very Merry Christmas, mate.” Aubrey smiled back.

The man said nothing, turning his attention back to his phone call, “I don’t care about the sodding side dish anymore, just don’t cook the stuffing in the turkey like you did last year…”

Aubrey lost the man’s voice amongst the other shoppers and Christmas carols piped over the store’s sound system. He cringed as he saw another near collision, this time with a tall wiry man. Aubrey brushed a wayward lock of sandy brown hair back out of his eyes as he shifted his gaze to this second man.

The wiry fellow was pale skinned with a scruffy five o’clock shadow that had probably taken him a week to grow. His eyes shifted back and forth as he looked around the area. Aubrey had only one word to summarize the wiry fellow’s appearance: nefarious.

Mrs. Church was still shuffling through the scarf racks, examining every stitch and pattern one by one, and describing them in painstaking detail. She continued talking on and on, unaware that her son was watching a potential criminal like a hawk.

Aubrey followed the man’s eyes across the store, to the jewelry counter. At that exact moment, a woman in disheveled clothing began shouting at one of the attendants, something about being treated like everyone else. She poked her finger in the clerk’s chest, as the security guards by the doors began moving towards the commotion.

The perfect distraction. Aubrey thought. He looked back towards the wiry man, just in time to see him snatch a hand stitched leather wallet from behind a counter while the oblivious clerk watched the scene unfold at the jewelry counter across the store.

“Be right back, mum.” Church said. His mother did not hear a word, as she was transfixed on the argument.

While most everyone else had stopped to watch, Aubrey was moving towards the thief. The wiry man noticed the motion in his direction and looked at Aubrey, making eye contact for just a moment, before realizing it was time to run.

“Stop! Thief!” Aubrey shouted, before breaking into a run. “Call the police!”

The security guards made an unimpressive attempt to cut off the thief at the exit, which was foiled by advanced age, slippery floors and the influence of decades of chocolate donuts with sprinkles.

The thief skidded out the door, turning the corner on the snow-covered sidewalk as he pushed through shoppers to make his escape. Aubrey burst out the door a moment later, turning in the same direction, and begging forgiveness for every unsuspecting man woman and child that he dodged in his pursuit.

His feet crunched beneath him as he ran through the mostly trampled snow. His unbuttoned trench coat flapping in the air behind him as Aubrey passed from light into dark continuously with each streetlamp he passed on Brompton road. The thief kept looking back over his shoulder nervously as Church began to close the gap between them.

“You are in violation of the Sections 403 and 889 of the London penal code! By authority of Starfleet Security, I order you to stop for immediate arrest and surrender to Scotland Yard!”

It was no surprise that the thief ignored him, but regulations did make it clear that an arresting officer in pursuit was to announce his attention to the person or persons they were attempting to apprehend. The thief ran across an intersection, nearly getting hit by a horse and buggy as he did so. Aubrey added jaywalking to the list of charges.

“You are now in violation of Section 409 of the London penal code as well!” Aubrey announced.

The thief turned down an ally, with Aubrey now about twenty meters behind. As Church made the turn, he lost sight of the man, and stopped at the end of the ally. Judging by the smell of roast beef, shallots and béarnaise sauce in the air, they were behind a restaurant. He let his eyes scan the area. The lack of footprints at the end of the ally told him the thief was here somewhere.

The trail he could see disappeared into a multitude of large bins outside the rear entrance of the restaurant that seemed to contain leftover foodstuff such as fish guts, cornhusks and fruit rinds that were most likely destined for composting on the active farms that still dotted the English countryside. The bins were certainly large enough to hide a man that wished to bury himself beneath the scraps.

Aubrey crept forward slowly, and drew out a phaser that was tucked inside his trench. As he moved about the bins, the ground near the restaurant door became visible. There were several footsteps leading up to it, and a small wet streak down the face of the door itself, about the width of a foot.

He glanced around once more, before pressing his back up against the wall beside the keypad. Aubrey leveled his phaser at the bin with the cornhusks, and tapped the keypad that opened the door. The door held open, as it waited for someone to enter, and then slid shut.

Church remained motionless, not making a sound, as several moments passed. Finally, the thief popped up from beneath the pile of cornhusks, stolen wallet in hand, as he stared down the muzzle of the phaser.

“Drop it,” Aubrey ordered. “As a member of Starfleet Security I assert my authority to act as an arresting agent in this jurisdiction.”

“Bloody hell,” The thief grumbled, as he tossed the wallet at Church. “How did ya do that?”

“First, your weapon,” Aubrey said.

“What weapon?”

“The blade I saw bulging in its sheath in your rear pocket as I pursued you.”

The thief frowned again, as he pulled out the knife and tossed it aside.

“Thank you ever so much,” Aubrey said with complete sincerity and a smile. “To answer your question, the reasoning was simple. I knew from the lack of prints you did not escape the ally. A very nice attempt you made trying to fool me into believing you had entered the restaurant. Clearly you intended to make your escape once I was inside. However I noted that the cornhusk bin was far too full to possibly account for how much corn would be consumed in a restaurant of this size on a daily basis.”

As Aubrey continued, the police appeared at the end of the ally to formally arrest the thief.

“Your footprints ended at the door but the wet streak on the door itself matched the size of your shoe. It appears that you jumped, flatfooted, in the air directly in front of the door, before pushing off from the door with your right foot, and executing a summersault backwards into the cornhusk bin. A most impressive feat of acrobatics I might add, leaving no footprints on the ground for me to follow. Unfortunately the print on the door itself was your undoing.”

“We do we ‘ave here?” The policeman asked Aubrey. Church safely stowed his phaser back inside his trench coat.

“Wonderful to see you gentlemen. Isn’t the snow lovely? Ensign Aubrey Church, Starfleet security. This man stole this wallet from Harrods. He was also carrying a knife which you will find in the snow over there. He should also be charged with resisting arrest, and fined for jaywalking. There was an accomplice inside the store as well. A female, approximately 162 centimeters with shoulder length blonde hair wearing a gray jacket and blue pants. Sorry I was not able to make out her eye color but she should be easy to find. I’m willing to bet she shares a domicile with our friend here.”

Aubrey turned back towards the thief. “Oh, and by the way, thank you for not running again. If you were aware of Starfleet code 1144.09, section C, paragraph 10, subparagraph f, you would have known it is against regulation for a Starfleet Officer to fire his or her weapon in a civilian setting without prior authorization from a flag officer of rank Commander or above. Unless you had attempted to take my life, I would not have been able to fire upon you.”

“I think we can handle it from here,” one of the police said, moving past Aubrey to take the thief into custody. Church thanked them for their service to London, and exited the ally, making his way back to Harrods. As he entered the store, he found his mother right where she had been before, still chattering on about the Christmas themed scarves as she had been before the commotion broke out.

“Who known when you’ll be seeing your friend again, once you leave for this Serendipity. Don’t you want to get him something truly special to remember you by?” At that exact moment, she turned towards Aubrey, unaware he had even been gone, and held up another gaudy selection.

“I’m sorry mum, it is so lovely indeed, but it just doesn’t say Carrick O’Sullivan to me.”

Ensign Aubrey Church
Security Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012