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Posted on Oct 16, 2017 @ 11:43pm by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Oct 16, 2017 @ 11:43pm

Mission: Fear Itself

= Jiggety-Jig =

(cont'd from "Motives")

Captain's Log, Stardate 1016.1658: After an uneventful fortnight , we are at last approaching Starbase 56. The Shai'Dan escorted us to the edge of Federation space before signaling their departure and dropping into cloak. Mr. Byte informs me there is no way to be sure if they have in fact returned to Romulan space, or if they're still lurking along the border, waiting to see how the Federation responds to the events in the Azri Drakara system.

For our part, we will be enjoying a brief shore leave at the starbase. I've also been informed by Starfleet Command to expect several personnel transfers while we're there. I still harbor some reservations about Praetor Radiak's intentions, but for now it's time for the crew to enjoy some well-deserved time to themselves...


SCENE: Captain's Ready Room
STARDATE: [2.17] 1016.1658

The jaunty staccato of the door chime cut into Kane's thoughts. He looked up from the half-composed Captain's Log on his console and frowned in the direction of the door. Jake was on watch on the bridge, and if there was a problem he would have contacted Kane on the comms instead of politely ringing the doorbell. That meant it was someone else, probably someone hoping to corner Kane in his ready room and bend his ear with some simmering problem they wanted to get off their chest. Kane understood the need for officers to have that sort of release valve available to them, but he was also of the considered opinion that handling interpersonal issues between the crew was what the gods invented First Officers for.

Kane briefly considered holding very still and pretending he wasn't in, but the chime sounded again a moment later. Kane sighed, shut off his console, then folded his hands on his desk and tried to look as stoic as possible.

"Come," he ordered.

The doors parted, and Iphigenia Bonviva entered. She didn't seem to notice Kane's carefully composed game face, which Kane found vaguely annoying, but he'd long ago made his peace with the Bonviva women's ability to get under his skin.

"Ms. Bonviva," Kane said. He didn't gesture towards the seat on the opposite side of his desk, but that didn't matter because Iphie was already lowering herself into it.

"Captain sir," Iphie nodded.

"Either one will do."

Iphie blinked at him. "Huh?"

"Either 'captain' or 'sir'," Kane said. "Never mind. What can I do for you?"

"Requesting permission to throw a kick-ass party down in the Vulgar Tribble tonight, sir."

Now it was Kane's turn to blink. "Come again?"

"I don't know if you've noticed, but since whatever happened in the Azri Drakara system, morale hasn't been skyrocketing."

"What have you heard?" Kane asked. Iphie was a civilian, and didn't have the clearance to see un-redacted reports of the Azri Drakara incident, but Kane knew how rumors tended to sprout up aboard starships. Often times, the sources of the rumors could be traced back to loose-lipped officers in the ship's rec areas; in lieu of a priest, it seemed people were more than willing to confess to their bartender.

"I'm sure I haven't heard a thing," Iphie said, dodging the question with practiced ease. "Anyway, I'm not here about what happened. I'm here about what we're going to do about it."

"If you think a party will raise spirits, then be my guest."

"Actually, I was hoping you'd be mine."

Kane sat forward. "Come again?"

"I can throw a thousand parties, and none of them would have the same impact as having you in attendance at just one of them," Iphie said. "Frankly, captain, people are worried because they can tell *you're* worried. You need to let your hair down, let off a little steam. More importantly, the crew needs to *see* you doing it."

"I take it you haven't discussed this idea with Commander Crichton?"

"Jake has suddenly become very good at being 'too busy' whenever I need something," Iphie said. "I think he's mad at me for throwing off his mojo with that titsy Romulan girl."

Kane fought to keep the smirk from showing on his lips, and succeeded. "Let's at least try to maintain a little decorum, Ms. Bonviva."

"Sorry," Iphie said. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. Jake's already a lock because he's a people person. You're not. With all due respect."

"I'm a very busy man," Kane said. He looked around his desk in vain for papers he could organize into a pile to help prove this statement, and then remembered that paper had been rendered obsolete almost 400 years ago.

"So delegate," Iphie shrugged. "It's one night."

"I'm not in the habit of taking my orders from the ship's barkeep," Kane said, adding just enough ice to his tone to remind Iphie who she was speaking with. Iphie rolled her eyes.

"I know I can't make you do it, sir," Iphie said. "But just because I'm not in uniform doesn't mean I don't know my job. A lot of people are feeling very uncertain about the future, and seeing their leader enjoy himself for a change will help take their minds of that."

Kane sighed, and drummed his fingers on his desk for a moment. Iphie looked determined; of course, there was no way for her to force him to do anything, but he had a feeling she would only keep making this particular demand until he finally agreed to it. He supposed he could have her thrown into the brig, but that would almost certainly bring Xana Bonviva crashing down on him like a ton of bricks. Also, the Federation Council would probably frown on stripping a citizen of their freedom just because Kane found them irritating.

"Very well," Kane said. Iphie looked like she was about to literally jump out of her seat with joy, so Kane added quickly, "With some provisions."

"Sure, sure," Iphie nodded.

"I want you to invite the command crew from Starbase 56," Kane said. "The more people who are there, the easier it will be for me to slip out once I've made an appearance."

"You have to stay for at least three drinks."

"One drink," Kane said. "Don't push your luck, Ms. Bonviva."

Now it was Iphie's turn to sigh. "Fine. One drink. But you can't slam it, okay? I want to see some genuine hob-nobbing, it's the whole point of this."

"If that's all, I have a lot of work to do."

"Okay," Iphie nodded. "Tonight in the Tribble at 1900 hours. Wear something fancy."


The Federation Role Playing Game Presents
A Mind's Eye Production of a Collective Film


Sarah Albertini-Bond as Iphigenia Bonviva
Shawn Collins as Commander Jake Crichton
Kenneth Field as Lieutenant Tomas' Vukovic
Alix Fowler as Major Kassandra Thytos
Jamie LeBlanc as Dr. Aerdan Jos
Susan Ledbetter as Lieutenant Eve Dalziel
Ranjani Sabarinathan as Lieutenant Jasmine Yu
Marko Sertic as Lieutenant Cantor Von
Phillip Wright as Ensign Lynette Ryan
Jerome McKee as Captain Michael Turlogh Kane



SCENE: Operations

Lt. Commander Hector Solorzano stepped off the turbolift and into Operations. The morning was quiet, and outside of the USS PHOENIX's arrival scheduled in an hour, there wasn't much traffic in and out of the system. Heck sipped at his coffee as he approached his station. Lt. Ezra Greer turned and gave Heck a weak smile.

"I thought you'd never get here," Greer said. "If I had to spend another five minutes staring at nothing on all these traffic reports, I was going to go cross-eyed."

"Never fear, I am here," Heck winked.

Greer licked his lips. "That coffee for me?"

"In your dreams, chivato."

"You're a cruel man, sir."

"Anything I should know before you punch out?" Heck asked, looking over Greer's shoulder at the operations console.

"Nothing," Greer said. "Routine maintenance to the environmental systems on deck three. We've got the PHOENIX on long-range sensors and they should be here within the hour. Other than that, all quiet."

"Hmmm," Heck said. "So what's that?"

Greer turned to look where Heck was pointing. A blinking indicator light had started flashing on the sensor console. Greer turned to the console, tapped in a few commands, then frowned at the screen.

"Where did that come from?"

Heck stepped up beside Greer. "What is it?"

"It's a ship," Greer said, consulting the console readout. "Medium-sized, lots of cargo space. Probably a trade ship."

"We got an ID?"

Greer glanced down at the console again. "She's called the KING MIDAS. Registered owner is one Budo Pumbular."

Heck blinked. "No shit?"

"Who the hell is Budo Pumbular?"

"Self-styled richest man in the galaxy," Heck said. "Not that I buy that story. Still, he's definitely rich. Used to run shipping through the Bajoran wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant. His competitors had a way of coming to bad ends, if you know what I mean."

"So what's he doing on the edge of Romulan space?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," Heck shrugged. "When the Second Dominion War started really heating up, most of those independent traders cleared out. I haven't heard from Budo in probably ten years."

"You might still not have heard from him," Greer said. "I'm not reading any lifesigns. And it looks like the atmosphere has been vented."

"She's adrift?"

"Empty a tomb," Greer said.

"What's her heading?"

Greer looked back at the sensor console. "She's well clear of the station perimeter. She isn't going to hit us."

"That's something," Heck said. "What about energy readings? Radiation?"

"I'm detecting minimal power to the ship's warp core," Greer said. "No signs of external damage, no sign of any dangerous radiation. From what I can see, she's fit to fly, it's just nobody's there to fly her."

Heck was briefly reminded of the Mary Celeste, an ancient sailing ship from Earth's history, found in fit shape but mysteriously abandoned by her crew. He wondered how far the KING MIDAS had drifted, its interior atmosphere gone, with no souls aboard to guide her or take care of her. An empty ship, only a speck against a vast curtain of midnight... Heck felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up at the thought.

"We need to have a look at that ship. You feel like working some overtime?"

"First exciting thing that's happened here all week," Ezra said. "I'm in."

"Alright,' Heck said. "Inform Admiral Stiles of the situation. I'll requisition a shuttlecraft. We pop over, have a look around, see if we can find out what happened."

"You think I have time to stop for a coffee?"

"Court a heart attack on your own time," Heck grinned. "Meet you in the shuttle bay in 15 minutes."


SCENE: Bridge

Jake sat in the Captain's Chair, watching their approach towards Starbase 56. They were right on schedule, and unless there was some fresh calamity or political brushfire Starfleet needed to have put out, the PHOENIX was due for some down-time. Starbase 56 wasn't the most exciting place in the galaxy to celebrate shore leave, but Jake planned to be too busy catching up on hours of lost sleep to worry about sight-seeing.

"Approaching Starbase 56," said Tomas Vukovic. "Reducing speed."

{{Commander, the Starbase is hailing us,}} Lt. Byte reported from Ops.

Jake nodded. "On screen."

An instant later, a woman's image appeared on the screen. Jake recognized her as Admiral Andrea Stiles. Admiral Stiles was black, with high and tight cheekbones and thick, wiry hair that was cropped close to her scalp, making her look younger than her 60 years. Captain Kane had told Jake that Stiles was recently appointed as CO of Starbase 56, charged by the Admiralty to reorganize Starfleet's presence around the Neutral Zone. With the recent developments in the Azri Drakara system, Jake had a feeling Admiral Stiles' name would soon be well known throughout the Federation.

{{USS PHOENIX,}} Stiles said. {{This is Admiral Stiles.}}

"We read you, Admiral," Jake said.

{{It's good to have you back.}}

"It's good to be back."

{{I was hoping to speak with Captain Kane,}} Stiles said. {{Is he available?}}

Jake glanced in the direction of Kane's Ready Room. Iphie had emerged from there only a few minutes before, looking quite pleased with herself. Jake had heard about Iphie's idea for a party, and actually thought it was a good idea himself... but as far as convincing the captain to put in an appearance, Jake wanted no part of it. He thought he and Kane had developed a good working relationship as CO and First Officer, but Jake was still only human, and some mountains just weren't meant to be moved. But Iphie looked like she'd done the job. Jake was reminded how forceful the Bonviva women could be when they wanted something.

"I can see if he's available," Jake offered.

{{No need,}} Stiles said.{{Just have him contact me once your ship has docked. There are some items we need to discuss related to this business with Romulans.}}

"Understood, Admiral."

{{There's something else,}} Stiles said. {{Our sensors detected a mid-sized trading ship adrift just off the station's perimeter.}}


{{No sign of weapons fire, no obvious danger,}} Stiles said. {{I'm sending a team to look around, and if they determine it's safe, we'll be bringing the ship into dock for a more thorough examination. Once it's here, I'd love to get another set of eyes on it if you can spare any.}}

"I'm sure we can," Jake said.

{{Good,}} Stiles nodded. {{Welcome home, PHOENIX. Stiles out.}}

The screen returned to the image of Starbase 56, as Vukovic initiated the first steps of the docking protocol. Jake heard the doors to Kane's Ready Room part. Kane stepped onto the bridge, coming to a halt beside Jake. They didn't look at one another, but Jake could *feel* the dour expression on Kane's face.

"You let her in to see me," Kane said quietly.

Jake flushed. "She had a legitimate request, sir."

"One that *you* could have handled."

"Permission to order you to attend her party, captain?"

Kane shot Jake a baleful look. "When exactly did everyone stop being afraid of me?"

"Oh, don't worry sir," Jake said. "The *crew* is definitely afraid of you. But I'm pretty sure Iphie Bonviva isn't scared of anything."


SCENE: Docking Bay

The shuttlecraft settled lightly, mag-locks powering on to attach it to the bulkhead of the MIDAS' small docking bay. Power aboard the trading ship was minimal, and there was apparently no power to artificial gravity. The shuttlecraft doors hissed slowly open, and Heck and Greer stepped out, each of them clad in environment suits. They floated gently out of the shuttle hatch at first, then their mag-boots engaged, and they locked onto the bulkhead below them with a metallic clang.

[[It looks like powers out all over the ship,]] Greer said, looking down at his tricorder from through the faceplate of the environment suit's helmet. [[I'm not detecting any mechanical or systemic malfunctions. I'd need to power on a maintenance terminal to be certain, but so far I can't see any reason why they'd need to abandon ship.]]

[[Could be pirates,]] said Heck.

[[With no signs of weapons fire?]]

[[Just keep your eyes open,]] Heck said. He didn't like this; as soon as they'd stepped aboard the MIDAS, Heck felt like some yawning pit had appeared where his stomach should be. As they marched slowly forward, Heck couldn't shake the feeling of eyes watching them from out of the dark.

They made their way towards the corridor. It was empty, with no signs of damage nor any of the crew. Heck looked right, then left, and then started moving down the corridor in the direction of the main bridge. Greer was close behind, his attention fixed on his tricorder, but there was no movement nor any sign of life.

They came to a stop at the doors to the bridge. Heck removed a hyperspanner from his toolkit, opened the access panel beside the door, and triggered the manual release. The doors sighed apart, enough for Heck to work his gloved fingers into the crack between them. He pulled, opening the doors wide enough for him and Greer to step through. When he looked up, Heck's breath caught in his throat.

At the center of the bridge, floating a few feet above the bulkhead, was the body of an overweight human male. The corpse was bald, and dressed in what looked like fine silks. As the body floated, it also spun lazily, so that the figure's face was coming into view just as Heck was looking. The face was twisted in a hideous rictus, its mouth contorted in a silent, endless scream. Blood had run down the figure's fat cheeks from its two empty eye sockets, and as Heck noticed the stains of blood on the corpse's hands, he realized the man must have clawed his own eyes out before dying. Worse than all this, however, was the fact that Heck *recognized* the body, even in spite of its agonized and blood-spattered expression.

[[It's Budo Pumbular,]] Heck said.

[[What the hell happened to him?]] Greer asked. Heck glanced over, and even in the dim light he could see that Greer's face had gone ashen.

[[I don't know...]] Heck said. The corpse of Budo Pumbular had completed one lazy rotation, and was just beginning to come around on its second. Heck reached tentatively out, stopping the body's rotation before it's awful face could spin once more into view.

[[His face...]] Greer murmured.

[[Focus, Greer,]] Heck said. [[What's the tricorder say?]]

Greer looked down at the tricorder. [[Uh... he's been dead for at least a month. Sickbay aboard the station should be able to get a better idea. I'm not detecting any signs of known disease or signs of illness. Obvious, uh... *trauma*... to the eyes, looks to be self-inflicted.]]

[[You can say that again,]] Heck said. He turned, not wanting to stare at the floating corpse any longer. In addition to being hideous to look at, Heck couldn't shake the sudden feeling that he and Greer had stepped into a spider's nest, and were currently poking at the spider's dinner. He suddenly wanted, very badly, to be somewhere else.

Heck looked at Greer. [[Get power to a maintenance terminal. We need to make sure it's safe to bring this ship to the station.]]

[[But what about him?]] Greer asked. Unlike Heck, Greer seemed unable to tear his gaze away from the corpse of Budo Pumbular. Heck noticed that Greer's eyes kept flicking to Budo's dangling hands, caked in the dried blood of his ruined eyes.

[[We can't do an autopsy in zero-G. If we're going to find out what happened, we need to get him aboard the station.]]

[[Aye sir,]] Greer said. But he didn't move, he only kept staring dumbly at the floating corpse.

[[Greer!]] Heck barked. This seemed to shake Greer out of his trance; he blinked, shook his head, and looked at Heck.

[[Aye sir. Sorry sir.]]

Greer turned and moved towards the rear of the bridge, then went to work on one of the maintenance terminals. Heck watched him go, not wanting to look back at the body of Budo Pumbular. Even though the corpse had no eyes, Heck couldn't shake the feeling that it was watching them.


NRPG: Our next mission is underway, but we're going to ease into things a little bit. Don't worry about what happened on the KING MIDAS for now - you can have characters gossiping or speculating about what happened if you like, but there will be time for official explanations later. For now, why don't you just relax, slip into something fancy, and come enjoy a nice, fun party? You like parties, right? ;-)

Shawn Putnam
Jake Crichton
Executive Officer



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