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Melody

Posted on Oct 20, 2017 @ 1:51am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Oct 20, 2017 @ 1:55am

Mission: Fear Itself

= Melody =

(cont’d from “Loose Ends”)

***********************

LOCATION: KING MIDAS - Currently docked with Starbase 56
SCENE: Budo Pumbular’s quarters
STARDATE:

Greer really didn’t want to go into Budo Pumbular’s room. Now that the power was back on and he could walk the ship without an environment suit, the KING MIDAS should have felt more at ease. There was something about this ship, though; Greer thought he could feel it passing over his skin as he walked, almost as if he were wading through some invisible fog. And the nearer he came to Budo Pumbular’s quarters, the stronger the feeling got.

The trouble was, Greer was running out of places to search. He had started to suspect there was little the KING MIDAS could tell them. The ship’s logs reported nothing unusual, until the sudden and still unexplained order by Budo to vent the atmosphere throughout the ship. According to the manifest, there were 8 crewmen unaccounted for, and right now all evidence pointed to them having been blasted into space along with the interior atmosphere. So far, Greer hadn’t seen anything that might explain why Budo had done it… or why he’d then clawed out his own eyes before suffering a fatal heart attack.

It all added up to bad news; in spite of all the reassurances of technology, Greer had reached the conclusion that the KING MIDAS was haunted. It was the only way to explain the stillness, and that feeling of being watched every moment, as if some invisible predator were shadowing your every step. Standing in the ship’s empty corridors made Greer feel like a wounded animal in some wide open field: he did not know from which direction the attack would come, just that it was coming soon. But however he felt, Greer had to finish his sweep of the ship. There was no way he could go to Heck and say the KING MIDAS was too spooky to continue exploring. Heck would either laugh at him or demote him or both, and Greer knew he’d feel the same way if any other officer had tried to get out of duty with a story about a haunted starship.

But it wasn’t any other officer standing here now, it was Greer, and Greer resolved to finish the job and get out as fast as possible, even if it meant doing a less than thorough job. He stepped just barely over the threshold of Budo’s quarters, pointed his tricorder, and triggered the scan. He realized his eyes were clenched shut, and this made him feel foolish, but he also dared not open them. He waved his tricorder left, then right, up, then down, and finally the instrument gave a satisfied beep. Greer opened his eyes.

The quarters were spacious, far and away the largest on the ship. Paintings adorned several walls, ugly things that Greer assumed must nevertheless be quite expensive. Budo’s bed was large and covered with comfortable looking pillows, as well as sheets that could only be of the finest silks. There were bookshelves lined with books - real books, not just PADDs - and even an ornately carved chess set settled neatly against a nearby wall. Greer thought there must be enough wealth on display in this room to buy a hundred ships like the KING MIDAS. Budo Pumbular wasn’t just a man of fine tastes, he was a man who wanted people to *know* he was a man of fine tastes.

Greer’s tricorder had reported no anomalous readings. Someone would have to come in and catalogue all his possessions, but that someone would not be Greer. He was about to turn to leave, when he suddenly saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Greer turned, his heart crawling into his throat--

The music box rested neatly on a small stand near Budo Pumbular’s large bed. It looked like it was carved out of wood, with brass hinges fitted to one end. Greer stared at the box, not sure what to expect, and the box did not move. He took a step forward, then another. Though the box did not move, made no sound, it seemed to beckon him nonetheless. He reached out a shaking hand and lifted the wooden lid. Inside the lid was a faded painting, what looked like revelers at an outdoor picnic. Inside the box itself was metalwork that Greer didn’t immediately recognize; a disc with several holes missing across its surface, as well as some kind of mechanism for turning it nestled beneath.

When the lid opened wide enough, the disc suddenly began to turn. Greer pulled his hand back, as if the box had gone red hot, but there was no pain and he again felt foolish. As the disc turned, a tinny song began to play from the box, lilting notes that seemed somehow both inviting and sinister all at once. He thought he recognized the melody - it was a human composer, several centuries old, something about a wolf? - but he couldn’t place it.

Greer swallowed. His throat had gone dry, and he suddenly felt lightheaded. He reached out again, intending to close the box, but as his fingers brushed against the wooden lid he froze. The music droned on, its cloying melody filling Greer’s head the way a poison gas might fill his lungs. Underneath the music, something rumbled.

Greer listened.

=[/\]=

LOCATION: USS PHOENIX

SCENE: The Vulgar Tribble

Chaucer wasn’t used to human parties, or Gorn parties either for that matter. Parties were for socializing, which meant conversation, and conversation was an area where Chaucer was uniquely disadvantaged. His lack of vocal chords precluded any chance of vocalization, and his Vox, while of great personal and sentimental value to him, was not versatile enough to pick up the slack. To be fair, he had found the four phrases at his disposal - “Yes”, “No”, “Help”, and “My name is Chaucer” - to be far more useful than they’d seemed at first glance, but the simple fact was that the Gorn engineer was never going to be much of a conversationalist.

“Don’t worry,” John Maynell said, picking up on Chaucer’s discomfort. “Nobody likes these things.”

Chaucer glanced down at Maynell. John had come to be Chaucer’s closest friend since Cindy Rochemonte had left the ship, and over the course of their association John had started to get pretty good at knowing what Chaucer was thinking. This not only helped them work together, it often meant that John had to act as Chaucer’s voice, vocalizing those thoughts and ideas that the Gorn himself wasn’t able to. That meant that, for tonight’s party, Chaucer would be Maynell’s ever-present shadow, following from cluster to cluster of partygoers.

[[Help,]] Chaucer’s Vox trilled.

“Just be yourself,” Maynell said. “People will see past the… you know… the whole dinosaur thing.”

[[My name is Chaucer.]]

“Right, sorry,” Maynell said. He let out a slow breath. “To be honest, I don’t like these things either.”

Chaucer glanced down at him, and tilted his head.

“I never know what to say,” Maynell shrugged. “You’re lucky, you don’t have to say anything to make an impression. Nobody’s going to forget a enormous Gorn in a toga.”

He looked down at his own toga, which reveal a physique considerably less impressive than that of the enormous Gorn beside him, and sighed. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

[[Help.]]

“Nobody else is wearing them!” Maynell said, glancing around. “I mean, Iphie is, and Calvin and Hobbes, but…. Oh no.”

Chaucer only stared, so Maynell turned to look at him and nodded slightly off to his left.

“It’s Captain Kane,” he said. “If he sees us dressed like this…”

[[My name is Chaucer.]]

“Yeah, but *I’m* standing next to you,” Maynell said. “Just because he’ll see you first doesn’t mean-”

There was a sudden commotion that interrupted Maynell’s doomsaying. Across the room, he saw as Lt. Vukovic suddenly slumped against the bar. Eve Dalziel was there, stepping forward quickly to keep Vukovic’s head from banging badly against the bartop on his way down. The shocked cries and worried murmurs of the nearby party-goers rippled through the room as Kane went to Vukovic, hefting him up onto his shoulders. As Maynell watched, Kane, Iphie, and Eve disappeared into the kitchen with Vukovic. A few moments later, the party sounds in the room started to ramp slowly back up, as the assembled guests got over their shock and returned their attention to the food and drink.

Maynell and Chaucer exchanged a glance.

“Too much of Iphie’s secret stash, maybe?” Maynell wondered.

[[My name is Chaucer,]] the Vox replied.

“I knew you were going to say that.”

=[/\]=

SCENE: The Vulgar Tribble, elsewhere



Jake was enjoying his third drink and smiling broadly as Hector Solorzano launched into yet another story about their time together back at the academy. The assembled guests included a few of the Starbase 56 crew, plus some of the junior officers aboard the PHOENIX that Jake didn’t know that well. He supposed they were eating up the opportunity to learn some inside dirt on their First Officer, but Jake was having too good a time to begrudge them their fun.

“...now you gotta remember that Powell was so drunk that he’d have slept his way through a torpedo barrage,” Heck was saying, in between sips of his drink. “So Jake and me, we start dressing him up in a space suit, right? Now, the guy who worked the Academy gymnasium zero-g chambers owed me a favor because I introduced him to his fiance, right, and so he lets us slip Powell into one of the chambers while he’s still passed out. The next morning, Powell wakes up in a spacesuit, floating in the dark… and man, he starts screaming so loud, the next thing you know Starfleet security is trying to get in but they can’t because the room is sealed while the gravity is suspended. And then they’re on the comms, right, telling Powell he needs to order the computer to turn the gravity on, but Powell’s screaming so loud he doesn’t notice! Next thing you know, they’re remotely overriding the gravity controls, and *bam!* Powell’s doing a belly-flop right onto the bulkhead!”

“No way,” one of the younger officers, an ensign, said.

“You better believe it,” Heck said, slapping his hand affectionately on Jake’s shoulder. “Your Commander’s got a big stick up his butt these days, but back then he knew how to have fun!”

“Sending people to the stockade can be fun,” Jake said, smiling innocently.

“Hooooo, there goes,” Heck said, taking a step back and theatrically holding up his hands. “Command’s changed you, bro! Four months in Romulan space and you come back a real ice man!”

“Maybe another round will melt my frozen heart,” Jake said. “You want a refill, Heck?”

“Hey, bring me two, save yourself a trip,” Heck laughed.

Jake made his way through the crowd and stopped at the bar, just as Iphie was emerging from the kitchen. She saw him and her face immediately twisted into a scowl, but to Jake’s surprise she stalked over to him anyway.

“Are you busy?” she asked.

“Depends why you’re asking,” Jake said. He wasn’t in the mood to be chewed out, and that had become Iphie’s favorite hobby since he’d finalized his divorce with Xana.

“Cy’s… acting weird,” Iphie said, glancing over her shoulder.

“He’s regenerating, isn’t he?” Jake asked. “The captain said he would be fine.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Iphie said, chewing on her lip. “Look, can you just come look at him?”

“Alright,” Jake sighed. He followed Iphie behind the bar and into the kitchen. Thomas Vukovic was slotted into a Borg regeneration alcove. His eyes were closed, and the lights on the alcove blinked gamely. Jake had a little experience with Borg tech, and from what he could see the regeneration process appeared to be going on as usual.

“He seems fine,” Jake said.

“He’s not doing it now,” Iphie said. She sounded frustrated. “It must come and go.”

“What was he doing?”

Iphie looked at him like she didn’t want to say, as if the answer might make Jake at her. Then, finally: “He was humming.”

“Humming?”

“Do they do that?” Iphie asked. “Do Borgs hum?”

Jake laughed. “I don’t know. I guess some might.”

“I’ve never seen him do it before,” Iphie said. “Cy doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who hums, let alone hums in his sleep.”

“Maybe he’s dreaming,” Jake shrugged. “Look, if you’re worried about Lt. Vukovic, I can have Dr. Andersson come take a look at him. If there’s an issue with his implants. I’m sure Malin-Argo can--”

“Pawning him off on someone else,” Iphie muttered. “Typical.”

Jake frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Nevermind.”

“No,” Jake said. “I’m sick of tip-toeing around, Iphie. I know you’re mad about me and Xana, but if you can’t get past that--”

“It’s not you and her,” Iphie said. “It’s the kids, you moron!”

“What about them?”

“Xana changed her will,” Iphie said. “Did you know that?”

“Her will?” Jake blinked. “What’s that got to do--”

“If something happens to her, and I think we *both* know that’s a distinct possibility, the kids come to me,” said Iphie. “She didn’t think you’d take them.”

Jake was dumbfounded. His lips worked, but he couldn’t quite think of anything to say.

“Yeah,” Iphie said. “I bet you didn’t even know, did you? Too busy with the job, huh?”

“She never…” Jake started. “We never… Iphie, this is the first I’m hearing about this.”

“Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Iphie said bitterly. “But she’s right, isn’t she? If Xana dies - *when* she dies - are you going to drop everything and rush back to Earth to get your children? Are you, Jake?”

Jake couldn’t answer. He wanted to say yes, but he also understood the reality of his job. He was on the edge of Romulan space, with renewed diplomatic talks between the Federation and the Romulan Empire signalling the start of a new era in the quadrant. Starfleet might send the PHOENIX anywhere, anytime, on missions critical to the preservation of that nascent peace. The reality was that Jake couldn’t promise to return to Earth, no matter how much wanted to.

“Yeah,” Iphie said, realizing that no answer was forthcoming. “That’s what I thought.”

Before Jake could reply, Thomas Vukovic started to hum.

It was a soft sound, almost tuneless at first, and so quiet that Jake could barely hear it over the muffled sounds of the party outside the kitchen. As he strained to hear, he began to pick out individual notes, until finally he caught a sense of the complete melody. As he listened, Vukovic hummed it, slowly, softly, over and over, only a few bars of some song that Jake recognized but couldn’t place. There was something about that melody, though, and it stirred something deep in Jake’s guts, something he didn’t recognize and didn’t want.

“See what I mean?” Iphie asked. Her anger was forgotten, and Jake could see the melody was creeping her out as much as it was Jake.

“That’s… creepy,” Jake said. “How long has he been like this?”

“A little after we plugged him in,” Iphie said. “It was so quiet that at first I thought I was just imagining things. He hums a few bars, stops, hums a few bars, stops, but always that same song. Do you recognize it?”

Jake did, and the realization opened vaults buried deep in his memory, vaults full of things Jake did not want to let out again. He pushed the thoughts aside, and nodded.

“It’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’,” Jake said.

=[/\]=

LOCATION: STARBASE 56

SCENE: Corridor

TIME INDEX: A few hours later

Heck Solorzano was on his way back from the PHOENIX, his head still buzzing pleasantly from Iphie Bonviva’s stock of wine and spirits. He’d just exited the docking tube and stepped back onto the station, and now it was only a short walk to the turbolifts down to the crew quarters. He had tomorrow off, and he was going to sleep in, because if he didn’t, Heck had a feeling he’d wind up grappling with one hell of a headache.

The docking level was almost empty at this time of night, but Heck was used to it. He kept his head down and kept moving towards the turbolifts. He thought he heard a shuffling step behind him, but when he turned to look he saw nothing but the empty curve of the corridor behind him, as well as the vast starfield shining through the docking level’s wide windows. He turned and began moving forward again, when once more there came the sound of a shuffling step.

Heck stopped and turned once more. “Hello?”

At first the corridor was empty, but as Heck’s eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, he could faintly make out movement. Someone seemed to be standing at the lip of the docking tube connected to the KING MIDAS, the ship they’d recently found adrift not far off the station’s perimeter. Heck breathed a sigh of relief, not sure where the creeping dread had come from but relieved all the same to be able to let go of it. He wasn’t sure who’d pulled the inventory duty for the MIDAS, but Heck knew everyone on the Operations and Engineering teams, so doubtless it would be someone he knew.

“Burning the midnight oil?” Heck asked jovially.

The figure didn’t answer. Heck felt another surge of that sudden, inexplicable dread.

“You okay, man?”

“...Heck…” The voice was so small that at first Heck wasn’t sure he’d heard it. But it was familiar, and as the figure stepped forward into the low light of the corridor, he realized who he was looking at.

Ezra Greer was standing there, his normally familiar features now a ruined smear of blood. His Starfleet uniform was in tatters, and the exposed skin underneath was lined with bloody cuts that seemed to run in jagged, criss-crossing patterns all up and down his arms. Greer’s face was a mask of gore; his nose was gone, and his cheeks were shredded. Greer’s lips were gone, and Heck could see grinning, bloody teeth peeking out from behind strands of ruined flesh. Greer was holding something in his hand, a wooden box that Heck didn’t recognize.

Heck’s eyes went wide. He wanted to turn away from the ghastly image, to run for the turbolift and the safety of his quarters, but he was rooted to the spot. The man standing before him was a colleague, a friend, but right now Heck could only see the puckered wounds and the still dripping blood splatting softly against the bulkhead around Greer’s feet.

“...Heck…” Greer said again, the word seeming to bubble out from his lipless mouth. He took another step forward, and another, then his strength seemed to fail, and Greer stumbled, toppling forward to land on the bulkhead. This broke Heck’s fear - he rushed forward to Greer’s side, rolling him over. He gasped at the close-up look of Greer’s injuries, despite himself.

“What happened?” Heck asked. It was all he could think to say, his mind was still reeling too much from the alcohol and the shock to start functioning the way he wanted it to.

“...it got inside..” Heck managed, the words going syrupy and bleeding into each other. “...but… I… got it out…”

“Don’t try to talk,” Heck said. He suddenly remembered where he was and looked up. “Computer! Medical emergency on the docking level! We need a trauma team now!”

“...I got.. it … out…” Greer repeated, like a mantra. “...got it… out I got… it…”

By the time the medical team arrived, Greer was dead.

=[/\]=

NRPG: I hope everyone’s enjoying the party! We’re still doing a bit of window dressing - expect the mission to really get underway this weekend. For now, though, there’s lot of opportunities for socializing and character development at the party! And hey, does it feel like things are getting creepy in here? ;-)

For reference, this is the melody the music box plays. The box doesn’t look like the one in the video, but the tune is the closest I could find online to what it sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG2VBejdEC0

Sarah: Hope I did okay with Iphie!

Everyone: MOAR POSTS!

Shawn Putnam

A.k.a.

Jake Crichton

Executive Officer

USS PHOENIX

 

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