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Hiding in Plain Sight

Posted on Wed Feb 21st, 2018 @ 11:52am by Lieutenant JG Cey'aaren
Edited on on Tue Mar 6th, 2018 @ 12:40pm

Mission: Earth
Location: U.S.S. Greenbrier
Timeline: Backpost

Tiny sparks of energy swirled inside the replicator as Cey'aaren's dinner dishes disappeared, converted back to raw materials as if it had never been there in the first place. It had been more than five hours since the runabout had been stopped by the U.S.S. Flying Dutchman, and the aft compartment had become crowded. The passengers, nine in total, and the Greenbrier's four person had all been confined there while the other ship's crew conducted their investigation. Each had been taken out in turn, questioned, had blood drawn, and then deposited back in the lounge-like area with no real explanation as to what was going on. Cey had been as cooperative as he could given his limited knowledge of the situation.

The team that manned the runabout had mostly kept to themselves, huddled together in a corner along the back bulkhead. Some of the others had clustered together in twos or threes. Still, everyone here was a stranger. Even the small crew didn't really know each other. From what Cey'aaren had managed to overhear they rotated shifts every few months, and this team had only been together for a matter of weeks.

Two of the Flying Dutchman's security officers flanked the only entrance to lounge, phaser pistols prominently mounted on their hips. Mia Jiminez, the youthful biologist who'd helped him with his headache earlier had tried to talk to them a few hours but was met with a wall of stern silence. Since then she had been sitting alone, cross-legged on the floor of compartment her head down, attention focused on a PADD in her lap.

Everyone looked up when the doors opened. Cey'aaren, on his way back to his seat at the far end of the table, stopped in mid-stride as Lieutenant Commander Silaa, the Dutchman's Kelpian chief of security, entered. "Well, it seems we have a bigger problem than previously thought," she said, stopping two paces ahead, but still dead center of the two junior security personnel. Silaa put her left hand on her hip, just abobpbe her own phaser. "Everyone here appears to be who they say they are."

A murmur swept through the crowd. Bits and pieces made it to Cey's ears and he could tell some of the occupants thought this !ight actually be a good thing. Cey'aaren could see the Kelpian's point though. If there was indeed a stowaway aboard, and the Dutchman wouldn't have pulled the Greenbrier out of warp if they weren't positive of that conclusion, then there was still an unknown variable loose on the ship.

"We've conducted multipe, thorough scans of the runabout," Silaa continued. "There are no other life signs beyond those in this room and the security team from my ship. We've done an exterpnsive search of each compartment and have found no contraband nor any life forms that might not register on our sensor sweeps."

Another wave of chatter went through the lounge. Cey'aaren knew those details complicated things exponentially. Not everything in the universe could be detected with a sensor scan or a visual search. Behind Silaa, Cey'aaren could see that the passengers' and crews' belongings had been scattered wantonly into the corridor during the search.

"Petty Officer Mareen is currently engaging docking procedures to bring the Greenbrier into the Dutchman's shuttlebay. The good news, for those of you really, truly are who you are supposed to be, is that flying with us will take three days off your travel time," Silaa went on.

"And I guess we're going to be stuck in here for the whole of the trip?" Sharaf, the Bolian enlisted crewman Cey had met yesterday blurted out at Silaa.

"Careful with your tone," Cey'aaren reminded the younger man quietly.

Silaa glared at Sharaf when she replied. "If by 'in here's you mean this small, cramped lounge area, the answer is no. If you mean quarantined aboard the runabout until we can either determine where the stowaway is hiding or hand you all over to Starfleet Security on Earth to get to the bottom of this, then yes you will be stuck 'in here.'"

"We're all threats to the security of the Federation until whatever this is gets handled," Cey whispered to Sharaf and their Deltan neighbor.

"Once the Greenbrier is safely in our shuttlebay and we've gone to warp," Silaa said, "you'll be free to roam about the runabout and clean up this mess," she motioned toward the scattered personal belongings in the hallway. Her briefing the group complete, Silaa departed back down the passageway and disappeared through the doors to the runabout's bridge.

"Do you get the feeling they already know what they're looking for?" Edor, the Deltan said, followed by a heavy sigh.

"I do at that," Cey'aaren replied, cutting off whatever Sharaf was starting to say. "And they've given us a pretty good pile of clues to try and figure it out for ourselves."

Sharaf eagerly attempted to speak again, but managed only sputtering sounds as Edor also began to speak.

"We don't have enough information to come to any real conclusion though," Edor said. "It would just be speculation and guesswork."

"It could be a Changeling," Sharaf said, the words racing out of his mouth, fearing he would be cut off again.

Cey'aaren rolled his eyes at Edor, careful that Sharaf didn't witness the gesture. "Could be, I suppose," he said more to placate the Bolian than anything. "There are other things, more insidious things that it could be though."

"Some type of intelligent parasite perhaps?" Edor suggested.

Again Sharaf attempted to insert himself into the conversation. Cey'aaren kept going without giving him time to comment though.

"Yes, like that. Starfleet has encountered creatures like that before. It's a big universe and there could be others like that," Cey nodded in agreement.

Sharaf made yet another attempt, but once more just managed to make a few noises as they continued speaking.

Edor cocked an eyebrow, appearing almost Vulcan for a moment. "As you say, it is a vast universe. Who knows what manner of insidious life forms we aren't yet aware of that could be hiding amongst us."

"But what could be scarier than Changelings!" Sharaf practically yelled out.

Heads turned from around the cabin to look in their direction. The trio were spared further scrutiny as Silaa's voice came obpver the ship's comm. "Passengers and crew of the U.S.S. Greenbrier, we have successfully docked. We are conducting our final scans of the vessel and you will be released from the lounge in less than an hour."


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