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Fic: Observations, Ch 176
Star Trek


“Mr. Scott.”

“Have you seen Sulu anywhere?  The lad’s gone and kidnapped some of my engineers.”

“He is utilizing your staff without your knowledge?”

“No, it’s fine, I told him he can use whoever he finds lying around.  But I need Keenser.  We’ve got a minor little mixup down there, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what in the world is malfunctioning.”

“I am uncertain as to the current location of Lt. Sulu.  However, I will notify Engineer Keenser if I see him.”

“Thanks very much.  And tell the guy to get a move on it.  I don’t want this thing blowing out of proportion, not with this animal mission coming up.”

“I will communicate the urgency of the situation.”

“Great.  I’m off for a quick bite to eat—is Nyota’s mission coming along?”

“It is.  Have you not discussed it with her?”

“She’s usually tired or researching.  I thought it best not to talk about work.  Better take her mind off things,” Scotty grinned.  “It’s no good, living and breathing missions like that.”

“You ‘live and breathe’ your engineering duties.”

“Aye, but I love it.”

“Likewise, Nyota enjoys diplomatic negotiations.”

“Oh, there’s no doubt about that.  My point is, we usually don’t talk about work.  It may come up on occasion, but a person has to take break from all the engineering or diplomatic parlance we babble ninety percent of the time.”

“That is understandable,” I nodded.

“And I’ve already got a list of football matches lined up.  It’ll be great,” Scotty paused at the door to the mess hall.  “Remember—Keenser.”

He grinned, then disappeared into the busy cafeteria.

It was not difficult to find Lt. Sulu.  All one had to do was follow the trail of supplies and personnel going in and out of the shuttlebay.  When I entered, I was greeted by the sight of ensigns, yeomen, scientists, engineers, and security officers bent over various materials.  The sounds of soldering, hammering, cutting and sawing echoed through the large space of the hangar.  To the side, Lt. Sulu was standing with a small team of engineers and scientists who were examining what looked like designs for cages.  Among them, Keenser was pointing vigorously and shaking his head, rapidly drawing over the plans.

The lieutenant seemed in his element, despite his relative lack of expertise.  While Nyota’s domain is filled with discussion and panels of experts weighing options and opinions, Sulu is surrounded by action, by physical materials and construction projects.  At first glance, little seemed to be systematically organized, but it became apparent that rather than utilize an assembly line, there were teams assigned to create and master a specific design.  Materials specialists were called on to lend their help when necessary, but for the most part everything was being improvised.  From what I could see, there were makeshift incubators, glass tanks, kennels, plastic tubs, wire-mesh cages.  One team seemed to be in the process of building an aviary, complete with some plant samples from the ship’s small arboretum.

I walked to where Lt. Sulu was standing.

“Hi Commander.  We were just looking over the plans for building the orca tank.”

“Keenser disagrees with the current design—he says there’s no way to incorporate the right temperature modification panels if we build it this way,” Engineer Bom said.  “Either that or the distribution of temperatures would have a huge range, but the orca needs really cold salt water if we want it to have any chance of surviving this trip.  What do you say?”

“But there are bigger problems than that,” Dr. Necope, a zoologist, interjected.  “We have to consider the supply of oxygen for this whale.  This tank has to be a closed system—there’s no other way of building it, but we must find a way to keep a steady flow of air to its blow hole.”

“Perhaps a more effective solution would be to sedate the orca,” I suggested.  “Its frequencies would require constant monitoring, but that might minimize any further trauma the creature could experience in transport.”

“Does Doc McCoy know how to sedate a killer whale?” Sulu asked.

“I assume there is literature on the matter.  I will discuss it with him, however.”

“Lt. Sulu?” Yeoman Galveston approached.  “We’re low on anti-grav holders.”

“There should be some in the storage room on E Deck.”

“I checked there—nothing.  We’re using them all right now.”

“All right.  I’ll see what I can do about getting some more.  There anything else you need?”

“I don’t really know.”

“Go around the teams and compile a list of materials they need.  Forward it to me when you’re done.”

“Aye, sir.”

“We can get most of our stuff from the replicators,” Engineer Bom said.  “But Keenser’s drawn up a list of supplies that would be useful.”

Sulu took the datapad and began to scan through the list, forehead creased.

“Back to this design,” Dr. Hussein pointed.  “One thing that we haven’t considered—which we should have from the beginning—some of these animals need special atmospheres.  The last check I did on the inventory showed species that need high argon atmospheres, or near absolute zero conditions.”

“According to the report, several animals have died at the processing center because they lacked the correct environments.  The typical humanoid range is unsuitable for them,” Dr. Necope added.

“The chemists on board should be able to provide an adequate solution.  Furthermore, Engineer Keenser?”

Keenser folded his arms.

“Engineer Scott asked me to relay to you that he is in need of your assistance.”

Keenser gave what seemed to be an exasperated and knowing look.

“There is a malfunction for which he does not know the solution.”

The engineer considered my words, then dismissed them.  It was strange to see him do so.  Apparently, Keenser believed Scotty’s request to be unimportant.  He returned his attention to the diagrams, scribbling once more.  I looked at Sulu, who shrugged.

“Anyway, guys, I think you’ve got this under control here.  I’m going to be around the ship if you need me—just send out a general comm.  Commander, I’ve got some questions.”

We walked out of the shuttlebay.

“I just got a transmission from Napomazonin—anonymous, but Lt. Solange was able to trace it back to the reserve’s facilities—warning that there’re poachers on the planet.”

“Did they provide any evidence of this claim?”

“No.  All it said was that there was someone providing access to different parts of the planet that was strictly off limits, letting people poach the animals there.”

“Were there any names, any details that might provide a starting point from which we may begin our investigations?”

“No.  I don’t really know what to make of it.  I mean, it makes sense that there’d be poaching.  Napomazonin Reserve’s got hundreds of thousands of endangered species and they probably sell for ridiculously high prices.  They’ve had problems with poaching before.”

“Have you and Lt. Solange analyzed the communication for any other encrypted messages, files?”

“Yup.  There was nothing.”

“If you would follow me to the SysLab.”

After running the transmission through several tests and comparing it against every encryption I knew, we finally discovered two images.  One was a satellite photograph that showed traces of a camp—ostensibly that of the poachers—and another was the image of an individual.

“Oh shit.”

An apt expression.

“The Taxidermist.  I thought we put him away!”

“Evidently not, if the information in this transmission is to be trusted.”

And that’s supposed to be his site.  Do you think he’s wife’s with him?”

“We will have to analyze this image to determine the number of individuals involved in this operation.  If this information can be trusted.”

“I don’t see any reason why they’d lie about something like this.  Someone’s scared to talk.  It’s an anonymous tip.”

“There are ways by which we may verify certain facts.  I will speak to Number One to locate the files of the Taxidermist’s incarceration.”

“I can’t believe he walked free.”

“It is possible he escaped, or invoked his status as an Orion.”

“But—all those bodies!  You saw.  You know what he did, that machine!”

“There are several reasons why he may have been able to receive a reduced sentence—”

“Or no sentence at all.”

“Due to the nature of his trade, it is possible he had information that could convict other, more dangerous and valuable criminals.”

“Plea bargain.  Oh shoot.”

“It is useless to speculate on the details.  I will obtain the information as soon as possible and this matter will be clarified.”

“We’ll be ready this time.”

“We may not.  It is likely that all his tools were confiscated by the Federation, even if he was allowed to walk free.”

“Then he’ll have fewer weapons at his disposal.”

“We cannot be certain of this.  We know nothing of his resources.  He may have had one or several credit accounts to allow him to recover from the loss; he may have borrowed instruments from others.  As I stated before, it is useless to speculate when we have no definite information.”

“Am I still in charge of this mission?”

“I am uncertain as to why you believe your command of this mission has been revoked.”

“I thought maybe the captain’d like to handle this.”

“I will inform the captain of this recent development, but I doubt that he will take command.”

“All right,” Sulu rubbed his forehead.  “We’ll just take this as it comes.  When do you think you’ll be able to contact Number One?”

“I plan on doing so after the computer finishes this last analysis.  As you are the acting captain for this mission, your presence is required.”

“Right.  How long is your test going to take?  I’d like to talk to Giotto about this too.”

“It is already finished.”


“I have looked into your request for information concerning the individual nicknamed the ‘Taxidermist.’  He and his wife were held in Federation custody after the Enterprise discovered their facilities.  The female is currently being held in a penal colony.”

“And the Taxidermist?”

“He was able to cut a deal with the prosecution for a reduced sentence.  He was on parole when the system lost track of him and he fell off the map.”

Sulu stiffened.

“So it’s a possibility that this information is true.”

“The probability that the anonymous tip is valid has increased,” Number One nodded.

“What is the probability that the Taxidermist will be able to cut another deal with the prosecution should he be apprehended by the Enterprise a second time?”

“I am uncertain.  It depends on the information he is able to provide, if he is able to give any at all.”

“Then he did not use his citizenship as an Orion to obtain his reduced sentence.”

“The Taxidermist is, in fact, a dual citizen, Commander.  As I understand, the prosecution learned this when he attempted to claim his rights as an Orion and avoid conviction in the Federation.  He is accountable to both the Federation and the Orions.  That status should have been updated in his files.”

“It was not.”

“Then the error will be rectified immediately.”

“What kind of information did he tell in the first place?  And why was his wife put away?  I mean, shouldn’t she know the same stuff that he does, if they were a partnership?”

“The partnership was such that the husband had all the trade contacts while his wife prepared all the specimens.  She had little information of value to offer to the prosecution, while the husband had several tips that were useful in the Federation’s current investigations in the sex trafficking trade.”

“Was there no evidence that he and his wife participated in that trade as well?”

“Undoubtedly they did, but there was no evidence.  Their specialization was, as you know, taxidermy.”

“And now he’s move on to poaching.”

“It is likely that he is familiar with the practice.  Do you recall the inventory of the Taxidermist, Commander?”


“There were several animal specimens in their collection.”


“The guy’s not a very good criminal, if he’s revisiting old haunts.  You never go back to familiar places if you want to drop off the map.”

“Evidently he has an ally on the inside, if he is able to access the Napomazonin Reserve at all,” Number One frowned.  “The security of the planet was recently updated.  It should be difficult to breach without assistance from within.”

“If we are indeed dealing with the Taxidermist, and if he has a contact inside the Reserve facilities, then it is likely that the individual is receiving some form of compensation, likely credits.”

“A cut of the profits?”


“Can we get access to their accounts, Admiral?” Sulu asked.

“I will see what can be done.  However, that suggestion precludes the possibility that the credits were deposited to the primary account.  The individual—or individuals—might have opened another account.”

“Or the transaction did not take place through credits at all,” I added.

“I don’t see what else he’d use to pay them off.”

“Precious materials, access to certain markets, contacts, information—credits are not the only object of value, lieutenant.”

“Or he might not have anything at all.  It’s only been a few months since he dropped off the map.  If he’s poaching, and poaching where he might get caught, he must be desperate.”

“Excellent analysis, Lt. Sulu,” Number One tilted her head as though she was recalibrating her opinion of the helmsman.

“Thanks.  But those credit accounts could be useful—we might get lucky and these criminals might be dumb.  Civilians dabbling in crime usually are.  So could you provide access to the account information, and we’ll look into a couple of other avenues of investigation?”

“Certainly.  What other avenues were you considering?”

“Analysis of the image, looking into the background of the Taxidermist a little more.  He’s bound to have left a digital trail.  We’ve got the advantage, since he probably hasn’t had time to cover his tracks that well.”

“He covered them well enough to make it extremely difficult for us to locate him.”

“Usually it’s easier to follow a trail backwards to the source, than starting from a point and figuring out where to go next.”

Number One raised her eyebrows.

“The captain taught you all of this?”

“Some of it I picked up from the captain, some from Spock.  Some from my friend Lt. Chekov, actually.  And a lot from watching crime serials and reading spy thrillers.  Most of them don’t get it right, but they’ve got good ideas and some basis in reality.”

“Fascinating,” she remarked.

Sulu looked between myself and Number One.

“Do you have any other queries, Lt. Sulu, Commander Spock?”


“I think I’m good for now.”

“Then I will forward you the information as soon as possible.  Number One out.”

The screen went blank.  Sulu turned to me, a look of curiosity on his face.

“You served together with Pike, right?”


“Did she pick that up from you, or did you pick it up from her?”

“I am uncertain as to your meaning.”

“Your catchphrase—‘fascinating’.”

“Lt. Sulu, I do not hold a monopoly on that word.”

“I’ve never heard anyone else say it like you do.  Until now, that is.  Is she your long lost sister or something?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“That would be hilarious.  If she were your half-sister, that would make Doc McCoy her quarter-brother.”

“It is unclear to me why everyone on this ship is interested in establishing a genealogical relationship between myself and Leonard McCoy.”

“Because you were obviously separated at birth.”

“Indeed.  We were separated by lightyears of space and a considerable period of time at birth.”

“No, I mean like the twins in Le Vicomte de Bragelonne,” Sulu grinned.  One of you is the Sun King, the other’s the Man in the Iron Mask.

“I will not ask who is whom.”

“You’re definitely the Man in the Iron Mask.”


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“Lt. Sulu, I do not hold a monopoly on that word.”

Shatner and Nimoy Panel at Dragon*Con - Part 5

If you haven't seen this already, I think you will find it interesting and relevant to this particular tidbit of this chapter. (Around the 0:20 mark is what I'm referring to.)

Thanks for the link and the comments. That was hilarious (although I'll be honest, I've always found Shatner to be kind of awkward...)

Fascinating, indeed...

I like Number One more and more.

It's great to see Sulu get a chance to shine this way.

Cages are also a way to let the animals feel protected from the bustle and crowd around them. I like how you make them one of the most important things in this whole operation. (I am also sure Maintenance can hold its own in making the most of the available materials).
Off on a tangent: the mythical first captain of the Enterprise was called April, the second captain's name is Pike (as in the fish Esox lucius). What do you think, was Roddenberry trying to crack a joke about April fool's Day...?

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