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The Carna in the Ointment

Posted on Fri Jan 27th, 2017 @ 9:42pm by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant Elsa Johansson & Ensign Ava Foley

Mission: S1E3.5 - Interlude
Location: Chief Science Officer's Office
Timeline: MD20 -- 0900

Ava was bouncing in her seat. It was a very subtle bounce but, if someone were to watch her for an interim amount of time, they would notice it.

Of course, Ava would be bouncing more, if Lieutenant Johansson hadn't instructed her to tone it down. Of course, that's not how her boss had put it. Lieutenant Johansson had this stoic, diplomatic way of directing the people in the department. Not Vulcan stoic, Ava decided. Vulcans were unemotional, but this was this arrogance about how unemotional they were. It was like, we're unemotional, which makes us so much better than the rest of you.

No, Ava decided, Lieutenant Johansson had that crane stance zen stoicism going on. Maybe with some feng shui going on as well, because the Lieutenant seemed to be able to move the real head cases in the department where they needed to be.

Not scientists like herself, of course, Ava thought. Even though Lieutenant Johansson did tell her twice to curb her enthusiasm when the First Officer arrived.

Ava was looking forward to that meeting. The first officer had that smoldering thing going on. For a moment, Ava wondered if there might possibly be something going on between the first officer and Lieutenant Johansson, then quickly dismissed it. It was common knowledge that the Chief Science officer had put anything in her body that could interfere with her job in stasis.

That was a shame, Ava thought. Lieutenant Johansson could be a real Betty if she put her mind to it. Giving an (almost) mental shrug, Ava began running through her notes in her head for the meeting. That must have made Ava bounce in her seat more noticeably, because Elsa looked up from the PADD she was reading and raise an eyebrow.

"Just relax, Ensign, and focus on your presentation," the Chief Science Officer advised. "Commander ben-Avram should be here momentarily. Until then, may I freshen your cup of tea?"

"No, no, I'm fine," Ava replied, holding up her cup."

Lieutenant Johansson gave a solemn nod, then went back to reading the PADD on her desk, as the two science officers awaited the arrival of the First Officer.

Akiva arrived without pomp and circumstance, even a bit rushed. "Good morning," he said.
At the sight of the bubbly, bouncing ensign, Akiva took a deep breath and ran an absent hand over the side of his head. His eyes shifted several times between a chair near the wall and the empty one near Ava.
"Report," he said tersely, at last deciding on the chair next to Ava, though the statement was made to Elsa.

Ava's heart rate picked up a notch when Akiva sat next to her, but she was sure that she didn't show her excitement. Ava was a little disappointed in Lieutenant Johansson, though. I mean, she had the entire package, and looked great even without cosmetics. But her boss didn't even stop to offer the Commander any refreshment or anything. Definitely no chemistry there.

What a waste.

"As the Commander is aware," Lieutenant Johansson began in her normal no-nonsense tone, "We had a major incident with an arthropodic species known as the carna two nights ago. We were able to contain and eradicate the carna that had found its way onboard the Vindex, but not without loss of life." Elsa paused a moment before continuing. "As per protocol, the larvae that Dr. O'Reilly extracted were forwarded to my department. In addition, after the destruction of the carna that were still in the cargo bay. I took samples of the carna remains, documented the damage they had done in the cargo bay, as well as collected remains of the device which ultimately killed them. I then handed them over to Ensign Foley, who is probably the most learned person on arthropods in the quadrant in general, and the carna in specific."

Ava beamed at the accolades her department head gave her, missing completely the apologetic look that Elsa shot Akiva.

"Go ahead, Ensign." Akiva forced himself to retain eye contact, not allowing himself to blink excessively or look away.

"So," Ava began in her southern Irish lilt, "The carna are soooo badass to begin with. It's kind of like if the Dominion got a hold of Earth cockroaches and gave them a genetic boost, and then the Borg came along and assimilated those boosted cockroaches. It's like, you can't even imagine what their original environment must have been like, or what was it that kept them in check before someone let them out of their cage."

"Remain focused, Ensign," Elsa said in a neutral tone.

"So, Carna are, like, indestructible to begin with," continued Ava. "I mean, it's almost impossible to destroy them just by changing their environment, you know? You have to apply some brutal force to them. But these carna were, like, totally different. Some one went in an engineered these carna."

"How can you know that for certain?" Akiva said. "I mean, what signs are there that they were recently modified after the Dominion presumably engineered their changes?"

"Well," Ava began, twirling a strand of hair, "I don't know who did the engineering, but it definitely gave the Carna some po-wer," she giggled.

"Ensign," Elsa said in a warning tone.

"Oh, right, anyway, everyone in the quadrant has been studying carna like, forever," Elsa continued. "So gestation period, metabolism, induced suspension, all that is understood. But..."

Ava entered something on her PADD, and a three dimensional projection of carna mandibles appeared. "Now, these were always tough, but somebody engineered them so they can chew into things like our bulkhead at a faster rate. Which, you can go in and go all Borg on something, and do it on just one specimen, but that only lets you do it on an individual basis. But somebody went in and did some major time genetic engineering so that the trait is passed down, and that before an adult carna find a warm body to lay its eggs in, it will ingest a certain level of metallic compounds to pass onto its future offspring. And speaking of which..."

Ava pushed something on her PADD and a three dimension scene of Dr. O'Reilly extracting the larva appeared.

"Ensign!" Elsa barked.

"It's all right, Lieutenant." Akiva smirked at Ava's antics.

"Ooops, sorry, was trying to bring up something less graphic," Ava said, making an entry into her PADD. The holographic image quickly disappeared. "The thing is, these carna have a quicker gestation period and mature quicker too. And here is the really and truly gross thing. Whoever engineered these new carna, designed them so that their larvae are almost pretty much probably impossible to remove from their host. I mean without killing them, that is. Which the larvae were going to do anyway when they emerged. And, it's like, whoever designed them did so that the larvae are, like, super, super, painful every stage. As in rotating which nerves they latch on and..."

"I think the Commander has a necessary understanding of the material," Elsa interrupted. "I appreciate you sharing your expertise."

"Oh, absolutely," Ava said, standing up. "Like, maybe we'll run into each other at officer's mess sometime soon, Commander," Ava added hopefully.

"I eat in my quarters as often as not," Akiva said. "Thank you, though. Dismissed."

When Ava left, Elsa let out a deep sigh. "My apologies, Commander, but in the Ensign's defense, she is probably the best in her field in Starfleet. And, unfortunately, there is more bad news."

"I cannot be one to judge peculiarities," Akiva said, though his slow, repeating nod hinted to the contrary. "What more do you have?"

"Besides the genetic engineering that has made the carna we encountered more brutally efficiently than the norm, there was the device we used to take them out," Elsa began. "A device specifically designed to take out these carna. Which meant the cargo ship our Marines hit was intentionally transporting these genetically engineered carna, and had a fail-safe device in the event that their cargo got loose. In addition, I was able to do some reverse engineering and, with Ensign Foley's assistance, deduced the device had another function. I won't pretend to understand the biology behind how the bacteria inside the carna interact with a carna's metabolism, but the device that killed these engineered carna also emitted radiation every few days that kept the carna in stasis. Except once the device was brought on board the Vindex, the device didn't emit the stasis inducing radiation. So, with enough warm bodies moving around, the carna woke up."

"Are you meaning to tell me, Lieutenant, that all you wound up doing was put them back to sleep?" The lingering humor from Ensign Foley's briefing was replaced by grave severity. "What containment protocols do you suggest?"

"My apologies, Commander, that was not what I meant to convey. Every carna on board, including the ones that Dr. O'Reilly extracted from the infected crewman, are dead," Elsa solemnly explained. "What I meant to say that the bomb device that eventually killed them was also keeping them in a stasis state prior to coming on board. Which means whoever was transporting them could keep them in a stasis state until they wanted to wake them up."

Akiva nodded. "I see. But the freighter was derelict. It must have been abandoned in a rather timely fashion for it to have been infested as it was yet with so many larvae left over in its contents for the carna to nest as they did in the cargo bay." Akiva clicked his tongue. "Especially with the accelerated gestation cycle that Ensign Foley discovered. It was a trap." He met Elsa's eyes once he made his conclusion. "Had to be."

There was a look of relief on Elsa's face at Akiva's pronouncement. "I had come to the same conclusion, Commander, but as our ship's counselor has told me, I have a murderous vendetta when it comes to the Consortium. So I worry about seeing a Consortium plot behind every incident." Elsa paused before asking, "Commander, would it be possible for me to have access to the records concerning our encounter with the freighter, as part of my investigation?"

"Consider it done." Akiva's jaw was set. "I will forward you all available data as soon as we're done here. Then I may have some words for Commander Tolan, since I believe he was the one who provided the freighter's coordinates in the first place."

Elsa's eyebrows furrowed at the mention of Commander Tolan's name in connection with the carna infested freighter. Holding up a single finger, Elsa produced a device from her desk and put it between her and Akiva. "This is a device I created from my days on the Cukela, when I was engineering a counter-mutiny in hope of wresting the Cukela from Consortium control. It should ensure our privacy." Elsa took a deep breath before continuing. "There is something you should know about Commander Tolan."

Akiva stared intently at the device on Elsa's desk. How would such a thing work? No sound came from it, nor did it appear to even be functioning. "What a marvel of engineering. Does this just block signals or will it mute our voices at a designated range?"
His boyish grin folded when he looked up from the device and saw the conflicted look on Elsa's face. "Forgive me, Lieutenant." He turned somber again. "You were saying about Commander Tolan?"

"After the battle for Unity, you will remember that Ensign Bogolyubov pointed out that she and I were the most likely individuals to have revealed the location of the concealed mine field to the Consortium forces." A small smiled appeared on Elsa's face as she continued, "One of the things that I admire about Ensign Bogolyubov is how absolutely guileless she is. Her only concern was to eliminate the most obvious sources of betrayal so that investigations could be made in other venues."

Akiva nodded in quiet agreement.

"As you will also remember, Commander, both the Ensign and I were detained by Security. Once Commander Tolan arrived at the brig, he dismissed the rest of the Security detail so that he could interrogate the Ensign and myself. What followed was a line of questioning that was both orthodox and belligerent. And then, after about fifteen to twenty minutes of examination, Commander Tolan went to the far side of the brig and when he returned, he dismissed the charges against us and apologized. His demeanor toward us was a complete reversal of what we had been subjected to beforehand."

Akiva tented his fingers over his nose in concentration. "It's not unusual to berate suspects under interrogation, particularly when bluffing. Had you told me in a report, I would have dismissed it had I not known the Commander personally."
Akiva sighed, pausing to choose his next words carefully. "Tolan is a crafty old toad. He is not given to belligerent conduct, as every action is deliberate. That indicates he was putting on a performance... which begs the question: for whom we was he performing? I'm not even particularly certain why he was permitted to act alone in a sensitive matter of ship security. He may be temporarily assigned to the Vindex, but he is outside the chain of command."

After his audible deductions, Akiva fixed Elsa with a firm stare. "What has Captain Ainscow said about this? I can only assume you have spoken to her."

Elsa nodded. "After Commander Tolan released the Ensign and myself, I went about procuring hard and irrefutable evidence of my innocence that I wanted to present to the Captain. Which, I am happy to say, the Captain informed me was not necessary." There was more than a hint of surprise and reassurance as Elsa recollected that particular memory. "However, I wanted something more. So I asked Counselor Maera to telepathically scan my thoughts, to verify my innocence. In the process, she helped me recall memories that connected Commander Tolan to the Consortium commander of the Cukela, Dmitri Bogolyubov. I had always had an uneasiness around Commander Tolan, but it was never anything tangible, so I always assumed it was because of the level of paranoia that was instilled into me when I was plotting against the Consortium inside the Cukela. When the Counselor and I informed the Captain, she revealed to us that Commander Tolan was working as a double agent for the Federation against the Consortium."

"She has neglected to share that with me," Akiva said, his face taking on an air of disappointment and surprise.

"Commander, during my time on the Vindex, the Captain has shown full and unflagging faith in me. So if she told me that the Vindex was surrounded by a breathable atmosphere, I'd go outside the ship without a suit and not give it a second thought." Elsa took a deep breath before continuing. "But Commander Tolan is a different matter. Two years ago, sir, I wouldn't have believed that a marine noncomm, who came from a family of marines with a long, distinguished history of faithfully serving the Federation, would even think of leading a mutiny. But that's what happened on the Cukela. I know the Captain has expressed confidence in Commander Tolan, but now there's this matter of a freighter full of genetically engineered carna that Commander Tolan gave the coordinates to. I just don't know, Commander."

"Do you think the Consortium would have the technology to do what Ensign Foley described?" Akiva rubbed his chin. "The Dominion's genetic engineering technology is the strongest in the quadrant, and I know the Consortium stole from them nearly as much as they did us. Is it possible that the freighter may have been a Dominion trap for the Consortium? I want to factor every possibility before accusing Tolan of anything."

"I know the Cukela had technology from all over the Quadrant," Elsa answered. "But Commander Dmitri kept a tight rein over who knew exactly what was on board. So these new carna could be the result of stolen technology that Commander Tolan may or may not have known about. Or maybe it was a trap laid by the Dominion that we ended up springing instead of the Consortium." Elsa shook her head. "Sometimes this all feels like one of those really bad mystery holonovels. All I really do know, Commander, is that the carna we encountered were genetically engineered, somebody made sure the carna stayed asleep until we recovered the contents of that freighter, and Commander Tolan gave us the location of that freighter. I'm hoping I'll know something more once I review the records of that recovery mission."

Akiva nodded. "As good as can we hope. Keep me updated. I trust the captain, so I will keep her in the loop, but I want you to run this by me."

"Of course, Commander." Elsa paused before adding, "Two things though, Commander. First, I don't think the Captain was planning to tell anyone about Commander Tolan. I'm pretty sure she would have kept me and the Counselor out of the loop if we hadn't discovered about his activities on our own."

"Agreed," Akiva said with a nod. "I won't take any preemptive action without involving her. What was the second thing?"

For the first time in a long time, a mischievous smile appeared on Elsa's face. "I would watch out for Ensign Foley, Commander. I believe she has her eyes on you."

"Dafuk barosh et hishtaget." The words were out before Akiva could stop them. "Forgive me. We've been discussing weighty matters, and I let my tongue get the better of me." He sighed in a vain attempt to relax. "Am I to assume you mean she fancies me, as opposed to plotting my death in collusion with the Consortium?"

"Possibly both, Commander," Elsa replied."You know what they say about a woman scorned." Elsa shook her head, her smile fading. "My apologies, Commander. I'll get right on the investigation immediately. Will there be anything else?" Elsa's normal somber appearance had firmly resettled in its accustomed place on her features.

"No. You've about covered everything." Akiva averted eye contact on his way out of the seat and out the door in record time.


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