A fiery nebula and stellar nursery

Rigor Mortis

The Potemkin stood at heightened alert following four cruel murders in four days. The ship was quiet, eerily quiet, but far from calm. Security teams combed the corridors, and all nonessential personnel were in their quarters in an attempt to keep them safe.

On deck five, near the senior officer's quarters, a security team progressed slowly through the deck, making a careful sweep to try to find the culprit. First Lieutenant Fuller and Lieutenant Mercoledi used their eyes and ears, while Ensign Rollands applied her science expertise and aided them with a tricorder. Nothing curious or concerning was found, but a possible pattern was noted by Fuller: the victims had steadily increased in rank.

Meanwhile, the tone on the main bridge was tense and contemplative. The bridge crew discussed the murders -- a strangling, two phaser stuns at close range, and a vented compartment -- with curious concern. Doctor Arnet decided to return to the morgue to reexamine the autopsy reports, and Commanders Prax and Arkin accompanied him. On the bridge, Lieutenant Melina and Ensign Tran continued a "thought investigation," heading for a potential breakthrough.

The security team completed its sweep of deck five and had just begun to survey deck six ("piano sei" according to Mercoledi) when the pair on the bridge made their discovery. An internal sensor sweep for neutrinos turned up a concentrated reading at the center of deck 12. Fuller, Mercoledi, and Rollands headed for deck 12 unaware of what had been detected, and Melina and Tran set out to join them, suspecting that they'd found a personal cloaking device.

In the chilled morgue on deck four aft, another set of events was unfolding. Arnet's double autopsies on each patient had revealed no clues to the murder, but he had missed an obscure clue. After a disagreement over the particulars of tricorder use to scan corpses, a chance detail jumped out. A small red patch on the scan of one patient's brain indicated increased melatonin levels. The doctor had detected no foreign substances in any of the autopsies, but this clue suggested a traceless sedative. A quick check of the other deceased crewmembers' autopsies revealed the same elevated levels of melatonin. They had found a clue.

The utilitarian corridors of deck 12 led the security team to industrial equipment storage, the site of the mysterious reading. They still did not know what was behind the doors, but Melina and Tran arrived in time to reveal the answer: a possible cloaking signature. Mercoledi opened the doors and stepped inside, somehow suggesting a cloaking device an instant before the pair from the bridge explained their theory.

Prax, Arnet, and Arkin considered the possibilities that the sedative sugested. Did the killer have access to the ship's medical facilities? Sickbay's stocks were consistent with records, but replicating medicine would flag an alert with the computer. Arkin headed to her science lab after a warning from the doctor that he didn't want to be performing a fifth autopsy. Prax and Arnet were about to head off in another direction when another piece of the puzzle seemed to fall together.

Minute visual distortions in the deck 12 storage area revealed the cloaking field's location to the now-larger security team. Mercoledi decided to try to disrupt it with a phaser beam -- set to level five. The field collapsed, revealing a frightened and dazed Lieutenant Commander Norrin. The Minarian science officer fell to the deck unconscious, and the security team contacted Prax. It seemed they had found the killer!

Following a few moments of examining the options, most of the security team transported to sickbay with Norrin. MacCoroy came into the room, taken aback by the possibility that the ship's serial killer was on the biobed before him. Prax and Arnet arrived just in time to notice something the security team had missed: Norrin's feet were bound. A scan by Arnet indicated sedative in Norrin's system, and after conferring quietly in a corner, Prax and Arnet decided to reveal the clue about the sedative to the assembled personnel.

Arnet began a scan of Norrin and located the hypospray injection point on the Minarian's neck. As he closed his tricorder, he turned -- and for an instant, the device scanned the group near the biobed. Another sedative signature was found. Coolly, the doctor asked Fuller to arrest Mercoledi.

The Italian lieutenant had sedative residue on his hands! Mercoledi responded incredulously and raised his phaser. After a moment's tense standoff, he abruptly opened fire, hitting Norrin again! He dove behind a biobed, nearly hit by several phaser beams, and began to yell and fire across the room from the cover of the bed. Arnet locked sickbay down as the occupants of the room scattered, all the while plotting a way to bring the new murder suspect into custody without any further injuries. Prax's plan was the boldest: he leapt over the biobed and prepared to attack hand-to-hand (with the aid of a bedpan).

Pinned down, the Italian man turned in desperation to his last resort. He set his phaser on overload. With a maniacal laugh, he resigned himself to die, and to take the others with him. Quick thinking by Prax saved everyone in the room (aside from Norrin, who had been killed by the second phaser hit from Mercoledi). He signaled Nguyen for an emergency beamout, and the occupants of sickbay shimmered away just as the weapon overloaded. Flame tore through the space where the transportees had stood just milliseconds before. Sickbay was reduced to a charred hole in the ship's superstructure.

Thwarted, Mercoledi jumped to his feet and charged Prax and Arnet. Both were caught off-guard, but their collective response brought the lieutenant into their control. Prax grabbed Mercoledi by the collar and yelled into his face: "WHY?" Mercoledi began to rant and rave. He proclaimed the injustices done to Lieutenants Marquez and Micheal, and laid the blame for their deaths on the feet of the Potemkin crew. He spat in Prax's face. Somehow, he thought, killing members of the crew would atone for their deaths. He ignored suggestions that Micheal may have been alive and seemed to be in the grips of madness. In an instant of fury, Prax headbutted the Italian lieutenant in the face. The man collapsed to the deck, bloodied and unconscious.

Security officers hustled Mercoledi into confinement while everyone else who had transported away from the phaser blast was taken to secondary sickbay by a somehow composed Arnet. Several among the group agreed to meet in Eight Forward afterward to try to cope with the strange events. Prax summed up all of the crew's sentiments best just before walking out of the transporter room's doors: "I... I don't know what to feel."

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