Shore Leave: Drama At Arcadia
Location: Starbase Arcadia, Commercial District
Timeline: Stardate 2263.212
Smoke was still rising from the crater and mixing with the air filtration currents when the Defiant crew arrived on the scene. The strange smoke pillar swirling over the rest of the pier added a haze to the scene that wasn't common during the artificial daylight hours of the station. Everything seemed more serious, more somber, more grave. The environmental controls in this region of the pier were faltering from the damage, adding a chill to the air that only heightened the intensity of the mood.
Captain James looked over the scene in front of him. The entire 3 level structure of the building in front of them had been completely blown out, leaving only the support beams in place. It was remarkably to think that only about two dozen people had died. Chris supposed that said a lot about the safety precautions built into a place like this. But it didn't remove the impact of the people who had still lost their lives. Beyond the support beams, the frame of an EPS conduit was visible, framed by the remnants of a panel of grave plating. That panel had been ripped up in the explosion, but through a freak accident, it manage to continue functioning long enough to blunt the explosion from igniting the EPS conduit. Had that blown, they may have lost a good portion of the pier.
Pulling himself back to the task at hand, he turned to face the officers behind him. "Let's fan out. Try to cover as much ground as possible. Ang, there's a security station not far from here. You should go over the security footage of the area. We already know the footage shows Ian coming and going, but any additional info we find could clarify things. MIchaela, I'm going to need you to look for any traces of the explosive device. If we can determine its origin, it might give us a lead."
"Yes, sir." Michaela said with a nod as she moved off to get closer to the detonation site. She had a tricorder out and gathering evidence in one hand, and a forensics kit in the other. She tried to recall her academy days, where every engineer received some training in forensics science. She'd done well enough at the time, but had not used any of that training in the years since. There might be someone in her department who did have experience with conducting this sort of investigation, but there had been no time to pick the best team. One of the crew was the primary suspect, and as far as Michaela knew there was fairly strong evidence against him. They had a very narrow window of opportunity with which to gather their own evidence before the situation moved beyond their control.
Lack of time was also evident in Michaela's appearance. She was overdressed for the investigation. Had she known where the forensic kits were located on the Constitution-class, she might have had time to change into a utility jumpsuit, but as it was she'd almost run out of time looking for the kit. Poking around in bomb craters was not something she preferred to do in a uniform minidress and shiny boots, but again, time was not on her side.
Ang had seen her share of death and carnage. But, she was always surprised by things that went boom. She had given a whistle in such a way to inform all that this was something impressive. Of course, it was no comfort for those that were in the room when the device went off, let alone those that met their god in the blast wave. But, at least seeing the large hole in the building was rather impressive. There was a mixed scent in the air, of both death and fire. Which mixed together and her nose and mind were having a hard time sorting the two out.
"Aye, sir." She headed in the direction the security post was at to gather intel, video, and whatever else to solve this case.
As she approached the post, she saw nothing out of place. But, it stopped her from having a look over both with her eyes and tricorder. She didn't much to work with on who did this, let alone if those, might have set up an trap for a guard or security chief to spring. She checked everything closely, before she decided to enter and begin her toils of recording and view data.
Back at the bomb site, Michaela was having trouble getting a solid scan of the patch of ground she was interested in. It was at the edge of the crater, where a piece of debris almost as big as her interfered with her scans. She tried to lift it on her own, but only got it to budge a few centimeters, at the cost of a large tear in her fancy tights. With the help of someone stronger she might be able to move it far enough to get a good scan. Ang had moved off out of sight though, leaving only Chris in the immediate vicinity.
"Captain.... would you mind helping me please?" Michaela said sheepishly as she struggled with the piece of debris. "I think there's material under here worth looking at, but I can't get to it without disturbing everything trying to move this."
The captain turned his attention to the engineer, noting the large piece of debris in front of her. He had to admit, he couldn't visibly see anything odd about it, but that's what the tricorders were for. With a grunt, he managed to move it off the ground, and slightly out of the way. It was much heavier than it looked. "I'm going to try to keep moving it, but it seems fairly stuck in its place. Is that enough of a gap for you?"
Ang had returned with tricorder in hand and caught the tail end of captain's statement. She snicker at the comment about enough of a gap. "Sir, I think it needs to be bigger, like Grand Canyon big." Ang knelt down to help lift the piece the captain was holding up so Michaela can get a better reading.
Michaela looked grateful for the help. She didn't mind getting her hands dirty if needed, but she would be the first to admit that she wasn't particularly good at multitasking when it involved heavy lifting. She stepped back as her crewmates lifted the piece of debris, and then knelt down and stuck her tricorder into the gap. She frowned at the results. This was precisely the wrong moment to get her hands dirty.
"One moment longer, please." Michaela said as she stepped back and opened the forensics kit she'd brought with her. Her fancy elbow-length gloves were inside and she pulled those on to prevent getting her DNA on any of the evidence. She started collecting tiny pieces of debris and storing them in sealed containers. After a few moments she stepped back and let Chris and Ang drop the debris.
"This bit here..." Michaela began "is coated in accelerant residue. Pretty common stuff, used by amateurs who want to start big fires without a lot of hassle. Except we didn't get a big fire... which would be plausible under normal circumstances." She frowned as she looked at the next container.
"That, may or may not be a tiny amount of trilithium residue. I can't be sure yet without lab testing. If it is, we're looking at scary people with scary connections." Michaela didn't want to jump to connections yet, as it didn't make sense to her. Why use a nasty reactant that was very hard to obtain, then pair it with hackjob accelerant to make an ultimately ineffective bomb? Michaela's thought process revolved around precision and making things work as they should. She wasn't used to the sort of subterfuge needed to make a more devious connection.
"Fascinating," Chris said, looking at the readings with vaguely concerned amusement. He couldn't help but appreciate the peculiarity of their situation.
"I've downloaded certain files from the security station and there was some purrrblematic issues. Being close to the blast zone as is. Some of the camera had been knocked out by the blast wave and static.. There isn't much to work with either, though, the furthest ones away saw something, a group of maybe four people heading into the building carrying a duffle bag." stated after lowering the piece of building to give her report "but my cait sense are tingling as to why attack an out way of place like this. We're no where near anything Starfleet wise?"
Chris grimaced. A group of four with a duffle bag was suspicious, but likely just a group of smugglers. An issue to be sure, but one that the commerce overseer would deal with. But Ang made a good point about the target of the bombing. It was relatively out of the way. There were no nearby Starfleet assets. Even if things had gone as poorly as the bomber had intended, detonating the entire EPS relay, the damage would only have affected the promenade pier. There was no instance in which this attack would affect Starfleet assets, other than the handful of officers who were on the pier at such an earlier hour. No, this attack wasn't about damage. It was about visibility. But why? And who was driving this?
"Ang, I don't think the idea of this attack was to hit any Starfleet resources. This was a terrorist attack, meant to strike fear into people." And it worked, he thought to himself.
"If we're right that Ian is innocent, I believe this was intended to vilify him or all Akadians in the eyes of the public and drive us to reject their application for Federation Membership." He paused recalling something Ian had said. "Or this could also be an attempt to make it look like Ian was being treated unfairly by the Federation and drive Akadia to leave us."
"Indeed" replied the security cait.
She seen her fair share of bombing, most of them were attacks on government building, yet, now on the public. Of course, she heard and read news reports from cait prime. A certain group of caits were doing similar attacks and demanding the cait prime government leave Federation. Which, she can see why those cait's wanted to leave. The lost of Vulcan, mistrust with Starfleet admirals, super humans, and more. She had a bad feeling about this, and it wasn't looking good for anyone.
"Sir, for all we know it could be this or that. Hell it could be that cait group casing issues her to provoke my people government" Ang was scared as well, her voice gave a hint of it away "However, whomever did this to Ian, is going to be find. He's a good man..." she trailed off finding it hard to think clearly.
She pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head a little. Her pause was long, her mind hurt like hell and she felt sick and dizzy for a minute or so.
"Doing alright there Lieutenant?" Chris looked on at his Tactical officer with some concern.
"I'm fine sir, " Ang stated "it's the meds I'm on. They, react at the oddest of times." Ang off an kind grin "However, there is more here then meets the eye. Purrhaps it would be wise if I go to Central. Put in a call or four to some of my old informants to find out what they heard about this bombing and where to start looking?"
She paused and looked at the recording again and noticed something was a little off about Ian and the four men.
"Sir, is it me or does Ian look taller to you in this?" enquired of the two other Starfleet officers.
"Taller?" The captain asked, coming over to look at the digital readout Ang was showing. "Actually, yeah, he kinda does. Michaela, are we seeing things?"
He handed the display over to the young Engineer, making sure to loop the appropriate time period. The video clearly showed lan walking by various individuals in the crowd. However, despite the fact that several of these people were clearly approaching 6ft tall, Ian was only a tiny bit shorter than them. Given the Acaidian officer's true height, this was clearly off.
Michaela didn't know Ian very well personally, but as a fellow senior officer they had of course encountered one another in briefings and other duty-related matters. She knew what he looked like. And given that she was one of the shortest people on the ship, height was something she tended to notice, whether she wanted to or not. She knew for a fact that Ian wasn't that tall.
"Unless he's wearing platform shoes, that's definitely not our Ian." Michaela said, handing the display back after only a moment of scrutiny.
Chris scratched his head in confusion. The person on screen was clearly Ian, but it also clearly wasn't. "Alright, there's a good chance we're dealing with a shapeshifter of some sort here. The question is, what race though. I doubt it'd be a Vendorian. They've stayed explicitely neutral in the war and Starfleet security would have screened for them."
"Those guys?" Ang returned and followed it up with "They haven't done a damn thing in decades. It could be a group of Chameloids for all we know."
Chris shot a suspicious glance at Ang. "Chameloids? I thought those were just a myth. No one's been able to actually prove Chameloids even exist. Its possible, but..."
Chris absentmindedly fastforwarded back and forth through the recording. "I don't know. We're going to need to take this back to Defiant to get this cleaned up. Ang, take over Astrometrics. We'll convert it into an investigation hub for the time being. I'll meet up with you back on the ship as soon as I can.
"I'll get one or two science guys on these readings, sir" returned Ang.
Her career had her seeing a lot of things and races of various types, Solid or transforming. For all she really knew, it could one of many shape shifting races. Myth or not or haven't been seen in decades, Ang was going to find out. She agreed with the captain on making Astrometric's in crime lab central, plus having a few labs devoted to getting to the bottom of this mystery. She with drew her communicator from her side and flipped it open. She looked at the captain, with worried eyes. The last time she felt this worried and excited was back in Phoenix on a drug raid.
"Lt. Ang to Central command. One to return to the USS Defiant" Ang stated knowing that she had to go to the Central command center of the starbase for a briefly, before they can transfer to the Defiant.
With a final look over the scene, Chris turned to Michaela for a final thought. "Michaela...is there a chance that the tri-lithium and the accelerant weren't from the same bomb?"
"I would actually find it easier to believe that they were from separate devices than from the same one." Michaela said without thinking. "But after hearing the possible political motives you discussed earlier... misdirection could be at play here." Michaela paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully. She liked to keep things simple and straightforward. It efficient.
"I've heard that trilithium can be really unstable to work with. We don't use it in Starfleet, partly for that reason. But when it works it's very efficient. You'd only need a very small amount to cause the damage we're looking at here. If I was good enough, I suppose I could use a secondary component, kind of like the accelerant residue that's all over everything, to mask evidence of the actual explosive being used... and possibly to make it look like a bigger explosion was intended." Michaela shrugged.
Chris nodded. There certainly was room for subterfuge here. However, he couldn't determine which possibility was the most concerning: the idea of a second bombing attempt or the idea that the culprit was trying to add additional layers of deception. Regardless, he hoped the rest of the investigation would turn up additional details. "Alright. Document what you have here. We'll circle back to Defiant and have everyone compare notes."
"Yes, sir." Michaela said with a quick nod before getting back to the task of gathering evidence. She hoped there would be enough to clear Ian's name, and to lead them to the real culprits before anyone else got hurt.
As the Engineer walked away, the captain flipped out his communicator. He had a feeling that this investigation could come to a head quickly. There were an awful lot of layers to the subterfuge, but they had mobilized their crew very quickly. The saboteur likely realized that transport off the station would be difficult, so they would have a backup plan in place. Chris wanted to be able to respond to that plan just as quickly. As the communicator opened with a chirp, he made a connection to Starbase Arcadia's command tower. "This is Captain James to Arcadia Command. I want set up an emergency action plan. Authorization Code: James-Delta-Epsilon-7741."
After a moment, likely for verification purposes, the officer on the other end responded. "Affirmative, Captain. State a registry for this EAP."
"Fox Hunt Protocol. The details are as follows." The Captain relayed the measures quietly and methodically, as the transcribing officer took down every detail.
"Understood, Captain. The order is being interred into Station Control. It can be activated on your command."
With that, Chris shut the communicator and headed off in the direction of his vessel.