19 April 2013

"Hailing Frequency"

By Curtis C. Chen

Carranda waited for the captain to turn his head, then palmed the data chip from her control panel.

"Request permission to visit the head, Captain," she said.

Captain Bailey Numpshol, Hero of the Tenth Fleet, recipient of the Plated Crescent for Valor in Service, inclined his head toward the comms station, grunted, and waved his hand as a sign of approval.

Carranda bit her tongue to keep from saying something her career might regret later, stood up, and walked to the private lavatory in the starboard aft corner of the bridge. She waited for the overhead illumination to flicker on, checked the lock on the door, and then pulled the computer tablet off her equipment belt. She slid the data chip into the tablet's reader slot.

She hated the face that appeared on the tablet screen a few seconds later, after her personal encryption key had unlocked the coded transmission from Central Command. She hated her nineteen-year-old self for agreeing to run an errand for a devastatingly handsome midshipman. One stupid task which had plunged her into the dark and twisted tunnels of political espionage, where she was now trapped.

"Hello, Lieutenant Vurzo," said the face on the screen. The audio was being piped directly into Carranda's cochlear implant. "First things first. Your transfer request has been denied."

Carranda cursed under her breath.

"I'm sorry," the face said, without a hint of apology in his voice, "but you're just too valuable in your current posting. We need an asset aboard Scamander, and your bridge station is the perfect cover. You're right in the middle of the action, but nobody notices you."

She wanted to punch the man on her screen. She wanted to punch him in the nose and make him bleed. She wanted to do anything that resulted in a visible, tangible result.

Eighteen months aboard the Scamander, suffering under that arrogant bastard Numpshol, passing intel back and forth without ever knowing why or if her work was making a difference. Central Command said she was essential, but they said that to everyone. Sometimes right before they "closed the loop" to prevent any possible security breaches.

"Your next assignment will be somewhat complicated," the face said. "Encoded in the sideband of this transmission is a chemical formula. Follow the provided instructions to override the safety protocols in your personal food dispenser and synthesize the compound.

"Once you've manufactured the liquid, put a few drops in Captain Numpshol's morning coffee. The compound acts very quickly. He won't feel anything.

"Complete this task before Scamander reaches Paglaban. If you can't get Numpshol to ingest the compound, find some other way to remove him from command, permanently. We don't care how you do it. Just make sure Commander Jauneen Marfish is the acting captain of Scamander when you make contact with Paglaban. We need her in that center seat.

"That is all, Lieutenant Vurzo. Go and execute."

Carranda turned off the tablet. Her stomach was churning, and her legs felt weak. She might actually need to use the toilet after all.


Photo Credit: Marquette La via Compfight cc