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Devil's Advocate - Ch 6
Disclaimer: When I own all this I’ll be sure to go outside and watch the pigs flying cause it’s never gonna happen.
The Missing Key
His mind was trying hard to focus on finding who was responsible for these murders, but he was so very tired, he couldn’t even keep his eyes open and it was still only 1430 hours. He was gonna have some lunch, but food could wait. He wanted to check on Rostov’s progress. That morning he’d talked to him about the command code that was entered to stall the backup systems, and he wanted to see if Rostov was done yet. It was a race against the clock as nighttime began to approach. There were a few patterns in each murder that both Trip and Malcolm had seen.
The two victims had been killed at night, a time when not too many were up. The third shift only, that meant very little security and very few witnesses. They’d also found. It seemed interesting to note that the first two to die were engineers… killed in engineering while on duty. That had to mean something, and it would help their investigation, but he had a feeling that command code held the answers he’d been seeking.
Malcolm had felt it necessary for more staff members to be on at night in engineering. Trip had understood of course, even if the officers on duty wouldn’t. It was obvious the people who were killed were all murdered in engineering during the graveyard shift. If no one was left alone then perhaps they could prevent another death, but Trip had a feeling that wouldn’t make much of a difference. Precautions were great but he had to solve the mystery, and fast, or it wouldn’t matter how many precautions were taken.
“Report!” Trip barked as soon as he stepped into engineering.
Rostov’s head snapped up from his console to look at Trip. He looked exhausted--not that Trip didn’t understand, because he did. He was pretty exhausted himself, even after a full nights sleep. He didn’t know what the hell was going on with him these days, but obviously sleeping wasn’t doing much good. “Sir, I haven’t had much luck yet. The guy who erased the file obviously knew what he was doing.”
“Need a hand?”
Rostov let out a small sigh. “I think I’m on to something. It shouldn’t take too much longer.”
Trip paused, frowning. “Rostov, time is gettin’ away from us here. We need to get this done before there’s another murder.”
Rostov nodded. “Aye sir, don’t worry. I’ll get it done as soon as possible, sir.”
“That’s good Rostov, because I think enough people have died on this ship already.”
Trip was about to leave when he stopped. Rostov looked like he was just about to pass out from exhaustion. He needed a break. “Tell me Rostov, have you had anything to eat yet?”
Jolen watched with interest the two officers on the other side of the mess hall. Both seemed in their own world as they talked together. One was eating lunch while the other sipped on his drink. They certainly seemed to be good friends. Jolen smiled smugly before standing up and walking out of the mess hall. How very interesting….
“It’s weird. The person who put in those commands obviously knew everything he had to do. He must be an engineer, that’s probably why the people who were killed were all people who worked in engineering. Engineers are always more comfortable in their natural habitat,” Rostov said with a smile.
Trip smiled back at him. “Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. If they’re familiar with our systems then it has to be someone on Enterprise.”
Rostov shook his head. “There are only two commanding officers with engineering abilities, and that’s you and Commander T’Pol.”
The smile on Trip’s face faded. “You don’t think….”
“Of course not, Commander. Both you and the Commander have saved Enterprise from day one. You’re both loyal friends of the captain, and neither of you are fans of killing friends…. It couldn’t be someone from the command crew. They’re all trustworthy, there’s got to be another piece of the puzzle that we just haven’t seen yet.”
Trip let out a sigh of relief. “Well, at least you’re not gonna be haulin’ me off to the brig,” he joked. “I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”
Rostov nodded, letting out a sigh. “Commander, I’ve been studying what happened to the records, and it worries me how well he’s erased everything. It’s like trying to read a paper that’s been painted white!”
“What do ya mean?”
“When you write on paper with a pencil or pen, if you erase something there’s still a hint of what you first wrote, a small faint mark of what was said. But imagine writing with a pencil only to paint the entire paper white, it would leave no faint mark, no way of knowing what was there before, and then rewriting what you wanted to keep back onto the paper. There’d be no way to figure out what was written down before he erased it.”
“But there’s still the mark on the book he wrote it with,” Trip then whispered as his eyes wandered.
“Excuse me sir?”
Trip’s head snapped back to look at Rostov. “What if we don’t need to find the code in order to know who wrote it?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Every console is equipped with a backup, ya might say, something that would keep data we need from bein’ destroyed in case of an accident. There are two places were the data is saved. The first is in the console itself, and then later in the consoles backup module where the data is really stored! Dammit Rostov, it might still be there.”
“If they know the other systems so well what makes you think that they didn’t erase the backup module?”
Trip smiled. “They could know about the backup module. The man that erased the files on the spheres certainly erased everythin’, but he never erased the backup files; that’s how we were able to get it all back. This man would have to do the same thing with the backup files as he had with the console’s files, and I’m willin’ to bet he didn’t. It would take at least an hour just to get to them!”
Rostov grinned. “Then what are we waiting for?”
“Ha! Just as I thought! He erased them, but not well enough. I guess he didn’t think we’d look that far in.”
Rostov shook his head in surprise. “I can’t believe YOU thought that far in.”
Trip shrugged. “Well, when somethin’ is really important, things just start becomin’ far easier than before. What say you, we open this baby and figure out who the hell’s doin’ this?”
“I’m certainly with you on that sir.”
Trip grinned with amusement before turning his attention back on the file before him. He opened the file, moving his hands across the console with ease. Finally the file opened; inside were two different command codes. Rostov frowned. “Recognize either of them sir?”
Trip’s eyes were wide-open, fear gripping him immediately when he saw the two codes. “My god,” he breathed.
“Sir? Do you recognize them?”
Trip nodded slowly before looking over at Rostov. “Yeah, I do. I’m just not sure I believe what I’m seein’.”
Trip’s heart was racing. His breath was harsh and he couldn’t swallow no matter how hard he tried. “I need to show this to the Cap’n. Excuse me.”
Trip saved the file onto disk and quickly ran out of engineering, leaving a confused engineer behind. “What the hell was that about?” Rostov asked.
Archer turned around in the captain’s chair as Trip ran onto the bridge. “Yeah Trip?”
“I need to speak with you privately.”
Archer frowned when he noticed his friend’s eyes, filled with worry and fear. “Of course, we’ll talk in the ready room. Malcolm, you have the bridge.”
The two walked into the ready room. The Captain sat in his chair and looked up at his chief engineer. “What’s going on Trip?” Trip paced. It was then that Jonathan noticed how pale he looked. He seemed positively scared straight. “Trip?”
Finally Trip stopped pacing and looked at Archer. “There’s somethin’ you need to see.” He walked over to Archer’s desk and put a disk in his console, as it came up on the
Jonathan looked over at Trip. “What am I looking at?”
Trip sighed. “Those are two codes used during the warp five program. As you know I worked in one of the branches for research. Other than me, there were four officers working in the same department. Each had codes, which they would use when aquirin’ more sensitive information. My code is at the top,” Trip told him pointing to the top code. “The one under it belongs to a man named Jolen Croft.”
“Croft? I remember hearing that name before.”
Trip nodded. “I’m sure ya have. People in Starfleet were talkin’ about him for years after the accident.”
“Accident? You mean the one involving his daughter?”
Trip again nodded, turning even paler than before. “Yeah. My code was used in order to delay the backup systems, used to snuff out any fires on the ship. It failed to do so when it should have because someone put in my codes and then erased the information. It took forever to get this stuff. Whoever did this though sent a message. Jolen Croft’s code.”
Archer shook his head, frowning. “How could anyone know about these two codes? Jolen Croft left Starfleet after his daughter’s death.”
“Exactly, and the only one who could know about his code would be me, Peter Miller, him and Admiral Forrest. I wasn’t even entirely sure it was his code, but after doin’ a little research I realized that I’d been right.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, how could anyone get that code if only four people knew about it? Not to mention the fact that Peter Miller is dead.”
Trip moved away from the desk and paced back and forth once again. “I don’t know! I don’t know how anyone could have known! Cap’n, there were a few things that I thought were weird when these killings started. At first I thought it was just me, but I think this was a message. Someone is tryin’ to tell me somethin’, and I think the reason for these murders has somethin’ to do with me.”
Archer stood and stopped Trip from pacing, grabbing his shoulders to look him in the eye. “Trip, calm down! We don’t have a clue what this could mean just yet. Now this is good, it gives us something to work with. What happened to Croft after he left Starfleet?”
“He joined a cargo vessel, he didn’t even want to live on Earth anymore,” Trip told him. “But that was a long time ago. Who knows where he is now?! Some even think he might have died because his cargo vessel was headin’ towards the Expanse last time anyone saw the vessel.”
Archer let go of Trip’s shoulders and took a step back. “Maybe we should try to find out what happened to him. He could be the key to figuring out what’s going on.”
It had been a long time since he looked at the picture before him, nearly seven or eight years in fact. He looked so young then, not that he looked like an old man now. Still, he’d been so different then, so innocent. He couldn’t believe how long ago they’d taken the picture. Trip had always enjoyed taking pictures. His parents had done it constantly while he was growing up. Such fond memories back then.
Tucker smiled at the memory of that day. He, Jolen Croft and Peter Miller, had decided to have some fun and go out. They’d gone to a few clubs, picked up some beautiful women, when Trip had decided he wanted to take a picture. He asked someone to take it for him. So there he stood, one arm swung around Jolen and the other swung around Peter. Of course Jolen hadn’t been too interested in the women at the clubs. He’d just gotten over the death of his wife the year before.
They’d had a good time though. Peter had met a really great girl there. None of them could have known he and that girl would end up getting married a year and a half later. Trip hadn’t really ‘hooked up’ with anyone. He’d gotten a few numbers, enjoyed a few dances, but he hadn’t been too interested at the time with his growing friendship with Ruby. He should have kept the numbers.
Trip chuckled, shaking his head as he looked at the faces of his friends. Peter was grinning from ear to ear just like Trip, while Jolen (the oldest one of the bunch) had one eyebrow raised with a small smile. Jolen had never been a passionate man, but after his wife’s death what little passion he’d had was replaced with sorrow and pain. He at the time had to raise a young child by himself, which Trip was sure couldn’t have been easy.
The smile on his lips faded as he moved through time to the present. Whatever was going on, it was linked to both him and Croft. He just wished he knew what was going on. He wondered in the back of his mind whether the same thing had happened to Peter. They never did find out who killed his family… his wife, twin boys, and his younger brother, all dead. It had been a damn shame.
Trip just hoped he wouldn’t be going through the same thing. He had to find out who was doing this, before he lost more people. Tess and Vince had already suffered for whatever was going on, and he was not about to let another suffer. He’d find out who was behind this and he’d make sure they paid. He’d promised Tess he would, and he wasn’t about to go back on his promise.
==Later That Night==
Rostov walked towards his quarters slowly, still confused from what happened hours before. The chief engineer had seemed so surprised, so shocked. What in the world could have made him react the way he did? Those two codes obviously meant something, but what? What was so important about those numbers? Rostov let out a sigh and cleared his throat, shaking his head just as a shadow jumped in front of his quarters. Rostov tried to see who it was, but they grabbed him and pulled him inside the room before he could utter a single word.
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Four of you have made comments
wow! trip needs to stop talking to people! he does , then they end up dead. geez i hope he DOESN'T talk to t'pol...
Poor Trip! I hope T'Pol can throw some light on what is happening and why using her keenly tuned Vulcan logic. Right now any help Trip can get has got to be worth hanging on to with both hands. And Rostov, don't let them kill Rostov! Ali D :~)