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Rob Morris

December 19th 2295

Security Chief Ch’terr really wished people would keep their stored secure merchandise truly secure. "Note to selllf. Never lllet Walllt Andrews meet Doctor Arielll Cord. This is one holovid collllection whose size rivalll’s the good doctor’s...celllebrity."

Not that such a meeting was likely, what with relations between Fleet Captain Chekov and Captain Sulu firmly in a gooey pile of urate.

Ch’terr had been ordered by Commander Saavik to conduct an unscheduled inspection of the personal storage lockers on Deck 11 in search of contraband. It was an unusual order, Ch’terr thought, and he wondered how much their upcoming rendezvous at Starbase 211 had to do with it.

He also wondered why Andrews kept the holovid cards and the portable image player here in Storage rather than in the cabin he shared with Raphael Escobar, the Brazillian-born ship’s chaplain. Humans, he clucked to himself. I will never understand them. Whatever the reason, it was Andrews’ business. Ch’terr merely reactivated the locker’s encryption and moved to the next one.

Doctor Christine Chapel’s locker contained only a few items. A couple of uniquely shaped flower vases that looked as though they were intended to be gifts. In a small box, however, he found a heart-shaped picture locket featuring a man named ‘Roger.’ He closed the locker, and moved on to the next one.

In Natalie Buchanan’s locker, there were a number of sealed, clear-bagged magazines, most of them featuring a man wearing a uniform and carrying a tricorne shield based on what Ch’terr believed was one of Terra’s pre-unity flags. Aiding him in the fight against a crimson-skull headed villain was–a boy named Bucky."Captain America? What kind of llliterature is this?" Ch’terr was going to ask about this one, he decided as he closed the locker.

The fact that Commander Saavik had overlooked a privacy lock seemed odd, but even odder was the holopic of herself and a young man with curly blonde hair, and he bore a faint resemblance to Peter Kirk. Not recognizing the man, he glanced at her other personal items, including a laminated letter written in Romulan from Consul Szarin R’el’ikian and an encased Klingon d’k’tagh. Such weapons were allowed aboard starships, providing they were secured in such a case and registered with the ship’s security chief. He scrolled quickly through his padd, and found she had indeed registered the d’k’tagh with her personal belongings when coming aboard.

In the next locker, Ch’terr got a very rude surprise when he picked up a round device kept by Peter Kirk. He had no idea what it was, but suddently, it activated, and an small holographic image appeared. "To Chief Ch’terr I leave my great respect, my notes on the martial arts of several systems, and my batlh’etlh, given to me via Uncle Jim by Chancellor Azetbur. It contains both the Starfleet symbol and that of Klingon House Kahless. I ask and instruct that you personally visit the grave of Connor Randolph on Serenidad, as required by Xartheb custom when the last of her students passes..."

Shutting the morbid thing off, Ch’terr looked down for almost half a minute. Apparently it was the Skorr’s own DNA that had activated it. "Damn it, no. Not this. There’s such a thing as being too ready, Pete."

Still, he couldn’t condemn the young Human for his foresight. Death had haunted Kirk since he was seven. But it still felt wrong. So he concentrated on a livelier part of Peter Kirk’s stored items: plastic models of various creatures. He picked up a pteranodon and admired it. "King of the Skies! Munch ‘em allll down, Brother, ‘cause that’s what primates are best fer, Boy." With a start he turned to make sure no one was in the locker room. "Oh, my, I didn’t mean that. Allll of my best friends are non-ornithoids..." He looked at the tag on the toy. "Rodan. A majestic name, to be sure." Ch’terr put the plastic figure away and looked at the others in the box. "Godzilllla, Gamera, Ghidorah..." One of them was situated on top of a small building, and he realized that these were supposed to be gigantic city-destroyers, similar to the giant monster movies of his childhood. Oddly enough, there were no pernacious fluffy rabbit- or insidious squirrel-like monsters in the bag. "We’re from different cullltures, Petey..." His talons clasped a caterpillar-creature named Mothra. "Wellll, maybe not so different." He resealed the locker and went to the next.

Ch’terr himself felt his happiness fade with the next inspection.

"Ch’terr to Security. Lllocate and hollld Chief Thara Cox. Do not put the search on ship’s speakers. Silent search. I want her found ten minutes ago."

Jacobovich replied, "Yes, sir. We’re on it."

Ch’terr made his way quickly to the security wardroom. He sipped on a coffee through a drinking straw as he observed the progress of his officers. Each room they checked held no sign of the third shift helmsman. From Gymnasium to Observation Deck, she was nowhere to be found.

"No!" His talon practically crushed the coffee cup. "We can’t be too lllate. We won’t be too lllate."

The communications system chimed. "Kirk to Ch’terr. Felityz tells me you’re looking for Thara Cox. She’s here in the ship’s galley."

"Mister Kirk, what’s she doing?"

"Chief, she’s eating the biggest meal I’ve seen a woman as slender as her ever eat."

Damn. "Petey, joke with her, get her seconds, but do not let her out of that galley."

"Okay, Chief, whatever you say. Kirk out."

Ch’terr rushed out the door, calling "With me!" to Jacobovich and Stuckey.

As the security squad rushed to the galley, Ch’terr quickly surveyed the scene. "Mister Kirk? Where is Mister Cox?"

A streak bolted for the door, with none of Ch’terr’s people in position or able to stop it. The Skorr’s own massive form was unable to reach for her, and the security chief was raising his phaser when he saw Kirk move. It wasn’t anything as extreme as super-speed, or as ridiculous as self-teleportation, but it seemed as if he had anticipated her decision to flee even before Cox herself had.

The red-haired helmsman stared at her blocker, knowing better than to try anything, especially with Ch’terr and his two officers there. "How did you get ahead of me like that?" she asked.

Kirk pointed her to Ch’terr. "Call it synchronicity. Now talk to the chief...outside." They made their way out into the corridor, Kirk firmly holding on to Cox’s wrist.

Ch’terr waited for two men to exit and take positions on each side of the helmsman. He then stepped out of the galley.

"How did you find out?" she asked, dejectedly.

"That’s not the question, Mister Cox," the Skorr said, sadly.

"You want to know why?" She turned and faced him. "It started at Alpha Tucanae. All those deaths. Then the Alliance, and we couldn’t do anything for them. Then Demora’s tragic death from something our own biosensors couldn’t detect as a threat. Finally, we had that damned space monster. It killed good people. People like Katarina Brooks, a woman kinder to me than my own mother even bothered trying to be, and Demora’s lover, Willis O’Brien. You know, I consoled him after Demora’s death. There was no one to comfort me after he was killed." Her eyes were brimming with tears. "My friends are dying all around me."

"And you intend to join them?" softly trilled the Skorr.

Peter Kirk was stunned. He had had no idea why Ch’terr had wanted to detain the woman, and frankly had figured that either she was a spy or a saboteur or both. He regarded Cox with a mixture of sadness and pity.

Thara Cox looked openly hostile at Kirk’s face. "Do you know what’s in store for us at Starbase Two-Eleven? We’ve already been debriefed about our last mission, but you damn well know they’re going to make us relive that nightmare again!"

"And so killllling yourself is better?" softly trilled the Skorr.

She burst into tears. "You of all people should understand," she said to Peter Kirk. "You’ve lost just as many."

"I won’t bother with the truisms, Thara, but I’ll be damned if I let down those people who’ve gone on before me. And you’re doing them a disservice if you think killing yourself is a solution to what’s an inevitable facet of life itself."

"Now, lllet’s see if we can talllk with Doctor Beallls about you not wasting your lllife," the Skorr security chief said, as he gently clasped a talon on her shoulder.

As he walked her down the corridor, Peter Kirk at her side and the two security officers behind them, Ch’terr couldn’t help but think of the suicide note uncovered too early, and thanked the Great Egg for the happenstance of a locker inspection.

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