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Orient Express: The Vanishing

Posted on Sun Jul 22, 2018 @ 12:07am by
Edited on on Sun Nov 25, 2018 @ 8:29pm

Mission: S01E02: First Unity
Location: S.S. Orient Express
Timeline: MD07 1800 Hours


Elisabeth Beckett looked at her wrist-mounted biometric scanner, which doubled as a chronometer, and checked the current time. The passenger terminal at The Gral Memorial Spaceport in orbit of Tellar Prime was thick with Federation citizens busy with their own travel plans. Still, that was no excuse for their transport, the S.S. Orient Express, being more than fifteen minutes late boarding ticket holders. As she moved her wrist away from her face she noticed that her heart rate was slightly elevated, probably due to the frustration at the delay. She hadn't seen her husband in two years and she was more than eager to make it to their new home on the Cardassian frontier and back into his arms. The seemingly unwarranted delay keeping her from that even for a short amount of time, seemed much worse than it really was to her. She adjusted pointed shoulders of her purple frock, the latest rage in Tellarite fashion, holding the black strap of her small carry-on bag in place as she did so. The majority of her family's belongings had been loaded into the aging transport's cargo hold earlier, leaving them with only the necessities for the trip to Langley Station.

"How much longer mom?" her son, Ja'dean said coming up beside her. She looked down at him, only a few inches shorter than her now. Elisabeth started to think about how quickly the years had gone by but was interrupted by a friendly chime, souding seemingly from nowhere.

"We apologize again for the delay in boarding," the gruff voice of a female Tellarite came over the station's comm system. "The S.S. Orient Express is now open for boarding."

Elisabeth put her hand on her son's shoulder and gave him a gentle nudge forward. "Its about time," she whispered in Ja'dean's ear, and motioned for his sister Varaya to stick close to them.

After joining the rest of the passengers in the queue, then passing the ticket-checker, they finally made their way into the interior of the plushly appointed transport vessel. It was a short walk from the airlock to their cabin, which sported two bedrooms, a small common room, and a private head. Elizabeth and the children stashed their luggage as the vessel began disengaging from the orbital spaceport. The trip from Tellar Prime to Langley station would take more than a week and Elisabeth had made sure to book a transport with all the most modern amenities to keep her teenage children occupied on the journey.

"Varaya," she said, taking her daughter, the elder of the children, aside, "I'm going to go down to the lounge. Why don't you and your brother get some lunch from the replicator and then check out the holosuites?"

The lounge aboard the Orient Express was called The Club Car and had been outfitted to resemble an old-fashioned railway car from Earth's industrial era. Many of the tables were already full with patrons enjoying meals or drinks. The stools at the bar were all taken and the two bartenders were more than busy with the customers shouting orders at them. "Good afternoon," a sprightly voice broke Elisabeth out of her examination of her surroundings. "All our tables are occupied, but if you don't mind dining with a... new friend, we do have some open seats."

Of course she couldn't enjoy a drink alone. "That'll be fine," Elisabeth answered trying not to sound annoyed.

The hostess was a young Trill woman who was barely five feet tall. She led Elisabeth through the narrow path between the tables in the room's center and the booths lining the wall under the circular windows. They stopped at a table, capable of seating up to four diners, which was occupied by a single, striking woman a few years older than Elisabeth. "Would you mind some company?" the hostess said, her high-pitched voice already starting to grate on Elisabeth's already frayed nerves.

Drielle was lost in thought when the hostess approached with Elizabeth in tow. She was having a hard time relaxing despite the raucous atmosphere around her in the transport ship's dining car. Instead, she was focused on thoughts about the civilian transport ship she had boarded earlier with her colleagues. The Clipper-class was one she was barely familiar with, though from the outside it bore a resemblance to Starfleet's Olympic-class medical ships, though nowhere near as sleek. Humming along on antiquated engines, and with a top speed of warp 5, Drielle couldn't even say she was interested in flying one of these bulky beasts. Despite her opinion as a pilot, she had to confess that the lushly appointed interior accommodations almost made up for the extra time travel aboard the slow-moving transport ship would take.

Finally the hostess cleared her throat, somehow making even that sound chipper. "Oh, not at all," Drielle said, her tone not hiding her distraction at her own thoughts. "Please," she said and motioned to the seat across from her with a blue hand. With her other she pushed a strand of errant white hair behind an antenna.

Elisabeth slid lithely into the chair across the pretty Andorian. "Thank you," she said before turning back to the Trill who had brought her to the table. "Fanto Kor, bring the bottle, and two glasses" she ordered, and smiled at her dining companion. As the younger woman scampered off to retrieve the wine Elisabeth looked back again at the Andorian. "Elisabeth Beckett," she introduced herself, deigning not to extend a hand over the plate over giant snails her 'new friend' had obviously only been picking at.

"J'seekah Fle'cher," she smiled as she lied, giving the alias she was travelling under. She was not dressed in her regulation Starfleet uniform, and was clothed in the mauve colored wraparound skirt, covering her from inches above her breast and leaving her blue-skinned shoulders bare. A small hat, tilted at an odd angle, sat atop her head, the color a perfect match for her dress. "What's taking you to the frontier?" she asked innocently as she sat her fork down on the tabletop, not really caring about the food. Elisabeth was her assignment here on the Orient Express. Drielle sh'Irrik was part of the new intelligence team being assigned to Langley Station. The woman sitting across from her in the dining car was the wife of her new boss. Her orders, along with the other three members of her team, had come from Elisabeth's father, Commander Alexander Beckett from Starfleet Intelligence headquarters on Earth. Given his position and the work that his son-in-law, lieutenant Kael'ko, the intel chief that Drielle would be reporting to, was involved in, Commander Beckett had deemed his family vulnerable while en route to their new home along the Cardassian border.

Drielle's facade was flawless, and even Elisabeth who had been surrounded by spies her entire life didn't pick up on the ruse immediately. "A new home," she replied cryptically, knowing better than to say to much about Kael'ko's work. "The children and I are joining my husband who is assigned to a Starfleet base. And yourself?" Elisabeth returned the question and unfolded the maroon cloth napkin from the table and placing it across her lap.

Drielle grinned and continued her ruse. "I'm a novelist," she said before taking a sip of her water. "I find that travel keeps the creative juices flowing." She put the glass back on the tabletop.

Two decks below the Club Car lounge the Orient Express boasted a startling fourteen holosuites intended to help passengers pass the time during long journeys. Kael'ko's teenage children, Varaya and Ja'dean, had ventured there looking for entertainment, but found themselves instead assigned a number and placed in a queue due to the demand for time in the recreational facilities. Unbeknownst the children, they too had a chaperone from their father's new intelligence team. Mixed in among the clusters of people in the long corridor devoted to the holosuites, ensign Marcus Taite watched their every move. Keen eyes were an asset for trained marksman, and they could easily be turned to following two kids. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the pair as Ja'dean sat slumped against a wall fiddling with pocket sized bronze-colored puzzle and his sister read the latest Federation New Service reports on a civilian tablet. As he watched the children, Marcus continued to survey the crowd surrounding them as well. Nothing apart from the norm there either. Just other travelers eager to wile away the time until they made it to their destination.

"So, how dangerous is the area where we're going to live?" Ja'dean said, affecting a nonchalant tone as he tried to hide his worries from his older sister. He kept his eyes locked on the metal puzzle, an intricately carved cube, in his hands. "I mean, is this station going to get shot at a lot?"

Varaya suppressed an urge to laugh at her younger brother. While he tried to put up a tough front, she new that he was sensitive. "I don't think so," she replied and tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear. "It is the most stable sector in the Federation though," she confessed and, with her back pressed firmly to the wall, slid down to sit behind her brother. "We've always lived in the heartland of the Federation," she said trying to sound reassuring, "so we're used to being safe. Its okay to be nervous about living on the frontier, scamp," she invoked the playful nickname she'd given him as a young boy.

"I am not nervous!" Ja'dean protested, a little more loudly than he had intended. The outburst attracted the attention of those in the immediate area and many heads turned to look at the children sitting on the floor of the passageway.

Marcus maneuvered his way through the small groups of people to get closer to the children. He had not been so close as to eavesdrop on their conversation, but given the boy's stressed exclamation he was beginning to rethink how much distance he should allow them. While he was dressed in civilian clothes, he was still carrying a small hand phaser, concealed inside the waistband of his slacks, just in case something happened. Unconsciously, his hand went to the spot where the weapon was hidden, he could be ready to fire in an instant should the need arise. He hoped it didn't and that Commander Beckett's worries were unfounded.

Back in the Club Car, Elisabeth and Drielle were getting along and sharing the bottle of Haliian wine the doctor had ordered. The young Trill had cleared away the half-eaten snails from in front of the Andorian, leaving the two women with only their drinks. "Life as a travelling novelist sounds incredibly interesting," Elisabeth was saying to Drielle as the spy was finishing a fake story about the life of her fictional alter ego. "If you'll excuse me, J'seekah, I just need to freshen up," Elisabeth stood up and pushed her chair under table, sneaking one last sip from her glass before she made for closest restroom.

Drielle turned and watched the doctor walk away. Once satisfied that Elisabeth was out of earshot, she tapped her communicator badge, hidden underneath the the flap of her dress. "K'dir, package is on the move," she whispered.

"I see her," the Caitian intelligence officer disguised as a bartender said as he turned to face the mirror behind the bar. "Losing her going into the head though," he stated and turned back to the patrons scattered at the stools. K'dir had a tawny coat with little patches of black, though he was wearing gloves while mixing various cocktails for the lounge's clientele. Minutes passed as he handed out beverages in various shades and shapes to those across the glossy wooden surface from him and he continued to surreptitiously glance toward the small, single person lavatory that Elisabeth had entered.

Drielle finished her glass of wine and poured herself another as she waited for Elisabeth to return. She didn't drink any more of the dark purple alien wine with its fruity and savory flavors as she continued to wait for the other woman though. "K'dir, she's been gone a long time," she said into the open comm channel.

"She hasn't come out yet," the bartender replied quietly as he turned away from the crowd to retrieve a bottle of Saurian brandy.

"Scans show that the lavatory is unoccupied," the voice of chief petty office Sharon Cross came over the comm. She dark-complected human woman was matter-of-fact in her delivery of the bad news. Disguised as one of the ship's crew, she had moved into the lounge area only moments ago, and had taken a scan of the small room with a hidden tricorder.

"What do you mean 'unoccupied'?" Drielle hissed.

"Lieutenant, I think you know what unoccupied means," Cross said flatly, not intending to be sarcastic.

Drielle shot up from her chair, trying to conceal he alarm from the crowd. "Get that door unlocked Cross," she said as she made straight for the restroom door.

"Already working on it," Sharon replied coolly, tapping away at her tricorder facing into the corner of the corridor. "Just a few more seconds...."

"Take over for me," K'dir said handing his white bar rag to a young Orion woman and making his way out toward the restroom bank.

"Done," Cross said finally and tucked the tricorder into a pocket on her yellow civilian crew trousers.

Drielle stopped dead as the door opened revealing the empty restroom. The faucet was still running, but there was no other evidence to indicate the Elisabeth had ever even been there. "We have a problem," Drielle said as the Caitian ensign came to stand beside her. Cross was only seconds behind him. "Taite," Drielle said tapping her communicator, "what's the status on the children?"

"They're fine," Marcus replied over the channel. "Waiting for their time in the holosuites and looking bored," he left out the part about Ja'dean's earlier outburst.

"Get the children secured," Drielle told him authoritatively. As a junior grade lieutenant she was the ranking officer in their small group. "K'dir, you join Taite and make sure those children don't vanish. Cross, I need a comprehensive scan of the room where doctor Beckett disappeared."

Tricorder back in hand Sharon moved into the lavatory and began working. The young Caitian officer turned and made for the Club Car's exit, passing under the neon pink sign emblazoned with the lounge's name over the door. "She was kidnapped, wasn't she?" the Andorian said absently as the chief continued her scan.

"It looks that way," Sharon said, waving the instrument through the air. "I am detecting trace amounts of residual transporter energy. We should report this to lieutenant Kael'ko."

"Not yet," Drielle said firmly. "There's nothing he can do from Langley. Its up to us to find doctor Beckett."


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