It Starts with an Engineer
Oh Where, Oh Where, Has My Everything Gone?
Location: Main Engineering/Security
Timeline: October 6th, 2421
The missing item situation had not improved in the first few days, after the negotiations had concluded. No one had seen anything happen, but things continued to disappear, seemingly in the blink of an eye. The captain had been busy finalizing the paperwork for the new agreement with the miners on the planet. He had turned the mystery of missing things over to his Chief of Security, Ensign Murray Campbell-Mckay.
Murray studied the reports that were forwarded to him with the specific instructions from the Captain to get to the bottom of it. How wonderfully specific indeed. Things were missing. At first, Murray looked if there was some sort of connection. There wasn't. Some of it was important and some of it had no true value. He decided that the first place he wanted to check out was Engineering.
Ensign Qualt Vonn had done all of the appropriate training to be an engineer. He had expected to spend his time working on engines, taking readings, keeping track of energy usage. He never expected to spend so much time fixing wires. So many wires. He felt that in the last few days he had pretty much become a wire fixing expert. He had also become very impressed with his own ability to fit into very small spaces.
It seemed that not only was everything going missing, but systems were frying all over the station. They had been talking about some sort of cascading effect, but still had been unable to pinpoint the initial failure that started it all. So, they had resorted to patching every time a console went down or a synthesizer failed. Qualt had fixed six panels, just today and a leak in a piece of tubing. Fortunately, it was just a water tube, but a leak was a leak.
He returned to Engineering Chief Lieutenant Briggen when he he was done with his most recent repair. He found her in main engineering. "So, I got all that done... just like the others. Wires shredded. I don't get it," he said, rubbing the back of his head with one hand. "Some of these systems aren't even connected... You know, I had to fix a water leak today... one of those thick rubber tubes. It looked... I dunno, call me crazy... but it looked chewed."
"Chewed?? How the fuck did it get chewed and by what?" Kat asked, bewildered. "You mean to tell me we have rats here? I don't believe this!!" she hollered this time. "DAMN IT! What else can go fucking wrong?" she yelled!
Qualt continued to rub the back of his head. "I hope they aren't rats. I don't like rats. Rats are nasty. Don't rats come from Earth though? I guess they could have come in with some of the crew. I mean... but..." He dropped his hand from the back of his head to his side and started to look around on the ground as if a rat was just going to pop out suddenly.
"Oh hey!" Qualt suddenly remembered that he had kept the section of piping that he had removed. He dug around in his tool kit and produced said pipe, holding it up and then out towards Kat. "This... I had to fix this." The tubing definitely looked chewed, but the marks were unfamiliar, not ratlike at all, looking more like a tiny beaver had a go at the tubing.
"A BEAVER?......" she said taking the rubber and swinging it like a bloody battering ram. "Where in the world did this come from?" Kat said looking at the bite marks. "Holy shit, this isn't Beaver that's for sure and it might be in the rodent family. But this isn't like a normal size rat, something a bit larger I suppose," she added.
Murray heard a commotion and raised voices as he approached Engineering. "What is soddin' goin' on in here?" he asked looking for answers. "I can hear ya from the bloody corridors ya wanker. What the hell is wrong with ya? We have fuckin' wee lil ones aboard!"
Qualt made a face and pointed at the Lieutenant. "I wasn't yelling... she was yelling and she was yelling about this." He held up the bit of frayed tubing. "We've been fixing wires for days... today this had to be fixed. Replaced even. I kept the bad one to show the Chief here."
"Well, do us all a favor an' use inside voices," replied Murray. "Last thing I need is the XO stormin' my office tellin' me to lock the lot of ya up for bein' unprofessional," he teased; However, the frayed tubing was disconcerting. "It looks like something tried to eat it. Is it important?"
"It was a water hose..." Qualt said simply.
"Yeah a water hose, but to what was it attached to, Qualt, before you repaired it?" Kat asked.
"Uh..." Qualt scratched his head. Where had it been attached to? He remembered the room just not the deck. "I think it was Deck 2? Men's bathroom... water all over the floor."
"First, tools an' other items go missin'. Now, I find a water hose in a bathroom chewed. Are the two incidents linked to each other? Holy Hanna! How dumb cana' we be?", Kat said looking at Murray and Qualt. "There bein' only one animal I cana' be thinkin' of that cana' be doin' this... a ferret type creature. They chew and they be the best little thieves I be knowin' and cana' trained too!" Kat spat out.
Qualt was still scratching his head. "I haven't seen any ferrets or rodents or any of their leavings either. Have you?" He looked around the room for a moment and resisted the urge to ask everyone if they'd seen any ferret shit. "And I've been crawling around under a lot of things. Should we get traps?" But what kind of traps would they need? What were they trying to trap. It was great to finally be doing what felt like more than speculating, but most rodents made their presence pretty obvious with leaving their droppings all over everything.
"Well maybe thisn' rodent be a strange type that doesn' leave its turds behind, ya know. It couldn' be a rat but maybe be one that don' leave its shit around," Kat said, scratching her head.
Qualt nodded again. "Maybe. I just haven't seen any. I don't honestly even know what they are. They just act like the rodents back home."
"Ah that's just spectacular," muttered Murray. "Things are goin' missin' on this already damaged ol' station, an' toppin' it off we may have a wee infestation?" Murray shook his head. "We may have to start searchin' every nook an' cranny of this station. Lieutenant Barbossa is gonna flip shit if she sees personnel movin' about with PM-32s and PM-44s lookin' for rodents."
Qualt laughed and pretended to shoot rodents with a PM made from his fingers. He pretended to wave at people. "Oh don't mind me. Just shooting rats. All in a day's work around here! Does the fun ever stop?" He holstered his finger gun after blowing on the barrel and grinned. "So how do we find them?"
"Hey," said Murray with a smirk. "Why is it when there is a rodent infestation, people go lookin' at me? Just because I'm a wee bit Scottish," he said with a chuckle. The Security Chief stood there thinking on his feet.
"Engineer," he said swiftly. "You are an engineer an' that's exactly what we need right now I think. No use goin' 'round shootin' these things with our 32s an' 44s if we ain' gonna see 'em. We need ta pied piper these son'bitches. If we can jury-rigg some devices to emit an ultrasonic emission, we may be able to bring 'em out from their dwellin's. It would make for easier shootin' or simply a more humane way of quarrelin' 'em."
Qualt cocked his head to one side, eyeing the Security Chief. "Well, that's certainly possible to make. I guess we just hope they're sensitive to vibrations. Although, if they are rodents then I don't see why they wouldn't be. Sure. You want me to set something up?"
Murray nodded "Aye, I do," he said swiftly. Of course, he looked at the others for their expertise. "I'm not an expert on this sciencey techy stuff, an' I sure am not a zoologist. But it is worth a shot, right?"
"An be ye thinkin' about how ta scare the be jeezes out of them be messin' with their hearin'?" Kat said laughing silently.
Qualt was still thinking. The Xelayan rubbed the back of one of his ears and looked at the ceiling. So... maybe we can use this method to round them up into one place. We'll have to use a small force field so they can't just run off again." He used his hands to demonstrate what he was thinking. "So a room..." He made a box shape with his hands. "... but the force field fits inside the room..." He made a smaller box in the other pretend box. "... with the opening at the door. Then, if the sounds don't make then unconscious we can trap them in the force field." He looked at Murray and the chief. "But what do we do once we have them trapped? Kill them?"
"Hey, I may be in Security and' aye I'm a wee bit eccentric at times, but I ain' a heartless lad. I'm lover mostly, not a fighter, an' I damn well ain' no murderous Krill," replied Murray. "We contain 'em an' then we can deal with the wee devils. I don' care if we have Medical or Science come up with some sort of air-born anesthetic ta knock 'em out. Then, we round 'em up an' send them on their merry way."
"No... we try an communicate wit them and move them to another planet. Not kill them!" Kat almost cried.
Qualt stared at the Chief Engineer, his nose wrinkling in distaste. "But they're vermin... It's not like they're people. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is gonna wanna take these rats..."