BCH #015: EVENT - A Tangled Web
A Tangled Web
Summary: Astrid and Merrell stumble across a strange young contractor under vaguely suspicious circumstances. EVENT.
Date: 10 Feb 2041 AE
Related Logs: None
Astrid Merrell Polaris 

Deck 11 — Main Engineering

Pipes, conduits, and cramped passageways. Heat and the smells of sweat and machine oil. Engineering is a maze of hallways that run deep into the aft of the Cerberus. Dotted with a few storage rooms, offices, and workshops, this section of the ship is constantly staffed by a huge team of professionals. From the main fuel tank feeds to the massive FTL drive room, no other part of the ship is more important than this section that provides propulsion and life support to every section of the battlestar.

It's always busy in Engineering, this messy web of smoke and grinding gears, in whose capillary A-frame halls are scattered roving packs of those sentient leukocytes normal soldiers call engineers. Oddly enough, there are more of those cells aboard now than there will be when Cerberus takes flight — for indeed, even the Fleet has been torched by the proponents of privatization. Small wonder, then, that a veritable armada of civilian contractors has descended upon the arteries of this ship. It's gotten to the point where a fellow in red and blue no longer stands out amidst this sea of olive, as there's simply too many of them milling about to be given much attention.

This night is no different. It's midway through the third shift and still the engineers are working, straining to meet the commissioning deadline imposed by the brass up high. Splotches of oil spot the hard metal deck, glistening like pearls under the dim fluorescent light; sparks from torches fall every which way, fusing metal to metal with bursts of orange and white.

Astrid is in a scowly mood tonight; it's bad enough she got stuck with the midnight shift, but to have all these damn civvies underfoot at the same time? It's a testament to what self control she has that she hasn't snapped on one of them yet. At the moment, she's working on redoing some faulty wiring, her gloved fingers whirling briskly as she fixes up the guts of an open console. The last bit of new wire in place, she replaces the outer panel and then moves around to look at the console itself; a quick diagnostic routine affirms that her wiring job did the trick. Closing up her toolbox, she steps away from the console, looking around.

Still not being able to report in has never stopped a SCPO from going… elbows.. deep into a job. Merrell has already spent most of the last day wanding around Engineering and meeting the rest of the M&R folks. By now she's strapped on a work belt and is supervising the installation of a large set of very high pressure ducting that's designed for a backup system to the engines. She's got the pipe braced against the wall while two other engineers help and one runs an air gun to secure the bolts.

<FS3> Astrid rolls Alertness-10: Success.
<FS3> Merrell rolls Alertness-10: Success.

It's not unusual at all to be walking quickly around these halls, and it's especially not unusual this late in the game, with overseers both military and civilian breathing down the collective neck of the construction teams they supervise. It is, however, unusual to see somebody walking slowly — as one contractor seems to be doing. She's a young little thing, her dusky features veiled by the translucent white cap all technicians in her role have taken to wearing: a relic of those bygone days of experimental fusion reactors, when labs were sterile and fears were high. "Sorry," she murmurs, stepping around Merrell; "Pardon," she adds, moving by Astrid. And then, with surpassing nonchalance, she's ambling down the corridor, her diminutive silhouette illuminated by a blast of light from the welders high above.

Astrid's looking at her work order for the console, initialing it with a pencil as the civilian woman weaves around her. Astrid scowls; her eyes follow the woman for a moment, her eyebrows furrowed slightly. She's unaccustomed to someone moving that slowly in the engineering section; no Fleet-trained snipe would be moving so leisurely, anyway. "Hey," she barks after the woman. "Ever hear of a sense of urgency?" She snorts, shaking her head slowly as she stares daggers into the woman's back. Noticing Merrell working nearby, she calls out, "You get a load of that, Chief?"

Merrell is paying more attention to the team that's putting up the vent shaft at the moment, her own arms flexed and putting her pack into holding the pipe into position. There's a lot of good-natured ribbing from her already, urging the team on with laughter and jokes about their moral character and her own lack of one. But seeing something moving at less than the speed of light, the SCPO lets her laughter fade and she watches the girl pass by. She looks to Astrid and shakes her head. "No kidding. What gives?" she offers to the other snipe before turning her suddenly loud voice towards the girl: "Hey! Young'in! Where are you supposed to be, anyway?" she calls over the sound of the airguns and various shouts that seem to echo around the hall.

It takes a moment for the woman to realize she's being spoken to. Her head remains perfectly still for the second she needs to process Astrid's words, her dark eyes fixed firmly on the ground as she tries to figure out what to say. Then, with odd serenity that seems more proper for a woman in her sixties than a girl in her twenties, she's turning, a beatific smile on her face. "Ma'am," she murmurs, her voice thick and low. "And — " Brown eyes contemplate the angry one for a moment, squinting in an attempt to make out the rank insignia on the woman's collar. "Other ma'am. The backup reactor, ma'ams." Studied reverence — because all civilians know that, no matter the rank, anybody with any rank whatsoever adores respect. "I have just completed a job. I was told to look for a Doctor Chryse and report back." She offers them a little shrug. "I have not yet found this Doctor Chryse. Do you know him?"

<FS3> Astrid rolls Alertness/Social: Good Success.
<FS3> Merrell rolls Alertness/Social: Good Success.

To Astrid and Merrell: Neither of you are particularly well trained in the nuances of reading body language — but then again, this girl doesn't seem particularly well trained in controlling hers either. You notice that she's doing her best to keep her expression as still as possible, and she's surreptitiously wiping her palms on the hem of her red-blue jacket while she speaks.

"I ain't a 'ma'am', you silly little sot," Astrid replies with a sigh. Civilians. She uses the break in her work routine to remove the gloves from her clammy hands. "And you mean to tell me you don't know this Doctor Frak you're supposed to be reporting to? Holy Hera's tit." As Astrid studies the woman, she realizes something about her seems… a little off. Like she doesn't quite belong. Her eyes fall upon the woman's sides, where she's doing her best to wipe something off on the jacket. Astrid scowls, and takes a few steps closer towards the civilian. Her tone taking on a predatory edge, she barks. "Hold it. What the frak is that on your hands? Show me." She approaches the woman with a narrow-eyed look, pausing only to take a quick glance back at Merrell before looking back to the civilian who suddenly looks suspicious. "Chief, c'mere a minute, would you?"

The team that Merrell is working with finishes up their work and the SCPO steps away from the pipe. She looks away from the girl for a moment to inspect the pipe before nodding to a PO2. "Good work, Mikey. Thanks. Grab the other piping and I'll meet you after this." She gives a quick nod to the man before moving a bit closer to the girl. Eyes wander over the young one for a brief second. "Backup reactor, huh? Then what're you doing up here other than wandering around this department looking for a Doctor. Shouldn't you be in medical?" Merrell doesn't seem so inclined to object to anything so thus far. With Astrid's point, she takes a few steps closer. "Hey. Ter. Relax. What's up?" She looks from the PO to the civilian, then.

The girl rolls back on the balls of her feet as the other women advance towards her, her arms crossing across her chest. Her eyes, though, do not quail, never once blinking as they travel from Tall Tech to Short Tech to the palms of her hands, extended now for the others' inspection. It's sweat: mixed with oil and grease, of course, but sweat it is. "Doctor Chryse," she repeats. "I am told he is a doctor of the physics of fusion, not a doctor of the body." There's a faint catch in her voice before she stuffs her hands into her pockets. "I do not know his face. The others who do are still working. I? I am working no longer."

<FS3> Astrid rolls Academic: Good Success.

"Yeah, yeah, heard you the first time." Astrid's still scowling at the girl, then looks to the side as Merrell approaches. "Chief. You hearin' this? Working no longer, she says. Friends of yours must be awfully nice, letting you skip off like this. And she doesn't even know what her boss looks like." A derisive snort of laughter follows. Then, to the girl. "How you not know what th' frak he looks like, if you work for him?" Her eyes twitch, as something she says processes. 'Doctor of the body'… the phrasing sounds familiar, but her mind can't quite place it. "Tell ya what. Take me back to where you were working, and we'll talk to these friends of yours, see if we can get you to wherever the frak you need to be. Wouldn't mind meeting such generous souls, myself."

Merrell watches Astrid talk, her own eyes flickering between the two women. She's critical, but thoughtful while looking them both over. She takes a step back and looks to a comms box on the wall, reaching a hand up by it. "Hold on, Petty Officer." The SCPO gives a quick nod to the woman, not quite dismissing what she says. Merrell looks to the girl again. "I'd like to hear what she has to say in response to your questions first. And I'd kinda like to know what she would think of a few Marines escorting her around, too." A brow quirks, challenging the young woman.

And still those eyes don't blink. "My work is finished — in Reactor Two, because you have asked me this. I was quick. And it is like so," the girl suggests, not quite budging. "You have many of these Chiefs on board, yes, who oversee you?" Her fingers twiddle around in her pockets, causing stretchy blue fabric to bulge and flex. "Like we have many doctors who oversee us. Do you know every Chief, ma'am?" There's something mildly condescending in her voice, as if she were explaining something to a child. Thick black curls are flicked backwards with a twitch of her head, the elastic band of her hat quivering under the strain. "As for Marines, ma'ams? I do not mind, if this would make you more comfortable."

Astrid blinks. Since when was she the one being interrogated here? The petty officer bristles at the condescension in the young woman's tone. "Listen, chippy, if this were my old ship, you're damn right I'd know who every chief over me was. This is the military, not some sloppy penny-ante civvie outfit, understand?" Her arms fold over her chest, and she taps her foot. "Look, any way ya want to slice it, you can't be off wandering alone. You want to go somewhere, wait for a couple Marines." A quick look back to Merrell. "And we still ought to find someone who knows who and where exactly this Doctor Chryse is. Ain't no place for civvies to be gettin' lost. We might not find her again." A smirk.

"Actually, I would if I had been here more than twenty four hours. But I know something isn't right with someone back in engineering when they're mousing around my decks like you are. I make it a point to know who is running teams." Merrell's relaxed demeanor isn't quite flying out the window but that good mood is gone. "I want to see your ID badge. Now. Or we'll test your comfort with those Marines." She makes a 'gimme' motion with her free hand as the other one hits the intercom button: "Doctor Chryse to Engineering, Deck Eleven, Section Fourteen, Hatchway Nineteen. Doctor Chryse." Her dark eyes settle back onto the unidentified woman and her jaw sets.

Curious eyes observe the women while she smiles. "Getting lost would be terrible, yes," the girl agrees, her low voice level. "I would hate to never be found." The ID badge is handed over without question. It certainly looks real — it's got all the flashy bits in all the right places, watermarks and all. "TUATA, NIREE" is written on the top line, next to a dourer representation of the person to whom it belongs. Silence; then: "Is there a problem?" Fingers still in her pockets. "Am I to be gotten lost of because I work too quickly or walk too slowly?"

Still scowling, Astrid cranes her head to look at the ID badge in Merrell's hands. "A problem? Well, we'll find out here in a minute, now, won't we? You just sit tight. Everything checks out, we'll send you on your way with a kiss and a pat on the fanny for your trouble." With that, though, she falls silent, looking from Tuata to the Chief.

Marrell takes the badge, touching the edges only with her fingertips. She looks it over in the light and unzips a breast pocket, dropping the badge inside. "Just for safe keeping. You understand. And yeah, there is a problem. Whoever hired you is going to have beef with me because your contract doesn't say you get paid to wander around engineering at your whim and get paid for it. Second? You're wasting my time and the Petty Officer's time. Those are problems when we have deadlines, child. Who is your designated project lead or is this Doctor Chryse that person?" She looks to Astrid and nods once, agreeing silently. Nobody is going anywhere.

"It is certainly not at my whim," Niree sniffs. "I was given a task, and I am now carrying out this task. You, ma'ams, stopped me. And regarding my job? I was assigned to correct an algorithm in your battle star's plasma restabilization matrix." Spoken as two words, not one. "This algorithm I proceeded to correct, and my team now requires the aid of Doctor Chryse to — " Dark eyes blink for the first time. "To check my work. You can ask Mister Kennison or Mister Dillan for confirmation. They are not as quick as I."

And as for this doctor? It looks like they'll be sitting tight for some more minutes at least; whatever Chryse is doing, he's certainly taking his time.

Astrid continues to regard the woman before them with a hawkish gaze as she speaks. The more she says, the more wrong she feels. Battle star? "Carrying out a task? Looks more like you're on a frakkin' walkabout to me. If you're gonna work on a battlestar, you move like you're working on a battlestar." Said as one word, naturally. The gloves still clutched in her hand get shoved into her pocket. "Like the chief said, we don't have time for dilly-dallying bullshit." She looks around restlessly, searching for any sign of the approach of this Doctor Chryse. There isn't any.

"Really? Its not a whim? Strolling a long slowly through an obvious work area? We're well within our rights to stop you. Part of my job is to ensure that I don't have the wrong personnel in my workspaces." With the mention of what she's involved with, Merrell looks unimpressed. "You're high, aren't you?" Its a very direct question and by her tone she intends to find out any way she needs to.

At that, the girl actually — giggles? It's a low, quiet sound, one that reveals more shyness than amusement. "I do not smoke," she says, her head lolling slightly to one side as a crewman passes by with a girder on his shoulder. "And had you not stopped me, Chief, I would not still be in your workspace." Got to admit! Niree has a point.

As for signs of the doctor, there aren't any — not for one minute that passes, not for another minute that passes, not even for a third minute that passes — until at last an elderly fellow pushes his way past ladders and under scaffolds and through repair teams doing work on the floor. A thick wooden cane announces his arrival, pounding loudly against the ground. Leonine hair sweeps down from his craggy brows, whiter than the snow of a Virgan mountain, and when he speaks, his voice is gravel: "Chryse here. You military layabouts want me to get somewhere fast, you frakking send a cart."

"What, so your legs as broken as your little lackey's, here?" Astrid is clearly unimpressed with the man's age or his demeanor. "Moseying along like she's got all the damn time in the world. You're not the ones that have to fly this tub after you're done with it." She rolls her eyes. "By goat-eating Hera." As for specific issues, though, she lets Merrell do the talking.

"No, you might not have still been here but I shudder to think where you might have found yourself lollygaggin into at a snails pace. It also doesn't change the fact that you were here. On my watch. You wanna get cute and giggle at me, fine. How about I take a blowtorch to this ID badge and see who is yucking their pigtails off then?" BITCH, PLEASE! Merrell's mood is downright sour at this point. Whe nthe man shows up and Astrid pipes up at the man, she levels a finger at the PO. "Stow that attitude to the Doctor, Petty Officer." Nope, not in a mood. The SCPO looks to the Doctor then. "Doctor Chryse, do you know this young woman? She was told to look for you and I'll be damned if she isn't acting a sight off."

"My legs are, in fact, broken, Petty Officer." The doctor's smile is grim as he taps the side of his foot with the edge of his cane. It's not the dull sound of oak hitting flesh; it's the hard ringing of wood hitting steel. "Cylons. Before you were even born, so — listen to your mother, Pee-Oh, and stow that attitude." There's a harrumphing cough. "As for you, Chief — " Green eyes slash towards Niree, sweeping up and down her figure. "No. Should I?"

It's only now that the girl pipes up, having perhaps figured that Merrell's threats are mostly for show. "I am Niree Tuata, Doctor Chryse," she says, curtseying despite the fact that she isn't wearing a skirt. "I work with Misters Kennison and Dillan. On Reactor Two? They have instructed me to find you so my product can be reviewed."

"Kennison, eh?" The old physicist scratches at his magnificent mane of hair. "Dillan. Didn't know they were still futzing about on that thing. You want, shall we — ?" The cane is pointed somewhere down the hall, presumably to where Reactor Two is located.

"Sorry, Chief." Astrid musters up a look of contrition for the chief, but it's gone when she turns back to the doctor. His statement about his legs, though, mollifies her somewhat, and she even manages to look slightly abashed as she repeats a muttered apology to the older man. "Sorry." No such gesture is forthcoming to the young woman who started it all, though; Niree simply gets another dark stare. With that, the little group is off at as quick a pace as the old man can manage, Astrid quietly seething at the rear of the group as they make their way to the reactor.

The Senior Chief's face doesn't even twitch with the man's remarks to her. She looks to Astrid, then: "Stay close with her, Petty Officer." Merrell's eyes flash to the Doctor. "So you didn't know you have teams still working on one of our reactors. That's wonderful." She reaches up to the intercom again and pages an engineering team to meet them down there as well before following along, her eyes locked on the back of the girl's head.

"Bureaucracy, Chief," Chryse growls. "Hell, woman, sometimes my left nut doesn't know what the right one's doing. Think I can keep track of all this? It's what they made computers for." Astrid's apology is flatly ignored as they move into the room itself. Oddly, there isn't anybody there: maybe it's supper break. Whatever the case, it doesn't take long for Tuata to point out the console in question, which terminal the doctor now operates with surprising speed. They don't call him doctor for nothing.

For once, Astrid keeps her mouth shut. She watches Niree with singleminded focus as the two civvies make their way to the reactor console, breaking her gaze only to watch the doctor as he does his work. As ordered, she stays close to Tuata; tall and thin, Astrid towers over the dusky skinned woman. Noticing something, though, she speaks up, frowning at Niree. "Hey. Where are these Dillan and Kennison characters you mentioned? Thought you said they weren't done working yet?"

"Then maybe you oughtta reconsider working on a Battlestar, Doctor." The SCPO's words aren't biting towards him - her venom mostly directed at the brainstem of the woman in front of them. When they arrive in the room she's quick to notice that yeah, the two gentlemen aren't here. "And where is my engineering team?" Merrell cracks her neck and looks to the intercom nearby..

"Gotta pay the bills, Chief. Alimony." Chryse grunts loudly as he fiddles with the terminal; green text reflects brightly in equally green eyes as he scrolls and types and scrolls some more. "I love marriage, you know. Love it so much I did it five times. Man." There's a loud, barking laugh that causes a bit of spittle to drip from his lips; that's wiped away with a single blue sleeve. And good, too: the console itself is spotless.

Tuata, in the meantime, is fidgeting even less. Her unblinking eyes ignore the woman in charge, fixing on Astrid instead. "Perhaps they are finished," she suggests, nonplussed. "I was walking about for not too short a time, and you were asking me questions for also not too short a time, too." Back to the hem of her jacket go her palms, twirling about to get some more grease and grime off her fingers.

"I hope you're better with machines than women." Merrell isn't even looking at the man anymore. She's checking the hallways that lead into the room. Its getting kinda lonely back here - at a reactor. She lifts the intercom again and makes another call for a specific team to report to the room on the double before hanging it back up. Eyes focus back on the young woman. "You reprogram reactors and get experienced doctors like this guy to check your work? Nice skillset. Where'd you learn that?" The Chief is still not entertained at all by this situation. "Doctor?" she asides. "Is this legitimate or what? I'm about ready to check boots because it smells like someone here stepped in bullshit."

Astrid grunts, her lips twisted in a slight sneer. "It wasn't that long, either. And if they work even half as slow as you frakkin' walk…" She trails off, shaking her head. Her gaze leaves the young woman as Astrid's eyes flick around the reactor chamber. Nope, no sign of those two jokers she'd mentioned. Her eyes fall back on Doctor Chryse, as Astrid's fairly interested herself in the doctor's answer to Merrell's question. She says so. "I think I smell it too, Chief." Then, a look back at Tuata. Hera's tit, does the woman ever blink?

Chryse snorts. "Is that what she told you, Chief? She reprogrammed this thing?" He seems to have forgotten that Niree said much the same to him just a few moments back. "I checked the changelogs. She added a couple of comments, changed a couple of loops in the code." Green eyes flick to Tuata, standing silent and still — save for those palms, of course — in the center of Reactor Control. "Congratulations, girl. You just put lipstick on a pig, and guess what? Still looks like one." One final keystroke and he's logged off. "That's it. She found me. I looked. Wherever those two jokers are, they're going to make sure I get overtime if I end up staying late because of this. We done here?"

As the doctor speaks, Astrid is getting more and more confused. Another look to Niree, and there she is wiping her damn hands again. Another look at the console as Chryse finishes looking over the code… and then, something clicks. "Hey," she says again, scowling at Tuata again. Evidently her mother never told her that her face might freeze that way one day. "You said you were working on this console?" Without awaiting confirmation, she walks in a circle around it. "The frakkin' thing doesn't look like it's been touched." Ter Avest looks back up from the console to the girl, an accusatory glint in her eye.

The Chief looks to Chryse, obviously not up for his bad memory. "You're telling me this little girl reprogrammed one of this ship's reactors, you've never met her before, and you're totally okay with this? And the two gentlemen who she claims were with her weren't even supposed to be here and there's no sign of them?" When Astrid speaks up, Merrell seems like she's had enough. "Petty Officer, watch the young miss, please?" To the Doctor: "Nobody is going anywhere." She reaches behind her and grabs the intercom off the wall, making a ship-wide page. "I need a Marine Security Detail to the Backup Reactor on the double. MPs to the Backup Reactor."

"Oh, don't you ladies worry one whit." Chryse certainly doesn't look like he's particularly worried, picking up the cane from the side of the console and tapping it against his leg once more. "She doesn't have the clearance to do much of anything to the code. All of the stuff that got changed was purely superficial, nothing that — " His voice becomes a growl, which becomes a cough, which becomes a rapid clearing of his throat. "Whoa. What are you calling the police for? I just told you everything was fine. Untwist your panties." There's an undercurrent of irritation in his tone, as if he's riled up about somebody questioning his expertise.

As for Niree? Yeah. Now she's blinking, her dilated pupils flashing in and out of sight under long, feathery lashes. Her voice, though, remains serene: "Misters Kennison and Dillan were here, ma'ams. This job is ours, and this job we do." Back go hands into pockets, the muscles of her arms tensing.

"With pleasure, Chief." Astrid sounds like she means each word of that, too. Stormy expression on her brow, she takes a couple menacing steps in towards the smaller woman, dusky eyes locked on Tuata's disturbingly unblinking orbs. Her hands flex restlessly at her sides. "I think you've got some explaining to do, missy. Care to cut the bullshit?" She can definitely tell something's up now, as those unblinking eyes dilate and suddenly can't stop blinking. "How close did you look at that code, Doctor?" she asks, her hackles raised. "Oh, for frak's sake. Let me." She doesn't exactly elbow the doctor to one side, but she definitely pushes her way to getting clear access to the keypad. Her eyes move from the screen, to the keys, to Niree as she looks over everything for herself.

The Chief levels a finger at the doctor. "Can it. You're sitting tight until we get this all settled. Nobody is screwing with reactors on this boat unless its transparent as it gets. And if my Department Head wants to skewer me for it, then that's hit problem. But right now?" Merrell looks between them, the short woman looking fairly aggressive. "I am the main problem BOTH of you have." Senior Chief Petty Officers don't tend to make fuzzy-wuzzy enemies. "Maybe you did work. Maybe it was legit. But until this is straightened out? You can both sit your happy asses tight because if either one of you leaves before the Marines get here, you'll regret it." Unhappy Chief is Unhappy. "Then, after you both have straight stories, we're going to look at what the cameras tell us about your shenanigans in here."

Looks like, whatever's going on, the Doctor isn't part of it, or doesn't appear to be. Astrid discovers that everything is as Chryse's said — just a few minor comments here to clarify the purpose of some method; a few minor changes there to clarify the function of some variable. But she also notices that there's not a speck of, well, anything on the keyboard: no grime, dirt, or anything apart from the usual shiny keys that result from too many button presses from oiled engineers' thumbs.

Niree, in the meantime, doesn't move, instead allowing her blinking eyes to close. She murmurs something under her breath: a prayer of sorts, it seems, though not in any dialect of Standard the two women know.

And Chryse? "Yeah," he spits, hair falling about his eyes and brow. "Lords of Kobol, hear me now: if I don't get paid triple for this bull, may you strike down all the Colonies with nuclear apocalyptic Armageddon."

Astrid stares with disbelief at the work in front of her. "Gods, you call this 'reprogramming'? Barely even touched this frakkin' code." Another look to the woman's grime stained hands. "There's no frakkin' way you were working on this console," she pronounces, looking from Tuata's hands to the clean keys and back. She starts looking around the compartment wildly, looking for signs of anything out of place. "You better tell me what you were really doing in here, you thrice-cursed little hussy," she snarls, "or I'll take you apart to find out what's wrong in that frakked up little head of yours." It's an idle threat, of course, but she certainly sounds like she means every last word of it.

For the Chief's part, she doesn't move to stop the Petty Officer. At least not yet. She's content to wait for the Marines. "Doc if you gave two shits about this reactor or the ship I would hope you'd have more concern than to just let someone in here to mess with the programming." Her eyes never leave the girl who is sitting there with her muttering. Little hairs stand up.

Astrid's threats melt into Tuata's preternatural calm like snowflakes in a furnace — or a fusion reactor, for that matter. She'll get nothing further from Tuata, who smiles beatifically before removing her cap from her hair: her prayer's finished, or so it seems, and just in time. A moment later, the MPs arrive, heralded by the loud thumping of combat boots on ground. She looks almost holy as she's patted down and cuffed, resisting not one whit. Only when the plastic ziptie snicks closed around her wrists does she finally drop her hat, which flutters to the ground — stained black with prints from her small, delicate hands.

Chryse, unsurprisingly, goes with a little more fight. "Watch the legs," he snarls, showing pointed and yellowed teeth. "Just because they're metal doesn't mean you can pat them down like a woman's tit. Gods damn. And if you're going to cuff me, you're going to help me walk — and will somebody get my cane?" This, presumably, is directed at the Chief, whose jab at his shit he pointedly ignores.

"Guess we get to use that shiny new brig now," says the senior MP. "You two, if you'll please accompany us to the Security Hub? We're going to need full statements."

Astrid has something of a harried look on her face as she examines the room, but finds nothing out of place; nothing to indicate the grimy-fingered woman was messing with anything in the compartment, at any rate. Gesturing in frustration at the mystery, she nods to the MP. "Sure, Corporal," she says to the lead MP, staring daggers into the back of the now-cuffed Tuata. Her stare is briefly interrupted by a glance at Merrell. "Somebody ought to have a closer look for whatever it is she did mess with, Chief," she opines.

The Chief nods to Astrid. "Oh, believe me. It's going to happen." She walks over and grabs the cane, looking to the MP. "Corporal, if you would kindly post a security detail down here and seal this room? Once we get up to the Hub, I'll need to call an officer or two and get this place isolated electrically and isolated from any networks." But she follows dutifully, tapping the cane against her boot as she walks. "C'mon, Ter Avest. Let's go spend a few more hours with paper."

"Wilco, Chief," says the corporal snappily. Indeed, the four-man squad is already breaking into parts. One MP is stepping up to the intraship comms to request backup; two more are leading the two contractors away, with Chryse leaning on the bigger Marine for support. The corporal gives the room one final skeptical sweep of his eyes before he's nodding and clapping his fellow on the shoulder. "We'll talk to the PO first, let you handle whatever you need. If you'll come with me?"

And with that order-qua-recommendation, this little play comes to an end, its players fanning out through the corridors of the ship. But still the people work and still their torches flare: for though this act may be over, the show must yet go on.

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