Check Your Lobes
2,222 words; about a 11 minute read
Ninety-Nine Bottles of Swill
Location: Bellwether Station | Docking Port
The station's physician, Doctor Tanaka, and the Tactical Officer had secured the Ferengi shuttlepod. All of its occupants were aboard Bellwether with those feeling ill being treated in the infirmary. Environmental suits were no longer required. Whatever had been affecting the Ferengi aboard was not a result of airborne transmission, and though the environmental systems aboard were nowhere near adequate per Federation health regulations, they were fine.
Lieutenant Commander Brott had dispatched Lieutenant MacLeod and Ensign Astor to the Ferengi shuttlepod. He met the two women at the docking port where the Ferengi shuttlepod had been tractored to and was now moored. Of course, both officers had their tricorders which made Brott smile a bit.
He gave them a brief rundown from the latest medical report. "Our Ferengi guests aren't a risk to us nor one another from what the Doctor can tell. The air quality aboard the shuttlepod is not the greatest, but you shouldn't encounter any issues. There's no indication this was an airborne matter. In fact, our Ferengi friends are suffering from gastrointestinal issues."
"It could still be an unknown virus," Skye said. "Whether it affects anyone but Ferengi will have to be determined." She shrugged. "It could also be something they ate. At least we can take scans and samples from the shuttle to run tests." She had a stack of Petri dishes and an incubator.
"I'll run diagnostics on their systems, maybe something is affecting their replicators. Or maybe they got allergic to latinum," Astor added as the young ops officer pulled her long hair up and quickly secured it in a bun to make sure it stayed well out of her way.
Lieutenant Commander Brott nodded. "Agreed, it could still be a variety of things. The important part is they are going to be alright, and we do not appear to be at risk thank the stars," replied Brott. "Collect samples of everything that seems reasonable. It could even be moldy bologna at this point.
Brott tapped at the docking controls, the circular hatch moved aside, and the difference between the station interior and that of the Ferengi shuttlepod was stark. "Keep me apprised of anything suspicious that you find, ah, and if there's any contraband, please document it. If we have grounds to impound them, we will."
"Aye," Skye said, nodding. "Hopefully we'll find something." There had to be something on the shuttle somewhere.
Even from the hatch the air inside did not seem entirely pleasant. "I guess the sooner we start, the sooner we finish," she mused. She glanced at Lieutenant MacLeod as she gestured towards the hatch, "Lieutenant's first?"
Skye chuckled. "Thanks," she said wryly. She wasn't eager to breathe the tainted air, but she was eager to get the job done and get somewhere clean to analyze the data. "I'll get the samples, you can play with the computer." Breathing through her mouth to minimize the bad odor, she walked onto the shuttle.
Standing on the threshold, Andrea took a deep breath, reminding herself she had been in worse places in her life, and followed in behind the lieutenant. She was sure the Ferengi were going to love their computer system being analysed but she didn't care; if there were answers on there, she was determined to find them.
Skye pulled out a scented handkerchief she'd brought along, just in case, and wrapped it over her nose and mouth. "This is worse than I expected," she muttered. She began to scan everything, looking for anything out of the ordinary to cultivate. She wiped samples from several walls and counters. She took samples from the galley, command area, several quarters, and the cargo bay. Nothing stood out yet, but she hoped something might develop later.
Following in her wake, Astor had braced herself for the worst - just in case. One thing she could say about her upbringing was that it was far from a safe, sheltered environment and she spent much of her time crawling around the insides of ships and stations and survived the experience.
Lieutenant MacLeod seemed to have a good idea about what she was going to do so the operations officer was content to follow her lead. Except rather than just surfaces she stripped apart the replicators and pulled out panels so they could get to the inner workings of the ship just in case it helped the Doc figure out what was going on.
"I'm gonna start deconstructing their showers, just in case something there might be at fault," she offered, very much in the mood to hit something with a hammer.
The communicators were soon chirping, a Bolian with a neck for being a bit of a jabberjaw was eager to provide some information. "Lieutenants, I'll need one of you to collect samples from the galley storage. Some chattering and mingling with the Ferengi has lead to indication they all began feeling ill an hour or so after having a meal. They did not have the same food, and some used the replicator, but the galley section of their shuttle may be common ground for their issues."
"I'll do it," Skye replied. "Next to the computer logs, it's the best lead we have." She found the galley storage and began to scan, checking every container that seemed odd or unusual. She took several samples as well, carefully separating them into sample bags. The smell was worse in here, making her feel light-headed. She wrapped the handkerchief more tightly and kept searching.
"Thank you, Lieutenant," the Bolian responded with a chuckle deep down in his big gleeful blue gut. He had waited a few moments before adding more. "Now do be careful over there. We do not know what the heck those Ferengi have been up to nor what cargo they have aboard."
Skye nodded. "I will. I'll probably need a bath when this is all over, though." She smiled at Brott. "But I am curious about what they have down there." She'd definitely need a good mask for that. The smell would be horrendous.
The Bolian blushed a lovely shade of rutabaga though the women could not see it over a comm channel. "Knowing the Ferengi as well as I do?" Brott replied and he audibly mmmed for a moment. "A little contraband here and there, everything they could fit in their cargo hold worth their weight in GPL, and I believe there's a fitting Earth expression about everything but the kitchen sink? So, probably the kitchen sink as well. Honestly, I may have the Doctor give them a more thorough physical and check their lobes for anything else they may be smuggling."
The image made Skye laugh. "You never know. You can hide a lot in there." It was time to crack open more containers. The mixture of scents created a miasma in the room. More samples, more scans. The thought of that bath kept her going. She didn't normally use scented bath salts, but today she would. Vanilla or mulberry would be nice. There was one container that didn't match the others. "This is odd." It didn't look like the other cargo containers. And it was a bright blue. She went over to scan it.
"What did you ladies find in there?" asked Brott. "Sounds like something has caught your scientific curiosity, Lieutenant " he added. Brott was waiting for answers, answers to why several Ferengi were aboard the station feeling ill but otherwise seemingly normal.
"Well, every container I've opened so far reeks. Not like it's gone bad and is rotting, but more like there's some sort of substance added to it. It's making the air hazy," Skye reported. "And there's an odd blue container in here, too. It looks nothing like the others."
"It is on the manifest," Astor added as she joined the lieutenant, "but the contents aren't disclosed, nor the origin. Or the destination. I've got a programme running to try and access the rest of the files but it will take time."
"Let me know if you find anything," Skye said. "I'll mark it so we can transport it to a shielded location." She pulled out a small transpodner and attached it to the container, then moved on.
The Bolian kept the comm channel open so that he could monitor his crew during this little inspection. It also was good for gossiping and a bit of eaves dropping it the women forgot about the comm being open. "Well, if that doesn't sound suspicious," Brott commented. "I have a lock on the transponder, Skye. I'll beam that container away once we have a shielded area secure."
"Appreciated," Skye said, moving on to a large crate with arrows indicating which way was up and a universal sign to handle it carefully. That piqued her interest and she scanned it. "Any idea what this is? It looks like bottles of something."
The Bolian chuckled over the comm. "You never know with the Ferengi. Is it opened? Are there other bottles? Does it smell like anything?" Brott was quite curious what Skye had found. It wasn't unheard of for Ferengi to be moving Starshine around, or carrying Cardassian Kanar, Romulan Ale...you name it.
"Everything in here smells or rot," Skye said. "Sorry. But there's a label..." There was a long pause. "Slug-O-Cola?"
As Brott listened to the description that Skye was providing, the Bolian started to dance around a hum a jingle. "Drink Slug-o-Cola! The slimiest cola in the galaxy!" Belted the large Bolian.
"Seriously?" Skye asked. "They advertise themselves as the slimiest cola?" She shook her head, even though the others couldn't see her. "I'll tag it for you. You can claim it as your fee. Me, I'll stick with something Terran like Dr. Pepper or Sarsaparilla."
The Bolian cackled a bit. "Ah yes, I should have figured. Ferengi do love their Slug-O-Cola unless they are brand loyal to its competitor Eelwasser. Both of them are bit too slimey for my taste buds, I'm not an algae fan. I'll take a dirty soda myself, a cola."
"If I see any, I'll let you know," Skye said, chuckling. "We may need to make an order for the next food run, although I'm not sure if they'd consider soda a necessity."
"Then, I'll pull some favors," stated Brott. "That or we will find something that someone needs. Barter, haggle, trade...it's commonplace out here in the middle of nowhere on these trade routes and shipping lanes."
"I've been told my ancestors used to barter," Skye said conversationally. "Looks like I'll have to brush up on those skills." It might be fun, too. She was sure she could learn a lot from Brott.
Emerging from a side corridor, Astor held up some sealed sample containers, “what isn’t fun is Ferengi standards of hygiene. At least not these Ferengi. I may spend an hour in decon. But nothing obviously wrong. The full diagnostics will take time but can keep running and feed the results back to us … pretty much anywhere else.”
"I think these Ferengi have taken hygiene to depths never before seen by modern man," Skye replied. "It'll take a week to get rid of the smell."
The Bolian chuckled at the witty women. "You two ladies sound like you may be ready for some decontamination and a good sonic shower," commented Brott. "We may have something to work with. We will need some time to make heads and tails of what you've collected sample wise."
"And data-wise," Skye added. "It may also take that long to clean up the stench." She would need at least three showers at this point. "I think I'm done here."
"Both of you come back and clean up. Hit the science lab when you feel clean again, and rest up if you need it, Lieutenant" Brott replied, specifically to Skye. Though the same general directions went to Andrea as well. "I will have a talk with the Ferengi once medical clears them."
"Thank you." Skye appreciated that Brott was willing to give her some time after this. "When you talk to them, ask them what they ate the week before they got sick. The two or three days before is most important, but I'm looking for a pattern," she added. "Hopefully I'll be able to write something up after I take care of a few...necessities."
“You don’t need to say it twice, I think we’ve got what we can. Form an orderly queue to decon showers,” Astor replied as she sealed up her case and handed over samples she had taken to their science offer. She wasn’t sure if it was the right sentiment or not but added a hopeful, “enjoy? Maybe?”
"Thanks," she replied, taking the samples. "The results I'll enjoy, definitely. Especially if we find what we're looking for." Skye was going to take care of the samples and the data, then let the computer run the analyses while she enjoyed getting clean. "You ccan go first. I still need to take care of these."
Brott snorted and ended the comm channel. These two were part of his crew now, and on top of that, he had quite the physician, and an interesting Tactical Officer to be Station security. This was certainly one of the more colorful bunch he'd had worked with.