I slammed the cover of the replicator shut. Everything checked out perfect, but the hamburger deluxe still tasted of fresh strawberries, not flame-broiled beef. The light in the cafeteria flickered off. I slumped against the wall in the sudden darkness. Find the spy, ha! Admiral Williamson was delusional if he thought I could find anything on the ship. The Voyager was a mess. Nothing worked properly. Half the crew were on report at any given time. Captain Herring locked himself in his quarters for days on end, refusing to talk to anyone except Lieutenant Bradley.
Rumors of mutiny floated in the air. Mutiny against the Captain, not Starfleet, although if the Admiral was right, someone wanted the Voyager in Del Brugado’s pink-gloved hands.
The lights blinked back on. I collected my scattered tools.
Turner, my assistant, poked his head through the door to the empty cafeteria. “Adrian? The replicators on deck ten are delivering charcoal lumps.”
“Do they taste like strawberries?” I stuffed tools in my pockets. “We can’t get any replacements until we make Starbase 89 in another day or two.”
We walked together to the lift. Turner shot suspicious glances at the crew, clustering in small groups in the hallways. Officers stopped whispering as we passed. We stepped into the lift. The door slid shut.
Turner watched the lights flicker past. “This ship is cursed.”
I nodded agreement. Williamson’s warnings about not trusting anyone echoed in my head. Was Turner part of the conspiracy? He couldn’t be. He had less access than I did. How the Admiral expected me to find his spy was still a complete mystery.
The lift slowed, then changed direction.
I frowned. “We’re not headed for deck ten. We’re going up.”
Turner punched the stop button. The lift continued moving. He hit it again. “Stupid messed up piece of junk! Top of the line ship, ha! Nothing works right.”
I pulled a screwdriver from my pocket. “Let me at the controls.”
“And get us stuck here for the next six hours? I know how you like to abuse door controls.”
“Get out of my way, Turner.”
Turner crossed his arms. “Report me for mutiny. I dare you. I don’t want stuck in the lift with you. It’s still moving so it’s not broken. It’s just not going to deck ten. We can take the emergency ladders once it stops.”
As if on cue, the lift slid to a stop. The doors opened on a dim laboratory space with a clear dome ceiling. I craned my neck, watching stars as I exited the lift.
“Where are we?” Turner asked, staring overhead.
“Auxiliary Astronomical Observation Deck.”
We both looked to the far side of the room. A thin woman nervously chewed her fingernails. Her lips twitched in an imitation smile. “Hello, Adrian.”
“Vasha.” I greeted her. “I thought you were transferred to a planetary posting.”
She shoved a stray strand of hair behind one ear. “Captain Herring refused to sign the transfer papers.”
“Access ladders are over here.” Turner opened a hatch.
“The lift didn’t malfunction,” Vasha said. “I programmed it to bring you here. I trust you, Adrian. I need your help.”
Turner closed the hatch.
Vasha chewed her lip, watching me.
More intrigue. I hated playing games with people. I shoved the screwdriver back into my pocket. “What do you need, Vasha?”
“They’re filing charges against Captain Herring, conspiracy and piracy. He’s going to be court-martialed when we get to Starbase 89. I can’t let that happen. He doesn’t have a choice.”
I studied her face. “You know something about the mutiny or about the sabotage to the ship?”
She nodded. “Someone is trying to use the Delphi AI to control the ship.”
“They wiped the memory banks. Several times.”
Vasha flicked a glance at Turner. “They have a corrupt copy they keep installing. I don’t know who or I’d stop them. Del Brugado is holding Captain Herring’s sister and her family hostage. The captain has no choice but to do what the pirates tell him.”
“Why haven’t you told someone, like Admiral Williamson?”
Vasha shrugged. “I have no proof. Not yet. But I have a plan to help Drew, I mean the captain. I need your help.”
“How can we help? We run the kitchen.”
“I saw what you did last time, both of you. You can help.”
“Do what?” Turner asked.
Vasha pulled a data chip from her pocket. “This is the real Delphi protocol. I tweaked the programming.”
“We’re going to use it to take over the Voyager?” I couldn’t hide the skepticism in my voice. “It didn’t work last time.”
“But it did,” she corrected me. “It just took longer than I expected to fully integrate. And we aren’t taking over the Voyager. It’s too big. No, we’re going to rescue Drew’s sister and her family. You are going to help me steal the Odyssey. And Delphi is going to make it possible for us to fly it.”
I saw insanity in her eyes as she smiled. “Would you rather be shot in the mutiny that will happen tonight?”
Great. Steal a ship or get caught in the crossfire in a mutiny? Either way, my career and possibly my life were over. I accepted the lesser of the two evils.
Vasha dropped the data chip in her pocket. “Right now.”
Personal Log 2-3: Out of the Frying Pan...