Loxton sighed, wandering down the corridor, his nose in the latest report of any unusual activity in the systems that might give him the edge of shutting down that Wallstark program. One thing is for sure, Tevalak is in serious trouble for this. The death of an officer and trying to frame him and the Vanilla or Bust establishment may have been Wallstark’s doing but Tevalak created Wallstark, there is blood on his hands!
Loxton blinked. He couldn’t look at the data anymore. He needed to relax but he knew he wouldn’t. He couldn’t afford to. Too much is at stake! Entering the turbolift, he turned and just as the doors were closing, he noticed a human man, looking to be early forties, carrying a small bag slung over his shoulder, hurrying towards the lift. In the corridor lights, the perspiration glimmered off his balding head as he wheezed and gasped his way towards him, clearly needing to get on.
“Doors open!” Loxton commanded to the computer as the man let out a grunt of relief, entering the lift.
“Oh! Thank you Lieutenant!” The man gasped as he fiddled with his bag, catching his breath.
“Not a problem, sir.”
The man smelt like an antique book that had been lying undisturbed for years on a shelf. If Loxton hadn’t known better, he could have sworn the man’s threadbare coat and trousers, which looked like they had been hand-sewn in the 21st century, were covered in a film of dust.
In the seconds it took the doors to close, leaving the man and Loxton the only two in the lift, Loxton had figured out who this man was. He’d read the messages, but didn’t respond because he had too much going on to bother with it. He had returned the book and surely this was an error. He should have responded with such but now, here he was.
“Lieutenant Nicholas Loxton, I presume?” The man said calmly, looking ahead.
“That is correct, sir.”
“I am Book Recovery Expert Norman Savage, acting on behalf of the Library of Casperia Prime. You–”
Loxton sighed heavily, cutting him off. “Mister Savage, I say this to you now, I returned the book. I do not have it in my possession, the library have made a mistake. Perhaps an error in their database.”
Savage harrumphed. “I do hope you are not telling butterflies, Lieutenant!”
Loxton frowned at Savage, not getting the reference. “I beg your pardon?”
“Lies, Lieutenant. There will be serious consequences for you if you do have the book in your possession.”
Loxton felt a little bit of irritation creeping up his spine at this officious little man. “Sir, I am not lying to you. I can only advise you salvage your wasted trip here by visiting some of the station’s amenities, I can recommend Curry Conflagration, their naan bread is made fresh daily, if you like a sweet treat, there is Vanilla or Bust. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
He turned his head upwards. “Deck 15.”
Savage eyed Loxton. “Deck 15” He echoed and the computer acknowledged.
“I’m sorry Lieutenant, but I also have work to do. You may think we Book Recovery Experts are little people compared to you Starfleet heroes but we clear up after you!”
There was a surprising bitterness in Savage’s tone. Loxton bet Savage had failed the Academy and was now toiling in a profession with little thanks. Suddenly, something occurred to Loxton.
“Wait a minute, did you say the Library of Casperia Prime?”
Savage looked down, taking a moment before responding. “No, I said the Library of Risa.”
Loxton perked a brow. Things had just taken a suspicious turn. “Halt turbolift.”
The turbolift halted and Savage became agitated as Loxton turned to him, crossing his arms.
“W-what are you doing? You…You can’t do this!”
“I have just halted the turbolift.” Loxton replied in a calm tone. “Now, which Library on Risa sent you?”
“The…Suraya Bay Library!” Savage exclaimed, nodding. Knowing now that it was right.
“Correct. It seems that a Book Recovery Expert as good as you would know who he was working for.”
“I do. Do not try and turn this around, Lieutenant Loxton. You are in very serious trouble! You have stolen a book!”
Loxton shook his head. “New destination, computer. Take us to the security office.”
Savage stared ahead, saying nothing. Ironically, Loxton read him like a book now. He’d messed up, but he was still going to play this out.
“There is no need to take me to security, Lieutenant. I can see you’re going to be quite stubborn about this!”
Loxton had been waiting for it. Ever since Savage knew he’d been rumbled, his left hand had gone in his trouser pocket, Loxton betted it was a weapon of some kind. Now the hand came out with speed and Loxton uncrossed his arms to successfully parry whatever the weapon Savage had concealed was. Savage had enough strength in him to shove Loxton against the walls of the turbolift to try and shake free of his grip.
“Give it up, Savage! You’re only making it worse!” Loxton said as the lift reached security and the doors opened. Savage pulled and pushed as Loxton took him through into the office and was quickly assisted by two security crewmen. Loxton relieved Savage of his weapon, which turned out to be a hypospray, and released him to the two crewmen to hold while he took out his interim cuffs to tie Savage’s hands. Savage started shaking oddly.
“Sir, he’s shaking and appears to be unwell.”
Loxton stopped putting on the cuffs and looked at Savage’s face as he sank to his knees. He slapped his badge.
“Medical emergency, Main security office!”
The two crewmen released their grip and that was all Savage needed to recover, shaking off the two crewmen, he barged into Loxton, knocking him over and headed for the turbolift, diving into it and then pressing the close door button as the three security officers recovered.
“Override the turbolift! divert it back here!” Loxton ordered. One of the crewman ran to a console and quickly tapped.
“Sir! Unable to override! He’s locked us out!”
“Track that lift! Where’s he heading?”
“Shuttle bay two!”
“Loxton to security teams on deck 28, intruder alert, apprehend suspect in shuttle bay two!”
A chorus of ‘Aye sir’ came back at him.
“Sir, the turbolift has reached shuttle bay two.”
“Loxton to security teams, do you have the suspect?”
“Ensign Sanders here sir, the doors opened and nobody was in the lift.”
Loxton looked at the crewman who shook his head, frowning. “I tracked that lift, sir. It didn’t make any stops between here and shuttlebay two!”
Loxton clicked his fingers. “Play back the sensor reading of the lift.”
He came over and watched the movement on the console, then frowned. “Computer, replay at time index 349. See here? The momentum slows between decks 25 and 26. What’s on those decks?”
The crewmen looked between each other. “Deck 25 is guest quarters, Deck 26 is the ball pit.”
Loxton nodded. “I believe he slowed the momentum enough to exit the turbolift between decks 25 and 26.”
“So he’s in the turboshaft?”
“He tricked us, heading for another destination. Seal off Decks 25 and 26, post security teams at every access point.”
Loxton grabbed a phaser from the locker under the desk and strode towards the turbolift.
“Sir, should we wake Commander Blake?”
“She’s probably already on her way down here. Tell her I’m dealing with it.”
“But sir! I…”
“That’s definitely an order, crewman.” Loxton said as the doors closed.
The crewmen both sighed as the doors closed.
To be continued…