In which Geordi gets lucky, unlucky, and very lucky that there’s no HR department on this ship.
The Enterprise is delivering supplies to a subspace relay station near the Klingon border, but nobody is responding. Om fact. nobody is on the switch at all, and they left the radio on. And there’s a dog hiding in a maintenance tunnel – the only living thing left on board. I say ‘living’ because Crusher found a pile of goo that used to be a lieutenant.
Crusher has found remains of Lieutenant Aquiel Unari, and they’re cutting out the deck plate for further analysis. There’s also evidence of someone trying to tamper with the message logs and triggering a security lockout. Geordi’s going to do some further investigation, but is distracted by the dog, and a somewhat familiar strip of metal.
This relay station routs volumes of subspace messages at within an order of magnitude of a half-million messages per day. Bear in mind that this relay station is on the Klingon border, so most of that traffic is probably lateral, with only a small amount of official and civilian traffic crossing the border itself. Aquiel’s logs also indicate that she didn’t get along with the other LT, Rocha, working with her. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem like there was a clear chain of command at this outpost. Just two lieutenants. One would assume they split the shifts, but that would put them on a continuous 12-on 12-off cycle. That’s really only viable if there’s basically nothing to do and nothing can malfunction catastrophically faster than it takes to complete an… ahem… bio break. Which is therefore what we must assume. Their duties likely consist of a little regular light maintenance, requesting new parts from Starfleet, and a whole lot of reading.
Incidentally, Geordi is listening through her diary and he has the hots for the dead lieutenant, who’s been having dreams about danger and indicates that it’s probably related to some Klingon, Morag. Morag keeps coming by and locking weapons on the station. Riker also asked Crusher if the remains could have been caused by a disruptor blast, and it was, in fact possible. One thing is kind of abundantly clear – The Enterprise really is full of the best and brightest, because Aquiel didn’t hold up under pressure nearly as well as the Enterprise crew and the numerous times they’ve been nearly killed.
Picard is really good at messing with Klingons. That is all.
It seems like I’m going to be able to skip over a lot of synopsis by just repeating ‘Aquiel continued her slow descent into madness.’ To be fair, however, there was a video record of some worrying banging sound. Meanwhile, Worf and Riker have found DNA evidence of Klingon presence. I must, however, amend my prior statement. Aquiel was junior to Keith Rocha. Still, a two-person hierarchy isn’t really sufficient to delegate much.
The nearest Klingon governor arrives, at Picard’s ‘request’ and brings in Lt. Aquiel, alive and mostly well. Given that there haven’t been hostilities between the Klingons and the Federation in a while, we can assume that her bloodied condition is due to the crime scene on the station, rather than mistreatment by the Klingons. She explains her escape from Rocha, the Klingon Torag explains they they found her heading for a Klingon system, and nobody is offering explanations. She claims memory loss. Picard negotiates access to the Klingon commander Morag, and Geordi takes Aquiel out for a drink.
Geordi tells her a little about his childhood, including the fact that he learned a few languages, but then lets slip that he read her diary and personal correspondence. In his defense, he thought she was dead and he only sort of used that information in a creepy way. But he didn’t lie or try (very much) to hide the fact. Awkwardness averted, mostly.
Meanwhile, Rocha’s record is pretty great. Commendations all over, and Aquiel’s record is, by contrast, pretty muddy. Riker’s doing some investigative delecation that discovers her story doesn’t check out in some other ways. Like the phaser, set to kill, that they found in her shuttle.
Geordi is urged to keep his distance from Aquiel, and finally manages to get Rocha’s logs up, except for one deleted day’s items. Picard and company question the Klingon Morag, whose DNA was at the scene. He claims that the last time he was near the station, he received no response and beamed aboard. He denies tampering with the top secret Federation messages at first, but eventually admits to taking the messages but not to killing anyone.
Meanwhile, Geordi finds out that Aquiel hacked into Rocha’s messages and deleted a letter he was composing that would have damaged her career. They shout a bit and then Geordi, the lead computer forensics expert on a murder case for which she is a suspect, starts sucking face with her. Good job, Geordi. Way to go. There’s no way this will turn out badly.
Crusher is investigating the goo. She hits it with a medical… instrument… that appears to operate via laser, as so many of these things do, and it eventually (and surprisingly!) reconstitutes into a hand. This does not seem to be what Crusher was expecting to happen.
Oh hey, fun fact. Aquiel’s species is partially telepathic, and they focus that ability through a crystal. No way this is going to go badly! There’s no way her telepathic gift could have, say, amplified her insecurities, projected them onto Rocha and even Morag, and caused this whole mess due to improper psychological screenings for long-term isolation postings. Oh also the crystal makes sex better too.
The goo is some sort of DNA mimic algae. It is now suspected that Rocha was eaten by this goo and mimiced by it. Like The Thing. Now it’s possible that either Aquiel or Geordi are this organism. Given Geordi’s place in her bedroom having brain-sex with Aquiel, I’m going to guess it’s her. Especially since she’s making veiled referenecs to absorbing him. Riker bursts in with a phaser and separates them in the nick of time, and ships them off to a research facility, while Geordi just sits and forlornly pets the dog.
Because everyone is stupid, that’s why they didn’t send the dog. Apparently, their love of classic stories doesn’t extend to John Carpenter’s The Thing. Shameful, how people ignore the classics. I will admit to having way more anxiety over this than I should have, but I was expecting… well… practical effects rather than CGI. Geordi manages to find a phaser and vaporize it, reproducing the exact circumstances that must have happened to Aquiel and clearing her. Geordi offers to hook her up with a position that doesn’t report directly to him, but she’d rather get there on her own.