Episode 618: Murder on the Equinox Express

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Air Date: 15 Nov 2011
Present: Kim, Maer, Terri, Andy, and Bobby

Part 2, Special Features

Tuesday, 20 Apr 2523
Durance class Equinox
En route to Persephone

Given the fact we've got an anthrax patient aboard, Arden assiduously checks the crew over for the disease and so far everyone's tests come back clear. No more cases of anthrax yet. We cross our fingers and hope for the best.

It's been four days since we've lifted off from Anvil and two days since Valerie Fleming came down sick. Sooner or later, something's bound to break the status quo and on the evening of the 20th, something does.

Valerie Fleming goes into cardiac arrest.

Kiera's on duty in med bay and she runs to Valerie's side and working quickly, revives her, restarting her heart. It's a scare but Valerie pulls through, though she remains unconscious, and it just makes us consider venting her quarters to the Black to rid it of any lingering anthrax.

21 Apr 2523
Evening, ship's time

Joshua's cooking for the passengers on the pax deck, since Kiera's on med bay duty. It's a nice meal and everyone's appreciative but after the dishes are cleared, Joshua notices that one of the other passengers, Kuo Sun-Li is sweating. Before he can do much more than ask if she's all right, she murmurs about it being hot in here and she collapses.

Joshua and Emile Grand get her up to the med bay and while they're getting her up the stairs, she starts choking and convulsing. Joshua comms ahead to warn med bay of incoming and they rush her up.

Arden and Kiera intubate Sun-Li and Joshua helps strap her down, getting her airway hooked up. Despite the work they do on her, however, Sun-Li fades …. and fades … and Kiera watches the woman's vitals slide to zero …


Kiera steps back, her experience telling her there's nothing more she can do for Sun-Li. Joshua, however, doesn't agree. Do something! No, Joshua. Sorry, but she's gone. He stares at her, incredulous. Then:

Joshua: You have the worst bedside manner ever.

Kiera mentally starts inventorying the remaining med supplies. Until she rules out anthrax as cause of death we'll have to ration the antibiotics. As she preps Kuo Sun-Li for autopsy, Emile Grand gulps and runs out, saying he's going to be sick.

Hopefully he made it to the head in time.

Joshua gives him a minute before going to find him. Yup, the man's still puking up his supper. After making sure he's going to be all right on his own, Joshua goes to Nika to tell her what happened. Meanwhile Grand goes down to the pax deck to break the news to everyone else.

Nika is floored by the news. Is it anthrax? What happened? Joshua tells her it's too early to tell but based on the symptoms, it's too early to rule out an allergic reaction in favor of anthrax. Grand is telling the others as they speak. Nika realizes that she's going to have to head off a panic and goes down to head it off at the pass.

Is it true? Is she really dead? they all ask her when she comes off the stairs.

Yes. Is she allergic to anything? Nika gently quizzed the woman's associates as to possible allergy triggers, carefully not promoting anthrax as the COD. Meanwhile Kiera comms Joshua to get Sun-Li's plate and utensils from dinner so she can test them. Joshua fetches them for her and asks if the woman had been poisoned. How's that autopsy coming?

Peachy. Get out.

The findings come back. The autopsy reveals ammonium compound in Sun-Li's throat and stomach. Kiera tests the food off the woman's dinnerware—the compound is found in her glass. Sun-Li drank her death with dinner. Kiera calls Joshua into med bay to tell him what they've found.

He tells Nika and Nika calls the crew together to tell them how it's going to be from now on.

Nika orders the crew and the passengers to eat in common with the crew on the crew deck from now on, to prevent further poisoning by the unknown assassin—we would be the ones cooking the food and it will be under our watchful eye the entire time from galley to the table. No more sending meals down the dumbwaiter where it can be tampered with en route to the table. We will escort the passengers up and down the stairs for their meals and outside of meals, the passengers will be confined to quarters for their safety. Which means the crew has to do round the clock guard duty on the pax deck. Which we will do with a firearm, sitting in the lounge. Kiera and Arden are exempt from guard duty, since they're still working around the clock keeping Valerie alive, but that still leaves the rest of the crew free to take shifts. It's the best we can do with our internal security system still offline. Of course, she tells Rina to do what she can toward fixing it, but until it's fixed, this is all we can do.

But that doesn't solve the immediate problem—we have a poisoner, a murderer, in our midst. One passenger ill and one dead, the situation cannot continue as is. Joshua suggests getting everyone into a room, delivering a verbal bombshell and having him watch for tells. Flush out the killer that way. After all, the pax don't know that Sun-Li died of poison. For all they know, it's anthrax. If the poisoner believes we know he or she is on board, it might cause a reaction that will give him or her away.

Nika gathers passengers and crew at the table in the pax lounge and Joshua 'listens' in as everyone assembles. He Hears mutterings from the passengers: suspicion, fear, hatred, blame … they're all hiding something. Joshua murmurs to Nika that they're edgy. She asks if he wants her to drop the bombshell on them or …? No. Drop it. He wants to see who flinches.

So she does.

Nika: Well. Now we know that one of you is a murderer.

The passengers all look around at each other and Joshua watches them like a hawk.

Nika: Sun-Li was not killed by an allergic reaction nor was she killed by anthrax. So …. why don't we go this route: the first person who can tell me something relevant as to why these two women have something in common that would have somebody else ready to kill them, I might be persuaded to give a good word for you when we hit Persephone.

George Ashcroft speaks up.

Ashcroft: I wasn't well liked by Sun-Li. We had a rough competitive bidding situation and I think she felt humiliated by me, so people might think there'd be hostility between us. I don’t hold anything against her but she may have thought that I did. Of course she's … not around anymore but I wanted to come clean. I mean, people here would know that we had a … we had some hostilities.
Nika: Okay. What about with Ms. Fleming?
Ashcroft: Ah. I don't have any problems with Ms. Fleming.

Joshua watches carefully, not Reading, but checking all the body cues: is he telling the truth? He can't discern any nervousness or other clues to falsehood. Ashcroft seems pretty self-contained and assured. Joshua basically gets nothing hidden off the guy.

Holden: Well, I think that somebody's trying to frame me. I don't know who.
Joshua: Why do you think that?
Holden: At one point Sun-Li and I did have a relationship but we broke it off before I started seeing Valerie. It was all on the up-and-up.

Bianca humphs.

Joshua: Bianca? Ms. Meyers? Do you have something to add to that?
Meyers: I don't think it's professional.
Joshua: Okay. That's a valid opinion.
Meyers: If I had somebody to take issue with, it would be Mr. Holden. About his conquests.

Arden speaks up.

Arden: Because it wasn't you that got conquested?
Nika: I was about to say, were you jealous or …?
Meyers: Him? (scornful laugh) No.
Nika: So which of the other two did you want?
Meyers: No, I—
Nika: You seem to have an extremely emotional response to the fact that he had relationships with both of them.
Meyers: I don't like it when people use sex to move ahead in business. I worked hard to be here through my efforts, intelligence, and my hard work. And I don't like to see sex being what gets you promoted.
Nika: And you think that's what he's done.

Meyers shrugs but it's pretty clear that's what the woman's thinking.

Meyers: And it's not just him. (looks at Mercier) He tried something with me. That fool.

Oh. Ew.

Joshua: So, Mr. Mercier. Is that true?
Mercier: I can't help it if women find me irresistible. I'm very fine.
Joshua: (bland) It's a nice hat.

Around the table the crew sounds off.

Kiera: Ew.
Arden: Anything's possible.
Rina: (chokes)

It rolls off Mercier's back like water off a duck. If anything, the guy looks even more smug and he tips back in his chair.

Mercier: You know, all of this …. ? (motions at the group) I think that yeah, there's probably some tension goin' around in there about this kinda stuff, but that's the way things work. Women are attracted to power. Right?
Rina: Oh, please—.

Nika quells her with a look.

Nika: I have enough of my own that I don't worry about it.
Mercier: Yeah, but who are you interested in? Probably not some schlub off the turnip truck. No, a Captain or some sort of fancy-pants person like that, right? Not an inferior, right? (off her look) See? It's just the truth. You can try to knock biology but that's just the way it is. I can't help it.
Nika: I didn't know likin' guys in uniform was biological but okay—(shrugs).
Mercier: Yeah, cuz they represent power.
Nika: (wry smile) No.
Mercier: Sure they do.

No. It's not a matter up for debate. That much is clear in Nika's expression. Kiera steps into the silence that follows.

Kiera: So, did Valerie have power over somebody's ability to rise up in the company?
Mercier: Valerie?
Nika: Besides Ms. Meyers, as we've already ascertained.
Kiera: Right. Who was she standing in the way of?
Mercier: Oh, I dunno …

Emile Grand clears his throat.

Grand: It was a harassment suit.
Nika: From whom against whom?
Grand: I don't know if it reached the stage of a suit or if it was accusations but I believe that Valerie did… She said she had things on certain members of this group.
Kiera: Like whom?
Grand: Well, I would assume … (looks pointedly at Ashcroft) …. He had already confessed to wrongdoing.
Nika: Hm. See, that's the easy way out.
Grand: Is it?
Nika: Cuz … well, let's see. Mr. Ashcroft's confession there might be some tension between—
Grand: He didn't say he committed any crime.
Nika: Exactly. So what in the world would she be holding over his head?
Holden: Well … I don't know. (to Ashcroft) Did she know about your past?

Ashcroft blanches a little. Which, on a dark skinned guy, is considerable.

Ashcroft: What do you mean by 'past'? I didn't do anything wrong.
Holden: No. I'm sure you were highly decorated … in the war.
Kiera: Ooh. Alliance or Browncoat?
Rina: Does it matter?
Joshua: Yes.
Holden:Actually, he was an Alliance officer, an Intelligence officer.
Arden: Isn't that a contradiction in terms?
Rina: Shut up.

Rina looks ready to rip Arden's tongue out.

Nika: Stop.
Mercier: (laughs) See, that's the kinda guy I like! Why do we have to be so formal?

Ashcroft comes clean.

Ashcroft: Yes. I was an Intelligence officer in the war. I conducted interrogations. We used techniques that some people may find offensive. But all that is in my public record and it's nothing I need to hide.
Nika: Thank you. Mr. Holden? How did you come by that information?
Holden: Let's just say that there is more than one intelligence group.
Rina: V'seriozni?
Kiera: There's more than one intelligence group. Now I'm really curious. (feral grin) Keep talkin'. It's getting' so much more fun.
Holden: I don't think I should talk much more about this. It's not for my personal safety. It's information that's best not … Captain? I can talk to you privately about it if you wish.
Nika: We'll come back to that in a moment. Why wouldn't Ms. Fleming feel that was something to hold over Mr. Ashcroft's head? Because his actions 15 years ago aren't exactly relevant to this time and place.
Holden: Really? A former torturer in a time of war?
Nika: And she's going to turn him in to who? The Alliance? Exactly where do you think that's going to get her?
Kiera: Other than getting him arrested.
Nika: What do you think that she would think that was going to get her? Because quite frankly, I was on the other side of things and I couldn't care less.
Holden: Some people care about these things but no, I don't think she would have turned him in to anybody.
Nika: Well then that would not be something to hold over his head.

Kiera sits back and addresses the table.

Kiera: Why would you make Valerie sick and why would Sun-Li—why would you kill her? Why those two?
Nika: Who worked closest with Sun-Li?

Grand and Fleming. While the rest of the crew tries to find a connection, Joshua pulls Arden aside.

Joshua: How common is this poison?
Arden: With the right chemical know-how, it's not that uncommon at all.

Great. Since most of our passengers have worked in a scientific background at some point in their careers, that information isn't all that helpful. Behind them, the questioning continues.

Kiera: What's Sun-Li's background?
Holden: She's a neurochemist.
Kiera: No. More history.
Nika: Mr. Grand, what exactly was Sun-Li working on?
Grand: She was working on the toxicity on certain GMO plant crops. To make sure there weren’t any neurotoxins. There was some concern that they might pose a danger to young people.
Kiera: Did she find anything that would stop the release of them?
Grand: You mean, stop the release of the neurotoxins?
Kiera: No, stop the release of the crops. Are they on the market yet?
Holden: I don’t think that they were released. Captain, maybe we should talk. Before you pursue this line any further.
Nika: All right.

Nika excuses herself and leaving Joshua to continue questioning the rest of the passengers, she takes Holden upstairs to the crew lounge and pulls out a chair. They sit.

Holden: You said you were on the other side in the war?
Nika: Yeah.
Holden: I'm on the other side right now.
Nika: And?
Holden: The reason I went to Harvest in the first place was that there as some evidence that the Alliance was developing some genetically modified … crop killers, basically. Plants that would destroy the food plants of the Rim and the Border.
Nika: Bloody hell.
Holden: We believed that Valerie was one of the key developers of this.
Nika: Did you poison—did you make her sick?
Holden: I didn't. No. I wouldn't want to. I mean, she's—
Nika: That's a complete fabrication, considering what you just said to me.
Holden: Let me tell you, her intelligence is more valuable than her life right now.
Nika: Okay, that I might buy.
Holden: I mean, I had to pretend to be interested in her in order to … facilitate this, um, liaison. Yeah. Not so easy. Nika: Such a hardship to sleep with a beautiful woman.
Holden: I don't know what you believe about people but some of us patriots can't just separate what somebody's done. I'm a guy but I can't just turn off the fact that she … She's not a killer, she's just a … a drone.
Nika: She's a book scientist.
Holden: And a knowing participant but one who obeys orders and doesn't think twice about it.
Nika: All right. Well that brings us back around to someone's gotten sick and someone's deliberately made her ill. If it's not you and frankly, based on what you've told me, you have the prime motivation here to make her sick and get her out of her research if she's already broken through and done what they want her to—
Holden: That does seem the case. I admit that it is somewhat …


Nika: However, that brings us to the ties between her and Sun-Li, which would be the next logical step to go to. And you as her boyfriend would have the best information available on that matter.
Holden: I don't know why the same person would want to murder them both, except that perhaps … somebody would know … (thinks) … I don't honestly know why. I mean, she was working on a similar project but hers wasn’t in the scorched-earth policy necessarily, but she was looking into the toxicity of plants. Perhaps somebody feared that if they wanted the recipe to go down without anybody knowing how to turn it off, they might think she might have shared that information with someone. I don’t know if there's an Alliance agent in there. I'm not saying it's Ashcroft—because the war was twelve years ago—but if someone else on board is, or is just a sympathizer …. Or it could be something else.

Speaking of something else …

Nika: What's Meyers's real issue with you? Is it really because you were sleeping with both of those women?
Holden: I don't think so. I don't think that’s why she hates me.
Nika: Because you're a know-nothing? Or what?
Holden: (blinks) Am I a know-nothing?
Nika: I mean, she's assuming you're a know-nothing and you were sleeping your way to the top? Or is it something that she actually wants you and you turned her down at some point?
Holden: I don't think that's the issue. For my cover, I was a transfer from another department, snuck in, and was instantly given all this kind of access—you know. I think that she's understandably frustrated at the way I came in and trawling the …. (gestures: everything)
Nika: Okay. That's what I needed to know. Who sent you in?
Holden: (quietly) I don't think I can share that information. (louder) And I don't know if you'd believe me. There's people I can have you contact but you might not bel—
Nika: I can believe a dozen impossible things before breakfast, my dear. Give me a contact.

Holden pulls out a slip of paper and writes on it. Hands it over.

Holden: If you send out a wave to this address, it's part of this chain of information. It won't necessarily go directly to the person but if you have someone you trust in the Independent movement, it will get to them. I don't know who would … I find it hard to believe that there would be somebody—that it's just a coincidence there'd be two agents of different groups on the same boat.

Nika thinks back on the poison that killed Sun-Li. Ammonium compound. We have cleaning products aboard that has ammonia in them. It would be easy enough for someone with chemical or scientific knowledge to use those to make poison. And we do have people aboard who fit that description. There being nothing further to ask, she and Holden rejoin the rest of the group downstairs. Holden sits down without a word and the other passengers eye him with some understandable suspicion? What did he say? Did he accuse one of them of wrongdoing? What is he up to? Meyers, especially, doesn't look a bit reassured that nothing went on behind her back. You can see it on her face: she thinks Holden tried to hook up with the Captain.

Joshua's standing off to the side and Nika comes off the stairs and joins him. She softly asks if he got anything? No. Nothing that would point to the killer. Nika nods and steps up to the table.

Nika: For the moment, you are all confined to quarters. We will be taking meals in the crew compartment. You will be escorted to and fro. You will not leave the passenger deck, preferably you do not leave your cabins. If you do so, we will have more stringent measures put in place. At the moment I assume you are all reasonable people—possibly in fear of your own safety, so barricading yourself in your rooms might be the best option. We have a few more days before we land. I need to send a wave ahead to the Port Authority of Sun-Li's demise. (smiles) Good night.

Duly dismissed, the passengers rise by ones and twos and go back to their cabins. Some make stops at the head first. Nika waits until everyone's stowed away before she takes her crew upstairs. Joshua and Kiera briefly discuss notifying the authorities of Sun-Li's next-of-kin. The information should be on her travel papers and as XO, Joshua will take care of it.

Nika: Irina.
Rina: Ma'am.
Nika: Lock down the crew deck. So they cannot go up unless they're escorted.
Rina: Yes, ma'am.
Joshua: And is someone staying down?
Nika: For the moment we will not spread ourselves that thin.

Joshua reminds Nika that our security system is down. We can't actually activate any of the locks on our interior doors.

Nika: (to Rina) Can you rig up an alarm system at least so we can tell if anyone's coming?
Rina: Do you want me to rig up the deck plates so they'll give them a zap?
Joshua: What is it with you and zapping people?
Nika: Yes, what is it with that? (points to the deck) This is not a freakin' bug light.

And let's not forget the hatch access between decks. They aren't sealed off behind doors. How will we secure them? Rina shrugs the problem off—they're wheel-locked, she says. Run a crowbar through the wheel on our side and it's jammed against the people below. We can do the same for the far side of the cargo deck hatch off the pax deck. Once we deal with the door coming up the passenger stairs, no one on the passenger deck is going anywhere.

Nika: Mostly what I want to know is if they're walking around when they're not supposed to be. (eyes Rina) I could stick the paranoid engineer on the stairs and have her stand watch all night.
Kiera: Joshua's gonna have a lonely bed tonight.
Rina: He can keep me company.
Nika: At this point I don't know what to do.
Rina: I can spot weld a hasp to the door jamb and then we can padlock it.
Nika: Or a hook and eye.
Rina: That, too.
Joshua: I think the best option for us is to set up some sort of loose patrol on the crew deck, because that's doable. Down in the passenger deck, now that the passengers are aware that there is both a murderer and somebody who is not just out to kill Valerie—who all of them seemed to have hated, by the way—they're going to patrol themselves.
Nika: Then I'll leave that one alone and just let that take its course.
Joshua: I don't mean I want them to get killed. I mean they'll be more vigilant on themselves than we probably could.
Nika: Probably true, which is why I'll let that take its course. The thing I want to mention, Joshua …
Joshua: Ye, ma'am.
Nika: Holden seems to me to be on the up-and-up.

She pauses.

Joshua: Holden is on the up-and-up?
Nika: Well, he seems to have the best reason to anthrax Valerie.
Joshua: Wait. Back up. What?
Nika: He's fighting on the … ah, the new Independent side.
Rina: What else did he say?

Nika tells the rest of the crew what Holden told her. That Holden is an Independent agent who was working to discover what Valerie was working on.

Kiera: What was Valerie working on?
Nika: Crop killers, basically. Scorched earth. Or at least, attempting to.
Kiera: Oh. Wow. This really makes me want to call Dad.
Joshua: Do we have any idea if she was successful?
Nika: I do not and I'm not sure that Holden does either. His intimation at this point is that her intelligence and keeping an eye on her at this time was more important than getting rid of her, because someone else would have to be put on the project and they would have to infiltrate again. Killing her makes no sense on his part.
Joshua: So, let me ask the doctors a question and I may be barking up the wrong tree but if you poison somebody with anthrax, on a ship where there are two doctors, what's the likelihood that you're sure to kill her?
Kiera: But how would they know there'd be two doctors?
Nika: And she was sick before she got on board.
Joshua: I'm just trying to think about … Holden did worry about being framed. If you knew Holden was an agent and you wanted to get him out of the way without actually killing him—
Nika: Right. That. That's where I was coming from.
Joshua: So the question is, if she's working for the Alliance, you're working awful dangerous to kill her, who's working on something that's valuable.
Nika: Not necessarily.
Joshua: Unless it's another agent that doesn't know that he's another agent and—
Nika: Slow down. You're going too fast.

Joshua takes a breath.

Joshua: I can't imagine that there's an Alliance agent who wants to kill the Independent agent and not know that she has value to the Alliance.
Nika: Again, anthrax is not necessarily lethal.
Arden: It's 90% lethal.
Joshua: It's a very risky way to poison someone, to get rid of somebody, or to make them sick.
Kiera: Going with Holden being framed by somebody: Who hates him? What if it has nothing to do with what they were working on but they don't like him and they were just wiping out two people he was interested in?
Joshua: You mean we're dealing with a sociopath? Is that the question?
Nika: If Holden is to be believed, and Holden as provided me with a contact to verify his story …

She pulls out the slip of paper with Holden's contact on it and hands it to Rina. Rina glances at it, doesn't recognize it, and makes it disappear on her person.

Joshua: I don't disagree that someone could be really really pissed off at him.
Nika: You're making leaps in logic that's not—
Joshua: Following her question—what if it's not anything to do with the Independents or the Alliance, who would hate him enough to frame him? My comment on that is that there is a difference between somebody who murders out of that passion and killing two different people to frame him.
Nika: No, this is not a passionate set of murders. This is a very dispassionate set. Ashcroft would really top my list in that regard or Mr. Grand.
Arden: It doesn't have to be anyone aboard the ship. They may all have been dosed before they got on board.
Nika: There is that.
Joshua: But then there wouldn’t have been poison.

Meaning Sun-Li's cause of death.

Beglan: I've read a few mysteries in my day and one of the things we haven't considered is perhaps Ms. Kuo discovered something that would have fingered the murderer and that's why she was killed.
Nika: And that's absolutely a good point. Who was she spending time with?
Beglan: She's a neurochemist, right? Perhaps she knew something about or discovered something. They've all been together for the last few weeks.
Rina: Someone else brought up the question of why would the Feds kill someone who was working on a super secret weapon for them? One thing I can think of is, if they believe she's compromised, they would kill her to keep her knowledge safe. It would mean that they would lose her research but the other side wouldn't get it either.
Joshua: That's a fairly good point.
Nika: That still puts Ashcroft at the top of the list.
Rina: I'm not disagreeing with that. I'm just saying that as a possible motive.
Joshua: I think that's the best sort of logical chain that we've gotten so far. Framing him for her death—if you think she's compromised—it kills two birds with one stone. And Sun-Li's up being Casualty Number Two for figuring it out. So that leaves the question of : Now what?
Rina: Am I paranoid in suggesting there may be a double agent?
Nika: Well, that in theory eliminates three of the seven. Four out of the seven, because I really do think that Holden's comment on the matter is that his issue with Fleming all the way around—or rather, Meyers's issue with him—has been all the way around been the fact that his cover transferred him in over her with no real prior experience in this kind of thing. So he was brought in by an outside department by so-and-so and ….
Kiera: And she's jealous of his instant success.
Nika: Right. That kind of thing.

But is it the kind of thing someone would kill for?

Nika: Which still leaves us with Grand, Mercier and Ashcroft as suspects. Of course, if she's still angry at him for his success, framing him for murder would certainly be a viable response on her part. If she's a nut case.
Joshua: I was about to say, you can't rule out sociopathy.
Nika: Go Read him. Just go Read him.
Joshua: That's fine. I can do that.
Nika: (throwing hands wide) I'm done. Go. I can't take any more of this spy vs. spy crap. I hate spy vs. spy.
Kiera: Before you go, did Holden know anything as to how somebody gotto that little bug thing, his creation, for her? Because whoever did it put enough spores— Nika: That was something that happened before they came on board. It could have been anybody.
Kiera: But did he have any idea who could have got access?
Nika: I didn't ask him because it seems like one of those things where it could have been anybody.
Kiera: Well do you normally with strangers leave it open so that anybody could have walked into and out of your room—
Nika: It wouldn't have to be in her room. It could have been something that sat on her desk and somebody got to it there.
Kiera: That's what I'm saying. We don't know where it was.
Nika: Is it important?

Good question. At this point, is it?

Joshua: I think what we're trying to get at is too wide-spectrum to try to narrow it down. Was it post-ship? It was most likely pre-ship. And while they were lovers, they weren't married.
Nika: Oh, yeah. And he did say he couldn't stand her. He was fucking for the cause.
Joshua: Wow.
Rina: (face in hands) 'Fucking for the cause….'
Joshua: Okay, whether he was effing her for the cause or not, they still wouldn't have been in the same room all the time.
Rina: Yeah, right. Like that never happens.

Point being, Holden wouldn't have been in the room with Fleming all the time, leaving plenty of opportunities for someone else to get at the bug.

Joshua: So you want me to Read him. I'll Read him. That's fine.
Nika: I really hate this. We're making up tons of conjecture and—
Joshua: I'm on board with that. The less people I have to read, the more likely I'll come out of it with something semi-useful.
Nika: Give me one second then to think about this. (thinks) I think you should hold off on Ashcroft. For now.
Joshua: He's also the person I'm most not likely to get anything out of.
Nika: Why?
Joshua: He's an Alliance officer who was trained in interrogation techniques. You can block my Reading or make it difficult for me to Read by performing standard techniques you would normally do to prevent somebody from interrogating you.
Kiera: How would he know you were Reading him?
Joshua: It doesn't matter if he knew I was Reading him.
Nika: Like a distraction technique? 'Hey, I'm an Alliance Intelligence officer.'
Joshua: It's not just that. In order for me to get information by Reading him, that is valuable to our cause and not just a laundry list of things he's done during the day, I have to focus him. If I focus him with questions and he's guilty, he's going to start performing naturally, because that's what I would do. (points at Rina) That's what she would do. You protect yourself. That doesn't mean you can't get information out of them. I'm not saying think I shouldn't interrogate him at some point, I'm saying I'm less likely to get more information out of him than the other two. I mean, we know that he was an intelligence officer, but if one of the other two is an agent, they might have some of the same sort of training.
Nika: My thought processes on this is that Emil Grand has so far managed not to really get involved in the conversations in most of this. John Mercier, on the other hand—

Banging from the passenger stairs door interrupts her. It sounds frantic. We open it up. We find Bianca Meyers on the landing between decks, her hands bloodied.

Meyers: You've got to come quick!
Nika: What the hell …?

Arden grabs his bag and gets down to the passenger deck. The rest of us follow at his heels. Bianca leads everyone to the passenger showers, where Emil Grand is sprawled on the deck, half-in and half-out of the shower stall, bleeding from a head wound.

Nika: What the hell …?

Arden doesn't care what happened. He's too busy checking to see if Grand is still alive. He is, and Arden gets to work reviving him. Kiera helps but keeps an eye out for any bloodied fixtures, wondering if he'd slipped and knocked himself out. The two doctors refrain from moving their newest patient to med bay—not until they can ascertain if it's safe to move him.

Joshua: Okay, you're the doctor. Do what you need to do. We need to look for—(waves at the passenger head at large)—Rina? Evidence.
Nika: Ms. Meyers. What happened?
Meyers: I just came to use the bathroom. There he was.
Nika: Half in the—Laying where you found him?
Meyers: Yes. I mean, I touched his head and saw the blood.
Joshua: How long has it been since you walked or anyone walked in here? How long has he been here?
Meyers: I don’t know. I ran as fast as I could as soon as I saw him. A few minutes.
Nika: How long has it been since we left? No more than half an hour.
Joshua: Maybe he just slipped. (off Rina's look) I know, I know …

Arden and Kiera find a way to stabilize Grand's neck. They don't see any neck trauma but it's better to be safe than sorry. They get the others to help move him. It takes some doing but they get him up to med bay. On her way out the bathroom door, Kiera nails Rina with a look.

Kiera: Don't let anyone in to wash their hands or nothing.
Rina: You got it.

We don't want anyone tampering with any evidence left at the crime scene. Joshua repeats his order to search the room for evidence, especially near where Grand lay. Nika knocks on doors of the other passengers, waking them up to tell them what's happened.

It doesn't take Rina long to find the item that gave Grand his head wound. It's a wrench that got kicked into the shower stall. Moreover, it's one of hers. She pulls her bandana from her pocket and picks it up carefully, not a little upset and angry that someone had access to her tools without her knowledge. If they got to the machine shop, did they make into the engine room? If so, what else did they do besides filch one of her biggest and best wrenches? It's a pretty big wrench, being designed to brute force a hatch wheel. Hmm… Looking at it closer, Rina recognizes it as one of the wrenches installed at the hatch accesses, made exactly for forcing the hatch wheels. Huh. So … someone must have filched it from one of the access-ways when no one was looking. She checks the hatch on the passenger deck and sure enough, the one that's supposed to be there is missing. The passenger cabins closest to the hatch are Mercier's and Grand's.

Upstairs in med bay, Arden is successful in stabilizing Grand and examining his head wound, determines his head wound that was delivered by someone … or maybe he slipped and fell? Oh right, quips Nika from the doorway. He just happened to fall on one of Rina's wrenches in the shower. Then again …

Nika: Is there any possibility it was self-delivered?
Kiera: On the back of his head?
Nika: If he were trying to divert suspicion.

She's flabbergasted that Nika would even entertain such an idea. It's clear as day that the wound is in a very awkward place for it to be self-delivered and besides, who in his right mind would so such a thing to himself, anyway.

Nika: You know what? I've been around Rina for too long. It's been years. If he wanted to divert suspicion, he could have clocked himself on the head, okay?

At which point Rina laughs grimly from the behind her Captain. She holds up the bloody wrench in the handkerchief.

Nika: Where did you find the wrench?
Rina: In the shower.

Arden takes the wrench and by placing it carefully this way and that over the head wound, works out how the wrench delivered the blow. It would have been awkward but it might be possible for Grand to have hit himself.

Kiera: And the other thing is, when he hit himself in the head he threw it from where he lay into the shower?
Rina: Why in the shower? Why not throw it in the head?
Arden: I'd say it was a 96% chance it wasn't him.
Kiera: I'd say it was more like 99%, unless in a moment of clang!—(mimes falling and pitching the wrench)—as he's passing out and uhn! into the shower. It just makes no sense.

The fact that Grand is in his pajamas suggests he wasn't in the shower when he was hit but probably brushing his teeth or something like that. And as for being ambushed, it would be easy to do since none of the internal doors on the ship are capable of being locked. Anyone could have snuck up behind him and hit him. Based on the angle and location of Grand's head wound, it looks like he was in the process of turning around when he got hit sideways.

Arden: And then the wrench was thrown into the shower.
Rina: I'd've dropped it down the head. Let the water wash off the evidence.
Nika: In either case, do your fingerprint thingy on the wrench. Flour, face powder, and tape.
Rina: Graphite. I've got pencils aplenty. I'll dust it for latent prints.

It'll be a bit tricky to do. We don't have the proper tools to do side by side comparison of fingerprints but we do have a microscope and graphite and tape, hairspray and flour will do in a pinch. While it's not court-admissible evidence, we don't need a court so long as we have a Captain—a Captain's word is law aboard ship in space. Nika is court enough.

Rina leaves for her machine shop and finds some prints along with glove smudges in the blood. The only recognizable prints on the wrench are her own. The wrench is a dead end. She goes back down to the passenger deck to check the blood spatter on the floor and walls … but she's not crime scene expert. She's better at killing people than figuring out who did the killing after the fact.

In med bay, Arden and Kiera shift the body of Sun-Li out of the second bed so as to put Grand in it. After all, he's a live patient and she is a dead body. But what do to with Sun-Li's remains? Storing her in the meat locker with our food is too gruesome to consider. We decide to bleed the atmo in Valerie's room belowdecks into the Black, chilling it down and making it a cold storage locker big enough to put the body in. It will also limit traffic into and out of the room, reducing exposure to any remaining anthrax spores that might still be inside.

Meanwhile, Nika and Joshua gather the passengers together in the passenger lounge again for the second time that night. Joshua's finally fed up with this whole business and he actually berates the passengers.

Joshua: We couldn't leave you alone for thirty minutes before somebody goes off and gets himself beat over the head. Really? I'm getting frustrated. (to Ashcroft) Did you hit him on the head? (to Holden) Did you hit him on the head?

It's possible. Somebody had to do it. Of course, it couldn’t have been Sun-Li or Valerie—they're either dead or out for the count. And while it's possible Grand could have clocked himself to divert suspicion from him, we won't know for sure until he wakes up and we can question him. Perhaps Grand was attacked for the same reasons Sun-Li was—to silence him before he could tell anyone what he knows.

Joshua Reads the remaining passengers, asking them if they attacked Grand. The first person he asks that question of is Mercier. No, Mercier says. If I did it, he'd be dead. Joshua can tell Mercier suspects someone else, but he cannot discern who. Joshua asks Ashcroft the same question. No, sir. Ashcroft is steely. He's completely walled off, unreadable, and Joshua can't tell from any micro-body language if the man is lying or not. Joshua moves to Meyers and asks her the same question. He Reads her and gets something. He's sure she's innocent but he gets a weird sensation that she's …. hiding something. He Reads deeper. Images of riots, both Core-side and Rim-side, feelings of guilt and blame. Those riots have already happened, part of Meyers' past, but obviously not forgotten.

Joshua: Now we're going to start interrogating all of you about the rest of these murders and we're going to start with you, Ms. Meyers. Come with me.

Part 2, Special Features

Go back to: Contagion | Go Foward to Maskirovka
Go back to Season Six: Franc-tireurs