This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
Will Riker stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Well?”’
“I’m open to ideas.” Geordi LaForge forced himself to look at the body of Lieutenant Maggie Van Mayter, which currently shared the same physical space as the floor. It was not a pretty sight. “Security’s got the corridor sealed off to keep the oglers away.”
“Why would anyone want to look at this?” Riker took a deep breath and shook his head. “All right. Laser cutter?”
“You want to do it?”
“I asked you first.” The First Officer tapped the floor with his foot. “Could we take this section out and haul it to Engineering?”
LaForge frowned. “Well, it still doesn’t solve the problem of getting her out of there, but it would buy us some time to come up with something. I’d want to put in new flooring anyway. Let me go between decks and make sure that ... well...”
“Understood,” Riker said quietly.
LaForge hurried over to one particular area in the center of the corridor, then inserted a toolkey into a hidden slot and pulled open a trap door. With a worried gulp he descended into the crawlspace between decks, leaving Riker alone with the body.
He studied the ceiling, the walls, the doors‑anything that kept him from looking at Van Mayter. He felt distinctly uncomfortable spending time alone with the body. “Find anything, Geordi?” he bellowed just a bit louder than necessary.
There was an odd sound coming from just beneath his feet. He started towards the crawlspace hatch, but paused as the turbolift doors around the comer hissed open. An instant later Deanna Troi appeared. “Will, I sensed that you were ... oh...” She spotted Van Mayter and turned sheet white. Wide‑eyed and with a hand rising to her mouth, she turned and raced back to the turbolift.
Riker shrugged and had just about reached the trap door when LaForge returned, looking slightly ashen and wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “Bad news,” he sighed. “The lower half of her body is imbedded in the ship infrastructure. We try to remove the floor...”
Riker shook his head. “You don’t have to go on.” Reluctantly he returned his attention to the body. “Looks like it’s the laser cutter, then. “
“Do you know how long it’s going to take to cut her away from that section?” LaForge retorted. “And we can’t just leave her there, Commander. It’s not structurally sound—who knows how this has weakened the support beams?”
“Excuse me?” Riker and LaForge turned to find an older woman standing in the passageway. “Doctor Alberta Dunn, Ship’s Pathologist. I’m here to pronounce the body dead.”
Riker moved aside and gestured toward the corpse. “Right over there.”
Dunn nodded and stepped over to where Van Mayter lay. “Yup. She’s dead, all right.” From her lab coat she produced a PADD, then knelt on the floor and checked the body’s left hand. “Not too bad. It’s a real pain when you can’t use fingerprints on the certificate, you know?”
The two men glanced uneasily at each other. “I don’t recall having ever seen you in Sickbay, Doctor Dunn,” commented Riker.
“You wouldn’t... and if you did, you wouldn’t be in any shape to know it.” Dunn pressed Van Mayter’s left index finger against the PADD. “I’m new, Commander. Doctor Crusher requested me about two months ago ... something about ‘no more autopsies’. I specialize in stiffs, you might say.” She rose to her feet and coughed. “Well, when are you going to give me something to autopsy?”
Riker stiffened. “We’ve been discussing that very subject, Doctor. Commander LaForge feels that it might take several hours to fully extricate Van Mayter from the flooring.”
“Why? Looks like a transporter accident to me—why not just beam her up and out?”
Riker and LaForge slowly turned and regarded each other. “Transporter,” Riker echoed.
“Why didn’t we think of that?” LaForge asked.
“Because you’re both too damn squeamish.” Dunn slapped her commbadge. “Dunn to O’Brien. Got a Code 45 for you to pull out. Come on down and bring a tricorder.” She shot a disdainful sniff at the two officers. “Amateurs.”
* * * * *
O’Brien arrived five minutes later and began scanning the floor around Van Mayter. “You were right, Doctor. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was a transporter accident. Of course,” he added smugly, “I’d never do anything like this.”
LaForge leaned over his shoulder. “Dammit, O’Brien, that was a human being a few hours ago. Someone who worked for me, someone I knew! Doesn’t that bother you in the least?”
“You get used to it.” O’Brien shifted position towards the body. “They have a special course in Starfleet for transporter officers. After the first few examples of transporter accidents, you can handle anything. Why, my teacher, Commander Hoffman, he told us a story about an accident on the original Enterprise, just after it had been through a refitting. There was this Vulcan and a human woman beaming up...”
“O’Brien,” Riker warned, his stomach warning him of its imminent regurgitation.
“Oh yeah,” Dunn chimed in, pointedly ignoring the first officer. “The chicken incident? I saw the holos on that one.”
“Anyway,” the transporter chief continued, “I’ve seen a lot of things in my time. This isn’t a person anymore, not really. Just an empty shell, like the Klingons believe. You develop a professional detachment.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” LaForge sighed. “When will you be ready?”
“A few more minutes. I’ve got to get readings on the body, the floor and anything it’s in contact with, so the transporter will know what to take and what to save.” He checked the tricorder, grunted in satisfaction, and rose to his feet. “You said it’s tangled up with the infrastructure, didn’t you? I’ll have to get a few readings down under.” He was through the trap door before LaForge could warn him of a surprise or two awaiting him.
Dunn, meanwhile, was standing next to Riker, appraising him carefully. “So, Commander,” she said casually.
“Been taking a few risks lately, haven’t we? Volunteering to find a first contact team on a backwater planet, flying shuttlecraft into war zones? Taking on parasitic entities?”
Riker looked away. “Part of the job, Doctor.”
“Yeah, guess so.” She checked her PADD and nodded. “You know, I served on the Exeter awhile back. They had a hotshot First Officer, always playing hero, risking his neck and all. Damn good officer, just had to prove that he had the right stuff. Pity about what happened to him.”
“Indeed,” Riker muttered, feeling increasingly uneasy.
“Yeah, shouldn’t complain, though. If he hadn’t died when he did, I wouldn’t have cleaned up in the office pool.” She gave Riker an appraising look. “I may have to revise my entry in your pool.”
Before a wide‑eyed Riker could further investigate this comment, a disgusted O’Brien emerged from the trap door. “For God’s sake, who puked down there and forgot to tell me? Gahk! “ He shook his stained right sleeve and made a twisted face. “Well, I’m off to change my uniform, then I’ll feed these readings into the transporter console and get it out of here.”
“Can’t you take care of it before changing?” Riker asked edgily.
“Why?” Dunn asked with a snort. She’s not going anywhere.”
* * * * *
“Hey, Doctor Crusher!” The Enterprise CMO turned to see Doctor Dunn wheeling a covered gurney into Sickbay. “Got some good news and some bad news for you.”
“What’s that, Alberta?”
“Well, we finally managed to get Van Mayter out of that floor—O’Brien did a great job.”
“That is good news.” Crusher moved to join her by the gurney. “What’s the bad news‑or dare I ask?”
“Well, we didn’t get her completely intact.” Dunn lifted the sheet and shook her head at the gurney’s contents. “You any good with jigsaw puzzles, Doctor? This autopsy may take a while to finish, otherwise.”