The officers executed their duties aboard the bridge. Commander Merriell walked from station to station to check on the status of each department. His current stop was where Zofchak and Kazarick were standing.
"Were you able to do anything with the high yield gravaton beam?" Merriell asked.
Dustin shook his head. "I've gone over it four times, Commander. The energy output would not be strong enough."
Alex began to move away. "Keep at it and see if you can come up with something." He moved over towards McKenzie, Johnson and Trinn at the tactical station and the closest science station. "Anything?"
Johnson slightly tilted her towards Merriell but didn't take her eyes from the screen. "I've been studying the energy output from the alien ship and for a split second, their shields dropped just as one of their weapons impacted our shields. This was the same time Commander Zofchak remodulated the frequency of the shields. I'm not sure what this means, but I do think it is more than coincidence."
"You're not saying that Dustin had anything to do with that?"
"No, nothing like that. Whomever we're dealing with, they knew our shields would remodulate and they take advantage of it. What that advantage could have been, I'm not sure."
In Engineering, Lieutenant Gixx kept Main Engineering in order while Commander Zofchak was away. He made sure the duty roster was up to date and that any assignments tasked for the current duty rotation were completed before the shift change. He walked into the chief engineer's office but stopped at the threshold as he realized the room was not empty.
"Lieutenant Richards?" he said to the young human male behind the desk and working intently at the computer terminal. "What are you doing here?"
Richards had flinched visibly at the sudden opening of the door. It was obvious that he was as surprised by Gixx's arrival as the Andorian was to see him in the first place.
"I'm preparing the deuterium consumption report."
Gixx shook his head. "Commander Zofchak told me to do that."
"I see," the other engineer replied. There was a slight pause where he said nothing else, instead tapping a command string into the computer terminal before rising from his seat. "I guess we have some kind of misunderstanding."
His eyes narrowing in suspicion, Gixx stepped farther into the office, the door closing behind him. "I should say so. The assignments are clearly indicated on the duty roster. I was given the task of preparing the deuterium report, and you were supposed to be on the detail replacing that port nacelle power coupling. If there has been a change in the assignments for today, I have not been informed." He was not surprised when Richards moved to block him from coming around the desk. Obviously he did not want him to see whatever was displayed on the computer terminal.
Surprise did come when the human calmly reached out and pulled Gixx's combadge from his chest.
"What the hell are you doing?" he asked. He instinctively reached to grab the communicator back, noticing for the first time that the other engineer was wearing a phaser. There was no time to ask why before Richards drew the weapon and fired.
The orange beam enveloped the Andorian and his body disappeared. Using a phaser on such a powerful setting would normally have registered with the ship's internal security sensors. Malshu remembered this fact only the moment after deciding the Andorian would have to be killed in order to preserve the security of the mission. Thankfully, it had taken little effort to encode an override to the security grid capable of blinding the sensors to his weapon's discharge. He wondered if he would have time before leaving the ship to learn why these people on storing such weapons anywhere but a designated armory.
One positive aspect of killing the Andorian was that Malshu would now be able to assume the form of the dead engineer. That at least was a less risky proposition than continuing on with his impersonation of the human. Moving so that he was not visible through the window, Malshu reached for his left wrist and tapped it. The human male's pinkish skin and dark material of his uniform vanished, replaced by the metallic exoskeleton of his mimicking shroud.
The body enveloping garment was a most favored tool of those in his profession, having proven quite useful in his past assignments. Even in its natural state, the shroud provided effective camouflage for nighttime operations, but its true value lay in its array of built in sensors and holographic emitters. When activated and used properly, they provided the shroud with the means to replicate nearly any humanoid form.
A control panel for the shroud was on his left arm. Malshu tapped a key and compact digital text began to scroll on the pad's mini display screen. He entered more commands into the panel and the emitters activated. In response to his commands, the Starfleet uniform reappeared. This time he sported white hair and blue skin along with antennae extending out from the top of his head. He then placed the stolen communicator on the left side of his chest. As far as the Alexandria's computer and internal sensors were concerned, the presence of the communicator was the same as tracking Lieutenant Gixx.