Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Bold Faced Lies”
by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
At least it was something different.
Watching the small orb of energy approaching on the viewscreen, Commander Vioxx leaned back in the command chair of the Tyvek’s small bridge. The Romulan D’Mynus Class scout vessel (D’Mynus actually translated loosely as “chicken hawk,” a bird which is pretty much considered as ridiculous on Romulus as it is on Earth) was on a direct intercept course with the orb, which was the first object of any interest Vioxx and his crew had encountered since being banished out beyond the furthest reaches of the Romulan Empire where it extended into the Delta Quadrant, the opposite end of the Empire from the Federation or anything remotely exciting.
Of course, Vioxx had the lingering suspicion that was kind of the point. Despite having the child of a Senator on his bridge crew, Vioxx and the others on the Tyvek did not have the political clout to get their assignment changed. They were to map star systems until their superiors saw fit to order them home. Unfortunately, Vioxx feared this would not occur for a very, VERY long time considering the sequence of events that had led to this assignment in the first place.
The incident on Brakdel.
The incident on Molich.
The incident with the Kee’nii.
The incident during Haavix Maneuvers (At least only one thing blew up that time).
There were a few others, but Vioxx was trying to block them out.
In the meantime, there was this strange ball of energy to deal with.
“Time to intercept?” Commander Vioxx asked Sub-Lieutenant Zantak, his helm officer.
“Three minutes,” she replied curtly, her attention never wavering from her console. It’d be nice if she’d at least look him in the eye every once in a while.
“By Jenichai, still it comes!” Centurion Nortal exclaimed from the tactical console to Vioxx’s right raising her fist in the air as she spoke.
“Imagine that,” Sub-Commander Remax, the Tyvek’s chief scientist grumbled as he watched the sensor readouts. The elderly Romulan immediately dove into another one of his muttering fits concerning the ship, the crew, the state of the Empire, and that omelet he’d had for breakfast.
“Is it dangerous?” Vioxx asked, attempting to head off Remax before the muttering turned into a full-on rant.
Remax let out an annoyed huff. “The object is composed of pure energy. It’s about ten meters in diameter, and it’s coming this way. That should be all you need to know. A hundred years ago we didn’t spend time with all this analysis garbage. Something was either useful or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, you blew it up and moved on. Nothing difficult there.”
“So is it?”
“Is it what?” Remax snapped.
“I suppose we could stick it in a big jar and light the Exercise Chamber.”
“Fine then. Helm cancel intercept and resume our original heading.”
The bridge crew reflexively grabbed onto their consoles just before the Tyvek jerked roughly to port as Zantak obeyed the order without comment.
“What are you doing?” Remax demanded.
“Ignoring it,” Vioxx replied. “It’s not useful. You said so yourself. So let’s not waste the time with it.”
“Firing disruptors doesn’t take very long,” Remax groused.
“Great Jenichai!” Nortal cried suddenly, clasping her hands to her head.
Vioxx fought off a sigh as he turned to his tactical officer.
“What is it now, Centurion?”
“It follows! Does it dare risk the wrath of Nortal? I shall smite it down with my terrible lightning!”
“Thanks, but maybe later. I’ll take care of this,” Vioxx said, drawing a scoffing snort from Remax.
“This orb obviously has some kind of intelligence controlling it, so we’ll contact it and find out what it wants,” Vioxx continued, ignoring his chief scientist.
“Do you have much experience talking to lights?” Remax prodded.
“Plenty. Done it lots of times. Send out a general hail, Nortal. All known frequencies.”
“HOLD DEMON AND QUAKE AT THE SOUND OF MY VOICE!”
“Nortal, now what did we say about doing that?” Vioxx scolded. That line of Nortal’s had already gotten them attacked on more than one occasion and caused the populace of one lesser- developed world to abandon spaceflight all together during what should have been a First Contact comm.
Nortal glared back as she typed the commands to switch to a more standard hail. After a few seconds, she slammed her fist against the console in frustration. “It mocks us with its silence!”
“Power up the disruptors, but DO NOT FIRE!” Vioxx ordered. “Now put me through.”
“My powers shall carry your words far and wide.”
Vioxx smiled back weakly, then turned to the matter at hand. “Alien entity, this is Commander Vioxx. You are approaching a vessel of the Romulan Star Empire. Turn back or be destroyed.” Vioxx looked over at Remax, a smug smile crossing his angular features.
“GREAT JENICHAI!” Nortal screamed, startling Vioxx. “It comes faster!”
“Fire!” Vioxx snapped, trying not to let any hint of alarm creep into his voice.
Nortal burst forth with a wail of a battle cry as she slammed her finger down on the fire control. The Tyvek’s disruptor bank flared to life, sending a blast directly into the energy sphere rapidly overtaking them from behind. The beam was instantly absorbed.
“No effect at all?” Vioxx said in disbelief.
“Actually, it got a bit bigger,” Remax replied disgusted. “Nice work.”
“You were the one who said to blow it up.”
“And you couldn’t even pull that off.”
Vioxx ignored Remax, spinning back toward his helm officer. “Evasive maneuvers, Zantak.” The Tyvek began bucking violently as Zantak attempted to obey the order. The ship rapidly switched from one heading to the next, not making it even a kilometer before Zantak changed directions again.
Suddenly, the jostling stopped.
“We are waylaid!” Nortal said.
The viewscreen was now filled with nothing but dazzling white as the energy sphere latched onto the back end of the Tyvek.
“Everything’s fine,” Vioxx said. “This is just like I planned it.”
“Wonderful plan. I wonder why Tomalok never tried anything like it,” Remax said. “Oh yes. He had an iota of sense!”
“Can you pull us away, Zantak?” Vioxx asked.
The helm officer simply shook her head.
“Fine. Just as I thought. Engine room,” Vioxx said, slapping the comm panel on the small console beside his command chair. “Is there any damage to report?”
“No, Commander,” the voice of his engineer, Selex, replied eagerly. “But the moment there is, I assure you that I will be seeing to repairs. This ship will never perform at anything less than your highest expectations.”
“Out,” Vioxx said, closing the channel before Selex could go any further. “Nortal, polarize the hull. If that doesn’t work, electrify it.”
“I shall not fail!”
“YOU ARE NOT OF THE ONE!” a crackling voice boomed, sending Vioxx spinning around to locate the source. Remax rolled his eyes and pointed at the speaker in the bridge ceiling.
“I am my own One!” Nortal shouted back.
Vioxx quickly gestured for her to be quiet. “I’ll handle this,” he mouthed. “Alien entity,” he said firmly. “You have attacked a vessel of the Romulan Star Empire. Surrender yourself immediately or be destroyed.”
“Dine on my electric MIGHT!” Nortal cried, slamming another control on her console. The speakers erupted in several seconds of a blaring cacophony of pops, screeches, and squeals…which then abruptly stopped at the exact moment the lights went out.
Emergency power cut in a moment later, instantly followed by a hail from Selex. “Commander Vioxx, sir, I hate to be the one to tell you this, sir, but several power conduits have overloaded. The D’Mynus Class is just not constructed for this sort of thing. It’s an unfortunate design flaw, but one I will try to overcome.”
“Power. Now,” Vioxx said simply, then closed the channel again. “Status of the entity?” he asked Remax.
“How should I know?” the old man barked. “You just blasted my sensors.”
“NOT-ONES WILL BE CLEANSED BEFORE I FEED,” the crackling voice over the speakers stated.
“I think it’s fine,” Remax said.
“Cleansed?” Vioxx said. “What do you mean…” He trailed off as an area of white energy appeared in front of the viewscreen. The crackling pulses gradually took a vaguely-humanoid shape and stepped forward toward the helm. An energy-hand reached forward, touching the console, which immediately went dark as a surge of the remaining emergency power flowed into the energy-being.
Zantak stood up, her eyes flashing with anger. In an instant, the energy-being back-handed her, sending the woman flying backwards. Nortal stepped forward defiantly.
“Fear my wrath!” she said, aiming her hands at the being.
“Not with your hands!” Vioxx said.
“I will wrath my way!”
“Use a damn gun!” Vioxx snapped, pulling his own sidearm and blasting the energy being. He held down the trigger as the energy-creature absorbed his blasts, glowing brighter and brighter.
It soon became blinding, forcing Vioxx and the others to shield their eyes. He still fired, then…
Vioxx hesitantly uncovered his eyes. The bridge was dim again, but now his blast was rapidly destroying the viewscreen. The energy-creature was gone.
Almost instantly, another began to form.
“By Jenichai, we are being invaded,” Nortal reported as he watched her console. “The creatures are everywhere.”
“Selex to Commander Vioxx. I am sorry to intrude, sir, but may I know what is happening? Something is draining our core. The singularity itself is being tapped. Wait. What is that forming?”
“Shoot it!” Vioxx snapped, then closed the channel yet again just as a third energy-being began to form on the bridge. “We should go.”
“Is this part of the plan?” Remax asked sarcastically as the bridge crew backed toward the doors.
“Absolutely,” Vioxx said unconvincingly after Nortal and a still-dazed Zantak had exited. “Everything’s under control.” He followed Remax off of the bridge just as the two energy-beings there began attacking the consoles.
“Control, eh?” Remax snorted as the bridge crew surveyed the scene before them. The main corridor of the Tyvek was in chaos as members of the ship’s thirty person crew ran screaming from the energy-creatures, firing off ineffective disruptor blasts as they went.
The corridor lights flickered, went out, then finally came back on, dimmer than before.
“We have to go,” Vioxx said with complete and utter certainty.
“Flee! I will stand against the demon hordes!” Nortal announced, moving toward the nearest energy-being.
“Not now,” Vioxx said, grabbing his tactical officer by the arm and dragging her off into a side corridor. Remax and Zantak quickly followed, the elder Romulan helping Zantak along.
“Congratulations, Vioxx. I don’t believe any other Romulan commander has ever been taken out by a ball of light,” Remax said.
“We’re Romulans. We’re not going to die,” Vioxx replied. The broken body of a sub-lieutenant suddenly sailed into the corridor, landing in a crumpled heap at their feet. “Not all of us are going to die,” Vioxx corrected. “We just need a plan. We’re going to…”
Regardless of what Vioxx was planning, it became irrelevant the moment he and the other bridge officers dematerialized.
The group rematerialized moments later inside of one of the Tyvek’s shuttles, which, judging by the view out of the front of the craft, was currently heading away from the Tyvek.
Selex turned slightly in his chair at the helm. “Welcome aboard, sir. I know it’s not the Tyvek, but I have no doubt a man of your abilities will find us a new ship in no time.”
“What about the rest of the crew?” Vioxx said.
“You sound like a damn human,” Remax said gruffly. “Selex followed procedure and saved the command officers. Good lad.”
“Thank you, Sub-Commander,” Selex said beaming. “We obviously can’t return to the Empire in this shuttle, but I have the comm system standing by for a distress signal, Commander.”
“Thanks,” Vioxx muttered, sliding into the co-pilot’s seat.
“And there is a habitable world in a star system a short distance from here. Shall I change our heading?”
“Yes,” Vioxx said. He quickly composed a message to his superiors on Romulus and transmitted it toward the Empire while Selex steered the shuttle toward the aforementioned star system.
As Remax looked over Zantak to see if she was wounded and Nortal paced the rear of the shuttle, Vioxx pulled up a rear view on the shuttle monitor. The Tyvek was now completely engulfed by the growing energy-sphere. As far as he could tell, all of the ship’s lights were out.
A small flash on the surface of the sphere caught his attention.
“Faster, Selex,” Vioxx said, choking down a cry of alarm.
“This speed is recommended for…oh.” Selex noticed the energy blast heading their way.
“I must take the helm,” Zantak said, trying to get to her feet.
“Selex can handle this. He’s an expert pilot,” Vioxx said, gesturing for Zantak to remain seated.
“Actually, this is only my second flight,” Selex said. “But I appreciate the compliment, sir.”
“Pardon me, sir, but I thought I was being straight-forward.”
“Evasive! Action! Turn us!” Vioxx shouted.
“Oh! Of course. I’ll do that right now.”
The shuttle jerked violently forward, sending everyone sprawling as an emergency klaxon began to blare. Vioxx drew his weapon again, just waiting for another energy-being to begin to form.
“It looks like it was just an attack,” Selex said, crawling back into the pilot’s seat.
“What a relief,” Remax muttered.
“Shall my life’s flame be extinguished in such a place?” Nortal exclaimed.
“You can still get us to the planet, right?” Vioxx said urgently.
“Yes, Commander,” Selex said. “At this speed it will take more than a day, and the landing is going to feel a bit crashy, but I can get us there.”
“We’ll be fine. I’ve been through hundreds of these,” Vioxx said. He decided to ignore the following derisive snort from Remax as the damaged shuttle barreled toward its destination.
Sated, the entity released the powerless Tyvek and returned to its former course, a course that would take it directly through the Romulan Empire and Federation space on its way toward the One.
24 Hours Later Praetor’s Intelligence Council Meeting Center - Room G (Coffee and doughnuts are in the back)
Tenix Hanrok, Senior Advisor to the Praetor herself, stepped into the darkened briefing room and wondered if he was in the right place. Everyone present seemed to be glued to the holomonitor at the front of the room, which was currently showing some riveting static.
“Are our technical difficulties that interesting?” Hanrok asked, stepping toward his seat at the end of the table.
“These are not technical difficulties, I’m afraid, Tenix,” Supreme General Neklis, head of the Romulan military forces, replied from his place at the podium. “The image your viewing is of an object currently in the Delta Quadrant. It will enter Romulan space in less than three weeks.”
“Have it intercepted and studied,” Hanrok said curtly, not even bothering to take his seat. “If there’s nothing else, I have other business…”
“It was intercepted, Tenix,” Neklis said. “That’s how we obtained these images.”
“Ah,” Hanrok said nodding as he sat down. “That would make sense. So what’s the problem?”
“Our vessel, the Tyvek, was destroyed by the object. What remains of its crew is currently marooned on Planet KM-856c, assuming they survived the crash they were expecting to have when they sent us this information.”
“And the object is growing,” Dr. Parkrek, the Praetor’s chief scientist, added urgently from her seat. “If the data supplied from the Tyvek is correct, by the time it crosses our borders, it will dwarf a solar system.”
“Ick,” Hanrok said thoughtfully. “What if we mobilize the fleet? How soon could we intercept it?”
“The quickest we could assemble any kind of reasonably large force is two weeks, at which point they object will still be far too large,” Neklis replied.
“But if we do nothing, it will tear through the heart of the empire, destroying everything in its path, then enter Federation space. If it continues on its present heading, we could lose as many as eighteen inhabited worlds, and the Federation will lose 23, including Earth.”
“There was a time when that news would have been a good thing, but this is not that time,” Hanrok said. “We need to stop this thing and fast.”
Dr. Parkrek and Supreme General Neklis exchanged a quick glance. “We do have one idea,” Parkrek said. “As you know, several pieces of Romulan technology are currently in use on a Starfleet vessel. The Anomaly’s anti-singularity drive would allow it to reach the object in far less time. We could ask Starfleet for help.”
“We shouldn’t have to ask,” Neklis grumbled. “By rights, the Anomaly should be half ours. Without our technology, they’d be nothing. We should send a strike force immediately to intercept and take possession of the Anomaly. Then we can deal with this so-called object.”
“And just how do you plan on catching the Anomaly?” Parkrek asked with a smirk.
“No one is catching the Anomaly, but I certainly see Neklis’ point. The incident in the Neutral Zone last month could easily have been avoided if we had the control of the Anomaly that we’re entitled to.”
“With all due respect, Tenix, the Anomaly was manipulated into that situation by one of our own citizens,” Dr. Parkrek said.
“It doesn’t matter,” Hanrok replied, rising to his feet. “I’ll discuss the situation with the Praetor, but be prepared to send a coded message to our operative on Earth. We’ll need to deal with this situation as covertly and sneakily as possible while still remaining loyal to our Federation allies.”
If there was one thing that Ambassador Rorshak appreciated about San Francisco, it was that it was a walking city. At least he thought so. Some beings found the city’s hills to be far too daunting, but Rorshak didn’t find the topography to be any worse than that of his family land at the foothills of the D’teld Range on Romulus. But San Francisco proper was little more than ten kilometers by ten kilometers. Ideal for walking if one liked the urban environment, which Rorshak did.
The weather in San Francisco was also generally pleasant. A bit of rain and fog during certain times of year, but on the whole it was very habitable. Rorshak couldn’t help but appreciate the city. It had a sense of history about it from the centuries old cable car line running beside him as he made his way down Hyde Street, to Alcatraz sitting on an island in San Francisco Bay. Many of San Francisco’s landmarks had stood for centuries despite the best efforts of the region’s seismic instability to destroy them. After an earthquake, the humans would rebuild. Now, thanks to tectonic inhibitors and structural integrity fields, such problems were in the past, but the mere preservation of such history was impressive.
Too bad more beings didn’t take the time to enjoy it by actually walking through town. They were too attached to their transporters to consider a mode of conveyance that was less than instant.
Their loss. This evening the city was absolutely beautiful. From the heights of Hyde Street, Ambassador Rorshak could easily see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz as he made his way toward Fisherman’s Wharf.
Midnight had already come and gone before Rorshak had even made his way out onto the city streets. Normally, he wouldn’t be out this late, but the reception at the Aldebran Ambassador’s residence had extended far into the evening, and Rorshak had no real interest in departing early.
A century ago, he wouldn’t have had a choice. Instead he would have been forced to stay and gather information. In that time, Romulan Ambassadors were de facto espionage agents. Even now, the Romulan Embassy remained in San Francisco close to Starfleet Headquarters rather than in Paris near the United Federation of Planets Government Complex. But then many species, including the Aldebrans and the Andorians, chose to put their embassies closer to the Federation’s military arm. The Aldebrans felt more secure. The Andorians probably just like seeing the military in action. The Romulans, however, wanted information.
At least that’s the way things used to be.
Now Rorshak’s job was mostly about meetings and receptions, not that he minded. And being close to Starfleet Headquarters made him feel, as ludicrous as this sounded, that his daughter, Commander Prosak of the USS Anomaly, was not so far away.
Rorshak continued down Hyde Street, along the city’s ancient cable car line, which still operated, toward the Wharf, his calves working against the sharp grade of the road. He glanced to his left down a side street and saw a sign for Larkin Street running parallel to Hyde, a sign with always drew a chuckle from him. Once again, Rorshak wondered if the road was named for Starfleet’s exceptionally-long-lived android Admiral. He was fairly sure it wasn’t. Just one of those cosmic coincidences.
Besides, if Admiral Kristen Larkin had ever done anything to warrant having a street named after her, the Romulans would know about it. One of their operatives would even have recorded the ceremony. That was just the way of things. The main difference now would be that Rorshak would offer the Admiral the footage for her records.
Despite Romulan nature, some things did change. The Empire and the Federation now worked together. Without that relationship, the USS Anomaly that Rorshak’s daughter served on would not even exist. Its anti-singularity drive combined the best of Romulan and Federation technology to create the fastest engine configuration the galaxy had ever seen. Sure it required the help of a giant alien brain to function properly, but it did function. And his daughter was the one Romulan assigned to the Anomaly. Granted, she was wearing a Starfleet Uniform rather than one of the Romulan Military, but that was a small issue.
As she was fond of reminding him whenever he expressed disapproval of her decision to join Starfleet instead of serving the Empire directly, Spock of Vulcan had joined Starfleet against his father’s wishes as well. And his father was also an Ambassador. For someone who was supposedly trying to be less emotional, she sure sounded excited when pointing out the precedent. Rorshak smiled to himself. That was his Boogles.
His reverie was interrupted as the communicator secreted inside his insignia pin began to buzz softly. While the Romulan leadership would never admit it due to Romulan pride and all, the Starfleet innovation of commbadges had been a stroke of genius. Starfleet had since moved on to commpips, but for Rorshak, the commbadge, which for him was inside a pin he wore indicating his post as Ambassador, was quite sufficient.
“Yes,” he said distractedly after tapping the device. The Bay truly was beautiful tonight. The former island prison of Alcatraz, despite being over half a millennia old, even seemed to have its own glow as the lights positioned around the island shone on it. It always seemed odd to Rorshak that humans would ever have given their prisoners that kind of a view. How was that punishment? Mindspores. Now THAT was punishment.
“I was just checking in, Ambassador,” the voice of Dalik, Rorshak’s Security Attache replied. “I’m walking home, Dalik. I should return within the hour.”
“Very well, Ambassador. One small request. Could you pick up a loaf of bread on your way back?”
Rorshak’s blood went cold. “Bread? Sourdough?”
“Yes, Ambassador. Good evening.” The comm line clicked closed, leaving Rorshak standing stunned on the sidewalk. Sourdough bread. He hadn’t heard that request in years. It sounded innocent enough, but then that was the point. In actuality, it was a code phrase indicating that a message had been received from the Praetor’s Intelligence Council, the slightly-less infamous organization that succeeded the Tal Shiar decades earlier.
Shaking off his surprise, Rorshak continued on his course toward the Wharf, making his way toward Pier 39, which for centuries had been a major draw for tourists to the city with its collection of souvenir shops and gaudy attractions. Rorshak passed all these, instead heading toward a small 24-hour bakery near the end of the pier.
“Good evening,” the proprietor, a portly human male with a face practically obscured by a bushy blond mustache said warmly. “Well, good morning, I guess I should say. How can I help you?” He stopped for a moment, looking closer at Rorshak.
“You’re a Romulan, aren’t you?”
“The ears are a dead giveaway,” Rorshak replied flatly, stating the proper codephrase response to the proprietor’s query. “Could I have a loaf of sourdough?”
“Coming right up. I need to pull it from the back. You can wait out on the pier if you’d like. Lovely view this evening.”
“I will do that,” Rorshak said with a slight bow of his head. He exited the bakery, stepping through a small passageway out onto the side of the pier overlooking another one of San Francisco’s unique attractions, the sea lions. For some unknown reason, hordes of the large hairy sea creatures had taken a liking to the pier ages ago and now basically lived on platforms next to Pier 39 itself, spending most of their time barking loudly.
The Ambassador leaned against the rail, looking out over the resting sea lions. “I suppose you’re enjoying this,” Rorshak said softly.
“In what sense, Ambassador?” a voice replied from just below him.
“No need to hide your enthusiasm, Lerra,” Rorshak said to the sea lion lounging below. “I know you live for this cloak and dagger.”
“I’m afraid I do not understand the reference,” Lerra, the Intelligence Council operative currently inhabiting the sea lion suit. Whoever on the Council thought that disguising operatives as sea lions would be a good way to gather and distribute information must have been insane. Rorshak had to wonder if Lerra was beamed in directly or if they made her swim from somewhere.
“It’s a human expression. Never mind. Why was I summoned?”
“A situation has developed that requires your intervention.”
“Just come out with it,” Rorshak shot back, growing irritated.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to wait for your bread?” Lerra taunted. This was one of the problems with the Romulan system. If you didn’t like someone in your social caste, too bad. You were bound to run into them over and over again. Lerra certainly had enough seniority to spend her time in an office…preferably one on Romulus, but she insisted on field work. Rorshak suspected she took great pleasure in assignments that allowed her to annoy him. So he accidentally beheaded one of her dolls half a century ago. It was time for Lerra to drop the grudge and move on with her life. “We received a distress signal over ultraspace from one of our deep space vessels, the Tyvek. They were mapping systems in the Delta Quadrant when they encountered an energy-based life-form. The life-form killed most of the crew, absorbed the ship’s quantum singularity, and resumed its original heading toward our space. The entity is growing according to readings we received from a long-range sensor buoy it passed soon thereafter. If the rate continues, by the time it enters our space, it will be as large as a star system. Five of our worlds are in its current path.”
“Surely we’re sending ships.”
“At the entity’s rate of expansion, by the time our closest ships arrive, two weeks will have passed and it will be far too large for them to face. It must be intercepted within the next two days.”
“Days?” Rorshak exclaimed. “How…” He trailed off as the realization of why he was needed struck him. “You need the Anomaly.”
“Correct, Ambassador. You are to speak with Starfleet Command.”
“I will contact Admiral Larkin right away. Once she hears about the situation, I have no doubt that she will approve the mission.”
The sea lion reared up, making eye contact with Rorshak. “This is a Romulan affair, and it will be handled by Romulans. You will tell Admiral Larkin nothing beyond what is necessary. Complete instructions are inside your bread.”
On cue, the bakery proprietor stepped out from his shop carrying a bag containing Rorshak’s sourdough. “Sorry about the wait, sir,” he said with a smile and a nod of his head. “Here you go.”
Rorshak turned his back on the sea lions and stalked toward the baker, practically snatching the bag out of his hands. “Thank you,” he said flatly, then stormed off down the pier. He wasn’t happy about this turn of events, but his duty to the Empire came before all…even before his duty to his daughter.
The Romulan ambassador changed his course, heading to the nearest streetcar station. The line ran right along the pier and, unlike in its earlier days, now covered a good portion of the city. He didn’t need to go far, though, just to the Golden Gate Bridge. He read his instructions on the tram ride to the bridge transit station, from which he took the people-porter across the bay to the cluster of residential buildings there.
He knew Admiral Larkin would be awake at this hour. The android never slept, so there was no need to wait until morning to relay his government’s request. Rorshak didn’t believe he’d be able to sleep much anyway. He was about to send his daughter into a possibly-deadly situation without being able to fully warn her of the dangers ahead.
As Rorshak expected, Admiral Kristen Larkin answered her door within moments. The robe she was wearing along with her disheveled appearance caught him off-guard, though. Perhaps she had added a sleep routine to her programming.
“Ambassador,” Larkin said, her surprise program kicking in. “The hour is rather late for a visit.”
“Am I interrupting your rest?”
“I was not resting. I was…engaged in a study of human behavior.”
“Forgive me for saying this, Admiral, but you’ve been around humans for well over a century. Haven’t you learned all there is to know?”
“Humans are a wildly varied species, Ambassador. One of the two most fascinating life-forms indigenous to this world.”
“One of the two?” Rorshak asked.
“The other being penguins.
“Ah…I see,” the Romulan replied, not really understanding at all. “May I come in? I am here for rather urgent reasons.”
Larkin glanced back into her apartment. “Very well,” Larkin replied standing aside. Rorshak entered, stepping into the living room, where he found that they were not alone in the apartment. A human male clad only in boxer shorts stood awkwardly in the middle of the room.
“Um…hi,” the man said with a sheepish wave.
“My apologies for the interruption,” Rorshak replied, tossing a bemused glance at the Admiral.
“Please wait in my bedroom, Jonathan. I will not be long,” Larkin said, shoving the human with enough force to propel him through the bedroom door, which Larkin promptly closed.
“I see you take your studies seriously,” Rorshak said.
“You had business here?” Larkin replied pointedly.
“Of course. A Romulan deep space exploration crew has become marooned outside of our borders in the Delta Quadrant. My government would like the Anomaly to rescue them immediately.”
“Is the crew in danger?” Larkin asked.
“We don’t know. They were able to send a distress signal shortly before their shuttle crashed, but we know little else. By our calculations, the Anomaly could be there in approximately two days. The officers may require medical attention, so my government would like this rescue to commence as soon as possible.”
“This was a shuttle crash?” Larkin asked. “What about their primary vessel?”
“Destroyed? By what, if I may ask?”
“A storm, we believe. Our information is incomplete.”
Larkin considered the Admiral for a moment, her synthetic eyes boring into him. “And this is all the information that you possess?”
“If you are implying that I am withholding something that could endanger the Anomaly, I would remind you that my daughter is serving aboard that ship. I would never do such a thing.” Actually, that was exactly what he was doing. If Prosak died, the Praetor had better come through with a spot for him in her Cabinet.
“Of course,” Larkin said. “I did not intend to suggest that anything was amiss. I simply want my people to have as much information as possible.”
Rorshak handed her a data chip. “This contains the coordinates of the planet where our people are.”
“I will clear the mission with my superiors as soon as I can, Ambassador. This sort of joint cooperation is what the Anomaly was constructed for, after all.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Rorshak said as Larkin led him to the door. “I’ll leave you to your studies.”
“I appreciate that,” Larkin said. “Good night.”
“Good night.” Rorshak headed out into the night air, trying to brush aside the sense that he just doomed his daughter. He just had to trust that Boogles could handle it. Even if the “it” in question was a giant energy blob-thing with the capacity to wipe out entire star systems if it wasn’t stopped.
Somehow he didn’t think he would be sleeping tonight…or the next night…and quite possibly not the night after that either.
Half a galaxy away from the Tyvek (Well, not half really, but still quite a long way) and several light years away from Earth, another beautiful morning had dawned on the Federation Starship Anomaly (Okay, I guess “dawned” is really the wrong word for it. They’re on a spaceship, after all.) as it cruised toward Starbase 256 where a welcome bit of shore leave awaited the crew (Not that there was really a shore. Starbase 256 was a big hunk of metal in space) of the Anomaly (No more asides. I promise).
“You’re late, Mister!” Lieutenant Shelly Marsden’s voice called out jovially as she jogged up beside Ensign Hector Arroyo who was making his way through the corridors toward the holo-mess hall.
“For my shift or for the pancake special?” Arroyo replied, attempting to return Marsden’s good mood and failing miserably.
“Woah. Bad night?”
“That depends. When you’re out on a date, aren’t you supposed to actually speak to the person you’re with?”
“Usually,” Marsden replied. “But I may not be the one to ask considering my last boyfriend stuck a large knife in me.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t due to your conversational skills,” Arroyo said.
“True enough, but it does suggest one piece of advice. Don’t date the evil. It’s bound to end badly.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Arroyo and Marsden stepped through the doors of the holo-mess hall and found themselves in a dark, smoky cavern lit only by eerie green flames burning from torches of gnarled wood wedged into cracks in the cave wall. Off to the right, the holo-chef, who had taken the form of a bulbous tentacled slime-covered monstrosity, stood surrounded by black metal cauldrons full of boiling thick liquids cooking over other green flames.
“Um…this does not look like Pancake Day,” Marsden said.
“Doochuuk kruudek!” the holo-chef barked, wagging an angry tentacle in their direction.
“I’m guessing that either means ‘May I take your order?’ or ‘Prepare to be disemboweled,’” Arroyo remarked.
“Actually neither,” the lone diner in the holo-mess replied. Seated on a rock outcropping, the Anomaly’s First Officer, Commander Prosak, cradled a bowl of viscous liquid in her hands.
“You’re a brave woman,” Marsden said, stepping over to the Romulan.
“RommaVulcs do follow the edict of Infinite Diversity,” Prosak replied before taking another spoonful of the substance before her. “However, I am starting to understand the logic of the human expression ‘Discretion is the better part of valor.’”
“What is that supposed to be anyway?” Arroyo asked, not sure that he wanted an answer.
“Oatmeal…of a sort.”
“Excuse me if I sort of pass,” Marsden said. “What is this place supposed to be anyway?”
“A cafe under the surface of Guaonok Four, according to the holo-chef. I am of the opinion that the he made it up, though. I have never heard of a Guaonok Four, and I am quite certain that I would remember a description of a place like this.”
“There are a lot of planets in the galaxy,” Arroyo said.
“Or perhaps the holo-chef wanted the morning off,” Prosak replied.
“Either way, I had my taste buds set for chocolate chip pancakes, and I am going to make my engineering staff very sorry if that’s not what I eat,” Marsden said.
“Tyrant,” Arroyo said with a slight chuckle.
“You should know. But I guess that makes you some kind of masochist for serving under me at R&D for all those years.”
“And for thinking I had anything in common with Ensign Dalina,” Arroyo said glumly.
Prosak looked at Arroyo with interest. “I was unaware that you had a romantic interest in Ensign Dalina.”
“He didn’t tell you?” Marsden mocked. “I’ll make sure he notifies you immediately next time he wants to ask someone out on a date.”
“Was I prying?” Prosak asked.
“Yes,” Marsden said.
“A little,” Arroyo added.
“I apologize. I seem to have developed an unhealthy obsession with the minutia of the crew’s lives, particularly regarding social interaction.”
“That’s called boredom, Prosak,” Marsden said. “There is a cure, though.”
“Stop observing our lives and get one of your own.”
“I will take that under advisement,” Prosak said non- commitally.
“You don’t sound too convinced,” Arroyo said.
“Despite your problems, Ensign, at least you have the opportunity for social interaction. I feel, however, that some of the crew are still wary of Romulans.”
“Hey!” Marsden protested. “We go golfing.”
“No offense, Lieutenant, but that was not the kind of social interaction I had in mind.”
Marsden grinned. “Oh ho ho. I see now. Is it that time of the decade?”
“Seven years is far less than a decade,” Prosak said stifling a hint of annoyance. “And RommaVulcs do not experience Pon Farr. We may mate whenever we so choose.”
“Lucky you,” Arroyo said.
“Not so far,” Prosak replied dejectedly. “But I am afraid we’ll have to bring this discussion to a close. Alpha Shift is to report for duty very soon.”
“I’ll just hit the repli-bank on Deck Two and grab a bagel or something,” Arroyo said.
“Do not take too long, Ensign,” Prosak said, rising from her rock and following Marsden and Arroyo out into the corridor. “Ensign Yonk is not known for his patience.”
“Come on, Prosak. Yonk’s not just going to run off and not leave anyone at the helm,” Marsden said.
“Yes, actually he will,” Arroyo said.
“It has happened before,” Prosak remarked.
“At least I don’t have to worry about that problem with Polnuc,” Marsden said, referring to her Assistant Chief Engineer. “He spends his entire shift in the Jefferies Tubes anyway.”
“He enjoys enclosed spaces?” Prosak inquired.
“Got me. As long as he’s getting his job done, which he is, I’m not going to complain about it,” Marsden replied. “All right. Off to the dilithium mines. I’ll see you two later on.”
“Bye, Shelly,” Arroyo said as Marsden headed off toward the turbolift. He turned to Prosak. “I’ll see you on the bridge, Commander.”
“Actually, if you do not mind, I will join you on your trip to the repli-bank,” Prosak replied, falling into step beside Arroyo.
“Doesn’t bother me,” Arroyo replied. The pair stepped into a turbolift, which Prosak ordered to take them to the Anomaly’s repli- bank on Deck Two, a small alcove consisting of five replicators and some tables and chairs providing a place for crewmembers to grab a quick snack or meal together without going all of the way back to their quarters or dealing with whatever mood the holo-chef happened to be in that day.
“May I pry a bit more?” Prosak asked as the turbolift ascended through the ship.
“My life’s an open book,” Arroyo said, a hint or moroseness in his voice.
The turbolift slowed to a halt and opened out onto Deck Two. Arroyo gestured for Prosak to go ahead, then followed her out of the lift toward the repli-bank.
“What did you and Ensign Dalina do during your social engagement? The enclosed environment of the Anomaly would appear to present some obstacles in the way of finding unique activities to engage in,” Prosak said as the pair headed to the replicators. She ordered a mug of tea, while Arroyo, deciding he was even hungrier than he’d initially thought, got a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich and a side of oorndels, which were basically the Betazoid version of hash browns.
Arroyo nodded. “That’s true unless you get holography involved. I actually ended up reserving the VIP dining room.”
“I was not aware that reservations were required. No one has used it in ages,” Prosak said.
“I wanted privacy. Anyway, I programmed it to look like a little cafe along the Riverwalk back home in San Antonio. It’s pretty, but also casual enough not to create too much pressure on the first date.”
Prosak considered this for a moment. “Interesting. What sort of environment did you feel would create pressure?”
“Er…a small candle-lit dining room. Crystal glasses, champagne, a string quartet. Me in a tuxedo.”
“Is that not generally considered romantic?”
“Yeah, but the trick is to know how romantic to be on the first date. I think I blew it somewhere. Either that or I’m just boring. We spent half of the night not saying anything. No connection whatsoever. I think she was just grateful to get back to her quarters.”
“Perhaps this is why marriages on Romulus continue to be based more on beneficial political alliances than love,” Prosak said.
“Does that work?” Arroyo asked.
“It seems to for some. My older sister is currently wed to a man who now may very well be the personal dry cleaner of the next Praetor due to the influence he gained by marrying into my family.”
“Hmm…maybe I should try that. My father’s part of Earth’s World Congress. That’s got to count for something.”
“It may at that,” Prosak said thoughtfully as they reentered the turbolift to ascend to the Anomaly’s bridge. “But may I make one suggestion.”
“At this point, you can make as many as you want.”
Before Prosak could elaborate, the turbolift doors opened out onto the Anomaly’s bridge…and utter chaos.
“Arroyo! Helm!” Lieutenant Commander Tovar shouted from the command chair. The Yynsian tac-ops officer had been in command of Gamma Shift and had been waiting for Prosak to relieve him when the “situation” started.
The “situation” was clearly visible on the viewscreen. Space warped in several directions at once, the stars becoming streaking spirals ahead of the Anomaly.
“What is happening?” Commander Prosak asked in alarm as Tovar vacated the command chair and Arroyo took the vacant helm.
“And where’s Yonk?” Arroyo demanded.
“He said you were late,” Tovar replied. “As for…” he pointed at the viewscreen, “…that, I have no idea. The effect began a very short time ago.”
Prosak looked around the bridge quickly. Tovar was on his way back to tac-ops. Otherwise, the science and engineering consoles were unmanned. Why did this have to happen at a shift change?
“Ensign, what is our engine status?” Prosak asked, sitting stiffly in the command chair.
“According to this, we’re in anti-sing, but we’re not going anywhere.” The viewscreen shifted to a neon purple, then white, then swirls of bluish mist. “Not forward anyway,” Arroyo added.
“Bridge to engineering,” Prosak said. “Report please.”
“I just got here, Prosak,” Lieutenant Marsden’s voice replied harshly. “But nobody seems to have a clue what the hell is going on. And I can’t find Polnuc.”
“Check with Cabral…”
“I already did. He’s not in control of anti-sing.”
“Not in control?” Prosak said, choking back her surprise. “Then how…?”
“You’ll know as soon as I do,” Marsden snapped, then abruptly closed the comm channel.
“Commander, I don’t think this is space anymore,” Arroyo said as a deep red goo flowed on the viewscreen. A giant fish-thing wearing a derby swam by, tipping its hat with its fin courteously as it did so.
“What tipped you off?” Tovar remarked.
“I don’t hear you contributing anything, Tovar,” Arroyo shot back.
“We are currently ripping through dimensions, universes, and layers of space at an uncontrolled rate. How’s that?”
“Okay. That’s a contribution,” Arroyo said. “And I’d like to follow that up by saying, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHH! WHAT!?!?!?”
In Engineering, Lieutenant Marsden watched helplessly as her beloved anti-sing drive pulsated madly, flinging the Anomaly who-knew-where (which, if she had any idea what was actually outside, would have been an even more apt description than she could have guessed).
“Devix,” she shouted at her nearby subordinate. “What about that lock-out?”
“Still locked out, ma’am,” Devix replied, tapping furiously at the console in front of her. “Nothing’s working.”
“Nothing? Come on. This is being controlled from somewhere. Trace it!”
Marsden strode toward the main status board at the rear of engineering where several more engineering officers scrambled to regain control of the equipment around them. She needed to know how this started before she could really figure out how to stop it. And to get that information, she needed the man she’d left in charge.
“Marsden to Polnuc,” she stated. As with the prior eight times she’d tried, there was no response.
“Has anybody spotted Polnuc yet?” she demanded, stepping up to the officers around the status board.
Several heads shook.
“Not since he went into the jefferies tubes,” Lieutenant J.G. Wrensk added.
Marsden’s gaze locked on the Hytellan, causing the tall, lanky being to shrink down a bit. “He’s in the tubes?”
“Um…yes…I think. At least that’s what I saw.”
“When did this happen?”
“I don’t know. Just a bit before we lost engine control. Do you think he’s scared and hiding?”
“Not unless he’s psychic. You said he left before the engine problem.”
“Oh. That is true,” Wrensk said.
“He knows something,” Marsden said, throwing up the jefferies tube hatch on the rear wall. “Give me a quadcorder,” she ordered. Wrensk rushed over to a supply locker, grabbed one of the small round devices, then tossed it to Marsden in a graceful motion. “Let me know the second anything changes here.”
“Cabral to bridge.”
“This is not a good time, I’m afraid,” Commander Prosak replied, gripping the armrests of the command chair with all of her strength as Arroyo dodged another jet of flame hurtling toward the Anomaly.
“This may be a bit obvious, but shield strength is dropping,” Tovar reported from behind her.
“Just hang on,” Arroyo said, sending the Anomaly into another banking turn. “We have to switch from this dimension soon.”
“See,” Arroyo said.
“Yes, however, pardon me for failing to see this as an improvement,” Tovar replied as pale green tentacles of energy extended toward them from the cloudy mass now in front of the ship.
“Commander, I have tracked down the point at which my connection to the anti-sing drive was severed,” Cabral said urgently. “It is in Jefferies Tube Junction C-45.”
“Tovar,” Prosak said, glancing back over her shoulder.
The Yynsian checked the sensor readouts in front of him. “I am detecting nothing.”
“So much for that,” Arroyo said.
“You miss my point. I am detecting nothing. Nothing at all. Not even the walls or ambient atmosphere in that section.”
“Some kind of shielding?” Arroyo asked.
“What did you think I just said?” Tovar replied.
“Check it out,” Prosak ordered. Tovar was already in motion, opening the jefferies tube hatch in the floor below him and sliding down into the jefferies tube system.
Who the hell had put all of this junk in HER jefferies tubes?
Lieutenant Marsden picked up the pace of her crawling a bit as she saw the enormous amount of crap cluttering the jefferies tube junction ahead of her, then came to a quick stop as she spotted Lieutenant Polnuc scurrying about checking various monitors, each of which seemed to have been scavenged from a different device and even from different alien races. The monitors and several other pieces of equipment Marsden couldn’t identify were all tied together by scrap bits of cabling, conduit, and whatever else Polnuc could find.
Polnuc himself seemed agitated. Very agitated.
“Not supposed to do this. I said straight, not sideways,” he muttered grumpily.
“Damn technology,” Marsden said, entering the junction. “Never does what you want it to do. Just what is it that you want it to do, Polnuc? And I’d think real carefully about your answer.”
“Why?” the Moglodin replied. “There’s nothing for me to be ashamed of. Thanks to my efforts, we will be free of the alien running this ship. We can run it for ourselves!”
“You were trying to find a way to bypass Cabral,” Marsden said understanding.
“Of course! Are you happy depending on him all the time?”
“He’s why anti-sing works.”
“Not for long,” Polnuc said, turning back to a jury-rigged panel. “I just have to figure out how to seal this dimensional breach.”
“I think you’ve done enough,” Marsden said, approaching his position.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Polnuc warned, quickly pulling a small green ball out of his pocket. “I found this on Metlaania, and I will use it.”
Marsden rolled her eyes. “Marsden to engineering. Beam Polnuc to the brig.”
“This is my domain, Lieutenant,” Polnuc said. “No outside interruptions.”
“Yeah, I’d hate for you to be disturbed while you’re getting us all killed,” Marsden said, grabbing onto the rungs of a short ladder leading to Polnuc’s platform. “Now get down here before I’m forced to be mean.”
Polnuc shook his head. “I really thought you’d be more receptive to this. You were in R&D. What do you think I’m doing other than research and development?”
“Look, Polnuc, I did everything I could to make anti-sing work, and I couldn’t. Cabral happening along saved this project, and as far as I know, there’s no way to make this thing work without him. Frankly, I’m okay with that.”
“And what happens the next time some species grabs him? I don’t want to get stranded again. Andromeda was quite enough.”
“And I don’t want to have to beat your face in,” Marsden snapped, grabbing onto Polnuc’s boot. Polnuc jerked quickly, kicking Marsden and causing her to lose her grip. She fell the short distance down the ladder, landing on the floor of the junction just inches from the opening to the jefferies tube descending below.
Polnuc suddenly flung the green ball at Marsden. It hit her, the impact causing it to suddenly mushroom outward. In a instant, she was encased in stringy green webbing, attaching her firmly to the deck.
“Now please stay quiet so I can think,” Polnuc said testily, turning back to his console.
“You can think in the brig,” Tovar’s voice announced. Polnuc spun around, spotting the Yynsian tac-ops officer sticking his head and arm out from the tube above the junction. Tovar’s wrist phaser extended into place a half-second later.
Polnuc quickly hit a large red button by his console.
“I’m sorry,” Tovar said angrily as he lowered himself into the junction. “I should have been more specific about the freeze part. Move again, and I shoot you.”
“Too late,” Polnuc said as several weapons barrels emerged from hidden spots among the junk cluttering the junction, all of which were trained on Tovar.
“Bloody hell!” Tovar cried, borrowing a page from Captain Bain’s profanity playbook as he dropped to the deck below moments before fourteen stun blasts converged on his former position. He landed on top of Lieutenant Marsden and immediately found himself stuck to the goo covering her.
“Hi,” Marsden said simply as Tovar struggled to extricate himself.
“Good morning,” Tovar grunted in reply, his face now nicely stuck to Marsden’s left breast. “I will warn you now that I am most likely about to be shot.”
“At least you’ll be shielding me,” Marsden replied. “How gallant.”
“I would shoot back, but my phaser seems to have become attached to your left thigh.”
“I noticed,” Marsden said.
The stun blasts never came. Instead, fairly sure that the intruders were dealt with, Polnuc returned to the dimension-shifting problem at hand.
“Tovar’s vanished,” Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell cried, looking up from the tac-ops console. “He was there, and then he wasn’t!”
“We expected that,” Commander Prosak replied, gripping the armrests of the command chair as Arroyo narrowly dodged the giant…thing that had been rolling toward them, pulsating and slobbering as it went. “I am sure he has the situation well in hand.”
Power on the bridge flickered suddenly, then the lights completely went out, returning moments later at dimmer levels.
“Engineering to bridge,” Devix’s voice called. “We’re experiencing a power drain. Everything’s being syphoned to the jefferies tubes.”
“Well…” Prosak said, looking around the bridge. “I’m sure Tovar can handle it.”
“If the power to the singularity containment field goes…”
“I get it!” Prosak snapped, slapping her hand down on the armrest to close the channel.
“Going down there?” Arroyo asked.
“Just for a moment,” Prosak said, slipping quickly out of her chair and heading to the hatch behind tac-ops. “You have the bridge, Ensign. Try to keep us out of any dimensions involving horrible, painful death.”
“Don’t worry. Evasive is starting to become my primary flying style,” Arroyo replied as Prosak lowered herself into the jefferies tubes.
“Is that your hand by my knee?” Marsden asked conversationally.
“If you are referring to my right hand and your right knee, I believe so,” Tovar replied. As ignominious as this position was, he had to admit it was at least fairly comfortable.
“Could you scratch it then? I’ve got an itch that’s driving me nuts.”
“Of course,” Tovar said, wiggling his fingernails as much as he could against Marsden’s knee.
She laughed suddenly, twitching underneath of him. “You’re tickling me!”
“Sorry,” Tovar said.
“Scratch like you mean it.”
“Do you want me to draw blood?”
“Blood stops the itch.”
“Now there’s a rather demented philosophy.”
“It works,” Marsden said. “Now rip open some skin, tough guy. Don’t be shy.”
“Considering our current predicament, shyness would be impossible.”
“True, but you’ve slipped back into being reserved, stiff-talking guy.”
“I always talk like this,” Tovar replied, unsure whether he’d just been insulted. “And this isn’t the time to start making jokes at my expense.”
“When you get aggravated, you start talking like a normal person.”
“Is it your goal in life to antagonize me?”
“You’ve done your share back to me,” Marsden said.
“Slipping into my holoprogram. The Associates’ ship.”
Tovar tried to look up at Marsden, twisting the front of her uniform as he did so. “The Associates’ ship? I was not there by choice, and, as I recall, you were by far the more annoying one.”
“Would you two be quiet?” Polnuc snapped from the platform above them. “I’m trying to sew a dimensional rift back together up here!”
“What have you done to Tovar?” Commander Prosak’s voice demanded suddenly. Polnuc looked up and saw the Romulan first officer peering down into the tube junction.
“Doesn’t anyone respect privacy anymore?” Polnuc cried, pressing the button to activate his intruder defense system again.
“I’m down here too,” Marsden called.
Prosak looked again. Sure enough, the strange webbing Tovar was sprawled upon did appear to have another person trapped underneath of it.
“And I would dodge,” Tovar said.
“Dodge what?” Prosak suddenly noticed the automated phaser barrels locking in on her position. “Holy j’duk!” she cursed, diving out of the tube.
“Watch the landing!” Marsden and Tovar screamed as Prosak hit the ground mere inches from them. She rolled slightly, her left leg hitting the edge of the webbing and becoming stuck.
“Now stay there or I shoot,” Polnuc called.
Prosak futilely pulled against the webbing holding her leg. “That doesn’t seem to be an issue.” She sighed. “I should have grabbed a phaser.”
“You came unarmed?” Tovar said in disbelief.
“I was in a hurry. I…we feared you were in danger.”
“Good guess,” Marsden muttered.
“Things could be worse. I could have landed on top of Mister Tovar,” Prosak said.
“Somehow I don’t think he would have minded,” Marsden said with a smirk.
Tovar, wisely, said nothing.
Arroyo’s fingers were starting to cramp from rapidly working the helm. “What the hell are they doing down there?” Arroyo muttered. “Here I am working like a mad fiend to keep us alive, and they’re taking the scenic tour of the jefferies tubes.”
“I am so sterilizing the hull when we get out of this,” Lt. Brazzell said from tac-ops. “Who thought up a slime dimension anyway?”
“Maybe we’re just in a giant nose or something,” Arroyo offered.
“Ewwwwwwwwww! THANKS A LOT! Now I’m going to have nightmares!”
“We’ve got to get control of anti-sing back,” Arroyo said.
“But isn’t that what Commander Prosak and Tovar are trying to do? I thought control had been rerouted to that jefferies tube junction.”
“I know. I know,” Arroyo snapped. “Too bad we can’t…” He trailed off.
“What?” Brazzell said near panic. “More slime?”
“Arroyo to Cabral,” Arroyo said suddenly.
“It’s brain slime, isn’t it?” Brazzell asked in horror.
“Can you just disinfect something?” Arroyo asked.
“Excuse me?” Dr. Natalia Kasyov’s voice asked over the comm.
“Not you, Doctor,” Arroyo said quickly. “I was trying to reach Cabral.”
“He’s very upset right now,” Kasyov replied. “Having anti-sing wrenched away from him was very traumatic.”
“I’m sure, but I think we can get it back. Can I talk to him?” Arroyo asked the science officer.
“I don’t know…”
“Please, Doctor,” Arroyo said urgently. Somebody really needed to talk to her about this overprotective streak. Cabral was a big brain. He could think for himself.
“Yes, Ensign?” Cabral’s booming voice said finally.
“Can you find the point where anti-sing control was diverted away from you?”
“I believe Lieutenant Marsden has already done that.”
“But you can’t control it yourself.”
“After the Andromeda incident, I felt it wise not to tie myself in quite as directly with the ship’s systems.”
“Oookay,” Arroyo said, thinking quickly. “But what if you bypassed the bypass.”
“I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re saying.”
“Someone intercepted the anti-sing control signals and routed them to a jefferies tube junction. Couldn’t you send your hovercam to somewhere along that path and re-splice yourself in?”
The line was quiet for a moment. “That should be possible. My direct neural link to the hovercam should be sufficient to control anti-sing.”
“Please try!” Arroyo said, looking nervously at the viewscreen, which was now filled with nothing but furiously whipping plasma streams. “And fast!”
“Already on my way.”
“This is just ridiculous,” Prosak pouted. “How could three Starfleet officers be waylaid by…”
“An insane midget!” Marsden shouted, drawing an angry glare from Polnuc.
“I was going to say ‘sticky goo’ actually, but your sentiment fits as well,” Prosak replied.
“Take off your pants,” Tovar muttered.
“What?” Prosak said, her acute hearing catching every syllable.
“None of your skin has been in contact with the webbing. Take off your pants, and you’ll be free.”
“This just gets better for you all the time, doesn’t it,” Marsden chuckled. She looked at Prosak. “He’s right though. Drop your drawers and go get Polnuc.”
Prosak frowned. “That would be the logical course of action…unfortunately.” She pulled off her boots quietly, then reminding herself that embarrassment was an illogical emotion, she slid her pants down and moved quietly toward the ladder leading to Polnuc.
“Nice legs,” Marsden said. “Not nearly as thick as mine.”
“I’ve never considered you to have thick legs,” Tovar replied.
“Well thank you, but hers are in much better shape. Look at those calves.”
“They are well-toned.”
“Better than mine.”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen your calves,” Tovar replied.
“Maybe you’ll get lucky someday.”
“Um…are we flirting?”
“It would appear that way,” Tovar said.
“Quite,” Tovar said, his eyes locked on Prosak’s legs.
Arroyo was so intent on the helm and not dying that he didn’t hear the hail the first time.
The hail came again, much louder this time, actually vibrating the chairs. “Cabral to bridge!”
“Arroyo here,” Arroyo replied, trying to restart his heart.
“My hovercam has arrived at the required conduit, and I have removed the access panel. I am ready to connect.”
“The sooner the better. I don’t think things could get any worse.”
“I assume that was meant to be supportive encouragement,” Cabral replied.
“Go Cabral go. Rah rah sis boom bah.”
“I don’t understand the meaning of your last statement.”
“Ask Doctor Kasyov to demonstrate cheerleading for you sometime,” Arroyo said. “Now please save us.”
“Commencing rescue…I hope,” Cabral said as the turbolift doors opened and Captain Bain charged out onto the bridge, hair disheveled and his uniform askew.
“Good lord!” he cried, seeing the chaos on the viewscreen. “What the devil is going on? And why didn’t someone wake me?
“Well, we were flying along and suddenly the anti-sing activated,” Brazzell said. “But it wasn’t the normal anti-sing. See we’re…”
“Arroyo,” Bain snapped.
“Someone took control of anti-sing, and we’re ripping through dimensions, sir,” Arroyo said quickly. “Commander Prosak and Tovar are tracing the source, and Cabral’s trying to take control back.”
“Thank you,” Bain said, taking position behind Arroyo, watching the viewscreen as he rested a fatherly hand on the helmsman’s shoulder. “Brilliant flying, lad.”
“Possible death is one hell of a motivator.”
Polnuc’s fingers were cramping almost as badly as Arroyo’s as he frantically tried to balance the various fields and flows flying across his monitor in an attempt to return the Anomaly to normal space.
How could this have happened? He’d planned for so long, making sure everything was perfect. His calculations all made sense. The hardware he’d scavenged was top-quality. It SHOULD work. The Anomaly should have been zipping along at Warp K without a lick of interference from the giant alien brain. A Starfleet-trained engineer, namely him, should be back in control!
Ripping blindly through dimensional barriers was not his idea of control.
“I have you now!” Prosak’s voice said suddenly as a steely grip locked onto his leg and yanked him backwards.
“NO!” Polnuc screamed, plummeting off of the platform and finding himself dangling upside down above the floor.
Prosak grunted. “You’re…heavier than I expected.”
“Put me down! We’ll all die if I don’t get back to that console. We’re doomed! Do you hear me? DOOMED!”
The wild thrum of the engines suddenly lowered to a gentle pulse.
Marsden cocked her head. “That sounds like a good thing.”
“What?” Polnuc cried. “That’s impossible.” Prosak walked him over to the webbing and slammed him firmly against it, immobilizing the Moglodin before climbing back up the ladder to the console. A small monitor, which had evidently been yanked from a Cardassian hovercar, displayed a welcome image of stars and space outside.
“We seem to have returned to normal space,” Prosak remarked.
“I fixed it! I fixed it,” Polnuc exclaimed.
Cabral’s hovercam floated into the tube junction. “I believe I fixed it,” Cabral’s voice said through the hovercam’s speakers.
“Damn,” Polnuc grumbled.
“Is everyone all right down there?” Captain Bain’s voice asked through the speaker. “Cabral’s sending his video feed up to the bridge.” Bain stopped for a moment as the hovercam surveyed the scene. “I hate to quibble about a job well-done,” Bain continued, “but why are you on top of Marsie, Tovar?”
“That would be Mister Polnuc’s doing.”
“Ah. And Prosak’s missing pants?”
“Also Polnuc,” Prosak replied, trying to step out of view of the camera.
“Right. Well, take Polnuc into custody and return to the bridge.”
“We would love to, sir,” Marsden replied. “But we’re kind of stuck.”
“Please send a security team to our location,” Tovar said.
“And pants,” Prosak added.
Bain chuckled. “Consider it done.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 177620.4. Repairs are commencing on the damage Lieutenant Polnuc caused to our anti-singularity drive relays while the lieutenant himself has been remanded to the brig. I suppose I understand his motives. Normally I’d find being at the mercy of a giant brain to be a bit off-putting myself, but this is Cabral. He’s a solid fellow, and I won’t stand for endangering this entire ship and crew to find a way to work anti-sing without him when I’m quite happy to have him running it for us. Therefore, we’re en route to Starbase 256 to turn Polnuc over to the authorities there for his just desserts.”
“Captain,” Tovar said from his post at tac-ops as Bain finished up recording his log. “We’re receiving a hail from Admiral Larkin.”
“By all means, put her on,” Bain said, standing up and straightening his uniform. The streaking starfield on the viewscreen was quickly replaced with the image of the android admiral in charge of the Explorer Project, to which the Anomaly was attached.
“Admiral! Lovely to see you,” Bain said warmly. “Nice of you to comm so quickly, but everything here is under control now.”
Admiral Kristen Larkin frowned in confusion. “Was there a problem?”
“No. No,” Bain said rapidly. “We’re right as rain. What can I do for you?”
“We have a situation…with the Romulans.”
“Treacherous bastards! We’ll give them a good what for!” Bain exclaimed.
“Not that kind of situation,” Larkin replied. “It’s a rescue mission. I’m transmitting the details now, Reginald. Time is of the essence.”
“It always is, Krissers,” Bain said. “We’ll bring those pointy-eared blokes back home. I promise!”
“I see our cultural sensitivity programs were completely wasted,” Larkin said.
“I don’t follow.”
“We’ve sent along orders from the Romulan High Command. These are to be given directly to the Tyvek’s commanding officer when you rescue their crew, and you will assist him in fulfilling those orders to the best of your ability. Good bye, Reginald,” Larkin said, cutting the channel abruptly.
“That’s what I like about her,” Bain said, returning to his command chair. “She’s a real down-to-business kind of gal. Now let’s see what trouble the Rommies have gotten themselves into this time.”
“Was there a last time?” Tovar asked.
“That’s not the point.”
“You brought it up.”
“I’ll be in my lounge,” Bain said with a hint of exasperation as he headed out the doors to Tovar’s right down the narrow corridor to the Captain’s Lounge.
“You did that on purpose,” Arroyo said to Tovar.
“Of course,” Tovar replied with a smirk.