Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE
“One Track Mind”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
She rolled over again, desperately trying to find some magic position that would allow her to drift off to sleep and dream about something else, anything else.
No good. She was awake and probably would be until she made a decision.
Dr. Natalia Kasyov crawled out of bed and stepped over to her window looking out into the space around the Neptune Research Station and gazed off in the general direction of Earth.
The ship was there.
More importantly, he was there. Cabral.
Kasyov knew years earlier that she had chosen a rather specialized field. Brain research was one thing, but research on live, conscious disembodied brains was something else entirely. For one thing, there just weren’t that many of them out there.
But somehow, almost miraculously, a brain from a completely unknown species had dropped into her life. Cabral was the only example of this life form that Starfleet knew of, making him an incredibly important specimen. But who in Starfleet was qualified to handle the special biological and psychological needs of a disembodied brain? No one. Kasyov knew for a fact that there was only one person in all of the Federation with the ability to interact effectively with Cabral.
Dr. Natalia Kasyov.
Absently and still dressed in her nightshirt, she wandered down the corridor to her research lab. The room was dark except for the soft blue glow of the energy matrices that sustained the three brains Kasyov cared for.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Subject 341 asked.
“What are you doing awake?” Kasyov asked.
“I believe I just asked you the same question,” 341 replied.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“I gathered as much. You are going to leave, aren’t you?”
“Leave?” Subject 241, an excitable Orion brain, exclaimed suddenly. “No one can leave!”
“You will all be cared for,” Kasyov said soothingly, placing her hand against 241’s jar. Kasyov froze. Had she just said that? She really was going to leave, wasn’t she? She hadn’t been able to vocalize the words, much less even think the actual thought, but there it was. Quickly, her mind raced through arrangements to be made. Surely, she would miss her three brains, but they had taught her about all they could. Humans, Orions, and even Horta brains (which is what Subject 141 was) were no longer a mystery to her. Kasyov had run all the tests, heard all of their stories, and written all the papers she could. It was time to move on.
“You found another brain!” 241 shouted, his brine tank bubbling excitedly.
“Calm down, 241,” Kasyov said. “I’m just taking a different research assignment. It doesn’t mean I care for you any less.”
“We’ll miss you terribly,” 341 said.
“I’ll miss you, too,” Kasyov said. “But don’t worry. I’ll visit.”
“Who’s going to take us out to play in the synthibod?” 241 whined.
“Don’t worry,” Kasyov repeated. “It will all work out.”
“I want you to stay.”
“I’ll make you stay.”
“That’s enough, 241. Get some sleep. We all need the rest.”
Kasyov patted his tank again and headed out of the lab. For some reason, she suddenly felt exhausted. Nothing like making a life-altering decision to completely wipe out your energy.
Ensign Hector Arroyo took three steps back to take in the entire Anomaly bridge viewscreen as the Spacedock engineering crew finished the installation procedures. The last viewscreen had gotten a little scorched during the Anomaly’s run-in with the Breen on their test flight. Normally, fixing a small problem like this could take months as it worked its way through the requisition process. But with the ship on the fast track to active duty status and Captain Bain insisting that everything be “ship-shape and Bristol fashion,” whatever the hell that meant, the Spacedock crews had been working overtime through the three days since the Anomaly had returned to Earth.
“It’s crooked,” Arroyo said finally, scanning his eyes along the edges of the large curved screen that took up the entire front wall of the Anomaly’s wedge-shaped bridge.
“You’re crooked,” one of the technicians spat. Not much of a conversationalist, obviously, but the man was about twice the size of Arroyo and had an extra pair of arms, not to mention four other people there as back-up. Arroyo decided to consider his opinion. He took his seat at the helm console and looked back up at the screen.
“It’s perfect,” Arroyo said with a fake smile. “Thank you very much.”
“Glad you like it,” the lead tech muttered as he and his team packed up their gear. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.” The technicians all piled into the port turbolift just before Lieutenant Shelly Marsden, the Anomaly’s designer and unwilling chief engineer, stormed out of the starboard one with a padd in her hand.
“We got our screen, Shelly,” Arroyo said cheerfully.
“Yippee,” Mardsen replied coldly. She slapped the padd down in front of Arroyo. “Have you seen this?”
“What is it?”
“Bain’s suggestions,” Marsden grumbled. “Seems he wants to ‘spiff-up’ a couple of my designs…not to mention adjusting the color scheme on the hull and interior of the Navigator to match the Anomaly! And, worst of all, I’ve been ordered to do it!”
“He is the captain,” Arroyo said diplomatically.
“He’s a damn…shipsnatcher! I’ve had enough!” Marsden scooped up her padd and charged back towards the turbolift.
“Hold on, Shelly,” Arroyo said, jumping up to chase her. “What are you doing?”
“Getting out of this disaster,” Marsden said, stepping into the turbolifts. “Maybe they’ll let me design shuttles or something. Anything but this. Escape while you can, Hector. Before Bain destroys you, too. And by the way, screen’s crooked.”
Before Arroyo could reply, the turbolift doors closed, leaving the ensign alone on the empty bridge. With a sigh, he wandered over to the command chair and sat down. Sure, Marsden had a right to be upset. Starfleet had ripped the Anomaly right out from under her. But why blame Bain? Arroyo kind of liked him. Oh well. Shelly would come around…assuming she didn’t kill someone at the admiralty first.
Admiral Kristen Larkin looked up from her work placidly as Marsden stormed into her office and slammed a padd down on her desk.
“Lieutenant,” Larkin said flatly. “I was unaware that we had an appointment scheduled for today. Accessing.”
“We don’t,” Marsden replied. “This couldn’t wait.”
“And ‘this’ would be?” Larkin said, picking up the padd. The android had completely read its contents before Marsden could start her next sentence.
“I want a transfer!”
“I don’t think you realize the amount of trouble Captain Bain and I went through to get you out of Starfleet Special Projects. I find this request to be particularly…” Larkin scanned through her emotional database briefly, searching for just the right sentiment, “…ungrateful.”
“Grateful!” Marsden shouted. “Why the hell should I be grateful? The Anomaly …DAMN! He’s even got me doing it now!”
“You dislike the choice of names?” Larkin asked.
“You’re damn right I dislike it. With all due respect, Admiral, the Hermes prototype project was mine. If anyone should be in command of her, it’s me. I designed that ship inside and out.”
“Which is exactly why Captain Bain and I feel you are the only choice for chief engineer. Request denied.”
“Please, Admiral,” Marsden said, dropping to her knees in front of the android’s desk. “I’m begging here. Don’t do this. I can’t live as fourth in command under that man. He stole my ship, gave it that dumbass name…”
“Again, you bring up the name. What is wrong with the name? I happen to like it,” Larkin said.
“Anomaly? Do you know what that means?”
“Of course. Derivation from the common rule. Something unusual, abnormal, or irregular. The Anomaly is unique. I find the name to be quite suitable.”
“Fine,” Marsden said exasperated. “But don’t make me serve on it. Or at least make me first officer!”
“In short, no and no.”
“I’ll resign my commission!”
“We’ll bill you for the six previous prototypes that exploded,” Larkin snapped, drawing a wince from Marsden. A court-martial she could handle, but that threat would destroy her whole future.
“Could you just execute me maybe?” Marsden asked weakly. She’d lost and she knew it.
Larkin cocked her head as she considered Marsden’s request. “I’m afraid not. That would breach several Starfleet protocols. And please do not attempt suicide either. We will be forced to bring you back to life by whatever means necessary.”
“Understood,” Marsden replied, completely deflated.
“If that is all then, I believe you are expected on the Anomaly,” Larkin said, turning her attention back to her work. “If you are still feeling blue about this, I would recommend visiting one of the excellent personnel at Starfleet Counseling Services. Good day, Lieutenant.”
“Yeah, bye,” Marsden said flatly as she trudged back to her own personal hell.
“Crumpet, have you seen my mallet?” Captain Reginald Bain called as he rummaged through the closet of his study.
“Have you checked your closet?” Mrs. Bain called back from her study in the next room.
“Got it!” Bain replied triumphantly as he yanked his polo mallet out from underneath several boxes of souvenirs from his various travels.
“Where was it?” Mrs. Bain asked.
“In the closet, my dear. You’re a wonder.”
“And you don’t look hard enough before you start calling for help,” Mrs. Rosalyn Bain said from the doorway between the two rooms. She smiled, silently watching her husband for a few moments.
“I can’t go with you, you know,” she said finally. “I have too much to do here.”
“Of course, love. Wouldn’t dream of asking. Besides, I don’t want a single cadet to come out that blasted academy that hasn’t had you for tactics. It’d send the whole fleet straight to the crapper.”
“You could retire, Reg,” Rosalyn said, approaching her husband. He wrapped his arms around her as she leaned against his shoulder. “You could stay here. Tend to your flowers.”
“Drive you completely around the bend,” Bain said.
“No doubt. It’ll be good to have you out and about again. You get so restless stuck here.”
“I have my petunias,” Bain replied.
“And you can take them with you as well,” Rosalyn said firmly. “I am not taking responsibility for those buggers. Die on me every time!”
“I’ll take them. They need their daddy’s love.”
“That settles that then. Are you all packed?”
“Absolutely now that I’ve got my mallet. I’m having everything beamed up to the ship tonight, and we’ll head out first thing tomorrow morning. Give the galaxy a wake-up call to remember.”
“You have fun up there, dear.”
“I always do…have you seen my saber?”
“…closet. Yes, I know,” Bain said smiling.
Commander Prosak walked with her father along the long stretch of corridor that led to the airlock egress.
“I will miss you, Father,” Prosak said after a few quiet moments.
Ambassador Rorshak glanced down at Prosak (he was quite a few centimeters taller). “What’s that, Prosak? You will miss me? Isn’t that ‘emotion’? Isn’t that ‘ilogical’?”
“As I have tried to explain over and over, Father, I am a RommaVulc. My practices combine Romulan and Vulcan philosophy. Surely you can’t have forgotten already.”
“Well, your old father is getting on in years, jolan,” said Rorshak affectionately. “Could be worse though, I could be vulnerable to bendii syndrome! So much for Vulcan superiority, am I right?”
“Look, we have arrived at the airlock,” Prosak said dryly and gestured for her father to step through. “I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit.”
“Indeed,” said Rorshak, still giggling a bit. “Now you’re sure this is what you want to do? You are my only child. I would hate to lose you. As opposed to a Vulcan parent, who really wouldn’t care!”
Rorshak doubled over chuckling again and Prosak emitted a low sigh. “I am content to stay here, Father. This crew is a competent one, albeit somewhat strange. I feel I fit in here.”
“That certainly is true,” said Rorshak, and he took one last look around. “I’ll be quite interested in seeing what comes of this mission.” Rorshak turned on a heel and immediately slammed into someone coming through the airlock, dropping backward to the deck like a sack of plomeeks.
Prosak ran to her father’s side and knelt to help him up. She glanced at the person who’d bumped into him. “You might want to look where you are going.”
“Oh, I’m sooooo sorry!” squealed the man, a Starfleet officer with a face like a cartoon. He knelt by Prosak, thereby knocking her over again. “Let me see, have you hurt yourself sir?”
Rorshak leapt to his feet, helped Prosak up. “No, no. Just my pride. Who are you?”
“Doctor Fred Nooney,” the man said with a broad grin, extending his hand for Rorshak. “Chief Medical Officer, Therapist, Activities Director, friend and confidant.”
Rorshak glanced vaguely around the Anomaly corridor outside the airlock. “You’ll be quite busy, Doctor,” and, without shaking Nooney’s hand, Rorshak disappeared through the airlock exit.
“Well,” said Nooney. “I have a Sickbay to decorate. And you are?”
“Commander Prosak, first officer,” Prosak said absently.
“Ah, Prosak!” Nooney said, drawing a few padds out of his duffle. He shuffled through them. “Prosak…Prosak…Prosak…here we go, ooooooh! Romulan! I am SO looking forward to your physical!”
“RommaVulc,” Prosak corrected.
Nooney’s eyes widened as he paged through the padd. “Ah, here we are at that bit. All sorts of psychoses to work through with you, I imagine!” He hugged the padd to his chest, grinning sympathetically. “And how are we today?”
“We’re just dandy,” Prosak said. “Allow me to show you to Sickbay.”
Dr. Kasyov couldn’t help feeling a little guilty as she tried to keep herself from running down the Anomaly corridor leading to Science Lab Four. Subjects 141, 241, and 341 had been her life for years now. But she wasn’t having so much as a single regret about leaving. Her mind was completely absorbed with Cabral. There was just so much to learn.
She stopped in front of the science lab door to straighten up her appearance briefly. She looked like she’d been traveling for days. In fact, she’d beamed to Earth, something she didn’t normally do. While she knew long-range in-system transport was perfectly safe, it gave her the willies. She had this irrational paranoia that some rogue asteroid would float in the way of her matter stream, killing her outright. But this time, she’d beamed. She was a bit rumpled, though, due to the sheer speed with which she’d gotten ready this morning. Her clothes were the same ones she’d worn the day before, and she was carrying only a small satchel of her most vital instruments and personal items. Starfleet was sending someone to get the remainder of her belongings from the Neptune Research Station.
After running her hand through her hair one last time, Kasyov stepped into the science lab. Cabral was right where she’d last seen him. His jet black sphere sat silently in the housing of the oddly-lasagna shaped alien drive system Lieutenant Marsden had illegally installed in the Anomaly before her test flight.
“I’m back, Cabral,” Kasyov said brightly.
“Natalia!” the sphere-encased brain exclaimed. “I just knew you’d decide to join me.”
“How?” Kasyov asked. “Is your species telepathic? Clairvoyant perhaps?”
“Um…no. That’d be nice, though. I just thought you liked me.”
“I do like you,” Kasyov said. “And I want to study you, if that’s all right with you.”
“I don’t mind; although, I don’t see what’s so special. I’m just your run-of-the-mill brain.”
“Let me the judge of that,” Kasyov said, taking a seat at the
computer console in front of the sphere. She had asked for one to be installed for whoever ended up monitoring Cabral. Kasyov tapped a few quick keys, bringing up readouts of Cabral’s energy output, neural readings, and biorhythms. Where to begin? Everything with him was so new.
But then, that was why she’d accepted the assignment in the first place.
Sipping an Irish coffee during her lunch break in the Anomaly’s dining facility, Marsden scanned down a padd containing the ship’s latest crew roster. Normally, she didn’t drink syntheholic beverages on duty, but this was a special occasion. The universe had officially declared its thorough hatred of her.
A name on the roster stopped Marsden in mid pity-party. There was a small glimmer of hope after all. Natalia had decided to accept the science officer position. As soon as she arrived, they’d have to have dinner. Just chat. Something. At least Marsden now knew she had a friend on board. Sure, she and Natalia hadn’t spent all that much time together since their time at the Federation Magnet High School, but Marsden was sure they’d quickly bond again.
About that time, Kasyov herself rushed into the dining room, which today had been programmed to look like a New York deli, and headed over to the holo-chef, a hologram that today looked like an incredibly overweight denizen of Brooklyn.
“What’ll ya have, toots?” the hologram asked.
“The special,” Kasyov said distractedly.
“Nat!” Marsden called, waving at Kasyov. “Come sit down! How long have you been aboard?”
“Three hours or so,” Kasyov replied distractedly. The lunch special, a huge bratwurst sandwich with a side of bagel chips, materialized on a plate in the hand of the holo-chef, who then handed it to Kasyov.
“Can’t stay,” Kasyov said, rushing back towards the door. “Cabral’s waiting for me. We’ll talk later.” The doors closed behind her, hiding the corridor and, instead, showing a busy Manhattan street outside.
Her one friend now had brain fever. Great. Hell was complete.
Ensign Paul Jeffers ran down the list of Dr. Kasyov’s requested items as he stepped into the Brain Research Lab at the Neptune Facility. He already had a number of cargo crates out in the corridor: her holovid chips, wardrobe, knick-knacks, and one large stuffed head of some sort of white, ape-like creature.
“Good morning,” a voice said once Jeffers entered the lab.
“Don’t mind me,” Jeffers said without looking up from his item list. “I’ll keep out of your way.”
“I seriously doubt you could get into it,” the voice replied. Jeffers glanced up at the source of the voice and immediately dropped his padd.
“W-w-w-was that you?” Jeffers stammered to the large, transparent tank containing Subject 341.
“Yes, indeed,” 341 replied, the blue glow surrounding flickering in time to his words.
“Please tell me you aren’t on my list,” the ensign said, scrambling to pick up his padd off the floor.
“I seriously doubt it,” 341 said. “However, I believe Dr. Kasyov will be wanting the microprobe kit from the table behind you.”
“Right,” Jeffers said. Sure enough, the microprobe kit was on the list.
“I want to go out,” Subject 241 said suddenly drawing Jeffers attention.
“This young man does not have time to take you walkies, 241,” 341 snapped.
“Walkies?” Jeffers said. “You can walk?”
“I want to play in the synthibod,” 241 said more insistently. Jeffers looked around the room trying to figure out what the brain meant. In an alcove in the far corner of the room, connected by a series of cables to a computer terminal, was a silver-grey biped- shaped body. It had only the most rudimentary of facial features or physical definition, but it was clearly humanoid in design. Next to it, hanging on the wall, was a jumble of black netting holding a transparent aluminum sphere one foot in diameter and a small computer monitor no larger than a palm beacon.
“Put me in the pack and let me ride the synthibod,” 241 repeated.
“I don’t know…” Jeffers said.
“Please. Dr. Kasyov has left us. I just want this one thing. Bring the tank pack to me.”
“All right,” Jeffers said walking over the black netting. “Is this it?”
“Ensign, I would advise against this,” 341 said.
“Shut up!” 241 snapped. “You just want to go first. You always get to go first!”
“Give him a turn,” Jeffers said irritated. He knew 341’s type. His brother had been the same way. The second anyone wanted to play with Jeffers, his brother had stepped in to steal them away. Anything Jeffers got to do, his brother had to get to do it first. Well, no more! He was a Starfleet Officer now, and it was his duty to stand up for the little guy!
Jeffers found an sphere-shaped opening near the bottom of 241’s tank and inserted the transparent aluminum sphere. A small transporter activated, beaming 241 and a quantity of his brine solution into the sphere and sending up a cascade of bubbles through the now slightly-emptier tank.
“Put me on your back,” 241 said, his voice slightly muffled by the small speaker in the tank pack.
“But the body is right over here,” Jeffers protested.
“I could be harmed. I have to ride on your back.”
“Don’t do it, Ensign,” 341 warned.
“You stay out of this,” Jeffers snapped, scooping up the tank pack and slinging it over his back. “Are you comfy?” Jeffers asked 241 as his sphere rested in the black netting on Jeffers’ back.
“Outstanding,” 241 replied. A thin arc of neural energy zigged through the sphere, activating hidden servos inside the pack’s computer unit. Before Jeffers knew what was happening, three sharp prongs jabbed out of the unit into his spinal column, quickly sending electrical impulses of their own into the young ensign’s body.
“You are going to get into trouble,” 341 said.
“I’m willing to take that chance to get Kasyov back,” 241 replied, his words eminating from Jeffers’ mouth and in the young human’s voice. 241 had complete control of Jeffers’ body now. “Unlike some brains I know.”
“Come back before you’re damaged!” 341 demanded.
“Not this time, Wilcox. Maybe not ever!” 241/Jeffers scooped up the few items on Kasyov’s Get List and stalked off into the corridor.
“Stupid fuck,” Subject 141, the Horta brain, muttered.
“I agree,” 341 replied softly.
“And thus begins the great adventure,” Captain Bain said, standing, hands-on-hips, at the front of the bridge as the Anomaly pulled out of one of the hundreds of slots at the sprawling McKinley yards.
Marsden arrived on the bridge. “I hate to be late to the send-off, but I just received the final reports from the technical crew. Everything’s…” she almost choked on it. Bain listened expectantly. “Bristol fashion.”
“Bravo. Take your station,” Bain said, and returned to the command chair. He looked back at Tovar, who manned the sprawling tactical/operations console. “Mr. Tovar, what might our first mission be?”
“Orders received from Admiral Larkin indicate we’re to proceed to the Gravis system to study a collapsing neutron star and to put our brain interface through its paces.”
“Excellent,” Bain said. “Science Officer Kasyov will want a peek at those mission plans. Why don’t you zap those down to her? I imagine she’s deep in discussion with Mr. Cabral as we speak.”
“Yes, sir,” Tovar said.
“Where’s Prosak?” Marsden asked, as she checked the ship’s status reports on the engineering console. “Wouldn’t she want to be here for this ‘grand adventure’?”
“Great adventure,” Bain corrected, adding, “Unfortunately, Commander Prosak is under orders to go to Sickbay for her physical. We’re all on the docket for this new chap Nooney, but he requested her first, oddly enough.”
Prosak stepped through the opening door to Sickbay and concentrated all her RommaVulc training on not gasping.
Fred Nooney, M.D., sat bare naked on a biobed, swinging his legs as if he were on a swingset on a bright summer’s day.
“Perhaps I should come back at a better time,” Prosak said, once she got her voice back, and she backed toward the door.
“Nonsense!” Nooney said, springing off the biobed. He tossed down the padd he was reading and approached the uneasy Romulan. “I’ve been waiting all morning for you.”
“I see,” Prosak said, not quite knowing how to take that. “Well, I do not mind telling you that your…lack of uniform is a bit disconcerting. And not at all up to protocol.”
Nooney glanced down at his naked body, which, Prosak noted before diverting her eyes to the ceiling, was not all that impressive.
“Oh, this? Well, nudity is just one little way I’ve come up with to make my patients comfortable. I get to see you all naked, after all.”
“I see,” Prosak nodded. Infinite Diversity, she reminded herself. “That’s a very…um, interesting technique.”
“Glad you like it. I bet you’re feeling more comfortable already.”
Prosak shifted from foot to foot. “May we begin the physical, please?”
“Sure. I suspect you’ll feel quite a bit more at ease when we strip you down, huh?”
“Let’s get you on back to the examination room, where we can get away from all the distractions. An ensign came in earlier and screamed. As if she’d never seen the naked human body before! I swear, some people are so uptight!”
“You Romulans though, I’ll have to give you some credit. Such a…a FREE people! You could teach the Vulcans a thing or two.”
“As a matter of fact…”
Nooney shuffled Prosak into a small room with a bed and, Prosak gulped, stirrups. “Well, then,” he said cheerily. “Let’s get you up on the table and see what we’ve got to work with. I don’t mind telling you I’m bursting to see what you’ve got going under that uniform!”
Prosak shuddered and focused on her Vulcan mantra of “structure, logic, function, and control.” This would certainly put the stoicism portion of her RommaVulc philosophy to the test.
“Polaron drives ahead one-half,” Arroyo marked off from the helm, and added, “on our way out of the Terran system.”
“Good show, lad,” said Bain, and he swivelled in his chair 180 degrees around to face Tovar. “Commander, what is our final crew status?”
Tovar checked his panel. “We had one last beam-in from Neptune. That makes our standing crew 201.”
“201, huh?” Bain asked. “Must be one of Kasyov’s assistants, eh? Well, we’ll have Prosak straighten out the crew assignments when she gets finished with her physical. I’m in no hurry. Apparently this Nooney is a bit of a flake.”
“Then how did we get him?” Marsden asked, feeling useless at the engineering station.
“Beats the long britches off me, Shel. Far as I know, he was just assigned to us. Though I get the distinct impression Admiral Larkin is behind it.”
“What gives you that idea?”
Bain allowed a small grin. “Some of her best friends are flakes.”
Lieutenant Lara Randall, number two security officer, showed Jeffers/241 the way into Science Lab Four. “Here you go, Mr. Jeffers. Dr. Kasyov was called away, but she should be back in a minute.” She tried not to stare at the gruesome hump on the man’s back rising up underneath his lab coat. Poor guy had some sort of degenerative spinal disease, probably.
“I can wait. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to see me.”
“I’m sure,” Randall said. “Well, if you need anything, just give me a call.” Hump or no, he was somewhat cute. Randall had already been aboard an entire day and was more than ready to hit the Anomaly dating scene.
“Count on it,” Jeffers/241 said, grinning darkly as Randall left. He immediately walked over to the thrumming sphere at the back of the lab.
“Hello there,” Cabral said amiably. “Are you one of Dr. Kasyov’s assistants?”
“Of a sort,” Jeffers/241 said. “And you must be the amazing brain she keeps talking about.”
“Well, I don’t know about ‘amazing,’” said Cabral. “I’m just a regular guy searching for love. You know how that is?”
“Not really,” Jeffers/241 said toothily. “I’ve found my love.”
“Lucky for you,” Cabral said. “What’s this lucky lady like?”
“A little less than two meters high. Tall, dark-haired, with lovely sparkling green eyes and milky-white skin. Sound like anyone you know?”
“Just…” Cabral said, and paused. “Well, I see. You are speaking of Dr. Kasyov, then?”
“You got it,” Jeffers/241 said, perusing the science panel in front of the thrumming sphere. “She’s quite the woman.”
“Yes, she is,” agreed Cabral.
“And you can never have her.” Ah, found it!
And Jeffers/241 shut the sphere off.
“Allrighty,” Bain said, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s get on with this mission. Mr. Arroyo, have Cabral divert temporary power to the anti-sing engines and we’ll jump to the Gravis system in style!”
“Aye, sir,” Arroyo said, and tapped at his panel. A displeased beep was the only response he got. “Captain…” Arroyo turned in his chair. “Cabral’s off-line.”
Bain blinked. “You’re kidding. Bain to Kasyov.”
“Kasyov here,” came the rushed reply.
“Are you with the brain, Doctor?”
“Not at the moment. I’m on my way to my quarters, actually. Someone paged me that I had an urgent message coming in from Neptune Station.”
“That was me,” Tovar said. “Indeed you do.”
“We’ll take care of the message,” Bain said, “you just see to Cabral. We can’t risk him shutting down this early in the mission. I’d like to be able to run those blasted anti-sing engines without blowing us clear back to Charing Cross.”
“Shutting down?” Kasyov asked, but before Bain could fill her in further she closed the channel with a “bleep!”
“That woman is serious about her brains,” Bain deduced, and glanced at Tovar. “Commander, why don’t you play that message now. Decode on Captain’s prerogative.”
Kasyov raced for Science Lab Four. En route, she found Lt. Randall walking in the opposite direction.
“Hello, Doctor,” said Randall. “Your assistant just arrived. I escorted him to the lab for you.”
“Assistant?” Kasyov asked. “I didn’t ask for any assistant!”
“Damn,” Randall said, activating a tiny control on her watch-sized wrist phaser. “I thought he was too cute to be a science guy. No offense.”
“None taken,” Kasyov said, as Randal led the way jogging back to the science lab.
“I’ve been on hold for ten minutes,” the twinkling brain of Subject 341, a.k.a. Dean Wilcox, said on the Anomaly’s viewscreen. “And worse, your muzak is horrible. Who ever heard of the Tarellian Plague Quartet?”
Bain shifted in his chair comfortably. “Sorry about that, chum. What can I do for you? I assume you’re calling to speak with Dr. Kasyov, but she’s busy with a bit of brain trouble at the moment…”
“Then she’s already met up with him?” 341 asked urgently.
“Met up with who? Cabral? Yes, they’re on quite good terms.”
“No, no, you dolt! I’m talking about 241! The Orion brain! In a Starfleet Ensign’s body! He’s going to try to destroy your ship!”
A bleep echoed throughout the bridge. “Randall to bridge. I’ve got major trouble down here!”
“That would be him,” 341 mumbled.
Bain leaned forward in the command chair. “Would someone please say something sensible?”
“I believe the viewscreen is crooked,” Tovar mentioned.
“Sensible, but we’ll deal with it later. Tovar, you and Marsden go down to the lab. Find out what’s what and get it contained, double-quick!”
“It’s not crooked!” Arroyo shouted.
Kasyov and Randall stood, shocked, at the door to Science Lab Four. Randall had her wrist phaser aimed at the ensign standing beside Cabral, but Jeffers/241 had his own wrist phaser, and had it pointed at the spherical alien brain.
“Why don’t you just step inside?” Jeffers/241 suggested, and Kasyov and Randall grudgingly took a few steps forward to allow the doors to close.
“I’d recognize that demanding tone anywhere,” Kasyov said. “Not to mention that rather big hump. 241…did you take someone’s mind over again?” She said it quite scoldingly.
“Guilty as charged,” 241 grinned. “Least I could do to reunite with an old friend, don’t you think?”
“You’re unhinged,” Kasyov said. “Let me remove you from that body and get you back in a tank. We can talk about this rationally.”
“The time for that is at an end!” Jeffers/241 snapped. “I want you for my very own, Natalia. I won’t share you now, not with any other brains, and certainly not with this ship’s crew. Are we clear?”
“What are you planning?” Randall demanded, as Tovar and Marsden burst through the door, wrist phasers at the ready.
“Nothing short of the total destruction of this vessel,” said Jeffers/241. “That is, unless you comply with my demands.”
“Which are?” asked Tovar, leveling his own phaser at the possessed ensign.
“Release Kasyov to me and let us leave this ship.”
“We can’t do that,” said Marsden. “Kasyov is a member of our crew now. Besides that, she’s my friend.”
“Which would you prefer? To lose your friend or lose the whole ship and all its crew?”
“He has a point,” Kasyov said. “You have to do as he says. I’ll be fine.”
Marsden stared at Jeffers/241, but spared a glance at Kasyov. “You can’t just leave me here, Nat!”
Kasyov turned on Marsden. “Why does everything always have to be about you?”
“I’m just saying…”
“ENOUGH!” shouted Jeffers/241 in a voice louder than the human alone could provide. “I’ve used this sphere’s interface to flood this ship’s engine core with verteron radiation. The verterons will dissipate in four hours, but if you try to engage the polaron or warp engines before then, the thing will explode! Additionally, I locked down all egress hatches with my own personal access code, so don’t think of sending another raceabout after me!”
“That is all well and good, but there are three of us and only one of you,” Tovar said. “Even if you manage to kill one of us, the other two will take you down.”
“Kill us!” Marsden and Randell exclaimed.
“I’ll kill Natalia!” Jeffers/241 insisted, turning his phaser on the doctor.
“No you won’t,” Kasyov said irritated.
“And even if you did, the remaining three of us would take you out,” Tovar said.
“Would you stop trying to get us killed?” Marsden snapped.
“I am merely following procedure,” Tovar said.
During the bickering, Jeffers/241 suddenly grabbed Kasyov and pulled her behind Cabral’s dormant sphere.
“Come out of there right now!” Tovar demanded.
“You’ll never take me alive, copper!”
“Now you’re just being stupid,” Kasyov said.
“Stupid? Stupid! Is this stupid?” Holding Kasyov in front of him as a shield, Jeffers/241 ducked out from behind the sphere and fired three quick shots…which missed everyone in the room. In a panic, Tovar fired back. His blast reflected off Cabral’s sphere and slammed into Randall’s chest, sending the lieutenant slumping to the deck.
Cackling wildly, Jeffers/241 ducked back behind the sphere. “One down, two to go!” he said triumphantly.
“Oh come on!” Tovar replied. “You can’t take credit for that. I shot her fair and square. Are you listening to me?”
Jeffers/241 wasn’t listening. Instead, still keeping an iron grip on Kasyov’s arm, he wedged himself between the wall and Cabral’s sphere and started to push, pumping adrenaline into Jeffers’ hijacked body as he worked. Gradually, he forced Cabral’s sphere to the edge of the small depression holding it in the lasagna drive base.
“I don’t think he cares, Tovar,” Marsden said.
“He’s just being difficult,” Tovar groused just as Cabral’s sphere toppled off of its base and barreled right toward him and Marsden. Marsden dove out of the way as Tovar locked his stance to stop the incoming threat.
It rolled right over him.
“Two down,” Jeffers/241 said, pulling Kasyov toward the door of the science lab. “Unless you want to be three, I suggest you call your captain and tell him to stay out of my way!”
“Fine. Just don’t hurt Nat,” Marsden said, holding her hands up.
“I’m sorry I didn’t stay for lunch earlier,” Kasyov said apologetically. “I’m feeling really guilty about being taken hostage like this.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Marsden said. “Once this is over, though, you owe me lunch. I am not staying on this moving torture chamber alone.”
“Absolutely. Chinese okay?”
“How about Greek?”
“I can deal with that,” Kasyov said thoughtfully. “Tomorrow afternoon good?”
“Sounds great. I’ll see you then.” Jeffers/241 yanked Kasyov out the door and out into the corridor. “Bye, Shelly!”
“Bye!” Marsden waved, then quickly tapped her comm-pip.
“Arroyo, I do believe Tovar is right. The screen is a tad cock-eyed,” Bain said, after long moments of staring at the viewscreen.
“If you say so, sir,” Arroyo said.
“See what you can do about it, chum.”
Arroyo sighed. “Yes, sir.”
Suddenly the comm system bleeped. “Marsden to bridge. The intruder is an ensign taken over by one of Dr. Kasyov’s former brains.”
“Damned mess,” Bain muttered.
“No kidding. He’s got Dr. Kasyov and is on his way to a shuttlebay to leave the ship. He’s rigged the engines to explode if we go to warp, and locked down all the shuttlebay and airlock hatches.”
“Thorough fellow, too,” Bain said. “Can you send a security team to ambush them?”
“That’s Tovar’s department, sir. You’ll have to wait for his bones to knit, though.”
“That’s my boy. Never turns away from danger,” Bain said. “So what do you suggest we do?”
“I have an…unorthodox suggestion.”
“I thought you might! Excellent! Proceed as you wish, then!”
Kasyov sat with her arms folded in the right-side chair of the raceabout Caspian. They’d had the choice of that or the Titicaca, but Jeffers/241 was adamant they take a ship with a more courageous name, oddly enough.
The doctor wasn’t exactly happy about having her arms folded, but she couldn’t do much about it, as Jeffers/241 had strapped her in that way with a tight restraining field.
“You can’t expect us to spend our whole future like this, 241,” Kasyov said, trying to remember back on her discussions with the Orion brain. “How am I supposed to cook you dinner and help you get your smuggling operation off its feet?”
“If I untie you, you’ll bolt. But you won’t be so resistant forever,” Jeffers/241 replied, adjusting course on the raceabout’s navigation panel. “I have a friend in the Sargossa belt that can remove your brain and tinker with it a bit until you’re more receptive to helping me. Just think. Once we get you detachable, you and I can swim together in a briny bath, discussing the events of the day and eating…what is it you fed us?”
Kasyov shuddered. “Crab bisque.”
“Ah, yes, crab bisque! That’ll be tasty. And you will enjoy it. Or I will have my friend chop pieces of your brain away until you do!”
“This isn’t very romantic, 241,” Kasyov muttered.
“A snip here and there and you’ll think it’s QUITE romantic,” Jeffers/241 chuckled. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
Kasyov felt helpless and confused. “I don’t know.”
“That’s the spirit!”
“I just don’t think I can do that, Marsie,” Bain said, leaning back in his command chair, his face clouded.
“I told you it was unorthodox,” Marsden’s voice replied. She was currently still in Science Lab Four supervising the placement of Cabral back on his base.
“But just sitting here for four hours? It seems so…inactive.”
“That’s all I can offer, sir,” Marsden replied. That was the truth, too. For a nano-second, she had considered telling Bain just to send the ship into warp anyway. Sure, Natalia would be trapped with an insane brain and everyone else would be dead, but her suffering would end. She just couldn’t do it, though. The Anomaly was still her baby, even if Bain had taken her over and stuck her with that stupid name. The least she could do was make sure Bain didn’t cause any more harm to her than absolutely necessary.
“I guess we wait then,” Bain said. “Bridge out.” He looked forward at the stars sitting motionless on the viewscreen. “Arroyo, I thought I asked you to straighten that viewscreen.”
“You did, sir. But then the action started.”
“Quite right. No matter then. We’ve got lots of time now. See about fixing that thing,” Bain said.
Arroyo grudgingly climbed out of his chair and walked up to the large screen. Maybe if he just tugged on it for a while, Bain would think it was straight. As Arroyo started pulling, the turbolift opened allowing Dr. Nooney to enter the bridge. He immediately stopped and surveyed the viewscreen.
“Oh, I like it!” Nooney exclaimed. “Very avant-garde.”
“It’s not that crooked!” Arroyo shouted, giving the screen another huge tug. The entire assembly shifted, knocking him to the deck.
“Perfect!” Bain exclaimed happily. “You’re a man of many talents.”
“Thank you, sir,” Arroyo muttered.
“I liked it better the other way,” Nooney said thoughtfully.
“I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced,” Bain said, rising up out of his chair to greet his Chief Medical Officer. “Reggie Bain.” He shook Nooney’s hand firmly.
“Careful, Captain!” Nooney cried, pulling his hand back. “I need this hand for my work.”
“Right you are,” Bain replied, a little confused. The doctor certainly didn’t seem to be the rough and tumble sort, but he came highly recommended. “What can I do for you?”
“You’re all due for a physical. All of you!” Nooney said, pointing individually at Bain, Arroyo, and the officers filling in at tactical/ops, science, and engineering/environmental.
“It will be quite an experience, I assure you,” Commander Prosak said stepping up from behind Nooney. Apparently she’d been in the turbolift as well.
“You all right there, Prosak?” Bain asked.
“I think so. I’m trying to decide whether to feel violated or not.”
“I was extra thorough on her,” Nooney said proudly. “I’ve never had a chance to examine a real live Romulan before. Oh, and Tovar is recovering nicely. I had to put him back together just like a big man-shaped puzzle, but he’s as good as new. I gave him my personal attention.”
“Er…capital,” Bain said hesitantly.
“Okey-dokey then,” Nooney said, heading back into the turbolift. “I’ll be expecting to see each and every one of you for your physicals. Bye-bye now.” The doors closed, sending the doctor back to the sickbay from whence he came.
“You sure you’re tip-top?” Bain asked Prosak, who had taken up her usual position standing behind Bain’s chair. It still felt odd to him to have a Romulan that close to him who wasn’t attempting to jab a knife between his shoulder blades.
“I hope so, sir,” Prosak said, forcing a smile.
“I’ll see to it as soon as we sort out this Kasyov mess. We’ll go get pissed.”
“I fail to see how getting angry will help.”
“Don’t go all Vulcan on me now, Prosak, old girl. Pissed. Drunk.”
“Oh!” Prosak said, brightening considerably. “I’ve still got a couple of bottles from my Academy supplies stashed away. Count me in!”
“Me too,” Arroyo said, plopping back into his chair at the helm. He looked up at the screen. It was perfectly straight now, just as Bain said. Now all he had to do was survive his physical.
Marsden looked over the programming on the science console in front of Cabral’s sphere and moaned in disgust.
“Devix, who the hell programmed this?”
“I couldn’t tell you, ma’am,” Ensign Devix, one of the engineering crew brought over from the Anomaly’s initial test flight, said. Devix and another engineer were currently using anti- grav units to carefully maneuver Cabral’s sphere back onto its base. “The Spacedock crews did all of this in an awful hurry.”
“Awful is right,” Marsden spat. “Who leaves the ‘off’ switch right out in the open like this? You don’t need a clearance code or anything. The incompetance!”
“Well, at least you found out about it early?” Devix said helpfully.
“Early may still be too late for Nat,” Marsden muttered as she set about rewriting the console’s programming.
“Sargossa Belt approach in two minutes,” said Jeffers/241, studying the navigational information on the control screen on the Caspian. “Then it’ll be a quick 20 minutes of sub-light before we reach my friend’s planet. Do you like Orion food?”
Kasyov swallowed back bile, which fairly closely approximated Orion food. “Uh, no, not really.”
Jeffers/241 withdrew a padd and made a few notes on it. “Have to remember that. Get her to like Orion food. Boy, this will really start to cost me. Hope I have enough in savings.”
Kasyov gulped. “Can I see the list?”
Jeffers/241 nodded. “Sure.” He held it up for her to read.
Her mouth fell agape. “Drop the I.Q. by fifty points!”
“I don’t like my women too smart.”
Kasyov continued to read. “BREAST WORK?”
“Well, my friend has a side business, I just thought, while he was working on you…”
That was the last straw. Kasyov turned to glare at Jeffers/241. “This has gone far enough!”
“No, actually we have a couple parsecs left to go,” replied the possessed ensign.
“I mean this kidnapping. It’s over,” said Kasyov. She mustered every bit of authority in her voice.
“Afraid not. I need you, Natalia. You’ll come around my way soon enough, after a few tweaks.”
“Listen to me!” Kasyov said urgently. “There’s an ensign in there somewhere that’s unaware of what the hell is happening to him. You don’t have total control. If that ensign has half a lick of sense, he should be able to re-assert himself. Listen, ensign what’s- your-name, you have to take control of your body back!”
“I don’t think so,” said Jeffers/241. “The good ensign is quite impotent. And I mean that in more ways than one. The jolt I sent taking over his brain…well, let’s just say I hope he’s not planning a large family.”
“You bastard!” cried Kasyov, shaking her head in, well, impotent fury. Her hair-bun slowly unwould to send strands flying down into her face. “I will find a way to stop you, Mister 241, you can count on it!”
“Blah blah blah,” Jeffers/241 replied cattily. “Care for some music?”
“Me too. Hold on a sec.”
“I got my mind set on you, I got my mind set on you…” the awful 20th century music boomed in Kasyov’s earlobes and she suddenly decided a partial lobotomy might not be such a bad idea.
Bain clapped his hands and rubbed them together expectantly as Marsden stepped out onto the bridge.
“I just need the word, Mars.”
“You’ve got it,” Marsden replied, taking her seat at the engineering/environmental console. “Verteron radiation has reached a safe level, I’ve restored our access to the airlocks and shuttlebays, and Cabral is back online.”
Bain smiled broadly as he stabbed the comm button on his armrest with his thumb. “Marvelous. Bain to Cabral.”
“Glad to have you back, old chum. You ready to take a quick spin?”
“Affirmative. Anti-sing systems are functioning perfectly. You should not have any burnouts this time.”
“Your word is golden to me,” Bain said. “Bridge out. You heard the man, Arroyo. Let’s see if we can’t make up a little lost ground. You got a course for us, Marsden?”
“Tracking the raceabout’s polaron trail now. Got it. A two minute burst at Warp K ought to do it,” Marsden replied.
“Warp K?” Bain asked confused. “What the devil?”
“You’re the one who said for me to come up with a new scale for the anti-sing drive. I did.”
“Right you are there, Marsden. My apologies. Well then, Mister Arroyo, two minutes at Warp K if you would.”
“Warp K. Aye.”
The Anomaly shot forward so fast that even a bat out of hell would have been impressed.
Kasyov was pretty sure she’d lost feeling in both of her arms. Four hours locked in a restraining field could do that to a person, though.
“The four hours are about up,” Jeffers/241 said. “I wonder if they’ll even pursue.”
“They’ll pursue,” Kasyov said determinedly.
“A lot of good it will do them. We’ve been at Warp 11 for the last four hours. They’ll never be able to make up that kind of distance before I have you safely stowed away for a few nips and tucks.”
“241, listen to me,” Kasyov said, trying to buy time as she struggled to remember the Anomaly’s engineering specs. Okay. If Raceabout A leaves the station and travels at Warp 11 for four hours, how fast would Starship B have to go after leaving the station four hours later to catch up with Raceabout A in five minutes? Hell. She was never good at word problems. She couldn’t even remember if they’d figured out how to stop the anti- sing drive from burning out every time they used it. That was supposed to be Cabral’s job. Poor Cabral. Hopefully, Marsden had gotten him repositioned comfortably and reactivated him.
“Well…I’m listening,” Jeffers/241 said impatiently. Kasyov hadn’t realized how long she’d been lost in thought.
“Oh yeah. Right. Listen, you’ve got to stop this. You don’t want this.”
“Yes I do!” Jeffers/241 insisted.
“What did you always tell me? You wanted to wait until your investments had matured. Think of the early withdrawl penalties you’re going to get charged by taking your money out fifty years early. Let me get you back to your tank. You can go back and be with 141 and 341. Before you know it, fifty years will have passed, and you can buy that Orion dream body you’ve always wanted.”
“With all the muscles?”
“Exactly. With all the muscles,” Kasyov said. “Look at yourself now. This kid is a stick. And you aren’t even properly attached. You look like the Hunchback of Orion Two.”
“I can get a bigger coat.”
“That’s not the point, and you know it.”
“I just don’t want you to leave,” Jeffers/241 said, tears welling in his eyes.
“It won’t be forever. Fifty years from now, I’ll still be around, and you can come and kidnap me again. I might not fight you. Hell, I’ll probably want a nice, new body by then.”
“You mean it?”
“Absolutely. Turn off the field and let me take you home.”
Jeffers/241 silently deactivated the restraining field. He was instantly met by a vicious slap from Kasyov. “That’s for pulling this shit.” She quickly yanked off Jeffers/241’s wrist phaser and aimed it squarely at him.
“I knew you loved me,” Jeffers/241 said smiling as he cradled his bruised cheek.
Right about that time, a proximity alert sounded at the raceabout’s control board, and the Anomaly snapped into view right at the upper limit of the forward viewports, drifting quietly ahead.
“How the hell did THEY get here?” demanded Jeffers/241, still rubbing his face.
“A little thing called anti-singularity drive,” Kasyov said with a grudging smile. “Not to mention a damn good engineer.”
“Hm,” said Jeffers/241.
“Kassie, dear,” said Bain over the comm channel. “Care for a bit of a pick-up?”
Kasyov reached over with her free hand and tapped the response panel. “Situation under control, Captain. Your timing is excellent.”
“Glad we could be here to help. We’ll tractor you aboard and you can tell us all about your little excursion.”
Ensign Paul Jeffers worked his eyes open and leaned up on the biobed. “Um. Where am I?”
He was greated by a permed, brown-haired, grinning naked man. “Beamed aboard, as I hear it. And not in too good a shape, either, I might add!”
Jeffers looked around. “What ship is this?”
“The Anomaly,” said the naked man as he pulled on elbow- high latex gloves. “I’m Doctor Fred Nooney.” He bent over Jeffers. “And how are we today?”
Jeffers blinked. “Um. Confused.”
“Well, we’ll straighten that up soon enough. Anyway, I fixed what that nasty brain did to your nervous system, but I just wanted to give you a good old fashioned once-over to make sure everything’s working properly. Sorry about the gloves, but I feel they’re a bit more personal than a prickly decontamination field, don’t you?”
“W-w-why are you naked?”
“To make you more comfortable.”
“I’m NOT more comfortable,” Jeffers said in a panic.
“Of course you are. Just relax.”
“What are you going to do to me?” demanded Jeffers, edging back toward the rear of his biobed.
“Just a bit of a look-see,” grinned Nooney. “Promise it won’t hurt a bit.”
“Can you knock me out, at least?”
Science Officer’s Log,
Stardate 175020.3. The Anomaly has returned to the Neptune Research Facility in order for me to tuck my brains back securely. I have assured Captain Bain that Subject 241 will not cause our mission any further problems…assuming we can ever actually get to a mission. Considering this vessel’s track record thus far, I don’t have high expectations. Of course, most of the missions don’t matter a bit to me. I’m here for Cabral.
Kasyov crept into the dimmed Science Lab Four. “Cabral?”
Moments of silence, then the sphere glowed and lights in the lab went back up full.
The doctor suppressed a giggle. “Were you sleeping?”
“Just grabbing a quick cat-nap. It’s been a busy day.”
“Yes, it certainly has,” agreed Kasyov. She approached the sphere. “Listen, Cabral, I’m sorry about 241 doing that to you. He was always a bit possessive.”
“After floating alone in space for over a century, I can certainly understand his motives. I’m just grateful you’re all right.”
“Here you are,” Lieutenant Marsden’s voice said from behind Kasyov. She’d entered the lab without Kasyov noticing.
“Just checking to make sure no harm was done,” Kasyov said.
“I am perfectly fit,” Cabral replied. “And Lieutenant Marsden assures me that this won’t happen again so easily.”
“You would not believe where those Spacedock morons put his off switch,” Marsden said. “Anyway, he’s fine, but I’m starving. You want to eat? I heard the dining facility is an outdoor Parisian cafeé tonight.”
“I thought we were having lunch tomorrow,” Kasyov said.
“So I wanted to start catching up early. Arroyo’s fun and all, but I haven’t had a real friend around in a while.”
“Please go and have a good time,” Cabral said.
“Get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Kasyov said as Marsden started practically pulling her toward the door. “Good night, Cabral.” She turned off the lights on her way out, leaving the brain in serene darkness.
“Sure, don’t even bother to invite me,” muttered Cabral.