Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“The Ears Have It”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“Structure, logic, function, control. A structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function, function is the essence of control. You are in control.” The elder, shrouded in hooded robes, along with the handful of followers that encircled the fire, said the words with extreme reverence. It was an age-old chant, one he and his followers repeated again and again at the end of services around the fire each night.
The elder and his followers sat around the towering bon fire, faces replete with calm, fingers steepled. They concentrated on the fire.
“Structure, logic, function, control. A structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function, function is the essence of control. We are in control,” they said along with the elder.
The elder nodded with satisfaction. “You have all developed so well over these past few years. You are almost ready.”
“Structure, logic, function, control,” repeated the followers. “A structure cannot stand without logic. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control.”
“Yes, yes, yes, you are in control,” the elder said, and raised his hands. “Now, let us pray to Surak. We pray to him tonight that we might emerge victorious from our quest tomorrow.”
The elder peeled back his hood to reveal a deeply-ridged forehead, and a long mane of grey-black hair tied back into a ponytail. “Tomorrow we shall shed much blood, my friends,” the elder said. “Tomorrow is a logical day to die.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 175027.7. We’ve arrived, finally, in Romulan space, after an aborted attempt at cutting some time off our mission with an anti-sing jump. Apparently there was some sort of bloody malfunction, due to Cabral playing a crossword game with Kasyov at the moment the engines were engaged. Suffice it to say, we arrived in Romulan space in minutes, cutting down nicely on a two day trip at Warp Eleven. However, when the malfunction hit, we circled the Romulan empire forty times, went back in time thirty years, hit a parallel universe, hooked left at a subspace chasm, then tumbled four days into the future. All this at Warp “R.” We have resolved to never use Warp “R” again. Marsden, top-rate tinkerer that she is, got right on top of the problem, but the anti-sing drives are burnt and Cabral is disoriented, just in time for us to put on our dress golds and show the flag for the Romulans.”
Hector Arroyo frowned down at the pit of blown connections and fused components as Lieutenant Shelly Marsden cursed and toiled and yanked and cursed some more at the anti-sing drives.
The pit was the first level of controls before one descended through an airlock into the singularity room, which could only be entered when the drives were shut down. Otherwise, one risked falling into the singularity well and getting exploded and imploded infinite times at all points on the space-time continuum at once. Marsden assured Arroyo that this was an irreversible condition and not one an officer should toy with.
With the sing drives burnt, Marsden presently lowered herself through the airlock.
“Sure you don’t want some help?” Arroyo called down after her.
“Very,” snapped Marsden as she let the low gravity in the singularity chamber drop her softly to the ground. Arroyo had only been in there three or four times, all during the test phases of the Hermes project. It was too hot for his liking. Marsden likened it to a nice sauna. Oddly, she loved it in there. Found it relaxing.
The room was pretty much vacant, save for a massive, multi-pointed, translucent pentagonal crystal contraption at the center, which Marsden circled, taking readings with a handheld quadcorder. The singularity sleeve, as Marsden called it, actually held a tiny black hole within several layers of null space, generated by four omni-directional pulse generators. That, however, was Romulan standard these days. The Federation twist: A warp field, run off from the warp core, which was housed in an adjacent chamber, was generated on top of the null space field. That’s where Arroyo’s “C” in quantum mechanics really showed through. He had a vague notion of the calculations involved, but the gist was, the warp field allowed the singularity to be expanded to infinite size (in subspace). Then, a relatively small amount of energy was bled off that giant black hole and into the engines.
The problem that blew out the anti-sing engines every time was that the Federation and Romulan technologies combined were barely enough to channel all that power, even a smidgen of it.
“Yep.” Marsden’s voice sounded echoey in the chamber below. Arroyo leaned down closer. “Just what I thought. The housing’s cracked in three places, one omnidirectional generator is blown, and conduit fractured all over the place. Are you taking notes, Hector?”
Arroyo nodded and thunked his forehead. “It’s all up here, Shelly.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Marsden was not pleased, that much Arroyo could tell for sure.
Suddenly Arroyo felt a cold hand on his shoulder. He turned to see the placid face of Prosak.
“The captain wishes to have a report on the engines,” Prosak said neutrally.
“Cracked housing, busted generator, fractured conduit,” Arroyo repeated back to Prosak.
Prosak nodded. “Very well. Estimated repair time?”
“When I’m damned good and ready!” came Marsden’s voice from the anti-sing chamber.
Prosak nodded again. Her urge was to snap back at Marsden, but she handily suppressed it. “I understand. In that case, we will await a more firm repair projection.”
“Why didn’t Captain Bain just call down for the report?” Arroyo asked.
“He wished me to give him a first-person perspective on the damages.”
“He doesn’t trust my estimates!” called Marsden from the chamber below.
Prosak shook her head. “That is incorrect, Lieutenant. If that were the case, I would climb into the chamber with you.”
“I bet you’re dying to!”
Arroyo heard several clangs from the chamber and hoped to the star cross that Marsden was fixing something and not punching something in anger.
“You are incorrect,” said Prosak, and she turned briskly for the corridor that led out of Engineering. On her way out, she pointed at Lieutenant Polnuc and Ensign Havensfield. “Please assist Chief Marsden.”
The officers nodded and headed down into the chamber.
Arroyo cringed and watched them climb down, helpless.
“I said I don’t need any freaking help!” she cried.
“You look splendid, Doctor.”
“Call me Natalia. And don’t give me that ‘you look splendid’ line. Your visual sensors are off-line.”
“Once again, you’ve outwitted me.”
“Being you’re a giant brain, that’s quite an achievement.”
Kasyov studied herself in the reflective surface of the Science Lab Four bulkhead. Since she wasn’t Starfleet, she didn’t have to wear one of those dreadful shiny gold dress uniforms, with the diagonal swatch of color indicating which department she served. She instead had gone to the holo-tailor, a prissy Klingon fellow who fitted her with a wraparound dress which was loose in the right places and tight in the right places, and slit up the thigh. It shimmered in the bulkhead surface.
“I do clean up pretty well,” Kasyov admitted as she twirled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Cabral, I have an appointment with the holo-hairdresser.”
“I recommend you put it up, you know, with those crimpy pieces hanging down.”
“You…what?” Kasyov blinked.
“I absorbed a collection of Earth glamor magazines two days ago.”
A smile tugged at the corner of Kasyov’s mouth. “To increase your efficiency running the warp drive, no doubt.”
“You’d better be careful, Cabral. All this extra-curricular activity might just jeopardize your job here.”
“They’d fire me just because I’m learning a little bit about humanoid customs?”
“Humanoids tend to have a rather narrow view of what’s acceptable. For some reason, they think that just because you’re a cyber-organic brain, and just because you run the functions of this ship, that’s all you can do.”
Kasyov grimaced. “Some of my colleagues. But never mind that. If it were to ever come up, we’d both leave. You’d have lots of fun at my labs. You could meet the other brains…”
“I already ran into one, if you recall, and he was no fun at all.”
“Well, the others are nicer than him.”
“I am sure.”
Kasyov turned and faced the thrumming black sphere that was Cabral. “Are you jealous?”
“Not at all, Natalia. Just…skeptical.”
“Cute.” Kasyov turned toward the door to the lab. “I feel bad leaving you alone like this…in your confused state.”
“I assure you, Kasyov, my mind is as sharp as it’s ever been. The engine burn-out had quite negligible effects on my systems. What damage there was is being taken care of by my self-repair mechanisms.”
“I’ll have to get in there and figure out how those work one of these days, just in case they short out or something.”
“Highly unlikely, but I invite you to ‘check me out’ any time you wish.”
“It’s a date,” Kasyov said with a smile, and left the lab, nearly slamming into Lt. Marsden, who stormed down the corridor, drenched in sweat and grease. Her hair was matted in front of her face, and her uniform was torn in several places. “I thought engines were cleaner in this day and age,” Kasyov said, looking over Marsden with concern.
“They are,” replied Marsden, shedding her filthy uniform jacket and slinging it over her shoulder. “Engineers, though, find all new ways to get dirty.”
“We’re missing some vital parts. A Romulan supply yard three systems over apparently has what we need. Arroyo and I are going to take the Navigator to pick up the parts, so the Anomaly can continue on to Romulus.”
“So you’re missing the party?”
Marsden sighed. “I’m afraid so. And I was so looking forward to a nice jug of Romulan Ale.”
“I’ll save you some.” Kasyov patted Marsden on the shoulder, and immediately regretted it as she brought her hand back, covered in black grease. “What is that?”
“Polymorphic biojelly. Don’t worry, though, it’s only deadly if you lick your hands.”
“Got it.” Kasyov tried to remember where the nearest bathroom was. “Good luck, Shelly. See you on Romulus.”
Marsden nodded and continued to stalk down the corridor. “Right.”
“Navigator away,” Lieutenant Commander Tovar said, studying the wide tactical/operations panel spread before him. A blip representing the small and agile scoutship Navigator sailed off his sensor screen.
Bain swiveled around in his command chair. “Splendid. Well, Ensign Yonk, it’s time for you to shine. Get us to the church on time. And by the church, I of course mean Romulus.”
Ensign Yonk was a Ferengi. More specifically, Yonk was a dwarf Ferengi.
This meant he was approximately .8 meters tall. Security, as a career option, was out of the question for Yonk, so he split his time between helm duty and crawling around in the hard-to-get-to areas down in the engine room.
Bain heard a voice mutter “Aye, captain,” from in front of the helm chair. Yonk was so small the back of the helm seat hid him from view. Bain just took it as granted that Yonk was in his chair. Every now and then, though, the captain had to call out to him, to make sure he hadn’t slipped off to the bathroom or anything. He was an elusive rascal.
Bain suddenly heard birds chirping, and that meant someone was coming onto the bridge. Tovar had deactivated the annoying “voice-announce” system Marsden had put in. Of late, Bain had himself reprogrammed the doors to make a soft bird-call, pulled out at random from the ship’s vast bird-call database, when the doors opened. It was much preferred to the repeated, winy voice that announced bridge visitors.
“Robin,” Bain said, and turned to face the doors.
“Commander Prosak,” corrected Prosak.
“No, I meant the bird was a robin. Nice sound, too.”
Prosak clasped her hands behind her back. “Indeed. Lieutenant Marsden’s crew is presently cleaning up the engine room. It may not be in perfect working order, but at least it will look nice.”
Bain clapped his hands. “Splendid! Are you excited about seeing dear old Daddy?”
“Your Dad, old what’s-his-name…” Bain fumbled for the name. The damn Circassian mind torture he’d received from a band of rebels on Circassia Six ten years ago had left his memory somewhat spotty at times.
“Romulan Ambassador Rorshak.”
Bain snapped his fingers. “That’s the one!”
Prosak stepped up beside Bain’s chair and clasped her hands behind her back, looking forward at the stars streaking toward them on the viewscreen. “I am looking forward to seeing him again.”
“I’d expect so.” Bain rubbed his chin. “My Dad, the old scoundrel, is having the time of his life out on Infernia Prime. Bless him!”
“Retired, is he?” Prosak said with arched eyebrow.
“No. He’s a bail-bondsman for the Infernia security force. Nasty one at that. He cut a man’s nose off last week.”
“You have a distinguished family, Captain.”
“Well, there are no ambassadors among the Bains, but we’re a sturdy bunch, to be sure.”
“Captain,” announced Tovar, who had since climbed back into his seat at tactical/operations. “We are nearing Romulus.”
“That patience you spoke of paid off, Tovar, my boy!” Bain said, slapping the arm of his command chair. “Pull us into orbit and contact the consulate. Let’s have a chat with dear old dad!” He grinned at Prosak, who simply nodded.
“Whatever you say, sir.”
“Ambassador Rorshak is holding on sub-space,” Tovar announced.
“Right, then. Put him on-screen,” Bain replied, and faced the viewscreen. Immediately the view of the green-gray planet Romulus, encircled by bristling, spread-eagle Romulan Warhawks, gave way to an image of Rorshak, sitting placidly at his desk, hands folded atop it.
“Captain Bain, a pleasure to see you again,” Rorshak said dully. “The people of Romulus eagerly await a first-hand look at the famous U.S.S. Anomaly.”
“Famous?” asked Bain. “Really?”
“Indeed,” said Rorshak. “Our news service has publicized your early missions. Our people have followed your travels with much interest.”
“A tussle with the Breen, a brain-possessed crewman, and some cargo runs?” Bain asked with interest.
“Romulan holovision is somewhat bereft of entertainment.”
“Maybe if you upgraded to direct-to-brain neural syntax stimulus like the rest of the galaxy, you’d be better entertained,” Tovar muttered under his breath. Bain, judiciously, ignored his Tac-ops officer. DTBNSS was all the rage in the Federation, but the Romulans had yet to convert. They were still trying to reverse-engineer the Federation technology. The alliance was military only. In the technological sense, the Romulans were still highly competitive.
“At any rate, Ambassador,” said Bain, “we eagerly await tonight’s festivities. I hope the Praetor will be joining us?”
“He has scheduled a visit, yes,” said Rorshak. “We shall report aboard in one hour.”
“Splendid,” Bain said, and Rorshak disappeared from the viewscreen. He spun in his chair to face Tovar. “Anything bothering you, lad?”
“No, sir,” replied Tovar.
“You’ve seemed a bit tense of late.”
“I assure you, that is not the case.”
“In that case, put on your dress golds. Company’s coming!” Bain said cheerily, and hopped out of his chair. “Yonk, you have the bridge. I’ll be downstairs donning my cape and tassels.”
“Do you have any idea what he said?” Yonk asked, turning in the helm seat as Bain left.
“None,” replied Tovar, and he headed for the opposite turbolift.
Natalia Kasyov was the first to arrive in Stellar Cartography. Since the Anomaly was only twenty decks, and most of those were science and engineering, there really wasn’t a fitting room aboard for a party. Captain Bain however, whom Kasyov had come to realize possessed a strategic mind in combat as well as in party-planning, came up with the idea of holding the affair in Stellar Cartography.
The large, dome-shaped room was indeed the perfect size for such an affair, and boasted a beautiful holographic pictorial display of the surrounding space. The stars twinkled (Bain had the engineers program a little extra twinkle for the occasion) and the bold, hologram-generated 3-D block letters spelling “Welcome Romulan Friends” hung in the air about eight meters above her head.
Kasyov hadn’t had dinner, so she immediately crossed the room to the banquet table. A few nibbles wouldn’t hurt.
She found the holo-chef there, just putting out a few more dishes. The holo-chef, this evening, had dressed himself in the dapper tux of an emcee, complete with clownish pancake makeup. It confused Kasyov, but she complimented him on his appearance.
“Come to the new buffet, old chum, come to the new buffet!” chanted the holo-chef, and Kasyov smiled politely, and moved off to survey the banquet table.
She had just grabbed a banger roll, and oddly named British appetizer, when Captain Bain sauntered in, wearing his neatly-pressed shining gold Starfleet dress uniform, complete with shoes which shined so bright they nearly blinded her as the starlight bounced off them.
“Captain!” she exclaimed, unaware that Bain could “clean up” quite so well.
“Ah, Natalia. Doing a little ‘quality control check,’ eh?”
“Yes, sir.” She shoved a banger into her mouth. It tasted oddly like a “pig-in-a-blanket,” another hideous Earth specialty. “Enjoying the banger?”
“One of my favorite appetizers as a child,” Bain said, and grabbed one of the tiny rolls and popped it in his mouth.
“How nice.” Kasyov shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. “So, Captain, when are the others set to arrive?”
“I’ll be meeting the Romulan detachment in ten minutes, but I just wanted to drop by here first and see if the room was in order. There’s nothing like being fashionably early. Gets you first crack at the appetizer buffet. Carry on, Doctor!”
Kasyov didn’t have time to look puzzled as Bain spun on a heel and dashed out of the cartography room, leaving her once again alone. The Chef was in the maintenance closet preparing the last few dishes.
Kasyov sighed and glanced at the chronometer hung on the wall, amidst the stars. She felt silly being there so early, but she did not like being unprepared. Then again, she didn’t much care for being alone either. And her best friend on the ship was currently away on assignment. Her second best friend was a brain in a lab. She decided not to ponder on that anymore and instead grabbed three more bangers and started munching.
Shelly Marsden stared boredly out at the viewscreen as the Navigator sailed into the Shaka-Kon system, a former Klingon protectorate that had recently become Romulan territory. It was, her contact at the Romulan Engineering Committee told her, still in the “pre-development stage.” What that meant, so far, was all the system had going for it was a big old scrap yard.
Ensign Arroyo looked over his shoulder at Marsden as he worked the helm. “Look there, Shelly! It’s lots of junk, all waiting for you to root through it!”
“You’re funny, Hector.”
“But isn’t that what you love to do, Shelly?”
“And what would make you think that?”
“Well, it’s the whole reason the Hermes, that is, the Anomaly, ever worked out, isn’t it?”
“You could say that.”
“I sure could.”
“Enough chit-chat. It’s time to root through some garbage. Care to help, Hector?”
“Well, I’m actually probably more valuable to you h–”
“You’re coming with.”
“You just love to boss me around.”
Marsden grinned. “At least I get to boss SOMEONE around.” She sighed. “Set scanners to full. Keep your eyes out for any singularity housing, multiphasic conduit, and omnidirectional emitters.”
“Shall I keep my eye open for that perfect purse that goes with everything too?”
“You’re a real comedian, today, Hector.”
“Well, someone’s got to be, what with your moo–moo…moo!”
“Hector, did you just moo?”
“I was trying to say ‘mood,’” said Arroyo. “Then I got a power spike from one of those ships. Apparently, they just activated a transporter.”
“To what end?”
“To beam people aboard our ship.”
Marsden leaned forward in the command chair. “Oh, hell.”
“All hands: Intruder Alert,” the computer droned on as a Red Alert Klaxon piped up.
Marsden stood from the chair and whirled. “Arroyo, grab a phaser. Marsden to all hands, we’ve just taken on some unwanted guests. Initiate security measures!”
“And what exactly are the security measures?” asked Arroyo as he grabbed a wrist phaser from under the helm console.
Marsden yanked a small hand phaser out from its holster at her ankle. She had once been an engineer at a Gorn outpost. It paid to be prepared.
“Try to locate the intruders,” Marsden said, running to the aft turbolift, phaser at the ready, just as Arroyo said,
“Headed for the bridge. They knocked out our crew, all four of them, with concussive charges.”
“Just great,” muttered Marsden, as the aft turbolift door slid open and Klingons stormed out, giving a fierce battle cry of…no, no it wasn’t possible…
Die well and prosper?
Before she could even fire her phaser, Marsden felt a hand pinch her neck and she dropped to the ground.
Prosak arrived shortly before Bain was set to arrive with the Romulan contingent. She nodded politely to Kasyov, who made some vaguely complimentary comment about her dress uniform, then proceeded to nibble on something called a “banger.”
The sooner this was over, the better, as far as Prosak was concerned. Something about being this close to Romulus bothered her. She wasn’t quite sure WHAT it was, but she knew this wasn’t really a happy homecoming. Many of her compatriots on Romulus didn’t understand her RommaVulc beliefs. They found Vulcans absolutely objectionable, and didn’t understand what Prosak saw in them. She knew that her dad, deep down, thought that too, but it didn’t bother her. No, she had her emotions well in check.
Prosak turned at the sound of the Stellar Cartography doors opening to see Bain march gleefully in with Rorshak at his side. She nodded politely at her father, then gaped when she saw some of the Romulans trailing the group.
Rorshak moved forward to shake Prosak’s hand. “Boogles, you’ll be glad to see I brought some of your friends. They insisted on coming. A lot.” He leaned in close and whispered. “You owe me for this one, by the way. If they cause a stir, I’m cutting off your allowance.”
Prosak moved past Rorshak wordlessly, ignored the chummy pat on the back from Bain, and walked toward the group of Romulans who’d already strayed off toward the back of Stellar Cartography.
She pursed her lips at the group. This would be difficult. “Ko’dak…Jermak…Nortel… Lorimar. What are you all doing here?”
“Frowning upon your brand of Starfleet living,” muttered Ko’dak, a surly hulking Romulan man who’d, like the others, worked hard with his stylist on really good, neatly-trimmed bangs.
“Come back to us,” said Jermak, a rather petite and plain woman, younger than Prosak. Jermak had always looked up to her elder RommaVulc, but Prosak had no idea why. “The meetings are dull without your spicy plomeek soup.”
“I gave you the recipe,” Prosak said. “Surely you were able to replicate it.”
“Never,” grumbled Nortel, the youngest of the group at 18. A boy with a rebellious Vulcan attitude that didn’t sit well with his parents. He ran way at six to join the RommaVulcs. “Your Plomeek soup will always have superior tanginess and flavor.”
“That’s nice of you to say, Nortel, but not altogether accurate. It just depends on how much cayenne…” Prosak trailed off. Lorimar, another young girl who seemed to look up to her, was sporting an IDIC tatoo on her bare arm. “What is this? The IDIC isn’t meant to be tattooed on you! Tattoos are not logical! Nor are they sanitary!”
“I thought it was a good idea,” rumbled Ko’dak. “We all have them.”
“Ridiculous,” muttered Prosak. “Listen. Why are you all here?”
“To bring you back into the fold,” said Jermak. “It’s time you returned to us–where you belong.”
“Poppycock.” Prosak had no idea what that meant, but Bain had said it often, and it seemed to fit the context. “I have a true purpose on this ship. They appreciate me for more than just my fantastic soup-making skills.”
“Hey there, old girl,” Bain said, trotting over to Prosak. “Say, where’s that good soup of yours? I thought you were brewing some up for the occasion.”
“Well, sir, I suppose it slipped my mind.” Prosak shifted foot-to-foot.
“Tut-tut, Prosak, go and whip some up chop chop. Your father and I have raved to the delegates about it.”
“Yes,” said Ko’dak. “Make your soup. It’s your destiny.”
Prosak frowned and marched off for the galley. “This is so not logical.”
Bain grinned and looked over the RommaVulcs. “So, you some old school chums of Prosak?”
“You could say that,” muttered Lorimar.
“Fancy that. You all…uh, what is it? VulckieRoms?”
“RommaVulcs,” Ko’dak replied, bristling.
“Right, right.” Bain backed toward the rest of the crowd. “Well you just don’t mind me. Continue glowering and such. I’ll be over by the buffet. Feel free to have a look around! All are welcomed on the Anomaly! Especially you Rommie chaps!”
“He is unbalanced,” grumbled Ko’dak.
“I think I like him,” said Jermak.
When Marsden stirred awake, she found herself on a biobed in Navigator’s cramped, dark sickbay. She glanced to her left to find Arroyo similarly on a biobed, aglow by the light of a readout monitor. She spotted the silhouettes of the rest of her staff, unconscious, presumably, piled in a corner. She tried to lift her arm, but it snapped back, victim of a restraining field.
“She is awake,” said a voice in the darkness. “It is time.”
Marsden sighed. “Okay, you’ve all got me. What do you want to do? Torture some vital information out of me? I can tell you this right now, I got through Doctor Hamok’s Advanced Subspace Physics without flinching, so nothing you can do will intimidate m–”
“No, no,” boomed a decrepit old voice. “Torture is not logical.”
“Not like that should matter to a bunch of Klingons,” muttered Marsden. “Jab me with painsticks. See if I care.” She glanced, all she could do in the restraining field, over at Arroyo. “Hell, jab him some too. I hear he likes that sort of thing.” Marsden heard a distinct grumble coming from Arroyo.
“That is not our way.” The owner of the decrepit voice stepped out from the shadows, bathed in the light from above Marsden’s biobed. He was old, robed, had a long, grey-white ponytail, and was distinctly Klingon. “We follow many of Vulcan’s religious beliefs.”
“Haah! So you’re…” Marsden chuckled. “VulkieKlings?”
“Not at all,” replied the Klingon. “We are KlingaVulcs.”
“Ahh. Makes much more sense.”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Pang the Logical. These are my pupils, Krard the Solemn, Lorf the Stoic, Varnk the Not So Angry, and Lemlok the Sissy in the White Pants.”
“I’ll never live that fashion choice down,” muttered Lemlok. “It was the 2490s. That was the style, by Surak’s beard!”
“Surak didn’t have a beard!” chimed Varnk.
“How the hell do you know?”
“You’re getting emotional!” chided Lorf.
“I just wanted a cool-sounding curse.”
“Vulcans don’t curse!” muttered Krard.
“Well, we’re not Vulcans.”
“No,” droned Pang, a voice of reason among the many disconcerted grumbles. “No, we’re not. We’re KlingaVulcs.”
Marsden winced, from the absurdity more than anything else. “And what, exactly, does that mean?”
Pang took a deep breath. “Well, I’m glad you asked. We have a little recruitment holovid to show you.”
“I prefer the torture.”
“Touchy, touchy.” Pang sat down on the biobed by Marsden. “Fine, then, I’ll just tell you. But you’re missing a great show.”
“We’ll see.” Pang giggled, then purposefully stopped himself. “There, now. Anyway, the KlingaVulc central committee was established a little over a year ago on one of the shabby outworlds of the former Klingon Empire, now a Romulan protectorate.”
“Sorry about that whole takeover thing, by the way,” said Marsden. “Starfleet was pretty broken up about it.”
Pang arched an eyebrow. “Indeed. At any rate, life on Shaka-Kon III was not what you would call high-quality.”
“Dirty and dingy, then?” asked Marsden.
“Oh, no. Quite clean and comfortable.”
“Retchedly comfortable,” moaned Krard.
“Worse yet,” said Pang. “We had no battles to fight. No blood to shed. Our Klingon blood boiled over and had nowhere to drain to.”
“That is a problem,” admitted Marsden.
“So we had to turn to Vulcan mysticism.”
“So, on to where you come in.” Pang leaned forward over Marsden and she grimaced. His breath reeked of roasted meat and stale broth.
“It’s always nice to know you’re needed,” she muttered.
“Well, on to the sit-down course,” Bain said, gently hustling each of the partygoers to a long table at the rear of Stellar Cartography. Ko’dak and the other RommaVulcs fussed with their silverware. Modern Vulcans felt silverware was illogical and instead preferred to drink straight from the bowl, since all they ate was soup anyway.
Bain jogged over to the head of the table and sat down. Prosak was at his left, Rorshak at his right. Next to Rorshak, Kasyov sat, looking mildly amused at Lorimar across from her, who was fumbling with a fork.
She turned to the hulking Ko’dak, and in a feeble attempt to start a conversation, asked, “So, do you know approximately how much your brain weighs?”
Ko’dak just arched both eyebrows. He had always tried desperately to arch just the one, but that was really hard and took practice.
Kasyov turned back to her meal and started eating. Some kind of pie. Odd to serve dessert first, but then again Bain was quite odd. Odd enough to…eww! There was meat in the pie. Bain would suffer for this, Kasyov swore, as she stubbornly put fork to mouth and chewed at the flaky crust and tough meat. She couldn’t even tell what type of meat it was. Being a stock Russian, and a true brain lover, Kasyov loved meat. But meat in pie…it just seemed wrong. Whatever the case, it wouldn’t do to tick off the Romulan guests. They actually seemed to be enjoying it. Kasyov subtly slid her pie dish away and went for the plomeek soup. Prosak’s spicy soup was always sure to please.
After several minutes of chomping and slurping had passed, Bain clinked his glass with a fork. “Let’s propose a toast, shall we?”
“What are we toasting?” whispered Prosak.
Bain ignored her. “To the continued prosperity of the Romulan and Federation Alliance.”
“Here, here,” said Rorshak, raising his glass. He looked to Prosak. “Come on, Boogles. Raise your glass.”
“Stop calling me that,” Prosak muttered under her breath. “I’m forty-four years old!”
“I have a toast prepared as well,” said Ko’dak, standing, raising his glass of Romulan Ale high.
“Oh, no.” Prosak covered her face.
“Not here, not now!” cursed Rorshak between his teeth.
“Good show,” Bain cheered, clueless as usual.
“I propose,” began Ko’dak, “that Romulans wake up to the realities of today’s galaxy. The Federation’s no kind of ally. We should look to the Vulcans for true unification.”
“Ko’dak,” Prosak said patiently. “The Vulcans are part of the Federation.”
“Yes, but they are only puppets!” cried Ko’dak. Bain shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “They haven’t unleashed their true potential because certain HUMANS–” and Ko’dak glared at Bain and Kasyov, “–hold them down!”
“Well, that’s, um…” Bain scrambled for something to say.
“It’s time for Romulans to embrace Vulcan. Embrace its logic, embrace its one true way to completeness…or else fade with the mists of time forever to be known as Federation lackies.”
Prosak leaned over to Bain. “He’s really not so bad, once you get to know him.”
“Could I have some more meat pie?” asked Kasyov. “It’s actually starting to grow on me.”
Marsden angrily yanked her blond hair out of its ponytail and slammed her fists down on the conference table in Navigator’s tiny ward room.
“Once and for all,” she moaned, “I will try to explain this to you imbeciles. The idea of a Vulcan battleship is LUDICROUS! Not to mention totally illogical.”
“We will tell you what is logical, puny woman.” Pang sat at the opposite end of the conference table, his followers gathered around him. Marsden wanted to launch herself at the annoyingly blase Klingon, except that she was stuck in a containment field, and had been since she’d been drugged, then dragged into the ward room.
Behind her, on the room’s view screen, sat the plans Pang had brought along for the high-concept “I.K.C. Kar’va Chang,” which, roughly translated, meant “Infinite Wrath in Infinite Combinations.”
It was basically the sideways-umbrella-looking Vulcan transport ship, elongated with more of a rounded, Klingon-like head with a massive neutron torpedo launcher and sixty compression phaser banks. The idea of a Vulcan battleship made Marsden shudder. Worse, the thought of how the Vulcans would react to such a concept made her really antsy. They would probably cite it as a violation of the copyrights of their ship designs. Marsden wouldn’t blame them, either.
“Listen, the Vulcans just won’t buy this idea,” she said, exasperated.
“We shall see what they will buy,” Lorf grunted, and the other KlingaVulcs laughed heartily.
Marsden felt like she was being left out of the punch line of a joke. “Care to elaborate on that, Pang?”
“We’re headed for Vulcan as we speak,” Pang said. “It shall be a GLORIOUS visit! We will debate them like WARRIORS!”
Marsden slapped a hand over her face and collapsed into her chair.
Prosak paced her quarters, as the meat pie curdled in her stomach. She didn’t relish this visit, didn’t welcome her old friends returning to wreak havoc in her Starfleet life. It was the reason she left Romulus for the Academy in the first place.
What was her father thinking bringing them aboard? He usually wasn’t one to bend to the wishes of dissident Romulan “gangs,” especially gangs who were her friends. This was not the same Rorshak who’d kicked her cavern-surfing friends out of the house when she was 12 annums old because they’d tracked in lichen and moss.
Prosak was disturbed from her thoughts by the bleep of her door chime.
“Come,” she muttered, staring out her viewport.
Rorshak stood framed in the door to her quarters, refusing to step through. “Boogles! You left before the dessert course.”
“Yes, I did, Father. I could not stand to be around those…those…”
“I am proud to be a RommaVulc, Father. They, however, have strayed from the appointed path. They are no longer part of my life.”
“I see. So…running into them on this mission has illustrated that fact to you.”
Prosak whirled to face her father. “You brought them on board just to show me how wrong I was for hanging out with them?”
“Not wrong, really,” Rorshak said, then chuckled. “Just illogical.”
Prosak clenched her fist. “Father, I am not a child! I’m forty-four years old!”
“Never too old to learn a few things. Your old syllabic school friends have no place in your life now, and I’m glad you can see that.”
“Why did you even think I would even consider reuniting with them?”
“Well, I did notice that they have a reunion planned for two months from now.”
Prosak glowered. “I plan on being a LONG way from here by then.”
“So I take it you won’t be able to attend?” Rorshak clapped his hands together. “Splendid.”
Prosak stomped out of her quarters, shouldering past her father. “You obviously don’t understand me. I didn’t want to be around my RommaVulc brethren, but now that I see it’s so important to you that I NOT be around them, I cannot think of a better reason for doing so.”
“NOW who’s being illogical?” Rorshak called after Prosak. “Oh, right, it was you BOTH times!”
Prosak said nothing, merely held up her two middle fingers in a parted v-shape, the famous RommaVulc kiss-off.
Prosak tracked down her RommaVulc buddies to Science Lab Four, Cabral’s residence. They were crowded around the blinking giant black sphere. Prosak gasped.
“Prosak to security!”
The RommaVulcs whirled.
“What are you doing?” asked Ko’dak.
“You are attempting to take control of our computer subsystems,” Prosak said. “That is not acceptable.”
“Oh, Prosak, you old toftak! Is that all I am to you, a computer subsystem? Not to worry, your friends and I were just having a little chat.” That was Cabral’s voice, booming in her ears!
Prosak pushed past her RommaVulc buddies to face Cabral. “Security, belay that order,” she called out, then turned her attention to Cabral. “Who taught you Romulan swear words?”
“Who do you think?” chuckled Nortel.
“Does Doctor Kasyov know you’re in here?” Prosak demanded of Ko’dak, ignoring Nortel.
“Certainly not,” Cabral chimed in. “She frowns upon me playing with new people. Says I’ll be…corrupted.”
“You may well be, by these folk,” Prosak said, looking with disapproval at Ko’dak, Nortel, Lorimar, and Jermak.
“Nonsense,” said Lorimar.
“I was actually having a great time. They were telling me old stories about you.” Cabral glowed. “I hear you once cooked up an entire hot tube full of soup and you all dived in…naked!”
“It was delicious,” said Jermak, twirling her perfectly-groomed hair.
“Many things about that day were delicious,” Prosak agreed. “But that soup was made long ago, and has since grown very cold. It’s time to move to other bowls.”
“Question,” Cabral piped in. “What’s this obsession with soup?”
“It’s quite practical,” Ko’dak quickly replied.
“Nutritious,” said Jermak.
“Inexpensive,” said Nortel.
“Tasty,” said Lorimar.
“Boring.” This from Prosak. The group all turned on her, gasping.
“Take that back!” cried young Nortel, covering his ears.
“It is true,” said Prosak, staring distantly out at the far bulkhead and its accompanying array of science readouts. “There is so much more to the world than good soup.”
“Why are you hurting him!” asked Ko’dak, jabbing his finger at Nortel, who’d fallen into a crouch on the ground.
“I’ve obviously fallen into an intra-group squabble,” said Cabral meekly. “I’d be glad to leave you to your business, if I wasn’t, um, all glued in, here.”
“None of this is logical,” moaned Jermak. “I just know it.”
Lorimar glowered at Prosak. “She’s speaking blasphemy. She’s not logical.” He pointed at Prosak. “We’re better off without her.”
“You’re wrong,” muttered Ko’dak, in a way that seemed to signal that the conversation was over. “Prosak is simply lying to herself. She’ll realize that soon enough and rejoin us. And on that day, we shall all feast on a bowl of victory broth.”
Prosak watched Ko’dak and the others file out.
That hadn’t gone at all well.
Once they were alone, Cabral spoke up again. “So, the soup thing. Really. What’s that all about?”
Prosak didn’t respond, simply marched out of the room.
“Well, that’s downright rude,” Cabral muttered, and delved back into the Anomaly’s computer files for a refresher course on Romulan relations. And a bit of Vulcan, for good measure.
“Welcome to the Planet Vulcan. I am Sh’rak. Live long and prosper. How can I help you?” came the bland voice of the Vulcan lockmaster over the Navigator’s main viewscreen.
At the foreward helm console, Arroyo smiled pleasantly at the thin Vulcan man on the viewscreen. In the command chair, Marsden angrily cracked her knuckles. It angered her to no end that the supposedly “logical” Klingons were standing off-screen holding her OWN phaser on her. They didn’t believe in using their own weapons, but using other people’s weapons, apparently, was okay.
“I’m Shelly Marsden…er, commander, of the U.S.S. Navigator.”
The Vulcan on the screen checked a panel on his desk. “Ahh, yes, the U.S.S. Navigator. On detached duty from the Explorer project. Currently assigned to the…Anomaly, is it?”
Marsden sighed. “Yes, that’s right.”
“An odd name for a starship, is it not?” asked Sh’rak.
“Look, it wasn’t my idea. Can we get on with this?”
Sh’rak folded his hands atop his desk. “Certainly.”
“I need to debate some Vulcans.”
Sh’rak raised an eyebrow. “Now THAT is a request that we do not hear often.”
“Well, it’s not really me. Some friends of mine.”
Sh’rak’s other eyebrow went up. “Klingons? I thought they’d all withdrawn within Romulan borders.”
“I…picked some up.”
Sh’rak cocked his head quizzically. “Madam, is this an official Starfleet visit?”
Marsden paged through a Starfleet rulebook in her mind. The answer, unequivocally, was “no.”
“Well, yes,” she said.
“Fascinating. So. What, then, would you like to debate on?” Sh’rak was obviously reading from a prepared script off-screen. “You realize this will help me determine who exactly you should debate with.”
“Well,” Marsden said, looking uneasily at Pang, who motioned her onward with a rolling of his hands. “Well, my friends would like to debate that the people of Kronos should unify with the people of Vulcan.” Pang mouthed something to her and she cringed, then looked back at Sh’rak. “As opposed to the Romulans.”
“Please, do continue.” Sh’rak seemed to be punching a button on his desk furiously.
“Honestly, that’s about it.” Marsden leaned forward in the command chair. “Look, the sooner we do this, the better. My friends are antsy. They’re a little unstable. I’m sort of hoping you can talk some sense into th-“
Pang suddenly leapt in front of Marsden, staring at Sh’rak on the screen. “Sir, I do insist we meet with some of your finest logicians. I maintain that Klingons and Vulcans need each other to survive, especially in this topsy-turvy 26th century world!”
Sh’rak appeared to be discussing something with a person off-screen. He returned his gaze to Marsden and Pang. “Please utilize our docking facilities and report to the Selaya Valley meeting facility at once. We will have our…finest logicians…waiting for you.”
The channel closed and Marsden leaned back in the command chair, spent.
“That was awful,” she said. “You’re going to get your asses debated right into the ground, you do realize that.”
Lorf, a larger-than-normal Klingon, stepped forward to bellow: “We do not fear falling in honorable debate! Today is a good day to argue!”
Marsden leaned her head back and stared at the bridge ceiling. “No, no, no…”
Prosak emerged on the bridge, deciding that she should explain her feelings of apprehension to Captain Bain. She was startled to find her RommaVulc cohorts admiring the bridge stations.
What disturbed Prosak most was that there were NO Starfleet personnel on the bridge.
“Prosak to security…”
“Not you again,” came an annoyed mutter from Lt. Brazzell, the back-up tac-ops officer and erstwhile security chief.
“This time it’s a real problem,” Prosak muttered, looking on angrily at her speechless friends. “It appears the RommaVulcs have taken over the bridge. I’m the only other Starfleet officer here.”
It was then that the command chair swung around to face her, seemingly on its own…no, wait, there was Ensign Yonk, about the size of her stuffed sehlat, brow creased in annoyance.
“What do you mean you’re the only Starfleet officer here? What do I look like? Chopped maggot?”
Prosak gaped at Yonk. “Ensign, I am….sorry.”
“Sure you are, sure you are,” muttered Yonk. “Anyway, if you’re interested, I was put in charge of the bridge so that Captain Bain and other senior staff members could take the Romulan Delegation on a tour of the ship.”
“What about these folks?” Prosak asked, waving a hand at her RommaVulc buddies.
Yonk glanced over his shoulder at the milling group of RommaVulcs. “They’ve been put under MY supervision.”
Prosak raised both eyebrows. Damn. She squinted and finally one fell into the correct position. “Well…why didn’t I know about any of this?”
Yonk looked genuinely surprised. “Captain Bain spoke with your father. The Ambassador assured him that he would pass word of the tour along to you.”
Prosak gritted her teeth. “He did not.”
“Heheh,” cackled Yonk. “That’s a laugh.”
Prosak narrowed her eyes at Yonk. “It most certainly is not.” The question reared its ugly head: What to do with her RommaVulc friends?
Prosak turned toward the group, only to find them gone, having apparently disappeared into the aft turbolift.
“How was it that I did not hear them leave?” Prosak demanded.
“You’re the one who wanted to deactivate the bird-call on the door,” Yonk reminded her.
Prosak stormed toward the foreward turbolift. “Well, you could have replaced it with a beep…something!”
“Are you okay, Commander?” asked Yonk. “You seem…less than logical today.”
“Just because you are tiny doesn’t mean I will tolerate flip remarks, Mister Yonk!” Prosak snapped as the turbolift doors closed her in.
Lt. Marsden shifted her weight from foot to foot as Pang, Lorf, Varnk, and Krard took their seats around a large stone table somewhere within the extravagant convention center atop mount Selaya. Lemlok had opted to stay aboard the Navigator and hold Arroyo hostage…just in case the Vulcans tried something funny.
Marsden tried to assure the Klingons that Vulcans are nonviolent, and therefore wouldn’t make any attempt to apprehend them anyway, but Pang would have none of that.
Sh’rak stood at the other end of the conference table, flanked by two very old, very placid looking Vulcans.
Sh’rak’s expression was absolutely inert. He showed no sign of caring that the Klingons forced this meeting, and he certainly didn’t seemed threatened or apprehensive. Not that Marsden thought he would.
“Allow me to present two of our most distinguished debaters,” Sh’rak said, giving almost imperceptible nods to his left, then right. “To my left, Surap. To my left, Surat.”
Pang gathered up his robes and bowed respectfully. “Surap, Surat, it is an honor.”
“Indeed,” said the two old Vulcans in unison.
“Can I ask a question?” Marsden interjected as the Klingons and Vulcans all made their way to their seats.
“No,” snapped Pang.
“Of course,” Surap said.
“What’s the deal with the names?” she asked, sitting down in the midst of the Klingons and Vulcans at one of the conference table’s center seats. “They all sound so much alike. So many S’s. Why?”
Surap and Surat exchanged glances. They looked back numbly at Sh’rak, who remained standing.
“In deference to Surak, of course,” said Sh’rak.
“Surak,” said Marsden. “Why is that name so familiar to me?”
Surap and Surat raised their eyebrows in exclamation. “Why indeed,” they said in unison.
Sh’rak’s facial muscles twitched. “He is the father of Vulcan logic and stoicism. He saved us from becoming barbarians.”
“Like those filthy Romulans!” Pang broke in, desperate to get in on the conversation.
“I do not believe their grooming habits are at issue,” said Surat.
“So you say,” said Surap. “Forgive me for disagreeing, but I believe that Romulan grooming habits are atrocious. Have you seen the statistics on head lice on their outer colonies?”
“I heard those reports were forged,” Sh’rak said.
Pang pounded his fist on the table to get the Vulcans’ attention. Marsden, meanwhile, twisted her hair fitfully. No one had even bothered to answer her question. Surak shmurak, why the hell couldn’t they get over it and come up with some original-sounding names? It wasn’t like the people of Earth went around calling each other “Peinstein,” “Bagellan,” or “Firk.” It was just plain silly.
“Refresh my memory,” Surat said. “Why exactly is your group here?”
“We wish to re-unify the Klingon and Vulcan peoples.”
“Were they ever unified in the first place?” Surat asked pointedly.
“You know what we mean!” Lorf said, struggling to remain placid looking.
Pang steepled his fingers. “We seem to have reached an impasse.”
“This is not an impasse,” replied Surap. “Merely ignorance on your part. We mean no disrespect, but you cannot possibly ask us to consider absorbing your violent, ill-tempered, and illiterate culture into ours. How would we stand to benefit?”
Marsden had to admit, Pang did a fairly good job of hiding his fury over Surap’s comments. “Honored…elder…how do you benefit from the current alliance with the Federation?”
Surap, Surat, and Sh’rak leaned in toward one another and whispered among themselves.
After several moments, they returned their gazes to the Klingons.
“We do not know,” replied Surat.
“It is a good question.” Surap turned his gaze on Marsden and she wanted terribly to just crawl under the table. “The Federation seems unconcerned about teaching its peoples about Vulcan philosophy. They manage to attain positions of authority on starships without having even heard of Sarek.”
“I think we’re getting a little off-subject,” said Marsden. “Aren’t we talking about the Klingons?” She turned pleadingly toward Pang.
“Right. Well, what of it? Unify with us, damn you! NOW!” Pang pounded the table again. This time, Marsden noted a slight cracking sound.
The three Vulcans didn’t even flinch.
“We fail to see a solid argument for such a unification,” said Surat.
“Nor do we have one from the Romulans,” said Surap.
Marsden smiled weakly at the Vulcans. “Well, the Federation is certainly glad to call you allies.”
They all raised eyebrows. “Indeed,” said they all, in unison.
“And that’s more or less how an anti-sing drive works,” said Captain Bain as he strolled along the corridor leading out of engineering, surrounded by Romulan dignitaries, Rorshak chief among them. “Did I get it about right, there, Mister Polnuc?”
The diminutive and crabby Moglodin engineer forced a smile. “More or less. You got across the gist.”
“Wish Marsie were here,” Bain said, as he swaggered confidently at the head of the group. “She’s the real expert on those blasted engines.”
“You did an admirable job, Captain,” said Rorshak. “I especially enjoyed your analogy.”
“Yes, the steam-powered ship Lusitania, torpedoed in the first great Earth war,” Bain said, his eyes glistening with remembrance. “She was a beauty. Sunk like a bloody stone, too.”
“In point of fact,” the blotchy-skinned Polnuc said, “steam isn’t quite an accurate analogy to the anti-sing drives. Unless you call the singularity the coal, but then it’d have to be an infinite amount of coal imploding an infinite amount of times. I don’t think that’s how the Lusitania was powered. Nope, no that wasn’t right at–”
“Ah, well, here’s the bar now!” Bain broke in, bringing the group to a crashing halt.
“We have a bar on the engineering deck?” Polnuc asked with a derisive snort.
“Holo-lounge,” Bain explained, gesturing the Romulan dignitaries through the opening double doors. “At the moment, it’s set to ‘1800s pub, London.’”
“Interesting,” muttered Polnuc. “Listen, I have some tests to–”
“Nonsense!” Bain said jovially, clapping a hand on Polnuc’s shoulder. “Come have a pint, or at least a hot toddy!”
“A what, or a what?” blinked Polnuc, as Bain dragged him into the smoky black abyss that waited beyond the doors to Holo-Lounge Four.
ONE HOUR LATER
Bain stumbled out of Holo-Lounge Four, thin hair asunder, dress gold jacket yanked open, and slammed right into Commander Prosak.
“Captain…have you been in a fight?”
“Nonsense, I…” Bain winced, reached behind his shoulder. With a yank, he produced an oblong dart. “Ouch! That blighter smarts.”
“Someone stabbed you?” Prosak struggled to find order and sense in what she was seeing.
“No, just a friendly game of darts.”
Bain nodded and tapped his nose. “Bob’s-your-uncle!”
“Hurlok is my uncle,” Prosak corrected. “But I hardly think that’s relevant. I have been paging you for ten minutes. I’d been scouring the ship for my RommaVulc compatriots when I got a call from the bridge that we’d received an urgent, encrypted distress call from Vulcan. Apparently, the Navigator was hijacked, and Marsden and Arroyo were kidnapped by Klingon unificationists!”
“Well, that’s just not cricket!” Bain said, and belched.
“Sir…” Prosak said, the emergency of the moment temporarily on hold. “Is my…father… in there?”
“Who do you think pegged me with the dart?” Bain asked with a smile. “The chap claims it was an accident. I believe him. I s’pose.” Bain straightened. “But that’s not important right now, is it? We have a hijacking to tend to.” He grabbed Prosak by the arm and dashed for the nearest turbolift.
“Sir,” protested Prosak. “What about my father? The other dignitaries?”
“They’re not going anywhere, be assured,” Bain said, and ushered Prosak into the turbolift, calling for the bridge. She turned just in time to see the doors to Lounge 4 open and Polnuc stick his head out.
Within, the sounds of “What do you do with a drunken Starfleeter” could be heard resounding off the bar walls. A hand yanked Polnuc back inside, and the doors closed, leaving the corridor once again silent.
Once the turbolift doors closed, Bain spoke, but to thin air, not Prosak. “Attention liquor, please release a stimulant, pause all intoxicating effects and resume in exactly two hours.”
On command, the nanites in Bain’s bloodstream immediately cleansed the alcohol from five pints of something called “Guinness” from his bloodstream, while simultaneously ejecting stimulants and adrenalin to make the captain more alert.
Instantly, Bain’s eyes were focused again and his face clear of confusion. His smile was once again dashing. He looked sober as a schoolteacher.
“I never touch the stuff,” Prosak said by way of conversation. “I heard the nanites went crazy and began multiplying right inside a person once.”
“Poppycock,” replied Bain. “The worst my little microscopic friends have done is leave me with a hangover. But they fix it, on command, every time.”
“Yes, convenient,” Prosak muttered.
“Are you having a bad spell, Commander?” Bain asked, concern evident on his wrinkled brow. “I would send you down to Doctor Nooney, but I realize his nudity is somewhat…disturbing.”
“It’s nothing he can help with,” Prosak said. “It’s parental troubles.”
“Ah, well that’s something I know all about.”
“Your dear Dad…and that fellow’s nose, right?” Prosak asked cautiously.
“No, no, not Papa. Bless him, he’s the real go-getter of the family. No, no, I’m speaking of Mumsy.”
“Oh…well…” Something shrank back in Prosak. She didn’t feel comfortable at all around Bain, despite his disarming charm. Maybe it was the charm that made her so uncomfortable. Maybe she was just obsessing about the RommaVulcs.
“Yes, Mumsy was in a bad way for a while. She took to calling the rose bushes by name. ‘Look,’ she’d say…‘Sally’s blooming. Oh, there’s Roger, he’s looking a little wilted.’ Poor woman has been to the best counselors in the cosmos. All they can figure is that she was once viciously assaulted by some kind of organic plant life.” Bain emitted a small sigh. “But enough about me. You’re having a problem with old Rorshak?”
“He doesn’t accept my friends.”
“Those RommaVulc chaps? They seem harmless enough.”
Harmless. No, that’s not the right word for it, Prosak thought to herself. “They are… well-intentioned.”
“Well, in the end, isn’t that all that really counts?”
What was taking so long? Why was Prosak stuck in the turbolift, so uncomfortably close to Bain, for such a long time? 26th century turbolift rides seldom took more than ten seconds.
“Am I still drunk, or are we at a complete stand-still?” Bain looked around the turbolift. “Hello, nanites? Is this your doing?”
Prosak sunk to the deck and moaned into her knees. This turbolift breakdown was no coincidence. The timing, the circumstances…it all stank of Ko’dak and the others.
“Chin up, lass,” Bain said, putting a reassuring hand on Prosak’s shoulder. “I’ll find a way out of here. Do you think you can lift my body weight?”
Prosak moaned louder.
Bain and Prosak found Lt. Cmdr. Tovar sitting in the command chair when they climbed out of the port-side dorsal bridge access hatch and fell from the ceiling to the floor.
“Dusty in there,” Bain muttered, and chivalrously helped Prosak to her feet.
“I fail to see why you had to take us through half the ship’s Jefferies tubes.”
“I assure you, I got us to the bridge in the quickest of fashions,” Bain said, tugging his red dress uniform sash back into place.
Bain turned toward Tovar, who immediately vacated the command chair and headed back toward the massive, semi-circular tac-ops console. Bain’s glance was enough to prompt a report from the Yynsian officer.
“We’re headed for Vulcan at Warp 13. We’ll arrive in under half an hour.”
“Capital.” Bain walked toward the command chair. He glanced uneasily at Prosak, who seemed determined to stand beside him once again. Dang, that was unpleasant. He stopped short of the command chair and gestured to Prosak. “Here, Prosak. Why don’t you take the chair? You’ve just had somewhat of a tumble.”
Prosak waved her hand dismissively. “That’s really not necessary.”
Bain made a show of wiping the chair seat off. “Please, I insist.”
Prosak shrugged. “Well, okay.” She sat down in the chair and Bain took a position standing next to her. He actually enjoyed it. Felt more involved in the action. Not quite Starfleet handbook, but…he shifted mental gears and glanced back at Tovar. “Say, Tovar, where did you unload your diplomatic group?”
“I had a diplomatic group?”
“Five Romulan senators,” Bain reminded him. “They wanted to see the bussard ramscoops?”
“Oh. Right.” Tovar shrugged. “I believe I left them there when the alert sounded.”
“Make a mental note to go back and get them when all this is over,” Bain said, then added, as an afterthought. “And tell engineering NOT to activate the ramscoops until further notice.”
Tovar tapped at his panel. “Of course.”
Prosak swivelled angrily in the command chair. “I just know there’s foul play at work here.”
“With the Vulcans? Certainly is. Klingon unificationists…what a piece of tripe.”
“Certainly.” Whatever tripe was. Prosak shook her head. “I think my RommaVulc friends may have been at the heart of the sabotage.”
“What makes you think that?” Tovar asked, an edge of protective anger in his voice.
“It seems their style.”
“Why would they have done such a thing?” asked Bain.
“They do not want the Romulans and Federation to remain joined. They want the Romulans and Vulcans to unify,” Prosak explained, as if for the hundredth time.
Yonk turned around in the helm seat to field this one. “But the Vulcans are PART of the Federation.”
“Try telling my friends that,” muttered Prosak, and she glared at Yonk. “And turn back around.” Truth be told, she’d thought the helm chair was vacant until Yonk turned to face her. He really was tiny. Made Polnuc look like a giant.
“Kasyov to bridge,” came Natalia Kasyov’s incensed voice.
“Go ah–” Prosak said, then looked meekly at Bain.
Bain grinned roguishly at Prosak. “Right, then. What’s on your mind, Kass?”
“Prosak’s Romulan Vulkie friends are down here in my lab causing trouble. Who was supposed to be babysitting them?”
“They went BACK to visit Cabral?” Prosak growled.
“Yes, they did. And they disrupted his systems too. The poor thing’s been trying to self-repair ever since that Warp ‘R’ fiasco, and now he’s rerouting turbolifts left and right. What the hell did your RomuVulcan friends do?”
“RommaVulc,” Prosak corrected angrily. “And I would like to know.”
“I might be able to help in this area,” said Cabral’s voice over the bridge speakers.
“Cabral, you need your rest,” Kasyov’s voice said softly.
“Indeed, and I will get it. But first I feel the need to clear my friends’ good names. Ko’dak and the others were spending some much-needed quality time with me. They didn’t mean to disrupt my systems.”
“Then what happened?” asked Prosak.
“Well…” Cabral said sheepishly. “We were playing 3-D checkers using my holomatrix imager in the lab. And I was winning. But as I moved my pieces around the board, I was apparently also moving turbolifts all around the ship.”
Bain turned a weak smile on Prosak. “Well, that settles that. Your friends aren’t a bad stock after all.”
“Devix is scrambling to get the turbolift situation righted,” Kasyov broke in. “She doesn’t have much help either because apparently Polnuc is passed out drunk.”
“Sorry,” Bain muttered. “That would be my fault.”
“Figures,” said Kasyov. “Whatever the case, there are a couple turbolifts that…well, that Cabral jumped all OVER the checkerboard.”
“Oh dear,” said Bain. “Better contact Doctor Nooney. The engineers may require his services.”
“They’re currently trying to pry him out of a turbolift that had gotten embedded in the Deck Seven starboard bulkhead. The fact that he’s buck naked isn’t helping matters.” Kasyov sighed. “Look, I’ve got work to do. Talk to you later. Try to save my best friend if you can get around to it!”
And the channel cut off. Bain and Prosak exchanged glances.
“Pleasure as always,” Bain said brightly.
“So, as you can see,” said Pang, pointing to the diagram of the I.K.C. Kar’va Chang on the viewscreen in the Vulcans’ conference room. “The Kar’va Chang blends Klingon battle ability with Vulcan…um…style.”
“To what end?” asked Surat.
“Because it is only…logical.”
“I fail to see how it is logical,” said Surap.
“You seem to be using the word ‘logical’ as a way to win arguments, without explaining WHY something is logical,” broke in Sh’rak.
“That is highly IL-logical,” said Surat.
“Let’s not mince words, good people,” Pang said, leaning forward on the conference table, flanked by his followers and a nervous Marsden. “I mean to unify myself and my brethren with the Vulcans, whether you like it or not.”
“If we refuse?” Surap asked calmly.
“We’ll kill you,” Pang replied.
Marsden beamed at that. “Hold on one second! You never told me that!”
“We’re Klingons, what did you expect?” Lorf asked her, grabbing her by the arm. Pang unsheathed a bat’leth from behind his back and in a smooth spinning maneuver, held it up against Marsden’s neck.
“Unify our cultures or die!” Pang cried out.
Surap and Surat exchanged glances, then looked back at Pang.
“We will not,” said Surat.
“Very well,” said Pang. “Pang to Navigator. Lemlok, aim your neutron torpedoes on Vulcan’s capital city. I want you to level it on my mark.”
“Ummmm….Pang,” said Lemlok over the comm channel. “When you say ‘mark,’ do you mean you’ll be saying ‘mark,’ or another word, like ‘fire’?”
“I’ll say ‘fire,’” said Pang, exasperated. “How’s that?”
“Very good, sir,” Lemlok said, and the channel closed, but not before a panicked exclamation of “Dios mio!” could be heard from Arroyo.
“You will not do this thing,” Surap said calmly to Pang.
“What makes you so sure?” replied Pang.
“If you ask me,” said Marsden. “I think he will do it.”
“We did not ask you,” said Sh’rak, who slowly, carefully, circled the conference table, stepping up to face Pang. “Mister Pang, I believe our hospitality to you has reached its end.”
“Not before we unify!”
“And how do you expect us to just do that instantly?” asked Sh’rak.
“Sign some documents! Put it in the constitution. I don’t care how you do it! Just make it happen or the blonde p’tak here gets it!”
Surat folded his hands atop the conference table. “You will die for a worthy cause, Lieutenant.”
“WHAT?” demanded Marsden.
“It matters not. Our interceptor ships will stop your ‘Navigator,’” said Surap.
“Let me ask you this,” Pang said, still holding the curved blade of the bat’leth close to Marsden’s neck. “Are your interceptor ships armed?”
Surap and Surat looked at one another, eyebrows raised.
“Check and mate,” said Surap. And he, along with Surat, got up, and the two walked out of the room.
“Come back here!” Pang bellowed.
Sh’rak remained. “Your bargaining posture is highly dubious, Mister Pang.”
“It’s you who is dubious, Sh’rak! Give us unification!”
Marsden cleared her throat gingerly. “Folks…how about I get out of here and you can sort this out on your own?”
Bain paced in front of Prosak, who had to crane her neck to see around him as the Anomaly sailed into the Vulcan system. On the viewscreen, the Navigator was perched in orbit above Vulcan, pointed right at the planet like a deadly weapon.
“Navigator’s neutron torps are armed,” Tovar reported. “They are targeting Vulcan’s capital city. Selayasville.”
“Where is Marsie being held?” Bain asked.
“Right outside the capital. In a conference facility. Ensign Arroyo, however, is aboard the Navigator, with one Klingon life sign. We cannot beam a security team aboard, but we do heavily outgun the Navigator. I can destroy her in mere seconds.”
“That’s not going to get us anywhere,” Bain muttered. “Prepare to intercept any shots fired from the Navigator. Contact Vulcan and see if their security force is on their way.”
Tovar pointed to the three turtle-like cream-colored vessels that hovered just a few thousand klicks away from the Navigator. “THAT, I believe, is the security force.”
“They are, of course, totally unarmed.”
Bain turned to look at Tovar. “Well how in the deuce are they supposed to help, then?”
Prosak steepled her fingers, staring at the viewscreen. “Logically, they would use their highly-honed reasoning and logical skills.”
“Very well then,” Tovar said. “I will begin the search process for a new chief engineer and helm officer.”
Just then, the rear doors to the bridge opened and Ko’dak sauntered out, followed by his RommaVulc pals.
“Prosak…I understand there are some KlingaVulcs down there causing trouble for your friends,” Ko’dak said, stepping up beside the command chair.
Prosak pivoted toward him. “This is not the time, Ko’dak.”
“On the contrary, this is the perfect time. We understand the thought process here. Let us make an effort to reason with these…” It was almost laughable. “KlingaVulcs.”
Prosak looked to Bain. “Sir?”
“I think these folks are on the level,” Bain said. “But go with them, Prosak. See if you can get Marsden back. We’ll take care of the Navigator.”
Prosak stood up. “Very well, Captain. Ko’dak, Jermak, Lorimar, Nortel. You’re all with me.”
“Do not give them weapons,” Tovar said as Prosak walked by him. She didn’t reply, simply held up her two middle fingers. “How odd,” muttered Tovar, as the group disappeared into the turbolift.
“You do realize,” Sh’rak told Pang, who still held Marsden at bay with his bat’leth, “that when the Navigator destroys Selayasville, our facility on its outskirts will be obliterated as well.”
“It will be a an honorable death,” Pang spat at Sh’rak.
“Perhaps,” said Sh’rak. “But it will be an illogical one.”
Pang cocked his head. “Really? Not logical, you say?”
Pang put down his bat’leth. “I hadn’t realized.”
“Logic, in its many forms, is an elusive creature.”
“That’s beautiful.” A tear glistened in Pang’s eye.
“Give me a huge frigging BREAK!” Marsden grumbled, and socked Pang clean in the gut.
The large Klingon doubled over, then reeled back, collapsing backwards on top of Marsden. His bat’leth clattered to the ground.
“Oof! Pick it up, you Vulcan moron!” groaned Marsden.
Sh’rak leaned down and picked up the bat’leth, studying it with intense interest as Pang’s compatriots stood by, looking awful angry.
“To what end?” Sh’rak asked Marsden.
“Fight with it!”
“Fighting is illogical.”
“Tell that to THEM!” Marsden cried, craning her neck, heaving under the weight of Pang, looking over at Lorf, Varnk, and Krard.
“Destroy him! And the woman!” Pang cried, rolling over.
“DIE!” Lorf cried, leading Varnk and Krard stampeding toward Sh’rak, who stood dumbly holding the bat’leth.
Varnk pulled a small, sickle-like blade, and with a deft swipe, sliced through the Sh’rak’s wrist, causing his hand and the bat’leth it held to drop to the ground.
Sh’rak studied the stub of his wrist and cocked his head. “That was unfortunate. It is quite a good thing that I can block the emotional and illogical humanoid response to pain.” At that point, Sh’rak’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed to the ground in a dead faint.
Pang climbed, huffing, to his feet, using the conference table as leverage, and looked down at Marsden.
“You punch well for a tiny thing!”
Marsden scrambled over to the bat’leth, carefully removed Sh’rak’s hand from it, and hopped to her feet, stepping backwards quickly toward the door to the conference facility. “I hope I know how to use one of these things.”
Varnk, Lorf, and Krard advanced on her, their own bat’leths now unsheathed and ready.
“Kill her and be done with it!” Pang cried. Then, almost as an afterthought, he called out. “Pang to navigator. Mark!”
“Do you mean fire?” replied Lemlok’s voice.
“So you mean mark, right?”
“SHOOT, damn you!”
“Neutron torpedoes away,” Tovar said, as the green twinkling torps blazed out of their chambers in the underside of the Navigator’s hull and headed straight for Vulcan.
“Intercept, full steam on the polaron engines!” Bain ordered, sliding back into the command chair as Yonk maneuvered the Anomaly in between the Navigator and Vulcan’s atmosphere. “Lock disruptors on those torpedoes and destroy them!”
Tovar deftly plucked at the controls and fired blazing disruptors at the torpedoes, exploding them.
“Smashing!” Bain called out, thumping the arm of the command chair with his fist. “Now turn us on the Navigator. Lock compression phasers on her torpedo tubes. Disarm her, Tovar, don’t destroy her!”
“Details, details,” Tovar muttered under his breath.
“Enough of this stalemating!” Pang bellowed. “Lorf! Throw your bat’leth at her and be done with it!”
Lorf looked at Pang. “Is that an acceptable use for a bat’leth?”
“It is now!”
“You guys are being SO illogical!” Marsden said. “You make AWFUL Vulcans!”
“Well, that’s it,” Pang growled. “Now she’s all mine.” He snatched Lorf’s bat’leth and advanced on Marsden, slapping her upside the head with the dull end of the bat’leth. She collapsed to the ground like a sack of targ’s feet.
Just then, the whine of transporters could be heard throughout the conference room, and Pang turned to see five Vulcans, four robed, one in a Starfleet uniform, run toward him and his compatriots.
“Vulcans! And they’re violent!” Pang cried as one of the robed Vulcans slammed into him.
“We’re not Vulcans. We’re RommaVulcs,” the one in the Starfleet uniform said, aiming a wrist phaser at Pang’s surprised friends and blasting each one with precision. “But thanks for the compliment.”
Ko’dak stood and observed the fallen Pang, whom he’d recently slammed into. “Pang. We meet again.”
Pang glared up at Ko’dak. “Hmm. Vulcan convention..on Altair Six?”
“You were wearing false ears,” Ko’dak said and helped Pang to his feet.
“You had won the Vulcan trivia contest,” Pang said.
“We were so young then,” said Ko’dak. Prosak looked on, confused, but said nothing.
“Where did we go wrong?” Pang asked. “We just wanted to be like the Vulcans.”
“A worthy cause, but a misguided one. Vulcans and Romulans come from the same bloodline. A unification of the two is logical. A unification of Klingons and Romulans…that’s illogical.”
“I see your point,” Pang muttered.
“Your people are just too brave…too warlike…to team up with the Vulcans.”
Pang cocked his head. “You know, you Romulans are rather warlike, are you not?”
“We kicked your ridged foreheads in during the battle of Horva’chan, as I recall.”
“That was a great battle,” Pang said. “Well, then, perhaps we have been misguided.” Pang looked down at his stunned unconscious friends. “Perhaps, from here on out, we shall be known as the RommaKlings.”
Prosak stepped over to Pang and Ko’dak. “I have a suggestion. How about just ‘Klings?’”
Ko’dak and Pang shared a hearty laugh at that notion.
Prosak turned and knelt down to see to the dazed Marsden, who stared, glassy-eyed, up at the ceiling.
“Lieutenant, are you okay?” Prosak asked.
Marsden turned her head, wincing, to look at Prosak. “Oooh…what a nice Vulcan. Can you show me to the steps of Mount Selaya? Can I become one with the great katra? Yes, that sounds nice. Let me have a teddy bear with fangs. Let me live in the desert forty years. Thanks for the memories. Good night!” And Marsden passed out.
Prosak cocked her head. “Fascinating.” Not quite the right context, but any chance to use that word, she had to take.
Just then, her comm pip bleeped.
“Bain to Prosak. We’ve neutralized the Navigator and apprehended the KlingaVulc who’d taken her over. What’s your status?”
“Pretty much the same,” replied Prosak. “We’ll be needing a medical and security team.”
“Jolly good show, Prosak. I take it your friends were able to talk sense to the KlingaVulcs?”
Prosak looked up at Ko’dak, who was giggling at something Pang had just said. The other KlingaVulcs had gathered around and were laughing too.
“Something like that,” she said with a wry grin.
“Captain’s Log, Supplemental. We’ve returned to Romulan space after swinging by to pick up the parts Marsden needed to fix the anti-sing drive. Devix and a recently-recovered Polnuc have been putting the finishing touches on the repairs while Marsden convalesces after her nasty KlingaVulc ordeal.
“As for the Romulan dignitaries, they have been returned, hung-over, to their consulate. Those who’d been trapped in the bussard collectors have been returned as well, although they didn’t appear pleased with the good mister Tovar.
“The KlingaVulcs…pardon, RommaKlings, are currently seeking answers in our brig, and will be transferred soon to the Kelly L. Peterman Rehabilitation Center on Tantalus for review and rehabilitation. I’m told they’ll get out in two years or so, at which time they will re-unify…hmm, poor choice of words…reunite…with their RommaVulc friends. I assume that’s a good thing.
“Prosak, meanwhile, seems quite fond of the idea of leaving Romulan space. I wonder why.”
Bain shifted uncomfortably in the chair in his ready room. “Damn thing’s so stiff I can feel my buttocks clinching.”
“The door call still isn’t quite right,” Bain muttered. “Come on in!”
Prosak stepped into Bain’s readyroom, allowed the doors to close, and clasped her hands behind her back. “Am I interrupting something, sir?”
“Just complaining about this damned stuffy office.”
Prosak studied the curved, semi-oval room and its matching-shaped desk, and the slatted windows behind it that overlooked the starscape behind the Anomaly. “I think it’s rather nice.”
“You have a status report, I suppose?” Bain asked.
“Aye, Captain. The RommaVulcs have returned to Romulus.”
“Good show. That constitutes the last of our visitors?”
“Except for the RommaKlings, yes sir.”
“Right, then. Well, how are the anti-sings?”
“Back up and running. As is Lieutenant Marsden.”
Bain brushed his hands together. “Superb. Have us set a course, then, for Tantalus. Warp C. Ease Cabral into it.”
“Yes, sir.” Prosak turned, but did not leave.
Prosak turned back to face Bain, then stepped over to sit down across from him. “I was not trusting of my friends. Each time I thought they were going to try and sabotage my posting here on the Anomaly; it turns out they were not. They were only trying to get to know my friends better.”
“There’s a lesson in that for you somewhere, Prosak,” Bain said, smiling gently, once again taking on the features of somebody’s uncle. Prosak, surprisingly, warmed to that.
“Perhaps, because my own father did not quite trust me, I became less trustworthy of those I care about?”
“And perhaps, since I am a Starfleet officer on a new, permanent post, I feel like I have lost touch with the friends of my past.”
“And my anger over their changing ways…is just misplaced regret that I cannot join them?”
“I get the feeling we won’t get back to Romulus for a long time, sir.”
“You may be right.”
“I should give my father a call. Explain things to him.”
“If you feel like he’ll listen.”
“He will not, but it will make me feel better.”
“Jolly good show.” Bain turned to his holo-terminal, punching up recent news reports.
Prosak stood to leave, but stopped in her tracks when Bain let out a surprised gasp.
“What is it, sir?” Prosak asked, turning back to face Bain.
“Vulcan…” Bain said. “Seceded from the Federation. Their leader claims we’re all a bunch of illogical loons.”
“A Vulcan would not use the word ‘loon,’” Prosak said dismissively.
Bain turned the terminal to face Prosak, and she read the holographic text. “She really said ‘loon.’” Prosak raised an eyebrow. “Hmm. According to this side-bar column, it appears they were at least able to save Sh’rak’s hand.’’
Bain nodded. “Well, at any rate, the Vulcs must think they’re just too good for us. I guess it had to happen eventually.”
“In fact, they are too good for us, sir. I suppose the Klingon thing recently was just the straw that broke the gehlat’s back.”
Bain leaned back in his chair. “Surak……Spock…T’vel. Some of the best minds of the Federation were Vulcan. And now we’ll have to make our way without them.”
Prosak nodded. “Apparently so.” She headed for the door, and as an afterthought, looked over her shoulder. “I am going down to the rec lounge to meditate on this. If it might make you feel better, you are welcome to join me.”
“No, Prosak, I don’t think that’ll help at all. Thanks anyway.”
“Very well, sir. Good night.”
Prosak left the readyroom and Bain scoffed.
“Infinite diversity my arse.”