Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Aren’t You Dead?”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
One of the things that really appealed to Reginald Bain about being a Starfleet captain was the variety. One week you could be trapped in the Andromeda Galaxy facing unthinkable odds; then another week you could find yourself on an idyllic planet in the middle of a nebula surrounded by a bunch of people who just don’t age. At the moment, Bain was in the latter situation, having been brought here by Tovar, who was following instructions from the Interloping lifeforce residing inside his body. The details of all of the Yynsian past life stuff tended to give Bain a headache, so he tended to let Tovar handle that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, Tovar was a bit on the unconscious side, leaving Bain to deal with the current situation. Of course, the current situation was all because of Tovar, leaving Bain at a bit of a loss. At least the scenery was pretty as he stood outside of a cabin in the woods propping up Tovar. Two Ba’ku, Anij and Artim, stood a short distance away watching the whole scene with a mix of concern and consternation.
Meanwhile, Bain was standing with the owner of the cabin, a woman who by all rights should have been Ba’ku, since they didn’t seem to want any “Outlanders” around, yet she claimed to be human, specifically a human named Patricia Hawkins.
Faced with the new information, Captain Bain fell back on his Starfleet training and asked a question designed to probe straight to the heart of the matter.
“Her name is Prijan,” Anij said forcefully.
“It’s all right, Anij,” Prijan or Patricia Hawkins or whoever the heck she was said calmly. “I will handle this.” She turned to Bain. “Please come inside, Captain Bain.”
“Hold on just a bloody second! I’m not going anywhere until I get some answers.”
“The answers are inside,” Prijan said.
“Oh…right…off we go then.” Bain readjusted Tovar and carried the Yynsian inside Prijan’s cabin. Prijan soon followed after once again assuring Anij and Artim that their presence was unnecessary.
The cabin was simply decorated. The living area contained a sofa and a couple of chairs, handmade from what Bain could gather, and the craftsmanship was remarkable. Various tapestries and paintings hung on the walls, while on the shelves of a bookcase and on an exquisite wooden coffee table sat several fine metal figurines and sculptures. Bain lay Tovar down gently on the sofa as Prijan went into the cabin’s small kitchen to start a kettle of water boiling.
“Do you drink tea, Captain?” Prijan asked from the kitchen.
“I’m British, madam. I believe tea drinking is in my genetic makeup.”
Prijan laughed. “Not necessarily. I once knew a man from England who wouldn’t touch the stuff. But then Scott was unique.”
A particular piece on the bookcase caught Bain’s eye. He stepped over to it as Prijan continued talking. “And please don’t call me madam. It makes me feel older than I already am. Patricia will be fine.”
Bain picked up the metal sculpture from the book case and turned it over in his hands. It was a starship, an old Excelsior class. The detail was incredible, right down to each individual window. He looked at the name on the saucer. USS SECONDPRIZE.
Patricia stepped out of the kitchen carrying a tray with two cups and a pot of steaming tea. Bain didn’t recognize the aroma, but the blend smelled wonderful.
“Did you make this?” Bain asked, holding up the starship.
“It was an early attempt. I’m almost embarrassed by how amateurish it is, but I’ve gotten better.” She set the tray down on the coffee table and knelt next to Tovar. Once again she seemed to be searching for something in his face. “Funny,” said softly.
“What is it?” Bain asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs and pouring a cup of tea for Patricia and himself.
Patricia took the offered cup. “I expected them to look alike.”
Bain took a sip of his tea. Like everything else on this world, it was exquisite. “Blimey! That’s a DAMN fine cup of tea! Oh…sorry…what were you saying?”
“Just that I expected Tovar to look like him.”
“Look like who?”
“No one you’d know, I’m sure. He died almost 30 years ago, and we’d retired here long before that.” Patricia turned back to Tovar and ran her hand gentle through his matted black hair. “Jaroch, honey, can you hear me?”
Tovar stirred slightly. “He…is here,” he said weakly. “He is struggling against the drugs to retake control.”
The pieces finally clicked into place for Bain. “Hold on a second! You had a relationship with one of Tovar’s past lives!”
“Yes, sir,” Tovar said, trying to sit up. Patricia quickly put her hand on his chest gently.
“Just rest for now. Jaroch warned me that something like this could happen. He’s Interloped, hasn’t he?”
Patricia couldn’t help smiling even as she wiped a tear away from her face. “You persistent bastard!”
“I’m glad you seem so happy about this,” Bain said. “But this Jaroch and his Interloping friends have seriously jeopardized my boy’s sanity!”
Patricia looked at Bain confused. “You’re his father?”
“Adopted. It’s a long story. The point is that now that you’ve been reunited with Jaroch, say your goodbyes, so he can go wherever he’s going to go and Tovar can get his body back.”
Tovar fixed a glare on Bain. “That is not the plan.”
“There’s a plan?”
“It is news to me as well,” Tovar replied. He turned to Patricia. “Jaroch says you are to go to the closet in his workroom. There is a loose panel at the back with a box inside. Please bring the box here.”
Patricia was out of the room in a blur.
“Tovar, what the devil is going on here?” Bain demanded. “I thought this bloody Interloper was supposed to scamper off once he got what he wanted. He saw Patricia; isn’t that it?”
“No, but Jaroch claims to have a solution to our problem. And considering everything that Jaroch has told me up to this point has turned out to be true, I have decided to trust him.”
“Our problem? He’s the one with the problem.”
“His problem is my problem.”
“Not if you’d let J’Atric perform that Hokum spell or whatever it was.”
“Holnym…which would have destroyed Jaroch’s lifeforce, effectively erasing him and the other past lives in that lifeforce from the universe,” Tovar said. “Jaroch seems to believe there is another way, and I want to hear him out.”
Patricia returned a few moments later carrying a small metal box with a retinal scanner mounted on the top.
“Paranoid bugger,” Bain commented.
Ignoring him, Patricia looked into the scanner, which blipped approvingly and opened the latch. She swung open the lid revealing a hypospray and three medicine cartridges.
Tovar silently took the hypospray from Patricia, loaded it with a vial of bluish liquid, then injected it into his neck.
“What are you doing?” Bain demanded.
“Counteracting the drugs,” Tovar said. His body convulsed briefly, then again more violently, knocking the Yynsian to the ground. Bain quickly swooped down to pick him up and lay him on the sofa. “Father,” Tovar said, looking at him intently. “Trust him.”
Bain felt his fists clenching reflexively. Damn it all!
“Oh all right!” Bain said. “But you are coming back!”
“Of course,” Tovar said. His eyes fluttered, then just as suddenly shifted to a calm cool gaze as his body sat up and looked around.
“Jaroch?” Patricia asked hesitantly.
“Yes,” Tovar/Jaroch replied. “I apologize for not following my first instinct, which is to, as the saying goes, “jump you;” however, I will refrain for two reasons. First of all, Captain Bain most likely has no desire to witness a display of passion. And secondly, since this is not my body, any such action may make you and Tovar uncomfortable.”
“Yep. It’s Jaroch,” Patricia said, a huge grin spreading across her face. She dove at Tovar/Jaroch, smothering him with a long kiss. She finally released Tovar/Jaroch a good 90 seconds later. “Sorry, Captain, but you and Tovar are just going to have to deal with it.”
“Well…er…it’s quite all right,” Bain said.
Tovar/Jaroch got to his feet and shook Bain’s hand. “I owe you a debt of gratitude. If not for you and your trust in Tovar, we may never have been reunited.”
“I’m happy to help,” Bain said. “But there is the small matter of…well everything! I don’t even know who you two are, much less what you’re doing on this planet or, most importantly, when I’m getting my boy back!”
“We certainly owe you that much,” Tovar/Jaroch said as he and Patricia settled onto the sofa, hands locked together. Bain forced himself to stop thinking of Tovar’s body as actually being Tovar and leaned back into his chair to listen.
“You noticed my ship sculpture up on the bookcase earlier,” Patricia began. “Well that was where Jaroch and I met. We served together on the Secondprize until I left Starfleet. Then later, after he became the Secondprize’s captain, we found each other again and got married. That’s a story in itself.”
“But one that we will not bore you with in the interest of brevity and not bringing up people who are best left in oblivion,” Tovar/Jaroch said.
“Right. Anyway, years passed, we got older, and eventually Jaroch was promoted to the admiralty,” Patricia said
“My position was in the Starfleet Sciences Division, where I had access to certain information that was not known to the majority of Starfleet. One such item was the existence of this planet and its unique properties. I immediately saw that it could be the solution to our problem.”
Bain looked confused. “What problem? It sounds like everything was perfect.”
“For that lifetime,” Tovar/Jaroch said, “but one day we would die.”
“Everyone does,” Bain said.
“True; however, not everyone comes back,” Tovar/Jaroch said. “I knew that my existence would move along with this lifeforce and join with a new host while Patricia would be gone to me forever. You’re married, Captain. You cannot tell me that the idea of existing for eternity without Mrs. Bain is a palatable one for you.”
“It would be intolerable,” Bain acknowledged.
“Exactly,” Patricia said. “So that’s why we decided just not to die. Jaroch and I settled our affairs and came here never to be seen or heard from again.”
Bain shook his head. “But what about the Ba’ku? They do not seem to be at all fond of outsiders. Why did they accept you?”
“They were sympathetic to our unique situation,” Tovar/Jaroch replied.
“And we brought books,” Patricia added. “You have no idea how bored the Ba’ku were. Their writers just wrote about the same old thing over and over. We gave them something different.”
“In exchange, they allowed us to join their society on the condition that we changed our names and found ways to contribute to the village,” Tovar/Jaroch said.
“That’s why I got into metalwork,” Patricia said.
“And I woodwork. Most of the furniture in this house I built.”
“Nicely done,” Bain said admiringly. “It sounds like you both had things pretty well worked out.”
“We did indeed,” Tovar/Jaroch said. “And it lasted for almost thirty years until I did something unbelievably and uncharacteristically stupid. I left the planet.”
MANY YEARS EARLIER…
Hunched under his poncho, which seemed to be providing little to no protection from the driving rain, Jaroch wondered whether anonymity was really worth all of this hassle. He huddled a little closer to his small spacecraft as the Yridian cargomover operator steered a bulky crate toward the ship’s open cargo hatch.
Admittedly, Jaroch had gone a bit nuts with his purchases, but he did not leave the Briar Patch often, and the Yridia Moon 13 Flea and Farmer’s Market had the best selection of used books outside of the Orion Swap and Sell, a place Jaroch had absolutely no desire to venture into.
A bore-jarring thump drew Jaroch out of his thoughts as the cargo crate collided with the side of his ship.
“Get over!” Jaroch shouted, his voice immediately swallowed up by the pounding rain.
The oblivious cargomover operator backed up and tried it again.
Jaroch ran over, waving his arms as he tried to get the attention of the Yridian behind the controls of the cargomover.
“You’re too far to the LEFT!” Jaroch screamed.
The cargomover came forward again, this time with Jaroch directly underneath the open cargo hatch trying to wave the cargomover over. The crate passed over his head, once again a foot too far to the left.
Continued cracking noises drew Jaroch’s attention upward, just as the bottom of the cargo crate fell out, instantly burying him under a mountain of increasingly-soggy books.
A small gap allowed his face to just barely jut out of his paper tomb so he could see the almost-empty crate looming above him. One volume remained, teetering on the edge of the crate’s gaping hole. It was the book that had been his prize of the trip, the book he intended to give to Patricia for their anniversary when he got back. The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare.
Patricia had taken an interest in Shakespeare several years earlier when she learned his tragedies were full of treachery and murder, just the sort of things that appealed to the security officer in her. She had already read them all, including the comedies.
But this edition was something special. A Klingon artisan had forged an elaborate metal binding for the book, covered with embossed images from the plays (featuring Klingons, of course). It had to weigh close to 23 kilograms.
And now that weight was hovering precariously several meters above his head.
The annoyed Yridian threw the cargomover into reverse…
…which was just enough to send the book plummeting down towards Jaroch’s skull.
The last two thoughts to pass through his mind before it was crushed by the rapidly-descending book were…
1) This was extreme justification to the claim made by many students that Shakespeare would be the death of them,
2) I love you, Patricia.
By the time Tovar/Jaroch finished telling his story, both Patricia and Bain were openly crying.
“Killed by a gift bought out of love,” Bain sniffed. “That’s astoundingly romantic.”
“You stupid bastard!” Patricia cried, pounding Tovar/Jaroch on the chest as tears flowed down her face. “Stupid! Stupid!” The shouting stop as the two dissolved into kissing each other again.
Bain leaned back in his chair, wondering just how much longer this was going to take.
MEANWHILE ELSEWHERE IN THE ALPHA QUADRANT…
Ensign Yonk glanced at the shuttle’s sensor readout’s again, just to see if he was still being pursued. Yep. The Yynsians were still back there. This was getting ridiculous. He’d tried almost every dodge and weave he could think of, but he just couldn’t shake the Yynsian Defense Force ship.
Finally, he saw something on the scanners that gave him an idea. If an asteroid field had worked for Captain Bain, it could work for him too. Yonk sent the shuttle careening to port as he made a mad dash for the asteroids. Predictably, the Yynsian ship turned to follow him, not that Yonk had any intention of making that easy.
He steered the shuttle zigging and zagging through the asteroids, weaving in every conceivable direction, circling a few asteroids several times (just to be elusive), then, confident that he’d completely confused his pursuers, he sailed out of the other side of the field…
…and almost straight into the Yynsian ship.
“Oh beetledung!” Yonk shouted, pounding on the control console just as the Yynsians locked on a tractor beam and began pulling the shuttle into their docking bay.
The sound of yet another chirp of the comm system echoing through the engine room of the USS Navigator, the Lincoln-class support craft assigned to the USS Anomaly, was almost enough to make Lieutenant Shelly Marsden want to deactivate the entire damn system with a plasma explosive.
But she didn’t. Instead, she calmed herself down like a good commanding officer should, and responded to the 100th comm in the last hour.
“Marsden here. What is it, Ensign?”
“Um…I needed to know where to turn next,” Ensign Nott, the Bolian manning the Navigator’s helm, replied hesitantly.
“I don’t know! Where the hell are we?”
“The Goren system. But with all due respect, ma’am, it’d be easier for you to know this if you were up here on the bridge. After all, you are the one in command.”
“Of a ship with four people on it,” Marsden said. “And right now I’m the only one with the ability to keep us ahead of the Yynsians, so I am staying here. Is that understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Nott said sheepishly. “But ma’am?”
“Which way do you want me to turn?”
“Take some damn initiative! This isn’t hard. Turn to port. Turn to starboard. Put it in reverse, for all I care! Just do something!”
“Yes, ma’am,” Nott said.
A moment later, Marsden was knocked off of her feet as the Navigator suddenly slammed into reverse. Luckily, she was already on the deck, so she wasn’t knocked down again by what happened next.
“NOTT!!! What was that?” Marsden shouted at the top of her lungs.
“Um…well…we just backed into the Yynsians.”
“And why did we do that?” Marsden said, trying to get her fury back under control.
“Well, you said go in reverse.”
Marsden grabbed the nearest blunt object, a quantum fluctuator, and charged out the engine room to hunt down and bludgeon her helm officer as the Navigator was pulled into the docking bay of the Yynsian vessel.
Another bit of movement in the corner of his eye sent Lieutenant Gworos’ head whipping to the left to find the source. It was happening again. He was sure of it.
The Klingon’s fists tightened, his knuckles turning white as he carefully watched the walls of the microshuttle as it sped ahead of a pursuing Yynsian ship.
Was that more movement?
The hull was closing in on him! He just knew it!
His eyes darted back and forth, looking for some escape from this space-bound death trap. The walls were so close now he could barely breathe. They were going to crush him!
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. As much as it went against his sense of honor and Klingon beliefs, it was either this or ritual suicide…and he didn’t think he had enough room to maneuver the knife properly.
Gworos tapped a control on the console in front of him, activating the comm system. “Yynsian vessel, I SURRENDER! GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
Disgusting. Positively disgusting. Lieutenant Brazzell looked around the Raceabout Rhone wondering how often these ships were cleaned. He’d already given the controls a thorough wipe-down just so he could steer the craft and avoid capture by the Yynsians, but there was absolutely no way that his carefully-sterilized uniform pants were touching that faux-leather chair, going where the rear ends of who knew how many ill-kempt officers had gone before.
Now that he seemed to have a comfortable lead on the Yynsians and had programmed the autopilot’s evasive maneuver generator, Brazzell had the time to really deal with the horrifying condition of the rest of craft.
Well, it was best to start at the rear and work his way forward, so after replicating a veritable cornucopia of cleaning supplies, Brazzell slipped on a sterile breathing mask and headed to the raceabout’s bathroom to get started.
Hours (and we do mean HOURS) later, Brazzell shut off the vacuum (A Vulcalux Black Hole model), satisfied that every possible atom of grime had been evicted from the cockpit carpet.
That’s when he heard the noise.
Bang bang bang.
Odd. The ship had been in perfect working order…engineering-wise, that is.
BANG BANG BANG.
Hmmm…it seemed to be coming from the raceabout’s entry hatch.
Brazzell walked over to investigate.
BANG BANG BANG.
Yes. This was definitely the source. He looked at the hatchway’s sensor readout. Very odd. There appeared to be a breathable atmosphere.
He turned, looked at the front viewport, and saw that he was absolutely not in space anymore. Instead, it appeared to be some sort of docking bay.
And that’s when he noticed the light flashing on the control console asking him if he wanted to engage the evasive maneuver program he’d activated.
BANG BANG BANG.
Brazzell activate the hatch, which obediently slid open revealing two armed officers dressed in the uniforms of the Yynsian Defense Force.
“May I help you?” Brazzell asked innocently.
“By combined order of Starfleet Command and the Yynsian Defense Force, we will be searching this craft. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause with your regularly scheduled flight plan.” The officers took a step forward to enter the raceabout.
“WIPE YOUR FEET!” Brazzell screamed. “I just cleaned! No. Better yet, give me those boots.”
The officers looked at each other uneasily.
“You heard me. Hand them over now, or you aren’t coming in!” Brazzell pressed his arms against the doorframe, effectively blocking the entryway.
The officers shrugged and removed their boots, handing them sheepishly over to Brazzell.
“Oh my!” Brazzell cried, trying to get the boots as far away from his nose as possible. He tossed them outside in a huff.
“Oh, sorry about that,” Brazzell called. He quickly whipped a can of extra-strength deodorizer and disinfectant out of his supply belt and assaulted the feet of the officers already in the raceabout.
Two more officers approached the hatchway. “You’re going to have to come with us,” one of them stated.
“Out there?” Brazzell said in horror. “You must be joking. I don’t know where your ship has been!”
The Yynsians that suddenly grabbed him and yanked him out of the raceabout didn’t really seem to care.
On the whole, Commander Prosak had thought that this chase would be a bit more exciting. As it was, the Yynsian ship pursing the Anomaly had been matching them turn for turn, speed change to speed change, but otherwise seemed quite content to keep its distance.
“You seem irritated, Commander,” Ensign Hector Arroyo observed from the helm as Prosak stood manning the tac-ops console at the rear of the Anomaly’s bridge.
“Irritation is an emotion,” Prosak replied distractedly, falling back on her automatic RommaVulc response.
“Yep. It’s the one you’re having currently.”
“I am NOT annoyed!” Prosak snapped. She suddenly realized what she’d just done. “Well, maybe I am.”
“We not being chased fast enough for your liking?”
“Actually, no! Why don’t they do something? I’m ready for a fight!”
“You?” Arroyo said surprised. “What happened to the whole logic and serenity thing?”
“I’m still logical and serene,” Prosak said defensively. “It’s just…well…” She looked around at the empty bridge. “I suppose since only you and I are here, I will tell you this.”
“Oh, a secret!” Arroyo said, spinning around in his seat to face the Romulan.
Prosak glared at Arroyo disapprovingly, but continued anyway. “To be honest, I found my efforts to retake the Anomaly from Mr. Tovar’s past life to be…exhilarating. I have therefore decided I’d like more such activity in my life. In short, I wish to be a woman of action…logical action, obviously, but action.”
“A woman of logical action?” Arroyo said.
He spun back around as his console began to beep. “Well you may be about to get your chance. The Yynsians are closing…and they’ve brought friends.”
“Confirmed,” Prosak said, checking the readouts on the tac- ops console.
“You thought I was kidding?”
“Not at all.”
“Then why did you need to confirm it? You don’t trust me?”
“It’s just protocol!” Prosak snapped.
“Sure it is,” Arroyo grumbled as the sent the Anomaly into a steep dive.
“They are attempting to box us in,” Prosak reported, watching the five Yynsian vessels closing in on their position. Either the other Anomaly craft had all been rounded up, or the Yynsians had sent backup.
“I’d like to see them try.”
“I don’t understand the point of it myself. Even if they stop us, we have our shields raised. They will be unable to beam aboard unless they open fire on us, which I sincerely doubt they are going to do.”
“We can hope,” Arroyo said uncertainly.
“I have great faith in Starfleet Command. They will not consent for the Yynsians to harm us,” Prosak replied. “Hey! We’re receiving a Fed-O-Gram!”
“Oh no,” Arroyo said, sinking down into his seat.
Prosak looked at him quizzically. “Are you expecting bad news?”
“Why? Is it from my parents?” Arroyo asked, dread evident in his voice.
“I do not yet know who it is from. Do you not want to hear from your parents? I’m sure Starfleet has informed them that we’ve returned from Andromeda. They probably just want to see you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“Just play the damn thing!” Arroyo said, prompting a raised eyebrow from Prosak.
“Your tone is unnecessary,” Prosak said. “But I will respect your wishes.” She tapped a button on the tac-ops console, activating the Fed-O-Gram. The image of a Starfleet admiral appeared on the screen.
“USS Anomaly. This is Admiral Jansen of Starfleet’s Federation Member Relations Bureau. Please excuse this unusual way of communicating with you, but we weren’t sure that, given the current circumstances, you would respond to a standard hail. The Yynsians have caught up with your ship, and you will now stand down and prepare to be boarded.”
“I’ll snip off the points of my ears first,” Prosak said defiantly to the pre-recorded message.
“By the way, along with this message, we’ve transmitted your prefix code including commands that now will be shutting down your engines and shields. Have a nice day.”
The admiral’s image vanished leaving Prosak shouting a stream of utterances that were MOST illogical as the ship slowed to a halt and the shields dropped.
An instant later, five armed Yynsian Defense Force officers and Polem T’Dur from the Temple of Mi Clane materialized on the bridge.
“Ha! I’ve caught you, Bain!” T’Dur announced triumphantly. He suddenly realized the command chair was empty.
“Where’s Bain?” T’Dur demanded, glaring at Prosak accusingly. “Hiding from me isn’t fair!”
“I’m not telling,” Prosak said, folding her arms with a “hmmph!”
“Shut off the sensor masking,” T’Dur ordered, waving one of the officers over to tac-ops as he turned to face the viewscreen. Prosak stepped aside, allowing the Yynsian officer access to the console, which she had “accidentally” set to display the controls in Kynaxan, a language of 574 symbols, each of which looked almost exactly like all the others.
“The rest of you help search the ship,” T’Dur said, sending the other four Yynsians charging into the turbolift. “We have been authorized by the Federation to retain control of this ship until Captain Bain surrenders Tovar to us,” T’Dur announced.
“We weren’t going anywhere anyway,” Arroyo replied, turning around to face T’Dur. He struggled to keep his face neutral as he spotted Prosak sneaking silently up on the Yynsian priest.
“And you will continue not going anywhere until I have Tovar and can give him his Holnym.”
“Why don’t you just leave it here, and I’ll see that he gets it,” Arroyo offered.
Prosak, now mere inches away from T’Dur, clamped her hand down on the Yynsian’s shoulder, pressing her fingers against the appropriate pressure points. T’Dur turned his head to look at his attacker.
“What are you doing?”
“The Vulcan…oh never mind.”
T’Dur ignored her, turning his attention to the officer at tac- ops. “Have you disabled the sensor masking?”
“Um…I’m not quite sure how.”
“I sincerely hope your past lives are more intelligent than you,” T’Dur muttered, striding over to the confused officer.
“I don’t understand it,” Prosak said in the meantime, looking at her fingers. “I know I did it right…at least I think I did.”
The turbolift doors opened, allowing the four Yynsian officers who had recently left to trot back onto the bridge. “The other teams report no sign of Tovar.”
“He has to be here somewhere,” T’Dur said. “We’ve tracked down all of their other support craft.”
Prosak was busy with her own problems. “It always works on me,” she continued. “Place fingers here and here, then pinch.” She placed her hand on her shoulder, squeezed, then promptly collapsed to the deck.
Arroyo spun back around and bonked his head lightly against the helm console a couple of times. Why him?
T’Dur looked up from tac-ops as Prosak thudded to the floor. He glanced around, his eyes locking on what he presumed to be the captain’s ready room. “Put her in there and lock the doors.” No sense in possibly inspiring a rebellion among the crew by carting their unconscious first officer through the halls to the ship’s brig.
The four Yynsian officers picked up Prosak, took her to the ready room doors, which obediently opened, then tossed her on the bed inside. None of them really thought to ask why there was a bed in the ready room. It just wasn’t their problem.
“And you!” T’Dur said, pointing at Arroyo. “Just sit there and don’t do anything. We may need you to fly us somewhere at some point.”
“Sitting away,” Arroyo said, getting as comfortable in his chair as he could as he wondered whether or not Captain Bain would want him to try to retake the ship from the Yynsians. They were Federation members operating with the approval of Starfleet Command, after all. Best just to leave it in the hands of those more capable of handling the problem. Unfortunately, all of the people meeting that description were either off the ship or unconscious at the moment. Oh well. Not his problem.
Just about the time Captain Bain thought he was going to be forced to either politely take his leave or step in before Jaroch and Patricia Hawkins did something with Tovar’s body that he wasn’t entirely sure Tovar would approve of, the two reunited lovers finally pulled away from each other and commenced to straighten their disheveled appearance as best they could.
“Our apologies for the delay,” Tovar/Jaroch said. “We should move on to the next phase of this particular operation.”
“Sounds like a capital idea to me,” Bain said. “I greatly dislike operating in the dark, which is pretty much been the way this has gone from the get go.”
“Once again, I appreciate your indulgence,” Tovar/Jaroch said. “I did not want to reveal everything until I was sure that you could be trusted.”
“Tovar knows me better than that.”
“Tovar trusts you implicitly; however, he also knows that you will follow your own path if you believe it to be the right one. That is what sent us to Yyns in the first place. If I had not planned ahead for the possibility and prepared the hypospray, I would still be trapped due to the drugs Tovar was given.”
“I suppose you have a point,” Bain replied. “But we’re past that now, and I want my son back. What do we have to do?”
“In simplest terms, get me another body,” Tovar/Jaroch replied.
“You meaning Jaroch?”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Patricia said. “I’m not even sure I can get used to you in this body.”
Jaroch placed a reassuring hand on her arm. “I have every intention of at the very least reclaiming the appearance of my old self. From what I have gathered of this century from Tovar’s mind, the technology exists to create lifelike androids. From there we would simply need to find a compatible organic brain to transfer this lifeforce into so that I can control the mechanism.”
“An android?” Patricia said obviously not thrilled with the idea. “Well, if it would get you back…”
“The other option is to somehow locate a residual transporter trace of my body. I do not know what happened to my Secondprize, but perhaps it exists in a fleet museum.”
Bain thought for a moment. “I don’t remember the name from the museum. It could be there, I guess.”
“The final option is for one of us to go back in time, get a transporter trace of my body, then return with it.”
“Just lovely,” Bain muttered.
“I feel the same, and there is one additional issue.”
“Transferring your lifeforce,” Patricia said.
“Precisely. We will need to perform a Holnym.”
“Now hang on a second!” Bain exclaimed. “I just pulled you out of one of those!”
“True,” Tovar/Jaroch acknowledged. “However, the Polems at the Temple of Mi Clane were going to send me into Oblivion. I believe that Polem J’Atric could use the Holnym to transfer my lifeforce to another body, much as the Vulcans are able to do with their katras. In the metaphysical sense, the concepts are quite similar.”
Bain sat forward. “Let me make sure I’m getting all this. We need to nip back in time, swipe a transporter trace of you, then swing over to Yyns, grab a Polem, then convince him to put your lifeforce into another you.”
“In essence, yes,” Tovar/Jaroch said.
“Now, Captain. I seriously doubt that such odds daunt you in the slightest.”
“Oh it’s not that,” Bain replied. “It’s just that time travel generates a whole mountain of paperwork. Starfleet’s almost been able to wipe out unauthorized temporal trips with the bureaucracy alone.”
“I’m sure Tovar will help you fill it out after we finish,” Patricia said.
“Then we’d best get cracking,” Bain said, practically jumping up from his chair.
“We will accompany you,” Tovar/Jaroch said.
“Negative, lad,” Bain said, clapping a hand on Tovar/Jaroch’s shoulder. “Well, half of you is a lad anyway. The point is that you’re not leaving this planet. Most of the quadrant is probably looking for you by now. You’re probably best off here.” He turned to Patricia. “And as for you, you heard what happened last time he left the planet. I’m not risking the same thing happening to you. Just stay here and get reacquainted.” Bain stopped for a second, realizing what he’d just said. “Maybe you should just talk. Be back as soon as I can.” He pinched his commpip. “Computer, retrieve.” A moment later, Bain vanished in a cascade of molecules.
“Does Tovar really think Captain Bain can do it alone?” Patricia asked once Bain was gone.
“What’s so funny?”
“All Tovar said is, ‘He’s Reginald Bain.’”
“So what does that mean?”
“Evidently it means that Bain will get the job done, even if he has to destroy Yyns and rewrite several timelines to do it.”
“Refresh my memory. Is that a good thing or not?” Patricia said uneasily.
Bain thought about his next step long and hard during his flight out of the Briar Patch. The prospect of solo time travel didn’t exactly thrill him. Like most Starfleet officers, he’d had a trip or two to the past in his career, but they’d always been with other people.
Then on top of the solo factor, there was the issue of even locating the Secondprize in the past. Of course, then he’d have to somehow find a way to get a transporter trace of Jaroch and snatch that J’Atric fellow off of Yyns.
Tremendous odds against him, to be sure, but he’d find a way.
But first he needed to do something for himself.
Bain waited until he’d steered the Raceabout Frinoqua a good distance away from the Briar Patch, then sent a comm to the one person he’d been desperate to speak to since the Anomaly’s arrival back in the Milky Way.
“Professor Bain,” Rosalyn Bain, Starfleet Academy Professor of Tactics, replied crisply on the other end of the commline. Bain was silent for a moment as he looked at his bride of forty years, her hair done up in an elegant bun. A broad smile immediately spread across her face as she realized who had commed her.
“Reggie!” she exclaimed happily. “Where are you?”
“I can’t really say right now, buttercup,” Bain replied. “Tovar’s in a bit of a fix that’s put us afoul of Starfleet Command at the moment. I just needed to hear your voice before I ran off.”
“Off? Can you at least tell me where you’re going?”
“I have to run back in time for a bit to get a transporter trace of a bloke named Jaroch. Used to command a ship called the Secondprize.”
“Are you all right, honey?” Bain asked concerned.
“Just a twinge in my back. I’ve been teaching all day,” Rosalyn replied. “Listen, dearest, I have a friend who has the Secondprize’s old transporter buffer in his collection. I’m positive he said that the pattern of someone named Jaroch is stored in there. Let me get the pattern and send it to you.”
“Smashing!” Bain said, slapping his hand down on his knee. He couldn’t believe his luck. “Saves me a trip to the past. Thank you, luv. I’ll get back in touch with you after I get finished on Yyns.”
“Yyns?” Rosalyn said surprised.
“I just need to grab a priest. Hopefully, we’ll have all of this wrapped up in a jif. Love you, dear. Bain out.”
Rosalyn waved back distractedly as the channel closed.
Wonderful woman, Bain thought as he steered the raceabout toward Yyns. Always concerned with my well-being, and she always comes through in a pinch. Uncanny.
110 YEARS EARLIER…
Captain Jaroch of the USS Secondprize returned the greetings of various members of his crew with a courteous nod as he proceeded through the corridors of the ship toward the quarters he shared with his wife, Patricia Hawkins. Despite the fact that the majority of the ship’s original crew had moved on to new assignments or other phases of their lives, the ship had managed to maintain its status (or curse, depending on which admiral you spoke to) as the place where the oddballs and misfits of Starfleet could find a home.
And for Jaroch it had truly become a home. With Patricia here, he felt a contentment with his existence that he hadn’t experienced since…well, ever. Now he looked forward to returning to their quarters to share a quiet evening alone and talk about their day. Even though she wasn’t Starfleet anymore, Patricia had gained quite a reputation as a private security consultant. From the comfort of the Secondprize, she would go over plans for various outposts and installations and make suggestions to improve their security. Her title also gave Jaroch wide latitude to bring her along on away missions when the situation warranted it or when the ship happened to be visiting someplace particularly scenic.
Of course, occasionally Patricia’s job required personal visits to different locations, and while he’d never admit it, those times when Patricia was away from the ship left an aching inside him that he didn’t think was possible.
Jaroch had nothing but Patricia on his mind when a voice called out from his left.
“Are you Captain Jaroch?”
He stopped and turned to see an older woman (perhaps in her 50s or 60s; although it was hard to tell considering the varying rates at which different species aged. She appeared human, but who could say for sure) standing in the open doorway of a set of quarters. She was dressed all in black and had her graying hair up in a bun as she looked at him with eyes that were all business.
“Who are you and what are you doing on my ship?” Jaroch inquired.
“That’s a yes,” she said, suddenly grabbing Jaroch, covering his mouth, and yanking him into the quarters with surprising strength.
Five minutes later, Jaroch found himself standing back in the middle of one of the Secondprize’s corridors feeling rather disoriented. He’d been walking back to see Patricia, and then… Things got fuzzy at that point.
He suddenly realized he was outside his own quarters. Obviously he’d just zoned out while thinking about Patricia and not paid attention as he walked the rest of the way to his quarters. That was obviously what had happened…obviously. Pushing the incident from his mind, Jaroch walked into his quarters and into the arms of Patricia Hawkins.
Meanwhile in a set of empty quarters, 26th century Section 31 operative Rosalyn Bain double checked the readout on her porta-transporter just to make sure she had Jaroch’s pattern stored properly, then called for temporal retrieval. Rosalyn loved her husband dearly. He was a wonderful man, but there was no way she was going to let him go wandering through time to get something she could quite simply obtain herself.
A split second later, Rosalyn vanished, leaving no trace that she was ever there.
BACK IN THE 26TH CENTURY…
Annoying blighters, Reginald Bain thought as he kept the Runabout Frinoqua in a holding pattern above Yyns. So far, Yynsian Docking Control hadn’t been real keen on the idea of allowing him to enter orbit or beam down to the surface. He had a sinking feeling that the Yynsians weren’t buying his cover story.
“You’re his brother?” the voice of the docking control officer on the other end of the comm line said skeptically.
“Spot on,” Bain replied. “I’m…er…Ronald.”
“Captain Ronald Bain?”
“You’ve got it,” Bain said.
“Hold on, sir.”
That damn annoying hold music started again. Evidently Yynsians had a real thing for electric harp music. It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t insist on having whatever the hell that instrument was accompanying it in the background. It sounded like several dozen canaries slowly being crushed. He’d frankly rather listen to army of drunken Frenchmen attempting to play the bagpipes. But the French don’t play the bagpipes, we hear you cry. Exactly!
“Sir?” the voice said finally.
“Frankly, sir, after your brother’s actions, the Yynsian government doesn’t feel comfortable allowing another Bain onto the planet.”
“Listen, I just need to ask Polem J’Atric of the Temple of Mi Clane a couple of questions about what happened,” Bain explained.
“Can you do it from orbit over a commline?”
Bain hesitated for a moment, then cracked a smile. “Most assuredly.”
“I’ll connect you now.”
The line went silent for a moment, then J’Atric came on. “Hello?” the Polem said, sounding irritated. Bain reached over at pressed a couple of controls on the sensor console, activating an automated system.
“Polem J’Atric, how are you today?” Bain said brightly.
“Busy. Who are you and what do you want?”
“Excellent questions,” Bain replied watching the progress of the sensor console. “Well, sir, Starfleet feels just awful about what happened with Tovar, so to make it up to you, we’d like to offer you a free trip of one of over a half dozen exciting Federation destinations.”
“I don’t want a trip,” J’Atric said. “Just leave me in peace.”
The sensors finished the final leg of the operation, tracing J’Atric’s comm signal to its source. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Polem,” Bain said as the transporter locked onto J’Atric. A moment later, a wet, naked, bubble-covered J’Atric materialized at the rear of the raceabout’s cockpit.
“Good God, man!” Bain exclaimed.
“I was in the bath!” J’Atric shouted, getting up from his sitting position as Bain raced to the replicator.
“Towel, extra large, double quick!” Bain ordered. Bain ripped the towel out of the replicator and tossed it at the dripping Yynsian, then Bain leapt into the pilot’s seat and set a course away from Yyns, best possible speed.
“I’m in space!” Polem J’Atric cried, looking at the stars out the viewport.
“I promise to have you home as soon as I can,” Bain said.
“I’ve never been off the planet.”
“Never?” Bain said surprised. “At your age? You must be…”
“145,” J’Atric replied.
“Then it’s high time you saw a bit of the galaxy.”
“I was quite content where I was. Now why by all my lives did you need to come swipe me out of a perfectly nice tub?”
“I gathered that,” J’Atric said. “What’s happened to him?”
“He needs you to perform a Holnym on him.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Bain, but wasn’t that the plan in the first place?” J’Atric replied testily.
“I said the same thing, but evidently Jaroch’s got a plan to put his lifeforce in a new body.”
“Jaroch? Who in the…Ohhhhhh,” J’Atric said, suddenly placing the name. “I vaguely remember the name. His sister was a Temple Priestess, I think. Lovely woman.” He was lost in a memory for a moment, then returned to the present. “All right, so Jaroch’s lifeforce is the Interloper, I presume.”
“There’s a spot on what?” J’Atric asked, looking down at his towel.
“Never mind. The point is that Jaroch is getting a new body, and we need you to Holnym his lifeforce into it.”
J’Atric looked at Bain skeptically. “And just where is he getting this new body?”
“My wife should be sending it to me anytime now.”
“She isn’t knitting it, I hope.”
Bain was about to stand up for his dear missus when the comm system started beeping. He shot J’Atric one annoyed glare, then activated the message.
A bland computer voice started to drone. “You have received a Galax-port Parcel from…”
“Rosalyn Bain,” his wife’s voice said.
Then the computer started in again. “Would you like to accept the beam?”
“Absolutely,” Bain said, standing up from his chair as a transporter beam began to coalesce in the rear of the cockpit. He didn’t know who these Galax-port people where, but they sure seemed to have some incredible range on their transporters. Leave it to Rosalyn to find the quickest, most efficient way to get Bain his parcel.
He picked up the transporter buffer as soon as it finished materializing then stuck it in front of J’Atric’s face. “Ha! Knit that, you silly sot!”
“I still don’t see a body.”
“Funny, I’ve seen too much of yours,” Bain replied, retaking his seat.
J’Atric snorted derisively. “Are there any clothes on this crate?”
“Ask the replicator in the back,” Bain said. “And there’s a bathtub back there as well, if you want to finish your soak.”
“That’s the first civil thing you’ve said to me, Bain. I may help you yet.”
“Glad to hear it,” Bain said as J’Atric stepped out of the cockpit. “Otherwise I’d have to start removing extremities until you did,” he muttered as the raceabout sailed on a return course to the Briar Patch.
Thus far, T’Dur had found taking over the Anomaly to be spectacularly underwhelming. Sure there was the initial rush of beaming aboard and seizing command of a starship, but since then he’d been doing a remarkable amount of waiting.
There really wasn’t even much around to do for entertainment. Sure the ship had holopods in every set of quarters, something that T’Dur found very exciting at first…at least until he learned that all of the ship’s holographic functions had been destroyed in the Andromeda Galaxy and wouldn’t be repaired until the Anomaly spent some time in spacedock.
He did manage to find a few Yynsian vids in the Anomaly’s database, but he’d already seen every episode of “Third Wheel of Life,” the wacky adventures of a man who accidentally marries a woman sharing a lifeforce with his dead mother.
So with nothing to do, T’Dur spent most of his time sitting in the Anomaly’s command chair watching the unmoving space in front of them. Until he got a lead as to where Captain Bain and Tovar had run-off to, there just wasn’t much point in going anywhere. Eventually, Bain would slip up, and T’Dur would have him. The only question was when that time would be.
It turned out to be 1739 hours.
“Polem T’Dur, we’re being hailed by YDF Command,” the Yynsian Defense Force officer manning tac-ops reported. “Polem J’Atric is missing!”
“Missing!” T’Dur exclaimed, standing up quickly and brushing the crumbs from the cake he’d had at lunch off of his ceremonial robes. “How is that possible?”
“Evidently Captain Bain’s brother showed up in a raceabout and beamed him right out of the Temple.”
At the helm, Arroyo perked up. Bain’s brother? Did Bain even have a brother? And even if he did, why would he get involved in this?
“Are they pursuing him?”
“Well…no. All of our ships are here.”
T’Dur shook his fist in the air. “Bain! The man is an evil genius!” He turned on the officer at tac-ops. “Did they at least manage to track which way he went?”
“Yes, Polem. Receiving the trajectory now.”
“You!” T’Dur snapped, pointing at Arroyo. “Intercept course!”
“How can I intercept a raceabout when you don’t even know where it is for sure?” Arroyo asked.
“Just get us there! Warp…however fast you can go!”
“Will seven do?”
“How about eight?”
“Fine!” T’Dur spat, throwing himself back into the command chair. “Engage. Make it so. Hop to it. Or whatever the hell it is I’m supposed to say.”
From behind the doors of Bain’s former ready room (now her quarters) Commander Prosak listened to T’Dur’s orders with some consternation. This was not going according to her plan at all.
First off, she was supposed to still be out on the bridge. When neck-pinching T’Dur hadn’t worked, she’d faked a pinch on herself (she stopped accidentally neck pinching herself months ago) in hopes that she would be allowed to lay there, supposedly unconscious, while she looked for another opportunity to take the Yynsians by surprise.
But no. They had to throw her in here. On the upside, they hadn’t noticed that it wasn’t a ready room. On the downside, she was locked in and hadn’t managed to find a way out. Where was the logic in not having a hatch into the jefferies tubes located in the captain’s ready room? What if he needed to flee into the bowels of the ship or something? Marsden would hear about this as soon as this crisis was over!
Prosak was sure that a way out would present itself eventually. In the meantime, she had the perfect opportunity to organize her “Great Moments in Logic” trading card set.
While many people had mistaken him for one at various times in the past, Captain Reginald Bain was no fool. Most of the people who had taken him for one usually found themselves on the wrong end of Bain’s fist or phaser at some point. So Bain had a pretty strong suspicion that his movements were most likely being tracked. That left him with a few options.
The first, and probably the one most people would opt for, was to try to plot a winding, evasive course back to the Briar Patch in hopes of throwing off any pursuers. The problem here was that the longer he stayed out in open space, the more likely he was to run across a Yynsian, Starfleet, or other Federation ship that knew to be on the lookout for him.
The second, and the preferable one in Bain’s mind, was just to make a run for the Briar Patch. It was in a remote area. Also, no one knew about the planet inside, so it probably wouldn’t be high on the list of places the Yynsians would think Bain was going. But the best reason to do it this way was Polem J’Atric. The man had started examining the paint used on parts of the raceabout and replicating samples, so he could time how long it took them to dry. That would have been fine, but the man insisted on babbling incessantly about it!
So Bain pressed the Raceabout Frinoqua’s engines to the absolute limit and sped into the Briar Patch without seeing so much as a single other ship. Sure they’d find him eventually, but with any luck he and Tovar would be on their way back to Yyns with J’Atric and without Jaroch at that point.
Tovar/Jaroch and Patricia Hawkins were nowhere to be found when Bain and J’Atric materialized inside of the cabin’s living area. Normally Bain would have commed first, but the Ba’ku didn’t exactly seem to have a subspace transceiver laying about, and Tovar, under Jaroch’s control, had removed his commpips back on Yyns.
Bain hesitantly walked down the hallway toward the rooms at the rear of the cabin, fearing that primal urges had gotten the best of Patricia and Jaroch, leaving poor Tovar as nothing but a conduit for their lovemaking. But the bedroom was empty, the bed undisturbed.
Now darker thoughts sprung to mind. Bain locked his wrist phaser into the firing position and motioned for J’Atric to stay still.
“What?” the Yynsian called loudly.
“Bloody hell!” Bain cried. “I’m trying to be silent!”
“Well, you’re doing a damn poor job of it!” J’Atric snapped.
“He is indeed,” Tovar/Jaroch’s voice said. Bain whirled around to see Tovar/Jaroch and Patricia Hawkins stepping through the front door of the cabin.
“Sorry to worry you, Captain,” Patricia said. “We just wanted to walk down to the lake. Honestly, we weren’t expecting you back this soon.”
“Welcome, Polem,” Tovar/Jaroch said with a slight bow. “I am grateful that you came.”
“Bain didn’t give me a choice. Beamed me right out of a nice bubble bath.”
“I gave you a towel!” Bain replied defensively.
“Were you able to get the transporter pattern?” Patricia asked anxiously.
“I wouldn’t have bothered with J’Atric if I hadn’t,” Bain replied. “I’ve got the transporter buffer with Jaroch’s pattern tied into the raceabout’s system. As soon as I give the order, we’ll have it.”
J’Atric looked Tovar/Jaroch up and down skeptically. “So, Interloper, how much of a fight is Tovar giving you right now?”
“None. He fully supports this course of action,” Tovar/Jaroch replied.
“Did he support it when you invaded his body?”
“I did what was necessary.”
“You trampled over our rules! Our traditions! And for what? To get back to a human?”
“Living here, she is effectively immortal,” Tovar/Jaroch said.
“If you hadn’t meddled with the order of things in the first place, she’d be dead, and you wouldn’t be in this fix!” J’Atric retorted. “How’d you do it anyway? Not just anyone can Interlope. The Past Life Clearinghouse is designed to prevent it!”
“When I died, my primary concern was to get back here to Patricia as quickly as possible. I was informed that my lifeforce would not be allotted a new host body for three hundred years. That was unacceptable. Fortunately, the lifeforce of someone I knew had taken a position in the Clearinghouse and was able to look away while I jumped into the next available host. Tovar already had a lifeforce assigned, so I became the Interloper. Now I am trying to leave. Nothing more.”
J’Atric snorted. “Help, eh? Sounds like your sister to me. She always was soft-hearted. All right, let’s get this over with.”
“You will still perform the Holnym?” Tovar/Jaroch asked surprised.
“Of course! I didn’t let Bain drag me all this way for nothing.”
“My apologies. From your comments, I presumed that you would not help us.”
“Willingly, that is,” Patricia said with just a hint of menace in her voice.
“What do you need for this ceremony? Besides a body,” Bain asked.
“Just me,” J’Atric said, rubbing his hands together to get them warmed up. “I’ll handle everything.”
“I’ll call for the body then,” Bain said, reaching for his commpip. He stopped halfway there. “Hang on a tic. If this is a transporter duplicate of Jaroch, he’s already going to have Jaroch’s personality and all. I doubt Rosalyn’s friend was able to just edit it out.”
“Your wife obtained this for you?” Tovar/Jaroch asked.
“Yes, she did, the dear. I commed to tell her I was heading back in time, but she said she had a friend with an old Secondprize buffer, so here we are.”
Tovar/Jaroch smiled, an act which confused Bain. “It will be fine then,” he said.
“How do you know?” Bain asked.
“All right.” Bain pinched his commpip. “Bain to Frinoqua, energize.”
A moment later, a figure materialized in the center of the room, eliciting a joyful gasp from Patricia Hawkins.
“I’m guessing from this lovely lady’s reaction that we got the right bloke,” Bain said with a grin.
“You did indeed,” Tovar/Jaroch replied, eyeing his old body, which stood silently at the center of the room, breathing softly. The Jaroch body had autonomous functions only. No mind and no lifeforce was present.
“Let’s get you boys comfortable and switch some minds,” J’Atric said, heading back to the bedroom. Bain hoisted the Jaroch body up over his shoulder and followed, with Tovar/Jaroch and Patricia Hawkins bringing up the rear.
All in all, Ensign Hector Arroyo was not in the best of moods. He wasn’t completely upset, but he wasn’t thrilled with things either. He was…uneasy. Technically, what had happened, meaning the Yynsian takeover of the Anomaly, had been approved by Starfleet. And while he served under Captain Bain, Starfleet was still in charge. Therefore, it shouldn’t bother him so much that Starfleet had overridden Bain.
But still, knowing that Bain and Tovar were out there somewhere, several other crewmembers were being held on Yynsian ships, and that Commander Prosak was basically a prisoner in her own quarters really made Arroyo want to extend his wrist phaser into position and start firing. Of course, it would have helped if he’d been wearing one.
With that option unavailable, Arroyo was forced to find another way to show his frustration, so he started slowing the ship down. Not much, but just a hundredth of a warp factor gradually. The ship was now moving at Warp 6.76, but T’Dur hadn’t noticed at all.
Arroyo was about ready to knock it down to 6.75 when he noticed a bit of text flashing on his console.
ARE WE ALMOST THERE? - PROSAK
Arroyo glanced around nervously, just to make sure none of the Yynsians were looking over his shoulder, then he started casually typing back.
NO. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE THERE IS. - ARROYO
I SEE. WE MUST RETAKE THE SHIP OR WARN CAPTAIN BAIN. - PROSAK
I DON’T THINK WE CAN DO EITHER RIGHT NOW. TOO MANY OF THEM. - ARROYO
WE CAN’T JUST SIT HERE! WE HAVE TO ACT. BESIDES, I’M BORED!!!! - PROSAK
I MAY HAVE AN IDEA - ARROYO
--- X | | - - - - - | | - - - - - | | --- X | | - - - - - | O | - - - - - | | --- X | | - - - - - | O | - - - - - X | |
And so it went…
J’Atric slowly removed his hands from the heads of the two unconscious Yynsians, then pulled Tovar and Jaroch’s foreheads apart, allowing the seated pair to collapse onto the bed in Patricia and Jaroch’s bedroom.
“Did it work?” Patricia asked immediately.
“It better have or I just wore myself out for nothing,” J’Atric replied. “Make yourself useful, Bain, and find me a drink.”
“No need to be snotty about it,” Bain muttered, leaving the room as Patricia knelt beside the bed, holding Jaroch’s hands in hers.
“I seem…,” Jaroch said groggily. “…to remember that you had a stronger grip.”
“I’m just taking it easy on you,” Patricia replied smiling as Jaroch’s eyes fluttered open. She helped him to a sitting position, then sat beside him for support as his eyes struggled to focus.
“How do you feel?” J’Atric asked kindly.
“The most normal I have felt in many many years,” Jaroch replied, squeezing Patricia’s hand.
“No offense,” Patricia said. “But I really want the rest of you out of our house very VERY soon.”
“I’d be happy to get back to Yyns myself,” J’Atric said stepping over to check on Tovar as Bain returned with a glass of water for the Polem. J’Atric practically snatched it out of Bain’s hand and chugged it. “Holnyms are thirsty work,” he said after a satisfied sigh.
“Mr. Jaroch, I presume,” Bain said, extending his hand to the revived Yynsian.
“In the flesh,” Jaroch replied with the hint of a smile as he returned Bain’s handshake. “Once again, I owe you a debt of gratitude.”
“We both do,” Patricia said. “When you and Mrs. Bain decide to retire, we’ll definitely put in a word for you here.”
Bain smiled and shook his head. “That’s very kind, but no thanks. I know I have an appointment scheduled with the Reaper one day, and Reginald Bain is not one to break a date!”
“Damn fool,” J’Atric muttered.
Bain ignored him. “There’s still one thing I don’t understand. If you were in Tovar all of this time, why did you wait until now to take any action?”
“He couldn’t,” J’Atric cut in. “Tovar was too young. He could exert temporary influence here and there, but a full-fledged take over of the type needed to pull this off would have put an incredible strain on the host body. Tovar could have died.”
“Which would have helped no one,” Jaroch said. “Yynsians reach metaphysical maturity at the age of thirty. I acted a tad before this, but I felt Tovar would be able to cope.”
“Of course he could,” Bain said proudly. “He’s my boy!” Bain clapped his hands together. “Well, I hate to do this, but I’m afraid my companions and I must take our leave of you,” Bain continued, switching into full courtesy mode.
“Oh, no problem,” Patricia and Jaroch replied quickly.
“Can he travel?” Bain asked, turning his attention to Tovar.
“He’s weak from the Holnym. Having a lifeforce ripped out of your body will do that,” J’Atric said. “We can move him, but don’t expect him to be real active any time soon.”
“Good enough,” Bain said, pinching his commpip. “Bain to Frinoqua. Three to beam up.”
“There are five people in the room,” the transport computer replied. “Please select your two traveling companions.”
“Tovar and J’Atric.”
“Lieutenant Commander Tovar’s comm signal is not present. Please select again.”
“He’s the one on the bloody bed!” Bain snapped.
“Acknowledged. Please specify the beamer known as J’Atric.”
“You just beamed him down here an hour ago!”
“All right! Blimey!” Bain said, grabbing J’Atric’s arm. “I’m holding onto him!”
Just before he vanished, Bain turned back to Jaroch and Patricia Hawkins and smiled. “The best to you both. You’ve certainly earned your happily ever after.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Patricia said.
“And thank Mrs. Bain as well,” Jaroch said. “From what I learned from Tovar, she is a…remarkable woman.”
“You’re damn right she is,” Bain said as he vanished into a flurry of molecules.
“He has no idea,” Jaroch said with a laugh once Bain, Tovar, and J’Atric were gone.
“What? What’s so funny?” Patricia asked.
“Mrs. Bain is…”
“Never mind,” Patricia said. “You can tell me later.”
Jaroch was going to say something, but the sudden pressing of Patricia’s lips against his made him forget all about it.
T’Dur’s head slumped forward asleep , toppling the Yynsian right out of the command chair. “Zzzzz <snort> Wha? AH! Where are we?”
“Nowhere,” Ensign Arroyo mumbled without raising his head off of the helm console. T’Dur hadn’t let a single person enter of leave the bridge, forcing Arroyo to sleep right at his post.
“What about Bain?” T’Dur demanded, glaring back at tac- ops. The Yynsian manning that station slowly pulled himself up off of the carpet and stared at the console readout with bleary eyes.
“Not on board.”
“I know that! Are there any ships in sensor range?”
“Um…well…he could have been on that raceabout that just blew by us.”
“WHAT????” T’Dur bellowed. “Pursuit course!!!”
“Aren’t you the captain of the USS Anomaly.”
“Yes, I am.”
“And didn’t we just pass the USS Anomaly.”
“Yes, we did.”
“Any particular reason?”
“If it’s here, that means my people aren’t in charge anymore.”
“So we’re running?”
“You’ve got it.”
Bain was silent for a moment. “That’s a damn good question.”
“He’s turning around!” the Yynsian at tac-ops exclaimed as he watched the raceabout on his tactical readout alter course.
“Shields!” T’Dur cried. “Ready phasers!”
“He’s not powering up his weapons Actually, he wants to dock.”
“I don’t understand,” T’Dur said confused.
“Well, it is his ship,” Arroyo pointed out.
“No one asked you!” T’Dur snapped. “Is Tovar with him?”
“I’m reading two Yynsian life signs,” the officer at tac-ops reported.
“Bring the raceabout aboard and beam Tovar directly to sickbay. We’ll meet him there.”
After a brief argument with the Anomaly’s transport control computer about which Yynsian on the raceabout was Tovar. T’Dur and the Yynsians on the Anomaly’s bridge charged into a turbolift.
Arroyo was out of his seat in a flash and unlocking the ready room, sending Prosak, who was listening on the other side, tumbling onto the bridge as the doors opened.
“I heard it all,” the RommaVulc said before Arroyo could open his mouth. She charged into the turbolift, calling “You have the bridge” to the Ensign just before the turbolift doors closed sending her descending toward the lower decks.
Captain Bain launched himself out of the Raceabout Frinoqua almost as soon as it touched down in the Anomaly’s docking bay. J’Atric, showing surprising alacrity, was close on his heels.
“Computer, where is Lieutenant Commander Tovar?” Bain demanded angrily. Whatever Yynsian had taken control of the Anomaly was playing dirty pool beaming Tovar right out of the raceabout without so much as a “prepare for transport.”
J’Atric, meanwhile, had a very good idea who was behind it.
“T’Dur is behind this,” J’Atric said.
See. What’d we tell you?
The computer broke into the conversation. “Lieutenant Commander Tovar is not on the Anomaly.”
“Yes, he is!” Bain shouted. “Bain to transporter control.”
“Transporter control. Where would you like to beam today?” the transporter control computer replied.
“Where did you send Tovar?”
“Tovar last beamed to Yyns on Stardate…”
“No! You just beamed him off of our raceabout!”
“That was Tovar?”
“Well, he’s in sickbay right now with a lot of other Yynsians.”
“Thank you,” Bain said with absolutely no sincerity and continued racing toward the nearest turbolift.
“T’Dur is going to kill that boy!” J’Atric said.
“Kill him?” Bain shouted. “What did Tovar do to deserve the death penalty? I didn’t think Yyns even had a death penalty!”
“Shut up and listen! T’Dur is going to perform the Holnym on Tovar, do the math! If Tovar had two lifeforces, then I remove one, and then T’Dur removes one, Tovar has no lifeforces! He’ll be DEAD!”
“Bloody hell. Bain to transport computer. Beam me and the guy running behind me to sickbay now. No questions or I’ll come in there, hollow out your circuitry, and use your housing as a planter for my petunias!”
Without so much as a “Have a Nice Day,” the transport computer dematerialized Bain and J’Atric.
The pair reappeared a moment later in sickbay. At that particular moment, Dr. Fred Nooney was gesturing madly from inside his office as a bulky Yynsian guarded the door. Nooney’s Andorian nurse, Ih’vik, had been placed in the office as well, and she was currently shifting an evil glare from Nooney to the Yynsians, evidently trying to decide who to kill first. Meanwhile, Tovar lay prone on a biobed as T’Dur’s hands moved toward the sides of his skull.
“Belay that Holnym!” Bain shouted, his wrist phaser extending toward T’Dur with a satisfying click. All six of the Yynsian Defense Force officers in the room leveled their blasters at Bain, who seemed entirely unconcerned.
“This is a Yynsian affair,” T’Dur said.
“T’Dur, stop this now! He doesn’t need a Holnym,” J’Atric insisted.
“Quiet, old man! Bain has brainwashed you somehow.”
“Now see here!” Bain said angrily.
“If either of them so much as twitches, shoot them,” T’Dur ordered, then pressed his hands again Tovar’s head.
“NO!!!” Bain screamed.
A split second later, T’Dur pulled his hands away and glared at Bain accusingly. “Hey! There’s only one lifeforce in here! I did this for nothing!”
And that’s when, shouting a battle cry, Prosak suddenly dropped on top of T’Dur from an open panel in the ceiling, sending the Yynsian’s head slamming against the edge of the biobed as the pair dropped to the deck.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 175275.6. After a brief stay in our sickbay, Polem T’Dur has returned to his ship, which will be departing shortly for Yyns. Polem J’Atric will be accompanying T’Dur as well, but for the moment he has remained aboard to check on Tovar, who seems to be recovering nicely; although, Dr. Nooney is very eager to do a new psychological work-up on the lad.
Since Tovar did not turn out to need a Holnym, Polem T’Dur has declined to pursue any sort of action against me or the crew of the Anomaly. Polem J’Atric has concurred with that opinion and has also declined to press kidnapping charges against me, since I was simply trying to get care for Tovar. So that’s all there is to that.”
“I suppose you’ll be expecting me to keep my mouth shut about Jaroch and his little immortality planet, eh?” Polem J’Atric said with a chuckle as Captain Bain escorted him to the Anomaly’s transporter room.
“I’m sure Jaroch and Patricia Hawkins would appreciate it…as would I,” Bain replied.
“Well…I guess they’ve been through enough for one lifetime. Besides, I can’t say I’m all that interested in what they have there. I’m too curious to see what my next incarnation brings.”
Bain’s attention was drawn away for a moment as he saw Dr. Natalia Kasyov approaching from the other direction. “Doctor,” he said warmly. “I hope you and Cabral haven’t been too disturbed by our recent takeover.”
“What takeover?” Kasyov asked confused.
Bain found himself completely at a loss. “Er…well…Tovar went a bit off after we got back from Andromeda, then we went to Yyns, and quite a lot happened.”
“Sorry. We really weren’t paying attention,” Kasyov replied. “You know Cabral was exhausted from running the anti-sing all the way back from Andromeda, so I cut off all comm traffic to the science lab, set up my cot, and we just relaxed.”
“Oh…well…good show!” Bain said with a nod as Kasyov continued off down the corridor. “I suppose I should take that as a good sign that things will be returning to normal,” Bain said as he and J’Atric entered the transporter room.
“Welcome to transporter control. Where would you like to beam today?”
“The P’Shaw,” J’Atric replied, stepping up onto the transporter padd. “Just me!”
“Say energize when ready.”
“Thank you again for your help, Polem. You’ve finally put an end to Tovar’s troubles.”
“I wish that were true,” J’Atric replied. “But Tovar’s problems may just be beginning. For the first time in his life, only one lifeforce is present. Now the past lives contained within it have new freedom. Some that have up to now remained buried may surface. Normally, I’d say he should be on Yyns, but what he really needs is his family. He needs you and your wife, Bain. Take care of him.”
“We certainly will,” Bain said.
“You’d better. I damn well don’t want to be dragged out of the bath again anytime soon. Energize.”
J’Atric dematerialized, leaving Bain alone. After taking a few moments to mull over what the Polem had said, Bain left sickbay to take care of his son.