Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“The Face of Things That Went”
By Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 176285.4. I’ve faced my share of baddies during my years with the Fleet, some of which still show up in the occasional nightmare. But I’d rather face them all again than deal with the insidiousness of the disease currently ravaging the populace of Bechode Prime, a world situated deep in the Beta Quadrant. After the Bechodians requested assistance, the Federation Medical Society scrambled a team of their top minds in the area of contagious diseases and what not. Now we have the job of getting them to Bechode Prime as quickly as possible. As such, we’re currently traveling at Warp M, which Lieutenant Marsden told me in no uncertain terms is our top safe cruising speed. I will defer to my Chief Engineer on this one; however, I have every desire to reach Bechode Prime at our earliest opportunity.”
Captain Reginald Bain leaned back against the sofa in his “Captain’s Lounge” as he finished recording his log for the morning. “Computer,” he said, closing his eyes. “Commence playback of Bain Mix Five.” The computer chirped its acknowledgment, and almost immediately the first few bars of Francisco Viardo’s “Reflections on the Romulan War” began to play over his speakers.
Bain sighed contentedly. Every good war deserved an equally good soundtrack album. Maybe Bain would start working on one for the Breen Conflict from 20 years prior. No one had properly scored that one as yet, and who better than the man responsible for destroying five of the six Official Residences of Grot Thud, the Breen leader at the time? Bain would have gotten the sixth one as well, but the Breen signed a peace treaty three minutes before Bain was in weapons’ range. Blighters must have seen him coming.
“Bridge to Captain Bain,” Commander Prosak, Bain’s Romulan first officer, called over the comm system.
“How may I be of service, Commander?” Bain replied without opening his eyes.
“High Manager Guanti of Bechode Prime is hailing. She wishes to speak to you personally.”
“Very well, Commander,” Bain said, sitting up and running his hands through his salt and pepper hair to straighten it. “Send it to my lounge.”
“I would remind you, Captain, that normally you would use a ready room for such business. You, however, gave yours away.”
“And I don’t regret it for a moment, Prosak. Too much like an office.” He could almost hear the Romulan sigh on the other end of the line as she phrased her reply.
“If you perform your duties inside of your ‘Captain’s Lounge,’ I fail to see how it is any less of an office that your ready room was.”
“There are intangibles to it. The atmosphere of the place. The connotations of the name.”
“I simply do not understand the logic…”
“Put the logic guns away, Commander,” Bain interrupted. “And I believe we’re keeping a planetary leader on hold.”
“Very well. But I would like to continue this discussion at another time.”
“I don’t see that there’s anything to discuss. But why don’t you come spend some time in the Lounge at some point. After you sit and soak in the atmosphere for a bit, you’ll come around.”
Prosak grunted non-committally, then closed the comm channel just as the oil painting of the Battle of Trafalgar hanging on the wall of the Lounge just above the faux fireplace slid upward revealing a standard holoscreen on which appeared the image of a tired middle-aged Bechodian woman drumming her fingers in boredom against a desk. She sat straight up as she realized she was actually looking at a person rather than the “Please Hold For Our Next Available Officer” screen.
“High Manager Guanti, I presume,” Captain Bain said, rising from his seat with a warm smile and a slight bow. “It is an honor and a pleasure. Captain Reginald Bain, USS Anomaly, at your service.”
The Bechodian nodded politely, giving Bain an even better view of her prominent forehead structure. Rather than a nose ridge, ala the Bajorans, Bechodians had a line of circular…bumps, for lack of a better term, running up their nose to their forehead, which was dominated by four far larger “bumps,” two in the front almost like a Ferengi and one at each temple.
“How soon will you be arriving at Bechode Prime?” High Manager Guanti asked, without so much as a proper hello.
“Less than ten hours, Madame High Manager,” Bain replied, pulling out as much of the old Bain charisma as he could muster. “I assure you that we have wasted no time in reaching you, and the team of doctors we have aboard is first rate. We should have this bug exterminated in no time.”
“I sincerely hope so. Our best doctors and scientists are at a loss. Our efforts to stop the contagion from spreading have been completely ineffective. Something has to be done soon, or we’re done for!”
Bain frowned. “I was not aware that the virus was fatal.”
“It’s not, but look at us!” Guanti exclaimed, yanking a rather surprised looking male down by his collar into view of the camera. The man looked completely normal. Actually, a little too normal. It took Bain a moment to realize that the man’s face was completely bump-free. Not a one. Nothing.
“If this continues, we’re going to be completely indistinguishable from humans, Betazoids, Yynsians, and any one of a hundred other species!” Guanti continued. “Our species identity will be lost. Please, Captain Bain, you must save our bumps!”
“High Manager, The Anomaly will remain at Bechode Prime for as long as it takes,” Bain said firmly as he slammed his clenched fist down on his knee for emphasis. “Mark my words, YOUR BUMPS WILL RISE AGAIN!”
Doctor Natalia Kasyov stepped out of her holopod dripping in sweat after a strenuous morning hike though the Menail Range of Trill, a beautiful, but rugged series of mountains located in Trill’s southern hemisphere, or, in this case, the holopod in Kasyov’s quarters.
For not the first time, Kasyov thanked the Great Bird that she lived in the 26th century and didn’t have to travel through the ship’s corridors from a holodeck in her current condition. She stripped off her clothes, heading toward the bathroom as she did so, and climbed into the shower, closing the smoked faux-glass behind her. Cleansing fields were fine for normal days (and certainly far superior to the old sonic showers used in centuries past), but nothing beat a traditional shower with actual water when it came to getting clean and feeling refreshed after a long workout.
After thoroughly scrubbing the sweat off of herself and treating her long black hair with both shampoo and conditioner, Kasyov stood for several moments directly under the showerhead, closing her eyes and letting the steady stream of liquid massage her scalp while her mind wandered.
That all ended as she heard a soft click and felt a sudden draft.
“Ah, there you are,” Cabral’s voice said matter-of-factly.
Her eyes shot open as her head whipped toward the door. The shower door was now open, courtesy of one of the small manipulator beams on the hovercam floating in front of her. The hovercam, which Kasyov and Chief Engineer Shelly Marsden had constructed to allow Cabral the ability to see what was happening outside of his sphere’s location in Science Lab Four, stared back blankly, its lenses taking in the scene of the wet and naked scientist.
“Cabral!” Kasyov shouted angrily, shoving the hovercam back and causing it to lose its grip on the door, which Kasyov promptly slammed shut.
“Have I come at a bad time?” Cabral asked confused.
“I’m in the shower!”
“I can see that. However, I believe the hovercam is waterproof.”
“That’s not the point. I’m naked!”
Cabral chuckled. “I have studied human anatomy, Natalia.”
“Yeah, but not mine.”
“Modesty from the woman who has attempted to poke and prod to the very core of my being?” Cabral asked playfully.
Kasyov was quiet for a moment. “Okay. You’ve got me there,” she said finally. “But that doesn’t mean I’m about to parade around for you. Go out to the living room. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Of course. But in the future, if you do not wish to be found in the shower, I’d recommend not leaving a trail of discarded garments for me to follow, quite used garments at that. Would you like me to toss them in the reclaimator?”
“Thanks, but I’ll take care of it,” Kasyov replied firmly. “Now go!”
“Going,” Cabral said.
With the bathroom clear of hovercams, Kasyov shut off the water and activated the drying cycle, running her hands through her hair as the cycle did its work to make sure that all damp spots were dealt with. She stepped out of the shower and immediately realized that she had another problem: she hadn’t replicated anything else to wear.
On cue, the bathroom door slid open just enough to allow a pile of fresh clothing being held aloft by a manipulator beam to float into the room, then land on the floor, at which point the door slid shut again.
“Thank you, Cabral,” Kasyov called out with a laugh.
“Anything to protect your modesty.”
Kasyov emerged into her living room a short time later to find Cabral’s hovercam positioned by her holopod examining the pod’s control panel.
“Something interesting?” Kasyov asked, prompting the hovercam to rotate around.
“I’ve never used one of these devices. I was curious what sort of programs it ran.”
“Everyone has their own. It just depends on your taste.”
“And what is your taste?” Cabral asked as Kasyov stepped over to the replicator and ordered up some breakfast.
“That depends on my mood,” she replied just before taking a bite out of her lox-covered bagel. “I don’t play a lot of ‘let’s pretend’ really. Mostly I go visit other places. Do some hiking or swimming. Nothing fancy.”
“Wouldn’t you prefer to go to a real planet?” Cabral asked.
Kasyov stopped herself before she replied. Something was going on here. “Okay, Cabral. Out with it.”
“Out with what?” he said innocently.
“You know what I mean. You’re trying to steer this conversation to something in particular. What is it?”
The hovercam floated over to the table where Kasyov had sat down with her bagel and tea to enjoy her breakfast and took up a position over the chair directly across from her.
“I think I need to get out,” he said. “Stretch my anti-grav units, as it were.”
“Out of the ship, you mean.”
“Now don’t misunderstand me. I love having the freedom to move about the Anomaly, but I have yet to leave its confines. We’re heading to a planet as we speak. I did a little research. Did you know Bechode Prime is home to some of the widest waterfalls in the galaxy? Obadowt Falls alone is over a kilometer wide.”
“Bechode Prime is in the middle of a plague, Cabral.”
“True; however, aren’t humans immune?”
“Yes,” Kasyov admitted. “But I don’t think it’d be very appropriate for us to go play tourist while they’re dealing with a medical crisis.”
“They’ll hardly know we’re there.”
“I don’t know…”
“Please, Natalia,” Cabral said, his hovercam moving closer and closer until it was centimeters away from her eyes.
“All right! We’ll go!” she laughed. “Now back off.”
“Are you sure?” Cabral asked, moving a tiny bit closer.
“I can grab you and move you myself, you know.”
“That’s it. You’re getting it now!” Kasyov swatted at the hovercam, which dodged upward and flew across the room as Kasyov jumped out of her chair to give chase.
With the High Manager of Bechode Prime satisfied that the Anomaly was coming as fast as possible, Captain Bain was finally able to get back to what he considered to be the primary purpose of his Captain’s Lounge: relaxation.
His reprieve was short-lived.
“Bridge to Captain Bain,” Prosak’s voice interrupted.
“Go ahead, Commander,” Bain replied without opening his eyes as he lay on the sofa.
“Doctor Nooney is here and wishes to speak with you.”
“Is it urgent?”
“He seems to believe so. At least I assume that’s why he’s currently hopping up and down in front of me.”
“Maybe he hasn’t been walked today,” Bain heard Lieutenant Commander Tovar remark.
Bain couldn’t help but grin as Dr. Fred Nooney’s voice cut in.
“That was not a very pleasant thing to say, Mister Tovar. You obviously have issues that we need to discuss in a private, comforting atmosphere…but later. I need to see Captain Bain right now.”
“Very well,” Bain said. “Send him back, Commander.”
“Aye, sir,” Prosak’s voice said hesitantly, then closed the channel.
Nooney charged into the Captain’s Lounge a few moments later after storming down the corridor leading from the rear starboard side of the bridge. Bain was relieved to see Nooney fully clad in his uniform. You could never be sure with the doctor whether he would be in the mood for clothing or not.
Speaking of moods, Nooney’s at the moment appeared to be particularly foul.
“Sickbay is full of poopy-pants!” he exclaimed angrily, tossing himself on the sofa uncomfortably close to Bain.
“I thought the holochef’s offering this morning seemed a tad suspect,” Bain replied. “I suppose this will show those poor sots that you should never eat Andorian food for breakfast.”
“No, you silly man!” Nooney said. “I don’t mean literal poopy-pants.”
“Then you’ve lost me, I’m afraid.”
“The FMS doctors! I don’t care if they do belong to the Federation Medical Society, they can still show some courtesy to a colleague.”
“What happened?” Bain asked with a tired sigh.
“I want to go cure the plague,” Nooney whined. “And the Doctors Poopy-Pants won’t take me.”
“The nerve,” Bain said flatly.
“I KNOW. You would think they would take all the help they could get.”
“Well, Doctor, as much as I would love to intervene, I really cannot. I am simply responsible for transporting the FMS team to Bechode Prime. Once we arrive, it’s their operation. If you want to join their team, you will have to work it out with Doctor Finis.”
“I know that,” Nooney said brightly, launching himself up off of the sofa. “Gotta run.”
“Wait a moment, Doctor. If you knew that, why did you need to see me?”
“Oh, I just needed someone to vent to. Everyone else has me for a counselor, so you get to be mine. Bye!” He grinned and waved, then headed out of the room.
Bain, meanwhile, processed what the doctor had just told him. Counselor to Nooney. Good lord. He stood up numbly and approached his replicator. “Black and Tan, and keep them coming,” he mumbled.
“Medical Log. Doctor Wudya Finis recording. The FMS Contagion Team has transported to Bechode Prime to begin work isolating and developing a cure for the malady affecting the populace of this world. My colleagues, Doctor Sorvik and Doctor Emiko Shimura, and I arrived via the USS Anomaly, a Starfleet vessel whose Chief Medical Officer is decidedly…disturbing. I cannot quite put my finger on what about Doctor Fred Nooney unsettles me so. Perhaps it’s the nudity…or maybe his almost childlike way of speaking or…what is he doing here!”
Dr. Wudya Finis, the Orion in charge of the Federation Medical Society team sent to Bechode Prime slammed her thumb down on the recorder she wore on her wrist to end the log recording as Drs. Sorvik and Shimura looked up from the crates of equipment they were busy unpacking to locate the source of Dr. Finis’ ire. Dr. Fred Nooney had just strolled into the lab assigned to the FMS inside the government medical facility in the capital city of Bechode Prime.
“More help has arrived!” Nooney exclaimed, rubbing his hands together. “What can I do first?”
Dr. Finish swallowed the first incredibly vicious response that sprang to her lips, took a deep breath, then approached Nooney. “You are not a part of this team, Doctor. Your presence is not required,” she said, trying as much as she could to approximate Sorvik’s Vulcan stoicism.
“Who cares?” Nooney replied, suddenly clasping Finis’ hand. “We’re all a part of the big brotherhood…and sisterhood of doctors. That makes me a part of the team. Never will I stand by and allow people to suffer just because of some bureaucratic poopie!”
Finis stared at Nooney blankly for a moment as he grinned at her. “Just a moment,” she said, yanking her hand out of his then retreating over to the other members of her team.
“Options?” Finis asked.
“I believe that Doctor Nooney intends to stay,” Sorvik observed.
“You think?” Dr. Shimura, a decidedly well-fed Asian woman snapped.
“So what do we do about it?” Finis demanded.
“He is the Chief Medical Officer of one of the most advanced vessels in Starfleet,” Sorvik said. “We must, therefore, conclude that, despite our personal reactions to his eccentricities, that he is a capable doctor.”
“So we let him stay?” Finis said unhappily.
“If anything, he can get us coffee,” Shimura suggested.
“I do not drink coffee,” Sorvik said.
“I’m sure he can find some tea.”
“Tea constipates me.”
Before Shimura could suggest another beverage, Finis headed back over to Nooney. “All right, Doctor. You’re on the team.”
“Yippee!” Nooney clapped, hopping up and down, causing Finis to immediately regret this decision.
“Go work with Doctor Sorvik,” she said. The Vulcan’s eye reflexively widened in shock for a split second before he could regain control of himself. “I’m sure he’ll find you very useful.”
“Who wouldn’t?” Nooney said brightly before prancing over to Sorvik.
THIRTY MINUTES LATER…
“Come right on in!” Nooney said warmly as a Bechodian woman peered nervously into the lab. She was obviously infected with the virus. Her bumps had been reduced to the smallest of contours on her nose and forehead.
“Wha…what do I do?” she asked.
“Just right over here,” Nooney replied, taking her by the hand and leading her over to a biobed. “Take those heavy old clothes off and hop up here,” he added, patting the biobed.
“Doctor Nooney,” Sorvik’s voice said coldly from a nearby table where he sat with a quantum bioscanner. “For the ninth time, the patients do not need to disrobe for you to take a blood sample.”
“What kind of doctor are you?” Nooney replied scoldingly as he planted his hands on his hips. “How can we be sure that we have all the facts unless we perform a THOROUGH examination?”
“How…how thorough?” the Bechodian woman asked trembling.
“Very,” Nooney said smiling. He looked at the biobed again, his face darkening slightly. “Oh dear. This is the biobed without the stirrups.”
“That will be quite sufficient, Doctor,” Sorvik said, stepping over. He quickly placed a small hypo to the Bechodian’s fingertip and drew a blood sample. “You may leave.”
The Bechodian shot a quick glare at Nooney, then scurried out of the lab.
“Next!” Nooney called.
“No!” Sorvik snapped, then regained control of himself. “I have this station well in hand,” he said calmly. “Perhaps Doctor Shimura requires assistance.”
“And she’ll have it!” Nooney stated, rushing away eagerly.
FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER…
Doctor Nooney looked from the molecular scope for a moment and rubbed his eyes. Across the table from him, Dr. Shimura peered into an identical viewer, muttering to herself as she added a drug sample to bit of infected Bechodian blood. Nooney had been performing similar tests, cataloguing each and every result as the doctors tried every drug in the Federation database against the Bechodian virus.
“I’m bored!” he said firmly.
“Were you expecting a cabaret?” Shimura quipped without looking up from her scope.
“No,” Nooney replied. “But there’s no reason fighting disease can’t be fun!”
“I’ll be sure to bring that up at the next FMS meeting,” Shimura said, glancing up at Nooney. But Nooney was nowhere to be found. “Finally,” Shimura said relieved. All they had to do was bore him enough, and Nooney left on his own. Excellent.
Except she was wrong. Nooney returned a few minutes later carrying what appeared to be a large, metal suitcase, which he set down in the middle of the lab floor and opened, revealing a some sort of device covered in blinking lights, status readouts, and segments of shiny white material.
“What is that?” Shimura demanded as Finis and Sorvik looked on from their respective stations.
“Portable fun!” Nooney replied, tapping a control on the device. A moment later, a man wearing an almost blinding Hawaiian shirt, straw hat and bermuda shorts shimmered into existence.
“Wow! It is just GREAT to get out every now and then, don’t you think, Freddie?” the new arrival said happily.
“You betcha, Steve!” Nooney exclaimed.
“So what are we doing?” Steve! asked.
“Curing a plaque!”
“Nifty neato keen!”
“You betcha! But it’s kind of dull.”
“DULL!” Steve! exclaimed aghast. “We can’t have that.”
“No, we can’t,” Nooney agreed emphatically.
“You know what we have to do?”
“Hit it!” Steve! said. Music suddenly poured out of the holoemitter as Steve! began to sing. “It’s just me…”
“And my shadow!” Nooney sang.
“Strolling down the avenue!” they sang in unison. “Avenue! Avenue! Avenue!”
Then Steve! again. “It’s just me…”
While Nooney and Steve! continued their show, Sorvik and Shimura slid quietly over to Dr. Finis. “Logic suggests that we immediately dispose of Doctor Nooney,” Sorvik said.
Finis smirked slightly. “Logic suggests?”
“Perhaps not logic,” Sorvik admitted. “However, Nooney must go. The fact that men like him can serve in Starfleet is a primary reason my people choose to secede from the Federation.”
Finis had to admit that Sorvik had a point. At least the Vulcan Medical Association had decided to continue its ties with the Federation Medical Society, thus allowing Sorvik to participate in this mission.
“I say we knock him out, destroy the holoemitter, then have Captain Bain beam Nooney up and keep him sedated until we’re done here,” Shimura said.
“As enticing as that sounds, let’s try to avoid assault,” Dr. Finis said. “I have another idea.” She headed over to Nooney, who was busy dancing with Steve! In a blur of motion, he grabbed Finis and began spinning her around the room.
“Doctor!” Finis shouted.
“Just dance dance dance that stress away!” Nooney said.
“We have another job for you,” Finis said, moving quickly to keep up with Nooney’s steps.
“Really?” Nooney said intrigued. “What? What? WHAT?”
“Field research. We need you to go out into the city and see what you can learn about the origins of this virus.”
“Oooh! Like a detective!”
“Just call me Sherlock Fred,” Nooney said, letting go of Finis and rushing toward the door. “But don’t worry. Steve! will stay here to keep you company.”
“You got that right,” Steve! said as Nooney left the room. The hologram looked around as Finis, Sorvik, and Shimura advanced on his holoemitter. “So what should we do now?” They didn’t respond. “Hello! Hello? Wow. Tough room,” Steve! said just before Finis pounced at the holoemitter.
“What a beautiful day!” Cabral said happily as his hovercam and Dr. Kasyov moved along the main street of the shopping district of Choolan, the capital city of Bechode Prime. All around them, Bechodians trudged by, their spirits weighed down by the biological menace rampaging across their planet.
“I really don’t think we should be here, Cabral,” Kasyov said. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“Relax and enjoy yourself, Natalia.”
“But these people are fighting a plague.”
“You said yourself that we’re immune. Besides, it’s not a fatal illness or anything.”
“Can you honestly say you’re enjoying yourself on a planet full of very unhappy people?” Kasyov asked.
“I’m just grateful to be off of the ship and out in the fresh air. I can’t think of the last time I was really out on a planet.”
“You aren’t really out on a planet now.”
“The sensory experience is the same. Even better, actually. My sphere gets a bit hard to maneuver around tight places. Hey! Is that a craft store? I love native artwork! Let’s see if we can find a new sculpture for my lab.”
Kasyov was about to protest when she was distracted by someone waving frantically in their direction. She peered down the street at the figure, but couldn’t quite make him out due to the glare from the sun.
“Cabral, is that someone we know?” Kasyov asked, pointing down the street.
The hovercam turned away from the window display of the craft store and focused on the approaching figure.
“It looks like Doctor Nooney,” Cabral said
“Nooney? I would have thought that he’d be busy with the plague effort,” Kasyov said.
“Perhaps he is on a break.”
“Or the FMS team got sick of him.”
“HI THERE!” Nooney shouted ecstatically as he ran up to the pair. “Out enjoying this beautiful day?”
“Yes indeed,” Cabral replied.
“That’s the spirit! No need to let this mean old virus bring everyone down!”
“How is the FMS team doing against it? Any sign of a cure?” Kasyov asked.
“Not yet, and they’re sooo down about it that I had to bring in Steve!”
Kasyov suppressed a shudder at the mention of Nooney’s Entertainment Hologram. “I’m sure they appreciated that,” she lied. “But what are you doing out here?”
“Oh, it’s a VERY important assignment. I’ve been tasked with finding the cause of this insidious contagion,” Nooney said dramatically. “It will tax my investigative and deductive powers to their utmost, but I will prevail! No more time to chat. I have to interview more Bechodians…and maybe I can cheer them up a bit as well. This whole planet is just so depressed! BYE!” Nooney waved again, then charged off, latching onto the nearest Bechodian to interrogate them about the source of the virus.
“Do you know what got you sick?”
Nooney moved on to the next Bechodian.
“Do you know what got you sick?”
And off Nooney went.
“It appears that you were correct, Natalia,” Cabral said thoughtfully as Nooney disappeared around the corner.
“The FMS team must have gotten sick of Doctor Nooney to send him out on a fool’s errand such as this.”
Kasyov nodded. “And a bigger fool they could not have found. But on the upside, unless Nooney feels like carting that massive portable holoemitter through the streets of Choolan with him, the residents of this city will be spared from meeting Steve!”
“Now, Natalia. Steve! might be just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. He could take their minds off of the current epidemic.”
“Or induce them all to commit suicide en masse.”
“I can see your point,” Cabral admitted. “All right. Enough of that. Let’s go buy some art!” Cabral’s hovercam floated through the entrance of the craft store. Kasyov groaned, then, shaking her head, followed him inside.
Thus far, the mission to Bechode Prime had left Captain Bain with relatively little to do. He said his requisite greeting to the High Manager upon the Anomaly’s arrival, but since then he’d been content to let the FMS team handle things. Frankly, viruses gave him the willies.
So with the current crisis not requiring his attention, Bain had been free to catch up on some reports to Starfleet and just generally enjoy the atmosphere of his new Captain’s Lounge.
But he certainly couldn’t stay in there forever. It’d be bad for morale. So with that in mind, Bain started a deck by deck tour of the Anomaly with the intention of exchanging a few words with each and every member of the crew, just to give them the proverbial pat on the back. It’d also be an excellent chance for Bain to see if he’d finally memorized everyone’s name.
The problem he quickly ran into was that no one seemed to be around. Now he knew that the whole crew didn’t beam down to Bechode Prime. Other than Nooney, Kasyov, and Cabral’s hovercam, no one seemed interested on visiting a plaque-ridden planet. So where were they all?
Bain got his answer as he exited the turbolift onto Deck Seven. All along the corridor, members of his crew stood in line waiting for who knew what? He hadn’t seen this kind of queue since Orion Erotic Dinner Theater Night in the holo-mess hall.
Confused, Bain strode toward the front of the line, exchanging greetings with the various officers who spoke to him as he went. Finally, he spotted Ensign Hector Arroyo standing near the front of the line, which ended at the doors leading into Sickbay.
“Hello, Captain,” Arroyo said warmly as Bain approached.
“Ensign,” Bain replied with a nod. “So…” He looked back at the line of crewmembers stretching around the bend of the corridor. “What’s all this then?”
“Physicals,” Arroyo replied.
Arroyo leaned over to Bain conspiratorially. “With Doctor Nooney gone, Nurse Ih’vik is acting Chief Medical Officer. That means she can give us our yearly physicals, which are due soon.”
Bain frowned. “But why would you want a nurse instead of…” Bain trailed off as the memories of his last physical, which he thought he’d managed to completely block, leapt back into his consciousness. The poking and the prodding and Nooney standing there completely starkers.
“That’s a bloody good idea, Ensign,” Bain said.
“Would you like to go in front of me, sir?” Arroyo offered.
“Nonsense, my boy. I’m not about to cut in line in front of my crew. Enjoy your physical, Arroyo. I’ll see you on the bridge!” Bain marched back to the end of the line, which took him almost all the way around the deck, and took up a position behind the last man in line.
“Good afternoon, sir,” the officer said with a courteous nod.
“Yes. Afternoon…” Bain studied the man’s face, searching his memory for a name to go with it. He came up completely blank.
“Kawafura. Martin Kawafura,” the officer said.
Bain frowned. The name didn’t ring a bell whatsoever. “And where do you work again?
“I’m your Chief Comptroller, sir.”
“Chief Comptroller,” Bain spat in disgust. “Why in blazes would you want a piss-poor post like that?”
Kawafura shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Well…sir…I kind of like it. I get to see the ship. Learn about the different technologies. And I’m already the CHIEF Comptroller on this ship.”
“How many of you blighters do I have on board?” Bain demanded.
“So you’re chief of yourself then.”
“Right. I’ve heard quite enough, Ensign, which despite your fancy title is what you are. As of this moment, it is my mission in life to get you into a real line of work, my lad. Now hold my place in line. I need to use the head!” Bain stormed off down the corridor, cursing Comptrollers everywhere as he went.
“But I like being a Comptroller,” Kawafura said weakly to no one in particular.
Every muscle in Dr. Wudya Finis’ body tensed up as the doors to the lab opened and she heard Nooney’s exuberant voice.
“I HAVE RETURNED!” he shouted, adopting a Southern drawl for some unknown reason.
The supposedly-indestructible polymer specimen vial in Finis’ hand cracked from the tightening of her fist.
“And I brought lunch!” Nooney said, holding up a large bag.
“At least he did something useful,” Dr. Shimura said, putting her work aside and intercepting Nooney, quickly snatching the bag away. Shimura and Sorvik retreated to an empty lab table and began rummaging through the contents as Finis relaxed just a bit. She had to admit that she was hungry.
“But that’s not the best part,” Nooney continued. “I have an IDEA!” Finis reflexively tensed up again as Nooney actually skipped across the lab over to the biobed where a bumpless Bechodian male lay. “Come with me,” Nooney said, holding his hand out for the Bechodian to take, which he hesitantly did.
“No peeking until I’m finished,” Nooney admonished Finish, Shimura, and Sorvik as he lead the Bechodian into the treatment room just off of the lab and closed the door.
“Why am I even allowing this?” Finis asked. Shimura and Sorvik just shrugged and went back to their lunches.
“Astrophysics,” Bain suggested.
“No,” Kawafura replied.
“Good god, man! There must be something else you’re interested in doing,” Bain said firmly.
“No,” Kawafura said equally firmly.
“Nice try, Kawasaki, but I’m not giving up on you!”
“It’s Kawafura,” the Anomaly’s Chief Comptroller replied with a sigh.
“Planetary assault tactics.”
Close to an hour had passed since Nooney disappeared into the treatment room with one of the Bechodians afflicted with the bump-shrinking virus, during which time, against her will, Dr. Finis had grown more and more curious as to what possible treatment for the virus Nooney had devised. It was pointless, she knew. Nooney was an amateur. He may have been perfectly capable of handling the day-to-day maladies of a starship crew, but he was no immunologist. Even so, the lack of any news coming from the treatment room was driving Finis batty.
“Do you think I should check on him?” Finis asked Shimura and Sorvik.
“I don’t hear any screaming, so he can stay in there forever as far as I’m concerned,” Shimura replied.
“I fail to see the reason for your anxiety, Doctor,” Sorvik said placidly. “The odds against Doctor Nooney finding any sort of cure for the virus are so high as to be not worth calculating. I, of course, calculated them anyway; however, my point remains.”
Just then, the door to the treatment room slid open, and Nooney emerged, exaggeratedly wiping non-existent sweat from his brow.
“My work here is done,” he said with a bow. Returning to his full height, he gestured toward the door. “TA DA!!!” The Bechodian male then stepped into the lab, his bumps present in all of their glory.
Dr. Finis could swear she could hear an audible pop as Sorvik’s brain imploded from the improbability of it all.
“Thank you so much, Doctor Nooney!” the Bechodian cried happily. “I’ll never forget you!”
Sorvik and Shimura were still speechless, but Finis immediately headed over to Nooney and his patient. “This is incredible,” Finis said astounded. “How did you… What did you… This is amazing. This is…”
“Plastic surgery!” Nooney exclaimed proudly.
“WHAT?” Finis shouted, switching from awe to fury in record time. “You mean you didn’t cure…”
“Cure?” Nooney laughed. “Of course not, silly. We don’t even know the cause of this mean old bug. How am I supposed to cure it?”
“Then why did you do this?” Shimura demanded.
“You haven’t been outside. The whole city is one big unhappy-land. It’s not healthy! I decided that if bumps would cheer them all up, then bumps they would have.”
“But they aren’t real!” Finis insisted.
“I don’t care,” the Bechodian said caressing his own face. “I have my beautiful features back! Thank you again, Doctor!” He ran out the door, laughing joyously.
“See,” Nooney said smugly.
Displaying an amazing amount of self-control, Dr. Finis turned around and marched back to her lab table as Sorvik and Shimura did the same.
“I see Unhappy-land has spread to this lab as well,” Nooney said, heading toward the door. “So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my next patient!”
“Sorvik?” Finis said once Nooney was gone.
“Is the penalty for murder on Vulcan any less strict than in the Federation?”
Dr. Kasyov couldn’t help but feel astoundingly guilty as she sat at a table in one of the open-air cafes lining the streets of Choolan’s touristy shopping district. All of the other tables were empty, and the cafe’s waiter, who now had just the faintest trace of a bump on the left side of his skull, continually glared at Kasyov as though she was some kind of demon.
Cabral, however, seemed completely unaffected.
“I don’t think we could have picked a better day for this,” he said as his hovercam floated across the table from her. “The weather is absolutely gorgeous. And look at those clouds! So white and puffy! I love this planet!”
“Your food,” the waiter muttered sullenly, tossing a plate of pinkish noodles mixed with hunks of meat down in front of Kasyov then stalking off to the beverage counter. He returned a moment later with a pitcher of water, which he proceeded to pour mostly onto the table rather than into Kasyov’s glass.
“Enjoy,” he said unconvincingly, then trudged away, emitting a low wail as he went. Kasyov watched the waiter toss himself into a chair at another table and put his head in his hands.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” Cabral asked, pulling Kasyov’s attention back to her own table.
“I think I’ve lost my appetite,” Kasyov replied.
“But we can’t have you walking around on an empty stomach, Natalia. And I want us to have a pleasant lunch together.”
“Cabral, I just don’t think I can do this anymore. Look around, will you? These people are miserable, and we’re just making it worse by acting like nothing’s wrong.”
“Yes. What’s happening to them is a real shame. And it was a real shame when it happened on Iagnis, but they dealt with it. Bumps or no bumps, the Bechodians will still be alive and able to enjoy this gorgeous planet of theirs,” Cabral said unconcerned. He realized that Kasyov was just staring at him, her eyes practically bulging out of her head.
“Something wrong?” Cabral asked.
“You’ve seen this before?” Kasyov said accusingly.
“Yes, about 200 years ago, but I don’t see how it matters now.”
Kasyov took a deep breath, calming herself. “Just back up and tell me EVERYTHING you know about this virus.”
“All right, but it’s certainly not the most interesting lunch conversation topic,” Cabral replied. “A couple hundred years ago, I was traveling a few parsecs from here on a ship run by the bipedal contingent of my species. My job on the ship isn’t really relevant, but I did have the pleasure of working with a group of great brains. I really should try and find them at some point.”
“Cabral,” Kasyov said sternly.
“I’m getting to it. Anyway, at one point we received a plea for medical assistance from the planet Iagnis. The people there were losing their bumps. We didn’t cure it, and the Iagnisians all lost their bumps. Serves them right for importing strange plants from Krall Three without thoroughly studying them first.”
“Let’s go!” Kasyov said, leaping up from her seat.
“Go? You haven’t even touched your lunch,” Cabral protested.
“I’ll eat later. Now move it!”
“It’s been a pleasure,” Cabral called out to the waiter, then his hovercam turned and sped off after Kasyov.
“May I ask where we’re headed?” Cabral asked as he floated up along side Kasyov, who was running at top speed.
“We passed a nursery about an hour ago.”
“Is this some sort of biological clock, baby-envy reaction I should be aware of?”
“Not that kind of nursery!” Kasyov snapped. “You said something about a plant, right?”
“Yes. The frilia flower of Krall Three.”
“And it was causing the virus on Iagnis.”
“So it could be here as well.”
“That would make sense,” Cabral admitted.
“Then I need one of those plants. If we can analyze it, we can devise a cure.”
“But our doctor did not devise a cure,” Cabral said. “Surely…”
“Surely nothing. You said he didn’t, not that he couldn’t right?”
“It was a she, but yes.”
“Is there a chance that she didn’t create a cure on purpose?”
Cabral thought for a moment. “It would certainly fit in with my species’ usual operating procedure. We tended to turn a blind eye to worlds that got into trouble due to their own stupidity.”
“There you go,” Kasyov said.
A short time later, she and Cabral arrived at the gates of the large plant nursery on the outskirts of the shopping district, where they were met by a sullen, smooth-faced Bechodian woman.
“We’re closing,” the woman said.
“I just have…a quick question,” Kasyov gasped, trying to catch her breath after running the whole way from the cafeé to the nursery.
“That’s a question?” the Bechodian said.
“Do you have any plants…from Krall Three?” Kasyov said forcefully.
“Hang on,” the woman replied. She turned her head toward the small office structure a few feet away. “Haos! HAOS!” An equally-smooth-faced Bechodian male poked his head out of the office.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“You ever heard of Krall Three?”
“NO!” He stopped for a second. “Wait. Isn’t that where Lersid said she got those flowers from last month?”
“Could be. Sounds right,” the Bechodian woman said.
“Do you have any left?” Kasyov asked anxiously.
“Sure. Three rows down, table eight. Ugly orange things.” Before the woman even finished her statement, Kasyov was off and running.
“Does this mean you’ll be returning to the ship to devise a cure?” Cabral asked disappointed as he followed Kasyov to the table of orange flowers. Once they got there, Kasyov picked up a pot of one of the flowers and looked it over.
“You know,” she said as a slight smile crossed her features. “I have a feeling that Doctor Nooney is about to have a revelation.”
“You’re giving him the flower?” Cabral asked.
“Sure. After the way those FMS people have been treating him, wouldn’t it be something if he was the one to make the discovery that leads to a cure?”
“May I remind you that you’re the one who hypothesized that the FMS team was sick of Nooney in the first place?”
“So?” Kasyov said. “Nooney may be a total freak, but he’s our freak.”
“How heartwarming,” Cabral remarked as he and Kasyov headed off to find Nooney.
On the upside, talking with Chief Comptroller Kawafura had made the time Captain Bain had to stand in line for his physical pass rather quickly. But on the downside, he’d gone through every Starfleet career he could think of without a single one impressing Kawafura in the slightest.
Truth be told, Kawafura had been incredibly relieved when Nurse Ih’vik finally called him into Sickbay for his exam. Bain’s persistence was pushing him toward the brink of either breaking down completely or throttling his Captain in an attempt just to get the man to shut up.
With Kawafura gone, Bain found himself standing alone outside of Sickbay as members of his crew passed by. They all seemed to be stepping a tad gingerly, leading Bain to wonder exactly what kind of physicals Ih’vik was giving.
He didn’t have long to ponder it before Lieutenant Commander Tovar approached him. He too seemed to be walking a bit more carefully than normal.
“You ship-shape, my boy?” Bain asked warmly.
“Thankfully,” Tovar replied.
“Looks like our nurse was a bit rough on you.”
Tovar winced. “It was better than Nooney,” he said softly. “Far far better than Nooney.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Bain said as the Sickbay doors slid open revealing Ih’vik, the Anomaly’s Andorian nurse.
“Next,” she said flatly.
“That would be me,” Bain replied. “And I seem to be your last patient for the day.”
“Thank the hive mother,” Ih’vik muttered, gesturing for Bain to step inside.
“Remember, sir,” Tovar called after him. “It’s better than Nooney.”
“Absolutely,” Bain said with a confident wink as the doors closed, leaving him alone inside Sickbay with Ih’vik. “What happened to that Kawafuri chap?” he asked, looking around.
“Enter here; exit there,” Ih’vik said, pointing to the doors on the opposite side of the room. “And it’s Kawafura.”
“Quite right. So how would you like to begin?”
“Computer, begin recording. Yearly physical for Captain Reginald Bain. Performed on Stardate 176286.” She turned to Bain. “Drop ‘em.”
“This has been a long day. Do NOT make this difficult,” Ih’vik warned. In one fluid motion, she yanked Bain’s trousers and Starfleet-issue briefs down and jammed two fingers into the crook of his leg and nether-regions. “Now turn your head and cough before I have to get unpleasant.”
“Better than Nooney. Better than Nooney,” Bain repeated in his mind as the Andorian nurse-dominatrix went to work on him.
Sitting in the front waiting area of the hospital located on the grounds of the Bechodian Government Complex in the center of Choolan holding a potted flower in her hand, Dr. Kasyov looked much like any other visitor to the facility, which was currently packed with upset Bechodians in the process of losing their bumps. Of course, none of them were aware that Kasyov held in her hands the reason that their bumps were vanishing.
Nearby, Cabral’s hovercam floated, holding a magazine in its manipulator beams. “I had no idea how much trouble all of those other organs can cause.”
“Glad to be just a brain, eh?” Kasyov said.
“Yes! What would I need with a spleen anyway?”
“I’m not even sure what I need with a spleen,” Kasyov replied. “Not my area of the body. I was always a brain gal.”
“And for that I am grateful.”
“Doctor Kasyov,” the attendant at the front desk called. “You can go back now. Down this hall, turn left at the third corridor, then right at the fifth corridor after that.”
“Thanks. We’ll find it,” Kasyov said, getting up from her seat and heading off down the indicated hallway with the flower and Cabral. They soon found themselves in front of the Infectious Disease Research Center, where Nooney and the FMS team were currently working. Dr. Nooney emerged from the Center a few moments later, grinning.
“Oooh! Company!” he exclaimed happily.
“How goes the fight, Doctor?” Kasyov asked.
“I can only help them one at a time,” Nooney replied. “But I will not rest until each and every Bechodian has new bumps. And to think that mommy and daddy said specializing in plastic surgery was silly.”
“No kidding,” Kasyov replied, exchanging a nervous glance with Cabral’s hovercam. Nooney was originally a plastic surgeon?
“Of course, I did end up doing that double specialization in plastic surgery AND pediatrics.”
Pediatrics? Now that explained a lot. But it really wasn’t important at the moment.
“Have you tracked down the source of the virus?” Kasyov asked.
“Oh no. I’m not really worried about it, though. No virus is ruining my beautiful implants.”
“But wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to perform plastic surgery on the entire planet?”
“I won’t do the whole planet,” Nooney laughed. “Starfleet can send in an emergency plastic surgery team.”
“Don’t you think you might want to cure the virus instead?”
“That’s really not my field.”
“But if you knew the source, you’d have a place to start,” Kasyov said.
“I already asked the Bechodians. They don’t know, but they LOVE my work!” Nooney exclaimed.
“I’m sure, but you still might be able to find the source.”
“Ehhhh…no thanks.” Nooney turned to head back into the Research Center.
“Wait!” Kasyov said. “Do you like my flower?”
Nooney looked at the plant Kasyov was carrying. “What an exhilarating shade of orange! Very intense!”
“You know, some plants have been known to produce pollens which act almost like viruses in the humanoid body to the point that the humanoid not only gets sick, but also transmits the virus to other humanoids.”
“Uh huh,” Nooney said, unconcerned as he stared at the flower. “I need a few of these for Sickbay.”
“Did you hear me?” Kasyov asked.
“Yes,” Nooney said. “Plant viruses or something. Botany really isn’t my thing. Oh well. I should get to my next patient.”
“IT’S THE PLANT, YOU MORON!” Kasyov screamed. “TAKE IT! TAKE THE PLANT!”
“Subtle,” Cabral commented.
“What about the plant?” Nooney asked blankly.
Kasyov’s chest heaved angrily as she glared at the Anomaly’s Chief Medical Officer. Finally, she was able to get through enough of her fury to form coherent words. “The plant…is the source…of THE VIRUS!”
“Really!” Nooney said, taking the plant lovingly out of Kasyov’s hand. “Did you do all this, little fella?” he cooed. “Let’s get you back to that pretty green Doctor Finis and get you checked out. Okey-dokie?” Without another word to Kasyov or Cabral, Nooney opened the door to the Research Center and took the plant inside.
“Are we done shopping now?” Cabral asked, stifling a chuckle.
“Yes,” Kasyov seethed.
“Would you like to beam back to the ship?”
“We’re going to miss sunset by the lake.”
“I don’t care.”
“It’s supposed to be very pretty.”
“Okay. Okay. Calling for transport.”
“Thank you,” Kasyov muttered as she felt the comforting tingle of the Anomaly’s transporter begin to take her away from this nightmare of a planet.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 176287.3. Honestly, I expected us to be stuck in orbit over Bechode Prime for bloody weeks waiting for some sort of breakthrough in the fight against their virus problem, but I’m proud to say that our very own Doctor Fred Nooney tracked down the source of the contagion in less than a day. The FMS team is already hard at work sequencing the responsible plant, and they have high hopes of synthesizing a cure within the week. That, in combination with a bit of gene therapy, should have the Bechodians back to their bumpy selves in no time.
“That being the case, the Anomaly has been cleared to leave the Bechodian system without the FMS team. Evidently, they decided that they would find alternate transportation home so that the Anomaly would be free to accept other assignments. Right sporting of them.”
“Natalia!” Cabral said happily as Dr. Kasyov entered Science Lab Four. “I was just about to come find you.” As evidence, Cabral’s hovercam rose into the air from its docking platform atop the science console that continuously monitored Cabral’s sphere.
“I found you first,” Kasyov replied.
“That is perfectly fine with me. I was hoping I could join you for dinner this evening.”
“Of course,” Kasyov said with a soft smile. “Anytime.”
“Thank you, but I felt I should ask before just dropping by your quarters considering your reaction the last time.”
“Just use the door chime, and we won’t have that problem,” she replied, patting Cabral’s sphere.
“I will remember that.”
“But you wouldn’t have found me there anyway. I was up on the bridge while we broke orbit. Since I knew what to look for, I was able to scan Bechode Prime for signs of the contagion. Between the flower pollen and the Bechodians themselves exhaling, the virus had spread to three quarters of the planet.”
“From one nursery?” Cabral asked surprised.
“Not quite. Evidently that trader who sold the flowers to the Bechodians in the first place has dealings with several different nurseries.”
“Will Starfleet be hunting down this particular individual?”
“No. They’re chalking it up to caveat emptor.”
“I am not familiar with that person.”
“It’s Latin. It means ‘Let the buyer beware.’”
“Ah. Very appropriate.”
“They thought so. Now what about that dinner?” Kasyov asked.
“I’m ready anytime,” Cabral said, maneuvering the hovercam toward Kasyov. “But I am not sure what the holo-mess’ theme is this evening.”
“Actually, I thought we’d eat in my quarters.”
“Now that,” Cabral said, following Kasyov out into the corridor, “is a splendid idea.”
Dr. Nooney ran his hand gently along Lieutenant Lara Randall’s side as she sat on a biobed in Sickbay. “There now. How does that feel, Lara?” Nooney asked, setting aside his osteo- regenerator.
“Better. Thank you, Doctor,” the security officer replied, hopping down off of the biobed.
“Goodie goodie,” Nooney said happily. “Be sure to see Nurse Ih’vik for a lollipop on your way out. She’s got cherry, strawberry, and Yaxix bile.”
“Um…thanks,” Randall said, quickly slipping away from Nooney.
“Come back to see me soon,” Nooney waved as she went.
The Sickbay doors opened again a moment later, allowing Captain Bain to walk into the room, if you could really call it walking. Each step seemed to be causing him a great deal of pain.
“Captain!” Nooney exclaimed, rushing over to help Bain to a biobed. “Dear me! Whatever happened to you?”
“Er…holopod accident,” Bain replied quickly, sitting down on the biobed while Nooney slipped on his medical quadcorder.
“My my my. ANOTHER broken rib! I don’t understand this at all. First, you all get physicals while I’m away.”
“Well, you know how it goes, Doctor. One person gets an idea, then someone else picks up on it. Next thing you know, everyone decides that a physical sounds like a good thing to get.”
“That’s all fine and peachy, but why did you all end up hurting yourselves afterwards? I’ve had broken ribs, pulled muscles, and a couple of really nasty hernias!”
As Nooney spoke, Bain noticed Nurse Ih’vik glaring at him and winced. “Must just be a coincidence,” Bain replied, reminding himself once again that even broken ribs were better than one of Nooney’s far too thorough exams…maybe.
“Let’s get you fixed up, Captain,” Nooney said, picking his osteo-regenerator back up.
“Good show.” Bain was quiet for a moment. “While I’ve got you here, Doctor,” he said finally. “I feel that I owe you a bit of an apology. To be honest, I didn’t think you had the mettle to lick that bug back on Bechode Prime, but I’m man enough to say when I’ve been proved wrong. You’ve obviously got a lot more to you that I first thought, and I’d be happy if you come join me in the Captain’s Lounge for a drink sometime.”
“Thank you, sir,” Nooney said happily. “I appreciate that. But really it was nothing. Finding the source of the virus was a piece of cake once Doctor Kasyov told me about the plant that was causing it.”
“Right. That was quite a piece of…” Bain stopped in mid- sentence. “Doctor Kasyov told you?”
“Oh yes. I never would have cared otherwise. But you should have seen the results of my plastic surgeries! Absolute masterpieces. Okey-doke! All done!”
“Eh?” Bain said, still processing Nooney’s last statement.
“And I’ll definitely be by for that drink. I make a mean Shirley Temple! Now be sure to see Nurse Ih’vik for a lollipop on the way out.”
He patted Bain on the head, then pranced back to his office, humming as he went while Bain sat on the biobed feeling a bit shell- shocked.
“Here,” Nurse Ih’vik said, walking over and putting a small glass of brown liquid in his hand.
“Scotch. You look like you need it.”
“Cheers,” Bain said, then tossed back the drink. It was just what the doctor ordered.