Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Music of the Spheres”
By Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
“I can’t say that I’m pleased about this,” Captain Reginald Bain said as he, Commander Vioxx, and Sub-Commander Remax strode through the Anomaly’s corridors on their way to Sickbay.
“We told your people to let us handle this,” Vioxx said. “This was a Romulan world with Romulan plants. Perhaps this will teach Doctor Kasyov to listen next time.”
Remax snorted. “Doubtful.”
“I understand that we’re playing in your backyard at the moment, but the Anomaly was sent to deal with this problem because of the combined abilities we bring to the table as a mixed Federation and Romulan crew.”
“We were sent because we’re the fastest ship around,” Vioxx replied. “Even leaving from Earth, we were able to get to Nessidel an entire day before the closest warhawk could. My government had no way of knowing what caused the explosion of the Imperial Governor’s residence. The planet could have been under attack.”
“It was a kitchen accident,” Bain said.
“Waste of a perfectly good roast de’enir,” Remax groused.
“And well within our ability to handle,” Vioxx said. “You didn’t need to send Doctor Kasyov along…or Mister Tovar, for that matter.”
“Fine, but that doesn’t mean you can blame Kasyov for checking out that plant. She was curious and took a look. That’s what scientists do.”
“Your scientists must die a lot,” Remax said.
Bain shot a disapproving glare at the Romulan as the trio entered Sickbay where Dr. Fred Nooney was just emerging from one of the rear isolation rooms, a wide smile spread across his face.
“I assume that means good news, Doctor,” Bain said, making sure to keep his distance from the physician. Something about the man just plain unnerved Bain.
“Absolutely!” Nooney said, clapping his hands together. “I got the lighting just perfect, and the smell! Divine! I have achieved the ultimate in tranquility suites! Doctor Kasyov will be in heaven when she regains consciousness…and gets out of the tank.”
“What tank?” Bain said confused.
“This tank!” Nooney said proudly, gesturing dramatically at the overgrown aquarium positioned in the center of his “tranquility suite.” Doctor Natalia Kasyov lay floating inside the tank, held in place by tiny tractor beams a foot below the surface of the thick greenish-blue translucent liquid filling the aquarium. A breathing apparatus covered most of her face, but that was the only part of the doctor hidden from view.
“Good lord, man!” Bain exclaimed.
“Do you like it?”
“The lighting is very nice,” Vioxx said, nodding appreciatively at the view. “She’s practically glowing.”
“It’s a work of art,” Remax added. “And the smell is pleasant. Guella blossom?”
“YES!” Nooney cried happily. “How did you know?”
“Really?” Bain said surprised. “I’ll have to show you my prize petunias sometime.”
“Petunias?” Remax asked intrigued. “An Earth flower, I presume.”
“Yes. It’s…oh hang on,” Bain said, remembering what had upset him in the first place. “Can’t you put a sheet over that tank or something?”
“It would ruin the whole effect of the room,” Nooney protested.
“You’ve got Kasyov’s unmentionables on display here, Doctor. I don’t pretend to know everything about the woman, but I don’t think she’d approve of this. Cover this tank. That’s an order.”
“Do I have to?” Nooney pouted.
“That’s what the order part meant.”
“Oh all right. Can it at least be a pretty sheet? Maybe something with a nice swirl pattern?”
“Doctor’s discretion,” Bain said, backing toward the exit as Nooney considered his options. “Ah. Almost forgot. When will Kassie be up and about again?”
“The plant’s toxins were really nasty and started attacking her inside and out almost immediately. The full submersion treatment should clear it all up in a couple of days, though. I’ll want to keep her for a little while after that for further examination and observation, but I’m sure she’ll be back in her lab in five days at the latest.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Bain said. “Let me know if anything changes.”
“Do you want to see the place once I get the new sheet in?”
“That’s quite all right,” Bain replied, stepping out of the room. “Good day, Doctor.”
Bain suppressed a shudder as he and the Romulans left Sickbay. “Damned peculiar bloke,” Bain said, shaking his head. “The man is a professional, though.”
“Obviously,” Remax remarked.
“And your science officer is fine,” Vioxx said. “But in the future, I’d like your people to defer to us when we’re in Romulan space.”
“First of all, they’re not just my people anymore. You’re supposed to be my first officer, Vioxx, which means we’re all one big happy family around here. And secondly, this crew knows their jobs no matter whose space we’re in. There’s going to be a little job overlap until everyone settles in, but I insist that we all work together like professionals.”
“As professional as Doctor Nooney?” Vioxx asked.
“I’m going to ignore that your said that,” Bain replied, then charged off toward the nearest turbolift.
“Good response,” Remax told Vioxx approvingly.
“Thank you. I was pretty happy with it myself.”
Under normal circumstances, patience was not something with which Cabral had much difficulty. When you’d spent a couple of centuries traveling through space alone just to make a date, you learned to wait. All of this time among the Anomaly crew must have changed him, though, because right now all Cabral wanted to do was beam his hovercam directly to Sickbay.
Natalia was there and injured, but Captain Bain had told him to stay out of the way until Dr. Nooney had had a chance to treat her. Bain was right, of course. There was nothing Cabral could do for now, but it pained him to be alone in Science Lab Four and basically helpless to aide the woman he felt closest to in the universe.
For now, all he could do was wait and trust in Dr. Nooney.
Neither of those things were exactly easy to pull off.
What he needed was a distraction. Something to take his mind off of Natalia’s injuries.
That would work.
Cabral’s entire being resonated in harmony with this new sound/sensation, whatever it was.
The massive brain reached out through his connection to the Anomaly’s sensors to search for the source of this wave rhythmically washing over him.
There was another one, and absolutely nothing was showing on the Anomaly’s sensors. How was that possible? Why was he the only one to sense this?
It had to be investigated. It had to be followed.
Cabral had to find it. There was no other option.
Captain Bain eyed the hovercam floating in front of his command chair, considering the words Cabral had just spoken. “You’re sure about this then?” Bain asked.
“As sure as I can be under the circumstances,” Cabral replied. “I most definitely felt a…a hum, for lack of a better term. And it most definitely was coming at me from outside the ship.”
Bain turned to his First Officer seated in the recently- installed chair to Bain’s right. “You got a bead on this thing?”
“Why would I put a bead on it?” Commander Vioxx asked confused.
“He wants to know if we have any information on it?” Sub- Commander Remax said impatiently from the science console. “And the answer is no. According to the Romulan star charts, there’s nothing of interest out here. We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“I believe we’ve passed the region where the hum is located,” Cabral said. “It’s been getting slightly weaker as we continue on this course.”
“So let me get this straight,” Bain said, rising from his chair and pacing the command area. “You want me to turn this ship around and basically fly around in circles until you figure out where this mysterious hum is coming from?”
“That does cover the basics,” Cabral replied hesitantly. Put like that, it did sound somewhat ridiculous, but he HAD to track down this hum.
Vioxx and Remax, meanwhile, exchanged a quick glance of “Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen.”
“Capital idea.!” Bain exclaimed, much to the Romulans’ surprise. “We’ll solve this little puzzle for you, Cabral. You have my word on it!”
Another exasperated sigh emanated from Ensign Yonk as Cabral continued his attempts to home in on the hum that was regularly pulsing through his sphere.
“A little to port,” Cabral said through his hovercam.
Yonk complied. “How about now?” the dwarf Ferengi asked.
“Maybe up a little?” Cabral said unsure.
Yonk tapped another control on the helm console. “Is this better?” He tapped it again. “Or this?”
“I don’t know. They’re very close.”
“Then let’s try it again.” Tap. “This?” Tap. “Or this?”
“Um…the first one.”
“Captain, I would recommend slowing down,” Sub-Commander Remax said a few moments later.
“Why’s that?” Captain Bain asked.
“Because we’re about to go barreling through a solar system.”
“Ahh. Best knock it down a notch or two then, Ensign Yonk.”
“Denotching as we speak,” Yonk replied, slowing the Anomaly’s polaron drive to one quarter power.
“Is it one of these planets?” Bain asked Cabral’s hovercam hopefully.
“Possibly. Could we try moving a little to starboard?”
Yonk sighed yet again. “Do you prefer this?” Tap. “Or this?” Tap.
With Yonk’s help, Cabral eventually led the Anomaly to the fourth planet of the system, a barren wasteland just inside of the Class M range.
“What do you think, Remax?” Bain asked.
“There’s nothing here,” the Romulan scientist replied. “I’m not reading any energy emissions whatsoever.” Remax peered at his monitors more closely. “Hmmmm…and I mean whatsoever.”
“What does that mean?” Commander Vioxx asked.
“Every planet gives off some form of energy. At the very least, I should be detecting the heat and magnetic effects from the planet’s core, but I’m not getting anything.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Remax, but are you using those things correctly?” Bain asked. “It is a Federation science console.”
“It’s not that complicated,” Remax spat back. “I know what I’m looking at, and right now that’s a whole lot of nothing.”
“There could be some kind of jamming field in place,” Lieutenant Commander Tovar suggested from his post at the tac-ops console.
Bain considered this for a moment then turned to Vioxx. “Do you folks have any sort of top-secret installations out this way?”
“I don’t believe so…not that they would tell me,” Vioxx replied. “Mister Tovar, please send a message to the Romulan Imperial Command with our coordinates and a request to send a team down to the surface. That should tell us one way or the other.”
“What if it is a secret base?” Cabral asked. “Would we leave?”
“Most likely,” Bain replied.
“But I MUST find this hum!”
“Just relax there, my brain. We’ll get this sorted out as best we can,” Bain said comfortingly.
“I MUST GO! It’s calling to me!”
“Calling? I thought it was just a hum.”
“It is, but I must follow it. I need to follow it!”
“Er…is this normal for you?” Bain asked. “Following hums and such?”
“We have a response,” Tovar reported. “Romulan Imperial Command has granted clearance; although, they do wonder why we care about a barren hunk of rock.”
“That would seem to shoot down the Romulan base theory,” Bain said. “Of course, someone else could be there.”
“If another species has constructed a secret facility within the Empire, we must investigate,” Vioxx said. “I’ll lead a squad down.”
“Good show,” Bain said. “Take Remax, Tovar, and Cabral with you.”
“That’s a smaller squad than I planned.”
“Don’t worry. The cavalry will be right here if you need us,” Bain said, settling comfortably into his command chair.
“I would recommend using a shuttle,” Tovar said stepping out from behind his console and following Vioxx and Cabral’s hovercam toward the turbolift. “If a jamming field is in place, the transporter could experience difficulties.”
“That’s a nice way of saying we could end up as puddles of prodek paste,” Remax said joining Tovar, Vioxx, and the hovercam in the turbolift.
Vioxx blanched. “A shuttle’s good. I like shuttles.”
Commander Vioxx, who insisted on flying the shuttle himself, found a level place to land in a valley between two mesas rising up from the planet’s surface. He wasn’t sure what the away team hoped to find on the surface, since the jamming field, if that’s what it was, still seemed to be in place despite the fact that they were now on the ground.
“Can you get anything?” Vioxx asked, standing beside Remax as the elder Romulan swept his quadcorder in a slow arc around the valley.
“Zero,” Remax replied, focusing on the mesas where the rock had worn away revealing several rounded outcroppings. “Why not ask the brain about his hum? He’s the reason we’re here anyway.”
“Good point,” Vioxx admitted, moving over to the hovercam. “Is the hum giving you any better directions?”
“I’m afraid not,” Cabral’s voice said through the hovercam speakers. “Of course, the fact that I’m actually still on the Anomaly could account for that.”
“Good point,” Vioxx admitted, moving over to Tovar, who was currently crouching near the ground. “Did you find something?”
“This patch of dirt seems to have been worn away,” the Yynsian tac-ops officer said, gesturing at a black metallic area in the ground. “I can’t get any readings, however.”
“Let’s clear it off,” Vioxx said, going for his phaser. Tovar stood and clicked his wrist phaser into position. A few moments later, the pair had blasted away the dirt covering the rest of the top of the object.
It was a sphere.
A black metallic sphere approximately two meters in diameter.
“Now where have I seen that before?” Sub-Commander Remax said, glaring at Cabral’s hovercam as it flew in for a closer look.
“This is of my people,” Cabral said softly as Vioxx wandered off.
“Perhaps the hum was a sort of distress beacon,” Tovar said.
“I do not believe so,” Cabral said. “Our beacons do not function like this hum.”
“The beacon could have been damaged when this sphere crashed here.”
“Cabral,” Commander Vioxx called from several meters away as he shifted his feet in the dirt.
“Do you spheres travel in groups?”
“No. We are raised together in our pods, but once ensphered, we work singly, usually on ships or as probes. Why?”
Vioxx pointed at the ground in front of him. “Because here’s another one.”
“Make it three,” Remax shouted, kicking dirt away from a patch several more meters away from the shuttle.
“What is this, Cabral?” Tovar asked.
The brain’s hovercam swivelled, looking from sphere to sphere to sphere. “I…I don’t know.”
“This is the sixteenth one we’ve found,” Commander Vioxx’s voice reported over the Anomaly’s comm system as Captain Bain sat in his command chair rubbing his chin and considered the situation. Commander Prosak, who had emerged from her quarters shortly after Vioxx and company beamed off of the ship, was now seated in Vioxx’s chair listening intently. Despite the fact that she had eschewed a chair during her time as the Anomaly’s first officer, she had to admit that sitting provided a definite level of comfort that standing stiffly behind Bain, as she had done during her tenure, lacked.
“And Cabral doesn’t have the foggiest notion what they’re all doing there?” Bain asked.
“So he claims,” Vioxx replied.
“Then I believe him. Cabral is not the lying sort. Keep me informed, Commander. Anomaly out.” Bain looked over a Prosak. “Bit of a puzzler we’ve found, wouldn’t you say?”
“Indeed. If this planet somehow affects brains of Cabral’s species, it may be wise to post security in Science Lab Four, just as a precaution.”
“Excellent idea,” Bain said. “See to it, would you?”
“Of course,” Prosak said, rising from her chair to head below decks. She stopped herself before she could step away from the command area. There was another matter that she felt she needed to address.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to you concerning the events at the James T. Kirk High School Career Night. I wish to apologize for my part in the altercation I had with Lieutenant Marsden and Lieutenant Commander Tovar. The incident was uncalled for.”
Bain chuckled softly. “Think nothing of it, Commander. When people live together in close quarters for extended periods, personal matters are bound to develop and occasionally explode. No harm done. Frankly, any man would be lucky to have two ladies such as you and Marsie fighting over him.”
“Thank you, sir,” Prosak said, fending off the slight blush she felt building on her cheeks.
“Yes, there’s nothing like a good love triangle to get the blood pumping and the heart racing. Everyone should have the opportunity to fight over someone…or to be the one being fought over.”
“And have you ever fought over anyone?” Prosak asked. “Or been fought over?”
“Both at one point or another. There was this one corker about forty years ago when Rosie and Admiral Larkin had this misunderstanding over my…” Bain trailed off. “Oooooh. I’d better not talk about that one.”
“You already started the story, sir,” Prosak said, trying not to appear as interested as she was. “It would be rather rude not to finish it.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to risk being rude,” Bain said. “You understand.”
“Actually, I do not.”
“Security for Cabral.”
“But the story…”
“Yes, sir,” Prosak said, pouting as she marched toward the turbolift to see to Cabral. Finally Bain started a story that she wanted to hear, and he wouldn’t finish it. Where was the justice in that?
Cabral maneuvered his hovercam around the valley in increasing disbelief as more and more crashed spheres were discovered. It didn’t take a huge leap of logic for the group to surmise that the rounded outcroppings they were seeing on the mesas were spheres as well. Surely they couldn’t all be from his home. Some other species must have developed ensphered brains as well.
“I’m starting to feel like I’m in a graveyard,” Commander Vioxx said uneasily.
“You are,” an unfamiliar voice said, clearly unhappy. The Anomaly crewmembers spun around toward the source of the voice. In front of them was a small, thin, four-armed man with pale orange features.
“Why have you desecrated this sacred space?”
“We must have missed the ‘No Trespassing’ signs on the way down,” Sub-Commander Remax replied. “Not that it would have stopped us. You’re in OUR empire!”
“Gathering Point belongs to the Cerebe. This is their final resting place.”
“And just who are the Cerebe?” Vioxx demanded.
“I am,” Cabral said, floating forward. “That is the name given to my kind by our creators, the Pliggeri.”
“And who are they?”
“I am Pliggeri,” the man said, eyeing Cabral’s hovercam suspiciously. “But you cannot be Cerebe.”
“I control the device you see before you. My housing is located on a vessel in orbit of this world. I am called Cabral.”
“I am Chindela,” the man replied, opening his four arms and bowing. “Welcome to Gathering Point.”
“How did these other spheres get here?” Vioxx asked.
“You must have many questions,” Chindela said. “Please join me inside.”
“Inside where?” Vioxx asked. Before he even completed the sentence, the group found themselves inside a narrow grayish-green corridor.
Remax’s attention was immediately drawn to the walls. “Are these organic?” he asked, rubbing his hand along the wavy surface.
“Yes,” Chindela replied simply as he lead the group down the hallway into a small dining area containing a glowing device Tovar could only assume was a replicator as well as a rectangular table covered with padd-like devices and a few objects Tovar could not begin to place. For now, he was content to remain in the background and gather information about this Chindela while Cabral, Remax, and Vioxx handled the social pleasantries.
“I must apologize for the condition of my rooms,” Chindela continued, gesturing for the humanoids to sit in the available chairs at the table. “I do not often receive guests. Never, actually. It is one of the realities of my life.”
“Crappy job,” Remax muttered.
“Job? This is not a job,” Chindela said. “I chose this life in order to watch over the Cerebe. Someone must be here for them.”
“But you said this was a graveyard,” Vioxx said.
“Every graveyard needs a caretaker.”
“And you chose this?” Remax said in disbelief.
“I consider it an honor.” Chindela turned to the hovercam. “I am curious how you found this place, Cabral. The spheres are not to receive the call until the Cerebe within them have expired.”
“You mean died,” Remax said.
“Yes,” Chindela agreed. “We prefer the term expire, though. But on to more interesting matters. How did you find Gathering Point, Cabral?”
“We were traveling in the region when I felt…a hum,” Cabral replied. “I cannot describe it any better than that.”
“I see,” Chindela said thoughtfully.
“So all of the brains are dead when they crash here?” Vioxx said.
“Of course. The remains are vaporized by the heat of entering Gathering Point’s atmosphere, leaving behind only the spheres, which embed themselves into the surface as a memorial to the Cerebe that once resided within. I then see to it that the spheres are buried properly and hide them from the occasional passerby.”
“Why was I not told about this place?” Cabral asked. “I would think we would have been informed about Gathering Point even as podlings.”
“The Pliggeri do not grow the Cerebe to dwell on their own mortality. What does where you will spend your death matter in the scope of your life?”
Cabral was silent for several moments. “I suppose you have a point,” he said finally. “But you’re saying that I shouldn’t have felt that hum and that the only reason I did is because we were close by.”
“I didn’t say that, but it is a possibility,” Chindela said. “Gathering Point was chosen because it is so far from the normal paths of the Cerebe. Your presence in this region is certainly unexpected. However, would you mind if I asked you a question?”
“Of course. What?”
“Ju pexi re oniclan?”
“Podooae beni axid uuo heea ooa ooa ressubet,” Cabral replied instantly much to his and the other Anomaly officers’ surprise.
“What did you just say?” Vioxx demanded.
“I…I don’t know,” Cabral said alarmed. “It was like something else took over. I just spoke on reflex.”
“It is basic information ingrained in all Cerebe from before they are even podlings,” Chindela explained.
“That’s a relief. You frightened me there for a moment. I thought I was possessed,” Cabral said.
“No no. I just wanted to find out a bit about your pod batch. Oh, by the way, from what you just told me, you’ve got about 648 cycles left until expiration. That’s why you heard the hum.”
“Well that solves that mystery,” Vioxx said, smacking his hands down on the table and rising from his chair as the others stared at Chindela in stunned silence. “Back to the ship!”
Captain Reginald Bain looked none-to-pleased as he sat at the head of the table in the Anomaly’s briefing room after having listened to Commander Vioxx’s full report on their trip to the surface of Gathering Point. “And you’re taking this Chinchilla bloke at his word?” the captain asked finally.
“Chindela,” Cabral replied, his hovercam floating over the chair at Bain’s right. “And I have no reason not to. When it comes to the death of my kind, he appears to be the expert.”
“It’s not quite as bad as we thought, though,” Sub-Commander Remax said. “Based on the conversion factor Cabral gave me, it turns out that 648 cycles is really 974 Earth days. That’s almost three years to get your affairs in order, Cabral.”
“Pardon me if I don’t find that comforting.”
“I believe Sub-Commander Remax was simply trying to point out that most of us do not receive this kind of advance notice of our deaths,” Tovar said.
“Excuse me for trying out a little of your Federation optimism,” Remax said.
“It was a commendable effort,” Bain said distractedly.
“I suppose,” Cabral said. “But what are we going to do?”
“Do?” Vioxx said. “I didn’t think that there was anything to do. We’ve taken you on your detour. You got some new information, and now we’ve got missions to complete. Three years from now, you can worry about this.”
“It just won’t do!” Bain said, slamming his fist down on the table. “With all due respect to Mister Cinderella down there, you’re a member of this crew, and I can’t accept that in three years you’re just going to shrivel up and die before slamming your sphere into this ruddy planet. If you’ve got an expiration date, it’s because Citronella and his cohorts put it there. If they put it in, maybe we can take it out. Now Doctor Kasyov is the one I’d normally go to for something like this, but seeing as how she’s still in that pesky coma, I’m turning to you, Remax. Go through Kassie’s notes. Work with Cabral. If there’s some way for us to get rid of this expiration date foolishness, I want it done. In the meantime, I’d like a word with this Mister Chandelier.”
“Chindela,” Tovar muttered.
“It takes all kinds, eh, Tovar?” Captain Bain said as he surveyed the arid wasteland stretching out before him. He and Tovar had just emerged from their shuttle at the landing coordinates Chindela had provided for them which put them directly in front of a set of silver doors embedded in a cliff face.
“I don’t follow,” Tovar said, stepping over to the doors in the cliff. As tac-ops officer, it was in Tovar’s job description to be suspicious of the unknown. So far, though, Chindela had been nothing but helpful. When Bain commed Chindela from the Anomaly, he had readily agreed to meet concerning Cabral and had freely given the location of his installation’s front door. Despite that, Tovar found himself on edge. No one was this accommodating. Something would go wrong. He just had to be ready when it happened.
“This place,” Bain continued. “There’s not a bloody thing here but dirt and crashed spheres, yet this Chinibell likes it. I wouldn’t. That’s for sure.”
“Mister Chindela has a calling.”
“That’s one word for it. All right. Let’s give the doors a knock.”
As Bain’s words faded from the air, the silver doors slowly slid open, grinding a bit as they did so from years of disuse, revealing Chindela.
“That doesn’t seem to be necessary,” Tovar replied.
“Greetings to you both,” Chindela said, gesturing for Bain and Tovar to enter. “I trust you had no difficulty finding the place.”
“None at all,” Bain said, striding forward and extending his hand to Chindela. “Captain Reginald Bain. It’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”
“Thank you,” Chindela replied, extending both of his right hands to Bain in an attempt to mimic what he assumed was a human greeting ritual.
Bain was thrown for just a split second, then quickly shook both of Chindela’s offered hands. “Nice place you have here,” the Captain said, following Chindela inside. “Have you been here long?”
“A very long time.”
“All by yourself?”
“Doesn’t that get a bit dull?”
“I know I’d go stark raving mad if I had to spend this long without another soul to talk to. I don’t know how you do it,” Bain said.
“It’s the life I chose.”
“Not for me. I need conversation. No offense here, chum, but it surprises me that you don’t feel the same. You seem like a pleasant bloke. Why spend so much time all by your lonesome?”
“It is my life,” Chindela repeatedly somewhat hesitantly. The Pliggeri quickly shook it off. “Now that you’ve come all this way, how may I help you?”
“As I said on the comm, I wanted to have a word with you about Cabral.”
“Of course,” Chindela said, leading Bain and Tovar into the bowels of his complex until they eventually arrived at the small dining area where he’d earlier met with Cabral, Remax, Tovar, and Vioxx. Tovar noted that Chindela had made no effort to straighten up the place even though he knew more guests were arriving. Obviously he’d lost the social niceties over the years.
“What about Cabral?” Chindela asked, sitting down at the head of the table as Bain took a chair at the opposite end while Tovar stood nearby.
“It’s this expiration date foolishness. Am I really to believe that in three years that brain is just doing to drop dead?” Bain said.
“That is how he was grown. That is how all Cerebe are grown,” Chindela replied.
“But why? It doesn’t make any sense that you would just randomly kill a perfectly good brain. He’s still out enjoying his existence.”
“My people created the Cerebe. We revere them as valued creations, but, in the end, they are still tools for our use. Cabral is somewhat unique in that he is basically functioning autonomously from the Pliggeri. He is obviously not a probe, so I can only presume he was given some other assignment which came to an end.”
“His ship blew up.”
“Ahh…I see. Since he was not destroyed in the blast, he found himself without a job function. Under normal circumstances, he should have returned to the homeworld, but I can only assume some other task overrode that.”
“His ship was taking him to meet a ladyfriend at the time. He spent the next century and change trying to get to her.”
“Would you say he was…single-minded in this task?”
“Absolutely,” Bain replied. “He commandeered the Anomaly and took us straight into Breen space. He was close to getting us blown up just so he could see this other sphere.”
Chindela nodded in understanding. “I assume then that he found her.”
“Yes indeed. She tossed him over, but he got to see the lady…brain.”
“And after that time, he has been able to act of his own volition.”
“I should say so. He chose to remain on my ship.”
“The last task he had been given was to rendezvous with this other sphere you mentioned. We Pliggeri learned early in our work with the Cerebe that they greatly benefitted from relationships with their own kind. Once Cabral completed that task, though, he was without commands from home; therefore, he felt free to join you.”
“You’re not going to try to take him back, are you?” Bain asked warily.
“No no. Cabral’s return home after this long would benefit no one,” Chindela said.
“Right. Well…about this expiration.”
“I’m afraid there is nothing I can do. It is the way of things.”
“The way of things? This isn’t nature taking its course here. You lot encoded it into him!”
“You must understand…”
“No!” Bain shot back. “I will not understand. It may be okay for you to spend your entire life alone on this dustball, but Cabral is a valued member of my crew. You’ve probably been alone for so long that you don’t know what that means, but we like having him around and I’m fairly sure he likes being around us. We’re something of a family up there, and I won’t have Cabral ripped away from that family because you think his time is up. It’s not! He has a lot yet to offer this universe. He has places to see and people to meet.”
“People…” Chindela said thoughtfully.
“Yes! Remember them? When was the last time you were off of this planet?”
“Yes, away! Before today, when was the last time anyone came here? You spend all your time looking after the dead, but what about you? Do you remember what social interaction is like? Cabral knows. He interacts with us every single day. That brain is a born conversationalist, but you wouldn’t know anything about that because you’re too busy waiting for him to shuffle off his mortal coil and come slamming into your giant graveyard! Wake up, man! Cabral has a life! We should enjoy him as he is, not push him to a premature end! Don’t take your solitude out on him!”
“You’re absolutely right!” Chindela cried, tears welling in his eyes.
“Damn right I am!” Bain said.
“I don’t want to be alone anymore!”
“Why should you?”
“Right! I’m taking Cabral for myself!” Chindela shouted.
“Captain…” Tovar began, stepping toward Bain. Two of Chindela’s four arms snatched up a couple of the strange devices laying on the table. Tovar quickly came to the conclusion that they were weapons of some sort, a conclusion that was borne out as two energy beams slammed into him before he even managed to click his wrist phaser into position.
Bain, meanwhile, dove under the table for cover as Tovar went down. Chindela fired a few more shots in his direction. “Can’t we talk about this?” Bain asked.
With his other two arms, Chindela grabbed one of his padds and began frantically typing in commands. “Cabral will stay here with me! He’ll keep me company. We’ll be the best of friends!” Chindela cackled hysterically.
“Bugger,” Bain spat.
Despite now being on the Anomaly for a couple of weeks, Commander Vioxx had never actually visited Science Lab Four where Cabral’s sphere resided. Vioxx had very quickly gathered that Dr. Kasyov was rather possessive of Cabral, and there was something about being in the presence of a giant brain that he just found unsettling.
However, with Sub-Commander Remax now assigned to find some way to help Cabral, Vioxx decided he should check in. Bain was the captain of the ship, but Vioxx still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of Bain ordering his officers around without Vioxx being involved in some capacity.
The lab was quiet when Vioxx arrived. Remax was busy reading information off of the console sitting near Cabral’s sphere and the housing in which it sat as Cabral’s hovercam was resting on its docking platform it used when shut down. Meanwhile, Centurion Nortal stood nearby, disruptor pistol at the ready.
“Who dares invade this den of science?” Nortal exclaimed suddenly, brandishing her weapon at Vioxx.
“Could you please NOT DO THAT!” Remax shouted. “I’m trying to concentrate over here!”
“So am I,” Cabral said.
“Put the gun down, Nortal,” Vioxx said, brushing past her on his way to the science console. He couldn’t help but stare at Cabral’s sphere. There was something foreboding about it sitting there, all big and black. He could just make out several tiny hatches on the surface of the sphere. Who knew what was in there? Weapons? Icky tentacly brain bits that could reach out and grab him by the throat and…
Vioxx shuddered involuntarily and tried to focus on Remax. “How are you progressing?”
“I’m not,” Remax said. “Kasyov’s got a couple of years worth of notes in here. It’s going to take me ages to figure out where to even begin.”
“That sphere is a machine. What about some engineering help? I could call Selex up here.”
“No!” Remax said. “If I need an engineer, I’ll call that Marsden woman. I don’t need that simpering fool Selex anywhere near here.”
“He tries very hard.”
“Too hard,” Remax said. “And speaking of trying, I’m trying to work here, so why don’t you run along to the bridge or something?”
“Calling,” Cabral said suddenly.
“Excuse me?” Remax said.
“He is calling. I must go,” Cabral replied, his voice a droning monotone.
“Chindela. I must go to him.” Cabral’s sphere began to vibrate. Several hissing and popping noises emanated from underneath it as its connections to its housing were severed. “I obey the call.”
“No!” Remax shouted. “Stay there!”
“I will go.”
“Nortal, do something!” Remax ordered.
“Your motion will cease!” Nortal cried, firing rapidly at Cabral. The first two blasts ricocheted off of his sphere, forcing Remax and Vioxx to dive for cover. The blasts after that passed right through Cabral as the sphere reached its phased state and began to sink through his housing and through the floor of the lab.
“He’s escaping!” Remax shouted. “We have to get him back!”
“Why?” Vioxx said. “If he wants to leave, let him. We don’t need a giant brain around here anyway.”
Remax glared at his commander in disgust. “No Cabral means no anti-singularity drive, you moron,” the scientist said. “He’s what makes the whole thing work!”
“Did you even read the Welcome Aboard Information Package in your quarters?” Remax demanded.
“I’m going to get it,” Vioxx said defensively. “I’ve been busy.”
“Doing Praetor knows what in your holopod, no doubt.”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Will we not pursue the fleeing ball of doom?” Nortal exclaimed.
“She’s right,” Remax said. “Cabral’s on his way to the surface by now.”
“Then he’s not going to get there,” Vioxx said. “Vioxx to transport control. Three to beam directly to the docking bay. Energize.”
Moments later, the Raceabout Frinoqua tore (Well, not literally tore. They did wait for the doors to open) out of the Anomaly’s main docking bay on a pursuit course behind their wayward brain.
“No blowing him up!” Remax warned Nortal, who was seated in the co-pilot’s seat and hunched over the weapons console as Vioxx closed the gap between the raceabout and Cabral’s sphere.
“He shall receive a disabling like he has never known!” Nortal replied.
“He isn’t even trying to evade us,” Vioxx said confidently. “Get ready on those tractor beams.”
“The dark ball will not escape my talons.”
Vioxx glanced back at Remax. “Remember when people just used to say ‘yes, sir’?”
“To you? Never,” Remax said with a smirk.
A compression phaser blast lanced out of the raceabout suddenly, accompanied by a battle cry from Nortal! “Feel my wrath!”
The beam was right on target…and passed right through Cabral’s sphere, which was now well into the planet’s atmosphere.
“He’s still phased!” Vioxx exclaimed angrily.
“How dare he,” Remax remarked.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Vioxx said. “We can’t bring back something we can’t even grab.”
“We will pursue him to the ends of the universe!” Nortal said. “There will be no escape from the fury of Nortal.”
“We’ll stay on him for now,” Vioxx said. “Remax, see if you can figure out some way to latch onto him when he’s phased.”
Remax snorted. “Sure. Phase us the same way.”
“Sounds good. Get on that.”
“I was joking.”
“I wasn’t,” Vioxx said, flattening out the raceabout’s decent toward the rapidly-approaching surface. Cabral’s sphere was now skimming no more than a meter above the flat wasteland toward a cliff-face. Vioxx caught the glint of something metal in the sunlight just in front of the cliff.
“What is that?” he asked.
“Our shuttle,” Remax replied, checking his sensors. Seconds later, Cabral passed right through the shuttle as well as a set of metal doors embedded in the cliff face.
“Vioxx to Bain.”
“I’m a bit busy now,” the captain’s voice replied in clipped tones. Suddenly, the sound of a weapons blast blared from the comm system.
“Are you under attack?” Vioxx asked.
“Head of the class.”
“YES!” Bain shouted back. “Chimcheerie’s gone crackers. He said he’s taking Cabral. Make sure that does not happen!”
“Um…Cabral seems to be under Chindela’s control. He has already left the ship.”
“He what?” Bain demanded.
“I think he’s heading your way.”
“My way? Is he…oh…Here he is. He’s under Chimperama’s control you say?”
“Right. Well…Tovar and I could use a spot of help, if you’d be so kind.”
“The cavalry is on its way,” Vioxx said smugly before closing the comm channel. “Nortal, open that door.”
“But the shuttle…” Remax began.
The shuttle in question suddenly exploded violently as a result of the volley of micro-torpedoes Nortal had slammed into it. The door in the cliff quickly suffered the same fate.
Vioxx set the raceabout down next to the smoldering remains of the Anomaly shuttle. “Break out the compression rifles,” Vioxx ordered Nortal.
“I will not part with my loyal disruptor,” Nortal said.
“Fine, but I want to play with the big gun,” Vioxx said, pulling a compression phaser rifle out of the supply locker as Remax opened the raceabout hatch. “Sub-Commander?” Vioxx added, holding a rifle out to Remax.
“Let’s get this over with,” Remax replied, eyeing the Starfleet-issue weapon with disgust. He finally snatched the weapon from Vioxx, then charged out of the raceabout and into the cliff entrance with Vioxx and Nortal.
This situation had long since hit intolerable, Reginald Bain thought to himself as he crouched down behind the replicator unit in Chindela’s dining room. The four-armed maniac was now using three of his hands to fire weapons at Bain, who had made a quick retreat from the table to the replicator unit standing off by itself. It was a good thing the Pliggeri didn’t use wall-mounted replicators or Bain would have been in big trouble.
Not that he wasn’t in big trouble now.
Tovar hadn’t so much as stirred since Chindela blasted him, but he could see the Yynsian’s chest moving up and down as he breathed. That was a relief. If Chindela had killed Tovar, it would have taken a lot more than three blasters to keep Bain away from him.
As three more blasts slammed into the opposite side of the replicator, Bain once again cursed himself for not strapping on a wrist phaser before leaving the ship. He’d put too much trust into this friend of Cabral’s, and it had quickly turned out that Chindela was neither trust-worthy, nor Cabral’s friend.
Cabral, unfortunately, was completely unaware of this. The sphere had sailed into the dining room a few moments earlier and phased back to a normal state. Since then, Cabral hadn’t done much of anything but tell Chindela he was answering the call. Bain had to hope that Chindela didn’t have complete control.
“Cabral!” Bain shouted. “It’s me! Reg! Can you give me a spot of help please?”
“I have answered the call,” Cabral’s voice boomed.
“Yes, you did,” Chindela cooed. “You’re such a good brain. You’re going to be my friend!”
“I have answered the call.”
“He’s not going to be much fun if you leave him brainwashed, you stupid git!” Bain shouted. Chindela responded with another barrage of weapons’ fire.
“I won’t be left alone!” Chindela cried, tossing aside one of his blasters and tapping commands into the padd clutched into his top left hand.
Hoping the Pliggeri was distracted, Bain reached out toward Tovar’s leg. If he could just pull Tovar a bit closer, he could get his wrist phaser and…
ZAPOW! ZAP ZAP! ZAPOW!
Bain yanked his arm back behind the replicator as Chindela peppered the ground between him and Tovar with energy beams.
“You want this to be bloody?” Chindela asked.
“Not particularly,” Bain replied. “How about you stop shooting at me, and we discuss this like civilized people?”
“You’ll try to take Cabral back!”
“I promise I won’t…”
“Meet thy doom!” Nortal’s voice screamed suddenly as she, Remax, and Vioxx stormed into the dining room. Nortal opened fire on Cabral’s motionless sphere as Chindela ducked behind Cabral for cover and began shooting back, forcing the Romulans to duck back into the corridor and hide behind the door frame.
“Come on, Bain!” Vioxx shouted, waving Bain toward the door.
“Sorry to hear that. Let’s go!”
“Keep Chimpernickle busy!” Bain said, rushing over to Tovar. “And get that padd from him!” Bain pulled Tovar up, getting the Yynsian to his feet. “Come on now, lad. It’s time to go.”
Tovar’s eyes fluttered, then half-opened. “Brersonawazz,” he muttered.
“That’s nice, son,” Bain said, dragging Tovar toward the exit as the Romulans kept Chindela pinned down. He handed Tovar off to Remax and took the phaser rifle from the scientist. “Get him back to the shuttle! We’ll be along in a moment.”
Remax started to protest, but thought better of it and headed off down the corridor, lugging Tovar along behind him. Firefights weren’t exactly his idea of fun anyway.
“We’ve got to get that padd,” Bain said, ducking behind the door frame beside Vioxx. “It’s controlling Cabral.”
“Good luck,” Vioxx said.
“I will obtain the tablet of power,” Nortal said from her position across the corridor. “Nothing will deny me in this quest!”
“Good show,” Bain said. “Cover fire, Vioxx.”
“Don’t get killed,” Vioxx said to Nortal as she charged out into the open, blasts from Bain and Vioxx sailing past her. She ran directly at Cabral’s sphere, then at the last moment, jumped on top of it, sliding down the other side onto a very surprised Chindela. She ran out from behind the sphere a moment later, holding the padd triumphantly in the air.
“Victory is mine!” she cried.
“GIVE THAT BACK!” Chindela bellowed, opening up with both blasters as his other two arms reached for two more from the table. Nortal dove, and hit the ground in a roll, coming up just at the door, then launched herself into the corridor to avoid Chindela’s blasts.
“You could have taken him out, you know,” Vioxx snapped.
“You only told me to get the padd,” Nortal replied. “I have completed my quest.”
“Nicely done,” Bain said, grabbing the padd from her. He tossed it back toward Chindela, obliterating it with his phaser rifle in mid-air.
“NOOOOOOOOO!” Chindela screamed.
“What am I doing here?” Cabral asked suddenly.
“Leaving,” Bain said. “Let’s go!”
“An excellent plan,” Cabral replied, detecting the weapons in Chindela’s hands. The sphere phased again, speeding out into the corridor with Bain, Vioxx, and Nortal running close behind.
“You’re just going to leave Chindela here?” Vioxx asked.
“The man had a little breakdown. Once we leave, he can get back to his normal lonely existence,” Bain said. “I’m not going to throw him in the brig for having an off day.”
“He tried to kill you!”
“He was using stun,” Bain said. “No harm done.”
The group emerged out into the sunlight where the raceabout sat hatch open. “Er…where’s my shuttle?” Bain asked, looking around.
“Right there,” Vioxx said, pointing at the nearby pile smoking pile of debris. “It was in the way of the door.”
“Ahh. Couldn’t be helped then,” Bain said. “Let’s get back to…” The ground beneath began rumbling, almost toppling the Anomaly officers off of their feet. “What the devil!”
Five battered spheres suddenly erupted from the earth, launching into the air as weapons hatches opened on their exteriors.
“He’s activated the empty spheres!” Cabral said.
“Move!” Bain ordered, pushing Vioxx and Nortal toward the waiting raceabout as several more spheres broke through the thin layer of dirt covering them with more rising all the time. “Can you make it back to the Anomaly?” Bain asked Cabral.
“Perhaps, but you most likely will not unless I shut down the spheres,” Cabral replied, turning back toward the cliff opening.
“Do you want me to come with you?”
“No. Get the others back to the ship. I will do what I can to help you arrive safely.”
“Don’t worry,” Bain said, stepping into the raceabout. The captain leveled his rifle and braced himself against the open runabout hatch. “Vioxx, take us up! Shields to maximum.” Bain boosted the power of his compression phaser rifle to maximum as well and fired at an oncoming sphere, punching a hole straight through it and sending it plummeting back to the ground. “We’ll hold our own out here!”
“I have no doubt of that,” Cabral said with a slight chuckle. Even in the gravest of circumstances, it was hard to doubt Reginald Bain. As the raceabout lifted up into the sky, Cabral entered the cliff complex to face Chindela.
Commander Prosak was feeling a bit left out as she sat in the command chair on the Anomaly’s bridge. The captain, Vioxx, and Tovar were all on Gathering Point at the moment, leaving her as the only person in the primary chain of command remaining on board. Granted, all indications were that things on the planet had gone sour, so Prosak was probably safer where she was. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to have been invited along on the mission instead of waiting for some sign of the away team to present itself.
It turned out that she didn’t have much longer to wait.
“Commander?” Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell said from the tac-ops console.
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Prosak replied, spinning around in her chair to face Brazzell.
“Remember how we couldn’t scan anything on the surface of the planet?”
“Well, I can scan things above the surface.”
“That’s very nice, Brazzell,” Prosak said. “Thank you for sharing that information with me.”
“Um…you might want to see what I’m scanning,” Brazzell said. “Look.”
He shifted the image on the viewscreen to a tactical readout showing the Frinoqua surrounded by several spherical sensor contacts. “I think they’re in trouble,” Brazzell continued.
“Oh really,” Prosak said darkly. “Whatever would give you that idea?”
Weapons fire from the armada of spheres surrounding the Frinoqua cascaded off of the raceabout’s shields as Commander Vioxx struggled to evade as many attackers as he could while Nortal took out as many as possible with the craft’s phaser banks.
Captain Bain, meanwhile, was having a grand old time standing in the raceabout’s open hatch firing away at the incoming threats. Holding on had been a bit of a struggle at first, but Remax had managed to rig up a harness system for Bain using supplies from the raceabout’s interior.
Bain blasted another sphere out of the sky just before the raceabout was again jostled with blaster impacts.
“The shields are not going to take much more of this,” Vioxx’s voice shouted over the comm system.
“Maybe we can try to make another break for space,” Bain replied.
“The last time we tried that, we got pounded,” Vioxx said, sending the ship into another dive followed by a quick jerk to port.
“Then we’ll do the best we can until Cabral gets these sphere shut down,” Bain said, firing several more shots out of the ship.
After a brief search of Chindela’s complex, Cabral detected the Pliggeri in the base’s control room. Cabral’s sphere slid silently into the chamber where Chindela was engrossed watching a monitor displaying the battle occurring in the skies above Gathering Point, rubbing his four hands together anxiously all the while.
“They will not go down easily,” Cabral said, startling Chindela.
“You came back!” Chindela exclaimed happily. “I knew you would. I just knew it.”
“I’m not here to stay. Deactivate the spheres.”
“Why? Bain is trying to take you away from me.”
“I am taking me away from you,” Cabral said. “This is nothing personal against you, but I do not wish to stay here.”
“You are Cerebe. You serve the Pliggeri. You will stay because I wish it.”
“The Cerebe are not slaves to Pliggeri. You grow us and help define us, but we are our own beings.”
“Beings that perform the tasks we assign,” Chindela said.
“When we wish it. Cerebe find our work with the Pliggeri to be fulfilling overall, but I can see nothing fulfilling about remaining here as your entertainment. I wish to be with my friends on the Anomaly.”
“You’ll stay, or I’ll kill your so-called friends.”
“I could overpower you,” Cabral said.
“I don’t think so,” Chindela said, removing two blasters from their holsters at his side.
“There is nothing to be gained by this. Shut down the spheres.”
“Of course. As soon as they’ve done their work.”
How many spheres were entombed on this bloody planet? They just seemed to keep coming and coming. Captain Bain wasn’t one for negativity, but he was truly starting to wonder if the raceabout was going to survive long enough for Cabral to shut the spheres down.
“HA HA!” Vioxx exclaimed suddenly over the comm.
“How is this funny?” Bain demanded.
Suddenly, a massive shadow passed over the raceabout. A moment later, the USS Anomaly pulled up alongside the embattled craft, obliterating several spheres in the process.
“HA HA!” Bain exclaimed.
“See,” Vioxx replied.
“Good show, Prosak!” Bain said as the Anomaly’s docking bay doors slid open and the ship pulled in front of the raceabout while the multiple compression phaser banks along the Anomaly’s hull targeted sphere after sphere. “Take us in, Vioxx.”
The raceabout bucked violently as another barrage of weapons’ fire slammed into the shields. Vioxx dodged the raceabout hard to starboard, giving Bain an excellent view of the ground below as he dangled from his harness.
“There’s still too many of them,” Vioxx said. “If we try to line up with the docking bay again, they’re going to destroy us.”
“All right. Use the Anomaly for cover as best you can. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open for another opportunity.”
“The Cerebe were not designed for this kind of combat,” Cabral said as he and Chindela watched the monitor. “They will be no match for the Anomaly. End this now.
“You could be very happy here,” Chindela said a bit less confidently.
“I doubt it. I need to travel. Life on the Anomaly gives me that chance. I am also…involved with someone.”
“Involved?” Chindela asked surprised. “Is there another brain on board?”
“She is a human,” Cabral replied. “And perhaps involved is the wrong word. We have grown close.”
“We could grow close.”
“I would be your prisoner. Wouldn’t you rather have a companion who actually wanted to spend time with you?”
“Who would want to be here?” Chindela asked despondently. “I live in a hole underneath a giant graveyard.”
“You said that you felt being here was an honor.”
“I do. Oh, I do! But I seem to be the only one.”
“You could go home,” Cabral said.
“No. I couldn’t. Someone must be here for the spheres. This is their final resting place.”
“They do not seem to be resting at the moment,” Cabral observed. “When we arrived here, you accused us of desecrating this sacred space. What would you call this? You have disturbed the spheres’ eternal rest for your own ends.”
Chindela’s eyes widened in horror as the full realization of what he had done struck him. “By the oracles….”
“Let me end this,” Cabral said softly, floating toward the main console. “Before anyone is truly harmed.”
Chindela nodded numbly as he staggered over to a nearby chair and fell into it. Cabral extended a small control probe from his sphere and plugged into the console’s access port. Seconds later, his work was done. The spheres had been shut down.
“You have been a loyal caretaker here,” Cabral said to Chindela. “Do not allow this incident to overshadow the good you have done. I know the spirits of the Cerebe appreciate your efforts. I cannot make any promises, but I will tell any Cerebe I encounter about Gathering Point. They may not be permanent companions, but you would at least have company occasionally. And I am sure Captain Bain will allow us to return when possible.”
“That would be wonderful,” Chindela said. “I am so sorry about all of this. How can I even begin to make it up to you?”
“Well, there is the small problem of my expiration date…”
The phaser rifle in Bain’s hands let out a garbled squeal as a beam no more powerful than a flashlight shone against an incoming sphere. That was the third powerpack he’d drained so far.
“Give me another one, Remax,” Bain said, yanking the spent pack out of his weapon and lobbing it over to the elder Romulan at the supply locker.
“We’ve only got two left,” Remax replied retrieving a new pack and throwing it to Bain. “What’s your plan when we run out entirely?”
“I’ll worry about that if the time comes,” Bain said, catching the powerpack and locking it into his rifle.
“If?” Remax said.
“You don’t know Cabral. He’ll get the job done.”
“You’re right I don’t know him. That’s why I don’t trust him one bit. He could be back under Chindela’s control right now for all you know.”
Bain stood aside and gave Remax a clear view out of the hatch.
One by one, the spheres were plummeting back to the planet’s surface and laying dormant at their points of impact.
“Oookay. I’m fairly convinced,” Remax said as Bain closed the raceabout hatch and tossed his phaser rifle aside.
“Vioxx, are we all clear?”
“It’s just us and the Anomaly,” Vioxx’s voice replied. “I’m taking us into the docking bay. Vioxx, out.”
“Bain to Cabral,” Bain said, pinching his commpip.
“Cabral here, Captain.”
“What’s your status?”
“I am leaving Chindela’s position now. Are you safe?”
“Safe as houses,” Bain replied. “Things were a little touch and go for a moment, but you pulled us through. We’re moving the Anomaly up to a more friendly climate, but we can come back for you if you’re not up for the trip out of the atmosphere. We can be there in two shakes.”
“Understood…except for the shakes part. I will join you shortly. Cabral out.”
With everything as under control as it could be under the circumstances, Bain ducked back into the raceabout’s sleeping area to check on Tovar, who lay in one of the beds mumbling groggily.
“We’re out the woods, lad,” Bain said, patting his adopted son on the arm. “We’ll have you back on the Anomaly in a jiff. How are you feeling?”
“Kropedopistal,” Tovar muttered incoherently.
“Glad to hear it.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 177651.7. With all personnel safely aboard, we’ve bid farewell to Gathering Point and are on course for Outpost L-78 along the Romulan side of the Neutral Zone. Perhaps against Commander Vioxx’s better judgment, we have decided not to inform Romulan Imperial Command about the presence of a Pliggeri outpost on a world inside their Empire. I can’t see that any good would come of alerting them to Chippendale’s existence. Now that he’s got his issues worked out, why not let the man be?
“Cabral returned to the Anomaly with his expiration date erased, so he’s now free to live as long as he can, as it should be. I know I’m going to meet my end someday, but I sure as hell don’t want the date stamped in stone ahead of time.
“To add to the good news, I’ve received word from Doctor Nooney that Doctor Kasyov has emerged from her coma and from the tank where Nooney was treating her. At Nooney’s insistence, she’ll be in Sickbay recovering for another couple of days. I can’t prove this, but I think the man was actually disappointed she responded to his treatments so quickly. Odd bird, that one.”
“Hey there,” Doctor Natalia Kasyov whispered weakly as Cabral’s hovercam floated through the open doorway of her small recovery room in Sickbay.
“How are you feeling?” Cabral asked, taking up a stationary position over the visitor’s chair place near the head of the bed.
“Moist,” Kasyov replied with a slight chuckle. “I don’t think I’m ever going to have to worry about dry skin again.”
“No after-effects from the plant then?”
“My innards kind of feel like I got worked over by a pack of Klingons, but I’ll be okay…assuming I can keep Nooney away from me.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“So how about you? Did you do anything interesting while I was out?” Kasyov asked.
“I found out I had three years to live, but I’m all better now.”
Kasyov stared at the hovercam for several long moments. “I’m going to assume that I’m delirious and didn’t really hear that,” she said finally, settling a little deeper into her pillow.
“Okay. Get some rest,” Cabral said with a chuckle, moving his hovercam toward the door. “We can talk tomorrow.”
“Yes. Come for a very long, very explanatory talk,” Kasyov said. “You aren’t getting out of here until I know everything that went on while I was in that tank.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it,” Cabral replied, sailing out of the room.