Author: Brendan Chris
Lt. Rex Boxer worked the shield controls while Crewman Billings took the helm and pulled the ship into evasive manoeuvres. The Roadrunner was dodging through space, trying to evade phaser fire coming from the very large Federation ship, the USS Banshee, that had decloaked behind them. Through some sort of quantum screw-up, the Roadrunner had swapped places with the USS Hummingbird, one of her sister ships still back in Matrian Space. Unfortunately, the swap wasn’t permanent. Actually, considering that staying in Matrian Space was looking to be a quick path to a horrible death, maybe it wasn’t unfortunate after all.
“According to my readings, the quantum link between ourselves and the USS Hummingbird will dissipate in eight point four minutes,” Strobnick said.
“And you bring that up now WHY?” Virgii demanded.
“Because,” Strobnick pointed out, “If we activate the QS drive before that time, we will return to our original location, while the Hummingbird will return here,”
“You really want to be stuck years from home again?” Virgii demanded.
“Do you really want to be here, being chased by a starship fifty times your size?” Mytim exclaimed.
“Never mind that if the high-ranking Admirals and dignitaries on the Hummingbird survive the trip back, our performance reports will probably be extremely negative,” Strobnick gulped, “And…they’ll probably backdate them right up to today!”
The ship shook again, as if to prove his point.
“Shields at ten percent!” Boxer reported.
“Oh very well,” Virgii grumbled, “Hopefully the Admirals on the Hummingbird have better luck. Engage the drive!”
There was a brief flash of blue light from the bridge windows. As it faded, Virgii looked around, trying to spot the other ships.
“Sensors clear,” Lt. Boxer reported, “No other ships in the area,”
“We’re right back where we started,” Mytim reported, “At the exact position where we had been preparing to engage the slipstream drive,”
“Set course for Federation space, warp seven,” Virgii ordered, leaning back in his seat with relief, “And let’s hope that by the time we get back, they’ve sorted out whatever that little misunderstanding was,”
“Misunderstanding? A Federation ship was shooting at us! And I swear they had a cloaking device!” Mytim exclaimed. Not to mention that one of those hijackers seemed to recognize her for her…abilities. Of course, she couldn’t exactly bring that up now, could she?
“Probably just sensor-shielding,” Laarthi said firmly from her station. Her hands were dancing over her panel at full speed, frantically altering the sensor logs before anybody could load them up. Rumour or not, if a super-secret branch of Starfleet or Starfleet Intelligence did exist, a crew full of officers with knowledge of their existence was just begging for mass brain-wipes, ‘disappearances’, or even worse…potential recruitment.
“The Lieutenant is right,” Virgii nodded his head, “I am quite certain that whatever we saw has a rational explanation. We’ll just wait until we can contact Starfleet or return home to determine what it was. No big deal, what?”
“Idiot,” Mytim muttered.
Acting Captain’s Log, Stardate 59462.1:
We’ve returned to our previous position near the galactic core and resumed our trek towards Federation space. While some of the crew appears disappointed by our reversal of fortune, we’re all rather pleased to be safely aboard the Roadrunner instead of being pursued by giant, angry ships. I have ordered us to remain at warp speed for the time being. We will wait until things have settled down before attempting another jump with the slipstream drive.
Virgii stepped out of his tiny office, wishing again that the Roadrunner was big enough to have a ready room off the bridge instead of a deck down. That would have made his command much easier. The fact that he wasn’t supposed to have a command and was in fact just an engineer on his way to his next posting wasn’t really registering in his mind at the moment. Nope, he had been pushed into a difficult position, what with the whole hijacking thing, and he’d made the correct, timely decisions needed to save the day. He’d commandeered a Matrian ship for the pursuit, had respected proper engine break-in procedures until ordered otherwise, and he’d made the decision to return to the galactic core instead of being blown up. The minor matters of having his Matrian ship blown up due to his incompetence or the fact that he’d basically thrown a ship with at least one admiral and several dignitaries into the deadly situation he’d escaped also failed to register.
Feeling altogether pleased with himself, he walked the short distance down the corridor to the gangway leading up to the bridge. As he approached the narrow stairwell, he passed Crewman Billings.
“Mr. Billings,” he said cheerfully, “How are you today? Good thing about that escape and all,”
“Yeah…I mean, yes sir,” Billings said tightly.
“Would have hated to stay back there,” Virgii went on, “Under attack, and what not. Quick thinking really saved our bacon!”
“Yes sir. It’s so much better being stranded in the middle of nowhere,” Billings’ fists were so tight his fingernails were on the verge of drawing blood, “I guess trying to escape using warp speed or something like that just would have been too dangerous, right?” he put special emphasis on ‘dangerous’. He barely noticed Lt Mytim watching from the top of the steps.
“Quite right,” Virgii nodded, “Pursuit and all. I know the crew understands that my efforts have saved us all,”
Billings’ fist flashed out, and the next thing anybody knew, Virgii was sprawled back on the carpeted steps, unconscious.
“Uh-oh,” Billings gulped, realizing what he’d done.
“Don’t worry about,” Mytim said from the steps, “We’ll just tell him we hit turbulence.”
“Did exactly what everybody on the bridge has been DYING to do,” Mytim assured him, patting him on the shoulder, “Now go put some ice on your fist, and tell NO ONE about this little career-ender of yours!”
“Yes ma’am,” Billings raced away.
Looking around the gangway, Mytim noticed a section of exposed conduit around face-level for Virgii. Reaching out with her powers, she forced the conduit to bend towards the bulkhead, as though struck by a heavy object.
“Pleasant evening, Commander,” she said to Virgii’s inert form as she continued on to her quarters.
Several days later, Lt. Boxer was seated in the Roadrunner’s small lounge, attempting to amuse himself with an ancient Terran puzzle. So far, it wasn’t anywhere near as tasty as the Sheppian puzzles he was used to.
“Hi, Lieutenant,” Crewman Cherri said pleasantly, walking by.
“Hi!” Boxer dropped the puzzle and perked up his ears, “Um…wanna sit down? I’m just playing,”
“Thanks, but I’m on duty,” Cherri replied, “Just grabbing a coffee!” With a smile, she left, her tail swishing through the doorway just before the sliding panels could catch it. Cherri was a Kitanian, a furred species that didn’t really have an convenient Earth analogue. But she was covered from head to toe with soft, tan fur and was really the closest thing to an attractive female that Boxer had seen aboard the ship. And it seemed she liked him…or she was just accepting the fact that he was the only male on the ship close to her species. Either way, points were in Boxer’s favour.
“Eyes off the ladies, Lieutenant,” Virgii’s stern voice broke through Boxer’s thoughts, “Fraternization and what-not,”
“Frat?” Boxer blinked, “But…she works in Engineering. She’s not under my command!”
“Irrelevant, Mr. Boxer,” Virgii said stiffly, “Regulations specify that officers and crewmen should maintain a professional distance,”
“No buts,” Virgii said firmly, “Hands off!” With that, he turned to the replicator, then left the lounge, “And by the way, Rubik’s Cubes aren’t for chewing, you’re supposed to use your hands!”
Boxer growled. So much for his good mood.
Lieutenant Laarthi was purring as the examined the planter box behind the warp core. The little sprouts had…well…sprouted into full-fledged plants, basking in the soft light coming off the warp core, plasma transfer conduits and the small growth light she’d installed above the box. She had a larger hydroponics project going on in the cargo bay, but this little plot kept her workplace bearable.
“Get this out of here, Lieutanent,” Virgii’s cool voice broke through the hum of the engines, “Waste of space in an engine room,”
“But,” the purr was gone from Laarthi’s voice, “This has been here for two months and you haven’t said a thing!”
“Well, I’m saying it now,” Virgii snapped, “Get rid of them!”
That evening, Laarthi, Mytim, Boxer, Billings and a few other crewmen had gathered in the cramped conference room.
“OK, I think we all know why we’re here,” Mytim said, starting things off.
“Virgii’s ridiculous rules?” Boxer grumbled.
“His stupid orders?” Laarthi added.
“His pompous attitude?” Billings chimed in.
“Exactly,” Mytim nodded, “We’re not sure why, but ever since we returned here from Federation space, Lt Comdr Virgii has become even more unbearable than before. We’ve already bypassed two inhabited planets that might have been of interest because of his ridiculous list of ‘Virgii’s Laws’, and he’s reduced power to the nanotech fabrication unit, even though we cannot communicate with command until that crystal has been fabricated. Which will now be two more weeks instead of a matter of days!”
“Do we know what happened when he was trying to retake this ship?” Laathi asked, “Something that would explain his expanded…ego?”
“The only person who was with him was Strobnick,” Boxer replied, “And he’s not saying a thing. And who does Virgii think he is, telling me who I can and can’t date! I really think I have a chance with Crewman Cherri!”
“Dude, don’t want to think about that,” Billings said, “Two hair-balls going at it…eww!”
“Why, like your sweaty human monkey-love is any better!”
“Regardless of why Virgii has turned into an even bigger annoyance, the fact is we need to get him under control,” Mytim cut in, “And we think we know where to start. Laarthi?”
“While we were docked at Starbase 341, the ship’s computer automatically connected to the Federation communications network and downloaded a number of updates, messages and file corrections,” Laarthi explained, “Including updates on over fifty different regulations and standing orders. Using this knowledge, along with the detailed library of regulations and orders, we will begin picking apart Virgii’s command, one idiotic rule at a time,”
“To what end?” one of the crewmen asked, “We hate his guts, but we still need somebody to run this ship!”
“We’re not talking mutiny,” Mytim assured him, “We just want to…correct…some of his bigger errors,”
“Fine, whatever. As long as it means I get my porn collection back!”
“Certainly,” Mytim nodded.
“Anything else?” Laarthi asked.
“Then we will distribute your assignments first thing tomorrow,” Mytim stood, “I declare this first meeting of the Society Against Virgii’s Annoying, Gargantuan Ego to be closed.
“SAVAGE?” Boxer asked under his breath.
“Quiet,” Laarthi shushed him, “Her first acrynym was STUMEJEWAH!”
“What did that stand for?”
“STUpid MEan JErk We All Hate,” Laarthi replied.
“Oh,” Boxer thought for amoment, “That’s really not very respectful towards our pack leader, you know,”
“And what do Sheppians do when the pack leader does stupid things, like refusing to let you hunt?”
“Oh. Well, nowadays we fire him. But back in the day, the pack would tear him to shreds with their teeth,” Boxer bared his teeth to illustrate his point, “Should I bite Lt Cmdr Virgii?”
“Stupid dog,” Laarthi muttered.
The Roadrunner wasn’t big enough for amenities like a library, so Mytim found herself back in her cramped, uncomfortable quarters. She logged into her computer terminal and began researching her assignment, Laws 25-50 in that insufferable checklist. She just knew that if no other starship commanders had implemented such a ridiculous group of ideas, then there just must be regulations, policies or precedent against it. Either that, or no other commander was as obnoxious as Virgii.
Two hours later, she was about ready to throw her computer terminal out the window. She’d managed to eliminate only three of the laws on her list! She stood from her chair, made somewhat more comfortable by a series of cushions she’d replicated, stretched and let out a groan of frustration. Who would have thought that anybody would actually be pushed to the edge of murderous fury by flexibility in regulations! ‘If the Captain decides’….’subject to the Commanding Officer’s approval’…‘only when the senior officer determines’. It was enough to drive her mad! Of course, in retrospect she should have known that somebody with an obsession over the regs would have designed his little rules to fit within them.
That certainly didn’t help her situation though.
Mytim took a deep breath and ran through a calming spell. Her powers, reduced during the whole trip to Matrian Space, seemed to have recovered somewhat, though she still wasn’t tapping the same levels she had on the fungus planet. She was at a loss to understand why…none of her readings had changed. Perhaps her abilities were linked to locations? Planets? This region of space?
As a distraction from her trek through the regulation database, she conjured up a small, spinning ball of flame. It appeared almost immediately…if nothing else, she was learning to focus her abilities far more quickly and efficiently. She tried altering the essence of the sphere, trying to achieve the coveted ice-sphere she’d been, so far, unable to summon. She could almost feel something…was that steam coming off the flaming sphere?
Suddenly, she felt a jolt of energy course through her, and the sphere abruptly solidified, turning into a solid chunk of ice. Less than a second later, her door chime sounded.
She ended the spell. Unfortunately, unlike the fireballs she’d worked with, the ice ball just dropped to the floor with a dull ‘clunk’ instead of vanishing. She picked it up, cursed as the cold bit into her fingers and dropped it again. Rubbing her hands together, she kicked it under her bed.
“What?” she asked, opening the door. It was Crewman Billings
“Uh…hi Lieutenant,” he said nervously.
“May I help you, Crewman?” Mytim asked, trying to put her calm & cool facade back into place.
“I…um…I was just wanting to thank you for….what you did for me the other day,” Billings said. Was he digging one toe into the carpet? “And I was wondering if I could get you a drink in the lounge?”
Was he asking her on a date???
“I…um…I am currently working on my research for SAVAGE,” she said, lowering her voice.
“Oh, that’s cool,” Billings said, “So…tomorrow then?”
“I…” Mytim considered. She wouldn’t usual date somebody she worked with, even if he wasn’t under her command. And with only 25 other people on the ship she’d pretty much dismissed the whole idea of forming that sort of intimate relationship.
On the other hand, he was sort of cute. More importantly, her spell had suddenly worked when he came to her door. Why was that? She hadn’t noticed any such effect before. Of course, she hadn’t been looking. Maybe somebody with more experience with her sort of abilities would know to look. Say…somebody like those strange hijackers? The ones that seemed to know exactly what she was?
Her mind suddenly seizing on that thought, she almost forgot he was still waiting for an answer.
“Ma’am?” he prompted.
OK, so she totally forgot.
“Don’t call me ma’am if you’re taking me for drinks,” she said, allowing a small smile that she knew his little male brain would interpret as a good sign, “All right. Tomorrow after shift change,”
“See you then,” he grinned like a foolish schoolboy.
She let the doors close.
Forgetting Virgii’s rules, she sat back at her computer.
“Computer,” she said, “Bring up a listing of all Starfleet log entries regarding entities, groups or phenomena that exhibit unexplainable effects on the physical environment.”
“Six thousand, five hundred and eight-six entries found,” replied the computer.
“Do any mention Type-9 entities or hosts?” she asked.
“Negative,” the computer replied immediately.
“This is going to be a long search,” Mytim sighed, opening the first entry.
Acting Captain Tyler Virgii sat at the desk in his quarters. Being Captain had some perks, such as double-size accommodations. He was reading through the log entries from Starbase 341, part of the standard update package the Roadrunner had received while in range of the Federation communications network. And really, that Simplot woman had the nerve to question his command decisions? She was clearly incompetent, her and that Abela woman. Why else would they be in command of an empty space station?
It was almost a relief, actually, to be back out in unknown space. He, Tyler Virgii, had been given a unique chance to show Starfleet that with quick decisions and the intelligence to avoid dangerous situations, any ship could survive any circumstances, no matter how small that ship might be. Of course, his decision to delay production of the very materials needed to contact Starfleet had nothing to do with his personal interests…that was entirely about conserving power. Yup. Definately. Are you getting the sarcasm here, people?
“The station was taken over by a troop of dancing scientists?” Virgii shook his head in astonishment, “Computer, recommend Virgii’s Law #289: Dancing is not permitted in the presence of any computer interface. Submit to analysis engine.”
Being an engineer, Virgii had easily created a program that would cross-reference every regulation and standing order.
“No violations detected,” the computer replied.
“Excellent. Add it to Virgii’s Lawbook and distribute update to the crew.
Pleased that once again his ability to think ahead had potential saved the Roadrunner’s crew from a similar embarrassment, he moved on to the next log entry. Something stupid about a recommendation to rename part of the station. How very foolish. Beneath the dignity of an officer, really.
“Computer, recommend Virgii’s Law #290: No Starfleet officer shall attempt to rename facilities built by non-Federation entities. Submit to analysis engine,”
“Errors detected,” the computer replied, “Violation of precedence. Violation of Standing Order Series 8, Facilitation of Public Relations.”
“Cancel,” Virgii sighed, “Transfer to suggestion database,”
“Logged as item #562,” the computer replied.
This command thing was great, Virgii thought to himself as he sipped his tea. At the last Regulation Review Board, he’d been completely shown up by a truly visionary officer, one Commander Dillon. Of course, Dillon had been a First Officer back then, and he just an engineer’s assistant. But barely a few months as acting Captain, and he was already well on his way to demonstrating his leadership abilities at the next RRB!
Unfortunately, he had a weakness. It was a weakness he knew and understood perfectly. Luckily, none of his crew had caught on to it yet…but if they did, everything he was working so hard to achieve could be in jeopardy. And he would NOT let that happen.
In fact, it was time to check on that front.
“Computer, access personal logs and library access requests of all Roadrunner personnel above the rank of Ensign,” he ordered. The computer beeped and displayed an entry table. Strange, a lot of people were researching tonight it seems. Actually, a lot of them were researching Starfleet rules and regulations. Excellent! His leadership example was showing through loud and clear!
And none of them had clued onto his little weakness.
“Computer, I feel like celebrating,” he said, “One glass of brandy, and set my screensave to that of a roaring fireplace,”
Leaning back in his chair, confident that the Roadrunner was more tightly under his command than ever before, Virgii grinned.
The next day, Mytim was just about ready to fall asleep at her panel. She was exhausted, having barely slept the night before. Her search had come up empty. Whoever those hijackers were, whatever they knew about her, it didn’t seem to be in the Starfleet library. Either that, or it wasn’t in the library that was available at her security clearance level. Given the nature of her abilities, she suspected the latter.
She noticed her reflection in the panel and saw with dismay that not one but two, TWO strands of hair had come loose from her carefully styled ‘doo. Inwardly cursing but maintaining her outward calm, she tucked them back into place, straightened up in her seat and muttered a quick rejuvenation spell.
“How’s your assignment going,” Lt. Laarthi asked quietly from the station behind her, too quietly for Virgii to hear from the command chair.
“Poorly,” Mytim replied.
“Mine too,” Laarthi muttered, “The mouse knows the trap,”
Obviously a Caithan saying, but one Mytim understood regardless.
Her panel started beeping, pulling her attention back to her duties.
“Planet one light-year from here,” she said, “010 mark 5,” she reported as she began running through the standard scans as Virgii pulled out that blasted checklist of his.
“Alter course,” he ordered, “Let’s begin our scans, shall we?”
But the computer was already beeping a match.
“We’re picking up subspace traffic,” Mytim said, surprised, “Consistent with the Plobs!”
The Plobs or ‘Purble Blobs’ were a race of non-humanoid beings the Roadrunner had encountered some time ago. Their own name for themselves was unpronounceable, but they had been non- hostile, willing to trade. Unfortunately, Virgii had forbidden any such commerce. Mytim and Laarthi had snuck away on the pretext of looking for dilithium in order to explore the Plob homeworld.
And oh yeah, Mytim had received her abilities from a dying Plob.
“Cancel course change,” Virgii said, “Resume our previous heading.”
Mytim spun in her chair.
“Why?” she demanded, “They’re friendly! We know that!”
“They did chase you and Lt. Laarthi out of their star system, did they not?” Virgii pointed out, “Besides, we know they have little to offer us. Visiting them would be nothing but a distraction, especially if this is just some sort of colony world or outpost,”
“But they could have starmaps!” Mytim objected, “Or information on…on what we might find out here!”
“They might know who the spore-people are!” Boxer perked up. Another encounter the Roadrunner had engaged in previously had involved a fungal life-form…one that apparently had very large ships. Only a blind jump with the quantum slipstream drive had saved the Roadrunner.
“We have no need of their maps, we have our sensors,” Virgii waved Boxer’s suggestion away.
“Unacceptable!’ Mytim snapped, getting to her feet, “We haven’t stopped at a planet in weeks! We’re operating blind, and we NEED to start making contact with whoever might be able to help us!”
“Lieutenant, you’re relieved,” Virgii barked, “Go below decks until you feel you can control yourself. I’ll expect you back on duty no later than tomorrow.”
Unaware of the massive amounts of control that were preventing Mytim from turning him into a greasy smear in the command seat, he turned back to gaze out the bridge windows.
Mytim stomped off the bridge.
“She’s right, you know,” Laarthi spoke up.
“I will not have my authority questioned on my bridge,” Virgii said firmly, “By ANY of you,”
Heckles rising, Laarthi turned to leave the bridge. Boxer, looking back and forth between Virgii and the door, finally rose and followed.
Virgii looked around, suddenly realizing that fully half the bridge staff had left.
“I’ll be making notes in their files,” he grumbled.
“We need to go to that planet,” Mytim said, her voice once again under control. She was sitting with Laarthi in the lounge, Boxer had decided to go back to his SAVAGE assignment.
“It would be a good idea,” Laarthi nodded, “But I don’t know if we NEED to,”
Never before had Mytim come so close to divulging her abilities to one of her crewmates. But once again, she resisted the urge. Especially after reading through the logs last night, she knew that Starfleet officers who suddenly found themselves with extra abilities weren’t exactly trusted.
“Boxer is right,” she said instead, “They might know about those fungus things,” And the fungus people had also recognized her…as a Lupressa, whatever that was.
“Have we even studied that spore thing we pulled out of Boxer?” Laarthi asked.
“No, Virgii ordered it destroyed.”
“H-hey, Lieutenant,” It was Billings. Damn the timing!
“Crewman,” Mytim said calmly, “I wasn’t expecting you for a few hours,”
“N-no, you’re right,” he said, “But I heard about your little…problem today. And I found something in the library that might help. So I replicated a copy for you.”
He held out a book.
“Dealing With Dillon,” Mytim read off the cover, “By Claire Webber, with a special introduction by Captain Jaroch.” She frowned, “Why do you think this will help?”
“Just read the intro,” Billings said shyly, “Anyway…I’ll see you later,”
Mytim opened the book.
“Never in the history of the fleet has an officer of true incompetence ever advanced to command rank,” she read, “Never, that is, until the promotion of Commander Travis Michael Dillon. A man of such limited intellect, yet such utter devotion to the regulations of the fleet and such a complete lack of common sense that he managed to alienate his crew, while simultaneously believing he had their complete adoration. Only restrictions placed on this introduction by Counsellor Webber restrain me from using more frank language to describe Commander Dillon, who once attempted to rescue his commanding officer using a child’s swing, and was promptly captured. Of course, he hadn’t bothered to tell anybody he was rescuing the captain, adding again to the stack of evidence pointing to his incompetence. But I digress.”
“While the Secondprize crew has, thankfully, been Dillon-free for over two years, we write this volume in the hopes that it will aid any other crews who may find themselves dealing with a Dillon-like person. And if that is you, then may the gods have mercy on your life-essence.”
“This is it!” Laarthi exclaimed, “This is the answer!”
“Virgii is possessed by the ghost of the this Dillon?” Mytim asked.
“Does the book say he’s dead?” Laarthi wondered, “No matter. But there must be something in here that can help us!”
“And we just happen to have all afternoon to find out,” Mytim nodded.
They commenced reading.
Virgii’s good mood of the previous day had definitely been ruined. He sat in the Roadrunner’s command chair, brooding. Dr. Strobnick was still at the navigation console, doing whatever it was he did when he sat there. As far as Virgii knew, he was still working on the problem of the quantum slipstream drive. But then, as far as he’d known, Laarthi, Boxer and Mytim were fairly content in their roles as underlings on his ship. Ensign Mulans was now seated in the pilot seat, the shorter man’s tall hair somewhat obscuring Virgii’s view out the front window. Crewman Hii-lunz was at Boxer’s tactical panel…mostly. The very, very tall Lemmnorian had managed to fold himself into the back corner of the bridge, but he’d had to fold his lower legs under the seat. As a result, they stuck out behind him, serving as an excellent tripping hazard to anybody stepping onto the bridge. Crewman Kods, a Sipsan, sat at Sciences. Her species, an amphibious race from a small moon, were easily recognised by a pronounced overbite and a pair of powerful front teeth.
Despite being somewhat less experienced than his senior officers, the current bridge crew was, so far, substantially more obedient.
“We’ll be passing by the Plog planet in one hour,” Ensign Mulans reported.
“Maintain course,” Virgii ordered.
“I’m picking up approximately one hundred million lifesigns on the planet,” Kods reported, “Level of technology seems to be similar to the Plog planet Lieutenant Mytim and Lieutenant Laarthi visited. Ummm….I think these readings could be orbital defence platforms…or banana factories…”
“Banana factories?” Mulans asked.
“I’m just reading the display,” Kods said sheepishly, “I can’t help it if the universal translator has trouble displaying Sipsan script,”
“The planet is irrelevant,” Virgii said firmly, “Continue course,”
“Wow,” Mytim said, putting down the ‘Dealing with Dillon’ book.
“How do people think of this stuff?” Laarthi wondered.
“You don’t think this is based on actual events?” Mytim asked.
“By the Great Tuna, no,” Laarthi chuckled, “Nobody could possibly be as unlikable and pathetic as this Dillon person is made out to be,”
“I don’t know…Virgii is pretty close,”
“Did Virgii ever get himself replaced by a female copy of himself, then nearly destroy the universe?” Laarthi asked.
“Not yet. But we’ve only served with him for a few months,” Mytim pointed out.
“Hmmm. Still nothing that helps us with our current dilemma though?”
“No,” Mytim stood, “I’m going to get some popcorn though. This is definitely an entertaining read,”
“I want all of you to be fully versed in Virgii’s Laws before your next bridge shift,” Virgii was saying, handing out padds to the relief bridge crew, “If the star systems Crewman Kods detected in our path are inhabited, we shall have to work out way through the two-hundred point determination process before we can even consider visiting them,”
Ensign Mulans’ eyes had glazed over, and Crewman Hii-lanz was trying to massage a cramp out of his left thigh. His panel beeped, drawing his attention.
“We’re being hailed by the planet,” he said.
“Oh, bother,” Virgii rolled his eyes, “Just ignore them, I’m sure they’ll stop hailing us when they see we’re not approaching their rock of a planet,”
“I don’t know if this book is going to help us,” Mytim sighed, nearing the final chapter, “Despite this Dillon persons many alleged flaws and issues, it doesn’t seem as though he successfully accomplished much beyond what a standard First Officer is expected to accomplish,”
“And most of the techniques this Jaroch person used to deal with him are either insubordinate at best or border on torture at worst,”
“Can you really blame him?”
“Most certainly not,” Laarthi’s tail twitched, “There must be something…some reason why Dillon was never able to put any of his more rediculous plans into effect.”
“You mean like mandatory ‘Officespace Reoganization Mondays’ for the officers on his ship?”
“Let’s flip back to that chapter.”
“They’re still hailing us,” Kods reported.
“How unseemly,” Virgii shook his head, “Really, we are just passing their star system! What could they want from us?”
“Well…we could answer them and find out,”
“I will not stand for that sort of insubordinate talk on my bridge, Crewman!” Virgii snapped.
“What? I just…um…yes sir?”
“Good,” Virgii nodded, satisfied, “Now open a channel.”
A voice came out of the speakers immediately.
“This is <gurgle-blurp> of the <plop-plop-blorp> colony of <blaaaat-urgle-urgle>,” the voice said, “Warning unidentified ship: Your current course takes you dangerously close to Federation space. Strongly suggest you change course at once,”
Virgii drew a breath.
“This is Captain Tyler Virgii of the Federation starship Roadrunner,” he said, “We’re on our way back to Federation space, your slimy snot-ball! Now, what in bloody blazes do you want?”
“FEDERATION!” the voice shrieked, then the channel went dead.
“How rude,” Virgii muttered.
“Uh…sir?” Hii-lanz spoke up, “I’m picking up ten ships launching from the planet…they’ve just gone to Warp 9.5! They’ll intercept us in thirty seconds!”
“I told you people this planet wasn’t worth bothering with!” Virgii said triumphantly, “You see? I was right! This is why we have Virgii’s Laws, so we can avoid situations exactly like this one!”
“Federation ship, we will not tolerate this invasion of our space,” another voice, this one firmer, came from the comm, “Surrender at once!”
“This is the Roadrunner,” Virgii replied, “We have no intention of invading your space! But if you attack us, we will return fire!”
There was a brief hesitation.
“Nothing, nothing….nothing…” Mytim groaned as the tossed the padd down again, “As far as I can tell, the only reason why Dillon was kept under control can be traced to one source, his captain. Alexander Rydell.”
“That doesn’t do us any good,” Laarthi said, leaning her chin on one hand-paw, “We’re the ones trying to do things our Captain doesn’t like,”
“It’s a matter of having power,” Mytim said slowly, “Dillon’s Captain had the authority to keep him in check. We don’t have that kind of authority over Virgii,”
“So we need to find another way to get power over him,” Laarthi said.
“We could go back to the whole ‘mutiny’ idea,” Mytim suggested.
“We’ll keep that as Plan B,”
Suddenly, the ship started shaking.
“We better get up there,” Laarthi snapped, running for the door.
“Shields are at 90%,” Hii-lanz reported, “Returning fire!”
Outside the windows they could see the searing red beams of the ship’s phasers firing off into the distance.
“We put a good hole in one ships shields,” Kods reported, reading the sensors, “Either that, or their strawberry farm is offline,”
They were jolted from their seats as Mulans yanked the ship to port to avoid an incoming torpedo. Unfortunately, when pulling the ship out of the turn he overcorrected, yanking the ship to starboard. The end result was that the Roadrunner just waffled in her own impulse wake. The ship shuddered as the torpedo hit.
“Shields down to 70%!”
The bridge doors opened and Laarthi rushed out, tripped on Hii-lanz’ feet, fell forward and sprawled into Ensign Mulans. The ensign was driven against the helm panel, and the ship shot straight down just as another bracket of torpedoes flew through the space she had previously occupied. Mytim and Boxer followed her onto the bridge at a slower and more cautious pace.
“Lieutenant, I’d ordered you relieved,” Virgii said crossly, ignoring the battle outside.
“I thought you might want your more experienced crew on the bridge during a battle,” Mytim said coldly, “Who are we fighting, by the way?”
“The Plobs!” Kods said, jumping out of the sciences station seat.
“Stay at your station, crewman!” Virgii barked, “Lieutenant Mytim is not on duty!”
“Why are the Plobs attacking?” Boxer asked, “They were friendly!”
“They don’t like the Federation,” Hii-lanz offered.
“But they don’t KNOW about the Federation!” Laarthi exclaimed, pulling herself off poor Mulans.
The ship shook again.
“All of you, out of here! At once!” Virgii demanded.
Shrugging the relief crew stood to leave.
“Not you!” Virgii said angrily, “The cat, the dog, and the bitch!’
Mytim’s vision disappeared in a red haze of pure rage. She felt energy building in her, ready to surge out, to destroy…to BURN!
The ship shook again, pulling her attention away from her anger. The energy dissipated, but the temperature on the bridge had still risen by several degrees.
Strangely, it was Ensign Mulans who spoke up.
“Sir,” he said, “We’re not stupid. We’ve seen what’s been going on. If you’re going to ignore everybody who doesn’t agree with the way you do things, we’re all going to be dead before we get even close to home anyway,”
Nobody moved. The ship shook again.
“What did you say to them?” Mytim demanded.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Virgii said, chin uplifted.
Mytim sat at her console and pulled up the comm log. Virgii glared, but didn’t say anything.
“Blah, blah, Federation starship, blah blah…” Mytim rolled her eyes, “Of all the foolishness. Open a channel!”
“Alien vessels,” Mytim said, “Stop your attack. We represent the United Federation of Planets. I think we’ve got a case of mistaken identity here,”
On the lead attack ship, one purple blob turned to another.
“I thought they didn’t look like a Federation ship,” it said, “Too small. Not round enough. No spikes.”
“Well, they ARE on a course that takes them close to the Federation border,” the second blob replied, “And they DID identify themselves as a Federation ship,”
“Maybe we should have asked which Federation they were from before we shot at them,”
“Maybe. But was it worth the risk?”
“Federation of Planets ship,” the alien voice came back over the comm, “Sorry about that…we thought you were…well, somebody else, actually. But you really are on a course to hostile space. So…I’m sure you understand,”
“Of the all the irresponsible, idiotic-“
Laarthi slapped a hand-paw over Virgii’s mouth.
“We do,” Mytim replied, “However, I’m sure you’ll understand if we request the use of a docking slip in order to inspect our ship and make any necessary repairs.”
“Of course. We would happy to escort you back to <blaaaat-urgle-urgle>,” the voice replied.
“Thank you,” Mytim said, cutting the channel.
Laarthi took her hand-paw off off Virgii’s mouth.
“Of all the insubordinate, inappropriate behaviour!” he snarled, “I should throw all three of you in the brig!”
“We just saved the ship,” Boxer said.
“By disobeying ME!” Virgii snapped, “Mulans! Kods! Resume your…where are they?”
During the comm exchange, the relief crew had fled the bridge. Can you blame them?
And suddenly a bright light dawned in Mytim’s head.
“Go ahead,” she said calmly, “Call security to come up and haul us to the brig,”
Virgii was about to slap his comm-badge, when something in Mytim’s expression caught his attention.
“You don’t think I’ll do it?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m sure you will,” Mytim replied.
“The question is,” Laarthi jumped in, catching on, “Is whether anybody in security is going to listen to you,”
Virgii was about to open a channel anyway, when the fact that the three relief crew had left him on the bridge really started to sink in.
Just how much of the crew could he count on at this point? Already, Laarthi was laying in a course to take them back to the planet.
“This is mutiny,” he said.
“No,” now it was Boxer’s turn to realize what was happening, “We’re not trying to relieve you of command.”
“Oh really? Then why are we now on course for a planet I deemed irrelevant?”
“Because we really do need to check the ship and make repairs,” Laarthi said, “And if you’d asked the advice of your Chief Engineer after the battle, she would have told you that!”
“Just like your Science Officer told you the planet could hold valuable information!” Mytim added.
“And your security dog told you they might know more about the fungus people!” Boxer added.
Virgii looked at the three of them, then over at Strobnick.
“Leave me out of this,” the academic said curtly, “My only interest is the slipstream drive,”
“I have very carefully formulated a series of guidelines to keep us safe,” Virgii said firmly.
“You formulated them completely by yourself,” Mytim said, “And you made mistakes. One person ALWAYS makes mistakes. That’s why you need us!”
Laarthi felt a surge of triumph. They’d found their power over Virgii. More than that, Dealing with Dillon had been trying to tell them what they needed to balance Virgii, but they’d completely missed.
“More than that,” she said to Virgii, “You’re one man on what is meant to be a two-person command team. You need a First Officer. Somebody to advise you, and to balance your weaknesses,”
Virgii jerked back like he’d touched a hot surface. They’d discovered his weakness! The only reason why he’d been able to assert his complete and utter authority over the ship had been the lack of a nosy First Officer to meddle in his work!
“Ah!” Mytim cut him off as he started to object, “Regulations. You need a First Officer. End of story.”
“Very well,” he said stiffly, “We will beam down to the planet, collect information on this other ‘Federation’, then we will select a First Officer. And when we all die horribly because of their meddling in my leadership, I shall say ‘I told you so’.”
With that, he stormed off the bridge.
Boxer collapsed into his seat with a whimper.
“I hate disobeying the pack leader,” he muttered, “I really, really hate it,”
“Yes, I could have gone without that experience,” Mytim agreed.
“I disagree,” Laarthi said, “We made great progress,”
She plucked the Virgii’s Law padd out of a pocket on the command chair, then stuck it in the waste disposal at the rear of the bridge.
“Now, let’s go learn about this deadly race that has the Plobs so terrified.”
“Yes, that sounds like a lot more fun!” Boxer perked up.
Boxer, Mytim, Laarthi and Virgii materialized at the coordinates they’d been given by the Plobs. As it turned out, they were in a spaceport. Most Starfleet crews, when dealing with a First Contact situation, generally had the privilege of more direct access to the planetary government they were visiting…the whole ‘Take me to your leader’ bit. But the Plobs were apparently having none of that.
“Yes, this appears to be in order,” the Plob behind the counter said, “Here is your flesh receipt. Don’t lose it! We’ve lost more tourists that way!”
“Er, of course,” Virgii said nervously, stepping past the Customs station.
“And you, my dear?” the Plob addressed Mytim, “I take it the purpose of your visit is livestock?” It extended a portion of itself towards Boxer and Laarthi, “They usually arrive in stasis over at the cargo docks, but since you dressed them up nicely, there shouldn’t be a problem. Now, are you selling their meat, or do they lay eggs, produce milk or excrete other edible substances?”
Boxer bared his teeth and started growling.
“Relax,” Mytim said, patting his arm, “He’s kidding. The Plobs have a great sense of humour,”
“Of course,” the Plob said cheerfully, handing over three more flesh receipts, “I have to entertain myself somehow…you have NO idea how dull this job can be.”
Teeth still bared, Boxer took his receipt and followed Mytim past the counter.
“I don’t like these people,” he said firmly.
“Enough delaying,” Virgii declared as they exited the spaceport, “Which way to the Prefect’s office?”
“A vehicle has been sent to pick you up,” replied the nearby security Plob.
“Oh. Considering the ignominy of subjecting us to a search and scan, I’d assumed we were expected to simply wander there on our own,”
“Don’t be ridiculous, sir,” the Plob bounced with what might be laughter, “Bipeds wandering around the city? How absurd,”
The ‘vehicle’ sent for them resembled a mobile hot tub more than anything. It moved on an antigrav cushion and was open to the outside. There were no steps or ladders into the bubbling pool that made up the main section, but there were odd, curving indents around the upper rim. Just large enough, Mytim realized, for the Plobs to pour themselves through. The driver, though he had no head, still gave the impression of looking from his humanoid passengers to the bubbling water and back again.
“I’m not sure how this is supposed to work,” he admitted, “Can bipeds sit in the water, or does that strange skin of yours melt off?”
“Perhaps you could just lead us on foot?” Mytim suggested.
“Sure,” the driver bounced agreeably, “Uh, one question: What’s a foot?”
Eventually, the details were sorted out and the Plob, <urg- blop-blap>, began leading them towards a towering building several blocks distant.
Mytim had to admit, she was far more nervous than she’d expected. She had no idea how, but somehow a dying Plob had given her the powers she now possessed. Her knowledge of Plob society was incredibly limited, but seeing as how that Plob had been shot dead in the middle of a street, she didn’t think it was a normal part of the Plob life-cycle. Still.
She needed to relax. Her energies were surging, power seemed to gather at her fingertips, surging with a strength she hadn’t felt in weeks. Next to her, Virgii was chattering aimlessly with their escort. Behind her, Laarthi and Boxer were whispering about something or other. All around them, Plobs went about their business, many of them staring curiously at the visitors. No, this was definitely not the place to lose control. She had to get away from Virgii and the others, even if it was just for a few minutes.
“I really don’t want to get any of that slime in my fur again,” Laarthi was saying, “The last time that happened, it took forever to get it out!”
Boxer didn’t reply. His eyes were scanning the area for threats. A storm drain snapped open directly underneath Lt Mytim as she walked over it, however, the metal grate over the opening stayed in place, holding her weight easily.
“How many other Plob colonies must be out here,” she went one, “This one is weeks from their homeworld.”
“Their pack is scattered,” Boxer observed. He frowned. Another storm grate had opened under Mytim, this one was actually sucking down air. Mytim looked down with annoyance as her pant legs fluttered, but continued walking.
“Is there a washroom nearby?” Mytim asked, “I…I have to go,”
“There is a waste extraction facility through those doors,” <urg-blop-blap> gestured.
“Thanks,” Mytim ran off.
“How is she going to…you know…go?” Boxer wondered, “I mean…a blob bathroom?”
“That will teach her to go before she leaves the ship,” Virgii said crossly.
Mytim rushed through the doors, past a sign that said ‘Waste Extraction’ in the Plorb script, then out another door into a small courtyard. Quickly establishing that she was alone, she let the power burning in her fingertips unleash itself, trying with all her might to direct it into something non-destructive.
Golden energy surged into the ground around her, basking the courtyard in a flickering glow. After a few seconds, she stopped, feeling much better.
The storm drain next to her opened and a Plob oozed through the grate.
“Thank goodness you left the others!” it gasped, “I’ve been trying to get you on your own since you landed!”
“Who are you?” Mytim asked.
“I am <plap-splad>” it replied. It gave the impression of looking around, then lowered its voice, “Host of the Lupressa,”
Virgii was tapping his foot, looking increasingly annoyed.
“I’m not sure what she’s doing in there,” he said, “But the longer it takes, the less ladylike it must be,”
“Mytim to Virgii,” his comm-badge chirped.
“Virgii,” he snapped, “Lieutenant, we’re keeping the leaders of this planet waiting! I will not be the perpetrator of such a breach of etiquette!”
“Go on without me,” Mytim said, bringing a look of surprise from Laarthi, “I have encountered a…um…a citizen who may have information we need. I will rejoin you later,”
“Fine,” Virgii snapped, “Virgii out.”
“Maybe I should go find her,” Laarthi suggested uneasily.
“Of course not,” Virgii resumed walking, “If she wants to play on her own, let her. It gets her out of my hair after all. You’re a cat, surely you understand.”
“I also have claws, sir,” Laarthi said, “You would do well to remember that,”
They finally arrived at the government building. After stepping through an arched entryway their guide poured himself into a pneumatic tube and was promptly whisked up somewhere past the ceiling. Virgii, Laarthi and Boxer looked at each other, confused, until he came swirling down one of several slides that descended next to the pneumatic tubes.
“Sorry,” <urg-blop-blap> said, the translator giving his voice a sheepish sound, “I forgot…bipeds and all.” He opened a side door to a dusty staircase. “Right this way,”
“I don’t think I like this society very much,” Virgii said.
“How did you find me?” Mytim asked as she followed the Plob down a dark passageway.
“The question is how did you NOT find me?” the Plob replied, “I felt you as soon as you landed on the planet and have been trying to signal you! Finally I had to resort to desperate measures to separate you from your companions…but I forgot that bipeds don’t fall through grates,”
“I didn’t hear a thing,” Mytim admitted. There was so much she wanted to ask! So much she needed to know, “How…what are we?” she blurted.
“We are the Hosts of the Lupressa,” it replied, “But…surely you knew that?”
“NO!” Mytim’s normal composure had definitely packed it in for the day, “One minute I’m walking around on another of your planets, the next thing I know one of your people is being blasted to pieces by police and then all of a sudden I’m doing magic!”
The Plob seemed to droop.
“Oh. Then…you had no Adept to train you? You’ve probably only received what…three spellbooks?”
“One,” Mytim replied, “I haven’t found any more. I don’t know where to look,”
“Of course not,” the Plob seemed to shake its head, “One does not FIND a spellbook. One must will them into existence. It is the trial that proves that one is ready for the knowledge contained within,”
“Are all your people…Lupressa?” Mytim asked.
“No,” the Plob replied, “My people despise the Lupressa. We are hunted. Surely you knew that, considering how you received your powers,”
“I was afraid of that,” Mytim sighed.
“Of course, we apologize for the mix-up,” the Plob leader was saying to Virgii, “Miscommunication and all. No hard feelings?”
“Of course,” Virgii was in full ‘diplomacy mode’. This sort of thing, dealing with new races, was usually a first officer’s job. But now it was an opportunity to further show Boxer and Laarthi that he didn’t need a first officer!
“Still,” Laarthi jumped in, “Perhaps there is something you could offer us as a…sign of goodwill?”
Blasted cat, Virgii thought to himself.
“Well, most of our goods aren’t exactly suited to bipeds,” the Plob leader said slowly.
“Then you will find something that IS suited to us,” Virgii snapped.
“Calm him down” Laarthi hissed to Boxer.
“I…what?” Boxer blinked.
“You and I both know that we can’t let him spoil this opportunity. Now use some of that training that I assume Starfleet Intelligence gave you and get him to back down!”
“Hey Captain,” Boxer said cheerfully, “Look at this! Isn’t it…um…pretty?”
“It’s a glass vase, Lieutenant,” he said crossly. But it was enough. Laarthi was able to jump in.
“What I meant was, I’m sure your people have information on this Federation you were warning us about,” she said, “And on why they’re such a threat,”
The Plob shook in what the translator indicated was an expression of fear.
“The Federation,” it said, “has terrorized this region of space for centuries. Surely…you cannot have been in this part of the galaxy without running into them?”
“We’re fairly new,” Boxer said cheerfully, “We met some nice bird-people,”
“The Wuyans,” Laarthi clarified.
“Uh…the blob people,” Boxer went on.
“You,” Laarthi added.
“Oh, and that thing that turned me into a bad, bad dog,”
“Some sort of fungal parasite,” Laarthi explained, “Along with several large vessels. But that was a few hundred light-years from here,”
“Fungal parasite,” the Plob shook, “And the ships…they were large? Round? Covered with spikes?”
“Yup!” Boxer nodded, his tongue lolling out, “You guessed it!”
“They tried to destroy us,” Virgii interjected, trying to get some control of the conversation back.
“Oh, well there you go. You HAVE encountered the Federation,” the Plob leader said, “Congratulations on surviving! Not many bipeds can say that!”
“But who are they, and what do they want?” Laarthi demanded.
The Plob extruded a data crystal.
“This contains what information we have on them,” it said, “Their language is borrowed, depending on who they’ve infested, but roughly translated, they are the ‘United Federation of Fungus’.”
Virgii raised an eyebrow.
“That is trademark infringement!” he said angrily, “On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, I demand that they change their name immediately!”
Laarthi looked over at Boxer.
“Starfleet Intelligence is just going to LOVE this report,” she muttered.
“Why?” Boxer asked.
Laarthi ignored him. She turned back to the Plob.
“Why are they so dangerous?”
“They’ve destroyed countless biped species,” it replied almost apologetically, “They’ve infested many more. They usually leave us non-bipeds alone, unless they suspect that we can become Hosts.”
“But what do they WANT?” Laarthi demanded.
“Surely you…no, clearly you don’t know much of anything,” the Plob sighed, “They are on a crusade. A crusade to rid the galaxy of the Lupressa,”
“The who?” Virgii demanded.
“Eons ago, the Lupressa ruled the Galactic Core,” Mytim’s mysterious new ally explained, “They oversaw dozens of races, elevating them from the primordial ooze and into some semblance of civilization. They are beings of pure energy, able to manipulate nature, to draw on the energy of all living things. They created one of the greatest empires of the ancient galaxy!’
“-enslaved most of the Core,” the Plob leader explained to Virgii, Laarthi and Boxer, “Even today, we’re not sure if they were beings from another plane of existence, or something that had evolved here millennia ago. They were parasites, leeching the life-energy from their slaves to fuel their powers. The larger a slave population they controlled, the more energy they could harness.”
“Then the subject races rose against them, didn’t they?” Mytim crossed her arms. This sort of story wasn’t exactly unique.
“No,” the Plob shook its…upper portion.
“Another race of powerful beings battled the Lupressa,” the Plob went on, “They called themselves the Queue,”
“The Q,” Mytime corrected.
“Is there a translator issue? I thought I said that,”
“There was a great battle, and the Lupressa were defeated,” Virgii, Boxer and Laarthi had sat on some comfortable looking cushions, not knowing how long this narrative was going to go on. “The Q broke their power, scattering their essence across the galaxy.”
“Well, sounds like there is little to worry about,” Virgii yawned.
“On the contrary. The remains of the Lupressa, little more than crystalline energy matrices, drifted through the galaxy. As the eons passed, they learned to bind themselves with certain species, to channel their energies through those corporeal beings that could host them.”
“The Lupressa were defeated, scattered to the winds,” Mytim’s Plob said, “The Q attack was unprovoked. It was unjust. And with the Lupressa gone, the subject races began warring over the remains of their empire. The Lupressa sought a way to return, to bring the Core back to an era of peace and civilization. They found that certain of us were worthy to host their essence, to direct their will. We became the Hosts of the Lupressa, dedicated to bringing their light back to the darkness!”
“Completely unstable,” the Plob leader shuddered again, “Terrible wars were fought. Entire armies against a single Host, causing unimaginable carnage.”
“How can a single being produce that much energy?” Laarthi was intrigued, “The Q are one thing…humanoids on the other hand…”
“The Lupressa do not create energy, they drain it,” the Plob explained, “From the life around them. Sentient beings of course produce the most, but all living things can feed them. There are entire planets that have been reduced to lifeless hulks, drained by a single Host in an effort to destroy their enemies.”
“The Hosts fought bravely, drawing off the life-force of dozens of worlds,” Mytim’s Plob went one, “Until they encountered the Federation of Fungus,”
“The Fungaloids were able to unite the various species in the region against the Hosts,” the Plob equivalent of finger food had been brought in, though only Boxer had sampled anything. He was currently working his mouth as though it had been filled with peanut butter. “They were able to destroy enough Hosts that the driving will of the Lupressa was broken. The remaining energies, stored in microscopic crystalline lattices, are little more than echoes. Still, every once in a while someone will pick one up and end up with all sorts of strange powers. They usually destroy themselves in a fairly short time, unless the Federation of Fungus manages to track them down first. Their greatest fear is that one day, if enough Hosts re-emerge, they could re-establish the Lupressa collective will and trigger yet another war. But then, what are the odds of that?”
“Our greatest goal,” Mytim was being told, “Is to gather the remaining, scattered Hosts from around the galaxy. Only with the combined power of many might we open a conduit to allow the Lupressa’s collective wisdom to return to this level of existence.”
“But what does all this have to do with me?” Mytim’s head was spinning, “I have no interest in this region of space! I only want to go home! I didn’t want to become one of these…energy things!”
“I agree, you must go home,” the Plob said, “You must search your own home space for other Hosts, then bring them here!”
“But what does a lot of extinct bad guys have to do with a terrifying mushroon empire?” Virgii demanded.
“I told you, they fear a return of the Lupressa,” the Plob seemed to shrug, “They’ve evidently decided that the best way to prevent that is to destroy or infest any life-forms capable of acting as hosts. Which is pretty much any biped,”
The Roadrunner officers looked at each other in horror.
“Terribly sorry about that,” the Plob muttered. It seemed to brighten, “But perhaps you’d like some complimentary plasma sacs before you leave? Very nutritious!
Virgii slowly shook his head.
“Very well, then. Safe travels!”
“The Fungaloids would have destroyed my people if they thought we could act as hosts,” Mytim’s Plob went on, “And most of us can’t. It’s only a very few that have been found worthy by the Lupressa. But most bipeds are. You must avoid them, if you are to return safely home,”
“And now I must return you to your colleagues,” the Plob cut her off, “We are a friendly race, but allowing bipeds on our planet this close to Federation space is just not wise. I suspect our leaders will give your people all the information they can, however they undoubtedly expect you to be utterly destroyed the first time you encounter a Fungaloid ship.”
Mytim met the rest of the Roadrunner officers at the spaceport. They presented their flesh receipts, whatever the hell that was all about, and were escorted to the beam-out point.
“Learn anything interesting, Lieutenant?” Virgii asked. He seemed calmer, perhaps more preoccupied with whatever he’d learned on the mission than with the drama that had occurred on the ship only a few hours ago.
“Um…I…” Mytim was unsure how much to say. Luckily, she was let off the hook by Boxer.
“We learned that the fungas-people have their own Federation,” he said proudly, “And that they’re wiping out humanoids so they can’t host. Lukr…Lusan…um…”
“Lupressa,” Mytim said softly, “Yes, I…learned the same.”
“Well, then let’s go,” Virgii said. He tapped his comm- badge and called for beam-out.
They disappeared in a shower of transporter sparks.
Acting Captains Log, Stardate 59464.2:
“We have departed the Plob planet and attempted to adjust our course to avoid Federation space. Er, Federation of Fungus space, that is. Unfortunately, the data we received from the Plobs indicate that they control vast territories. In any event, the odds that our ship has one of these ‘Lupressa’ they’re so worried about are astronomically small. I expect we will have few difficulties.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Mytim said, seated in a chair in Virgii’s quarters, “I think we’ll have big difficulties. Uh, whether we have a Lupressa on board or not.”
“Can we just get to business?” Laarthi demanded, “We need to choose a First Officer!”
“And quickly,” Boxer added, “I have a date with Cherri,”
“I thought I told you,” Virgii started angrily, then calmed himself.
“I checked the regs,” Boxer muttered, “I can be a bad boy with her while still being a good dog,”
Mytim wrinkled her nose.
“There are a number of factors we could consider,” Virgii said, somewhat haughtily, “Commendations, service records, personality traits. However that would be a lengthy process,”
“And you need to address this quickly, before the crew decides to throw all four of us out an airlock,” Mytim said firmly.
“Indeed,” Virgii agreed, “So we’ll go by…um…seniority,”
Mytim, Boxer and Laarthi huddled for a moment.
“Myself, then Laarthi, then Boxer,” Mytim said.
“I meant by your standings in the Academy rankings on graduation,” Virgii corrected.
“Myself, then Laarthi, then Boxer,” Mytim said.
“Er…years of starship service?” Virgii tried.
Both Boxer and Laarthi pointed at Mytim.
“We worked on a lot of starbases,” Boxer said.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Mytim stood, “Running the Security and Engineering departments is far too vital to be distracted by extra duties. As the Science Officer, I’m a better fit. I’m the best you have for the position,”
Plus, that leaves Boxer and I free to do our real work, Laarthi thought to herself.
“Very well,” Virgii scowled, “You are my new First Officer. Congratulations.”
He did not rise to shake her hand.
“Good,” Mytim said. She turned to Boxer, “Now, I believe you have a date? Scram!”
“Horray!” Boxer barked as he ran for the door.
Virgii continued to scowl.
Back in her quarters, Mytim was reclining in her chair. She’d been First Officer for a matter of hours, and Virgii had already dumped a good amount of paperwork her way. At least that situation was under control.
What wasn’t under control was this report he’d filed on the Federation of Fungus. The facts were fairly consistent with what she’d learned, but the skew was completely different. The other Host had painted the Lupressa as a benevolent empire, bringing civilization to the Galactic Core and being unjustly destroyed by the Q. The reports Virgii had received described a brutal regime, one that deserved what it got.
But the whole affair had been thousands of years ago. How accurate could either version be?
Mytim set the report aside. She needed more information, but odds were the bulk of ruins and relics from the Lupressa Empire were deep in Federation of Fungas space. And the odds of going there and surviving weren’t good.
Something else the Host had told her came to mind. Focusing on the desk in front of her, she again directed her energies. Her powers had dropped off after leaving the planet, but the Host had at least explained that much to her…the more life nearby, the stronger she would be.
She focused, drawing energy from the Roadrunner’s crew, then reached out. Her hand disappeared into thin air, the area around it shimmering like thick oil. She flailed around, willing her goal to be there. Her hand locked onto something, and she pulled back. It was like dragging a bucket full of bricks through the water, against the current, but eventually the object emerged into her quarters bit by bit.
With a final tug, she pulled the spell book free. It was identical to the first; a heavy, leather-bound tomb. She opened it, looked at the inside cover.
‘You’re learning fast, my dear’, the inscription read.
All over the ship, a wave of weariness swept the crew. Some yawned, others merely dismissed it to the fact that it was only an hour past supper.
Mytim, however, felt just fine.