Author: Brendan Chris
Lieutenant Rex Boxer took a nervous sip from his cup of steaming ‘au jus’ and tried to come up with something romantic to say.
“Try complimenting her on her hair,” a voice whispered from behind him.
“Your fur is…it looks so soft,” he said, “Who’s your groomer?”
“I take care of it myself,” Crewman Cherri replied, “And isn’t Ensign Broth sweet to notice?”
“I would have noticed,” Boxer objected.
“Of course,” Cherri smiled.
“No, no, no!” somebody whispered behind Cherri, “You don’t forgive him that easily! How are you going to get him to buy you anything now?”
Boxer restrained the urge to bare his teeth.
The two were having what was supposed to be a romantic dinner together. Unfortunately, the only places on the Roadrunner one could go were the mess hall and the lounge, both of which were uncomfortably small and neither of which offered the least bit of privacy.
“I’ve been working with her for months, bro,” one of the engineers muttered from behind Boxer, “Give her a dead bird and I guarantee she’ll put out,”
“What do you know about women anyway, Bott!!” Cherri commented dryly.
“I know…lots about all kinds of women!” Bott objected.
“Uh-huh. That’s why you’ve got an ‘Eligible Receiver’ t-shirt in your closet,”
The rest of the mess hall broke into guffaws as Bott turned a very deep shade of red. Boxer and Cherri’s eyes met. Boxer reached out and took her hands into his.
“You have beautiful eyes,” he said softly.
“Thank you,” Cherri smiled. They leaned towards each other, both eager to sneak in a quick kiss before the temporary distraction of Ensign Bott faded from the attention of the gathered crew.
They were still two inches apart when another pair of furred hand-paws were planted firmly on the table.
“I hope you remembered to use the mouthwash I recommended after you were done licking yourself,” Lieutenant Minn Laarthi said dryly.
“Laarthi…hi,” Boxer moved his lips as little as possible, his eyes shifting towards his undercover Starfleet Intelligence partner, “Can we talk later?”
” No, we can talk now,” Laarthi said firmly, “Since I’ve been trying to talk to you all day and you’ve been avoiding me,”
“So nice to see you again, Lieutenant,” Cherri said, trying to give Laarthi a friendly look.
“A pleasure,” Laarthi replied, “Now, Boxer, as I would have told you earlier, had you actually listened, these are specially formulated for furred species. I know the replicator has a Sheppian version, but Sheppian females are far less sensitive than most furred species,”
With that, she placed a box of condoms on the table.
“Also, if you’re planning on taking her back to your place, could you please finish mating before 2200h? I live right down the hall from you, and I’d rather not be kept up half the night with your howling,”
Boxer’s eyes were roughly the size of dinner-plates as he tried to hide the condom box from the rest of the crew.
“Laarthi!” he groaned, “Beat it! This is MY date, I don’t need you sticking your nose in it!”
“Of course you do,” Laarthi replied, “You’re clearly useless around women, and the sooner I find a leg for you to hump, the sooner I can stop watching my back!”
“I’m not interested in you!” Boxer shot back.
“Of course not,” Laarthi agreed, “I’m just worried about what might happen if you get…really lonely,”
“I’m not lonely,” Boxer assured Cherri, who at this point was looking less than impressed.
“Maybe you two could go back to her cabin instead of yours?” Laarthi suggested thoughtfully, not really paying much attention to what Boxer was saying.
“I have roommates,” Cherri pointed out helpfully, “Just like all the other crewmen,”
“But that’s OK,” Cherri said, getting to her feet, “Because Rex and I are going to be at his place. All night,” her eyes narrowed, “And again in the morning!”
She started walking towards the door, only to realize that Boxer was staring at her in shock.
“Well?” she demanded, “Are you coming or not?”
“What? Oh!” Boxer leapt to his feet and chased after her.
As the rest of the mess hall erupted in cheers and lewd comments, Laarthi crossed her arms in satisfaction.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting HER to be the desperate one…but whatever works!”
That would keep the dog out of her hair for a while.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 59502.5
“The past several weeks have been uneventful. The Roadrunner remains on course for Federation space. Er, Federation of Planets space. We haven’t seen another sign of this Federation of Fungus that everybody in this part of space is so worried about. Unfortunately, all the data the Plobs were able to give us suggest that their territory is vast indeed.”
“On that point, we have continued to make a series of small jumps using the quantum slipstream drive and Lieutenant Mytim’s plan to avoid high-variance areas. At this point, we’ve shaved almost a year off our travel time. Unfortunately, Lt. Laarthi has also been proven correct: we now find ourselves in a region of space of which we have no knowledge whatsoever. We’re keeping a close eye on the sensors, and will exercise all due diligence,”
“Yawn,” Lieutenant Cindy Mytim carefully stretched her shoulders, “I’m a scientist, and even I found that log entry a little dry,”
“You are my First Officer,” Acting Captain Tyle Virgii said firmly, “Not my literary critic,”
“Suit yourself,” Mytim said calmly, “But keep in mind that your logs are the best impression Starfleet Command gets of you. And do you really want that impression to be ‘Cure for Insommnia’?”
Virgii thought about that for a moment.
“I’ll fix it later,” he promised.
Mytim permitted herself a small, private smile. Manipulating Virgii didn’t take one ounce of magic these days. In the time since she’d practically forced him into naming her First Officer, she’d quickly learned that there was one very easy way to get him to do what she wanted: appeal to his desire for advancement.
“Good morning, everybody!” Lieutenant Boxer said as he stepped onto the cramped bridge, ready to start his shift, “Isn’t it a great day? It’s a great day!” He gave Virgii a big grin, then dropped into the tactical station.
A few moments later, Lieutenant Laarthi stumbled through the door. Her fur was drooping, her expression was groggy and she was trying to rub sleep out of her eyes.
“Isn’t it a great day, Laarthi?” Boxer said happily, “You were so right, by the way! Those special condoms were perfect!”
Virgii had opened his mouth to say something, but at this he simply stared for a moment, then returned to his command chair without saying anything.
“I hate you,” Laarthi said to Boxer, “Here I am, trying to do you a favour, and what happens? Your yowling keeps me up half the night!”
“That wasn’t my yowling,” Boxer said, straight-faced, “That was Cherri,”
“Really?” Mytim arched an eyebrow, “I thought the EPS manifold was out of alignment. Interesting.”
Virgii had his face in his hands. With a sigh, he stood.
“As captain,” he said, “I hereby forbid you all from discussing your sex lives on my bridge,”
There was a moment of silence.
“Are you going to see her again?” Mytim asked.
“Of course,” Boxer replied cheerfully, “Why wouldn’t I?”
Virgii cleared his throat.
“We weren’t discussing sex,” Mytim said without missing a beat, “And you wouldn’t see her again because a lot of men lose interest after they manage to have sex with a woman.” She frowned, “Or they become obsessed, overprotective and territorial,”
“I think I’m the second one,” Boxer said, looking confused.
Virgii cleared his throat again.
“That wasn’t anybody’s specific sex life,” Mytim told him, “That was an observation of humanoid male social behaviour,”
“I’m getting a cup of tea,” Virgii grumbled, rising from his chair.
Mytim’s console beeped.
“Before you do, perhaps you’d like to hear about the planet coming up on long-range scanners?”
“Are you going to put up a fight if I try to go through the Virgii’s Laws Planetary Safety and Precautionary Checklist?” Virgii asked.
“Absolutely,” Mytim nodded.
“We all will,” Laarthi added.
“Well then we’ve got several hours of doing nothing before we reach it. Scan it, write up a report and bother me about it later,” he grumbled as he left the bridge.
Boxer, Mytim and Laarthi exchanged a look. Other than Ensign Kerpol at the helm, they had the bridge to themselves.
“Peace at last,” Mytim gave a sigh of relief, then mentally noted the exact path the conversation had taken, in case she ever needed a way to get Virgii off the bridge again.
“The next time you have a girl over, either muzzle yourselves or put up acoustic dampening, or SOMETHING!” Laarthi complained tiredly to Boxer.
“The next time I’m on a date, don’t barge into the middle of it with contraceptives!” Boxer shot back.
“I was TRYING to HELP you!”
Hmm, Mytim mused. Now she just needed a similar strategy for dealing with these two.
An hour later, Virgii was seated in the otherwise empty conference room. Since the Roadrunner’s readyroom was basically a closet, and since working in his quarters meant spending a depressing amount of his day there, he’d hijacked the conference room as a makeshift workspace. He’d barely finished going through a bunch of status reports when the door chimed and Mytim walked in.
“I see the nano-tech fabrication unit will have the crystal we need for the navigational deflector ready in two days,” he said.
“Yes,” Mytim agreed, “Once it’s installed, we should be able to establish periodic communications with Starfleet Command.”
“Hopefully that communication won’t include a reprimand over yanking a ship of dignitaries into the galactic core, then dumping them in the middle of a battlefield,” he mused.
“Little point in worrying about the what-ifs and the maybes,” Mytim said, “Now, would you care to hear about the planet we’ll soon be passing by?”
“Very well,” Virgii waved one hand imperiously.
Mytim looked at him.
“Stop that,” she said firmly.
“Stop acting like you’re the Supreme Lord of the Universe!”
“I’m the Captain. Within this ship, I am!”
Mytim stared coldly at him.
“Just give me your report!” Virgii said, carefully folding his hands in front of him.
“Class-M, 80% surface water, tropical climate,” Mytim said, handing him a padd, “Signs of flora AND fauna, so it’s likely not occupied by the fungus things.”
“Sounds like the perfect spot for a little shore leave,” Mytim replied.
“Oh, we don’t need shore leave,” Virgii waved a hand, “Moral is high, we’ve cut a good chunk of time off our trip and we haven’t been attacked in weeks,”
“We’ve got nearly thirty people cooped up in this tiny little ship, ready to go stir-crazy,” Mytim corrected him, “People need to find ways to relax and unwind, and if you think the method Boxer and Cherri found was noisy, wait until I let Crewman Billings get to third base,”
Virgii gave a small shudder of disgust.
“That point aside,” he said, “I’m not convinced a stop is necessary,”
“OK, fine,” Mytim said, “Did you know tonight is Hawaiian Luau night in the lounge?”
“Then drop by for an hour. Then see what you think!”
Later that night, Boxer and Cherri were sitting next to each other in the lounge, each holding a drink of sytheholic fruit punch and wearing flowery leis around their necks. Cherri was also wearing a grass skirt over her uniform, but had declined to wear it as her primary garment for the evening, unlike Crewman Billings, Ensign Bott and various other crewmembers.
The lounge was extremely crowded. Even with almost a third of the crew still on duty, there just weren’t enough chairs for everybody, and most of the tables were taken up with party stuff anyway. One held a selection of sythehol, another was piled full of replicated food, and another had a non-solid hologram of a pig roasting on a spit over a roaring fire. Unfortunately, the replicator rations needed to replicate an actual pig, spit and fiery cook-surface were just a bit too extravagant for the collected crew. Mytim and Billings were crammed on the couch next to Boxer and Cherri, and Billings was already starting to sneeze.
“I really am sorry about that,” Boxer said for the third time as Billings wiped his nose and his eyes with a hanky.
“Not your fault, man,” Billings said, “They’re my allergies, not yours. I’ll see the holo-doc in the morning,”
The doors hissed open and Lt. Cmdr. Virgii walked in. He eyed the gathered crewmembers, the assortment of drinks, the food and the roasting pig. He carefully made himself a drink (using barely a thimbleful of liquor) and approached the couch.
“I fail to see the problem, Miss Mytim,” he said, sipping his drink.
“You do realize that the pig’s not real, right?” she pointed out.
Virgii reached over (not much of a reach in the crowded lounge) and waved his hand through the pig.
“I see,” he said tightly, “Still-OW!”
“Oops, sorry sir,” a random crewman said, removing his elbow from Virgii’s back, “Just a bit crowded in here, huh?”
“Indeed,” Virgii attempted a smile, then turned back to Mytim, “Spirits appear to be acceptably high. At least everybody’s trying to make the best of it,”
“But think of how much better this would be on a beach,” Mytim pressed, “With a salty sea breeze, a crackling fire, some sort of local wildlife cooking to grilled perfection,”
“Yes, and seafood that’s not replicated,” Dr. Strobnick came up behind Virgii, a plate of replicated food in one hand, “I’m sorry, but at any respectable academic reception, this spread would receive an extremely low grade,” he popped a crab-puff into his mouth and grimaced.
“Bland,” he remarked.
“Isn’t that cannibalism?” Billings asked, eyeing Strobnick’s black, chitinous skin.
“Young man,” Strobnick replied, “If sentient primates can eat other mammals, I see no reason why I can’t eat a non-sentient, alien crustacean!”
“Sorry, doc,” Billings said sheepishly.
Virgii was sampling one of the crab-puffs off of Strobnick’s plate.
“And you’re certain there will be edible seafood on this planet?” he asked Mytim as he chewed.
“With a reasonable margin of error,” Mytim assured him.
“Given what data?” Strobnick asked.
“Given the percentage of known planets matching the general climate, composition and weather patterns of this world that contain edible marine life,” Mytim replied.
“Hmmm,” Strobnick looked thoughtful, “Could I perhaps get you a drink?”
“She’s fine,” Billings cut in, annoyed.
Strobnick cocked his head.
“Merely as an academic courtesy,” he said, “I’m not interested in disrupting your primate courtship ritual,”
“A Sex-on-the-Beach would be lovely,” Mytim replied.
Strobnick moved off, while Billings looked upset.
Virgii was looking thoughtful as he carefully removed the crab-puff from his mouth and wrapped it in a napkin.
“Very well,” he said, “We will stop for two days. He turned to leave, “Inform the crew,”
“You better tell them,” Mytim suggested.
“Because then maybe the ones that want to kill you in your sleep will reconsider,” Mytim replied.
“I see your point,” Virgii nodded, then spoke louder.
“Attention all,” he said, “It is my pleasure to inform you that we will be stopping at a nearby tropical planet for a two-day shore leave,”
Predictably, the lounge broke out in cheers. (Less predictably, a pair of disgruntled scientists quickly snuck off to eliminate the toxic bedbugs they’d planted on Virgii’s pillow.)
The next day, as the Roadrunner approached the planet, Mytim ran her hands over the armrests of the command chair.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” Virgii said unhappily, “I’ve agreed to let you land the ship, as it is part of your required training as First Officer. But the moment we reach the surface, I want my chair back!”
“Certainly,” Mytim inclined her head delicately, “I’ll be far too busy finding a good tanning location,”
“We’re in standard orbit,” Ensign Kilpatrick reported from the helm.
“Power down the warp core, vent drive plasma and secure the nacelles,” Mytim ordered, “Ready atmospheric thrusters,”
“Core offline,” Laarthi reported after a moment, “Nacelles are secure,”
“Atmospheric thrusters are online,” Kilpatrick added.
“Take us…hmmm…” Mytim’s attention was caught by her left hand. One of her nails was looking rather dull. She’d have to polish it later.
“Lieutenant, aren’t you forgetting something?” Virgii prompted.
“Of course,” Mytim quickly tucked her hand away, “Take us down, Ensign,”
“No, no!” Virgii shook his head, “You forgot to call for a-“
“I am NOT calling for a Blue Alert!” Mytim cut him off.
“Regulations specifically require that a starship undergoing landing procedures must be at Blue Alert,” Virgii said stiffly.
“Unless it’s a runabout, a shuttle, a workbee,” Laarthi started counting off her fingers, “a crashing Galaxy-class saucer and…well…basically anything other than Voyager,”
“It’s in the regs!” Virgii insisted.
Mytim looked over at Virgii.
“And what, exactly, do we do during a Blue Alert?”
“Well…we shut down the core, secure the nacelles and ready the atmospheric thrusters,” Virgii replied.
“And we change the light-bulbs to blue!” Boxer added cheerfully from the tactical station.
“We’ve everything but change the lights, and you have no idea how much trouble it is to replace all those bulbs,” Mytim said crossly.
“Oh, very well!” Virgii threw up his hands in disgust, “Take us down then!”
The Roadrunner plummeted towards the planet, her shields neatly protecting the hull from the heat of re-entry. As the flames subsided, the bridge crew could see the blue sky out the bridge windows. Ensign Kilpatrick’s hands were almost white on the controls as he used the thrusters to pull them out of their initial velocity-shedding, belly-flop approach and into a stable flight path.
Soon, the ship was soaring half a kilometre above the surface of a vast ocean.
“Oh, one of those islands to starboard would be great,” Laarthi said, pulling up the topographic scans.
“A continental shore would be far wiser,” Strobnick pointed out, “Larger variety of local wildlife for consumption, less chance of a massive storm,”
Hesitantly, Mytim softly muttered a discovery spell. After her visit to the Plob planet, where she’d learned that her abilities came from the remnants of an ancient race of energy beings, she’d been every more wary of her powers. Especially after she’d learned that she drew power off the living things around her.
Strangely enough, the discovery spell revealed…absolutely nothing. Odd. On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be any ill-effects from her magic use. Which was good.
“Take us down on that island,” she tried to highlight the indicated island on the map, but her nails were again interfering with the touch pads. Finally, after a moment of fiddling, she sent the desired location to the helm.
“Yes, ma’am,” Kilpatrick replied.
It didn’t take long for the crew to rush out of the ship once the landing had been completed. No sooner had the gangway touched the sandy ground than Laarthi was charging towards the nearest cluster of trees, seed sampling equipment in hand. Others had beach blankets, hunting gear, even a beach volleyball set.
Mytim had just settled back on her beach towel, Billings nearby, when a cloud crossed over the sun.
With a curse, Mytim lifted the brim of her broad had and looked up at the sky. Judging from the wind direction, there was going to be a lot of cloudy periods. And she had only TWO DAYS to get her skin tone right!
Glancing at Billings to ensure he wasn’t paying attention, she quickly pulled out her new spell book. A quick look through the index and YES! Weather manipulation! And with a whole planet worth of life energy to draw from, there was no reason why she couldn’t carefully fire off one humdinger of a spell! Without sucking too much life out of anything…so far as she knew.
She sat cross-legged on the beach and began chanting.
Two minutes later, the entire crew was running back to the ship in an effort to escape the torrential downpour Mytim had accidentally triggered.
“I told you we should have stuck to the mainland!” Dr. Strobnick accused as the senior officers returned to the bridge.
“No big deal,” Virgii grumbled, “We’ll just find ourselves another place to park and try again.
As the Roadrunner lifted off from the island, a sensor package buried beneath the surface was busy transmitting data back to a central location.
Something of interest had been detected.
Ensign Kilpatrick set the ship down next to a long stretch of sandy beach along the coast of one of the equatorial continents. Once again, the crew eagerly completed scans, disembarked and once again Mytim found herself sprawled out on a fluffy beach towel on the sand. Luckily the sky was clear on this part of the planet and so the temptation to meddle again (and figure out where she’d gone wrong) was minimal.
“Can I get you something? A pina colada, maybe?” Billings asked.
“Sure,” Mytim smiled, “Then, maybe later, sex on the beach?”
“Should I be taking notes?” Billings asked, confused.
“Not the drink,” Mytim clarified.
“Oh. OH!” Billings’ eyes widened, “Right! Sure thing!”
With that, he scampered off to get drinks.
Mytim permitted herself a small smile. Billings…Matthew, as she really should start thinking of him, wasn’t the smartest man she’d ever dated, but he was sweet. And despite the confusion of her new abilities, the worry over the Federation of Fungus and the whole ‘stuck years from home’ thing, she definitely wanted the company.
She continued sunning herself until her alarm went off, telling her it was time to turn over.
Where the hell was Billings?
Laarthi was happily cataloguing various edible plants, pointing out to a small team of soon-to-be chefs which ones more closely resembled what they needed for their recipes. Several members of the crew, after suffering a case of dreadful constipation on account of the replicated luau food, had eagerly scoured the computer database for suitable meals. Further away, Boxer was leading the four other security personnel on the ship in a hunt. She had no idea what they were hunting, or if the dumb dog had even bothered to check to see if it was edible, but even Laarthi was dying for some real meat.
She’d just finished pointing out a root that showed many similarities to a Terran carrot when she saw Crewman Cherri walking over.
Laarthi had nothing against Cherri. She was the only other furred species on the ship, but she was neither Caithan (and thus a possible rival) or Sheppian (and thus another obnoxious mutt), which left Laarthi without any real instincts giving guidance how to deal with her.
On the other hand, she was dating Boxer. That said enough right there.
“Can I help, ma’am?” Cherri asked.
Laarthi’s tail swished.
“Ask the cooks,” Laarthi said, her tone neutral, “They’re running the show. I’m just making sure we don’t end up poisoned. Or constipated. Or suffering from terrible, debilitating diarrhea,”
One of the chefs was turning a little green.
“Oh,” Cherri said. She didn’t leave.
“You want to talk about Boxer, don’t you?” she asked.
“Well…none of my boyfriends has ever had another woman give him contraceptives or sex advise on a date before,” Cherri said carefully.
Laarthi took a moment to collect her thoughts.
“Have you ever worked with a Sheppian before?” she asked.
“They have a pack mentality,” Laarthi said bluntly, “They get attached easily to authority figures and to social groups. Frankly, with the amount of time I’ve had to spend with him just in the line of work, I’m surprised he hasn’t started hitting on me already!”
“I don’t think you’re his type,” Cherri replied thoughtfully.
“Thank the Great Tuna for that,” Laarthi said firmly, “Still, desperate times and all that. I’ll do everything I can to nudge him in your direction if it keeps him from humping MY leg!”
“What do you mean, ‘desperate times’?” Cherri demanded.
“Well, I didn’t mean you, of course,” Laarthi said quickly, “I mean, you’re…”
“If you’ll excuse me, ma’am,” Cherri said coldly, turning and walking away.
“I really need some time alone. Without other people around,” Laarthi muttered.
Mytim had gotten tired of waiting for Billings. Beg pardon, for Matthew.
No, actually, Mytim reflected, unless he had a good reason for running off and not bringing her drink after she’d flat out offered him sex, that asshole could stay ‘Crewman Billings’.
“Trouble, Miss Mytim?” Dr. Strobnick asked. He was wearing only a skimpy bathing suit, “You look peeved.”
“I’m trying to find Billings,” she explained.
“Haven’t seen him,” Strobnick replied, “Would you care to join me in a scuttle?”
“My people evolved from crustaceans,” he explained, “We are especially fond of a nice silty bottom and nice, salty water,”
“That sounds lovely, but I need to find my ‘date’,” Mytime made little air quotes, “Or failing that, a strong drink,”
“As you wish,” Strobnick bowed slightly, then proceeded to wade into the water.
Mytim made her way back to the ship, where a series of collapsible tables had been setup and loaded with a variety of juices, sodas and synthoholic beverages. The Emergency Medical Hologram, looking extremely irritated, was standing behind the makeshift bar.
“Please state the nature of the…er…beverage emergency,” he said.
“My male companion has vanished and I need something strong,” Mytim said, “Also, some moisturizer,”
“Coming right up,” the EMH replied, “And if you happen to see Chief Engineer Laarthi, kindly remind her that this is NOT part of my program!”
“Turning planets into fireballs and causing torrential rain isn’t in my program, but I still manage,” Mytim muttered to herself as she turned away with her drink.
“Pleasant afternoon,” Virgii said pleasantly as he walked up to the bar.
Mytim took one look at Virgii and broke out laughing. He was decked out in pair of bright green, baggy surfer shorts, a screaming neon blue Hawaiian shirt and a straw hat wide enough to shield half the crew from the sun.
“Have you seen Dr. Strobnick?” he asked, ignoring her reaction, “He was supposed to help me look for seafood,”
“In the water,” Mytim pointed.
The crew continued to frolic, the sun made its way across the sky, and before too long Boxer and his small team was back, dragging behind them a dead animal that looked remarkably pig-like. Other than the elephant trunk.
“You did check to make sure it wasn’t poisonous, right?” Laarthi asked. She’d spent the last hour alone in the trees, doing whatever it is cats do when they go off to be alone.
“Sure did,” Boxer said, pointing to a Boxer-sized bite mark on the alien’s flank, “Tastes great, and I’m feeling fine!”
Her tail flicking in annoyance, she scanned the thing and pronounced it edible. Two crewman quickly went about setting up a fire while two more dragged out a duranium rod from somewhere in the ship and proceeded to spit the animal with it.
As the crew began work on supper, Boxer looked around.
“Weren’t there more of us here before?” he asked.
“I haven’t seen Billings in hours,” Mytim said, maintaining her careful dignity but still sounding annoyed. Inwardly, she was just about ready to curse his testicles right off of him.
“Has anybody seen Virgii since he and Strobnick came back with those clam things?” Laarthi asked.
It suddenly dawned on Mytim that they were on a strange planet. And people were missing.
“Get everybody over here,” she ordered, “And somebody get me a nominal roll!”
It took only five minutes to determine that five people had gone missing without a trace, including Virgii and Billings. The cooking continued, but Boxer and the security team quickly started searching the area while Laarthi returned to the ship and began running sensor sweeps.
Nothing. No life-signs, no comm-badges. Nothing.
The local area searched, Boxer and his team returned, only to find that three more crewmembers had disappeared without a trace.
“Nobody leaves this clearing,” Boxer ordered, “Pair up. Don’t let your partner out of your sight!”
He turned, only to find himself surrounded by Laarthi and Cherri.
“Partners?” Cherri asked cheerfully, shooting a brief but dark look in Laarthi’s direction.
“We have work to do,” Laarthi said calmly.
Boxer’s face took on an expression of panic as he looked at the two women. Of course he wanted Cherri as a partner! But from the look on her face, Laarthi had some kind of Starfleet Intelligence plan up her sleeve. He had to choose between his personal partner, and his work partner.
“We have…officer duties to attend to,” Laarthi said firmly.
“Why don’t you just tell the truth?” Cherri turned to her, “You want him for yourself! All your ‘help’ has just been a plan to split us up! You don’t think I’m good enough for him!” She turned back to Boxer, “Tell her she’s wrong!”
“You’re wrong,” he said immediately.
“Oh for the love of…” Laarthi grabbed him by the shoulders, “Face ME when you say it! Now tell me that I’m wrong, that she’s good enough for you, that I’m thrilled that the two of you are together so we can get to work!”
“You’re wrong, she is good enough for me, you’re thrilled we’re together and…I forget the rest,” he admitted sheepishly.
“Oh, so you’re going to let HER boss you around now?” Cherri demanded.
“What’s your problem? I’M ON YOUR SIDE!” Laarthi snapped at her.
“Then leave him alone!”
“We have work to do!”
“What kind of work, Boxer?” Cherri snapped.
The looked around, only to find themselves standing alone next to the ship.
Boxer had vanished.
“So now we’ve lost our Security Chief,” Mytim said flatly. Potentially, this was bad. So much for her plan to quickly convert an empty cargo container into a hot tub for a little post-dinner soak.
“I’m looking into the disappearances,” Laarthi said, turning to leave.
“You’re an engineer,” Mytim objected.
“No, I’m not, I just pretend to be one on this stupid ship,” Laarthi pointed out.
“Oh. Right. Well, you’re a stellar cartographer, not a security officer!”
Laarthi adjusted her hair. Technically, she had more security training than anybody else on the ship.
“I did OK when the ship was hijacked,” she said.
“Hmm. Oh, very well.” Mytim waved her away and started tapping at her tricorder. There were no signs of transporter activity, nothing to indicate disintegration, no sign of cloaking or other stealth technologies. The missing crewmen were just…missing.
True to Boxer’s last instructions, the crew had stayed in the small clearing around the ship. The animal Boxer and his team had brought back was starting to smell pretty good as it spun on a makeshift rotisserie and an array of native and replicated vegetables were either grilling, boiling or steaming. But somehow, the happy, celebratory atmosphere was fading even faster than the dimming daylight.
Mytim quickly stepped onto the gangway and into the ship. She needed a moment of privacy. If science didn’t want to come up with an explanation, then maybe magic would.
Boxer blinked. One minute he was stuck in every man’s worst nightmare: caught between two arguing women. Worse than that, one of those women was his fairly recent, sort-of girlfriend, while the other was the evil bitch he had to work with.
There wasn’t a single man in the universe that would want to be in that situation.
The next minute, he was standing on a small platform in the middle of a vast, domed space.
“Scanning,” a soft voice said to his left, “He has a translation device, a scanning device, and a weapon. The weapon has been neutralized,”
Boxer looked over to find himself facing a greenish being in a pale, gray robe. The alien had a series of small horns on the front of its head.
“Translation matrices are stable,” another voice said, this one belonging to a dark-skinned alien that looked vaguely Klingon, except for the pleasant expression on his face, the short hair and the absence of cranial ridges. Oh, and the third eye in the middle of his forehead.
Instinctively, Boxer’s heckles rose, his lips pulled back in a snarl and he growled.
“Peace!” the green alien said, “We mean you no harm.”
“You’ve been kidnapping our people!” Boxer said, realization dawning on him, “Where am I? What do you want?”
Almost-Klingon pointed up. Boxer looked up, seeing a vast dome arching above him. It was easily the size of the dome that covered Starbase 341’s city, however this one had a complex array of embedded support struts providing additional strength. Probably to keep the dome from collapsing from the weight of the vast quantities of ocean water that Boxer could see through the transparent sections.
“We’ve brought you to Deesal,” Green-Reptile said, “This place is a refuge…where bipeds of all races may live in peace, love, and in protection from the Dark Lupressa,”
“Oh,” Boxer’s snarl faded, but his heckles remained up, “May I leave?”
“Umm…no,” Almost-Klingon admitted.
Boxer snarled again.
“There’s a Dark Lupressa on the surface!” Green-Reptile said quickly, “Until we figure out who it is and contain it, it’s not safe up there!”
“But there’s nobody out there but my people,” Boxer said carefully.
“Indeed,” Lt. Cmdr Virgii said as he was led towards Boxer by another pair of aliens, one half squid and the other clearly Wuyan, “Which means we have bigger problems than low morale,”
Mytim sat at the center of a small vortex.
Her spell books, she was up to four of them now, floated in front of her with their open pages hovering right at eye level. Around and behind her spun an array of ingredients, everything from herbs and plant parts gathered on the fungus planet to replicated animal parts up to small personal items she’d borrowed from the quarters of the missing crewmen.
Never before had her powers seemed so plentiful…so easily grasped. And thanks to the Plobs, she now knew why: Her abilities were tied to the energies produced by living things. Alone on the Roadrunner, with only a couple dozen crewmen and a few plants, it took a lot of effort to get even small spells to work properly. But here on a fertile planet, she could…well, she could generate a fireball big enough to vaporize a continent. She’d nearly done that on the fungus planet, which is why she was being very, very careful to control and focus her will.
At the moment she was working through a series of ‘warm-up’ spells, getting her energies flowing. As soon as she was certain that she’d reached a level of concentration where she wouldn’t accidently vaporize anybody, she’d start the detection spells that would hopefully have more luck finding the missing crew than the ship’s sensors.
Startled by the door chime, Mytim jumped to her feet. The books dropped with matching thuds, the spinning ingredients spun out of their respective orbits to scatter themselves all over her quarters and a brief flash of energy shot from her fingertips before she could control herself, scorching the carpet.
“GO AWAY!” she snarled at the door.
Furious, she stalked the two steps to the door and hit the open panel, ready to turn whoever the hell it was into a toad.
It was Cherri and Laarthi. Neither looked to be in a particularly good mood.
“Four more people have disappeared,” Laarthi said without preamble, “I’ve run every sensor scan I can think of, and I think I found something!”
“Do you guys feel that?” Cherri asked, running her hands over her arms. Her fur was rustling in the energy currents Mytim was straining to contain.
“What did you find?” Mytim demanded.
“Faint energy readings from the ocean floor, not far from here,” Laarthi replied.
“I saw that, it’s just a geothermal vent or something,” Mytim waved her away, “Diffuse heat readings, nothing more,”
“Still, I want to check it out,”
“Fine, go,” Mytim turned away.
“But don’t you want-“
“Just take care of it,” Mytim said, “I have my own idea to try,”
She hit the ‘close’ button and the doors hissed shut.
Now she had to start all over again!
Laarthi and Cherri wasted no time in pulling a small, inflatable watercraft out of the cargo hold. A simple twist activated the inflation system while the tap of a button powered up the small propulsion system. Within minutes the two of them were skimming across the smooth ocean surface, powerful searchlights illuminating the darkness.
“It’s about thirty kilometers out,” Laarthi shouted over the splashing water, “I know Mytim says it’s a vent, but I think the heat readings are too weak, and too diffuse,”
“So what do you think it is, Miss Smarty-pants?”
“It could be an underwater base, something with some kind of sensor shielding. Underwater facilities are very common,” Laarthi replied. She thought for a minute, “And if you don’t think this is a good idea, why are you tagging along?”
“I’m here because I want to find Boxer in one piece!” Cherri said firmly.
“And because I don’t trust you!” she added.
“You do realize that he’s canine and I’m feline, right?” Laarthi asked, “Our species, and their analogues, have battled each other on countless planets since before recorded history!”
“Somebody’s always gotta start somewhere!”
Laarthi’s tail twitched. There was just no arguing with this woman!
“One minute I’m standing on the beach, the next I’m down here,” Virgii said, sounding quite miffed. His big straw hat was gone, but was still wearing the loud shirt, “They’ve been quite friendly, what, but I’ve been waiting to see their ‘Luminous One’ for quite some time,”
“And they won’t let any of us leave,” Boxer said.
“Indeed,” Virgii nodded, “Because, again, their ‘Luminious One’ has sensed a ‘Dark One’ with our people. Which, again, is quite a problem,”
“Please stop making those little air-quotes,” Boxer whined, “It’s…um…distracting,”
“Honestly, that easily distracted? You’d think I was dangling yarn in front of a…” Virgii could see from the very angry look in Boxer’s eyes that this line of comparison was not going to end well. He pulled a doggy treat out of his pocket (kept for just such an emergency) and tossed it in the air. Boxer’s jaws snapped, the treat vanished, and the glow of murder in the canine officer’s eyes faded.
“As they tell me,” Virgii went on, “Their Luminous One is in fact a Lupressa who has devoted himself to peace, love and I don’t know…pretty flowers and what-not.”
“Horray!” Boxer licked his chops, “So they’re good guys!”
“So they claim. But really, when has that ever panned out?”
“Well…” Boxer considered his Intelligence training, “About one tenth of the time,” he replied.
“Precisely. Still, I have a good feeling about this lot,” Virgii put his hand on his hips.
The doors to their little waiting room opened.
“The Luminous One will see you now,” Almost-Klingon said.
“Smashing,” Virgii replied.
They were led out and down the small, winding dirt path. Unlike the skyscrapers of Starbase 341, this underwater sanctuary seemed comprised of small wooden houses, a few brick houses…almost everything you could have that wasn’t over two storeys tall. The dome arched a good two hundred meters over their heads, a series of small, glowing spheres floating in the air and casting a dim twilight on the underwater village.
After walking several minutes they were led into a cross between a temple and a mansion. In it, a single figure was waiting. He was dressed in spotless white robes trimmed in red. His face was hidden by the shadow cast by his hood. He stood in the center of a circular room, surrounded by unidentifiable bits and bobs. Behind him was a small throne surrounded on either side by a pair of stone bookshelves, each containing six books. A thirteenth was laid out on a small pedestal.
“I never would have thought somebody called ‘the Luminous One’ could be so short,” Boxer yipped pleasantly.
Oh yeah. The robed figure was about four feet tall.
“You’re most fortunate that I’m of the Light Lupressa,” the tiny figure said mildly.
“Oh really,” Virgii sounded sceptical, “And if you weren’t? Then what?”
The figure flicked his fingers. Instantly, a burst of fire shot out, incinerating a nearby statue.
“Then that,” the figure replied.
Boxer decided that maybe he wouldn’t try sniffing this new stranger.
“Ah,” Virgii extended a hand, “Captain Tyler Virgii, USS Roadrunner, United Federation-“
There was a surge of angry power growing around the white-robed figure.
“Of Planets!” Virgii finished quickly, “Dear me, we need to start mentioning that whole ‘of Planets’ part sooner, don’t we?”
The sense of rage and menace faded.
“I see,” the figure said after a moment, “Then tell me, why are you here? And why do you have a Dark Lupressa aboard your ship?”
“We just stopped for a bit of a stop-off on the way home,” Virgii explained, “And…well…if we do have a Lupressa aboard, we didn’t know it,”
“Yet you know of us.” It wasn’t a question.
“Well, these purplish, blob-ish blokes had some rather worrisome things to say about you lot,”
“They would,” sighed the robed figure.
“Do you have a name, or do I have to keep calling you ‘Luminous One’? Virgii was about to raise his hands to make air quotes, but Boxer quickly reached out and held his arms down until the urge passed.
“Ahem…thank you Mr. Boxer, force of habit,” Virgii muttered as Boxer moved back.
“You may call me Brilliance,” Brilliance replied.
“If we must,” Virgii muttered, “Very well, you said we have a Lupressa. This must be a member of our crew then. I cannot permit you to harm them, much as I myself have had the urge to do so,”
“Oh, we will not harm them,” Brilliance assured him, “We wish only to help them to remove the Lupressa essence that poisons them. Once that is done, you and your people may depart,”
“Do we have your word on that?”
“Oh!” Boxer whispered, “Get a pinky swear!”
Brilliance suddenly stood a bit straighter.
“Gentlmen, please excuse me,” he waved a hand. Instantly the two officers felt an irresistible force propelling them out the doors. Boxer’s sharp hearing barely heard him whisper in triumph seconds before the doors closed.
“I’ve found her!”
Aboard the Roadrunner, Mytim had finally started her discovery spell. Her spell books were again floating in front of her, and a pair of Virgii’s socks, Billings favourite padd and Boxer’s scent-sprayer were spinning around her head like hyperactive hummingbirds.
With one phrase read from her book she spayed out her fingers, then focused her energies. There was a flash of light, then three beams of energy speared out, one from each of the personal possessions she’d borrowed, and shot right out at the ocean.
Mytim ran to the bridge, pulled up the sensor logs and scanned back until she found her discovery spell’s energy emissions. Within seconds, she’d traced them back.
Back to that damned, diffuse heat emission Laarthi had been harping on.
“I’m the science officer, I’m the one that’s supposed to be right all the time!” Mytim complained.
So much for magic over technology.
She was still fuming when the world around her suddenly blinked. There was a brief sensation of weightlessness, a flash of light, then she was standing on a small platform under a big, reinforced dome. There was a brief sting as something was slapped on her back! Right between the shoulder blades, in that one place that very few human beings could reach!
Mytim pulled her powers around her, ready to defend herself!
“This way please, your Darkness,” a strange-looking alien said, giving her a nervous bow.
The bow was a good sign. But being called ‘your Darkness’?
Rarely was that a good thing.
“Boxer always said that cats do nothing but scheme,” Cherri sniffed.
“For what? The two weeks you’ve been dating?”
“Ah-hah! This is where you tell me how much longer you’ve known him than I have!”
“When,” Laarthi asked, “did you get so paranoid?”
“Look around! We’re in the middle of an alien ocean, people are missing, it’s dark, it’s wet, our fur is wet, and the biggest thing on your mind is some guy you’re dating?”
Cherri frowned, opened her mouth, closed it, then grabbed at a handhold as their inflatable watercraft hit a wave.
“I guess I’ve been kind of silly,” she admitted.
“Considering we’re in an emergency situation, yes,” Laarthi nodded, pleased to have won.
“You’re right,” Cherri said, “We’ll finish this discussion later.”
Laarthi closed her eyes for a moment, then decided to take what little victory she could.
Virgii and Boxer were being led back to the other captured crewmen when they passed Mytim being escourted respectfully (but insistently) by two more of the robed citizens of the underwater sanctuary.
“Mytim!” Virgii exclaimed, “They got you too, huh? Well, they don’t really seem to be the bad sort. Claim they’re just helping us out with our little ‘Lupressa problem,’
“Uh-oh,” Boxer bit his lip. The guards escorting her looked very, very nervous. Could that mean…
“What?” Virgii asked.
“I think she’s the-“
Mytim waved a hand in their direction.
“Memorus!” she hissed. A faint crackle of energy danced around her hand, but there was no other effect.
Virgii’s jaw dropped.
“You’re the Lupressa?” he gaped.
“Yes,” she admitted.
“What did you just try to do to us?” Virgii demanded.
“I was going to erase your memories of this meeting,” Mytim said, a note of resignation in her voice, “But something’s interfering with my abilities here,”
“For the best, we assure you,” one of her escorts said, pulling her towards Brilliance’s lavish house.
“Wait!” Virgii called, his own escorts gently holding him back, “Mytim! Just tell me one thing, and be honest!”
“Are you evil?”
Mytim looked startled.
“What? Why on Earth would I be evil? Do you have any idea what that does to your skin tone? Worse complexion than those poor gingers!”
“All I needed,” Virgii nodded. He turned to his escorts. “Back to my people, if you please,”
He and Boxer were escorted back to the pleasant house that was being used to house the Roadrunner crew. Four more crewmembers had been brought to the house in the meantime.
“Mytim is the Lupressa,” he said, without preamble.
There was a quiet moment as everybody digested this.
“I always thought she was a bit of a bitch,” Boxer said, “But I never thought she was evil,”
“She’s not evil!” Billings said firmly.
“Where’s a science type when we need one?” Virgii wondered, “Boxer, do you remember what the Plobs said about the Lupressa? Slave races, wars…um…I assume murders?”
“Hosts!” Boxer exclaimed, “They’re hosts to some kind of…enersite?” No…”
Virgii was thinking. After a moment, he gave up.
“Where the hell are Mytim and Laarthi when I need them?” he said angrily.
Mytim found herself in Brilliance’s chamber, the two escorts stepping back and sealing the door behind her.
Virgii and Boxer may not have noticed the significance of many of the objects in the room, but Mytim did. Spell and potion ingredients, mostly. But also thirteen spellbooks. Nine more than she’d found, and she already had the power to destroy half a planet!
“Welcome,” the hooded and robed figure seating at the throne said, “I am Brilliance.”
“Mytim,” she said nervously, “What do you want? What’s this ‘Dark Lupressa’ business all about?”
“I built this place to protect my people from the Federation of Fungus,” he replied, “And from the Lupressa who would take them from me,”
“Well, honestly, I just wanted to pick up a bit of a suntan,” Mytim said pleasantly, “And give the crew enough time off that they’d forget about killing off Virgii for a few more weeks,”
“Your crew will join me here, of course,” Brilliance said, almost as an afterthought.
“Thanks, but we have a long way to go,” Mytim replied. She wasn’t exactly sure what to make of this alien. The last Host she’d spoken to had been helpful, encouraging her to join the great quest of bringing together enough Hosts to bring a true Lupressa back into being. The jury was still out on whether or not she’d be pursuing that particular goal, especially after she’d learned the version of the story that Virgii and Laarthi had been given.
“Nice place you have here,” she commented.
“Do enjoy the view,” Brilliance replied, sounding almost sad, “It’s very likely to be the last thing you’ll ever see.”
A few hundred meters above, Laarthi and Cherri had cruised to a stop. The small craft was just a tiny speck on the black ocean, but as their eyes adapted to the night a faint glow became visible beneath them.
“Definitely an artificial structure,” Laarthi said as she played with some of the scanners they’d brought, “Most of the modern stuff is useless, but I’m definitely getting a heat reading. And the sonar shows a perfect dome directly below us,”
“So it’s something artificial!” Laarthi exclaimed.
“No, I mean, what’s sonar?” Cherri asked.
“Nevermind,” Laarthi gumbled. Of course, since Cherri didn’t have her Intelligence background, she wouldn’t know about obscure sensor technologies. She opened the storage case in the back of the boat and began pulling out a Starfleet standard-issue scuba suit.
“Um…what are you doing now?”
“We’re going to swim down and knock,” Laarthi said, “What do you think we’re going to do?”
“Get wet,” Cherri said glumly.
“Do you want your stupid man back or not?” Laarthi demanded crossly.
They donned the suits and jumped into the water. The suits they were wearing were of the flimsy, easy to store variety. But they provided somewhat more protection against the water pressure than a simply wetsuit. Fortunately, their goal wasn’t very deep. As they followed the dim glow of light, they quickly found themselves approaching a broad, low dome.
“Now,” Laarthi said, toggling her comm, “Let’s see what we can see down there,”
“I say we look over there,” Cherri said, pointing at a location closer to the center of the dome.
“Why? Energy emissions? Transmissions?”
“No, but I see the Captain down there, and that’s the direction he’s going,” Cherri said, “We should probably try to break in and help them, right?”
Laarthi glared through her face mask. It was official.
She hated Boxer’s new girlfriend.
“Simply a lovely place,” Virgii said cheerfully as he led the Roadrunner crew, those present anyway, towards a pleasant park near Brilliance’s chambers, “And what is it you say you do down here?”
“We give thanks to the Luminous One for his protection against those who destroy all who might be Hosts,” a bluish alien with vestigial suction cups replied, “We live in peace, harmony and love,”
Virgii rolled his eyes. Great. Ever since that Eden situation a hundred years ago or so, Starfleet had made a brief education on space hippies mandatory for all officers, along with a note that said simply ‘Avoid’.
“Charming,” he said, “And how exactly does he do that?”
“He hides us from all who might seek us,” Blue-Suction-Cups said, looking confused, “What else must he do?”
“Well, just to check, he doesn’t eat babies or hideously torture his enemies or anything like that?” Boxer jumped in.
“And we’re interested in just how exactly he plans on helping our friend,” Virgii finished.
“I know nothing of that,” Blue-Suction-Cups shrugged, “But I’m sure he’ll leave her as a perfect vessel of peace and love,”
Virgii shuddered. Stupid hippies.
“Let’s go…have a look, OK?” Virgii said, gesturing towards Brilliance’s home/temple/whatever.
“I…suppose. As long we don’t go inside!”
“Perish the thought,” Virgii assured him.
“That device on your back is something I’ve been developing here for a long time,” Brilliance was saying, “It sends out an energy pulse that interferes with the energy matrix buried somewhere in your body.”
“The one that jumped to me when that Plob died,” Mytim realized.
“How you received it is of no interest to me,” Brilliance said, “You have it now, and that’s the important thing. And thanks to my little invention, you’re powerless,”
“Oh,” Mytim was definitely worried now. “What do you want?” she asked.
“Power,” Brilliance shrugged, “Enough power to rule this part of the galaxy, not just this pathetic little rabble here,”
“I don’t think I can help you,”
“Of course you can,” Brillinace said, “Surely the Hosts of the Lupressa mentioned something about gathering the Hosts together? Enough to restore the power of the Lupressa?”
“They might have mentioned that,” Mytim starting chewing a fingernail.
“Pay attention!” Brilliance demanded.
“Right,” she jerked her hand back down.
“Did they mention just HOW that worked?”
“It’s simple,” Brilliance said, drawing closer, “One is good, more is better,”
With that, he lifted his hands and muttered a phrase. There was a flash of energy, then Mytim felt a sudden sucking sensation, like somebody had latched onto a kidney or something and was trying to yank it out through an opening the size of a pinhole.
She lashed out, her nails scraping across Brilliance’s cheek. He leapt back, conjuring a shield that pushed her away. But the sucking sensation faded.
“Don’t do that again!” they said, simultaneously.
Mytim eyed her adversary. She couldn’t touch him with that shield, and he seemed unable to resume his soul-sucking while it was up.
Stalemate. If only she could reach that damned gadget on her back! Where was a back-scratcher when she needed one?
“So all this business about the Light and Dark Lupressa,” Mytim asked, “Truth, or propaganda?”
“Lady, look at the two of us. Which is more evil?”
“Well, I was going to say ‘you’, since I’m actually protecting a few people and you’re just spending your life sitting around in a ship, but considering that I am trying to yank something out of you, likely resulting in your death, I suppose do I have to concede your point,” Brilliance shrugged.
“What’s happening?” Virgii asked.
“It looks like they’re talking,” Boxer said, “This is fun! I haven’t done this sort of thing in ages! Spying, investigating! Goody!”
“I thought you were a…ow, dear me, get your damned tail out of my face!” Virgii snapped, “I thought you were a stellar cartographer?”
“We spy on stuff,” Boxer said, “Um…stars and…stuff…”
Virgii was standing underneath a window, just far enough from the entrance to Brilliance’s place to be inconspicuous. Well, OK, with Boxer standing on his shoulders they were conspicuous as hell. But one thing that their hosts/captors didn’t seem to have was a lot of experience as guards. Y’know…unless they were guarding their sing-a-longs from party poopers, or something.
“It looks like Mytim has an itchy back,” Boxer said, “She keeps reaching back to scratch it.
Virgii felt a drop of water hit him right on the back of his neck.
“Boxer, you’re not…leaking, are you?”
“No reason. So, are Mytim and Brilliance doing anything…interesting? Yet?
“No, he’s just sitting there in his little force-field bubble, and they’re talking,”
“You never mentioned a force-field!”
“Oh,” Boxer flicked his ears back, “He has a force-field.”
Another drop of water.
Boxer looked up.
“What now? Did Mytim just fire phasers out of her eyes or something?”
“Can she DO that?” Boxer’s tail started waving like mad.
“I don’t…WHAT DO YOU SEE UP THERE!!!???”
“I think it’s two people in Starfleet diving gear. Outside the dome,”
“And what exactly are they doing out there?” Virgii asked tiredly as another drop of water fell on his neck.
“I think they’re trying to cut a hole,” Boxer said pleasantly.
Virgii let his forehead rest against the cool stone wall.
“This is going beyond sixes and sevens,” he groaned.
”..and then, well, I had enough followers to build this little dome, and we’ve been hiding here ever since,” Brilliance finished as Mytim (and Boxer) looked on, “A very tidy operation. The Federation of Fungus ignores us, I have plenty of privacy and life-energy for my experiments, and once I combine your power with mine I’ll be able to draw other Lupressa here. Soon, I will have enough power to bring the Federation to its knees!” he looked thoughtful, “The Federation of Fungus, that is. Maybe I’ll conquer your Federation too, one day. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it,”
He looked darkly at Mytim.
“But now, down to business,” he said.
Luckily, what Brilliance may have had in supernatural ability he completely lacked in tactics and planning. Mytim had spent the past several minutes scheming away, desperate for a plan, any plan that might lead to her escape. The main conclusion that she’d come to was that she remembered more about holo-novels and old movies that she did about her Starfleet Academy Tactics class. But hey, whatever plan she came up with at this point was likely to be suicidal, so what the heck?
What she hadn’t noticed was that while he was talking, Brilliance had coaxed a number of vines into existence. They snapped into place, forming a net between him and Mytim. He let his shield fall, raising his hands to again begin his efforts to extract Mytim’s Lupressa.
The instant the shield faded, Mytim sprinted at full speed. Backward. Bracing herself, she slammed into the wall. There was a loud CRACK from the center of her back as the small device shattered, then a rush of power surrounded her.
She spayed her hands forward, forming a barrier a split second before Brilliance’s attack hit her. There was a flash of dissipated energy, then she tried to fling an ice bolt back at him.
As usual, the damned spell twisted into a fireball instead, incinerating the vine netting. Brilliance batted it away with one hand as though swatting a fly and the fireball flew off to the side, shattering a window.
Boxer ducked as a flash of flame blew out the window and singed the fur off his head.
“You didn’t say ANYTHING about fireballs!” Virgii accused as he frantically tried to keep his balance.
“There are fireballs!” Boxer yelped, “And I think Mytim’s using shields now, too. And…oh, that’s not right!”
“Next time, I’m going to be the eyes and YOU can be the legs!”
Brilliance was now flinging random objects at Mytim from around the room. Mytim had responding by cocooning herself in as small a shield as she could manage. The glancing blows were still wrecking her concentration.
Mytim, having conjured a fireball the size of a small city, knew that Brilliance was holding back. It wasn’t hard to figure out why; he wanted something from her after all.
But she didn’t want anything from him.
“I’m THROUGH being LADYLIKE!” Mytim snarled. She reached out, channeling every piece of power she could, and pushed straight up.
The ceiling erupted outward with a bang, scattering bricks, wooden beams and various debris across the grassy lawn. A few pieces even bounced off the dome itself. Boxer and Virgii fell flat on the ground, rolling out of the way before they could be flattened by a piece of mobile masonry the size of a sofa.
“Nicely done,” Brilliance sneered, “Now you’ve expended your energy and accomplished what? Minor vandalism?”
“I’m not finished yet!” Mytim said, panting.
That’s when he struck again.
Her shield collapsed, the icy tendrils of his power played against her, searching for that one pinpoint of power within her. There was a lance of pain as he found it, causing her to double over and cry out.
There was a flash of light, then the pain vanished. Mytim looked up to see Brilliance shielding himself from a barrage of rocks.
“I hope you have a plan!” Boxer yelled, throwing another rock through the window at the tiny figure, “Because I’m running out of rocks!”
Mytim channelled her energy again, found her target, and heaved. Her target shrugged itself free of the soft soil, groaning as it shot up in the air.
And with a grunt, Mytim let it fall.
A two story house complete with rustic front porch came crashing down through the open ceiling and landed on Brilliance, crushing him beneath its weight.
The air was filled with sudden silence.
Mytim walked towards the pile, quickly locating a small pair of feet that stuck out from one half-collapsed wall.
“OK,” she panted, “Old movies definitely trump Starfleet Academy Tactics,”
She reached out with her powers, trying to find out whether or not he was actually dead. There was a surge of power, a sense of weight as though she was standing in an elevator that had just shot up to the top floor. Sound rushed through her ears, staggering her.
When she came to her senses, Virgii and Boxer were standing next to her.
“You OK?” Boxer asked eagerly, “And can you shoot phaser beams out of your eyes?”
“Nicely done, Lieutenant,” Virgii said, making a sound of disgust as body fluids from the mashed corpse started oozing out from under the house, “Though in the future, please try to find a less messy method of disposing of the bad guys. More dignified, you see,”
There was a crash behind them then a jet of water shot down from the dome, splashing to the ground mere meters from the shattered remains of Brilliance’s home. Two figures crashed to the soft soil, then staggered to their feet.
“Are we late?” Laarthi asked, pulling her helmet off and looking around, “Did we get them?”
Virgii looked from the mangled corpse at his feet to the rapidly leaking dome above his head, then over to Laarthi.
“Oh yes,” he said, “I think we definitely got them,”
Captain’s Log, Supplemental:
“Memo to self: I need to have a little chat with my senior staff about the dangers of ‘overkill’. Because, quite frankly, dropping a house on somebody is completely unnecessary, though Lieutenant Mytim insists that the element of surprise justified the…well, whatever. Self-defence and what-not. Also, really, if Lt. Laarthi and Crewman Cherri had simply swam a few hundred meters over instead of cutting through the dome, they would have found a perfectly serviceable airlock. Though I suppose Laarthi’s claim that she was trying to put out all the fireballs being flung around has some merit.”
“Yes, Starfleet, I said fireballs. It’s been a rough day.”
“The residents of Deesal, despite being terrible prison guards, are adept engineers and have repaired the damage we’ve done. Without that short little git, whom I refuse to name on account of what a stuck-up name it was, well, without him the dome inhabitants no longer have the protection of an evil energy being. But the water still serves to diffuse their life-signs, especially from orbit or further. We expect they’ll be OK.”
“And speaking of evil energy beings, the matter of Lieutenant Mytim. This is hardly the first time a Starfleet officer has wound up with unusual abilities. And so we’ll do what Starfleet officers always do in this case: Assume they’re still the people we know and love. Then, after they try to kill us, we’ll kill them. Assuming we’re still alive.”
“Dear lord, that is a FOOLISH policy! There needs to be something in the regs about sticking them in stasis tubes, or at least medically induced comas or something! Add that to my personal log for a policy adjustment suggestion!”
“Anyway, on that note, Lieutenant Laarthi has a suggestion that should help with that little problem,”
“You will wear this at all times, unless I give my express permission for you to take it off,” Virgii said, handing Mytim one of the Lupressa-jammers they’d taken from Brilliance’s ruined home, “Consider it…medical treatment,” he said, “Superpowers becoming addictive, you showing us you’re still you, blah, blah, blah,”
Mytim took the device, then hesitantly strapped it to one wrist. There was no sensation of power loss; that had already occurred when Virgii had approached her quarters with the device.
“I understand,” she said, clasping her hands in front of her.
“You know,” Virgii said, “If you’d just let him take your…your Lupressa, you could have saved yourself this bother,”
“You didn’t feel the extraction process,” Mytim countered, “I can’t imagine I would have lived through it,”
“Hmmm, very well,” Virgii turned to leave, “See you for your shift tomorrow then,”
“Virgii,” Mytim called before the doors could close, “How did you know…how did you know that it was Brilliance who was the evil one?”
“My dear,” Virgii gave her a look, “You may have hidden these abilities from us for the past few months, but I certainly don’t recall you taking over the ship, killing us all, or sending us on a mad quest to restore these Lupressa to their rightful whatever,”
“That, and we overheard most of your chat with the short little git,” Virgii shrugged, “Anyway, so long as you keep that gadget running, I’m sure all will be well,”
With that, he left.
Mytim contemplated that for a moment.
Given the trust he was showing in her, maybe she should tell him that whatever power it was Brillinace wanted to absorb from her, she seemed to have absorbed from him?
Or maybe she should tell him about the nine new spell books that had just mysteriously appeared on her bookshelf?
She considered this. Virgii was right, after all. She had no need to pull the Roadrunner off its journey home, and she certainly had no desire to harm her crewmates.
Why then, should she tell them about something that wasn’t going to affect them in the long run anyway?
With that, she pulled one of her new books off the shelf and started reading.