Author: Brendan Chris
“I swear, I’ve never felt this way before,” Security Chief Harrison Stoneryder, AKA adult performer Steele Stoneryder said, putting as much sincerity into his voice as he could. Just for good measure, he put his arm around Amisty and turned to look out at the beautiful view of Matria Prime. The young Matrian woman seemed to relax slightly.
“In all my years in space, it’s one of the most beautiful planets I’ve ever seen,” he went on.
“It really is, isn’t it,” she sighed.
The two of them were sitting under a clear dome on the roof level of one of the downtown buildings. Haven was currently in its night cycle, with the Matrian star shining against the ventral surface of the city. The majority of the vast dome was looking out into empty space, but to the ‘north’ of the city one could gaze out at the planet they orbited. Especially if one had located a skyscraper with a rooftop patio to capture the view (which was easy) along with a covering of some kind to protect against the bitter cold weather outside (which wasn’t).
One of the great redeeming qualities of the Matrian people, in Stoneryder’s opinion, was the fact that the ladies generally tended to be more…sexually eager. Which meant that it was easy pickings for him to swoop in and snap up pretty much any woman he was interested in. The drawback however, was that shooting fish in a barrel wasn’t all that thrilling, which is why he found himself with Amisty. She’d repeatedly spurned his advances and only after a great deal of effort had he managed to get her to agree to this date. Now, he was almost guaranteed to close the deal. And open…other things.
And all it took was a nice sunset and a good view of her home planet. Hmm. Maybe she was a bit too easy after all.
“Hey,” she stiffened, “What’s going on?”
Stoneryder drew his attention back to the task at hand, only to see the planet disappear from view beneath the artificial horizon. Above them, the stars were spinning by as Haven re-oriented its position. There was a deep rumble as the sub-light engines engaged and the next thing he knew they were passing one of Matria Prime’s moons.
“Where are we going?” she demanded, “I have to be at work in Matronus at 0800!”
“Well…then this means we’ll have time to cuddle after?” Stoneryder tried.
The next thing he knew he was flat on his back, the sound of Amisty’s retreating footsteps in his ears and an imprint of her knuckles in his left eye.
“I guess it’s the Holo-Hussy for me tonight,” he grumbled.
The next day…
“I still don’t understand why we’re taking her,” Lt Cmdr Josh Shurgroe said as he followed Captain Elizabeth Simplot and Dr. Janet Annerson through the corridors of Haven’s Outer Rim, “Why aren’t you coming along? Why do we even have to do this to begin with?”
“We’re doing this,” Simplot explained for the third time, “because establishing a trade route between Matrian & Senousian Space and the rest of the Federation is part of our mission. And because it takes a good month for a non-slipstream ship to get here from Waystation. Once you’ve taken the Hummingbird back to Waystation and mapped out the slipstream we can start using it to tow ships here and back in a matter of days,”
She finished reading the orders she’d received from Starfleet and tucked her padd back onto her belt.
“At least that’s what our orders say,” she shrugged, “I’m still pretty fuzzy on what exactly all that techno-babble means, but I think the gist is ‘Regular ships slow, Hummingbird fast, Hummingbird make slow ships go fast’.”
“Admiral Tunney added that l-l-last part in one of the Annexes, didn’t he?” Shurgroe asked.
“‘Annex B: Translation for ‘Special’ Officers’,” Simplot admitted glumly, “You know, I’m starting to think that Admiral Tunney thinks I’m stupid or something,”
“Just because he’s started attaching the Pakled version of any orders he sends to you is no reason to t-t-think he doesn’t respect you,” Shurgroe said encouragingly.
“No, but the labelled diagram he added to Annex C is a pretty good reason,” Annerson spoke up, consulting her own padd, “Look, he even drew little stick-figures of us getting into the Hummingbird,”
Shurgroe took the padd for a moment.
“What’s wrong with my head?” he asked, “It’s all…blotchy,”
“I think he was trying to draw your head shavings,” Annerson replied.
“I think the pressure of the job is getting to him,” Simplot added.
“Undoubtedly,” Annerson agreed.
They rode a turbolift several levels down to the docking ring, the soft rumble of the engines increasing as they moved closer to the drive mechanisms located at the base of Haven’s Outer Rim. Haven didn’t really have an actual docking ring like the one Deep Space Nine had, rather it was a ring of small docking facilities located on the inner edge of the Outer Rim, just below the broad, thick disc that served as the lower base for the inner city. Designed to provide berthing for medium-sized ships that were too large for the docking bay, the ring of docking ports, cargo bays and Arrival/Departure lounges had seen almost zero use since the city had been launched.
In fact, the only two ships to actually dock had been the two Hummingbird-class ships assigned to the Waystation/Matrian Sector route. The first, the USS Roadrunner, was once again lost in space while her sister, the USS Hummingbird, had been left at Haven after Admiral Wagner had decided the ship was far too much of a death trap for him to ride it back to Federation space.
As they stepped into the small lounge adjacent to the Hummingbird’s docking port, Shurgroe broke out in a cold sweat.
“I don’t want to fly on that ship,” he gasped, pointing out the window at the sleek form of the Hummingbird, “I don’t want to disappear like the Admiral did! Or like those Roadrunner people! It’s cursed! It’s a cursed ship!”
“And this brings us to why you’re going, Janet,” Simplot sighed, gesturing to Shurgroe.
“Yup,” Annerson cracked her knuckles, “Are you sure I can’t have my tranquilizer blow-gun back?”
“I’d rather you didn’t,” Simplot replied.
“OK,” Annerson shrugged her shoulders like a boxing champ about to enter the ring, “JOSH! SIT STILL AND TAKE YOUR MEDS!”
“NO!” Shurgroe was about to bolt from the room, but Annerson was ready for him. She pounced, catching him in a headlock and wrestling him to the ground.
“Hey! OW!” Shurgroe objected, “Not so rough!”
With an impressive display of flexibility, Annerson brought her free hand behind her back, hypospray in hand, and jabbed the injector right into Shurgroe’s left buttock.
“Why exactly am I on this mission again?” Colonel Myress Abela asked dryly as she stepped over from the airlock antechamber and into the lounge. She didn’t even bother to ask about the scene on the floor, but simply gave a disapproving glare. Her husband Craigan was standing nearby, obviously there to see his wife off on this somewhat hastily-planned trip. The look he was directing in Simplot’s direction wasn’t exactly friendly, but not entirely hostile either. It was the look of a spouse that was annoyed that his partner would be away for a while, while at the same time understanding that it was part of the job.
“Professional development,” Simplot said pleasantly, “Part of our mission here is to get you guys ready to integrate into Starfleet. What better way to do that than for you to take command of a starship? Even if it’s only for a few days,”
“But I,” Abela looked around, leaned in toward Simplot and lowered her voice, “I’ve never commanded a ship before. I spent my career doing facility design and ground operations!”
Simplot’s eyes widened.
“You’ve never left Matrian Space, have you!” she exclaimed.
Shurgroe, now calm and medicated, and Annerson turned to listen in on the exchange.
“The only Matrians who have left Matrian Space in the past two hundred years are the brainwashed men that were sent out to kidnap slaves from neighbouring races!” Abela shot back, “We’ve been trying to keep a low profile after that little nastiness, thank you!”
“Then this is perfect!” Simplot said happily, taking Abela by the arm and leading her to the airlock, “You’ll go down in history for BOTH our people! The first Matrian to visit Federation space, and the Matrian woman who blazed a quantum-slipstream trade route between her world and the Federation!”
“I…I guess,” Abela nodded, “That does have a nice sound to it,”
“But it’s an experimental-“ Shurgroe started before Annerson jammed an elbow in his gut.
“Quiet,” she muttered.
“Now, you get on that ship, I’ll get Haven into position to clear the road for you, and then it’ll be time to make history!”
“Yes!” Abela said firmly, “History!” She marched over to Craigan, dipped him back and gave him a long, passionate kiss.
“Love you, gorgeous,” she said, smiling at him as she let him go.
“And that is the proper way for a husband and wife to say goodbye,” Annerson said cheerfully.
With that, Abela, Annerson and Shurgroe disappeared into the airlock leading to the Hummingbird. Craigan, looking somewhat dazed, wondered back into the corridors and presumably back towards his home.
“Phew,” Simplot sighed in relief, “I am SOOO glad it’s her on that death-trap instead of me!”
“Hummingbird, this is Ops,” Simplot’s voice came over the comm channel, “We’ve just crossed out of the Matrian solar system. We’ll be in position to use the…the energy thingy Starfleet told us to use, in five minutes,”
Abela, seated in the center seat on the bridge, looked down at the small control panels on the armrests, trying to find the one that would let her answer.
“None of these are in Matrian!” she said crossly.
“Oops,” Shurgroe said from the aft engineering station.
“What do you mean, ‘oops’?” Abela asked, “Every panel in Haven responds to its user, changing languages automatically! Are you telling me that your fancy Federation technology can’t do that?”
“It can,” Shurgroe said, “I just didn’t enter you in the system. Try again,”
Mytim looked down at the panels again, finding them much more legible this time. She hit the appropriate button.
“Acknowledged,” she replied. She sat unmoving for almost a minute.
“Which means you can depart the city any time now,” Simplot went on.
“We’ll wait until you’re in position, thank you,” Abela cut the channel. The rumbling vibration of Haven’s sub-light engines was being transmitted to the small ship through the docking clamps as the city moved through space.
The Roadrunner might have found a way to jury-rig their slipstream navigation for short hops, but part of the Hummingbird’s mission was to establish a safe, permanent route back to Federation space. In order for the Hummingbird to safely navigate a quantum slipstream course, a special energy pulse had to be fired into the slipstream realm, smoothing the ride for the ship. Once the ship had traveled that course once and mapped out the subspace disturbances, subsequent courses could be plotted ahead of time. Fortunately, it was possible for Shurgroe and Wyer, with much help from Starfleet’s Advanced Propulsion Lab, to configure Haven’s energy transceiver to produce the necessary pulse. Unfortunately, the Matrian government had flatly refused to allow any more ‘quantum weirdness’ to occur within their solar system. Simplot and Wyer had therefore been forced to fire up the city’s impulse engines for a short trip. Simplot didn’t really mind; she actually found something about flying a starbase-sized city through space to be a bit of a power trip. Wyer, on the other hand, was thoroughly disgusted that the weeks he’d spent adjusting the city’s orbit had been tossed out the nearest window.
There was a groan, then a shifting sensation.
“We’ve started decelerating,” Simplot’s voice came again, “Once we cut the engines you’ll have to depart so we can move this monster back to Matria Prime,”
“Don’t scratch the paint!” Abela snapped, cutting the channel again.
“It actually would have made more sense to depart the city before we left the planet,” the helmsmen, a member of the Hummingbird’s crew, said. “It takes a few minute to power up the core and plot the course,”
“Do what you can now, Ensign…” Abela paused.
“Pont,” the pale green male replied, “And yes, ma’am,”
Abela tried not to let her nervousness show. She’d never commanded a ship like this before…an advanced alien vessel capable of crossing vast distances in a fraction of the time it would take a Matrian cruiser. What’s more, she was about to travel further away from home than any Matrian in recent memory.
The rumble of the city’s engines faded and Ops advised that they were clear to depart.
After a moment, Annerson whispered in her ear.
“You’ve got to give the order to get underway,” she said softly.
“What order is that?” Abela replied, equally softly, “Just how DO you take a Federation ship through a slipstream jump?”
“Just tell the crew what to do,” Annerson replied, “How they do it is their problem.”
“Ah,” Abela rose her voice, “Detach us from the city and prepare for the jump,”
“Releasing mooring clamps,” Shurgroe said immediately. There was a series of metallic sounds as the robotic arms clutching the ship released.
“Bringing us clear,” Pont reported. He tapped his panel and the small ship smoothly backed away from the docking port. A quick tap at the dorsal thrusters sent the ship easing straight down, the airlock moving up out of sight as the ship moved away from the city.
“Bring us into position for the jump,” Abela said, this time with more confidence.
Pont tapped at his panel again and the ship moved closer to the transceiver array and aligned itself to slip in behind the energy pulse it was about to produce.
There was a growing glow from the arrangement of conical emitters at the base of the city, then a pulse of bluish energy surged into space, twirling as it disappeared into the deeper subspace realms like water swirling down a drain.
“Quick, we’ve got to get in behind that pulse!” the Hummingbird’s navigator snapped.
“Make it happen,” Abela said.
Pont worked his controls to bring the ship into position, then pressed his hand down on the slipstream drive activation panel. The ship groaned as space around them seemed to stretch, then with an almost physical rip the stars gave way to the shimmering blue and black tunnel of slipstream drive.
“Wow,” Abela gulped.
“Yeah. If you could let go of your armrests now, that would be great,” Annerson said.
Abela became aware of an electronic-sounding squeal coming from her chair. Specifically, from where she had her left thumb squeezing a comm control button. She released it and the sound died.
“Ahem,” she cleared her throat, “Steady as he goes,
“She,” Annerson corrected.
“Not on my planet, Doctor,” Abela replied.
“Your planet is already about five light-years back there,” Annerson pointed out.
“I don’t care. My ship, my rules. It’s a him,”
At the helm, Ensign Pont pulled his hands away from the controls.
“What’s wrong?” Annerson asked.
“Well…if it’s a him, I don’t know how comfortable I feel pushing his buttons,” Pont replied.
“Don’t make me wrestle you down and pump you full of meds!” Annerson warned.
“She can do it, too,” Shurgroe added calmly. A little too calmly, actually. Vallium-calm.
Gulping, Pont hesitantly put his hands back on the controls.
“Ow,” Simplot muttered, digging a finger into her left ear as a weird squeal rang out of the comm speakers.
“Classy, ma’am,” Lt. Wyer commented from his control pulpit.
“I hope that’s not going to happen every time a ship uses slipstream dive,” she complained.
“Admiral Wagner’s intent is that the new Waystation-2 will be the arrival and departure point for this sector,” Wyer reminded her, “So we shouldn’t have to worry about it.”
“I guess. Hey, we’re going to have to setup a shuttle service, right?” Simplot asked, oblivious to the fact that Wyer was trying to manoeuvre the city into position for its return flight to Matria Prime.
“I’m sure that would expand your shopping opportunities,”
“Yeah. Speaking of, the Matrians have authorized another dozen leases in Atrium One. I mean, MoM’s,” Simplot corrected herself.
“I thought you just made that name up to piss off Anselia?” Wyer asked.
“I did, but it’s sort of grown on me,” Simplot replied, “Anyway, I’ve got about two hundred leasing applications to go through,”
She looked around the command complex, but with the city in flight all the control pulpits were full. Rolling her eyes, she descended to the second level and, swiping her hand along the side security panel, enabled the gesture recognition system. (Greater security measures had been put into place following the encounter with the dancing scientists).
Aligning itself to her position and viewing angle, the screen did a respectable job of convincing her that she was actually standing in front of a work table. She reached out and grabbed a file, opening it and displaying a leasing application on the screen.
She’d barely read through two of them when Wyer’s voice called down from the command deck.
“We used more fuel than expected during the trip out,” he said, “Our course didn’t account for the gravitational pull from the Matrian gas giants. It’s not a big deal, but it took us a day to get this far out. It adds up.”
“I guess Starfleet didn’t think a space station needed a helmsman,” Simplot shrugged, trying to ignore him and get back to work.
“It’s my fault,” Lieutenant Fissett spoke up.
“Don’t worry about it,” Simplot said, “Just don’t do it again,”
“Actually,” Wyer spoke up again, “We’re about to do it again. Granted, we will now have the gravity of the Matrian star assisting us instead of pulling us back, but if we adjust our course to properly utilize gravitation slingshots from the outer planets, we can effectively shut down the engines once we hit our desired course and speed and drop right into orbit of Matria Prime.”
“Great, do that,” Simplot waved in his direction, accidently deleting one of the applications. What was the un-delete gesture again? Crap. Oh well, Haven didn’t really need an antique cooking appliance store anyway.
“Of course,” Wyer went on, “With a good burn on the impulse engines…here…we could achieve a much higher sub-light velocity…which would be maintained by the…”
“Wyer, I don’t have time for techno-babble,” Simplot snapped, getting frustrated, “I’ve got a lot of work to do if I’m going to make Happy Hour in Matronus when we get back. Just do what you’ve got to do,”
“Yes ma’am,” Wyer said gleefully. He was about to start punching buttons again when the comm panel beeped.
“We’re getting a transmission from the Government Complex on Matria Prime,” the communications tech reported, “Queen Anselia would like to speak to Colonel Abela,”
Simplot frowned for a moment, thinking.
“Ma’am?” the tech prompted.
“Sorry, I was trying to figure out how to get Abela to say something embarrassing the second we put the Queen on,” she said, “But I guess we can’t reach her in slipstream drive, can we?”
“We cannot,” Wyer confirmed.
“I’ll talk to her then. Why not? It’s not like I have reams of work piled up or anything like that,” Simplot rolled her eyes, “And besides, maybe if I can make a good impression, she’ll actually call ME, the Station Commander, instead of always asking for my First Officer!”
There was an electronic chirp and a hologram of Queen Anselia’s head appeared over the holo-table. Her hair was done up in such an elaborate ‘do that it literally vanished into the ceiling, and her earrings sparkled with precious stones.
“We asked to speak with Colonel Abela,” she said, by way of greeting.
“She’s taking the USS Hummingbird to Waystation and back,” Simplot replied politely, “Y’know, that whole ‘develop the Matrian officers’ thing I’m supposed to be doing? I’m doing it. Love the earrings, by the way,”
“Really? They’re not too…shiny?”
“I like shiny” Simplot replied.
“Kiss-ass,” Wyer said, hiding the work strategically in a cough.
“But since the Colonel is out at the moment, maybe I can help?” Simplot offered.
Anselia looked skeptical.
“We have a science team studying an Old Matrian outpost that we’ve discovered on Quatros Island,” she said, “They’ve been trying to get into the outpost for several days, without luck. We were hoping that Colonel Abela would be able to help,”
“I’m on it,” Simplot said, “Let me just hop a runabout over there, no problem,”
“Of course,” Simplot plastered a big smile on her face.
“Excellent. Co-ordinates and details follow.”
With that, the comm-line went dead.
“YES!” Simplot pumped her arm back in a gesture of triumph, “Screw the leasing applications, I’m off to a tropical island! Get Stoneryder and Fissett to meet me in Docking Bay 3, I’m taking the Cataraqui to Matria Prime!”
With that, she ran down the stairs and disappeared into the turbolift.
“I thought the Queen said Quatros Island?” the tech frowned.
“Quatrios Island is the home of our Civil Protection Squad,” Wyer replied, “There is an Old Matrian installation there from early in the war. However, I’m quite certain it has already been studied in detail,”
“I know…but the Queen said Quatros, not Quatrios!”
Wyer tapped at his panel, bringing up a map of Matria Prime.
“Oh,” he stifled a chuckle, “Oh dear!”
“First Matrian to reach Federation Space,” Abela murmered to herself, “First Matrian to command a quantum slipstream jump. Sounds a bit mundane next to ‘First Matrian to spend a century observing a civil war from a hidden underground city, then swap into a clone body using her people’s brainwashing machines’,”
“Uh…yes ma’am,” Pont said uneasily.
“I should write a book about that, come to think of it,” Abela went on.
“I think somebody’s written about it enough already,”
“Didn’t Matria Prime already send a representative to the Federation Council?” Shurgroe spoke up.
“I…what?” Abela’s amused expression faded.
“Well, when you joined the Federation. And after the Qu’Eh were repelled. Queen Anselia sent one of your people to represent Matria Prime on the Federation Council.”
“Why…that BITCH!” Abela fumed, “Simplot would have known that, too!”
“She might have forgotten. She does that sometime,”
“Besides, you’re still the first Matrian to command a slipstream jump,” Pont spoke up, “And…that other weird, clone-thing.”
“Are we at Waystation yet?” Abela crossed her arms and settled in the command chair, “At least maybe I can see some interesting sights on this trip,”
“No, we’re still a day and a half out,”
“This view is getting boring,” Abela said.
“I think it’s pretty,” Shurgroe said, staring out at the swirling tunnel, “Swirls and shimmers, and shimmers and swirls.” He suddenly sat straight up. “AND FIRE! CRAZY BLUE FIRE THAT’S GOING TO EAT US ALL!”
“Dr. Annerson to the bridge,” Abela ordered, leaning on the comm button.
“Why? Did somebody hurt themselves?” the doctor’s voice came back.
“No, but I think Shurgroe needs his dosage checked,”
“Is he hallucinating?”
“I think so,”
“That’s normal. Annerson out.”
Abela bit her lip.
“EEEAAATING ME!!!!!” Shurgroe wailed.
“Abela to Annerson,”
“I said there’s nothing I can do,” Annerson’s voice was sounding annoyed, “The side-effects should fade in half an hour or so.”
“It’s not that,” Abela said, her voice lowered, “I just…I need to know what starship commanders are supposed to do when the ship’s just flying in a straight line. Between being bored out of my mind and dealing with Shurgroe, I’m going to need medication of my own before long,”
“Oh. Go sit in your office.”
“And do what? Paperwork?”
“What you do in there is your own business,” Annerson sounded amused, “But based on what my last Captain did in there, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Unless one of your subordinates walks in on you. Annerson out.”
“How did these people manage to save us from the Qu’Eh, exactly?” Abela wondered as she stood and turned to leave the bridge.
Pont pulled his hands away from the helm the moment she was gone.
“Flying the ship isn’t fun anymore,” he complained, “Who has the conn now anyway?”
The navigator shrugged. Shurgroe, on the other hand, was now staring at a slowly rotating sensor display. As he watched, the engineer reached out to pet it, like it was a kitten or something.
“I guess I do then,” Pont decided.
“I’m very grateful you were able to bring me on this trip, “Amisty said politely, sitting in one of the rear seats in the runabout Cataraqui’s cockpit.
“No problem,” Simplot replied, tapping away at the helm, “I have nothing for sympathy for anybody who ends up on a date with Mr. Stoneryder,”
“HEY!” Stoneryder objected, “If either of you had gotten to the big finish, you wouldn’t be talking like that!”
“Size isn’t everything,” Amisty scoffed.
“But it helps,” Simplot muttered.
“Why am I here?” Lieutenant Fissett asked.
“Because you’re a Matrian, and you’re a scientist, and we’re going to go try to help out a bunch of Matrian scientists,” Simplot replied.
“But I’m…I mean…I got my sciences degree before the Hibernation!” Fissett gulped, “I’ve forgotten most of it!”
“Really?” Simplot leaned in, “No memories of what you did before you spent a century in virtual reality?”
“Just flashes,” Fissett replied, “Many of my people have had…sudden recollections of their past. But I haven’t been that lucky yet,”
“Then why the hell are you our science officer?” Stoneryder demanded.
“Because Lieutenant Mytim is stuck thousands of light-years away,” Simplot informed him, “Besides, I thought Colonel Abela said you were getting some of your memories back?”
“We’re all getting SOME of them back,” Fissett admitted, “But I don’t think remembering that I used to date a guy named Dav during the war is going to help much,”
“How did that work, anyway?” Stoneryder asked, “I mean, if the women were at war with the men, how did you…y’know…”
“Dav was a prisoner of war,” Fissett said quietly, “Both sides took prisoners for…procreation.
The runabout was very, very quiet for a moment.
“So…if you got captured by the other side, you were forced to date and have lots of sex?” Stoneryder asked, oblivious to the tension.
“I was a prisoner towards the end,” Amisty said, a wistful smile on her face, “It really wasn’t that bad,”
“No shit!” Stoneryder exclaimed, “How do I sign up? My capture prospects with Starfleet are nothing but Borg assimilation, torture, or messy death!”
“The war ended a century ago, you idiot! Now shut up! I want to be calm and relaxed when we get to that tropical paradise!” Simplot snapped.
“About that,” Fissett said, “I’ve been looking at the co-ordinates, and-“
“No. Stop. I want to be relaxed,”
“Wanna come with us?” Stoneryder asked Amisty, “C’mon, we can get you a day off work! Come to the beach! Relax in the sun!”
“Well…maybe…” Amisty said slowly.
“I’ll take care of it!” Stoneryder said, jumping on the communications panel.
As the Starfleet officers returned to their work, Fissett turned to her screen with a sense of foreboding. She’d been assigned to the Department of Research and Knowledge aboard Haven largely due to her pre-Hibernation credentials…but that was a century of suspended animation behind her. How was she supposed to serve as the head of the department when she couldn’t even remember how to properly maneuver an object through a solar system?
She was, to use the Terran vernacular, beyond screwed.
Colonel Abela had managed to sit in her cramped quarters aboard the Hummingbird for a grand total of an hour before insanity threatened to kick in. The ship’s captain had such an increadibly tiny office that just using the big desk in one quarter of the captain’s quarters was preferable. After getting used to the massive amounts of space aboard Haven, she was definitely feeling a bit crowded in by the low ceilings, narrow corridors and small rooms of the ship.
So she’d taken to prowling around, sticking her nose wherever she could. The science lab barely deserved the name, the sickbay was more like a closet, the cargo bay was empty and the engineering space was classified. Apparently, as much as Starfleet wanted to extend the love to their new Matrian allies, that love didn’t quite extend to access to brand-new propulsion technologies. Even if those technologies weren’t really working right, yet. Especially if those technogies weren’t really working right, yet?
Finally, she wound up back on the bridge, looking over the navigator’s shoulder at their course display.
“Why aren’t we flying in a straight line?” she asked.
“Hyper-dimensional geometry is…tricky,” he replied, “Sort of like Great Circles on a planet, only this time it has more to do with the irregularities of subspace,”
“OK, I know what that means,” Abela lied.
“We deviate about ten light-years from a direct course to Waystation,” the navigator went on, “At warp speeds, that would be add a lot of time to our trip, but with the slipstream drive operating, the distance is less,”
“Wait, how can it be less if we’re going the wrong way?”
“Because the wrong way in normal space is the right way in the slipstream,”
“I knew that,” Abela nodded. She frowned. “But if one way is the wrong way, and the other is the right way, then they aren’t really the same, are they?”
“Ma’am, suggest you sit in your chair and command things while I take care of the navigation,” he replied through clenched teeth.
“No need to be insubordinate,” Abela snapped, returning to her chair and sitting down.
Simplot looked happily out the cockpit windows as Matria Prime grew ahead of them. Despite a number of shopping trips down to the planet, she’d somehow managed to forget that Haven, unlike many starbases and almost all starships, had an entire planet within transporter range. For somebody used to thinking in terms of light-years it was easy to forget that a planet was actually huge, and that most had an almost infinite variety of people and places. If she’d been thinking straight she would have taken a weekend off at some vacation paradise ages ago, but the work of getting a starbase up and running had clearly messed with her head.
She looked out the windows, frowned, then double checked the co-ordinates. Yup, she was on course. But for some reason instead of heading towards the tropics the runabout was heading towards the south pole of the planet. In fact, it was heading towards a large island less than a thousand kilometers from the pole.
“I thought the Jungle Squad was from Quatrios Island,” Simplot said.
“They are,” Fissett nodded.
“They why the hell are we headed towards an arctic wasteland???”
“Because Queen Anselia was sending us to Quatros Island, not Quatrios Island,” Fissett gulped, “I tried to-“
Simplot cut her off with a raised hand.
“Don’t speak,” she said quietly, “Any of you. Or I may have to kill you.”
The runabout set down next to a glassy, geodesic dome. Bundled up in Starfleet-issued survival gear, the four passengers ran at full speed through the icy wind and blowing snow into the small entrance facing the landing field. Amisty, of course, had immediately demanded to be returned home, but Simplot had refused. She’d also refused to leave the Matrian woman alone in the runabout.
Inside the dome they found a ring of utilitarian buildings surrounding a deep, cylindrical pit. A pair of lifts clung to one wall of the pit, which was cut right into the ice. A few hundred meters down, illuminated by spotlights, was a hanger door. It was similar to the doors covering Haven’s docking bays in that it consisted of seven segments, six arranged around a seventh, bulging outward like a sideways dome. However it was a fraction of the size and constructed of a more utilitarian metal than the doors on Haven.
“Greetings,” a Matrian male with bright red hair was approaching them, “I’m Dr. Flaminred, director of research. And you are Colonel Abela?”
“Colonel Abela is halfway to Federation space by now, so you’ve got me instead. I’m Captain Elizabeth Simplot,” Simplot smiled, “My science officer Lt. Fissett, and my security chief Dopus McMoron,”
“Bitch,” Stoneryder muttered.
“I like her,” Amisty replied quietly.
“And…um…his date.” Simplot finished.
Flaminred looked uneasily at Amisty, then returned his attention to Simplot.
“Well, hopefully you can help us out. We found records of a communications base down here, and now that we’ve finally got the time and the funding to check it out, none of us can figure out how to get in!”
“I’m sure we can help you…find your way,” Simplot smiled. She hooked her arm into his and gestured for the lifts.
“I guess she has a thing for redheads,” Stoneryder frowned.
Amisty rolled her eyes.
Abela had wandered every square inch of the small ship she was commanding. She’d finally, under the careful eye of a security escort, eyeballed the Quantum Core. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out what made the thing so special. The nano-tech fabrication system was impressive at least, but when she’d tried testing it out she’d been flatly informed by the computer that the nano-tech system couldn’t be used at the same time as the slipstream drive. Something about power requirements.
Finally, she settled into a seat in the crew lounge and started picking at some kind of replicated Federation dish while watching the shimmering slipstream tunnel out the window.
Commanding a ship was boring as hell. At least on Haven she had a variety of distractions, and if she ever got bored with the facilities there Matria Prime was a transporter beam away.
Clearly, these Starfleet people were crazy.
Looking out the window, Abela noticed a blacked smear on one side of the upcoming tunnel, almost like a bruise. The ship shook as it flew past, nearly sending her plate to the deck.
“Abela to command complex! What was that!”
“I mean, Abela to bridge, what was that?”
“Phase variance in the local subspace topography,” the reply came back.
“A bump in the road. Is there anything else?”
“Yes! Drop the insolent tone!”
Abela cut the channel. Well. That had entertained her for about thirty seconds.
The lift had taken them quickly down the shaft to the small hanger door. Simplot had heard stories of ancient structures being found deep under the ice of frozen planets. They’d always been described as having an almost ethereal glow from the scant light that filtered through the layers of ice above them.
The hanger door was most definitely not ethereal. Heavy spotlights illuminated its dull, metal surface and the heat from the lighting and scanning equipment that had been setup near the small personnel door had melted a good bit of the ice, leaving puddles on the ground. Amisty growled unpleasantly as the icy liquid seeped into her boots.
“This is your idea of a nice time?” she snapped at Stoneryder.
Simplot on the other hand had marched confidently towards the door. Within seconds she’d identified the security reader and passed her hand over it, expecting the door to open up the same as the secure doors on Haven.
Frowning, she tapped at the panel for a few moments…to absolutely no effect.
Finally, she stepped purposefully over to a stack of equipment and began rummaging through the various tools and implements until she came up with a heavy sledgehammer. She was about to give the door one hell of a good thrashing when Lt. Fissett jumped in.
“Maybe we should…uh…try something else first?” she said quickly.
“Well, I’m out of ideas,” Simplot replied firmly, “And I’m in a bad mood. So stand back!”
High above them, lying prone on the lip of the pit, a single figure in white fatigues was carefully aiming a long-barrelled sniper rifle. She quickly played the scope over each of the potential targets…the man and woman in the Starfleet uniforms, the woman in the Matrian fatigues, and the woman in conservative civilian dress.
Which one was her target?
Not the Starfleet officers…unless Colonel Abela had started wearing a Federation uniform for some reason. So probably the woman in Matrian fatigues. But was that a Lieutenant’s rank? Abela wasn’t a Lieutenant…unless she just couldn’t make out the rank properly. But Abela wouldn’t be wearing civilian cloths either.
“Guess I’ll have to see which one matches the psych profile,” the assassin muttered.
“Smashing things with heavy objects never solved anything,” Fissett said soothingly.
“I guess you were never on the St. Helena’s Elementary School Playground,” Simplot replied, winding up and slamming the sledgehammer against the door with a dull ‘BOONNNGGGGGGG!’.
“This is an important historical site!” Dr. Flaminred said, looking alarmed, “We mustn’t damage anything!”
“I’m not damaging it!” Simplot replied, swinging again.
Fissett and Flaminred looked at the door. It didn’t have so much as a dent.
“Then WHY are you still hammering away at it?”
“BECAUSE I WAS EXPECTING A TROPICAL HOLIDAY, NOT A FROZEN WASTELAND! I’M PISSED, AND THIS IS MAKING ME FEEL A LOT BETTER!” Simplot roared, holding the hammer high over her head before bringing it crashing down against the door.
“Is this making you horny?” Stoneryder breathed in Amisty’s ear.
“Oh, for the…WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??” Amisty screamed, “The men are sex-pigs, the women are insane, and THIS is the species that kicked out the Qu’Eh? We’d be better off taking our chances with pack of-“
There was a blinding flash of light as a phaser shot seared out, disintegrating Amisty and slamming right into the door control panel. With a shower of sparks, the door hissed open.
“RUN!” Fissett shouted, grabbing Simplot and Flaminred by the arms and hauling them into the dark opening.
“But…but…” Stoneryder gibbered, “BUT I HADN’T SLEPT WITH HER YET!”
Another phaser blast rang out, nearly taking off his head.
“There will be other women,” he said quickly, diving after Fissett.
“But we don’t know what’s in there!” Flaminred objected.
“Can’t be worse than what’s out here!” Fissett said.
They’d just made it into the small docking bay when a series of lights started flashing and a computerized Matrian voice began chanting.
“INTRUDER ALERT. INTRUDER ALERT. INITIALIZE LETHAL COUNTER-MEASURES.”
“Fissett, sweetie, I know you’re new, so I’m going to tell you this once:” Simplot said calmly, “Never, ever say things like that!”
Light years away, unaware that her last-minute slipstream trip had saved her from a neat and tidy assassination by phaser, Colonel Abela was lying on her hard bunk in the Captain’s quarters. The mystery behind just WHY none of her people had willingly ventured far from Matrian space in the past century wasn’t much of a mystery anymore. For that matter, she could understand too why the Old Matrians had so casually severed ties with other races when their civil war broke out. Space travel was boring. And she wasn’t likely to find anything that she couldn’t find back at Matria Prime. Heck, in the old days, she could have chosen between Matria Prime and one of over a dozen colony worlds.
What had happened to those colonies anyway, she wondered. Some were still thriving when she’d gone into hibernation. Something to look into in more detail later.
She abruptly stood. This was no way to look at things. In less than a day she’d be at a thriving example of the Federation. She was going to meet interesting new races, see interesting new things and learn more about her people’s new allies. This was an exciting opportunity, not one to be spent moping around in her quarters like a prisoner in a jail cell!
With that she threw on her fatigues, walked purposefully up to the bridge and sat in the command chair. Her spine rigid, she looked regally down at the navigator.
“Time to Waystation?” she asked.
“About twenty hours after the bug that just crawled up your ass dies,” the navigator replied immediately.
“You are REALLY making it hard for me to be positive about this!” Abela hissed.
“I’m sorry,” the navigator said quietly, “I just wanted to be cool,”
There was a beeping from his panel.
“That’s weird,” he said.
Before he could answer, the Hummingbird shook like a shoe in a hurricane, sending them all sprawling to the deck. The shimmering tunnel of slipstream drive vanished, replaced by rapidly spinning stars.
“QSD is offline!” Pont shouted, “We are at three-quarters-C, attempting to decelerate!”
“PLANET!” the navigator shouting, “003 mark 8!”
The inertial dampeners struggled to compensate as Pont tried to pull them away from the planet. Outside the bridge windows Abela could see a blue and green marble with at least three moons.
“What now?” Dr. Annerson’s voice came from the rear of the bridge.
“The fancy Starfleet drive failed,” Abela said angrily, “And we’re going to crash into a planet!”
“You’ve been in command for barely a day and you’re already trying to get us killed?” she said, shaking her head, “Why are starship captain’s always such drama queens?”
Annerson looked at a display.
“We’re two light-minutes from the planet,” she said calmly, “and at the rate we’re slowing down, we’ll be at a dead stop in less than a minute,”
She looked around the bridge.
“So either you’re being a drama queen…or…” she frowned at the navigator, “Or the bridge crew is pretending to save our collective asses in order to impress the new boss,”
Still shaking her head, she turned back to the exit.
“Honestly, some tricks never change,”
As she left, Abela’s gaze moved from the navigator to the helmsman.
“Ahhh…we are no longer on a collision course with the planet,” Pont said quickly, tapping at his display.
“I’ll just see if we can salvage enough slipstream data to get to Waystation,” the navigator turned back to his panel.
“I’m not forgetting this,” Abela promised.
“Um…” the tactical officer spoke up from the rear of the bridge.
“What?” Abela demanded.
“We’ve got trouble,” he clarified.
“And to a Starfleet captain, that might mean something. Care to dumb it down for the silly alien who thinks she should be flying around in one of your precious ships?” Abela snapped.
“OK, number one, nobody said anything like that,” the tactical officer said crisply, “So don’t go projecting your insecurities on us.”
Abela thought for a moment.
“OK, that’s fair. And number two?”
“There are four ships launching from the planet with shields up and weapons armed,” tactical replied, “Combined, they outgun us by a substantial margin,”
“And again, I find myself wondering just WHY exactly any of you people left your home systems,” Abela grumbled, “OK, so what’s the Starfleet policy for this sort of situation?”
“We try to talk them until they pound our shields down to about thirty percent, then we either flee in terror or come up with some ridiculous techno-babble solution,” he explained
“Mind if we try things the Matrian way, Mr…what’s your name?” Abela asked.
“Ensign Ractur,” Ractur replied, “And what’s the Matrian way?”
“We get the heck out of here…NOW!”
“Quick, somebody find an environmental suit! A respirator! Hell, a plastic bag would help at this point!” Simplot shouted.
“Why?” Flaminred asked.
“Because this place is about to flood with gas, and unless you WANT to be unconscious when a crazed killer comes through that door, we don’t want to breath it,”
“I don’t think this installation has an anesthazine system,” Flaminred said calmly, “The Old Matrians rarely used such things,”
“Haven has one,”
“Haven is a space station,”
“Oh,” Simplot relaxed. Flaminred might be one of those slim, boyish-looking Matrian men, but something about the confident manner in which he spoke was very…appealing.
“Then what do we have to worry about,” she asked, sidling up a little closer to him.
“Security bots, probably,” he gulped.
Simplot’s arousal evaporated.
“Did anybody bring a phaser?” she demanded.
“I have this one,” Stoneryder said, holding up a small hand phaser. In the distance, they could hear the heavy ‘clank, clank’ of heavy robot feet coming down the hallway.
“Um…then we need to find something to hide behind!”
Fissett was fiddling around on her tricorder as Stoneryder pulled her behind a column.
“C’mon, sweet stuff,” he said, “With Amisty gone, you’re my last hope for getting laid this week!”
“Been there, done that,” Fissett muttered. The tricorder was giving her garbled readings…apparently the base used the same sort of interference field as Haven. So beaming out wasn’t an option. And they had armed enemies to the front and rear.
Why was she here, anyway???
“Why aren’t we running away faster?” Abela demanded.
“Maybe you’d like to get out and push, ma’am?” the navigator suggested.
Ignoring him, Abela tapped at the comm.
“Doctor Annerson to the bridge,” she said. A moment later, Annerson emerged from the rear door.
“Who’s dead?” she asked casually.
“All of us if we don’t outrun these alien ships,” Abela informed her.
“So outrun them.” Annerson shrugged, turning to leave.
“Doctor, I…” Abela lowered her voice, “Dr. Annerson, this is very difficult for me to say, but I’m out of my league. If you need somebody to infiltrate opposing armies, provide intel during a ground war or supervise a construction project, I’m your woman. But taking a starship into combat isn’t something I’ve ever trained for!”
“It’s good that you can admit your weaknesses,” Annerson patted her on the shoulder, “Just wing it. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Hell, it worked for Simplot for the last three years, can’t hurt you to try it,” Annerson replied.
Abela turned back to the front of the bridge. The ship shook as alien weapons fire hit the shields.
“Shields at 95%” tactical reported.
“Shoot back,” Abela ordered, “Try to…try to disable their engines! They can’t chase us without engines!”
Phasers and torpedoes flew from the Hummingbird towards the alien fleet pursuing them. Several shots hit home, but the enemy shields held.
The ship shook again as the fleet returned fire.
“Shields at 70%!”
“Well then keep shooting, for Patricia’s sake!” Abela rolled her eyes, “Do I have to tell you to do EVERYTHING??”
“That’s usually how this sort of thing works,” Annerson nodded.
The doors hissed open again and Shurgroe stepped onto the bridge.
“Hi,” he said, “Um, the Chief Engineer told me to get lost, so I thought I’d come up here,”
The ship shook again, throwing Shurgroe to the deck.
“Are we under attack?” he exclaimed.
“The incompetence is astounding,” Abela said flatly.
Simplot, Stoneryder, Flaminred and Fissett crouched behind several of the support columns along one wall of the small hanger. From the single corridor leading into the facility they could hear the sound of robotic footsteps as the security bots approached. From the personnel hatch leading outside, they could hear the sound of the lift engaging, presumably bringing the unknown killer down to finish the job.
“Why would somebody kill my date?” Stoneryder was demanding.
“Euthanasia,” Simplot replied.
“Hey, I’ll have you know that I’m such a hot item, I’ve had to have restraining orders put on people!” Stoneryder said proudly.
“Maybe this is one of them,” Simplot shot back, “If that’s the case, she can have you!”
“Um, if that dark-haired girl was the target, why is the killer still after us?” Flaminred whined.
“No witnesses,” Stoneryder said grimly, “But again, why kill my date, then cover it up?”
“Oh, for the…they’re after Abela!” Simplot did a face-palm, “Amisty…she sort of looked like her, and she was yelling at us when she was shot! Just like Abela would be doing! And Abela was supposed to be here!”
“Uh, security bots?” Fissett spoke up.
“Right, right,” Simplot shook her head as if to clear it, “Imminent death and all that,”
Fissett carefully peered around the entrance to the facility corridor. Down the corridor, quickly approaching, she could see two pairs of glowing red eyes. As the bots moved closer she could make out gleaming, blue-tinted metal bodies. Each bot had the standard bipedal form, but one arm ended in a heavy duranium shield while the other ended in a series of weapons barrels. Something about them was really, really…familiar.
“Fissett!” Simplot snapped, “What do you see?”
“I see…I see…uggghhhh” with a grunt, Fissett collapsed to the deck, unconscious.
“We’ve managed to disable one ship,” the tactical officer reported, “But our shields are down to 30%! We can’t take much more!”
Abela had tried every space combat trick she know…which admittedly wasn’t many. She’d taken them to warp in an attempt to outrun the enemy fleet, only to have them fall into a pursuit course, pelting her tiny ship with enough photon torpedoes to force them back to sublight speeds. She’d tried getting too close to one enemy ship, in the hope that the others would miss the Hummingbird and hit their own ship instead. She’d been somewhat successful, as the target ship was now disabled, but the close proximity had allowed the other ship to land several hard blows on the Hummingbird’s shields.
She was out of ideas.
“Quantum Slipstream Drive is back online!” the navigator announced suddenly, “I have a course to Waystation!”
“Well then turn the damned thing on, what are you waiting for, a formal order printout?” Abela snapped.
“STOP!” the science officer snapped, “Don’t touch the quantum drive!”
At the helm, Pont pulled his hand away from the controls like he’d been burnt.
“We need to hail the planet and apologize!” the science officer said, “I know why they’re attacking us!”
Abela waited for several seconds, until the ship was rocked again by another hit.
“And are you going to TELL US or just leave us in suspense until we DIE?” Abela demanded.
“Oh, I was just waiting for you to ask,” the science officer replied sheepishly.
The security bots wasted no time in opening fire. The second they cleared the corridor they unleashed a barrage of phaser fire that would have vaporized any living being that hadn’t been hiding behind heavy metal. They were just in the process of spreading into a search pattern when a phaser blast seared through the open hatch, right at the left bot. An energy field flared up briefly, failing after less than a second. But it was enough time for the bot to bring up it’s duranium shield, which soaked up the phaser blast like it was water, leaving only a red glow in the middle. As both bots turned to confront this new adversary, the Starfleet/Matrian team repositioned itself for maximum cover.
“Is the bad guy still trying to kill us, or are they trying to help us now?” Flaminred asked, just before a phaser blast hit the support above his head, “Never mind!”
Stoneryder was aiming his tiny hand phaser at the nearest bot and was about to fire when Simplot pushed his arm down.
“Idiot!” she said, “Do you think drawing their attention is the way to go?”
With the bots distracted, they moved quickly towards the corridor. As they passed Fissett, Stoneryder scooped her into a fireman carry. Her eyelids fluttered, but she didn’t regain consciousness.
“Oh, if only I had the time,” Stoneryder muttered to himself as he followed Simplot into the base.
Fissett was in a science lab.
“The assignment,” a voice was saying “was for the bot to navigate a course from Point A to Point B, avoiding obstacles along the way. It wasn’t supposed to critique my lecture, and it’s not supposed to be calling me an ‘inferior intellect!’”
“Sorry ma’am,” Fissett replied, “It’s just…there was a V-80 brain in the parts bin…it’s way better than the S-10 ones in the lab,”
“Ms. Fissett,” this time she could see the speaker…it was a woman dressed in a professor’s conservative outfit, “That V-80 hasn’t worked right since the university received it. How did you manage to get it running?”
“Well, it wasn’t that hard…”
She was in the back of a military air transport, surrounded by armoured troops.
“Bavindal is one of the key cities aligned with the Male Rebellion,” an officer was saying, “Our mission is to procure males between the ages of twenty and thirty,”
As the officer went on, the soldier next to Fissett turned to her.
“Thought your term was over this week,” she asked.
“It is,” Fissett replied, “This is my last mission before they put me in R&D,”
“Oh yeah? Doing what?”
“Robotics, what else?”
“Yeah…forgot that was your thing,”
She was in a laboratory, surrounded by robotic bits and pieces.
“The problem,” a grey-haired woman was saying, “Is that the minute we deploy a new design in combat, the rebels manage to snag at least one in a dampening field, then they copy it and the next thing we know, we’re being attacked by our own creations!”
“Well…we do the same thing…” Fissett shrugged.
“No kidding.” The woman shook her head, “Well, let’s see if we can at least come up with a self-destruct trigger that won’t be affected by their dampeners.”
“-cutting your funding immediately,” yet another female voice was saying, “Robotic soldiers are no longer necessary,”
“Oh, so we’re back to throwing our own people against the enemy?” the grey-haired woman snapped.
“Of course not,” the original speaker, an even older crone, shook her head, “But there are concerns that your designs are getting a bit too…intelligent. Surely you see the danger there,”
“They’re harmless,” Fissett objected. She glanced around at the various weapon add-ons hanging on one wall of the lab, “Um…to us anyway,”
“We have a better way to end the war,” the older woman waved a hand dismissively, “We don’t need your toys anymore.”
She was lying on her back as a clear lid slowly hissed shut on her stasis pod. In seconds, she would be transported to a virtual dream world, probably to remain for a century or more.
What would things be like when she emerged, she wondered…
“When a ship emerges from QSD, it emits a wave of harmless subspace radiation,” the science officer was explaining quickly, “Harmless to us.”
“The enemy weapons aren’t harmless!” the tactical officer snapped.
“Harmless to us,” the science officer clarified, “When their ships went to warp, I noticed that they use a ridiculously inefficient warp field geometry! So I started poking around, and it turns out that Starfleet experimented with such a geometry…for minimizing subspace radiation! I’ll bet you anything that whoever these aliens are, they’re vulnerable to it! Our dropping out of QSD was like setting off an atomic bomb on their doorstep!
“So…we should use focused subspace pulses to destroy their ships?” Abela asked.
“Or we could hail them and apologize,” Annerson suggested. She paused. “You did hail them before we started fighting, right?”
Abela started rubbing her temples.
“Hail the f**king bastards,” she ordered.
There was a brief pause, then a greenish, slimy alien face appeared on the screen.
“Alien terrorists!” the alien announced angrily, “It is too late to negotiate! You have polluted our system with your vile poisons! We will destroy you!”
“This is Colonel Myress Abela of the Matrian Republic,” Abela started. Behind her, Annerson cleared her throat. “What?” Abela demanded.
“You’re representing the Federation,” Annerson muttered.
“What? What does the Federation have to do with anything? This ship belongs to Haven now,” Abela frowned.
“Oh boy,” Shurgroe rolled his eyes.
“Look, just apologize to the gunky aliens, offer them some of our radiation shielding technology and let’s go,” Annerson crossed her arms, “Really, starship captains deal with this sort of thing all the time,”
“GUNKY??” the alien on the screen spat. The comm channel died.
“They’re arming weapons again,” the tactical officer reported.
“This ship’s navigational deflector can function similarly to Haven’s energy transceiver, yes?” Abela asked.
“It can,” Shurgroe replied.
“Then charge it from the warp drive and prepare to release an isolytic subspace burst,” Abela ordered.
“Uh, that’s illegal, ma’am,”
“Really?” Abela blew out a breath, “Well…then some kind of subspace radiation burst that ISN”T illegal. Fire it at that dead moon over there, and tell them if they don’t negotiate with us, they’re next,”
Lips tight, the science officer complied.
“We’re being hailed.”
“We do not negotiate with terrorists,” the ‘gunky’ green alien said sharply, “We will die first!”
“We don’t actually plan on killing you,” Annerson said quickly, “We just needed to talk! This is all a bgh misunderstanding!”
“We are listening,”
“Our drive failed unexpectedly,” Abela jumped in, “We didn’t know you were…sensitive to subspace radiation.”
“We have advanced shielding and inoculation technology that may interest you,” Annerson added. Abela glared at her and gestured at her to back down.
“We have detected an increase in dangerous traffic not far from our system,” the alien replied, “We have deployed…countermeasures…to prevent such traffic from entering our space. How you made it this far before your systems failed is…unknown.”
“We apologize,” Annerson said.
“No we don’t,” Abela frowned, “They pulled us out of the slipstream! The whole thing is their damned fault!”
“But it’s the Starfleet thing to do,” Annerson replied.
“Why do you people make EVERYTHING so complicated?”
“We would be interested in acquiring this shielding technology,” the alien decided, “If you would power down your warp core, we will be happy to begin negotiations. Your safety is assured,”
“They have powered down weapons and lowered their shields,” tactical reported.
“We accept,” Annerson said. She leaned over and hit the cut-off button.
“Trusting,” Shurgroe said pleasantly.
“C’mon, Colonel,” Annerson said, patting Abela on the shoulder, “Let’s go negotiate with some gross, icky aliens. It’ll be good for you!”
Grumbling, Abela rose to her feet.
Simplot, Flaminred and Stoneryder found themselves in a small workshop near the hanger bay. Stoneryder gently lay Fissett down on the floor then turned to help Simplot access the computer. They quickly managed to load the security footage of the bay, just in time to see the two security bots firing at the unknown assassin. Unable to overpower both bots, the assassin dissolved with a scream as she was disintegrated.
“I guess we’re not going to be able to figure out who sent her then,” Simplot said glumly.
“Well, we just have to figure out who wants Abela dead,” Stoneryder said.
“Hell, I want her dead half the time,” Simplot grumbled.
“Ummm,” Flaminred stammered, pointing to the screen.
They could hear the sound of robotic footsteps in the hallway. They turned back to the display, but the bots were no longer in the hanger.
“Uh-oh,” Simplot gulped. The three of them dodged just as the display was destroyed by a phaser blast.
They tried to find cover. Flaminred jumped behind a table, Simplot behind an equipment column and Stoneryder behind Simplot. With one shot, the lead bot disintegrated the table. Flaminred gave a squeak of terror and ran behind Stoneryder. Another shot, and the equipment column vanished.
“Ohhhh, this is going to hurt,” Stoneryder whimpered.
Just before the lead bot could fire, it’s head exploded in a shower of sparks and fragged components. The second bot, it’s weapon still smoking, pushed the remains of its partner to the ground then contemplated the remaining people. After a moment, it powered down.
“Did we lose anybody?” Fissett’s head popped up over the bot’s shoulder.
Almost unable to believe what was happening, Simplot stepped carefully around the inert bot. Fissett had fistfuls of wires that she’d pulled out from the back of the bot. Many of them had been yanked, rerouted, and plugged into different circuits.
“Where…how…what?” Stoneryder stammered.
“Turns out I used to be really good with robots,” Fissett shrugged.
“Talk about timing,” Simplot shrugged.
Colonel’s Log, Stardate 59449.1
“We have traded the Amphistans advanced subspace shielding technology in exchange for…well, for some weird sort of medical paste that has Dr. Annerson very excited. Lt. Shurgroe is arranging for future Starfleet vessels to either give the system a wider berth, or to use lower-radiation warp field geometries. And apparently all is well. Despite the delay, we have still managed to resume our course to Waystation using the QSD and will arrive shortly.”
“There’s no such thing as a Colonel’s Log,” the navigator pointed out.
“There is now,” Abela said firmly, “I may have to learn a few things about how Starfleet does things, but you can damned well learn a thing or two from me!”
“As you wish,”
“What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lieutenant Dipsadoo,” the navigator replied, “And if you make fun of it, I’ll make sure you regret it,”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Abela replied with a smirk.
“We are dropping out of QSD,” Pont reported as the tunnel faded and an ordinary star field appeared.
“Good,” Abela stood from her seat. She regarded the double-saucer of Waystation briefly, gave a small snort of contempt, then turned to depart.
“Dock us,” she said, “If we’ve come this far, I’d like to at least see a bit of what makes this Federation of yours so great,”
“Requesting docking clearance,” Dipsadoo replied, “Uh, it’s denied,”
The screen came to life. A red-headed human woman appeared.
“This is Captain Beck, Station Commander,” the woman spoke, “You’re late,”
“We had to stop to negotiate with…aliens,” Abela said curtly, “As us starship commanders are known to do. Now, we’ve come a long way and request some time to relax and see just why your little station is such a big deal,”
“Little?” Beck’s mouth hardened with annoyance.
“Yes, yes,” Abela waved a hand, “Your people have visited my city, it’s only fair,”
“Who the heck ARE you?” Beck demanded, “Look, it doesn’t matter. We have a construction barge waiting for a tow to Matrian Space to start work on Waystation 2. You’re already late. If you want to visit the station, you’ll just have wait until your next trip. And be on time next time, please,”
With that, the transmission ended.
Abela’s eye twitched.
“Does this ship have weapons big enough to overpower that station?” she asked.
“Not even close,” Shurgroe replied, “And…um…that’s a very bad idea…”
“Just kidding,” Abela sighed.
“We’ve received orders from Starfleet,” Dipsadoo spoke up, “We’re to depart immediately and tow the construction barge to the midpoint between Senous and Matria Prime,”
Abela collapsed back in the command chair.
“Fine. I didn’t really want to see her stupid space station anyway. Do whatever it is you need to do to tow that thing to Matrian Space,”
The Hummingbird smoothly fell into position directly ahead of the barge, the small slipstream tug only a fraction the size of the much larger barge. A series of small grappling beams speared out from the Hummingbird’s ring nacelle and locked themselves onto various points on the barge’s hull. With a flash of its engines, the Hummingbird twisted space around it and pulled the barge into the slipstream.
Two days later…
“So they’ve started building our competition, huh?” Simplot asked, looking at a padd.
“That’s what the report says,” Wyer confirmed, “The Hummingbird towed the barge into position without incident.”
“Hard to believe such a little ship could pull something that big so far, so fast,” Simplot smiled.
“That’s what tug ships are for,” Wyer shrugged. “By the way, did you guys figure out what that base was all about?”
“Dr. Flaminred thinks it was a communications outpost,” Simplot shrugged, “Probably dealing with top-secret stuff during the later days of the war. Maybe even surveillance and interception. Anyway, I’m finished with him now. I’m sure Queen Anselia will be getting his reports.”
“I see.” Wyer replied politely.
“And yes, I had sex with him. It’s really none of your business, but yes. And it was great.” Simplot added defiantly. “Well, maybe not great. Matrian men are a bit too passive for my tastes. But it was still good.”
“I am…please that you enjoyed yourself,” Wyer replied. For something that wasn’t his business, he was sure getting an earful on the event. Fortunately, Simplot changed the topic.
“And now we get the pleasure of listening to Abela brag about her tremendous success for the next week or so,” Simplot said, crossing her arms as they entered the Arrivals lounge. Just outside the windows they could see the Hummingbird nosing up to the docking port. After a moment, Abela, Annerson and Shurgroe emerged from the airlock. Seated nearby was Abela’s husband, Craigan.
“How was your trip?” Simplot asked, forcing herself to be pleasant.
Abela glanced at Annerson, then gave a small grin.
“Uneventful,” she replied, “And your time without me?”
Simplot thought for a moment.
“Uneventful,” she said.
With that, the two women left, careful to use different exits.
“We got into a fight with green frog-aliens,” Annerson said to Wyer.
“The Captain was nearly killed by security robots and an assassin that was actually after Abela,” Wyer relied, “Followed by intercourse with a disappointingly submissive Matrian scientist.
“You win,” Annerson chuckled.
After escorting his wife home, Craigan rode a secure turbolift down to the Matrian Intelligence offices.
“How did we not know about this assassin?” he demanded.
“There was no indication that anybody wanted Abela dead,” one of his analysts replied, “No communications traffic, no Matrian Intel, nothing!”
“Well start looking harder,” Craigan said firmly, “Because whoever is behind this, I doubt they’re going to give up so easily,”