Author: Brendan Chris
Captain’s Log, Stardate 59532.4:
“After far more bother than it’s likely to be worth, our nano-tech fabrication system has finally managed to fabricate the resonance crystals needed to modify our deflector dish in order to make contact with Starfleet Command. Lt. Mytim has installed the new crystals, and I’m perfectly confident everything will work perfectly,”
“You didn’t tell them what happened to the crystals we fabricated three weeks ago,” Lt. Mytim commented as Acting Captain Virgii switched off the log recorder.
“No need for Starfleet to know that somebody got them confused with a drink coaster during our Galactic Gala,” Virgii replied.
“Some gala,” Laarthi said dryly, “It was just a bunch of the crew dressed up in formal wear and crammed into the lounge,”
“If you have better ideas for boosting moral, by all means let me know,” Virgii shot back, “Unless it has to do with chasing a ball of yarn,”
“Hey, I don’t give you humans a hard time over squeezing your balls to relieve tension!” Laarthi retorted.
Virgii’s eyes widened.
“She means stress balls,” Mytim advised him quietly, “The rubbery, hard ones you can keep in a drawer until needed,”
“Well, shall we activate the deflector?” Dr. Strobnick spoke up, “I’m most anxious to see how this turns out. I have, of course, performed the lab version of this procedure, but I’ve never actually seen it put to practical use,”
“Typical academic,” Mytim gave a small smile.
“Activate the deflector,” Virgii ordered.
Mytim turned back to her panel, but before she could begin inputting the sequence, her gaze caught on the wristband she was wearing. The wristband was actually a sophisticated piece of technology, designed to prevent anybody wearing it from manifesting the powers and abilities of the Lupressa. After Virgii and the crew had found out that she was the (mostly) unwilling host of some sort of long-dead energy being, she’d been required to wear the device. Intellectually, and Mytim was a very intellectual person after all, she understood the precaution perfectly. Too many Starfleet officers had caused serious problems in cases where they’d manifested unusual abilities, after all.
But it was HER! Cindy Mytim! She wasn’t going to be one of those problem officers! The whole precaution thing was completely out of proportion.
“Lieutenant?” Virgii prodded, “The deflector?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, of course,”
Brushing a strand of hair from her face (and vowing to change hairspray brands), Mytim tapped at her panel. In theory, ever since the Voyager incident Starfleet’s MIDAS communications array had been configured to receive special, long- range transmissions from ships finding themselves too far from Federation space to use conventional means. Voyager had pioneered the technology, and now all ships carried the procedure in their computers.
“Initiating deflector sequence,” she said.
There was a building hum, then a loud, high-pitched whine filled the bridge.
“Is it supposed to do that?” Boxer shouted, his hand-paws covering his sensitive ears.
“There’s nothing in the computer on it,” Mytim called back, “But then, Voyager didn’t have their deflector housing right in front of their bridge!”
“How long is this going to last?” Virgii yelled.
“Assuming we’re done this correctly, it should be a matter of moments for somebody at the MIDAS array to detect our transmission, align the array and establish a two-way carrier!” Strobnick bellowed, nearly deafening Mytim.
“I hope nobody’s asleep at the panel,” Virgii commented as his teacup abruptly shattered.
Meanwhile, thousands of light-years away…
“Seriously, dude!” Crewman Heath said to Crewman Stoff, “You don’t like yellow?”
“I wouldn’t be caught dead flying that shuttle,” Crewman Stoff replied, gesturing at the padd Heath was carrying. On it was displayed a canary-yellow racing shuttle.
“How about electric mucus?” Heath asked, tapping the padd until the shuttle turned green.
“Looks more like puke,” Stoff frowned.
“Well what colour would YOU get?”
“Candy apple red,” Stoff replied, “Duh!”
“Do you hear something beeping?” Heath started looking around the control center of Starfleet’s MIDAS array, “I’m sure something’s beeping!”
“Dude, it’s the middle of the night. Nothing’s beeping.” Stoff shook his head.
“Oh,” Heath was quiet for a moment, “Wanna make out?”
“No, I most certainly do not,” Stoff grimaced, “And YOU have been in space FAR too long!”
“Still no reply!” Mytim shouted over the screeching whine, “It’s been over fifteen minutes!”
“Oh, just shut the damned thing off!” Virgii snapped, still mopping spilled tea off his lap.
Mytim tapped her panel and the sound died.
“Thank the Divine Hunter,” Boxer sighed.
“No sign that Starfleet received our transmission,” Mytim reported, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
“I imagine half the quadrant heard that transmission,” Laarthi complained, “So much for keeping a low profile!”
There was a beeping from Boxer’s panel.
“I think she’s right!” Boxer said, “We’ve got ships coming in at high warp! At least a dozen!”
Before Boxer could answer, a series of flashes became visible outside the bridge windows. Several large, greyish, ovoid ships appeared on a direct intercept course with the Roadrunner.
“Federation ships!” Boxer yelped, “Fungaloids! Just like at the fungus planet!”
“Oh, bother,” Virgii groaned, “Evasive manoeuvres! Shields up! Ready phasers! Oh, and somebody secure the blasted fish tank this time around!”
“Evasive manoeuvres, aye!” Laarthi snapped, shoving the current pilot out of the way and taking the helm.
“Shields up, weapons ready,” Boxer reported.
“Crewman Billings reports fish tank is secure,” Strobnick added.
The ship shook as the first volleys of weapons fire hit their shields. The United Federation of Fungus ships, which looked for all the world like giant spores, were firing directed plasma weapons, along with some bizarre sort of torpedo that wriggled its way through space towards the tiny Roadrunner. The Roadrunner had first encountered the Federation of Fungus on a seemingly uninhabited planet that the dominant Federation race, the Fungaloids, had cleansed of all non-plant life in order to deprive the Lupressa of hosts. A Fungaloid on the planet had identified Mytim as a Lupressa, calling in a similar attack fleet and apparently putting the Roadrunner on the Federation’s ‘Kill On Sight’ list.
“They outnumber us, outgun us, and we know they can outrun us at warp,” Virgii said, clutching his chair as Laarthi pulled the ship into a sharp dive, barely evading half a dozen torpedos, “Any thoughts?”
“SUDDEN DEATH!” the crewman Laarthi had pushed out of the pilot seat wailed.
“Get below decks until one of us is horribly killed, or something,” Virgii snapped, shooing him towards the door.
“We’ll be safe enough if we can make a quantum slipstream jump!” Laarthi called from the helm, “Mytim? Can you plot a course?”
“We’re in a high-variance region of space,” Mytim shook her head, “It’s too dangerous!”
“Firing phasers,” Boxer said in the background. Out the window, the Roadrunner’s weapons fired, connecting with a Federation ship but only doing minor damage.
“There must be some way to plot a course,” Virgii insisted as Laarthi returned her attention to keeping them in one piece, “We’ve used the drive a dozen times now, and only came close to certain death…what, half the time?”
Mytim thought for a moment.
“If you could turn off this dampener, I might be able to plot coordinates for a short jump,” she said, “A very short jump. I mean, I’ve never tried this before, but it can’t hurt to try, can it?”
Virgii bit his lip.
“Oh, come on!” Laarthi shouted, “Is this REALLY the time for a debate on whether or not she’s good or evil? I doubt she wants to get blown up!”
“Yes, quite right,” Virgii swallowed. Not taking her eyes from her panel, Mytim held her arm out to him. With a few taps, he entered his authorization and deactivated the dampener.
Mytim felt a rushing sensation as the two Lupressa fragments buried within her suddenly made contact again. She could suddenly sense the Fungaloids on the attacking ships…and a small part of her surged with a hatred and revulsion that was truly alien.
Pulling her attention back to the present she summoned one of her spellbooks from her quarters, the doors to the bridge hissing open as it shot like a projectile into her hands. The pages flashed, then there it was…focused projection into alternate planes! Hopefully, the levels of reality where slipstream drive was possible would be one of them.
“Just give me a few minutes to figure out the coordinates and get them into the navigational computer!” she called, then closed her eyes and focused.
Absorbed as she was in her work, Mytim didn’t notice the looks of shock and surprise that had been directed her way when the book had zipped across the bridge. Nor did she hear Virgii nervously ordering everybody back to their tasks.
“Boxer, keep those phasers firing!” he ordered, “And Mytim…well, use the Lupressa…or whatever,”
“They’re launching some sort of fighters!” Boxer replied, “I’m firing but there’s just too many of them!”
Laarthi pulled the ship hard to starboard, barely evading another wave of plasma. She brought them in close to one of the bigger spore-ships, weaving around the massive spikes. Several of the Fungaloid ships continued firing at her, the shots hitting the spikes instead. The ship seemed to flinch, the spikes wavering slightly as the hull around them contracted.
“I am certain these ships are alive!” Strobnick reported from his panel, “Fascinating! I wonder if they’d let me take a sample of their hull material?”
“You can ask them after we end up splattered against the side of their ship!” Laarthi snapped, pulling them away from the contorting ship and back into the crossfire. The shields took several more hits, but Boxer managed to destroy one of the smaller, Roadrunner-sized enemy ships.
“Shields are down to thirty percent!” he announced.
“Mytim, we need those slipstream coordinates!” Virgii called.
“I’ve got them!” Mytim announced, her eyes snapping open and a wave of energy flying off her in a flash, “Coordinates are in the navigational computer!”
“Then hit it!” Virgii snapped.
Laarthi’s hand slapped down on the activation panel for the quantum slipstream drive. There was a groaning hum as plasma was redirected to the ring nacelle, then the familiar flash of light and tearing sensation as the ship burrowed through space and into the shimmering blue and black tunnel of slipstream drive, leaving the Federation of Fungus ships far behind.
As the Roadrunner eased into the slipstream, Boxer spoke up from the rear of the bridge.
“Does anybody else get the feeling we’re ripping off the wrong series here?”
“Coming out of slipstream drive in three…two…one…” Laarthi counted down, then hit the deactivation panel for the drive. There was an odd shifting sensation as the shimmering tunnel outside the bridge windows faded, replaced by the standard starfield.
“Lt. Boxer?” Virgii asked.
“Sniffing around,” Boxer replied as he worked the tactical scanners, “No ships in sensor range. No warning buoys, no space stations, no increased tachyon emissions,”
“Stop going through the Virgii’s Laws list,” Mytim ordered, “We stopped using that, remember?”
“Oh, right,” Boxer licked his chops, “Nothing on sensors,”
“No planets nearby,” Mytim took over the scanners, “I’m not picking up any emissions that would indicate any advanced civilizations within a ten light-year radius,”
“An excellent slipstream jump,” Virgii admitted, “Well done all around. Lt. Mytim?”
“Hmm?” Mytim was daintily swabbing her forehead, trying to remove any indication that she’d been sweating.
Mytim rolled her eyes.
“Very well,” she said. Gathering her dignity around her like a cloak, she stood and offered her wrist to Virgii. With a couple of taps he reactivated the Lupressa dampener. Mytim’s world suddenly dimmed, like she’d closed an eye or suddenly gotten water in her ears. The increasing sense of awareness she’d felt since gaining the second Lupressa fragment made the use of the dampener all the more noticeable; before she’d had to focus much harder to bring out any manifestation of her powers.
“If you’ll excuse me,” she said coldly, “My shift ended twenty minutes ago. With the jump complete, I will retire,”
“Carry on,” Virgii said imperiously, oblivious to the forced formality.
With that, Mytim went below decks.
“We’ve gone about fifty light-years,” Laarthi reported from the helm, trying to break the icy mood, “A pretty small jump, but it still would have taken us over a week at warp speeds.”
“Can you plot us another jump?” Virgii asked.
Laarthi gave him an ‘Are you kidding?’ look.
“Mytim and I were going over the scans from our slipstream trip out to this part of the galaxy,” she said, “We’re still months away from a region of space where we can safely compute another jump,”
“But that last jump was the smoothest slipstream ride ever!” Boxer said, “I wanted to roll down the window and stick my head out!”
“Well, if you want to do that again, you’re just going to have to let Mytim off her leash first,” Laarthi said. Boxer gave her a dark look.
“You think we should exploit her abilities to get home faster?” Virgii leaned forward, “Even if it means giving her free access to these…Lupressa things? You KNOW what happens when Starfleet officers get powers! It ALWAYS ends badly!”
“So maybe we’re due for a win on that front?” Boxer suggested.
“Strobnick? What do you think?”
The black, crustacean-ish doctor grated a finger thoughtfully over one of the chitinous ridges on his upper arm.
“Abilities like those Lt. Mytim has demonstrated were not part of the laboratory experiment,” he said, “Previous records do indicate that any officer who has received advanced abilities through encounters with the galactic barrier, the Q or similar entities have, in fact, gone rather mad. I would suggest that the longer Lt. Mytim has access to these abilities, the more dangerous and less human she will become,”
“I see,” Virgii frowned, “For the moment, set course back to Federation Space, Warp 6. We’ll try to contact the MIDAS array again tomorrow. In the meantime, I have some regulations to read through!”
“Sounds like a fun night,” Laarthi cracked.
“Oh, it will be!” Virgii said enthusiastically, “I have a bottle of Saurian brandy I’ve been saving for just such an occasion! You’re most welcome to join me in the search for Starfleet procedural knowledge!”
“I have to…clean my litter box,” Laarthi said.
“Suit yourself,” Virgii replied, stepping off the bridge. As he did, Boxer erupted into laughter.
“Shut up,” Laarthi grumbled, “I panicked!”
“We have toilets on this ship for a reason!” Boxer laughed.
“F**k off, poop & scoop!” she snapped, pulling off the gloves. (Figuratively speaking.)
Boxer stopped laughing.
“Hey, Sheppian culture evolved past that centuries ago!” he objected.
Strobnick just buried himself in slipstream calculations.
Barely an hour later, Mytim was walking down the corridor of Deck 3 towards the rear of the small ship. She wore a shimmering black dress…nothing fancy, but enough to look nice. She was wearing her dark hair low, and had accented her perfect, pale skin with a shade of lipstick that stood out, but without looking like a neon sign.
She passed the doorway leading to the tiny room that formed Main Engineering then continued on to the very aft end of the ship. Directly in front of her was the hatch leading to the maintenance crawl way for the aft torpedo launcher, but just to her left was the ladder that lead up to the hatch leading to the Roadrunner’s single, docked shuttle. As she tapped in the access code, the smell of food wafted down.
She climbed up to find Crewman Billings seated on the floor next to the hatch, a picnic lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and juice laid out on a white and red checker blanket. Outside the shuttle’s single window they could see stars receding behind them as the Roadrunner warped through space.
“Dinner is served,” Billings said, waving a hand over the spread.
Mytim laughed. When he’d asked her to meet him in the shuttle for a quiet dinner for two (impossible in the crowded crew lounge), she’d been expecting something a bit more…elegant…than fried chicken.
“What?” Billings asked, looking somewhat hurt. He also quickly glanced at Mytim’s dampener, checking that the ‘Active’ light was blinking. A gesture that went unnoticed by Mytim.
“I just wasn’t expecting fried chicken,” Mytim smiled as she looked around the shuttle for a place to sit. Billings patted the deck next to him. Hesitantly, Mytim sat, curling her legs beneath her.
The position was not comfortable. The new chair in her quarters would have been far preferable.
It was only their second date since Billings had learned of his lady friend’s new abilities. And, frankly, he was terrified. He’d started dating Mytim despite their difference in rank because she was intelligent, beautiful, friendly…and because there were very, very few women to choose from on the ship. At first he’d tried to ignore the fact that she could probably fry him with a flick of her wrist. But as the idea of dating a woman who’d already shown herself to have dangerous abilities sunk it, Billings had started to get scared.
Mytim, for her part, remained completely oblivious. If anything, she simply assumed Billings’ nervousness was due to the fact that he was dating an woman that outranked him.
In any event, with all the confusion following their relaxing date on the beach a while back, the promised sexual escapades had failed to materialize.
“Uh…shall we?” Billings pointed at the plate of chicken.
Mytim reached out and picked up a piece, mentally grimacing at the grease she could already feel on her fingertips. She placed the drumstick on her plate, then immediately started looking for a fork. Finding it near the potatoes, she resumed dishing out her meal and began to carefully cut a small piece of meat off the bone.
Billings, for his part, simply bit down on his drumstick, crumbs and grease sticking to his face. This time, Mytim couldn’t hide her distaste.
“I hope you brought a napkin!” she said, just a bit more bite in her voice than intended.
“Hmmph?” Billings asked through a mouthful of potato.
Mytim daintily cut off another piece of chicken.
“Proper table manners are a sign of proper upbringing, Matthew,” she said.
“You’re saying I wasn’t well brought up?” Billings made an odd expression, then burped.
“Well, I suppose that gas was, at least,” Mytim replied.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence, broken only by the chewing sounds coming from Billings and the scratch of cutlery on flatware from Mytim. Neither of them paid much attention to the starry vista outside.
“I brought chocolate lava cakes for dessert,” Billings said once he’d cleared his plate, “Unless that’s too messy?”
“I can eat anything without making a mess,” she said.
“Sounds like…” Billings trailed off.
Mytim’s smile faded.
“You were going to say ‘magic’, weren’t you?” she asked.
“It’s not like that,” she said.
“I have to ask,” he said suddenly, “When we…when we first went out. Did you…do anything to me?”
Mytim pulled back like she’d been slapped.
“You mean did I put a spell on you?” she asked angrily, “To make you mine?” She got to her feet. “I did no such thing. I would never do something like that to you!”
“I’m sorry!” Billings objected, “I just…I don’t know what you could have done before we found about your…Lupressa thing!”
“Well you could have asked!” Mytim snapped, “A bit more tactifully, I mean!”
She started tapping at the hatch panel.
“Wait, Cindy!” Billings said, “I didn’t mean to-“
The hatch abruptly popped open, a furry head coming through.
“Oh!” Boxer said, “I’m sorry! I didn’t know somebody was up here already,”
“What’s wrong, Rex?” Cherri’s voice came from below.
“Somebody’s already here, snuggles,” he called down.
“We were just leaving” Mytim said curtly, moving aside so Boxer could free up the ladder. The second he was up, she climbed swiftly down.
“Oh…then are you eating the rest of that?” he pointed at the remaining chicken.
“Knock yourself out,” Billings said glumly.
He waited for Boxer and Cherri to climb into the shuttle before departing, ensuring he wouldn’t have to walk with Mytim back to the main body of the ship.
So much for a romantic evening.
“Ready for a romantic dinner?” Boxer asked, holding a picnic basket between he and Cherri.
“Not yet,” Cherri said, a playful gleam in her eye. She pounced on Boxer, knocking him to the small bunk in the back of the shuttle and pulling at his tunic. The basket, containing an assortment of marrow-filled soup bones, dropped to the deck.
“This is my idea of a romantic evening!” Boxer managed to get out before Cherri’s lips met his.
Billings stalked into the cramped quarters he shared with Crewman Chardonay, Robinson, Thebridge, Krashing and Senior Crewman Martell. The six of them shared a single room with six bunks, a table, replicator and a single washroom. He tossed the picnic basket in the replicator and hit the ‘reclaim’ button.
“Hey man!” Robinson objected, “There was still food in there!”
“I’m not hungry,” Billings said angrily.
“Dude-person,” Thebridge said in a thick Rigellian accent, “We loaned you replicator credits for that! The least you could have done was shared the leftovers!”
“Whatever,” Billings flopped down on his bunk.
His roommates sort of looked at each other.
“Woman problems,” Chardonay said knowingly. His Rigellian accent wasn’t as thick as Thebridge’s, but it was still noticeable, “It doesn’t matter what species you are, women are trouble,”
“My species has three genders,” Krashing added, “And whichever one you are at the time, the other two are always more trouble than they’re worth!”
“Which reminds me,” Senior Crewman Martell spoke up, “I need to know when you’re changing back into a woman so we can move you into female quarters,”
“I change to carrier in three months,” Krashing said, “Does that count?”
“Do carriers have an innie or an outie?”
“Then it counts. You need to have an outie to live in male quarters,” Martell said firmly.
“Finding one mate is hard enough,” Billings said glumly, “I can’t imagine having to find two!”
“We told you that fried chicken isn’t the way to a woman’s heart,” Robinson chirped, “Unless she weighs a hundred kilos and lives in Texas,”
“I guess I should have listened,” Billings said bitterly, “But, y’know…I don’t think it was the chicken that did it,”
“Maybe the fact that she’s-“ Robinson started speaking, but Chardonay slapped a hand over his mouth.
“Shhh,” he whispered, “They say that if you say a witch’s name, she will know it,”
“You didn’t make her mad, did you?” Thebridge suddenly looked worried, his gaze moving briefly to the door as if he expected Mytim to appear at any minute, “You don’t want to do that, man!”
“She’s not going to hurt anybody,” Billings snapped, “She’s not a monster! She’s just…she’s going through some stuff!”
“Which is why you’re back here alone after barely half an hour?” Krashing asked.
“Shut up, all of you!”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 59535.6:
“We have prepared for our second attempt to contact Starfleet Command and…well, actually that’s really about it,”
Virgii turned off his log recorder and quickly surveyed the bridge around him. Everybody was back at their usual stations. Today’s helmsman was Ensign Mulans, another member of the Roadrunner’s original crew that Virgii didn’t know in the slightest. As long as he didn’t crash the ship into a planet or anything, Virgii really didn’t care.
“Does everybody have their ear protection?” Virgii asked.
“I said,” he called louder, “does everybody have their ear protection?”
Still no answer. He looked around, and so far as he could tell everybody was wearing the replicated earplugs that would protect them from the high frequencies generated by the deflector.
“Very well, initiate deflector sequence,” he ordered.
“I seem to have encountered a minor flaw with this plan,” Virgii grumbled. He was about to learn out of his chair to tap Mytim on the shoulder when she turned to him, her lips moving.
Removing his own earplugs, Virgii caught the last half of her sentance.
“-readings seem to be coming from a solar system half a light year from here,” she finished.
“Could you please present me with part one of that performance?” Virgii asked.
“I said I’m picking up strange readings on the sensors,” Mytim obliged.
“So? We’re trying to avoid ‘strange’ on this trip, remember?”
“Well, considering how quickly the Fungaloids were on top of us the last time we tried this, I just thought you might want to perhaps look around the area before we try again,” Mytim drew her disdain around herself well, but a good whiff still made it out in Virgii’s direction.
“Very well,” he said, “Set course, Warp Six,”
Three hours later…
“GET US THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” Virgii snapped, his hands gripping the back of Mulan’s chair, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”
“No sweat, dude,” Mulan said calmly, tapping at the panels and sending the Roadrunner into high warp.
“Now aren’t you glad I had us check first?” Mytim asked pleasantly.
“Just shut it and make sure we managed to sneak out without being detected!” Virgii snapped.
Captain’s Log, Supplemental:
“We seem to have successfully escaped the vicinity of a very large Fungaloid base without being detected, thanks to my natural skill and foresight to check for Federation of Fungus activity before activating the deflector. We’ve put some distance between ourselves and the Fungaloid fleet we barely managed to avoid running into, have located a nice, uninhabited solar system and are preparing to try again,”
“So we’re sure there aren’t any Fungaloid ships around this time?” Virgii asked.
“No sir!” Boxer reported, “I mean, no there aren’t, and yes I’m sure. I’ve scanned the system like you wouldn’t believe! A flea couldn’t bite within a parsec without me knowing about it!”
“Most excellent,” Virgii said, “And Laarthi? I assume you’ve managed to bumble your way into getting the deflector ready?”
Her heckles rising, Laarthi simply glared at Virgii. She seemed to be on the verge of speaking, but instead of forming words she only managed to bulge out her eyes slightly.
“An answer, Lieutenant,” he said, “Spit it out!”
Laarthi proceeded to hack up a hairball on the deck next to Virgii’s chair.
“A token of my esteem, sir,” she said, reaching into the replicator for a glass of water.
“I’m putting you on report for that!” Virgii snapped.
“Lieutenant Mytim, initiate the deflector sequence,”
Mytim didn’t move.
“Oh, what is it NOW?” Virgii demanded.
“Boxer, you’re SURE you didn’t see any sign of unusual activity in this system?” she asked.
“Yup,” Boxer said cheerfully, “Not recently, anyway,”
“Wait, what you mean ‘not recently’??”
“Well, there’s an ion trail that’s roughly a year old,” he shrugged, “Oh, and one of the planets has a big hole gouged out of it,”
Mytim and Virgii both turned to glare at him.
“What? You wanted me to look for any sign the Fungaloids were here!” Boxer objected, “This has nothing to do with them!”
“Idiot,” Laarthi and Mytim muttered together.
“Bring us closer to planet,” Virgii said, blowing a breath out between his teeth, “Honestly, this is worth than trying to find a public toilet without urine on the seat,”
As the ship approached the planet in question, Virgii and Mytim’s gaze alternated between the view out the bridge windows and the image on the science station display screens.
The planet in question was Class-M, right in the middle of the star’s habitable zone. It had the usual scattering of continents and oceans, mild climate and enough animal life to indicate that the Fungaloids hadn’t infested it yet.
But it also had a small hole. Not much, just a few kilometers in diameter. But it was a perfect half-sphere, as if somebody had taken a chunk out of the planet with an ice cream scoop.
“There isn’t much left of the ion trail after this much time,” Mytim said quietly, “But the computer has a match, both for the trail and for the hole on the planet,”
“I’m not an idiot, Lieutenant,” Virgii said crossly, “I know exactly what this means,”
“It’s the Xindi,” he said.
Mytim turned to look at Virgii.
“You really ARE an idiot,” she said, throwing all tact to the winds. Laarthi was likewise looking at Virgii in astonishment. Boxer was just licking at his chops.
“Are you sure?” Boxer asked, “I thought the Xindi were good guys. Aren’t they a Federation member?”
“They are,” Mytim nodded.
“But don’t they cut holes in planets?” Virgii asked.
“One, what the heck would the Xindi be doing all the way out here?” Mytim asked, her expression somewhere between astonishment and disgust, “Two, the Xindi never scooped holes out of planets. Three, the ion trail doesn’t have a Xindi signiture! Four, you can’t say you’re not an idiot and that you know exactly what something means when you clearly have absolutely no clue whatsoever!”
“Well then if you’re so brilliant, who is it?”
Mytim tapped her panel, bringing up a species profile.
“It’s the Borg, stupid,” she said.
Down on Deck 3, Crewman Billings was going through his daily checklist. Confirm proper airflow from all ventilation shafts. Check. Verify proper life-support system operation: O2 levels, CO2 levels, humidity, atmospheric pressure, gravity, etc. Check, check, check, check, check and check. Inspect corridor carpet for stains. Check.
Plus a small notation on the inspection checklist from Lt Cmdr Virgii reminding the maintenance staff to check for and promptly report any signs of Caithan and/or Sheppian pheromone sprays. Virgii didn’t want to take the chance of another territory war between Laarthi and Boxer stinking up the ship.
Check. And also, eww.
Stepping into the crew lounge, Billings started arranging the chairs, wiping off the tables and fulfilling various other menial tasks that invariable got tossed down to the lowest ranks. He was halfway through scrubbing a particularly nasty soup stain off the replicator housing when the door hissed open and Crewman Cherri stepped in.
“Hiya, Matthew,” she said happily, “I’m supposed to re-calibrate the replicator in here. You mind?”
With a firm yank, Billings pulled the housing off the replicator, set it down on a table and resumed scrubbing. With a smile of thanks, Cherri pulled out an engineering tricorder and went right to work on the replicator’s exposed innards.
“I hope you and Mytim had a good time last night,” she said, “Boxer and I really like using the shuttle. It’s just about the only place on the ship where you can be alone,”
“Yup,” Billings grunted.
“Have your buddies given you any trouble? About Mytim?”
Billings paused in his cleaning. Then everything just started pouring out.
“They think I’ve been bewitched,” he said, “They think Mytim put some kind of spell on me, and they’re all terrified that if they say anything to her because she might disintegrate them or something. And I can’t talk to her about it, because she gets so damned defensive! And then you’ve got to add all that to the fact that she’s a woman, and understanding women is next to impossible when they’re ordinary human women, never mind if they’ve ended up with enough power to drop a house on somebody!”
He grabbed his cleaning implements and began scrubbing again.
“Oh,” Cherri said softly.
“But you’re a woman,” Billings went on, “I mean, you’re a bit fuzzy for my taste, but maybe you at least know how they think? Or what I can do to try and show her that I want to be there for her, to help her through this?”
“Um,” Cherri looked embarrassed, “Not really. I just wanted to know if your friends were giving you a hard time for dating an officer,”
Billings looked blankly at her for a moment, then flushed.
“No, they’re cool with it,” he said, turning back to his task.
“Glad to hear it,” Cherri nodded, turning back to hers.
“The Borg, you say?” Virgii asked, settling back into his chair.
“Yes,” Mytim said, “The ion trail is a perfect match.”
“The cybernetically enhanced race that has terrorized trillions of being? That forcibly assimilates them into their Collective?”
“That’s them,” Boxer said nervously, “And if they assimilate, you, all your fur falls out! That’s even worse than being fixed!”
“You would know,” Laarthi muttered.
“No I wouldn’t!”
“Then why would you say…oh forget it!”
“The race that has nearly unstoppable technology?” Virgii went on, “The race that can decimate an entire Starfleet fleet with one cube ship?”
“Again, yes,” Mytim replied.
“The race that Voyager reports has devastated countless worlds in the Delta Quadrant? And the race that the Aerostar unwittingly lured into destroying the Flarn Empire?”
“You seem familiar enough with them that you should have figured out they were the ones that attacked this planet,” Mytim said flatly.
“Well, this is just smashing then!” Virgii rubbed his hands together gleefully, “Our job just got a lot easier!”
Boxer, Laarthi and Mytim exchanged looks around the command chair.
“And exactly what line of reasoning brought you to the Bizarro-World train station?” Laarthi demanded.
“It’s quite simple, really,” Virgii explained, “Clearly the Borg are pushing into this region of space. The Federation of Fungus lives in this region of space. Ergo, the Borg and the Fungaloids are probably engaging in hostilities. In fact, I bet that Fungaloid base we just narrowly avoided was put there just to keep an eye on this system, in case the Borg returned!”
“That’s…” Laarthi adjusted her whiskers, “That’s actually not a bad line of reasoning,”
“Not Bizarro-World?” Boxer asked, “Maybe just Oddsville?”
Virgii thought for a moment.
“We should try contacting Starfleet,” he decided.
“Uh, you want to fire off a giant ‘HEAR WE ARE’ beacon near a planet that both the Borg and the Fungaloids have an interest in?” Mytim asked. She wasn’t really surprised, but she still had to ask.
“Of course,” Virgii said, “After all, I would bet that neither side is particularly eager to come back here,”
Rolling her eyes, Mytim began initiating the deflector sequence.
“We’re all going to die,” Crewman Mulans said quietly at the helm. “Or be assimilated, then die. Or die and be assimilated. Either way, it’s time to kiss my ass goodbye.”
Meanwhile, at the MIDAS array…
“This is the United Federation of Planets MIDAS array, how may I direct your call?” Crewman Heath said, tapping at his panel as the MIDAS array indicated an incoming transmission.
“I am Jorgal of the Kazon-Nystram!” an angry voice bellowed over the comm, “I challenge Voyager and your pathetic Federation to battle! Oh, and if you could bring some bottled water, that would be lovely,”
“Is it that stupid teenager from the Delta Quadrant?” Crewman Heath asked.
“Yeah, that Kazon kid again,” Stoff replied quietly. Then, speaking into the mic, “Look kid, I don’t know how you got this number…or the technology to call it, but stop calling! Voyager’s not going back to the Delta Quadrant to pick a fight with a kid! MIDAS array out!”
He hit the cut-off button.
“God, I hate working at this place,” Stoff muttered.
They barely had ten minutes of silence before the panel chirped again.
“Just ignore it,” Stoff advised.
“Naw, you know what bitch Ensign Chatebot has been lately,” Heath grumbled, “Starfleet Command, MIDAS array here! Beacon of hope to all the lost ships of the-“
“Yessssss,” a sibilant voice hissed from the speaker, “I’d like to order take-out, pleassssseee. Let’ssss start with two humans a la Nelok, an order of Vulcan nuggetsssss, and…um, can I get the Andorian without the antennassssss?”
“For the fiftieth time, we don’t deliver!” Heath shouted, slamming his fist down on the cut-off, “That’s it! I’ve had it! I’m not answering another call for the rest of this shift!”
“OK,” Stoff shrugged. They sat in silence for a moment.
“You still wanna make out?” he asked Heath.
“Maybe. Did they fix the holodeck yet?”
A few minutes later, as the deflector powered up, Mytim turned around in her seat and spoke quietly to Virgii.
“You know there’s a good chance that Fungaloid base is going to send ships here if they detect our deflector activity,” she said, “And their top warp speed is far beyond ours,”
“If they detect us, and if they decide to investigate,” Virgii said.
“They’ll know it’s us,” Mytim said, “And they want us…well, me, dead,”
“We’ll sort that out if they show up,” Virgii said.
“Or you could deactivate this dampener and let me plot a quantum slipstream jump, just in case,” Mytim replied.
“I doubt that will be necessary,” Virgii said, “But thank you for the offer,”
“But,” Mytim objected.
“No,” Virgii said firmly. There was a series of beeps from Laarthi’s panel.
“Deflector ready,” she reported.
“Mytim, activate the transmission sequence,” Virgii ordered, putting in his ear plugs.
“Of course, you obnoxious, self-righteous, stuck up, egotistical…wanker!” Mytim fumed as she stabbed at her controls.
“He’s sort of ugly, too,” Crewman Mulans offered.
“Belay that, crewman,” Mytim said.
“I didn’t hear anything, ma’am,” he agreed.
“We did,” Laarthi called as she put in her own ear plugs, “But we agree with you, so it’s all good,”
Once again, energy surged into the Roadrunner’s small navigational deflector dish. A low hum began to build as the device began transmitting, building into the ear-splitting screech as the power levels reached those necessary to send a signal across thousands of light-years. On the bridge, the officers (and one crewman) comfortably waited out the sequence. Unfortunately, nobody had thought to warn everybody below decks, and so all around the ship officers and crewmen alike were clutching their ears as the sound rang all through the small ship.
“USS Roadrunner to Starfleet Command,” Mytim spoke calmly into a noise-cancelling microphone, “Say again, this is the USS Roadrunner to Starfleet Command. Please respond.” She listed closely to her left ear, where the earplug had been fitted with a tiny speaker.
Ensign Chatebot stormed into the MIDAS operations center, a towel wrapped around her body and suds clinging to her arms and legs. The sound of a comm chime was ringing through half the outpost.
“What the hell is going on?” she demanded.
Stoff and Heath, their lips mere inches apart, jumped back to their consoles.
“Nothing! We’re not gay!” Stoff shouted.
“I had something in my eye!” Heath added.
“So not caring,” Chatebot snapped, “What I want to know is why the stupid comm panel has been ringing for the past five minutes!”
“Aww, it’s just another crank caller,” Stoff groaned, “I swear, whoever leaked this technology to the Delta Quadrant needs to be strung up and shot!”
“Just answer the damned call!” Chatebot ordered, turning to leave, “I swear, you two always wait until I’m in the tub to let the damned thing ring!”
Static crackled. Wait…was that a voice!?
“Starfleet Command, this is the USS Roadrunner,” she said again, “A malfunction in our quantum slipstream drive caused us to overshoot the Matrian star system by approximately eight thousand light-years.”
She paused and listened.
“Holy crap, I think this might be an actual stranded ship!,” a voice replied in her ear, “Ahem. Uh, we read you, Roadrunner-“
“Nobody would call a ship Roadrunner,” another voice came over the comm, “What’s next, is the Coyote going to call?”
“Shut up and look them up in the database! Um, Roadrunner, this is Starfleet Command. We are receiving,”
“Hey Stoff, there really IS a USS Roadrunner. Lost in space for months now. What do ya know?”
The signal abruptly cut out. Mytim yanked her earplugs out, remembering only at the last minute that she was wearing them for a reason.
Instead of the screech of the deflector, she heard only silence.
“I believe we have experienced a deflector malfunction,” she said calmly. What she really wanted to say was ‘The fucking thing broke!’, but that wouldn’t exactly be lady-like.
“We’ve got bigger problems, Lieutenant,” Virgii said, very quietly.
Mytim looked out the bridge window, just in time to see a wave of Fungaloid spore-ships drop out of warp, falling into formation with a group that had already arrived.
“Oh,” she sighed, “Here we go again,”
She grabbed onto her panel as Crewman Mulans pulled the ship into evasive manoeuvres.
“Shields are up, and I’ve powered up the weapons,” Boxer called, “But…y’know, there’s at least fifteen ships out there!”
“Get us out of here, maximum warp!” Virgii ordered.
“Belay that!” Mytim called out, “Take this dampener off and let me plot a slipstream jump!”
“And besides, at least in this solar system we can hide behind planets!” Mulans said. As if to prove his point, tapped the warp engine controls, sending the ship into warp drive. Almost immediately he hit the cut-off, then fired the impulse engines. The rest of the crew barely had time to scream before they found the Roadrunner falling into a nose-dive, right into a Jovian-type gas giant. The ship shook as it was buffeted by the gale-force winds, but that was an improvement over behind shaken by Fungaloid weapon hits.
“Nice piloting,” Boxer said, sounding amazed.
“I like living,” Mulans replied calmly. He turned his focus back to the helm console, tapping course adjustments as the Roadrunner was pulled one direction after another by the winds.
“OK, at least we’re not about to be destroyed,” Virgii said, “Which is a positive development. Now, I suggest that as we have ample time, we quickly break into brainstorming groups before re-forming into a committee to consider escape suggestions,”
“Did you hit your head?” Laarthi asked, “Isn’t it obvious? Let Mytim plot a slipstream jump, then get the hell away from here!”
“By the way,” Mytim spoke up, “We did get a reply from Starfleet that time around. So…y’know…we accomplished something,”
“Excellent,” Virgii nodded, “Any chance we can re-establish comms with them?”
“From the atmosphere of a gas giant?” Mytim replied, “No. Do try to think before you speak.”
“I’m going to write you up for insubordination!”
“Please, you still haven’t even figure out the disciplinary paperwork yet!” Mytime chuckled.
“Well…that’s the First Officer’s job anyway,” Virgii grumbled.
Mytim just smiled pleasantly.
“OK, fine,” Virgii reached out and tapped the override sequence into the Lupressa dampener on her wrist.
The next thing he knew, his whole world had gone white.
Down in the crew lounge, Cherri and Billings were picking themselves up off the deck following Mulans’ piloting acrobatics. Bits and pieces of replicator innards had been scattered around the room, and the stain on the housing had been replaced with a large dent, courtesy of Billings’ head.
“You ever get the feeling that the guys up on the bridge don’t really spend much time thinking about those of us down here?” he asked.
“What?” Cherri asked, rubbing her ears, “Sorry, can you say that again?”
The both clutched at the nearest table as the ship was buffeted by wind. Outside the small windows looking out of the crew lounge, clouds of hazy, orangish-red gas was whipping by. As they watched, the ship dropped several hundred meters, easing out of its dive in a slightly more greenish layer. The winds at this altitude were even harsher, but little did they know that Mulans had selected this altitude because it offered better protection from (most) sensors.
“So, I guess this means something’s gone horribly wrong again,” Billings grumbled, trying to push the dent out of the housing with his thumbs.
“Sort of strange that nobody bothered to call a Red Alert or anything,” Cherri said, using the slightly-too-loud voice of one who was struggling to hear clearly at the moment.
“Yeah, technically I should be ‘standing by for damage control’,” Billings had made his voice overtly officious, something like a mockery of Virgii. OK, exactly like a mockery of Virgii. “Waiting to get blown out into space because the bad guys managed to hit us while I was trying to weld shut a hole in the hull!”
“Hey, I know Boxer does everything he can to shoot back at the bad guys!”
“Right, right. You and your perfect little pup and your perfect little relationship,” Billings grunted, giving up on the housing and dropping into a seat next to the window, “Must be nice,”
Cherri sat next to him.
“It’s not perfect,” she said, “With men involved, it’s never perfect,”
“Do you know his idea of a romantic evening is?” Cherri demanded, “Sex in the shuttle. Do you know what his idea of a quiet evening in is?”
“Sex in his quarters,” Cherri corrected, “And don’t even ASK about ‘having a night out on the town’!”
“What…oh! YUCK!” Billings grimaced, “Is THAT what happened to the janitor’s closet on Deck Three?”
“Now, from what I hear, your attempt at a romantic dinner involved foods your culture generally associates with overweight people,” Cherri went on, “Which, you know, if you were MY boyfriend I would have walked right out. But Mytim at least stayed. So I think you’ve got a hope,”
“You really think so? Because we haven’t even had sex yet!”
Cherri rolled her eyes.
“Men,” she muttered, “Doesn’t matter what species you are, you’re completely clueless,”
“Hey, it’s not our fault women don’t come with a users manual!’
“I’ll make a deal with you,” Cherri said, leaning forward on the table, “I’ll do whatever I can to help you out with Mytim. And in return, you’ve got to pass some of this stuff on to Boxer. And do it quickly, because we’re running out of places on this ship to f….hey, what’s that?”
Billings looked out the window. At first he couldn’t see anything but clouds of gas. But then in the distance, he could make out a swarm of tiny dots. They seemed to be swarming around themselves at random, but after watching for a moment he could see that a stream of them was coming down from a higher altitude, circling for a moment, then rushing off in a variety of directions.
“Uh-oh,” Billings said.
Up on the bridge, Boxer and Laarthi regained consciousness simultaneously. Whatever had knocked them out had struck hard, and it had struck fast.
“Owwwww!” Boxer whined from the floor under his station.
“Don’t be such a…oh…” Laarthi clutched at her head as she stood up, “Oh, that’s not good,”
“Um, guys?” Crewman Mulans’s voice broke through the pain, “I know you’re hurting, but I’d really appreciate it if you could take a look at what’s going on behind me,”
Laarthi looked, only to find Strobnick and Virgii sprawled out on the floor, Mulans tapping at the help console.
And Mytim floating in mid-air above the command chair, her arms and legs spread out, mid-jumping-jack, and small sparks of energy jumping from the bulkheads to her outstretched limbs.
“Ohhh…that didn’t happen the last time,” Boxer said dumbly.
“There was some kind of pulse when Virgii turned off that thing on her wrist,” Mulans said, “The back of my chair blocked me, but everybody else has been out for ten minutes. Oh, and the Fungaloids are sending some kind of search-spore into the atmosphere of this gas giant, and I’m getting really bizarre readings from the planet itself. And since I’m just an irrelevant support character, I really need you guys to figure out it here!”
Laarthi was about to move to the science station, but she quickly realized that she did not want to interrupt the flow of sparks jumping to Mytim’s right foot. She returned to Boxer’s station, pushed him out of the way and quickly tied the scientific sensor array in with the tactical scanners. Boxer, in meantime, looked out the window.
“Neat,” he said.
Laarthi looked up, just in time to see several small, round objects wriggling through the atmosphere. Each one had several small spikes, similar colouring to the big Fungaloid ships, and a whip-like flagella that seemed to propel them.
“I saw those before,” Boxer said proudly, “They’re why contraceptives are important!”
“Swear by the Aviary, if there were no witnesses,” Larrthi hissed quietly. The spores things were easy enough to figure out, they were obviously searching for the ship. In fact, two had already clamped onto the hull and seemed to be in the process of sending out a signal. But Mulans had mentioned…there!”
“Look at this,” Laarthi frowned, “There are HUGE algae blooms in the lower atmosphere. We’re talking about millions of cubic kilometres of plant-based life in this gas giant!”
“It’s not a Fungaloid nursery, is it?” Boxer asked, “Cuz that would explain the spermy-ships,”
“That is THE most MORONIC…” Laarthi paused, “Well, maybe. Actually, that could be a very logical explanation,”
“Thank you,” Boxer smiled, looked pleased.
Laarthi bopped him on the head.
“NOW WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING USEFUL, LIKE FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET THEM OFF OUR SHIP!” she shouted.
“Ohhh, this can’t be good,” Billings said.
Right in front of them, one of the search-spores had clamped itself to the lounge window. The outer flesh had peeled away, revealing a series of dull, black eyes.
“I don’t think plants should have eyes,” Cherri said.
“I don’t think plants should attach themselves to our ship, either.”
“How do we get rid of it?”
“I dunno,” Billings tried banging on the window, “GO AWAY! SHOO!”
There was a series of sparks along the hull. The spore shook and quivered, spasming as the sparks ran though its body. After a few seconds it broke free and drifted off, already turning brown with death.
“Good job!”Cherri clapped him on the back.
“I don’t think that was me,”
Their eyes met. Suddenly, Billings became very aware of the soft touch of her hand on his back. Cherri, for her part, noticed him suddenly noticing.
He leaned forward, gave her a quick kiss on the nose, then moved back.
“I really needed a new, non-male friend,” he said, smiling.
“Oh good,” Cherri blew out a relieved breath, “I thought you were going to kiss me. Like, romantic kiss me,”
“Oh,” Billings bit his lip, “You’re, uh, great and all. But I don’t think I could get over the fur,”
“Good, because I don’t think I could get over your lack of fur,” Cherri shot back.
They hugged, then went back to work.
Mytim was floating. Floating on a cloud of infinity, as whiffs of whenever drifted by, carried by streams of roaring yesterday.
The power that had surged through her body the second the Lupressa-dampener had been deactivated had almost been too much for her to handle. There was LIFE incredibly close to her, vast quantities of pure life, all of its energy hers for the taking! She could feel millions, billions, TRILLIONS of tiny life-forms swirling in the lower atmosphere of the gas giant.
She’d found herself rocketing out of her body, out of the solar system, and nearly out of reality. Quantum slipstream jump? Hah! Plotting a jump to get the Roadrunner clear of the Fungaloid fleet and throwing it into the navigational computer took less than a second. She probably could have plotted them a course all the way back to Federation space, with only a few detours around high-variance space, but she had other things on her mind now.
When she’d been ‘nearly’ catapulted out of reality, the ‘nearly’ hadn’t been by choice. Instead, she’d felt herself pushed back…contained. There was no intelligence that she could discern in this other force. Rather than an adversary, it seemed more like a fence. And while the two Lupressa fragments deep within her burned to breach through it, she understood immediately that this was something she could only achieve with a full Lupressa, not with the mere remnants of the ancient, scattered race.
She felt a sudden ebbing in her power. Understanding that the greater realms of existence were closed to her, she drew herself back to the gas giant.
A great cloud of the algae-life, that closest to the ship, was dead. Even as she watched, the cloud of death doubled in size, the very life-force of the algae drained. Quickly, almost panicking, Mytim reduced her powers while at the same time trying to diffuse her draw; trying to take just a bit of energy from many of the blooms instead of ALL the energy from a few.
She noticed with immediate relief that the wave of death had stopped. The dead blooms quickly dispersed their numbers not significant given the sheer volume of the algae layer. Her energy source stabilized, Mytim returned her attention to the Roadrunner and to the Fungaloid fleet. She watched as the Fungaloids deployed thousands of tiny searches in the atmosphere, some of them attaching to the Roadrunner and presumably sending its location to the orbiting fleet.
There was an immediately surge of pure hatred from the Lupressa fragments. Hatred and fury, the likes of which Mytim had never experienced. What she’d felt before had been a mere taste! With the Lupressa fuelled by the gas giant, their waves of emotion flowed over her, washing away her calm, her coolness. She sucked the life out of the tiny spores swimming towards and around her ship, then turned her attention to the bigger fleet.
The Fungaloids must suffer.
“So,” Laarthi asked, back at her seat at the Engineering station, “Any suggestions?”
“You mean on what to do about our floaty science officer, all the sparks flying around, and the really big fleet ready to blow us up if we so much as twitch?” Boxer asked.
“Yeah, about that,” Laarthi nodded.
“No, not a clue. At least somebody’s flying the ship,”
“I’ve got to eat sooner or later,” Mulans said, “And I ain’t going anywhere with the Electric Woman standing behind me.”
As they spoke, the energy streams liking Mytim and the ship seemed to grow stronger. With a flash, a fifth stream shot out from chest, zipped past Mulans’ shoulder and speared right into the helm console. The ship shot ahead, pulling into a climb.
“I think she wants to drive now!” Mulans shouted.
Mytim knew almost insane rage as she reached out and took control of the ship, sending it on a direct course for the Fungaloid fleet. She could feel them as clearly as if they were right next to her, each a glowing ball of energy.
She tried draining the massive spore-ships the same way she’d drained the algae blooms, and the tiny search-spores, but met resistance. Even as the Roadrunner broke free of the gas giants atmosphere and drew closer to the enemy fleet, she found she could barely drain any energy off them.
Her link with the planet had weakened as well, without the atmosphere to help conduct the flower of energy. The rage faded to an inky black hatred, and she found that she could think just a bit more rationally again.
She quickly double-checked her escape route. Something…didn’t seem right. She reached back into the deeper subspace realms, and found that there was something very strange a mere five hundred lights years from the termination of the jump. Something that seemed to call to her. OK, so it would take the Roadrunner half a year off their direct course back to Federation space, but so what? They’d only be four years away at that point, and their progress so far had been thanks to her new abilities. They basically owed her one.
Adjusting the course laid into the navigational computer, Mytim barely pulled her attention back to the enemy fleet before they launched a spread of weapons fire. She focused on drawing energy from one ship, instead of trying to affect several at once. This time she was rewarded by a dull trickle of power. Much less than the fresh life-force from the planet, but she could still work with it. She twisted her metaphysical fingers, trying to rip a wider hole in the spore-ship’s resistance, and was rewarded with a surge of energy as it spurted like blood out of an open wound.
She immediately redirected the energy into a shield, obliterating the enemy attack. Unscathed, the Roadrunner flew close to her target spore-ship as it began to spasm in its death- throes, it’s hull/flesh turning a sickly brown as she sucked the juice from it as fast as she could, redirecting it into energy blasts that she flung at the other ships.
The Fungaloids would pay!
Virgii regained consciousness slowly, a great pain in his head.
“Don’t move,” a voice said.
“What is this?” he groaned, “A hijacking? Hostage-taking? I promise you, you will not get what you want! My crew will outsmart…um, well they’ll defeat you, anyway!”
“Thanks, boss!” a cheerful voice called.
“We’re not kidnappers!” the original voice said. He realised it was Laarthi.
“They why the whole ‘don’t move’ routine?” he asked slowly.
“Because if you’re not careful, your head will be incinerated by the energy surge about six inches from your nose.
Virgii’s eyes popped open, only to find himself facing the bottom of Mytim’s boot, which seemed (along with its owner) to be hovering above the deck. Sure enough, a constant stream of energy connected that boot to the nearest bulkhead.
Carefully, Virgii slid himself away from the bright, shiny lights and towards the aft of the bridge. Only once he was fully clear then he stood.
“What…” he started to ask, but when his gaze passed the bridge windows, his breath vanished.
The ship was flying through a Fungaloid fleet of over a dozen huge spore-ships and countless smaller vessels. One ship was already drifting away, brown and lifeless, while a stream of blue energy connected a second ship to the Roadrunner. As he watched, the spore-ship started to convulse. Bursts of red energy blasted out from the Roadrunner’s phaser arrays and splashed against enemy ships, while odd bubbles of green flung themselves against enemy weapons fire before it could get within a kilometre of his ship.
“Did I miss a memo?” he asked calmely.
“We don’t know what happened!” Boxer gulped, “Right after you turned off the dampener thingy we blacked out. When we woke up, she was all…glowy.”
“I think it’s safe to say she’s very pissed with the Fungaloids right now,” Virgii said.
“I think it’s fair to say she was hiding more from us than a couple of spellbooks and the ability to move houses around,” Laarthi added.
“In case anybody’s interested,” Mulans spoke up, still cringing away from Mytim’s connection to the helm console, “She did program in a slipstream jump before she went on this rampage. So all we have to do to escape is…calm her down? Enough that I can touch the helm again?”
“Well that’s easy,” Virgii said. He grabbed a padd from Laarthi’s station and, reaching around, stuck it in the energy stream between her body and the helm. The padd was immediately vaporized, with Mytim’s control of the ships apparently uninterrupted.
“You’re paying me for that padd,” Laarthi commented.
“It was worth a try,” Virgii shrugged.
“Hey! Mytim!” Boxer shouted, “Snap out of it! You’re being a very, very bad girl!”
Virgii shot an exasperated look in Boxer’s direction.
“It was worth a try,” Boxer said, deadpan.
“Somebody get me a Tylenol,” Virgii grumbled.
Billings and Cherri had managed productive work for about two minutes before their attention was once again drawn to the window.
“Did we get some upgrades that nobody told us about?” Billings asked, his mouth hanging open as a blast of energy, not a phaser beam but nonetheless originating from the Roadrunner’s weapons array, flung itself at a nearby spore-ship, blacking a part of the hull and causing the enemy ship to flinch away.
“I don’t remember anything like that at the engineering briefing yesterday,” Cherri said.
“Bridge to Billings,”
“Uh, Billings here. Hey, any idea why we’re suddenly throwing doomsday power at the baddies?”
“I am sure that if you came to the bridge, you will understand,” Laarthi’s voice replied, “And I suggest you hurry.
“On my way,”
“Bridge out,” Laarthi closed the channel. She clutched at her panel as the ship shook, hard.
“Fungaloid weapons blast,” Boxer replied, returning his attention to his console, “Shields are at 90%,”
Virgii looked back out the windows. Mytim was now draining her third Federation of Fungus ship, but her attacks against the enemy fleet had weakened. Her defences were weakening as well, with more and more shots making it past her weird green bubble-things and impacting against the Roadrunner’s shields instead.
Her control of the ship, however, remained absolute.
“Laarthi, any luck overriding the helm control?” he demanded.
“Not yet,” Laarthi called back, “She’s not using helm control, it’s like she’s interfacing directly with the propulsion systems!”
“Shields at 75%” Boxer called.
The bridge doors hissed open and Billings emerged.
“What the…Cindy?” he asked, staring at Mytim, “Oh my God!”
“Oh good,” Virgii said, “We’ve run out of ideas. Talk to her!”
“She’s your girlfriend!” Virgii snapped, “We’re out of options, and unless she magically destroys this entire fleet, pardon the pun, we’re going to be in a world of hurt! So woo her! Or at least get close enough to turn her dampener back on!”
“Oh hell,” Billings swallowed, “I can’t even get to second base, and you want me to…to stop a weird energy-being rampage??”
“How much harder can it be than dealing with PMS?” Boxer asked.
“Oh hell,” Billings swallowed again.
Mytim gasped for breath, metaphysically speaking. The Fungaloid fleet had drawn back from the planet, further weakening her connection to the life-essences stored in its lower layers. She had learned to draw as much energy as she could from the enemy spore ships, but she could still only affect one at a time, and their power was nothing compared to a planet of life. It was…stale? Dry?
And yet the hate, the fury, the sheer blinding rage of the Lupressa fragments within her continued to burn, drawing even further off her depleted reserves as they fought to fuel their hatred.
She drew deep from her target ship, the sensation very much like filling her lungs with air, then expelled her power at a smaller spore-ship, incinerating it as it was starting an attack run on the Roadrunner. The blackened wreckage/corpse was easily avoided as she sought her next target.
Mytim ignored the voice, her own voice screaming into the void as the urge to destroy ALL the Fungaloids burned through her body.
“Cindy! It’s Matthew! Please, I need to…um…can we talk? About our relationship? And I’m not saying that because I want us to break up! Oh shit, girls ALWAYS think it’s bad news when a guy wants to talk about the relationship. Lieutenant Boxer, that was a HORRIBLE suggestion!”
Mytim giggled, the resulting power surge blowing through the aft phaser array and knocking a Fungaloid ship off course. Her grip on her energy sources slackened slightly as she turned her attention to the bridge of the Roadrunner, and the tiny spark that was her corporeal form.
“Now, crewman!” Virgii’s voice, “The dampener!”
She felt an odd sensation on her left arm, then felt herself yanked back into her body, cut off from the planet, the Fungaloids, the Lupressa fragments, from almost everything.
As her power dissipated, the residual fury at the Fungaloids redirected itself, focusing on the traitor, the betrayer, the one who had distracted her from her task. The last of her energy blasted out, finding its target.
Then everything went black.
As Mytim collapsed to the floor, Virgii rushed to the command chair. Laarthi, with cat-like reflexes, shoved him to the side.
“WATCH OUT!” she snapped, then dived to the deck.
Ignoring her, Virgii shouted at Mulans.
“Engage slipstream!” he said.
Mere seconds before the full, combined weapons fire of the Fungaloid fleet hit home, the Roadrunner tunnelled deep into subspace and vanished.
“Oh thank the Crystal Waters that’s over,” Dr. Strobnick said, still lying on the deck.
“How long have you been awake?” Virgii asked.
“Long enough to know I was far better off staying down here, thank you,”
Unable to argue, Virgii turned to Laarthi.
“And I will ask you not to shove me around my own bridge, Lieutenant,”
“You almost stepped on Billings!” Laarthi retorted.
“Oh yes, where is the good crewman?” Virgii asked, “Seeing as how he saved our bacon and what-not,”
Laarthi held out her hand.
There, on her palm, sat a large, plump, green toad.
“Ah,” Virgii said, his eyes widening, “Well…bollocks.”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 59542.4:
“Well, despite having turned her lover into an amphibian and causing all manner of chaos with that assault fleet, it seems that Lieutenant Mytim may have done some good after all. We’ve remained in the slipstream for nearly two days, the longest we’ve used the drive since our first disastrous run out here. Our course is somewhat convoluted, from what we can tell, but even using the drive at such a low power level, Dr. Strobnick estimates that we may have shaved anywhere from two to five years off our trip home! Yes, we may be halfway back to Federation space!”
“In any event, we expect to exit the slipstream shortly. Hopefully the good Lieutenant has again managed to find us a nice, quiet corner of interstellar space for our arrival.”
“Sliptream drive shutdown in five minutes,” Lieutenant Laarthi reported from the helm, “Any idea when Mulans will be back from lunch?”
“You’ll do just fine,” Virgii assured her.
“It’s not that,” Laarthi said, “It’s just that he promised to bring me a tuna salad,”
“I think we have a problem,” Strobnick announced from the navigation panel.
“Well, I had assumed that Mytim had plotted an irregular slipstream trajectory in order to move us around high quantum variances in the region of space we’d been traversing,” the scientist explained, “Which is partially true. But I’ve been crunching the hyper-dimensional calculations, and I think she’s taken us off course,”
“Off…course?” Virgii’s good mood evaporated, “Don’t make me amend my log! Do you have ANY idea what kind of paperwork is involved in rescinding a log entry? DO YOU?”
“Well, we’re still much closer to Federation space,” Strobnick went on, “But we’re nearly five hundred light-years off a direct course,”
“Perhaps there’s some kind of spatial anomaly?”
“Or maybe her magic powers found something here that will help us!” Boxer suggested happily.
“Well, she hasn’t caused us any real harm yet,” Virgii said, “Other than Billings, and I’m sure she’ll be able to set him right again once she wakes up. Prepare to drop us out of the slipstream!”
Laarthi tapped at the helm. With a groan, the swirling blue and black tunnel of slipstream drive faded out, replaced by starlines. The Roadrunner shot into interstellar space.
Directly at a massive Fungaloid spore-ship.
“OH HELL!” Laarthi snapped, firing thrusters and trying to veer away. Boxer scrambled to get the shields up and Virgii, remembering this time, slapped the Red-Alert button on his chair.
Laarthi barely managed to bring the ship out of its post-slipstream deceleration before they crashed into the spore-ship. She pulled away, trying to get them onto a retreating course. The bridge crew held their breath, waiting for the ship to fire on them. Energy bolts and wriggly-torpedoes flew from the spore-ship.
But none of them were directed at the tiny Federation ship.
“What are…who are they attacking?” Virgii demanded.
As Laarthi brought the ship around, the Fungaloid’s target came into view. It was even bigger than the spore-ship, comprised of dark, forboding metal instead of spongy-looking hull-flesh, and shaped like a perfect cube. A green tractor beam shot out, shaking the Roadrunner as it caught the ship in an unbreakable hold.
The was a chirp as the communications system opened a channel.
“WE ARE THE BORG. LOWER YOUR SHIELDS AND SURRENDER YOUR SHIP. WE WILL ADD YOUR BIOLOGICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL DISTINCTIVENESS TO OUR OWN.”
The message seemed to pause.
“LATER. RESISTANCE…WILL BE FUTILE.”
With that, the Borg ship returned its attention to the Fungaloid vessle, stabbing out with its cutting beams.
“Um…OK,” Virgii said slowly.
“Sir,” Boxer called from tactical, “It’s not just two ships! I’m picking up…five cube ships, ten spheres, and nearly twenty smaller vessels! Along with nearly fifty spore-ships, from our size right up to that massive sucker we almost crashed into!”
“Ohhh, Mytim,” Virgii interlaced his fingers and leaned forward, “I hope you had a really, REALLY good reason for dropping us into the middle of a war,”