Author: Brendan Chris
Captain’s Log, USS Roadrunner, Stardate 59342.6, Lt Cmdr Virjii recording:
“Finding ourselves stranded years from Federation space with a severe staff shortage, I’ve taken full command of this vessel. We’re currently on course in the general direction of Federation space while Dr. Strobnik begins the process of repairing the quantum slipstream drive.”
“I’ve already told him ‘I told you so’, and plan on repeating the action every hour on the hour until we return home.”
“I’ve assigned Lt. Mytim to oversee modifications to our deflector dish that should allow us to send a message back to Starfleet, informing them of our new location and the fact that we’re still alive and require help. Hopefully, they can send another QS-equipped vessel to give us a tow back. According to Dr. Strobnick, the Roadrunner is one of three vessels intended to act as slipstream tugs.”
“Assuming he can get the bugs out of the system.”
“I don’t understand what happened,” Dr. Strobnik said, seated in the Roadrunner’s small conference room one deck below the bridge, “Our helm and navigational logs show that we were operating the drive at low levels. But the engineering logs show the drive was running close to 75%, hence the rougher than expected ride and the premature failure. There’s no sign of any malfunction in the control linkages. I just don’t get it,”
“Maybe somebody forgot to convert to Metric at one end?” Lt. Mytim suggested, trying to brush away a wisp of dark hair that was getting in her eyes.
Strobnik looked at a padd for a moment.
“Oh yes,” he muttered, “Somebody used the wrong measurement units in the engineering control software.” He looked around. “See? This is why you need to use graduate students instead of undergrads on major projects. At least now I can make my case to Starfleet R&D. But don’t worry; I’ll just have to make sure this is fixed in the next version-“
“WE’RE LOST IN SPACE BECAUSE ONE OF YOUR IDIOT DESIGNERS CAN’T DO MATH???” Virgii shouted.
“Well, they actually did the math, they just forgot-“
“We have a bigger problem,” Mytim cut in, addressing Virgii, “Your log is incorrect,”
He stared at her incredulously for a moment.
“I beg your pardon?” he asked.
“You stated you were recording the ‘Captain’s Log’,” she said, “That’s not right. You should change it.”
“I am in command of this ship,” Virgii said, “I’m the Captain, by convention if not by rank.”
“Correct,” Mytim nodded.
“I recorded the log after I assumed command of the Roadrunner,”
“Yes, you did,” Mytim nodded.
“Then what is the bloody problem?” Virgii demanded.
Mytim looked at him as though he were a simpleton.
“You should have said ‘Acting Captain’s Log,” she said, “It’s more accurate,”
“You’re dismissed,” Virgii said curtly, his face starting to turn red and his officious British accent becoming even more officious, “See to the deflector modifications, Lieutenant,”
“OK,” Mytim stood, shrugged and stepped out the door, “Don’t worry about the log, I’ll remind you later,”
Virgii’s left eye twitched. He took several deep breaths, then turned to Strobnik.
“How long until you can fix the quantum slipstream drive?” he asked.
“One week,” Strobnik said immediately, “Plus or minus 1.2 days, 19 times out of 20,”
“Really?” Virgii started. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. “That quickly?”
“That quickly if I have access to a shipyard, the entire crew compliment and all the parts and materials I need,” Strobnik clarified, “After all, we did rip off the lower quarter of the ring nacelle on our arrival here.”
“Can’t you just modify something else to do the job?” Virgii asked, his brief period of hope quickly fading.
“If you’d like to be torn apart at the quantum level, certainly,”
Virgii was almost afraid to ask the next question.
“And do we have the parts we need?” he asked, bracing himself.
“Oh yes, of course we do,” Strobnik nodded.
Virgii looked at him, surprised.
Strobnik looked uncomfortable.
“Well, one of my students did point out that the chances of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere due to a break-down were statistically significant,” he admitted, “So we were careful to ensure the Roadrunner was equipped with a nano-tech equipment replication center. We can manufacture any part we need, provided we have energy and raw material,”
“Repair time, assuming we find a hospitable planet to set down on?”
“Without a shipyard? Two months.”
“Well then,” Virgii stood, “Let’s start looking for a habitable planet. The sooner we get out of this region of space and back into familiar territory, the better,”
First Officer’s Log, Starbase Haven, Stardate 59343.2 Colonel Myress Abela recording:
“We have successfully accelerated the city to full impulse power and are en route to Matria Prime. A 90-degree x-axis rotation has shifted the city’s rim into our velocity vector, to better reduce the power needs of shielding the dome surfaces from micro-meteor fragments. Reactors 2 and 3 have been powered down as a result and due to low staffing levels-“
“Whoah, whoah, whoah,” Captain Elizabeth Simplot said, interrupting Abela’s carefully planned dictation, “That has GOT to be THE MOST boring log entry I’ve ever heard in my life!”
Abela turned slowly to face the shorter woman, the entire command center falling silent as the Matrian crew braced for impact. (Unlike the new Starfleet officers, they knew better than to interrupt a log entry.)
“And what,” she said dangerously, “was wrong with it?”
“Nobody cares about x-axis rotations and hull shielding!” Simplot said, “I don’t think the Admirals who read this stuff even understand what an x-axis is. Just tell them we’re flying the city back to Matria Prime and be done with it so I can go shopping!”
“One: the city does not ‘fly’. Flying implies the presence of gravity and an atmosphere. Two: if the city were in the presence of gravity it would crash rather spectacularly. Unless you could feed somewhat ridiculous amounts of power into its engine array. Three: you can’t go shopping, we don’t have any stores open yet,”
Simplot didn’t say anything.
“In that case, I’ll return to recording my log,” Abela started to turn away.
“Wait, no,” Simplot said quickly, “Sorry, you were boring me with the city stuff and I stopped paying attention.” Two of the Matrian technicians snickered knowingly, until Abela shot a glare in their direction. “And I’m taking a runabout to Matria Prime and shopping there. Do you want anything?” Simplot started making her way down the stairs leading out of the command deck.
“You’re leaving NOW?” Abela demanded, “Our shift doesn’t end for three more hours!”
“I know, but it’s already 1300 in Matronus,” Simplot said, “By the time I get there by runabout, I’ll be lucky if I can get four hours of decent shopping in,”
“So you’re just going to abandon your post to go buy…buy…what exactly?”
“I don’t know yet. Beside, I’m not abandoning it, you’re still here. Now do you want anything or not?”
“We’re still days from Matria Prime!” Abela sputtered.
“Not by runabout,” Simplot shrugged, “I can make a short warp hop in the Cataraquai and be there in under half an hour,”
Abela stared at her.
“What? There are warp-capable Matrian ships on board too. I checked. Your people can visit home whenever they want,” Simplot shrugged, “It’s not like we’re stranded in deep space, years from home. Don’t get mad at me if the idea didn’t cross your mind,”
“Nobody authorized that!”
“I’m authorizing it,” Simplot said, “Now, I’m going to run or I’ll be late,”
“And what about your security officer? The one that’s missed two duty shifts in a row now?” Abela demanded.
“You’re the First Officer; personnel matters are your job,” Simplot called back up, “In Starfleet, and in the Matrian Defence force. I even looked it up!”
Abela turned away, fuming.
“Well, don’t forget that I offered to get you something!” Simplot said, just as the turbolift doors closed.
Abela stood in the center of the command deck, fuming.
“You know,” Lt. Fissett said, “It’s my brother’s birthday in two days…”
Abela was about to open her mouth and tell Fissett to go to hell when a better idea crossed her mind.
“Send all your travel requests to the attention of Captain Simplot,” she said instead, “And circulate a memo to that effect to the ENTIRE staff,”
“All hundred and fifty of us?”
“It’s a start.”
“So this is what a Matrian antimatter reactor looks like,” Lt. Cmdr Josh Shurgroe said.
“Yes, yes it is,” Lt. Cmdr Wyer replied calmly, standing next to him.
The two men were in a large chamber beneath the city’s ‘ground’. Haven had three antimatter reactors providing power, evenly spaced around the center of the city just past the outer shore of the ring-shaped lake surrounding Downtown. Directly above each reactor was a large, windowless building that housed water filtration, waste processing and atmospheric recycling equipment for the vast, domed city. The reactor itself was fairly unusual: six pillars rose from floor to ceiling, each containing either matter or antimatter fuel conduits. Between them, stacked from floor to ceiling and connected to opposing fuel pillars via a pair of injector assemblies were three separate reaction chambers, the whole assembly reaching more than five decks in height.
“It’s a very r-r-redundant design,” Shurgroe noted, “You could take a reaction chamber off-line for maintenance without shutting down the whole core, you could blah, blah-blah, blah, yak, yak yak,”
Wyer had stopped paying attention to the other engineering officer, his eyes filled with the dancing blue and red light playing over the gleaming metal walls of the reactor room. It was beautiful, with a clarity that just screamed to him. Walking forward between the fuel pillars, he gently placed his hands on the lowest reactor core.
“H-hey,” Shurgroe said loudly, breaking him out of his reverie, “I said they had great safety mechanisms, I didn’t say it was a good idea to get up close and personal,”
“Hmmm? Yes, yes of course,” the Yynsian pulled back. “I don’t know what I was thinking,”
“Yeah well, neither of us should be worrying about this thing, but since Lt. Cmdr Virgii is missing in action, we’ve got to pick up the slack.”
“Of course,” Wyer nodded, “Unfortunately, the Matrians are no more familiar with Old Matrian technology than we are,”
Wyer had been assigned to head the Department of Dome Operations or DoDO, the Matrian group that was responsible for maintaining the environment and equipment in Haven’s domed city. All of the towering buildings that made up Downtown, the Suburbs and the Inner Rim were his responsibility, along with power distribution, atmospheric and weather systems, landscaping, public transit and everything else associated with maintaining a city. Shurgroe had been assigned to head the Department of Shipbuilding or DoS, which of course had jurisdiction over the six shipyards ringing Haven’s outer rim. Beneath the city itself, below the towers, buildings and the first couple of underground levels that connected them, was a labyrinth of engineering spaces, tram tunnels, government and departmental complexes and storage bays. The outer rim of the city itself, in addition to the shipyards, contained docking facilities, cargo handling facilities, public spaces, living quarters, research facilities and everything else you might expect in a space station. All of this was supposed to be handled by Lt. Cmdr Virgii and the Department of Maintenance Operations (DoMO); none of it was supposed to be their problem. But with Virgii and the rest of the Roadrunner’s crew MIA, Wyer and Shurgroe were getting shafted.
“Y-you’ve got the lucky end of this one,” Shurgroe said, wrapping his arms nervously around his sides, “The city is pretty much empty. I’ve got one shipyard already going on the Silverado rebuild, and I can’t even get the guys running it to let me in! The keep telling me it’s not my problem and to stay out of their hair!”
“You just have to be more assertive,” Wyer said, “Look, why don’t we find a pleasant place to have lunch and go over these design schematics, then you can worry about the shipyard first thing tomorrow morning?”
“Where can we eat? Nothing’s open yet!”
In the Roadrunner’s cramped navigational deflector control closet, Lt. Rex Boxer and Lt. Minn Laarthi were trying to maintain as much of a distance from each other as possible. Given the fact that the control room was more like a closet and that it was cramped, this wasn’t working out too well. But you may have already inferred that fact.
“Get your TAIL out of my FACE, dog!” Laarthi hissed.
“Get your FACE away from my TAIL, cat!” Boxer growled right back. His arm was elbow-deep in an open control panel. Laarthi shifted position, nudging Boxer who then accidentally brushed against an active power conduit.
“YEOOWOWEEEERRR!” Boxer yipped, yanking his arm out of the panel. “You did that on purpose!”
“I completely did not,” Laarthi replied haughtily, wrinkling her nose as the smell of burnt fur filled the air, “If I had wanted to, I would have done so while the power levels were high enough to kill you. Now hurry up and finish this, we have more important matters to discuss,”
“We do? Like what?”
“You think the quantum slipstream drive was sabotaged?” a voice said from the closet door. Laarthi spun around to find Lt Mytim standing there.
“Of course not,” Laarthi said quickly before Boxer could get a word in, “There was no evidence of that whatsoever. I was talking about Master Crewman Martell’s disastrous attempt at preparing breakfast this morning,”
“I see,” Mytim examined the nails on one hand, “How are you progressing? I realize Stellar Cartographers don’t usually do this sort of work, but we are short-staffed.”
Boxer’s hand again emerged from the panel, a fist-sized faceted gem gripped between padded fingers.
“The particle focusing crystal needs to be replaced with something with a sturdier crystalline structure,” he said, “But we can’t replicate one. If we start a crystal growth, we might have something usable in a couple of weeks.”
“We have a nano-tech replication system on board,” Mytim waved her hand. She must have spotted an errant hangnail or something, as the hand was immediately back in front of her face, “I’ll get authorization for you to use it,”
Squinting at her fingers, she wandered off.
“Well that didn’t work,” Laarthi mused, “Now how are we going to keep them from contacting Starfleet?”
Boxer and Laarthi, despite what the rest of the crew believed, were not Stellar Cartographers. They were actually Special Agent Boxer and Special Agent Laarthi of Starfleet Intelligence. Their overall mission was to carefully assess the Matrian Intelligence Team on Haven and to begin integrating them into Starfleet Intelligence. They’d also been told that somebody was planning on stealing the Roadrunner prototype, a tip that had been proven correct after Boxer had found an unknown device attached to the Roadrunner’s navigational controls. The device had been preparing to alter the Roadrunner’s course, presumably taking it to a location where the thieves or buyers or whatever were waiting to seize the ship. Currently, the remains of the gadget were hidden under Boxer’s bed.
“I don’t understand why you don’t want Virgii to contact Starfleet,” Boxer said.
“Because if Virgii can contact Starfleet, whoever is arranging this little theft will know where we are, and that their operative on board is still in action!” Laarthi snapped, “Of course, I don’t expect you to understand higher strategy or planned thinking!”
“Who’s people hunt in co-ordinated packs, and who’s people skulk around on their own most of the time?” Boxer countered, “But why don’t we just tell Virgii and Strobnik that somebody sabotaged the drive? As long as we’re the only two that know there’s a saboteur on board, we’re very vulnerable! Whoever is doing this could just decide to vent our cabins to space to silence us!”
“We’re already being silent!” Laarthi said, “And there are only twenty-six people aboard this ship. We will find the saboteur before long. Until then, we have to be sure that the Roadrunner stays out of contact and that the slipstream drive remains offline. And I know just how to do that,”
Boxer felt a growl in his throat. She made good points, but all this scheming and double-talk just reeked too much of feline thinking for his taste.
Lt. Cmdr Taylor Virgii was lying on his bed in his tiny quarters. The room was undecorated, as he’d only expected to spend a few days there. What possessions he’d been bringing to Starbase 341 were still stowed down in the small cargo hold, and he felt no need to dig them out and attempt to make his quarters homier. No, the only need he was really feeling at the moment was a strong desire to strangle Strobnik, along with whatever big-wig in Command had ordered this ridiculous ship into service.
“Boxer to Virrrgii,”
“Virgii here, and no Lieutenant, I haven’t had a chance to replicate any more MilkBones,” Virgii replied, not moving from his bed.
“Sir, there’s been an accident. We need you on Deck 4, Nano-Tech Fabrication,”
“This is how we…er, I found it,” Boxer said, fighting not to shift his eyes to Laarthi, “I’d come down to have a part fabricated for the deflector modifications, and it was already like this,”
The ‘it’ in question was a cylindrical pedestal about the size of your average café table. A matching overhead assembly came down from the ceiling, leaving a two-meter gap almost like a wide transporter pad. Unlike transporters (or replicators) the nano-tech system used an army of billions of microscopic robots to assemble components or parts too delicate, fragile or exotic for replicators. The nano-tech system was still in the prototype stages, based on more technology brought back by Voyager. And, at the moment, it was smoking and sparking.
Virgii pulled off a side panel. A round object, no more than six inches in diameter, fell out. It’s surface was crispy and charred, but when it hit the floor a thick, gooey substance started oozing out.
Boxer sniffed at it carefully, though of course he knew what it was. He’d put it there.
“Jelly donut,” he announced.
“We’ve lost the ONLY way we have to repair the QS drive because SOME IDIOT put a DONUT in an ACCESS PANEL?” Virgii shouted.
“It happens more than you’d think, sir,” Laarthi spoke up, “It was probably left there by a construction crew. Common problem.”
Virgii clenched his fists.
“I’m going to kill Strobnik,” he snapped, turning to leave.
Boxer and Laarthi, the real pastry perpetrators, started to sigh in relief.
“Oh, and Lt. Boxer,” Virgii turned back, “You’re now Chief of Security until we get back to Starbase 341. Congratulations. Lt. Laarthi, consider yourself Chief Engineer,”
“But I don’t know anything about-“ Boxer and Laarthi said together.
“Not relevant,” Virgii cut them both off, “We now have no way to contact Starfleet, no way to repair the QS drive and possibly years of travel time ahead. You’ll learn.”
“That worked perfectly,” Laarthi said, rubbing her hand-paws together, “You are now in a perfect position to search for our saboteur, and I can be sure we don’t get back too quickly,”
Boxer tried and failed to stop a small whimper from escaping.
“Don’t be such a kitten!” Laarthi hissed, “We have a mission to complete. And unless the crew on this ship are exceptionally incompetent, they’ll have this fabricator back up and running in a week or two,”
Boxer said nothing, just turning to leave. He wouldn’t say it to Laarthi, but with the Roadrunner lost in space Virgii was now the closest equivalent to a ship’s Captain that they were likely to get. Which also, in Sheppian terms, made him the leader of the pack.
And deceiving his pack leader was not going to be easy.
Thousands of light-years away and a day or so later, Colonel Abela was standing in the Command Tower’s Principle Conference & Observatory Deck wondering just where the hell everybody was. Located at the very center of the city, the Command Tower was a thick, tapered tower stretching from the top of the Transit Hub right to the Command Complex and the dome itself. Attached to the central tower were six shorter towers containing offices, research laboratories, workstations, analysis rooms and everything else that might be needed to run the city. A further six towers also stood atop the Transit Hub, containing residences and guest facilities. The whole assembly along with a dozen or two surrounding towers and buildings reached to the edges of the small island and was generally referred to as Downtown. The Conference & Observatory Deck was near the top of the central tower. The circular level had been divided into three sections; an executive conference room with red and black marble paneling, crystal chandeliers and centuries-old Matrian artwork, a similarly-decorated dining room with cabinets of fine china and crystal glassware, and work/study room with overstuffed leather chairs and a holographic fire-place. It was the kind of place that business moguls like Bradley Dillon would have appreciated, possibly the kind of place they’d want in their own headquarters buildings. It had been painstakenly designed not only to serve as a meeting place for the orbital habitat’s senior administrators, but also a place to impress visiting dignitaries and guests.
And, at the moment, it was empty.
On the inner wall of the conference room the wood-and- glass style turbolift doors rolled aside and Lt Cmdr Wyer stepped quickly out.
“Good morning, Colonel,” he said immediately, “We were trying to get from our temporary quarters to the nearest tram station when we…Josh?” he looked around. “I swear he was taking the next lift,”
Next to the turbolift doors an old-style hinged door leading to the dining room clicked open, revealing Lt. Cmdr. Shurgroe.
“S-S-S-Sorry,” he said, “I said conference room, but I guess the elevator shaft I was in only goes that…um…sorry,”
“Oh, think nothing of it,” Abela said calmly, “After all, it would be foolish of me to expect any of you pampered Starfleet types to be on time…” she trailed off. “Yes, Lt Cmdr Shurgoe?”
Shurgroe had raised his hand.
“If we’re late, where are the Matrian crewpeople?” he asked.
Abela blinked. Where indeed? She’d gotten so worked up over the missing Starfleet officers that she’d completely missed the fact that her own people hadn’t show up yet either.
The doors hissed open again and Lt Franches, Chief of the Haven Civil Protection Team stepped in, his loincloth swinging in the breeze and the various beads and leather straps on various body parts rustling with every moment.
“I tried looking for that Starfleet man, but he…oh…am I early?” he said.
“You’re late,” Abela said.
“Actually,” Wyer looked from his wrist chono to the ornate, hand-made Matrian clock that rested on one cabinet, “He is early. We all are. Your clock is running fast,”
Abela blinked again as the doors hissed open again revealing Lt Fissett and Major Jakerd, officers of the Department of Research & Knowledge (Sciences) and the Department of Maintenance Operations (Engineering/Ops) respectively. The doors to the work/study room opened and Dr. Annerson stepped out.
“This place is like navigating a maze,” she complained.
“Hey, HEY!” Abela snapped as Fanches sat in one of the high-backed chairs, “What did we discuss?”
“Yes, yes,” Fanches stepped to a storage cabinet and pulled out a towel, which he then placed over the leather seat before sitting.
“Loincloths and sweat don’t mix with leather,” Abela explained, taking her seat, “Now, if our brave leader will show…”
The doors opened yet again and Captain Simplot emerged, arms laden with packages.
“Wow, they had some GREAT deals going on!” she said, waddling into the room, “Colonel, you don’t know what you missed! We started at Matronus, then we just kept jumping cities to keep in business hours.” She reached the table and opened her arms, letting a pile of packages spill onto the table, “By the way, the rest of it’s being delivered later today,”
“And you didn’t leave all this at your quarters why?” Abela asked tightly.
“I wanted to show you what I found!” Simplot said, rubbing at her red and slightly baggy eyes, “Lookit this!” she pulled out a small humanoid statue with squid-like legs and six breasts, “Won’t this look great on an end-table?”
Fanches and Abela immediately looked away.
“That,” Abela said, “Is a sacred idol to the goddess Hasura, and it’s blasphemous to display it in public OR in private or ANYWHERE OTHER THAN A SHRINE!”
“Oh, really?” Fissett cocked her head.
“Look away!” Abela snapped.
“OK, ok,” Fissett and Jakerd obeyed. Due to the nastiness of a century or two or war and suspended hibernation, most Matrians were largely unfamiliar with their historic culture. Abela, having lived before the war, and Fanches, having been part of a tribe of Matrians that managed to preserve the old ways, were somewhat more knowledgeable.
“You should tell the vendor that, then,” Simplot said, still holding the idol.
“PUT THAT AWAY!” Abela snapped.
“Right, sorry,” Simplot tucked the statue back into a bag and sat at the table, “So, what’s new?”
Abela took a breath, then started to speak.
“You know, I really think we need to change some names here,” Simplot started talking again before Abela could get a word out, “I mean, ‘Haven Command Complex’ is such a pain to say. Can’t we just call it Ops, like any other starbase? And this place…do you know how hard it’s going to be to put ‘Command Tower Principle Conference and Observatory Deck’ in the subject line of a memo? How about ‘The Sky Deck’, or ‘Observations’ or something catchy? Any ideas? And what the heck is ‘Spaceside’ anyway??”
“It’s the outside edge of the outer rim,” Shurgroe piped up, “You know, with the docking bays, the shipyards, and the living quarters that look into space instead of into the city,”
“ENOUGH!” Abela shouted, startling everybody, “YOU WILL NOT RENAME ANY PART OF MY CITY!” she took several deep breaths, “I saw this place built, I oversaw the design and I will not have the work of those people, rest their souls, disrespected like this!”
“Wasn’t the place built hundreds of years ago?” Wyer asked, trying to keep his tone as polite as possible.
“I spent hundreds of years going between being frozen in a stasis tube and watching my people destroy themselves and their culture,” Abela snapped, rising from the table and resting both hands on the surface, “I gave an entire lifetime to see that one day this city would be a beacon of hope to the people of Matria Prime and a showcase to every piece of the old culture and lifestyle they lost! And I will NOT see that dream ripped apart by a group of incompetent Starfleet boobs!”
She started walking angrily towards the door.
“We will reconvene once YOU,” she pointed at Simplot, “Have rested enough that you don’t look like you’re going to fall over. And WHERE THE HELL IS THAT STARFLEET SECURITY CHIEF? He’s IGNORED every one of my CALLS!” She’d reached the turbolift and turned back, “You will find him and straighten this mess out!”
With that, she stepped into the turbolift. The doors hissed shut, leaving a speechless room.
“Well,” Simplot swallowed, “I mean, that is…um.”
She looked around, then swallowed again.
“Dismissed?” she shrugged.
“The situation is completely unacceptable,” Colonel Abela said, facing a communications screen in her small office just off the command complex, “They’re undisciplined, culturally ignorant and frankly I don’t see how they’re supposed to help us learn whatever it is we’re supposed to learn in order to earn Starfleet commissions. Seeing them work, I’m not even sure I want a Starfleet commission!”
The screen was split between two people: Queen Anselia, leader of the Matrian Republic and Christopher Stafford, Captain of the USS Silverado and the man who had helped Abela, Anselia and several others find, activate and launch Haven some months ago. Silverado was at the moment undergoing a complete tear- down and rebuilt in Haven’s #3 Shipyard, an effort intended to teach Matrian shipbuilders about Federation technology and construction methods.
“We must take some responsibility,” Anselia said, lowering her eyes momentarily, “We had some…confusion with getting Haven staffed, and we fear that in our haste We may have accepted officers that weren’t quiet right for the role. However, it is too early to take action. Later on, if they do continue to truly prove incompetent, We can contact Starfleet and discuss-“
“Whoah, hey,” Stafford cut in, “You’re talking about replacing them already?”
“Only if absolutely necessary,” Anselia said, “You must know that Colonel Abela is one of our most trusted military members,”
“Yeah, I know but…look, Simplot commanded a ship for two or three years. She might have some quirks, but she’s seen things and done things that nobody in the Matrian Republic has done!”
“Like what?” Abela said, “I have her record…her ship spent two years running fool’s errands inside your borders! And then it exploded!”
“It exploded because she sacrificed it to save Haven! You’ve got to give her a chance,” Stafford insisted, “Look, I don’t really like to talk about this, but when I took command of Silverado, we were generally regarded as a…what did you call them? A group of incompetent Starfleet boobs. Our first mission to Matria Prime was delayed weeks because our plumbing exploded…and all that happened because Jeffery disconnected the toilet in my ready room! We crashed half our ship into a planet-museum thingy, got stuck in an alternate universe and somehow managed to get the gravity field in the ship stuck on ‘sideways’ during a drive test.”
Anselia was biting back a giggle.
“And you were accused of using date-rape drugs during the Silverado/Matria Prime Sports Day,” she added.
“Which I wasn’t, by the way,” Stafford said, “That was more embarrassing for your law enforcement than it was for me,”
“All this aside” Abela cut them both off, “I would prefer if yourself or Dr. Wowryk came to take command until Starfleet can send us replacements.”
“Not yet,” Anselia said immediately.
“Yeah, I’m not comfortable with that idea either,” Stafford said slowly.
“And why?” Abela demanded.
“Because we already agreed, for good reasons, that the Silverado crew is staying around Shipyard 3 and out of your hair until we can leave,” Stafford said, “If we stick our fingers in your business now, it’s just going to make it harder for you when we leave,”
“And this is our first effort in working with a new group of off-world officers,” Anselia said, “We will not go whining back to Starfleet like a little boy who doesn’t like his birthday gift. We, by which we mean you, will find a way to work with Captain Simplot and her team. That is our final word on it, for the time being.”
“By the way,” Stafford spoke up, “Did you ever get the lake stocked? I’d love the chance to do some fish-“
Abela slammed one hand down on the panel, cutting off the signal.
This, she mused angrily, was not good.
Aboard the Roadrunner, Agent Boxer sat in the cramped dining hall. The dining hall was located on Deck 2 with a pair of small windows looking out at the stars as they streaked by. The ship was on course towards Federation space at warp 6, her sensors searching for a suitable planet to set down on to make repairs. Boxer picket at his grrrennttthhh rump, the bloody haunch of meat just never tasted the same when it came out of a replicator.
“Lt. Boxer? I was told to meet you here?”
Boxer had smelled the other crewmember the second he’d approached the table. Human, male and nervous.
Boxer glanced down at his padd.
“Crewman Billings, is it?” he asked, “Sit.”
The tall, gangly human across from Boxer. Boxer took a sip from his mug of gravy then looked Billings carefully in the eye.
“Do you know why you’re here, Crewman?” he asked.
“Um, you’re the new Security Chief, and you want to meet everybody,” Billings replied.
Good. That’s exactly the story Boxer had told Virgii when he arranged for these crew interviews.
“When did you first learn of the Quantum Slipstream project?” Boxer asked.
“Um…um…not until after I was assigned to the Roadrunner. I’m just a life-support technician!” Billings said, “I don’t know anything about the drive!”
“And how long have you known Dr. Strobnick?”
Boxer dropped his padd.
“The scientist responsible for the Roadrunner Project,” Boxer said.
“Oh. The dark guy who goes invisible. Don’t know much about him.”
Boxer restrained a growl. Billings was either an idiot, or was trying to pretend to be one. Next!
“That is all,” Boxer dismissed the crewman. On to the next possible saboteur.
A few tables away, Agent Laarthi was seated with Lt. Mytim. The two females were just finishing up their meals; Mytim a chicken caeser salad and Laarthi an assortment of sashimi.
“That dog has no idea what he’s doing,” Laarthi grumbled to herself.
“Hmmm?” Mytim looked over to where Boxer was being joined by yet another in the string of crewmembers being interviewed. “He’s having a chat with the crew. Standard procedure.”
“Yes, but he’s…oh, nevermind!” How could Laarthi describe her frustration without blowing her cover? “I guess I’m just stressed over this Chief Engineer thing. I don’t know anything about half of the technologies on this ship,”
“Neither do the rest of us. Don’t worry, Strobnick will take care of most of it,” Mytim replied.
“Hmmm,” Laarthi’s eyes narrowed as she continued watching Boxer.
“I’m surprised you’re not more worried about our situation,” Mytime said,
“Our…oh yes,” Laarthi put a depressed look on her face, “It could be worse. We’re only eight or nine years from the Federation, and we’ll probably have the QS drive repaired long before then,”
“Maybe,” Mytim said, staring at her plate, “We haven’t even had the chance to look around this part of space. Voyager was attacked by the Kazon in less than a day. Aerostar was attacked by the Flarn just as quickly. Every ship that’s been stranded far away from home has either barely survived hostile aliens, or has never been heard from again. And we’re in a pretty small ship,”
Laarthi thought about the fried nano-fabrication unit and felt a twinge of guilt.
“We’re the only ship that’s been thrown far from home AND been equipped with an advanced drive system,” she reminded Mytim, “And besides…where the hell is that dog going NOW?”
Mytim looked surprised as Laarthi glared at Boxer, who had packed up his padds and was leaving the dining hall.
“Never mind,” Mytim muttered, gathering her dishes and getting up to leave, “I guess I’ll just wait until Virjii sticks somebody with the counsellor’s job,”
“With what’s happened so far, you’d probably get stuck with it,” Laarthi said, still eying Boxer and completely missing Mytim’s cues.
“I need a hot soak,” Mytim said, walking away.
Back on Haven, Simplot had gathered Shurgroe, Annerson and Wyer in her apartment. She’d chosen to live in one of the apartment buildings in Downtown Haven, close to the Command Tower and the Transit Hub. Her unit was positioned in such a way that she could see the city and the stars outside the dome towards the one side of her broad windows and several other downtown buildings out the other. She hadn’t actually decorated yet, so the suite still contained only the standard furniture all the units seemed to be equipped with: A bluish couch, a slate-surfaced coffee table and a couple of random reproductions of Old Matrian artwork.
“We really messed up with Colonel Abela,” Simplot said, pouring glasses of bluish Matrian wine she’d bought on her shopping trip, managing to casually pour a few drops of Shurgroe’s medication in his glass, “I mean, we REALLY messed up. All those lessons they taught us at the Academy about learning about a culture before you start dealing with it? Right out the window,”
“Half of her own people didn’t know about the statue,” Annerson rolled her eyes, “She’s just a bitch,”
“Maybe,” Simplot said, “But we have to work with her for the next few years. More than that, we’re supposed to be teaching her about how Starfleet does things. So we need to fix this,”
“Get a better crew out?” Wyer suggested, “I mean, no offense to you, but I’ve looked over the Stallion’s mission reports. You’re not exactly the cream of the crop,”
Simplot looked offended. Shurgroe and Annerson giggled.
“Yeah, we know,” Annerson said, “But we got the job done,”
“M-most of the time,” Shurgroe stuttered.
“Drink your wine, Josh,” Simplot said absently, “You’ll feel better,”
“Has anybody asked yet why Abela’s security man runs around in a loincloth?” Wyer asked suddenly, “Or for that matter, why is she in command if most of her career took place two hundred years ago? Do you not get the sense that perhaps the Matrian officers we’ve been given are less than adequate?”
“Haven wouldn’t be here without her,” Shurgroe said, his eyes glassing over as he set down his empty wine glass, “According to her file she supervised its construction, she hid it, she watched her people fall into a century of war and she made sure that the people who launched Haven weren’t going to use it for something stupid,”
“But I’M the one in command,” Simplot said firmly, her attention returning to the matter at hand, “Which means SHE doesn’t storm out of a meeting, I storm out of the meeting!”
“Go tell her that,” Annerson suggested.
“You’re right,” Simplot said, setting down her glass and rising to her feet, “I’m going to march to that elevator, ride down to ground level, walk all the way to the Transit Hub, wait for a train, ride to the other side of downtown, go all the way up to her suite and demand that she show me the respect I deserve!”
By the time she finished the sentence Simplot was already at her front door. She suddenly spun around.
“Actually, that sounds like too much work. Besides, I have a better idea. Who knows how to get into the Old Matrian cultural database?”
Nobody said anything.
“Then we’re going to figure something out,” Simplot said firmly, “Something classy…dignified. Something that even Abela can’t stick her nose up at!”
“That was an absolute fiasco,” Colonel Abela said. She’d gathered Lt Fissett and Maj Jakerd in the Principle Conference & Observatory Deck’s conference room. To be known from this point forward as ‘the conference room’, unless otherwise indicated.
“Don’t look at me,” Fissett said, raising both hands over her head, “I was at the meeting on time! I didn’t say anything,”
“And I hate it when people fight,” Jakerd cringed.
“I know,” Abela said, maintaining her dignity, “And I’ll admit that perhaps I overreacted a bit. That’s why we’re going to extend the olive branch to the Starfleeters. We’re going to show them that we’re willing to work with them…at least until everybody is convinced that we can take care of our territory by ourselves,”
“We can’t” Fissett pointed out quietly, “The Qu’Eh invasion proved that,”
“Which is why Starfleet is here,” Abela admitted, “But we have to look at the big picture. Five, ten years down the road and Haven will be a major shipyard and Federation stronghold in this sector. And once we have our own people trained and enough ships to defend our space, we can make sure it’s a Matrian officer that runs this place and Matrians serving on Starfleet ships stationed in this sector. The same has happened to dozens of Federation worlds, and I must admit, makes its member worlds all the stronger. But until then, we need them,”
“So what are we doing?” Jakerd asked.
Abela checked her chrono, then gestured at the doors. After a moment they rolled open.
“I’d like you to meet my husband, Craigan,” Anselia said, introducing the slim, blond Matrian male that walked in from the turbolift, “Craigan spent several weeks working with Starfleeters, and he’ll be helping us plan an event to help us bond.” Abela’s eyes narrowed, “What we require now is a plan. A carefully thought out plan that will ensure our success!”
“Based on the last Starfleeter’s I worked with, we need something messy,” Craigan said, “Something with a lot of drink, a lot of loud music and as little pomp and ceremony as possible.”
“The sacrifices we make in the line of duty,” Fissett sighed.
Agent Laarthi carefully concealed herself next to the Jefferies tube hatch on Deck 3, just within view of Boxer’s quarters. She’d followed his progress by computer after he’d left the mess, though he’d just gone to the cramped workout room before returning to his tiny cabin. She’d expected him to do something stupid once he was made Security Chief, but really…interviewing the whole crew right after a barely explained ‘equipment malfunction’? He may as well get on the comm-net and announce that he was looking for a saboteur. Now he’d made himself a giant target, and Laarthi was convinced that the real saboteur would be showing up anytime now to make sure Boxer was silenced…permanently.
Half an hour passed, and there was still no sign of the saboteur. Fourty-five minutes, an hour. An hour and a half. Two hours.
As her chrono approached midnight, Laarthi began to consider that maybe the saboteur wasn’t going to be killing Boxer that night. She was getting ready to leave an observation device instead when she heard a slight creak in the ceiling above her.
The ventilation ducts! Of course! The saboteur was part of a scheme to seal a Federation prototype ship, not a run-of-the mill crook. He wouldn’t do anything obvious like walk up to Boxer’s door and shoot him. But gassing him, or flooding his room with radiation? That sounded a bit more like it.
Laarthi briefly toyed with the idea of just letting Boxer get himself killed. One less stinky mutt in the universe and all that. But…then she’d be stuck hunting the saboteur on her own. And she had to admit that letting her partner get killed on their first assignment would look REALLY bad on her performance review.
With that little tidbit, she bolted for Boxer’s door and slammed in the override code that would bypass his door lock. The doors hissed open and she jumped in-
-only to bounce off a force-field that sprang up two feet into the room! The lights came on full and Boxer spring up from his bed, a control unit in one hand.
“NOW I’VE GOT YOU!” he snarled, wrapping his other hand around his phaser and pointing it right at Laarthi’s head.
Laarthi turned to bolt back out of the room, but another force-field had sprang up across the doorway.
“I’m going to be killed by somebody who still enjoys public urination,” she groaned, offering a quick mental prayer that her soul would be taken to the Celestial Aviary, to spend eternity pouncing on seagulls and other fowl deserving of eternal punishment.
“You stupid…of all the…WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” Boxer demanded angrily.
“I’m here to save you!” Laarthi snapped.
Boxer cocked his head, one ear flopping forward while the other stayed perked up.
“Really! Why am I in a cage??”
“Because I was trying to trap the saboteur!” Boxer exclaimed, “Why else would I go around interviewing people and making a target out of myself!”
“Because you’re the idiot!”
“Says the cat stuck in a cage!” Boxer taunted.
“Don’t you…” Laarthi cocked her head, “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Boxer’s ears perked up, “You mean that hissing sound, like somebody’s flooding the room with…with…”
“GAS!” Laarthi shouted, “Turn off the force-field!”
“The…right!” Boxer grabbed at his control unit and started tapping. Nothing happened.
“Boxer, anytime now!” Laarthi snapped, still inside the cage.
“My security code isn’t working!” Boxer said, his words becoming slurred, “It’s not…it’s not…”
He started slumping over. As he did, the vent cover near the bed clattered to the floor and a slim figure in an environmental mask emerged.
“Two for the price of one,” the figure said, pulling a Starfleet phaser out of a hip holster.
Laarthi reached for her own weapon, only to realize that she couldn’t attack the saboteur as long as the force-field was up. And vice versa. Boxer, however, was unprotected.
“What do you want?” Laarthi demanded.
“This ship,” the figure replied simply, “And once you and your pup are out of my way, it will be so much easier,”
“So you poison us?” Laarthi was again grateful for the force-field, though if the gas in the room were fatal Boxer was probably dead or dying. There had to be some way to get at her! “The quantum slipstream drive is worthless without the stabilizer thing,” she tried, “Why bother?”
“Don’t bother trying to understand,” the figure shook her head. She nudged Boxer with one toe, then rapped a knuckle impatiently against the window, “Now shut up long enough for me to shut down that field and kill you,”
Laarthi was staring at the window. Too bad the Roadrunner wasn’t an old ground vehicle. Then she could just roll down the window and hope the saboteur would blow out like an annoying bug. On the other hand, she was Chief Engineer now…
“Computer, reduce power to port structural integrity field, Deck 2, Cabin 3 by 50%, authorization Laarthi encreti barla bextra,” she snapped.
The hull immediately began creaking, the strains of faster- than-light travel too great for mere metal to withstand. The saboteur’s head snapped around, seeing immediately what Laarthi had done.
“Laarthi to Bridge!” she snapped, “Beam Boxer and I out of his quarters, NOW!”
“You bi-“ the saboteur started. The last thing Laarthi saw as the beam took her was the window breaking free of its mounting as the air rushed out of the cabin.
Laarthi and Boxer materialized on the Roadrunner’s tiny transporter padd. Laarthi immediately turned to her partner, relieved to see he was still breathing. In fact, he was already stirring. Whatever that mix was, it was clearly intended to knock Boxer out until the saboteur could do who-knows-what to him.
“I trust you have an explanation for why we had to beam you out of a cabin that breached to space because of a computer override?” Lt Cmdr Virgii asked calmly from behind the control console.
“My mistake,” Laarthi said quickly, “The hull was making weird noises, so I went to increase power, but I got the command mangled,”
“You were both nearly killed,” Virgii said, “Hardly an auspicious start to your term as Chief Engineer.” Boxer was rolling over now.
“And I apologize,” Laarthi said. Mytim’s words from before suddenly came to her, “It’s just that…we’re so far from home. I was having a hard time concentrating.”
“Yes, well,” Virgii sighed, “Not much we can do about that now, what? So why don’t you drag Lt. Boxer to some temporary quarters. We’ll patch up his window as soon as we find a suitable planet to set down on,”
“Where am I?” Boxer slurred, “Did we get him?”
“Shut up, you mutt,” Laarthi muttered as Virgii stepped briskly out the room.
“I swear this is the right address,” Shurgroe said, eyeing a padd and looking at the buildings around him, “Can anybody see 364 Ring Road? Or whatever Ring Road translates to in Matrian?”
“This city needs better maps,” Annerson said.
“Agreed,” Wyer nodded. “Oh. Wait. That would be my job then, wouldn’t it?”
“Way to go, DoDO,” Shurgroe cracked.
“Mind your manners, DoS!” Wyer shot back.
Annerson raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“Department of Dome Operations,” Shurgroe pointed at Wyer.
“Department of Shipbuilding,” Wyer pointed back at Shurgroe.
“What does that make me?” Annerson asked.
“Department of Hospitals? DoH?” Shurgroe suggested.
“Department of Medical Practitioners?” DoMP?” Wyer wondered.
“Never mind,” Annerson shook her head, “Now, about that address?”
They had just stepped off the tram, which had taken them out from the Transit Hub, over the lake and partway to the Outer Rim before turning off onto the ring-shaped track that circled through the Suburbs. The buildings running along the track were shorter and smaller than the towers that made up much of Haven’s skyline, almost like a commercial shopping district, or an area where apartments and condos gave way to larger single homes. Whatever the case, they’d input their destination into the tram and this was the neighbourhood they’d been dumped off in.
“I think we have to get a block closer to the lake,” Simplot spoke up, “The place we’re using is supposed to be a rooftop facility.”
The found a cross street and started walking. Sure enough, one of the buildings running along the next circular street inward had the address they wanted. The building had three curving towers with outward facing windows surrounding a central column, atop which was perched another, pod-shaped tower. The windows were dark, as the tower was in a deserted part of the city, but Wyer had already re-routed power back into the area. Finding their way in, they rode an elevator to the top floor.
“Now, the caterers are coming up from Matria Prime in two hours,” Simplot said, “And we managed to talk some of the officers from the shipyard into serving as waiters. We’ve got somebody from that Franches jungle security tribe thingy coming to brief us on Old Matrian etiquette. So I think we have our bases covered, right?”
“As long as the room works,” Annerson said, “I still don’t see why we couldn’t use the fancy dining room in the Command Tower.”
“Because then Abela would find out, and the whole surprise would be ruined,” Simplot said, “We screwed up pretty badly today,”
“By ‘we’ I assume you mean ‘you’,” Wyer said dryly.
“Whatever. And I want this night to be perfect! We’ll wine and dine with Abela’s people. No booze, no dancing, no silliness. Nothing but pomp and circumstance!”
Meanwhile, two towers over…
“360 Ring Road,” Abela nodded, glancing at the map screen of her Traveller padd. The tower she was facing consisted of several slightly bulging segments stacked one over the other and capped with a tapering windowed cone.
“You’re sure the Starfleeters aren’t going to show up in this part of the city and spoil the surprise?” Jakerd asked.
“Quite sure,” Abela nodded, “I’d be surprised if they even know how to find their way out here.” She tapped her access code into the entry panel of the deserted building, then led Fissett and Jakerd to the elevators.
“When does the DJ get here?” Fissett asked Jakerd.
“We have a Starfleeter coming in from the shipyard to handle that,” Jakerd answered, “And I know a Matrian who’s applied for a bar license next to one of the Spaceside hanger bays. He handles the drinks tonight, I talk to you about accelerating his application,”
“Done,” Abela waved her hand. The elevator doors opened to reveal a huge, multi-level ballroom. The windowed walls arced high above their heads, with balconies and slender stairways surrounding the open central space of the room. Banks of special lighting and sound equipment were discretely built into the lower balcony surfaces.
“Considering the rentals we’ll be able to charge on this place when the city opens, it seems a shame to waste in on Starfleet dancing,” Abela sighed.
“I hope nobody pukes on the rug,” Fissett said, “I’m not cleaning it up,”
“Don’t be silly, dear,” Abela waved her hand, “Of course you are,”
Captain Simplot stood at the center of carefully controlled chaos. She wasn’t controlling any of it, nor was she causing any of it. But it was sort of exciting to watch as the team of Matrian chefs slaved under their master to create that night’s menu. Shurgroe and Wyer were examining the elaborate dining room a few levels up, on the roof of the building. The view was fantastic, the table set with what they assumed was expensive Matrian china. Of course, they weren’t used to seeing cutlery hung from a rack in front of the dinner plate, but whatever.
“You can’t cook to save your life!” the female chef was screaming at a cringing male, “You call this sautéed eel? It’s still squirming! I would not serve this to my dog!”
“Yes, chef!” the sous-chef whimpered. The master chef spun around to where another sous-chef was pulling a cut of meat out of a freezer.
“Keep that out of sight until it’s cooked!” she snapped.
“It’s like SNAP in here,” Annerson muttered as she joined Simplot, referring to Starfleet’s Boot-Camp like New Arrivals Program.
“Everything will be perfect,” Simplot said firmly, “right, Master Chef?”
“YES MA’AM!” the chef bellowed.
“If you say so,” Annerson said, frowning as she watched another sous-chef trying to wrestle a live octopus into a pot, “Myself, I’m not feeling so big on the seafood tonight,”
“What about this one?” Fissett asked, sniffing at another bottle.
“That’s called Jamaican Rum,” ex-Agent Jural, formerly of Matrian Intelligence and now a simple merchant, replied. Fissett sipped the amber liquid, then gasped.
“Yuck! And the humans drink this stuff?”
“You think that’s bad, try this one,” Jural handed her a bottle of Canadian Whiskey.
“EEEIIIIIIEEEEEE!” Fissett gasped, one hand going to her throat.
“Or this Tequila stuff…oh crap. Where did my lemons go?”
“Mr. Jural,” Abela was staring at a yellow wedge, a look of disgust on her face, “This is an appetizer?”
“Good,” Abela flung the lemon into a waste receptacle, “Now mix me something strong and Matrian. And where’s Craigan? I need to know how to dance like a human!”
“A drunk human,” Fissett giggled.
“I specifically said ‘cocktails at 1830h,” Captain Simplot said, eying her wrist chrono, “Where are those Matrians? We sent out the invitations, right?”
“We did, madam,” one of the caterers said, “But given the short notice, there really wasn’t time for an RSVP,”
“And they actually said ‘1830 egu meh sderins’, which means ‘cocktails at 1830’ in Matrian,” Wyer said helpfully.
“That’s ‘Captain’, and thanks,” Simplot fumed.
The rooftop dining area was dimly lit by lighting units set into the gardens ringing the edge of the roof and the stars shining through the dome overhead. The table was set and the waiters were standing by to begin beverage service. But so far only Simplot and her people were there, their white dress uniforms in stark contrast to the brilliant green tablecloth that was customary at Old Matrian dining events. The smell of seafood was heavy in the air and a band of Matrian Defence Force personnel were providing chamber music. All in all, it should have been a great atmosphere for mingling. Except half the guests were missing.
“Simplot to Ops, er, Haven Command Complex,” Simplot tapped her badge.
“Command Complex, Lieutenant Baarthal speaking, ma’am,”
“Where’s Colonel Abela?”
“Where are those Starfleeters?” Abela demanded, slamming her scotch on the rocks onto a nearby table and wobbling slightly, “I sent the invitations in four different Federation languages, just to be sure they didn’t get mixed up!”
“Maybe I should have sent my team to bring them,” Franches burped, a bottle of Alexander Keith’s Canadian beer in one hand, “Again.”
“Whhheeeee!!!!” Fissett giggles as she ran through the room, holding her arms out like wings, “I’m flying!”
“If Simplot and her people don’t show up soon, we’re going poison ourselves with this swill. And if it doesn’t kill us, that God-awful music will!” Abela fumed. She tapped her Matrian comm-badge, a round disc basically shaped like a tiny version of Haven. “Command Complex! Where’s Captain Simplot?”
“Lieutenant Baarthal here, please hold…oh. Actually, I have her on the other line, wondering where you are,”
“Tell her to meet me in the lobby of 360 Ring Road, if she can find it!” Abela snapped.
“Uh, she wants you to meet her in the lobby of 364 Ring Road,” Baarthal gulped.
Abela stalked towards the nearest band of windows and squinted at the roof of a nearby tower. Were those…people she could see? And a jazz band?
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Abela muttered, one hand on her forehead.
Simplot was stalking down Ring Road when she ran into Abela.
“Didn’t you get our invitations?” Simplot asked somewhat angrily. She was trying hard to control herself, she really was. After all that work she’d gone to!
“No more than you got ours, I suppose,” Abela crossed her arms, a bit chilly in the fresh evening air, “Just tell me one thing…what kind of event did you plan to get our people ‘bonding’? I assume that’s what this is about, as I had the same idea,”
“Really?” Simplot was taken aback, “I…we. Well, we got one of Franches’ jungle people to brief us on Old Matrian formal dining, hired some caterers from the planet, got setup in the…”
As she went on, Abela softened. This human had actually researched not only Matrian customs, but Old Matrian customs, from before the war? From her time?
“We had one of our people who had worked with the Silverado crew help us plan a party,” Abela interrupted Simplot as she went on about all the live seafood.
“Really?” Simplot was taken aback, “A party? You mean, you actually have fun once in a while? And that’s why that guy over there is riding a unicycle?”
Abela turned just in time to see Lt. Franches pedal a wobbling unicycle into a streetlight and tumble to the ground. She turned away before his loincloth could finish its upward path.
“It’s been a long time,” Abela gave a smile, “And I would love to dine in Old Matrian style tonight. It’s also been…a very long time.”
“And I could go for a party after a boring formal dinner. Um, I mean…after dinner,”
Abela let it slide. The two officers stood for a moment.
“I’ll get my people over to 364,” Abela said. “And tell the DJ to be ready for us in two hours,”
“Hour and a half,” Simplot said.
They turned and went their separate ways, leaving Franches snoring in the street. High above them, the stars slowly shifted as Haven continued gliding back toward Matria Prime.
The next morning aboard the Roadrunner, Lt. Boxer rolled over and cracked his eyes open. He felt absolutely terrible; sore, tired, his head was fuzzy and his back was killing him. Apparently from sleeping on the floor.
“Good morning,” Lt. Laarthi said, emerging from under a standard issue blanket. She was on the bunk in her quarters while Boxer was on the floor.
“Why am I in your quarters?” Boxer asked.
“Because we vented yours to space killing the saboteur,” Laarthi said, “And because there aren’t any free quarters on the ship,”
“Oh. Um, thanks for letting me stay over?”
“It was only last night! Virgii gets you tonight!” Laarthi said sharply.
“Whatever. I’m just glad the whole sabotage thing is over,” Boxer stretched his arms forwards, pressing his palms against the floor, “Now we can focus on getting home sometime in the next few weeks instead of the next few years,”
“Yes, I’m supposed to be helping with the nano-fabrication unit repairs today,” Laarthi said.
Boxer stood. The two of them looked at each other for a moment.
“Aren’t you at least going to admit that I’m not as dumb as you thought I was?” Boxer asked.
“I admit no such thing,” Laarthi said firmly. She paused. “But…perhaps you won’t be as hard to work with as I thought,”
“Fine! I’m going for breakfast.”
A deck up and a few cabins over, Commander Penelope O’Reilly double checked the charge on her personal cloaking field. It had taken a lot of arguing to get Section 31 to let her use it on this assignment, but the effort was clearly worth it. Ditto for the one-shot personal transporter she’d used to escape Lt. Boxer’s quarters right before they were vented to space. But it had turned out well after all…the mutt and the mangy feline both thought she was dead. And the rest of the crew didn’t suspect a thing.
She didn’t fully understand why Section 31 wanted the Roadrunner in Orion hands, but that didn’t matter. She’d do her duty, and make sure none of the Roadrunner’s crew made it back to Federation space without taking a minor…detour…first.