World's Shortest Disclaimer: Trek=CBS/Paramount/Viacom Traks=Decker

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2002

Star Traks: The Lost Years #3

Show Me The Way To Go Home

By Alan Decker

Partially from a story suggestion by Lisa Shirin

Other plot ideas and elements maliciously stolen from Anthony Butler

CHRONOLOGY NOTE: This story is set shortly before the events of the Vexed Generation book, Birds of a Feather.


“Captain’s Log. Stardate 53304.2. Two weeks have passed since Commander Scott Baird vanished while the Secondprize was on patrol along the Romulan border. Wait. That makes it sound like he was just whisked off the ship. Actually, we’d made a brief stop at Golhunda Three so Baird could check out a bar that a couple of fellow engineers had told him brewed some seriously strong lager. Never one to miss out on a good beer, Scott just had to go check it out…and then he disappeared.

“While we would like to keep searching for Commander Baird, Starfleet has decided that he’s gone for good and that we need a new chief engineer. Admiral Wagner sounded almost happy about it. To that end, we have docked at Starbase 342 to pick up our new personnel. After that, we are to resume our patrol, which, as I’ve been informed by Baird’s wife, Emily Sullivan, means that we are going right back to Golhunda Three. So, since I enjoy having testicles and wish to keep them intact, we’re going back to Golhunda Three.”


Scott Baird slowly awoke after a fitful sleep, hoping against hope that he was back in his bed on the Secondprize. Even before he opened his eyes he could tell that this wasn’t the case. The engine sound was all wrong. His Secondprize engines were smooth; these almost had a grinding noise to them.

He opened his eyes.

Yep. Same drab brownish-metal walls.

He rolled over.

Yep. She was still there. Laying stiff as a duranium rod, her eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling. Detecting that Baird was awake, she turned awkwardly to face him.

“Good morning, darling. Would you like some sex?”

“Can’t you just pretend to sleep?” Baird replied. “Please. You’re really f***ing with my head laying there like that. It’s like sleeping in a morgue.”

“It is not in my programming, but I could try,” the android woman, known as Krissy, replied.

“Forget it. Just forget it,” Baird muttered, pulling himself up out of bed. Wearing nothing but a pair of spandex biker shorts and scratching his stomach, Baird wandered out of the quarters he was forced to share with Krissy into the corridor of the freighter serving as his new home/prison.

When he’d found himself on this ship two weeks earlier after waking up from one hell of a drunken stupor, Baird had assumed he’d just wandered onto the wrong ship by mistake. It’d happened before. Back on one particular leave from the Academy, he’d gotten royally toasted at a bar in San Francisco and woken up on a senior citizen’s tour cruiser halfway to Tellar.

But Baird quickly realized this was no accident. He’d been kidnapped; shanghaied. Normally, considering the crew of the ship only consisted of six people other than himself, all of whom had been brought here unwillingly, Baird would have just taken over the ship and headed to the nearest Starbase. Baird’s first attempt to get into the ship’s engineering deck, however, had led to a nasty electric shock and the appearance of Baird’s captor…well, a remotely-projected hologram of his captor anyway. Some Romulan nutjob named Ardek.

As Baird now wandered down the corridor toward the freighter’s small mess hall, Ardek appeared for his daily taunting.

“And how are we this morning, Commander?” the holographic image of the Romulan said smiling, the image flickering slightly.

“There were no f***ing mints left on my pillow, the sonic shower’s out of alignment, and I want that f***ing piece of cheap tin out of my bed,” Baird groused.

“But Krissy just adores you!”

“Yee f***ing haa.”

Baird entered the mess hall where the rest of his fellow captives had gathered. First, there was some Andorian wuss named Vinnz. Baird had been under the impression that all Andorians were these neo-Klingon ass-kickers, but Vinnz hadn’t stopped whining about being snatched from the bar on Golhunda Three (which seemed to be where Ardek found almost all of his “recruits”) for two weeks. Yeah, so the guy had a ship of his own to get back to. Big f***ing deal. They all had problems. At least the others didn’t whine so much.

Second was Nonek, a weaselly Cardassian Baird didn’t trust in the slightest. Nonek seemed far too willing to go with the flow of what was happening to them. At first, he’d thought Nonek was behind all of this. That was before he learned about Ardek… and that Nonek was a complete moron without an original idea in his head. They guy seemed to function strictly on his survival instinct, which meant toadying up to whoever seemed the most powerful to him. He also looked like a rat. Literally. He had these beady little eyes and a protruding nose that gave him a decidedly rodent-esque appearance, so much so that the “crew” had taken to calling him Ratboy.

Contestant Number Three was a bit of a mystery. He/she was pretty much just a quivering blob of cytoplasm capable of moving from room to room by bouncing its entire body like some kind of deformed astroball. Glop, as Baird had dubbed this particular being, didn’t seem to be interested in much other than eating and the occasional rest cycle, which usually involved attempting to nuzzle up as closely as possible to whoever was convenient. This then usually ended with a lot of disgusted screaming and Glop vibrating in either anger or fear. Baird couldn’t tell which.

Passenger number four was a Klingon woman named Tur’et, who claimed to be the second cousin once removed to famed Klingon baddies Lursa and B’Etor. She also spent a lot of time ranting and raving about how she was going to avenge her cousins, take over the Klingon Empire, and, as soon as she learned of his existence, impale Ardek on a tall metal pike on top of her house. Ardek seemed to find that last part particularly hysterical. Despite her ravings, Tur’et was the one Baird got along with the best. They respected each other’s desire to be left the hell alone. He also knew, should he figure out a way to take control of the freighter from Ardek, she’d be right there with him.

Baird wasn’t quite as sure about the loyalties of the fifth person. He was a Breen, but that was about all Baird knew. For some reason, Ardek hadn’t seen fit to provide the ship with a Breen translation matrix, so the Breen, whom Baird had taken to calling Metalhead, was completely unintelligible. He also seemed very pissed off about the situation. He had an annoying tendency to get right in people’s faces and shout in that babble of his. He’d learned to avoid Tur’et, after she tried to rip his mask off with her bare hands, and Baird, who, after being confronted while sitting and eating breakfast, had grabbed the Breen by the back of the helmet and slammed his head into the table repeatedly to get his point across. Vinnz and Glop, however, seemed terrified of him.

That just left the sixth person other than himself. Baird generally was a fairly cool and composed kind of guy, but upon seeing her here for the first time, he couldn’t help but scream. Rebecca Singer. Somehow Ardek had removed her from Tantalus V and brought her along. Ardek swore that he didn’t even realize that she and Baird were acquainted, but Baird found that hard to believe considering how much else Ardek knew about him… such as his experience with androids. Baird wasn’t sure exactly what was behind Ardek’s motives, but he knew the Romulan was positively obsessed with androids. Ardek had built Krissy himself and kept prodding Baird to help him improve her. At times that seemed almost more important that the so-called main reason they’d been kidnapped.

Ardek’s prodding he could deal with, though. Singer was a whole other matter. The last time this deranged psycho got out of Tantalus, she’d almost managed to wipe out the timeline by mucking around in the 20th century. On the upside, here she didn’t have access to anything dangerous. On the downside, she was under the impression that somehow she and Baird were best buds aboard the Secondprize. At every meal she insisted on sitting with him and reminiscing about how great their time together on the Secondprize was. After a couple of days, she’d run out of material, so she just started over at the beginning as if they hadn’t already rehashed every microsecond of her tenure on the ship.

This torture, and Ardek’s refusal to allow Baird to sever Singer’s vocal cords, had led Baird to briefly entertain the idea that he was dead and this was actually Hell. And somewhere on a nearby ship or planet, Ardek sat watching and enjoying every minute of it. All of which put Ardek and Singer right at the top of the list of people Baird swore he would kill displacing the Federation Express delivery boy who’d dropped the box containing the Xjelian crystal bicycle he’d ordered a couple of years ago, thus reducing the machine to shards.

Tur’et gave Baird a stiff nod of greeting as he walked into the mess hall. Singer, who had been sitting at a table by herself nursing her usual morning mug of hot cocoa (or coo-coo, as Baird preferred to think of it), immediately started smiling and waving like a mad fiend (which she was, conveniently enough) for Baird to come sit with her.

Meanwhile, Ratboy and Vinnz were deep into their morning spat. Ardek was some kind of sadist to make them roommates.

“…crusty socks!” Vinnz was whining.

“Well, I can’t exactly go elsewhere,” Ratboy replied.

“Why not? There are other rooms.”

“Not unoccupied rooms. You and I are just going to have to live together…even if you do snore.”

“I do not!”

“You do so. And your antenna make this weird high-pitched wheewheeheehee noise at the same time.”

“You liar!”

Having finally had enough of this morning’s performance, Tur’et stalked over to their table and knocked their heads together forcefully. “If either of you says one more word this morning, I will personally break both of your legs. Quiet! Got it?!”

“I can do that,” Ratboy said as Vinnz nodded quickly and fearfully.

After getting a plate of steak and eggs and a beer out of the ship’s substandard replicator (Baird couldn’t see any reason to remain sober for this voyage), Baird tried to head toward the far end of Tur’et’s table, but Singer gabbed his arm and pulled him to the seat across from her.

“God, it’s so good to see you!” Singer exclaimed, grabbing Baird’s hand and refusing to let go. “How long has it been? Two years?”

“Ten hours. I saw you at dinner.”

“Remember that time I cured that stupidity virus! That was fun.” Singer started laughing hysterically, slapping her hand down on the table causing beer to splash out of Baird’s mug.

“Haha,” Baird replied. “Remember that time you tried to KILL all of us?”

Singer looked at Baird confused, but, before she could respond, Ardek’s hologram flickered to life in the center of the mess hall.

“Good morning, everybody. How is my cast today?”

Oh yeah. That was the best part of this whole f***ing gag, as far as Baird was concerned. They hadn’t been grabbed for who they were or what they knew. Ardek was just filming some damn show for Romulan holovision. Evidently his brilliant idea was to grab seven random people, stick them on a ship, and watch what happened. Sounded like a real snooze-fest to Baird. Even worse than that Days of Honor crap Commander Dillon liked watching.

Various non-committal grunts and groans emerged from the gathered diners, except for Ratboy, who prattled back with a warm, “Good morning, Mr. Ardek. You’re looking well today.”

Suck-up.

“I’ve got some exciting news for you all,” Ardek said as he started to pace around a bit. “It’s finally time for your mission.”

“Mission? What mission?” Tur’et demanded.

“Oh this should be right up your alley, my primitive lovely…”

Tur’et clenched her fists, struggling not to give Ardek the satisfaction of hearing her snarl at him.

“…you’re going deep into Klingon space to destroy Krinokor.”

“What the hell is Krinokor?” Baird asked, not liking the sound of this one bit.

Ardek smiled as he steepled his fingers, a little move Baird noticed Ardek tended to do right before saying something that generally made Baird want to pluck out his eyeballs and jam them up his nostrils.

“It’s just a little space station that happens to be the source of that insipid Days of Honor.”

“Hey! That’s my favorite show!” Singer cried.

“Mine too,” Ratboy and Vinnz added.

“Waawawavavavlaonapan!” Metalhead said, gesturing forcefully with his fist.

“Never,” Tur’et said. “I may dislike the current government, but I will not harm our most popular export!”

“Well, fortunately for me, that’s out of your hands,” Ardek said. “Your course has been set. The ship is on its way. There’s only one thing left for you to do.”

“And what’s that?” Baird asked warily.

“The opening credits.”

VINNZ: This is the True story

RATBOY: True story!

SINGER: Of seven strangers

BAIRD: That’s not true. I knew her beforehand!

TUR’ET: Picked to live on a spaceship…AGAINST OUR WILL!!!

METALHEAD: Waxawaavalananan. (TRANSLATION: And have their lives holo-recorded.)

GLOP: <jiggle, jiggle, jiggle> (TRANSLATION: Find out what happens when people stop being polite…

BAIRD: I’m not going to say that. I’m not. <Zzzzzap!!!> OW! F***! Fine! …and start behaving like they would if they didn’t feel obligated to obey any social constraints.


“Hmm…“Ardek said, watching the footage from the bridge of his warbird, the Horshak. “That last bit is a little awkward. Maybe something catchier… Oh well. Pull up the next segment, Magno!”


VINNZ

“I can’t take much more of this. I don’t even know why I’m here. I’m just a nobody with a struggling transport business. I don’t belong with these people. And I certainly don’t want to be blowing up any space stations…especially ones that broadcast Days of Honor. Oh zvaaartz! Why did I ever accept this delivery run? Who on Golhunda Three appreciates fresh spleen pie anyway? I just should have stayed home. Then I wouldn’t be stuck here or with that zvanx-awful Cardassian.”


NONEK (RATBOY)

“Well, at first I was understandably on edge about my predicament, but now I understand that Commander Ardek has our well-being close to his heart. I respect that in a man. I respect him. He just exudes power. I sincerely hope to continue my association with him after this mission is over…what? Oh, I’m supposed to talk about the others. I can do that.

“My roommate, Vinnz, is beyond difficult. All he does is whine whine whine about that damn ship of his. The Hvark Two. I will have that blasted name emblazoned in my memory for the rest of my life. And he snores. Wow does he snore. But him I can deal with. The Klingon and that human male have to go, though. The two of them seem intent on seeing who can scowl the longest and otherwise be the biggest pain in the ass. I can see how wise the Romulans are in considering them inferior species. The human woman, though, Rebecca Singer, now she’s very nice to look at. I hope to show her my superiority to that awful Scott Baird.”


GLOP

<jiggle jiggle quiver jiggle>

TRANSLATION: NO ONE WILL MATE WITH ME!!!!


SINGER

“Oh this has just been a lovely cruise. I had no idea who bought this for me, but it’s the nicest birthday present I’ve had in years…and it isn’t even my birthday. And then there’s Scott. Oh Scott. He’s such a laugh. The times we had back on the Secondprize…well, they were wonderful. It’s been so nice to reminisce about the old days. I think once I finish my current assignment as Chief Medical Officer and Supreme Ruler of Tantalus V, I may have to go back and visit everybody.”


TUR’ET

“I see no reason to sit here and talk to this camera.” ZAAP! “Nice try, but I’m not ticklish.” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!! “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!! All right! I am miserable. I refuse to destroy Krinokor. The others are all pitakhs except for the human Baird, who is barely tolerable. Are you happy now?”


METALHEAD

“Waxaaavvvawaaaaaakkkkkkkkkkkkkaaaaaxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxaaaaavavavvaaannananaaaaammmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaazxxxk!”

TRANSLATION: “While I was somewhat appalled at the impolite fashion by which I was brought to this location, I must say that I have found its neo-industrial atmosphere most refreshing. The proprietor, a Mr. Ardek, appears to be a rather ambitious sort who dreams creating a better life for himself through entertaining the masses. My accommodations, while not lavish, are adequate for my needs, and my roommate, a fellow we have christened Glop, is simply charming. I must admit to having a few problems in communicating with the others. In particular, the human called Baird repeatedly bashed my head against his table after I asked him if I could borrow the salt. I have, therefore, made an effort ever since to sit at tables containing a full complement of condiments.”


BAIRD

“How do I feel about all this? How the f*** can you sit there and ask me such a dumb f***ing question? It f***ing sucks! What do you think? Emily, if you ever see this show, find this Romulan f***er named Ardek and kill him in the most painful way you can think of! What about the others? Fine. Just put away the f***ing zapper. Metalhead and Ratboy are complete f***heads. Vinnz and Glop are worthless. Singer is a f***ing whack job. And Tur’et kicks some serious ass. And I’m not f***ing your piece of s*** android!”

ZZZZZAPPPPP!

“F*** me!”


USS SECONDPRIZE

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 53306.7. After our brief stopover at Starbase 342, we are on our way back to the Neutral Zone. I don’t see why we’re still calling it that seeing as how we technically have an alliance, sort of, with the Romulans now, but who am I to say? Anyway, while at 342, Lieutenant Commander Ted Niskey joined our crew as Acting Chief Engineer. Well, according to Starfleet he’s the real Chief Engineer, but I’m not prepared to give up on Scott just yet. In any case, I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to Niskey when we reported for duty since I was putting the finishing touches on…okay starting my portion of the Misplaced Chief Engineer paperwork (Starfleet Form 972z) that was due to Command before we left the starbase. But now with Niskey safely aboard, we’re off to disobey orders and resume our search for Commander Baird.”


Captain Alexander Rydell sat in his command chair staring blankly at the viewscreen as the Secondprize sped back toward Golhunda Three at Warp 9 wondering just how they would proceed once they arrived. Granted, their initial inquiries at the bar where Baird was headed hadn’t turned up anything, but somebody there had to know something. Persistence was the key to an investigation like this…of course, bribery usually helped, too.

“Lieutenant Commander Niskey to Bridge,” the Acting Chief Engineer’s voice said suddenly over the comm system.

“What can I do for you, Niskey?” Rydell replied lazily.

“Well, sir, I don’t mean to interrupt or overstep my bounds, but I wanted you to know that we could go faster if you wanted to,” Niskey replied.

“Go faster?” Rydell repeated. Engineers never suggested that kind of thing.

“Oh yes sir. Commander Baird really has these engines in excellent condition. We could easily maintain Warp 9.4 all the way to the Neutral Zone.”

“Can we now?” Rydell said as Lt. Cmdr. Emily Sullivan turned in her chair at conn to face him. “Go ahead, Sullivan,” Rydell said. In a flash, Sullivan bumped the ship’s speed up a few notches to 9.4.

“Thank you, Niskey,” Rydell said.

“I’m just trying to do my job to the best of my ability. Oh, and sir?”

“Yes, Niskey.”

“I noticed that the artificial intelligence matrix on the ship’s doors had been partially deactivated, so I brought them back on line.”

Rydell put his head in his hands. “Oh, Niskey, there was a reason…”

“At first they said they wanted to take over the ship,” Niskey continued. “But I explained to them how important it is to be a good door and how vital their function on the ship is, and they decided to go back to work. I think they’re a lot happier.”

“Let’s hear it for Nifty Niskey,” Lt. Cmdr. Hawkins said.

“Nice work, Commander,” Rydell said. “Bridge out. Well that was…”

“Wrong,” Sullivan said, quickly jumping in before Rydell could finish his thought. “Very wrong.”

Rydell choked on “refreshing” and nodded. “Oh yeah. Incredibly wrong. I just can’t wait to have Scott back down there in Engineering. Things just aren’t the same without him.”

“They’re far more professional and courteous,” Commander Dillon said from his seat beside Rydell. A split-second later, a comm-badge slammed painfully into his chest, pointy end first.

“I wonder how that happened,” Sullivan remarked innocently.


AND NOW BACK TO OUR SHOW…

Scott Baird returned to his enforced quarters as late in the evening as possible so as to avoid having to spend too much time interacting with Krissy before he fell asleep. The female-shaped android was standing silently in an corner of the dim room when Baird arrived. Upon detecting his presence, Krissy lumbered over to him, hobbling stiffly on her legs that just didn’t move quite right.

“Welcome home, darling,” she said in a flat monotone. “Would you like some sex?”

“How much did Ardek tell you before he dumped you on this crate?” Baird asked, ignoring her question.

“Master Ardek sent me to serve you.”

“Yeah yeah. I know that. But what did he tell you about this voyage?”

“I was to be tested by Scott Baird, the great man who worked on the fabled Larkin. If I performed well, I would be rewarded by you, and you would make me more like the Larkin android. Then Master Ardek would take me home. If I failed to please you, I would not be taken home and would cease to function when this ship reaches its destination and is destroyed.”

“Well, that’s just f***ing great!” Baird turned on his heel and headed back out of the room. What was it lately with people wanting him to do work on androids. Dr. Aldridge had made a similar request a little while back during that whole Chip thing at Aronel.

“Does this mean you do not want sex?”

“No!” Baird shouted as the door closed behind him. Actually, he was somewhat impressed by his commitment to his marital vows. Who knew? Granted, Krissy wasn’t exactly the most appealing offer he’d ever had, but she was the first since his marriage to Emily Sullivan. He’d always thought he’d be the illicit affair type. Emily had domesticated him already. He smiled to himself at the thought of her. Damn bitch. And even though he’d never say it aloud, he couldn’t wait to get home and see her again…assuming he found a way off of Ardek’s little show of death.


GOLHUNDA THREE

The assorted clientele from around the quadrant gathered in Cosmic Shing’s Saloon barely glanced up from their drinks as three humans, two female, one male, walked into the establishment. Behind the bar, Shing himself, a four-armed Ginantonan shook his head and rested it in one of his hands as two others prepared a Denebian Slime shooter and the fourth wiped down the bar. The Starfleet Officers from that damn Secondprize were back. At least they were in civilian clothes this time, so as to not disturb his customers, but still he didn’t want them there. Couldn’t they get it through their heads that he didn’t know where their missing officer was?

“He doesn’t know where Baird is,” Commander Dillon muttered under his breath. “What are we doing back here?”

“Following the only lead we have,” Lieutenant Commander Sullivan replied.

“He’s got to know something,” Lieutenant Commander Hawkins added.

“And I’m going to find out what it is,” Sullivan said, striding ahead to the bar and forcing Dillon and Hawkins to almost jog to catch up.

Shing plastered a smile on his face as Sullivan sat down on a barstool directly across from him. “Back so soon?”

“Just couldn’t keep myself away,” Sullivan replied. “You know why we’re here.”

“And you know everything I know,” Shing said. “I am very sorry for your loss, but it’s a mean galaxy out there. Sometimes people just vanish. But I can tell you he didn’t vanish in here.”

“So you’ve said,” Hawkins said, jumping in. “What exactly do you remember about Commander Baird?”

“I get a lot of people in and out of here,” Shing said. “That’s the nature of my business.”

“You can’t tell me that a skilled bartender such as yourself doesn’t remember what one of his patrons drank,” Sullivan said.

“The Starfleet engineer…” Shing said, trying to remember. “The engineer. He started with a z’hkaastakh.”

“What the hell is that?” Dillon asked.

“A beer. Damn good one too. These Klingon and Andorian breweries joined forces to create it.”

“Sounds like something Scott would like,” Sullivan said.

“Oh yeah. He had three of them. Then he moved on to the specialty of the house: the Anti-Matter Slush. Guaranteed to annihilate your brain on contact,” Shing said, smiling proudly. His face darkened a moment. “Then someone told him about Lucky’s.”

“What’s Lucky’s?” Sullivan demanded. This was the first real useful information they’d gotten in weeks.

“Lucax’s Landing. Locals just call it Lucky’s. He’s the competition. He has a drink called the Singularity, which he says is guaranteed to make your brain collapse in on itself.”

“Which means Scott headed straight to it,” Sullivan said. “Thank you very much, Mr. Shing.”

“Now hold on a second,” Shing said before Sullivan, Dillon, and Hawkins could escape. “I gave you something. The least you can do is buy a drink.”

Sullivan, Hawkins, and Dillon exchanged glances then sat back down at the bar. “What do you recommend?” Hawkins asked.

“Three Anti-Matter Slushes coming right up!”


Two hours later, which is how long it took for the away team to find their feet again, Sullivan, Hawkins, and Dillon wobbily exited Cosmic Shing’s and stumbled across the small outpost on Golhunda Three to the site of Lucax’s Landing.

The Landing really looked like more of a crash. Lucax’s freighter had unceremoniously plowed into the planet several years before. Left without a way to get off of the colony, Lucax had simply converted his ship into a bar.

Stepping inside, the away team immediately realized that the clientele of Lucky’s was of a much lower caliber than the one at Shing’s. Shing’s crew was content to quietly get sloshed. This was definitely a more rowdy bunch.

“Stay close,” Dillon said.

“Oh yeah. That will help,” Sullivan remarked as the three made their way through the crowd to the bar.

Before they’d made it more than a few steps, the trio was intercepted by a large Orion with a decided leer on his face. “So, ladies,” he said, rubbing his hands together expectantly. “I know that both of you lovelies can’t be with this human, so who’s coming with me?”

“Actually, we are both with him,” Hawkins said, cuddling close to Dillon. “He paid for us for the whole night. Maybe tomorrow.” Sullivan choked down her revulsion and cozied up to Dillon’s right side as the Orion’s eyes widened. Stammering a bit, he beat a hasty retreat back to his table.

“What the hell was that?” Sullivan seethed.

“Strengthening our cover. No one’s going to talk to us if they think we’re law-abiding Starfleet Officers,” Hawkins replied.

“Okay. You’ve got a point,” Sullivan relented. “But this is as far as I go.” Dillon opened his mouth to say something, but Sullivan cut him off before he could get a word out. “Just close that back up. I don’t want to hear a word out of you.”

Normally Dillon would have protested such treatment by a subordinate, but, considering the situation, he decided it’d be wiser just to respect her wishes and head over to the bar.

The bartender was an older Klingon woman with more muscles than most Klingon warriors in their prime. She gave the newcomers a quick once-over glance which she followed up with an unsettling toothy grin. “Welcome, travellers. What can I get you?”

“Order something strong,” Hawkins whispered into Dillon’s ear. “It’ll help our cover.”

Dillon gulped and muttered the name he’d heard back at Cosmic Shing’s. “Singularity.”

“Three Singularities coming right up.”

Hawkins and Sullivan exchanged worried glances. “You were only supposed to order one!” Sullivan snapped.

“I did,” Dillon said. “Do you want to tell her we want to change the order? Because I’m not!”

Sullivan watched the Klingon’s back muscles ripple as she moved for the various components needed to make the drinks. “Er…no.”

“Patricia?” Dillon said.

“I was feeling thirsty anyway.”

“Fine then. Three Singularities,” Dillon said.

Moments later, the three foaming black drinks were placed on the bar in front of them. Sullivan, Hawkins, and Dillon raised their glasses, said a silent apology to their livers, then started to drink.


THE FREIGHTER

“I don’t want to die on some Klingon space station,” Vinnz whined as the “cast” of Ardek’s show gathered in the mess hall. Baird had summoned the group after his conversation with Krissy. “I’m not going to do it. I’m just not going to get off of this ship.”

“I doubt we’ll have a choice,” Ratboy said.

“Don’t you care about what’s happening here?” Vinnz shouted. “All you’ve said for the last two weeks is ‘I can do that’ and ‘We don’t have a choice.’ I’m sick of it! I’m sick of you!”

“Oh and I just adore you,” Ratboy snapped. “You blue-skinned baby!”

“I don’t usually go for violence,” Vinnz said, advancing on Ratboy. “But I’m going to pulverize every bone ridge in your stinking hide!”

“Boys! Be nice!” Singer said.

“Hell, let them go at it,” Tur’et said. “It’d be the most excitement we’ve had all week.”

“Except for the fact that we’re all about to f***ing die,” Baird muttered.

Vinnz and Ratboy dove at each other, locking onto each other’s shoulders in an attempt to toss their opponent to the ground. Glop suddenly oozed between them, forcing them apart and slapping them around with his tendrils.

“Hey!” Vinnz shouted. “Keep your damn flagella off me, boy! Or girl! Or whatever you are!”

“XZXXXXAAZZKKKKKKKZZZRRRRZ,” Metalhead said with an almost sigh as he rested his helmeted head in his hands.

“Finally a voice of wisdom,” Baird said. “Look, people… and amoeba, Ardek’s obviously thought this thing through. I don’t think we’re supposed to run out onto Krinokor, phasers f***ing blasting. What’s to stop us from just putting the weapons down and calling for help? Ardek can’t even really hurt us here unless he gets us into that damn electric chair in his f***ing interview booth.”

“But he says he’s going to cut our life-support if we don’t go in the booth.”

“Which he could do,” Baird said. “Here. But not on Krinokor. No. We’re staying on this ship.”

“Then what?” Tur’et said. “Is he suddenly going to give us control so we can fly into battle?”

“Right. Whatever,” Baird said. “Think about this. Do any of you really know how big this ship is? We’ve only seen this deck.”

“Okay. So it could be a big ship. So what?” Ratboy asked.

“Krinokor is a huge space station,” Baird continued. “Ardek can’t hope to blow it up with a conventional attack, especially if he wants to avoid starting a war. But what if a giant ship loaded with explosives were to ram into Krinokor?”

“Scott, you’re scaring me,” Singer said with a shiver.

“Yeah, you’ve been scaring me for years,” Baird snapped.

“It could work,” Tur’et said. “But you’d have to have the collision before Krinokor could raise it’s shields. Not to mention getting through large amounts of Klingon space to get there.”

“Have you felt a single attack? Remember this is the Romulans we’re talking about.”

“A cloaking device,” Vinnz, Ratboy, Singer, and Tur’et all said in unison.

“Oh, Scott. You’re so smart!” Singer exclaimed, clapping her hands together.

“Oh k’vaaaznit!” Vinnz said.

“Purvdik,” Ratboy cursed softly.

“That pitakh!” Tur’et added.

Glop hopped over in front of Baird and began waving his flagella wildly as Metalhead started banging his helmet against the table. They’d obviously both gotten the gist of what was happening.

“Of course, now Ardek knows that we know all of this,” Baird said.

“And I’m sure he’s laughing his dishonorable ass off,” Tur’et said.

“So what do we do?” Ratboy asked.

“Nothing, as far as I can tell,” Baird said, hoping someone would understand the double meaning there. There was something he was going to do, but he wasn’t about to tell a soul…especially Ardek.


USS SECONDPRIZE

Captain Rydell watched another minute click by on the chronometer display in the armrest of his command chair. This was one of the parts of his job that he absolutely hated: waiting. Once he got out of Starfleet, things were going to be a lot different. And that day would be coming in the next year or so. He could feel it.

“All right,” Rydell said finally. “They were supposed to check in two hours ago. What’s going on?”

“Their commbadges are still clustered together in a structure on the planet. And I am reading three human life-signs attached to those commbadges,” Commander Jaroch reported from the science station at the rear of the bridge.

“Then I guess we’ll hold off on the heavily-armed rescue team,” Rydell said.

“I could go down there myself to assess the situation,” Jaroch said. “That seems far less risky than attempting to contact them by communicator.”

“True. Who knows who they’re talking to at the moment? Possibly some folks who don’t like us warm and cuddly Starfleet types. Get into some civilian gear and check it out.”

“On my way,” Jaroch said, heading toward the turbolift.


Jaroch materialized just outside of a dilapidated wrecked spaceship calling itself “Lucax’s Landing.” After making a mental note never to let this Lucax person fly any ship he was traveling on, Jaroch entered the vessel in search of the missing away team.

He found them immediately.

“JAROCH!!!” Dillon, Hawkins, and Sullivan shouted from the bar upon seeing him enter.

“Get your Yynsian ass over here and have a drink!” Hawkins added. Jaroch observed that all three of them seemed to be somewhat precariously perched on their barstools as they wobbled erratically.

“Bartender, drink this man a get!” Dillon slurred. “Er…sit this man a drunk. Man the seat, drinky. Heeheehee.” Dillon collapsed in a fit of giggles, his head slamming down on the bar. It should have hurt, but Dillon was too well numbed to know it.

The Klingon bartender shook her head and prepared another Singularity.

“So have you learned any useful information?” Jaroch asked, seriously doubting that he would get anything resembling an intelligent answer.

“Yep,” Sullivan replied, holding up her glass and pointing to it. “These things are yummy!”

“And strong,” Hawkins said. “REEEAAALLY strong”

“I meant concerning Mr. Baird.”

“Nope. Still missing,” Sullivan said. “Real shame, too.” She slid closer to Jaroch, leaning her head on his shoulder. “Cause alcohol always makes me…” She suddenly latched onto his thigh mere centimeters from his crotch. “…FRISKY!”

Jaroch gently removed her hand and, feeling highly disconcerted, turned his attention to the bartender. “I think I will take that drink now.”

She put the frothing black mug in front of him. Fighting back the urge to scan the thing with a tricorder before ingesting any of it, Jaroch raised the glass to his lips.


THE FREIGHTER

As usual, Krissy was standing in the corner waiting for Baird when he returned to his quarters. “Good evening, honey. You look stressed. Would you like some sex?”

“Come here a minute,” Baird said, waving the android over as he sat down on the bed. “We need to have a talk.”

“Would you like small, philosophical, or dirty talk?”

“A talk about us,” Baird said. “I realize that I’m going to be here for a while, and I think it’s time that I try to settle in and make the best of it. Don’t you?”

“Oh yes. Master Ardek will be very pleased.”

“I think I may be able to please him even more…and you as well.”

“I am only an android,” Krissy said. “I am incapable of receiving pleasure.”

“Now. But let me make a few modifications.”

Krissy almost would have expressed an emotion if she’d been capable. “You will improve me. I thank you. Master Ardek will be very very pleased.”

“Yes he will,” Ardek’s voice said. Baird turned and saw that a hologram of the Romulan had materialized in the corner of the room. “I just knew you would see it my way. You’re the special one on board, Scott. You’re the only one I let have access to Krissy. I can just imagine what those others would do to her.” Ardek grinned slightly. “And you and I are the only ones that should be allowed such pleasure.”

“Me first,” Baird said.

“Of course. Blaze a trail for me, as it were,” Ardek beamed.

Baird opened up the access panel in Krissy’s back and took a look at her torso servos. Then, he yanked her left arm off and took a look at the joint connections. “No offense there, Ardek, but this is some seriously bad workmanship.”

“I tend to me more of an idea man,” Ardek said. “This sort of hands-on activity has never been my strong suit. That’s why I need you. And, as you can imagine, once Krissy is done it will be well worth your while. She’ll be so much more responsible and obedient than that wife of yours. Quite literally, your wish will be her command.”

“Can’t wait,” Baird said, rooting around inside her arm connector. “Okay. I think I can do something for her, but I’m going to need some tools.”

“But of course,” Ardek said. He clapped twice, and suddenly the right wall of the room slid away revealing a fully-equipped android construction lab. “How’s this?”

Baird smiled and casually walked in to survey the lab. “Perfect,” Baird said. “You’ve just made my day.”

“And you mine. See, Scott. All it takes is a little courtesy. If you’re good to me, I can be VERY good to you.”

“Does this mean you won’t crash us into Krinokor?” Baird asked.

“Perhaps. Or maybe some people will no longer be included in that ‘us,’ if you take my meaning.”

“I think I do,” Baird replied. “Well, Ardek, I’d shake your hand if you were here, but, since you’re not, let me just say thank you then I’ll get to work.”

“Scott Scott Scott. I KNEW you were the right choice. I thought about getting Chris Richards or someone else familiar with androids, but I had this sense that you possessed the right…personal flexibility for the assignment. You’re a credit to your species. I’ll leave you to it.” And then Ardek was gone, leaving Baird with Krissy and his new laboratory.

“Come lay down on the workbench,” Baird ordered.

“Shall we have sex first to celebrate.”

“Let’s wait until I’m done. It will be better.”

“As you command,” Krissy said, hobbling over and awkwardly climbing onto the table. Baird flipped over her power switch, then set to work.


USS SECONDPRIZE

Captain Rydell looked at the chronometer on his armrest again, then leaned back in his chair. “Oh come on! Where the hell are they?”

“Do you want to send down a security detail?” Lieutenant Prescott, Hawkins’s back up person, asked from tactical.

“Yes…but incognito. I just want to know what’s going on down there. No shooting.”

“Aye, sir,” Prescott said, punching the orders into his console. “The team is assembling and will be ready to beam down shortly.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

One way or another, that would probably solve the mystery. Just what was going on down there anyway?

An hour later, Rydell was still asking himself the same question. And, at this point, one missing officer had now turned into eleven. Rydell had to admit that he was worried, which was an emotion he hadn’t felt all that often during his tenure as captain of the Secondprize. Usually things had a way of working themselves out, but this was plain weird.

Having finally had enough, Rydell hopped out of his chair and headed toward the turbolift.

“I’m going down there,” he said. “Carr, you have the conn.”

Lieutenant Andrea Carr, who had been quietly manning the conn console up until that point, jerked her head up in surprise. “I…I what?”

“You have command. I’m beaming down.”

“Sir, I don’t think that’s advisable,” Prescott said from tactical.

“Are our people still alive?”

“As far as I can tell.”

“Then I’ll be fine,” Rydell said, heading into the turbolift. “But have three officers meet me in transporter room one.”

“Aye, sir,” Prescott managed to get out before the lift doors closed, cutting Rydell off from the bridge.

Carr, meanwhile, slowly climbed out of her seat and cautiously approached the command chair.

“I don’t think it’s going to bite,” Ensign Bill Woodville said from ops.

“I’ve just never sat there before,” Carr replied.

“Relax,” Prescott said. “It’s not like you’re taking us into battle. Enjoy the nice upholstery and be done with it.”

Carr eased herself down into the command chair and shifted her rear end around a bit to settle in. “Oooh. This is nice. Very comfy. Needs a foot rest, though. Does this mean I can make a yeoman get me some coffee?”


Rydell and his team of security officers, all dressed in civilian clothes, strolled into Lucax’s Landing as casually as possible as they tried not to look like an armed away team on a search and rescue mission. As Rydell found out, though, they really didn’t have to do much searching.

“ALEX!” the bar patrons erupted as he walked through the door. There were actually only a few people there at this time of the morning. Coincidentally enough, minus Scott Baird who was still missing, they were the same few people absent from the Secondprize.

“This is the big man,” Hawkins said conspiratorially as she leaned over the bar to talk to the bartender. “Better fix him TWO drinks.”

“Looks like you started the party without me,” Rydell said, grabbing a stool beside Sullivan. “You could have called.”

Sullivan leaned right over into his face. “Sorry, Dad!” Then fell against the bar in gales of hysterical laughter.

“Sorry about this, Ry-dellio,” Dillon said. “We just got kind of carried away. Actually, our brains imploded!” Dillon also seemed to find this hilarious and almost fell off his stool laughing.

“Two Singularities,” the bartender said, setting the drinks down in front of Rydell.

Rydell slipped her a couple of extra strips of latinum. “Sorry about all this,” he said.

The Klingon woman smiled and pocketed her tip. “This lot’s easy. You should see the Nausicaans when they get going. My bat’leth has severed many the head of those drunken louts.”

“We’ll try to behave ourselves.” Rydell turned his attention back to Sullivan, Dillon, and Hawkins. “Where the hell is Jaroch? I sent him down here hours ago.”

Dillon, Hawkins, and Sullivan started laughing. Then, guiltily, Hawkins pointed at the floor. At Rydell’s feet, curled up against the bar in a fetal position, was Jaroch.

“He had a widdle too much to drinky-poo,” Sullivan snickered.

“How much did he have?” Rydell asked, surprised to see the normally-controlled Yynsian reduced to an unconscious heap.

Sullivan, Hawkins, and Dillon looked at each other and started laughing again. “One!” they shouted. “Jaroch is a lightweight! Jaroch is a lightweight!”

“Okaaay,” Rydell said. “Any word on Scott?”

“Nope,” Sullivan said, shaking her head quickly. Too quickly it turned out. She fell backwards and thudded onto the floor, completely passed out.

Rydell took a quick look around the room to survey the damage this Singularity drink had caused to his crew. Three of his security officers were now in their underwear comparing scars, while another had flowers (who knows where she found them) sticking out of her ears and nostrils.

“I’ve gotta try this,” Rydell said eagerly, downing the foaming black brew.


MEANWHILE…BACK AT THE LAB

Scott Baird tried not to give any sign that anything was amiss as he faced the group gathered in the android construction lab Ardek had so graciously supplied him. So far Vinnz, Metalhead, Glop, and Tur’et had arrived, but there was no sign of Singer or Ratboy.

“You probably should just go ahead and start,” Vinnz said. “Ratboy ran off with that psycho doctor friend of yours. Something about commiserating before they die.”

“She’s not my friend,” Baird said sternly. “Doesn’t matter. I don’t need them anyway. You four are enough of an audience.”

“And Ardek,” Tur’et said. “I have no doubt he’s watching.”


“Oh yes I am,” Ardek said softly as he observed the cast gathering on the viewscreen of the Horshak.

“Okay,” Baird began. “I’ve finished my initial assessment of Krissy and…”

Suddenly the image of Baird dissolved into static.

“HEY!” Ardek shouted. “Bring back my show!”

“We’re getting some kind of interference in the signal. All of the feeds are down. Cameras, sensors, guidance, everything!”

“Well fix it! We’re going to miss the good part.”


Baird’s finger slowly pressed a button on the console mounted on the lab bench as he spoke. “Okay. I’ve finished my initial assessment of Krissy and…” The button on the console that he’d pressed flashed twice signaling his program was running. “We have five minutes. Let’s move!”

“What?” Tur’et said as Baird raced for the took kit Ardek had left in the lab for him.

“Krissy is sending a jamming signal at the moment,” Baird explained as he scurried around the room. “If we run it any more than five minutes, though, they’ll probably come over here to see what’s wrong. If it clears itself up, they may just chalk it up to some spatial anomaly.”

“I can understand you!” Glop exclaimed suddenly.

“By jove he’s right,” Metalhead added.

“Yeah. Krissy had a universal translation matrix that I activated. Don’t get too used to it. We’re going to have to turn it off when the time is up. Now, Metalhead…”

“My name is ZXXXVVZVZVXXDRDA actually,” the Breen replied.

“Whatever. You and Vinnz take this kit, open the sealed door at the fore of this section and see where it leads. Be back here in four minutes. Go!” Baird tossed Metalhead a toolkit, and the Breen and the Andorian raced out the door.

“So I’m with you?” Tur’et said as Baird ran out of the lab.

“You got it. I can’t stand any of the others.”

“What about me?” Glop called.

“Stay there. If Romulans start showing up, hit the flashing red button on the lab bench!”

“Then can we mate?”

“NO!” Baird screamed.

He and Tur’et soon came to the sealed door at the rear of their living section. Baird quickly set to work deactivating the force field protecting the door mechanism. Once that was down, Baird was surprised to find that the door wasn’t even locked.

“Romulans always were too cocky,” Tur’et commented as the pair entered the door. They found themselves on a catwalk above a long chamber. The room around them was packed from floor to ceiling with cylindrical chambers, each of which were emitting a low hum.

“What is this?” Tur’et asked in awe.

“Anti-matter storage units,” Baird said softly. “Thousands of them. I guess this proves my theory.”

“But why all this anti-matter? There are more efficient explosives.”

“Yeah, but anti-matter is not going to be traceable back to Ardek or the Romulans. If he used trilithium or something along those lines, there’d be a Klingon fleet storming across the border in no time. This way, it looks like your run of the mill terrorist group with a grudge against the media. Or maybe some rabid fans who didn’t like the latest plot twist on Days of Honor.”

“Honor? Ha! This Ardek has no honor.”

“I don’t think he cares actually,” Baird said. “Come on.” He and Tur’et ran across the catwalk to the door on the other side of the room. This one wasn’t locked or protected at all. “Damn. They ARE cocky,” Baird said. “I’m not complaining, though. It’s about time we had something go our way.”

The door slid open revealing another vast chamber filled with machinery.

“Jackpot,” Baird said, a smile spreading across his face. In a flash, he raced down the metal stairs leading to the main engineering deck and practically dove at the freighter’s master control console.

“By Kahless, this ship is immense!” Tur’et gaped looking at the ship’s status schematic dominating a wall of the room.

“Like I said,” Baird replied without looking up from the furious typing he was doing on the console. “It has to be to take out Krinokor. And we are definitely cloaked.”

“Then decloak us! I have no desire to run into the Klingon military, but it is better than this.”

“Not yet. We need to be sure Ardek’s not right behind us in his ship ready to blast us to pieces. Just be patient.”

“That is not a common Klingon trait.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? Done! Let’s move!” Baird charged past Tur’et up the steps and ran back toward their living section. By the time he got the door resealed, reactivated the force field, and returned to the lab, they only had a few seconds left. Glop was waving his flagella frantically as he watched the seconds tick away. With almost no time to spare, Metalhead and Vinnz jogged in.

“What’s the other way?” Tur’et demanded.

“Hallways. Lots of hallways. We couldn’t find a bridge, though.”

“Figures. Get back around the bench!” Baird shouted. The timer clicked down. 3…2…1.


“Well?” Ardek demanded as his subordinate nervously fiddled with the controls. Suddenly, the picture was back.

“…legs will need new joints and servos, but Krissy will gain a lot of flexibility,” Baird was saying as the others looked on.

Ardek’s subordinate breathed a sigh of relief as Ardek hopped back into his seat to watch the proceedings. “Goody. I think we just missed the technobabble part. I hate that anyway,” Ardek said. “Now stop yapping, Scott, and get to work on my Krissy!”


LUCKY’S LANDING

Alexander Rydell struggled through his blurred vision to focus on the room around him as he meandered from place to place searching. The bar was now packed, since Rydell, after completing his two Singularities, had called up to the Secondprize shouting “Party! Party! Party!”

So now almost the entire crew was crammed into Lucax’s Landing. Fortunately, it being a crashed freighter and all, there was plenty of room. Lucax himself had shown up to open up additional bars in the other cargo holds, rooms that he generally reserved for special gatherings…not that many people had special gatherings on Golhunda Three.

All and all, things were going wonderfully in Rydell’s opinion. Lieutenant Commander Niskey had even volunteered to stay on the ship and keep an eye on things while they were gone. What a nice guy. Rydell was going to miss him when they found Baird and Niskey had to leave. But finding Baird could wait just a little while longer. At least until after the party.

Stumbling over to a pair of domjot tables in a dim corner of the Landing’s game room, Rydell spotted what he was looking for. Grabbing a domjot stick off the rack on the wall, Rydell charged (well, more like lumbered actually) back to the main room of the bar, waving the stick of his head as he went.

“It’s LIMBO time!!!”


THE FREIGHTER

Baird was hunched over Krissy, busily manipulating cable and components when he heard a familiar crackle behind him. Ardek’s holoimage had arrived.

“So hard at work! That’s what I like to see,” Ardek said. “How soon until we can take her for a spin?”

“I’m getting there,” Baird said flatly.

“I hate to pressure you, but time is ticking. You all have a date with Krinokor this evening.”

“TODAY!” Baird shouted.

“I’m afraid so. There’s just no stopping progress.”

“How long do I have?”

“Only a couple of hours really. We need time to zip in, beam Krissy away, then zip back to our own space before you hit Krinokor. It would just look so bad if we were detected in Klingon space around the time your big debut,” Ardek explained.

“So let me get this straight. If I get Krissy functioning well, you’ll rescue me too, right?”

“Um…sure. Right.”

“Great,” Baird said unconvinced.

“I’ll be back in three hours. If she’s not ready then, you stay here. If she’s everything you’ve promised me, we’ll see about getting you some new travel arrangements. Ta ta.”

Ardek vanished before Baird could say anything more, which was actually a good thing considering the only word Baird could think of was “F***.”

He had something resembling a plan together, but there were just so many unknowns that he was hesitant to try it. Of course, he didn’t have much of an option anymore. If they were going to get out of this, Krissy had to be ready, just not in the way Ardek had in mind.

The three hours came and went quickly, which was fine as far as Baird was concerned. The sooner he got Ardek out of his hair, the better. The trick was going to be sounding convincing.

“Well?” Ardek said expectantly, tapping his foot as soon as he appeared in the lab. Baird bent his head down a bit lower, trying to look defeated.

“She’s not ready,” he said softly, turning to face the Romulan.

“Is she close?”

“No. We had a major meltdown in her positronic network. It’ll take me weeks to repair…if I can repair it.”

“So you’ve reduced my lovely Krissy to a lifeless hulk. That’s what you’re saying to me?” Ardek replied.

“Yes. Sorry.”

“This is completely unacceptable!” Ardek screamed with a sudden burst of fury. “You worthless piece of human bile! I will enjoy watching you die with the others! MURDERER!”

Baird fought back his urge to shout back at the hologram and instead turned back to his lab bench.

“Ooooooh! You are sooo lucky you aren’t in the interview booth. Your testicles would be charbroiled by now!” Ardek ranted. “Auuugh! I can’t even look at you anymore. I hope it hurts when you explode! Hummph!” And Ardek’s hologram dematerialized with an angry wave of his fists.

With his captor gone, Baird made a few final adjustments on Krissy and went to find the others. The group had become fairly skilled at slipping brief written messages to each other on napkins from out of the replicator. It was inefficient, but it was the only way they could communicate under the watchful eye of Ardek and friends.

Baird entered the rec room, where Tur’et and Vinnz were playing tri-dimensional chess while Metalhead skimmed through the vast collection of Ardek’s home movies that he’d graciously supplied the ship with. Baird ordered a snack out of the replicator and sat down on the sofa beside Metalhead to eat, using his left hand to scrawl a message on his napkin with the makeshift pencil he’d cobbled together in the lab. Metalhead couldn’t read English, but the “1400” should be enough to get the point across to him. If anything, he’d just follow Vinnz to the lab at the proper time, and Glop would probably tag along as well. After finishing his snack, Baird wandered over to Tur’et and Vinnz’s chess game and leaned down on the table, his note positioned strategically next to his left hand. Tur’et and Vinnz each nodded almost imperceptibly, acknowledging the note.

“Where’s Singer and Ratboy?” Baird asked.

“Still commiserating,” Vinnz said. “Can’t say that I’ve missed them, though.”

“Agreed,” Tur’et said.

“Well, I’m going to go spend the last few hours of my life tinkering on Krissy. See you all later.”

Tur’et grunted, focusing her attention back to the game. Perfect. Hopefully they’d bore Ardek out of his mind until it was time to take action. Either that or he’d spend so much time watching Singer and Ratboy’s “commiserating” that he’d barely care what the others were or were not doing.


LUCKY’S LANDING

“IT’S TOO QUIET!!!” Dillon screamed at the top of his lungs.

“Shut up! We’re sleeping here!” a voice called from somewhere on the floor.

“FINE! Be that way!” Dillon tiptoed as gracefully as he could, considering his state of intoxication, through the field of unconscious bodies in the room and made his way deeper into the ship looking for a bar that was still serving. The effects of his Singularity had almost worn off, but he found himself experiencing this almost irresistible craving for another.

He made his way up the slanted corridors of the wrecked ship following the distant sound of music. Music meant people were awake. Awake people meant drinking.

Finally locating the door that the music seemed to be emanating from, Dillon went inside. “NEED BOOZE!”

“Then get your ass in here, Dillon,” Captain Rydell said. He, Sullivan, Dr. Aldridge and Ensign Woodville were gathered around a table playing cards. Possibly poker. Dillon wasn’t sure. “You want to join us?”

“Um…well…I don’t really know much about cards,” Dillon said.

“Perfect,” Rydell replied smiling. “Come have a seat. Bartender, get this man a beverage.”

“Singularity!” Dillon cried.

“Brave man. Get him a Singularity, then,” Rydell said, clapping Dillon on the back as Dillon settled into a chair next to Rydell. “You’ve got some credits saved up, right?”

“Oh yeah. Lots of them.”

“Perfect,” Rydell repeated, picking up the cards and starting to shuffle.


THE FREIGHTER

At 1400 hours, Baird, Tur’et, Vinnz, Metalhead, and Glop all gathered back in the android repair lab for what Baird knew was going to be their one chance to get themselves out of this. Everyone looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to reveal the big plan. Slowly, he moved his hand toward the button on the lab console to activate the interference field again.

He stopped as he heard a hologram pop into existence behind him.

“Isn’t this nice? A last gathering before the big finale?” Ardek said. “Good. But let’s see some emotion people. This is holovision. Viewers want drama!”

“How about this for drama,” Baird said, turning slightly toward Ardek but not taking his finger off of the button. “The cast escapes!”

“Hahaha! That’s funny. You can’t…”

Baird slammed down on the button, wiping Ardek’s hologram out of existence as the interference field sprang to life.

“Get out of the way!” Baird shouted, yanking a long section of cable out of Krissy and rushing to a computer panel along the side wall of the lab that he’d secretly pre-loosened. He flung the panel open and jammed the connector on the end of the cable into a slot inside the computer’s innards. Deep below in engineering, upon detecting the cable insertion, the program Baird had written earlier began to run, transferring controls and systems to Krissy.

“Ha!” Baird shouted, slamming back down on the interference field control, deactivating it. Ardek reappeared looking very angry.

“…them back! Oh! There you are,” the Romulan said in his grating superior tone. “Sorry about that bit of interference.”

“I caused that bit of interference, you fucking moron!” Baird shouted. “And now we have control of this ship!”

“Dream on, human,” Ardek replied. Suddenly he turned his head to listen to someone as one of his subordinates on the Horshak reported to him. “What do you mean you’ve lost control of the ship?!? They have to blow up Krinokor? I didn’t order a script change!”

“Sorry, pointy,” Baird said. “Better luck next season.”

“This isn’t over! I don’t know what I’m going to do to you yet, but it’s going to be nasty!” Ardek blinked out in a huff, then instantly reappeared. “REALLY NASTY! I mean it!” And then he was gone again.

Baird grabbed Vinnz’s arm and pulled him toward the lab bench. “Get on her.”

“What?” Vinnz exclaimed.

“Straddle her!” Baird ordered. “You’re a pilot, right?”

“I don’t see how…”

“She’s the ship controls now,” Baird said irritated as he pulled a monitor set-up mounted on a rolling cart over by the lab table. He pulled another cable out of Krissy and connected it to the monitor, which then began showing the view of space outside. “Get on.”

Vinnz reluctantly did as he was told as Baird explained the interface. “Move her arms left and right to go port and starboard. Move her right arm back and forth to control speed. Left arm is up and down. Got it?”

“Uh…I think so,” Vinnz said, experimentally trying the makeshift controls. Amazingly, the ship handled fairly smoothly, if sluggishly considering its bulk.

“Get us on a new course,” Baird said. “Preferably back toward Federation space.”

“I’ll give it my best shot.”

“I am impressed, but do we have any weapons?” Tur’et asked.

“Always the practical one,” Baird quipped. “We’ve got basic phasers and two photon torpedoes that have been here for who knows how long. Right foot is phasers. Left foot torpedoes. You want to handle that, Metalhead?”

“I would consider it an honor,” the Breen replied, straddling Krissy back-to-back with Vinnz.

“Then don’t let anyone kill us,” Baird said. “Glop, you get them anything they need. We’re going to check out the fore sections.”

Tur’et and Baird jogged to the sealed door blocking the living section from the rest of the freighter, where Baird set to work deactivating the force field.

“What are we looking for?” Tur’et asked.

“A way off of this thing. Or at least a comm panel,” Baird said. “There’s no telling what that whack job may do now.”

“You have a point,” Tur’et conceded as Baird opened the door revealing a long hallway only broken up by the occasional doorway.

“Just start checking rooms,” Baird said, working his way down the left side of the hallway. Ten minutes later, all they had to show for their efforts were two environmental suits and an isolinear chip containing the complete works of Soldek and the Romettes. Well that, and they found the freighter’s bridge…not that it did them a lot of good. The place had been ransacked for parts, evidently, or just sabotaged beyond all recognition.

“Nice of him,” Baird muttered.

“But why did he bother?” Tur’et asked.

“Maybe he just bought this thing used. In any case, we’re basically stuck with what I jury rigged. We should probably get back.”

“We should also get the environmental suits. If anything should happen, at least you and I may survive.”

“True, but let’s try to keep the body count down,” Baird replied. “Except for Ardek. We get the chance, we disembowel him.”

“We really do not have the right knives for it on board,” Tur’et said thoughtfully.

“Then we’ll improvise.”

As per Tur’et’s suggestion, they grabbed the two environmental suits and stashed them in the quarters Ardek had forced her to share with Singer. Singer, as they expected, was still off with Ratboy.

“I guess we should fill them in on what’s happening,” Baird said.

“It sounds like a waste of time and energy to me, but if you insist,” Tur’et replied. They could hear the sound of voices as they approached Ratboy’s door. Gradually, the words became understandable.

“I am the Ratboy!”

“I am the cheese! Come and get me, Ratboy! Come and get your cheese!”

“Ratboy!”

“Oh yes! I am the cheese. Spread your cheese, Ratboy. Spread me! Spread me!”

Baird immediately and violently threw up in the corridor. “Oh god,” he gasped, leaning against the wall to keep himself from collapsing. “I don’t EVER want to hear anything like that again.”

“Should we interrupt?”

Baird choked back more vomit. “Urgh…no…don’t want to see.” Regaining his composure as much as he could, Baird staggered down the corridor back to the lab.


LUCKY’S LANDING

Maybe that third Singularity wasn’t such a good idea, Rydell thought as his brain packed its bags and demanded to be booked on the first flight back to sobriety. Meanwhile, across the table, Commander Dillon was sitting in front of one lone credit chip. All of the others were in an unorganized pile in front of Rydell.

Dillon didn’t really seem to mind, though. He was too busy driving his chip around the table with his finger. “Vroooom! Vroooom!”

“Hey, Travis,” Rydell said, a Singularity-induced idea suddenly striking him.

“Yeah,” Dillon said, looking up eagerly. Amazingly, he hadn’t complained once as he’d steadily lost every credit he’d ever had to his name.

“You wanna play a new game?”

“Sure. But this is all I got.”

“That’s okay,” Rydell said. “It’ll be all you got against all I got.”

Across the room, Dr. Aldridge’s ears perked up. Forcing her legs to move despite their drunken protests to the contrary, she stumbled over beside Rydell.

“Uh…Alex. You don’t want to do this,” she said. “You’re winning.”

“Exactly,” Rydell said, pointing at her to emphasize his… er…point. His finger weaved and bobbed as he struggled to keep it pointed generally at her nose. He put his finger down and turned back to Dillon. “Okay. We each draw a card. High card wins.”

“That sounds easy enough,” Dillon said, reaching into the pile of cards at the center of the table and pulling one out as Rydell did the same. Dillon pulled his card close, as if guarding it’s secrets. His face drooped. “Oopsy. I got a three,” Dillon said, plopping his card down on the table.

“Ha!” Rydell exclaimed, tossing his card down.

“Two!” Dillon shouted happily. “I win!”

“What?” Rydell screamed, looking down at the card. “Bbbbut. I saw four clubs. THERE WERE FOUR CLUBS!!!”

“Oh boy,” Aldridge muttered, returning to her seat so her legs could go back to being numb.

“Mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine,” Dillon chanted, pulling the piles of credits over to his side of the table.

“Bartender, two more Singularities please,” Rydell said.

“Oh, I don’t want anymore,” Dillon said.

“Good, because I didn’t order you one.” Right then, Rydell just wanted to be more drunk. Drunk enough so he didn’t remember anything about this whole fiasco. Why did he even come down here in the first place? He didn’t remember that anymore, at least. Good start.


THE FREIGHTER

“What’d we miss?” Baird asked, his face still drawn and pale from overhearing Singer and Ratboy, as he and Tur’et returned to the lab where Vinnz, Metalhead, and Glop were waiting.

Vinnz turned his attention away from using Krissy as ship controls to face Baird. “Well we…what the k’varnitz happened to you?”

“There are some horrors no man should face,” Tur’et replied ominously. Baird made a mental note to thank her for covering for him when all this was over.

“Oookay,” Vinnz said. “Well, we’ve altered course. I can’t say for sure where we’re headed, but assuming we left Romulan space to enter Klingon space, we should be going roughly the right direction.”

“Not that it matters,” Ardek’s voice said, breaking in as his hologram reappeared. The smug look had returned, which Baird took as an exceptionally bad sign.

“What do you want now, Ardek?” Baird said, running through his work in his mind to see if there was some self-destruct device he could have missed.

“Oh nothing. Just wanted to drop in and say hi. Oh wait. There is one thing. You’re all going to DIE!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

“Nice try,” Vinnz retorted, finding some courage. “We’re in control of this ship now.”

“The ship, yes. The anti-matter canisters, no,” Ardek replied grinning. “In thirty minutes, you all go boom. Now try and give me something this time. Panic. Sobbing. You get the idea. Oh, and don’t go messing with the timers on the canisters. There’s too many of them, and you’ll just end up speeding up the clock. I would stay and chat, but there’s a much better show going on down the hall, wouldn’t you say, Scott?”

Ardek waved, then vanished as Baird fought back the urge to vomit again.

“What was he talking about?” Metalhead asked. “What anti-matter canisters?”

“The rear cargo hold is full of them,” Baird said, rushing over to lab table console. He pulled up the ship’s systems. “F***! The cargo doors have been sealed shut. I can’t eject the canisters.”

“I’m sure that was Ardek’s idea,” Vinnz said.

“Lucky for us I have another one,” Baird said. “Good call on the suits, Tur’et. You coming?”

“Is this to be a futile, yet heroic struggle against certain death?” Tur’et asked as she followed Baird back towards her quarters.

“Probably, but I am not just going to sit around and mope for Ardek’s amusement.”

Minutes later, Baird and Tur’et rushed onto the cargo hold catwalk overlooking the stacks and stacks of anti-matter canisters slowly ticking down to zero. Baird found a ladder leading down from the catwalk to the floor and quickly slid down it, making his way through the small aisle between stacks toward the wall of the room.

“Thank god Ardek’s not that crazy,” Tur’et heard Baird say as she finished descending the ladder.

“What have you found?”

“They left a fifteen foot gap between the rows and the hull. They didn’t want any accidental jolts to slam the canisters into the wall, causing a premature explosion,” Baird replied. When she joined him, he was looking over the various stacks of canisters of all shapes and sizes. Finally, he spotted what he wanted: a small canister about the size of a thermos.

“This should be plenty,” Baird said, attaching the canister to the hull with some bonding material out of one of the pockets of his environmental suit. It still had twenty minutes on the clock. He turned back to Tur’et. “We’ve got eighteen minutes to push the rest of these canisters as far away from this spot as we can.”

“That will not give us much time to get out of this room.”

“Why do you think we’re wearing environmental suits?” Baird snapped as he raced toward the stack closest to the hull and started moving canisters. Tur’et was still unsure as to what exactly the human was up to, but he had not steered her wrong in the past. She said a silent prayer to Kahless to give her strength in this unusual battle and dove in to help Baird.

The two worked as hard as they could pushing, shoving, and pulling canisters across the cargo hold as the timer’s ticked down. With two minutes to go, Baird grabbed Tur’et’s arm and pointed at the ladder. “Go! I’m right behind you!” Tur’et charged toward their one avenue of escape as Baird whipped a spanner out of the pocket of his environmental suit and started attempting to deactivate the timer on the canister he’d taped to the wall. True to Ardek’s word, the clock began to tick faster …almost too fast.

“F***!” Baird screamed, running as fast as he could back toward the ladder. Tur’et was already all the way up on the catwalk waiting for his return. “Get out of here!” Baird shouted as he started to climb the rungs. She didn’t budge.

“Stubborn f***ing Klingon.”

“Damn right,” Tur’et replied, locking her arms around the catwalk railing. Baird had just about made it to the top when…

BOOOOM!

The canister attached to the hull wall exploded, rending a large hole in the side of the ship. Baird was almost jarred off of the ladder as the explosion rocked the ship. He braced himself for possible annihilation. If those other canisters weren’t out of the blast zone…

No other explosions followed, but the atmosphere of the room whipped by him as it was sucked out of the hole in the hull. Baird’s body was pulled horizontal by the force; his grip on the ladder started to slip.

“Hang on!” Tur’et shouted, her voice coming over the comm system in the environmental suit as she used her free arm to grab onto Baird. She grunted under the increased strain pulling on the arm she had locked around the railing.

The immense suction grabbed the anti-matter canisters, pulling them out into the vacuum of space and away from the freighter.

Baird’s hands lost their grip on the rungs. Only Tur’et was preventing him from flying out into space. The Klingon howled as the stress on her arm grew. Then suddenly Metalhead was there. The Breen seemed completed unaffected by the winds, his boots somehow holding him to the deck. Metalhead hauled Tur’et and Baird firmly onto the catwalk. Only then did Baird see that Glop had wrapped himself around Metalhead’s waist and stretched back to the door several yards away, where he had anchored himself. With Tur’et and Baird in Metalhead’s grip, Glop retracted himself, slowly pulling the group against the immense suction back toward the door.

Baird was able to look around in time to see the last of the canisters sail out of the ship into the void beyond. Then they were back in the corridor.

“Seal it up!” Baird said urgently. “Then find something to grab onto.”

Metalhead slammed the door closed, dropping an exhausted Baird and Tur’et to the deck. Glop then stretched against, attaching bits of himself to outcroppings along the corridor, then pulling himself across Tur’et, Baird, and Metalhead like a net.

The ship lurched violently as the canisters outside detonated, releasing massive amounts of anti-matter, but Glop held on, securing the humanoids under his body. Moments later, it was all over.


“Three…two…one…zero!” Ardek chanted, clapping happily as the countdown ended. He watched the interior views of the freighter expectantly. The ship rocked violently…but then that was it.

“Um…how come they’re still there?” Ardek said, fury slowly building inside him.

“Unknown, sir,” his science officer replied. “We did have detonation.”

“Scott Baird!” Ardek spat angrily. “What did he do in that cargo bay? I knew we should have put cameras in there. WHAT DID HE DO?”

“Unknown, sir.”

“Oh, stop saying that!”


Tur’et, Baird, Metalhead, and Glop made their way back to the lab, where Vinnz was still straddled over Krissy. Singer and Ratboy had evidently been startled out of their “commiseratings” by the jolt.

“Scott!” Singer exclaimed. “What happened?”

“We’re all going to live,” Baird muttered. “Go back to bed.”

“Oh, Ratboy,” Singer said overdramatically as she turned back to her Cardassian lover. “This is such good news. We can go away together. Start a new life.” The pair raced back to Ratboy’s quarters to celebrate

“That’s what you think,” Baird said under his breath. As soon as he could, he was sending that psycho straight back to Tantalus V.

“Anyone got a place I can sleep tonight?” Vinnz asked. “I don’t think Ratboy’s going to let me back in our room.”

“Hopefully, we’ll be sleeping somewhere other than here tonight,” Metalhead said. “Surely that explosion must have gotten someone’s attention.”

“I want to go home!” Glop cried.

“We all do,” Baird said, collapsing into a chair.

“You are an exceptional example of your species,” Tur’et said, falling into a chair beside him. “You could come join me instead. Fight the Empire. Put me on the throne. There are many perks to knowing the empress.”

“I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment,” Baird replied. “You have some kind of terrorist reserve program? I could just come and blow stuff up a couple of weekends a year.”

“I’m sure we could work something out.”

“Great. Sounds nice and relaxing,” Baird said, closing his eyes. Seconds later, he was snoring.

“He even sleeps like a true warrior,” Tur’et said with a smile, then closed her own eyes to sleep.


“Personal Log. Stardate 53309.4. Our freighter was intercepted by the Klingon military an hour or so after the explosion. Usually I really hate having my sleep interrupted, but I was willing to make an exception in this case. Tur’et seemed sure that she was about to be arrested as a terrorist, but the Klingons didn’t seem to care that she was even on board. I don’t think they even recognized her name. Turns out she hasn’t even really attacked anything yet. She’s a wanna-be terrorist.

The Klingons believed our story about Ardek, especially when we mentioned the part about him wanting to blow up Krinokor. Evidently, that’s just below killing the High Chancellor on the list of crimes against the Empire. Ardek better not let any Klingons catch his ass, or he is in for some serious hell. He’d better not let me find him either. I really just want somebody somewhere to really f*** him up for what he did to us.

In the meantime, the Klingons are taking me, Vinnz, Ratboy, and Metalhead back to Golhunda Three. From there, I can try to contact the Secondprize. I could have just gone on the ship they were sending to take Singer back to Tantalus V, but I couldn’t stand being near her a second longer.”


Baird was on the bridge of the Klingon cruiser doing some repair work as a favor to the captain when the ship approached Golhunda Three. He at first only gave the viewscreen a glance as he worked on the tactical console, but a familiar shape on the screen made him do a double take. It was an Excelsior-class starship.

“I’ll be damned,” he muttered. “What ship is that?”

The Klingon science officer magnified the image on the viewscreen so Baird could read the lettering on the Federation vessel’s hull: U.S.S. SECONDPRIZE.

Baird dropped his tools and took off running for the transporter room.

He had the transporter operator beam him directly onto the Secondprize’s bridge. That kind of entrance would surprise the hell out of Emily. Once he finished materializing on the Secondprize, though, he quickly realized that Emily wasn’t there. In fact, no one was there except for a startled officer sitting in the command chair.

“Who the f*** are you?” Baird demanded, grabbing the officer by his collar and yanking him up out of the chair.

“Um…er…Lieutenant Commander Ted Niskey. I’m…I’m the chief engineer. Who…who…who are you?”

“Scott Baird. I’M the chief engineer.”

“Oh! Commander Baird!” Niskey exclaimed. “It’s wonderful to meet you. The crew has been so worried. They’re all down on the planet now looking for you. You really have a wonderful ship here. The engines are in fantastic shape. I can’t tell you how impressed…”

“Get out!” Baird said, dropping Niskey.

“Oh, of course. Right away,” Niskey said, quickly headed toward the turbolift. “I’ll just…”

“Wait!” Baird said. “You stay here. I’m going down there.”

“Great idea,” Niskey said, heading back to the command chair. “I can beam you down to their coordinates.”

“You do that,” Baird replied.

A moment later, he materialized outside of Lucky’s Landing, the place where this whole mess had started. Stepping inside, he found that the bar was littered with the unconscious bodies of the Secondprize crew.

“Emily,” he called out.

“Try the back,” a voice mumbled. It sounded like Lieutenant Carr. Baird headed deeper into the ship, checking room after room until he finally found one with some life…and the people he was looking for. Emily Sullivan sat groggily on the sofa leaning against Patricia Hawkins, who didn’t seem to be doing much better. Captain Rydell had his head down on the bar as he stared glassy-eyed at the five glasses surrounding his head.

“What the f*** is this?” Baird said. “I go missing, and you have a f***ing party!”

“Scott!” Sullivan exclaimed, snapping awake. She jumped up off the sofa, causing Hawkins to collapse, and rushed into Baird’s arms.

“Welcome back,” Rydell said weakly, his arm waving at Baird loosely.

“Yippee!” Commander Dillon said. The First Officer was curled up sleeping on top of a table surrounded by credit chips. “We found him. Mission accomplished.”

“We came down here looking for you,” Sullivan said. “We really did. We just got sidetracked. You mad?”

“You replaced me, left me to die, and had a party.”

“You wanna drink?” Sullivan offered.

“F*** yeah. Bartender, Singularity. And make it a triple. Who’s drinking with me?” No one moved. “F***ing wimps.”


ONE WEEK LATER…


TO: STARFLEET COMMAND

FROM: ADMIRAL THOMAS WAGNER

DATE: 53316.5

RE: USS SECONDPRIZE


As of this stardate, the USS Secondprize under the command of Captain Alexander Rydell has been missing for one week. We know that they have disappeared and reappeared once before, but this time the ship vanished in a fairly well-traveled area.

Multiple attempts at communication have had no response. We would like to assume that the Romulans got her and declare the Secondprize lost. My office will be hosting a farewell and good riddance party on Stardate 53320 at 1800 hours. BYOB.


TO: STARFLEET COMMAND

FROM: ADMIRAL THOMAS WAGNER

DATE: 53319.9

RE: USS SECONDPRIZE


Damn it! We found them.


After the crew finally stopped drinking, shook off the effects of the Singularities long enough to beam back to the ship, and went through a couple of days of detox, life on the Secondprize returned to normal. The ship was currently on a course back to Starbase 342 to drop off Ted Niskey, since his services would no longer be required.

Baird, however, decided to let Niskey keep his job until they made it back to the starbase. He deserved a few days off.

“So,” Emily Sullivan began as the couple sat having dinner in their quarters one night. “You do anything I should know about while you were on that freighter?”

Baird fought back a smile. He knew this question was coming.

“What do you mean?” he asked, stuffing another fork full of pork chop into his mouth, followed almost immediately by a glob of sour cream-drenched baked potato.

“You. The android sex slave. Get it?” Sullivan said angrily.

“Oh! You mean Krissy. The two of us slept together every night. Ardek insisted.” Baird watched Sullivan’s eyes bug out.

“SCOTT! GET…”

“It was just sleeping!” Baird interrupted. “I’m not going to f*** some piece of plastic.”

“What about the Klingon?”

“Or her.”

“Singer?”

“Emily!”

“Sorry,” Sullivan said. She got up from her chair and walked over to sit in Baird’s lap. “I missed you, you know.”

“I missed you, too,” Baird replied. “But about Krissy and all that, I married you for a reason. I’m not going to screw around on you.”

Sullivan smiled and kissed her husband. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. But could you move? You’re making it impossible for me to eat.”

Sullivan jumped up in a playful huff and snatched Baird’s plate. “You want this? Huh? Huh? Come and get it!”

“Don’t you mess with my f***ing dinner!” Baird shouted, and leapt up to chase her back to the bedroom.