Author: Alan Decker
WARNING: CONTINUITY NIGHTMARE AHEAD The following story follows up on story threads from Star Traks, Star Traks: Waystation, and Star Traks: The Vexed Generation. While I have tried to make everything as clear as possible through exposition without slowing down the story too much, it would help if you were, at the very least, somewhat familiar with the Vexed Generation stories “Worlds Apart” and “Many Happy Returns.” If you aren’t and this story is a bit confusing to you, I apologize, but I promise that this is the last Lost Years story to get this mired in continuity from other series.
Star Traks: The Lost Years #6
So Happy Together
by Alan Decker
Commander Jaroch didn’t even look up from his glass as the doors of Seven Backward opened. Out of the corner of his eye from his perch on a bar stool, he observed Captain Rydell entering the lounge flanked by Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins and Counselor Claire Webber. All three were dressed in casual civilian garb. Jaroch also noted that they appeared to be striding in with a purpose, but frankly he was too blitzed to care. Although, he did note that Hawkins looked beautiful…as usual. What justice was there in a galaxy where such a woman found a dolt like Travis Dillon more appealing than him? Jaroch drained his synthe-scotch with real soda and ordered another.
Actually, since his return from the science conference on Waystation several days earlier, he’d spent most of his free time wallowing in the effects of synthehol. His life had become a cyclical routine of get up, serve his time on the bridge, get drunk, go to sleep, then get up and shake off the effects of the synthehol so he could do it all over again.
The annoying thing was he couldn’t really figure out why he was in this funk that had settled over him. Sure, things at Waystation had not gone as well as he would have liked, but he’d had missions go south on him before. He was stationed on the Secondprize; things going south was just par for the course.
Jaroch had consoled himself for a couple of days after his return from Waystation by taunting Commander Dillon with the information about Dillon’s ancestry that Jaroch had learned while he was away. But that had ceased to be amusing rather quickly. You can only laugh at someone for so long when they don’t understand why you’re laughing at them.
So now he’d sunk into a deep pit of depression and syntheholism. How pathetic.
“Everybody, freeze!” Rydell shouted. “I’m declaring a state of Party Emergency! I want a dance floor cleared NOW!”
“You heard the man,” Hawkins said. “Move it!”
Jemmy Fisk, the Guinanco-appointed manager of Seven Backward, scurried over to the trio of invaders in a completely frazzled state, wringing his hands as he went. “Um…now Captain …er…this is a Guinanco establishment. We have rules…guidelines… and a contract with Starfleet. You can’t just come in here and offer unauthorized fun. We are the only ones authorized to provide entertainment in Seven Backward. Oh! Ah! What are they doing?” Jemmy removed his standard Guinanco-issue flat purple hat and began pulling on his hair as Secondprize crewmembers started moving tables around.
“Clearing space for a dance floor. What does it look like?”
“Oh no. No no no. They definitely cannot do that. We have very strict regulations about the floor plan of our lounges. Each table is in a precise location for our patrons’ maximum enjoyment.”
“Zip it, Jemmy,” Rydell said. “And show Commander Hawkins to your audio system. This snoozac’s got to go.”
“Out of the question. This is Guinanco-approved ambient music specially designed to soothe and relax our patrons,” Jemmy protested.
Hawkins grabbed Jemmy by the back of the neck and yanked him toward the bar. “Audio system. Now. Or I’m going to hang you from the ceiling for tonight’s pinata.”
“All right. I’ll take you, but when Guinanco Headquarters hears about this, they’re going to be very cross!!! They may even pull our franchise out of here!”
“We can only hope,” Rydell muttered.
Jaroch watched as Hawkins dragged Jemmy into the Guinanco Employee’s Only area behind the bar and inserted a new music chip into the sound system. Loud dance music began pumping through the speakers, but Jaroch barely noticed. He was too busy watching Hawkins’s every move. Meanwhile, Rydell supervised the conversion of the lounge into a dance club. “Computer, initiate lighting sequence Boogie Down.”
The lights around Seven Backward dimmed as panels slid open in the ceiling revealing strobes and colored lights. “AHHHHH!” Jemmy screamed. “Where did those come from!? NOOOOOOOOOOO! Guinanco Gurus, take back this lounge!” The various waiters and waitresses working in the lounge looked at each other nervously.
“Hawkins, if a single one of them moves, blast them,” Rydell ordered.
“Yes, sir. What about Jemmy?”
“Blast him right now. He’s being a party pooper.”
“Gladly, sir,” Hawkins replied.
Jemmy backed up against the wall, holding his arms up to ward off Hawkins. “Wait. You can’t…”
“What do you know? I did,” Hawkins said. She slapped a pair of binders on Jemmy’s wrists and dragged him back to the storeroom, emerging a minute later toting a keg on her shoulder. “Lookie what I found.”
“Ohhhh! Romulan Ale. And a whole keg at that,” Rydell replied, reading the label. “Someone at Guinanco has been very naughty. We’re going to have to confiscate that contraband. Tap that puppy, and we’ll do it a glass at a time.”
Counselor Webber approached the bar stool next to Jaroch and sat down next to the intoxicated Yynsian. “Wouldn’t you like something other than synthehol?” she asked.
“I tried the real stuff. One drink almost sent me to sickbay,” Jaroch replied.
“I meant something other than an alcoholic drink, synthetic or otherwise,” Webber replied.
“I am in no mood to be counseled tonight, Counselor,” Jaroch said flatly.
“Good. I’m in no mood to be a counselor. Wanna dance?”
Jaroch finally broke his gaze away from his drink and stared at Webber. “You must be joking. I will not dance to this hyperactive garbage.” On cue, the song ended, replaced with a slow, romantic number.
“You’re in luck,” Webber said, jumping off her stool and grabbing Jaroch’s arm. “Shake off that stupor and come on.”
“But I do not dance!” Jaroch protested as the counselor’s surprising strength yanked him off of his perch.
“Then just wrap your arms around me and sway,” Webber said. She dragged Jaroch to the dance floor where several other couples had gathered and pulled him close to her. “Just move with me,” she said softly.
“That’s the spirit, Jaroch,” Captain Rydell said, dancing close with Dr. Beth Aldridge. “Now sway those hips a bit more. You aren’t an android. Get some rhythm.”
“I do not need or want rhythm,” Jaroch said.
“Leave him alone, Alex,” Aldridge said. “He’s trying at least.”
“And he’s not drunk. Carry on, Commander,” Rydell said. He and Aldridge danced away, presumably to pester Commander Baird and Lieutenant Commander Sullivan, who were dancing together near the viewport, and Baird did not look at all pleased about it.
“This is making you uncomfortable, isn’t it?” Webber asked.
“I thought you were not going to counsel me,” Jaroch replied.
“I’m asking you a question friend to friend. Is this making you uncomfortable?”
“Honestly, yes,” Jaroch said. And really he had no reason to be so uptight with Webber. She had been a great help to him during his Seratch on Yyns the year before. For a month or so afterwards, they had spent a great deal of time together, but that had slowly ended as Jaroch spent more and more time focused on his work and his research. Gradually, they’d returned to just being colleagues serving on the same ship.
Jaroch looked over at Lieutenant Hawkins, who was busy supervising the Guinanco employees behind the bar, and felt a pang of emotion. At least Dillon was on bridge duty, so Jaroch didn’t have to watch the two of them dancing together. Then he thought of Lisa Beck. Granted, he had no feelings for her, but for a brief time while he was under the control of his Carl Jaroch past life, he believed that he did. He felt love like… like he’d never felt…ever.
“You okay?” Webber said. She held him tighter, hugging him close. Jaroch couldn’t help but enjoy the closeness. A smile crossed his lips.
“I am fine.”
“No you’re not. You’re the loneliest man I’ve ever seen.”
“That is absolutely not…” Jaroch trailed off. Wait. Was that it? Was he actually lonely? The idea seemed ridiculous. He’d gone his whole life without the benefit of companionship outside of the occasional brief encounter. Granted, he did have feelings for Patricia Hawkins, but that was a different situation entirely. But Webber’s diagnosis would explain his reaction upon leaving Waystation. He longed for what Carl Jaroch had with his Lisa Beck.
“I do not wish to be counseled now,” Jaroch said, struggling to hold himself together. He reminded himself of his days at the Vulcan Science Academy, where he tried to train himself in the Vulcan way. Loneliness is not logical.
“And I don’t want you to be alone. I like you, Jaroch.”
“Friend to friend,” Jaroch said.
“Woman to man,” Webber replied. “Let’s get out of here.”
“If we leave together, the others present will assume that we have gone to…if I may be indelicate…engage in intercourse.”
“Then let’s not disappoint them,” Webber said, gazing at Jaroch with a lascivious look he’d never seen cross the face of the normally perky counselor. And he liked it!
“Agreed,” Jaroch said simply, as, arm in arm, the two made a hasty retreat from Seven Backward.
Rydell and Aldridge watched them go. “You don’t think…” Aldridge said.
“Oh yeah. Definitely,” Rydell replied.
“Now there’s a surprise.”
“Hey, you said it yourself. Opposites attract.”
“That’s not exactly a new sentiment, Alex.”
“You know, we could be off doing the same thing as Jaroch and Webber right now.”
“We could. Or you could try a little thing called romance,” Aldridge replied.
“…coupled with the intensity of the flames would tend to indicate some heretofore unknown process at work,” Jaroch said, speaking into his tricorder. “Upon return to the Secondprize, submit request to Memory Alpha for all sensor data regarding the phenomenon. End of field notes. Stardate 53591.4.” Jaroch closed the tricorder and set it down on the table beside his half-eaten plate of lunch.
“Did you get enough?” Counselor Webber asked from her seat across the small table from him.
“Food or information?” Jaroch replied.
“Both,” Webber said.
Webber smiled brightly. “Good! I knew you’d like this place.” The pair was currently seated in a small French-style cafe in the oh-so-creatively-named Firestorm Luxury Suites overlooking the raging firestorms of Bersallis III.
“As I recall,” Jaroch said, “this phenomenon was responsible for taking the lives of several Starfleet Officers when this planet was first visited. “Building a resort here seems to be in somewhat bad taste.”
“But you’re enjoying yourself,” Webber replied.
Jaroch looked out the giant picture window near their table that provided a spectacular view of the flaming chaos below. “The phenomenon is certainly of scientific interest to me. Yes.” He turned back to Webber, who was happily staring across the table at him. While they were not technically “dating,” he and Webber had spent a great deal of their off time in each other’s company since their first liaison after the dance in Seven Backward. Finally, after almost ten months of this, Webber had invited Jaroch to go away with her to Bersallis III for a vacation…just the two of them.
His first impulse had been to say no. He was quite happy with the state of affairs on the Secondprize and worried that spending too much time alone together would wreck the mutually-beneficial relationship they had developed. But the scientist in him knew that nothing in the universe could remain static forever. If Webber wanted to take this trip, it meant that she desired to escalate the relationship. This was the test to see if it would work.
With that in mind, Jaroch realized just how much of their time on Bersallis III so far he’d spent running tricorder scans and making field notes instead of paying attention to his companion. “And I am enjoying being with you,” he said. “Thank you for suggesting this trip. I apologize for spending so much time in my research.”
“You’re a scientist. That’s what you do,” Webber said. “But, just out of curiosity, do you have any other hobbies? Favorite holodeck programs?”
“I rarely use the holodeck. The rec room provides the equipment I need for fitness, and verbally-thrashing Commander Dillon on a regular basis usually satisfies my desire for entertainment.”
“But you said rarely,” Webber said, popping a French Fry, something she was pretty sure you wouldn’t find at a real French cafe, into her mouth. “That means you go sometimes.”
“I do, occasionally, make use of Captain Rydell’s bowling alley program. I find the activity somehow intriguing.”
Jaroch squirmed uncomfortably. Revealing this seemed very embarrassing, but if the relationship was to progress… “IengageinbloodyswordbattlesinAncientYyns,” he muttered quickly. So much for his air of scientific superiority and emotional detachment.
“What’s wrong with that? I know that Patti and Dillon use combat programs a lot to relax.”
Of course I know that, Jaroch thought. I imagine being with Patricia every time I use it. Jaroch decided that reason would not be the best to state in present company, though. “Such programs do not fit with my image.”
“You need to relax and be yourself more, Jaroch. This image obsession you have is not healthy. Were you hugged much as a child?” Jaroch couldn’t help but smile. It was somehow reassuring to know that Webber’s answer to everything would be a hug.
“My parents were very loving,” Jaroch replied. Almost smothering, he added to himself. “And I thought we were on vacation.”
“What? Counseling can’t be my hobby too?” Webber asked smiling.
“Point taken. I have a proposal. I will take approximately twenty additional minutes to complete my readings on the firestorms, then I will end my research. We may then spend the remainder of our visit here together.”
“Sounds good to me,” Webber said, getting up from her chair. “I’m going to head back to the room and find us something interesting to do for the afternoon.”
“Very well. I will join you shortly.”
“I’m looking forward to it.” Webber gave Jaroch a kiss on the forehead. “Don’t work too hard.”
“That day has yet to arrive.”
Counselor Webber literally skipped through the hallways of the Firestorm Luxury Suites humming to herself as she headed back to the room she and Jaroch were sharing. So far, everything was going according to plan. Jaroch was away from the Secondprize and Patricia, he’d finally pushed through the “work even when vacationing” phase, so now all that was left was to get the Yynsian to relax and admit to himself that he was still in love with Patricia Hawkins. Only then would he be open to counseling and able to start down the path to getting over her.
Professionally, Webber knew that the methods she’d used in Jaroch’s case had been somewhat questionable, but Jaroch was not your average counselee. He was too strong a believer in dealing with things internally, so Webber had done what she could to get closer to him on a personal, rather than professional basis. Admittedly, she was very fond of him, but she knew that a long term relationship with Jaroch was impossible. He was just too…monotone. But the least she could do was help him get over Patricia and move on with his life. Somewhere out there was the perfect woman for Jaroch, and if he didn’t let go of Patricia Hawkins, he’d never find her.
As she skipped along, Webber ran through a list of the hotel’s leisure activities in her mind looking for the one that would keep Jaroch the most distracted and provide the most close contact between the two of them. Maybe she’d rent a private shuttle that they could fly out across the planet…
Suddenly, two strong arms grabbed her from behind, pulling her forcefully into a janitorial closet. Before she could make a peep, a hand clamped over her mouth as she was dragged into the small dim room. The door shut behind her, then she was spun around to face her attacker, a bright light emanating from a wrist beacon prevented her from making out the person’s features.
“Oh yes!” a male voice said eagerly. That voice. It was somehow familiar, but not. “Just perfect. Absolutely beautiful! Oh how I have longed to see this body again.”
Webber’s mind raced. Who was this person? And why was he being so over-dramatic? He was obviously somewhat unstable.
“Everything’s going to be all right now,” Webber said reassuringly. She jumped forward, catching the man in a tight bear hug. “Just relax. Counselor Claire will help you through whatever problem you may be having.”
“There isn’t a problem anymore. The solution is right here.”
The voice. Who…It sounded like…Dillon? Webber pulled away quickly. “Travis Michael Dillon! Is that you?”
The man aimed the wrist beacon up at his face, illuminating features that were indeed those of Commander Travis Dillon…apart from large scar running across his forehead and the neatly-cropped beard on his chin. “That’s HAPPYMASTER Dillon to you!” The Dillon duplicate pulled a bright-yellow phaser out of the cloak he wore. “And now it’s time for you to do a great service for our Empress.”
“Um…Does she need counseling?” Webber said nervously.
“No no no. She’s very very happy. We all are. The service we need from you is something far more personal.”
“Now wait a second…”
“Nope. No time. I can’t have you doing something silly that might damage your wonderful body. Nighty-night.”
Happymaster Dillon caught Webber’s stunned body before it could hit the ground, then activated the transporter beacon on his belt. A moment later, the pair vanished in a dancing parade of purple energy.
Commander Jaroch moved down through the halls of the hotel without removing his gaze from the readout display on his tricorder. The hotel’s layout was simple enough that he had memorized it within minutes of their arrival, removing the need to waste resources watching where he was headed. As for the other hotel patrons, Jaroch was confident that, considering his path of travel and relatively slow rate of speed, others would make course corrections in time to avoid potential collisions.
Thus far, his scans of the firestorms had proved somewhat intriguing…at least as intriguing as a rampaging wall of flame could be. Such a phenomena certainly did not rank up there with some of the oddities found in open space; however, it did merit some scientific study. But Jaroch was satisfied that he had gathered enough data to allow him to spend the remainder of the trip with Counselor Webber.
Jaroch rounded a corner and almost slammed his head into the unmoving deep-purple clad chest of a male figure in front of him.
“You should watch where you’re going,” the figure said.
Jaroch made a quick mental note of his stopping point, closed the tricorder, and looked up at the humanoid obstacle in his path. “And you should have enough courtesy to sidestep those who are obviously involved in other projects.”
“Perhaps,” the figure replied as Jaroch’s eyes took in the man’s features. He had a thin strong build, with long black hair tied back in a pony-tail. His piercing eyes suggested intelligence, but they were tempered with wisdom: wisdom, Jaroch felt, that had come at a high price. On top of it all, though, was an incredible sense of familiarity about the man’s features.
“Very well,” Jaroch said. “Good day.” Then it hit him as to why the features seemed so familiar. Other than a couple of faded scar lines, they were his own. “My apologies,” Jaroch added. “I am unused to encountering myself other than in a mirror.”
“No offense taken,” the alternate Jaroch replied. “I knew a man of your intellect would realize the truth soon enough. But we really don’t have time for this banter. You may call me Alpha, to ease any possible confusion. I am here because I need your help to save your Counselor Webber and my universe.”
“What has happened to Claire?” Jaroch demanded.
“I was too late to intercept him, so she is now in the hands of the Happymaster,” Alpha replied. “You must come with me.”
Jaroch considered his duplicate’s words for a moment. Happymaster. That meant Alpha was from the so-called “Happy Universe” that the crews of the Explorer and Waystation had encountered, a universe in which Captain Rydell never existed and Counselor Webber used the Joegonots’ transference ray to turn everyone happy and conquer the quadrant. In that reality, Travis Dillon served as Empress Webber’s right-hand man. They were believed destroyed until a recent incursion into Jaroch’s reality just recently. That time, Happymaster Dillon and the crew of the Funship Explorer has stolen a Starfleet prototype ship. This time, for some reason, they had grabbed Claire Webber.
“Have you made a decision?” Alpha asked impatiently.
“I apologize. I needed to review the exposition briefly,” Jaroch replied. “I will go with you, but I expect a full explanation if I am to effectively help rescue Counselor Webber.”
“I understand. And do not worry. There’s plenty more exposition where that came from.” Alpha touched a button on his belt, and he and Jaroch dematerialized in another beautifully choreographed ballet of pretty purple sparklies.
When Counselor Webber regained consciousness, she was somewhat surprised to be sitting up. Then she realized she was actually tied to an chair, her legs secured together and attached to the chair support, her wrists firmly fastened behind the backrest. No one had done anything like this to her since Kevin back at the Institute of Psychology…best not to think about that now. This time she could actually be in trouble.
Her memory of what led her to this predicament cleared. Wait…Dillon had captured her. No danger at all.
Webber forced her eyes open, fighting off the effects of the stun beam Dillon had hit her with, and took in her surroundings. She was on a shuttle. Beside her, Dillon was busily typing commands into the console.
“All right, Commander. This has gone quite far enough,” Webber said.
Dillon jumped a bit, startled to hear her voice. He quickly spun to face her. “Far enough? HAHAHAHAHAHA! You have no idea how far I’m willing to go!”
“What kind of thing is that to say? You sound like someone out of those awful movies you insist on watching all the time. I told you that those things were bad for your sense of reality.”
“My sense of reality? You’re the one deluded into thinking I’m Commander Dillon.”
“But you are Dillon.”
“HAPPYMASTER Dillon!” the Happymaster seethed.
“Why do you keep using this ‘happymaster’ word? What is that supposed to mean? Did something happen between you and Patti? If so, I appreciate that you wanted to come to me, but this is not the way to schedule a counseling appointment. Untie me, I’ll give you a hug to tide you over for the next couple of days, then we can talk when I get back to the Secondprize.”
“Oh we’re going to the Secondprize right now,” Dillon said, tapping one final command into the console, firing a phased cadion pulse . Gradually the space in front of the shuttle began to glow, opening a crackling breach in the space time-continuum. Of course, Webber didn’t understand a bit of that. All she knew was that she was flying through some big, bright, canary yellow opening in space…and she was sure that wasn’t a good thing.
“How did the Happymaster find her?” Jaroch asked as he and Alpha sped away from Bersallis III in Alpha’s shuttle.
“The same way I found him. Once we got into this universe, I called up Starfleet Command and requested Webber’s location. Dillon was looking for a time when your Counselor Webber was away from the Secondprize and, therefore, more vulnerable,” Alpha replied.
“I see,” Jaroch said, taking in this information. He would have to mention something to Command about obtaining proper clearances before divulging the location of officers. “I believe then that the more pertinent question, then, is why does he want her at all?”
“That we’re not sure of,” Alpha said as he began typing commands into the flight console. Jaroch was finding the experience of basically watching himself from afar rather disconcerting for some reason. “We believed Empress Webber and Happymaster Dillon were killed in the assault on her palace last year when I joined up with the Lady.”
“You would know her as Lisa Beck. I knew her as Mistress Beck, but since the war, she has become the Lady.”
“I feel as though I should be taking notes.”
“Our history is a bit complicated,” Alpha said. “But let me try and fill you in as quickly and briefly as possible. After what we thought was the death of the Empress and the Happymaster, our quadrant was thrown into chaos. It was anarchy. Just as we were beginning to rebuild something resembling a government, the Dominion and the Borg, both of which the Empress’ forces had changed with the happy beam, attacked, vying for control. We soon learned that the Empress and Happymaster Dillon were not dead and had allied themselves with the Borg. In our own defense, we joined up with the Dominion. And, of course, the rebels were running around. To keep it short, Fun War IV…what?” Alpha noticed the look of disgust and horror on Jaroch’s face.”
“You called it Fun War IV?” Jaroch gaped.
“That is usually what comes after three,” Alpha replied, an unspoken “duh” hanging in the air between them.
“Never mind. Continue.”
“Thank you. At the end of the war, the Dominion had been crushed, most of the rebels had been rehappied by Empress Webber’s forces, and the Empress and Happymaster, backed by Borg technology, were in control. Of course, they only had one ship left, the Funship Explorer, which used to be a rebel ship. A couple of months ago, Happymaster Dillon and the Funship Explorer entered this universe and stole a prototype starship, which he has dubbed the Secondprize-A. He’s rebuilding his fleet, and now he’s come for your Counselor Webber.”
Alpha pressed a final control on the flight console, activating a phased cadion beam. Jaroch watched with detached scientific curiosity as the beam created a rift in space-time large enough for the shuttle to fly through. Moments later, they were in the Happy Universe, an Intrepid class starship looming in front of them.
“Ruth Buzzy?” Jaroch asked, reading the ship’s name.
“She was some comedienne that Empress Webber was fond of. We just never bothered to get out and repaint the name once we joined the rebels after the war,” Alpha replied. “The annoying thing is that it’s not even spelled right. It should be B U Z Z I, but the Lady won’t change it.”
“If I may make an observation, despite the fact that you are ostensibly under the effects of the ‘happy beam,’ you do not seem all that happy.”
“Six months on the run can darken anyone’s mood,” Alpha replied as he steered the shuttle into the Ruth Buzzy’s docking bay. Minutes later, he and Jaroch emerged onto the ship’s bridge. Jaroch’s immediate reflex was to shield his eyes. He’d read the reports on the Happy Universe, but that didn’t quite prepare him for encountering the bright yellow carpet and the neon pink walls. At the helm console sat Rebecca Singer. Jaroch was prepared for this eventuality. She was a key member of the rebels according to the reports. A mustached man, who Jaroch recognized as a mirror version of Martin Lazlo from Waystation, stood stiffly at tactical, eyeing Jaroch’s every move.
The command chair, which had been upholstered in a furry purple cow print, spun around revealing the Lady. For all intents and purposes, she was Lisa Beck. The same tall stature. The same commanding expression. The same fiery red hair. But there was something about her eyes. They seemed to waiver erratically from intense and in charge to “Lisa’s not home right now. Please leave a message.”
“Why hello there, darlins’!” the Lady exclaimed in a long, lazy drawl.
Jaroch looked over at Alpha questioningly.
“Some of us are still experiencing after-effects of the happy beam,” Alpha replied in a whisper.
“Then why is she in command?” Jaroch whispered back as the Lady rose up from her chair and sashayed towards them.
“She’s very good. Really…and she’s the one with the command codes. Singer wasn’t too thrilled to lose control of the rebels, but they really needed someone with the Lady’s experience when we joined them after our own forces were lost in the war.”
“Now look at you,” the Lady said, grabbing Jaroch by the shoulders and looking him up and down. “Spittin’ image of my darlin’ Alpha.” She turned to Alpha. “Now don’t you worry, hon. His face doesn’t have any of your character.”
“Thank you, my Lady,” Alpha replied with a stiff bow.
The Lady turned back to Jaroch. “He is just such a gentleman. But where are my manners? It’s a pleasure to have you with us Mr. Jaroch. What can we get you to drink?”
“I am not thirsty,” Jaroch replied.
“Well!” the Lady said, fanning herself with her hand. “This one certainly does not have your couth, Alpha.”
“I believe he is concerned about the whereabouts of his Claire Webber,” Alpha said. “They are close.”
“Why, Jaroch, you old devil you. I never would have dreamed she’d be your type. How about it, Alpha. Have you ever felt that urge toward our little Empress?” the Lady asked.
“Most definitely not,” Alpha said.
“May we return to the matter at hand?” Jaroch said a bit impatiently. “Counselor Webber most likely has no idea what kind of danger she’s in!”
“I’m sure the presence of the Happymaster will make it very clear,” Alpha replied.
“She doesn’t know about the Happymaster,” Jaroch said.
“Starfleet decided it would be in everyone’s best interests if Counselor Webber was not informed about the existence of the Happy Universe or her position in it. They did not want to give her any ideas.”
The Lady suddenly started laughing uncontrollably. “Oh! I’m sorry,” she said, gasping for breath. “That is just too precious.”
“I must disagree with your word choice,” Jaroch said flatly.
“Sorry, hon. Don’t mind me.”
Counselor Webber was starting to get the idea that things were getting out of hand as the shuttle approached a ship of a type she had never seen before. It was definitely reminiscent of Federation design, and someone had printed USS SECONDPRIZE-A along its side. Webber looked over at the Dillon who was holding her hostage. Okay. Different personality. He’s got a scar. Spatial rift. Different ship. What did it all mean? Damn! Would it really have been that difficult for Starfleet to give counseling personnel a thorough grounding in the galactic weirdness that they might encounter.
The shuttle docked moments later, and Happymaster Dillon led Webber out into the shuttlebay at phaser point where they were met by people who looked like Sullivan and Hawkins…except they were shorter…much shorter and quite a bit rounder.
“Sulli-fun! Show the new Empress to her quarters,” the Happymaster ordered as the four foot tall Sullivan clone waddled over, phaser drawn.
“What is this?” Webber managed to blurt.
“Home!” the Happymaster said, extending his arms proudly. “The Ebullient class Secondprize-A…complete with the original crew…sort of. Their DNA was a bit charred from the destruction of the last Secondprize, so the cloning didn’t quite work as well as I’d like, but they’re a good crew. Sulli-fun, take her away.”
The midget clone grabbed Webber’s arm and dragged her out of the shuttlebay as Webber stared back at the Happymaster in shock. The midget Hawkins slid over to the Happymaster, nuzzling up against his leg as he patted her head. What the hell was happening here?
“None of this answers our main question of concern,” Alpha said as the Lady got her laughter back under control. “Why did the Happymaster kidnap her in the first place?”
“I’m telling you the Empress is dead!” Singer snapped from the helm console. “Why else haven’t we seen her since the war? It’s all the Happymaster! He could be faking those speeches from her. Audio isn’t that difficult.”
“If that were the case, why bother with a replacement?” Alpha said. “The Happymaster has wanted control for himself all along anyway.”
The bridge dissolved into pointless bickering about the Happymaster’s motives, intelligence, and fashion sense while Jaroch thought about the situation. “Does he inspire loyalty?” Jaroch asked finally.
“The Happymaster?” Alpha said. “Definitely not. He is an egotistical, self-absorbed…”
“That is somewhat redundant.”
“It bears repeating. I’d also like to add sadistic nitwit to the list, though. People follow him out of fear. Empress Webber was who they loved.”
“I see,” Jaroch said thoughtfully.
“I have the Secondprize-A on sensors,” Lazlo reported.
“Where’s it headed, Lazlo?” Lady asked, switching abruptly into command mode.
“Bearing 349 mark 2. Destination unknown.”
“What systems are along that route?” Jaroch asked.
“Peranis, Camus, Naranna…that’s about it on a direct line.”
“This Happymaster is a version of Travis Dillon. He will take the direct line to his destination,” Jaroch said, heading toward one of the computer consoles at the rear of the bridge. “Something about one of those planets sounds familiar.”
“I envy you,” Alpha said, looking over Jaroch’s shoulder as Jaroch sat and scrolled through the Ruth Buzzy’s records. “You still retain the scientific mind I lost to the happy beam. It’s all I can do to fire our happy beam, much less understand it.”
“You have a happy beam mounted on this ship?”
“Of course. It was a Federation of Fun vessel originally.”
“I see,” Jaroch replied, filing that bit of information away in his mind as his attention turned back to the screen. Fortunately, the Ruth Buzzy’s record banks contained information from the United Federation of Planets before the ascension of Empress Webber and the founding of the Federation of Fun. Jaroch scrolled through the information fairly quickly until he hit one particular section. His hand froze over the scroll key as a look of horror crossed his face.
“Set a course for Camus II now!” he shouted, jumping up from the chair. “Maximum warp. We have to stop him!”
“What? What’s he going to do?” the Lady demanded in a near panic.
“I believe that Ms. Singer is partially correct. The Empress is out of sight for a reason, but she still lives…most likely just barely. You said that they have Borg technology, so she may no longer have a body at all. That is why Happymaster Dillon took Counselor Webber. He needs her body.”
“Now, darlin’, you got all of that from Camus II?” the Lady asked.
“Captain James T. Kirk and Dr. Janice Lester swapped minds using a device found in the ruins of Camus II. The Happymaster must have learned about this, and he plans to use it to put your Empress’ mind in Counselor Webber’s body.”
“That’s quite a leap you’ve made there, hon.”
“I am aware of that,” Jaroch said. “But I suggest that you trust me. I am rarely wrong about my conclusions.”
“He is me basically,” Alpha said. “I feel we should go.”
“All right, then,” the Lady said. “Camus II. Maximum warp. We’ll just have to figure out a way to take out that fancy new Secondprize of his when we get there…and we’d better hope he doesn’t have the Funship Explorer lurking about.”
Despite the fact that she’d been kidnapped and dragged into a situation she couldn’t begin to understand, Counselor Webber had to admit that she liked her captor’s sense of decor. The quarters they had locked her in on the Secondprize-A reminded her of her office back on the real Secondprize. The walls had been painted sky blue and dotted with white cloud-like puffs, while the carpet was a bright, grassy green. Speakers pumped the sounds of nature into the room. Birds chirped. The wind blew. It was almost idyllic…except for the being held captive by a psychotic Dillon and his midgets part.
“Hey hey, happy day! Someone’s at the door!” a perky voice announced suddenly.
“Um…come in?” Webber said hesitantly.
The doors opened, revealing Happymaster Dillon. Behind him, carrying a large box which he had balanced on his head, was a little midget Scott Baird. As the Happymaster stepped into the room, his arms outstretched, the midget Baird skipped around him and placed the box on the coffee table in the living area.
“Thank you,” the Happymaster said, patting the tiny Baird on the head. “You may go.” The mini-Baird nodded excitedly, then skipped out of the room, whistling as he went. “They’re such a sweet bunch,” the Happymaster said, as he turned his attention back to Webber. “And they do it all for you, my love. Oh, it is such a joy to see you like this again. One whole body. The mind needs a little work, but we’ll deal with that soon enough, right snookums?”
“Oh definitely,” Webber’s voice replied…but it didn’t come from Webber.
“Time to meet yourself,” the Happymaster said, opening the box on the coffee table with a flourish. As the sides of the box fell, Webber saw a hideous mass of tubes and circuits all connected to what looked like a human brain, which pulsated as it was bathed in a pale green glow. Two tubes extended toward Webber, moving up and down as if to scan her.
“My! You could be twins!” the Happymaster exclaimed, rubbing his hands together.
“Did I really look like that?” the brain asked…at least Webber assumed it was coming from the brain. The voice did emanate from the device anyway.
“All that and more,” the Happymaster replied, as he rubbed his hand along the device lovingly. Webber shuddered involuntarily. Whether it was from the total grossness of the display or the fact that some version of Dillon was expressing that kind of interest in her.
“Does she know what’s going on?” the brain in the box asked.
“Not a clue,” the Happymaster said, circling Webber as she stood stiffly in the center of the room. “But I do so love that look of fear in her eyes that she’s trying so valiantly to hide.”
“Are you saying you like me looking fearful?” the box asked seductively.
“Only with me,” the Happymaster replied.
“You are so twisted, sugarlump.”
“So are you, snookums.”
“Um…could one of you please just tell me why I’m here?” Webber said nervously. “I really want to go back to my vacation now.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” the Happymaster said, leaning right into Webber’s face. “EVER! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
“He can be so dramatic,” the box said. “To be brief, you’ve been chosen for a very special job.”
“What’s that?” Webber said.
“My new body! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
“Now who’s being dramatic?” the Happymaster said, then blew a kiss at the box. “I can’t help but adore her…even in this condition.” He turned back on Webber. “But you’re the answer to that little problem. By tomorrow, you’ll be wearing the robes of the Empress!”
“I will?” Webber said.
“Yes, but don’t get too excited. Your mind won’t be there to enjoy it. Right, snookums?”
Then they both start laughing maniacally. “HAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…”
“Can I ask…”
“WILL YOU SHUT UP A SECOND!!!” Webber screamed, shaking her head violently.
The Happymaster and box fell silent.
“Thank you,” Webber said, pushing her disheveled hair back into place. “None of this makes any sense. Please just explain clearly what you’re about to do me.”
“Oh! Fair enough,” the Happymaster said. “Our universe is in a state of anarchy right now. My beloved and I should be in control, but nobody wants to follow me without her, much less help us rebuild the fleet. Now that box is the brain of the Empress, who is our universe’s version of you. She’s obviously short a body. You have one, so we’re going to swap your minds so that she has your body and you’ll be in the box. Then the Empress will appear before her subjects, restore order to the Federation of Fun, and get the people started on rebuilding our fleet. Got it?”
“Okay. I understand now,” Webber said. “Wait… AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHA!”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHA!”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
Since it would take several hours for the Ruth Buzzy to reach Camus II, the Lady assigned Jaroch quarters that he could use for rest or, as she put it, “whatever other needs he may have.” And actually, since the crew was so small, she assigned him four sets of quarters. Evidently, that was common practice on this ship. People used different quarters depending on their moods. Jaroch tried to find quarters that evoked “I don’t have moods,” but the closest he could get was the Depressed Gray Suite. The bland gray decor suited his few needs, but the constant droning of Music to Slit Your Wrists By through the speakers was starting to get to him.
He was saved when the door chime sounded. Well, actually, it wasn’t a chime. Instead, there was a very morose sounding voice. “Someone’s at the door. It’s probably a mistake, though. No one would want to talk to you. Nobody likes you. Everybody hates you. There are some worms to eat in the mini-fridge.”
“Come in,” Jaroch called, wondering if there was a way he could convince the door voice to euthanize itself and save everyone a lot of misery. The Lady stepped in a moment later carrying a tray with two glasses and a pitcher of brownish liquid.
“I’m no counselor, but is there something you’d like discuss with the Lady, hon?” the Lady said, moving gracefully over to the sofa and setting her tray down on the coffee table. She poured Jaroch a drink and handed it to the Yynsian. “Iced tea. My own special recipe.”
Jaroch took a small, exploratory sip. “There is alcohol in this beverage.”
“Just a pinch. Gives it that special ooomph!”
Jaroch looked at the drink again. He normally abstained from liquor. For some reason, he tended to intoxicate quickly. In this situation, though, it somehow seemed appropriate. Oh what the hell…
Jaroch knocked back the iced tea, quickly draining its contents. Almost immediately, he felt a warmth in his stomach and his head grow fuzzy. The Lady sat next to Jaroch on the sofa and wrapped her arm around his shoulder, pulling him in and resting his head on her chest.
“Now you just tell the Lady ALL about it,” she said. “And then we’ll see if I can’t fix you right up, precious.”
“Fix it?” Jaroch said, surprising himself that he’d blurted out anything at all. “You cannot possibly. She doesn’t want me. She wants Dillon. DILLON!”
“Then why are you trying to rescue her?”
“Not her! Claire and I…well…I honestly do not know what we are. She seems to want a relationship, but I cannot get Patricia Hawkins out of my mind.”
“Hawkins? That little…never mind. She may be a prefect sweetheart in your universe. But right now you’re too close to the situation. You know what you need?”
“What?” Jaroch asked, looking up into the Lady’s eyes. She smiled; it was a smile Jaroch understood the meaning of all too well.
“Perspective,” she said as her free hand made its way up Jaroch’s thigh.
Jaroch considered her proposal for several long seconds. Technically, he was with Webber; although, she had said on more than one occasion that their relationship was not exclusive. And then there was Patricia. Of course, he wasn’t being faithful to her to begin with so…
“Okay!” Jaroch said. Before the word faded from the air, the Lady pounced.
The only reason Counselor Webber stopped screaming was that her throat hurt…well that and Happymaster Dillon had finally gotten sick of it and had aimed his phaser at her.
“Well, now that you’ve had a few moments to become accustomed to the idea, what do you think?” the Happymaster asked. “Quite an opportunity, huh?”
“Are you nuts?” Webber demanded.
“What would ever make you think that? Our plan makes perfect sense,” the Happymaster said. He turned to the box. “She’s really pretty boring like this, but can I try her out anyway?”
“It would be nice to see how the new body moves,” the Empress’ voice said from the box. “And if I control the action, it will be kind of like one of our old threesomes.”
“Fun!” the Happymaster said excitedly. “Get your clothes off!” he told Webber as he took off his cape and started unzipping his bright pink uniform.
“No way!” Webber snapped.
“Don’t make me stun you. I’d prefer you were involved with this, but you don’t necessarily have to be awake.”
“You’re awful! I thought my Dillon was bad, but he would never…”
“Oh shut up and strip!”
“Yeah!” the Empress agreed. “I want to see the new me!”
“Bridge to Happymaster,” the comm system barked just before the Happymaster managed to pull off his underwear.
“What is it, Sulli-fun?” the Happymaster replied as he stood in his happy-face boxers, his uniform pooled around his ankles.
“We are almost at Camus II. You wanted to be informed.”
“Forget the sex! We can do it together soon!” the Empress said.
“Right!” the Happymaster agreed, yanking his uniform back up. “Send escorts for our guest and the Empress.”
“Right away, Happymaster,” Sulli-fun said.
“It’s just as well,” the Empress said as the Happymaster finished zipping his uniform. “You forgot to bring the equipment anyway, and you know you don’t have any fun without the electro-wand.”
“You’re right as always, scrumpykins,” the Happymaster said. A moment later, the midget Baird and Hawkins entered the room. Hawkins grabbed Webber roughly and, with surprising strength, pulled Webber’s arms behind her back and snapped restraints on her wrists. Meanwhile, Baird reverently lifted up the Empress’ brain and rested it on his head.
“Off we go!” the Happymaster said, leading the way out of the quarters. Baird followed close behind.
“Let’s move it, toots,” Hawkins snapped, pushing Webber forward.
“I thought you were supposed to be happy,” Webber said as she was herded forward.
“This is happy,” Hawkins replied. “Don’t I look happy? I am happy. Ecstatic!”
“Sorry. My mistake.”
“Feeling better,” the Lady asked as she looked down at Jaroch, her long red hair brushing gently against his bare chest.
“Much actually. Thank you,” Jaroch said. “But I would like to move.”
“Of course, darlin’,” the Lady said, climbing off of Jaroch. The Yynsian sat up from his where he lay on the coffee table, his back thanking him from getting it off of that hard surface…not that it had been complaining much a few minutes earlier. “Now we have to see about rescuing that counselor of yours.”
Jaroch pulled his uniform on as he ran through the tactical situation in his mind. He was not positive about the specs of the Happymaster’s stolen Ebullient class starship; most of the information was still classified. But he did know that it was a bit larger than their Intrepid class ship. “Yes. We at least know their destination, but I do not relish the thought of entering into a firefight with the Happymaster’s ship.”
“Me either, hon,” the Lady replied, as she put her bra back on then moved toward the rest of her uniform. “But if we can get to the Happymaster himself, we have a little surprise waiting for him.”
“What would that be?”
“Come on. I’ll show you,” she said, taking Jaroch by the hand and leading him out of the quarters.
A few minutes later, they approached a cargo bay on one of the lower decks. “Let me just make sure that the force field is active,” the Lady said, checking the readouts on the monitor beside the door. Satisfied that it was safe, she opened the doors. Jaroch could hear the hum of a force field immediately behind the doors, but he could not see the reason for it. All in all, the room looked like an empty cargo bay. Then he noticed what appeared to be a mattress and some food placed in a far corner of the room.
Suddenly, a figure dropped down from the ceiling, landing almost directly in front of Jaroch and snarling furiously. The man was absolutely rippling with muscles and dressed in what looked to be a giant diaper. Then Jaroch recognized his facial features.
“That’s Bradley Dillon!” Jaroch exclaimed.
“Exactly, dear. We just call him Berserker now, though.”
“Berserker! Berserker! Berserker!” the alternate Bradley Dillon chanted as drool fell from his lips.
“What happened to him?”
“The Happymaster kept him imprisoned for years on Playstation. I actually used to help torture him, didn’t I pumpkin’?”
“Lady good! Lady good! Love lady!” Berserker said, jumping up and down.
“We made up, though. Now he’s just got one goal in life.”
“Kill Travis! Kill Travis! Kill! Kill! KILL!!!”
“I see,” Jaroch said.
“You may get your chance soon, pumpkin’,” the Lady said soothingly to Berserker. “Have you filled your diaper?”
“Yes, Lady,” Berserker replied sheepishly.
“I’ll send some people to take care of it, but you be nice to them this time. Docky-poo doesn’t want to have to reattach any more limbs.”
“All right, then. I’ll see you soon, and maybe we’ll let you take care of that mean old Happymaster.”
“Yea!!! Love Lady! Love Lady!” Berserker scampered off deeper into the cargo bay as the Lady closed the doors.
“He’s a sweetie,” the Lady said, grabbing onto Jaroch’s hand again. “All he needed was a little love and affection. That’s really all any of us need.”
“Bridge to the Lady,” Alpha’s voice…which was really Jaroch’s voice, said over the comm system.
“Go ahead, darlin’.”
“The Secondprize-A is about to enter orbit around Camus II. We’re coming in on the other side so the planet will mask our approach on sensors.”
“We’re on our way. Don’t you start the party without us.”
“By your mention of ‘we,’ I must assume that you are with Mr. Jaroch.”
“But of course, hon.”
“Quite. Bridge out.”
“Was that a hint of jealousy in his voice?” the Lady asked Jaroch. “Now isn’t that just the cutest?”
“No,” Jaroch said flatly, then headed off toward the turbolift.
The Happymaster stepped out onto the bridge of the Secondprize-A followed by Webber, mini-Hawkins, and mini-Baird carrying the Empress’ brain just as the ship slid into orbit over the planet.
“The cavern containing the ruins still seems to be intact,” Sulli-fun reported as she climbed down from the command chair. Webber soon realized that, other than the command chair, all of the other chairs had booster seats in them to allow the tiny crew to reach their consoles. A midget version of Andrea Carr said at the helm while small versions of other faces Webber recognized from the Secondprize manned the other stations.
“Fantastic,” the Empress said. “Let’s get to the transporter room!”
“Wait a minute! There’s a ship coming around the planet,” the mini-Carr shouted from the helm. “It’s the Ruth Buzzy. Things won’t be very warm and fuzzy if we get attacked by the Ruth Buzzy. That’s a ship full of rebels who want to end all our revels.”
“Very nice,” the Happymaster said, applauding loudly. “Sulli-fun, can we take them in battle?”
“Possibly…as long as we can find Patty-watty’s stool.” Hawkins, who had raced over to tactical as soon as the ship was detected, was currently trying to pull herself up onto the console.
“Fiddlesticks!” the Happymaster snapped, slamming his fist into his hand.
“Let the crew worry about this,” the Empress said. “I want my new body!”
“Right. Contact the Funship Explorer and tell them to get here right away!” the Happymaster said decisively as he grabbed the Empress’ brain from mini-Baird and aimed his phaser at Webber. “Bridge to transporter room. Our guest and I will be beaming down to the ruins now. Energize!”
Before Webber could protest…not that she was really planning on it anyway. At this point, she was kind of just along for the ride and hoping that some kind of opportunity to escape presented itself…she, the Happymaster, and the Empress vanished in a flurry of purple. It was kind of pretty actually. She’d have to make a suggestion to Starfleet about changing the color of the transporter beam when she got back. Purple was just so much more soothing.
“I’m detecting a transport in progress,” Lazlo said from tactical as the Lady and Jaroch emerged onto the bridge. “The Secondprize-A is raising shields.”
“Evasive maneuvers. Open fire!” Rebecca Singer ordered from the command chair. At the helm, an officer who Jaroch noticed looked quite a bit like Walt Morales from Waystation pulled the Ruth Buzzy hard to port as Lazlo sent a volley of turquoise torpedoes at the Secondprize-A.
“We have to get down to the planet!” Jaroch said.
“Agreed,” Alpha added from the science console. “I have located the ruins used by Dr. Lester. Three lifesigns…two human and one indeterminate, are now present in the cavern.”
“I’d love to lower the shields,” Singer said just as a volley of phaser fire from the Secondprize-A rocked the ship as it seared by them, “but we’re fighting for our lives here.”
“See if you can’t give Walty a hand at the helm,” the Lady told Singer as she retook her seat in the command area. “But she does have a point. We can’t exactly go lowerin’ our shields now.”
“Launch a shuttle,” Jaroch and Alpha said in unison.
“It’ll get blown to bits before it gets halfway to the planet,” Singer snapped.
“Precisely,” Alpha said.
“But while the Secondprize-A is dealing with the shuttle, we can beam down,” Jaroch finished.
“Good job, fellas!” the Lady said appreciatively. “You two make a wonderful team. We’ll see if we can’t keep this partnership going later. But right now, I’m going with you. Rebecca, you have the ship back, and have someone bring Berserker to the transporter room.”
The Lady wrapped one arm around Jaroch and the other around Alpha and led the two into the turbolift.
“A shuttle is leaving the Ruth Buzzy,” the mini-Carr announced.
“Destroy it! Happy happy, kill kill!” Sulli-fun cried.
“I’m trying,” Hawkins said. She still hadn’t been able to reach her firing controls. Finally, she yanked her boot off and slammed it down on her console. Four torpedoes fired randomly, one streaking within feet of the escaping shuttle.
“Help her,” Sulli-fun ordered as two tiny officers rushed over to tactical and gave the tiny Hawkins a boost up onto the console.
“Now I’ve got it!” Hawkins said.
“Good. Destroying that shuttle will make the Happymaster very happy,” Sulli-fun said. “Fire!”
Three more torpedoes sailed out of the Secondprize-A and slammed directly into the descending shuttle from the Ruth Buzzy. The shuttle was completely obliterated.
“Yippee!” Sulli-fun exclaimed, clapping excitedly. “Now let’s get rid of those mean old rebels.”
“The shuttle has been destroyed,” Lazlo reported from the tactical console on the Ruth Buzzy. “But the Lady and her party are safely on Camus II.”
“Bring us about,” Singer ordered, leaning forward in the command chair. “Target all weapons on the Secondprize-A and fire at will.”
Moments later, the space above Camus II erupted in a storm of explosions and phaser blasts.
“These people could have had the common decency to leave an instruction manual,” the Happymaster muttered as he pored over the control console for the mind-swapping device located deep in the caverns of Camus II.
“You really don’t have to do this,” Counselor Webber said. The Happymaster had attached her handcuffs to one slab of the wall-mounted device. Next to her, the Empress’ brain sat waiting to claim her body. “One simple hug can do you a whole world of good.”
“I’m thinking about a lot more than the world right now,” the Happymaster replied. “Ah wait. Here we go. Flip this switch…” The device suddenly began to hum ominously. “Adjust this dial…” The humming grew in intensity. “Then…”
“Freeze right where you are!” a male voice shouted.
“Hey! I was about to get to the good part!” the Happymaster shouted, quickly drawing his phaser as he whirled around to face the source of the voice. “Alpha!….Two Alphas?”
“I am Commander Jaroch,” Jaroch said, stepping forward as Alpha and the Lady kept their weapons trained on the Happymaster. Just behind the Lady, lurking in the shadows, Berserker waited for the command to attack. “You will release Counselor Webber and surrender.”
“Jaroch!” Webber shouted. “Get me off of this thing!”
Jaroch moved over to Webber as the Lady and Alpha stepped closer to the Happymaster. “What a pleasure to renew our acquaintance,” the Lady said, nodding at the Happymaster.
“You always were jealous of my relationship with the Empress,” the Happymaster spat. “And Alpha was jealous that I had you. You’re both just weak malcontents. The Second Federation of Totally New and Improved Fun will deal with you, though, just as we dealt with the Funship Explorer.”
“Now who’s sounding unhappy?” the Lady replied smiling triumphantly.
“He was going to put my mind into that box!” Webber shouted, pointing accusingly at the Empress’ brain.
“Silence!” the Empress’ brain shouted.
“I can’t believe you are a me,” Webber said. “I am never that mean!”
“Alpha, get the Empress,” the Lady said. “The Happymaster can stay here for the reunion.”
“What reunion?” the Happymaster demanded.
“Why, you can’t tell me that you don’t remember your long lost brother?” the Lady said. “Get him, Berserker!”
Berserker shot into the room in a blur of speed and muscles directly headed for the Happymaster, who narrowly managed to dive over the mind-swap device control console to avoid being slammed by what had become of his brother.
“It’s a real shame, too,” the Lady continued. “Berserker isn’t going to leave enough of you intact for me to play with.”
“You perverted bitch!” the Happymaster cried, rising up from behind the console, his phaser aimed at the Lady. The Happymaster fired just as Berserker grabbed his arm, slamming the Happymaster down into the console. The phaser blast sailed off target, searing into the main section of the mind-swap device on the other side of the room.
Jaroch watched arc of energy fly out of the device as the controls on the console began to flicker and flash from having the Happymaster smashed into them. “I believe we should very quickly get out…”
The entire room was bathed with a greenish glow as a massive surge of energy blasted out of the device, knocking everyone in the cavern off of their feet.
The Happymaster recovered first and scrambled to retrieve his phaser. He quickly realized that he wasn’t where he was a moment earlier. And then he noticed the extra weight on his chest. He touched his torso experimentally and ended up with a handful of breast.
“Ahhh!” the Happymaster screamed, jumping to his feet. Looking around frantically, he saw his own body slowly starting to move several feet away.
“I have a body!” Berserker shouted, jumping up and down happily.
“Empress?” the Happymaster asked hesitantly.
“Happymaster?” the Empress, her mind now housed in the Berserker’s body, replied. “But you’re me…er…her…you have what was going to be my body.”
“Lady help! Lady help!” the box which used to hold the Empress’ brain cried plaintively.
“This is most distasteful,” the Happymaster’s body said, climbing to its feet.
“Jaroch?” Jaroch’s body asked.
“I am afraid so,” Jaroch, who had been put into the Happymaster’s body, said. Suddenly his own body bounded over and grabbed him in a huge hug. “Counselor Webber, I presume.”
“This is so weird,” Webber in Jaroch’s body said. She reached down and felt between her legs. “Oooh. So this is what it feels like to have one of these.”
“Please stop, Counselor. I find that oddly violating.”
“It is weird to have one, though,” Alpha’s body said.
“I would have to agree…in reverse,” the Lady’s body replied, tentatively hefting its breasts.
“That would account for the Lady and Alpha,” Jaroch in Happymaster said.
“You have to fix this!” the Happymaster in Webber cried.
“But why, snookums?” the Empress in Berserker said, rushing over to the Happymaster in Webber. “We haven’t been able to touch each other in so long.”
“Ewww!” the Happymaster in Webber said, shuddering in disgust.
“Ewwwww!” the Empress in Berserker shouted, grabbing the Happymaster in Webber and hoisting him/her into the air.
“You look like my brother! Ewwww!”
“I will see if I can effect repairs quickly,” Jaroch in the Happymaster said. “I am having difficulties fighting off the urge to vomit from being in this body as it is.” Jaroch pulled out his tricorder and started checking the damage.
“All right. We’ll call off hostilities for now,” the Happymaster in Webber said. “But once we’re back to normal, we’re killing all of you!”
“So, we’ve got some free time then, hon?” the Lady in Alpha asked.
“That does appear to be the case,” Jaroch in the Happymaster said.
“Fabulous!” the Lady in Alpha said, grabbing Alpha in the Lady by the hand and dragging him/her out of the cavern.
“Where do they think they are going?” Jaroch in the Happymaster asked as Webber in Jaroch walked over to him.
“Trying things from the other side’s point of view, I’d guess,” Webber in Jaroch replied.
Jaroch looked at her quizzically for a moment, then grimaced as the realization of what she meant occurred to him. “I should feel fortunate that you got my body rather than the Lady.”
“Yes, but it must be a little strange talking to yourself.”
“Thanks to Alpha, I have basically been doing that since I arrived in this universe,” Jaroch replied.
“Are you okay?”
“I believe I should be asking you that question. You were the one being held by that monster.”
“True, but I’m fine. You’re the one trapped in his body. I know that can’t be easy.”
“Which is why I am working very quickly to remedy the situation. I do not wish to spend a moment longer than necessary being Dillon, even if he does have Patricia’s love for some unknown reason. He is the lowest form of life in the galaxy. Fortunately for my sanity, the damage to the console, at least, appears to be superficial.”
“That’s good,” Webber in Jaroch said, sitting down Indian style on the floor beside him. “But that’s not Dillon’s body. The Happymaster never even met our Patricia.”
Jaroch in the Happymaster was silent for a moment. “Yes. Well, the fact remains that the Happymaster is an evil, vile person who endangered your life. I do not wish to be in his body either.”
Across the room, the debate between the Empress in Berserker and the Happymaster in Webber was getting a bit nastier.
“So what are you saying? That you only love me for my body?” the Empress in Berserker snapped.
“No!” the Happymaster in Webber screamed.
“Then let’s go to it!”
“I don’t understand. This is just another body. I’m the same person inside.”
“Yeah, but the outside is MY BROTHER!”
“Oh like you haven’t done things a lot worse than incest.”
“Even I have limits!”
“Come on. It isn’t even really incest!”
“You dare say that to your Empress!”
“Sorry, sugarlump, but that’s just gross.”
“I could take you anyway,” the Empress in Berserker said, hoisting the Happymaster in Webber up in the air.
“Umm…” Webber in Jaroch said, watching the situation nervously. “Are you going to be much longer?”
“I sincerely hope not,” Jaroch in the Happymaster said, sprinting across the cavern to check out the main component of the mind-swap device. Alpha in the Lady and the Lady in Alpha returned a couple of moments later.
“I take it you two enjoyed yourself,” Jaroch in the Happymaster said disapprovingly.
“It was…enlightening,” Alpha in the Lady said. He sounded less than pleased with whatever had occurred.
“I’m sorry!” the Lady in Alpha said. “I’ve never used one of these things before. I didn’t know that was going to happen so soon!”
“Right,” Alpha in the Lady said.
“You’d better hurry up, Jaroch, before none of us have a relationship left,” Webber in Jaroch said. “Not that we officially had one anyway.”
“Is there something you wish to say, Counselor?” Jaroch in the Happymaster said.
“Nope. Not a thing.”
“Liar!” the Lady in Alpha and the Empress in Berserker spat.
“Berserker want out of box!”
“We’ll get you out in a second, hon,” the Lady in Alpha said soothingly.
“That would be an accurate estimate,” Jaroch said, rushing back over to the control console. “Everyone stand still.”
“If you screw this up, I will personally put you through tortures that would have had the Marquis de Sade horrified,” the Happymaster in Webber said angrily.
“Not if I do them to you first,” the Empress in Berserker grumbled. “Hey…wait a second! This means I’m going back in the box! NO!!!!!”
“And this time I’m leaving you there!” the Happymaster in Webber said. The Empress in Berserker dove at him/her just as Jaroch finished his programming of the console (the Yynsian science officer had found the controls quite simple to figure out) and activated the mind-swap device. Once again, sparks flew as the mind-swap device started to hum.
“One final thing,” Jaroch in the Happymaster said, grabbing the Happymaster’s fallen phaser and aiming it at himself.
“What are you doing?” Webber in Jaroch and the Happymaster in Webber shouted.
Jaroch just smiled, then fired. The room was again bathed in a green glow as the mind-swap device built up to an energy surge. Jaroch hit the ground just as the surge blasted across the cavern, engulfing everyone in its path.
Five seconds later, it was all over. Jaroch, back in his own body, blinked several times, shaking off the effects of going from being stunned to instantly not being stunned, and surveyed the room. “Is everyone back to normal?”
“Berserker kill!” Berserker said, rushing over to the Happymaster’s stunned body and hefting it off of the floor.
“Now that was clever,” the Lady said in admiration.
“Oh shut up!” the Empress’ brain shouted from its prison in the box.
“The Lady to Ruth Buzzy. We have captured the Empress and the Happymaster. Order the Secondprize-A to stand down.”
“I don’t think they’ll care. The Funship Explorer is bearing down on as we speak, and we were barely holding our own against the Secondprize-A,” the rattled voice of Singer shouted back over the sounds of explosions and sizzling circuits.
“One shot with our happy beam, and your ship will be ours anyway,” the Empress said.
“Well this was a disappointingly short-lived victory,” the Lady said.
“You have not lost yet,” Jaroch said.
“It is merely delaying the inevitable,” Alpha said. “The happy beam is too powerful. Our best doctors have not found a way to cure its effects. Wait…Commander Jaroch, your Secondprize encountered the happy beam on Ugilious just as we did, correct?”
“If you mean, the Transference Ray, then yes. I am familiar with the device. It was used against one of our crew, who then spread its effects through the Secondprize like a virus.”
“Yet you were able to save these crewmembers. How did you overcome the power of the beam?”
“I simply reversed the beam’s polarity and blasted the affected officers. Then we blanketed Ugilious with the reversed beam, changing the planet’s populace into normal humans.”
“You just reversed the f***ing polarity!” Alpha shouted with an uncharacteristic bit of profanity. “Damn it! I was a scientist once! I should have thought of that!”
“I won’t hold it against you, darlin’,” the Lady said. “But can we use that to save the Ruth Buzzy.”
“Since Alpha told me that you have a happy beam in your arsenal, yes…if we can return to the ship.”
“The Lady to Ruth Buzzy. You have to beam us up!”
“How are we supposed to lower the shields long enough to do that?” Singer shouted.
“Well, can’t you just drop the ones under the ship? People don’t usually shoot under there anyway.”
The commline was quiet for a moment. “Um…well…I guess. I never really thought of that. Standby for transport.”
“Energize whenever you’re ready,” the Lady said.
“I told you she was good,” Alpha said to Jaroch.
A few seconds later, the Ruth Buzzy’s transporter beams locked onto everyone in the cavern and brought them up to the battered starship. “Get Jaroch down to the happy beam,” the Lady ordered Alpha once they rematerialized on the Ruth Buzzy. “I’ll see if I can’t stall our friends out there.” Several rebels rushed into the transporter room as Alpha and Jaroch exited. “Get Berserker to his quarters and put the Happymaster and the Empress in the brig. Come on, Counselor.”
The Lady charged out of the transporter with Webber following close behind. Webber wasn’t exactly sure why she was going along. Combat situations had never been her strong suit, but the Lady did seem to be the one in charge here. Webber and the Lady soon arrived on the bridge…or what was left of it anyway. A woman who looked just like Rebecca Singer was standing in the middle of the command area gripping an arm rest for dear life. The rest of the chair had somehow been obliterated.
On the viewscreen, the Secondprize-A was slowly coming about as plasma poured out of its nacelles. In the distance beyond it, though, a Galaxy-class starship was quickly approaching.
“Can we run?” Singer asked.
“Maybe one warp burst. Not enough to get anywhere far. Otherwise, we’ve got half impulse,” the helm officer, who looked a lot like Walter Morales, said, shaking his head.
“I’ll take over,” the Lady said.
“Not that there’s much to take,” Singer grumbled.
“The Funship Explorer is hailing us,” Lazlo said.
“On screen,” the Lady replied, straightening her uniform. “Must look presentable for our company.”
The image on the viewscreen shifted to show the dayglow color scheme of the Explorer bridge. In the command chair, smiling broadly, sat Captain Andy-wandy Baxter. “Hello, Lady!” he said waving. “We’ve come to end all this doomy and gloomy and make everyone happy-wappy again.”
“Think about this, Andy,” the Lady said. “We used to be on the same side. Remember all those late night strategy session? We were GOOD together!”
“What about Alphie-walphie?”
“Forget him. Just blow up the Secondprize-A, and we can be together again.”
“The Empress wouldn’t be too happy about that.”
“Maybe not, but you can ask her after you beam over. We have her in our brig.”
“You captured the Empress!” Andy-wandy Baxter shouted, almost leaping out of his chair. “Fire everything! Blow them up…except for the bit where the Empress is! I don’t know how to find it! Just do it!” The channel closed abruptly, returning to view on the screen to the rapidly approaching Explorer, which was now charging up its phaser banks and preparing to fire torpedoes.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have mentioned the Empress,” Webber said. “Or maybe I could have pretended to be her.”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t talk to Andy-wandy. He’s always so rude,” the Lady pouted.
“Alpha to bridge. The beam is ready.”
“And not a moment too soon,” the Lady said.
“That’s great, but won’t they obliterate us before they get in range?” Singer asked.
Webber racked her brain. Something was nagging at her. Something she heard during her brief overview course in Starfleet tactics at the Academy!”
“That Picard thing!” Webber shouted suddenly.
“What?” the Lady and Singer demanded.
“He’s got some ship move thing where you kind of warp or something.”
“The Picard Maneuver,” the Lady said. “Walty, you know that one?”
“Programming it in now,” the alternate Morales replied.
“Standby to fire, Mr. Lazlo. Go, Morales!”
The Ruth Buzzy jumped into warp for just a split second, bringing the ship almost nose to nose with the Funship Explorer. Morales steered the Ruth Buzzy just over the advancing Funship Explorer as Lazlo opened fire, blanketing the Galaxy-class ship in blue energy.
“Circle back and hit the Secondprize-A,” the Lady said.
Singer began to protest. “But the Funship Explorer…”
“Will either destroy us or not,” the Lady said. “We can’t do much about it either way.”
“Circling around,” Morales said. The Secondprize-A came back into view, then, just as the Ruth Buzzy closed into range, the Secondprize-A suddenly leapt into warp and vanished.
“Well shoot!” the Lady said, slapping her thigh angrily.
“The Funship Explorer is hailing us,” Lazlo said.
The alternate Explorer’s bridge appeared once again, looking much the same as it did before. The crew, however, seemed to have changed remarkably. Gone were the wide grins and vacant stares. Additionally, there was now a pile of parts that used to be their Kristen Larkin laying on the floor.
“We’re free!” the alternate Baxter cried. Suddenly, he rushed at the viewscreen, kissing it repeatedly. “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Our pleasure, Captain Baxter,” the Lady said. “And I see you were able to subdue the android.”
“We’ll see about reprogramming her without the Empress’ directives this time. But what about the Secondprize-A?”
“That’s right,” Webber said, stepping into view and eliciting a gasp from the Explorer crew.
“Don’t worry about her,” the Lady said. “She’s just visiting our universe. And don’t worry about the Secondprize-A.”
“Don’t worry? There’s a ship fully of psychotically-happy midgets running around the quadrant!” Webber protested.
“Maybe they’ll go start a nice circus or something,” the Lady said.
“We may try to hunt them down,” Baxter said. “After we go to Earth with whatever weapon you hit us with.”
“We’ll send the specs over right away,” the Lady said just as Jaroch and Alpha emerged from the turbolift. “And we’ll follow along shortly to help you…what’s the opposite of happy?”
“Depressed?” Alpha offered.
“Too negative,” the Lady replied. “We’re going to… stabilize the entire galaxy.”
“Good enough,” Baxter said. “You heard the Lady, Richards. I want that weapon installed pronto. Hop to it! Thanks again. Explorer out.” The channel closed, returning the image on the viewscreen to the space above Camus II.
“That should about do it,” the Lady said with a relieved sigh. “Alpha, hon, why don’t you see about taking our guests home. I’m sure they’d like to bid us adieu.” The Lady walked over to Jaroch sultrily. “But we can’t thank you enough. You’ve made it possible for us to save this universe.” She grabbed Jaroch and kissed him passionately, then just as suddenly let him go. “Is there anything else at all I can do for you?”
“Yes,” Jaroch said quickly. “Give yourself a healthy dose of the reverse-happy beam.” Jaroch turned on his heel and entered the turbolift followed by Alpha and Webber.
“Counselor, dear,” the Lady called after Webber. “You’ve got yourself a problem one there, but I did my best to clear up his dilemma. Good luck to you.”
“Um…thanks,” Webber said hesitantly, then entered the turbolift.
“Personal Log. Stardate 53593.5. Alpha has brought Counselor Webber and myself back to our universe of origin. Upon our return, we discovered that our hotel on Bersallis III burned down while we were away. Evidently, there was a problem during a magic show resulting in an uncontrolled blaze and a flock of enraged doves. It is just as well we were away perhaps.
After a thorough debriefing by Starfleet Command, we have rejoined the Secondprize and settled back into our duties. Counselor Webber has started an aversion therapy program for herself so that she can stand to look at Commander Dillon without screaming from memories of the Happymaster. Dillon alone is enough to make me want to scream, but I digress.
Now that we have returned to the Secondprize and our usual lives, I find myself in the unusual and unpleasant situation of experiencing guilt. My actions with the Lady in the Happy Universe were inexcusable, and I feel that I have no option but to be honest with Counselor Webber about these events. It is not a prospect that I relish.”
Commander Jaroch heard voices coming from inside Counselor Webber’s quarters as he approached her door. While normally he was not the sort to eavesdrop, he felt that these were extenuating circumstances. Placing his ear against the door, Jaroch listened…and heard Commander Dillon’ voice.
“Hi, I’m Commander Travis Michael Dillon.”
“Ahhhhh!” Webber screamed.
“Hi, I’m Commander Travis Michael Dillon.”
“Hi, I’m Commander Travis Michael Dillon.”
Evidently, this was her aversion therapy. Jaroch straightening up to his full height and pressed the door chime.
“Come in,” Webber’s voice called shakily. Jaroch entered and was immediately confronted with Commander Dillon. “Sorry about that,” Webber said, tapping a control. The life-sized Dillon image vanished. “I had Scott install a holoemitter for my therapy. How are you doing?”
“I am…well. But I need to talk to you.”
“Is this about the Happy Universe?” Webber asked, walking over to her replicator. Oddly, Webber’s quarters were fairly tame compared to the bright walls and carpeting of her office. Yes, the decor was a bit on the perky side and the walls were a purplish-pink, but the effect was not overwhelmingly gross…either that or too many days in the Happy Universe had completely destroyed any sense of taste Jaroch ever had.
“I’m glad you came by,” Webber said after ordering two cups of coffee for them. “I need to talk to you about some things as well.”
“I would ask you to hold whatever you have to say until I finish. What I am about to reveal may alter your view slightly.” Jaroch took a deep breath and prepared to speak.
“Relax, Jaroch. You look like you’re about to have an aneurism. You slept with the Lady and enjoyed it. No big deal.”
“Believe it or not, there are some skills that go along with being a counselor.”
“I did not mean to imply otherwise. But I am surprised that you do not seem upset.”
Webber smiled weakly and sat down next to Jaroch on the sofa, taking his hands in hers. “I am upset, but not about that. I owe you an apology. I feel like I’ve failed you.”
“Failed me?” Jaroch asked. “I do not understand.”
“I’d hoped that by getting involved with you, I’d help you get over Patti and move on with your life.”
“You did not really wish to be with me then,” Jaroch said, rising and heading toward the door. Why did it suddenly feel like a large Klingon had punched him in the gut?
“Of course I did,” Webber said, getting up to follow him. “You’re a great guy, just not the kind I’d ever see myself in a long-term relationship with. I just figured I’d be rebound girl for you…not that you were ever really dating Patti. The point is that you haven’t gotten over her despite my efforts…and the Lady’s. You made that very clear on Camus II.”
As much as Jaroch had tried to deny it to himself, Webber was right. He still occasionally caught himself staring at Hawkins on the bridge. The mere sight of her and Dillon together was enough to send Jaroch fleeing in the other direction. One of his sole joys in life was plotting horribly painful ways to kill Dillon.
“What should I do?” Jaroch asked finally. As much as he usually took pride in having the answers to everything, this was an area where he was completely at a loss.
“Two things. Understand that Patti may never be a part of your life, and find a way to be happy without her.”
“Yep.” Webber kissed Jaroch lightly on the cheek. “The right woman is out there somewhere, Jaroch. Never doubt that.”
“I understand that,” Jaroch said as the doors opened for him to exit. “But what if the right woman is already here?”
Before Webber could reply, Jaroch walked off down the corridor. Webber watched him go, honestly not sure if she knew the answer.