Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: The Lost Years #8
by Alan Decker
Commander Travis Dillon gazed at the majestic trees surrounding him, took a deep breath, and immediately started sneezing. Several feet away, Commander Jaroch looked up from his tricorder readings to watch Dillon try to get his allergic fit under control, the faintest hint of a smirk crossing his face.
“Problems, Commander?” Jaroch asked.
“Damn pollen. If I wanted to hang out in a forest, I’d go to the holodeck like normal people,” Dillon said. “There’s who knows what kind of plants and stuff out here.”
“That is what we’re here to find out,” Jaroch said flatly. “Hence the words ‘planetary survey.’”
“Have you found anything to make this worth the trouble?”
“Trees. Shrubs. Flowers. If the Secondprize had a botanist, he would be most pleased.”
“Absolutely…hey…I thought we did have a botanist. Lieutenant…Hill. No…wait. I remember. He married Lieutenant Green in Xenonutrition, and they went off to start some catering business, right?”
“Correct. I believe they handle weddings, funerals, Rites of Ascension, etcetera.”
“Well, Hill’s missing out.”
Several thousand light years away, former Lieutenant Freddie Hill was in a pantry having a wonderful time with his wife and a bridesmaid at the wedding they were catering. Hill didn’t think he was missing out on anything.
As Jaroch continued scanning, Dillon skulked about, occasionally kicking a rock or bit of fruit fallen from one of the trees on Phargus VIII, the eighth and final planet of the Phargus system. At the edge of his hearing, Jaroch noticed Dillon muttering. Normally, Jaroch would just ignore it, but seeing as how Dillon was annoyed already, his mutterings could give Jaroch the opportunity to make Dillon’s day even less pleasant.
“I did not catch your last statement, Commander,” Jaroch said, trying to sound as sincere and interested as possible. It was a bit of a stretch. On average, Jaroch would rather spend years cataloging the bits of fungus growing on the trunks of the trees around him than have a conversation with Dillon.
“I said this survey better not make me late for my interview. It’s taken me five years to get the Advancement Advisory Board to even consider my application. I don’t want to miss my chance to help decide the future of Starfleet because I was stuck looking at some damn tress.”
Jaroch’s mind ran through his possible replies to see which one would annoy Dillon the most:
- “The Board would select an autistic targ before allowing you on it.”
- Too confrontational. Lacks subtlety and finesse.
- “On the contrary, these trees could contain unknown properties that may revolutionize life as we know it. Our work here is of the utmost importance.”
- Could set Dillon off, but there is a danger he could agree and insist on “helping.”
- “Perhaps you should use this time to go off by yourself and prepare what you will say to the interview board.”
- No insult present, but it might get Dillon to leave. We have a winner!
“Perhaps you should use this time to go off by yourself and prepare what you will say to the interview board,” Jaroch replied, trying to step on leaves and make his tricorder beep as loudly as possible. “Preparation is the key to a successful interview, and my work will most likely not allow you to concentrate.”
Dillon’s face immediately brightened. “That’s a fantastic idea, Jaroch. You and I may have our differences occasionally, but it’s times like this that show me the respect and admiration that we have for each other. I’m going to stroll down by the river.”
Dillon turned on his heel and headed off to the south leaving Jaroch blissfully alone. “Yes,” the Yynsian muttered once Dillon was out of earshot. “I would like to pay my respects to your corpse and admire the large hole I blasted through your skull.”
Dillon had to admit that, for the real world, Phargus VIII was somewhat scenic. The forest ended at the top of a high hill, which allowed him to look out over the grasslands beyond. At the bottom of the hill, threading through the countryside, was a gently-rolling river. Actually, it wasn’t any more than ten feet wide, which probably gave it more stream status than anything else, but nevertheless it was pretty.
He walked down to the edge of the stream and began walking along the banks, occasionally skipping rocks across to the other side as he ran through his upcoming interview in his mind.
“Well, Commander, this is certainly an impressive service record. Honestly, I think you should be in command of your own ship by now.”
“Why thank you, Admiral, but we’re here to discuss my application to the Advancement Advisory Board.”
“Yes, of course. It’s just hard to stay on track when I see an officer of your caliber stuck in such a lowly spot. But we must press on. What do you feel you can offer the Board?”
“Nothing less than a completely designed plan for the future of Starfleet…”
Dillon’s thoughts trailed off as he rounded a bend in the river and found himself entering a rocky canyon the water had cut through a hill. Small caves, none bigger than half a meter in diameter, dotted the craggy cliffs. In and out of each a veritable army of crab-like creatures ran. If there was any plan or organization to this movement, Dillon couldn’t distinguish it. The creatures themselves ran low to the ground on ten very thin, fiber-like legs. Their bodies were encased in round, maroon shells no more than 17 centimeters across and about five centimeters high. A lid like opening covered the front of the shells, but occasionally it would flip open, completely swinging over until it lay flat on the shell, revealing two round white eyes about the size of ping-pong balls with dark black pupils.
The Secondprize away team hadn’t seen anything like this so far on Phargus VII. It was a scientific find. And it was Dillon’s! He quickly tapped his commbadge.
“Dillon to Jaroch.”
“What? Did you fall in the river, Commander?”
“No! What would make you think that?”
“No reason. Please continue so that I may finish my work sometime this week,” Jaroch replied unenthusiastically.
“I found something!”
“If this is anything like that rock you picked up on Injax, put it back right now.”
“No. These are animals. Lots of them. Some kind of crustaceans.”
Dillon suddenly noticed that hundreds upon thousands of eyes were now locked on him as the creatures started to surround him. “I think they’ve noticed me. They’re coming closer to check me out.”
“How many of them?” Jaroch asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. Two or three hundred…possibly more.”
“I am on my way. DO NOT do anything to upset them.”
“Upset them?” Dillon said. “How do you upset a crab?”
“Just do not do anything! Jaroch out.”
Dillon then felt something whip painfully across the back of his kneecap about his boot. One of the creatures had swiped him with its flagella. “No no. None of that,” Dillon said, pulling out his phaser. “You respect my body space, and I’ll respect yours.” He fired a warning blast, which seared the sand beside the creature. Its eyes bugged out slightly, then it retreated back to the main part of its horde.
“Much better,” Dillon said satisfied. Now why were they all climbing up on top of each other. In a matter of seconds, Dillon found himself trapped inside a living dome made up entirely of the creatures. “Hold on now…” He reset his phaser for kill, wide dispersal.
That’s when the dome collapsed on top of him.
The creatures were grabbing him everywhere, wrenching the phaser out of his hand and holding into his limbs. Then he felt one latch onto his head. He was helpless to move as he creature’s limbs pressed their pointy tips against the sides of his skull and began to penetrate. The pain was overwhelming.
The limbs pushed farther and father into his head, working their way into his brain itself. Dillon let out one final howl, then blessedly lost consciousness.
Much to his relief, Dillon woke up on a biobed in the Secondprize’s sickbay with Dr. Beth Aldridge standing over him.
“How are you feeling?” she asked with more concern than usual.
Dillon took a moment to think about it. There were no obvious shouts of pain coming from anywhere on his body. “Fine. You got me out of there before those monsters could do too much harm.”
Aldridge shifted uncomfortably. “Well…”
“Well what?” Dillon demanded, propping himself up on his elbows. Aldridge grabbed a small mirror of off her equipment cart and handed it to Dillon.
That thing was still on his head!
“AHHHHHHHHHHH! Get it off! GET IT OFF!!”
“I tried,” Aldridge said. “But it’s physically connected itself to your brain. I can’t remove it without cutting your whole brain out and disconnecting its tendrils one by one.”
“Um…could you put my brain back in after you did that?”
“I was just asking,” Dillon said defensively. “I’m not a doctor. I don’t know these things.” Dillon was quiet for a moment as he stared at the reflection of the maroon shell lodged firmly onto his head. “So… am I going to die?”
“Eventually, but not from it and not anytime soon. You’re perfectly healthy,” Aldridge said. “The life form seems to feed off of brain activity, but it’s not doing you any harm at all.”
“So if I stop thinking, will it leave?”
“That hasn’t worked so far,” Aldridge replied.
“That was uncalled for,” Dillon said in a huff.
“Depends on your point of view. In any case, we’re going to try keeping it happy, so it doesn’t take any negative actions.”
“Such as waving those tendrils around in there and slicing your brain into pate.”
“Ewww…that would be bad.”
“It’s definitely not a course of action I’d recommend,” Aldridge said, then headed off into her office.
“Um…” Dillon called after her. “Does this mean I can leave?”
“Please!” Aldridge shouted out at him. “And try not to make that thing angry!”
A couple of hours later, Dillon was seated at the table in the dining area of his quarters when he heard the doors open and close. Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins hesitantly walked around the divider into the dining area.
“Hi, honey,” Dillon said, looking up from the padd he was working on. “I wondered where you were. I thought you’d be in sickbay when I woke up.”
“Sorry,” Hawkins replied, trying not to stare at the thing on Dillon’s head. “I needed to be on the bridge.”
“Well, duty is duty,” Dillon replied. He’d completely missed the point, but Hawkins decided to let it go.
“What are you doing?” she asked. “I thought the captain was relieving you of your duties for the day to…recover.”
“He did, but Dr. Aldridge thinks I might be able to feed Ted enough…”
“I’ve decided to name it Ted. He’s now the Ted on my head. Head Ted. Or just plain Ted.”
“Right,” Hawkins said slowly. “Okay. So what are you feeding…Ted?”
“Dr. Aldridge felt that constant brain activity might fill Ted up enough that he’d detach, so she had Jaroch draw up a list of questions for me to answer.” He handed the padd to Hawkins. “I skipped a couple, but most of it is there.”
Hawkins scanned down the padd. Dillon had input detailed and thoroughly researched responses to questions ranging from Vulcan history to warp drive mechanics. “Travis! This is amazing. Is that thing increasing your mental performance?”
“What?” Dillon said insulted as he snatched the padd back from her. “I did all this work myself. I was top of my class at Starfleet Academy remember.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just not used to seeing this side of you. You don’t…how to put this…show this kind of knowledge normally,” Hawkins said, trying to be diplomatic.
“It’s all about knowing where to look stuff up,” Dillon said. “And I come from a long line of researchers. My father used to drag me to the library for hours on end while he did research for his journal articles. He couldn’t pull the data from home like normal people. No! He had to go dig through file after file, sometimes even actual paper books. I learned the tricks of the trade. I can research with the best of them!”
“Again, I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to insult you. So what questions did you skip?”
Dillon handed Hawkins the padd back. Three questions had been displayed on the screen.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DIE?
HOW CAN THERE BE A KIND INTELLIGENCE CONTROLLING THE UNIVERSE WHEN PATRICIA HAWKINS IS WITH YOU INSTEAD OF ME?
“His attempts at humor are getting weaker all the time,” Dillon said, standing up. He wrapped his arms around Hawkins and pulled her close. “I missed you.”
Hawkins couldn’t stop staring at Ted on Dillon’s head. “Sure. I missed you, too,” she said unconvincingly. Really all she wanted to do was take a phaser to the monstrosity.
“Are you okay?”
“Fine. Really,” Hawkins said. Suddenly, Ted’s shell flipped open, revealing his two big eyes. Acting on instinct, Hawkins smacked Dillon’s arms off of her and executed an acrobatic back flip landing in a defensive crouch.
Ted just stared at her unblinkingly.
“What? What happened?” Dillon asked.
“It’s…LOOKING at me,” Hawkins said, standing up but still tensed to ward off an attack.
“Can’t you ignore it?” Dillon said. “Just pretend it’s not there.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You can’t see it.”
“Patricia, please. For me?”
“Oh, I can’t take it when you get whiny and needy.”
“Come on, Patti. Let’s go have dinner in Seven Backward and forget about Ted for a while.”
“All right! Fine! But can you at least put on a hat?”
Dillon walked into Seven Backward a few minutes later with Hawkins but without a hat. Dillon had balked at the suggestion, saying that the crew was going to have to get used to his new appearance, since Ted might be with him for some time. Even so, Hawkins had insisted, and Dillon had found an old replica of a United States Naval Officer’s hat under his bed that he’d picked up on Earth years earlier.
Ted, however, wasn’t having anything to do with the hat idea. As soon as Dillon planted it on his head, two more tendrils leapt out of Ted’s shell and threw the hat to the floor. After three more attempts, the hat had been sliced to ribbons, and Dillon’s fingers had received a thorough lashing.
So, with Ted plain to see, Dillon and Hawkins headed into Seven Backward to eat. The lounge was crowded with Secondprize officers enjoying their meals as Guinanco employees scurried back and forth delivering food, drinks, and advice.
All sound and movement stopped the moment Dillon stepped into view as all eyes turned to stare at him and the thing on his head. Dillon took a couple of steps forward to address the group. “Thank you all for your concern, but do not let me disturb your meals. I am perfectly fine and healthy. Just think of me as the same old Commander Travis Michael Dillon who’s been your colleague and superior officer all along.”
After a great deal of muttering that Dillon couldn’t quite make out, the crew returned to their meals; although, some would still occasionally steal a glance at Ted, whose eyes were darting rapidly from side to side, taking in all that was around him.
A Guinanco hostess was about to show Dillon and Hawkins to a table when Jemmy Fisk, the lounge manager, rushed over, rubbing his hands together nervously. “On behalf of Guinanco I’m relieved to see that you’re feeling better, Commander.”
“Why do I feel a but coming on?” Dillon said.
“More like an ass,” Hawkins muttered.
“But you can’t bring that thing in here.”
“What thing?” Dillon said, not liking the direction this conversation was going.
“That!” Jemmy snapped, pointing at Ted in disgust. “Guinanco has a firm policy against pets in its lounges.”
“This is not a pet,” Dillon said angrily. “He’s attached! I can’t exactly just leave him at home!”
“Then we will not be able to serve you.”
“Now wait a damn minute,” Hawkins said hostilely, causing Jemmy to back up a couple of steps in fear. “You’d let a Trill in here, wouldn’t you?”
“Well this is the same deal. Symbiotic life form. Ask Dr. Aldridge and get the hell out of our way!”
“Exactly!” Dillon concurred.
“But…it…” Jemmy visibly shuddered, “…is on the outside.”
“So’s your face, but we still let you in here,” Hawkins said. “Now are you going to let us in or do I need to pull out my phaser for a little third-party arbitration?”
“No no NO!” Jemmy cried, retreating back behind the bar.
“This way,” the hostess said, guiding Dillon and Hawkins to their table.
“I’m all for efficiency,” Dillon said as they sat down. “But I really think that selling this place to Guinanco was the worst thing that could have happened.”
“No kidding,” Hawkins said. She stared out the window for a moment. Even there her gaze locked on the reflection of Ted on Dillon’s head. As much as she tried, she just couldn’t ignore it.
“You okay?” Dillon asked, breaking into her thoughts.
She turned to him as his eyes gazed at her with concern. Four inches higher, Ted stared at her as well, its big eyes unblinking. Hawkins locked her gaze on Dillon’s eyes and tenderly grasped his hands on the table. “Travis, honey, I need to say something to you, but I don’t want you to get defensive.”
“I never get defensive!” Dillon protested.
“Except maybe then. Sorry. Go on.”
“I know you plan on just pushing ahead despite…Ted, and I admire that. Some people would just hide in their quarters forever.”
“Never! I have a career to think about. This is barely even a set back. Some people have extreme physical handicaps and still make stellar officers. One symbiotic crustacean is no problem at all.”
“Right. Exactly,” Hawkins said. “But you have to realize that not everyone is going to adjust as quickly as you do. I mean, we can see him; you can’t.”
“So? I’m still the same Travis Michael Dillon.”
“I know. You definitely are. Just…be patient with people.”
“Enjoying a quiet dinner for three?” Commander Jaroch said as he approached the table.
“Case in point,” Hawkins muttered. “We’re just fine, Jaroch. And if you don’t mind, we’re trying to be alone.”
“Of course. I would not want to interfere as you get acquainted with the new being in Dillon’s life.”
“Ted is not that kind of being!” Dillon snapped.
Jaroch smirked, obviously fighting off a full-fledged laugh. “Ted? You have named it Ted.”
“Why indeed,” Jaroch said. “I will leave you and ‘Ted’ to your meal.” Jaroch walked away and made it approximately three steps before dissolving into a fit of laughter.
“This should have happened to him,” Dillon said. “I don’t think he’d be so giddy.”
“But it happened to you,” Jaroch called out between laughing and gasping for breath. “These things always happen to you! It is cosmic justice!”
“Whatever,” Hawkins said, standing up. “Come on, Travis. We’ll eat in our quarters…ALONE!”
“Not with Ted around,” Jaroch said.
Dillon quickly grabbed Hawkins’ arm as she went for her phaser and shuttled her out of the lounge before she could provide Jaroch with a rebuttal.
“He just can’t leave things alone, can he?” Hawkins seethed as she stormed into the quarters she shared with Dillon. “That man is so infuriating!”
“And insubordinate!” Dillon added, charging in after her. “If I didn’t know that Rydell would knock it down the second I filed it, there’d have been charges filed against Jaroch years ago.”
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
“Agreed. Let’s just forget about it and go to bed.”
“Bed?” Hawkins said hesitantly, her eyes locking on Ted against her will. She honestly hadn’t thought that far ahead. “It’s a bit early yet, isn’t it?”
“Maybe, but I’ve had a rough day. I need to snuggle,” Dillon said, cozying up to her.
“You go on ahead,” Hawkins said, forcing a smile. “I need to do a couple of things first.”
“Okay!” Dillon said brightly, rushing into the bedroom. Within moments, Dillon had changed into his Starfleet issue pajamas and crawled into bed. “Coming?”
“Just a second,” Hawkins said, heading over the desk in their living area. She felt awful about what she was about to do, but she just couldn’t sleep knowing that thing would be next to her and watching all night long. It might even decide to change hosts.
Hawkins sat down at the terminal on the next and, using her security clearance, pumped just a hint of anesthezine into the bedroom. Dillon was fast asleep in seconds. Hawkins, meanwhile, grabbed a pillow and blanket out of the bedroom closet, took a whiff of the quickly fading anesthezine gas to make sure she’d be tired, then curled up on the sofa.
Dillon woke up the next morning alone. Patricia must just have gotten up early, he decided…even though he really couldn’t remember her coming to bed. He must have fallen asleep right away. Of course, after the stress of yesterday, who could blame him?
But today he felt incredibly rested and alive. Maybe Ted was actually helping him. Dillon took a look at himself in Hawkins’ antique full-length mirror (a family heirloom, evidently). He didn’t look any stronger, unfortunately, but who knew? Maybe Ted was slowly making him into a super-human. Now that would be something.
Ted’s shell flipped open, revealing his eyes, which lazily looked around the room, then locked onto their own image in the mirror. Suddenly, the shell slammed shut again, then cautiously reopened a few moments later, the eyes just barely peering out. After a few more test openings and closings, Ted seemed to realize that he was looking at a reflection of himself and relaxed.
“You just get to work augmenting me,” Dillon said, patting Ted soothingly. Then, whistling the theme from “Superman,” Dillon headed into the bathroom.
Out in the living room, Hawkins’ security officer instincts forced her to snap awake. Something was wrong. Then she heard the humming.
Travis was up. But maybe he hadn’t seen her yet. Usually, he went straight to the sonic shower. She just hoped that today was the same, since she had no desire to explain to him why she refused to sleep in the same bed.
Hawkins leapt off the sofa, landing on her feet in one graceful move. She quickly scooped up the pillow and blanket, slid into the bedroom, and stashed them back in the closet. Then she coughed loudly and stomped into the bathroom, just to make sure Dillon heard her.
“Honey?” she called out.
“Good morning!” Dillon replied. Why did he sound so damn cheerful? He still had a giant crab stuck on his head. “You got up early.”
“I had stuff to do,” she replied vaguely. “How are you feeling?”
“Wonderful. 100 percent better. I am going to kill at this interview today!”
Hawkins grimaced. Fortunately, Dillon was in the sonic shower alcove and couldn’t see her reaction. “That’s today?” she said. She’d totally forgotten they were due at Starbase 12 today. “Maybe you should reschedule.”
“Why?” Dillon asked. “I feel fine.”
“These are seasoned Starfleet Officers, Patti. One little alien parasite or symbiont or whatever Ted is isn’t going to bother them. Believe me, pretty soon people are just going to forget it’s there.”
“If you say so…” Hawkins replied. Dillon was deluded. No one was going to forget that hideous thing sitting on his head.
“Jaroch, did you hear something?” Dillon asked as he sat in the command chair on the bridge.
“Not a thing,” Jaroch replied from the science console at the rear of the bridge.
“So you didn’t hear that?”
“Did anyone else hear it?”
“No, sir,” Carr replied from ops. For some reason, Sullivan had her head buried in her hands and was convulsing.
“Prescott, check tactical,” Dillon ordered the backup tactical officer. “Maybe some alien vessel is about to attack, and, thanks to Ted, only I can detect it.”
“I do believe Ted may be the cause of the noise,” Jaroch said.
“What makes you say that?” Dillon asked, whirling around in his seat to face the Yynsian, just as Jaroch tossed what appeared to be a pebble attached to a string. The rock arced through the air and bounced off Ted.
Jaroch quickly reeled in the rock.
“I seem to have located the source of your phantom sound,” Jaroch said smirking.
Behind Dillon, Sullivan finally couldn’t take it anymore and fell out of her chair in a fit of hysteria.
“You are so going on report for this one,” Dillon said angrily. “I don’t care what Rydell says. I’ll go straight to the Fleet Admiral if I have to. I will…”
“We’re approaching Starbase 12,” Carr reported. She’d taken over helm functions while Sullivan gasped for air on the carpet.
“Hail the starbase,” Dillon said, spinning around and suddenly forgetting all about Jaroch’s transgressions against Ted. “Inform them I’ll be beaming over as soon as we arrive.”
“Yes, sir,” Prescott replied as Dillon stood up and headed for the turbolift.
Dillon turned to look at the bridge officers on duty. Somebody had to have the conn, but Sullivan was incapacitated and Jaroch was…mean. “Carr, you have the conn.” He looked at Jaroch and stuck out his tongue. “So there!” Dillon spat, then marched angrily into the turbolift. Just before the doors closed, Jaroch threw his rock.
Admiral Moravi Kinti looked up from the sector tactical status update he’d been reading as his desk computer beeped, reminding him that he had an appointment scheduled. The computer monitor automatically brought up the information. “Stardate 53722. 0900 hours. Advancement Advisory Board Candidate Interview. Commander Travis Michael Dillon, USS Secondprize.”
Admiral Kinti smiled. This had to be Inga’s idea of a joke. Admiral Inga Dodonovitch was the head of the Advancement Advisory Board and one of the best minds in the Federation. There was no way she’d allow anyone from THAT ship on the Board that set down policies for the future of the fleet. She’d sooner select one of those psych cases from the USS Explorer. Kinti read the name again. Dillon. Wait a minute. This was Admiral Dillon’s nephew. That explained it. Okay. He would at least hear this Dillon out.
“Yashin, is my next appointment here?” Kinti asked, pressing down on the commlink to his personal assistant’s desk just outside his office. While waiting for a response, he began idly fiddling with the ceremonial Yoruba dagger he kept on his desk.
“Yes…yes, Admiral. They…he is here,” Yashin replied. Kinti frowned. Yashin sounded rattled for some reason, and it took quite a bit to rattle the big Rigellan. That’s why Kinti had taken him on his staff in the first place. He was a top-notch assistant and a damn imposing bodyguard.
“Send him in, then.”
“Aye, but I will be right outside if you need me.”
“Thank you, Yashin,” Kinti said, standing and straightening his uniform to greet his guest. “But I’m sure that won’t be necessary.”
“We’ll see,” Yashin replied ominously. The comm channel closed just as the doors to Kinti’s office slid open allowing Commander Dillon to enter. Kinti pasted on a smile and extended his hand for Dillon to shake. “Good morning, Commander. I am Admiral…GREAT OGUN WHAT IS THAT!”
“Good morning to you as well, sir,” Dillon replied, completely unphased. “And ‘that’ is Ted. Please just ignore his presence.”
“Of course,” Kinti said hesitantly. Like there was a chance in hell he was going to be able to ignore the giant thing stuck on Dillon’s head. “Have a seat.” Dillon sat down in the chair across from Kinti as Kinti returned to his own seat. “Well now…Commander…” That thing was staring at him. “Ah…why…ah…why do you wish to be on the Board?”
“What dedicated officer wouldn’t relish the chance to help set the future direction of Starfleet?” Dillon asked. “I have been an officer for close to fifteen years now, and I spend each and every day out there where the action is. I’ve seen what faces us, Admiral, and I want to make sure we’re ready for it. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that even though the rules are there for our protection, not everyone follows them. We need to lay the groundwork for the fight against chaos now. You need me on the front line of that fight. I need to give my all for the fleet…”
“You really need to just shut up.”
Dillon stared at Kinti in stunned shock…but Kinti was looking the same way at him…well at his head actually.
“D-d-d-d-d-does that thing talk?” Kinti asked, backing away from his desk.
“I do now,” Ted said in a voice resembling Dillon’s but slightly more high-pitched. “I just had to speak up. Don’t listen to this twit. You have no idea what goes on in this brain of his. Scary stuff.”
“Stay out of this!” Dillon shouted.
“I will not. You should be in a home for the terminally deluded. No one wants to hear what you have to say.”
“Do you know what his big plan is for the future of Starfleet? Regulations! Lots of them! Tell him the one about use of eating utensils.”
“That one’s important!” Dillon cried. “Some people are practically animals. We can’t have that in Starfleet. It’s bad for morale.”
“You’re bad for morale,” Ted spat.
“That’s it!” Dillon screamed, snatching Kinti’s ceremonial dagger off of his desk and plunging it toward his skull. In a blur of motion, two tendrils extended out of Ted and grabbed Dillon’s hands.
“I will kill you!”
“Not if I jam this into your stupid humanoid nose first!”
Kinti watched Dillon fall to the floor and roll around the room, locked in mortal combat with the thing on his head.
“Kinti to Yashin.”
“Call the infirmary…no make that security. Hell, call them both. Dillon’s turned violent.”
“Are you all right?” Yashin demanded. Kinti could hear the Rigellan leaping up from his desk.
“Fine. He’s attacking himself at the moment. But would you reschedule my next appointment? I’d kind of like to see who wins.”
That evening, Hawkins approached the doors of the quarters she shared with Dillon feeling an overwhelming sense of dread. Yes, she loved Dillon, but playing counselor to him was not her idea of fun…or even remotely her specialty. Of course, after what happened to him today, who could blame him for not being in the best of moods?
“Now there’s a pretty sight!” a voice called when she walked through the doors. Dillon himself was slumped on the sofa, and Hawkins was positive that his lips didn’t move. Ted, however, was as bright-eyed as ever. In a sudden move, Dillon’s hand flew up to smack Ted, but the crab whipped it away effortlessly.
“I’m sorry about the interview,” Hawkins said.
“Why?” Ted replied. “I told the truth. I may have just saved Starfleet from this shell head. Oh wait. I’m the shell! Ha! Sorry. Little crustacean humor there.”
Hawkins leaned down close to Ted, whispering menacingly. “I bet you’re REAL tasty steamed and covered in melted garlic butter.”
“Tell you what, why don’t we head to the bedroom, and I’ll smear that body of yours in butter first. Then we can take it from there,” Ted replied.
“Hey, I’m just pulling stuff from dimbulb’s brain here. He’s the one so mad for you he can’t think straight.”
Hawkins kissed Dillon on the cheek. “That’s sweet, honey…” She suddenly slapped him viciously. “…but don’t think about me like that to Ted.”
“Sorry,” Dillon said glumly. He’d barely even flinched when Hawkins hit him. All spirit had been sapped from his body.
“You want to talk about it?” Hawkins said, steeling herself for a long evening.
“Why bother?” Dillon replied. “He’ll just butt in anyway.” Dillon stood and headed back toward the bedroom like a zombie. “I just want to sleep.”
“I love you,” Hawkins called after him.
“Thank you,” Dillon replied, smiling back at her weakly, then he was gone.
“You can do better!” Ted shouted. “He knows that! You own him! Absolutely OWN him!” Dillon closed the bedroom doors, reducing Ted’s voice to muffled shouts.
After a few moments of silent thought, Hawkins decided she needed a really strong drink. No one deserved to have their psyche displayed to the world like that. And, even worse, no one else should have to listen to the dark corners of others’ minds.
She ordered herself a double shot of bourbon and drank in a silent prayer that Ted would just go the hell away.
At about three in the morning, Captain Alexander Rydell heard a light, yet persistent pounding on his ready room door. Ideally, he should have been in bed at that time, but Rydell had always been a bit of a night owl; although, actually the night owls were usually in bed before he was.
“Come on in,” Rydell called from his reclined position in his desk chair. At the time, he was listening to what he considered to be the musical find of the century: a recording of an Elvis impersonator doing Prince songs. Life just didn’t get any better than hearing the King belt out “Kiss.”
The doors opened and closed, but Rydell didn’t see a soul. Great. Just what the Secondprize needed: a late night prankster.
“Captain Rydell,” a voice said.
“Um…yes?” Rydell said, sitting upright in his chair quickly.
“I need to talk to you.”
“I think you already are,” Rydell replied. “But I prefer face-to-face conversations. Call me old fashioned.”
Suddenly Ted hopped up onto Rydell’s desk, tendrils waving in the air. Only years of Starfleet training and the fact that his body was near exhaustion from sleep depravation kept Rydell from jumping to the ceiling and screaming like a slasher-flick victim.
“I’m all done here. Take me back home,” Ted said matter-of-factly.
“Excuse me?” Rydell said, not sure whether to be amused or offended at the fact that this crab was ordering him around.
“Don’t mess with me, Rydell. I know all about your Starfleet regulations. I know more than any being should thanks to that…man! Regulation 103, Subparagraph 12…and I’m paraphrasing here…Starfleet Officers are duty-bound to return all alien beings displaced from their homeworlds to said homeworlds if they are incapable of returning on their own.”
“No one follows that regulation,” Rydell said.
“But it’s still a rule,” Ted said. “Now follow it!”
“You’re as bad as Dillon,” Rydell groused.
“Watch it, pal, or you’ll get some new head gear.”
“Okay! Okay!” Rydell said, holding up his hands in surrender. “Rydell to bridge. Set a course for Phargus Eight. Maximum warp.” He glared at Ted. “Happy now?”
“Ask me again when I get away from you people.”
Without another word, Ted hopped down off the desk and stalked out of the ready room. Meanwhile, several decks below the bridge, Dillon slept fitfully, unaware that the bane of his existence had vanished in the night.
Ted materialized at the river’s edge a few feet away from the entrances to the colony. Several hundred of his brothers and sisters swarmed in and out of the caves as they sought to share in the knowledge of the elders. Upon spotting Ted, the others cleared a path, bowing low in deference to their returning brother.
He was immediately given an audience in the elder’s chamber, just as all of his kind were when they returned with their stores of new knowledge. After bowing low to the elder, Ted waited for the ritual questions.
<And where have you traveled?> the elder asked, his tendrils now too brittle to carry him beyond the caves of the colony.
<To the void above our world.> Ted replied.
<And who have you encountered?>
<Many beings, but my host called himself human.>
<And what did you learn?>
Ted was silent for a moment, lost in thought as he considered the events of the last couple of days. Finally, he reported what he felt to be the greatest wisdom learned from the experience…
<Dillon’s mind is a terrible thing to taste.>
THE MANAGEMENT WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE PRECEDING HORRIBLE PUN. THE WRITER RESPONSIBLE HAS BEEN TERMINATED…HEY…WAIT A MINUTE…I AM THE WRITER RESPONSIBLE! GET AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER! GET BACK! HEYYYYYYYYYY…….