Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: The Lost Years #17
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
ALEXANDER RYDELL DAY
The lard skaters were surprisingly graceful, Captain Alexander Rydell had to admit as he stood upon the royal dais watching their float go by in the Rydell Day parade. Two of the skaters, a rather attractive pair, Rydell noted, waved in his direction, batting their eyelashes flirtingly. Rydell was about to turn on the full-charm smile when he remembered that just a year ago, those two ladies were most likely grossly-obese, acne-covered, cheesy-smelling Joegonots bent on “befriending” the entire quadrant.
But then the fact that the Joegonots were no longer disgusting and evil was the whole reason Rydell was back on Ugilious. A year earlier, Rydell had turned the entire populace into human beings using a weapon the Joegonots had planned on using on the rest of the galaxy. Of course, the Joegonot version of the transference ray would have turned everyone else into Joegonots. When faced with that kind of threat, the Federation hadn’t really minded that Rydell had effectively caused the Joegonots species to cease to exist.
The Joegonots may have changed physically and mentally, but many of their traditions survived, such as their obsessions with lard, grease, and other food products guaranteed to send you to an early grave.
To Rydell’s right, the Joegonots’ leader, the Grand Leech, beamed proudly while to Rydell’s left, Commander Travis Dillon, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, and Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins attempted to maintain a proper level of decorum in the face of lard skaters and the like.
“So whatcha think, Rydell?” the Grand Leech said, wrapping a massive arm around the captain’s shoulder. “I told you it’d be quite a shindig.”
“It’s…great,” Rydell replied, forcing a smile.
“And we owe it all to you. You’re the one who saved us from ourselves, Rydell.”
“Don’t mention it.” Rydell tried to turn his attention back to the parade. Currently a team of some kind of hippopotamus-looking creatures were dragging a cart along the main avenue of Ugilious’ capital city, Gastrulge. On the cart stood a two-story tall golden statue of Rydell, dressed in a flowing cape and holding a globe of Ugilious in his out-stretched hand.
“Now that I like,” Commander Dillon remarked.
“We’re selling miniature versions down at the pavilion,” the Grand Leech said.
“Can I get my own face on it instead?” Dillon asked.
“No, you moron,” the Grand Leech snapped. “This is Rydell Day. RYDELL.”
“I was here, too, you know!”
The Grand Leech ignored him and turned back to Rydell. “There’s one more thing we have to do to repay you.”
Rydell shook his head quickly. “I’m fine. Really. This is too much already.”
The Grand Leech’s mouth stretched into a broad grin. “It’s already done.”
From his left, Rydell heard Commander Dillon and Lieutenant Hawkins suddenly scream. Even Jaroch let out a horrified shout. Rydell spun around in time to see his officers literally beginning to inflate. Uniform seams stretched, then gave way as their bodies were attacked by cellulite. Their faces broke out into horrible red rashes, which quickly revealed themselves to be hundreds of tiny pimples.
They didn’t remain tiny for long.
In seconds, the pimples had almost obscured his officers’ features, then several exploded, sending streams of pus shooting outward. Rydell raised his hands quickly to shield his eyes, but stopped in mid-motion. His hands…they were expanding, his fingers thickening to twice their size as fat pumped in from nowhere.
Rydell looked down at his stomach, which was quickly blowing up to tremendous proportions. All at once, his nose was assaulted by the smell of rotting cheese.
Great Bird help them all, they’d become Joegonots.
Shaking with terror, Rydell spun back around, as best he could considering his new-found bulk, to face the Grand Leech, who was still smiling, this time far more sinisterly.
“It’s the least we could do,” the Grand Leech said, his grin never wavering.
And Rydell screamed.
“AHHHHHHHH!!!” Captain Rydell shot up in bed and immediately started checking himself.
“Alex, what is it?” Karina Durham exclaimed, snapping awake beside him.
Rydell let out a huge sigh of relief as he realized he was safely back in his quarters on the Secondprize. It was just taking his heart a little longer to understand that fact and stop pounding at several hundred beats per second.
“Bad dream?” Karina asked, wrapping her arms around her fiance.
Rydell nodded. “Joegonots. I was on Ugilious for Rydell Day four years ago. Everything was the same. The parade, the dais, the weather, but this time…” He trailed off as his mind rebelled against reliving that particular section of the nightmare.
“Nothing happened to you on Rydell Day. You went, you suffered through it, then you made excuses to skip it from then on.”
“I swore I was never going back,” Rydell said, slipping out of her embrace and climbing out of bed. He walked over to the window and looked out at the stars streaking by. “But now here we go…to admit them to the Federation, no less.”
“They’re joining the Federation because of you. You transformed their entire race and saved who knows how many lives. You should be proud of that.”
“Can’t I be proud of it from somewhere else? I hear Risa is lovely this time of year.”
“Risa is lovely every time of year,” Karina replied.
“Then now’s the perfect time to go. Dillon can handle this one.”
Karina walked up behind him, once again wrapping her arms around Rydell. “You know damn well Starfleet isn’t going to let you out of this. It’s that whole ‘obey orders or we court martial you’ thing. As long as you’re the captain, you have to do what they say.”
Rydell was quiet for a moment. “True enough,” he said finally. “As long as I’m the captain…” He trailed off again, lost in thought.
“Hey, Captain?” Karina said playfully, tugging on his arm.
“Come back to bed.”
Rydell turned and smiled softly. “Thank you.”
“Even the captain needs someone to talk to.”
“That’s why we have counselors.”
“Yeah. Like I’m letting that flake Webber anywhere near you,” Karina replied, leading Rydell back to their bed. She gave him a final push, sending him falling onto the mattress, then climbed in beside him. “Now go to sleep,” she added, leaning over to give him a kiss then spooning up close to his back.
With Karina’s body pressed against his, Rydell felt better than he had since Starfleet had ordered him on this whole trip.
But there was no way he was going back to sleep.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 54992.3. The Secondprize is en route to Ugilious to take part in the ceremonies surrounding the admission of the Joegonots to the Federation. As the captain who is considered responsible for this historic day, my presence is required. I’m very happy about this mission…really…I mean it. Oh who the hell am I kidding? I’d rather be the practice victim at the Cardassian Interrogation and Torture Academy then go on this trip.
But since orders are orders, we’re going. On the way, we are to rendezvous with a shuttle carrying Betazed’s representative to the proceedings, Byan Sel. Mr. Sel has ruffled a few feathers on the Federation Council and on Ugilious itself with his firm belief that transforming the Joegonots into humans was paramount to genocide and that it is our duty to change them back to their former bloated, pus-filled, stinky selves this instant. I’m sure he’s just going to be thrilled to meet me. In any case, his views haven’t done anything for his popularity, which is why Sel will be the only representative at the ceremony bringing his own personal bodyguard.”
It was almost as though they were doing it on purpose, Commander Travis Dillon thought in annoyance as the gaggle of ensigns in the corridor ahead of him once again thwarted his attempt to pass them.
Meanwhile, beside Dillon, Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins walked in silence as the pair headed toward Transporter Room One to meet the Betazoid representative to the conference and his personal security guard.
“All right, I’ve had enough,” Dillon said pointedly at the five ensigns blocking his path. “Some of us have official business to attend to, so stand aside!”
Hawkins muttered something under her breath.
“Something bothering you, dear?” Dillon asked as he pushed past the ensigns, who had stepped to the side of the corridor and were also in the process of muttering under their collective breaths.
Yea, something’s bothering me, Hawkins thought. You, you pompous piece of… She stopped herself and forced memories of the more pleasant side of Dillon into her mind, a task that had been getting more and more difficult over the last year. Hawkins had always considered herself to be a gung-ho woman of action. If something was wrong, she fixed it. Yet despite her ongoing and ever increasing annoyance with Dillon, she stayed with him. Had she become so…comfortable, for lack of a better term, in their relationship that she was pretty much willing to ignore everything else?
They were closing in on five years together as a couple, yet their relationship had changed very little in all of that time (except for her getting more and more dissatisfied with the state of affairs). The big step of moving in together had occurred three years earlier, but since then things had almost slipped into stasis.
Of course, this was not the time nor the place to discuss any of this with Dillon, not that Hawkins had any intention of saying a word anyway. Despite it all, she knew Dillon loved her, and she assumed she loved him. Otherwise, no matter how comfortable she was, she wouldn’t have stayed…right?
Instead, Hawkins brought up the other topic that had her annoyed at that particular moment. “Bodyguard,” she grumbled.
“Don’t take it personally. I’ve seen these VIPs with bodyguards before. They’re usually little more than glorified butlers.”
“This ship is secure,” Hawkins continued as though Dillon hadn’t spoken. “I know how to do my damn job.”
“No one’s saying otherwise. This bodyguard is there more for psychological reasons. He’s like a teddy bear or a security blanket.”
“How do I know the bodyguard is safe? Maybe he’s some kind of spy or terrorist? Why should I let him on the Secondprize in the first place?”
“Do you want to frisk him when he beams aboard?” Dillon asked.
“What if I do?” Hawkins snapped. “I’m the Chief of Security. It’s MY prerogative!”
Dillon’s head suddenly pitched forward as he clapped his hand to the back of his skull. “All right! Who threw this?” he shouted, spinning around angrily, a pinkish glop of some kind of gelatin-esque food substance in his hand.
The group of ensigns fifteen paces behind them shrugged innocently.
“Come on,” Hawkins said, dragging Dillon into the transporter room doors.
“If I weren’t in a hurry…” Dillon said, then followed Hawkins into the room. As soon as the transporter room doors closed, Commander Jaroch rose up from his crouching position behind the ensigns, a bowl of pinkish goo in his hand.
“Thank you, Ensigns. Your assistance has been invaluable,” the Yynsian science officer said. “If any of you require recommendations in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
“It was completely our pleasure, sir,” Ensign Tabitha Jenkins, one of the engineering crew and a member of the ship’s Barbershop Quartet/Fire-breathing Juggling Team, said smiling.
Jaroch replied with a curt nod, then strolled off down the corridor. The ensigns weren’t positive, but he just might have been whistling.
When she wanted to, Lieutenant Commander Monica Vaughn had a definite knack for saying just the thing to exacerbate an already tense situation. Case in point: despite the fact the Vaughn certainly wasn’t psychic and couldn’t peer into Hawkins’s mind, the words, “Well, if it isn’t the Eternally Dating Duo!” leapt out of Vaughn’s mouth the second Hawkins and Dillon entered the transporter room. Hawkins reflexively winced.
Dillon, meanwhile, just went into his usual righteous indignation. “Some of us are capable of maintaining adult relationships without the need to continuously hop from one bed to the next,” he said coldly. “I believe in personal freedom as much as the next man, but your behavior is really unbecoming a Starfleet Officer. If I had my way…”
Hawkins placed her hand on his arm. “Not now, Travis. You’re giving me a headache.”
“Aww,” Vaughn said. “That means no nookie for you tonight, Commander.”
Dillon’s face scrunched up as he tried to control his anger. “Just…energize,” he said through clenched teeth, turning to face the transporter pad.
“We’re getting them one at a time,” Vaughn said. “The bodyguard insisted on coming first to survey the situation.”
Hawkins and Dillon exchanged an annoyed glance. “Remove any weapons he’s carrying,” Hawkins said.
“I could just strip him totally if you’d prefer.”
“Just the weapons, Monica,” Hawkins said.
“You got it,” Vaughn said as her fingers ran up the console. She watched the readout of the transport. She let out a low whistle. “But you should have let me strip him.”
“Vaughn,” Dillon snapped.
“Fine. Look at him for yourself.”
The transporter pad lit up as the front position received a cascade of blue particles that slowly formed themselves into the figure of a man…a very large, muscular man. Once the transport cycle completed, a massive Klingon with chiseled features looked around the transporter room with a cold, critical gaze.
Dillon took a step forward, his hand extended for the Klingon to shake. “Welcome to the USS Secondprize. I am Commander Travis Michael Dillon, First Officer. This is Lieutenant Commander Hawkins, our Chief of Security.”
Upon hearing this, the Klingon instantly shifted his gaze to Hawkins, quickly looking her up and down as though sizing up her strengths and weaknesses, which, in fact, he was. “I am Mookow,” he said to Hawkins, hitting his fist to his chest in a salute to her. “I mean no disrespect to your abilities, Lieutenant Commander; however, it is my sworn duty to travel ahead of my client.”
“I understand,” Hawkins replied, suddenly feeling a lot less angry about the situation for some reason. “And I hope you will understand why I found it necessary to have your weapons removed in transport.”
“The ones you detected,” Mookow said with a hint of a smile. “But your actions were warranted and expected.”
“You can have them back when you leave the ship, but if it would make you more comfortable to transport Mister Sel aboard yourself, our Transporter Chief will happily step aside.”
Mookow bowed slightly in acknowledgment and stepped over to the transporter console. Vaughn took one tiny step to the side, remaining very close to the Klingon as he looked over the controls.
“Would you like me to guide you?” Vaughn purred, placing her hands on his.
“That will not be necessary,” Mookow replied with no hint of emotion. Vaughn backed off. “It’s your show,” she said as Hawkins and Dillon watched. “He’s mine,” Vaughn mouthed, drawing scowls from both Dillon and Hawkins.
Mookow was oblivious to it all as he activated the transporter. Moments later, Byan Sel finished materializing on the transporter pad. He appeared to be in his late 40s or early 50s but otherwise was unremarkable aside from his occasional twitching. The twitches occurred to be random both in time and location. One second, his right eyelid might begin to flutter, then five minutes later, his left leg would start kicking wildly.
Sel’s left hand was flapping madly as he stepped down from the transporter pad and extended his right hand to Commander Dillon, who was too busy watching Sel’s other hand to notice.
“Commander,” Hawkins whispered, nudging Dillon’s arm.
“Oh!” Dillon said, quickly grabbing the Betazoid’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “Commander Travis Michael Dillon. First Officer. We’re honored to have you aboard, Representative Sel.”
“Please call me Byan,” Sel replied. “Now if I remember the mission file correctly, you accompanied Captain Rydell down to the surface of Ugilious. Is that true?”
“Yes it is,” Dillon said eagerly. The Joegonot incident had been declassified about the time of the first Rydell Day. Considering that the Joegonots were throwing a big party celebrating the whole thing, the Federation didn’t see much sense in trying to keep a lid on Rydell’s actions there. Besides, most people agreed that the transformation of the Joegonots was truly something to be happy about. Byan Sel was a notable exception, but if Dillon could convince Sel that the Secondprize crew had acted heroically, it could do wonders for advancing Dillon’s career.
“We both did,” Hawkins said, more to Dillon than Sel.
“Very true,” Dillon said quickly, trying to climb out of the hole he’d evidently just dug for himself. “This is Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins, our fantastically-capable Security Chief.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both. I hate to sound rude, but may I speak with Captain Rydell?”
“I’ll take you to him myself,” Dillon said.
“I will need to examine our quarters,” Mookow said, stepping out from around the transporter console.
Dillon nodded. “Commander Hawkins will take you. Vaughn, tell the bridge we’re ready to resume course.” He and Sel headed out of the transporter room before Mookow could protest, which Hawkins could tell the Klingon was about to do rather vigorously.
“Commander Dillon will not allow anything to happen to him,” Hawkins said.
“Not if it would hurt his career,” Vaughn added. She expected to catch an angry glare from Hawkins and was honestly surprised when it didn’t come.
“This way,” Hawkins said, gesturing for Mookow to follow her. She and Vaughn locked eyes for a brief second.
“He’s mine!” Vaughn mouthed again smiling. Hawkins rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the matter at hand.
When he heard the chime of his ready room sound, Captain Rydell immediately knew who was there. Every single comment he’d made to Commander Dillon about wanting to avoid Byan Sel and that Sel might not be too fond of him, etcetera, etcetera had been completely ignored. Rydell really wasn’t surprised. If there was one thing Dillon excelled at, it was sucking up to those who might be able to help his career. If that meant ignoring Rydell’s wishes, so be it.
“Next time I’ll give him a direct order,” Rydell sighed. Of course, Dillon would probably then cite fifteen different regulations stating that Rydell could not give such an order.
The chime sounded again.
“Come in,” Rydell said, trying to force a diplomatic smile as the doors opened allowing (surprise, surprise) Dillon and a Betazoid male to enter.
“Byan Sel, this is Captain Alexander Rydell,” Dillon said by way of introduction before Rydell could even finish standing.
“A pleasure, Captain,” Sel said, shaking Rydell’s hand. “I’ve read quite a bit about you.”
“I’ll bet,” Rydell said, sitting back down and gesturing for Sel to do the same. Dillon, meanwhile, stood stiffly off to the side.
“That will be all, Commander,” Rydell said, drawing a shocked look from Dillon.
“I just thought that perhaps my perspective on the Joegonots would be valuable to…”
“Yes, sir,” Dillon pouted, heading out of the ready room.
Sel watched him go, then turned back to Rydell. Rydell found himself staring as Sel’s left arm began to spasm.
“Are you all right?” Rydell asked concerned.
“Don’t mind me,” Sel replied as the twitching subsided. “Old transport crash injury. It comes and it goes, but the doctors haven’t been able to completely clear it up.”
“Ah…I’m sorry,” Rydell said awkwardly.
“As you would say, Captain, not a problem.”
“You have been reading up on me.”
Byan smiled. “It’s nothing you need to worry about…at least not anymore. When the Joegonot Incident files were first declassified, I’d planned on restarting the court martial proceedings against you, but I quickly realized that wouldn’t help the Joegonots at all.”
“It wouldn’t have done a hell of a lot for me either,” Rydell said.
“No, it wouldn’t. But you can still play a role in this, Rydell. Your position is…unique.”
“Unique, huh?” For some reason, Rydell did not like the sound of that at all.
“You are a hero to the Joegonots, Captain. You alone have the influence with them to make them understand the injustice that has been perpetrated against them.”
“Injustice against them?” Rydell exclaimed, rising from his chair angrily. “Did you miss the part about what they planned to do to us? They were going to Joegonotize the whole damn quadrant!”
“That does not excuse the destruction of a society,” Sel said calmly.
“They’re doing just fine.”
“But they aren’t who they were.”
Rydell calmed himself and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Representative Sel, but no amount of talk is going to convince me that that’s a bad thing. I know what I did on Ugilious was unorthodox, but I don’t feel I committed a sin that requires atonement.”
Sel stood solemnly. “That is your right, but I hope you’ll respect my right to see things differently. My fondest wish is that the Joegonots will come to their senses and not join the very Federation that did this to them.”
“We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one then.”
“For now. Good day, Captain,” Sel said with a nod, then exited the ready room.
“Try forever, pal,” Rydell muttered once Sel was gone.
Lieutenant Commander Hawkins couldn’t help feeling a bit like a real estate agent as she stood watching Mookow pour over every nook and cranny of the VIP quarters assigned to Representative Sel.
Actually, these weren’t even the quarters that had originally been assigned to Sel. As Hawkins expected, Mookow’s first action upon seeing the original quarters was to request new ones. Anything that had been set aside for Sel in advance could have been rigged with some sort of death trap already.
The new quarters seemed to be passing muster, though.
“Acceptable,” Mookow said finally.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Hawkins replied. “And if you’d like, I might be able to get one of your weapons for use in these quarters,” she added after a moment. “But only one.”
“One is all I need.”
“Then why carry so many?”
Mookow smiled a toothy Klingon grin. “I like the feel of them.”
“I can understand that.”
“I apologize if this appears forward, but I would like to fight you before I leave this vessel. I enjoy facing a worthy adversary.”
“So you’ve decided I’m worthy already, huh?”
“I am an excellent judge of a warrior’s mettle. You may be human, but I sense the essence of a Klingon in you.”
“I know I speak the truth. For example, how many weapons are you carrying at the moment?”
“A girl has to have some secrets,” Hawkins replied smiling, drawing a hearty laugh from the Klingon.
“Excellent! Never give your opponent an advantage,” Mookow said nodding.
“For now, I prefer to think of us as colleagues. You won’t become my opponent until I’m kicking your ass in the holodeck.”
“I look forward to the challenge.”
“I’m sure Commander Dillon will contact us as soon as Representative Sel finishes meeting with the Captain. In the meantime, I could show you around the ship a bit, if you’d like. Or maybe just show you to the lounge. I don’t think Guinanco serves blood wine, but I’m sure we can find something for you.”
“I have found that whiskey is an acceptable alternative.”
“That we have,” Hawkins said.
“Then lead on.”
Commander Dillon practically leapt out of the command chair as soon as Rydell’s ready room doors opened and Representative Sel stepped out onto the bridge. From the quick glance Dillon got at Rydell before the doors closed again, he concluded that the meeting hadn’t gone well. Of course, the fact that Sel and the captain hadn’t seen eye to eye didn’t necessarily mean that Dillon and Sel wouldn’t get along famously.
“All finished?” Dillon asked cheerily.
“Temporarily,” Sel replied, not really paying any attention to Dillon as he headed back to the turbolift, lost in thought.
“Dillon to Hawkins.”
“Go ahead,” Hawkins’s voice replied.
“Representative Sel has finished his meeting.”
“Mookow and I are in Seven Backward.”
“Is that a lounge?” Sel asked, suddenly perking up.
“Perfect.” The Betazoid was in the turbolift in a flash, forcing Dillon to dive through the closing doors to catch up.
A few minutes later, Sel strolled into Seven Backward, stopped in his tracks, and sucked in a big breath as he happily surveyed the lounge…at least until Dillon, not realizing that Sel had stopped, charged right into the back of the Betazoid, knocking him to the ground.
Panicked, Dillon leaned down to help, but found himself knocked to the deck in a violent flash as an enormous Klingon glared down at him, preparing to slam an empty shot glass down on the First Officer’s forehead.
“Mookow! Wait!” Hawkins shouted, grabbing the Klingon’s arm. “It was an accident!”
“And I think he’ll live,” Dr. Beth Aldridge, who’d come over from her table to help Sel to his feet, said. She turned on Dillon. “But you obviously won’t if you don’t start looking where you’re going.”
“The Representative…is quick,” Dillon said, trying to get his breath back that had been so rudely knocked out of him by the rampaging Klingon bodyguard. “I was trying to keep my eyes on him.”
“By molecularly bonding them to his back?” Dr. Aldridge retorted.
Sel checked himself over. “No harm done, Mookow. Let’s just all go sit down and relax.”
Mookow nodded gravely and removed himself from Dillon, who slowly climbed to his feet. Dillon’s first instinct was to tell that over-muscled moron how close he came to spending the rest of his life in a Starfleet penal colony for assaulting an officer, but in a rare flash of common sense, he decided that that might not be the best way to smooth things over with Representative Sel.
Shortly thereafter, the group, minus Dr. Aldridge who decided to get nowhere near the situation and returned to her own table, had gathered around one of Seven Backward’s larger tables. One of the Guinanco waiters approached. “May I take your order?”
“Hmm…” Sel said thoughtfully. “What’s good here?”
“Everything. It has to be,” the waiter replied. “Our manager insists.”
“Sounds like a good manager.”
The waiter smiled weakly. “She’s…different than our old one.”
“All right. Well, send me a heaping plate of something pasta-y. I feel like noodles. And a giant tankard of some kind of ale…preferably one of those nice light ales from Bajor.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Hawkins saw Mookow shudder every so slightly. Evidently he didn’t consider carbonated spring water with a hint of barley and alcohol mixed in to be ale. Hawkins had to agree with him.
“And you, Commander?” the waiter asked Dillon.
Dillon pretended to think for a moment, then finally said. “You know, what Representative Sel ordered sounded so good that I’ll take what he’s having.”
Now it was Hawkins’s turn to shudder. On the one hand, she couldn’t believe he’d be such an obvious suck-up, but on the other, she knew it shouldn’t surprise her in the slightest. It was his way.
“So tell me, Representative,” Dillon said, trying to start a conversation. “Why the bodyguard? Don’t get me wrong. I have the upmost respect for Mister Mookow’s abilities, but I should think that a telepath such as yourself could tell when someone dangerous is heading your way.”
“Suppose that an assassin were to rig an explosive in the Representative’s chambers before the Representative arrived,” Mookow said. “His telepathy would not be very useful then.”
“Ohhh. Yes, you have a point there,” Dillon admitted.
“And then there’s my injury,” Sel said.
“Representative, there is no need to discuss this here,” Mookow said firmly.
“You don’t need to protect me from this. It’s not that big of a deal. You may have noticed my twitch.” On cue, his right eyelid began fluttering madly.
“Twitch? What twitch?” Dillon said unconvincingly.
Sel ignored Dillon’s attempt at…whatever he was attempting by that ridiculous response. “I was in a transport accident some years ago. Damage to my brain left me with this twitching and severely affected my telepathy. Now I try to screen people out as much as possible because all I get is random flashes. For example, Commander, all I’m getting from you currently is ‘still talking’…‘my turn’…‘dumb Klingon.’”
Dillon shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he looked over at the scowling Mookow. “It’s taken out of context,” he said weakly. From the sound of Mookow’s growl, Dillon got the distinct impression that the Klingon wasn’t buying it.
The mood on the Secondprize bridge was decidedly somber as the ship sped toward Ugilious. It was Captain Rydell’s bridge shift, but so far he’d spent all of it hiding out in his ready room leaving Lieutenant Andrea Carr, Ensign Bill Woodville, and Lieutenant Robert Prescott manning conn, ops, and tactical respectively. Otherwise, the usually bustling bridge was deserted.
For their parts, Carr, Woodville, and Prescott weren’t doing much in the way of chatting. Each officer instead preferred to stay in their own heads, focusing on the destination that lay ahead of them. Yes, the Joegonots were no longer the same species, but still just the sound of their name was enough to evoke feelings of horror. The officers of the USS Secondprize felt this even more acutely, since they knew better than anyone the fiendish plans that the Joegonots had set into motion to conquer the galaxy. Woodville and Prescott hadn’t even been on board at the time, but the stories of Secondprize crew members slowly being turned into Joegonots (as well as the images from the “Joegonitis and You!” training video that Commander Dillon forced all new arrivals on the Secondprize to watch) was more than enough to make them dread this particular mission.
The trio of officers was so lost in thought that they barely noticed as the turbolift doors opened. Counselor Claire Webber stepped out onto the bridge and, after seeing that the command chair was empty, headed straight to the doors of Rydell’s ready room.
A few moments after she pressed the door chime, Rydell called for her to enter. She walked through the opening ready room doors and found Rydell stretched out on the ready room sofa thumbing through a padd.
“Working hard, sir?” Webber asked.
“Counselor! This is a surprise. Someone lose their mind that I need to know about?”
“Well, Ensign Velduk still thinks he’s reincarnated from Surak’s pet selaht, but Commander Jaroch’s going to talk to him about the difference between a real past life and psychosis. That’s not why I came up here, though.”
“What’s on your mind then?” Rydell asked, sitting up so Webber could take a seat beside him. She looked at the contents of the padd.
“For the wedding. I’m trying to line up a caterer, which is hard, since we haven’t even set a date yet.”
Webber nodded. “You’ve certainly been busy.”
“You can say that again.”
“And you’ve got a lot on your mind with the wedding, and the Joegonots, and all.”
“Very true,” Rydell agreed.
“And frankly I don’t think you’ve been taking enough breaks.”
“Absolutely. I’ve been checking with the computer periodically, and you haven’t left this room in hours. It’s not healthy.”
Rydell checked the padd chronometer. Wow. It had been hours. He had no idea he’d been hiding out in here for so long. Of course, being in here was better than sitting out on the bridge watching Ugilious get ever closer.
“So what do you suggest, Counselor?” he asked.
“Go down to Seven Backward, have a late lunch, and talk to your fiance. Carr can handle things up here, and it will do you some good.”
The Captain considered this for a moment, then nodded. “You know what? You’re absolutely right!” He stood up resolutely. “I’m going to lunch!”
“That’s the spirit,” Webber said, jumping up and following Rydell out onto the bridge. Carr, Woodville, and Prescott immediately turned in Rydell’s direction.
“Carry on, people. I’m going to lunch,” Rydell said. “Carr, hold down the fort.”
“Um…okay, sir,” Carr said confused as Rydell headed into the turbolift. Webber, meanwhile, headed over to her seat next to the command chair.
“You’re not coming, Counselor?” Rydell asked.
“I already ate,” Webber replied. “I think I may hang out up here and watch the stars for a while.”
“Your call,” Rydell said, then stepped into the turbolift.
“So how is everyone?” Webber asked warmly.
“Fine,” the remaining officers replied flatly, then quickly fell silent.
Down in Seven Backward, several tables away from Representative Sel and company, Commander Scott Baird sat, his head resting in his hands, as he considered the eight empty beer mugs sitting in front of him. Across the table, his wife, Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan silently took another sip of her iced tea. At times like this, it was best to just let Baird be in his funk.
Seven Backward’s manager, Karina Durham, did not have enough experience with Commander Baird to know that yet, though. “You going to want another one of those?” she asked after approaching the table. That in itself was a sure sign that Karina was about to stick her nose in things. Normally, unlike the former Guinanco management of Seven Backward, Karina focused on the serving of food and drinks rather than the personal problems of her patrons. No longer did the waiters ask you if you wanted someone to talk to the second you stepped through the lounge doors. Almost as soon as she initiated these changes, business picked up dramatically. Strangely enough, the Secondprize crew wanted to get their counseling from a counselor and their drinks from a bartender. Go figure.
In certain circumstances, though, Karina would take matters into her own hands and go talk to a patron she felt was showing signs of extreme need. Right now, Commander Scott Baird seemed to fit that description.
“Make it four more,” Baird replied. “Who the f*** cares? It’s hard enough to get drunk and wallow when you know you can shake it off whenever you f***ing want to.”
“How about this?” Karina said, taking a seat beside Baird. “You tell me what’s going on, and I’ll bring you another drink.”
“What makes you think it’s any of your business?”
“You’re in my bar and intimidating my customers.”
“Who the f*** am I intimidating?” Baird snapped. He looked around and realized that everyone else had backed their tables as far as they could away from the mad engineer. “Bastards,” he muttered.
“So are you going to spill it or what?” Karina asked. She shot a quick glance at Sullivan, who was emphatically shaking her head “NO.” After seeing that reaction, Karina half expected Baird to bite her head off. Surprisingly, he looked over at her, his bleary eyes staring intently at hers.
“None of what’s said here gets back to the captain, right?”
“Absolutely not. I may be about to marry him, but I still believe in bartender/patron confidentiality with my customers.”
“You promise?” Baird pressed.
“Yes,” Karina replied. “I won’t tell him a single word of this conversation.”
Baird smiled for a moment. “Good.” He face suddenly darkened. “Then get your f***ing ass behind that f***ing bar now, you nosy bitch.”
Before the words had even echoed out of existence, Karina grabbed Baird’s hair and slammed his head down against the table three times in rapid succession. “In case you need a translation, that’s bartender for ‘You’re cut off, asshole,’” With that, she got up and charged back to the bar.
“Can’t get a f***ing ounce of sympathy in this place,” Baird muttered. He picked up one of the mugs and turned it upside down over his mouth, trying to get the last couple of dregs from its bottom.
“Do you really want any?” Sullivan asked. “You seem more like you just want to spread your misery as far and wide as you can.”
“I’m a giving kind of guy.”
“Come on, Scott. There’ll be other posts. Deneria isn’t the only dry dock in Starfleet.”
Baird mumbled noncommitally.
Sullivan couldn’t help but smile slightly. As odd as it sounded, she was finding his disappointment sweet in a way. Scott Baird was so cynical about everything that it was a refreshing change to see him care so much about getting the Supervising Refit and Repair Officer position he’d interviewed for a few months ago at the Deneria Dry Dock. Of course, it would have been better if they had actually selected him for the post, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the higher-ups at Deneria had picked the Chief Engineer from the USS Oppenheimer.
Sullivan scooted her chair around to her husband and placed his head on her shoulder. “You and I know they’re morons,” she said.
“Damn right they are.”
“And what do we say about morons?”
“F*** ‘em. They’re vagrants.”
“That’s my man,” Sullivan said. She kissed him on the top of his head.
“I knew I loved you for some reason,” Baird said.
“Stop it. You’re making me misty-eyed.”
“That’s better,” Sullivan said with a laugh.
Counselor Webber managed to sit quietly and watch the stars for all of about three minutes. At precisely three minutes and one second, she hopped up out of the chair and bounded over to Ensign Woodville at ops.
“How have you been doing, Ensign?” Webber asked, sitting down Indian style on the floor beside him.
“Er…fine. I suppose,” Woodville replied uncomfortably. It seemed rude to watch his console instead of the person speaking to him, so he turned his chair slightly to face her.
“No more problems then with the…” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “…dreams?”
“Counselor, I don’t know if this is the place to be…”
“Who’s the counselor here?”
“I can’t hear you. WHO’S the counselor here?”
“You are,” Woodville said a bit more loudly.
Webber was on her feet in a flash and quickly smothered the ensign in one of her patented bear hugs. “There’s a squnch for my brave man. Now tell Claire all about your last dream. Did you write it down in your dream journal like I told you to?”
“Yes…but it’s in my quarters.”
“Then go get it! I can watch things here.”
“Um…” He looked over at Carr. “Can I do that?”
Carr, who’d stayed at the conn console instead of moving to the command chair, shrugged. “I guess so. Nothing much is going on here. And she can override the captain when she wants to.”
“Okay,” Woodville said hesitantly. “If you say so…”
“Could you run by my quarters and get my dream journal too? It’s on my night-stand, and I’d love to share some of mine as well. I had this one a couple of weeks ago where Morgaine and I were walking along a river, but then we were walking on the river, right on the water, and then…”
“I’ll hurry back,” Woodville said, striding into the turbolift as Carr continued.
“…and then we were flying, but I think this part came from whatever old movie that was that Commander Dillon was showing in the holodeck the night before because Morgaine and I were both wearing capes, and I had tights on. It was a lot like when the captain and I were stuck on that planet where we got the superpowers. Of course, Jaroch and Scott…I mean Commander Baird, were there too, anyway…”
Counselor Webber quickly sat down next to Carr, once again settling into a comfy Indian-style position (which would have been even more comfy if she’d thought to bring up one of the bean bags from her office) to listen to the Lieutenant’s dream. Analyzing this could take hours.
Upon entering Seven Backward, Captain Rydell immediately noticed Commander Dillon and Lieutenant Commander Hawkins sitting with Representative Sel and a large Klingon whom Rydell could only assume was Sel’s infamous bodyguard. Judging by the way Hawkins seemed to be hanging on the Klingon’s every word, she’d gotten over having him invading her turf.
Dillon’s head started to turn in his direction, causing Rydell to quickly dive for the floor. The last thing he wanted was to get roped into joining their table. Dillon and Sel individually were enough of a pain. Facing the two together was not something Rydell even wanted to contemplate.
Fortunately, the lounge was crowded enough that Rydell could crawl along the floor without Dillon ever managing to get a direct line of sight on him. On the downside, it meant that Rydell had to deal with the confused looks of his subordinates. He muttered various greetings to his officers as he went, then climbed up onto a barstool, careful to keep the back of his head aimed at Dillon’s table at all times.
“Can I get you a drink?” Karina Durham asked, sliding over to him with a smirk plastered on her face. “Or would you prefer a cloaking device?”
“Right now, I’ll take the cloak,” Rydell replied, placing the padd he’d brought along with him up on the bar. “So how’s you’re day been?”
“Fine, but your Chief Engineer is an ass.”
“Board-certified. But don’t be too hard on Scott. He didn’t get that post he interviewed for.”
“Oh…guess I shouldn’t have bashed his head quite so hard then.”
“Nah. It’s good for him,” Rydell said. He pushed the padd across the bar toward Karina. “Wanna see what I’ve been doing?”
“I’m guessing this isn’t top secret Starfleet tactical strategies.”
“You got me.”
Karina read down the list. “So I take it that ‘Caesar Salad’ is Starfleet’s ultimate weapon.”
“Yep. We send in a horde of giant anchovies to slime our enemies into submission.”
“Uggh. I’d surrender. Gross.”
“Oh come on. The anchovy makes the salad.”
“I get the distinct feeling we’ve suddenly switched to the exciting world of wedding plans.”
Rydell nodded. “We have to prepare at some point. A wedding doesn’t just happen.”
“And why shouldn’t it. Find a place, find one of your captain buddies to do the ceremony, and, bam, we’re married. No big deal.”
“What place? How should it be decorated? Which captain buddy? How many people are we inviting? What are we feeding them? What time of day are we having the ceremony? What day period are we having the ceremony?”
“Ahhh! Stop it!” Karina said, clapping her hand over Rydell’s mouth.
“Mitsmuffmemaffmuminkmamout,” Rydell mumbled.
“What?” Karina said, pulling her hand away.
“Mitsmuffmemaffmuminkmamout,” Rydell repeated, drawing a smile out of Karina. “It’s stuff we have to think about,” he said.
“I guess, but being married to you had better be a hell of a lot easier than getting married to you.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Rydell replied.
Carr’s dream seemed to be lasting forever. And even though Webber was truly interested in everything the dream signified (first and foremost, Carr was way too attached to her dog…not that that was necessarily bad. A big, cuddly puppy could do wonders for a person’s mental health), she had other business that she needed to attend to.
Excusing herself from Carr (Okay. Actually, she just pointed at the viewscreen and said, “Isn’t that an asteroid?), Webber headed back to the tactical console at the rear of the bridge where Lieutenant Robert Prescott stood staring intently at his console. When Webber stepped up beside him, she realized it was because he was busy playing an exhilarating game of Hearts against the ship’s computer. For some reason long lost in the mists of time, Hearts, Solitaire, and some game called Minesweeper came standard with every starship computer system.
“Keeping busy?” Webber asked jovially.
“Oh yeah,” Prescott replied. “Thrill a minute. I’ve got to do something to keep my mind from going numb.”
“Oh no!” Webber exclaimed suddenly. “I almost forgot!”
“What?” Prescott asked.
“I ran into Lieutenant Commander Hawkins on the way up here. She said to tell you to report to Holodeck Three for a Security training simulation. I hope I’m not telling you too late!”
“Great,” Prescott muttered irritated as he made a beeline for the turbolift. He stopped just sort of entering. “Wait a sec. If I go there, who’s going to be up here?”
“Carr will handle the flying, and Woodville will be back in a minute if anything else comes up. Don’t worry. You’ll be back in no time.”
“Lieutenant?” Prescott said, looking at Carr questioningly.
“I guess…if that’s what Lieutenant Commander Hawkins wants you to do.”
Prescott shrugged. “Be back when I’m done.” He headed into the turbolift, leaving Webber and Carr as the only two people on the bridge.
“Well, this is a bit different,” Carr said.
“But nice,” Webber replied, heading back to her seat. Instead, she hopped into the command chair. “Okay. Turn us around now.”
“What?” Carr exclaimed, spinning around to face Webber.
The Counselor was busy typing commands into the controls on the armrests of the command chair, but looked up at Carr just long enough to say, “Do what I say, Andrea, or I’ll tell you what that dream REALLY means…and you won’t like it one bit!”
Carr cringed and quickly turned back to her console.
“You’re just trying to keep your mind off of the Joegonots, aren’t you?” Karina asked as Rydell tried to force her to look through a seemingly-never ending selection of wedding cake styles.
“Is it that obvious I don’t want to go?” Rydell paused for a second. “Are we turning around?”
“No, I’m serious. We’re turning around.” The couple looked across the bar at the viewports. Sure enough, the stars were shifting. “What the hell?”
The comm system barked to life. “Attention all hands, this is Counselor Webber speaking. We’re currently under a Counseling Alert. I repeat, this is a Counseling Alert!”
“There’s no such thing!” Commander Dillon shouted, standing up from his table and waving his fist at the nearest speaker.
Webber continued undaunted (not that she heard Dillon in the first place). “For the sake of the psychological well-being of this crew, I’ve canceled our mission to Ugilious, and I’ve ordered the Secondprize to head directly to the Asteroids of Antares Amusement Arena.”
Loud cheers went up from the crewmembers in Seven Backward.
“Oooh,” Rydell said. “They aren’t going to like it at all when I tell them we have to take the ship back from her, are they?”
“That’s why you’re the captain,” Karina replied.
“Yippee.” Rydell sighed. “I’d better go up there and see if I can talk Webber down before too many of the others jump on her bandwagon.”
“Good luck,” Karina said as Rydell got up from his barstool and headed out the doors from Seven Backward.
At least he started to go out. The doors opened just fine, but then he ran smack dab into a forcefield in the door frame. Counselor Webber had evidently thought this through a little better than Rydell would have anticipated. He slapped his commbadge.
“Rydell to Baird.”
“I’m over here,” Commander Baird’s voice grumbled in reply from behind him. Rydell looked around to see Commander Baird standing at a table near the viewports. Great. And to make things even better for Rydell, Dillon had now spotted him. Actually, that whole table had spotted him and were currently charging over to his location.
“We’ve got to get her off of the bridge!” Dillon said, stating the obvious with his usual efficiency.
“You have endangered my client!” Mookow bellowed.
“Counselor Webber isn’t doing a thing to your client,” Hawkins shot back.
“Just straighten it out,” Sel said. “We have to get to Ugilious!”
Rydell held up his hands. “Wait!” he cried. “Let’s regroup here and figure out what our options are.”
Within minutes, Rydell, Baird, Sullivan, Dillon, and Hawkins, along with Mookow and Sel, had pulled tables together in the center of Seven Backward, creating a makeshift briefing area. Karina had shooed the other crewmembers present to the sides of the lounge to give the command staff a bit of room.
“All right,” Rydell said, looking down the table. “What do we know about our status?”
“What’s to know?” Baird grumbled.
“Counselor Webber has somehow commandeered the bridge and trapped us here,” Dillon stated.
“Like I said…” Baird mumbled.
“This whole thing is impossible,” Hawkins said. “There are other officers up on that bridge. She couldn’t just waltz in and take over.”
“Ensign Woodville to Lieutenant Commander Hawkins,” Woodville’s voice said hesitantly over the comm system.
“Aren’t you on the bridge?” Hawkins asked.
“Um…well…no. I was, but now I’m not. Counselor Webber sent me back to my quarters for a bit, but when I tried to get back to the bridge, the turbolift said access was denied. Then I heard her message to the crew. I decided I had better call security because I think maybe I’ve been tricked.”
“You think?” Hawkins spat back derisively.
“You don’t have to be mean about it.”
“Just find somebody to get us out of Seven Backward. Hawkins out.”
Almost as soon as Hawkins closed the channel, the comm system activated again. “Prescott to Hawkins.”
Hawkins rolled her eyes. Prescott was supposed to be manning tactical at the moment, which theoretically meant he should stop any attempts to take over the ship! “Go ahead, Lieutenant,” she said.
“Did I miss training?”
“I’m at Holodeck Three like you said, but there’s no one here.”
“I never said to go to Holodeck Three,” Hawkins replied.
“But Counselor Webber said…” The pieces fell into place in Prescott’s mind. “Ohhhh. The counseling alert! She needed me off the bridge, so she could take over!”
“Brilliant,” Hawkins replied sarcastically. “Now go get the bridge back. Hawkins out.”
“But how…” The channel closed before Prescott could finish his protest.
“Well that answers a few questions,” Rydell said. “That means it’s just Webber and Carr up there.”
“Traitors,” Dillon muttered angrily.
“You don’t know that Andrea had anything to do with this,” Hawkins said. “Claire can be damn intimidating when she wants to be.”
“None of this is getting us any closer to retaking the ship. We need a plan,” Rydell said. He looked around at the other crewmembers. “Any ideas, people?”
They all shook their heads silently.
“Let me guess. We didn’t have the budget for any of you to get lines in this episode.”
They all nodded.
“Figures. All right. I guess the command crew will be handling this particular crisis. Baird, get us out of this room. If any of the mute brigade would be helpful to you, use them. Dillon, you, Hawkins, and Sullivan coordinate with any crewmembers not stuck in here to see if they can find a way to retake the bridge. Jaroch…wait a second. Where’s Jaroch?”
Dillon looked around. “I don’t think he’s here, sir. AHA! HE’S the one who helped Webber take over the ship!”
“Don’t be an idiot, Travis,” Hawkins said. “Jaroch is not going to hand the ship over to anyone…especially Webber.”
“That’s true, Dillon” Rydell said. “He’d prefer I didn’t even hand the ship over to you when I leave. But let’s see if he can’t get us out of this. Rydell to Jaroch.”
“I am here, Captain,” the Yynsian’s voice replied.
“We seem to have a situation on our hands.”
“One that I am regrettably responsible for,” Jaroch said.
Dillon immediately perked up. “See!”
“Can it, Dillon,” Rydell said. “You care to explain that one, Jaroch?”
“As you are aware, Counselor Webber and I do, on occasion, eat meals together and engage in some social activities, strictly on a friendship level. I did not think much of it before now, but of late the Counselor has been asking questions concerning the security of the ship. Specifically, she wanted to know how safe we were from a takeover. I assured her that such a takeover would be difficult unless one had either superior numbers or else access to the bridge. And even then, I told her that I would have to be somehow incapacitated.”
Rydell, realizing where this was going, ran his hand across his face. “And are you incapacitated at the moment, Jaroch?”
“Yes, I’m afraid. Shortly before Counselor Webber’s announcement, I found myself trapped inside a force field approximately two meters in diameter. I was concentrating on finding a way to deactivate it when you contacted me.”
“All right, Jaroch. Stay on the line. We’ll see if we can’t work out some kind of solution here.”
“I’ve got one,” Commander Baird said. “F*** the Joegonots. Let’s go to the amusement park.”
“Unacceptable!” Byan Sel exclaimed.
Mookow stepped over to Baird, his large frame looming over the Chief Engineer. “Do not rile up my client. It makes him upset, which makes me angry, which means you get hurt.”
“Whatever,” Baird muttered, clearly unimpressed by Mookow’s threat.
“None of this changes our plan,” Rydell said. “Scott, get to work on the door.”
“We’ll see who we can contact on the outside,” Hawkins said as she, Dillon and Sullivan moved off to an unoccupied corner of the lounge, Mookow and Sel close behind. Meanwhile, Baird slapped his commbadge to call engineering in hopes that someone down there could deactivate the force fields remotely; although, if Webber had been taking notes from Jaroch, that prospect didn’t seem very likely.
Karina stepped up beside Rydell as he stood lost in thought. “If there are force fields everywhere and all of you are in here, you aren’t going to be getting to Webber very easily.”
“True enough. And as Counselor, she can declare us all unfit for duty and lock us out of the system, which I’m sure already occurred to her. Computer, lower the force fields around Seven Backward.”
“By order of Counselor Webber, you are not authorized to issue that command,” the computer replied. “Have a REALLY happy day!”
“See,” Rydell continued. “And she’s already started messing with the computer’s personality.”
“We could always go to the amusement park,” Karina said.
“I’d rather retire on my own terms than get court-martialed, but thanks for the suggestion.”
“Any other brilliant ideas?”
Rydell shrugged. “For now, I’m going to try counseling the counselor. It’ll either work or hopefully distract her long enough for someone to figure out a way out of here.”
“I’ll keep the riff-raff out of your hair,” Karina said. “Go to it, big guy.”
“Thanks. Rydell to Webber.”
“Hi, Alex,” Counselor Webber’s voice replied cheerily. “I’m really sorry about the change of destination, but for the sake of the crew, I had to do something.”
“Is this for their sake or for your sake?” Rydell asked.
“My sake? Now you’re being silly. My job is simply to look out for the crew, which is what I’m doing.”
“But you don’t like the Joegonots.”
“Who does?” Webber asked. “And the amusement park will be FUN!”
“I’m sure it would be, but we have a job to do on Ugilious.”
Webber laughed. “What job? You’re just going to have to sit through a bunch of boring blather while the politicians sort out this whole Federation membership thing. You know how much you hate that stuff.”
Rydell had to admit that she had a point. How important was it really that the Secondprize go to Ugilious? Not at all. He didn’t even want to go in the first place. Was he supposed to take the Secondprize there just because Starfleet said so?
Well, yeah. That was kind of the point of being a Starfleet ship. There were lines that couldn’t be crossed. Otherwise, the crew would find themselves court-martialed, imprisoned, or transferred in a heartbeat. But the mere fact that Rydell was so close to agreeing with Webber had him worried.
Pushing those thoughts aside, Rydell returned to his original path of attack: Webber’s feelings about the Joegonots.
“I may dislike bureaucracy, but I’m still willing to do my job. You, however, have committed mutiny in order to avoid Ugilious. You’re still affected that badly by what happened to you there?”
“Happened to me? Nothing happened to me,” Webber snapped back a bit too loudly.
On the bridge, Lieutenant Carr couldn’t help turning around in her chair to watch as Webber rose angrily out of the command chair and began pacing the bridge.
“Nothing happened to me!” Webber exclaimed. “I only tried to bring a little happiness to this ship and ended up with a bunch of mean Joegonots SHOOTING AT ME!!!”
“I know that bothered you, Claire,” Rydell’s voice replied comfortingly. “But you can’t take it personally. And the Joegonots are different now. There’s no need to be afraid.”
“Then why are you having nightmares?”
“How’d you know I was having nightmares?” Rydell demanded.
“HA! See! That was just a guess, but you are!”
As Rydell formulated his reply, Carr found herself inching to the edge of her seat. Was she really about to do this? Webber was definitely occupied talking to Captain Rydell, so she wouldn’t even notice until it was too late that Carr was going to…
“AHHHHHHHH!” Letting out as powerful of a battle cry as she could, Carr launched herself out of her seat and charged Webber. Webber spun around just in time to see Carr coming right at her. On impact, the pair slammed to the deck. Carr scrambled to her feet as Webber stared up at her stunned.
“I’m very sorry about that, Counselor,” Carr said apologetically. “I really think you’re a nice person, but I can’t let you take over the ship.”
Webber pulled herself to her feet. “I’m just diverting us a bit,” she said.
“I know you think that, but it still really seems like you’re taking over,” Carr replied, positioning herself between Webber and the command chair.
“You’re preventing me from helping this crew. Get out of the way, Andrea.”
Carr shook her head. “I can’t. I’m really sorry.”
“I know things about you that you do not want revealed,” Webber said, taking a step closer to the command chair.
“I’m not moving.”
“Dark things. Like that you’re in love with a member of this crew…a married member of this crew.”
Carr flinched at the revelation as Webber took another step. “Please stop, Counselor. I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
“And I really don’t want to have to destroy your fragile psyche over something this silly, Andrea. Let me help all of us,” Webber pleaded.
“Yes,” Webber took another step.
“Get back!” Carr said firmly.
In a flash, Carr lashed out and slapped Webber across the face. The Counselor stepped back for a moment, shaking her head in shock. Before Carr could get out an apology, Webber slapped her back.
“Ow!” Carr cried.
At one point, Captain Rydell had been in control of the conversation. Then Webber had said something about nightmares, and next thing he knew he was just listening to Webber and Carr vie for supremacy on the bridge. Judging by the slapping noise and cries of pain and surprise, things were not going well.
“Any progress with Counselor Cream-puff?” Commander Baird asked, walking over from the doors. Over the last several minutes, eight ensigns had been zapped into unconsciousness by the force field, so Rydell figured either that things were not going well or Baird was just venting his frustrations by sending his underlings into the force field. Rydell decided not to mention anything to Baird about Carr’s feelings for a married member of the crew. He knew damn well that Carr had a thing for Baird, but he didn’t need Baird to know that. Thank the Great Bird he’d decided to keep his chat with Webber on his commbadge only.
“I’m kind of out of the loop now,” Rydell replied. “Carr charged her.”
Baird started laughing. “That’s just f***ing great. A brawl between the two most touchy-feely people on this ship. Does the first one to cry lose or are they both bawling already?”
“You might be surprised. Have you ever asked yourself why our counselor is so…solidly built?”
“I figured it was all those damn bear hugs she attacks us with.”
Rydell shook his head. “She played rugby in college.”
If Baird had been drinking something at the time, he would have spat it everywhere. “Rugby? Webber? You’re f***ing kidding me!”
“I speak the truth.”
“Oh f***. We’ve got to get Andrea out of there.”
A high-pitched scream suddenly burst forth from Rydell’s commbadge followed by Carr’s voice shouting, “That was my hair, you bitch!”
“Sounds like a typical night in my cabin,” Baird remarked.
The fight on the bridge had quickly escalated from slaps to punches to all-out combat to the death. Carr leapt off of the tactical console, flying through the air and colliding with Webber, sending the two to the deck once again, but this time Webber was prepared. The Counselor rolled with the fall and ended up on top of Carr, at which point she grabbed the Lieutenant’s head and slammed it into the deck a couple of times.
Despite the carpeting on the floor, that still really hurt! Carr forced her legs up violently, launching Webber forward and sending her head crashing into the back of the chair at the conn console. Webber collapsed to the deck, stunned as Carr pushed herself up and almost fell on the conn. She quickly turned the Secondprize around, returning the ship to its original course for Ugilious.
No sooner had she completed the maneuver than she felt Webber’s hand latch onto the back of her head. Webber yanked backwards, pulling Carr painfully over the conn chair and smacking her to the deck, then the Counselor dove at the conn, altering the ship’s course again.
Carr recovered quickly, leaping at the conn and pushing Webber’s hands out of the way, so she could turn the ship back around.
Rydell hopped up onto a table in Seven Backward to avoid the officer rolling his way as the deck pitched erratically back and forth underneath them.
“What the hell is going on up there?” he said to no one in particular, which made it all the more surprising when Jaroch’s voice replied through the comm system.
“Fighting over the helm, I would guess,” the Yynsian said.
“Jaroch! I completely forgot you were still on the line.”
“Obviously.” Rydell heard a loud zapping, then another as the deck shifted back the other direction.
“Jaroch? Are you alright?”
Another zap. “Most definitely not. I have nothing to brace myself against, so I am finding myself tossed against one side of the force field or other with each lurch of the ship.”
“Where are you? I’ll try and get someone down there.”
“My quarters.” Zap. “But I have a feeling…” Zap zap. “…that I will be receiving assistance from an internal source very soon.” Zap zap ZAP!
Rydell almost lost his grip on the table as the ship tried to go in two directions at once. He had to keep talking to Jaroch. If he could keep Jaroch’s mind occupied, maybe they could be spared a visit from…
“RELEASE ME, PUNY MORTALS!!!”
J’Ter. Too late.
How long had they been trying to kill each other? Carr didn’t know anymore. It seemed like forever. She grabbed onto the doorframe to Rydell’s ready room, forcing her exhausted body to its feet as across the bridge, Webber did the same.
Webber pushed long strands of dirty blond hair out of her face revealing blazing eyes. Carr’s pony tail had long since come loose, sending her fine black hair flying in every conceivable direction.
“I’m surprised…that you’re…still moving,” Webber said, sucking in deep breaths between words.
“Me…too,” Carr replied. “You ready?”
Both women took a step forward…
…then collapsed to the deck unconscious.
Rydell paced Seven Backward anxiously as, once again, he failed to get anyone on the bridge to respond to his comms. At least the ship had stopped jerking about, but he had no idea who, if anyone, was flying at the moment.
Meanwhile, Baird had had absolutely no luck getting through the force field, and all Dillon, Hawkins, and Sullivan’s efforts had led to nothing. Everyone outside of the force field was either not really interested in stopping Webber’s plan or too petrified that she’d reveal some dark secret from their psyche to make a move against her.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting around impotently for something to happen, the power in Seven Backward abruptly went out, taking out the lights and the force fields in one fell swoop.
“Good work, Scott!” Rydell exclaimed.
“It wasn’t me,” Baird said confused. “I have no idea how…”
The floor under Rydell’s feet suddenly burst upwards, sending the Captain flying onto a table as Jaroch/J’Ter climbed into the room.
“Your pathetic attempts to imprison the mighty J’Ter have failed,” the life force of the long-dead warrior-prince currently controlling Jaroch’s body bellowed. “Quake before my presence and beg for mercy from my most terrible wrath!”
“You’d think after being dead for 3,000 years, he’d get some better dialogue,” Lieutenant Commander Sullivan quipped.
Jaroch/J’Ter looked around the room until his eyes locked on Rydell. “I shall start with you, tiny one.” The possessed Yynsian moved toward Rydell, then was slammed to the deck by a dual assault from Hawkins and Mookow.
“Get off of me!” Jaroch/J’Ter shouted.
Seemingly from nowhere, the Klingon bodyguard produced a small blade. “I shall end this quickly.”
“Hold on, big guy,” Hawkins said. “He’ll snap out of it in a second.” She took a closer look at the knife. “Pretty blade, though. Where were you hiding that thing?”
Mookow smiled. “Trade secret.”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 54994.2. After a brief delay, the Secondprize resumed course for Ugilious and arrived in plenty of time for the ceremony. I’m very pleased. Really. I mean I wouldn’t want to be late for something like this, now would I?”
“I take it your log was discreet,” Dr. Beth Aldridge said as she and Rydell stood in her office in Sickbay looking out at Webber and Carr, both of whom were asleep on biobeds.
“Of course. This little incident wouldn’t have looked too good for several of us. How are they?”
“Sleeping comfortably, but they really beat the hell out of each other. Broken bones, bruised ribs, scratches, scrapes, concussions, and ripped out hair follicles.”
“Are the Joegonots really worth all this?” Aldridge asked.
“You weren’t there, Doctor.”
“Well, we all are now. Are you going down there, or do you plan on hiding in Sickbay?” Aldridge said.
“I don’t suppose you could say I was sick or something?” Rydell said with a weak smile.
“Afraid not. Now get out there and be captainly.”
“Yee haa,” Rydell said, turning and heading out the door.
“Finally,” Mookow said disapprovingly as Rydell entered Transporter Room One, where Mookow, Representative Sel, and Lieutenant Commander Hawkins were already waiting on the transporter pad.
“I was checking on my injured crew members,” Rydell said, stepping up onto the padd beside Hawkins.
“Everyone is recovering well, I hope,” Sel said.
“Just peachy,” Rydell said. He looked at Lieutenant Commander Vaughn, who was manning the transporter. “All right. Let’s get this over with.”
Vaughn grinned evilly. “Do you remember what I did last time I beamed you down to Ugilious?”
Rydell fought down a chuckle. “Yes, I do. But can I keep my clothes this time?”
“I suppose,” Vaughn said, mocking disappointment.
After plastering on his best diplomatic smile, Rydell braced himself and let the transporter dematerialize him and send him to once again face the Joegonots.
To Be Continued…