Author: Alan Decker
by Alan Decker
“Captain’s log, Stardate 49804.7. We have been stopped for over four days while the crew search for Jimmy Rogers’ pet hamster. The search has been exhausting and arduous for the entire crew of the Secondprize. Yesterday, Lieutenant Hawkins was severely injured when she received a paper cut while handing out fliers about the missing pet. I can only hope that we find our quarry soon and can get on our way to our next assignment on Kilma Omega IV, the planet of obnoxious belchers…”
The door chime of Captain Alexander Rydell’s ready room beeped breaking his concentration.
“What?” he shouted impatiently. The door slid open as his first officer entered the room.
“We just received a communique from Admiral Wagner. It’s for your eyes only,” Commander Travis Dillon announced as officially as possible. Commander Dillon took his job seriously, too seriously for Captain Rydell’s tastes, but he was sure that he could loosen Dillon up eventually. It may take him a few years. Rydell looked up at Dillon who was standing at attention. O.K. it might take a few decades, but he would do it.
“Couldn’t you have just used the intercom?”
“I felt I should tell you personally,” Dillon replied stiffly as he tried to maintain his military posture. Captain Rydell couldn’t take it anymore.
“Will you relax?! You don’t have to stand at attention every time you talk to me!” Dillon let himself relax a little.
“Starfleet regulation 4657.9 subparagraph three ‘While in the presence of a superior officer…’”
“Shut up!” Rydell shouted interrupting Dillon’s lecture on Starfleet regulations. “I don’t care about the damn regulation. Just tell me why the hell you had to tell me personally?”
“Well…uh…I don’t know, sir,” Dillon stammered as he shuffled his feet.
“Never mind.” Captain Rydell touched his communicator badge. “Lieutenant Hawkins, patch the message through to my ready room.” Rydell activated the small viewscreen on his desk. The aged face of Admiral Thomas Wagner appeared on the screen. He appeared to be in pain. “Admiral Wagner, are you all right?”
“Rydell, thank God. That hold music was driving me crazy.”
“I apologize for the delay, Admiral,” Rydell replied as he shot an angry glance at Dillon. “What’s up?”
“Sorry. What seems to be the problem?”
“Alex, we’ve just received a message from Ugilious…” Dillon collapsed in the chair in front of Rydell’s desk. His face showed pure terror.
“Oh my God. The Joegonots,” he said quietly.
“Correct, Commander,” Wagner said solemnly. “They say that they have Dr. Robert Tulson, and they won’t release him until you go to Ugilious.”
“Me!” Rydell shouted in horror. “What do they want with me?”
“They’re evidently still holding a grudge for what you did to their Grand Leech at that Starfleet dinner last month,” Admiral Wagner replied.
“Sir, you did call him ‘a geek from hell’, ‘a fucking moron’, a…”
“I know what I said,” Rydell snapped, interrupting Dillon. “Admiral, can’t we just go take Tulson back by force.”
“Captain Rydell, the Joegonots may be geeks and morons, but the Federation Council has signed a peace treaty with them and we have to abide by that treaty.”
“But they kidnapped Tulson!” Dillon protested. “Surely that negates the treaty.”
“No. You know the way the council works. All treaties allow the other party to do what they damn well please to us, but we have to be good and sweet and… damn it, this sucks! Alex, if it were up to me I’d say go blow the bastards into atoms, but it’s not up to me.”
“So we have to be nice and diplomatic,” Rydell sighed.
“I concur,” Dillon added.
“I know how you feel, Alex, but my hands are tied,” Wagner said.
“We’ll do our best,” Captain Rydell replied sullenly.
“Wagner out.” The Admiral’s image vanished. Captain Rydell turned to his first officer.
“Number One, the search for the missing hamster will have be taken of care on the way. Let’s get going.’
“It’ll have to wait about two minutes,” Dillon said as he stood up and prepared to leave.
“Why?” Rydell demanded irritated.
“It’s time for the opening credits.”
“Oh yeah. Thanks, Number One.”
The blackness of space is broken only by the dots of light produced by stars light years away. Silently, an Excelsior-class starship cuts through the void. Planets and asteroids pass by. Inside the vessel, a solitary voice is heard.
“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Secondprize. It’s seemingly never-ending mission: to explore strange cardboard and styrofoam sets, to seek out new life and plot complications, to boldly go where no one ever really wanted to go before!”
The warp nacelles of the ship glow with the intense amounts of energy contained inside them. In an instant, the ship is gone, taken light years away in seconds by its powerful engines. From out of nowhere, words appear in the blackness:
The normal sounds of the bridge computers greeted Rydell and Dillon as they walked out of the ready room.
“Ensign Sullivan, set a course for Ugilious,” Captain Rydell ordered as he sat down in his command chair at the center of the bridge.
Ensign Emily Sullivan turned her chair away from the navigation console and faced her captain. “Are you kidding?” she asked praying that he was.
“No, he’s not, Sullivan,” Dillon replied.
“But, the Joegonots…”
“You heard the order, Ensign,” Dillon said as he took his seat next to the captain.
“Aye, sir,” Sullivan responded grudgingly as she turned back to her console. This was not exactly what she had in mind when she joined Starfleet. Romulans were fine. Hell, she could even tolerate the Borg, but the Joegonots… In her opinion, this was suicide.
“Bridge to engine room,”
“Baird here, Captain.”
“Restart the engines. I need warp nine in five minutes.”
“Where are we going?”
“No way! Fuck that!”
“Baird, get the damn engines on line, NOW!”
“O.K. fine. This is so fucked! Baird out.” Captain Rydell looked around the bridge. Every officer’s face showed the same sentiment: “Please don’t make us do this.” Rydell felt for his crew, but orders were orders. Dr. Tulson had been a professor of his at the academy. The man was a brilliant physicist and also a friend. Rydell was not about to leave him in the hands of the Joegonots.
“We’re ready, Captain,” Commander Dillon said breaking Rydell’s train of thought.
“What..oh. Ensign Larkin, maximum speed to Ugilious. Enga…”
“Captain!” Counselor Claire Webber interrupted. Rydell turned angrily to face her.
“Yes, Counselor,” he managed to say through his gritted teeth.
“We can’t just give up the search for Jimmy’s hamster.” Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins let out a groan. She had had enough of searching for that damn rodent. She was Chief of Security for God sakes, not a zookeeper. Counselor Webber continued on pretending that she didn’t hear Hawkins. “This could cause severe emotional trauma in a child his age.” Captain Rydell started to pace the floor.
“Counselor, we have an emergency situation on Ugilious to deal with. The boy’s hamster isn’t that important. If it’s going to be so traumatic for him, go counsel him. That’s why you’re on the ship! And furthermore, a man’s life is at stake here. I can’t believe that…” SQEEEEEEK! Squish. Captain Rydell stopped his pacing and looked down at his feet. Slowly he lifted his boot up off of the carpeted bridge floor. “Counselor, it appears that the problem has been solved.” Dillon and Webber looked at the floor where the Captain’s foot had just been. In a small puddle of blood lay Jimmy Rogers’ hamster.
“Dillon to ship’s services.”
“We need a carpet cleaner and an extremely small coffin on the bridge immediately.”
“We’re on our way.”
“That must have been very traumatic for you, Captain,” Webber said as she lunged at Rydell.
“No, No, I’m fine!” Rydell shouted, but it was too late. He was trapped in a Counselor Webber feel-better hug.
“And everyone here had to witness the poor hamster’s death,” Webber continued. Slowly, every officer on the bridge got up from their station and started backing toward the walls. Webber moved like a flash from person to person hugging them all. Hawkins, at the last second, managed to dive into the turbolift and escape. The others were not so lucky.
“Thank you, Claire,” Dillon mumbled as he picked himself up off of the floor. He had been viciously dropped as Webber tried to get to Hawkins in time to block her exit.
“Everyone back to your stations,” Captain Rydell ordered. “Counselor, go break the news to the Rogers boy.” She walked to the turbolift and exited the bridge. “Now, let’s try this again. Ensign Larkin, engage.” The humming of the ship’s engines grew louder as they started to move the ship. Suddenly, the Secondprize was gone.
The trip to Ugilious was going to take at least seven hours. Captain Alex Rydell was glad for the travel time. He needed it to prepare himself for the ordeal to come. Would the Joegonots release Dr. Tulson? What had they done to him already? What would they do to Rydell once he got there? Would he ever get the hamster guts out of the treads of his boot?
Captain Rydell found himself walking toward the ship’s lounge, Seven Backward. He hadn’t consciously planned to go there, but once he saw the door coming into view, he knew that a conversation with Trinian was in order. He approached the door and smacked face first into it. Rydell looked around to make sure that no one saw him, then tried again more cautiously. Again, the door didn’t open.
“Rydell to engineering,” he said tapping his commbadge.
“What the fuck do you want?” Chief Engineer Scott Baird replied angrily.
“Why isn’t the door to Seven Backward opening?”
“Shit, not another one! Sorry, Captain. We’ve had malfunctions reported all over the ship.”
“Do you know the cause?”
“Got me. We’re working on it as fast as we can though.”
“Just don’t let this delay our arrival at Ugilious. We have to save Dr…”
“I know. We’ve got to save Tulson, and you want a ship that works. Well, I don’t see you down here helping, so quit complaining! I’ll have this fixed before we get there.”
“I hope so. Rydell out.” Captain Rydell approached the door again. It quietly whooshed open. Relieved, he stepped forward toward the waiting lounge. The door slammed shut just catching his nose. Rydell tried to pull himself out, but was stuck. Frantically, he slapped his commbadge.
“Help, help,” he screamed nasally.
“Please specify the recipient of your message,” the computer said in its sickeningly calm voice.
“Please repeat your request.” The pain in Rydell’s nose was growing unbearable.
“Engeeneeriingg! Engeeeneering!” he screamed jumping up and down.
“Thank you,” the computer said.
“What!” Baird shouted.
“Who is that!?”
“Captain Rydell? What’s your fucking problem?”
“Seben Bakward! Thee dorr cott by nuuuse!”
“Hold on, I’m opening it.” The door whooshed open, and Captain Rydell collapsed to the floor. Peals of laughter assaulted his ears. He looked up. The lounge was filled with crewmen. They all fell silent the second they realized who they were laughing at. Captain Rydell stood up and straightened his uniform trying to salvage a scrap of dignity. He walked over to the bar without meeting a single crewman’s gaze. This was not a good way to gain the respect of the crew. Trinian stood behind the bar trying to suppress a giggle.
“What can I get you, Captain?” she asked between chuckles.
“Aldeberan whiskey.” He felt blood trickling out of his nose. “…and a tissue.” His nose throbbed painfully. Trinian leaned down and came back up with the requested items.
“What’s on your mind, Alex?”
“What makes you think something’s on my mind?” Rydell asked as he raised the glass to his lips. He took a long drink.
“I’ve known you long enough to be able to see these things, and anyway, it’s my job.” Rydell smiled and set the glass down quietly on the bar. “It’s the mission, isn’t it?”
“I’m just concerned that I’m in over my head here. These people are ruthless. It’s time like these that get me thinking about life. I really wonder if it’s all worth it…” Trinian groaned to herself as Rydell rambled on. Normally Rydell was a laid back guy, a little too laid back for the tastes of much of Starfleet Command, which was how he’d ended up in command of the Secondprize. But now he was in another one of his pensive, philosophical moods. This could take hours.
“…I miss grass. Grass is such a beautiful thing. It’s kind of like life…” Trinian scanned the room hoping to find some way out of this. Then her eyes fell on Dr. Rebecca Singer. She was sitting alone nursing a cup of hot chocolate. Her eyes were red from crying. She had babbled something about a kid with a broken leg as she came in, but Trinian hadn’t paid much attention. The doctor took everything too personally. Every injured person was emotionally traumatic for her. She was crying almost constantly. Trinian really wondered what had possessed her to become a doctor in the first place. Dr. Singer was just who she needed to get Rydell off of her back.
“Excuse me a second, Alex,” Trinian interrupted, “That nose of yours is looking really bad. You’d better let Dr. Singer have a look at it. I’ll go get her.” Before Rydell could protest, Trinian was halfway across the room. She returned with the doctor seconds later. Suddenly, the doors whooshed open, and Counselor Webber walked in. She focused on Rydell and Singer and was over in a flash.
“Oh dear, you’ve hurt yourself, and you’ve been crying. Come here!” She grabbed them both and clenched them in a bear hug.
“I’m fine, really,” Captain Rydell gasped.
“I’m not,” Singer wailed as she put her head on Webber’s shoulder. “Joey Kellam broke his leg today. It was so awful.” She burst into tears again.
“There, there. Come on, we’ll go for a walk.” The counselor and the doctor left the lounge leaving Trinian trapped with Captain Rydell again. She decided to take the offensive.
“Alex, you think that you’ve got problems. Well, what about me? I have to sit here all day and listen to weenie after weenie complain about his day. ‘I can’t find my commbadge. My son is a brat. I accidently dropped some nitroglycerine in the antimatter containment unit.’ I really get sick of it! Worst of all, you… I mean some other dork comes in here every damn time he has to make a decision. One of these days, I’m just going to take a phaser to everyone’s heads and just start zapping!”
“Uh yeah… Thanks,” Rydell mumbled confused as he stood up. He’d completely forgotten what he was talking about earlier, but he knew that this seemed like a good time to get away from Trinian. She said some really strange stuff sometimes. He walked out into the hall oblivious to what was going on around him. Suddenly, he heard a crash from down the hall. Rydell dashed along the corridor and tripped over a leg. He jumped back about five feet once he realized that the leg was not attached to a body. Its owner, Ensign Kristen Larkin was laying in the center of the passageway. The ensign was actually an android, but a very badly made one. Something was either malfunctioning or falling off every other day. This time she was trying desperately to reach her leg that she had left several feet behind her. Rydell rushed over and helped the ensign up. With his help, she hobbled to her leg and reattached it.
“Go down to engineering and let Scott have a look at that leg,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir,” she replied and hurried off to a turbolift without another word. Larkin’s conversational circuit had blown up a month earlier. Since then, three words were about the maximum she’d say in one sentence, but she seemed even more unwilling to talk than usual. Rydell continued on down the hall and entered a turbolift. He decided that a nap was in order.
Elsewhere on the ship, someone was loosening the circuits to the food processors. The person wasn’t about to let the Secondprize go to Ugilious. That was crazy. So far, the “malfunctions” seem not to have caught Captain Rydell’s attention. With a few more, the captain would be forced to stop the ship until everything was fixed and the culprit caught. Of course, that would take a while since this culprit had no intentions of being caught.
“And if we attach a power converter to the processor’s internal systems chip, the efficiency would be increased by over fifteen percent,” Ensign Charlie Preston announced as he completed his seventh lecture in seven afternoons about what should be done to improve the Secondprize’s systems. Preston had the afternoon shift at the helm and used that time to tell everyone on the bridge about his views on everything. Commander Dillon, who had been left in command by the napping Captain Rydell, was really getting sick of Preston’s rambling. Three navigators had already called in sick, and a fourth rushed to sick bay complaining of stomach pains. Dillon was sure that they were just trying to keep away from Preston. He didn’t blame them.
“Sir, we’re within scanning range of Ugilious,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch reported. Jaroch was the science officer and a good one at that, but he freaked everyone else out. He seemed weird enough as it was. The people of his planet, Yyns, all were ardent reincarnationists. Jaroch claimed that he’d been at least three other people. The problem was that these other people would take over his personality transforming him from a quiet, reserved scientist to a killing machine. For some reason, this usually happened on away missions. The entire ruling council of Hypos VII had been nearly slaughtered during one of his lapses. Needless to say, he made everyone a bit nervous.
“Slow to half impulse. Jaroch, I want a complete scans of the sector before we enter the system and of the planet before we’re in orbit. Regulation 569.9, subparagraph six: Never approach a known hostile planet without completely scanning the area for possible traps and attackers. Dillon to Rydell.”
“Rydell here. What is it, Number One?” the captain replied groggily.
“Sorry to wake you, sir, but we’re approaching the Ugilious system.”
“How long until we’re in orbit?”
“At present speed, three hours.”
“And you woke me up now!” Rydell shouted irately. “What the hell were you thinking? I was having a very good dream about that Orion slave girl on Granger’s Colony, and you go and interrupt. It’s just like Raisa. I’m about to do my best for interspecies relations, and you walk in to tell me that Lieutenant Forrester came down with poison ivy. One more pointless interruption, and I’m personally going to…” Dillon tapped his commbadge severing the communication.
“He seems tense,” Dillon commented as he plopped back down in the command chair. He heard another soft groan from Lieutenant Hawkins. “Is there a problem, Lieutenant?”
“Permission to speak freely?”
“You do realize where we’re going, right? Of course, the captain is tenser than usual. It’s the Joegonots. We’ll be lucky to survive!”
“I’m not thrilled either, Lieutenant, but we are Starfleet Officers. We have years of training and the wisdom of regulations to guide us. We’ll be fine.”
“Am I still speaking freely?”
“I…guess,” Dillon replied hesitantly.
“You have no common sense at all, you have no idea what’s going on around you, and without your little book of regulations, you’d be lost.”
“So what’s your point?”
“You’ll make a fine admiral, sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
Two and a half hours later, Captain Rydell was once again jolted awake.
“Get up, get up, get up! It’s going to be a wonderful afternoon. Get on up and enjoy it!” a sickeningly sweet voice called at an obnoxiously loud volume.
“Computer, what the hell is that?” Rydell shouted as he crawled out of bed.
“That is the wake-up call you requested.”
“Wake-up calls are never that annoying!”
“Counselor Webber has installed a new program designed to wake crewmen up cheerfully in order to improve their mental health.”
“Well, it’s ruining mine. Delete that program,” Rydell said as he stumbled over to the food processor.
“I’m the captain! You can’t deny me access!”
“Counselor Webber has exercised her authority to make decisions concerning crew welfare. The captain cannot override these decisions.”
“Perfect. Get me some hot chocolate.” The food processor hummed and whirred. Suddenly, a flood of hot liquid erupted from the machine drenching Rydell. He screamed and jumped backwards. The processor continued to spill out liquid. The room was already starting to fill up. Rydell sloshed through a foot of hot chocolate trying to get to the door. He tripped and fell. In an instant, he was back on his feet screaming. The chocolate level was up to three feet. The processor seemed to be putting out the stuff even faster.
“Please specify assistance requested.”
“Get me out of here!”
“Unable to comply. Please define ‘here.’”
“Unable to comply.”
He didn’t have time for this. As it was, he was trying not to scream at the burning of his flesh in the scalding liquid.
“Rydell to security!”
“CRACKLE, CRACKLE, ZZZZZ, POP.” The chocolate level was quickly approaching the ceiling. Rydell swam frantically toward the door. He desperately tried to activate the sensor to open the door. Finally, the door whooshed open. Rydell was carried on a wave of chocolate out into the corridor and smashed against the opposing wall.
“Have a nice swim, sir?” Counselor Webber asked obliviously as she walked by. Rydell groaned and collapsed into unconsciousness.
Commander Scott Baird was having the day from hell. Every time he turned around, someone else was asking him to fix something. The whole ship seemed to be falling apart. At least Larkin had brightened his day a little. The android just quietly let him work and didn’t try to make small talk. Just the way he liked it. She’d left over an hour ago though, and Scott was left to fight with a malfunctioning turbolift. Suddenly, a warning siren erupted from the food processor control computer. Scott ran over there cursing and checked the readouts. Captain Rydell’s processor was spewing out hot chocolate like crazy. Scott quickly tried to stop the flow, but the computer didn’t respond.
“Fuck! Computer, where is Captain Rydell?”
“Captain Rydell is located on deck nine, corridor A7.”
“That’s right outside his quarters. What’s he doing?”
“Losing blood, I believe.”
“Shit! Baird to Dr. Singer,” he said as he slapped his commbadge.
“Singer here,” the doctor sobbed. She’d obviously been crying again. Scott explained the situation and left it up to her to take care of the captain. He was going to check out the food processor.
Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins stood outside of holodeck three. She’d just completed her shift on the bridge and needed to relax. Commander Dillon she could handle. Sure he was an uptight, officious moron, but at least he wasn’t annoying as hell. Ensign Preston on the other hand, was beyond annoying. He was… a geek. In her opinion, they should just leave him with the Joegonots.
“Run Self-defense program Hawkins Delta,” she told the computer. Yes, after an hour of beating up computer constructs she’d feel much better.
“Program complete. Enter when ready.” Patricia walked anxiously into the holodeck. The door slammed shut causing her to whirl around.
“What the hell? Computer, what is…” A pie smacked her right in the back of the head. She turned back around. The holodeck was filled with clowns. All of them were standing behind tables covered with pies.
“Good afternoon, Lieutenant,” one of the clowns said. “Today you’re going to learn to defend yourself from a vicious pie-fiend. Fire!” Pies whizzed at her from all sides. She dove to the ground and rolled sideways, but the clowns anticipated her movements and bombarded her with banana cream.
“Computer, end program!”
“Unable to comply.”
“Why the hell not?!?” Hawkins demanded as she tried to shield herself from the incoming baked good.
The clowns stopped and smiled. “We do not want to,” they said in unison. All of them laughed hideously as they picked up more pies. Hawkins screamed, then was silenced by another barrage.
“It was horrible. Chocolate everywhere. It wouldn’t stop coming. I tried to run, but it came after me. It tried to drown me. I escaped though. I showed it that I’m smarter than chocolate,” Captain Rydell murmured softly as he lay in sickbay.
“Yes, you did, sir,” Dillon said comfortingly. He turned to Dr. Singer, who was completing her examination. “How is he, Doctor?”
“Minor concussion, a gash on his head, and burns all over his body,” she sobbed. Her medical tricorder was starting to fizzle from the tears getting into its circuits. “Oh starship captain is such a dangerous job. This is horrible, just horrible.” She fell to the floor bawling. Just then the sickbay doors opened as Commander Baird entered.
“I just had a look at the food processor. Some fucker fucked with the fucking matter recombination circuit. It wouldn’t shut off. We’ve got a fucking saboteur on board.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, I enjoy fucking up the ship and then having to go fix the fucking thing again! Of course, I’m fucking sure!” Baird shouted.
“You have such a way with words, Commander,” Dillon commented. Dr. Singer let out another wail. “Doctor, please pick yourself up off the floor. This is against protocol.” Her leg lashed out and caught Dillon in the testicles. He fell beside her in pain. “Point made, Doctor,” he gasped.
“Jaroch to Dillon,” the intercom barked.
“What,” Dillon replied in an unnaturally high voice.
“Are you all right, Commander?”
“I’m fine, really. What do you need?” Dillon squeaked.
“We’re approaching Ugilious, sir. The Joegonots are demanding to speak to the captain.”
“Go into orbit, Mister Jaroch. I’ll be right there.” Commander Dillon gingerly lifted himself up off the floor and waddled toward the exit. He knew that Captain Rydell was in no condition to deal with the Joegonots right now. It was all up to him. This was his big chance. If he cleared this situation up on his own, Starfleet might actually let him command his own ship. Or maybe they’d make him an admiral, or President of the Federation, or dictator. Yeah, Dictator for Life. He liked the sound of that. “Doctor, when the Captain regains the ability to form coherent sentences, please tell him that the situation with the Joegonots is being taken care of.” Doctor Singer stopped crying and looked up at Dillon.
“We’re all gonna die!” she screamed and put her head down again sobbing.
Commander Dillon strode confidently out of the turbolift onto the bridge. He flashed a female ensign a smile. It was one of those “Yeah, I’m bad” looks. She turned away and started laughing hysterically.
“Lieutenant Beck, open a channel to the planet,” Dillon ordered as he sat in the command chair.
“Sir, she’s not here,” Sullivan said. She had relieved Preston a few minutes earlier. “It’s not her shift.”
“Well, then, you open the channel.” Dillon was enjoying his power. Sure he was in command when Captain Rydell was sleeping and stuff, but at those times he couldn’t really do what he wanted. Now the captain was incapacitated, and he was in complete power.
“Oh, what an honor,” Sullivan mumbled under her breath. She got up from the navigation console and walked to the communications console behind the command area. “Channel open, sir.” Dillon stood up and straightened his uniform. This was his big moment. He started the speech he’d prepared on the way to the bridge.
“This is Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. I was top of my class at Starfleet Academy and have received four service commendations, so don’t mess with me. Now, I demand that you release Dr. Tulson this instant, or I will be forced to take action.” He struck a gallant pose. The female Joegonot on the viewscreen yawned.
“I’ll connect you with the Grand Leech now,” she said. Suddenly, the picture switched to a large humanoid seated on a throne. He was at least four hundred pounds. His face was pocked with acne scars, and his eyes stared out in a manner that left Dillon wanting to get away from them as quickly as possible. They weren’t scary; they just followed him everywhere and seemed like they were going to attach themselves to him forever. Dillon braced himself and began his speech again.
“This is Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. I was top of my class at Starfleet Academy and have received four service commendations, so don’t mess with me. Now, I demand that you release Dr. Tulson this instant, or I will be forced to take action.”
“I will only speak with Captain Rydell,” the Grand Leech replied as drool dripped from his lips. He reached forward to sever the communication.
“Now, wait a second, you…” Now how would the captain handle this? “…you fucking ball of lard!” Oops, that was Commander Baird’s way. Oh well, too late now. “You release the professor, or I’ll blow that cellulite blob you call a body into space. Can your minuscule intellect handle this concept? Fried pork skins, kapeesh?”
“Don’t you want to be my friend?” the Grand Leech said. Dillon cringed as the Grand Leech mentioned the Joegonots horrible weapon.
“No, anything but that!” Dillon said. The Grand Leech smiled and pressed a button on the arm of his throne.
“Commander!” Jaroch shouted. “A ‘Don’t You Want To Be My Friend?’ wave of incredible proportions has been launched at us from the surface!”
“Hawkins, raise the shields! Now!” Dillon ordered.
“She’s not here either,” Sullivan said.
“Where the hell is everyone?” Dillon demanded exasperated. “Fine, raise shields, Ensign.” Sullivan dove over to the tactical console and frantically hit the controls.
“The shields aren’t responding!”
“Dillon to engineering. I need the shields, now!”
“They’re fucked,” Commander Baird’s voice replied.
“Then we’re fucked!” Dillon fell to the floor and put his head between his knees. Just then, the turbolift doors opened and Captain Rydell walked onto the bridge.
“What the hell is going on?”
“I want my mommy!” Dillon screamed.
“We’re all about to die, sir,” Jaroch said stoically. “A ‘Don’t You Want To Be My Friend?’ wave is headed right for us.”
“Oh shit! Number One, get up. Sullivan reopen a channel to the planet,” Rydell ordered. Commander Dillon regained his composure and stood up.
“It’s open,” Sullivan said, after moving back to communications. It was times like this that Sullivan really wished the Secondprize had a modern bridge with tactical and communications all on one console.
“This is Captain Alexander Rydell. Call off this attack at once!” The Grand Leech reappeared on the viewscreen.
“Only if you’ll be my friend forever and ever.”
“Uggh! I’d rather die.”
“So be it.” The communication ended.
“Any suggestions. Dillon, where are you going?” Commander Dillon, who was halfway to the turbolift, stopped in his tracks.
“I’d love to stay, but Twin Planets is on. I never miss an episode.”
“This is not the time for a damn show!”
“Sit down in that chair before I rip your damn lungs out!”
“Captain,” Jaroch interrupted. “The wave will hit us in five seconds.”
“Oh yeah. Larkin, evasive action!” Larkin’s hands flew across her console and steered the massive starship out of harm’s way before they detached themselves from her wrists and clunked to the floor. The ship rocked and lurched as the wave passed by, but no damage was done.
“Huh? That was surprisingly easy,” Rydell said, taking a seat in the command chair. “Now then, re-reopen the channel.” Once again the horrifying image of the Grand Leech filled the viewscreen. His face contorted in surprise.
“Yep, now then, I am here at your government’s request as a representative of the United Federation of Planets, but I’m not very damn happy about it. Let’s just get this over with as quickly as possible.”
“Beam down immediately, and we’ll discuss it.” Captain Rydell looked around the bridge at his officers. They were all shaking their heads ‘No’ violently.
“I’m on my way,” he replied. Screams erupted from behind him.
“We’ll all be waiting to welcome our new friends.”
Captain Rydell smiled weakly. “Yeah, sure,” he muttered. “Secondprize out.”
Sullivan closed the channel. “You aren’t really going down there, are you?” Sullivan asked.
“Yes, I am, and you’re coming with me.”
“Just the vacation I was hoping for,” Sullivan said sarcastically.
“Let’s go, Number One,” Rydell said as he headed for the turbolift.
“Shouldn’t I stay here in command? They could attack us again,” Dillon said. The fact that he wouldn’t have to go down to Ugilious was an unspoken bonus.
“It’s a diplomatic mission. We both have to go.”
Dillon walked over to Rydell and leaned toward his ear.
“If we both go, Jaroch will be in charge,” he whispered. Rydell cringed.
“I guess we’re taking him, too.”
“That’s the entire command crew. Who will be in charge?” Suddenly, the turbolift opened, and Counselor Webber stepped out onto the bridge.
“What about her?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Dillon asked in disbelief.
Rydell sighed. “We work with the people we have. Counselor Webber, you have the conn. Sullivan, Jaroch, and Dillon, you’re with me. Larkin, have Ensign Preston meet us in Transporter Room One.” Rydell, Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan left the bridge. Counselor Webber sat down in the command chair smiling. Finally, she would have a happy ship.
“Damn,” the saboteur thought. The Secondprize was at Ugilious despite the malfunctions. “Oh well, I just hope we don’t need the warp drive or the weapons anytime soon.”
Commander Scott Baird stood outside of Holodeck Three. In the last ten minutes, he’d fixed the shields and the food processors. Now, he had a malfunctioning holodeck to take care of. It was running a program and wouldn’t stop. He opened up the circuit panel near the holodeck doors and reconnected a few wires. This saboteur was getting very annoying. He kept just disconnecting a few wires here and there. Not enough to do any real damage, but enough to fuck things up pretty good.
“Computer, end program.”
“Program terminated.” The doors slid open with a clank. Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins crawled out covered in a yellowish substance.
“Damn clowns,” she muttered and crawled off down the hall. Baird decided it was definitely time for a coffee break.
“Beam us down just outside of the palace,” Rydell said to Transporter Chief Monica Vaughn as he stepped up onto the transporter platform. Commander Dillon checked his phaser’s power level for the twentieth time and joined the rest of the away team on the platform. The door of the transporter room whooshed open revealing Lieutenant Hawkins. She was covered from head to toe with a strange yellow substance.
“I heard you were beaming down, sir. I’m ready for duty.” She stepped up onto the platform.
“What is that smell?” Rydell asked.
“Banana cream, sir,” Hawkins replied as she brushed another clump off of her uniform.
“How…? Never mind, I really don’t want to know.”
“No, sir, you don’t.”
“Have a nice trip, gorgeous,” Vaughn said. “I’ll be waiting for you with bells on.” Captain Rydell swore he heard her add “and nothing else” as the transporter beam took him apart molecule by molecule.
An instant later, the away team rematerialized on Ugilious. Captain Rydell shivered as the wind whipped around his legs. He might as well have been naked. Wait a second, he was naked! He heard Sullivan stifling a laugh behind him. He whirled around and discovered that he was the only one who’d been disrobed. Rydell snatched the commbadge off of Preston’s uniform and tapped it.
“Rydell to Vaughn.”
“Problem, dear?” she replied sultrily.
“Give me my damn uniform now!”
“Sorry, sir,” Vaughn said as she tried to control her laughter. “It must have been a… transporter malfunction.” Rydell’s uniform materialized at his feet. “I’m sorry I’m not there to see you. I’ll bet it’s impressive.”
“I’ll show you later,” Rydell replied not realizing what he was saying.
“I’m counting on it,” Vaughn said.
“That was incredibly…wrong! Just wrong!” Commander Dillon shouted. “I don’t know the exact regulations against stealing the clothes of commanding officers, but there must be some! When I find them, Lieutenant…
“Commander…” Rydell broke it.
“She closed the channel as soon as you started shouting.”
“Really?” Dillon asked, obviously disappointed. “That was a good rant.”
“Give it to her again later.”
“It won’t be the same.”
With as much dignity as he could muster, Captain Alex Rydell put his clothes back on. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Oh, I’m just quivering with excitement,” Sullivan commented.
“Save the orgasm until we get back to the ship, Sullivan,” Rydell said as they walked toward the mammoth structure looming before them. The palace wasn’t much in the aesthetic department; it was just a grey box with a huge gate in front and windows dotting the other surfaces. It was big though, eight hundred feet in all directions.
The guards at the gate escorted the away team into the throne room of the Grand Leech. Many other Joegonots had gathered in the room anticipating their arrival. The Grand Leech hadn’t moved from his chair, but now a young male and female stood behind him. The male looked like a typical Joegonot. He was tall, fat, and disgusting. The female however was all of that and more. She was beyond disgusting; she was hideous. Her face was covered with so many acne scars that it appeared to be one great red mass. Her nose was a light bulb shaped monstrosity, and the rest of her seemed to have more tonnage than the Secondprize.
The other Joegonots were in lines on either side of the puke green carpet that went down the center of the chamber. As the away team passed, they all stared at Rydell and his crew with those eyes that had disconcerted Dillon so much on the ship. Rydell heard mumbling coming from his right.
“I hate this. Oh, I hate this. ‘You have the conn, Number One.’ That’s what the captain should have said. I could have stayed on the ship, but no, I had to come on a diplomatic mission. I’m gonna die!”
“Dillon, shut up!” Rydell whispered. “Get a grip, will you?” The away team approached the throne apprehensively.
“Welcome, new life-friends of the Joegonots. Now that you have set foot on our soil, we will be with you forever and ever,” the Grand Leech stated warmly. Two Joegonots took up positions right behind each away team member. They were so close that the team members could feel them breathing down their necks. They all smelled of rotting cheese.
“We’ll be together forever,” the Joegonots said in unison as they moved in even closer to the away team. Out of the corner of his eye, Commander Dillon could see pus dripping from the zits of the Joegonot leaning over his right shoulder. This was going to be hell.
“Where’s Dr. Tulson?” Rydell demanded.
“Bring in our friend to our friends,” the Grand Leech ordered two other Joegonots.
“I’m going to be sick if this keeps up,” Sullivan muttered.
“No kidding,” Rydell replied. “Hopefully, we can just grab him and get out of here.
“While we are waiting for Tulson, let me introduce you to my lovely daughter Anemia and her husband Elgin.” The couple standing beside the Grand Leech bowed slightly. “She is my pride and joy, the most gorgeous female on the whole planet.” Dillon started gagging. Rydell quickly elbowed him to make him stop. “As you can see, Captain, she is far superior to your females.” Hawkins and Sullivan put their hands on their phasers. Rydell shot them a quick glance.
“Just take the pusball’s crap for now,” he whispered. “Please.” He looked around at the rest of the Joegonots in the room. Many of them were, on a strictly aesthetic level, fine by human standards. But apparently Joegonots valued…different…features. Rydell had heard the saying that beauty was in the eye of the beholder, but really, this race needed their eyes checked. Just then, the two Joegonots who had left to retrieve the professor escorted Dr. Tulson into the room. He appeared fine despite his ordeal. The man was a genius, and physics was his life. He took it all very seriously. Actually, he took everything seriously. Life to him was to be viewed scientifically.
Rydell rushed over to his former teacher. The two Joegonots that had been standing behind Rydell followed at an extremely close distance. Rydell wanted to go for his phaser. Oh God, he wanted to shoot them, but he was on a diplomatic mission.
“Dr. Tulson, are you all right?” The professor seemed dazed.
“What? Oh yes, I’m fine. It’s a lovely day. The sunrise was sheer poetry. Have you ever noticed how much poetry there is in the world? It’s everywhere, even in physics. I wrote a poem just yesterday about transverse wave motion. It was beautiful. Let me tell it to you. It’s called ‘Ode to a Transverse Wave’.
Oh transverse wave of exceptional beauty,
That’s never affected by your amplitudy…”
Rydell started screaming and ran to the throne.
“What have you done to him?!” Rydell shouted holding back tears.
“He’s our friend now,” the Grand Leech replied. “You’ll all be our friends soon. Take the professor back to his room.”
“Bbbbut, you said we could take him with us if we came here,” Dillon stammered.
“You make take him tomorrow, but tonight you will dine with us and sample our hospitality. Rooms have been prepared for you. Go and prepare for the feast. We eat in two hours.” The away team watched helplessly as Dr. Tulson was led away. Captain Rydell felt a double nudge from behind. His two Joegonots were pushing him forward out of the room. Grudgingly, Rydell let them push him from the chamber and lead him to his room.
The team was separated two to a room. Rydell and Dillon took one room, Jaroch and Preston the next, and Sullivan and Hawkins the third.
“Captain, this really, really sucks,” Dillon said as he plopped down on his bed. “We really have to spend a whole night here.”
“It’s just one night, Number One. What could possibly happen?”
“Well for starters, we could be the feast. Then, let’s see. They could maim us, kill us, or, worst of all, turn us into their friends like they did Tulson.”
“I see your point,” Rydell said, laying down on his bed.
“What are you doing?” Dillon asked surprised.
“Taking a nap. I wanted to be rested for whatever they have planned for us tonight.”
Dillon thought about it for a moment, then reclined onto his bed. A nap didn’t sound that bad actually. And it was kind of Captain’s orders.
In the next room, Ensign Charlie Preston was bored out of his mind. Lieutenant Commander Jaroch was in some kind of trance and refused to listen to Preston’s views on the Joegonot society. He had finally had enough. He picked up his phaser and tricorder and headed out into the hallway. The palace was absolutely quiet except for a faint clanging sound. Preston decided to follow the noise to its source. The sounds led him to a huge steel door with a small window cut into it. Cautiously, Preston looked in. The room was filled was computers and various pieces of machinery. Dr. Tulson was there building what appeared to be some kind of giant ray gun. Two Joegonots were standing right behind his shoulders monitoring his progress. Suddenly, Preston felt two fat hands clamp down on his shoulders. He whirled around knowing who was there. Unfortunately, he was right.
“Hi, friend Charlie. This is a bad area for you to be in. You shouldn’t have seen this. You aren’t being a very good friend,” one of the Joegonots said.
“But since you did see this, we can show you what it does,” the other continued as he opened the door.
“Wh…what does it do?” Preston asked fearfully.
“Turns you into one of us,” the Joegonot replied.
“And then after the beam has had about half an hour to infect your brain, it will spread and get all of your friends. Then we’ll take your ship and zap the whole galaxy. Everyone will be our friends! Ha, ha, ha!” the other added. Preston screamed at the top of his lungs as he was lifted up and carried into the room.
Commander Dillon was jolted awake by a scream. He ignored it and went back to sleep.
Ensign Preston was strapped into a chair in front of Tulson’s ray gun. Tulson seemed oblivious to Preston’s screams.
“Our friend Charlie wants a demonstration,” one of the Joegonots said to Dr. Tulson.
“Oh lovely. You’ll find it very beautiful, and then you’ll be so friendly. It’ll all be so poetic.” Preston screamed even louder. Tulson flipped a switch on the device. Seconds later, Preston was silent.
Ten minutes later, Captain Rydell and Commander Dillon were awakened by a knock at their door.
“Get that, Number One,” Rydell mumbled groggily. Dillon stumbled out of bed and answered the door. Ensign Preston was standing there looking like hell.
“I’m not feeling very well, sir,” Preston said sounding like an elementary school student complaining to his teacher. “Can I go back to the ship now?”
“Hold on. I’ll see,” Dillon replied. He turned to Rydell. “Captain, Preston’s sick and wants to go back. Can he?”
“Yeah, sure,” Rydell muttered as he rolled over.
“Yeah, sure,” Dillon said and closed the door. Seconds later, he collapsed back into his bed.
“Well, the biofilter doesn’t show that you have any viruses or anything, but you’re looking a little pale, Ensign. Maybe you’d better let Dr. Singer take a look at you,” Chief Vaughn said after checking her monitors. It was unusual for an away team member to beam back up like this, but if the captain approved it, oh well.
“No. I think I’ll just go to bed and sleep it off, friend Monica.”
“What’d you say?”
“Nothing. Goodnight. You’ll be joining me tomorrow,” Ensign Preston mumbled as he exited the transporter room. Transporter Chief Monica Vaughn decided that the boy’s strange comments were due to sexual frustration, but she probably should tell Dr. Singer about his illness.
“As you can see, friend Alex, we prepare the finest delicacies in the known universe,” the Grand Leech said. The away team was seated around a huge dining table with the Grand Leech, Anemia, and Elgin.
“Looks great,” Captain Rydell managed to say semi-politely as he stared down at the bowl of grease and lard soup that had been placed in front of him.
“Very appetizing,” Dillon gasped trying desperately not to vomit even though he felt that it would probably be an improvement.
“Hello, happy crew of the Secondprize. This is Counselor Webber your acting captain speaking. It’s now sixteen hundred hours, and you know what that means. That’s right! It’s hug time again! Now everyone grab the person next to you and give them a big squnch!”
Crewmembers across the ship groaned as the loudspeakers carried “Captain Webber”’s latest call for ship-wide happiness. On deck thirteen, Ensign Charlie Preston, who had been hovering over the shoulder of another ensign, reached out and hugged her. The transformation had been completed, and now Joegonot Charlie Preston had infected his first victim.
“The biofilter didn’t show anything?”
“No, Doctor, he was clean. I even checked his genitals twice just to be sure,” Chief Vaughn replied.
“How noble of you. Well, I guess I’ll have to call him in for a checkup.” The last few words were garbled by sobs and tears. “I hate checkups. Something might be wrong with him and then….WAAAA!” Dr. Singer collapsed in a fit of sobs. Vaughn took that opportunity to make her escape. She thought she saw a cute lieutenant in the hall anyway.
“Oh, Lieutenant Sprawls…” Chief Vaughn exited as quickly as possible and wrapped her arms around the unsuspecting Lieutenant.
“Captain, this dinner has been going on for three hours,” Dillon whispered. “Can’t you get us out of here?”
“I wish I could. Believe me, Number One, I wish I could.”
“And for our ninth course, we have Fillet of Sea Slug fried in oil and grease,” the Grand Leech announced as the next group of plates came in. The Joegonots sure could pack it in, and “it” was definitely the word to use to describe this “food.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Captain Rydell noticed a strange glimmer in Lieutenant Commander Jaroch’s eyes.
“Oh shit,” Rydell thought. “It’s happening. Please don’t let him kill anyone.”
“Ensign Preston, please report to sickbay. Ensign Preston report to sickbay at once.”
“Preston to sickbay. I’m on my way,” Preston said as he tapped his commbadge.
“We’ll be waiting,” the nurse replied and severed the channel.
“Goody, now I can go see friend doctor.” Ensign Preston took off happily down the hall, saying hello to and putting his hands on every crewman he came upon.
“Number One,” Captain Rydell whispered.
“What,” Dillon replied after trying to swallow yet another piece of Maggot Casserole.
“Look at Jaroch!” Dillon looked over. Jaroch’s face was frozen in an evil grimace. He was starting to quiver.
“We’ve got to get him out of here, Captain!”
“No kidding! I’m open to suggestions. They haven’t even gotten to dessert yet. We need a distraction.” Jaroch suddenly collapsed to the floor screaming.
“That count?” Dillon asked.
“I can’t find any infection,” Dr. Singer said as she passed her mediscanner along Ensign Preston. She had finally stopped crying long enough to actually examine the ensign. “Let me do another scan with the positronic imager.” She had Ensign Preston lie down as she placed a huge scanning device over him. He tried to touch her arm, but she walked over to check the monitor and was out of his reach.
“Come be my friend.”
“Just a minute.” He was sure talking funny. “Nothing different in your chest area. Your neck’s fine. Your head’s… What the hell? Oh no…” She started crying again.
“What is it, Doctor?” Counselor Webber, who had been watching the procedure, asked as she ran over to give Singer a hug.
“He’s got something wrong in his brain,” Singer sobbed. “We’ll have to quarantine the whole ship.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I’m not sure exactly. Something has altered his brain chemistry so that it matches the Joegonots, and it’s contagious…” Sickbay erupted in screams as panicked patients ran to the door. Nurses were trampled right and left and Dr. Singer was smashed into the computer bank on the wall. “…But only by touch.” she finished as she slumped to the floor.
“I want my happy ship back!” Webber screamed.
“What is wrong with friend Jaroch, friend Alex?” the Grand Leech asked.
“Uh… nothing. It’s just…a…well…it’s a…”
“Eating ritual,” Dillon blurted. Suddenly Jaroch jumped up with his phaser drawn.
“There is no Jaroch. There is only J’TER!” Rydell, Dillon. Hawkins, and Sullivan dove for cover under the table as Jaroch started firing.
“Crap, Captain?” Dillon said.
“I had a stronger word in mind.”
A phaser blast passed centimeters from Dillon’s head. “I know it’s not regulations, but fuck!”
“Yes, that’s exactly the word I was looking for!” Rydell said. “Let’s get the hell out of here!” The away team started crawling toward the door.
“This is Counselor Webber. As of nineteen thirty hours, the Secondprize is under quarantine. All personnel are asked to stay in their sections and to report any crewmembers exhibiting the symptoms of Joegonitis to Dr. Singer in sickbay.”
“Fuck!” Commander Scott shouted as the message ended. He’d been trapped in engineering for the last five hours repairing damage to the life support systems that he’d noticed earlier. He really wanted to go to bed, and now he was stuck there.
“J’Ter shall avenge his murder! Die, pigdog heathens!” More phaser fire erupted from the dining chamber. Then there was silence. The away team emerged from out from under the tables they had been hiding under in the throne room. Jaroch walked into the room seconds later. “Captain, I would recommend that we beam back to the ship,” he said calmly. Jaroch was back in control, and J’Ter had been sent to wherever former selves resided.
“What’d you do, Jaroch?” Rydell demanded angrily.
“It appears that J’Ter has killed Elgin.” Shouts rang out in the other room. Suddenly, a horde of armed Joegonots burst into the throne room.
“Hawkins, hold them off!” Rydell ordered. Hawkins smiled and started firing. Joegonots fell, but more kept coming to take their places. Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan started to help Hawkins, but even with the extra help, the away team was being overtaken.
“I suggest we get the hell out of here, Captain!” Dillon shouted. Rydell slapped his commbadge frantically.
“Rydell to Secondprize. Beam us up, now!”
“I’m sorry, Captain, but I can’t,” Chief Vaughn replied.
“Counselor Webber has put the ship under quarantine.”
“Why? Is somebody sad or something? I don’t care about the damn quarantine. Get us out of here!”
“I can’t. Ensign Preston beamed up with some condition he contracted on the planet, and he’s been infecting the whole ship. We’ve had reports from all over of people turning into Joegonots. Preston is practically one bloated zit as it is.”
“Captain, the Joegonots are about to overpower us! Now would be a really good time to do something!” Dillon shouted.
“Arrrrgh!” Rydell screamed.
“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Dillon said. Seconds later, the team was overwhelmed by the Joegonots.
Commander Travis Dillon awoke lying on an uncomfortable mattress in a pitch black room. He had a splitting headache from the club that one of the Joegonots had slammed across the side of his head. Suddenly, the realization of what had happened hit him. He jumped up from the bed to try and figure out where he was. His head smacked right into a hard object above him. Dillon collapsed back onto the mattress groaning.
“I see you’re awake, sir,” Jaroch’s voice said calmly from the darkness.
“Well, I can’t see much of anything,” Dillon replied. “What did I just hit?”
“My bunk,” Hawkins’s voice retorted.
“Oh. I take it we’re in a cell.”
“Brilliant deduction, Sherlock,” Sullivan said.
“The Joegonots left us here about an hour ago. They’ve got the captain with them,” Jaroch explained.
“Can you see?”
“Yes,” Jaroch replied. “Yynsians all have infrared vision as well as normal sight.”
“How handy,” Dillon replied. “How come you never told us before?”
“It never came up.”
“Sir, can we just get the hell out of here? This is really grating on my nerves,” Hawkins said angrily. Dillon felt for his phaser and commbadge. They were both gone.
“If you have any ideas, Lieutenant, I’d love to hear them.” There was no response. “Fine. Until something presents itself, we’ll just have to keep ourselves occupied.”
“Captain Rydell, you have really put a strain on our friendship with your actions,” the Grand Leech said from his throne. Captain Alex Rydell was standing in front of the throne surrounded by guards.
“Look, I’m not your friend! I don’t even remotely like you. In fact, you disgust me!” Rydell shouted.
“That’s too bad considering…”
“Well, your man did kill Elgin, and my Anemia does need a new husband now…” the Grand Leech said. Anemia stepped down from her place at her father’s side and approached Rydell as seductively as possible.
“No way! I rather die. Just kill me now and get it over with,” Rydell replied. Anemia started running her hair covered hands along Rydell’s face.
“He’s so cute, daddy,” she said giggling like a schoolgirl.
“I’m so glad you like him, my dear. He’s yours. The wedding will be at dusk. You do still have your dress, don’t you?”
“Yes, daddy. The cake stains even came out.” She smiled broadly. Rydell took one look at the gaping abyss that could probably swallow him whole and got really, really scared. Starfleet Academy never prepared him for anything like this. Well, they never really prepared him for the sex-starved amazons of Gynja IX either, but that was another story.
“Couldn’t we talk about this?” Rydell asked shakily.
“I’m sorry, but no. Anemia, you may take him to your room and get to know him until the ceremony. Have fun, you two.”
“I guarantee one of us won’t,” Rydell mumbled as Anemia dragged him from the throne room.
“Any luck, Doctor?” Counselor Webber asked as she entered Dr. Singer’s office. The counselor was starting to get worried. Already, sickbay was filled to capacity with victims of Joegonitis that had to be quarantined. Another temporary sick ward was being set up in one of the cargo bays. So far, over one hundred cases had been reported, and it showed no sign of stopping.
“I don’t know,” she replied sniffling as she looked up from her computer with red, tear-filled eyes. “I can’t find anything in his system that could be causing it. No bacteria. No microbes. No nothing!” She put her head down on the desk and resumed crying.
“There, there, Rebecca,” Counselor Webber said reassuringly as she hugged the doctor. “Just be confident and happy and the answer will zap you when you least expect it.”
“I guess so. Wait a second…Zap! That’s it Claire! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Dr. Singer wiped the tears off of her computer console and started checking Preston’s examination records.
“Glad I could help,” Webber replied puzzled. She slipped out of sickbay quietly and headed back to the turbolift, which she took to the practically deserted bridge. Ensign Larkin was at the helm console, and Lieutenant Lisa Beck was monitoring the tactical station in Lieutenant Hawkins’s absence instead of her usual post at communications. They were the entire bridge crew. All of the others had either been quarantined or were down on the surface. Counselor Webber sat down in the command chair and stared blankly at the viewscreen. This was not nearly as much fun as she thought it was going to be. The bridge was silent except for the beeping of computers and the constant hum of the engines.
“Counselor! We’re receiving a message from the planet,” Beck shouted suddenly. Webber screamed and jumped about five feet out of the chair.
“Warn me next time you’re going to do that,” Webber gasped. Her heart rate was starting to return to normal. “Put it on the screen.” The Grand Leech’s image appeared on the screen. “Grand Leech, how… good to see you again.” Webber hoped he didn’t notice her struggling for something nice to say.
“Starship Secondprize. We have taken your people prisoner for the murder of my son-in-law, several of my guards, and my pet poodle, Fifi. We demand that you surrender your ship at once. An attack team is on their way to take command of your vessel. Oh, by the way, you’re invited to my daughter’s wedding tonight at dusk. Please dress accordingly.”
“Congratulations!” Webber said warmly, oblivious to the threat against the Secondprize. “Who is she marrying?”
“Your captain.” The communication was severed.
“Counselor, two heavily armed attack cruisers are taking off from the surface,” Beck said.
“The captain’s getting married,” Webber mumbled incredulously.
“Are you a vegetable?”
“No,” Dillon replied. “Try again?”
“Are you an animal?” Hawkins asked unenthusiastically.
“Are you an officious moron with his head up his ass?” Sullivan asked.
“Yes… No! What kind of stupid question is that?!”
“Made sense to me,” Hawkins said. Suddenly, they heard a key turning in the lock of their cell door. The door opened and four Joegonots marched in.
“Do not worry, sir,” Jaroch whispered. “I have a plan.” Jaroch quickly reached down and pulled a small knife out of his boot. He charged forward and stabbed the nearest Joegonot. The Joegonot calmly pulled the knife out of its chest and put it in its pocket.
“That wasn’t very nice, friend Jaroch.” Jaroch looked exasperated. The Joegonot didn’t even seem to register that he’d been stabbed and blood was pouring from his chest. “We’ve come to take you with us.” Two other Joegonots grabbed Jaroch and escorted him out of the cell. The Joegonot that had been stabbed turned to leave, then collapsed. The fourth Joegonot dragged his comrade’s body out of the cell and closed the door.
“Truth or dare anyone?” Dillon asked. Hawkins and Sullivan groaned and sat back on the floor.
“Counselor,” Beck said insistently, “There are two ships heading right at us, and I don’t think that you’re going to be able to hug them to death. Can I please raise the damn shields?!” Counselor Webber was awakened from her musings.
“What? Oh yeah. Shields up.” At that instant, a blast rocked the ship.
“Forward shields weakened ten percent. Shall I return fire?”
“No! Open a channel,” Webber ordered.
“It’s open, but I don’t think it’s going to help.”
“This is Counselor Claire Webber of the Secondprize. Please stop your attack on our vessel. There are much better ways to relieve your anger than with violence.”
“You aren’t our friends anymore,” one of the Joegonot pilots replied. “We kill people who aren’t our friends. Bye, bye.”
“But we are your friends!”
“Counselor, they’ve cut off communication,” Beck said. Another blast rocked the ship.
“I don’t want to do this anymore. Nobody wants to be happy anymore, and I can’t deal with that!” Counselor Webber stood up and stormed off of the bridge.
“I guess you’re in charge now,” Larkin said to the astonished Beck.
“You’re the captain now.” Beck started smiling.
“These bastards are history! Full reverse. Let’s get some distance between us and them.” The great Excelsior-class starship slowly ceased the forward motion of its orbit and began to move backwards. Beck’s hands flew over the tactical console arming the phasers and photon torpedoes. She pressed the fire button. Nothing happened. “What the hell? Bridge to engineering!”
“Baird here. Have you destroyed those guys yet?” The ship was hit yet again. “Guess not.”
“The weapons are down!” Beck shouted. “I can’t do a damn thing!”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Baird screamed. “Not another fucking malfunction. I’m gonna rip that saboteur limb from fucking limb! I’ll see what I can do.”
“Hurry up. The shields are down to fifteen percent!”
“You think I don’t know that! Baird out.”
“Lieutenant, they’re firing again,” Larkin said.
“Evasive action,” Beck shouted.
“Baird to Bridge.”
“Where are those phasers?”
“The circuits have been completely ripped out! It’ll be an hour at least.”
“We don’t have an hour if you didn’t notice!”
“It’s not my fucking problem!”
“It will be if you’re dead,” Beck snapped back. “Wait a second, I’ve got an idea.”
“It is about time,” Larkin mumbled.
“Well, are you going to answer?” Sullivan asked anxiously.
“No. That’s a very inappropriate question, Ensign,” Dillon replied.
“Hey, all she asked was if you ever had sex in a holodeck simulation,” Hawkins said. “What’s wrong with that?” Suddenly, they heard a key turn in the lock. Dillon breathed a sigh of relief. Two Joegonots entered the room and grabbed him. The relief quickly left him as he was carried from the room.
“Well, what do you think?” Sullivan asked.
“That’s what I thought. Wanna play twenty questions again?”
“Hello there,” Dr. Tulson said warmly as Lieutenant Commander Jaroch was led into his workshop. “I’m so glad you could join me. It’s such a beautiful day.” Jaroch looked around at the various equipment. It didn’t take long for him to figure out what everything was.
“Impressive,” Jaroch commented. “Complete transference beam. It has never been done before.”
“Our friend, Dr. Tulson, did it,” one of the Joegonots who escorted Jaroch in said. “He wants to help us make everyone our friends. Now you can help, too.”
“I would be glad to,” Jaroch said smiling. He sat down by the ray and got to work. This wouldn’t take long at all.
“Come here, my tree of love.”
“Get away from me!”
“Oh you’re so cute when you’re scared.” Anemia ran at Captain Alex Rydell again. He dove out of the way at the last second and rolled across the bed. For a woman of her size, she had a lot of endurance. If this kept up, he could be in big, big trouble.
“I demand to know where you’re taking me,” Dillon said officially as the Joegonots carried him down the hall. “I am a Starfleet officer, and I have rights guaranteed by the constitution of the United Federation of Planets.”
“We’re taking you to meet the Grand Leech’s other daughters,” one of the Joegonots replied.
“I demand that you take me back to my cell. There are several provisions in the constitution against cruel and unusual punishment. I want you to take me back right now! Are you listening to me?!” The two Joegonots stopped in front of a door and opened it. Dillon was thrown inside, and the door was slammed shut behind him. He tried frantically to reopen it. It was locked.
“Hi, cutie,” several voices said in unison from behind him. Dillon turned around and screamed.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding,” Commander Scott Baird said incredulously. “I don’t think it’s even possible.”
“Why not?” Beck replied. “All you have to do is run a subspace wave through the warp engines to power it up then send it out the navigational deflector.”
“Oh is that all? What don’t I just discover the fucking meaning of life while I’m at it?!”
“Just do it. We’re running out of time up here.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Baird out.”
“Are you a grasshopper?”
“No. That’s seventeen questions.
“I know. I know. Are you a cloaking device?”
“Yes. O.K. It’s my turn. Are you an animal?”
“No. This is starting to get old.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Are you a mineral?”
“Help me! Help! Please help! Don’t touch me! I don’t have to tell you anything except my name, rank, and serial number. Travis Michael Dillon. Commander in Starfleet. 130217012214516. What do you think you’re doing!? I said don’t touch me!”
“Come on, Alex. You know you want me.”
“Yeah. Just like I want my balls ripped off.”
“If you insist, but it’ll make our sex life less interesting.” Anemia lunged forward.
“Get away from there!” Rydell made a flying leap across the room as Anemia slammed into the wall. She started giggling again.
“Oh, I love it when you play hard to get.”
“Please just let me die now.”
“Commander Baird, have you made those modifications to the subspace transmitter yet?” Lieutenant Beck asked anxiously. The two Joegonot ships were starting to anticipate her evasive maneuvers, and the shields were being weakened by their phaser blasts once again.
“Just about…There, I’ve got it. Fire when ready!”
“Bring us about!” Beck ordered Larkin, who quickly turned the ship to face the oncoming Joegonot vessels. Beck she smashed her hand down on the firing control releasing a massive “No, I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend!” wave at the Joegonot ships. The ships rocked violently as they were struck, then exploded.
“I’m glad they got the message. I really hate it when people can’t take a hint,” Beck commented smugly. “Bridge to security.”
“Prepare a security team to go down to Ugilious. We’re going to get the away team out by force.”
“I thought the changes to the crew were viral, but I couldn’t find anything,” Dr. Singer explained to Counselor Webber, who had gone down to sickbay after leaving the bridge. “Thanks to you, I realized that the changes were made another way. The Joegonots evidently have some type of ray that can completely alter any being’s brain chemistry to match theirs. Once one person is taken over, he spreads it to another and another and so on.”
“How is that even possible?”
“I’m not sure. I’d need to see the device they used to accomplish this.”
“Is there anything you can do without it?” Counselor Webber asked. Being turned into a Joegonot was not a happy thought.
“I don’t think so, and that’s the problem,” Singer replied. The tears were building up in her eyes again. “I really don’t think I can do much of anything without killing the patient. I just hope that the captain can figure something out.”
“If I can just get her to run at the door, maybe she’ll knock it down,” Captain Rydell thought as he dodged another charge by his bride-to-be.
“This is another poem I wrote,” Dr. Tulson said happily as Jaroch worked on the machine. “It’s called…”
“Dr. Tulson, could you hand me the laser welder?” Jaroch interrupted just before the professor could start yet another one of his poems. Jaroch had already heard six in the last fifteen minutes, and he didn’t know how much more he could take. He’d be done soon though. Hopefully, before Tulson tried to tell him this poem again.
“Truth or dare?”
“Have you ever wanted to sleep with the captain?”
“Make that dare.”
“Hey, that’s my uniform! Now wait a second! I am a Starfleet officer, not a… sex toy!”
“So, Lieutenant Russell, do you live up to your reputation or what?” Chief Vaughn asked sultrily. Sean Russell’s security team was waiting for him up on the transporter pad while he was leaning against the transporter console staring deeply into Vaughn’s eyes.
“I have a reputation?” he asked with a smile.
“I’ve heard things about your…prowess.”
“I guess you’re just going to have to come find out for yourself, Chief,” Russell replied.
“I may just do that.” Vaughn pulled out a small appointment book. “I’m busy for the rest of the week, but I think I can fit you in at seven o’clock on Saturday between Lieutenant Sprawls and Ensign Sawyer.”
“No can do. I’m seeing Ensign Lewis at six-thirty and Lieutenant Commander Garcia at eight. How about nine o’clock on Sunday?”
“I’m going out with Lieutenant Fisher at six, but he’s pretty dull. I should definitely be done by nine.”
“I’ll see you then.” Russell said as he stepped up onto the transporter platform. “Energize.” The security team vanished in a flurry of molecules.
“No, hang that tapestry of me eating the frog over the throne. This is an elegant occasion, and I want the place to look its best,” the Grand Leech said as he watched the throne room being decorated. Just a little longer and his darling daughter would have a new husband and he’d have a new starship. The Joegonots would soon rule the galaxy, and everyone would have to be their friends.
“This is my forty-seventh lap around this bed,” Rydell gasped as he ran around the bed yet again trying to keep away from Anemia. “Don’t you ever get tired?” She giggled and kept right on chasing him.
“You really think I’m handsome?” Dillon asked. Twenty heads nodded eagerly. “Well, if you say so.”
The security team materialized outside of the palace and headed toward the entrance. Russell viewed this as a simple exercise. Run in, grab the away team, and run out before the Joegonots even realized what happened. As the captain would say, not a problem.
Captain Rydell was cornered, and he knew it. Anemia had trapped him against the wall and was puckering her lips to kiss him. The oozing cold sores that appeared as she did this made Rydell’s stomach turn. He had to do something fast.
“The bed would be more comfortable,” he suggested hopefully.
“But I want to get started right here and now. We’ll get over there later, you gorgeous hunk. I want to kiss you everywhere in the room.” She started bending her head toward him. Rydell braced himself for the inevitable, and it was worse than he could possibly imagine. The taste of garlic and lard invaded his system, and his lips were left dripping with saliva and slime. She moved toward him again. Rydell sank to the ground and scrambled between her legs to the bed.
“Come here, my darling,” he said as convincingly as possible. “I’ve got a game for you.” Anemia giggled and dove at the bed. The force of her impact broke the bed and when the mattress bounced back, it sent Rydell flying into the air. Anemia caught him and held him in her arms as if he were a baby.
“What are we going to play?”
“Sex games,” he replied seductively. That patented Rydell charm was going to be tested to the limit.
“What do I do?”
“Just lie down on the bed, darling, and put your arms up near the bed posts.” She did as she was told, and Captain Rydell frantically searched the room.
“What are you looking for?”
“Ah, you’re going to tie me up and ravage me aren’t you?” Anemia asked happily. That was starting to interest her.
“Something like that,” Rydell replied. In the closet, he found some belts that would have to do. He tied Anemia to the bed slowly and rubbed his hands along her arms as he did so. He tried to keep his mind off of what he was touching, but he wasn’t succeeding. He wanted to hide in the closet and throw up for a while, but he knew that he had to keep going. The safety of his ship was at stake, not to mention his own. Marriage to Anemia looked very hazardous. Finally, he was done. Each of Anemia’s limbs were securely fastened to a bed post.
“Come and get me,” she whispered.
“Not a chance in hell,” Rydell said as he walked out of the door. He heard muffled shouting behind him, but ignored it. He felt a little guilty leaving Anemia tied up like that, but his ship came first.
He carefully walked down the halls of the palace heading toward the throne room. The palace seemed fairly deserted. Where the hell was everybody?
“On the count of three, move in,” Russell said to the rescue team that had assembled at the palace gate. “Phasers on stun. Ready? One…”
“Three!” a voice shouted.
“No! It goes one, two, then three, you moron! Wait a second. Who said that?”
“I did,” a Joegonot said from the top of the palace. Russell looked up and saw that the roof was lined with at least fifty armed Joegonots.
“Get inside!” he shouted and dove in the palace. His men followed just as the ground where they had just been standing was atomized by phaser fire.
Captain Rydell heard the phaser fire and started running toward the throne room. It was about time the Secondprize sent a rescue team. He turned a corner and ran headlong into a Joegonot.
“Hello, friend Alex. You aren’t supposed to be out of Anemia’s room.”
“I wanted to see the wedding decorations,” Rydell said.
“Oh! They are are lovely,” the Joegonot replied, turning around. “I’ll take you back to the throne room and…” Rydell was on him in a flash. Seconds later, Captain Alex Rydell walked quietly away from the unconscious Joegonot carrying the Joegonot’s phaser. Things were definitely starting to look better. Suddenly, the sound of alarms filled the air. Rydell charged forward on his way to the throne room.
“That should do it, Professor,” Jaroch said as he stood up from the Joegonots’ transference ray. “It should work better than ever now.”
“Wonderful,” Dr. Tulson exclaimed gleefully. “My friends will be so happy.” Dr. Tulson walked toward the door to go tell “his friends” and put his key in the lock. Jaroch jumped forward and hit the professor with a chop to the back of the neck. Dr. Tulson slumped to the ground unconscious. Slowly, Jaroch turned the key. That familiar feeling was coming over him. J’Ter would be here soon, and everything would be fine.
The rescue team heard the sounds of several sets of running footsteps approaching.
“Ensign White, go check around the corner,” Russell ordered. White looked incredulously at Russell and started laughing.
“Me…go around the corner…yeah right!” Suddenly, five Joegonots came around that very same corner, phasers blasting.
“Run!” Russell screamed.
“See what I mean,” White said. “I could have been killed!”
“You still can, so start running,” Russell retorted. The rescue team started running. Russell was really starting to wish that someone would rescue them.
Captain Rydell rounded another corner apprehensively. He’d already run into seven guards. He was worried that his luck was going to run out soon, and they’d shoot him before he shot them. This corridor was deserted thankfully, but he did hear the sounds of several female voices coming from behind a door on the left side of the hall. Rydell cautiously approached the door, and the sounds grew louder. Above the noise of the women, he was able to hear singing, and he knew that voice.
“…when the end comes I know I was just a gigolo. Life goes on without me ‘cause I ain’t got nobody. Nobody cares for me…” Rydell opened the door a crack and looked inside. His worst fears were confirmed. Commander Travis Dillon was dancing on a table in his underwear.
“Number One, get off of there!” Rydell shouted.
“Wow, it’s another one!” the women shouted as they charged toward Rydell.
“For God’s sakes, Captain. You get all of the women! I finally found some that want me, and you go try to steal them. That’s not very fair. When do I get my chance?!” Dillon shouted on the verge of tears. Rydell was using his phaser to hold off Anemia’s rampaging sisters, but they were starting to close in on him.
“Dillon, get dressed and help me! That’s an order!” he shouted frantically. Commander Dillon hopped down off of the table and put his uniform back on. Rydell was backed up against the wall, and the women were still coming. Dillon sat down and put his boots on. Rydell could feel their hot breath bearing down on him. Dillon stood up and checked himself in the mirror. Rydell fired and fired and fired. Dillon calmly walked over to his captain and pushed the last woman away from Rydell.
“You are such a crybaby,” Dillon commented and walked out the door. Rydell leaned against the wall in shock. That was not the Travis Dillon that he’d come down here with. This one was actually…relaxed.
The two Joegonots guarding Dr. Tulson’s lab were bored. Not much ever really happened at that end of the palace. The others were getting to have fun killing the humans, but they had to stay there and watch a door. Maybe tomorrow they’d get a better assignment. Suddenly the door burst open and hands grabbed each of the Joegonots’s throat.
“J’Ter has returned to seek vengeance, pus-filled ones,” Jaroch/J’Ter screamed as he lifted the huge Joegonots up into the air.
“He’s not being very friendly,” one of the Joegonots commented just before his neck was snapped.
Jaroch/J’Ter laughed maniacally as he threw the two lifeless bodies to the floor. He picked up their weapons and charged down the hall, phasers blasting.
Dillon led Rydell to the cell block where Hawkins and Sullivan were being held. After arriving at their cell door, Rydell blasted it open and charged in. Hawkins and Sullivan looked up uninterestedly. Scattered about the cell were the bodies of five unconscious Joegonots.
“We got bored, so we escaped,” Hawkins explained.
“But we figured that you guys would want to do that gallant rescue crap, so we came back and waited for you,” Sullivan continued.
“How sweet of you,” Rydell mumbled.
“Can we just get out of here now?” Sullivan asked. “I’m really getting sick of this cell.” She and Hawkins took the pile of phasers they had grabbed off of the Joegonots and tossed one to Dillon.
“Things are looking up,” Dillon said as the almost completely reassembled away team walked out into the hall. “All we need are the commbadges, Dr. Tulson, and Jaroch and we’ll be all set.”
“And all we have to do is get past an entire army of Joegonots in the process,” Sullivan said. “How simple can you get? We’ll have this wrapped up in no time. Wake up, Commander! There are about five hundred of them in this castle alone and only four of us!”
“Four hundred of them and five of us,” a voice said from behind them. They whirled around and saw Jaroch walking serenely toward them. He was slightly bloody, but overall he looked very content.
“Lieutenant, they’re gaining on us!”
“Then run faster!” Russell shouted. God, he hated days like this.
“Vaughn to Bridge.”
“Beck here. What’s the problem, Chief?”
“I’m having a hard time keeping a transporter lock on the rescue team.”
“They keep running around all over the place. There are several large life-form readings behind them as well which aren’t helping.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they’re getting really close to the team and messing up their signals.”
“Great! Beck to Russell.”
“Russell here,” Beck heard him gasp. He sounded like he was out of breath.
“Is everything O.K.?”
“Fine…We’ve got everything under control. Aaaah!”
“God, they’re worthless!” Beck shouted. “Vaughn, beam them up now!”
“But what about the quarantine.”
“I don’t care about the damn quarantine. Get them up here!”
“Energizing,” Vaughn said.
“What about the first away team?” Larkin asked.
“Details, details! Don’t worry about them. I’m sure the captain is doing better than the rescue team.”
The captain was not doing any better. He and the rest of the away team were now being chased by all of the Joegonots that were left with nothing to do when the rescue team beamed out.
“Three hundred and ninety-four.”
“Jaroch, we really don’t need a running count of how many of them there are,” Dillon said as they ran down another corridor.
“Can’t we just leave it as a hell of a lot of them?” Sullivan gasped.
“Captain, I know that you’ve got some great plan to get us out of here, right?” Dillon asked. Rydell just kept running.
“He’s not saying anything,” Hawkins said worriedly.
“Three hundred and ninety-three.”
“Dillon, do something!” Sullivan shouted.
“Yeah, you’re the first officer,” Hawkins continued. “Do something!”
“All right, we’ll…”
“Go to Dr. Tulson’s lab,” Jaroch said and took off down another hallway.
“Yeah, what he said. Jaroch, why are we going there?”
“Trust me. I know what I am doing!”
“That’s what you said before you blasted the President of Senin’s arm off,” Dillon said.
“That was not me. It was J’Ter. I take no responsibility for J’Ter’s actions! And besides, that guy had a mosquito on his arm. J’Ter was just helping him out.”
“You don’t amputate a guy’s arm because of a bug bite!” Sullivan shouted.
“That mosquito could have been…poisonous!”
“Just shut up,” Rydell said. “I don’t want to hear anymore!” He was starting to lose hope of ever getting out of here. Maybe marrying Anemia wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe… What the hell was he thinking? Death was preferable to life with her on this planet.
The shouts behind the away team were growing louder. The Joegonots were catching up. Jaroch stopped in front of a door and fumbled in his pocket for the key. The Joegonots were getting closer.
“Jaroch, would you please hurry up!” Rydell shouted.
“I’m sorry, Captain. I’m having trouble with the key.”
“Friends Alex, Travis, Jaroch, Patricia, and Emily aren’t being very nice,” the Joegonots chanted in unison.
“They are really starting to irritate me,” Dillon mumbled.
“Starting!” Sullivan shouted. “I’ve been irritated from the second we got down here! I never wanted to come here in the first place, remember! This was a bad idea. You just should have told Starfleet to go fuck itself!”
“Sullivan, this is not the time!” Rydell shouted. Jaroch opened the door and stepped inside. The rest of the away team barreled in after him. Jaroch slammed the door shut and locked just as the Joegonots arrived.
“That door isn’t going to hold them for very long,” Dillon said. “I hope you had a good reason for bringing us in here.”
“Jaroch, there’s a body on the floor,” Hawkins commented.
“Oh, that’s just Dr. Tulson,” Jaroch replied.
“What!?” Rydell shouted as he ran over to his fallen teacher.
“I needed his key.”
“You could have just tied him up and taken it from him! He’s an old man, for God’s sakes! I think you probably could have overpowered him!”
“I don’t like taking chances.”
“Sullivan, help me get him into a chair,” Rydell ordered. The two picked up Dr. Tulson and put him into the chair near the Joegonots’s transference ray. Something caught Sullivan’s eye.
“Captain, there’s a strange mark on the back of his neck,” she said. Rydell looked and saw a small, round bruise at the left rear of the professor’s neck.
“Jaroch, what do you make of this?” Jaroch came over and examined it.
“It appears to be a bruise, sir.”
“I know that! What from?”
“I would guess repeated injections with a hypospray. That is most likely how they kept Dr. Tulson so friendly and helpful while he built the transference ray.”
“The what?” Dillon asked. The bangs on the door were getting more insistent. Suddenly, they stopped, and the low hum of a phaser was heard.
“They’re cutting through the door!” Hawkins shouted. The metal door was starting to glow red hot as the energy beam sliced through it.
“This is a transference ray,” Jaroch continued gesturing to the ray emitter on the table. “It was designed to alter the brain structure of humans into that of Joegonots.”
“So that’s what happened to Preston!” Dillon exclaimed.
“You have a keen grasp of the obvious, Commander,” Jaroch said. “Yes. That is what happened to Preston. I, however, have made a few minor adjustments to Dr. Tulson’s invention.”
“What kind of adjustments?” Rydell asked worriedly. Suddenly, the door burst open. In a flash, Jaroch activated the transference beam, sending out a blue ray that engulfed the approaching Joegonots. They staggered back out into the hall. Jaroch picked up the ray and went after them. He hit every Joegonot in the hall, all three hundred and ninety-three of them. Rydell was puzzled, since nothing really seemed to be happening. Jaroch shut off the device.
“What did you do?” Rydell asked.
“I reversed the programming of the ray so that it now turns Joegonots into humans.” The Joegonots were starting to recover and advance toward the away team. “Unfortunately, the ray’s effects occur slowly. They won’t be human for another half hour.”
“What do we do until then, Jaroch?!” Sullivan asked angrily.
“Running would probably be the wisest choice.” They ran.
Commander Scott Baird hoped that he’d finally finished the last of the repairs. The weapons system had taken him a while to fix, but it was now operational again. The saboteur had made a huge mess of the circuitry. Conduits had been ripped out right and left, and others had been reconnected in places that they were never meant to have been. Baird was closing the circuit panel when something caught his eye. He picked it up and examined it.
“So that’s who the saboteur is,” he thought. “Well, their ass is gone now.” He closed the panel and slapped his commbadge.
“Baird to security.”
“Oh. You’re back. Did you get the captain?” Russell started laughing hysterically. “I’ll take that as a no.”
“They’re on their own. I’m not going back down there. No way!”
“Fine. Whatever. That’s not why I called. Meet me with a security team on the bridge in two minutes.”
“I’m on my way sir. Russell out.”
“How long has it been?” Dillon asked as the away team rounded another corner.
“Five minutes,” Jaroch replied. They kept on running.
Baird arrived on the bridge shortly after Lieutenant Russell and the security team.
“What’s this about?” Lieutenant Beck demanded. “If you didn’t notice, we’ve got a crisis on hour hands!”
“And a saboteur on our ship,” Baird added. “But that problem’s about to be taken care of.”
“You know who it is?” Russell asked.
“No, I’m making it up. Stupid question. Of course, I know who it is.” Baird reached into his pocket and pulled out a small object.
“What is that?” Beck asked. “It looks like…”
“A finger!” Baird said triumphantly. “Ensign Larkin’s to be exact.” Larkin held up her left hand. The ring finger was missing. It a flash of movement, she ripped off her arm and hurled it and Baird, Beck, and Russell. They dove to the floor and drew their phasers. Larkin was headed toward the turbolift as the security team fumbled for their phasers. Baird and Beck jumped up and ran after Larkin. They managed to slip into the turbolift just as the doors were closing. Larkin used her one good arm to grab Baird by the neck and slam him into the wall of the turbolift
“Find the off switch,” he gasped to Beck as Larkin started squeezing the life out of him.
“Where is it?”
“It’s under her armpit!” Beck tried to get to it, but Larkin kicked her out of the way. Beck decided to try another approach. She punched Larkin in the face with all of her strength. Larkin’s head popped off and fell to the turbolift floor.
“Much more effective, don’t you think?” Beck asked Baird. He smiled weakly and pried the android’s lifeless hand from his throat.
“How long now?” Dillon asked.
“Ten minutes after the last time you asked,” Jaroch replied.
“That’s it!” Rydell shouted. “I’ve had enough of this!” He took the lead and turned down another hallway.
“But, sir,” Jaroch said. “That leads to the throne room. I don’t think that going there is a wise idea.”
“You got any better ones?”
“No, but what do you hope to accomplish?” Jaroch asked.
“Maybe I just want to kill the Grand Leech before his men kill me!”
“Sir, that’s against Starfleet regulations,” Dillon said.
“Of course, it’s against regulations! And that’s only the beginning. I’m going to break half of the rules in the damn book before I’m through.”
“You have a plan?” Sullivan asked hopefully.
“You’re damn right I’ve got a plan,” Rydell replied.
The away team burst into the throne room, phasers drawn. Seated in his throne, the Grand Leech recoiled back in fear. The four guards in the room were quickly reduced to unconsciousness by a few phaser blasts. Rydell walked over to the throne.
“Give us our commbadges back now, and I might consider letting you live,” Rydell said as he put his weapon to the Grand Leech’s face.
“You don’t scare me, friend Alex. My men will be here any second,” the Grand Leech replied cockily. As if on cue, the horde of Joegonots that had been chasing the away team burst through the doors.
“Just give up and accept it, friend Alex. Your crew is being turned into Joegonots, and you’re hopelessly outnumbered. I offered you such a wonderful life married to my daughter, and you foolishly turned it down. Where is Anemia anyway?”
“I’m here, daddy,” Anemia replied as she entered the throne room. The bed posts were still tied to her arms and legs, but she hadn’t let that stop her. “Hi, baby,” she said to Rydell.
“I am not your baby. Get a fucking clue!”
“Aww, Alex. You’re such a kidder.”
“I give up.”
“You do?” the Grand Leech exclaimed happily. “Guards, get them.”
“Not to you, you moron!” Rydell shouted. “I meant…never mind. It’s not worth even trying to explain. The only thing you need to know is that unless Dr. Tulson and our commbadges are in this room in…How long, Jaroch?”
“Ten minutes, sir.”
“Thanks. Unless they’re are here in ten minutes, I’m going to kill you all.”
“You can’t possibly do that with only five phasers,” the Grand Leech said.
“Five phasers set on overload will take out this whole room quite nicely I think. Now get moving!”
“Go get Tulson,” the Grand Leech ordered two Joegonots. “Captain Rydell, out of the goodness of our hearts and the deep bond of friendship between us, we agree to give you back your professor and communicators, but I must insist that you return to us the device that friend Jaroch is holding.”
“Uh…well,” Rydell stammered. He had to stall for a little while longer. Rydell’s eyes fell on the large tapestry of the Grand Leech that was hung behind the throne. “Boy, that’s a nice tapestry you’ve got there.”
“What? Oh yes. My Anemia made it for me. She’s so talented. You’re really passing up on a fine woman. Now what about that transference ray?” The Grand Leech’s demeanor turned much less friendly.
“Lovely workmanship on that throne.”
“I want my ray gun.”
“I’m going to have you all killed before you even get a chance to put those phasers on overload.”
“Who is your decorator?”
“I don’t think you’d even do it. You’d be killing yourselves.”
“I really wish my cabin looked like this.”
“Starfleet officers don’t commit suicide.”
“It would look wonderful on our ship.”
“Guards get them now!” the Grand Leech screamed. Rydell braced himself for the Joegonot onslaught. It never came. Slowly he turned around and looked at the guards. They were all human.
“Go fuck yourself, lardball!” they shouted in unison.
“Jaroch, this is great!” Rydell exclaimed happily. “They’re acting like humans, but I thought it was going to be another ten minutes.”
“Evidently their small brains are altered faster than a human’s would be,” Jaroch replied.
“What have you done, Rydell?” the Grand Leech shouted.
“Jaroch, zap him,” Rydell ordered. “And get Anemia, too.” Jaroch fired the transference beam. Seconds later, the two now-human guards that had been sent to retrieve the professor, entered the throne room with Dr. Tulson.
“Rydell, what are you doing here? What the hell is going on?” Dr. Tulson demanded.
“I see the drugs have worn off,” Rydell said.
“What drugs? Who the hell bonked me on the back of the head?”
Jaroch looked at the ceiling innocently.
“Captain, we still have to find our commbadges,” Dillon said.
“Oh yeah.” Rydell pushed the Grand Leech out of the way and stood up on the throne. “Attention, Joegonots. Could someone tell me where our commbadges are?”
“Look under the seat cushion, you fucking moron!” one of the former Joegonots yelled. They were so human it was scary. Rydell hopped down and looked where the Joegonot told him. There was a small compartment under the throne seat. Inside were the team’s commbadges, phasers, and tricorders. Rydell handed the equipment out to the rest of the away team and put his commbadge back on.
“Rydell to Secondprize.”
“Beck here. It’s good to hear from you, sir.”
“Beck? Where’s Counselor Webber?”
“She flaked out a couple of hours ago. I’ve taken command temporarily. Is everything all right?”
“It is now, Lieutenant. Beam us up, Beck.”
“Aye, sir.” Rydell breathed a sigh of relief as the transporter took him away.
The second that the team rematerialized on the transporter pad, Rydell sprang into action.
“Jaroch, get that ray down to engineering and help Commander Baird run it through the weapons systems. Number One, let’s go.” Rydell, Dillon, Hawkins, Jaroch, and Sullivan ran out of the transporter.
“What about me?” Dr. Tulson demanded, but they were already gone.
“Don’t worry, Doctor,” Vaughn said. “I’ll take good care of you.”
Rydell dashed out of the turbolift and dove into his command chair. He started kissing the armrests passionately.
“Hello, chair,” he said. “I love my chair. Hello, ship. I love my ship. Hello, Larkin. Wait a second. Where’s Larkin?”
“She is no longer functioning,” Beck explained.
“What happened?” Dillon asked.
“I knocked her head off.”
“You what?!” Rydell shouted.
“Well, sir, she was the saboteur.”
“She was? Is she going to be okay?”
“Commander Baird was in the process of reprogramming her when you beamed up.” Suddenly, the turbolift doors opened, and Counselor Webber sprang out. She ran at Captain Rydell and bear-hugged him.
“You’re back! You’re back!” she exclaimed. “Don’t ever make me captain again. Everybody’s turning into Joegonots, and the Joegonots on the planet are trying to kill us. It’s awful.”
“Jaroch to bridge.” Jaroch’s voice interrupted.
“Rydell here. Are you ready?”
“Fantastic. Sullivan, I want to hit every spot on this planet with that beam. Plot a course.”
“Aye, sir. Course plotted and laid in. I’m looking forward to this.”
“Me too. Hawkins, fire when ready.”
“Gladly.” Hawkins hit the fire controls. The Secondprize gradually blanketed Ugilious in the blue glow of the transference ray.
“Cease fire,” Rydell ordered finally. The planet had been completely zapped. Sure it was totally throwing Federation policy out the window, but at that point Rydell didn’t really care. “Rydell to Jaroch.”
“Unhook that thing and take it to sickbay. I want the entire crew zapped and changed back to normal.”
“Aye, sir. I’m on my way.”
“Sullivan, let’s get out of here. Warp one.” The Secondprize’s mighty engines hummed, then sputtered and died. “Rydell to engineering.”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
“I see you already know about the problem, Commander Baird.”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
“Captain’s log, Stardate 49806.5. The entire population of Ugilious has been changed into humans, and the crew of the Secondprize is back to normal. The former Joegonots have requested membership in the Federation, so thankfully I am not going to be court-martialed for completely screwing up their society. In my opinion, we’re all better off. The Federation has lost a dangerous and disgusting adversary, and the Joegonots are no longer pariahs of the galaxy. Everybody wins. Ensign Larkin has been reactivated and returned to duty. Commander Baird believes that her behavior was caused by the fact that her logic circuit broke off and was lodged near her stomach. She is performing normally now, and the Secondprize is finally headed to Kilma Omega IV, the planet of obnoxious belchers. I, for one, am looking forward to a little shore leave.”
Captain Rydell turned off the Captain’s log recorder and sat down on his bed. Suddenly, he heard the door chime of his cabin beep.
“Hold on a second,” he said as he got up. He wandered over exhaustedly and opened the door. Counselor Webber was standing there with a small boy. The boy was wearing boxing gloves.
“Hello, Captain,” she said.
“Hi. Who’s this?” Rydell asked gesturing toward the boy.
“This is Jimmy Rogers. You murdered his hamster, remember? He has some anger about his pet’s death to release, and I felt that coming here would be the best way to do that.”
“Now wait a min…” Jimmy Rogers punched Captain Rydell in the crotch, sending the captain to the floor moaning. Counselor Webber and Jimmy Rogers walked inside and closed the door.
Several minutes later, Commander Travis Dillon was walking past the captain’s quarters on the way to his own. He heard Captain Rydell screaming. He almost went in to check it out, but thought better of it. The last time he walked in when the captain was screaming, it turned out that he was engaged in…well, he was with a woman. Dillon was not about to make that mistake again.
The Secondprize sailed on.