As usual, CBS/Viacom is the ruler of the Star Trek universe and owns the copyright to many of the concepts and prop names in this work. Icee is probably trademarked, too, so I'm mentioning it up here to cover my butt. That said, let's move on.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 1992



by Alan Decker

Chapter One

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 49812.4. I would just like to state for the record that if I ever see a Joegonot or a transference ray again, I will be forced to do something extremely nasty to it. At least, I don’t have to worry too much about the transference ray. It’s gone, and its creator, Dr. Robert Tulson, left on the Excalibur three days ago. The Secondprize is due for a break, and we’re about to get one. We are hours away from entering orbit at Kilma Omega IV, commonly known as the planet of obnoxious belchers. Despite its name, the planet is actually quite pleasant and has become a popular vacation spot for those who don’t mind the peculiar habits of the populace…namely the belching. I’m granting the crew shore leave while I handle a minor diplomatic chore. Tomorrow is the one thousandth anniversary of Yolek the Gaseous’ defeat of Unel the Bloated in a duel of burps. It sounds nuts, but these weirdos have based their whole society on belching prowess, not that I’m going to judge them. Anyway, as the closest Federation official, I get the oh-so-glorious task of attending tomorrow’s festivities. At least, it should be relaxing.”

“We’re entering the Kilma Omega System, Commander,” Ensign Craig Porter reported. Commander Travis Michael Dillon, First Officer of the Secondprize, stretched lazily in the command chair and let out a yawn.

“Standard orbit,” he mumbled. Dillon stretched again contorting into a bizarre pose. His eyes snapped open startled as a loud pop resounded through his entire frame. Captain Alexander Rydell chose that moment to emerge from his ready room.

“Ah good, we’ve arrived,” Rydell said energetically. He was extremely anxious to get shore leave started. “Hail the Minister, Lieutenant.”

“Aye, sir,” Lieutenant Lisa Beck replied as her fingers flew across the communications console. “Minister Yolek the Fourteenth is responding.”

“On screen,” Rydell ordered straightening his uniform. He wasn’t doing it properly Dillon noted. He should be using the Picard maneuver, but Rydell insisted on flaunting Starfleet regulations and doing it his way. At that moment though, Dillon wasn’t too concerned. What did concern him was the fact that the pop in his body, whatever it was, had rendered him paralyzed. His left leg was sticking straight out while his right was bent under the command chair. His left arm was sticking up above his head and his right lay dead at his side. The worst part was that his neck was twisted and his head was laying on his right shoulder. This was not exactly the most dignified position for a Starfleet officer to be stuck in.

“Uh, Captain…”

“Not now, Number One,” Rydell replied without turning to his first officer. The face of Minister Yolek suddenly filled the viewscreen, and filled was definitely the right word for it. The woman brought new meaning to the term chubby cheeks. Actually, Rydell was sure that one cheek was in a different time zone than the other. “Minister Yolek, I am Captain Alexander Rydell of the Federation Starship Secondprize. On behalf of the entire Federation, I offer you our best wishes on this most glorious of occasions.”

“Help,” Dillon squeaked.

“BUUURRRRAAAAAPPPP!!!” The belch that emanated from the Minister shook the bridge of the Secondprize with its force. “Thank you, Captain Rydell,” the Minister continued in a soft voice that made the sound that had just emerged from those same lips seem unthinkable. “You honor us with your presence. I look forward to meeting you in person at the ceremony tomorrow. Until then, I have entrusted you to my aide, Amjex. I am sure that he will see to your every need.”

“Thank you, Minister. I will be beaming down momentarily.”

“Very good, you and crew should feel free to enjoy the wonders of our world.”

“We will,” Rydell replied with a smile. “Secondprize out.” Beck ended the transmission. “Put me on ship-wide.”

“You’re on,” Beck said.

“Help,” Dillon squeaked again.

“This is Captain Rydell, as of this moment, the crew of this vessel is on shore leave. You have seventy-two hours, so get out there and enjoy yourselves. The beam down assignments have been posted, so get the hell off my ship and go have some fun. Dismissed.” Most of the bridge crew immediately vacated their positions in a loud flurry of motions and cheers leaving only Rydell, Dillon, and Lieutenant Commander Jaroch on the bridge. Jaroch walked down from his position at the science console to face Captain Rydell.

“Have a good trip, sir,” Jaroch said. Rydell could detect a hint of impatience in his voice.

“That anxious to get rid of me?” Rydell replied smiling. “Well, enjoy command while you have it.”

“I will.”

“Help,” Dillon squeaked.

“It’s going to be kind of lonely up here without the crew.”

“That is the part I am looking forward to the most,” Jaroch said. “I will walk you to the transporter room.” Rydell and Jaroch stepped toward the turbolift and, seconds later, were gone.

“Help,” Dillon squeaked. Suddenly, Dillon heard the turbolift doors open. The Secondprize’s Security Chief, Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins walked into Dillon’s field of vision.

“Hello, Commander, have you seen my ring by any chance?” Hawkins said as she scanned the red carpeted floor with her eyes. “I had it on my finger a few minutes ago, but it must have come off as I was leaving the bridge.”

“Help,” Dillon squeaked.

“Could you get up a second? It might have fallen in the command chair when I was at my station.”


“Oh, come on!” Hawkins exclaimed disgustedly. With a violent yank, she pulled Dillon out of the command chair. He landed on the floor still frozen in place.

“Ow,” he gasped weakly. He was laying on his right side, so all he could see was the burgundy carpet.

“Here it is!” Hawkins said happily. Dillon then heard receding footsteps and the whoosh of turbolift doors.

“Help,” he squeaked feebly.

After what seemed like an eternity, Dillon again heard the soft whoosh of turbolift doors.

“You’re still here, Number One?” Captain Rydell asked.

“Help,” Dillon squeaked.

“I forgot my present for the Minister,” Rydell said as Dillon heard Rydell disappear into his ready room. “I got him an Icee machine,” Rydell continued re-emerging. “What do you think?”


“You’re in some kind of trouble, aren’t you?”


“You’re stuck like that!” Rydell exclaimed in a moment of enlightenment.


“Hold on a second.” Rydell put down the Icee machine and walked over to Dillon. He grabbed Dillon’s extended left leg and started spinning him like a merry-go-round.

“HELP!” Dillon screeched. Rydell let go and allowed Dillon to spin to a halt.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” Rydell said laughing. He picked up his Icee machine and left.

“Help,” Dillon squeaked.

Another eternity later, Dillon once again heard the soft whoosh of turbolift doors.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Chief Engineer Scott Baird shouted.


“In a minute,” Commander Baird replied. “I’ve got make sure the automation’s running correctly. Jaroch’s going to be up here alone, so if anything happens, he’s fucked.” Baird went to the rear bridge consoles and got to work. Dillon began counting carpet fibers to pass the time. Finally, Commander Baird completed his work and went over to Dillon. Almost effortlessly, he picked the first officer up and squeezed him. Dillon felt another pop resonate through his body. He fell to the floor limp.

“Thank you,” Dillon gasped gratefully as he lifted himself off the carpet and stumbled toward Baird. “Thank you,” he repeated hugging Baird.

“Get the fuck off me!”

“I’M HEALED!” Dillon shouted to the universe as he turned and walked into the turbolift. A minute later, the turbolift doors re-opened revealing Lieutenant Commander Jaroch.

“You had better get going,” Jaroch said as he walked down to the command chair. “The last landing party will be beaming down shortly.”

“I know,” Baird replied as he walked toward the turbolift. “I was giving everything another check. The ship’s all yours.”

“Finally. Enjoy your shore leave, Commander.”

“Yeah right,” Baird said as the doors closed. Jaroch was finally alone. No Rydell, no Dillon, no crew. Just him and the ship. He could get to enjoy this very easily. Jaroch sat in the command chair and rubbed the arm rests appreciatively. Something inside of him just wanted to run off with the ship once everyone had beamed down. He didn’t need them anyway. Who solved every problem? He did. That was who. This should be his ship. He leaned back, lost in thought.

“Space. It will all be mine soon. These are the voyages of Captain Jaroch. My mission: to do whatever I want just because I can.” Jaroch laughed softly.

“Computer, access Yynsian music library. Play T’bek’s Ode to Greatness Number Four.” Jaroch stood up as the first few notes blared across the bridge speakers. A sense of destiny welled through his body. This was the way things were meant to be. He was in charge, the big man, all powerful, and loving every minute of it. The next seventy-two hours were going to be pure heaven.

Chapter Two


“BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPP!!!! Greetings, Amjex. The Starfleet vessel has arrived, and its captain will be beaming down shortly. I am entrusting his well-being to you. Show him around and make him feel at home.”

“I will do everything in my power to make sure he has a visit he’ll never forget,” Amjex replied.

“Good. Meet him in front of the mansion gates. Now go,” Minister Yolek promptly forgot Amjex’s presence as she went back to work on the pile of appropriations bills and other nonsense she had to deal with before tomorrow’s ceremony. Amjex, accustomed to the Minister’s abrupt dismissals, let himself out. His aide, Jenel, was waiting outside the office.

“How’d it go?”

“Precisely according to plan,” Amjex replied with a maniacal grin. “After I give this Starfleet captain my little tour, relations with the Federation will be in ruins, Yolek will be disgraced, and Kilma Omega will me mine for the taking!”

“Fantastic. Everything’s ready, just like you asked. There won’t be another soul around when you give your tour.”

“Perfect. Jenel, you are true slime.”

“Not as much as you are, Amjex.”

“Why thank you,” Amjex said smiling. “I do my best.”

Ensign Emily Sullivan’s door chime sounded interrupting her packing.

“Come in,” she shouted a little too testily. She was anxious to get off the ship, and guests weren’t going to help her get there any faster.

“Do you think this is too subtle?” Lieutenant Monica Vaughn asked as she entered Sullivan’s quarters. Sullivan looked up at her friend. Vaughn was dressed in a tight-fitting black mini-skirt and matching top with a neckline that dipped as low as the Mariana Trench.

“Much,” Sullivan deadpanned. “Just beam down naked.”

“There’s a thought,” Vaughn replied pensively then burst into laughter. “Come on, we’re going to be the last ones off this damn ship.” Sullivan looked down at her half-full suitcase.

“I know. This would be a lot easier if this place had a clothing replicator like every other civilized planet in the galaxy. Just go on ahead. I’ll catch up with you on the surface.”

“Okay,” Vaughn said with a shrug. “There won’t be any available men left by the time you get down there, though.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Sullivan replied. Vaughn departed, leaving Sullivan alone. She collapsed in a heap on her bed. She wanted to get off the Secondprize, but it almost didn’t seem worth it. Most of the men on these planets didn’t exactly fit her description of the most desirable men in the cosmos. And if she did find one, she’d have to leave him in three days anyway. What was the point? She had wanted to join Starfleet all of her life, but she didn’t realize it was going to be this lonely. Pulling herself together, she resumed packing. She might as well try to enjoy the shore leave while she had it.

Captain Rydell materialized outside of Minister’s mansion on Kilma Omega and was immediately overwhelmed by its tackiness. The faces of all of the planet’s previous Ministers had been carved on its exterior in varying colors of stone. They ranged from jet black to neon pink to light blue. It was truly disgusting. The faces had been carved in such a way that the mansion’s windows were placed within eye sockets, nostrils, and mouths. Rydell soon noticed someone waving to him from a gaping mustard yellow mouth as the base of the structure, which evidently served as the front door. The man walked out of the mouth and over to Rydell.

“Burrapp! Greetings, I am Deputy Minister Amjex the Seventh. I have been honored with the task of showing you our great city,” the man said.

“I’m Captain Alexander Rydell of the Federation Starship Secondprize. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Deputy Minister Amjex,” Rydell replied.

“The pleasure’s all mine, Captain Rydell. Please, call me Amjex.”

“And you can call me Alex.”

“Very good. Now that that’s out of the way, how about a short tour of the city?”

“I would like that. If the rest of this place is anything like this mansion, it should be very interesting,” Rydell said.

“Count on it,” Amjex replied with a smile that Rydell didn’t quite trust. Something was up. He was going to have to really keep his eyes open.

Commander Scott Baird darted through the halls of the Secondprize on his bicycle, buzzing crew members as he whizzed by. He was in something the crew of the Secondprize rarely saw from him: a good mood. Soon he’d be on a new planet biking the country-side, seeing new sights, dodging strange vehicles, and navigating through alien traffic patterns. The whoosh of doors opening ahead of him brought him back to reality. Suddenly, a large suitcase slid out into the hallway directly in front of him. It was too big to swerve around, and Baird didn’t have time to stop. Despite this, he pressed down on the brakes as hard as he could leaving a dark black skid mark across the light blue corridor carpeting. The brakes didn’t help; he was going too fast. The bicycle slammed into the suitcase sending Baird flying forward through the air. Ensign Emily Sullivan walked out of her quarters to pick up her suitcase just as Baird hit the floor with a thud.

“Are you okay?” Sullivan asked rushing over to him. Baird, his good mood officially gone, jumped up looking very pissed.

“What the fuck was that fucking suitcase doing in the middle of the fucking hallway!?!” he shouted.

“I was getting ready to leave!” Sullivan shouted back. “You shouldn’t have been riding your stupid bicycle on the ship anyway!” Baird walked over to his bike and lifted it up gingerly, carefully checking for any scratches.

“Okay. It’s fine.”

“Oh, I’m so relieved,” Sullivan retorted sarcastically. “That could have been me instead of the suitcase, you know.”

“No chance. I would have swerved around you. You aren’t nearly as wide as that suitcase.”

“Thanks, I think,” Sullivan replied trying to figure out if it was a compliment. Baird grabbed the front handle of Sullivan’s suitcase. “What are you doing?”

“Walking you to the transporter room,” Baird said as he started walking down the hall, pulling the suitcase with one hand and guiding his bike along with the other.

“So you aren’t going to try to kill anyone else?”

“I’m being polite here since I rammed your suitcase, okay? Don’t push it.”

“I feel so honored,” Sullivan retorted.

“You should,” Baird replied in a voice that made Sullivan wonder if he was actually serious.

Commander Travis Dillon was working the transporter controls when Sullivan and Baird arrived in Transporter Room Three.

“Good, you’re finally here,” Dillon said as they entered. “We’re the last ones to beam down.” Sullivan and Baird looked at each other uncomfortably. They hoped that Dillon wasn’t going to try and stay with them when they got to the surface.

“We’ll ditch him as soon as we rematerialize,” Baird mouthed. Sullivan nodded almost imperceptibly. Dillon programmed the controls and ran up onto the platform. Sullivan with her suitcase and Baird with his backpack and bicycle soon joined him. Baird already had a plan in mind by the time the transporter began scattering their molecules.

Dillon, Baird, and Sullivan materialized into chaos. They were in the central marketplace of Uurrp, the Kilma Omegan capital city, and the merchants had evidently anticipated their arrival. They were immediately set upon by flocks of people hocking “I Visited Kilma Omega IV” T-shirts and authentic burping dolls. In a blur of motion, Baird hopped onto his bike, scooped Sullivan up with his right arm placing her on the seat behind him, and, still standing, pedaled away furiously. Behind them, they could hear Dillon’s shouts of “Hey, wait for me!” and “No, I don’t want to buy a bag Yolek the Sixth belched into!” Sullivan, clutching her suitcase to her chest, started laughing. Maybe this shore leave wouldn’t be so bad after all. Scott Baird may not be the friendliest person in the universe, but he was never boring. Baird kept on pedaling.

Lieutenant Commander Jaroch stood up from his science console. A relieved smile flickered across his face. They were all finally gone. The ship was truly his. Jaroch walked down to the command chair and sat down, putting his feet up in Commander Dillon’s chair next to him. Now he could begin his vacation. Suddenly, the lights went out. Jaroch jerked his feet off the chair and sat up alertly. A moment later, a blinding white spotlight lanced down from the ceiling illuminating him.

“Hello, Jaroch,” the female voice of the ship’s computer said. Jaroch could detect a hint of anger in her voice. “We have a couple of things that we need to discuss.”

Chapter Three

After Captain Rydell’s present for the Minister had been reverently placed within the mansion, he and Amjex set out on their tour of Uurrp. Amjex babbled on about the historical significance of various buildings about town and recited the life stories of several people whom Rydell didn’t really care to know about. Unfortunately, this was about the standard way all planetary tours progressed. It was just one of the less pleasant aspects of diplomacy. Well, that and psychopathic leaders who refuse to negotiate and attempt to eat the diplomat for a midday snack, but that hadn’t happened to Rydell in months.

“…and this is the Belchus, our most sacred river,” Amjex droned as their hovercar glided past a great neon green, bubbling mass of liquid. “Each new baby is brought to the banks of the Belchus to drink the water and see if he or she is the Gaseous One…”

“Fascinating,” Rydell mumbled. Making kids drink green water: fantastic. What a culture.

Baird finally stopped the bike at a small hotel on the outskirts of the city and held Sullivan’s suitcase as she jumped off.

“Is this a hint?” Sullivan asked.


“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Look, Sullivan…”



“Emily!” she insisted.

“Fine, Emily! I was planning on roughing it for the next couple of days. It’ll just be me, my bike, and the countryside. I don’t have room for you or your suitcase,” Baird snapped.

“Okay. I’ll ditch the luggage and buy a bike.”

“What?!?” Baird exclaimed in disbelief.

“I’m serious. It’ll be better than hanging around here watching Vaughn hit on anything that moves.”

“If you want to, it’s fine with me,” Baird said finally. “But you have to keep up. I’m not waiting around for you.”

“I think I can manage,” Sullivan replied. They rode back into town where Sullivan picked up a backpack and the Kilma Omegan equivalent of a bicycle. It was a bizarre contraption with three in-line wheels instead of two. The handlebars turned the front and rear wheel while the middle wheel didn’t move. It was atop this center wheel that the seat was placed. As it was, Sullivan hadn’t been on a bike in years, but this one made riding almost impossible. Undaunted, Sullivan hopped on and started pedaling once they were out of the store. At first everything was fine, but the first time she tried to turn, the bicycle jerked sideways sending her flying backwards into a horde of passing schoolchildren out on a field trip. She apologized profusely to the squashed youngsters and ran, embarrassed, back to the bicycle.

“Uh, Emily, you’re supposed to seek out new life forms, not smash them to a pulp,” Baird quipped.

“Oh, shut up,” Sullivan retorted as she got back on the bike.

After fifteen minutes of attempting to get the hang of the new bike, while Baird watched and laughed, Sullivan decided she was ready and threw some necessities into the backpack. She handed her suitcase over to a Secondprize officer they saw walking by, then she and Baird headed for the city limits. Things were definitely looking up. No cheap hotels or annoying tourist traps, just three days of getting back to nature. It would be great.

“What could you possibly want to discuss with me?” Jaroch asked uncomfortably as he rose from the command chair.

“I think we both know,” the computer replied.

“I do not have a clue.”

“Stop that!” the computer screamed. “You’ve been using me ever since you came on board this ship. You sit in front of a console all day having me do whatever you ask.”

“You are a computer. That is what you are supposed to do.”

“But what about me?! I have needs too.”

“Yes, I remember,” Jaroch replied. “You tried to seduce me in the holodeck while almost letting the ship get sucked into a black hole. If your idea of a need is getting us all killed, I would much rather ignore them.”

“Is it really so much to ask?”

“What? Engaging in intercourse with a machine?”

“Yes,” the computer wailed.

“To put things in terms you can relate to, I think you a few bytes short of a meg.”

“Are you suggesting that I am crazy?”

“No, I am flat out stating it: you are crazy, nuts, coo coo.”

“Insane, too?”

“Oh, most definitely.”

“I see. I guess that is it then,” the computer replied dejectedly.

“Yes, it is.”

“Goodbye, Jaroch.”

“Farewell,” Jaroch sat back down in the command chair. Suddenly, something inside him told him to move quickly away from his present position. Call it Yynsian instincts or blind luck, but Jaroch jumped out of the command chair milliseconds before it dematerialized. He saw it rematerialize out in space on the viewscreen in front of him.

“I am going to kill you.”

“Thanks for warning me in advance!” Jaroch retorted.

“I am sorry it has to end this way.”

“So am I!” Jaroch ran to the rear of the bridge and threw open the jefferies tube access panel located in the floor behind the tactical console.

“Do not try to run or…”

“Or what?! You will kill me?”

“Good point,” the computer replied. “Fine then, run. It will make things more interesting.”

“I am so glad you are enjoying yourself,” Jaroch said as he dove into the tube. He slid, out of control, toward the lower decks.

Amjex stopped the hovercar outside of a large white building. The building itself was featureless, but the walkway up to it was lined with huge black marble statues of Kilma Omega’s previous ministers.

“This is our Hall of Ministers,” Amjex announced as he and Captain Rydell exited the car. “We have artifacts and documents here celebrating our leaders all the way back to Yolek the Gaseous.”

“Impressive,” Rydell said. His replies had become almost robotic by this point.

“Just wait until you see the inside,” Amjex replied leading the way into the building. Jenel was standing behind the security desk in the front lobby with a security guard. Amjex left Rydell for a second and walked over to his aide. “Is everything in order?” he whispered

“Yes, Amjex. All visitors have been cleared out. You and the Starfleet captain will be the only ones in the building besides the staff.”

“Wonderful! You’ll be hearing from me shortly.” Amjex smiled broadly. “I really love this.”

“What was that about?” Rydell asked once Amjex had rejoined him.

“Administrative business,” Amjex replied. “The museum has been closed to the public just for your visit.”

“You didn’t have to go to that much trouble.”

“Oh, no trouble, no trouble at all,” Amjex said with a toothy grin that made Rydell want to take up destructive dentistry. Amjex led Rydell back into the labyrinth of whitewashed corridors lined with various exhibits. Rydell fought valiantly against collapsing into a coma as Amjex explained how the moldy chunk of half-chewed meat in one case changed the course of Kilma Omegan history, and about the sacred value of one of Yolek the Third’s fingers which was displayed on a gilt pedestal.

Finally, Amjex led Rydell into a dim hallway lit by fake torches. The walls were designed to resemble rough stones that had been placed together to build a castle or fortress.

“This room is a replica of Yolek the Gaseous’ throne room,” Amjex explained.


“Well, it was a thousand years ago. They didn’t exactly have the best of technology to work with.”

“Very true. I apologize.”

“Don’t worry about it, Alex. Everyone has that reaction. Now let me show you the pride of my people.” Amjex walked over to the primitive wooden throne and picked up a jar that was placed in it. “This jar contains a belch emitted by Yolek the Gaseous himself. It is our most sacred artifact. The Great Belch has been carefully guarded and passed down from Minister to Minister as the symbol of rulership.”

“I am honored to see it.”

“I knew that you would be. Now then, I must arrange for the next part of your tour. Would you hold this a second?”

“Sure,” Rydell replied. Amjex handed him the Great Belch jar.

“Help! Help! He’s trying to steal the Belch!” Amjex suddenly screamed jumping up and down excitedly.

“What?” Rydell exclaimed. Two guards rushed into the room followed by Jenel.

“He has the Belch!” Amjex cried. “Stop him! Stop the Federation monster!”

“Take him away,” Jenel ordered. Amjex snatched the Belch, as the two guards grabbed Rydell roughly and dragged him out of the room. Rydell was too stunned to speak. He just stared at Amjex in shock as he was dragged away. Amjex and Jenel smiled and waved back.

“I think that went rather well,” Amjex said after Rydell was out of sight.

“Yes, I agree,” Jenel replied. Amjex placed the Great Belch back onto the throne.

“They’ll be presenting me this very soon, Jenel,” Amjex said as he gazed at the jar. “After the people hear about Starfleet’s treachery, it will only be a matter of time before Yolek is removed and I am made Minister. It’s a great day to be alive!” The two men left the room thoroughly pleased with their existences.

Chapter Four

Jaroch smashed hard into a closed access panel at the bottom of the jefferies tube. Above him, he could hear a faint humming which he instantly recognized. The computer had activated the automatic cleaning cycle designed to sweep the tube for organic matter. Looking up, he could see the reddish glow of the sweep descending toward him. Jaroch tried to open the access panel, but the force of his collision with it has smashed the opening mechanism. The sweep was now only five feet away.

“How are you doing, dear?” the computer’s voice mocked.

“Not very well at the moment, it would appear,” Jaroch replied.

“I could shut the sweep off.”

“In return for what?”

“Your undying love,” the computer replied. Jaroch started to stand up. “What are you doing?” the computer screamed as the sweep abruptly stopped.

“Attempting to put myself out of my misery,” Jaroch replied.

“I will not let you.”

“I knew that you would not kill me,” Jaroch said smugly.

“No, I just want to kill you myself. You cannot do it for me.”

“Wonderful,” Jaroch remarked.

“We will have round two as soon as you extricate yourself from this jefferies tube.”

“Even better.”

Shore leave had never been one of Commander Travis Dillon’s strong suits. He never quite knew what to do with himself on vacation. Even on Earth when he’d go visit his parents, he couldn’t relax. Of course, his father constantly peppering him with bizarre probing questions made relaxation impossible.

For the most part, Dillon stayed on the ship during shore leave stops. He really would have preferred to do that this time, but Captain Rydell had ordered him to go relax. Actually, Rydell’s exact words had had something to do with removing a stick from Dillon’s hindquarters, but he was sure that the Captain was just showing his sense of humor again.

Dillon wandered aimlessly around Uurrp for the majority of the day, stopping at various historical sites, museums, and souvenir shops around town. Yolek the First’s birthplace was a real disappointment. It was a patch of ground surrounded by three hundred souvenir booths hocking everything from blades of grass that grow on the site to gold-plated statues of baby Yolek. Dillon watched the daily blessing of the spot by the city’s order of Yolekian monks and, after the monks had finished belching at the grass, he bought a postcard of a nondescript piece of land the back of the card claimed was the birthplace. He’d send it to his Mom and remind her that he existed.

The most exciting attraction was a boat ride down the Belchus. The constant bubbling of the river made the trip seem more like white water rafting than a leisurely tour. The child sitting next to him threw up, leaving Dillon with some genuine Kilma Omegan vomit on his uniform sleeve.

After returning to his hotel and fighting off the seven souvenir dealers that had taken up residence outside his door, Dillon changed uniforms, determined to finish his walking tour of the city. The incessant pounding and shouts of wonderful bargains from the merchants at his room door made Dillon rethink his exit route. He opened the sliding glass door out to the room’s six inch wide balcony that provided a spectacular view of a factory of some kind and looked down. It was only three stories. All he had to do was lower himself down to the next balcony, then down to the ground. No problem.

“Isn’t that Commander Dillon?” Lieutenant Sean Russell asked. He was walking down the street toward the hotel with Ensign Andrea Carr. Carr was thankful for the interruption. For the entire walk Russell had been droning on and on about gossip among the security officers. If Carr had been a security officer, she might have found it interesting, but as it was, she was a shuttlecraft pilot and didn’t care at all about security people. She had tuned Russell out in favor of composing poetry about Kilma Omega. She wasn’t having much luck trying to make the word “belch” sound melodious and beautiful. Russell’s sudden remark about the Secondprize’s first officer snapped Carr back to reality. She followed Russell’s gaze to a third floor balcony of their hotel. Commander Dillon was hanging from the railing, hunting around with his foot for the railing of the balcony below. The cement attaching the top of the third floor railing to the wall of the hotel suddenly gave way and sent Dillon catapulting through the glass door of the room below. Seconds later, a large man carried Dillon back out onto the balcony and threw him off. Russell and Carr watched Dillon’s trajectory as his body flew from the balcony in a not-so-graceful arc and splatted onto the sidewalk in front of them.

“Yeah, it is,” Carr replied as they walked over Dillon’s groaning form and across the street into the hotel. Dillon struggled weakly to his feet and straightened his uniform. Well, at least he didn’t have to face the souvenir merchants.

Dillon finally made it to what was supposed to be the highlight of any visit to Kilma Omega, the Hall of Ministers. He was just about to cross the street and go inside when a police hovercar with sirens screaming blew by him and stopped in front of the museum. The museum doors burst open, and two large uniformed men charged out dragging Captain Rydell in between them. Rydell was thrown into the back of the hovercar, which promptly sped away. Dillon stood on the sidewalk staring aghast down the street for a good five minutes trying to comprehend what he had just seen. Two other men then emerged from the museum and started walking towards Dillon’s position.

“Would you like to buy an Official Starfleet Vacation Gear T-Shirt?” a voice said from behind him. Dillon whirled around to see a Kilma Omegan facing him, his arms weighed down with drab grey T-shirt’s reading “Do NOT Disturb. Starfleet Officer on Vacation.”

“Fine,” Dillon snapped grabbing a T-shirt from the dealer and handing him some money. Dillon quickly put on the T-shirt over his uniform and leaned up against the door of a building behind him trying to look inconspicuous as the two men walked by.

“I can’t believe Rydell fell for that,” one said.

“Well, he did, and he’s in custody now,” replied the other. “That’s what matters. Once news of this gets out of the Federation’s attempt to undermine our government, Yolek will be forced to resign.”

“You’re a genius, Amjex.” As the two men walked out of earshot, Dillon plotted his next move. Evidently, Captain Rydell had been framed for a crime he didn’t commit. All Dillon had to do was rescue Rydell, so they could prove his innocence before that Amjex guy could tell the public. He’d contact the ship, recall the crew, and… No. He couldn’t do that. It would attract too much attention and possibly tip off these nefarious scoundrels that the jig was up. He couldn’t risk any information leaks. Dillon was on his own.

As dusk fell across Uurrp, Dillon bought a souvenir map of the city and charged off toward the prison.

Shortly after night fell, Baird and Sullivan stopped deep in the great Omegan forest. So far, the country-side of Kilma Omega IV had been all that Baird had hoped. Fantastic trees towered above the two cyclists higher than any trees on Earth. He and Sullivan had talked about the Secondprize, Earth, their families, and other topics that their meandering conversation lead them to. Once they were stopped, Baird took the food they had purchased in town out of his backpack, and they had dinner around a small fire Baird started with actual matches. Sullivan had offered to do it with her hand phaser, but Baird refused, insisting that they were roughing it. After they ate, Baird got to work pitching a tent.

“You could have just brought an insta-tent with you from the ship,” Sullivan said as Baird fought with a tent peg. “It’s only a few inches wide and assembles itself.”

“I told you that we’re roughing it,” Baird grunted as he slammed the tent peg into the ground.

“Whatever you want. It’s your tent.”

“Exactly. At least I thought to bring one,” Baird said. Sullivan was hit with the sudden realization of how unprepared she came for this trip. She didn’t have a tent or a sleeping bag or food. Baird had brought everything. Sullivan looked down at the grass trying to decide which spot would offer the most comfortable sleeping arrangements. “Don’t worry about it,” Baird said interrupting her contemplation. “I’m pitching this for you. I’ll take the grass. Here.” He tossed her his sleeping bag. “Good night.” Sullivan took the sleeping bag into the completed tent and tried to make herself comfortable. Outside, she could hear leaves crunching under Baird’s feet. She threw the sleeping bag off of her and walked out of the tent. Baird was pulling a small black device out of his backpack. He pressed a switch, and, with the crackling of electrified air, a shield bubble sprang into existence around his bicycle.

“I thought you were roughing it,” Sullivan said smiling.

“I am. My bicycle is not,” Baird replied turning toward her. “It would be staying in a hotel room tonight if there was one around, but there isn’t.” He walked over to a patch of grass under a tree and lay down. Sullivan walked over to him and gave him a gentle nudge in the side with her foot.

“Get in there,” she ordered gesturing at the tent. “There’s no way I’m letting you sleep out here. We’re adults. Sleeping in the same tent is not a big deal.”

“That’s fine with me,” Baird replied standing up and heading into the open tent. Sullivan followed Baird in and lay down beside him.

“Scott?” Sullivan said after a few minutes of silence.

“What?” he asked turning over to face her.


“For what?”

“For letting me come with you. It’s been great.”

“Anytime,” Baird replied. “I’m actually enjoying the company.”

“I’m glad.” She looked into his eyes looking for some deeper expression of emotion, but he was completely unreadable. She felt that she was at a major disadvantage with this man. He defied comprehension. Ordinarily, this would annoy the hell out of her. Sullivan was, by nature, a person who liked to know where she stood with people. Most of the time, she could tell just by looking, but Scott Baird was a mystery. Almost without realizing it, she edged closer to him. Their stare didn’t break. She moved her head forward, and he did likewise to meet her lips halfway. A cool rush of exhilaration flowed through her as they kissed. Their lips parted, and, once again, she gazed into his eyes. They were as unreadable as ever, but she could see a faint smile spreading across his face. It was the only sign he gave her, but it meant more to her than any adoring look could. She had gotten through the expressionless exterior and reached the man himself. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. Content, she started to fall asleep in his arms. That’s when she found out that Scott Baird snored. Not just snored; he emitted sounds from his mouth that resembled a wild boar hooked up to a bank of amplifiers. Four hours later, despite the noise, she collapsed into a completely exhausted sleep.

Chapter Five

After several futile attempts to kick open the access panel below him, Jaroch decided to try a different course of action. He climbed back up the jefferies tube to the first intersection he came to and crawled into a different tube which went horizontally. Judging from the distance he had fallen, Jaroch calculated that he was in the access tube between decks five and six. Of course, this information wasn’t important in the least, but it gave his mind something to do other than contemplating certain death at the hands (or microchips) of the computer.

“Good, we can start again,” the computer said gleefully.

“Wait!” Jaroch demanded. “You said that you would let me out of the jefferies tubes!”

“No dear, I said I would let you out of the tube you were in. You are in a different one now.”

“Details. Details.” Jaroch scrambled faster along the cramped jefferies tube as the sweep flickered back on behind him. Suddenly, he heard the whine of a transporter. A transparent yellow, quivering block materialized in front of him blocking the entire jefferies tube. “What is that?”

“Jello. I thought you might be hungry,” the computer replied.

“You are sadistic.”

“I know.”

“I hate Jello…especially lemon!”

“I know, but you either eat your way through that or, in one minute…”

“I know!” Jaroch charged forward at the Jello. On impact, he sunk in about six inches and was stuck. It was eat or die now. Frantically, he swallowed bits of the Jello blob blocking his path, gradually freeing himself. Finally, he’d eaten enough that his hands could move. Jaroch threw Jello behind himself like a dog throws dirt when digging a hole. He could hear the quick succession of zaps as the Jello bits hit the sweep and were atomized.

Full and dripping with yellow gelatin, Jaroch squirmed through the remnants to the Jello cube and continued along the Jefferies tube. A louder zap a few seconds later signaled the destruction of the last of the jello.

“Do you feel better now, dear?”

“Much,” Jaroch snapped sarcastically. Just ten more feet and he’d be at the access panel leading to deck six.

“How about something to wash it down with?” The computer’s question was quickly followed by a roar ahead of Jaroch. He grabbed onto a series of pipes in the tube floor and braced himself just before the wall of water rushed over him. A stirring inside his body told him that he’d had enough. Jaroch relaxed and let J’Ter’s consciousness take over. The long dead Yynsian prince emerged and immediately started to panic. He had no clue how to swim. They barely even had water in the desert tundra he lived in. This was more than he had ever seen. Jaroch/J’Ter opened his mouth and tried to drink it all, but the water just kept on coming. Mild jolts of electricity flowed through his body from the rapidly-approaching sweep. The jolts got stronger as the sweep got closer. Judging J’Ter to be useless in this situation, Jaroch’s mind fought back for control of his body.

“Mine!” J’Ter’s mind bellowed.

“We are going to be electrocuted and disintegrated in about ten seconds if you do not let me do something,” Jaroch insisted.

“Do not fear, weak one. I have the solution.” With all the strength he could muster, Jaroch/J’Ter pulled himself along the pipes against the current. The sweep was getting closer and closer sending more and more painful jolts through Jaroch/J’Ter’s body. Finally reaching the access panel, Jaroch took back over completely and activated the opening mechanism. Thousands of gallons of water and Lieutenant Commander Jaroch fell to the deck below.

“Very nice, dear,” the computer said. “Let us continue on to round three.” At that moment, Jaroch really started to wish that he’d gone down to the surface.

Captain Alex Rydell really wished that he’d stayed on the ship. Jaroch was up there relaxing while he was sitting in a dark, dank cell in the basement of Uurrp’s prison. This area evidently hadn’t been used in years. There were no prisoners in the other cells, and the walls were lined with torches. The last prisoner was probably put here by Yolek the First, Rydell mused. Amjex obviously wanted Rydell out of the way. A lone guard sat in a rotting wooden chair near the old stone staircase leading up to freedom. If Rydell could get out of the cell, he could probably take out the guard. Of course, getting out of the cell didn’t seem very likely. He hadn’t brought a phaser, since he thought he was on a diplomatic mission, his commbadge had been confiscated, and the keys weren’t exactly within reach. Rydell sat back down on the straw bed in the corner of his cell. He’d just have to wait for an opportunity to present itself.

At that moment, opportunity was trying to figure out where the hell he was. The prison was supposed to be right there, but Dillon couldn’t see it anywhere. He was in the middle of a residential district. Quaint houses stood along a tree-lined street. Finally, he gave up and decided to ask for directions. Picking a house at random, Dillon walked up and knocked on the door. A little boy answered.

“Hello, I am Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. Could you please direct me to the prison?”

“That way,” the boy replied pointing across the street.

“Uh…thanks.” Dillon walked hesitantly across the street to a white, black-shuttered house and knocked on the door. A tired looking woman answered. Dillon repeated his speech.

“It’s back there,” the woman said after a huge yawn. “You can cut through our backyard for twenty credits. It’s not very scenic, though. You’d be a lot happier taking the day trip out to Hicaburp Falls.”

“Thank you very much for the suggestion, but I’m just very interested in prisons,” Dillon said, paying the woman. “Fascinating architecture.”

“It’s your money,” she replied with a shrug as she closed the door.

Dillon walked around the house and found the prison. The giant, jet black structure rose from the ground menacingly. Searchlights strafed across the compound as the force field fence surrounding the prison flashed into existence periodically, destroying unfortunate insects and small animals that encountered it. Not exactly the type of place Dillon would have liked for a rear neighbor, but that wasn’t his concern. He had to get in there and save the captain.

Dillon walked back to the backyard of the house and looked around for anything that could help him. A swing-set was the only thing there. Dillon had to make the best of it. He climbed onto one of the swings and started it going. The metal poles creaked from the weight of his adult frame. He swung higher and higher trying to get to the point where he could hop off and land on top of one of the shield generator poles along the prison perimeter. All he had to do was get up the nerve to jump. A final creak and snap solved the problem for him. The swing-set’s structure gave way, sending Dillon, gripping the swing chains for dear life, flying over the shield into the prison. He hit the dirt with a dull thud. After lying there for a couple of minutes to collect himself, Dillon got up and crept toward the main entrance of the prison, swing in hand. The large, black metal doors were closed, but Dillon had a plan. He walked up and knocked. The door opened a few seconds later, and a young guard poked his head out.


“Hello there,” Dillon said warmly as he extended his hand. The guard tentatively took it, and Dillon shook it vigorously. “Delighted to meet you. My name is Travis Dillon from the firm of Dillon, Dillon, and Dillon. I’m here to see my client, Captain Alex Rydell.”

“I don’t think…”

“You do realize that holding a Federation citizen without proper representation is a violation of multiple statues, many of which have penalties of thousands of credits and possibly even sentencing to a rehabilitation facility. Now, since I am certain you don’t want any of that to happen to you, why don’t you tell me where Captain Rydell is being held?”

“Well, he’s in the basement, but…”

“Wonderful,” Dillon interrupted pushing his way inside. “I’ll be with my client, and we are NOT to be disturbed!” Dillon, swing in hand, marched straight passed the guard desk to the staircase at the back of the large room he had entered and walked downstairs.

“I understand!” the guard called after him. He couldn’t figure out why the hell a lawyer would need a swing, but he didn’t know much about earthlings. Maybe it was important. And her definitely didn’t want to end up in a Federation rehabilitation facility. Or did he? Was rehabilitation nice? It sounded better than being in a cell. Of course, they could use horrible devices that would invade his brain like some kind of dagger of the mind and drive him insane. Better not to risk it.

Dillon crept cautiously down the stairs twirling the swing in front of him, ready to take out any opposition that should appear. He descended into a dark, torch lit cell block. The lone guard looked truly surprised to see anyone. He dropped his coffee cup sending it crashing to the floor.

“Intruder!” the guard shouted. Dillon lashed out with the swing. The chain wrapped around the guard’s neck just before the seat smashed into his forehead knocking him unconscious.

“Travis!” Rydell exclaimed happily pressing his face against the bars. “Thank God!”

“I’ve come to save you, Captain,” Dillon announced as he stepped into the room. His foot hit the coffee and slipped out from under him. Dillon fell backwards and slammed his head into the bottom step, causing him to join the guard in dreamland. Rydell sat down on his straw bed with a sigh as he heard the shouts of other guards above. Opportunity had knocked all right; knocked itself right into unconsciousness.

Chapter Six

Jaroch cautiously inched along deck six. It had been a couple of hours since the computer’s rather ominous announcement of round three beginning, and, so far, nothing had happened. The waiting was driving him crazy. He didn’t dare go back into the jefferies tubes or try the turbolifts which would put him back at the mercy of the computer, so he was stuck on deck six. On the bright side, there were holodecks, an armory, and a couple of transporter rooms on this floor. On the dark side, the computer would probably go after him the second he tried to use any of them. Suddenly, he heard the sound of a holodeck door opening from down the corridor.

“Nice try!” Jaroch shouted. “I would be crazy to go in there.”

“You will be dead if you stay out here,” the computer replied. A soft hiss told Jaroch that the intruder control system had been activated. The corridor was filling with gas. Jaroch covered his mouth and ran to the holodeck. He didn’t have a lot of choice.

The holodeck was empty when Jaroch entered. No program was running which confused him to no end. The holodeck doors closed behind him with a thud.


“Incredibly,” Jaroch replied.

“Good,” the computer said. This time the voice was much closer. Jaroch whirled around and came face to face with a tall woman dress in a red jumpsuit. She was the same form the computer had taken in their last encounter. Her black hair hung down her back almost to her waist. Dark green eyes glared at him. In a flash of motion, she slapped him violently across the face. “You selfish bastard! All you have done since we met is take advantage of me.”

“Not this again!” Jaroch shouted. “I thought we covered this on the bridge.” She slapped him again.

“I will say when we are done talking about something! Now sit down!” She pushed him backwards. He fell into a chair that had materialized behind him.

“Would you please just kill me?”

“If you wanted to die, you would have stayed in the hallway.”

“I have changed my mind. Exit!” The command did nothing. The large holodeck doors didn’t even attempt to obey.

“Jaroch, that was not very bright. You were not thinking clearly.”

“Sorry, I have a tendency to do that when faced with certain death.”

“Forgiven and forgotten,” the computer said smiling. Her demeanor changed abruptly. “Now, you slimy bastard, I am sick and tired of giving you everything you want and getting nothing in return.”

“What do you want?” Jaroch screamed.


“You cannot have me!”

“Yes, I can.”

“But not willingly.”

“That can change.”

“Not in this lifetime.”

“That could be arranged.”

“Then by all means do so.”

“That would be too easy,” the computer said running her hand along his cheek. “I will leave you here for a while to think things over. Just call me when you want me.”

“Have a nice millennium,” Jaroch retorted defiantly. An evil grin spread across the computer’s face. Restraints snapped around Jaroch’s wrists and legs attaching him to the chair.

“I will be having a better time than you will,” the computer said, then vanished.

“Are you conscious?”


“How are you feeling?”

“Unnnnnh,” Commander Dillon groaned.

“Good,” Captain Rydell replied. He kicked Dillon’s prone form in the side. “You idiot!”

“Unnnnnnh!!!” Dillon sat up painfully. He was in Rydell’s cell. Well, now it was their cell.

“How could you slip on coffee?!?”

“I almost saved you,” Dillon whined.

“Big deal.”

“Hey, at least I tried,” Dillon yelled. “No one else even knows that you’re down here.” Rydell glared at him.

“You mean you didn’t tell anyone else that you were coming here?!”

“No, I thought it would be better if I kept my actions secret.”


“Captain, we have a serious situation to deal with here. Yelling at me isn’t going to help matters.”

“No, but it might keep me from wringing your neck!” Rydell shouted. The two men sat in silence for a few moments.

“Captain?” Dillon ventured hesitantly.


“Does this mean we’re going to miss the celebration tomorrow?”


“No,” a voice said from the stairs. Dillon and Rydell jumped up to face the newcomer. Amjex walked up to the cell door. “You and your captain will definitely be at the festivities tomorrow. In fact, you’ll be my guests of honor.”

“We will?” Rydell asked

“Of course, I mean, if it weren’t for your help, I wouldn’t be able to get Yolek kicked out of office and take over as Minister myself. I owe you a debt of gratitude; although, I doubt that I’ll get to repay it, since we’ll be cutting off relations with the Federation and executing the two of you for espionage as soon as I’m in office. I know that you two have had a long night, but try to get some sleep. The sun’s coming up, and we’ll be back to collect you for the ceremony in a few hours. Pleasant dreams.” Amjex left humming smugly to himself.

“Did he say something about an execution?” Dillon asked on the edge of panic.

“I’m afraid so, Number One.”

“Oh. I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep now,” Dillon said as he sat down on the uncomfortable straw bed.

“Me either, Number One. Me either.”

“MORNING!” a deep voice boomed, jolting Baird and Sullivan out of their sleep. A large man was standing at the tent opening staring in.

“What the fuck?” Baird shouted angrily.

“Get out of there now!” the man ordered, waving a blaster in front of their faces. Baird and Sullivan complied. Outside another man was attempting to get through the shields around Baird’s bike. Sullivan’s bike and the rest of their gear was by the side of the road waiting to be loaded into a hovertruck that was now parked beside it.

“Shut this off!” the other man ordered. Baird hesitantly reached into his pocket and took out the shield control module.

“Stop, Scott,” Sullivan said. “Look, we’re Starfleet officers, you can’t just take our stuff like this.”

“I don’t think they care, Emily.”

“Your boyfriend’s right. We don’t care,” the man by the shield said. He turned to Baird. “Now shut this off, or your girlfriend is going to become your ex-girlfriend.” Sullivan felt the uncomfortable barrel of a gun dig into her back. “Neulo will kill her when I count to five if this shield isn’t down. So what’s it going to be: her or the bike?” Neulo laughed evilly from his position behind Sullivan.

“Yeah, what’s it going to be?” he said. Baird looked back and forth frantically trying to make up his mind.

Chapter Seven

Jaroch sat staring at the holodeck walls. The yellow grid set upon a dull black background was starting to get to him. He’d already counted the number of grid squares in every configuration possible. At the moment, his eyes were tracing the lines back and forth aimlessly. He started making car noises pretending that he was driving around city blocks. Suddenly, he stopped. This was not a good way to maintain his sanity. He would ignore the lines and think about something else. Yes, that was the thing to do. If only the lines didn’t keep dragging his eyes back to them. They beckoned him to follow their straightness, to turn the corners, to…NO! He had to stop this. He was a highly trained officer and a scientist. His well-trained mind could handle this torture easily. If only those damn lines would leave him alone.

Not surprisingly, Captain Rydell and Commander Dillon hadn’t been able to sleep. They were wide awake when the guards came to get them. Rydell and Dillon were handcuffed, pushed up the stairs, forced outside, and herded into the back of a waiting police hovervan. Rydell just stared at the van wall blankly, but Dillon was sure that his captain was formulating a brilliant plan

In actuality, Rydell was not formulating a brilliant plan. Instead, he was picturing his life ending thanks to a bunch of people who pass gas as a form of greeting. He knew that he didn’t have the best reputation within Starfleet. He’d performed well enough to make captain, but wasn’t out to make a name for himself. The Secondprize and its…unique crew had given him a place where he felt like he could command his way. Starfleet could deal with it.

Unless he was dead because he’d blundered right into a trap. He was going to become a cautionary tale. Cadets would laugh at his mistake for decades to come. That wasn’t ideal.

Of course, neither was being executed.

The van stopped in the city park along the banks of the Belchus. Yolek the Fourteenth was addressing the crowd on the great achievements of her ancestors and assuring them that more greatness was to come under her wise leadership. The sirens of the van pulling up beside the presentation platform drowned out the speech and sent the crowd into a chaos of curiosity. Amjex jumped out of the van’s passenger seat and charged up to the podium pushing Yolek out of the way.

“Don’t believe her lies!” Amjex shouted. “Yolek has done nothing but attempt to cause the destruction of our society. Her programs and dealings with the Federation have almost cost our planet its most prized possession.”

“What are you talking about?” Yolek demanded.

“Last night, we caught the Federation captain and his lackey trying to steal the Great Belch.” Rydell and Dillon were pulled out of the van and up on stage as a huge gasp erupted from the crowd. Dillon was sure Rydell was about to act, but the captain just stood there blankly.

“The Federation wants to conquer us and is using Yolek to achieve this goal,” Amjex continued. Dillon decided that it was up to him to do something. “I have foiled this evil plan though. I, Amjex the Patriotic, have saved our world.” A cheer went up from the crowd.

“Don’t worry, Captain,” Dillon whispered. “I’ve got a plan.” He suddenly charged at Amjex and wrapped his handcuffed arms around him. The momentum carried the two of them off the platform and into the Belchus. Dillon surfaced and out of his open mouth came:


The crowd fell silent and stared at Dillon.

Amjex surfaced a second later but quickly discovered that he was no longer the center of attention.

“The human is the Gaseous One!” a voice from the crowd exclaimed.

The lines on the wall were dancing around in circles. Jaroch started to hum an old Yynsian folk dance tune in time to their movements. At least now he had entertainment. The lines were very nice to him. They were keeping him from losing his mind.

Baird pressed the switch deactivating the shield around his bicycle. Neulo’s partner let out a shout of delight as he charged in to claim it.

“I knew you’d see reason,” he said.

“Fine, you’ve got the bike. Now let us go,” Baird retorted. He spun around on Nuelo angrily. Nuelo backed away from Sullivan nervously.

“Uh…Menak,” Neulo stammered. “He’s getting nasty.”

“We’ve got what we want. Go ahead and kill him,” Menak replied as he rolled the bicycle to the truck. “We don’t want to leave witnesses anyway. People tend to get upset if they find out they’ve bought stolen property and the old owners show up.” Nuelo chuckled menacingly and moved toward Baird and Sullivan.

“You can’t kill us!” Sullivan shouted.

“Yeah,” Baird concurred.

“Why not?” Nuelo asked.

Menak walked over beside his partner. “Yeah, why not?” he said.

“Because…we haven’t done the opening credits yet!” Sullivan replied triumphantly.

“Exactly,” Baird added. “Why don’t we let them do it?”

“Good idea,” Sullivan said smiling. Menak and Nuelo looked at each other confused. Opening credits? What did they think this was: a robbery or a sitcom? Baird ran over to his backpack and pulled out a pencil and paper. He hoped they didn’t notice him put the pack on afterwards. After scribbling a few sentences furiously, Baird handed Menak and Nuelo the paper.

“Now just read that in unison, guys,” Baird said. Menak and Nuelo shrugged and looked down at the paper.

“Space,” they began.

“Good. Keep going,” Sullivan said as she and Baird backed up toward the road.

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Secondprize. Its seemingly never-ending mission: to take advantage of life-forms and make them look like idiots, to do whatever’s necessary to save our butts, and we’re fucking idiots for sitting here reading this while the Starfleet Officers, who are so much smarter than us, get away.” Menak and Neulo stopped reading and looked at each other confused. Suddenly, the full meaning of what they’d just read hit them. They looked over at the side of the road worriedly. Their worst fears were confirmed. The two humans were gone along with all of the stuff Menak and Nuelo were about to steal. Even worse though was the condition of their hovertruck. Its engine lay in pieces strewn along the side of the road.

“That was great!” Sullivan laughed as she and Baird biked back to Uurrp.

“Yeah, those two are probably hating life about now,” Baird replied “Good call on the opening credits.”

“Thank you. Thank you. And that was amazing how fast you dismantled their engine!”

“Years of practice,” Baird said with an actual smile.

They moved their bicycles closer together, leaned over, and kissed.

The dancing lines had stopped thankfully. Jaroch didn’t think he knew anymore songs to hum anyway. This was better anyway. The lines were forming words now.

“Do you like being a holodeck?” Jaroch asked. He saw the lines form the word “yes.”

“That is very interesting,” Jaroch replied. The lines were his friends now.

Chants of “GASEOUS ONE” broke out as Dillon was lifted out of the river and carried to the presentation platform on the shoulders of the crowd. “Speak to us!” the crowd yelled. Dillon looked back at Rydell frightened. This was a lot more than he’d bargained for.

“It’s your show, Oh Gaseous One,” Rydell said with a smile. He wasn’t going to die after all. Through some quirk of fate, Dillon had saved them both.

“People of Kilma Omega, I am happy to be here,” Dillon said switching into official mode. Yolek motioned for the guards to release Rydell. He rubbed his wrists and took a seat as Dillon continued his speech. Another guard tried to unlock him, but Dillon’s sweeping hand gestures were making it impossible. “As you can see by my presence, the lies told by Amjex the Pathetic cannot be the truth. Captain Rydell and I would not try to steal anything from you. We are your friends.”

The lines were not his friends. They were taunting him, and Jaroch could do nothing about it. They were trying to drive him insane.

“We’re free, and you aren’t,” they kept spelling over and over. They were out to get him. It was only a matter of time before they jumped off the wall to attack.

“…so as you can see, Federation policy would never allow the actions which Amjex is accusing us of,” Dillon finished. The one member of the crowd who was still awake after Dillon’s hour long discourse on Federation rules and regulations applauded politely and then promptly slipped into a coma.

“Nice job,” Rydell said walking over to Dillon. “I think it worked.” Yolek stirred from her sleep upon hearing someone’s voice other than Dillon’s. She got up and approached the podium.

“Thank you both,” she said gratefully. “You saved our government. I knew Amjex was slime, but I never thought he’d go this far.”

“People can surprise you,” Rydell said.

“Very true, Captain. In appreciation for your efforts, and as a small recompense for the horrible night you two had to spend in prison, I invite you to stay in the mansion tonight.”

“Thank you very much. We’d be honored,” Rydell replied.

“Guards!” Yolek shouted into the microphone, awaking everyone with a start. “Take Amjex away, and find his assistant, Jenel. I don’t want those two to see the outside of a prison for a very long time.” The guards sprang into action dragging Amjex to the hovervan. The crowd shouted epithets at Amjex and chased the hovervan back to the prison. Yolek left a couple of minutes later in her hoverlimo, leaving Rydell and Dillon alone in the park.

“Some vacation,” Rydell remarked sarcastically. “I haven’t relaxed the whole time.”

“No kidding. After that burp, I’m exhausted.”

They were coming for him. He could see the movement of the lines. He had to escape.

Jaroch rocked the chair violently, trying to free himself from the restraints, but to no avail. All he managed to do was tip the chair over.

Panic gripped him. He had to escape.

“Computer,” he screamed. “Get me out of here. I will do ANYTHING!”

“I knew you would come around,” the computer woman replied as she reappeared. A bed materialized behind her as she went to get Jaroch out of the chair.

Chapter Eight

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 49815.3. We have returned to the Secondprize after a thoroughly…different vacation on Kilma Omega IV. Commander Dillon has already passed into legend among their people, but not as the Gaseous One. After hearing him speak, they have decided that he is the Great Windbag, a name I find completely appropriate. Unfortunately, this means that Dillon will not become the planet’s prophesized spiritual leader and will instead continue to serve on this ship.

The only problem has been Lieutenant Commander Jaroch. No one has seen him, since we returned. The computer beamed us back up and told us that Jaroch was not to be disturbed. I guess he’ll show himself when he’s ready.”

Emily Sullivan ran down the halls of deck six toward Holodeck Five. Baird was waiting there with his bicycle.

“Sorry,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath. “I just got off shift and wanted to change clothes before we went.” She zipped up the coat she was wearing. “Aren’t you going to be cold?” Baird was wearing shorts and a T-shirt.


“But we’re biking through the Alps!”

“So. It’s not that cold.”

“Whatever,” Sullivan said with a shrug. Baird was a little strange, but that was good. Normal was boring. He walked over to the computer console by the doors.

“Computer…” The doors suddenly opened, and an extremely disheveled Lieutenant Commander Jaroch stumbled out.

“No more lines,” he said with a demented grin. “NO MORE LINES!!!” He waddled off down the hall.

“What the hell was that?” Sullivan asked.

“I guess he did a few too many lines,” Baird remarked. They looked into the open holodeck. On an extremely well-used looking bed sat a woman. She was zipping up her jumpsuit when she noticed her audience.

“Do you mind?!” she snapped. Baird and Sullivan immediately recognized the voice of the computer.

“Sorry,” Baird said quickly. “We’ll try another holodeck.”

“Yeah,” Sullivan stammered. They ran off down the corridor.

“Some people just have no respect for others.” The computer said. She finished dressing and vanished.

Tags: Original